Tag Archives: Gary Frank

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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Batman Earth One review, (or, How to Build a better Batman.)

Batman Earth One

DC Comics

2012

$23 cover price

I enjoyed Superman Earth One and look forward to the next book in that series later this year.  This book by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, with Jon Sibal, is something very different.  Where Superman felt at times like it was trying a little too hard, both to STAY Superman and be something different, this book suffers from nothing of the sort.

Superman’s sci-fi origin has aged fairly well and required very little tweaking to update, Batman’s however has actually become a little odd to modern viewers.  Suspension of disbelief is a seed that the writer plants, but without the reader to water it and nurture it, it will die.  Batman’s key origin points don’t work like Superman’s.  Grant Morrison summed them up perfectly in All-Star Superman:  “Doomed Planet–Desperate Scientist–Last Hope–Kindly Couple”  Boom.  That’s it.  That was wher JMS jumped off for his Earth one story because it needed very little alteration at its heart.  There was change in the background a bit;  it had to be fleshed out, but the essential concept of Superman did not get real change until later in the story as Clark grows into his new role.  JMS’s story seemed to struggle at time to find that balance.  It was not to the story’s detriment really, but the fan baggage was harder to overcome there.  For Batman it is different.  There are elements that have not rung true for many years:  Random violent street crime is harder for the modern audience.  We see random acts of terror, but we feel street crime is more targeted.  The first thing many of us think when we hear about a crime is that the victim may have been involved in something they shouldn’t have.  (This of course, excludes the accidental victims of violence)  Very few random crimes turn out random once the information about them is revealed.  Bruce’s parents being randomly gunned down is not erased, but it it made more believable.  It is still random, but just below the surface, there is more to it.  Rich doctor/indusrtialist?  Nope, that is now made more correct for a modern reader.  It is just a line or two of dialog that makes these things work, and that is the value of the approach taken here.  They are not over-thinking the ideas, just filtering them through a modern view.

The most important change alters what had, in the current continuity become a little creepy;  the bizarre enabling behavior of butler Alfred.  It always seems a little odd that a butler with a long history with the family would aid, or even allow Bruce’s obsessive path.  Here that is made far more palatable, by simply changing Alfred into something that fits the mold of the role he would play.

The city of Gotham is there with all the usual players, some in much different roles.  Gotham itself is more real and much darker, and the character beats that need to be there to keep this from being something other than a Batman story are there, again just more believable.

Geoff Johns is a dependable storyteller with a real grasp of why the classic characters work.  On this book he never misses a beat and the result is an outstanding book.  Gary Frank’s art is great as always.  A little looser and more relaxed in the the approach it seems, but a major part of the feel and flow of the story.

The packaging is staying with the format and visuals of the Superman book, but seems a little less appealing here, but the overall product is everything that we had been hoping for.  Anyone wanting something better than the New 52, or other attempts at rebooting Batman, free of heavy continuity should look here.  Unlike most other attempted re tooling of classic characters, this one is top notch.

 

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More JMS and some DnA

Just as I was about to write off J. Michael Straczynski completely, I decided to try another of his books.  I picked up the first collection of Supreme Power and I have to say I enjoyed it a great deal. 

First off, this is not the most original book I have ever read, but when this came out in 2003-ish it was something that had not been seen as much as it has in the last few years.  8 years on, it feels a little “done before”, but that does not make this any less enjoyable.  JMS and artists Gary Frank and Jon Sibal offer a sort of “what if” story.  It is a redux of the Squadron Supreme from the 70’s era Marvel, but to be honest, you really get the DC vibe more here. The characters are all pretty direct analogs of  the main DC heroes and there is no attempt to cover that.  Since the original book was a direct “marvel version” of the DC Justice League, that really should not be a surprise.  In fact I can not think of a less subtle way of doing it.  This book’s versions of Superman and Batman have origins very similar to the DC ones and somewhat altered premises based on Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, in a very brief cameo, are all here.  The obvious corollaries end there, though.  These folks live in a very real world, surrounded by the real events that we grew up with.  That changes the dynamic greatly.  Suddenly, Batman is a racist, his African-American family having been killed by southern white supremacists.  The people this character, called Nighthawk,  helps are exclusively black.  The Green Lantern variant here appears to be schizophrenic and the Flash, here called The Blur, is a fairly ordinary guy that wants to be a hero and has no problem cashing a check for doing that.  The closest relation to the source material here is Hyperion, who stands in for Superman.  Having said all that, if you feel this is a bit tired, you would not be entirely wrong.  We HAVE seen this before and since.  There are small touches here of what would become Superman:  Earth One.  The thing that set this apart for me was the complete feel of the book.  Even well-worn ideas can seem fresh and exciting when done well by people putting their best work on display.  Gary Frank’s work here is superb, the static feel his art sometimes gets a bad, and unjustified knock for, creates a stillness that works perfectly for the story.  JMS hits all the right points to make this seem very real and believable.  There have been other revisionist takes in comics.  Watchmen, Planetary and even much of the New 52 try to do this, all with varying degrees of success.  Where this book succeeds is that it is not at all self-aware.  It feels like it is just as organic as any other origin story and does not reference anything outside of itself.  I never feel as though this is ripping off, or standing on the shoulders of some other work.

Next up this week was Nova by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  I have come to really enjoy the writing of these two, known in the industry by the collective title DnA.  This book is no exception.  I have read the first two trades covering issues 1-12 and an annual.  I was almost put off the duo by The Annihilators.  The story was fine, the art was just this side of awful.  Tan Eng Huat has generally been a good artist, but this book felt very rushed.  While that one was a struggle to get through, Nova was the opposite.  Having read some of the other DnA works like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Thanos Imperative and Ressurrection Man ( the last, a great title from DC from the 90’s, ressurrected for the New 52), I was ready to jump into more of this universe.  Clean art and strong storytelling, mixed with characters that these guys really appear to understand, made this  a very good read.  Many fans today are a bit down on the cosmic books, and for a while, I was one of them.  These guys have made this a staple of the work they have done at Marvel, and made themselves the go-to writers in the genre, the same way Jim Starlin was through the 80’s and 90’s. 

Both of these books have made me want more.  Fortunately, there are 6 total volumes of Nova and 2 more Supreme Power with this creative team.  While it appears unlikely that JMS will return to write more of his book for Marvel, DnA are only just warming up.  It is clear they will keep building the Marvel cosmic universe for a long time to come, and I cannot wait for more.

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