September 10, 2009
Yup. Still going through the haul from San Diego. After this week I should be back to talking about the stuff I’ve read more recently, but I think the “Lightning Round” format will probably stick around for a while longer. Though I'll probably drop the subtitles after this for obvious reasons...
The Spirit vol. 2: Not the best deal I found at the con, but getting the second hardcover for 60% off the cover price was nice. Too bad that the stories inside didn’t quite match up to the fun of the first volume. Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke still tells some good stories (especially his “Sand Saref” finale), but the main story about The Spirit’s clash with undead gangster “El Morte,” and later his zombie legions, feels out of place compared to what has come before. There are also numerous other short stories from other noted writers and artists that are fun, but nothing too memorable.
Body Bags -- Father’s Day: Gleefully offensive, morally bankrupt fun – which is great in small doses like this every once in a while. Legendary body bagger (read: bounty hunter) Clownface finds out he has a smartassed daughter named Panda after she tracks him down and does everything she can to get him to teach her the tricks of the trade. The plot is merely an excuse for writer/artist Jason Pearson to indulge in some of the most tasteless jokes you’ll ever hear at the expense of people on society’s lowest rung and some of the most explosive fights (gun and otherwise) this side of a Garth Ennis comic. Recommended for people who like finding inventive ways to kill the pedestrians in the “GTA” games.
Suicide Squad – From the Ashes: John Ostrander’s run on “Suicide Squad” in the 80’s is one of those legendary runs that everyone talks about how good it was, but has yet to be collected in any form. This is a collection of the eight issue miniseries written by Ostrander which has him reuniting most of the main cast (from what I can gather). After you get past the first three issues, which are mostly setup showing us how one of the characters survived his apparent death in the original series, the appeal of the concept starts to manifest itself. In a team made up of morally dubious individuals, it’s not a matter of if they’ll start to turn on each other, but when and who will align with who. Good stuff and it makes me interested in checking out Ostrander’s original run.
Simon Dark – Ashes: It’s never a good sign when in a series that stars a character with supernatural abilities (who was stitched together Frankenstein-style), and a cult spreading a demonic plague through soap bars, that the thing most requiring the reader’s suspension of disbelief is that for a series set in Gotham City, Batman and co. wouldn’t intervene at some point. I realize that setting the series in Gotham was probably done to help boost sales, but it doesn’t do the story any favors. That’s too bad because it’s not a bad supernatural tale. Writer Steve Niles brings just the right amount of humor to his characters to make them and their situations endearing, and artist Scott Hampton handles the creepy and the mundane effortlessly. Maybe Batman will show up in the next volume to explain things, but even if he doesn’t, I won’t be too disappointed.
The Life Eaters: Behold! The best deal I found at the con: I picked up this $20 graphic novel for $3! What’s even better is that after reading it, I would’ve been willing to pay full price for it. Written by David Brin (adapting his story “Thor Meets Captain America” – which is funny in itself because this was published by Wildstorm, an imprint of DC Comics) with art by the aforementioned Scott Hampton, this is an alternate history story that deals with the Nazis winning WWII. The catch here is that they had help from the Norse gods who suddenly appeared on the scene to help turn the tide. The story of where did they come from and what will happen to humanity after other gods start appearing proves to be a compelling tale of humanity’s resourcefulness in the face of unimaginable power. It’s not perfect (our hero getting a giant mech comes off as a little silly) but if the concept sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend checking it out.
X-Factor Visionaries vol. 4: Collecting the final issues of writer Peter David’s run on the original series, it also happens to be the weakest of the four volumes. That’s mainly because A) three of the issues collected are part of the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover (they’re not really bad, but who wants to read three random issues of an extended crossover like this) and B) David left the series before he could wrap up his final storyline. However, the one shining bright spot in this collection is the one issue of his run that EVERYONE talks about: “X-aminations,” where the cast is psychoanalyzed and we get to see what really makes them tick. It’s a great issue and worth reading if you’re a fan of the characters involved, or Peter David. But unless you can find this volume for dirt cheap, you’re probably better off tracking down the issue by itself (which is #87 of “X-Factor” vol. 1).
The Nodwick Chronicles vols. 5 & 6: Aaron Williams’ comedic take on the conventions of fantasy RPGs (mainly the pen-and-paper variety, but films and video games get their due too) reaches its finale with these two volumes. Needless to say, this isn’t the point at which to jump into the series, but if you’ve been enjoying Williams’ laid back skewering of fantasy and gaming tropes, then you’re going to enjoy how it all wraps up here. I have to admit that I’m impressed he was able to build to a suitably epic climax since his style doesn’t really lend itself to that kind of storytelling. He does manage to transcend it just enough to make it work, though not quite as well as I’ve seen elsewhere.
Wolverine… by Claremont and Miller: Not sure what to call this since just calling it “Wolverine” might confuse some, but this is the collection of the very first Wolverine mini-series from 1982. Reading it again after a decade, it comes off as… quaint. I know that this was the character’s first solo outing, but after reading god knows how many other (and frankly, better) stories with the character in the intervening years, this one felt like a product of its time. Granted, this was a time when Claremont and Miller were in their “Can do no wrong,” periods so it’s still readable enough, but it still comes off as being noteworthy mainly because it came first (and introduced Wolverine to Japan) than anything else.
Fallen Angel vols. 5 & 6: Picking up where the “Fallen Angel Omnibus” left off. Fallen Angel Lee’s son Jude, magistrate of the “City that Shapes the World” Bete Noir, has finally managed to tick off the wrong people in his efforts to use the city’s influence to make the world a better place. Lots of people wind up suffering for that in the process, and Peter David’s sometimes dramatic, sometimes serious, sometimes comedic look at life, the universe and everything reaches a climax. Much of what I said about “Nodwick” above can be applied here, except that the “ending” David cooks up is more of an inversion of the status quo, and not a particularly appealing one to me at that. While I know the series continues in the recently launched “Fallen Angel Reborn,” I’m starting to wonder if David does have a plan, or if he just wants to stretch this out indefinitely. He’s done enough good with this series to make me want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but we’ll see what happens in the next volume.
Poison Elves: vol. 10 – Dark Wars vol. 1, and Ventures vols. 1 & 2: It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything from this series, because after creator Drew Hayes died in ’07 there was no chance the series would reach any kind of resolution. Then I found these for half-price at Comic-Con and figured, “What the hell.” Reading vol. 11 reminded me of how much I liked the black humor and cynicism that Hayes brought to the fantasy genre while tweaking the genre tropes in enjoyable ways. Regrettably this volume doesn’t end with any kind of closure (in fact, it leaves a lot of the characters in some VERY bad places), so I’ll probably pick up vol. 11 if only because it has to offer a better sense of closure than this one does. As for the “Ventures” volumes, they collect the mini-series and one-shots written by Keith “Some Guy I’ve Never Heard Of” Davidsen that focus on some of the series supporting cast, along with some other stories by Hayes that have never been collected before now. Most of the stories aren’t bad, but they have the feeling of “filler” about them and will probably be of interest only to die-hard fans of the series (though I will admit that the one-shot with Jace in vol. 2 was actually very good). Along with picking up vol. 11, reading these have also convinced me that I need to go back and re-read the series again, so expect to see a podcast on the series sometime next month.