More Great Comic Books!
Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately. That list was just scratching the surface! Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series. In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy. Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero! Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY. Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness. The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off. Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man! Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic. Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages. I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves. Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!). My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente. Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month. Breathtakingly gorgeous art by Jae Lee combined with a wonderful epic fantasy yarn by Peter David & Robin Furth (working with Mr. King) make this a compelling comic book indeed. Large amounts of extra credit for the terrific back-up features. In addition to the main story, each issue is filled to overflowing with lengthy text-pieces that flesh out the extraordinary world that Stephen King created, interviews with the various creators involved with the book, and lots more. (My only complaint is that Jae Lee was absent for the most recent mini-series, The Fall of Gilead, and the book was not the same without him. I’d have preferred that they delayed the release of that mini-series so that Mr. Lee could have illustrated it, maintaining artistic continuity across the entire series.)
Batman and Robin — Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s latest partnership is this bizarre, violent, madcap new take on Batman and Robin. But this isn’t the Batman and Robin that you might be familiar with. Following the recent dramatic upheavals in the DC universe status quo, former Robin Dick Grayson has taken the mantle of the Dark Knight, with Bruce Wayne’s long-lost son Damian (who Bruce fathered to Ras Al Ghul’s daughter Talia in the long-forgotten but recently returned-to-continuity graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon from 1987 by Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham). The characterizations and plot-lines don’t quite jive with what’s happening in the other Batman titles these days, but who cares. Mr. Quitely’s gorgeous, distinct illustrations have always served as the best conduits for Mr. Morrison’s out-there storytelling, and this book is no different. My complaint, as with the Dark Tower series, is about the shift in artists: already we’re having fill-in artists after only three issues?? Sheesh!!
Batman: Streets of Gotham — Speaking of Batman, I’m also thoroughly enjoying this book written by the great Paul Dini (one of the key creative forces behind Batman: The Animated Series, which stands in my mind as my favorite version of Batman in ANY media) and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Nguyen since his great run on Wildcats 3.0 with Joe Casey, and his work here is absolutely stellar — from the wonderfully evocative water-color covers (issue #4’s cover featuring the horrifying Mr. Zsasz was a particular stand-out, though shame on whoever is responsible for the placement of the logo which makes it very difficult to see that Zsasz is standing under a silhouette of Batman) to his stylized work on the interiors.
Doom Patrol — Full disclosure: my friend Liz Gehrlein edits this book, and she’s the one who encouraged me to sample this new series (which I might not otherwise have picked off the racks myself). I’m quite glad I gave it a try. It’s got a sort-of retro feel filled to the brim with classic comic book super-hero escapades. In contrast to the “decompressed” storytelling that has become very popular over the last several years, each issue so far has been jam-packed with exciting story. Extra props for the magnificent Metal Men back-up feature that reunites two extraordinary talents: Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire.
Superman: Secret Origin — I wasn’t sure that I would be interested in yet another take on Superman’s early years, but Gary Frank’s terrific cover prompted me to pick up issue #1, and I’m glad I did. Mr. Frank’s art is, of course, spectacular. He is able to combine really emotive faces with extraordinary detail in his rendering of people’s clothing, cars, and other background details. I also found myself intrigued by the way writer Geoff Johns mixes and matches various ideas and iconography from various different versions of Superman. There’s the crystalline Kryptonian technology from Richard Donner’s Superman movies; there’s the endearingly pre-Crisis look to the spaceship that brought Clark to Earth; there’s the heat-vision-as-metaphor-for-puberty idea from Smallville; there’s the depiction of Krypton as being divided up into various guilds that has been a big part of the New Krypton stories running through all of DC’s current Superman titles over the past year; and, of course, there’s the last page, which firmly establishes that young Clark took on the identity of Superboy while still living in Smallville. (The only bit of cheese in this big melting pot that I wish had been left out? The Gregory Peck-looking Jor-El from Adam Kubert’s run on Action Comics with Mr. Johns from 2007. Mr. Kubert is a magnificent artist, but that version of Jor-El never did it for me.) Still, a really enjoyable debut issue, and I eagerly anticipate the rest of the series.