As mentioned in this post about movies on a plane, I recently visited my ancestral home in the United States (ancestral in the sense that my parents still live there) where I had all sorts of opportunities to visit old friends, eat abundant food portions, and generally do Many Fun Things.
Amongst those Many Fun Things were the chance to benefit from one of the Great Things About America, and that’s that it’s possible to find pretty cheap deals on comic books. This is something that is traditionally nearly impossible to find where I live in Australia, just like peanut butter candy (though that is finally changing).
So I pulled in a bunch of cool stuff, thanks to the discount prices at Amazon.com, crossing over bonus threshold at Midtown Comics in New York City, and an unexpected sale on DC Comics graphic novels at Barnes & Noble.
Here’s a quick survey of the highlights:
The Incredibles: Secrets & Lies and The Incredibles: Truth or Consequences
This extremely fun tie-in series to the Disney-Pixar film, which is one of the best superhero things to come out in a movie, pretty much ever. These volumes are #4 & #5 of the collections, written by Landry Walker covering all together #8-15 of the series from Boom Studios. These are some great comics, even more so because they were used copies that cost me less than $5.00 each. Their stories are engaging and surprising while still feeling consistent with the film. The adventures in these books are building up to a big story where many of the Incredibles’ former enemies are being gathering together by an unknown force for some malevolent purpose.
The downside of this is that these are actually the last of the Incredibles collections that were released, and the story had clearly not reached its climax. Even worse, it turns out that there are only two issues of the series that came out afterwards, and they didn’t finish things either. It seems the series was cancelled abruptly in the middle of things. I’m guessing this is because Disney (who made the film through Pixar, a company they bought years ago) around that time bought Marvel Comics, so it’d make sense that they’d want the comic tie-ins of their properties not to be licensed to a rival company. The last issue came out in 2009, the year that Marvel was bought by Disney. Of course, there haven’t been any Incredibles comics from anybody since then, so whatever, thanks for nothing guys.
Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore
This was the first of a series of hardcover collections called “DC Comics Classics Library,” and it reprints a series of issues from the 1970’s by Denny O’Neil and Elliot S! Maggin. The overall story is about how all the kryptonite on earth is destroyed but simultaneously Superman finds himself reduced in power.
It’s interesting to see a run of Superman comics from this era, when the idea of ongoing plots was only beginning to be the vogue. It’s a fun comic to read but if it didn’t feature Superman (one of my favorite characters), I’d probably not be interested in holding onto it. For something a bit more epic from this period, I’d recommend having a look at Superman vs. Muhammad Ali instead.
I guess the whole “DC Comics Classics Library” wasn’t very successful, since it seems like there were only nine books ever released, and it seems like none of them are in print anymore. Thus, my copy of Kryptonite Nevermore is an ex-library copy, with all the stickers and markings that go with that. Still, I was grateful for that, if only to have my curiosity satisfied.
The Flash by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar
Whereas Superman is one of my favorite superheros, Wally West as the Flash might just be my actual number one favorite comic book character. He was DC’s “main” Flash all through the 90’s, and during this time regular writer Mark Waid took a temporary break and handed over the writing chores to Grant Morrison and Mark Millar. You can imagine that their brief was to produce some fun comics without messing around with the status quo at all.
And that’s what the book does: there are short story arcs about a possessed super-suit, about a cosmic race for the universe’s survival, about a team up with Kyle Rayner and Connor Hawke (making up the trifecta of DC 1990’s legacy heroes), and about the Black Flash, as well as one-shots dealing with a fight with the Mirror Master and another one focusing on Jay Garrick.
Really fun stuff. Thanks, Barnes & Noble, for that nifty 3 for 2 sale on DC graphic novels!
Suicide Squad vol. 2: The Nightshade Odyssey
This is the second volume of reprints for John Ostrander’s celebrated Suicide Squad run, and the first one that I’ve bought. I’m one of those people who have been celebrating Ostrander’s Suicide Squad for a long time. It ran for 66 issues plus specials and annuals and tie-ins, from the late 80’s into the early 90’s. It wasn’t the first DC property with that name, but it was where the whole idea of the government using criminals for black-ops missions started.
I was thrilled when I heard it was being reprinted, but as often happens I found myself a bit disappointed revisiting something I used to love but haven’t looked at recently. I still consider the run to be impressive and iconic, but in some ways it hasn’t aged well. The characters are strong, but some of the plots are a bit thin. This is particularly true of the titular Nightshade Odyssey, with a lot of build up that eventually pays off everyone getting captured by an unexpected villain at the end of the first part, to be concluded in the second chapter when that villain explains ad nauseam both the twist and his demented evil plan. It’s a particularly egregious example of the books’ worst points, which is that its strong ideas are not always paced out well.
Still, I’ve already made plans to buy more in this series, as I think other stories are stronger and also I think the impact of the book’s strengths will be highlighted by a broader view of the entire thing. In other words, the more you read, the more you’ll appreciate the genius of what is going on here.
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl vol. 1
In light of the success of their various TV show properties, the powers-that-be are clearly going back to the well of DC’s back catalog for new comic book collections to release. This book reprints the first 12 issues of the last Supergirl series before the character was killed off for a while. It tells the story of Linda Danvers (as she is known in the comics) moving to Chicago, finding a job and an apartment, making friends, and fighting bad guys. Interestingly, one of those friends is actually named John Ostrander. I gather writer Paul Kupperberg named the guy after the real Ostrander (see above), a friend of his who hadn’t yet become a comic book creator.
Unfortunately, even with that bit of trivia, this series wasn’t terribly interesting in the 1980’s, and it’s not particularly engaging now. It reminds me of how I felt about Superman comics before the character was rebooted in the Man of Steel miniseries: a bit vanilla, predictable and dull. Carmine Infantino draws the series, and though no one could question his impact upon in DC’s history, I always found his later material a bit “light” and hard to connect with. Though that is not to say he couldn’t still turn out a nice looking picture.
Overall, it’s a pretty exciting bunch of books to takeaway, and that’s just some of the highlights. Others included
• All-Star Superman – the Absolute Edition – in all its hardcover slipcase glory
• Bone volume 8 – I’ve slowly been recollecting this one
• Superman Adventures vol 2 – stories in the the style of the Superman animated series from a few years back – like The Incredibles, these are some really fun all-ages comics
• Superman: Birthright – Mark Waid’s take on the origin of the Man of Steel
• Graphic Ink: The DC Comics art of Darwyn Cooke – a collection of all of pretty much all of Darwyn Cooke’s work with DC Comics that’s not already collected in other places. It was cool, but in retrospect, I wish I’d instead gone for his Batman: Ego book or one of his collections of The Spirit instead.
• Batman: The Sunday Classics – 1943-1946 – exactly what it says on the cover. A friend gave this to me but I haven’t finished reading it yet.
So, on the whole, it’s a pretty exciting bundle of comics to have come home with. Lots to read, some great, some average. And it’s not even everything. There’s more books that I bought that I’m waiting to arrive, plus others from my old collection that I brought back with me. So many comics!
And yet, somehow, they have not brought lasting peace to the deep longings of my soul.