This is the first of what will likely be a few posts detailing all the stuff I picked up at Comic-Con. As I said before, I’ll probably be doing several podcasts related to the stuff I picked up (the latest volume of “Blade of the Immortal,” the three “Fantastic Four” hardcovers collecting the Waid/Wieringo run, something about “Star Wars” comics), but it would take forever to write up everything I got at the usual length. So while I might be selecting a few books to talk about at length, here’s me writing fast about many books. “The Lightning Round” begins after the break.
Secret Invasion: Surprisingly, not as bad as I had heard. Bendis turns in a sharp script, and Yu gives us some fantastic visuals. It’s biggest problem is that while it works as a diverting super-hero slugfest, it doesn’t have the depth to justify its $30 asking price. Recommended if you can find it for $20 (or less like I did).
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories HC: This collects all of the “Batman: The Animated Series” related comic work by series creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. All the stories are good, but the standout is the title story which relates the funny and tragic origin of Harley Quinn. If that’s not enough, know that Batman calls Joker “Puddin’” at one point. This is a must-buy for anyone with a Batman-loving bone in their body.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja vol. 3: Operation Dracula! From Outer Space: Twice as big as the previous volumes, but sadly not twice as funny. There’s really no way that a comic that has a ninja doctor fighting off hordes of ninja undead (that he originally killed in the last volume) with the help of Benjamin Franklin’s clone could not be funny, but it doesn’t really hit the ingenious comedic heights of the first two volumes.
Halo: Uprising HC: Bendis again, this time with his frequent artistic collaborator Alex Maleev on board for the art. Maleev kills on pretty much every page, bringing all of the trademarks of the “Halo” franchise to gritty life. Bendis… does his usual schtick and delivers a script that allows Maleev to show off and keeps the story moving. The problem is that the twist in the story is flawed as a) it’s kinda obvious and b) makes the Covenant look like fools. For what it is, it’s not bad, but probably not as interesting as the story of why this four issue series took over two years to come out would be.
House of Mystery vol. 1: Room and Boredom: One of the newer series to emerge from DC’s Vertigo imprint, and to come from the “Vertigoverse” that all the company-owned characters from the imprint inhabit. Fig is an architect who wanders into the titular house after being chased by some mysterious beings, and then finds herself unable to leave. While the overarching story looks to be about Fig and her mysterious connection to the house, the most memorable parts of the book are the short stories featured in each chapter. From stories about a woman who married a fly to a process server for mythical and magical beings, these are the ones that will stick in your head. A good enough start, and enough to make me want to pick up the next volume.
Batman: The Private Casebook HC: Paul Dini again, this time with artist Dustin Nguyen (and writer Peter Milligan pitch-hitting on one story). An interesting study in contrasts between this and “Mad Love” as this has Dini telling Batman stories in the DC Universe proper, and doing a pretty good job of it. As you’d expect, he’s got a great handle on Batman, but he also proves equally skilled at writing the DCU iterations of Ra’s Al Ghul, Zatanna, the Riddler, and introducing a new Scarface/Ventriloquist pairing. Nguyen also handles the artistic side of things with style, resulting in another Batman book I’d recommend to fans (if not in hardcover, then definitely in softcover… when it comes out).
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: I’d heard good things about this collection, which tells the story of the world’s richest duck from childhood to being the aged miser he’s known best as. It’s a fun, all-ages story that appeals to the part of me that remembers watching “Ducktales” as a kid. I’m not sure how much I’d have enjoyed it if I hadn’t watched the series all those years ago, but if you’re looking to start your kids on comics, you could do worse than to hand them this.
Hulk: The End HC: Collecting two stories written by Peter David: “Future Imperfect” illustrated by George Perez, and “The End” illustrated by Dale Keown. The former is the stronger of the two, as we get to see Hulk flung into the future to fight against his future self, the tyrant leader of the known world who calls himself “The Maestro.” “The End” is an interesting take on how Hulk/Bruce Banner would react to being the last being(s) left on Earth, even though I couldn’t quite figure out how Bruce managed to escape his fate at the end. Putting these two stories together in one collection results in one of the better “Hulk” collections you’ll read if you get the chance.
Gravel vol. 1: Bloody Liars: Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer provide the story and script, Raulo Caceres and Oscar Jimenez provide the art for this first collection of the ongoing series detailing the escapades of combat magician William Gravel. If you haven’t read any of Ellis/Wolfer’s “Strange Kiss” series from Avatar, all you need to know is that he’s a magician who’s as skilled with a .45 as he is with spells (John Constantine with SAS training, if you will). In this volume, he kills several magicians who want him dead in ways both violent and creative. Not groundbreaking by any means, but if any of what I’ve described to you sounds interesting, you’ll like this.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol. 1: This is me mortgaging my self-respect on the good word of Carl Horn, editor and adapter extraordinarie at Dark Horse. If you’ve seen the series, then this manga takes the high-school comedy scenes in the last episode as it’s jumping off point, and wacky hijinks ensue between less tortured versions of Shinji, Asuka and Rei. I certainly can’t fault this series for failing to deliver what it promises, but I have a feeling that by the time I get to vol. 4, I’ll pick it up and go, “Why am I still reading this?” We’ll see if I’m proven wrong.
Deathblow: And Then You Live! Writer Brian Azzarello teams up with artists Carlos D’Anda and Henry Flint to tell a story of Wildstorm’s manly soldier fighting the war on terror with advice from a talking dog. Fortunately it’s clear that the ridiculousness is intentional on Azzarello’s part, but the end result left me feeling cold and uninterested. I didn’t know much about Deathblow at all before this series, and if Azzarello was counting on some familiarity with the character to draw readers into his tale, he miscalculated badly. While I doubt the current marketplace would’ve supported this story without the use of an established character in the lead, the story here might have been better served if it had been told without any connection to the Wildstorm universe.
The Incredible Hercules: Against the World & Secret Invasion: I’d heard good things about this series online, and these two volumes didn’t disappoint. Hercules, with smart-aleck genius Amadeus Chow in tow, smashes his way out of the carnage of “World War Hulk” and into battles with Ares, the god of war, and the gods of the Skrull pantheon. Both volumes tell their stories with lots of energy and style, while the “Secret Invasion” tie-in story is particularly clever in the way it manages to have its cake and eat it too as it not only serves as a notable tie-in to the crossover, but manages to advance the series main story as well. Neat trick, that.
Black Panther: Secret Invasion: This is the first “Black Panther” comic I’ve ever bought, and you can attribute that to the presence of writer Jason Aaron (and my desire to spite Marvel for charging $13 for a collection of three issues, by buying it at half price) for that. As for the story itself: Skrulls invade the Panther’s homeland of Wakanda, and wind up getting their asses handed to them thanks to the combination of the Panther’s smarts and his wife Storm’s weather-manipulation powers. It’s a clever, fun comic with a lot of fighting, but not clever enough to be worth the price on the cover.
Wonder Man: My Fair Superhero: Peter David again, with Andrew Currie on art and… well… if you don’t like what you see on the cover, then let me warn you that the art doesn’t get any better on the inside. If you can look past that, though, you’ll find a perfectly enjoyable story about Simon “Wonder Man” Williams trying to reform an unrepentant killer, who calls herself “Ladykiller,” with the help of Carol “Ms. Marvel” Danvers and Henry “Beast” McCoy. David’s wit is on fine form and full display here, as is his knack for finding substance in the most conventional (and in some cases, editorially mandated) of setups. That’s the case here as the question of whether or not Simon’s rehabilitation of Ladykiller isn’t a form of brainwashing in itself is made the center of the last few issues. In short: A good story with art that will not be to everyone’s taste.
Star Wars: Legacy vol. 5 – The Hidden Temple: John Ostrander writes as always, and Jan Duursema is back on art for this volume, which means that the story shifts back to focusing on the exploits of Luke’s reckless grandson Cade Skywalker. This time out, Cade and his friends meet up with some family, and what’s left of the Jedi Council. Cade being Cade, wants the Council to agree to his plans to assassinate Darth Krayt, but of course they think that his plan leads to the Dark Side. It’s another solid entry in the series, even if what goes on here is mostly setup for the events that go down in “Vector.” Speaking of which…
Star Wars: Vector vols. 1 & 2: These actually merit a longer discussion on my part since they represent one of the better executed crossovers I’ve seen. All I’ll say for now is that they are required reading if you follow “Legacy” since the events here represent a major turning point for that series.