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.
Despite this book paling in comparison to its predecessors, there are still some pretty weird comics in this one. My favorite is "Backwoods Romance." It’s about a girl who is sad that she’s unpopular so she kisses every boy in her school. She becomes very popular for a short time but she becomes depressed when none of them ask her to the big spring festival because of her reputation. She finds a positive solution to her problem and that is to leave town and start a new life somewhere nobody knows her.
"Marked Woman" is also good. It’s about a lady who looks like Two-Face and is ignored by all but one man who appreciates her inner-beauty. She gets plastic surgery and becomes a shitty person when she starts receiving more male attention.
"Jailbird's Romance" is also pretty good. It’s about a lady criminal, or “she-con,” as she’s referred to in the opening panel. We see her grow up hard, become a gangster moll, and then try to con a guy into loving her so she can steal his jewels. In the end, she shoots a guy and gets dragged into a police truck kicking and screaming.
If this kind of thing seems up your alley, I would recommend buying the uncomfortably titled Weird Love: You Know You Want It! . The new book is fun to read, but the weirdness has run dry.
Beyond the Gates by Todd James
Todd James, a.k.a., REAS is one of the best people to graduate from graffiti into fine art. This is a 12” x 12” collection of loose drawings he did of barbarian ladies. There’s no text in this book, so just look at the cover and you will have already decided if this book is for you or not. It’s definitely for me.
Follow Todd James on Instagram.
101 Movies to Watch Before You Die by Ricardo Cavolo (Nobrow Press)
Ricardo Cavolo has nice linework and a good sense of color, and this book feels nice as an object—but ultimately it sucks. It's a personal diary of the movies Cavolo likes, with self-indulgent descriptions of his relationships beside drawings he did based on the movies. For some inexplicable reason he has drawn every character with four eyes. This would be an OK choice for street art, but it's distracting in the context of this book. The whole thing is a big let-down because it would be so easy to make good. People love list-based entertainment but Cavolo makes this too much about himself for it to have a greater meaning.
I’m Bored by Jess Rotter (Hat & Beard Press)
Buy I’m Bored .
Well, that’s it for this week. See you next time, unless my toilet books crush me to death in a bookalanche.
Follow Nick Gazin on Instagram.