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Absolute Planetary, Vol. 1 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, Planetary, the which will apparently inspire Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch – easily one of my more anticipated titles of the relaunch.

Planetary, as imagined by Warren Ellis and John Cassidy charts “the secret history” of the fictional Wildstorm Universe, as we follow a team of pulp archeologists attempting to uncover “what’s really been going on this century.”As such, it provides Ellis and Cassidy a chance to dig around and play in the pop culture of the twentieth century, celebrating concepts and ideas as diverse as Japanese monster movies, Hong Kong revenge actioners and American pulp heroes, all with more than a hint of nostalgia and affection.

Strange ways...

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Absolute All-Star Superman (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. With All-Star Superman confirmed as the next animated DC feature, I thought I’d take a look at Grant Morrison’s original comic book story. In case you haven’t noticed, it seems the DCAU guys are big Morrison fans.

Doomed Planet.

Desperate Scientists.

Last Hope.

Kindly Couple.

Superman.

– Grant Morrison reduces perhaps the most iconic origin story down to fewer words than this synopsis, …Faster… (Chapter 1)

I have to admit, nothing quite psyches me like holding a Grant Morrison book in my hand – save maybe holding an Alan Moore book in my hand. Sure, I might not love what he’s writing and it might not necessarily be the most complete narrative experience that could have been provided, but I always want to read it again after I’m done – even if I hated it. As a writer, Morrison can crank out crazy-yet-clever concepts like nobody’s business, finding a way to put a new slant on an old piece of mythology or making a change seem like a logical extension of what came before. All-Star Superman is perhaps his most widely respected work, an attempt to boil the iconic Man of Steel down into twelve easy-to-disgest chunks, for new and old fans alike. It’s a stunning piece of comic book literature and perhaps the closest experience one could have to holding the quintessential elements of Superman in your hands.

Last sun of Krypton…

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Absolute New Frontier (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. This is a comic book review of the graphic novel which inspired the animated movie Justice League: New Frontier

Today some would say that those struggles are all over– that the horizons have been explored– that all the battles have been won– that there is no longer an American frontier.

The problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won– and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier– the frontier of the 1960s– a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.

– John F. Kennedy, 1960

It’s a Kennedy-era superhero saga, capturing a lot of the spirit of the sixties, the era that really saw DC comics – and comic books as a whole – massively reinvent themselves.

Green Lantern's light...

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Absolute Kingdom Come

The nineties were a tough decade for the comic book medium. Violence sold. “Grim and gritty” represented the direction for most major comic books. Superman died. Batman was crippled. Green Lantern became a genocidal maniac. The Flash had long since abandoned the comic book universe. This was the era back-to-back Venom miniseries, the rise of Rob Liefeld and the lethal vigilante. A lot of people trace back this trend to the success of groundbreaking series like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, which demonstrated that darker imaginings of conventional superhero comics could sell. Of course, that wasn’t the point of the comics at all, but such complexity is not the speciality of managers and executives. However, if the birth of that so-called “Dark Age” of comic books could be traced back to those roots, then perhaps Kingdom Come can be identified as the birth of a counter-movement against such trends.

Superman brings a lot to the table...

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The Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. II (Review)

I don’t think it’s really fair to split up The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen into two separate volumes. I’d argue that they are instead two halves of the same tale. It’s to the credit of this second storyline that it doesn’t feel like a sequel to the original – it feels like the second half of a circle, closing it out.

Out of this world!

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The Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. I (Review)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is, like most works from writer Alan Moore, a strange beast. Essentially a pulp comic book narrative banding together several iconic fictional characters from Victorian fiction (Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin and Edward Jekyll form the main cast), the series is much more than that. Cleverly and insidious cross-referencing and weaving its way through a slew of existing fictional and non-fictional elements. I spent as much time googling a rake of obscure and semi-obscure names and events and locations, all tying back to the great authors at the turn of the last century. How ironic that a pulpy Victorian tale would be perhaps the first classic of the internet age.

Nothing to Hyde...

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Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth (Review/Retrospective)

Face facts, John. The real Hal Jordan is back. And he’s bringing the past with him.

– Batman

Batman states the above as if it’s some sort of dire threat. Perhaps to him, one of the darker of the superhero community, it is. However, to writer Geoff Johns, it’s a mission statement. Let the reconstruction begin. It’s easy to balk at a relatively recent superhero comic being given DC’s prestige ‘Absolute’ format (it’s even easier when you realise it’s only six issues long for that hefty price tag), but Green Lantern: Rebirth deserves it. Not because it’s as iconic as, say, Alan Moore’s Watchmen or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, because it isn’t. Nor is it because of the series’ increasingly important place in the DC canon. It deserves the treatment because of what it represents. This was the moment that the pendulum swung back in mainstream comics, a conscious rejection of the “darker and edgier” philosophy that gripped the medium in the nineties. It’s also a pretty good read.

Shine a light...

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Absolute Batman: Hush (Review/Retrospective)

Hush is a divisive story arc. It seems that you either love it or you hate it, there seems to be no middle ground to speak of. Depending on where you stand it’s either a compelling exploration of Batman’s insecurities featuring a worthy new opponent for his rogues’ gallery, or it’s a hackneyed and poorly-conceived mystery which relies on an overly convoluted resolution. Honestly, I can see both sides of the argument. While I won’t argue that it’s a prestigious masterpiece in the mold of Year One or The Long Halloween, I must confess that I quite enjoyed it. Teaming up veteran Batman writer Jeph Loeb with superstar artist Jim Lee, this is very much a Batman blockbuster. It’s epic in scale, spanning most of the DC universe, with more than a few interesting (if jumbled) ideas thrown into the mix.

… Don’t say a word…

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Absolute Batman: The Dark Knight (Returns) (Review/Retrospective)

The Absolute Edition also collects The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Miller’s belated sequel is worthy of discussion on its own terms, and I plan to revisit it at some point. For the moment, however, here is the review of the original Dark Knight Returns.

It’s really quite difficult to discuss The Dark Knight Returns today. Part of the reason is because of the massive influence that Frank Miller’s Batman epilogue had on the medium, and part of it is because Miller himself has done a fairly efficient job at deconstructing his own definitive Batman work in stories like The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. It’s impossible to approach Miller’s work here entirely divorced from either reality, and the result is a rather strange and dramatic legacy for one of the most iconic Batman stories ever told. It remains fairly essential reading for anybody even remotely interested in the Caped Crusader, the superhero genre or even the medium as a whole. It’s a classic, albeit one that is sometimes quite difficult to pin down.

Lightning strikes…

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Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween (Review)

Say what you will about the Caped Crusader, as well as having the finest rogues gallery in comicdom, he also gets most of the best storylines and plots. The Long Halloween is widely considered a classic, a true Batman story for the ages and a perfect companion to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. In many ways, both stories heavily influence the two Christopher Nolan Batman movies (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) to the point where the notoriously shy-about-his-work Nolan actually provides the introduction to this collection. There’s a mark of quality right there. The story is so highly regarded for a reason, and has helped define one of the most enduring depictions of the Batman.

Batman might not be able to leap buildings in a single bound, but that won't stop him trying...

Batman might not be able to leap buildings in a single bound, but that won't stop him trying...

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