Review: Sandman Volume 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES by Neil Gaiman

sandman vol 1ISBN: 9781401225759

What You Get: The first eight issues of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning series (OR SO I HEAR), an introduction by executive editor Karen Berger, and an afterword by Neil Gaiman. Art by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III.

The Story: This series falls solidly into the horror genre, so it has blood, gore, violence, and scary and disturbing characters/scenes/plots.  The diner chapter, specifically, made me go ARGH DO NOT WANT the entire time. I still enjoyed this book but couldn’t whole-heartedly love it; for those who read and like horror, obviously, this would probably not be a problem.

Each issue has a mostly self-contained story, with the first seven issues comprising a “quest” format story arc. In the first issue, we’re introduced to an appropriately creepy cult that tries to capture Death for their own purposes, but being incompetent creepy cultists, they capture Dream instead. Eventually, of course, Dream escapes and sets himself to righting his wrongs and getting back all of his stuff. The eighth issue in the volume introduces us to a character important to Dream and is obviously a lull in between two arcs.

When he’s in the human world, he’s a scary-looking dude with awesome clothes, but in dreams and the dream-world he is extremely powerful. A large part of the fun (so to speak) in this story is watching Dream use his powers in different ways, using dreams to scare, punish, trap, or teach people. He’s a scary kind of dude, I think I mentioned. He visits Hell in one issue, which turned out to be one of my favorites, partly because of the fantastical (and terrifying, yes) depiction of Hell, and partly because of the conflict which pits Dream against a demon in a contest (to get his afore-mentioned stuff back).

The supporting characters are definitely a mixed bag. The ones I liked and hope come back are Dream’s clothing (obviously the best supporting character), Death, and John Constantine. John Constantine is the closest we get to a decent human sidekick who helps Dream out. The incorporation of Cain and Abel was very interesting, presenting them as archetypes of a sort who live their story over and over again, but that was disturbing and they were disturbing. There were various others who show up only to die horribly, of course.

I didn’t know ahead of time that this story takes place in DC’s universe, but then Arkham Asylum was there (because we needed more creepiness!) and some cameos from Justice League International characters (which made me really happy).

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The Art: The different artists managed to make the overall style in this volume stay coherent, which I apprecaited. I liked Sam Keith’s style for Dream best. Dream’s clothing is my favorite thing about the art, as you might have surmised. I loved the three witches (or fates or whatever name they’re going by) and how they look like all the stereotypes of those archetypes combined. The art is creepy and the bad guys are really gross and there’s lots of goopiness everywhere always. I enjoyed seeing Martian Manhunter and Mr. Miracle in a book so completely different from anything else they’re in—the art made them seem like really different characters, even though their behavior was consistent. “A Hope In Hell” had the most fantastic backgrounds. I really loved the issue covers by Dave McKean. They’re not your usual “put random scenes on the comic so people will pick it up!” covers, but instead vague creepy portentous things.

My Rating: four out of five stars

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Review: CAPTAIN MARVEL VOLUME 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick

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ISBN: 0785165495

What You Get: The first six issues of Marvel Now’s new Captain Marvel series by Kelly Sue DeConnick with Dexter Roy and Emma Rios as artists. Ms. Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, is taking on the mantle of Mar-Vell, the previous Captain Marvel. There’s also a few pages of Carol Danvers’ biography in the back of the book, which is really handy for filling in all the gaps for new readers of this character (like me).

The Story: It successfully establishes Carol Danvers as the new Captain Marvel, and contains a fabulous time travel story that catches us up on her origin story, the people important to her, her powers, and what kind of a hero she is.

The first issue shows her reluctantly taking up Captain Marvel’s mantle, urged by Cap America (who is great). There’s a great fight scene where the two Captains team up, and it’s really fun seeing them work together so well (especially in “shielding” the civilians).

The rest of the volume explores Carol’s hesitancy in her new role by giving her the option of changing her life completely so that she isn’t a Captain Marvel or even a superhero anymore; but this personal journey is entrenched in a rollicking time-travel story with many kickass ladies as supporting characters. There’s a team of World War II pilots in issues 3-4 that I especially loved. Issues 5-6 focuses exclusively on the pasts of Helen Cobb, an important woman from Carol’s past, and Carol herself, and the two women find themselves alternately teaming up and fighting each other to work out all the flaws (or supposed flaws) in the timeline. Carol has to figure out whether or not she is who she is supposed to be, and whether what she wants matters. Helen and Carol have so much sass and swag that this is all endless fun.

Minor complaint: It’s clear that Burke and Carol have a strong, caring relationship, but there isn’t any explanation in the main issues of why that is. The biography answers questions but it still seemed odd that it isn’t shown or commented on in the main story.

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from #1 by Dexter Soy

The Art: The art matches the tone and style of the stories being told perfectly. It is perfect and I love it. Dexter Soy’s art in issues 1-4 is colorful and dark and vibrant and full of movement, and it is pretty much my favorite comic art I have ever experienced. Issues 5-6, by Emma Rios, have a pretty different style, but it evokes Soy’s in certain ways. Plus it’s a little retro, with lots of sharp edges and sassy ladies in awesome 60s clothing, and fits the story it is telling perfectly. LOTS OF PERFECTION, HERE, ARE YOU GETTING THAT.

from #5 by Emma Rios
from #5 by Emma Rios

My Rating: five out of five stars

Review: Avengers Vs. X-Men PHC

14885892ISBN: 0785163174

Warning: mild and/or vague spoilers!

What You Get: 568 pages. Comic book collections generally contain 4-10 issues, but this one has 22.5. BAM. There are thirteen for the main AvX storyline, along with six “VS” match issues (pitting various X-Men against various Avengers) and three “Infinite Comics” issues, which were created for digital. So that’s cool.

The Story: Let’s face facts, the whole reason behind this storyline is so that the writers/artists could depict what happens when, say, Magneto and Iron Man fight each other, and the fans can watch. I had a hard time believing that various characters would actually react in a certain way (or so strongly), especially in the first few issues. But the writers did the best they could in showing how stressed out everyone is from the years of Intense Story Arcs and past trauma from the Phoenix. I also appreciated how certain characters went bad; if they’re going to go bad, even for just one decision or for the entire series, I thought it was in-character how they went bad. That is, the characters’ pre-existing flaws were what was emphasized when they behaved in dastardly ways, here.

 The Art: The art was really great. I’m not an art critic in any sense of the word, so I’m not sure what I should be allowed to say besides “IT WAS REALLY PRETTY AND I JUST WANTED TO MAKE OUT WITH SOME OF THOSE TWO-PAGE SPREADS.” I don’t think all Marvel should have the same art, but sometimes it makes me cry how some titles get such ross-awful art, while others get really special unique art (like Hawkeye or Captain Marvel) or simply high-quality art, like Avengers vs X-Men. Some of the “VS” and “Infinite” issues stood out awkwardly as less awesome. Olivier Coipel was my favorite line artist, overall, in this volume.

The Cool: I really liked how Nova was used (although I’ve never seen Nova before (I’m only a year old in comic years!)). I couldn’t help thinking that if this was a DC series, an even dozen of Green Lanterns would have to be maimed or killed for this story function. I’ve also been waiting for Captain America to hit Namor in the head with his shield since I started reading comics. There’s a one-page gag comic in which Captain America and Cyclops trade verbal abuse, and it was one of my favorite pages in the entire volume. This is also a good story for Hope fans (of which I am one most of the time). She’s one of a handful of characters who have fully-fleshed out, believable storylines, and hers is just awesome. So.

The Not-So-Cool: Some big couples may or may not break up in this storyline, and it may or may not seem ludicrously contrived. Some of the “Vs” issues didn’t really make sense in how the action panned out.

My Rating: three out of five stars

In which I buy comics

All the Wonder Woman!
All the Wonder Woman!

Last Friday I bought comics for the first time. Well, mostly. Well, sorta. It was my first time buying comic issues, rather than trade paperbacks (TPB), and it was my first time buying from an actual store rather than ordering online or getting them through the library. Although it was a comic/hobby/book store, rather than a solely comics store. BUT STILL. I BOUGHT ISSUES. FROM A COMIC-DEALING STORE.

It was fabulous. And I decided that I have definitely become One Of Them.

I only started reading American comics (I’ve been reading manga for a while now) this year.

So I went to this local nerdy store called Dragonvine, because I had a few minutes to kill. I went to their little comic section and was looking through all the current issues and being greatly tempted by everything. Before this, I had just gone in there to drool. But I don’t normally buy issues because for series that I LOVE, I wait and buy the TPB, and for series I’m curious about but haven’t read, I check it out from the library first. So I’m lurking and looking at all the comics and this girl who works there asks if I need any help. I asked her if they had Young Avengers in (the new stuff, I love the old-ish series), because I knew it was coming out in January but I couldn’t remember what day. She informed me that it would be coming out in a couple weeks. I was so excited to meet a young female nerd (like myself) who clearly knows what’s up, without looking it up! Usually the people in stores who know about comics are the scary old dudes.

Then she went away, but I discovered their boxes of older issues that were marked down. So I prowled through there like a professional predator and found two issues that I haven’t been able to find in any TPBs. So I bought them. Hooray!

FearItself
Fear Itself: Captain America and Fear Itself: Alpha Flight

The girl came back while I was looking and, out of the blue, asked if I liked Journey Into Mystery. I was like HAYYLLLL YES and we had a moment. And then I told her that I hadn’t read much of it because it was hard to find and she said yeah, they only get like two copies at the store even when there’s a brand new issue, and I was like that’s sad. So we had another moment. And then I bought my issues and she told me I made good choices and we approved of each other.

Also have I mentioned recently that I REALLY want to read the new Hawkeye title?