All right, so, as any reader of this blog knows, if I had to pick a favorite artist in this day and age, it would most likely be JH Williams III. His sense of layout, design, and storytelling right now, I think, is second to none. This is why BATWOMAN is on my pull list starting November 30.
I first discovered Williams when he did PROMETHEA with Alan Moore:
And later on, because I just LOVED HIS ART so much, I discovered that he was discovered by Alex Ross for his work on CHASE. CHASE, which is all of nine issues long, has never been collected. I do have the first issue, and I think it was very interesting and had a solid concept. Cameron Chase is a government agent who works for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO). She doesn't particularly like metahumans, which is made more interesting by the fact that she appears to be a metahuman.
I never got the rest of the issues for financial reasons (and now I never will, most likely), so when it was announced that DC was putting together a small collection of CHASE stories, I was ecstatic. And then I read the blurb. And then I was annoyed. I explained why here, but the long and short of it is, why would you reprint issue 1, and then issues 6-8? There's a FOUR-ISSUE GAP right there that makes no sense as to why you'd leave it out, unless it's about money, which would explain why they picked two issues that have Batman.
I bought it anyway, hoping to send a message to DC, and that message is "GET CHASE COLLECTED, DAMN IT." And then I started reading it. And, while reading the first issue over again, I noticed a few things. This story feels dated, which is not the fault of the story. It obviously feels that way because it's so entrenched in the DC Universe of that era (1997). And JH Williams III's art isn't so refined as it would later be, but his design sense was already there, and in fact, his art reminded me of a mixture of Tony Harris' STARMAN in terms of layouts, and Tony Harris' more modern work in terms of figurework and shading. But the key thing is the design. The design sense was already there.
Cameron Chase is a legitimately engrossing character, and Dan Curtis Johnson does a really good job of giving her a voice that is singularly hers. The second issue in this collection (issue 6, for some reason) reveals a lot about Chase's past, and why she's so against superheroes. It's an issue full of talking, and you don't really care, because JH Williams III, as usual, makes it a joy to read and look at anyway.
But then it's the next issue that got me. Issue 7, "Covered," guest-starring Batman.
All right, up to this point, I didn't care that they were omitting the covers to each story. It would have been nice to see them, since there was more of a continuous, unclosed feel at the end of each issue that just blended seamlessly and logically into the next, even with the four-issue gap. Instead of covers, they replaced these pages with ads. House ads. For Batman. And whatever else they had.that was related to Batman (including JH's BATWOMAN ongoing). Whatever. That's the nature of the business. I get it.
But then, this happens. I see this:
So I think "'Cov'? That's an odd title. I wonder why it's titled that way."
And then I turn the page, and I see this:
It's supposed to be a big image spread out across TWO PAGES. And they reprinted each half on OPPOSING SIDES.
Is this a joke?
Seriously. Is this a joke?
I mean, first, DC gives us four issues that weren't consecutive. I mean, if they really wanted to test the waters to see if this deserves the full collection treatment, why not print out, oh, I dunno, the first four issues of the series so that the readers can get a more unified feel for the story?
Oh right, because it may not sell, and maybe we can have Batman in it. So why not take away the fourth issue, and instead start off with Chase's first appearance, which is in the 550th issue of a comic called BATMAN??
Why give us the ridiculous inconsistency?
Next, I can forgive the omission of the covers, even if it's to make way for house ads just so DC can make more money, but to make a blatant publishing error like this makes me wonder, did anyone actually bother looking at this reprint when they were putting it together? Did anyone who was working on this reprint actually care about doing their job? Or was this just a case of, "Hey, that JH Williams guy is pretty big now, we should get his old stuff together. But not a lot of it. It may not sell. We'll just print half of it. The first issue, some random issue, and two with Batman. Yeah. 'Cause it has Batman. OH CRAP, we need to get this out ASAP! What's that? This needs to be fixed? Screw it! No one'll notice!"
When I read this, it felt like a slap in the face. You want to support the work of one of your favorite artists, then the publisher essentially says, "Okay, here, we're going to put out this product. Vote with your wallets," even when it wasn't advertised at all except for solicits, and then the product comes out and you buy it hoping that your support will send a message for them to collect it, and then you read it and you see that they didn't even bother making it a good product. It's like letting a baby have a bottle just to keep him from crying, except in this case, NO ONE WAS CRYING; it was just "Oh, cool! CHASE!" before you open it up to realize they've practically screwed you over with the deal. You've got to be wondering about who's laughing all the way to the bank here.
For the love of God, DC, you have a collection of freaking ECLIPSO. You reprinted ICON. ICON. And you couldn't properly reprint FOUR ISSUES of a series that ran for NINE? This. This is why people hate you and start saying that you don't care about the fans. Because the truth is, when you put out things like this, which deserve proper treatment, you clearly don't care about the fans, because you don't care about the art, the artists, or doing your job.
If I didn't really want to support JH Williams, this would be a complete and total waste of money. Now I feel like I just got it for the statement. Even the quality of the stories is dampened by the fact that it's not even bothered to be shown continuously, and that the people who put this together clearly don't care about it.
More JH Williams III stuff that's actually worth buying: