Showcase Presents Batman Volume 3

By Gardner Fox, John Broome, Sheldon Moldoff & various (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 978-1-4012-1719-8

After three seasons (perhaps two and a half would be closer) the Batman TV show ended in March, 1968. It had clocked up 120 episodes since the US premiere on January 12, 1966. The era ended but the series had had an undeniable effect on the world, the comics industry and most importantly on the characters and history of its four-colour inspiration. Most notable was a whole new super-heroine who became an integral part of the DC universe.

This astoundingly economical black and white compendium collects all the Batman and Robin yarns from Batman #189-201 and Detective Comics #359-375 (the back-up slot therein being delightfully filled at this time by the whimsically wonderful Elongated Man strip – which I really must get around to reviewing). The 33 stories here – written and illustrated by the cream of editor Julie Schwartz’s elite and extensive stable of creators – slowly evolved over the seventeen months covered here from an even mix of crime, science fiction, mystery, human interest and super-villain vehicles to a much narrower concentration of plot engines. As with the television version, costumes became king, and then became unwelcome….

It all begins with the comic-book premiere of that aforementioned new character. In ‘The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl’ (Detective Comics #359, cover-dated January 1967) writer Gardner Fox and the art team supreme of Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene introduced Barbara Gordon, mousy librarian and daughter of the venerable Police Commissioner into the superhero limelight. By the time the third season began on September 14, 1967, she was well-established.

A different Batgirl, Betty Kane, niece of the 1950s Batwoman, was already a comics fixture but for reasons far too complex and irrelevant to mention was conveniently forgotten to make room for the new, empowered woman in the fresh tradition of Emma Peel, Honey West and the Girl From U.N.C.L.E. She was pretty hot too, which is always a plus for television…

Whereas she fought the Penguin on the small screen, her paper origin features the no less ludicrous but at least visually forbidding Killer Moth in a clever yarn that still stands up today.

An old foe not seen since the 1940s was revived for Batman #189 (February 1967). Demented psychology lecturer Jonathan Crane was obsessed by the emotion of fear and turned his expertise to criminal endeavours (in World’s Finest Comics #3 and Detective #73) before vanishing into obscurity. With ‘Fright of the Scarecrow’ he was back for (no) good, courtesy of Fox, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella, as this tense psycho-drama elevated him to the top ranking of Bat-rogues. ‘The Case of the Abbreviated Batman’ (Detective #360) by the same team was an old-fashioned crime-caper with mobster Gunshy Barton pitting wits against the Gotham Guardians whilst the March Batman‘s full-length ‘The Penguin Takes a Flyer… Into the Future!’, scripted by John Broome, mixed super-villainy and faux science fiction motifs for an enjoyable if predictable fist-fest.

Editor Schwartz preferred to stick with mysteries and conundrums in Detective Comics and #361’s ‘The Dynamic Duo’s Double-Deathtrap!’ was one of Gardner Fox’s best examples, especially as it’s drawn by the incredibly over-stretched Infantino and Greene. The plot involved Cold War spies and a maker of theatrical paraphernalia; I shall reveal no more to keep you guessing when you read it. The next issue, by Fox, Moldoff and Giella, featured another eccentric scheme by the Riddler on ‘The Night Batman Destroyed Gotham City!’

Batman #191 featured two tales by Broome, Moldoff and Giella staring with ‘The Day Batman Sold Out!’, a “Hero Quits” teaser with a Babs Gordon cameo, whilst the faithful butler took centre-stage in the charming ‘Alfred’s Mystery Menu’. ‘The True-False Face of Batman’ however, (Detective #363, by Fox Infantino and Greene) was a full co-starring vehicle as the new girl was challenged to deduce Batman’s secret identity whilst tracking down the enigmatic Mr. Brains.

Fox scripted both ‘The Crystal Ball that Betrayed Batman!’ which featured an old enemy in a new guise and the Robin solo-story ‘Dick Grayson’s Secret Guardian!’ in Batman #192, for Moldoff and Giella who also handled his mystery-yarn ‘The Curious Case of the Crime-less Clues!’ in Detective #364, in which Riddler and a host of Bat-baddies again tested the brains and patience of the Dynamic Duo – or so it seemed….

Issue #365 featured ‘The House the Joker Built!’ by Broome, Moldoff and Giella which was nobody’s finest hour, but ‘The Blockbuster goes Bat-Mad!’, scripted by Fox for Batman #196, is a compensating delight, especially when accompanied by another “fair-play” mystery yarn starring The Mystery Analysts of Gotham City. ‘The Problem of the Proxy Paintings!’ is the kind of Batman tale I miss most these days: witty and urbane, a genuinely engaging puzzle without benefit of angst or histrionics.

‘The Round Robin Death Threats’ by Fox, Infantino and Greene was a tense thriller that stretched across two issues of Detective (#366 and #367 – an almost unheard of event in those reader-friendly days), a diabolical murder-plot that threatened to destroy Gotham’s worthiest citizens. The drama ended in high style with ‘Where There’s a Will… There’s a Slay!’ a chilling conclusion almost ruined by that awful title.

‘The Spark-Spangled See-Through Man!’ in Batman #195 introduced the radioactive villain Bag o’ Bones in a desperate attempt to get back to story-driven tales, though the ‘7 Wonder Crimes of Gotham City!’ (Detective #368) by the same creative team of Fox, Moldoff and Giella was a much more enjoyable taste of bygone times. Issue #196 led with a clever puzzler entitled ‘The Psychic Super-Sleuth!’ and finished well with another challenging mystery in ‘The Purloined Parchment Puzzle!’ (both by Fox, Moldoff and Giella) and Detective #369, illustrated by Infantino and Greene, somewhat reinforced boyhood prejudices about icky girls in the classy thriller ‘Batgirl Breaks Up the Dynamic Duo’ which segued directly into a classic confrontation in Batman #197 as ‘Catwoman sets Her Claws for Batman!’ by Fox, Frank Springer and Greene. This frankly daft tale is most fondly remembered for the classic cover of Batgirl and Catwoman (with Whip!!!) squaring off over Batman’s prone body – comic fans have a psychopathology all their very own…

Detective Comics #370 was by Broome, Moldoff and Giella, and related a superb thriller with roots in Bruce Wayne’s troubled youth. ‘The Nemesis from Batman’s Boyhood!’ was in many ways a precursor of later tales with an excellent premise and a soundly satisfying conclusion which proved that the needs of the TV shows were not exclusive or paramount. Gil Kane made his debut on the Dominoed Daredoll (did they really call her that? – yes they did, from page 2 onwards!) in #371’s ‘Batgirl’s Costumed Cut-ups’, a masterpiece of comic dynamism that Sid Greene could be proud of but Gardner Fox probably preferred to forget.

Batman #199’s ‘Peril of the Poison Rings’ and ‘Seven Steps to Save Face’ are much better examples of the clever plotting, memorable maguffins and rapid pace that Fox was capable of, ably interpreted by Moldoff and Giella, whilst John Broome’s ‘The Fearsome Foot-Fighters!’ weak title masked a classy burglary-yarn and the regular art team began adding mood and heavy shadow to their endeavours. This issue (Detective #370) was the first Bat-cover that legend-in-waiting Neal Adams pencilled and inked – a welcome taste of things to come…

Batman #200 (cover-dated March 196b) was written by wunderkind Mike Friedrich for Moldoff and Giella. ‘The Man Who Radiated Fear!’ featured the revitalised Scarecrow, and with the TV show dying the pre-emptive rehabilitation of the Caped Crusader began right here in a solid thriller with few laughs and lots of guest-stars.

Fox returned to top form in Detective #373, with art by Chic Stone and Greene in a tale which favoured drama over shtick in ‘Mr. Freeze’s Chilling Deathtrap!’, whilst Gil Kane returned to ramp up the tension in the brutal vengeance fable ‘Hunt for a Robin-Killer!’ (Detective #374) and Stone and Giella coped well with the extended cast of villains in Batman #201’s ‘Batman’s Gangland Guardians!’, a brilliant action-packed enigma wherein his greatest foes become bodyguards to a hero…

This volume ends with Detective #374 and Fox, Stone and Greene’s ‘The Frigid Finger of Fate’ a chilling race to catch a precognitive sniper, which more than any other story signaled the end of the Camp-Craze Caped Crimebuster and heralded the imminent return of a Dark Knight.

With this third collection from “the TV years” of Batman, concluding by the Spring of 1968, the global Bat-craze and larger popular fascination with super-heroes – and indeed the whole “Camp” trend – was beginning to die. In comics, that resulted in the resurgence of other genres, particularly Westerns and supernatural tales. With Batman it meant a renaissance of passion, terror and a life in the shadows.

Stay tuned: the best is yet to come…

© 1967, 1968, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Daredevil: Yellow

By Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-90415-912-5

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale set their retrofitters’ sights squarely on Daredevil’s personal relationships for this light but engaging re-examination of the sightless superhero’s early career, the six-issue miniseries more or less paralleling and in-filling the gaps of the first five Man without Fear adventures as originally crafted by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, Vince Colletta and, nominally, Wally Wood. Those classics are readily available for your perusal and delectation in such sterling volumes as Essential Daredevil volume 1 (ISBN: 978-0-7851-1861-9) should you feel the need to contrast and compare…

Matt Murdock has just lost the love of his life and here uses the rather hackneyed device of writing letters to the departed as a means of coming to terms with his grief to review his career and friendships. It’s clever, pretty and effective but defuses a little too much tension and drama to be properly tragic or compelling.

Still and all, the dialogue is sharp, there are some intriguing modern insights into the glory days of Marvel, and there’s a wonderful gallery of silly villains such as The Owl, Electro, Killgrave, The Purple Man and a mercifully brisk cameo by the risibly malevolent Matador to keep the tale chugging along. (You have to wonder how any creator concocts such a potential nemesis: “DD has horns on his head so his ultimate villain should be…”).

Loeb and Sale have produced some masterful stories about the early years of comicbook icons but this falls too short of their capabilities. A good read but no classic, I fear…

© 2001, 2003 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. (A BRITISH EDITION BY PANINI UK LTD)

The Order of the Black Dragon – a Bob Wilson Adventure

By Griffo & Marcus (Deligne)
ISBN: 2-87135-023-X

Here’s another oddity from the experimental 1980s when a number of European publishing houses had a concerted go at cracking the highly resistant US comicbook market. The Bob Wilson in question is not the revered Arsenal and England goalkeeper, nor the character in the Fatal Fury videogame, but rather a two-fisted adventurer and Soldier of Fortune.

The series debuted in 1982, in Le Journal Illustré le Plus Grand du Monde as ‘L’Ordre du Dragon Noir’, written by Marcus (nom de plume for Danny de Laet) and drawn by the esteemed Werner “Griffo” Goelen, whose works include ‘Modeste et Pompon’, ‘S.O.S. Bonheur’, ‘Munro’ and, with Jean Dufaux, ‘Béatifica Blues’, ‘Samba Bugatti’ and ‘Giacomo C’ as well as many others, all of which really should be available in a language I’m actually conversant with or fluent in.

Bob Wilson is a period thriller, and this volume, set during the days of Prohibition, follows him and his pal Dashiel Hammett as they battle the Chinatown Tongs to thwart the plans of the insidious oriental mastermind Black Dragon, before the hero sets out to track the villain all the way back to his lair in war-torn, civil-war China.

Wilson sports a grand line of brothers-in-arms as his protracted war takes him across the globe alongside such historical figures as Aristotle Onassis, John Flanders (one of many pen-names for Belgian writer Jean Ray) and Chiang Kai-shek, as well as the odd fictional character such as Buddy Longway (a popular continental Western hero).

It’s an infectious blend of all-action, gritty adult pulp-fiction, highly cinematic, fabulously exotic and very, very stylish in the manner those darned Europeans have made all their own, and I would dearly love to see the publishers give it another go in these days of global, not national, market-places…
© 1885 Editions Michel Deligne S.A. and Griffo & Marcus. All Rights Reserved.

Batman Chronicles Volume 6

By Bob Kane & various (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 978-1-84576-963-5

This sixth volume of Batman, re-presented as per the original release schedule, encompasses Batman #10-11, Detective Comics #62-65 and World’s Finest Comics #5 and #6. America had entered World War II by this period and the stories – especially the patriotic covers – went all-out to capture the imagination, comfort the down-hearted and bolster the nation’s morale. One of the very best (and don’t just take my word for it – type “World’s Finest covers” into your search engine and see for yourselves – go on, I’ll wait) designed and executed by the astounding Jerry Robinson leads off this Bat-box of delights.

‘Crime takes a Holiday, (World’s Finest Comics #5, Spring, 1942) by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, is a canny mystery yarn as the criminal element of Gotham “down tools”. Naturally it’s all part of a devious master-plan and just as naturally our heroes soon get to the bottom of it. The same creative team also produced ‘Laugh, Town Laugh!’ (from Detective Comics #62 April 1942) wherein the diabolical Joker goes on a murder-spree to prove to the nation’s comedians and entertainers who actually is the “King of Jesters”.

Batman #10 (April-May 1942) follows with another four classics. ‘The Isle that Time Forgot’ written by Joseph Greene, finds the Dynamic Duo trapped in a land of dinosaurs and cavemen, whilst ‘Report Card Blues’ also with Greene scripting, has the heroes inspire a wayward kid to return to his studies by crushing the mobsters he’s ditched school for. Robinson soloed and Jack Schiff typed the words for the classy jewel caper (oh, for those heady days when Bats wasn’t too grim and important to stop the odd robbery or two!) ‘The Princess of Plunder’ starring everyone’s favourite Feline Femme Fatale Catwoman, and the boys headed way out West to meet ‘The Sheriff of Ghost Town!’

This highly impressive slice of contemporary Americana came courtesy of Finger, Kane and Robinson, who also produced ‘A Gentleman in Gotham for Detective Comics #63, as the Caped Crusader had to confront tuxedoed International Man of Mystery Mr Baffle, and the Crime Clown again in ‘The Joker Walks the Last Mile’ (Detective Comics #64 June 1942).

Obviously he didn’t as he was cover-featured and lead story in Batman #11 (June-July 1942). Bill Finger is credited as writer for ‘The Joker’s Advertising Campaign’ as well as the other three stories. ‘Payment in Full’ is a touching melodrama about the District Attorney and the vicious criminal to whom he owes his life, ‘Bandits in Toyland’ explains why a gang of thugs is stealing dolls and train-sets and ‘Four Birds of a Feather!’ finds Batman in Miami to scotch the Penguin’s dreams of a crooked gambling empire.

There’s another cracking War cover and brilliant Bat-yarn from World’s Finest Comics #6 (Summer 1942) in ‘The Secret of Bruce Wayne!’ as Greene and Robinson provide a secret identity exposé tale that would become a standard plot of later years, and the volume ends as it began with a superb patriotic cover (this one by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon for Detective Comics #65) and a classic tale as Jack Burnley and George Roussos illustrate Greene’s poignant and powerful North Woods thriller ‘The Cop who Hated Batman!’

This tremendously inviting series of Golden Age greats is one of my absolute favourite collected formats: paper that feels comfortingly like old newsprint, vivid colours applied with a gracious acknowledgement of the power and limitations of the original four-colour printing process and the riotous exploratory exuberance of an industry in the first flush of hyper-creativity.

If only other companies such as Marvel, Archie and the rest had as much confidence in their back-catalogue as to follow suit. Who could resist economical, chronologically true collected editions of Bill Everett’s Sub-Mariner, Airboy, Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein; even Bark’s Duck stories, EC editions or CC Beck’s original Captain Marvel?

Certainly not me, and probably not you neither…

© 1941-1942, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow – the Film Adaptation

By Michael Wm Kaluta, Joel Goss & James Sinclair (Boxtree)
ISBN-13: 978-0-75220-856-5

Here’s an interesting but not uncommon paradox: a wonderful graphic adaptation of a rather so-so movie. The Shadow has been a world-class fantasy super-star since the 1930s, periodically revived and revised by successive generations of creators since his debut as an eerie voice on the radio.

Originally the American radio series Detective Story Hour was based on unconnected yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine, with a spooky voiced narrator (most famously Orson Welles, although he was preceded by James LaCurto and Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce the tales. Code-named “the Shadow”, and beginning on July 31st 1930, the narrator became more popular than the stories he introduced.

The Shadow inevitably became a proactive hero solving mysteries himself and on April 1st 1931 debuted in his own pulp periodical series, written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie line “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!”

There had been earlier movies but the 1994 release with Alec Baldwin had the biggest budget. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

The comics adaptation however, co-written and illustrated by Michael Kaluta, who has been associated with the character for most of his glittering career (see The Private Files of the Shadow, ISBN: 0-930289-37-7), is an edgy gem of period malice with all the manic power of the original Gotham Gangbuster restored.

New York in the 1930s: Lamont Cranston plays the part of an idle wastrel socialite but he is driven by inner fires to hunt down and punish the lawless. A reformed criminal, he pursues justice as only a fevered convert can but he may have met his match in the monstrous Shiwan Khan, a fellow disciple of the Tibetan mystic who turned Cranston’s life around and the last blood-heir of Genghis Khan.

Now Khan has come to America in pursuit of a super-bomb that will facilitate his plans for world domination, and the Shadow will have to pit his telepathic abilities against a mind as cold and unrelenting as his own…

With the superb pacing, character design and sheer illustrative finesse of Kaluta, ably supplemented by colourist James Sinclair, this primal tale of suspense comes fully alive with a spark woefully absent from its celluloid counterpart. If you can find this slim tome it’s a work you’ll adore and won’t soon forget.
© 1994 The Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Text & illustrations © 1994 Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All other material © 1994 Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing

By Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill (Titan Books/Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-452-7

Not everybody likes superheroes. Hard to believe, I know. Some folks actively loathe them. And then there’s Pat Mills…

One of the greatest creative forces in British comics, “the Godfather” (as nobody actually calls him) began at DC Thomson, wrote girls and humour comics for IPC and killed posh-comics-for-middle-class-kids stone-dead by creating Battle Picture Weekly (1975 with John Wagner and Gerry Finley-Day), Action (1976), 2000AD (1977) and Starlord (1978). Along the way he also figured large in the junior horror comic Chiller.

As a writer he’s responsible for Ro-Busters, ABC Warriors, Nemesis the Warlock, Sláine, Button Man and Metalzoic among many, many others as well as Battle’s Charley’s War (with the brilliant, sorely missed Joe Colquhoun): the best war strip of all time and one of the top five explorations of the First World War in any artistic medium.

Unable to hide the passions that drive him, his most controversial work is probably Third World War which he created for the bravely experimental Crisis. This fiercely socially conscious strip blended his trademark bleak, black humour, violence and anti-authoritarianism with a polemical assault on Capitalism, Imperialism and Globalisation. It even contained elements of myth, mysticism, religion and neo-paganism – also key elements in his mature work and the hero was a girl! So where’s the definitive collected edition of that, then?.

Some of his most fruitful collaborations happen when he teams with the utterly unique Kevin O’Neill, latterly the star turn of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but for years prior that weird guy whose “style of drawing” was banned by the American Comics Code Authority.

In 1987 Epic Comics, Marvel’s creator-owned mature material imprint, published a six issue miniseries that starred a hero very much in the vein of Judge Dredd, but one who took the hallowed tenets of the superhero genre and gave them a thorough slapping, Brit-boy style.

San Futuro is the reconstructed remnants of California after the Big Quake; the ultimate Metropolitan urban dystopia. America is recovering from another stupid exploitative war in somebody else’s country, and as usual the demobbed, damaged, brain-fried grunts and veterans are clogging the streets and menacing decent society. The problem this time is that this war was fought with artificially manufactured superheroes, and now they’re back their country is embarrassed and has no place for them.

Marshal Law was one of them, but now he’s a cop; burned-out, angry and disillusioned. His job is to put away the masks and capes, but as bad as they are, the people he works for are worse. Some heroes like The Public Spirit have the official backing of the government and can do no wrong – which is a huge problem as the solitary Marshal is convinced that he’s also the deadly rapist and serial killer called the Sleepman…

Much has been written about the cynical, savage parodies of beloved genre stars and motifs, the uncompromising satirical attacks on US policies and attitudes, even the overall political stance of this series. It’s largely all true. But what tends to be forgotten is that Fear and Loathing is also a cracking good yarn for thinking adults with mature dispositions, open minds, and a love of seeing injustice vicariously appeased.

Incisive, sharp dialogue, brilliant scenarios, great characters and a compelling murder mystery full of twists and surprises are all magnificently brought to life by the cruelly lush art and colours of Kevin O’Neill, an artist so crazed that every single panel is stuffed with so many visual and typographical ad-libs that you could read this story one hundred times and still find new treats to make you laugh and wince. So I’m thinking that perhaps you really should…

© 2002 Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill. Art © 1989 Kevin O’Neill All Rights Reserved.

Runaways: Volume 4 True Believers (US Digest Edition)

By Brian K Vaughan, Adrian Alphona & Craig Yeung (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1705-6

I’m warming at last to this series about a gang of Los Angeles kids who discover their parents are a cabal of murdering super-villains bent on World Domination. At the close of the previous volume the kids lost one of their own but actually ended their parent’s plans, freeing the city from years of unconscious servitude and sending the villainous Pride to jail.

This book (collecting volume 2, issues #1-6 of the Marvel comic-book series) takes up the saga a few months later. The kids are back on the streets again having escaped from various Social Services institutions, preferring their own company to a life in “The System.” Their other reason for staying together is more worthy.

When The Pride ran LA, other villains, monsters and super-freaks kept clear. Since their incarceration the city has been plagued by the kind of scum that make New York such a weird, wild place. As the kids are unwittingly responsible for the super-criminal invasion of their turf, it’s up to them to end it…

There’s also a new recruit whose dad is one of the worst menaces of the Marvel universe, a killer time-travel sub-plot and a lot of very impressive guest-stars in this story which solidly carves a place for the kids in the greater company continuity plus a sense of undercurrent that (for me, at least) has been missing from the previous, rather superficial volumes.

Witty and well-scripted, there’s a lot worth looking at here, but I still prefer to read a full sized edition rather than these pokey little digest books. I should have bought the UK edition. Perhaps I will when – not if – I want to read it again
© 2005 Marvel Characters Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Garden of Desire

By Will & Desberg, translated by Michael Koch (Eurotica/NBM)
ISBN: 1-56163-009-8

If you’re old enough to remember the 1960s you might recall the twin popular fascinations of Victoriana (a plethora of books, films and TV shows set in those heady days of Empire) and Sex.

Actually there had always been sex, but in England no-one had seen or done any since before the War. What occurred during the Civil and Social Rights liberalisation of the “Summer of Love” was that heaping helpings of sauciness and skin started to creep into the media. Eventually we’d even sink so low that photographs of naked young ladies would replace cartoons and comic strips as the best way to sell newspapers.

It didn’t take long before period fiction – especially films – added lots of salacious, cheerful nudity and entrendres (double and single) to their product.

In the manner of that innocently rude time (and such classics as The Best House in London and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones) is this lovely slice of Euro-whimsy from Will and Desberg. Willy Maltaite, one of the Continent’s greatest and most prolific artists, worked for Spirou on the fairytale fantasy ‘Isabelle’ among many others. In the 1980s he worked with comics writer Stephen Desberg on a series of light-hearted albums for adults (European adults, so the sex is tasteful, beautifully illustrated and sardonically funny) that our chuckle-parched, po-faced world could well use now. As far as I know The Garden of Desire is the only one of their works to lapse into English.

It follows the amorous antics and career of Michael Loverose, whose well-to-do English mother was seduced by a mysterious stranger. The resulting embarrassment was packed off to boarding school as soon as possible and from there he roamed the wide world in search of love and adventure – but mostly love…

Spanning the turn of the 20th century to the heady days between the World Wars this sly and gentle tale luxuriously blends comedy, self-exploration and innocent lust with a tiny dose of real magic in a way only those sophisticates across the Channel can.

Great fun perfectly executed and a style of story we should be revisiting in these pell-mell, oh-so-serious modern days.
© 1988 Will-Desberg/Ed. Dupuis Charleroi Belgium. © 1991 NBM for the English Translation. All right reserved.

Green Lantern Corps: Ring Quest

By Peter J.Tomasi, Patrick Gleason & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-116-8

Following on from the bombastic Sinestro Corps War, this volume (collecting Green Lantern Corps issues #19, 20 and 23 through 26) of the space opera/cop procedural drama finds the battered but triumphant interstellar peacekeepers on a deadly clean-up duty.

Dispatched by the Guardians of the Universe to collect or confiscate the deadly yellow power rings of their dead foes, an elite team of GLs is ambushed by the monstrous son of Mongul, a ruthless alien despot who controls one of the most insidious and horrifying weapons in creation. And now he’s started collecting yellow rings and rebuilding the Sinestro Corps…

Glossy and gritty, it’s tension and confrontation all the way in this highly readable thriller, but there’s still room for a few “buddy-movie” moments as Earth Lanterns Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner spend their downtime trying to open a cop-bar on the Guardian’s precinct-planet Oa…

Although this is highly continuity-dependent, determined newcomers will still be able to extract a vast amount of histrionic enjoyment out of this explosive action-blockbuster – and you could always buy the other volumes to get caught up…

© 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Nephylym Book 2

By Rei Kusakabe (DrMaster Publications)
ISBN13:  978-1-59796-182-0

Shun Imai has a little problem. He’s a fairly average high-school boy but a martyr to static electricity. Every time he touches metal there’s a painful flash and spark. It’s a very similar situation whenever he sees pretty classmate Sanari Kurosaki. His other big problem is that he’s been hand-picked by a diminutive Angel named Air to be an “Answerer”, a supernatural warrior dedicated to eradicating the disruptive effects of “Noir” wherever it strikes. Air is a supernatural guardian known as a Nephylym…

Noir is a bad mood made manifest: When black emotions and negative feelings become too oppressive they can take on physical form and cause grave, destructive harm. This volume begins with Shun still adapting to his new position as a secret warrior and the revelations that the girl of his classroom dreams is an Answerer too.  Just like his friendly rival Tsukasa…

Even supernatural Cops have bureaucracy and a pecking order though, and Shun’s current problems divide equally between having to take an Answerer Proficiency Test and simply surviving the persistent attacks of a completely new – and very hot! – menace calling herself Qliphoth – the Noir’s equivalent to the angelic Nephylym

Engaging, funny and faster-paced than many mangas of this genre, this is a highly readable, well-drawn fantasy adventure that has lots to offer the casual browser as well as the dedicated collector and fan.

This black and white book is printed in the Japanese right-to-left format.

© 2007 Rei Kusakabe. English translation © 2008 DrMaster Publications. Inc. All Rights Reserved.