Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Man Called Kev #1

A Man Called Kev #1, September 2006, Wildstorm Productions
writer: Garth Ennis
artist: Carlos Ezquerra
colorist: David Baron
letterer: Phil Balsman
assists: Kristy Quinn
editor: Ben Abernathy

When I first read Garth Ennis’ opus Preacher, I lived and breathed by its satiric, macabre doctrine. As a comic book series, I was overwhelmingly impressed by Ennis’ ability to establish outrageous but sympathetic characters – predictable archetypes with vulnerable twists that made them charming and compelling. As a piece of literature, I was intrigued by the book’s spiritual perspectives, from deistic creatures like the Saint of Killers wandering our countryside to the concept of a tuck-and-run God that flees at the first sign of trouble. Preacher was a modern myth laced rife with religion, politics, pop culture, and most importantly, inspiration. Ennis obviously compiled his adoration of various genres of fiction with his pressing thoughts on existence, and I was completely swept away. After I devoured the nine volume series, I sought other Ennis material . . .

. . . and I have been consistently disappointed. Just A Pilgrim and The Adventures in the Rifle Brigade were too tongue-in-cheek for my tastes. The characters didn’t elicit my compassion like Custer, Tulip, and company did. The stories weren’t as insightful, as meaningful. His Punisher stuff I’ve read has been entertaining, but again, I didn’t sense the enthusiasm with Frank’s pursuits that Ennis exuded in his Vertigo hit. I’ve wondered if Ennis blew his wad on Preacher.

I know Garth has a more expansive library than what I’ve read, with more projects on the horizon, which is why I picked up A Man Called Kev. With such a flippant title, I expected Ennis’ usual sophomoric violence, sexual deviancy, and crude language, the elements that have driven a wedge between his entire career and my teetering devotion. Opening the issue, I thought, “Is Ennis really the one-trick pony I’ve assumed, or will he convict me with another series?” My answer?

I don’t know. I didn’t realize that A Man Called Kev has strong ties to Ennis’ The Authority arc, that the series is essentially a spin-off starring, what I assume was, a secondary character. In this first issue, Kevin, a mercenary of sorts, I reckon, is blackmailed by her Majesty’s government to leave the country, lest his political crimes catch up to him. Kev’s friend Bob, a writer that shares an interlude about his getting drunk at a party and mimicking a monkey and while swinging nude on a chandelier “accidentally” stuck his you-know-what in some debutante’s agape mouth, suggests a refuge with their old tiger-taming friend in San Francisco. Bob is later killed by a mysterious band of hitmen inexplicably on Kev’s trial, which explains why four of this issue’s pages were dedicated to his strange confession – we were supposed to feel for his loss, I suppose. Maybe this is why I feel so disconnected with Ennis’ work – Preacher was a 66 issue series with several supporting minis, which is plenty of space to play with the depths of an ensemble cast of diverse characters. Now, Ennis works in four issues here, five issues there. He tries to accomplish in a matter of pages what once built for succession of stories. Maybe Ennis needs to practice what he preached.

I’ve never been taken by Ezquerra’s artwork, but I enjoyed it in A Man Called Kev. His characters are expressive and dramatic, with a natural posture that reflects the tale’s strange sense of humor and that powder keg of paranoia soon to explode in future issues. Although Ennis tends to wax poetic but obviously respects his artist by offering a variety of scenes, but a bloody shootout to a hoity-toity publishers’ party rife with colorful, visually amusing players. I’m sure as an artist, a script from Ennis is an adventure to illustrate in and of itself.

A Man Called Kev may be the first series I pursue as a result of the A Comics A Day challenge. I want to see where Ennis takes this one. Will we plunge into a character study of a man at a crossroads, with a new life awaiting him, or will we wander aimlessly through another sex-and-guns romp, a popcorn comic bloated with its own entertaining shock value? One is called a comic worth reading. The other I don’t bother to call at all.

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