Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Read – Nov 16

It started out as another really light reading week due to schedule conflicts but then the incredible happened. I had an anniversary! That’s right I’ve officially been married forever. Can you guess my wife’s gift to me? Silence. Ohhh it was sooooo sweet and I used to read far too many books. It was awesome. Best gift ever. Anyway, on to what I read.

Bouncer, One Armed Gun Slinger, (w) Alexandro Jodorowsky, (a) Francois Boucq, published by Humanoids.
I always find it ironic that Europeans write stories about the American west. I understand the attraction for Americians because it’s part of our history but I’m not sure what the draw is for Europeans. No matter what the reason, Jodorowsky writes a very good story. Don’t get me wrong, it had it’s fair share of clichés but what do you expect from a western? A very enjoyable read.  You can read my long review here.

The other books this month… Hellspawn the Complete Collection, Next Men Premiere Edition Volume 1, and Chaykin’s Shadow from 1986.

Hellspawn the Complete Collection, written by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve Niles, illustrated by Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith, published by Image.

This book collects all 16 issues of the series in a nice oversized hc format for $40. It works out to $2.50 an issue which was the actual cover price back in 2000 when it was published. In that sense, this is a great buy. And, getting to see Wood and Templesmith’s art in an oversized format is really cool too. Buuutttt…. After that it’s kinda questionable.

In terms of story, Bendis wrote the first six issues and they were: 2x excellent, 1x very good, 1x eh, 1x bad. Unfortunately they read in the same order so that you start really excited and end somewhere south of ‘can I have my $2.50 back?” Steve Niles writes issues 7-16 and they were generally very good. His ending, unlike Bendis's ending, isn’t bad but it’s not exactly great either. It just kinda ends. I can’t remember if the series was canceled or Niles was just done with the story so I don’t know where to lay blame. Overall, the story lines were fine, and a couple if individual issues were great, but the whole package never quite made it to "great and I can’t wait to read this again".

As for the art, well it’s unfettered Ashley Wood. Either you love his stuff or you don’t. In this case it appears he was given free reign to create images and he creates some fantastic images. They don’t always connect up with the words on the page but hot damn do they look pretty! This was more of a problem during Bendis’s arc. The color palette is black, brown, and an occasional red/yellow… which was mixed with brown. You need to read this book in a well lit area because the details are lost in anything less than that.

Once Niles come on board Wood settled down into more normal art. Well as normal as he gets. During the story, the Raven Spawn costume is introduced. I include a picture of the action figure that was developed because I couldn’t tell you what the costume looked like from the art.  Even though I complain and there are problems with the art, I really, really enjoyed looking at it.

So, the final verdict on the book? I have no clue. I really like the art, the price all things considered was really good, and it looks really cool on my bookshelf. Unfortunately the story just doesn’t hold up enough for me to want to read it again. It’s staying with me for now but if I need to make space for something else this might be the first to go.

Next Men Premiere Edition Volume 1, (w/a) John Byrne
This volume collects John Byrne’s Next Men issues 0 to 10 originally published in 1992. Over the past decade I think Byrne’s outspoken, and slightly grumpy attitude has cost him some of the respect he is rightfully due. His run from X-men, to Fantastic Four, to Superman has got to be one of the greatest runs by a writer/artist ever. Next Men is at the tail end of that peak period but it still packs a punch. This is a solid science fiction, NOT superhero, comic. It takes the idea of genetically modified humans who have abilites beyond normal people (superheroes but without gaudy costumes or even super villians) in a modern world and runs with it. The entire book moves at a speed that isn’t too fast, nor to slow, it’s just right. The sub plots are developed to perfection. This is a case study in how to create a comic book. It’s really good and largely overlooked these days. The entire run has been reprinted in both the b and w essential format and color trades so it’s affordable to all.

In single issues I read…
Shadow #1-4, (w/a) Howard Chaykin, published by DC
Originally published in 1986 I remember this series taking the comic book world by storm and being one of the first books that back issue prices sky rocketed on. If this had been solicited as a fancy hc, I can honestly say I would have ordered it immediately. But DC didn’t so I read the single issues and… it’s ok. I think at the time it was cutting edge because it was different from the other books on the stands. It was full of innuendo and edgy dialogue and the art was good too. But, 25 years later the dialogue is no longer edgy. Chaykin’s art stagnated to the point that it appears he could have drawn this today. That which was once interesting has become dull because it’s the same thing I see from Chaykin every time he draws a story.  If I was a huge Shadow fan I am sure I would think this was great.  Coming in cold to the Shadow mythos, it's a four issue series that has a nice beginning, middle, and end, but it contains characters that I didn't care about any more at the end of the story than I did at the beginning of the story.

That’s it for this week. Next week is the Indies preview and Thanksgiving so I won’t have a post. See in December!

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