I’ve been on a graphic novel spree, thanks to a number of my inter-library loans all showing up at once.
First up on my list was DC’s 1989 series Invasion!. I wasn’t reading DC at the time so all I knew about the event was that it is a massive crossover involving freaky looking aliens and a big chunk of the DC universe. I also knew it involved Australia, thanks to an issue of Uncanny X-Men that lampooned the event.
All in all it is a fun read. The alien race known as the Dominators, who are cool looking thinly-veiled adaptation of Yellow Menace imagery, have foreseen a time when Earth’s penchant for creating superbeings will threaten their dreams of galactic conquest. This was the birth of DC’s idea that even seemingly normal heroes have a metagene, or the “We Want Mutants Too” era of DC. The Dominators forge an interstellar coalition to invade the Earth and suppress its superpowered potential until it can be studied and controlled.
This event does a lot of things right. Each member of the coalition has its own reasons for joining the cause, which the Dominators manipulate expertly, and each has a specific role to play. For example, the Khunds provided ground and space forces while Thanagar provided air support. The Daxamites acted as impartial observers, at least initially, and the Gil’Dishpan handle logistical support. Other races are bullied into neutrality. The Dominators do a good job playing their allies against each other, planning for the inevitable collapse of the coalition once the invasion is complete. They also take into account threats like the Omega Men, the Green Lantern Corps, and even made sure to acquire approval from Darkseid before proceeding with their plan. I like it when a story covers its bases so completely.
The story is well written and fun, with massive heroic stands by the heroes and lots of skulduggery among the villains. The collection does a good job of giving you the meat of the story, but as often happens with massive crossover events it’s obvious that there are a number of side stories we are not getting to read. This is one of several problems I have with big crossover events, that we rarely see a good job done of collecting them into trades. Invasion! itself was only three issues long, but it crossed into 30 other issues. Boiling all that down into a single book severely reduces the impact of the whole storyline, but I must admit that Invasion! pulled it off better than most graphic novels.
I’m looking at you Blackest Night, you sorry excuse for a collection.
Invasion! wasn’t as game changing to DC as some of their other events, but it’s a fun read. Especially if you like mixing space opera with your superheroes.
Every now and then I like to pull out an old book and remember a happier time, when Frank Miller was brilliant and not just a hack with a reprehensible world view.
Miller was one of the biggest stars in the 80’s comicbook renaissance and I was among his ardent fans. My leather bound collection of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One is one of my favorite books. His legendary run on Daredevil is the only period where I followed the book and the surreal Elektra: Assassin made a big impact on my teenage self.
Ronin was written and illustrated by Frank Miller in 1984. It was the second piece by him that I read and I remember liking it a great deal, but wasn’t sure how well it would hold up to a fresh reading. I’m pleased to say that I still like it a great deal.
The book is a mix of Samurai and Cyberpunk genres that would make any Samurai Jack fan happy. The art shows a lot of Miller’s signature style, but has a Moebius flair to it that suits the story well. The opening premise is about a young samurai who fails to save his master from a demon. Now a masterless ronin, he sacrifices his life to bind himself and the demon into a magic sword. The two are released centuries later in the ruins of New York City, where a massive bio-mechanical compound has been built to develop technology for reshaping the world
I can’t say much more about the story without revealing the plot twists. Overall it holds up well, though I see some flaws that herald a few of Miller’s less pleasant cliches and there are a few events that don’t further the plot and feel like padding. The romance in particular has some logistical issues, but is nowhere near as problematic as Miller’s recent work.
If you are a fan of swords and cyberpunk, and if you want to read Miller from when he was a rising star, Ronin is a good choice.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
With the release of the new movie, which I still haven’t seen, I thought I’d check out this iconic story from the classic X-Men era. This is one of those stories I knew from pieces, as it heavily influenced the X-Men for many years, but had never read in its entirety.
I used to religiously collect Uncanny X-Men, which was their current timeline, and Classic X-Men, which reprinted the adventures of the team that took over after the original X-Men retired. Days of Future Past fell into the narrow window between when I started reading Uncanny X-Men and when I stopped collecting Classic.
The story’s premise is of a nightmare future where Sentinels rule the United States. All mutants are killed or locked in concentration camps and most of the old heroes and villains, mutant or otherwise, have already died. The rest of the world has sworn nuclear war the moment the Sentinels move beyond the United States, which the uncaring robots are poised to do, and all hope rests on a few surviving X-Men.
Rachel Summers, who was first introduced in this story, telepathically beams the mind of Kate Pryde back in time where she possess the body of her 13 year old self. From there she had to convince the X-Men of her story and rally them to stop the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The assassination of a US senator by the Brotherhood was the catalyst for the long nightmare and stopping it would hopefully write a new future, erasing the world Kate came from.
That’s pretty heavy stuff, knowing that you are erasing your existence in the hopes that a better life, a happier “you”, will take your place.
I love this era of X-Men. The writing is melodramatic, but they manage to hit my sweet spot for telling grim stories without giving into the gritty darkness that later took over comics. These still feel like adventures, which is no small feat when you’re doing a story about a mutant holocaust.
Another thing that surprised me was how short this storyline is. The collection includes unrelated issues from before and after the event so that it can fill a whole trade paperback. Days of Future Past cast a shadow over X-Men stories for years, yet the event was only two issues long.
Two issues. Take that Age of Apocalypse.
All in all, it was a very satisfactory weekend of superheroic reading. Now if I can just get my hands on Jim Starlin’s omnibus Dreadstar collection. I might break down and get that one off Comixology.