Angeltown was a five-part Vertigo miniseries by Gary Phillips (writer) and Shawn Martinbrough (artist). It’s a murder mystery set in Los Angeles involving the killing of the glamorous ex-wife of a basketball star. Private eye Nate Hollis has been hired to find the basketball player before the police do: he’s the prime suspect, and he’s gone underground. When I read this back in 2005 I remember thinking the dialog was trying too hard to sound “street.” Maybe I’ve just read more of that kind of dialog since then, but it didn’t seem as overdone this reading. Phillips does a good job stretching out the mystery. The pieces don’t completely fall into place until the end, but I think he played fair with the reader with the clues. The final panel implies a sequel where Nate and his grandfather Clutch uncover the truth about the murder of Nate’s father (there were scenes about the event and their investigation earlier in the book). I’d like to read that, but it seems unlikely now. Phillips has since written Cowboys for the Vertigo Crime line, but it is a different urban cop story, and Angeltown was never collected by Vertigo (there is a B&W reprint from Moonstone).
Next up is an unusual miniseries created by Phil Jimenez called Otherworld. Magic and fantasy were certainly part of Vertigo’s roots, but this story is a kind of meld of high fantasy and sci-fi. It’s about the battle between science and magic taking place in a realm called Otherworld. Siobhan Moynihan (who is destined to be a magical champion) and a group of her friends are snatched from Earth to join in the war. It’s visually gorgeous (Jimenez pencils, with inks by Andy Lanning and colors by Jeremy Cox), but I have to say the story is a mess. The first issue was so confusing that it must have been extremely off-putting to monthly buyers at the time. At three issues in the story was only just starting to make sense. There’s a great deal of dense exposition giving the history of Otherworld (including a two-page spread identifying all of the Magi and their powers in Issue 4) that is never referred to directly in the story. The group of friends taken to the the City (the center of the technological culture) are almost completely forgotten until Issue 6. This actually improves the visual presentation of the series, because Jimenez is much more successful at visualizing the magical realm, which borrows heavily from Celtic imagery. Originally announced as twelve issues, the mini wound up stopping with Issue 7, the end of Part 1, which brings both groups together to face the final conflict. The trade paperback collection was optimistically labelled Book One, but it now seems extremely unlikely that the story will ever be completed. In many ways I enjoyed the friends’ stories on Earth more than their Otherworld adventures: they were given distinctive looks and personalities, and their lives were interconnected in interesting, complex ways. Obviously Jimenez needed to get them to Otherworld fairly quickly to tell the epic tale he had in mind. But there was far too much space devoted to unnecessarily detailed world building. Possibly the whole story could have been told in nine issues or so without it, and then we’d have a complete story.
Mnemovore was a six-part miniseries co-written by Ray Fawkes and Hans Rodionoff, and illustrated (with painted covers) by Mike Huddleston. The series was co-created by Fawkes, Rodionoff, and Huddleston. It features Kaley Markowic, a young snowboarder injured in a sporting accident. She loses her memory, and as she begins to recover she starts seeing a dark tentacled creature that appears to be stealing the memories of others around her. The second issue introduces another memory-related complication in the form of an ad executive who believes that self-replicating advertising is actually beginning to emulate a disease. The main focus is on Kaley for the rest of the series, but the businessman shows up at the end: first to defend the Mnemovore from Kaley’s attack, then to save her. His theory about the source of the monster is contradicted by Kaley’s discovery, so it only serves to muddy the story. Most of the tension comes from Kaley’s attempt to understand what is going on and save her friends and family, so I can’t help but think that the story would have been stronger without that subplot. Vertigo did not collect the series, but it is available in a deluxe full-color edition from IDW.