Sometimes I miss Helen Slater, but not today.

Supergirl volume 1 : Last Daughter of Krypton

DC Comics

2012

160 pages $15

I know there have been a lot of you out there that have not liked much of the new 52.  I am up to 11 titles of the collected books that I have enjoyed so far.  Some much better than others, this book is definitely in the “much better” category.

Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar were the team given the job of rebooting Superman’s cousin and they did something I didn’t think was possible;  make me care about Kara Zor-El at all.  The basic nuts and bolts of the origin seem to be the same as much as I can recall about the various older versions. The attitude is there, albeit for different reasons.  That was always my biggest gripe about Kara, she was usually something of a brat.  She never really struck me as someone that anyone would confuse for a hero.  This new incarnation keeps the outsider attitude but makes the character more believable and much more accessible.  She is clearly frightened and alone, but her arc in this first book makes it clear that she is someone with a strong sense of right and wrong and is an interesting character.  She seems very well thought out and planned.  The arc in this book is not as fragmented or truncated as many of the New 52 have felt and that gives the reader a chance to follow the story and Kara’s development with greater interest.

The obligatory Superman appearance is here, and handled reasonably well.  It is more or less as expected, and just a diversion designed to impart some exposition and background info.  The rest of the story focuses on another dark force in the new DCU that is interested in controlling one of these “new” heroes, and is already getting a bit tired.  Somehow I didn’t care all that much though.  I’m not sure if it is the way she is drawn, as she is a bit doe-eyed and gentle  or if everything in this package just falls into place, but I really cared about what was happening here.  That is not a common thing for me in a comic these days.  Helen Slater in the not just awful, but godawful Supergirl movie did not play the character as tough or bratty.  She was soft and much more likeable than most of the characterizations before or since.  (Laura Vandervoot was actually kind of irritating.) Most of the comics have just not had a good handle on her.  This version seems closer to the Slater version, so I may be just projecting my affection for that version here, but that is not an unusual thing to do.  As comic fans we are not very good at letting go of things we liked, and sometimes even less capable of letting go of things we didn’t like.  So comparing this to my only even remotely positive Supergirl memory should be expected.  Again, the only thing about the movie I liked was its star.  This book has much more plot than the movie, and is nothing like as stupid, but the character of Supergirl is just as likeable.

The art stays fairly consistent throughout and the entire package feels like it should:  as a single story collected in one book.  It does not feel like part of 2 stories stuck together as so many of the New 52 collections have.  This is as complete a story as any so far and the reader is pulled in quickly.  The complaints I have heard so far mostly seem to be that this was slight and action heavy (both true), but since the complaints I hear about most books are similar, I would just remind you that this is a mainstream comic, and that is fairly standard.

As a non-fan of Supergirl, I liked this a lot.  The new costume design is one of the better of the New 52.  I think that most people would like this book if they gave it a chance and it deserves every opportunity to reach everyone.  The trade paperback status and lower cost than many of the title released in hardcover make this a good buy in my mind, and I would recommend this as an all ages book for anyone that enjoys a fun and exciting superhero story.

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Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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A little listmania! part 1: favorite stories

Blogger wwayne got me thinking about my favorites;  Favorite story arcs and favorite single issues.  Putting the definitions as simply as possible ( since us geeks love to argue about the definitions ) we get….

Story arc:  a  story occurring within an ongoing series.  OK, that is not going to work for me, dammit!  Since I am a trade waiter and have been for 2 decades, some of this will have to be at least a little in the self-contained series vein.  But I will try to justify and explain as I go.

Single issue:  Just like it says on the tin, a single issue of an ongoing series.

So, in no particular order except the order if find them on the shelf….

Concrete:  Strange Armor.  (1997)  This is where the definition gave me trouble as Concrete creator Paul Chadwick didn’t really DO an ongoing Concrete series, just connected limited series, the definition became an issue.  Also in the age of trades and collections the actual issues of a particular arc are harder to recall.  This one I did read as the single issues when they came out in late 97 and early 98.  A 5-issue limited in the continuing story of Ron Lithgow, this was the story that finally gave the full and definitive origin of the character, and fleshed out the back story greatly.  The “series” of concrete stories that Chadwick has done are an amazing character study with its roots in the sci-fi and super hero stories he grew up with and have more heart than any other book(s) I have read since.  All but the most recent DHP series have been collected as trades and are still powerful today.

Cerebus #139 to 150 (Melmoth). (1990) The was the story that followed Jaka’s Story and is one of the shorter Cerebus arcs.  A beautifully written and drawn book, it explores the final days of Oscar Wilde as seen in this fictionalized universe.  Taken directly from contemporary accounts of friends of the dying writer, this is a powerful and sad story.  It is available in “phone book” number 6 of the Cerebus run.

Action Comics  #866 to 870. (2008) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank update and redefine the Brainiac character.  One of the most successful updates DC has ever done.  Gary frank’s art is at its very best here.  Available as the Superman Brainiac trade.

Justice League of America#1 to 7  (2006)  Brad Meltzer is a polarizing figure in comics thanks in large part to the love it or hate it Identity Crisis series.  (loved it)  This arc started up the new volume of JL with artist Ed Benes, and is a story that actually made me interested in JL.  What got me into the story in the first place was my affection for Red Tornado, and this story focuses on him and his existence heavily and is a great team book to boot.  Available as The Tornado’s Path trade collection.

Planetary #7 to 12 (2000)  After setting up the world of Elijah Snow and his team in the first arc, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday outdid themselves on this arc (available as Planetary:  The Fourth Man collection).  The jumped into the homages of the comics with both feet here.  They did versions of Transmepolitan, Hellblazer, Doc Savage and touched on the origins of the big three at DC and still managed to keep the main story moving forward without the meanderings that affected some of the later issues.

My Jill Thompson sketch in my Absolute edition

Sandman #41 to 49 (1992)  This was the arc that really made the series sing for me.  After the A Game of You arc cooled me on the series (It took me years to learn to appreciate it) this series just sang with life.  Gaiman was really flying here and this is the run that made me love Jill Thompson’s art.  This is available in the Brief Lives collection or in Absolute Sandman vol 3.

Fantastic Four #242 to 244 (1982)  I still go back and read these every few months.  In fact the whole #240 to 250 part of John Byrne’s run is just crazy fun to read!  This was the first Galactus story I read that I actually liked.  Available in several reprint volumes from FF Visionaries vol 2 to the big-ass omnibus collection of the Byrne run.

Uncanny X-Men #165 to 168 (1982)  Paul Smith’s first issues on this title were the wrap up to Chris Claremont’s Brood story.  ( I include 168 here as the epilogue to that story–because I CAN!) To this day, his art in these issues is amazing to look at.  Collected in too many versions to count.

Mage #1 to 15 (1984)  Technically this was a limited series, but to my mind, when you know that you are just going to do a series of limited series, it is just a series with breaks.  In the case of Mage the break between the first and second series was a little more than just a break.  The same is true with the ongoing wait for the third series.  This story by Matt Wagner was lightning in a bottle.

Avengers #198 to 200 (1980)  This was David Michelinie and George Perez’s last regular issues on the title(in a run anyway) and they rent out with a great story that was a follow-up to the Claremont/Golden story in Avengers Annual #10.  This run is not yet collected.  Hopefully the Marvel Masterworks will continue long enough to get to these.

Well, I stuck to 10.  I omitted runs where there was a single good issue that MADE that run, and I avoided genuine limited series.  Maybe that will be another list.  Next up…

Favorite single issues…

 

 

 

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Bat crap crazy or just misunderstood?

Not long ago I mentioned that if a particular creator didn’t go bat crap crazy like Frank Miller, he should always be given the benefit of the doubt creatively.  That got me thinking about the various level of crazy in comics.  There is everything from the normal Human frailties like depression, so common in creative types to rabid nutbaggyness that only a special few endure.  Or are these people just misunderstood and disliked?

Al Capp as a younger, more likeable guy.

The classic comics equivalent to Miller’s increasingly extreme views was Al Capp.  Best known for the strip Lil’ Abner, Capp’s talent was matched only by his increasingly conservative and even hateful politics as he grew older.  He was universally loved as a cartoonist and nearly as disliked as a human being.  Deliberate clashes with people he viewed as liberal or too far left, sexual scandals (including criminal charges in Wisconsin), run ins with talk show hosts and even a confrontation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono captured on film from the “bed in for peace” ensured that anyone that knew more than just his professional work would find him hard to like.  In today’s media saturated environment it is unlikely he would have maintained his general popularity.  I am regularly reminded of him every time I drive in Arkansas.  In the largely nonexistent town of Marble Falls, stands the crumbling remains of Dogpatch USA, a failed theme park of his popular characters home.  Was he crazy?  I can’t really say, but he was clearly someone who was extreme and anti-social in many ways.  Extreme viewpoints are often branded as crazy to discount them, but Capp seemed to relish his status as a mean old man for much of his life.  Today his work is forgotten by all but serious admirers of comics and cartooning, which is unfortunate because he was a very talented man, just not a very nice one either.

On a sadder end of the spectrum was Wally Wood.  One of the finest illustrators in the medium, Wood suffered health issues that contributed to depression and alcoholism.  While never diagnosed with much of anything officially, many who knew him considered him a deeply troubled man.  Wood killed himself in 1981 after kidney failure and a stroke had left him severely limited.  One of the most admired names in comics and illustration, there are few in the industry that cannot claim some kind of influence by Wood on their work.

A stunning piece by Wood

General public perception weighs heavily in most creators life stories.  I doubt Frank Miller is anything more than poorly understood.  Like Capp before him, Miller’s opinions are not always popular, but they don’t make him crazy.  It is when the work is affected that fans look more harshly on the creator.  Holy Terror was just awful.  In every way it was just Miller venting fear and frustration.  This is nothing new in comics today since 9-11, but many creators have managed to do it so much better that Miller has begun to creep people out.

In a current context there is Rob Liefeld.  His recent tweets as he ran out the doors of DC in a huff are certainly adding fuel to the fire that there is something very off with Rob.  While you can debate the level of talent, I think anyone would have assumed he would always find work in comics based solely on his name, but the fervor with which he has burned bridges lately make many doubt his motives.  As of this writing he has tweeted that he is retired from comics.  For now sure, but he will be back, I’m sure.  The reasons for the departure are what have left many scratching their heads.

While there are many that question the sanity of Dave Sim, I have to say I am not one of them.  I question his give a damn.  I really don’t think he cares that much about what the world thinks of him and his lifestyle choices.  The religious stance he has taken in the last few years and his perceived misogynistic opinions have made him something of an outcast.  I think he prefers the solitude.  Based on his writings and interviews he has given, I think he would be fine having only the bare minimum contact with the rest of the world as long as he can still create comics and commune with his God.  Nothing wrong with that, if that is what fills your life and makes you content.  He is one that I met years ago at a signing.  His “rock star” attitude was not a nice thing.  I imagine he is a nicer and better person the way he is now.

Thanks to his interest in the “expanding earth” theory, Neal Adams is often branded as crazy, which bugs me.  Since when are contrary opinions and beliefs crazy?  At what point will we start considering anyone that believes in invisible sky Gods (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) crazy?  Having spoken to Mr. Adams at shows, he is in my opinion, no more or less crazy than any creative person I have met.  500 years ago, people who believed the Earth to be round were crazy.  While I don’t share Mr. Adams’ opinion on the formation of the Earth, and doubt that science will prove him correct, I don’t think calling someone crazy for believing in a theory is any better than calling them crazy for believing in a God.  His work in support of creators’ rights has earned him some enemies in the field, but I doubt anyone serious can fault him as a creator or a good person.

Then there is Steve Ditko.  Is wanting to be left alone and not in the public eye crazy?  Again as with Adams, I think the political and social views he once spoke of have condemned him to a degree.  Since he has not been a public figure and avoided interviews for the last 40+ years, Ditko has added to the mystery surrounding himself and added fuel to the fires of speculation.

A Chaykin B&W piece

I have even heard people call Howard Chaykin crazy.  I have begun to believe that just not following the mainstream is what gets many of these creators the looney label.  I have never met Chaykin, but I would love to get that chance.  There are few creators in the industry today as vibrant and creative, and I bet he is just a hoot to talk to.

It is amazing what one overblown story can do to a creator’s reputation as a person.  Mike Grell has never really been able to escape the gun on the table incident from his days doing books at First comics.  The story has been so over reported and so miss-represented that many seem afraid of him at cons.  This is the view that seemed to be in the line I was standing in at a con a couple of years ago, waiting for him to sign a book.  While it was only a small group, can it really be just an isolated opinion?  Having spoken to him, he is just a guy.  He likes or liked guns.  That is really all anyone should take from the story.  He was a very nice fellow and not all that scary.  Quite a small guy compared to what I had expected too.

There is also someone who has developed quite an odd reputation since his death.  William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, had an interesting outlook and an even more interesting home life.  He lived with his wife AND his mistress and the children by each.  Crazy?  Well, who knows, but it is interesting to me how he is spoken of almost entirely in the context of his marriage now, rather than his professional work.

I’m sure there are some I am missing.  If you think of any, speak up!  It might be fun to start a little debate here.

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Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1 review

Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1

IDW

2012

104 pages $17

I have stated before that I do not generally like licensed books.  They rarely managed to capture the certain special something about the franchise that you liked in the first place.  I think it is as much in the reader’s knowledge of the property as anything.  Sometimes it is our preconceived ideas about the characters and how they “should” behave that ruins these books.  This is one of the reasons to me that John Byrne’s Star Trek stuff for IDW and Peter David’s New Frontier series have worked so well.  Much of it deals with characters on the edge of the franchise that we can come to them fresh.  That cannot possibly be the case in ST:TNG/Dr. Who Assimilation2.  (Wow that’s a long name) as this is a book that jumps in feet first and uses all the characters it can.

Written by Tony Lee, Scott Tipton and David Tipton and drawn/painted by Gordon Purcell, The Sharp Brothers and JK Woodward, this book’s pedigree is certainly impressive and these creators do not disappoint.  This first volume of the series does good fan service and represents both franchises well.  At C2E2 this year, I had a chance to speak with Woodward and see some of the completed pages he was displaying.  They were fabulous and he was clearly thrilled to be working on the book.  The final product shows this.  Books like this involve a lot of photo reference and need a lot to look right.  In all the right places, Woodward has used the perfect look of a character and they fit the appearance that the reader expects.  The failing of books like this as far as the art goes is that the characters too often look so different from the expectation of the reader that we are pulled right out of the story.  That does not happen in the Woodward pages.  When a tight close up is not used, the shot is more loose and iconic, giving the clear impression of the character without trying to be an exact look-alike.   The pages by the other artists do not fare quite as well, but to be fair it is a harder trick to pull off in solid line art.  Those pages change in art fits the flashback nature of those pages exceptionally well and the surprise treat(assuming you had not seen the spoiler on the cover of the individual issues) for fans of both franchises is a nice touch in the story.

Speaking of the story, this one is a lot of fun.  Both franchises feel at home in this book and the quirks of both shine through.  Anyone that knows The Doctor from before the 2005 resurrection will likely be aware that the Borg from ST:TNG owe a HUGE debt to the Cybermen.  Created decades earlier, the silver cyborgs from The Doctor’s adventures were scary and threatening long before even Captain Kirk’s earliest adventures.  Putting them together in the same story is inspired and goes exactly as you would expect.  One faction ruthless, cold and emotionless, and yet constantly duplicitous and conniving, the other cold, logical and somehow based on fear and loss, and their interaction is interesting and surprising.  The Doctor and his companions are in fine form here and the TNG crew is just as I remember them.  The intersection of the two universes is handled in a very TNG style, with Guinan and the Doctor being the only ones with any idea at all what is happening, and Picard a bit dubious of this fellow in the blue box.  There is really no point in the story where something pulled me out as can often happen in these kinds of mashup.

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.  I really wanted it to be great and it was much to my surprise.  As a fan of both franchises since the late 70’s, this book was a treat that I don’t expect to see matched for a very long time.

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Digital High Society review

Cerebus High Society (digital audio/video)

Aardvark-Vanaheim

2012

60+ pages each .99 cents

This was a long time coming.  The build up for the digital versions of Cerebus has been a hot topic for some time now, and I have finally absorbed enough to decide.  This is, for those not in the know, issues 26 through 50 of Dave Sim’s massive 300 issue series that ran for 26 years ending in 2004.  While there was more than a little attention on the creator of the book in the later years, the series itself continued to become a forum to watch a master of the medium at work, and that is the important thing here.  When the controversy over Sim himself finally fades into the background, the work will remain.

The series digital presentation starts with the second book, and the first complete graphic novel High Society.  The first 25 issues having been a somewhat looser more episodic style largely parodying the comics that were Sim’s main influence early on.  With this collection of digital stories the series launched into a clever, witty and very detailed look at both the comics industry and at the political process of elections.  Sim was quoted many years ago in The Masters of Comic Book Art documentary describing Cerebus in this book as a cross between Richard Nixon and Chauncey Gardner.  I’m not sure how accurate that is in hindsight, but the story is a rich and relevant today as it was decades ago.

The digital presentation is everything a fan of the story would hope.  The regular digital comic is fine; with sharp clean scans of the black and white art.  There are a few panels where the lettering in white on a black background is a little hard to read, but from a visual standpoint, that is my ONLY gripe.  The real discussion point here is the audio portion and extras.  This entire collection, of which there are currently 3 issues available for download here, is recorded with Sim doing all the characters voices and narration himself, with music and sound effects.  While not 100% successful, the presentation works well.  I can’t say Sim is a great performer, but he makes it work.  These are his creations and this mostly works well.  You know that this is how it sounds in his head.  These characters are now as close to what Dave envisioned as possible, and that is a neat feeling.  There is an odd novelty to the whole thing that may wear off, but this is cool.  The music is far from perfect as it sometimes is a bit much, but it quickly becomes a more seamless and enjoyable part of the book.  The guided viewing experience is dynamic and extremely effective.  You move with the characters at times and the feeling of being taken through the story rather than reading like normal can be a bit trippy, but very fun.

The extras are exhaustive and amazing.  It is clear that the DVD extras concept is what they are going for here and there is most everything you could have ever hoped to see, turning a 20 page comic into a 60+ page digital DL for .99 cents.  Every page, letter, note, sketchbook or notebook page even business correspondence is included.  Some of it is just an odd curiosity, but most of it is really interesting, and out of print since the original issues or never seen at all.  Having completely forgotten the experience of reading the individual issues years ago (I now have all the phone books and sold my originals ages ago) this was all an unexpected treat.

For the new reader to Cerebus, this is the perfect intro and offers up everything you would need to enter the story.  As a long time reader the new digital presentation is something even more special.  There is so much more here in the per issue package than in any other modern comic DL , that I would be hard pressed to believe that the big boys will even try to step up, putting this in a class by itself.

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Trio review or: I still think there should be a “Lizard and a Spock” in this group.

Trio

2012

IDW

120 pages $18

John Byrne was and still is comic book royalty.  Like most royalty he is simultaneously loved and hated by the people he encounters.  Like royalty most people form their opinions having never met him.  Others that do know him usually have a more realistic opinion of him.  Sometimes they come to a positive opinion, other times not so much.  There are stories all over the industry of how awful he is and just as many saying the opposite.  Personally I do not care.  He is human like anyone else and since I do not know him personally, I don’t care about anything other than his work; a comic book career decades long and filled with amazing things.

Trio is the newest work to come from his fertile imagination.  This collection is the first four (and so far the only) books of the series from IDW.  It is not his strongest story by any means, but there are some great touches here.  This was billed as a “traditional” super hero book, I think to its detriment.  This is really only traditional in that there are a lot of “bang”  “pow” and “zap” type sound effects graphics.  The book also is largely devoid of the needlessly dark and angst ridden “heroes” that are so common and tedious in most modern comics.  This is not a Garth Ennis book.  Calling this old school or any other term of the kind devalues and restricts the potential audience for this, and this was reflected in the book’s dismal sales.  Why tell people anything other than “it’s a John Byrne book”?  Anyone who has a clue will already know what they are in for, why scare them away with descriptions that are pejorative?  Unless this trade collection sells well, I think this is all we are likely to see of this book as a solo feature, and the poor marketing of the single issues will have been to blame.

Trio focuses on One, Two and Three, or as the media calls them “Rock, Paper and Scissors”.  Their powers are pretty much described in the names and the personalities are not all that well-defined in this book.  There was obviously more intended to follow this, and that would be a caveat for some, I guess.  If this volume does not sell well, the chance of a second volume is not great, so it is problematic.  I recommend buying this volume even though it does not actually have a complete story.  Yes there is a risk that you will never read the next part, but if you don’t get it, then the chance that there will be no follow-up is even greater.

Enough preaching about the lamentable state of the industry.  The book is quite good.  The story is a bit basic, due largely to its unfinished status, I think.  The art is just great though.  Byrne’s work post Terry Austin is hard for some people even to this day.  Austin’s clean and tight line gave Byrne’s pencils a very different quality from the line when he is inking himself.  I for one like both and this book is one where Byrne is clearly enjoying himself with these drawings.  At times he seems to be channeling Neal Adams or even Steranko, but not to the books detriment.  There is also more than a few things that will remind many of the Fantastic Four here.  This is a well-drawn book.  What little character development we get centers around Rock, and to a lesser degree, Scissors.  The group’s only female, Paper is the McGuffin the other two seem to focus their emotional depth on at this point, so her development is somewhat lacking at this stage.

The package is fairly typical of IDW’s trade collections, but I felt the paper was very flat.  This could have used a bit nicer grade of paper to liven up the visuals even more.  All in all, a good book that I hope you will support.  John Byrne is one of those creators that should be given the benefit of our doubts.  Anyone that likes his work in general should give anything he puts out a fair chance.  I have not liked everything he has done, but I have always given his work a look each time, before deciding to buy or not.  As long as he doesn’t pull a Miller and go bat-crap-crazy, we should continue to support and enjoy his works.

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