This was a fun quick read - the levels of nerditry required to appreciate the humor and intrigue of it are so vast I really can't even begin to explai...moreThis was a fun quick read - the levels of nerditry required to appreciate the humor and intrigue of it are so vast I really can't even begin to explain why it was entertaining (again, if only there were fractional stars - this was a solid 3.5) If you ever read Marvel comics in the mid-to-late 80's, and also if you like "caper" movies, this is a sparkling example of blending the two together very well.(less)
**spoiler alert** I recently decided that I should really try to buy fewer monthly comic books. For most of my life, if you wanted to read a comic boo...more**spoiler alert** I recently decided that I should really try to buy fewer monthly comic books. For most of my life, if you wanted to read a comic book story, you needed to buy the monthly issues as they hit the newsstands. Once the publication month had passed, you'd have no guarantee of finding the back issues at all, and if you did find them they would be marked up significantly in price. Reprints were unheard of except in the cases of canonized classics.
But that's all changed now. The major comic book companies reprint runs of single issues as trade paperback collections almost as soon as the last single issue drops off the new release charts, and they do it for just about everything. I'm still having a hard time transitioning to this mode for the long-running series of which I have collected dozens and dozens, even hundreds, of issues, year after year. But when a new self-contained mini-series comes out which piques my interest, I can now delay my reading gratification and bypass the single issues on the stands, waiting for the inevitable trade collection. So it went with Salvation Run.
And am I glad I waited? I suppose I am, because if this disappointment had been delivered over the course of six or seven months with such a dismal payoff, I would have been a majorly aggrieved reader, instead of minorly.
There's a valid characterization of many comic books, especially superhero comic books, as mindless entertainment. I have read thousands of them and would not argue that the majority of them are mindless. Formulaic adolescent power-fantasy escapism ... yes, yes, yes, plenty of superhero comics fit that description to a T. But when you keep reading those kinds of comics well into your so-called adulthood, it's because you've found some exceptions here and there that really rise above those common complaints. It is possible to create a superhero comic book with as much depth and resonance and meaning as you can cram into spandex and capes and explosions and plots of world domination, as in any good novel or movie.
I wish I could say that Salvation Run was one of those transcendent examples, but it's not. It's absolutely mindless, which is a shame, because it's really a winning premise. After years of supervillains running rampant all over earth, with superheroes barely containing the collateral damage, the U.S. government decides to teleport the worst offenders among supervillains to an uninhabited planet, where they can live out their natural lifespans but never again threaten anyone on Earth. It's Lord of the Flies meets the best part of every superhero movie ever: the bad guys. And the major villains are all in the mix. Lex Luthor. The Joker. Gorilla Grodd. Vandal Savage. Plus scores of others, so many that even a diehard fan like me can't quite identify them all.
And what do the writers do with this material? Diddly-squat. Salvation Run should be a great opportunity to get inside these notorious foes of the heroes and see what makes them tick when the whole rest of the world is stripped away. But instead we get an arrogant Luthor who shows up late, takes over, and masterminds the building of a device to get the villains home to Earth. We get a wacky Joker who ends up leading an offshoot tribe of villains opposing Luthor's efforts. OK, the Luthor characterization is unimaginative and dull, but the Joker set-up is just plain wrong. There's never any explanation of why any of the other villains would line up behind the psychopathic Joker, let along enough to form a small tribe. The story could have (SHOULD have) shown Joker slowly flipping out because he has no society to sow anarchy in, no squares to play head games with, no laws to break, and most of all no Batman to spar with. Instead he just becomes another petty tyrant making pithy quips.
The "twisty" plot developments are also pretty flat. At one point one of the villains is revealed as a hero in disguise, who is beaten badly but kept alive ... for reasons that never make any sense. Vandal Savage takes four women with him to a separate area where he plans to breed and build a perfect society ... a subplot which goes absolutely nowhere. Joker seems to kill Grodd at one point, but Grodd eventually shows up again doing Luthor's bidding, which is telepathically clouding the other villains' minds so they don't realize Luthor is sacrificing a half-dozen of them to get the rest home, not that you'd think the villains care HOW they get home ... yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense. And there's constant danger on the prison world, as it's slowly revealed that the world is actually used as a training ground for alien warriors, and after surviving the training death-traps the villains ultimately have to fight the alien warriors, just as their teleporter home is ready to go ... it's all just one contrivance after another to see things blow up. Bad guys vs. environment, bad guys vs. each other, bad guys vs. secret good guy, bad guys vs. badder alien guys, one mindless fight scene after another, and not mindless in a good fun way either. Mindless in a "why am I reading this?" way.
I mentioned "writers" earlier and I think that's important to elaborate on. I believe the series was originally supposed to be written by Bill Willingham start-to-finish. You'll note that's how Salvation Run is listed here at GoodReads: "by Bill Willingham". And I hear Willingham is a really good writer and I plan to check out some of his other stuff. But don't be fooled; Willingham was only able to write the first couple of issues and then some other schmoe took over. And I got the distinct impression that either Willingham didn't tell the new schmoe where the story was supposed to be heading, or the new schmoe ignored Willingham's notes, or editorial told the new schmoe to go in a different direction, or something, because the whole story goes downhill fast after Willingham leaves and it never recovers. Such a shame.
And now I will add some other graphic novels to my shelves, ones that are much more worth the time it takes to read them.(less)
Most people probably think of the movie when they think of The Crow, and that's cool because it's one of my favorite movies, largely because I love th...moreMost people probably think of the movie when they think of The Crow, and that's cool because it's one of my favorite movies, largely because I love the gorgeous look of it. Or maybe people think of the crappy sequels and crappier TV spin-offs. Or the inevitable Goth backlash. All of which is unfortunate. But really, people should think of the graphic novel first and foremost, because it is awesome. It's a simple black-and-white comic that tells a story that cuts right to my heart. I might just go home and re-read it tonight.(less)
As I got older and kept reading comics, I realized that I owed it to myself to check out Will Eisner. One of these days I will get around to his serie...moreAs I got older and kept reading comics, I realized that I owed it to myself to check out Will Eisner. One of these days I will get around to his series The Spirit, but the sheer volume of that work is fairly daunting. A Contract With God, on the other hand, is regarded as one of the first and most important graphic novels (an original work published for the first time in book format, as opposed to a trade paperback collecting a sequence of stories originally published as monthly comic books). I liked it well enough, and I certainly respect Eisner's craft a lot. The story is pretty understated - no spandex explosions here - and I usually like things with a bit more oomph, but good is good even when it's the quiet kind.(less)
Amongst fans of Batman, this is a beloved classic that really redefined who the Dark Knight is. If you've seen the movie Batman Begins, and you read t...moreAmongst fans of Batman, this is a beloved classic that really redefined who the Dark Knight is. If you've seen the movie Batman Begins, and you read this, you'll see the graphic novel's influence in lots of the elements Miller utilized.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book now seems like just another face in the crowd of works deconstructing the superhero, showing bleak futures with grimness a...more**spoiler alert** This book now seems like just another face in the crowd of works deconstructing the superhero, showing bleak futures with grimness and grit oozing out of every panel. But at the time it came out, it was a trailblazer, so credit where credit is due. Besides, of all the other books showing twilight-of-the-gods superheroics, none are as much ballsy fun as TDKR, and none have Superman fighting Batman with an assist from a one-armed Green Arrow shooting kryptonite arrows!!!(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this when I was fairly young and it might very well have been one of the first times that I realized not all comics were writ...more**spoiler alert** I read this when I was fairly young and it might very well have been one of the first times that I realized not all comics were written for little kids. There is a lot of dark stuff going down in this graphic novel. It's got superheroes in costumes, but it's also got religious zealotry, racism, infanticide ... heady stuff for a twelve-year old. Chris Claremont gets a lot of flack for overusing his pet narration phrases and pet plot devices, but God Loves, Man Kills is from early in his career when he was still taking chances, and the results are pretty compelling.(less)
I've been meaning to read this graphic novel ever since it was released, and now that I've finally gotten to it I'm happy to say that I was not disapp...moreI've been meaning to read this graphic novel ever since it was released, and now that I've finally gotten to it I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed. It's a memoir that shows the author growing up, from a little girl to a young woman, during years that happen to coincide (roughly) with the Iranian Revolution in 1979 through the first Persian Gulf War. On the one hand these sweeping events in history only affect Satrapi peripherally - her family is well-to-do and manages to avoid political persecution, she's female and can't be drafted into the army, etc. - but at the same time every element of her life and her maturation and her sense of identity (or lack thereof) becomes an emblematic microcosm of the epic events. The memoir ends up striking a fair balance between presenting an everywoman who is easy to relate to and root for, and illuminating an exotic perspective we don't get often enough in the West, the independent-minded yet patriotic Iranian woman. The fact that the story is told with both pictures and words only enhances the experience in ways both overt and subtle, and which made me wish I was reading this book for a class so I could have a few group discussion sessions to look forward to. Having read this book and Reading Lolita in Tehran, I'm becoming more and more fascinated with living experiences in modern Iran - I guess I need to go get a copy of Lipstick Jihad to complete the thematic trilogy. (less)
One of the best Superman stories ever written. Anybody who says "I don't get how Superman stories can have any tension when Superman can do anything"...moreOne of the best Superman stories ever written. Anybody who says "I don't get how Superman stories can have any tension when Superman can do anything" should be offered both volumes of All-Star Superman as refutation.(less)
Yesterday was a sick day - I was fine but my son was home sick with ear infections and I was home babysitting. While he had his afternoon nap I read T...moreYesterday was a sick day - I was fine but my son was home sick with ear infections and I was home babysitting. While he had his afternoon nap I read Terra Obscura Vol. 2. Alan Moore, you delightful crazy bastard, you. Time to fill out your section of my GoodReads bookshelves a bit more.(less)
Although this title looks like the book is in Spanish or something, rest assured I read it in English. A tip of the hat to my brother Scott for recomm...moreAlthough this title looks like the book is in Spanish or something, rest assured I read it in English. A tip of the hat to my brother Scott for recommending it. (less)
I'm enjoying reading Grant Morrison's seminal run on Animal Man for the first time, a good decade or more after every other comics fan declared it to...moreI'm enjoying reading Grant Morrison's seminal run on Animal Man for the first time, a good decade or more after every other comics fan declared it to be genius. Enjoying, but feeling somewhat underwhelmed, too. I have a feeling that the whole run needs to be judged as one long story, adn the payoffs in the end probably are what makes it a classic. The biggest thing that sticks out to me now is that the art is pretty terrible - distractingly so, especially in contrast to the gorgeous covers the single issues originally appeared under. I'll be moving on to the next volume soon enough, and with optimism. For now, Animal Man's exploits are just OK.(less)
I might have scored this book anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 stars, so for once it's actually just as well that I'm forced to use whole stars and split the...moreI might have scored this book anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 stars, so for once it's actually just as well that I'm forced to use whole stars and split the difference. The higher-end rating would come from general goodwill towards my personal preferences: Stephen Colbert in general, sci-fi in general, comics in general, sophomoric humor in general, and one specific sight gag towards the end of the book involving the Sweetest 'Stache in the Universe. The lower-end rating represents some knocks against the book for running its single-premise jokes into the ground and probably going on a bit over-long. This might have been avoided if the book had been organized differently. Originally published as monthly comic books, those newsstand issues each featured a main serialized story which continued from month to month and a backup stand-alone story. In the collection, all of the chapters of the serialized story are presented continuously, and then the backup features are presented one after the other at the end. The main serialized adventure is actually pretty slight in terms of plot, and interspresing the other random bits might have made it feel less like the same jokes over and over again. Still, the jokes all have at least a little giggle factor to them, whether making fun of sci-fi tropes or politics or non-sequitor pop culture references. Definitely a good way to while away the afternoon when home with a sick kid (who was napping at the time - the sex jokes were a bit too blatant to make good daddy-baby reading material).(less)
What would Superman's final showdown with the forces of evil look like? Lots of comics have addressed that question but Alan Moore's take in Whatever...moreWhat would Superman's final showdown with the forces of evil look like? Lots of comics have addressed that question but Alan Moore's take in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? provides the best possible answer. This is one of the all-time classic Superman stories, a rapid-fire tour-de-force of fifty years' worth of an icon's fictional history. I could go on and on, and I did, within the safe confines of my blog: Parenthetical Asides (less)