Friday, April 12, 2013

Short booknotes on graphic novels 16

It has been a while since I have done a compilation of these (I did #15 back in 2007), but as I wean myself out of GoodReads, I am doing them again. It feels like going back to basics. These were borrowed from my local public library, Madison County Public Library, Berea Branch. They have a pretty decent selection of graphic novels, and they are actively ordering new ones, which is good. It certainly better than the public library back in Tyler where they had no idea when it came to graphic novels. Book record links go to WorldCat. At any rate, here we go.

Azzarello, Brian and Lee Bermejo (illustrator), Joker. New York: DC Comics, 2008. ISBN: 9781401215811.

I picked this up when I saw it was written by Brian Azarello since I am a fan of his 100 Bullets series. He provides here a solid noir tale of the Joker. Joker manages to be released from Arkham Asylum, and he wants to get back to business. The only problem is that his retainers and goons took his interests, split them up, and basically squandered things. So now he has to put his empire back together. So, with a new goon, Jonny Frost, Killer Croc, and Harley Quinn, he sets about his mad work. Along the way we meet Two Face, the Riddler, the Penguin, and others. However, Azarello, with Lee Bermejo's art, gives us a different, more gritty take on these characters. These are not the bright costume-wearing characters, but rather more street, gritty, characters. The result is a very dark, deep, story in an urban setting. Joker will meet Batman, but this is first and foremost Joker's story. And the interesting and neat thing is that it is told from Jonny Frost's point of view, as he rises to earn Joker's trust (as much as that is possible), and he is there to see and experience all the madness. Overall, this is highly recommended. One of the few I give 5 out of 5 stars.

Claremont, Chris and John Byrne, X-Men: Days of Future Past. New York: Marvel, 2011.  ISBN: 0785164537

This compilation features issues of the Uncanny X-Men comics (issues 138-143) plus X-Men Annual #4.  It has a very classic feel to it. The issues make up the "Days of Future Past" story line where, in the future, the Sentinels control the United States after killing off or imprisoning all mutants as well as anyone with super powers. The remnants of the X-Men in that future, led by Magneto, send one of their own back in time to the present (in the 1980s) to try to prevent that future from happening. The way the time travel is accomplished is a bit hokey, to say the least, but hey, it's old comics, so what can you say? Overall, it is an entertaining collection if you like comics from that time period. The compilation also features a story with Dr. Strange as a guest and a Christmas special. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars, which means I did like it. I think fans of old school X-Men will enjoy this one.

Claremont, Chris and Brent Eric Anderson (illustrator), X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.  New York: Marvel, 2011. ISBN: 9780785157267

The description of the book says this book was a basis for the second X-Men film. I have to say that the film makers barely based the film on this as the book pretty much does not resemble the movie at all other than having a character named Stryker who hates mutants and his creation of a second Cerebro-type computer to track and kill mutants. At any rate, as usual, the book is better than the film.

In our graphic novel, Stryker is the leader of a fundamentalist Christian church (more like a cult) that hates mutants, sees them as abominations, and uses Christianity to justify mutant extermination. The cult is very well organized, and it resembles any modern Christian cult today such as Pat Robertson's or Jerry Falwell's with a paramilitary element. When Professor Xavier is kidnapped by the cult, Magneto steps in to help out. Granted, his beliefs are different than Xavier's, but he sees Stryker's church as a common threat all mutants have to face. The X-Men have to find their lost leader and stop Stryker from carrying out his plans while people are divided on whether the mutants are human too or if they are abominations to kill.

In many ways, I think this tale is still very relevant today. All one has to do is look at Christian and other religious extremists who call for racism and bigotry in the name of their deity to see that Stryker is very much alive and well in today's society, especially in the U.S. The story is a pretty good comic book story with some nice twists.

Claremont, Chris, and Frank Miller (illustrator), Wolverine. New York: Marvel, 2012. ISBN: 9780785137245.

A compilation of Claremont's run with Frank Miller doing the art, which makes for a nice combination. Wolverine heads to Japan to meet the woman he loves. However, the impending wedding is not all it is cracked up to be. Her family is involved in the criminal underworld, and when she stops answering his letters and calls, he heads over to Japan to find out why. He finds himself in the middle of an underworld battle as her father is striving to consolidate his underworld power. Add to it a ronin samurai girl who also has the hots for Wolverine, and things get interesting. Overall, a nice compilation of comics, although I have to say it does leave a bit of a cliffhanger at the end.

Hine, David, X-Men: Colossus- Bloodline. New York: Marvel, 2006. ISBN: 9780785119005. 

This collection brings together the story of Colossus having to return home to Russia when someone is murdering members of his family. Who is behind it and why? And what does the mad monk Rasputin have to do with it? It is not a bad story, but the premise seemed to be a bit of a stretch. However, it makes for a nice mystery-type of reading. 

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