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Friday, January 04, 2008

Batman, # 667-669, published by DC Comics, 32 pages, $2.99

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Batman and Robin take a weekend jaunt to a Caribbean island to hob-knob with several other “dynamic duos” from around the world, and it ends up becoming a very un-campy murder mystery. That’s the premise of “The Island of Mister Mayhew” in issues 667 through 669 of DC’s Batman comic.

If writer Grant Morrison’s not doing the impossible, here, it’s something very close. He takes a bunch of “weird c-list crimefighters” (Robin’s words, not mine) and makes them interesting. With the exception of possibly one or two of them, further investigation of such characters, in Morrison’s hands, could prove entertaining, I suspect. To me, it illustrates the adage that there are no bad characters, just characters without the proper story.

What’s more, the writer takes a three-issue tale and gives it a much more expansive feel using well-placed flash-back sequences.

J.H. Williams proves, as he does in most of his projects, why he is a fan-favorite artist. With a flair for realism, as well as a versatility which allows him to delineate between present and past events with apparent ease, Williams “paints” the mood of the story with just the right shades of the suspenseful, the horrific, the macabre, even the pitiful and ridiculous. Yeah, it’s all in there.

Besides that, he may be one of the best Batman illustrators in the business. His Caped Crusader is eerily calm, but can easily be imagined housing multiple psychoses. In short, he’s “spooky,” and that’s what Batman is supposed to be.

I suppose I should mention that this story builds off of an idea first conceived in the ‘50's, in Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics, but knowledge of previous history is completely unnecessary for enjoyment of this run, which is uncommon for DC, and to be commended.

These issues of Batman are recommended to older fans of superhero history and those who enjoy a good mystery.

Review by Mark Allen

Graphic Classics: Stoker/$11.95 and 141 pages/from Eureka Productions

If he had only written Dracula, Bram Stoker would have been a master of horror. Thankfully, he wrote other shivering horror stories as well, and Dracula and six additional Stoker classics are featured in the seventh volume of Graphic Classics.

All are well adapted by various scribes, which may be the saving grace of this issue. If there is any criticism of the Graphic Classics series of comic adaptations, it is that too many stories requiring a realistic approach to art feature a minimalistic or “cartoony” approach instead. This collection is no exception.

Should you invest in Bram Stoker if you don’t care for simplistic doodles as does this reviewer? You betcha!

This reviewer’s favorites include Dracula (adapted by Tom Pomplun, art by Hunt Emerson), The Judge’s House (adapted and drawn by Gerry Alanguilan), Torture Tower (adapted and drawn by Onsmith Jeremi) and Lair of the White Worm (adapted by Tom Pomplun, art by Rico Schacheel). Favorite artists include Gerry Alanguilan and Rico Schacheel.

Why does horror require realistic art?

A major tool of a horror writer is atmosphere, i.e. the subtle anticipation of crippling damage or even death. It is tough to garner fear with stick figures.

Nevertheless, Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker is recommended. The publisher recommends the collection “for ages 12 to adult”. This reviewer agrees.

Various writers and artists/available in book stories, comics shops, and at

Archie Holiday Fun Digest #12/$2.49 and 82 pages from Archie Comics/various artists and writers/sold lots of places and at

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly, and Archie, and Betty, and Veronica! ‘Tis the season for a holiday scrapbook of “photos” and ten stories of Christmas cheer and lessons learned. These are all well-packaged with excellent art and story for the young and the young-at-heart.

Reviews by Michael Vance

Check out Dreams and Visions #35 for a new Vance short story: