Friday, December 25, 2009

Jaromir Jagr Superman Mullet

Books:

The Tower by Simon Clark: More horror goodness from Clark. A nascent rock band gets a gig house-sitting "the most haunted house in England" for a month. I'm pretty sure you can figure out the basics of what happens next. Yes, everything goes swimmingly and everyone goes for punch and pie at the end. Well, no. Clark's flair for sympathetic characterization pretty much carries the day here -- it's that more than anything else that causes people to compare him to Stephen King. Recommended.


Penguin American Supernatural Tales edited by S.T. Joshi (c. 2006): As one-volume horror survey volumes go, this is probably the best I've ever read. As always, one notes omitted authors (no Edith Wharton, for example), but in this case Joshi does a terrific job of juggling great but much-anthologized works by major writers (Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" and Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" to name two), lesser-known works by well-known writers ("Night Surf" by Stephen King and "The Events at Poroth Farm" by TED Klein, to name another two), and fine work from semi-obscure major writers (it's always a pleasure to see work by Thomas Ligotti and Karl Edward Wagner, especially work I haven't read before, and a terrific tale by Caitlin Kiernan closes the volume). The whole thing will run you about $13 in trade paperback for over 400 pages of stories and notes, so I'd say highest recommendation.


Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (2nd. edition) edited by August Derleth and somebody else (c. 1980): This anthology of tales by H.P. Lovecraft and others originally appeared around 1970 and then got released again after Derleth's death in the late 1970's with a handful of stories added and some subtracted. The volume gives one a pretty good overview of the growth of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos (not named by him but by Derleth after Lovecraft's death in 1937) from its early 'shared world' status to a veritable cottage industry in the horror world by the late 1970's. The selection here is a bit wonky, primarily because somebody decided we should see the whole literary game of oneupsmanship between the young Robert (Psycho) Bloch and Lovecraft in the 1930's, as first Bloch killed a thinly disguised Lovecraft in "The Shambler from the Stars" and then Lovecraft returned the favour in "The Haunter of the Dark" and then Bloch added a coda in the late 1940's with "The Shadow from the Steeple."

With those two stories and the excellent "Notes Found in a Deserted House", Bloch gets three entries in the collection -- one more than Lovecraft! Clark Ashton Smith's "The Return of the Sorcerer" is another odd choice, though I do love the inclusion of Frank Belknap Long's "The Space-Eaters", wherein yet another thinly disguised Lovecraft gets killed off in a story that only an Evil-Dead-era Sam Raimi could probably do justice to. The inclusion of Philip Jose Farmer's "The Freshman" is nice, as is the decision to include a Fritz Leiber novella I'd never read before, "The Terror from the Depths." All in all, highly recommended for those who like their horror cosmic and occasionally quite verbose.


Comics:

John Byrne's Compleat Next Men Volume 2 by John Byrne with Mike Mignola (1995-96; collected 2008): By the time Byrne created Next Men, then published by Dark Horse and here reprinted by IDW, he already had career-defining runs as artist and co-plotter on the X-Men, and as writer/artist on the Fantastic Four and Superman, on his resume among a variety of other projects. The speculator-fueled comic-book collapse of the mid-1990's ended Next Men two-thirds into its story, though this volume that completes the run does have an ending of a sorts.

This may be Byrne's best work, and it bears comparison with the revisionist superheroic stories like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns that preceded it. With Next Men, Byrne creates a world of plausible superheroes played out within a world of government conspiracies and time-travelling super-villains. Powered individuals are created by a genetic 'trigger' in all humans, intentionally triggered under lab conditions and then uncontrollably spreading through sexual contact. By the year 2112, humans and 'mutates' are at war -- and that's just the beginning of the story (or maybe the end), as we then move back to the 1990's and the liberation of the Next Men from the virtual world their creators have kept their minds trapped within for entire generations of mutates.

The story moves like an angry train towards its (sort of) conclusion -- this is probably Byrne's most tightly plotted comic-book work -- but Byrne finds plenty of time to develop his characters both foul and fair, and to speculate on just how much fun it would be to be invulnerable at the price of losing all physical feeling, or super-strong when that strength makes it almost impossible for you to touch another person. Highly recommended.


Justice League of America: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Mark Waid, Fabian Nicienza, Jeff Johnson and Darick Robertson (1996): This miniseries kicked off the mid-1990's revival of DC's Justice League of America title, a revival which would see Grant Morrison, Waid and primarily artist Howard Porter make JLA a top-selling book again, in part by having it focus on DC's big names (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman chief among them) rather than the revolving-door, increasingly minor hero lineups that always seem to be the fate of any book involving the League. The Justice League confronts a villain old (Doctor Destiny) and new (Know Man) in what reads like a blueprint for the rebooted regular JLA title that would follow. About the only off-putting thing about the whole enterprise is that Superman is still in his ridiculous post-Death of Superman mullet, which he puts into a ponytail when he's Clark Kent. Seriously. It's like DC was gearing up to have a grunge Superman but balked at the last moment, leaving us with early 1990's Jaromir Jagr Superman.


JLA Classified: Kid Amazo by Peter Milligan and Carlos D'Ensa (c.2007): Amazo is one of those JLA-specific villains who's almost impossible to write well. But everyone eventually writes an Amazo story. Amazo is an android designed with all the powers of the Justice League, which begs the question of where this thing is getting all that power from. I don't think anyone's ever answered that question satisfactorily, though better post-Silver-Age writers have either limited Amazo's powers in some way or, in Mark Millar's case, used them to set up a fairly funny superhero joke, as superhero jokes go.

Milligan here goes the route of Amazo possessing the powers of the JLA's big 7 (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) while Amazo 2.0 -- or 'Kid Amazo' -- is a cyborg who has all those powers too but also possesses the ability to think exactly like all the members of the JLA. This all pretty quickly degenerates into a standard issue grim-and-gritty JLA story that seems as if it were penned in the late 1980's, as the heroes squabble and Kid Amazo (who didn't know who he really was for several years) finds out he's been screwing his 'mother' for several months...and she knew about it. Fun stuff! Amazo's creator gets away at the end and all the heroes act really pissy for much of the story. Milligan's a fine writer on a lot of stuff, but standard superheroes really aren't his forte. Really, really not recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment