Monday, August 14, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 5

Here is another set of graphic novels and comic compilations I have read recently. I got them via my local public library branch, and then people say no one wants books from the library any more. Actually, I have observed that people do use my branch quite a bit. I usually visit at the end of the day on the way home, or on Saturdays when I go with the family. There are always people at the computers, but there are also a lot of people reading books and magazines. By the way, a lot of the titles I get are requested; they get them for me from other branches. They don't have a great graphic novel collection at the branch, but they have been very good at getting stuff from other branches. Very often, I just browse the catalog for things I may want, and I just press the request button if the items are checked out or someplace else. Since I am in no rush, when they arrive, I have stuff to read. So, whoever out there is saying that libraries are going the way of the dodo bird maybe should visit my library. Anyhow, here are the items I have read in no particular order:

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 3. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0785116796

This time the Fantastic Four have adventures in the Negative Zone, and it seems that Reed Richards dies. There are also appearances by The Avengers. I am thoroughly enjoying this series. For those who keep track, this compilation collects Fantastic Four #251-257 and Annual #17, Avengers #233, and Thing #2. One of the features I also like in this series is that it includes the cover art of the original issues, and they include the date of publication for each under the illustration. I find it interesting the comics themselves have no date. These issues date from the 1980s as well. I am looking forward to volume 4. I can see why Byrne is well regarded by the fans: good stories and engaging adventure.

Bendis, Brian Michael, Mark Millar, Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 1: The Fantastic. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0785113932

If you liked the Ultimate X-Men series like I did, then you will definitely like this series. Bendis and others have taken the saga of the Fantastic Four and made a new story for a new audience. The Ultimate series is known for taking the classic superheroes and recasting them as teenagers. In this first volume, Reed Richards is a gifted boy scouted by the government for his high intelligence. While executing a teleportation experiment, Richards and friends are teleported accidentally to various parts of the world, gaining their powers in the process. The story provides a very good opening to what promises to be a great series. I have already requested the other volumes in the series from my library. For casual readers, these series are accessible because there is no continuity to worry about. Marvel is basically creating new plotlines, and they have very good writers and artists on board.

Loeb, Jeff. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1401202209

When a large asteroid, deemed to be a remnant of the planet Krypton, is on a collision course with Earth, U.S. President Lex Luthor blames Superman and sends a group of superheroes to hunt him down. Batman chooses to stand at Superman's side. This comic was much better written and more engaging than the previous Superman volume I read, Wrath of Gog (see my note on that here). The use of captions to convey the heroes' thoughts is a very good technique, as it gives a contrast between Superman, who is very decent and straight, and Batman, who is also heroic but has a dark side. Sometimes team-ups don't work well, but this one works nicely.

Ellis, Warren. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 2: Doom. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1457-2.

Reed Richards and his friends are slowly settling in to be part of the Baxter think tank. However, Victor Van Damme is still missing. He is plotting his revenge on Richards. Reed is trying to find a way to reverse the effects of the teleportation accident that gave them their powers, and Victor may have a solution. However, Van Damme, who has also been transformed, is not giving up the information, and there will be a confrontation. Great art and action in this second installment to the series.

Ellis, Warren. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 3: N-Zone. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1495-5.

After dealing with Victor Van Damme, the young Fantastic Four decide to explore the N-Zone, the alternate universe involved in the accident that gave them their powers. The heroes seem to be settling a bit more into their powers now. Richards hopes he will just have a nice exploration trip, but when they meet an alien civilization, not all is as it seems. This one has a pretty fast pace once they cross into the N-Zone. Ellis continues to provide good writing combined with great art from the various artists.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 4. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1710-5.

Another great compilation of John Byrne's work from the 1980's. For those who keep track, this issue collects Fantastic Four #258-267, Alpha Flight #4 and The Thing #10. These issues date to 1983. The Fantastic Four attempt to have civilian lives outside of the Baxter Building, and Sue Richards is expecting her second child. However, the Fantastic Four are not to have a quiet life as adventure comes after them. Among the interesting elements in this compilation, these are issues that frame the Secret Wars series. In other words, you see what happened before and after the Secret Wars. I read the Secret Wars, and readers can find my small note on it here (that one is a personal copy I got second hand). In addition, Reed is on trial for the death of millions; Sue has to help Namor the Submariner, and the Mole Man joins up with the Human Torch and The Thing to save the world (yes, you read that right). Great reading fun of classic comics.

Carey, Mike and Mark Millar. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 4: Inhuman. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0785116672

The saga of the young Fantastic Four continues as they now confront the Thinker, who turns out to be a young girl rejected for the Baxter Think Tank out for revenge, and they meet the Inhumans. This volume I read at a fast clip. It was good, but compared to the previous ones, it was just average. It seemed kind of rushed when it came to the stories in comparison to other volumes in the series. I wonder if there is a pattern in series like this, since I recall in reading the Ultimate X-Men series that some of the volumes "in the middle" seemed to lose a bit of steam. This one you may want to just pick up from the library rather than buy, unless you feel the need to collect the set. In my case, I might buy it because I am one of those would like the set, but this was not my favorite. Good, not great.

Millar, Mark and Greg Land. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 5: Crossover. New York: Marvel Comics, 2006. ISBN: 0785118020

This was much better than volume four. By now, the young Fantastic Four are settling into their roles as superheroes. When young Reed Richards discovers an alternate Earth, he keeps the secret to himself. In that other world, he finds an older Reed Richards, who invites him to his Earth. However, not all is as it seems. The second story reveals what happened to the Storm children's mother, who now reappears after being presumed dead. She has found Atlantis, and she needs the Fantastic Four to help her decipher its secrets. However, they unleash Namor the Submariner. Unlike the Namor in the classic series, this one is definitely a villain with a more sinister agenda. While the ending seemed a bit contrived, the twist that comes after makes readers want to explore the next issue. I know I will.


Anonymous said...

So have you read Runaways?

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I haven't, but I am definitely adding it to my reading list now. The description looks great. Best, and keep on blogging.