Captions: Summer Comic Challenge, Part 2

Captions column by Drew

[Read Part 1 here]

Here are three comics set before today, back when the shadows were a bit deeper and the stakes a bit higher.

Volume 1: Before the Living End

Words: Ed Brubaker. Art: Steve Epting

Imagine that it’s the Cold War and the shadowy world of international espionage of James Bond is real. Now imagine that England’s greatest agent isn’t Bond – it’s Moneypenny and she’s been in semi-retirement working the desk for several years. Old secrets rear their heads and she’s forced to step back into the shadows. Of course, Brubaker can’t use names like “Moneypenny” or “007” without getting sued, but given that this is a writer who managed to turn an Archie Andrews story into a desperate noir murder tale in Criminal – The Last of the Innocent, figuring who is who is pretty easy. It’s a moody piece that somehow manages to make you feel nostalgic for Cold War paranoia.

Fans of Brubaker’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be happy to see him resume his partnership with Steve Epting. Be careful not to read this as a SHIELD story minus the gadgets and tights, though, as the action is a great deal more practical, brutal even, than more stylized comic fare.

Bottom Line: I’m willing to bet Velvet will be optioned for a movie, so you should probably read it now so as to have an opinion regarding casting.

Volume 1: Death Chases Me
Volume 2: The Devil’s Business
Volume 3: West of Hell
Volume 4: Pray For Rain
Volume 5: Curse the Demon

Words: Ed Brubaker. Art: Sean Phillips.

More from Brubaker, this time paired up with his normal partner in Criminal, Sean Phillips. Fatale plays with the concept of the femme fatale from all those old noir pot-boiling mysteries. Jo, the titular woman who by her very being causes men to ruin themselves for her, is the center of the series, though her story (which spans centuries) is told through a variety of shifting narrators. Fatale combines two types of pulp literature – the hardboiled detective fiction of Marlowe and the weird horror of Lovecraft – into a satisfying blend of mystery, triumph, and madness. There are two fisted brawlers, researching following a lost manuscript, flashbacks, and Hollywood cults worshiping things beyond reality all swirling around Jo, the eye of the storm. This series is set to finish with Volume 5 where hopefully most, but not all, of the mysteries will be solved and Jo can finally rest.

Phillips’ art is what you’d expect of one of the best artists working in comics today. Blue stained shadows dominate, occasionally contrasted with swathes of red, and there is a feel of something lurking just off panel on every page.

Bottom Line: Fans of True Detective will find a lot to like here, as would anyone who keyed in on the Marlowe and Lovecraft references above.

American VampireAmerican Vampire.
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

Words: Scott Snyder. Art: Rafael Albuquerque.

While the heroine of Fatale does not know her origin, Pearl knows exactly where she came from – a bloody night for an aspiring actress, fed on and left for dead by the secret cadre of Old World vampires that use Hollywood as their happy hunting ground. Pearl, the second generation of newly formed ‘American Vampire’ first embarks on a quest for vengeance but later on just seeks the normal, happy life that was stolen from her. As the series develops, focus spreads to a more ensemble cast as we move through the battlefields of World War Two, gangster dominated Las Vegas, and even the corner malt shop. As we follow the story of the American vampire Pearl, we end up following the story of America. Sure, sure, there’s another American vampire, Skinner Sweet, in the series, but he’s much more antag- than protagonist.

Snyder got an assist at the start of the series from none other than Stephen King, but I’m not sure how much help the author of a good chunk of the modern Batman oeuvre needed. His characters are believable, even with fangs, though somewhat prone to the comic sweeps of bravado the modern splash page requires. Albuquerque’s art is the real standout, swinging between broodingly ordinary and manically frenetic to match the characters’ actions.

Bottom Line: If you’ve been watching The Strain on F/X (or any current, non-smooching vampire series), you should probably pick this up.

Look for Captions: Summer Comic Challenge, Part 3 to be posted on Friday, August 22nd.

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