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Monday, May 15, 2017

Good Miracle Monday

A quick reminder to remember to set a place at the table for Superman tonight, the classic Miracle Monday tradition, as seen in this story from SUPERMAN #400 [1984] by Elliot S! Maggin and Klaus Janson.

Next year in Metropolis!

And if for some reason you've never read them, pick up Maggin's two Superman novels, LAST SON OF KRYPTON and MIRACLE MONDAY.  Hm, looks like there may be a new edition of MIRACLE MONDAY...

(Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)

Recently Read 2017.05.14 (Mooncop, Roughneck, Astro City, Fray, Ex Machina)

This is a recent book by Tom Gauld, best known for his single page comics as collected in YOU'RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK.  This time around he takes on a longer narrative, with the story of an unnamed police officer who has a quiet beat on a lunar colony that's long past its prime and slowly winding down.

This was an engaging little story, very quiet in tone, using the science fiction elements to address personal issues of loss and loneliness and changing times. At the same time, it was also very funny, with a lot of unexpected little jokes which take advantage of the lunar setting, and couldn't work if the same story was told about a slowly disappearing small rural town.

Very highly recommended, one of the best new comics I've read recently.

This is Jeff LeMire's newest comic, and the first book from Simon&Schuster's new comic book imprint Gallery 13. It's a return in subject matter to one of LeMire's earlier works, the 2007/2008 ESSEX COUNTY trilogy of short works. In the interim LeMire has amassed quite a varied resume in comics, with a lot of writing on work-for-hire super-hero books for various publishers and writing or writing/drawing various original genre works.  I've tried some of his super-hero and other genre work, but didn't really find most of it that engaging, other than DESCENDER with artist Dustin Nguyen which has a promising start and I need to catch up on.  I do recall liking ESSEX COUNTY as a promising but somewhat rough-hewn work, but it's been almost a decade since I've read it and my memory is dim.

Like ESSEX COUNTY, this is a story set in small town Ontario, this time up north rather than the south-west, featuring a former professional hockey player, having been thrown out of the league years ago for excessive violence, now back in his home town, living in the local arena and barely managing his drinking and anger control issues. His life gets complicated by the return of his younger sister who ran away several years earlier, with circumstances leading to the two of them hiding out in an even more remote cabin.

I generally liked this, and overall it felt much more confidently drawn and skillfully told than I recall ESSEX COUNTY being. The characters felt real and complex in their reactions to the various forces that compel their actions, and LeMire made good use of a limited colour palette for most of the story with vivid colours for (mostly) the flashbacks. I did think the looming specter of the sister's abusive boyfriend approaching the town felt a bit forced in a "Lifetime movie" way, but I guess it paid off in the end. Definitely worth a read.

EX MACHINA Volumes 1-5
This set of books collects the 50 issue series (plus four specials) published between 2004 and 2010, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, with a few other artists like John Paul Leon and Chris Sprouse on the specials and Tom Feister, Jim Clark and Karl Story on inks.

The story is about an engineer named Mitchell Hundred who gets the powers to talk to machines from a mysterious device, briefly operates as the super-hero The Great Machine (in a world without other super-heroes) and then gets elected the Mayor of New York City in 2001. The story flips back and forth between his single term as Mayor and flashbacks to the past, mostly his time as The Great Machine.

This was a pretty uneven run of comics. The premise is pretty strong, mixing sci-fi/super-hero concepts with a sort of WEST WING political drama, and is occasionally realized, but just as often one of the elements derails the other.  I also thought the number of interesting stories that Vaughan had to tell in the flashbacks was a lot more limited than the amount of space he gave to them, and he could have dropped the whole flashback gimmick after a dozen or so issues, or used it much more sparingly throughout (oddly also a complaint I had about the TV show LOST, which Vaughan wrote on for a while). Anyway, the series has mix of successful stories, ambitious but flawed stories and complete misfires for the first four books, and then pretty much collapses in the final book, which mostly revolves around the source of Hundred's powers and all that follows from that. I'm not a big fan of Harris's art, but it is pretty well suited to the subject matter and occasionally quite striking (I like Sprouse and Leon more, but they were pretty odd choices for the specials). There were a few rough bits late in the run, I think the first few that Harris inked himself, but he seemed to have settled down there quickly enough.

Worth checking out the first book at least, maybe the second.

This is the fourteenth and most recent collection of the the long running series by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson (and more recently other artists, but all these issues are drawn by Anderson, with Alex Ross doing the covers). This collects #26, #29-30 and #32-34 of the currently running series.

I was a big fan of the series when it launched back in 1995, for a short while it was probably my favourite on-going comic (back when I read a lot of on-going comics in their original serialized form), but fell off quite a while ago for various reasons, mostly the launch of what ended up being a 16-issue story when my preference for the series was always the single issue stories.

This particular collection features three stories. The first is a 20th anniversary sequel to the very first issue of ASTRO CITY from 1995, with the character Samaritan starting to have some issues with his dreams of flying which were the focal point of his debut story and getting some help from some of the other heroes in dealing with them. This was a pretty enjoyable re-introduction to the series, with a lot of familiar faces and a few intriguing strangers, and also seemed to be setting up some future stories which I don't think have been published yet.

The second story is a two-parter featuring the First Family, a Kirbyesque family of adventurer/super-heroes. Or rather it features a child on an alien planet which has had its various attempts to conquer Earth over the years foiled by the First Family, and who thus has a rather skewed version of them from the propaganda of his leaders. His beliefs are challenged when he meets one of the Family injured on a rescue mission. This was my favourite story in the collection, and reminded me of most of what I liked about the series back in the day.

The final story is a three-parter featuring the return of Steeljack, the lead of the early AC story "The Tarnished Angel". A former super-villain gone straight after serving his time, he gets dragged into a slightly convoluted story involving old acquaintances and super-villain memorabilia. While this story had a few good bits, I thought it went on a bit too long and was definitely my least favourite in the collection.

Overall a pretty decent book, I'll definitely try a few more of the books I missed or some future collections.

This is a collection of the 8 issue series published from 2001 to 2003 written by Joss Whedon and drawn by Karl Moline and Andy Owens. It's a spin-off of Whedon's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER TV series, set several hundred years in the future with the emergence of the first Slayer in a while, a girl named Melaka Fray. I recall it was pretty well spoken of back when it was published, but at the time I hadn't really watched any episodes of the show. I finally did watch them a few years ago, and have been thinking of trying the comic book "seasons" that have been coming out over the last few years, so I figured I'd start with this.

A bit of an odd book, as for the first half I thought the plotting was very strong, with some really good ideas and world-building for this future world and the characters, but I thought a lot of the execution was kind of clumsy (I think this was the first comic book of any major length that Whedon wrote). As we go along the scripting gets steadily stronger, but that's when the cracks begin to appear in the structure, and things don't seem to be quite so interesting and logical. A lot of things don't work in the big final battle and the overall resolution, although they read much better than the early issues. Moline and Owens provide some balance to the whole thing, remaining steadily solid but unspectacular throughout.

At this point I'm not sure if I'll read any of the other BUFFY comics (a few of which I know feature Fray returning to meet Buffy in some sort of time-travel adventure) based on this. Maybe, but not for a while I think.
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