The Starman Omnibus: Volume 2 (of course)
Written by James Robinson
Pencilled by Tony Harris (and others)
Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger
DC Comics, 2009
Once again it is time for me to sing the praises of Starman. The second hardcover has been released, and as I was standing outside of Paradise Comics, waiting for them to open so that I could purchase and devour this tome of Jack Knight-awesomeness, I couldn’t help but reflect on what makes Starman so great. From Tony Harris’ gorgeous shadowy pencils to the quiet character moments James Robinson infuses into the stories, from the fully fleshed-out cast to the wide variety of tales found within this title — truly, there is no greater superhero comic to be found.
This new volume contains the Eisner award-winning story in which Jack Knight teams up with the golden-age Sandman (not Dream, of Gaiman’s Sandman); a fantastic tale in which Jack, The Shade and one of the O’Dares go to Hell and back; one of my favourite Christmas comics, and a plethora of other, smaller stories spanning the entire timeline of the Starman legacy. Not to mention some superb commentary by Tony Harris and James Robinson and some pictures of Starman merchandise that has come out over the years.
If you already own Volume 1, I can’t imagine that this is anything less than a must-have. If you don’t already own Volume 1, then start saving those pennies. I assure you, it’ll be worth it.
Then, buy Volume 2.
Written by Neil Gaiman
Pencilled by Andy Kubert
Inks by Scott Williams
Colours by Alex Sinclair
DC Comics, 2009
Soak it up, readers, this will probably be the only time you’ll see me honour a DC book as a book of the month.
Since December, I’ve been filling a large gap in my comic book reading: Gaiman’s The Sandman. I haven’t really read much Gaiman at all, but I’ve been working chronologically through Sandman and it’s as good as everyone says it is. So when I found out that he’d be doing a sort of “last Batman story ever” — along the lines of Alan Moore’s Superman story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” — I made a rare exception and bought a DC book.
What I love most about Gaiman is his characters. Everyone has a unique voice, purpose, history, all of it. There’s something about his character writing that never seems forced or unnatural. Gaiman captures everyone’s voice — particularly the Joker and Two-Face.
In Final Crisis, Batman apparently died or something (I don’t really know because I didn’t read it, and apparently no one who did read it understood, either) and this story is some sort of metaphysical wake for Batman, as a disembodied Bruce watches on. And as such, some messed up things happen that don’t actually connect with continuity or even within the story. Like how Selena Kyle randomly changes her dress, age, and hair between entering the wake and going up to make her speech about “how Batman actually died”. It’s an odd choice that I didn’t pick up on the first time, but I’m really interested in why that happened. This is a case where, honestly, you don’t really know what’s happening, but it doesn’t matter: you’re having a good time just letting it happen.
At home, I have notebooks filled with drawings of me trying to emulate Adam Kubert’s style from X-Men. And when he left the X-Men, so did I. I loved his art back then so much that I couldn’t go on without him (also Onslaught was really disappointing). But as I’ve gotten older, I find that I’m less interested in his art. That said, Kubert really stepped up his game for this one; he handles three or four different styles of Batman and does it seamlessly. I also prefer his slimmer Batman to the hulking one that is drawn by some others. There are, however, some pages or panels where it seems like he didn’t decide on what he was drawing or he’s really uninterested in drawing it. There’s one panel in particular where it looks like he’s trying to draw Catwoman’s face from three angles at once. The effect is a fucked up face.
However, these are exceptionally minor quibbles to a really solid read.
Ultimate Spider-Man #131
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Marvel Comics, 2009
Ultimate Spider-Man has always been touted as a contemporary take on everyone’s favourite web-slinger, but being a product of our times has also led him to be a very realistic Spider-Man. Peter Parker is smart, but he uses his dad’s notes to create his webshooters, the symbiote is a far more terran creation in keeping with the tone of a Spider-Man mythos, and — love it or hate it — the stuttering “just-shy-of-a-nervous-breakdown” Peter Parker is how a fifteen-year old would react to all the absurdities of a superhero’s world.
In this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson has an epiphany about Spider-Man. Namely, that Spidey’s an awesome guy.
Everyone is in shock due to the recent devastation of New York City, and Jonah tries to convey how ashamed he is of his personal campaign against Spider-Man, but all we the reader have to do is turn the page and see the two-page spread of Jameson inside the Daily Bugle, watching Spider-Man dive down through the water to save a man from drowning.
It helps to know that a giant tidal wave wiped out New York, in case you were wondering about the water, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a grandiose picture of a man doing whatever he can, even if it’s very little, to help in the face of tragedy, unaware of any spectator who could chronicle such activities.
There have been instances of Jameson coming to appreciate Spider-Man in the regular continuity, like in Amazing Spider-Man #50 (Spider-Man No More!), and Jameson has said in the past that he wants to tear down Spider-Man because self-doubt and cowardice. These are powerful moments of self awareness and honesty.
But then he’ll go off in the next issue and create a Scorpion or a Spider-Slayer, and it ruins him, as he reverts to a crazy old man. Very often this is the nature of the serial publication of comics, going back and maintaining the status quo. That’s why I’m so glad that this classic Jameson moment has gotten the “ultimate” treatment: at least here I know that if Jameson reverts to type, it’s not going to be because the writer forgot this moment, it will make sense and be due to the natural progression of Jameson’s character arc, and will be something we can track.
Putting all that aside, the issue is once again drawn by Stuart Immonen, who imbues incredible energy into Spidey. And yes, the Hulk is here, and he smashes, and it’s great. The way Spider-Man zips away from the giant Hulk at one point, it just feels fast. Unlike in the 60s Spider-Man show; THAT Spider-Man would have gotten fully smashed to a jazzy soundtrack.