Books

THE WATCH: Being the Unauthorized Sequel to Peter A. Kropotkin’s MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONIST as imparted to Dennis Danvers is a novel that works better in synopsis than execution: A time-traveler transports dying Russian anarchist Kropotkin to 1999 where in addition to adapting to modern life and helping a couple of travelers dragged along in his wake, he finds himself slowly getting involved in politics … First person narration was not the best choice for this, as Kropotkin makes a very stiff narrator; whether that’s his real voice or just Danvers’ limits as a writer, I know not (but Dream Years did much better with the idea of time-traveling revolutionaries).
THE NOIR STYLE by Alain Silver (author of the excellent Film Noir)and James Ursini attempts to define the noir visual style by collecting and analyzing photos in categories including femmes fatale, city nightscapes, reflections, prison bars and cars. Interesting, and the photos are memorable, though the neo-noir section is weak (I don’t think Silence of the Lambs, for example, qualifies as neo-noir).
THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1957 to 1958 (previous volumes reviewed here and here) shows Charles Schultz developing the running gags that would run for years—Lucy pulling away the football is now an annual event, Lucy moons over Schroeder, Linus and Snoopy grapple over his blanket and we get the first reference to Joe Shlabotnik (as a piano player—Schultz later used the same name for Charlie Brown’s baseball idol). This also has Snoopy becoming increasingly flamboyant and human (very groundbreaking, even though I didn’t realize it at the time). Great fun, though some jokes will be lost on current readers (“How can a bracelet be hi-fi?”). There’s also a good introductory essay by Jonathan Frantzen (“Charles Schultz’ genius wasn’t the result of depression, it’s that he had the artistic ability to turn depression into genius!”).
ACTION: Superman and the Men of Steel by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales looks at the early days of the post-reboot DC Universe as Luthor’s efforts to stop the alien vigilante Superman result in the creation of the cyborg killer Metallo and Brainiac stealing Metropolis while Clark Kent struggles to make a home in Metropolis. One of the better entries in DC’s New 52.
IT’S A BIRD … by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen shows Seagle fretting about his new assignment to write the Man of Steel, worrying about how he can identify with him (“They say he’s an inspiration for all of us—but how can he be when his powers make everything so easy?”), coping with writer’s block and tackling personal issues. Competent, but not that interesting—for one thing, too many clichés about the writing life.
GREEN LANTERN CHRONICLES Volume IV by John Broome and Gil Kane has Hal Jordan once again matching wits with Sinestro (more than once), holding a rematch with the European patriot Sonar, teaming up again with the Flash and encountering a mysterious woman called Star Sapphire (it would be a long time before he learned it was his girlfriend, Carol). As always, enjoyable.
PLASTIC MAN: Rubber Bandits by Kyle Baker has the shapeshifting superhero, sidekick Woozy and girlfriend Morgan battling a time traveling Abraham Lincoln (“No—under the mask it’s a time-traveling John Wilkes Booth!”), a vampire, a mouse, helping out President Luthor and acquiring a teenage Goth daughter. Great fun, though more geeky than the first volume)—the opening time travel story, for instance, includes Metron, the Time Trapper, Martian Manhunter and Poison Ivy (and I’m not sure a non-comics fan would find that as funny as I do).

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