I’m really supposed to be enjoying my week off, but Grant Morrison won’t let me…
Ordinarily, this is where I’d hit you with a small disclaimer, to preserve some aspect of my credibility, in the face of a train of thought quickly becoming obsessive. The statement would probably read something like, “Now, I’m not trying to be on this dude’s nuts again, but…” Well, I’m not even bothering with that today, cause there’s no way I’m apologizing for what comes next. I was straight chillin’ people, planning to spend the skip weekend finishing up the next Marvel pitch, doing some dialogue tests for No Outlet, and watching a little football. But then I read the fourth issue of The Guardian, you know, part of that whole Seven Soldiers event I refuse to stop talking about. On the real though, I finished this book, put it down with a huge smile on my face, and decided to write this, without hesitation. “This” being a detailed reader’s commentary about the single comic that provided the impetus for a completely unscheduled column, of course.
It was titled “Sex Secrets of the Newsboy Army!” and these are some of my very scattered thoughts about it, presented in somewhat chronological order. Let’s just start on page 1, to make sure we cover everything…
The first line of the entire story is the question “Wouldja believe,” effectively setting the tone for the issue, and probably daring us more than anything, to argue that we don’t. I can’t speak for anybody else, but when I open a comic and see a baby with glasses on, speaking like some college professor, I’m definitely down until the last panel. Especially when that’s followed by a boy, dressed in full pads, tossing a Cessna engine to his friends like it’s a football. And then when you consider that two more kids, named Chop Suzi and Kid Scarface, then used the engine to repair their downed plane before being overrun by angry natives in funny hats, it’s almost impossible not to fall into this story. Morrison is just trying too hard to keep your attention, throwing a land of golden top hats into the opening scene for good measure, just to be sure. But that’s another story.
Right now, Jake Jordan is trying to quit his job as The Guardian, because he thinks it’s ruining his life. Hell, he’s probably right, but there’s something else his boss has to tell him first, and it’s not how his former teammate Millions the Mystery Mutt inherited a fortune from some crazy old eccentric. I mean, yeah, that’s just absurd enough to come off as brilliant, but there’s clearly something else. There’s the story of how the Newsboy Army made a promise to each other, outside the UN building, that nothing would ever divide them, and the second I read that, then came the natural sinking feeling. Because after that, only one thing could possibly happen, and in only a few pages, I’d really started to like these kids.
Man, how the hell is Grant even plotting this? Everything is just methodically linking together on one level, while simultaneously coming apart on the other. He gives us the clever Wildcat reference, and the “killer fairy” sealed in a jar, that appeared in Zatanna a couple months back. But in almost the same breath, he also sends the Newsboys into Slaughter Swamp, putting them in the presence of the Terrible Time Tailor, who ruins them all in truly awful ways. And then something trips security, and an old baby is handed a gun, in what has to be one of the stranger images to creep into an already strange story. Morrison coulda left it alone too, but he keeps knitting, dropping huge reveals like the legend that says the Sheeda will be overthrown by Seven Soldiers, explaining their compulsion to journey out into the world, to murder teams of seven. And that Carla’s father was actually a Newsboy in the old days, that secretly helped recruit Jake to be The Guardian.
The biggest development though is a familiar one, but still strikes an incredible chord, probably since I’m loving this character so much. It’s the crisis of faith, that moment where every hero loses his head and his way, before being put “in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. And knowing you’re gonna do it even if you don’t want to.” It’s a fundamental tenet in nearly every superhero story, but right here, with the true scope of things spelled out, and the Sheeda at the door, it seems to mean just a little more. Still doesn’t explain why in the hell I believe that a man with a shield and a stick can save the world. Though I guess it answers Grant’s question from the first page…
Damn right, I would. This whole event is just too good not to.
Okay, with that good and settled, I need to talk about one more book, before I start closing this out for the week…
“My new home. I think maybe a lot of people killed themselves here.”
Ellis is on a roll lately.
Deciding that Desolation Jones and Jack Cross just aren’t enough, he adds Fell into the rotation, and once again proves himself a master at selling you on a series, in one issue. The sixteen-page format even offers him fewer opportunities than usual, from a statistical standpoint anyway, but he makes it look so easy. The series starts with a relatively basic premise, a detective touching down in a new city, but through the eyes of Richard Fell, this strange tattooed town, manned by 3 ½ detectives, becomes another compelling character, in the hands of Ellis. The acclaimed writer has received due credit for many things, but I think his skill at rendering incredibly interesting characters is sometimes overshadowed. Even personalities that he didn’t actually create, take on a heightened spark through his scripting, and there’s no doubt Richard Fell will soon join the ranks of guys like Elijah Snow and Spider Jerusalem.
The other obvious draw is the presentation, giving you a complete sixteen-page story, and some behind the scenes material, for only two bucks. Takes at least one legitimate excuse from a readership frightened of new books, which will hopefully get this into more hands, because like so many other independent releases, it demands the opportunity to succeed, if only to see if the town does manage to kill Richard Fell. Knowing Ellis, over the next few issues, I’m sure it’ll do its best.
In The Lab-
Since we’re here, I’m “premiering” a new feature, that I hope to make a very permanent aspect of the column. Thinking of bringing the Quotables back too, for any of you that remember those, just to inject more variety into the proceedings and force me to construct things a little differently, as I hit 200 and beyond. New thing is going to be the “In The Lab” section, which’ll be used as sort of a weekly progress report, especially in those weeks when the main topic rightfully takes the focus a bit away from my own developing projects. In essence, it’ll be what’s in the notebook for the week, and will take a much greater prominence as The God Complex speeds toward release. Also, will be devoting some space to the other components of the creative process, the “background noise” comprised of albums, DVDs, etc. that are either inspiration, distraction, or in most cases, the soundtrack as the work is being conceived and executed.
Like I mentioned above, working up more pitches for Marvel, at least one is going in early this week, and I’ll probably finish another, to be fired off early next week. Still working on the moving the first script of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury from the notebook to the word processor, but the next few pages will probably take a bit longer, because I just wrote out all the dialogue, and left the actual “framing” for later, but the major shots are in my head, so it’ll be all good.
Splitting time there, and on a project that’s tentatively called No Outlet, which will likely shake out as an OGN. Only problem is that the subject matter and premise are highly situational, so I’m trying to get most of it finished before I get TOO far removed from my current state of mind. It follows two friends that for the life of them, cannot escape the small town they grew up in, to manifest the very fulfilling destiny they’ve mapped out for themselves. And the longer they remain trapped there, the harder it is to escape, naturally. There’s a slight supernatural element to it also, but a great portion of it will be autobiographical, and the idea came while driving to work one day, and seeing a street labeled with that yellow “NO OUTLET” sign. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but it all started with that image, and evolved from there. Needs to be heavily plotted while I’m still holding onto a general level of creative frustration, so the core emotions are channeled properly. Does it make any sense that I’m kinda wishing that things will turn around in the next month, so that I won’t care as much about finishing it?
More next week on all of this…
Little Brother- The Minstrel Show
One of THE emerging groups in Hip-Hop delivers their major label debut, following the critically acclaimed “The Listening.” In the words of LB member Phonte, “Dope beats. Dope rhymes. What more do ya’ll want?”
Kanye West- Late Registration
Gets better with each and every listen, I think. Kanye elevates the game, maturing on both lyrical and production fronts, and effectively shattering the potential for a “sophomore slump” into tiny little pieces. Amazing piece of work, and you hear the attention to detail on almost every track. The music’s definitely in the building…
24- Season 3
Easily the weakest season of 24, but I just watched the first two, and I’m a hopeless completist about some things. Slightly better than I originally gave it credit for, but effectively proves that there are definite limits to the real-time storytelling format. But hey, when this show works, it really works, and it’s hard to keep up with it. Jack Bauer is also some kind of superhero, because you can stab him, shoot him, torture him, and he never stops comin’ back. Only thing that really slows him down, is killing and/or maiming the people around him. And seriously, even THAT don’t get it done…
Hope you enjoyed this little “emergency” column, and that you’re reading Seven Soldiers and Fell. Technically, this is column 200, but I’m calling it 199.5, while I wind up for the real deal. Until then…