Will Eisner - New York: Life in the Big City
I'm a recent convert to the joys of Will Eisner. Recent for no other reason than I hadn't come across any. I've read a load over the last two years though. This one is by far my favourite.
'New York: Life in the Big City' is a hardback collection of 5 books - 'New York', 'The Building', 'City People', 'Notebook' & 'Invisible People'. All tell the stories of or are observations regarding or just plain fictions concerning life in that particular city.
The warmth and charm of Eisner's art is easily matched by that contained in his words. He is rarely sentimental, often damningly cynical, but there's an almost desperate yearning for life and love that underlies the book.
I adored this.
Warren Ellis & Various Artists - Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze & Detonation Radio
Two graphic novels, by writer Warren Ellis and featuring some of the most distinctive artists in comics, based around the exploits of the Global Frequency rescue organisation. Think Thunderbirds for the X-Files generation and you're there. Whilst this probably isn't Ellis at his absolute best (for that see Transmetropolitan, Planetary or Fell) it is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the black-ops conspiracy nuts handook that manages to combine magick, le parkour, an alien 'meme' virus, biofeedback and bionics. As always it's deftly-handled and it really is a fun read but none of the stories really grabbed me to the extent that much of his other work does.
In tone this reminded me of a book by James Sallis that I reviewed (previously) called 'Death Will Have Your Eyes' - if you've not read this by the way then do, you won't regret it. Plot and conceptually it's nothing like it but it did have a similar vibe.
Where the absolute joy of these volumes lie is in the decision to use a different, top, artist for each issue. Glenn Fabry, Steve Dillon, Simon Bisley, (the wonderful) David Lloyd and several others all contribute their distinctive styles to the proceedings giving each seperate story it's own unique visual identity.
Warren Ellis & Cully Hammer - RED
Warren's stuff is always worth a read and this was fun. It's got hardly anything to do with the movie. It's only got 4 characters with speaking roles; Moses, Sally (the girl he phones) an the two CIA guys.
Essentially he's marked for death by the new CIA director and comes straight for them after offing the hit team that they send his way. There's nothing else to it really. Lots of killing, lots of explosions and some typically nifty dialogue. It's not the most advanced thing Warren has written but it's not measnt to be.
The art is solid and reminds me of the Hellblazer I read yestrerday (Hooked). 3 issues of mayhem and madness and carnage.
Warren Ellis & D'Israeli - SVK
Two of my favourite comic people together again for the first time since Lazarus Churchyard which was way back.
SVK is a short little one-shot detailing the search for a missing item. Said item it transpires has a massive security / personal liberty implications and needs to be recovered immediately.
The story itself is a fairly straight forward little spy tale. It’s funny and fun and the art is, of course, lovely. The really interesting thing here however is that it comes with a torch that when used allows you to see extra information – specifically thoughts – within the comic. It isn’t an idea that is going to go any further. The torch is awkward to hold and the special UV ink bleeds through the page giving ghost images. It is however a great little gimmick and it was thoroughly enjoyable to get to do a second read through with extras.
Warren Ellis & John Cassaday – Planetary vol. 1: All Over the World
I’m generally a fan but I particularly love it when Warren gets stuck into a longer storyline and this series is one of his best.
Planetary is an organisation that investigates the weird and the wonderful of the 20th century. This first book in the series introduces a new member (Elijah Snow) to the Planetary field team (of Jakita Wagner & The Drummer) and introduces us to their work by featuring stories dealing with 50’s pulp heroes, Japanese monsters, Hong Kong ghost cops, a stranded ‘shiftship’ and The Fantastic Four.
It’s bloody great and full of typically Warren tics and ways.
Warren Ellis & John Cassaday – Planetary vol. 2: The Fourth Man
A much more super-heroic lean to this second volume after the pulp of the first. John Constantine, The Justice League & SHIELD all get put through the grinder as Planetary, and Snow in particular, digs further into the Four and his own missing memory.
It’s not until the end that he finally breaks through all the blocks that Dowling has placed in his head and reassumes his position as head of the organisation.
Some great moments here particularly in the Jack Carter (Constantine) story. It’s good to see the over-arching story starting to take precedence and I’m getting excited to see where it’s going.
Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway & John Cassaday – Planetary: Crossing Worlds
Not part of the main storyline of the series this is a et of three spin-offs from the series.
The first features The Authority and a crisis at the Adrionbacks base of Axel Brass. It’s a great return to one of Warren’s other creations for a short visit.
The second story is an Elseworlds type tale of an Earth where Planetary are the 4 and Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince & Clark Kent line up to take them down. It’s fun but a bit pat.
The last joyous little Batman tale where a messed up Science City Zero offspring who generates localised bleed shifts, warps the team through a variety of versions of the Bat including Dark Knight and Adam West. Very silly with a great closing line.
Warren Ellis & John Cassaday – Planetary vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century
This was the first the Planetary books I bought. On first reading it was good stuff but a little confusing. On reading it in its place in the series it is excellent and not confusing in the slightest.
The team are making significant advances in their fight back against the 4 even capturing one of them. A large chunk of the book is flashback. We get to see Snow learning his trade (and kicking Dracula’s nuts off) and also Jakita’s back story.
It’s paced beautifully and makes for great reading.
Warren Ellis & John Cassaday – Planetary vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology
Now that is a damn fine way to end a series (and a damn fine title). I’m so glad I kept this one back for a bit of quiet time so I could really enjoy it.
All secrets are made manifest in these pages. Schemes come to naught (the 4) while plans come to fruition (Snow). He takes them down and takes them apart at the seams.
The story of the angels is astoundingly good as is the take down. I must admit to have been a tad mystified by parts of the final issue but nothing a re-read with my science heads on wouldn’t fix and it certainly didn’t detract.
A super end to a really quality bit of sci-fi / comics / storytelling and I absolutely loved it.
Warren Ellis - Captain Swing & the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island
What an odd little book.
This is the story of a Peeler named Gravel (any relation to the hero of one of Warren's other series) and his hunt for the person who killed a fellow officer. Seeing a strange figure dressed in electrical gadgetry fleeing the scene he gives chase. This soon leads him to become involved with the characters of the title and their fight against a greedy magistrate and his crooked Bow Street Runner.
There was quite a romp stuffed into it's pages. It's massively pulpy and all about action rather than character but none of that is a bad thing and this was pretty enjoyable.
Warren Ellis - Gun Machine
This is Warren's second novel following on from his 'Crooked Little Vein' book of the other year. Like his other, this is, on the surface, a detective novel; in particular a cop book as Detective John Tallow finds himself an apartment whose walls, ceiling and floor are covered in guns. Guns laid out in geometrical patterns, guns that have each been used in an unsolved homicide and guns that point towards one very prolific - and well connected - serial killer.
In many ways it's quintessential Ellis; the committed and insightful outsider hero, the unorthodox - filthy? - assistants, the contempt for the mainstream and his love for these wayward personalities that allows them to not only survive but to find each other and become family within the horror of the situations they find themselves in. All are in place and as ever alive with humour, pathos and warmth. The core trio of protagonists easily bring to mind those of 'Transmetropolitan' and of 'Planetary'. The good-hearted bickering of Scarly & Bat is reminiscent of The Drummer and Jakita Wagner but tempered by the knowledge that they are very much alike and are very happy to have found each other within the confines of their chosen careers. Into this, and in spite of his scepticism and intentions to the contrary, is where Tallow also finds a 'home' especially after meeting Scarly's Amazonian wife, Talia, who you immediately feel understands the place to which Tallow's life has taken him and accepts him into their circle.
There's also real joy to be found in this novel thanks to the quality of Ellis' prose. I'm well used to his ability to weave stories that I find compelling and which send me happily careening through his worlds but there was always the danger that he wouldn't translate to the world of prose. It's an unfounded worry. I've said before that he and James Sallis have a similar tone (particularly in 'Death Will Have Your Eyes' which is reviewed elsewhere on this site) but what came to me most strongly here was a closeness to the style of Barry (Wild at Heart) Gifford; that easy, fast flowing character driven narrative that I've always found so satisfying in Gifford's work is here in spades also.
I'd been keeping this book for several weeks; hoarding it for some clear time in my schedule. As it turned out this was an essential as once started I pretty much didn't put it down until I finished it a day later and it provided some of the most fun I've had with a book in a while.
Garth Ennis & P.J. Holden - Battlefields: Happy Valley
This is the fourth volume of the series but the first I've read. Wierdly I only found out it existed about a fortnight before I found this copy on New Years eve in Cheltenham.
I can't comment on the other volumes but this one pretty much carries on where his 'War Stories' books left off. It's very much in the tradition of the British war comics I used to love as a kid but with the swearing and the futility left in.
'Happy Valley' concerns the crew of a Wellington bomber who have just received their hot shot new kiddie pilot with only 3 sorties of their stint remaining. It's pretty formulaic stuff plot-wise but Ennis is always readable even when, like here, he's not firing on all cylinders (horrible cliche there - shame on me).
The art is nice - nothing amazing but I really don't dig the colouring - everyone's exactly the same colour. It's not going to stop me keeping an eye out for the others though.
Garth Ennis & John Mcrea - Hitman vol. 3: Local Heroes
I spotted this in the library the other day and as it's been years since I read it I grabbed it. Tt was just as good as I remembered.
Tommy Monaghan is a vaguely superpowered hitman with a typically Ennis styled crew of mates. Tommy only hits supervillains but for most of this story he is being chased by shady government types (a Green Lantern) which is a fun trip wih some nice jokes at the expense of G.L.(the Kyle version) and Superman's long hair.
The second story is a great little, carnage filled, zombie tale set in an aquarium full of reanimated sealife.
As ever it's the interplay between the characters and the fab and funny dialogue that makes Ennis so much fun to read. I really must get around to buying these.
Garth Ennis & John McCrea - Hitman vol. 1
If you look above you'll see I read the third volume of this series a little while ago when I borrowed it from the library. In the meantime I've managed to locate the other two and have had me a reread.
This (and the next) are very much Ennis finding his characters voices and trying out the type of storylines that would serve him so well ever since.
Tommy is a hitman who only takes contracts on supes since he was bitten by some alien thing in one of those crossover event story things and developed x-ray vision and telepathy.
These early issues are all about scene setting and slowly introducing the characters. To spice things up there are appearances from The Demon and Batman (who Tommy pukes on).
It's fun but nowhere near as gonzo as he can be. His run on Hellblazer is obviously fresh too as there're lots of Hell references.
Garth Ennis & John McCrea - Hitman vol. 2: 10,000 Bullets
Now that was a much more coherent & cohesive read. The series hits it's stride here and a new character (Nott) takes the stage as two bow out (Pat & Wendy).
The conjoined mobster from the previous volume has finally hired some serious talent to take out Tommy who had (not) killed his dad but had killed his twin.
During the search for Tommy Pat is murdered and Tommy goes nuts and he and Natt take the fight to the mobster and his crew. The final story features the cast from Noonans sitting and chatting about the closest they've come to death.
This is a really under-rated gem from Ennis' past and I'm glad DC have started to make them available again.
Garth Ennis & John McCrea - The Boys vol. 8: Highland Laddie
It just gets better and better and better.
After the fallout of Hughie finding out about Annie being a supe (and one with an unfortunate secret at that) he heads back to Scotland to work out what the hell he’s going to do with himself. Back in his village he finds himself surround by the old faces that he loves and loathes in equal measures. The cast of Hughie’s home town are typically Ennis – his two mates are a 6 foot 6 muscle bound transvestite and a scrawny fella in a gas mask with a chronic B.O. problem. They’re pretty fun.
Whilst there he meets a holidaying Englishman – it wasn’t particularly difficult to work out who he was – who he takes to immediately and with whom he works out some of his issues.
Into this Annie arrives to attempt to talk Hughie around. I really like Annie’s character. She’s a wide-eyed pragmatist. An eternal optimist who’s been battered by a deeply cynical reality but in Hughie has found the validation of her optimism. He really needs to tell her the truth soon though.
Hughie really comes in to his own in this book though (as you’d imagine from the title). It’s always been Hughie’s series but this one removes most of the distractions and he just lets him roll for a while.
As ever with Ennis it’s a fun mix of ribald crudity, profanity and pathos. He’s so on top of his game at the moment that he’s just won his own world cup. He’s one of a very select band of writers that can make me burst out laughing on one page and leave me almost in tears a page or two later.
The art in this one is by John McCrea (who also did the Herogasm mini) and it’s nice enough. I’d have obviously preferred to see Darick Robertson do all The Boys art but these minis probably give him a bit of extra lead time on the main book. McCrea’s a fine fill in though and does a solid job – Annie’s shrug at Hughie after the scissors line is ace.
Just a phenomenal read and I’m ridiculously hyped for the next one now.
Al Ewing & Henry Flint - Zombo
A nice little 2000AD obscurity that I'd never heard of until a friend handed it to me on my birthday. Zombo is a genetically engineered zombie built to kill the other zombies created by the sentient worlds that humans are attempting to colonise - yes you did read that right.
Both the creators are names I'm familiar with but the only thing I can think of by either of them that I've read is Ewings 'El Sombra' steampunk novel that he did for the Pax Britannia series.
Zombo is typical 2000AD - completely gonzo and full of uber-violence. The book features several stories starting with Zombo and the passengers of a government flight crashing onto a deathworld. Most barely make it past the fifth page with the survivors soon being picked off by the local fauna and, strangely, a clan of mutated hillbillies and their game of Twister.
The second story is a silly little Xmas story with the third and final one being an all out zombie romp across an entertainment satellite (a la 5th Element) that riffs on Disney, the Rat Pack and Ocean's Eleven amongst others along the way.
All three tales are a laugh but it's the final one that was the winner for me. I was unsure of the book at first glance but I ended up thoroughly enjoying. Not vintage 2000AD but a good approximation.