A few weeks back I made mention of my newfound love of my local comic shop. And in rekindling a relationship with them, I was torn with what to do with my old comic shop. You see, the manager of the establishment is a longtime friend and colleague whose opinion on good quality pulp and paper I covet. So, I came to an agreement. From my local shop I would establish my subscription box with “the big two” cape books — Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Titans, Captain America, and so on. And on the other side of that comic coin, I issued a challenge to my friend:
Take the $20 I would have given you for my subscription box, and turn it into any other books you think I’d like. Just nothing mainstream per say.
Well, a few weeks ago, I got my first custom crate if you will. In it, came the entire run of #1 issues from DC’s newly christened Young Animal imprint (and a pair of other books unrelated to fully spend the $20). Eric, said manager-friend, did his homework well. He knew I’d long been a fan of the Grant Morrison years of Doom Patrol, and with that, made the choice to show me what a full line as directed by Gerard Way would look like.
So, what of Doom Patrol? As penned by Way himself, I’m left (ironically) between diametric opinions. I truly either loved the book or I loathed it. Nearly a month since cracking it open, with several rereads has yet to solidify my thoughts. Way clearly loves the Morrison years as much as I, but in doing so he creates a book that offers as much new content as it relies on obscurer-than-obscure references throughout the thin read. By books’ end I had a sense of where we’re headed, without any idea what (if any) the stakes are. As a number one, the issue skates by on style points enough to warrant a second issue buy for sure. Will I be getting it? No.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is Vertigo to a tee. Gerard Way also writes this book, wherein a retro-futuristic spelunker of yore has recently lost his wife but gained a new ocular outlook on life. Unlike DP, this one is weird, but grounded solidly. Cave Carson himself is maudlin, but thanks to slick art by Jon Rivera, the panels breeze by. Because I have a strong feeling (and truly no urge to Wikipedia about it further) that the book is dusting off a silver age concept, there’s that quintessentially Vertigo vibe to the proceedings. Darkness around the edge of a hipster plotline? Sure, count me in. The added pocket of mysteries — the wheres, whys, whats, and hows of the titular eye — would certainly give me reason to see it through a few more episodes.
Shade The Changing Girl is penned by Cecil Castellucci and is the wild trip Gerard Way perhaps wishes he’d written himself. Taking cues from the Shade, the Changing Man — itself a dusted-off ditty from one of the first Vertigo-rounds — the Girl takes the basics of the brand and boils them in some serious acid. What we get, in its best parts, is the sheep of CW drama in a Vertigo wolf’s clothing. When a braindead mean girl is reanimated by a dimensionally-traversing bird-man who has appropriated some Shade-Tech, the result is psychedelic in media res of epic proportions. The book is a rough read in all the right ways. Its concepts are challenging enough to remain engaging despite the off-kilter kitsch of being weird for weirdness sake – which itself is a Vertigo trademark, as far as I’m concerned. Suffice to say, with a blissful balance as presented of properly pretty/trippy art Shade was the biggest standout to me of the line.
Last and least comes Mother Panic. Jody Houser delivers a Tarantino-esque revenge porn comic wherein a wealthy socialite stalks Gotham on the fringes Batman misses to punch bad men in the dicks until the crime is solved. Forgive my blunt snark. Mother Panic is a sludge-dirty book that seems to be joyless in the face of its Young Animal brethren.
The plot – revolving around our hero trying to pin down an artist-cum-serial-killer – is rote enough to have been back-burner fodder from a spec script of Hannibal. The titular heroine is mean, nasty, and nasal throughout. And her Rom: The Space Night pajamas may look striking on the cover of the book, but read as a half-thought mid-panel. Where Cave, Doom Patrol, and Shade each combined darker and mature themes into their retro-tinged panels, Mother Panic is a gothic melodrama with no light to be seen; save only for the Jim Krueger / Phil Hester backup piece which delivers at least one laugh before toppling into gritty grizzle for the sake of blackity blackness. Color me unimpressed.
But… I digress.
Pair those four books with two other indie gems (tied together as Eric denoted: all written and/or directed through the lens of a rock and roller), and you paint me a more-than-satisfied customer. Young Animal was off-the-beaten path enough for me to feel that hipster vibe I was searching for when I came up with the challenge. My best advice to you: befriend your local pulp slinger, and throw down the gauntlet yourself. I’m certainly a better fan for doing it. Let’s reconvene in a month and see what box #2 will hold!