Tag Archives: Wonder Woman

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (http://karlkerschl.com)AdventureTime_v1
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (http://www.battlepug.com)
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
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Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume contains four mini-series tie-ins to the Flashpoint event wherein Wonder Woman and Aquaman wage genocidal warfare across Europe in a skewed alternate universe.

The first sequence, Batman: Knight of Vengeance, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, is one of the best Batman stories I’ve read, deserving 5 stars. In this alternate universe, Joe Chill killed young Bruce Wayne, leaving his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, grieving parents. Thomas turned his anger into becoming the Batman. By day, Thomas Wayne runs casinos with the help of his business partner Oswald Cobblepot (in the normal universe, AKA Penguin). By night he rids Gotham City of vile menaces like Hush, Scarecrow, Ivy, and Killer Croc with extreme prejudice. When Judge Harvey Dent’s children are kidnapped by the Joker, Batman must face his greatest nemesis in a way we’ve never seen. This Joker has an origin that is utterly terrifying and completely consistent with this alternate reality. The artwork by Risso beautifully captures the dark insanity of Thomas Wayne’s world.

The second sequence, Deadman and the Flying Graysons, by J. T. Krul and a battery of artists, depicts a circus traveling through war-ravaged Europe, trying to evade the insane conflict all around them. Trapeze artists Boston Brand (AKA Deadman) and the Flying Graysons, featuring young daredevil Dick Grayson (known as Robin in the normal universe), become involved with the Resistance in a deadly way. A mystical artifact must be protected from Wonder Woman’s Amazonian army, which ultimately leads to transformations by Brand and Grayson. Unfortunately, the story ends before we see the full ramifications of these transformations. I give this 3 stars.

The third sequence, Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager, by Jimmy Palmiotti and a slew of artists, tells the story of the pirate Deathstroke who takes advantage of the chaos of war to plunder the high seas for his own gain. When rival pirate Warlord kidnaps his daughter, Deathstroke must face insurmountable odds to try to rescue her. Along the way they cross paths with Aquaman and his ally Ocean Master with disastrous results. This is a fast-paced adventure that really doesn’t have much to do with the main Flashpoint storyline, but is interesting for its depictions of familiar DC characters in unusual circumstances. This deserves about 3-1/2 stars.

The fourth sequence, Secret Seven, by Peter Milligan and a variety of artists, delves into the magical world of Shade the Changing Man and his one-time allies Black Orchid, Amethyst, Abra Kadabra, Raven, Zatanna, and Mindwarp as Shade tries to bring them together to help Cyborg end the metahuman war while trying to evade Sagan Maximus’s attempts to neutralize him and Enchantress’s attempts to kill him. In the end, though, the story is mostly a confusing mess that has no real conclusion. This is the weakest sequence in this compilation, earning no more than 2 stars.

The problem with most of these sequences is that they were only three-issue mini-series. I get the impression that they were originally intended to be much longer, perhaps six issues each, because in almost every case the story ends abruptly and often with the protagonists experiencing turning points that cry out for resolution. Overall, this anthology is well worth checking out for the Batman story, but the remainder is very inconsistent in quality.

Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom (2012)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, based on “Tower of Babel” by Mark Waid; directed by Lauren Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Snapshot: An exciting adventure reuniting most of the creative talent from the Justice League animated TV series that is almost derailed by major plot holes at the end.

Major spoilers ahead!

The story opens with Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and the Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) thwarting a jewel heist by a gang of thieves who seem to have a little more high-tech than expected. It turns out that they were supplied by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) as part of his plot to destroy the Justice League and take over the world.

It turns out Savage is focused on the big picture. Little things like Batman’s secret identity don’t interest him (and anyway, he already knows it). Savage uses his “Legion of Doom” to discover and carry out the Dark Knight’s “contingency plans” for stopping any rogue Justice League member. This leads to a second act filled with nonstop action and suspense as the Justice Leaguers are knocked off, one by one by their rivals: Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly).

The third act is also filled with exciting action as the League regroups and fights to stave off Savage’s ultimate end game: the literal destruction of half the world’s population along with all technology utilizing electricity so that he can become the undisputed ruler of what’s left. Here’s where, for me, the plot goes off the rails. I realize that movies like this have to up the ante, especially with superheroes as powerful as the Justice League, but really, what kind of crazy does a super-villain have to be to think that ruling a decimated Earth would be any way fulfilling?

And the way Savage plans to wreak this havoc is mind-boggling, even for a comic book story. OK, he demonstrated that he has super-advanced technology earlier in the story, so I can kind of give it a pass that he can launch a rocket from the Earth that will crash into the Sun causing massive solar flares that will destroy anything in their path. But come one, it’s the fracking Sun! There’s nothing manmade that could possibly cause the Sun to explode this way.

If this were the only plot hole, I could forgive it. But the bigger plot hole is that the rocket takes only about a minute to reach the Sun. Even at the speed of light, it would take eight minutes, a fact that they repeat several times in relation to how long it will take the solar flares to reach Earth. A rocket would take months, if not years (it took the MESSENGER probe almost four years to arrive at Mercury) to reach the Sun. This could have been easily explained away in the movie if Savage had simply stated that he launched the rocket months ago in preparation. The climax could still have been as exciting, with the heroes attempting to activate the rocket’s fail-safe rather than attempting to cancel its launch.

Nevertheless, Justice League: Doom is well worth seeing. The chemistry between the returning voice actors is fun, as the they have grown into their roles over the years. Bumper Robinson as Cyborg is a welcome addition to the ensemble, and I hope we get to see more of him in future installments. (This movie just reinforces my desire to see a resurrected Justice League TV series.) There are many nice character interactions between the heroes and their villainous counterparts, as well as some pointed humor between Batman and Alfred (“You’re dripping blood on my clean floor.”) There is also some wonderful poignancy in the second act when it looks like our heroes are done for, especially when Green Lantern thinks he’s killed a civilian and momentarily loses his nerve.

Justice League: Doom is an exciting yet bittersweet end to Dwayne McDuffie’s prolific career as a writer for the DC animated universe (he died unexpectedly a year ago). I wish that the live-action movies were even close to the quality of the animated movies.

The New 52: Summary

My overall rating for the New 52: 4 of 5 stars

I think DC’s relaunch was largely successful. Their sales numbers certainly reflect a large influx of new readers, with Month 3 of the reboot still beating Marvel’s sales numbers. I haven’t read individual monthly comics in many years and I was enticed to try all 52 titles. I don’t see myself reading any of them consistently on an ongoing basis—it took me 6-7 weeks to read 52 issues, about 1200 pages, and I don’t have that kind of time to read comics on a regular basis—but I can easily see getting several of these when the trade compilations come out. Moreover, modern comic book writing relies heavily on long story arcs that are often best read in chunks.

I applaud DC for realizing that comic books are a medium, not a genre. Although heavily dominated by superheroes, this new line-up includes supernatural, horror, mystery, science fiction, western, and war stories. I hope that these find eager audiences willing to take a chance on something different.

There were a surprising number of variations on covert paramilitary operations. Men of War, Blackhawks, Suicide Squad, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Stormwatch, and perhaps to a lesser extent Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Justice League Dark, and maybe even one or two others, were formatted almost identically except for the milieu they were in. After a while it became hard to differentiate them all.

It is obvious that DC is catering to an older audience, with lots of gore and sexual titillation throughout the line, not to mention the $2.99 cover price precluding unemployed kids from buying too many. DC is also trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by relying heavily on established continuity to assuage the wrath of long-time fans, yet claiming to be wiping the slate clean for brand new readers. I would rather have 52 really well told stories, even if it means setting aside years of continuity, than try to artificially shoehorn often-contradictory backstories into every title.

DC is also to be lauded for including so many female characters in lead roles. I don’t think Marvel has any solo-character books starring females. DC has Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, (half of) Hawk and Dove, Supergirl, Voodoo, and Wonder Woman. Now, let’s see more female writers and artists to create these stories!

Some people have complained about the perceived sexism in titles like Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and there is certainly a strong case to be made for those criticisms. (Yet, at the same time, there was little or no outcry towards something like I, Vampire’s nearly naked cover art.) What I found most troublesome about some of these titles was the incomprehensible storytelling. These, and many of the other 52, seemed more like Issues #12, or even #50, than #1.

I had fun with the “Where’s Waldo?” hunt for the mysterious hooded figure from Flashpoint #5. There were a few books that took me several tries to find her. Did anyone else note her freakishly long fingers in her appearance in Resurrection Man?

I thought most of the books were good to very good. What were my favorites? All Star Western, Animal Man, Batwoman, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Justice League, Mister Terrific, and Superboy, with guilty pleasures Captain Atom and Red Lanterns. A number of others have the potential to become favorites, depending on how well they continue—for example, Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Demon Knights, and Wonder Woman. I suspect there will be other breakout hits as they settle into their strides—and certainly some of what looks good initially will falter along the way.

There were some real duds, though: Aquaman, Green ArrowRed Hood and the Outlaws, and The Savage Hawkman, coming to mind. But I wouldn’t count these out, either, as time may show improvement.

I’m sure we can expect to see a mega-crossover event next summer as sales begin to flag, to recharge interest, reveal the hooded figure’s identity and purpose, and make some final calibrations on the characters in the new DC universe.

I look forward to enjoying many more tales from the creative folks at DC.

The New 52: Captain Atom, Deadman, and Wonder Woman

Here are three more titles in the “Justice League” group of DC’s New 52.

Captain Atom

Steve Ditko created Captain Atom for Charlton Comics in the early 1960s, and the character has gone through an endless series of reboots over the years. In the 1980s, Alan Moore used a thinly disguised Captain Atom as Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen when DC refused to let him use any of their newly acquired Charlton properties outright. The current manifestation looks like it will be a completely fresh retooling.

J. T. Krul has written a very serviceable first issue, much better than his work on Green Arrow. There’s lots of action combined with a smidgen of backstory. All we really know is that Captain Atom was created by a nuclear accident and has the powers to absorb energy and to control his molecular structure at will. But in the middle of a fight with a giant robot he discovers a new, unsettling power to transmute another body. His benefactor, the Stephen-Hawking-ish Dr. Megala, sees this as an alarming development because it could mean that Captain Atom is losing control over his powers. But before they can investigate further, a freak seismic event in New York puts Captain Atom in jeopardy.

Freddie Williams II brings a very appealing style to the artwork. He uses a lot of interesting layouts and textures to suggest the enormity of Captain Atom’s powers. Krul seems to be interested in exploring some of the same ideas Moore did in Watchmen, namely how a godlike being copes with retaining his humanity. It will be interesting to see how Captain Atom confronts his new life and nuclear existence.

DC Universe Presents

This is a try-out book for characters looking for new audiences. The first story arc spotlights Deadman, a character that has never quite lived up to the beloved cult classic by Neal Adams in the late 1960s. Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bernard Chang have streamlined Deadman’s origin while retaining his angst-driven personality. Deadman has been tasked by the god Rama to serve her in the afterlife by taking spiritual possession of the bodies of troubled people and then helping them solve their personal crises. Think Quantum Leap, only more mystical.

Not a lot happens in the first issue, and the artwork is only so-so. I’ll take a wait and see attitude to determine if it gets better.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman has long been one of DC’s top three powerhouses. I’m not sure why, since she’s rarely portrayed as anything other than a bland, female Superman, with a shifting origin and purpose depending on which way the wind blows. I guess when you only have one strong female superhero, you market her for all she’s worth regardless of how good or bad the stories are.

The new series from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang uses Wonder Woman’s mythical roots to tell a story about a confident, powerful hero in a world of horrors. They lay the groundwork for a complex and nuanced long form story that looks to be quite entertaining. The artwork is gorgeous, in a style that is clean and simple, yet connoting a sense of action and peril.

The only drawback is that there is a fair amount of explicit blood and gore shown. Not exactly what you want your 10-year-old daughter looking at. But for mature readers, Wonder Woman promises to be one of the standouts of the New 52.