Friday, February 10, 2012

Graphic novel reviews A

A + X - various - very brief stories in which one avenger and one X-character team up.  With ultra-hip and self-aware radicalness, his comic promises, literally, to be cool.  No grim and gritty, no convoluted backstory, just some heroes kicking ass.  The stories range from the almost-serious to the downright silly, and it's fun enough.

  • 1. = Awesome - Hulk and Wolverine fight their older future selves.  Hawkeye and Gambit vie with each other to try to stop a monster and get a girl's number.  Spider-Man and Beast visit the future world of the Beast-people, where humans are reviled.  Captain America gets psychic help from Quentin Quire, and helps him retain his anarcho-punk street cred as well.  Best story: Thing and Gambit squaring off at the poker table; also Loki and Mister Sinister trading barbs.  Worst: Iron Fist and Doop's ...thing makes zero sense.  [3.5]

All-New, All-Different Avengers - Mark Waid

  1. The Magnificent Seven - Falcon, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales form a new team.  Vision is acting strange because he purged out his emotions.  Pretty standard superhero stuff.  [3]
  2. Family Business - Falcon discovers who the mysterious new lady Thor is, and Nova and Ms. Marvel continue their love/hate relationship.  Decent superhero action, with a bit too much leaning on the teenspeak for me.  [3]

All-New Invaders - James Robinson

  1. Gods and Soldiers - Jim Hammond, the original Torch, is attacked by a Kree warrior, as is Bucky and Namor, to retrieve a lost machine from their memories.  With it, the Kree can control gods, so Captain America and Torch join with the original Vision to rescue Namor.  It's great action-packed nostalgia, with a few twists here and there.  Old-school heroics and corny speeches, but with a modern dark edge.  Just perfect.  [4.5]
  2. Original Sin - a Japanese hero called Radiance, grand-daughter of Golden Girl, a WWII-era hero, learns that the Invaders didn't stop the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and attacks SHIELD.  Then, Toro is taken prisoner by a power-mad German with an army of Deathloks, who wants to study Torch's AI and cybernetics.  This title continues to be a great blend of the madcap modern Marvel universe and nostalgia of the old.  [4]

All-New X-Men - Brian Michael Bendis

  1. Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-Men - The five original X-Men from 1965 are brought back to the present by a raidly mutating Hank McCoy, in order to talk some sense into the present-day Scott Summers who has killed Xavier and is fomenting a mutant revolution.  They aren't happy to be there. [4]
  2. Vol. 2: Here To Stay - Mystique and her gang are using the confusion to rob banks.  Kind of straightforward superheroics here.  [3.5]
  3. Vol. 3: Out of Their Depth - There's a few things left out of the paperbacks at this point and it's gettign a little hard to foloow.  Why did the original five join Scott, Magneto, Emma, and their group?
  4. Vol. 4: All-Different [3.5]
  5. Vol. 5: One Down - More stuff is left out. Now some of the original five are in space?  We missed that.  I dislike the tendency toward multi-title storylines, which results in this kind of "scene missing" moments.  I really do enjoy all the various art styles that depict the different potential timelines and alternate universes.  [3.5]
Amazing Spider-Man - Van Lente, Waid, Kelly
  • The Gauntlet: Electro & Sandman - A fun deep dive into the decades of Spider mythology, looking into the mindsets of the bad guys. [4]
  • The Gauntlet: Rhino & Mysterio - More bad guy backstory, with a particularly sweet take on the Rhino.  Mysterio's story is also very cleverly done.  [4]

American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang [First Second]
Three intersecting, somewhat surreal fables about growing up an Asian-American amid prejudice and shame.  One concerns the Monkey King, who acquires great powers in an effort to deny what he is; one is about a Chinese-American who falls for a blonde beauty in his new school; and one is sitcom-like, featuring the loveable stereotype Chin-Kee.  Startlingly funny, confrontational, and powerful, with absolutely amazing art.  Read twice.  [5]

American Elf - James Kolchaka
1999-2012 (entire run) - Daily strips in the cartoonist's life from 1999-2005.  He plays rock, he draws poorly, he sells books and gets record contracts and book contracts and complains about "everyone wanting a fucking piece of him."  He has childish temper tantrums and yells at his beautiful, pleasant wife (this is the way he presents it).  He comes off as quite unpleasant, and his rough drawing style is off-putting.  [3]

1. THE STONE KEEPER - Kazu Kibuishi  [Graphix]
Emily, Navin, and their mother move into a mysterious old house built by an enigmatic inventor ancestor of theirs; the house is the doorway to another dimension.  A ghastly creature kidnaps their mother and the children set about rescuing her with the help of their great-grandfather's clockwork helpers and an amulet which appears to be sentient as well as magically powerful.  Great color drawings with endlessly inventive creatures and machines; fun characters and suspenseful plot.  [4]

A movie-ready re-imagining of Henry Pym's origin.  Unmarried to Janet, with Bill Foster at his side (sequel characters all ready to go!), he battles Egghead, who takes his powers and rides a wasp.  Pretty stupid all around, but probably the blueprint for a film.  [2.5]

AREA 10 - Christos Gage
Black-and-white horror noir about a troubled detective recovering from a brain injury who tries to track down a killer obsessed with the "second sight" granted with trepanning.   But the cop is having visions, and everyone wonders if it's all in his head --- or if he is the killer.  Nail-biting, dark, and suspenseful, with a couple of twists.  Plotted and drawn in a very cinematic fashion.  Read twice.  [4]

Very well done black humor; over-the-top but faithful characterizations of Bat-verse stars like Joker and Two-Face; several interesting new characters.  Sympathetic and competent good guys.  Several fun twists, but gets a bit out of hand at the end. Re-readable. [4.5]

Astonishing X-Men Vols. 1-4 - Joss Whedon
The only X-Men comic ever to be good.  [5]

Astro City - Kurt Busiek  

This isn't "superheroes in the real world," but "the human side of superheroes."  In the real world, these creations would be locked up and done experiments on.  No, this is about humanity. These books explore how it might feel to be a living cartoon, a villain's daughter, a washed-up hero, a hero and a father-to-be.  These volumes are sweet and a sly homage to decades of comic book lore and it may be silly and it may be trite but dammit, sometimes they even make me tear up.  I'm just a sap for bathos and romance.

  1.  Life In the Big City - A man moves to Astro City and learns what it means to live with a city of constant superhero tropes.  [5]
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  12. Lovers' Quarrel - an aging Crackerjack and Quarrel, on and off lovers and partners, argue about what to do with their lives and whether to quit as they get slower.  Crackerjack is insistent on using the retired Black Rapier's anti-aging serum, with bad results.  [4.5]
  13. Honor Guard - the second Hummingbird, daughter of the first, finds out her powers come with a curse; a living nightmare is wakened; Starfighter wonders whether it's time to settle down.  All excellent stories; the chibi-anime-videogame one was the weakest.  [4]
  14. Reflections - we see the First Family from the point of view of the Bee Empire, but one youngling finds out the official story may not be true; Steeljack works a case of missing tech; and Samaritan is troubled by nightmares.  [4.5]
  15. Ordinary Heroes - a sea-based villain plots a return from the isolated island he's stranded on; two generations of Jack-in-the-Box work on uncovering the original's past; and we return to the story of Maria, who works on the Hill, where the magic is.  [4]
  16. Broken Melody - we learn some pre-war Astro City history.  A super-musical force, seen earlier as the Bouncing Beatnik, is born as Mister Cakewalk, of ragtime days, and later Baby Jazz, of the flapper era.  Also the Astro-Naut, a pilot who becomes a space hero and inspires the town's name (this story really lays on the weepy melodrama thick).  And the surprisingly original origin of the Gentleman.  But the heart of this one is the Broken Man, the fourth-wall breaking purple guy who keeps trying to explain his role to us (it gets very Grant Morrison).  I could read Astro City lore forever, I think. [4]

Vol. 1: Spider-Man teams with Red Hulk, Hawkeye, and Captain America, in funny stand-alone stories that are more about character growth and friendship than punching.  Whether sacrificing everything for J. Jonah Jameson and teaching Red Hulk to let go of violence, or letting braggart Hawkeye take a win to keep his confidence up, this Spidey is a genuinely good person as well as a fast talking, self-effacing hero.  Good stuff.  [3.5]

Avengers - Brian Michael Bendis
1-5.  Standard superhero stuff.  In one volume, Wonder Man is cast as so against the idea of the Avengers that he leads a team against them, which is ridiculous.  [3]

AVENGERS A.I. - Sam Humphries

  1. Human After All
  2. 12, 000 AD

Two books, complete.  the new nano-tech Vision, Hank Pym, and a Doom Bot along with some others fight the new AI menace, a global army of AIs led by the urbane Dimitrios.  The ethics of AI are touched on with a fairly nuanced hand for a superhero book.  It's also exciting and funny; it has a Nextwave feel to it.  [4]

A dark look at what war does to people and whether you can come back from it, as exemplified by Captain America and Wolverine.  Adds a touch of thought to the usual super-heroics.  [4.5]

Awkward - Svetlana Chmakova [Yen Press]
Peppi, an artistic girl at a new school bumps into a quiet science nerd and, in a desperate fit of embarrassment, yells at him to get away from her.  Ashamed of herself, she is mortified when she finds that not only is her art club rivals with his science club, but that he is working with her and a tutor.  As she befriends the genuinely nice science nerd, the rivalry deepens and pranks get out of hand; Peppi is torn between allegiances.  An absolutely spot-on depiction of the various pressures put on a smart, shy new kid at school, told with an optimistic slant and with a truly sweet lesson at the end.  Brilliant.  Library.  [5]