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Your Top Modern Characters: OPC part 5

Written by Chris Mitchell on Wednesday, April 22 2009 and posted in Features
Top List
Second to last groupage of OPCers. So quit your bitchin’...





Gus and the Gang

Year first appeared: 2008?

Yeah, I put a question mark there, cuz I think that’s when it first appeared. I am gonna cut and paste a review from a review site. Lazy? Sure, what the hell. When you crack open a book about a villainous gang of gunfighters, you usually expect a good deal of gun violence, detailed and circuitous plans to rob trains, and more than a little übermasculine, drinking-from-a-dirty-glass charm. Chris Blain’s Gus and His Gang subverts all of these expectations, instead giving us a sex-filled ballad in the visual vein of Krazy Kat’s George Herriman. There’s hardly a page that goes by in which one of our outlaws isn’t obsessing over a femme du jour or making an epic journey in the hopes of getting a little action.

This might sound like the potential for outrageous comedy, but much like the clichés of the Old West, Blain subverts even this potential for zany misadventures and blundered capers, and every robbery is carried out perfectly, leaving the three outlaws just a little bit jaded. Somehow, as the disjointed scenes from the lives of these cowboys progress, it all becomes very absorbing—even when the titular Gus disappears halfway through the book, never to return. Things begin to coalesce into a continuing narrative, and it all starts painting a broader picture. These are not disposable comic characters, even if their exaggerated noses and floppy arms suggest otherwise.

After Gus vanishes, the book takes a decidedly even less amusing turn as it starts to explore the life of outlaw Clem, who is a married man with an adorable daughter (whose rare appearances are a highlight of the book). Unfortunately, Clem also happens to be madly in love with a vibrant and mysterious redhead, and he’s racked with a huge, cyclopean monster of guilt that follows him around. The whole thing finishes quietly and without a typical resolution, which leaves me hoping that Blain will scribble out some more casually awesome pages to continue the unfinished sagas of the likeable outlaws.

Blain’s art is deceptive. At first glance, it’s scribbly and exceedingly loose, and details nervously shift from panel to panel, but it all adds to the very emotive, very kinetic nature of the fast-paced stories—and even when Blain’s stories are slow tales of romance, he seems to drop huge swaths of panels to give the reader only the barest amount of information to unite subsequent scenes, effectively speeding up the viewing process to a breakneck pace. The combinations of colors and expert arrangements of characters and landscapes in regular and irregular panels draw you into a completely realized (however bizarre) universe. Every panel creates a deep sense of atmosphere.

It’s an adult comic, though, with a few scenes of explicit cartoon sex, profanity, and surprisingly little gun violence. Bank robberies are usually executed between panels, so all of the missing violence is replaced in full with sexual pursuits and actions.

And overall, Gus and His Gang is way more enjoyable than I expected it to be. I came away from it feeling as though I learned to appreciate the art form more, and that’s a unique gift.


The O'Dares

Year first appeared: 1994

"Part of what made James Robinson's Starman book so great was the fully-realized supporting cast he created/used, and these coulda-easily-been-yet-somehow-weren't stereotypical family of Irish cops were a huge part of that; in the family you had the aged veteran, the silent stoic romantic, the dirty cop, the black sheep traitor, the approval-seeking tomboy...pretty much every stereotype you could throw out, yet each one was handled so masterfully as to become "real" people too, with quirks and hopes and dreams and vibrant personalities; just great supporting cast members"

The O'Dares are the children of the original Starman's policeman ally, Billy "Red" O'Dare (who only appears briefly in the series, and - we are told - died due to liver problems caused by drinking). Each of them has inherited their father's red hair, and have joined the police force to carry on the family tradition and to protect Opal City. In the fulfillment of this commitment they come to the attention of the new Starman. The two female members of the O'Dare family, Faith and Hope, are presumably joined by Charity following her engagement to Mason. Starman Annual #1 indicates the O'Dare family survives into the far future as the 'Dares'; noted for law enforcement on a far-off planet ruled by the beloved


Vo Binh Dai
Year first appeared: 2006

"Probably going to end up in the OPC, but he really doesn't deserve it. The Other Side is an excellent comic set in the Vietnam War that follows two soldiers, one on each side of the conflict. While the American was drafted and dragged into it kicking and screaming, Vo volunteered for what he thought was an honorable quest. He comes to realize that the dream they were selling to the poor wasn't as righteous as they made it out to be, but his honor makes him stick with it to the terrible end that awaits him. A great book that shows both sides as flawed and doesn't paint anyone as the villain, except maybe the folks in charge of both sides. Highly recommended to anyone that likes Jason Aaron's work on other books or who likes movies like Full Metal Jacket."

Traditionally, comics that deal in war have been of the GI Joe/Commando camp, reveling in the glory of battle and the heroics of the average man on the frontline. The Other Side, on the other hand, deals with the Vietnam War and the moral ambiguity associated with this convoluted conflict, which draws obvious parallels with the current military catastrophe in Iraq.

Following a young GI and a young VC as they both head out paths to war which have as many similarities as contrasts with Jason Aaron painting the Vietnamese soldiers with more dignity and justification than the mentally unstable Americans. However, the ‘war is hell’ and ‘we’re all human on the inside’ story has been told so many times, that it can’t help but feel like a re-run. Its heart is in the right place, aiming to be Full Metal Jacket the comic book, but it just falls short by rolling out the standard anti-war clichés.

I really have to read this. Thank you rdrs for costing me even more money.




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