Archive for September, 2004

Bannock, Beans And Black Tea

September 13, 2004 | Comics

Bannock, Beans And Black Tea Seth, John Gallant Drawn & Quarterly $24.95 (hardcover) **** (out of five) Johnny Wilfred had a childhood most people nowadays couldn’t imagine. Growing up in depression-era Prince Edward Island, Johnny’s family (his grandparents, parents, five sisters and one brother) was so poor they could barely afford to feed and clothe themselves. They had so little that Johnny had to drop out of school after Grade 2 because he had no shoes. And when you had little money in this era, you survived on the cheapest foods that made you the most full: bannock (a flat loaf of unleavened bread), beans and black tea (because milk and sugar are extravagances). Johnny Wilfred, A.K.A. John Gallant, with a great deal of help from his famous illustrator son, Gregory, A.K.A. Seth (It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Clyde Fans), has committed to page some wonderful tales of his upbringing. Some are funny, others tragic and many are bittersweet. But the overwhelming feeling you will be left with after reading about the 20-odd years Johnny had to live in dirt-poverty — slaving away at odd jobs, snaring food to survive, staring at the road for entertainment — is gratitude. This memoir will make you grateful for all you have and all you’ve ever had. It is a swift kick in the butt for all those who think they’ve got it rough.

Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving The 20th Century

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving The 20th Century Warren Ellis, John Cassaday Wildstorm/DC Comics $37.95 (Hardcover) **** (out of five) The weirdest and perhaps most wonderful comic series around is back. Planetary, the brainchild of acclaimed writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Global Frequency) and outstanding artist John Cassaday (Captain America, Astonishing X-Men), is the story of three “mystery archaeologists” who travel the world solving history’s greatest mysteries. Moody, dark and offering what may be the best writer/artist combo of any series currently on the market, Planetary is a treat. Leaving The 20th Century collects issues 13-18 of the ongoing, if slightly irregular series. As the series continues to leap back and forth from stories in the present and from all over the 20th century — from a 1920s meeting with Dracula and Sherlock Holmes to a Crouching Tiger-esque Chinese battle to Tarzan and men in space in 1851 — Planetary continues to push the envelope. Ellis’ stories are thought provoking and extremely well constructed. Cassaday’s art is simply gorgeous and his rare ability to transcend a single comic book genre is displayed perfectly in this collection. Simply put: If you are not reading Planetary you are missing out.

Batman: War Drums

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Batman: War Drums Bill Willingham, Andersen Gabrych, Pete Woods, Damion Scott, Brad Walker, Cam Smith, Troy Nixey DC Comics $27.95/$17.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) War is coming to Gotham City and not even the Batman can stop it. Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure kicked off the sweeping three-month Batman crossover War Games in August, but before the war began, the foundation was being laid in the pages of Detective Comics and Robin. In Detective, writer Anderson Gabrych and artist Pete Woods bring us The Surrogate, a three-part tale about a play by some small-time gang members to go big and take over Gotham’s Hill Street neighbourhood, while a teen girl’s life, and that of her unborn child hang in the balance. The two-part Monsters Of Rot sees Batman reluctantly working with the beautiful Tarantula to stop a deadly outbreak from spreading, as the Dark Knight’s associate Orpheus steps into the power vacuum on Hill Street. The issues of Robin, featuring the all-new female version of the character, are the follow-up to the very solid Robin: Unmasked trade paperback released last month. As Stephanie Brown secretly begins to learn the ropes from Batman in the guise as his new partner, Tim Drake, the now-retired former Robin, begins to suspect something is amiss with his girlfriend: Stephanie. These all-too-brief adventures of the Girl Wonder are terrific stuff from writer Bill Willingham and artist Damion Scott. Collecting a whopping 10 issues, War Drums catches all casual Bat-fans up to date on the goings on in Gotham and helps clear up the who’s who and the whys headed into War Games. A teaser at the back of the book even tells readers to keep an eye out for three collections of War Games stories in 2005, for those either too lazy or too casually interested to pick up all 25 parts to this epic. Or maybe even for those who just love those big trades on their bookshelves.

Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 18: Travels With Jotaro

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 18: Travels With Jotaro Stan Sakai Dark Horse Books $15.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Usagi Yojimbo is many different things. He is a wandering samurai, an expert swordsman, a keen observer, a kind uncle and a rabbit. While at first glance this series, written and drawn by Eisner Award-winner Stan Sakai, appears to be simply a black-and-white cartoon strip about an anthropomorphized rabbit in the role of samurai, all it takes is one story to appreciate that this is not kid’s stuff. Sakai’s drawing has a classic cartoony feel to it, but this book takes itself pretty seriously. Travels With Jotaro, for example, sees Usagi taking his “nephew” under his wing as a sort of apprentice as he moves throughout feudal Japan having adventures. The intriguing interplay between the hero and this child, whom everyone they meet quickly deduces is actually unknowingly Usagi’s son, combined with an educated depiction of Japanese life and culture in this era proves this book is more Conan and less Mickey Mouse. The fact that Usagi Yojimbo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year goes even further to showing this series is a timeless classic and will continue to be for a long time to come.

Age Of Bronze Vol. 2: Sacrifice

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Age Of Bronze Vol. 2: Sacrifice Eric Shanower Image Comics $29.95 US (hardcover) *** 1/2 (out of five) Retelling classic or historical tales in illustrated form is one of the hallmarks of comics, but it has rarely been done with the grace and elegance of Age Of Bronze. Writer/artist Eric Shanower’s interpretation of the events of the Trojan War don’t have Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom or Eric Bana, but they do feature engaging contemporary dialogue and accurate archaeological depictions of life in this era that make it extremely accessible. Even as Helen and Paris settle into life in Troy, the Achaeans, led by High King Agamemnon plot to retrieve Helen and to punish the Trojans for taking her. But the cost of preparations for war may prove to be costly for the high king. For anyone interested in this fascinating piece of history, who has neither the time nor the inclination to read Homer’s Iliad, the Age Of Bronze is a fine modern alternative.

Liberty Meadows Book 1: Eden

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Liberty Meadows Book 1: Eden Frank Cho Image Comics $25.85 (paperback) **** (out of five) Liberty Meadows is fun, funny and splendidly illustrated. This first collection, containing the initial nine issues of Frank Cho’s comic strip, gets re-released in an all-new “widescreen” format in this second printing. The added size really shows off what a terrific talent Cho is — giving all the denizens of the Liberty Meadows Animal Sanctuary to a larger-than-life feel. For those that already own this book, an upgrade may not be necessary, but for those looking at starting their Liberty Meadows book collection, this is definitely the way to go.

Gen 13: Ordinary Heroes

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Gen 13: Ordinary Heroes Adam Hughes, Mark Farmer, Alan Davis, Kevin Nowlan Wildstorm/DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Adam Hughes has a way with women. In recent years, this outstanding American artist has become the go-to guy for sexy pin-ups and hot covers, often featuring beautiful female characters. No matter what was on the inside, Hughes’ covers were often the only reason needed to pick up a book. But before he became known as a specialist, Hughes could tell a heck of a good story with his lush, round … um … art. Ordinary Heroes, an interesting little Gen 13 tale from 1996 that was also written by Hughes, is combined with a stand-alone tale from the Wildstorm Thunderbook #1, the first two issues of Alan Davis and Mark Farmer’s Gen 13: Bootleg and seven full-page pin-ups to make a very compelling package. Hughes’ requisite sexy women abound, as do those by Davis, and the wacky fun that was ever-present in most Gen 13 tales may make you nostalgic for the super-team’s heydays. Now if someone could just convince DC to collect Hughes’ terrific early-’90s run on Justice League America, everything would be right in the world.

Green Lantern: Passing The Torch

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Green Lantern: Passing The Torch Judd Winick, Dale Eaglesham, Rodney Ramos DC Comics $19.95/$12.99 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) When you’ve lost faith in humanity and need to clear your head, where’s the best place to go? Deep space, of course. Still reeling from the savage beating his gay friend Terry received weeks earlier, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) leaves Earth, along with his girlfriend, the super-hero Jade, to try and get some perspective on things. Passing The Torch sees Kyle leave fellow GL, John Stewart as Earth’s protector as he and Jade head off for adventures in space. But while they strive to save a pair of alien cultures from peril, Jade gives Kyle even more to think about: she may be carrying his child. More fast-paced, well-written tales of the Emerald Knight from Judd Winick, featuring fine art from Canada’s Dale Eaglesham.

Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 3

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 3 John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway, Terry Austin, Dick Giordano, Karl Kesel, Mike Machlan DC Comics $30.95/$19.95 US (paperback) *** (out of five) It’s hard to believe it’s already been 18 years since Superman was brought down from his pedestal. John Byrne’s more human, much more accessible Man Of Steel — a stark contrast to the near-flawless pre-1986 hero — was part of DC Comics’ bold new direction that has had lasting repercussions. This is the Superman that we still read. And it’s great that the publisher decided to make these initial Superman tales — from Adventures Of Superman, Action Comics and Superman — back in the highly accessible form of trade paperbacks. This third volume, collecting the second three issues of each of the post-relaunch series, sees Supes fighting alongside Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the Green Lantern Corps and with The Demon in tales by Byrne from Action Comics. The Adventures of Superman stories, by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway see the Man Of Steel taking on terrorism in the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Qurac, in a storyline that has eerie foreshadowing for the times we live in. Finally, the stories from Superman’s flagship title see him rush off to South America to save Lois Lane from an alien threat hidden in an ancient temple. Don’t you just love the kitchy, retro way that sounds? The Man Of Steel Vol. 3 is a fun flashback to the beginnings of the modern Superman and hopefully not the last in its line.

Batman In The Eighties

September 13, 2004 | Trades

Batman In The Eighties Len Wein, Doug Moench, Mike W. Barr, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Barbara J. Randall, Alan Brennert, Michael Golden, Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Gene Colan, Klaus Janson, George Pèrez , Romeo Tanghal, Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, Walter Simonson, Dick Giordano, Trevor Von Eeden, Rodin Rodriguez, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo DC Comics $30.95.$19.95 US (Paperback) ** 1/2 (out of five) Some of the greatest Batman stories ever told were created in the 1980s. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, which saw the definitive Joker origin tale; A Death In The Family, the tragic demise of the second boy to be called Robin; and The Cult, which saw veteran creators Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson unite to have Batman’s spirit broken by an evil preacher are among some of the best-ever tales of the Dark Knight. And then, of course, there’s the big two: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, both by Frank Miller, with help from Klaus Janson and David Mazzuchelli. They are the alpha and omega of the modern Batman, the story of how he got started and how he ended up. Both are generally agreed upon not only as being the best Batman stories ever, but are ranked high among the best comics ever. Yes, the 1980s were clearly a high-water decade for the pointy-eared detective. It’s a shame that all that success isn’t represented in Batman In The Eighties. This collection of nine Batman tales from the decade is devoid of all the issues of renown, likely because all of them are still in print and there’s just no point in duplication. But the powers that be still could have made more of a book worth having by giving readers some landmark tales that have never had the fortune of being reprinted. In the extremely detailed introduction and cover galleries, the highlight of this volume, mention is made of the landmark final issue of The Brave And The Bold, the first few comics featuring the second Robin, several 50th anniversary commemorative issues and several others that would have made this book an essential. As it is, it’s a decent retrospective with a bunch of mismatched stories that unfortunately isn’t nearly as reflective of the decade that spawned them as it could be.