The Hourman and the Python is another pair of Sandman Mystery Theatre stories. In these ones, Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont have become romantically involved and one of the things I loved about this book is all the unmarried sex they have. It’s not something I’m used to in stories about that time.
Another interesting thing is that Dian knows Wesley is the Sandman and they actually have a somewhat realistic relationship along with the vigilantism. The difficulties of that kind of life are dealt with in a thoughtful way, which I appreciated.
The Hourman is also introduced in this book. He’s another DC superhero, who uses drugs to give himself amazing strength but only for an hour at a time. There’s some interesting comparison between how he and the Sandman operate, but it does throw some of the noirish tone off a bit. I do appreciate how the Hourman’s meddling causes a lot of problems that punching something can’t solve.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper: Season Two picks up where Season One left off, with Holden working for “the bad guys” but now as a pawn caught between his boss and his former boss who’s out of the coma that left Holden out in the cold as a deep cover agent.
Both of the bosses are master manipulators and this book has a different feel than the first collection, which was more fun, I think. It’s more about Holden trying to find a path out from between the two sides, neither of which can really be said to have any concern for him as a human being. There are schemes and betrayals and it ends really well.
There’s a bit more integration with the Wildstorm universe in this book, but since I’ve never read any Wildcats comics, I didn’t have any previous connections with the supers involved. Everyone is used as pawns anyway, and not many of those get out alive.
I’ve only read Warren Ellis’ run on The Authority before reading Ed Brubaker’s Revolution (Book 1). The Authority is the Wildstorm universe’s Justice League analogue, except rather than just maintaining the status quo they take an active role in getting governments to behave better.
In this book, Jack Hawksmoor God of Cities, has taken over the presidency of the United States and is on his way to making the world a better place whether people like it or not. Renewable energy for everything, healthcare and all the good stuff. But not everyone is happy about it. The Authority has to deal with a rebellion by a bunch of “patriotic” superheroes who are much more powered than they used to be. And Midnighter (the Authority’s Batman analogue) has been brought into the future by Apollo (the Authority’s Superman analogue) to see what a terrible fascist dystopia the Authority hath wrought with the best of intentions. Midnighter is sent back to try and make sure that future doesn’t come to pass.
It’s a good story about politics and superpowers that deals with things differently than the mainstream DC or Marvel continuity really would.
My big problem with this book is that the VPL doesn’t have book two, so I haven’t been able to learn how it ends yet.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper is an excellent dark story about a super-powered secret agent who was sent to infiltrate a criminal organization as a deep-cover agent. When the book begins the only man who knows who Holden Carver really is is in a coma, and he’s getting in over his head in the organization.
There was a lot of awesomeness to love about this book. Holden Carver’s superpower is that he doesn’t feel pain and hals really quickly, but he can also transfer injuries that were inflicted on him to other people. So he gets shot, doesn’t feel the pain, touches you so you’ve been shot to the equivalent degree, and then he heals up while you don’t. He does a number of assassination jobs in service of the bad guys, but then he did bad things when he was a government agent too.
The book is set in the WildStorm universe, so there are a couple of references to The Authority, and the existence of posthumans is very well-established. One of the neat recurring bits is playing “origin stories” when they’re doing the boring parts of the job. It’s just one of those things that seems so right in a noirish crime book in a superheroic universe. (Ed Brubaker also worked on Gotham Central, another bunch of great noir stories in a superhero world.)
Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality is a metatextual comic by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, about superhero universe retcons and the lives that get snuffed out when they happen. All of the main characters in the story are long-forgotten 8th-string DC characters fighting The Architects, who are comics creators. There are lots of puns and things that must have been awesomely fun to draw because they’re pretty excellent to look at (in the same way Dr. McNinja does this kind of madness). By the end the Nazi Gorilla Vampire is saying “I guess I’m an anti-hero” and the fourth wall is smashed quite nicely. But there’s also a good little meditation on how the past is all the universe there really is.
I was actually surprised this was done back in 2007. It felt very much like a pre-New 52 kind of story, but I guess that just shows how regurgitative the business of superhero comics really is.
Batman: The Black Casebook is a collection of 1950s bizarre Batman stories that Grant Morrison used in his Batman RIP storyline. Basically he was looking at the same issue of “What if all this crazy crap actually happened to Batman in one lifetime? Even the batshit insane stuff from the 1950s?” that Neil Gaiman looked at in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? The Black Casebook is a testament to how batshit some of those 1950s stories were.
We’ve got Bat-Mite, Batman pretending to be Indian Chief “Man of the Bats” (seriously terrible), a pile of ridiculous international heroes inspired by Batman, an alternate universe where our Batman has Superman powers, and more. The stories are ridiculous, but it is interesting that Grant Morrison used bits of them to tell a contemporary tale. Interesting doesn’t mean entertaining though. I’d skip this unless you’re a real hardcore Batman aficionado.
The second volume of Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman has Supes deal with a Bizarro invasion and prepare his last will and testament and otherwise deal with his impending death. Oh and he fights Lex Luthor. It’s good, especially in his desperation to get things done before he dies. I still like the way Frank Quitely draws, and all together I feel like this is a pretty encapsulating Superman story, one I might eventually get in its Absolute format. I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s Superman. (I think that’s why the movie versions are tough to make.)
I picked up Newuniversal: Everything Went White because it’s written by Warren Ellis. It’s a different 2006 and a celestial event happens on Earth and at least a couple of superhumans are discovered. Government plans to neutralize these creatures are started up before they can find each other, because if superhumans meet then they will out compete humanity. They’re seen as an evolutionary threat. It’s the kind of issues that the X-Men as mutants sort of embody in a much gentler form.
What I wasn’t too big a fan of was the mythology behind these superheroic roles these characters have. They don’t quite understand them and because this is just the first volume it doesn’t need to be explained. I think I prefer these kinds of stories about new superheroes in a more self-contained format, like that DV8 book I recently read, or Warren Ellis’ Black Summer.
Gods and Monsters is Brian Wood’s story about a fractious team of young superheroes who are tossed onto a bronze age tech planet with the ability to speak to the residents.
They use their powers to set themselves up as champions of their respective tribes, becoming gods and outcasts and more. The fact that none of the heroes really like each other helps set their different tribes at war.
It’s a fascinating read about the abuse of power superheroes could perpetrate, and since it’s done with characters you don’t know so well, there’s real uncertainty about how they’ll react, though the framing device of a debriefing does let you know someone does actually survive this Lord of the Flies situation. Very cool book, though it might be better with a bit more background knowledge of the DV8 team, which I didn’t have.
This summer’s The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s last Batman movie, and the villain is going to be Bane. I know the basic story of Bane from back in the 1990s but I hadn’t actually read the comics until recently.
In Broken Bat Bane has come to Gotham and blows a hole in Arkham Asylum to let a whole crapton of Batman’s enemies out. Batman is already weakened at the start of the book and Robin and Alfred are trying to get him to take a rest. Of course, Batman can’t do that. So this book is him fighting these escapees and just ending up dead on his feet. There isn’t much explanation of why Batman is already so run-down at the beginning of the story; I think this was just after the long gang war thing with Black Mask, but don’t quote me on that. Anyway, in this book Batman is weakened, physically and psychologically and then Bane (a juiced up South American badass who wants to make Gotham his) beats the shit out of him in stately Wayne Manor. Bane doesn’t kill Batman, but breaks his back.
Who Rules the Night follows Robin, Alfred and Jean Paul Valley as they try to cover for Batman now being crippled. Valley (who’d been brought up as a religious assassin kind of guy named Azrael) takes over the mantle of the bat. He’s a lot more intense about things than Bruce Wayne, and armours up the Batman costume and eventually beats Bane (almost kills him, but pulls back at the last moment).
There’s a third part to the Knightfall story which has the new Batman getting more and more out of control while Bruce Wayne tries to recover (and gets his back unbroken by a magickal doctor, who I expect won’t be in the Nolanverse version of this story).
These comics are interesting in what they say about Batman, and they were a timely part of the 90s trying to put some edginess into superheroes, but as far as good stories go? Meh. I don’t like how old the Tim Drake Robin looks in these books (he’s supposed to be 14ish and looks 20), and the writing is simplistic and the villains are cartoony. It’s good for me to read some of these comics to remember that while there’s good stuff in superhero comics, not everything is awesome just by being words and pictures together. Sometimes I can forget that.