Sunday, 17 January 2016

Vertigo CMYK Review (Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire)

CMYK stands for (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and Blac(K), the four colours that were the basic building blocks of comic book colouring. This anthology of original short comics from Vertigo showcases the range of comics stories from established creators and new talents across its four colour-themed sections. 

I’d hoped this book would be a step towards Vertigo reclaiming its indie comics crown that it lost years ago to Image. Maybe with the focus on new talent Vertigo are making a connection between the basic colours and them, a sort of foundation for the future of comics? Unfortunately CMYK is quite a crap collection. There are 36 stories in this nearly 300 page book so rather than try to touch on them all, I’ll just mention the ones I enjoyed. 

Fabio Moon contributes the only strip that appears in all four sections. An art gallery owner is forced to shut down his business which leads him to contemplate his life up to this point. It sounds melancholy like a Seth comic but it’s actually quite upbeat with the man realising the potential for new directions his life can go in. It’s a gently charming story with Moon’s usual high quality fluid artwork. 

Disappointingly, out of so many new creators only two stood out for me. The first is Rachel Deering who writes a horror comic drawn by Matteo Scalera (Indestructible Hulk, Black Science). A burgeoning rock star stays the night in an abandoned old house in the woods - but will she leave in the morning? It’s a delightfully creepy tale. 

The second is Jody Houser whose story Adrift, with art from Nathan Fox, is about two young girls coming to terms with their grandmother’s death. The oldest of the two is still very young but thinks she’s too old for dolls - and then the doll starts talking to her and she realises she’s not as grown-up as she thinks she is. It’s a bittersweet slice-of-life story with a convincingly written protagonist. 

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, the creative team that gave us The Shadow Hero, reunite on Super Blackout. A young couple are torn apart by tragedy but discover hope in the possibilities of life. I loved the idea of the app the man was working on and how it appeared in the woman’s life after his death. 

Definitely the most moving contribution was from writer Tom King (Grayson) and artist John Paul Leon (Animal Man, DMZ) in Black Death in America. It’s an adaptation based on the words of Henry Johnson, a black US soldier who fought in WW1 and was celebrated as a hero when he returned to America. Sadly, he struggled to find employment with the injuries he sustained in the trenches, dying on the streets just over ten years after the war ended. King himself is a veteran so the story has a certain poignancy and he selects Johnson’s words well for the most powerful impact on the reader. Fantastic moody black and white art from Leon too. 

All that said, five (or eight if you count Moon’s contributions up as four instead of one) out of 36? That’s not a good ratio for an anthology. Despite having some big names in the roster like Jeff Lemire (who produces an unnecessary prequel to Sweet Tooth), Jock, Gerard Way, Bill Sienkiewicz, Francesco Francavilla and more, CMYK is an all too forgettable collection of unimpressive stories.

Vertigo CMYK

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