Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
DC’s re-launch of its 52-title superhero line last September made explosive headlines, and now the publisher is upgrading its mature-reader line, Vertigo – albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.
Four new titles launch in March, three ongoing and one miniseries. DC recently published a preview, given away free at comic shops, with seven pages of each new series. That’s not enough to really offer an opinion – but I’m a fanboy, so naturally I will.
The title I’m most excited about is Fairest, a companion title to Fables, which has run more than 100 issues (and various miniseries) extrapolating adventures of fairy-tale characters as if they have always existed – immortal (if enough people remember them), enchanted and hiding just outside our perceptions. Remember the Prince Charmings from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Cinderella,” and half a dozen other stories? Writer Bill Willingham posits that they’re all the same guy, which means he’s something of a cad (but very charming). Jack Frost, Jack the giant-killer, Jack Sprat – all the Jacks, every one, are all the same guy. Which means he’s not terribly stable, but he does get around. You get the drift.
And in Fables, we’ve met some very formidable women: Snow White (wife of the Big Bad Wolf), Cinderella (an ultra-competent espionage agent), Beauty (of “… and the Beast,” mayor of Fabletown), and so forth. We’ve also met some women with problems, like the emotionally damaged Rose Red and the cursed Sleeping Beauty.
The current adventures of these fascinating females have been terrific fun, and now Fairest promises their previous adventures, which should be equally entertaining. Willingham is again the writer, with award-winning “good girl” artist Adam Hughes on covers, and fan-favorite Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman) on board for the first storyline (starring Briar Rose).
A second title setting my comic-book senses a-tingle is The New Deadwardians, a miniseries set in a world mirroring England’s post-Victorian period, where the lower classes have all become zombies, and the upper classes have become vampires to protect themselves. The middle class is still human, but even so London homicide detective George Suttle usually has very little to do, given that most people are already deceased. That changes in the first issue, where an aristocrat turns up dead – well, deader – and Suttle must investigate the murder, which promises to show how the world got this way. Vertigo has already tested these waters with two “Victorian Undead” series – starring Sherlock Holmes fighting zombies and vampires – and if that’s any indication, Deadwardians ought to be good, wholesome, corpse-ridden fun.
I’m mildly intrigued by Saucer Country, starring the Mexican-American (and female) Gov. Arcadia Alvarado of New Mexico, who is planning to run on the Democratic ticket for president until she appears to be abducted by aliens. I’m not a big UFOlogist (is that a word?), but the part of the premise that intrigues me is the open use of real-world politics. I don’t want all my comics to become political screeds, and most comics publishers avoid politics so as to not alienate any potential reader, so every once in a while I like to see a comics writer try to tackle relevant issues and not just fantasy.
The preview of the fourth title, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child, doesn’t do much for me. It appears to be the cliché of a twentysomething discovering that they are “the promised one,” with various hidden factions battling for control over him or her (See: The Matrix). In this case it’s a her, a Tulane grad student, who – at a guess – will discover she is the descendant/reincarnation of Marie Laveau (the historical Voodoo Queen of New Orleans), or the new Voodoo Queen, or something similar. Been there, done that, played the videogame. Nor do I much care for the art, by comics veteran Denys Cowan, which relies heavily on scratchy-scratchy rendering I find unappealing.
These four books join a line that has canceled or ended a few series recently (DMZ, Northlanders, Scalped) but is still running strong on a line of core titles I truly enjoy, including American Vampire (about a new, more dangerous Wild West breed of bloodsucker), the aforementioned Fables, Hellblazer (starring John Constantine of movie fame), iZombie (a black comedy about monsters trying to fit in) and Sweet Tooth (a sweet-natured tale of post-apocalyptic human-animal hybrids).
The four new books fit in well at Vertigo, a line where the only thing the books have in common is a unique vision.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at email@example.com