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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “A graphic take on Batman, journalists and war veterans”

    With mainstream novels deteriorating to a state where children’s books like the “”Harry Potter”” series rival the quality of books marketed toward more mature readers like “”The Da Vinci Code,”” it’s hard to find anything worth reading. Yet in the past two decades, graphic novels have not only maintained their merit, but evolved into a respected form of literature. Basically, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years and didn’t know yet, comic books are cool again.

    Now those of you frantically scrambling to remember whether Superman is still dead or alive (the Jesus story arch), there’s no need to stress. Here are a couple of newly released graphic novels that will look good atop anybody’s toilet. Besides, if you don’t like them, they’ll give you something to wipe your ass with in a pinch.

    Batman Year 100
    Paul Pope: DC Comics

    A century after his creation, Batman is introduced by writer/artist Paul Pope to a bleak Gotham City in the year 2039. More of a forgotten myth, in this dystopian future, Batman clashes against an oppressive federal police force, wrought by corruption and infighting.

    But this isn’t your grandpa’s Batman. Pope’s highly stylized take on the Dark Knight is one of the freshest reinvigorations of a classic hero to date. This rugged Batman has traded in his car for a motorcycle, wears fangs to terrify adversaries and seems to regularly absorb bullets rather than dodge them. Following in the footsteps of Frank Miller, Pope seems content having the literal crap beaten out of Batman every time he puts on the mask and cape. The carnage is so brutal it almost hurts to read it.

    Pope’s jagged drawings lift Batman into a new realm. The mood carved through his illustrations transcends basic ideas of what is unique and yet maintains its visual appeal.

    “”Batman Year 100″” is an excellent introduction to the genius of Paul Pope and shows the ability of next generation comic authors to destroy tired archetypes and breath new life into classic super heroes. “”Year 100″” is recommended for any fan of Batman, Paul Pope or “”sticking it to the man.””

    DMZ: Body of a Journalist
    Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli: Vertigo

    Short for the de-militarized zone, “”DMZ”” is the story of America’s second civil war, set in the not-so-distant future. Written by Brian Wood, the graphic novel begins after anti-establishment militias have fought their way from the heartland to the outskirts of New York City. Torn apart by missiles, the Statue of Liberty stands, looking like Swiss cheese. Beyond it is Manhattan, or the DMZ, a modern-day no-man’s land stuck between the warring armies.

    The story follows the stranded inhabitants left behind and caught in the crossfire, through the eyes of a young photojournalist, Matthew Roth.

    “”DMZ”” transplants the brutality of a modern-day war zone into the familiar setting of New York City and thrusts an ambivalent main character to whom readers can relate into the chaos.

    “”Body of a Journalist,”” the sequel to “”On The Ground,”” chronicles summer in Manhattan as suicide bombings, heat waves and water shortages push the island to the brink of chaos. This second installment is solid except for the introduction of a new love interest in the form of blonde, large-breasted, news reporter Kelly Connolly, who plays more like a contrived comic stereotype rather than a character that belongs in Brian Wood’s “”DMZ”” world.

    Riccardo Burchielli again provides the art for “”DMZ,”” but to call images on the page “”gritty”” would be an understatement. Burchielli’s illustrations are so coarse and vivid you’ll feel like you need to wash your hands when you’re finished reading.

    “”DMZ: Body of a Journalist”” is the gift that keeps on giving and the trade paperback includes a short side-story as well a 22-page supplemental guide to the city. The gruesome story is worthy of a Hollywood treatment along with any comic fan’s $12.99.

    Battle Hymn: Farewell to the First Golden Age
    B. Clay Moore & Jeremy Haun: Image Comics

    At first glance “”Battle Hymn”” seems like a tribute to the Golden Age of comics, under the simple premise of “”what if superheroes fought alongside the Allies in World War II?”” However, as the story settles, clever satire and dark humor rise to the surface.

    Set in 1944, “”Battle Hymn”” is about a U.S. government-formed union of super humans called “”Watchguard.”” Writer B. Clay Moore parodies classic heroes from the ’40s to form the team led by a deranged patriotic spoof of Captain America named the Proud American. Other characters include a version of the Flash who tampers with speedometers on motorcycles before races to hide his aging, an Aquaman variant who is just dumb to begin with and a bloodthirsty atomic-powered robot named the Artificial Man.

    Egos collide as the group dynamic ultimately erupts into a pissing contest over leadership, women and who is the strongest. Finally sent on a mission after a lengthy PR campaign, the bunch rarely gets anything accomplished, while the Artificial Man goes on unnoticed murderous rampages.

    Jeremy Haun’s illustrations have a dark, noir tone and help recover any sophistication the comical characters may take away. The drawing is almost too smooth on occasion, resulting in some of the sarcasm requiring a double-take.

    “”Battle Hymn”” is not for everyone, but the poignant take on government contrivance during World War II has many parallels to today’s world that readers can identify with. The satire is harsh and is certain to piss off all-too-serious fans of the classic characters parodied within. But it’s an entertaining plot for more developed readers who are tired of sifting through rehashed, muscle-bound superhero comics to get to stuff they enjoy.

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