Comics! Comics! Comics!

I dropped in to the library this week and signed out a bunch of comics, after blazing through much of their collection this summer (the highlight? The Walking Dead.) So here’s a few off the cuff impressions of what I have gotten through so far:

Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event by Mark Millar et al. Needless to say I did not want to pay money for this at the time, nor read all the crossovers. I read the first issue when it came out and as I recall the publishing schedule was so spotty after that I don’t think I ever noticed when it ended. It’s a shame that Marvel’s comics aren’t as compelling as their movies have been (except for Spider-Man 3, X3 and Iron Man 2 of course).  Anyway. Civil War. The idea is that a bunch of B-string superheroes engage some villains close to a school playground and the whole place gets nuked. Kids are dead. Folks are outraged. There oughta be a law. Etc. DC did this some years ago and called it Kingdom Come and got Alex Ross to paint it. It was pretty good. This is not pretty good.

It has its moments. I like the logistics of dividing the Marvel heroes into sides, although there is some cheating since some insanely powerful characters choose to sit out. It boils down to the military-industrial complex (Iron Man) versus the individual (Captain America). In the end Cap turns himself in, accepting that chumps like Speedball shouldn’t have been running around in tights to begin with. Oh, and Black Goliath gets killed, which kind of sucks, and Peter Parker outs himself as Spider-Man.

Mark Millar is a decent enough writer, but this book tries to keep a lot of balls in the air and doesn’t quite succeed.

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Wiliams III.  Rucka borrows his lesbian marshal character from Whiteout and makes her Batwoman, a vigilante following in the steps of the more famous Gotham crimefighter, who makes a brief appearance or two. After enjoying some success, she comes face to face with her nemesis, Alice, a creepy pale creature who bears no small resemblance to The Joker. Batwoman also falls in with some weird shapeshifting dudes who think she is some sort of goddess.

It’s a strange book, a fusion of modern mores with silver age sensibilities, with stunning art by Williams. One of the better mainstream superhero books I have seen in a while.

The Walking Dead Vol. 11 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn. Rick and his group of survivors continue to make their way North, where I’m sure some gut-wrenching horror awaits them; on the way they lose a few of their number (as usual) in a grim fashion (as usual). Kirkman covers some familiar territory thematically, examining when it is all right (if ever) to kill other living people in a world overrun with zombies.

If you haven’t read any of The Walking Dead and are rolling your eyes, trust me- this is not some brainless game of peek-a-boo where a noble band of misfits overcome adversity. The Walking Dead is one of the best comics you’ll ever read, filled with genius character work and chilling twists and turns and touches of “reality” that would make Richard Matheson proud.

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