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!

Right-click and save as MP3

Providence 12 (March 2017)

Providence #12

Providence is over. In less than two years, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (and Avatar) have gotten out this series. No offense, but none of them are known for being speedy. But it’s finished. It gets to go on a shelf soon, next to the other Alan Moore hardcovers. It’ll make it into bookstores, it’ll make it into libraries; given it has a Lovecraft “hook,” it’ll be discovered and rediscovered through that connection.

But it won’t permeate, which is fine. We don’t live in a world deserving of Alan Moore appreciation.

There’s going to be time to read the comic again, in one sitting. There’s going to be time to read it again in whatever other way Avatar figures out how to package it. Gigantic hard cover. Late, of course.

And there’s going to be more to find, because Moore works in serial narrative to provide a cohesive finite reading experience too. Who knows what kind of panel echoes there will be throughout Providence next time.

So how’s the comic? It may be a little divisive. Moore has a very personable, loose writing style when he wants. Is life but a dream… sadly no. But reading should be. It’ll be interesting to see how that theme echoes through the whole series. Moore doesn’t cheap on the comics for the issue though. He and Burrows deliver a great finish. The art is crazy controlled. Providence has always needed an oversize printing, but this last issue just goes further with it.

Providence probably should be read when wearing a VR headset and each panel filling your field of vision. The detail’s so good, it should be immersive. But it’s the last issue of Providence and one wants to read it, not dwell on every background detail. It’s the end of the world, everyone gather round.

Providence is done. I wonder when the hard cover comes out.

CREDITS

The Book; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 8 (February 2017)

Cinema Purgatorio #8

It’s an okay issue, which–for Cinema Purgatorio–usually means there’s something lacking.

First, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s feature is the history of Felix the Cat “creator” Pat Sullivan, who was a scumbag both professionally and personally. O’Neill does a fine job on the art, but Moore’s script feels like he’s just hitting various details.

Garth Ennis has a similar problem with Code Pru. There’s a long setup involving ghosts for a full page visual gag payoff. Fine art from Raulo Caceres; there’s just no depth.

Gabriel Andrade takes over the art on More Perfect Union. He does all right, though he’s a little too fixated on human character design and not enough on giant ant action. Though the Max Brooks script doesn’t really offer any good giant ant action, just boring giant ant action.

And Modded is a lot less annoying than usual, maybe because Kieron Gillen’s script goes for brevity. Nahuel Lopez’s art is awesome.

Finally, The Vast. Boring, poorly paced, but with excellent art from Andrade. Very different from his Union art; he puts time into Vast. The other was a rush. The Christos Gage script is all right, I suppose, just disposable.

When Cinema Purgatorio doesn’t have a great Moore and O’Neill feature, the whole issue feels a little too rote.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, And the Blackness Moved; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Somethin’ Weird, an’ It Don’t Look Good; 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.

Providence 11 (November 2016)

Providence #11

Reading this issue of Providence, I expected a lot of things. Moore didn’t do any of them. Even when he hinted at maybe doing something in the direction of an expectation, he didn’t do it. He weaves this beautiful closure to everything he’s been doing not related to the Lovecraft. And he gets to the Lovecraft too a little bit, but it’s less subtle. It’s not forceful, but it is more obvious to the reader. The other things, as they relate to Robert Black specifically, aren’t obvious to the reader or to Black. But the comic isn’t just about Robert Black’s story, it’s about Lovecraft and the Lovecraft world and what Moore’s doing with this series. Providence is about Providence.

Moore takes the pomposity associated with Watchmen, pomposity he never intended that comic to sustain, and he applies it to Providence. Providence is big. Alan Moore’s comics for Avatar are downright cinematic and this issue of Providence is a CinemaScope epic complete with musical accompaniment. I should probably listen to the song.

Yeah, listen to the song and read it again.

But the point is that Moore does something big and unexpected. He’s got an entirely different finish for Providence than he suggested. And given the importance of the commonplace book, it was definitely meant to be awesome, but also be distracting. Moore has distracted the reader just as Black has been distracted. It’ll be interesting to read it through again.

Great art from Burrows, of course. A perfect issue of Providence, which is just about as perfect as a comic can be.

CREDITS

The Unnamable; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 7 (November 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #7

Well, it’s not the best issue of Cinema Purgatorio. Not the best at all. It’s not really the worst either, I don’t think. I mean, this installment of Modded is probably Kieron Gillen’s strongest writing. But it’s not a particularly distinct issue.

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill explore the American Western, which is fine. There’s nothing amazing about it. It’s actually a little obvious; it’s light, which is strange.

Code Pru is okay. Ennis is trying a little harder. It doesn’t really come to anything. Maybe he if he had even two more pages, he’d be able to get someplace better with it. It’s actually an improvement over the earlier stories, it’s just still not clicking.

Like I said before, Modded is Gillen’s best writing. Nice art from Nahuel Lopez. It’s a side story from the main plot, so of course it’s going to be better than usual. Gillen still manages to screw it up at the end, of course.

A More Perfect Union has a really nice double-page spread from Michael DiPascale and some stupid Civil War reference from Max Brooks. I don’t care. No one cares, Max Brooks, no one cares. If they cared, if Avatar is really pitching Cinema Purgatorio to Civil War enthusiasts, well, those guys all left during Code Pru and Ennis’s sex positivity.

And The Vast is a reprint from last issue. I think. I don’t even care. If it’s not, nice art from Gabriel Andrade. If it is, nice art from Gabriel Andrade.

Moore and O’Neill worked up some momentum on this book and if they’re running out… well, Cinema Purgatorio is more often disappointing overall than not, it’s just they had a couple really great stories. And Ennis seemed like he was getting with it. As always, it’s too bad it’s not better.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, After Tombstone; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Men; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 6 (September 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #6

If there’s meant to be an ideal Cinema Purgatorio, this issue comes closer than I’d ever imagine the comic would get. Even with the occasionally phenomenal, usually good, always fine features from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, there’s not much of a feel to the comic. It’s an anthology without tone, not even in terms of the story selection. It feels like Alan Moore inserted into a bad Avatar idea.

Until this issue. It’s not like Gillen’s Modded is any better, but Nahuel Lopez’s artwork is less complicated than the last artist’s and it makes it read better. It might not make it better, I feel like Lopez isn’t ambitious as much as functional while the last guy was ambitious, but it makes it read better. It makes Modded less of a letdown when you get to it.

Because it’s not just like the Moore and O’Neill feature is great, Code Pru is actually pretty awesome. Pro is having dinner at the Nighthawks diner and she has a talk with a reject from a bad eighties Terminator/Highlander knockoff. It’s funny, it’s kind of touching, it’s kind of strange. It’s Ennis finding something cool to do with this usually devastatingly series. Ennis doesn’t have a handle on this comic, maybe because of the length, maybe because of whatever, but this time out, he finds it. He finds his character. Caceres’s art is fine. It doesn’t end up fitting well enough, but it’s fine.

A Most Perfect Union is dumb but DiPascale’s on a role with his art, both in terms of the narrative pacing and of his character expressions. He’s developing a visual tone for the comic even though Brooks’s script is weak. And The Vast is cute. Andrade’s art gets confusing, but Gage actually paces out a fight scene well.

So Cinema Purgatorio is finally a diverting read. Not rewarding in all its parts, but diverting in them. But it all hinges on Moore and O’Neill. This issue of Cinema Purgatorio opens with a political bombshell. Moore and O’Neill tell the story of the Warner Brothers–you know, the guys whose company now owns DC Comics and has made lots of bad movies off of Alan Moore’s comic books, which he infamously hates being involved with. I actually thought he was going to go further, but he stayed classy. Heinous individuals get proper treatment. There’s a lot in the story–a couple times O’Neill just gives up and lets the dialogue and visual references take over. I couldn’t help reading the feature–Moore casts the Marx Brothers as the Warner Brothers, which brings in even more politics. Today Warner owns the MGM library, including the Marx Brothers movies (at least for home video distribution, I actually have no idea if they lease them or own them or what, not the point)–so is Moore making a deeper jab at Warner? Was his King Kong feature a couple issues ago a jab at Warner? Am I reading too much into it? It’s Alan Moore, after all. Aren’t I supposed to read into it?

Anyway, the feature’s great. Beautifully visually, beautifully in terms of dialogue and the Marxist banter. It flows so nicely into Ennis’s Code Pru, it’s impossible not to be generous with this rest of the comic.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A Night at the Lawyers; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Big Jimmy C.; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Nahuel Lopez. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 5 (August 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #5

The movie fan in me resents Moore’s title for the Cinema Purgatorio story–The Time of Our Lives, just because it reminds me of The Best Years of Our Lives and Moore isn’t doing a commentary on that film. Instead, he’s doing a thing about post-WWII culture in America, but more the fifties than the late forties. That caveat aside, it’s a solid entry from he and O’Neill. Nothing too exciting, just solid.

This issue’s Code Pru is similarly okay. Nowhere near as good as the Purgatorio but a not bad possession story. It’s unfortunate because Ennis can’t help but hint at what might be in a better Code Pru book, not just this truncated version of the concept. Decent art from Caceres but nothing too outstanding.

The Modded from Gillen and Calero is simultaneously awful (Gillen rips off Mad Max this time, not Scott Pilgrim) and competently illustrated. It’s a shame Calero doesn’t get better writing.

Ditto the More Perfect Union entry. Though DiPascale does some fantastic art this entry. Brooks barely has a script, but every panel is gorgeous. Maybe the less writing Brooks does, the better chance DiPascale has to turn the strip into something tolerable. Mildly tolerable.

And Gage and Andrade’s Vast is more tolerable than usual as well, just because there’s a little more story in this Pacific Rim rip-off.

I guess this issue of Purgatorio is something of a let down after the last one, but when doesn’t this anthology disappoint. At least there’s solid art. And Modded goes by somewhat quickly. It’s easily the worst of the bunch thanks to Gillen’s writing.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Time of Our Lives; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Your Mother Knits Socks in Hell; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 4 (July 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #4

Holy shit, is Gillen’s Modded a GamerGate thing? Are we supposed to hate the women for telling the sweet little dude what to do? I really hope not. I hope it’s just a dumb scene. Gillen’s writing on this story is already so lame, I’d feel even worse if he were actually trying something subtle with political commentary and just failing at it. Fine enough art from Calero as usual.

Way too short Vast from Gage and Andrade. Again, fine art, crap writing. But Gage really doesn’t have any time to do anything. It’s almost not fair to call the weak writing weak.

And then the Max Brooks thing. DiPascale’s greyscale digital art is too flat this entry. It’s a weak script with the giant ant fighting but there should have been more personality to it.

Notice I went through all the weak stories in this issue of Cinema Purgatorio first? Because the good stories are worth their own time and some due respect.

First, Garth Ennis. And Code Pru, the most disappointing thing in Cinema Purgatorio. Ennis and Raulo Caceres started it as its own thing, got to a promising place, flubbed it when they went to this anthology. It’s not a supernatural book anymore, it’s a monster comic. Maybe Ennis is doing a movie tie-in, who knows. It doesn’t come across. What does come across is good writing though and this issue’s entry of Pru has some great Ennis dialogue. It just doesn’t involve Pru or her partner. He’s not interested in them because all they do is exposition. It’s a mess but there’s still some Ennis goodness. Caceres’s art is too dark for black and white though.

Finally, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill doing an homage to Willis H. O’Brien and King Kong. It’s lovely and makes me wish Moore and O’Neill could do this book forever. It’s a shame the other stories in the anthology have anything to do with movies. Moore and O’Neill deserve far better co-creators. Great art on it, some wonderful writing from Moore. It has to be seen to be believed. It makes the issue–this somewhat disastrous Avatar anthology–an essential comic book. Moore’s a show-off with Purgatorio. O’Neill less but he’s still very confident, but Moore’s having a great time with reader expectation. They’re doing great work.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, A King at Twilight; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, Mommy’s Boy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 10 (July 2016)

Providence #10

Well. Providence. Robert Black gets his comeuppance for a lot of inept behavior earlier in the comic. He also finds out Lovecraft is a bigot, not to mention how sometimes the universe rewards endeavors. It’s not a weird comic because what’s so great about the reveals is how Moore started building towards them so long ago, but still keeps them relevant. It’s a masterfully written comic book. The only thing Moore takes more seriously than the Lovecraft stuff is the humor. It’s so sad and it’s so funny.

Burrows plays into that success–he’s got a lot of wonderful detail on protagonist Black as he’s having revelations about what’s really going on. There’s visible intensifying of the character’s stress; it might be as obvious as sweat or just how he’s holding his hands. Burrows’s art is phenomenal, which is even more impressive when one takes into account how strange the comic gets.

Moore opens with horror, then he goes over to uncomfortable social stuff, only to go further and start thinking about the end of the world. Then he closes with a horrifying, hilarious final reveal–amid what should be the ominous ceremonies to bring back an Elder God or whatever. It’s nuts.

And then the back matter is awesome. Moore and Burrows have fully trained the reader by this point to accept the comic book narrative as truer than the commonplace book back matter, so when they flip how it works, it’s just great.

It’s an excellent comic; of course it’s an excellent comic, it’s Providence.

CREDITS

The Haunted Palace; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Batman: The Killing Joke Special

The very BEST Alan Moore ending in his entire body of work. – Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker

The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way. – Alan Moore, the original writer, The Killing Joke

Wanna say that again, pussy? – Brian Azzarello, screenwriter, Batman: The Killing Joke

Out of nowhere–well, the questionably sincere loins of 2016 DC Animation–comes Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal 1988 comic book one-shot, starring Tara Strong as Batgirl, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill in his much-anticipated return as The Joker. Matthew Hurwitz and I thought it might be nice to sit down and hash over the film, much like we did for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Little did we know Killing Joke wouldn’t just turn out to be terrible, it would find astoundingly terrible ways to be terrible.

So join us now, as we gaze long into Batman: The Killing Joke and peel back each layer of superhero comics, animation and movie history that lead from the original book to a movie that did virtually everything wrong. Yeah, you knew we were the only ones up to the task. While everyone else is ranting about the instantly-infamous Batman / Batgirl hookup sex scene, only The Comics Fondle Podcast gives equal time to discussing the idiocy of this version having The Joker use circus freaks as a gang of deadly goons.

(We do actually get to discuss some good things, like “Batman: The Animated Series” and some comics. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s whimsy)

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Cinema Purgatorio 3 (June 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #3

Cinema Purgatorio, the comic I want to be able to love–the comic I want to be able to like–and I just can’t. This issue reveals the series’s two major problems. First, the artists (with at least one exception) aren’t doing black and white well. Their art is meant to be colored at some point, not appreciated on its own. Stories in Cinema Purgatorio have what should be great art, but it ends up being incomplete. Second, the pacing. Each of these stories–even the lamest ones–would be fine as a back-up in a decent comic. Not even a great comic. They aren’t installments for an anthology, they’re back-ups. They’d justify an extra buck on the cover price. They don’t justify a comic to themselves.

Starting at the top, Moore and O’Neill’s Cinema Purgatorio “feature.” It’s good, not great, but really good. It’s a serial, the hero keeps turning back time, there’s a lot of precise work from O’Neill. It’s not deep, it’s not musing. The biggest revelation is Purgatorio’s protagonist uses the ladies room. But it’s good. If it were the intro story to a better comic, it’d be great. Still, it’s Moore and O’Neill riffing on pop culture of the forties, one can’t complain.

Then there’s Code Pru, which is the only comic in the anthology with its own story title. I don’t know why, Ennis isn’t doing anything with them. Maybe if the story title somehow tidied up the poorly paced story, but no. It’s just a title. And Code Pru once again feels like if it had another four pages it’d be great. Instead, it’s an Alien rip-off. Ennis doing riffs on famous horror isn’t a bad idea, but it needs its own book and it needs Caceres’s art with color. It’s too busy and not detailed precisely enough for black and white. It’s not even effective as gore.

On the other hand, Calero’s black and white art on Modded is fine. It’s still really tedious to read because Calero’s visual pacing is all wrong, but his black and white line work seems like line work. It’s worth going through the trouble of figuring out what’s going on to appreciate those lines. Gillen’s script is mediocre but inoffensive.

Next up–A More Perfect Union and I’m done being polite. I was polite about DiPascale because I liked his Ennis dog comic but he’s tried my patience. His art for Civil War vs. giant ants–yes, not zombies, ants–is too pedestrian. Writer Brooks is clearly a Civil War buff, if DiPascale is one too, it doesn’t seem to be in the visual elements of the era. Brooks’s script is weak. Again, if it were a back-up, you’d breeze through it. But not in an overfull, undercooked anthology.

Then there’s The Vast. I dig Andrade’s art. He does incomplete black and white better than anyone else in the book (or Caceres and DiPascale–Cinema Purgatorio always seems like there’s a sixth story, maybe because Moore and O’Neill are doing movies in a frame). Gage’s kaiju but not kaiju script is still lame. But inoffensive.

If Cinema Purgatorio were just three dollars cheaper, it’d be great; as an event anthology, it’s kind of a waste. But it’s Alan Moore and Garth Ennis, so you have to read it.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, A Little Something to Lower Your Spirits; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 2 (May 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #2

With the exception of Moore and O’Neill’s lead story, this issue of Cinema Purgatorio is shockingly rough. Even Ennis seems to be phoning in his story, which has paramedic Pru meeting up with Frankenstein’s Monster (called Francis) as the NYPD roughs him up. Ennis only has a few pages so he emphasizes the action, which one wishes the other writers in the issue would do as well.

First, the Moore story. I love how Cinema Purgatorio is a comic about how movies suck life away written by Alan Moore, who’s never been particularly interested in turning comics into movies. This issue is a philosophical musing from a couple Romans turned into an existential nightmare. O’Neill has a good time with it. Moore is comfortable with it. It’s a fine open to a problematic comic.

Then it’s Code Pru. Ennis doesn’t put in enough work on the NYPD brutality, but he still has it overshadow the monster aspect of the comic. It feels like he’s doing this one as a favor, it really does. It’s got a lot of Ennis ideas without space to go anywhere. The Caceres art is fine. Again, it’s rushed; Caceres would probably do better with twice as many pages. Ennis would probably need three times as many for all the notions he has going on.

The rest of the book is a writing disaster. The art is all solid, but the writing is a mess.

Gillen’s gamer thing is a bunch of jargon. Calero’s art is technically good, but he doesn’t have any narrative pacing to it. It’s a whirlwind of visuals and dumb dialogue.

Brooks and DiPascale’s Civil War thing is terrible. Clearly Brooks wants to write some kind of Civil War epic so doing it in a comics anthology probably isn’t the right place. It’s all talking. Two installments in and it’s all talking. When you’ve only got eight pages, it’s not enough. DiPascale’s art is okay. It’s the least impressive in a lot of ways, maybe because it so clearly doesn’t look right in black and white.

Then there’s Gage and Andrade’s incredibly boring Pacific Rim knock-off. Only without the monster fights. Instead, there’s a lot of talking about monster fights. Andrade’s art is fantastic but it’s a complete waste of his time. There’s nothing for him to draw.

Cinema Purgatorio having a significant sophomore slump wasn’t something I would’ve expected. Hopefully it turns around. Or Moore and Avatar find writers who know how to write stories in six or eight page installments.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, And Lost in the Darkness and Distance; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Publisher, Avatar Press.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Providence Special

D08B61D5-84FE-4A7A-9B0D-EE1DFD74DC9E-2273-000002740AA95BADAlan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ horror masterpiece Providence has just begun its final act, so what better time to take an in-depth look back at the journey so far with a Comics Fondle Podcast one-shot?

Guest co-host (and occasional Comics Fondle contributor) Matthew Hurwitz of Danger Burger joins to chat for over two hours about Robert Black’s oblivious odyssey through the New England of H.P. Lovecraft. Join us as we take into account the many weird tales interwoven through Moore’s sprawling homage: The Call of Cthulu, The Dunwich HorrorThe Shadow Over Innsmouth, Herbert West: Re-Animator, From Beyond, Pickman’s ModelThe Haunter of the Dark, et all, plus the epic’s origins in Moore & Burrows’ previous Lovecraft comics from Avatar Press, The Courtyard and Neonomicon.

We also consider the stature Providence could occupy in the context of Moore’s seminal career and speculate as to how he might surprise his readers with the series’ conclusion.

Much trivia mentioned in this recording would not have been ascertained without the starry wisdom of Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence, whose meticulous research makes the Stella Sapiente’s archival work look like Robert Black’s dream journal.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

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Providence 9 (May 2016)

Providence #9

This issue of Providence manages to be the most quintessential of the series, if such a thing can happen in a twelve issue series, while also being the least horrifying. After briefly introducing H.P. Lovecraft previously, Moore now sets Lovecraft and protagonist Robert Black on a long walk through Providence together and there’s this uncanny sense of alter egos.

Black has seen all these things but his mind cannot bring itself to comprehend them. Lovecraft can imagine all these things but cannot see them. Black’s commonplace book journaling just confirms it–Lovecraft can’t see what’s all around him. It’s very strange, as the reader, to comprehend more than the protagonist and the fictionalized creator of the subject. The journaling also talks a bit about the power of words; the issue leaves one wondering what kind of comment Moore is in the process of making on Lovecraft. There’s simultaneously admiration for his imagination and dismissal of his closed-mindedness.

Of course, Lovecraft and Black can’t see the ultraviolet monsters swimming through the air in Providence, which would probably help them open those minds.

It’s a very talky issue. Burrows has peculiar framing for the scenes–the traditional Providence first person from Black’s perspective, but also some very strange stagings of characters. The strangeness of poses is far more unsettling than the “monsters,” which calls back to previous issues, and further gives this issue that quintessential feel. Only the exposition isn’t for Black, it’s for the reader. It ought to be for Black, it ought to be for Lovecraft even, but it’s for us. We’re more in on Moore’s imagination than his characters. No pun intended, I assure you.

Moore demands active mental participation. If characters move in between comic panels (I think Dave Gibbons made that observation), Providence develops between the issues. The commonplace book back matter controls the reader’s consumption of the main story, so even if you’re bulk reading, Moore’s able to slow you down.

It’s breathtaking.

CREDITS

Outsiders; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Cinema Purgatorio 1 (February 2016)

Cinema Purgatorio #1

I wonder what Cinema Purgatorio is going to be. The first issue has five stories, all by different creators. It’s Alan Moore’s idea, it’s an Avatar horror anthology. The writers are Moore, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos Gage. Avatar guys. The artists are Kevin O’Neill, Raulo Caceres, Michael DiPascale, Ignacio Calero, Gabriel Andrade. In other words, Kevin O’Neill and some Avatar guys.

Moore and O’Neill contribute the opening frame. There’s a demented slapstick short, then some musings on film and pop entertainment. I can never tell if Moore knows how strange it is to have him talk about film–when his public comments on film are always about a negative interaction with film–or if he really does just like talking about it grandiosely. It’s a strange kind of grandiose though. Moore’s setting up the concept of the book–demented Saturday matinee.

The other writers approach the matinee differently. With the exception of Ennis and Caceres’s Code Pru, which is sort of sitcom gore, everything else is in some way zeitgeist pop. Gillen and Calero do something with fantasy beasts, cyberpunk and Fury Road villains called Modded (get it, gamer stuff). Brooks and DiPascale do A More Perfect Union, which is probably going to be Civil War vs. zombies because Max Brooks (only with historical “accuracy” for Civil War buffs). Gage and Andrade have The Vast, which is fighter jets versus kaiju and what not.

The Ennis story and the Brooks story are writer pieces. But Gillen and Gage are just setting up their artists for awesomeness. Both Calero and Andrade excel in the black and white sort of horror, sort of fantasy, sort of sci-fi realm. The black and white brings out all the little details, focusing the reader on the violence of the situation. Without color, the fantastic element is gone. The same thing happens with Caceres’s art, but that one is still all about Ennis’s dialogue and scene pacing.

The Brooks and DiPascale story is the least successful. I’m most excited for whatever Moore and O’Neill come up with, but also Code Pru and Vast. Modded will be a fine read with good art.

Cinema Purgatorio is, conceptually, a success. Now they just need to ship it on time.

CREDITS

Cinema Purgatorio, The Fatal Officers in “Hushed Up!”; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Kevin O’Neill. Code Pru, You’ll Never Forget Your First Time; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Raulo Caceres. Modded; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ignacio Calero. A More Perfect Union; writer, Max Brooks; artist, Michael DiPascale. The Vast; writer, Christos Gage; artist, Gabriel Andrade. Publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 8 (March 2016)

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Is it possible Providence may not fulfill all those terrifying promises Moore has made to this point? The series is in its second half and Moore just surprised me with the most obvious narrative development–H.P. Lovecraft. Providence can be homage to Lovecraft, but I never thought he was going to pop up. It changes things. Obviously, the protagonist isn’t going to end the series well–does any Lovecraftian protagonist ever end a story well–but the world might not end.

But it’s Moore and Providence does nothing if not surprise, so I’m assuming I’m not going to guess it right. During the comic, Moore doesn’t encourage contemplations about the next reveal. He’s too concentrated on guiding the reader’s experience, letting the issue’s lettering choices pace out its visual consumption. He delights with the exposition, he delights with the way he conveys it.

Moore juxtaposes how he writes to guide the reader’s experience of the book with how he writes about the protagonist’s experiences with guided hypnosis. Again, thanks to the back matter diary, Robert Black has become the eyes the reader uses the experience most of the world of Providence. So Moore wrapping a couple layers around this visually stimulating, jarringly paced jaunt through dreamland? It’s amazing.

Then Moore just goes back to the comic, goes back to the story. The back matter has a couple soft reveals about the events in the issue. Moore’s got a far more amiable tone this issue. He’s enjoying telling the story.

While often disturbing, Providence is just such a well-told story, it gives you the warm tentacle slimies.

Gorgeous Burrows art as always. The way he and Moore pace out the narrative visually is peerless. They’re an excellent, sort of unlikely team. Burrows has a pragmatic feel to his art and Moore utilizes it to better convey the story.

Another awesome issue.

CREDITS

The Key; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 7 (January 2016)

Providence #7

Robert Black is not a likable protagonist. He’s a sympathetic protagonist, with Moore pulling on the heart strings a little in Black’s sanctimonious stupidity, but he’s not likable. He’s a self-important tool and his inability to change makes his troubles somewhat sympathy inducing, but not enough to overshadow the rest of the book.

And, in this case, by rest of the book, I don’t even mean the illustrated portions of the comic, but more of the written back matter. Moore’s trying, with the back matter, to teach the reader how to read Providence, how to imagine Providence. It’s almost like Moore’s giving us his notes and asking for our opinion.

Of course, the comic matter of this issue of Providence is excellent. Moore does two or three surprise reveals in the back matter–things Burrows illustrates in order to hide something for later, thereby changing not just one understanding, but affecting all subsequent ones. I do wish I had read the book once without any of the back matter. I wonder if I wait long enough after the series finishes, if I can see how it works just as the comic.

Some great art from Burrows. Nice mixed media approach. And Moore introduces one of Providence’s first lovable characters. He’ll probably eat Robert in the last issue.

It’s another great issue. Providence is superb.

CREDITS

The Picture; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 12 (November 2015)

crossedonehundred12Six issues into the Simon Spurrier run, Future Taylor is undergoing unexpected adaptions to life that echo what Alan Moore put her through at the conclusion of his initial arc. The difference is that small surprises of this busy installment aren’t as shattering as the gradually revealed unknown unknown of Bosol’s prophecy, they’re the logical tipping points of every development since then. The most gripping turns are within Future herself. Her exhaustion is forcing some radical choices and it’s some of her most significant character development in the entire series. All her decisions feel like the natural results of who we’ve know her to be, combining with where the story has taken her. It’s incredibly satisfying and occasionally startling.

There’s a combat scene towards the end which echoes, perhaps unintentionally, a very similar sequence at the climax of Garth Ennis’ original Crossed wherein the protagonists are, at least momentarily, relieved of all their pain through the simple satisfaction of killing their hated enemies. The war may go on forever, but if battles can still be decisively won then the struggle has not been in vain. Spurrier and Rafael Ortiz convey all that in a few panels where Ennis and Jacen Burrows took a page of internal narration, which isn’t to say that they did it better, rather that they’ve successfully harkened back to a very Ennis-esque emotional peak within the context of Alan Moore’s spinoff from his original concept.

Ortiz is maybe the best artist for Crossed + One Hundred since Gabriel Andrade, for all the opposite reasons. Andrade illustrated the post-apocalypse with technical skill that made you believe in the world’s details, Ortiz goes for the rickety chaos of life post-sacking-of-Chooga. You feel the desperation and turbulence in everyone’s faces. He can also stage elaborate action scenes. Both are heavily required at this point in the story and he absolutely delivers. It’s thrilling how Spurrier and Moore constructed all the drama that’s transpired to build up into these simultaneous interpersonal and external conflicts. I would never recommend jumping into this series from anywhere except the very start, but you could do worse than here.

If I recall correctly, this is the first issue not to identify, via Future, the wishful fiction novel from whose title each issue is borrowed. “Behold The Man” is – according to our own pre-surprise Wi-Fi Encyclopedia, Wikipedia – a 1966 novella by Michael Moorcock, in which a time traveller with a messiah complex meets Jesus of Nazareth and it turns out he’s not the messiah, just a very naughty boy. So the time traveller takes his place, effectively becoming the legend. Beyond the classic sci-fi trope of a predestination paradox, it’s a very Alan Moorish kind of story, speaking to the idea that the meaning of life is storytelling. I don’t skull the connection to the events of this particular Crossed + One Hundred chapter but it’s worth noting that Moorcock was an avowed anarchist and the tactical limits of pacifist religion have very much become a focus in this comic. The loss of blind faith and forging of a more pragmatic one may have something to do with it. Or it may all hinge on the last-page cliffhanger revelation of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; series outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 6 (October 2015)

Providence #6

Moore is such a show-off. He really does manage to include the reader in the appreciation of his deft moves. It’s that eighties vibe. Look what we’re going to do, me by writing, you by reading. Moore makes Providence feel like he’s just coming up with it after every scene change. It’s stream of consciousness only it can’t be.

The main part of the story has some really creepy art from Burrows–after an awesome open with Robert in a presumably dangerous situation–as Robert reads. A lot of the comic is about someone reading. And the read material doesn’t factor in. It’s all about the visual pacing. Moore talks about the read material at length in the back matter, which works beautifully.

There’s a big awful, amazing scene in the last few pages. Robert finds out what’s going on. Some of it. Only it’s not the stuff the reader already knew about, the stuff Robert is too oblivious to notice. It’s big Providence stuff, showing Moore definitely has something in mind for the entire series.

It’s so good. Moore finds a way to make horror incredibly accessible, not too gory, and infinitely disturbing. With Burrows’s able assistance, of course.

CREDITS

Out of Time; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 11 (October 2015)

crossed100-11reg-600x928‘Slims, churchface surprises, a refugee crisis with possible in-filled-traitors. Crossed +100 is the most satirically relevant dystopic sci-fi of modern times that no-one is reading because it’s a comic book. A lot more will read Frank Miller’s oncoming Dark Knight III: The Master Race (myself included) which will doubtlessly contain a lot of heavy handed, big-fisted references to the state of world affairs. Alan Moore’s funhouse mirror to our clash of civilizations leads the reader to reconsider recent events – chiefly the proliferation of barbarism and resulting struggle to defend ourselves without losing human decency – through the disarmingly pulpy prism of the Crossed franchise. The clever conceit of Garth Ennis’ original story was to make the zombie apocalypse subgenre more human and therefore scarier. This spinoff’s logical next step of evolving the Crossed as an organized force of religious terrorism is so uncannily relatable and disturbing as to not only render the old George Romero films kind of quaint by comparison (which Ennis’ original run did a pretty good job of anyways) but to also dissipate any suspense within the flagship series Crossed: Badlands. No wonder Kieron Gillen’s recent arc Homo Tortor was set set in the ancient past, essentially Crossed Minus Seventy-Five Thousand.

Actually talking about issue 11 now; life amongst the survivalers has hit the tipping point where Future’s warnings can’t be ignored any longer. There’s been a back and forth between installments in seeing her go out to learn more about the Salt-Crossed’s moves, then fruitlessly reporting back her findings to Murfreesboro. This is the chapter when the situation finds its way back with her, and it’s not the attackers but the wounded who are banging at the doors. Rafa Ortiz’s sketchy, thin-lined art is wholly suited to depicting the poor and tired huddled masses, while consternation grows amongst the settled. What’s slightly off is that sometimes his character’s faces will appear rushed or haphazardly constructed in some panels, and then become amazingly, painstakingly detailed on the very next page. Halfway through the comic Si Spurrier writes a terrific dialogue between Future and Mustaqba, wherein Ortiz gives Fewch kind of a goofy “angry” face at the start. By the scene’s climax she has one of the most startlingly withered looks of desperation in the entire series so far. Despite that occasional unevenness, Ortiz turns in great work throughout on a challenging variety of scenes: refugee crowds, flashbacks to battle, another heated argument between Future and Ima’am Fajr. There’s also a mysterious and imposing new character who may or may not be another Robbie Greer / Jokemercy.

If we’re still allowed to read comic books a hundred years from now we might be studying Crossed + One Hundred, not necessarily for storytelling technique but as a record of how contemporary fears are more honestly dramatized under the mainstream radar by less genteel entertainments – horror movies, sure, but now also horror comics.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 10 (September 2015)

crossed one hundred 10It took me two readings of this issue to realize why it feels like the shortest in the series thus far: terse dialogue between two peoples, the Crossed and the non, is made twice as terse by the rules of Alan Moore’s debilitated future English. Nearly half the pages are an excruciatingly tense standoff between Future and the camp she and her exploratory party stumbled upon, and new info gleaned about the Salt-Crossed is kept in line with Moore & Spurrier’s highly disciplined rationing of revelations across the second arc. Spurrier’s ear for dialogue might actually be better amongst the Salt-Crossed and their sickly lower-tier classes than Future and her fellow survivalers. The introduction of uncrossed humans indoctrinated as servants to the empire of Bosol is a harrowing, barely fictionalized snapshot of how slave mentality continues to function when the slave masters are away.

The only downside to this excellent scene is that it takes so little time to read, there’s barely any story left in the remaining pages. I actually went back and counted them, thinking I’d been short-changed from the usual 22. A heavy firefight action bit in the middle section also sped up the pacing. Since it’s all in greater service of the plot rather than gratuitous pandering, however, you can’t really complain.

Of equal weight to new developments in Future’s adventures, Crossed +One Hundred now has a third artist in the fold: Rafa Ortiz, who’s apparently done prior work elsewhere in the CCU (Crossed Comics Universe.) The changeover from Fernando Heinz is a mixed bag. Though his skills aren’t equal to Gabriel Andrade’s, his character acting still strives towards a comparable level of realism rather than manga-inspired rendering. The grit is back. But man-oh-man, there are two panels that are just BLATANTLY re-used near the beginning of that confrontation sequence, abruptly jerking you right out of the moment. They actually almost mirror each other across the two-page spread, it’s kind of impossible to ignore. Not sure if that’s Avatar’s fault or his – both this and the previous issue are dated for September, what was the big rush?

Hopefully we don’t see that kind of sloppiness again. Especially since Ortiz proves himself otherwise capable throughout his debut installment, both at staging action and depicting complicated outdoor crowd scenes, as he does on the final page. Those two aspects will doubtless become more critical as the saga continues simmering to a boil.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed + One Hundred 9 (September 2015)

Crossed One Hundred 9Like Alan Moore, Spurrier respects the value of a single issue. There’s a substantial amount of plot development in this one, with reading time expanded by the process of deciphering future-speak, at which Spurrier is gradually getting better and more clever. Fernando Heinz’s art still occasionally does the characters a disservice with distractingly cartoonish facial expressions during tough, emotional scenes, but his panel compositions are rock solid, as are his crowd scenes and backgrounds. There’s a flashy two-page splash reveal near the beginning, which is really nice to pause on and explore. Spurrier is also working in conjunction with Heinz in more creative ways; using flashbacks, panel breaks within static angles, internal thought balloon counterpoints and other cool tricks.

What Spurrier and Moore achieve with Crossed+One Hundred number 9 is that like the previous issue’s unsettling new angle on the strategies of the Salt-Crossed, this one raises unpleasant questions about the limitations of religious leadership in the post-apocalypse. Moore’s introduction of the ‘Slims as the last surviving faith after The Surprise in his original arc was one of the more brilliant details, and now this second arc is addressing the implications. The casual homosexuality and female leadership have already been touched upon as plusses for a formerly repressive religion made pluralistic by necessity, but now Future is hitting the glass ceiling when she needs Murfreesboro’s help the most: her hair’s in a scarf, not a full hijab. They’re only going to listen to and respect someone so much who isn’t a member of the faith, ditto Cautious. There’s an arrogant trust in God’s benevolence that everything will work out, keeping them from heeding their warnings. Meanwhile, that other faith-based organization of the post-Surprise world – who have no qualms about reproducing images of their prophet – are employing Dark Ages tactics of proselytization, Taqiyya and Jizya with expert efficacy.

The thought-provoking satirical details of this theocratic in-fighting are unfortunately at a slight cost to the logic of the story: Future finally has evidence, VIDEO evidence of the Salt-Crossed working their unholy plans, and she still can’t rally everyone together yet? It was already a stretch to accept that Murfreesboro wouldn’t listen to her about what REALLY happened to Chooga, and write it off as some freak incident of unpreparedness against a breakout from within, or attack from outside, by run-of-the-mill churchface illbillies. Chooga wasn’t just some two-bit settle, you’d think they’d afford Future and Cautious some credit as the only surviving witnesses. But they’re women – and infidel women at that – so perhaps that’s the point.

It’s totally forgivable for the overall quality of the package, including a disturbing new revelation about the Salt-Crossed’s social castes, which leads into a great cliffhanger.

Crossed + 100 continues to impress.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

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