Thursday, January 26, 2012

DC New 52: Part II

I am getting to enjoy the new 52 now, more or less. Some surprises, and some sureshot hits(thanks to all the reviews). I guess few patterns will be emerging soon in terms of a Top 5 or a Top 10 around the characters and arcs I like but for now, second list of the titles from the first release..

Batman & Robin #1
Good, pumped up tone. Robin looks like he’s just read some Frank Miller!

Green Lantern #1
Now I have always enjoyed the world of Green Lanterns, Guardians, sectors, Ferris Corp., Sinestro, and this comic only reassures me and reaffirms my faith in the oath.

Grifter #1
Nice little surprise, this one. Airplane heist, back and forth narrative, con games…quite a nice adventurous ride. Pretty action packed. I liked it.

Mr. Terrific #1
Packs in way too much than it can handle(sci-fi concepts, gazettes and gizmos), certainly not a Green Lantern this.

Red Lanterns #1
“How can my rage be less pure, when there is still so much pain in the universe..”
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Brutal, graphic, but electrifying pace and some great lines and art.

Resurrection Man #1
Great fun! Has a cool Deadman vibe set in a noire-ish plane ride.

Captain Atom #1(J.T. Krull, Freddy Williams II)
Quite a nice little comic, some great art and concepts, gets a little too sci-f- verbose, and the character does look like an offshoot of Doc. Manhattan but what the hell, bring it on!

DC Universe presents #1: Deadman(Paul Jenkins)
Great writing, not really easy reading but some great depth, Jenkins makes Deadman a cold, distant cousin, always elusive.

Wonder Woman #1
Azzarello(100 Bullets)’s Wonder Woman is fierce, dark, violent, but too unsatisfactory for a small issue.

All Star Western #1
Gotham of late 19th century, Jonah Hex, Amadeus Arkham, a ‘From Hell’like panic struck dark city, and some classic touches makes this one, well, an instant classic. Bring some more!

Aquaman #1(Geoff Johns)
Pretty short to trigger any excitement or response, but I do like the self-reference ‘less popular superhero’digs.

Batman The Dark Knight #1
Feels too early nineties for a reboot. Certainly pales in comparison to the other titles in the line, by a long shadow.

The Flash #1
Not a big fan of The Flash, this comic doesn’t help either. Some good art and innovative paneling, though.

Superman #1(George Perez)
A reboot? This issue feels like a replay of a Superman comic you wished you’d never read!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

DC New 52: Part I

So time to do some DC New 52 countdowns/readups. It’s a mixed bag really.

Detective Comics #1
Great aggressive comic, no B.S., plain old Batman with strong grip on the detective aspect, constant deduction and action. A great Batman comic after long, retains the lucid storytelling, something almost a rare commodity lately.

Action Comics #1
With Morrison behind it, there is hope, but must say, not that impressed.

Animal Man #1
Good story and art, liked the direct tone and ‘Walking Dead’ vibe.

Batgirl#1(Gail Simone)
I kinda liked it, more like a more confident and upgraded Robin, failing and learning on the job, inner conflicts et al.

It is pretty sad that a nice plot gets sacrificed by bad storytelling and poor characterization. Batwing is presented as a ‘Batman for Africa’ but doesn’t really get its act together, really doesn’t stand on its feet. The comic presents some nice ideas but loses them somewhere. Beautiful panels, but it mostly comes off as hollow towards the end.

Green Arrow #1(George Perez)
Quite nice and exciting for 20 pages. Lot of lines, depth(“meat”), a well-balanced book. Just goes to show the potential in this series to explore diverse storylines, even the ones on the periphery of the archetype of dual identity superheroes.

Justice League Int’l #1
Again, not very impressive, given all the set up, feels more like a jaded X-Men arc.

Men of War #1
Not a big fan of the genre, but giving credit where its due, it is well written to say the least.

O.M.A.C. #1
Great action, cool entry of Brother Eye, nice reveals and comic touches. Geeky to the core.

Swamp Thing #1
Lives up to the hype.

Static Shock #1
Feels tiring and long, even though its just 20 pages! Can this one!

Demon Knights & Stormwatch
These are some great titles by Paul Cornell, the first ones I read in this series and would love to revisit them, away from the noise.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Batman: The Widening Gyre (DC, 2009)

The Widening Gyre(TWG) is Kevin Smith’s oft-struggling Batman story. Having read Cacophony, I had no mood to approach TWG. Cacophony was outright bad comic book writing, uninspired, exploitative, repetitive, unoriginal. I could go on. TWG however is better fortunately(anything would be!) in a sense that it does spend some time on things comic books usually don’t (things like Batman introspecting on overdrive, Batman going soft-porn/trashy soap opera(almost), a new sidekick who is mostly a bag of nerves when he is around Batman etc.). It has Smith’s characteristic tone throughout, in the way characters are very now(whatwith Twitter, which is a scary thing IMO) and streetsmart and all that. If these facts don’t offend you enough, there is the so bold it’s disturbing elements, which for some reason Smith mistakes for an adult graphic novel, present throughout here. I would just suggest some Grant Morrison doubled up with some Alan Moore as a quick remedy to start with.

A comic does not get adult by show of blood or amputated limbs or frequent tough-guy-speak. The boldness, if you will, comes through the voice of narrative and characters, the panic in the town(comic universe) pervades your thoughts and takes your reception to a different level, as opposed to build on a provocation , much what Smith does here and few of his other initiatives(films, blogs etc.)
Reading TWG is almost like someone took a C grade pulp novel and spliced in Batman characters, while consciously leaving out a possibility of unintentional fun.
A good thing in this book? The Covers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Superman: Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?(DC, 1986)

By now almost a cult book, this Alan Moore-Curt Swan- Julius Schwartz-George Perez team up is more of a reverential Superman tale than a shocking what-if arc. When I turned the last page(or screen page!)I wrote it off thinking of it as immature and not quite there. But in retrospect it does come out as a comic arc I would like to revisit, it is certainly important from Superman essentials point of view, and a must read for all Alan Moore fans(Moore offers his signature thought-provoking and existential crisis of superheores elements here, albeit a little underplayed). I think of the book as an ode to Silver Age and ever-geeky innocent charm one associates with the character and his universe(DCU).

10 Superman essentials

A great companion read for this would be For the man who has everything (DC, 1985) by Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons. While I was a little underwhelmed by Whatever happened, For the man truly satisfied me with its complex and evolved storytelling and in-depth treatment of the characters. The arc is essentially about Mongul attacking Superman with a mystery plant (catching him unawares on his birthday), Black Mercy that makes its victim go in a state of inertia/pleasant dream. It is only Moore perhaps who can handle so many themes in a mere 50 pages single issue – Superman’s dream of life at the El’s, his differences with father Jor-El, Krypton’s political upturns, Batman’s pleasant dream (a different version)of the event that changed his life and the dynamics between the holy trinity, this is some achievement.

It is a delight how the book captures both significant events and minor character dynamics with equal ease. There are the indulgent riffs at Robin(Moore hates Robin!), the sexual air of Wonder Woman, suitably placed humor, a unique look at Superman’s little road trip to Kandor crater with his son, Van-El, and the usual strong political world view in describing the events at Krypton(involving a rebel movement against Phantom Zone). Though at time Moore does get beyond the reader (typical of him) in his rendering of Mongul’s dream and encounter with Superman, but it stays a dilemma any fan loves to solve. Great, great classic tale, must say one of the best Superman tales that I have read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kingdom Come(DC,1996): Long back in Elseworld

I picked up a mini paperback of a DC book recently and realized it’s the opening part of Kingdom Come(the 4 parts are Never-Ending Battle, Up in the Sky, Truth and Justice & Strange Visitor). Taking it as a healthy omen, I went on to read the graphic novel. I could recognize the unique art by Alex Ross from Marvels and Daredevil/Spider Man. Mark Waid is the writer here, I remember him from DC’s JLA Tower of Babel & 52. Now for the style, termed as Gouache is definitely an eye-catcher and may influence your decision to pick up the book or not. I personally don’t mind it much (as much as complex visual styles of may be a Sandman or Arkham Asylum, which can tend to ‘distract’ the reader in a good way) and after some time into it, you start acknowledging its achievements. In KC, it was the spectacular shots, angular views of characters’ pov, and the overall grandeur it attributes to the events.

Norman McCay, the narrator, is a pastor fearing the apocalypse, thanks to the visions he has been having off late. McCay’s journey of the world as it fights with a global threat, superheroes vs the UN is what kicks the story off. Then there is Lex Luthor’s Man Liberation Front and its efforts to get Captain Marvel on board. The tone is uniquely mythological at once, and gripping whatwith the multiple character face-offs and arcs.

Like any other re-imagining, this one gives a clear priority to characterization, but the overriding themes here are superheroes as gods vs humanity, legitimization of superheroes, global crisis, political conferences, and religion for certain providing a certain mythological air to it all.
I must say I was a little disappointed towards the final part as there was certainly great potential in the way the book looks at Superman and Wonder Woman in their flesh and blood conversations, chemistry and relationship. So much is so beautifully unsaid that it feels a waste to divert your attention to the routine action finale.
Batman is a little less than a glorified prop and his legion looks unconvincing to ay the least.
On the whole, an essential comic book, but certainly flawed.
Character Origins from Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come Critical Analysis

Saturday, January 7, 2012

FIFTY TWO(DC, 2006): Lessons in Continuity

This was a tough ask, 52 volumes representing 52 weeks of the year. A huge project ably managed by Dan Didio(with the vision of Grant Morrison supporting him), quite a roller-coaster comic book event. In a nutshell, the Holy Trinity of Super Man, Batman & Wonder Woman is missing, and a whole lot of young blood fills in their shoes. There are 5-6 parallel story-arcs(Booster Gold/Rip Hunter/Skeets/time-travel, Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man/Sorcery/helmet/Doctor Fate, Black Adam’s revenge track, Lex Luthor & the Everyman Project, The Question/Renee Montoya/Nanda Parbat spiritual track, Politics/Bialya/personal vs political revenge/JSA track etc.), and there is significant amount of science fiction rolled up into tremendous amount of time spent on action.

On the whole, the series is worth the effort. I loved the tongue-in-cheek tone and frequent in-jokes about ‘fifty two’. The series does well to entertain within the multiverse theme, offering a variety of well-written characters, like Lobo(space-cowboy), Booster Gold, Black Adam, Steel, Metal Men, Martian Manhunter, Question etc. and is concept-heavy yet provides great comic fun through its world-weary themes of capitalist paranoia, spiritual awakening and political sabotage. There are groups abound(JSA, Suicide Squad, Infinity, Inc., Teen Titans, GL Corps, Birds of Prey), all of which come in focus together towards the conclusive ‘World War III’ with Black Adam. This is specifically the part where the series pulls its efforts together brilliantly, the action is well-executed and the complexity just goes higher and higher. This was one of my favorite moments from the series, others being ‘skyfall’, Lobo’s space adventures and wry one-liners, Booster’s self-aware commentary/relationship with Skeets, and some mind-mending sci-fi sequences I only wish my mind could process at the speed of Flash.

A word about the WWIII Saga, this is essentially 2 books, but is broken down in 5 parts. The story focuses extensively on Martial Manhunter pulling his forces together against the havoc declared by Black Adam and is done by a different team than the previous parts (Keith Champagne/John Ostrander/Pat Oliffe/Drew Geraci/Andy Smith). Though the team is new, the WWIII arc concludes the series brilliantly, a little tough to approach but well rewarding.

I am aware that there are Fifty-Two companions, pre-reads and after-reads(aftermath) and will be approaching them in due time.

DC crossover/crisis events Timeline

Next on my multiverse wishlist(in no particular order):
Final Crisis
Crisis on Infinite Earths
The New 52