You HAVE to go out and buy this comic! #1

July 8, 2008 at 11:59 am (Comic Books)

So, the plan for this involves comics no one remembers and that likely won’t ever be reprinted, me convincing you to scour stores and sunder the earth to get them, and an unwavering schedule, always published on Tuesday so’s you know what to look for when picking up your weekly comics! (Not to be vain, but I’m most concerned about that last part). Here we go!


Batman: Room Full of Strangers



Scott Morse was once a regularly publishing, critically acclaimed cartoonist. The latter’s still true, but the former is not. He published cute stories about cute characters but dressed them up with a fine, expressive line and dramatic situations that arose suddenly from gorgeous pages. He put out graphic novels mostly from Oni Press, and a couple from Dark Horse.


He also put on his commercial artist cap and did two superhero works, a great mini-series from Jemas-run Marvel, Elektra: Glimpse and Echo, and this one-shot, Batman: Room Full of Strangers. I doubt either will ever be reprinted, but I don’t doubt their ubiquity in a good store’s longboxes.


Morse has set the Gordon story in a hotel, and it quickly becomes a murder mystery (not the most innovative of settings), but we quickly learn that this is a mystery no reader can solve. A woman never mentioned before flits across an open window, and pulls out a gun. No motive for the murder besides pathetic adultery is given. The hearts of the story are within the character’s thumping chests.


Gordon has just retired and is taking a vacation at this hotel. A couple bribe and connive for a room with an ocean view, a mother dies of cancer while her vital son imagines his father as Batman and the owner plays chess. Eventually someone dies (awesomely rendered by Morse- the suddenness of the fall, the sheer dread when colors are inverted, every character’s back their only visible part- but they are such emotive backs, arched and alert), and eventually someone reveals themselves to be the killer. The plot is not nearly as interesting as Morse’s visual storytelling.


The comic is colored in alternating neon and warm colors, and is a beast sickly and lively, desiccated and drenched. The drenched parts all involve its characters, and they are emotive, cartoony people but every so often the veneer of exaggerated emotion is dropped, and a starkly uninvolved face narrates their emotions better than any wide smile ever could.


Morse is at his best when he drops the caricature veneer on his characters, and lets the ridiculously rendered setting lift the scene into fantasticality, and not the characters themselves. It’s a fitting style for a superhero comic, with fabulous muscles supported by all too human characters.


I said Morse is at his best when the background plays as integral a part in expressing his characters as the characters themselves, and that’s a mostly because he can create fantastic landscapes without any humans present. Sometimes the walls of the comic are painted grainy and textured. Sometimes they are stark, neon slices of color. They change depending on who interacts with them, the setting which fits its characters best. The hotel in which the characters interact undergoes lovely metamorphoses- just look at the desecrating symmetry!).


The characters also undergo artistic metamorphoses. Right before the murder occurs, Gordon’s normal colors are completely inverted: he is become a spectre. And when he’s following a trail of clues? Completely black: completely shadow. And the people anxious, nervous after the murder? They have orange red outlines, gaudy things, always open mouths with more open eyes.


And all of these fabulous colors are put on a page with reckless disregard for panel borders. Complete, white nothingness surrounds each colord page- another reminder that it is not boundaries that stop us, but the nothingness outside of our lives.


Which is the major lesson of the book (start taking ntoes, audience!). Gordon decides that he can’t really retire: his life will always follow him. And, besides, it’d be boring if he couldn’t pull his gun out and run after other, less experienced people with guns. He wouldn’t be doing what he could do best, so back into the panel he goes, after exploring the complete void that would exist otherwise.


Naturally, I think this book is awesome and why isn’t Scott Morse doing anything sequential these days!?!


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