Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes

February 20, 2017

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Heroes, Vol. 3Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Heroes, Vol. 3 by Bill Everett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the brief revival of the Sub-mariner in his own comic from Issues 33-42.

The bulk of the comic stories feature the Sub-mariner. Original artist Bill Everett to draw all the Sub-mariner stories an the art in this book is absolutely superb and a cut above most Silver Age art. The stories are mostly well-written.

In the Silver Age, comic books would become obsessed with telling what Superheroes did during their childhood, ranging from the often weak tales of Aquaman and Wonder Woman to the epic Asgard tales of young Thor and Loki. Everett was ahead of his time in the mid-1950s, from Issue 35-42 we get eight tales looking at adventures of Namor as a child and they're far above the quality of most Silver Age stories. (Though not quite as epic as Thor's.)

The adult stories were mostly fun tales of the Sub-marienr taking on criminals, commies, and an alien here or there. The biggest problem I had with those stories was some of the consistency. For the first half of the book, Sub-mariner was the friend of surface people and tried to thwart his evil Stepbrother's attempts to start trouble. Then the Emperor of Atlantis powers him up and orders him to declare war on the surface people and he does lackadaisically, half-heartedly, and at times a disregard for lives, and then towards the end, the war is dropped. It's weird because the reason this book was kept going while Captain America and Human Torch were cancelled was because they planned on making a TV series out of Sub-mariner. Hard to do that with someone trying to wipe out mankind.

Other than that betrayal of the character and a few stories hindered by the rigid space requirement, the stories were all enjoyable.

The Human Torch appears in three back upstories and they're okay if unremarkable. Probably the best story is in Issue #33 which has the Torch taking on weird alien creatures. The art is really fun on that one. The other two involve a plague outbreak, and an attempt to frame the Human Torch.

After the Torch leaves, the back up feature becomes sea-based and doesn't feature recurring characters. The ones involving people at sea are good, but the four nature comics that center on the struggle of a sea creature features outstanding art and some great action as the they fight for their lives.

The text stories are okay. They're forgettable but will pass a couple minutes and allowed the comic company to ship out a lower rate.

The rare comics reprinted are a joy with solid artwork and enjoyable stories. Recommended for any fan of comic history or Namor.

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Published on February 20, 2017 22:28 • 17 views • Tags: atlas-age, marvel, submariner

February 18, 2017

Green Lanterns, Volume 1: Rage PlanetGreen Lanterns, Volume 1: Rage Planet by Sam Humphries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very different sort of Superhero book. Ostensibly it's about a Red Lantern invasion of Earth with Earth's Fifth and Sixth Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz having to defend Earth. Yet, our heroes have a problem.

Simon has a chip on his shoulder from being sent to Guantanamo though he was innocent. Even though he's relatively new to being a Green Lantern, he's really sure that he doesn't need Jessica. Jessica suffers from anxiety and has spent the past three years living in her own apartment, can't use her ring to make a construct, and isn't sure she's up to the job.

Admittedly, this book isn't for everyone. It's about the heroes fighting their own demons as much as it is fighting the Red Lantern core. Yet, I think writer Sam Humphries manages to balance the personal journeys of the characters with the action plot most of the time and the pay off in the final chapter of the story was worth the read to me. I liked how he worked in several nice little sub-plots that are resolved in this volume while leaving some larger questions for later exploration.

The emotional stuff can get a bit heavy, but I found myself liking and cheering for these characters, so even though it's not a typical comic book story, I really enjoyed it.

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Published on February 18, 2017 08:12 • 32 views • Tags: anxiety, green-lanterns

February 17, 2017

Penguins of Madagascar: When in Rome... (Vol. 1)Penguins of Madagascar: When in Rome... by Alex Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects three separate tales featuring the Penguins of Madagascar.

"The Great Drain Robbery" is probably the weakest of the three. It has the Penguins battling an army of rats over food in New York City. It's not bad, and it's the most normal thing they do in this book.

"When in Rome" is the best story and the Penguins look most like themselves. They investigate a magic act that's competing with their circus and there's a twist as to what's going on. The story's gotten a certain insanity to it. I wish the resolution had been better, but this plenty enjoyable.

"Night Out" is typical Penguins mayhem as they hit the town after borrowing a hot car from a celebrity. If you love the Penguins doing crazy things, this is great story.

The book is geared towards younger kids and the extra features reflect that. The pin-ups are all bright and fun to look at and the games are fun if nothing special.

If you love the Penguins or your kids do, this is a worthwhile and fun book to check out.

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Published on February 17, 2017 22:13 • 7 views • Tags: penguins-of-madagascar

February 16, 2017

Superman: Earth One, Volume 1Superman: Earth One, Volume 1 by J. Michael Straczynski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a modern retelling of Superman's origin tale with a modern Superman. There are many ways this should not have worked, yet JMS brings a lot to the table to make it work.

First, it was great how he explored Clark Kent having other options in his career. With his brain and might, the book explores the idea of him having many options and being torn as to what to choose with big piles of money being offered on one hand. This mirrors many of the struggles of Millennials and their search for fulfillment.

I liked the Planet staff. The people were written like real journalists, Perry White specifically. Too often these characters are written by people who don't understand how a real newspaper works. It was a nice touch having Jimmy and Lois play a part in Superman's decision.

I also thought the portrayal of how the Kents instilled the values that made him who he was was actually quite moving. Their advice was mostly good and inspirational, so they sheer volume of epigrams is slightly overwhelming. The book's storyline offers many ideas that were adopted by the film Man of Steel. It's a pity the portrayal of the Kents here wasn't what we got Man of Steel.

Beyond that, the book is very well done. While this Superman is a reinvention of the character, I still think JMS captures his essence and that, particularly for an origin story, this is Superman. The art is beautiful and the action is exciting.

The book's biggest flaw was just not knowing where to stop. There are two natural stopping places, it drives right through after the main plot's been resolved.

Still, other than that, this is an intriguing and worthwhile take on Superman.

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Published on February 16, 2017 17:11 • 26 views • Tags: jms, superman

February 13, 2017

Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time (Atomic Robo, #3)Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time by Brian Clevinger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Atomic Robo is a robot who has been around since the 1920 when he was created by Nikola Tesla and starting in 1929 one shadow has chased him throughout his life, a lovecraftian creature who exists outside linear time--and (as we learn early in this book) actually sprang out of H.P. Lovecraft.

This story is a high concept thrill ride that takes advantage of Robo's long life to tell a tale that involves Robo and friends throughout his life. There's 1920s Robo teaming up with Charles Fort, cold war Robo, 1970s Robo getting help from Carl Sagan, and of course the modern robo an the scientists of Tesladyne, and the ultimate team up in the final issue.

The art is fun and imaginative. The story is engaging. Writer Brian Clevinger does a good job having Robo "age" as each version of Robo has slight differences in personality as he's learned more over time. He still remains wise cracking and charming at any age.

The back up stories are not nearly as fun. At best, they're amusing, with the funniest piece being a text interview with Robo. Not bad, but certainly not as good as the main story.

Still, this is a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

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Published on February 13, 2017 18:55 • 28 views • Tags: atomic-robo

February 12, 2017

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Volume 1 - Gaze of the MedusaDoctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Volume 1 - Gaze of the Medusa by Gordon Rennie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith find themselves in London in 1887 and at the center of a mad plot by Lady Emily Carstairs to re-awaken an ancient entity for her own purposes.

This book is a great piece of nostalgia. Featuring the Doctor and his most beloved companion, Sarah Jane Smith, the story feels like something that could have been aired on Doctor Who during Season 13. Every page has that gothic horror feel that was so characteristic of the Philip Hinchcliffe era on Doctor Who: the settings, the monsters. In that way, it's perfect. The story and the human guest villain are solid, but not particularly great other than in their design.

My main criticism of the book is that Sarah Jane is taken out of the action for nearly two full issues out of five in the book. In a limited series, having Sarah Jane is a big deal and so taking her out of the action seems ill-advised, and the substitute companion is okay but there's no real good substitute for Sarah Jane.

Other than that, the book is worth a read for how brings a long ago era of Doctor Who to life in comic books.

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Published on February 12, 2017 17:45 • 35 views • Tags: comics, doctor-who, fourth-doctor

February 11, 2017

The Flash, Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes TwiceThe Flash, Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice by Joshua Williamson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the Flash: Rebirth and the first eight issues of the new Flash series.

The book is a couple issues longer than the usual rebirth book has been but with good reason. It's an exploration of the Flash as a character. The Rebirth event brings Wally West back into the DC Universe and this event is more personal for the Flash and it tugs on what's been missing from him. Barry Allen is portrayed as a man who is the fastest man alive but is always late, always behind, never able to be where he needs to be in time...and alone.

Over time, the Flash became more than just a single hero...It became a brotherhood, a tradition, with speedsters like Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Bart Allen part of something larger and always there for each other. In Flash's own book, he has pretty much been on his own since the new 52.

But he's not on his own for long in this book. An old friend gets speed powers after being hit by lightning and then it happens to people all over Central City. Meanwhile, the other Wally West is developing powers of his own but not telling his Aunt or the Flash. We get to see Barry as teacher and mentor and he rediscovers joy and a bit of love.

This story is incredibly effective with some solid new characters and a great emotional journey. There's also several mysteries beyond the big one involving Doctor Manhattan. There's the question of whose behind giving so many people speed powers which is never answered. As well as a search for a killer speedster named Godspeed who shows up towards the middle of the book. In addition, there are some very cool speedster scenes which are just a joy to read.

The book is a great jumping on point for new readers to the Flash, although there are a few Easter eggs for old fans as well. Taken together with the solid action, great characters, and fundamental examination of Barry Allen as a character, this is a great book to check out for fans curious about the Rebirth event.

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Published on February 11, 2017 15:34 • 26 views • Tags: flash, rebirth

February 10, 2017

Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume 2 (1968-1969)Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume 2 by Whitney Ellsworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second volume of Batman newspaper strips contains Batman comic strips from 1968 and 1969 and it's a bit different from the first volume. While the first volume was chock full of Batman's rogue's gallery and evoked the TV show a lot, this one has no guest appearance from a regular Batman rogue the entire two years but does feature guest appearances by Batman's friends Superman, Batman, and Aquaman.

There's a lot to like about this volume. The story feels more like an adventure strip with the stories going on pretty much as long as required with the book beginning with a story that had been going on for the last four and a half months of 1967 for a total of 8 months, and the story lines in this book are five, seven, and six months long respectively ending in the middle of 1969.

"Shivering Max, Pretty Boy Floy, and Flo:" This story about a mafia reward for Batman's demise continues in this volume as Batman's survival endangers those who originally collected the award. There's cross and double cross, as well as luxurious island where Batman is exiled forever. The way this plays out is a lot of adventure strip fun.

"Diabolical Professor Zinkk" : Superman needs Batman's help as someone is robbing him of his powers. Zinkk has an insane plan and is just one of those crazy mad scientists who is a lot of fun to read and certainly, the Batman and Superman friendship is on display as never before in comic strips.

"Breathing Underwater," A young woman takes illegally desperate measures to get Batman's attention because she needs Batman's help to locate Aquaman because Aquaman had been working on a formula with her father to allow people to breathe underwater. Both she and Batman take the underwater breathing pills only to discover that they, like Aquaman, have to get back to the water within an hour or die. The story is probably my least favorite in here. While the underwater breathing pills seem silly, there are technologies that are somewhat reminiscent of that in early development. My big problem with it is that Batman is only needed as a means to contact Aquaman and the story is mostly what happens while they wait. It's not horrible, but I prefer stories where Batman's more central.

"I Want Bruce Wayne's Identity," A wanted criminal decides he wants to take over Bruce Wayne's life and turn Bruce Wayne into him. Wayne unwittingly helps this plot by sending Dick, his new tutors, and Alfred overseas on vacation. The story has some fun twists and is a good adventure that goes beyond the typical superhero amnesia story in comics because of the length you can get away within in a comic strip that goes on for months. Oddly, it's almost like a Silver Age comic strip version of Face Off. Overall, a fun tale.

If you love the Silver Age of Batman or adventure strips in general, you'll get a lot out of this book.

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Published on February 10, 2017 16:15 • 23 views • Tags: batman, silver-age

February 9, 2017

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 5Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 5 by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 28-33 of Ultimate Comics Spider-man and is set one year after the previous volume as Miles Morales has been out of action for a year following the death of his mother in the previous volume. Meanwhile, some teenagers who have received amazing powers as result of illegal experiment are being unleashed on the city.

The story is generally good, but it's not without problems. The biggest is in the "Spider-man No More" storyline. Miles is incredibly surly to everyone who is even gently trying to get him back into the Superhero game or in general. While aging the character a year is a good thing, I think that this year of not being Spider-man almost makes him seem too passive and even what gets him back into being Spider-man is less a de, cision and more something he's pushed into. I also think there are far too many people hassling him about it at once. It's repetitive and what's worse, we don't really get to see Miles thought process because we're just hearing everyone trying to push.

However, once we get past that, and to Jessica Drew's plot, there's a lot to like as we meet young people with superpowers. We learn their back stories and they're interesting people who don't react in ways that are typical of comic books. And then everything is set up for all sorts of awesomeness to break forth in Issue 33, which it does.

SO, while this book is probably the weakest of the five volumes, once the main storyline really gets started, it really is another solid read.

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Published on February 09, 2017 22:16 • 22 views • Tags: miles-morales, spider-man

February 6, 2017

Black Lightning Vol. 1Black Lightning Vol. 1 by Tony Isabella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Black Lightning Issues 1-11, along with a planned issue 12 which appeared in World's Finest #260. All but the last two issues are written by the Character's creator Tony Isabella

In addition to the comics, the book also features a very fun to read introduction by Tony Isabella giving the origin of the series and how he managed to get DC to back down from a hilariously horrible idea for its first black Superhero to be a White racist.

The first eight issues focus on Black Lightning's battle against the 100, a big-time gang in Suicide Slum. There's lot to like about these issues.

First of all, the origin story is superb. It's really in Issues 1 an 2 both and in many ways, it's a familiar story of a tragic death leading someone to become a superhero, but I love the way they handled it. As the book opens, Jefferson Piece is a high school teacher who has returned to his old neighborhood. The person killed is a character Jefferson just met, but the book makes you care about the death and understand why he's doing it. It has an epic feel that draws you in and the story has a great sense of creating drama and action. It's a really fine epic start.

The arc's got a great villain in Tobias Whale. He's menacing but with a very whale-like look. He looks like a cross between the Kingpin and something out of Dick Tracy. Being in Metropolis, the series also has cameos for Superman and his pal Jimmy Olsen.

Black Lightning is put through his paces as he deals with tragedy and has to find the will to fight on even after a major betrayal. There are some nice touches. The Black Lightning Poem is epic, "Justice like lighting ever should appear. To some men hope and to other men fear," and the way it's used in one battle scene is a thing of beauty. It's also not afraid to subvert our expectations. One example is when a character dies and a big secret is learned and he leaves behind a letter, you'd typically see a long comic strip revealing the whole truth but Black Lightning does something different that surprised me but really felt true to Black Lightning.

After the arc, the book reverts to villain of the month format for the last few stories (with the exception of Issue 11 which has a more urban crime story without a supervillain.) These are all entertaining though not as enjoyable as the arc story.

Does the book have problems? Yes. My main complaint would be Piece's ex-Wife Lynn. She's introduced in the midst of the "100" arc and she really felt surplus to requirements. The stories were 17 pages in length, so she felt shoe-horned in. It might have been better to wait to introduce her. While I think Isabella concluded Black Lightning had been divorced, that could have been acknowledge without featuring her. As it is, she barely makes an impact.

Also the social message of the final issue is a little whacky and some of the plot points regarding the teen hotline someone calls are silly by today's standards.

However, by and large, this series is very well-done. It was cancelled far too soon. It offered readers who was different in many ways from many other DC character, while being no less heroic. It really deserved more than these 12 issues but it got cancelled way too soon. This holds up very well when compared to most comics of the era and it's definitely worth a read for fans of the Bronze Age of comics.

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Published on February 06, 2017 18:42 • 55 views • Tags: black-lightning

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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