DC

The best place to start reading… the Flash!

This is part 3 of my 24-part-series „Super-Heroes: Best Place to start“ [Link to the complete list… here!].

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You’re interested in The Flash [Link] / Barry Allen [Link] or Wally West [Link]?

To me, the best place to start is…

not yet released. If you want to start reading right away, a charming first look will be:

„DC: The New Frontier“ by Darwyn Cooke (Writing and Art), a limited series / trade paperback collection [Link to review] published in 2004.

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If you can wait until November 2012, though, I’d recommend the following collection by Francis Manapul (Writing and Art) and Brian Buccellato:

THE FLASH VOL. 1 HC Writers: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato Artist: Francis Manapul Collects: THE FLASH #1-7 $22.99 US, 168 pg.

more info: here [Link]

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What’s the appeal of… Barry Allen and Wally West?

Created at the start of the quirky, optimistic and crazy 1950ies/60ies „Silver Age“ of Comics [Link], „The Flash“ tells inventive, but slightly nerdy and repetitive tales of street-level, everyday men: Barry Allen and his – temporary – replacement Wally West are doting, sweet and sometimes naive midwestern boys, perpetually almost ready to settle down.

A wide-eyed, but small-scale / suburban / rose-colored examination of life’s demands on your typical normal, late-twenties, All-American „regular“ guy.

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two other books, good for beginners:

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good books for advanced readers:

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sub-par or disappointing books:

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common problems / grievances in „The Flash“ books:

  • a plethora of (fairly likeable but flat) mentors, kids and sidekick speedster heroes… who have nothing to do.
  • never-ending „the tiger cannot change it’s stripes“-storylines about gimmick-themed thugs and gangsters like Captain Cold, Mirror Master or Trickster.
  • a fairly suburban / apolitical / rose-colored perspective on city life, long-term relationships and civic duty. Even more kitties waiting to be rescued than in Superman’s Metropolis. 🙂

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Is the current monthly „The Flash“ book, launched in September 2011, any good?

Hell, yes! Francis Manapul’s „The Flash“ is so lush, charming, engaging and reader-friendly… it feels more a like Disney / Pixar production than a DC super-hero book. Excellent, visually mature storytelling for an all-ages audience!

Interested in other comic book heroes?

I’d recommend bright and big-hearted series like „Supergirl“, „JSA“ and the current „Aquaman“.

Here’s my full list [Link]!

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related Links:

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my German comic book journalism:

The best place to start reading… Batwoman (and Renee Montoya!)

This is part 2 of my 24-part-series “Super-Heroes: Best Place to start” [Link to complete list… here!].

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You’re interested in Batwoman [Link] / Kate Kane [Link]?

To me, the best place to start is:

“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka (Writing) and John H. Williams III (Art), a trade paperback collection [Link: review] published in 2010.

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What’s the appeal of… Kate Kane?

A socialite, a military brat, a proactive, aggressive vigilante with a personality, every bit as intense as Bruce Wayne…

Ever since Kate Kane was introduced in 2006, she provoked great character moments and raised smart questions on the nature of morality, duty and loss. A mature, charismatic hero – and the first high-profile lesbian protagonist in superhero comics.

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Kate’s main storyline starts in „Elegy“. But her foes, friends and romantic foils were introduced in other, earlier „Batman“ series.

For the whole picture, please read:

…as well as „Gotham Central“, a Greg Rucka / Ed Brubaker series that (co-)stars Renee Montoya, the most important side character / romantic foil in „Batwoman“:

after this – lengthy – backstory, the Batwoman character gets introduced in an important ensemble story (co-)starring Renee Montoya:

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both Kate’s and Renee’s story continue in:

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If you’re okay with missing *some* details, I recommend you skip these more peripheral and / or weaker volumes:

for a complete list of Kate’s appearances, please see [Link]

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common problems / grievances in “Batwoman” books:

  • Kate’s family has seen much drama, and Kate’s love life is equally complex. Since most „Batwoman“ characters bottle up their feelings *very* hard, it constantly feels like important conversation just… fails to happen: The comic has many cold, angry and bitter character moments.
  • Both Kate and Renee are fan favorite characters. Still, months can pass without either of them making an appearance. Where *is* Renee, right now? What is her status?
  • Introduced in 4 different books and drawn by too many different artists, Kate’s main foes, the cultists of the ancient „religion of crime“ have been a part of DC comics for 10 years… but still don’t feel conceptually strong or well-realized.

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Is the current monthly “Batwoman” book, launched in September 2011, any good?

Yes. Even though Greg Rucka, the writer who created Kate Kane in 2006, has left DC Comics, the current „Batwoman“ storyarc, „Hydrology“, is even better-paced and more complex than „Elegy“. It’s a busy story with lots of side characters and backstory – but it still works as a starting point, and draws you in very quickly.

Update, 2014: The first 4 books of the new „Batwoman“ series are excellent and tell one continuous and exciting story. Collections 5 and 6 are pretty bad and can be ignored.

Interested in other comic book heroes / heroines?

I’d recommend the character „The Huntress“ (Helena Bertinelli), „Manhunter“ (with vigilante attorney Kate Spencer) and „Starman“ (Jack Knight), another artful, atmospheric and more mature series.

Plus: the 1990ies DC cult series „Chase“, drawn by J.H. Williams III, has story connections… and seems to have a similar tone / appeal.

Here’s my full list [Link]!

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related Links:

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my German comic book journalism:

Green Lantern, The Flash and Geoff Johns: Where to start?

In the 1960ies, ‚Green Lantern‘ (a ‚Space Police Cop‘) and ‚The Flash‘ (‚The Fastest Man Alive‘) were two of the most popular DC heroes. Since 2005, both heroes – and their comics – made a BIG comeback, thanks to writer Geoff Johns.

White, old fanboys LOVE these nostalgic stories about white, old heroes…

‎…while feminists and liberal readers want more minorities, more social issues, more complexity. (I’m one of these guys.)

Geoff Johns IS a good writer, but I’m not very interested in ‚his‘ heroes and their stories, and after I’ve read about 8 ‚Flash‘– and 5 ‚Green Lantern‘-comics written by Johns, I still have a hard time enjoying them: They’re mainstream in a very dull, bland, All-American way.

Still: there is ONE entertaining, atmospheric and newbie-friendly ‚Flash‘ comic by Johns that I read in March and that worked really well (4 out of 5 stars, and with terrific art by Toronto artist Francis Manapul), „Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues“ from 2011. [„http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8721000-flash-vol-1„]

…and there’s ONE very good and comprehensive introduction to ‚Green Lantern‘ by Johns that I’ve read last night (4 out of 5 stars, but with pretty bad art / character design by Ivan Reis) from 2007: „Green Lantern: Secret Origin“. [„http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3451225„]

Both are recommended, and both FINALLY helped me to see the charms / allure of ‚Flash‘ and ‚Green Lantern‘. I’m still not a big convert or fan… but if you want to TRY these heroes, these are the best starting points I’ve found so far.

P.S.: A more artistic, out-of-continuity book that stars 1950ies versions of Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and MANY other DC heroes is „The New Frontier“ by Darwyn Cooke. It won’t help you catch up with these characters‘ modern-day interpretations… but it’s a good showcase of their essences and their early appeal.

Here’s a great, reader-friendly review. Enjoy!