"The Wake" struck me as "Prometheus" meets merpeople, which isn't intended as a compliment. Writer Scott Snyder has an interesting concept here, with"The Wake" struck me as "Prometheus" meets merpeople, which isn't intended as a compliment. Writer Scott Snyder has an interesting concept here, with long-hidden, intelligent, underseas monsters striking out against humanity, sinking cities and bringing about a sort of steam-punk, post-apocalyptic future. (If you ever played Final Fantasy III, you're in familiar territory.)
But while the ideas and atmosphere are intriguing, the way in which they're presented are jumbled and confusing. At the plotting level, the narrative seems to skip from section to section in a way that had me turning back pages to see if I'd missed something important. Key moments don't connect, and you often find yourself wondering how, for instance, a young woman made it from a bombed-out platform to the bowels of a pirate ship or even whether said pirate ship is a robot of some kind or a mechanically augmented giant merperson.
The art by Sean Murphy is good throughout--he favors expressive, elongated forms and does a good job making his characters and settings distinct. I really enjoyed the cobbled-together aesthetic in the future scenes, with an excellent assist from colorist Matt Hollingsworth.
But the plotting just didn't make sense. When it's convenient, the undersea people are murderous monsters, fast and feral and capable of destroying just about anything in their realm. But they're also noble savages committed to saving a world that's tried to exterminate them. Throw in pirates with shifting loyalties, a bizarrely motivated totalitarian government and billion-year-old secrets under the ice, and I found a plot I just couldn't follow, even if I enjoyed looking at it....more
Grant Morrison's tale of an anarchic super-powered cell fighting an Illuminati-style alien invasion hits a soft reset here, with the team regrouping iGrant Morrison's tale of an anarchic super-powered cell fighting an Illuminati-style alien invasion hits a soft reset here, with the team regrouping in the United States after a hard ending in the previous volume. From there they embark on a big raid to try to liberate a supposed AIDS vaccine, travel back in time to lay hands on a mystical artifact and deal with a seeming betrayal in their ranks.
There are a lot of big ideas bouncing around here, but that's one of the problems I have with the story. Instead of defining his setting and characters, Morrison aggregates a grabbag collection of 90s-era conspiracy theories, smushing together ancient cults and Jazz-Age reefer sex with black-site internment camps and mind-controlling aliens. It feels more like a mishmash than a concept, and it also frankly feels like the kind of thing Alan Moore does better.
Beyond that, the Invisibles characters come off like more of an adolescent power trip than an actual group of individuals. They embody the superficial cool of the era, with club drugs, kiss-off attitudes, big guns, piercings and meaningless sex, but it all feels sort of hollow.
Morrison even seems to realize this partway through the story, having his cool assassin lament about how all he's doing is shooting things...but that doesn't stop the characters from doling out about fifty headshots at a secret government base and blowing up the rest with plastique. Volume two of the collection seemed to have some interesting stakes and a real sense of risk for these characters, but that's all washed away here in jump-jump-shoot mode.
The art by Phil Jimenez and John Stokes is pretty impressive throughout, showcasing a quasi-realistic style with plenty of weirdness thrown in. (The coloring feels a little flat, though.) I also enjoyed this volume's journey back into the past and found myself sad to leave behind the tart characters we find there. Time springs forward, and our snarky killers shout their way to the finale....more
Probably my favorite Astro City collection, this trade paperback sees Colossus-like thug Steeljack released from prison after a big stint and struggliProbably my favorite Astro City collection, this trade paperback sees Colossus-like thug Steeljack released from prison after a big stint and struggling to rebuild his life without returning to crime. It's familiar territory, with an uncaring parole agent, an unresponsive workforce, and the unceasing pull of a little unsavory action to restore your cash and self respect. The fact that Steeljack is an 800-pound metal man who's both embarrassed by and owns the choices he's made adds some nice flavor.
Things get a little less familiar, though, when it's revealed that someone is killing old superpowered criminals. Steeljack is brought in to investigate, not because he's much of a detective ("I never graduated high school," he reminds the crowd) but explicitly because he's hard to hurt and might stand a better chance of surviving whatever's out there.
What follows is a compelling noir tale that is as much a look at community as a mystery to solve. Writer Kurt Busiek does a nice job looking at Steeljack's origins and how the tough streets around him propelled him to a life in crime. Investigating the murders, he finds that most of his super-powered peers squandered what little gains they made, leaving their kids to do the same tough math about the odds of a big score vs. the risk of getting caught and doing time.
Brent Eric Anderson does a great job on the art, capturing beat-up streets, run-down apartments and the proud, tired features of a man who's had enough of his past, even if it hasn't had enough of him. The facial expressions throughout are wonderfully captured, and Anderson does a good job conjuring a distinct feel for flashback scenes, lending his pages a detailed, expressive feel.
It's an impressive read, although I found a few parts to be overfamiliar on my second time through. A certain tombstone getting ripped up in a battle feels like an all-too-literal evocation of Steeljack's guilt, and the "you don't know me" posturing of some of the kids in the story seems a bit cliched. Moreover, it's hard to fully buy the series of coincidences and connections that push our story to its conclusion--and give the hero a chance at stopping an evil plot.
Still, those quibbles aside, this is a strongly crafted story and a solid read for anyone who likes ambitious, thoughtful takes on superheroes....more
Mike Carey's comic-book exploration of the power of stories continues, following Tom Taylor, the son of an J.K. Rowlings-esque author, Wilson Taylor.Mike Carey's comic-book exploration of the power of stories continues, following Tom Taylor, the son of an J.K. Rowlings-esque author, Wilson Taylor. Wilson, a man with his own mysteries, created a popular fantasy series starring Tommy Taylor, Tom's counterpart and a Harry Potter analogue. After some tragedy Tom has discovered that the cumulative attention give to his exploits has provided him real magical powers, and in this volume he's aiming to take down a secret society that's sought to control and exploit the powers of words over the ages.
This is a pretty entertaining read, as Taylor discovers his powers and also runs up against their limitations in near-lethal fashion. Carey does a good job exploring his concept's connection to myths--Gilgamesh, yellow journalism and good ol' Cain and Abel make an appearance here. He's also successful in exploring how the power of mass belief in a story may actually change reality, an idea the evil cabal tries to harness here for its benefit. (Bill Willingham uses a similar concept in his "Fables" series to strong effect.)
I like how Tom and his companions have mellowed some since the early issues, when Carey seemed to be trying too hard to make them needlessly edgy and angry. The problems I have with the story fall more in how easily Tom overcomes the secret society opposing him. Sure, there's some neat slight of hand explaining their vulnerability, but Tom and his two partners seem overpowered here, and there's not a lot of satisfaction in seeing them rip through their opponents so easily.
Still, the book ends in an interesting place, and the art by Peter Gross is good throughout, rendering action scenes and feats of magic with similar sound detail. I wish Tom Taylor would have experienced a few more roadblocks in overcoming his adversaries, but perhaps it's just as well that Carey didn't let the conflict drag on. This way we can move on to new ideas, which should be fun....more
Author Jon Morris takes us on a tour of some of the "misses" in comics history, from the Golden Age's Bozo the Iron Man (arguably the first robot charAuthor Jon Morris takes us on a tour of some of the "misses" in comics history, from the Golden Age's Bozo the Iron Man (arguably the first robot character) to Marvel's Son of Satan (obviously a 70s creation). In doing so, he strikes a nice balance between making deserved jokes at these goofy characters' expense and showing respect for what the creators were trying to achieve with their work. Each two-four page listing has fun visuals as well as a breezy, but informative, summary of the character's history, forebears and impact.
I had a good time reading about Captain Tootsie, Doctor Hormone and the Vagabound Prince, among others. Morris keeps a light tone without veering into cheesiness, and the collection as a whole shows an admiration for both the medium and the material. The book is well designed too, offering an attractive visual introduction to these weird heroes....more
A graphic biopic of Lincoln's assassin, taking us through his acting career, estrangement from family, spy work for the Confederacy and ignominious enA graphic biopic of Lincoln's assassin, taking us through his acting career, estrangement from family, spy work for the Confederacy and ignominious ending. Writer C.C. Colbert offers a decent sketch of Booth's co-conspirators--and his romantic entanglements with a Senator's daughter and a local barmaid. But the narrative is fragmentary and disjointed; it's not always easy to tell who he's allying himself with at any point. This may reflect the shadowy talk and hidden conspiracies of the time, but the facts and faces remain hard to follow.
Booth's motivations are never fully explored either. We learn that he's virulently racist, with a nasty temper to boot, but what exactly draws him to the Confederacy--and to his monumental act--isn't fully captured. This is a Cliff's Notes version of history, good at leaving readers with a scattering of the facts behind the assassination but incomplete at capturing the motivations and larger historic context.
The art by French artist Tanitoc is vividly rendered, with a style that's reminiscent of a woodcut, albeit one filled with plenty of hand-drawn, inky detail. His faces are expressive and lively, and he's generally successful at making a fairly large cast distinguishable. The colors by Hilary Sycamore are good too, with an expressive palette of pinks, tans and greens lending flavor to the page.
But the story never quite weaves its collection of details into a full narrative. I appreciate the intent to capture Booth's story in graphic form, but the final product left me wanting to dive into the source material to see what was left off the page here....more
"Grayson" is a spy series featuring Batman's first Robin, Dick Grayson, who the world currently believes to be dead. It's competent enough but didn't"Grayson" is a spy series featuring Batman's first Robin, Dick Grayson, who the world currently believes to be dead. It's competent enough but didn't do enough in my eyes to stand on its merits without the Batman tie.
As the plot has it, Grayson has joined a secret society, Spyral, to gather up a set of dangerous superpowered artifacts...but he's also reporting in to Batman on the group's efforts to ID the world's superheroes. The double agent stuff never felt convincing, though--why wouldn't the group think he's still in cahoots with Batman, even if he's trying to cover his own tracks? It seems like this would be a pretty easy case to crack, especially when they think there's a spy in the midst.
The series is drawn well by Mikel Janin, who uses a pretty clean, thick-lined style to capture the action. I see some Mike Allred in it, which I enjoy.
The plot, though, never really catches, and the title character also never displays much distinctive personality. He's a lady-killer, apparently, but in a generic way. My favorite scene in the story had him playing tag with a group of college-aged secret agents in training, and the story as a whole could have used more of that energy. (Better yet, scrap Grayson entirely and follow those ladies--that's where the action is!)...more
Originating in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series, the Dead Boy Detectives are two early-teenage boys--one Victorian, one of 1990s vintage--murdered decadOriginating in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series, the Dead Boy Detectives are two early-teenage boys--one Victorian, one of 1990s vintage--murdered decades apart at the same boarding school. Death couldn't quite get around to taking them, though, so they wonder around dodging trouble and solving mysteries as best they're able.
This volume, part of a new collection by writer Toby Litt, sees them returning to the scene of the crime. Looking to protect a teenage girl with famous parents, they come back to their boarding school to find it overtaken with body snatching and demonic conspiracies...and more mystical mysteries spin out from there.
The voice and plotting are low-key in an enjoyable kind of way, but the whole story feels a bit aimless. Our heroes don't show much agency in overcoming the obstacles in front of them; instead, they just muddle along, coming out victorious by default or dumb luck.
It's pleasant enough, but it's not particularly urgent, nor do the plot twists make much sense. The art by Mark Buckingham is enjoyable, but the series itself doesn't leave much of an impression....more
This is 80s Tony Stark at his best, with his mojo working, his perm tight and his lawyers ready to make acquisitions. The story kicks off with Tony geThis is 80s Tony Stark at his best, with his mojo working, his perm tight and his lawyers ready to make acquisitions. The story kicks off with Tony getting another iteration of his namesake company in action, fighting corporate espionage and space viruses. There's a bit of clearing the slate to start: James Rhodes develops a crippling fear of going into the armor (convenient), a former ally turns out to be a traitor and is killed off, and an old secretary scoots back into her office chair.
But one that's settled the real storyline kicks in, and it involves Tony discovering that components of his Iron Man technology have been stolen by the underworld and are helping to power armored criminals and terrorists around the globe. Tony goes rogue to destroy this technology, double-crossing Nick Fury, zapping Captain America and causing an international incident with the Soviet Union. The CEO even has to fire his own alter ego due to the bad publicity, which must have made for an interesting exit interview.
The trappings of the times can be a bit silly--Tony plays up his privileged playboy side by taking 80s businessladies on lunch dates to Paris and Alaska. There's plenty of jogging, manicures, short shorts and mullets on display, with the period tone riding a nice line between fun and ridiculous.
The Armor Wars segment that close out the trade is engaging stuff, though, as Tony has to develop new tactics for taking out his armored foes, all while agonizing over the morality of his actions. Writer Bob Layton establishes Tony as a unique type of hero--he's a super CEO, a bit arrogant and abrasive, looking out for his own interests while also trying to do what's right. I thought it was a fun read, even if the volume doesn't quite transcend its times, both in storytelling and setting....more
A nicely packaged collection, but it ended up feeling like a pretty generic set of 90s storytelling. There's the classic roster of villains here--Mr.A nicely packaged collection, but it ended up feeling like a pretty generic set of 90s storytelling. There's the classic roster of villains here--Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Two-Face--plus some overmuscled/bountily bosomed new additions, as was the style of the times. (Take the Sleeper for instance; the skull-shaped, gas-filled canisters at the end of her hair don't seem very practical, and her minder certainly didn't get his physique without a significant anabolic boost.)
Batman is reacclimating to his role here after some time away, trying to find the right balance between being the good kind of violent vigilante and "crossing the line" into darkness. Gotham has seen some changes as well; there's a mayoral election that Jim Gordon temporarily gets involved in, and his estranged wife even becomes the new police commissioner for a few issues! Batman also goes on the road, taking in the swamps of Louisiana with Killer Croc, visiting a murderous circus (is there any other kind in graphic art?) and discovering a classic Inca city that's been hidden from the rest of the world for hundreds of years.
Kelley Jones' art here isn't to my liking; it's pretty extreme, with lots of tortured poses and gritted teeth. It's a bit much, although I did enjoy how Jones makes Batman's silhouette more animalistic than I've seen it, all cape and ears.
In short, I didn't read these comics when they first came out, and they didn't do much to make me recommend them now. But if you have some nostalgia filtered in, they could probably be fun.