As I type, I’m full up with cold and flu, feeling distinctly shitty and just a little sorry for myself. Even writing a short blog like this is knackering me out but I’ve got to keep the words flowing somehow so this is as good as anything.
Since my concentration span has been dented somewhat by a spate of non-lethal flu, I’ve been stocking up on, and reading, a bunch of graphic novels lately (just so my brain doesn’t totally cease up and fall over). It’s meant, much to my annoyance, that The Lovers by John Connolly has been put of temporary hiatus whilst I get my strength and willpower back for something a little more challenging than speech bubbles and pictures. (I also still need to finish off re-reading Every Dead Thing by the same author, but with only forty-odd pages to go I should nail this pretty quickly once I’m back on my feet).
So, to graphic novels then. I’m a big comics fan – that is to say, I like the trades, not so keen on the actual comics themselves. I think it’s because they’re too flimsy for me and riddled through with really annoying adverts (man, do I hate ads – especially on TV and part-way through movies… grr!). The trades, the graphic novels are great, though, plus they contain the entire story – no need to wait on the next week of release for me, I simply wait for the whole, damn book to be finished then go and buy that.
On my list of late, then…
First up and in no particular order (seriously, this is totally random as I pick out books on my shelf), I’ve just finished Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I’m a big Batman fan as anyone who knows me, or even knows of me, should be aware. The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Batman: Year One, Hush these are all some of my favourite stories (for very different reasons, too – Miller’s stuff is for the narrative, Moore’s for the sheer bone-gripping tension and wry humour, Loeb’s for the sumptuous Jim Lee artwork – sorry Jeph!). So, I’m always on the look out for new Batman books to add to my knowledge of the lore and read about what is arguably my favourite super hero character of all time.
Resurrection of Ra’s Ghul is a good if not a great book. I totally love the character – he’s one of my favourite Rogue’s Gallery villains and has been ever since I saw him appear in Batman: The Animated Series way back in the early 90’s. So, I had high hopes for the book. Like I say, it was good, just not awesome. Some nice art, in places, that’s true (I’m not sure I’m always a fan of graphic novels that vary too much in terms of art style, I tend to find it quite jarring and often wishing the artist back who had drawn me in to begin with). The story was fairly linear, though, but still plenty of fun. Not noirish enough for my tastes, I think and with a ton of cameo characters that didn’t really float my boat. A nice diversion and worthy edition to my library of the Dark Knight (which I plan to share with you one day, in all its grim glory), but I’ll not be raving about it anytime soon.
Next up, is a Marvel title (Batman being DC, of course…), X-Men Noir. These new Noir titles are, according to the local comic book store (that’s Page 45 in Nottingham, by the way – I give the plug because I like to support my local comic book shop, and so should you… if you don’t, they might not be there the next time you want some advice about what book to buy next – nuff said) one-shots by Marvel, depicting classic characters in a noirish setting. I picked up X-men, but I could’ve bought Spider-man and apparently Wolverine, The Punisher and Daredevil are all up for the noir treatment too. Have to say, I was really looking forward to this. I love the crime and mystery/thriller genre, noir is a favourite setting of mine and super heroes are cool too. Mash all of that up – how could it fail? Well, it did a little I’m afraid. The noir elements felt too forced to me and none of the characters had any powers as such. The story was interesting and totally used the characters and established lore as guides rather than absolutes, which was fun. Powers would’ve helped, I think. The story was a little clunky in places too and not all of the art was great in terms of clearly setting the scene and describing what the dialogue didn’t/couldn’t. Not awesome then, but pretty good and I may take another look at Marvel Noir in the future if the content grabs me.
Batman R.I.P takes me back to my favourite character again and the bonkers world of Grant Morrison. I’d held off from buying this book for a while as there was a bunch of other stuff I wanted to read beforehand. Let’s just say then that R.I.P is freaking nuts, I mean out there. I’m not at all surprised, Morrison’s work is breathtaking and crazy – that’s what makes it so much fun to read, you never know what the hell is going to happen next. This is a Batman fan’s book, it really is, blending all manner of extant material from the Golden and Silver Ages of the character and bringing it kicking and screaming to the modern day. It’s not perfect and doesn’t carry the same gravitas or emotional weight as say The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One (but who’s going to be as good as Franker Miller, right?), but certainly has it’s own charm and a lot more depth than The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I was nervous about this book, because I’d heard it was weird and wasn’t sure what to expect. No way could U have prepared myself for it, but, in spite of that, I really did like it, even if it did cheat a little. It’s also a book, I think, that stands up to repeat reading as you’re bound to catch some other reference, some subtle inference, you missed first time around. Oh, and Tony S. Daniels’s art is absolutely beautiful. A very worthy addition to my pantheon of Batman books.
Keeping up the positive vein, I had the great pleasure of reading Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest. This, conversely, was the first of the above batch that I read and, I must say, I only bought it because Millar and Hitch’s names were on the front. These guys are awesome. If you’ve never read Ultimates then shame on you. Stop reading this for a moment and go buy yourself a copy on-line or whatever at once (not the later ones, just the books by Millar and Hitch – you won’t be sorry). I think my dabblings with the Fantastic Four went about as far as a couple of graphic novels that showed the inception of the Marvel Zombies universe (who wouldn’t want to see that?) and story which followed it centred on the Sub-Mariner. But when I saw that Millar and Hitch were lending their not inconsiderable talents to the characters, I had to take a look. As you might expect from a Miller/Hitch production, the story is fantastic (no pun intended) and totally gripping with simply stunning artwork. This is a great book, and I loved every page of it. The Ultimate universe is one that I really enjoy reading about and this book has shades of that, too (I’m reliably informed that this particular book is not – in fact – part of the Ultimate universe). A wacky story about creating a Nu World (I think that’s right) for people to live on when Earth finally gives up the goat to environmental neglect sounded bizarre, and was, but really worked. It also served to showcase just what was cool about the Fantastic Four and why they are Marvel’s First Family, in many respects, and super hero royalty. I would totally recommend it. Very cool.
So what’s left on my graphic novel shelf, waiting for me to pick up and get lost within while I loll in the flu-like doldrums? I have Final Crisis, a beast of a hardback that looks beautiful and is screaming for me to read it; Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, a book I picked up at Borders in the US that is a sort of epilogue of Batman’s life now that he is no more (don’t believe that will stick for a second – the book looks interesting, though…); Sleeper: Season One, recommended to me by my friendly neighbourhood comic book store owner – this one looks quite dense and deep, so I’m leaving it until my senses are a little clearer – about super heroes and crime drama, all rolled up into one neat package and that’s pretty much it!
So, even though I’m feeling like crap and a little sorry for myself to boot (I tried playing Killzone 2 to cheer myself up – nothing lifts the spirits like ganking Helghast – but kept getting my arse handed to me on a bloody platter. Note to self: avoid video games when feeling like shite), I have a fair few graphic novels to keep me company and escape too when the snot is flowing and the joints are aching.
Until next time.