Time for another shout out about the graphic novels I’ve been reading this year.
Copperhead Volume 2
Written by Jay Faerber, illustrated by Scott Godlewski
Substitute motor vehicle for horses, aliens for Indians, and super-duper blasters for six shooters and what you have here is a western in space. Clara Bronson is the hard as nails Sheriff of frontier town Copperhead. Among the problems she has to deal with are a crooked businessman with an agenda of his own, hostility to her alien deputy (who is also shunned by his own people), and assorted others with no good in mind, including robbers/thugs who break in while she’s on a date with the local schoolteacher (date is a euphemism), forcing Clara to protect her beau in a neat slice of role reversal. The main thrust of the book concerns the chase into the outlands after a bandit gang who kidnap her deputy to use as bait in their plot to get revenge for some slight. There’s other stuff going on too, not least the mystery of the missing mayor, with threads left hanging at the end. This is part of an ongoing series (‘Volume 2’ is a big clue), and I’m intrigued enough to pick up other volumes if I see any. It’s an entertaining story, albeit nothing most readers won’t have seen before in the plot (just a different dressing), with some engaging characters and some lush artwork that brings the story to vibrant life on the page. Overall this is a very attractive book, one I enjoyed both to look at and to read.
Batgirl – The Lesson
Written by Bryan Q. Miller, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Pere Perez
There’s a lot going on in this book. The children of Gotham’s elite families are being kidnapped, but Batgirl is on the case. Unfortunately she’s also been framed for murder by criminal organisation The Order of the Scythe, which adds some complications. And then there’s the Grey Ghost, a super powered admirer who is shadowing her and providing help she hasn’t asked for and doesn’t want. On her side and providing the kind of help she needs rather than simply meddling are Robin and Oracle, among others, and while on a trip to the UK to protect the Greenwich Mean she is allied with British super heroine Squire. And that’s only part of it. To repeat myself, there’s a lot going on here, rather too much in fact. To keep track you probably need to read it a couple of times and make notes. I enjoyed it, but all the same felt that it was a bit messy, lacking in focus, which I guess makes it a tad more like real life, something that shouldn’t be allowed in super hero comics (insert winking emoticon here). There’s some snappy dialogue (Batgirl knows how to quip with the best of them) and at times stunning visuals even if Batgirl’s non-costumed alter ego on occasion looks as if she is tripping on something. Good fun, but not great fun, and more for the visuals than the story which I felt didn’t really live up to its potential.
Jupiter’s Legacy Book One
Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Frank Quitely
Now this is more like it. A group of people gain super powers and go about fighting evil. Years later there is a major falling out, with some of the group believing that the only way forward is for them to take control of America and remake it along the lines they consider desirable (great again, anyone?). Those who oppose this are either killed or become fugitives. Skip forward a few years, and the children of the murdered heroes join forces and plan a fight back, though their only allies are those regarded as criminals, and in most cases with some justification. This is a gripping story, full of the fights and feats of derring do that you expect from a super hero comic, and simmering away in the background is a subplot about how the heroes got their special abilities, the possibility of alien influence. What makes it go that extra mile though, are the various family dramas, with brother vs. brother, father vs. son/daughter, and so on, with the psychology of these various relationships carefully calibrated, so that at times it feels like a remake of the Greek myths. And even more than that, in this story of outcasts who (may) come good, is its focus on power and its usage, with the world marching in step until we arrive at a totalitarian and fascist regime, initiated for the greater good. Millar presents both sides of the coin, with the Utopian who champions the old order (presumably the Jupiter figure) coming across as rather overbearing and arrogant, even if he is in the right, while his opponents with their hatred and distrust of politicians are playing a tune that’s music to my ears (it’s just the results of their plotting that leave me cold) – in troubled times fascism always has a certain appeal, the glamour of simple answers to complicated problems, which is probably why we can never rid of it. The artwork throughout is excellent, with Quitely equally deft at handling the big battle scenes and the more intimate moments, and by way of a bonus we have a series of standalone full page paintings of the main characters that are simply stunning. I loved this book. It’s probably the best graphic novel I’ve read so far this year, and you can bet I’ll be keeping my eye out for the sequel as I want to find out how it all finishes.