Archive for September, 2020

Kids in Capes

The next few weeks are probably gonna be crazy busy for me, but I feel like taking care of a fast review a nice superhero prose novel, right? Let’s take a look at Capeville: The Death of the Black Vulture by Matt Mikalatos.

John Ajax is a normal kid looking forward to a normal summer. Playing video games, hanging out with friends, all the usual stuff. But things never turn out the way you want.

John certainly didn’t expect to deal with an attack by a duplicating supervillain. He didn’t plan on meeting a talking dog. He never thought his parents would start a massively destructive fight with the police or that they would ship him off to stay with his cranky superhero-hating grandfather on an island full of superheroes.

And he sure didn’t expect to meet a lot of new friends with superpowers of their own. He didn’t expect to meet up with a robot who claimed that John himself was the Black Vulture, a superhero who died years ago. He didn’t expect to meet up with the maniac who murdered the previous Black Vulture. And he didn’t expect to learn that someone planned to detonate a doomsday device to kill all the superheroes on the island.

That’s an awful lot of stuff to do during one summer vacation.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The plot is big and fun and wide-ranging and frequently hilariously loopy, but the big joy you’ll get out of this book is the characters, particularly the supporting cast. John is a nice enough character, but I actually kept wishing for more time with all his friends — the Gecko, Lightning Kat, Pronto, and Jupiter Girl. Frank Hydra is a wonderfully weird villain, too.

But even the minor characters have cool names and powers and personalities — and leave you wanting to learn more about them. I’d love to read a book — or a comic! — about the gloriously weird Avant Guard or Chrononaut and the Time Skippers or Dogface or the Muck. I am, frankly, keeping my fingers crossed for all of these things.

Looking for a fun novel about young superheroes with a lot of excitement and tons of incredible characters? Pick this one up.

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Green Beans

Yeah, I’ve been remarkably lazy with blogging this month. I mean, I’ve had lots of interesting things to keep me occupied, like work, and eating and sleeping, and um, video games and… umm, well, I’ve basically been very lazy. And I will probably continue to be lazy. Huzzah for sleep!

Anyway, here’s something I noticed the other day I thought was interesting…

The other day, artist Alex Ross released the latest cover he’d made for the “Immortal Hulk” series (and holy cow, do I ever need to review that series, right?), depicting the Hulk and the Thing sitting down in a diner for some chow.

Hopefully, their waitress is about to inform them that they’re going to have to pay for the booth they’re wrecking — and to remind them about the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign they apparently ignored when they came in.

But the other great thing about the cover is the little detail of what the Hulk is eating. ‘Cause the thing a lot of people forget is that, ever since the ’70s, the Hulk has really, really loved eating beans.

And he’s loved making other superheroes eat beans, too.

So be like the Hulk and go eat a nice, big bowl of beans. Hey, it’s the weekend, and you don’t have to worry about stinking up your office, right? Plus you don’t have a gamma-powered digestive system, so whatever you do in the bathroom, you’re probably not going to completely destroy the toilet…

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Smashing the Klan!

It’s a great day to review a comic, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru.

There is, first of all, some actual history behind this, and you can read some of the details in this old review of mine right here. Back in the 1940s, the Anti Defamation League and the producers of the Superman radio show hit on the idea of using the character’s vast popularity to make a difference in some of the nation’s social ills, including racism.

The result was a storyline called “The Clan of the Fiery Cross,” with the Man of Steel battling a stand-in organization for the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was infuriated about the program, but it was still basically the most popular show on the radio, and it helped significantly reduce the Klan’s power across the nation.

And that brings us to this comic, which is an adaptation of the radio show. It’s got some new or altered characters, some new or altered storylines — in other words, it’s an adaptation, not a transcription.

So our main characters — aside from Superman, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen — are the Lee family, recent Chinese immigrants, particularly the two kids, popular and athletic Tommy and brainy but nervous Roberta.

The Lees’ first days in their new Metropolis home start out rough, with all too many reminders of the racism that plagued anyone who wasn’t white in the 1940s. Besides the occasional slur and rude remark, there’s also the rising threat of the Clan of the Fiery Cross, a hate group that burns crosses in people’s lawns, sets bombs in community centers, and tries all too hard to assault and kill as many innocents as they can.

But luckily, Superman is on the case. He saves plenty of lives, but is dogged by his own doubts and fears, including the strange alien ghosts that only he can see and who claim to be his real parents. Is the Man of Steel losing his mind?

As the attacks by the hate group grow bolder, more desperate, and more destructive, can Superman and the Lees come together to smash the Klan once and for all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is energetic and engrossing, the art is absolutely glorious, and the message is desperately needed nowadays.

My lone criticism is that the story is really episodic, almost random, with the Klan repeatedly hatching various schemes and putting people in danger, just for the danger to be foiled in the nick of time before the next scheme is hatched. But of course, that’s very true to the story’s origins in the radio dramas of the 1940s, which were obviously episodic and often ended with a cliffhanger that would be resolved in the next day’s broadcast. Still, it can take a little time to get used to it…

I feel like the star of the comic is Roberta Lee, who carries most of the weight of the story. She gets to start out nervous and queasy, and she gets to grow in lots of ways, showing off more bravery and much more cleverness and wit.

And Superman is portrayed very interestingly. He has his Golden Age powers — leaping but not flying, less strength, no heat vision, etc. And he also has his first exposure to Kryptonite in this story — another nice nod to the radio series, where Kryptonite originated. And his doubts and fears are well articulated through the weird alien ghosts he starts seeing everywhere.

And Gurihiru’s artwork is just so dang great. The Japanese artistic team always does a great job, and their artwork in this book is just as fun, as beautiful, as wildly charismatic and engaging as ever.

And if you needed another reason to get this book? Listen, you love to see people smashing the Klan, right? Everyone loves to see the Klan get smashed! Smashing the Klan is what America has always done best — and we can continue smashing the Klan today! Huzzah! Klan smashing!

In other words, go get this book for great art and characters, for a fun throwback to classic tales of yesteryear, and for getting to watch hatemongers repeatedly getting beat up.

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