I’ve been gradually reading this handsome third volume of the complete Pogo comic strips over the last month or so. It takes me a while because, unlike some strip collections such as those for “Peanuts,” I can’t read very many pages of Pogo at a time. They’re so dense with things to look at, enjoy and understand — clever dialogue, jokes, satire, physical humor, amazing cartooning, lush inking, incredible lettering and more — that after a few pages my brain begins to feel overloaded and I start missing things. This time I decided to only read one month’s worth of dailies or three months worth of Sundays at a time. As the book covers two full years, 1953 and 1954, it took a while, but I feel I got more out of the reading experience this time. Continue reading
The final issue of SWAMP THING, at least for now, is a little sad for me, as I’ve been enjoying writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz’ run on the book a great deal. Having to wrap up a complicated storyline, this one feels a bit rushed, and it’s overlaid with a meta-fictional narration pointing out repeatedly that it’s just a story. While an interesting idea (especially when Swamp Thing finds himself literally a book), that distances the reader from events, making them seem less important, and thereby weakening the finale, in my opinion. I still enjoyed it, but not as much as I might have. Oh, and that great wide-screen cover made me think perhaps the entire issue was going to go that way. It doesn’t. Too bad. Have to give the entire series a big thumbs up, though, it’s been a great ride with lots of fresh ideas and excellent characters.
Writer Robert Venditti had a difficult assignment here. This run of GREEN LANTERN is ending, but the main character Hal Jordan is not, nor is the Green Lantern Corps. Any closure will be brief and fleeting. What happens is, he quits as Corps leader, intending to let the Corps’ recent bad name fall on his leadership, and attempts to take a kind of all-access power battery and leave with it. To do that he has to go through Kilowog, and much of the story is about that battle, and their friendship. Not a bad solution to this story problem. The art by Billy Tan and Mark Irwin is generally good, but they aren’t as convincing with civilian Hal as they are with Green Lantern Hal. In all, a pretty good read.
The first of these books, “The Princess and the Goblin,” was a favorite of my childhood nearly 60 years ago, when fantasy books were much less common, and always something I was looking for. It was written in 1872, and has a Victorian style that might deter readers today, often very sentimental and “soft,” but the fantasy elements are enchanting (in the case of the magical grandmother) and scary (the goblins), and the writing is always heartfelt and honest. Princess Irene lives in a large royal house in the mountains with a governess, a staff of servants and guards, but no family. Her mother is dead, her father is far away running the kingdom in the capital, only visiting Irene occasionally. The area is one where mining is the main job for both humans and an underground population of goblins. Irene knows nothing of the goblins, which only come out at night, but one late afternoon on a walk with her governess, they get lost, and are menaced by a goblin. To the rescue comes a miner boy, Curdie, who scares off the goblin and returns them to the royal house. Thereafter, Irene and Curdie’s lives are intertwined. Irene finds her way to hidden attic rooms where her magical grandmother lives, watching over the house in secret, and Irene is shown wonderful things, but also given difficult tasks. Curdie, in the mines with his father and others, discovers a way into the goblin tunnels where he overhears a plot to steal the princess and destroy the human mines. It’s a great story, and though I’ve read it many times, I always enjoy reading it again.
“The Princess and Curdie” is a sequel which I never liked as well, and have only read two or maybe three times before, and not for decades. This time I found it more appealing than I remembered, but it’s a political story with much less magic, and I can see why I didn’t care for it as a child. Curdie is sent by the grandmother to the royal capital, where Irene and her ailing father now both live, with a mission to set the kingdom on a better path. It’s fallen prey to evil men in high places who have taken most of the king’s power and are exploiting for their own gain. To help him, Curdie has a companion, a very strange Goblin beast, sort of a Goblin pet, but one that’s much smarter than the Goblins, and not evil. Curdie finds loads of trouble when he arrives in the capital, and his work is cut out for him even to reach Irene.
Both books are well worth reading, in my opinion, and George MacDonald’s own life story is a fascinating one, too. Friends with Lewis Carroll and other leading writers of his time, subject to many personal tragedies, and yet a loving husband and father, and a fine writer.
The conclusion of the Anarky/Mad Hatter storyline is thrilling, clever and satisfying. Batman and Harvey Bullock are both at the Blue House, the center of the case, and both are wounded. Anarky and Hatter are in a death battle, and Anarky’s minions are being mind-controlled by an unknown device that Alfred is trying to pinpoint from afar. The close quarters in much of the story add to the suspense, and coming together of all the plot threads and deadlines in one action-packed issue makes for great reading. The art is excellent too. Fine work by Manapul and Buccellato. The wrap up is equally satisfying. Well done.