Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Taking eight flights and traveling something like 14,000 miles in the last two weeks I’ve had some reading time on my hands. Thankfully I had friends with me, including Batwoman, Buffy, Hellblazer, Supergirl, Unwritten, Secret Avengers, and Wolverine. A girlfriend once told me that she loved to fall asleep with a book, it felt like company. Similarly, I was happy to have my comic books with me. The familiar faces were a comfort and a distraction.
Right now, I’m writing this on my return flight from the East Coast, the last leg of all of this travel. I was there for just three days for a funeral. Now this trip was a bit of a surprise in it’s timing, or I might not have flown back from New York after the New York Comic Con last week. As it was, in tandem with spending some time in Los Angeles, I’ve been traveling a lot over the last couple of weeks and because of this, I had pretty much exhausted all of my recreational reading materials (except for a book on CSS, and let me tell you, trying to brush up my programming knowledge while sleepy on an airplane is utter folly, just can’t be done.) The books and comic books that I’d been saving for my trip to New York have all been read and I even read an extra book which I bought at the airport, about the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the strangely moral climate that engendered the veiled depiction of Golightly’s prostitution. Anyway, because of this last minute trip, and because I so wanted to distract myself from the reason for it, the one thing I had to do on my way out of town was to pick up the last two weeks of comic books from my local store.
You may wonder why I hadn’t already picked up the ongoing monthly comic books that I read from the bloody enormous comic book convention in New York. The reason for waiting is because my local shop saves them for me each week. This means that they not only have a better idea of how many paper issues of each comic to buy, but I am assured of getting my comic books, even when I can’t make it into the store for a week or four. So it benefits everyone, and if you’re a regular reader of paper comic books, I’d recommend doing this. But I digress…
I was lucky this time, and although I don’t buy many comic books, they were all good, substantial reads. (The quantity is a subjective thing I suppose, but in comparison to my friends and colleagues who are as committed as I am to the medium, it is a thin pile.) The best thing about a stack of great, monthly comic books is that they’re thin enough to fit in my carry-on bag, and unlike digital comic books, I can still read them when the cabin crew are still asking us to “please turn off all electronic devices” and when I’m done with them, I can hand them to my brother in the next seat, so that he can read the ones I’m done with. At some point I suppose I might renege and decide that I like the convenience of digital comic books, but at the moment I enjoy feel of paper too much, and this newfound appreciation of the convenience of them on airplanes only compounds my slightly old-fashioned stance.
Batwoman #2 was first on the docket, mostly because I couldn’t wait to read it. I’m going to be honest here, I don’t really know much about what is going on with the watery bint who appears, or the personal life of my new favorite red-head, but I don’t care. This is a bit like when I was a kid, buying the Sandman every month just so that I could own Dave McKean’s uniquely painted covers. I just love to look at J.H. Williams III art, soaking every nuance and frame up, allowing my eyes to tumble comfortably along the pages, being swept up by Batwoman’s surreal journey… It is delightfully organic.
Next up was my old favorite, Hellblazer (#284). That old bastard just keeps on delivering and I love him for it. Taking a backseat lately to the guest star of the comic book (his old raincoat), Constantine still managed to charm. The guest artist did a great job of capturing the mood and warmth of the relationship between Constantine and his nymph of a blue-haired wife and I enjoyed seeing them in a slightly different light. It is always a tricky thing for me to get used to a new artist on Hellblazer, there have been so many, but this one fit in fine for me, he just sort of “gets it.”
New Buffy (Season 9, #2) was in the mix and I’m still not sure how I feel about this whole return to her being the lone slayer. In the past, with the TV show, I felt that Whedon was too easily swayed by audience polls, making Buffy suffer endlessly, tediously in the last season because “that’s what people wanted.” Now he’s apparently apologizing for pulling out all the stops and doing all the wild and crazy stunts he could in a comic book with Season Eight. Why apologize just because some of the more vocal critics didn’t like it? If you like it, and we follow your creations, then we’ll get into it and enjoy sharing your enthusiasm. Own it, Whedon! So now that he’d taking all the power away and thinking small again, I have to hope that it is happening because this is what the character demands, not because of some ridiculous attempt to give people what they ask for. Take it from me, we don’t always get what we want because we don’t always know what to ask for. I hope Whedon will keep trying the new, crazy things, but for now, it is all far too early to tell how it is all panning out.
With Unwritten #30, I feel like I’m coming to the end of my rope. I like it but I want more… It is good, it is fun, but I am starting to want to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I feel like I’m not quite there. Nearly, but that “nearly” is what is beginning to frustrate. Perhaps I’m alone in this, or maybe my feelings are more influenced by all the travel, but with the exit of yet another fantastical character, I found myself a little irked. Unwritten is a favorite title, but I don’t want it to continue forever, it needs to have a finite ending and I need to know that it WILL all resolve in some sense, even if it is a negative conclusion.
I finally got to Supergirl #1 and #2, as well as Wonder Woman #1 and #2. What to say? They look nice. Realistically, couldn’t we have fit everything that was in the first 2 issues into a single issue? Or even half of one? I am a little disappointed in the lack of substance there. I shant say more because I really did enjoy the look of them and I don’t want to get all negative here. I did feel for the cosplayers, since Supergirl is more naked than ever (at least from the waist down) and Wonder Woman is still wearing high heels. Maybe this seems silly, I don’t know, but whenever I see a costume reinvented, I like to hope that the authors are considering how it might feel to walk around all day in that. Really, if you think about it, if a costume is too uncomfortable to wear on a convention floor all day, then it is probably even more uncomfortable to wear when saving lives. Practicalities aside, I’m onboard for a couple more issues, even if it is only so that I can read enough content to actually get a picture of what the comic books are like.
Secret Avengers #16 by Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie was very tight and very pretty. I like the team, I like the writing, I like the art. There is a sweeping grandeur to the weird spaces, which works quite well with Ellis’ quirky dialogue. My only tiny tweak would be that occasionally McKelvie’s high energy sequences can look a bit static. Perhaps a quick look at some of the more emotionally charged scenes from Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack he’d get it perfect. The art just needs a little tiny shot of adrenaline. Apart from that minor detail, Secret Avengers is lovely work and I’m enjoying seeing this take on characters who usually just aren’t this interesting or cool. The book is great, and I’d like to see Ellis and McKelvie (as a team) take on nearly any superhero book and see what they can do with it.
Now I know that there were quite a few more comic books that I read on the flight out as well, and it is confounding me, but since they are in the overhead bin in my suitcase, I have no idea what they are… Does that say something about how good they are? Or more about my own sleepy mental state? I suppose we’ll never know. Suffice to say, they kept me happy on the flight and that works for me. I’ve got another 4 hours now until this flight lands in Vegas, where I’ll have half an hour to put some money into the Star Wars themed slot machines (the only ones worth playing) before my connecting flight to San Francisco takes me home. Till then I’m going to take a look at the last comic book in my bag; the Wolverine one shot by David Lapham – Debt of Death. In truth, I only bought it because the cover looks like the best kind of 1960’s Lalo Schifrin album art, but I’m hoping the book will be my kind of thing. That David Aja art looks good on first glance, and while Lapham’s sense of humor isn’t mine, his sense of grit is usually spot on.
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