It’s been quite a little while since I managed to sit down and read some graphic novels. But the term is winding down: two out of my three classes have, to all intents and purposes, finished their work with a week to go — so there’s suddenly a little extra time in my week, and I’ve taken full advantage of it. So get ready: there are reviews galore to come.
Let’s get started with some easy takes, involving some of the core characters of both Marvel and DC.
Avengers, Vol 3.
Like him or not, and he manages to bore and blandify everything he touches as much as not, Brian Michael Bendis can write beautifully for an ensemble — provided you accept that every single character is going to talk exactly like every single other character. This volume is chock-full of the expected Avengers shenanigans — epic battles, epic mistrust, epic villains, and epic silliness — in exactly the right proportions. The Avengers and Bendis are a perfect match, and this is a franchise operating at the height of its powers. It’s great stuff.
Honestly, I don’t know what’s left to say about this book. It’s one of the best superhero graphic novels ever created, and all these years later, on the umpteenth and oneth re-read, it’s still utterly brilliant. I could do without the religious framing device, but given the ‘gods and monsters’ theme running throughout it’s tolerable. Otherwise, it remains one of the most beautifully rendered examination of the spandex ubermensch mythology committed to the form. Simply beautiful.
Blue Beetle Vol 1.
DC went to a lot of trouble to acquire the Charlton Comics characters when that particular company when bust, and then with almost not a single exception, has had not one clue what to do with them. This version of Blue Beetle might just prove to be the exception. It’s as close to the Spiderman template as DC has managed to come, combining teen angst with reluctant superheroism in just the right quantities. Jaime Reyes is an engaging character, and the supporting cast — including a never-been-better Ted Kord — stands up strongly. This promises to be a fun and enjoyable run.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Final Gauntlet.
To a certain extent, this is taking the Guardians back to their roots, and away from the Bendis Certified Bland ™ must-adhere-too-closely-to-the-fillums version the book had become. A ragtag band of third-string heroes thrown together mostly against their will to undertake an insurmountable job they can’t possibly succeed in and will all most probably die during, with added snark and bitching for all…. and maybe it gets better, but this volume feels like a desperate attempt to recapture the divinely mad mood Dan Abnett gave us (seemingly) so effortlessly, by a creative team that either doesn’t have the chops or hasn’t discovered its own voice yet. I’ve been a huge Guardians fan for 40 years, and I hope this iteration finds a sweet spot of its own — there’s certainly plenty of potential — but right now, it’s not quite there.
Deadpool & the Mercs for Money Vol 1: Mo Mercs, Mo Money
Sigh. I mean, I know I find Deadpool utterly irritating and overrated. I know it’s going to be stiff, forced, dated. and I know I’m going to roll my eyes and mutter “Seriously?” every time I come across some forced bit of business I’m supposed to find funny. I know I’m just going to end up flipping the book onto the floor and bemoaning my lost time once I reach the end. And yet, here I am, doing it again. Look, if you like Deadpool, I’m sure you’ll think this is the laugh riot the creators and everybody else who hasn’t heard of Ambush Bug, the Marx Brothers, The Mask, Mister Bean, and all the other characters who have done this shit a million times better a million times before clearly think it is. I can’t believe I grabbed two volumes of this from the library…