Monday, February 6, 2012

5 Good Books To Read - Comic Books

1. Midnight Nation by J. M. Straczynski

To show my point, let's start with Midnight Nation, a dark and a bit religious comic book describing "the other world," a place where all forgotten and abandoned people and things go.

A police lieutenant David Grey starts to investigate what appears to be a flustering murder and ends up rather differently than he anticipated - trapped in a shadow world and faced with a challenge to fight for his own soul.

David receives a guide named Laurel, he eventually falls in love with her and this act alone will set him off of all his predecessors. After overcoming multiple tests, Grey resents the usual course of action offered by The Other Guy (the Devil) and sacrifices his own soul to prove that hope still exists.

Midnight Nation is an excellent comic book and you don't really need to be religious to enjoy it.

2. From Hell by A. Moore & E. Campbell

Jack the Ripper is famous worldwide for his murders. From Hell offers a different perspective on this whole case, combining imagination and facts from the real world.

Royal prince Albert Victor marries a woman from East End in London and fathers a child. They are separated after Queen Victoria finds out and actions are being taken to sweep this matter and its follow-ups (such as group of prostitutes blackmailing the Crown in exchange for protection) aside.

A highly ranked Freemason named Gull gets involved and as time moves on, gives birth to the famous Jack the Ripper with previously unseen brutality and bestiality of his murders - but the whole matter is still being covered up to protect the interests of the royal family.

Authors very well combine their own ideas with historical facts and have produced a marvelous comic book, that will make you read and read until you're finished - and you'll spend a plenty of time thinking when that happens.

3. The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by N. Gaiman

Chances are you already know the famous American novelist Neil Gaiman, say because of American Gods or Stardust. Gaiman is extremely good in mixing various genres, creating unusual heroes and what's most important right now, he is also good in writing comics.

Have you ever wanted to be immortal? Living up to the end of Earth, maybe seeing the Sun eating up our planet... and so an enchanter named Burgess tries to capture Death and live forever. By his mistake, he however captures Dream instead.

After decades of imprisonment, Dream manages to finally escape his captor (Burgess' son at the time) and hop on a quest to seek his lost items of power. He encounters the Justice League, John Constantine the Hellblazer and even Lucifer himself.

Well, what can I tell you? If you want to imagine Death as a pragmatic, goth girl, you are going to be more than satisfied.

Ok, seriously, Gaiman has once again done a wonderful job with creating a weird world and will push your imagination to the limit over and over again until you drop off - and you will still dream about it anyway.

4. Garfield by J. Davis

Let's switch to a less serious note, shall we? I bet you've already heard about a fat, lazy and sybaritic cat named Garfield, often accompanied by a human named Jon and a dog called Odie.

Garfield is especially known for his laziness, the only thing that will get him moving is, well, a rich lunch or something. Another common attribute of Garfield's comics is the very short story line, most usually just 3 pictures.

The stories vary greatly - you can find the heroes at the sea, in their home, at the vet; eating, lying, having a phone call; being bored, watching TV... pretty much anything you can come up with.

Garfield also had several film adaptations and it is very safe to say that he and his friends can provide quality entertainment.

5. Asterix by R. Goscinny

There was a time when the Roman Empire was vast and no one could challenge the mighty Roman Legions - expect a small Galian village in the Armorica province. Again, I'm sure you are familiar with the stories featuring Asterix, Obelix, a-lot-of-fancy-names-ending-with-ix and a magic potion.

It is the same genre as Garfield - fun. The main characters often travel outside the major theme, e.g. visit Egypt and deal with Cleopatra. At all times they keep up their high spirit, sense for goodness and Obelix also tend to be a little bit, shall we say, simpler.

The fame of Asterix and his fellow Galls may be indicated by the fact that the first French satellite ever launched was named after him - Astérix-1.

The First Fathers And Sons of Comics

It may have not been planned but many of this week's comics happen to deal with fathers and sons. That might not sound strange but when you think about classic comics there aren't many prominent father figures. Some of the most prominent super heroes don't have dads. Superman's father is dead, ditto for Batman, Uncle Ben is the closest thing to a dad Peter Parker ever had and we all know what happened to him. I'm not even going to go near Silk Spectre's daddy issues. Is there an underlying reason why most superheroes are also orphans?

These week's Detective Comics, Walking Dead and Gotham City Sirens all deal with fathers and their sons. In Detective, Commissioner James Gordon is increasingly concerned with the return of his son James Jr. who has been troubled to say the least and for reasons that are only hinted at, has been separated from his family for years.

In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes has always sworn to protect his son Carl by any means necessary in their dangerous zombie filled world. In this month's issue Rick makes good on his vow, even sacrificing his fellow survivors in order to protect his son. In this exciting installment, Rick who has lost everything else may be unable to save Carl this time.

The Walking Dead may have reached a critical turning point in its plot that may shift the relationship between Rick and Carl.

Finally in Sirens, Arkham Asylum guard Aaron Cash discovers that the death of his infant son was not accidental but an underhanded scheme played out by the Joker. Realizing this, Cash goes against his duty as a guard and condones the proposed murder of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Noticing that this father son theme was in most of my pull list this week, it got me thinking about the sort of shadow role that many fathers of golden age superheroes have played throughout comic history.

In almost every hero's origin, thdir parents are murdered, pass away or are somehow tossed aside so that their offspring can meet their destiny of fighting crime. And what other tragedy is as universally relatable as well as strong a motivator. No matter who we are we all have parents, and losing them has fueled Bruce Wayne's war on crime as well as inspires Peter Parker to take responsibility for his spider powers by using them for good, while Tony Stark and Britt Reid, (The Green Hornet,) live in the shadows of their fathers legacies and attempt to better the world by using their vast inheritances to fund their causes.

Many of those heroes have been subconsciously making up for the lack of perennial figures in their lives over the course of their lives. Bruce Wayne for one, initially the ultimate loner, has fostered an entire family of Robins and Batgirls who all share a similar trauma. Raising three boy wonders is no easy task, and Bruce doesn't do such a great job interacting with his sole biological son Damian, who is the youngest, most arrogant and anti social Robin to date. It's curious to see Bruce mentor his previous sidekicks, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake so closely, (to the point of adopting Tim,) and neglect his own flesh and blood. Time will tell how this relationship evolves; Damian is a fairly new character in comic terms. In the meantime, Dick, (The original Robin,) has taken his mentors son under his wing to form a new Batman & Robin team that flips the dynamic of the duo by featuring a lighthearted Batman and a hot tempered Robin.

Thanks to the relationships we witness from page to page, it's easy to see that comic books are capable of telling much deeper stories than what appears on the surface. Comics are a yet another medium being used to explore humanity and it's many aspects. It may be colorful, campy and cryptic but this ink doesn't run, it bleeds.