Thursday, September 27, 2007

Doctor 13: If I was an architect, I would also be immoral

Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang

I don't really have anything too incisive to say about this book; for that, I'll steer anybody interested to the excellent pair of critiques by Abhay Khosla and Jeff Lester at the Savage Critic(s), in which they discuss the types of stories in which creators mourn the loss of (superhero) comics' rich, quirky past in favor of the ol' grim 'n gritty. After a call by Abhay, the term "nostalgicore" has been coined, and it's a great one. But while it's a great discussion, I don't know if the work engages me on that level; it's more of a metafictional look at characters begging to exist, fighting against the constraints of being fictional, which is something I love, regardless of the genre. The thing is, I don't see this as a condemnation of any modern types of storytelling; it's more of a fun, funny look at some crazy characters and types of stories. If anything, it's a reminder not to forget this stuff exists in the forgotten corners of the DC universe. I mean, one of the antagonists of the story is Grant Morrison, and if anybody loves to dredge up goofy stuff and give it new life, it's him.

But aside from all that, the story is just plain fun. I'm fairly used to Brian Azzarello's witty, pun-filled dialogue in 100 Bullets, but where that book's jargon is obtuse and sinister, here he's just going for laughs. It's a riot, and the unique style of transcribing accented English is also hilarious ("Joo a yoo?"). And Cliff Chiang's crisp, cartoony artwork is amazing (a lot of credit should probably also be given to colorist Patricia Mulvihill), perfectly rendering these characters and adding lots of fun details, like this bit, where General JEB Stuart (the guy who haunted a certain tank) and Captain Fear (a ghost pirate) are swordfighting. They end up chopping each other up, but since they're both ghosts, their pieces stay together, leading to this priceless reaction shot:

In addition to those characters, we've also got Anthro the caveboy (who speaks French, for some reason), Infectious Lass, the Primate Patrol, Genius Jones a kid who can answer any question for the price of a dime, and I...Vampire, an emo bloodsucker who gives us some great jokes, since everyone around him has to follow up anything they say that rhymes with "I" with "...Vampire?" Here's my favorite:

In the story, these characters are fighting to keep from being erased from existence by the Architects, who are never named, but are supposed to be Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka, the writers of DC's 52. It's pretty amusing and fun, but like I said, I don't think it's that effective of a critique against modern storytelling. It's really just a call for characters like these to stick around, and I'm okay with that. Especially if they're in fun stories full of great art like this. So give us that promised sequel already!


  1. I'm wondering if the reason why Anthro speaks french isn't a homage to famous french caveman comic character Rahan:

    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

  2. That's an interesting theory; thanks for the link, Pedro!

  3. If you're looking for some more the crazy-smart ass Azzarello, but with a far more insidious bent, I HIGHLY suggest you check out Deathblow. It has great dialog, extremely clever word balloon placement, talking dogs creating lamentation in women by blowing up their skirts, mechanical sphincters, and poetry reciting raptor/man/cyborg hybrid. Dark, vicious, insidious, clever, smart, and funny as hell. I absolutely never know what's coming next. Its like the perfect combination of All-Star Batman & Robin mixed with NextWave. Its genius.

    Sorry for the spew, but I read both last night, and Azzarello got me running on all cylinders. He definitely needs to write more superheroes.

  4. Wow, Daniel, that sounds pretty great. I briefly thought about checking Deathblow out when Wildstorm did their "relaunch" about a year ago, but I just didn't really care enough, and I know nothing about the character. But if it's more of the crazy-ass Azzarello that I like so much, I might have to check it out. Maybe I'll be able to find some issues in discount bins or something.

  5. You definitely should. Its selling like crap of course (its Deathblow), so the more who buy it, the better. I knew nothing about the character either, and Azzarello does great job reinforcing that you don't have too. He's just the usual stock confused mercenary programmed to kill, the straght-man of the series.

    Issue seven's out, and its bi-monthly. Cheap shouldn't be a problem.

  6. I loved this and really with/hope that it's turned into an ongoing series.

    I'm also glad you pointed out the colorist deserves a lot of credit for this beautiful book. The art is fantastic but the color really brings the book to another level. Chiang did a backup in Detective a few years ago, and while his art was servicable, it definitely didn't stand out. Now on this book (and Green Arrow/Black Canary) he's been paired with colorists that can really make his style pop. I think he's going to become a star becasue of it.

  7. Kenny: I know! It's amazing what a good colorist can bring to a book. I think I saw some of Chiang's artwork a few years ago on Human Target, and while it was nice, it didn't blow me away or anything. But he's on a whole new level here, and the colorist has a lot to do with that.

  8. You probably know this, but it is MORTALITY not MORALITY.

  9. Yeah, I figured that out eventually, but I left it up as a record of my dumbness.