The Most Recent Crop of Graphic Novels
The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume II
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill
first volume of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen accomplished a rare feat in comics. It took
a somewhat gimmicky concept - a team of Victorian-era literary
figures teaming up to save the world - and made it believable,
humorous and unique, garnering well-earned praise from fans
and critics alike. It also accomplished an all-too common
feat, that of spawning an absolute abomination of a movie.
Forget about the movie. It never happened. Instead, let's
all focus our attention on The League of Extraordinary
Gentleman: Volume II.
The new series, now collected and reprinted in hardcover
format, catalogues the further adventures of Mina Murray,
Alan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man and Dr.
Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, this time reunited to face a new threat:
the Martian invasion of England, as told in H.G. Wells'
War of the Worlds. Moore again delivers everything
that made the first volume so wonderful, though once again,
the story takes a back seat to the evolution and strengthening
of his borrowed characters.
Despite the supernatural premise, the League's members
are made wholly believable. With such radically different
people thrown together under fantastic circumstances, the
result is palpable tension on every page. These are characters
you can't help but become attached to. Let's face it - when
a hulking, murderous rapist like Edward Hyde is made endearing
to an audience, the writer has done his job. And this time
around, we've got aliens, sex, betrayal, the deaths of major
characters and more.
The dialogue is sharp and witty, but Moore knows when to
let the artwork speak for itself. Kevin O'Neill's "absinthe
doodles", carried over from Volume I, are a perfect
match for the story and time period. His incredible level
of detail leaves hidden jokes and literary references in
every panel, yet it never feels overdone. In addition, the
hardcover collection reprints the "almanac entries"
from the individual issues, as well as humorous magazine
ads and games all set in the time period.
Overall, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume
II is just good, smart storytelling. Say what you will
about Alan Moore, but this is how comics were meant to be.
You might say that it's in a League of its own. But don't
say that. It sounds retarded.
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Mike Allred
really have no idea what they were aiming for with this
one. Vertical is a love story set amongst
the backdrop of New York City in 1965. Brando Bale, a hip
and guilt-ridden young man, spends most of his time working
for Andy Warhol and whining to himself in the form of poorly
written narration. In his spare time, he likes to throw
himself off of buildings, miraculously surviving every time.
Unfortunately, the plot and any hint of subtlety go with
him, and are smashed to a million pieces on the ground.
The theme here is falling. Falling off of buildings is
just like falling in love. If you can't quite grasp that,
don't worry, because writer Steven Seagle bludgeons you
with it on every page. It gets old fast, and it doesn't
help that Brando and his love interest Zilly Kane are angst-filled,
self-centered and unlikable. The love story isn't convincing,
and the whole thing just seems like a cheap throwaway contrivance.
The only saving grace here is Mike Allred's artwork, but
you can find that in Madman Comics and X-Statix.
The book's format - a slim, vertical (get it?) top-stapled
affair - is as unwieldy as the dialogue. This story might
- and I stress MIGHT have worked as part of a collection
of short stories tied to the theme or the era, but not as
a standalone. Maybe I'm just not part of the target audience,
but I can't think of anyone who would enjoy - much less
buy - this book. No deal, Vertical.
Writer: Based on a screenplay by Hans Rodionoff, adapted
by Keith Giffen
Artist: Enrique Breccia
works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft aren't exactly light
beach reading, but if you put in the time, you'll be rewarded
with some of the creepiest and most disturbing horror stories
around. Elder gods, dark rituals and unspeakable evil -
I'm talking serious nightmare-type shit, here. The man was
a gothic genius and his works have influenced and an entire
genre, from Stephen King to Hellboy. He either had one hell
of an imagination...or everything he wrote about was real.
Such is the premise of Lovecraft, a new graphic novel
from DC's Vertigo imprint that imagines H.P. Lovecraft's
writings as fact instead of fiction - a chronicling of the
author's lifelong contact with evil from another dimension.
The result is partly a biography and partly a macabre tale
placing the author inside what is essentially one of his
own works. We're treated to an inside look at the man behind
the madness, from his childhood and writing career to his
ill-fated marriage. Yet woven into the story is a tale worthy
of H.P. himself, featuring a cursed book, terrifying visions,
and familiar faces and locations resurrected from his various
works. It's a great concept based on a screenplay by Hans
Rodionoff, and aside from some jumps in the narrative and
a slightly rushed ending, it works very well.
The artwork is where this book really shines. I've never
heard of artist Enrique Breccia before, but this is how
Lovecraft was meant to look. Breccia's pages are a mixture
of Edward Gorey, Steve Templeton and fantasy novel illustration,
with a hint of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
thrown in to reflect the era. If that sounds like a crowded
dance floor, it's because Breccia frequently shifts his
style, creating a world of stark contrasts. Reality is drab
and highly detailed, while each nightmarish creature is
an explosion of blurred watercolor. Everything is slightly
off-kilter in Lovecraft's world, emphasizing his descent
into madness. The deranged protagonist himself is no exception,
with his protruding lower jaw, glaring eyes and slightly
tilted head. Very nice.
With its focus on the reclusive author and subtle references
to his works, this is ultimately a story aimed straight
at H.P. Lovecraft fans. If you swim in that end of the nerd
pool, this book is a must-have. It brings a fascinating
new perspective to the man and his mythos, with a background
that is clearly fiction, yet almost believable. Plus, it's
beautiful to look at. On the other hand, if you've never
read The Call of Cthulhu, and you think Brown Jenkins is
a sexual position, you might want to skip this one. It's
still a solid horror read, but probably not worth the hardcover
Grade: A- for Lovecraft fans, B for everyone else
The Losers: Ante Up
Writer: Andy Diggle
doesn't happen too often, but every once in a while
a comic book will take me by surprise. Such is the case
with The Losers: Ante Up. I caught the first issue
of this series when it was initially released last year,
and promptly forgot about it. It wasn't terrible, it just
felt like yet another action/conspiracy-type book, and there
were a lot of them floating around at the time. Now that
the first six issues of The Losers have been collected
in one volume, I felt ready to give it another chance
it ended up being the most fun I've had reading comics in
a long time. An all-around guilty pleasure.
The premise is straightforward enough: a team of highly
skilled CIA black ops is presumed dead after being double-crossed
by their own corrupt agency. Now they're back, with nothing
to lose, and they're looking for revenge. That's about it.
Not exactly high-concept, but therein lies its charm. The
introductory issue and the 5-part storyline that follows
play out like a big budget action movie, complete with complex
heists, high-speed chases, big explosions and some of the
old ultra-violence. It's fast, fun and over-the-top, reminiscent
of the recent remake of The Italian Job. But much better,
because that movie sucked.
Of course, the tradeoff here is that The Losers
also inherits some of Hollywood's weaknesses, primarily
that of character development. There's a slick team dynamic,
but there's not much more to the individual characters aside
from some snappy one-liners, sometimes making it hard to
distinguish between them. This can be overlooked, as it's
only the first story arc in an ongoing series - by the end
of the story, the stage is set for further adventures. It's
harder to dismiss the dialogue, which is unapologetically
ridiculous at points, and conversations seem forced and
tailor-made for the reader's benefit. Plus, writer Andy
Diggle never seems to tire of showing off his extensive
knowledge of snappy military lingo. Is it accurate? I don't
know. It's cool, though.
The artwork is really nice, which is extremely important
for a book so heavy on action. There's some real style here.
Broad, bright colors are juxtaposed with solid black shadow,
creating a feeling evocative of Mike Mignola's work on Hellboy.
That's never a bad thing. And the covers are amazing - kinetic
pop art worthy of framing.
The Losers: Ante Up is basically comic book junk
food, which is strange considering it's a Vertigo release.
This is an unfortunate marketing decision, and may cause
the book to miss out on a more mainstream audience. If you
like fast-paced action flicks, don't let the imprint deter
you - you'll dig The Losers. And at 10 bucks, it's
the same price as going to the movies. So make some popcorn,
kick back, and enjoy. It sure is nice to be pleasantly surprised.
-- Dave Brennan