And Then I Read: AQUAMAN 40

Aquaman40Image © DC Comics.

One thing the recent changes to the DC line have caused is a reason for some titles to come to an end, and give readers a sense of closure. This works better for AQUAMAN than a few other titles I’ve read lately. While I’m sure there will be a new Aquaman comic in the future, this run ends here, and in a satisfying way.

Much of the issue is a battle between fire and water, something that has worked in comics since the golden age fights of The Human Torch and The Sub-mariner, and it makes for effective visuals and conflicts. The Maelstrom storyline comes to an end with Aquaman’s mother found, but not much personal resolution for Arthur Curry, though the very end of the book does offer him some comfort. Where things might go next for Arthur and Mera is anyone’s guess, but I’ve enjoyed this 40-issue run for the most part, and had a good time reading this issue.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: G.I. ZOMBIE 8

GIZombie8Image © DC Comics.

I’ll miss this, even though I’m not a fan of the whole zombie thing. Writers Justin Gray and Jimmie Palmiotti, and especially my old friend artist Scott Hampton made it compelling, exciting, and fun. Look, they finally let Scott do the cover on this one!

Not much point in promoting the plot or characters at this point, it’s the final issue “for now,” but I highly recommend getting the collected edition if one comes out, or pick up the back issues and enjoy them as I did.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE FABULOUS RIVERBOAT by Philip Jose Farmer

RiverboatOne type of meta-fiction that is considered a relatively new development by many readers puts a group of characters from many authors and stories together in a new book. In comics, this is epitomized by THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill. The first example I can think of in science fiction or fantasy is the novel “Silverlock” by John Myers Myers, published in 1949. In it, the title character finds himself in a fantasy world inhabited by dozens, perhaps hundreds of characters from other literery and mythical works. That book may have inspired writer Philip Jose Farmer’s “Riverworld” novels, of which this is the second. I read the first, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go” not long after it came out in 1971, but I only remembered the broad concepts, not much of the plot.

Riverworld is a mysterious future world that has been terraformed to create one very long river valley that winds in spiral fashion from one pole to the next, or so I imagine from the descriptions. On it are reborn men and women from Earth, real people from all times and places, but also literary characters from myths, legends, and stories, as in the Myers book. The protagonist is Samuel Clemens, writer Mark Twain, and his dream is to reach the North Pole of Riverworld where the truth about its creation may lie. To do that, he is determined to build a huge riverboat that he can pilot through the thousands of miles of river to its source.

As one learns in this second book of the series, his problems are immense. For one, there is no technology, no metal, and no industry on Riverworld. Basic needs such as food, clothing and “recreational” supplements like alcohol and drugs are supplied by the unknown creators of the place through devices called “grails,” set at regular intervals along both river banks. War, fighting and death are common among the many people and cultures on Riverworld, but if one dies, one is simply resurrected again, though usually thousands of miles away from where one was, interrupting any ongoing schemes or plans.

Sam has some powerful allies in his quest to build a riverboat, and soon makes dire enemies as well, who want the resources he goes about gathering and uncovering. It’s a fascinating story with many ups and downs, and a cast of characters that are quite entertaining, even though the book does not delve deeply into any of them other than Sam. It’s more of a plot-driven adventure story, but one that’s hard to put down. I enjoyed it, and I think I will eventually locate and read the rest of the series.

Recommended.

Pulled From My Files #29: URBAN JUNGLE

Ka-ZarNextImage © Marvel.

Before all comics news was readily available online, before Diamond Previews, before comic shops, one of the ways to market your comic to buyers was the “Next Issue” blurb at the end of each story or issue. Some of the best letterers like Gaspar Saladino made an art of it, creating intriguing graphics that urged readers to come back for more, and of course it was also the writer’s job to intrigue those readers with enticing “copy,” or promotional text and titles. By the time I was lettering KA-ZAR for Marvel Comics in 1997, next issue blurbs were no longer a very important selling tool, but writer Mark Waid still liked to write them, and I still liked lettering them, so we did. Here’s one I’d forgotten, I saved photocopies in my files so I could reuse the title. Not sure how many times I reused it, but probably at least once. It’s not the sort of thing I’d want to do on the computer, but drawing it by hand didn’t take too long. I imagine I pencilled it, inked the ivy first, then the letters. Even so, saving a little time by reusing it made sense.

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 21

AC21Image © Juke Box Productions.

When you’ve been writing comics as long as Kurt Busiek, exploring the complete career arc of a super-hero is something that can be told with insight, wisdom and maturity. Quarrel and Crackerjack’s story comes to an end that has all those things, plus action, emotional resonance, and a villain with a cool name derived from a trilogy by Mervyn Peake I really should read again. Quarrel has a lot to deal with, including the capture and brutal exploitation of her life-partner Crackerjack that leaves him close to death. She’s already been questioning her own continued career as a super-hero, and a visit to her father helps put things in perspective. Fine art by Brent Anderson, an amazing cover by Alex Ross, and excellent work by Alex Sinclair and Comicraft on coloring and lettering. If this comic is not for you, wait a few years, it will be.

Highly recommended.