Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset Trade Paperback Review

Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
224 pages
$19.95 (2002) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781563899096

Contributors: Rick Veitch, Russ Heath, David Lloyd, Al Williamson, John Severin, Dave Gibbons, Hilary Barta, Todd Klein, and Wildstorm FX

Reprints: Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: Greyshirt is the premier science hero of Indigo City, a teeming metropolis built on the ruins of a once-rich sapphire mine.  The city is known for an extensive history of crime and locals are hardened to the rough side of life.  Local folklore tells of a monster living underground named The Lure which snares unsuspecting people and devours them.  Even the Native Americans have local legends about the beast and it's said to live in the abandoned mines honeycombing the city.  Is it merely fiction or deadly fact?

Greyshirt dresses in elegant clothes and wears a chain mail suit underneath to give himself an edge against criminals. He's really a former gangster named Franky Lafayette who is thought to have died in an explosion with his partner in crime, Johnny Apollo.  The two were best friends who grew up together on the wrong side of the tracks.  Franky's dad was a big-time mobster and he naturally fell into the family business.  When the two boys were young they experienced a horribly traumatic encounter with the mythical monster The Lure.  Johnny was forever changed.

Mobsters vs. Monster
Franky's father, Carmine Carbone, was always in a killer rivalry with Spatz Katz.  We learn the origins of Greyshirt's supporting cast: Pluto Plutarch the first upstanding mayor Indigo City has seen in decades, Spatz's main squeeze Candi, the newspaper stand biddy Lady L, Ella Bly songstress of the Mood Indigo Lounge, and the rest.

An amazing amount of pop culture work was derived from Franky and Johnny's lives.  The works include the comic book Hoodlum Hit, an entire pop art movement (called Pow! art) actually ripping off the comic book, a soap opera called The Carbones, and an upcoming movie.  The patron of all of these works is a mysterious figure nicknamed Fanman, but never photographed.

Greyshirt's origin is linked to the heart of Indigo City and his life mirrors the dirty yet beautiful backdrop of the city.  What is the true secret of The Lure?  Franky started out poor and became a criminal, but he ended up as a  tarnished angel.  Who is the enigmatic Fanman and how did Hoodlum Hit end?  It's a tangled web of deceit and bloody sapphires as Greyshirt's world explodes from the inside out!

Pros: Complex storytelling which covers several generations in Indigo City, Greyshirt's origin is fully explored, The Lure was a fun element adding a little horror to the story, some great artists help illustrate a few chapters for Veitch, very extensive Indigo Sunset faux-newspaper articles at end of each issue adding backstory and hints to the series, Veitch's writing range and sheer amount of effort put into this series is impressive

Cons: All short story chapters including a bunch of seemingly side stories, The Lure feels like a swipe from Stephen King's It, art is not flashy (although great storytelling), ending was a bit too neat and tidy (although still pretty good), covers were a bit goofy and related to the newspaper articles in the back (vs. the actual main storyline), Frank Cho's short story was kinda lame with the billionaire kid playing pirate
A satire on Roy Lichenstein's 'reinterpreting' of comic book panels
into expensive pop art - here it's classic Hoodlum Hit panels
Mike Tells It Straight: I read Greyshirt in Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories (Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Specials) and thought the collaboration with Veitch produced a nice homage to Will Eisner's classic work on The Spirit.  Tomorrow Stories was an anthology book featuring 8-page tales of several new characters created by Moore and different artists (Jack B. Quick with Kevin Nowlan, The Cobweb with Melinda Gebbie among others).  The series lasted 12 issues and won an Eisner award in 2000 for Best Anthology Series and Greyshirt was the only character who got a solo title.

Rick Veitch writes this entire mini-series without the help of co-creator Alan Moore.  Veitch is himself a fairly renowned creator who wrote bitingly cynical works in the 1980s concerning the deconstruction of the generic superhero (The One, Bratpack) and worked with Moore on DC's Swamp Thing during the character's successful revival.  He largely shunned mainstream comics until he and Moore got roped into indirectly working for DC when the company acquired Jim Lee's Wildstorm.  Moore left a few years later, but Veitch actually stuck around and worked with the company for awhile (Aquaman, Army@Love).
The covers are actually depicting news stories from the
supplemental prose articles in the back of each issue

This series was different than I expected.  Tomorrow Stories featured short chapters of Greyshirt in each issue and I thought the mini-series would be full story issues, but it was actually a series of short stories.  Two stories per issue, some one-pagers, and an extensive 'newspaper' prose section in the back.  The format was okay and actually worked pretty well to give backstory on the main event of Franky and Johnny's falling out. Veitch had a few artists give him a hand on some of the side stories and a few of them were duds, but overall a nice tapestry.

I like Veitch's work and this series was a good read.  It's mature crime noir with a few science fiction elements.  The Lure was a great addition and I'll ignore the fact the creature was a bite on Stephen King's It (a horror book about a killer clown who preys on children in their dreams, but is really an ancient extraterrestrial creature living under the sewers).  I would definitely recommend reading Tomorrow Stories before this mini-series to get the full backstory on Greyshirt.  This series was pretty much it for Greyshirt aside from a short chapter in ABC: A-Z and I think that's good enough.

TO BUY and Recommendations: