Graphic Novel Round-up: Five for Feeding
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Temporarily reverting to the 'mass review' format - the table is filled with unreviewed books, which makes dinner a little tricky. Read the reviews, so I can eat. Thanks.
Stormwatch: Team Achilles (Wright / Portacio): Published in 2003, Team Achilles picks up the slack as the flagship The Authority title degenerated into decrepitude. Team Achilles does a good job rehashing the timeless 'who watches the watchmen?' (topical!) question about keeping superheroes in check - and the morally-bankrupt Wildstorm setting is a perfect place to ask it. Although a bit too super-macho (can anyone in this title do wrong?), and relies a little too much on prior knowledge of the setting, this is solid read. Worth pairing with Ennis's The Boys - same subject matter with a dramatically different tone of voice.
The Authority: Human on the Inside (Ridley / Oliver): Speaking of The-Authority-degenerating-into-decrepitude, this is a prime example. In this ponderous storyline, the superhero team has to fend off an 'extinction-level' event while dealing with their personal/emotional/romantic entanglements. Basically, it is identical to every other post-Ellis Authority storyline. Ridley is a talented screenwriter, and this reads too much like a blockbuster, and not enough like a continuation of one of the (formerly) best titles on the market. The art - Ben Oliver is terrific - has earned this book a place on my bookshelf, but otherwise, this would go straight back to the shop.
Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days (Gaiman / Folks): Midnight Days is one of those inevitable collections that comes out when an author becomes big news. It pulls together a half-dozen early Gaiman stints on other DC titles that otherwise would have been swept into the bargain bin of history (or eBay). Fortunately, Gaiman's early work is often his best (discuss?), and a couple of the stories in here were legitimately worthy of republication. Swamp Thing, always a disturbingly good series, provides a few of the entries - including the lackluster "Brothers" and the intriguing "Shaggy God Stories" (yet another predecessor to the themes raised in American Gods). The best is the short Hellblazer story, in which Gaiman manages to convert his typical bittersweet tone into something a bit darker (also, it is extremely well-illustrated). The worst is the never-ending Sandman tale, "Midnight Days", which fills long, long pages without ever even hinting at anything of interest to the reader.
Revere: Revolution in Silver (Lavallee / Bond): Despite the small publisher, Archaia, Revere is a beautiful, lavishly-colored hardcover book. Which makes it, somehow, all the goofier. Based on the (logical) premise that Paul Revere was sort of a 1776 version of John Constantine - battling the forces of darkness with homemade silver goods. The American Revolution makes his job a bit more difficult, but fortunately Revere's goals of 'fightin' the evil' and 'fightin' the English' nicely meet when he comes up against a unit of Redcoat werewolves. Imaginative, and somehow charming, Revere gets a lot of points for sheer ballsiness. A little more self-awareness would go a long way, but this is a title that has big dreams and the talent to back them up.
The Vinyl Underground: Watching the Detectives (Spencer / Gane): Expecting yet another title featuring trendy occult detectives in a modern London setting, Vinyl Underground surprised me by actually being entertaining, well-written and surprisingly clever. This volume, the first, mainly focuses on introducing the team - an autistic psychic, a D-list celebrity and a porn star. Despite the grab-bag of adjectives, they are a surprisingly empathetic bunch. The plot is unremarkable, but introduced the group well. There were too many disturbing premonitions of metanarrative going on (not every crime in London will have to do with the team's personal history, right?), but if Spencer can keep the pacing in check, this title could keep readers entertained and surprised for a long time.