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Pre Thanksgiving Reviews

Here’s some reviews to get you to thanksgiving.

Batman: Gotham Underground
DC Comics 2008

After a major crime war someone needs to move in and fill the void in leadership in Gotham’s criminal circles. A man named Tobias Whale from metropolis thinks he’s the man for the job, and he has no love for costumes, heroes or villains. Over the course of the book there are flashbacks and action galore. The whole of the Bat Family is in action at one point or another and they are doing what they can to get a handle on things.
Frank Tieri has managed to bring in almost every player on the Gotham crime scene and it is loads of fun. The Penguin is shifty and manipulative and perfect. I really loved the play between Robin and Commissioner Gordon. I also love the art by J. Calaiore. It’s crisp and clean and is totally poster worthy.
Great book.

Booster Gold: Blue and Gold
DC Comics 2008

This new Booster Gold run has been great. I love the premise of him being a fixer in time with Rip Hunter. After the first volume I guess it was just a matter of time before we got to see a hook up with Blue Beetle (Ted Kord). Volume Two bring us just that.
This could have very easily slipped into Bwa ha ha mode, but Geoff Johns didn’t go that route and instead gives us a story that is heartfelt and bitter sweet. I could kind of predict where it would all end once I read the first chapter, but wow, what a ride.
This is a great book because we get alternate timelines, which are always fun, great teamups, also fun, and superb characterizations throughout.. Well done.

Avatar 2008

This is a hardcover collection of all the Gravel tales to date. Collecting Strange Kiss, Stranger Kisses, Strange Killings, Strange Killings: The Body Orchard, Strange Killings: Strong medicine and Strange Killings: Necromancer.
Warren Ellis writing with Mike Wolfer on art have created a character that walks the boundaries of a number of genres. He is combat magician William Gravel. Gravel seems at times to be more of a fixer, a guy traveling from place to place taking care of magic problems caused by people doing really nasty things. He has the keen senses of a classic PI and the willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. It’s hard to put one over on him and through this collection he kicks some real serious ass.
Its twisted and weird and strange and thoroughly satisfying. I know there is a real rage these days for supernatural tales that include many novels and comics. Some are really good, some are wanna be. Gravel is the real deal.
I think this is something for fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, The Simon R Green books of the Drood Family and the Nightside and Kat Richardson’s series, the latest of which is called Underground.
This particular edition is limited to 2000 copies and signed by Ellis and Wolfer.

John Constantine Hellblazer: The Family Man
Collecting Hellblazer 28-33

I’m not positive but I think this volume might complete all the Hellblazer stories in paperback. This collection is from the early days and was written by Jamie Delano with art b a number of people including the wonderful Sean Phillips.
The story opens with John hitching a ride and flat broke. He stops to see an old friend who is a bit bit of a wheeler and dealer in mystical and supernatural items, the kind of guy who would sell his mother’s blood in order to make a deal. Jerry (O’Flynn) loves to make deals, it’s not about the money it the bargaining. As this arc opens we discover that Jerry is also a minor character in a lot of literature and this eventually is something that comes around to bite him in the ass and cause his demise, or at least his disappearance. After Jerry is gone John stays on for a while as he needs a place to crash. During this he makes a deal with someone pretending to act for Jerry. As it turns out the man John met is a serial killer called The Family Man and he is butchering families across England. John feels guilty and pissed and sets out to stop him.
The collection is rounded out by a couple of one off tales. This is a great read and a wonderful reminder of why right from the beginning Constantine was a character worth reading.

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
IDW 2008

After an amazing debut as an author Joe Hill has another success story on his hands with his first graphic novel. Locke and Key collects issue 1-6 of what is hopefully only the beginning of a great new comics series.
The Locke family has experienced tragedy, major tragedy. In the aftermath they move to a family home in the town of Lovecraft. The home they move to is called Key House and it has more than a few secrets. Mom and the three kids try to get on with their lives only to discover that the cause of the tragedy is back and coming to them.
More than just horror or crime this is also a story of a family and growth and hope. Hill has real skills with character and his ability to set the pace is perfect. Gabriel Rodriguez is also a terrific addition to the tale, his artwork portrays emotion and action in such a clean crisp manner it’s hard not to get lost in it.
I loved this book and can’t wait to see more. I also quite enjoyed the introduction by Robert Crais.

The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
Edited by Paul Gravett
Running Press 2008

The title of this monster sized book states pretty clearly what it intends to be. One look at the writers involved and you can see they are on the right track. Ed McBain, Alan Moore, Max Allan Collins, Will Eisner and more. It’s a who’s who of crime and comics.
After 479 pages of reading I have to admit that this collection could well be some of the best in crime comics. It is a really nice cross section of eras and styles and really does represent the best. If you enjoy crime fiction and comics you will love this book.