Quid Pro Quo

Dirk and I have an Arrangement: I lend him comics I think he might like, and he lends me comics he thinks I might like.

It works out well: I got to introduce him to Transmetropolitan, The Red Star, and PS238, while he’s exposed me to Barry Ween, Powers, and, most recently, Wake.

Powers, with its tendency to leave you feeling like you caught the middle part of a three-part episode, can frequently be maddening, but for sheer inventiveness and visual panache, there’s no topping it. Plus, periodically an arc like “Forever” comes down the pike, and you suddenly realize the payoff for having endured six trade paperbacks’ worth of sometimes-disjointed storylines.

Wake, meanwhile, is distinctly French, insofar as it’s about a vast nomadic fleet of spacecraft crewed by a multitude of races, many of whom seem intent upon sleeping with each other. Still, it’s entertaining, even if you have trouble deciding at times whether you want to see the heroine triumphant, or just bitch-slapped.

But I digress. One wrinkle in the Arrangement is that each of us is responsible for acquiring subsequent volumes in “his” series, regardless of how eager the other might be to read it. Thus it was that the other day, Dirk informed me, “The third Red Star trade paperback is out. You need to get it, so I can read it.”

If you’ve never seen The Red Star before, it’s something of a revelation. The series’s hallmark is the seamless blending of hand-drawn characters with stunningly-detailed CGI sets. In the skilled hands of its creators, it works astoundingly well. The result is, essentially, hardcore porn for geeks, something so visually lush that it probably defied printing technology just a few years ago.

The newest volume, “Prison of Souls”, brings the protagonists to the brink of a climactic battle with their enemy’s champion. Dirk has it now; when he’s done with it, I’ll be unleashing it upon Bill.

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