Hot July Graphic Novels!
Psst! Read any good graphic novels lately?
No? Well, what’s wrong with you? With three superhero blockbusters at the theaters, and numerous wonders afoot at DC and Marvel, there’s a lot of good reading to be had right now.
Case in point: Animal Man. Do remember the last time Animal Man was really exciting as a stand-alone character? Good news – he’s rocking the house as a central part of the “dark” part of DC’s rebooted universe…
Buddy Baker’s gone back to trying to educate people about the environment and animal rights, but can’t resist suiting up to help out when the situation calls for it. However, his powers are starting to go weird on him, with downright gory results, as a powerful presence calls out to him to take his rightful place in the world.
It transpires that Buddy was actually given his powers by The Red in order to protect his daughter, who is their true avatar in the eternal three-sided, often-out-of-balance relationship with The Green and The Rot. Unfortunately The Rot has forgotten its place in things, and seeks to corrupt the child before she can come into her own, which leads to a steep learning curve as Buddy and his family have to flee ahead of a trio of truly gruesome hunters, intent on taking Maxine under their wormy wings…
I can’t say enough good things about this title. Jeff “Sweet Tooth” Lemire provides a refreshing take on Animal Man that, with only a few additions to DC’s cosmology, works perfectly with what we knew before. Meanwhile, Travel Foreman’s art is a brutal revelation, taking the series right up to the bleeding edge of what’s possible. This series is quite is red in tooth and claw, and Volume 1 (The Hunt) should be snapped up with savor.
Also making waves in the new 52 is Batman: Detective Comics, currently written and illustrated by Tony S. Daniel. Volume 1, Faces of Death, starts with the Batman encountering The Dollmaker: a costumed criminal with a truly hideous MO, and a penchant for playing Frankenstein. But when the Joker gets involved, you won’t believe what happens next. An ice-cold tussle with the Penguin rounds out these issues, and portends a truly horrible story yet to come in which the Joker will return to wreak havoc in Gotham.
From DC’s Vertigo imprint comes Get Jiro by noted chef Anthony “No Reservations” Bourdain, with art by Langdon Foss. A truly tasty dark future satire, Jiro runs a one-man sushi restaurant in a Los Angeles dominated by rival chefs. In a town where food is power, patrons book tables years in advance, and chefs can kill their diners for the merest slight, Jiro’s ignorance of the rules attract the unwanted attentions of the city’s two biggest restaurant barons. But messing with the man is a recipe for bloody disaster, as Jiro is not one to be trifled with. This one-shot is a darkly funny gem that will appeal to both foodies and comics readers — eat it fish side down.
If you have room for another treat from Vertigo after Jiro, may we recommend the collected TP of Deadenders? This old treat by Ed Brubaker and Warren Pleece is perhaps best described as a post-apocalyptic “Quadrophenia” as envisioned by Phillip K Dick. Beezer and his chums live in a world left sunless and hazy by a mysterious Cataclysm, 20 years ago, but every so often he can see the world as it was. Is it drugs, brain damage, or wishful thinking? The authorities would very much like to know, and the answer will astound you. While clearly nipped in the bud too soon, this collection is an integral part of Vertigo’s post-Millennial renaissance, and should not be missed. (Editor’s Note: I loved this series and its artwork!)
Would you like to be Astonished? If so, pick up Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine – courtesy of Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert. This crazed tale has our two favorite Avengers — who aren’t each other’s favorites by a long shot — trapped in a weird time-trap after failing to stop a robbery by some strange, new villain with an ocular fixation. The first trip strands them millions of years in the past, but trying to go forward only complicates matters more — especially when the man with the time bat shows up. Can they put their webs and claws aside and work together, for a change? Or is that asking too much, even in the face of planetary Armageddon?
Would you like to be secretive? Then you need to get your hands on the third collection of Secret Avengers: “Run the Mission, Don’t get Seen, Save the World.“ Comics supremo Warren Ellis returns to Marvel to helm six nail-bitingly good issues in which Steve Rogers’ covert team of Avengers takes on six different, truly crazy, potentially world-ending cases. Can the likes of Beast, Moon Knight, Valkyrie, and War Machine save us from weird science gone bad in the wrong hands? Warren’s in cracking fine form, here, as this is a call back to such one- issue story classics as Planetary, with the artist-hopping tendencies of Global Frequency. Even if you’re a bit fatigued by the raft of Avengers titles out, now — or didn’t like the previous story arc on this title — you have to give this a try.
There’s also lots of action in the independents right now. One title that simply must not be missed is Interiorae, a moody work by Gabriella Giandelli. Taking place in and around an apartment tower, we get a window into the subtly-connected lives of its occupants, courtesy of a walking, talking, rabbit ghost thing. The ectoplasmic animal is in the employ of something that’s eating the people’s dreams, night after night, but is it parasitism, parenting, or herding? This collected work, presented in color for the first time ever, is creepy, dreamlike, hopeful, and haunting.
If you like your superheroines loud, large, and punchy (ie: real women) then you simply cannot miss “God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls” by Jaime Hernandez. It’s a reprinting of the two-fisted saga of Boot Angel, and her quest to find a super team to join. Can she survive the menace of Penny Century? Heck, can she survive the menace of her own would-be teammates? And is Santa Claus friend or foe? Ah, who can figure comics? This hardcover repackaging of the story has 30 new pages, and is a prime example of the fun, sexually ambiguous, “ethnic” ruckus that made Love & Rockets such an amazing and endearing title.
Finally, there’s Spandex: Fast and Hard, by Martin Eden, which is, hands-down, one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. A superteam made up entirely of LGBTQ characters, this series is delightfully written and very well-illustrated. Better still, the characters are not jokey stereotypes, and there’s more backstory, thought, foreshadowing, and character development in a few issues than most comics have in a whole year’s run. This series is by turns sad and sweet, and humorous and mysterious, and never loses its sense of fun. Never mind the legion of pink ninjas on the cover – clock this comic now.