Thursday, July 01, 2004

Geek Talk

Having already passed into the realm of uber-geek with my review of Mark Millar's Red Son, a "what if" story with Superman as the hero of the U.S.S.R., I feel less ashamed to do it again, especially since the artist in question is Alan Moore.

I just read two collections by Moore. Both were good but one was vastly superior to the other:

Supreme: The Story of the Year

In the last issue, before DC Comics "tooled down" the Man of Steel's powers (he'd been able to move whole planetary systems; now he's only strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier), Alan Moore wrote "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel." Set decades in the future (which would make it about now), a new reporter for the Daily Planet interviewed Lois Lane about the death of Superman. It's regarded as one of the best Superman stories and worth reading if for nothing else to see Krypto the Superdog go ballistic and tear out a supervillian's throat.

Supreme is an intentional Superman knock-off and deals more with comic continuity and revisions than supervillians. One of his many flashbacks (that revert to the styles of storytelling and visual art of various comic book ages), the Allies—Moore's version of the Justice League—recount how they were visited by three apparitions on New Year's Eve 1949. The ghosts (imitations of EC comics Old Witch and Crypt-Keeper) show the superheroes visions of the future set in EC continuums. The best of these sends Supreme into a parody-world of Mad Magazine (EC's only surviving comic). After their humiliations, convinced that the future makes superheroes irrelevant, the super team gives up and disbands. Good Moore-material.

Although it's well-written and detailed but still comes off as a superhero story. If you're into that, check it out. If not. . .

From Hell: Being a Melodrama in Sixteen Parts.

I put off reading this for years. I'd already heard the various police and FBI profilers' takes on the Jack the Ripper murders and knew enough about Moore's story to know that it was incredibly unlikely. The plot—a deranged English mason committed the murders to cover up Queen Victoria's grandson's marriage to a commoner—is about as likely as the theory that the Vatican was behind JFK's assassination.

But From Hell isn't really about solving Jack's identity. It's more of a look into the nature of murder, society, and spirituality. It also has murder scenes that are painful to look at. Jack spent at least two hours on Mary Kelly, his final victim, and Moore makes you feel every second. It's one thing to hear, "He mutilated her for two hours" but seeing it acted out is numbing, the difference between thinking of a two-minute span compared to spending it underwater.

Page 3/4 of Chapter 1 was ripped out of the copy I read (from the Mt. Healthy branch of the library). With the language, violence, and sex acts in the rest of the book, I have to wonder what was on it.

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