Comics Crazy! – Vol. 1: Captions And Panel Breakdowns

I seem to have caught some sort of bug for comic books lately, specifically ones in trade paperback format with the more respectable-sounding moniker of “graphic novel”. They are nice to read alongside prose works, and don’t take very long to digest. Here’s a roundup of capsule reviews for some of the ones I’ve been reading. A lot involve superheroes, obviously, but a few don’t.

Adapted by Ian Edginton, Art by I.N.J. Culbard

The Hound of The Baskervilles — I confess I’m just snobby enough to be turned off by the concept of comic book adaptations of classic novels, though I’ve read a few in my time and even owned one of A Study In Scarlet. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one felt more like a movie adaptation in its approach, though it doesn’t vary in the slightest from the original story; almost nothing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dialogue is altered. On the minus side, however, the creators have done away with Watson’s narrative voice (aside from when he writes directly to Holmes in letters), which any true connoisseur of the original tales is sure to miss. But the artwork makes up for it as it embraces a cartoon stylization that brings something fresh to the illustrative interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.

*

Written by J. Michael Straczynski, Art by Shane Davis

Superman: Earth One — More than just another reboot, this graphic novel is a complete reimagining of the Superman mythos. The first of a new line from DC that fiddles with the old to pretend it’s new, this go-around succeeds at some points and fails at others. I found myself drawn to and affected by Clark’s narrative arc, which presents him as a young man trying to find his way in the world when he has the ability to do anything he wants. It’s probably safe to say I’ve never really related to the character as much as I have with this story, reading it specifically at this point in my life. On the other hand, the main villain isn’t very compelling and the plot feels underdeveloped. An alien invasion plot needs a bit more space to make it seem both truly global and truly intimidating. This one doesn’t have the time to be either.

*

Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Gary Frank

Batman: Earth One — Like the Superman book above, this is a complete reimagining of the titular character. In contrast, the plot feels just the right size and develops at the right pace. It is a bit darker and more hard-hitting than even Batman usually gets, with a villain that is less fantasy-oriented and tends more to the side of a police drama as it would be produced by HBO; mature subject matter, viewer discretion advised, etc. The reimagining even goes a bit farther than in the Superman story, with a cast made up of many familiar names yet who feel almost like completely new characters, especially Alfred. The book ends with a wonderful tease for the expected sequel.

*

Written by Kevin Smith & Phil Hester, Art by Jonathan Lau

Green Hornet, Vols. 1 & 2 — Maybe you saw the movie starring Seth Rogen? Put it right out of your mind while reading this ten-issue miniseries (something I’m more than happy to do), but it does most of the work for you. Based on a script by Kevin Smith for the film that should have been produced instead, it plays things straight and attempts to join the lineup of classic heroes who have recently gotten a modernizing makeover. This version hits that particular nail on the head quite hard; it stars the son of the old Green Hornet following in his father’s footsteps. There seems to be a kind of attempt to “Batmanize” the Green Hornet by making said father’s murder a prime motivation for putting on the costume, but then those two heroes have always lived somewhat parallel lives if you think about it. Though sometimes more concerned with the clever one-liner than it needs to be, I liked the whiz-bang finale featuring a pulp-style deathtrap. It felt like a glorious throwback to the character’s Golden Age roots. A continuing series is also currently running.

*

Written by Arvid Nelson, Art by Stephen Sadowski & Lui Antonio

Warlord of Mars, Vol. 1 — A fairly straight adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars that kicked off a comic book series and associated spinoffs. Featuring Civil War veteran John Carter of Virginia, it sets the standard by which the planetary romance genre should be measured. Plenty of old-style action and adventure, multicoloured Martian races, and the beautiful princess herself. It’s worth reading, especially if the recent movie (another much-anticipated disappointment) left a yawn in your mouth. The spinoff series featuring Dejah Thoris long before John Carter arrived on Mars to steal her heart is also enjoyable. I can’t wait to check out the rest of the books as they appear in trade paperback reprints.

*

Written by Jeph Loeb, Art by Tim Sale

Superman For All Seasons — I almost wish I had the time to do this particular book justice. It’s a beautiful comic, both visually and textually, that focuses much more on what makes Superman Superman than on the latest machinations of Lex Luthor to take over Metropolis; though there is plenty for the Man of Steel to use his powers for, the typical hero vs. villain plot is only a secondary consideration. With wide panels filled by expansive landscapes, the most important people in his life tell us why Superman (and Clark Kent) is the most important person in their lives. As the seasons change and the young Clark grows to find his place in the world, I felt that I learned so much more about the character and who he is than I have in almost any other Superman story. Or at least one way of looking at him. Let’s be honest: characters like Superman are the myths we always repeat and rewrite for each generation. But I think Superman For All Seasons is one version that deserves to stand the test of time.

*

COMING SOON: Volume 2!

(All cover art is here for the purpose of illustrating a review. Copyrights belong to their respective publishers.)

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