book review: the five nations of new york (dmz vol. 12)

So DMZ is done. The Five Nations of New York closes out the story of Matty Roth and the civil war that defined his life. It’s interesting when a story like this ends, because it’s the story of how Matty stopped being an entitled journalism punk who picked up a gun and got into politics, but it’s a story of how he tells a story, and how he fucks up telling the story.

By the end of this book he’s taking the blame for things he didn’t legally need to, and [SPOILER ALERT] goes to jail for life. Which isn’t an altogether unhappy ending. I mean, I can see how it’s not. Because what is Matty going to do now that the war is over? The character we got to know through these 12 volumes can’t really exist outside the DMZ, and parlay his six years into punditry and all the rest. Anything he’d become would be so different from who we know. Prison gets to seal Matty Roth in lucite, having learned something about life, having his only opinion that matters, and then he’s gone from the stage. This isn’t the model for a life, but it’s a good way to seal off a story.

As far as long-form comics go, DMZ ranks right up there with Transmetropolitan for me, but then I would love science fiction journalism comics, wouldn’t I?.

book review: the nightly news

Jonathan Hickman’s The Nightly News is a comic about journalism, but unlike DMZ or Transmetropolitan this book’s journalists aren’t the (tarnished) heroes: they’re the enemy. The Nightly News is about revenge-killing journalists for their crimes of fucking with people. It’s also about cults and American politics being owned by media companies, and there’s a lot of Chomsky. It’s pretty awesome.

“Well, pardon me for being frank, but Chomsky’s a fucking retard.”
– Senator M. Jay Rector

One of the awesome things about it is how the pages are designed. There aren’t really many panels, but overlapping images in black white and monocolours/pages (oranges & browns for the present timeline, blues for the various other times). Infographics are interwoven through the pages, too. It doesn’t look like a regular comic book.

It gets a little over-the-top at times (the running joke with the media conglomerates/senators using quotes from famous Nazis that get mistaken for McLuhan and Chomsky is great, though). The characters we’re following are kind of terrible people. I appreciated the references at the end of the book, where Hickman explains some of the references being made and how it all got put together. The subtitle for the book is A Lie Told in Six Parts, but he still has to explicitly state “I am not the Voice in this book. This is a story, not a sermon.” (It reminds me of Warren Ellis having to state every once in a while that he and Spider Jerusalem aren’t actually one and the same being.)

I got this book from the library but I think I’m going to want a copy when I return to the Northern Hemisphere.

book review: absolute sandman volume 2

Last week I spent a goodly chunk of my paycheque on the second volume of The Absolute Sandman by Neil Gaiman (and artists). I did this for a few reasons. First, I don’t want Xmas presents this year (and am not buying them for anyone). These Absolute Sandman books are mainstays on the Xmas list, but now I could get it for myself. Second, for some reason it’s not available on at a reasonable cost right now so I noticed it at McNally Robinson. Third, I wanted to read something in a big-ass tome, to feel like I was plumbing the depths of arcanity and such. That this volume of Sandman tales involves the lord of dreams coming into possession of hell makes it a good fit for that “reading a tome” experience.

Sandman comics are things I’ve known about through my entire comic-reading life (which isn’t actually that long). I may have only started reading comics when the original run was ending. I remember the spines of the trade paperbacks in the comic shop. I remember flipping through issues and not really being dragged in. One time at Campaign we were given a trade paperback by one of our book suppliers. I read it (it had the Midsummer Night’s Dream story in it) and I didn’t mind it, but I had other things to spend my money on like Transmetropolitan. So yes, I wasn’t a long-time fan or anything.

And then I started learning how influential it was, beyond the coolness of Neil Gaiman himself. How this was sort of a gothy bible, an artifact of the 1990s that I missed out on. But now I’m reading it. In Absolute form. While I would love to own books like Absolute Watchmen or the giant volumes of Sin CIty or Hellboy, I’ve read those stories, in many cases I on those stories already. But Sandman is this pristine land I’m walking through on these massive pages with their beautiful colouring et al.

Reading this doesn’t bring back memories of the first time reading these stories because this is my first time. I don’t know if this is forming the same kinds of memories for when I reread them in the future. Of being wrapped up in a blanket on my couch in my underheated condo, sipping tea and shooing away a cat. It’s not the same as if I’d been 17. Damned fine stories though.