Okay, behind on the booklog, so here’s a belated graphic novel round-up:
Let’s start with Ed Brubaker’s The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story . Iron Fist, a white guy martial artist who has the mystical power of a dragon, was half of the original Heroes For Hire, along with Luke Cage (aka Power Man). They were never particularly popular as characters, and fell into disuse by the late ‘80s. Cage got pulled back into relevance by Brian Bendis and is now an Avenger, and now it’s time for Iron Fist to be modernized and re-join the Marvel Universe already in progress. As resurrections of dated characters go, this is highly successful. Brubaker tells the story of previous generations of Iron Fist (mystical champions of a mystical city), and how the past is suddenly relevant to the current Iron Fist. It works pretty well, and serves as an impetus for Danny Rand to dust off his costume and go out heroing again. Recommended for Marvel comic fans.
Next up is Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, vol. 6: Revolution . So the thing about Civil War is that it really fucked-up the Avengers, as they were split on either side of the thing. How does Marvel deal with this? Well, it turns out that they split the title — there’s the Mighty Avengers, starring the Iron Man faction, and the New Avengers, starring the rebels. Good solution. It also means that the New Avengers need a few extra members, and hey, it turns out that Iron Fist is available now, and how about that Dr. Strange fellow? Bendis’ tales of these new New Avengers are pretty solid, and introduce some interesting surprises that have the potential to reshape what’s gone before. About the only problem here is that this graphic novel arrives out of continuity — it takes place after the much-hyped Death of Captain America, but the graphic novel telling that story is still unpublished. (This seems to be a general problem with the Avengers’ publication schedule, as the Civil War volume arrived even before the Road to Civil War stuff, too.)
Departing the Marvel Universe, we go to Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, vol. 8: My Favorite Martian , which continues the tales of his super-powered college student. I’ve stated in the past that the series is best when it stays focused on the civilian lives of the characters, and how the superpowers affect them, than when it just devolves into big super-combat battles. That’s true here, and this is a particularly civilian-focused volume, so is a better-than-average entry in the series. I still don’t understand all the wild praise this series gets, because it strikes me as maybe only the fifth or sixth best superhero book I regularly read, but maybe the lack of intercontinuity with other titles (which is a minus for me) is a plus for others.
We’ll follow Kirkman back into the Marvel Universe — or at least the Ultimate Universe — for Robert Kirkman’s Ultimate X-Men, vol. 7 , which manages to introduce the Shi’ar and the Phoenix stuff without getting particularly over-cosmic or falling into the shadow of the classic X-Men treatment of these things. It helps that this Ultimate version of the X-Men is particularly character-focused, and a lot of the story is about personal relationships between the X-Men (particularly Nightcrawler’s reaction to Colossus’ open homosexuality). The Ultimate X-Men started off slow, but the last four volumes or so have been superb, and this is now one of the best superhero titles around.
And then there’s the regular X-Men, as seen in Mike Carey’s X-Men: Supernovas . I’m going to be honest here and admit that I’m somewhat lost about X-Men continuity. I’ve read Grant Morrison’s run on the New X-Men, and then Joss’s run on Astonishing, but there’s clearly stuff that’s happened between then and Carey’s work. Setting that aside, this is a relatively self-contained story that goes from start to finish in a single (thick) volume, and it’s... basically okay. To be honest, I’d hoped for more from Carey, because he’s certainly capable of it, but this is just generic superhero fare.
But Mike Carey’s Re-Gifters is definitely not generic superhero fare, due probably to the part where it’s not a superhero story at all. Published as a “girl’s comic,” this is a black-and-white manga-style story about a Korean girl and her relationship with her family and various boys. It’s basically a comic version of Bend it Like Beckham or such similar ethnic-indie movies. It’s a well-told little story, but I really hate the manga art, which literalizes the metaphorical, with people actually looking daggers at each other or storm clouds actually hanging over people’s heads. The influence of manga on American comics is one of the most pernicious trends of recent decades, alas.