Monday, March 29, 2010

graphic novels

Over the last few days I have read

-Hellboy: Darkness Calls &

-Hellboy: The Mole (Free Comic Book Day) I'm unsure about Hellboy. I've never seen the films. I've read three volumes before these two (completely out of sequence, which doesn't help). Mike Mignola's imagination is both sweeping and utterly macabre, and as Jane Yolen points out in her introduction to the former, he taps into worldwide mythology (specifically gods, demons, and creatures of the occult) in a way that is laudatory (perhaps carrying the torch of the Gothic tradition started by Matthew Lewis?). She likens Hellboy to a Tolkien hero who must suffer eukcatastrophe, citing him as more human than those who surround him in his feelings of guilt and loyalty. It's perhaps a very limited sphere, however, so I can't go in entirely for it.

-Catwoman: Crime Pays Two of the Catwoman solo titles were among the first comics I read in recent years, so it's quite natural I went back to them. Catwoman/Selina's voice is well-written here, and the last volume probably achieves its goals of feminist reboot. The story is completely ludicrous, filled as it is to the brim with fake Batmen and obscure evil-doers from the DC Universe (Lex Luthor? Yawn!). It surely belongs in The Black Casebook. Much as I was intrigued by the Joker chatting Catwoman up, it didn't seem in character somehow. The original covers by Adam Hughes, however, are fantastic.

-Captain Britain and MI13: Secret Invasion is not a genre I would normally go for; it's Marvel, first of all, and secondly I'm not sure that patriotic superheroes aren't passe. I did want to read this particular title, though, as it anthologizes the first 4 issues of Paul Cornell's revamp of the series, work that he is obviously quite proud of. The infamous use of Gordon Brown coordinating with the British superheoes is telling in contrast to the nationwide mourning of Captain Britain (Cornell and Leonard Kirk have teamed up to give us visions of a real Britain: Muslim men, teenage yobs, OAPs, middle-aged people in a corner shop). I knew absolutely zero about this range and was confused at first; however, I quickly got what was going on, at least enough to follow along. Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom, our erstwhile heroes, are rather bland; however, their colleagues Spitfire (in the 1940s "what ho" there vein, though she has the same tailor as Jean Grey), the Black Knight (dressed in leather like Eccleston and conflicted and charming), and Fazia Hussain. Fazia is a special case; Cornell has talked about her in several interviews because she's rather unique, an Essex Muslim woman doctor superhero!! Seriously, though, she's the most engaging because she has the most personality: a combination of self-doubt and a bit of hero worship. Oh, and there's a Skrull who looks like John Lennon. To find out what a Skrull is, you'll have to read it yourself!

-Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Everyone tells me I should read Neil Gaiman, though I was duped into thinking this was his original work rather than a graphic novel retelling of . . . a novel. I'm not sure what contribution Mike Carey did in adapting it, then, though Glenn Fabry (whether with lots of help from Gaiman's descriptions or not) has created a visually arresting world. And the costumes! Wow, the costumes! Poor Richard Mayhew is plucked from his normal Londoner life by a compassionate act much in the same way Rose changed her perspective by taking the Doctor's hand when he said, "Run." In peripheral ways, Neverwhere is similar to Fables (or is it hte other way around?) but via Narnia and Hogwarts. Demons clearly ripped off from Gaiman's subterranean villains here, though the London Below also looks like the Court of Miracles from Hunchback of Notre Dame. There are some great characters here, including the Marquis de Carrabas and Hunter ("You take blame very readily. That's a saleable skill at the floating market"). The witty London doubling (the floating market takes place in Harrods and on HMS Belfast; clearly it's a book you can appreciate much more if you know London's geography) is a bit like New York being the Tenth Kingdom in T10K, but I digress. It was interesting.

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