A veritable grab bag of titles this time out, from next-door-to-spandex mainstream, through novel tie-ins, the weird end of the superhero genre, and something tossed off by a formerly excellent comic book writer in between self-promotional gigs and a late dinner. There’s some genuine excellence in three of these five titles, which is a ratio I’ll happily accept on just about any occasion.
Gotham Central Vol 4: Corrigan
The conceit of Gotham Central is fantastic: these are the cops who have to maintain the line of normalcy after the leather-clad bat fetishist has gone home for the day. The writing is just as good. It’s complex, multi-faceted, and refuses to pull punches. It feels real: gritty, unforgiving, and intensely human. This particular volume is seismic in relation to the wider DC Universe, with massive implications for (amongst others) the supporting Batcast, the Spectre, and the Question. It’s properly good stuff.
Marvel has a history of brilliant female characters, and exactly the same length history of criminally under-utilising its brilliant female characters. Some of my favourite Marvel characters bar none are in this: I have loved Hellcat and She-Hulk just as long as I’ve loved any male character in the pantheon, and I would kill almost all of you for a chance to write a dedicated Abigail Brand comic.
Heralds is a fun, funny, and meaningful adventure that examines sadly recognisable issues of male assumption of ownership and abuse of the gender power dynamic, with the added wrinkle of how that affects a woman who has super powers but is subject to the same psychological abuses as her non-powered peers. There are a hundred thematic balancing acts going on here, and almost all of them come off. The spandex books should do more of this: not everything needs to be punched into submission.
Rivers of London: Night Witch
One of two Rivers of London tie-in graphic novels I own, based on the best-selling novel series. This one reads like an RoL primer: it’s an enjoyable enough plot without ever being truly gripping , and much of the narrative logic seems to rely on the reader having a greater knowledge of the characters than the pages themselves contain, resulting in a plethora of plot holes that — I’m guessing — the assumed knowledge covers. It’s not a flaw, necessarily: it’s natural to assume that much of the audience is a cross-over from the novel readership. In this case, as someone who hasn’t read the books, it does leave this volume feeling like a slightly under-egged pudding.
The X-Men have always been, at some level, ridiculous. It’s part of their charm, when they’re charming, and part of why it’s so easy to put their various titles down, dip into them randomly, and pick and choose when and where you care about them when they’re not. How can it be any other way, when you have characters that can, quite literally, explode suns, and their most pressing problem seems to be that the son of a giant, sentient island likes another girl? Legion not only acknowledges that stupidity, it revels in it. David Haller, the nigh-omnipotent-if-he-could-only-get-his-shit-together son of Professor X, finally gets his shit together… sort of… mostly… kinda… and sets out to do what anyone with an ounce of sense would have tried all along: Just make. It. All. Stop.
It’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s loaded with all the emotional and violent excesses we expect from a good X-pocalypse. But it’s also surprisingly profound, touching, and at times, genuinely moving. It’s not only one of the best X-Books I’ve read, it’s an exceptional comic book that reminds me of Alan Moore/RickVeitch-era Swamp Thing in its ability to force a character to face and accept his true nature, and ultimately act upon the harm his very presence is doing to the people and planet he loves.
Less a graphic novel than an illustrated adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story. I’m not a big fan of Gaiman’s short fiction, and this story demonstrates one of his central weaknesses at this length — it really doesn’t go anywhere, narratively or philosophically, and ends with a pale magic realism twist that offers nothing new, original, or even remotely unexpected. The artwork by Colleen Doran, however, is as exquisite as anyone familiar with her work would expect (If not, hunt up A Distant Soil, and start from there). It’s beautifully presented, and is definitely one for the fans. I’m just not.