He Said/She Said: The Cartoon Shows of our Misspent Youfs

Graphic Novel Round-up: Cards, Codes & Cads

Wild CardsTwo older series and one treat that's just been released. No graphic novels, but everything's prestige format, so we'll count them anyway

Wild Cards (Various): In 1990, Epic Comics put out a four issue mini-series based on the George RR Martin-edited Wild Cards series. Wild Cards is a shared world setting of alternate history superheroes (based, I think, on an improvised RPG session between some of the key writers).

The comic book series was meant to capture the same spirit: many of the books' writers combined with a variety of artists to create a mosaic miniseries. There's a weak, overarching meta-plot, but mostly this is a ragtag rehash of the books' major storylines. If you're familiar with the series, the comic book is cute little collector's item - if exceedingly crunched and (almost universally) abhorrently drawn. If you're not familiar with the books, this is badly drawn gibberish. (4/10)

[GRRM collectors will be interested to note that the Great Bearded One did write one of the stories in volume 3 -  one of his earlier comic book appearances.] 

After the jump - Code of Honor and Warren Ellis' Shoot.

Code of Honor (Dixon / Shane / Parker): An early (1997) exploration into the life of mortals in the Marvel universe. Marvels was in 1994, Ruins was in 1995 - Code of Honor is a bit of a fifth wheel. The four issue series follows Jeffrey Piper, a police officer in New York. From rookie to retiree, his career is punctuated by his encounters with the city's superhuman population. Piper's saga (his battle to find his own code) is interesting - over-wraught, but not in a sugar-coated Stan Lee kind of way. His day by day struggles are much more fascinating. He's the one cleaning up the mess after the superheroes save the day. Or, just as likely, watching the bad guys walk, because he doesn't have the ability to ignore the law that is his life. Gorgeous artwork really drives this one home. Worth finding. (7/10)

ShootShoot (Various): Part of the "Vertigo: Resurrected" series, this 100 page spectacular contains an assortment of old Vertigo tales. Some were published in the distant-ish past, others, like the titular "Shoot", have never seen the light. (The story goes, Ellis has it written, then the Columbine shootings took place and DC shelved it. That's what wrapped up WFE's run on Hellblazer. Of course, this is from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt.) Background set, "Shoot" was worth the wait. Ellis used Hellblazer's occult science to explore the darker side of human nature, and "Shoot" is about as grim as it gets.

The other stories in this volume are no worse - some of Brian Bolland's creepiest and Grant Morrison's weirdest are on display. Bill Willingham's entry is cute, but a little goofy, as is the EC Comics-style throwback by Bruce Jones.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is "Diagnosis", as Tim Sale stretches himself in ways that I'd never seen in his Batman work. The whole volume is a rare treat - an anthology of some of the best talent in the business, and a welcome reminder of Vertigo's outstanding authority in the field of mature comics. (9/10)