Okay, cyclone over. Back to business.
Having exhausted my recent purchases, and long ago burned through the local library’s meagre collection, I’ve turned to my family to randomly select some titles from my collection to read and review. First up, five volumes selected by the inimitable Lord 15. And just for a change, this time when I say I’m reviewing five graphic novels, I’m going to review five.
Green Lanterns Vol 1: Rage Planet
Sigh. Just what the world needs: more new Green Lanterns to distract from the fact that nobody seems able to breathe life into Kyle Rayner or Guy Gardner anymore. I’m a huge, life-long Green Lantern fan. I literally have the tee-shirt. And the earrings. And the tattoo is on its way. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are — despite being covered in green and being written as POC — utterly colourless as characters. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: this volume is packed so full of Red Lanterns, rogue Guardians, and a genuinely fantastic plot that you can ignore your lack of interest in the cipher main characters and allow yourself to be swept up by the storytelling. There are worse fates than being supporting characters in your own story, as long as the story is compelling.
Teen Titans: Titans Around the World
The Titans have always been a bit of a Marmite experience. I verge on the “love it” side, because the title tends to be free of the tone policing and careful character curation that occasionaly dulls the JLA, (especially in the current climate, with the roster being so set in concrete). There’s a lot at play in this volume, particularly with the question of what it’s like to be in a team when you’re convinced the team doesn’t actually want you. The Titans has always been a title that gives its storylines time to breathe, and sits comfortably between the often-anodyne JLA and morally murkier titles such as The Outsiders and Checkmate. This volume is no different. Nicely balanced between character and action, it’s not must-have reading, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.
Animal Man Vol 2: Animal Vs Man
I’ve loved Animal Man since the seminal Grant Morrison run. At its best it’s a wild ride through the surreal side of superheroics, filled with humour and absurdism. It’s never going to be an A-list title, so it’s a perfect playground for experiment and risk-taking. There are elements of that approach here, and enough obligatory call-backs to that classic Morrison era to let you know that the creative team takes its history seriously. But it’s all so worthy, so deadly weighty and humourless. There’s a brilliant, surreal tale being told: a war between the world of Red (fauna), Green (flora), and Rot (decay), and the emergence of a new avatar of life, but its weighed down by its own self-importance. Animal Man isn’t quite a buy-on-sight title for me: more a buy-on-bargain-table title, and this is why: it’s still better than 80% of the titles out there, while never quite seeming to get the mix as perfect as Morrison managed. This is good, but it falls frustratingly short of being great.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1: Cosmic Avengers
Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of the GoTG since I came across black and white reprints of the original run in the late 1970s. Love the originals. Love the movies. Love love LOVE the insane, beautiful, brilliance of the Dan Abnett run on which the movies are based. Along with Suicide Squad, it’s a title I’m slowly collecting in its entirety. Bendis isn’t going to make that easy.
Since he was given control over the Marvel sandbox he seems to have been on a holy mission to make every title resemble each other down to the component atoms: a complete Bendis Blandification effect, where every team in the Marvel Universe is made up of nearly-identical, snappy one-liner spouting, leaping with both hands above their head while screaming Captain Iron Hulks. Adding Iron Man to this line up for no apparent reason Does. Not. Help. This is the Guardians stripped of moxie, of sass, of the fuck-you-ness that makes it a special title. Cosmic Avengers indeed, but Avengers of the era when characters like Black Knight and Doctor Druid were the best the Avengers could manage.
Knight and Squire
Of all the stupid ideas the Batman writers have ever come up with, the idea that he would go corporate and open franchises across the globe has to be one of the top five stupidest ever. If this title hadn’t been at the bottom of a $5 bargain bin, and hadn’t been written by the usually-excellent Paul Cornell, I wouldn’t have even bothered rippling its pages. Which would have been a mistake, because it’s an absolute delight. More than just a Batman tie-in, it’s a genuinely original take on what a British DC Universe would resemble if it were filtered through the Muir Isle run of X-Calibre and all the back issues of the Beano stacked in boxes in your Granddad’s loft. The world is solid, the characters feel real, the superheroic conceits are believable, and when an American character does, eventually, intrude, Cornell’s worldview has seeped so deeply into your consciousness that the culture shock is jarringly real. This is, in many ways, comic books at their purest, and it’s an absolute shame that there isn’t more of this title to be collected.