I recently purchased a few good trades online. A few Tintin books, some Donald Duck hardcovers, a POWERS hardcover and a sexy pile of Batman trades.
I piled most of them up next to my bed along with some books that I have been re-reading lately such as Superman: Red Son and Wolverine: Old Man Logan and Wolverine: Enemy of State.
Enemy of the State is great fun, I especially love the John Romita Jr. art – he is on top form in this book. It’s a shame Romita’s work on Superman (or is it Action? I genuinely don’t know) is not to everybodies tastes. But you can’t please all the people all of the time.
I have to admit, I am a big fan of Romita Jr. along with his legendary dad John Romita Snr. Both are true comic book legends in my book. However if I am frank I don’t really care for Romita Jr.’s version of Superman either.
Red Son is by Mark Millar is a fantastic book that I love to re-read. You’ve got Soviet Red Communist Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are in there too, and it is one of the best Superman stories ever if you ask me, despite being an alternate reality tale. I love alternate reality Superhero fiction, and I love dystopia stories (Mad Max, The Road) and Millar delivers in spades with Old Man Logan and Red Son.
Old Man Logan and Superman: Red Son are genuine classics. They are bold, fun, crazy, over the top, smart and clever. And I never get tired of reading them. For every gimmicky book that Mark Millar puts out (I love those too!) he also puts out something that is genuinely thought provoking. I’m not saying this is Allan Moore territory here, but Millar’s works are always great fun, super exciting, and do something different, odd, or just plain weird with the superhero genre conventions.
Some may call Millar a gimmick writer, but I happen to think he is a good writer who uses gimmicks well. I think it is one of his strengths along with Warren Ellis, while Ellis has a different tone to his stories, also writes one gimmick story after another. But they are so damn good you don’t even notice. There is so much depth to the majority of Warren Ellis’ stories that you look past the gimmick to see what ideas he is exploring.
Old Man Logan is all kinds of awesome. It’s basically Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven reimagined with Wolverine as the lead character.
In the near future, all the major Marvel Heroes are dead. Wolverine is a pacifist with a wife and children, Red Skull is the President of America, and each territory in America is ruled with an iron fist by a major super-villain. Wolverine has to pay his rent to of all people, the Hulk. Not in person, he has to pay rent to the Hulk’s family of inbred cannibal hillbillies, or otherwise they will definitely kill you for fun, and most likely eat you, or your family.
How does Wolverine being a pacifist work?
I found this idea ridiculous, how could Logan ever be a true pacifist? He kills five ninjas before breakfast!
When you find out why Wolverine has not popped his claws in decades, and refuses to lift a hand in violence, it is absolutely heart breaking. Think of all the terrible things that have happened to Wolverine over the decades, how he has suffered at the hands of friend and foe alike, how basically everyone he has ever known in his entire life has betrayed him at some point.
Even Charlie Xavier. Even Nick Fury, Even Scott Summers have all fucked him over in one way or another. The reason Wolverine is a pacifist Old Man Logan is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to Wolverine in his lifetime, and the way Mark Millar handles it is genius.
I won’t give away the whole story, but it features a blind Hawkeye and Wolverine in a road trip across America to deliver a package. Things go wrong of course. Along the way they run into some iconic super-villains, former heroes, a Venomised T-Rex and Wolverine fights the Red Skull and later the Hulk in one of ther best ever (and shortest battles) where Hulk eats Wolverine. Not bites off a pieces of Wolverine, he literally eats all of him, and it is VERY disturbing, and very disgusting.
With the digital comics I read, the amazing stuff I find at my local library (a ten minute walk away) and the trades I buy online, I never have a lack of comics to read. There is always something – whether old or new – competing for my attention.
Some books that I find at the library I fall in love with and have to buy at some point. Things I never would have otherwise read include Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman, Ed Brubaker’s INCOGNITO and *sigh* Ed Brubaker.
Well he wasn’t at the library, but wouldn’t it be great if he was there, and he could read aloud a book of your choice? I think that would be awesome.
I’ve been reading a lot of Wolverine lately, (one of my all time fav characters) and while the old Canuck doesn’t have quite the same pedigree of talent on his fine book as Batman (mostly because Batman has been around a lot longer), there are some pretty damn good Wolverine stories out there.
My favourites are the stories by Mark Millar and in recent years Jason Aaron, who must be a Hunger Games fan, as he seems to keep “catching fire” over at Marvel along with Matt Fraction – both of whom can do no wrong in my book. Whether in Wolverine’s main books, the spin off books or the excellent Wolverine and the X-Men book, fans have been spoiled for quality Wolverine stories in recent years.
I also really enjoyed reading the Origins series recently. No, not the mini-series “Origin” where Wolverine is a kid, and we learn that is name is James Howlett (ugh…..lame!).
The later series Origins (plural) in 2006 that ran for 50 issues and is basically a cliff notes version of all the horrible shit Wolverine did before he lost his memories.
In Origins Wolverine has his memories back, and we get to relive them along with Wolvy right from the start all the way up to the modern day. We get to see Wolverine fighting alonside Captain America in WWII, but with the new addition of Bucky as the Winter Soldier appearing soon after these stories. We get to see Wolverine fight Deadpool and Sabretooth, and a whole host of other cool characters like Cyber and other baddies.
The series makes some sense of Wolverine’s twisted and demented and often ret-conned history. It is violent as all hell, and the tone is similar to Garth Ennis’s Punisher. Mostly focusing on flash back fights, and filling in the gaps in Wolverine’s history, and a good excuse to rehash all of Wolverine’s classic battles with his iconic villains. I loved every page of it!
**SPOILER ALERT** Sabretooth is NOT Wolverine’s dad. But Claremont wrote him that way, only for later writers to change it into some sort of Darwinist evolutionary mumbo-jumbo. DOH!
So these trades…
What did I pick up, WILL I actually talk about the one and only true #Batman, on this Batman blog? Stop being so impatient!
First up we have Gates of Gotham, Dark Knight Returns, Batman Eternal V1 and Batman: The Cult.
I’ve read all of these books before, the problem with Dark Knight Returns is I keep giving it away, so have to rebuy it frequently. I really enjoyed the moody Victorian story in Gates of Gotham.
Batman Eternal was a fun surprise – I have read the story before in digital format, and thought it would be crap – but the first year was damn good fun. Shame about Batman Eternal the second year – which so far is utter crap.
Batman: The Cult is one of those books I have to reread every year (usually from the library). This is the first time I have owned this book, and while the cheap flimsy paper is annoying for such a classic book, the art is spectacular and really shines despite the flimsy toilet paper it is printed on. Bernie Wrightson is one of all the time great comic book artists, and an AMAZING horror artist.
The mix of Batman and horror does not always work – despite Gothic horror being part of Batman’s earliest adventures. This book gets the tone just right. It goes out on some Grant Morrison-esque limbs where you wonder if it is all going to fall apart – but redeems itself by the end. Let’s just say that this book borrow liberally from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, has Batman using friggin’ guns (doh), getting brainwashed and totally beaten by a religious Zealot (Decon Blackfire) and despite all this – manages to still be amazingly good, one of my all time favourite Batman books.
Next we have Batman: Year One, Batman: Court of Owls Volume 1 and Court of Owls Volume 2, along with Grant Morrison’s JLA: Earth 2.
Year One and JLA Earth 2 are stone cold classics, and both have been made into animated films. As much as I love the animated films, they pale in comparison to the books. If you have not read either of these books – then you my friend are Crazy with a capital ‘C’. You HAVE to read them. Both are great to read over and over, and I find them more rewarding each time I read them.
You know a book is good when you can enjoy it a second or third time, or read it once a year. You know a book is GREAT when you can pick it up any day of the week and enjoy it, hell you could read it three days in a row and it is STILL great, still just as thrilling each time you read.
Year One and Dark Knight Returns to me are those books you can read anytime, anyplace, and they are always brilliant to read.4
Court of Owls is another fun read. There are parts of Scott Snyder’s Batman that I love, and parts I don’t really care for. I don’t like when Batman is relatively incompetent. I do like that Batman has to WORK for his victories. And I LOVE the former Spawn artist Greg Capullo’s artwork which is super-stylised.
While Capullo is not to everybodies tastes, I used to enjoy thumbing through Spawn on at the comic shelf just to enjoy Capullo’s art – even though I never bought more than one or two issues of the book. Because you know, most of the time the writing in Spawn was total shit. But the art was always exceptional. The animated Spawn series though was brilliant, and well worth checking out.
Some are already calling Court of Owls and Scott Snyder’s overall run on Batman into and beyond the NEW 52 “classic” but I think it is a little early for that. Let’s give it 5-10 years, and then consider his run for “classic” status.
I will say that Snyder’s Batman is very very very good, he manages to do shock and surprise, he does the old “I can’t believe they did that” revelations and cliffhangers well, and he manages to write consistently good stories month to month. Most important of all, he is genuinely passionate about Batman and the stories he is telling and has a vision of what HE wants to do with the character, which is what you want from ANY writer on any book.
I will say that I think the Face/Off Joker is a stupid gimmick and I have really have had enough of that. Just put the guys face back on already. It’s a crappy gimmick that admittedly looks cool on covers etc, and is amusing for an artist to draw and get “shock horror” attention in comic shop catalogs like Previews or thumbnails on websites – but in the fiction, it just doesn’t make any kind of sense at all.
I mean you look the other way on so many things in genre comics, but a guy with his face cut off and stapled back on that is constantly hanging in various parts (that has not been fixed by a plastic surgeon) would be getting constant infections. Not the “I’m a little sick and woozy” type of infections. The kind that will slowly kill you for sure. So yeah, NEW 52 Joker should be dead ten times over by now with his stupid face hanging off.
Then you have that awful Joker’s Daughter character (*not really his daughter) who finds the face and starts wearing it, but then the Joker gets his face back, yet SHE’s still wearing it and well, fuck off, enough already. Does the Joker now have two faces? Is the Joker’s daughter character wearing a fake face? Does anybody give a flying fuck about his utterly stupid and gimmicky Days of Our Lives quality crap? Seriously!
The other books I picked up (other than POWERS and Donald Duck) was Supermen: The first Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941. A book that is sure to start as many arguments as it ends, these golden age stories are culled from the pages of long forgotten rags of misfortune where stupendous, amazing and sometimes strangely arousing beings with bizarre powers and stories were encountered on the news stand.
The stories themselves are nothing special in terms of the writing, this is one more for folks into comic-book history, particularly the history of the Superhero as a genre with its own conventions, and for people like that me that are always writing about Superheroes and interested in not only the origins of a genre, but in reading reprints of early proto-typical Superheroes.
The book begs the question, what makes a Superhero?
Powers? Mission? Costume? The type of book a character appears in? All these and more are interesting questions to ponder that have no definitive answer.
Supermen is A brilliant book with high quality reproductions of the stories reprinted inside.
Check out the images below. It’s only a book of reprints, with a brief intro but no other commentary, so is not a book on comics theory etc, just reprints of the actual strips. If you are into that sort of stuff, the book is totally worth picking up.