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Fanboy Lurve: Brian K. Vaughan

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Today’s happy-making thing is comics/TV author Brian K. Vaughan. Or, rather, Mr. Vaughan’s writings; while I have no doubt that his personal happy-making skills are considerable, I’ve never met the guy, so we’ll just stick with the stuff he’s written for now.I’ve never read any of BKV’s output that I haven’t at least liked, and most of it I’ve absolutely loved. As I told Timmy B. a few days ago, I’m pretty sure Vaughan could write a long-form comics series focusing on the trials and tribulations of a multi-generational clan of overly-flatulent mole rats and I’d dig the hell out of it. The man can almost do no wrong by me, and I say the “almost” only because there’s always a possibility he could write something that just didn’t hit me right. So far, though, that possibility remains theoretical.

I truly love the fact that if you boil most of Vaughan’s works down to the one-sentence high-concept pitch, they don’t necessarily sound like anything exceptional, and can even border on the trite — I love it because it’s proof that execution trumps concept (at least in his case), and that’s inspiring to me as a writer who doesn’t feel like his ideas are anything exceptional. C’mon… Y: The Last Man isn’t exactly the first “last man on Earth” story ever written, but what BKV has done with the story has been moving and compelling and exciting and generally most excellent. I’ll happily leave the “mad ideas” to the likes of Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis, but I’ll take Vaughan’s work over theirs most any day. [1]

Some selected highlights from the Vaughan Oeuvre:

• Runaways. Six kids in L.A. discover that their parents are super-villains and, well, run away. Vaughan makes the personalities of each of these kids distinct and appealing in their own way (especially appealing: eleven-year-old mutant Molly). Sure, BKV frequently succumbs to Joss Whedon-esque Real Kids Don’t Talk This Way syndrome (Vaughan actually turned the writing of this book over to Whedon after thirty issues), but hey, what the dialogue lacks in realism it more than makes up for in entertainment value.

• Y: The Last Man. As noted above, not the most original concept ever, but just a terrific batch of characters and situations. Y shows off one of the things Vaughan does best: thinking through the ramifications of his setup and of the actions of his characters. Almost every issue of Y features a moment of “Well, duh, of course that’s what would happen if suddenly all the men were gone.”

• Pride of Baghdad. A graphic novel based on the true story of four lions who escaped from the ruins of the Baghdad Zoo after the U.S.’s initial attacks on the city in 2003. Disturbing, sad, haunting… and I mean that as a compliment.

• Ex Machina. Not quite Runaways-good or Y-good, but still damn enjoyable. One-time superhero Mitchell Hundred uses the goodwill he generated after saving New York City to get himself elected mayor. Ex Machina boasts far more political intrigue than it does big superhero action (though it has a fair share of that, too). Vaughan tries hard to strike some balance and not let Hundred’s liberal tendencies turn this into a left-wing diatribe; Hundred’s idealistic liberalism gets regularly smashed by the realities of a less-than-ideal world. Also: the first issue of Ex Machina features one of the single most breathtaking final pages of any comic I’ve ever read.

• Doctor Strange: The Oath. I just read this one last week — thanks, Timmy B! I’ve never cared all that much for Doctor Strange; I didn’t hate him, but neither the character nor the mystical corner of the Marvel Universe he inhabits eever interested me much. Vaughan, however, wrote a Doc Strange I’d be happy to read more about: arrogant without being assholish, fiercely loyal to his friends, charismatic, possessed of a biting sense of humor and immensely powerful.

Vaughan’s been scaling back on his comics work over the last year or so as he’s now a story editor for Lost, which makes me want to watch that show again (as does the presence of Buffy vet Drew Goddard on the writing staff). But as good as Vaughan would be at the TV game if he gets pulled farther in that direction — his episodic storytelling skills seem profoundly influenced by television — I hope he keeps several toes in the comics pool, as I’d truly miss reading his words.

[1] Not knocking either Morrison or Ellis, both of whom consistently pump out entertaining and thought-provoking works of high quality; BKV’s just more to my taste.

Written by Allen

October 17th, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Comic Books

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