Comics / Spotlight

At the Top of His Game... Mark Millar and WANTED


By Leroy Douresseaux
May 16, 2005 - 13:02

For Mr. Charlie #49, I take a look at three books I recently read before interviewing their respective creators:

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Brian J Apodaca recently self-published his comic, REUNION (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Reunion_Comix/), a collaboration with artist, Arturo Morales. The one-shot is a short story about a guy in his late-20’s named Chaz. It’s the day of his 10-year high school reunion, so not only does he have to deal with that stressful get together, but also his already harried life.

Apodaca is fairly new to this comic book writing thing, and he has an idea or two about it. The characters are vague and the story situation and plot are a little loose and a bit all over the place, but by choice. To create the sense of Chaz being under fire, Apodaca compresses the scenes so that they move rather quickly. Reading this, I didn’t get the feeling that Apodaca didn’t know what he was doing. I understood that he deliberately wanted the story to feel disjointed because that’s how his character Chaz feels.

Where Brian goes wrong is that he must make the readers either like Chaz or care to read about him. Brian gives enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to make us care about Chaz. If he wants to sell the idea of how people react to old memories and friends popping up, he has to do this through the characters, so he has to make readers interested in them. The characters have to be more than just a plot device, and that’s what Chaz feels like. It’s as if Chaz isn’t the lead character, but just a point the writer is trying to make.

Artist Arturo Morales couldn’t get within spitting distance of professional comics publishers if he wanted a job as a pro cartoonist, but he’s got something. He has an idea of how to use pictures to tell a story. What he lacks in drawing skill, he makes up for in storytelling. One early reviewer of Reunion dismissed Arturo’s effort here more or less as amateurish; I think comparing it to the effort of a high school student. I saw a Matt Wagner drawing years before he first blossomed on Mage, (in fact, I still have the Nexus comic in which the drawing appeared), and hard work, training, education, and learning took Wagner far ahead of that early high school-ish effort, so Arturo shows promise.

I’m not using “shows promise” to avoid saying that this is bad art, Reunion isn’t bad, and Arturo can get better if he works. The same thing goes for Brian. This is a nice first shot across the bow. I want to see more work by them, especially if they’re willing to work towards getting better… showing the readers that they respect them enough to do the best they can.

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Hard back cover image


Image/Top Cow recently published a hard cover book collecting Mark Millar and JG Jones’ six-issue miniseries, WANTED ($29.99; ISBN: 1-58240-480-1). In addition to reprinting the six issues, the book has a mundane introduction by Brian K. Vaughn (that amounts to the kind of insider ass-kissing pros do for one another’s books), the WANTED: Dossier, a cover gallery (including all the series’ variant covers), and, as bonus material, character designs and deleted scenes from the original series.

WANTED is about a helpless schlub named Wesley Gibson. Gibson is the kind of guy who ends up being an easy target for people to pick on, but that all changes when Gibson learns that he is the son of The Killer. In the WANTED universe, the supervillains killed all the superheroes, whom they outnumbered. The villains divided the earth into five great houses, and they made the world forget about the superheroes and the supervillains. Since then, the villains rule the planet behind the scenes, and The Killer is… well, the greatest killer of all the villains.

The assassination of The Killer brings Wesley into his inheritance: which is an uncanny ability to kill with stunning virtuosity and without blinking an eye and a lots of cold cash. While trying to unravel the mystery of his father’s death, Wesley falls into a greater conspiracy, which tests what he’s learned as the new Killer.

The art by JG Jones (Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia) is good, although it sometimes looks soft, muddy, and hurried. Jones is a good storyteller and has an excellent sense of page design, but in Wanted, he drags out the standard visual shorthand in his panel designs. I’m sure after reading this, some people will think of Moore & Gibbons’ The Watchmen, but Jones is no Dave Gibbons here. The color is also murky. Computers have done much to improve color separation and color effects, but neither hardware nor software can hide a pedestrian effort. That’s what colorist Paul Mounts has given Wanted, a professionally humdrum job.

The attraction here is writer Mark Millar, who along with Brian Bendis, is probably the best writer of superhero comics who actually writes superhero comics on a regular basis. There are writers in the so-called comics mainstream who do write superhero titles, mostly off and on, temporarily, or for high profile special projects and big, event comics. Millar writes superhero comics all the time. It can be a team book or a single hero title, and he can tackle any classification of superhero book and turn a title into something worth noticing.

Millar is a sly and witty author who writes about sly and witty characters. No one is all-dumb or all smart; his characters are complex and highly motivated. Even the most ordinary characters in Millar’s fictions have motivation. Give every character in a particular situation a reason to “get something,” and the drama is that much more heightened. Even the characters Millar creates as dull-witted and dumb can shine because Millar always makes sure that they get at least a few lines of sparkling dialogue.

Millar makes Wesley our doorway into WANTED’s dark super underworld, and we are initiated as he is. Wesley is a good character, someone to which a reader can relate. He’s an ordinary Joe yearning for extraordinary things, and when he gets his wish, he embraces all of it, even while lamenting the complications of having it all. He’s a self-deprecating guy, a loser, but a loser who will damn well survive simply because he wants to live as much as, if not more than his tormentors do. There’s a convincingly nasty villain, Mister Rictus, a psychopath with the cool detachment and droll wit of John Stewart. There is a hot black chick, the Halle Berry-like The Fox, who is part magical negress/part mentor. With this trio, you already have a good comic, but the rest of Millar’s supporting class makes WANTED a superb comic. This is not The Ultimates nor is WANTED really like it, but this is every bit as good.

WANTED is an ode to the bright superhero comics that began a rapid demise in 1986 (because of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) and a giant pop comics spin on the adventure tales that depict a man’s initiation into the beautiful and strange world of mysterious and powerful others. It is also the comic book equivalent of the kind of work a smart novelist (Michael Chabon) or a smart filmmaker (Sam Raimi or Brad Bird) creates when he or she tackles the genre. WANTED is superheroes, illustrated adventure, and fantasy, but make no mistake that this is drama. This is the work of a comic book creator unafraid to write the stories that will compete in a larger marketplace that is receptive to superheroes as long as they have the flashiness and dramatic punch of Spider and X movies.

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Candle Light Press recently published the sequel to Carter Allen’s well-received graphic novel, Dub Trub, entitled DUB TRUB 2: THE PEACEMAKERS ($9.95, B&W, ISBN: 0-9743147-8-1). Once again, Special Agents Red and Black take on the alien invaders of earth, the Voyd. Red and Black learn that a recently arrived alien race known as The Peacemakers may be joining the war as allies of the Voyd. The dynamic duo heads to Australia to pop glorious caps in these new aliens only to find things are a bit more complicated than they assumed, and the complications go far into Earth’s past.

Dub Trub is unabashed space opera. Mix in sci-fi action films (like Starship Troopers), comic book superheroes, James Bond, and video games, and the result is non-stop action. However, there is a little something extra in Dub Trub that readers (including myself) tend to overlook. This book has the kind of poignant drama that sticks with readers. Dub Trub is certainly escapist entertainment, but it has weight. Here and there, Allen drops a panel or a balloon of dialogue that humanizes the characters and heightens the human drama. It’s a way of connecting the characters with the readers, so that the readers start to care and want more Dub Trub.


Last Updated: March 10, 2022 - 22:00

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