Kid Eternity

Kid Eternity

By Grant Morrison & Duncan Fegredo

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84576-239-8

British writer Grant Morrison’s jump to the US big time was facilitated by way of this retro-fitting of the venerable Golden-Age character first published by Quality Comics in 1942 (Hit Comics #25). In his original outing the Kid was a young boy machine-gunned by Nazis and taken to the heavenly realm of Eternity by a hapless soul collector years before his actual due date. Unable to simply return, he was given the ability to temporarily walk the Earth, along with permission to summon any person, myth or legend that has ever existed. Thus armed, and aided by the bumbling and beneficent spirit Mr. Keeper, the Kid fought crime and injustice until all the really good Golden-Age comic-books were cancelled.

Working on the tried and trusty “everything you know is wrong” principle of modern comic scripting, this revival reveals that was all a lie and sinister forces have been secretly at work all this time. Escaping from Hell, where he has been imprisoned for decades, Kid Eternity teams up with third-rate stand-up comedian Jerry Sullivan. As magical chaos and bloodletting begin to devastate the world they return to the Inferno to rescue Mr Keeper, only to discover the truth behind the Kid’s death and subsequent career, and their part in a cosmic plot to alter the nature of reality.

Full of flash and dazzle, Morrison’s own signature pantheon of multi-dimensional higher beings and visceral-magic entities and metaphysical un-realpolitik, bombast their way through this rather weak tale of revenge and deception, although the complex, full colour art of Duncan Fegredo is compelling throughout and occasionally spell-binding. This miniseries spawned a short lived revival of the character: one of the Vertigo imprint’s first forays into periodical publishing after hiving off from the regular DC Universe.

© 1991, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Comanche Moon

Comanche Moon

By Jack Jackson

(Rip Off Press Inc./Last Gasp)  ISBN 0-89620-079-5

One of the earliest Graphic Novels, Comanche Moon was originally published as the comic books White Comanche, Red Raider and Blood on the Moon during the 1970s by Last Gasp, a regular packager of work by underground cartoonists such as Jackson. This reworked and augmented edition appeared in 1979. So far as I know it’s not currently in print, although it really should be.

The book follows the astounding life of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah and the course of their lives among Texas Comanches and her own – white – people. Whilst the Parkers are eking out a living on the Southern Plains of Texas in 1836, their homestead is attacked by a Comanche raiding party and little Cynthia Ann and her younger brother are carried off. Separated from him she is raised as a squaw, eventually marrying a sub-chief and birthing a son. The folksy, matter of fact story-telling reinforces the powerful truth of this documentary of the final downfall of the Plains Indians under the relentless expansionist pressure of the new Americans.

Quanah grew to be the last chief of the Comanches and as the old ways died he was responsible for all the meagre concessions his people managed to gain from the unstoppable white men. He was a Judge, a Sheriff, a huckster for Teddy Roosevelt and died a loved and respected political figure among both the Comanches and the settlers.

My dry précis does nothing to capture the hypnotic skill of Jackson in making this history come alive. Comanche Moon reads as easily as the best type of fiction but never strays from the heartbreaking truth that underpins it. Jack Jackson’s work is powerful, charming, thoroughly authentic, astoundingly well-researched and totally captivating. If only all history books could be his good.

©1979 Jack Jackson. All Rights Reserved.

HWY.115

HWY.115

By Matthias Lehmann

(Fantagraphics Books)  ISBN 1-56097-733-7

This stirring and deeply disturbing, psycho-thriller employs the form of a road/buddy movie as hardboiled private detective René Pluriel hits the highways of France in pursuit of the deadly “Heimlich Killer”. He hasn’t gone far when he picks up the flamboyant hitch-hiker Agatha, who reveals that she too is a detective on the trail of the notorious serial murderer.

As they wend their way through the back roads and, at times, history of France, interviewing the killer’s associates and survivors, they build a tense picture not just of the quarry but also of each other, and realise that the conclusion of the quest won’t be happy for everybody.

Lehmann’s dark voyage is gripping and often surreal, and the tension is augmented by the spectacular, moody art, stylishly etched in a powerful scraperboard style. The narrative is blistered with flashbacks, literary diversions and hallucinogenic asides that amplify the dissociative feel of this ostensibly simple tale. This is the author’s first original graphic novel and it is a bravura performance that will be very hard to top; I eagerly await the attempt.

Characters, stories & art © 2006 Actes Sud. All Rights Reserved.
This edition © 2006 Fantagraphics Books.

Scott Pilgrim Vol 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim Vol 3 

By Bryan Lee O’Malley

Oni Press

O’Malley’s Manga-styled tales of an adorable boy-idol slacker, shambling his way through a contemporary, if somewhat skewed, life is a gentle stroll through a world that manages to feel warmly nostalgic no matter what age you are or where you grew up. Scott Pilgrim is young, lazy and gorgeous, shares a flat with his cool, gay best mate, plays in a band and has girlfriend hassles. He lives his life from moment to moment and manages to keep a moist grip on both angst and hormones.

The third outing for the world’s most precious slacker sees his life-challenges spiral to unbelievable heights and depths. Ramona, his new girlfriend, has revealed that before they can find eternal happiness – or at least date – Scott must defeat her seven previous boyfriends – who are all Evil and Mighty! The complications keep on abounding as Evil Boyfriend #3 is Todd, who is currently seeing Scott’s ex! To make things worse, she’s in a more famous band than Scott and is determined to make him suffer.

This extraordinary blend of pop and sub-culture, replete with ninjas, bionic chicks, teen rebellion and sheer surreal cartoonery is absolutely irresistible reading for anyone who’s got a brain and a secret desire to try being young just one more time. Funny, compelling and probably addictive, and so entertaining you could probably dance to it. This is another great comic book. Go buy it now, and don’t miss the first two either.

™ & © 2006 Bryan Lee O’Malley. All Rights Reserved.

Grimjack: Killer Instinct

Grimjack: Killer Instinct

By John Ostrander & Timothy Truman

(IDW Publishing)

Grimjack originally appeared during the American comic industry’s last great flourishing in the 1980’s. Created by Ostrander and Truman as a back-up feature, he swiftly won his own title at First Comics and almost survived the company’s demise more than a decade later. In a crowded marketplace, and almost irrespective of who was doing the drawing, this hard-boiled fantasy action strip was a watchword for quality entertainment.

John Gaunt, Grimjack, is part private eye, part ronin and all-round problem solver just scratching out a living in the fantastic pan-dimensional city of Cynosure, a huge metropolis that touches every place in the multiverse at once. A combination of dry wit, dark edged fantasy, spectacular action and a willingness to take narrative risks won him a lot of loyal fans.

In Killer Instinct, Ostrander and Truman take us back to a time immediately preceding Grimjack’s first appearance to flesh out the character for the old lags whilst introducing newcomers to a fresh, vibrant anti-hero struggling against a number of corrupt power-mongers, including insane paramilitaries and expansionist vampire cliques, whilst trying to find his own way. There is action aplenty and tremendous style for fans of genre-crossing. Let’s hope this leads someone to publish all those past classics in spiffy book compilations. I know I want them.

The Quitter

By Harvey Pekar & Dean Haspiel

Vertigo

The cartoon phenomenon that is Harvey Pekar once again breaks boundaries in an industry that operates so much these days on the assumption that most creators do their best work in the first flush of youth.

The Quitter is a bleak, coldly funny and often painful self-examination of a troubled and driven young outsider Everyman in a society gradually becoming a bit of a disappointment. All the trademark Pekar concerns are present: success with women, financial security, success in relationships, history, literature, success in a culture that won’t tolerate failure – or even mediocrity – and respect, all viewed through the fresh eyes of a troubled adolescent.  Pekar’s subtle mastery, gloriously illustrated by the simply magical black and white artwork of Dean Haspiel, is to convey these dark themes in a compelling and frankly joyous manner.

Always gripping, never depressing, and utterly absorbing, The Quitter is, as its hype describes, some of his best work yet, and I’m fervently praying that there’s much, much more to come.

© 2005 Harvey Pekar & Dean Haspiel.  All Rights Reserved.

The Case of Madeleine Smith

Madeleine Smith 

By Rick Geary

NBM/Comics Lit ISBN 1-561636-467-0

This eighth volume in master cartoonist Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series focuses on the true and scandalous secret affair between Emile L’Anglier, a low-born French clerk and Madeleine Smith, daughter of a wealthy Scottish merchant. The slow poisoning of one of these mismatched lovers led to a notorious trial in the 19th century and the eventual verdict shocked everyone and satisfied nobody.

Geary’s captivating storytelling and audacious drawing give this tale a compelling dash and verve that makes for an unforgettable read.

Find out more about this series HERE

© 2006 Rick Geary. All Rights Reserved