Monday, July 15, 2013

More Reviews

One thing that happened after DC rebooted their universe is that I decided to read fewer DC titles than I'd been reading. I went from 25 or so a month, to three or four, and although I added a couple of titles over that first year of the New 52, I haven't come close to my previous totals of DC comics per month. But I do love reading comics, so I made a conscious effort to branch out in my comics reading.

I fell way behind, mostly because I have so much else to read, like books and magazines, and partly because I spend a lot of time playing online. Slowly, over the last couple of months, I've been digging out from under the stacks of unread comics. And I've even added a few new titles.

One of them is Vertigo's Astro City. I reviewed the first issue a short while ago, and now have read the second issue. This comic is sheer joy. It tells the stories of the civilians in a superhero world, with the superheroes typically supporting characters, not the stars. This issue, the first of a to-be-continued story, focuses on the folks who field calls for the heroes, acting as a superhero emergency call center, triageing the thousands of reports of possible villain activity and requests for help of all nature. The point of view is that of Marella, newly employed by Humano Global as a call station operator. Through her narration, we learn how difficult the job is, the rewards, and the frustrations. And when, at the end, a call she apparently mishandled ends up having dire consequences, we feel for her as much as we care that the heroes can fix things. By showing the human side of a superpowered world, writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Eric Anderson make us part of that world in a way no other superhero comic ever has, at least, none that I've read.

I also tried the new Lazarus, from Image, a science fiction title by Greg Rucka, with art by Michael Lark. The setting is a future where the world is strictly divided between the Haves and the Have-Nots. A few families have the power, evoking a feeling of Mob rule, and the people who work for them are protected. Everyone else is considered waste. Each family has a highly skilled, superbly trained, and scientifically enhanced protector, known as their Lazarus. Forever is the name of the Carlyle Family's Lazarus and in this first issue, she seems hesitant about what she's required to do. Hers is a brutal existence and she both commits acts of violence as well as suffers them, but the seed of doubt is creeping in, enough that the people in control of her family are concerned. This is a promising start to what I hope will be a thoroughly involving and thought-provoking series.

Captain Marvel 1-12 (2 volumes: In Pursuit of Flight and Down)
Way back in the '70s, despite being a devout DC gal, in the quest for more comics to read, I added in some Marvels. Howard the Duck. Killraven. Man-Thing. And Ms. Marvel. I didn't read them for long, and then in the '80s, due to Crisis on Infinite Earths, I stopped reading comics (heartbroken as I was over Supergirl's death). It never occurred to me to just switch to Marvel. Marvel just didn't have the family sense that DC had. And I probably was just worn out. I devoted my time to reading books, and even after starting back with comics in the '90s, Marvel didn't much interest me. Sure, I've been reading Dynamite titles, an imprint of Marvel, but nothing in Marvel interested me and that's in spite of enjoying their movies. It seemed that DC was best for comics and Marvel was best for movies. Until the glowing reviews for Hawkeye enticed me. And I love Hawkeye so much that I decided to give Captain Marvel a try. Yeah, the logic on that seems odd to me, too, but let's go with it.

Captain Marvcl, aka Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel, has been getting a lot of positive reviews. That, and the fact that a woman is writing the book, appealed to me. The gorgeous cover art didn't hurt, either. I want to support a good female-centric book and I want to support female comics creators. And I can definitely say this is a good book. The art skews from very realistic to highly stylized, and each look works nicely with Kelly Sue DeConnick's stories. And, as with Hawkeye, you don't need to know all about the character to follow along. And if you want to know more, Volume 1 included a detailed biography on Ms. Danvers.

The first volume delves into Carol's history and what drove her to become a pilot, using time travel in a clever, twisty way. Volume 2, annoyingly for a collected edition, ends mid-story. Argh! Carol's got a brain lesion that means she can't fly without painful, dangerous consequences, and on the last page, we learn the reason, in the form of an old enemy. I can't wait to get my hands on what comes next. This book is definitely going on my pull list, to be read in the monthly issues, then bought again in the collected editions, because this is a must-keep title. My only quibble is that DeConnick has a tendency to jump a bit in parts, assuming we know what happened or who someone is, forcing me to stop and think or go back a bit and reread something. It might just be me, partly because I don't know all the characters. One thing I do like is how casually the rest of the Marvel universe is referenced. Tony Stark calls Carol. Other heroes drop by. Carol mentions the Avengers. Unlike DC where such references are either rare or carefully orchestrated as guest appearances, the mentions and cameos are so natural here. Coupled with the snappy dialogue, this all feels very real. As a devout DC gal, I'm impressed. This is one female-centric, written by a woman comic I'm happy to support.

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