The Vinyl Underground: Watching the Detectives

June 18, 2008

For better or worse, the success of Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man seems to have created a genre that will be around for a long while yet. I call it Vertigo Lite. Its kind of writing may mingle well with other forms from the same respectable label, but it’s not really the hardball mature stuff that has helped comic geeks to grow up in the 1990s. This helps them to grow down, if that’s possible; it’s serious adult comics that is adult strictly in the ticket-counter sense of the word and serious with a jab and a snigger.

Vertigo Lite is comics with one simple idea stretched over all of galactic space. It has sharp, quick, and serviceable dialogues which are as light, bright, and breezy as each pulp page you flip. You can read a hundred pages of this in the loo and still haven’t twitched an abdominal muscle. And 10 minutes after you are done, you won’t remember a line or a scene — whereas the best of Alan Moore, James Delano, Garth Ennis, or Neil Gaiman can tug at you for years. It’s funkiness for beginners, throwaway edge, hip shock, fizzy excitement, whatever, who cares.

So Vinyl Underground’s inaugural story introduces a bunch of groovy young people to a severed head, and you get at once a murder mystery with a doze of exotica and the occult. Magnetic London DJ Morrison Shepherd is a free-loving tabloid darling with such a troubled childhood that he emanates slick hard-living in the material world. His druggie friend who experiences uncanny premonitions of the future by taking drugs happens to be called Perv. (See what I mean?) Then, we have offline Leah King but online Juicy Lou the virgin porn star who Morrison gets close enough to but not in, alas!, and his impregnated ex-girlfriend Kim Abiola, the African princess with a whole lot of other mojo going. (See what I mean?)

Writer Si Spencer definitely carries around a checklist because I sure am seeing one, and I don’t even do freaky. This is Hellblazer Lite, Preacher Lite, Transmetropolitan Lite, Invisibles Lite, even Doom Patrol Lite. The first ride is short but fun, or short and therefore fun: I can still hear Si’s brain-cells clicking away when he sat down for TV some years back, saw a black torso pulled out of the Thames, and thought “Woah, that’s cool!” At least he knows that his cool idea has a 1-hand limit for chapters, which must be a good thing.

Gweek celebrates this volume with 7 wannabe points.

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