Ted McKeever’s Faith is a five part series (which finally gets us into the year 2000). It turned out to be the last of his Vertigo projects. The guy somehow finds a new desolate urban setting for every new story. This one appears to be Purgatory, or something like it. The title character (an ex-nun) awakes in some kind of hospital ward, wrapped in bandages. She is informed that she is dead, and the place is called Murr. As she begins to explore, everyone tells her she looks like the “savior” foretold in the book of Murr. There are rumors of a war with Heaven, and dead angels keep turning up (oh, and one of her new acquaintances is Joan of Arc). After three issues exploring the mystery of Faith’s appearance, the battle suddenly begins at the start of issue four. In the final issue Faith confronts her former Mother Superior, discovering why she came to Murr, and freeing the place from her influence. The story closes with life in Murr going on as it had before: hard to see what the point of all the conflict was.
Bill Willingham’s six-part Proposition Player is about a Las Vegas gambler who buys a bunch of human souls as a gag. Proposition player Joey Martin works for a second-rate casino (a prop player works for the house filling in on shorthanded card games, but gambles with his own money), but things change rapidly when he offers to buy a beer in exchange for a soul. It’s meant as a bet with one fellow casino employee, but in the end he finds himself with 32 contracts written on cocktail napkins. Then representatives from Heaven and Hell show up, and things quickly become very serious. There’s a tour of ramshackle afterlives run by forgotten gods, followed by a catastrophic fire in the casino which leaves Joey running his own afterlife for the souls he bought (in his small apartment). The urgency of the bidding for his prize convinces Joey that he’s holding a winning hand. He gets through all of the chaos to a surprising conclusion in the last issue. The whole thing plays like a lighthearted version of an arc in The Sandman. Willingham got his start in comics as an artist, and actually illustrated most of the first issue: he inked the whole thing, and penciled about half. But by the second issue Paul Guinan has taken over on pencils, with Ron Randall on inks. Through all of that the art remained surprisingly consistent.
The Witching Hour was a creator-owned miniseries by Jeph Loeb & Chris Bachalo (with Art Thibert on inks), originally published in three Prestige-format issues. It’s about a group of witches and the people they try to help. I remember finding this very confusing on first reading, and it is at first. But as it goes on you get to know the characters and the motivations driving the story, and it becomes pretty easy to follow (although not entirely unambiguous). The biggest confusion initially is figuring out who is being helped (the witches are all a bit peculiar, so it’s not hard to sort them out, once they’ve been introduced). They are a varied lot, and it’s not obvious that they’re good people who deserve help. But they’re really being given the opportunity to reveal themselves, as well as get a wish granted. And the results are not always what they (or the reader) expects. The series is absolutely stunning visually: Bachalo pulls out all the stops, including some successful experimental techniques.
Looking forward to reading Proposition Player as a part of Willingham’s big HC from Vertigo. I have it; just haven’t had the time to read it just yet.
I got Willingham to sign Issue #1 at HeroesCon. I was hoping it might elicit a story, but no dice. He did make a self-deprecating reference to his Vertigo work prior to Fables as having “sold copies in the dozens.”