Well, it's only taken one week for my carefully calculated system of previewing next week's comics to break down. Fate and the comics shipping and delivery industry have conspired against me, so today's review will not be Amazing Spider-Man #37 as promised as I couldn't get hold of it in time.
However, this has turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise, as it gives me a chance to look at a much more interesting comic: Marvel's A Moment Of Silence. In addition to this review, I shall give a brief overview of a series of comic books that I think everyone should read: Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima's Lone Wolf and Cub, and a short list of other titles worth looking for at the comics shop currently.
A Moment Of Silence
- Published by Marvel Comics, written by Bill Jemas, Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada and Kevin Smith, and illustrated by Mark Bagley, Scott Morse, Igor Kordey and John Romita Jr.
- $3.50 / £2.45
Of all the major comics companies, Marvel have made the swiftest and most extensive response to September 11th. This is because their main offices are based in New York, and so the company was profoundly affected by those tragic events. Time Magazine's Man Of The Year Mayor Rudolph Giuliani provides a thoughtful introduction, and it is a definite sign of the quality of this book that it can boast the support of such a high-profile public figure.
This is perhaps their most considered response to the tragedy, unlike some of their more extravagant expressions of grief and sympathy, such as putting a commemorative badge on their comics' covers for a whole year until September 11th 2002. All the proceeds from this comic go to the Twin Towers Fund, created to help the families of fallen emergency servicemen and women.
A Moment Of Silence has been produced concurrently with Marvel's 'Nuff Said' exercise, in which all of their main comics titles this month contain as few words, speech bubbles, sound effects and thought balloons as possible. This might sound like a bad move creatively speaking, but it can produce some amazingly powerful and expressive examples of visual storytelling. In this case, the comic is a 'wordless tribute', as described by Marvel President Bill Jemas, and is made all the more moving due to its silence. It need hardly be mentioned that the stereotypical 'Bam! Pow! Zap!' comic clichés would be highly inappropriate.
The comic itself is divided into four separate stories, each made by a different writer/artist pairing and reflecting individual tales of heartwarming heroism, heartrending frustration, genuinely moving pathos and joyous reunion respectively. All four are immaculately scripted and drawn, and the fact that the reader can project their own thoughts into the silence makes one's connection to the characters and situations much more pronounced.
Perhaps the best, and certainly the most poignant of the four tales, is 'Sick Day' by Quesada and Kordey. It centres around a boy whose father, a New York fireman, is called into work on the 11th September to provide sick-leave cover. When the father doesn't return, the boy struggles to come to terms with his family's loss until he sees the devastated ruins of the World Trade Centre for himself.
It is a testament to the skill of the creators on all four stories that they avoid sensationalism or over-cloying sentimentality but still produce a work with a genuinely powerful emotional charge. The poster pages at the end are perhaps a little crass and ill-judged, as they feature some of Marvel's superheroes who seem silly and puerile next to the reality of human heroism and suffering.
However, one small gripe aside, this comic-book deserves to be read by as many people as possible. As someone who has never been to New York and experienced the horrors of that awful day only through news reports, it has helped to bring home the great courage and strength of the people of that beleaguered city as it coped with its darkest days.
I would recommend this book wholeheartedly, not just for its incredibly fine workmanship, but because it is a comic with real significance and importance, and these are things the world of comics deals with only rarely.
A Recommended Classic: Lone Wolf And Cub
- Published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima.
- $9.95 / £7.50 per volume
A masterpiece of Japanese Manga comics from the 1970s, Lone Wolf And Cub is being reprinted in English in conveniently pocket-sized volumes. This is a comic that reached massive culture-spanning status in Japan, and has influenced some of the West's most important comics creators, such as Frank Miller.
It tells the story of the Shogun's executioner, Ogami Itto, who has been disgraced and thrown from his post for a crime he didn't commit. His mortal enemies, the evil Yagyu clan, have killed his wife, so now he walks the lands of medieval Japan with his young son Diagoro, making a living as an assassin and yearning for the opportunity for revenge.
This series is extremely long - it stretches to some 28 volumes - but it is always utterly compelling. It's difficult to believe that a volume so small can contain such beautifully cinematic scenes and pages. The art is sinuous black and white ink-work, perfectly catching the mood and flow of the action.
What really makes the book stand out, though, is the portrayal of its characters, whose personalities are immediately recognisable and believable, and the immense amount of historical research that has gone into the stories, including the variety of weapons the villains carry, which become increasingly bizarre as the series progresses.
Although it is extremely violent in places, this is balanced by its many poignant episodes involving the young Diagoro of a child trying to come to terms with his father being a ruthless killer and an outcast.
Definitely one for any Akira Kurosawa or Toshiro Mifune fans out there, Lone Wolf And Cub is a series that will keep you entertained for ages. Highly recommended.
What To Look Out For This Week:
- Noble Causes #1 - Superhero family soap opera
- Captain Britain Trade Paperback - Classic Alan Moore reprinted as a whole
- Marvel Mangaverse New Dawn #1 - a funky Manga reinvention of Marvel's top franchises
- X-Force #123 - The best pop-culture superhero book out at the moment
- Slow News Day #1, 2 & 4 (1 & 2 offered again) - A nice slice-of-life book about a high-flying journalist stuck on a backwoods newspaper