Perfidious Albion


Comics:

Albion by Alan Moore, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Shane Oakley and George Freeman: Alan Moore plotted this revisionist 2006 6-issue miniseries about British comic-book characters of the 1960’s and 1970’s, with Leah Moore and John Reppion handling the writing duties. I came to this with pretty much no knowledge of indigenous British comics of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but the book does a pretty good job of presenting a story that’s interesting on its own for someone who doesn’t have the faintest idea who Kelly’s Eye is (to name one character).

Alan Moore is here more in the mode of his nostalgic meta-short tale “Pictopia” than of revisionist superhero epics like Miracleman or Watchmen. A debased modern world has sought out all the old heroes and villains of British comics and either imprisoned or killed them. A couple of spunky 20-somethings with ties to some of the characters team up to get the remaining characters out of prison. The forces of oppression and repression try to stop them. Excitement and hilarity ensue.

The strangeness of these abandoned British characters obviously informs Alan Moore’s interest in them — there are no real superheroes here, but there are heroes with animated, robotic puppets; mechanical hands that make the bearer invisible; crime-fighting genies; rubbery escape artists; patriotic robots…talk about the carnivalesque! I quite enjoyed this volume, and 40 pages of “classic” reprints of the source material helped contextualize the whole thing (as did several pages of history). Recommended.

Shade the Changing Man Volume 2: Edge of Vision by Peter Milligan, Chris Bachalo, Mark Pennington, Bill Jaaska and Brendan McCarthy: Shade was originally a trippy short-lived 1970’s DC comic created, written and drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-man and Dr. Strange over at Marvel. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, DC started having writers and artists reimagine various fringe, failed and forgotten titles as revisionist, adult-oriented titles. Eventually, these adult titles would become the still-existing Vertigo line in 1993. 1990 saw DC hand the task of reimagining Ditko’s Shade to British writer Peter Milligan and up-and-coming artist Chris Bachalo, with British artist Brendan McCarthy providiing the wild cover art.

The result was a qualified success. Shade ran for 70 issues, nearly as many as Neil Gaiman’s uber-successful Sandman series, and more than Garth Ennis’s also-successful Preacher, two titles that helped define the Vertigo line. But for reasons known only to DC, most of Shade remained out-of-print until the last year, when the first two reprint volumes were finally issued. Given Milligan’s great early-oughts sales success on titles like X-Force, I have no idea why DC waited so long.

Milligan keeps the bare bones of Ditko’s Shade — he’s a visitor from another dimension whose ‘Metavest’ allows him to alter the appearance of reality around himself. Then he adds stuff both sinister (Shade is now a literal shade, his original body dead and his mind inhabiting the body of a serial killer) and kooky (Shade’s reality-altering powers appear to have no limit, but Shade himself is a somewhat befuddled, virginal presence).

A reality-altering madness plague Shade dubs The American Scream threatens to suck all of reality into an unhinged nightmare world unless Shade uses his reality-altering powers to combat the Scream’s reality-altering powers. So the storyline follows Shade and friends as they travel the Madness Stream across America, trying to stop the dreams and nightmares of average Americans from permanently destoying the normative. These nightmares include the reconfiguration of Dallas into a giant JFK assassination reenactment; a New York overwhelmed by garbage (!); a community in which anyone slightly abnormal is hunted down and killed; an LSD-influenced hippie paradise gone wrong; and so on, and so forth. Things are never dull. Recommended.

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