HEAVEN FORBID! TAKES A LIGHT-HEARTED BUT SOMETIMES THOUGHT-PROVOKING LOOK AT CHRISTIANS
The quality and quantity of Christian comics has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and this little gem can be added to the growing list.
Heaven Forbid! Volume 1: Not Getting Religion is a collection of writer/artist Dan Conner’s web comics which poke fun at the day-to-day adventures of average Christians, and let’s face it, if there’s one thing we don’t do enough of at times, it’s look at ourselves through humorous eyes. Collected from his Crazy Good Comics which Conner updates with new material every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
This volume begins with a guy and girl discussing an upcoming church potluck dinner and although it’s not necessarily a hilarious introduction, it does ease the reader into the narrative flow. The storytelling is very charming and smooth, making the whole volume easy to digest all in one sitting. There are cute asides that reveal what the characters are really thinking, and although in the potluck dinner, we don’t get proper introductions until about a third of the way in, it does work well as a realistic representation of formal gatherings. The dialogue is never mean, but is youthful, sometimes thought provoking, and often humorous.
KRIS BATHER on a new collection that looks at Christians "through humorous eyes"... |
TOY STORY #1 HITS THE RIGHT BALANCE OF "HUMOUR, EMOTION AND LIGHT-HEARTED FUN"
Following on from the first part of this story as seen in the recent Toy Story #0 from BOOM! Studios, The Return of Buzz Lightyear, Part Two is presented here in another charming instalment of this widely adored franchise.
Jesse Blaze Snider again impresses with his considerable writing skills. There's a lot to live up to whenever you stamp a Pixar property boldly on the cover, but BOOM! can afford to be confident. Jumping from the dark vampire romance of Dead Romeo to this kid friendly series with ease, Snider manages to erase any doubt as to his storytelling diversity.
The guy is funny. Like the previous issue, I enjoyed this more than I thought. Snider knows what Toy Story fans expect, that is, humour, emotion and light-hearted fun and with the third film set for a June release, now is the time to dive in and get reintroduced to these characters. Setting the comic between Toy Story 2 and 3 is a wise move, as it gives Snider more characters to...play with and creates a familiarity for fans of the films.
With the third Toy Story movie looming, KRIS BATHER takes a look at a comic that fills the gap since we last saw Woody, Buzz and friends... |
DIE HARD GOES BACK TO THE START
When I first saw this series promoted I thought it was a rather strange choice for a new title from BOOM! Studios. However, they have proven themselves to be the master of gaining audiences with a diverse array of popular franchises. Die Hard: Year One can now stand proudly alongside the other licences in BOOM!'s bow, such as The Incredibles, Farscape, Toy Story, The Muppet Show and others.
Granted this could easily be a generic cop series. The character of John McClane, as faithfully portrayed in the four Die Hard films, isn't necessary here. An original creation could work just as well, but to paraphrase Michael Scott from TV's The Office, there's a big difference between the first Die Hard film and 2007's Die Hard 4.0.
The 1988 classic that introduced one of the best action films of all time was a far cry from the Arnie and Sly-dominated films in the years before it. New York cop John McClane was just a normal guy who wanted to spend the holidays with his family, until a gathering of Euro-terrorists ruined his plans and forced him to kill bad guys in an increasingly desperate fashion. He was no superhuman, just a poor guy in a vest with bleeding feet.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at a comic prequel to the Die Hard movie franchise... |
ALL THAT IS OLD IS NEW AGAIN - THE RETURN OF BATMAN AND ROBIN
There's a lot riding on this series, but I don't think anyone would expect it to not be a success. Famed Scottish scribe Grant Morrison killed Bruce Wayne/Batman in Final Crisis #6 a few months ago, but as we all know the term “comic book death” exists for a reason. Bruce Wayne isn't really dead just unseen, trapped in the past. He'll come back at some point, but it seems DC aren't in a hurry to do so.
June brings a slew of new titles focused on the new Batman and Robin and how that affects Gotham and its unusual citizens. If you don't know who that new crime fighting duo are, here it is; former Robin Dick Grayson has now replaced his mentor as the new Batman, while Bruce Wayne's son Damian is the new Robin. Apart from the slightly improved costumes for both this is also a fresh start for the costumed pair.
Really, Batman and Robin haven't appeared together that frequently over the decades, especially in the last few years. This is due to the fact that both characters have had their own separate series, so it's great to see them together in a regular monthly series. Not that Dick as Batman and Damian as Robin have ever teamed up as such, however. As Dick says, "This is it. Batman and Robin. Together again for the first time".
KRIS BATHER reviews Batman and Robin #1 ... |
DYNAMO 5'S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Dynamo 5 first appeared in 2007, created by writer Jay Faerber and artist Mahmud A. Asrar. Like Faerber's other superhero family title, Noble Causes, Dynamo 5 focuses on a mixed team of heroes and the complications that come from being siblings and world savers. The tag-line, “Strangers bound by fate, and a father they never knew,” sums it up pretty well.
The intriguing premise is that the world's foremost superhero Captain Dynamo, wasn't such a great husband, and sired at least five illegitimate children. Now he's dead, and his widow, Maddie Warner, rounds up these kids, all of whom have inherited one of their Dad's powers, and shapes them into a team - Dynamo 5. That's a great launching point for any series.
This issue begins in an unusual place for an ATM - a park - as several drooling people rip it open and toss bystanders aside.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at what happens to the children of Captain Dynamo... |
BOOM! TAPS THE KIDS' MARKET WITH SOME OLD FAVORITES
BOOM! Studios recent acquisition of Disney's Toy Story. The Incredibles, Cars and Muppets franchises was a smart move. Sure, it would have cost them, but it'll pay off.
With their recent announcement of a deal that allows them to have these comics available in comics chops (obviously) and US newsstands, plus Trade Paperbacks eventually collecting the series available at bookstores, things are looking good for their new BOOM! Kids imprint. So good infact, that the debut issues of The Incredibles and The Muppet Show have all sold out the day before they were released, causing BOOM! to happily rush out second printings immediately. This is good news for kids who love Pixar films, and their parents who remember Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang. So, are the comics actually any good? You bet!
KRIS BATHER says there's something for kids and parents alike with BOOM! Studios' new releases - The Incredibles #1 and The Muppets Comic Book #1... |
STREET FIGHTER PACKS AN ACTION PUNCH
Street Fighter is a hot commodity these days. The venerable fighting franchise has always been bigger than it's roots as a much loved video game for button mashing Gen Xers, but 2009 will surely create new fans.
Street Fighter IV was recently released on next-gen consoles as the first in the series since 1999, and has been lapped up by players across the globe, mainly due to it's new characters, amazing graphics, and old school 2D battle plane. With the cinematic release of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li starring Smallville's Kristin Kreuk as the titular high kicking heroine, things are looking up.
Of course, SF fans have had plenty of comics to read over the years, especially the faithful output of Udon Studios, who have been creating SF comics since 2003. Their latest series, Street Fighter IV is a four issue mini-series that expands upon the new game. Produced by mainstay creators, writer Ken Siu-Chong and artist Joe Ng, the first issue centres on Crimson Viper. She is one of the four new fighters in the game, and along with the others Rufus, El Fuerte and Abel, will be the stars of the series, as they interact with more familiar Fighters.
KRIS BATHER gets swept up in the action of Street Fighter IV... |
A GOOD ENTRY POINT FOR BEGINNERS BUT LONG-TERM COMIC FANS WON'T GET MUCH OUT OF THE LATEST SUPERMAN/BATMAN ANNUAL
This has been one of my favourite titles since it began with the great creative pairing of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness. Then Supergirl was fantastically (re)introduced into the DC Comics Universe, with late, great penciller Michael Turner. It's been a while since it's hit these former heights though. And this Annual doesn't help. I will say one thing for it though - it's a great place to start for comic book newbies.
Written by Wolverine creator Len Wein, with beautifully fluid art by Chris Batista, this stand-alone tale is set in the past of the DCU. The problem with this extra-sized issue is that the dialogue seems straight out of an issue from 20 years ago. It just appears staid and corny, and Batman is largely out of character. There's no sense of menace or danger about him, nor is there any hint of his typically antagonistic relationship with Superman.
KRIS BATHER is a bit ambivalent about the latest Superman/Batman Annual ... |
G.I. JOE BRINGS BACK 80s MEMORIES AHEAD OF BIG SCREEN RELEASE
Hasbro had two resonant franchises in the 1980s spawned from cartoons. One was Transformers. The other was G.I. Joe. The robots in disguise had great success with their recent film (and another one on the way), while the Joe's turn on the silver screen will be upon us on 6th August.
This issue is the first in a three-pronged attack from publishers IDW. G.I. Joe is the adventure series, G.I. Joe: Origins launches next month and G.I. Joe: Cobra, which hits in March will focus on the Joes' enemy and their rise to power. Each title has a different direction and creative teams, but they all present familiar faces to children of the 80s, like me.
G.I. Joe #1 is written by longtime Batman scribe chuck Dixon, with easy-on-the-eyes art by Robert Atkins. It may mean more to hardcore fans of the Joes, especially with cameos by such characters as Beachhead, Shipwreck, and Dial Tone. Each of the Joes has a set of unique skills that reflect their code names and work together as team of hi-tech operatives battling criminal organisations around the world. The events of this issue are set directly after the events of G.I. Joe #0, but it's not necessary to have read that preview issue beforehand.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at the return of an Eighties icon, G.I. Joe... |
FIRE AND HONOUR MINISERIES AN EASY INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF WARHAMMER
This is a collection of the four issues of the Warhammer 40,000: Fire and Honour mini-series. Written by Graham McNeill with art by Tony Parker, it’s a rugged series of battles between humans and aliens with firepower and bravery used in equal measure. The collection is 128 pages long and comes complete with a gallery of the covers from the original issues.
The Cadian 71st squad, known as the Hellhounds, arrive on Baktar III for an inspection by Planetary Governor Montague and plan for their next mission in safeguarding Paradise City with the unwelcome aid of other regiments, including the 33rd. Captain Hawkins, the leader of the Hellhounds, has a reputation as a trouble-maker due to his fight with another squad leader, which leaves an unfavourable impression when meeting the Russian leader of the Vostroyan Firstborn 33rd Regiment. However, their men must work together anyway and bunker down to fortify the city.
KRIS BATHER jumps into the World of Warhammer... |
THE REMNANT A WELL-ROUNDED TALE MIXING "COP SHOW REALITY" AND THE SUPERNATURAL
So another actor is associated with a comic series, something which is usually greeted with rolling eyes, after such names as Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia and Nicolas Cage have 'worked' on recent releases. With BOOM! Studios' The Remnant, we have a Baldwin brother's name on the cover. However, don't let that deter you.
The first issue is an engrossing start to this mini-series. The story is created by Stephen Baldwin, with help from Andrew Cosby (creator of the TV show Eureka) and is scripted by Caleb Monroe. It should be noted here that Stephen Baldwin, brother of fellow actors Alec and William, has been acting for years, most notably in 1995's The Usual Suspects and has been an active Christian for the last seven years with ministries devoted to using extreme sports as a Gospel-sharing platform. He’s also a novelist and his spiritual influence can be seen in this issue.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at the first issue of a new series created by actor Stephen Baldwin... |
FLASH GORDON IS BACK IN A NEW ADVENTURE REMINISCENT OF STAR WARS
Along with Radical, Ardden are my favourite new publisher. Both companies seem committed to wisely selecting original titles, rather than flooding the market with more spandex wannabes, and it appears to be paying off.
Flash Gordon is a great licence for any company to have, and the decades old sci-fi hero hasn’t always been treated with the respect he deserves. Ardden look set to change that by putting the focus unashamedly on the hero’s swashbuckling roots but with a contemporary shine that makes it hard to resist. The recent announcement of the company’s new series, The Stand-In, by writer Jim Krueger (DC’s Justice, Dynamite’s Project Superpowers) makes an intriguing second series for this new publisher.
KRIS BATHER enjoys Flash Gordon's latest outing... |
LEVITICUS CROSS PROVIDES A NEW TAKE ON AN ANCIENT PAST
I always like to give the underdog a go. In the comic book field, that means new publishers. It's a tough market, with even tougher competition, but I admire any creator that puts their creative and entrepreneurial work out there for the world to see.
Newcomer Hays Entertainment's launch title, Leviticus Cross, certainly gets points for a catchy title. If you think it's vaguely Biblical you'd be right, judging by this issue. The prologue recounts for us the story of man's early days, including the Nephilim from Genesis 6. Created by Seth Hays, and written by Josh Torres, the pair take this often misunderstood verse and run with it. The world explored in this issue is one where mortal giants and immortal angels and demi-gods appear to be feuding relatives. Angels acted as divine caretakers of the earth and its occupants until curiosity got the better of some, resulting in a new breed of humans with angelic fathers, who then decide to recede from the world of man and build their own city, Asgard.
KRIS BATHER sees great potential in Hays Entertainment's launch title, Leviticus Cross... |
PARKOUR GOES COMIC IN MIRROR'S EDGE
DC’s Wildstorm imprint know their way around a good game licence, especially with Gears of War and World of Warcraft under their belt. Comics based on games usually fare a lot better than films based on games, so it’s a good thing we’re seeing a lot of adaptations lately.
Mirror’s Edge is developed from the recently released game based on a sci-fi version of parkour. If you’ve seen the opening of Casino Royale or the excellent French film, District B-13, you’ll know what that is - a unique style of constant motion and acrobatic movement. Basing a game on the concept seems crazy enough that it just might work, especially considering the popularity of every Spider-Man game. The game will be about more than just running and diving and rolling though, as that novelty would soon wear out its welcome. There’s some action/adventure stuff in there too.
KRIS BATHER flips through the pages of new Wildstorm comic Mirror's Edge... |
TALES FROM THE FARM A "RESTRAINED" TAKE ON THE TRAGEDY AND UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE
Creator Jeff Lemire’s graphic book deserves its praise. Essex County Vol. 1 Tales From The Farm, to give it its full title, was published by independent publisher Top Shelf last year. Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse are the two volumes that followed. All three are set in a farming community in Southwestern Ontario in Canada, and focus on the assorted characters who dwell there.
Tales From The Farm is amazingly restrained in its beauty. With autobiographical comics, even loose ones like this, it can be difficult for writers not to throw in the kitchen sink in order to increase its realism. Thankfully, Lemire knows better. As writer/artist it’s clear that he’s in charge and knows completely what he’s doing.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at Tales From The Farm... |
ZONDERVAN TAPS INTO THE GRAPHIC NOVELS MARKET WITH A KID-FRIENDLY RANGE
Kids love comics. However comics don't always love kids. Enamoured though they may be by the likes of Batman and Iron Man, their big screen adventures aren't necessarily kid-friendly material. Nor are their comics. All this can make parents wisely cautious when it comes to buying stuff that will entertain their children without making them grow up too quickly.
That's where Zondervan come in. They're not alone in publishing comics tailored for both children and adults, but they are certainly doing a great job in creating a wealth of unique tales that parents need not be concerned about.
One of the world's largest Christian publishers, Zondervan moved into comics publishing last year. It was a wise move, and considering their continual output, I can only assume it was a successful one too. With their Z Graphic Novels imprint crafting such diverse tales as Tomo and Son of Samson plus the well-received Manga Bible, all with world-class creators, there is now something for the young 'ens following their parents on their next trip to the Christian bookstore. Each of the titles consists of a series of books released a few months apart, and is in the popular manga digest format with black and white art, which means they are relatively inexpensive.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at a a couple of Zondervan's graphic novels... |
ZERO-G'S DEBUT LITTLE MORE THAN A SCENE SETTER
I know this book has been getting its praise, from the likes of Stan Lee (in his typically enthusiastic way) and Steve Niles, but I can only assume they’ve been privy to all of the issues. I’m not saying this is a bad book. Far from it. It’s just that this opening salvo is not entirely original. But, that said, there is certainly a firm foundation so I can only hope that it continues to build upon this issue to create a fully immersive sci-fi tale.
Produced by Top Cow and Spacedog Entertainment, Zero-G is written by Alex Zamm, with art by Jason Badower. This is undoubtedly their biggest book to date and could be a great launching point for long lasting careers if this series takes off. It’s a suitable showcase for the talents of both men.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at Zero-G's first issue... |
FLASH GORDON'S RETURN WON'T DISAPPOINT
Flash Gordon has had more facelifts than an ageing starlet. The sci-fi character was created by Alex Raymond in 1934 as a newspaper strip hero to compete with Buck Rogers. However, good old Flash has fared much better. Most would be familiar with the character from the awesome 1980 film (sing it with me, “FLASH! AHAAA!), the late 80s Defenders of the Earth cartoon, or last year's poorly received TV series. However, far too many people confuse the character with DC Comics' Flash (the guy that runs really fast), much to the chagrin of fanboys everywhere.
Ardden Entertainment is the newest publisher in the comic book biz, with Flash Gordon being their sole release. After a #0 issue launched at the New York Comic-Con, we have the official debut of the blond adventurer's latest re-imagining.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at the latest incarnation of an old favorite... |
DRAGON PRINCE TAKES A BACK TO BASICS APPROACH
Starting any comic with a wounded crimson dragon being attacked by gun wielding motorcyclists in an ancient rice field is certainly attention grabbing. Writer Ron Marz (Green Lantern, Witchblade) is no stranger to worlds which couple mysticism with heroism, and here he distinguishes himself from the pack yet again by offering another creator-owned adventure.
We soon learn that the man versus dragon battle is being relayed by a single mother to her young son, Aaron. The boy seems vaguely interested in such bed-time tales, until the next day at school, when his regular bullying gets him all riled up, triggering a transformation within him in which he vomits fire and turns pale green. How embarrassing.
KRIS BATHER says Dragon Prince is an "oasis" for those looking for a break from the edgy... |
ANOTHER STAR WARS ADDITION BUT STARKILLER'S STORY DESERVES BETTER
With all the hype the Force Unleashed game has been getting - which from what I've seen so far, it certainly deserves - this comic tie-in has slipped under the Star Wars radar.
Of course, it was always going to be an uphill battle, with the frenzy surrounding the upcoming LucasArts release, so it's no surprise that this OGN (original graphic novel) appears to be the forgotten sibling in the game's shadow. After reading this story I've come to realise that sadly, it can't compete with a lot of the other comics out there either.
It certainly doesn't help that it can't even be found on the official Star Wars site, and that both Dark Horse and Amazon list the book as 104 pages, while it actually goes up to 126. That's enough to make any SW loyalist about as confused as Jar Jar Binks at poker.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at Star Wars: The Force Unleashed... |
DOWNSIZED SUPERHEROES LIGHTEN THE MOOD
DC's current gallery of books is hardcore, with more convoluted stories than usual. Final Crisis and it's truck load of tie-in issues has our heroes facing their darkest day (apparently), and with Batman RIP (the Dark Knight's existence has seemingly come to an unexpected end), the DC Universe is not the simplest or happiest world to visit.
However, they still know how to entertain and in recent months DC have given me much more mirth than usual, thanks in part to Tiny Titans, a simple book with short tales, chock-full of fanboy in-jokes. It always puts a smile on my face. Now there's this Superman/Batman two-parter. I don't think I've laughed out loud so much in a single issue. A pleasant change from last month's issue #50 which presented a far-out tale where the parents of our titular heroes may have met decades ago, this story is just plain fun, with no need for previous knowledge.
KRIS BATHER has a laugh with DC's latest... |
MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES PROVIDES A NEW LOOK AT SOME FAMILIAR STORIES
It’s almost as good an idea as talking apes that fight crime: you take the Bible’s most well known stories, and replace familiar characters with mechanized robots. Because of such an intriguing concept, Mecha Manga Bible Heroes has received a fair bit of attention from the mainstream press, who would normally ignore anything with the words 'Christian', or 'comic book', involved. The beauty of MMBH is that it has the potential to allow children tired of the same old Sunday school approach to fall in love with these tales, perhaps for the first time, and I can assure a lot of adults out there that there’s something in here for you too.
The first issue is a 36 pager and the bulk of the issue focuses on the retelling of the popular David vs Goliath Old Testament battle. Tom Hall and Joey Endres have adapted the story well, and made it kid-friendly, ditching any obvious signs of decapitation in favour of a fast paced narrative and some great physical humour. For those hard nosed fanboys, this may not replace your love of spandex adventurers, with its simplified plot, and pencils, but it’s a great ministry tool and a fun family read.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at the first issue of Mecha Manga Bible Heroes... |
REVISITING CLASSIC FANTASY THEMES MAKES MICE TEMPLAR A SATISFYING EXPERIENCE
I’ve been following this series since it began. It doesn’t have the traits of my usual picks - that is, no spandex, or space ships, or surprising resurrections. It doesn’t even have any secret identities! But what Mice Templar does offer is great story telling, and that’s enough to make it stand out from the superheroes crowding the racks.
Writer Bryan J.L Glass (Magician: Apprentice) and artist Mike Avon Oeming (Powers) are crafting this series in to the next great epic in sequential art. I’d compare it to Lord of the Rings since it deals with a dirty fantasy world rich in textured history, but it can also win favour with the Narnia crowd in the way it wraps deceptively cute anthropomorphic adventures in a cloak of adult themes. It would undoubtedly be a more engrossing experience reading the complete series, once finished, in collected form, but thankfully each issue has a handy reminder of what’s come before to refresh the memory. Since this is a bi-monthly series, this addition is particularly welcome and the casual reader should find enough with any issue to be hooked immediately.
KRIS BATHER reviews Mouse Templar #5... |
ATOMIC ROBO WILL "RENEW YOUR LOVE" FOR COMICS
Atomic Robo made an impression on the comics scene last year the same way he does in this story; packed with action and pleasant surprises. From new publisher, Red 5 ( who seem to be picking their projects wisely), this series is the ideal gateway title.
If you’ve been away from comics for a while with all the soap opera spandex stories, or the ever-increasing adult tales wrapped in seemingly childlike packages, then you need to do yourself a favour. You need to buy Atomic Robo Volume 1. It will renew your love for the medium and give you faith in its future. Books that are simply fun and that can be shared with the whole family are a rarity on today’s stands. Robo is a new creation, yet he brings together the best bits of pulp adventurers as well as the fun of early Savage Dragon and the 'actiony' wit of Hellboy (the movie version).
KRIS BATHER looks at Atomic Robo... |
STATION CONTINUES SCI-FI TRADITION
Space is a great setting for stories beyond straight sci-fi. Films like the original Alien, Solaris and last year’s Sunshine showed us that it isn’t always extra-terrestrials that are the greatest threat. Paranoia and claustrophobia can play their part in creating terror too. With astronauts cut off from their loved ones and the strange sensation of zero gravity, normality is thrown out the window.
Boom Studios’ Station continues this tradition. The first issue of a four part monthly series kicks things off with a bang. Well, not a bang really, but an immediate sense of desperation.
The international space station is a gleaming example of scientific advancement and a unified humanity. That is until the latest batch of multinational astronauts take up residence in its cramped quarters.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at a new sci-fi comic that takes up where films like last year's thriller, Sunshine, left off... |
BACK TO THE BEGINNING IN MARVEL'S ULTIMATE ORIGINS
It was a wonderful treat to fanboys such as myself to see Iron Man’s box-office success. Not only because it gave the general public awareness of another classic comics character, and faithfully so, but also because of its hidden final scene. In case you didn’t know, Samuel L. Jackson made comics readers hearts jump with glee in a cameo with the excellent Robert Downey Jr. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you wait after the end credits you’ll see it for yourself.
This issue attempts to do the same, but on a grander scale. Marvel wasn’t the first comics publisher to unite their characters in the same world. That honour goes to DC’s 1940’s Justice Society which gathered several of their popular characters together under one title, giving fans more bang for their buck. Marvel are the best at this kind of unity however. They have more superhero (and villain) teams, and guest stars than you can count.
KRIS BATHER says Ultimate Origins may not suit newcomers but is one for long term fans... |
SUPERMAN MEETS AN OLD FOE
This is a glorious time for comics’ oldest superhero title. Writer Geoff Johns can do no wrong with these timeless characters, or should that be, franchises? Issue 866 is part one of a new story arc, aptly titled, Braniac, and that should tell you all you need to know.
Well, just in case, here’s a bit more info. Braniac is one of Superman’s oldest villains, and like the rest has gone many changes of powers, identities and costumes throughout the decades since his 1958 debut. He has appeared in the TV series, Smallville and also in various animated shows such as the recent Justice League Unlimited and Legion of Super-Heroes. Essentially, however, the current version is a green-skinned being from the planet Colu with powers including telepathy, extreme intellect and the ability to transplant his consciousness into other hosts.
KRIS BATHER enjoys catching up with an old favorite... |
THE 'BOY' WONDER RETURNS
Most people would only be familiar with Robin as the kid sidekick from the travesty that was the 1960s Batman TV show. However, the comics truth is thankfully a lot deeper. There have been three different Robins over the years since the original’s first appearance in 1940’s Detective Comics #38. It is this Robin, Dick Grayson, that most people would be familiar with. Throughout the decades Grayson grew as a character and as a man, and eventually stepped out of the Dark Knight’s shadow to become the solo hero Nightwing. Along came the leadership role of the Teen Titans, a new costume, a new city to defend and, of course, his own self-named title.
The 80s was the time of excess in comic books as well, with superheroes delving ever deeper into mature themes, mostly lead by Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. The Boy Wonder did not remain unscathed either, or rather his replacement didn’t. Jason Todd was a street kid and the second boy to continue the Robin tradition.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at Robin #174... |
JUSTICE LEAGUE'S "OLD FRIENDS" RETURN FOR SOME NEW ACTION
I love the Justice League. Over the last 15 years in which I’ve been an avid comics reader, it has always been the one title that has consistently offered stories and characters on an epic scale.
It was Grant Morrison that gave DC’s long-running title a shot of adrenaline in the early 90s with a sense of grandeur as these legends, and pop culture icons, fought side-by-side against everything the crazy Scot could throw at them. His relaunch brought back DC’s Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) and various other fan favourites together in one book and launched the writer into his current status as critical and commercial darling.
Novelist Brad Meltzer recently took the reins of the current series after his astonishing Identity Crisis mini-series that made these heroes look at their lives a lot more solemnly. Dwayne McDuffie has written the last few issues since Meltzer’s (hopefully) temporary absence and has done a stellar job.
KRIS BATHER peruses the Justice League's latest adventures... |
ACTION COMICS' ANNUAL "WORTH THE WAIT"
Action Comics has a rich history. Superman debuted in its pages in 1938 and virtually created the entire comic book industry as we know it today. As with any character that has lasted so long the Man of Steel has had his ups and downs, but the last few months have been kind.
DC Comics’ golden boy, Geoff Johns, continues to stamp his childlike wonder and awareness of superhero history onto this title. It is just one monthly book that the Last Son of Krypton appears in regularly, and as the name suggests, focuses on action. The six part story with the future set Legion of Super-Heroes has just wrapped as has the Last Son, concluded in this extra-sized annual. Those familiar with the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films will find much to enjoy here. That is partly due to Johns’ writing partner on this story arc - his one-time boss, and director of Superman: The Movie, Richard Donner.
KRIS BATHER is impressed by what he sees in Action Comics' Annual... |
IRON MAN KICKS GOALS - AND NOT JUST AT THE BOX OFFICE!
Ol' Shellhead's box office haul at the cinemas means that everyone now knows who he is. And that's a good thing. Of all of Marvel's ever-expanding stable of characters Tony Stark's metallic alter ego has always just slipped through the public consciousness, despite numerous cartoon adventures through the years since his 1963 debut in Tales of Suspense #39.
Thanks to director Jon Favreau's insistence on casting Robert Downey Jr and staying true to the source material, Iron Man is now cooler than he's ever been, and Marvel is wisely making the most of the spotlight. Invincible Iron Man has just been launched as his second ongoing title and director Favreau, in conjunction with artist Adi Granov - whose designs inspired the look of the movie costume, have teamed up again on this four issue mini-series. Both new series have already sold out, with second printings available next month.
KRIS BATHER finds Iron Man's graphics superb... |
COMIC NOTES: AMID THE CROWDS CHRISTIANS RAISE THE BANNER AT COMIC-CON
Apart from crowds, costumes, coffee and comics, there was something else at Comic-Con - Christians! I saw a flyer for CCAS (that's Christian Comics Arts Society) on the always popular freebies table, so I had to go.
The guys and girls from CCAS have been going to the Con for the last 12 years, shining the light. They have seen many Christian companies come and go during that time, but have been blessed enough to always get a table, and have continued growing in numbers. It's encouraging to see such talented, humble believers using the gifts God has given them.
The first of the three panels was entitled, “Spirituality in Comics,” and had an eclectic mix of panelists, including Captain Marvel expert and Alter-Ego writer, P.C Hamerlinck, Cory Edwards (writer/director of Hoodwinked and the upcoming Fraggle Rock: The Movie), Scott Wong (Brethren Entertainment) and Holly Golightly (Broadsword Comics). It was hosted by author Leo Partible. You gotta love the Con - where else would you find a bunch of Christians and a self-declared witch discussing the same topic?
In the second of his reports from San Diego's Comic-Con, KRIS BATHER meets up with some Christian artists... |
COMIC NOTES: POP CULTURE RULES AT SAN DIEGO'S COMIC-CON
Comic books brought me here. It has always been my dream to visit America. I vividly recall watching the animated Super Powers show on TV as an enthusiastic youngster. To me, America was where Superman, Batman, The Flash and co. lived. Technically, it’s Metropolis, Gotham and Central City but the US of A gave birth to superheroes and effectively created comics as the art form we know and love today. Almost every month it seems there is a pop culture convention somewhere on these shores, but San Diego Comic-Con is the largest. It draws the biggest crowds and most attention from the mainstream press. I have hoped and prayed that one day I’d be in the exclusive number, and here I am.
Flying from Perth to San Diego meant almost three days in the air, or on the ground waiting to get in the air. No shower, no sleep and no direct sunlight were my rewards. Travelling alone allowed me to befriend others in Tokyo and LA on the way though. I managed to make some friendly, if temporary, travelling companions, which made the distance seem less daunting.
KRIS BATHER unleashes his 'inner geek' at San Diego's Comic-Con... |
LIVING IN COMMUNITY
The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Justice League, The Avengers, The Outsiders, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps. The list goes on and on.
The team concept is one of the comic industry's best sellers and will undoubtedly continue to be. With extra characters come extra story possibilities due to all the varied interactions and personality clashes. Marvel’s Punisher would be the most obvious anti-team player in comic books. He sees himself as a hero; a man picking up the slack of the paltry legal system, whereas DC’s Batman has often worked with the Gotham City Police Department. The Punisher sees himself as the only man worthy to dispense justice. All of his rage and frustration spews forth from his fists and gun barrels. Batman knows that in order to dispense true justice, his methods and motivations must be in direct contrast to the odd assortment of criminals he fights.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at what comics have to tell us about community... |
THE POWER OF PURPOSE
In the JLA mini-series, A Midsummer's Nightmare, the evil Dr Destiny puts Superman and co. in a coma-like state, while their dream selves live in an alternate universe where they are clearly not superheroes. They are - normal. Aquaman is not the King of Atlantis in this world, but on the board of a seafood conglomerate. Wonder Woman is not a proud ambassador for peace, but a school teacher. Earth's greatest heroes are mundane and powerless. Of course, they still have strange dreams reminding them of what their life is supposed to be like. Dr Destiny knew that taking away the League's true power and identity would effectively nurture them. You rob someone of a purpose, and you rob them of their power, or, at least, a reason to use their power responsibly.
It's an interesting theme, one which writer Mark Waid re-visited in his “ID” story arc. The Cathexis, a pair of sixth-dimensional scientists, visit earth and tell the Justice League that they are searching for a dangerous sentient energy known as ID, created to transform desire in to reality. It turns out the Cathexis were liars and as a result, people all over the world see their wildest fantasies became a new, chaotic reality. The alien pair also manage to separate the League members from their secret identities, thus Superman becomes two beings - mild mannered, and powerless Clark Kent, and the Kryptonian Kal-El. Bruce Wayne's parents were now never killed, and he becomes the careless playboy he pretended to be. He's greedy, short tempered and generally hates the world. His true purpose, and desire to better himself, never existed.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at what we can learn from the importance of purpose in the lives of comic book heroes... |
COMICS AND THE CROSS
In comics, death is a supporting character. Both Marvel and DC have characters that share that name, but I'm not referring to a fictional creation. Rather I'm talking about the cold, hard reality of drawing your last breath. Death has been there since the beginning of the medium, when millions died, unknowingly giving birth to the first superhero.
The entire planet of Krypton was destroyed due to its highly unstable core. Only the scientist Jor-El could foresee this but could not convince his world's leaders to believe him. (Maybe he should've used Proverbs 16:18; “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”) Jor-El could do nothing, so he and his wife Lara chose to at least give their only son a chance at life. They put him in an experimental capsule and shot him at earth, a planet with similar properties to Krypton. Kal-El landed in Smallville, was raised by the Kents and eventually grew to become Superman.
In the first of a new column discussing comics, KRIS BATHER takes a look at the parallels between the origins of superheroes and the one, real hero, Jesus Christ... |