And this week it really was a haul:
Manhunter is an acclaimed ongoing series about a Los Angeles lawyer who gets tired of super-villains going free for various reasons, and decides to take the law into her own hands by lifting some superpowered gadgets she has access to and playing vigilante by night. While it’s “acclaimed”, it hasn’t sold very well, and was nearly cancelled last year, but reader outcry caused DC to revive it. This kerfuffle was enough to make me decide to try it out, and my shop got a copy of the first collected volume this week, since the second volume, Trial By Fire, just came out.
It’s okay, but not great. Penciller Jesus Saiz does a fine job drawing both Kate Spencer’s everyday life and her extracurricular adventuring. Writer Marc Andreyko’s scripts, though, are rather haphazard: Kate’s broken family life hits us over the head. The source of her weapons is shown to subtly that it’s hard to believe (why didn’t anyone know the stuff was missing and put two and two together?). For the book’s supposed realism, chain-smoking lawyer Kate is surprisingly athletic and skilled in combat. And Kate is certainly not a likeable protagonist. (In fact, everyone in the book is rather unlikeable.)
And yet, despite these rough edges, I can see the attraction of the book, that it might develop into something with more depth and texture, and that this volume is merely the set-up for more interesting stories down the road. I’ll check out the second volume and let you know what I think.
This is the first issue of All-Star Superman to come out since I started this journal. To the extent that the series has a premise, it concerns Superman before he was rebooted in the 1980s, finding out that his cells have been overloaded by sunlight and that he’s going to die sometime soon. So writer Grant Morrison gets to put the classic incarnation of Superman in some unusual situations as a result. Each issue only advances the story a little bit, though, and it reads more like a set of standalone stories. This issue sees several of Superman’s descendents coming back to the beginning of his career to meet him and fight a time-eating Chronovore who arrives in Smallville.
I’ve never been a big fan of writer Grant Morrison: I think he’s a great idea man, but his characterizations border on nil and his dialogue often feels stilted and ridiculous. I think he’s basically the same writer he was when he broke into American comics back in the 1980s, and frankly I have never really seen what all the hubbub is about. Honestly, I think his best work was his run on JLA a decade ago. All-Star Superman is largely more of the same: Inventive. Loud. Emotionally void.
I’ve never been a big fan of Quitely’s art, either. Mainly I feel that most of his characters’ faces look the same, and often they look downright inhuman. His renderings of Lana Lang and Pete Ross here are completely unrecognizable and kind of grotesque. He also seems to skimp on the backgrounds, which is really clear in this issue, which takes place in Kansas. His basic antatomy is quite strong, but while anatomy is a necessary element of a good artist, it’s not sufficient.
I keep trying out Morrison’s comics because he’s a great idea man, but All-Star Superman is not one of his better outings. Of course, neither was Seven Soldiers. And both of these opinions seem to put me in the minority of comics bloggers.
newuniversal #2 shows us that the original New Universe series was actually in-continuity, and it does so in that very Warren Ellis-esque way. Kinda neat.
If you’re a fan of medieval fantasy, give Artesia a look. I’m not a fan of the subgenre, and I enjoy it: Artesia begins as a concubine for a king in a remote hills country, but for various reasons she overthrows her king and siezes power for herself, and then gets caught up in a major invasion of her land by armies from the south. It’s at its best when it’s dealing with the characters of Artesia and her supporting cast. Writer/artist Mark Smylie has a tendency to introduce way too many characters at times, and focus more on Artesia’s position as a character of destiny and less on her as an actual character, so motivations and feelings tend to get lost in the shuffle. The series is uneven. Smylie’s a terrific artist, though, especially in his figure designs and ability to draw large battle scenes, which are often stunning.
I really need to sit down and read the whole thing at once to reacquaint myself with all of the details and see if I appreciate it more.
These two volumes are new hardcover collections of the first two mini-series. They look like nice packages, although the first volume has a big, yellow “Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award Winner” badge on the front cover, marring the artwork. They couldn’t have put this on the back cover, or used a removable sticker? Sheesh!
Kane is a noirish police series by Paul Grist. Grist published 30+ issues of the black-and-white series in the 90s, and then put it on hold to work on Jack Staff. Grist has a simple but capable style with strong use of light and shadow and interesting panel layouts. I can imagine it wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. His writing has the signature note of playing with time perception, leaping between events that take place at widely different points in time (and sometimes in dream) without warning. When it works – as when Kane is flashing back to confronting his on-the-take partner – it’s very cool. Grist vastly overuses the stunt, though, which has made Jack Staff nearly unreadable at times. Kane is still pretty nifty, though, mainly because the characters are all playing different games with different motivations, and that transcends the sometimes-awkward storytelling. (Grist has a nice, warped sense of humor, too.)
If you’re a fan of character-driven police shows such as Homicide (as opposed to today’s never-ending crop of procedurals), then give Kane a try. Start with the first volume, Greetings From New Eden.
Finally (whew!), Richard Moore’s Boneyard is another series on an irregular schedule, although supposedly Moore has had some (as he puts it) setbacks recently which have slowed down his production of the series. This is a very fun comic, and it’s one of the few that Debbi reads. Our hero, Michael Paris, inherits a plot of rural land which happens to hold a graveyard. An, uh, inhabited graveyard. The series is mostly about Paris’ relationships with the inhabitants of the graveyard, especially the vampire, Abbey, to whom he is attracted (and it’s reciprocated). The gang has a few supernatural adversaries who pop up from time to time as well.
It’s fun, and has been collected by NBM in several volumes. Annoyingly, we seem to have the choice between full-size black-and-white volumes, or small-size color volumes. I go with the B&W volumes. If they ever produce full-sized color volumes, I’ll switch to those.
(Can you tell that it bugs the heck out of me when creators or publishers make unfortunate decisions about the format of an otherwise-handsome collection? All I can do is vote with my pocketbook, or complain about it here, so that’s what I do.)
Whew. And with that, it’s time to collapse.