Monday, September 17, 2007

shedding a tear

Most weeks, 2000 AD will make me laugh. Often, it will make my eyes widen in astonishment at some new horror, or else simply bask in the glory of a concept well executed. But every now and then, the human side comes through, and we are treated to moments of genuine poignancy. Some writers (mentioning one name, Robbie Morrison...) like to play this card a lot, which can sometimes lead to diminishing returns. Luckily Tharg is one hand to keep to overall ratio down. Frankly, the comic wouldn't work if these sorts of scenes were given to us weekly, but it's important to note that it wouldn't be as good if they never occured, either.

Let's get straight into it, eh? We'll ease our way in with a panel that could have been simply an establishing shot, introducing us to the villain of the piece, an alien Nosferatu creature. But somewhere between writer John Wagner and artist D'Israeli, they've decided to make us feel sorry for this murdering beast. The eyes have it, I think.

This one's also playing it subtle, with writer Abnett building some personal tension, and then artist Williams nailing it in the last panel:
Even without knowing the backstory of dead comrades, we can tell exactly what's going on here, and it's all about emotion. Whoever said that Abnett was all comedy? I'm suddenly seeing a massive similarity with US comics writer Peter David, another king of comics comedy who in fact delivers the poignant moments rather a lot (too much?). But I digress...*

As I said, Robbie Morrison wields the poignancy hammer with wanton abandon, but he is at least rather good at it. The Adventures of Nikolai Dante hold up especially well because Morrison infuses nearly all the characters (and there is a large supporting cast here) with small arcs of emotional progress. Who didn't shed a tear at the plight of Maguerite, first mate of the Pirate Queen?

Of course, one couldn't do justice to the topic without a little Alan Moore, who is clearly a big sap at heart behind all the intelligence and magic philosophy whatsit. In Halo Jones Book 3, we are reminded in every episode that war is not nice, and that it changes people. There are many haunting moments to pick up, many of them to make you stifle a laugh even as you gulp down the horror - I'm thinking of those soldiers on Moab getting splatted by the extreme gravity - but this one is I think my favourite, just for sheer absurdity:
And at last, some actual tears. Tears from a telepath, so no surprise there. But tears from a villainous villain of truly evil proportions? How can any writer get away with that? Well, Alan Grant can. A bit like with Dante, Judge Anderson went through a phase of trying to capture the heart, and it largely worked. But enough is enough, and for me this moment was the appropriate climax, when Anderson (and Orlok) are shown with true intensity just how unkind man can be to other men, all too often outweighing the kindness...

*Yes, this is very cheap of me. Sorry. (David had - perhaps still has - a regular opinion column called 'but I digress'. It's funny and occasionally poignant)


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