Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Reads Lately

I am still in the midst of moving but must find the time to read and unwind-the quickest things to hit the spot are graphic novels and here are the five latest.

The Outlaw Prince, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rob Hughes, Thomas Yeates & Michael Wm. Kaluta

Based on Burroughs The Outlaw of Torn I found this to be a great action-adventure historical. Taking place in 1243 during the reign of King Henry the third, we are shown how things haven't changed that much since King John was around-he still isn't fully respecting the Magna Carta and noble Simon De Montfort, Earl of Leicester is calling Henry out on it. Simon departs and Henry takes out his aggressions on court swordsman DeVac (whom is supposedly the finest swordsman in all of Christendom).
Henry insults DeVac who vows revenge.
So how does an angry Frenchman get revenge?
He kidnaps Henry's son, Richard, slaying the Lady Maud and an officer in the process-all so he can raise the prince as his own son and turn him into the greatest swordsman in the whole world and in general give bloody hell to Henry.
Some of this was a little slow, but you could tell it was all building-it is after all the adaption of a novel.
The graphic ends as Richard, now Norman of Torn is about to start dealing blood against the King, whom he no longer realizes is his father. This has definitely intrigued me to read what Burroughs himself said was, "the best thing he ever wrote..."

Batman R.I.P. by Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel

I've enjoyed some of Morrison's other writings and the art is absolutely superb (the best of all 5 graphics I mention here today) but I was continually wondering throughout What is Going On? Opening with a scene similar enough to the classic Killing Joke storyline, the Joker is giving clues to the Batman about some new villain? huh?
Said new villain-is he Dr. Hurt, is he The Black Glove? is he Thomas Wayne? huh?
He has a cabal of villains with him, none of which are particularly noteworthy (and I generally think Batman has the best villains in the DC universe) one of the new ones looked like he was supposed to be some kind of bucket head Ned Kelly wannabe-but I don't think they ever even gave us his name.
Anyhow, Batman is given a hypnotic trigger from graffiti tagged non-sense and goes into shock-they shoot him full of crystal meth and leave him on the street to die-no wait they expect him to show up so they can do something else to him, oh and his girlfriend betrayed him but he knew she was going to do that, huh?
I can allow plenty of suspension of disbelief when reading a comic book, I have no problem letting a lot of things slide...but I suspect that with Batman R.I.P., Morrison was going for an over the top,deep classic storyline and I'm sorry I think he failed at that.
R.I.P. is interesting, it makes you wonder about what the Batman is capable of to overcome and compensate for every scenario but somethings are just way too out there-I don't even want to get into the final epilogue chapter=serious Huh?
Did I mention the art was great?

B.P.R.D. The Black Flame, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

We are still dealing with the war on Frog Demon monsters from earlier story lines and the BPRD is all over the place just trying to deal. Roger the Homunculus is adapting well as a team commander (emulating Captain Daimio) but dark days are ahead for the weird guy that doesn't wear pants. (see cover)
The title character, the Black Flame is a Dr. Doom type guy for the Hellboy universe and is my favorite thing about the whole graphic; a CEO for the Zinco corp, he emulates some of the bizarre Thule society Nazi's from earlier Hellboy stories (Nazis are the best villains just ask Indiana Jones) and as the Black Flame he attempts to bring in something big and bad to the world.
Storyline wise I was kind of underwhelmed-big bad monster comes-Liz fries it, and I've seen that too many times-that's what the big arc is-its the little stuff that's good and surprising, I just wish they could have come up with a more novel way of dealing with the Lovecraftian Katha-Hem.

Time of the Twins, by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Andrew Dabb, David Cole

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, I did not care for its beginnings.
Only two years have passed since the War of the Lance (Dragonlance trilogy) and the nods to the previous characters seemed a little gratuitous and unnecessary to me. But Fizban did say he wasn't good with beginnings so...
Once things get moving I did enjoy this "new" staple of fantasy cannon.
The art was reasonably good and most everything seemed to flow once we got past reminders of Dragonlance. I still don't get some of the D&D tropes being force fed into the storyline but I could deal with those.
Having a character like Carmon hit rock bottom and bring himself back (with external pressure) was great-but his twin brother Raistlin, who I know is a fan favorite-yeah he's a super powerful sorcerer, but is that the only reason I'm supposed to like him? I could'a used something more there-I mean WHY does the priestess of Paladine, Crysiania, even fall in love with him? That was never clear to me-no reason, it just happened, I could have used anything, even a look, but no.
I would still gladly read the next in the series but I'm not sure that DDP press is even doing anymore of the D&D titles and that's a shame.


Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague, by John Rogers  and Andrea Di Vitto

I was almost ready to put this down with the first couple chapters, every hackneyed plot twist, every wisecrack you have ever heard, ever stereotype you have ever seen is splashed here-NO, bombarded upon you mercilessly. Di Vitto's art is pretty good and sheer wonder made me persevere further.
It does get better.
But a terrible beginning is a terrible beginning.
Everything you ever read about not writing a story like its your D&D game is right here.
Maybe if you've never seen an action movie or only read Paolini this stuff might seem fresh and hip to you-but it was only annoying to me.
By chapter 4 things have moved on a bit and the story became a bit more original-not real original, but enough that I didn't want to throw the book. What gets me is how I was so much more interested in the side characters we see for mere moments than I ever was in the main characters but...

By the end of the 6th chapter if there was a 7th I would have kept reading, but...

This is a big beautiful hardcover book, its supposed to match the newer D&D v.4 gaming books (which I don't own I'm old school-heh) the back cover says this was 24.99 gimme a break, glad I didn't pay that and I wouldn't pay that for volume 2-way too much for a so-so storyline. I don't know who Wizards of the Coast and IDW think they are fooling but seriously gimme a break. I would read Shadowplague 2 but I won't pay that for it.


Charles Gramlich said...

The outlaw of Torn is a favorite of mine so I might want to have a look at this graphic novel for it.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Sometimes they work a little too hard to shake up a Batman story, I think. I don't want predictable either, but there is a balance. Hush was supposed to be really great according to what I'd read but I find it merely ok. It was far too easy to guess the new villain's identity. The writers knew that and made one crazy convoluted story which still didn't really hide the villain very well.

Yeah, that is crazy pricing on that D&D volume, for sure. Especially considering they didn't deliver story quality on it.

David J. West said...

Cool Charles-I was familiar with quite a number of ERB's work but this was a new one on me.

Paul-agreed, I liked HUSH but I think my favorites (of the top of my head) would be the Knightfall, KnightsEnd and I think Batman: Detective was great-but its been a long time for all of those so I'll have to revisit them.

And yeah, no offense toward Roger's but I expected something a bit more original-I suspect now they wanted something "expected" to grab younger readers/players and din't want to rock the boat with anything too revolutionary.

Matthew MacNish said...

I suspect you may need some LSD to understand that Batman RIP.

I've read the novel version of that Dragonlance story, and while it was decent, I'm not sure I would get into a graphic novel version of the same tale.

All these other ones sound good.

David J. West said...

Matthew-I never got around to actually reading the TWINS trilogy, so this was all new to me.

M.E. said...

I've never read graphic novels, but I might give one of these five a shot. Any other suggestions for newbies to graphic novels?

David J. West said...

Mindi-the big favorite for me this year is HELLBOY, it has the mix of action, horror and bizarre historocity that I reallty enjoy-perhaps a kind of paranormal Indiana Jones in some respects.

Other highlights for graphics might include Watchmen-which a lot of people tout as the greatest of all time-but I don't, I didn't like any of the characters, and for me its all about following characters I love which would be Hellboy, Batman, Conan, Wolverine, (and yes there is a trend here)

Thanks for dropping by.