Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes

August 1, 2020

Book Review: The Spirit Archives, Volume 1

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1 The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1 by Will Eisner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is first volume of Spirit reprints in DC's 8 year effort to reprint the entire run of Will Eisner's classic comic series. The Spirit was published as 7 pages in a 16-page syndicated comic book inserted syndicated throughout the country.

This book contains the first six months of Spirit strips. The strip start out ordinary enough with the origin of how Denny Colt was assumed dead and decided to become a masked crime-fighter living in the cemetery. There are several leaps in logic (not uncommon in Golden Age comics) but you just have to go with it.

Within the month, the strip shows signs of what it will become: Weekly installments of the Spirit began with beautiful stylized splash pages/panels. The stories took on a variety of themes from detective stories, crime melodramas, to a bit of light comedy, counter-espionage as America ramped up its defense, and even some monster science fiction. Eisner took the Spirit in all sorts of interesting directions.

The art is really top notch, particularly for the era. You not only have some eyepopping splahes, there are some great angles and so many nice touches that make the stories visually interesting.

Not all the stories work, and there's one plot arch that Eisner's unwilling to commit to. The Spirit becomes wanted for murder and is hunted by the police. However, the police make little efforts to contact him and it seems the plot point is practically forgotten some weeks, particularly as he remains chummy with Commissioner Dolan. It's summarily resolved later in a way that feels like the neglected point is just being put out of its misery.

I should also talk about Ebony White. This book was released in 2000, so there was no discsussion of the character in the intro. Ebony is very stereotypically drawn and his dialogue is also stereotypical. However, it should be noted that Eisner treats the character with respect as he shows himself to be quick-thinking, resourceful, and brave in an era when the "cowardly manservant" stereotype dominated portrayals of blacks in culture. How that balances against his appearance/speech portrayal and is weighted for the time period the stories were written will be up to everyone's individual judgment.

Regardless, these are historic strips that represent the beginning of a long and fruitful career for Eisner's creation, The Spirit.

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Published on August 01, 2020 22:32 Tags: the-spirit

July 27, 2020

Book Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Mystery Science Theater 3000 by Joel Hodgson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mystery Science Theater meets comic books as Kinga Forrester has a new plan and this one involves sending our long-suffering heroes into public domain comics to produce a comic to take over the world.

So our heroes are injected into the storylines of old comics with Tom Servo becoming a Teen Reporter, Jonah becoming the sidekick for a scantily-clad 1950s Superheroine, and Crow becoming a crypt-keeper like storyteller in some old light horror comics, while Kinga works her way into the stories to insert ads to sell Totino's Pizza Rolls (in a nod to old comic book ads), and the rest of the bots hop around doing the riffing.

This is a genuinely funny book with some great lines, as well as some new inserted dialogue making fun of the weird creative choices many of these 1950s comics make. The art is also generally quite good with fairly good likenesses of the TV characters and I think the insertion of Noah and the Robots into the comics is done fairly smoothly.

If I did have a complaint, it was that sometimes the book could be a little bit confusing with not only the inserted characters and inserted dialogue but also some robots riffing. It could be a little difficult to keep track of what dialogue from where, which seems to add a bit of unwanted confusion.

Still, there's more than enough funny to make up for it and this is a great read if you love Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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Published on July 27, 2020 22:51 Tags: mystery-science-theater-3000

July 24, 2020

Book Review: Young Justice, Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse

Young Justice, Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse Young Justice, Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lost in the Multiverse finds the Young Justice team trying to get home if home even exists as they journey through various DC universes.

This is a fun book, particularly in the first couple of issues as they visit some familiar (for old fans) universes. The book does do quite a bit of character stuff and eventually brings all the Wonder Comics characters together at the end, while leaving a big cliffhanger and many questions for the future.

While it's a bit padded at times, this is still a really fun book that leaves me wanting more.

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Published on July 24, 2020 22:11 Tags: brian-michael-bendis, dc-comics, young-justice

July 21, 2020

Book Review: Robin, The Boy Wonder: A Celebration of 75 Years

Robin, The Boy Wonder: A Celebration of 75 Years Robin, The Boy Wonder: A Celebration of 75 Years by Bill Finger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book celebrates the 75th Anniversary of Robin in 2015 by dedicating a section to each Robin. My thoughts on each section below:

1) Dick Grayson:

This section leans heavily into using Robin stories that have been repinted over and over again. Including his origin, the time that Bruce Wayne lost costudy of him to scheming relatives, and that type he behaved like a jerk to a girl who wanted to be a crimefighter, and the bicentenial issue where he teamed up with Batgirl to fight a demonically powered Benedict Arnold. These aren't bad, but I've read them all before. There are two exceptions. The Golden Age Robin Solo story, "The Barton Brothers" is a nice little story where he rounds up three criminal brothers with different hooks and gimmicks. Then there's the "Robin" chapter from Nightwing Year One which is actually kind of dreadful.

2) Jason Todd:

Wa get a look at the start of Jason's post-crisis origin and we get the second half of the comic that ended with a 900 number people would call to vote whether he would die. In between, there's a story where Batman and Robin are dealing with a diplomat's son who has a nasty way of treating women and we're left question how far this Robin might go. It's a bit light and incomplete, but Todd's era was short.

3) Tim Drake:
We get the issue where Drake first put on the costume of Robin, a downbeat Robin story by Chuck Dixon, and a team up between Robin and Nighwing that allows the characters to interact.Then there's a Superboy/Robin team up in the pages of Superman/Batman that's high on action, low on character development. These arent bad, but I think you start to see the challenge of putting modern comics with a book like this. The one-shot is rear and comics are written "for the trade." So of the four stories, we have one issue plucked out of multi-part story, and two other one-shots that aren't particularly remarkable and also written by people who didn't write Tim Drake.

4) Damian Wayne:
We get the issue where Damian comes to the Batcave and thinks he's going to claim his inheritance. He's surly and insufferable, but then again, that's Damian Wayne for you, particularly in the early days. We have an issue from Superman/Batman where there's a team-up with Supergirl, which works quite well. And then we have Batman and Robin Annual #1 from 2013 by Peter Tomasi in which Damian gets Batman to take a vacation in Europe and lays out a trail of clues leading him to reconnect with his family heritage while Damian dons the cowl in Bruce's absence and tries to hide it. I actually love this story the most. It does a great job showing how Damian's developed and the complicated relationship between father and son. It's great work anda reminder that I really need to check out Batman and Robin by Peter Tomasi.

5) Other Robins:
This is a big fault I have with this book. To most people, Robin is either Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or Damian Wayne. Throwing in some alternate Earth versions is kind of silly and I think it would have been better to feature more stories with these characters.

"The Super-Crisis that Struck Earth-Two" barely features the pre-Crisis Earth 2 Robin and is actually the first of a two part story no tincluded in the book.

"The Dark Knight Triumphant" is a classic dark piece of comic writing from Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller, but the alternate Robin barely features amongst people talking on cable news.

"Head Games" is a throwaway story about some future robot "Robin the Toy Wonder" from the DC One Million Event.

"A Life More Ordinary" is the most defensible story for inclusion in the book as its about Stephanie Brown becoming Robin for a brief time. Even here, I think it doesn't make as much sense or carry as much weith without the context.

Overall, if you've not read a whole lot about Robin, this isn't a bad collection to check out, and there are some good stories in here, but there are also a few stories that are thrown in and some of this that just feels like its being too cute by half with its selction critera.

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Published on July 21, 2020 23:04 Tags: damian-wayne, dick-grayson, jason-todd, robin, tim-drake

July 20, 2020

Book Review: White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion

White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is set before the events of Marvel 's Civil War. In it, FBI Agent Angela Del Toro leaves the FBI after her partner is murdered and her career is on the downswing. However, she acquires the amulets that beloved to her late uncle Hector and as such becomes the new White Tiger.

This is a decent story. There's plenty of action, good art, and a nice mystery. But there's a reason why this series and the Whtie Tiger are generally forgotten. Because while we're given information on her powers, we never really get a good connection with her as a character. There are a lot of Marvel Universe cameos and that may be part of the problem. She has connections to Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Natasha Romanov, and Spider-man, Emma Frost, and Deadpool also show up for cameos in a six-issue mini-series.

Her strongest connection is to Matt Murdoch/Daredevil but because of Murdoch being in prison at this point, he doesn't appear. Ironically, that character being in the book for cameos and others absent may have worked far better.

Overall, this is not bad, but ultimately, it's just a bit forgettable.

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Published on July 20, 2020 13:43 Tags: marvel-comics, white-tiger

July 13, 2020

Book Review: Death and the Speed Force

The Flash, Vol. 12: Death and the Speed Force The Flash, Vol. 12: Death and the Speed Force by Joshua Williamson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death and the Speed Force finds the Speed Force dying, and Black Flash escaping to eliminate the users of the other Forces. The Flash, being the hero, chooses to the protect the users of the other forces even at a cost to him and the Flash family.

This story is good. I don't think Barry's ever been more heroic during Williamson's run. The stuff with the Rogues is in the background, but this comes to the foreground with the final issue to set up the next arc. I also like that Williamson does pay off stuff that he's been doing throughout the series, going back to Flash War, and that's exciting.

Probably the thing I'm most dubious about is how this works on a macro level. , particularly his handling of these new forces, but I'll withhold judgment on those points until reading the next volume.

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Published on July 13, 2020 22:17 Tags: flash, joshua-williamson

July 12, 2020

Book Review: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2

Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2 (Tales of Suspense (1959-1968)) Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2 (Tales of Suspense by Jack Kirby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 11-20 of Tales of Suspense with some pre-Marvel offerings of classic 1960s Sci Fi. I don't think the individual stories were quite as good or clever as in the previous volume, but in this Volume, Tales of Suspense began to evolve to feature one long story along with all the short stories in the magazine. Generally, these featured an evil monster of the month. These were actually quite fun with great art even if the plots were a tad predictable.

The stories were all generally good. There were text stories with each issue in accordance with federal regulations and most of these were passable (although there was one repeat.) The last one regarding a weather man was quite wild.

Overall, these were fun if you like 1960s goofy sci fi and a chance to see great comic creators before the Marvel Age of heroes was born.

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Published on July 12, 2020 17:53 Tags: monster-comics, sci-fi

July 10, 2020

Book Review: "Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin (Usagi Yojimbo, #1) Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin by Stan Sakai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Usagi Yojimbo is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals where our rabbit hero travels through Japan as a ronin, a Samurai without a master, after his master is killed prior to the start of the book.

The book is fairly episodic, with a couple stories that connect, but no big plot arc. Its just Usagi walkin across the countryside, meeting people, having adventures, and fighting people. The best way I can describe its overall tone is of a good 1950s-60s TV Western, something like Have Gun Will Travel. The series also strikes an interesting tone. It's not jokey about its concepts or treating its characters as a joke, but it also has some lighter moments and doesn't take itself too seriously.

My favorite story in here is probably, "A Quiet Meal" where Usagi sits down to a meal only to be menaced by a gang of roughnecks. He remains silent throughout but has a great payoff.

None of the stories are bad, and it all does a nice job of setting up Usagi and his world. I'm glad I read it and will definitely read more.

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Published on July 10, 2020 22:39 Tags: usagi-yojimbo

July 5, 2020

Book Review: Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning

Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning by Fiona Kai Avery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the mini-series that set up the premise of the book Araña's own series proper kicks off in this book. Having thwarted the plans of the Sisterhood of the Wasp in the Amazing Fantasy series, Anya Corozon has to thwart the Sisterhood's interim plans with the help of the Spider Society's mage Miguel. However, when Miguel is seriously wounded, she finds herself alone having to deal with an Egyptian teenage assassin brought in by the Sisterhood of the Wasp.

This is an odd book. It's set in the Marvel Universe, but you would barely know it. The only clue is a Spider-man cameo. Other than that, we're not dealing with existing Marvel villains and there's no reference to other heroes. This is practically a teen indy book and for that, it's not bad.

Anya is a likable character and she's got a decent enough if not well-developed supporting cast. The story is good. It takes up the entire six issues which gives it a chance to breathe. I do like the confrontation that happens in Issue 5 where she has to (for once) use her powers outside of the long Spider-Wasp war. The way the book turns in the last couple issues is interesting.

The Spider-man cameo may be the oddest part of the book as it's not given any set-up and little explanation. Still, this book works. It maintained my interesting and left me ready for the third volume.

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Published on July 05, 2020 21:25 Tags: anya-corozon

July 2, 2020

Book Review: Essential Captain America, Volume 3

Essential Captain America, Vol. 3 Essential Captain America, Vol. 3 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects more than two years of Captain America Comics (from 127-156) including the tail end of Stan Lee's run and then three more writers taking the helm, with the book starting off in 1970:

Issue 127 begins with Stan Lee and Gene Colan as the creative team. There's a spy in S.H.I.E.L.D. and someone suggests CAP is the spy. Fury pulls Cap's Security-clearance without speaking to him. For some reason, Robbie (from Spider-man) knows about it. It gets straightened out but brings Cap's relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. to an end (for now.) 6/10

Issue 128: No S.H.I.E.L.D., no Avengers, so Cap plans on hanging up. Throws a pity party, even almost throws the costume in an incinerator. However, when some Hippy kids are about to be menaced by a Hells Angels equivalent, Cap snaps into action. 7/10

Issue 129: Red Skull returns and he's got a plot to ignite war. It involves changing around road signs on a foreign head of state visiting the U.S. like Wild E. Coyote or some kid prankster. Disappointing. 5/10

Issues 130 and 131: This is good. Cap intervenes in some student protests. Initially, he's trying to protect kids from the cops and then the kids attack him and then they're going after a principal. There's a hooded villain behind it and he tries to use Captain America, and we get a very interesting Cap-related take on protests. Than in the next issue, the Hood seeks his revenge by finding a young man who he claims as Bucky to draw Cap into a trap. Overall, really fun stuff. 8.5/10

Issue 132 and 133: Issue 132 teases the idea that Bucky might be really back. However, as modern comic readers know, that couldn't be the case. It turns out to be an overly ellaborate plot by MODOK. We learn that as part of this plan MODOK obtained the support of Doctor Doom by literally telling him, "I bet you couldn't make the thing I want." And it only take that for the most evil supervillain in the world to do MODOK's bidding. That's silly, but the second issue is much better, leading to a confrontation and setting up the Falcon as Cap's Partner. 7.5/10

With Issue 134, the book becomes Captain America and the Falcon, and the two are officially a team which continues through the rest of this volume and into volumes to come. This story finds them helping out Sam Wilson's nephew who is following among bad companions. It's the type of thing that would be addressed in DC's Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Lee does it in a more earnest sincere way that's not so cloying and smug. Rating: 8/10

Issues 135 and 136 feature Cap and the Falcon meeting with S.H.I.E.L.D. and then having to battle a mad scientist who turns himself into a gorilla as part of a plan to impress a woman. Cap falls down a big hole which leaves the Falcon on his own which gives us a chance to get a sense of his character. Gene Colan does a great job in this drawing the Moleman. I don't know of anyone who captured it better. 8/10

Issues 137 and 138 is a meet-up with Spider-man as they track down the villain from 134 who is up to no good. Initially, because Spidey is wanted by the police, the Falcon is trying to hunt him down to prove he can be an equal partner to Cap. 138 sees John Romita take over the art chores which does really help with the Spider-man stuff. While some might question Sam Wilson trying to prove herself worthy of Cap, I actually think its legitimately good idea and you'd have to be insufferably arrogant not to have some doubts about being his partner. 8/10.

Issues 139-142 find Steve Rogers taking a job as a cop to go undercover on the force to catch a criminal who has been behind the disappearance of some police officers. It turns out to be supervillain, Falcon, SHIELD, and others get involved. Stan Lee leaves as writer after Issues 141 with Gary Friendrich taking over. A bit drawn out, but not bad and the Falcon gets to show his strength of character. 7/10

Issue 143: Cap and Falcon have to stop a race riot being fomented by a shadowy figure. This is a 34-page issue. Its's very exciting, socially aware, and with a good twist. 9/10

Issue 144: The Falcon to go solo, so that he can find himself and solve problems for "his people." This is dodgy in terms of character development given, his desire for the partnership in the first place and the fact that the partnership is only 11 issues old and even less time has passed in the Marvel Universe. 6/10

Issues 145-148: The rest of Friedrich's 7 month run on Cap has Cap on the trail of Hydra, with more focus on Sharon Carter and the Femme Force. The Falcon is reduced to a secondary character despite still being on the masthead. The Femme Force were female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. That's it. Most had no individual personalities, except for one that flirted with Cap and got into cat fights with Sharon. By the standard of it's time, it's not great, but not the worst thing written about women, even in superhero comics. However, they're not interesting at all. What is interesting is the mystery of who's behind Hydra and there are a couple of layers, and a match-up of two villains fighting I wouldn't have expected. Overall, didn't much care for this direction, so I'll give this one 6/10

Issues 149 and 150: Gerry Conway (Sal Buscema as artist) takes over and we have Nick Fury throwing a massive hissy fit over Cap's decision to not join SHIELD, and he's kicked out (even though all he's done is help Nick on missions) and further Nick forbids him from seeing Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) The policeman gig comes back. While Falcon and Cap are still technically not working together, the case draws them together as they deal with Batroc who thinks he's been hired as part of a typical kidnap-for-hire plot but his honor is offended when he finds out its something worse. This is pretty good.7/10

Issues 151 and 152-They quickly get involved in a battle with the team of Mister Hyde and the Scorpion. Sharon is kidnapped. Cap punches Nick Fury, which is good because someone needed to. 7.5/10

Issue 153: Steve Engelhart's first issue. Cap and Nick Fury have it out. Turns out Nick's been being a jerk because the woman who flirted with Cap was "his girl." Sharon resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. because she's tired of Fury's garbage (when did this become a soap opera?) Fury decides to give her leave instead and offers to talk about her future when she gets back from vacation. Meanwhile Falcon stalks a threat who will come up issue. A little dumb, but provides some good set up. 6/10

Issues 154-156: This issue contains the retconning of the 1950s Atlas comics Captain America. Because Stan Lee forgot he'd brought back Captain America in the 1950s. This was a fix. I'd heard it described as turning Caps anti-Commie crusade in the comics into some sort of mental insanity, but that's not actually what this does. It implies that Cap and Bucky of the 1950s took the Super Soldier serum, fought as Captain America, went nuts, and then had to be put on ice. I take that 1950s CAP went nuts off-panel from his published adventures, which is fine. Engelhart does a good job. While this story can be taken politically, there's a lot of good character stuff he takes advantage of. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would 8/10

Overall, this is interesting book. Lee has a very distinctive take on Cap, but once he leaves, it does feel like there's a big of a struggle within Marvel as to whether Cap's going to be a secret agent or more of a street-level in New York City. This tug of war leads to some wild swings in the book. Still, there's some very worthwhile Captain America comics to read in here.

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Published on July 02, 2020 20:20 Tags: captain-america

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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