Reviews (and More Reviews) Bob Rozakis December 25, 2000 It's BobRo the Answer Man! If your holiday gifts included cash or a gift certificate to a bookstore (or you still have a few dollars left after your own holiday shopping), here are some items you might want to consider… REVIEW TIME: SHAZAM!: POWER OF HOPE There is no question that Alex Ross is the finest painter of comic book art in the business. His work on MARVELS and KINGDOM COME stands as some of the most beautiful illustrations of super-heroes ever produced. So it was not surprising that DC jumped at the chance to have Ross and Paul Dini team up to produce the now-annual series of over-sized prestige books that began in 1998 with SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH and continued with 1999’s BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME. The latest addition to the set, SHAZAM!: POWER OF HOPE, is just as beautifully painted as its predecessors… and suffers from the same problem. This is not a “graphic novel”… it is a short story, and one with a minimal plot at that. The tale revolves around Captain Marvel visiting the patients at a local Children’s Hospital and what he does to cheer them up. It’s sweet — bordering on sappy — and the ending is fairly predictable, but it sure is nice to look at. One quibble with the writing. The story is told in the first person by Billy Batson, but it is inconsistent when Captain Marvel is in the story – alternating between first person and third person, often in a single sequence. Some closer attention to the editing would have helped. Should you spend $9.95 on it? Well, if you are a fan of Ross’ art and would spring for a similar amount for one of his posters, there’s no question. If you want an example of fine comic art that you could leave out on your table for others to see, ditto. If you buy comics solely for the story… think twice. BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ 1. Zeroing in on the Red Baron, who rides his doghouse to combat glory? 2. Enrolled at State University, who was injured when his interdimensional communicator exploded. 3. Rescued from the Twice-Cursed Man by Mister E, who became his assistant? 4. Originally it was Ross Everbest, but then Greg Salinger took over what villainous identity? 5. Zowie! The original BLACK MAGIC ended its run as what title? 6. Iron Fist and Misty Knight battled what knife-wielding killer, formerly known as The Slasher? 7. Lombard played what sport before become a member of the WGBS-TV news team? 8. “Cheekeez!” was often exclaimed by Winky, sidekick to what hero? 9. Hundreds of real-world newspapers covered the story when who killed the Man of Steel? 10. Nobody can forget Betty or Veronica, but can you remember their last names? 11. All the folks on New Genesis can get from one place to another by using what? 12. Derby-wearing and “tuff,” who is this ghost? 13. Archie, Charlton, DC, Gold Key, Harvey, and Marvel have all published adventures of what pooch? BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL: 1. Twelve men have walked on the moon, including Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut. 2. The Salvation Army was founded by “General” William Booth in 1879. 3. Mickey Rooney, who first appeared with “Our Gang” as Mickey McGuire, was born Joe Yule, Jr. REVIEW: LEGEND OF THE GREEN FLAME Back in 1988, when the decision was made to end the “grand experiment” of ACTION COMICS WEEKLY, editor Mark Waid got Neil Gaiman to write a full-length story that would bring all the regular features of the book together. Then, because of a revised continuity change involving Hal Jordan know that Clark Kent was Superman, the story was scrapped. Some thirteen years later, the story has been illustrated and presented in Prestige Format as GREEN LANTERN / SUPERMAN: LEGEND OF THE GREEN FLAME. And a nifty little story it is, too, foreshadowing the kind of work Gaiman would produce for Sandman. It ties together well and, frankly, would have filled the bill as a fitting ending for ACW. The variety of artists involved to a creditable job as well, the changes in style fitting the change of scenes… except for the last two pages! The cartoony, badly proportioned drawings by Jason Little are so jarring (especially after work by such notables as Jim Aparo, Mike Allred & Terry Austin, John Tottleben, Matt Wagner, Kevin Nowlan, Eric Shanower & Art Adams, and Mark Buckingham) that I found myself saying, “WHAT is this?!” All in all, though, if you enjoyed the comics of the 80s that hearkened back to the Silver Age continuity, you’ll enjoy this one. REVIEW: JLA: A LEAGUE OF ONE At last, a story that I enjoyed reading… artwork I enjoyed looking at… and a book that felt like a book. Writer / artist Christopher Moeller has crafted a tale that combines the world of superheroes with that of the mythology of dragons in JLA: A LEAGUE OF ONE. Though billed as a Justice League story, this is actually a Wonder Woman adventure with the rest of the JLA as supporting characters. Still, it works quite well. I enjoyed Moeller’s pacing, his storytelling and his ability to handle the various icons of the DCU. In addition, he creates a believable world in which dragons can exist and threaten us all. Yes, this is a $24.95 hardcover and it will undoubtedly appear in softcover in a year or so, but if someone you know wants to spring for a nice gift (or you want to be the giver), this is the book I’d suggest. REVIEW: NEMII #1 This 32-page 7” x 7” prestige format black and white book was sent to me by writer/artist Anibal Marin with a request for a review. It has the look and feel of a children’s book and what there is of the story seems more like stop-action from a video game. I did not read the copy on the back cover until after I’d read the book itself, which I suppose is unfortunate because that’s where all of the background (and, in fact, most of the plot of the book) is set out. Marin’s art in NEMII #1 is nicely rendered (if occasionally confusing) and he is capable of moving the story along. However, as a writer, he needs an editor (and a proofreader – he has particular problems with “it’s” and “its”) to remind him to tell the story within the confines of the story, rather than in the cover blurb. NEMII #1 and, presumably, any succeeding volumes in the saga are available from www.wisteriastudios.com. REVIEW: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY For those of you whose hardcover book shopping takes place only in your local comics shop or in the “graphic novels” aisle of Borders, I’d like to remind you that for $26.95, you can also purchase a full-length 600+ page novel that will take you a lot longer to read than anything the comics publishers have to offer. To that end, I highly recommend THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY by Michael Chabon, a novel that takes place in a world not that different from our own, one in which the Golden Age of Comics was marked not only by the debuts of Superman, Batman, Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch, but also that of The Escapist. Created in 1939 by a young Czech refugee named Josef Kavalier and his Brooklyn-born cousin Sammy Clay, The Escapist becomes a hit for Empire Comics in much the same way that the Man of Steel became the cornerstone of the DC world. [Kavalier and Clay’s dealings with the publishers parallel those of Siegel and Shuster with DC, as well.] Kavalier and Clay become a two-man idea factory for Empire, churning out characters – most notably Luna Moth — for an entire line of highly successful books. We follow the careers of the two young men, complete with the occasional appearances by or mention of the names of people we recognize, into the World War II years and beyond. It is an engrossing and entertaining novel. By the way, Chabon knows his comics history quite well, as I discovered when a reference to the Blue Beetle that I thought predated the character’s debut sent me into my files. Sure enough, the time frame was accurate, as are the rest of the references to our own world’s comics publishing history. THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY is a worthwhile investment for your comics library. If you must wait for the paperback which will undoubtedly appear sometime in 2001, head on over to your local public library and borrow their copy so you can read and enjoy it now. Here’s wishing everyone a safe and sane New Year’s Eve. See you back here in 2001! TRIVIA ANSWERS: Few if any of us will be around the next time a century ends and it’s a certainty none of us will be here in the last year of the NEXT millennium. In honor of this once-in-a-lifetime event, here are the t00 g00d trivia answers… 1. Sn00py 2. Victor von D00m 3. Kelly O’T00le 4. F00lkiller 5. C00L CAT 6. Sabret00th 7. F00tball 8. Z00t Sputnik 9. D00msday 10. C00per and Lodge 11. B00m Tube 12. Sp00ky 13. Sc00by-D00 Can’t have t00 much g00d trivia? Check out BobRo’s daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia. Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.