August reads pt 1

August was graphic novel month. Rejoicing in the headiness of having all-but-20-pounds of my comics back in India, I spent all of last month reading, rereading, caressing, making sweet love to having fun with my books. And this is what I read.

Peter David: Hulk Visionaries volume 1: Reprinting the earliest Hulk books by writer Peter David, who was to go on and write more than 150 issues in the course of his career. One of the interesting points of the book was the introduction by David himself, in which he pointed out how the term “Visionary” made out his early storytelling attempts to be part of an organised approach while it was anything but. It was only later that David was to hit his stride, weaving subplots and revamping the Hulk into a renewed fan-favourite. These early stories were written firmly with the eighties audience in mind. Comic-book dialogue, mandatory fight sequences, narrative captions, a subplot in every issue to keep the storyline moving along. The artwork by Todd McFarlane is incredibly cheesy, apparently the young Todd could not draw anything but action sequences and splash pages – the images of the Hulk in action are truly awesome, but the ones in which there are characters talking, normal “quiet” moments are tacky beyond belief. I would have enjoyed reading them a LOT a couple of years ago, but now it was more of a nostalgia read than anything else.

Walt Simonson – Thor Visionaries volume 1 and 2: Another eighties run, one of the best storylines in the Thor comics featuring a character called Beta Ray Bill, an alien who turns out to be worthy of lifting and wielding Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. This storyline, despite being riddled with the same kind of creative flourishes that proliferated in eighties comics, holds up very well. Simonson’s storytelling, in both the script and art departments, is truly mindblowing. He makes use of the stories and characters that Norse mythology has to offer and weaves them with the main Thor storyline. At the very outset, Simonson does away with the Donald Blake identity of Thor, introduces Beta Ray Bill, brings in Baldur’s torment following his resurrection, talks about Loki’s insidious plans against Asgard and ….well, a lot, lot more. I now have to go and hit volume 3.

Tom Strong 1-22 *sigh* Ok, let me try and talk about this without going into Fanboy Overdrive.

Alan Moore created and wrote this series, as part of his America’s Best Comics publications, which also released the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and Top Ten, among others. Moore wrote the first 22 issues, and other writers chipped in until issue 35 ( including Michael Moorcock, Brian K Vaughan and Ed Brubaker ) – and for the most part, the Moore stories were illustrated by Chris Sprouse, the co-creator of Tom Strong. How do I describe this series? It’s an incredibly retro look at super-heroes ( Aren’t they all? ), it features homages to tonnes of pulp and comicbook characters ( Yeah, I know, even Planetary does ) and it exists in a world that takes in superheroes, magic, Nazis, parallel worlds, talking Gorillas, time-travelling counterparts, steam-driven robots, super-dynasties, and….well, if you got a cool concept, Tom Strong has it. Moore glories in introducing twists to familiar literary devices that make reading this series a jaw-dropping, orgasm-inducing experience. In the middle of the series, you have stories-within-stories that are “Untold tales”, stories from Tom Strong’s past, or from one of the multiple dimensions in which alternate versions of Tom Strong exist. Each such segment is drawn by different artists, like Art Adams, Gary Gianni, Dave Gibbons, Paul Chadwick and Kyle Baker. The final series that Moore wrote “How Tom Stone got started” is a conceit in itself, in which Moore reimagines his own characters with a completely different history, one that’s perfectly plausible and well-fleshed out. In the space of three issues, he actually made me want to read about this otherseries. Incredible.

There is a heck of a lot of books I want to talk about, but this is all I have the patience for, I’m afraid.


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