Saturday, September 05, 2009

Vertigo Crime

In the past several years the crime genre has been prominent in mainstream comics, offering some of the most enjoyable and satisfying stories. This includes Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Criminal series, and Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra.

My expectations for the Vertigo Crime sub-imprint were high. The first two graphic novels released would be by Brian Azzarello, the writer of the successful crime comic 100 Bullets, and Ian Rankin, the well-known author of the Rebus novels.

But after publishing these first two comics, Vertigo Crime must only seem like a disappointment. Compared to the best crime comic of the year, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the Vertigo Crime books fall well short in presentation, and more importantly, in story and art.

Filthy Rich by Azzarello and illustrated by Victor Santos is a confusing, clichéd-ridden, padded crime story. The plot could have been lifted from any poorly written Mickey Spillane-wannabe-novel; Azzarello is a writer capable of better, crisper work. I can only think that that convoluted story was the result of being told to have the story come in at 200 pages when 100 would have worked more effectively.

Ian Rankin's first foray into comics is strong but certainly not of a quality that would make readers forget that he is primarily a crime novelist. The problem I had with Dark Entries, which features the serviceable art of Werther Dell'Edera, is that it's a John Constantine or Hellblazer story presented as a crime comic. If Dark Entries had been written as a crime story, I wouldn't note this issue but what readers get is a story set literally in Hell. I'd like to see Rankin write an original crime comic; he has potential in comics but his first attempt is ordinary and forgettable.

Next from Vertigo Crime will be stories by Jason Starr, Peter Milligan and Christos N. Gage. If those comics are poor, I don't expect the sub-imprint to have a long shelf-life.


The Unstoppable Bolaño

I'm bad with books. I buy one and sometimes I read it immediately and other times I put on my shelf to be read later (a day, a week, a month, years later).

It's these other times that have left me with shelves of books, stacked high, to be read. It's unfair that I can't read as fast as I can add a book to the shelf.

I need to be in the mood, which is sounds dumb to write but it's true. Earlier this summer (assuming we still consider it's still the summer), I was in the mood for non-fiction. I read two or three. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw two short Roberto Bolaño novels on my shelf. I write as if they just appeared but I remember buying them. I had read Bolaño before, a few short stories from the New Yorker but none of his books.

I thought I could start by getting through a couple of quick, small ones; the towering behemoths - The Savage Detectives and 2666 - where also on my shelf but I didn't feel like starting one of those.

I began Distant Star and I had trouble stopping. Or I didn't stop. Next I was going to read Amulet but the back cover said it was a sequel or a companion to The Savage Detectives, a thick book I previously had not wished to begin. How things change. I felt it was only fair to Bolaño that I begin with the big one.

I ripped through The Savage Detectives at the same time I felt I was taking my time, savouring it, enjoying it. Sometimes I read too quickly. I read just right this time. I finished Amulet the day after I finished The Savage Detectives. And now I'm on to the last giant of Bolaño's I have on my shelf.

I didn't plan to read four Bolaños over the last few weeks but the author made me do it.