Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Phoned-In Adventures from the DC Universe

Alan Moore etc. Phoned-In Adventures from the DC Universe (2011)
What the fuck, I thought, it's Alan Moore - how bad could it be?, and so here we are again. I wondered about those issues of Green Lantern, Vigilante and other historically unremarkable DC titles written by the lad with the beard, having failed to notice them in their day. Specifically I wondered about them a little later by which time I was approaching thirty and somehow still young enough to be able to read X-Men spin-offs without wincing. Had I picked up the material collected here when it was new, I probably would have thought it amazing, but in 2016 I am no longer quite so comfortable extending the benefit of the doubt because a bloke in a cape is fighting crime.

DC Universe - to give the book its actual but arguably less descriptive title - collects old issues of Batman, Superman, Secret Origins and everything else Moore ever wrote for DC comics which wasn't Swamp Thing. There's nothing I'd call genuinely terrible. On the other hand there's a limit to how much you can reasonably expect from a comic about a vigilante who fights crime, drug dealers, drug dealing pimps, drug dealers who sell drugs to the kids on the street, and who calls himself Vigilante; and his superpower is that he has a gun with which he shoots drug dealers who commit crime, I suppose. You can tell that Moore is making the best of it, struggling to work with what is essentially crappy material, but you can also tell that while his heart wasn't really in it, that lecky bill wasn't going to pay itself. Even with generally great art, most of this is roughly as good as a decent run of Tharg's Future Shocks in 2000AD. I've read the Superman strips before in a black and white eighties collection called The Man of Tomorrow, and they're decent for what they are, but what they are now seems underwhelming even given that I'm about four decades past the reading age of the target audience.

The second half of the book derives from comics originally published by companies which were ultimately assimilated by the great DC Comics Borg Cube - much to Alan Moore's public displeasure - mostly relating to Jim Lee's WildCATS about which I know next to nothing. Surprisingly I found this stuff a little more engaging, which I suppose may be down to the less familiar territory and Moore having been granted license to do the sort of thing he does best. Voodoo, centred around some WildCATS character of the same name, is fairly enjoyable as yer typically brainy mainstream Moore fare, although it probably helps if you can pretend it isn't a story about murdered strippers drawn by someone with a massive collection of Bratz dolls. Then there's Deathblow which is incomprehensible and more or less bereft of dialogue, but is nevertheless justified by Jim Baikie's wonderful moody artwork.

Even when he's phoning it in, Alan Moore still makes most of the competition look like wankers. DC Universe is a reasonably enjoyable exercise in barrel scraping which should under no circumstances be mistaken for Homer's Odyssey just because author of Watchmans, V of the Vendettas blah blah blah...

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