#88–GRENDEL: BLACK, WHITE AND RED

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

grendelGRENDEL: BLACK, WHITE AND RED

Writers: Matt Wagner

Artists: Various

Dark Horse, 2000

Grendel.

Been a long time since I’ve thought of that name.

Back in the early 80s, Matt Wagner made a big splash with GRENDEL which was one of the early successes for independent comics.  Then Wagner did something completely unexpected and killed the character.  It was hard to imagine the series continuing after that but Wagner did it and did it amazingly.  He shifted the focus from the character to the mantle of Grendel as it overcame several different people and provided a series that was truly unique and innovative.

But, like all good characters, the original Grendel can’t quite stay dead.  This book collects a limited series which highlighted stories about the original Grendel, Hunter Rose.  Some are quite excellent, some are somewhat mystifying but all are worth reading and they bring an unexpected depth to…

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#57–MISTER WONDERFUL

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

MISTER WONDERFUL

Writer & Artist: Daniel Clowes

Pantheon, 2011

Daniel_Clowes_-_Mister_Wonderful_coverI had to take a break from the Cthulhu comics.  The madness was not coming from the concepts but the overwhelming monotony of it all.

So what better phase shift than Daniel Clowes?

MISTER WONDERFUL is a story about a blind date and the aftermath.  It is told virtually completely through the interior monologue of Marshall who has been set up on a blind date by a married couple he knows.  It begins with Marshall sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for his date to arrive, and scoping out many of the people around him including hoping that some are not his prospective date.

Once his date does arrive, the evening gets off to a painful start as Marshall examines everything he says and focuses so much on trying to make a good impression that he nearly bungles it.  What happens…

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#47-THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF

Writer/Artist: Eric Powell

Albatross, 2002

2359040-screenshot_02This is really a book for die-hard GOON fans.

It reprints the first three self-published GOON comics before the title went to Dark Horse and it’s easy to see some of the differences here.

Powell’s artwork is not as polished (which he readily admits) and the plots are weak.  There is a running commentary throughout the reprints between Eric and his fictional publisher which is actually quite amusing.  But, during the commentary, Powell points out many of the problems himself.

It’s an interesting three issues as it not only provides an origin for the Goon but also solves the mystery of the Goon’s unseen employer which were plots not so quickly covered in the DH version.

Still, many of the salient attractions of the strip are here even if in an embryonic form.  We have the Goon, Franky, the Zombie Priest…

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#44-RUNAWAYS: TEENAGE WASTELAND

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

RUNAWAYS: TEENAGE WASTELAND

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Adrian Alphona

Marvel, 2009

runaways-teen-aAfter a promising beginning in the first volume, Vaughn drops the ball here.

The teenage spawn of super-villains are still on the run from their folks in this second volume.  They’ve found a ‘base’ to hide out in and spend most of their time trying to figure out what to do.  Enter a mysterious youth who appears to also be a child of evil who (not surprisingly) turns out to be something else.

Oh, and then Cloak & Dagger show up because one of the cops on the parent’s payroll has the bright idea to send them after the runaways.

I lost interest in the storyline with the new kid because it diverted from the main story.  Plus I got tired of hearing the kids bicker.  The plot picks up again with the arrival of Cloak & Dagger…

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#33-PERSEPOLIS

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

PERSEPOLIS

Writer/Artist: Marjane Satrapi

Random House, 2003

persepolis_cover_bigThis is one of those books that I’ve always known about but never actually read.  I don’t tend to be a big fan of autobiographical comics to begin with and, as a 51 year old white male, I doubted that I would be able to connect with the childhood of an Iranian girl.

At times I can be, in the parlance of my then 3 year old nephew, “a lobster poo-poo pee-pee head”.

Although I can no more identify with the struggles of a young Iranian girl than my cat can identify with my own personal struggles, PERSEPOLIS is that type of narrative that transcends race, gender and culture and illuminates the basic human struggle of us all.

Told from her point of view, it is the story of Satrapi growing up in Iran and enduring the Shah’s reign and then the ‘cultural…

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#31-THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE

Writer: Gerard Way

Artist: Gabriel Ba

Dark Horse, 2008

14488I sure seem to be reading a lot of Dark Horse graphic novels, don’t I?

This is one of those cases where I find something unexpected.  Too bad that doesn’t happen more often.

This is a series about a team of very unusual super-heroes who were all born on the same day and adopted by a mysterious scientist known as The Monocle.  In this series, it’s not entirely clear what plans The Monocle has for these seven children but they grow up and all have certain powers… except for Number Seven who doesn’t seem to have anything special about her.

Until The Conductor finds her.

This is a truly splendid series and I can see why it’s so popular and successful.  Apparently there is a fair bit of merch that has appeared as well.  The writing…

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#30-LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE BURNING HAND

The 365 Day Graphic Novel Challenge

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE BURNING HAND

Writer: Mike Mignola

Artist: John Arcudi

Dark Horse, 2012

16257This volume collects the second Lobster Johnson mini-series and, although good, falls short.

All of the required Lobster factors are here: gangsters, mysterious Orientals, supernatural enemy and even cannibals.  (No Nazis though. Odd.)  The Lobster begins to investigate a strange case of “Indian Ghosts” which turn out to be part of a scheme by a local gangster to clear out tenements along the East River.  When this doesn’t work, the gangster calls in beautiful Oriental woman and her consort who manipulates an eerie black flame.  With the aid of his comrades, the Lobster sets out to take down the gangster and his supernatural allies aided by a young woman reporter.

I’m not sure why this story didn’t come together as well for me as IRON PROMETHEUS.  Possibly because it didn’t have a strong ending.  The sense…

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