Super Graphic by Tim Leong – A Book Review

When I learned of this book, I knew I had to have it.

Super Graphic is a series of graphs—an entire books’ worth, in fact—that deal only with comic books.  Each graph is typically quite clever in depicting an image along with information.  Of course, this is a poplar medium at the moment called “infographics.”

Some of the graphs include the evolution of the Superman logo over the last seventy-six years.  Another includes the affiliations of over fifty Marvel characters such as Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage.  Yet another breaks down the pizzas that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have enjoyed since their inception.

By and large, the graphs are incredibly complex and fascinating to study. I cannot imagine the time, effort, and sheer amount of research required by Tim Leong to produce it.  However, this book absolutely does not take itself too seriously.  Some of the charts mean to make you laugh, and some are downright ludicrous.

As a comic book lover, I can pick this book up anytime and find something new to appreciate.  However, I think anyone interested in infographics or art will adore it as well. Furthermore, I value books that push traditional publishing standards, and this one does just that.

The New Avengers, Vol. 6: Revolution – A Graphic Novel Review

I really enjoyed this volume of New Avengers. The title gets a bit of a shake-up after the events of Civil War with a revamped, underground Avengers team featuring a black-suited Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Woman and the welcomed additions of Iron Fist, Dr. Strange and Ronin (a much-missed old friend wearing new duds).

The volume begins with beautifully rendered art by personal-favorite Alex Maleev. (Wonderful to see Bendis and Maleev together again!) I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but this tale in particular focuses on a long-missing Avenger and his search for a former teammate. Consequently, he doesn’t quite find what he’s expecting. Writer Brian Michael Bendis delivers a simplistic story invoking powerful characterization and potent emotion.

The rest of the volume features art by Leinil Yu and the new New Avengers. Yu’s art is a conundrum for me. It’s not particularly pleasing to the eye, yet it is absolutely charismatic and captivating. Yu is adept at delivering interesting angles and frames while cleanly progressing the story. I find myself studying each and every one of his drawings perhaps more than any other comic book artist in recent memory.

I’d also like to congratulate Brian Michael Bendis. He obviously wrote Revolution with Civil War and the then-upcoming Secret Invasion in mind, and so he’s careful to catch the reader up while planting seeds for the future. However, this is not what especially impressed me. What did impress me was the fact that Bendis played with flashbacks and perspective in order to deliver the whole of Revolution. Instead of giving us a linear story playing out from issue to issue, he took an artistic approach and allowed the reader to bridge some gaps and become mentally involved in deciphering the plot. Don’t get me wrong, even with the interesting technique, it’s a pretty straightforward story, but such added touches go a long way in satisfying me.

Overall, with the eye-catching art, inspired story-telling, and new additions to the team, New Avengers: Revolution was a very good experience.

The Death of Captain America: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m a guy who waits for the collected editions of my favorite comic books, so my knowledge of the death of Steve Rogers arrived long before I read the actual volume in which it occurred. And you want to know something? It didn’t lessen the impact one iota.

This is because Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is masterful. This is not a title looking to shock you in one-and-done scenarios, this is a title where each issue builds off the prior and the author clearly has an epic plot in mind. The story progresses organically and logically.

Collecting issues #25-30, Steve Rogers dies in the first installment and then his supporting characters take center stage. Brubaker gives us a level of richness and complexity with Tony Stark, Sharon Carter, the Falcon, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and Bucky Barnes rarely seen in comic books. The fact he keeps Captain America just as intriguing and captivating without Captain America is proof enough as to why this man won the Eisner award.

Now we all know who the current Captain America is, and this volume, as well as the preceding issues of this series, really sets up the events leading to Barnes donning the Captain America mask. It makes total sense and it didn’t feel at all forced.

In fact, I’d like to briefly congratulate Brubaker for reinserting Barnes into the Marvel Universe in a seamless, rational, and consistent manner. Unlike another once-thought-dead partner, Barnes has been handled with care and intelligence.

Furthermore, Steve Epting’s art is the perfect compliment to Brubaker’s realism. While cinematic in execution, Epting delivers characters and action that are believable yet extraordinary. His angles and layouts please the eye while strengthening the overall story.

Brubaker’s Captain America has been a delightful and unpredictable joy from the get-go, and I look forward to seeing where he takes us next!

New Avengers, Vol. 5: Civil War – A Graphic Novel Review

I had the distinct advantage of reading this collection well after I read the unified edition of Civil War, so I must admit my perspective would be different from someone unfamiliar with the outcome of Civil War and its fallout.

That said, knowing what I know about Nick Fury, Iron Man, and Captain America’s current storylines, this volume of New Avengers was incredibly insightful and pertinent.

Though Brian Michael Bendis is the writer throughout, each separate issue making up the larger volume is drawn by a different artist and focuses upon a different character from the New Avengers.

While I don’t believe any of these issues are “must-reads” in order to understand the larger storyline of Civil War, they certainly help illuminate character’s motivations and set up plots to come in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.

I’d also like to say that there is a component to this volume featuring Sentry drawn by Pasqual Ferry that alone makes the entire volume worth buying. I could take or leave Sentry as a character, but Ferry’s rendering of Sentry interacting with the Inhumans is an absolute delight. Certainly Dean White’s colors add to the beauty of Ferry’s art, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. In my opinion, Ferry is the go-to guy when it comes to interplanetary adventure, as I first learned with his stunning art in Adam Strange: Planet Heist.

New Avengers: Civil War is a great volume if you’re looking for different artists interpretations of some of your favorite New Avengers; it’s enlightening if you desire further character motivation during Civil War; and finally, it’s a nice springboard to new plots in New Avengers.

Had I read this in “real” time I don’t know I would have enjoyed it as much, but with 20/20 hindsight, I thoroughly relished New Avengers: Civil War.

Daredevil: Hell To Pay, Vol. 1 – A Graphic Novel Review

If you’ve been reading Daredevil for any length of time, you know Matt Murdock’s life has been moving pretty fast and furious for literally years. I like this volume in particular because it gives the audience a chance to recalibrate and get a feel for where Murdock has been and where he’s going.

Overall, this volume works to reestablish Murdock’s relationship with his wife, Milla. Milla’s been in this book for some time, but with everything else going on it was easy to put her on the backburner. Writer Ed Brubaker uses the issues comprising this volume to get everyone on the same page about Matt and Milla’s complex relationship as well as set up some conflict involving the two.

It’s not all romance, though. Brubaker also has a new enemy (sort of) for Daredevil to combat, one who is going to give the Marvel Universe as a whole some fits. Before we discover this villain, though, Daredevil must get to the bottom of the Gladiator’s atypical return to mindless violence.

The art by Michael Lark fits the tone of the book perfectly with a great mix of super heroics and crime noir. And the original covers by Marko Djurdjevic are literally breathtaking.

In summation, this volume was largely a chance to reacquaint the readers with Daredevil’s personal life as well as set up some major conflict to come, but at no time did it feel like “filler” material. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark continue to make Daredevil a must read.

Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out, Volume 2 – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m a tremendous fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil, so when the news arrived that he was leaving the title, I found myself distraught. Before Bendis’ run, I’d never really cared much for the character. And though many criticized the level of deconstruction he brought to the line, I always found his work riveting and more than entertaining.

That being said, Bendis left Daredevil in enough of a predicament that I wanted to see how this fella–Ed Brubaker–tied up Bendis’ loose ends. Brubaker’s The Devil, Inside and Out Vol 1 impressed me, but Vol. 2 left me in awe.

Brubaker has somehow, somehow, tied up the many dangling plots left behind by Bendis (I believe they agreed upon this, by the way; Bendis wasn’t leaving a mess for someone else to clean up) in a way that was both satisfying and quite cleansing. New plot possibilities have organically arisen from the old, and while everything isn’t exactly back to normal for Matt Murdock (is it ever?), I do feel as though Brubaker has set the stage to move on with his own agenda for the character and has successfully exorcised the benign ghost of Bendis.

So, in summation, I would like to recommend the entire current run of Daredevil. Kevin Smith got us off on the right foot, Bendis brought consistent quality and depth to a character I had never before respected, and Brubaker seems to keep all of the best aspects of what Bendis did, but has now brought his own brand of action and noir, further enriching an already rich hero.

The Fantastic Four – A Movie Review

Let me begin by stating that while I am a self-admitted comic book fan, I am by no means a die-hard Fantastic Four fan.  I’ve always thought they were a neat team, but I’ve never really been interested in them or their comic. 

Okay, with that out of the way, I think we all understand that I am by no means as critical when it comes to the Fantastic Four as I would be with, say, Batman or the Flash. 

My wife and I went to see the Fantastic Four movie while on vacation from our summer vacation.  I had no expectations whatsoever and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  Here we had a film that was exactly what it should have been, a lighthearted movie about a family-like team of superheroes who banter and quibble as most families do.  It was a great deal of fun to see their powers showcased, and the film was nowhere near as campy or cheesy as I thought it would be from what I saw in the previews. 

Was this the dark psychodrama of Batman?  No.  Was this the film noir of Sin City?  Not in the least.  What it was, however, was a movie that was plain and simply put fun to watch.

Sorry if I’m upsetting all the Kirby and Lee fans out there who judge me to be committing Fantastic Four sacrilege, but I liked the movie.  Go check it out if you want to have some good old fashioned summer movie fun!