Tuesday, March 23, 2010

comix o'the decade: Episode Li'l Noodle

Alan Moore—writer
J.H. Williams III—pencils
Mick Gray—inks
Jeromy Cox—colors
(ABC/Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Blah blah blah Alan Moore. Blah blah blah genius. Hurdy gurdy machine.

Looking for pulp fantasy action and adventure? It's here. Looking for a dissertation about the nature of reality and fiction, where they intersect with our minds, bodies, and spirits? Look no further. Moore has cleverly wrapped up a philosophical discussion of the origins of storytelling and its purpose in the guise of a sci-fi fantasy. It can be a difficult read. There are a lot of big, abstract ideas that Moore bats around. Some of the dialogue can be stilted and dry. But at the same time, the ideas it's floating are fascinating. In the world of Promethea everything has metaphorical meaning—whether literary or sexual or mythical or religious, which for all intents and purposes, in this comic, are the same. Moore has worked up a unified theory of everything that's not based on science, but on history, humanity, and mysticism.

It's one of a few comics that encourages you to really think about the world around you, your relationship to the work in your hands—it can make you think about every story ever spun in a new light.

What helps steer it clear of dreary philosophic pedagogy and make it truly palatable and amazing is the art. The team of J.H. Williams, Mick Gray, and Jeromy Cox (with appearances by Jose Villarrubia and Charles Vess among others) construct the most innovative and imaginative page layouts printed by a major comics publisher. Each page visually underscores the themes in the script, whether its using historical or cultural motifs (see above) or clever circuitous action (see infinity layout at top). Moore is notorious for writing obsessively detailed scripts with very specific page layouts, so a fair amount of credit is due to him. However, it'd be tough to find other comics artists who would be able to translate that vision to the page with as much diverse technique, daring, and verve as this team of artists. Plus it's fun to navigate and pretty to look at.

There are just a ton of moments like this one that make my mouth drop. The artwork beautiful, yes, but it's also completely insane. It kind of explodes everywhere. Speech bubbles become like little fireworks, The color palate makes it borderline illegible, but this one page is part of a larger interconnected whole.

There's more here than one would expect.

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