Vertigo Resurrected #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: James Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Plus other stories and art by Brian Bolland; Brian Azzarello & Essad Ribic; Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely; Garth Ennis & Jim Lee; Steven T. Seagle & Tim Sale; Peter Milligan & Eduardo Risso; Bill Willingham; and Bruce Jones & Berni Wrightson
Cover artist: Tim Bradstreet
Editors: Axel Alonso, Shelly Bond & Alisa Kwitney
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $7.99 US
A week of reviews of horror comics, in honor of the approaching All Hallows Eve, continues, and this time, I’m turning my attention to a recent release from DC Comics’ Vertigo that’s noteworthy for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s one of the earlier forays into DC’s new “100-page spectacular” reprint format. Under the DC Universe banner, they’re called DC Comics Presents (resurrecting a Superman teamup title of the 1970s and ’80s), but as part of DC’s mature-readers label, this comic has been titled Vertigo Resurrected, in keeping with the imprints origins as a home mainly for horror comics. I’ve sampled a couple of books in the format, and while I don’t always agree with the content that DC editors have chosen for them, I do appreciate the format and its pricing. Fortunately, I don’t have much of a beef with the array of stories selected for reprinting here. Really, this is something of a snapshot of the state of talent working or emerging at Vertigo more than a decade ago, and most of the talent represented here remains on the A-list even today.
The other noteworthy aspect of this book is that it features a story that DC declined to publish years ago. Warren Ellis’ “Shoot” is a story about the puzzling and disconcerting trend of school shootings in America, but it’s one that was scheduled to be published around the time of the 1999 Columbine school shootings. The publisher shied away from the story, scheduled for publication in Hellblazer, though word of the story was already out there being discussed by fans. DC’s choice to publish that story today is laudable, though one has to acknowledge that school shootings aren’t the touchy and daring subject today as they were a decade ago. Furthermore, we’ve seen DC exercising extreme caution and skittishness with elements in other comics this year (such as the recent removal of an inverted cross from the cover artwork of the recently released Batman and Robin #15). So, one can’t argue that the comics publisher has cast off any kind of culture of corporate cowardice by finally putting “Shoot” in print.
Finally getting to read “Shoot” turned out to be something of an anticlimactic experience. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a well-crafted story that gets to the heart of a critical issue. But ultimately, it’s not about school shootings. It’s about a society that’s obsessed with assigning blame for its problems rather than taking responsibility for them. Ellis misleads us into thinking the plot is about a mystery, about the common link between several shootings and why John Constantine keeps showing up. But the ultimate answer is more straightforward than that, at least from a sociological point of view. The final page of the story kind of fizzled to me, because the final revelation seems as though it would work better in another medium (namely, video or film). Still, the reader can piece together the final point.
Phil Jimenez, who’s known more for his super-hero work, struck me as something of an odd choice for this story, but he definitely contributes some strengths. He conveys the anger and despair that’s at the heart of this script quite clearly, especially on that final page to which I referred a moment ago. On the other hand, I’m not wild about his artistic choices for other characters. The woman who’s central to the story looks too put together. Other characters keep commenting on how she seems to be falling apart, but it just doesn’t come through in his George Perez-esque artwork. Furthermore, the backgrounds are quite lacking at times, and since this story has such deep roots in the real world, more convincing backdrops are really called for.
The other short stories included in this volume are from various Vertigo anthology titles from several years ago, such as Flinch, Strange Adventures, Weird War Tales and Heartthrobs. What’s great about these choices is that this book gives new life to relatively obscure work by some of the industry’s top talent. Now, like just about anthology, what we get is a mixed bag. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s “New Toys” for example is a bit more rough around the edges than what we’ve come to expect from these talents, but it’s entertaining all the same. Garth Ennis’ script about four military buddies is quite confusing, and Jim Lee’s art — consisting almost completely of closeups that add to confusion — isn’t all that visually interesting.
There are plenty of bright spots as well, though, such as Bill Willingham’s light story about a monster-rental service. It was a treat to see his art again, but more importantly, one can see the concepts at play that are a little reminiscent of the premise and ideas one can find in Willingham’s biggest success, Fables. My favorite story in the bunch is Steven T. Seagle’s chilling “Diagnosis,” about a psychologically skewed doctor who has unusual ideas about what it means to commit to marriage. It’s a chilling story, innovatively illustrated by Tim Sale. The artist’s use of Roy Lichtenstein-like imagery is really effective.
Axel Alonso, a comics editor who now works at Marvel Comics, is listed as the original editor all but one of these Vertigo stories, and the wealth of talent that he worked with and fostered during his tenure with DC is plain to see here. I haven’t been following his work at Marvel that much these days, and this served as a reminder of just how big a contribution a great editor can have on the process of crafting good comics. 7/10
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