Monday, March 3, 2008

COMICS- Graphic Novel Roundup II

THE INFINITY WAR and THE INFINITY GAUNTLET- Jim Starlin writer, Ron Lim artist

Jim Starlin started his run on Warlock in Strange Tales back in 1975 and I can still remember buying those comics and thinking it was one of the best things ever done in the medium. Warlock had started out as one of the numerous creations that spun out of the Lee/Kirby FF, had been tried as a Counter-Earth Jesus by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in a series that lasted only 8 issues, and had pretty much disappeared from the marvel universe after that. Starlin took the characters messianic backstory and built on it to create a complex tale of morality, religion, government, time travel, and surrealism. There were antagonists and protagonists, but no good guys or bad guys, and even after the story of the Magus was finished you still weren’t sure who had actually been right. Starlin reintroduced the character of Thanos from his stint on Captain Marvel in the guise of an ally for Adam Warlock and populated the world with interesting characters such as Pip the Troll (who’s image haunted me when I read Great Expectations in High School), Gamora, the Magus, and the High Inquisitor. There was even had an issue which lampooned Marvel Comics at the time as the Universal Church of Truth attempted to brainwash Warlock. The whole thing reads like something that would come out of DC’s Vertigo line years later. And after all these years have passed I stand by my adolescent assessment. It was one of the finest comics ever produced.

Unfortunately rather than reprint those volumes with better paper and color, Marvel has collected Starlin’s latter day Warlock sagas, THE INFINITY GAUNTLET and THE INFINITY WAR. The old gang is back but they aren’t really given anything to do. I have to admit, while there are several parts of the old Strange Tales Warlock story I remember vividly, after slogging through several hundred pages of these two graphic novels I’m left with only vague impressions of the story. I won’t attempt to give a plot synopsis (I never do) but if I did I think I could do it in a couple of lines. There is nothing that struck me as inventive or inspired, the plot travels ahead at a slow, steady pace with none of the twists and surprises of the old Warlock, and the conclusion is unsatisfying since nothing like a climax is ever reached. Ron Lim does the artwork in a sort of Rob Lefield Marvel house style that is only slightly reminiscent of Starlin’s art, with none of the power or composition of Starlin’s old layouts. But I don’t blame him for the glacial pace. There just isn’t enough story for the number of pages.

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