Thursday, 18 October 2012

Books: Point Blank


Point Blank
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Colin Wilson

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If comics people talk about Point Blank nowadays it's pretty much always in relation to Sleeper - Ed Brubaker's and Sean Philip's big undercover spy caper that (well - for the first half at least) is one of the tensest comic books around - seeing how - well - Point Blank is a Sleeper prequel (albeit a rarity these days seeing how it's a prequel that was written before the things that came afterwards instead of - well - afterwards [1]) - but (hey) even if you have no idea who Holden Carver is - Point Blank is a book that you can pick up with no background knowledge needed and [2] still get a kick out of. Put it this way: it knows how to pull your strings (like a puppet? You know: like on the cover? No? Oh. In that case: nevermind).

With hardly an inch of excess fat and with artwork duties for once not conducted by Sean Philips (Ed Brubaker's usual partner in crime for this kinda of noir meets superheroes kinda work) Point Blank is a detective story where the twist is [3] that the guy doing the investigating isn't really cut out for it (and Brubaker really spells it out for you: "I'll freely admit that I 've never been much of a detective. Putting together clues and figuring out motives just seems too tedious.": but then like I'm remarked before he's never really been one for playing thing subtly and so there's lots of stuff like people staring into cracked mirrors and the reoccurring line (do you see what he's done there?) of "It's like déjà vu all over again. [4]").

And in fact - while we're on the subject of the writing: I mean - judged on it's own merits this is a pretty fun book that (for me at least) doesn't really do anything too complicated [5] - but manages to bounce along in a pretty fun way and Colin Wilson's art (that we'll get to in a little bit) is pretty much consistently crackling. But then - right at the start there's a little dedication that reads "To Lee Marvin and Alan Moore and the idea that simple is not better." and in the afterword Ed Brubaker (who comes across as sounding way too self-satisfied for writing a book that (if I was giving grades [6]) would be C+ at best) says "I found myself asking what Mature Readers superheroes comics should be. As you can see, I decided they should be really complicated." And even goes so far as to compare the book to a möbius strip and then dares to mention it in the same breath as Watchmen (the cheek!): which for me - is a little like someone making you a cheese toasty and then start talking about michelin stars: I mean - I have no problem with what it is (and it is very tasty) - but let's not start getting a swollen head or nothing. Especially when your opening includes the line "It's like waking up from an alcoholic blackout and discovering that the girl on the next pillow is actually a pre-op trannie" (I mean really?) and then follows it with: "But, of course, by then it's too later because you've realized the truth about life right at the end... and all you can do is wait for the final blow." (Which in terms of the context you've set up just seems like a really poor choice of words - no? Just me?).

But hey - Colin Wilson on art! And for me - I've been a fan ever since I saw him doing Rogue Trooper and Judge Dredd stuff for 2000AD and like it says on his wikipedia page: "No one ... draws near-future military hardware like him." (In fact - before I read his wikipedia page I was going to say that his art really reminds me of the stuff that Möbius [7] (the artist not the strip) used to do on his strip Blueberry: but it turns out that Colin Wilson used to actually draw Blueberry so I guess that his work just reminds me of him - oops (oh well)). But yeah: his art has this really nice European flavor - that makes it a bit of a shock seeing it in an American context (and I'd say - goes a long way to making Point Blank seem a lot more classy than it actually is). But there's just so much nice little touches - like using the background colours to signify where in time you are - and the buildings and interiors all look proper lovely and detailed and good - like proper manga good (I mean - maybe I'm just thinking of Katsuhiro Otomo and Domu - but for me manga is always the gold standard when it comes to architecture in comics) .

So: enjoy the art and don't go thinking that the story is somekind of masterwork and you'll have a great time.

Simple as that.

[1] Sorry: did that make anyone else's head hurt or is it just me? I just meant that most prequels tend to come out after the main thing (ie The Phantom Menace (which I guess is the best example for prequels) came out after the original Star Wars trilogy as opposed to before it - right?). But then I guess if prequels came out first then most of the time you don't call them prequels - you call whatever comes after sequels and just leave it at that (so - for instance - it would sound pretty strange if you called Toy Story the prequel to Toy Story 2). Of course that then begs the question as to why Point Blank is called the prequel to Sleeper instead of Sleeper being just referred to as the sequel to Point Blank? I guess the reason why prequel fits is that you can read Sleeper and be completely unaware that Point Blank even exists (in fact - I think that's just what I did the first time round...) and although there's a through-line linking both books: the emphasis is on different characters - so it's more like Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs rather than the Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal - yeah? Ok then.

[2] Cole Cash (aka Grifter) is actually a character that first appeared in a strip called WildC.A.T.s. But I've never read it  so I don't think you need to either

[3] Although it's really not really that much of a twist. In fact - I would have assumed it's actually a pretty common device by now - I mean Frank Miller was doing it with Marv in Sin City all the way back in 1992 and Sin City (as great as it is) was a series that's whole thing was that it was upon built upon already well-worn clichés - but then - hey - what do I know? I'm just a humble little comics blogger.

[4] Which - I would like to point out: is a line from Fight Club. (But - hell: actually it's such a cheesy line I wouldn't be that shocked if it turned out that it was first used back in the Middle Ages or something...)

[5] Although I'm writing this at the same time I'm rereading Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan - so maybe my perspective is a little out of whack? (But on second thoughts - no. It's not me: it's the book. And Ed Brubaker - so just disregard this).

[6] Ooooooh. Grades! That's a good idea!

[7] Or - if I was going to be more specific: Möbius crossed with Dave Gibbons.


Further reading: Sleeper, The AuthorityIncognitoCriminalSin City100 BulletsQueen and CountryRedAnna MercuryGlobal FrequencyDesolation Jones, Fatale, Domu.

Profiles: Ed Brubaker.

All comments welcome.

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