I had had my eye on Clubbing, by Andi Watson and Josh Howard, for quite a while because it was in the discount section at Dr. Comics, and it looked cute and interesting. Plus, omoo kept recommending Andi Watson to me. And then, as a sign, on Free Comic Book Day, Javi specifically recommended it as a non-superhero alternative. Its time had come, and I picked it up for six bucks that weekend.
Clubbing is on the now-defunct Minx imprint, which published black-and-white young adult comics. Pretty much everything Minx looks like it's worth checking out, honestly, and the books are pretty cheap. So Clubbing—and the title is deliciously punny, as it works on several levels—concerns Charlotte "Lottie" Brook, a seventeen-year-old London Goth chick who likes to go, well, clubbing. But she gets caught with a fake ID, and as punishment, her parents banish her to stay with her grandparents for the summer at their stuffy country club. As if! (Note: the phrase "As if!" does not appear anywhere in the book. What does appear, however, is a shitload of British slang, most of which is helpfully defined in a glossary in the back.) Lottie is generally likable, despite being spoiled and stuck-up about her new environs. She makes for a fun narrator.
At first, the story is simply about Lottie having to deal with country life, but then she stumbles into a murder mystery that she investigates with the help of the "gorgeous groundskeeper" who she's totally not crushing on, totally. The plot moves along swiftly, and 140 pages later, you're done, having enjoyed your little adventure with Lottie.
Josh Howard's art is great, stylized but crisp and clean, making every line and shadow count. I keep being intrigued by Dead@17, and I'm more inclined to look into it now.
Clubbing is just as cute and fun as I hoped, with bonus [spoiler] at the end.
That same weekend, Dr. Comics had a 40% off sale on graphic novels not from the Big Three, and even though Wildstorm was technically DC, they let it slide. Since I had become a Warren Ellis fan, I wanted to take advantage of the sale and check out something cool and stand-alone. I was recommended Red and Desolation Jones. I called glumpish and asked her which one to buy, and she thought I'd dig Desolation Jones more, so I picked it up.
Desolation Jones, by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III, is described by Entertainment Weekly as "James Bond in Chinatown (among 700 other things)." I'm not sure I counted 700 other things, and Jones is only like James Bond in that he's a British spy, but...let me start over.
Michael Jones was MI6 until he drank himself into oblivion. Rather than be discharged, however, he signs up for the Desolation Test, which turns out to be a series of horrible medical experiments that leave him a totally fucked-up, emotionless freak. Also, he's exiled to Los Angeles, which is secretly a prison for ex-intelligence agents who are free to roam the city and do what they want but not allowed to leave. He becomes a private investigator for the community.
"Made in England" follows Jones on his search for stolen...Hitler porn. Oh, Warren Ellis. But there is more than meets the eye to this case, of course. This is noir, except noir with a hero who doesn't really think twice about inflicting horrible violence or killing people when he needs to. Jones is a very damaged character, haunted by his past and just trying to get by and maybe help people. He has a few interesting friends/colleagues that I definitely wanted to know more about. The plot is twisty, as noir plots are, and much blood is shed.
The art is very interesting, as Williams uses different styles throughout the book to depict Jones's damaged mental state. Jones has frequent hallucinations because of the Desolation Test, and although he doesn't drink, sometimes he needs drugs to get through the day, and things go wobbly. Williams also uses a mix of black-and-white and color, and the action sequences are unlike any I've seen. They're often rendered as double-page splashes with mini-panels focusing your eyes or big panels cutting up large images. It's neat, and it adds to the mood and tone of the book.
Desolation Jones was intended to be an ongoing series, but Ellis has so many irons in the fire that it's been "on hiatus" for years. Apparently there are a couple more issues of the second arc floating around, but this book ends with the appropriately tantalizing loose ends that the second issue in a six-issue arc would not, so I haven't tracked them down. This is likely all we'll get, and if you like noir tales, I recommend it.