Warren Ellis began writing “Hellblazer” with issue 134 in December 1998 for what seemed like a lengthy run on the book, but his run concluded a mere nine issues later with Ellis leaving the book. At the time, he explained why online: “I have resigned as writer of the DC Vertigo title HELLBLAZER effective with #143. This follows an incident regarding #141, a story entitled ‘Shoot.’ ‘Shoot’ concerned the recent spate of child-on-child schoolyard slayings in American schools. Its creation and treatment predated the Columbine massacre. At the last moment, DC’s executive level felt that the story could not go out in its original form. All media, particularly the narrative arts, are particularly sensitive to the politics of post-Columbine blame-placement at this time, and their concern was entirely justified given their position and special responsibilities. But the changes required created a story that I could not stand behind as a writer.” Ever since, “Shoot” was only available online in black and white jpgs. That is, until this past week’s publication of “Vertigo Resurrected” #1.
Part of DC’s new initiative to put material long out of print into 100-page eight-dollar books, “Vertigo Resurrected” #1 sees “Shoot” published in full color for the first time ever, backed with eight shorts from various Vertigo anthology series featuring some of the imprint’s top creators. While the chance to see some long forgotten stories from the likes of Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jim Lee, and others is a pretty strong appeal to begin with, “Shoot” is the main draw of this book. Its announcement got everyone’s notice and is a rare time where a publisher has chosen to publish material it previously vowed not to.
While “Shoot” has been available online for years, reading it in print is a much different experience. James Sinclair’s colors are the biggest difference and they’re not quite what you’d expect. Sinclair opts for a muted, almost washed out color palette that looks centered around mauve. His colors on Ellis’ run with a variety of artists were done in a similar fashion, but not as extreme, not as pale. It’s disarmingly subtle, lending a not-quite-right feeling to the issue, an emotional distance that resonates with the message.
“Shoot” concerns itself with Penny Carnes as she works to provide information and research on school shootings to a Senate subcommittee, but finds herself not getting very far. She keeps going in circles, looking for a reason why kids are showing up at school and killing one another. The only connection besides the acts themselves is a man that keeps showing up in the pictures of onlookers at the scenes: John Constantine.
Less a story, more a rant, “Shoot” builds to a powerful end that is unsettling no matter how many times I read it. Penny represents the inane search for that one magic ingredient that will solve everything, while Constantine shows up to ruin that notion. There are no easy fixes or solutions to a problem like this. No easy scapegoats or causes. Just broken, damaged kids.
Phil Jimenez uses space very well in the story, constructing layouts that utilize negative space to focus on specific images. As the issue progresses, he mostly uses white gutters, but shifts to black when Constantine arrives. Before then, Penny flitted around, aimless with no direction or clarity, and Constantine brings that in the harshest manner possible.
The rest of “Vertigo Resurrected” is definitely worth checking out, with a bunch of A-list creative teams doing smart short stories that were previously published, but hard to fine now. There’s a rare Brian Bolland tale that he wrote and drew, a Morrison/Quitely short, Bill Willingham writing and drawing a monster story, and the list keeps going on. Most have a neat little twist at the end, but there’s a variety of subjects and genres addressed, and you’re likely to find something you haven’t seen before. In many ways, it’s a who’s who of Vertigo from the late ’90s/early ’00s.
“Shoot” is the selling point of “Vertigo Resurrected” #1, never before published and never seen in color at all, and, together with a slew of shorts, it definitely makes this book worthwhile and of interest. There’s a little bit for everyone here. Plus, given the rarity of most of these stories, they may be reprints but, to many, they may as well be brand new. With Vertigo’s large back catalogue of anthology series and hard-to-find minis, I definitely want to see more of “Vertigo Resurrected.”