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My lack of surprise: Graeme looks at Vertigo, 3/21.

Graeme McMillan

For those of you who want a sick cat update, we’re waiting to hear more but she seems to have an enlarged heart, which is what’s causing her to breathe erratically. Of course, what caused the enlarged heart and vomiting is something that the doctors are still investigating, using both the highest and most expensive of technologies. Nonetheless, both Kate and myself are wusslike emotional wrecks about the whole thing, and pretending to investigate the possibility of turning her into an immortal cyborg cat so that we don’t have to deal with this again in the future (Perhaps an immortal cyborg cat assassin, so that way she could pay us back for the cost of the cyborg parts. Who knows?) as we realistically face up to what appears to be the oncoming train of a fact that our cat won’t be staying around for awhile. You’ll all know it’s bad news when I never mention the cat again; it’s bad enough being a downer like this at the start of reviews, but if one started “And today, our cat died,” then I would suddenly have turned into the first emo comic reviewer and should be ashamed of myself. Instead, shall we talk about “adult” comics?

ARMY@LOVE #1: Weirdly enough, I read a black and white preview of this about a month or so ago, and remember really, really disliking it; it seemed scattered and disjointed, aimess and mean-spirited. But reading the finished book, it seemed as if there was a rewrite somewhere, and I’m not entirely sure where – Maybe there were pages added, or dialogue was tweaked to bring things into greater focus? Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a mess, but it’s less of a mess now and I’m not really sure what has changed outside of the color being added.

The majority of my problem with the story is that it doesn’t seem to have any more depth than your average episode of Desperate Housewives. The somewhat self-congratulatory text piece where Rick Veitch writes about the book being new because it’s comedy from tragedy without the distance of time appears to miss the modern satirical landscape of things like The Daily Show, Colbert Report or The Onion, which have done exactly the same thing, but better, for years, and the book itself reads dated and unaware in the same way (The military encourages, what, immorality (?) as a way of motivating its soldiers – but doesn’t that seem oddly lazy or quaint as a satirical idea in light of the Abu Garib scandal, years ago?). There isn’t any subtlety or nuance in the satire, whether it be political or social, nor does there really feel like there’s any direction or intent to it beyond wanting people to think it satirical and shocking.

Artwise, Gary Erskine’s inking over Veitch’s pencils manages to both update his look and still keep it looking like an alternative book from the 70s. I’m not the biggest fan of Veitch’s art (and suddenly I have a horde of Swamp Thing fans after me), but it’s off-kilter and broad enough to work here, in the character work if not the action sequences, but I do tend to wonder whether an artist with a stronger style would have given the book a stronger sense of personality, and solved some of the problems I had with the writing and made the issue more than just something that makes you go Eh. The coloring’s nice, though.

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #230: I’m getting way too cynical about these things, I think; I got to the end of this issue with its “To Be Concluded” and thought, well, why? Not that I didn’t want the story to be finished, but because I felt that it already had been – We’d found out who had really killed the girl in question, and he seemed to be getting his come-uppance… The only things left (especially if the story was to be continue for only one more issue) were gore and more professional cockney menace, none of which we need anymore. There was nothing wrong with this issue, per se – new writer Andy Diggle has the voice of the character down and Leonardo Manco’s art is gritty and ink-splattered as you’d expect, and that’s kind of the problem: We’ve seen this before. By this point, we’ve seen this 229 times before, in fact, and this approach to it (Returning, I guess, to the source material?) just underlines that and makes the book look its age. Yes, it’s the longest-lasting Vertigo book (and right now, one of the longest-lasting DC books in general), but that isn’t enough reason to keep it going in and of itself, you know? Eh, again, and I’m sure that my lack of response to both Vertigo’s newest and oldest books either says something about my jadedness, Vertigo’s lack of surprise or presence as a publisher these days, or both.

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