Romance, Westerns, Superheros – DC Comics’ SOLO Collection

I can safely say that, as of late, DC Comics has been a bit disappointing.  Sure, they’ve got Sandman: Overture starting up in October and some Vertigo titles are still pretty great (I’m looking at you Unwritten!), but as a whole… The company seems to be, creatively, headed for a valley.

The New 52 is sputtering like an octogenarian gumming his way through breakfast, Before Watchmen was a horrendous misfire that didn’t stir up sales as much as controversy, and their new plan of having a Frank Miller-style battle between Batman and Superman is… distressing to say the least.

But, after nearly seven years, DC Comics has finally collected their bi-monthly series Solo into a very nice Deluxe hardcover.  How does this collection fare?  Read on, read on…

Written and Illustrated by Tim Sale, Richard Corben, Paul Pope, Howard Chaykin, Darwyn Cooke, Jordi Bernet, Michael Allred, Teddy Kristiansen, Scott Hampton, Damion Scott, Sergio Aragones, and Brendan McCarthy
DC Comics
June 5, 2013
568 Pages

Solo The Deluxe Edition Cover

Solo, when originally released, was published bi-monthly and done as a sort of artist’s showcase with some of the finest illustrators working in comics.  Just check out the list above and you’ll be hard pressed not to find something to enjoy in this volume.  And the best part?

It isn’t all DC continuity!  In fact, probably less than half of the stories had anything to do with DC Comics characters.  Batman shows up quite a bit, as to be expected, but that’s about it.

The biggest surprise was a brief story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen and starring Boston Brand, the Deadman (proving once again that the Brits will invariably go ass over elbow for the Silver Age of comics), but Darwyn Cooke’s entire issue was top-to-bottom fantastic, Tim Sale’s issue is pretty great (even with the terribly uneven Jeph Loeb), and Sergio Aragones is (expectedly) fantastic.

But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, at least for me.

Despite how cool it was to see some Western comics, many of those kind of blend together for me and are, at the end of the day, forgettable.  The same goes for the adventure comics as well.

Similarly, some of the art just didn’t do it for me.  Artists like Brendan McCarthy, whose cover art I loved in the Vertigo Shade, The Changing Man series, was too weird.  Much of looked to me like Grant Morrison fucked R. Crumb in a psychedelic love-nest.  But it didn’t work for me.  I’m sure someone who actually knows anything about art would have found more to enjoy.

But if I were to whip out my biggest complaint, it would be that there’s a very small amount of female creators involved in the project.  None of the twelve issues focuses completely on any female artists.  Thankfully, Laura Allred shows up to assist in the writing and coloring of her husband Michael’s issue… But we couldn’t get Jill Thompson in there?  Amanda Conner, or Pia Guerra?  I know that much of comic books is (unfortunately) a man’s world, but certainly there could have been at least one female artist brought on board for this project.

Couldn’t there?

Despite this painful oversight, this still warrants a buy vote from me.  Michael Allred’s issue reads like a bizarre love-letter to the Silver Age of comics (and his story “Batman A-Go-Go!” is by far the best deconstruction of the character as it exists in a post-Miller world) and Darywn Cooke’s issue shows why he’s one of the best working in the business today.

Even with several of forgettable stories, this is a strong collection with a good mixture of serious, funny, disturbing, and thought-provoking comics that show that comic books are more than just muscular dudes in tights.

Sometimes, it’s also Batman doing the batusi.

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Big News, Idiotic Views – The News Of The Day In Books

So there’s been a couple of stories related to books recently that I’ve had strong reactions to, both internally and externally.  You’ve probably heard about both of these, but I’ll link you just in case you haven’t:

The first piece of news details the comments made by an author about the harm libraries are doing to… well, just about everything book related.

Author Claims Libraries Have Given Readers “An Entitlement To Read Books For Free”

British author Terry Deary’s main complaint, which he has been reiterating in various places over the last few hours, is that he sees too many middle-class people checking out books from the library.  To quote, ” I don’t see poor people in libraries, I see middle class people with their arms stuffed like looters.”

Now I don’t often visit British libraries (surprise), but is there a severe lack of Dickensian orphans begging for the scraps of CS Lewis novels that other, more privileged children left behind in their madcap grasping of the latest James Patterson novel?  Is this what Mr Deary has been used to seeing until recent years?

How can one tell how rich or poor a person is, exactly?  Clothing?  Number of children? Color of their skin?  I’m really rather curious.

If you read the original piece that HuffPo takes its quotes from is actually a fairly well-reasoned argument, but at the same time… He’s complaining about the idea of libraries more than the actual libraries themselves.  Deary would like a more public discourse about what damage he seems these institutions doing to both authors and publishers (not to mention book stores).

For me, the most ridiculous thing is that Deary claims that public education should be filling the void of “free books” that the library is filling now and… I don’t fully get this.  Once again, I’m a rather infrequent visitor to British schools, but is the quality of literature really that much improved over American schools?  I remember hating almost everything I was forced read in school, but found great joy exploring the stacks of the local libraries… as well as that of book stores.

My other problem with Deary’s arguments is that he seems to think that once a person has checked out an author’s book from the library, there’s no going back.  He seems to suggest that the library patron will never purchase a book by that author again.

I can only use myself as an example, but I can safely say I would probably never have read Neil Gaiman if it weren’t for my local library system.  Now, I own four volumes of the Absolute Sandman ($100 a pop), several hardcovers and paperbacks, as well as a few other graphic novels and single issue comics.  And that’s just one author.  If you search my shelves, chances are pretty good you’ll drag your finger over several books that I first read out of either my hometown library, or books I borrowed through the inter-library loan program at my college’s library.

He also claims that libraries are destroying book stores which… frankly smells strongly of bullshit.  Libraries have about as much to do with the downfall of book stores as does a sparrow farting in China.  There’s no mysterious butterfly effect here.  The major contributions to the downfall of major book stores are high overhead and cheap online competition.  To think something like libraries is more than just a couple drops in a very large bucket is ludicrous.

Our second piece of news concerns a rather hateful little troll and known top-to-bottom, all-around douche-nozzle Orson Scott Card.  I have, in the past, made my distaste for writer Jeph Loeb fairly obvious.  If there’s a comic writer, especially one writing for the Ultimate Universe, I dislike more than Loeb, it would have to be Card.

Leaving behind his scary opinions on LGBT rights, the man absolutely butchered the Tony Stark character in his brief time writing Ultimate Iron Man.  Things jumped around without much logical sense, he spent too much time ripping off his own story Ender’s Game and not enough time keeping in line with what made Mark Millar’s version of the characters so interesting and fun.

Where Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man was both a knock-off of the original and brilliant, Card’s Ultimate Iron Man is just plain bad.  Bendis knew just what to take (and what to change!) when creating the Ultimate universe’s Spider-Man, Card seemed like he just wanted to shoehorn another Ender Wiggin\Peter Wiggin “dark mirror” sort of dichotomy between Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane and… it really doesn’t work.  Andy Kubert’s wonderful art is look on Card’s ridiculous story.

With all that said… Card is certainly free to his opinions.  In my opinion, he hasn’t produced much quality writing since Speaker For The Dead in 1986, but since I’ve read a lot of his stuff very recently (and especially since I’ve known of his rather vehement opposition to gay rights while reading them), I may be a little too close to fully judge and appreciate the work.

The best thing you can do as a consumer is to not buy the Superman book when\if it comes out.  DC Comics is no stranger to controversy, especially recently.  They were accused of not having enough female creators working on their “New 52” relaunch, about a year ago and the main person in charge, Dan Didio, quickly became an aggressive tool about it.  I made the decision then to buy fewer DC Comics… and then I stopped altogether as things didn’t seem to improve (plus I was poor and could really only afford one monthly comic… the wonderful Saga!).

As it stands, I won’t be buying anything DC for a while if they keep this up.  And that’s all you can do, really, is put your money where your mouth is.  Join those of us who refuse to give DC Comics any money as long as they continue to hire toolboxes like Orson Scott Card.  If this means forgoing the new Sandman as it comes out? Well… so be it.

I’ll just be picking up Saga as it arrives and giving my money to a creative team that deserves it!  Of course, if someone from Image acts like as ass, I’ll probably have to give up comics all together…

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