Saturday, May 30, 2009

Comics Round-up 27/5/2009

Four Eyes #3, by Joe Kelly, Max Fiumara, and Nestor Pereyra

You remember this one? It is the infrequent Image title set in the Great Depression, only with dragons that people make fight in the ultimate unsavoury bloodsport. The protagonist is Enrico, the very young son of a guy who used to capture wild baby dragons so that they could be used in the cruel sport. In the first episode, the father was killed while stealing a baby dragon from its mother; since then the son has sought to become a dragon hunter, as a way of avenging his father's death. Perhaps down the line he will see that the real villains are not the dragons, wild creatures who seem mostly inclined to leave people alone, but the human monsters who seek to prey upon them. Anyway, in this episode, Enrico joins a team of dragon hunters, basically as dragon-fodder there to distract a mother dragon while the more skilled hunters snatch its eggs. The creeping awfulness of the cave environment is very well evoked, as is the general air of desperation surrounding the Depression-era setting. The strange angularity of the art adds greatly to the atmosphere. I recommend this title highly.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century: 1910, by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill

If you have read this far then you are probably sufficiently engaged with the world of comics to be aware of this popular title, in which Moore and O'Neill plunder the work of other writers to combine the characters of various authors into one narrative. My researches on the internet suggest that this Century run is a three-issue story, of which this is the first part. That said, this is sufficiently chunky that it could count as a "graphic novel" in and of itself, and it certainly feels sufficiently self-contained to be such.

Most people love The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I am a bit more ambivalent. It is always nice to see Kevin O'Neill art, but the storylines can tend towards Alan Moore showing off how clever he is, and it does all call to mind his general inability to generate new characters of his own. This seemed like a particular problem with the first League series – it had its moments, but at the end of the day it was all a bit meh. The second series, in which the League (a group led by Mina Harker from Dracula and also including Captain Nemo, H.G. Wells' invisible man, R.L. Stevenson's Mr. Hyde, and Allan Quartermain from King Solomon's Mines) found themselves up against the Martian invaders of The War of the Worlds packed a serious thrill-powered punch. My initial reading of this issue suggests that Century falls more towards the first series in quality, though it has its moments.

This time the fun seems to come from introducing various characters from the Threepenny Opera, which may explain the tendency of characters here to keep breaking into song. Singing in comics may sound strange, but it has been done before – memorably by Alan Moore himself with David Lloyd in the cabaret sections of V for Vendetta. The all time greatest ever musical comics episode is of course the National Song Year storyline in 2000 AD's Robo Hunter; this is not even remotely that good.

I must also confess to a certain uncomfortableness with titles such as this that use gang-rape as a plot device. That is an odd thing about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - all three* series so far feature scenes of sexual violence against women. In the first series it is done for laughs (a bit creepy in retrospect), in the second it is pretty chilling but works well in context, but here it just seems a bit gratuitous.

*I am not counting the Black Dossier for mysterious reasons.

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