Spaceman #1 (December 2011)

 

Quote:
Ain’t no future. My life didn’t come true.

 

From the creative team of Brain Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, who brought us 100 Bullets, comes this new 9 issue sci-fi tale. This series is also published by Vertigo and though they have featured sci-fi stories before they don’t tend to drift too far from fantasy and supernatural tales.

We find the main character, Orson, in two very different circumstances. First he is an astronaut on a Mars base heading out in a storm to fix a problem in one of the greenhouses. In the second, he is living in a post-apocalyptic Earth having been modified for the Mars mission but not going on it. There is no clue as to how these two realities tie up. There are background details that have echoes in each of the realities so one could be the fever dream of the other – in the Mars reality Orson cracks his helmet visor on the way to the greenhouse possibly inhaling something in the atmosphere of Mars and in the Earth one he is taking a recreational drug that could be inducing visions.

Being the first issue not much is given away but it is intriguing enough, and I like 100 Bullets enough, to trust in the storytelling and continue with the series and see where it takes me. I love the art by Risso – he has to be one of my favourite artists just now.

Batman: Under the Hood Volume 2 (2006)

 

Quote:
One son returns from the grave as another enters it. What a fitting ending this has become.

 

This book collects Batman 645 to 650 and Batman Annual 25 and was again written by Judd Winick continuing the story he started in volume 1. The art duties were carried out by a number of pencillers (3) and inkers (5).

Batman has come to accept that Jason Todd has returned from the dead – if he even was dead as the coffin appears unused. The trouble is that the Red Hood continues to spoil the Black Mask’s crime operations with little regard for the lives of the criminals involved. Batman must choose whether or not to help Jason when members of the Society are sent after him. Meanwhile, Jason is holding the Joker hostage as a pawn in a game where he confronts Batman about his moral code.

I loved the bulk of this book, the issues taken from the main series, and the continuing story of Jason Todd’s quest for answers as to why Batman has allowed the Joker to continue to live. I am slightly conflicted in the bringing back of characters from the dead. I was collecting the Bat-books back when the Death in the Family story line was running and there is a part of me that does not want the emotional investment that was made at that time discarded for a cheap thrill now. The portion of the story taken from the Batman Annual that explains how Jason is still alive is the weakest part of the book – there is a big Deus ex Machina involved and I never like that. I feel they could have come up with something better and, as they had to use a resurrection pit anyway, maybe Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul could have hatched some scheme that would have had the same result. Anyway I did enjoy the two books enormously – I just wish that the companies could commit to killing off characters permanently.

Batman: Under the Hood (2005)

 

Quote:
I think about when he was younger. When I was younger. It was a different time. Simpler. And … I miss it. I miss those days. For that … It’s hard to be around him.

 

This book collects Batman 635 to 641 and was written by Judd Winick who wrote the enjoyable Blood + Water for Vertigo. The pencillers were Doug Mahnke and Paul Lee with inks by Tom Nguyen and Paul Smith.

With the Black Mask settling down to rule Gotham’s underworld, a new player in the form of the Red Hood comes to town to disrupt his operations. Batman encounters the Red Hood and despite himself is impressed with his training while thinking that it looks all too familiar. His thoughts on recently deceased partners and colleagues cause him to seek out heroes that have returned from the dead in search of answers that he cannot accept.

Another great story from Winick featuring cameos from Nightwing, Green Arrow, Zatanna and Superman. It also has some cameos from the villains, Mr Freeze, the Joker and Amazo. If you don’t know who the Red Hood is before reading this book then you should know before the reveal as it is telegraphed pretty heavily throughout the book – with the themes of regret over lost colleagues and heroes returning from the dead. But despite that it is a fun story and well worth a read. The art is good too and reminds me at times of Frank Quitely and other times of Steve Dillon with a touch of Paul Gulacy thrown into the mix too.

Cut (2007)

 

Quote:
Look, there’s no use pretending that something really bad isn’t waiting for us on the other side of that door.

 

An original graphic novel from Dark Horse written by founder Mike Richardson with art by Todd Herman and Al Milgrom.

Meagan wakes to find herself in a locked derelict room with no means of escape. The house is in the middle of nowhere and the front door and all the windows are barred from the inside. The need to escape is intensified when she sees another victim, Anita, being fed upon by a large winged, bat-like creature. Escaping from the room she finds evidence of the many people who have been hunted and killed by the creature.

This is a fairly standard horror tale that delivers chills rather than gore. The book is printed in a strange physical size – just over half the size of a normal comic book – and this smaller size means that there is less space available to develop the story fully. There is some attempt to give some immediate back story to the two women abducted in the tale but is not enough to build up a rapport with them. The art is good with a muted colour palette that suits the dismal situation the women find themselves in. But as a whole the book lacks a certain spark to make it truly thrilling and horrific.

The Flash: The Human Race (2009)

[ Listening to The Smiths Currently: Listening to The Smiths ]

Quote:
And none of these adults were sincere enough to take off their play suits to say goodbye.

 

I have not read many stories involving the Flash apart from when he appears as part of the Justice League. I picked this one up because it was written by the normally excellent Scottish writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.

The book consists of 3 stories. In the first, The Human Race (Flash 136 – 138) written by Morrison and Millar, the Flash finds himself in a race against his (so he thought) imaginary childhood friend for the survival of Earth. In the second, The Black Flash (Flash 139 – 141) written by Millar, Wally West has decided to propose to Linda Park but before he can she is killed in his place. The Flash must overcome guilt, grief, the loss of his powers and death twice if he is to have a happy ending. The final story is from Secret Origins #50. It is called Flash of Two Worlds and was written by Morrison to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Flash. It is a short (16 page) story and consists of boy’s recollection of the day he met the Flash.

I went into this one hoping for great things from Morrison and Millar but came away disappointed – the stories certainly are not going to rank amongst my favourites by this pair. Of the two main stories the Black Flash one is probably the best as Wally examines his attitudes to the superhero community when mourning the death of Linda. But my favourite is the short, charming Secret Origins story by Morrison where he plays it straight and keeps the weirdness to a minimum. The art in this volume is by a variety of pencillers and inkers (8 in all) and is pretty standard comic book fare without ever being brilliant.

Stone Island (2008)

[ Listening to Nine Horses Currently: Listening to Nine Horses ]

Quote:
C’mon then you pussies! Let’s have some!

 

This is an attempt at a visceral horror comic that was originally published in British comic institution 2000AD. It was written by Ian Edginton with art by Simon Davis (most well known for Sinister Dexter – also published in 2000AD).

The story is in two parts. In the first, David Sorrell is sent to Long Barrow prison after murdering his wife and her lover. Along with his cell mate, Harry Rivers, he finds himself in the middle of an incursion by a race of violent aliens. The aliens come from an inter-dimensional world between Earth and the afterlife where they feed on the souls of the departed. Deciding to move to the source of their food, the aliens take over human hosts, massively distorting their bodies in the process, before killing or recruiting the other inmates. Rivers escapes from the prison but not before his body has been changed in preparation to receive an alien host.

In the second part, Harry and another escapee from the prison, Sara McCandless, are recruited by a government agency to take part in a mission to take the fight direct to the aliens. In a virtual suicide mission the small team must pass through to the alien dimension and release a bio-weapon to kill the alien invaders.

I was looking forward to this book as I have enjoyed other comics by Ian Edginton such as Scarlet Traces but it was a bit of disappointment in the end. It would probably have been a better story if the origin of the aliens was left a mystery and then the story left off at the end of the first storyline. As it is there is too much formulaic storytelling and no emotional connection with main characters so I didn’t really care who lived or who died. I liked the art by Simon Davis very much – the figurative painting reminded me of work by Austrian expressionist artist Egon Schiele. Worth having a look at for the art alone if you can pick it up from a library.

The New Avengers: The Trust (2008)

 

Quote:
My name is Parker Robbins. They call me the Hood. You know, because I have a … hood.

 

This book collects New Avengers 32 to 37 and annual #2. It was written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Leinil Yu for the chapters from the ongoing comic. Bendis has written almost exclusively for Marvel and is probably best known for runs on Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-man. Leinil Yu is a Filipino artist whose work I have seen previously in Silent Dragon from Wildstorm/DC.

On returning from a mission to rescue Echo from the Hand, the New Avengers (the renegades from registration: Luke Cage, Spider-man, Wolverine, Spider-woman, Doctor Strange and Iron Fist with Echo and Clint Barton) are in subdued mood as the body of Elektra reveals that she was actually a Skrull – a race of shape shifting aliens. Suspicion is rife as no one can know who anyone else really is anymore. This is heightened after the plane crashes and Spider-woman steals the body of the dead Skrull. Meanwhile some of the second string bad guys are starting to take advantage of the disarray after the civil war and are organising under the leadership of the Hood. While investigating each other and the fate of the Skrull’s body, the New Avengers unearth a plot to unleash Deathlok against the Avengers.

Set after the Civil War crossover and leading into the Secret Invasion crossover, this book suffers for being a staging post of a much larger story. As with too many of the leading books from Marvel a knowledge of the storylines from the last few years is required to get the most out of this book. The story it tells is entertaining enough without being more than just OK. The highlight of the book for me is a panel in which Luke Cage uncovers the hide out of the bad guys and confronts the Hood while backed up by the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and other heroes including, in the background, Howard the Duck!

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

I watched a DVD this evening based on a comic book with no superheroes in sight.

Based on the French comic books by Jacques Tardi, that were serialised in Cheval Noir, comes this 2010 film by the legendary French director Luc Besson (Nikita, The Fifth Element).

It stars Louise Bourgoin as the feisty reporter Adèle Blanc-Sec. Adèle travels to Egypt to obtain the mummified remains of Patmosis who she believes is the physician to Rameses II. she wants to revive him, with the help of maverick scientist, Espérandieu , as she believes that he can restore her sister to her – who has been left in a waking coma after an unfortunate accident with a hat pin during a tennis match. Unfortunately not all goes to plan as she returns to Paris to find that Espérandieu has been sentenced to death for unleashing a pterodactyl on Paris that killed the prefect.

The film is a bit slow to get going but once it does is a pretty fun ride. There is tomb raiding, jail breaking, daring rescues involving the pterodactyl and revived mummies. There is a humorous side plot with inept Parisian police employing an over the top big game hunter to try and capture the pterodactyl.

It’s been a while since I have read the stories so I cannot comment on whether the film is true to the books. But the film was enjoyed by my whole family on its own merits.

Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing (1990)

 

Quote:
I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.

 

This book collects the six issue mini-series that was published in the late eighties by Epic and was written by Pat Mills with art by Kevin O’Neill. The pair are both alumni of the British comic 2000AD and collaborated previously on the fantastic Nemesis the Warlock. Mills has written a number of other series for 2000AD including sword and sorcery epic Slaine and ABC Warriors. O’Neill is probably best known these days for his work on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The story is set in a earthquake ravaged San Francisco of the future that has been renamed San Futuro. Marshal Law is a genetically modified human – one of many produced as super soldiers to fight in a conflict in The Zone – who works for the San Futuro police department. He specifically targets the returned super soldiers who dress as superheroes but act like spoiled brats fighting rival gangs and terrorising the ordinary population. Marshal Law is hunting a serial killer who is targeting women dressed like the siren Celeste and suspects the holier than thou hero the Public Spirit. In the course of his investigation he uncovers the true killer but reveals dark secrets from the Public Spirit’s past.

Published just after Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, Marshal Law is a savage deconstruction of the superhero paradigm. Its bleak setting and black humour is perfectly captured by Kevin O’Neill – most panels deserve extra scrutiny for the humorous background details and random graffiti. The over the top storytelling might not appeal to all but I have always loved the amoral antics of the heroes and disproportionate response of San Futuro’s finest. One of the many comics of the eighties that I wish the creators would revisit.