Since I only have two books in the Quick shots section this week, I will go into a little bit more detail than normally about the first one (Cosmic Odyssee)…
5. Cosmic Odyssee (trade paperback)
This is a trade paperback I bought recently, it collects the four 48 page prestige format issues of a major DC cross-over event originally published in 1988. I have always been a big fan of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin. Last year I found out that he had done another cross-over event for the Distinguished Competition that was described as the Infinity Gauntlet for the DC Universe. This piqued my interest and so I was very excited to crack the spine of this beautiful Mignola drawn 200 pager.
The first thing that struck me was Mike Mignola’s art style. I’m not particularly well read in Mignola’s work, but I’m familiar enough with his great work on covers the last years and this was something entirely else. While it definitely has some of Mignola’s stylistics trademarks, it conveys both the trademarks of a gem in the rough as well as a product of its time. The art in this can be seen as a mixture of Mignola with art styles that were popular at the time, most notably that of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. While it wasn’t bad, let’s just call it ‘interesting’.
The second thing that hit me was crappy lettering. It took me a while to figure out that I have been spoiled by digital lettering. Maybe it was because of a pressing deadline, or maybe it was just the lettering of the times, but words and sentences were broken down clumsily very often.
The writing is from another time too and I kept that in mind, but still it had me cracking up at different times in the story. For instance, after Batman tracks down a stranded giant from Apokolips who keeps some mangled bodies in a meat locker, his caption boxes say: ‘Now I know who I face… …a cannibalistic alien.’ This had my mind reeling: Cannibalistic is when you eat you own species, right? And aliens and humans are definitely different species right? Right?
This sequence with Batman and the giant takes place in the sewers and the colouring of the sewers had me laughing out loud. While sewers are a destination often frequented by many a superhero, it’s seldom that you see ‘realistic’ colouring of the sewers’ content. Not in Cosmic Odyssee however: The colours leave little room for imagination as to what is flowing into Batman’s neck:
The plot of Cosmic Odyssee revolves around the Antilife Equation, Darkseid’s ultimate object of desire. While originally the Antilife Equation was an abstract threat to all life in the universe, in the pages of this book it somehow becomes a creature of its own. Darkseid is the first to discover this transformation and tricks the New Gods to team up with Batman, Superman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian the Manhunter, Starfire and Etrigen the Demon to stop the embodiment of the Antilife Equation.
Although I prefer Grant Morrison over Jim Starlin, I have to hand it to Starlin on this one. He explained the concept of the Antilife Equation better than Morrison ever did in Final Crisis.
In my opinion this book does not hold up well against the Infinity Gauntlet, but it seems like Starlin set out to do something different here altogether. The whole universe-saving-big-action story feels very contrived and has many problems, but at the end of this book is where the writing shines. Here’s where many emotional beats are executed perfectly. I think that these emotional arcs are what Starlin wanted to write the most, it just took him really long to get there. When he does however, it’s gold. The most important arc is that of John Stewart who fails in his mission and because of this a solar system is destroyed killing billions upon billions of its inhabitants. At the end of the book he tries to commit suicide because of this. Martian the Manhunter talks him out of this however. This sequences is a marvel both to look at and to read. You can see the desperation in John’s eyes, the fear as he puts a space gun to his head, and his resolve when he puts the gun down.
Also, the book goes out with a bang when Batman, out of nothing bitch slaps Orion!
Considering it doesn’t hold up particularly well through the years and it wasn’t anything like the Infinity Gauntlet I still enjoyed it pretty much. For fans of Mignola, the New Gods, John Stewart or Darkseid I really recommend this trade.
Art:7.5 Writing:6.5 Overall:7
6. Stephen King (one shot)
To round this week off I read another biography comic by Blue Water Comics, this one about Stephen King. I liked it quite a bit. I think it found a good balance between being informative and entertaining. The last Blue Water biography comic I read, about Vincent Price was neither entertaining or informative… The edgy, thick lined art took a little getting used to. Strangely it felt a bit reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez the partner in crime of King’s son Joe Hill on Locke and Key. The storytelling was a bit confusing at times because it consisted of three different narratives: caption boxes by a third person story-teller, caption boxes with first person King quotes and the story that unfolded in the world balloons. This not withstanding I learned something new about Stephen King (his 1999 accident its consequences as well as some family stuff). For anybody interested in the author but not enough to plow though a prose biography this may be a good read. I bet it’s also good for high schoolers writing a report on King.
Art:6.3 Writing:6.9 Overall:6.6