PK's Comic Book Diary
0 0 01. Superman Chronicles TP Vol 08 - Jerry Siegel
0 0 02. Superman Chronicles TP Vol 07 - Jerry Siegel
32 9.2 03. Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volum... - Jeff Smith_XI
The story of self-contained comic reading continues! Bone is a great comic to read in follow up to V for Vendetta, breaking the bleakness and profound pessimism with a fun, extended fantasy epic.
Starting the book, at first, I was put off by the way conversations run over several pages with what seems like not enough thought put into structuring the story-telling as page-centric. By the time things got rolling, however, I found myself flipping through the pages quickly enough so that they might as well have been seamless.
The humor behind it all is very cute, and the characters themselves are unmistakably memorable - the book's greatest strength, and one few comics do nearly as formidably. My favorites are, in no set order: the Great Red Dragon, Ted, Phoney Bone, Lucius, and Bartleby.
Jeff Smith's art is a perfect accompaniment to his writing. I set the characterization apart as the book's strength, and characterization in this medium is as much how a character is drawn as how he/she/it is written. The Bones, the rat creatures, the animals, the Great Red Dragon, Rose and Lucius, the mysterious grim reaper-esque villain, Rock Jaw, Ted especially... They're all drawn with such life and personality, and won't fade from my memory with utter haste.
...now that took several inches off my pile of self-containeds/continuations of an already-begun ongoing!
Hard to argue with that logic.
458 8.5 04. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore_III, David Lloyd_III
This graphic novel is one I've owned for a time (close to a year, give or take), not reading it until now despite being well-aware of its significance. I've seen the movie, certainly - not being as keen on the comics world in the mid-2000s as I am today, I was not aware of the comic just as I was not aware of Watchmen when its feature film was first advertised. It's hard to pin a point on why I didn't get around to reading it sooner. Why I've finally done so is easy, though: as I'm placing an especial focus on reading those self-contained volumes from my collection, V being among the few remaining.
My oldest brother (A note: I have two older brothers, whom I distinguish separately as oldest and older) has read a comic here, a comic there. From what I know, he's read Watchmen, and he wants to borrow my copy of Maus as well. He's told me how he tried to read Alan Moore's anarchically-charged annals but was put off by the art. Flipping through the book while trying not to commit anything to memory before actually reading it, I decided the art was okay by me.
The storytelling is simply cinematic. If Warner Bros had wanted to transfer this story into a movie verbatim, it would have been easily as good as what they produced (and at least not impertinent to its country of origin). V is every bit as fascinating a character as Rorschach - except this time, he shares the spotlight with none! The integration in his rantings of quotes and references from literature, music, all the arts, is masterful and adds a romantic quality to his personality that works towards his likeability, terrorist though he may be.
David Lloyd brings the cinematic nature of the script to life beautifully. The art is very reductive, without overly bright, overly jarring colors, but drab, dreary ones instead. Often people, things, and other details are without black outlines, their coloring simply stopping where their outline would have been; this giving a sense of everything fading in conformity into everything else. V himself seems at once stealthily apart of his surroundings due to his dark dress and defiantly demanding attention with the help of his Guy Fawkes mask. A reductive effect I found myself particularly fond of is the lack of outlines for dialogue boxes - the words seem to sit, buried, in the background of the world and everything going on within it. The end result is a grim tone, a picture-like presentation, and a feeling that something exists deep under the surface of this world and the individuals inhabiting it.
I'm impressed by Alan Moore once again. I don't think I'll ever be convinced into giving Lost Girls a shot, though.
My idea for a business specializing in pocket lint-based textiles is bullet-proof???
Take that, world!
1 10 05. Sand Land (Sand Land Series)
I haven't read manga since the US Shonen Jump went digital; about a year before this and in the time since I'd finally taken the plunge into the Marvel comics universe - at last entering that world as I'd been meaning to for about a decade. So, as one can imagine, I wasn't sure if reading manga would be the same. After all, "manga" is generally distinguished by itself and apart from "comics" - would I find my old mistress giving me the same joy as my new, more colorful source of romance?
(A note: I hereby promise never, ever in the future of this list to refer to anything, figuratively, as my "mistress" or "source of romance". I may, however, invoke the name of Flip the Frog to have mercy on my 'F' and 'J' key-coveting soul.)
But backing up a little bit, I still remember those first years of the print Shonen Jump magazine, during which I was reading every series each issue, and liking it, too. Sand Land was the first comic to end, and one of only a few to do so after having been printed in the pages of said magazine in its entirety (actually, the only other one I recall reaching its conclusion without undergoing a "skip" was Yu Yu Hakusho). I was surprised when it ended so soon - I expected an ongoing.
With my recent comic collection selections, I've sought to read primarily self-contained books (the Godzilla Legends and Gangsters and Goliaths trades) and continuations of series I've already begun (the Superman Chronicles volumes). This volume of Sand Land fits perfectly into the self-contained category, and perhaps it'll get me in the mode to re-read the One Piece series in its 3-in-1 Omnibuses.
Reading this, I realized I had forgotten what simple fun manga is. The writing is lighthearted but not lackadaisical, as many interwoven story threads are introduced and resolved over the course of fourteen chapters. Akira Toriyama's pages are less text-heavy than something by Alan Moore, for an example, and this and the story's quick pace and many levels of intrigue make for a great one-sitting read.
The art is fantastic - the demons and humans, the wastelands and occasional other terrain, and yes, even the tank Toriyama agonized so terribly over having to draw turned out amazing. Considering the art, the action, and the all-around awesome narrative present here, it's easy to see why the man is considered one of the masters of his field.
...aaand now I wish I could read Dr. Slump in VizBig or 3-in-1 Omnibus editions.
Not altogether an unlikely scene, given the PlayStation line's durability and Sony's propensity for changing only the number at the end of each new console's name.
1 10 06. Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths
I brought up something in my write-up of the Godzilla: Legends trade that is worth spending some time on. Though we have such masterpieces such as The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933 and 2005), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Them! (1954), Gojira (1954), Jurassic Park and its sequel (1993 and 1997), the Gamera trilogy (1995-1999), Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002), The Host (2006), Cloverfield (2008) - these and many more I can't personally vouch for - there pervades an infuriating mode of thought that somehow kaiju movies and other kaiju media can't be good. Can't be well-written, can't have good production values, can't be taken seriously. So even on the occasion one of these films is an utter marvel, people laugh at it for all their pig-headedness.
It's true, many kaiju movies from around the world certainly have a campy charm to them. Yes, kaiju fans are usually more contented with what they get. Okay, okay, okay, so maybe Godzilla vs. Megalon wasn't the right movie for most Western audiences' introduction. But the part that really gets me is when our genre doesn't attract those creators, at the top of their field, who can break boundaries for kaiju eiga and mold an all-new path for our chosen people and - someday - the entertainment industry as a a whole. I want to see some groundbreaking writers and groundbreaking creators giving it their all. I want to see the fandom both contented and spoiled.
Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths is a fine example of great kaiju eiga storytelling, even if it is a tad action movie-y.
Every character receives a respectful amount of attention, from the honest yet world-weary Detective Sato to the tyrannical and grandiose crime leader Takahashi, from the small-tier yet clever Jiro Sato, Detective Sato's son to the once-sordid but now-remorseful Chief Nakamura, from the peacemaking yet duty-bound Elias twins -- to the monsters themselves, agents of a chaos synonymous with the balance of life itself.
The storytelling is well-executed as well. There are flash backs and flash forwards which fit perfectly in the spot they're placed - any literary time-displacement requires, of course, that it give its life to the linearity of the storytelling. There is a wonderful reversal to the plot itself in the way the humans are front-and-center to the plot, and yet must ultimately yield to the higher forces of daikaiju and the balance they preserve.
The pace is lightning-quick, which has the side effect that dialogue, thought balloons, and narration aren't as abundant as in, say, something by Alan Moore; and the yarn itself feels much like a quick-paced work of Hollywood.
And yet, were this a feature film, it would be of the better sort.
I call this good storytelling, and I call myself pleasantly surprised.
Now if I could only find a decent back scrubber.
All that hastate buildup is really beginning to bug me..."
0 8 07. Godzilla: Legends
It's been a while since I read Godzilla in comic book form. Several years ago I'd read the Marvel Essentials Godzilla: King of the Monsters trade upon its publication, and at a few years' time between now and then I'd bought both the Dark Horse trades and read those. Thing is, the Marvel Essentials trades are pretty good value - the whole series fit into that volume, albeit in black-and-white. And the Dark Horse trades were a little over half the size of the Essentials volume - still a very good value. I don't like to purchase trades at the measly measure of four issues per volume - there, I said it. Therefore, I've been avoiding the trades of the main series, holding off for the Kingdom of Monsters Complete Oversized volume, which seems to have been abandoned at any rate. The great thing about both Godzilla: Legends and Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths is that they're alternate-canon to said ongoing series.
That being said, I was really excited to jump right into Godzilla: Legends, for the draw of reading stories focused on other kaiju in the Godzilla roster. Here's what I thought about each of them:
Godzilla: Legends #1: "The Underdog" (Anguirus) - I couldn't really find myself caring about the human characters in this story. The emotional involvement just isn't there. This can't be the most damning criticism one can give about the story, however, as the kaiju eiga genre often lacks an engaging human element. But you can't take away the humans, can you? So on the storytellers forge, hoping they get it right here or there.
Now the monster bits are more interesting, as you actually care a great deal about these fantastic creatures. I can't say I'm really into the perspective of Anguirus as the pathetic monster who always loses but we love for trying. It is true that, in the movies, he's generally overpowered yet bravely and/or stubbornly fights on. Anguirus's depiction just seems a little more out of schoolyard socialization and less out of monster clashes that are massive in scale.
The art's awesome, though. Anguirus is great in his Showa form, and Destoroyah, who is new with the IDW series, is menacing. Frank is an expert at action and tone, and man, Josh Perez's colors are incredible. They'd be a perfect team if they could stop fighting about whether the human characters should be drawn with four fingers or five; ie - whether the thumb is a legitimate finger.
Godzilla: Legends #2: "Lifespan" (Rodan) - I mentioned how it's harder to make the reader care about the human drama in a kaiju story. One way that writers in the past have found success in is characterizing the humans as villains, as frantic victims, and as really screwed up. Fortunately, each of these is here. Dr. Holder is a terrible father whose attention is reserved for the unhatched egg of Rodan rather than his long-hatched son, Ethan. Ethan himself is warped by this treatment, and he's either intent on impressing his father or scheming about something else entirely. Everyone else is helpless in the face of Rodan's might - this is a military base that is helpless against the awesome power of a gigantic, strange creature. That's exactly how it would be in real life, and how it generally goes in the Japanese movies as opposed to those from the arrogance-rich Americas.
By the way, Rodan's my favorite Godzilla monster, so I might be a little biased, but I appreciate this approach as opposed to that of "The Underdog". The human drama is front-and-center, while the giant monster in question is somewhat of a secondary character with an eery cold remoteness. Because who said minimizing a monster's role absolutely means minimizing a monster's immensity?
The artist for this issue, Simon Gane, ended up becoming the regular for volume 2 of the main IDW series; and though it's hard to compete with someone like Matt Frank, Gane's and Ronda Pattinson's work holds its own alongside the all-around fantastic art in this volume. The art is more American as opposed to Matt Frank's anime style, and the coloring is simpler and more minimalistic. It reminds me, superficially, of the artwork featured in Matt Fraction's current run on Hawkeye, which I'm quite fond of.
Godzilla: Legends #3: "Secrets" (Titanosaurus) - As with the Rodan story, the role of the featured monster - Titanosaurus - takes a back seat to the human drama. And, as with "Lifespan", it takes a creepy turn later on. This one seems more professionally written than the prior issues in this volume. The plot isn't one of action, but one of psychology. The whole thing revolves around a school for telepathic/telekinetic teenagers, similar to the nursery from the Heisei series. Untapped potential, when they never touched on that again in the Millennium era. It's really nice to see Miki Saegusa - the only real recurring character in all of Godzilla's thus-far twenty-eight movie history - too.
Tony Parker and Ian Herring give us a fitting aesthetic which is quite so not in-your-face and allows this quiet storm of a story to take hold.
Godzilla: Legends #4: "Smog of War" (Hedora) - "Smog of War" comes across as more of an interlude story, with the main stuff taking place before its opening and after its resolution. I like the way it feels like you're in the middle of the high tension and the larger plot.
E.J. Su's pencils are great, as well as Priscilla Tramontano's colors. This story and Anguirus's were the two action epics of this volume, and the difference between Matt Frank's and Josh Perez's depictions and Su's and Tramontano's are reflective of the different storytelling. The art isn't as aggressive and the characters don't look as if they're moving even as you view them on the page, because this story isn't about a high-octane clash between powerful wills (albeit mismatched physical power). Besides Godzilla, whose depiction can be detached or fiery as far as I see it, the two kaiju here are Mechagodzilla and Hedora: two cold, remote monsters whose presences are frightening for their ominousness rather than for what is ostensible just then and there. There's less of a feeling of action and more of a feeling of mystery as to the intent behind the two monsters' unrevealing eyes. The colors convey the grimness of the wasted city setting and the presence of the leviathans to whom it is a sandbox, with vivid detail to the lighting and reflection of lighting.
Godzilla: Legends #5: "From a Great Height" (Kumonga) - This is arguably the most lighthearted and fun of the five issues in the book. Did I mention? The human element can be enjoyable by giving your character personality and a great sense of humor as well. I love the concept behind ex-thrill-seeker Bryson Allworth getting called by the U.S. government to climb Godzilla and collect a tissue sample. There's some tragedy as well, as his health is deteriorating in the present-tense from which the story of his hike up Godzilla is told.
Dean Haspiel's pencils give us a Heisei Goji design with a Showa personality, a fine parallel to the story of tragedy and discovery told from the point of view of a charismatic adventurer. Ronda Pattison - the one repeating name on the art staff - again contributes her simple, light-toned coloring to the work. Good for her.
So far this is the longest write-up I've done for this diary - a testament to my passion for the kaiju eiga genre and its central pillar, Godzilla. I suppose I'm not surprised I have so many thoughts about a volume of five self-contained stories featuring different monsters in the King's court. It's not a knockout volume through-and-through, but I connect with this series in a way I don't with even most of my other favorite franchises, and so I say bring on: Vol. 2 and even Vol. 3, focusing on still more Godzilla monsters; Vols. 4 and 5 featuring other Toho monsters; and Vols. 6 and 7 featuring kaiju original to the comics. And work from there.
"You miserable monstrosity! Do you know how much it costs to get white off an orange car?
I'm hiding your egg until you give me a formal, public apology. Happy Easter!"
1 10 08. Superman Chronicles, Vol. 6 - Jerry Siegel
It seems to be the standard mode of operations for me to read Superman Chronicles volumes in pairs. So, yet again, I read an even-numbered volume immediately after an odd-numbered volume.
So Luthor's back, and it seems his hair has finally jumped ship ("Invisible Luthor", the first story from Superman #10). "Commissioner Kent" (from Action Comics #37) is a really cool change of pace, with Clark as Metropolis's police commissioner rather than an everyday (that is, disregarding the whole all-powerful alien vessel of virtue side gig) reporter. "The Radioactive Man" (from Action Comics #39) - published over two decades before the Thor story from the first Masterworks for that hero - is now another big favorite of mine, taking its comfy place beside "Superman Vs. The Rainmaker". The Radioactive Man's powers and motivations are compelling, his being more of a tragic story than one of mania as with the mentioned villain from the last volume. I also appreciate the premise for "The Billionaire's Daughter" (from Action Comics #40), which - like "Commissioner Kent" did for Superman's street personality - puts Superman in a different position from that he's used to. He's basically babysitting for a bratty rich girl who won't obey her father, trying to get her to turn her life around.
It really shows that Jerry Siegel was trying to do new things with these stories; I expect to see even more interesting villains and fun breaks from the status quo in later volumes.
1 10 09. Superman Chronicles, Vol. 5 - Jerry Siegel
I don't mind the stories in which Superman thwarts petty crime, but whenever his enemy stands out it's pretty grand. In "The Giants of Professor Zee" (the first of four stories from Superman #8) you have some gigantic men, which is always fun as far as I see it. I love giant monsters - what can I say? - even when they're uniform bald, Caucasian men in red shirts and blue exercise shorts. My favorite story of the volume, "Superman Vs. The Rainmaker" (from World's Best Comics #1), is also quite possibly my favorite story in the Chronicles series thus far. You have a maniacal villain (who said antagonists had to be humanized?) using a uniquely dangerous device and a categorically crazy climax. It really shows what Jerry Siegel is able to do when he pits Superman counter to a compelling combatant.
Like with the other volumes, I'm really taken by the condensed plot - I feel like I get a reasonable amount of story out of each page. Nowadays, a given writer would probably spread such narratives as contained here over a three- or four-issue arc. Also appreciated is the moral conviction of the lead character - I love having a pure role model as my hero. Not that I don't enjoy the odd antihero...
This volume marks the first time I notice the recurring character of policeman Sargent Casey, even though looking back I can tell he was introduced before this. From what I've read, Superman would really take a stance against Hitler and the Nazis later on, but I suppose it's up for debate as to whether the "fifth columnists" in both "The Fifth Column" (the second story in Superman #8) and "The Enemy Invasion" (from Action Comics #36) are Nazis or followers of another anti-capitalist idealogy - i.e., Communism.
These volumes move somewhat slowly through the years, but I'd much rather have it this way than read separate volumes for the Superman issues and the Action Comics issues as in the "DC Archives" series (as if that's even a name).
Hey, Supes! There's a huge hand on your everything!
The notes provided in this one place an emphasis on how serious and mature the strip turned from "Blaggard Castle" on. While I really enjoyed the silliness and creativity of the earlier stories, I have nothing at all against any of the later adventures in this volume. I will add that Professors Ecks and Doublex are just about the coolest-looking villains thus far in the series, and the giant Dirigible in "The Mail Pilot" is the the coolest setting the strip's had thus far.
This is the type of volume with the type of notes I'm all-too interested in reading, but this second volume in the series is noticeably lighter on features at the end of the book. I guess that's to be expected, introductions over and all. I hope there's at least as much as is included here in Volumes 3 and 4.
I absolutely love these classic Mickey Mouse strips. If I have anything to say about it I'll be following this collection through to its finish. I intend at some point to pick up the Carl Barks Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge archives as well.
1 8 011. The Invisible Man (Campfire) (2010)
Just like with the preceding versions of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I'd already read the original - and recently, like with that latter allegory on man's dichotomy. Since I was pleased enough with the Campfire Graphic Novels version of Robert Louis Stevenson's foray into the horror genre, I decided to give H. G. Wells's a shot. It was the longest one I could find, though I still wasn't sure if it would be long enough to give the story lengthy enough attention. After all, The Invisible Man's a bit longer of a story than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Ultimately, the adaptation by Sean Taylor is faithful and the art by Bhupendra Ahluwalia is just classically handsome, though I wish these Campfire books weren't all planned on a one-size-fits-all basis. The length of 72 pages was perfectly suitable for covering Jekyll/Hyde, but for The Invisible Man Griffin's personal account and the ending are very obviously rushed. I don't think it's bad that Taylor gave earlier parts of the book the full focus up to that point, either; no, the fix would have been to allow for at least ten, possibly fifteen extra pages longer to adapt this thing. I'm assuming this decision was beyond the creators' control, but if such a measure had been taken, this would easily have become THE comic book version of this classic. As it is, I'm not familiar with such a product from any publisher's output.
Anyone who bears witness to my open, professed love of Flip the Frog (whose mugshot is featured in my avatar) can rightfully assume that I like Golden Age cartoons. I'm a fan of Felix the Cat, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, Flip the Frog, and Toby the Pup especially. I love the hand-drawn animation, which flows much more naturally than that found in cartoons today. Going through the painstaking process of drawing frame-by-frame takes a lot more effort, certainly, so you have to applaud those responsible for all these shorts. And yet, the characters are the all-important cog that fits into its central place and makes it all run. A Flip the Frog or a Mickey Mouse make it memorable, at least to me.
It happened that the Carl Barks Donald Duck neswpaper collections appeared on the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" recommendations bar on one of the comics I was viewing. The reviews were good, and the book seemed fit to read; I'll definitely get to Carl Barks at some point in the future. But my first thought was that, if Donald Duck has comic collections, certainly Mickey does as well? There turned out to be four volumes of his original strips already released, which could be bought in box sets two at a time. I went for the first set, but I've broken the two books up into their individual editions for the purposes of this list.
I wasn't as into the first story in the book, "Race to Death Valley", as its high-octane adventure formula reminded me of Tintin when I wanted more focus on the anthropomorphic animal town "Mouseton" (as it wouldn't be called for about sixty years) and its inhabitants. I wanted to read something that was uniquely Mickey; and, once I had finished the rather long Disney-then-Gottfredson story, I was delighted that "Mr. Slicker and the Egg Robbers", coming next, and each one thereafter, were set around the town or at least prominent residents of it beyond just Mickey and Minnie. I was a little concerned that they didn't reprint the comic run from before the arc in which Gottfredson debuted until I saw that it was included at the end.
This isn't something people would consider safe for the innocent little eyes of children nowadays. Indeed, there's a lot of what would today be considered adult humor, with such mature subjects as alcoholism and suicide made light of. I don't personally feel that denying your children a realistic world view will make them be A) more innocent and B) happier; if anything, they'll be A) less inclined to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong when they're given the choice and B) in for a rude awakening - or worse, a stubborn rejection of reality - when they realize they've been lied to for their entire childhoods. There's nothing in here that a discerning mind can't sort out effectively.
The art is black-and-white brilliance. The restoration makes for sharp, solid black lines and perfect white paper the likes of which original newspaper printings in newspapers likely never had. This allows the wonderful anthropomorphic characters, their personalities, and their actions to come forth in full.
Finally, the extra features - articles shedding light on historical contexts and background information - had me enthralled when I read them upon finishing "Clarabelle's Boarding House". This is definitely one of those cases in which I'm thoroughly interested in finding out about the whole process and history behind what I'm reading. From the Ub Iwerks feature, I found it nice to know that Iwerks and Disney reconciled after the former returned to work with the latter on his cartoons once more. It's just a reassuring bit of knowledge about the relationship between the two creators of the most famous cartoon characters of all time.
♪(Boys!) Boys in the girls room,
(Girls!) Girls in the men's room,
You free your mind in your androgyny...♫
2 10 013. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: T... (2011)
I got to this one right away, hoping to be more engaged and less forsaken in the wake of an adapters' pandering to an audience which such a work as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was not intended for. Immediately I noticed that the book is much more text-heavy and has all the little tidbits from the novella, and that the artwork is less cartoony and more mature, with a Hyde who isn't exaggerated beyond description. The drawings are very much in the vein of a classic comic book, without all the impossible facial expressions and proportions.
This version of the novella is what I was hoping for: faithful and inclusive. The part at the end about mad scientists of history is a fun read, each of the half dozen of them having conditions that are quite distinctive from one another. On the back end of the final page is a collage of other works in this graphic novel series, a couple of which I'd be motivated to look into after enjoying this one so much.
Having recently read Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, I wanted to experience the story in comic book form as well. My criteria was a little different selecting graphic novel adaptations of this particular work than it was for Dracula and Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, as the source material is significantly shorter; because of this, I had a much smaller page number requirement.
This book, of the two I picked up, is the weaker adaptation. I get the feeling Carl Bowen (the reteller, not quite the adapter) was intent on making the book fast and light reading for students who don't like to read, allowing the pretty pictures to capture the attention of its intended audience instead. He even combines stuff to make the story go by as quickly as possible - the murder of Sir Danvers Carew and the death of Dr. Lanyon, most notably - and the whole thing comes across as SparkNotes with pictures (not that I can make a comparison based on personal experience as I greatly disapprove of the SparkNotes industry). Daniel Perez's art, on the other hand, is quite good. There's a lot of action to his interpretations of this story, which is more psychological than it is action-packed (read: splatter-painted) like a more modern horror story would be. The thing I have a big problem with is that Hyde is blatantly grotesque and monstrous, with dark green skin, elven ears, and bad teeth - this when the descriptions in the work explicitly say that he has no obvious deformities. The spot at the end about medical advances that were once considered impossible and the cures that dispelled these feelings is uplifting, though.
Clearly the effort made here was to get non-readers to read something at the expense of any actual payoff after doing said reading. Since I got through it in no time at all (not really an achievement given how brief it is), I wasn't nearly sufficiently read-up for the day and went on to the next adaptation I had, hoping for the best.
1 10 015. Puffin Graphics: Frankenstein (Puffin Graphi... (2005)
This adaptation took me not more than fifteen minutes to get through. Though brief, it has everything essential to the story in tact; the only thing missing is the character of Ernest Frankenstein, who I suppose isn't all that essential anyway. It's nice to read Gary Reed's more quick-paced, fast version of the story to complement the Classical Comics adaptation by Jason Cobley I just read. This is NOT a heavily-abridged version that cuts out whole sections of the story, and the art is really well done. It's in black and white, and given its range of shades I feared I was reading a de-colorized transfer of work that had initially been in color; actually, the artist digitally subtracted black from an all-black "canvas" to reveal white underneath, which is an interesting process and works well here.
Frankenstein is beat for the time being. I'll move onto another horror figure adaptation next.
I was pretty surprised at all I remember about this story from when I read the book (as with Dracula, on my own time) in middle school, including minor details. My oldest brother can pull out awesome quotes from practically anything he watches, granted that there are awesome quotes therein. All I can remember are trivial comments, and then when I mention back to people the more important things they've said years before they don't remember and thus don't believe me. I guess Frankenstein had it worse, though.
I wasn't sure, venturing away from well-known publishers like Marvel and Dynamite, that I'd get the same quality in my adaptations. My main requirements for reading graphic novel adaptations of full-size works are an adequate number of pages (120 minimum) and somewhat decent reviews. My main worry, I suppose, was that much of the story would be left out. I'm currently working on a Halloween monsters Listal project, and I don't have the necessary time and motivation to go through the books I've already read on top of other works I've forgotten most of or haven't read period, but I still wanted the whole Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus story and even the little detours. This book includes the whole story, I'm happy to say.
There's little I can articulate about the meaning and themes of the work that wouldn't be obvious and well-cited, but I will say that as a yarn it's simply a fun, fast-paced, and thoughtful read. The art in this edition is high quality, especially given that it seems to be targeted as a means of teaching the book to obstinate, lice-spreading children, and thus the visuals could easily have stooped to a lower denominator. The extra information about Mary Shelley's life and family and the story's stage and film career is interesting, even if one is familiar with her biographical information and the many cinema versions of the book beforehand.
I'm not done with my horror reading yet. Oh, no! I won't stop until they're all read, save for the one named "Ernest".
"Who was Frankenstein? (a) a monster (b) an alien (c) a scientist"
"HAHAHA! TRICKED YOU, SUCKER!"
5 9 017. The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale - Art Spiegelman
I've noticed that most mediums, though having the potential to be greatly varied, stick to the same selection of genres they simply happen to tend toward. With all the action and adventure comics going around in the comics world for almost a century now, it's refreshing to read an autobiographical-biographical work with such emotional engagement. This kind of thing is often the product of sincere personal accounts in literature, but for comics this is in a depressing rarity. So kudos to Art Spiegelman as well as Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis fame for working in the comics field to tell their stories.
I was entertained by the first half of this book, certainly. But there didn't seem to be as much going on in the present day and I wasn't as interested in Art as a player in the narrative. I also thought Vladek was portrayed too negatively and that Art was skewed to be the sane one of the story. I also noticed that Vladek was able to escape the worst of the Holocaust because of his resourcefulness and knowledge of what to do. Though I must say, these concerns were put to rest at the beginning of the second part, when Vladek's and Art's relationship becomes more focal as the former is left on his own, and when Art discusses with his therapist criticisms he'd received for showcasing his father in a bad light as well as how surviving the Holocaust doesn't mean one is more respectable than one who doesn't survive.
Either way, the second part of the book involving the concentration camps together with the greater importance on the author-father bond was my favorite, but the work as a whole is amazingly sincere and absorbing. And I just love that each race has its own animal: besides the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, it became entertaining to keep on a look out for other anthropomorphic representations: the Poles as pigs, the Americans as dogs, a Frenchman as a frog (this one was especially cute), the Swedish as reindeer, a Gypsy as a beautiful moth, and the British as rather realistic fish. The cartoon animal portrayal of these characters certainly works to add metaphor to the book, but I think it also makes the story less hard to take, separates the different factions effectively, and makes the darkest scenes seem more unforgettable, the innocence of cartoon animals being defiled with depictions of mice being hanged and burned alive.
Despite all it's based on, Maus is a heart-warming, triumphant book. There do seem to be other autobiographical comic books out there - especially in the years since this piece was published - and I know I'd be very interested in pursuing these on those frequent periods when I feel in the mood for an alternative to superheroes and the like.
Because I couldn't find a cute picture of the frog/Frenchman,
you get this depressing panel.
1 10 018. Superman Chronicles, Vol. 4 - Jerry Siegel,Joe Shuster
The more I read of Clark Kent acting cowardly whenever some human-level effort of self-defense could protect him and Lois from mortal danger, the more I sympathize with her perspective on him. And she's definitely becoming more desirable in my eyes, as she's a consistently good character. She shows compassion for Clark and takes measures to protect him. I also like her strong will, even though I wish Superman would let her face some repercussions for getting herself into dangerous situations at every turn, because she never learns. But either way, I like Lois a lot more now than when I read the first volume, and the love triangle between her, Clark Kent, and Superman is great. Think about it - the Last Son of Krypton wins no matter who she chooses. And it's not like she completely despises the former identity.
1 10 019. Superman Chronicles TP Vol 03 - Jerry Siegel,Joe Shuster
You gotta love the simplicity and unambiguous morality in here, and the writing itself is classically charming. Superman enters the scene of World War II! He'd be one of many comic book superheroes to participate in the war, back when it was a clear Good Vs. Evil conflict as opposed to the field of gray we live in today. In the present time period superheroes have enough on their plate in the form of supervillains than to bother with such things. Of course, Superman still does his share of battling petty mobsters and corruption, which I don't mind mixed with a more worthy villain here or there. I find I'm not put off by an all-powerful protagonist with no personality flaws; it seems like everyone wants anti-heroes these days, and I can't help but think they hate Superman out of insecurity. Ah, back when heroes could be role models. It's nice to see what color Luthor's hair would be if he had some.
"Aha-ha! And to prove my genius, I shall come up with a rhyme for the word "orange" - but first, can you oil that squeaky door hinge?"
2 10 020. The Complete Dracula
I enjoyed the Marvel adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula so much that I had to try some others, and this one from Dynamite Comics looked pretty good. This version of the classic is much more in-depth than the Marvel one, and I felt I got a lot more of the detail that was skimmed over or outright left out of the other one. It's been a number of years since I've read the novel itself, but it seems as if all of the important dialogue and scenes were left in; thus, for those put off by Stoker's involved narration, this is perfect. I had missed the Count's studying under the Devil and plotting for centuries to vampire-ize the whole world my first time through, and these points definitely add a lot to the story. Though the photo-realistic art took some getting used to for me.
I think I've satisfied my Halloween craving. Now to move onto something colorful and light-hearted...
"Your cruel words. They wound me."
1 10 021. Skull & Bones
I feel really bad about purchasing this one, because...
1) I got it for only $2.99 (though the regular price seems to be $15.95), unless you count the shipping, which was combined for both this and Moonstone Monsters.
2) The creator, Ed Hannigan - who I'd had no prior knowledge about, but who has worked on some relatively high-profile stuff for Marvel and DC - has been suffering from multiple sclerosis, and all of the profits Moonstone gets from this reprint of the 1992 DC Comics series go straight to him and his ongoing battle with MS.
3) The book is perhaps the best self-contained original graphic novel I've ever read. Maybe that's not saying much since there's only one other such book on this list, but consider this - that other book is Watchmen.
Unlike Moonstone Monsters, I didn't have specific expectations for this one, other than that I'd hopefully enjoy it. Well, the fast-paced political-espionage with a superhero-like main character in the starring role and a Russia circa the fall of the Soviet Union as the setting really got me. I don't know nearly enough about the pertinent events to call myself relatively familiar with the historical backdrop of this book, but I'd bet if I knew more about it it'd be all the more affecting and rewarding.
This is a book people should be praising alongside Watchmen and the other greats. Hannigan deserves to have Skull & Bones included in the graphic novel canon. Comic enthusiasts, history buffs, and political-espionage fans - read the book and you'll agree.
0 8 022. Moonstone Monsters: v. 1
Since my previous posting, I've gotten subscribed to several more comic book series. After my Metroidvania needs had been quelled from playing and reviewing as many of those games I could fit in before I decided I was good on that for the time being, I had a Halloween craving to feed which was partially addressed by playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Game Boy Advance Castlevania trilogy - though I would not be completely satisfied until I read a Halloween-themed graphic novel or two. Perhaps if there were a good ongoing Halloween-based comic on the market from a subscriber-friendly publisher like Tales from the Crypt or Tomb of Dracula (I can dream, right?), I'd be more well-balanced in my year-round reading. At present I've managed to give myself a good bearing on the Marvel superhero lines and the Sonic the Hedgehog comics.
Either way, something motivated me to go onto Moonstone's official website where I found and decided to get this collection first. A set of 18 Moonstone Monsters stories in the categories "Werewolves", "Mummies", "Vampire Vixens", "Ghosts", and "Sea Creatures", this was sure to give me fast-paced reading that wouldn't drag - and about classical monsters! I was wary after reading the first story ("The Beast Within") by Joe Gentile, Moonstone's Editor-in-Chief, but then that and his second story ("Touch of the Unholy") didn't do much for me compared to the rest - though I couldn't help but appreciate his last offering ("On the Rocks") once I got to the end. Despite some I liked less, there are some good stories here: my favorites in the collection have to be Dave Ulanski's "Curse of the Mummy", Mark Dawidziak's "The Stuff (That?) Screams Are Made of", C. J. Henderson's "Tell Ya All About It", and to a lesser extent, Clay and Susan Griffith's "Raja Yah", David Rust's "Night of the Goldfish", and (again) Joe Gentiles's "On the Rocks".
By the way, there are some loose issues of the series that came out after these ones. Where's my Volume 2?
4 8.3 023. Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor - Volume... - Stan Lee
This is probably going to be the last collection I buy for a little bit, given that I've finally decided to subscribe to several of Marvel's ongoing series and thus my expenses will be focused on that for a little bit.
Here Thor acts less than virtuous on occasion, in his frustration resulting from Odin's forbidding him from marrying Jane Foster. His relationship with Odin suffers as well. The Thor stories are about five pages longer each, and every one of them is followed by a Tales of Asgard story. Thus, whereas the last volume contained material from eighteen issues of Journey Into Mystery, this one contains only ten.
Now I'm ready for a movie rendition of a Marvel superhero.
3 9 024. Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor Volume 1... - Robert Bernstein,Larry Lieber,Stan Lee
I decided not too long ago that when the next Marvel movie came out, I'd have some background knowledge of the actual comic book it's based on. Since the Thor movie opens in a week, I've bought both of the Marvel Masterworks volumes out now - one and two. While the stories may not be as groundbreaking as that of Spider-Man, they're still fun and in fact less frustrating to follow than that of the tragic teenager's.
I'm more of a fan of Greek mythology, so I'm not an expert in the material here, which is fine because later on in the volume extra stories from Journey Into Mystery involving the myths of Norse legend have been reprinted as well as the Thor stories. It's a shame that, as far as I know, no one has focused their energies (and it would take a good lot of energy) on adapting Greek mythology into comic book format. The medium is just made for such a publication. Heck, I'd subscribe if someone created one.
These stories are not full-length - only thirteen pages each - due to the magazine they were originally printed in needing to make room for several pieces. Ultimately, I prefer this length when plowing through a whole volume of reprinted comics - I never get bored this way, and never feel like I'm not reading a full, sizable story. As for the content, Thor seems to fight Loki more than Spidey does any one of his arch-villains. I don't mind it, though, since Loki's such a fun character. His magic tricks are always very amusing. Thor himself doesn't talk in Ye Olde English as much as he would go on to do, though this isn't enough to stop Stan Lee from showing off his ability to write in such a way in the introduction he gives to the book. I find it amusing that there's a villain in here called "Radio-Active Man", three decades before The Simpsons would introduce its own hero of the same name. Even more historically interesting, John F. Kennedy was featured briefly in the comic merely two months before being shot in the real world.
I still have a week left until Thor comes out. Hopefully my enjoyment of it won't be hindered by the artistic liberties I'm already seeing in the trailers... Man, it was so much simpler when I only had knowledge of the movies!
Editor's note: The above panel may have been tampered with!
1 10 025. Dracula (Marvel Classics) - Roy Thomas
As explained in the Essential Tomb of Dracula review that kicked off this particular list, I got into handheld Nintendo devices as an elementary schooler, leading me to pick up Nintendo Power Advanced when its first issue - anticipating the upcoming Game Boy Advance - came out, which introduced me to the Castlevania series via a preview, which paved the way for my love of Dracula, classic horror, and all things Halloween. As an eight grade middle schooler, I got back into Castlevania and Dracula, and decided to ask for a copy of Bram Stoker's original novel from my brother for my birthday. It was certainly a daunting task to read it at so young an age, and I'm absolutely sure I couldn't appreciate it in the mature way many others would have on their first reads, but I enjoyed it and was satisfied with myself for succeeding in such a task. Around this time as well, I saw issue #2 and #3 of the comic adaptation in the semi-local comic book shop. I didn't follow it after that, though I later learned that it had been collected in full in a hardcover volume.
Since I'm in a comics book phase, and it's midway in the annual circle between Halloweens that I'm thirsty for such nourishment as that holiday allows, and since I'd just climbed so deep into the Marvel web with Spider-Man that I wanted something a little different before diving into the Thor Masterworks volumes, I decided to seek mentioned volume collecting the issues of said adaptation. I found that it had been out of print, but a newer one had been issued later. I ordered it, and when it arrived later, I was surprised: the series had been colorized! At first I was wary that it wouldn't be the exact same experience, but I soon found myself immersed in the read which, I'm sure, wouldn't have been the same if it were simply black and white. It didn't hurt that the iconic black, white, and red covers to each of the four issues of the series were included in the back, either.
This volume is an easy, concise way to get much of the original text from Dracula without having to wrestle with the intimating thought of reading the very dense and involved novel. The story is in tact, with the unnecessary excluded and certain things captioned but unillustrated. What's interesting is Stoker's use of Catholic themes in his novel, seeing as he was quite Protestant. I bet part of the reason was that having characters with Catholic superstitions - using holy water, crosses and communion wafers to protect young maidens from Dracula, for instance - fit into the story of human kind contending with the forces of evil more. Though most of these superstitions come from Dr. Van Helsing, whose inner thoughts are not revealed in documents until much later on in the story, unlike the other characters'. This was likely to give a bit of mystery to it all, since Helsing is the only one who knows what to do when Lucy Westenra is being repeatedly attacked. Admittedly, nowadays we don't really have any doubt about what's going on, since vampires are such apart of our knowledge of fiction, but for the late late eighteen-hundreds I imagine the story would have been very intriguing in its mystery. The characters are also very cooperative with Van Helsing, initially being taken aback by some of the things he proposes they do but ultimately not questioning him even when he doesn't explain himself fully. The three men who propose to Lucy also don't seem to harbor any ill will toward one another. It's interesting how most of the humans in the book seem to be united against a common evil, much like in Gojira (Godzilla's debut film). It certainly keeps any ambiguity about the protagonists' and antagonists' separateness from coming into the scene.
The author (editor?), Roy Thomas, and illustrator, Dick Giordano, have both written two pages of prose detailing what their respective roles in creating the comic entailed, and what their view of the comic's history was. Key things ring true in both - they did it all out of their passion for the source material, as well as for the intellectual gratification of creating the world's definitive comics adaptation of the novel, and even though they were unable to find a way to finish it in 1975 when the various magazines they were serializing it in were cancelled, an outlet was presented to them in 2004, over thirty years later, without their having to compromise their vision.
Three lonely housewives try desperately to add one more to their gossip circle.
4 9.7 026. Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man ... - Stan Lee
This has got to be my favorite volume so far. Parker's life really seems to be moving now - he's making friends, living on his own, and being much more successful in his romantic adventures.
Peter Parker finally meets Mary Jane. I must say, she's got more than enough personality for even someone like Spidey, and she's not self-conscious and doesn't feel snubbed when Parker cancels a date. Unlike that insecure Betty Brant, whom our hero at last gets over. Gwen Stacy also takes a liking to Petey, and neither she nor MJ get angry with him over the course of the whole volume. Parker buys a motor cycle and moves into an apartment with Harry Osbourne, whom he's made good friends with by this point, while Aunt May moves in with her friend Mrs. Watson, Mary Jane's lonesome aunt. Flash Thompson goes off to war in Vietnam, and surprisingly enough no one is too shaken up over it - in fact, they sort of treat it like it'll be a fun little activity for him rather than worry about it too much. Parker sees Flash off amicably, as mature as he's become. J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son also appears more in the foreground, arguing with his father about whether Spidey's really all that bad and later fighting the wallcrawler himself.
An annual is included in this issue wherein Spider-Man is asked by earth's mightiest heroes to complete a test in order to be admitted into the Avengers. I love the team dynamic that is shown in small amounts in this particular issue, and would be more than happy to get to reading the three Avengers Masterworks volumes out right now, but I'll have to read Thor's adventures and Iron Man's first. Another highlight from the comic (issue #50 and the scene featured on the front cover) is when Parker decides to leave his web-slinging ways behind, but - knowing that his comic is currently in the six hundreds - this can't for long! (Especially with the new villain introduced in mentioned issue...)
I'm sad that, just as the series is beginning to pick up, there are no more volumes available in thrifty paperback format left for me to buy. Oh well - if they keep up at the rate they've been going, we'll have another five volumes over the course of the next two years!
Peter Parker is quite shocked to find that the girl his Aunt May has been trying to set him up with all this time is an actually quite nice-looking Mary Jane!
4 9.7 027. Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man V... - Stan Lee
This thing kicks off with Peter finally going off to college, where he is reacquainted with Flash and meets for the first time Harry Osbourne and Gwen Stacy, the former being threatened by Parker's intelligence and the latter feeling snubbed, thus making them less than friendly. Gwen Stacy scowls a lot in these early stories, and isn't the sweetheart I've heard she was.
My favorite stories are: from the beginning of the book, Spidey's desperate struggle to reverse Aunt May's radiation sickness - which she got as a result of Peter giving her a blood transfusion - wherein our hero really loses it, trying to make sure that he isn't responsible for his aunt's death the way he was responsible for his uncle's; and from the end, Spidey's final(?) battle with the Green Goblin, in which the latter's secret identity is revealed.
There aren't any crossovers with other comics superheroes here, like there was in such abundance in volume two, which doesn't leave things too boring though I'd have liked to have seen more battles/team-ups with other Marvel characters. Steve Ditko's work on the series' art ends with issue #38, and from #39 into the foreseeable future John Romita takes over. I must be inept as to the nuances of comic book art, because I generally don't notice these changes.
Even though I haven't started on volume five yet, I'm already planning what I intend to read next.
4 9.7 028. The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3 (Marvel Maste... - Stan Lee
Here we get the first (partial) appearance of Mary Jane Watson, who has all that movie star personality so early on. Also, Peter graduates, though he ends up getting a scholarship based on his academics to the same college that Flash Thompson does on athletic ability. So their rivalry will continue!
That's most of the important bits. I move onto volume four now.
4 9.7 029. The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 (Marvel Maste... - Stan Lee
Another volume, and Spidey's adventures continue to be as amazing as they boast in the title. Introduced are the two best villains yet: Mysterio and Green Goblin, two of my personal favorites and certainly two of the most unique villains in the Marvel universe. The guest star appearances, introducing Spider-Man's friendship with Daredevil, reinforcing his rivalry with the Human Torch, and making use of the Hulk as a plot device to both Spidey's and the Green Goblin's advantage.
The first Spidey Annual is key here. As he tangles with the original Sinister Six one by one, he meets many of the famous heroes of the ever-growing Marvel universe, which - accompanied by editor's notes informing the reader of which titles their own adventures can be found in - comes across as blatant advertising, though I like how all the heroes' initial primary publications are collected in one big story for future reference. We also get two hints of future plot developments: Aunt May sets up a date between Peter and this "Watson" girl, but she gets a headache and cancels before he even gets a chance to meet her; and Aunt May takes a liking to Doctor Octopus, which comes into play later when she almost marries him. At the end there's a Who's Who sort of guide to the Spider-Man villains encountered thus far, and a humorous interpretation of the process that the creators of the Spider-Man comics must suffer through, which is just about the funniest part of the book.
On to volume three.
Just in case you ever wanted to see how legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko go about the creative process...
6 8.5 030. Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man V... - Stan Lee
One thing apparent, upon opening this book up to Stan Lee's introduction, is how much the man respects his artists. He says only the kindest things about Steve Ditko. Stan Lee also wrote up a nice little praise of Hiroyuki Takei (Shaman King manga-ka and writer/artist of Stan Lee's concept, Ultimo) in Shonen Jump, and called Jack Kirby one of the best artists he's ever worked with on the extras for an X-Men DVD I watched goodness knows how long ago. Not that these guys aren't deserving of praise, but it's still nice to see co-workers in a creative project respecting one another and, you know, not forcibly forcing Russian soda pop down one another's throats.
So in my continuing quest to read and learn about the beginnings of the most famous of superheroes, I come now to Spider-Man. I've been familiar with Spidey since the cartoons were around, but I never got into him as much until the movies. I prefer this version of the character, and rightly so. In the first film he neglects to catch the thief that ultimately kills his Uncle Ben out of understandable anger toward a wrestling cashier (or something) who wouldn't pay him as promised. In the comics, it's his pride and anger at the world in general that keeps him from doing so. This makes him more unjustifiably responsible for Ben's death than his getting back at someone who'd wronged him. It also presents the first of many moral lessons Spider-Man would go on to learn.
These stories are spectacular. Spider-Man is witty as ever, human, and with many of the most fantastic villains in comics. I recognized many from these stories - the Vulture, Electro, Doctor Octopus - but others such as the Chameleon and the Big Man and the Enforcers were a nice surprise. It's very apparent here how, so early on, the Marvel universe was intended for the intermingling of its many members. Although the only real other Marvel superheroes active at this time are the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man shares a story with them in three of the eleven comic issues presented in this volume (Spider-Man #1, #5, and #8). I was kind of confused about Spidey's barging in on Johnny Storm's party in issue eight, but I'm satisfied with the explanation that the poor kid was just angry that he'd been a superhero and caught nothing but bad press while Storm had all the support and acclaim he could ever desire.
I'm really, really glad I didn't waste my time with the Essentials volumes. For one thing, they're hard to come by with a reasonable price tag; for another, they're black and white. And I like my red-and-blue.
Spider-Man's my favorite superhero ever, so I've been eager to get into his earliest adventures. I've been holding out on reading this volume even though I've had it for a good month or so because I wanted to be able to read the following four volumes immediately afterward so I wouldn't get out of the swing of things. I now move onto the later volumes. Like Spidey's cast of villains, I'm green - with envy for my future, read-up, knowledgable self. Because as I learn more and more about these characters in their unadulterated states, I feel as if the web that ties the comic book world and its stars together is being formed, slowly but surely.
5 9 031. TMNT Collected Book Volume One - Peter Laird_II,Kevin Eastman
A little over a year ago, Dan from Mirage made a news update on the Mirage Publishing website saying that they received a big shipment of the TMNT Collected Book: Volume One from their shipping department. This was at a time when I was checking the official Mirage website several times a day, and thus I was able to order it a matter of hours after this announcement. A couple weeks later, he put up an announcement that they were mistaken, and received less than 3% of the amount of copies that they thought they were being sent. Most of the people were refunded for this. I felt really lucky for having ordered it so quickly and enjoyed it all the more when I received it.
That was about a year ago, but since I'm in my comic book phase I figured I'd get to reading it again. It's really gritty but humorous, and though the humans are drawn a little bit odd, I think Eastman and Laird's style works incredibly well for the Turtles, robots, Triceratons, and the like. The real reason I got into this was to understand the original incarnation of the Ninja Turtles, and this book is great for that. The origin of the Turtles, the Fugitoid saga, and the original battle with the Shredder as well as his return are all featured here.
Over a year and several news updates later and Mirage hasn't been able to make this more readily available. With Nickelodeon picking up the rights to the Turtles, I'm hoping they reprint this volume and add more large Collected volumes in addition since I'd like to see how the terrapins continue their journey.
The Turtles get into some truly weird adventures.
2 9 032. Superman Chronicles TP Vol 02 - Jerry Siegel
I've read reviews saying that the Superman stories get a little repetitive after a while, but so far they continue to be fresh and unpredictable to me. The "Ultra-Humanite" (an early version of Lex Luther) figures pretty heavily into a number the stories in this volume. He actually gives the Man of Tomorrow a challenge, despite being crippled - he does this with his wits, creating a great contrast to Superman's own brute force. On the other hand, Lois Lane is only saved by Superman once or twice over the whole course of the collection (in the last volume, there were many issues with this recurring theme).
I'm very glad the DC Archives publishers have decided to reprint these stories in chronological order, for two reasons: 1) the evolution of the character as his story is built upon can be seen only in this way, and 2) many of the stories reference past ones. I've never liked "Best of"s for music or TV anyway.
I'm looking forward to the introduction of more super-villains, which will make future volumes interesting in case one starts to get used to the writing.
4 9 033. Superman Chronicles, Vol. 1 - Jerry Siegel
Though The Phantom gave birth to the superhero genre, Superman is the character that - as fellow Listal user Prelude would say - smacked its bottom and made sure it was alive and well. (source) Thus, I've been incredibly interested in reading the original comic books featuring the Man of Steel. However, I was severely turned off by the boisterous overpricing of the DC Archives books. After reading the Wikipedia page for DC Archives which included a mention of another full-color but cheaper trade-market paperback series of reprint volumes called DC Chronicles, my hope to one day read the early DC characters' adventures in chronological order was rekindled.
Upon reading these stories, I couldn't help but notice that there are a number of similarities as well as differences between the Superman of 1938 plus the world he inhabited and the Superman we're accustomed to nowadays. I'll just list some of the main ones.
-Superman's classic and present-day costumes are pretty much identical to one another.
-Superman's secret identity is his non-superhero façade of meek Clark Kent, while his true identity is Superman.
-Superman's origin of being an alien sent from dying planet who was found and taken care of by the Kents is intact - and in the very first few panels at that! However, it's rather vague and would be elaborated on later on.
-Lois Lane borders on being verbally abusive to Clark Kent. Of course, I'm also going to list this as a difference as I'm aware sometimes she's been represented as a real sweetie.
-Superman is a more rough and aggressive superhero, creating a great contrast between the identities of Superman and Clark Kent.
-There were no supervillains right from the start. Lex Luthor doesn't even appear in this volume. What did you expect? The superhero had just been created! Thus, the Man of Tomorrow mostly fought petty crime and corruption, preferring not to kill people but rather to teach them moral lessons and make them change their ways.
-Superman wasn't able to fly right from the beginning, so he just jumped really high!
-Again, Lois Lane is kind of mean to Clark Kent.
That said, I enjoyed every page of this book. The writing is superb, with witty dialogue, exciting action, and humor. The art as well is Golden Age comics at its best; some of the simpler comics nowadays still make use of this kind of style. At the end of each comic there are amusing tidbits on how to become your own superman, with such helpful sentiments as starting by lifting smaller objects, then working one's way up to the bigger ones. The paper is nice and non-glossy like comics used to be.
And now I'm off to order more Superman Chronicles volumes. Then on my queue are the Batman Chronicles, the Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks volumes, and finally the Hellboy reprints. So much to do, so little time...!
"Try and knock this door down!" he says. Silly, silly man.
2 8.5 034. The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies ... - Ray Moore,Lee Falk
I loved the first The Phantom collection so much that before I even owned it I had the second volume! Wait, now that logic doesn't really work outside my head... Mostly this was because the first volume wasn't in stock at the time and I was afraid the second would follow. I bought it on the thought that I'd be able to get the first volume through non-Amazonian means or through another shipment to Amazon itself. As it happened, I checked Amazon.com regularly and eventually they got another shipment. So, after having read the first volume, I arrived at the second.
The story-telling is just as good as in the first. Lee Falk seems to be able to come up with very different plot ideas that don't retread old ground. The delaying of The Phantom's and Diana's marriage works into almost every story; I only wonder how it was stretched out until 1977 (I guess a decade or so down the road, when Hermes gets to reprinting the adventures up to that point, I'll know)? Ray Moore's art is also fantastic - any artists that followed have never surpassed Moore's work, though some have done about as good a job with their own interpretations of The Ghost Who Walks.
Which brings me to my next point of discussion. Many have found fault with the transfer of panels into the book for the final story, The Slave Traders. Indeed, a number of the panels have been transferred poorly, but it's only a select few near the end and shouldn't ruin anyone's enjoyment of the comic. There's also a strip where two panels have been switched on accident, but they're not panels that are too confusing in reverse-order. Ultimately, Hermes improved this volume from the last by changing the source from which they took their strips. Also, the man who transferred this volume posted on The Phantom Phorum, acknowledging the errors he made and welcoming the critiques. I can only imagine volume three, which comes out later this year, will again be an improvement on the last volume.
3 8.5 035. The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies ... - Ray Moore,Ron Goulart,Lee Falk
As I was searching through Wikipedia one night about two months ago, I made a search for Superhero Comics and saw mention of three figures preceding Superman - Popeye, The Clock, and The Phantom. Only The Phantom seemed to fit the bill of costumed superhero to me at the time, and though I wasn't totally interested in the character to begin with, the idea of understanding the genesis of the superhero genre drew me in. I bought this and the second volume of the Hermes Press re-releases and the character has since become one of my favorites, up there along with Spidey and Captain America.
Without question, The Singh Brotherhood is the highest quality story in this collection - this being no insult to the others, of course. The Ghost Who Walks' debut, it introduces most of the elements of what make up his character - the rest, ie his role as ruler over the Bandar over people and what that entails, being set forth two stories later in The Diamond Hunters - as well as his love interest Diana Palmer. Presented is the original sassy-even-in-the-face-of-death superhero, an extraordinary yet entirely mortal protagonist. The twists and mystery kept me interested from beginning to end. Diana Palmer is strongest, most independent, most fearless in this story, whereas in the later ones she plays more the weak, helpless damsel in distress. The second story, The Sky Band, wasn't as enjoyable to me since The Phantom had to pretend to be a bad guy and hurt Diana, but I still enjoyed it. The third was good, almost as much as The Singh Brotherhood but not quite. Ultimately, each tale was unique and didn't sink too deep in the muck of formula while still retaining the core elements that make The Phantom the strip what it has remained for three quarters of a century.
4 9 036. The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1 - Herge
I've been on a big spree with my comic book reading lately, and my wishlist is far from exhausted. I've been waiting impatiently for the first volume of the Hermes Press The Phantom series and three Marvel Civil War books to arrive, and so I thought I'd read some of my oldest brother's stuff. This includes the Simpsons TPBs I've already read a couple years ago as well as this volume which I've not sat down and read until now. I didn't know what to expect from this one, other than that it would be clean and involve the young Tintin going on crazy adventures in (from looking at the cover) America, Egypt, and finally Asia.
The pace is lightning quick, with constant action along with delays to stretch the story out a little while longer. It is indeed clean, but present is also some very biting satire on such people and things as oil contractors, hunch detectives, and the meat packing industry (all this in just the first story, Tintin in America!). These points of humor appealed to the more mature reader in me. Now this was in the early to mid-1930s, so a lack of being politically correct and presentation of cardboard cultural steriotypes may deter a large portion of the readership, but for those in a position to shrug it off as harmless characterization it shouldn't be a problem. With The Blue Lotus he takes it to a less harmless degree, though, advocating understanding for the Chinese while seemingly doing the opposite for the Japanese - drawing on the incident of the South-Manchurian railway being blown to further achieve this goal.
Without doubt, the duo of Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus make this book the most worthwhile. I liked Tintin in America, but if the whole book would have been along its lines, I'd have rated it a four out of five stars instead of the full five. On top of the fact that the other two stories had much more intrigue and mystery and took place in much more interesting countries (from my American perspective, at least), I thought it unrealistic how in Tintin in America every single character besides Tintin and Snowy was crooked and somehow against the two protagonists. In the latter two stories there were characters with which Tintin became friends, and more memorable quirky characters like Thomson and Thompson (the latter has a 'P' in his name) - my personal favorite recurring characters, one of which says one thing which the other borrows words from and contorts them to say something rather different.
Thomson and Thompson exchange glances.
4 6 037. Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do T... - Kevin Smith
Back in 2002, when I was going for my first big, long comic book superhero-loving phase, I picked up a few issues of Wizard. The articles were very interesting, and I loved being connected to the comic book world with previews for upcoming releases and interviews with their creators. One such time I saw a preview for Spider-Man and the Black Cat, "The Evil That Men Do".
Later - when it was my birthday - my mom bought me a comic as a gift (I really loved comics at the time, as I've already stated) to read while on our way to a hotel for our celebration (I also loved hotels for whatever reason). I had hoped to get an X-Men comic, as they were my favorite at the time, but settled for a Spider-Man comic due to my aversion to collecting series midway through. (Funny story - these days I prefer Spider-Man over X-Men by a large margin, though I still enjoy both). There were two first issue Spider-Man comics, and if I recall the one I wanted was too long for my mom's budget, so I got "The Evil That Men Do"'s debut. I enjoyed it and eventually picked up the second comic to it, but must have lose track of myself for a little bit there because I hadn't followed it further.
Needless to say, I was looking forward to the nostalgia and closure I'd get when I finally read the whole thing in TPB form all in one sitting.
Not so. I very much enjoyed just about the first half of the book, but the second half depressed the spider silk out of me. And I wasn't depressed even during Watchmen (except the two significant times when Rorschach didn't get his way)! There wasn't as much action there, and the characters' circumstances discussed were upsetting, at least from my bubble. I loved the entrance of Daredevil and Nightcrawler, and along with Spider-Man they provided a nice buffer between the hard stuff, which I appreciated.
I wasn't too sure why the Black Cat's backstory needed to be explained... At least in such a way. I mean, certainly there's more training to becoming a master thief. You don't just pick it up and succeed, no matter how small you start before you hit museums and the like.
At the time of typing this up I still have a lot of comic books to read through. This book was good for the first half, after which apparently the comic went on hiatus for three years (which I can imagine I'd have found unbearable). After Watchmen, which gave me a rather warm feeling inside, this one made me sad. I'll try not to judge all of the graphic novel world's publications by the standards set in Watchmen and Spider-Man/Black Cat, as I'm sure most will fall somewhere inbetween.
Just Spidey's luck! Black Cat returns to Manhattan to investigate the possible murder of a friend.
534 8.9 038. Watchmen - Dave Gibbons,Alan Moore_III
Not being aware of much of the comic book world outside of Marvel in my upbringing, I was surprised when I saw the trailer for this comic's movie adaptation boasting that it was to be based on "one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time". I'd never even heard of Watchmen. I wanted to see the movie, but it never happened. And I'm glad, because that only meant I got to read the graphic novel first.
Watchmen has so much going on. Not that one can't understand it without seriously applying themselves, as there's a lot of reinforcement of the characters' background which makes it very hard to miss all the main points, but I'd guess a second read would probably contribute to an even greater love of the series. Watchmen goes by slowly because there's so much content but at the same time it goes by quickly because it's so fun. By focusing on different characters and themes issue-to-issue, incorporating a gripping comic-inside-a-comic, including sections of select prose at the end of all but the last issue, and by including so many interesting subplots which add to the whole of the story, this book is never boring, never drags, and is identifiable in some significant way to anyone who gives their reading a tad bit of thought.
I didn't have much of a knowledge about this comic besides some of the themes in it and the general opinion that it's a great read (On a list by Time Magazine of their 100 greatest English novels - not comic books, but novels in general). Still, I guess I wasn't far from other people's feelings about it when I read it, because I, like so many others (I would later learn), liked the character of Rorschach most. He's the only one in there with a strict moral system who doesn't compromise said morals (except maybe the original Nite Owl, who I also liked). His costume's the coolest out of them all. He never lets himself lose the upper hand.
As for how it all comes together, I thought it was a little disappointing that Ozymandias's plan wasn't thwarted and that Rorschach died - that is, until the very last page revealing Rorschach's ultimate triumph. Him being my favorite, I felt it satisfying that he sort of won in the end. Of course, some will contest his motives and the means by which he accomplished them, but that all fits into Alan Moore's intentions with his characters - to give them glaring flaws and glaring attributes, make all of them neither hero or villain in totality, and leave the interpretation up to the readers.
"Rorschach's Journal. September, 1986: Watchmen Takes the World By Storm. Hurm."
3 8.5 039. Essential Tomb of Dracula, Vol. 4 (Marvel Es... - Tony Isabella,Gene Colan,Gerry Conway,Doug Moench,Steve Gerber,Marv Wolfman
I got into Dracula as a character as a result of loving the bloody crucifix out of the Castlevania series. It wouldn't be long before I'd read the original Bram Stoker novel, buy the Universal horror films on DVD, and read the comics.
This volume collects mostly comics unconnected in story (with a couple of ongoing stories such as Dracula's creation and Drac vs. Frankenstein) from Marvel's run of the fanged fiend. I assume the other three volumes have sequential plot arcs where the writing is more consistent; meanwhile, this one suffers from the different writers' lack of agreement when it came to the Dracula character. In this volume is a showcase of a man of noble intentions and tragic circumstances; of an unfeeling, malevolent monster; and of a tortured, cool anti-villain. The last one is my favorite portrayal. In the stories that had Dracula characterized in this way, I found myself rooting for him whenever some idiotic antagonist crossed him in some way, knowing full well he'd get his revenge but being no less satisfied when it happened. That's Dracula to me.
The writing - ie, the narration, dialogue, and plot structure - in this book, though handled by different authors, is superb. The art, as well, is stunning. It kind of irks me, because the source material for this volume was edited to leave out certain instances of nudity and gore, which I feel detracts from the gritty, honest intent of the writers for their stories. It doesn't destroy the comics; like I said, it simply irks me, and it's not such a bad thing that my enjoyment was hampered too much.
I intend to get the first three installments of collected Dracula... Eventually. The Marvel Essentials comics have become rather hard to find in only less than a decade. You'd think Marvel would keep these things in print for their huge fanbase, but that probably takes a lot of investment which they would prefer to spend on licensing their comics for more video games, animated series and live-action movies. And there's nothing wrong with them licensing their characters for new media that'll yield some quick reward when it comes to the money they'll get from licensing and long-term reward when it comes to the money they get from the new cohort of fans. I just hope they use some of that money to put these wonderful archives back in print.
Logical Reasoning Test Question #56: Which figure in this picture needs 'saving' and which one needs 'staking'?
Need to read or re-read
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