Aleksandra Gruszczyk, The Punisher: A Cultural Image of the ‘Moral Wound’ (2020)

Most of you won’t remember, but way back in 2017 we did a post on Marvel’s The Punisher Netflix series. It was a cool, energetic discussion, limited out of necessity, and we hinted there at some other posts on the topic coming soon. While this didn’t happen, something even better did, and the initial idea of delving deeper into the eponymous vigilante’s character and motivations has been transformed into a much more ambitious endeavor ;).

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Finally it is here: the highly academical (beware!) essay I wrote about the Punisher and his role and roots in American culture and identity has been published by Berkeley’s Cultural Analysis (with many thanks to my editor Robert Guyker!). You can read it here.

Mark Millar, Leinil Yu, Superior (2013)

Superior

Author: Mark Millar (writer), Leinil Yu (penciler)

Title: Superior

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

What’s happening, another comic book review in a row? And what is that exactly, a love child of Superman and Shazam???

Well, to an extent ;). Though the fruit of Millar and Yu’s collaboration reads like an unabashed love letter to Superman, it had actually been published by Marvel. This comic is one of the more vivid examples of the blurred lines between what exactly in the superhero world is a property of one or the other powerhouses – and a solid reminder that ideas cannot be owned :).

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Glen Weldon, Superman: The Unauthorized Biography (2013)

superman the unauthorized biography

Author: Glen Weldon

Title: Superman. The Unauthorized Biography

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

There’s one main reason for my recent incommunicado, and it’s life. Unpredictability of life has been discussed extensively elsewhere, so I’ll refrain from wallowing in self-pity and/or bragging and instead take care of the topic of this post :).

Superman. The Unauthorised Biography by Glen Weldon is a hefty book, worthy of the enviable long life of one of the most famous comic book characters (he’ll be 81 this year!). I freely admit, I have never been a rabid fan of Superman, nor even a dedicated one. Superman just seemed too super, too powerful and too idealized to engender any warmer feelings in me – especially in comparison to the morally ambiguous, brooding character of Batman.

superman and batman

But Weldon’s book, impressive in its thoroughness, fanboyish love and respect for the source material, actually got me to appreciate Supe’s character and – especially – his cultural significance, predominantly for the American society.

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Tom King, Mikel Janín, The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Author: Tom King (writer), Mikel Janín (illustrations)

Series: Batman

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

Where do I start? Maybe with the hype concerning Tom King as the new Wunderkid of DC Comics, one of the few authors who allegedly could take the post-Rebirth Batman and put some life into the character nearing its permanent retirement age (80 years next May!). Tom King’s approach was supposed to be ‘cerebral’, his stories realistic and full of suspense. Maybe some of them are – I am not to judge, since I’ve read only the one and I don’t intend reading any other. Because, in short, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a smelly pile of horseshit.

Let’s start with the art, because later on it will be one long rant. Art is mediocre at best, with Riddler inexplicably beefed up and Joker looking like a drawing of himself from some really bad old comics. Batman and Selina look correct if quite generic, and that’s probably the best I can say about them. The main problem I have with Janín‘s art is that it lacks dynamics, and the eyes of the characters seem dead. They make faces, all right, but nothing reaches their eyes. The panels depicting the war don’t really make much impact – they are there, and they show what happened. Maybe I’m spoiled by other artists, I tend to choose my comics carefully knowing there’s a lot of fluff and a lot of trash out there.

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Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, Lee Bermejo, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach (2013)

Before Watchmen

Author: Brian Azzarello (writer), J.G. Jones, Lee Bermejo (illustrations)

Title: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 256

Thank gods for libraries! Because if I’d bought this, driven by nostalgia, authors’ fame, or some misplaced need for adventure, or a revisit of the universe before HBO’s TV series scheduled for next year, I’d have been furious. All right, I knew the Watchmen prequels were a shameless money grab, there was no doubt about it. But I also hoped for some kind of tribute, a homage, or a thoughtful reimagining of the ideas and social commentary presented by Moore and Gibbons in the story and characters from Watchmen.

Watchmen

Need I say more? I probably ought to 😉 So, first things first, Moore’s and Gibbons’ Watchmen are on my list of favorite graphic novels of all time. Gritty, subversive, digging deep into the American superhero mythos and collective identity, Watchmen became at once the grist and the mill of the pop culture, simultaneously giving it lasting imagery and the tools to analyze it. We should probably do a Two-shot post on Watchmen here at Re-Enchantment, but because our views on the work of Moore and Gibbons are very similar, there wouldn’t be much suspense or tension. We might only have some differences of opinion regarding certain characters and plot devices (the fated pirate story, ekhm…), but our overall reviews would be quite alike.

I have been circling around Before Watchmen for a while now, at first dismissing this idea as a blatant and ill-conceived effort to capitalize on Moore and Gibbons’ work – and DC’s already done more than enough bad things in this regard. However, when I saw the Comedian/Rorschach book in my local library, I decided to finally give it a chance and overcome my prejudice – after all, I thought, Azzarello of 100 Bullets and Batman fame wouldn’t butcher Moore’s ideas.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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