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September 9, 2012 / schulerbooks

Cool September Graphic Novels!

Psst! Read any good graphic novels lately?

No? Oh come on. There’s lots of good ones coming out right about now. Take advantage of what’s quickly becoming the Summer for Superhero movies and check out these gems.

With Avengers movie still dominating people’s minds — and just around a month before it’s out on DVD — it’s a great time to make yours Marvel. And we are happy to report that Marvel’s re-released one of its timeless classics in paperback: Elektra: Assassin, by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz.

Garret is a macho, boorish, and highly ethically challenged Agent of EXTECHOP: a sub-agency of SHIELD that specializes in taking maimed and damaged people — usually SHIELD Agents — and rebuilding them with cybernetics. By day, he and his sociopathic partner, Perry, are set loose on Soviet targets for God and Country, and at night he deals with his pain by getting drunk, failing to get laid, and trying not to think of anything that would wind up on the tape in his head and get him in trouble with his bosses.

So when the President of San Conception is expertly assassinated, the Garret and Perry go looking for the killer, only to find that the sexy female ninja responsible is about three steps ahead of both them and EXTECHOP. She manages to not only explosively dispose of the duo, but break into EXTECHOP, steal their files, and prepare to kill America’s ambassador to that country for reasons known only to her.

Right about there’s where things get a little strange, courtesy of Ninja magic, the hand of the Beast, and EXTECHOP’s desire to turn what’s left of Perry into a cyborg super-agent. Especially when you consider that the Ninja is the infamous Elektra Natchios — and didn’t she die in an issue of Daredevil, or something? Well, dead or not, she’s in Garret’s rebuilt head now, and his already messed-up life is about to take about ten turns for the weird…

Elektra: Assassin is still hailed as being one of the best short works Frank Miller ever wrote for Marvel, and also features the full-blown, no holds barred talents of Bill Sienkiewicz. The artist was, by all accounts, pretty much let loose on this title with very few editorial restraints, and the high quality of work has yet to be truly matched. The first chapter alone — in which a drugged, mindsmashed Elektra slowly comes to her senses, remembers her past, and realizes what’s happened to her — is a near-perfect, hallucinogenic fusion of story and art; it still resonates as not only the perfect introduction to Elektra, but to almost any graphic novel, period.

It’s a testament to the genius of this work that, while clearly a product of the 80’s, it has aged extremely well, and now seems more relevant than ever. While this trailblazing work was never really canon, per se, it still casts a long shadow over the Daredevil mythos, and still puts many, more recent comics to shame.  If you’ve never read Elektra: Assassin, you have to at least read the first chapter to see how it’s done by the experts.

In other Marvel news, be sure to check out Invincible Iron Man 9: Demon. After the world-shaking events of Fear Itself, Tony Stark’s having to face up to the fact that he gave in and turned back to alcohol to deal with his problems (pleas to certain Norse Gods notwithstanding). And he’s not only trying to get himself back on the wagon, but introduce a weapon-crafting, foul-mouthed dwarf he befriended during that crisis to the concept of sobriety, too.

Unfortunately, Stark’s enemies are many and unforgiving; news that he drank quickly leaks out, and the government essentially leashes him with the superhero equivalent of a breathalizer. Meanwhile, numerous new-and-improved supervillains are doing the bidding of the Mandarin around the world, evil rival Zeke Stane stands ready to pounce, and there’s still a spy in the henhouse, somewhere. Can Stark overcome these hurdles before the Mandarin strikes at everything he’s built, and everyone he loves?

Fraction’s work on this title has managed to stay ahead of several Marvel “events” without getting run over by them (yes, Thor, I’m looking at you) and Salvador Larroca’s art continues to amaze. With the Marvel universe about to undergo a massive shakeup in upcoming months in the wake of the Phoenix, this title should remain essential reading.

And, speaking of the Phoenix, have you been reading Wolverine and the X-Men? If not, you are missing out on probably the best thing to spin out of the X-Schism. After butting heads with Cyclops one time too many about what underage mutants should and should not be doing, Wolverine leaves Utopia, reclaims the ruined X-mansion, and turns it back into a school for mutants. It’s a rag-tag operation, run by old hands and new, and some of the students are literally out of this world, but Wolverine thinks he can handle it. Isn’t he the best there is?

Of course, this has to happen right when the Phoenix shows up, and then play out over the events of A v. X, doesn’t it? And then the new, pint-size Hellfire club shows up to knock it all down. Sudden money problems lead to wacky and dangerous offworld exploits. Kitty Pryde gets pregnant – with Brood. Toad is the janitor, Doop is the receptionist, and you wouldn’t believe who’s guarding the grounds…

The series is being written by Jason Aaron (Scalped), who melds his well-honed skills with layered plots and taking big chances with a sense of deceptive light-heartedness, and is illustrated by such awesome talents as Chris Bachalo and Nick Bradshaw. If you’re feeling a little fatigued by yet another world-shaking Marvel event that is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING, this title offers an excellent antidote in the form of a “meanwhile, in upstate New York” storyline.

In short, X-fans: if you are not reading this, you are seriously missing out.

Meanwhile, over at DC, the parade of 52 trade paperbacks continues! August brings us such gems as Swamp Thing, Superman: Action Comics, and Deathstroke, and be sure to look for Aquaman, Green Lantern Corps, and The Fury of Firestorm – The Nuclear Man in September!

However, one work that simply should not be missed is the complete collection of Men of War: Uneasy Company. DC’s attempt to revive the 70’s war comic franchise for modern, metahuman times stars Joe Rock (grandson of the Sgt. Rock), who gets hooked up with “Easy Company” — a group of off-the books military contractors who keep getting dumped into situations where super-powers are ruling the battlefield. Can mere men survive in wars where the heavy artillery wears a cape? Not very well, apparently.

While the work unfortunately came to a premature close, this collection shows a lot of budding promise, as well as a willingness to take a chance on reviving older concepts from such bygone titles as Weird War and the like. The main story could have gone in a lot of interesting directions, and the supplemental stories will engage new DC fans and delight older hands with its blatant shout-outs to those aforementioned, long-gone war titles.

Another stellar title is Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth. As before, supervillains confined to Belle Reve are given the chance to do dirty deeds and reduce their prison sentence, but this time things are just a little nastier.

Deadshot’s stuck running a team of killers, sociopaths, and monsters through whatever fresh hells a strangely svelte Amanda Waller sends them through, which could be anything from slaughtering hundreds of civilians infected with a nasty virus to simple (but complicated) assassination. And if they don’t complete their mission on time, or blab to the wrong people, the microbombs they’re implanted with go BOOM.

Nice, huh? Well, the good news is that the team leader’s not always playing by the game by the squad’s admittedly-crooked book. But when Harley Quinn finds out that the Joker’s missing, presumed dead, and they have his face locked up in Gotham City, things get really out of hand, and Deadshot may have to cross a line even he might not want to step over lightly…

Dark action, grey morality, and black humor take center stage in this revitalized, ongoing title of repentance, redemption, and revenge. Volunteer today!

And then there’s OMAC: a sloppy but fun love letter to Jack Kirby’s titanic contributions to DC’s mythology.

Poor, put-upon everyman Kevin Kho is just minding his own business when the sentient satellite Brother Eye decides to turn him into a One Machine Attack Construct! Now, strange creatures from the equally-strange CHECKMATE organization are after him, and he can hardly get a breather. Can he retake control of his life, or is doomed to be turned super-strong (and not entirely super-smart) at a moment’s notice for whatever remains of his life?

While obviously flawed, this title went above and beyond to try and recapture the feel of Kirby’s work, right down to the art and obvious shoutouts to the New Gods. Get ready to OMACTIVATE!



Leave a Comment
  1. wwayne / Sep 9 2012 6:50 pm

    You mentioned 2 of the most underrated New 52 series, Men of War and OMAC. I think there’s at least one other DC title selling far less than it deserves, Blue Beetle.
    Someone compared Liefeld with Jack Kirby: What do you think about it?

    • J. Edward Tremlett / Sep 18 2012 10:39 pm

      Hey Wwayne 🙂

      You know, this is going to sound terrible of me, but I have not read the new Blue Beetle, yet. When the TP comes out I’ll probably look at it to see what I’ve been missing, but while I can appreciate the character, I haven’t really been drawn to him enough to read his book.

      • wwayne / Sep 19 2012 2:23 am

        Thank you for your reply! : )


  1. September Graphic Novels – pt. 2 | Schuler Books Weblog

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