Dean Motter

Terminal City 9 (March 1997)

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Terminal City stops more than ends. Maybe closes is a better phrase. Motter closes the series. There’s no finality to it and there’s lots of openness–in the last pages, Motter’s still introducing next things.

It’s a capsule view of these people, important in the city, years after their glory days. Sure, events occur in Terminal City to make it bigger than a girl getting a roommate, but not much bigger. Motter keeps everything rather restrained and the issue has, even after concluding a cliffhanger (an action-packed cliffhanger) and two epilogues, a quiet finish.

I suppose one could sit down and chart out how Terminal City‘s narrative works–with nearly twenty characters, it might take a while–but that approach seems foolish. Motter and Lark are presenting a fixed experience.

And, to some degree, that quality is why I’m underwhelmed with the last page. Motter brought back something boring.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 8 (February 1997)

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Anyone remember the Spider-Man trailer with the reflections of the city in the eyes? Because DC and Lark should have sued or something–it’s in this comic book, down to the pacing of the shot.

Anyway. The penultimate issue.

Motter is hurrying things along here. He’s sort of still introducing new stuff, but not too much. A lot is closed off, like the subplot with the mayor, which has been around since the second issue and hasn’t really gone anywhere.

I can’t imagine how many issues Motter would have really needed to fully tell Terminal City–probably in the neighborhood of twenty-four from the way it reads–but only having nine creates these constraints and they’re often lovely little abbreviated stories.

It makes Terminal City a unique comic for this kind of narrative. It’s not overdone or undercooked.

It’s more like Motter is letting you sample a menu.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 7 (January 1997)

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This issue, presumably, starts the winding down of Terminal City. It ends with the first really action-oriented cliffhanger of the series, but Motter’s also winding down the characters.

He’s moving Cosmo, still the ostensible lead, into a smaller role. His chances at romance dwindled this issue and, what’s really crazy good about Motter’s writing, is the character’s already gone through his third act redemption. But he did it in the third issue. The rest of the series, in regard to him, is postscript.

There are still a lot of things awaiting resolution, but they’re flashier than the characters and their little arcs.

The only unchanging part of Terminal City are Motter’s French Abbott and Costello, whose modified (for the accent) “Who’s On First” is a constant amusement.

Motter’s also putting characters in real danger here, something he’s avoided doing before. It finally makes Terminal City dangerous instead of idyllic.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 6 (December 1996)

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Motter opens and closes this issue with excerpts from Cosmo’s memoir. As with all memoirs, it’s interesting to see what’s omitted–in this case, it seems like Cosmo gets his girl back at some point in the future. But that aspect is just good writing from Motter, it’s nowhere near as interesting as how he finishes an “arc” this issue.

There’s no drama for the reader. It’s about a supporting character and not a very big one. Instead, Motter concentrates on how the characters experiencing the event (a boxing match) react. It’s understated and lovely, like Motter just wanted to give Lark a chance to draw something absurd and touching, but not exciting.

There’s a lot more developing this issue, more questions raised, but again, it has a sense of closure about it. It’s as though Motter put so much emphasis in his subtle arc, he generates a “fake” close.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 5 (November 1996)

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Maybe I’m off a little about how Motter is plotting these issues. This issue is far more gradual than if it’d been the second part of a new minor arc. Instead, it’s Motter introducing new problems and resolving old.

It’s so strange how he plots the book–it’s a character drama amid these fantastic settings and situations.

This issue gives Lark some even crazier subjects than last time–a guy boxing with an ape, for example. Motter’s got a real gift in making these looney situations seem reasonable. And it’s exactly the kind of thing one wouldn’t think Lark could draw. But he does, perfectly.

I’m still iffy on some of the character names, especially for spelling some of them, but the large cast is entirely recognizable thanks to Lark.

Motter and Lark make one not want the issue to end, much less the series. The comic is just great.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 4 (October 1996)

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Motter starts his second “arc” here, but it’s not important yet. It does surprise me how much I like his approach to this issue–introduce backstory in the first half of a comic, then bring it into the present action in the second half. Motter never makes it feel hurried… but he uses Cosmo’s narration to do all the backstory for it. But Motter never ties down how Cosmo is telling the story or why he’s telling the story, so he can get away with it.

This issue mixes some of the narration too–there’s Cosmo’s and then there’s the Lady in Red’s. The Lady in Red’s narration is very different and almost totally removed from the narrative playing out in the panels.

The issue opens with some amazing Lark art of buildings, then moves into the silliest things I’ve ever seen from him.

It’s a slow issue, but good.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 3 (September 1996)

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And now, ever so slightly, the story begins to gel. Motter, without drawing attention to it, closes off one aspect of Terminal City. A character, established in the first issue, is totally different by the end of this issue. I think, as I struggle to remember my first time reading the series, this sort of approach is why I love the comic.

Motter’s plotting is very subtle in its shifts. He never reveals too much or makes too big of changes, but he is completing little stories. He’s taking the three act structure and miniaturizing it, inserting these little dramas into the larger one.

It makes me wonder if he wrote Terminal City from an outline or if he did each story by itself and then worked them together.

Of course, without Lark… the series would be nowhere. Every panel is a joy; Lark is just too good for words.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 2 (August 1996)

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The second issue has a little less story than the first. It’s not quite a talking heads book because it’s before talking head books, but it’s basically everyone–except the girl and the human fly (I’m hoping names will start sticking next issue)–hanging around the hotel restaurant.

Yes, a lot of new stuff is introduced–though an unobservant reader would probably miss the mayor being in cahoots with a crime boss–but it’s all very mellow.

Until the big action sequence anyway and it, quite nicely, raises more questions than it answers. If I remember the conclusion to Terminal City correctly, a lot does go unanswered, which means one has to look at what raising the questions do for Motter’s story.

Here, for example, the questions raised by the girl’s mysterious summons gives Motter the chance to establish her character in action, not exposition.

Again, I love this comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

Terminal City 1 (July 1996)

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The first time I read Terminal City, which must have been almost ten years ago, it knocked my socks off. I’m not sure if it knocked them from the first issue, as this time through, I’m not yet without socks.

I’m close, of course. And finally knowing enough to say Michael Lark’s art here (at least with people) resembles Winsor McCay fills me with joy.

While Lark makes the visual experience of Terminal City, Motter sort of creates the place. It’s not just Lark’s drawings of this retro-futuristic city–it looks like an art deco paradise, something out of a poster for an old serial the actual episodes never delivered–it’s Motter’s history for it. He perfectly mixes character and exposition.

The first issue introduces the principle characters, a bunch of mysteries, large and small, and passes a lot of time thanks to Motter’s multilayered narrative.

I love it.

CREDITS

Writer, Dean Motter; artist, Michael Lark; colorist, Rick Taylor; letterer, Willie Schubert; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

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