- At least two websites that often surprised me with the intensity of their hatred and unapologetic bad faith have gone offline in the comics world. Theater, film and television are suffering from a collapse in their critical communities but comics, because of the way the medium was warped by the Kefauver commission*, have always had a kind of dual readership and most critics trying to write about them were conversant in one half of the medium and elaborately dismissive of the other. So the collapse of the comics-critical establishment is probably not an especially great loss; as long as The Comics Journal is around I’ll be fine. I wish there was better critical writing and reporting about comics and am trying to write some.
- At any rate there’s less noise in that world at the moment and I find it kind of peaceful and interesting. The stuff I’m reading now is VERY weird, and I was going to just set off the list with commas but what the hell:
a. Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence, which suddenly came together in the last issue, so much so that I’m rereading all 10 of the issues that are out. I can’t even describe to you adequately how thoroughly and carefully Moore has laid the groundwork for what he’s doing here. Every extraneous detail that makes you sigh a little in frustration over the course of the ten preceding installments suddenly becomes relevant, or if not suddenly, is reinforced in its relevance. I wrote critically about the book’s most horrifying scene thus far a few months ago; I don’t think it’s too strong to say that Moore is intent on landing the book in a place of intense and serious moral consideration and that scene is ultimately in the service of same.
b. Gilbert Hernandez’s Garden of the Flesh, a Bible sex comic
c. D&Q’s Ben Katchor collection The Pleasures of Urban Decay, which reprints his work under the Raw aegis in the ’90’s. It’s very good, as is typical of Katchor, who actually is a bona fide, no-kidding genius
d. Some Robert Sikoryak mini-comics I’m enjoying tremendously, especially the Song of Myself that reimagines Whitman’s poem as an early-career Jack Kirby project. I just adore Sikoryak and his project of reworking and condensing great works of literature into perfect imitations of classic comic book artists; his Masterpiece Comics is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read and these little contributions to what I dearly hope will some day be a second volume are wonderful. If you live in New York you can usually pick them up at Jim Hanley’s Universe, now JHU Books, on 32nd Street if I haven’t beaten you there. They’re barely bound at all – mostly just stapled together and apparently run off at Kinko’s – but they’re worth tracking down.
e. Mark Beyer’s Agony, speaking of books associated with Raw, which is being published by the New York Review of Books’ new comic book imprint. It’s gorgeously drawn and extremely dark, possibly too dark for me. It’s not scary, just downbeat, which I can occasionally find funny but not with the consistency of the people who love it. I admire it more than love it, but I admire it a lot.
f. I find Mark Millar’s writing really sneery and unimpressive but I’ve caught myself enjoying his book with Frank Quitely, Jupiter’s Legacy. There’s a prequel, Jupiter’s Circle, that I like fine, as well. Who knew? I probably wouldn’t be on board without Quitely but good grief, the art. I’ve seen a few of Quitely’s originals at shows: there’s blue pencil everywhere, which explains pretty neatly why his stuff looks so beautifully rendered even when there are only a few lines on the page. Contra Frank Miller and Mike Mignola, Quitely isn’t a minimalist, but he’s not an Art Adams-style maximalist, either. He’s doing a thing that is exactly his own and no one else’s, and if he has a contemporary peer for sheer verve it’s probably somebody going in the opposite direction, like Paul Pope, or an old master like Milo Manara. His stuff looks dimensional in a way that totally astonishes me; his collaboration with Grant Morrison, We3 – not coincidentally the best of Morrison’s book in a liesurely walk, and I say that as one who likes his work just fine – probably shows this off best. I think I’ll put something up just about We3, actually.
- I’ve kept up with a couple of mainstream Marvel books but I dropped my last DC title — Batman, written by the promising Tom King — when it became clear that the book was going to turn into an eleventy-three part crossover written by committee and drawn by three dozen people. DC has no idea what it’s doing or where it’s going these days; it’s really depressing. It’s just IP storage for the movie studios to vampirize and the least important bureaucrats at Time Warner to ruin. Which I’m sure will happen to Marvel over at Disney eventually but they at least have decent people in charge at the moment. Anyway Howard the Duck and the Silver Surfer are still very good.
*which inadvertently made superheroes the only saleable genre for about 15 years by holding de facto obscenity hearings on the content of comics. The comics weren’t ever actually ruled obscene, they were merely suggested to