After years of not missing an issue, some time around 1997 I had an epiphany and stopped reading all X-books. The epiphany was that I didn’t like these books at all anymore, hadn’t in fact liked them for quite some time, but what I now call “Fan Inertia” kept me dolling out the money to follow at least half a dozen books for years after I had checked out. When I go back and look at the X-books from that era, their style and presentation, content 0r lack thereof, I wonder how I ever continued past the first year or two after Chris Claremont left. Remember Magneto becoming Joseph? Or Eric the Red? Even the at-first intriguing tension between Bishop and Gambit wore out its welcome after too long a build up and, frankly, a contrived and fairly anti climatic revelation*.
When I first saw the preview of Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Black Magick in the back of a recent issue of Lazarus I was immediately drawn to it. Since I’ve heard some people predict a similarity to Caitlin Kittredge’s Coffin Hill and I’ll be honest, there might be something to that. However, I only followed Coffin Hill for a few issues before it kind of fell off my radar (I need to do the trades) so I’m not the one to do any kind of accurate comparison. Besides, if there are two books about Occult-involved police women I’m not one to have a problem with that. I spent a pretty fair amount of time studying certain pockets of the Occult and even though I no longer actively practice I am still fascinated by it. And an honest-to-goodness, well-researched incorporation such as Black Magick appears to be (we all know Mr. Rucka does his homework) is a treat. Not since The Witching – which granted took some liberties, as I’m sure Black Magick will for story’s sake, but still managed to work in historical and “orthodox” elements – has there been a book that made me feel as kindly toward it so quickly due to a realistic portrayal of Magick in a fictional setting. This first issue actually begins with an actual Mabon ritual (the Autumn Equinox – so it’s timely too!) that is extremely well-researched. Ms. Scott’s art here is particularly fantastic; she’s able to convey the enigmatic mystery and sacred space of a circle without giving it too dark an edge. This feels Occult and ancient but not sinister, and that is the exact essence of ritual in the real, practicing sense.
Every year I end up revisiting one of the most archetypal comic book experiences I have thus far had in my life. And every year it absolutely destroys me. Tears, existential crisis, waking loved ones in the middle of the night just to hug them… the whole lot. What could have this effect on me? What example of our favorite medium could a reasonably intelligent, nearly 40-year old man consider a cornerstone of his emotional, mental and spiritual existence?
Why James O’Barr’s The Crow, of course.
So I missed a couple weeks picking up my books at the shop again, missed last week’s column because I was at Beyond Fest* and now I have a wonderful stack of books I’m working my way through and at least two new titles that I really want to write about: Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls and Rick Remender and Sean Patrick Murphy’s Tokyo Ghost. I’m going with Paper Girls for today’s column because, well, I haven’t read Tokyo Ghost yet but also, because Paper Girls is awesome and absolutely where my head is at the moment, one week in to my favorite month of the year.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve not read anything Jeff Lemire has written except for the first few issues after Justice League Dark passed from Peter Milligan to him. I didn’t stick around, not because of anything Lemire did, it had just become abundantly apparent to me that the editorial staff was crafting the direction of that book more than the writer. Milligan bounced, Lemire probably received a call asking if he could take it and wah-la. Justice League Dark became considerably less Vertigo-lite (at that point any Vertigo flavor seemed a good thing) and considerably more JLA.
There are some albums you get right away. Others take time. An anecdote I use that a lot of people tend to relate to is when I fell in love with Pinebender’s Working Nine to Wolf . I had the disc on repeat downstairs in the living room of our rented town home while I was upstairs writing. The music on the album was unobtrusive, working its way through the floor boards in vague and lilting passages that, at first, left no impression. Shortly however, I realized I was humming along with what I had just heard, and before long I knew the disc intricately even when away from it. I call this the “Through the walls” method of absorbing music and it often leads to some of the strongest connections I have with albums. Several key records in my life have endeared themselves to me in this or similarly “passive” ways. The Mars Volta’s debut full-length album De-loused in the Comatorium is one of them.
Vampires are, at this point in human history, archetypal monsters that are as important to our modern psyches as almost any of the creatures that populated the folklore of the various ancestral lands that made up the world when it was a much simpler place. As humanity has branched and evolved so to have the needs within us that our ‘boogey men’ serve, and as such our monsters wear many hats, perhaps none more so than Vampires. Our eternal, bloodsucking brethren have been romantic, brutal, viral, pretty, considerate, comical and apocalyptic. For myself, while I’m always interested in new takes on old ideas, of late the simpler the approach to Vampires the better. Twilight and Sukie Stackhouse have, in my opinion, overly domesticated the Vampire, and as such anything that strips them of that, ahem, sparkly sheen is welcome. While admittedly I spent the early 90s enthralled by Anne Rice’s lush visions of her Nosferatu, the candlelight-and-leather approach is what the Cullens evolved from and thus have, for now, run its course. Today, if I’m going to be interested in Vampires at all it has to be a more visceral experience.