If all goes according to plan for the next few weeks Sunday is graphic miscellany day, as we catch up on the graphic novels and other illustrated stuff that I’ve been reading recently.
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Dancing Men
Written by Murray Shaw & M. J. Cosson, illustrated by Sophie Rohrbach
Well actually, as any adequately educated person will tell you, it’s written by Arthur Conan Doyle; those people listed above simply adapted the story to the graphic medium. I’d recently been watching some episodes of the Jeremy Brett TV series, and was so excited at discovering Sherlock Holmes material in the graphic section of the library that I immediately checked it out without noticing that it was aimed at a young audience, part of an ongoing series aimed at getting children into Holmes, with various clues that help them to solve the puzzle before he does. I’ve no idea if it works, but as somebody who is definitely not part of the target audience I found it all rather unappealing, with the stories watered down and artwork that is more caricature than cartoon; in particular the expressions on Holmes’ face, mostly of surprise, don’t at all conform to the idea of the character I have in my head. Fifteen minutes of my life that I won’t get back again.
Dark Reign – The Hood
Written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Kyle Hotz
This volume collects together the first five issues of the titular comic, with a bit of bonus material to tell the story of crime lord Parker Robbins, The Hood (encountered previously in Daredevil – Ultimate Collection, though in that context he was a lot more down to earth). He wheels and deals, organising an army of super powered henchmen to rule the streets of New York., along the way dealing with superhero attackers and treachery in his own ranks. The Hood owes his power to a cloak that channels the might of the Dread Dormammu, but while it makes him pretty much invincible the cloak also threatens to eclipse his personality and turn him into a pawn of Dormammu, so that is something else he has to fight against. As with assorted heroes from the Marvel stable, the Hood’s biggest problems arise courtesy of his private life, with complications caused by a pregnant girlfriend, an institutionalised mother, and an addict cousin on the staff of his criminal empire. If it’s hard to be a saint in the city, then the role of sinner isn’t an easy ride either. It’s a gripping story full of swings and roundabouts, and compellingly illustrated, albeit I thought on occasion Hotz made people look rather pinched, with hour glass figures, attenuated heads and limbs that seemed to owe more to Lovecraftian geometry than artistic perspective. Exciting as the superhero/villain shenanigans all was, the real appeal of the story lay in the human/non-super side of things, with the writer showing us that even criminal masterminds have their family problems. Stealing isn’t an issue for Parker Robbins, but getting his girlfriend to share the spoils without letting her know how they were obtained is a definite downer. Stuff like this made for a much more interesting story, one with a human dimension.
Justice Society of America – Black Adam and Isis
Written by Geoff Johns & Jerry Ordway, illustrated by Dale Eaglesham & Bob Wiacek
Actually, Ordway did some of the artwork too. Back in the day, my very favourite issues of the Justice League of America comic were the annual crossovers with the Justice Society (DC’s Golden Age heroes, conveniently relocated to a parallel Earth the name of which eludes me at the moment). The main story here is concerned with the super powered Black Adam and his resurrected beloved Isis, who has come back from the dead changed and leads her lover down the paths of evil, all of which has something to do with machinations within the Shazam family, near as I could make out. There are other tales that take on the politics of the League itself, with divisions and new recruits, the old guard giving way to the next generation of heroes. It’s splendid stuff, even if I did find the Adam and Isis plotline all a bit confusing thanks to a plethora of plot twists (who is doing what to whom and why – that kind of confusing). The real appeal for me lies in the nature of the JSA heroes, their unique identities and powers that make them a lot more intriguing and engaging than their more familiar JLA counterparts. Who can resist the allure of heroes like Dr. Midnight, Wildcat, and the Spectre, to name just three in an awesome ensemble cast. These guys seem a lot darker than the bright stars of the JLA, more attuned to the shadows, and that makes them my kind of guys and gals. The artwork, full bodied and vibrant, brings such qualities to life on the page, making this book a visual treat (something not conveyed by the lacklustre cover illustration). I loved it, for the look rather more than the story I guess.