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.)