AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel about the entangled relationship between China’s legendary Monkey King, an insecure Chinese-American teen with a crush on a white girl and another teen who has to cringe every time his walking stereotype of a Chinese cousin visits. Good playing with metaphors for assimilation and integration, though I felt it weakened at the finish.
When I first read the acclaimed indie comics series Love and Rockets, I didn’t care for it much, which I blamed on it being a)non-superheroic, non-horror, non specfic so it wasn’t quite my taste and b)I’d come in quite late so I didn’t know any of the backstories. Now that I’ve read Jaime Hernandez’ MAGGIE THE MECHANIC, which collects the series’ start, I’ve got to say that starting from the beginning and learning this setting includes SF and super-hero elements, didn’t help at all—it feels like Hernandez just threw a random mix of ideas together to see what would work, and as far as I’m concerned, none of them do, on any level. Still the series has been successful and critically acclaimed, so don’t let me discourage you (see this post on Not Liking The Movie)
Another flop—RESURRECTION Volume Two by Marc Guggenheim and Justin Greenwood has the survivors of the now-ended alien invasion discover Baltimore has survived by becoming an ET-worshipping theocracy, and begin digging into the real reason for the invasion. The first volume picked up as it went along, but this doesn’t really do anything fresh and I can barely tell the characters apart—so I won’t be looking for Volume Two.
The DC Reboot last year produced some good works, but also some flops such as BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT: Knight Terrors, by David Finch and Paul Jenkins, wherein a mystery mastermind drugs Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery to turn them into unstoppable juggernauts, while an Internal Affairs officer (whose knee-jerk hostility seems to be modeled on early 1960s J. Jonah Jameson) tries to bust Commissioner Gordon for dealing with Batman. Flat and uninteresting—and I find pompous speechmaking by villains (“Here comes Batman, the foot soldier of the people—but how can a foot soldier save them from a tank?”) just as annoying as most people find expository speeches by villains.
JOHNNY HIRO: Half Asian, All Hero, by Fred Chao, is a charmingly whimsical story in which the title Japanese-American restaurant worker has to cope with visits from Godzilla (it seems Johnny’s girlfriend’s Mom was part of a team that took down Big G years earlier, and he’s out for payback), crazed sushi chefs and the suicidal attack of the 47 IT Ronin (don’t ask), all while keeping up his relationship with his girlfriend Miyumi and ending up in TV’s Night Court (Chao catches the show perfectly but I’m thinking this may limit the story’s shelf life). I look forward to the next collection.
FORBIDDEN ADVENTURES: The History of the American Comics Group by Michael Vance (reprinted in an issue of the prozine Alter Ego) interested me because ACG’s super-heroes are out of copyright and used in both Alan Moore’s Terra Obscura series and Project Superpowers. Vance covers the growth of the company and its management (editor/publisher Richard Hughes gets glowing reviews from pretty much everyone) along with its super-hero line (including two I knew from childhood, Magicman and Nemesis), Herbie the Fat Fury, and its array of romance comics, pulp adventure and horror (ACG’s Forbidden Worlds actually preceded EC’s more famous horror lineup). Good, if the topic appeals.