February is a short month, but the weather makes it good for reading comics. Since the rain gave me a reason to read, here's what occupied my time.
Normally I don't like massive comic "events," since the story gets lost in ridiculous marketing frenzy and obscure sideline series. But, I accidentally got hooked on the Final Crisis and 52 story lines so I ended up reading & collecting them week by week. True to form, I tried to resist by not subscribing, so I missed some weeks, and picked up others later at comic shows. Luckily DC collected Countdown to Final Crisis for people like me. This multi-volume collection manages to have some spine, although huge sections of the story (War with the Amazons, anyone?) happen off-screen.
Still, I liked the sequence with Trickster & Piper on the run, as well as implications of Mary Marvel receiving her powers from Black Adam. 3.5 out of 5.
Kim Deitch is always a master of story and art, and 'Alias the Cat' didn't disappoint. Previously published as three separate stories this trilogy works great together. Drawn in a style reminiscient of Mickey Mouse circa Steamboat Willy (except, including genitals) and occasionally hearkening of Bill Griffith's version of Levittown, Alias the Cat jumps from ebay to the south seas, from early movie serials to a mysterious "midget town," all in search of the cartoonish devil Waldo that has haunted many of Deitch's work. 4.5 out of 5.
"The Devil's Panties" is the second volume of strips published from the eponymous web comic. Concerning the adventures of a woman who works in a comic book store, draws a strip called "The Devil's Panties," and goes to comic-cons, I was moderately amused, but didn't read the whole book. The stories started to repeat some of their themes in a way that grew old. Still, give it a try, see if you like it. 2.5 out of 5.
Batman: R.I.P. feels like a story that should be in the same category as "The Killing Joke." Grant Morrison is a heavyweight storyteller, and the arc -- ending with the figurative "death" of Bruce Wayne -- is pivotal. Unfortunately, this volume omits some of the issues that surrounded whole story, leaving it feeling thin. I re-read the stories that were included a couple times and they made more sense, but there were still some odd gaps. 3.5 out of 5.
I'm excited about starting Naoki Urasawa's "20th Century Boys" series. This is the epic story of a gang of friends who made a pact when they were in grade school that they would save the world.
Now adults, the suicide of one of the members brings them together to confront an unknown menace called "Friend". The narrative shifts back and forth through time, exploring Japanese pop culture of the 70s as well as events that formed the now middle-aged men. This story is so packed with references they include footnotes at the end of the books. 4.5 out of 5.
I remember first discovering the Freedom Fighters on a campout in Peter Benvenuto's back yard. He had a copy of Justice League #108, and I was blown away by Uncle Sam, the Black Condor, the Human Bomb, and the rest of the team. Little did I know then that they were assembled from the Quality Comics line of superheroes, but I've tried to explore the originals since then. In 'Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters: Brave New World' the plot focuses mostly on the Red Bee and her mutations due to an encounter with an alien insect race. I know that the original Red Bee was a guy who appeared in Quality's Hit Comics and used trained bees to stop criminals, but this version of the Bee didn't have the cachet of the regular Freedom Fighters. I liked the art, but the story held too many mutations. 3 out of 5.
I read the "The Incal Noir" by Moebius & Jodorowsky, but this story is so epic that I'll save a review for another time. Short blurb: "one of the best sci-fi graphic novels."
So many of the superhero "graphic novels" are not much more than a couple of issues square bound and slapped with a title. "The Flash: Emergency Stop" is not much different, but at least the story arc is interesting. There's a fun story with a villain called "The Suit," which might either be a haunted suit, or an evil spirit. The volume also includes the origin of the "Speed Force" uniform. These stories remind me of the old Flash comics from the 60's, so I give them a 3.5 out of 5.