Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS 12

Image © DC Comics.

Green Lantern wanna-be Frank has been given an amazingly powerful ring of his own that accesses the powers of all the various ring colors, and can be used by anyone, none of that “chosen by the ring” required. It makes holding off Earth’s true Green Lanterns, Jessica and Simon, easy for him. In fact nearly everything is easy if it can be done with force. The problem is, Frank doesn’t know how to control the power he has, and the many emotions it’s tied to. In a way, the ring is controlling him. Becoming a true hero? Now, that’s harder. Getting people to admire and applaud him rather than fear him? Harder still. A well-told story by writer Sam Humphries and artists Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: DR. OX’S EXPERIMENT by Jules Verne, illustrated by William Pène du Bois

Dust jacket. All illustrations © William Pène du Bois.

Here’s a book I didn’t know existed but was delighted to find in a used bookstore recently. I’d heard of the humorous Jules Verne short story, and might even have read it once, but the real delight came from the wonderful illustrations by du Bois, a favorite author and illustrator of books for children in his own right. While many of his own books are mostly pictures, several are novels for older children, including the Newbery award-winning “The 21 Balloons,” and equally wonderful “Peter Graves” and “The Giant.” Though born in New Jersey, du Bois spent ages eight to fourteen in Paris, and perhaps came to love the work of Jules Verne there. Much of his own work follows similar themes of science fictional adventure stories.

In addition to the illustrations on every two-page spread throughout, the book’s unusual design gives it additional charm. You read the entire book sideways, with each spread forming a large page, as seen above. There’s an introduction by science writer Willy Ley outlining Verne’s life, and an afterword by Dr. Hubertus Strughold analyzing the science in the story.

Front cover of the book inside the dust jacket.

The story itself is only mildly amusing. Dr. Ox and his assistant Ygene have come to a small, bucolic Flemish town in mid 1800s northern Belgium where little has changed in hundreds of years, and the entire populace and their animals have become lethargic and extremely slow in every way. For instance, at the local opera house, the musical pace is so slow that it takes an entire day to perform one act of an opera. The most important men in local government are the Burgomaster Van Tricasse and his friend Counselor Niklausse who run things by doing as little as possible. Somehow Dr. Ox has convinced them to set up a new gasworks that he says will supply the entire area with gas-fueled lighting, and the plant and infrastructure is soon built, but actual lights seem to be taking a long time to arrive.

Endpapers.

As the story progresses, we find out the real “experiment” is to flood the town with pure oxygen to see what effect it might have on people, animals and plants. The effects on people are soon seen where the gas is being emitted: everyone becomes animated, energetic and soon excitable, irritable, argumentative and even violent. Animals are equally affected. Plants achieve such vigorous growth that giant vegetables and fruits are soon being produced. Eventually the town is so roused to action that they decide to declare war on a neighboring town and gather to march on it.

This is more of a social comedy than a real science fiction tale, and Verne’s ideas about humor are rather bland and obvious. The illustrations are generally more amusing than the text. The afterword by Strughold explains that, though based on ideas of the time, the science in the book is actually wrong in most areas, and oxygen, while dangerous if breathed in large amounts for long periods, does not have the effects described. I love some of Verne’s adventure stories, but humor was not his forte. I’m still delighted with this book because of all the terrific art and design.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE FLASH #14

Image © DC Comics.

Monthly titles featuring long-running super-heroes tend to head off in new directions for a while, then circle back to about where they were. That seems to be happening in this issue of THE FLASH, from the retro cover by Dave Johnson that echoes work from the Silver Age by Carmine Infantino (and even has age-darkened colors) to the theme and character lineup: the return of Flash’s original Rogues Gallery (with a few changes). On the Barry Allen side, we have Barry once again dating Iris West, and her nephew Wally West teamed with Barry as Kid Flash, though he’s rather different from the Silver Age version.

The Rogues have been gone from Central City for a while, and newer criminals have stepped in to fill the void. We see a few of them here: Papercut, Sand Blaster and Bone Dry. I have to agree with Barry’s caption commentary, the original Rogues had better names, and I would add, better powers. Not willing to let sleeping dogs lie, Barry decides to investigate the whereabouts and plans of the missing Rogues, which takes him to interesting places and people, and ultimately to what was probably their last secret hideout in Central City. What he finds there launches this story arc.

Fun stuff, recommended.

And Then I Read: CAVE CARSON #6

Image © DC Comics.

Bear with me while I try to sum up this issue, which I found confusing. First we have wealthy company head Edward Borsten falling prey to the mental dominance of the mysterious evil presence that has reached into his mind from deep below ground. Then we cut to Cave and his crew, with his ex-wife and HER people, fighting monsters in their mole car. Meanwhile Edward in his newer mole car, and HIS crew are trying to free the great evil force. When they do, it’s another monster, a gigantic one. Soon, the two groups meet and more mayhem ensues.

I have to say I like the idea of this comic much more than the execution. I’d be happier with something more along the lines of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne, exploring underground wonders, lost civilizations and creatures. We’ve had a little of that, but it’s turned into a more predictable and less interesting monster fight at this point. The writing has it’s moments, usually the quieter ones, but is confusing at times, and the art is often difficult to follow, and too cartoony when I can follow it. I think this is the last issue I’ll be looking at. Too bad, I had hopes.

Not recommended.

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY #43

Image © Juke Box Productions.

Is it possible for a character to be cute, charming and kind of creepy at the same time? That’s how Tillie Armstrong struck me as she cheerfully took control of this issue from the guy with the purple balloons. Tillie breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to us readers as she recounts the story of her own personal hero, and a super-hero, The Gentleman, her dad.

Tilley is an earnest, innocent young girl in the mold of Billy Batson’s sister Mary, and could have been played well by a young Judy Garland. Her father is everything to her, a fine man who does all the right things until his heroism brings him down. Somehow Tillie’s great love for her dad brings him back to her as, not only a protective parent, but one with super-powers allowing him to fight crime in Astro City, all this taking place in the 1940s and 1950s. How exactly she does this isn’t clear, but he seems to be a real person to everyone, even though that can’t quite be right. He’s the spooky part. Incidentally, he could have been well played by Clark Gable, as I see it.

Other stories and characters are intertwined with that of Tillie and her father, but theirs is the most interesting one. Tillie has a journey of her own coming to terms with the unique situation she finds herself in. It’s all beautifully written by Kurt Busiek and wonderfully illustrated by Brent Anderson, with Alex Ross on cover. Great colors by Peter Pantazis and letters/design by Roshell and Deschesne of Comicraft, too.

Recommended.