Tuesday, December 1, 2015
I READ COMIC BOOKS
Wonder Woman ‘77 #2 [DC; $7.99] features that rarest of all things for a DC Comics publication: a Wonder Woman I like. The character of that name who appears in Wonder Woman, Superman/Wonder Woman and other DC titles is generally a grotesque distortion of the classic Diana. She’s more brutal than beautiful, more Punisher than peace-maker, more harpy than heroine. Thank Hera we have the Lynda Carter portrayal of the character to lift our spirits.
The three stories in this issue are written by Marc Andreyko, whose work has been disappointing in recent years. “The Cat Came Back,” the lead story, features a new Cheetah, so-so writing, and dynamic art by Drew Johnson and Richard Ortiz. The second story introduces Celsia, a tragic super-villain, and is much better written. The Cab Staggs art isn’t as exciting as that in the lead story, but Staggs does a better job capturing the look of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman. The third and shortest story is my favorite of this special.
“Wisdom of Solomon” by Andreyko and artist Jason Badower pits our Amazon heroine against Solomon Grundy. There’s a decent mystery as to this Grundy’s motives and a bit of social commentary. Badower succeeds in delivering both great action and the most accurate depiction of the TV series on which these stories are based. Though I wish the tale was longer, expanding on the mystery and the social commentary, it ends on a satisfying note.
The cover art (shown above) is by Nicola Scott with Annebbe Kwok. The stories were originally published digitally. I’d love to read more stories of this Wonder Woman, but I suspect that’s not in the future, near or otherwise.
Dark Horse seems to be approaching the season finales of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 and Angel & Faith Season 10, continuations of Joss Whedon’s cult-classic TV series. I was a fan of those shows and, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed these comic-book extensions of those shows.
Buffy is written by Christos Gage while Angel & Faith is written by Victor Gischler. The most recent issues of the former were drawn by Rebekah Isaacs and Megan Levens. The most recent of the latter were drawn by Cliff Richards and Will Conrad. All fine artists.
The comics are always entertaining, though seldom spectacular. The “season” pacing is interesting and allows for bigger stories, but I’m not convinced it’s the best model for a comics series. However, the fans seem to like it, so I’m good with it.
Though, as I said, the comics are seldom spectacular, they do have their spectacular moments and situations. In Angel & Faith, part of London has become “Magic Town” and the magic has taken on a life of its own. The always-delightful Fred Burkle is back, struggling to keep a check on Illyria, the elder god who still dwells within her. The charmingly deadly and insane Drusilla is on hand, along with a variety of new friends and foes.
Buffy has more complicated storylines. The Slayer and her friends have the ability to rewrite the laws of magic, but they must always be weary of unintended consequences. Though Team Buffy has uneasy alliances with various human and supernatural forces, they have to be on their guard there as well. Harmony, who I adored in the Angel TV series, is a ditzy vampire queen, but not quite as ditzy as you might thing. Interesting times.
Buffy has had some of those spectacular moments I mentioned above. Buffy and Spike are building a relationship despite the burdens of their respective histories and nearly every other character waiting for things to go horribly awry. For human drama that pulls at your heart, the unlikely pairing of slayer and vampire still works after all this time.
Mentor/watcher Giles is back from the dead - long story - but he’s been revived as a young man just hitting puberty. Mentally, he’s an adult. Physically, he can’t get into “R” movies. In a recent issue, Giles was able to become an adult again for a limited time. It was a one-shot deal, making for a poignant story (co-written by actor Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander Harris on the TV series) with a solid emotional punch.
If you liked the Buffy and Angel TV shows, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the comics as well. Just be prepared to keep track of a whole lot of characters, some from the TV shows and some created for the comic books.
IDW has recently launched The X-Files Season 11 [$3.99 per issue] with stories by Joe Harris and art by Matthew Don Smith. As of the fourth issue, a fugitive Mulder has been captured by the F.B.I. and former ally Gideon Praise, now possessed of astonishing powers, is mind-controlling the Bureau and, when necessary, individual agents. Scully has rejoined the Bureau, but remains under suspicion as she tries to help Mulder. Her efforts are hampered by Praise.
Whatever Praise’s overall plan, it seems to involve the convoluted mythology that has driven The X-Files from the start. I’ve always preferred the show’s stand-along episodes, which remain among the best and most creepy tales ever put on television. No episode was more unsettling than “Home,” the tale of an inbred and murderous family. It aired during the show’s fourth season (1996) and would not be aired again until the series went into syndication.
I’m still not wild about the X-Files mythology, but Harris scores major points by featuring the Peacock family in issues #2-4. These comics aren’t as visually unsettling as the original episode, but they have some intriguing surprises and managing to be unnerving in their own way.
How much you’ll like The X-Files comic books will likely depend on whether you prefer the mythology to the stand-alone stories. IDW is mixing them up enough to keep me reading.
I’m not fond of most of the super-hero comics published by DC and Marvel, but I’m always happy to celebrate when an issue of any of them impresses me. Here are some quick shout-outs...
Aquaman #28 [April 2014] featured the title hero going to his high school reunion. There’s the usual super-hero action in this issue, but writer Jeff Parker with artists Paul Pelletier (pencils), Sean Parsons (inks) and Andrew Hennessy made the down-to-earth part of the story shine.
Batgirl #44 [November 2015] featured a nicely-handled confrontation between our title hero and a new villain called the Velvet Tiger. It wasn’t an award-winning outing, but it was a solid done-in-one hero-villain battle. The only downside was the romantic pairing of Barbara Gordon and Luke (Batwing) Fox. While Fox might be somewhat more age-appropriate for Babs than Dick Grayson, the whole pitching woo with yet another Batman protégé is too familiar to be the least bit interesting. The comic book was written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher with art by Bengal. Really? Bengal? Because that would be the perfect name for an artist drawing the Velvet Tiger.
Batman #44 [November 2015] presented a 30-page, done-in-one story by writers Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello, artist Jock and color artist Lee Loughridge. “A Simple Case” had a Batman more sane than we usually get, an intriguing mystery and a satisfying ending. If there were more Batman stories like this, I’d be thrilled.
Which brings us to Batman Annual #4 [November 2015] by writer James Tynion IV with art by Roge Antonio. The Bruce Wayne of the current stories is a man who doesn’t remember any of the trauma that made him Batman or any of battles he fought at Batman. He’s got a good heart and is at peace with his new circumstances. In this 38-page story, Wayne reclaims the family home - it had been seized by the authorities and turned into the new Arkham Asylum - only to be put into extreme jeopardy by some patients who have secretly remained in the place. I enjoyed it.
One more. Batman ‘66 #27 [November 2015] has a wonderful tribute to the late Yvonne Craig, who was so perfect as Batgirl in the old TV series. “Bane Enters the Ring” by Jeff Parker with artist/colorist Scott Kowalchuk introduces Bane into the universe of that TV show. Like virtually every issue of this title, it’s a fun adventure from a less intense Batman universe.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2015 Tony Isabella