2017 Graphic Miscellany #7

Back with the four colour adventures of…

Thor: Latverian Prometheus

Written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Billy Tan

This book collects together strips from The Mighty Thor 604 – 606 and is set in a time when the Asgardians have been exiled to Earth and are seeking sanctuary in Latveria. Balder is their king, while Thor is in exile, and Loki is playing each and every side for his own personal advantage. The main thrust of the story concerns their attempt to foil Dr. Doom’s evil scheme to drain Asgardian energy for his own use. It certainly looks the part, with sumptuous artwork that does full justice to the magnificent spectacle it is trying to portray, but I have to admit that from a plot perspective it all feels a bit old hat, with tropes of the strip that have been used so much they’ve become clichés – exiled Thor, treacherous Loki, evil Doom. And some of the dialogue, particularly from Doom, seems too strained for effect, almost parody. So, nice to look at, not quite as good to read, but passable I guess. There are three bonus strips. ‘I Am the Lady Sif’ has a certain goddess helping Beta Ray Bill retake control of his living spaceship, and is fun for as long as it lasts. The same can be said about ‘To Asgard! Forever!’, which has the distinction of being penned by Stan Lee, and in which our leading man gets to fight giant robots and trolls, while agonising over his true place in the universe. And finally there is ‘Welcome Back, Thor’, which as regards both plot and art is simply too naff for words, the kind of thing that is supposed to be amusing, but just makes you wonder why anyone bothered.

Postal Volume 1

Written by Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill, illustrated by Isaac Goodhart & Betsy Gonia

Dana Shiffron is the Mayor of Eden, Wyoming. She’s also a lady with a criminal past, but as far as Eden goes that’s the norm; it’s a town where criminals come to settle down and live out their final years, or something like that (think El Rey in From Dusk Till Dawn). The FBI is aware of the place, but only seem to monitor its residents. When somebody is murdered it is up to Dan’s son, Mark, who works as the town’s postman and has Asperger’s Syndrome, to sort the matter out, an area in which he seems to have a special aptitude. All the signs are that Dana’s husband/ Mark’s father and the founder of Eden is back to pursue an agenda of his own. I have mixed feelings about this. Visually the book is a treat, moody and evocative artwork throughout, and stunning covers. Similarly the story holds the attention all the way, and the characters are well drawn and intriguing, while the idea of having Mark as the hero is a masterstroke of sorts. Where it falls short for me is in the idea of Eden itself, which simply isn’t given enough grounding to make it credible as an outlaw town in our modern world, and some of the major criminals it contains, well going from the outstanding warrants shown in the profiles we are given as bonus material, they seem like very small fry indeed. It’s early days yet, and there could well be more veracity conferred on the project by future revelations. Certainly I’m interested enough to check out further volumes if I see them on the shelves in the library.

American Vampire Volume Four

Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Bernet & Others

Adventures in vampirism, USA style. In ‘The Beast in the Cave’ we travel back to 1863 and the rivalry between two boys, the dutiful Jim Book and rebellious Skinner Sweet. Eleven years later they both serve in the US cavalry fighting Indians who invoke a vampiric deity. ‘Death Race’ is the story of Travis Kidd, whose family was slaughtered by the vampire Skinner Sweet when he was a child and who as a teenager has become a feared vampire hunter. There are complications and betrayals laced throughout the story. Finally we have ‘The Nocturnes’ in which music and vampires and racism all collide in a southern town. These are three entertaining stories, many layered and with a rich backdrop in both American history and vampire lore. The artwork throughout is excellent, making the stories as much fun to look at as they are to read. Overall it’s a very worthy and original project, from conceit through to execution, and I’ll look out for other volumes in the series.

The Walking Dead Volume 9 – Here We Remain

Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Charlie Adlard, & Cliff Rathburn

This is the comic book series on which the TV show is based. I’ve never seen the show and this was my introduction to the comic. Rick Grimes is travelling through the post zombie apocalypse landscape with his son, scavenging for food and shelter, killing those of the walking dead they encounter and cannot outrun. Taken ill Rick fears that he may turn against his son and is concerned to teach Carl the tricks of survival. They find what they think is a safe community, with people they know, but with the arrival of three newcomers everything changes, as these people claim to know how the zombie plague began and are heading to Washington in search of a cure. On this sampling, it all felt rather much like a tune with just the one note, and a familiar tune at that. There’s little here that zombie aficionados won’t have seen before. It’s done with verve certainly, with in particular Rick’s feelings of inadequacy and failure and confusion put over well, but all the same hardly original. The black and white artwork, rather like the story, is acceptable without being anything special. I’m hard pushed to account for the series’ success. Perhaps it was just the right moment for the zombie apocalypse to go big time, but regardless, I’m in no hurry to read any more. On this occasion, American or otherwise, vampires definitely trump zombies.

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