Posts Tagged ‘Ivan Plascencia’

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Hollywood probably wore the term “re-imagining” to death even before comics did, but if we want to be brutally honest, it’s a word that’s become flat-out cringeworthy across all media by this point, and not without good reason. To “re-imagine” something, after all, means that time and effort that could go into actually imagining something new is going into updating an existing idea, and there’s also an implication, at the very least, that affixes itself to the notion that the original (often beloved) idea itself is in need of some touch-up work. The track record of “re-imaginings” is a pretty lousy one in the funnybook medium, of course — many a promising, or even established, creative career has been sidetracked by attempting pointless re-vamps of characters and concepts that originated in the minds of Kirby, Eisner, Ditko, Kurtzman and the like that had literally no chance to come anywhere near equaling (to say nothing of surpassing) their progenitors because said progenitors were still ahead of their time. So why even bother?

Here’s the damn thing, though — some concepts could desperately do with a revamp/re-launch/”re-imagining.” Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch re-built Swamp Thing from the muck up and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. Ditto for Neil Gaiman’s completely different take on the idea of the Sandman. And there’s probably nothing that came out of the ’90s mainstream comic scene that wouldn’t benefit from a completely fresh take. Enter WildStorm comics, then — and, more crucially, Warren Ellis.

DC’s had pretty good luck with the notion of the “pop-up imprint” (whatever that even means) in recent months courtesy of Gerard Way and his Young Animal line, and so the idea of bringing back Jim Lee’s WildStorm label suddenly sounds a lot less ludicrous than it would have not so long ago, especially with Ellis at the helm. Planetary still stands out as the best thing to ever come out under WS auspices (Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics line notwithstanding), so why not give its creator the keys to the whole (admittedly dilapidated) mansion and see what he can come up with? I’m game if you are —

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The first book to come out from the “new” WildStorm is the 24-part eponymously-titled The Wild Storm #1, scripted by Ellis with art from 2000 A.D. and Clean Room alumnus Jon Davis-Hunt, and as far as exercises in so-called “world-building” go, they don’t come much more fully-realized than this. The Other Bearded One posits the universe newly-minted as his own to be one rife with uber-secret high tech, a small handful of spectacular “haves” and multitudes of “have-nots,” nefarious corporate espionage, and “deep state” conspiracies the likes of which numbskulls like Alex Jones couldn’t come up with in their most fevered imaginings. In other words, it’s probably not too terribly different from our own, barring the super powers.

“Classic” characters from across the spectrum of former WS books are either given cursory (Voodoo, Zealot) or somewhat detailed (Jacob Marlowe, Deathblow) introductions here, with more to follow, and sooner or later (probably later) we’ll be seeing WildC.A.T.S.StormWatch, and others spun off into their own mags, but if the pattern of this first issue holds, it’ll all be done in a manner most deliberate and planned, so a “title flood” seems like something we’ll be able, blissfully, to avoid here. Ellis moves just a few of his who-knows-many chess pieces here, and the overall flavor of the proceedings is far more Transmetropolitan than it is, say, The Authority, but in a way that makes perfect sense — the world of Spider Jerusalem was, after all, a “built-from-the-ground-up” affair, and that’s the wise approach to take when resuscitating a veritable boatload of properties that by and large haven’t even been kept on life support for over a decade. Why dust things off when it’s so much more fun to blow ’em up?

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I can’t fairly comment on too many differences  between “WildStorm Then” and “WildStorm Now” simply because so much of the “Now” has yet to reveal itself, but the six-page (!) “house ad” that DC included in most of its titles last week offers some intriguing clues — suffice to say it sounds like this is going to be a very tightly-controlled imprint with all individual parts playing into a mind-bogglingly comprehensive whole, and setting this well apart from and outside of standard DCU continuity is reason enough to breathe a heavy sigh of relief. After all, no matter how well things are chugging along with this line in a year or so, an ill-timed guest appearance from the likes of Aquaman or Robin (not to pick on those characters specifically, but you get my point) would still have the power to scuttle things up to no end. Walling this world off in a manner that would make Donald Trump proud? Hate the idea in reality, but in fiction, shit — I’ll take it.

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All the bold imagining in the world at the developmental stage doesn’t mean a damn thing, though, if the final product’s visuals aren’t up to scratch, but on that score, again, there appears to be nothing to worry about. Davis-Hunt’s art is a little less —- errrmmm — clean than it was on Clean Room,  where intricate detail and crisp, fine lines ruled the day, but it’s no less effective for that fact : this world looks and feels “lived in,” quietly oppressive, and maybe even just a touch grimy. I really can’t envision it being any other way, myself, and thanks to Davis-Hunt and colorist Ivan Plascencia (master of a palette that we’ll call, for lack of a better term, “modern muted”) I don’t even want to. I’m abso-friggin’-lutely in love with the art on this book, and after you check out, guess what? My money’s on the same being true for you.

Getting in on a sprawling, many-tentacled epic bursting at the seams with ambition and overseen by talent visionary enough to pull off everything they’re setting out to do is an opportunity that comes along once only every-so-often. You’d be a fool to miss out on it here. The Wild Storm is certain to be a twisting and perilous road, and we’re only able to see as much of the map as we need to in order to keep following it, but there’s absolutely no doubt about where it’s ultimately headed — straight up.

 

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Of all the horrendous decisions that accompanied DC’s now-apparently-over-at-least-in-name “New 52” initiative, the worst of the bunch didn’t happen for a good year or more after the line’s initial roll-out — I’m speaking, of course, of the editorially-mandated usurpation of everyone’s favorite grimy Limey mage, John Constantine, from the Vertigo line to the “proper” DC Universe, where he was given a cleaner trenchcoat, robbed of his ever-present cigarettes, and put in charge of the supernatural super-team lamely named Justice League Dark.

We all know how that turned out, don’t we? A domesticated, neutered John Constantine is no John Constantine at all, and even with a TV show (that never seemed to be able to settle on whether it wanted to give us Vertigo John or DCU John, hence its failure) concurrently running that should have sparked at last some marginal interest in the character, the flagging sales of both Constantine as a solo book and Justice League Dark ensured that neither title would survive the post-Convergence culling and make it out the other side as part of the new “DC You” soft relaunch just underway this month.

What we have instead, then, is a new series calling itself Constantine : The Hellblazer that, as its title alone would imply, seeks to bring John back to his grittier roots — at least to a degree.

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Fair enough, the first issue, entitled “Going Down,” does start with some blood, viscera, and barely-concealed nudity — and co-writers Ming Doyle (previously known for her work as an artist on creator-owned projects like Mara and The Kitchen) and James Tynion IV (scribe of my current favorite “guilty pleasure” read, teenage sci-fi/fantasy drama The Woods) at least give John his cigs back and are more up-front about his bisexuality than anyone since the great John Smith, who first hinted at it in a one-off story waaaaaayyy back in John Constantine : Hellblazer #51 (“Counting To Ten,” which I still maintain is the single-best issue in that series’ lengthy run), but here’s the long and short of it — after engaging in some harmless flirtation with a guy, when it comes time for Constantine to get his rocks off in this debut installment, he ends up fucking a sexy demon chick from hell.

And therein lies the rub, I think — Constantine as envisaged by Doyle and Tynion can cast a few knowing glances at his original, darker iteration, but at the end of the day, they’re only going to go so far with all of that. Odds, of course,  are pretty good that despite DC “suit” Dan DiDio’s insistence that “DC You” is all about “empowering creators to tell the best stories in the industry,” this is an editorial decision — sure, Constantine the TV show may be dead, but there are still Blu-ray and DVD box sets to sell, and the powers that be have decided that they don’t want anyone who wanders into a comic shop fresh off watching Constantine : The Complete First Season to find a version of John that’s too terribly different than the one they just watched on their flat-screen. Otherwise, there’s really no reason at all not to just “re-Vertigo-ize” the character, unless they’re just too damn proud to admit what a colossal cock-up de-fanging him was in the first place.

Hmmm — come to think of it, though,  given the micro-managing, control-freak mindset that exemplifies the current DC brass, maybe that is all there is to it.

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Anyway, John ends up taking sexy demon chick from hell back to the Dante’s Inferno-themed nightclub that she runs and helps her screw over her business partner before screwing her over as well, in one of his patented “magical double-crosses against a would-be double-crosser” that all comes together just a bit too conveniently and feels like a pale approximation of the sort of jaw-dropping “did he really just do that?” Hellblazer stories that we used to get from the likes of Jamie DeLano, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Paul Jenkins, Mike Carey, or Peter Milligan. The basic formula is present and accounted for, absolutely, but it reads like a tired re-hash of stuff that’s been done previously with much more zeal and heart. Having John doing his dirty work in New York rather than London doesn’t help matters much, either, but the real problems with what DC is doing with (and to) this character right now go far beyond superficial trappings like that. Hell, the fact that they haven’t even bothered putting a British writer on the book since his move away from their “mature readers” imprint tells you just how clueless they are at the end of the day about what the hell to do with JC.

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The book does have one saving grace, though, and that’s the art of Riley Rossmo. This guy has been flooring me in recent months with his work on Rasputin, and while the story here doesn’t give him room to breathe with his trademark epic double-page spreads and the like, there is a nifty two-page vertically-inclined sequence exploring the nine levels of “Club Inferno” that’s the most artistically “out there” thing I’ve seen in a DC title in ages. The color palette employed by helmsman of the hues Ivan Plascencia is nicely varied, as well, going from muted and subdued tones at the beginning to garish and gaudy when the shit hits the fan towards the end. All in all, this is a very good-looking comic and I might be tempted to pick up the next issue or two just for the visuals alone.

I’ve gotta be brutally honest, though — barring some massive tonal shift on the script front, this book’s stay on my pull list will probably be a short one. Doyle and Tynion give the impression that they desperately want to give us the old-school Constantine that we know and love back, but through a combination of not really having any new ideas and editorial clamping-down, they just can’t quite pull it off. The end result is a bunch of gorgeous-looking panels in service to a tepid-at-best story.

Still, I guess it’s better than watching John team up with Deadman and The Spectre to save Zatanna from Lex Luthor’s soul-stealing machine.