Live! In the Link Age: Short Reviews of 2012 (Revisited)

WifeHave you been thrown off balance by the New 52 reboot of Superman? Just imagine how the Man of Steel feels. Author Robert T. Jeschonek takes a look at Superman sans Lois Lane in his latest story, “The Wife Who Never Was” (First Printing: April 2012 / ISBN: 9781476061276). Pinnacle, a Superman proxy, wakes up one morning and can’t figure out why he’s not married to Doris Dane anymore. And that’s not the only thing screwy going on. Overnight he gets a new costume, a new secret identity, and something funky happens to his secret refuge in the Sahara Desert. The author is having fun addressing the latest Superman retcon and, at the same time, he’s not shy about criticizing the business of making comic books. You don’t have to be up-to-date with the New 52 to enjoy this self-conscious superhero story. So sayeth the Metafictive! [Review first published on 05.13.12.]

Thrusts JusticeTwo books with a big dose of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure zing were released recently: Thrusts of Justice by Matt Youngmark (First Printing: April 2012 / ISBN: 9780984067817) and Batman: Supervillains Strike by Michael Teitelbaum (First Printing: May 2012 / ISBN: 9780765364814). We’ve played around with both of them and, honestly, we can’t think of a way to review either one. The Batman book is for young readers and features a smattering of puzzles, games, and Bruce Timm-like illustrations. Thrusts of Justice, on the other hand, is more adult and provides a more satisfying reading experience. Both are fun in their own way. Choose wisely! [Review first published on 05.27.12.]

blackboxWe were initially skeptical of reading “Black Box,” Jennifer Egan’s contribution to The New Yorker’s recent science fiction issue. If you haven’t heard, the story was written for the magazine but followed the restraints imposed by Twitter. It seemed like a gimmick or a misguided MFA writing exercise to us. But guess what? We enjoyed it tremendously. Telling a story in short Twitter bursts actually works to Egan’s benefit. There’s a lot of “space” between each tweet. And those spaces are similar to the spaces between panels in a comic book. As a reader, you are responsible for filling in the information yourself. Egan’s story, in fact, may have been a writing exercise, but the author was up to the challenge. Good job. [Review first published on 06.10.12.]

BilltheBoyWonderBob Kane is often credited as the sole creator of Batman. But in reality, he got a lot of help from Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff, and Jerry Robinson. Finger, in particular, was involved with the character from the very beginning. He came up with Batman’s origin story, he came up with Gotham City, and he invented many of the characters in the caped crusader’s rogue’s gallery. Despite all of his hard work, his name never appeared in a single Batman comic book. Said Finger back in 1972, “Bob Kane was using me as a tool to bolster his own paycheck.” For more information, check out Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Nobleman. And if you have four minutes to kill, check out the book trailer too. [Review first published on 07.01.12.]

SupermanLarry Tye’s new biography of Superman has garnered lots of positive attention. In fact, the only negative review we’ve seen was published in our hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. The reviewer likes the book (we think), but questions the ongoing cultural cachet of Superman: “Let’s not forget that, apart from the hard-core comics nuts, most readers outgrow Superman at age 13.”  He then writes that Superman’s adventures pale in comparison to Robert Crumb’s unflinching satire of sex, Art Spiegelman’s horrors of the Holocaust, and Marjane Satrapi’s coming-of-age memoirs. Whew! Talk about comparing apples to oranges. We don’t like Superman either, but comparing him to Spiegelman’s Maus is dumb. The review ends with this mean-spirited nugget: “Fervent fans remain true to their heroes. They will hold a special place in their hearts for an author who has chronicled Superman’s legacy and the misfits who made it.” [Review first published on 07.01.12.]

JohnnyHiroWe love cartoonists who tweak reality a little bit. And that’s why we love Fred Chao and his ongoing Johnny Hiro series (Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero / By Fred Chao / First Tor printing: July 2012 / ISBN: 9780765329370). Chao is a guy who has a Robert Crumb-like fascination with drawing city streets and urban life. And because of his attention to detail, the world of Johnny Hiro is firmly grounded in reality. Odd things keep happening to Hiro and his girlfriend, however. Godzilla (Gozadilla!) and King Kong pop up unexpectedly. As do angry samurai, giant fish, Judge Judy, David Byrne, and a bunch o’ rappers too. After a while, it all begins to make nutty sense. The artwork is sufficiently flexible and accommodates the loopy action quite nicely. Chao is definitely channeling Winsor McCay in these adventures, but we see a bit of John Held, Jr. too. In addition, the text is surprisingly reflective and wise, and adds another layer of enjoyment to Hiro’s absurdist romp. Expect a second volume next summer. [Review first published on 07.29.12.]

WWPower OutageIt’s hard to review a book like Wonder Woman: Power Outage by Michael Teitelbaum (First Printing: September 2012 / ISBN: 9780765364791) because it’s almost impossible to nail down a definitive opinion about something that bounces around so much. Even Angle Man would get a little dizzy reading a Choose-Your-Fate adventure book featuring his Amazon nemesis. But no matter, even with all the impulsive plot twists inherent in these kinds of things (there are 13 endings and dozens of narrative splinters), Power Outage does one thing very well. It successfully grounds the warrior princess in her tangled continuity. Some of the segues between chapters aren’t seamless, and a handful of endings are amusingly abrupt, but we’ve been a fan of the character since she first appeared in All Star Comics way back when. And frankly, the twists and turns in this book are no more abrupt (or improbable) than what she’s already endured in her ongoing monthly comic book. [Review first published on 09.30.12.]

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