Reading Roundup May 2010

Since meeting Brian Michael Bendis at Emerald City Comic Con and seeing him talk at Stumptown Comics Fest I've been interested in checking out his story arcs on the Avengers. The problem I have with these hardcover volumes from Marvel is that while they're presented as a story, or a section of a story, they aren't comprehensive. The New Avengers Secrets and Lies is essentially the New Avengers issues 11 through 15, with a Giant-Size Spider-Woman #1 spliced into the middle. The New Avengers: Illuminati is so fragmented it feels like a comment on a story that's taking place in some other volume. Similarly, Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book 2 is just a slice of Marvel's massive Secret Invasion "comic event" of 2008, but it would be nice for the reader if it were edited together chronologically rather than by comic title. As they stand, you buy a portion of the story, and I feel it does a disservice to Bendis' writing.

I was at a talk where they called "Oldboy" the best comic to film adaptation ever, so I decided to check out Tsuchiya and Minegishi's mystery thriller manga before watching the movie. I'm up to Old Boy Volume 3, and although the pace is pretty languorous, it's both tense and racy (it has a "parental advisory" warning on the cover, probably due to nudity & sex scenes). It tells the story of a man who was mysteriously held prisoner in a private prison for 10 years. The day of his release he vows to discover who did this to him. The main drawback so far is that the female characters seem to be awfully thin, but I'm hoping this is explained in the course of the story, and not just a failure of the writing.

Rick Veitch's Maximortal is both a parable and a moving pseudo-documentary. It's a twisted vision of the story of a "real" superman arriving on Earth, but it also includes references to Einstein, Oppenheimer & a faux Disney. It also deals with the injustices dealt to Shuster & Siegel regarding their creation and raises questions about popular culture, who owns ideas, and whether commerce and culture can word as bedfellows (Since one villain in the story is called El Guano you can see where Veitch stands on this issue.) The cover to Maximortal doesn't do it justice, inside the art is much stronger. I thought at times it suggested Kirby's style without trying to imitate.

Last, but far from the least is the lush story from Kim Deitch of Shadowland. On Amazon.com one reader called it Deitch's "DaVinci Code," but I don't see the comparison. Shadowland is an intricate history of carnival barkers, freaks, aliens and gnomes. It has everything anyone could want from a story: sex, heroism, intrigue, glamour and money; but not always in the way you expect. For example, the volume begins with the tale of Toby the Pig, who once was the darling of the Ledicker circus, but has unfortunately grown too large to leap through the flaming ring of fire. His last act is to escape from the butcher and perform a high-dive with Ledicker's son riding on his back. The ending to this story, as well as the rest of the Shadowlands, is pure Deitch.

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