Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Book Review: Graphic Novels/Comics/Whatever

Graphic novel is a nice little term to make us comic fans feel like we have grown up and are reading more sophisticated fare than kids comics. If you want proof that there is no difference, just check the bastions of all knowledge: the Wikipedia topic discussions.

I’ve come up with a simple, definitive difference between comics and graphic novels: bad stuff actually happens in graphic novels. I remember the first Spiderman comic I read; he was fighting The Vulture and Kraven the Hunter. Spiderman got hurt, had work issues, women problems and had a cold. By the end of the comic he had defeated the baddies and only had women issues left to deal with, and they appeared to be on the improve as well. Kraven had the wind knocked out of him and went to jail. The Vulture was out cold from an electric shock and went to jail.

Let us compare this with Garth Ennis’ The Boys first edition. Within the first few pages a woman has been splattered against a wall and our protagonist is left holding her severed arms. A touch more graphic hence; graphic novel. Please excuse the homographic pun, I forgot to take my verbs this morning. Basically comics are not really for adults and graphic novels are definitely aimed at a more mature or adult audience.

As part of a Aussie Goodreads June Challenge I have decided to read a few more graphic novels. After watching The Losers at the beginning of this year I had already decided to read a few more of the works that were clearly taking Hollywood by storm (see what I’ve read here). I think it is always a good idea to follow trends from Hollywood, they always make good stuff.

Watchmen
What review of graphic novels would be complete without Alan Moore’s classic. Great story, great characters, great visuals, greatly depressing ending. Rorschach is quite possibly one of the greatest characters ever created. They made a decent movie of this, but you need the director’s cut with the Black Freighter story included.

The Losers
Andy Diggle wrote an interesting, humorous and offbeat series that was turned into a film in 2010. While the series is enjoyable I found that the witty dialogue and humour seemed to wane as the series continued.

The Gamekeeper
This is another Andy Diggle written work, with Guy Ritchie as the creator. Take one trained killer and give him a job as a manor gamekeeper, then have organised crime kill his boss; do you see where this might be going? Yeah, thought so.

Batman ala Frank Miller
Lets talk Batman: the non-superpowered superhero. Batman is one of my favourite comic book heroes and thank God/Christopher Nolan for actually making a decent film adaptation at last! Frank Miller took a comic book and made a graphic novel of it. Whether it be Year One, The Dark Knight Returns or The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Miller implores you to take Batman seriously. Oh and he has Batman beat seven shades of shit out of Superman.

Batman taken seriously

The Boys
Ever thought that superheroes were always just a little too uppity? Ever get the impression that the good guys would often cause just as much mayhem as the bad guys? Well Garth Ennis has written a series for you. This series seems to have stemmed from Garth’s work for Marvel comics and a specific edition of The Punisher: The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. This series has everything you would expect from an episode of The Young Ones. Fantastic.

300
I preferred the movie.

Witchblade
I started reading this Ron Marz series for two reasons. The first was that I had heard there was a movie adaptation planned. The second was:

Empowered women = good thing

Ron Marz and Mike Choi have created a visually stunning and intriguing series. Aside from the obvious teen appeal of the character depictions, it has to be said that the Witchblade series has some fantastic artwork on display.

The Punisher
Three pretty crappy movies have been made of this long running anti-hero series. In my mind there is only one Punisher author: Garth Ennis. I’ve read 3-5 years worth of Punisher comics and graphic novels this year, and I can actually spot when Garth has stopped being the author. You immediately notice that there is something lacking, or in some cases that it just plain sucks. Garth has had two runs at The Punisher, the first under the Marvel Knights imprint, the second under the MAX imprint. The MK series is, well, more aimed at people who don’t need to shave and think that vampires should sparkle. Garth makes it enjoyable, but really MAX is the graphic novel of Punisher. If they followed the Garth Ennis MAX story lines they might even make a decent Punisher movie before the second coming of Brian.

Reading Graphic Novels
I have a few tips for reading graphic novels. Buying your graphic novels as comic book reader (cbr) files is the e-book of the comic world: quick, easy and none of that pesky walking to a store. Of course, just like an e-book, you need a reader for your e-comics. Preferably you want an LCD or similarly sharp screen to enjoy the artwork (Witchblade really pops on an HD screen). Another thing you want to do is wait. Wait for your series to be finished and the collection to be released. Nobody wants to wait a month for the next edition. It’s like waiting for the next episode of Justified (or any other decent TV show), except instead of a week you have to wait a month. More frustrating than explaining the movie Inception to a blind and deaf insomniac.

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