Apr 23, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1153: Detective Comics #633, August 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/1766125/

We come to a break in Mr. Milligan's Bat-works now, with a cool little story that, unlike the previous ones, actually involves someone with superpowers. The mistaken identity trope is played out in a very novel way in this tale. I've no idea if the pro/antagonist of this piece has any other appearances, or if he was created just for this story, but it was a neat device.

I'm still not sold on Batman. I don't know what it is, but he's just too goddamn grim, I think. Like, lighten up, just a bit, every now and again. Isn't that why there is a Robin? So that there's a little light in the Dark Knight's world? But we see that so rarely, I think. Perhaps it's just that I haven't been reading sustained runs of the title. And these are guest-written stories as well, meaning that they're not likely to have any of the character development stuff that the regular creative team would probably handle.

I was mentioning how little interest I have in Batman to a local comic shop owner the other day, and noting how happy I was to find Milligan's stuff, as it's a bit different from the usual Bat stuff. He looked at me and said that with 80 years to choose from, there's bound to be something to enjoy in there. Which makes so much sense.

More to come...

Apr 22, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1152: Detective Comics #632, July 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49899/

There's a wonderful twist in today's comic that very nicely deals with an aspect of the generational trauma of the Holocaust in a way that I've not seen done in comics, though I'm sure it has. The trauma I'm speaking of is the trauma of the collaborator. While there might be those who say that this trauma is deserved, it's difficult to say unless one is in a particular situation whether or not one would break. The character in this story is revealed to have betrayed a resistance group to the Nazis under torture, and has tortured himself for 50 years since.

In our present time, we're seeing a lot of men revealing, or having revealed, damning behaviours for which they are, rightly, being called to account for. The conversation I'm not hearing, and maybe it needs to not happen for a little while, is how do these men, should they truly want to, recuperate their lives and reputations? How do they make amends? Today's comic raises a similar question: how long should someone punish themselves, or be punished, and what constitutes the kind of restitution that is required?

I'm sure I could have articulated that more clearly, but it's late and I'm tired. One more Peter Milligan Detective tomorrow.

More to come...

Apr 21, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1151: Detective Comics #631, July 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49870/

It's cool to see the legend of the Golem cropping up in comics. The link between superheroes and the Golem is made most explicit in Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but I think it's an idea that's been around much longer than that. Let's not forget that Superman was created by two young Jewish men reacting to what they saw happening in Europe. There's always been a lot of the created protector to the Man of Steel, and thus to all his children.

Peter Milligan is drawing on some very cool ideas in his Bat-tales. He wrote three issues of Batman not long before this Detective stuff, and he's so far delved into Illuminati-style shenanigans featuring the Founding Fathers, Irish angry ghost stories, and now Jewish mysticism. Which, honestly, is totally why I decided to track down some of his work outside of Shade. I know, from Shade, that Milligan's got a weird mind. I'm just not so sure why it's taken me this long to start reading his stuff.

More to come...

Apr 20, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1150: Detective Comics #630, June 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49736/

Today's issue has Batman tracking down another vigilante who is wanted by the FBI. This vigilante, known as Stiletto, actually only preys on bad people, but the fact that he pushed past Batman's rule of no killing puts him in the Dark Knight's sights.

There's some interesting moments where Batman is reviewing information about Stiletto and almost, almost feels sympathetic to his cause. But then the killing part comes up, and all bets are off.

So, a good tale with at least on gruesome murder (a wheelchair-bound crook gets super-glued upside down to a ceiling - truly chilling visuals), and Batman gets to confront what he might have, or may yet, become.

More to come...

Apr 19, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1149: Detective Comics #629, May 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49624/

I'm in the process of rediscovering a couple of things. The first is Batman, about whom I've been somewhat disparaging over the last decade or so. I have similar feelings about Batman as those I have about Wolverine - there's just too much. Back when I had my comic store, I think there were about 10 monthly Bat-titles being published. At some point you hit a saturation point, I think. We have, as consumers, to be able to take in and assimilate information into our lives, but a constant stream of new information doesn't allow this process to occur. Even with stories, we need this. We need to be able to mull a story over in our heads before having it supplanted by a new one. I have found this to be exceedingly hard with Batman. I've only ever collected the title while Grant Morrison was running it, at a point when there weren't actually that many Bat-titles, and even then it was occasionally difficult to keep up.

The other rediscovery is of writer Peter Milligan. I was first exposed to his work in his short and wonderful follow-up to Morrison's Animal Man, and then I discovered the sheer brilliance that is his revamp of Shade, The Changing Man. I've never been disappointed by Milligan's work, though it hasn't captured me the same way many other writers have. I'm working to remedy that, and I thought I'd start with his Detective Comics run. As part of the "British Invasion" of the late 80s, he brings a very different narrative aesthetic to the Dark Knight. As with Gaiman, Moore, Morrison, Ennis, Ellis, Jenkins, all those guys, I'm fascinated by the reworking of the intrinsically-American myth by a literary mythic tradition that is vastly older. Today's story, "The Hungry Grass!" could easily have been a Hellboy story, interweaving Irish folk tales into the gritty urban fabric of Gotham City. He does five more issues in this run, and then bounces around the Bat-titles for a bit. I'm going to do my best to find his early stuff, and then start exploring later works and, perhaps, some of his early British output. Always exciting to start researching a new writer.

More to come...

Apr 18, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1148: Star Trek #6, July 1984

https://www.comics.org/issue/38856/

One last little bit of Star Trek, but I think we'll be back soon.

Though today's cover makes it look like the duplicated Kirk will be the main thrust of the issue, it's little more than an inconvenient circumstance that occurs late in the comic. Where other stories might make the shape-shifting assassin the primary focus of the story, it's really the reasons for the assassination attempt that are the salient aspect. The politics of the story is the important part. Further, the familial relationship between the assassin and target reveals a far less utopian society that the television series (well, TOS and TNG, at least) show us. There are those within the Federation who disagree with that body's policies and actions. It seems to me that the utopian aspect perhaps tends to the more basic needs, the lower tiers of Maslow's hierarchy, whereas the higher levels, dealing with morality and governance, are still very much areas of debate. As they are in our own time. In the way, the Star Trek comic is doing what TV Trek, and any good science fiction, does very well: turns a mirror upon us and asks what we see.

More to come...

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Bi-Weekly Graphic Novel Number 64 - Lumberjanes v.1: Beware the Kitten Holy, 2015

https://www.comics.org/issue/1550136/

I've probably gone on about one of my favourite cartoons, Gravity Falls. And if I haven't, I will this Summer when the new graphic novel comes out.

Lumberjanes draws on a similar aesthetic, or perhaps genre, young people exploring enchanted woods, as Gravity Falls, and really of so many of the fairy tales we're told as kids. The difference between these five ladies (hardcore ladies, that is) and lots of those fairy tale kids is that these guys take no crap. They're open to weird and strange possibilities, but they never let those possibilities push them around. They're pretty badass.

I came across this trade by accident in a thrift shop and I'd heard so much good about it that I thought it worth the investment. It is that and more. A lovely, dynamic art style - the amount of information the ladies convey in facial expression is wonderful. Not every comics artist can do a wide range of expressions, but Ms. Allen manages to say so much with just a few extra lines. And the stories are right out of an adventure novel, Indiana Jones-esque, and, occasionally, a bit of Stephen King novel thrown in. There's definitely some darkness in this series, but I think it's really only there to contrast to the light that the five main characters radiate. They're flawed. They're young. And they're having a very weird Summer.

I will be having at look at the next volume, at the very least. I'm curious to see if the series develops a larger story, which will necessitate the passage of time, and thus of camp coming to an end, or will it remain an eternal Summer of investigation of the hardcore ladies of Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqui Thistle Crumpet's camp.

To be continued...