Invincible

Invincible is the story of Mark Grayson, an average teenage boy who father happens to be the, essentially, Superman. When Mark, as an effect of puberty, starts developing powers of his own, he begins a superhero career with the approval of his father as the teenage hero “Invincible”. Teaming up with a group of like minded young heroes, one of which turns out to be a clasmate at his school, the book follows Mark’s school, family and professional life.

Two things struck me about Invincible, the first, is how incredibly obvious the premise seems once you’ve heard it; yet nobodys done it before. This is a sign of brilliance: to create something out of wholecloth that’s never been done and yet seems so obvious and natural.

The second thing is how lacking in angst the book is. Superhero books have hit a new degree of angst lately, and it’s shocking to see how innocent, how pure this book is, without the need for any wink wink meta-aspect. This is virtually unheard of in today’s comic scene.

The book, intentionally or not, seems to reject the modern trend found in Avengers Disassembled and Identity Crisis, among others books, when Mark askes his fellow hero to be hush hush with his secret identity. “You never know when a hero turns out to be the next big supervillian.” He says. “That only hapens in comic books,” the friend replies.

If you’re one of those people who complains that superhero comics aren’t fun anymore, this book is for you. It reminds me a great deal of the innocent, yet intelligent, fun in Scott Mccloud’s classic 80s series, ZOT!

The art is both excellent and unique, and complements the story well.

Volumes Reviewed: 1
Publisher: Image
Authors: Robert Kirkman and Cory Walke

Tom Strong

Today I’m reviewing a book by Alan Moore. Moore is often recognised at one of the greatest auteurs to every work in the comics industry. Words like “genius” and “brilliant” are often applied to his stuff. In his mainstream comic work, Moore tends to combine pulp low brow entertainment with high brow pretentions. He’s been credited with introducing postmodernism to the comic form. Using Tom Strong as an example, allow me to explain.

Tom Strong is the story of a Doc Savage type adventure hero, the kind that dominated early science fiction pulps. Tom Strong is also a simulation of a long running american artifact; it’s a fake long running comic book.

Many stories are told in a clean, modern style. But when they flash back to Tom’s previous adventures in different era’s ,Moore does pastiches of older comic forms.

We get a 1920s crime adventure, a 40’s WWII story, a 50’s horror comic, a 70s radical feminist adventure, a victorian illustrated short story, and more. Each story reflects different eras in American culture. The 1920s adventure, for example, uses an incorrect scientific concept, phlogesten, , specifically known to be wrong today. In the modern day storyline, we get lines such as “You know, science eventually proved phlogesten didn’t exist, but we both know it did back then.”

Moore exhibits many writing tricks on the book, from flashback stories within stories, eight page adventure shorts, sequences done in incongruent or contradictory styles, and more. For example, one story is told in the form of a collectable trading card set, and one simulates a Tom Strong hanna barbara cartoon. Moore also recreates some classic Superhero comic tales, such as Crisis on Earth 2, classic Captain Marvel adventures, and more.

The art, by Chris Sprouse, is exceptional, and a variety of guest artists do pastiche sequences that add the postmodern collage effect of the book. Moore has no trouble finding great artists, he’s hot stuff in the intelligent comic world.

Unless you’re allergic to all things retro, check out Tom Strong. I’m certainly glad I did.

Publisher: America’s Best Comics (DC Comics)
Authors: Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse, and others
Volumes Reviewed: 5+

The Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi

For those not in the know, doujinshi is the japanese word for amateur or fan comic. Don’t let the term fool you, though it may be an unapologetic example of copyright infringement, The Powerpuff Girl’s Doujinshi is a professional quality comic, far better than than many titles to be found at your local comic book store. Continue reading The Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi

Ronin

Ronin, by Frank Miller, is a hard book to summarize without giving too much away. The plot begins in feudal Japan, where a heroic Ronin seeks to avenge his lord’s death at the hands of the shapeshifting demon Agat. The book then intercuts to a grim, post apocalyptic New York, where the Aquarius corporation is trying to rebuild a city overrun by cannibals, Nazis, and racial supremists. An artificial intelligence named Virgo, made out of adapting, evolving plastic, is the key to this reconstruction. Continue reading Ronin

Ai Yori Aoshi

Ai Yori Aoshi falls into the category of what is called ecchi, or “perverted japanese softcore adult comic.” Ok, that may be a bit harsh, but the main point of the book is to appeal to the male mind through female characters that are more a fetish stereotypes than individuals. We’ll see them in the shower, accidently showing their panties, tripping into suggestive situations, etc. This isn’t a very sophisticated book.

This is also what us manga and anime types call a “harem comedy” the premise being that there’s a group of girls living with Joe Everybody, who could be you! Under the right circumstances I can find these titles to be quite fun, but Ai Yori Aoshi isn’t the right circumstances.

The premise is: Aoi Sakuraba has been her whole life prepared to marry Kaoru Hanabishi, a boy from another wealthy family. When Kaoru leaves his family, the engagement is called off, but Aoi runs away to find Kaoru and see if she really loves him. They’ll eventually settle down in a house with a bunch of other female students, and sexual tension will ensue.

This manga taps into a traditional fantasy of a japanese wife that I find somewhat disturbing. Aoi dreses old fashionedly, has never been to school (she’s tutored), and is a sheltered little flower who’s purpose in life is to live for her man.

The book has ridiculous dialogue such as:

Kaoru: “Betrothed… w-we are?”

Aoi: “Yes. We met several times when we were little. Every since then,
I’ve been raised to become your wife, to give my all to serve you,
Kaoru-sama. Didn’t you know that, Kaoru- sama?

and

Aoi: When we were small, I watched you during all of the short time we
spent together. I know a lot more about you, Kaoru-Sama. Like how you
like fried fish. And how blue is your favorite color, and how you like
short hair (so naturally her hair is short). I’ve worked my hardest to
become your wife, Kaoru-sama. It was my dream that we would be
together like this. To walk home holding hands with you. To have you
eat my cooking, to do anything you wished, Kaoru-sama.”

Bleh. What rubs me wrong about this story is that Aoi, unlike say, the
girls of Hanaukyo maids, is a real stereotype, not a crazy fictional
fantasy one. Aoi taps into some sort of old fashioned japanese fantasy
I find unpleasent. It’s the difference between a racist black stereotype and, say,
Jar Jar Binks.

Likewise, the popular harem comedy Love Hina, has positive female characters with independent lives of their own.

There’s some other characters in this book. A stern schoolteacher type (who digs the main character) a wanna-be student maid, a crazy american™ who likes to grab other women’s breasts. None of them seem all that interesting.

The art, however, is adorable.

Publisher: Tokyopop
Author: Kou Fumizuki
Volumes Reviewed: 2