If the creative teams for “Constantine” and “Birds of Prey” look a little different from last month, it’s because they’ve been retroactively changed since then. Robert Venditti is off the former, replaced by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes plotting it with Fawkes scripting, and Jim Zubkavitch is off the latter, with Christy Marx now onboard. Apparently this is part of Dan Didio’s plan to rejuvenate second-string DC titles with big events to follow as well. While I’m all for a change in creative teams if things aren’t working out, this kind of editorial second-guessing does not inspire confidence. It’s even getting to the point where this is all starting to remind me of the constant game of musical chairs you saw in the core “X-Men” titles in the latter half of the 90’s where the writers would change every six months due to editorial meddling. Apparently the only way around this is to be a writer with clout like Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns or Gail Simone so that they can’t push you around. In any event, all the shuffling just makes the books look that much less desirable to me.
Another thing that occurred while reading the previous topic was, “How did this make it by Kodansha’s editorial staff?” Granted, I could very well be in the minority when it comes to appreciating “Attack on Titan’s” virtues but those two volumes definitely left me with the feeling that it could’ve been greatly improved had it been kicked back to the mangaka for further revision. The need for proper editorial guidance is something that comes up fairly often in the pages of “Bakuman” with this volume providing a moral, rather than objective, lesson in the perils that come from trying to circumvent it.
Outside of the fact that they’re continuing to publish “Battle Angel Alita: Last Order” and the “second season” of “Genshiken” Kodansha’s line of manga hasn’t really impressed me that much. That’s mainly because a lot of it does seem skewed towards a younger audience, which is understandable since those titles tend to be the most popular. Until they announced the release of Makoto Yukimura’s “Vinland Saga” there wasn’t a lot for me outside of those two titles to be excited about. Hajime Isayama’s “Attack on Titan,” though, did intrigue me a bit thanks to its fantasy setting and intriguing premise of humans fighting off giants for survival. I thought that it skewed just a bit older than their other titles so when The Right Stuf had it on sale this past Christmas I ordered these two volumes. What I got was easily one of the most disappointing, if not downright terrible, mangas I’ve read in the past year.
This is a series that I’ve always been interested in, but just never got around to checking out for one reason or another. A few Amazon gift certificates from friends last year helped change that. So after reading this impressively thick and well-priced volume ($20 for over 300 pages of comics), I’ve come away not really compelled to pick up the second but certainly not averse to it at some point in the future. The series is the creation of legendary letterer Richard Starkings and possesses far more striking art than storytelling. Lead artist Moritat creates an impressive futuristic cityscape whose most notable inhabitants are the genetically engineered anthropomorphic animals known collectively as the Elephantmen. Moritat’s work is eye-catching, even if it is trumped by the stunning level of detail invested by Ladronn in the origin story of these creatures. Tom Scioli and Rob Steen also turn in distinctive work here, as does Chris Bachalo who gives us a memorable pirate story written by Joe Kelly.
So even though this collection is very pleasing to the eyes, it doesn’t really offer up a compelling narrative to convince the reader to come back for more. Stunning art aside, this volume is almost entirely setup for future stories. We’re introduced to investigators Ebony (the elephant on the cover) Hip Flask (his hippo friend and fellow investigator), Elijah (a crocodile who lives up to type) and Obadiah (a rhino who has risen to be a very successful businessman--but with a Lex Luthor vibe to him which makes him the most interesting character in the series so far). Though we learn of their history with Mappo, the company that made them, the only hints of an ongoing story we get involves one of their trainers coming back to settle unfinished business and a mysterious idol that Flask manages to get his hands on. I wouldn’t be stressing the lack of an overarching narrative here if the individual stories were compelling... but the best one here isn’t from Starkings. It’s the fantasy pirate hippo adventure from Kelly and Bachalo. Most of the stories here do decent jobs of introducing the cast, but leave you feeling, “Okay. Now what are you going to do with them?” Let’s see if volume two can give me some answers I like.
While I’m aware of The Shadow’s status as one of the legendary characters of pulp fiction’s golden age, I can’t really say that I was chomping at the bit for new stories about him. Not unless a creator I really liked was involved, of course. So it happens that Garth Ennis wrote the first arc of Dynamite’s new series featuring the character and now it’s a part of my collection. As stories from the writer go, you can tell that he’s invested in the material and is having fun writing both flippant socialite Lamont Cranston and his unrepentantly vicious alter ego as they race the Japanese army to obtain some “magic rocks” which will power a super weapon to decide the outcome of World War II.
Jeffrey Dahmer was easily one of the most infamous serial killers of the last century due to the horrific and deeply disturbing nature of his crimes. Those of you wanting details of that beyond the cannibalism and necrophilia would be encouraged to check out his Wikipedia page or by Googling him. However, before he was a killer he was just that strange kid in school who caused his classmates to joke that he’d eventually turn into a serial killer. John “Derf” Backderf was one of those classmates and he went on to become a very talented cartoonist and storyteller. Proof of that is on full display in this graphic novel which offers a compelling and unique perspective on this period in the killer’s life.
I honestly didn’t think what I read here was possible.
Though the “Fear Itself” tie-in arc was an improvement over the execrable Stark-becomes-Doc Ock’s-bitch storyline of “Unfixable” it still left me with the feeling that the title’s best days were behind it. Now with two volumes left to go, the Fraction/Larroca run heads into its home stretch. After reading all the previous volumes up to this point, I felt an obligation to see it through. While I realize that reading stuff out of “obligation” is a TERRIBLE way to go about things, there’s always the chance that the creators could get things back on track and return to their glory days. That’s the vibe that I got here with “Demon.”
This doesn’t reach the ridiculous comic heights of “Goodbye, Chinatown,” but it’s still a fun capper to Jason Aaron’s run on “Wolverine” proper. After all this is a story that starts off with the title character on a plane to Japan where the in-flight attendant passes out samurai swords to everyone else on the plane after he goes to use the bathroom. Because they’re all ninjas, you see; and that most disposable of comic book villains figures prominently here as a war between the Hand and the Yakuza is brewing in the land of the rising sun. That’s only part of the story here as Sabretooth and Mystique are lurking on the periphery, looking to profit from this in any way that they can.
Warren Ellis’ name may be on the cover of this graphic novel, but it’s not his show. This is all about Steve Pugh, a veteran artist with a long history of work with DC, Marvel, and numerous other companies. I’m familiar with him through his collaborations with Garth Ennis on the “Preacher: Saint of Killers” miniseries and a few parts of “Hitman.” His characters always had a “fleshy” look that made them stand out, especially when the stories in question called for parts of them to be blown off in some fashion. I can’t say that his work was of such quality that I preferred it over either writers’ other frequent collaborators, but whenever I saw his name in the credits I felt the story was in good hands. “Hotwire” represents the first writing I’ve read from him. Though the story does feel very Ellis-y it’s pretty serviceable overall. It’s the art, though, that represents the real revelation here.