Monday, August 10, 2009

"We are hardly nerds. Would a nerd wear such an irreverent sweatshirt?"

I've never been very interested in comic books. Sure, at one point I had a bunch of random stuff as I dipped my toe in, and I got into a couple of Predator and Aliens series from Dark Horse comics, but I think that was as much about the violence and prior obsession with those films as it was about the comics themselves. Other than those and the graphic novel Maus (which I suggest you read if you haven't), I was more or less comic book illiterate. Well, then the famous graphic novel Watchmen was made into a film, and I decided I should see if it was all it was said to be. The short answer: Yes. While I hope to eventually write something more in-depth about it, I wanted to mention a couple other series that I've plunged into since. 

100 Bullets
Initially, 100 Bullets seems to be an episodic series about a mysterious man, Agent Graves, who gives people who have been aggrieved in some way an opportunity to get even. He supplies them each with a briefcase containing irrefutable evidence of who is guilty of whatever has befallen them, and a gun with 100 untraceable bullets. If they get caught, as soon as the bullets and gun are checked out the investigation will end. The first story is about Dizzy Cordova, a former Chicago gangbanger whose husband and infant son were killed in an alleged gang murder while she was in prison, but after she meets with Graves and begins looking into what he shows her, she discovers it was dirty police and has to decide whether she wants to exact her revenge. The next couple of stories are somewhat similar, but it's slowly revealed that Agent Graves has an agenda beyond righting wrongs, and as more and more characters are introduced, we slowly discover who's on whose side, and that Graves' plan involves two opposing forces called The Minutemen and The Trust. That might sound convoluted, and you know what? It really is. But the writing and artwork make it hard to put down, and it's told in a classic crime noir style, with minimalist dialogue and a refusal to hold the reader's hand. There are thirteen total volumes, and I've only finished with four, but I am completely hooked. If this sounds at all interesting, read the first two and see if it grabs you. I have a feeling it will.

The Boys
The Boys is set in a world that seems to be bursting at the seams with superheroes and supervillains, or "supes" as they're referred to here. The superheroes have attained celebrity status, and most have let it go to their heads, becoming more interested in whoring, drugs and endorsement deals. The Boys are a CIA-backed group whose job it is to make sure the supes don't get out of line. They're able to do this because of some compound that gives them super strength as well, or some similar mumbo-jumbo. This series is far more crude and over the top than 100 Bullets, with graphic, gory violence and ridiculous sexual situations, such as when ally to the boys, Russian superhero Love Sausage, is stricken with a hard-on so big he can't run. What makes it worth reading is its ridiculous humor (see: Love Sausage and his original group, Glorious Five Year Plan) and The Boys themselves. Led by Billy Butcher (possible Gangs of New York reference?), the rest of the group is Wee Hughie, an average bloke whose girlfriend was killed as collateral damage in a supe fight, and is intentionally drawn to look exactly like British actor Simon Pegg; Mother's Milk, a huge black man, former Army, who also happens to be the only one who doesn't have a disdain for all supes; The Frenchman, a peculiar, goggles-wearing savage, who is very friendly when he's not tearing people apart; and The Female, a diminutive, dangerous creature who doesn't like to be touched. This is total fanboy territory, but it makes me laugh frequently among all the sex and death.

Of the two, 100 Bullets is vastly superior, reading more like an actual novel that happens to be a comic, and it's the one I would suggest more. Maybe when I finish it I'll have something else to say, so if anyone picks it up, let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I recall Irreverant Sweatshirt opened for Free Lions the last time they played at Detriot, right?