In this new Vertigo series, a drug-addicted loser named Reggie Riot is disfigured when some graffiti comes to life, killing his girlfriend and ripping off his arm. This horrific action pulls him into the Art Ops, a group of agents run by his mother in the defense of art. The cool concept is that in this world, art is alive, and the folks at Art Ops run missions like pulling the Mona Lisa out of her painting so she can go into witness protection while a stand-in waits in her frame for the impending theft.
The story is a slow build. Shaun Simon is taking his time setting up his world, and unfortunately, it doesn’t totally work yet. The only real examples readers get for the cool take on art are the Mona Lisa operation and the killer graffiti, but the concept is broad enough that the next couple of issues should be able to enrich the applications of “art is alive.” And really, this is a book that stands out because of the Allreds. Mike and Laura have one of the most distinctive visual brands on the comic stands, with a sixties-infused celebration of the weird that perfectly counter-balanced the violent content of Marvel’s X-Statix team and grounded the space wandering of Mark Waid’s Silver Surfer. To see a world where modern women go on secret missions in amazing mod dresses with the iconic hairstyles of Britain’s sexual revolution – it’s a treat. The graphic horror of the graffiti attack is still vivid and unsettling, but the viewer can rest by looking at the gorgeous depiction of the figures, at the measured division of the page, at the flow of the viewing experience. This is a book to read twice, once to get the story, and once to lovingly take in all the pictures. I recommend that comic readers who can appreciate the visual part of this storytelling medium head down to Ultimate Comics in Chapel Hill or Raleigh to take a chance on this cool new Vertigo series.
(Bonus for North Carolinians, featured guest of next month’s NC Comicon, Gerard Way, is quoted on the cover praising “the next wave of the lo-fi weird!”)
-Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics