House of M: World of M featuring Wolverine (2006)

[ Listening to BBC Radio Scotland Currently: Listening to BBC Radio Scotland ]

Quote:
“You gave him the one thing that he could not live without: you gave him back his war.”

 

This book is a bit of an odds and sods collection of House of M related stories. The main story is from Wolverine 33 -35 and was written by Daniel Way with art from Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira. The book also contains three single issue stories from Black Panther 7, The Pulse 10 and Captain America 10.

The main story features Sebastian Shaw, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., interviewing Mystique after Logan literally jumps ship from a helicarrier. He is concerned about Logan’s loyalty especially after a recent terrorist incident in which a sentinel was stolen by Logan’s old colleague Nick Fury and Logan himself disappeared. The story features Wolverine only in the flashbacks as the interview proceeds and examines further the mutant oppression of the human population and the spiky relationship between Fury and the mutant squad he is tasked to train.

The main story is good but only features Wolverine as a background character in his own book. It does explore, along with the other stories in the books, some of the prejudices of the formerly suppressed mutant majority. The Black Panther story expressly addresses the prejudices of the ruling regime towards other mutants – for instance the ruling classes tend to be white and human looking with the more extreme looking mutants not having a look in. The quality in the book shines through in the last two stories that were written by the great Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker. Bendis’ story again features the oppression of humans in the mutant controlled workplace and the censorship the press. It features a confrontation between journalist Kat Farrell and the anguished Hawkeye who has just had his memories of his death restored to him. The Captain America story features the sad decline of the formerly feted hero as he struggles to find his place in the increasingly mutant dominated world order. So a mixed bag but an interesting read exploring some of the background to the House of M universe.

Batman: Turning Points (2007)

This is an odd five issue mini-series from 2001. Each part is a separate story with the only link between them being the developing relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon. The series had three writers – Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Chuck Dixon – and seven artists (not including cover artists) that worked on it.

The series looks at five points in the relationship between Gordon and Batman and explores the doubts, fears and the growing reliance of each for the other over an approximate ten year period. The first story is set in the early days of the Batman and shows the reluctance of the Batman to rush into a hostage situation as he is not confident in his own abilities and he doesn’t want to antagonise Gordon. The second story is set around the time that the first Robin appeared and focuses on Gordon’s doubts as to whether this is a good idea. The third story is set in the aftermath of the crippling of Barbara Gordon and the killing of Jason Todd and concentrates on the doubts Batman feels about how he might be creating the monsters that plague Gotham. The fourth story is set during the Knightfall storyline, when Bruce Wayne has been replaced as the Batman due to his injuries at the hands of Bane, and explores Gordon’s loss at the man behind the mask and whether he can, or should, work with the new Batman. As I stopped reading the various Bat-titles on a regular basis not long after the Knightfall story, I am not sure if the final story is set around any significant storyline in the comics. In it there is a new chief of police and Gordon has lost his second wife and the two old friends have to confront a spectre from the first story as a perpetrator from the first story returns to Gotham to confront the pair.

Before starting to read this book I was unsure as to whether I would enjoy it or not given the multiple creators involved – a case of too many cooks? But to my delight I found that I really enjoyed it. The focus on Gordon and Batman’s relationship worked well for me and it helped that I recognised from the stories where they fitted into the continuity for the most part. The first story was particularly interesting as I don’t think I have read any other Batman story that shows him being anything other than confident in his own abilities from the outset. The importance of the relationship between the two men shone through throughout the book with each taking turns at supporting the other. A fine addition to my collection of Batman books.

Catwoman: Wild Ride (2005)

This collection follows on from my last read and collects Catwoman #20-24 – again written by Ed Brubaker.

After the last volume, this one has a much lighter tone – in both the story and the art. Holly and Selina go on a road trip and on the way Selina runs into trouble and some minor DC characters – such as Wildcat, Captain Cold and Hawkman and Hawkgirl – as well as some Egyptian ninja type characters.

Not as good for me as the previous volume. Selina goes on a quest that is not at all interesting for me – maybe I would be more engaged having known some of the earlier history of Holly that I am missing but probably not. It is also disappointing in that this is that last volume of the Brubaker run to be collected, as far as I am aware, so the subplot introduced here with the mysterious religious fanatics will remain unresolved unless I go to the original comics.

This is the last of the library books that I have at the moment so it is time to return to my own collection and a break from superheroes for a while.

Catwoman: Relentless (2004)

Another title that I am joining in a middle of a run – this collection collects Catwoman #12-19. It is also another story written by Ed Brubaker – almost seems like he has an exclusivity clause with my local library.

In the first half of the book, a psychotic crime boss in the east end of Gotham, Black Mask (a Batman villain that I am not familiar with), is plotting revenge on Catwoman for the theft of a diamond shipment. In the course of this revenge he is aided by an old friend of Selina’s from her youth in the street gangs in Gotham. He also entices Selina’s sister and her husband to Gotham and kidnaps and tortures them. The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of the ending of the Black Mask’s scheme and the psychological damage it has inflicted on all concerned.

Brubaker introduces me to a very different Catwoman than the one that I am used to seeing. Gone is the lone cat burglar of old to be replaced with a much more social group of supporting characters – a necessary move if trying to sustain the interest in a character over the course of an ongoing series. Selina is portrayed more as a minor crime fighter and benefactor to the east end of Gotham where she grew up and is suffering from deprivation and neglect. She is seen using the funds gained from the diamonds stolen from Black Mask to build a new community centre and apparently confirming an agreement with the Batman not to be involved in major theft.

The book was enjoyable but probably would have benefited from having read the earlier issues that introduce her social circle and the events leading up to the Black Mask’s revenge. The book had a noir-ish feel to it – possibly because one of the supporting characters is a private detective – that was well suited to the streets of the east end of Gotham. I have the next volume from the library but will probably look out for the earlier volumes also – especially if they were written by Brubaker.

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand (2008)

Latest book read from the library is a TPB collecting Uncanny X-Men #495-499.

The story starts in the aftermath of the Messiah Complex storyline – Xavier is apparently dead (sure he is), thousands of mutants have lost their powers and the X-Men have disbanded for now. There are two distinct storylines running through this book. First, Scott and Emma travel to a San Francisco that has been transported back to the sixties to find out what has happened and track down Angel. Secondly, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus travel to Russia and run into trouble with a group called the Red Room.

Another book written by Ed Brubaker and the stories were entertaining enough but I preferred the Colossus storyline as it was more action packed and concerned characters that I like better – I have always found Scott to be a whiner and his relationship with Emma to be a bit creepy. It does stand alone in that I don’t think you need to know what has happened before to enjoy it – I haven’t read the Messiah Complex story. Having said that I had the feeling that it is filler between the end of a major storyline and a, presumably, landmark issue 500 of the series. Entertaining but not essential unless you want to see some X-Men in sixties hippy gear.

Fantastic Four: Books of Doom (2007)

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]

The next few books that I will be reading have been borrowed from the local library. This one is a collection of a six part mini-series of the same name. I was looking forward to it as it was written by Ed Brubaker who wrote an excellent Daredevil collection that I read recently. This is a retelling of the origin story of Doctor Doom and probably suffers a little bit because of that as it must limit the creativity of the storytelling to a certain degree.

I am familiar with Doctor Doom’s origin story from the Fantastic Four annual #2 as reprinted in the book Bring on the Bad Guys. The Brubaker story stays remarkably close to the plot of the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby story – the 10 or 12 page story being retold in the first four chapters of the book. Brubaker expands the story, in part, by making more of Doom’s mother’s life as a sorceress. He uses this to give Doom more of an interest in magic and how it can be combined with technology and expands on his quest to breach the nether worlds and rescue his mother. The last two chapters give an account of how Doom returns to Latveria and takes control of the country.

This was an entertaining read as I am not a big fan of the Fantastic Four, and hadn’t read many of their comics, so the story was fresh to me – it has probably been 30 years since I read the original story before today. I don’t know if it would appeal to long term fans of the Fantastic Four as much – I know that I sometimes get fed up of endless retellings of the origins of characters that I am familiar with. It wasn’t as good as the Brubaker Daredevil stories that I have read so was a slight disappointment to me.