A whole bunch of superheroes: books

I enjoyed WONDER WOMAN: Earth One enough to be optimistic for WONDER WOMAN: Earth OneVolume Two, by the same creative team (Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette). More so because the idea of using Dr. Psycho as a modern-day misogynist is exactly what I’d like to see done with the character. The results, however, disappointed me, partly because Psycho seems like a fairly generic manipulator, though a sexist one. A bigger problem is that the book feels like an installment rather than a standalone, which is fine in a single-issue comic book but not in a graphic novel. Psycho is almost a subplot, with the focus on Aryan superwoman Paula von Gunther, who attacks the Amazons in WW II, gets subjugated, but eventually strikes again. And that’s just set up for a looming war to take place in V3. Not bad, but not as good as I wanted.

So back in 1938, when world champion heavyweight Joe Louis squared off against the German boxer Schmeling, what if the Nazis had given Schmeling a super-steroid to make him invincible and cinch victory? That was the original spark for Charles Saunders’ DAMBALLA, in which the title vigilante takes time out from cleaning up crime in Harlem to ensure the champ gets a fair shot at defending his title. Very reminiscent of the Shadow in style, but not just a copy — everything from Damballa’s African roots to the setting makes this stand on its own. A real shame that with Saunders passing earlier this year we won’t get to see a sequel.

AVENGERS: Behold the Vision by Roy Thomas and multiple artists shows Thomas’ writing improving since the Master of Evil collection, but it’s still frustrating. On the one hand we have a great Kang plotline, the debut of the Vision, the debut of Ultron and an excellent story about the Sons of the Serpent (anti-immigrant white supremacists, media pundits whipping the public up in rage — it hasn’t aged at all). On the other hand we have some really dumb patches of writing, such as one issue where Hawkeye attacks his own team so he can fight a guy he has a grudge with, or the utter insanity of the Wasp’s wedding. And the Wasp is written so sexist, spending multiple issues fainting or running rather than fighting (Stan Lee showed the Wasp ready to fight, even if she wasn’t very effective). On the third hand, there’s some absolutely awesome art from John Buscema, who has an amazing flair for drawing not only supehero fights but everyday people — his crowd scenes are often full of individuals, rather than just a faceless mass.

I’m not a fan of most of Jack Kirby’s Bronze Age work, the big exceptions being Kamandi and THE ETERNALS which I recently reread in TPB. Though the premise is standard gods-from-outer-space stuff, Kirby pumps it up and makes it epic and cosmic. Millennia ago, the alien Celestials transformed our ape ancestors into three races: the noble, immortal Eternals, the monstrous, genetically unstable Deviants, and humanity. This is the wellspring of myth, legend and religion: The Celestials provide the Biblical stuff (Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood), the Eternals are deities of myth and the Deviants are the demons and bogeymen. Now the Celestials are returning to judge how their creations turned out — and if we fail the fifty-year test, Earth will be wiped out like every past test planet.Kirby creates some spectacular visuals for this story; equally important, humanity gets actively involved. I love that the Eternal leader Zuras goes on TV to explain what’s going on, or that the Eternals show up at a college to introduce themselves to an anthropology class.On the downside, the Celestials are genocides, murderers of a hundred worlds, yet nobody treats them as bad guys. Would that have happened eventually if the series had kept running? Maybe, but I can only go by what we see (I’m ignoring Marvel’s later Eternals stories as I doubt they have any connection with Kirby’s plans). Despite that flaw, I enjoyed the book, which I’ll be blogging about at Atomic Junkshop in a couple of weeks.

#SFWApro. Cover by Charles Fetherolf, Eternals art by Jack Kirby.

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Filed under Comics, Reading

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