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Monday, April 07, 2008

Stormbringer #1/28pgs. & $2.95 from Dark Horse and Topps Comics

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)

Stormbringer #1/28pgs. & $2.95 from Dark Horse and Topps Comics/drawn and adapted from Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone by P. Craig Russell and Julie E. Gassaway/available at comics shops and by mail.

Someday, your prince will come. He’ll come because a small but hardcore group of fans refuse to let the fantasy genre die.

Genre is french for "a type of" and fantasy is a type of story with princes, damsels in distress, exotic settings, monsters, magic and very flowery language. That's because fantasy is not… well, reality. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are fantasy. Stormbringer, however, is not. Stormbringer is an epic fantasy.

This adaptation of the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock is not fantasy on the scale of T.RR. Tolkien's hobbit books. It is smaller, much less imaginative and closer in style to Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast movie.

Nor is it fantasy on the level of television's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is more adult than that.

Stormbringer is a magic sword and Elric is an albino prince who will use the sword to rescue his wife who is stolen away by demons.

Stormbringer is also the wonderfully distinctive art of P. Craig Russell which is actually more distinctive than the story. It is a minimalistic art that uses color instead of extra lines to flesh out detail. It may remind you of poster art: broad, simple, very design conscious, and interesting.

Interestingly enough, both fantasy and Russell's art are not to everyone's tastes, like wine or artichokes or anchovies. As example, I Like Cinderella better than I like Elric. I like the style of minimalist artist Alex Toth more than I like Russells' art (although the genre of most of Toth's work colors my taste in his favor).

That doesn't mean that this comic book is poor. It just means that, on subjective level my sweet dreams are not made of this.

Michael Vance

Cable #43/$1.99 & 20 pgs. from Marvel Comics

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)

Cable #43/$1.99 & 20 pgs. from Marvel Comics/Todd Dezago with Brian Vaughan: script; Randy Green and Chap Yaep: pencils/available wherever comics are sold.

Some heroes an made, some are born. Some heroes are born made. Cable was made to sell comics to people who like the X-Men comic book titles.

Cable is "Nathan Christopher Summers, also called Nathan Dayspring -- a mutant possessing both telepathy and telekinesis. He's the son of Scott (Cyclops) Summers and Madelyne Pryor. Brought several millennia into the future as an infant by the near-mythic Askani Sisterhood, Nate has now returned to the twentieth century to prevent a hellish fate from coming to pass!"

It didn't work. His hellish fate is to remain one more face in the overcrowded world of superheroes.

Sure, his is a well drawn face. He is drawn with a semi-realistic style that leans towards design. There are occasional problems with human anatomy and perspective. He isn't drawn poorly, but, God, I'm tired of clenched teeth and fists!

Cable isn't written poorly either. But the plot remains the battle of good and evil on an epic scale, "humanized" by adding a lot of soap-opera interplay among characters. And there are too many characters. It wasn't long ago that it was unthinkable for a superhero or heroine to marry. Now that so many have tied the knot, readers are fit-to-be-tied to keep track of their numerous offspring.

Ah, for the single days when mutants changed the world instead of diapers.

So, what distinguishes Cable from the crowd? Nothing. But a clue to its success lies in the letters of fans published in each issue. They reflect the tastes of teenage boys who haven't read ten thousand superhero comics and grown bored. If you are one of those, Cable is recommended.

Michael Vance

Superman v.s. Aliens #'s 1 & 2 (of 3)

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)

Superman v.s. Aliens #'s 1 & 2 (of 3)/47 pgs. & $4.95 ea. from DC and Dark Horse Comics/Story & layout art: Dan Jurgens; finished art: Kevin Nowlan/available in comics shops and by mail.

The marketing battle between two comics publishers was silenced by the question, "If two is better than one, then two publishers and two extremely popular characters in one comic book must be twice as good, right?."

An alien probe has crashed on Earth. Lois Lane, Clark Kent and LexCorp (Lex Luthor's megabusiness) investigates. Superman discovers the probe's origin, a huge chunk of planet floating in deep space. It's Argos City, thrown from Superman's home planet of Krypton when it exploded. What is left is infested with aliens (the famous movie ones unknown to Superman who doesn't go to movies much) that can do more than just harm the Man of Steel. His powers have been greatly diminished because of his distance from a yellow sun. And this is one mean, ugly bunch of acid spitting, double-slavering- jawed bugs.

Superman v.s. Aliens demanded an epic sweep that penman Dan Jurgens supplied with massive corporations, gigantic conflicts and mundane speech.


Superman is epic. He's all of the virtues of the common man stuffed into a leotard. It should be no surprise that his speech here is common. Indeed, it adds a much needed touch of reality to the adventures of man personified as god.

And the art is to buy for. Those artists and fans who whine because some reviewers demand the 'impossible' in comics--accurate human anatomy, uncluttered, dynamic storytelling--will find the impossible and more.

So, has this obvious marketing ploy doubled the impact of these two fictional icons? Nah. 'Twas the writing and art what done it.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages who enjoy adventure.

Michael Vance

Go HERE for a look at some fantastic Kevin Nowlan art.

The Disney Afternoon #9

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)

The Disney Afternoon #9/22 pgs., $1.50, Marvel Comics/various artists, writers/available at newsstands, comics shops and by mail.

Comics aren't just for kids anymore. Kids have suffered because of that, and there's a kid in all of us. Thankfully (all kidding aside) the handful of titles for children has just grown larger, and the cliches in The Disney Afternoon aren't as awful as mine!

Cliches are in the eye of the experienced, and this collection of favorite Disney characters is meant for inexperienced readers who will find Darkwing Duck, Chip 'n Dale and Goofy familiar adventurers from television.

Chip and Dale open the comic with "In Haunted Mouses", a story frightening without being violent. As "The Rescue Rangers", the chipmunks solve the mystery of a spooky house despite Dale's silly antics being mistaken for things that go bump in the night.

Goofy, Pete, Max and PJ saddle up for excitement at a dude ranch in "Woolly Bully". Goofy, the dog, saves the day by ending up the butt of his own yoke.

Ahuk, ahuk, ahuk!

The Disney Afternoon is rounded out by a brief Darkwing Duck outing, and a fun-filled two pages of readers' letters.

Obviously, this title won't interest adults (except for those indulging in the secret, guilty pleasure of Saturday morning television cartoons). So, what recommends it to the adult readers of Suspended Animation? These simple tales are well written and drawn. Loaded with fun, they're a perfect introduction not only to comic books, but to the excitement of reading.

Recommended for very young children and for the adults who love to read to them.

Michael Vance