Vertigo miniseries tour Part 18: V2K (I Die at Midnight; Totems; Brave Old World; The Four Horsemen; Pulp Fantastic)

The Verigo V2K event was a “fifth-week event” that was created in 1999-2000 to celebrate the Millenium (Vertigo’s first, and so far only, fifth-week offerings). There were two one-shots and three miniseries: all had their first issues released on Wednesday, December 29th, 1999, just before the calendar turned over to 2000.

Kyle Baker contributed the one-shot I Die At Midnight, the story of an attempted suicide. Larry has just taken an overdose because he can’t face life without Muriel…when she shows up to reconcile. He can’t tell Muriel, but he must take an antidote by midnight, which precipitates a mad dash across the city. It’s like a frenetic madcap comedy film, complete with the appearance of the dread Y2K computer bug, which was so heavily hyped at the time, but turned out to be a dud.

The other V2K one-shot was Totems, written by Tom Peyer; illustrated by Duncan Fegredo, Richard Case, & Dean Ormston; and colored by Alex Sinclair. John Constantine throws a Millennium New Year’s party and invites the whole cast of DC-owned Vertigo characters. It features Constantine, Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Shade the Changing Man, Cliff Steele (from the Doom Patrol), and Animal Man. Others have cameos, notably Zatanna and the Phantom Stranger. There have been numerous guest appearances involving these characters over the years, in various combinations. But I can’t think of another comic where they all appeared together. Although I’ve seen it dismissed as a cheap crossover gimmick (and it is the sort of thing many people read Vertigo to avoid), it actually works pretty well. It’s a prototype for Justice League Dark, now that I think about it. Since I haven’t read that–I hate team books!–I can’t compare them.

V2K continues with Brave Old World #1-4 by William Messner-Loebs, Guy Davis, and Phil Hester. Messner-Loebs & Davis are credited as co-creators, which I think is the only Vertigo creator credit for either of them. A very different approach to the Y2K problem: the turn of the century triggers an event which sends the world backwards 100 years to January 1, 1900. The group of computer geeks (they were working on a global solution to the Y2K problem) that is sent back with knowledge of the future is ill-suited to dealing with such a “primitive” society. Before they’ve even had a chance to orient themselves they find themselves under attack from an insect-like craft from the future, sent Terminator-style to stop them from causing desolation in the year 1999. It seems that something they did or will do has had dire consequences. They set about making their way in this world, trying to do something to reverse the time loop. In the process they meet historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Nelly Bly, and produce a steampunk computer. And in the end they do find a resolution, in the form of a battle against death machines from the future with a gentle, unexpected ending. For some reason this series didn’t make much of an impression the first time I read it, but it’s been one of the pleasant surprises the second time around.

Next up: The Four Horsemen #1-4 by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse make their entry during the New Year’s Eve rock concert in Times Square, and are surprised to find themselves welcomed by the crowd, who think they are part of the show. They are accustomed to reactions of shock, fear, and horror…so they retire to a nearby bar to figure out what to do next. As random revelers come in to the bar, the Horsemen listen to their stories and learn about changes in the world. Each issue centers around one of the apocalyptic beings: famine, war, pestilence, and death. The four human storytellers are a lab technician, a corporate marketer, a blue collar worker, and a disaffected college student. As they tell their stories we find that they are all connected in various ways, a subtle structural device from Rodi. As the series goes on we see many of the same scenes repeated, but from different perspectives. It’s quite effective up to a point, but by issue four some of those scenes do seem repetitive. The ending is a bit of an anticlimax, as the Horsemen redefine themselves for the modern world and take flight in their new steeds: flying limousines.

The final V2K miniseries is Pulp Fantastic #1-3, written by Howard Chaykin & David Tischman, and illustrated by Rick Burchett. Chaykin collaborated with Burchett on the covers. This was originally announced as a four-part series–even says so on the cover of issue #1–but was quickly cut back to three issues. The first issue certainly reads like the shorter length was known when it was written: it’s quite fast-paced. The story begins after the Millennium, and the setting is a space colony called Freehold, where private investigator Vector Pope plies his trade. It lives up to its title, using all of the pulp detective tropes in a science-fiction setting. The religious angle in the plot recalls Frank Miller’s Sin City (turns out the ultimate goal is a kestrel statue with major significance to Freehold’s founding religion, surely also a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese falcon). In the end it works pretty well as a noir detective story, but it’s really an excuse for Chaykin to do his usual hard-boiled thing. Unlike all the other titles in the event, the series makes no attempt to tie directly into the Y2K phenomenon in the action. Chaykin used it as part of the setup instead.

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About marksullivan5

Librarian, Jazz musician, comic book fan
This entry was posted in miniseries, Vertigo comics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vertigo miniseries tour Part 18: V2K (I Die at Midnight; Totems; Brave Old World; The Four Horsemen; Pulp Fantastic)

  1. Jeff C says:

    I remember reading I Die at Midnight and Totems when they came out. I enjoyed both of them, in particular IDaM. By that point in my life, Kyle Baker could do no wrong!

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