Lost in the Stacks: Vertigo Comics

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Lost in the stacks Welcome to the fourth entry in our blog series 'Lost in the Stacks' - recommendations by Dublin City Libraries staff exploring overlooked gems and helping you find your next read!

Our entry today comes from Marc and looks at some of the best comics from DC's adult imprint Vertigo Comics, which is sadly being wound down in 2020.

Vertigo Comics

If you’re like me, you’re already mourning the demise of Vertigo Comics. DC’s adult imprint is being discontinued after a quarter of a century of challenging, quality output. DC have promised to continue producing similar content under the Black Label name, but I’m not holding my breath for another Transmetropolitan. Nevertheless, death is inevitable and all endeavour is futile, so why mourn when we can celebrate? Over the past 26 years, there has been much to celebrate.

The following list is cherry-picked from our shelves and barely scratches the surface of Vertigo’s extensive bibliography. If you'd like to borrow any of the books discussed below, simply click on the book cover or title to be taken to the reserves page, where you'll need your library card and PIN to request the book. You'll find additional publication details in the footnotes.

The character of John Constantine predates Vertigo’s inception, but Alan Moore’s Liverpudlian magician was given his own book that is still running today. There have been many great writers for this series; Warren Ellis, Denise Mina, and Mike Carey (Lucifer[i], The Girl With All The Gifts[ii]) have all had extended runs on Hellblazer, but I’ve selected Garth Ennis’ Dangerous Habits[iii] for this blog.

It’s the quintessential Constantine story in which he is diagnosed with cancer and outwits the Devil. This story formed the basis of the 2005 Constantine[iv] film starring Keanu Reeves. The film was critically panned but, if you pretend it’s not meant to be a faithful adaptation of Hellblazer, it’s a fun follow-up to The Matrix with an occult bent.

Another writer to take on Hellblazer was Brian Azzarello. His run transplanted John Constantine to the USA where, among other episodes, he started a riot in a maximum security prison because he couldn’t get his favourite brand of cigarettes.

Azzarello has a unique take on the crime novel and it’s rarely more evident than in his long running series, 100 Bullets[v]. Each volume has a different setting and protagonist. The common thread being a mysterious agent who offers our respective hero a briefcase containing a gun, 100 marked bullets, and important information about someone who has wronged them. They have carte blanche to exact revenge with the marked bullets in any way they see fit, or to walk away. It’s an intriguing premise and it doesn’t shy away from the moral dilemma it presents. Azzarello’s scenarios and characters are so well drawn (figuratively, as well as literally by Eduardo Risso) that 100 Bullets is second best crime anthology I’ve read; after Ed Brubaker & Sean Philips imperious Criminal, naturally.

From one great crime writer to another, Jason Aaron’s take on The Mighty Thor[vi] is in production at Marvel Studios, and it will be interesting to see how much of his grim realism is maintained in the cinematic universe. Few writers in this medium can do grim reality the way Aaron does. His epic Scalped[vii] series ran for 60 issues from 2007 and is collected here in a deluxe format that allows you to immerse yourself in the ‘Rez’.

Undercover FBI agent, Dashiell Bad Horse, returns to the reservation on which he grew up to investigate the corrupt tribal chief, Lincoln Red Crow. There are no good guys on the rez. Everyone is compromised and every twist and turn seems fatalistically inevitable. Bad Horse’s motivations are often unclear, even to himself, and the situations he finds himself in are gut-wrenching. Combined with R.M. Guera’s visceral artwork, this is a gripping and uncomfortable read.

Breaking Bad
A decade on and prestige TV shows like Breaking Bad[viii] and True Detective[ix] have made stories like this mainstream. If you can withstand the tension, this is a book that will leave your nerves jangling.

Sadly, we won’t be getting any more new comics from Vertigo. DC’s new imprint has big shoes to fill. I could start listing the other important comics we’ve seen from this dear, departed publisher but if I started down that road, we’d be here all day.

RIP Vertigo Comics. 1993-2019.

[i] Author Carey, Mike, 1959-
Title        Lucifer. Book One. from the pages of Sandman / Mike Carey; forewood by Neil Gaiman.
Publication Info.  New York : DC Comics, [2013]
Publication Info.  ©2013
Edition   Graphic novel
Standard No.        9781401240264 pbk
Standard No.        1401240267 pbk

[ii] Author Carey, M. R.
Title        The girl with all the gifts / M.R. Carey.
Publication Info.  London : Orbit, 2014.
Standard No.        9780356500157 pbk

[iii] Author Ennis, Garth.
Title        John Constantine, hellblazer : Dangerous habits / Garth Ennis, writer ; William Simpson, penciller ; Mark Pennington...[et al], inkers ; Tom Ziuko, colorist ; Gaspar, letterer ; Tom Canty, covers ; introduction by Garth Ennis.
Publication Info.  New York : DC Comics, 1996.
Edition   Graphic novel
Standard No.        9781845761059 pbk

[iv] Title     Constantine [videorecording] / director, Francis Lawrence; producer, Lorenzo DiBonaventura; producer, Akiva Goldsman; writer, Kevin Brodbin.
Publication Info.  Warner Home Video, 2005.
Standard No.        7321900389419

[v] Author Azzarello, Brian.
Title        100 bullets : First shot, last call / Brian Azzarello, writer ; art Eduardo Rizzo...[et al].
Publication Info.  New York : DC Comics, 2000.
Edition   Graphic novel
Standard No.        9781563896453 pbk

[vi] Author Aaron, Jason, author.
Title        The mighty Thor Thunder in her veins / Jason Aaron ; artist, Russell Dauterman.
Publication Info.  New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., 2017.
Edition   Graphic novel
Standard No.        9780785199656 pbk. : £16.99
Standard No.        0785199659 pbk. : £16.99

[vii] Author Aaron, Jason, author, illustrator.
Title        Scalped the deluxe edition. Book five / Jason Aaron, writer ; R.M. Guéra, artist ; Igor Kordey [and seven others], guest artists ; Giulia Brusco, colorist ; Sal Cipriano, R.M. Guéra, letterers ; R.M. Guéra, cover art ; Jock, original series covers.
Publication Info.  Burbank, CA : DC Comics, [2016]
Edition   Graphic novel
Standard No.        9781401263638
Standard No.        1401263631

[viii] Title    Breaking Bad - Series 1 - Complete [videorecording].
Publication Info.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2012.
Standard No.        5051159786241
Standard No.        CDRP 7862NN

[ix] Author Pizzolatto, Nic director
Title        True Detective / directed by Nic Pizzolatto.  [videorecording].
Publication Info.  Warner Home Video/HBO, 2014.
Standard No.        39.99
Standard No.        5051892165396

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