Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes, page 9

December 15, 2017

Batgirl, Volume 2: Son of PenguinBatgirl, Volume 2: Son of Penguin by Hope Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book features Batgirl's dealing with the son of the Penguin coming to Burnside.

What's good about this book? The art's generally fun. Barbara decides to change her major to Library Science and we actually hear why. In the Silver age origin of Barbara Gordon, it was just stated she was suddenly a librarian. Here, we get to understand why. While the author is obviously progressive, she does take a critical eye at some common progressive blindspots such as a disdain for homeless and hurting people in their communities, and a lack of consideration for what their green projects could do to harm local interests. It raises questions and does show some intellectual curiosity. I also love the subject of data mining, which is key to how the villain works in this story. The Penguin makes an interesting guest appearance. The second story in the annual where Barbara teams up with a friend she's been blowing off is cute. Barbara remains mostly likable.

What's bad about this book? Despite his cool use of data mining, the villain doesn't turn out to be that impressive particularly in how he's defeated. While I get that the author is trying to build relationships into the story, there does need to be some major threats she's facing. Barbara's dating the obvious villain is not believable. I think the author is underrating her intellect. Reading this sometimes feels like the comic strip character Cathy became a superhero. The author wasted time on giving not one, but two members of Batgirl's supporting cast having personal problems, neither of which we care about much, particularly because Barbara doen't seem to care that much. I mean they're her friends. The first story in the annual is trying to hard to be relevant and twee.

Overall, this isn't a great book. I'm hanging because I still like the character, but I hope we get a good book soon featuring her.



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Published on December 15, 2017 23:29 • 46 views • Tags: barbara-gordon, batgirl, rebirth

December 14, 2017

Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1 by Len Wein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Len Wein adapts Harland Ellison's script for a 1960s Batman episode featuring Two-Face.

This story is a somewhat typical Two-Face origin story like you might read in the 1960s. As a story, it felt like this needed to be fleshed out a bit (particularly the second part) in order to make it really feel like an episode of the TV show. That said, it's still an okay story and the art is nice to look at. It's just not a lost classic.



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Published on December 14, 2017 20:27 • 58 views • Tags: 1960s, batman, harland-ellison

December 13, 2017

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year OneWonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One by Greg Rucka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So this is Wonder Woman: Year One, Artist Greg Rucka's take on Wonder Woman's origin story. How does Rucka handle telling this oft-told tale. For the most part, this is a middling effort. The only new ground that Rucka really breaks is on Wonder Woman's sexuality on Paradise Island. Whatever you think of that decision, that's not enough to base a six issue story.

Compare this to the grandeur of George Perez's retelling in the first six post-Crisis issues of Wonder Woman. There's grandeur, style, and an almost cinematic feel to that. This? Ares shows up at the end and is quickly dispatched. The book spends too much time on fish out of water stuff, that we really don't get anything close to the feel of a Year One story.

Still, there are some superheroics, and the art is mostly good, except for some odd expressions on Wonder Woman's face. Overall, this book isn't awful, but it's not worthy of the Year One moniker.



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Published on December 13, 2017 22:29 • 50 views • Tags: wonder-woman

December 10, 2017

Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original TeleplayStar Trek: Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay by Harlan Ellison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This graphic novel is an adaptation of Harland Ellison's original teleplay for the classic Star Trek episode, City on the Edge of Forever.

First of all, the art is gorgeous. It's on the same level as Alex Ross. It does a great job recreating the original Enterprise crew in glorious detail. At the same time, there are some just stunning artistic bits in that you couldn't have done on television.

The story is a very good story. Yet, I think that those who rewrote it for the TV show were mostly right. There were some parts that would have been budgetarily challenging such as the space pirates who'd taken over the Enterprise. In a book or comic, it's easy to show that, but it complicates a TV production. In addition, I don't think Ellison quite had the Kirk-Spock dynamic in this story and the aired version did a better job capturing that.

Again, that's not to say that this one is a bad story. It might even be a better story for a generic captain and an alien first officer but not quite fitting for Kirk and Spock. Still, the story is worth a read, particularly when paired with the compelling artwork.



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Published on December 10, 2017 21:26 • 71 views • Tags: harland-ellison, star-trek

December 9, 2017

Justice League of America: Road to RebirthJustice League of America: Road to Rebirth by Steve Orlando

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Justice League America: Rebirth book sets up a new Batman led JLA. This book collects one-shot stories for JLA members The Atom (Ryan Choi), Vixen, the Ray, and Frost. The one-shots are okay. They provide the origins and DC rebirth back stories of little-known characters. Most of these just are okay. The highlight of this is the Frost storyline which has her struggling to leave the Suicide Squad even while Amanda Weller tempts her to use her powers to feed hunger just one more time.

The JLA: Rebirth story is all about gathering the team together. In addition to the four who got one-shots, the team also features Black Canary and Lobo, who are somewhat better-known figures.
Batman gives an inspirational speech about the need for heroes and his sense of a coming crisis, which is why he brought the team together. This seems reminiscent of Batman's motive for bringing together his team in Detective comics. Both teams are anchored by strong veteran female heroes (Batwoman in Detective Comics, Blacks Canary here.) Is there a common event they're dealing with or two seperate events? Or is Steve Orlando ripping off Detective Comics?

Also of note, this is the second team Black Canary's part of, the other is the Birds of Prey led by Batgirl.

Overall, this book was okay. It certainly doesn't set my world on fire by any means, but it does me curious to read the first volume to see how this team meshes together.



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Published on December 09, 2017 19:33 • 75 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, justice-league-of-america

December 8, 2017

Spider-Man: The Lizard SanctionSpider-Man: The Lizard Sanction by Diane Duane

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


The Lizard Sanction is an odd production. It's the middle book of a trilogy by Diane Duane which Simon and Schuster decided to turn into an abridged Dramatic audiobook, and might as well be a radio drama.

Having not read the underlying book, I can't comment authoritatively on the plot, but the book's plot doesn't sound bad. You've got Spider-man, Venom, and the Lizard in one story along with a gang of dangerous terrorists and a bold space exploration plan, there's bits of drama around Kirk Connors, and a hint at something around Peter and Mary Jane. The sound design is also decent with some pretty solid effects.

What kills the story are two things. First, this was recorded for CD and in order to get onto one CD, they have compress everything down to 80 minutes and this was a 300 page book. The production is full of exposition and it felt like it needed room to breathe. Even if that problem had been address, the production had another problem. There was so many listless performances. Spider-man didn't sound like Spider-man, the boy who played Kurt Connors' son was completely wooden, and the growling of the Lizard was laughable.

While it had been a long time since the Golden Age of Radio, Simon and Schuster could (and should) have done better with just a little more effort. At Random House, they did audio dramatizations of Louie L'Amour stories and those are brilliant. While Sci-fi can have some different challenges than Westerns, there's no way there should be this much disparity between products between two very large publishers.

This is a curiosity and the main thing it does do is make me curious about the rest of the series and reading the book. The dramatized version, despite some good moments, was very inepty handled.



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Published on December 08, 2017 19:20 • 62 views • Tags: audio-drama, spider-man

December 6, 2017

The Polar Treasure / Pirate of the PacificThe Polar Treasure / Pirate of the Pacific by Kenneth Robeson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book brings us two Doc Savage novels from June and July 1933

First up is, "The Polar Treasure" where Doc sets out to find a blind violinist and offer him sight-restoring surgery, but before he can do that, the man is kidnapped by pirates, and Doc and his men find themselves caught between two gangs of pirates battling over a fantastic treasure. The Polar Treasure is a Doc Savage novel at its best: There's plenty of action and daring do. There's some great plot twists, and two sets of villains. It's a lot of fun and very fast paced.

Next is, "Pirate of the Pacific," where Doc Savage takes on an "oriental gang" bent on overthrowing a nation that's supposed to be the Philippines. This book loads up on racial stereotypes and "yellow peril," storytelling, which is not only offensive to modern readers, but also makes for weaker writing. The villain's not interesting, the plot is confusing. Doc Savage is fighting a pirate who has created an elaborate infrastructure to make himself ruler of the island nation. That's not to deny that there are some good action scenes and some superb cunning, but it's weighed by the weak spots of the story.

Overall, I think the "Polar Treasure" is a five-star story and Pirate of the Pacific is a two-star story with a lot of baggage for modern day readers.



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Published on December 06, 2017 18:06 • 79 views • Tags: doc-savage

December 5, 2017

Showcase Presents: Metamorpho, Vol. 1Showcase Presents: Metamorpho, Vol. 1 by Bob Haney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book collects the entire Silver Age run of Metamorpho, the Element Man: his two tryout issues in Brave and the Bold #57 and #58, his own comic series from Issues 1-17, and Team Ups with the Metal Men (Brave and the Bold #67) and Batman (Brave and the Bold #68) and his guest starring appearing in Justice League #42.

The concept of Metamorpho was good. Rex Mason, adventurer ticks off wealthy scientist Simon Stagg, who is also the father of Rex's lady love Sapphire. As a result of an encounter with the Orb of Ra, he obtains strange powers to change his composition to various elements. He ends up working for Stagg who promises to find a cure, but really wants to keep as the Element Man to keep him away from his daughter (who Rex refuses to marry as long as he's "a freak,") and to keep Metamorpho available to do his bidding.

The set up is great. Metamorpho's powers are impressive and somewhat unique in the sheer variety of them. The supporting team set up is good. Metamorpho has two of his supporting players not really on his side. Stagg is using Metamorpho and the million-year-old Caveman Java (who Rex rescued) wants Rex out of the picture so Java can marry Sapphire. Sapphire, contrary to her shallow party girl rep stands by Rex even as Metamorpho. The art is often quite fun and Metamoprho's power set is very visually appealing. I also liked Metamorpho's dialogue. In my mind, he has the speaking voice Frank Sinatra.

So why didn't the series last longer? Well, to start with, the villains were nothing special. While Java fumed about Rex and pined for Sapphire, he didn't do a whole lot in the adventures one way or another. Most of the time, he wasn't a help to Metamorpho or a hurt...he was just there.

Still, the book was okay until Element Girl came along. She had all the powers of Metamorpho but was female. She was introduced as an experiment with reader letters determing whether she would be brought back. Before she'd come along Rex and Sapphire had decided to get married. However, she interrupted the wedding to ask Rex's help for a mission and then Rex refuses to marry Sapphire while Element Girl's out saying he's unable to choose between them. After all who among us wouldn't struggle whether to choose a beautiful woman who stood beside us while we went into a freakish disfiguring accident...or someone we just meant.

Anyway, after Element Girl stays, she becomes a very consistent Mary Sue character. The books are marked by catty interactions between her and Sapphire that essentially changes Sapphire's characterization from loving sweet kid to spoiled rich harpie. Issue 17 saw the book turn towards a new direction with Metamorpho on the run with Element Girl on their own. The book was cancelled and the cliffhanger was never resolved. Metamorpho had jumped the shark and didn't really live up to his potential.

The extra team ups are fun. The one with the Metal Men finds him having to fight them when they go evil. Their powers are quite similar, so the battle is somewhat interesting, even though Metamorpho's greater range makes him the obvious favorite. The Batman team up has Metamorpho trying to help Batman when he's changed into Bathulk by Joker, Penguin, and Riddler. This one was goofy but the same could be said of most Batman team ups in the 1960s.

The Justice League issue was actually a fairly good story where Metamorpho is named the next member of the Justice League and declines but is attacked by another being who wants to join the league-the Unimaginable. It's a nice high concept story which allows many of the Justice League's finest to show their stuff against an intriguing opponent. This is the only story not written by Bob Haney and the big downside is that Gardener Fox's dialogue for Metamorpho is a bit off. Still, this is a delight.

Overall, the book is a mixed bag. There's some snappy dialogue and fun art, but ultimately, Metamorpho's silver age series failed due to the creative team not being able to deliver stories worthy of their concept.



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Published on December 05, 2017 20:34 • 64 views • Tags: metamorpho

December 4, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino Volume 1Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino Volume 1 by Jim Valentino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book collects Issues 1-7 of Jim Valentino's run on Guardians of the Galaxy from the 1990s with the original team. The book also collects the four-part Korvac Quest which has the Guardians crossing over with the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Silver Surfer before concluding the story in their own annual.

The book gets a lot right. In general, Valentino makes the characters far more likable than when Steve Englehart was writing them in the 1970s. The first six issues comprise an epic story arc that has the Guardians hunting for Captain America's shield. The climax is interesting based on the nature of the final tests they face and the results, as well as Vance Astro giving an absolutely epic speech.

Issue 7's not that bad either. The art remain good and the story has a clever story telling method even though there's not a ton of substance to it.

The Korvac Quest is probably what makes this book three stars instead of four. It tells the story that Korvac when he apparently died, he sent his energy forward in time and the Guardians travel forward to stop it from reaching Baby Korvac. It's not bad, but it's not great. The Fantastic Four and Thor entries are okay (although with a Thor hammer wielder from the future), the Silver Surfer entry has some good ideas but feels pointless once you reach the end. Despite the title, the only portion of the Korvac Question actually written by Jim Valentino was the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual. While that story's not perfect, they do have to deal with some key dilemmas, and in terms of getting a desired result, it doesn't turn out well. It's a solid story, but taken as a whole, this four parter was disappointing.

Still, the strength of the first six issues do make me curious to check out more Guardians stuff from this author.



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Published on December 04, 2017 22:15 • 46 views • Tags: 1990s, guardians-of-the-galaxy

December 3, 2017

Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape from the Phantom ZoneSupergirl Vol. 2: Escape from the Phantom Zone by Steve Orlando

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This trade collects Issues 7-11 of Supergirl as well as material from Batgirl Annual #1.

First up is "World's Finest" (Batgirl Annual) in which Batgirl and Supergirl meet and Supergirl invites Batgirl to help her break into Cadmus and rescue a young woman with mysterious powers. This story is okay, but its hurt by being a bit too overzealous in its attempts to be cool and hip and with a throw away line of Supergirl observing, "I'm a Super Strong illegal alien. There are lots of Americans who will take any excuse to hate people like me," as her explanation for why she wants Batgirl's help. She's not illegal if she's working for a government agency and it has nothing to do with why she wants Batgirl's help. We also get a recurring theme in the DC Universe that we don't ask Batman for help for fear he'll take over and do things "his way," as if he has time to do all that. The story is okay and sets the stage for later events, but there's some dumb stuff in it.

Next up is "Mission: Mind" which finds Supergirl traveling through the mind of Lar-On, a Kryptonian afflicted with werewolve symptoms. To find out what's going on, Supergirl journeys to his mind. It's a very touchy feely sort of psychological story, but it's also really imaginative in its content and art.

"Family of Tomorrow" features a brief battle with a baddie determined to stop Kara for something she hasn't done and then she gets to hang out with Clark and the rest of the Super Family and learn some information he's gathered in other books including his recent reboot. This is a lot of fun. I love how the Super Family guest stars in so many books. They make every book they appear in better. A very nice one shot.

Finally, we have the titular "Escape from the Phantom Zone," and it's okay. Despite the presence of Batgirl, this is nothing special storywise, although there is some impressive art. Throughout much of the story, Batgirl takes the lead as Supergirl doesn't have powers, but in the end, Supergirl gets an opportunity to show the type of hero she is and just like in the first volume, it's epic, brave, and a very different approach than most other heroes would take.

Overall, this book isn't great, but it's lot more good than it is bad. The art is impressive and the character is compelling . I wish we'd seen more of Jeremiah and Eliza in this book as theyw ere so great in the last one, but this book was an enjoyable read with an admirable and noble lead.



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Published on December 03, 2017 22:01 • 55 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, supergirl

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
...more
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