Vertigo Spotlight: Postscards from the Ledge (No. 4)A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Robert Murray
Hello, and welcome to this special holiday edition of Postcards from the Ledge. Have you been a good boy or girl this year? Well, it really doesn’t matter because my holiday gift to you is the first ever (Drum roll, please!) Vertigo Power Rankings! Okay, feel free to jump up and scream until your lungs give out... You finished? Great! Since there isn’t really any news of interest to report (and only one comic released) this week, “Newsbreak” and “Trends of the Week” will not be seen tonight. Instead, we will go straight into the rankings. Before I begin, let me thank those of you who e-mailed me with your opinions on Vertigo’s offerings from the past thirty days. Your comments helped me immensely in putting this installment together. Also, I would like you to know that you don’t have to keep your opinions about this ranking to yourself. This Power Ranking is purely arbitrary, though heavily influenced by views and reviews that I have heard or read recently. Therefore, if you think I’m right on or utterly insane, let me know. The more opinions I get, the better it will reflect overall fan approval. Capisci?
So, in the tradition of Fox Sports, here is the Vertigo Power Rankings for December 24, 2007. And the envelope, please...
- Fables (Last Week: N/A) (High/Low: N/A): Still the gold standard by which all other current Vertigo titles are judged. “The Good Prince” is shaping up to be one of the finest arcs Bill Willingham has produced, with plenty of intrigue and the constant rumblings of war. Like most of his titles, Willingham is building slowly to the conclusion of this arc, which is destined to yield a conclusion that will be talked about for years to come. Speaking of conclusions, the ending to Issue #68 was a doozy, to say the least!
- Y: The Last Man: With only one issue left, this series is going out just as strong as it came in. The revelations concerning Alter and Agent 355 have only whet our appetites for what is to come next month with the double-sized final issue. How the heck is BKV going to answer all the lingering questions?
- Scalped: Without a doubt, the best comic you are not reading. Remember: the sales don’t lie! Jason Aaron is creating a masterpiece full of complex characters and thrilling drama, yet most readers haven’t picked up a single issue of this title. This month, with the help of guest artist John Paul Leon, Aaron delves into the inner conflicts of Dash Bad Horse, setting up readers for the “Dead Mothers” arc starting in January. Every Vertigo fan I know loves this series and where it’s heading, making this the must-read series of 2008.
- Jack of Fables: A worthy spin-off of a great series, Jack of Fables continues to defy description. Not only does it contain plenty of self-referential dialogue concerning the world of lore, but it also comments on the current state of American ideals. Plus, it is downright hilarious issue in and issue out! Humpty Dumpty puking up his yoke has to be one of the five or six best images I have seen in a comic book this year.
- DMZ: Sure, there have been a lot of pseudo-one-shots in this current arc, but Brian Wood’s thoughtful writing continues to wow readers. He is one of the finest character deconstructionists in the comic business today, which is a reason why he has received so much buzz from the fans since he became a Vertigo writer. However, let’s not forget the wonderful artwork being produced each issue by Riccardo Burchielli. Issue #26 shows that he is an artist who is consistently improving his output each and every month.
- Northlanders: The new comic on the block makes a strong first showing, giving Mr. Wood two titles in the top six. Sven has returned to his homeland, and he is ready to kick some ass, though his motives might not initially endear him to many readers. While this first issue isn’t as astonishing as I hoped for, it was a fine start for a series I have been cheerfully anticipating for the last few months. Wood is the unofficial golden boy at Vertigo right now, and I can’t be happier that such a fine writer is producing comics for my favorite imprint.
- Crossing Midnight: Yes, the sales are abysmal, but this is a consistently entertaining comic by two talented artists. Mike Carey is bringing all of his formidable scripting skills to the table for the start of the newest arc, and the return of Jim Fern is just the boost this title needs. The Asian fantasy combined with the mediocre, sometimes seedy, elements of the real world generates a unique vision that is very appealing, if you give it a fair shake. With the awesome J.H. Williams covers, I thought more Vertigo fans would at least crack open an issue or two!
- Exterminators: Besides Jack of Fables, this is the most fun ride in all of mainstream comics, and easily one of the most depraved. Within the first five pages of Issue #24 you encounter the skankiest prostitute in Honduras and a man losing his brains all over his morning pancakes. What’s not to like? Plus, you have the Royal Caribbean version of Colonel Kurtz, a Botox addict’s worst nightmare, and the raciest orgy you’ve ever seen. Simon Oliver uses the “mature readers” warning for all it’s worth, and I love it!
- Hellblazer: Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of Andy Diggle’s current run, but the adventures of John Constantine will always have a place in a Vertigo fan’s heart. There wasn’t a new issue in the last thirty days, but next week’s issue starts a story with a guy named the Laughing Magician...
- Un-Men: Freaks abound in this roundabout Swamp Thing spin-off, featuring campy hijinks and great artwork. Issue #5, the end of the first arc, has the best dialogue balloon of the month, courtesy of Dr. Cranius: “The show must, unt will, go on!” Some fans are a little turned off by the camp and the wild story, but I think this dish is just warming up!
- 100 Bullets: To quote B.B. King, the thrill is gone when it comes to Brian Azzarello’s works at Vertigo. Both of his books are bi-monthly, and his single issues just don’t work as well unless they are in a collected form. No 100 Bullets this past month, and we are heading into the series’ final story arc in March.
- Vinyl Underground: This series has been a real disappointment for Vertigo fans. I think this is due to readers’ inability to connect with the characters of this mystery/drama. They’re so hip and cool that they are downright repulsive, particularly the main character, Morrison. The only thing I look forward to is the sexy hijinks of Savannah lookalike Leah. Rowl!
- Loveless: An in-your-face conclusion to the “Blackwater Falls” arc can’t save the reader apathy for this title. I know there are some die-hard Azzarello junkies out there who probably want my head right now, but this arc has taken so long to end that most readers I talked to could care less. However, Ruth Cutter’s ruthless moment in the sun is worth the price of admission!
- Faker: Okay, I actually like this mini-series, but it is a mini-series, so I can’t really rank it too highly in comparison to the regular titles. It’s another great series by Carey, with the artistic excellence of Jock, but it doesn’t have enough hutzpa to vault it to the top of the heap. Still, strong characters, good art, and the overall concept of identity are destined to make this a great collection.
- American Virgin: The end is near for American Virgin, and Stephen Seagle seems willing to cram in every possible thing before the end of Issue #23. Issue #21 jumped from situation to situation in rapid-fire fashion, from Cyndi’s pregnancy to Adam’s mother having a heart attack on the final page. Too much too quickly. Save yourself!
- Testament: A thinking man’s comic that has suffered from horrible sales, Testament will have a long life on the trade paperback circuit. No new issue this past month, but the “Babel” collection was released, displaying the many layers and complexities that Douglas Rushkoff has handled so expertly in this series. This is one I’m gonna miss.
- Army @ Love: Readers are underwhelmed by Rick Veitch’s creation, mainly because of the ineffective satire that drives Army @ Love. Judging from my experience, this is the most heavily panned Vertigo title currently, though there are some funny moments. Issue #10’s melted butt implants scene is definitely a hoot! However, the fact that this title is going on hiatus for a few months after Issue #12 will not help with its lack of popularity.
Thanks for reading,