GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI REVIEWS

The school year has started again, which means I’m once again trying to take any opportunity outside those hours to remind myself of the things I love about my life. Which means getting some graphic novels into my eyeholes. So a couple of new purchases, a trip to the local library to snaffle anything new they might have picked up, and an old favourite hit this mini-review round up!


Zatanna

A DC staple since the early ’60s, consistently a JLA member, teamed-up with any vaguely supernatural/dark/creepy/weird character on a ludicrously regular basis… and somehow, Zatanna never really makes the A list. In short, she’s a character tailor-made for Paul Dini’s signature combination of wackiness, lightness, and humanisation. And it works, for the most part. This isn’t particularly ground-breaking stuff, but what it is is eminently readable. It’s fun and fluffy, but fluffy with a real sense of darkness and danger underneath, all handled with the lightness of touch that is a Dini specialty. There’s a solid cast of supporting characters, potential for a wide range of unique antagonists, and a sense of fun that’s often missing from the grim-and-gritty titles I lean towards. It’s fun, showcases the fact that Zatanna has an A-grade power set and deserves a wider audience, and while it won’t live forever in the memory, does exactly what comic books should do: make you happy.


Justice League International, Book One: Born Again

Believe it or not, but there was a time when nobody was interested in the Justice League: the long-maligned nadir of the ‘Detroit Years’ lingers on in the bile ducts of fans everywhere (They weren’t that bad: more on that issue to come). And believe it or not, there came a time when the Justice League was fun, and interesting, and not a beige cookie cutter assemblage of cardboard cutouts doing boring shit over and over again in an interminable sequence, like they do, oooooh, say, now. And this is those times: the ludicrous, hilarious, utterly absurd Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League International. Okay, some of the gags don’t hold up as well as they used to, and some of the sexual politics are, shall we say, somewhat basic. But this is still, for me, the gold standard of Justice League comics: a book that went where nobody else was even thinking about, that did things nobody thought should be done in a book of its type, and that just bloody well entertained as hard as it possibly could, at every possible moment. And if you don’t believe that I’m right, and that this is the best Justice League comic ever printed, I have two words for you:

One punch!


Symbiote Spiderman: Alien Reality

What even is this? I mean, I’m as much a fan of Peter David as the next guy: his runs on Aquaman and The Incredible Hulk are iconic. But oh, so often do I pick up a PAD book to find a fan-service nostalgiafest with zero actual ideas or net worth, and damn but if this isn’t the bottom of the barrel. A by-the-numbers Spiderman revenge story with absolutely no logical basis, that doesn’t even involve Spiderman, but rather his symbiote suit who teams up with a Dr Strange who happily betrays every trust Peter Parker ever put in him, for no other reason than…… you know what, I hope David was well paid. I mean, this was published in 2019, for (pardon the pun) Pete’s sake: does anyone give a damn about a previously-untold pre-Venom Black suit story anymore? Seriously, you think I’d learn: Spiderman is a burned out narrative these days. There simply just does not seem to a story worth telling anymore. What a waste.


Checkmate Book 1

Now this is the shit! I’ve ranted before — more than once — about how much I love this title. And I’m right. Intrigue, dark shadows, politics and spandex intermingling, complex plots, complex characters, compromised characters compromising other compromised characters for compromised goals…. hey, it’s my version of comfort eating, and it’s frigging great.


Dark Knights Metal: Dark Knights Rising

What even is this?, part two. Batmans (Batmen?) from multiple alternative Universes, which are somehow below the reality line and whose destruction is use to fuel the multiple Universes we know and exist within (still with me) are recruited by a sort of dark God to destroy and occupy the ‘light’ multiple Universe Earths in order to stop the destruction of the ‘dark’ Earths. And just like that, we somehow have a quite literal anti-JLA of evil Batmen (Batmans?) — I mean, seriously, there’s a Flash Batman, an Aquaman one, a Wonder Woman one, and on and on — and something will undoubtedly happen, but as this is a series of origin stories designed to bring the, uh, ‘team’ together, you won’t know unless you shell out more cash on another volume. The stories themselves are, well, they’re okay in a cookie cutter Elseworlds kind of way, but given the talent involved, it’s surprising how similar they all feel in the end.


5 FOR FRIDAY: TEAM ME UP!

Time for some more Friday fun, and to celebrate my recent acquisition of the final title I needed to complete the entire John Ostrander run of Suicide Squad, I thought I’d take a look at five comic book teams that haven’t had the benefit of a recent ongoing run or shitty-Will-Smith-movie-I-still-love-because-shut-up.

So here are five comic book teams that a) need to make a return and b) need to be given to me to write, because it’s my idea and my website, so there.

5 for Friday: The Lee Teams

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: A TRIP TO PERTH MEANS SPENDING BIG, 2021 EDITION

And the 2021 return to normalcy continues. Today, it’s time to cast a few words in the direction of what is becoming an annual tradition: the spending of a shitload of cash on a stack of graphic novels during the Christmas return to Perth because Karratha doesn’t even have a proper bookstore, never mind anything as esoteric as a place to buy comic books no shut-up you’re bitter.

I seem to have become distracted…..

Alternative universes, crossovers, the completion of collections, better versions of other groups, and vampires: it’s comicapalooza 2021!

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: NEXT PLANET OVER.

Time for more shenanigans in time, space, and the dance floor. The best new character Marvel has introduced in years, a bad fit for one of the oldest, and some early-career Dorkin wonderfulness are ours to discuss, along with the best Volume Two of the year, and more bitching about Batgirl. It’s all good, clean fun. 

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: MAD, BAT, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW

Time for another graphic novel mini-review roundup, because apparently I don’t what’s good for me. In this edition, I prove I don’t know what’s good for me by making my umptybillionth attempt to find something good in Deadpool (spoiler: failed again), revisit a favourite character, and touch base with one of the most pointless characters in comics. Plus Spiderman.

You’ve been advised.

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: ZAC’S CHOICE

Every now and again I throw a challenge to a nearby personage to hit me up with five graphic novels from my collection they’d like me to review. This time it’s Lord 15’s buddy Zac who happened to be in the wrong room at the wrong time. Let’s see what I thought of the ones he picked out while I was shouting at him to hurry up.

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: TEAM-UPS, REBOOTS, CLASSICS, AND KINGDOMS

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.

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: XJLA OF THE UNCANNY GALAXY!

Well, at least if I don’t have to do any important grown-up things over the next couple of weeks, like herd the next generation of community leaders towards understanding why new dialogue should always start on a new line, at least I can do important grown-up things like read comic books and catch up on my Lego reviews.

Being grown up. Because they won’t let me be a kid anymore.

So let’s talk Justice League, X-Men, independent titles from decades ago that you’ve never heard of, and why you can’t go 80+ years without creating some absolute dud characters along the way…

 

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: VAMPIRES AND GODS AND CONSPIRACIES, OH MY.

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.

 

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: LUSCIOUS’ CHOICE

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.

Good times.

 

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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.

 

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: A QUICK TOUR OF DC’S GREATEST HITS RE-IMAGINED

It’s all gone a bit DC this time out. Four titles from the publisher, covering some of their major franchises: The Titans, JLA, Green Lantern, and Batman ‘worlds’ all get look at. Plus an oddity from an SF great in collaboration with a comix great published by a straight-up book publisher I’ve never heard of: what could possibly go wrong?

 

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FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: GINGER’S CHOICE

Okay, cyclone over. Back to business.

Having exhausted my recent purchases, and long ago burned through the local library’s meagre collection, I’ve turned to my family to randomly select some titles from my collection to read and review. First up, five volumes selected by the inimitable Lord 15. And just for a change, this time when I say I’m reviewing five graphic novels, I’m going to review five.

 

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FROM MOONGIRL TO BOOMERBUTT: MINI-REVIEWS OF FIVE GRAPHIC NOVELS

One thing I realised last year: I’m reading a lot of graphic novels these days. I always have, but for reasons of digestibility, time, and interest, I’m smashing through them over the last year or two. Sixteen days into 2020, I’ve read six, so I thought it might be fun to post a paragraph or two each time I get through another five.

Naturally, to start with, I’m going to do six. Because that’s how I roll. Badly.

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REVIEW: MONSTRESS VOLUME 1, AWAKENING

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress, #1)Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely stunning combination of artwork, non-traditional and traditional fantasy tropes, sexual politics, and quest narrative that hits the mark at every available opportunity. Looks utterly beautiful, is complex in both its character motivations and story, and just excels in every way it is possible for a comic book to do so. Books like this are the reason why the comic book format exists: to tell a story that cannot be encompassed by text or image alone, but by both forms combined. A wonderful and wondrous work.

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5 FOR FRIDAY: SUICIDE SQUAD

So I was watching an episode or two of Young Justice with Lord 13, because I am a grown-up who can watch anything he likes and Luscious was in the house and she hates Teen Titans Go!. We came across an episode involving an incursion into Belle Reve Prison, home of the Suicide Squad and hub of the Amanda Waller empire. Except, in this incarnation, Belle Reve was just a prison, and Waller was just the warden, and frankly, I was pissed.

I’m a loooooong-time fan of the Squad. I liked them before they were cool and popular, nyer nyer. I’m still bitching about Bronze Tiger not being in the movie. And Lord 13 is always up for a conversation about comics and superheroes. So we got to jawing about the Squad, which, naturally, turned into a discussion about who we would have in our Suicide Squad comic, because we are boys and whenever two or more boys shall discuss comics, the conversation will turn this way. It’s the law.

So we decided to share today’s 5 for Friday post, and present to you 5 characters we would include in our respective versions of the Suicide Squad

5 FOR FRIDAY: WELCOME TO TASK FORCE X

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REVIEW: X-MEN LEGACY– LEGION OMNIBUS

X-Men Legacy: Legion: OmnibusX-Men Legacy: Legion: Omnibus by Simon Spurrier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning extension of the graphic novel art that is reminiscent of the high points of Vertigo’s initial burst of creativity and experimentation. Superhero tropes are deliberately inverted, then examined and shown to be the ridiculous soap-operas we know they are. The ongoing X-plots and wider Marvel world are confronted and dismissed as irrelevant and trifling. And the book moves beyond them to explore deeper issues of individuality, personality, psychology and conformity through the lens of a potentially all-powerful mind who has finally escaped from years of psychological abuse at the hands of characters held up by the majority as heroes and examples to follow.

The writing is razor-sharp, the art and colours are swirlingly psychedelic, the characters are bright and unusual, and the whole thing grabs the tiger’s tail and refuses to let go until the entire dizzy ride is over. Even the ending refuses to back down and soothe us with latex-clad platitudes. There are consequences, and finalities, and when the coup de grace arrives, it does so with meaning.

One of the best graphic novels I’ve read in years. Highly recommended.

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REVIEW: JLA- POWER AND GLORY

Justice League of America: Power & GloryJustice League of America: Power & Glory by Bryan Hitch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Superman is a religiously-gullible rube, The Flash is an idiot, Green Lantern is a morose quitter, and once again the JLA is confronted by an impossible to beat antagonist, only to defeat it by a combination of mysterious, one-time-only outsider assistance and because-the-narrative-requires-it. And yet, Hitch manages to make everything progress so smoothly and at such a pace that it all seems to work, and you find yourself happily swept up in it all. The wheels fall off towards the end, as the narrative begins to creak under the weight of the spiralling absurdity and lack of logic, but it’s still enjoyable, and the kind of slick escapism that is perfect for a lazy afternoon on the sofa.

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REVIEW: JSA- THE GOLDEN AGE

JSA: The Golden AgeJSA: The Golden Age by James Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gorgeous artwork, a beautiful balance between superheroic nostalgia and historic paranoia, and plenty of over-the-top revelations that carry the whiff of the best of 1950s B-grade monster movies, all delivered with a straight face and a perfectly balanced respect for, and love of, the various elements. A wonderful volume for the geekiest of JSA fans, those with a memory of the-way-comics-used-to-be, and those who enjoy a finely balanced combination of artwork and narrative.

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FIVE FOR FRIDAY: YOU AND ME, DC!

A real life-changer of a week this week, with confirmation that we’ll be packing up and moving to Karratha at the end of January. While I’ll be spending the majority of my time working on a series of novels (check out my new Patreon site for details, and if you’re so inclined, drop a few bucks my way to receive exclusive content on a monthly basis), I’ll also be looking to push my writing into new directions, and use the extra time our new lifestyle affords me to pursue some dreams I’ve never had the chance to pursue.

To whit: I’ve always wanted to write a comic book.

So, one of the things I’ll be doing is working up a pitch to DC Comics, using a lesser-known, and under-utilised character that is close to my heart. One of these five, in fact. I just need to work out the right storyline, and then I’ll know which one.

 

Five for Friday: DC Characters I Intend to Pitch

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THE LAW DONE PROPERLY

One one occasion, back when I was but a small boy, my mother allowed me to take some pocket money and hit up the newsagent’s at the Big Shops and get me a comic book.

By age 8, I was already a firm, and lifelong, fan of a number of comic book characters: Iron Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Green Lantern, The Flash (yeah, the last 10 years have been pretty frigging good…). Suicide Squad, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Batman lay in my future. Etrigan, the Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy (the originals, damn it), the Uncanny X-Men: all still to come. Sandman, Hellblazer, The Crow, Shade the Changing Man: many years hence.

And then there was the pulpy, multi-coloured, wild and woolly piece of British insanity I picked out and took home with me. Ye Gods. I’d never seen anything like it. Lurid, helter-skelter madness oozing out of every page. I was smitten. I was entranced. I was in another world.

My Mum read three pages, and threw it in the bin.

2000AD. Oh, what a joy. What a frabjous, incendiary, utterly British slice of lunacy. I’ve been a lover ever since.

To whit: Judge Dredd. The signature character. Not necessarily the best, but the most 2000AD of all the characters presented over the many years of the comics’ run. To date, there have been 2 filmic treatments: a ludicrous, and rightly derided, Sylvester Stallone thudder in 1995, that manages to include all the necessary ingredients and get them all hopelessly wrong; and a 2012 starrer for the chronically-limited Karl Urban that was long on the ultra-violence, and short on everything else that makes the character special.

Which makes the fan film Judge Minty all the more extraordinary. Fan films are a special kind of rabbit hole: produced with all the love and care in the world, many of them are victims of the lack of resources, knowledge, and (at times) talent that reinforce all the negative stereotypes that abound when we see the words “fan production”.

Not this. It has a few moments where the ambition outstrips the production, but it is a superb Judge story, and far better than the two mega-budget films that proceed it. It’s superb.

 

And if that’s not enough, the same production team has just released a new film. Search/Destroy features one of my all time favourite characters, and worlds: Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog. I’ve been waiting for an SD movie for as long as I waited for all the Marvel and DC films and TV that are currently overwhelming the Universe. If there is to be a new wave of comic book movies, let the Judge Minty crew lead the way. I want more.

I’m in love.