Graphic novels: Deathstroke, Thor, black secession and subterranean tedium (#SFWApro)

DEATHSTROKE: The Professional and DEATHSTROKE: The Gospel of SladeDeathstroke by Christopher Priest and multiple artists is a vast improvement on the New 52’s (this is a Rebirth soft reboot) but that’s a long way from saying I like it. Priest borrows a lot of the storytelling techniques he used in his excellent Black Panther run, the only thing I’ve ever liked by him (this isn’t the Priest who wrote The Prestige, it’s a comic book writer formerly known as Jim Owlsley). Unfortunately the non-linear storytelling is annoying and distracting here (it didn’t work perfectly in Black Panther either) and the political commentary doesn’t work half as well (raising the question of why Superman hasn’t brought Deathstroke in is another example of faux realism— he can’t capture Deathstroke because Deathstroke has his own book, end of story). This came highly recommended, but it doesn’t leave the same way.

I really enjoyed Thor: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman but the follow-up Thunder in Her Veins was very poor. The problem is a different is Aaron playing the politics of Asgard and related kingdom as analogous to Earth politics, with Odin as a Trumpesque figure clinging to the old ways in opposition to his wife Frigga and most of the other Asgardians. That just doesn’t work for me; if Aaron wants political intrigue in Asgard, fine, but it should feel like something more … Asgardian. The only reason I didn’t hate it was Jane’s Thor — the scenes of her getting to work out her old issues with Odin and Loki by punching their lights out was a lot of fun.

For good political commentary there’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION by Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin and Kyle Baker. This starts off slow — a lot of jokes about life in East St. Louis — but picks up when vote suppression disqualifies hundreds of black votes, thereby giving the state and the White House to the idiot Republican candidate (no, I thought that too but this dates to the Bush years). The solution? East St. Louis secedes! The results are fun and the political commentary is good.

THE FLASH: The Brave and the Bold by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Barry Kitson chronicles the friendship of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen from the early JLA days through the crazy turns of Hal’s life to Barry coping with the death of his wife. This is more fun than I remember it, but not hugely more: Hal’s perspective on life changed a lot during the Silver and early Bronze Age (losing Carol, discovering America with Green Arrow) but here he pretty much stays a cocky jerk. Cover by Kitson, all rights remain with current holder.

Rereading that one and then reading AVENGERS: Kang War One (Waid and Mike del Mundo) made me realize why Waid’s Avengers doesn’t click with me — everyone seems to speak with the same cocky-jerk smartass attitude that Hal displays and that gets old fast. I can’t say this version of Kang the 41st century conqueror (here reimagined as some kind of time wraith) really works better than the classic take.

As I’ve been reading Aztec Ace and Airboy from Eclipse (1980s indie publisher), I thought I’d check out Tim Truman’s SCOUT from the same era. The story of Santana, an Apache working to topple a theocratic near-future American dictatorship (secretly run by the evil Beasts of Apache lore) is perfectly competent, but for whatever reason it just didn’t click with me.

Paul Chadwick’s THE WORLD BELOW didn’t click either, but it’s anything but competent (given Chadwick wrote the excellent Concrete series, I was really surprised). The premise is old-school pulp — heroes exploring a subterranean cavern world — but the monsters and events feel like a string of wandering monsters rolled up for a really bad D&D game. I’d have forgiven that if the characterization had been strong (and from Chadwick I’d expect that) but they’re little more than ciphers. So this doesn’t work either as old-style adventure or a more sophisticated deconstruction — or in any other way.

1 Comment

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One response to “Graphic novels: Deathstroke, Thor, black secession and subterranean tedium (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Some unsatisfying trade paperback comics collections | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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