Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Comic Book Wednesday: Y Not?

Short Review
No Hero #1. by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp. Plot: Joshua Carver becomes a vigilante. In a sense, this isn't anything new; Ellis has been doing the super-powered nonsuperhero for quite some time. The difference here is the clarity towards what's at stake. From the title, to the pseudo-new clipping beginning, to the first scene of gratuitious (and at the same time, not gratutitious at all) violence, Ellis sets up this series as an examination of the contradiction inherent in comic books: that 'hero' and 'vigiliante' aren't really words that go together. Ryp's work is impressive in its outline; the comic begins with short, orderly squares that lengthen and grow as Carver prepares to do battle. The frames then begin to break down until Carter makes his first kill; very nice effect.
A good first issue; we'll see where things go.


Y the Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated (mostly) by Pia Guerra, was a 60 issue series that ran from September 2002 to January 2008. The plot, in a nutshell: a plague kills every male on earth except for Yorick Brown, an escape artist with an English degree, and his monkey Ampersand. The entire series is about how Yorick Brown and the rest of the world cope with the loss of the men. It's a post-apocalyptic bildungromans, with a generous dollop of gender study. It's a serious examination of what the world would be like without the y-chromosoned, and how people cope after the end of everything. Through the course of the series, Yorick goes from reclusive shut-in to, well, someone worthy of the title last man, with all the masculine, testosterone-ridden baggage that entails. It's beautifully written, nearly always beautifully drawn, and it's possibly the best ending I've ever read in graphic form--hell, in any form. I have to admit my own judgement is biased; part of the appeal of the series for me is that when I started reading, I was basically the same age Yorick was when he started out, and we both grew at the same rate. If the novel is a journey that the characters, reader, and writer all go on together, then this was... a really... good... journey. Ok, the metaphor got away on me. But read the book. Read it for Yorick's quest to find the missing Beth. Read it for the mystery of 355. Read it for the monkey.
Or read it to see Yorick's johnson. (It took me an hour to get that picture working. And it's still terrible.)
One last thing: There are far, far better reasons to like Y: the Last Man beyond "Yorick and I are both over-educated, underachieving white guys". Y Fans, I'm calling on you to come on down and supply them.

Later Days.


Kate said...

Okay: I cannot read this review or comment rationally on it because I have NOT YET GOTTEN A COPY OF NO HERO #1 and I am avoiding all spoilers on pain of clawing-out-of-eyes. Apparently every single copy of No Hero 1 in Chicville is spoken for, so I must wait for re-orders. Le sigh.

Person of Consequence said...

Well, all right... but I expect a report on both Y and No Hero once circumstances permit!

Kate said...

All right! I finally got my hands on "No Hero" and have enough time to sit down and give commentary! You may never see it, buried as it is in yr blog archives, but its the principle of the thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was wildly in favour of "No Hero" from the get-go. I am a huge fan of the Ellis/Ryp ticket. I love-love-love "Black Summer": I love the art and the characters and the concepts, I love the nods to "traditional" comix-style layouts and narratives even was both Ellis and Ryp push themselves in new directions. Also: I have an incomprehensible yet undeniable crush on Tom Noir. So "No hero" was always going to be awesome, as far as I was concerned. (Hence my dismay at not getting a copy as soon as it came out.)

And it hasn't disappointed. I know that the Whitechapel forums were kind of harsh on Ryp's style, especially the way he draws impact lines. I think the impact lines are awesome -- Ryp incorporates them into the layout of each panel so that they don't interrupt the visual flow, but rather add dynamics and interest to the panels, increasing the sense of violence and movement; drawing the viewer into the third and fourth dimensions by enriching the visuals and chronologically contextualizing the action. I love how detailed his art is. I the was he indicates smooth skin texture with broken lines. I love the way he draws rebar. A++.

And, of course, I am Warren Ellis's bitch and think he can do no wrong, but... I'm withholding judgement on the storyline until we see more. I'm desperately intrigued by... whatsisname, the blond chemist who makes the drugs (there's no entry on Wikipeia yet for this series, and I'm too lazy to look up names elsehwere), and he has the potential to be totally awesome or just meh. Ellis can't hit 'em out of the park all the time, and although he has a stunning batting average with characters that are less suave, I worry that this guy might be out of Ellis's element. I like Joshua Carver so far, although I think I spotted a half-eaten hot dog in his apartment, and even if it's a soy dog, man, those things are NOT good for you, especially when they're left out to rot, and isn't he supposed to be all sXe? But that's a minor quibble. Overall, I like the character, I don't mind the violence because Ellis and Ryp both make it so meaningful and/or beautiful that the violence itself is kind of beside the point, and I'm really looking forward to this series.

Post again about Y sometime -- it's epic enough to warrant a longer analysis, surely! -- and I'll comment there. But you already know most of my thoughts on it!