John Constantine, Hellblazer: All His Engines by Mike Carey (writer) & Leonardo Manco (artist)
There are so many options available to the reader who wants to meet John Constantine for the first time. He was created by Alan Moore in his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing (Moore's entry into American comics). Another good place to start is with Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer: Original Sins, the volume collecting the first issues of Constantine's solo title Hellblazer — the longest running title in the history of Vertigo, DC's line of comics with adult content and adult themes (both in terms of being explicit and being intellectually complex). Unfortunately, DC just recently canceled this title at issue #300 and has replaced i... Read More
John Constantine, Hellblazer: All His Engines by Mike Carey (writer) & Leonardo Manco (artist)
Mister X: Condemned by Dean Motter (writer and artist)
The City of Dreams had become The City of Nightmares . . . was it too late to awaken it?
Mister X: Condemned makes for a perfect introduction to the critically acclaimed Mister X series that first appeared in 1984. Since that time, other writers and artists also have been allowed to play in this futuristic world that Motter created, but if you want an affordable, quick introduction written and drawn by Motter, then this book is the place to start before you shell out the bucks for the more expensive definitive edition of his work — Mister X: The Archives.
Mister X is a shadowy character who haunts the world of Radiant City, a dystopi... Read More
Animal Man, Volume 2: Origin of the Species and Animal Man, Volume 3: Deus Ex Machina by Grant Morrison (writer) and Chas Truog (artist) issues 10-26
These two volumes of Animal Man — Origin of the Species and Deus Ex Machina — complete the collection of Grant Morrison's run on this once-minor DC character. This 26-issue run marks Morrison's entry into American comics. The Scottish Morrison, along with Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, is one of the three writers from the UK who helped change American comics for the better in the 1980s and 1990s. Moore preceded them in his work on Swamp Thing and is probably the reason Karen Berger from DC was sent to find more talent abroad, but Morrison and Gaiman ... Read More
The Book of Lost Souls, Volume 1: Introductions All Around by J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and Colleen Doran (artist)
I am so pleased I picked The Book of Lost Souls up off the shelf at Oxford Comics in Atlanta, Georgia. Though I am familiar with the writer, J. Michael Straczynski (often referred to simply as JMS), I'd never heard of this book or its artist — Colleen Doran. But I was immediately grabbed by the title and cover image of a forlorn young man clutching a large, red book. In the center background is a large moon with the nighttime skyline of 19th-century London on the left and 20th-century New York on the right. I did judge this book by the cover, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the inside of the book was even better than was promised by the cover. In fact, this book made such an impression on me that I'm writing this re... Read More
Grendel: Archives and Grendel: Devil by the Deed by Matt Wagner (writer and artist)
Now that I’ve read Matt Wagner’s Grendel: Archives and Grendel: Devil by the Deed, I regret how long it took me to read any of his Grendel stories, a series of comics that have a thirty-year history (and counting). I kept reading about them here and there, but had no sense of what they were about. I assumed they had something to do with Beowulf, and — having spent a year of graduate school translating old English line-by-line — I am not a big enough fan of Beowulf to watch movies or read novels and comics inspired by Beowulf. I've even talked to quite a few people who have made it clear that th... Read More
Animal Man, Volume 1 (Issues 1-9) by Grant Morrison (writer), Chas Truog (artist, Issues 1-8) and Tom Grummett (artist, Issue 9)
The twenty-six issue run on Animal Man by Grant Morrison is one of the most important works in comics, but it must be understood in an historical and artistic context; otherwise, someone new to comics might just flip through it and see what looks like a slightly-dated comic with artwork that isn't currently as exciting and flashy and polished and colorful as newer comics. However, this twenty-five-year old comic is of higher quality than most of what is still put out on a monthly basis a quarter-of-a-century later. Most of the high quality comics being written today and aimed toward mature, intelligent audiences were made possible by and are a direct result of the risks Morrison took in writing the issues in this first volume of Animal M... Read More
Who is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Tonci Zonjic (artist)
Who is Jake Ellis? is an excellent thriller that defied my expectations for the wonderful reason that I had so much trouble figuring out what my expectations should be in the first place. In other words, the story is so unique, I couldn't see it fitting easily into any specific template. At first glance, it's merely a thriller of the James Bond variety, but the James Bond character doesn't actually seem to have any real skills of his own or seem to have any mission to accomplish other than not getting killed. Part of me wonders if the author is making a comment on the absurdity of life in general and our lack of preparation for it.
The main character is Jon Moore, a CIA analyst who has not been trained for the field, yet the entire story takes place "in the fie... Read More
Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries adapted for comics by P. Craig Russell
P. Craig Russell's artwork is stunning in his adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries. And since the story has all the other-worldly hallmarks of a Neil Gaiman Sandman story, Russell really gets a chance to show off his talent as he bounces from the angelic Silver City to the cityscapes of our mundane world.
This graphic novel is based on what was originally a short story by Neil Gaiman (and eventually a radio drama in the spirit of The Shadow); I read the comic befo... Read More
Astonishing X-Men, Volume One: Gifted (Issues 1-6) and Astonishing X-Men, Volume 2: Dangerous (Issues 7-12) by Joss Whedon (writer) and John Cassaday (artist)
These two Astonishing X-Men trade collections by Joss Whedon — Gifted and Dangerous — make a great introduction either to superhero comics in general or to X-Men comics specifically. There are some goods reasons Joss Whedon was chosen to write and direct the latest Avengers movie, and one of them must be his incredible work on these twelve issues of Astonishing X-Men in 2004 and 2005. Joss Whedon, known for his excellent dialogue in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhou... Read More
Point of Impact by Jay Faerber (creator and writer) and Koray Kuranel (creator and artist)
Jay Faerber's Point of Impact, though not destined to become a great comic in the canon of graphic storytelling, is a perfect short story told in four issues, which is exactly what he tries to do. Sometimes one is in the mood for a large, sprawling epic, and other times, one just wants to read a poem or short story. You don't need any background information about superheroes, supervillains, or mutants. All you need to do is start reading, and once you see the first dead body, you're hooked, particularly if you are a fan of Law and Order, Harry Bosch novels, or other police procedurals: The spirit of Dragnet and the 87th Precinct lives on.
Jay Faerber came on my radar when I read the first issue of Read More
Daredevil (Volume One) by Mark Waid (writer) and various artists: Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, Marcos Martin, Javier Rodriguez, and Muntsa Vicente.
Mark Waid's Daredevil is one of the best comic book titles of 2012, and I'm comparing his work with some of my favorite authors of all time who have written top-notch runs on Daredevil: Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker. Waid's work, though different, is equally good, and even though I'd recommend as excellent starting points both the runs by Bendis and Brubaker, Waid's first volume might be even more accessible (However, I am skipping the controversial work on Daredevil by Kevin Smith, who killed off a major character of the series). The artwork by several different teams is equally impressive. The art and writing taken together make for a five-star offering both for those who have read Daredevil before and for those who are new to his char... Read More
Marvels by Kurt Busiek (writer) and Alex Ross (artist)
Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross have produced a masterpiece in Marvels. It is simply one of the best superhero comics ever written. As far as I'm concerned, people who say they don't like superhero comics haven't earned the right to that claim unless they've read this comic. And even if their tastes remain unchanged, I can't imagine anyone arguing that the book doesn't have great literary and artistic merit. Marvels itself is a Marvel.
The basic premise is a simple one: The story of Marvel comics is told from our perspective, the perspective of an everyday citizen. We are represented by the main character, Phil Sheldon, an up-and-coming photographer who labels these new super-powered heroes and villains... Read More
RASL by Jeff Smith
RASL by Jeff Smith — available in four paperback volumes — is a fifteen-issue story that recently took me by complete surprise. However, I should have known how good it would be: Smith's well-known comic Bone — an epic work of fantasy for all ages — is one of the great contemporary comic classics. However, I must warn fans of Jeff Smith and Bone that RASL is not a book for kids. Please do not pick this one up for little Johnnie's next birthday gift. You'll have a lot of explaining to do — from the birds and bees to the scientific theories of Nikola Tesla and Einstein.
Tesla seems to be a favorite historical character of current comic book writers — he's a main character in the Atomic ... Read More
Batman: Snow by Dan Curtis Johnson & J.H. Williams III (writers), Seth Fisher (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), Phil Balsman (letterer)
Batman: Snow is a trade collecting a story arc originally published in 2005 in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (issues 192-196). Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight is a series that featured stories about Bruce Wayne's early adventures as Batman. Such a premise allows writers to deal with a somewhat naïve Bruce who makes mistakes as a vigilante and allows readers to see where he learned the lessons that make him the seasoned vigilante we see in later stories told in comics and block-buster movies. In this particular story — Snow — we are shown Batman's somewhat ridiculous attempt to put together a crime-fighting team. Since we know... Read More
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel by Brian Azzarello (writer) & Lee Bermejo (artist)
Though I'm not a big fan of Superman comics, I am fascinated by his overlapping roles in American literature and popular culture. Therefore, I never hesitate to read Superman trades if they come highly recommended, as was Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. Though not as good as some of my other favorites like Superman: Red Son and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel comes close. The decision to tell the story from Luthor's perspective is a good one, and the comic is made even better because of how well Bermejo's art reflects... Read More