Thursday Comics Hangover: Thick as Thieves hits the streets

I couldn't make it out to the Thick as Thieves launch party last Sunday night at Brainfreeze in the old Lusty Lady building, but copies of the first official issue of Thick as Thieves have started to make their way through the city. You should pick one up.

I told you about the proof-of-concept issue of Thick as Thieves back in November. Basically, it's a free comic newspaper in the vein of Intruder, featuring Seattle-area cartoonists doing whatever they want for one full page per cartoonist. The issue just hitting stands this week is end-to-end entertaining.

The MVP of Thick as Thieves issue one is Seattle cartoonist Marie Hausauer, who recently published a terrific comic book about a dead raccoon. Hausauer contributes the cover for the issue, a beautifully rendered piece that resembles the work of Jason Lutes, and she illustrates the best, funniest strip in the issue, about a woman whose boyfriend undergoes a horrific transformation. (I don't want to tell you any more than that because the joke is too good.)

Other standout comics in the issue include an ode to skirts by Whitney Stephens, a great and gory comic strip offering a cathartic Donald Trump moment by Katie Wheeler, a great gag about a seemingly indefatigable customer service rep by Ben Horak, and a fantastic action strip by Marc Palm that has to be a contender for the (nonexistent) 2017 Award for Best Final Panel in a One-Page Strip.

A couple of pages in Thick as Thieves are uneven, but that's to be expected in an anthology. But the good far outranks the bad, and the increase in quality between the first test-run issue and this first official issue indicates that Thick as Thieves could eventually outstrip Intruder if editors Simon Lazarus Vasta and Ryan Tiszai continue on this learning curve.

Warren Ellis's later comics work hasn't done it for me. Even the stuff that most people dig, like Trees and Injection, have just felt like late-stage Ellis to me, which is to say it feels kind of like self-parody: people behave like bastards; they say outrageous things in a condescending tone; some giant threat vaguely makes itself known; finally, everything collapses into a highly unsatisfying ending. Nothing of Ellis's since Planetary has really worked.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I gave the first issue of The Wild Storm the time of day. It's a reboot of Jim Lee's awful Wildstorm superhero universe, which has never really interested me. But the only good Wildstorm comics were Ellis's — particularly his Authority and Planetary, which are the source code for pretty much every superhero comic published in the last decade and a half. The thought of Ellis returning to these comics to restart them with a clean slate seemed like a mammoth mistake. I guess I wanted to gawk at a car crash.

The car crash didn't happen. The Wild Storm is easily Ellis's best mainstream work in a while. It's dialogue-heavy, and a few of the characters aren't immediately unlikeable, which is a refreshing change of pace. You won't find any of Jim Lee's ludicrous costume designs here, and the characters are barely recognizeable; only their awkward insistence on being called by their superhero names — Zealot, Voodoo, etc. — ties them back to the old Image Comics days.

I don't know if The Wild Storm will hold up. It's scheduled to run for 24 issues over two years, and Ellis has proven that he's pretty bad at marathons, to say nothing of his inability to end a damn project in a satisfying way. But it's a promising start, at least.