The first month of the reboot of DC’s once venerable Vertigo line is now in the rear window (yes, that’s a Hitchcock joke) so it’s time to take stock and see how it’s all played out so far.
Written by Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen
Drawn by Ryan Kelly with colors by Eva De La Cruz
Letters by Clem Robins
Survivors Club is definitely the weakest of the pack so far. There’s not much on offer in the first issue, but it may go somewhere interesting. The cover quote from Locke and Key’s Joe Hill declares it to be a throwback to horror infused classic Vertigo fare like The Sandman or Hellblazer, and I can see what he’s driving at, but the problem is that it feels more like a Hellblazer B-Side from Jamie Delano’s run updated to contemporary technology than anything else. There’s a mysterious video game that somehow unites a group of strangers and the various traumas they suffered in 1987.
So there is a certain sense of continuity with how Delano drew on the intersection of the occult and computer science in the 1980s typified by the writings of Chaos Magic pioneer Peter Carroll, but as of the first issue, there doesn’t appear to be anything that captures the imagination as deeply as Delano did and no genuine engagement with the postmodern occult as yet. The truly strange decision that went into this series is how restrained and banal Ryan Kelly’s work appears in the first issue. It comes off stilted and struggling with middle of the road realism and deep spot blacks that frequently clash with the bright colors. There’s very little of the Ryan Kelly who feels like Ming Doyle’s only true contemporary that was on full display in his contribution to the Max Max: Fury Road Inspired Artists book, and the book is much weaker for it.
The Twilight Children
Written by Gilbert Hernandez
Drawn and Lettered by Darwyn Cooke with colors by Dave Stewart
So far as I can recall, and somewhat to my shame, this is the first Los Hermanos Hernandez comic I’ve ever read (which was quickly followed by Gilbert’s contribution to Vertigo Quarterly SFX: KRAK!). Hernandez and and Cooke are a predictably smooth fit and do quite well together in the first issue of a four part miniseries that follows life in a seaside Latin American town as they deal with the appearance of mysterious orbs and a woman who may or may not be an alien. It isn’t mind blowing, but it’s a nice palate cleanser from the usual action and horror driven fare that slows itself right down to the pace of life in the seaside town, making it something akin to a Lynchian telenovela in tone. Definitely worth picking up in singles or trade waiting.
Written by Gail Simone
Drawn and colored by Jon Davis-Hunt
Lettered by Todd Klein
Clean Room is an entirely new chapter in Simone’s career. Her voice is certainly recognizable in places, but even if you’ve been reading her work consistently for the past decade, it will still feel like the first time reading her work, and Davis-Hunt executes the tightest collaboration that Simone has achieved yet. My full review is here, and but Clean Room is definitely the first must buy of the new Vertigo line up, especially for fans of the short lived Effigy.
Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi
Written by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose
Drawn by Alé Garza with colors by José Villarrubia
Letters by Clem Robins
Blood & Sushi is the prequel to Bourdain and Rose’s origina Get Jiro, but it stands cleanly and easily on its own as the story of the son of a Yakuza boss with a double life as a sushi chef. Taken on its own merits, it’s a breezy crime thriller and a watershed moment in Garza’s career, but the more you’re willing to engage with Bourdain’s worldview, the more it comes into focus as a true gem that perfectly executes his vision. I went in depth on Bourdain’s engagement with Japanese culture and how Garza captured it wonderfully here.
Written by Shawn Simon
Drawn by Michael Allred with colors by Laura Allred
Letters by Todd Klein
If we’re going to be completely honest with each other, most peoples’ minds are going to be made up about whether they’re buying this title or not based on the Allreds alone. The general premise behind the comic is that artwork is a living thing, that graffitti can come alive and indiscriminately attack people, also Mona Lisa is a bit fussy and judgemental. If you want to see the Allreds draw the Louvre and Mona Lisa grocery shopping in a yellow hoodie you can probably stop reading here. Otherwise the general plot is a letdown relative to its high concept.
The gist of it is that there’s a clandestine group who works to preserve art by taking the subjects out of the canvases when they’re threatened, putting them into witness protection as we see done with Mona Lisa in the opening pages of the debut issue. However, the inciting incident for the actual story is said organization disappearing in the blink of an eye and the burnout son of its most elite agent, whose girlfriend was tragically murdered in his origin story, must step up to the plate to find his mother and protect Mona Lisa. I’m willing to hang around in the hopes that the Allreds will bless us with cheeky takes on more classic artwork, but I don’t expect much more from it based on the debut issue.
Emma Houxbois is a fiercely queer trans woman from the wilds of Canada, most recently spotted in the Pacific Northwest. She is a two time IWC Women’s World Champion and has written about comics for the web since 2005 for sites including Playboy, Bitch Media, and Graphic Policy.