Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quick Booknotes on Graphic Novels, Part Deux

This is another post of a few comic compilations and graphic novels I have recently read. So, in no particular order:

Kelly, Joe. JLA: The Obsidian Age: Book One. New York: DC Comics, 2003. ISBN: 1-56389-991-4.

This is an interesting item, and the art was pretty good as well. Aquaman dies, but somehow, the heroes sense not all is what it seems. It turns he is not dead but rather stranded in the past. When forces arrive in the present day, they find themselves transported back to Atlantis. Meantime, a new team of the Justice League is formed in the present day to deal with events of the present time as the first team is stranded back in time. First in a series, and I think I will be looking for the rest.

Lee, Stan and Jack Kirby. Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 1. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1828-4.

This is a compilation of the earliest Fantastic Four adventures. It is interesting to read in a few ways. For one, Invisible Girl, Susan Storm, is not able to do the things with force fields that she does in later incarnations. In fact, very often she is a damsel in distress, or she has to use her invisibility in more "sneaky" ways. It is clear that the way women are viewed has changed over time as the character has likely become stronger. In addition, these comics were written during the Cold War, so the anxiety about the Russians and the race to space is alive and well. On the other hand, it is a comic that displays a family just like any other. They have their happy moments and their little squabbles. The plots are pretty simple: some supervillain threatens the world, and the Fantastic Four come to the rescue. However, they often must rely on wits and genius rather than just their powers to solve the problem. If you want to see where it all started, this is it. I liked it, but it was not great. However, I will still seek out the other ones. This compilation is in the same series as the Essential Punisher volume I recently reviewed. Like that other volume, it is printed in newspaper stock and in black and white. However, you get about 20 comics in one volume, some of them hard to find, making it a good value.

Miller, Frank and Lynn Varley. Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. New York: DC Comics, 2002. ISBN: 1-56389-844-6.

This is the sequel to Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which I read and noted here. Like its predecessor, this was simply an awesome reading experience. It is set three years after the events in the last volume. Batman returns from his exile to fight forces of crime and corruption. He is not alone, but there are also some superheroes who will oppose him. Batman this time faces a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the federal government in a world where Lex Luthor is the President of the United States, and Superman is his chief enforcer. You have to read this just to see how that happened. Like the last one, it is a great work visually as well as in terms of the story line. Readers will also appreciate the commentary, some of it not too subtle, about current events. I highly recommend this one. It is definitely one to add to my collection.

The last two are part of a series by the same author:

Puckett, Kelley and Chris Dixon. Batgirl: Fists of Fury. New York: DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1-4012-0203-5 and Batgirl: Death Wish. New York: DC Comics, 2002. ISBN:1-5638-99817

These are part of a series with a new Batgirl. Barbara Gordon, the commissioner's daughter who first wore the cape and cowl is wounded and paralyzed. She is forced to leave her activities as Batgirl behind, but she uses her skills as a librarian and knowledge to become Oracle, an information scientist that other heroes turn to. Cassandra Cain, daughter of an assassin and martial artist, becomes the new Batgirl. In Fists of Fury, she confronts the Joker as she tries to save a boy from making a mistake and ending up in a life of crime like his father. In Death Wish, she must confront Lady Shiva, the woman that trained her. If you like your heroes dark, with good action and plot, this is a good series to follow. The series also features great characterization.

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