Preacher Review

Hello everyone,

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago after reading Preacher but it got lost in the shuffle with comicommand since I submitted two articles in a short period of time. Preacher is one of my favourite comic book series and I highly recommend it, along with The Boys. You can read this piece on comicommand or below.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After wrapping up 100 Bullets, I decided to move on to Preacher.  Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a preacher in the Texas town of Annville. During a service, a supernatural spirit named “Genesis” possesses Jesse and kills the entire congregation. Jesse later learns that the Genesis is the offspring of an angel and a demon, and that God left heaven the moment it was created. Jesse then sets out to literally find God and make him answer for deserting heaven.

Firstly, the cover artwork is amazing and many of them are among my favourite pieces of comic book art. The interior art also holds up. I do prefer the art in Y: The Last Man more but I don’t want to fall into the trap of always comparing one style to another. Preacher’s style is different, but I don’t believe it is inferior.

Jesse is a likeable protagonist with a tragic backstory, whose morals are shaped by his deceased father. While Jesse is a great character, Preacher’s greatest strength is the story and the stable of supporting characters. Jesse often fights with Tulip O’Hare, his girlfriend, and I know some fans criticized this aspect of the writing. I started reading with an open mind and can see why some may be annoyed by the relationship. However, their fights are justified. The main one throughout the story is Jesse’s desire to keep Tulip out of harm’s way by taking on enemies himself. While Tulip appreciates the sentiment she knows she is a capable shooter who has saved Jesse’s life numerous times. I can understand why such situations could result in conflict but the conflict was written well enough for me to still root for both characters.

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Preacher also features Cassidy, an Irish vampire. Cassidy rotates from being an anti-hero to something more sinister as the series progresses, but still remained my favourite character of the series. However, he does have a lot of competition.

Cassidy’s biggest competitor is Herr-Starr, a former German anti-terrorist operative and the main antagonist of the series. As the head of The Grail, Starr leads a mission to capture Custer and use him as a Messiah figure for The Grail’s vision of Armageddon. As the series progresses, Starr seeks to replace The Grail’s leadership and his motive for finding Custer becomes purely personal. The failures and misfortunes Starr faces trying to capture Jesse cause him to become more unhinged as the series progresses and Starr is responsible for making me laugh more than any sitcom has.

Starr is also followed by Arseface, a teenager who was deformed after failing to kill himself with a shotgun. Ennis manages to move seamlessly between making Arseface a pitiful character and comic relief, while also making Arseface’s story as interesting as Custer’s search for God.

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I was not completely satisfied with the last issue, only because there was one aspect of the ending that felt hollow. However, the ending is not poor enough to deplete the quality of the series and is only a small bump in a smooth road.Preacher joins Y: The Last Man, and Transmetropolitan as one of my favourite limited series.

The Boys- Fallen Idols

Hello everyone,

My latest post for comicommand is available on the site and copied below. After reading Garth Ennis’s Preacher I was eager to check out some of his other work, but was worried that other works would disappoint in comparison. However, I am loving The Boys just as much as Preacher.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading Preacher, I was eager to check out Garth Ennis’s other work. I heard mixed reviews about The Boys, but after reading 40 issues, I can safely say that I’m loving the series. The Boys takes place in a world where the greatest superheroes are morally corrupted celebrities. The elite teams have corporate backing and become increasingly disconnected with normal humans, which also results in the careless loss of human life during their conflicts with supervillains.

The Boys is the nickname for a CIA squad that is responsible for keeping the heroes in line through intimidation or violence if need be. While I love the characters, one of my favourite things about the series is its depiction of superheroes. There aren’t many supervillains in the universe, since many super-powered people elect for an easier life as public idols. If a hero becomes popular enough through his conquests or sales of his own comic book, he gets to join an elite team, such as The Seven (a twisted version of The Justice League). With elite status, comes corporate funding, public appearances and full-blown celebrity status.

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Deciding to be a hero doesn’t mean that these figures are actually the good guys. Billy the Butcher, the leader of The Boys, knows firsthand that they view regular people as toys. When Malchemical, one of the most deadly heroes, is relegated to the C-List Superduper group, he lashes out after their leader submits a complaint about him. The concepts of consequences or judgment are foreign to him and he believes that yelling “I’m a superhero” frees him of all wrongdoing. When Malchemical continues to be ostracized by the group he attacks its leader and attempts to rape two of its members. Billy also knows that this is regular behavior for Malchemical. Numerous other incidents in the comics also show other abuses of power from other characters, whether it is rape or attempted murder. The Seven, for the most part, are a group of frat boys high on their own power.

Recent films like Man of Steel have been criticized for their depiction of the destruction that transpires when super-powered beings fight one another. I never jumped on this bandwagon since some level of damage seems inevitable and because the damage often becomes a plot point in future films, just like Superman’s fight with Zod plays a central role in BatmanvSuperman, or how the destruction in Avengers 1 and 2 leads to Civil War. The Boys starts off with a civilian being killed during a fight between a villain and A-Train, a member of The Seven. The difference here is A-Train’s lack of empathy. He realizes what he has done, but quickly leaves since the paramedics can take care of everything else. Later, he also attempts to rape The Seven’s newest number, Starlight.

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Some might see the moral depravity of The Seven as a caricature, but the heroes are no different than politicians, judges, police officers, athletes, musicians etc, who get caught up in scandal after scandal. A sense of invincibility (literally in the case of the heroes) can lead to a lack of restraint and can corrupt people who may have started their pursuit with noble intentions. For every superhero who is morally pure, similar to our typical image of Superman, there are ten who are simply in the business for the money and adoration. Values like justice mean very little and are simply useful platitudes that the heroes use to justify their presence. The Boys is a depressing look at a society filled with superheroes, but it may be the most realistic.

100 Bullets Review

Hello everyone,

My review of 100 Bullets is up on comicommand and is also pasted below. I am nearly finished Preacher now and like it a lot more than 100 Bullets so I’ll probably do a review later this week.

100 Bullets – Reloaded

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

I did an earlier article after reading the first volume of 100 Bullets. 80 issues later, the series is completed and I want to share my thoughts on it.

As The Commander said in his last article, the artwork can either elevate the story, or the story can elevate the art. In the case of 100 Bullets, the story definitely elevates the art. Making the switch from superhero comics to others can be jarring, mostly in terms of the artwork. However, the artwork for 100 Bullets still pales in comparison to ones like The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man or Preacher. The covers are well done, as well as some panels, but overall the illustrations made it difficult to get into the first issue since their quality actually became distracting. Once I got through more of the story, I was able to tune out the artwork and appreciate the comics more.

The story starts off with separate subplots, all featuring the enigmatic Agent Graves, who offers people an attaché containing a gun with 100 bullets of untraceable ammunition. The gun is meant to be their weapon of choice against the people who ruined their lives, and the attaché also includes proof of their enemies’ wrongdoing.

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The various storylines and figures eventually mesh into a single story about an organization known as The Trust. Graves is a former agent of The Minutemen, a group of enforcers that the Trust disbanded, and he seeks to reinstate the Minutemen by eliminating their former bosses. For the most part, Brian Azzarello does a great job of linking each character and subplot to the main one. However, I could not help but notice that there were some storylines that were never mentioned again. It is implied that all the attaches were given with the purpose of reactivating the minutemen, who were basically brainwashed to forget their past lives. Yet there are some characters that are given attaches and never seen or referenced again.

I previously mentioned the issue of the dialogue overusing slang at times. This issue continues throughout all 100 issues and did drag the experience down a bit. Just about every minority character talks like their words were put through an Ebonics translator and it goes past being immersive or reflective of a certain area, and becomes completely distracting.

100 Bullets features very few “heroes”. For the most part, the character’s morals are different shades of grey. It takes a great writer to make us care about any of them, let alone to make a reader root for most of the characters. Issue by issue, I find myself supporting one character’s actions, and then supporting another character’s actions that could undo theirs… This cycle continues and culminates in an action-packed and bloody finale. One of my biggest gripes was that this action packed finale ends rather abruptly. We go from a violent bloodbath to a few lines of dialogue that are meant to reveal more about  a character’s motives, before ending with a cliffhanger.

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At the end of it all, Graves’s backstory is still shrouded in mystery. I don’t need everything spelled out but this was a case where just a few more lines sprinkled across a few issues could have led to a more fulfilling end. Since Graves plays such a central role in the story, the lack of more backstory for him makes the entire series somewhat hollow. One figure has played a huge role in leading to all of these events, but we don’t get a proper look at what truly drives him.

Overall, 100 Bullets was a great read and I will likely be going back to re-read certain issues. I knew it was an Eisner winner before I started reading and perhaps that got my hopes too high. I know there are many Azzarello fans that would heartily disagree with me.

The Old and The New

Hello everyone,

Below is my latest past for comicommand

 

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The popularity of Marvel and DC Comics almost leads to word association. Superhero comics are often tied to one of the two behemoths, since they are the oldest producers of superhero comics. However, it is this longevity that leads to one of the biggest issues of the big publishers. The plethora of comic book titles, events, authors and timelines for each character can make jumping in seem overwhelming for prospective readers. Not to mention relaunches such as the ultimate comics for Marvel, and rebirth for DC. These relaunches can serve the practical purpose of giving newcomers a fresh start, but that impact quickly fades once the new series reaches a certain point. In the case of the ultimate universe, catching up with sixteen years of comics is better than fifty, but can still be daunting. In the case of DC, I have heard great things about Rebirth, but it appears some of the most poignant moments I have heard of would not be as effective without some prior knowledge of certain story-lines. Entries on this site, such as the lists by the Commander, acknowledge this problem and are meant to provide recommendations for tackling the medium. However, the fact that lists like these are necessary attests to the issue.  Before readers get their pitchforks, I want to clarify that I am not trying to criticize the format of superhero comics or their rich history and diversity. I am only saying that, objectively, it does lead to of the strengths (in my opinion) that smaller imprints such as Vertigo and Image Comics have.

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The last comic series I read was Vertigo’s Y The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic story where all male mammals spontaneously die, except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. I heard about the comic, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take another series on. What convinced me was seeing that it was only sixty issues. One weekend later, I binge read the entire series. It wasn’t only sixty issues because it got cancelled, but because that was the end of the story. Yorick’s journey ended, and the series ended with it.

I am also currently reading Image Comics’, The Walking Dead. Although the series is longer, currently on issue 155, it is likely to be a more straightforward read than decades of comics from other characters.
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Marvel and DC titles do of course have graphic novels, or certain series for each character, like The Dark Knight Returns and the ongoing Injustice series. These stories can either be an alternate version of a character or simply an isolated story arc. These can provide a great introduction to characters but can also lose some impact for new readers. In the case of Injustice, the set up to the story is rooted in references to Doomsday and Scarecrow. If someone reading the series didn’t know the characters, then the story could lose its effectiveness. Some of these self-contained stories, do not really function as self-contained ones, still requiring some level of knowledge from other comics. Of course, this is typically only an issue for more popular characters like the Justice League, with (relatively) smaller titles such as Transmetropolitan being truly self-contained.

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With The Walking Dead and Y The Last Man, all of the world building is done within the series. There are no related tie-ins, background info or even general comic knowledge that needs to be consulted. The story can simply be followed with one issue after another, with no need to switch between events. I do not have a problem with burying myself in the history of DC and Marvel. I know that for many people, the sheer variety is what draws them to comics. They look forward to seeing how a new writer handles their favourite characters. They don’t dread having to catch up, they look forward to it. The success of Marvel and DC Comics makes it clear that many people may not even see the limited stories of Vertigo and Image as a strength. I do look forward to reading more DC and Marvel comics, and getting more caught up with the stable of writers and stories available. This viewpoint is very subjective, I only hope that readers may be able to understand my point of view.

Y: The Last Man and Amazons

Hi everyone,

I know I missed a post yesterday but this post I did for comicommand went up on that site yesterday. If you like writing about comics feel free to check out comicommand and join us to contribute your own articles.

I’ll be posting a new piece tonight. The article is below:

The Walking Dead is currently my favourite comic book series and while I endure the one-month gap between issues, I decided to check out Y: The Last Man. It was highly recommended by many lists and was also only sixty issues long, saving me from the worry of a very long commitment on top of numerous other series and books I wish to read.

I binge-read the series over this past weekend and was not disappointed. Y: The Last Man is a science-fiction comic, where 25-year-old Yorick Brown and his pet monkey are seemingly the only ones to survive the spontaneous death of all male mammals. The sixty issues encompass Yorick’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world and his efforts to uncover the source of the catastrophe.

However, the series also gives us The Daughters of the Amazon, a society that burns down sperm clinics and is determined to remove all traces of perceived patriarchy. They attack Yorick on sight for being male and spend a large portion of the series trying to track him down in order to ensure that he does not reinstall the patriarchy they are fighting against. For the Amazons, the catastrophe that killed most of the men was an act of God or a sign that women need to reclaim their rightful place.

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The Amazons can either come across as an indictment of feminism, or more likely they’re a caricature of it. Something here is meant to ridicule the heightened fears that many men have about feminism. The plot obviously lends itself to feminism, since it deals with a society that is mostly female having to rebuild and eventually being able to do so. The first few issues also focus on the issue of presidential succession, highlighting how the predominance of male figures leads the Minister of Agriculture to become the next President of the United States. Agent 355, a member of a covert government branch known as the Culper Ring, also accompanies Yorick throughout the story and acts as his highly competent bodyguard and confidante. It would be contradictory for the series to present one strong female character after another, and then throw in The Amazons as a criticism of feminism.

The series began in 2002, well after The Men’s Right Movement led to a backlash against “political correctness” and “feminazis”. Like today, feminists were fighting for issues such as the eradication of rape culture, the culture of blaming rape victims for being raped e.g. “She asked for it.” Meanwhile, the manosphere begin to grow. The manosphere refers to a loosely connected group of blogs and websites that believe masculinity and men as a whole are now diminished due to feminism. The Men’s Rights Movement began by targeting divorce and child custody laws that favoured women, but has now expanded into a group of men who view relationships as adversarial in nature and believe that men need to dominate women. The manosphere has birthed groups such as pick-up artists and many members have a heightened level of bitterness and anger towards woman, especially concerning sexual rejection. The manosphere promotes the belief that feminism has disrupted men’s natural dominance in the world, leading women to become overly confident. This then makes men victims to egotistical and shallow women who are protected from criticism by the new social order which seeks to destroy masculinity.

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With this background information, it becomes easier to see how some men may view the Amazons as regular feminists, as opposed to stereotypical ones. Throughout the series, other female characters counteract the depiction of the Amazons. The comic does not present the women as perfect characters or ones who are all superior to Yorick. Some characters use him for sex, he outsmarts others and many of the women serve as Yorick’s villains. They are strong fighters, soldiers, intelligent scientists and people who are as lost in the new world as Yorick is.

The comics even imply that many of the Amazons only joined the group to escape hunger and homelessness. These are the motives that lead Yorick’s sister, Hero, to join the Amazons early in the story. While it is implied that the leader truly believes in her vision, it is clear that ideology is secondary to security for some Amazons. With this, the Amazons possibly get whittled down to a few members with extreme ideologies. Members like this are found in every group, and the Amazons become a more realistic and moderate creation if we realize that only a few members of their population truly believe that all men must die. Just like the manosphere like to argue that “not all men are like that”, Y: The Last Man argues, “not all women are like that”.

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