Trade Post Quick Hits: Flex Mentallo, Severed, Justice Society Returns & Grayson

trade pile 8-26-15As you can see from the photo above, I’ve read a lot of random trades lately. Here are a few of them and my thoughts!

flex mentallo Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery (DC/Vertigo)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely
Collects Flex Mentallo #1-4

For years, Flex Mentallo was one of those holy grail kind of comics, up there with Miracelman when it came to un-collected books that you’d probably never get to read. Thankfully, most of those comics have found their way into the trade paperback format in recent years, which is pretty amazing as a guy who used to read Wizard and wonder about these amazing-sounding, heady and possibly dangerous books that someone didn’t want me to read (in this case, the family of Charles Atlas).

Not long ago, I scored this trade at a flea market for a five spot which practically made me squeal. By the time I finally sat down to read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s mind-bending tale of a strong man hero trying to find his way in a world that knows him as a fictional character is just amazing. Like many of Morrison’s more out-there books, this isn’t he easiest one to read or follow, but if you stick with it, there’s something really special being said about not just the iconic characters we all know and love but the people who create them and even those of us who simply read them.

I can’t imagine actually reading these issues as they came out because I would have been totally lost. With this script, Morrison developed a layered story with a variety of characters on different levels who all wind up intertwined by the end. It’s really a fantastic piece of work that Quitely is more than a match for with his unique style, layouts and facial expressions. After reading this one, I felt a little short of breath, a lot blown away and eager to give it another read in the not too distant future.

severed TPB Severed (Image Comics)
Written by Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft, drawn by Attila Futaki
Collects Severed #1-6

After reading and writing about Scott Snyder’s work on Batman and The Wake, I just had to go back and re-read the first of his comics I ever encountered. I actually interviewed him and his longtime friend and co-writer Scott Tuft on the phone for CBR about this miniseries back in 2011. As it turns out, I also did a post for CBR about the Five Creepiest Moments in the book (that I don’t remember writing, to be honest) from just the firs three issues.

This book revolves around a young man trying to find his biological father in 1916 only to come across a mysterious and evil being he and his traveling companion Sam come across. I’m not going to go any further into the story details because I think any fan of horror comics should give this a read with as little information as possible. The twists and turns are incredibly well plotted and the characters feel like full, living beings who you feel protective of. Severed is actually one of the few comics that gave me a fright thanks to the increasing dread and danger created by Snyder and Tuft as well as the perfectly styled and rendered panels by Futaki. I love Snyder’s DC work, but this makes me wish he would just go crazy and do more creator owned books going forward. Which reminds me, I’ve got to read Wytches, stat!

the justice society returns The Justice Society Returns (DC Comics)
Written by David Goyer, James Robinson, Chuck Dixon, Geoff Johns, Ron Marz, Tom Peyer & Mark Waid
Drawn by Michael Lark, William Rosado, Eduardo Barreto, Scott Benefiel, Russ Hdath, Aaron Lopresti, Stephen Sadowski, Peter Snejbjerg, Chris Weston & Peter Grau
Collects All Star Comics #1-2, Adventure Comics #1, All-America Comics #1, National Comics #1, Sensation Comics #1, Smash Comics #1, Star Spangled Comics #1, Thrilling Comics #1, Golden Age Secret Files #1 & JSA Secret Files #1

I appreciate the fact that many people aren’t interested in reading the adventures of geriatric superheroes as chronicled in books like JSA. However, I’ve always been a huge fan of how shared comic book universes can refer to and integrate long-ago heroes in the modern day. That’s what David Goyer, James Robinson and Geoff Johns did with JSA and that’s what I loved about that book.

The throwback issues collected in The Justice Society Returns! however feature those characters as they were back in the old days when they were simply heroes trying to do the right thing instead of paragons of virtue. The idea here is that the whole team faces a threat in All Star Comics #1 and then they split into groups of two to take on the bad guy’s lieutenants in each of the one-shots (just like they used to in the old days) before coming back together in #2 to kick his sorry butt.

As you can probably guess, I love this book because it features these characters I have a deep affection for, but also because the writers and artists integrate real history and DCU history into these issues that convey a simple, but true fact: war is hell, but sometimes it needs fighting.

grayson volume 1 agent of spyral Grayson Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral (DC Comics)
Written by Tim Seeley & Jeff King, drawn by Mikel Janin
Collects Grayson #1-4, Grayson: Future’s End #1 and Secret Origins #8

After reading and enjoying fellow Batman spinoff books Gotham Academy and Batgirl, it seemed fitting to move on to Grayson, the spy-themed take on the former Robin and Nightwing as he continues his adventures in the New 52 Universe after being outed during an event I didn’t read.

So, these days he’s hanging out with a group called Spyral that’s…gathering body parts that somehow reveal the identities of the world’s superheroes? Honestly, I don’t know if I missed a specific panel or word balloon or something, but I found the actual point of their missions incredibly difficult to pinpoint.

Still, I’m a sucker for any kind of spy organization the implants hypnotic devices that make observers unable to remember agents’ faces. That’s just plain cool! As are the missions that Grayson and his partner Helena Bertinelli go on. How is she not the same character from Huntress, though? Was that an Earth 2 thing and I didn’t know it?

The New 52 is far from new these days and I’ve read a lot more books from the initiative than I’ve written about here on the site. A lot of them just left me flat and I don’t want to spend my time writing about things I don’t like. In the process of going through all these different books, though, I’ve realized the line for me when it comes to New 52 projects: if a character I loved from the old reality is too vastly different these days, I’m probably not going to be able to get into it. Even though Scott Snyder’s Batman goes a lot of different places than other volumes, there’s still a Batman at the heart of the stories that I recognize. I can’t say the same for the Superman stories I’ve read (though much of that boils down to the fact that I have specific preferences and views of what that character is prefer to see those reflected if I’m going to spend my time with a comic). Luckily, Grayson captures the core of Dick’s character — that of the brazen, brave hero that didn’t really need to get out from behind Batman’s shadow because he already shone brighter than most of the adults in the game. That’s the guy seen in Grayson and I appreciate that.

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