Hellboy and other heroes: graphic novels

HELLBOY: The Bones of Giants by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Matt Smith is a sequel to the short tale King Vold (collected in The Right Hand of Doom). The professor who tried and failed to exploit Hellboy in that story is now using an ancient talisman to raise up the frost giants and other dark forces for revenge; can Hellboy stop him, even with Mjolnir fused to his stone right hand? Not A-list Hellboy but a solid but of monster-smashing fun.

Alex Ross’s FANTASTIC FOUR: Full Circle takes us back to the Lee-and-Kirby days of the strip. A man who once impersonated Ben only to die in the Negative Zone returns, but is it as a friend or an enemy? What will the FF find when they go into the Zone? This boasts glorious Alex Ross art and promising ideas but the ideas never develop into anything substantial. However it does have some funny lines (“Reed, just how many of your old classmates became deranged mad scientists?”) and I do like the use of the Negative Zone as it originally was, a nightmarish alien dimension (a few years ago, by contrast, they were building prisons there).

BANG! by Matt Kindt, Willfredo Torres and Nayoung Wilson also feels undeveloped, though more interesting. Kindt’s script is a tribute to what he considers the neo-pulp heroes of the 1980s — Michael Knight and KITT, James Bond (who’s hardly a 1980s hero, I’ll note), Jessica Fletcher and Die Hard‘s John McClane — all of whom turn out to be puppets in a Macchiavellan scheme by a writer clearly based on Philip K. Dkck. The metafictional aspects have potential but not so much I’m eager for V2.

Despite being based on a videogame, FABLES: The Wolf Among Us by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus and multiple artists works very well as a prequel to the series, back in the days when the Fables still dwelled in New York, in exile from their various homelands. In the opening, Bigby Wolf stops his old foe the Woodsman from beating a woman up, only to discover the woman’s head on his doorstep soon after. Who’s responsible? How do Grendel, Bluebeard, Beauty and Ichabod Crane fit into whatever’s going on? I could have done without any reference to real witches in Salem (stories that claim the witch trials found real witches leave a sour taste in my mouth) but overall extremely fun.

While I vaguely new of a Chinese Superman debuting a few years ago, I don’t think I ever saw him until picking up NEW SUPER-MAN: Coming to America by Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic. Kong Kenan is China’s newest superhero, a Superman knockoff leading a team that also includes a Chinese Wonder Woman, Flash and Bat-Man (I wonder if this was inspired by a similar Chinese villain team from the late 1970s?). As Kong has little control of his powers, this seems a long shot — can martial arts teacher I Ching (yes, a reboot version of Wonder Woman’s old teacher) enable him to master his powers? And what about the mysterious disappearance of his mother? This worked much better than I expected — two thumbs up.

#SFWApro. Covers by Matt Smith (top) and Chrissie Zullo, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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