The Week in Uncollecting, 11/21/21-11/26/21

With more than half the week off, I’ve actually been able to do a little bit more than watch just one movie, and while I wanted to start another book, I opted for reading all trade paperbacks and graphic novels while also making my way through some of the stuff I’ve saved on DC Infinite. Those won’t count, though. So I’ve got a few OGNs and trades.

Green Lantern: A New Dawn (DC): This was the small-sized collection of the first few issues of Kyle Rayner’s time as Green Lantern after Hal Jordan went nuts during Emerald Twilight. I’d read these issues years ago and was also a fan of the “Just One of the Guys” podcast, so I was pretty faimilar with Kyle and his story arc. Still, it’s a bit surprising to see how much of a putz he was in his very first storyline, and the fate of his girlfriend Alex (which I had forgotten happened so quickly in that run) is still terrible and wholly unnecessary, especially since she could have been a great supporting cast member. But this is still a solid book from the Nineties that I think needs more attention. Keep.

Justice League International: The Secret Gospel of Maxwell Lord (DC): Another pickup from the ultra-cheap bin at the Baltimore Con, this was a completely unnecessary purchase because I have access to these comics online. But I had wanted this trade back when it came out and it was very cheap, so I snatched it up. This set of stories coalesces what will be the JLI during the BWAH-HA-HA era and also includes two Millennium crossover issues, which were the first I ever bought. It also, as the title implies, peels back some layers on Max Lord, who by this point was a mysterious benefactor for the JLI, but who also seemed shifty. I have read some of this era over the years, but not all of it all the way through, which I may do … and maybe even along with Shagg’s JLI podcast? Keep.

Manhunter Special Edition (DC): Collecting the classic Bronze Age stories by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, this water-damaged book was incredibly cheap in a bin and I couldn’t pass it up. In his introduction to the book, Goodwin mentions that the rather terrible printing processes of the time caused the coloring of the book to not look particularly good, so he is happy that it is in a much nicer edition. And it’s a gorgeous book. I’ve been a fan of Simonson’s since I first spotted his artwork in the X-Men/Titans crossover as well as Dark Horse’s Robocop vs. The Terminator, and he and Goodwin manage to take the eight-page backup stories that are usually skippable and make them vital reading. They explain enough to us so that we know what is happening as far as Manhunter’s backstory, but don’t slow us down with too much exposition, and Simonson uses every inch of page available. And the last two chapters, which guest-star Batman, keep the plot focused on Manhunter and don’t let the guest star overtake the story–in fact, Batman is there and gone and for most of the issue, it’s a Manhunter comic. This is on Comixology as a trade, but I don’t see it on DC Infinite in the same way (although I may be looking in the wrong place) and is one of the best action stories in comic book form that you’ll ever read. Keep.

Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War. Written and drawn by Wayne Vansant, this is a graphic novel that he had been working on for several years, and was publishing in smaller chunks before finishing it and collecting it in a massive tome. I’ve got the first two original volumes and read those years ago, but once I discovered that he’d finished the story and published the whole thing, and he was going to be at the Baltimore Comic-Con, I jumped at the chance to buy it directly from him. So yes, now I have this signed copy.

And it’s gorgeous. Vansant starts us off in the Ukraine prior to the Nazi invasion and when our title character is a teenager. Over the course of the next four years, we see her separated from her family and then enlist in the Red Army, manning a T-34 tank on the Eastern Front of the European Theater. I won’t go into a full plot summary here because it’s way too huge of a story for this small space, but I will say that alongside a compelling coming-of-age story, Vansant gives us a thorough history lesson. I didn’t know much about the Soviet Union’s part in World War II that went beyond the overview I often got in history class, so getting this full picture that showed not just the long, very hard-fought war by the Red Army but the internal politics of The Ukraine as it related to its Soviet overlords, which was often contentious. There are also looks at religion and culture, especially the Antisemitism in the area prior to the Nazi occupation, which adds another layer to what I’ve learned about The Holocaust.

Vansant has been writing and drawing war comics for more than 30 years, and I’ve always found his run on The ‘Nam as penciller to be underrated (he’s the Eduardo Barretto to Michael Golden’s George Perez). Being a seasoned veteran of the medium and genre, we see a master at work, giving the compelling story and thorough historical accuracy that I want from a book like this. Keep.

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