Will Supervillains Be on the Final?

Will Supervillains Be on the FinalImagine a world where people with powers could attend a school for superhero training.  Wait, that’s textbook Sky High, X-Men, and even Harry Potter.  So, what is it that makes Will Supervillains Be on the Final: Liberty Vocational, Vol. 1 by Naomi Novik unique?

Picture instead a young superhero entering a prestigious college at 16 because of her unique powers.  Little does she know that one of the teachers and one of her classmates are working together to ruin her academic career.  And the greatest superhero Calvin Washington recently lost his powers after using them to absorb a terrorist bombing, while his archenemy Alexander Bane remains on the loose.  Then add to it all that Leah Taymore’s parents, and even the staff at her new university, expect Leah to fill Washington’s place once she completes her training, while Leah would rather be at her old school instead of a heralded prodigy at the prestigious Liberty Vocational.

While parts of Novik’s graphic novel may feel familiar with the recent inundation of superhero stories, the characters and premise of Will Supervillains Be on the Final? are nevertheless fun and compelling.  I especially like Leah’s roommate Yuzana, an extroverted empath whose superpower enables her to read people’s emotions.

I think Novik’s book, which is listed as volume one of the Liberty Vocational series, has potential.  I was really disappointed that just as the story began to take off, volume one ended and I discovered that a sequel was never printed.  Even though it appears that there may never be a sequel (Will Supervillains Be on the Final? came out in 2011), I hope that maybe one day there will be one.  I’m always sad when a series with promise comes to an untimely end, like Ruse or Herobear and the Kid, but I don’t think that means the books aren’t worth reading, and I always hold onto a faint hope that maybe if enough people demonstrate their interest, the series may someday reignite.

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-ARRIETTY-

Across Five Decades: Old and New Black Panther Comics

Black Panther coverIntrigued by the release of the new Black Panther film earlier this year, I decided to try out some of the Black Panther comics which have preceded it.  I started with the only comic book I could find at my local library that had “book one” in the title, which turned out to be a 2016 rejuvenation of the series.  The slender volume I picked up was Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

While I did not find A Nation Under Our Feet particularly coherent or artistically impressive, the comic does provide an intro into the Black Panther world for those who, like me, are curious about the latest superhero Marvel has transferred from comic book to silver screen.  Perhaps the best part of the comic is the last half, which includes a map and history of Wakanda and concludes with a snippet from the very first 1966 comic Black Panther appeared in, where Black Panther features as a character the Fantastic Four encounter.  (Or should I say face?  Black Panther has changed a lot since his first debut 🙂 .)

1966 Black Panther comicIn spite of cartoonish colors and somewhat cheesy dialogue, I found myself enjoying the older comic more than the new one.  The authors (Stan Lee being a prominent one) have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and use their powers as narrators to talk directly to the audience.  Further, although the artwork is not nearly as slick as in more recent Black Panther installments, I thought it was laid out well and kept the story easy to follow.  Finally, while certain tidbits—such as asbestos being an innovative material—certainly date the comic, I actually found these aspects to be part of the appeal.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

Herobear and the Kid

I can’t even recall when I first saw Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance by Mike Kunkel.  My older brother Joseph discovered the book at the library and brought it home.  Comic books and graphic novels weren’t all that interesting to me back then, so, after scanning through the book, I put it down, and forgot about it until, in June of last year, I decided to check out that book I had “read” several years before.  This time, I finished the book, which was very enjoyable.

Mike Kunkel, the author and artist of Herobear, was an animator for Warner Bros., Sony, and Walt Disney productions before he created Herobear.  This career in animation shines through brilliantly in his artwork.  I agree with my older brother’s observation that reading Herobear is almost like watching a movie.  Sequences of movement run together very smoothly and it can almost seem like the characters move on the page as one reads.

pic2Kunkel’s loose pencil art style helps to create the animated effect of this book.  In addition to this, the expressions of Mike Kunkel’s characters are wonderful.  Kunkel succeeds in making every look on a character’s face humorous and memorable, which helps to bring the main character Tyler’s overactive imagination to life.

Taking into account that  this book is a graphic novel, its artwork is obviously very important to making it worth reading, but the book has an excellent storyline too.  Herobear and the Kid is narrated by a young boy named Tyler whose grandfather dies.  In the grandfather’s will, Tyler’s parents receive a mansion and Tyler himself inherits a broken watch and an old stuffed bear.  In this story, Tyler is relating the part of his childhood where he encountered his “biggest beginning from a most difficult ending” (13). The “most difficult ending” that Tyler mentions is his Grandfather’s death.  To discover what the “biggest beginning” is, you’ll have to read the book yourself.

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Because Mike Kunkel is a Christian, he includes biblical ideas in Herobear. In the third section of the book, Tyler wonders what motivates a hero to serve, protect, and defend.  Initially, he thinks that they might act for glory, but after his first heroic adventure, Tyler realizes the truth about heroes: they don’t protect others because they love glory, but because they love others.  Then Tyler states “And like it says in a good book about heroes: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (81).

Interlaced with Christian ideas, a magical toy named Herobear, mystery, amazing adventures, and a kid with a better understanding of life than many people older than him, Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance is a wonderful book that I think almost any Christian, whatever age, will enjoy reading.

Note by Bone: Today’s article was brought to you by Flint and Bone’s younger sister, Arrietty (name changed to protect the innocent). Arrietty is a very interesting person who is very interested in writing poems (she’s written 140 to date) when she’s not doing other interesting things like reading books (mostly fiction), doing school (mostly fact), and practicing violin.

Note 2: Herobear is difficult to find in print these days. I would recommend either buying the one-volume book new from a seller like Amazon for $50 (steep, I know),hunting around online for a less-expensive used copy, or looking for it at a public library.

Kingdom Come

“There were voices… and thunderings and lightnings…and an earthquake.” Thus opens Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, an apocalyptic superhero tale which follows the preacher Norman McCay as he witnesses the events surrounding the punishment of the earth.  Containing an engaging narrative by Mark Waid and sporting gorgeous pages of artwork by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come is a contemporary comic that offers excellent reading.

Plot

The story opens after Superman and his fellow heroes of yesteryear have largely withdrawn from society and relinquished the reins of justice to their children and the new generation of heroes. However, the story quickly makes apparent that the new generation does not share the values that the older generation held. The destruction caused by this “new” generation forces Superman and his fellow heroes to come out of retirement and repair the mistakes that they have left unfixed. Mark Waid tells his story with finesse and he uses the situations of his characters to make social commentary and expound his views all within the framework of a superhero story.

Message

The story addresses many problems and ideas that are relevant to modern Americans and even Christians. Through the mouth of a character called Wesley, Waid talks about how modern people have lost initiative and the desire to excel, and instead, “asked a new breed to face the future for them”(17).  Also, throughout the entire narrative, Mark Waid uses the old/new superhero dichotomy to show the shortsightedness displayed whenever current problems are dumped on future generations who have not been raised responsibly and yet are expected to make things better. Mark Waid also addresses pride and its consequences; as well as how whenever a person loses touch with their own humanity they lose their moral compass and good judgment. Despite having fairly evident societal messages, Waid does not become preachy, but tells a pure superhero story about good versus evil that is engaging and entertaining. Mark Waid rises close to the pinnacle of storytelling in Kingdom Come, combining a great superhero story and at the same time unobtrusively making an accurate statement about modern American culture.

As far as inappropriate content in Kingdom Come, there is not much to mention. Since this is a superhero comic there is obviously violence, and though there is some blood it is kept to a minimum. There is a small amount of swearing in the dialogue, mainly comprised of only one or two uses of three words. Overall, I foundKingdom Come very refreshing to read because it has so little in the way of objectionable content.

Artwork

Finally, the artwork by Alex Ross is jaw dropping to say the least. He has a very painterly style that he uses to beautifully and realistically render all of Mark Waid’s characters and settings.  This is the first comic book I have read that has this style of art, and it is a joy to look at. Alex Ross does an excellent job of portraying all kinds of action, and some of the panels in the comic book are so complex that it boggles the mind how anyone could render everything so clearly and effectively.  The panels in the comic book are well laid out and are easy to follow without getting lost.

Closing Remarks

Kingdom Come offers a great read to those interested in the superhero genre or anyone who just wants a fun and clean story. The story is very well told, and the artwork is nigh impossible to surpass. By far this is the best comic that I have read in a while. I highly recommend it, and close with the words of Mark Waid’s character Norman McCay:

-Flint-