FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: FROM GOTHAM TO LONDON, AND BRIDGES BETWEEN

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 Corrigan

 

 

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.

 

Heralds

 

 

Heralds

 

 

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.

 

Night Witch

 

 

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.

 

Legion

 

 

Legion

 

 

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.

 

Troll Bridge

 

 

Troll Bridge

 

 

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.

2 thoughts on “FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: FROM GOTHAM TO LONDON, AND BRIDGES BETWEEN

  1. I read that run of X-Men: Legion (originally published as X-Men: Legacy) on its original monthly run. It was pretty great, although has a fairly disappointing ending.

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  2. I was disappointed, in that….. (SPOILERS)
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    I wanted David Heller to continue onwards. I wanted to see what he could do to the Marvel Universe if he *really* tried. But the way the GN runs, he really does close off so many options that it almost becomes inevitable. It may be a case of the author not quite being up to the ambition of the story, but it doesn’t come out of the blue like some Grant Morrison deux ex machina, at least.

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