Shell Scott on Goo
Paperback & Pulp Bookfair

Graphic Novel Round-up: Lions, Reporters and Vampires, oh my!

In case the forced title wasn't clue enough, no real theme to the latest grab-bag.

100 Bullets100 Bullets: First Call, Last Shot and Split Second Chance (Azzarello): I wanted to like 100 Bullets so much that I actually tried the second volume, even after being immensely disappointed with the first. The set-up is great: A mysterious agent arrives in your life. He has incontrovertible proof of someone that's done some sort of horrible wrong to you, a big honkin' gun and 100 untraceable bullets. What do you do?

The moral dilemma is terrific, and the possibilities are endless. The good guys, the bad guys, the crimes... limitless stories. And the parts of the series that focus on these stories? Those are the good parts. However, 100 Bullets rapidly gets caught up in the larger narrative. Who is this agent? Why does he do this? Is this a... conspiracy?! Honestly? I don't care. Stop world-building and write some stories! I love the covers - they're stark and intense. The interior art, however, disappointed me. Too cartoony to be taken seriously, and too detailed to be abstract - it seemed to be disconnected with the subject matter. 

Pride of Baghdad (Vaughan / Henrichon): Almost as good as everyone says it is, which is high praise. Pride of Baghdad reads like a children's book, and, thanks to the heart-string-pluckin' content and beautiful artwork, would make an exceptional gift for your suave, non-geek friends. It deftly avoids being heavy-handed... most of the time... and, yes, it may have made me choke up a little. I'm such a softy.

The Complete Bite Club (Chaykin / Tischman): I like Chaykin a lot - ever since I stumbled on American Flagg. Bite Club, however, is long on narrative and short on plot. Virtually every piece of action, background or plot development is done through those little rectangular text boxes - you know, the ones that are meant to set the scene? Instead, the entire story is told, not shown, and the art is reserved largely for sprawling shots of vampiric cleavage. The world of Bite Club (similar to our own, but think of vampires as a minority group, complete with their own Mafia), is a great idea - but the comic book serves only as a Big Bus Tour equivalent, with no stops to admire anything for longer than a page or so. 

Stone Island (Edginton): I'm about 60% sure that I understand what this comic book was about, which isn't bad for something from the 2000 AD imprint. The English are crazy. There's a prison, see? And once you're there, you're stuck there for life. Except then horrible Alien-type things get loose. So now, like, everyone is doomed. And then, flash forward, the Alien-type things have taken over the world, so we have to send people through a portal (?) to fight them in THEIR world, which is populated by prisoners/Tolkien elves/Aliens and maybe Jesus. I'm not sure.

Suffers from the uniquely British tendency to create 'hop-skip-and-jump' chronological narratives, where the story only stays in one time period for long enough to show a few cool scenes. The scenes, however, are pretty cool. Great artwork - Bisley/Giger-esque, with lots of things exploding messily at every turn. 

DMZ: On the Ground (Wood / Burchielli): When the militia groups finally go berserk, Manhattan island is caught in the cross-fire, and quickly becomes the 'DMZ'. For the first time since the war began, a journalist is dropped onto the island to see what's become of the inhabitants. At least in this first volume, there's no larger narrative - each issue is an 'interview' of sorts with some of the survivors. The stories are creative, more than a little touching, fascinating and perfectly illustrated. Burchielli's modern, dirty and chaotic style is a perfect complement to the material.