I think people often forget that comics are a visual medium, and they think in this day and age that a great story makes for a great comic. But the art carries the story; a comic with good scriptwriting and bad art is like a movie that's well-written with bad actors -- the quality of the story gets diminished. There was a time when comics were bought mostly for the art, and I think that in their desire to be taken seriously, the comics medium has suffered art-wise, just a little bit. Comics isn't all about writing or all about art; it's about the mix of both, and I think a lot of people miss that these days.
That having been said, here's another comic I bought, with nothing spectacular about the art, but with pretty damn good writing. Amazing Spider-Man 267.
This is a Spider-Man story written by Peter David and drawn by Bob McLeod. It starts off with Spider-Man chasing a burglar, who manages to get away to Scranton, in suburbia. Spider-Man chases him the next day, and, well, it's just a regular burglar. It should be easy, right?
Nope. Spidey can't swing from anything, and to add to that, no one in the little town takes him seriously. So if you want to see a comic where Spider-Man webs up a dobie, breaks a tree, has to deal with a neighborhood watch, and rides a bus, this is the comic for you.
But the absolute gem of my loot this weekend has to be Brian K. Vaughan and company's The Escapists.
I won't mince words. This is gorgeous. Remember what I said up there about comics being a mix of words and pictures? This illustrates that perfectly. Set in the same fictional world as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Escapists focuses on three friends - Max Roth, Case Weaver, and Denny Jones - and their attempts to revitalize Kavalier and Clay's Golden Age character, the Escapist, for the new generation. So there are scenes in the real world, drawn all cartoonily, and some scenes set within the Escapist comic book, drawn all realistic, which illustrates something that's been immortal about comics and I'm sure you could write a thesis about it. There are techniques that are Watchmen-like and Chris Ware-like in terms of combining words and pictures to create a third meaning, or to accentuate what's going on, and everyone knows I'm just a sucker for that kind of formalism.
But at the heart of it, The Escapists is a story with genuine characters, characters you root for, characters you want to win. And it's damn good characterization, too. Michael Chabon even wrote the foreword, so you know he approves.
At the end of it, I am proud to put The Escapists next to Kavalier & Clay, my all-time favorite prose novel, on my bookshelf. Highly, highly recommended.
In other news, I have no idea how I missed this Brian Azzarello project where Batman crosses over with a bunch of old, Golden Age pulp heroes, but I absolutely love the concept. Batman, Doc Savage, the Spirit, Rima the Jungle Girl, the Avenger, and new versions of Black Canary and the Blackhawks? SOLD!