I recall that during last year’s San Diego Comic Con, the news I was most excited about had nothing to do with the latest Avengers film or the Batman and Superman crossover. Instead, it was independent publisher Fantagraphics’ announcement that they would be releasing a hardcover collection of Simon Hanselmann’s stellar series Megg, Mogg and Owl. Finally, Megahex is upon us in all its degenerate glory. The book features most of Hanselmann’s comics published on his Tumblr, girlmountain, along with stories featured in various alternative anthologies such as Smoke Signal and Gangbang Bong. So in addition to the stories written exclusively for this collection, fans will find material they haven’t read before. For the uninitiated, at first the book seems like a crude, yet well crafted comic focusing on a group of anthropomorphized stoner owls, cats and wolves with a fixation on genre, as indicated by the book being designed to resemble a boxed set for a bad sitcom. But there’s an underlying darkness that comes to the forefront as you continue to read. As the characters refuse to confront their flaws by abusing drugs and each other. At times the series can be uncomfortable to read due to the intimate nature of the book, which is accentuated by Hanselmann’s hand drawn style, but there’s also a warmth that comes from this style, and despite their flaws it’s obvious that Hanselmann at least loves these characters. Hanselmann’s greatest talent is how natural and effortless he makes his layouts seem. But there’s an attention to detail in regards to his pacing that makes the book all the more engrossing which draws you in, despite the discomfort you might feel while realizing how pathetic and troubled many of the characters are. The new stories in the collection alone make the series worth picking up, especially one involving a drug trip that features art from other alternative creators like Sammy Harkham, Jonny Negron and HTML Flowers. Whether you appreciate dark humor or damn fine cartooning, this is certainly worth picking up.
With the show Gotham premiering soon, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit the comic it takes a good deal of its inspiration from. As implied by the title, the series is a police procedural that follows various officers attempting to solve cases in Gotham City, which tend to overlap with the more colorful criminal elements like The Joker, Mad Hatter, Mister Freeze etc. The main strengths of the series lie in its dedication to character development and attention to detail. Little elements like the department requiring a bureaucrat working in the office to turn on the Bat-Signal when necessary (since officers can’t legally condone a vigilante such as Batman) helps to develop a believable world for these officers to operate in. The detectives are well fleshed out in their own regard, with characterization that rivals a series like Law and Order: SVU. Again, in this case the little details like a rivalry between officers on the night and day shifts, help define the world in the series. Authors Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka are obviously in their element here. By writing complex stories that utilize Batman’s rogue gallery in ingenious ways. They manage to get readers to sympathize with these officers so effectively that the book manages to make you resent Batman, who effortlessly brings down several of the criminals the officers meticulously attempt to track and arrest, while showing no empathy for the common cops and their struggles. Michael Lark’s gritty art helps ground the series and set a more serious tone that Brubaker and Rucka attempt to establish, and it’s clear Brubaker and Lark work extremely well together, as also can be seen in their other collaboration on Daredevil. A few complaints I have about the book are that, by the end, it begins to lose its way, especially in one issue that’s a forced tie-in to the DC event Infinite Crisis, and how pessimistic the ending of the series is, perhaps due to it being cancelled prematurely. If you think you can stomach an ending that’s a bit on the depressing side, this is a fantastic series that’s certainly worth checking out since it’s been collected in trades.