Bitch Slapping Alan Moore: A Review of Albion
So, I didn't really have much interest in Albion. Don't get me wrong, I think Alan Moore is a genius writer, and what with his daughter writing it and all, I was certainly curious to see how far the apple falls from the tree. Albion as a concept, however had a few marks stacked up against it. Alan Moore wasn't writing it, not really. In fact, after reading it through, I doubt he had much more to do with it than the initial story idea. Also, not a big fan of husband and wife writing teams. Case in point, Spider Robinson. Love the man's work. He's a brilliant writer, but the stories he did with his wife Jeanne mostly fell flat for me. Same goes for Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch. Separately, they are two of the finest genre writers today. Together, the stories just don't gell for me.
Then of course, there's what should have been the final nail in Albion's coffin. I'm not British. Oh sure, somewhere back in the wood pile there's some Brit, even a little Irish, but the point is that I didn't grow up with British comics. Never really had much access to them either. I was fifteen before I was introduced to Judge Dredd. I eventually found my way to Laser Eraser and Axel Pressbutton, Halo Jones, Paradax and a few others, but for the most part my comics reading was devoid of most of the cast of Albion.
So, I nearly passed on this series, even though it did have Alan Moore's name slathered all over the covers, but then I started thinking. Most of my favorite comics writers are from the British Isles. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano and Warren Ellis are all Brits. Grant Morrison and Mark Millar are Scottish, Garth Ennis and Peter Milligan are Irish. Albion was my chance to see where some of the best writers currently working in comics came from.
Cut to several days later, and here sit six issues of the Albion mini series; read cover to cover, thumbed, cross referenced, folded, spindled, coffee stained, hell I even checked out the associated web sites. The series is good, really good. It's tightly plotted. It has a nice reveal at the end. It jams in nearly every obscure British comics character ever invented. Albion quite frankly, works as a great introduction to British comics. Mission accomplished.
I have two gripes with this series really, and they're nitpicks, but I think it's important that I throw them out there. At this point in Alan Moore's career we really need someone to bitch-slap him and proclaim, "Get over it Sparky! We get it. You said everything you need to say about Margaret Thatcher with V for Vendetta! She can't hurt you any more. We had to deal with Ronald Regan and you don't see us whining about that do you? Well, maybe you do, but still." The only reason I'm not on more of a tear about this is that the idea that the Thatcher administration locked away all of the British super heroes is a pretty solid one. The second nitpick goes out to the dialogue writer. If you're going to lace your characters' dialogue with profanity that's great. It adds a bit of an edge to the story, tells us a little about where these characters come from, and sets up a touchstone of realism within the fantastic trappings of the plot. However, it's really annoying when every other word in the balloon is "@!$*%^&#". It's distracting at best and unintentionally comical at its worst. Either write the naughty words out and let the audience deal, or don't use them. Since the flaming death of the vile comics code, you'd think we'd be past this.
Since that pretty much covers Alan, Leah and John's contribution to this mini-series, let's talk about the other creators involved in this surprisingly good gem of alien nostalgia. Shane Oakley, who admirably followed Seth on Dean Motter's Mr. X makes an impressive showing here. He switches from panels that are so crammed with visual information that it almost overloads your brain to stark panels featuring little more than talking heads. His art serves the story perfectly. Hopefully one day we will see much more of this superb and massively underrated artist. George Freeman brings his usual powerful inking style full force to the Albion table, sharpening the artwork into an excellent fit for the story.
You should definitely give Albion a try. It's well written and superbly drawn. It gets you a little closer to the current pantheon of British superstar writers, and it gives you a good, solid toe dip into a pool that most Americans never got to swim in. As humans, we have an obsessive need to uncover the past. It's part of what makes us strong as a race, rates right up there with opposable thumbs and a large cranium in fact. Lost heroes and villains, stories that have been forgotten by time and a miserable economy will always be infinitely interesting, and Albion has all this in spades.