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Old Comics Thread


#1

We’ve got threads for new comics but I know most of us like digging through creased and fading back issues too. So use this thread to tell us what you’ve discovered, re-discovered, or regularly re-read just because.

I guess I’ll kick off with a review of something so old most of us weren’t born when it was published…

Adventure Comics #304
‘The Stolen Super Powers!’
By Jerry Siegel and John Forte

I’m not sure how to rate this story. On the one hand, its plot is executed quite cleverly and imaginatively. On the other hand, the plot is based on an utterly preposterous premise.

So let’s look first at the interesting sub-plots in the issue.

At a Legion meeting in their club house, everyone is present except Supergirl and Superboy, who are on missions in other time zones. They probably have to be absent for plot reasons, but it’s a good illustration that the Legion is big and has many things going on at once—which is of course its unique selling point.

The reason for this meeting is to elect a new leader. Last issue we saw the first indication that Legion actually had a formal leader (Cosmic Boy) and this issue he is still in charge as he announces the election.

Leaders are elected by all members voting on the electronic ‘vote-o-matic machine’. The interesting thing is that the machine displays only five faces: Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy, and Bouncing Boy. This implies that they are the only five candidates, so not every Legionnaire is standing for leader. Why not? Does a candidate have to put him/herself up for election, or do they have to be nominated and seconded? These things aren’t explained. Obviously there is no prohibition against re-standing, as Cosmic Boy is up there. A passing thought of Colossal Boy about ‘Legion tradition’ suggests that there have been a number of elections (one does not constitute a tradition), so there was another leader before Cosmic
Boy—but who? (It could have been Cosmic Boy, as he seems popular, which means he is standing for at least a third term.) How long is a term of office? It’s not stated.

Speaking of Colossal Boy, he is apparently the Legion treasurer—but he is not up for re-election. Is the post elected at a different time? That would be odd. Is a permanent post? Is it an appointment made by the leader? Again there are, infuriatingly, no answers.

Well, so much for the political science. What about the actual plot?

Saturn Girl is elected leader, though she used her power to force everyone to vote for her. This is highly suspicious in itself, but she then proceeds to completely abuse her position, putting Legionnaires through rigged tests and suspending them when they fail. At the same time, she is actually stealing their powers for herself through a bit of hand-wavium technology. So we get a number of nice scenes of each Legionnaire demonstrating his or her power, which is pretty cool.

I must digress here to acknowledge that Saturn Girl gets a lot of hate from Legion fans due to her superior, bullying attitude. I suspect a lot of this feeling stems from this story, where she’s showing that side of her nature in spades. But she’s doing it for a reason (which we shall discuss shortly) and it doesn’t mean that this is what she is actually like! In fact, dialogue from Triplicate Girl explicitly acknowledges that this is not Saturn Girl’s normal personality at all:

So there you go, Saturn Girl haters, your assumptions are completely unfounded.

So what is the reason for Saturn Girl’s apparent evil turn? Well you see she’s received a message from an unknown alien civilization that predicts a Legionnaire will die while using his or her power on a mission. Yet despite this amazing power of prediction, the aliens can’t tell which
Legionnaire it is.

Now you see what I meant about a preposterous premise underpinning the plot. Also ridiculous is the course of action Saturn Girl has taken. Instead of talking over with her team-mates, or even—here’s a radical thought—being at all suspicious of the alien massage, she has rigged an election and stolen everybody’s powers to make sure that she is the one that dies.

How noble! How selfless! How utterly … utterly … stupid. Seriously, on one level you can admire her but on every other level you just have to admit this is really poor characterisation by Jerry Siegel. I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough to be convinced by her actions.

But what I can be convinced by, and what (just about) saves the story at the very end, is Lightning Lad’s action. While the other Legionnaires are meekly standing by while Saturn Girl flies off to her doom, Lightning Lad flies after her and uses his power to complete the mission against Zaryan the Conqueror. And, just as the aliens predicted, a Legionnaire dies while using his power—and that Legionnaire is Lightning Lad, sacrificing himself just as Saturn Girl had planned to. What’s more, he did so deliberately, having learned about the message she was keeping secret.

This is really quite a shocking ending. We see him die on panel, they hold a funeral (with his friends’ grief readily apparent in John Forte’s expressive art), we see him in his casket, everything. He appears to be really dead and gone.

Except unfortunately, they ruin it with the blurb in the last panel.

So, almost certainly not dead for good then. Oh well. It could have been a shocking ending, but it wasn’t. Even back in 1963 dead didn’t mean dead.

One more final point of interest in this issue: Lightning Lad’s funeral is the first time we see Superboy and Supergirl together in the Legion’s time period. This is a big deal, as Supergirl is from Superboy’s immediate future and he isn’t supposed to know anything about her (that point
was specifically made in the story The Legion of Super Traitors in Adventure Comics #293, and was a key plot point in Superboy Meets Supergirl, Superboy #80). So I don’t know if this was just oversight on Siegel’s part or if this will be explored further in future stories. I hope it’s the latter.

And one final bizarre note, why has Supergirl brought Lori Lemaris to Lightning Lad’s funeral? She has no connection with the Legion at all. Did Supergirl just happen to be hanging out with her when the call came through and was all, ‘Hey, come to a 31st century funeral with me, it will be a
laugh’? Bizarre.


Very late to the party
#2

I’m still on a quest to read Batman related books from Knightfall to present day.

Just finished another of my custom binds, this time one that includes the Legacy storyline.

Detective 697-699 features Lock-Up, a character who captures villains and holds them in his custom, you guessed it, lock-up. It’s by Dixon and Nolan so it’s a fun romp but nothing special.

The Legacy storyline then kicks in and is told across multiple titles in 9 parts. Basically, it’s a follow up to the previous Contagion story. The architect behind the clench virus is finally revealed to be Ra’s Al Ghul and now he is intent on released an even deadlier strain in multiple cities around the world. It’s not great and it mainly serves to supposedly take Ra’s and Talia off the board and re-establish Bane as a threat in the Bat-universe. Id’ say the Alan Grant penned Shadow of the Bat issues are the best as he has a great handle on the Batman and writes fitting dialogue.

Batman: Bane is up next and it’s a one-shot that picks up where Legacy ends to show what happened next with Bane. It’s full on action and features lovely art by Rich Burchett. It’s more rough and scratchy than his usual style and really suits the book well.

Batman 535-541 are by Moench and Jones, a team I was never than keen on but for me, this run is their best on the title. 535 is a stand alone story that’s all about the detective and puzzle solving. It’s also has a great horror angle that about scientists playing god with man and beast. 536-538 is a 3 parter starring Man-Bat and Kelly Jones excels in making the creature fearsome yet pained all in one. 539 is another horror story and it’s pretty creepy, in a good way. 540-541 are the least special of the bunch as The Spectre some to town and obviously tries to judge Batman along the way. This marks a turning point as Bruce Wayne gets lots more coverage and the Moench introduces Vesper Fairchild as a potential flame.

Detective 703-713 are again all by Dixon and Nolan. 703 is a Final Night tale that serves to put the Huntress more in line with the Bat family and 704 is another one off about a career criminal trying to go straight. I liked it. 705-707 was very reminiscent of Die Hard with a Vengeance in that Batman and Robin are running around town trying to solve clues set by The Riddler. It’s all a bit hokey and predictable but again it’s kind of fun. 708-710 are inked by Bill Sienkiewicz and Nolan’s pencils have never looked better. It’s a story about a couple of hitmen coming to Gotham. When those hitmen are Gunhawk and Deathstroke (who as it turns out have a history) the fireworks fly. Good stuff. 711 has Bruce Wayne at the fore and proves you don’t a Batman appearance for a ‘Bat book’ to be good. 712-713 is a story about a long thought dead criminal who comes back more mechanically enhanced. It’s okay but not great.


#3

So, another chunk of Batman stuff done and dusted.

Batman 542-543 is the last of the Moench/Jones stories I liked and it tells the tale of a man who keeps getting ignored so of course he decides to start killing people. There’s a bit more to it than that and Moench weaves a good horrorish angle whilst Jones provides suitable visuals. 544-546 is a Joke/Demon story and it should have been limited to one issue. I’m not a fan of the Demon’s rhyming dialogue and nothing much seems to happen. 547 is stand alone Genesis tie in issue and 548-549 is a Penguin story that both creators seem to be on autopilot for. 550 benefits from from some nice JH Williams art and introduces special agent Cameron Chase to the Batverse although her involvement is limited and she does nothing to standout. In fact I’m surprised she got a spin off series based on this.

Detective 714-718 feature Firefly ina forgettable tale and Gearhead who is an awful Bat villain. He looks stupid, sounds stupid and is stupid.

Batman 551-552 tries to tie in religion, evil and crime fighting into a neat package when the Ragman comes to town but it just comes off as boring and irrelevant.

Detective 719 is a Cataclysm prelude and I’m not sure anyone foresaw the turmoil that Gotham would be thrust into. The main Cataclysm event then kicks in across various titles and although it’s a multi part crossover, all the parts are actually self contained one and dones. It makes a refreshing change as you don’t want to have to buy all the parts to know what’s going on. Nightwing 19 is probably the highlight as Scott McDaniel is pretty sdept at drawing a ruined Gotham.

The Aftershock storyline follows this and I really enjoyed it. Again, although each title has the same running theme of a desperate Gotham population trying to get on with life after tragic events, but stories are self contained and really compliment each other. The stand out is probably Shadow of the Bat and Alan Grant proves he is ones of the best Bat writers. He chooses to focus less on the Bat and more on joe public and plumbs the depths of their tragedy.

Yanick Paquette recently teamed with Grant Morrison on Batman Inc but if you go back 15 years you can find his first Bat work on Batman 1 million. Interestingly his take on the character hasn’t changed that much. Tucked in the Aftershhock run is a cracking issue by Dixon and Rosado. Tec 725 is more of a talky issue and has a great scene where Bruce admits that Dick is now better than him. There is also a really nice crossover with Green Arrrow that features lovely art by Roasdo, Braithwaite, Maleev and McDaniel.

Roll on No Man’s Land!


#4

Picked up a great Punisher bargain on eBay for £40.

Punisher (2000) 1-12
Punisher (2001) 1-37
Punisher (2004) 1-75
Punisher War Journal (2007) 1-26
Punisher (2009) 1-22
Punisher (2011) 1-16
Plus 11 minis and 19 one shots

I’ve never really read much Punisher stuff but thought I’d give this a go.

Punisher (2000) 1-12 - This is not my cup of tea. Way too much comedic violence none of which I laughed or even smiled at. Also, Frank just seems so bland a character, there’s nothing to him. ‘Look there’s bad guys, let’s kill them’. Rinse and repeat. I’ve just started the next volume hoping for more of a straight laced story but oops, there’s the Russian with massive boobs. Awful stuff. My friend told me that the long 75 issue Max series is better so I will keep trudging though until I get to that.

Fury Max (2001) 1-6 - Wow, this is pretty much the same story as told in the first six issues of the 2001 Punisher title. Again too much comedy for me although Robertson’s art is good.

Fury: Peacemaker (2006) 1-6 - Gone is the comedy, hoorah! This is a pretty serious World War II tale that features some truly moral decisions faced by the characters. Fury and his pals are sent into the warzone to assassinate a German Field Marshall but find out that he himself is on his way to assassinate Hitler. Do the heroes believe this outlandish tale or call his bluff? It’s good stuff although Robertson’s art seems very rushed and to be honest it’s not a Nick Fury story, it’s a WWII story as his character is irrelevant.


#5

Aztek 1-10 (DC 1996) - I can vividly remember buying the first issue of this in, what was at the time, my LCS in Salisbury. I was into buying any number 1 I could get my hands on and had no idea who the creators were but I remember really liking it. On reflection, I’m not sure how the breakdown of writing went with Millar/Morrison but I definitely didn’t get as much out of it on this re-read. Aztek is a new hero who debuts in Vanity City and is immediately thrust into supervillain fights, work struggles and relationship dilemmas. It’s okay but nothing special and the best bits are actually the back matter in issues 1-3.

The Shade 1-4 (DC 1997) - I’ve been planning a big Starman re-read for ages and realised I don’t have and have read The Shade mini. I bought the issues cheap and gave it a go. I can’t really remember too much of the Starman series but I hope it’s not like this. Yes the art is nice but the writing is so drab and much too wordy. The Shade as a character is pretty depressing and melancholy which doesn’t make a good lead.


#6

No Place Like Home 1-5 (Image 2012) - This is a pretty cool mini series that was supposed to then become an ongoing but nothing materialised after issue 5. Basically, the story revolves around a small town in Kansas called Emeraldsville. After having been away from home for a few years, Dee returns and finds a serial killer on the loose. This is no ordinary killer though as fantasy and horror become intertwined. It features a quick fire script, action and intrigue and It’s a shame the series stopped because that cliffhanger at the end has me itching for more.

Justice League Elite 1-12 (DC 2004) - Doug Mahnke is probably in my all time top 5 artists list and here he knocks it out of the park. Loads of detail, spot on character designs and amazing action scenes make up the entirety of this series. Joe Kelly writes an interesting take on undercover, covert superheroes and it rolls along nicely until it slightly unravels in the last 3 or 4 issues when it becomes a bit confusing. That said I did enjoy it and will definitely revisit it in a year or two. My only other complaint is that I wish it was on glossy paper.


#7

The Black Coat: A Call to Arms 1-4 (2006) - Early Francesco Francavilla art here and it looks great. I think the black and white really suits his style and the overall feel of this 18th century romp. It’s kind of Zorro in the colonies and starts strongly but sadly drops off as the big picture is never realised and it just becomes a murder mystery that isn’t that interesting.

Wolfskin 1-3 (2006) - What if Warren Ellis wrote a mature readers only Conan comic? Whilst wandering through the woods our title character finds himself in conflict with two warring brothers. It initially looks like the story will have some kind of moral code or message but it just descends into brutal battle and gory slaughter all rendered magnificently by Juan Jose Ryp. It’s an okay read but concludes somewhat unsatisfactorily.

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island 1-4 (2010) - More Warren Ellis but this time he’s playing around with 1830’s London, Spring Heeled Jack and electric powered flying boats. Essentially it’s another Ellis series that starts off with great promise but flounders and doesn’t realise it’s potential.

Warhammer 40K Damnation Crusade 1-6 (2006) - I do like the W40K novels but I’m not sure how well the stories translate to comics. Although the entire story follows a new space marine recruit, the first three issues are a little bitty and there just aren’t enough pages to fill the reader in on adeptus astartes lore. The art is too murky for my tastes and the nature of the dry, automaton-like characters make for a fairly dull comic.


#8

Adventure Comics #305

‘The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire’
By Jerry Siegel and John Forte

I’ve been disparaging about Jerry Siegel’s plotting in the
past but, looking at the big picture, he’s doing a great job of building a rich
and tightly-woven Legion continuity. His stories refer to the past and
foreshadow the future, making you feel like you’re in a long epic. But he does
it while telling tightly-plotted, stand-alone, 10-page stories, rather than the
stretched-out six-issue ‘arcs’ that are so common today.

This issue is a prime example. It tells a pretty simple
story about a new Legion applicant, while heavily (but never confusingly)
referencing the rich lore that has built up over the five years since the
Legion was first introduced.

The opening scene reminds us of the death of Lightning Lad
last issue, and this leads naturally into the Legion auditioning new applicants
for membership. Antennae Boy can’t control his power and Dynamo Kid is a cheat,
but the third applicant, Legionnaire Lemon, seems too good to be true.

The cocky Lemon is put through his trials, and sails through
them using his powers and intelligence. He even manages to defeat a deadly
sun-eater (which looks like a cuddly dinosaur) single-handedly.

Another test sees him creating a brand-new element.

I don’t think even Superboy has ever managed that! (This is
a step above turning coal into diamond.) I can’t think of much use for a metal that just flies off by itself, though.

The twist comes later, when Legionnaire Lemon removes his
mask to reveal:

Well, I have to be honest, I did see it coming. Lemon/Mon-El
… it was too obvious. And Siegel foreshadowed it by referring to the
anti-lead serum that Brainiac 5 is working on.

Then we learn that Brainiac 5 has finally, successfully created an anti-lead serum
which now allows Mon-El to permanently leave the Phantom Zone, and they hatched the
plan to hoodwink the other Legionnaires. The cocky act was just that, an act
(something which quite relieved me, as I didn’t like Lemon at all but I have
really admired Mon-El in his previous appearances.

One of the most interesting points of this issue is that it
cements Brainiac 5’s role as the Legion’s inventor, something that was hinted
at before but never made clear. And he’s quite obviously a genius, as not even
Superboy was ever able to make an anti-lead serum.

The story ends with another bit of foreshadowing, as Mon-El
muses that his home world of Daxam may have a way to restore Lightning Lad to
life. Is it possible? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s exactly this issue-spanning
continuity that is making Siegel’s current run of Legion stories so
interesting.


#9

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead 1-4 (2009) & Hotwire: Deep Cut 1-3 (2010) - Based on an idea by Warren Ellis with script and art by Steve Pugh both these minis. Alice Hotwire is a renegade police detective who specialises in ectoplasmic exorcism. Shunned by her colleagues, haunted by ghosts, or ‘blue lights’ as they are known, Alice proves to be a great lead character. The art is the first thing that catches your eye and it’s insanely good. However, the script and dialogue are equally up to the task and the only crime is that the second volume was never collected inn trade. I’d urge you trade wait only guys to check out the first volume and then commit the sin of buying the single back issues of the second! (I haven’t checked but they might be available digitally as well)


#10

That is really nice art.


#11

There is a copy of the first story in trade here for a reasonable price.


#12

Superman #400 - @Mark_Millar has long said that this is his favorite Superman issue of all time. So I’ve been on the look out for a cheap copy for a while. I found it at the Graham Crackers in Naperville signing with Mark for $4. It was an interesting issue. Most interesting was the collection of pin-ups from greats like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller and even Moebius. It’s not my favorite Superman story of all time but it was certainly worth the read.

Superman #410-415 - I picked these issues up in one of DC’s Divergence ComiXology sales. It’s an interesting mix of Pre and During Crisis books. It starts with a classic two-parter versus Lex Luthor that is interrupted by a tribute to Julius Schwartz. While the last two issues act as a bit of a eulogy for the recently departed Supergirl. There are also several covers signed by “Janson” who I assume is current Superman inker Klaus Janson. I enjoyed the issues and they act as an interesting lead in to the Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow issues and in juxtaposition to the impending Man of Steel relaunch of the time.


#13

Now it all makes sense…


#14

Uh…maybe it’s actually Superman who is flying upside down, Lois?

Of such insightful reporting, Pulitzers are made.


#15

Adventure Comics #306

‘The Legion of Substitute Heroes’

By Edmond Hamilton and John Forte

The last few years of stories of the Legion of Super-Heroes, appearing
in various titles, have seen some high points and some low points. I’ve made no
secret of how frustrated the writing of Jerry Siegel has made me—frustrated
because despite his boundless supply of fantastic ideas, he constantly falls
back on clumsy and careless plotting techniques that drag down what should be
great stories.

But this issue brings a change in all that, and a most
definite high point, in the debut of a new writer for the Legion: Edmond
Hamilton.

Yes, I’m talking about the Edmond Hamilton, one of
the founders of pulp SF and for the last 40 years one of the most well-regarded
writers of SF adventure stories, and arguably the creator (though perhaps ‘Doc’
Smith deserves equal credit) of the genre we know today as ‘space opera’. The
primary writer (under editor Mort Weisinger—name ring a bell?) of Captain Future
for over 10 years of publication. The man who took The Prisoner of Zenda
and re-worked it as an SF series. The man who wrote the Starwolf series (I
can see the collected edition on my shelf as I type this). A writer of dozens—maybe
hundreds—of SF short stories, who in his spare time also wrote for all the major
detective magazines, because he knew how to really plot as well as spin
out fantastic concepts on a monthly basis. Yes, that Edmond Hamilton.

And he’s writing a story about the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Can you tell how excited I am?

So, let’s see how this legend handles my favourite heroes.

The story starts with a young hopeful, Brek Bannin of the
planet Tharr, arriving on Earth and trying out for the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Unfortunately, the Legion (rather unfairly, I thought) decide that his amazing
power to create intense cold is too dangerous to work in a team situation. They
reject him and give him an anti-gravity flying-belt as a consolation prize.

So far, so Jerry Siegel. The Legion is shown to be cold and
capricious, the ‘consolation prize’ is a bit random, and we see the old tropes
such as the avenue of giant statues erected to honour the glory-hound
Legionnaires.

But … there is something different in Brek Bannin. Something
about him that’s hard to put my finger on, but I instantly like him. In just a
few panels we learn about his background, learn that he has worked his passage
to Earth and queued all night outside the clubhouse to earn his chance of a
try-out. And his power is pretty amazing. I felt really bad when he was
rejected.

Outside the clubhouse, young Brek meets the strikingly statuesque
Night Girl, who was rejected right after he was, and a group of other rejected
applicants—Stone Boy, Fire Lad, and Chlorophyll Kid. And in the space of one panel,
Brek jumps from being a likeable loser to being one of my favourite characters in
the series.

The five of them take an oath that they will always use
their powers for good and to help the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Compare that with the actual Legion, who mostly use their
powers to play pranks, and have giant statues erected in their name.

Despite their keenness, things don’t go too well for the substitutes.
The Legion never seems to need their help, and their morale starts to flag. Except
for Brek, whose indefatigable optimism keeps the team going. He’s the kind of
leader I would want in my team, and to be honest he puts the Legion leaders to
shame.

I won’t give away the full plot, but suffice to say the
substitutes eventually find a mission that only they can accomplish. And
despite their (to be honest) fairly terrible collection of powers, they pull
through with cleverness, courage, and determination, and save the Earth. All
without anybody knowing they’ve done it. And do they brag about it? Do they
rush to tell the Legion what they’ve done? Do they ask for parades and statues?

No.

Because they are real heroes. And Brek Bannin, Polar Boy, is
the best of them.

This might be the best comic I’ve read this year. And if
Edmond Hamilton continues to turn out stories of this calibre (and I am
confident that he will), the Legion of Super-Heroes is going to turn into a legendary
series.


#16

Not sure if these are old enough to go here as I guess they could have gone in the ‘Everyone else’ thread. Oh well, I’ve started now.

Four Eyes 1-4 (2008 Image) - With the announcement that more issues are on the horizon I went digging in my long boxes and pulled out these gems. It might have taken nearly two years to produce four issues but I really like this series. It a story set in the depression era and young Enrico gets embroiled in the world of Dragon fighting. It’s an unlikely subject matter mix but Joe Kelly and Max Fuimara tell the tale with engaging dialogue and lovely art. It ends on a cliffhanger which was not ideal at the time but hopefully now we’ll get to see where the story leads. For those that misses it there was a recent remastered trade which can be picked up for £5.66 at Wordery (the cheapest I could find)

The Umbrella Academy vol 1. 1-6 & vol 2. 1-6 (2007/2008 Dark Horse) - Firstly, if you don’t think that Dave Stewart is the best colourist working in comics you are wrong. Secondly Gabriel Ba produces some of the best art of his career. Thirdly Gerard Way may be a musician but he happens to be a pretty good comic book writer as well. There’s plenty to like here and the first issue reads like a comic book version of a Wes Anderson movie. Interesting characters, intriguing plots wacky happenings and a sharp script.

Essentially the book revolves around a dysfunctional family of superheroes and the, mainly, strained relationships they all have with each other. There are some problems though. Characters get introduced and then left dangling without being fleshed out or any kind of origin story. The first series would have benefited from more Detective Lupo, Sir Reginald, Abhijat and the villain who is kind of a Joker-like psycho.

The second series picks up where the first finished with the team broken and a sub plot from vol 1 becoming this series’ main plot. There are some good moments such as Pogo the chimp dressed as George Washington The Séance getting his hair done and a guy with a fish bowl for a head.

Hazel and Cha Cha make chillingly frightening bad guys and they also bear a bit of a resemblance to Jules and Vincent from pulp Fiction (minus crazy head gear)

Overall I did enjoy it but felt it got a little sloppy in places. Worth checking out though.


#17

I loved both volumes of Umbrella Academy when the came out. I’ve been looking forward to the third for a long time. I almost didn’t pick it up as I had just read some of Claudio Sanchez’s Coheed & Cambria related comics and didn’t care for them. I guess to be fair, Way did plan and study to be a comic creator before his music career took off. I like how you’re largely left in the dark about the character’s origin for the first book only being doled out small clues. Then, the second book reveals more but not everything. Like I said, I really wish the third volume would start. It was announced at the same time as The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.


#18

Daredevil #220

“Fog”

This may be the darkest issue of Daredevil I’ve ever read. And if you know anything about Daredevil, you know that’s saying quite a bit. But this is a story that touches on depression, suicide, death and guilt and only makes the most half-hearted effort to offer some lightness at the end of the tunnel - with a conclusion that seeks to reassure Matt Murdock and his readers with some trite throwaway remarks, but which actually conceals some even greater darkness if you know the backstory of the characters involved.

“Fog” - written by Denny O’Neill, but with special thanks to Frank Miller (perhaps for a writing assist? Who knows) begins with Matt’s ex, Heather Glenn, in a bad place (which we gather immediately via some atmospheric David Mazzucchelli art):

She calls up Matt in the middle of the night and asks him to come over and help her pull herself together. Which he obligingly does, bounding out of his skylight to her rescue in a beautiful pair of panels:

So this story is going to be about swashbuckler Daredevil riding to his girl’s side to reassure her in her hour of need, right?

Well no, not exactly.

On the way over, Matt passes by an apartment block and hears a domestic argument taking place that includes death threats to a woman if she walks out on her man. But given the urgency of Heather’s call, he decides to ignore this tiff for now, and races to her side.

When he arrives, she’s drunk herself to sleep and Matt finds himself disgusted with her smoky, boozy hovel. He essentially tells her to sort her life out and leaves quickly.

The next day, he discovers that the woman from the domestic argument has been murdered. So the next time Heather calls, he gives her both barrels and essentially makes it clear that he holds her responsible.

She keeps calling, but he ignores her. After calls to the office all day, Foggy decides to intervene and go over to see her to himself. When Matt hears this, he heads over too. And here’s the sight that greets him:

It’s an incredibly dark moment, and one that’s handled pretty unflinchingly by the book. Heather has killed herself, apparently as a direct result of Matt’s callousness towards her. Not a dream. Not an imaginary story. Horrible, hard reality.

But the book quickly moves to reassure us that there’s more to this death than meets the eye, as Matt goes into DD mode and discovers signs that Heather’s apartment was robbed as she had valuables in her safe that an enterprising criminal found out about. So that’s the solution! It was a faked suicide to cover up a robbery, right? Matt is in the clear?

Well, no. We discover that while the theft did take place that night, Heather had already killed herself by the time the burglars got there. So while Matt has caught some thieves, he hasn’t extricated himself from the mess surrounding her death.

Luckily, his best friend can offer some anodyne words of comfort in his darkest hour:

Cold comfort.

And the secret that I mentioned earlier makes this story even darker: because longtime readers will recall that the reason Matt and Heather split up in the first place was due to a plot by Foggy and Black Widow to break them up with faked ‘Dear John’ letters, ultimately leading to them cancelling their planned wedding and breaking up altogether (and while Matt eventually discovered that the letters were fake, he never found out that Foggy and BW were behind it).

But this detail is curiously ignored by this story - presumably because it would really drop Foggy in it, making him not only look like the one responsible for the whole sorry affair, but also someone who’s willing to maintain a deception of his best friend even in the darkest of circumstances.

Somehow I don’t see the TV show adapting this one.


#19

Spawn #11 - I found this in the 25¢ bin and thought I would give it a try. Early in Spawn’s publishing history Todd McFarlane commissioned great writers to do stories with his art. Previous issues had Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim on writing duties and were probably the best of Spawn issues ever made. This issue was written by Frank Miller and the only one in this grouping that I’ve never read. I can’t say that it is up to the same standard as the previous issues. It seems like Todd is starting to get bored with drawing the book at this point (he would leave and turn the book over to Greg Capullo with issue #16). Frank Miller doesn’t seem particularly interested in the character either. He definitely doesn’t add anything to the mythos like Moore and Gaiman did. It was well worth the price of admission to assuage my curiosity but I wouldn’t recommend paying more for it. :wink:


#20

Young Liars 1-18 (2009 Vertigo) - This is the second time I’ve read this (the first being when it initially came out) and my feelings about it have been pretty much the same both times. WTF? It starts off with one of the best first issues of a series I’ve ever read. Engaging plot, great dialogue, wonderful cast of characters and pitch perfect art. If you read issue 1 and don’t want to read more there’s something wrong with you. Sure it’s a book about twenty somethings with music as a central theme but it’s much much more than a mopey angst ridden drama. Shit really kicks off when the spiders from Mars get referenced and then everything you thought you knew about the series goes tumbling over a cliff and you need to rethink it all. It reminded me a lot of Twin Peaks in that regard.

Danny and Sadie are the main protagonists and their relationship is at the heart of the story which becomes twisted as sex, murder, fantasy and alternate realities spring up all over the place. There is also plenty of high octane action and each book flows seamlessly even if half the time I had no idea what was really going on.

The fact that Dave Lapham wrote, pencilled and inked the entire series is probably key to the success (well lack of actually as it was cancelled) of the book. He improvised much of it but it is clearly his vision and is wickedly original.

When I finished it I was left with loads of questions that ultimately didn’t get answered, or maybe they did and I just couldn’t work them out. As much of a head scratcher as this series is I do really like it, I think, and will revisit it again down the line. If you haven’t read it I think you should, especially if you like the works of one Grant Morrison.