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Top Five Current Vertigo Ongoings

Today’s top five is the top five best current ongoing titles from DC’s Vertigo line of comics.

Enjoy!

Please note that this is intended to be PRAISING these five titles, not knocking any other titles Vertigo is putting out.

5. Jack of Fables

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I find Jack to be a very interesting character, but I do not know how well he works as a lead, which is why I think writer Bill Willingham (and co-writer Matthew Sturges) are doing a nice job of surrounding Jack with as many other intriguing characters as possible, so that the book really works almost as quite literally Fables II.

Tony Akins does a nice job on the artwork, and the story so far has flowed well.

4. DMZ

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Brian Wood’s tale of a reporter telling stories about the few hundred thousand people left in Manhattan after a Civil War broke out in America (turning Manhattan into a demilitarized zone, otherwise known as the DMZ) has had flashes of brilliance, but also has been struck by a recent storyline that went on about an issue or two too long, sapping the book a bit of its momentum.

The most recent issue was a very strong look at culture inside the DMZ (with art from Wood himself), and it was a very fun issue.

I am wary, though, to see Wood embark on another long storyline, as so far, I have found the book to be at its strongest during shorter tales, where Wood’s gift with connecting the reader with the characters who inhabit the DMZ shines the most.

The artwork for the title has been quite good, from Riccardo Burchielli to Wood to Kristian Donaldson.

3. Hellblazer

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I was taken aback by how strong Denise Mina’s opening arc on Hellblazer was, with her clever idea of having John Constantine be struck by something he’s never experienced before – empathy. And what that would do to John. It’s a genius idea, and Mina explored it very well.

Then her story stops to take an issue off, and the jarring effect was pretty darn evident. It really annoyed me, and when the story picked up again for the “next arc” (I use quotes because it is clearly just continuing the first arc which never had an actual ending), it lost a little luster for me.

I don’t blame Mina for this, of course, as I believe it was more editorial.

In any event, the title is still very good, as Mina has a nice grasp on the personalities of the characters she is using and gets good interactions with them all. Leo Manco has been good on the art.

It was recently announced that Mina will be leaving the book shortly, but since her replacement is Andy Diggle, I don’t think we’ll see this book tumble from this spot any time soon.

2. Y the Last Man

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Brian K. Vaughan’s Y The Last Man got off to a great start, and I do not think it ever really captured the same energy it did at the very beginning, but few long-running travel stories do, so I do not begrudge Vaughan that.

What has remained most impressive to me in this series is the consistent goodness of the artwork. It would be one thing if Pia Guerra drew every issue, but she hasn’t, so the fact that Goran Sudzuka has been able to fill-in for her so frequently without a noticeable drop in quality, that’s truly impressive to me.

For awhile there, this book got into a bit of a rut, with Vaughan repeating certain tics a bit too much for my taste, but impressively, he seemed to break out of that rut (certain things still repeat, but not nearly to the extent they once did), which, as I just mentioned, was quite impressive to me (and may I note that I don’t think he’s ever fell into a rut with Runaways, which is to his great credit).

Someone once referred to this book as filled with “action-movie characterization,” and in a way, I think they may be correct (it certainly changed the way I viewed the book ever since I heard that description), but at the same time, I LIKE action-movie characterizations sometimes, if they’re done well. I dig the characterizations in Die Hard, for instance, so while it may have been meant as a shot (and in most cases, it probably WOULD be a shot), here, I think it works in Y The Last Man’s favor.

1. Fables

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Bill Willingham has really created a brilliant framework here, hasn’t he? As I mentioned above, in Jack of Fables, there are so many neat characters that Willingham has access to, he has literally filled a whole separate title with cool characters!

And that is the beauty of Fables, the “s” at the end of the title. There are a vast multitude of fables, and Willingham has done an excellent job in making nearly all of them into unique and engaging figures, so that it’s almost like he just has to put a couple of them into a room together and let the rest follow naturally.

That may sound like it is devaluing his impact upon the book, but it’s quite the contrary, as it is he who has created these characters to the point where they are so multi-dimensioned that he can set them loose and write them as they are.

I really dig Mark Buckingham’s art, in addition!

So Fables is my favorite current Vertigo ongoing title.

Agree with my top five? Disagree? Let me know!

33 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 25, 2006 at 3:44 am

Hmmm,

I read the trades on everything, so I’m not sure how they are all at this very moment, but mine would look a little more like this….

5. Hellblazer/Testament – Okay, I’m behind on the trades with Hellblazer, still at the start of Carey’s run. Carey’s work isn’t the storngest the book has ever seen, but Hellblazer makes the list because it has given me years and years worth of entertainment, and if it hits a low, you know a new high is just around the corner.
Testament just sneaks on there because, 1. I can’t comment on current Hellbalzer stories and 2. It only grabbed me at the end of the first arc.
If it keeps up the goodness it hit in the last couple of issues, then this books going to have me. Not the biggest fan of the art, the girls in particular seem a little too cheesecake/silicone for the story, but the playing with the comic form makes up for it.

4. Loveless – I love me a good Western, and Loveless is a good Western.
I read the trade insanely fast, but I loved every friggin’ second of it.
I do not understand any of the complaints I’ve heard about this book (except that I’d feel ripped off getting it in single issue form as well). Complaints about the flashbacks being confusing – I just plain can’t understand them. I misunderstood one, once, where the main character had a dream about his wife getting raped, but when I realised my mistake and re-read, it was defiently my fault, not Azzarello’s.

3. DMZ – The first trade was just excellent. I felt there were some odd pacing gaps between issues, the time varying/amount experienced between issues was a bit jarring, however the issues themselves were near perfection. Wood hits a plot point a page with this one – pure compression. Just so fresh compared to most of the other books out there.

2. Y: The Last Man – Been a solid read apart from a few clunky moments (including every single scene/line in Australia/by an Australian). However, it only gets it’s number two spot as it’s been going longer, and some of the other’s I’m not so sure about – YET.

1. Fables – What else is there to say? This book just plain OWNS it.

Note: 100 Bullets would probably be on the list, however I had to stop getting the trades as I was having trouble following the story, and decided to wait until it’s finished and all in trade before continuing to collect it/read it.

I wouldn’t mind a ‘Vertigo – Gone Too Soon’ top five, listing the top five vertigo books cancelled before their time. I’d get quite passionate debating that one. (Outlaw Nation was one of the greats!)

my top 5 (note i have yet to read jack of fables):

5. testament – i think i like the idea of it more than the stories. i want it to get so much better.
4. fables – great visionary approach to old characters
3. dmz – simply fantastic rendering of the culture clashes in america
2. american splendor – even though it has lost a lot of its punch from when he started.
1. y the last man – brian k. vaughn is sort of my hero right baout now. i almost put pride of bagdad here, but felt it was cheating. y would have been #2 if i had done that.

No love for 100Bullets?

“No love for 100Bullets?”

Wow, that was my first reaction too, and we share the same first name. That’s pretty weird.

I read all my comics in trade by the way, so I wouldn’t know where they’re at right now and how good Jack of Fables actually is (though I expect it to be pretty good) but I would definitely include 100 Bullets.

moose n squirrel

October 25, 2006 at 7:05 am

Vertigo’s got some slim pickings these days in re ongoings (its new graphic novels, though – Can’t Get No and Sloth – have been pretty great so far). The new ones have been pretty weak and the old ones have gotten considerably weaker since they started.

100 Bullets looks gorgeous, but Azzarello’s been stringing that plot along for far too long. I think he thought, “100 Bullets, one hundred issues!” and that was it, and now he’s stuck trying to pad out a story that really should’ve been paced to end about thirty issues ago. Maybe the problem is that the ongoing “arc” has never really worked; the individual “revenge doesn’t pay/careful what you wish for” stories were always far more interesting than the stuff with the Minutemen and the Trust.

Y The Last Man has dodged the most cliche “surprise twist” it could’ve possibly had (her mother did it!) and went for the second-most cliche “surprise twist” instead (her father did it!). The writing has also gotten a lot clunkier since the first year or so – or maybe I’ve just come to notice it more (notice how in every single flashback, someone makes a pointed and heavy-handed reference to some metaphor for the role of women in a patriarchal world? That’s what we call a “subtle touch”). It’s true that it’s written like an action movie, and it does hurt the book because every other element, from Pia Guerra’s art to Vaughan’s habit of constantly citing various statistics and oddball facts, is meant to convey a sense of realism. So when characters act like mustache-twirling pantomime villains, it jars me out of the narrative.

I never got into Fables, I’ve got to admit, and I haven’t read Hellblazer in forever, and I stopped following DMZ after the first three-issue arc, but I’ve been told that it’s gotten better since. Maybe I’ll check out some of the trades.

I can’t take any list seriously that doesn’t include 100 Bullets yet has the mundane Jack of Fables on it. All of the other books though are very well done.

I’ve yet to try DMZ, but the premise is intruiging so I may pick up the trade at the ol’ shop this week. I had the same reaction about 100 Bullets, but I think moos n squirrel’s take on it is spot on. Lord knows I’ve been lost for quite awhile, and I’ve been waiting for the whole thing to end before reading it all. However, there are still moments of greatness in the series, which leads me to believe that it will read really well when it’s done.

If I remember, when Y and Fables began, Y was an immediate hit, wheras Fables was really under the radar. Now I think the two have shifted in terms of popularity.
Anyone else notice this?

I think it’s interesting how many people wait for the trades with Vertigo books. I know that I, as a buyer, am much more likely to buy a Vertigo (or Wildstorm, for that matter) title in trade than I am a contiuing superhero book. In fact, there are several I wish I’d waited for the trade for. Oh well.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 25, 2006 at 8:05 am

“If I remember, when Y and Fables began, Y was an immediate hit, wheras Fables was really under the radar. Now I think the two have shifted in terms of popularity.
Anyone else notice this?”

Yup.
I think this is because Y The Last Man is an easier concept to describe, and a far more exciting one.
It’s first arc was definetly better as well, especially in terms of grabbing you – it took until the second year for the series to slow down a bit.

Fables started kinda weak – I wouldn’t have continued past the first arc if not for the hype.
The second arc was stronger than the first, and the second year much stronger than the first.

I think that’s why the books switched – Y settled into it’s groove, whereas Fables kept growing, and even though it has settled a bit, still keeps shocking you every other storyline.

My top 4:
Loveless
100 Bullets
Y
Fables

Jack of Fables hasn’t made it through the first story yet, so I find it hard to put it on the list. I’ll definitely start picking up Hellblazer at #230 and I have very high hopes for Scalped when it debuts.

@ second Jaap; Hunh. Weird.

Anyway, I gave Fables; Legends in Exile a read through this summer and while I appreciated the art, the story and the mystery left me completely underwhelmed.

My top 5:
5. Y
4. Testament
3. DMZ
2. 100 bullets
1. Fables

Doesn’t feel like JoF has been going long enough, and Hellblazer has been feeling very slight of late.

I’m guessing that given the numbers so far, the only one of last year’s crop that’s going to last is DMZ. It’s too bad, because while I’ve been enjoying DMZ and Testament (and Loveless to a lesser extent) since the start, I think American Virgin and especially Exterminators are really starting to pick up.

Wow. I can’t believe not one of you mentioned Exterminators. That book is way better than any of the titles mentioned so far.

I agree with Funky. One thing I’ve noticed with Vaughan’s series’ is that he gets progressively less dynamic as time goes on. It’s as though his first issues are too good and he just resigns himself to riding the decreasing momentum. He usually gets a better handle on the characters and sharpens the writing, but he rarely seems to challenge the initial energy. Even on Runaways, where despite being forced to re-tool for the second series, Vaughan is still latching onto far too much from the opening Pride arc, rather than letting his formidable storytelling skills expand.

As opposed to Fables, where Willingham started on a stock (if very well done) detective story that served little purpose beyond introducing Fabletown. It really isn’t until halfway through “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” nearly two years into the series, that he finally focuses on the series’ plot, and even that was more in support of “March” than of the series as a whole. In fact, the series had already gone through several twists before Willingham finally gave us a full-on Fables vs. Adversary story in “Homelands.” Essentially, where Vaughan started plot-heavy and started going character-driven when the plot waned, Willingham started character-driven and went plot-heavy to reinvigorate the characters.

IOW, Fables has room to grow and Y seemingly has nowhere to go but down. Not that Willingham can’t get sloppy and Vaughan can’t write himself out of a corner, but that their respective series’ have been built in ways that make Fables the one with better options.

Fables and Y over 100 Bullets.

Wow.

That’s about the most wrong thing ever.

100 Bullets looks gorgeous, but Azzarello’s been stringing that plot along for far too long. I think he thought, “100 Bullets, one hundred issues!” and that was it, and now he’s stuck trying to pad out a story that really should’ve been paced to end about thirty issues ago. Maybe the problem is that the ongoing “arc” has never really worked; the individual “revenge doesn’t pay/careful what you wish for” stories were always far more interesting than the stuff with the Minutemen and the Trust.

Like I said above, this is not meant to be a knocking of the books NOT mentioned, but yes, that’s precisely why 100 Bullets is not on the list – although, even with that problem that 100 Bullets has, it was close between it and Jack (and DMZ, for that matter).

Interesting analysis of Vaughn, Cove. I think you’re right, he’s very good at introducing interesting concepts (the first issue of EX MACHINA is one of the best first issues I’ve ever read) but not necessarily that good at fulfilling that promise. I’ve got PRIDE OF BAGHDAD sitting next to my bed, which looks incredible, though I’m having a hard time bringing myself to read it. The pooor kitties! Anyway, the self- contained graphic novel may play to his strengths best.

I’ve heard from several people that they didn’t like the first FABLES arc, and it wasn’t until the next that they got into it. I must have been the only one that immediately liked FABLES better than Y. The question now is, where does FABLES rank on the Vertigo all- time list?

I’d say that Y is my favourite, and also the best title still. It may stall out in terms of pacing from time to time (Girl on Girl was not an arc I dug), but I put it head and shoulders above everything else.

Fables is… shit, I wanted to like it, and I found high concept fascinating, but I can’t stand any of the characters. Bigby seemed compelling, but the rest seemed far too… simple and boring. I bought the first three trades and ended up trading them away for comics that I actually enjoyed.

100 Bullets had a great start, but I preferred the single issue, high concept format they had going. Having a title drag itself into a big, over-arching conspiracy theories really bores the hell out of me. I didn’t dig it when the X-Files did it, and I don’t dig it now.

Hellblazer can be so great, but apparently Mina needs to learn the same lesson that Carey never did, that arcs should have ENDINGS.

I’m not sayin’ 100 Bullets is the greatest comic ever. Just that it’s vastly better than Y and Fables.

Fables is pure surface fluff with no thematic or character depth. Certainly solidly executed surface fluff, but still there ain’t t’quote a wise man “No actual THERE THERE.”

and Y is just plain fucked in the narrative department, always has been, and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Bonus points for the monkey, but still.

100 Bullets is (IMO) the best drawn, much better plotted than Y*, has the characterization and bit nature of the human experience themes, and when it hits it hits HARD.** Volumes 3 and 9 were absolute A plusses on the MarkAndrew scale. More than makes up for the confusing draggy stuff in-between.

* As is pretty much every other mainstream comic.

** To steal Jonathon Bogart’s apt description of Andre 3000 of Outkast.

No “there” in Fables? That seems odd to me. I’m finding it, among other things, a nicely razor sharp look at the ongoing workings of an exile community and the social context of politics. In this case the personal power of the characters helps sharpen the focus, giving some important sociological truths a clearcut incarnation. Whereas for me the conspiratorial stuff leads away from Azzarello’s real strengths in humane characterization, precisely because communities don’t work the way conspiracy stories require. I like 100 Bullets a lot, it’s just that I think it would have had a lot more weight to it if it had been done in 50 issues.

Funky, I’d have to recommend to stick with Carey’s run on Hellblazer, as it gets much better as it goes on. I thought it started off fairly conventional, but by the end it had become my favorite Hellblazer arc since Ennis.

Hellblazer can be so great, but apparently Mina needs to learn the same lesson that Carey never did, that arcs should have ENDINGS.

Again, though, Mina sat down to write her story as one big story, and it was DC who broke it up, because it is easier to sell a six-part trade than a twelve-part one.

At this point, I don’t think FABLES challenges SANDMAN, PREACHER, TRANSMET, and INVISIBLES in the Vertigo pantheon, mainly because Willingham is still in the “explore and expand” phase of the series. Even after 50-plus issues, the main plot has yet to create its own gravity–characters aren’t yet inexorably drawn to it, nor can it sustain without being fed new ideas. This isn’t a bad thing, just that Willingham has created such a huge space that it’s taking him a while to fill the mass. Hell, until the last few months, he’s only spent one arc (“Homelands”) and one standalone (issue #50) actually dealing with the main plot. So right now, I’d rate FABLES as “insanely amazing fluff” rather than “legendary story” akin to SANDMAN. But when Willingham does start focusing the plot, assuming he doesn’t lose enthusiasm and start rushing, all the pieces are in place for something fabulous.

“No “there” in Fables? That seems odd to me. I’m finding it, among other things, a nicely razor sharp look at the ongoing workings of an exile community and the social context of politics. In this case the personal power of the characters helps sharpen the focus, giving some important sociological truths a clearcut incarnation.”

Yeah, I can buy it as an effective demonstration of sociological principles. But I’m not getting any of the symbolic/metaphorical stuff’s all over the Invisibles.

I read Fables, once, and I’m pretty sure I won’t glean much more outta the material on re-reads. Doesn’t mean it’s worthless. ‘Fact, I think it’s solidly entertaining. Just less.. hmm.. literary, maybe, than I like or expect.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 26, 2006 at 2:12 am

“Anyway, I gave Fables; Legends in Exile a read through this summer and while I appreciated the art, the story and the mystery left me completely underwhelmed.”

Try the 2nd arc. I felt the same way you did about the first story, but the 2nd arc is head and shoulders above it, and the third still above that.

” Volumes 3 and 9 were absolute A plusses on the MarkAndrew scale. More than makes up for the confusing draggy stuff in-between.”

I was on the outs with 100 Bullets, but the 3rd volume brought me on board. That story was amazing – an example of how good comics can be. I read it in one sitting because there was no putting that one down.
As I said, I like 100 Bullets – hell I love it at times, but I want to read it as a complete whole.

“Try the 2nd arc. I felt the same way you did about the first story, but the 2nd arc is head and shoulders above it, and the third still above that.”

Totally agree, I also think Mark Buckingham is a great fit for Fables and he starts in that arc.

Somebody mentioned the lack of character development in Fables, how about Bigby and Snow? I think the transition from hardboiled (quite bitchy) government figure to responsible mother was well executed. And Prince Charming is getting a lot more shading since he became mayor. Somewhere I expect Flycatcher to have his day too, especially since his surprisingly gruesome ‘origin story’ in 1001 Nights Of Snowfall.

“Try the 2nd arc. I felt the same way you did about the first story, but the 2nd arc is head and shoulders above it, and the third still above that.”

Totally agree, I also think Mark Buckingham is a great fit for Fables and he starts in that arc.

Somebody mentioned the lack of character development in Fables, how about Bigby and Snow? I think the transition from hardboiled (quite bitchy) government figure to responsible mother was well executed. And Prince Charming is getting a lot more shading since he became mayor. Somewhere I expect Flycatcher to have his day too, especially since his surprisingly gruesome ‘origin story’ in 1001 Nights Of Snowfall.

“Again, though, Mina sat down to write her story as one big story, and it was DC who broke it up, because it is easier to sell a six-part trade than a twelve-part one. ”

And yet they sold Azzarello’s “Highwater” as a huge trade…

Azzarello’s Hightwater was one of four trades, the four of which tell one complete story.

Fables #1 by far. 100 Bullets and The Exterminators, then DMX and Y:TLM. My thoughts on Loveless.

I read Loveless—or should I say I tried to read it. I think I like the story. I sometimes like the art. The art has varied from very good to almost incomprehensible, which is what this issue (#12) has. Because of this, it is hard to tell when the story is in the present or in the past.

The writer has the present and past overlapping and intertwining during the story. Sometimes the character on a page is watching himself doing something in the past. Sometimes the past action is merely presented with different color schemes. But sometimes you can only tell if a character is in the past or present by the style of his/her hair.

This latest issue is so poorly drawn that I gave up trying to figure out what was what. That’s too bad. I generally enjoy Azzarello’s writing. I generally enjoy stories in western settings. This story is set shortly after the Civil War, and is thus ripe to hold my attention for a long time. But it is not to be. At $3 an issue, comics have to provide at least some enjoyment. This one doesn’t.

I’m surprised at the lack of 100 Bullets too. And Testament, I really wanted it to be amazing. Like someone else said, the concepts and ideas are great, but it just doesn’t gell right.

Another one I would’ve liked to have seen on the list is The Other Side. I realize it’s only just started, but the first issue was a promising start.

wow Fables is definietly the best of the bunch…why are people saying there ain’t no character devlopment in Fables!? Are you crazy! The stories are character driven! There is not one thing wrong with the series….

it’s already on my classic comic book series list along with Grant Morrision’s New X-men run, Peter Milligan’s X-force/X-statix run and Brian K. Vuaghan’s RUnaways run….

I hope this writer on Fables never stops like the other writers did…this series is just to good…and were in the 90′s range of issues now with this series plus a hardcover of snowfall…this series is great and we got Jack of Fables too! I love this series…I collected all of them in tpb form…all 9 for Fables…2 for Jack of Fables and the hardcover of fables…love the series!

1. preacher
2. Y the last man
3. 100 bullets
4. DMZ
5. Fables

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