There are a few names in comics that provide an instant hook, where I will pick up and read anything that they write. Neil Gaiman is one of the names at the top of my lists, and most comic book fans would probably agree with me that his work is constantly engaging and creative. Today, at the library, the name J. Michael Straczynski caught my eye. Although not known as a comic book creater, his work as a writer in other areas has been outstanding, and his contributions to comics have certainly been well above average.
The first collection of Midnight Nation, (entitled Volume 1), has lept JMS to near the front of the list of comic creaters. In these six issues, JMS has written the type of story that Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore write: involved, literary, quirky, perverse, intellectual, gritty, and able to engage in heavy violence without depending on it. And much like Gaiman's work, JMS seems to know exactly where to tap into our subconscious to find images that are dreadful.
The story of the book follows David Grey, a Lieutenant from the LAPD who investigates a mysterious homicide, and ends up being kidnapped into "The Place Inbetween", a world where those who have become marginalized by society live, invisible to others. This world is also the home of The Walkers, demonic beings that can pass between the marginal world and our world. Lt. Grey is accompanied by Laurel, a mysterious woman who tells him his only hope to find his soul is to walk across the country to New York City; and that if he fails in this test, he will become a Walker himself. The action of the six volumes of the comic is Grey and Laurel walking across the In Between of the United States, with episodes of horror and violence punctuated with the equally fearful revelations that occur to Grey about the nature of the Walkers, Laurel, and himself. This first collection is incredibly literary and visceral.