Suspended Animation
Suspended Animation
by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter

Check-out Michael Vance Comic books for sale


January 20, 1999

Reviews in this issue:

300
Nocturnals: Witching Hour
Kal & Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table


300

    300 #s 1-3 (of 5) 27 pages each. $2.95 each from Dark Horse, sold in comics shops and by mail.

    Three hundred Spartan warriors march to defend Greece again invasion by Persia.

    Frank Miller revisits that famous historical battle with distinctive and powerful minimalist art, candid dialog and fast-paced plot.

    For some readers, that is not enough. Story content is also important.

    I am among that some.

    Miller has a reputation for "preserving our First Amendment rights". For him, that means the right to depict nudity, promiscuity or sexual perversion, profanity, graphic violence, drug use and the dirty side of human nature.

    It seems odd, not surprising, that defenders of those Rights rarely explore modesty, marital fidelity and sexual normalcy, decent language, conflict resolution without violence and the noble side of human nature.

    Apart from male nudity, some violence, and profanity in his letters section, 300 is atypical of Miller's content through its third issue.

    Nevertheless, readers who think those destructive activities need airing will continue to buy Miller's work, and will enjoy 300 anyway.

Readers who do not will yawn.


Nocturnals: Witching Hour

990120.jpg (24476 bytes)48 pages, $4.95. By Dan Brereton, sold at comics shops and by mail.

Whenever a comics artist proclaims that "writing is important, but the art is everything", know that you have read a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That's what Rob Zombie wrote in his introduction to Nocturnals: Witching Hour. Its artist must agree.

Brereton's art is terrific. Distinctive, well executed, visually exciting story-telling is too rare in comics, and Brereton is blessed with an extra helping of talent, and a deep under-standing of cartooning techniques.

Visually, this is a fun Halloween romp as real monsters mix, undetected, with kids in costumes. But there is no real story or deep characterization.

Brereton stands in good company. Most comic writers and artists do not possess both talents in equal dregs.

And when art is everything...it isn't comics.

-- Michael Vance


Kal & Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table

Modern literature abounds with retellings of myths. James Joyce and Eugene O'Neill are only two examples of modern writers who reshaped Greek myths. Does the opposite approach work and can modern myths be grafted onto old ones?

The King Arthur mythos has been utilized frequently. In the 1950s, DC Comics gave us Camelot 3000, an SF version of Arthur. If Arthur can nourish in the future, why can't modern heroes function in Arthur's fifth century world? Two of DC's more recent "Elseworlds" stories make valiant attempts.

Dave Gibbons gives us Kal a single issue story in which Kal-El (Superman) is raised in England's Dark Age by peasants who consider his powers a form of witchcraft.

No story set in the Middle Ages is complete without a robber baron and a damsel in distress. On this Elseworld Lex Luthor and Lois Lane are cast in those roles.

This tale is as dark and grim as any Elseworld story I can recall, yet it ends triumphantly.

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's art is not the best I've seen in Elseworld, but it is appropriate. I do quibble at some anachronisms: pipes and tobacco did not exist in the fifth century (unless this reality has a very different history).

Almost as grim are the two issues of "Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table". Bob Layton bases his story on one of Authur's darkest deeds: the attempted slaughter of young males in a futile attempt to destroy the infant Mordred. To this abominable deed, Layton welds the Batman mythos.

Young Bruce Wayne is one of the youngsters targeted by Arthur, he vows to destroy Arthur. Add the Holy Grail, Morgan Le Fay, Merlin, and Ra's al Ghul and you have a potent brew.

Layton's script is deeply influenced by John Boorman's film Excalibur. Dick Giordano"s art is up to his usual high standards.

Give Kal an A- and Batman an A, but give priority to finding the twelve issues of Camelot 3000 or the paperback reprint.

-- Dr. Jon Suter


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