DMZ #51

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

One of the many things that I appreciate about Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ is that it never seems to stay complacent, or even in one place for very long. It’s easy to see how it could have been that way; Manhattan turned into the demilitarized zone in the heart of a new American Civil War is full of endless story possibilities, and even last month’s special one-off DMZ #50 reminded readers of that via a series of glimpses of life across the island. But with the events of DMZ #49 still weighing heavily over the series, it’s refreshing to see Wood following through in brutal honesty.

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Filthy Rich

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Victor Santos
200 pages, black and white
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Vertigo’s new Vertigo Crime imprint launched with two books, Dark Entries and Filthy Rich. Dark Entries seemed to miss the point a bit, publishing a straight horror Hellblazer graphic novel with a Vertigo Crime label slapped on the side. I had higher hopes for Filthy Rich, though. I suspect that author Brian Azzarello was at least partially responsible for the Vertigo Crime label, with his series 100 Bullets being an out-and-out crime series that flourished at Vertigo. If anyone could push the line forward, I’d decided, it would be Azzarello. What I found between the covers of Filthy Rich, though, was a curious throwback to earlier crime comics.

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Unwritten #8

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

So often, a new title starts with so much promise and then slowly drains it away. With The Unwritten, it’s refreshing to have a series where the first issue made me eager for more, and has continued to build on that momentum in great leaps and bounds. I’ve enjoyed how Mike Carey’s scripts not only are about the mysterious world of books and what lies beyond them, but about the effect these characters have on the real world as public opinion goes into an uproar over the real-life Tom Taylor’s actions. Here, though, The Unwritten takes a side trip into two children and how their obsession over the Tommy Taylor novels affects them. It’s a smart way to show off not only the moment of obsession, but just how powerful these books are to their readership. In another writer’s hands an interlude showing why Tom Taylor’s current nemesis (Governor Chadron, the head of the prison) hates Tom so much might have felt like it was cheating, giving such an aside to a minor character. With Carey, though, it actually feels like an integral part of the story, seeing just how Chadron’s two children are affected by the imprisonment of Taylor.

It’s also nice to see that even when given nothing fantastical to drawn, Peter Gross is able to deliver in spades. Sure, some scenes set in the prison play to what you’d expect from Gross’s art; lots of stonework and sharply constructed buildings, even amidst doom and gloom. I like the quieter moments that Gross draws here, though; Cosi at the therapist gives her a strange mix of resignation and faith about her, and watching Chadron interact with his children makes him feel that much more human as you see the conflict play out on his face. If you aren’t reading The Unwritten, the first collection is due out in early January 2010 and it’s well worth your while. Easily one of the best new series of 2009. Check it out.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

Luna Park

Written by Kevin Baker
Art by Danijel Zezelj
160 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Often, when reading a book I find myself starting to compose a review in my head. How I’m feeling about the book, what I think of its progression, and so on. Every now and then, though, a book comes along that confounds those expectations. That is certainly the case with Kevin Baker and Danijel Zezelj’s Luna Park from Vertigo. I thought I’d sussed out the book by the halfway point, knew how I felt about it overall. And then, not once but twice, the book pulled the rug out from under me. And with each instance, my opinion of Luna Park rather radically changed.

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Hellblazer #261

Written by Peter Milligan
Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by Stefano Landini
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

It’s nice to see that Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stefano Landini’s run on Hellblazer is still going strong. When the run first began, it was certainly moving over some familiar territory. What I hadn’t expected to see, though, is an extended riff on the idea of what happens when John Constantine loses and then frantically tries to make things right. It’s the sort of story that normally would have truncated itself by now; Constantine screws up, mopes for an issue or two, and then it’s soon forgotten. Here, Milligan lets Constantine’s mistakes continually hover over his head. Maybe it’s that Milligan is letting the character feel his age, understand that he’s at the point where he can’t stop walking away from his errors? Or perhaps Milligan just thought it would be interesting to explore the idea a little further than most writers on Hellblazer have gone. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Milligan and company are also taking Constantine out of his normal confines of Great Britain, although admittedly in the case of his destination of India, it’s a former British colony. Still, they’re using it well; there’s a sharp comment or two about the stereotypical ideas that people carry around towards the country and its spirituality. On the down side, Milligan’s also going for the stereotype of the seedy human trafficking underbelly of India, which just goes to show that it’s impossible to break away entirely from some perceptions. Still, with Camuncoli and Landini drawing the book so beautifully, it’s hard to get too worked up over the idea. How they aren’t super stars in comics is a mystery to me. At the end of the day, Milligan, Camuncoli, and Landini are an excellent reminder of why Hellblazer can have over 260 issues and still tell new and fresh stories.

Dark Entries

Written by Ian Rankin
Art by Werther Dell’Edera
216 pages, black and white
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

When is a crime novel not a crime novel? Reading Dark Entries, one of the first two books in Vertigo’s new "Vertigo Crime" line, it’s easy find yourself asking that question. So far as I can tell, Dark Entries ended up in the Vertigo Crime line (instead of being branded as a Hellblazer graphic novel) by virtue of writer Ian Rankin, best known for his Inspector Rebus crime novels. Considering his name on the cover is three times the size of artist Werther Dell’Edera’s, it hard to not figure out what’s going on. Hopefully this bait-and-switch tactic won’t backfire for Vertigo Crime; while Dark Entries is firmly a horror story in terms of genre, it’s also an entertaining read.

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House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

Written by Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matthew Sturges, Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham
Penciled by Michael Allred, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppi Camuncoli, Amy Reeder Hadley, Luca Rossi
Inked by Michael Allred, Stefano Landini, Jose Marzan Jr., Kevin Nowlan, Richard Friend
48 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Years ago, Vertigo published an annual collection of short stories connected to comics in their line, titled Winter’s Edge. With the House of Mystery Halloween Annual, it looks like that tradition might be coming back to life. It’s a strange mixed bag this time; a framing story set in House of Mystery, but otherwise a mixture of stories about existing series, previewing a new series, and a flashback to a series that’s long gone. In some ways, it’s the quintessential Vertigo experience.

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Greek Street #1

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Davide Gianfelice
40 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

How well do you know your Greek plays? Sure, everyone’s familiar with the basic Greek myths of Zeus, Apollo, Herakles, and Perseus. I’m talking about the the dramas, though; ones starring Oedipus, Agamemnon, Medea, Cassandra, or Ion.

No? Well don’t worry, Greek Street is still going to be extremely accessible to you, coming across as a rival family drama with a crime undercurrent moving through it. But for those who are familiar with some Greek works, though, there’s a nice extra punch to Peter Milligan’s new series.

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Hellblazer #256

Written by Peter Milligan
Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by Stefano Landini
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

It’s hard to believe that Hellblazer had to get all the way up into the 250s before Peter Milligan became its new regular writer. Milligan was one of the pre-Vertigo writers whose book Shade the Changing Man became one of the Vertigo launch titles, and his contributions to the Vertigo line have continued ever since then. We’re several issues into his run on Hellblazer, and I think what’s made me the most pleased so far is that Milligan’s managed to mix just about everything I like about the book back into the title all at once.

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Unwritten #1

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
40 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

It’s safe to say that Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s collaboration on Lucifer was a success. The book lasted for 75 issues, with Gross coming on board with #5 to draw the vast majority of the series. The two of them returning to a new ongoing series, then, sounds like a surefire hit. But with Carey’s last ongoing series for Vertigo quietly and unjustly slipping away in under two years, nothing is certain. Fortunately, the launch of The Unwritten feels like Carey and Gross are doing everything they can to make this launch stick.

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