So as DC fans await to see what’s left standing as the “New 52” phase wraps up with the imminent arrival of their “Rebirth”, a less prominent project of theirs has stayed lower on the radar. Vertigo is DC’s revered “mature readers” imprint that has allowed its’ creators more flexibility with the exploration and inclusion of controversial material; including, when it furthers the story or concept, a higher sex and violence threshold. While DC properties which flourished under Vertigo (i.e. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, John Constantine) were reunited with the main company as the 52 launched, Vertigo followed Image’s footsteps, showcasing creator-owned series.
One could argue for various “golden ages” of Vertigo over the last 25 years, with many memorable series seeing full runs and still recommended as essential reading to fans who haven’t experienced them. This far from complete list includes Sandman, 100 Bullets, Y the Last Man, the Invisibles, DMZ, Scalped, Fables and American Vampire (still ongoing). iZombie has been adapted into a series on the CW, with the classic Preacher now airing on AMC. With a lull in output and nothing currently standing out as a flagship title, Vertigo answered their “what now?” moment by trying to fill the void with an ambitious launch of 12 new titles on a weekly basis over the last three months of 2015.
So for those of you out there looking to peruse some stuff beyond the hero genre, let’s take a peek:
Survivors’ Club shows what happens when kids from the 80’s who suffered various horror movie tropes are all grown up and connecting via the internet to find out it’s happening all over again.
Clean Room follows a reporter’s quest to expose a celebrity-trapping cult (umm…scientology overtones, anyone?) and their mysterious leader; where she discovers their high-tech chamber used to rip out member’s darkest inner secrets and use them against them.
Slash & Burn takes a page from the t.v. series Rescue Me, showing a damaged firefighter dealing with their issues (in this case, our hero was a teen pyromaniac!) along with the daily struggle of getting through relationships and on-the-job tribulations.
Red Thorn has a mythological focus, as a demigod from the lesser-known Scottish pantheon is released in modern-day Glasgow and meets his old peers’ human descendents, along with other creatures from his era.
Okay, Jacked is still a superhero tale, but this six-issue limited series gets a “real-life” slant as an ordinary schlub gains awesome strength and power through a pill; only to pay the price by finding bigger problems in the form of brutal consequences for using his power and a growing addiction to those pills. The series is now available as a trade.
New Romancer, slated as a 12-issue mini, tells the story of a coder working for a dating app who’s a hopeless romantic; who while creating the “perfect partner” accidentally brings the poet Lord Byron back to life, along with more dangerous lovers from history, like Mata Hari, whom they’ll have to work together to stop in their ruthless pursuit of conquests.
Lucifer makes his return to the Vertigo comics’ world as a nightclub owner in L.A. who’s informed by his brother, the archangel Gabriel, that God is dead and Lucifer is a prime suspect. If Lucifer helps Gabriel catch the real killer, all his sins will be forgiven along with finally gaining admission back into heaven. Get your fix here while Fox decides if the show inspired by this take on the character that got 13 episodes as a mid-season replacement gets renewed.
Last Gang in Town is set to run six issues (with issue #6 hitting comic stands today!) and shows the final days of a group of criminals rounded up by a woman gangster who emerged in this “man’s game” in the 60’s to make her mark and stuck around. With their 80’s & early 90’s heyday behind them, the remaining members need to make it work one more time for a last great heist.
The final four are the pick of this litter for me. As usual, I’ll disclaim that any list of this nature is arbitrary and by no means definitive. If you’re intrigued enough to pick up and check out any of the titles I previously mentioned-and decide you like them better than these ones-then power to ya! Make sure you pay it forward and pass any praise for the creators and their work along to anybody who’ll listen.
The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez (of Love & Rockets fame) and the late, great Darwyn Cooke (probably most famous for his retro DC homage series The New Frontier) depicts how a tiny Latin American village and its’ people are affected when a white orb washes up on shore and a mysterious, possibly alien, woman is found wandering their seashore. Throw in all children who came into contact with the orb going blind, and the CIA, and you have yourself an X-Files as a fable-type feel. All told in a perfect marriage of Hernandez doing some straight up old-fashioned story-telling, pictured with Cooke’s clean and simple, but beautiful signature style. Since this was a four-issue limited series that’s now done, you’re lucky-you get to track this story down as a trade and read it all in one shot, no doubt along with some nice extra material.
Art Ops by Shaun Simon and Michael Allred, follows Reggie Riot as he reluctantly is forced to reform the Arts Operatives, a secret group his mother was a member of. They are aware that all artwork is “alive” and must follow rules; any art that goes rogue is policed by the Art Ops. The selling point for me on this before even picking up an issue was Allred’s art. I’m an unabashed fan of his stuff from way back. He’s taken more mainstream gigs as of late (Batman ’66, the latest Silver Surfer incarnation, his work on iZombie is what a majority of the design for the show is taken from), but the flat-out weirdness of this concept allows him to flex that creative mind and stretch things in a way that harkens back to the classic pop-art influenced earlier work of his career like Madman and Red Rocket 7.
Unfollow by Rob Williams and Mike Dowling takes a few cues from real life to present an idea that maybe isn’t so far-fetched. A social media mogul is dying and has chosen 140 people to equally share his billions at the moment of his death. It turns ugly when the realization gets out that each person’s share increases if there are less members of the 140 around to share it. A convenient app called “140” emerges that counts down remaining members. Unfollow focuses on a few of these chosen as they scheme to survive or get ahead, as this random windfall quickly changes from a blessing to a curse. The shadow of social media on today’s world is too big. Even for someone like myself who’s not that big into following or using Facebook, Twitter, etc., you can see the obvious allusions and commentary. A full “kill countdown” to a last survivor might get a little crazy and overblown (and a new series counting on at least a 140-issue run to fully unfold and tie up its’ storylines might be asking a little too much in today’s market), but from what I’ve seen so far (and that literally includes the artwork of Dowling, who might be my favourite new discovery of the moment, with strong detail work and the diverse depiction of a huge cast that still establish and maintain their own unique traits) I’m in for the ride.
The Sheriff of Babylon by Tom King and Mitch Gerads is projected to be an 8-issue limited series, but I’m resisting the monthly format and awaiting it as a trade. The lead-off premise is intense, when Chris, a police officer from Florida who failed to follow up on a lead that may have prevented 9/11, joins the army as a personal penance and finds himself training the new police force in Iraq. A trainee dies, forcing him to team up with the last remaining member of the old guard. Pulling the strings behind the scenes is Sofia, American-educated but native to the land, looking to take control of the criminal underworld in the wake of the void left by the toppling of Suddam Hussein’s regime. With King drawing from experience taken from a true-life stint as a CIA analyst during the Iraq War and Gerads’ gritty realist style to complement it, I was impressed with some preview pages I got to read. Now I’m looking forward to enjoying Sheriff as a whole.
So for anyone looking for suggestions on new leads to try out in worlds not populated by the myriad of heroes of the “Big 2” and their constant re-booting/re-launching, there’s four. If you agree or disagree with them, let us know and tell us why! But whoever it’s with and wherever it is……
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!