My Top Three Recommended Graphic Novel Reads for Week Ending April 6
by Christopher Peruzzi
I remember some adult telling me, "Comic books are for children." What a load of nonsense!
While I can readily agree that some comic books are made for children - like Richie Rich, Archie, and many of the Harvey Line - graphic novels are sophisticated reading. I say this as modern comic book writers such as Alan Moore, Brad Meltzer, and Neil Gaiman have revolutionized the medium and have put their own mark on fantasy and science fiction writing.
The writers and the publishers know this. What child nowadays would slam down $3 - $10 dollars on part of a story that's produced monthly? And that's for an issue or a one shot story. The concepts, characters, and dialogue are well beyond the average child, so much so that even the "Approved by the Comic Book Code" seal is starting to become an irrelevant thing of the past.
When a story, filled with startling concepts and characters that grab the reader like a long lost lover, is combined with the impeccable art work of artists like Alex Ross and Rags Morales, today's adults can safely tell children to "run along." This isn't for them.
This week I've found three gems. These are my recommendations.
What's your favorite title?
It's fascinating to watch the evolution of a comic book writer like Denny O'Neil. He's a comic book legend. I credit him with the first breaking away from the campy Batman stories written in the 1950's and early 1960's. He and artist Neal Adams attacked modern issues such as drug addiction and racism in other titles, but in Batman, he reminded us that this character was born in darkness and is a master detective.
I must admit, at first, I wasn't a huge O'Neil fan. I found some of his dialogue forced and trying. He was trying too hard to reproduce the slang of the late sixties. Now, however, his story and dialogue are so clean they pull the reader in. His work with Batman: Venom is nothing short of remarkable.
This is the story of the seduction of drug addiction. It shows the root of a promise and the price to achieve a result. Batman, after failing to save a kidnapped child, falls prey to a designer steroid drug produced by the child's father. The drug, venom, works by making the user stronger - very much like anabolic steroids. Other than their addictive side effects, the user's intelligence begins to slip and they become prone to mood swings.
This is the story of Batman's addiction and recovery from the Venom. A Venom derivative later surfaces again as the fuel for one of Batman's worst foes - Bane. This story is key to understanding not only the Bane character but Batman's revulsion toward the Venom drug.
I recommend this story highly for not only any Batman fan but for any comic book reader who enjoys good writing and superior art.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Take the Clint Eastwood Academy Award winning movie, Unforgiven and insert Wolverine.
I really don't want to spoil too much of the plot. But in this story by Mark Millar, set decades in the future, Logan has settled down and has renounced his violent ways. The bad guys have won and have taken America. Contacted by Clint Barton for one last mission - a mission that will help settle his account to The Hulk Boys, descendants of Bruce Banner - Wolverine needs to deliver a package and get back home in one piece. Will he be able to face the ghosts of his pasts and save his family?
Read and find out.
Justice League of America: Tornado's Path
John Smith, The Red Tornado, will finally get his wish. Pinoccio becomes a real boy.
However, there is definitely a price to be paid for that. And what of Red Tornado's old body? Professor Ivo wants to get his hands on it in order to bring back one of the Justice League's most dangerous foe.
This is a really good story that show us that despite the roll call of a new league, the JLA works best when all the pieces click and everyone works together. Meltzer wears these characters like an old cloak that always fits his body well.
Buy them on Amazon
It is my goal to show you stories from Marvel, DC, and, if I can, another publisher.
I have found that many of the story collections from these titles make great reading and will give the reader a better appreciation for characters that have been around for decades. With writers like Denny O'Neil, Mark Millar, and Brad Meltzer, I am always and perpetually surprised that they can progressively improve upon their own works.
Reading these stories for all this time has been my not-so-secret addiction and I'm happy that my family and friends have helped me keep it.