The PopCult Bookshelf
We’re going to play catch up again this week with three capsule reviews of recently released comic books and graphic novels.
This comic book is a revival of sorts of Winsor McCay’s legendary comic strip, which ran over a hundred years ago in newspapers across the country. McCay’s work is still hailed today as among the finest in the comic strip medium. It takes a lot of guts for anyone to try and follow in his footsteps. Happily, Shanower and Rodriguez do an amazing job capturing the spirit of McCay’s work, without creating a slavish imitation.
Return to Slumberland updates the original story by having the Princess of Slumberland in need of a new playmate, many years after Nemo has grown up. King Morpheus of Slumberland sends emissaries to bring a new young boy into Slumberland to be his daughter’s companion. They choose a young boy named James, whose middle name is Nemo, and at this point, the story continues along the lines of the original strip. By the end of the first issue, Nemo has just barely made it to Slumberland and has yet to meet the Princess.
It’s a tricky thing to try and continue the work of Winsor McCay. Twenty years ago, a godawful animated feature film was released that missed the mark by such a wide margin that in the review I co-wrote, I suggested that the producers be soundly beaten around the head and neck with a shovel (my favorite line in the review, and one that was edited out by my editor before it saw print). I tend to be a little protective of Little Nemo since it was a huge influence on me personally. I even paid homage to it in one of the Spud backup strips in CODA back in 1987.
Eric Shanower has perfectly captured the joy, innocence, and surrealism of McCay’s original story. He even slipped in a clever dig at that horrible animated feature: “Nemo’s my middle name. Dad named me after a cartoon. I don’t like it much. My first name is James. Everyone calls me Jimmy.”
Rodriguez’s art is simply spectacular. Obviously paying tribute to McCay’s art nouveau leanings and architectural detail, he takes Shanower’s script and brings it to life in the most amazing manner. Nelson Daniel also provides an exquisite color scheme for the book. Even though they are working with a much smaller page than McCay’s giant Sunday comics section, they do justice to the master’s original work.
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland is a real treat that revisits one of the greatest comics of all time and brings the dream back to life.
I gave a rave review to the first volume of the Star Trek Gold Key Archives a few months ago and this volume, which reprints issues #7 – #12, continues the excellent re-presentation of these original Star Trek comic adventures which were originally published in 1970 and 1971.
Giolitti’s art has never looked better, with state of the art reproduction and brand new coloring. Another notable feature of this volume is that it contains some of the earliest published work by Len Wein, who later in his career co-created Swamp Thing and Wolverine and was the editor of the New Teen Titans and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen.
It’s really cool to see these books printed anew since they present original stories of the Starship Enterprise and her crew and they don’t follow the DC or Marvel house styles, since they were originally published by Gold Key Comics. Like with the first volume, this is a top notch collection which reprints all the covers, both photographic and painted, and includes an informative introduction by Scott Tipton and David Tipton. If you are a long term Trekker or just curious about what comic books looked like in the late Silver Age, this is a must-have collection.
Sirens is George Perez’s long-awaited return to comics, following serious eye surgery. We’re happy to report that his artwork has not been affected in the least. Sirens shows him still at the top of his game and improving after nearly forty years in the business.
Perez is telling a story here of a band of female intergalactic warriors who have been scattered across time and find themselves brought back together to fight their most dangerous enemy.
The artwork is intricate, detailed, and very busy. So is the story. It may take a couple of readings to fully comprehend what’s happening in the first issue of this miniseries. The book opens in the year 1104 A.D. in Iceland on Earth. Then, after four pages, jumps to an undetermined time in the future in space for one page. Then we have two pages in ancient Rome, a page in the Old West, two pages in some kind of rapey space prison, back to the Old West for one page, back to the space prison for one page, then back to the Old West.
And now you’re halfway through the story. To say the narrative is a bit choppy is an understatement. However, to be fair, it seems that the reason for this choppiness is to introduce all the characters in the first issue. The problem is that after jumping between time periods and Earth and outer space, we still only get to meet five of these seven Sirens by the time the story ends. This probably could have been a giant sized issue and given Perez more time and space to get the story started.
Aside from the breakneck pace of the storytelling and a few pages crammed with more exposition than an evening of monologues, there is a compelling and interesting story here. I just hope that once the characters are introduced Perez slows down the pace so we can see them interact.
Perez’s choice of an all female team plays to his feminist leanings as a writer (Perez is fondly remembered for his terrific reboot of Wonder Woman in the late 1980’s) and it also plays to his strengths as an artist who has always done a fine job depicting the female form.
Despite a little confusion in the narrative with the first issue, George Perez’s Sirens still has quite a bit of promise and should be well worth sticking around for the entire series. We’ve got the makings of a first class space opera here.