Trade Post: Hellblazer: Empathy Is The Enemy, House Of Mystery Vol. 3, & Lucifer Vol. 1

HELLBLAZER: EMPATHY IS THE ENEMY (Vertigo)
Written by Denise Mina, drawn by Leonardo Manco
Collects Hellblazer #216-222
John Constantine is one of those characters that I have a lot of love for, but don’t know if I really get the character from my limited experience (a few trades here and there, Azzarello’s run on the book and random issues while working at Wizard). It’s the same way I like the Creeper. Anyway, I’ve got a list of all the Hellblazer trades and I’m slowly checking them off the list. I got Empathy here from Swap and enjoyed myself. One thing you need to know about reading a Hellblazer comic is that, it’s completely normal to have no idea what’s happening. Constantine always runs into someone who he knew from the old days, does some vague magic and deals with some big demon or some such. That’s been my experience at least.

This time around, Constantine’s got to deal with a man who is reading empathy. After helping him, John has the sickness now which is leading him towards a Scottish cult on an island. There’s a lot of info thrown at you that will probably make a lot more sense on a second reading, something I hope to do if I ever get the whole series. Even with everything going on, the slow burn of the story allows you to think about things without ever slowing to a crawl. Mina has this great way of making everything seem important and has a knack for writing interesting side characters. And Manco might be the perfect Constantine artist. He’s got a kinetic style that makes the panels seem to almost hum with magic.

If you’ve never read a Hellblazer comic, this is as good a place as any to start. The only continuity thing I didn’t really know about was why Constantine has sworn off magic. I’m guessing it’s after a particularly harrowing encounter with a demon in a previous arc, but it’s never really explained. It’s also not really that important because, SPOILER he does in fact use some magic.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL. 3: THE SPACE BETWEEN (Vertigo)
Written by Matthew Sturges with Bill Willingham and Chris Roberson, drawn by Luca Rossi, Jim Fern, Grazia Lobaccaro, Ralph Reese, Sergio Argones, Eric Powell, Neal Adams, Gilbert Hernandez and David Hahn
Collects House Of Mystery #11-15
Boy, I hope you guys are reading House Of Mystery. I’ve been a big fan since it launched and even reviewed the second trade here. The idea is that the House of Mystery is a place outside of time that travels from different dimensions come to while traveling. Most of them can leave, but a few people are stuck there. In exchange for getting hooch and food, the patrons have to tell a story which is sometimes written by someone other than Sturges and drawn by a different artist. With the third volume, though, the ongoing story takes on a life of its own with star Fig dealing with her dad now being stuck in the House and the truth about some of the big players in the book. To make up for the lack of side stories, the 13th issue actually consists of all side stories by the likes of Neal Adams, Eric Powell and Gilbert Hernandez.

This is definitely not a good place to start reading, obviously, but I can’t recommend a comic book more than House Of Mystery. It’s good for longtime Sandman fans–yeah, it’s that House Of Mystery–, non comic book readers and people trying to check out something new aside from superhero books.

HOM is one of those books that I wait for the trade on because there’s so much going on, but that means that I’m behind. So, I’m still waiting to find out what’s going on with the huge cliffhanger at the end of this trade.

LUCIFER VOL. 1: DEVIL IN THE GATEWAY (Vertigo)
Written by Mike Carey, drawn by Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, James Hodgkins, Warren Pleece and Dean Ormston
Collects The Sandman Presents #1-3, Lucifer #1-4
I really wanted to like Lucifer. I love Sandman and am a big fan of Mike Carey’s writing, but I found the second half of this collection (the first four issues of the ongoing series) to be nearly impenetrable. Gaiman had this amazing knack for weaving these epic stories that also included regular human beings. Sometimes you’d be reading through the issue trying to figure out why the hell you were supposed to care about some blond girl and then, bam, it all makes sense. Unfortunately, in this story, Carey doesn’t have that knack.

I liked the first story enough, which showed Lucifer doing a favor for heaven to get rid of some ancient shadow gods. Like the later story, it involves a regular person getting sucked into something much bigger and it pays off. The second one though just seems to keep winding around the main story without really making it clear soon enough why I should care about this kid aside from the fact that he’s persecuted. Meanwhile, Lucifer’s dealing with a fellow fallen angel and his tarot cards of death. It just didn’t suck me in enough to keep reading so I actually quit two or so issues in. As a side note, it’s hard to tell exactly where the issues began and ended because they didn’t reprint the friggin’ covers between issues (I hate that).

Any Lucifer fans out there? Is it worth continuing on?

Trade Post: The Authority Vol. 1-5 (Plus The Monarchy Vol. 1)

2008-12-23
4:10:25 am

So, as I’m sure I mentioned before in my post about loving Wildstorm, but I recently re-read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which naturally leads into The Authority. I’m not going to get too in depth on these reviews.

THE AUTHORITY: RELENTLESS (VOL. 1)

Written by Warren Ellis

Drawn by Bryan Hitch

I really dig what Ellis started here. It’s kind of hard to remember reading these books now, but this was one of the first times we ever saw “heroes” take matters into their own hands and change the world how they saw fit to make it a better place. This trade collects two storylines, one introducing the team and pitting them against Kaizen Gamorra and his crazy superpowered kamikaze clones, and the other pitting the team against aliens from an alternate universe. That’s a lot of action in one trade. It’s also a lot of information, especially when it comes to exactly how the carrier works.

I’m not usually a big fan of Ellis’, but he really was dipping into a very cool well of ideas when he was putting this book together. But he doesn’t get too wrapped up in the small details as the big ideas are balanced pretty well with big action. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who’s not easily offended (I love how, every time Jack Hawksmoore, who may be my new favorite superhero, he knocks their jaw or head clean off, that’s awesome). My only negative is that I don’t really get what the big deal about Hitch’s art is. Yeah, he’s pretty good and there’s some killer splash pages in there, but I don’t understand why people would wait so long for him to finish Ultimates (I have no idea how late, if at all, Authority was when he was drawing it, but I’m still waiting for that last issue of Planetary…). But, again, it’s a really great book, which obviously leads into…

THE AUTHORITY: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (VOL. 2)

Written by Warren Ellis & Mark Millar

Drawn by Bryan Hitch & Frank Quitely

Warren Ellis’ last arc, which featured the creator of the Earth coming back to terraform Earth for his own fiendish purposes. Plus SPOILER, the death of Jenny Sparks (she was the spirit of the 20th century after all). Again, I’ve got to say how impressed I am by these characters that Ellis created, whether it’s Midnighter or the limited Superman in the form of Apollo to The Doctor and The Engineer. So, yeah, Jenny goes out with a bang, which leads to Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s arc, which isn’t quite as good.

This is the famous arc that has the Authority facing off against Avengers proxies. The problem is that the story doesn’t quite measure up to memory as it seems to take a really long time to get to the point (the Authority kicking the crap out of the Avengers). There’s also a pretty big jump between Ellis and Millar’s runs where the Authority become celebrities which brings up a point I want to make. In both Ellis and Millar’s arcs, things happen that are explained but never shown and it’s a little annoying. For instance, why the heck are they so famous now? We’re never really told. Is it just because Jenny saved the world? If so, they did that before and we never heard about how the general populace reacted. We’re also never really treated to much in the way of origins for The Doctor or the Engineer beyond what we’re told. I’m not the kind of reader that needs everything laid out for me, but it would have been nice to see at least a flashback or something at some point.

Anyway, this arc is still pretty cool, as the Authority does eventually kick the crap out of the evil Avengers. Unfortunately, this trade reminds me of why I didn’t like Frank Quitely until All-Star Superman. This trade has some of the ugliest faces I’ve ever seen and not just the ones that are supposed to be ugly, Shen’s particularly bad looking. There’s still plenty of interesting ideas like the New X-Men-like Hive-Mind, HeadMailing and the Avenger-like group’s invisible hideout in the middle of NYC. Volume 2 is definitely worth buying if you liked the first villain and even though Millar’s arc doesn’t quite match up to Ellis’, it’s still a valiant effort that fits well within the post-Authority Wilstorm Universe.

THE AUTHORITY: EARTH INFERNO & OTHER STORIES

Written by Mark Millar, Joe Casey, Paul Jenkins & Warren Ellis

Drawn by Frank Quitely, Chris Weston, Cully Hamner & Georges Jeanty

With Volume 3, Millar definitely steps his game up. This arc focuses on the Doctor’s drug problems along with a rogue Doctor from the 60s who’s wreaking havoc on the Earth (or something, I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get it). Wheston handles some of the art chores, which don’t even look as good as Quitely’s not-quite-there-yet art. But, the story makes up for it as we get to see the scale the Authority is working on (they evacuate the entire planet to alternate universes). I also really like how the Doctor comes back and defeats the old Doctor (this whole thing is kinda like Dr. Who isn’t it? I’ve never seen the show, but, it seems similar).

Anyway, this is another good book and we get our first look at Midnighter out of costume (at least in Authority). Apparently he’s blond (but only in this issue, as he appears as a brunette in every other out of costume appearance I’ve noticed). There’s also a few shorter stories here from other writer/artist teams. There’s an annual where Midnight and Apollo have to face off against zombie versions of their old Stormwatch teammates, a short story about the Engineer’s non existent sex life and one starring Jack Hawksmoor (love that guy). Good stuff.

THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON (VOL. 1)

Written by Doselle Young

Drawn by John McCrea

Authority #21 was written by Doselle Young as a way of spinning Stormwatch’s Jackson King and Christine Trelane off into their own world-changing group The Authority. There’s a lot of cool, Authority-like ideas in this book (and the use of Union, one of the few Image characters I have fond memories of as a kid getting comics from a grab bag), but the problem is that this trade only collects the Authority issue and the first four issues of the 12 issue series, so you don’t really get to see how things play out. Hopefully DC and Wildstorm will put the rest of the series out at some point. Oh, I also really like John McCrea from his work on Hitman, one of the best in-universe mature reader titles of all time.

THE AUTHORITY: TRANSFER OF POWER (VOL. 4)

Written by Mark Millar & Tom Peyer

Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Art Adams, Frank Quitely & Gary Erskine

And now presenting the trade where everything goes off the rails. Apparently there were some scheduling problems or something that pushed the stories in this book (half written by Millar, half by Peyer) back and made things screwy. I’m not sure if a regular schedule would have saved things as the Authority are seemingly killed and replaced by a new version of the team. It could really have been a 2-3 issue story, but ended up as eight freaking issues. The book really just seems to be spinning its wheels the whole time. Even art by one of my all time favorite artists Art Adams can’t save the issues he drew. I ended up just skimming them, waiting for these new jerks to die and for the Authority to kick some butt, which they eventually do (of course), but it and the marriage of Midnight and Apollo doesn’t save this book. Skip this one if you can.

THE AUTHORITY: HARSH REALMS

Written by Robbie Morrison

Drawn by Dwayne Turner & Tan Eng Huat

So, the Authority took some time off, but eventually came back under the stewardship of Robbie Morrison (don’t be fooled by the cover, which only cites “Morrison and Turner” as the creative folks, very tricky Wildstorm). This particular volume sets the Authority against Reality Incorporated, a group of jerks who use other realities for their own gain. It’s not a very memorable story (I read it over the past two days and still had to go back and see what happened in the issues I didn’t read today. It’s not bad stuff by any means, but it does make one think that the Authority is the kind of team that should maybe just hang out in limbo until someone has a really cool idea for them.

So, I know I haven’t read all things Authority yet, but I did have a lot of fun with the book. I love the characters, especially after this second reading where I’ve gotten a better idea as to who they are and what they can and can’t do. I’d like to check out the rest of the trades, especially the one where they actually take over the world, I’m curious to see how that played out aside from the obvious. I also like how they’re being handled now in the post-apocalyptic playground of the current Wildstorm U. They’re no longer the “we can do anything we want” team, they’ve got problems of their own, though I’m not a big fan of Hawksmoor being city-less. Oh well, we’re see where things go and if I’m able to snag the rest of the trades.