This Week’s Haul

Despite all the books below, the two best reads I picked up this week were from the back catalog: Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: Road to Reborn TPB, which is something of an intermission in the series but is the latest collection available. Have I gushed about Brubaker’s Captain America already? Really excellent stuff, being more adventure in the pulp/suspense tradition using mainstream Marvel characters than straight-super superheroics. Basically unlike anything else Marvel is publishing today.

And then there’s Bryan Talbot’s Grandville HC, which on the one hand is an anthropomorphic graphic novel in that the lead character is a badger who walks and acts like a man and nearly every other character is also an animal, but on the other hand it’s a spy/intrigue story in an alternate world where France conquered the western world in the era of Napoleon, and in which Great Britain only recently won its independence. Talbot (correctly) ignores the peculiar inconsistencies that this could lead to in favor of telling a solid story with fine artwork (albeit slightly less detailed than his usual work). Unless anthropomorphic comics drive you up the wall and you just can’t get past that fact, I highly recommend it. The sequel is due out in a few months.

  • Adventure Comics #12, by Paul Levitz, Kevin Sharpe, Marlo Alquiza & Marc Deering (DC)
  • Brightest Day #3, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, David Bealy & Mark Irwin (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #39, by Bill Willingham Jesus Merino & Jesse Delperdang (DC)
  • Superman/Batman Annual 34, by Paul Levitz, Renato Guedes & Jose Wilson (DC)
  • Hercules: Twilight of a God #1 of 4, by Bob Layton & Ron Lim (Marvel)
  • Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 of 4, by David Petersen, Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh & Scott Keating (Archaia)
  • Freakangels vol 4 TPB, by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield (Avatar)
  • Irredeemable #14, by Mark Waid & Diego Barreto (Boom)
  • Invincible #72, by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley & Cliff Rathburn (Image)
Heh, I knew the current JSA storyline would involve time travel to set things straight. The time travel in question involves “only” sending a message back in time, and the suspense is that it’s not clear whether the message will be understood or received at the right time, but surely everything will work out for the best.

The core setting of the story draws from many different elements: The superheroes being imprisoned and having to escape is very similar to the “Super-Stalag of Space” story featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes from Adventure Comics #343-344. The grim future where the heroes have been all but eliminated unless they can find a way to change one event in the past was the premise of Grant Morrison’s best JLA arc, “Rock of Ages”. And of course both of those elements form the seminal X-Men dystopian tale, “Days of Future Past”.

So while this is a decent enough JSA yarn, it’s a far cry from being groundbreaking or original. I suspect there are a couple of issues left, so Willingham may yet surprise us, but it’s been pretty much what I expected otherwise.

I guess the hardcover collections of Bob Layton’s great Hercules mini-series of the 1980s must have been well received, since this week we got the first chapter of a new installment in the run, Hercules: Death of a God. Taking place centuries in the future, as the first two did, Herc has a son who’s become a emperor of a galactic empire, a benevolent monarch educated by his father. Arimathes has several children of his own now, and is not immortal, unlike his father. However, at the beginning of the issue Hercules suffers a traumatic brain injury, one so severe that the empire’s doctors fear that another serious blow could kill him. He takes medication for his condition, but it interacts badly with his drinking. And Herc’s longtime companions are nearing their own ends, as Skyppi the Skrull is quite old, while the Recorder appears to be wearing down. All of this is set against the backdrop of people scheming to their own ends within the empire.

The series has (in my mind) a huge legacy to live up to, Layton’s originals being well-drawn and often-hilarious comics with plenty of heart. This first issue is a little disappointing, as it seems like Herc is limping off into the darkness rather than going out like a lion. Of course, it would be in keeping with the tone of the series for him to face one last big threat rather than going quietly. It would be even more in keeping for him to beat his condition entirely.

Ron Lim does the pencilling under Layton’s inks, whereas Layton drew the whole thing himself in the earlier series. Lim seems to be Marvel’s go-to guy when a top tier artist can’t make their deadlines; he’s reliable, but not very flashy, having a rather generic style. So overall the series doesn’t quite look as good, but it’s okay.

So the first issue is something of a mixed bag, whereas I’d been hoping it would knock my socks off. But, it still might.