Friday, January 21, 2011

Comic Book Wednesday! Er... Friday!: 1-21 Comic Book Update

I apologize in advance for any errors in this post. I am very tired. I didn't even make it to the shop before it closed today because my efficiency-ometer is at zero.  Feel free to chew me out in the comments or in public over on Facebook.
I’ve actually been wanting to do this for a couple of weeks but one thing or another has kept me from getting to it.
I think comics are being pretty good to us right now. I don’t feel the need to drop anything I’m reading (with one glaring, recent exception) and there is a lot of stuff right around the corner that looks very interesting. I’m curious about this whole Age of X thing, Flashpoint looks pretty cool (if not entirely groundbreaking – Elseworlds, anybody?) and the events of the Green Lantern books just keep getting better and better.

 
The Amazing Spider-Man: Shed – This is another one I picked up on the recommendation of the fine folks over at ComicsAlliance.com. I’ve rarely been steered wrong by their taste in superhero titles and the site raved about this particular story arc on quite a few occasions; as well as the larger tale that it is involved with.
I wasn’t quite as impressed as they were. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the whole The Gauntlet story, but it just didn’t do anything special for me. Don’t get me wrong – the story by Zeb Wells is very good. It just isn’t anything that I felt I couldn’t miss; and certainly didn’t compel me to catch up with the rest of the story, which is unquestionably what would have happened if Shed was as fantastic as advertised.
Part of my problem enjoying the collection came from the art. I have a huge problem with artistic inconsistency within a storyline. There are few worse problems in the world of comics than a switch in artistic teams in the middle of a story, particularly when one of the teams sucks ass. If Chris Bachalo had illustrated Shed in its entirety I think I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more, but Emma Rios filled in for some of the story, with a couple of prologues done by other artists. Unfortunately, prologues – by their nature – come right at the beginning and one of them was illustrated by Xurxo Panalta and it looked absolutely fucking terrible. Like, not even as good as Richard Corben, and I can’t stand Richard Corben. It really put me off the whole book.
For the remainder of the story Bachalo and Rios switch off from time to time. While Rios is also very good and I enjoyed her depiction of the web-slinger, it was too jarring going back and forth. One minute Spidey has big, McFarlaney eyes; the next he looks like Ditko drew him. I just couldn’t take it.
As far as the story goes, like I said before – it’s very good. It concerns Kraven’s family using the Lizard to fuck with Spider-Man’s life. This is apparently one of a long line of villains being used as pawns in the Kravinoff’s revenge plot (hence, The Gauntlet). The Lizard gets a redesign as part of what happens and while I like the idea the execution leaves something to be desired. I think we would have been better off with some sort of frill or something like a bearded dragon as opposed to the sort of silly-looking dreadlocks they gave him.
All in all, I would consider this a worthwhile buy if either Bachalo or Emma Rios had done the whole thing. As it stands, I’d say skip it unless you’re some kind of huge fan of Curt Connors and/or the Lizard. Which would be kind of weird.

Invincible Iron Man – I’m very curious to see where this is going. Each issue seems to reveal a new layer. Plus, now we’ve got Mandarin!

Batman & Robin – I love that this title is still wacky and good, even with Morrison gone. Paul Cornell is becoming one of those writers I’ll follow – one of those guys that I’ll buy regardless of my interest in the book he’s writing – and has created a great and bizarre new villain in (hole in the head lady). I can’t wait for Gleason and Mahnke’s run.

GI Joe – I don’t know if I missed an issue or if we’re just in one of those periods where an unusually long time is passing between them. I don’t have anything new to say since the last issue with the COBRA submarine and the Joes stranded on the island with the giant liquid database. Regardless, I’m really digging this one now.

Curse of the Mutants – Aside from Dracula looking stupid this was a good read. I just finished Deadpool’s two-part spinoff and loved it. He called all the vampires “Draculas” and it really pissed them off. If they collect the whole Curse of the Mutants storyline I’d say it’s worth your while to pick up.

GI Joe – A Real American Hero – Same as GI Joe, it feels like it’s been a long time since the last issue.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Okay, seriously. Did IDW and Dark Horse just take December off? Naturally, all these books will probably be waiting for me when I hit the shop on Saturday.

Green Lantern Titles – Emerald Warriors is currently my favorite – dealing with Guy and the covert ops stuff he’s doing with Ganthet and Atrocitus. The story is intriguing and appears to be central to what’s going on in all the Lantern titles and features a lot of hilarious interaction between Green Lantern Gardner and Red Lantern Bleeze (who Mattel needs to make a figure of sooner than later).
The other two titles are no slouches either, though. Green Lantern recently had a great Atrocitus-centric issue and Corps continues to be a cosmic title that holds my interest; no small feat.
And now I have a bone to pick with Geoff Johns. 
I enjoyed the Larfleeze Christmas Special for the most part, particularly the telling bit at the end about his family. Clearly, we’ve got a lot of mileage left in this seemingly shallow, one-dimensional character. My problem is this:
Mr. Johns – You do not ever, ever discuss certain things about Santa Claus in anything even remotely child-related. If you want to talk about that in R-rated movies or MA-rated TV or video games; well that’s fine. If kids shouldn’t be watching it anyway then do whatever you want. But Green Lantern is a superhero and kids want to read superhero comics. I know not all superhero comics are appropriate for kids, but a Christmas Special, of all things, should be holy ground. So to speak. With all of the ways this story could have still been entertaining without that particular plot point, it almost seems as though the entire purpose of the issue was to make that point. Which is a shitty thing to have to think. You’d think somebody who writes superhero comics for a living would have a little more respect for the few magical things we have left in this mundane world. Shame on you.
Seriously guys, that really pissed me off. And I like Geoff Johns.

Batman – Ooh, crap. Forgot about this one. I thought this would be good, but I had to bail on Tony Daniel. Let me know when somebody else is on this.

Detective Comics – Complete opposite of the above. I was so disgusted with David Hines’ lackluster arc that I had given up on the flagship title. But then I had to pick up the new arc because of the Commissioner Gordon backup with art by Francesco Francavilla. The man’s art just clicked with me immediately the first time I saw it on ComicTwart; in the same way that Dan Brereton, Mike Mignola and Jae Lee’s did years ago. As a matter of fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve connected with someone’s art so strongly and so quickly. Which brings me to:

Black Panther: Man Without Fear – Captivating, beautiful art obviously (also by Francavilla). Other than that, this is an intriguing story about T’Challa taking over the protection of Hell’s Kitchen from the (temporarily) defunct Matt Murdock. I dig the position T’Challa is in – very much out of his element and figuring out what he’s doing and how to do it. I also like that twist on the typical romance angle. Obviously there’s a female interest, but the former Wakandan king is kind of married already. To Storm. So that’s… awkward. And Vlad the Impaler (not Dracula) is a great villain as a mob boss with powers similar to Gambit’s except that he uses them to stab people. Through the chest.

Scarlett – I think the new one came out this week, and I’m very excited about that. This would make a good movie.

Batgirl – Damn this is a great book. I’ll keep saying this until everybody on the planet is reading it, but if you’re not picking up Batgirl you are missing out on a lot of fun. The latest issue was a one-shot featuring Stephanie and Damian working together (the best they can) and that is always a treat when it is written by Mr. Bryan Q. Miller. Another artist fills in, but they’re good. Dustin Nguyen is the new regular artist on Batgirl and I was worried that his normally gritty style wouldn’t fit the light, fun tone of the book. I’m pleased to say that he’s doing just fine. I’d love to see Mark Bagley do a few issues, though. Or maybe a Skottie Young one-shot.

Brightest Day – Dropped it. The only thing I cared about was Boston Brand’s story and they were going entire issues without even addressing him. I can catch up online without shelling out for this mostly-dull title every day. The story that has been told so far could have taken six issues rather than thirteen or whatever the last one I bought was.

Birds of Prey – That Gail Simone sure can write. I’m going to have to track down some of her other stuff now. The book is currently in the Death of Oracle storyline, which is about Barbara Gordon presumably dropping that identity. It’s also about the Calculator and how sick awesome he is. Simone is great at characterization – everybody in the book is so well defined and has such clear motivations. It’s a refreshing change from some books where you can’t tell who’s who if they don’t have a costume on.

Batman, Inc. – Big, huge, globe-trotting Bat-fun. Of course I love this one.

Batman: The Dark Knight – This sounded interesting to me. The only thing I’ve ever read by David Finch was the first issue of Aphrodite IX, which was merely okay. This comic is also merely okay. Also, I thought the whole deal with Batman’s continuity now was that Bruce was all over the world and Dick was in Gotham. They might should have placed this one outside current continuity, kind of like Legends of the Dark Knight was at first. I still wouldn’t buy it, though.

The Walking Dead – Things are looking absolutely fucking bleak for the survivors’ town. Which means TWD is really, really good right now.

Warlord of Mars – We’re up to issue #3 and this is still very entertaining. It could be helped by a better artist, but I get the impression Dynamite! isn’t exactly a top-tier company. Nothing wrong with that – if the storytelling is awesome and the art is at least consistent I’m good.

X-Factor – The Norse gods in Vegas storyline was a hoot, and now it looks like Pip the Troll is part of the team; at least for a little while. It says a lot about Peter David’s writing abilities that I still buy his books despite him being such a dick in person. And no, I’ll never stop mentioning that.

Uncanny X-Force – I’m not really keeping up with any of the regular X-titles, but this one is very good. I like that there is a clear goal for the team and a stated direction: Kill the fuck out of Apocalypse! The problem is that Apocalypse has been reincarnated as a little boy who is somewhat unaware of who he is. I also like the toned-down Deadpool in this book that still manages to be absurd. And get on Wolverine’s nerves.

Related Notes
Bloom County Archives – I had always intended to do reviews of these, but there honestly isn’t much to say. The collections (three so far) from IDW are absolutely outstanding. If somebody in your life is a Bloom County fan and you haven’t bought these for them, then you must not love them.
While Calvin & Hobbes was probably more consistently great (I don’t think Watterson penned a single stinker the whole run), the works of Berkeley Breathed will always be my favorite comics. As a matter of fact, Bloom County may well be nearer and dearer to me than any other humor from the printed medium.
These collections are definitive, containing every single Bloom County strip chronologically. Each book features about two years worth of strips; accompanied by annotations from the editor and commentary from Breathed on selected strips.
The quality of the books is outstanding. They are bound in a sturdy and classy manner. These are meant to be read. The pages are thick, high-quality paper that holds the ink well. There is even one of those little page-marker ribbons like Bibles have. Fancy.
Each volume is forty dollars and worth half again that price. I find it strange that a comic book company notorious for its high prices has put these collections out at what I consider to be a bargain price.

Classic GI Joe  – I am enjoying the heck out of these.
Also from IDW, these trades are collecting the original Marvel Comics GI Joe: A Real American Hero series from where Image left off a few years ago. Yeah, they are extremely 80’s. It doesn’t matter. These are the Joes I grew up with and the stories I loved.
Here’s a funny story:
Image released volumes 1 through 5, collecting the first fifty issues of the series. IDW picked up with volume 6. Volumes 7 and 8 came in at the comic shop, but I knew from looking at the bookshelf I needed 6. I asked them to order it because I didn’t want to buy 7 & 8 before I would be able to read them. Makes sense, right?
Then 9 came in, then 10. Still no volume 6. Typical Diamond fulfillment bullshit.
And then a couple of weeks ago I bought a new bookcase specifically for my trade paperbacks. As I was transferring everything, I noticed GI Joe volume 6. I thought, “Wait a minute – isn’t 6 the one I thought I needed?”
Yep. It turns out I had been looking right at it for months and not realizing it because IDW chose to change the style of the spine when it took over the series (something that drives me absolutely fucking nuts). I would look at the first five volumes from Image and then see something completely different after them.
I almost immediately went to the comic shop and bought volumes 7 & 8 and cancelled the order attempts for 6. Oops.



Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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