Neil Young’s Greendale

I’ve read a lot of graphic novels in my time, and I’ve seen a lot of names appear as authors or inspirations of graphic novels that haven’t taken me completely by surprise – such as Stephen King, John Woo, Gerard Way, or Nicolas Cage.  But one name that did not seem to fit, at first, was that of Neil Young.  Neil released an album in 2003 called Greendale,  which was the direct inspiration for this graphic novel.  The story here is a blend of environmentalism, politics, personal awakening, and a little bit of magic.  The adaptation is by Joshua Dysart, a great writer, and the art is by Cliff Chiang, one of my favorite artists working today.

This is a really cool take on an almost perfect encapsulation of what Neil Young represents: a look at the world through the lens of politics, war, environmentalism, and a beleaguered sense of optimism.  If you’re up for something a little different, give this one a try.  And if you’re a fan of Mr. Young and you didn’t know about this book until know, what the heck are you waiting for?!

Some new Gaiman

Okay, maybe not new to the world, but these graphic novels are certainly new to HPL.  The great Neil Gaiman is nothing if not prolific, and we recently added two more of his adapted works: Neverwhere, Coraline.

Neverwhere is actually written by Mike Carey, but it’s an adaptation of Gaiman’s novel of the same name.  Neil was even a consultant on this project, so it certainly received his seal of approval.  It’s a classic Gaiman-esque tale where an ordinary man meets and extraordinary person and is drawn into another world far beyond his reckoning.  It’s a perfect match for an illustrated version, as is Coraline, another story written by Neil that was collaboratively adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell.  Some people know Coraline only from the beautifully animated film that was released a few years ago, but the novel came first, then this graphic novel version, and then the film.

Basically, these are just as good as Gaiman originals, and a treat for any lover of comics, regardless of your connection to Gaiman.  So take a moment and enjoy.

The DC relaunch

I’ll be brief today, as this isn’t a post about a new title on our shelves, but a little plug/mention of something going on over at DC Comics that’s sure to shake things up a little bit.  If you haven’t already heard, DC is relaunching all of its current titles with an issue #1, while also adding some new series, or reviving a few favorites that haven’t been around for a while (here’s my personal plug for the new Swamp Thing which I hope will be awesome).  DC and Marvel have both tried a few gimmicks over the years to try and boost interest in their characters, and the relaunch is being touted as the perfect jumping on point for new readers, as these “new series” are going to not-so-much clear the decks and start anew, but simply provide new storylines that feature a more streamlined structure.  Many of the characters have had some tweaks to their costumes – most notably Superman’s red shorts are gone and Wonder Woman now has skin-tight pants instead of the bare legs and boots look – but superficial changes are easier to digest than the idea that Detective Comics won’t continue after #881 (having been published continually since 1937!), and will simply start fresh with a #1.  That is, admittedly for a certain type of comic-geek (myself most certainly included), a little unsettling.  The quality of the storytelling will decide whether this is a good move or not, and while I know that many of the titles being reintroduced probably won’t last more than a year or two, a life without Batman just doesn’t work for me.  So I’ll have to go along.  Seeing Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl with the full use of her legs for the first time since 1988’s The Killing Joke, on the other hand, will be a little hard to swallow.  Oracle is one of the fundamentally strongest characters in the DCU, and I’m sure more than a few of the characters in the DCU could have restored Barbara’s ability to walk at some point.  Why know?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  But I can guarantee I’ll be reading Batgirl #1.  As for #2…

The little guilty pleasure that is… Death Jr.

Every now and again, great stories come from odd origins.  In this case, Gary Whitta and Ted Naifeh‘s brilliant storytelling and art spin out of a PlayStation video game.  Death Jr. is of the coolest books I’ve ever read and even though there are only 6-issues published as two collected editions, it’s an all-time personal favorite.

The main character is a young boy named DJ, whose father happens to be the Grim Reaper.  DJ’s friends are a girl named Pandora, Siamese twins named Smith & Weston, and one of the oddest child characters in the history of comics, Seep.  I’ll let you find out about him on your own.  The story is essentially about a boy who wants to be just like the father he loves, and the misadventures he gets into with his friends as he tries to be the best “Death Jr.” he can be.  But it’s the little things that make this story so enjoyable, like the fact that the Grim Reaper and family live right in the heart of suburbia, and the incredibly odd kids you see pictured on the cover go to an ordinary school, riding an ordinary school bus.  The juxtaposition of these tales gives them a nice Tim Burton-esque feel, and the only downside to these stories is that only two arcs were ever published.    But they’re tons of fun, beautifully drawn, and a nice bit of absurdity among the often mundane criminals and capes we normally find in comics.

Super Gods

For those of you who are really into comics, this post will be nothing more than another advertisement for this book.  For those of you not as deeply involved in the medium, this should prove an enjoyable and fascinating title.  One of the most popular, controversial, and simply widely known comic book writers of the last 20+ years is Grant Morrison.  He is known not just for his work, but for his life, his vision, and his view on all things comics.  It comes as no surprise, then, that he has crafted this opus to superheroes and the mythic properties they both embody and represent for the reader: Supergods.  This is not a superficial examination of the genre, but a detailed and literate study of the archetypes of comics and what they continue to teach us about ourselves and our world.  I am not the biggest Morrison fan, but this is an exceptional look at comic history, and an in-depth analysis of the last few decades of comic writing, as themes became darker, more realistic, and more honestly reflective of our society.  If you have any interest in comics or superheroes, this is a must read!

The Batman Annuals… old school crusader!

I like the Dark Knight as much as the next guy (okay, probably more), but I LOVE the old school Batman in his earlier incarnations, especially the absolutely wacky days of the 1960’s and DC’s giant-sized annuals.  DC has recently begun to publish their ’60’s period material in beautiful hardcover editions called the DC Comics Classics Library, and two of the ones we own are the Batman Annuals, volumes 1 & 2.  I’m partial to the second collection, as it has an old-time favorite for me, Batman Annual #5, and “The Strange Lives of Batman & Robin.”  Here we have The Merman Batman, where Batman becomes a human fish and must walk around with a Mr. Freeze-like helmet on so he can breathe through the water in the tank!  And then there’s Zebra Batman and Rip Van Batman – basically a whole collection of really funny-because-they’re-so-earnest stories.  This is classic fun, full of giant props, loony villains, and a Batman that was still able to smile a lot of the time.  A whole other time, a whole other Batman, but a heck of a ride!

Jack of Fables

With the recent end of one of my favorite spin-offs, I thought I’d take a moment and extol the virtues of Bill Willingham’s Fables universe, specifically Jack of Fables.  This series, that just concluded after 50 issues, began when Jack was exiled from Fabletown.  This series works quite well on its own, but I think it’s a much fuller experience if you’ve already read the Fables series, which is simply one of the best series being published, today.  There is also a major crossover that impacts the whole Fables universe during the sixth and seventh book of Jack.  The whole saga of literary characters, themes, and tropes come to life is just a brilliant concept from graphic storytelling and this character in particular must be a blast to write.  Jack is the ultimate egoist, who thinks he is the greatest character in the history of literature and legend, and acts accordingly.  The twist here, is that he’s not entirely wrong.  The things he gets away with are hilarious, and his interactions with the Page Sisters, Mr. Revise, Gary the Pathetic Fallacy, and the other folks unlucky enough to be caught in his wake make for hours of entertainment.  So, if you want the full ride, head back to Fables v.1, and follow along.  You’ll wind up with 25 fantastic collections to read, from one of the best writers working today.

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