13 May 2006

Planetary: Ellis not being a tool

In the past year, I've gotten back into comics after a looong hiatus. Thought I'd never get sucked back into that world - fanboys and fangirls (sorry, fangrrlz), endless reboots, retcons, "universe-shaking storylines", etc. - but I had the misfortune to take a job with a "Reader". On the plus side, though he has an insane stubborn streak, he at least doesn't have shitty tastes.

I started out easy...can't go wrong with Moore and Miller (though I've been repeatedly warned off of The Dark Knight Strikes Again). I was in my local Den of Nerds (I choose not to mention the shop's name, because there are already too many jackholes there when I go) when out of the corner of my eye I caught a pleasantly familiar name and picked up Rising Stars. That was a revelation. JMS is a great craftsman, and the medium provides him a unique space and structure for story-telling. Granted, it's no Murder, She Wrote, but it's a close second.

Then, I heard about Warren Ellis. Heard he was a tool. Heard he was YACB (yet another cranky Brit). Heard a pilot had been made of his Global Frequency with the amazingly hot, amazingly talented Michelle Forbes playing Miranda Fucking Zero. Thank god for bittorrent. Downloaded a copy of the pilot and thought "it's a damn shame this was commissioned for the WB...it misses their key tweener girl demographic by a mile." Immediately went out and picked up the comic. It's good. Not great, but a fantastic idea, with two truly interesting characters - Zero and Aleph. The stories were well written and original and I decided I'd try to read some more of Ellis.

Well, turns out that Ellis is a bit of a tool and YACB. But...his stuff's pretty good. Plus, he's willing to make fun of himself and his employers, and Joss Whedon likes him. Those three things speak volumes for his character.

I slogged through Desolation Jones. It felt semi-autobiographical (though I suspect Ellis doesn't wear goggles in public). I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't connect. Though I avoid the mainline DC and Marvel titles because I don't want to be committed for the rest of my life (literally: tossed in the rubber room), I've been reading Ultimate Extinction. It's a short enough run that I wasn't afraid of the longterm effects on my psyche. Not fantastic (or Fantastic), but decent enough to keep me reading 'til we kick Galactus' shiny metal ass (and hopefully, somehow, Wolverine dies in the process).

Then I picked up Planetary. Holy crap. At first, Elijah just feels like another incarnation of Ellis. And maybe he is. But this one kicks ass. And the story is incredibly compelling, addictive, and sucked me in so far, so fast...I was floored. I'm in the middle of two novels right now, and I put both aside until I'd slammed through the three volumes plus the crossover collection. That took two evenings because I didn't have the foresight to buy all of it at once. Who knew?

Cranky Brit? Hell yah. Tool? Possibly. Damn fine comics writer? Definitely.