If I were really planning ahead, I would have made column no. 52 an all-DC-Comics spectacular, but I didn’t, because I am not a great person at planning ahead. Including one DC book will make up for it though, right? Right.
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Most of my comic-book reading lately has involved pulling mediocre books off my shelf that have just been taking up space and finally reading them before moving them out of the apartment. This week I read eight different nearly acceptable books, including Superman: New Krypton volumes one and two, X-Men: Mutant Massacre, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s run on The Flash, and a few that were so bad I won’t mention them here at the risk of triggering a rant. However, there was one I liked enough that I am keeping it around for at least one more read. That book is Terra by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, artist Amanda Conner, and colourist Paul Mounts. It’s a book with more than its own fair share of cheesecake, but I have always had a soft spot for Amanda Conner’s art.
I think I am an Amanda Conner fan because she’s got a real eye for variety — yes, she draws beautiful women in skin-tight and sometimes-skimpy outfits, but they’re not all bending over at the waist and looking over their shoulder in every panel like the work of some other mainstream superhero comics artists. There are also beefcake guys (though, admittedly, the ratio is skewed), as well as supporting characters with a variety of body types, most of who come off as beautiful in their own distinct way because of the line and attention Conner brings to them. The characters always have body language and facial expression appropriate to the situation, whether that be intimidating, humorous, frustrated, powerful, happy — the list goes on. In fact, my favourite thing about Conner’s art is that she’s an amazing director of emotion and body language in comics. There is never any doubt in my mind what any of her characters are thinking, whether they’re the people in the foreground with the dialogue balloons or a random person in a crowd.
The ideas collected in the Terra TPB could have been an interesting addition to the DC Universe — multiple alien civilizations living underneath the Earth’s crust are under the protection of a 16-year-old hybrid superhero — but with at least one line-wide reboot wiping that out of existence, whether or not the story “matters” is beside the point. Palmiotti and Grey write a young woman who is trying to find her place between two worlds; she wants to leave home and explore the outside world but not entirely sure how to go about it. It relies on character and ideas more than an intricately plotted story, which is fine by me as the characters and ideas are definitely strong enough to stand on their own. Terra is fun and adventurous and extremely well-drawn, and I am very pleased to say that I misjudged the book by just looking at its cover. If only there was a proverb that warned against that kind of behaviour.
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That’s not all, folks. There were a couple other things that caught my attention this week. I’ll get the most obvious mention out of the way first.
Television: I am a giant comics nerd so of course I watched Daredevil this week. I took the full seven days to watch all 13 episodes though, because as much as I wanted to just binge and get through them as quickly as I could, I also wanted to savour the story and draw it out. Also affecting my movement through the series is that the show is shockingly violent. The episodes can get pretty intense and I didn’t want the shocking moments to lose their impact just because I had watched seven or eight episodes in a row. Overall, it’s a really great series; I found a couple of episodes dragged a little but that’s only in comparison to the rest of the Daredevil series. Compared to nearly all of the other comics-based television shows out there, Daredevil stands tall and proud. Yes, it’s vicious. Yes, it gets a little bleak and dark at times. But the cast is phenomenal, especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better Foggy Nelson, who I think is the most important Daredevil character other than The Man Without Fear himself. The fight scenes are tremendous, the tone and visual style is consistent throughout the series, and though the whole series felt like a battle, the final two episodes really hit me like a knife in the gut. In a good way. Daredevil wears a lot of hats — crime series, action-adventure serial, courtroom thriller, superhero adaptation — and it wears them all really well. This sets the bar really high for the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows to come, but it’s also giving me hope that they can pull this off. (Especially the Iron Fist series; the fight choreography in Daredevil is so good that I can’t wait to see what they do with Iron Fist.)
Books: At first I thought Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life was too clever for its own good. In the first chapter of the novel, the main character Ursula Todd dies stillborn in the winter of 1910, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The second chapter retells the story of her birth, but this time the local doctor makes it to her home in time to save her and she lives through her first day on Earth, until another calamity befalls her and she dies again. The first hundred or so pages explores many of young Ursula’s lives and deaths, nearly all of them starting over in the winter of 1910, which I found made for a slightly maddening experience. No stranger to the concept of multiple lives and multiple timelines — I am a comic book reader, after all — I wasn’t put off by this tactic, but rather confused about whether the book would finally start gaining momentum before Atkinson cut the story off at the knees again. Thankfully, once Ursula makes it to her 16th birthday, the stories available to her become more expansive and Atkinson is able to explore concepts such as the role of British women in the early 20th century, the effects of the Second World War on multiple European countries, and universal themes of love and family and devotion. Once the initial hiccups were over, I rather enjoyed the ability to look at multiple aspects of this era of British life through the eyes of the same character, who gains different perspectives on life with a few alterations to her timeline with every new life. Fans of hard sci-fi might find the book a little free and easy with the timeline-hopping, and there were a few times where even I thought that Atkinson might not have thought out the logistics of her gimmick well enough. However, once it gets out of its own way, Life After Life has a group of interesting stories to tell and a character who is worth sticking around for, in nearly every iteration.
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That’ll do it for me this week. Until next time, clear a few things out of your life that you no longer need and take time to savour something instead of gorging on it. I’ll see you in seven days.