Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Year in Four Colors - Alan Moore: Wild Worlds (Part 1)

So I've decided to write a review or analysis of every Graphic Novel I read in 2009. I'd try for every comic, but none of us have that kind of time.
*Spoiler Warning* should be considered general practice.

Alan Moore: Wild Worlds

Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Various
Publisher: DC/Wildstorm

Writing these reviews has actually changed how I buy and read comics. When I went into the store the other day, I thought about what book would flow nicely from my last review, in addition to being something I wanted to read. A few things called out to me from the shelves, but in the end I went with this - a collection of stories Alan Moore wrote for the Wildstorm Universe during the late '90s, not including his run on WildC.A.T.S. (which I should hopefully pick up soon). In my review of Captain Atom: Armageddon I got a chance to touch a little bit on the mechanics of the Wildstorm Universe and what makes it different from the DCU proper. In addition, Alan Moore even came up given that Atom was the inspiration for the popular character Dr. Manhattan in Moore's seminal work Watchmen. Now that Wildstorm is officially considered a part of the DC Multiverse as of Infinite Crisis and 52 I feel that as unofficial walking DC encyclopedia I need to shore up on my Wildstorm knowledge and bring it up to speed, and what better way to start than a collection of work written by quite possibly the most celebrated writer in all of modern comics?

Alan Moore is one of the few comics creators that could possibly considered a household name (alongside Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and Frank Miller). Starting off working in the British independents he had a famous run on Captain Britain for Marvel UK with collaborator Alan Davis before being picked up by DC, where he'd truly become known as a legend - first with his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing (which helped completely redefine the character, introduced John Constantine, and directly led to the creation of the adult oriented Vertigo imprint), an assortment of high quality and high profile DCU work (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and The Killing Joke), and of course Watchmen.

Soon after Watchmen, Moore had a pretty epic falling out with DC over a number of issues including royalties and creator rights - and especially that DC has kept Watchmen in print continually so that the rights will never revert back to him and artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen was created before collected editions became the industry standard, and may very well have been the game changer). His hatred towards DC is so pronounced he has demanded his name be taken off every movie based on his DC properties - Constantine, V for Vendetta, and now Watchmen.

After DC, Moore began doing work on a number of the second tier companies' super heroes. He had a notable run on Supreme where he basically told all of his untold Superman stories with that character instead. He also began a long relationship with Wildstorm, one that only recently ended. He first started with a run on the flagship WildC.A.T.S. where he did what he does best - completely turned the original premise on it's head and made WildC.A.T.S. a contemporary and relevant title. It was around this time that Moore wrote the stories collected in Wild Worlds. Later Wildstorm created an imprint entirely for him, called America's Best Comics, where every title was an Alan Moore original. When Wildstorm was sold to DC it nearly caused the ABC line to collapse because of Moore's absolute refusal to work for DC comics in any capacity. The rumor is that Jim Lee, owner and executive editor of Wildstorm, personally visited Moore in England after the sale to reassure him that DC proper would have absolutely no editorial control over his work, and erected a series of corporate firewalls that made it so that Moore actually received his checks from Lee's personal account. This arrangement lasted for awhile, producing notable work like Promethea, Top Ten, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen until DC did in fact make content restrictions on two separate ABC titles. That combined with Moore's dissasatisfaction at the promotion of the V for Vendetta movie using his name led to him officially severing his last remaining ties with DC Comics and leaving the ABC line which was for all intents and purposes, him.

That said, how are the stories in this volume?
Pretty meh overall, actually. Lets go through them -

Spawn/WildC.A.T.S: Devil's Day
Art - Scott Clark

First off, it is INCREDIBLY weird to see Spawn both on the cover and in the story of a book published by DC comics. These are stories originally printed when Wildstorm was part of Image and not DC, and in those early days there was (and still is) a loose universe amongst all the different Image super-heroes, so Spawn and the Cats teaming up isn't that weird on it's own. But I'm totally unclear on how DC wrangled the publishing rights to reprint this without having to co-brand with Image. That sort of thing is usually a dealbreaker.

Spawn is one of those characters I've pretty much stayed away from ever since my dad bought me issue 2 when I was a little kid and the entire issue was pretty much The Violator ripping people's hearts out of their bodies and it scared the shit out of me. That really was the entire issue - that and this chunky, scruffy clown who looked like a pedophile. But I figure if anyone can make me be interested in Spawn it would be Alan Moore.

Sadly, more than any other story in the book, this one is kind of a mess. The art is nowhere near up to the standard we have in the the industry today as far as storytelling goes. There are a lot of pretty pictures and big poses but major plot points have to be narrated explicitly in a way that almost seems condescending because there's almost no sense that these things are actually happening in the way described. The perspective is also way off, making the reading experience jarring and sometimes unpleasant. For a comic to really work on all levels the art and words have to work in unison to tell the story - when they're out of sync (and not for intended effect) the whole lanuage of comics, this delicate balance of iconagraphy in two forms becomes muddy.

The story sets up a theme that runs through most of the work in this collection - that of outside forces with god-like abilities manipulating others from afar. In this case, a group of mystics who have grown beyond existence itself seek amusement by sending an amulet back through time, creating a time loop where Spawn goes evil and takes over the world (or at least Manhattan). When the surviving WildC.A.T.S. of the future come back to kill Spawn in the past they end up bringing him into the future with them - thus setting in motion the very consequences they sought to prevent.

This is basic super-hero fare, and it never goes beyond that. There are also a number of what feel like extremely manufactured personality conflicts, especially between Grifter and Spartan over control of battle tactics. It's never explained why they're arguing, neither is really established as being right or better, and there's really no sense of closure when it's resolved even though it's supposed to feel like a 'moment'. This may be because most of the dialogue and character work is spouted off in such expository factor that there never feels like any sort of build or depth. Also, the book was written in 1996 - so one of the characters from the future talks entirely with a very computer oriented slang that was supposed to feel cutting edge but is already horribly outdated and so gets very annoying, very quickly. Some of the 'twists' are so heavily foreshadowed that when they come it's almost more surprising that the characters themselves didn't figure it out on their own.

The highlight of the story for me was seeing Grunge and Burnout from Gen13 (another Wildstorm title and favorite from adolescence) as traitors in the future, especially with Grunge now being an evil accountant named 'Suit' - cause what else would be the idealogical antithesis of a character created to capitalise on the '90s grunge movement?
Also, like I said, I haven't read much Spawn - but he sounded a lot like a really whiny Spider-Man in this issue and that is not the impression I ever got from Spawn's voice before.

Overall, not a great start to the collection - I'll be back later with the rest.

1 comment:

Ozkirbas said...

A whiny Spider-Man is an accomplishment in and of itself