Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: NEW GODS SPECIAL #1

Image © DC Entertainment.

As part of their tribute to Jack Kirby’s 100th birth anniversary, DC is putting out new books featuring his Fourth World characters. This one features Orion versus Kalibak in the main story, with supporting roles for Lightray and the Bug, Forager (also in a new series) written and pencilled by Shane Davis, inks by Michelle Delecki.. The backup is a story of young Orion and Seagrin (Kirby’s Aquaman, sort of) written and drawn by Walt Simonson, and eight pages of Kirby New Gods reprints.

Davis’s main story reads like something Kirby might have written, except that it’s a retread of things he did write in the original NEW GODS series for the most part. Entertaining enough, but it misses the most essential Kirby element: breaking new ground. The art has many Kirby touches, and several visual homages like the sound effect KIIIRRRBBRACK! The figure work is more along the lines of Jim Lee and other Image Comics artists, though.

Simonson’s backup story is more original and fun, as Walter doesn’t fail to add touches of humor to balance the action and fighting, and the art, while referencing Kirby, is Simonson’s own style, itself full of energy and grace. John Workman’s lettering is part of the Simonson look, and equally fine.

The Kirby material is fairly obscure: two pinups and two very short stories featuring the New God Lonar. Even so, the unique style and energy of Kirby tends to show up much of what came before (even with Vince Colletta inking).

Not a bad package, but with more appeal to nostalgic fans of the original material than new readers, I’d say.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN & THE GL CORPS #15

Image © DC Entertainment.

As the Quest for Hope storyline continues, Green and Yellow Lanterns are being paired and sent out by Stewart and Soranik (head of the Greens and Yellows respectively) to track down and either recruit or imprison the remaining rogue Yellow Lanterns. This creates some friction, but not as much as the fact that the three other Earth-born lanterns: Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner, have snuck off on their own missions. Hal and Kyle are trying to find and perhaps rescue Saint Walker, the embodiment of Hope, or the Blue Lanterns. Guy is after a particularly dangerous Yellow.

This all reads well, and the character stories are as interesting as the fights. Writer Robert Venditti seems to be having fun with the DC mythos, and I love the inclusion of the old Julie Schwartz-era minor character Space Cabby. The art by Ethan Van Sciver is impressive, and this book is fun from one end to the other.

Recommended.

Rereading: THE TWELVE AND THE GENII by Pauline Clarke

This excellent book had different titles in the UK (left) and the US (right). By either title it’s a gem.

Max and his family have moved to a new home, but an old house in rural northern England not far from Leeds. Max discovers a hidden treasure in the attic, a set of twelve wooden soldiers, clearly very old, worn, and much loved. To his great surprise, as he plays with them, they begin to come to life. Each has a name, rank, history and distinct personality, and they treat him as a sort of god, or genii, as they call him. Max learns they once belonged to four other genii, he guesses children like him, who created elaborate stories and adventures for them. Somehow that creative energy brought the wooden soldiers to life.

Max’s sister Jane discovers the secret by spying, but soon joins in the game. Max’s older brother Philip is more interested in the possible value of the toys, especially when he hears that a wealthy American is offering a large reward for any set of similar toy soldiers found in the area. The American is looking for the soldiers once owned by the Brontë family in nearby Haworth. The four Brontë children; Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Ann, wrote extensive stories about “The Young Men,” as they called them, a prelude to the literary fame and careers of the three Brontë sisters. Philip, Max’s older brother writes to the American to say they have such a set of soldiers, and Max is furious when he finds out. He explains the danger to the Twelves, and they decide on their own they must make a dangerous journey to their old home, the Haworth parsonage, now the Brontë Museum, where they will be cherished and protected from being taken overseas.

Not even Max is witness to their escape from the attic and the beginning of their journey, but he and Jane soon figure out what is happening, and help the soldiers along when they can. Still, the Twelves must face many perils in the oversized human world, from automobiles that want to squash them to people who have heard of the reward and want to capture them and collect it themselves.

This is a great story full of imagination and literary relevance. When I read it in my own childhood, it led me to fine books like Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre,” and Emily’s “Wuthering Heights,” as well as biographies of the talented but tragedy-prone family. It won Britain’s Carnegie Medal in 1963. I recommend it highly.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS 16

Image © DC Comics.

One thing I enjoy in comics I read is balance. A balance of serious and humorous, plot and character moments, action and ideas. Gaining balance is difficult, and not often achieved, but writer Sam Humphries gets it right in this one for me.

Simon and Jessica, Earth’s newest GLs are on assignment with Batman in Gotham City for this storyline, to combat a new threat. Ordinary people are becoming obsessed with the idea of killing Batman. Simon Baz thinks The Scarecrow is a likely culprit, but Batman thinks it’s Yellow Lanterns. Guess which of them is right? As Jessica Cruz puts it, “He’s the detective.”

The interactions between these three characters as well as Batman supporting cast members Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, is handled brilliantly. I loved the insights, the humor, and even the clever plot moving the story forward. This is great comics. The art by Neil Edwards, Lay Leisten and Keith Champagne is excellent, too, as is the color by Blond and the lettering by Travis Lanham. Well done, all. Looking forward to more.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE SHADOW #63

For a number of years, Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books has been putting vintage Shadow pulp stories and related material back into print, and Tony was kind enough to give me this one a few years ago. I’ve just read it.

Many of the Shadow stories were written by Walter B. Gibson, but prolific as he was, he couldn’t do them all. The first of these, “The Wasp Returns” is written by Gibson, the second, “The Devil’s Paymaster” is written by Theodore Tinsley, who also worked on a similar pulp, “The Spider.” I found the Tinsley story, first in the issue, to be the more interesting of the two, as it takes The Shadow to some unusual places and activities, including underwater. Both stories are heavily plot driven, and each plot is quite complicated, with lots of twists and turns, unusual inventions or death devices, many characters whose allegiance is not always clear, or is subject to change, and lots of suspense, danger and thrills. In both these stories, one gets a fuller picture of the man whose major role is that of The Shadow, but who has other lives and roles as well.

The Wasp, the adversary in his story, is an attempt to give The Shadow a worthy adversary who is just as clever and strange in his own way. It didn’t always work for me, The Wasp seems almost too strange to believe in at times, but his plans are quite clever. Some of The Shadow’s many helpers and agents appear, but none gets a lot of story time, most of the focus is on the villainous gangs and bosses and The Shadow himself. There are the obligatory elements such as a visit to The Shadow’s hidden Sanctum, his ability to appear and disappear mysteriously, his chilling laugh, and his blazing guns, all drawn from the original radio show.

Also here is a script from one of those shows with a plot involving comic strips. With a foreword by Michael Uslan and additional material by Will Murray and Anthony Tollin, this is a nice package for pulp fans, and a worthy series.

Recommended.