I Kill Giants:
Given that my one reader recommended this to me, and that I read it right after reading a terrible something else I’d mistook for this, I’m biased. But what the hey!
This is an inspiring story. The landscape of the story is ostensibly one we know from the classic ‘weird-kid, is-it-real?’ plot, but the specific geography is delightfully just-off this. A by-turns dark, funny, tragic and terrifying story, the off-kilter, expressive art matches this sentiment. And the giant. The titan. It really is a good, self-contained story and I really hope these guys do more stuff together.
So, what happens when a supervillain testifies against his employers and enter the witness protection program? They give him a new identity, make him take power-stripping drugs and stick him in an office job. And, when, bored with the job and everyday he turns to drugs, which interestingly cancel-out his power-nullifying pharmaceuticals? He becomes a superhero.
Ed Brubaker’s superhumans, in line with his noir/crime background, take on a grittiness without the grime (as opposed to The Boys, say, which is almost entirely grim grime and some grit). The effect is mirrored in the backstory of the world, where all modern superhumans have evolved from a 1930s pulp sensibility, rather than the intervening comics/capes era. There seems to have been a call on to strip away the fliers, the speedsters, the cosmic questers. Doc Savage writ large, this is crime comics with a heavy, palpable reflection in an art not afraid of its darks. The scale is subtly larger as a result, because the idea of people having to react to these terrifyingly powerful people – ‘science villains/agents’ – is somewhat more relatable. It isn’t easy to measure the morality of each character, with plenty of grey on the good, used-to-be-brainwashers side and the homicidal-maniac-saves-her-double-dealing-friend side. There are some solid reveals and a fairly satisfying, if predictable ending. If nothing else, the informative essay on a pulp hero at the end of each issue was worth the read – hopefully the Bad Influences sequel is as good.
I’ve read the first 60 issues and found it outstanding. The art is very energetic – though, be warned, on a few occasions it portrays outright head-exploding punches – blood and eyeballs stuff. The plotting is immense, yet concise – small, two or four pages pieces amid the main action build into later major plots so naturally in an ingenious manner. The long, slow parts and quick, smashing parts are very well measured for what they portray. The stuff of multi-issue arcs can be covered efficiently and emotively in a few panels, the assumptions we make about other comics recur and are made prominent. I think it maintains a very good story about a young superhero finding his feet, while also becoming and almost-ensemble piece about a world of superheroes. An Image title, like Dynamo 5, there is the same impression that superheroics, rather than an alter ego, might slowly become a legitimate identity rather than a shadow in the lives of these characters. There is also a continuing stream of clever writing resulting in fairly sharp superheroes – highlighted in asks an alien, who attacks earth every few years like clockwork, ‘why?’ and resolving it where his father, Omni-Man hadn’t.
All for the letter ‘I’ there. And that is 55o.