Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 1: Casper The Friendly Ghost
Leslie Cabarga, Jerry Beck
Dark Horse Books
$19.95 US (Paperback)
**** 1/2 (out of five)
Show me a longtime comic book fan over the age of 25 (or maybe 30) and I’ll show you a person who likely spent a good chunk of their childhood reading one or more of the following: Archie, Richie Rich and Casper, The Friendly Ghost.
For many, the innocent adventures of these iconic characters were a simple distraction on a lazy summer afternoon or a way to while away the time on long car trips, but for some of us they were the doorway into a much wider world of comics that lay beyond.
The adventures of Richie, the poor little rich boy who craved a life of adventure, Casper, whose appearance made it difficult for him to make friends, and Archie, who displayed remarkable ineptitude when it came to dealing with the opposite sex, were easily identifiable for young readers and their multitude of monthly books sold like hotcakes.
By the mid-to-late 1980s, though, the readership of comics began to change more and more and with edgy adult-themed books on the rise, these more whimsical series were shoved to the back burner — and in the case of Casper and Richie, put away for good.
Until now, that is.
Editor Leslie Cabarga has taken some of the best of Casper’s adventures — over 100, from his first one in 1949 to some all-time classics in the mid-60s — and represents them in one glorious package. All of his ghostly pals are there, too: From Wendy, The Good Little Witch to Spooky, The Tuff Little Ghost, Nightmare the horse and the Ghostly Trio.
These Harvey Comics Classics — beginning with Casper and continuing later this year with Richie’s first volume — feature fantastic art, wonderful characters and are a much-overdue tribute to a simpler time.
Batman: Ego And Other Tails
Darwyn Cooke, Paul Grist, Bill Wray, Tim Sale
$29.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover)
Darwyn Cooke says Batman is his all-time favourite comic book character.
The noted Canadian writer/illustrator of the Eisner and Joe Shuster award-winning series DC: The New Frontier and monthly comic, The Spirit, has a special gift for spinning yarns about the Dark Knight and now all the ones he’s done so far are available in one handsome package.
Ego And Other Tails features, obviously, Ego, Cooke’s first Batman story which sees the hero faced up against a villain he never dreamed possible: Himself. Other highlights in this collection include the gritty and glorious Selina’s Big Score, a Catwoman tale full of crooks and double-crosses and some shorter stories from the Batman In Black And White series and DC’s tremendous artist profile series, Solo.
Fans of this former Torontonian, now near-Haligonian won’t want to miss this one.
American Virgin Vol. 2: Going Down
Steven T. Seagle, Becky Cloonan, Ryan Kelly
$17.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
Adam Chamberlain’s life just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
The teenaged Christian youth minister and virginity advocate had his world torn apart when his fiancee, Beth, was brutally beheaded after being kidnapped while doing Peace Corps work in Africa.
After bending some of his morals in tracking down one of the men responsible, Adam witnessed the man’s suicide, however the desire to catch the man who wielded the blade that killed Beth still burns inside him.
The trail of the killer takes Adam, along with his black sheep sister, Cyndi, to Melbourne, coincidently where a major Christian speakers event is being held. But to get to the man he’s looking for, will Adam test his moral code even further by infiltrating a gay sex club — in costume? And what will his followers think if he gets caught?
Written by Steven Seagle (It’s A Bird…) and drawn by Becky Cloonan (Demo), American Virgin continues to be one of the most thought-provoking and astute books on the racks.
Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick
Paul Jenkins, Chris Moreno
$16.99 US (Paperback)
Superior Boy is the greatest sidekick of all time.
No, wait, make that The Stoat. No, Bling! No, Pony!
Oh, to heck with it, they’re all the same dude, anyways.
Such is the plight of Eddie Edison, mild-mannered (OK, so maybe not so much) pizza delivery boy by day, and Mister Excellent’s able assistant Superior Boy by night.
When his boss refuses to cut him in for any of the wads of cash he’s raking in using Superior Boy’s likeness on T-shirts, action figures, etc., Eddie decides to find a new gig and offers his services to three other local heroes: The Night Judge, Brother Commando and Justice Princess – using a different costume and alias to appeal to each one.
The only problem is that they all like the idea of having a sidekick and all hire him.
Now Eddie’s got to juggle four jobs (five if you count the pizza man thing), four costumes and four severely peculiar heroes, each with their own odd affectation.
Meanwhile, a fifth hero, the Hobo, had tipped Eddie off to a major crime about to go down. Can he get any of his bosses to stop thinking of themselves for long enough to save the city from certain doom?
Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick is a frigging riot — a genuine gut buster — full of sensational satire and fabulous filth and anyone looking for a laugh ought to grab a copy ASAP.
52 Vol. 2
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen
$23.99/$19.99 US (Paperback)
Who would have thought a year without DC’s big three — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — would have been so interesting?
Instead of these familiar faces, readers of the grand and sweeping weekly series 52 got to know the likes of former Gotham cop Renee Montoya and her new friend, Charlie, A.K.A. The Question; ex-villain Black Adam and his newfound love, Isis; John Henry Irons, A.K.A. Steel, and his niece Natasha; Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man — all lost in space together; and scores of other lesser known heroes and villains.
While all of these characters grew on us, perhaps the moment you knew this book was something awesome was with one classic phrase: Archbishop Lobo of the First Celestial Church of the Triple Fish-God.
The return of one of the toughest hombres in the DC Universe, who was now an interstellar holy man, is just friggin’ genius.
Moments like this, along with shockers like the massacre of the new Justice League, the death of a Booster Gold and the deepening mystery of the identity of the new hero, Supernova, are all packed into this second essential collection of 52.
The Flash #231
Mark Waid, Daniel Acuna
The Flash is back and wow… just wow.
Just to bring those out of the loop up to speed, Wally West, A.K.A. The Flash, disappeared along with his wife and twin babies during the events of 2006’s Infinite Crisis. With Wally gone, Bart Allen, the hero formerly known as Kid Flash, took up the mantle and donned the red suit to battle crime.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go very well for Bart and he died in a battle with the Flash’s longtime enemies, The Rogues.
At just the same moment, the Legion Of Super-Heroes time-travelled to our time from the 30th century and used their science to bring Wally and his family — including two now-tween-aged twins — home.
As The Flash’s monthly adventures pick up from where they left off, Wally is back in his beloved Keystone City fighting to protect its citizens, alongside two powerful new heroes — whom he can send to their room if they misbehave!
Mark Waid, one of the two best Flash writers of all time, makes a triumphant return to the series, along with talented newcomer Daniel Acuna (Green Lantern) in one of the landmark books of the year.
Fans of the DC Universe dare not miss this one.
Booster Gold #1
Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund
The biggest weasel in the DC Universe gets his own monthly series?
Oh the injustice!
While Booster Gold did redeem himself with his heroism during the Infinite Crisis and by helping save the day during the weekly series, 52, he’s still a bit of a pariah in the eyes of some of his fellow heroes.
It certainly doesn’t help that Booster’s actions are almost always about blatant self-promotion, fame and money. But when the all-new Justice League give him a one-week tryout window — to prove he’s about helping people, not just himself — he’s determined to prove his detractors wrong.
Then Rip Hunter shows up.
The time-travelling hero offers Booster an even bigger chance to do good — to save the universe over and over again — with just one hitch: he’d have to do so in the shadows and continue letting everyone think he’s a self-centred jerk.
Can Booster swallow his pride to save the world?
Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, Justice Society Of America) teams with New Line Cinema executive producer Jeff Katz (Snakes On A Plane) to pen Booster’s impressive return to monthly comics. Drawn by veteran Dan Jurgens, who happens to be Booster’s creator, this new series looks like it could be one of the main threads weaving the DCU together leading up to next year’s Final Crisis.