In my never-ending quest for things and stuff and junk, I turned control of my next five graphic novel reads over to Luscious, just to see what she’d pick put from my collection. Turns out it’s an endearing mix of used-to-be-Gods, Anti-Christs, Nazis, and assassins earthly and cosmic.
Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies (DC Universe Rebirth).
DC’s unbelievably irritating habit of completely rebooting every single character in their roster every three to five years continues. Wonder Woman is a bizarre oddity, in that pretty much every reboot she’s been through has been awesome in its own right. This title owns it: referencing several of Diana’s previous iterations while laying the groundwork for a narrative that unifies them and moves forward under its own steam. Throw in a fantastic story arc involving a massive change of status for Cheetah, and this is made of win.
The Books of Magic.
Written when Gaiman was at his comic writing peak, before the long slide into increasingly tedious and shallow-veiled rewriting of other peoples myths — and dross like Angela — took over, this book blew me away upon first read. Revisited 30 years later, most of it still holds up exceptionally well, especially Bolton and Vess’ artwork, even as it’s now possible to see the tics and shortcuts that have weakened Gaiman’s work beginning to take root. A surprisingly slow and flat section with John Constantine notwithstanding, there’s still a lot of good stuff here, and I don’t think Mister E has ever been written better.
Black Widow Vol. 2: The Tightly Tangled Web.
Black Widow has always been a tremendously difficult character for writers to tackle, for one very simple reason: there’s very little to her that isn’t a watered down version of similar male characters (a guest turn by The Punisher in this issue doesn’t help with escaping that comparison); straight-out sexist (Oh, dear, all those many Slutspy storylines); or cardboard cutout Red-Under-The-Bed scaremongering (ref: everything until the early 2000s). This volume lumbers under those weights, but at least makes an attempt to create a new narrative, detailing the beginnings of what I have to assume was an extended tourism chase in the Bond movie mould, as Natasha follows a paper trail from past misdeed to past misdeed, attempting to cleanse herself of, well, past misdeeds. A Winter Soldier crossover only helps point out what a boring character he is, and to briefly revisit the just-who-hasn’t-she-slept-with? past that does no previous creator credit. The artwork is stunning, but narratively it’s still hard not to escape the idea that, for all her prominence in the MCU, at heart she’s a character who works best in a supporting role.
Maus, A Survivor’s Tale, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History.
Searing, painful, intensely personal, and heartbreaking. Maus is not only one of the finest comic books ever published, it is one of the most significant pieces of 20th Century literature. Even after all these years it retains the power to stop the heart. Spiegelman’s brilliant balance of anthropomorphic figures; shaky, wavy line work; stark black and white imagery; and honest, pain-laden writing is as powerful as it ever was. It is, simply, magnificent, all the more so because it seems to be becoming more timely, again, with each passing day.
Lucifer, Book One.
How to write a story about arguably the second-most powerful figure in the Christian worldview, with arguably the most detailed, richly elaborated-upon, and emotionally loaded backstory of anybody outside whichever Harry Potter character is going to be the subject of JK Rowling’s weekly conforms-to-a-subject-of-social-interest revelation this week? Well, for one, it’s going to have to be epic. Thankfully, Mike Carey can do epic. A heavenly war on the streets of LA, demons fighting over a doorway into another dimension, the forced cross-breeding of angels, a sentient tarot deck running amuck… this has pretty much something for all the family, and it’s handled in such a confident, self-aware manner that the whole thing comes across as a sort of pan-dimensional Ealing crime romp with teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. It’s an utter hoot, and easily the best thing to come out of the post-Gaiman carving up of the Sandman ‘universe’.