Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let’s Talk About Genre

The shelf-space between cops & robbers and dungeons & dragons and political refugees & depressed hipsters in comic shops’ supply and fans’ affections is getting more and more narrow, and two of my faves from the last few weeks staple the art and genre sides together closer than most through overlapping creators and witty, observant concerns.

The Guild is definitely the funniest, and perhaps the wisest comic I’ve read yet this year (or, for those who know the project from having followed it as a popular web series, TGIDTF,APTWCIRYTY). Felicia Day’s script avoids cliché and taps conversational genius by focusing on the human comedy of running rather than the handy melodrama of “escape,” in the story of an incurable nerdgirl who finds that hell is other people you have to actually deal with and heaven can be a multiple-player computer game with no one you have to meet. The dual universes of post-slacker squalor and painted-paperback-cover dreamworld are handled with typical vision by pood’s own Jim Rugg, making me all the happier I can now get this thing to load on paper. A “comment” on its culture and a “critique” of its media maybe, but from a hilarious and humane perspective where there is no outside.

One of my useless rules for existence is that, for some reason, the funky satellite narratives of Marvel’s event series are often full fun to read and the pro-forma main miniseries are totally missable, while at DC your branded, six-issue Final Crises and First Waves are all that’s worth reading and the intrusions into 15 other books are dependably unbearable. Still, like Charlie Brown and his football or Democratic voters, I resolved to give the superb, neo-noir First Wave’s spinoff titles one chance each. I never knew why DC is so anxious to keep the Doc Savage franchise when they have the real Tom Strong :-), and though Doc is handled well in the central First Wave mini his own book was a snoozy action-procedural. I girded for the same from The Spirit, a franchise in freefall since Darwyn Cooke’s historic run ended, but this one does indie patron saint Will Eisner proud. Writer Mark Schultz and artist Moritat’s Central City is like a Valhalla for mid-20th century toughguys, an atmospheric Bermuda Triangle of modern cars and creaky el trains, compromised cops, steely gangstas and PIs, street urchins and hardbitten civic reformers. The theme of social mistakes made eternally and sense of an urban purgatory strangely comforting in its texture and character are pure Eisner in their attitude, and diverge from him significantly in style the way he would’ve encouraged; the original standard-bearer of hit but not-mainstream comics is back in letter and spirit.

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