Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

The most-circulated and longest-running comics review column in America
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Review Index 2002 - 2001 - 2000 - 1999 - 1998
 
Ultimate Spiderman

Ultimate Spiderman      It would be difficult to find anyone who isn't familiar with Spiderman. I mean, C'MON!! One of the most recognized comic book characters the world over, probably second only to Superman and/or Batman. He is, quite literally, a cultural icon, and has been for at least a generation. It is with these facts that I justify yet another of my superhero comic reviews that so vex those of alternative tastes.

      But, seriously, this one is overdue. Ultimate Spiderman, by Marvel Comics, is one of the best-selling, and most popular Spiderman comics to be produced in years. When Marvel first announced their "updating" of the character, an attempt to make him appeal to today's younger audience, I was one of the blanching nay Sayers, denying the value and announcing the eventual failure of the endeavor. I've rarely been more pleased to be wrong, and with very good reason.

      Writer Brian Michael Bendis has taken a product that had grown incredibly stale over the years, and made it interesting and exciting again, using nothing more than the original mythos, slightly tweaked. His portrayals of today’s teen culture, including speech, attitudes, motivations, etc., are closer than any comic adaptation I have ever seen (after 13 years working with teenagers). The stories are engrossing, and well written. The characters are immensely interesting; with a like-new shine that belies their decades-old history.

      The art is no less pleasing. Probably the best modern-age Spiderman artist ever, Mark Bagely's drawing style is incredibly suited to this book. He demonstrates his mastery of character expression on every page, deftly handling low-key, contemplative scenes. Then, he switches gears, causing the action to practically explode in the reader's face. His visuals are a big part of the book's appeal.

      Ultimate Spiderman is recommended for all ages, as it has helped put the "fun" back into superhero comics.

      Find the two trade paperback collections Ultimate Spiderman: Power and Responsibility and Ultimate Spiderman: Learning Curve at comic shops, trade shows, bookstores or online catalogs.

      Review by Mark Allen

 
A Treasury of Victorian Murder

      "On the fourth floor landing lay the body of Nicholas Ryan, his throat brutally slashed." Thus begins the initial murder in A Treasury of Victorian Murder, the first of a five issue series of true crime graphic novels from master cartoonist Rick Geary.

      A Treasury... recounts three murders reported by newspapers in the 1800s, each written in unembellished, factual prose and illustrated by Geary's inimitable art. Novelist Robert Bloch believed the greatest horror was in not knowing whether one was sitting next to a killer, and Geary has captured this feeling of paranoia perfectly.

      He captures without a word of dialog, each narrative like a silent movie without popcorn.

      In part, Geary does so by what is missing in his missive. A reader never knows the motive for each murder. Indeed, the reader joins those average folk who lived it as they catch busses, shop, eat and work, oblivious to the viper in their woodshed.

      "There," writes Geary, "they were steady, well-behaved workers, attract-ing little notice or concern." "They" were shoemakers, doctors, wives, brothers and sisters, and they remained unnoticed until each was found slaughtered.

      In partial, Geary also does it by his meticulous artist's eye for detail in everything from genteel architecture, clothing and hairstyles to furnishings. His simple, bold line also captures a sideways glance, a subtle sneer, or a door ajar to fuel a reader's moribund anticipation. In addition, his murders are never gory. Geary understands that horror is best left to imagination.

      A Treasury, along with its sister volumes Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy, The Fatal Bullet and the Mystery of Mary Rogers, is highly recommended.

      A Treasury of Victorian Murder/72 pgs & $8.95 from NBM Pub/art and story by Rick Geary/sold in comic shops and at www.nbmpublishing.com.

            Review by Michael Vance

 
Amnesia

      MINIVIEW: Amnesia [NBM Pub] Forgettable collage of art, photographs and

Nihilistic philosophy spurred by a random interview of a film-maker/ novelist by an art reporter.

            Review by Michael Vance

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 Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? 
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