Vertigo Miniseries Tour Part 40: New Romancer; Survivors’ Club; The Dark & Bloody

New Romancer
Peter Milligan, writer; Brett Parson, artist; Brian Miller, colorist
Vertigo Comics, 2016

Alexia Ryan is a young computer genius with a fixation on classic authors, especially Lord Bryon and his romance poetry. She is working on a dating algorithm for the New Romancer dating site, piggy-backing on her A.I. work at a large tech firm. This is where things take a bizarre turn, which requires a generous amount of suspension of disbelief. Lexi needs her old employer’s servers to run her program, and in the course of connecting she accidentally causes her personality software to download into artificial bodies that the company calls golems (after the animated anthropomorphic figure of Jewish folklore).

Thus we get Lord Byron in the flesh as a character in the story, followed by Casanova (along with others that are revealed later, but most do not play major roles). The two legendary lovers are natural enemies. The transition into the modern world leaves their charisma intact, but their seduction methods often don’t jibe with contemporary mores, which makes for a lot of humor. Lexi is attracted by Byron–as expected–but after awhile she wonders what she ever saw in the jerk. Mata Hari also enters the mix.

The other major virtual presence is computer pioneer Ada Lovelace (the only legitimate child of Lord Byron). She plays a pivotal role, helping Lexi to complete her algorithm, as well as providing Lord Byron the opportunity for redemption. Now much wiser, Lexi herself rides off in search of real love. It’s all a bit off the wall, but the frenetic action carries it along. Parson’s art is kinetic, as well as excelling at facial expressions: there is more than a touch of caricature about them.

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Survivors’ Club
Lauren Beukes & Dale Halverson, writers; Ryan Kelly, artist; Eva de la Cruz, colorist
Vertigo Comics, 2016

Bad things happened to a lot of children in 1987. Out of a long list of names found on the Internet, only six are not missing or dead: the Survivors’ Club. All living in Los Angeles and somehow connected, called together for a meeting almost 30 years later. Their experiences mirror 1980s American and Asian horror movies: one with a killer doll, another possessed by a poltergeist,  another trapped in a haunted house.

There is a video game with a strong connection to one of them, but they all feel something. It turns out to be extremely significant to their mutual connection, and so is everything else (including a mysterious cult). The search for a common connection quickly multiplies into a whole network of connections. Resolve one problem, and another one pops up. It’s a kind of cascade, as well as a good old-fashioned multiple climax.

It all makes for an exciting story, but one so convoluted that it can be hard to follow. It also requires massive amounts of suspension of disbelief, although familiarity with the horror films referenced contributes. Veteran artist Ryan Kelly (Books of Magic, Lucifer, Local, Northlanders) really helps to sell it. At nine issues this is one of the longer Vertigo miniseries of the latter era. It manages to maintain interest despite all of the twists and turns, and certainly earns points for its creative synthesis of horror tropes.

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The Dark & Bloody
Shawn Aldridge, writer; Scott Godlewski, artist; Patricia Mulvihill, colorist
Vertigo Comics, 2016

Iris Gentry is an Iraq war veteran, returned to his home in rural Kentucky. It’s a dry county, so he pursues the family business of bootlegging–fighting off PTSD nightmares all the while. As the story proceeds, the real history of his Iraq war experience is gradually revealed. But in the present a series of mysterious events are happening, beginning with an auto accident that looks fatal, but no bodies are found (and there are bird feathers on the scene, for no apparent reason).

Iris seems to be the target of the craziness, and eventually we see why. His army unit committed a wartime atrocity which made them the target of an ancient vengeful demon, which has come to the holler in the form of a young Iraqi woman who befriends Iris’s son. Everyone involved has trouble believing in such a thing (except for the local magic man, a somewhat cliched bit of local color). But after Iris’s wife survives an attack, she has an eyewitness report of the birdlike creature, and the local sheriff accepts the situation on faith.

Once we’ve seen the incident, it’s easy to understand why it could trigger a vengeance demon–as well as why it has come in the human form it has–even if the visual representation of it is a stretch (points for surreal imagination, though). Iris has a good heart, but he’s certainly not blameless, and his survival (along with his family’s) is far from guaranteed. This is a well-paced miniseries. It takes its time getting to the main event, but builds carefully. The climax feels inevitable, even if the resolution is not. Artist Scott Godlweski has an angular way with faces that reminds me of Sean Murphy: powerful emotionally, but not exactly realistic. The collection concludes with some of his character designs.

 

 

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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