Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of Planetary, he borrows the comics from friends.) Here, he spills the beans on whether or not it was worth it. But to paraphrase LeVar Burton, don’t just take his word for it--you should read comics too.
ASTONISHING X-MEN VOL. 4: UNSTOPPABLE
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramagna
In general, I’m not crazy about the X-Men flying off into space and bebopping around other planets. However, I’m an unabashed fan of Whedon and Cassaday’s take on this cast of characters, and I was more than happy to go along for the ride. (It’s a testament to Whedon’s abilities as a storyteller that I so readily accepted there being a planet named “Breakworld.”) Cassaday’s propensity for drawing panels that bleed off the edge of the page makes the reader feel the connecting pieces of the puzzle are just out of view--the same feeling that weighs heavily on the X-Men in all four volumes. Unfortunately, the binding in this paperback makes it hard at times to tell if the panel does indeed bleed off the page; oftentimes you can’t quite open the book wide enough to see the border, and two-page splashes really suffer. Nevertheless, the story is a triumph, and it’s a thrill to see the last page emblazoned with “WHEDON, CASSADAY, MARTIN.” Those three crafted what for me stands as a definitive X-story.
PLANETARY BOOK 1: ALL OVER THE WORLD AND OTHER STORIES
Warren Ellis – Writer
John Cassaday – Artist
Laura Depuy – Colorist with David Baron and WildStorm FX
Ali Fuchs and Bill O’Neil – Letterers
I know I’m late coming to this book, but what a brilliant idea: A team of three super-powered beings circle the globe uncovering the supernatural events of the 20th century--the events us readers know from 100 years of comic books, movies, pulps and still more comic books. The meta aspects of the series are a thrill without ever becoming arch: Monster Island, here rebranded Island Zero; the Incredible Hulk, who here uses the advanced mathematics stored in his own brain to save himself from a terrible explosion, only to be captured and starved to death over 20 years; and my favorite of all, the Fantastic Four, who here spearheaded a beyond-top-secret space program and returned to Earth with even darker intentions than they left with. The questions are many that this book posits, but that’s half the point: Not only is it important to ask questions, it’s important to ask whether the questions you’re asking are really the ones you want--or need--answered.
PLANETARY BOOK 2: THE FOURTH MAN
Warren Ellis – Writer
John Cassaday – Artist
Laura DePuy and David Baron – Colorists
Ryan Cline, Bill O’Neil and Mike Heisler – Letterers
The through line of the issues here collected is the gradual break in the cloud front that has been obfuscating Elijah Snow’s memories. Among his retrieved memories: what the Four have done to him, and just who exactly Planetary’s wizard behind the curtain, the Fourth Man, actually is. Cassaday’s art is top notch, especially in his use of light and shadow, and although it’s great fun to watch Ellis and Cassaday riff on giant ants and James Bond (here named John Stone, agent of S.T.O.R.M.), my favorite story upends the Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman mythos. Planetary, it seems, just might be the Watchmen of the 21st century.
PLANETARY BOOK 3: LEAVING THE 20TH CENTURY
Warren Ellis & John Cassaday: Writer/Co-Creators/Artist
Laura Martin: Colorist
Bill O’Neil (issues 13-15), Richard Starkings (issues 16-18): Letters
Classic monsters, Sherlock Holmes, mighty Mjolnir and creation itself. This list only scratches the surface of the ideas Ellis and Cassaday tackle, tear apart and put back together in wild new forms throughout this volume. For my money, the final issue of this book provides the most fun, with Planetary directly attacking the Four while uncovering a program for manned spaceflight dating back to 1851. I’m thrilled that issue 27 has finally hit the stands, and I can’t wait for the fourth (yes, the number four is important indeed) volume to finally be collected in 2010.
TMNT COLLECTED BOOK VOLUME ONE
By Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
With Steve Lavigne, Jim Lawson, Michael Dooney, Ryan Brown, Dave Sim, Gerhard and Stephen Bissette
Collecting the first 11 issues of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--plus additional issues dedicated to each of the four turtles and their extraterrestrial robotic companion, the Fugitoid--this book is pure fun and a must-have for any Turtles fan. After the first issue, which riffs heavily on Frank Miller’s Ronin, the story takes the turtles on a galaxy-spanning adventure before bringing them back down to Earth and refocusing them on their martial-arts roots. As someone who grew up with the old cartoon, it’s great to see what changed and what stayed (relatively) the same, and it’s especially noteworthy just how closely the first live-action feature hewed to this material. The final four chapters are perhaps the best, though all are a joy to behold in their black, white and gray (courtesy of Duo-Shade board) glory. And, lest I forget to mention him, Casey Jones!
All images copyright their respective publishers. Text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.