JP’s Across The Universe 8 – Cracking The Spine Makes For A Cheerful Holiday

On the middle week of every month, regular Biff Bam Pop! contributor, JP Fallavollita, shares his musings on comic books, comic book art, comic book collecting and the overall comic book universe. That gives him a lot to talk about but don’t hold it against him if he speaks with a DC Comics slant. That’s just how he rolls (with the capes and the masks).

No, I’m not talking about a trip to the chiropractor.

After the numerous hectic shopping trips to the overcrowded malls and the continuous gorging of succulent holiday dinners and desserts, I’m saying that it’s nice to finally get those two or three days of come down.

You know. The days where there’s nothing left to do but gladly fill a Hefty garbage bag with ripped and torn wrapping paper, used bows and string and kick it out to the curb. The days where you make the creamiest of hot chocolates and, with the snow gently falling on a midweek afternoon, sit down on your most comfortable sofa, take a long, cleansing breath and crack open that graphic novel you’ve been meaning to read for ages.

If you’re me, that’ll be December 27th and 28th – a Monday and a Tuesday, respectively. I’ve got nothing going on those two 24-hour cycles and that means “reading time.” That means “me time.” A little holiday gift from myself, to myself.

And there’s a whole bunch of stuff to read. Some of it I’ve read before, much of it has been sitting on my desk, anxiously waiting on these restful days. A few are newly purchased. Regardless, they are all sure to please, filling my quiet time with a sense of artistic contentment, both literary and visual.

Absolute Promethea Volume One is one of those books that’s been waiting a long while to be read. Created by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams and first published by America’s Best Comics as a monthly series in 1999, Promethea has been compiled into various hardcovers and trade paperbacks over the years. Now, I like Alan Moore writings but it was J.H. Williams and my gushing love of his artwork in his recent Detective Comics run that forced my hand into the purchase of the oversized Absolute version of the Promethea series. I’d been wanting to read the story of magically powered college student Sophie Bangs, charged to bring about the apocalypse for, well, for forever.

In letting the first volume of the Absolute version sit on the shelf for the better part of the year, it seems I’ve unconsciously waited for the second volume in the series to be published. I’ll be picking that up on Boxing Day to be sure, so my holidays look to be well spent, awaiting our fictional end of days.

In Promethea, J.H. Williams pushed the boundaries of what visual art can bring to the printed story and it’s for that reason I’m keen on cracking the spine on these two companion volumes.

If I’m lucky this holiday season (I’ve been very, very good all year!), I’ll receive the first, second and third hardcover volumes of IDW Publishing’s Locke and Key as a gift. If I’m not that lucky (or someone deems me to have been bad during 2010), I’ll be picking them up on Boxing Day. Either way, I win. Written by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, the supernatural series concerns the Locke family, who encounter strange forces after relocating their lives in the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts.

Now, if that sequence of name-dropping doesn’t get you interested in this fantastical series, nothing will! Not only am I keen to read what Joe Hill can bring to the world of fictional horror but the series itself has caught my attention after being nominated for and winning many industry awards. It’s being made into a television series, too, didn’t you know? And oh yeah! Steven Spielberg is one of the producers! I figure that all of that adds up to there being something truly good here…

I’m not a huge fan of Thor, but I do like the character. Truth be told, old 1985-1986 issues of Thor were some of the first comics I ever bought. Marvel comics! Who would have thunk it?!? Anyway, a few years ago, either during or right around the time of Marvel’s big event series, Civil War, writer J. Michael Straczynski took over the chores of penning the Asgard warrior’s tales on a monthly basis. The stories were well received, with more than a few of the various Biff Bam Pop! writers expressing their enjoyment of the series – and the fact that Straczynski moved the folkloric realm of Asgard from myth to somewhere in the clouds above Oklahoma!

Of late, possibly because of the reality of a Kennth Branagh directed Thor film (that recent trailer kicked some serious butt!), my interest in the character has resumed. Of course, Marvel Comics has, this year, published a hardcover omnibus of the Straczynki run. And of course, that’ll be the version I’ll be picking up. On Boxing Day.

Asterios Polyp, published by Pantheon Books, is a graphic novel written and illustrated by the acclaimed David Mazzucchelli.

Mazzucchelli is one of my favourite artists, famous for his work on Batman: Year One as well as a fantastic run on Daredevil. I’ve never read anything he’s written before so when Asterios Polyp was first published last summer, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect. The art style which I loved so much was not present in this story – the writer/artist had completely transformed his style into a version – actually versions would be more apt – that utterly strengthened the whole of the book. And it seemed that Mazzucchelli was just as adept at storytelling as he was at transforming his visual style.

The story of a professor of architecture who must assess and reinvent his own life, Asterios Polyp is one of the most amazing graphic novels I have ever had the joy of reading. It’s a book that pushes at boundaries and reinvents the art form, becoming something altogether new, standing shoulder to shoulder with great fiction – in any medium – at the same time. This holiday season, I’ll be enjoying Mazzucchelli’s seminal work once again.

So, this December 27th and 28th, let the snow fall and drift outside. I’ll be curled up on my most comfortable sofa, not by a crackling fire, but by the cracking spine of the graphic novels I open and read.

Happy holidays to me, indeed!

And happy holidays to you too! I hope your reading list is as extensive and interesting as mine – and that your hot chocolate is every bit as creamy.


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