Library Reviews - including Green Lantern

Partially due to my shock at the amount of stuff I had to box up and transport to Australia, and partially out of budgetary measures, I joined the library shortly after landing in Brisbane.


The city-wide system is pretty well-stocked with graphic novels and trade paperbacks, so I've been able to continue following some characters and teams that wouldn't have been quite worth buying the monthlies of.  I've also been able to dive into a few series that I've heard a bit about, but never got around to reading.  I've concentrated on books from the Big Two because there's a lot of stuff there that I haven't read.


Some of these books I'm only reading because they are part of the 'grand narratives' of their respective universes, and a lot of their deficiencies jump out at me.  See if you can spot when I get to those...


1 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000066490616
Alec : the King Canute crowd / Eddie Campbell.
Campbell, Eddie.


It took me a while to start using the ordering system, so at first I was happy to pick up whatever was on the shelf that took my fancy.  Campbell is a creator I have huge respect for, even though I haven't shelled out too much of my dosh buying his stuff.  The last book of his I got was called The Dance of Lifey Death and one story was about a particular round-the world trip he made at one point to push his books.  I was amused to see that at the end he comes gratefully back to a little Queenslander style house in Brisbane and his Australian wife, so I have that much in common with him at least.


Anyway, The King Canute Crowd is a semi-autobiographical collection of anecdotes about Cambell's time amongst the colourful characters of the King Canute pub, outside the centre of London.


I found it fascinating, because Campbell was trying to do something that I've wondered about for a while.  How do you convert the experience of living and socialising into a comicbook?  People come and go from the story without much artistic 'sense' and the fact that these are mostly drinking stories mean that the actual characters and dialogue often don't make much sense.  Most of my own happiest times have been in the pub or 'enjoying a few' with friends, so it brought back a lot of memories.  Alcohol can add a lot of 'significance' to the most mundane of encounters and Campbell captures that too.


Then there is the fact that it is very autobiographical.  Campbell calls the main character Alec, but everything else seems pretty close to what happened.  This does mean that he has to respect the privacy and dignity of the characters in the story, so we see that some events with certain people are shown as important but we only have a sketchy idea of what is going on.  There is a woman that Alec becomes fascinated by, but she seems to have some kind of tragedy in her past that isn't expanded on.  Alec's best friend in the book, a highly intelligent charismatic working class forklift driver, has some kind of bust-up with Alec at the end, but again Campbell is too respectful of the real-life person to flesh it all out.


If you can stand a meandering slice of life that doesn't really go anywhere, this is a great book.  Campbell really pushes how far you can go to make a period of your life into some kind of shape that the feel of it can be translated into 'art'.


I think the sequel to this - the further adventures of Alec is contained in the collection 3-piece Suite.  I'll have to get my hands on it someday.

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  • I just got around to all the Alec books last year, motivated by a big sale by Top Shelf, Campbell's American publisher for a lot of his stuff. I thought they were wonderful books. He does autobiography so well that he really puts everyone else in the shade. You definitely want to get your hands on the rest. Top Shelf just published a huge omnibus volume with all the original books plus some new material.
  • 1 call number:741.597 TRU ID:34000076112408
    Flashbacks : twenty-five years of Doonesbury / G.B. Trudeau.
    Trudeau, G. B., 1948-due:22/2/2009,23:59

    This was my first systematic reading of Doonesbury. I'd just read a few strips here and there over the years. It's probably better in this collected form than just a strip a day. A not of the sustained stories get a lot of mileage from one situation.

    It covers from the late 60s to the mid-80s. I loved seeing the appearance of Rauol Duke as I'm a big fan of Hunter S Thompson. The celebrated sequence from November 1976 that shows a zoom in from Joannie Caucus' empty bed across town to her smiling in bed beside a sleeping Rick Redfern was very powerful, given how difficult her life was and how hard she found it to enjoy herself. However, I've only just realised that the sequence would have taken a whole week of the zoom in for its original reaaders. That's asking a lot of them.

    I wonder does Doonesbury's habit of showing presidents etc as funny little visual cues rather than people (The feather for Dan Quayle, the invisible dot for the Bushes etc) stem from an inability to adapt his distinctive style to drawing real faces?

    I noticed that there was a huge difference in Trudeau's coverage of teh Vietnam War compared to recent strips I have seen of his covering the Iraq - what - occupation. Back in the 70's one of the characters went to Vietnam and befriended a VietCong fighter, and the strip was very sympathetic to the little guy. Trudeau's take on the present conflict doesn't make light of what's going on at all, and is much more sympathetic to the hardships (and discomforts and frustrations) endured by US troops there. It's strange to see a 'comic' strip take a foreign war so seriously, but I suppose Doonesbury expanded out from 'humour' a long time ago.

    This period also covers the long-delayed graduation of the characters from university. Great that they are now growing old witht he rest of us. It's nessecary if the strip is to go on being a commentary on US lives.

    It'll also bring up many memories of news stories you'd forgotten. This is one of those 'history' books that straddles the line between the history that I've read about - flower power and the Vietnam War - and the history I've lived through - Ronald Reagan and 'Greed is Good!' yuppies.
  • Mark Sullivan said:
    I just got around to all the Alec books last year, motivated by a big sale by Top Shelf, Campbell's American publisher for a lot of his stuff. I thought they were wonderful books. He does autobiography so well that he really puts everyone else in the shade. You definitely want to get your hands on the rest. Top Shelf just published a huge omnibus volume with all the original books plus some new material.

    Autobiography is a deceptively tricky art. I may be able to get my hands on 3-piece Suite soon.
  • 2 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000068620269
    Mary Jane. [Vol. 1], Circle of friends / writer Sean McKeever ; pencillerTakeshi Miyazawa.
    McKeever, Sean.due:22/2/2009,23:59

    This was a lovely little book. The early Spider-man stories through the lens of Mary-Jane's school life. Spider-man only swings through occasionally and Parker walks through a few times. Its in its own continuity, so there must be at least a dozen Spider-man continuities out there now, including the movies and the Mary-Jane novels.

    It's very well written. The drama comes from the usual concerns of a likeable group of teenagers rather than the melodramatics of being kidnapped by the Green Goblin and thrown off a bridge.

    I can see this was a brave attempt to get more girls reading comics. This was perfect material for the manga-like format it was released in, and even had a manga-style artist too. I wonder how that went?

    I'm glad I started this thread now as I'm reminded to order the follow-up book Mary Jane: Homecoming.
  • I borrowed Circle of Friends and Homecoming from a friend, and *loved* them. McKeever writes a pitch-perfect book, and Miyazawa's art is charming. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series (retitled Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane).
  • 3 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000600042469
    The tale of one bad rat / by Bryan Talbot.
    Talbot, Bryan, 1952-due:22/2/2009,23:59

    This is one of the best comics you'll ever read. Talbot tells the story of an abused runaway whose love for Beatrix Potter's animal stories and the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales help her to begin to heal emotionally and to confront what has been done to her.

    It sounds heavy but it is a very triumphant and heartwarming story by the end. Talbot's research is immense and his treatment of this serious topic is masterful. I suppose the compensation for Talbot's irregular output is that it occasionally reaches these heights of quality.

    The story opens in London and it's always great to see that great city in something I'm enjoying. One of the episodes even takes place on a recogniseable street I used to cycle through on my way to work. Now that's well-researched.
  • Rob Staeger said:
    I borrowed Circle of Friends and Homecoming from a friend, and *loved* them. McKeever writes a pitch-perfect book, and Miyazawa's art is charming. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series (retitled Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane).

    I guess these stories fell through a lot of holes. Girls thought they were for boys, boys thought they were for girls, manga/superhero etc. Hopefully, they'll get more respect as standalone books as time goes on. Maybe when folks stop worrying so much about continuity.
  • 1 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000074063694
    Nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E. [Vol. 1], This is what they want / writer,Warren Ellis ; penciler, Stuart Immonen ; inker, Wade von Grawbadger ;colorist, Dave McCaig ; letteres, Chris Eliopoulos & Joe Caramagna.
    Ellis, Warren.due:14/3/2009,23:59

    This is where I started using the library ordering system to catch up on my superhero stuff, so a lot of the following borrowings won't be as eclectic or 'Indie' as those above. This one was pretty off the wall though.

    You'll notice that I had to leave it back about a year ago, so I'm very vague on what actually happened in it. Also my firstborn appeared around this very week, so I might have had other things on my mind, that is whenever my brain recovered from the shock enough to think at all.

    A bent cop gets the thrashing of his life in it, I remember that much, for some reason. heh heh.

    Ellis had fun with this. I can see it would have annoyed a lot of fanboys from the more uptight end of the spectrum as its very disrespectful to a lot of Marvel lore and characters.

    Sadly, the library doesn't have the follow up volume, so who knows when I'll see how it all turned out?
  • 2 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000070520176
    Supergirl / Jeph Loeb, writer ; Michael Turner ... [et al.] artist,colorist, letterer, original series cover.
    Loeb, Jeph.due:14/3/2009,23:59

    I got a little caught up in the huge excitement around when Loeb started Superman/Batman . I bought the first collection of stories, which was recently made into an animated movie, but didn't manage to keep up. I'm glad I didn't because Loeb's work on it was quite flawed, and I wouldn't want to have encouraged him...

    Still, his work on Superman/Batman and Supergirl is most interesting probably because of its flaws. (This was actually the second collection of Superman/Batman and preceded the actual Supergirl series.) This is a fascinatingly botched return of the 'real' Supergirl.

    An anorexically thin teenage girl who's presented in an overtly sexual manner gets things off to a great start.

    Not a lot of thought was given to setting her up so that future stories would keep being generated. This story reveals that Supergirl is half-evil, and the writers struggled with doing something with this after Loeb moved on from the character.

    The whole thing is set on the limbo world of superheroes who are superheroes because they are, right? Supergirl gets the tour of the DCU and the undeserved big Gosh! Wow! reception she receives wherever she goes does nothing to alleviate her teenage angst.

    Loeb does do grand comicbook plotting that works if you switch your brain off, and we get some big moments like a veritable rain of Doomsdays and Batman facing off against Darkseid.

    Loeb's work around this time is interesting in how badly he takes such much anticipated new series off the rails. It's also tempting to see the older generations mistrust and fear of the younger generation in Loeb's portrayal of Supergirl herself, who hides betrayal and apocalyptic destructive power behind her seemingly innocent facade. The older gen heroes, Superman and Batman, gnash their teeth a lot trying to sort out how to deal with her.

    And don't get me started on Turner's art.
  • 3 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000072625932
    The New Avengers. [Vol. 4], The collective / writer, Brian Michael Bendis; pencillers: Steve McNiven & Mike Deodato Jr.
    Bendis, Brian Michael.due:19/3/2009,23:59

    This one has a very particular place in my reading order. I've always been an Avengers fan and I was very happy with Busiek's 're-up' of the franchise in the 90's. Then I lost touch when his run ran down and I stopped buying all comics for a year or two because of a big old mortgage. When I moved to London, Marvel UK started printing Bendis' run from the start in cheap reprints so I was able to start to catch up. After Civil War, I was enjoying the discussions on the old board so much that I thought I'd start buying the Avengers again to keep up with some of it.

    So this book 'closed the circle' and connected where I had to leave off reading the Marvel UK reprints with where I'd started reading Avengers comics again at Civil War. It also followed up on House of M, which I'd been able to read in the meantime.

    Like Nextwave, however, I don't remember that much about it. Probably as much to do with Bendis' writing as the fiery descent of my own little gamechanger into my life at this time.

    No doubt the Avengers saved the day.
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