Friday, November 17, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 7

Loeb, Jeph and Jim Lee. Batman: Hush, vol. 2. New York: DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401200923.

I finished the set of Hush, and I have to say it was pretty good overall. It did get better, and in the end, the suspect was someone that you would least expect. I expected someone much more stronger, but then again, maybe there is the charm. You got someone moving the strings that is least unlikely. Overall, the story works well. The only thing that disappointed me a little was the ending in terms of Batman and Catwoman. The art in these series is simply excellent, and that makes it a good reason to go find these volumes.

Morrison, Grant. Arkham Asylum. New York: DC Comics, 1997. ISBN: 0930289560.

This is the story of Arkham Asylum, the place where Batman's great foes, who are criminally insane, are held. The frame story has Batman having to go into Arkham to free hostages after the immates manage to take over. In the process, we get the story of the asylum. In addition, we get to explore the madness of some of the villains such as the Joker and Two-Face. The art is jarring and dark, and it goes very well with the story. It is as if you are immersing yourself into the madness. A fascinating piece of work that I highly recommend.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, Vol. 5. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1844.

I continue reading this good series that collects the tenure of John Byrne as writer and artist for the Fantastic Four during the 1980s. The Fantastic Four face various adventures including a confrontation with Terminus, and Reed, aka Mr. Fantastic, reunites briefly with his father. The events in this series mostly happen after the Secret Wars story arc. Since Ben Grimm chose to stay behind in the battle world, the Fantastic Four get a new member in She-Hulk, who takes Grimm's place. However, we still get to see Mama Grimm's boy in some adventures of his own too. Byrne blends a good look at the Fantastic Four as family with adventure and a good sense of humor. As always, the Fantastic Four often succeed by their wits as much as by their powers. Fans will definitely enjoy this collection, and it may find new readers as well.

Kennedy, Mike. Superman: Infinite City. New York: DC Comics, 2006. ISBN: 1401200664

A nice short graphic novel. When Metropolis is attacked by a terrorist with a superpowered weapon, Lois and Clark trace it to a sleepy little town called Infinite City. Once there, they discover the entrance to another dimension where magic and technology coexist. It becomes an opportunity for Superman to learn more about his Kryptonian heritage, but it may mean he may never return to Earth if the Warden has a say in it. In the meantime, certain factions in Infinite City (the dimension) are plotting to break out. An interesting little story and a quick read.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: The Long Halloween. New York: DC Comics, 1999. ISBN: 1563894696.

This is definitely among the best Batman stories I have read recently. I personally found it better than Loeb's work Batman: Hush. There is a serial killer labeled Holiday, who is killing members of a prominent mob family during the holidays. The story begins on Halloween, and then it runs for a year, with a killing every holiday leading up to the next Halloween the following year. So, is Bruce Wayne connected to the mob boss? Who is Holiday? Could the D.A. be involved? These are all questions raised in the story. The art has a nice gritty and noir style that goes very well with the mystery and adventure. The story takes place within the context of Batman: Year One. Jim Gordon is only Captain Gordon of the GCPD (and still the only honest cop in town), and Harvey Dent is a young D.A., who will, tragically, become Two-Face as the tale also offers a retelling of Two-Face's origin. Various villains make their appearance throughout the year. Very good ending as well. The edition I read includes some additional notes at the end of scenes that did not make the final publication, which are interesting to look at as well. While the story can be read anytime of the year, I found it to be a piece of good timing to read it as Halloween is coming up soon. I highly recommend this engaging story. Something I would add to my shelf.

Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colon. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Hill and Wang, 2006. ISBN: 0809057387

I simply cannot praise or recommend this volume highly enough. Jacobson and Colon have taken the 9/11 Commission Report and distilled it into a very readable and engaging graphic novel. This book reads like a story. It is compelling; it is well written; it explains the events and the background in clear detail without going over readers' heads. This is a volume that should be available in every library in America, and it is a book that everyone should read. I think it also exemplifies how the graphic novel format can take something like the 9/11 Commission Report, which can be dense reading about an important event, and make it accessible to readers. Some people may have been worried that the victims would not be treated with respect with this book. That is not the case. The art is well done, and there is nothing gruesome or disrespectful. If anything, this book helps to explain what happened and how. Like the report, it indicates who did what and who failed to do what and when. A lot of people failed at their jobs or did not see the signs. The book includes a small opening statement from members of the 9/11 Commission conveying their approval of the work. I think the most significant thing about this work is that it makes accessible the findings of the 9/11 Commission, but it also serves to explain the events of that tragic day in a clear and colorful way. If you have not read it, go find a copy.

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