When John Buys Comics, That is not News. But When Comics Buy John...

Hello again. You may notice that it is a day two days later in the week than usual, as holidays traditionally interfere with the delivery of comics in a way that snow/sleet/rain/etc. wishes that it could exert over the US Mail (it is at this point that, were this a stand-up comedy act, some wag would begin heckling, probably on the topic of my reviews not ever being on time any more anyway. And then burly men dressed as Bouncing Boy would toss him out on his ear). I offer no apologies, but will give a small pirate figure to the first person who sheds a tear in my presence over this fact. He has lived with me for a year, you see, and it is time for him to move on.

The Anchor No. 2

The week that the first issue of this came out I got distracted by a moth or something and didn't get around to posting anything. This is a shame, as it was a really neato comic and I bet that I could have gotten quite loquacious about it. Luckily, issue 2 is also neato.

The Anchor is similar to characters like Atomic Robo and Hellboy, being a big dude who solves monster-related problems through the liberal application of violence plus the occasional very clever idea. This specific iteration of one of my favourite archetypes is distinguished by a couple of things: first by the fact that he is less a wise-cracking smartmouth than an introspective monkish type and secondly by the fact that he is kind of two guys. See, he exists both as a monster-fighting strongman here on Earth and simultaneously as a spiritual being who guards the border between Earth and Hell. Oh, and any wounds that the latter takes are expressed on the former, leading to a number of panels where wounds spontaneously burst forth on his chest and so on. It's a good basis for a comic about monster fighting - being God's appointed warrior or whatever generally works out pretty decently as a motivation, for example.

Issue numba one featured a fairly generic ice monster ravaging Iceland (though the Anchor defeating the thing by having his Hell-body pick up a flaming demon, thus causing his Earth-body to burst into flames, was way neat), but the centaur wood-god thing in this issue is far more creepy - hopefully the trend continues. Not that I wouldn't be freaked out if a giant frog/ape thing made out of ice was rampaging down the street, but knowing that and being a bit creeped out by what's on the page in front of me are two very distinct things.

Also, the Anchor stone cold rips out his own beard with one hand, which is BAD ASS.

Batman/Doc Savage Special (One-Shot)

If you read any DC comics at all then I’m sure that you’ve noticed the previews for this comic in the back of, like, everything for the last two or three weeks. What with my fondness for the pulp magazines and so forth I must admit that I was intrigued. What I managed to completely miss was that this special was serving as an introduction to a whole pulpy-style sub DCU, and from what I see here, it could be really cool.

According to the teaser info at the back, this First Wave (is this the name of the universe? That’s not a very good name) is going to feature a lot of adventurer and vigilante types of characters - you got your Batman, your Doc Savage and his crew, the Avenger, the Blackhawks, the Spirit… I got a little bit of nerd-rage over some of the changes that they looked to be making but then took a step back and realized that I was being an idiot. Even if I don’t agree that “the only way to make EBONY WHITE work is to make the character a brash girl.” that ain’t no reason that it won’t work.But seriously, Ebony has been written successfully as a non-brash non-girl at DC Comic within the last year.

This could be really cool if it's done right, you guys. As far as I can tell, the closest thing to a super-power in evidence is going to be the Avenger’s face-molding ability, and there are autogyros and dirigibles and also cell phones and computers. I feel like there’s high potential for a major confrontation in a long-lost temple, with the villain wielding a steam-powered, back-mounted device that harnesses etheric waves and maybe also controls an ancient stone robot. If there manages to be more than four or five issues without basically every regular DCU character making a sly cameo, that is (you know, like Bruce Wayne charters a flight somewhere and the pilot is Hal Jordan and then they team up to fight some non-magenta racketeer named Sinestro. Not that that couldn't make for a fun story, but it would really take away from the whole reinvention of the DCU angle. It'd be like Tangent Light)

As for the issue itself: Good intro. Looks great, does a great job of establishing the world and its synthesis of 1930s and present day technologies and aesthetics, has a lot of socks to the jaw, etc. Doc Savage and Batman are actually Doc Savage/Superman and the Shadow/Batman, and the relationship between the two very nicely reflects those that bind the four, both in terms of inspiration and historical interaction. And really, who hasn’t wanted to see Batman wielding twin .45s from time to time? (Oops, I caught a few reviews of the book after writing that and evidently not everyone does want to see that, at least partially based on the ridiculousness of a man devoted to the pursuit of not killing having guns. But who says that this Batman doesn't shoot to kill? It would totally work with the whole pulp thing, you know it would.)

So colour me intrigued, I guess. I’m very interested to see where this goes.

Batgirl No. 4 - Ah ha! I knew that this series could be fun! Batgirl and Oracle cracking wise at each other is great, and Stephanie’s completely un-Bat-family style of fighting crime (well, maybe not completely, but she does fall over a lot more than the rest of them). I am so very glad that the whole “trying to talk the new vigilante out of vigilanting” period has passed and we can get down to some good old-fashioned crime-stomping. Now hopefully there won’t be an appearance by Cassandra Cain around issue 10 in which she demands the Batgirl mantle back because of honour and all that bullplop.

However, if Misfit shows up in that role then I will be delighted.


And best twist ending to a comic in a long time. I’m highly eager to see how this wraps up.

Hellboy: the Wild Hunt No. 8 (of 8) - As I’ve said before, one of the great pleasures of the Hellboy family of titles is the changeability of the whole thing - from the very beginning there has been no such thing as a status quo, though the degree of change that occurs in each story arc has been increasing over the years. Back in the day, you might get one or two crazy revelations per storyline, with maybe one character being added to the cast or killed off or such. Nowadays, well… I personally was knocked on my ass at least twice during The Wild Hunt.

Okay, that's it for this week, as I've been super busy and haven't even read half of what I bought. Okay, substitute "eating out a lot and playing Fallout 3" for "super busy".

Review of Prose, By Johnathan

I think that I may have alluded to the fact that I was an English major in University a couple of times (though with the amount of theory that I've forgotten since then I basically have a degree in Reading Stuff, Forming an Opinion on it and Writing That Opinion Down, at length. Hey! That makes me perfectly qualified to have a comics blog, doesn't it?) and so it shouldn't come as too great a shock to find out that I'm not just a comics nerd and an Internerd, I'm a a prose nerd, too! Okay, also a mythology nerd (Classics minor, word), drama nerd, etymology nerd, history nerd, plant nerd, animation nerd and listener to nerdy music. And ladies, I'm available.

Comics and prose are the biggies, though. I love me some good fiction, yes I do. To that end, I just purchased a book entitled Who Can Save Us Now? (Owen King and John McNally, eds) which is an anthology of short stories about some brand new super-heroes. I haven't opened it yet, so the only solid info I have is that there's a story about someone called The Rememberer, but buying it got me thinking about other text-based tales of the super-hero and whenever I get thinking about things like this I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you lovely folks.

First off, I think I'd list a lot of old pulp yarns as fantastic examples of what superhero text should be: action-packed, character-driven and fairly short. That's not to say that a long, introspective novel about international diplomacy as seen through the eyes of UN goodwill ambassador Courage Lad wouldn't potentially be great, just that I'd likely read a few novellas about the Mighty Turbine giving robotic aliens the business in between volumes. I haven't read nearly as much pulp fiction as I'd like, but for my money I'd have to recommend Doc Savage and the Spider - the Shadow is great and all, but I prefer the radio show. Of course, if we're travelling back through literary history here we could talk about Gladiator (Alas, I haven't read it), The Invisible Man and other such late Victorian proto-science fiction or my man Sherlock Holmes. Heck, we could pull in Arthurian legend, Greek and Norse mythology and the original Dynamic Duo of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but then this would turn into a much longer and much less focused post. Because it's so incredibly focused right now.

Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink, By Mel Gilden. Man, I loved this book when I was a lad. Come to think of it, I still love it. It's a young adult novel written in an absurd style reminiscent of the incomparable Daniel M. Pinkwater. The titular Harry Newberry is a comic-obsessed kid who ends up discovering that the seemingly boring world around him is actually jam-packed with complete weirdness. There are a lot of fantastic touches like people running around in completely thrown-together costumes and... man, I don't want to spoil this one at all. Most libraries seem to have this one on hand and I say: go read it! It's got the best idea for a pizza restaurant ever, I swear, and some of the best brotherly interactions in youth fiction.

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws, by Shane Berryhill. I picked this one a few months back. Judging by the study questions at the back it's also aimed at young adults, but it's a solid read. The title character, though he's been highly trained by an old-school superhero, has to lie about having luck-based super-powers to get into hero school. The Outlaws, his in-school supergroup, are a bunch of engaging characters - there's lots of good teen drama (as opposed to the all-too-frequent bad teen drama) and a rivalry with another, super-douchey team and a sinister plot to foil. Plus, the school's department heads are a pretty good JLA pastiche. Oh, and there's a highly entertaining training battle against a team composed of anime-style super-heroes!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. Not strictly a super-hero novel, but enough of the reality of comics creeps into the characters' regular lives to be good enough for me. I can't say too much about this one that hasn't been said before and better, but I'll put it in here anyway because I know a lot of comic fans who haven't read it. Read it! It's a good, good novel, with lots of delicious character development. Stan Lee makes a brief appearance, proving my theory that his super-power is an incredible ability to make cameos.

The Wild Cards Series, Gerorge R. R. Martin, ed. I've read maybe seven or eight of the eleven million or so volumes in this series, and while they were none of them terrible I definitely liked the shared-world collections of short stories more than the later "mosaic novels", partly because I liked some of the contributors more than others and the shifts in prose style got kind of jarring at times but also because the whole thing got so damned dark after a while. The basic story was great: aliens decide to test an experimental mutagen on Earth and it gets released over New York in the late Forties. Most people who are exposed to the stuff die and most of those who survive are radically mutated (these are called Jokers, thanks to a running card-based naming convention). A very small percentage ed up with very super-heroey powers (these ones are called Aces) and part of the series' mandate is exploring how the presence of all of these guys shapes subsequent human culture and history and such. There are a lot of neato characters, like Croyd Crensen, the Sleeper, who falls into years-long comas and wakes up each time with different powers and a new appearance and lives a cycle of sleep and increasingly desperate and stimulant-fueled wakefulness. Or there's Captain Trips, a super-duper hippie who has multiple powered identities accessed through hard drug usage, or Kid Dinosaur, who can turn into dinosaurs and is basically a fanboy who follows other Aces around and annoys them. The first couple of collections are highly recommended, ayup.

Of course, there are all of the books that are about characters that originated in comics, but frankly, I haven't read too many of those. I remember a book of Spider-Man short stories that I enjoyed (the Internet says that it was called The Ultimate Spider-Man), especially one called "Kraven the Hunter is Dead, Alas", though what it was about escapes me these many years later. Marvel books were always fun to read because they always had some nice original artwork inside - I especially remember liking What Savage Beast by Peter David, which had the Maestro and a neat picture of all kinds of possible alternate Hulks (Scaley Hulk! Hairy Hulk!).

Okay, that's it. There are a lot more books that I wish that I could read (say, Superfolk) and others that I have read and subsequently forgotten the contents of (Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask, for example). And I can't seem to even find the damn Hellboy novels. Do they actually exist? Perhaps in the future I will expand on this rambling, unfocused entry. Feel free to clue me in to things that I should check out.