Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fire: The Definitive Collection (2001)

Back in the early ‘90s, I bought my comics at a flea market stand where the proprietor was savvy enough to order first issues beyond the usual speculator crap with informed judgment. For instance, there was a debut from Caliber Press called Fire with a photo cover of a floppy haired college girl with a gun, ala Le Femme Nikita. I’ve had a weakness for fumetti since that Marvel Team-Up cover where Joe Jusko dressed as Captain America, and a weakness for floppy haired brainy girls nearly as long. Surely the shopkeeper knew at least one sucker would buy the book, and that sucker was me.

The comic was about a male (drat!) university student who had been recruited by an intelligence agency. The story opened with his having run afoul of his boss, Murphy Brown, and ending up battered and locked away. The rest of the issue was then told in flashback, revolving around how the student was lured into the spy business and partially trained by a cute floppy haired spy girl (yes!) It was a pretty alright story that ended on a cliffhanger. The dialogue had a nice pop to it, with unusually strong character repartee for a comic of the time. I liked the moody high contrast art, which made up for some of the obvious photo referencing (especially Ms. Candy Bergen) with personality. The lettering was rather amateurish, though, and the writer/artist was pretentious enough to use his full name and merge the a & e in “Brian Michael Bendis.”

Anyhow, the dealer must have lacked confidence in selling a second issue, and if I asked him to reorder that half, it never got to me. I did keep up with the progression of this Bendis guy, and even tried odd issues of his crime comic A.K.A. Goldfish, but I never found anything strong enough to hook me. Bendis eventually became one of the biggest names in the industry, and I still don’t fully understand why, because even his best stuff (Alias, Powers, Daredevil) has consistently left me wanting. The worst stuff has been outright wankery, and I don’t think the guy “gets” the high profile super-heroes he now gets to write, so I avoid his stuff whenever possible.

Still, a few years back Fire came out in an affordable single volume, reedited/altered/expanded like it was George Lucas’ project instead of Bendis’. I can’t recall if I bought it myself or got a loaner, but after about a fifteen year delay, I finally finished Fire in its ultimate form. I guess after my various exposures to the writing style, a lot of the perceived originality novelty had worn off. That, and I’ve seen a bunch of Mamet and Tarantino since then. In fact, a lot of the circular exchanges of dialogue were grating as fuck today, and I hated the unnecessary repetitions of pages/sequences. I still like the artwork, especially when Bendis borrowed from Patrick Nagel for his floppy haired girl. It strikes me as a good book to show off some technical prowess and get your foot in the publishing door, but unsatisfying and derivative as a volume of some sort of froo-froo Brian Michael Bendis collection. In fact, I read this thing in the spring of 2009, it went multiple trips where I intended to get writing done, and I’ve only just now gotten around to the bother of reviewing the damned thing. I seem to recall having a lot more invective to hurl at its construction and excesses, but time has dulled that harsh critique, and I just don’t want the mediocre book hanging over my head anymore. Besides, this collected edition doesn’t feature either of the old photo covers, and that floppy haired chick was the only reason I bought the fucking thing in the first place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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