For the Man Who Has Everything

 

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Featured in Superman Annual #11, ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is a classic Superman tale written by one of the comic book industry’s greatest writers in Alan Moore. For the next few months I will be reviewing some classic mainstream Alan Moore titles.

This tale centers around a symbiotic alien plant called Black Mercy that attaches itself to it’s victim and feeds off of their ‘bio-aura’ while they are placed into a dream like state where all of their heart’s desires are occurring in their mind while they are slowly dying in reality.

The story begins with Batman, Robin (the Jason Todd version), and Wonder Woman meeting at the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday. They suddenly come upon Superman who is standing still with this alien parasite attached to him. The villain Mongul is the culprit behind Superman’s predicament and Wonder Woman immediately begins to battle him while Batman and Robin attempt to remove Black Mercy from our red and blue spandexed hero.

During this mayhem we see what is going on in Superman’s mind. He is back on Krypton (having never been destroyed), married with a son, and living a regular non-heroic life. Very quickly though we see his dream world start coming apart. His father Jor-El has been ostracized by Kryptonian society since his prediction of the planet Krypton’s destruction never came to fruition. Kryptonian society is heading towards a civil war with various warring factions preparing to go head-to-head over differing views of how their world should be run. This is clearly not Superman getting to live out his heart’s desires and shows the reader that he is starting to come out of his catatonic state.

Batman and Robin are finally able to pry the alien plant off of Superman and he immediately awakens from his motionless state and, in a very violent rage, screams and goes after Mongul in what proceeds to be a brutal fight between to well matched adversaries.

While this is going on the parasite attaches itself to Batman and he starts to drift off into a world where his parent’s have never been murdered. Fortunately, Robin is able to pry the parasite off of Batman and just when it looks like Mongul is going to get the upper hand on Superman, he launches the Black Mercy and it attaches itself to the villain.

Mongul is now in a catatonic state and we get see his heart’s desire which is the death of Superman and him taking over the entire universe.

This story is very compelling since we get to see inside Superman’s mind more than usual and really feel sympathetic knowing that even though he became Earth’s greatest hero, he still wishes for a normal life which he can never have.

This is a classic tale which was very recently redone for an excellent episode of CBS’s Supergirl which really helped the progression of the character and give a nice nod to a classic comic book story.

Alan Moore has written some classic graphic novels over the decades and usually people focus on his more original work like V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, etc…. I will not argue on the merits of those works, but also encourage people to seek out his work on more well-known characters like Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, et al. A truly great writer can take a very well-known character and add his own flavor without ignoring it’s history. Moore is one of those writers and ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is the perfect example of his amazing talent.

It has been reprinted many times over the years and I re-read it for the umpteenth time in my recently acquired DC Universe by Alan Moore hardcover which was released in 2013 and can still be easily found on Amazon and other book retailers. It features a lot of Moore’s mainstream DC output and is strongly recommended.

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Batman, Incorporated

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Full disclosure, I have been a long time fan of Batman. He has been one of my favorite characters since the first Tim Burton Batman movie was released in 1989. I enjoy everything from the campy 1960’s television show to the most recent Christopher Nolan trilogy.  I have at least one long box full of nothing but Batman comic books. For me he is such a compelling character for multiple reasons that I will not list here.

I am fully aware of the various storylines that have went on in the past 10 years involving Batman and I have only read single issues sporadically. There have been some good stories told recently, but sometimes the sheer doom and gloom that many people feel Batman needs to be in the modern era, based on Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns, weighs the character down and makes him less interesting in some regards. It is nice to occasionally have a break from the darkness. That is where Batman, Incorporated comes in.

Grant Morrison is one of my favorite comic book writers and personalities in the industry. He is intelligent, witty, and very unique in his thought processes. His book Supergods is a must read to get his insightful take on the mythology of our favorite comic book characters and a little more knowledge of Morrison himself. When I saw this collected edition of issues 1-8 and the one shot Leviathan Strikes! I knew I had to give it a shot since the combination of a great writer with a legendary character had to be worth the read. Thankfully, I was right.

The whole concept of Batman, Incorporated is that Batman/Bruce Wayne is traveling around the world recruiting international heroes to join his group and become Batmen to assist him in his fight against a new terrorist group called Leviathan. There is a true ‘fun-ness’ to this book that made it hard to put down. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing silly about this tale, especially some of the imagery we see through the miniseries and especially towards the end of this collected edition, but the overall tone is much more enjoyable and not as dark as some of Batman’s well known storylines.

The different variations on Batman are inventive and great to see. I especially enjoyed the Native American version Man-of-Bats. His focus was helping his own people by any means necessary and his nobility was admirable even though we saw some flaws in his approach. He is a very human hero that anyone could become, whether or not they had the finances to do so.

Grant Morrison really seemed to enjoy writing this tale which results in the reader experiencing the same emotions throughout the series. The team of artists on this series all had their own styles well represented, yet still made every issue seem artistically cohesive. The art popped off the page and really grabbed your attention and made this series very engaging.

The only thing that was a slight disappointment is that I saw the twist ending coming from a mile away. I did not know the outcome of this series so I went in fresh and I was still able to figure out who the mystery person behind Leviathan was going to be. I will not spoil anything, but many long time readers probably did the same. Despite this fact, the ending was still good and did not detract from anything.

This deluxe edition is a great collection of an amazing miniseries and will look great on your bookshelf.

If you are a fan of Grant Morrison, Batman, or just good storytelling, then this is a must read for you.

Joe Frankenstein #1

Today’s comic book review is Joe Frankenstein.

Title – Joe Frankenstein #1

Publisher – IDW Publishing

Co-writer – Chuck Dixon

Co-writer/Artist – Graham Nolan

Genre – Action/Horror

With a cover date of February 2015 I am a bit late to the party, but the above image caught my attention being a big fan of horror with Frankenstein’s Monster being one of my all-time favorite horror icons. I am glad I plunked down my $3.99 for what turned out to be a fun, old-school monster tale.

The story begins with our main character Joe delivering pizza to a home occupied by multiple women who turn out to be vampires looking for a person to snack on. Joe is saved from his untimely death by a hooded figure who thwarts off his attackers with ease. The hooded figure turns out be the Monster from Frankenstein lore and Joe turns out to be an heir to Dr. Frankenstein much to the surprise of the reader and the character of Joe as well.

Much of the first issue focuses on Joe coming to grips with his surprising lineage, trusting the Monster, and the establishment of the villains of the story. For the most part the story is simple and standard but with the art from Graham Nolan really bringing every image to life and showing all the necessary details and the fun writing from both Nolan and Chuck Dixon with the interesting lineage twist, this is a first issue that makes you clamor for more.

I will be hitting the back issue bins at my local comic book store to get the 3 other issues that were released earlier this year. Hopefully, the story wraps nicely and maybe the series will continue in the future.

Airboy #1

Welcome to my new Monday column where I review/discuss comic books. From the classics to modern marvels to current releases, I will be regularly discussing my opinions of a title in my physical collection or that I have recently read digitally. I will be covering everything from main stream to independent and even obscure titles.

This week I am starting with a recent release titled Airboy.Airboy1

Title – Airboy #1

Publisher – Image Comics

Writer – James Robinson

Artist – Greg Hinkle

Genre – Mature/Semi-autobiographical

 

 

Airboy debuted with a June cover date this year and caught my attention with a great cover that featured super heroic imagery of the title character juxtaposed with imagery based on a depressing reality.

I am listing this title as semi-autobiographical because I do not want to believe that the writer, James Robinson, is that deplorable of a human being and simply falls into the category of artist/creator who spends more time than they should in a state of self-loathing.

It begins with our writer/lead character getting a writing gig from the publisher of Image Comics to resurrect a classic character called Airboy. Mr. Robinson has been in a creative rut and is having a difficult time getting out of it and with coercing decides to take the gig. Soon he gets his artist, the very real Greg Hinkle, and they begin the process of trying to re-launch Airboy. They both find themselves not having a clue what to do with this character so James decides they should have a night out on the town of debauchery to get the creative juices flowing. Drugs, booze , and sex reign supreme and after a crazy night of all of the above, the first issue ends with Airboy suddenly appearing in front of them as a flesh and blood human being.

To say this tile is mature is an understatement. Plenty of nudity, sex, and explicit drug use are starkly presented by the artist Hinkle in a way that is quite graphic, but not offensive. Mind you, I am not easily offended, but I do feel that even if you are, the scenes depicted in this book are done is such a lightly humorous way that it does not feel exploitative and just a way of marketing your title as ‘adults only’. Greg Hinkle’s art is unique and appealing in a way that makes you want to check every detail on every page even when it is not something that is normally appealing to sane eyes.

James Robinson’s writing is so sharp, witty, and self deprecating that you cannot wait to read what happens on the next page and in the next issue. Even if the way he depicts himself in the book is more true than not you still find yourself not being able to hate the guy and sympathizing with where he is in his life. He is human and very flawed which is true of all of us, maybe just without the drugs and random sex.

If you are of an adult persuasion and looking for a break from superheroes and the standard comic book fare then this title is definitely for you. With great, interesting art and smart writing this is a monthly title I do not want to miss and cannot wait for each subsequent issue to hit store shelves.

Puppet Master

As a long time fan of horror in all it’s entertainment forms (movies, television, novels, comic books, et al) I have seen many of movie studio Full Moon’s mostly horror movie offerings. My favorite property in their catalog is Puppet Master by Charles Band. Watching people get killed by homicidal dolls is mindless yet brilliant fun. These may not be Academy Award winning features, but the insanity and mindless fun has been much appreciated by this viewer.

A while back I went to a local comic book store and saw a new number one issue of Puppet Master published by Action Lab Comics. There have been other Puppet Master comics from other publishers in the past, but this was the first in a while plus, even though I have heard of Action Lab, I had never purchased one of their titles before. Puppet Master is the first for me and I enjoyed the title immensely and will definitely check out Action Lab’s other offerings.

I always appreciate when a writer (Shawn Gabborin in this case) seems to know his material and does not try to “recreate the wheel” when giving his own spin on the property. Gabborin does a great job of giving us a brief introduction to the main characters without boring everyone with a long, drawn out ‘previously on Puppet Master’ explanation. It is done very organically with a group of young people going to spend the weekend in the house from the movies and one of the characters naturally explaining the history of said home. Things quickly go awry and the puppets show up and start to graphically take out some of the visitors in brilliant Full Moon style.

The artwork by Michela Da Sacco is perfect for the title and fits the property perfectly. Crisp linework that gives the impression of gritty/dirty horror captures the eye and makes you really want to see what horrible thing happens next.

Fun read, perfect for any horror fans, and a title that I hope has a long shelf life.

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A Modern Archie That Actually Works

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This week I am taking a brief break from discussing the WWE to talk about another one of my favorite things, comic books. In particular the re-launched Archie Comics.

Archie is a character that debuted in the early 1940’s and has been a mainstay in the world of comics ever since. I am a big fan of every genre of comic books you can imagine with a preference for horror and super heroes, but every few years as I check out of a nearby grocery store, I see the latest small digest collection of Archie Comics and buy myself a copy and enjoy the simple innocence of it all.

For the better part of more than 7 decades Archie has not changed except for some crazy recent crossovers with The Predator (yes, the one that went up against Schwarzenegger at first and the xenomorphs more recently) and some tweaks here and there. Well, the publisher decided to end the original long running version of Archie and the Gang and completely re-launch the comic with an all new Archie #1. It was a big risk and it paid off.

Part of me was concerned they might try to introduce the world to a glum Archie dealing with ‘modern issues’ and completely re-work his look along with the rest of the cast, but that was not the case. Issue #1 has a great look to it with top notch artwork from Fiona Staples (featured above) and a solid script from legendary writer Mark Waid. The story and artwork have a modern day feel yet did not get away from the ‘fun-loving’ aspects of the characters. Yes, the first story may seem like a little bit of a bummer (no spoilers), but it works and makes sense, plus leaves you waiting impatiently for the next issue to arrive.

For $3.99 you cannot go wrong with this book. It is well written, well drawn, true to the characters, and an exciting new chapter in the story of one of the longest lasting characters of all time.

The Digital Revolution

I have been a comic book reader since I was in grade school. I remember watching the G.I. Joe cartoon and playing with the toys daily when I saw at a local convenience store a G.I. Joe comic on a spinner rack.

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I asked my Dad if I could buy it and he agreed. I read it on the way home and I was officially hooked. My parents got me an annual subscription to G.I. Joe, The Uncanny X-Men, and X-Factor. I started regularly going to the comic book store and buying anything that looked fun to me…Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, you name it I would buy a copy. I went through a brief period of disinterest and got back into the world of 4 colors around my junior year of high school and never looked back. I am nearing the big 4-0 and enjoy taking my family to annual comic book conventions. Usually, that is the only time I find myself purchasing graphic novels during the year since we do not have a nearby comic store of good quality. I find myself buying graphic novel collections at the conventions and no matter how many I get my hands on they are usually read within a week after the con and I would not find myself reading another comic until a year later at the next convention.

Things changed a little over 2 years ago when I purchased an iPad 2. I discovered two things that changed my purchasing method…I could subscribe to magazines and read them on their corresponding apps through my iPad and I could purchase comic books through Comixology and do practically the same thing. As an adult, carrying a comic book to work to read during my lunch break can be a bit mock-worthy, but having several downloaded on my iPad was unnoticeable. I returned to reading single issues because of the ability to buy them through the app and the simple convenience of it all. Late last year I saw that Marvel comics had an unlimited subscription where you could either pay an annual fee or a monthly one and have access to thousands of Marvel comics at any time through an internet connection. I went with the monthly fee at $9.99 (annual is $69) a few months ago to check it out and so far it has been a blast. I have truly enjoyed catching up with 1960’s/70’s Iron Man issues, reading all of the modern Incredible Hulk’s from the 2000’s, and taking in various mini-series set in the Marvel Universe. The app works great and you can download up to 12 comic books at a time for offline reading.

I know there are people who will always prefer a physical copy in their hands, but for me digital versions are just plain convenient. I only have so much room in my house, so doing most of my reading on electronic devices is a great way to enjoy one of my favorite past times in a convenient manner. One device can store my magazines, comic books, and novels and I can switch back and forth between them with my finger. Digital is the future and the future is now.

Check out Marvel or Comixology and give it a try.