This Sam Is No Sham
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the December 18-24, 1997, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
Worthy comics pile up faster than I have space to write about them, so I'm going to try to plow through some recommendations this week:
n First up is Vertigo's Uncle Sam, written by Steve Darnall (Empty Love Stories), whose name I mangled back in September (sorry!), and painted by Alex Ross (Kingdom Come, The Marvels). For anyone familiar with Ross' work, I don't have to mention how gorgeous it is. Darnall's story is equally wonderful. A seemingly disoriented old man dressed as a shabby version of Uncle Sam wanders through town flashing in and out of memories/hallucinations of events that formed the foundation of America's current mindset — the Civil War, Waco, the Dust Bowl era, Indian massacres, farm foreclosures, the Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing. Whether the old man is truly the embodiment of the American Spirit fallen on hard times due to our cynicism, apathy and greed is less important than the questions he raises. No one wants to remember lynchings, broken treaties (we broke more than 400 with the Indian nations, or as one character says, "The only promise you kept was the promise to take away our land") or how inhumanly we've treated other Americans. But if we don't, we're dooming ourselves to greater mistakes. John Ostrander's "The Haunting of America" story in The Spectre earlier this year asked similar questions. Uncle Sam is a two-part miniseries, with the first installment in stores now.
n I picked up the first issue of Books of Lore at SPX '97. Like Mythography, another great series, it's a fantasy anthology. The first story pulled the rug out from under my expectations. The next two were also good and told from perspectives not usually encountered in fantasy literature. All three were written by Peregrine publisher David Napoliello. The black-and-white artwork somehow looks nearly painted, even though only the first story really is. Fans of the Dark One take note: He not only did the cover but the art for "Shikenidrym." As a new company/book, you'll probably have to pester your retailer for it.
n Red Flannel Squirrel, written by David Quinn and released by Sirius, is an unusual one-shot. While I would not call it a children's story, it reminded me of the Velveteen Rabbit. The dedication reads, "This is for anyone out there who's ever been loved." But don't let that deceive you into thinking it's a sugary sweet tale. Far from it. It has a ruthlessly cynical edge for such a deceptively simply story. The illustrations by Kristen Perry wreck the idea that black-and-white books are inferior to color. I'm not sure what "Embellishment, Matt Roguske" refers to, but I hesitate to leave him out.
n The first issue of The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years by Hilary J. Bader, which will hit stores Nov. 26, is very good. The five-part miniseries is supposed to bridge the gap between Batman and Robin Adventures, both the comic book and animated TV version, and the new animated series soon to be followed by a new comic book series. Among other things, it brings Batgirl closer to the fold and should cover Dick's switching from Robin to Nightwing, as well as Tim Drake's becoming Robin. The one-shot Batgirl Adventures by Paul Dini, out on Dec.10, cries to be continued, not because it has loose story ends but because it's so good. I want more. Or at least I think I do. My preview photocopy was missing the ending, but I trust Dini. You should, too.
Column © 1997 Long Island Voice. Uncle Sam artwork © 1997 Vertigo. Books of Lore artwork © 1997 Peregrine Entertainment. Red Flannel Squirrel artwork © 1997 Sirius.