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Ultimate Daredevil/Elektra Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: Book One Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame

True to what I understand the intention of the Marvel Ultimate line to be, Ultimate Daredevil/Elektra goes back to the roots of the Elektra story. And in its own right it works reasonably well. The script by Greg Rucka develops the characters nicely and the art by Salvador Larroca and Danny Miki has that high level of technical polish that would have been rare twenty years ago but is commonplace now.

But the mainstream Elektra - despite her own rather prosaic original origin story from Frank Miller's first run on Daredevil evolved to be such a grand, almost mythical figure that I missed all those larger than life elements in this reboot. Distilling Elektra's rage into a college setting (yes, I know that's what Miller started out with) almost turned the character into "L'il 'Lektra".

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: Book One has a title almost as convoluted as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Neil Gaiman's original Books of Magick mini series was an excuse to do a "Who's Who" tour of DC's supernatural canon more than anything else. But it did feature some of the most gorgeous painted art of the day. I haven't kept up with the exploits of Tim Hunter since then but this reboot (or is it a continuation?) of the title made it into my bag by virtue of... well, by virtue of it being cheap thanks to a favourable uplift in the exchange rate.

This, I gather, is not your father's Tim Hunter. This Hunter has hit university and indulges in sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Well, sex and drugs anyway. It's a strange London he inhabits, as there seems to be no trace of magic and even the idea of dreaming seems strange to Hunter and his friends. Elsewhere, a three-sided mystic war is being waged with spells literally substituted for bombs - hence "suicide spellers" and "cluster spells". The art by Dean Ormston (with colours by Fiona Stephenson) is very evocative, sort of a cross between Chris Bachalo and Keith Giffen.

The script by Si Spenser (from a story by Spenser and Gaiman) isn't quite as effective. Basically, I had some problems figuring out the machinations of the war. One side is led by John Constantine (who over the years has become a mainstay of the Vertigo world), his lover Zatanna (who must use magic to be as thin as Ormston's drawn her) is off on a clandestine mission, but after that it gets muddy. The other problem is that I don't find Tim or his circle terribly interesting. It's Constantine who gets the best lines and by far the best moments. This wouldn't be a problem... if only the masthead read Hellblazer.

Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame - Another elongated title. It's strange seeing Gaiman do mainstream superheroes "straight". This early work (freed from the vaults by virtue of the now instant collectability of anything with Gaiman's name attached to it) feels like a writer feeling his way, which of course he was. The Alan Moore inspiration is obvious (and acknowledged). There's little stylistic consistency in the menagerie of artists recruited onto this project, much like the various comic charity titles that have appeared over the years. Gaiman's early Swamp Thing story (similarly brought to life in Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days) suited him better and was more indicative of the style he'd evolve... unsurprising I guess.

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