Look, money comes in, money goes out, and just occasionally special happy time money comes in, and Luscious gives me an allowance for shiny new rocks and twigs and things stolen from the hair of passing pedestrians…….
Um, yeah. I got me some new graphic novels recently. Let’s move on from unfortunate analogies that make me sound like a sex pest in a tree and see how they turned out, shall we? Quickly, now.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Absolutely one of the worst true crime books I’ve ever read. It’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors, and takes the bizarre editorial decision to treat the narrative as if reporting on the various stages of a film or TV production, lending the whole thing an air of authorial frippery that it doesn’t deserve.
There is no attempt to analyse or place the events within any larger context, simply chapter after chapter of copy-pasted transcripts that haven’t even been neatened up to aid readability– as if every ‘um’, ‘uh’, or wandering off into irrelevant discussions is somehow necessary to understand the story, rather than just the product of a lazy author rattling off a quickie cash-in — squeezed in between breathless, over the top tabloid descriptions that hit every stereotype in the Murdoch Fish Wrapper Manual.
I read this while trapped inside my house during a cyclone, without power, by battery-powered lantern, and *still* almost gave up in favour of lying in the dark listening to my fences being torn down. An absolute junk job.
The graphic novel reading continues apace. Thanks to the tail end of my Perth trip reading, and the arrival of a Book Depository order, I’ve worked my way through another five……… six……… shut up, you’re not my Mum.
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.
Entertaining but superficial glossing over of a celebrity life that eschews self-reflection and insight in favour of name dropping and shaggy dog stories. It’s fun, and occasionally funny, but if you’re of the opinion that Idle’s career has been running off nostalgia and cannibalisation of his Pythonic roots for a long while now, this will not be the book to change your mind.
Absolutely jaw-dropping, compelling reading. I felt like I needed to have a shower after I’d finished. Having not been aware of the podcast, it was all new to me, and I was utterly gobsmacked. The pacing is perfect, the revelations astounding, the writing a pitch-perfect combination of the journalistic and the personal. This is the best true crime book, and the best book about becoming involved in the investigation of a crime, that I have read in a long time. A superb achievement.
Excellently constructed, multi-level narrative utilising a wide range of points of view and narrative strands. A simple crime builds in complexity and consequence, and the red herrings that constitute the secondary narrative are perfectly weighted and timed to create suspense and confusion. A slightly weak ending and reveal do not diminish the satisfaction.
An entertaining, but on reflection superficial, examination of an author who was a major influence in the establishment of both National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live. There were obviously worms underneath the psyche of O’Donoghue, but as portrayed by Perrin, he comes across as a massively talented adolescent with the emotional control of an angry toddler. There’s a frustrating lack of depth or analysis. The acknowledgements page betrays a possible reason– despite O’Donoghue’s life touching a cast of thousands across both the Lampoon and SNL, as well as the rest of his varied career, only O’Donoghue’s wife Cheryl Hardwicke stands out, as well as Tony Hendra, Matty Simmons and Lorne Michaels for glimpses of their own works about the man. While the likes of Chevy Chase and Anne Beats discuss him in passing, the opportunity to really dig through the memories of those who knew him best seems to be shied away from.
The book is an entertaining read, and it skims across the major points of a complex and driven artistic soul, but it’s hard not to feel that the opportunity for a major examination of O’Donoghue’s influence on his contemporaries and industry has been missed, here. In all probability, this was the only chance, and it’s now been missed. Try as he might, Perrin never gets beyond the image of O’Donoghue as a tortured enfant terrible, leaving us with only glimpses of what might exist beyond that role.
It’s a book to treasure for those of us who were, and remain, fans, but it’s a bittersweet fandom: we never really get to know the man, just the image.
The first two volumes of Sherry’s biography of Greene skirted hero worship by dint of sheer volume of reportage– Greene’s life was filled with momentous happenings, and simply relating them kept Sherry’s over-ripe familiarity mostly at bay. Here, unfortunately, as the subject’s life begins to wind down, there are no such brakes– what has been, until now, a mildly cringing sycophancy devolves into full blown toadying. Anyone who is apposite to Greene is portrayed as deluded, jealous, or outright wrong. Greene himself is a warrior for truth, a noble of unsurpassable grandeur, Sherry’s personal hero. The author even begins to insert himself into the narrative in an effort to tie himself to his famous subject. This is the weakest, and most tedious, volume in the series, deeply flawed and worthwhile only for a sense of completism, because Sherry has committed the cardinal sin of the biographer: he has fallen in love with his subject.
A fine piece of investigative journalism by Michelle McNamara into the identity of the East Area Rapist and the connections between him and other, unsolved crimes attributed to other personae. Unfortunately, as has been well documented, McNamara died before the book could be completed, and the text has been completed using a composite of notes, transcripts, and commentary by her husband and fellow amateur sleuths who occupied the message boards she frequented. The result is a patchwork narrative of wildly varying quality, and while the depth and rigorousness of McNamara’s pursuit shines through, the book as a whole feels like exactly what it is: a cobbled-together, unfinished work.
Had McNamara lived to complete the work– especially, had she lived to see the recent arrest of Joseph DeAngelo on DNA evidence– there’s no doubt that this book would have been a superb account of the piecing together of the jigsaw trail leading to him. As it is, it remains frustratingly raw and incomplete, a glimpse of the book we might have had, and have to be content with. Three stars for McNamara’s superb job, but no further because the book, ultimately, does not go the rest of the way.
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.