The holiday season usually affords me some time to catch up on my reading, especially of hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and “prestige” miniseries that have piled up. Herewith are comments on some that have arrived in the past few months…

STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION: FORGIVENESS
Following the “tradition” established last year, DC/Wildstorm delivers another 96-page hardcover graphic novel, this time by David Brin and Scott Hampton. Like last year’s “The Gorn Crisis,” this one is disappointing.
The story follows the style of a TV episode, interweaving two separate plots. One involves the inventor of the holodeck, who has been floating in the ether for three hundred years; the other focuses on a race that has been quarantined by the Federation for generations for past crimes.
Hampton’s artwork is static, perhaps hampered by actor approvals that limited what he could do. (Patrick Stewart used to complain that DC’s artists never made his head pointy enough.) Brin delivers too much of the exposition in “Captain’s Log” captions. He also uses captions from a “third person narrator” from time to time, resulting in some very choppy storytelling. This is a visual medium… show, don’t tell.
There are bits that refer to the war with the Dominion that seemed to be shoehorned in to fit into current ST:NG continuity. Otherwise, this story could take place anytime in the mythos.
One last thing, for $24.95, couldn’t they have gotten some better lettering? All the dialogue balloons are fuzzy.

*****
BATMAN: DARK VICTORY
Want to spend bucks on a hardcover ($29.95 in this case) and feel like you got your money’s worth? This reprint collection of the Jeph Loeb / Tim Sale maxiseries is the one to buy.
The sequel to BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, this story seamlessly picks up where that one left off, but deftly fills in new readers so that they are quickly up to speed.
The search for a serial killer is well-plotted and paced, with enough red herrings and wrong turns to keep it interesting throughout. The characterization and the growing relationship between Jim Gordon and Batman are well-handled.
This one made for a pleasant evening’s reading.

*****
PEANUTS: THE ART OF CHARLES M. SCHULZ
This book (another $29.95 hardcover) is packed with vintage Peanuts strips reproduced from original art and newspaper appearances, some pictures of a toys and figures based on the characters and even the original sketches for “I Need All the Friends I Can Get.” Any fan of the strip will find plenty to reread and enjoy.
That said, this book is also a design nightmare and “renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd” is to blame for that. The sizes of the strips being reproduced varies, seemingly without reason. Some are spread out to a panel per page… other pages have 16 strips (and two cut in half!). Strips and panels reproduced from newspapers have the color grossly out of register; the black and white ones were shot from a scrapbook and many are yellowed and have tape marks.
The commentary, which is minimal (except for Jean Schulz’s introduction), often does not relate to the strips it accompanies. For example, a quote from Schulz about Lucy being fussy and her persecution of Linus is accompanied by a Sunday strip in which Linus builds an army of little snowmen; there is no sign of Lucy or indication that she has anything to do with this.
In all, an “A” for the material, and a “D+” for its presentation.

*****
JLA: RIDDLE OF THE BEAST
Another $24.95 hardcover graphic novel (104 pages in this one) by Alan Grant and a host of artists, it’s a simple sword-and-sorcery story that feels like the names of many DCU characters have been shoe-horned into it. The disparate art styles sometimes made the story hard to follow. Underwhelming for the price.


BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
1. Who once jokingly said he should change his last name to “Presents”?
2. How was Kamandi described in the title of his book?
3. Ever-vigilant, the Shoveler and the Spleen fight crime as part of what group?
4. Remember The Trapster’s original name; what was it?
5. Energy blasts from his hands powered Joshua Clay in what identity?
6. You remember the title of the Fawcett version of WORLD’S FINEST; what was it?
7. Over the years, DC, Marvel, Gold Key, and Malibu have all had shots at publishing books about what franchise?
8. Using what name did Maynard Tiboldt launch his criminal career?
9. Lady Cop, Atlas, and the Green Team all debuted in what magazine?
10. It had its own “image” but now it’s DC-branded; what is it?
11. Vigilante Greg Sanders had a sidekick; what was his name?
12. Earth’s WHAT are the Avenger’s proclaimed to be on their covers?

BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.
2. An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
3. Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.


MORE REVIEWS:
THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN
80pp — $7.95 – Frank Miller & Lynn Varley
Usually, I’ll wait till a miniseries (or a maxi-series) is completed before reading it, but with all the play DK2 has been getting, I figured I better not wait. However, now that I’ve read the first part, I’m really annoyed that I’ll have to wait six weeks for the second and six more after that for the conclusion.
I have no intention of recapping the story. If you’ve already read it, you know what’s going on. If you haven’t, you should, and I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. It is a grim, gritty world hiding behind a happy-face facade that Frank has created, one that it not so far from reality.
Frank’s wry sense of humor comes through as well. He has a knack for taking some of the absurdities of our daily life, giving them one more tweak, and making them still seem believable. Case in point is the “News in the Nude” broadcasts that appear in book, with the naked female newscaster whose body parts are strategically covered by on-screen graphics. In a ratings-driven world, how long will it be before one network or another comes up with this idea?
Summing it up: Buy this book. Read this book. Enjoy this book.

*****
WONDER WOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH
64pp — $9.95 – Paul Dini (script), Alex Ross (art)
Alex Ross paints beautiful pictures.
Paul Dini’s script is, unfortunately, annoyingly preachy. And Diana needs help from another hero to see the error of her ways.
But get it for the art if you’re a Ross fan.

*****
JLA: GODS & MONSTERS
64pp — $6.95 – Dan Jolley & Josh Krach (script), Scott Benefiel & Jasen Rodriguez (art)
This story took far too long to make sense and even then, the resolution came out of left field. The artwork bordered on ugly and I was really put off by the oafish-looking Batman who was in serious need of a shave.

*****
HARLEY & IVY: LOVE ON THE LAM
48pp — $5.95 – Judd Winick (script), Joe Chiodo (art)
The story begins with a Two-Face who is so far out of character to be painful, especially after I’d just finished ready DARK VICTORY. Actually, there’s not much of a story here at all; it probably could have been done as well in eight pages as it was in 48. Winick’s attempts at snappy patter were weak.

*****
FLASH: IRON HEIGHTS
48pp — $5.95 – Geoff Johns (script), Ethan Van Sciver & Prentis Rollins (art)
This is a pretty expensive lead-in to material in the regular FLASH book. The art is well-done, but I really wish writers would tell complete stories in the space they’ve been alloted. The last four pages of this book are a cliffhanger to pull you to the monthly title.

*****
JLA: HAVEN
48pp — $5.95 – Ashley-Jayne Nicolaus & Matthew P. Schuster (story), Ariel Olivetti (art)
Speaking of expensive lead-ins to regular books, this one doesn’t even pretend to be anything else: “This one-shot introduces scores of bizarre and intriguing new characters to the DCU and sets the stage for the upcoming maxi-series.”
Anybody remember the movie and subsequent TV series “Alien Nation”? A spacecraft with a city’s worth of aliens crash lands and skids across California. The Justice Leaguers save resident Californians who are in the way. (At least they don’t spend half the issue having a long, pointless battle with their future friends.)
And despite the cover claim, the book didn’t do much to introduce the new characters. None of them made any kind of impression that is likely to remain by the time the series appears.

*****
GENERATIONS 2
4 48pp issues — $5.95 each – John Byrne
I like Byrne’s crisp clean art style, moreso given the amount of ugly art that pervades so many of the books today. I also enjoyed that he has added more coherency to his little alternate history Elseworld. And while much of this is more a series of vignettes than a single story, he ties it all together with a nice twist at the end.
One caveat – there’s a bit too much reliance on the readers having read the original GENERATIONS. Sometimes Byrne fills you in; other times he assumes you remember. The first series, now available in TPB, is worth getting.


Next week: The return of the Comicmobile!

TRIVIA ANSWERS:
For the laST day of the year, the 31ST day of December, the answers all contain “ST”…
1. STan Lee
2. The LaST boy on Earth
3. MySTery Men
4. PaSTe-Pot Pete
5. TempeST
6. America’s GreateST Comics
7. STar Trek
8. The RingmaSTer
9. FirST Issue Special
10. WildSTorm
11. STuff
12. MightieST Heroes

Be the firST to STop and check out the daily queSTion at Anything GoesS Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia

 


Need some answers from the Answer Man?
Ask BobRo at It’s BobRo’s Answer Board.

Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.


 

About The Author