HALLOWEEN’ING 2014: Day 17 – Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

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Sandman_Preludes_and_NocturnesThis was supposed to be the HALLOWEEN’ING post for yesterday, before it was pre-empted by the goings on in the Wal-Mart that night. Eh, gave me more time to think about htis one.

For those of you who have no idea who this Sandman character is, well…shame on you. As much as I’d love to go on not only about this classic comic book character and the creator of this iteration of the embodiment of Dream, Neil Gaiman, I will not make this series of Halloween-themed blurbs turn into pseudo-essays that will amount to so much fanboy gushing. This isn’t Reddit, after all.

And before any hardcore Reddit reader runs upon this, this was a good-natured joke. Please don’t overrun my blog feed with bizarre amoeba porn again, I beg.

Preludes & Nocturnes is the Trade Paperback collection of the first eight issues of The Sandman run. And the reason why this gains its own shout-out in the HALLOWEEN’ING series? Well, let’s see…it starts off with the afore-mentioned embodiment of Dream–Morpheus, aka The Sandman–getting captured by a dark magician in 1916 by mistake, as he was actually trying to capture Dream’s sister, Death. He’s kept imprisoned in the basement through the decades until 1988, when he manages to escape. He then goes on a quest to find his three totems of power: a bag of sand, a helm that looks like a gas mask designed by H. R. Geiger, and a ruby. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but rest assured that these tales are very dark, very disturbing, and completely engrossing. Ripping good stuff. And to top it off, the final issue collected here is merely a stand-alone story, where Dream has a conversation with his sister Death.

Preludes & Nocturnes remains my favorite one of all the collected Sandman TPB’s, one I try and re-read once a year around this time. Highly recommended for some dark fantasy visual storytelling.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Book Review: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?

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superman 423 Action_Comics_583

Superman #423 / Action Comics #583
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Curt Swan

Behold, the last Superman story ever told.  Well, the last Silver Age Superman story ever told, anyway…

The year was 1985, a time of great creativity and upheaval in the DC camp.  Both Alan Moore and Frank Miller revolutionized the way we viewed comics with their landmarks Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns stories, respectively.  The maxi-series Crisis On Infinite Earths massively cleaned up fifty years of comic continuity problems by completely resetting many key characters and getting rid of others into one coherent earth.  Which meant completely revising and revamping character histories to reflect this reset.

Before John Byrne was to do his work on Superman’s origin in the Man Of Steel mini, DC wanted to put a final story to the era of the Superman of Earth-1.  To that end, they gave Alan Moore free reign at sending the Man Of Steel off with a bang.

And what a bang it was.

Considered by many to be perhaps the greatest Superman story ever, “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” starts things off with a reporter interviewing the former Lois Lane (now Mrs. Elliot) about the last days of Superman for a Superman Memorial Edition of the Daily Planet newspaper.  She recounts how, in those last days, everything seemed to go completely wrong for Supes.  Lex Luthor gets possesed by Brainiac.  Bizarro goes completely homicidal, then commits suicide.  The Toyman and The Prankster unexpectedly out Clark Kent as Superman.  Then all hell breaks loose, as every single villain in Supes’ rogue gallery make a stab for him and his loved ones.  To that end, Superman decides that the best way to save his close friends and loved ones is to take them all to his fortress of solitude, where Luthor/Brainiac and the Kryptonite Man, along with some of the futuristic Legion of Super Villains (remember, it was the Silver Age) gather in a bid to finally take Superman down.  In the deadly wake, Superman finally realizes who’s behind all the madness.  And it’s not who you’d expect.

This story…beautiful.  I own this in a TPB, collecting both the issues.  It is, by far, one of Alan Moore’s best stories.  His ability to take the Silver Age and give it depth and realism while still retaining that Silver Age charm is at its peak here.  Curt Swan, longtime artist for DC and considered to be the best Superman artist, is equally at his peak.

If you read only one Silver Age story of Superman, make sure it’s this one.  Top notch stuff…

Book Review: FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING

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superman-annual11Superman Annual #11 [1985]
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons

“Happy birthday, Kryptonian. I give you… oblivion.”

And another one in a row to feature Alan Moore’s writing.  Not so much of a theme, or obsession as well (even though one could argue the point), but this stands as perhaps a testament to Moore’s incredible ability to really get into the head of the comic characters he works on.  Be it his classic run on Swamp Thing, his legendary retooling of Marvel Man (Miracle Man here in the States), the Bat-Man mythos in “The Killing Joke”, or even the ones he created himself, his stories are more or less a look into what goes on inside the heads of superheroes.

In “For The Man Who Has Everything”, Moore deftly gets to the inner conflict within Kal-El, what his secret desires are, and what could have been, as Superman, on his birthday, is visited by Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman, and discover that interplanetary despot Mongul has already crashed the party and given Supes his gift- a Black Mercy, which is a parasite that grafts itself to the host and gives said host hallucinogenic experiences of their very heart’s desire.  Fighting ensues for the life of Superman, who is trapped inside his head, living out the life he always wanted.

The greatest part of this story culminates when, after the Black Mercy is taken off of him, he realizes what Mongul has done, and in his rage, Superman takes Mongul out with his heat vision, saying only one word: “Burn.”  Chilling.

While the original comic is relatively cheep, the paper stock isn’t exactly of the same quality that comics nowadays are printed on.  This story has been reprinted in a trade paperback that has all of Moore’s work he did for DC back in the day, so check that out.  You won’t be disappointed, I’m sure…

Book Review: The WALKING DEAD, Volume 1

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TheWalkingDeadV1Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
Image Comics
[collecting The Walking Dead #1-#6]

“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”

Waking up from a gunshot-induced coma, police officer Rick Grimes’ world is turned on its ear — a mysterious zombie plague has taken over, turning the country into a desolate undead wasteland. Meeting up with a small group of survivors outside of Atlanta, they tenaciously hold onto their small hope of rescue. As the days pass, though, this hope slips, and Rick realizes that the zombie infestation is not the only danger the group faces…

I’ve known for a couple of years now of the buzz The Walking Dead has been getting. And up ’til now, as far as horror comics went, unless the book had Ghost Rider, John Constantine, or Morbius in the title, I wasn’t really interested. But, I thought I’d give the title a shot, and since I’m the type to start comics at the beginning (or at least at a decent jumping-on point), I got a reasonably priced TPB collection of the first six issues to see if it lived up to the hype. Reasoning that, if not, at least I’d have some decent zombie illustrations to look at.

After reading straight through in one sitting, my first thought was, “Great merciful CRAP! Where’ve I been all these years?!?”

To quote series writer Robert Kirkman in the introduction: “To me zombie movies are thought provoking, dramatic fiction… Movies that make you question the fabric of our very society are what I like. And in GOOD zombie movies…you get that by the truckload.” A man after my own heart, that one is…

The Walking Dead nails it. The drama of the story is just as hear-gouging as is the horror elements. Drama, thrills and gore, that’s a great recipe. Throw in a heaping helping of the beautifully-rendered black and white artwork from Tony Moore, which lends to a classic zombie flick feeling to the series, and you’ve got zombie gold, packed together nicely.

‘Bout the only gripe I have, besides the six issues going by way too soon (I didn’t want it to end, and I found myself cursing the fact that I only bought this one…the wait for my next bi-monthly trek to the comic shop is going to be a long one), is that there’s not much for extras. There’s no cover art included, which is nowadays a staple in trade paperback collections like this one. Only gripe, honest…

But now I’m babbling. I’ve found a new comic addiction. Zombie fans need to have this in their collection…

Book Review: OBERGEIST: The Director’s Cut

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obergeistImage Comics
2000

During World War II, Dr. Jurgen Steinholtz is a Nazi death camp scientist conducting experiments on inmates suspected of psychic abilities in hopes of developing a sort of “super soldier” to win the war against the Allies. On one fateful night, Steinholtz has a turn of heart concerning the morality of what he’s doing (after having all the pain and suffering of the Jewish people embedded in him by his subject), and is subsequently killed for turning against the Nazis. After languishing for centuries in a mass grave, Steinholtz is resurrected by a couple of angels to stop the rise of a new Nazi nation in America in the middle of the 22nd Century. Joining up with a couple of undergound freedom fighters and discovering he wields some amazing and powerful mojo, Steinholtz is still tormented by the voices of the ones he killed before. Oh, and it seems that the forces that brought him back to life aren’t as benevolent as once seemed…

For a horror-based comic mini series, Obergeist came and went without much fanfare, but those who discovered it were taken in by the very complex and involving story of Jurgen Steinholtz and his undead displacement, the cool artwork, and the gritty feel of the series. I enjoyed it completely. The trade paperback, subtitled The Director’s Cut, includes some extra pages of artwork, pinups, and stuff from the guys involved on how they made the comic at places. Very good collection, and a must have for horror comic buffs…