MAIL-ORDER MYSTERIES: Real Stuff From Old Comic Book Ads! by Kirk Demarais is a look at the ads found in the back pages of comics when I was a kid — X-ray spectacles, aquatic sea monkeys, the potato gun, sneezing powder and handbooks on how to become a deadly martial artist (among others). Demarais, having acquired a variety of these trinkets on eBay, details what you really got if you answered the ads (some actually delivered on their promise) and some of the background behind the creators and designers. Tremendous fun, at least for someone who’s been reading comics as long as I have.
There’s absolutely no fun for me in Scott Snyder’s BATMAN: Bloom, the follow-up to Heavy. As the plant-man Bloom wages war on Gotham (typical for Snyder, with lots of pseudo-philosophical speeches), Jim Gordon finds himself over the head as Batman; fortunately Bruce Wayne steps up to the plate and despite amnesia and Alfred’s opposition, puts on the cowl again. The appeal of Snyder continues to elude me, but I can’t quite break myself of reading Batman.
HAPPY, by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, reads like Morrison wanted to do a Tarantino movie in comics form. Unfortunately the story of an ex-cop hitman recruited to save an innocent child just didn’t work for me — the characters are stock and the black humor of the concept (the hitman gets guidance from the eponymous blue flying horse) isn’t funny enough.
BATMAN: The Brave and the Bold (various writers and artists) was a lot of fun, taking place in the same universe as the cartoon show. Batman teams up with everyone from Aquaman and Captain Marvel to Kid Eternity and Sugar and Spike. Light-hearted fluff, but way more fun to read than Snyder (and I do love a Batman who actually thinks it’s fun to punch out Vikings).
ASTRO CITY: Ordinary Heroes by Kurt Busiek and various artists resembles the previous volume, Reflections, in shouting back to the 1990 days of the series and showing us what’s happened to Jack in the Box and his family, and to Marta, a woman living in the haunted neighborhood known as Shadow Hill (nobody, including me, interpreted the ending of her first story the way Busiek wanted, so this retroactively establishes he was right). Great fun, and with some really nice visuals — Jack’s foe Mr. Drama is a wonderful Steve Ditko-inspired design.
#SFWApro. Cover by Alex Ross, all rights to image remain with current holder.