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The Trades Thread - Hardcovers, Graphic Novels, and More


#4004

Picked up a copy of The American Way 10th Anniversary Edition at Strand’s Bookstore today. Very compelling story of superheroes and racial tension in an alternate version of '60’s America.

And who better to tell a story of bigotry and superpowers than John Ridley, the man who gave the world Soledad O’Roarke?


#4005

Recent reads…

The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek

For anyone who enjoyed the first collection, this superb little book is more of the same. I know Francavilla got the opportunity to do a Spirit run, which I can’t blame him for taking up, but I hope he remembers to get around to doing the Necrologue story.

Locke & Key: Heaven & Earth HC

For anyone who enjoyed the main story, the two short tales, with a mini third, are very fun additions to the series. The only decision I really disagree with is the choice of lettering style on the Grindhouse story.

Hard Boiled OHC

So let’s go way back when, to the time Frank Miller had a career and wasn’t best known for doing crazy shit comics of a notorious variety. Way back when, he and Darrow got together to do this very bleak but blackly comic satire of a corporate future, complete with killer robots.

The story tends to flip between the two strands - corporate satire and that androids are violated by their creators. The former tends to crowd out the latter, which is a bit of a shame, but if the corporate plot didn’t take the lead there wouldn’t be the numerous - and mind-bogglingly detailed - scenes of total carnage! The running joke is that Nixon can’t do anything that doesn’t in three figure body counts and lots of explosions. The only weakness is in the conclusion which comes out of nowhere and shuffles it all off-stage very quickly.

Then again, in this book it’s not the story that is the star, no, that’s the art. Darrow puts so much into the book - the panel with the Cop Tank, bristling with missiles and 10 times bigger than any other vehicles, which it practically steamrollers, was genius. But the entire book is filled with that genius talent for designing panels and sequences - few artists will ever use a double-page spread to quite the effect that Darrow does here.

Looking forward to the next Shaolin Cowboy volume in a few weeks now.


#4006

Yeah, I’m looking forward to that new Shaolin Cowboy book too. Apparently Darrow has talked to Dark Horse about getting the original series back in print - it would be great if they reissued that in the same format, and we had a nice set of all three.


#4007

Just finished reading the Hard Boiled HC in full (it takes a long time when you spend so long poring over each image!).

I thoroughly enjoyed it again, and despite the fairly significant colouring changes I actually think there’s a lot to recommend in the colours of this version. I felt like there’s greater clarity here, and some of the more drastic departures from the original make quite a bit of sense from a story point of view.

A really nice edition.


#4008

I read Hard Boiled a while back and didn’t really like it. It almost felt like the art was too detailed, to the detriment of the storytelling. Yet, it seems like the detailed art was the point of it all. Overall, I can’t say that I much liked it. I’ll be really surprised if they make a movie adaptation both faithful and successful.
Maybe I should check out the new edition and try to re-evaluate the thing?


#4009

Dark Night: A True Batman Story HC

What a unique book this is. An autobiographical story by Paul Dini, it centres around an incident from the early '90s in which he was brutally mugged, and goes on to relate how he dealt with the aftermath of that experience, and how it coloured his approach to life afterwards.

It also features a host of appearances from various fictional characters (with Batman chief among them), emanating from Dini’s own imagination and only interacting with the story insofar as they embody the thoughts and feelings that Dini was experiencing.

With art by Eduardo Risso it’s also a striking-looking book, with some starkly violent and disturbing sequences sitting alongside some lush, detailed, colourful panels as the characters created by Dini’s imagination start to intrude on real life.

The book sets up this device nicely, with an early section that deals with Dini’s schooldays giving us a glimpse into just how ‘real’ these characters were for him, and how they continued to represent his innermost feelings as he grew up.

Despite the book opening with a splashpage that shows Dini’s extensive injuries as a result of the attack (before flashing back to begin the story proper), the story lulls us into a safe and secure atmosphere as it sets out the writer’s early career, leading him to what seems to be a dream job (writing Batman: The Animated Series) and a comfortable bachelor lifestyle.

Even at this early stage, however, we see how Dini’s neuroses eat away at him (particularly during a great scene with a girlfriend in which he is counselled by an imaginary Bruce Wayne), helping to set the stage for what is to come later.

It’s to the book’s credit that it still manages to be incredibly jarring when the mugging that we know is coming finally arrives, as Risso emphasises the moment with some bold, silhouetted, art that’s almost abstract in places - both in terms of the depictions within each panel and the way that the images are strung together into a story. It creates a sense of disjointedness and unsettles the reader in a way that comes as close as a comic book can to conveying the violence and shock of the moment.

3 - Mugging

And crucially for the book, it’s not just this single scene that deals with violent or disturbing material. As Dini returns home after the attack, we see how his loneliness contributes to the psychological problems that compound his physical injuries.

It’s arresting, upsetting material that feels like it comes from a place of incredible honesty. It never shies away from Dini’s darkest experiences and feelings about the attack, instead presenting it with an unflinching candour that helps make the book gripping even when there isn’t much in the way of action to speak of.

That’s not to say that there aren’t occasional moments of traditional comicbook action. A favourite scene is the flight of fancy in which Dini imagines how Batman would have handled the attack if he had been there (and indeed, if he had been real).

But Dini is quickly brought back down to Earth, as his physical injuries lead to personal and behavioural problems that persist long after the mugging - and it’s in this section of the book that Dini shares with us some of his most private, self-critical and self-destructive thoughts.

Again, these are often represented by comicbook characters, with villains vocalising his most negative impulses, while also threatening to undermine his own attempts to recover and put his life back on track. Having conflicting voices battle for control of your mind is something that will be familiar to most people (whether through fiction or their own experiences), but the way this book visualises that idea feels original and effective.

6 - Joker Torment

There are sections here in which Dini really bares his soul - a flashback involving an act of self-harm stands out in particular - but it never feels like an indulgent confessional. Instead, it’s an attempt to give us a fully-rounded picture of who Dini is and was, and he never falls into the trap of painting himself as either too much of a hero, a victim or a villain.

As we see Dini start to pull himself out of the dark place that the mugging has left him, there’s a real sense of triumph and empathy to seeing this person (that we now know so well) begin to turn his life around. Even if he does occasionally need a bit of a nudge from his imaginary friend.

This is a hugely moving and compelling story that really gives the reader a feeling of getting to know a writer intimately, of sharing in his experiences and - depending on the extent to which you see yourself reflected in the book - gaining a new perspective on your own thoughts and feelings too.

Risso’s art is also hugely impressive - adapting to the needs of each page and showing a range that I didn’t know he had - but it’s never so showy that it gets in the way of the incredibly direct, personal story that Dini is telling here.

My only regret about this book is that it’s taken me this long to act on the recommendations to pick it up.


#4010

Yeah, it’s superb.

On so many levels too.


#4011

It’s fantastic, a modern day classic - you’ve put me in the mood for a re-read.


#4012

I’ve just read Nameless. It’s been a while since I read a Morrison book and this one is very Morrison indeed. Pure cosmic horror, including a lot of rather impressively disgusting imagery. It’s a lot of fun.


#4013

I think Nameless is great. It makes me think that the upcoming Batman book they’re working on together under the Arkham Asylum 2 title could be just as weird and wonderful as the first Arkham Asylum, in its own way.


#4014

Is Morrison done with creator-owned stuff for now (aside from his strips for Heavy Metal)?


#4015

Here you go, the latest from him on his plans taken from an interview a couple of weeks back:

Since you see this as something of an annual tradition, do you already have Klaus ideas percolating for 2018 and beyond?

I already have plans for next year’s special (three specials will also give us a decent book collection as a Volume 2 follow-up to the origin story). Following that, for volume 3, I have an idea to do a longer, more involved and “serious” story with Klaus in 2019.

The Klaus specials are fairly short and super-compressed; I think of them in terms of something like the Doctor Who Christmas shows or the kind of extended stories we used to get in Superman annuals, so they’re light, fast reads that are heavy on plot and incident. I’d like to complement them with something more ambitious. If that doesn’t work out, I still want to do something every Christmas with Klaus.

We’ll see what happens. I’ve spent most of last year writing and producing on the Happy! TV show — a different kind of Christmas story which airs on Nov. 29 this year — and the Brave New World adaption for Syfy. I have three TV shows in various stages of development, with more on offer and I’m having so much fun doing that, it’s likely to occupy most of my time for the next few years at least. As a result, my comic output has diminished to a few pet projects: Klaus, short stories in Heavy Metal, the Wonder Woman: Earth One trilogy, the Avatarex book at Graphic India, Sinatoro with Black Mask and the Arkham Asylum sequel, which I’ll get into seriously at the start of 2018.

In the meantime, I hope people enjoy Crisis in Xmasville. It’s an ideal holiday stocking filler for all the family and is so packed with vitamins it can even double as a Christmas dinner for two if you burn the roast!


#4016

Shit, I always forget about Klaus. Thanks, Gar!

I had no idea he was doing so much TV work, either.


#4017

Yeah, that’s interesting. Certainly a reason to take a look at those shows.


#4018

Yeah, he’s been linked with Brave New World for a while now - it’s one of those projects that seems to be taking its time getting going. I hope it’s worth the wait.

To be honest, I’m fine with creators in his position picking and choosing pet projects rather than feeling like they have to constantly keep their hand in regular comics. It seems to be working for him creatively - I’m enjoying all the stuff he’s putting out at the moment and I’m looking forward to Happy! and his forthcoming comics work.


#4019

It also seems from there his creator owned v DC work is 4-2. Which makes sense, the more he wants to look at TV that material is what has value for him.

I’m really looking forward to Happy!, I thought the comic was genuinely really funny which is a rarity at times.


#4020

So, 3 of the DC Deluxe / OHC editions turned up, how do they compare to the very impressive Omnibuses?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say they feel like a step down, very good yes, but not quite the excellence embodied by Gotham Central, Orion and Knightfall 1 editions.

That said it’s great having Superman as a nice big hardback and it looks like Action Comics OHC1 will be a fun read. The only major mistake has been in Batman OHC 1 where they included just the two Batman issues of the Monster Men crossover. They should have either included all six or none instead of the worst of both worlds they went with. It doesn’t matter to much to me, as I didn’t care much about that story but it should have been better. It doesn’t augur well for how they’ll render the Superman Reborn story either.


#4021

So, I received my copy of The Tithe: Volume 3: Samaritan: Veritas today. I’ll get around to reading the new miniseries this weekend.

There are times when I wonder about Matt Hawkins, he’s a smart guy but… In this notes at the end of this volume, he gives a reading order for the Edenverse. It’s great that it’s got to this point, three interwoven titles, with a fourth for next year.

Then, having given that order in the back, it turns out the order of the stories is Samaritan: Veritas then Eden’s Fall, the reverse order! Eden’s Fall is first and Samaritan follows on from it. This is hugely dumb.

That aside, I expect to enjoy this, despite it being a costly buy.


#4022

Batman - The Dark Knight: Master Race, HC

Batman - The Dark Knight: Master Race; The Covers, Deluxe HC

You’ll notice that neither of those titles refers to the latest Dark Knight book as ‘DK3’. That label seems destined to be something that will only ever appear on the individual issues of this book, as it’s been dropped entirely from these collections.

Whether that’s to make the book seem more accessible, or to maintain the tradition begun by Dark Knight Strikes Again of giving these sequels names rather than numbers, I don’t know. Either way, it doesn’t affect the content of these books, which both represent attempts to honour the original Dark Knight Returns and celebrate its legacy - but which go about that in quite different ways.

I’ll start with the variant-covers book, as its appeal is more straightforward. This is a collection of full-page cover-quality illustrations by some of the biggest names in comics, all of whom have come up with an original cover (or in many cases, multiple covers) for DK3 - inspired by either the original DKR, its sequel, or the new series itself.

Tellingly, the vast majority of the pieces collected here riff on moments from the original book, with some stunning pieces throughout that offer new takes on familiar scenes or images from the first DKR. It’s hard to pick out favourites, but the Jim Lee variants for all nine issues stand out as beautiful tributes (and I appreciate the coloured versions here a lot more than the pencils-only versions from the individual hardcovers, showing how much Alex Sinclair contributes to Lee’s art). The Jim Lee box art from the slipcase is even included here for completeness.

All of Miller’s various variant covers appear here too, as well as the regular versions by Andy Kubert, all the mini-comic covers, and (as far as I can tell) every one of the many other variants by other artists. With more than 100 pieces in total, the list feels endless. Frank Quitely, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sean Murphy, Greg Capullo, John Cassaday… chances are, if you have a favourite artist then they’ll be represented here. And at Deluxe HC size, the book really does them justice, making it a wonderful art book to flip through and dip into (or devour in full if you choose).

Oh, and there’s a nice foreword by Klaus Janson too.

Just like the covers book, the hardcover collection of the main series is in its own way a tribute to the solo Miller books that came before it. But in trying to craft a story that matches up to DKR (and the under-appreciated DKSA), it has a much harder task.

Does it succeed? I’m not really sure. I think to a large extent it depends what you want out of the book.

One of my favourite things about DKSA was the way it boldly deviated from the style of the original DKR, and offered something that was just as challenging and disruptive as the original book had been in the mid-eighties. In comparison, Master Race is a lot more conservative, sticking closely to the ideas and storytelling styles established in those earlier books, and relying so heavily on moments that act as homages and tributes to Miller’s earlier work that you’re often taken out of the book and start thinking about those other two series instead.

(At one point in the story, I think around issue #6, every other page is a different tribute to a page from one of the first two books. It’s fine in moderation, but it just becomes too much at that frequency.)

The story crafted by Brian Azzarello (with a certain amount of input from Miller - although exactly how much remains unclear) isn’t a bad one, although it’s hampered by being stretched out over too many issues, with the middle act of the story feeling as though it goes on forever. Also, I’m not sure that Azzarello’s clever writing and witty wordplay are the best match for the tone of the Dark Knight books, which have always felt far more visceral and hard-hitting.

That said, Azzarello does a pretty good job in bringing back most of the main players from throughout the Dark Knight saga, and incorporating them all into a story that on one hand extends Miller’s two original books and on the other seeks to apologise for them, or at least fix them in places (especially when it comes to the overly adversarial relationship between Superman and Batman).

It’s harder to find fault with Andy Kubert’s art. Altering his style in an impressive way, he retains his clear storytelling abilities while also reflecting aspects of Miller’s own art style (and Janson’s inking helps to seal the similarity). There are honestly pages that I could easily believe had been illustrated by Miller.

There are also some thrilling action sequences. An early one involving the Batmobile is perfectly paced and succeeds almost entirely due to the visuals. While I’m sure a lot of people bought this book to see the Dark Knight tribute elements (which Kubert pulls off well), some of the best moments of the book for me are the simple action scenes that give the creative team the chance to show off the very polished sequential art.

To a large extent, the book is in a bit of an impossible position: lean too heavily on the nostalgia elements, and it looks like you’re using them as a crutch; but move too far away from the original books and it doesn’t feel like Dark Knight any more. I will say that a lot of my favourite moments came in the mini-comics at the end of each issue - partly because a lot of them feature art by Miller, which gives a far more tangible sense of his involvement than the co-written scripts.

(The mini-comics are reproduced at regular size here, which is another point in the collection’s favour.)

Despite my problems with the story’s overly-familiar relationship with the previous Dark Knight books, it’s actually a pretty enjoyable read in its own right, once you leave those endless homages to one side. Reading it through in one go makes it feel far more cohesive than it did in individual issues (with long breaks between them), and there were story elements that fell into place for me a lot better here than they did when I read the story separate chapters. The mini-comics also play well off the main series, setting up subplots that come to fruition in subsequent chapters of the main book.

By the end of the series, there’s a sense that a lot of elements of the Dark Knight universe have been reset and the stage cleared for something new to take place. I don’t know whether that’s for creative reasons (the script seems to acknowledge some of the main criticisms of the previous books and seeks to do something about them, and the closing moments with Superman and his daughter are more optimistic and hopeful than I ever expected a Dark Knight book to be) or commercial ones (I’m sure DC want to exploit the ‘Dark Knight’ brand to the greatest extent possible, and I expect to hear of new books on the way soon).

But either way, the ending of this series left me both satisfied in the way that so many loose ends from the Dark Knight saga had been tied off, and interested to see what might come next.


#4023

Great review, Dave. I agree DKIII (DKMR?) would have likely worked better if it was more compressed more similar to the previous two volumes. It had some great moments like Superman taking down the Kandorians but felt like a Marvel Netflix show in the middle. Kubert’s art was fantastic. I really like the page you posted too. I doubt I will buy it in a different format but probably need to give the whole thing a reread.

It’s interesting that though initially not caring for it as much DKSA is the one I generally come back to and enjoy probably even more than DKR at times.