Ex Machina: Ring Out the Old
Brian K. Vaughan (w), Tony Harris & John Paul Leon (p), Jim Clark & Tony Harris (i), JD Mettler (c). Wildstorm Productions.
Scalped: The Gnawing
Jason Aaron (w), R.M. Guéra (a), Giulia Brusco with Trish Mulvihill (c). Vertigo.
What a great month, new volumes of TWO of my favourite series. I’m sorry to say that I can’t possibly choose between them and instead opt to make a couple of hearty recommendations. My love from Brian K. Vaughan’s work is well documented, but I’m astonished to learn that there are some fans of Y: The Last Man or Runaways who haven’t given Ex Machina a try. The thing is, while I have a deep love of Y, Ex Machina is a more polished work. It’s a story filled with some great sci-fi ideas, awesome superhero action and fascinating (honestly) political debate. This volume, in particular, features some jaw-dropping revelations about the main character’s origins. Tony Harris is at the top of his game here, the flashbacks with Pherson are especially engaging. On top of all of this (as if that isn’t enough) there’s a great one-off issue about Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris interviewing for a position to create a comic about the main character. It’s a great chapter.
Scalped is a book that caught me by surprise. I’ve never been that into the crime books. I get the appeal but they’re rarely my favourites. Well, here’s the exception. Scalped is without a doubt one of my favourite comics being published. As if that weren’t enough, The Gnawing blows the doors off of this series to reach a new high for this already fantastic series. Things keep getting worse for the characters and it makes for amazing reading. I can’t say enough good things about this comic. Volume 1 was good, volume 2 was better. By volume 3 I was clamouring for more. We’re on volume 6 now and my love just keeps growing.
Two trades from two amazing series I hope you’re all reading. It’s been a good month.
DC Universe: Legacies #1
Len Wein (w), Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, J.G. Jones (a), Mike Atiyeh, Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair (c). DC Comics.
I assume this is supposed to be the start of the latest series detailing what is the “official” continuity for DC after the previous universe altering “Final” crisis story — but what it feels like is a love letter to the Golden Age of comics.
Have you gotten your hands on any reprints of Golden Age books? Like the origin of Superman, Batman, or, if you’re feeling into something a little silly sounding, the Whizzer? They were gloriously simple adventures where some guy launches himself into the midst of some gangster stereotypes, all of whom were refreshingly bad while the protagonist was irrefutably good. It was basically the representation of the only kind of world where costumed do-gooders could possibly exist outside of the realistic kind of motivations you find in Watchmen or any of its derivatives (i.e. all of comicdom since then).
That’s probably another reason why the narrative focus for this book comes from the eyes of a boy watching these larger than life superheroes in action — because of course this book is written today, in a world where we no longer disregard the more realistic motivations for the superhero, the only way to recreate the kind of pedestal narration that Golden Age books were known for (like saying a guy is the avenger of the night, or a paragon of justice) is to see that world through the eyes of a boy. Just as the original comic books were seen by boys all over the world.
Ah, I’m just blown away with how they’ve decided to tell this story. Even as they’ve used a boy as the narrator to resume the unthinking hero worship you would have found from the Golden Age audience and narrators, they acknowledge the shades of grey in the world by having this boy be something of a criminal. It makes perfect sense: how else is this kid going to keep running into superhero types? Not only that, but during the Great Depression its no surprise that a lot of people compromised their morals to make a living- this kid is trying to survive in a tough world!
They’ve managed to marry the “sense of purpose” of the Golden Age with the underlining complexities of the modern age in this comic. Yes, I’m pretty impressed.
Scalped: The Gnawing
Jason Aaron (w), R.M. Guéra (a), Giulia Brusco with Trish Mulvihill (c), Vertigo Publishing
I’m going to have to echo Owen by giving the nod to Scalped this month (I also read Ex Machina but Scalped wins. Close call though). I started picking up this series in trade earlier this year after borrowing the first volume from a friend. I liked the first one and thought I’d get the second one myself. If I didn’t like it I could always return it. But I found that with every page turn Scalped gets better. If you’ve only read the first trade, go back. Go back now because it seriously gets better with every single page turn.
I ignored my 93-year-old grandmother during a visit to read this book. I mean, she only wanted a scotch and soda, but, like, I really should have got off my lazy ass to get that drink. But, you see, Bad Horse was in trouble. Shit got crazy this month. Off the radar, “oh crap, I did not see that coming” events every few pages.
And every development comes from the severely damaged people in a severely damaged place. It’s great comics on every single level, and Red Crow is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite fictional characters. In any medium. Ever. Read it now.