My library has an excellent selection of graphic novels. So I took out three of them. Here's my take:World Without A Superman
- Actively painful and embarrassing to read. This is why comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s sucked. What's scary is that this lame piece of crap was written in 1993
. Was I ever
juvenile enough not to cringe at page after page of "plain, everyday Americans" proclaiming (in what I can only imagine is the authors' idea of workingman's patois
) that "Sooperman was a real Amurrikin"? Lame, boring, bad. Reminded me of a bad Latin soap opera. I'd call it "World Without An Excuse". Feel free to translate that into Spanish.
It also features a lame representation of (President) Bill and Hillary Clinton. I can't remember a time that that sort of thing has ever
worked.JLA: Syndicate Rules
- A big
improvement - it's hard to believe that only 12 years separate this from "World Without..." (of course the authors are different). Not great literature, but some interesting ideas and well-written; it didn't insult my intelligence. Plus I have to admit that I get a big kick out of seeing evil versions of Superman, Batman, and the rest. When they're handled right (as here), they're a lot of fun. I'll admit that the knowledge that DC wouldn't
get too nasty added to the experience - unlike some, I don't like books or comics where the author vies to see just how vile and shocking they can be.
Not that there's not a place for that sort of thing, but all too often assholes like Jack Chalker or David Wingrove seem to wallow in their dark side out of sheer enjoyment. I consider that torture porn, and absolutely unforgivable.
Oddly enough, there's a little of that "normal Americans love their superheroes and fight to help them" crap in this book too, but at least it's used to comedic effect; still a bit annoying (as it was in Sam Raimi's Spiderman
movie), but acceptable.Batman: Four of A Kind
- Written in 1998. Consisting for four separate sections, each focused on a different antagonist (Poison Ivy, the Riddler, the Scarecrow, and Man-Bat), this is clearly attempting to follow in the footsteps of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One
(which itself was, I believe, the inspiration for the very good Batman Begins
movie). The artwork of the first section is either by the Year One artist, or a well-done imitation. Clearly they were going for high-concept Batman.
Nonetheless, it somehow all falls flat. It's not awful - certainly a better read than "World Without..." - but it never quite jells. And it's just not that much fun to read. I like the Riddler (and thought that the one flashback scene of his alternate-world hero self Quizmaster in Syndicate Rules
was great), but they basically just make him a pathetic loser. That sort of storyline can work, of course, but in this case it doesn't. We get it; he's a loser, he's crazy. What's the point? There isn't one, really.
The other sections aren't particularly memorable, although the Poison Ivy one has a huge plot hole: Poison Ivy is supposed to be fairly intelligent, but she misses a totally huge, totally OBVIOUS clue to Batman's identity. I happen to intensely dislike the "stupidity" school of writing, so that's a down-grade in my book.
Also, Alfred is just too annoying. I normally like the character, or at least can stand him, but for some reason the writers seem to have all decided that he'd be better with PMS. If I
were Bruce Wayne and he kept bitching at me like that, I'd fire him in about three seconds flat. And then make it clear that if he said ONE WORD about my secret identity, I'd beat the living shit out of him to boot.
So out of the three, JLA: Syndicate Rules
is definitely the one to borrow or buy. I've also been reading Alan Moore's Tom Strong
collections, and they've reinforced my opinion that it's very hard indeed for Moore to go wrong. They're relatively simple, old-fashioned comics - definitely not Watchmen
- but you can tell that they're the product of a master. Interesting, thought-provoking, and fun.