From the Comics Bin/Raves and Reviews:
Comic Picks for week ending 25 Sept 1999
THIS WEEKS REVIEWS
People always want to know what titles I'm buying from month to month, here without further ado is my semi-comprehensive list.
This issues book of the month is Harvey Pekar's AMERICAN SPLENDOR:TERMINAL by Dark Horse's MAVERICK line of comics. Dark Horse calls it neo-realism, I call it fantastic. Harvey Pekar sits us down and talks to us of his life, and by doing tells us of ours. Tells us of a forgotten America, of the song, and the hope, and the dream. A simply beautiful book. At 2.95 a must have from one of the distinctive voices of our time, it really is worth taking the time to find. Highly Recommended.
WITH GREAT BOOKS like JLA, Preacher, Hitman, THE Authority, Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer, Supreme, and Tom Strong on the market, all selling well and all by British writers /creative teams one could jump to the conclusion that Americans had forgotten how to produce the artform they created.
But a rash of recent comics gives me faith that the recent renaissance and resurgence spearheaded by British writers/comics (see 1 below) is being fanned and kept alive by good old American talent. Books like Kurt Busiek's ASTROCITY and AVENGERS continues to push the envelope of solid storytelling, producing stories reminiscent of the Glory Days of Comics. Christopher Priest's BLACK PANTHER is simply outstanding, using unorthodox narration and free association to create stories both compelling and complex (Kudos to the Marvel Knights team of J & J, now if they could only do something with all those mutant books like getting rid of em).
David Lapham is still out there producing the best ongoing crime comic ever, STRAY BULLETS. Michael Stravinski has tossed his hat into the comics ring with RISING STARS (an Image:Top Cow Comic), and from what I can see he brings with him a great energy into comics, a great plan, a great voice that reminds me of Jack Kirby... a voice imperial. Scott Cunningham and Danijel Zezelj combine in CONGO BILL to produce one of my favorite books of 1999. With 100 BULLETS Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso mesh, to create a stylized and highly addictive comic ( Another winner from DC's Vertigo line, that includes Preacher and Congo Bill, praise to Vertigo for producing these daring and at times disturbing books ).
And one cannot mention Vertigo without mentioning the man whose controversial story, and very publicized clash with DC's editorial restrictions gave birth to the Vertigo Line. I'm speaking of course of Rick Veitch, of SWAMP THING, BRATPACK, MAXIMORTAL fame, one of the true pioneers, the true greats, in the field of comics. If you have any doubts pick up Maximortal, he touches on so many concepts of theology, technology, humanity, biology, history, altered states, Einstein's Unified Field Theory, social construction of reality, Ideas I feel are hugely relevant to today, and he tackles all this in what a lot of people still call a kiddie book. Issue #4 of Maximortal might be the single finest comicbook ever, it's definitely in the top ten. So after years of not seeing his name attached to anything I was glad to see him working for Todd McFarlane's line of Image Comics. CYGOR a book about an 800 pound escaped cybernetic gorilla with the soul of a child, would have been incredibly stupid, incredibly absurd done by anyone else, but done by Veitch (who has made a living on the absurd) it becomes horrible, and haunting, and more than a little touching.
Also from Todd McFarlane Productions (I have to praise Todd, he has assembled the greatest talent in the business, and is producing the highest quality of comics, not just in talent, but the paper, the ink, the look and feel and heart of the books. When you pick up a TMP book you feel you're getting your money's worth) is Paul Jenkins Spawn:The Undead, Michael Bendis Sam & Twitch, Jon J Muth's absolutely astounding THE Crow. And all these names are just the tip of the iceberg, on the Indy and Small Press front you have titles like POE, JENNY FINN, TICK, EMPTY ZONE, DEXTER'S LABORATORY, SCUD, and more great quality works bubbling up everyday.
It's really a good time to become acquainted with the medium, a good time to test the waters, because I think no matter where you're coming from or what your preferences are you'll find something in today's Market to appeal to you. Something to make you laugh out loud like PREACHER #55, or move you like STRAY BULLETS #2, or awe you like JLA #14, or maybe simply endear you like AMERICAN SPLENDOR. The market can do all that and so much more, it can provide you ,at the worst, with stories that entertain, and at its best... with stories that inspire. Stories with pictures, and floppy pages that do what all the best stories do, stories that make us think about who we are, and who we aspire to be, stories that for a little while at least... broaden us.
I envy you, if you're an old reader coming back, or a new reader who has never looked past the newsstand exploits of mutants, I envy you. Because you get to enter a brave new world, of dangerous visions and bitter fruit, a broader world. Still rife with problems... yes, still beset with crap... yes, still filled with merchandising and marketing ploys... yes, still a sinking ship...yes, but my God the people you'll meet on this ship, the stories you'll hear, the faces you'll see. My God if you've got to go down, my motto is go down with the best. With images that haunt, and people that burn.
So what are you waiting for, it's not often that a person can say they lived through a Renaissance, experienced it. Not many of us can say we knew Siegel and Shuster, we knew Jack and Stan, not many of us can say we were there when something historic was being made out of this childish medium. Something not too far... from art. Not many of us can say we were there then, but maybe, maybe you can be there now. How? Simple. Enjoy the work, support the work, support the creators, and write. Sometimes a word is worth more than a dollar, sometimes it lasts longer and sometimes it means more. Enjoy.
Well that's it for this go around, stop in next issue as we bring you more reviews than you can shake a stick at. And please remember to drop us your comments.
1-Actually the origins of this latest Renaissance can be traced to Mark Waid's and Alex Ross' KINGDOM COME[the collected edition]. This was the landmark work that brought old fans and new back to a medium we had written off, brought readers back looking for quality work, much as Miller's DARKKNIGHT and Moore's WATCHMEN did in 1986. However, the difference is back then the market really had nothing to follow up those books with, and the interest that was building stalled and died. Now the market has one exciting product after another, one magnificent creator after another,and the quality of the comics being produced is the highest it has been in the history of comics. So the work is definitely out there, the books are definitely out there, it becomes our job now to simply introduce this great work, that is as good as what Stephen King is doing, as good as what Lawrence Block is doing, as good as what Walter Mosley is doing, and introduce it into mainstream culture. We have to get out of our segregated mentality of Direct Market Comic Shops, get out of our shell, and go where the people are, advertise where the people are, partner where the people are, and the financial support will come, the people will come..people always come... for the best.
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