Smalerie Reads: Comics for Arbor Day
By this time both Arbor Day and Earth Day have come and gone. But just because it wasn't my week to post, it doesn't mean that I don't intend to milk these holidays for another one of my blog posts where I read holiday themed comics. Move over Valentine's Day, it's about to get very green up in here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6MLdPPwv1I
Batman: Harley and Ivy, Paul Dini and Others
I will admit that I had a hard time finding a good Poison Ivy story that wasn't her origin and didn't paint her as a rather flat character whose personality is just being sexy and loving plants. Gotham City Sirens does at times show her as a brilliant scientist, but I ended up going with this comic because based on the other Paul Dini collections, I made the assumption that this was going to be great. Well, no one is perfect. Not me, not the authors or artists, and certainly not this book. In fact, I would argue that this book highlights everything I tried and failed to avoid in my search for a good Poison Ivy story.
The problem with blatant fan service is that it has a way of pulling me right out of a story. Suddenly something that seemed kinda fun feels lazy, cheap, and in some cases alienating to the female audience. I'm not saying that everything about this book is trash, but when the writers go out of the way to provide story lines that are based on a bet over who can kiss the most men, having conversations while posing in their underwear, and having cat fights while naked in the shower, it can be hard for me not to wonder what the real purpose of this book was. I am not against sexy characters or fun, but it is disheartening when those are the only stories you can find.
That being said, this is at times a pretty cute book with a few warm friendship moments between Harley and Ivy. And as always, I was thrilled to see a lot of Bruce Timm's animated style. I don't think this book is anything I want to keep in my collection or read again, but I will probably still be drawn to other collections involving Dini and Timm in the future. I just might be a bit more choosey in the future.
The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Alan Moore
I realize that Swamp Thing might be an obvious choice for this article, but I picked this book because I love it so much. There are certain books out there that are game changers - books that are important and iconic because they've done something new and breathed new life into the medium. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing is one of those books. In this volume, not only has Moore created a way of storytelling that would influence generations of writers, but the stories themselves are creepy and engaging.
While Moore's writing can at times be everything from poetic and grand to overwrought and grandiose, it is hard to deny that this volume (and the rest of Moore's run) provides riveting commentary on the world around us. Swamp Thing's story tackles not just the environment (though that is Swamp Thing's specialty), but also manages to hold a mirror to the human condition and the reflection isn't always the most flattering.
The only real negative to this book is that the older art style might not be everyone's cup of tea. This is especially true if you are used to the more grounded or whimsical looks that can be found in a lot of comics now. I could make the argument that the style is pitch perfect for the tone of the book, but perhaps it is time that I stop gushing and just move on to the last book in this article.
Groot, Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger
When a character suddenly becomes very popular as a result of a recent movie or TV show, it's pretty common that the company is going to pump out a lot of junk to capitalize on the character before people move on to the next thing. I'm happy to say that this book is an exception to that practice. Sure, it might not be something that we are going to be talking about years from now, but this story about an intergalactic road trip gone wrong is pretty fun.
What I loved best about this book is how cartoon-y and animated the art style is. The drawings show a lot of movement and faces that are both expressive and almost gummy. Ok, I realize that isn't the best description here, but you can tell that Kesinger has an animation and Disney background. I could spend days just looking at his drawings of Rocket's annoyed mugging.
The story itself, while thin and filled with a lot of happy coincidences, is fun enough to not really care. Rocket and Groot's friendship is highlighted without laying it on too thick and we are given more opportunities to see what a lovable goof Groot can be. So yeah, you aren't going to get much complaining from me.
Any great titles I missed out? Got a good Poison Ivy book you can recommend for me? Just annoyed that I missed the obvious chance to write about Star Wars comics on May the 4th? Chime in below and be heard!