Brian Azzarello, Marcelo Frusin, et al., Loveless (Vertigo/DC, 2005-). monthly. $2.99
by Alex Boney
It appears that DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. After lynchpin series such as The Sandman, Preacher, and The Invisibles ended in the late 1990s, Vertigo lost a bit of its luster and indie cred. Fables, Y: The Last Man, and 100 Bullets emerged as flagship titles (and Hellblazer has remained an institution since the imprint began), but none of these books has quite matched the buzz and familiarity of Vertigo in its mid-90s prime. Late last year, though, Vertigo launched four new ongoing series that each carved out a new, distinct niche in the comics market. Of these four, the genre of Loveless is probably the most familiar. Set in small-town Missouri in 1867, Loveless is being pitched as a western series. The book’s promotional description reads: “Wes and Ruth Cutter are running from the horror of the Civil War and its savage aftermath. Now wanted, they’re drawn to life as outlaws as they travel through the untamed West.” The problem with this pitch is that, now four issues along, it’s becoming clearer that this book belongs more in the deep South than it does in the wild, wild west.
Brian Azzarello is well-known for his aggressive dialogue, so Loveless generally plays to his strengths as a writer. The language of Loveless is dark, sparse, and hard-edged. The characters live in a post-Civil War wasteland, and their speech matches their collective sense of defeat and disillusionment. In this book, Azzarello’s dialogue seems to owe a debt to William Faulkner, who (despite his excessive wordiness in exposition) created bare and unadorned direct speech for most of the characters in his Yoknapatawpha novels. One-liners abound in Loveless, but the inevitable clichés unfortunately get pulled into the mix and undercut the effectiveness of the dialogue. Lines like “You was born bad, Wes Cutter” (1:20) fall flat and distract from the tension of the scene. This sort of line fits a standard western, but it doesn’t fit Loveless.