Friday, January 15, 2016

Dragons in Underpants

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. (2007-2008): written by Warren Ellis; illustrated by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger: Fast-paced, hilarious, and nasty. Warren Ellis takes a handful of minor Marvel heroes and uses them to parody pretty much everything about superhero comics past and present while also delivering plenty of high-speed, densely plotted thrills and chills and a certain number of spills. 

Nextwave only survived for 12 issues, which is a shame, though it ends at pretty much the right place. Along the way, Ellis and his brilliant cartooning collaborator Stuart Immonen take the piss out of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fin Fan Foom, Captain America, the United States of America, and boring comic books. This is one of the funniest, funnest things Ellis has ever written. Stuart Immonen's deft, uncluttered cartooning constantly pleases and thrills and elicits laughs at the appropriate places. Highly recommended.

JLA: A League of One (2000): written and illustrated by Christopher Moeller: Moeller was mainly known for his fantasy painting when this graphic novel came out. And it is a fantasy adventure of a sort. A typically oblique warning from the Oracle at Delphi causes Wonder Woman to figure out how to get the rest of the Justice League out of the picture so that she can go it alone against the newly reawakened last dragon. Yes, dragon. 

The Oracle claims that the Justice League will die if it confronts the dragon. The Justice League being the Justice League, Wonder Woman realizes that she'll have to trick them out of the fight -- there's no way otherwise they will let her fight alone against a 200-foot-long dragon. Moeller's painting is fine and often quite interesting -- the dragon looks great, and he gives the members of the Justice League recognizably human-type proportions. He also uses Wonder Woman's connection to Greek myth in effective ways, though having a dragon out of Northern European mythology as an antagonist really isn't Greek at all, is it? 

Like a lot of 'event' graphic novels of its time at the turn of the century, A League of One is embedded a bit too firmly in existing continuity, making it seem at times like a really long Annual rather than a special, standalone volume. Still, more fun than a lot of superhero stuff, and with some appeal to fans of fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. Recommended.

Jew Gangster (2005): written and illustrated by Joe Kubert: The art is typically great Joe Kubert, pared down after seven decades of cartooning (!!!) to an evocative, spare combination of lines and shadows. Kubert's writing isn't as good as his cartooning. The plot is a fairly rote fall-from-grace story of a young man's transformation into a gangster. It also seems to end about halfway through a narrative. But while the characters and situations are often only slightly reworked clich├ęs, the art is finely observed and completely human-sized. Recommended.

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