Arts Desk

International Ink: Back to the Future

atomicknightsWhere were you on Oct. 29, 1986? That's when the third world war broke out and the world was destroyed in atomic fire, at least in the universe of The Atomic Knights by John Broome and Murphy Anderson (DC Comics, $39.99). The Atomic Knights were six adventurers who discovered armor that had somehow become radiation-proof, and wore it to defend their small settlement and return civilization to America. Broome and Anderson's stories were originally published in the Strange Adventures comic books from 1960-1964. Fifty years later, the science is ridiculous, the stories are corny, the art is lovely, and we can once again thrill to the Knights climbing the outside of the Washington Monument to destroy the climate-wrecking raygun set up at the top by renegade Atlanteans. The reproduction of the art on newsprint, like it was printed originally, is first-rate.

In 1982, writer Paul Levitz and artists Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt took the Legion of Super-Heroes comic book to new heights with their Great Darkness Saga. Twenty-eight years later, after retiring as the president of DC Comics, Levitz is trying to bring the magic back  in The Legion of Super-Heroes No. 1 (DC Comics, $3.99). The Legion has historically been a large group of super youths, each with a specific power, who star in tales that are as much space opera as soap opera. Frequently they saved the galaxy, but in recent years they've fallen on hard times, both in their stories and in the real world—the title has been restarted many times. It's been a decade since I've picked up a copy, but the return of Levitz was too tempting to ignore. Working with artists Yildiray Cinar and Wayne Faucher, Levitz opens his run the torturous power-draining of Earth-Man—a bigoted, super-powered Earth Firster who apparently has been the figurehead of an anti-alien movement in recent Legion stories. Since all members of the Legion but one are non-native earthlings, they all apparently came under attack in what I imagine was a heavy-handed immigration metaphor. This issue sees the destruction of Titan and the civilization on it while Earth-Man (sigh) is offered a Legion membership, that being the price the government of earth has set for the Legion to remain on the planet. Levitz ups the stakes in the last panel of the story, when the universe's only remaining Green Lantern ring apparently chooses Earth-Man as its bearer. Will Levitz be able to recapture the grandeur of 20 years ago? I'm not sure, but after reading this comic, I'll give him a few more issues to try.

Kosuke Fujishima's manga Oh My Goddess No. 35 (Dark Horse, $10.99) is the story of clueless motorcycle buff Keiichi, who lives with three goddesses—Belldandy, with whom he's in love, and her sisters Skuld and Urd. The stories are usually lightweight with plenty of cheesecake art revolving, but this issue has a touching story about the remembrance of times past, in which Keiichi is asked to fix a camera found by his school's antique club. The undeveloped film contains pictures of a lovely girl in a beret. In an effort to track down the former owner, Belldandy brings the camera to life, and the group eventually finds the pictures' subject.

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