Posts Tagged ‘ Brandon Graham ’

Image Comics Capsule Reviews: Happy! and Multiple Warheads

It’s time for another quick catch-up on recently completed miniseries from Image Comics. I plan to cover two today, two more in a few days, and catch up on the ongoing Morning Glories soon afterwards.


cover to Happy! #1

Happy!

Happy!

After years on an exclusive contract, the hyper-inventive Grant Morrison seemed to become a little set in his ways. For this reason, Happy!, his first non-DC work in a long time, carried a lot of expectations with it. The results are inconclusive. It’s a fun, competently-told story, but there’s no hint of deeper meaning or a long-suppressed muse bursting free.

Happy! is an especially twisted take on Morrison’s obsession with reality and fantasy crossing over. It opens with tough-talking gangsters preparing for a hit, straight out a Garth Ennis comic. It even features excellent art from Darick Robertson, who excels at this sort of gritty but amusing hyper-violence. By the end of the first issue, though, it’s taken a surprising twist. The crime story is never left behind – this is a Christmas comic reminiscent of Bad Santa in the uncomfortable way it plays with redemption – but it would be more accurate to compare it to Bad Santa Meets The Smurfs.

The first issue is the best. Morrison turns out to be good at darkly humorous crime scenes, and those early scenes with no reader expectations are thrilling. Once it settles on its protagonist and main conflict, it becomes a little more by-the-numbers. This is the sort of story where a character finds a way to look at other people’s hands in Poker, but the only way the writer knows to show him winning is to give him high hands every time. On the other hand, in a flashback to the anti-hero’s backstory, Morrison shows that clichés can be effective.

Happy! is a fun, fast read, if you’re looking for something grotesque and slightly surreal. There’s no real hook to keep you interested afterwards, though. Despite the craft it was made with, it will fade as quickly as you can read it.

Grade: B-


cover to Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity

Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads has a convoluted history: Starting out as a indie porn about an organ smuggler who steals a werewolf dick for her boyfriend, it led to an Oni Press series that never went past the introductory issue, and is now a series-of-series from Image. Despite all that, it’s not really necessary to understand any of the title’s past. This is like Graham’s classic King City, a cute story jam-packed with ideas in a science fictional setting that allows for anything Graham wants to happen. Tossed-off ideas and puns fill in all the margins, with an attitude somewhat like Groucho Marx as a sci-fi-loving graffiti artist.

In many ways, Graham’s work is a celebration of indie comics in their purest form. An uncommercial labor of love that costs less than most superhero comics but takes three times as long to read, these can be pure joy. But at this point, I’m starting to wish for some actual plot and consistency to tie it all together. In these four issues, the main couple (Sexica and Nikoli) go on a road trip past a bunch of fatal threats that never feel dangerous, and another organ smuggler named Nura (who has no connection to the others as far as I know) heads out on a mission. I wasn’t always sure what was going on other than that, but these ended right when the story seemed to start up. There may be dangerous secrets at the hotel Sexica and Nikoli are staying at, and there are some interesting side characters serving them there. But after building that up, the final issue was entirely about Nura getting in a fight that ended inconclusively. It was misleading to call this a mini-series.

Multiple Warheads is fun, but aimless. I’m really glad that Graham has started to try out other storytelling styles, such as the slightly more focused Prophet. Still, as long as he keeps comics like these as an occasional side project, I’m likely to keep up with them.

Grade: B-

 

Image Comics First Looks, Part 1

It’s been amazing to watch the resurgence in Image Comics in the past couple years. They’ve always been a well-regarded publisher, but Image went a long time with just a few hit series, and the rest of their catalog filled out with low-profile comics plagued by delays and cancellations. I suspect that a combination of factors helped them out: The contraction in the comics industry pushed most people out of the “independent” business, and Image is the only major publisher build around experimentation and creator rights. And despite that contraction, interest in comics as a medium beyond superheroes has been growing, with Image providing a safe, accessible gateway to that world. Whatever the reason, the number of small press titles I’m reading has dropped to an all-time low, while the Image ones keep increasing.

Also interestingly, many new Image titles are bucking the miniseries trend that has otherwise dominated comics outside of DC and Marvel. Plenty of Image series have become hits (Invincible, The Walking Dead, and even newer ones like Morning Glories), and it’s a path that other creators apparently want to follow.

In fact, I’ve started reading so many new Image series this year that I’ll need more than one First Look article to go through them all. Here is the first.

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