This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to Mr. Zad’s comic critique.
Dear Dracula (graphic novel, Image Comics, $7.99). Jim Valentino and Shadowline Comics’ new all-ages imprint, Silverline Books, debuts with a story about a blood-sucking fiend that turns out to be a rather decent kind of fellow.
What’s the story? When young scary-movie lover Sam sees an action figure of his favorite creature of the night, he definitely knows who might get it for him. He quickly runs home and writes a letter, not to Santa Claus, but to another guy who travels during the night - the mighty Count Dracula.
Writing strength: Joshua Williamson - famous for writing the Necessary Evil series - creates a delightful, humorous and kid-friendly story that not only delivers the simple message of friendship, but also doesn’t talk down to younger readers. Better yet, almost anyone will find a reason to smile when Dracula visits his new pal.
Artist’s style: Illustrator Vicente Navarrete’s first major foray into comics is a winner. His exaggerated, colorful and cartoony style fits comfortably within the children’s book genre. Readers will appreciate his green-skinned interpretation of the vampire, a cross between Count Chocula and a Groovie Ghoulie.
Pop-art moments: A full page showing Sam’s intense love of cheese next to a large panel of Dracula pondering, “I must try this … cheese.”
Read it or leave it? This 48-page hardcover should find a permanent place in a child’s library. It’s especially satisfying for a youngster who loves classic monsters, Halloween and cheese.
The Joker (graphic novel, DC Comics, $19.99). Another gritty expose of Batman’s chief adversary arrives in a 128-page hardcover book strictly for mature readers with strong stomachs.
What’s the story? It’s Jonny Frost’s lucky day. He gets to hang with the most important mobster in Gotham City. With the Joker being released from Arkham Asylum, it’s time for the Clown Prince of Crime to reclaim his turf and clean out the riffraff who dare challenge his rackets. Johnny gets to watch the master at work every bloody and violent step of the way.
Writing strength: The king of crime-noir comics, Brian Azzarello - writer of the 100 Bullets series - returns the Joker to his thug roots with a characterization Tony Soprano would love. His realistic approach to the underbelly of Gotham bears a resemblance to the latest Batman film, except with a much more sadistic flair.
Getting past the Joker being legally released from Arkham Asylum - is that really plausible in any realm? - was my first stumbling block with Mr. Azzarello’s plot. Of bigger concern was the overall lack of revelations and the cookie-cutter approach to a mediocre tale that could feature any bunch of odd criminals.
Fans will enjoy appearances by a re-imagined Two-Face, Penguin and Riddler, to name few guest stars.
Artist’s style:Lee Bermejo delivers a terrifying and sometimes disgusting portrayal of the Joker. In an incredible coincidence, Mr. Bermejo had the Joker’s smiling scars in place well before the effect was used for Heath Ledger’s recent portrayal in “The Dark Knight.”
The artist’s schizophrenic page layouts, liberally mixing painted panels with more traditionally drawn sequential art, is an unsettling but eye-opening entrance into this Joker’s depraved world.
I especially loved Mr. Bermejo’s interpretation of the Riddler (a gimpy, tattooed thief) but found his Killer Croc a cliched hunk of urban muscle.View Entire Story
A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 17 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.
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