Whenever possible, I like to theme my reading or at least the posts I write here on the blog, but sometimes I just wind up reading a lot of disparate trades that have nothing to do with each other. That’s the case with this mix of books I pulled from my To Read boxes and the library. Let’s get into it! Continue reading Trade Post: Wimpy Kid, Shade, Mind MGMT & Robocop Vs. Terminator!
Global Frequency (Wildstorm/Vertigo/DC)
Written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Garry Leach, Glenn Fabry, Liam Sharp, Roy Allan Martinez, Jon J. Muth, David Lloyd, Simon Bisley, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Lee Bermejo, Tomm Coker, Jason Pearson & Gene Ha
Collects Global Frequency #1-12
I don’t often read Warren Ellis comics. Aside from Planetary and his Stormwatch-into–Authority stuff, I just haven’t been able to plug into his work and enjoyed myself on a regular basis. In my mind he’s similar to a writer like Garth Ennis where he really likes to work within a certain type of story with a group of familiar characters. With Ennis, the broad idea seems to be crazy people overcoming their craziness to defeat far more evil people, most often with copious amounts of violence. Meanwhile, Ellis seems to feature people who might be evil doing good things for reasons we don’t quite know or understand, often (in my experience) because they think they know better than other people. There’s a cynicism and negativity to a lot of his characters that I can’t always get into.
Even so, I’m always interested in proving my pre-conceived notions wrong (well, almost always, there’s a writer or two and a small group of artists who I don’t spend my time on anymore) and decided to give Global Frequency a read. Though the cover of the collection claims this as a Vertigo series, it was originally published by WildStorm. Each of the dozen issues features a story written by Ellis with a different artist focuses on a case handled by Global Frequency, a citizen-run organization that consists of a network of experts who can help out in various kinds of crises. When you’re in the club, you get a special phone (basically a smart phone by today’s standards) and can get called up and expected to serve either in the field or by supplying information at the ring of a cell.
While I like the one-off nature of the series, I was left wanting by most of these stories. Sure, it’s cool to see people who are really good at their jobs solving mysteries and saving people, but it didn’t feel like there was much else to grab onto. Though it was more well-constructed, it had kind of a procedural feeling which is a kind of story I’m growing less and less in like with.
That’s not to say these are bad stories. In fact, there’s some incredibly creative stuff going on in here. I still don’t fully understand the one about the town that seemed to experience the same hallucination all at the same time, but I dug it. There’s definitely enough interesting details, impressive action scenes and varying degrees of artistic genius in here which I enjoyed, but I like a little more personal stuff in there. To be fair, Ellis was working with 22 pages per issue with new characters in each issue. It’s not like the characters are flat, you’re just left with more of what they can do than who they are or why they do what they do.
While reading, I remember thinking that this would make a really great television series. A few days later I was looking up a particular actress for something over on Spinoff only to discover that it had a pilot a few years back. Sounds kinda like it could have been a precursor for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had it gone to series.
On the other hand, I was completely able to latch onto Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe The Barbarian. As you might expect from a Morrison comic, the concept isn’t super simple to explain. A kid named Joe who has low blood sugar is in his three story house alone when he starts experiencing both this world and another more fantastical one populated with his pet rat, talking versions of his action figures, all kinds of interesting characters and even a few analogs for people in his real life. Joe walks in both worlds, trying to reach his goals simultaneously (getting some soda in the real world and helping defeat King Death in the other). As he goes we learn more about Joe as he learns more about himself as he interacts with the fantasy characters around him and grows as a hero.
Story-wise, this one hits a lot of the same buttons for me as something like The Goonies or The Return Of King Doug. It’s about a young man finding his heroic side when faced with mountains of adversity. I think that’s the type of tale I’ll always be able to get behind, especially when there are so many extra elements wrapped around the basic package.
Speaking of which, a huge aspect of my enjoyment of this book comes thanks to Murphy’s artwork. He’s got a style that seems loose and yet doesn’t lose definition. Everything from the normal house setting to the flying manta rays feel cut from the same cloth even when two different realities are shown within panels or pages of each other. Plus, he and Morrison filled this world with so many familiar faces and characters who show up in the other world looking like action figures, something I absolutely love. You’ve got actual Superman, Batman, Robin and Lobo hanging out with characters that look an awful lot like Transformers, G.I. Joes, U.S.S. Enterprise personnel and plenty of other guys who might remember from your childhood toybox. Mind you, those aren’t the main characters of the book, those are just background folks who show up in huge action scenes, each one of which is wallpaper and poster-worthy in my opinion.
Even though I clearly enjoyed one of these books more than the other and will be keeping one in my collection while passing the other on to someone else, I love that both of these kinds of comics exist. Neither are what you’d expect form corporate superhero comics even though both Ellis and Morrison do plenty of that as well. These are stories these creators had a burning desire to tell and made happen. I give them both a lot of credit for that. Sure, it’s easier when you’re both pretty huge names in the industry, but it would be just as easy to forget about creator owned stuff and keep working within the corporate superhero system. Kudos, gents.
After enjoying Man of Steel so much, I figured it made sense to read a few Superman comics. As it turned out, I had an interesting sampling in my to-read box including the first volume of Grant Morrison’s New 52 Action Comics as well as the latest collection of post-Crisis Superman comics, Man of Steel Vol. 7.
I actually tried reading the first volume of the New 52 version of Superman and could not get through the book. I actually counted the number of panels that Superman appeared in in the first issue compared to ones he didn’t and the ratio was ridiculous. It’s supposed to introduce the character to the world in a whole new universe and you barely use him? Seemed silly to me. From there things went downhill and I didn’t bother finishing. Still, I had high hopes for Grant Morrison’s Action Comics because I consider him to be a really smart writer who loves this character and, even though he’s written Supes in JLA, All-Star Superman and Final Crisis, he still seems to have a lot to say about one of the world’s most famous fictional characters.
The volume finds a T-shirt and cape wearing Superman who hasn’t been around too long doing his best to mess with the kinds of people who tend to get away with all kinds of crimes thanks to their piles of cash and influence. Meanwhile, Clark Kent works for The Daily Star doing similar work but with his words instead of his fists. Since he’s still pretty new on the scene, the government doesn’t trust Superman and has General Lane working with Lex Luthor to try and figure out a way to stop him. While all this is going on new versions of Brainiac and Metallo get involved. Superman learns about himself, his home planet and even gets the suit he wears in the modern day New 52 U. There’s also a pretty fun story featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and current Superman traveling to the Action Comics time period to fight the Anti-Superman Army.
Like I said, I like Morrison’s work and have come to expect a kind of slow-burn when it comes to his stories. There’s another 10 issues of this run, so I’m definitely curious to see how he wrapped the story up. But, there were a few things about this volume that got under my skin. First of all, Rags Morales’ art is not so great in the earlier issues. His pencils look too loose and many of his figures look generally un-dynamic, but the weakest part is his eyes. They look googley half the time with one pupil pointing one direction and the other elsewhere. It’s incredibly distracting and really draws you out of the story. Oh, plus, there’s no possible way that Clark Kent and Superman could be the same person the way they’re drawn in this book which is unfortunate.
The other aspect of the book — actually the first story, specifically — is the fact that it feels like many of the plot points feel more akin to another character: the Hulk. You not only have the dynamic of Lois’ dad trying to get rid of our hero (no, they’re not together, but it’s Lois and Superman, we know the potential is there), but also her rebuked lover becoming a villain in his own right. I know these are fairly general plot points, but they came off as a little tired to me. Luckily the story doesn’t dwell on those elements too much, so that’s more of a minor complaint.
As a longtime Superman fan, it was interesting to see how Morrison reshaped concepts and characters like Steel, Brainiac and Metallo. I hate Jimmy Olsen’s haircut, but the portrayal of him and Lois seemed right on. I like seeing a younger, more brash Superman and the same qualities in Clark. Overall, this seemed like a solid Superman comic. I almost wrote that it’s probably not the best comic to give someone who wants to learn about Superman, but then again, this book shares a lot of themes with Zack Snyder’s movie, so maybe it would be a good idea. Someone test the theory!
DC’s Jack Kirby and Man Of Steel books are probably my favorite collection projects around. The former introduced me to The King’s wild DC projects while the latter brings together all of the post-Crisis Superman comics into one place. That’s important to me because these books are filling in all kinds of gaps I had in my Superman reading which started in 1992. My hope is they get up to the Death of Superman story and then I’ve got it from there with the books from my collection.
This particular volume of Man Of Steel is an interesting one. I flipped through it and was surprised to see several issues tied into the mega crossover Millennium. While I don’t remember the details of that story too well aside from the basics — the Manhunters have replaced key people in the lives of superheroes — but I don’t remember Superman playing a huge role which fits with these issues in which Supes deals with the fact that a small army of Smallvillians were actually Manhunters, including Lana Lang. There’s an explanation for everything that works within the story, but it’s a pretty crazy revelation when you think about it. While they were explaining how they kept an eye on the Kryptonian infant, the Manhunters also revealed that they created the huge blizzard that allowed the Kents to tell the townspeople that Martha gave birth to Clark but wasn’t able to get to the hospital. This seemed like a strange piece of information to tack on to an origin story — storms can just happen, they don’t need a reason to happen — but at the time John Byrne was steering the Superman ship and that’s that. By the way co-wrote and drew every issue in this collection!
The weirdest part of this whole thing, though, is a lie that Pa and Ma Kent decide to tell Lois: that they raised Superman alongside Clark. Not only did this lie seem completely unnecessary — sure, Lois asks Superman point blank if he’s really Superman after all the craziness that went down in Smallville, but he’s Superman, he could have come up with a better answer — but I also don’t remember hearing this repeated in any other comic down the line. He doesn’t reveal that he’s Superman to Lois until Action Comics #662, so did she believe Clark and Supes grew up like brothers that whole time? Does she forget? Do they tell her another lie? I’m very curious about this because the whole thing understandably makes Lois furious. She’s mad that they lied to her, but more so, she feels like she was fed stories and pitied by the two of them anytime she got a story. It’ll be interesting to see how that storyline plays out.
The book ends with a pair of standalone issues. The first gives a little bit more background about Maggie Sawyer and introduces us to her daughter who has fallen under the spell of Skyhook, a bat-like creature who can somehow turn others into winged beings like himself. Byrne really gets to have fun in this issue stretching into some horror elements that weren’t overly common in these books at the time. The final issues introduces us to a circus mentalist who calls himself Brainiac and seems to have L.E.G.I.O.N. creator Vril Dox banging around in his head. I think this might be the first mention of Dox in post-Crisis continuity, but he seems different than the one seen in Invasion and then L.E.G.I.O.N. This is a more villainous incarnation along the lines of his pre-Crisis counterpart. For what it’s worth, the character’s Wiki page makes no mention of this appearance, noting that Dox’s first appearance is in Invasion #1. Interesting stuff.
While this collection series if firmly aimed at Superman fans of my ilk, I’m very thankful that they exist. This is the Superman that lead into the version of the character I’m most familiar with. Yes he’s powerful and inspiring, but he’s neither all-powerful nor perfect. Sure, I get a kick out of him moving planets and whatnot, but this is the version of the character I’m most familiar with and have the most affection for. Please keep these books coming DC!
Well, not really, but Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s Pop Candy does love my most recent list over on Topless Robot called The Top 20 Nods, Cameos and Easter Egg’s In Alan Moore’s Top 10 Comics.
It’s the 8th from the bottom! The comments are even pretty nice, at least when I checked them last week.
TOP 10 BOOK ONE (America’s Best Comics/WildStorm/(now)DC)
Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gene Ha
Collects Top 10 #1-7
In preparation for an upcoming Topless Robot column I found myself re-reading the first two Top 10 volumes which launched along with League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong and Promethea to kick off Moore’s America’s Best Comics WildStorm imprint. I’ve tried Tom Strong and Promethea and just couldn’t get into them, while LOEG is one of my favorite comics of all time (I even wrote a big paper on it in college comparing the characters in the comics to the characters in the original works). Top 10 was a close second. At least it was…
The basic premise behind the series is that this place called Neopolis is full of every kind of fictional character you can imagine. There’s superheroes and villains, robots, gods, monsters, fantasy characters. Everything, all in one city just trying to live. The Top 10 are the cops (from the 10th precinct) who patrol the city. Instead of going after supervillains though, these guys are called in for domestic disputes, serial killings and the like, all of which do of course involve people and things with crazy powers. The procedural aspect of the book really does play off like a great cop show with characters passing each other, stories intersecting and a great flow that makes you feel like you’re watching TV instead of reading a comic. There’s also more awesome references packed into the panels than in any other comic I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of LOEG). For a full list of annotations from Top 10 check out Jess Nevins’ rad site here. I used his site and book as reference when working on my LOEG paper, it really is fantastic.
I still really enjoyed the first volume. As far as I’m concerned those first six issues are some of the most solid cop comics ever written. They weave in and out seamlessly, we get to know the characters bit by bit, a giant monster attacks the precinct and Santa Claus attacks. Things do start slipping for me in this volume with the deicide story in #7. SPOILER TERRITORY The whole point of the story is that Baldur, the Norse god, was killed in a bar called Godz. The cops spend all this time investigating it until it turns out that it’s just a cycle in this god’s life. That story might have been fun the first time around, but it just seemed tedious this time around, especially with the crazy fonts they used in the god word balloons. I ended up skipping those story pages after a while because I knew the twist and this isn’t a Usual Suspects kind of twist where you’re looking at everything from a new angle the second time around, so it just didn’t have any value.
TOP 10 BOOK 2 (America’s Best Comics/WildStorm/(now)DC)
Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gene Ha
Collects Top 10 #8-12
My boredness with #7 seeped into the whole second book, unfortunately. Now, I’m pretty sure this isn’t any fault of Moore’s script, but with all of the comics I’ve read since these came out. #8 has more easter eggs in the panels than any other issue and it’s also one of the more acclaimed ones with the story of a spaceman getting fused with a cosmic chess piece thanks to an unauthorized teleport jump. The dudes at Wizard a few years back were really high on this issue. It made it onto a few lists they did and we talked about it in the office a lot. I’m guessing all the hype kind of saturated the story and/or raised my expectations to the point where this issue didn’t really do much for me.
Aside from that, a major portion of this volume focuses on analogs for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman not being real superheroes, but actually a front for superkid pedophilia. I’m sure this was pretty shocking when it came out, but now it just reads like a strange, slightly watered down version of The Boys, Authority or something. In this case it feels like it’s just there for shock factor which, to me, is below Moore’s talent level.
The other aspect of this volume that got on my nerves was how much everything ties back into the events of the first volume. What seemed so cool about the first volume is that seemingly random things were mentioned and came back later. Plus, the police work seemed spot on with leads and theories turning out to be completely wrong and that sort of thing. But then in the second book you’ve got people murdering each other who popped up in the first issue and a suspect from another crime unnecessarily brought back, this time as a superkid prostitute. There also seems to be a complete lack of emotion in the book, even when one of their own gets killed and another seriously injured.
I did enjoy the stories featuring the out of control police commisioner and King Peacock getting sent to another dimension and ends up fighting in gladiatorial games. Part of my disappointment in the comic, specifically the second volume is that I want more and know that Moore only did two more books, neither of which really focus on more than a few characters you see in these books. There’s The 49ers, which is set 50-60 years in Neopolis’ past and Smax which takes Smax and Slinger to Smax’s home planet/dimension/thing. I’ve read 49ers but not Smax. I’m borrowing it this weekend though. It’s too bad this isn’t one of the books Moore wanted to continue doing like LOEG, because I’m curious to know more about these characters, but not sure if I want to spend the time reading the other books written by people who aren’t Alan Moore. Has anyone read them? Are they worth checking out?