Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brian K Vaughan: A God Amongst Mere Mortals

(That title's not setting my opinion out there too far now, is it?)

My introduction to him was when I wandered into the comic book shop and said, "Sell me some Sci-Fi!" And they showed me a few, of which I picked up Ex Machina #1. I was back the next morning the minute they opened to buy the rest of this still-in-progress series. The owner of the comic book store in Pullman says that this is the best series he's ever read. It's about Politics and a superhero in real-world, everyday situation. That description doesn't make it sound interesting, but what it does through those lenses is delve into every deep, dark facet of American culture, discussing polarizing issues in a way that, to me, is thought-provoking, respectful without being meaningless, and, ultimately, intelligent and funny. You have to read at least the first, disjointed issue, and if you aren't on board after reading that, than I'm pretty sure you hate kittens and burn down orphanages in your free time. Just saying.

So I'm thinking to myself, "DAMN. Ex Machina is fucking good!" Then I finish the series and Wikipedia tells me he also co-wrote Y: The Last Man Standing with Canadian writer and penciller Pia Guerra. Now Y is a ten book, finished series and let me tell you friend, it's not as consistently good as Ex Machina, but to me it is much more beautiful. It is the troubled story of Yorick Brown who, in the first chapter, mysteriously survives a mysterious event the french term Le Grand Depart - iol est: all the men die except for Yorick and his helper monkey, Ampersand. That's right, in the first chapter all the men in the world explode in a bloody, grotesque fashion. Pretty freaking funny if you ask me. From there the story shies away from nothing - racism, drugs, religion, military, childhood, politics, rebellion, science, expired canned food, love, morals - nothing is safe, and very little is sacred - if anything. However, as a reader, it is pretty clear to see Vaughan's writing improve over the span of these books, from a tentative writer to a confident, strong one addressing issues in a fresh way. Initially, I was afraid he wasn't going to be fair to his character's fates, but after finishing the series (and restarting it) this week, let me assure you that he is heartrendingly fair and unbiased in the books - shit happens to everybody and good stuff too. There is lots of sex - and since there's only one man in the world a lot of the sex is lesbian - and violence and fucked up dreams and deep issues in our culture get laid bare and discussed in an intelligent way, with the gratuitousness at times serving to point out the absurdity of some of these issues. It's exciting, extremely thought-provoking, and wholly addicting. If you have a local comic book shop, like Safari Pearl here in Moscow, drop by and pick up the series for a roller-coaster ride of hilarity, (not all of it is death related humor, though a lot is) joy, sadness, and touching moments of friendship, hatred, love, and camaraderie. Ultimately, this series cost me $140 and it was worth every damn penny. If you want to borrow, feel free to ask - it needs read. Oh, and I guess they're making a movie - DJ Caruso directing - with a real monkey, not a CGI one. Sweet.

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