Alan Moore’s most recent work through Avatar has been mixed in terms of quality from the writers sky high ambitions against the companies lack of resources in the rest of their books production. Crossed +100 has proven to be more interesting then good while Providence is an incredible story that suffers from a subpar art team. Moore’s new horror anthology, Cinema Purgatorio, teams the writer with top flight creative talent like Kieron Gillen, Kevin O’Neill & Garth Ennis. While it’s still suffers slightly from inconsistency in quality, it’s high’s are better and more fully realized then anything Moore has done with the publisher since returning to ongoing monthly comics at Avatar as it is for his peers that join him on the books debut issue.
As a horror anthology, Cinema Purgatorio is as diverse a selection of comics as you’ll see in the genre and each has a distinctive hook that feel’s singular to the creators. Moore’s opening story with League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen co-creator Kevin O’Neill is a dark surrealist parody of a silent film that displays a brilliant allegory of power, authority and economics that is stunning and harrowing. Garth Ennis writes the beginnings of a vampire story that has the creator doing some of his most measured and satisfying work in years for it’s daft usage of humor and narrative, Kieron Gillen creates a post apocalypse dystopia comic that already feel’s awesomely epic, World War Z writer Max Brook’s has an interesting alternate history strip on the Civil War while Christos Gage goes full on big monster versus fighter jets that is loads of fun. The writing on Cinema Purgatorio is some of the strongest you could expect from it’s assortment of creators and while the art doesn’t always match up, it’s far superior then Avatar’s typical half assed approached. Partially because the comic is all black & white; more house style artists like Gabriel Andrade, Ingacio Calero or Raul Caceres look much more interesting in their stylistic flourishes, technical details & visual narration. The overproduced digital sheen is gone with only the artists pencils which end up looking far superior to their past work when completely stripped down to the bare bones. Ignacio Calero in particular shines brightly with his technically precise but still cartoonish art for he & Gillen’s excellent Modded with deft storytelling and expressive design work. Kevin O’Neill is as strong as ever with Moore where his work has a detailed playfulness reminiscent of Saturday newspaper strips to contrast it’s bleak outlook. In fact, the only part of Cinema Purgatorio that really doesn’t work is Michal Dipascale’s contribution to A More Perfect Union with Max Brooks where the art’s flat lifelessness becomes even more accentuated without any color or inking. Still, considering the source and quality of material surrounding it, one poor element out of the bunch is a minor miracle.
The debut issue of Cinema Purgatorio is great and if they can keep the book going while adding to it’s roster with the same quality, care and diverse subject matter within it’s sub-genre, it’s an anthology that could be an excellent counterpoint to Rios & Graham’s art driven Island anthology. That might be a lofty expectations and considering the books sources, a comics writer that has gone from being one of the mediums most important creator’s to a bitter and out of touch old hermit and a publisher that’s traditionally valued shock, awe & bombast over quality in the comic’s it’s published, it’s probably not likely. Regardless, Cinema Purgatorio’s debut is excellent in it’s execution and with the talent Moore has assembled, that is pretty thrilling in and of itself.