Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority Review

Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
ISBN 9781563897696

Contributors: Mark Millar, John McCrea, James Hodgkins, Ian Hannin, and introduction by Warren Ellis

Reprints: Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: Jenny Sparks, spirit of the 20th century, is dead after sacrificing her life to save earth and mankind from utter destruction.  Now take a ride through her 100-year life as written in her private journal.  Get a glimpse into the secret origins of the original members of the Authority as Jenny's path crosses theirs throughout history. 
  • Between the demise of Stormwatch and the formation of the Authority, Jenny convinces the Doctor to stop shooting heroin, playing video games, to get off his couch, and become a super-bloke! 
  • While they were still underground, Apollo and the Midnighter get their bacon saved by Jenny when she comes out of retirement
  • We get to see the origin of Jack Hawksmoor as he is continually abducted and operated on by aliens to prepare for an invasion from the future.  Jenny leads a superhero army into battle with absurdly high casualties
  • Back in the 1940s Jenny battles Nazi's to secure a mystical egg thought to contain an amazing creature (Shen)
  • We get to see the origin of the Engineer as she helps Jenny in the past to stop an invasion from Sliding Albion
Pros: Millar adds in some funny historical references like Jenny being friends with Adolf Hitler when he was a starving artist, Einstein and Hemingway regularly going on science adventures with her, it's nice to get glimpses into the origins of various Authority members, Shen and Jenny have a lesbian tryst (word!), includes variant cover by Hitch

Cons: McCrea's art isn't particularly dramatic or as widescreen as Bryan Hitch from the regular series

Mike Tells It Straight: Millar was the worthy successor of original creator Ellis and pens a nice final tale for Jenny encompassing her storied past.  This one-off mini-series is enjoyable for Authority fans and I consider it an extended #0 issue.  You must have a rudimentary knowledge of the team to fully understand the book and I recommend reading it after Jenny's death in issue #12.  In true Jenny fashion you better be knackered and smoking a ciggie the whole time.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Great and Secret Show - Clive Barker Review

The Complete Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show
IDW Publishing
Softcover Trade Paperback
300 pages
ISBN 9781600101212

Contributors: Chris Ryall, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jay Fotos, and introduction/original novel by Clive Barker

Reprints: Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show #1-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: Randolph Jaffe is a forgettable little man working for the United States Postal Service and given the mundane task of working the dead letter room in Omaha, Nebraska - where all the undeliverable mail for the entire country is stored. Sifting through the random articles of mail Jaffe slowly discovers an amazing secret world behind our normal one. He learns of The Art after finding a strange medallion and pieces together the existence of the Shoal - a secret society with some connection to The Art.

Soon his journey begins to discover and master The Art by finding the last remaining Shoal...which happens pretty quickly. Jaffe meets Kissoon and learns of the true secret of Quiddity -- the Dream-Sea which humans only experience three times in their lives. Kissoon attempts to trick Jaffe who escapes and renews his search in earnest for The Art -- a way to open the door to Quiddity. Jaffe enlists an academic drug-addict named Richard Fletcher to help him search and isolates the Nuncio -- a magical elixir bringing reality from consciousness. Realizing Jaffe is evil Fletcher exposes himself to the Nuncio, but too late. Jaffe too is exposed and the two gods-from-men battle through the skies before crashing down in Palomo Grove, California. The two grapple beneath the earth for years.

Now the true story begins! Four teenage girls take a dip in a runoff lake formed after a summer storm. They are mysteriously accosted by a strange force beneath the water. Sound familiar? The girls vow never to speak of their violation, but soon begin exhibiting strange behavior -- yes, they turn into super-freaks and end up pregnant (or crazy). Sixteen years later the offspring of Jaffe and Fletcher come home to Palomo Grove as a supernatural war threatens to explode. Will Quiddity remain unspoiled or will the monstrous giants living beyond it's shores invade the real world?

Pros: An epic story with lots of twists and turns, Rodriguez's art is immersive and creative, mature themes with nothing held back (I wouldn't expect less from Clive Barker) and thankfully no censorship, nudity, lots of extras including sketches (some by Barker himself), covers, and some director's commentary

Cons: Rodriguez's character art has some proportional inconsistencies (although I stopped noticing once I got into the story) with too-large heads on small bodies, a lot of information from the novel is condensed into this book and character backgrounds were left out when they could have been interesting, we have to wait for the sequel Everville to be adapted into graphic novel format!

Mike Tells It Straight: Let me start by saying I've never read the original novel The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. Based solely on this graphic novel and without any foreknowledge of the series I can say it was rather enjoyable and filled with interesting concepts compared to a lot of other graphic novels on the shelves today. Any adaptation of a book into another media will fall short of the original whether it be film or graphic novel. Our imaginations are far more powerful than any physical tools after all. I will say Ryall and Rodriguez had a daunting job to accomplish in this adaptation based on the detail contained in Barker's novels, but they did a fine job (as Barker himself extols in his introduction). Despite feeling a bit rushed the story takes the reader on a wicked ride and compels them onward to the finish (which is really just the beginning).

TO BUY and Recommendations: