my new favorite comic
July 13, 2012
I’m totally late to the party on this one, but I usually am where comics are concerned. I always have this moment of fury, when I discover something that’s been out for 10-12 years already, and I think about how much I wish I’d been there at the start, and I could have gotten excited about it and geeked out over it with everyone else who was just discovering it. Instead of saying, you know, “Hey, isn’t this great?” and having everyone go, “Um, yeah, we know…”
On the other hand, I’m really glad I got to read all thirty issues of the thing practically in one sitting rather than having to wait for years for them all to come out. Trade paperbacks: the comics version of waiting for a TV show to come out on DVD. So, it’s cool.
What did I read that’s got me all excited? Planetary, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. (And no, I haven’t read very much else of Ellis, so what’s even better is I have a ton of potentially great stuff to go track down now, starting probably with Global Frequency and FreakAngels.)
Planetary is kind of sort of not really a superhero comic, but it’s also kind of a spy story, but what it really is is a celebration of all things pulp spanning the last century and a half. I have to give the iPad app Comixology mad props here for giving away the first issue for free. I was highly intrigued, and when I saw the covers for all the subsequent issues, every single one of them a pastiche of something else, like monster movies or 1950’s SF or Doc Savage or cyberpunk and so on, I had to get my hands on the whole thing.
So yeah, the story’s a beautiful pastiche of about nine million other pulp fictional references, but what I really ended up adoring are the characters. Because they end up being really good people trying to do good.
I’ve realized over the last few years how much I love stories about good people trying to do good in a messed up a world. When I read them, I realize how much fiction is about people being terrible to each other, and how many stories and conflicts are derived from people being terrible to each other. Which might be dramatic but isn’t actually very much fun. Good people trying to do good must seem terribly old fashioned, I guess. But it still makes for excellent stories. It’s the same reason I fell absolutely in love with Steven Erikson’s Malazan series — because while vicious, terrible, horrific things happen, it really is at its core about good people trying to do good. (The scene where Mappo and Icarium go back to give the healing potion to the fatally injured dog is what hooked me. THEY SAVED THE DOG!)
So yeah. I get tired of reading and watching people being horrible to each other. I’d like more about characters saving the world with their friends at their sides, and more saving the dog for no other reason than it’s a good thing to do. It makes me happy.
(I have heard an argument that goes something like this: it’s not realistic writing about good people doing good, because the world isn’t like that and people aren’t like that. Well, I disagree. Because I live in a world where firefighters leave notes to homeowners letting them know what happened to their chickens. Stuff like that, you know?)