Superheroes, slaves and undertakers: books and graphic novels

BATMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus Volume 5 is another fun collection with many striking stories: elaborate schemes by the Joker, Catwoman and Penguin, crime dramas and human interest. It also gives us some of the trends that would make the 1950s Bat-stuff anathema to fans later (though not to me): formulaic crime schemes, more SF (this has Batman’s first trip off-world to fight crime on another planet), and lots of one shot gimmick villains (the Human Key and the Match, though both stories are good). As I have V.5 already, you can tell I’m not discouraged.

I remember looking at the Invincible comic when it came out and not being impressed; reading the first hardback collection of INVINCIBLE: Ultimate Collection Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman (yes, the Walking Dead guy), Ryan Ottley and John Rauch I don’t find myself any more impressed. It does have a good twist near the end of the first 13 issues but otherwise it’s an unremarkable story about how the son of Omni-Man (the Superman analog) becomes a teen superhero himself when his powers manifest. The teen hero stuff isn’t as interesting as Spider-Girl and it lacks the meta-elements of Astro City so I really don’t get the appeal.

There’s a part of me that still thinks of the Civil War as two groups of white people fighting while black Americans stand passively by. THE FIRE OF FREEDOM: Abraham Galloway & The Slaves’ Civil War by David S. Cecelski is a good corrective showing how black Americans often worked independently of the Union and did not, in fact, have the identical agenda: Galloway (a runaway slave turned Union spy, orator and later North Carolina elected official) and his allies are focused on emancipation and then full equality (particularly the right for black men to vote) and on being paid fairly for their service to the Union armies (General Butler, who did treat the liberated slaves fairly, was an exception) among other issues. A very good look at the Civil War from a different perspective.

A DEATHLY UNDERTAKING: The Undertaker Chronicles Book I by Crymsyn Hart, introduces us to the world of “undertakers” — no, not the regular ones but the experts who see to it that vampire and werewolf corpses stay dead. Protagonist Darria is an apprentice until her boss is murdered by a necromancer, forcing her to step up to the top spot and cram on her profession fast. This probably shouldn’t have worked for me as it’s almost all set-up and world-building, but the characters and the series mythology kept me interested and entertained. Although Darria’s lecherous sidekick’s constant come-ons get old fast, I look forward to getting the next volume eventually.

#SFWApro. Cover by Dick Sprang, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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