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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rex -- Danijel Zezelj's new graphic novel, from Optimum Wound Comics, reminds me of nothing so much as it does the sort of testosterone-fueled, ultra-violent comics for grownups that Richard Corben used to create for what were then called "ground level" comics, in the 1970s and '80s. Rex

Ground level was a term created to distinguish titles like Hot Stuf', Star*Reach and others (even Cerebus, Elfquest and The First Kingdom, in their earliest days, if my memory holds true) from underground comix and superhero comics. The ground level was where you might find top-level creators like Corben, who weren't interested much in creating underground comix focused on drugs and sex (although Corben's comics certainly contained at least one, and likely both of those), but whose work was too "mature" (read: swearing and boobies) for Marvel and DC to ever (at that time) consider publishing.

Danijel Zezelj's Rex has swearing and boobies to spare, as well as a level of brutality that might not even fit in today at DC's Vertigo imprint, although it might fly with Marvel's MAX or Icon lines. Rex, the character, is a former cop on a mission of revenge in a world where everyone has seemingly done him wrong. Zezelj's artwork is dense, bold and confident in its ability to bring the hyper-reality of the story to life. The style evokes Corben in its photorealistic tendencies, and in places also reminded me of the style Cary Nord utilized on his Conan run for Dark Horse. In fact, if Nord had illustrated a comics version of the Lee Marvin movie Point Blank, we might get something very much like Rex.

Rex creates a dark, violent world for you to spend some time in, and creator Danijel Zezelj proves a surprisingly capable host for your visit. From the work I'd seen in the past for DC, it's no surprise that he draws the story exceptionally well, but it's a pleasing revelation how good a writer he is as well.



Blogger Roger Green said...

When I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, Cerebus, Elfquest and of course Star*Reach we always considered groundlevel. Whether the Corben stuff, et al., was groundlevel always depended on our judgment about whether their parents would complain. If we thought they might, we put 'em on the "adult" (i.e. underground) racks. I don't recall putting HEAVY METAL in the undergrounds, and, now that I think of it, that seemed to be the gauge.

19 June, 2008 09:23  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Thanks for your thoughts on that, Roger. I definitely consider Heavy Metal of that era groundlevel, too.

Anyone who went for that stuff back then would most likely dig Rex, that's for sure.

19 June, 2008 09:30  

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