Posts tagged `comics`
Supergods Supergods by Grant Morrison
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Year: 2011
Pages: 464

I’ve never been much of a comic fan; my brother liked them for the both of us. Despite a flirtation with our local comic store’s annual summer clearance sale, and a long-lived passion for the 6-issue Double Dragon series in 1991, the medium left me largely cold, and I eventually became enamored of the long-form novel.

As a result of either my age or my eventual indifference to the format, I was unaware or unimpressed of most of the important happenings in the medium. I learned most of the historical ones—e.g., the origins the Batman and Superman, and their eventual censorship or transmogrification during the panic of the 1950s—from David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague, and many of the latter-day events either from first-hand knowledge—e.g., hearing about Bane breaking Batman’s back or Doomsday killing Superman—or finally reading the graphic novels themselves—e.g., Alan Moore’s critical 1980s work The Watchmen and V for Vendetta. For what it’s worth, I tried reading Roger Stern’s 1994 The Death and Life of Superman, though it was beyond my 9-year-old self.

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§7597 · February 25, 2012 · (No comments) · Tags: , , , ,

V for Vendetta V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
Publisher: Vertigo
Year: 2008
Pages: 296

There’s no denying that Alan Moore is a force to be reckoned with in comic books; his work has produced a number of very famous books (Watchmen and V for Vendetta being two notable examples that have also been turned into major films) and popularized the “graphic novel” format. At the same time, one can’t help but find, eventually, that Moore’s strangeness, preponderance of imagined dystopias, and penchant for oddity, to be somewhat laborious.

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§7416 · December 4, 2011 · 2 comments · Tags: , , ,

Watchmen Watchmen by Alan Moore
Publisher: DC Comics
Year: 1995
Pages: 416

This is the first time in the history of my implementation of this meme that I have ever reviewed a graphic novel. But once my friend Abou told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to read it in the same way that I need oxygen or London Porter, I decided that if I had to read a graphic novel, Watchmen would certainly be the one to do.

In many ways, Watchmen has achieved a literary notoriety that rivals that of traditional all-text books. Written by the famous, talented, somewhat-crazy Alan Moore (also responsible for V for Vendetta), it promises not the usual lowest-common-denominator entertainment of pulps and weekly Spiderman comics, but a complex, nuanced storyline and an extraordinarily busy visual layout.

Understand that I am not a comic fan: at the peak of what may be consider the narrative arc of my love of comic books, I perhaps read my brother’s secondhand comics, or perhaps plucked a few entertaining bits from a bargain bin. I never followed any particular series, but more importantly I was never a devotee of the entire medium, preferring all-text novels instead.

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§2729 · October 4, 2008 · 7 comments · Tags: , , , , ,

From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain by Minister Faust
Publisher: Del Ray
Year: 2007
Pages: 390

Having only recently added Soon I Will Be Invincible to my list of books to read, it seemed an unlikely coincidence that I would stumble upon another curious-looking novel about superheroes. Intrigued, I decided to try it.

Don’t waste your time. Minister Faust, be that a pseudonym or the poor bastard’s real name, reaches for the stars and only makes it to about 14th Street. I understand what he intended: by chronicling the travails of a team of superheroes in therapy, he’s making points about history, race, politics, and fiction. The book, told as though it is a self-help book written by the therapist/narrator, Dr. Eva Brain, depicts the psychological troubles of superheroes after Götterdämmerung, which, as I take it, is supposed to represent the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of a clearly unified and labeled threat. Left to their own devices, superheroes become bored and disillusioned and descend into racial and political political squabbles which I’m sure Faust intended to mirror those of the world at large.

But it’s all so un-subtle and pedantic. Add to that the constant psychobabble of the narrator (purposefully oblique, I’m sure, but it gets damn old after 400 pages) and you’ve got a book that I felt like chucking after 100 pages.

At its simplest, From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain is a satire of comics themselves, but in the most unimaginative way: Faust makes obvious analogs of known characters and then gives them a fetish of some sort.

Hero to Character Correlative Table
Faust’s Hero Original Hero Note
Flying Squirrel Batman A multi-billionaire septuagenarian who’s a racist and an ultraconservative
Iron Lass Wonder Woman A superwoman who struggles with tenderness
Brotherfly Spiderman An insect-powered stereotype of black people
X-Man ? A Malcolm X with extraordinary mental powers
Omnipotent Man Superman A dumb-as-dogshit hero with incredible strength and potency
Powergrrl ? (Jubilee?) Teenage brat who’s one part superheroine, one part Britney Spears

&c. Faust drops so many names, as well as so many acronyms, that it gets hard to keep track of them all. It fact, it gets downright tiresome, and I feel like the book is a parody of itself by the end. The author tries for so many different tricks all at once that none of them work to their full potential. The epilogue drives home the idea of narrator reliability, which had languished for the entire novel under the weight of parody and exaggeration.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh: Faust, after all, at least aimed high, and I can hardly fault him for that. And perhaps you’ll be more appreciative of his buckshot narrative devices than me. I just can’t recommend it personally.

§1874 · July 25, 2007 · (No comments) · Tags: , , , , , ,

It's Superman! It's Superman! by Tom de Haven
Publisher: Chronicle
Year: 2005
Pages: 384

I should preface this review by saying that I’m not a Superman fan. I never read the comics; I never read more than 20 or so pages of The Death and Return of Superman; in short, I’m neither qualified to make judgments about this book’s accuracy, nor do I have any sort of emotional investment in the canonical character.

With that out of the way, I must say that I had mixed impressions of the book. It’s really only about Superman in a marginal sort of way—that is to say, it’s a violent character drama that happens to include characters from the comic. It begins like Smallville, with Superman as a young Kansan rube, and de Haven juxtaposes that with parallel narratives of Lois Lane (a loose-legged urbanite) and Lex Luthor (a cold-blooded Alderman) and occasionally a disposable villain, though for the life of me I can’t figure out reason for the latter. It’s possible that de Haven simply likes superfluous narration, like Stephen King.

So, a bit like a morning soap opera, de Haven’s noir retelling of the origins of Superman (without even touching the sci-fi aspects of it) makes Clark Kent a whiny kid, introduces quite a bit more graphic violence that I would expect, and in my mind excises the bits that make Superman really fun. Sure, I understand that it’s supposed to be a character drama and not another Superman pulp, but honestly? I don’t even think de Haven’s a very good writer. He wanders, engages in masturbatory tangents for short-lived characters, makes stereotypes out of everybody, and is more or less a bore.

Perhaps others may see the book differently: I’m open to the possibility that de Haven is the sort of genius I can’t possibily understand; that there might be nuance I’m missing; that perhaps being a Superman fan would make me like the book even more. All of these things are possible, but not likely. Skip this one.

§1857 · June 20, 2007 · (No comments) · Tags: , , ,