Catwoman: When in Rome by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Underground Reading: Ed McBain's 87th Precinct

Graphic Novel Round-up: 1, 2, 3, 4

Dead Folks

Dead Folks (Lansdale / Truman): Sometimes, you just want to see zombies explode. Fortunately, Joe R. Lansdale understands your needs, and can provide for them, with Timothy Truman riding shotgun with the art. In Dead Folks, a bounty hunter and his quarry run into a mass of zombie evangelicals, including their mad scientist prophet and some buxom nuns. There's a lot of shooting, a brief break for exposition, and then some more shooting. This isn't Watchmen, but it doesn't try to be. Simply put, a finer example of bounty hunter/nun/zombie/scientist graphic fiction would be difficut to find.

Three more  - the Fantastic Four, Batman and Sherlock Holmes - all after the jump...

Fantastic Four: 1234 (Morrison / Jae Lee): In this graphic novel (a collected miniseries) Grant Morrison proves, once again, that he's the king of the incomprehensible. High realities, prime movers and the elastic consciousness all intersect, as Doctor Doom does... something... that somehow brings... stuff... to... happen. The Mole Man is involved (briefly) and Namor shows up to loom aristocratically and make out with the Invisible Woman. The Human Torch also has a cameo, and the Thing sort of lumbers around feeling sorry for himself (in both rocky and human form!). Even after reading it twice, I have no idea what happened.

Still, there is a little bliss to be found in my ignorance - a lengthy conversation between Alicia Masters (blind) and Sue Storm (invisible) is actually a terrific scene (although listening to two Marvel wimmenfolk whine about their men fails every interpretation of the Bechdel Test). Jae Lee's art is erratic. The Thing and the Invisible Woman both look terrific, while Mr. Fantastic looks like Ted Kaczynski. The layouts are all very ambitious, further adding to the confusion of the piece. I hate to judge something I don't understand, but in this case... 

Batman: The Chalice (Dixon / Van Fleet): Bruce Wayne discovers he is descended from the line of Gawain, and, presto, the Holy Grail comes to Gotham. This is, unsurprisingly, completely outside of DC's normal continuity, which is a real shame, as I'd love to see what happens when the Justice League starts brandishing the Sangrale around.

The Chalice is campy - the scenery-chewing dialogue and irregularly-paced plot infused with a false solemnity that's about six times less grand than Indiana Jones 3. Fortunately, John Van Fleet's art is simply spectacular - miraculously giving this graphic novel a bit of otherwise-absent depth. As a distorted pairing of art and writing, The Chalice is right up there with Kingdom Come

The Irregulars(Altman / Reaves / Dazo): The Irregulars features Sherlock Holmes' rag-tag group of street urchin informants, the Baker Street Irregulars. The group (all of whom are surprisingly clean with good dental hygiene) set off the clear the name of their good friend and mentor, Doctor Watson. The kids soon find themselves in too deep, as the villain (predictably Moriarty) seems to be tinkering with something eldritch. In fact, he's doing something a bit squamous as well, and it all goes quickly tumbling down into the Lovecraftian well.

The bastardized realm of Lovecraftian/Sherlockian fiction has tempted a lot of writers, and none of them (with the notable exception of Neil Gaiman) have ever handled it very well. The Irregulars tries very, very hard to be up to the challenge of being a pastiche of both genres, and winds up failing at both. The Sherlock bits are decidedly un-Sherlock and the Lovecraftian bits reek of Lin Carter. The ambition is there, but the execution is not.