One of the prime elite writers in comic books, Garth Ennis will always earn at least a peek whenever he begins a new project. Ennis successfully broke out of the realm of “doing things that companies make him do” a long time ago. For over ten years now, Ennis has clung to stories that he cares about. Usually violent war books for adults.
My War Gone By, a new series for Marvel Comics’ adult line called MAX is exactly a violent war book for adults. After an oddly restrained first issue (“While All the Planet’s Little Wars Start Joining Hands”), I nearly passed on the second issue. Nearly. Issue number 2, “Number One Fucky” makes good on basically everything in issue number 1. While mainstream Marvel writers generally write six issue story arcs and don’t pay back their plot debts until part six (if at all), Ennis pays off issue number 1 with interest the very next week.
Is this comic literally going to be a weekly?
Big deal with Garth Ennis books: it all hinges on the artist. Since his later Hellblazer run, Ennis has played well with a certain type of comic artist. His longtime partner in crime Steve Dillon (Hellblazer, Preacher, Punisher) is the prototype for artists who work well with Ennis’ vision. Restrained, adept at depicting the normal world, but wizards at body language and particularly facial expressions.
Goran Parlov is perfect. Not being quite an Ennis comics expert, I cannot say for certain but it feels like Parlov may be the best collaborator for Ennis since Dillon. When Steve Dillon’s style pared down considerably halfway through Preacher (exactly in issue 34 of 66), he lost a bit of the gritty magic that made the first half not only great facial storytelling but also gritty and haunting. Goran Parlov however, successfully marries both the fluid faces of a later Dillon with the gritty naturalism of an earlier Dillon.
My favorite character in My War Gone By so far is Pug–Congressman McCuskey. He has a fat face, a broad smile and beady little eyes that are too kindly to trust.
Which brings me to the nervous part of this work: the archetypes.
There’s the beady-eyed politician, the femme fatale, the ex-Nazi, the hard-nosed man of action and the angel-good guy. I only hope that Ennis has been writing war and crime books for so long that he is as eager as I am to see these tropes subverted. His sense of character is as crystal clear as it was in Preacher but please, for the love of Pete, please don’t make it end up as a perfect cliche!
Sex in comic books.
Nick Fury is famous for having a sex scene in an old 1970s issue of the regular comics. A montage scene with symbolism a-flying. A real sequential art breakthrough.
Good old Ennis doesn’t play that. First page of “Number One Fucky” depicts Nick Fury and femme fatale Shirley DeFabio sweating, swearing and fucking for all it’s worth. Garth Ennis to subtlety: drop dead.
Some people have rules about sex in comic books or stories in general. It needs to serve the story and not just exist to titillate the reader. Do these people have sex at all?
Sex never “serves the story” in the way these people want. Hell, you could take the sex out if 9 Songs and the story would be there. It just wouldn’t be the story that anybody wants to watch.
Generally, people don’t look at war stories and complain that there’s a war in it. If someone does make that complaint, they get sent to the kids’ table. Fury and DeFabio having name-calling sex is just about the nicest thing in this book so far–only narrowly beat out by Hatherly’s heart of gold.
Violence in comic books.
Most of “Number One Fucky” is violence. Savage beatings and brutal dismemberment. The emotional highlight is Colonel Nick Fury versus Sergeant Chef Steinhoff, the ex-Nazi. After what appears to be an easy victory for the much larger Steinhoff, Fury ends up putting hands on him and the men roll around, trying to strangle each other to death.
There is something about strangling in particular that mirrors the earlier scene with Fury and DeFabio. It just might be the form of fighting most akin, in a reverse-fashion, to fucking. It’s like the same intensity, directed down a different channel.
Somebody wrote: “punching and kissing are both ways of saying ‘I want you to feel what I am feeling.’”
Nick Fury: An Intimate Man.