Warren Ellis‘ Castlevania show for Netflix is about powerful old men who want to bring the world down around them and the OT3 who say “nope” to all that. I’m joined by two critics who know their anime way better than I to talk about the show: Kat Overlandis a freelance culture critic and the small press editor at Women Write About Comics. Leslie Lee the 3rd is a writer and host of Struggle Session.
We open with a Spoiler-free discussion of if you should watch the show. Answer: yes, there are lesbians. And the Byronic is actually likeable.
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet
With a new Wolverine series have started last month, I wanted to take a look back at one of the very first Wolverine story arcs I read that wasn’t reprinted from older comics. I didn’t know it at the time, but Not Dead Yet was written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Lenil Francis Yu. When I first read this story, I wasn’t as concerned with knowing who had written it because I didn’t follow creators at the time, only the characters. Only Wolverine and the X-Men.
Originally published in Wolverine v. 2 #119-122 back in the late 90’s, the story was both my first introduction to American comic books and how they were laid out with the advertisements, the page sizes, the recap pages and the preview page with Stan’s Bulletin Box. It really was a transformative experience in how I experienced my comic books at the time as I went from the UK reprint magazines to the real thing. They were unlike anything I could get my hands on at the time; the reprint mags contained three issues, were slightly smaller, and had only minimal personality to them that wasn’t in the original comics. The other comics I was reading at the time were all weekly anthology magazines too – there wasn’t a dedicated 30 odd pages to a single comic and all the little extras that go with it. Looking back on those single issues now, I feel that we’ve lost something along the way as technology has progressed and the need for previews in comics has decreased – but that could just be the nostalgia talking.
This is quite possibly one of my favourite Wolverine stories that I’ve ever read. It’s certainly the one I will always point readers to if given half a chance. The story takes place during the time Wolverine had no adamantium in his body, it is told both in the present and the past by use of flashbacks that serves to emphasize the relationship between the ol’ Canuckle head and a Scottish assassin called McLeish who eventually sets his sights on our favourite mutant. Wolverine is being hunted by one of the best, a man who has planned for years to be able to take down the nearly unkillable Canadian mutant with adamantium bones, but what he doesn’t know is that Wolverine’s bones are no longer coated with the metal, and Logan is suddenly much more vulnerable than he used to be. I keep coming back to this story every few years, and I have mentioned it several times on my blog, too. It’s available in trade paperback format, and I highly suggest you pick it up.
I mentioned earlier how I didn’t realize who the creative team was when I read this story more than twenty years ago. In all honestly, it was for another 40 issues of Wolverine when Frank Tieri and Sean Chen started writing the book. So it was years later that I finally realized that Warren Ellis wrote the book, and I remember being somewhat surprised. I’d read and enjoyed a lot of his stuff over the years, but never realised that one of my favourite stories was penned by him.
Wolverine: Not Dead Yet has a timelessness to it that’s only betrayed by the amount of payphones and the style of cars and the odd fashion choice if you’ve a keen eye for those things. This is a tale that focuses less on Wolverine being a superhero and instead takes him back to the shadowy underworld of his past in a much more grounded setting. There’s no spandex in sight, and consequently the story has more of an immediacy to it. This was a time when Wolverine would frequently get his fightin’ togs on when he had a chance, and in Not Dead Yet he doesn’t have that chance.
When it comes to classic Wolverine stories, Not Dead Yet is seldom counted on the list, and one could ask if I would hold it in such high esteem had I not read it at such a formative time in my life. The answer is an easy yes; I read a lot of stories around that time, but none have stayed with me the same way Not Dead Yet has. The story still holds up to this day, and is honestly one of the most common places I’ll start with when going through the back issues of Wolverine in my comic boxes. That‘s why I wanted to focus on this as an Underrated gem this week.
That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.
(W) Warren Ellis (A) Kevin Nowland (A/CA) Bryan Hitch In Shops: Mar 11, 2020 SRP: $3.99
The Batman is trapped in the most dangerous house in Gotham City, trying to protect Commissioner Gordon from a secret army out to kill anyone involved in the justice system. The war on the law has only just begun.
(W) Warren Ellis (A/CA) Bryan Hitch In Shops: Jan 15, 2020 SRP: $3.99
Why did a blackmailer become a murderer? How does the Batman survive an opponent who can kill him with his own mind? Find out all this and more in the latest chapter of the 12-issue series from writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch!
(W) Warren Ellis (A) Kevin Nowland (A/CA) Bryan Hitch In Shops: Dec 11, 2019 SRP: $3.99
A corrupt politico dies by his own hand, but James Gordon is convinced there’s something more to it. Now, it’s time to ask for access to the Batman’s resources. And that is why, right now, in a stately Gotham City mansion, the Batman is being beaten to death.
(W) Warren Ellis (A) Kevin Nowland (A/CA) Bryan Hitch In Shops: Nov 13, 2019 SRP: $3.99
A man was murdered, and the Batman is in his head-and he knows how it happened. All he has to do now is survive his own deduction. Don’t miss the second chapter of this new thriller from writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch!
Marvel Select Editions highlight important storylines in Marvel history. This collects the status-quo shifting Iron Man: Extremis which debuted in Iron Man #1-6.
Story: Warren Ellis Art: Adi Granov Letterer: Randy Gentile
Get your copy in comic shops now and book stores on November 19! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.
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The Batman’s Grave #1 is a wonderfully minimalist, detective procedural story from Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan, and Alex Sinclair, but it’s also a saga of man who is obsessed with death, both his parents’, those of the cases he takes, and his own. So, it’s fitting that Ellis and Hitch open the comic on a panel of the Waynes’ graves as Alfred dutifully trims the area around Thomas and Martha Wayne’s final resting spots and Bruce’s future one before going into the action/murder mystery bits. It gives the comic a somber, thoughtful tone, but Hitch and Nowlan are always there with the big splash page, kick in the teeth, or superhero action scene while Ellis is quick with a quip like a Gotham family thinking that a copyright friendly version of It is family fare. (Maybe, it is in a city where the Joker tries to poison the water supply on a weekly basis.)
My personal favorite part of The Batman’s Grave other than Nowlan’s inking giving Hitch a more explosive, cartoon-y art style than, say, his work on Ultimates is how Warren Ellis writes Alfred. He is world weary, worldly, deeply caring, and also deeply concerned about how Batman is spending his life. Ellis gives him the voice of a million socially conscious Batman fans when he says that buying Gotham City would be better than him going around to poor neighborhoods and beating up criminals like he does in the first action scene of the comic.
But Bruce Wayne: Philanthropist would make a pretty boring comic, and Ellis knows this as he lets Hitch, Nowlan, and Sinclair loose with a cape trailing, Gotham skyline-featuring double page spread very early on and then treats us to some close-ups of Batman fighting goons, who threaten a police officer’s kid. It’s more unique than your usual superhero fight scene with Nowlan adding cool details like showing the grooves on Batman’s boot when he kicks. The extra detail doesn’t take anything away from the motion and the fact that the fight scene shows that Batman beats the shit out of people to get a small measure of catharsis in his life even if it won’t heal his neverending sadness.
However, The Batman‘s Grave is more of a psychological detective comic than an action book, and Alex Sinclair’s colors add a precision to Batman’s virtual lab where he gets into the mind of a murder victim. His investigation acts as a bit of a character study too, and Ellis, Hitch, and Nowlan give us a fairly detailed story of a man, who became overwhelmed with his job in the Gotham D.A’s office and turned to Batman as a metaphor of stability and justice. These extra character details kept me connected to the case instead of nodding like it was a Law and Order SVU rerun and also expertly set up the final page cliffhanger with Hitch and Nowlan indulging their horror side just a little bit.
The Batman’s Grave #1 is a fantastic Batman detective story and character study for both super fans and those who have only kept up with the Caped Crusader via other media or the occasional trade paperback. Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan, and Alex Sinclair’s are the right blend of epic and psychologically searing while Warren Ellis’ script is sharp and momentum filled. I love the humanity that he brings to Alfred and the murder victim, Vince and kind of pity Batman after reading this one. His car is still cool though.
Story: Warren Ellis Pencils: Bryan Hitch Inks: Kevin Nowlan Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Richard Starkings Story: 8.5 Art: 9.2 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review