I’m VICE’s art editor, Nicholas Gazin. This is the column where I review comic books.
People mail me books to review. I usually store them above my toilet. Unfortunately I’ve been forgetting about them for so long that the shelf looks like it may collapse at any moment. There’s a chance I’ll get crushed to death by some comics every time I take a shit. So I’m back to reviewing comics until I’m no longer in imminent danger.
Here are some reviews of comics. I listed the best ones first and the worst ones last.
Jupiter’s Legacy, Vol. 2 by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (Image Comics)
Jupiter’s Legacy is a hyper-violent, postmodern superhero comic that’s beautifully drawn by Frank Quitely and passably written by Mark Millar. It’s not groundbreaking, deep, or all that memorable, but it is fun, fast-paced, and entertaining. Everything that needed to be done in this genre of “realistic” superhero stories was done by Alan Moore in the 1980s. But there’s still an audience for comics where the superheroes swear, have sex, and murder each other gruesomely.
In the first Jupiter’s Legacy collection, some old-timey people travel to an island where aliens give them superpowers, similar to how the monolith forcibly evolves the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The newly super-powered humans become costumed superheroes. Their children grow up to be a bunch of spoiled super-powered jerks. There’s a violent super-revolution where the shitty super kids take over the world after a big, violent superhero battle.
In this new Jupiter’s Legacy edition, the remaining good guys stage a second violent revolution to take the world back from the bad guys. At the end, they say that the meaning of life is to help other people.
It’s a fun comic that is worth reading because Frank Quitely drew it. If he hadn’t drawn it, it probably wouldn’t be worth discussing.
That's because Mark Millar's characters are neither memorable nor terribly relatable, but at least he holds your attention for the length of the comic. And considering how impenetrable most superhero comics are, that's no small feat: Millar’s greatest strength as a writer seems to be how little he inserts himself into the story. Where most superhero comics could be vastly improved by removing about two-thirds of the text, Millar doesn’t weigh his scripts down with long, unnecessary dialogue or elaborate backstories. He gets in and tells you a story primarily through visual means. It’s natural for writers to fall in love with words, but comics are a visual medium. “Show, don’t tell,” is the first rule, and Millar gets that.
If you’re getting on an airplane and need something meaningful, get the infinitely re-readable Watchmen. If you’re getting on a subway and need comic book entertainment, get Jupiter’s Legacy.
Weird Love: Jailbird Romance! presented by Clizia Gussoni and Craig Yoe (IDW/Yoe Books)
The coolest thing about this book is that I got quoted on the front cover. Not only are those my words, they’re even above the title. Do you have any idea how hard you have to kiss a book’s ass to get an above-the-title quote? REALLY HARD. But I did it, because I am the greatest comics critic of all time and I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
The Weird Love books are collections of unintentionally bizarre romance comics originally published between the 40s and 70s. Craig Yoe and his wife Clizia Gussoni scour old romance comics for stories about women who hate their boyfriends for wanting to be circus clowns, stories about women who fall in love with hippies, commies, wimps, or abusive brutes, and they put them in these awesome books.
All of the collections have been great and weird up until now. While this book is a lot of fun to read, there’s been a discernible drop-off in the amount of weirdness. All of the comics in this new book are a little weird, but all romance comics are a little weird. The previous books were nothing but grade-A weirdness, w this new one is mostly just weird because the comics are 70 years old and present a heightened, cartoonish version of the ways people dated in the past.
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