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September 1, 2013 / schulerbooks

September Graphic Novels – pt. 1


Care to partake of some magnificent graphic novels? Excellent! So do we! And, as we’ve got some really amazing things coming into our stores, lately, we figured we’d share.

Starting out with the darker side of DC Comics, the Vertigo imprint has unleashed one of its best characters. Spinning out of the pages of Sandman, Lucifer, First of the Fallen, became the focus of an astoundingly good series, in which writer Mike Carey pondered the nature of evil, divinity, and free will. Now this groundbreaking and controversial story is being retold, in a higher-quality format than the previous trade printing, making the art (provided by many Vertigo stalwarts) all the lovelier for its new presentation.

When we last saw Lucifer, he was out of the Hell business — running a nightclub in LA, and trying to stay out of things. So when a grimy and unpleasant Angel comes into his life, and asks him, on behalf of Heaven, to deal with a matter that the Lord would rather his servants not touch, it’s a bit of a hard sell. Still, let no one say that Lucifer does not have a price.

And what he does with what he gets for this “errand” will soon shake the word…

Collecting the original miniseries, with several issues of the actual series, itself, this slice of genius shows Mike Carey at the top of his early form, weaving the intriguing pieces that Neil Gaiman presented in Sandman together with mythology, eschatology, and Carey’s own sensibilities. The result is an epic tale that gets grander as it goes along.

If you’ve been enjoying Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ The Unwritten (and lamenting that Carey’s last Vertigo outing, Crossing Midnight, expired way before its rightful time), you need to get your hands on Lucifer Book OneYou should then also keep an eye out for Book Two, which should be coming out this October.

In other reprint news, Vertigo has also taken this opportunity to republish Beware the Creeper! That said opportunity seems to have arisen because the artist, Cliff Chiang, is also working on Wonder Woman for the New 52 is something of a minor point, we assure you.

btcNow, you may think you know The Creeper: yellow skin, green hair, red furry cape, ridiculous laugh? Well, hang onto your also-ran guest stars, folks, because you do not know this Creeper.

It’s Paris in the early 1920’s, and the city is gripped by the new, post-war boom of social upheaval and uncomfortable questions. Surrealists and Communists engage in happenings, expatriate writers hob-nob in bars and drawing rooms, and the authorities handle dissent with raised clubs and locked jail cells.

Into this heady atmosphere explodes The Creeper: a strange, laughing woman who commits amusing, artistic crimes upon the wealthy and powerful. But who is this woman who has warned Paris to BEWARE!, and what does she want? The concerned think they know who it is, but the guilty will do anything to shut this specter up, before she ruins everything.

A classic example of what happens when you take the rules and throw them out the window (both in and out of the comic) Beware the Creeper! is a classic Vertigo tale, and should be snapped up by anyone who loves the roaring 20’s. The story is fun until it turns tragic, and the art is, dare we say, wondrous.

Meanwhile, over at the house of ideas, Marvel comics continues to thumb its nose at DC by showing them how a “reboot” is done. Instead of drastically changing continuity, they’ve shaken up their creative teams, allowing people to tell bold, new stories that have a life all their own.

A perfect example of this brand of change has been the New Avengers. Before, it was yet another Avengers team — its ranks filled with those who wouldn’t just shut up and Register in the wake of Marvel’s Civil War. Now, its a team of the most powerful and intelligent men on Earth, who are facing a terrible threat that our world must never know anything about.

Remember the Illuminati? When they came together, long ago, they invited Black Panther to join them. He wisely told them to not form 9780785168362this group, as it was a one-way journey to disaster — words that came tragically true.

What, then, would force Black Panther to call what remains of those same men together? Quite simply, the end of the world. The multiverse is collapsing, one parallel Earth at a time. And if they cannot find a way to stop this from happening, then our world will doubtlessly soon be destroyed.

Against such a threat, only the best and brightest — and those who hold the pieces of the Infinity Gauntlet — have a hope of prevailing, especially if they want to save everyone, and not just their own Earth. But what will happen when they disagree, as they have before? What will happen when they feud and bicker?

And if the unthinkable should happen, and their kinder methods fail, are they prepared to destroy entire planets to save their own?

This book is dynamite in paper form: tense storytelling, rich in the history and depth of Marvel comics, excellent art, and the kind of foreboding that can only come from seeing supermen learn that being super may not be enough to save us. The fact that Volume 1 is called Everything Dies should give one a sense of what’s at stake, here, and this book follows through.

9780785165620Speaking of following through, Hawkeye has been enjoying a serious increase in popularity, thanks to the Avengers movie. In keeping with that, Marvel has wisely given the purple archer his own title, and saying it hits the target in several dimensions is no mere trite phrase.

What do superheroes do when they’re not saving the world? In Clint Barton’s case, it’s live in his New York City brownstone, make nice with his neighbors, deal with his ex-girlfriend, and look after the protege he’s not crazy about having. It also means inadvertently angering the Russian mob, as well as running afoul of Madame Masque while keeping his ex-girlfriend from killing him.

All that and the fine art of having a dog in your apartment!

Such a story might be a throwaway diversion, only to be expected by a comics company trying to cash in on its best-selling movie. What keeps this title from turning into a crass moneymaking exercise is threefold: fun and frantic scripts by Matt Fraction (which he must be having a blast writing) very playful art by David Aja, whose ability to throw ordinary layout rules right out the window is truly astounding, and the magic that happens when two such talented people are able to play to each others’ strengths.

In fact, I’ll go this far: even if you hate the Avengers, and think Hawkeye is the worst Marvel hero ever, you owe it to yourself to check out this title. I’m willing to bet that you’ll be hooked by the first issue, and wanting more as soon as possible.

(Lucky for you, Marvel has two volumes out: My Life as a Weapon and Little Hits.)

Want some more comics? Check back with us next week when we look at the recent best of DC and Independents!

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood


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