Thor (2011)

 

Quote:
“Is this how you normally dress?”

“More or less.”

“It’s a good look.”

 

Went to see Thor today with the family. Great cast, good script and a good movie. It quite didn’t blow me out of the water like I was hoping it would (it suffers very slightly from first movie syndrome, I think) but we all enjoyed it nonetheless. I thought Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were great as Thor and Loki. I was surprised when the credits came up and Ray Stevenson was listed in the cast as I didn’t recognise him – he plays a padded and hirstute Volstagg (though the padding needed to be greater to match the Volstagg of the comics). Visually it looked great but I could have gone for a little more action between the frost giants and Asgardians. Thor spends a lot of time exiled on Earth (which is fine as these sequences are good) but when he has his powers and is in his iconic armour that is when it all comes together for me – give me more mighty smiting!

The teaser at the end of the movie was thrilling. Samuel L. Jackson totally rocks as Nick Fury and I can’t wait for the Avengers movie next year – IMDB has him listed as doing a Nick Fury movie as well which would be great.

Gotham City Sirens: Union (2010)

 

Quote:
“… I was livin’ it up as personal court jester to the Clown Prince of Crime!”

“You know he hates being called that.”

“I’m sure he prefers it to “Puddin'”!”

 

This book collects the first seven issues of this new series – one of a few started in the aftermath of the Batman R.I.P. storyline. It was written by Paul Dini who of course is no stranger to the Batman world having written Batman comics and been heavily involved with some of the Batman animated series. He is also the co-creator of Harley Quinn who is one of the lead characters in the book. The art is by a newcomer to DC, the Spanish artist Guillem March.

Gotham City is a strange place in wake of Batman’s death. Dick Grayson takes over as Batman with Bruce Wayne’s son as Robin. The Riddler gives up a life of crime. And Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn become BFF and move into Selina’s soon to be converted animal shelter. The story outlines how the girls run into each other and end up with Selina, a plot by Hush, posing as Bruce Wayne, to get revenge on Catwoman through Harley and a jealous Joker’s attempts to kill Harley for associating with Wayne.

I really wanted to love this book but it ended up being just OK. The action is a bit slow in getting going and is not helped by the third chapter, called Riddle Me This, that inexplicably only features our heroines on one page and details a story featuring a team-up between the Riddler and Batman to try and prevent a crime that has a puzzle element to it. The second half of the book is much better with Poison Ivy and Catwoman tracking down Hush and rescuing Harley before becoming targets of the Joker’s apparently insane jealousy. The final chapter in the book is another filler story. So it was disappointing that a new series had two seemingly filler stories in its first seven issues and that the whole did not really hang together as a storyline as much as it should have. The fact that the story improved in issues 4 – 6 is enough to give me hope that a second volume is worth investigating but the writing needs to be a lot more focussed on the central characters and have a stronger plotline.

Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook (2011)

 

Quote:
There is nothing more important than seeing someone smile! And it is SUPER SPECIALEST MOST GRANDIVELY important when that someone is your very own sister!

Delirium's Party: A Little Endless Storybook cover

 

Incredibly it has been 10 years since the Little Endless Storybook was first published (it is due for a re-issue for those that missed it first time around). This is the long overdue follow-up that is also written and painted by Jill Thompson. It is not Jill’s first foray into the Sandman universe because, in addition to the other little Endless book, she has worked on the main series as well as her manga influenced books – The Dead Boy Detectives and At Death’s Door .

In this book, Delirium suddenly releases that she has never seen her sister Despair smile and immediately sets about organising a surprise party for her to which she has invited all her siblings. However she soon finds out that no matter how careful the planning it is not always a simple matter to make someone happy.

The book features cutesy versions of the Endless from the Sandman comic and is written in the style of a children’s story book. In fact it could be used as a book to read to young children as it is amazing how well the Endless transfer to the genre. The story is pitched just right to appeal to adults and children and the painted watercolour illustrations are beautiful to look at and full of detail. The genius move, of course, is to set the book in Delirium’s realm – as was the first book although Delirium herself is missing for most of it – this allows Jill free reign to create absurd scenes from one page to the next as Delirium and her realm shift constantly throughout the story.

A great book for adults and children alike – though I don’t know if I would let any little cherubs get their grubby mitts on my copy – and a good way to sow the seeds for the adult fairytale of the main Sandman series. While you are indoctrinating/educating the next generation, you might want to also have a look at some of Neil Gaiman’s own books written especially for children – and because they come from his book publisher rather than a comic publisher are more reasonable in price. I would recommend The Dangerous Alphabet and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish for the very young and The Wolves in the Walls for children who can handle a darker story. A bonus with reading Neil’s stories to children is than they get introduced early to the beautiful artwork of people like Charles Vess and Dave McKean.

Dark Horse Presents #1 (2011)

 

Quote:
It’s times like this, when man’s insignificant efforts fail, that we must look beyond ourselves to a greater power, a higher power, atomic power!!

 

This is the start of the third incarnation of the anthology comic Dark Horse Presents. The first volume ran from 1986 to 2000 and featured the first appearances of some of Dark Horse’s iconic characters before they had their own books – such as Concrete, Next Men and Sin City. In its second incarnation (from 2007 -2010) it was brought back as a MySpace page but again featured the same mix of one-off and episodic stories. The strips from this period were collected in five trade paperbacks. It is now back as a bi-monthly print comic again. It has been upgraded since its first incarnation 25 years ago – it is 80 pages long, in colour and has no ads.

The line up for the first issue is:

Concrete by Paul Chadwick

Marked Man Chapter 1 by Howard Chaykin

Blood Chapter 1 by Neal Adams

Finder: Third World Chapter 1 by Carla Speed McNeil

Mr. Monster vs Oooak! by Michael T. Gilbert

A 2 page interview with Frank Miller followed by a 4 page sneak peak of the 300 prequel Xerxes

A five page short story by Harlan Ellison

Murky World Chapter 1 by Richard Corben

A prequel to Star Wars: Crimson Empire III by Randy Stradley and Paul Gulacy

Snow Angel by David Chelsea

And finally 2 one page strips by Patrick Alexander

So like most anthology titles a mix of stories and genres with something for everyone but unlikely to hit the mark with every story. There is also a mix of the old and new – both in terms of the characters and the creators. Unfortunately I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the first issue. Concrete was never a comic that I saw the appeal of and the story here is fine enough but has some references in the dialogue that will only make sense to long term fans so they may get more of a thrill out of it than I did. I am absolutely not a Star Wars fan so I was left pretty cold after reading a story that was a prequel to the third volume of an existing storyline. Of the one-off stories, Mr. Monster was the one I enjoyed reading the most as it was funny and the most accessible to people who had not read many of his previous adventures.

The episodic stories were also disappointing as they did not seem to be written with the episodic model in mind – with the exception of Blood and perhaps Murky World – they did not immediately draw me into their respective worlds and did not particularly leave me wanting to read more. Only the fact that Howard Chaykin usually writes something worth reading in the long run will draw me back to his story.

In Mike Richardson’s introduction to the issue he says, “Twenty-five years ago we set out to bring you the best comics creators in the world, and today our goal remains the same.” So it is a bit disappointing to find that all the creators in this issue are American (with the exception of Patrick Alexander). It would have been nice if they could have mixed it up a bit more – perhaps with a touch of manga or some non-American artists. I was also hoping for a cross fertilisation with the Cheval Noir – a companion title to volume one of Dark Horse Presents that featured a lot of European comics. So a mixed bag but I will probably stick with it through its first year to see how the title develops.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (2010)

 

Quote:
“My name is Logan.””Sure it is.”

 

This book collects Wolverine #66 – 72 and Old Man Logan Giant-Size. It is by the same creative team behind the main Civil War book from Marvel and the recent mini-series Nemesis – Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.

The story is set in a dystopian future fifty years after the bad guys decided to get co-ordinated and wipe out most of the superheroes. The United States has been split into zones each controlled by one of the leaders of the conflict. Wolverine is a broken man after his experiences and unwitting role in the victory for the bad guys. He has forsaken violence and sworn not to use his claws again. He has a wife and two children and is struggling to make ends meet on his farmstead and is behind on the rent to Banner’s offspring. A blind Hawkeye appears and offers him a job escorting him and a package to the east coast. As they set out across the blasted landscape of America, Logan finds out the fate of some of the fallen heroes and their descendents, tells the tale of his role in the heroes downfall and finds his promise to his family not to pop his claws and resort to violence tested to the limit and beyond.

I thought this was a really, really good book. The setting of a post apocalyptic future was a good one – if a bit Mad Max inspired – as is the premise that Wolverine has become a man of peace supporting his family and eking out a life as a farmer. The art is great in this book as it has to be with many silent panels and one and two page splashes. I loved the gradual reveal of the fate of some of the heroes and the discarded Mjolnir becoming a place of pilgrimage. While not quite as graphic as Nemesis there is still a surprising amount of red ink splahed about in what is a mainstream Marvel title. And the build-up to Logan finally popping his claws – you knew he had to at some point – was a delicious tease as he used all manner of other means to defend himself when under extreme attack.

Blood + Water (2009)

 

Quote:
Would you be willing to do anything to yourself in order to survive?

 

This book collects the 2003 mini-series from Vertigo. It was written by Judd Winick and the art was by Tomm Coker. I think I have previously read one of Winick’s Batman storylines but he has written for other DC series as well such as Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Ousiders. I have never come across Coker’s work before but I really like his work on this book as it reminds me of the Scottish artist Jock who I really like.

Adam Heller contracted chronic Hepatitis B from his mother at birth but lead a normal healthy life until he contracted Hepatitis A and he became very sick. His body went through a transformation and eventually gave out on him. On hearing of his death sentence, his friend Joshua reveals that he is a vampire and that there is a way to cure Adam and let him live forever. Shocked and unbelieving at first, Adam eventually agrees and with the help of his other (unknown to him) vampire friend, Nicky, He is transformed once again into the fit healthy person he was before his illness. However, the transformation of Adam into a vampire awakens an old adversary that kills Joshua and is after Nicky and Adam with all other vampires unwilling to help.

This was a really good vampire tale. I really liked the opening chapter that described Adam and his illness and the revelation that his best friends were vampires. The opening was the highlight but the rest of the book was good too, while perhaps not being as original – new vampire tests powers by having sex a lot, revelation the Adam is special even amongst vampires and the existence of more than one kind of vampire. As I said at the start I really lie the style of Coker’s art on this book and makes me a little surprised that I had not heard of him before now.

Dollhouse: Epitaphs (2011)

 

Quote:
“But at any moment he could’ve turned on us. Turned into a monster.”

“No! You’re the monsters!”

 

This is a one-shot from Dark Horse comics based on the cancelled TV show created by Joss Whedon. It was written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen who also wrote some episodes of the series – including the two end of season shows that were set in the post-apocalyptic world. The art was by Cliff Richards who has also worked on another post-TV Whedon comic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the forthcoming comic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The story is set just as the Dollhouse technology, developed and refined by Topher Brink to remotely wipe and imprint any mind via a phone call, has been unleashed onto an unsuspecting populace. The result is that anyone who answers the phone and hears the coded signal is either turned into a murderous maniac or a helpless, compliant doll. The story shows us the experiences of some of the characters in the TV episodes at the time of the event and how they ended up together.

This is a strange comic as it has to satisfy fans of the TV show while providing a jumping on point for people who did not follow the show closely or even at all. So for a fan of the series it is going over old ground but it does set up some themes and plotlines for an ongoing series to build on including the reappearance of Alpha. So I enjoyed it but was left quite unsatisfied at the same time – I think I would have preferred them jumping straight into a series. I don’t quite know why they have produced this one-shot as it can’t be to judge sales potential of a series as it is announced that the story will continue in Dollhouse #1 from the 13th of July on the last page of the comic. I, for one, hope it goes on to enjoy the same level of success as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series.

iZombie: Dead to the World (2011)

[ Listening to Metallica Currently: Listening to Metallica ]

Quote:
For now, I’m just happy to be alive. Well, you know what I mean.

iZombie volume 1 cover

 

This book collects issues 1 – 5 of the newish ongoing iZombie series from Vertigo. It was written by Chris Roberson who wrote the Fables spin-off series From Fabletown with Love and apparently writes some character called Superman – he’ll never catch on. The art is by Michael Allred who is probably most well known for Madman.

The story concerns Gwen Dylan a zombie who works in a graveyard. Gwen is not the usual kind of zombie – she can avoid becoming a ravening, shambling monster by eating brains once a month. The price of eating someone’s brains is that she experiences temporary imprints of the person’s memories in her mind. After eating the brain of the recently deceased Fred Harris, Gwen discovers that he was murdered and feels compelled to investigate further with the help of friends Scott (a were-terrier) and Ellie (a ghost resident in the graveyard). When Gwen finally confronts the killer she finds that the circumstances of Fred’s death might be more complicated than she was led to believe.

This offering from Vertigo has a supernatural setting – there is also a nest of vampire girls running Blood Sports paintball to lure in potential donors – where the traditional monsters that we all know are given a new twist by Roberson. I quite like the setup he creates for Gwen in this world. The book itself suffers slightly in that it is setting up the landscape in which the characters operate and Allred’s art, while good, lends the book the air of girl’s teen romance type book. However the premise is interesting enough that I will stick with it for at least another volume to see where Roberson takes the various monstrous characters.

Fables: Witches (2010)

 

Quote:
Cry havoc and let slip the woody heads of war!

 

This is volume 14 of the Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 86-93. The volume contains three stories that were again all written by Bill Willingham. The art on the first story was by Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton and on the final story was by David Lapham. But for the main Witches story the pencils were by the ever wonderful Mark Buckingham with inks by various combinations of Steve Leialoha. Andrew Pepoy and Daniel Green.

After the diversion of The Great Fables Crossover it was great to be plunged back into the plotline of the main book. The first single issue story gives some background on Mister Dark (the destroyer of the Fables’ home in New York) and how he was imprisoned. The main (5 issue) story in the book gives some background into the main sources of magical defence for the Fables – the witches – and their response to the new enemy in their old home. Also in the magically protected business office of the Fables, the flying monkey Bufkin assembles a motley crew of allies to battle against the threat of forces let loose by the events of the fall of Bullfinch Street such as the release of the evil witch Baba Yaga. While the witches are left in disarray by the secret departure of the leader Frau Totenkinder, Gepetto makes a bid for power over Fablekind. The last two issue story in the book concerns how the aftermath of a baseball game turns into a crisis that could tear the fledgling kingdom of Haven apart.

Two of the great strengths of this series is the overarching storylines that require a commitment from the reader and the vast cast in scattered locations that keep the series interesting. However, this can sometimes also be a weakness for readers, like me, who are not picking up the comic on a monthly basis but are reading the collections every six months or so, since not all the collections necessarily tell complete tales. This is the problem for me with this book. The plotlines in the witches story are left unresolved and it feels very much like a middle book of a trilogy – with the story starting in The Dark Ages and presumably due to end in the next volume, Rose Red – that will take us up to issue 100 of the series.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this series and I love this book but I think that this is maybe the first one that could not be read a complete story on its own – although all the others, of course, do benefit from also knowing what has gone before. However the old showbiz maxim leave them wanting more applies here – I am definitely looking forward to picking up the next book which is due out this week.