Books Received (July-August 2017)

Featuring: Stephen Barnes, R.S. Belcher, Simon Berthon, Christopher Bohjalian, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Robert Dickinson, Kate Ellis, Christie Golden, Nick Harkaway, Rebecca Harrington, Michael F. Haspil, Grady Hendrix, Joe Ide, Jay Kristoff, Stina Leicht, Eugene Lim, Jonathan Lyon, Jeannette Ng, Ross Raisin, Greg Rucka, Marcus Sakey, Steven T. Seagle, Charles Soule, Matt Taibbi, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Roma Tearne, Sage Walker, Matt Wallace, Zeni Zumas Continue reading

Review: WONDER WOMAN, Vol.1 (DC Comics, Rebirth)

WonderWoman-Rebirth-Vol.01Writer: Greg Rucka | Art: Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, Laura Martin, Jeremy Colwell | Letters: Jodi Wynne

Heroic. Iconic. Unstoppable. Armed with her Lasso of Truth and imbued with the power of the gods themselves, Princess Diana of Themyscira –known to the world as Wonder Woman — is one of the greatest superheroes in history.
 
But who is she… really? Not even Wonder Woman herself knows for sure. Diana’s links to both the Amazons and the Gods of Olympus have been severed. Her memories are a tangle of contradictions that even her lie-detecting lasso cannot untangle.
 
To solve the riddle of her origin, she must embark on her greatest quest of all: finding a way back to her vanished home. To get there, she must team up with her greatest enemy, the feral beast-woman, Cheetah. Will this unlikely alliance shine the light of truth on Diana’s darkest secrets, or bury them-and her-forever?

Collects: Wonder Woman #1, #3, #5, #7, #9, #11; Wonder Woman: Rebirth one-shot.

An interesting start to the most recent Wonder Woman series, written by returning scribe Greg Rucka, one of my favourite comics writers. This is a pretty good starting point for anyone new to the character, whether you’ve seen the excellent new movie or not. Although, of course, as this is a first volume, you are mainly getting an extended introduction to larger events still to come. Continue reading

Quick Shot Reviews: Catching up on Graphic Novels

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Despite the near-total-silence on the graphic novel/comics side of things, I have continued to read a whole bunch of new and old collections. Generally speaking, though, I haven’t been overly impressed. Here are mini-reviews for ten stand-out collections I’ve read recently. [I’ll hopefully do a few more posts like this in the not-too-distant future, as I try to catch up with recent titles.]

Featuring: All-New X-Men, American Vampire, Black Magick, Daredevil, Extraordinary X-Men, Huck, Justice League, Lazarus, Lucifer, Sheriff of Babylon Continue reading

The Importance of a Super-Hero Diaspora…

That’s a rather grand title. Rather than some deep analysis of why super-heroes should be based and from all over the world, this was just inspired by the fact that a). three super-heroes (at least) have re-located, and b). New York and Gotham have become ridiculously over-populated by super-heroes in Marvel’s and DC’s lines.

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New York City, while I love it, has become rather ridiculous in terms of Marvel’s super-heroes. I remember at least one comic picking up on the fact that you’d have to be a moron to try to be a (super-)villain in the Big Apple, given the sheer saturation-level population of super-powered, tights-wearing do-gooders. There are the ever-expanding Avengers teams and their various off-shoots and allies. Given how often the city is destroyed, one has to wonder why they decided to locate their headquarters right in the middle of America’s most densely-populated metropolis. Thankfully, though, Marvel seems to be doing something to add some variation into the mix. Namely, The Punisher and Daredevil are leaving the city. This last one is particularly noteworthy, given how important Hell’s Kitchen and its surrounding neighbourhoods are to that book’s and hero’s identity – not to mention the rest of the city. As it happens, these have been my two favourite Marvel titles ever since I started reading them (in the same week, as it turned out). Greg Rucka and Mark Waid have done a great job with writing duties, and the artwork for both books has been stunning.

So, here are some details on the moves, both of which are part of the All-New Marvel NOW! Endlessly-Extending Prefixes Strategy…

Punisher-01ATHE PUNISHER: Moving to LA

“Frank Castle’s one-man-war on crime continues… For years, the Punisher has called New York City his home – keeping a watchful eye on the city through the sight of a gun. But when a lead on a major source of drugs, weapons, and more leads Frank out west – he sets his sights on Los Angeles. And the City of Angels isn’t ready for a devil like the Punisher! But not everything is as it appears, and Frank will soon find himself toe-to-toe with a highly trained military strike force known only as the 131! Who are the mysterious 131? And why are they out for the Punisher’s head?”

The new Punisher series was launched in February 2014. Greg Rucka’s relatively short run on the series was absolutely superb (I recently finished it off, thanks to a 99c sale on ComiXology): not only was Rucka’s writing and story gripping and appropriately gritty, but Marco Checcheto’s artwork is stunning. The new series is written by Nathan Edmondson (whose Ultimate Comics: X-Men and The Activity were pretty good). Artwork will be by Mitch Gerads. It’ll be interesting to see how the character adapts to his new environment – although, given that he has travelled abroad before (including in Rucka’s run), it probably won’t be too different. Nevertheless, I really hope Edmondson manages to maintain the quality – it’s a great character, and the extreme shades of grey in which he operates allow for some pretty great/powerful storytelling opportunities.

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Variant Covers for #1 (Larocca) and #2 (Opena)
Palm trees! He still looks miserable, though…

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Daredevil-01ADAREDEVIL: Moving to San Francisco

“Gifted with an imperceptible radar sense, blind lawyer Matt Murdock patrols the streets with a Billy club and a passion for justice. Only this time – it’s a brand new city, with even more dangerous foes. Join Matt Murdock as he journeys from the dark streets of Hell’s Kitchen to the sun-drenched boulevards of San Francisco.”

In March 2014, the Man Without Fear will be relocating to beautiful San Francisco. It’ll be interesting to see how he manages in the new city – his approach to vigilantism has always involved an awful lot of swinging and leaping around New York’s high-rises, so… Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how his approach changes. (To be fair, I don’t really know much about San Francisco, but I get the impression it’s not too built up…) Mark Waid will continue to handle writing duties, and Chris Samnee will still be producing the artwork. I’m really looking forward tot his re-boot (call it what it is).

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Nightwing-19-Preview2

It’s not just Marvel characters, though. Gotham City is home to the extended Bat-Family and ever-extending Rogues’ Gallery that have plagued the Dark Knight on-and-off for decades. Last year, however, Dick “Nightwing” Grayson departed Gotham City for the Windy City in issue #19. Here are some excerpts from CBR’s interview with writer Kyle Higgins on Grayson’s move…

“I made the decision that if Dick was going to change cities, it needed to be story motivated. It couldn’t just be because of emotional fallout and state of mind… He’s heading to Chicago to find the man that killed his parents. As far as he’s concerned, that’s the only reason he’s going and once that’s over, he’ll be heading back to Gotham City. We’ll have to see how the story plays out, as to whether or not that will happen, but as far as Dick is concerned initially, that’s what he’s headed to Chicago for… Chicago has its own mythology and its own history that we’re tapping into and it’s definitely going to be playing a big part in Dick and Nightwing’s life moving forward.”

I’m quite behind on Nightwing, having not read any issues after the end of “Death of the Family”. I’d like to pick it up again, though, at some point.

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Of course, one thing that still needs to be addressed (and there are some signs that this is happening, for which we can only be happy, and hope for continued progress). Let’s hope we get a little more diverse than just re-locating a Justice League team further north into Canada (which, actually, I do think could be rather cool), and explore countries outside North America and the UK as more than just mission destinations…

Lazarus, Vol.1 – “Family” (Image)

Writer: Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark, w. Stefano Gaudiano & Brian Level | Colors: Santi Arcas

Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family.

In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains.

Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there…

Collects: Lazarus #1-4 & “Family: Prelude”

Prior to this, I was perhaps most familiar with Rucka’s first two, excellent Punisher volumes (must remember to finish off that series at some point). On the strength of just those books, I knew I wanted to read more of his work. That’s when I started to read and hear about Lazarus. As soon as this collection was available, I snapped it up and read it in one sitting. All I can say is that the hype is justified. While short, this is a very strong beginning.

The story opens with a pretty long, brutal scene that gives us an eye-popping, wince-inducing introduction to the nature of a Lazarus:

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Despite the above attempted-murder, Forever has plenty of… gumption left in her, and isn’t averse to doling out her blunt Family Justice:

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Over the course of these four issues, we learn about Forever’s psyche – she is unsure about the society in which she lives. She feels disconnected from her family, uncomfortable with her purpose, her nature. One gets the feeling that she’s headed for a break with the Family. It’s going to be an explosive journey, I’m sure.

The book offers a short, tantalizing taste of the Lazarus world, the dystopia controlled by a select few Mafia-on-steroids-like families. We’re not overburdened with world-building, but Rucka gives us just enough in the story to get situated, leaving breadcrumbs for us to follow and keep us guessing and get us hooked. This book is a perfect example of how comics can be used to show us new worlds and stories, without resorting to telling (which I still find strangely common for a visual medium). Forever is sent to parlay with a rival family, the Morrays. We learn through her mission that there is at least one other Lazarus, a member of the Morray family. They have met before, and share a deep affinity for each other’s situation and understanding of their lives – given their nature who else, really, could related? Meanwhile, Forever’s family members, her “brothers and sisters”, are plotting against her, each other, and their father. This does not bode well for the future.

Lazarus-01-Interior7

The pacing is fast but not rushed. It’s a dystopian world, the families appear in total control of the Americas, in a neo-feudal system that benefits the Families, while everyone else is categorised as either “Serfs” or “Waste”. It’s the argument against tyranny and the 1% writ large, exaggerated into a truly crushing social order.

Overall, this book is really quite excellent. I would have preferred a bit more world-building, sure, but I have a feeling this will be unrolled slowly and when necessary over the course of the series. The book is rather slim in length, which might leave people dissatisfied. I certainly would have liked more, but I see why the story was stopped here for the first volume. I can’t wait to read Volume 2. It’s not difficult to see why it has received so much praise. Very highly recommended, but if you need your comics more substantial in length, you may want to wait until the second collection is released/available before diving in them both together.

Lazarus-Vol.01-Interior1

You just might just like it…