Saturday, 7 May 2011


1.  Introduction. 

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of graphic novels and that most graphic novels are basically a collection of comics. They may be a miniseries (anything from 3-9 issues), a collection of a regular title which may contain one long story or a collection of stories (usually 6 issues, but it varies. And the odds are that they are about super heroes, super villains, or monsters. 

I’ll be reviewing 5 graphic novels which fit into one or more of these categories. Appropriately there are two each from the major comic publishers –DC and Marvel- and one from what is known as the Independents, in this case Image. I’m also going to be reviewing some comic-related books but I’ll get to them later. I’ve called it Comic Book Day in acknowledgement of Free Comic Book Day when publishers release special editions or samplers to Comic Shops to be given away free to their customers.

Now while there are many graphic stories/graphic novels which can be considered to be Art (Love & Rockets, Maus to state the obvious), the books I’m reviewing today aren’t Art. They may be skilfully done, indeed they are all skilfully done but no-one could ever honestly claim that they aren’t anything but entertainment. And what’s wrong with that? We all love being entertained and I love being entertained by superhero stories, among many other things.

2.   Superman: The Black Ring vol.1. Written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Pete Woods. DC Comics.  Hardback, collects  Action Comics 890-895.

The title is misleading as it should really be called:
The New Adventures of Superman’s Arch-enemy, Lex Luthor: The Black Ring vol. 1. 

Superman never actually appears as a character, though he is frequently referred to. What we have is Lex Luthor and his disposable employees plus an android Lois Lane investigating a mysterious energy source and a mysterious unknown enemy attempting to thwart him at every turn. Various villains appear such as Mr Mind, Gorilla Grodd, Slade Wilson the Terminator, and Vandal Savage. Don’t worry if they don’t mean anything to you as it isn’t really important. Of particular interest, however, is the guest appearance of Neil Gaiman’s character Death from the Sandman series and an entire issue/chapter is devoted to Luthor and Death talking.

Otherwise it’s all good fun supervillain stuff. What stands out, however, is Cornell’s portrayal of Luthor which manages to be fresh without changing anything canonical. The android Lois Lane was created by Lex to provide him with insights into his own behaviour, to challenge his thinking so that he takes nothing for granted. Also of interest is the fact that he regular has sex with the android (nit-picking: it’s more of a robot) Lois Lane making you wonder what that tells you about him.

It’s all very slickly done, just not quite as strikingly good as reviews of the comics suggested. There is a concluding collection to come, probably later this year.

3.   Avengers Prime. Written by Brian Bendis, art by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer. Marvel.  Paperback, collects 5 issue miniseries.

This is a spin-off from an on-going saga in which Norman Osborne (the former Green Goblin and full-time psycho) was given took control of the USA’s security. But you don’t need to know any of that. The story opens with the Avengers in the ruins of a destroyed Asgard. Within eight pages, Thor (movie just released), Iron Man (2 movies), and Steve Rogers (formerly, but not currently, Captain America –movie out soon) are whisked away in a vortex and find themselves separated and in a hostile violent land.

Cue an action-packed fantasy adventure.

An unarmed Cap wanders into a packed goblin tavern and wipes the floor with the lot of them, gaining a shield and a sword and is shortly afterwards befriended by a comely maiden. Thor has a hard time of it at the hands and spells of old enemy the Enchantress. Iron Man faces a bunch of ogres and tells them that Thor is a buddy of his which isn’t a good idea as one of them is Fafnir, a part-time dragon that Thor once killed.

But the real enemy is Hela Goddess of Death whom our three heroes, with the aid of some new friends, must defeat.

But who cares? The reason I bought this is because of the gorgeous art by Alan Davis, one of the great superhero artists, and British to boot, of the last 25 years. If it hadn’t been for the participation of Davis, I wouldn’t have bothered. I really couldn’t care less about the story which is no better or worse than you’d expect, but with Davis the result is a fun attractive romp.

 Today's Lunchtime Special. Starter: Tony Stark. Main Course: Horse.

No comments: