Two are over, a third is going strong, and a fourth has even given birth to an offshoot. This edition of Cult Fiction will try and catch up with comics previously featured in the column. Most comics have a weekly or fortnightly frequency; the rare one has a monthly frequency; this column has been around from the first edition of Lounge (February 2007), with a year’s break in between; so it is only fair that Cult Fiction occasionally does a status check.
One of the comic book series that is over is 100 Bullets. It ended with the 100th issue in April 2009. These 100 issues were collected in 13 trade paperbacks (graphic novels) with each one’s title referring to its sequence. Thus the 13th and last book is called Wilt, a reference to the contents, but also to Wilt Chamberlain, the famous basketball player who wore a jersey with the number 13. Written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso, the books redefined noir and crackled with wit, tension, violence and unexpected plot twists till Book 11. The last two books were a bit of a disappointment—something that should please the well-informed reader who wrote in after 100 Bullets first featured in this column, and said it was overrated—maybe because all the plot twists meant too many loose ends that needed to be tied up in a hurry. Unfortunately in fiction, the easiest way to tie up a loose end is to kill it.
For those who came in late, 100 Bullets is the story of The Trust, a body that secretly controls the US (and maybe the world). Agent Graves, one of The Trust’s former minders, declares war against it; and his way to get even is to give seemingly unrelated characters a gun and 100 bullets to wreak vengeance on people who ruined their lives (with the promise of impunity). Many take up his offer only to find out that they are merely serving Graves’ own objectives. Yes, nice and complex.
A second one that ended on 28 July with Issue 50 is Ex Machina. About Mitchell Hundred, a mayor of New York who can talk to machines (he was previously the Great Machine, a superhero who became a real hero when he prevented the second plane from crashing into those towers on that fateful day). Ex Machina is as much a superhero story as a political one—Brian K. Vaughan, one of the creators of Lost, shot to fame with his The Last Man series, which was, in many ways, a unique look at the gender equation. Unfortunately, those who buy comics collected in trade paperbacks (like I do) will have to wait till November for the last volume to come out.
Spin-off: A panel from Jack of Fables
The one that is going strong is Hellblazer, the series featuring John Constantine, a magician, occult specialist and general busybody who is a magnet for trouble. Created by Alan Moore, many of the big names in comics have either written about him (Azzarello, Garth Ennis, Mike Carey) or featured him as a character in their books (Neil Gaiman). Recent writers of the franchise, for it can only be called that, include Denise Mina and Andy Diggle who have authored some dark Constantine books, and the current writer of the series is the talented Peter Milligan. In October, Vertigo will release a book under the series called Hellblazer: India, where Constantine, in Mumbai and on the run from the law in England, investigates a series of murders of young women in a Mumbai slum.
The comic book series that has given birth to an offshoot is Fables, Bill Willingham’s fantastic tales of Fables (think the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Rose Red, Peter the Piper, etc.) forced to live in exile, in modern day New York, after being driven from their homelands by an enemy called The Adversary. They did manage to get the better of him, but just when it seemed that the series was winding down a new enemy appeared, a writer called Kevin Thorn with a magic pen with which he can change both reality and fiction, which means that he can simply write some Fables out of existence. Now, sometime before he introduced the writer, Willingham took one of the characters from Fables, Jack of Fables, and decided to give him a series of his own. It is now becoming evident that the two series will intersect at some point. So readers have two very interesting series to look forward to, both with just the amount of metafiction to keep everyone satisfied.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com