Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Disappointment in Brother Lono Trumps my Completist Tendencies

Most of the money I spend on comics goes to single issues. Even if I am looking for full runs of things published long ago, I'd much rather get a pile of back issues than a collected volume. It's just my preferred way to read, even though it sometimes costs me extra money, and it is slowly taking up more and more space in longboxes, and digital exists now, and lots of other reasons, probably, why it's not the best approach to comicbook collection. I just get such satisfaction from gathering all the pieces of something rather than having someone else do that for me and repackage them as a single entity. It's not a judgement on people who would rather read trades or graphic novels or prose books or the newspaper or whatever—to each his own. I'm a single issue guy, and it works for me (so far).
     Which is why I've always been a little bummed about being turned on to 100 Bullets so close to the end of its life. I was eager to read it based on the little bit I'd seen at the time, as well as the arc Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso did together on Batman, but I knew it was a series to be read from the beginning, and I just didn't have the patience to seek out all 100 issues in order. So I have the whole thing in trade paperback, the largest set of consecutive trades I own. And I adore that series, to the point that I'm reading it (for the first time) at a one-issue-a-month pace, mostly so I can space out the pleasure and examine it in a new light. It has some serious flaws, and perhaps a gradual downward trend in quality from start to finish, but there's more good than bad and some moments of astounding ambition.
     Long story short, I was excited when a sequel/spin-off mini-series was announced. Even though it was going to focus on Lono, possibly my least favorite of the major characters in 100 Bullets, it still meant an opportunity to get some small piece of the larger work in the format I most enjoy.
     As a primarily single issue collector, I loathe gaps in my collection or unfinished runs. If I begin to invest in something I want to do it right, in order until the end without any breaks. It's easier for me to stop buying ongoing series if I don't like them since they are a more long-term commitment, and because neither my time nor money are in infinite supply, I don't like to waste them indefinitely on bad comics. But a mini-series I usually see through, even if I don't like it right away. Anything ten issues or less generally feels worth it to stick with, if only to learn how the story ends. If I've already started it and it'll be done within a year, might as well ride it out.
     But Brother Lono is just not worth it. Even though it's connected to 100 Bullets, and even though I've already spent money on a full half of the issues that are ever coming out, I've got to walk away. I don't feel like I'm missing out on the end of the story because the story is hardly there. Some drug dealers are letting their criminal activities spill over into the orphanage/church where Lono works now, and he's doing his best not to be violent anymore. It's taken four painfully slow issues to introduce and then repeatedly hammer at those two ideas, and then at the very end of last week's Brother Lono #4 there was the tiniest stumble of plot progression when (gasp!) the super-flirtatious nun who dresses like a farm girl in a porno movie indicated she may not be what she seems. No shit.
     That's a very unsatisfying amount of narrative in half of an eight-issue book. And the problem is I can see where this is going, and I've seen it since the debut. Lono and the bad guys are going to have some kind of confrontation, and Lono will either get all crazy violent one last time or he'll rise to the occasion and control himself. Either way, I'm bored. I am so deathly bored by this series, every single issue, and I can't go through that any more.
     Azzarello and Risso both feel off their game. Risso's art is so straightforward, without the background details or silent extra scenes that made 100 Bullets so much fun to study. And what's with the animal cruelty? Is Azzarello calling for a bunch of dead dogs in his scripts? Whoever is responsible, enough already. We get it. It's a vicious, twisted, unforgiving setting. Now do something there. The dialogue comes across as Azzarello aping himself, not as genuinely clever or human as it used to be, but trying its hardest to get there. And Lono without his swagger is not a character. He's a walking scowl.
     I literally spent days weighing this decision, because having four issues of something in a longbox and four out there in the world that I don't own is always going to bug me. Every time I pass Brother Lono on my way to something else I want to read, I'll think, "Ugh, that stupid half-thing." It's a rare occurrence, but I happen to dislike this title more than I dislike incompleteness.

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