Nevada (#1 – 6) – Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

Ah, Nevada. Back in my fledgling Gerber-collectin’ days – I now have pretty much everything, excepting some odds and ends – I was curious why I’d see so many issues of this in cheapie back issue bins, next to the glut of Vertigo mini-series from the same time. Not that I figured that everyone must love Steve’s work in the same way I did (and do), and not that dollar bins equate directly to the quality of the books, but… Gerber! Vertigo! Phil Winslade! An ostrich and a showgirl! I mean, who wouldn’t want to read this? And the opening issue with a strange-ass Las Vegas murder mystery involving wholly bisected bodies and drunken winos with mystic powers and a crime boss with a dude with a lava lamp for a head… just whetted my appetite for more, and the dollar-bin disbelief. Yeah, you could accuse the text pages and seeming randomness of being default Gerber, but the book felt more inspired and in control than that; Vertigo was a place for Steve to unleash his sociological and psychological musings away from capes and spandex, and issue #1 was a testament to the way he could harness those defaults into something fresh and inspiring when given free reign.

Issues #2 – 6 were also easily found in dollar bins, but, eh, they helped to piece together why the series may have fallen by the wayside.

Nevada just has too many moving pieces. It’s not the same as randomness, which is where that initial sense of focus comes from: all of the pieces belong, in their way, but they probably belong in an ongoing series. Steve ends up kind of abusing one storyline to shift to another, and as soon as we feel that happening, a lot of the momentum dissipates. And we’re not able to wholly shift to that other storyline until the final issue, which, as a result, is just as solid as the first one. So you start by definitely wanting to read more, and you end by wishing there was more, but in the middle…

In the middle, our mystery intensifies when the “killer” is identified, but then it’s dropped in favor of bringing forward drunken ramblings from our homeless dude who turns out to be a physics professor, who’s very interested in our main character Nevada, who never gets a chance to be a main character because we’re also dealing with mobster science experiment lava-lamp head, and then we’re flitting around alternate dimensions to wax philosophical about the meaning of life… and it’s really only then, when Steve gets a chance to sit on a point and pontificate, that the story starts to breathe again. Bear in mind, a lot of those previous plot details don’t end up mattering much, though they could’ve, with more room to bind them together. At no point is any of this uninteresting, but, again, it only really ends up feeling like a story at its beginning and end; in the middle, you just keep waiting for everything to settle down.

Phil Winslade, unfortunately, may not have been the best match for the series. I quite love Phil’s art, but I’ll admit I’m not sure if I’ve seen him “fit” a book perfectly until Lawless. He needs a book grounded in relative realism, I think, but also the opportunity to go buck wild with details – he trawls an interestingly scrabbly line between the real and the fantastic. In Nevada, there just seem to be a ton of cues missing. It’s possible they weren’t in the script, but there are a lot of dialogue blips that put emphasis on something that’s never given its due in the art, which adds to the sensation of the book feeling like a whirlwind instead of something more linear. I do think Phil nailed the characters – bless anyone who can bring an ostrich to life – but they never quite seemed to be “acting” in the same book, or actually existing on the Las Vegas sets. Though maybe there’s some otherworldly quality to Vegas I’d recognize if I’d ever been there.

So… yeah. I would’ve wished for Gerber’s sole Vertigo series to have been a highpoint, as he’s a writer who I feel like’d been struggling for such an imprint since the 70s. It definitely sounds like a Gerber book, and a flipthrough has visuals that sure look like they belong in a Gerber book, but the thing only gels in fits and starts. And without a followup Nevada part 2 to smooth that out, if I wasn’t a Steve collector, it’s likely my copies would’ve ended up in a bargain bin as well.