Silverblade, Harley Quinn and more: Graphic Novels Read (#SFWApro)

silverblade9SILVERBLADE by Cary Bates and Gene Colan (cover by Colan, all rights reside with current holder) astonishingly has never been collected in trade paperback, but as I recently reread the series, I’ll review it anyway. The protagonist is Jonathan Lord, once a Hollywood legend, now an embittered, elderly recluse — until a mysterious spirit taking the form of the Maltese Falcon gives Lord the power to become any character he has ever played on screen. Once again, he’s the young, handsome Prince Silverblade, except when he’s the battered boxer of Fight City, the Robot Executioner of Beware Behemoth Beach (not a career high-point) or Dracula. But what is his mysterious benefactor’s real agenda? Where a lot of comics with mystical New Age elements founder in the mysticism, Bates never loses sight of the characters — why DC hasn’t reprinted this, I cannot fathom.

HARLEY QUINN: Hot in the City and Power Outage by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner bring us the ever wacky adventures of Harley Quinn as she becomes a Coney Island landlord, dodges a stream of contract killers, shows Poison Ivy her beaver (“Oh. An actual stuffed beaver.”) and becomes Power Girl’s crimefighting sidekick. This reminds me of a lot of DC humor books from the late Silver Age, where you can almost feel the writers desperately trying to be funny when they’re not — which is to say, this book sinks like a lead balloon (with a few exceptions, such as the Power Girl arc). And the wackier the creators try to get, the more it sinks.

After the crappy Red Daughter of Krypton, Supergirl becomes fun again with The Crucible, in which a mostly new creative team makes Supergirl likable again and gives her an interesting supporting cast, fellow trainees at the eponymous school for galactic super-heroes. Unfortunately it was too little too late, as this was the last gasp for the series. And even given the improvement, it still suffers from the same discontinuity problem as previous volumes: the first chapter culminates in Brainiac and the Cyborg Superman attacking Earth, then we forget about them until the Five Years Later one-shot that wraps up the collection. That sort of thing doesn’t help.

THE OMEGA MEN: The End Is Here by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda aspires to reboot the 1980s ET super-team for a grittier, more realistic story of their struggle against the conquering alien Citadel. And for most of the way it succeeds, but the “realistic” ending is so stock (I won’t spoil it, even so) that it retroactively killed my liking for the rest of the series. And while the original team were stock characters (the badass, the sneak, the wise leader, the tormented outcast) at least they had characters — here they feel closer to chess pieces being moved through the plot. And “name” guest-star Kyle Rainer (at this point apparently he was White Lantern—he’s been bounced through so many roles it’s hard to remember) is implausibly passive in all this (again it feels more like he’s being positioned as human POV character than an actual person).

ELFQUEST vol. 3 by Richard and Wendy Pini as very good as the Wolf-Riders and the dwellers in Blue Mountain attempt to figure out just what makes a true elf — what path are elves supposed to follow? Complicating things is the scheming Winnowill and a dark secret in the Wolf Riders origins. A book that’s more about character and culture than epic adventure, but no less fascinating for that.

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