Sean Maher's Quality Control

Friday, June 30, 2006

Man, I've been having a GREAT week.

Y'know, this was just one of those weeks - they come along every two months or so - where I just plain didn't feel like blogging. I even missed Fossen's blogging birthday, and Brill's actual birthday (which coincided with his blog's second birthday, which is weird - did you start blogging on your 21st birthday, Ian? Why weren't you just out getting drunk?) What can I say? A belated "cheers," gentlemen. I'm glad to have you around.

I watched the entire first season of The Sopranos, which I hadn't seen before, and now I'm totally hooked. I thought it was a little choppy and awkward through the first few episodes, but it improved consistently and by the end I was on the edge of my seat. Also, I really like how each episode has an actual ending - most of the TV I've been watching these days is in the J.J. Abrams mode, Alias and Lost style, where it seems like the whole point of each episode is to build to the cliffhanger ending (that never gets directly addressed in the following epsidoe). Giving each episode of The Sopranos a full arc, complete with ending, makes it feel more confident, more muscular and satisfying, while at the same time leaving me no less compelled to find out what happens next. Tony Soprano is a great character, which I kinda expected, having been a big fan of James Gandolfini in films like 12 Angry Men and 8mm for a long time, but I'm also really enjoying Edie Falco's work as his wife Carmela (who really grows as a character over the second half of the season) and Nancy Marchand as his mother, who remains a bit of a mystery - I really dig the ambiguity of her manipulations and control over the other characters, the whole "is she faking Alzheimer's?" question having no clear yes-or-no answer. The first discs of Season 2 arrive from Netflix tomorrow, thank God.

Several really amazing comics came out this week, too. Invincible seems well back on track with issue #33, which highlights what happens to Mark when he's truly desperate, and Sergio Aragones is typically charming, funny and thought-provoking in his issue of Solo. Will Priefer gives us an "aye, there's the rub" moment at the end of Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #2, bringing the mini into sharp focus and leaving me excited to see how it'll end next issue (and what the fate of Crispus Allen will be), and Wark Waid finally gives the usually-backgrounded Cham an issue to shine in Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19, wherein I realize I'm enjoying Barry Kitson's work here even more than in Empire.

But the real stars this week are Daredevil #86 and Lucifer #75.

I haven't written about Brubaker's run with Michael Lark on Daredevil for the last few issues, but it's a surety now: this is, without question, the best book Marvel Comics is publishing. I wondered over the last year or so what happened to the Ed Brubaker who wrote Sleeper - the guy who wrote episodic, cliffhanger single issues that still stood on their own and told their own story, the guy who could make things worse and worse for his protagonists while strengthening and exploring their character with every single issue. He's back, now. I mean, hey, I enjoyed Captain America - but I love Daredevil. Every issue seems like it's running at breakneck speed, and yet still feels like a dense, thoughtful read. It's this weird balance, the ongoing arc against the single issue, the cliffhanger against the conclusion, the action and eye-candy against the characterization, that Ed Brubaker has really mastered over the last few years. Nobody around right now writes with the same sense of craft. All of this is on display in DD #86, along with what looks to me like the best artwork of Michael Lark's already-impressive career. Truly spectacular comics.

At the same time, I need to take a moment of silence here. With Lucifer #75, there's a real sense that an era has come to an end. Comparing this series with its parent book, Sandman, is problematic, because it's always been its own beast, with its own ambitions and style, but at the end of the day I have to say I've preferred Lucifer to any fantasy comic I've ever read. The ending only solidifies this, closing with the very conversation we've all been waiting for and highlighting everything I've enjoyed about Mike Carey's brilliant characterization of Samael while at the same time drawing more shadows across him, answering some questions and making some judgements on the character and creating even more mystery and curiosity at the same time. This is the perfect coda to an unparalleled epic, and the final page of story leaves me swirling: thoughtful, excited, melancholy, satisfied, curious... somehow, though, more than anything, I feel like I'm in on something. As if, in reading the tale and truly immersing myself in the story, I've witnessed something real and profound, something of true impact and moment. Only the most potent and intelligent fiction can do this to us. And while I'm really very sad to see the series go, this is exactly how it needed to end, and I'm grateful to everyone involved in bringing this story to me.

Cheers to Mike Carey, to Peter Gross, to Ryan Kelly and Dean Ormstrom, to Karen Berger, Vertigo and DC Comics, to everyone involved in putting Lucifer together. You've brought me one of the most amazing reading experiences of my life, and I raise my glass in gratitude.


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