DC comics

Stand-alone graphic novel.

Writer and artist: Jill Thompson

This graphic novel follows the path of princess Diana from a spoiled child to a superhero. It’s quite different from other WW origin stories.

Diana grows up the only child in Themyscira and therefor she’s spoiled. Almost all the Amazons love her and try to please her anyway they can. They also give into her whims. This seems a bit strange, given the Amazon’s history and because they are often depicted valuing humility. But there’s one Amazon who doesn’t adore her and so Diana becomes obsessed with trying to make Alathea her friend.

Unfortunately, this story makes Diana a bad person: someone who verbally abuses her sister Amazons and even lies and cheats. This does make her more a human, of course, so she wasn’t born with an infallible moral compass; instead she has to learn to do good things. However, it also makes this Diana a fundamentally different person from the canon Wonder Woman. She’s motivated by trying to atone for past sins rather than by compassion.

The artwork is lush and gorgeous. It looks like painted pages rather than a comic book, which suits the Amazons and their mythical story well.

Collects issues 1-4. Elseworlds comics.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Igor Kordey
Publisher: DC, Titan comics

Bruce Wayne is opening a new wing to the Gotham Museum of Natural History and to fill it up he has also funded an expedition to Africa. Finnegan Dent has brought all sorts of interesting stuff to the Thomas and Martha Wayne wing from Africa. At the wing’s opening, Bruce meets Lord Greystoke.

At night, Catwoman breaks into the Museum and steals some pieces. Both Batman and Tarzan confront her. She reveals herself to be a priestess of Sakhmet, princess Khefretari from a secret African city of Mamnon. She’s only trying to get back pieces which was stolen from her city. It quickly turns out that Dent is a rogue and thief rather than an archeologist and he wants more of the secret city’s treasures. Tarzan and Batman want to protect Khefretari’s people and confront Dent. So, the trio travels to Africa and travel to Mamnon.

This isn’t Earth shatteringly good but it’s a quick read. As an Elseworlds comic, none of the other familiar Batman characters appear and Batman even says that he doesn’t any partners, so no Robin in this universe. Marz teases us a little with the name Dent and what happens to him later.

This isn’t the environmentalist Tarzan I remember reading about in comics in my youth (in Finland. I have no idea where they originally came out.) but a more violent man who has no qualms about killing animals or humans to survive. Batman is sternly against killing and chastises Tarzan a couple of times. Even though they’re somewhat similar, being both orphans, they have quite different worldviews.

Sadly, I didn’t care for the art at all.

Collects issues 11-18.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Lan Medina, Bryan Talbot, Linda Medley, Craig Hamilton

This collection starts with a stand-alone tale of Jack. He’s the hero of several fairy tales, such as Jack the Giant-killer and he also had the magic beans. Issue 11 is set during the American civil war and Jack fought on the Confederate side. When the war starts to go badly for his side, he leaves. During his travel, he encounters a strange old man and plays cards with him. It turns out that the old man is none other than the devil himself and soon Jack is playing for his soul.

Next up is a two issue story where our stalwart fables unite against one human man in order to keep their existence a secret from humans. Tommy Sharp is a good investigative journalist and he’s dug deep into Fabletown’s history. He makes the mistake of calling on Bigby before exposing Fabletown. Now, Bigby, Jack, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, Boy Blue, Flycatcher, and Bluebeard have to protect their secret.

Next up is the Storybook Love storyline. At the end of the previous volume, Snow White was shot and she barely survived. She’s now well enough to move around slowly with a cane. Meanwhile, the villains from the previous volumes have teamed up and have hatched a plan to kill Snow and Bigby but out of town. Since they won’t leave voluntarily, the villains make a spell which forces them to go camping together in a place far away from everyone else. They have just one tent and the consequences of that are seen at the end of the volume.

Goldilocks is after Bigby and Snow with a rifle. After they survive their car crashing down a mountain side, they trek through the woods together and we get to know a bit more about Bigby. Back in Fabletown, Prince Charming has somehow ordered the mouse police, Liliputians riding intelligent, talking rats, to spy on Bluebeard.

The final issue is again a stand-alone. This time, Bigby tells Flycatcher about how the Liliputians came to the Farm and how they got brides.

Overall, this a good collection where characters face consequences from their previous actions and a significant plotline is started. I really enjoyed the way that the fables dealt with the reporter, which was quite funny at first. The final issue is also quite charming.

At his best, Willingham does a great job of balancing humor and horror, and the horror isn’t always violence and splatter. He’s not yet at his best in this collection but pretty good. The characters are starting to grow to their personalities, especially Bigby and Snow. Snow’s actually not a very exciting person; instead she’s a very good byrocrat: methodical and organized but without much humor or imagination. Bigby is very much like Wolverine: experienced warrior and killer who has a compassionate side and is struggling with his enhanced senses all the time.

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steven Leialoha

After the events in the previous volume, Snow is taking a banished character to the Farm which was referred to earlier. Unfortunately for them both, the people at the Farm are tired of the situation and are planning a revolution. Fabletown is where human fables can live, among the mortals and part of the larger world, but in their own little part of New York city. The non-humans are sent to the Farm which is literally a farm on the countryside. They even have a small town for lilliputians. But there’s not much to do and so they’re amassing weapons so that they can retake their lands from the Adversary. Wayland Smith is the man in charge of the place but when Snow and her sidekick (so to say, saying who it was would spoil the first volume) get there, they can’t find him. Soon, Goldilocks, the three bears, the Three Little Pigs, and various others are in full-scale revolt and even turn Snow’s sidekick against her. Unfortunately, they’ll first have to ”convince” or kill the other fables of their aims. And they start by killing one of the pigs.

Meanwhile, Boy Blue is trying to hold down the fort in Fabletown.

I really enjoyed this volume, more than the first one. It’s full of various fairy tale characters, like Cock Robin and Raynard the Fox in addition to the pigs and the bears. The bears are horrifyingly comical. And oh yes, the Jungle book makes the first appearance in the person of Shere Khan.

This volume still has some scene setting: the Farm and some characters are introduced to the readers. So, now that we know them, the writer can really start to torture them. 🙂

Note: I’m a fan of the series. I love most of the characters and have hugely enjoyed the ride. I first began to read the series about five years ago and without knowing anything about it.

Writer: Michael Uslan
Artists: Peter Snejbjerg

This is an Elseworlds story, an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman. Instead he joins the Secret Society of Detectives.

Gotham City, 1929. Bruce’s parents are killed and he is the same determined boy who goes overseas to study so that he can fight criminals. However, when he comes back ten years later, he finds out that Alfred has changed; he’s now a medical doctor. When a shadowy group of men want Bruce to join their secret society, Bruce also finds out that Alfred is one of them, detective 25. The society has also manipulated some things during Bruce’s training and he’s angry about it. However, he joins them.

The Secret Society of Detectives was founded to combat the Knights of the Golden Circle, a villainous secret society whose goal is to destroy one of Northern USAs cities. The Knights were founded right after Civil War and they were responsible for killing Abraham Lincoln. Throughout the years, they have recruited a lot of members, especially doctors an biologists, and acquired a lot of newest scientific advancements. In response, Allan Pinkerton founded the Secret Society of Detectives.

The comic has two timelines: one starting in 1939 and starring Bruce, and one earlier starting with 1865 and depicting the adventures of Allan and William Pinkerton and Kate Warne when they try to defeat the Knights. The story has a surprising number of historical characters, such as Freud and Babe Ruth.

This is an exciting story and it rolls along smoothly even though the two storylines have separate casts. Even though we don’t see Batman, there are a lot of references to his old villains and there’s even a moment where Bruce is thinking that he needs a disguise to strike fear in the hearts of criminals – and then the doorbell rings, he gets up and goes to the door and he never sees the bat in the window. I also enjoyed how Bruce suspected Alfred a couple of times. After all, they have been apart for a long time.

I really enjoyed Snejbjerg’s art which is clean and moody, and fits the story well.

One of the prequel series to Watchmen.

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists:Andy Kubert, Adam Hughes, Eduardo Risso
Publisher: DC
Publication year: 2012

Collects issues 1-4 of Nite Owl, 1-4 of Dr. Manhattan, and 1-2 of Moloch.

So far, I’ve liked this collection the best. In all three stories we get to see the back stories of the characters which expanded them further.

The Nite Owl story starts with young Daniel Drieberg who idolizes the Nite Owl. Dan is abused both at home and at school but he gets strength from seeing who the Nite Owl never gives up but gets back up even when he’s been knocked down by some robbers. Dan tracks him down and quite easily finds out his real identity. Once the Nite Owl, Hollis, realizes that Dan is just an enthusiastic boy who wants to become his sidekick, he starts to train Dan. Then Hollis declares that he’s retiring and leaves the Nite Owl to Dan. When Dan is working as Nite Owl, Rorschach offers to become his partner.

From the second issue onwards, the story focuses on their teamwork. They have very different backgrounds but they’ve both been traumatized in some ways and sometimes it’s not easy for them to work together. In this story, they are searching a man who kills prostitutes. The police isn’t interested in finding him and Rorschach has his own issues, too. Nite Owl runs into a high-class prostitute and is very attracted to her. She starts to help him with the case which, of course, leads into sex and romance.

This really fleshed out Dan’s character. I remember wondering why Dan would work with a psychopath like Rorschach but here we see them before Rorschach really snaps. Andy Kubert’s classic superhero style art fits the story well. Unfortunately, nothing about the story is remarkable or unique. Dan’s background is pretty average, too.

In Watchmen, we got to know how Dr. Manhattan got his powers through the accident. Here, we get to see the events leading to that. The story starts with him on Mars, thinking about his past and wondering why he’s never gone to the moment of accident or further into the past. So he does so and discovers something really strange.

The story explores his childhood, and we also get to see some alternate histories which I found really interesting. I’ve been a fan of Adam Hughes’ work ever since he was Wonder Woman’s artist. Now granted, his women look all pretty much the same, but otherwise I love it.

Dr. Manhattan’s story rehashes pretty much all of the major events in Watchmen, but from a somewhat different perspective. Both of the stories include the scene where the heroes gather in the “Crime Busters” meeting. That scene is really popular with all of the writers. Not a complaint, just an observation.

The Moloch story fleshes out the super villain. While his home wasn’t an abusive one, he looked strange and was tormented over it mercilessly at school. (Well, I guess balanced, happy people aren’t going to run around as either heroes or villains.) We get to see his crime career and later involvement with Ozymandias. Again his background is pretty average but I enjoyed the latter half of the story a lot.

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC

This is one of Rorschach’s earlier cases and the comic is very violent. He already has a dark reputation but he isn’t yet as psychotic as he will be. He hates the city but at the same time, he’s driven to protect the people in it. The story is told through Rorschach’s journal entries and dialog. He is hunting Rawhead, the leader of a gang who does prostitution and drugs, but he also strikes up a friendship with a waitress in a diner where he frequents. When he’s hunting down leads and fighting just one man at the time, he clearly knows what he’s doing. Unfortunately, against more than one opponent, he isn’t so good. Twice he’s beaten until he’s almost dead but manages to escape, mostly through his enemies’ arrogance. This is, of course, very realistic for a man without any superpowers.

The story starts with the shocking image of a serial killer carving up his prey. However, the killer is just a sub plot. The killer, nick-named Bard, carves into his victims his idea that the city is a terrible place, echoing Rorschah’s thoughts in his journal.

This can be a depressing comic; people are either lazy and stupid or down right evil, and there are no heroes.

The artwork is very realistic and I think it’s close to Gibbons’ work in the original comic. Great!

Next Page »