Featured this week is the latest issue of the excellent and gritty crime comic Alias, as well as a look at one of the most controversial comics of recent times, Preacher. So, whether you like snappy dialogue or hilarious black humour, Speech Bubble Burst has got the lowdown on what you want!
- Published by Marvel MAX, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Gaydos.
- £2.15 / $2.99
Private Eyes are cool. This is a statement of fact. From hard-boiled noir archetypes like Bogart, Cagney and the like to the neo-noir of cyberpunk, no type of character quite embodies the modern glamour of crime fiction like a PI.
In the relatively slim field of crime comics, the most feted creator is Brian Michael Bendis, whose works like Jinx, Goldfish, Torso and now Alias have achieved much critical acclaim. However, unlike glamorous crime fiction, Bendis prefers gritty, nasty stories, with believable characters and punchy, real-sounding dialogue.
Alias is something of a different direction for Bendis, then, as it is set in the 'Marvel Universe' of superheroes and other such world-shattering silliness rather than the real world. It is still extremely dour, though, especially in comparison to all the heroes prancing around in their day-glo tights.
This issue, number 6, is a good place to start as it is the beginning of the second story 'arc'. The main character, Jessica Jones, has finished her previous case, which involved secret identities, plots and murder. Jones nearly didn't finish the case alive, but thanks to the fact that she used to be a superheroine in the Avengers, she is capable of looking after herself and has great contacts.
In this particular issue, Jones meets with one of these contacts, an old friend of hers from the Avengers, and starts on a couple of new cases like a cheating husband with a prediliction for gay porn sites and chatrooms. As ever, though, her life is far from easy as even the quiet days can bring surprises...
This is a smashing comic for mature readers, as Bendis' dialogue is peerless. It crackles and really gives the characters a lifelike quality. It doesn't hurt that it's extremely funny too. It is a blessing that the Marvel in-jokes and superhero references are very understated, so even a casual reader would be able to 'get' most of them.
Complementing Bendis' script perfectly is the expressive and characterful art of Michael Gaydos, whose art has become more and more assured and attractive with each issue. The characters are drawn as real people, which makes the appearance of superheroes all the more awe-inspiring when they do crop up.
Definitely worth checking out, Alias is possibly one of the best low-key comics Marvel are putting out at the moment, and certainly the most interesting part of their 'Marvel MAX' mature readers imprint. Be advised that it can be quite rude, but for me, this is not a bad thing...
- Published by DC Vertigo, written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon.
If you like your comics irreverent, hilariously anarchic and rude - sorry, extremely rude - then this is for you. Preacher details the adventures of a Texan preacher called Jesse Custer who finds himself embroiled in the greatest conspiracy of them all when he is possessed by a divine spirit known only as 'Genesis'.
What follows is some of the funniest lunacy you'll ever have read, as Jesse meets up with his gun-toting ex, Tulip, and teams up with the roguish Irish vampire Cassidy, and they decide to go and search for God while going on the run from Herr Starr, a diabolical member of a sinister organisation known only as the Grail, and the Saint of Killers, an invulnerable gunslinger who has stared down the devil.
Preacher balances its riotous humour with large doses of paeans to masculinity and male bonding, and surprisingly sentimental sequences, usually involving Jesse and Tulip. This is all set against a cynically-observed portrayal of the underbelly of American culture, full of rednecks, perverts, weirdos and psychotics, but it still celebrates many of the traits held most high by US citizens, such as honour, loyalty and sincerity.
Steve Dillon's art blends extreme violence with wryly-captured visions of the large cast of grotesque characters. Dillon is that rare type of artist, someone who can tell a story with apparently languid ease and great craft. His mastery of humorous facial expressions is never less than total, and his clean and unfussy style allows the plot to crack on at a good pace.
So, if you're suitably broad-minded and crave a deeply funny read, check out the first collected book of Preacher, called Gone To Texas. You won't regret it, I'm sure.
What To Look Out For This Week
- New X-Men #122 - 'pop-sensibility' superheroes; pretty, fun and not very serious
- Grip: The Strange World Of Men #4 - totally surreal weirdness from Los Bros Hernandez
- Blue Monday: Lovecats - Anarchic high-school hi-jinx from those rude manga-inspired Blue Monday characters, with a Valentine's Day twist
- Queen & Country #6 - The best espionage comic on the shelves continues its fascinating Afghanistan storyline