Wednesday, May 24, 2017


DC Comics Classics Library: Justice League of America by George Perez Volume 1 (1980-84/ Collected 2009): written by Gerry Conway; penciled by George Perez; inked by Frank McLaughlin and John Beatty: The big flaw with DC's quickly cancelled DC Comics Classics Library was their ridiculously high price for what was often less than 200 pages of reprints. This volume is a pretty good case in point. 

George Perez drew fewer than 12 issues of the Justice League of America back in the early 1980's. That should be one reprint volume. Nope. The DC Comics Classics Library broke that up into two volumes, padding this first one with Perez JLA postcards from the mid-1980's. The quality of the reprints is fine, though. And I bought this one for about 70%-off Canadian. So I can't complain about my deal. 

Gerry Conway's scripts are cosmic and very much Marvelesque in the amount of bickering among JLA members. Perez's artwork is already detailed as Hell and extremely strong in the characterization and action departments. He also assays a very nice two-page spread of Metron of the New Gods and some other nice visuals in locations that include the planet Apokolips, the JLA satellite, and Siberia. 

Perez's introduction notes that he didn't think either of the inkers assigned to him were a good fit. He's right, though neither John Beatty nor Frank McLaughlin is terribly misapplied. At least DC didn't assign Vince Colletta to ink him. It's an enjoyable, too-short voyage into superhero adventure. We even get a continuity-heavy explanation of super-android Red Tornado's secret origin. Bonus. Recommended.

Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez (1975-1981/ Collected 2013): written by Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Elliot S. Maggin, David Michelinie, Len Wein, and Denny O'Neil; illustrated by : Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez with inking on some stories by Vince Colletta, Bob Oksner, Frank Springer, Dan Adkins, Steve Mitchell, Joe Giella, and Dick Giordano: 

Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez became the marketing face of Superman for a long time beginning in the early 1980's -- if it's a paper plate or place mat or bag of French fries with Superman artwork on it released between about 1980 and 1995, the artwork is probably by Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez. He also did a nice job on the early 1980's Batman/Hulk team-up.

Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez is also one of a handful of the finest Superman artists of the 1970's and 1980's. There's a fluidity, grace, and lightness to his superhero work that's a rare treat. He didn't always get the best inkers (he was really best inked by himself), but his work still comes through. Collecting stories from his early days as a recurring Superman artist, this volume also collects the enjoyable, rare Superman vs. Wonder Woman tabloid-sized comic from the late 1970's. 

There are a lot of other stand-outs here, including a three-parter in which writer Gerry Conway really tried to Marvelize Superman (for awhile, the Man of Steel even believes he's really a mutant) and a nifty two-part team-up with the Flash. Through it all, Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez draws everything with grace and precision and a balletic approach to action. Highly recommended.

Batman, Inc. Volume 1: Demon Star (2012-2013/ Collected 2013): written by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham; illustrated by Chris Burnham and Frazer Irving: Confusingly, this is really the second volume of Grant Morrison's Batman, Inc., but the first after the Flashpoint line-wide reboot of DC Comics back in 2011-2012. As the whole magilla is one storyline, this is not a beginning but rather a middle. And Batman, Inc. actually involved an overarching story that went all the way back to Morrison talking over the writing reins on Batman in 2006. This lovely fellow explains the seven years of the Bat here . In short, Batman, Inc. is really the end of a seven-year Batman story. Hoo ha!

If you're going to read the whole Morrison Batman run, then you're going to have to read this volume. By this time, the zany pomo Scotsman seemed to be running out of serious steam: this whole volume feels like about two issues stretched out to interminable length. It's still enjoyable enough, I guess, and Chris Burnham's art is mostly swell in its occasionally odd melding of Frank Quitely and Geof Darrow. 

That the overall arc straddles Flashpoint requires one not to dwell on the absurd continuity ramifications of this: Flashpoint said that what appeared to be about 15 years of the Batman when the previous continuity ended was now five years. But Morrison kept everything -- every previous Robin, every Batman imitator in a foreign country -- for that new five years. So don't think about it. It's too absurdly crowded to imagine. And DC's new, ultra-successful Rebirth reboot scrambles all that up anyway. Lightly recommended, but don't read it until you've read the previous volumes of Morrison's Batman.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dispatches from the Sporting Life by Mordecai Richler

Dispatches from the Sporting Life (1960-2000/ Collected 2002) by Mordecai Richler: Enjoyable, uneven collection of sports essays nearly spanning the late, great, irate Canadian's entire writing career. The bulk of the essays date from the early 1960's to the mid-1980's. There's a sloppiness to the volume that's a bit annoying -- the book omits the original publication information for many of the pieces in favour of their first book publication info, leaving the reader to figure out when they were first published from internal evidence. 

The best pieces (surprise!) concern hockey, and include a lengthy piece on the early 1980's Montreal Canadiens, a profile of Gordie Howe (Amway salesman!), and a profile of Wayne Gretzky c. 1985 (to Richler, Gretzky is stunningly boring as a person). Some pieces, even long ones, seem to have been dashed off without much editing. For the record, Richler loves hockey, baseball, and snooker. He doesn't have much time for football, American or otherwise. 

Reminiscences of Jewish life in 1940's and 1950's Montreal abound. And Richler's contentious piece that floats his theory that a fear of anti-Semitic backlash caused Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg to stop at 58 home runs is as odd and unsourced today as it was when published in the 1960's; letters rebuking Richler's thesis appear as well with the essay. Recommended.