I remember the news a couple years back. I mean it was not one of those “I was here when…” moments but I remember my reaction. I read the Newsarama article and was like, “This is bad news.” Was it the announcement of “Batman R.I.P?” No. Was it the fact that Captain Marvel was coming back? Nope. It was when Greg Rucka decided not to renew his exclusive contract with DC. In some ways it was a sign of things to come. Here was a fantastic creator who was beginning to cut ties with the company over creative differences. Now, Devon and Graig have done a good job this week in regards to talking about DC’s choices so I do not want to talk about the second half of the sentence. Instead, I want to talk about the first half – I want to talk about Greg Rucka the fantastic creator.
There are a lot of people out there who say that Greg Rucka is only really good at the procedural comics, the stories that revolve around ensemble casts doing the day-to-day tasks of being a hero. To those people I say bullshit. Not that Rucka is not really good at the procedural stories because he definitely is. While he was writing them Gotham Central and Checkmate were must reads for me and Devon turned me onto Queen & Country, which is simply a great nitty-gritty spy book. No, the reason I call bullshit is there are people who think Rucka is only really good at procedural comics. That is simply not true.
See the thing that makes me pick up anything with Rucka’s name on it is that he gets what is great about comics. He understands that sometimes the good guys have to lose and that sometimes you need those off moments, those down beats. He understands when to have those Bill Pullman “This is our Independence Day” type speeches and when to let Michael Holt and Sasha Bordeaux simply fall in love. He understands when to add to the mythos of a character and when to shake a character to its core. After all let us not forget that it was Rucka who penned the neck-snap-heard-round-the-world when Maxwell Lord met his end at the hands of Wonder Woman. Some people call this slow writing, I call it good a well-paced story. It is one of those potato/potato things. Which is not an example that works unless you can hear the pronunciation.
Basically what makes Rucka such an excellent comic writer is that he is a writer first and a comic writer second. Too often it feels like some writers go into writing comics because they are not good enough with a pen to draw comics. So their stories are less about plot and intrigue and mood and more about muscles and falling buildings and giant tits. They leave the planning to editors and their scripts are really about who swings an ax or who shoots a pistol. Rucka applies an author’s craft to comics and yet he understands that sequential art is a unique form of storytelling. You never get Tad Williams’ style panel exposition in his comics. As a result there is something sophisticated in his work, something that other writers do not quite do or do as well. Yes, I did use the word sophisticated in reference to a man who wrote Ultimate Elektra and Daredevil.
So I suppose you are wondering why am I on this Greg Rucka love fest? Why did I take the time out of my grading (sophomore papers are keeping me from writing more posts) just so I could get my swoon on? It is because Rucka wrote the last two mainstream comics that reminded me of why I collect monthlies. I am not about to spoil Final Crisis: Revelations or Final Crisis: Resist because that is not my way, but simply they have been blowing me away. Rarely as a seasoned comic reader does something surprise me, does something make me stop and pull a Data at the end of Star Trek: Generations (I know, sweet nerd reference), does something make me throw my hands in the air and say, “Hell yeah!” If a writer can consistently do that – I think he deserves a moment of pure adoration.
Now, I think Grant Morrison is a fine writer who has told some fine stories, same thing with Brian Michael Bendis, but the writer I would really like to see get carte blanche with a major comic universe is Greg Rucka.