BookBin2016: Batgirl Volume 5: Deadline

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What? Two reviews in an hour? What is this madness?

It’s called quick reviews of lackluster graphic novels. #spoilerz

I finally got around to reading Volume 5 in the New 52 Batgirl reboot. Apparently, Deadline also is the last in this series before they rebooted the character again, moved her to a different location, changed her look, and changed her appeal to be more “youth-centered.” Translation: Batgirl ain’t for my old ass anymore.

Of course, this final Batgirl from the Gail Simone run wasn’t really for me either. I felt totally disconnected and confused by several of the stories in this collection. I’ve either forgotten key plot points from the previous four volumes or DC did to me what Marvel used to do all the time when I read X-Men comics (and that pissed me off just as much then as it did now with this collection).

I hate when comics become part of a story arc that runs across several titles. I mean, it’s okay every now and then, especially if you have a huge story that you know will require more than just one particular superhero and will deserve the wider audience (as I seemed appeased when they pulled this same thing in the third collection). However, I felt as though several themes in this collection were pieces from several different (and mediocre) puzzles that I simply didn’t care enough about to piece together. Also, it strikes me as frustratingly and offensively greedy of comics companies to demand that readers invest so much money into being able to get the whole story when all they might care about is one faction of the comics universe.

[Loba Translation: I don’t give a damn about Batman. Stop trying to make me give a damn.]

Final Verdict: Just as it was with my last Batwoman experience, I’m drawing the line at 5 with Batgirl. I won’t be following Babs and her roomie Alysia to Burnside.

BookBin2015: Batwoman Volume 5: Webs

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This, sadly, is going to be both my shortest Batwoman review and my last Batwoman review. At least for now. They’ve ended her solo run and, while there is one final graphic novel out there, I have no intention of buying it. I couldn’t care less how Marc Andreyko ended this series. By the time I finished this graphic novel, I was left so apathetic that I couldn’t even muster the energy to be furious that the last two pages pretty much seemed to imply that Batwoman was about to be raped by her new nemesis, Nocturna.

Okay, not completely bereft of fury. Seriously, DC? It’s not okay for Batwoman to marry her girlfriend but it’s okay for her new enemy to mentally Roofie her as she’s trying to fall asleep and trick her into believing she’s someone else so that Batwoman won’t fight her off? Oh, and really subtle artwork in that last panel, of Nocturna, who is apparently a vampire or vampire-like character, penetrating Batwoman with her fangs while Batwoman arches back against her while wearing just a camisole and undies. And with a look on her face as if she were enjoying what was happening to her. Great message there. Absolutely.

What utter bullshit. Sorry, but there’s no tactful way to put it. The whole novel was just example after example of piss-poor writing and some of the most mediocre artwork to ever grace a Batwoman comic. There was nothing satisfying about any of this collection, starting with Andreyko’s terribly anticlimactic ending to the story arc that Williams and Blackman started (and should have been allowed to end, dammit). And then to end the novel on that so-not-kosher, rapey WTAF were you thinking note? Allow me to be thoroughly clear with this sentiment, DC Comics. Fuck. You.

So utterly disappointing. Thanks, DC, for ruining my current favorite character from your comics line. Oh, and it looks like you’ve turned Batgirl into a character I don’t really want to follow anymore either. Thanks. For nothing.

Final Verdict: The only redeemable thing about this collection is the clean copy of that great WWII-era artwork of Batwoman as one of the ball players from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. I think I’m probably just going to slice that out and then get rid of the rest of the book. Not even going to donate it. Just going to toss it in the recycle bin. That’s how much I hated this collection.

BookBin2014: Batwoman Volume 4: This Blood Is Thick

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I’m quite sad that I am here to give a rather lackluster review to my latest adventure with Kate Kane. Perhaps it’s because the last collection was, by far, the best of the best since Batwoman’s “New 52” relaunch. After all, it’s kind of hard to top Batwoman partnering with Wonder Woman. Also, Williams was back as the artist, which you all know delights me to no end. And both Williams and Blackman were fiercely on-point when it came to that collection’s story arc. Simply put, the third collection was perfection, IMHO.

The fourth volume, This Blood Is Thick, isn’t awful (that’s such backhanded praise, no?). Something about it, however, didn’t set well with me. Perhaps it had more to do with my knowledge of the behind-the-scenes issues. As fans know, this was Williams and Blackman’s last run as Batwoman’s authors. She’s now in another’s hands, with Williams and Blackman not even concluding the cliffhanger on which this collection ends. It’s a good cliffhanger, to be sure…but that just makes it all the worse. Dance with the one who brought you, DC. They brought the Lady Kane to this precipice. They should have been the ones allowed to lead her over the edge.

But I digress.

Perhaps it also was because Batwoman actually doesn’t get all that much air time in this collection. Surprisingly, for being the titular character, she’s almost relegated to supporting cast a lot of the time. That’s not necessarily terrible, since many of the supporting characters in Batwoman’s world are pretty ace…but I still would like my fair share of time with the star of the show. Also, I didn’t really like the injection of Batman villains into Batwoman’s storyline. I get why they’re there, but I have always enjoyed that Batwoman kind of exists in her own…what? Parallel universe to Batman and the rest of the Bat family? They don’t really intersect all that often (although Batgirl got a full-on taste of Batwoman’s mad skills a while back). I like that. But this time, seeing Batwoman going up against Batman foes like Mr. Freeze and Bane? I don’t know anything about these characters…and I don’t care to. They aren’t Batwoman characters. So GTFO.

Says the one who went crazy over Wonder Woman’s appearance in the last collection.

Finally, though, it really is the ending that really pissed me off with this collection. Again, Williams and Blackman were cut off at the knees here. They’d already written Issue 25 (the continuation of where this collection ended) and were beginning to plan out Issue 26, which would have ended the arc of this particular Batwoman run. They knew where all the characters were going to end up, they knew how they were going to conclude the story…and now? Now we’re never going to get their ending. And that sucks. Seriously, I reached the last page and felt oh so frustrated and not the least bit furious. Really? That’s it? That’s how you wanna roll with this, DC Comics? Lame.

Final Verdict: All that being said, I’m keeping this in my collection. I don’t think that it was so terrible that I don’t want to own it anymore. I am, however, very disheartened by the truncated whimper on which Williams and Blackman have gone out with Batwoman. This is the last batch of their comics, and the next collection will mark the arrival of the new Weaver of Tales for the Lady Kane, Marc Andreyko. I’m not sure what to expect with the next collection, but I love the character enough that I’m willing to give it a proper chance to impress me. All I have to say is don’t blow this, Andreyko. I don’t take kindly to people fumbling my fandoms.

BookBin2013: Batman R.I.P.

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Yes, that’s right…one more BookBin review for the late, great 2013. I didn’t completely finish this one last year, but I finished the bulk of it…so it counts, dammit.

To be honest, I felt mostly lost the entire time that I was reading Batman R.I.P., written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Tony S. Daniel (with cover art by the impeccable Alex Ross…who likes Batman’s eyes to be brown while the book artist makes them blue). I don’t really follow Batman in the comics. I know enough about him through comic book osmosis, the 1960s show, and the Tim Burton movies (well, at least the first one was awesome). The only thing the Christopher Nolan movies taught me was that I could really hate Batman under the right circumstances.

Nolan’s movies also taught me that I really don’t like The Joker being played as totally psychopathic and cruel. He needs to have some kind of softening humor to him. Some kind of Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson joie de vivre. Without that whimsy, he’s just…like any other psychotic killer. Even Alan Moore’s Joker was more interesting than the way the character comes across now. And having him split his tongue with a straight razor (SPOILERZ) so that it looked like a serpent’s tongue? That was around the point when I kind of shut down on that character. I can’t help it. I grew up with Romero’s kooky, loveable Joker and “This town needs an enema!” Nicholson Joker. Besides, why does everything have to be so sick and twisted and dark anymore? Tongue-splitting Joker. Neck-breaking Superman. Spoilerz. What happened to having fun with these stories?

I get that Batman’s had a rough life. As rough as a life can be for a multimillionaire who never has to work an honest day in his entire life. I guess we should be thankful that he wants to do good and fight evil rather than jet off to Bora Bora every weekend with his latest fling. Still, lighten up, Brucie. Dark Knight is Dark. And mopey. Then again, this is called “Batman R.I.P.” Moping is allowed, I suppose, when everyone is always trying to kill you.

All in all, it was an entertaining read with some really fine artwork, even if: A) I felt like I was missing key information while reading parts of it; and B) It does go a bit off the rails here and there (although maybe those moments would have made more sense if I’d had all the pieces to the puzzle). Also, no one is ever going to believe that any of these characters is ever going to really die. People who don’t really die: Star Trek characters and comic book heroes. Whether they come back as half-Romulan hybrids or they’re rebooted back into existence, they’re always going to be around. Not even having a bridge dropped on him could stop Captain Kirk, in the books at least. SpoilerZ. So at no point did I ever believe that Batman was really going to die. Also, I have the pleasure of being in the now and knowing that Batman does, indeed, still live.

I also don’t really get the back story for all the different Robins. Yeah, I know that one of them is now Nightwing. And I think one of them is dead (okay, so some characters do die…but only the replaceable ones). Not that I really care all that much. Still…it feels like there’s something questionable going on in Gotham that they keep remanding all these boys over to Bruce Wayne’s care but not investigating when they “go missing.” Maybe that’s just me. I had to laugh at the appearance of original Batwoman, in her yellow onesie and her Bat lust for Bruce Wayne. Oh, Katy Kane. You so cray.

And now excuse me while I wash my brain out with peroxide for actually using the word “cray.”

Final Verdict: Even though I found the novel enjoyable enough to finish it, I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not much of a Batman comic fan. I still love the original series and I still love the Tim Burton movie. I also like the concept of the character, for the most part. However, I think I find others from the Bat Family more interesting than the Dark Knight. Still, I’ve got a “classic” Batman graphic novel in my collection that I need to finally read. I’ll let you know how that goes…

BookBin2013: Batwoman Volume 2: To Drown the World and Volume 3: World’s Finest

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I told you I’d be speaking of the Lady Kane very soon. I bought all three of these graphic novels at the same time, and while I enjoyed Batgirl’s collection immensely, it was really all about Batwoman for me. These two graphic novels, To Drown the World and World’s Finest, barely made it into the house before I was flipping through them, devouring the visuals, squeeing at the snippets that my brain was able to process on a first-blush review, and then champing at the bit in anticipation of the story that awaited me.

Admittedly, I might have enjoyed the second Batgirl collection a bit more if I wasn’t so looking forward to these two novels. Sorry, Batgirl.

Truthfully, though, I was a little bit…not necessarily disappointed by the second Batwoman collection…but definitely not as enamored of it as I was of her first go in the New 52 universe. One of the primary reasons is a pretty obvious one. J.H. Williams III didn’t do most of the artwork for this collection. He and W.H. Blackman were busy writing the story, so a lot of the interior art was done by Amy Reeder, Trevor McCarthy, and Pere Perez, with Guy Major doing the coloring. Not that this made the artwork terrible…but Williams is such a masterful artist that not seeing his work makes you painfully aware of how unlike Williams most other artists are.

Plus, there are a lot more “male gaze/crotch/butt/boob” illustrations of Batwoman in this novel than previously, which I found very distracting. These particular poses die down after a while, but the fact that they’re in there at all really annoys me. Batwoman isn’t here to titillate you with pendulous breasts and a latex-clad badonka-donk. She’s here either to save or kick your ass, depending on which side of the law you choose. Also, if you’re turning to comic books for that kind of titillation? Here’s a little bit of advice: Women, even the comic book variety, are on this planet for more than your ogling. Also? Batwoman is not interested in you.

Williams and colorist Dave Stewart return to the drawing table for the comics that make up the third volume, giving even more credence to the collection’s title, World’s Finest. Not to mention the fact that the third volume’s writing is that much stronger…and there’s the fact that another DC Comics heroine makes a guest appearance throughout this collection, making it that much more amazing.

But first, the second volume. Just as I stated in my review of Batgirl’s Knightfall Descends, I feel like this second collection is a bridge collection, with story arcs designed to get us from the amazing work in Hydrology to World’s Finest. It’s still a solid offering (probably more so that Knightfall Descends) and carries the plot forward in strong ways.

The payoff, however, is the third volume, which is brilliant from start to finish. Plus? Wonder Woman. Yeah, that’s right. Wonder Woman plays a major part in this collection as she agrees to team with Batwoman to help defeat the latest menace to threaten the residents of Gotham City.

[Loba Tangent: Why are there even still people who live in Gotham City? I’m sorry, but not even knowing that Batwoman had my back would make me want to…okay, never mind. I would totally stay in Gotham if Batwoman was there to protect me. Carry on.]

Seriously, denizens, the third volume of the Batwoman story is ace all the way. Williams and Blackman are so on-point throughout, and Williams’s artwork shines as always. He makes the graphic novel experience such an immense joy, even when depicting some of the darkest, most gruesome moments. And believe me when I say that Batwoman’s world is incredibly dark and incredibly gruesome.

To be honest, this third volume made me believe that Batwoman could totally convey to a movie experience. This is definitely in part to Williams being such a masterful artist…his vision of Batwoman’s world is absolutely cinematic. Plus, the fantastical villains and epic battles would look amazing on a big screen. It definitely helps that the writing is so great as well. I know I said before that I didn’t think Williams was as strong a writer as he is an artist, but I do believe that the combo team of Williams and Blackman nail this story in such amazing ways. They both have hit such a stride, not only with the large-scale story arcs but also with the smaller, more intimate character developments. They also do a fantastic job on inner monologues, something that Gail Simone does with equal (and at times greater) mastery with her Batgirl writing. Plus, using this particular storyline would also bring Wonder Woman to the big screen, which is something that I fear might never actually happen unless she rides in on someone else’s coattails…or cape. All the better if she came in, lariat blazing, with another bad-ass comic heroine!

Of course, my high praise and adoration for the third Batwoman graphic novel makes the recent shakedown at DC Comics all the more disappointing and upsetting. Williams and Blackman have walked away from Batwoman because of DC Comics brass interfering in story lines that they had already greenlit. Story lines that should be allowed to be completed. I was willing to be a little less decisive about this until I read these latest offerings, but now that I have? I so very much would love to see the continuation of this story that Williams and Blackman wanted to tell. There’s a fourth collection that will contain what I think are the last of Williams and Blackman’s contributions to Batwoman…so at least there’s that. Still, I can’t even begin to express my disappointment that they have left…and have taken an amazing story with them.

Final Verdict: Not only am I keeping these (der), I’m also going to finally pick up Wonder Woman’s New 52 novels. Her story is currently being told by Brian Azzarello. I’m not that fond of his writing style, as I previously indicated in my review of his Joker graphic novel. Also, Cliff Chiang is in charge of the artwork. I’m not really all that crazy about his style either. Unless, of course, he’s drawing Wonder Woman as Joan Jett. Otherwise, meh.

Obviously, not really liking the writer or the artist are two major reasons to stay away from Wonder Woman. However, I kind of feel a bit schmucky that I’m not supporting Wonder Woman. I’ll at least give the first novel a go. We’ll see where it goes from there…

BookBin2013: Batgirl Volume 2: Knightfall Descends

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Finally back to my own collection…although, admittedly, this is a recent purchase and not one of those myriad books languishing in the literary limbo of my own devising. Still, this collection and the other two that I recently purchased are stories that I have been waiting to continue for quite a while now. I simply can’t wait to read these.

It’s been since January of this year that I paid a visit to Gotham City to see what’s new with two of my favorite members of the Order Chiroptera. I’ll be talking more about my visit with the Lady Kane soon enough, but this is about the Knightfall Descending upon the lovely Barbara Gordon.

Writer Gail Simone continues to spin quite a yarn for Gordon as she re-acclimates herself with her role as Batgirl. There’s a nice bit of back story in the beginning, a bit of “top of the world for a moment or two” as we see her fighting alongside Batman and Robin, followed by a decision to leave the darkness of fighting the criminal world to live a normal life…only to realize that, as the first issue of this collection points out on its last page, “Sometimes, the darkness finds you.

That darkness is, of course, what Gordon continues to struggle with as she tries once more to regain the full prowess of her role as Batgirl. There is other darkness as well throughout this novel, both within the fortress of Gordon’s personal life as well as throughout the expanses of her home turf. Quite a bit, actually. Gotham’s sinister underside spills into the lives of its heroes, painting every corner with blood and menace, revenge and desperation all the shades of the grimmest spectrum.

Overall, the stories within this novel were interesting enough to keep me reading. I also believe that they are putting into place some elements that will set the stage for even more interesting storytelling to come with Batgirl’s upcoming third collection, Death of the Family.

[Loba Tangent: I have already pre-ordered this collection, which apparently ties in with several other Gotham-related graphic novels that all share the same title, and am counting down the days until its October 29 release. The cover art alone makes me want to get my hands on this one!]

Speaking of art, Ardian Syaf is still doing the bulk of the penciling for Batgirl, and is still doing an admirable job. I’m not really all that fond of the cover of this particular collection (done by artist Stanley Lau). I feel like that cover is all about one thing: “Hey, look, it’s Batgirl’s crotch!” However, Syaf’s still treating Batgirl as if she’s more than crotch shots, butt shots, and boobs. I wish they drew Batwoman a little more like Syaf draws Batgirl.

Speaking of Batwoman (which I like to do quite often, thank you), she makes a crossover appearance toward the end of this collection! And answers that most important question: Who would win in a fight between Batwoman and Batgirl? (Guess you’ll just have to read the novel to learn the answer.) Even though I still think that Batwoman artist J.H. Williams III is the stronger artist, I really liked Syaf’s treatment of Batwoman. He made her a little sportier looking as well, while still giving her the rather…generous proportions that Williams bestows upon her in her own comics. Syaf might be a good choice to take over Batwoman’s world as well, now that…

…but that’s a conversation for another post.

Final Verdict: I liked this collection. I found some of the revelations to be interesting and titillating enough (especially the ones involving Gordon’s family members). I do feel that this was a bit of a “bridge” collection…stories that are not necessarily the greatest, but that are setting us up for something that might transcend greatness in the telling. For that reason alone, I’m glad I picked back up with Barbara Gordon and her Batgirl journeys.

BookBin2013: Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology / Batgirl Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection

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Please don’t think that because I have paired these two books into one review I don’t think they are worthy of their own individual posts. I can assure you, denizens, this is not the case. However, it just so happens that I purchased both of these “New 52” collections at the same time (along with my very own copy of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, which I have already reviewed but mention because it will play a part in the following review). I also happened to read these two collections successively, which sparked a bit of “compare-and-contrast” within my swirly brain.

First, a bit of exposition: Both are collections of the first comics for each heroine under the recent DC Comics “reboot.” I use reboot loosely, however, because it kind of was a reboot…but not really. In my mind, a reboot would have meant total tabula rasa for all the characters involved. This wasn’t exactly the case, at least for Kate Kane and Barbara Gordon.

For example, Barbara Gordon is, indeed, once more Batgirl. However, she is still the same Barbara Gordon who was shot at point-blank range by the Joker in The Killing Joke. Part of her history is still those years she spent in a wheelchair and the time she spent known as Oracle, the brains behind the Birds of Prey.

Kate Kane is still the wealthy “playgirl” of Gotham with a military history that was curtailed by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also still carries with her the baggage of dark truths revealed in the anthology Elegy.

So not necessarily a complete reboot in the truest sense of the word. However, it was enough of a reboot to get Gordon back into that Batgirl costume, which I definitely appreciate. Even more, it was enough to get Gail Simone in to take over telling Batgirl’s second chance at bat.

Heh. Get it? Bat. Never mind.

Simone’s name on the cover of The Darkest Reflection is ultimately what lured me into Batgirl’s story. I spoke about my thoughts on Simone’s prowess as a comic writer in my review of Wonder Woman: The Circle. She did wonders (I’m sorry; I’ll stop doing that, I swear) for Diana of Themyscira. She was also responsible for telling Gordon’s tale as Oracle for many issues as head writer for Birds of Prey, so I knew she already had a connection with and understanding of Gordon that most writers wouldn’t already have.

Similarly, it was seeing J.H. Williams, III’s name on Hydrology that lured me once more back into Batwoman’s storyline. Williams was the artistic brilliance behind Elegy, so I knew the art once again would be exemplary. However, this time, Williams was also the writer, taking over the Batwoman mythology from Greg Rucka. I honestly think this was the collection’s biggest weakness. Not only was Rucka a more captivating and comprehensive writer, I think taking on both roles caused Williams’s art to suffer a bit. But only a bit, mind you. Between the two collections, I would choose Williams as the more stunning and unconventional artist. Still, I think that writing and drawing were too taxing for Williams. His artwork was nowhere near as astonishing as it was for Elegy.

Sticking for a moment with commentary on the artwork, I will say this in favor of Ardian Syaf, the artist behind Batgirl’s return: I much preferred his rendering of Gordon as Batgirl to Williams’s rendering of Kane as Batwoman. Batgirl came across as fit, athletic, limber, and lithe. She has a sporty physique and her Batgirl costume is modestly rendered. She looks like she’s ready to do battle with villains.

Batwoman, on the other hand, at times looks like she’s ready to take a spin or two around a pole in Gotham’s redlight district. Pendulous breasts and a generous derriere, covered in latex in a way that leaves little to the imagination, Batwoman is also drawn in a far more provocative manner than Batgirl. Translation: There are lots more stereotypical comic renderings of Batwoman from utterly ridiculous but obviously “male gaze” angles than there are of Batgirl.

Syaf’s take on Batgirl is celebratory of the female form, while Williams’s take on Batwoman comes across many times as exploitative. It’s a shame, really. I want to like Batwoman more than Batgirl, but I find comics that depict women so wantonly to be insulting and, truthfully, kind of sad.

I can’t help but wonder if the moderation of Syaf’s artwork was due to Simone’s presence. Did Simone let Syaf know that she didn’t want Batgirl coming across as one step above a Playboy Playmate? Or did Syaf perhaps refrain from the more lascivious artwork out of deference to Simone? Or maybe it has less to do with Simone and more to do with the one primary difference between the two characters names: Gordon is a Bat girl, while Kane is a Bat woman. Perhaps the “girl” nom de guerre grants her a reprieve from the more pornographic postures?

Of course, this isn’t to say that Syaf didn’t ever present Batgirl in some of those predictably provocative male gaze positions. There are a couple of doozies in this collection, actually. Williams, however, is the guilty party between the two artists when it comes to objectifying artwork.

As for the storytelling itself, I’m going to have to also give my vote to Batgirl. Just as I mentioned in my review of Simone’s writing for Wonder Woman, here she again presents her primary character in a wonderfully and holistically developed fashion. Barbara Gordon is believable, replete with damage, fear, guilty, wonder, and joy. Williams simply fails to provide Kate Kane with the same level of dimensionality, presence, or realism. He gives it the old college try, but, in the end, he lacks the inherent connection with and understanding of Kate Kane that a female writer—particularly one of Simone’s caliber—could bring to her. This doesn’t mean that I think only a woman could properly write for Kate Kane. I thought Rucka did an outstanding job as her storyteller. I just don’t think Williams is the correct guy for this mission.

Still, Williams is able to keep my interest in Batwoman piqued enough that I wouldn’t be averse to continuing to read more. However, should Simone tire of hanging out with Batgirl, I would be more than on-board with her moving on to the other redhead in the Bat pantheon.

Final Verdict: Um. I’m going to say keep, Bob. Plus, I have already added their respective second volumes to my wishlist. Here’s hoping that Barnes & Noble has another awesome ComiCon-inspired graphic novel sale, so I can snag reasonably priced copies of the next stories the same way I snagged these and The Killing Joke.

BookBin2012: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Omnibus 1-4

Some of you may already know that I have spent slightly more than a year in the idyllic little slice of hell life known as The Buffyverse. In fact, I just recently finished my sojourn with the viewing of the last episode of Angel.

Being the overachieving geek that I am, of course, I couldn’t leave it at tormenting myself with the shows only. Oh no! There are comics as well, my friends! In fact, both Buffy and Angel continue on in comics-based “seasons.” Prior to this, however, the shows had regular release comics, running concurrently with the shows…just like Star Trek or The X-Files.

Just like Star Trek or The X-Files, these early non-canonical comics are spotty in their storytelling attempts, but more often than not simply awful to behold. On all levels. The artwork is questionable in its best form. In most forms, it’s the equivalent of a hydrochloric eye wash. Seriously, if you cannot find someone able to tell your story in a visually pleasing style, you need to reconsider telling your story in graphic form. Many of the comics are illustrated in poorly chosen styles, some looking so amateurish and off-putting that the artwork distracted me completely from the story itself.

Thankfully, Cliff Richards did a lot of the artwork throughout these first four Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volumes. His style is far more aesthetically pleasing than some of the more obtuse styles throughout these volumes, albeit more traditional as well. What can I say? I’m just an old-fashioned wolf at heart, I guess. Not even Richards, however, could meet the challenge of making the characters look like their actor counterparts. This is something that I notice in every show- or movie-based graphic novel tie-in: The comic characters very rarely look like the actors.

I’m somewhat all right with this, but it’s because I have decided that the artists do this as a means of signaling that, hey, this isn’t Sarah Michelle Gellar. This is Buffy. And she only looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar when Sarah Michelle Gellar is playing her. Elsewhere? She looks like this. Or this. Or this. The artist is ultimately true to the character, not the player. Does that make sense?

Of course, that being said, sometimes we then end up with comic characters that look like this little slice of WTF:

And believe me when I state that there were worse visual offenses than this throughout these volumes. For the most part, however, I think my biggest quibble with a lot of the artwork was the fact that more often than not, Willow was a brunette. Um…wha? That’s as irritating as a certain TNG novelist writing that Dr. Crusher has green eyes. Again, if you want to be taken seriously, you kind of have to get basics right. I know I just wrote that the artist must remain true to the character rather than the actor with comics…but when you’re not drawing your characters to look like the actors, you need some kind of universal visual to signal that this is Willow and not Cordelia, which honestly became an issue for me with some of the more non-traditional artwork.

That being said, I would like to hug the artist responsible for the cover art for the third volume of this set. Why?

Well played. So very well played.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I chose to read the first four volumes of the Buffy Omnibus because they were readily available through our local library. Only these volumes, however. Honestly? I’m okay with that. Only getting to read the first four volumes is more than okay with me.

As for the stories, they were mostly…unmemorable. Some were short little one-shots that made absolutely no sense and held no point beyond the one being wielded by the Slayer against whatever demonic ick she was facing at the moment.

There were standouts, however. Actually, I’m going to say that the first volume in its entirety was the most enjoyable of the four, and very much worth reading. It begins with a graphic rendering of the original Joss Whedon script for the movie that started all this insanity.

Remember that movie? Yeah.

Well, apparently, it was supposed to be much darker…still possessing pop culture awareness, humor, and kitsch, but also infused with deep shades of melancholy and despair.

Kind of like what the show often tried to be.

The original movie story actually wasn’t bad. Neither was the follow-up arc “Slayer, Interrupted,” which chronicled Buffy’s brief institutionalization that was referenced a few times on the show. It also shows the tangential travails of one Rupert Giles, who wishes to earn the Council’s approval as the next assigned Watcher. The Giles storyline is fairly decent as well and plays quite nicely in conjunction with Buffy’s arc, bringing them together slowly and convincingly until they finally cross in good old Sunnydale.

Before we get the recognizable arrangement of Buffy and Giles and the Scooby Gang, however, we get Volume 2’s “A Stake to the Heart.” This was probably my favorite story arc of all four volumes. It details the end of Buffy’s parents’ marriage and Joyce’s subsequent decision to move her daughters to Sunnydale. It’s quite a dark, grim tale in which Angel accidentally releases a band of “malignancy demons” upon Buffy in an attempt to cast a spell to protect her from the miseries and pressures of life that surround her.

Oops.

Admittedly, it’s a silly sounding premise for a story. However, the artwork is the finest of the lot—bleak, surrealist, disturbing imagery that works well to illustrate the desolation of the tale. I’m sure you all know me well enough by this point to know that this is precisely my type of combination.

Of course, these good stories must share space with some rather lackluster Spike and Drusilla stories as well as stories about vanity-obsessed vampires, mischievous gnomes or elves or something cutesy and forgettable, as well as a story about Dawn and a killer magic teddy bear (although, for some reason, I think I might have liked the teddy bear one, if only for the kitsch).

Again, I’m okay with only having access to the first four volumes of this series.

Final Verdict: Worth checking out but definitely not worth buying…although I honestly would consider buying the first two if I found them for a significantly reduced price.

BookBin2012: The Complete Strangers in Paradise, Volume 1

I’m not quite certain what to make of the first volume of Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise.

By no means do I believe that comics need to always be about superheroes or mutants or anything more than everyday life. I point to recent reads like Deogratias, Epileptic, or Blankets…or even further back to Fun Home or This Will All End in Tears as fine examples of how the graphic novel can be a satisfying medium through which to tell tales of normal people experiencing normal things, with beauty, compassion, depth, and sophistication.

Moore seems to be telling a similar tale of normal life in this collection…but not with the level of depth I had hoped for. In truth, his two primary characters seem more like shadows of complexity, shackled to stereotypes that perhaps Moore had originally intended to break through his telling of their tale. Katchoo often comes across as a riotous, man-hating lesbian and Francine is a codependent, overly emotional woman. And of course, Katchoo is in love with Francine, because lesbians can’t be just friends with women.

Look, it’s When Sally Met Sally!

This volume is just the beginning of their story, which apparently lasted quite a while: There are three volumes of Strangers in Paradise, and the third volume is divided into eight parts. The local library has all of those parts…but doesn’t have the second volume at all! I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t really feel all that invested after reading the first section; I’d be a bit livid right now. Either that or I’d be on Amazon Marketplace, trying to find a cheap used copy. Now look, I can save my money.

Final Verdict: I admit, I am slightly curious about how their story plays out, and if the library did have the second volume, I would probably give it a go. Obviously, there’s something to this story if it lasted long enough to fill out 10 books. Then again, there have been five seasons of Jersey Shore…so, there you go. However, I don’t feel any great sense of loss that I won’t be continuing along with Katchoo and Francine. Back to the library they go.

BookBin2012: Sin City: Hell and Back

This is an addendum of sorts to my last book review. Really, though, it’s not even going to be a review.

I have nothing to say about Frank Miller’s final Sin City entry, Hell and Back. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the story. Didn’t like the writing. Didn’t like the artwork.

Just didn’t like it.

I wish I had more to say about this book, but I really have nothing else I want to say. My response was decisive and persistent the entire time I read this book; to be honest, I actually dreaded this particular review because of my keen lack of interest or investment. I suppose it’s my fault for picking up the final volume in the series without having read any of the others. However, I also didn’t like the movie based on three other volumes from the series. I haven’t seen the film since it was at the theater, so I don’t remember specifics of why I didn’t like it. Of course, this speaks volumes, in my mind at least. If I can’t remember anything about it other than it left a lingering tang of disinterest on my palate, it’s obviously not going to be high on my list of re-watches.

Subsequently, this book isn’t going to be high on my list of re-reads. I’m also not in any particular hurry to track down any other volumes from the series. I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised by my reaction to this novel. I remember the hype surrounding Miller’s saga. In fact, this might be an early example of my hype deflector going into overload. The more I heard, the more marketing I witnessed, the more raging fanboy glee I watched, the less interested I became in this series. I’m sure there are earlier instances of simliar responses from me, but I can’t think of them right now.

Final Verdict: Meh.