I think this is the last Mark Millar project I’m going to try. He keeps putting out books with great artists that sound interesting and get accolades, but they don’t work for me. For one thing, they’re so mean-spirited. Everyone is out for themselves and violently cruel about it, or is a victim of those who are. There’s no one I care to root for. There’s no chance of a feel-good moment. It’s all the most hellish and rotten aspects of humanity given special advantages and allowed to run rampant. In this case, we have a group of elderly super-heroes who have been granted their powers many years in the past on a trip to an uncharted island. Today, they’re still trying to do good, but their children, also with powers, are complete screw-ups of various kinds that seem to do nothing but cause trouble, abuse their gifts, and/or each other, and treat ordinary people like dirt or worse. Actual super-villains seem almost nice by comparison. Can’t recommend this, pretty as the art is.
I’ve long been curious about the “Flashman” series by Fraser, and finally decided to read this first one, published in 1969. Harry Flashman was a minor character in an early British school-boys novel, “Tom Brown’s School Days,” which I liked. There he was a bully and a villain. In this book he’s no better. Worse, if anything, though as he narrates the story in his old age, at least Harry Flashman is honest about his own character failings and bad deeds. The other thing that interested me is the way the author has woven Flashman’s story into many aspects of true history. Here it’s the British army in India and Pakistan in 1839. Flashman’s role is made up, but the history is accurate, and the monumental mis-management and huge blunders made by the British was fascinating in a train-wreck sort of way. While I can’t say I liked Harry at all, he’s put through so many battles and tortures both mental and physical that by the end I had some grudging respect for his ability to survive against such high odds. If you like historical fiction with elements of bawdy adventure and sly commentary on the failings of humanity, this series may be for you. I’m not sure if I will read more, but I’m tempted.
I’ve always like Doctor Fate, especially his mystic/magical side, and writer Paul Levitz is playing up that angle here. The art by Sonny Liew reminds me a lot of the art of Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon, last seen at DC on DAYTRIPPER, and also a little of Shawn McManus, who had a good run with this character. In short, the art is loose but confident, somewhat cartoony yet covering the full range of human emotion and character acting. It’s far from the muscular skin-tight super-hero look of some versions of the character, and that’s fine with me.
Paul goes right back to the Egyptian roots of the Helmet of Fate that conveys magical power, in this case to a reluctant hero, a medical student named Khalid who really doesn’t want to be chosen. His girlfriend, Shaya, another med student, and his parents round out the regular folks cast, while on the mystic side we have Egyptian gods Anubis on the attack, and Bastet bestowing the helmet, all amid a huge storm flooding Brooklyn. Both the art and the story are a great mix of realism and fantasy without the muscles and posturing. A refreshing and enjoyable book. I’m looking forward to more.
My opinion of this series is largely unchanged by the final issue: an honest effort to adapt a Heinlein novel to comics form, but it falls short in some areas, particularly in representing the author’s voice, very important to any Heinlein work. However, this final issue did work better for me than the first two because it covers a subject Heinlein excelled at, shady family business politics, and in this case the dialogue does carry the story well. Thorby has arrived on Earth stunned by the discovery he’s an extremely wealthy and important man, the “Rudbek of Rudbek,” but soon finds he’s expected to play a figurehead role to his uncle who has held all the real power since Thorby’s parents disappeared when he was a small child. Thorby soon learns the lay of the land, makes a few new friends, and decides he has to challenge his uncle. That challenge will not be easy, but in the author’s hands it plays out brilliantly.
I do still think it’s possible to adapt a Heinlein novel to some sort of comics format, but perhaps not the traditional one. And other books would lend themselves better than this one. Still, as I say, nice try and worth a look for the Heinlein completist.
What a great cover that is. I think it’s the best ape cover I’ve ever seen, and DC used to do lots of them in the 1950s-60s. What makes this one so good, aside from the wonderful art by Alex Ross (which looks even better on the actual cover than it does on this scan), is the fact that this gorilla is NOT interacting with people in some silly way, he’s totally into his drumming, and that’s just what he obviously loves to do.
Inside, Sticks, the gorilla isn’t nearly as happy. He’s been practically forced into joining a super group, and he’s not feeling it as a career, even though he has what it takes to fight crime. It’s music that he wants to pursue, but when he tries going back to the group he joined last issue, it soon puts them in danger again. Writer Kurt Busiek has a solution, though, and it’s an excellent one. Have a read and see.