Crisis of Infinite Comics: Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest #1-6

Tempest

Hmmm…where to begin?

Perhaps itʼs better to start at the end.

Alan Moore, perhaps one of the most influential comic book writers of our era, has for some time now announcing heʼs calling it quits. After listing his last few works in comics, he sums it all up in the latest and final LEOG story.

While Moore has certainly had his share of controversy within the comics world, his writing sometimes compared to mere “genre” writers, has transgressed that merely by being perhaps the greatest of all comics genre writers. Whatever direction heʼs taken, you can be rest assured that it will be the most clever, detailed, and at the least, obsessive approach taken to developing fascinating themes for comics. No half assed dips into the pool for Moore, itʼs either full boat involvement in his subject matter, with enough incorporation of concepts to make any other creator of comic tales feel helpless, witnessing an artist taking over completely his chosen subject matter at a level far beyond the capability of most others.

LEOG, which started as an elaborate tribute to stunning fictional characters plucked from various English literary works, spun together in a super team effort made all the more interesting due to their positions in fiction as monsters, failures and oddballs, their anti humanistic paths now working together to prevent cataclysmic disaster. Their ultimate place among humanity and itʼs price are also touched upon as well.

The first two LEOG stories were detailed, shocking tales with world changing outcomes, with the protagonists hardly suited for the lofty goals upon which they were now summoned. Moore then wraps the stories in resolutely English themes, using only characters and most situations with their founding in English literature and fiction.

Over time, his LOEG tales then took on a more distinct route, parlaying formal aspects of comics, bending his characters and the narrative, along with the reader, on a journey that must be really studied to be understood and appreciated, making you work to discover and perhaps understand why he was creating it in the first place. You are bound to Mooreʼs narrative, helpless yet willing to go wherever it takes you, comfortable or not.

This final tale, bringing us up to date chronologically and formally, is an utter distillation of all things metahuman (nee superhero) comics over the last 75 years that have been wrought upon us. Its blending of stylistic nuances, outrageous fictional characters, the inevitable team up of the heroes, all brought up for display, tells us the final fate of these types of venues, using perfectly the tics and tropes of the comics themselves to display his thesis/journey.

The grand motives of superhero comics and their heights and fallacies are all here to behold, to enjoy their miracles, yet at the same time, point to a larger vision, a demonstration of how they work, and the bases they touch upon their way to the most mega fantastic of conclusions. Perfectly linear in its progression, there is perhaps every cliche in the book used here in service of the homage, using as many types of comic approaches seamlessly incorporated into a mass narrative to enjoy and drive you crazy with its scope of ambition as well as the reserve not to take any of this too seriously. An amazing balance is achieved here between contrasting goals.

It’s also a tale not for the simple comics reader weaned on a sugar fed, monthly pulse short attention span of pablum, either. Only the mature and well travelled comics reader will spot most, but probably not all, of the winks and nods shown to its audience. There is a lifetime plus of the superhero genre on view here, and while it’s not necessary to have an encyclopedic knowledge of such things to “get it,” the well-read comics fan will be able to dig deeper and catch on more than the novice.

In this narrative, Moore brings nothing less than the totality of English and American comics history, dozens of literary references, approaches from golden age comics to the Watchmen, and a blazing framework brought together by Shakespeareʼs Tempest, no less. Donʼt be scared to venture here though, as while you may be googling or wiki-ing things you donʼt recognize, you are not penalized for doing so.

And that’s where the point here lies. Moore has taken the lifetime of superhero comics and put them into one final, master, superhero crossover spectacular-stories the big two like to whip out every season, and not only present them in all their absurdity, but in an involving tale with the highest stakes available; the continued existence of the meta human genre, perhaps the greatest threat to our heroes ever imagined.

And succeed he does. While some may not have patience for where it goes, there is no denying this is a well thought out and conceived tale, showing both the polar duality of a great mythical end of times story with a poignant presence, a mature objective point about all these things that are both majestic and more than a little sad. That while we take such things seriously as comic fans, there can be no denying the overstated importance we give them as such, and the passes we give them when they suck and disappoint.

Moore swings from both sides of the pendulum, praising superhero comics goodness, their personal touches of life we experience when reading them, and in its finale, taking its rose colored glasses(or 3D, theyʼre in there too), and confronting the reader about the final realities about such things, while also comforting the reader with a respect for such things and the inevitable conclusion we have when weʼve taken them as far as we logically can.

It is within such parameters Moore demands respect for his chosen idiom as well as demonstrating its shortcomings and their conclusion; superhero comics have gone about as far as they will go. For such a well executed and convincing demonstration I can only make this tale of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (although the members are all women by this point), my swan-song in any kind of involvement with the modern superhero genre at all anymore.

For that Mr Moore, I graciously thank you, and shed a metaphorical tear for my innocence lost and the transformation of my childhood friends.

Before I tie it up, his longest collaborator, Kevin O Neill, delivers a masterful virtuosoʼs worth of cartooning skills, perhaps his best. O’Neill furnishes this endlessly inventive dense pack of info perfectly, with each panel composed to its fullest, with no wasted space and the latest version of Will Elderʼs “chicken fat” art style a feast for the eyes and the brain. Todd Kleinʼs lettering and Ben Digmagmaliwʼs coloring are wonderfully crafted yet almost unnoticeable, contributing more layers to the proceedings to make this a total artistic endeavor of a package. Creative examples of encyclopedic talent at this level are rare, enjoy them.

So this will most likely be the last modern superhero tale I will read because of this. Damn you Moore, for waking me up, but thank you as well, for showing me the sublime beauty of my earliest dreams, and the realization that itʼs definitely time to be moving on.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 50

We know you’ve been waiting… five months for this episode, which makes us even more embarrassed about the audio quality but the episode’s worth it. All three hours of the episode is worth it.

That’s right, it’s a three hour extra-sized episode… we cover the Best of 2018, a very deep dive into Love and Rockets Volume One, a discussion of media, and then some news about the new amazing.

(Again, very sorry about the audio. It’s been so long since we podcasted, we sort of forgot how. Technically speaking.

you can also subscribe on iTunes

The Comics Fondle List of Favorite Graphic Novels Guaranteed to Offend at Least Someone

Crossed – Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows pre-apocalyptic series about man’s evil ID breaking out and dominating humanity. Many sequels by other authors, vol 1 is the best, with a second fave of the series, Crossed +100 by Alan Moore, also damn good, but a much more complicated read than Ennis’ vol 1.

Madwoman of the Sacred Heart– Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius. While Jodorowsky is known as a european film director, he dabbles a lot in comics, and with superb artist Moebius, produces his most coherent work here. Great rollicking story about a college professor who’s convinced by one of his students he has the seed for the next Christ, the plot is all over the place like a great chase movie, with a great cast of characters, sex, drugs, and an outrageous plot that travels worldwide. The art by Moebius fantastic also.

Pinocchio– this retelling of the fable by French artist Vincent Paronnaud (nee Winschluss), is quite possibly the greatest. No holds barred, Pinocchio is certainly put through his paces in this jaw dropping, visually disturbing tale with a great formal technique by Winschluss. Lots of fun!

Weapon Brown– Jason Yungbluth’s great story of the end of the earth, where classic cartoon characters are the last to survive. All of the greats are here, transmogrified in a story that keeps going at breakneck speed throughout 350 plus pages. Charlie Brown, little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Calvin and Hobbes are all here. Yungbluth is really inspired, a master of dark humor, and his artistic chops are solid.

Big Man Plans– Tim Weisch and Eric Powell, whose Goon is quite popular, outdoes himself here in this mean spirited, brutal, dark tale of revenge of a midget who worked Vietnamese foxholes as a soldier, and the horrible revenge he seeks against those who where mean to him. Great stuff and very disgusting.

Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers– Gilbert Sheldon’s great 3 Stooges parody, with three hippie brothers that are always looking for the next buzz, and the hilarious methods it takes them to get there. A classic 60’s underground comic.

Neonomicon– Alan Moore’s tribute to the disturbing writings of H.P. Lovecraft. The end of the world is here, and the dark god begins his unveiling on earth. Two stories, the first an introduction tale, based on Moore’s prose, and the sequel, a progression of the authorities pursuit of the evil.

Providence– the prequel/sequel to Neonomicon, begins with a turn of the century writer, and his quest to find Lovecraft and share his sensibilities, is a work of dark horror than has been unmatched in comic books. Not for the squeamish, this book leaves none untouched by its disturbing concepts and visuals that bothered me in my sleep, no easy task.

From Hell– an earlier book of horror by Alan Moore, this one takes everything he can find on Jack the Ripper, and works it into a complex, multi faceted biography that is perhaps his most complex work. Great well researched art by Eddie Campbell only makes it better.

Big Blown Baby– Bill Wray, one of the geniuses behind “Ren and Stimpy,” goes several notches further on the depravity charts, with this hilarious and disgusting story of an alien infant stranded on earth. Wray is also one of the best cartoonists in the business, giving this R rated adventure some serious flavor.

Black Hole– great alternative artist Charles Burns does a great story on a sexually transmitted virus that mutates high school classmates in this David Lynch flavored monster story, with real creepy sexual overtones.

Empowered– Adam Warren’s parody/homage of superhero comics featuring a hot young superhero with serious self esteem issues. Started with a bondage fetish strip that were commissioned drawings that evolved into it’s own, these are perhaps some of the better superhero comics made today. That they feature sexual tension throughout as well as some really suave art make these a fave. Skip the Avengers and read this.

Fade Out– To this date, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips noir masterpiece. A movie starlet is killed in this whodunit in post WW2 Hollywood is one of the better realized stories of our era, and Phillips art along with fully developed characters make this a must read.

Bratpack– Rick Veitch’s perverted, dark look at the REAL lives of teen sidekicks to the heroes was made years before The Boys, and I would say an initial inspiration for it. Not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Clown Fatale– Viktor Gishler’s b movie plot about a group of women that become circus clowns to later take over the circus drug running and mob operations actually works, and is a fun read, laced with all the good stuff that goes with these things. If this one grabs you, look for his Order of the Forge, a ribald adventure with three of Americas founding fathers taking time off from their debaucherous pursuits to stop a power mad governor from invoking Satans plans on earth during the revolutionary war. Gishler is real good at this b movie stuff, so If this one also grabs you, look for Sally of the Wasteland, another dystopian look at post war earth that stars a hot lass that will go to great lengths to save and love her hillbilly boyfriend.

Livewires– Adam Warren of Empowered did some some straight mainstream work at Marvel with this one featuring a group of female SHIELD LMDs that rebel and take on their own lives is good Marvel all the way. Superior mainstream.

Miracleman– Alan Moore’s take on superheroes didn’t begin with Watchmen, and this earlier study of the genre first started in England, but finished here years later, is perhaps the most realistic and logical of the super mythology tropes. While the art gets a bit weak in the middle, Rick Veitch and John Tottleben step in to finish the saga which concludes in the only way it could. Skip the Neil Gaiman sequels.

Rawhide Kid– back when Joe Quesada ran Marvel, he did wondrous things. One of them was this unusual take on the Rawhide Kid, an old western gunslinger who in this version just happens to be a gay man in the old west. Great humor, and some perfect art by John Severin, who could draw horses in his sleep. Recommended.

Rover Red Charlie– yep, post apocalyptic earth is certainly in enough comics, but if you love dogs, Garth Ennis scores well here featuring a group of canines that fight to survive in a post “Crossed” time situation. Definitely for dog lovers.

Smax– a spin off of Top Ten, Alan Moore’s look at the Superman character that has to go back to his own dimension for a weekend funeral is a great send up of fantasy roleplaying gamer quest type nonsense, with Moore sparring nobody’s feelings.

Ultimate Adventures– again, when Joe Quesada ran Marvel, great books just happened. This over the top parody of Batman and Robin, along with an Alfred type character, entertained me profusely, and much better than regular Batman.

We 3– One of Grant Morrison’s greatest stories, this one involving three lab animals transformed into military killing machines that break their leash is great social commentary, and a good message on cruelty to animals with a great ending. Frank Quietly’s art is a big draw too, blending Morrison’s imagination into reality seamlessly.

Monster (2016)

Monster

Monster is a strange comic. It’s British, was serialized weekly, running a couple years in a couple different comics magazines–Scream then Eagle–and there’s a very British comics storytelling sensibility to it. There’s also the reality of a weekly four-to-five page chapter and how doing recap–doing some really effecient recap too, using repetitive dialogue to force events into memory. It’s also about a kid who discovers his deformed “monster” of an uncle locked in the attic and has to take care of him. But it’s still a little strange on its own.

First, because it never becomes a morality tale. Second, because the twelve year-old kid goes from being a protagonist to the subject of the adults’ attention. Cops, doctors, lawyers, social workers, all talking down to the kid. Because the kid thinks his uncle shouldn’t be hunted down like a monster.

It takes a long, long time before the kid even gets one adult to agree. The writers–and especially the artist–aren’t really interested in making the uncle a comfortable presence. He’s always extremely dangerous.

Alan Moore writes the first installment. Not sure his name deserves top-billing; I get it from a marketing standpoint, but seriously… four pages? He wrote four pages on Monster. Most of the writing is John Wagner writing solo, but there’s also some with he and Alan Grant sharing duties. They take a single pseudonym, Rick Clark. Wagner continues using it alone. Wagner’s workman. He’s good workman. But the writing isn’t the draw on Monster (though, when the book seems like it’s going to be a riff on Frankenstein, maybe it could’ve been).

The draw of the book is the art. Jesus Redondo black and white horror art. It’s magical. The first strip has a different artist, Heinzl, who’s got some great gothic detail going but Redondo makes it into a gothic horror action comic. He definitely does the Frankenstein riffing, even if the writing doesn’t keep it up.

Because eventually the kid–Kenny–stops being the protagonist. And the protagonist becomes the uncle, Terry, who’s never going to stop killing people even though Kenny tells him not to kill anyone ever again and Terry promises. Terry always promises, but then Terry gets mad. And, really, it’s nearly always self defense. Or defending Kenny. There’s the occasional rage attack, but by the end of the book, Terry’s fairly in check.

Because Terry gets all the character development. He doesn’t really realize it because he’s three, but he goes from being confined to an attic for thirty-two years-old to traveling the British countryside, Scotland, Australia, whatever else. There’s definite development. There’s also the constant danger, constant threat.

The book has three text stories from a later Scream series where Terry is basically a hero. Clearly, over the run of the strip, there were some changes made to the trajectory.

Even with every fifth page effectively being a repeat of the previous page, Monster is a good read. Kenny’s not the best lead, because Wagner and Grant have zero interest in writing a kid, but Terry’s great.

And the art. The gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, horrific, glorious art.

Not quite the “Alan Moore’s Monster” I was expecting, however.

Cinema Purgatorio 12 (September 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #12

Moore and O’Neil open the issue with a story about stunt men. It’s set to It’s a Wonderful Life–like the plot beats–only it’s about how George Bailey’s guardian angel is really a stuntman. It’s rushed, without much content–though some real nice art from O’Neil–and Moore concentrates more on the mysteries of the movie theater. It is, however, past the point it can disappoint. Cinema Purgatorio has long since passed that point.

Ennis and Caceres do a bait and switch on Code Pru. The opening graphic is a lot more intriguing than the actual entry, which ends up riffing on a very popular “monster” movie. There’s some okay art, but the strip is too far gone.

Modded has a lot of nonsense speak from Gillen for the gaming and some nice art from Lopez. Not nice enough art its worth reading the comic, but it’s nice art.

Oh, I forgot A More Perfect Union, which actually manages to be the least thoughtful comic in the whole issue. Everyone else is doing something really complicated–or at least somewhat complicated–Brooks isn’t with Union. He leverages Andrade’s art against his “historically accurate” Civil War against the giant ants.

Yawn.

The Vast has evil Russian(?) kaiju. Who cares. It’s funny, Andrade’s art is perfect in black and white on Union, but it really needs color on The Vast. Or better inks.

It’s Cinema Purgatorio; I’m going to keep reading it, but I’m never hopeful it’s going to come through again.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, It’s a Breakable Life; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Clever Girl; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 11 (June 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #11

This issue of Cinema Purgatorio, at least for the fist two stories, is maximum effort for minimal result. Both Moore and Ennis write the heck out of their stories without much reward.

Moore and O’Neill do the “Black Dahlia” murder case, with victim Elizabeth Short narrating in song. There’s even a Marilyn Monroe cameo. Moore goes through a lot, suspects, intrigue, tangents, but it never really adds up to anything. O’Neill keeps it visually cohesive; it’s just never adds up.

Then Ennis and Caceres’s Code Pru has Pru getting a promotion (or something) after a meeting with a head honcho. Lots of effort from both Ennis and Caceres. Tons of dialogue. None of it adds up. Ennis is sort of better with the length constraint than before, but also sort of worse. It’s not episodic enough.

Brooks tackles some racism and sexism in A More Perfect Union. Not well, but whatever. Andrade’s art is good.

Modded continues to be relatively painless thanks to Lopez’s art. Nothing happens this time, good or bad. It’s not enough, though. Lopez doesn’t have anything interesting to do.

And, finally, The Vast. Some nice work from Andrade, some vague intrigue, some decent talking heads, but no payoff. Just like everyone except Moore, Gage isn’t any good at plotting out these installments. It’s not even concerning anymore, it’s just Cinema Purgatorio.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, My Fair Dahlia; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, A Nest of Anacondas; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 10 (May 2017)

Cp10

Cinema Purgatorio is getting rather long in the tooth, not just for each of the five stories–The Vast might actually be showing signs of rejuvenation, actually–but as a concept. It was always a loose anthology, but when Garth Ennis is writing a cameo for a Predator in Code Pru, it’s clear exhaustion has long since set in.

The Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill feature is about some kids in a British kids movie–there’s history related to the British film industry, which restricts interest on its own–and their encounter with a giant hair thing. I think it’s supposed to have gotten on the film itself and they’re interacting with its physical effect on the print, but whatever. O’Neill’s got some nice establishing panels, but Moore’s beyond phoning this one in.

Then there’s the secret origin–with evil, abusive witches–of Code Pru. Caceres works on the art. It’s just so rushed, there’s not much point in that care. And then that Predator cameo… I mean, at this point, maybe Ennis and Caceres should just do a Predator comic. Why not? Pru isn’t going anywhere.

More Perfect Union gets back into the actual Civil War history, which doesn’t help it. Brooks still has some big ideas; they don’t seem likely to translate to comics any better than his last big ideas on the strip. Andrade’s giant ant art is gross and cool.

Lopez’s art continues to help Modded immensely. Gillen’s story is still meandering, albeit with a monster fight this time, but it’s still meandering. Reading Modded is just part of the Cinema Purgatorio experience.

As for the improving Vast, Gage has moved the action to kaiju training. Still abjectly unoriginal and derivative, but at least it’s more amusing. Andrade’s art does well with the sterile conditions. He can concentrate.

I was really hoping this issue of Cinema Purgatorio would be the last, if not for the series itself, than at least for Moore and O’Neill. They’re hacking out the material without much inspiration lately.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Picture Palace Mystery; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Havin’ Me Some Fun Tonight; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 9 (March 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #9

If Cinema Purgatorio were “shown” in a marathon, I think we’ve hit the point where even Alan Moore’s asleep. Garth Ennis too. But a couple of the backup guys are doing better. Sort of.

Anyway.

Purgatorio is about Thelma Todd’s death. Sadly Moore’s script for it is really boring. It’s like something didn’t work out. He thought it’d be more interesting but, instead, he’s just got occasional Batman visual cues because Todd’s lover made a movie called The Bat, which supposedly inspired Bob Kane (and, you know, Bill Finger) but whatever. So? I don’t think anyone ever doubted Kevin O’Neill could draw a giant bat.

It’s kind of fine, but in an unambitious sort of way. Moore might have peaked on Purgatorio.

So too might have Ennis. He’s got a lot of content for Code Pru but nothing he’s fixated on. It’s zombies. And not even Crossed, so it’s not even cute. Ew. Crossed and cute. But he’s just churning it out. I think there’s even a reference to the Code Pru “pilot” where she was a witch, which I don’t think he’s done before. Caceres’s art is fine. It’s not on him.

Now, I make that complaint and it usually means Ennis is going to do something really cool next issue. Fingers crossed.

More Perfect Union. Brooks doesn’t have his history text piece anymore, which is great, but his exposition is getting more verbose. Are they connected? I don’t care. It just means it’s a lot more maybe made up, maybe just for Civil War enthusiasts’ information. It’s noise. Really nice art from Andrade. He’s got good detail. It’s sort of impersonal, but the strip is also a parade of boring visual concepts.

And then Modded, which I hate having to enjoy, is once again pretty fun. Gillen’s writing characters. They’re obnoxious and thin, but with the personality from Lopez’s art, it doesn’t matter. There’s still way too much lingo and it feels like a dated post-apocalypse, so I don’t love it or anything, but I almost look forward to it. I don’t mind it, which is something; I used to loathe Modded.

And The Vast is The Vast. Great art from Andrade, little kaiju, big kaiju. Again, not personality but this time because it’s so poorly paced. Gage has somehow set up this comic one wants to like, but just can’t because it’s humorless. There’s nothing fun about it. Gage seems miserable and bored.

Cinema Purgatorio is getting to be a chore; I liked the book before Moore showed he could do awesome and amazing comics with it. I also miss liking Pru. She was really cool there for a while.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, Revelations of the Bat; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Night Without Dawn, Day Without End; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Providence Party

The Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ horror masterpiece Providence has just finished, so what better time to talk about what the end of Providence means; not just for faithful readers, but for comic books as a medium.

Occasional guest co-host (and Comics Fondle blog contributor) Matthew Hurwitz of Danger Burger and Joe Linton of Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence join me for this ninety-minute special.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

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