So, suddenly you turn around, and it’s been nearly two weeks since you’ve posted anything: that’s life in a family requiring as much self-care as we have since Blake’s death. And it’s been a self-care-heavy kind of fortnight, coupled with reports and marking for school. Little time for Lego, even less time for writing about it, buuuuut I did manage to get a couple of graphic novels read, so let’s talk about them.
I, Vampire Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires.
I, Vampire has always been an odd title, and an odd fit within the DC pantheon. I’ve read a few runs over the years, and it’s never seemed comfortable within the larger DC universe. Why they didn’t transition it over to Vertigo, where it would have been a perfect fit, years ago bemuses me. The New 52 version is a red hot go, however: it’s full-on soap-opera-with-explosions from the git-go, culminating with a massed battle between vampires and zombie-ninja-paratroopers in WWII bombers (I shit thee not). It’s big dumb fun, without ever feeling like it’s going to make an impression on the continuity outside of itself.
The Good: Jim Starlin created much of the cosmic side to Marvel — including Thanos –and nobody (with the exception of Dan Abnett) gets close to his understanding of how to work within it, or with that particular cast of characters.
The Bad: he can’t write dialogue for peanuts.
This is typically Starlin: wondrous, epic, mind-expanding cosmic adventure, writ large as comics can writ, with dialogue that would make the most egregious nyaaaaahseeee 60s pulp SF comic book writer wince and reach for the eraser. Ultimately, all Thanos stories tend to work to the same pattern, so if you’re not tired of it yet, and can handle words-wot-nobody-would-actually-talk-like, it’s familiar fun.
Marvel Epic Collection. The Fantastic Four: Into the Time Stream.
Oh, gods. As Luscious is wont to remind me, it’s my fault. I know what I think of the Fantastic Four, and yet, there I am, once again, hoping against all hope that there will be something to clue me in as to why they’re so loved, or even read at all. This. is. Not. That. Book. I mean, holy crap. They’re tedious enough without going out of your way to remove the one thing that might make them remotely tolerable– bashing up big weird things from other dimensions. But this volume opens with two issues– two entire issues. More than forty pages. — of them… wait for it… testifying before a Senate sub-committee. Literally. All five of them (this is the age of Humanised Ben and Sharon the She-Thing), in suits, sitting behind a desk in a courtroom, speaking into microphones. For Two. Entire Issues.
The next time you see me even remotely thinking of reading the Fantastic Four, you have my permission to punch me until I stop. Hard.
Thor, the Goddess of Thunder.
This shouldn’t work. It so rarely works. Removing a core character from a title and replacing him or her with a cheap-promo-stunt replacement, usually to revive flagging sales numbers. I mean, does nobody remember Ben Reilly? Riri Williams? Sharon Ventura? Ben Reilly? And yet, this works. It so works. It’s genuinely, brilliantly, good, not least because everybody in the book — including the dispossessed but definitely still around and utterly pissed about it Thor Odinson — is as boggled as the reader, and calling out exactly the type of problems that make such replacements (sob, Ben Reilly…) normally so teeth-achingly awful. The character of Thor herself is excellently three-dimensional. The supporting cast work beautifully. The problems and narrative feel real. This is a genuinely excellent spin to the Thor narrative, and a fantastic comic book in its own right.
Checkmate, Book 2.
Of all the varied types of books in comic book land, my favourite spin on the spandex variety is that of the undercover black ops variety. It’s a holdover from my X-Men collecting days, back when they were consigned to the margins of the Marvel Universe and hunted nearly to extinction (particularly the early #200s, when they were hiding out in the Australian outback). Suicide Squad, Doom Patrol, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Authority, Checkmate… it’s all good, clean, dirty fun, mixing politics and death with the usual feuds, soap operas, and interdimensional love affairs. This issue of Checkmate doubles down, including a crossover with the similarly-outside-the-pale Outsiders, and internecine plots aplenty. Michael “Mr Terrific” Holt and Sasha Bordeaux are two of the best under-utilised characters in the DC Universe, and any appearance by The Great Ten is guaranteed to make me smile my big fanboy smile. Full disclosure: I loves it.