Friday, November 25, 2016

Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years

This hardcover anthology is a must-have for comic book collectors.  Collecting 22 stories that range from 1941 to 2015, with the first seven from the 40s and 50s, this is the best Aquaman collection yet published. The book is beautiful, from its endpaper images through each reprinted story (including covers), the scope of Aquaman’s history is covered. The dust jacket reprints a recent image by Jim Lee, while the embossed case-cover sports a vintage Aquaman image. The choices are generally good, although I could easily name multiple stories from the 60s and 70s that should have been included here. Aquaman’s first appearance from More Fun Comics # 73 from 1941 leads off the collection. Created by Paul Norris with writer Mort Weisinger, Aquaman endures all of these decades later. The seven vintage tales are a treat because vintage Aquaman stories rarely find themselves reprinted. These are, by the way, full color reprints. The book’s retail price is $39.99, but it’s worth it. ‘The Invasion of the Fire Trolls” from Aquaman # 1 (1962) leads off a short stint of Silver Age tales, and the remainder are of recent history. I won’t say which stories shouldn’t have been included, because in general terms the collection works. The best writers and artists are featured: Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Peter David, Geoff Johns, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, and Chuck Patton, to name a few. This a great collection for not only comic book fans, but for any young reader. Parents looking for something unique for a Christmas present might do well to pick this up. Getting comic books in the hands of young readers is all the more challenging since the days we plucked them off the spinner rack. Put this book in the hands of kids and let them discover the amazing world of sequential comic art combined with some wildly imaginative stories. This is the way comics books were meant to be. Kudos!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dan Abnett’s Aquaman

Aquaman has always been underrated. Although he has persisted as an ongoing comic book series since his first appearance in 1941, Aquaman was generally a third-string player. That changed somewhat in the 1960s when DC revamped their titles, added the Justice League and ushered in the new standard of super-hero team-ups. But Aquaman was still a third stringer. None of that really mattered for fans like me. We fans saw the potential in the character. Tales of the sea are hard to resist, and Aquaman’s life is the ultimate sea story. At times, the series has been great, at other times poor editorial choices resulted in mundane story arcs. When DC Comics rebooted their line-up (yet again) it was author Dan Abnett’s Aquaman that stood out as exceptional. This series is distinguished not only by Abnett’s solid storytelling, but by a rotating production crew that includes artists Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessey, Scot Eaton, Philippe Briones, Oscar Jimenez, Mark Morales, and Wayne Faucher. Utilizing multiple artists for an ongoing series often hurts the series because the stylistic differences lend a disjointed feel to the narrative, but that’s not the case here. 
Remarkably, even with the obvious differences, the narrative flows almost seamlessly. Aquaman also benefits from Gabe Eltaeb, the colorist, whose pages are lush and infused with brightness. This combination of artwork suitable for framing and a bright palette have served Aquaman and Abnett well. Aquaman is the best of the DC Comics “Rebirth” titles. The action is hard-core slugfest style, and the characterizations are consistent. Long-time fans of Aquaman comics and new readers alike will find themselves captivated by Aquaman’s new adventures. Abnett keeps the core history generally intact without lingering on the “Rebirth” subplot running through all of the DC titles. Abnett is telling an adventure story, and that’s all we really want. Revisionist continuity is overdone and frankly unwanted in the comic book industry, and Dan Abnett has wisely skated around that by offering up some traditional action. At the onset, Aquaman is up against an Atlantean terror group known as The Deluge, and his primary goal is preventing an Atlantean war with the surface world. Meanwhile, Aquaman has Black Manta to deal with, and his fiancé, Mera, has been asked to prove she is worthy of becoming Queen by undergoing a series of “tests” at The Tower of Widowhood. 
The first eleven issues have set the stage for perhaps the best Aquaman series yet. Let’s not forget that comic books are a predominately visual medium, and the artistic crew have done a fantastic job. The series letterer is Pat Brosseau and the series editors are Brian Cunningham and Amedeo Turturro. For those of you unfamiliar with DCs “Rebirth” all titles are published with two number # 1 issues, and some issues are published with “variant” covers. Yeah, that’s how Warner Brothers (the parent company) executives nickel and dime the public. Aquaman is worth checking out.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Obsidian Chamber by Preston & Child

Readers of the famed Pendergast series by Preston & Child won’t be surprised by the events depicted in The Obsidian Chamber, especially if they read the previous volume, Crimson Shore. There are still plenty of plot twists and heavy action to keep fans of this series turning the pages, although The Obsidian Chamber clearly marks a shift in the series. As usual, we readers are left with unanswered questions. No spoilers here, but “what happens next?” has become the ongoing motif in this exciting and original series of suspense novels. How will FBI agent A.X.L. Pendergast cope with the events described on the final pages? Frankly, I’m wondering if authors Preston & Child haven’t painted themselves into a corner with this one. On the other hand, I admire their willingness to take this series in a wholly unique direction. They have never been shy about their willingness to allow their characters to change, often dramatically, and a great deal of Constance’s actions in this book were unexpected. Again, no spoilers from me, but fans of this series are going to be tested here. Do you agree with the manner in which Preston & Child handled these events? In my discussion with other fans, I learned that many of them enjoyed the book, but with reservations, and they’re on the fence about actually stating that they “liked” it. I believe this is because Preston & Child did such a good job of setting up a profound change in the series direction, and only time will tell how it all plays out. The Obsidian Chamber is not the best book in the Pendergast series, but it’s potentially a key book that will help define future narratives. I’m a fan and so I’m on board all the way. Preston & Child have never let their readers down. Paint me as a clichéd blogger, but I can’t wait for the next one!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent

I’m not much of a gamer, but I have played all of the Tomb Raider games. I’m a Tomb Raider fan. Loved the films starring Angelina Jolie, bought the comics, and so on. I bought this novel because Dan Abnett wrote it with his wife, Nik Vincent. I’m also a Dan Abnett fan. He is currently writing DC’s Aquaman series, which is among the best of the “DC Rebirth” titles. Abnett has also published numerous outstanding novels in the acclaimed Warhammer gaming series, and even if you’re not a gamer, his novels are great entertainment. His first Tomb Raider novel was titled The Ten Thousand Immortals. Anyway, check out his books. Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever manages to capture the adventuresome spirit of the games while telling a unique story. It gets a little talky in the middle section, but Abnett and Vincent keep the pacing even. Croft delves into a mystery involving an archeological dig in England that amazingly links the UK to ancient Egypt. There are double-crosses, exotic locales and some hefty action to drive the narrative. The basic elements of the Tomb Raider mythos are present, and Abnett and Vincent add the right flourishes in the right places. Lara Croft is brainy and tough as nails, a core element in the gaming experience, and realized fully in this story. Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever is a solid adventure and highly recommended for Tomb Raider fans.