Superheroes' appeal generally eludes me. Not only are they far too flashy for my taste when in character, but they are just too public. Yes, I know that many of them in their heart of hearts are lonely seekers,but their deeds are generally performed amidst or above crowds - screaming needful unwieldy crowds.
Sidebar: have I ever told you how I feel about crowds? No? Crowds make me want to take a vegetable peeler and remove my own skin in strips. Crowds make me want to dig a hole in the floor and disappear. If you don't have a crowd issue, let me educate you; it's not about any person in particular; in fact it could be all your favorite people in the world assembled in one spot. The problem is that they are all assembled in one spot. Now if you have seen me in a crowded bar you will protest that I seem to be doing just fine. Yeah...that's because it's a bar. Nah, just kidding. I'm working on the crowd thing...
Anyway, when it comes to heroes I prefer one like Richard Fell in the comic book series written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Ben Templesmith.
Richard Fell is a homicide detective in the city of Snowtown, a blight of a place inhabited by the desperate and the twisted. The Snowtown police department is a ruin within a ruin, understaffed, indifferent, underfunded, callous, mean. But Fell tackles the job anyway, and from issue one bumps up against crimes so heartless that you feel Snowtown's despair leeching off the pages into your own soul.
There are no Jokers here. No femmes fatales, no boyish sidekicks. No character actors of the underworld, just the feral and hungry and vicious - and their crimes are hardcore, ugly things. As drawn by Templesmith, the victims leave a lot of doubt as to whether they are already past salvation, but that never takes away from the imperative to act - and act Fell does.
There is something haunting and beautiful about the artwork, and I'm sure that is part of the appeal this series holds for me. It almost wavers on the page, details of faces and scenes lost in inked smudges. There is no other comic art like it, that I am aware of.
But the best part of the series is the writing. It's minimal even for a format known for minimalism. Ellis communicates entire stories in the words he leaves out, and I appreciate that - it's a near-impossible trick.
Oh. And there's an evil nun. A mysterious evil nun. C'mon, how can you beat that??
*** OOPS I made a serious omission - I forgot to credit Keiran Shea for turning me on to FELL, *and* for giving me his old issues of lots of comics, thereby establishing my entire comic education. Keiran is awesome. ***