Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TimeTravelTuesdays: Solo #5

Solo was a series created by DC Comics in 2004, the overall idea of which being that each issue with be an anthology series that would star one of the premier artists of the comic industry. The staring artist would have the entire cataloged of DC comics at their disposal, could bring in anyone they wanted as they saw fit, and could do pretty much anything that they wanted within the pages. It would be 48 pages, cover included, would have no ads, and ideally no boundaries, and the artist would be encouraged to be as far reaching throughout their abilities as possible.

The Solo series was cancelled in 2006 after 12 issues, but was able to end with a large boast of comic talent presented within it's combined 576 pages, the likes of Tim Sale, Sergio Aragones, Paul Pope, Howard Chaykin, Mike Allred, and Damion Scott, and with supporting talent from Brian Azzerello, Diana Schutz, Neil Gaiman, Joe Kelly, and John Hitchcock. All of it put together by painter and DC Comics editor Mark Chiarello, who won an Eisner for his work and the certain stress the series caused him.

But of all the issues of Solo, the best remembered of them all is most easily Solo #5 which spotlighted the venerable Darwyn Cooke. Of particular note, is is of the only 3 of the 12 issues to not feature any talent aside from the staring talent, the others being #3's Paul Pope, and #4's Howard Chaykin. Of even more particular note, it won the 2006 Eisner for Best Single Issue. (The series also garnered a third Eisner, Best Short Story "Teenage Sidekick" from Paul Pope's Solo #3.)

Darwyn's issue does not exist in any expressly known continuity, though seems to continue the relationship of Slam Bradley and Selina Kyle from Darwyn and Ed Brubaker's Catwoman series, another has the title "Triangulation: A New Frontier Thriller" which would imply it taking place within the same continuity that Darwyn's New Frontier takes place, and the last story 'Deja Vu' bears resemblance to Batman: Ego another Cooke story. The issue as a whole features 5 short stories, a very classy pin up, a double page spread of 'funny pages', and a 6th short interspersed between each of the other shorts.

The issue starts off with Slam Bradley telling one hell of a tall tale to King Faraday as they enter Jimmy's 24-7, imagine a gin joint where Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe play poker at a crossroad between the Oblivion Bar and the Limbo seen in Final Crisis. "A hard left from Nexus and Continuity" as Slam puts it, which could easily be streets right off a Metropolis map. This starts off the baseline short that runs through the book's length.

The next short is "World's Window", set in the 1970s, and in Cooke's own childhood, appearing to be a fond memory of his beginnings as an artist after a family friend lends them their oil painting supplies. It's a charming bit of nostalgia, if not just a lovely look at the start of what would become one of the most prestigious names in comics. We cut back to Slam seeing King off, and Slam having a competition of scars with an old friend.

The short after that is the aforementioned "Triangulation: A New Frontier Thriller" staring King Faraday, showing off his more seasoned almost Bondesque side with promises of "sex, murder, and salsa!" A promise I must say is kept in Darwyn's typical fashion. I'd almost say the short reminds me a Alan Grofield novel. Back at Jimmy's, the eponymous barman asks Aquaman if Slam's ducked out on his tab, as Slam unsuccessfully rings up Selina, and tells Jimmy to read the funny pages while he takes a leak.

And after a very classy pin up of Catwoman, the Solo Dreamgirl, we're treated to our next short "Everyday Madness", the story of a man in love, but in love with a killer. It's a love story of Kafkaesque paranoia and Vonneguteqsue delivery. Our step in Slam short continues with Slam flexing his political muscles and showing off for the class(which includes Darkseid) in the only way the man knows.

Our penultimate short features the king of conspiracy, The Question in "They'll confuse you", and does not let up on the conspiracy. Like any good Question story, we're left knowing how we feel, but not knowing what to think. Returning to the bar, we see Slam giving Black Canary some advice on men, and making a toast with Selina.

At last, we hit the last short, "Deja Vu", a 'job-gone-sour' heist haunted by the spirit of vengeance himself, Batman. This is the climax of the issue, and usually the one people point out when they talk of the issue. It's also one of the included stories inside the collection "Batman: Ego and Other Tails", which is much easier to find than a copy of Solo #5. Our last visit with Slam has him seeing off Selina, and getting in one last nightcap from Jimmy.

It's clear why the issue is as much of a hit as it is. It shows off the talent of Cooke, but more than that, it shows off his whole spread of abilities. Not just a man of superheroes, or a man stuck in a single era, but a man with a sense of style outweighing all of the expectations placed on him. I'd highly suggest finding a copy of the issue, maybe at the next con you stumble into, but be ready to pay up to $20 for it.

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