2 out of 5
Fiffe’s schedule – a one man act for his own comic book, from production to shipping, combined with big publisher projects and cons and commissions – finally got to him: Copra Versus isn’t exactly a misstep, still offering series’ readers story value and Fiffe followers some excellent work, but it also very much suffers from crunch, becoming incredibly minimalist in its art in its final issues (published as a giant size compendium due to that crunch) and not quite offering the kind of depth its first couple books suggested.
‘Versus’ was intended to focus on the bad guys from Copra, whether individuals (Dy-Dy) or groups (Vitas’ Crew), and in whatever way most captured Fiffe’s interest – as origin, as side story, etc. While that openness means that the kind of incidental tales we get in the compendium (issues 3, 4, and 5) may have always been planned as fleeting as they ended up being, combined with the book’s simplified art style and hurried dialogue, the execution of those tales very much seems to have been affected by Michel’s busy workload.
Not that these are throwaways. Fiffe still delivered, and delivered on a level above the general quality of your usual monthly Marvel or DC rag. And while the barebones (for Fiffe) art doesn’t hold a candle to the classier stuff in issues #1 and 2, considered as a process study of the artist, it’s interesting to see how he captures form and movement when having to boil a panel down to its essentials.
Flipping back to books 1 and 2, there are hints there that this might’ve always been a somewhat subpar aside. Fiffe did this kind of character-by-character study back in Copra for his heroes, and when he’s not distracted by anarchy on the page – when reaching for a more emotional core – his writing tends to stumble. So our Dy-Dy issue (#1) is crowded in tracking the character’s origin, and while it’s interesting to see it eventually connect with the Copra story we remember, Dy-Dy’s background isn’t quite as affecting as I think Fiffe wants it to be, hampered by forcing the telling into a 6-panel scene-jumping structure on each page. Book two, focusing on (mostly) Klaus from A.R.M. is juxtaposingly fantastic, a series (meaning all of Copra) best, sprinkling the character work over and through action, told via tight pencil work.
So even when we were getting Fiffe’s “full” attention, Versus was up and down. The compendium flits through Asesinos, Ages of Ochizon, and the aforementioned Vitas members with similarly varying results (Ochizon hit the most by the minimalism, becoming almost surreal in its lines vs. open-space look).
I’m glad Fiffe saw fit to finish the title off, as it properly clears the slate for moving forward with Copra (or anything else that comes his way); I can imagine having the final issues looming would’ve been bothersome, and for better or worse, once someone makes the decision to skip due issues, it becomes easier to make that decision again… I sincerely remember, when Versus was announced, being surprised that Michel was attempting it with everything else I’d heard was planned. He did it, but I’d be happier waiting longer for stronger, more focused material in the future.