Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1957-58

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

It's been a while since I posted one of these! I've been slowly working through some longer books, and passing a few further down the pile to read again before I figured they were ready to shelve.

Anyway, by the end of this fourth volume, Ketcham had all four of the main kids in the cast present, although Joey is still in a strange, silly, silent incarnation, who just quietly follows Dennis around. Now, if you missed out on the first couple of volumes, or the hype and surprise around their rediscovery, it turned out that 1950s Dennis really was a menace - a shin-kicking terror who even snuck cigarettes in one installment. Well, by volume four, the edge is in the process of being sanded off - that antiseptic TV sitcom with Jay North is just around the corner - and the manic destruction and inappropriate nudity is awkwardly sharing space with platitudes about saying please at the dinner table. On the other hand, Ketcham's linework is so damn amazing, and it's stunning and inspiring to see how well he conveys place with sparse, unfinished background lines. It's almost worth it just for the artwork, but the slow emergence of the treacly Dairy Queen-spokesperson Dennis makes this a recommendation with reservations. Volume five will have to be very surprising for me to continue past that point.

(Originally posted December 29, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, December 3, 2007


Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

So. Adam Warren.

Fifteen, sixteen years ago, when I was active in a hobby that had lots of people drawing fan art of Project A'Ko and Vampire Hunter D of widely varying quality, it was inexplicable even then that Adam Warren got published at all. I never actually read his licensed Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis adaptations, because the art was so unbelievably horrible, apparently fueled by that old "drawing Japanimation is easy; just draw big eyes on your chicks" adage, that I never got past the "coming soon" ads. Me and the lads'd flip through copies of his books at Oxford Comics and say rude things.

Flash forward to the late 90s. To throw a little business to Athens' struggling Main Street Comics, I started picking up three titles there. One of these was the guilty cheesecake pleasure of Gen 13. I cannot recall a single storyline from any Gen 13 comic I have ever read, with the surprising exception of a very, very good and extremely clever two-part fill-in scripted by Warren, about a pop song nobody can get out of their head actually being a sentient entity. Warren didn't draw it, apart from the hideously ugly covers, which were done in his agonizingly dull style where all characters are stuck "super-deformed." The script, though, was first-rate.

So, Empowered.

This is a superhero bondage comedy for grown-ups. It is hilarious. It's about a heroine who gets remarkable strength from a skintight, self-regenerating black costume which shreds at the teeniest touch, leaving her helpless, bound and gagged almost every time she tries to fight crime. It takes every cliche of all those awful American superhero books which look like fetish parades anyway and plays them for laughs. It's remarkably kinky, but at the same time playfully coy, with the sex and nudity hidden just off-panel or behind props, with a single hysterical exception when Em demonstrates her suit's "invisibility" feature, only to have it malfunction on her. Even the adult language is hidden behind black bars.

The only thing I dislike about the script is an overreliance on contemporary slang and hip-hop patois (chica / ho / homey / sistah), which (God willing) is going to date the book horribly in a decade's time. He really comes up with some hilarious situations and rants, and a section where Em is reading embarassing slashfic about herself on a superhero fan board is great.

But the art? Well, Warren proves himself surprisingly, incredibly adept at pacing and timing. His storytelling is rock-solid and his grasp of anatomy has mostly improved hugely, except for...

It's the new Shmoo!
The incredible new Shmoo!

...the heads. Dear Lord, what is going on with these people's heads? His people have skeletons, but they do not have skulls, or any facial musculature at all! They have bodies, but just some blobby marshmellows sitting on their shoulders. I recognize that this is a comedy and not a stroke book, but I find this so repellent that every page is actively a turn-off. I couldn't read more than about fifteen pages at a time; it's that ugly.

I realize that complaining about Warren's style is churlish, if not downright pointless, since he has built his career and fanbase from his influences. But let me put this another way, there's a cute little in-joke where Em does her cooking wearing Kyoko from Maison Ikkoku's "piyo piyo" apron. I'd sacrifice that gag in a heartbeat if I could own a copy of Empowered from a parallel universe where Warren's chief art influences were Bilal, Manara and Moebius. If you're a grown-up and you like that art, then this is recommended. If you don't like that art, then don't bother.

(Originally posted December 03, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chance in Hell, Emma vol. 5, Golgo 13 vol. 11

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

I'm not sure what I went into this one expecting. In the Love & Rockets universe, one of the characters, Fritz, is a B-movie actress. This is the adaptation of one of her first films, a comic book version of a movie that never really existed. So it's a stand-alone graphic novel where one of the minor characters looks like a different Gilbert Hernandez character.

Man, it's bleak. It's not as explicit as some of his other material - I guess it was "cleaned up" for the screen or something - but it's even more patently adult in content and tone, with terrible fates befalling unhappy people. It's a really ugly world which I didn't enjoy visiting, but I was nevertheless caught up in the story and cared what happened to Empress, the strange, lonely girl caught in ugly situations. Recommended with a pretty strong mature readers advisory.

Much, much better. The previous volume of Emma had me deeply annoyed with both protagonists for their very stupid decisions and actions. This time out, Emma and William are recovering from what they'd done, Emma is actually interacting with her fellow staff and not being so uptight, and William... well, I think book six is going to be pretty interesting now that we've met this Viscount fellow. Best of all is an exchange of letters between the two which is, quite unexpectedly, the hottest thing ever. Oh, the passions! Oh, these Victorians! Recommended!

...but it's not recommended half as highly as this baby. This is one of the best of the English-language Golgo 13 books yet. The bulk of the volume is given over to a captivating little political study called "Okinawa Syndrome." You probably never gave a thought in your life to how Okinawa's exchange rate with the US affects its ability to attract manufacturing business, but such minutiae fuels a remarkable story of an attempted military coup. Golgo 13 doesn't even show up until halfway through the story, and, in a break with the series' conventions, you have no idea what he's doing there and whose side he's on.

Possibly even more entertaining is the short story which follows, in which somebody gets mistaken for Golgo 13 and comes to the inescapable conclusion that he has made a genuinely horrible decision in passing himself off as something he's not. Then again, he accepts his fate with such engaging, infectious good spirits that you can't help but chuckle, and the climax is the most unexpected thing you've ever seen. Highly recommended!

* * *

(Originally posted November 29, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

James Bond: Death Wing

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

For their latest collection of the James Bond newspaper strip, Titan bafflingly jumped ahead from the 1975 stories into 1977 for the last one to appear in the UK, and the first two which never appeared in British papers. Perhaps sales for the series are down and they wanted to promote the "never printed in England before!" angle? Whatever, I wonder whether the reason the Express cancelled James Bond in the first place was because the plots were getting increasingly ridiculous. I wouldn't want "Sea Dragon" in my newspaper because it's really stupid, although "Death Wing," if you can swallow the missile/glider thing, does have an exciting climax.

I know this next bit is going to read as forced given the above, but I would like to point out that Alan Porter contributes a nice essay about the history of James Bond in American comics, and it's the best thing in this volume. This is only recommended for completists, but Bond afficionados might enjoy the essay. I'd kind of like to read that 60s issue of DC Showcase with the Dr. No adaptation myself!

(Originally posted November 23, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

The second time was the charm, as what began as a very good story reveals itself, by way of so many incredibly intelligent allusions, foreshadowing and narrative puzzles, to be utterly sublime, like a comic version of House of Leaves. The main story is as remarkable as you expect from the Moore and O'Neill's prior work. Remember how, in volume one, M turns out to not be Mycroft Holmes and it's the greatest cliffhanger ever? That happens about six times here. I was totally comfortable with the Dan Dare/Gerry Anderson world that's replacing Big Brother's England, and adding the entirely dissimilar Quatermass Experiment to that world was a masterstroke, just dropped in for a penny-drop gag in one panel.

The use of the supplemental material from the dossier itself is amazing, subtly revealing facts with casual ease, and silently passing notes to the reader on the back of jigsaw puzzle pieces. I did complete The Crazy Wide Forever, although it's likely I won't perform well if quizzed upon its narrative, and liked the unbelievably kinky Fanny Hill sequel best, even better than the thrilling picture story The Life of Orlando. The Wodehouse pastiche had me in stitches, though I think even a dark god like "Cool Lulu" should know better than to mess with Wooster's Aunt Dahlila. Highly recommended for mature readers with ample time to dissect and play with the material.

(originally posted November 22, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dr. Slump Vol. 13

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

There was a notable ebb in this title's madness between books 8-11. By the twelfth, Toriyama had clearly found his groove again, and by this one, he had surpassed himself. This collects 13 episodes of the longest of the Slump storylines, which continues in the next edition. The evil, and stupid, Dr. Masahirito has built a rival for Arale, a dimwitted robot kid named Caramel Man 004 who looks like a bizarre cross between Arale and Astro Boy. Arale doesn't quite catch on that Caramel Man 004 is out to destroy her, even when he throws her into outer space, and is pleased to finally have a friend as strong as her. Then Caramel Man 004 falls in love with her. Utter fucking lunacy follows. Highly recommended!!

(Originally posted November 21, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Judge Dredd: Origins

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

Well, it turns out that the big tomb of Judge Fargo, unbeknownst to everybody but the most senior judges, is empty. Fargo was the original chief judge, the fellow who was put in charge of Justice Department back when there was still a United States, back before Robert Booth, the country's final president - the one who led the country into nuclear war - was first elected. And when a severed hand shows up, a DNA match proving it came not only from Fargo but from living tissue, with a ransom note attached, Judge Dredd leads a team into the badlands to find out what is going on out there...

It's an excellent story, but I fear it might be lost on new readers. Highly recommended for people familiar with Dredd; other readers may want to dig into a few of those Case Files first before giving it a go.

(Originally posted November 20, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best of Josie and the Pussycats

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

Well, here's the deal: I bought this because I knew the Hipster Daughter would like it (turns out she didn't), and you know, the pre-1980 material has aged amazingly well, and is every bit as entertaining as it was when I was a kid, which is to say, spectacularly. The rather hopeless, quaint naivete displayed in the post-MTV era Pussycats makes for apalling comics, however - contrary to thought, rock bands don't just ride around in a limo until they find a location in which to shoot their new video - and whoever the heck was writing these things after the group's 1970s heyday had no clue what they were doing.

What really chafes is that some early panels were "touched up" with some horrible computer-generated backgrounds, and while the cover art by "Rex W. Lindsey" - notta lotta non-Archie Google hits for that name - gets a credit, not one other artist or writer earns one. Shain and Dave, y'all won't mind if I let Miss Cooper field this one, would you?

Recommended only if, like me, you find actual 1970s Josie comics difficult to find.

(Originally posted November 16, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Human Diastrophism

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I don't know how many times I've read these stories in other collections, but I keep buying new editions - I may pass some of my earlier configurations on to new readers at some point - and I keep tearing up at the climax of the central story, which features just about the saddest and most moving death scene I've ever read, and I get all choked up when the violence starts at the end of "Chelo's Burden" as well. I found myself following Guadalupe more closely in this story than I had in previous reads of the material in other versions; the cast is so enormous that you can very easily read these stories dozens of times and find new motivations and new points of view each time. Absolutely perfect in every possible way and brilliant from start to finish, this gets the highest recommendation I can give anything.

(Originally posted November 16, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Golgo 13 vol 10, Houdini: The Handcuff King and Showcase Presents Batgirl

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

"Wasteland" is a nuclear-scare story from the early 80s, which really has not aged as well as the other stories in this series of reprints. On the other hand, the story does a stunning job depicting the absolute desperation of a team of engineers trapped in a nuclear plant, and the solution, using Golgo's unerring accuracy to find a way to shut everything down, is very clever. The second, shorter story, "Route 95," is more engrossing, and places our "hero" amidst a murder mystery, only to learn that he has a nasty, secret reason for being in the wrong place at the wrong time... Recommended for readers who've sampled some of the other volumes.

Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi (The Salon) look at a day in the life of Houdini, preparing for and executing an event in Cambridge. It is an entertaining and detailed little story, which weaves elements of Houdini's life and mythology in and around the spectacle, but in the end, I felt that the price point was awfully high for a story so slight, and was actively aggravated at myself for spending as much as I did, even with a generous discount. $16.99 might have been fine for a life story in 96 pages, but, and this may be the plot-heavy 2000 AD fan in me talking, there's an awful lot of space given over to scene-setting at the expense of story. Not recommended without a pretty substantial discount.

A pretty typical Showcase offering, about 550 pages which reprint every Batgirl appearance from her 1966 debut into the early 70s. For a time, she was a recurring guest character in the Batman stories before getting her own monthly series in Detective Comics, with a long stretch of two-part eight-page adventures. The character was semi-retired around 1971, and, in one of the most credibility-straining ideas in DC's history, Barbara Gordon was elected to represent Gotham City in the US Congress, which didn't leave her very many opportunities to break out the cape and cowl. There's some pretty good artwork by the likes of Don Heck, Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane in this volume, but the stories are pretty slight and not particularly engaging. Not recommended.

(Originally posted November 12, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The War That Time Forgot

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

This isn't the entry I thought I'd write.

This Showcase volume collects seven years of The War That Time Forgot, a 15-page strip that ran throughout the 1960s in the pages of Star-Spangled War Stories. It has the greatest premise ever - WW2 GIs battle dinosaurs, giant apes, undersea beasts and hundred-foot tall Nazi robots on a South Pacific island - and it runs it completely into the ground. This is not how it should have been. This should have been the best book ever. It's not.

For about 100, 150 pages, this was a tremendously entertaining read. But these stories were not made to be collected in a 550 page volume, where the amazing repetition of the scripts are exposed. Robert Kanigher was writing these for eight year-olds who wouldn't follow a war comic for seven or more years, but I have to wonder whether he wasn't driving them away by using the exact same plot structure in every story! Seriously, if you've read one War That Time Forgot, you've read them all. A fresh-faced GI, who narrates the events from after the fact (confirming he'll survive it), is assigned a suicide mission to pick up where another mission fails, and his transport either gets torn out of the sky by a pteranodon with a wingspan greater than Rodan's which cracks a B-29 in half, or his ship gets sunk by a tentacled horror. If he's in a submarine, it's going down, too. He and his surviving fellows all speak with exactly the same New York lingo and jargon and refer to the monsters as, alternately, refugees from "the age of nightmares"/"the Ice Age"/"the late-night horror show," repeatedly. The GIs will be able to see underwater without a mask, and they will invariably throw hand grenades at the dinosaurs and call their weapons "pineapples." They will either obtain the Macguffin assigned by the brass, who will never believe this story, or they will destroy it so the Japs can't obtain it. Every strip is the same.

This happens about eleven times in this book. I'm serious.

From time to time, some recurring characters will turn up for not more than three or four strips. Among these are the most annoying characters in all of fiction, Morgan and Mace. Mace was responsible for the accidental death of Morgan's brother before the war; Morgan is convinced Mace is a coward and can't wait for him to turn yellow so that he can gun him down for failing to complete the mission. We know this because, in an average 15 page story, this is explained at least six times. I am not kidding. Then we get a flying baby dinosaur called Dino and a kid named Caveboy, and, DAMNATION, THIS BOOK SHOULD BE BETTER THAN THIS.

You do get some rare art by Gene Colan, Russ Heath and Joe Kubert in its pages, and Kubert actually did a little research to see what dinosaurs were thought to look like, as opposed to "whatever the fuck he felt like drawing." But the overwhelming majority of the pages are by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who can draw helmets and trees and tommy guns all right, but nothing else. Certainly not dinosaurs. Not recommended at all. Dammit.

(Originally posted November 05, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Emma Vol. 4

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I'm afraid this really starts to lose its way in this collection. I guess there's too much modern mindset creeping through, but in this collection, we meet a really fantastic new character called Monica, who is assertive, confident, demanding and engaging, and about whom, frankly, I'd rather read. By comparison, Emma's complete lack of assertion, down to the point where she just does not talk to people, really, really grates in a few scenes in this book. When the rest of the staff are flat-out asking you about your time in London, just TELL THEM about your previous position. Damn, it's annoying. And William! What the hell are you thinking, dude? As a whole, not really recommended as much anymore. In fact, I've got book 5; I'll refrain from either recommending or not based on whether things improve in that book.

(Originally posted November 05, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Batman from the 30s to the 70s

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I never had a copy of this book as a kid, though it seemed, growing up, that so many of my friends had either it or the companion Superman volume. Must have been a common enough Christmas present. It's a pretty good cross-section of reprints, about 400 pages, mostly in black and white. The goofy late 50s stuff is probably the most entertaining; the more critically-praised Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams stuff from the 1970s is damned, in the cold light of modern eyes, by a whole lot of coincidental plot exposition right when the hero hides from "somebody coming," that somebody being a motormouth who needs to explain how far along the evil scheme is. Come to think of it, the same creators' lauded Green Lantern/Green Arrow run is completely full of that as well. I prefer the silly old story where Luthor and the Joker team up and launch an incredibly successful business selling robots to industry, but then blow it all by using the robots to steal money instead of just sitting back and earning it. Recommended for nostalgists.

(Originally posted October 29, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

This is a really, really excellent collection of three stories serialized in 2000 AD over the last few years. It takes the premise that a large eastern European nation successfully invaded and conquered Britain in 1999. Five years later, a wanted "terrorist" named Bill Savage returns to England after working abroad, building contacts and becoming a legend among the resistance. What happens next is by turns heartbreaking, unbelievable and completely at odds with conventional comic drama, as Pat Mills reasserts his position as one of the medium's best writers after some years of below-par work. Highly, highly recommended.

(Originally posted October 23, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

InuYasha vol. 5 and Case Closed vol. 5

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I wrapped up the fifth editions of two absurdly long, ongoing series last night. I paid notably less than the cover price for each, and don't intend to continue with them, although I still have a few more volumes I paid under $5 apiece awaiting me in the read-pile. That's not to say either of them are that bad, although Case Closed, the US title for Detective Conan, is demonstrably the poorer, what with its genuinely godawful artwork and distractingly coy premise that a high school detective has been "de-aged" to look like a seven year-old. It's agreeably grisly, with decapitations and dismemberments that totally belie the presumption that this is a kids' series, but the preciousness of the premise is an incredible bore. Just telling a straightforward mystery adventure with Kudo as a teenager, without the "Conan Edogawa" subterfuge, would have been more appealing to me.

Like InuYasha, the Detective Conan stories are told over the course of 4-6 week storylines, collected 10-11 episodes at a time in digest form. InuYasha's problem is that its premise was concocted solely to swell the bank account of its creator, and while I have come to completely adore Rumiko Takahashi's work, this, her longest-running strip, is by leagues the least interesting of her series. The object of the strip in its earliest days, a "soul-gem," was shattered into unknown dozens of little shards, each of which must be collected (gotta catch 'em all!), and each of which takes InuYasha, Kagome and their allies into conflict with a new hideous demon. It's a premise that can safely be wrapped up in six weeks, just as soon as the editors decide the sales are slipping, and the "last" shard can be found. I can't help but like Kagome, and think she's a great character, but I can safely skip learning what will happen to her next.

Coincidentally, both series run in Japan's weekly Shonen Sunday anthology, where they've been the star attractions since the mid-1990s. And really, the longevity is a huge problem to anyone considering following either series. With 48-50 episodes a year of each, that's five volumes times eleven years for InuYasha and thirteen years for Det. Conan, or, put simply, a completely unbelievable financial commitment to see either series through to the end, assuming US sales stay high enough to justify continued translated editions. In either case, I would not recommend these series to new readers, not least because both of these damn books end on cliffhangers! At least I've still got the sixth Case Closed book around here to find out who these mysterious criminals that Conan is following are...

(Originally posted October 19, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Emma Vol. 3

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I read volume 2 about a month ago; there are still two more collections in the US I need to get around to in order to get caught up. There's considerably less of William's obnoxious siblings in this book, as Emma takes a position in another town as part of a wealthy German family's large staff. Absolutely gorgeous artwork, full of vivid period detail and architecture. I'm looking forward to reading more! Recommended for everybody.

(Originally posted October 12, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Essential Defenders Vol. 3 and JLA Vol. 9: Terror Incognita

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I loved The Defenders when I was a kid. This was a bizarre book which teamed kid-favorite the Hulk with a host of B- and C-listers. I had more than a third of the books in this collection of thirty issues, but the last time I read any of them was twenty years ago, so this sparked all kinds of half-memories and nostalgia. It's occasionally frustrating to see the various writers introduce ongoing subplots that they didn't get to finish before they were moved to another title, most notoriously a serial killing elf in Steve Gerber's fun run who shows up to gun down strangers with a big revolver. It's big fun until an overwritten and ponderous three-part story about demons by the otherwise reliable David Anthony Kraft which closes the collection, and it's frankly odd to see this motormouth villain called Lunatik who is the spiritual grandfather of DC's Ambush Bug. Recommended for readers familiar with 70s Marvel Comics.

I also loved JLA as a kid, and periodically indulge patches where I buy the damn thing no matter how awful it is. Every so often, I swap my singles at Wuxtry for a collected edition. This reprints a four-part story by Mark Waid about some evil aliens - "Pale Martians," if you must know - making their second bid for global control, and two one-off stories. It's really odd, the way the creators decided to make Plastic Man the "junior member" of the team of seven and write him as utterly annoying and disliked by half the team, and then acted surprised to learn that the fanboys didn't like him. The one-off where Plas improvises a bedtime story about Santa Claus being a member of the Justice League is occasionally funny, but overall this is superheroes by the numbers, unoriginal, dull and not recommended for anybody.

(Originally posted October 10, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lady Constantine

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

Lady Johanna Constantine was introduced in the pages of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman as a 17th Century ancestor of the occult detective John Constantine. This was Andy Diggle's first work for DC Comics - it's standard to see new hires put to work on protecting old trademarks - and I'm not wholly certain his heart was completely in it. There are some good moments in this roaring adventure on the high seas, and Lady Constantine is a great character, but I'm not certain this slight story warrants the page count. It feels like there could have been much more in it than there was. Recommended for Diggle or Hellblazer completists.

(Originally posted October 8, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

This is the second volume of Jaime Hernandez's Love & Rockets stories. I love it to pieces. It has the astonishing story "The Death of Speedy Ortiz" in it, along with the hilarious "In the Valley of the Polar Bears," the story where Maggie is pressganged into posing as Vicki Glory's "accountant." Highly, highly, highly recommended.

(Originally posted October 05, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Showcase Presents Batman vol. 2 and One Pound Gospel: Hungry for Victory

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

The second big Batman Showcase book (~500 pages of black & white reprints) covers all of his appearances in Detective Comics and Batman from September 1965 to December 1966, so it's material very much inspired by, and in turn inspiring, the Adam West Batman show. One of these strips, "Batman's Inescapable Doom Trap," showed up three months later as a TV episode, with the criminal character of Carnado revamped into Zelda the Great, played by Anne Baxter. Since there was a need for more female foes on the TV show, the comics writers created Poison Ivy, who, interestingly, has nothing to do with the "mad botanist obsessed with plants" iteration of the character, and is instead a typical va-va-voom '60s femme fatale. As they got word that Frank Gorshin was not going to return as the Riddler in the second season, they created the Cluemaster, who's exactly like the Riddler, only he wears orange.

Oddly, despite tailoring new, easily-adaptable scripts, the comic writers found their work quickly ignored by the TV people, who never used these or several other new TV-friendly characters. They even pilfered an old Superman foe called the Puzzler to sub for Gorshin instead of using Cluemaster in the second season. Anyway, this is highly recommended if you enjoy the Adam West show, but if you don't, you can safely give this a pass.

This volume compiles a pair of five-part stories from the early 90s; Rumiko Takahashi typically writes and draws a single multi-part One-Pound Gospel story every other year or so. Kosaku's boneheaded inability to pick up on anybody's feelings is a little ponderous, and it reaches a new low in the second story when it's revealed that he had no idea that Sister Angela's vows preclude her ever dating anybody. But the first story, in which an early KO of Kosaku's has been working to keep up with Kosaku's weight to get a rematch, is very good, and there's a two-thirds-splash page of Kosaku drowning his sorrows in a bowl of noodles which is just about the funniest thing I've seen in months. Recommended for Takahashi fans.

(Originally posted September 30, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Modesty Blaise: Mister Sun

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

The second of Titan's current line of Modesty Blaise reprints, this collects the fourth, fifth and sixth of her serials, including a great story where an old foe devises a nasty revenge and one with a genuinely twisted couple which really must have pushed the envelope for what was acceptable in a 1960s newspaper strip. Eye-popping stuff, and highly recommended.

(Originally posted September 25, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Judge Dredd - The Complete Case Files vol. 8

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I've got a soft spot for this collection - it contains stories from the period when I first started reading 2000 AD, with stories including "Dredd Angel," "City of the Damned" and "The Hunter's Club." It also reprints the first three short stories where Dredd starts to have doubts about the justice system, stories which have ramifications in today's stories about mutant rights in the future. John Wagner and Alan Grant have settled into a very comfortable groove during this period, which includes excellent art from Steve Dillon, Ian Gibson and Ron Smith. These are the stories that sold me on the series, so I think any new reader will also enjoy them. Highly recommended!

(Originally posted September 17, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Emma vol 2

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I won't swear to be totally hooked by this class-barrier romance comic, but I wanted to read something more recent - most of the Japanese comics I enjoy were originally published better than twenty years ago - and something more grounded in visual realism, without the spit-takes and "super-deforming" you see in lots of the popular stuff. The art is completely superb, with a great deal of attention to period architecture and costume. The story occasionally grates; reader sympathy is naturally not going to be on the side of the aristocracy, and I think William's youngest sister needs her ass kicked. Still, I think this is among the better Japanese offerings available stateside, and certainly the best, as far as I can tell, of CMX's licenses. Recommended for everybody!

(Originally posted September 11, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Moomin Vol. 1

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

The late Tove Jansson drew a Moomin comic strip, furthering the adventures of her odd family of hippo-shaped trolls, for London's Evening News from 1953-1960. And these strips, the first four collected here, are nuts! The first one is a very loosely-plotted series of bizarre, almost stream-of-consciousness happenings. The other strips are more tightly plotted, with a great sense of escalating, unpredictable weirdness. Absolutely lovable and engaging in every way, this is highly recommended!

(Originally posted Sept. 5 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Red Eye, Black Eye

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

In K. Thor Jensen's first graphic novel, he recounts a bizarre journey around the US at the end of 2001, after he lost his job, got dumped and kicked out of his apartment in the space of a week. He puts his belongings in storage, buys a two-month Greyhound Ameripass and hits the road, relying on the couches of internet acquaintances in more than a dozen cities to continue his odyssey.

I was a little disappointed in the end, as I was hoping for some sort of resolution, but this is perhaps my fault for trying to see "plot" in what's plainly nothing more than an anecdotal travelogue. It's certainly a very interesting story, with many funny diversions, and it's told quite well. I'm shocked and apalled that his Atlanta host could find the Varsity, but not the Clermont. Give us a ring next time you're in town, Thor; I'll give you directions.

(Originally posted Aug 26 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, August 24, 2007


Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

Invasion! was a regular series for the first year (1977-78) of 2000 AD, appearing in its first 51 issues. It's about a resistance movement in occupied Britian in the far-flung future of 1999, after the Volgan Empire of Eastern Europe sweeps into power to control the oil in the North Sea. Leading the fight back is a trucker named Bill Savage and his trusty shotgun.

It's pretty damn dated, but incredibly fun, as the nigh-indestructible Savage plays a cat-and-mouse game against the bafflingly incompetent invaders. 25 years later, Pat Mills brought the character back in a more somber and realistic take on life under occupation. More on that another time, but this collection is an excellent time capsule of British comics from the late 70s, full of wild ideas and violence that don't always make the most logical sense, sometimes really straining credibility, but remain compelling and exciting. Recommended for readers familiar with the style.

(Originally posted Aug. 24 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

DC has a new line of ~150-page graphic novels for teen readers. It's called Minx and this book came out early in July. The price point's a little high for something I breezed through during a long lunch, but it was a fun, light read about a spoiled London teen who gets sent to spend the summer in the country with her grandparents and gets caught up in both culture shock and a murder mystery. Nothing here you haven't read before, but done with both a little flair and a lot of wit, and very nice artwork by Josh Howard.

The ending is about as left-field and ridiculous as that episode of The Saint with the giant ants, but it has ample fun getting there. Recommended if you can find it less than retail price.

(Originally posted Aug. 21 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tomorrow Stories Vol. 2

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I didn't like the second collection of this as much as I did the first. There are only two Jack B. Quick stories in it, and while they're both hilarious, there should be a lot more than two, and Moore completely runs out of steam with the First American. On the other hand, there's some very good guest artwork by Joyce Chin on a Cobweb episode, and seven further Greyshirt stories. Greyshirt's been MIA for a few years, and Darwyn Cooke's leaving The Spirit in a few months. Life's not fair. Recommended for Alan Moore fans; I don't see this appealing to people unfamiliar with his quirks.

(Originally posted August 14 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Black Jack: Two Fisted Surgeon

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

I was telling you about Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack last month. This is the second and last volume of translations that Viz made available in that hybrid sorta-digest form they used to use. I got this from the same "buy one get three free sale" I mentioned; I've certainly no objection to spending $4 on almost 200 pages of Tezuka.

Volume two has more of the same utterly outlandish and captivating medical mysteries, but it also features an amazing story called "Assembly-Line Care" which, thirty years later, is every bit as important today. Our health care system has been manipulated and screwed with by greedy businessmen for an awfully long time. Highly recommended on many levels.

(Originally posted August 12 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Doctor Who: The Flood

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

The fourth and final collection of Panini's Who comics (the ones that predate the BBC kids' comic I mentioned earlier), this covers the final two years of the Eighth Doctor stories in Doctor Who magazine. Absolutely wonderful work from a host of talented creators, with some additional "director's cut" pages filling out two of the stories, and detailed commentary, including the abandoned plans to have the Paul McGann Doctor regenerate into Christopher Eccleston in the comic!

It's about 250 oversized color pages on nice paper, and is highly recommended.

(Originally posted August 9, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Buddy Does Jersey

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

Speaking of Peter Bagge...

I found myself liking the previous collection of Bagge's Buddy Bradley stories, Buddy Does Seattle, principally because of his bipolar, on-again-off-again girlfriend Lisa Leavenworth, but not enough to pick up the second collection until a 40% off sale earlier this spring. Honestly, I wasn't as taken with this one as the first, despite a whole lot more Lisa in it.

The problem is that the book just isn't funny. The Seattle book had Lisa's manic antics ratcheted up to twelve, and some absurd situations. Here, as Buddy settles into uncomfortable suburbia, the only outlandish things that happens are the idiotic crap he brings upon himself, or situations that are just so bizarre that they aren't amusing. And Lisa's just a jerk, not the catastrophe she was on the west coast. That's not to say it's not an occasionally compelling read - I cared enough to see what was going to happen next - but more comedy would have made the misanthropy more palatable.

Kudos to Fantagraphics for a great format. 350 pages for $15 is very, very good.

Pete Bagge draws horribly ugly people to look horribly, horribly ugly. When he draws them in flagrante delicto, I want to spoon out my eyes.

Recommended to readers familiar with the material.

(Originally posted Aug 6 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Doctor Who: Oblivion

I've mentioned before - I'm sure I have - how much I enjoy the excellent Doctor Who comic. Well, I started reading the third of four collections of the Eighth Doctor strips, and however good it had been, it kicks into overdrive in this set. While Paul McGann only got a single shot at playing the Doctor on TV, Scott Gray was the principal writer, helming a nine-year run of really great comics starring the character. Gray and his artists do a simply amazing job pulling the rug completely out from under you. I couldn't put the book down for a good while, and left it with a cliffhanger in a story where the ghost of Frida Kahlo's father is swatting the Doctor's companion Izzy across the room, and the Doctor's stuck in a cemetary surrounded by space aliens that look like skeletons.

There's an absolutely beautiful bait-and-switch in the first story. There, we meet this girl who couldn't have been more obvious a NEW COMPANION if that was her name and she was wearing a HEY, DOCTOR, PICK ME shirt. Except, no. Not even close. I'm still chuckling about how audacious a move that was, and how it's going to play out. Well, damn.

Anyway, the book's called Oblivion and you can order it by clicking the picture.

It cheered me up a good deal - good, surprising fiction tends to - and I got a good night's sleep and as I'm typing this sentence, I see that the customer who failed to get something I needed in has just done so. Well, now I can get that finished and then continue getting ahead of this month like an awesome little drone.

(Originally posted May 1, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)