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Graphic Novel Round-up: Groom Lake, Punisher, Doktor Sleepless

Garth Ennis, Ben Templesmith and Warren Fucking Ellis - a Round-up with three of the best.

Groom LakeGroom Lake (Lyall / Templesmith): This goofy novel gives the Templesmith treatment to the little gray men from outer space. The wide-ranging, fast-paced story touches on conspiracies, invasions, awkward penetrations and the media perception of the wacky fellows. The hillbilly protagonist and his Federal/spook lady counterpart are pretty lackluster, but the real star is the chain-smoking, fun-seeking alien, Archibald.

There's a plot, but mostly it is an excuse to watch Archibald go bonkers and the other characters swap clips. If nothing else, this is an excellent vehicle for Templesmith's art - the man does more than vampires, you know. 

Punisher: War Zone (Ennis / Dillon): Ennis has written the Punisher from every perspective - slapstick to sinister. This is the sequel to the earlier, slapstick volume of adventures (now re-released in a massive trade collection that should grace every geek's shelves). Ma Gnucci is back from the dead... again. Or is she? The Punisher is being stalked by one of his old adversaries (maybe not the one you think). Ennis' work is always a delicate balance of style and substance. The more gothic Punisher work is forgiving of missteps than the comedic ones. Although enjoyable, this veers slightly too much towards poop jokes & degradation. I wanted this to be great, but it was only so-so. 

Doktor Sleepless: Engines of Desire (Ellis / Rodriguez): Ellis always shines when writing an episodic series for a longer title (NEXTWAVE, Fell, Global Frequency...) and this is no exception. It allows him to play with the wonderful, perverse, far-seeing ideas in his head, but within the form and structure of established characters. The closest comparison to Doktor Sleepless is his work on Transmetropolitan - a vicious, anarchist protagonist strives to rearrange society with the tools at hand. And the good Doktor has many, many tools indeed. Quality Ellis is like some sort of Lovecraftian manuscript - it may hurt your mind, even as it broadens it.