22 October 2005

Plastic Man: On The Lam!

Premise: Plastic Man's former life as a criminal comes back to haunt him, and hilarity ensues.

Plastic Man has been around since the 1940's. He fades into obscurity every few years, only to bounce back into the public consciousness and delight a new generation of fans. He is currently enjoying newfound popularity as member of the Justice League of America. Positive fan reaction to his appearances inspired DC Comics to give him his own series, written and drawn by acclaimed comics creator Kyle Baker.

The most important element of a Plastic Man comic is humor, and Baker knows how to deliver the laughs. This book is packed with inspired sight gags and clever one-liners. The art is done in a very cartoony style, which works well for the character. It's zany, wacky, and completely over-the-top, which is exactly how a Plastic Man comic is supposed to be.

Recommended For: fans of The Incredibles, The Mask, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Ren & Stimpy, or old Looney Toons cartoons.
Not Recommended For: people who don't enjoy slapstick comedy.

21 October 2005

A Brief History of Aquaman

After last night's episode of Smallville, I was inspired to write an entry about Aquaman and how he is a vastly underrated character. While researching, I ran across an article by Alan Kistler on the Monitor Duty blog which does a more thorough job explaining the character than I could do, so I'll just direct you to that.

19 October 2005

Batman: Strange Apparitions

Premise: Even after facing radioactive mosters, mad scientists, cold-blooded assassins, and the Joker, Batman faces the biggest threat of his career: love.

Much like Superman, Batman has undergone numerous changes since his debut in 1939. In his first appearances, he was a vicious vigilante who killed criminals in cold blood. In the 50's & 60's, he was a smiling do-gooder who often duked it out with outlandish villians on giant typewriters. Today, he is a tortured soul who is as dangerous to his friends as he is to his enemies.

Personally, I prefer the Batman of the 1970's. As a response to the campy TV show starring Adam West, the creators of the time returned Batman to his roots as the Dark Knight. They made him more intense and more serious than he was in the previous decade, but he still carried fantastic gadgets and acted like a true hero (Grant Morrison referred to this period of Batman as "James Bond in a cape").

Batman: Strange Apparitions contains a series of stories from this period (1977-78, to be precise). Despite some purple prose and a tenuous grasp of science, writer Steve Englehart delivered engrossing and atmospheric scripts that were quite sophisticated for the time. Marshall Rogers (penciller) & Terry Austin (inker) provided clean, dynamic art that serves the action-packed moments just as well as it does the quiet, dramatic ones.

Many fans consider Englehart, Rogers & Austin's works to be the "definitive" Batman. It would be safe to assume that the people who worked on Batman: The Animated Series would be among those fans, since two of the stories in this book were later adapted for television (including the infamous "Laughing Fish" episode).

Recommended For: fans of Superfriends, Justice League, or any of the Batman films (particularly Tim Burton's 1989 version); people who watch soap operas; film noir afficionados.
Not Recommended For: people who couldn't care less about Batman as a character; people turned off by the 70's aesthetic (all the women have feathered hair, all the men are wearing leisure suits); science majors.

18 October 2005

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius

Premise: A 10-year-old inventor and his best friend get into all sorts of surreal adventures.

I can honestly say that no comic series has ever made me laugh harder than Barry Ween. Writer/Artist Judd Winick packs each volume (to date, there are four) with bizarre plots, madcap sight gags, pop-culture references, and lowbrow humor (the latter comes primarily from Barry's sidekick, Jeremy). There is also the occasional poignant moment (usually involving Barry's classmate Sara) that never feels out of place, even among all of the mayhem.

Recommended For: Fans of Kevin Smith films, South Park, Dexter's Laboratory, and/or Family Guy; fans of off-color humor in general.
Not Recommended For: people who are offended by profanity.

04 October 2005

"A Damn Public Service..."

Evidently, Larry Young of AIT-Planet Lar saw my review of his Astronauts in Trouble comic and linked to it on his site.
Now would be as good a time as any to mention that he publishes a lot of other fine comics too. Check out the rest of his site as well.
(And Larry, if you're reading this, when can we expect Citizen Dave?)

EDIT: Evidently, that link caused another comics (and other stuff) blog called The Low Road to llink to me and say some kind words. Check that blog out as well.

02 October 2005

Superman: Birthright

Premise: Is it truly possible for an alien to find a home on Earth?

Superman's origin story has been told and retold numerous times over the course of his 67-year existence. Just about every man, woman, or child in the western world knows that he was "rocketed to earth from a dying planet, where he gained powers far beyond that of mortal man." If they didn't read his origin in comic books, they saw it in one of they movies, TV shows, or cartoons that he has starred in. There's already been two other major graphic novels that retold his origin in the last 20 years: John Byrne's The Man of Steel and Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale's Superman For All Seasons. Is another retelling really necessary?

If that retelling happens to be Superman: Birthright, then the answer is yes.

Writer Mark Waid distills the best elements from various sources to bring the Man of Tomorrow into the 21st century. He takes the sense of grandeur of the first film, the angst of Smallville, the populism of Siegel & Schuster's original comics, the fast pace of the cartoons, and the witty banter of Lois & Clark, and blends them together in a way that honors the past but looks towards the future.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the astounding pencil work by Leinil Francis Yu. He is equally good at rendering big action sequences and quiet dramatic moments. His attention to detail is also quite impressive, particularly the subtle differences between the ways he draws both Superman and Clark Kent.

All in all, this book encapsulates everything that makes Superman great. I highly recommend it.

Recommended for: Fans of Smallville, Jusitice League, or Superfriends; anyone who thinks Superman is outdated; anyone who wonders how a pair of eyeglasses could possibly fool Clark Kent's co-workers.

Not Recommended for: people who are completely indifferent to Superman.