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By | Thursday, November 18, 2010 | 6:59 am | 8 Comments | Blog > Reviews

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Includes Issues: Tor (1975) 1; Tor (1993) 1-4
Issue Dates: May 1975 – September 1993
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This review may contain light spoilers. It’s also not work safe! Skip To The Verdict? »

The third Tor hardcover sees our wandering caveman into the Bronze and Modern Ages of comics, with more of Joe Kubert‘s dynamic art and action packed storytelling. While the plotting and dialogue gets more complex, though, aspects of this book are decidedly backwards. And not just in a man-fighting-dinosaur kind of way. Kubert seems to have some serious issues with women.

Like Volume 1 and Volume 2, previously reviewed, this hardcover is a class production, if a bit thin (I’ve already mentioned several times that I think all of this material should have been collected in one omnibus-style edition, and this will be the last quip about that.)

It’s nicely oversized to fit the original art and includes a fair amount of supplementary material in the back. The introductions, by Kubert himself and Roy Thomas, are starting to get a little repetitive (also, Thomas seems to just describe each story and then say “I loved it! It was great to see for Tor fans. We always liked Tor!” which doesn’t make for very interesting analysis.)

A short issue from 1975 is collected here and it’s a reworking of sketches seen in Vol. 2. While having both versions is interesting, not much has changed besides color and a few extra panels (Thomas is very excited about this, but it didn’t do much more for me – I actually like the ambiguity in the character motivations from the pencil sketch version better.) The bulk of the book consists of the Marvel miniseries published in 1993.

Kubert is an amazing craftsperson and a true master of the human form. The art here is often beautiful, sometimes bewildering, and always impressive.

He allows himself much greater freedom with his character designs and with the starkness of their interactions – no longer is every prehistoric denizen a white 50s caricature, and no longer is the violence mostly suggested. It is shown in detail.

Kubert sketches, inks, colors (and the original colors here, not restorations!) and even letters his work. He’s a legend.

For all his skills, this book left me quite annoyed. Why? Kubert seems to think that women are either cowering rape bait or disgusting she-bitch monsters.

I’m sorry for being extremely blunt, but that is exactly the impression I got from this book.

In his Golden Age material, women were never particularly strong characters, but I assumed it was a failing of the era and general mentality of those times. It’s unfortunately rare to see strong women in Golden Age material (Go Lois!) So I kind of ignored the slight sexism.

The first story in this volume was created in 1975. The few panels featuring a woman (Tor’s mother) are reminiscent of 50s family dramas – she’s a cook and knows when the kid is crying in his room. Not much else.

Ok, maybe an oversight. Let’s see what the 1993 series contains….

Read More →

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By | Thursday, November 18, 2010 | 4:10 am | 2 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

(via ComicsAlliance)

So here’s three hours well spent.

I noticed that I was getting a trickle of hits on the Books of Magic tag, so I decided it was a nice time to really spruce up that list.

First I moved the tag from the “Characters” taxonomy to the “Series” taxonomy – and created a Tim Hunter character tag (the books aren’t really a character.)

I added a header image and text, and tagged Gaiman and Reiber on the appropriate books.

Then I added the following books to the list:

Books of Faerie: Auberon’s Tale

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: Book 1

The Names of Magic

God Save The Queen

Finally, I gave every book a cover and publication information. Suhweet.

I was spending all day thinking about the original Gaiman miniseries anyway, so I’ll probably try and review that collection on Friday.

By the way, thanks again for the awesome Superman: Earth One review, Sam!

It’s great to get a day “off”, haha.

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By | Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 12:21 pm | 22 Comments | Blog > Reviews

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Includes Issues: Original Graphic Novel
Issue Dates: October 2010

This review contains light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

Any Superman fan (or even casual comic book fan) already knows the story of Superman’s origin. A baby sent from Krypton destined to protect the Earth after the loss of his home world. With his incredible abilities, faster than a speeding bullet, he stands for truth, justice, and all that wonderful jazz. The Man of Steel.

However, this is Superman: Earth One and while all those elements are here, this is a new interpretation of his roots.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski (Rising Stars, The Amazing Spider-Man) and brought to life on the page with the truly wonderful art of Shane Davis (Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga, Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite), Superman: Earth One is meant to ring in a new era of DC continuity as the beginning of the Earth One series. And with Davis’ art, man, what a beginning!

Before I get to far into the book, I want to explain my very large urge to write a review for this book, my first review for this site. When the book was nearing release, the cover began appearing in the news all over the internet with articles headlined with two words that just don’t belong: “Superman” and “Twilight.”

I’m not here to bash Twilight, but it was rather upsetting to see a great icon being trashed for cover art that supposedly implied Superman was becoming an “emo hipster.” What bothered me the most was that no one talked about the content of the book – they were literally judging a book by its cover. So now I’d like to try to counter those headlines.

Straczynski makes it pretty clear from the beginning, in the dedication, who he made this book for. It’s meant to go out to every fan of Superman. Every person who’s ever loved the character at any point in any way. Now he brings a new story, a new playing field, for those fans to fall in love with Superman once again.

And so it begins with a more modern setting that sees a Clark Kent in his early twenties journey to Metropolis for the first time. Without revealing too much, I gotta say I loved the first page with the simple art of Clark boarding a train, accompanied by an overlaid conversation with Martha Kent. Clark explains that he’s not flying because he needs the time to think and prepare himself for a real big step into a new world.

The story flows as Clark spends his first days in Metropolis job hunting and setting up a place to live. In the job hunt, besides the must-stop that is the Daily Planet, Clark also tries out for football and to be a scientist. Ultimately, Clark shows that with his abilities, he could have any job he wants and make a lot of money doing it. Better than that, he’ll be able to take care of Martha as he promised. He can do something he yearns for so badly: fit in with everyone else.

Straczynski clearly wanted to tell a particular story of a Clark Kent who was an outsider with infinite potential. Clark could have gone anywhere and been anything he wanted to.

It’s not that Clark’s values aren’t the loving ones we’ve become accustomed to – him learning from the Kents – but more that this Clark wants to become something other than just a loner. He’s never known who he was, he’s had no sign other than knowing he’s an alien and that he has powers. This is a Clark who is lost in the simplest question of wondering why he’s here, in this particular modern here.

Will this premise of the story work for everyone? No.

Will there be disagreements on the way the character is handled here? Of course.

But as the book progresses, it shows more and more of how this is just another form of the Man of Steel, not a total derailing of the icon. We see some truly wonderful moments between Clark and Jonathan, often as reflections on the past.

While Clark struggles with the idea of putting himself into the limelight as Superman and bearing the weight of his civilian life becoming his mask, a new villain to Superman mythos attacks the Earth.

The villain stems from the new origin related to the destruction of Krypton. As he attacks, the lives of many, including Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, are put in danger and Clark must rise to the occasion. Through a nicely constructed pattern of events from Krypton to the present, where Clark faces his destiny, it becomes very clear why Clark chooses to be Superman.

One of the best parts of it all is Clark’s reflection on Jonathan’s words to him. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that when Clark makes his debut as Superman, it’s a truly gloriously handled moment both in the writing and most certainly in the art.

By the end of the book, we see Clark becoming the Daily Planet reporter we know him to be and accepting the destiny of being Superman. When looked at from the right perspective, this book is a love letter to Superman fans. It’s a fresh look that reminds you of some of the best elements of the character at the core. The story is well formulated to bring every facet of Clark’s love for Jonathan, his Kryptonian history, his move to Metropolis and introduction to Lois Lane all up to speed with his arrival on the scene as Superman.

Davis pulls out all the stops in making the art more than easy on the eyes. There are some frames that you just want turned into posters because they look so darn good.

And above that, the feel really comes across for Clark and his world. Even if you’re just so-so about the story, the art is top-notch.

Straczynski, in my opinion, succeeds in his goal of telling the story about why Clark becomes Superman. From the standpoint of a character-driven story, it brings  texture to Clark that makes him both man and Superman at the same time.

A really cool feature that they add in is at the end of the book, with a printing of the Daily Planet’s interview with Superman. It’s just a great read and brings even more depth to the journey of this Clark.

All in all, I went in with medium expectations. I love Superman and am also a huge fan of the Ultimate Marvel line, so hearing about this Earth One business was quite a stir of excitement for me.

But I was worried about how the book would turn out, even though I already had read and enjoyed some of Straczynski’s other work.

In the end, though there were the minor moments where I could agree with some that it didn’t quite hit the right feel of a Superman story, they were few and far between. When they weren’t there, I was thoroughly enjoying this new interpretation of the Blue Boy Scout.

I would recommend it highly to anyone looking for a new Superman story, wanting to start from the beginning, or just wanting to read a good story with some amazing art to it.

Hopefully, Superman: Earth One is just the start of a new Superman story that can continue to capture the soul of the character for both old and new audiences.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars. The art is seriously stunning and the story really reflects on Clark and Superman as character which a veteran fan can appreciate, but hopefully can grasp to new minds as well.

Essential Continuity:
You can start out totally fresh here as this is a new continuity for DC.

Read first:
It’s always good to have some Superman under your belt to get some of the homage to the original, but truthfully you can walk in to this for the first time, though I’m sure it’s less appreciated that way.

Read next:
Hopefully another volume to be released in this series down the way. If not, there’s always Batman: Earth One coming up.

If you’re looking for the current in continuity origin story of Superman, check out Secret Origin. Or just work your way down the recommended Superman reading order.

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By | Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 4:03 am | 0 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

The winners of the Heavy Ink sponsored Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow giveaway should note that all books have been sent out as of yesterday. Keep your eyes on your mail!

For those of you who haven’t won, we’re still running weekly contests, of course.

The following books have been updated:

  1. Superman Archives Vol. 4
  2. The Golden Age Starman Archives Vol. 1
  3. Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 3
  4. Batman: The Dark Knight Archives Vol. 3
  5. The Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives Vol. 1
  6. The Shazam! Family Archives Vol. 1
  7. Superman: The Dailies 1941-1942
  8. Superman: The Dailies 1939-1942
  9. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 1
  10. Batman Archives Vol. 2
  11. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 3
  12. Superman Archives Vol. 5
  13. The Blackhawk Archives Vol. 1
  14. The Boy Commandos By Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Vol. 1
  15. The Sgt. Rock Archives Vol. 1
  16. The Sgt. Rock Archives Vol. 2

As of those books, a special note: This marks the first page of the DC Universe Recommended Reading Order as filled with covers! Sweet!

Of course, I’d like to replace a lot of these with higher quality scans, but it will have to wait until I get my hands on more archives.

To round out the night, I also did these books:

  1. The Sgt. Rock Archives Vol. 3
  2. Superman Archives Vol. 7
  3. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 2
  4. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 3
  5. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 4
  6. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 5
  7. Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 6
  8. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 4
  9. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 8
  10. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 9
  11. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 10
  12. All Star Comics Archives Vol. 11

That’s it for now! At this point there are 445 covers on the reading orders!

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By | Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | 11:19 pm | 5 Comments | Blog > Reviews
Find This Book At:
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Ebay (ISBN/Hardcover) (Softcover) (Hardcover)
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Amazon (Hardcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: Original Graphic Novel
Issue Dates: April 1, 2003 (First Printing)
, , ,

This review contains light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

As a child, Warren Ellis dreamed of space. He wasn’t the only child dreaming of the stars, nor the first.

Possibly, not even the most important – he never became an astronaut or invented a propulsion system breakthrough.

But Ellis is scared that out there, some child might be the last child to dream of space.

We seem to be losing the momentum he remembers back from when he watched the early launches on a black and white tv set.

And since he did grow up to be a writer, his job is, perhaps, to help keep the dream alive. To inspire us to continue our journey onward and outward into the great unknown.

At the core of it, that’s what this graphic novel is about. Orbital, created by Ellis and artist Colleen Doran, is hardly the first work they’ve had in the field of comics (you must have read Ellis’ Transmetropolitan by now, yes? And Doran’s art has graced the pages of Sandman and Lucifer.) It may not be the work that is associated with their names on the back of books, but it’s obviously one of great personal importance. Ellis’ introduction here cements that firmly.

This is a work of love.

So what comes of the love of Warren Ellis? Classic science fiction.

In many ways, this book is as much a love song to short sci-fi as it is to the space exploration program. It’s a far cry from the alien beat-um-ups that many people associate with the genre.

The book opens in a setting that is at once a judgment and a warning – a shanty town built on the crumbling remains of the Kennedy Space Center. This is the world that Ellis fears to come, without hope of the next great step.

In typical Ellis style, everything is promptly blown to shit, and the slight hint of dystopia is swept aside as characters are introduced, brought together, and confronted with one heck of a mystery.

As with many science fiction stories focused on a mystery of technology, the characters are amusing, but mere reminders of particular types of people – interesting, but not overly burdened with details of their life stories.

We have to understand about who they are and why they are involved fairly fast, because they are quickly put to work.

Ellis attempts to give them enough quirks and personal moments (about one for each of the three main investigators) for us to feel for them and I’m glad there’s no real push on backstory – they are human. That is enough.

It’s about humans, but more about a general human desire for exploration and knowledge – not about particular human stories.

Colleen Doran‘s work here is of a similar nature – the art shows character and emotion that’s immediately understandable. Wide eyed exuberance, fear of the unknown, enthusiasm tempered by previous dreams dashed. It all shows plainly on the faces of our cast. I’m sure any reader could pick one and say “that’s me.” Or maybe several, depending on the breadth of your experience.

Her work illustrating any scene depicting space or unknown technology is excellent – it’s obvious that she has just as much love for the subject matter as Ellis.

She keeps things somewhat dark and gritty, but not without periodic glimmers of something more, something better. Or perhaps something we just shouldn’t be so afraid of, even if it does seem dangerous.

If the book suffers at all, it’s from problems that plague many science fiction tales. Is it Hard Sci-Fi or soft? Space Fantasy? Is that gibberish that they are shouting or is he dumbing down real science?

Some people, either those with an aversion to anything sounding like math or those who hold several degrees and no sense of humor, may not like the book based on “boring” or “inaccurate” dialogue.

I didn’t care much, personally, but I’ve been raised on Star Trek – I feel that what is important is the story the author is trying to tell, if it flows smoothly and has the right message.

The momentum built well and the characters reacted to everything in understandable ways. I won’t pretend to be able to judge any of the science chatter. It sounded fun, at least.

Finally, long time science fiction fans may find themselves bored with a familiar story. They may also find themselves brought back to what got them into science fiction in the first place.

Perhaps the book will find many new science fiction fans. The sense of wonder, of discovery – hope tinged with fear, seeking understanding. That’s what it’s all about.

Never give up on space. It’s too damn big to ignore.

4 out of 5. A very enjoyable book, with a done-in-one classic science fiction story. Ellis is relatively un-offensive, compared to his previous works, and Doran’s art expresses everything needed (and often more.) Not an absolute stunner, but definitely something to check out.

Essential Continuity:
This book stands alone.

Read first:
No prior reading required, though you might want to look into the history of manned space flight. If you’re really a context nerd, anyway.

Oh hey, look, here’s a book called The History of Manned Space Flight. What a coincidence.

Read next:
If you haven’t yet, you need to read Warren Ellis’ amazing Transmetropoltian series. He’s done a variety of other work that would also be of interest.

Since this was my first read of his original graphic novels, I’m going to be looking out for Ocean and Ministry of Space. Based on this book, I’m assuming that I’ll like them.

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