Graphic Novel Challenge 2010


Main story by Mark Waid, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Mike S. Miller, Dave Meikis
Bi-Polar Disorder by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Darryl Jenkins, Wayne Faucher
Merry Christmas, Justice League – Now Die! By Mark Weid, Cliff Rathburn, Paul Neary

Terror Incognita starts with J’onn J’onzz searching for serial killer. Instead he gets a hallucinations about his long-lost home on Mars and a psychic assault. Then, in the middle of the Daily Planet’s crowded newsroom, Lois reveals Clark’s secret identity. Later, she says that it felt like someone else had been in her mind and forced her to do it.

Meanwhile Batman is investigating the disappearances of various fortune tellers and psychics. While he’s saving another raving psychic, Nightwing cuts his rope and lets them both drop to their deaths. He, too, says that someone else forced him to do it.

In Murmansk, Wonder Woman, Flash, the Green Lantern, and the Plastic Man are bringing food and heat to the people who have lived in a blackout for six days. Unfortunately, some engineers are trying to jump start the unstable nuclear power plant which results in an explosion. The Green Lantern is able to shield them but some power compels the Murmanskians to attack the Leaguers.

The White Martians are back with a vengeance. They have been planning their attack for weeks. In addition to the telepathic coercion of people, they have managed to introduce an alien component to Earth’s atmosphere which slows down combustion. In essence, the Martians have eliminated their biggest threat, fire, but it has also a devastating effect on humanity.

This is pretty standard villain fighting and the ending was epic. However, there was no character development and the Leaguers were too busy fighting the Martians to even squabble amongst themselves.

There was also a reference to WW’s comic where the Amazons had an elected leader and Diana has lost her tiara.

In the second story JLA battle Doctor Polaris who is changing Earth’s electromagnetic field while he’s under the influence of Joker’s virus. Also, pretty standard fare although there was a small spat between Batman and GL.

The last one is a Christmas story about how Santa Clause joined JLA and they fought Neron. Plastic Man is telling the story to a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa. Funny, if you like that sort of stories.

Unfortunately, this was a pretty forgettable collection and didn’t bring anything new.

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By Mark Millar, John McCrea, James Hodgkins

Collects the miniseries into one trade.

First of all, the first few pages spoil the ending of Authority: Relentless so I strongly suggest that you read that one first.

These stories focus on particular parts of Jenny’s 100-year life. She’s the Spirit of the 20th Century and so she’s interacted in some way with most of the powerful people of the century. Albert Einstein is her uncle and she knew Adolf Hilter before he went into politics.

Each of the first three stories focuses on how Jenny met the various members of Authority and the start of their relationship. The first story deals with the Doctor, the next one with Apollo and the Midnighter, and the third one with Jack Hawksmoor. We even get to know who abducted Jack and gave him his powers, and why. At the same time, there’s a time-travel story: the Engineer has to travel back in time to save Jenny’s life. The fourth story is about Jenny fighting Nazis and the last one is about the earlier fight against alternate universe Sliding Albion.

Jenny is her foul-mouthed anarchist self. She’s constantly forced into position of leadership even though she doesn’t like it and she likes the military even less. Yet, she’s served the UK military in various missions across various decades. There are a lot of very interesting seeming secondary characters but we don’t see much of them, except for the other Authority members, of course. Shen seems to be Jenny’s earliest ally and closest friend.

Jenny also does her fair share of plotting behind the scenes, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not. For example, she wants president Ford out of politics and loathes Reagan.

Personally, I didn’t really care for the art work but it’s by no means bad. There’s just something about the style that I don’t like.

Donald Duck is without a doubt the most popular comic book hero in Finland and has been for decades. He’s had his own weekly comic book since 1960s and has now second, monthly comic called Donald Duck extra. The vast majority of comic books here are monthly. (The only superhero comics published today in Finland are Spider-Man and the X-Men, both monthlies. The Phantom had a biweekly comic for decades but it has just been discontinued last month.) Even though Scrooge has his own monthly, 100-page comic, Don Rosa’s Scrooge stories where printed here originally in the Donald Duck weekly comic.

Don Rosa is one of the most popular Donald Duck writers here and there are currently nine hardback collections of his works in Finnish.

This collection is, as the title says, about Scrooge McDuck’s life and adventures.

The first story is set in his native Scotland and Scrooge is just a wee duckling. Already, he has to defend his family’s ancestral castle against creditors and other villains. The lands are also haunted by a devil dog.

The rest of the stories tell his adventures around the world. Scrooge works for his uncle Angus aboard a river ship in Mississippi. When the train makes the ships obsolete, he becomes a cowboy. When that fails also, he travels to Montana and searches for copper. Then he’s summoned back to Scotland to defend the castle again.

After that, he returns to being a miner but travels to Africa and then Australia. Then he travels to Yukon where his hard work finally starts to pay off. Later, he works as a businessman and then sets up his home in Duckburg. The final story is a revisit of the classic Christmas tale where Carl Barks introduced the character.

Don Rosa has a distinctive drawing style. He uses detailed backgrounds and there are frequently drawn gags in the background as well in dialogue or story. Often, he incorporates real historical events and people into his stories which are very well researched. In this series, his work really shines.

Throughout the series, Scrooge is an admirable character. He’s brave, honest, and hardworking. He believes that he can make himself rich by working hard and isn’t looking for easy gain. In the second story, where his uncle Angus is looking for treasure Scrooge says that it almost feels like cheating.

The stories also show us other characters’ family. For example, the genius Gyro Gearloose’s grandfather works for Scrooge briefly when he owns a river boat and they meet each other accidentally afterwords. Like Gyro himself, Gyro’s grandfather is also an inventor who doesn’t make much from his inventions.

Of course, there are also the villains. In Scotland, the Vaskervilles are McDuck’s fearsome enemies who are determined to get the McDuck lands and castle. In the second story, the Beagle Boys get their characteristic black masks and are trying to invent a name for their gang. The Boys are lead by their father who is meaner character than the fumbiling boys. Later, we meet the young John D. Rockerduck and his father. John hates Scrooge on sight but his father ends up helping Scrooge.

Don Rosa also doesn’t have any supernatural elements in his stories, aside from the talking ducks themselves. The only story which seems to have such elements is in this collection where Scrooge hits his head and meets his (all male) ancestors.

These are some of the best Scrooge McDuck stories ever.

By Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin

My first love among the superhero comics were the X-Men. I started with the Finnish edition, of course, in the middle of Claremont and John Romita Jr.’s run back when there was just one X-Men comic even in US: the Uncanny X-Men. To this day, I like JRJR’s art a lot.

I read the comics in this collection in the Finnish edition in black and white in a publication called Ihmesarja which reprints classic Marvel tales about Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. I also own a (regularly colored) collection of the Dark Phoenix Saga in English.

This hefty tome collects Uncanny X-Men #120-144 and some mighty classic tales.

The collection starts in the middle of a long storyline where Jean and Hank have been separated from the rest of the X-Men and in fact the duo thinks that they are dead. Similarly, the rest of the group thinks that Jean and Hank are dead. The X-Men consists of Cyclops (as the team leader), Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Banshee who lost his powers in the previous issue. They have made a long journey from the Savage Land to Japan. They are currently trying to get back to US.

However, their plane is forced to land to Canada where the Alpha Flight wants Wolverine back – no matter if he wants to return or not. Of course, the X-Men aren’t going to stand for that. First they try to lose themselves among the people of Calgary but end up fighting the Alpha Flight anyway for a couple of issues.

The next issue is a quieter one. The group has managed to return to the X-Mansion where Colossus trains and angst about his uselessness. Cyclops is dating Colleen Wing and Storm returns to Harlem where she apparently spent her first years. We also get a brief glimpse of Professor Xavier, who is in a far away galaxy with his beloved Lilandra, and Jean in Scotland where she encounters a strange man.

The next couple of issues are action-packed when Spider-Man, the X-Men, and their dates are kidnapped into Arcade’s Murderworld. Colossus is brainwashed into attacking his friends.

The next issue’s again more of a breather and develops upcoming plots. Dr. Moira MacTaggert is testing Jean’s new powers, Magneto is musing about his life, and the X-Men and the Beast are finally reunited, and the X-Men learn that the Beast and Jean are alive. The issue end ominously. Scott phones the Muir Island, Lorna Dane answers but then she screams and the call is cut off.

The next three issues deal with the reality-warping Proteus.

And then the Dark Phoenix Saga gets into high gear. We’re also introduced to Dazzler and Kitty Pryde.

Then it’s the aftermath of the previous story. Scott recaps his life with the X-Men and Jean, and leaves the group.

In the next issue Angel has rejoined X-Men and is throwing off their fighting skills. Kitty is the newest member and and she’s settling into her new life. Wolverine and Nightcrawler visit Canada and try to clear up Wolverine’s status there. Instead, they meet Wendigo.

In the next issue Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Shaman, Snowbird, and the Guardian battle Wendigo.

Then it’s time for another classic tale: Days of Future Past which is a basis for an alternative future where all super beings are either dead or in concentration camps.

Next up is Kitty Pryde vs. a “Demon” where she proves to herself that she can be an X-Man.

The final story seems to center around Cyclops but it wasn’t published in Finland, so I haven’t read it.

I really, really liked this collection. Days of the Future Past and the Dark Phoenix Saga are two of my favorite X-Men comics ever, and the Proteus story is very good, too. The intervening stories aren’t too bad, either.

This collection introduces Kitty Pryde who’s one of my favorite characters (depending on the writer, though). She’s one of the few women geniuses in comics, and IMHO undervalued. Here, she’s younger and more insecure than in later stories which I find adorable. She’s also a good balance to the experienced superheroes who take the Danger Room, aliens, and interstellar travel for granted.

Dazzler is also introduced here and even though she’s much underused later, I like her sound-to-light powers and her artistic character. Too bad that she never had a career as an international pop singer. People might like mutants more, now.

Storm starts her career as the leader of the X-Men which changes her drastically, later. Here she’s still the weather goddess who doesn’t kill but she’s already very protective of Kitty.

The X-Men are a small, close-knit group here and they don’t even actively search for other mutants nor encounter them very often. Beast is the exception, being a member of the Avengers. The contrast to the current day expanding X-Family is huge. When I pick up a new X-Men comic, I feel like I don’t know half of the characters there, which is not a good feeling after I’ve read the comic over two decades.

I have to say that I didn’t really buy the plot that the X-Men thought that Beast and Jean are dead. For a few weeks or months, sure, maybe. But Beast is an active Avenger. Surely he must have been on the news? On the other hand, if he was dead wouldn’t the media start asking where he is? The X-Men traveled for several months. Surely, one of them would have watched news? Also, Colleen knew the whole time that Jean isn’t dead. It was mentioned a couple of time that she and Scott talked a lot. Didn’t they talk about Jean even once? A passing mention? “Jean was looking good when I last saw her. She’s coping well.” “Jean? But she’s dead!”

Otherwise, I loved the collection to bits. Maybe it’s just nostalgia.

By Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Jeph Loeb, Georges Jeanty

Issues 16-20

The storyline from the previous volume continue when Willow and Buffy head out to New York to sort out the mysterious message. Kennedy is with the New York Slayers and Wiccas. Buffy promptly disappeared into time vortex a couple of hundred years into a future and gets a real shock about the state of the world. She helps the future Slayer Mel Fray with local baddie who have definite plans for Buffy, too. Willow and the other wiccans try to get her back.

Dawn’s troubles continue when she turns into a centaur. She and the Scottish Slayers are attacked by a magic missile (heh!) which conjures up cobra faced foot soldier in green flames. It’s very hard to fight them because they reform themselves even after being decapitated.

The last issue is more of a stand-alone where Buffy dreams about being back in High School with Willow, Xander, Giles, and a sharptongued Cordelia. A really nostalgic piece. However, the art is in cartoon style which I didn’t really care for.

This time, Buffy is in the future most of the time with Mel and her sidekicks so story has more similar feel to the TV-show because the cast is smaller. Also, Mel doesn’t respect Buffy so Buffy isn’t really in a leadership position. It’s a nice change because she’s been the leader of the Slayers so long. Mel speaks more future slang here than in her own comic.

A nice continuation but not as good as the TV-show.

By Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

The miniseries Fray issues 1-8.

This is a spin-off series from Buffy, set a couple of hundred years into the future. The collected volume of Buffy: Time of You Life is partially set in this future, so I recommend reading Fray before that Buffy collection. I’ve read Fray before but didn’t remember much about it, so I decided to read it again.

The Earth has changed. Magic and demons are gone. There hasn’t been a need for a Slayer for two hundred years. But now the vampires are back and the demons are scheming to get back, too.

Some of the humans have changed as well. The sun’s radiation has mutated some of them and others have taken steroids to make themselves stronger.

Melaka Fray is a thief who works for Gunther who is a human who looks like a mermaid (a tail instead of legs) and lives underwater. Lately, he’s started to pay too much for the old items Mel is stealing.

Mel lives in the poor section of the city where sun’s rays don’t usually reach. She takes care of some of the poor kids, too. She’s especially protective of Loo who is a one-armed kid who needs constant medication. Mel is strong, heals fast, and can take more damage than a normal girl of her age. She has no idea why but just takes it as a fact of life. Her sister Erin a police officer and so they are constantly at each others throats. Mel was there when a vampire (or a lurk as they are called here) killed her brother and Erin holds Mel responsible for it. So does Mel and she has nightmares about it.

So, when a demon, which looks like a red goat with it’s nose and upper lip ripped off, steps into Mel’s apartment and tells her she’s the Chosen One, she isn’t exactly thrilled. In fact, she has no idea what the demon Urkonn is talking about and she just wants to continue with her life. Unfortunately, the vampires are scheming.

Even though Urkonn has to tell everything about the Slayer to Mel, it felt to me that the comic is aimed to Buffy fans who already know the universe. There’s a reference to Buffy’s end or at any case a 21st century Slayer’s possible end and many of the things such as Watchers were just glossed over. I think a reader who doesn’t know anything about Buffy would be pretty lost.

The characters use a little bit of slang so that there weren’t many modern day colloquialisms. Lurker for vampires. “This is toy” for something you don’t like or don’t trust. Jesu is an often-used curse word and I automatically pronounced in Spanish in my head. I thought these were cute and didn’t make the reading more difficult at all.

Mel’s world and life felt grimmer than Buffy’s because she doesn’t have anyone to trust. Urkonn wants to train her and tells her a lot of things about herself, but he refuses to give any reasons for helping her. Erin is chasing her as a good cop should and even Gunther is just her employer, not a friend. That’ a huge contrast to Buffy’s circle of friends who fight occasionally but are always there to back her up.

The comic is very futuristic visually. Flying cars (for the rich), holographic images, and electric guns instead of bullets. However, most of the time Mel stays in the gutters and poor areas so we don’t get more than a glimpse of the richer areas. The vampires don’t have the prominent brow here, just gray skin and yellow eyes which puzzled me a little.

I didn’t find Mel as appealing as the Buffy cast but that’s clearly an unfair comparison because Mel has only eight issues. I like Buffy’s supporting cast more than Mel’s. I also thought that Mel learned to fight awfully fast and that she didn’t really need any skills; just enough anger and fury to keep her going.

And, oh, yes, it seems that clothes manufacturers are still selling women only half shirts. Maybe they lack materials or something.

All in all, an interesting glimpse of a different Slayer but I didn’t really like her or her world.

Outer Dark by Ellis, Hitch, Neary.
The Nativity by Millar, Quitely, and several inkers.

It’s December 29, 1999 and weird things start to come from outer space. The space shuttle Endeavor is hit and two crew members killed while space walking. Some sort of cocoons with tentacles and wormlike things launch from the Moon and hit Africa and Tokyo. The cocoon in Africa is starting to unterraform the Earth around it while the things landing in Tokyo are destroying the people. The Engineer feels strongly that something’s changed in the Earth’s atmosphere and the Doctor is briefed by the earlier Doctors: “We inherited this Earth. We do not own it.” And the owners want their property back.

This is possibly the strangest and most cinematic of the Ellis’ Authority stories with the team fighting on Earth, on the Moon, and in a surreal landscape. The intense action is interrupted by small humorous moments such as the Engineer getting to finally kick Jenny Sparks in the ass and moments of pure awe like Apollo and the Engineer landing on the Moon.

There are also intriguing clues about the Carrier. Apparently it’s alive. It was abandoned by someone and is waiting for its owners to come back. The Engineer and the Doctor found it but don’t know who built it or why.

Millar took the book into another direction in “the Nativity”; PR, media, and getting involved in the political sphere.

The box “Why do super-people never go after the real bastards?” starts the story. The Authority is trying their best to stomp on dictators. They depose one in Southeast Asia and soon the US president is warning them not to overstep their boundaries. Far from intimidated, Hawksmoor warns him right back to watch his own steps. But it’s clear that the politicians really dislike that “ham fisted super heroes” are charging into their turf.

Meanwhile, the Authority has apparently become one of the most known supers on the planet. They’re interviewed on magazines and TV, they party with celebrities and other supers.

However, the spirit of the twenty-first century has just been born and a lot of people are looking for her. Dr. Krigstein has sent a super team which is a match even for the Authority. They are defeated right in front of cameras.

Millar’s writing style is distinctive from Ellis’. His Authority deals with more down-to-earth situations such as the media. He also uses a lot of cursing in the dialogue. However, he does sneak in moments of humor much like Ellis did. Quitely’s art is also very different from Hitch’s so the difference it quite jarring.

There’s one rape scene in the story. It’s not quite on-camera but heavily implied in the artwork. I call this a complete waste of time and done only for the shock value but that’s quite often Millar’s style.

I enjoyed the new direction. Superheroes tend to just reinforce the status quo so this is a refreshing change. However, we don’t yet see a lot of repercussions from the governments but the seeds are there. People who have power don’t share it.

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