Monday, November 8, 2010
Miracle Keith Review: Vertigo Resurrected!
DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Scripts: Warren Ellis & more
Pencils: Phil Jimenez & more
96 pages for $7.99
I felt an intense desire to write this review after reading this, yet another dreck-filled, overpriced rip-off anthology with half-baked ideas and thin stories. Why did I feel this burning need? It’s the lead-off story, “Shoot” by Warren Ellis that has me hopped up with resentment and indignance.
This was the selling point for the solicitation of this issue; a short tale about a rash of school shootings that was supposedly going to press right around the time of the Columbine High School tragedy. DC/Vertigo decided to shelve the story for obvious reasons, and this is the first time it’s seen press.
I was deeply disappointed in Mr. Ellis’s main theme for this story, and deeply confused by some of the plot elements. We meet a woman who works for some unnamed investigative body who has become obsessed with a rash of school shootings around the U.S., while at the same time becoming obsessed with listening to an audio tape of Jim Jones preaching to his suicidal flock at Jamestown on that fateful day. We never get to know who this woman is; why should we care about her? Because she’s investigating the shootings? Because she loses sleep over video of kids killing kids? Because she’s obsessed with Jim Jones?
And what exactly does a suicidal cult have to do with school shootings? I guess the very thin connection would be some vague conceit about needless death? Wow, what a brave and innovative stance to take, Warren. And then, while watching footage of news coverage of all the school shootings, she begins to notice that a mysterious blonde man in a trenchcoat with a white shirt and black tie is showing up in the crowd at every school shooting.
A friend within the FBI sends her a locked file on a Mr. John Constantine, who of course ends up arriving at her office unannounced during one of her late nights. His message to her is a familiar piece of worn-out armchair psychology: that whole “it’s not the movies, the video games or the music” lecture that’s supposed to help explain a senseless tragedy like a school shooting.
Constantine tells us: “look into the eyes of the children; not the ones holding the guns, but the kids standing around watching it…look into their eyes and you’ll see that they have no connection to their own emotions because they’ve been raised by television...”
What the hell does this mean? Does Warren Ellis really think that the explanation for these shootings is a lack of emotional connection that’s fundamentally infected each child in the school? This premise is as lazy as it is insulting; I’m sure that no child in any school where another child has turned loose a gun has ever run screaming for their lives, or cried out in fear, or begged for their very lives.
I would wager that those children who were victims or potential victims have never felt more alive or more emotional in their entire short lives than in those terrible moments. Not to mention, the “real” reasons behind a school shootings are always complex and can only be speculated on by so-called “experts”. The personality profile on Harris and Kleebold pre- massacre is the same profile you could give to hundreds of high school kids across the country; the “reason” that they went to the ultimate extreme is unknowable by anyone but them. For Ellis to give this trite bullshit as a reason is so inexcusable, especially from someone as obviously smart as he is.
Excellent pencils by Phil Jimenez are wasted on this piece of junk story. It was buried for one reason, should have remained buried for a different reason.
The art throughout this whole anthology is uniformly good, but the stories are pretty thin and don’t really go anywhere new. The one story that almost satisfies is the Grant Morrison tale “The New Toys”. Morrison enthusiasts will recognize shades of his famous Wile E. Coyote one-issue story arc from Animal Man; here we have the first person tragedy of a young child’s G.I. Joe-like action figure, as he goes from wartime hero, to injured veteran, to lover (of a Barbie doll, natch), to transvestite, to a firing squad. Morrison does a serviceable job with the whole take-a-simple-childhood-object-or-pop-culture-character-and-give-it-postmodern-complexities thing, but the ending is very confusing and was lost on this reader.
The art by Frank Quitely is quite astonishing with a distinctive lack of superheroes or the infamous “garden gnomes” that Monster Mike has complained about in the past.
For $7.99, this is a waste of time and money. If you’re a Morrison completist, wait for this one to go to the bargain bins. If you’re an Ellis completist, you should get what you deserve for being an Ellis completist and buy it for full price.
- Miracle Keith