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Comics Rewind

COMICS REWIND: ‘All-Star Superman’

I don’t have the same inherent interest in Superman that I do in heroes like Batman or Iron Man or Wolverine. The idea of Superman doesn’t interest me. It’s when a great storyteller takes hold and turns him into something more than an all-powerful defender that I take notice. There are many, many great Superman stories from nearly 75 years of comic book storytelling, but if you asked me to pick one for the very top of the heap, I’d go with Grant Morrison’s exultant love letter to the Silver Age: All-Star Superman.

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COMICS REWIND: ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’

I’ve never really made time for Kraven. I always thought he was silly, one-dimensional, nothing compared to the best of what the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery has to offer. It wasn’t until this story entered my world that Kraven became something more. As J. M. DeMatteis chronicles the twilight of one of Spidey’s oldest foes, he pulls off something rare: a villain-based story that presents both a powerful emotional core and a compelling conflict between hero and villain. Kraven’s Last Hunt is, quite simply, one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told.

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COMICS REWIND – ‘Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.’

So, everyone here knows that I basically revere Warren Ellis as a god, right? If not, look back through the archives of this column (anything tagged “Comics Rewind”) and bear witness to my worship. Well, it’s time for another Ellis book this week, one in which he not only twists the superhero genre into his own particular brand of awesome, but makes huge quantities of fun of it along the way. Welcome to Nextwave.

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Comics Rewind: ‘Batman: Hush’

Hi kids. Matthew here. You might have noticed a different name at the top of Comics Rewind this week. Well, shocking as it may seem, I am far from the only comics enthusiast here at NerdBastards, and this week our own Jason Tabrys emailed and asked if he could write about a comic he’d developed a strong opinion about. Since I’m forever digging my way out of a mountain of back issues, I figured I’d pass the torch to him this week. I’ll be back next week with more of my own thoughts. For now, enjoy Jason’s take on Batman: Hush.

Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams’ Hush series is often described as a great and contemporary masterpiece. After reading the collected works (Batman #608-619) I have a hard time agreeing with those exact words, but I do think that the story is damn fine with masterful art (Lee is the finest active Bat-penciler around) and that it should perhaps stand as an unrivaled entry point for new readers who need to spy both the Bat Man’s origin, his angst, and his ultimate mission.

Why does Hush fall shy of greatness in my view? Essentially, it tries to say too much and tries to fit in too many stories, leaving us off balanced and ultimately not as affected by the conclusion because we’ve already been lead to believe that the true mastermind has been unveiled numerous times.

In the beginning of the story we see Killer Croc, almost sympathetic and drawn like a blur of tough skin and sharp teeth. Poison Ivy is seductive and sinewy as she pulls his strings — a puppet-master who is also a puppet herself. We’re “introduced” to Catwoman as a shadow, crawling in the background with a treat in hand. Soon we learn that she is under Poison Ivy’s spell and soon we see that Batman is under hers.

The entire run pays respect to the characters noir origins with constant double-crosses, and an uneasy relationship with a strong willed and equally suspicious “dame” who may or may not be in on the con. As I said up top, we’re thrown off balance, but so is Batman as he sees the open and flourishing relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane with envy in his eyes. Can he let Catwoman in, can Bruce Wayne pull back the cowl and share his life?

That question, along with Batman/Bruce Wayne’s intimacy and trust issues, his guilt for the times that those closest to him have been hurt, and his instincts which seem to be betraying him due to the head spinning games that are encroaching on his world stand at the heart of Hush.

Major Spoilers Ahead!

Speaking of those games, we get a glimpse of nearly every primary Bat-character: from Harold Allnut to Jason Todd, the other two “Robins”, the Joker, Harvey Dent, Oracle, Huntress, Clayface, Jim Gordon and others — all written wonderfully, all standing out as unique characters in this world who either tax or enhance Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life. We are also introduced to Doctor Thomas Elliot early on, an old friend of Bruce Wayne’s whose childhood trauma paralleled his own and who, as an adult, seems to stand as tall as the man Bruce Wayne could have been — a rich, successful surgeon, with a heart of gold — just like Thomas Wayne.

At the end of the game, when all the music stops playing we know how different  “Tommy” is, a bizzaro version of the boy who grew up grieving for his parents and vowing to apply justice to an unjust world. And though there is one last twist at the end that reveals the identify of the mastermind behind all of this, I am vastly more interested in the metaphorical “New Batman” that is left standing after all is said and done.

After a war that sees ally’s and enemies fall, a relationship bloom where the earth had been previously salted, the strength of his friends, and the realization of his worst fear, Batman’s world is changed, but he is not and as we step away from the book we see a more damaged Bruce Wayne who is even more suspicious and un-trusting. In essence, while Batman has won the war, Bruce Wayne has not.

COMICS REWIND: ‘Secret Six: Unhinged’

Sometimes I sit down to think about things I haven’t covered yet in this column and just end up kicking myself for leaving something out for so long. Granted, I’ve only been doing this for about a year at this point, but sometimes that little comics nerd voice in my head just shouts “You idiot! You’ve been doing this for MONTHS and you haven’t covered THAT? You have no credibility! Give up now!” This is one of those times. If you’re talking about superhero comics published any time in the last decades (hell, the last three decades), you have to talk about Gail Simone and Nicola Scott’s Secret Six. Not only is it important work from two very visible female comics creators (and yes, that really does matter), it’s also an essential and ridiculously fun comic book.

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I had an actual essay planned this week. I really did. I was going to write about a series I just read that I really, really like and that I want you to like too. But, here’s the thing: Comic-Con. This was my first year covering it as a full-time writer (I’m not there, but because I’m not there my editor realized that I could be chained to a keyboard.), and I wrote a lot, a whole lot. That means I’m tired, so that in-depth essay about that one series will need to wait a week. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about something that’s not really a rewind, but more of a look at where we are now. See, I read a lot of comics, and in between all the back issues I look at to write this column, I read the stuff hitting the shelves every single week. And I’ve found some stuff that you people need to know about.

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COMICS REWIND: ‘Batman: Knightfall’

 

(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)

It seems like this is something I almost have to cover as The Dark Knight Rises approaches. After all, it remains the most famous Bane story nearly 20 years after the character’s first appearance, it’s still a significant piece of required reading for Batman enthusiasts of all stripes, and based on those trailers, it looks like at least some of Christopher Nolan’s final film will owe something to it. I thought about doing this after The Dark Knight Rises was released, but then I realized that I wanted to bring it up early, so that anyone who hadn’t read this particular Dark Knight adventure just yet could have a little time before the flick came out to get their fill. Because for all its ’90s hyperbole, Knightfall is an essential Batman story, and I’m about to attempt to articulate why.

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COMICS REWIND: ‘Battle Pope’

(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)

There’s something a little nuts about the entire superhero comic genre. There’s really no way around it. Those of us who love to read about muscled men and women in tights beating the hell out of stuff simply take this truth for granted most of the time, but that doesn’t make it any less obvious. It’s an endlessly adaptable, powerful genre where you can tell a lot of very relevant stories, but at the end of the day we’re still always taking about larger than life, mostly implausible characters who dress up in crazy outfits and fight equally implausible threats. Battle Pope never stops being aware of this. It knows it’s a crazy-ass kick-you-in-the-teeth adventure, and it’s that kind of tongue-in-cheek zaniness (combined with lots of good old fashioned blasphemy) that helps make it so damn fun.

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(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)

Since we’ve got The Amazing Spider-Man creeping up on us in just a couple of weeks, I thought it would be fun to take things in a Spider-Man direction here at Comics Rewind. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t decide on which one to feature. So it’s list time!

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(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)

I was late in discovering Jeff Lemire. I picked up the beginnings of his excellent Animal Man run, got addicted, and then, as with so many other comics creators, I went in search of other things. I found Sweet Tooth waiting for me, and though I thought it wasn’t really my kind of story, it ended up being among the most wildly entertaining things I’ve read in recent memory.

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