Graphic novels and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: this week’s reading

THE VIKING PRINCE by Bob Haney (primarily) and Joe Kubert was the latter’s shot at doing Prince Valiant (a classic comic-strip by Hal Foster) for DC, chronicling the adventures of Prince Jon in medieval Scandinavia. While the art is striking, the series suffers from repeatedly rebooting the premise (I presume due to poor sales). First, Jon is an amnesiac dwelling in a Norse village he has to protect from the usurper who stole his throne. Suddenly, he’s trying to complete the Twelve Trials of Odin to win his throne back from a different usurper, accompanied by a mute bard (this was easily the best stretch). Then we flash back to Jon’s early years as a prince at his father’s court. After that reboot failed to save the series, it ended, but Jon returns for two stories in WW II, teaming up with Sgt. Rock due to a curse put on him by Odin. That was the last we saw of him, though a late Bronze Age series, the Viking Commando, reused the “cursed Viking in WW II” premise.

THE TICK: The Complete Edlund collects all twelve of Ben Edlund’s original Tick comics (with a thirteenth chapter by someone else), about an indestructible dimwit who’s unaccountably decided to use his powers for justice as a superhero. This is great fun and gloriously weird as Edlund mocks superheroes, Dick Tracy, Elektra, ninjas and 2001. It doesn’t always work (getting some of the Elektra jokes would require I ‘d get her series) but most of the time it works beautifully.

BOMBSHELLS: Queens by Marguerite Bennett and multiple artists shifts the action to Africa, where Queen Mari of Zambesi (AKA Vixen) enlists the Bombshells’ help in fending off a Nazi attempt to acquire ancient god-robots from an archeological dig. Enjoyable, with Hawkgirl — here a tech whiz with a flying harness and a nose for trouble — stealing the show in every scene she’s in.

I wasn’t impressed when I learned Darwyn Cooke would write and draw a new Spirit series but the second collection of his THE SPIRIT won me over. Denny Colt deals with lost love Sand Saref (a faithful remake of one of Spirit-creator Will Eisner’s classic tales), master criminal the Octopus and a brawl in a tenement, among other stories and the stories capture the spirit (sorry!) of Eisner well. There are two or three that don’t work, including a long satire on the media, but overall I really liked this.

THE DOINGS OF RAFFLES HAW is a long short story from Arthur Conan Doyle in which the eponymous millionaire stuns a neighboring family by the up-to-the-minute technical wonders of his home (steampunk long before the word existed) and his willingness to use his great wealth (derived, we eventually learn, for transforming base matter into gold) to transform the world for the better. Unfortunately the story is a kind of moralizing tragedy in which Haw’s charitable efforts only ruin everything by corrupting people or converting them from hard work to easy living, so not one of Doyle’s successes.

#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Kubert, all rights remain with current holder.

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