For a brief period of time, while I was working in Baltimore, I was a weekly purchaser of single-issue comic books. I enjoyed it, but after we moved back to Ithaca I gave up the practice (much to the betterment of my wallet). However, there are times when one must make exceptions to even the best of habits.
This is one of those times.
All I can say is: finally.
Scott Pilgrim, volumes 1-4: A slow starter, but once it hit its stride it really hit its damn stride. Following the adventures of a dimwitted Canadian slacker bass player (who just happens to be one of the greatest fighters in the world) as he deals with less-slackery friends, jobs, past relationships, and a new girlfriend who just happens to come with Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends, the Scott Pilgrim books are by turns, smart, sweet, funny, and possibly just a little to into 80s video games. They, like Scott, have a nigh-irresistible charm, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
The Umbrella Academy, Apocalypse Suite: Created and written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, this book starts off the way more comics should: with superkids battling national monuments and famous zombies. That’s the sort of mad and beautiful idea that Alan Moore cited as being so wondrous about comic books, and more and more that’s exactly the sort of thing I want out of the comics I read. Sadly, there’s a tonal shift early on, and we find ourselves in the midst of angsty superpowered thirtysomethings who seem quite certain their lives suck because daddy never loved them. As such, the rest of to book disappointingly fails to live up to the promise of those first pages, just as the Academy’s adult lives failed to live up to the potential of their early years. How very, very meta.
Atomic Robo: I got this comic through interlibrary loan, and purchased my own copy the next day. Created by Tesla in 1923 and getting himself neck-deep in high weirdness ever since, the title character is reminiscent of Hellboy without being outright derivative. The art is similarly influenced by Mignola, but both the writing and the palette have brighter tones. The comic is thoroughly excellent: action-packed, witty, laugh-out-loud funny, and even poignant. Great stuff; more please.
The Tompkins County Public Library has an amazing collection of graphic novels, including the entire run of the manga masterpiece Lone Wolf and Cub. Being able to get those books out, often five or six volumes at a time, was a phenomenal thing for me a few years back; the work truly lived up to its reputation.
Two weeks ago, I checked out Lone Wolf and Cub 2100 from the same library. This more recent, American work, adapted the tale into a shorter form, and temporally shifted the setting into a post-apocalyptic future. It was entertaining, but lacked the power and impact of the original. I also couldn’t help thinking that I’d read a better post-apocalyptic LW&C pastiche. Then I remembered: I had, years before, and was called Grendel: War Child. Unfortunately, I’d read borrowed copies of the original single issues, and the library didn’t own the compilation.
Thank goodness for interlibrary loan.
A week later, I was reading through said compilation and finding my memories of its quality were not unearned (though it may be the goriest of the three works cited here, which is something of an achievement). It was also interesting that it inverted a common element of American works that draw on Japanese inspirations: it was in many ways a samurai story with a cowboy ending, rather than the reverse.
This sort of thing is why I love libraries.