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Fables of the Deconstruction

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Mark Waid is doing another one of his patented deconstructions on the world of comics with Incorruptible. It is the latest in a long tradition of such stories, and it certainly won’t be the last

If you are looking for someone to blame for the trend of deconstructionist comic books, many a finger would be pointing in the direction of Alan Moore. After all, his Saga of the Swamp Thing and Watchmen have provided the blue print for all that would follow. I, however, would blame the Silver Age.

Yes, at first, the simple stories of the 50s and 60s would not seem to spring to mind as the launching pad for the “all you knew was wrong” story. But that is the era that many deconstructionist creators such as Moore and Mark Waid, who this week brings us his latest deconstructionist fable, Incorruptible, grew up during and first started reading comics in.

Granted, we wouldn’t still be having writers offering alternate ways of looking at established tropes if it wasn’t for Moore. Whether it be his literate sensibilities, his years working in the British style, or something entirely different, Moore seemed pathologically unable to look at these established characters the same way they had been perceived for years.

He, like all the deconstructionists that came after him, kept on asking “what if..?” What if Swamp Thing was never Alec Holland or a man, but a plant the whole time? What if Superman’s greatest villains came together to do him in once and for all? What if a group of heroes had to operate in the grim and gritty real world with the specter of nuclear annihilation constantly overhead?

Yes, Moore’s stories were grim and gritty, but not exclusively so. They also had layers of humor and intelligence, something many of the deconstructionist writers that followed couldn’t grasp. Moore was taking something old and making something new from it. The others were just making characters darker and, well, more grim and gritty.

Mark Waid is an exception. He is also a child of the Silver Age and has admittedly set about to deconstruct the myths he read as a youth. His work could be grim and gritty, but it is also smart and layered. It isn’t dark for dark’s sake, but more for an examination of the stories that forms the genre.

Waid’s most famous deconstruction is the Kingdom Come miniseries he did with Alex Ross. The series was a commentary on the popularity of the anti-hero in the 90s and how it related to its Silver Age forebears.

The next major Waid deconstruction was Empire. Like Moore before him, Waid asked “What if?” What if someone like Dr. Doom actually succeeded in conquering the world? It was a commentary on the classic Silver Age villains who are fearsome enough to provide a threat but harmless enough that the heroes were never really in danger. Golgoth was anything but harmless.

Waid’s last commentary on the comic book story was Irredeemable and, now, Incorruptible. The former asked, what if a Superman-like hero turned evil? The latter, hitting stores tomorrow, asks what if that act was enough to turn a bad guy good.  Both are serious examinations of that old comic book chestnut of characters switching sides, and provides a more realistic take on it.

Waid has become a master of the deconstruction. See him at work tomorrow in Incorruptible. 

Also out this week:

Batman 80-Page Giant #1:

The 80-Page Giant can be seen as a callous way for DC to squeeze even more cash out of loyal Bat-fans’ wallets. And, to a certain extent, people who think that are right. After all, DC isn’t offering this issue for free, are they?

But in this case at least, the special serves another purpose. It allows a cadre of talented creators such as Steve Niles, Si Spurrier, Clayton Henry and David Tischman a shot at writing Batman. As good as these people are, the chance that they would get work on a regular Batman title anytime soon is remote at best.

So, don’t be too angry at the $5.99 price tag. You’re getting a bunch of great writers and artists working on a character they normally wouldn’t get a chance to. Some might say that’s a bargain at any price.

Various (W), Various (A), DC Comics, $5.99. Special.

Forgetless #1:

From the writer of Existence 2.0 and Existence 3.0 comes a crime drama unlike any you’ve ever seen before.

The title refers to a legendary New York City nightclub about to close its doors forever. It has attracted clientele ranging from failed artists to struggling models, each with other jobs to help them get by while they persue their dreams.

The two struggling models have quite a lucrative side job—they’re contract killers. And they have decided to use their skills in that other job to make the last night of Forgetless, well, unforgettable. They plan to kill one of the other partiers at the club. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan.

With a structure borrowed from movies like Go and Pulp Fiction and a character who is referred to as “Heroin Trainwreck Barbie,” this will be a series that will push the boundaries in style, content and subject matter. If you feel adventurous, think about picking it up.

Nick Spencer (W), W. Scott Forbes & Marley Zarcone (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Complete Alice in Wonderland #1:

Dynamite has been pretty savvy with their books. They do put out their fair share of licensed material, like Battlestar Galactica and Army of Darkness, but a lion’s share of their output is material in the public domain, such as the Project: Superpowers and Complete Dracula. Now, the writers that brought you that last series are bringing you this one.

If my information about public domain materials is correct, then there are no rights to pay for this adaptation. Which is why you see Alice in books, movies and TV shows, it costs nothing to do your own version. So putting out a complete graphic novel adaptation like this one makes perfect fiscal sense. And for fans of the novel, you have what should be a great adaptation of the classic work. It’s a win-win situation.

Leah Moore & John Reppion (W), Erica Amano (A), Dynamite Enterttainment, $4.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures:

When he died last year, much too young at the age of 52, Dave Stevens left behind an artistic legacy unparalleled by any other. His output wasn’t voluminous, but what he put out was simply gorgeous. He was a “good girl” artist who transcended the good girl genre. He could draw a beautiful woman, but he could also draw a rousing action scene or a bit of slapstick comedy. In short, he could draw anything and he could draw it well.

His seminal work was The Rocketeer, a pulp hero born in the independent comic boom of the 1980s. Many of you might only know of the character from the 1991 film of the same name, because the original comics were out of print. Well, no more. The complete Rocketeer saga is being released in a full-color hardcover volume, in both a regular and deluxe edition.

Dave Stevens (W/A), IDW Publishing, $29.99 Regular Edition, $75.00 Deluxe Edition. Collection.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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