10


Comics:

Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales Volume 1 by Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Paul Rivoche, Alan Weiss, Art Adams and others (2002-2003):This anthology title puts Tom Strong, his family and friends, and far-future crime-fighter Jonni Future through a variety of adventures. Highlights include the tales of Tom Strong as an orphan growing up on tropical island Attabar Teru with the helpful Otu tribe, pretty much Moore’s homage to the youthful Tarzan flashback book Jungle Tales of Tarzan (or if you want to go back to Tarzan’s inspiration, Mowgli in The Jungle Book). Jonni Future, a 20th-century woman, uses the Time Bridge to battle evil 4 billion years in the future with the help of her leopard-like Paraman companion, a spaceship shaped like a Coelacanth, and a pair of the largest breasts in comic-book history.

Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales Volume 2 Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Alan Weiss, Art Adams and others (2003-2005): The anthology title draws to a close with this collection of issues 7-12. Probably only Alan Moore could get artists like Peter Kuper, Jaime Hernandez, Peter Bagge and Sergio Aragones all working on what amounts to a superhero title, which is why Alan Moore is God. Maybe not the God, but definitely a God. Jaunty and fizzy, but with a surprising hit of poignance at the end as Tom leaves Attabar Teru (and, unbeknownst to him, future wife Dhalua) for Millennium City in the early 1920’s in the final tale. But he’ll be back. Highly recommended.

Legion of Superheroes: Enemy Rising by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul and others (2007): Jim Shooter is one of the two most celebrated writers DC’s 30th/31st-century super-hero teen team the Legion of Superheroes ever had (the other is longtime LSH scripter Paul Levitz), having helped make the Legion a cult favourite back in the 1960’s, when Shooter became the youngest writer of a mainstream comic-book in, probably, ever (he was 13 (!)). Those 60’s Shooter-scripted stories are still a delight today. Here, DC tries to catch lightning in a bottle again, bringing Shooter back to the book for the first time since a brief stint in the mid-1970’s.

The result is actually pretty enjoyable, especially with the revelation in a whole other, later miniseries (Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds by Geoff Johns and George Perez) that this Legion is not the ‘classic’ Legion that once had Superboy as a member. No, this Legion, somewhat bizarrely, is the Legion of what is nominally ‘our’ world in the DC Universe, Earth-Prime. This at least explains all the Silver Age DC Comics Phantom Girl keeps reading.

Shooter develops an epic main plot (mysterious aliens attacking worlds throughout the galaxy) and copious melodramatic subplots with flair, though the results are a bit busy at times. Manapul’s art is a bit too manga-influenced for me, but it goes down relatively smoothly, if occasionally a bit cutesy. Recommended.

Legion of Superheroes: Enemy Manifest by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul and others (2008): Jim Shooter and the most-recent-until-three-months-ago Legion title go out together as the year-long “Enemy” storyline wraps up (and a bunch of subplots, like Princess Projectra’s secret perfidy, do not). The ending seems a bit rushed, probably due to that whole cancellation problem, but overall it’s a pretty nice ride. Recommended.

Doctor Who Classics Volume 3 by Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison, Steve Moore, Steve Parkhouse, Bryan Hitch, John Ridgway and others (1981-89): A nice selection of original stories of the 4th, 6th and 7th Doctors from the B&W British Doctor Who magazines of the 1980’s by some of the leading lights of British comic books. Nothing too fancy, though one possible origin story for the Cybermen is offered almost as a throwaway. Recommended.

Tom Strong Book 4 by Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, Chris Sprouse, Peter Hogan, Jerry Ordway and others (2003-2004): The alternate universe ‘Tom Stone’ three-parter is the centerpiece of this collection, as Moore’s Doc Savage/Tarzan/Superman mash-up is shown a glimpse of a universe where he never was — and where things initially seem to be much better than in the universe he lives in. The other stories in the volume are a bit more light-hearted. In the alternate universe in which Alan Moore never had his falling out with DC Comics, one imagines this is what Moore might have ultimately tried to do with Superman. Highly recommended.

Tom Strong Book 5 by Alan Moore, Mark Schultz, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Shawn McManus, Duncan Fegredo and others (2004-2005): “The Terrible True Life of Tom Strong” by Brubaker and Fegredo is the high point of this collection. It almost out Alan-Moores Alan Moore as Tom Strong realizes that the dismal reality he thinks he exists in is an illusion because nothing could be as awful as, well, something that looks a lot like our world. Which is one of those points Moore makes from time to time. Tom’s real, real world, a high-tech, lost-jungle-city wonderland comprising pretty much every comic book and pulp story ever written, is the sunshiney yin to the broody yang of Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Highly recommended.

What If? Secret Wars by various (2008-2009): A bunch of up-and-coming writers and artists create new endings for a variety of Marvel Event Books, including The Death of Captain America and the 1980’s Secret Wars miniseries. About as good as the What If? titles ever were, which is to say interesting, uneven, and prone to kneejerk bleakness.Sort of recommended, sort of not.

Supreme: Story of the Year by Alan Moore, Joe Bennett, Rick Veitch and Alex Ross (1995-96): Supreme, a Superman knock-off created by the much-reviled Rob Liefeld for his portion of Image Comics, gets the superduper metafictional treatment here from Alan Moore and a number of artists, including Rick Veitch in full homage/parody mode. Supreme discovers that his universe is prone to periodic revisions, revisions which mimic the changing styles of comic books from the 1930’s to the 1990’s. In the ‘present’ he tries to adjust to the Earth after having been away for decades; to do so, he reminisces about the ‘past’, rendered by Veitch and written by Moore to resemble various eras and genres throughout the history of comic books.

The lines between homage, parody, commentary and plagiarism are often razor-thin here, as a number of the flashback stories are modelled on specific stories from Superman’s past (one which riffs on a late 1970’s/early 1980’s Jim Starlin Superman/Spectre team-up from DC Comics Presents is especially jarring in this regard — it might as well BE the original story). One gets the feeling Moore was trying to write Superman out of his system. The result is enjoyable and occasionally frustrating, but now looks like a necessary transitional book between Moore’s work for DC and his much later metafictional epics in Tom Strong and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Recommended.

DC vs. Marvel by Ron Marz, Peter David, Dan Jurgens, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Kevin Nowlan and others (1996): Continuity is the great ball-and-chain dragging down this ‘epic’ DC-Marvel crossover event from the mid-1990’s. Fans voted on how various confrontations would turn out (Superman vs. Hulk, Batman vs. Captain America, and so on, and so forth), but the unwieldy machinery of the plot makes the various battles an afterthought. The book huffs and puffs to get the two universes together. Frankly, the ‘crossover Earth’ of earlier DC/Marvel events was a lot less unwieldy and had the added advantage of explaining why so few DC superheroes live in New York (because that’s where the lion’s share of Marvel superheroes live!).

The secondary miniseries spawned by this crossover — The Amalgam Age of Comics, in which various heroes and villains were ‘amalmagated’ into new configurations (Captain America + Superman = Super-Soldier; Batman + Wolverine = Dark Claw) — was a lot more interesting than the main event. Kurt Busiek and George Perez would later do this sort of epic mishmash a whole lot better in JLA/Avengers. For completists only, though the combination of Garcia Lopez on pencils and Nowlan on inks on Dr. Strangefate is surprisingly lovely: those two should team up a lot more often. Not recommended.

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