This is the second week in the last month where Archaia Studios has taken up most of my column. They are really putting out some amazing books these days – their whole back catalogue is worth a careful look for anyone searching for some high-quality comics.
The Book I Want to Buy:
Inanna’s Tears HC
by Rob Vollmar and mpMann; Archaia, $19.95
Two issues of this Archaia series came out back in 2007, right before the company went through some financial difficulties, and stopped publication for a while. I’d basically given up on ever seeing this story end, and so I’m pretty excited to see that the book is back on their publication schedule, and that the series is finally ending in this hardcover.
The comic is set in an ancient city (Sumerian times, if memory serves), and concerns the slow decay of the city state, as refugees gather outside the walls, and religious power shifts, and a young woman is surprisingly selected to be the consort of Inanna, the goddess (usually a role reserved for men). I don’t remember too much about what was going on in this book, but I know that I found the story to be pretty intriguing, and I was bummed out when it stopped.
The book is written by Rob Vollmarr, whose Bluesman I liked, and is drawn by mpMann, who I’ve become quite a fan of. His earlier Archaia offerings, the Lone and Level Sands, and Some New Kind of Slaughter covered similar ground, in terms of time period, and showed off how interesting he is as an artist. He has a minimalist European feel to his work that I enjoy – think of a stripped down Peter Snejbjerg, mixed with a dash of Darwyn Cooke.
The Books I Think You Should Buy:
The Secret History Omnibus Vol. 2 HC
by Jean-Pierre Pécau and Igor Kordey; Archaia, $34.95
Okay, so The Secret History is incredibly dense and involved, and is probably not all that forgiving of people who have come to the party late, but it’s such an impressive piece of comics work that I’m going to encourage people to read it anyway. Because I know I’m right about this one.
The Secret History concerns itself with four Archons – immortals wielding the power of these rune stones, who have insinuated themselves into the fabric of human history. They don’t really get along, and their conflicts have fueled any number of wars and disasters throughout history. Now, a fifth Archon, William of Lecce, has come along, and the others must try to put a stop to his plans. Where the first omnibus edition jumped through hundreds of years (if not thousands), this one is set squarely in the 2oth century, and focuses mostly on the Second World War.
There are a number of ‘players’ involved here – some fictional, and others real historical figures. The variety of figures that Pécau connects with this book (everyone from Picasso to Meyer Lansky) is the real pleasure of it, and this is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys reading and learning about history. The way he portrays Patton is worth picking up the book for alone. Artist Igor Kordey (who engendered so much hate when he worked on Grant Morrison’s X-Men) does an amazing job of illustrating this dense story.
Suicide Squad Vol. 1 Trial By Fire TP
by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell; DC, $19.99
I have so many good things to say about this comic, I barely know where to begin. I remember stumbling over this title when I was using the Millennium crossover as an excuse to sample a bunch of different DC titles (I know how awful it was, but I was only twelve at the time), and this book stood out immediately. I went back and gathered up the first eight issues (which are collected in this trade), and stuck with the book until its end.
The concept is probably familiar – criminals are offered a shortened sentence if they join Task Force X, and complete some black ops missions for the government. Because of the tendency for agents to not return from missions, the program became known as the Suicide Squad. The sense of actual danger and the rotating cast are what appealed to me at the time, although it was the strong character work by John Ostrander that kept me coming back.
He took a pile of second-rate characters, and made them interesting, and strong enough that they have become integral parts of the DCU today. Secret Six would be nothing without Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang appears to have a place of prominence in Brightest Day (not that I’m reading it). Neither of these characters would have gone anywhere without Ostrander’s work on this title.
The centre of the book though, has always been Amanda Waller, the scheming, super-tough woman behind Task Force X. No one has written her better than Ostrander (although the issue where she famously stares down Batman is not in this collection – insist on a volume 2!).
I love these comics, and I hope that they find new readers and new praise now that this book is coming out. These issues have the team travel to Russia (remember, the Cold War was still on), face off against continuing enemies The Jihad, and deal with the Female Furies. The best issue included here is the last one, which had the different members of the team get debriefed by a psychologist (long before Leonard Samson sat down with X-Factor, I might add). This is an almost perfect issue in terms of writing. I also really got into Luke McDonnell’s writing back in the day. This book was years ahead of its time.
Tags: Archaia, DC, Suicide Squad, The Secret History