Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: AQUAMAN ANNUAL 2

AquamanAnn2

Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Aquaman and Wonder Woman team up to deal with a group of dangerous creatures recently released from an ancient Atlantean prison, as seen in AQUAMAN 29 & 30. Why Wonder Woman? They’re creatures connected to Greek mythology, perhaps in somewhat minor ways, but it works as a story with lots of action in a Ray Harryhausen tradition: heroes vs. monsters. The monsters themselves have individual personalities and talents, and they’ve used them to set up headquarters in a medieval castle in France, mind-controlling the locals to act as their servants and energy source. Diana and Arthur infiltrate, are discovered, and the battle is on.

A second story teams Wonder Woman with Mera, tracking down another group of the creatures on a remote island. I actually liked this better, and the art by Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez is excellent. It’s all fun in a summer reading at the beach sort of way.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL 3

TECAnn3

Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Annuals represent extra work for a book’s creative team which they may or may not have time for. Most often the writer does, but the artist does not. In the case of the team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, both work on the story, but Manapul does the art, Buccellato does the dialogue and colors, so it’s a more welded team than usual. For this annual, Buccellato does the writing alone, the art is by three guys, Werther Dell’edera, Jorge Fornés and  Scott Hepburn. I was curious to see how I’d like it. As it happens, I liked it a lot. This suggests Buccellato has a good handle on the writing.

While the story could stand alone, it does continue from the regular title, focusing on the drug Icarus. I’m not fond of drug trade stories, but this one has lots of interesting characters and complications. Batman is trying to track not only drug shipments but illegal weapons, all probably in the hands of a street gang making moves for power. Among them is a tough guy with a son who provides a lead for Batman, and another young man who plans to make one more big trade, then move on with his girlfriend…if he can avoid the temptation of the drug itself. Several story threads lead to a big confrontation between Batman and the drug lord armed with very powerful illegal weapons.

The art is in three individual styles, which is a little distracting, but they’re close enough that it didn’t pull me out of the story much. In all, this was well done.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HAWKMOON: THE RUNESTAFF by Michael Moorcock

HawkmoonRunestaff

Image © Michael Moorcock.

I’ve now completed the quartet of books I’ve been reading over the last few months, all on my iPad or phone, featuring swordsmen Hawkmoon and D’Averc, warlord Count Brass, Hawkmoon’s lady love Yisselda, and on the opposing side the very evil version of the British Empire, Granbretan, its King Huon, Baron Meliadus, and Lady Flana, among many other characters.

It’s a very rigidly plot-driven story. So much so that when, in the beginning of this book, Hawkmoon tries to change the “fate” decreed for him by the ever manipulative Runestaff, he is driven back to the correct plot course by a huge storm. The Runestaff itself proves to be unimpressive, though it apparently controls everyone in the story to some degree. I’d call it a stand-in for the author himself. There’s lots of fighting, treachery, sorcery, scheming, betrayal, slaughter, and treachery, as well as a fair amount of bravery, cleverness, luck and skill on both sides. The final battle in the streets of Londra (London) is epic, but I found I wasn’t much moved by it, or by the fates of some characters I’d been following through four books. It all seemed too planned, too regulated by the dictates of the plot. Moorcock crafted a story here which kept me turning the pages, and offered many interesting characters, but after the first book most of the emotional involvement seemed to fade. Yes, it’s inventive in some ways, but too predictable in others. I was rarely surprised after the first book of the quartet.

I will probably try other Moorcock fantasy novels in the future, but I can only mildly recommend this group.

And Then I Read: SUPERMAN 33

Superman33

Image © DC Comics, Inc.

This title is reminding me what I like about the writing of Geoff Johns. It’s when he has a free hand to re-imagine characters I’ve known for years, without distractions like super-teams, crossover events and world-ending disasters. His vision of Superman and surrounding cast is charming, clever and engaging. Further, we get to see Superman’s world through the fresh eyes of Ulysses, a new super-character who has just returned to Earth after a long exile. It’s fine writing and great reading. As for the art, I’ve now fully adjusted to the style of Romita and Janson, and it no longer distracts me at all from the story. I like it. I can’t say it’s my favorite version of the characters by any means, but it works fine for me.

Oh, and I wonder if it’s a coincidence that this version of Superman’s logo is very much like the one used on the first Superman movie? Perhaps not.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: G.I. ZOMBIE 1

GIZombie1

Images © DC Comics, Inc.

I’m not generally a fan of war comics or zombie stories, but I had to check this one out. First, the book’s logo appealed to me. STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES had a decades-long run at DC beginning in 1952.

GICombat1

G.I. COMBAT, which the main logo parodies, also began in 1952 from Quality Comics, then from DC after they bought the title in 1957. I appreciate the nods to the past, and the twist that makes it work for today’s audience, even if the cover scene never appears within.

Inside I found what is not really a war story, at least not yet. It is a zombie story, though it takes a while for that to become clear. What we do see is a feisty young woman bravely taking on some dangerous-looking bikers in a seedy bar, gradually winning their trust, and taking part in a vicious interrogation of a federal agent. Beyond vicious, really. When the information they want isn’t forthcoming, she even offers to dispose of the evidence. It’s a nice piece of writing, and Scott Hampton’s art is a delight to see, as always, even if the occasional gore doesn’t appeal to me. If you’re looking for something different, give this a try.

Recommended.