Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality is a comic that nudges its elbows in the ribs of the mainstream superhero comics, mainly those published by the Big Two companies, and tells them to stop taking themselves seriously. At one point, Doctor 13 sarcastically implies that a talking Nazi gorilla is as likely as an American super-soldier with a shield. Yeah, as if.
I like it. The story is fun, it features obscure DC characters and the art is crisp and clean. I enjoyed it and like most books I like, it is far too short. I like the fact that I don't have to know any of the characters and it was still enjoyable to read. Well, I recognised the ghost of General Stuart from the Haunted Tank comic but the others? *shrug* You could have told me that they were new creations and I would have believed you. Well, what else can I say? I like the dang comic. I like it and so should you.
Oh, all right.
Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality is one of those comics where they try to show the reader that, "Look! Comics used to be fun and can still be fun! You don't need rapes and deaths and broken backs to have a good story. Screw Watchmen and Crisis on Infinite Earths. Let's have more silly stories, yay!" I get the feeling that writer Brian Azzarello was writing the stuff that he probably grew up reading; a nostalgia trip where a fanboy who is now working in the industry is trying to right the perceived wrongs of said industry. "Mainstream comics from the past 20 years raped my childhood so I'm setting things right", kinda thing.
Doctor 13, a professional sceptic, reluctantly finds himself in an adventure with a French-speaking caveman, a small boy who can answer any question in return for a dime, a vampire, a ghost pirate, a ghost of a Confederate General, a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a talking Nazi gorilla and Doctor 13's own daughter (who has magical powers but don't tell the doctor, okay?). Their quest is to find out who The Architects are and they are revealed to be the builders of the DC universe who have decided that these rejects of the DCU don't deserve to exist and must be wiped out of continuity. Except for Traci, Doctor 13's daughter. They're letting her live because she's hot. Doctor 13 defeats them by simply not believing in the power of The Architects. However, it is the reader who wipes them all out of existence in the end by turning the page. Very meta. Very Grant Morrison-ish Animal Man with a bit of his Doom Patrol beautiful surrealism thrown in.
Its brilliant writing is made even more enjoyable by Cliff Chiang's nice atwork and Patricia Mulvihill's solid colouring. Doctor 13 is laden with sight gags (I never expected to see Harry Flashman from the Flashman novels to appear in a comic book. Selling used superhero cars no less), puns and wit that made me re-read it immediately just to see whether I missed any the first time around. And of course, if I read it again Doctor 13 lives once more...until I reach the last page of course.