Written by Charles Meier
Mercy, written by J.M. DeMatteis, art by Paul Johnson
J.M. DeMatteis isn’t always a single-hat writer. He is, after all, one of the persons responsible for Justice League International, one of the few Big Two examples of a superhero comedy done right. For the most part, though, the “New Agey yearning for spiritual fulfillment” hat stays firmly on head, chin strap cinched as tight as it’ll go. Heaven knows how he manages to eat anything. I’ll admit he’s pretty good at this sort of story, even if I’d really rather just read JLI. With Mercy, however, the schtick is officially old.
Confession time: I hate painted comics. I really do. The one that overdo it, at least, and most of them do. So seldom do I see one that doesn’t end up looking stiff and pretentious–Alex Ross may be the most disgustingly overrated artist of his time. But boy howdy were they popular back in 1993 when this thing came out. All I need to say about Paul Johnson’s art is that this is a painted Vertigo comic from the 1990s. If you have any familiarity with such, congratulations! You know exactly what this comic looks like.
It’s rare I review a comic I actually bought on this feature, and while I don’t feel ripped off exactly–I got it from a Powell’s bargain bin for a buck–I doubt I’ll be rereading it anytime soon. This comes from a time when Vertigo was pumping out anything remotely Sandman-y, and “remotely” is very much the operative word here. There’s no plot, no characters, no dialogue, no real depth–just a bunch of portraits with inset text boxes talking about how nice it would be if everyone could be nice to one another for a change. Life-altering stuff, that.
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland, written by Harvey Pekar, art by Joseph Remnant
The loss American comics incurred with the death of Harvey Pekar in 2010 is incalculable. The grand old man of diary comics, Pekar was a master of spinning straw into gold, teasing out the nugget of sublimity lurking in every banal moment and everyday occurrence.
In this posthumously-published work, Pekar takes us on a tour of the city he lived in his whole life. Pekar charts the rise and (mostly) fall of Cleveland, interlinked with stories of his own life from childhood to near-end. The parallels between the city and its arguably most notable citizen are unmistakable: both begin life suffused with potential, seemingly fail to live up to it, then finally come to approach life and greatness on their own terms, albeit while walking with a bit of a stoop. All of this is tricked out with Remnant’s art, which while sometimes feeling like a less neurotic Crumb, still captures the faded and current glory of the book’s subjects with sad wonder. Of all the creators whose stuff I’ll read this week, I doubt any will have quite the same impact on me as Pekar, nor carry the same load of personal investment.