Yeah, I should be doing other things — hell, I should be blogging other things — but I’m on a run of graphic novel reading and my Mum’s dead so nobody can stop me.
Can you hear Luscious calling?
Anyway, never mind. Here’s five more graphic novels I’ve devoured over the last couple of weeks, encompassing the underrated, the excellent, the utterly brilliant… and Beast Boy.
Mileage varies, folks. Mileage really varies.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE DETROIT ERA OMNIBUS
Let’s be clear. This run of the JLA deserves almost none of the hate it’s generated over the years. Okay, it’s hard to defend Vibe — the horrendous “Chu Momma ate mah dawg” accent, the sheer unlikeability, the breakdancing… — but outside of that, this is a damn solid book with some genuinely excellent adventures and interactions. The reinterpretation of Despero is first class. Gypsy is a muddled and underused character, but her bone are great, and she remains criminally underused to this day. Steel is exactly how Cyborg would be written if the writers who write Cyborg could actually write teenaged superheroes. Batman and Aquaman are pitch perfect as arrogant know-all adults as viewed from the perspective of teenagers uncertain of their place in an adult world.
It’s a perfect mirror for the journey from young adulthood into full membership of the adult world, and the notorious ending — in which several members are murdered by a homicidal former adversary — not only remains shocking and brutal, it contains one of the best red herrings I’ve read in a superhero team book. There have been much worse runs of this title over the years that get none of the hatred this run gets, and it’s unfair: this is good stuff, and while some of it has aged badly, there’s a hell of a lot to like within these pages. It’s time it got a proper reappraisal.
TEEN TITANS: BEAST BOY
There are three things that are inevitable in life: death, taxes, and anybody who attempts a story focusing on Beast Boy who was Changeling who was Beast Boy will turn in something anodyne, unmemorable, and basically just a bit beige and shite.
This is no exception.
The problem is, it’s almost impossible to write him as anything other than a whiny, self-absorbed himbo because, quite frankly, that’s pretty much what he is. Shorn of the context provided by a surrounding team like the Titans or Doom Patrol — or a balls-out treatment that doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s a crying man-baby and actually escalates it, like Teen Titans Go — who the hell wants to read about a tone-deaf, insensitive, narcissist with maturity issues? One that isn’t Batman, that is.
Anyway, this book tries, and fails, because ultimately, like the character himself, it has all the depth and emotional engagement of a puddle. It’s a bog standard story about a whiny teenager surrounded by slightly wiser whiny teenagers, exchanging snappy bon mots and turning on each other at the drop of an emotion. Cross a John Hughes movie with the DC Universe Rebirth version of Blue Beetle, and suck out anything interesting, and this is what you’re left with.
TEEN TITANS: RAVEN
Raven is, by far and away, the most interesting character in the entire history of the Teen Titans. Buuut, to be perfectly honest, it took me a while to open this volume up after having read the companion volume discussed above. I needn’t have worried. This is a pitch perfect coming-of-super-age novel, replete with exotic settings, layered supporting characters, foreshadowing out the wazoo, and a genuinely engaging and fascinating lead character. Raven has long deserved more attention, and if DC can successfully transplant Cyborg, the poor man’s Steel, into the JLA, it could do worse than building a decent team around her: you know, say Shadowpact? My phone is waiting for your call, DC.
DEATHSTROKE VOLUME 1: THE PROFESSIONAL
I’ve been casually following Deathstroke from the beginning: among my long-lost graphic novels (a moment’s silence here to remember the termitepocalypse of a dozen or so years ago) are the Teen Titans volume where he makes his first appearance, and the original Deathstroke GN that filled in what was then a sketchy and incomplete backstory. He’s gradually hardened over the years, going from a shadowy figure to a merciless super-mercenary of boundless ability with more mutant-style abilities than an entire X-roster. But he’s at his best when used as a cold-equation, slicing through the prevarications and subterfuge of lower-level characters to point out that — in a world where everybody is a freak and allegiances can switch on the turn of a phrase — a truly murderous, clinical character of singular will is an absolute rarity. Priest is the perfect writer for a title such as this, and he sets out his stall early: this volume twists and turns at the rate of about a dozen betrayals a page. There’s surprisingly little action, not because it isn’t full of good old spandex fisticuffs but because they are short, brutal, and final. When Deathstroke hits someone, they don’t get up again. It’s an acquired taste, but it is my taste, and this is right in the expected wheelhouse.
FABLES VOLUME 6: HOMELANDS
Another nominee for my favourite graphic novel series of the last forever. A war in the realms of fairytale creatures has driven many of our most famous fables — Red Riding Hood, Little Boy Blue, Old King Cole, and the like — in to the mundane world, where they have to try to live amongst the ‘Mundys’ without being outed, find a place to home the non-human-looking fables, and engage in a covert war against the forces of The Adversary. It’s rich, layered, throughly engaging, and simply wonderful in every way. There really is no way to avoid being drawn into the all-too-human lives of these fairy-tales made, uh, flesh.
In this volume, Boy Blue sets out on a forbidden quest into the very heart of the lands conquered by The Adversary, while those in the Mundy world are left to deal with the aftermath of a ruinous, fatal attack by enemy forces. A spy is revealed, machinations are machinated, and the identity of the all-powerful nemesis who has brought ruination to the worlds of imagination is revealed…… and it’s an absolute bloody jaw-dropper.