And Then I Read: BATMAN ’66, THE LOST EPISODE

Bat66LostEpImage © DC Comics, Inc.

The Batman TV show of the 1960s is something I enjoyed as as kid, but even then I knew it was being played for laughs, which I found disappointing, as I thought of Batman as a more serious crime fighter. I’ve tried watching it more recently, and it doesn’t work for me at all now. I haven’t read the comic series based on the show, but the lure of a Harlan Ellison “lost episode” adapted by Len Wein and José Luis Garcia-Lopez was too tempting to pass up.

Under a cool Alex Ross cover, the book looks great, and reads well enough, but in the campy humorous style of the TV show, which I still don’t care for. Even the wonderful drawing was not enough to make me love this comic, I’m afraid. The story is slight, filled with references to the number 2, and even has comic relief in the form of “Aunt Harriet,” who I’d forgotten, mercifully. The action sequences are about the best thing here, and of course they’re much better than anything on the show. Padding out this book are complete scans of the pencils by Garcia-Lopez and the original story pitch by Ellison.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK Vol. 2

Graveyard2Image © Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell.

There isn’t a lot I need to add to my review of Volume 1 of this excellent adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, but I’ll see what comes forth. First, why two volumes? Probably a marketing decision, it’s probably easier to sell a $20 book and then later another $20 book with a guaranteed return audience than to sell a $40 book up front. I imagine it will come out in one volume eventually and sell more copies. I’m all for that, and the probable trade paperback version or versions as well.

This volume contains only three chapters, 6 to 8, but Chapter 7 is at least half the book, and presents the meat of the story: the confrontation between Bod Owens, raised in the graveyard by ghosts and other spooky creatures, and his intended murderer, The Man Jack. It’s action-packed and wonderfully staged and written. Russell’s work on this project is twofold: an excellent script adaptation of the novel, and pretty detailed layouts for every page. Chapter 7 is finished by Scott Hampton, whose style and approach to comics art is noticeably different from Russell’s, but it still works wonderfully. Hampton adds lots of depth, atmosphere and texture with gray washes that brings realism and a seriousness that helps the story. Chapter 6 is by David Lafuente in a somewhat manga-influenced style, and Chapter 8, the finale, is by Russell with Kevin Nowlan and Galen Showman. Russell’s layouts hold everything together. If you haven’t read any of his adaptations of Gaiman works, this is a fine place to start.

Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: LITTLE NEMO, RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND 2

NemoReturn2Image © Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez & IDW.

This issue the new Nemo finally gets to spend a lot of time in Slumberland at the court of King Morpheus, where’s he prepped as the new playmate for the King’s daughter, a role Nemo is not too happy about. Writer Eric Shanower has fun with the bureaucracy and silly customs of the court in this amusing sequence. Then Nemo and the princess tour the royal gardens and Flip, the irreverent rascal shows up and does his best to interfere, but Nemo, whose real first name is Jimmy, seems to like Flip better than the Princess, leading to more trouble for Slumberland. The art on this book is fantastic, full of wonderful architecture and amazing animals, people and plants, not to mention tons of delicate detail. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez does original Nemo creator Winsor McCay proud. The story is light and somewhat fluffy, but so were the stories in the original strip, so I suppose that’s fair enough. Since this comic offers a longer narrative format than a Sunday comic strip, a more involving story could make it even better, but it’s a fine read and a visual treat.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: JUSTICE LEAGUE 36

JL36Image © DC Comics, Inc.

With Ebola in the news last year, a storyline about a super-virus seems inevitable, but Geoff Johns adds a nice twist by tying it into DC history. It’s the “Amazo” virus, after the early silver age villain who could absorb the powers of any super-hero. In the case of the virus, it not only infects, it gives some kind of unpredictable super-power to the victims, which makes them much harder to deal with, as you can imagine. Half the League is down with the virus, leaving Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to deal with it, and they need to find the original victim, “Patient Zero” to get moving on that. Lex Luthor is being as helpful as he can, which is only fair, since the virus came from his own labs during a break-in. Fine character writing from Johns and equally fine art by Jason Fabok.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE LAND OF MIST by A. Conan Doyle

LandofMistThis is the third Professor Challenger novel, written in 1926, thirteen and fourteen years after “The Lost World” and “The Poison Belt.” In fact, the Professor only plays a small part in it, though reporter Edward Malone once again narrates, and is sometimes accompanied by Challenger’s daughter, Enid. The two are romantically involved. Lord John Roxton also appears. The book is about spiritualism, a strong interest of the author in his later life, and seems to at times be a description of how Doyle was drawn into that interest with near-actual experiences (as described in the end notes), at times something of a tract with lectures to the reader, at times a novel with moments of melodrama and action. How much you might enjoy the book probably depends on how interesting you find the subject. I read a fair amount on it in my early twenties, so I found it worth reading, even if Doyle tends to stack the deck by making the mediums and spiritualists very sympathetic, and those opposed to them nasty and cruel. Probably the most exciting episode is the exploration of a house haunted by a very malevolent presence, which would do any horror writer proud. Challenger himself is on the side of the skeptics, and rejects everything Malone and Enid tell him until the end of the book when he finally agrees to attend a seance that has very surprising results.

In all, I enjoyed the book, though some of the lectures were a slog, and it’s not close to “The Lost World” in quality, though I think it better than “The Poison Belt.” I have two more Challenger short stories to read, written after this, to finish up. By the way, I found this book and the short stories as a free download on Amazon.

Mildly recommended.