I’ll add my voice to the choir. All the work he did with Williamson is my favourite.
I’m two-thirds done with A Touch of Typhoid and have already ordered the next volume, Heart of Darkness, at my LCS. I’m really loving it. Typhoid Mary is such a great, original character. I had no idea. I had only read her in Bendis/Maleev’s run where she’s mainly a cipher. I like how she’s basically the Madonna/Whore paradox in the flesh, shoving a lethally sarcastic version of what men want into their faces. And what it says about Daredevil as a man is pretty interesting, too.
Loving the political and social themes Nocenti works into the story.
Typhoid Mary is one of the great DD villains. She’s not always used brilliantly but at her core I think there’s a great concept.
**Optimus Prime v1 ** - it’s interesting that the Transformers name barely appears on the trade dress for this release. I assume it’s done in an attempt to make it seem more like a part of the whole Hasbroverse rather than a TF title (yet Lost Light v1 has the Transformers name prominently and a much nicer spine design).
The Hasbroverse isn’t too intrusive here, limited to a few GI Joes turning up at various points. I don’t think they particularly add anything to the comic by being there though (the stuff about Marissa being Flint’s estranged daughter turns a nostalgic easter egg into a continuity ball and chain, and is reductive to the character imo).
The main story itself is… ok. Barber continues his gimmick of roving first person narration by issue, but the issues themselves are less able to be centred around the narrator as they were in RiD. So you end up with moments where Pyra Magna is narrating (sparsely) while having very little agency to the plot you’re following, making it all feel somewhat perfunctory.
Bringing in the Junkions is fun, but their motivation seems rather confused (they’re angry that Transformers destroyed their planet, so want to turn Earth into New Cybertron, even though they’re not Cybertronian and didn’t call their planet that). The dual narrative strands of the Junkion story in the present and then a flashback story on pre-war Cybertron doesn’t entirely work for me, but I think it warrants a re-reading.
Art is mostly by Kei Zama, who is very stylistic (in a good way) but her heavy 2000 AD influence means you get a lot of heavy blacks and results in art that I found as hard to follow as manu old black and white 2000 AD strips. One issue is by Alex Milne though, which is grand and all the colouring is by Josh Burcham, who has really bulked up the substance to go with his usual style. I don’t think it helps the readability of Zama’s art, but it does look nice.
I actually had low expectations of this, because of the Hasbroverse stuff but, while it’s not working as well as RiD did, it’s good enough for me to get volume 2.
I Hate Fairyland OHC 1
I’m quite glad I super-tradewaited this. It’s a very breezy read, to the point that I think even in regular trades (let alone single issues) it would feel quite slight. As a big chunk, it’s more satisfying.
All of which isn’t to say it isn’t a good comic. The premise - a young girl is transported to a magical fairyland to complete a quest, only to be stuck there for decades without aging - is inventive and allows for a wildly anarchic tone that perfects matches Young’s crazy art style. The series is hugely subversive, even from the resolution to its first cliffhanger, by basically not giving you the expected fight and brazenly sailing beyond its conclusion.
If I Hate Fairyland has a problem, it’s one that affects a lot of modern high concept titles - it feels a little like the core premise was done in the first arc and everything after that is flim-flamming to keep the title going. I was expecting Gert becoming queen to run for the second half of the book, but instead it’s dispensed with inside an issue, leaving the series to half-amble back to its original premise, just with less urgency. Which is fine, but has me a little concerned the series will run out of steam sooner than later.
I wish I’d waited for the OHC on this.
You can always upgrade and flog the paperbacks
One of my Xmas acquisitions was Face Ache - a collection of 70s one page comics from the archive Rebellion bought earlier in the year and released under the Treasury of British Comics banner.
Pretty funny stuff. All the stories tend to follow the same structure of: Face Ache has a scheme to get free food or money; pulls a funny face or distorts his body to get it; then usually (but not always) gets his cumupense in the form of a beating, in trouble at school or (worryingly frequently) blasted with a shotgun. He does occasionally get off scott free though.
It’s actually quite shocking initially to see the levels of violence the stories stoop too. No one ever gets properly hurt but the though of having grown adults beating children to the stage of hospitalisation in a kids comic is quite a culture shock to modern sensibilities (although the little shit usually deserves it).
I’m not old enough to have read these strips the first time around (I’ll admit I’d never really heard of the comics Buster and Jet until this collection) the strips (a majority of which are drawn by Ken Reid) are in a style that is instantly recognisable to anyone who has read a British boys comic at any stage in the past 40+ years. One thing I’m struck with is how good Reid’s penmanship is. There’s lots of detail and fine lines to pour over and appreciate as an adult reader and the quality is even more noticeable when you look at the handful of strips which aren’t drawn by Reid which are serviceable but lack that level of detail.
Overall it’s a great collection. Don’t know if it’s for everyone but for anyone with fond memories of this era / style of comics or looking for something simpler in terms of story telling its a worthwhile look.
I assume Reid worked for the Beano as well at some point, because that art instantly conjures images of 80s/early 90s Beano strips for me.
Yeah, that’s the era that I was most familiar with. The introduction mentions his work on Jonah and Roger the Dodger for The Beano. It definitely seems like he has had significant influence on the “house style” of art for these era of comics.
Those images bring back fond recollections of my summers spent in Ireland in the early '70s, where I could buy The Beano, The Dandy, Sparky and Topper every week and get my fill of Roger the Dodger, Beryl the Peril, Dennis the Menace, and Willie Getaway. Great memories…
Valerian & Laureline Volumes 18-21
I’ve been hot and cold on this quirky series but something about just kept pulling me back, probably the fact that there really is nothing else quite like it.
Like the earlier mid-point epic that saw two 2-part stories spun across Volumes 9-12, this quartet concludes the series, but this time it’s more standalone then trilogy structure.
Volume 18 is an extended pisstake of capitalism that is quite effective, for instance a corporate CEO fears his shareholders more than a literal manifestation of a supremely pissed off, full on Old Testament God. In the battle that ensures between God, the Devil and capitalism? Well it ain’t looking good for God, Lucifer does better, meanwhile Jesus keeps trying his dad going off on a mega temper tantrum.
Volume 19 is more-or-less set-up for Volume 20 and its revelation of the Wolochs, sentient genocide-inclined stones. Think the 2001 monolith, but a really pissed off version that wants to kill you and has lots of friends.
Volume 21 was startlingly ambitious, with a jump forward and intro that has the Wolochs embarked on a galactic genocide and Valerian and Laureline organising a fight back that revolves around getting enough people of of pure nature for them to use the Time Opener If you expect a grand punch-up, forget it. There’s an element of that but it’s minor, this is all about out-thinking rather than out-fighting the enemy. In the course the book you get a real sense of both the micro and macro events, which is very impressive. It also picks up strands from all its preceding volumes in a satisfying manner.
All in all, Volume 21 is a good conclusion to the 40 years of story, told across 20-21 albums.
I’d still say it is very much material of its time, but very fun. It won’t change how you see stories, but each album tends to be a fun read, with art as quirky as its story.
The Forever War
I have a history with this book. Back in my teenage years, around the time my SF reading was branching out from licensed books, and my comics reading was beginning to branch out from superheroes, I was given an issue of Heavy Metal, and there was an NBM catalogue page that included three volumes adapting the novel - which was on my horizon as something to read.
So a year or two later, a new edition of the novel has been bought, read and loved, so I’m trying to pick up the albums, but only ever found the first one from a combined comics and games stall at a gaming con in Belfast. Which was awesome, but years and years and years and years and years pass, and all of a sudden I see a new printing of the comic from Titan on the shelves!
One trade-wait later, and I have a complete edition of the comic, which is a pretty good adaptation of the novel I read over 20 years ago now.
For those who don’t know, The Forever War begins in the far-flung future of 1997, humanity has been exploring space, travelling vast distances by means of flying into black hole-like objects called collapsars. However, these are very far away from habitable planets, requiring weeks, and even months of acceleration and deceleration at relativistic speeds to reach, meaning that time slows down for the crew and passengers of spacecraft as they travel through space.
After a human ship is destroyed by an alien vessel, Earth moves to a war footing, and makes a conscript army to garrison the frozen worlds that orbit collapsars, the conscripts being the odd intersection of incredibly intelligent and physically exceptional. The narrator, William Mandella is a physics PhD candidate turned infantryman, one of the first soldiers recruited for this new army, and the book follows his military career over almost a thousand years of war.
So, when the novel was written, Joe Haldeman himself was a conscript soldier, discharged from the US army after he was injured in Vietnam, and the book was very much a metaphor for the problems he and other soldiers had adjusting to life at home after the war, and this core theme is maintained in the comic to varying degrees of success.
In many ways, the best and worst part of this in the comic is Mandella’s first return to Earth, in which only 30 years had passed at home. This section in the novel is the most jarring and poignant (especially the expanded version that’s been the standard of post-1994 reprints of the book), but the comic kinda skims through this bit (and leaves out the expanded material), which is a shame, but understandable given the running length. The other section that gets an overhaul is the final part, which gets some elements truncated for space.
So it’s difficult for me to evaluate this as a story on its own merits. I love the novel, and this is a good, if flawed adaptation. I love the art, Marvano’s ligne claire style works very well, and the tech design is somewhat dated, especially the space shuttle lookalike ships early on in the book.
But as a companion piece to the novel, it’s a great work, as much as I constantly bitch about the movie not happening, I don’t think it’d be as good an adaptation as the comic - Haldeman co-wrote the English adaptation, so there’s a lot of the book’s signature dialogue in there, and it helps the comic feel like an adaptation. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of science fiction, especially if you like hard or military SF - or hard military SF, of course.
Defenders v.1: Diamonds Are Forever
After talking about Bendis’ Marvel swansongs in another thread, I went and picked up this first Defenders collection in the current Comixology sale. It’s good solid street-level superheroics, even if it gets a bit repetitive in places and doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen before.
Bendis knows these particular heroes like the back of his hand, so the dialogue is always fairly sharp and in-character, and some of the interactions are lots of fun. And it’s nice to see him return to the superhero/crime/noir setting that has been the basis for some of his best Marvel work.
He even takes a potential weakness - namely Daredevil’s identity now being secret from even his teammates (due to events in his solo title) - and turns it into a strength, with an amusing running gag about the rest of them trying to work out exactly who he is.
Marquez’ work is strong too, with some detailed renderings of key moments, some really dynamic fight scenes and some atmospheric moody shots that suit the neon-noir vibe of the book well. The colouring is occasionally too vibrant and bright for my tastes, but that’s just Justin Ponsor’s style, and it’s not too distracting.
As well as a decent crime plot involving Diamondback’s return from the dead and his power grab in the vacuum left by the Kingpin going legit, there’s a smattering of interesting cameos from other Marvel players (some more substantial than others) and quite a few interesting subplots that plod along underneath the main story.
If there’s one weakness to this collection, it’s that many of these are unresolved by the end of these initial five issues, along with much of the main plot. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing as I think it’ll encourage me to pick up collection number two when it rolls around.
Just happened to read this for the first time and rudding loved it. (err, sorry, just read the novel for the first time)
Glad you liked it, Dave. It’s been one of my fave titles since it started.
Have you ever read Forever Peace, Lorcan? I found it in a used book store a couple years ago and gave it a shot as I quite enjoyed Forever War. It’s a bit different but an enjoyable enough read.
Read the whole of the Alan Moore (with Totleben, Bissette, Veitch, others) run on Swamp Thing over Christmas and, to no-one’s surprise, really liked it. I think I’d put it off a lot due to lingering disinterest in the character, but Moore’s modern horror stories in the first three or so volumes especially really floated my boat. Can easily imagine Charlie Brooker growing up reading this before he spawned Black Mirror.
Even when it moved away from that to go a bit more DC-Universey in the latter 3 books - kinda strange nowadays to imagine an Alan Moore who seemed so happy to play in the shared universe - there’s a lot to like. The Blue Heaven issue especially was great. And the art, especially when Totleben and Bissette are primary, is almost gorgeous enough to justify the experience by itself.
I’ve finally (belatedly) read a lot of Moore stuff over the last year or so, but this might actually be among my favourites. The relationship between Abby and Swamp Thing has a lot of warmth that doesn’t always come through as clearly in his more heavily constructed stories.
Also, it’s weird to see Constantine arrive for the first time and be more or less fully formed. Weird but good.
Yes, that Swamp Thing run is wonderful. I need to reread it sometime.
I’ve re read it a couple of times and enjoyed it each. Especially interesting when looked at in the greater body of his work, as it represents the apoethesis of one tendency/quirk/stylistic choice that fell away soon after.