Friday, January 18

Dynamite Comics – Feb 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during December that I received near the beginning of January. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Linkto previous month.]

Right into the comics....

Left to right, the Green Hornet,
the Black Bat, Kato, the Shadow,
the Green Lama, Miss Fury, Zorro,
and the Spider.
Masks #2 of 8

Well, I was worried that the change away from Alex Ross' painted art to Dennis Calero's more traditional art in this second, and I presume subsequent issues, would be quite jarring, but it's a decent transition, for the most part. I imagine it will be a bit more noticeable in the inevitable collected format. I'm not familiar enough with Calero to know if inking and coloring was adjusted here somewhat to make that transition smoother, but it works.

The story seemed a bit lighter this go'round. We have the introduction of male and female vigilantes MissFury and the Green Lama in the first couple of pages, then switch back to the main characters introduced last issue – the Shadow, the Green Hornet and Kato, and the Spider – retreating from an ineffective battle against the armored Black Police to Wentworth mansion. There they reveal their civilian identities to one another – all but the Shadow, who reveals only that, “I am the Shadow.” Heh. Meanwhile, Vega, the artist introduced last issue, ends up sent to the gallows – along with others – but escapes with the help of the District Attorney himself, Tony Quinn, who “didn't devote [his] life to the service of the law to see it perverted by thugs” but who ends up blinded in the process (the first step along the road toward his taking up the mantle of the Black Bat.) The main characters listen to the heavily propaganda-laden newscast and pontificate on the inevitable rise of new heroes to fight the ascent of evil. On the last page: Over a shot of Miss Fury and Green Lama – “We already have allies we don't even know, no doubt. Others who are fighting for what's right.” A glimpse of the Black Terror – “And there must be others in the shadows, waiting for their moment to strike a blow against injustice.” Vega and Quinn, the latter's eyes heavily bandaged: “And still others who will find a strength within them that they didn't even realize they possessed, and the courage to stand up. // I tell you, we might be the first, but we won't be the last.”

...Yeah. Not a whole lot really happened in this second issue of eight. We're a quarter of the way through the whole story and it's barely set up. It didn't even feel like a full twenty pages – it is, I counted, but it seemed really decompressed. Things are going to have to pick up.

I've really been looking forward to this series. Please don't disappoint!

We do get some nice rapport developing between the Shadow and Kato – but Kato's master the Green Hornet ends up coming off as a bit of a wimp here.

Tuesday, January 15

DC Comics – Jan 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the DC comics that were released during November that I received near the beginning of December. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Link to previous month.]

Just a couple of news items this month:

Here's some more information on the impending return of Keith Giffen to Legion of Super-Heroes: A “revamp on the run”? “No one is safe.” This could be good. This could be bad. I have a definite sense of unease.... (Nothing like rabid fans of Karate Kid have, I'm sure!)

Holy Boomerang, Batman!” – Well, it seems that Gail Simone's banishment from Batgirl was short-lived – pretty much just long enough for me to take notice of it and stick it in my previous “monthly round-up” post, then it was undone – . I would love to know the behind-the-scenes here. Was there really such a hue and cry that DC backpedaled? Or was there more at work here than we'll ever know? I suspect the latter. But, as I commented to a colleague, it probably stood Simone in good stead that she did not take the opportunity to start airing DC's dirty laundry in the midst of the fanboy virtual uprising that followed her first announcements. To my knowledge, her own statement in that first announcement that she herself would have more to say on the subject was never followed through on, for whatever reason. In any case, I'm pleased with the outcome.

Wednesday, January 9

Bye Bye, Baby (The Memoirs of Nathan Heller, #14, 2011)

By Max Allan Collins

I discovered these novels about a decade ago, when I went through an earlier phase of reading “hard crime,” noir, “neopulp” (although I'd not encountered the term), mystery-type fiction. They may even be what drew me into that genre for the next couple of years, I'm not sure at this remove. I was familiar with the name of Max Allan Collins from his stint writing the Batman comic back during the '80s, as well as the fairly recent notoriety of the graphic-novel-become- Academy Award-nominated-film Road to Perdition, and luckily happened to stumble upon the first of his Nathan Heller books newly republished, with the subsequent two in the opening “trilogy” following hot on its heels – True Detective, True Crime, and The Million-Dollar Wound. Those three novels could almost be considered one long story in that they tell a sequential narrative establishing the fundamentals of Nate Heller's “homeworld” of 1930s-1940s Chicago, interweaving his story with a multitude of historical personalities and events.  I've sometimes seen them referred to as “The Frank Nitti Trilogy” in that Heller's relationship with Al Capone's … associate … provides something of an overall unifying arc. I ate them up, and 'round about the summer of 2003 (I think) I felt I grew to know Chicago (which I've never visited except for passing through the train station at the tender age of five or so, as well as flying into O'Hare on my way to a conference in Michigan about a decade and a half ago) like the back of my hand. The themes, style, and setting probably helped set me up for the Dresden Files a few years later, which are told in a similar first-person crime-noir style, largely in the same setting albeit in the present.

Friday, January 4

Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14, 2012)

By Jim Butcher

Yes, Harry Dresden was dead – or rather, mostly dead – but he's all better now, and back up to fighting trim as the new Winter Knight, thanks to the tender tough love therapy overseen by his new boss, Mab, the Winter Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Unseelie Fae. Just in time for her to give him his first real assignment – kill Mab's daughter Maeve, the Winter Lady. Why would Mab put a hit on her own daughter? How do you kill an Immortal anyway? And what's Santa Claus got to do with it all?

The answer to the first question helps further the overall shift in this series away from what was originally the tales of “the only consulting wizard in the Chicago Yellow Pages,” a simple urban fantasy series, to an epic of cosmic proportions. For it seems that our Universe – which includes the world we know as well as the linked worlds of Faerie, the Nevernever, and so forth – is under siege from without. Literally from Outside. There are some definite Lovecraftian overtones here. And it seems that Maeve, along with others who have appeared from the beginning of the series with increasing frequency, has fallen prey to One called here the “the Adversary” or the “Nemesis,” and is actively working to unleash dark forces that have been imprisoned beneath “Harry's buddy-island” Demonreach in a prison forged by Merlin himself. Add in a dash of internecine rivalry within the highly dysfunctional family that is the Winter Court, complicated by the fact that these beings of Faerie are, as alien as they may be in some respects, all too human in others, and you get a conflict that is heart-rending in its climactic tragedy. One that may destroy Harry and all that he knows and loves.

For the answers to the other two questions, I'm just going to send you to read the book itself. Cold Days is a typically – increasingly – complex tale from The Dresden Files that cannot be summarized easily. I'm not even going to try. There's an extensive summary on the Wikipedia page for this book, but it would be far better to read it for yourself – with a proper grounding in the thirteen novels leading up to it. Plus a volume of short stories, although those are less integral to the overall narrative. I wrote previously of my great love for this series. Characters and situations from throughout appear or are called back to in this volume, which ends with major shifts for some of my favorite denizens of Harry's world. His “padawan,” Molly, whom we've literally watched grow up from a gawky young teenager to a powerful wizard in her own right, over the course of a dozen or so books, becomes much more by the end of this book. And there is a definite sense that by the end of this series Harry will look back on the trials of this “file” and think, “Hell's Bells!, I had it easy...!” I mean, Butcher has revealed that his plans for the series are to cap it off with what he calls “The Big Apocalyptic Trilogy”!

But I will leave you with this: Not only does Harry meet Santa Claus in this book. He kicks Jolly Old St. Nick's ass!

Cheers! – and Thanks for reading!