Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Comic Book Wednesday - 2/2012 Update



Once again I have gone a very long time without a comic book update. I don’t know how my editor lets me get away with this. Somebody should really dock my pay.
I made a list – the one pictured above – at the beginning of the year. Believe it or not that’s whittled down somewhat (not much) from what I was getting at the end of last year. There were a few books that just lost me, some of the New 52 naturally kind of sucked, and there were some new books coming that I felt I needed to make some cuts in order to buy.

The format for today’s list is from my November Comic Book Update, so the titles I was getting then are still here, but in red if it’s something that I am no longer buying. My intention was to end the books whenever the current solicitations were for (which meant around March, I think) so that the shop wouldn’t get stuck with extra issues. They went ahead and stopped pulling my cancelled titles the next week, though, and I’m certainly not going to complain.
New stuff is in blue.
ACTION COMICS STARRING SUPERMAN
And we’ve got a drop right out of the gate. I have stated loudly and often that I love Grant Morrison. I have also stated in the same way that I do not like Superman. Guess which one won out? A primary characteristic of a lot of the New 52 versions of our favorite DC icons seems to be that they are “brash” and “edgy”. Which apparently means they are pricks. I can deal with that to a certain extent from some characters, but not from Superman. Also, the art on this book was all over the place. It took me a while to admit that I don’t like Rags Morales, and when other artists started filling in it got even more erratic.
All-STAR WESTERN
I passed on this at first, but I kept hearing how good it was so I picked up the first issue in its second run. On my next trip to the comic shop I got the next three. Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham’s seemingly fated relationship is wonderful. So far their adventures in frontier Gotham have been awesome and had a very old-school “weird tales to astonish and stupefy” (or something) feel to them. Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti are crafting fun stories with this one and Moritat is complementing their work with art that is both stylized and somehow classic. So far the backup stories haven’t done much for me and have felt a bit forced.
ANGEL & FAITH
This is one of my favorite new titles that launched at the end of last year. Christos Gage is of course doing a great job with the writing, and Rebekah Isaacs and Phil Noto have been providing outstanding art. This more than any other Buffy comic feels like a return to the style of compelling, episodic storytelling. The character interactions and the situations they deal with are the most natural continuation of the Buffy television universe than anything else we’ve seen. Though the Buffy title itself is also doing very well since its return. More on that in a minute.
ANIMAL MAN
Jeff Lemire has written a compelling, driving story from the very first issue. He had me hooked on this character that I really didn’t have any previous knowledge of despite the feeling that I was missing a whole lot of information (An ironic problem with many of the New 52 books; which is hilarious given DC’s intent that these would be jumping-on points. If a fairly well-versed comics nerd is confused by some of these books, how do you think the actual “New Reader” that they so desired is going to fare? JimShooter has some good input on this.) I did not like Travel Foreman’s art at first, but now I believe he is one of the few people that can successfully pull off the completely batshit insane images that Lemire’s narrative requires.
ASTONISHING X-MEN
This damn thing just got too erratic for me. What was once the high water mark of the X-titles has become somewhat of a creative dumping ground, as I once feared it would. From the relatively crappy alternating stories of last Fall to the one-shots and alternate reality stories of late; I’m just done. I know Marjorie Liu is taking over for an open-ended run on the title, but I dropped it a couple of months ago and am fine with that. I’m finding my mutant itch to be very well scratched elsewhere.
AVENGERS 1959
This one is red only because it’s done. If you like Howard Chaykin; or if you love good, old-fashioned beat-em-ups with plenty of intrigue and villainy, you should buy this when Marvel collects it. Unlike DC, Marvel likes to make money off of their properties, so it should take them less than four years to put out a trade. Seriously, DC – get your shit together. Trade collections should be out no less than six months after the story wraps. Otherwise we forget about it. Or just stop caring.
BATGIRL
Blargh. I actively despised this book, and I thought that was something that could never, ever happen. Gail Simone turned the character of Barbara Gordon into somebody that I not only did not want to read about, but somebody that I resented having her own book. I suppose my bitterness over the cancellation and New 52 absence of Bryan Q. Miller’s excellent Stephanie Brown Batgirl contributed to that, but so did the fact that Simone seemed to me to be writing Barbara Gordon as Stephanie Brown. Whatever. According to Bat-maestro Scott Snyder DC has big plans for both Stephanie and Cassandra Cain in the near future. Let’s hope so.
BATMAN
Scott Snyder has managed to follow Grant Morrison’s epic run on Batman and keep me just as invested while telling a much more cohesive and linear story than Morrison, but with all the same history-spanning twists and turns. I am currently worshipping at the altar of Snyder and none will dissuade me. And then there’s the fact that Greg Capullo – one of my all-time favorites and the guy that I always preferred over McFarlane – is doing an outstanding job with the art. This book has been the lead-in for the big “Night of the Owls” crossover that’s running through the Bat-books in a couple of months and has done an amazing job of setting everything up.
BATMAN AND ROBIN
I have changed my tune on this book and I am very glad I hung in there. I was down on the story initially because Damian was being a little prick and it seemed like we had just lost the past five years of character development. I should have had more faith. Well, I had some faith, because I did buy enough issues to find out that not only was there a purpose behind Damian’s attitude but that there was a great story there, as well. I owe Gleason and Tomasi an online apology along the lines of the one I offered Felicia Day (which she accepted – no, seriously).
BATMAN INCORPORATED
Leviathan Strikes! was awesome. More to come soon.
BATWOMAN
Still one of the absolute best comics being published by anybody. The most recent issue featured the debut of Amy Reeder, who is more than up to the task of alternating with J.H. Williams III.
BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD
I started picking this up when they did the story with all of the different Robins because Lil’ Troublemaker loves Robin (specifically Dick Grayson from The Animated Series). Now we’re both hooked.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9
Season 9 is still a huge improvement over Season 8. Everything feels so much more a part of the show. The conclusion of the latest issue got spoiled for me by that dickhead over at Topless Robot (not everybody gets to read their comics first thing Wednesday morning, Rob – some of us have regular, shitty jobs we still have to go to), but I was still surprised when I read it. It’s been over a week now, so I’ll mention it – Buffy’s pregnant and she’s decided to have an a-word. I don’t want to mention the a-word in full, because I don’t ever want any of the crazy people who obsessively hate the a-word and allow that hatred to sway every aspect of their life to come across my blog and get mad at me for saying that I have no problem with the a-word.
So anyway, Buffy has decided to have an a-word and I was surprised to find out I had to think about that a bit. Not only the process of having an a-word and how okay it is, but the idea that the a-word was even being addressed in a comic book. But that’s what Buffy has always been about – real-life issues in the midst of crazy supernatural shit. So I’m down with the story. And if you look at all the facts, Buffy’s decision is sound. I especially like that they brought Robin Wood back as a support character for this issue. Overall it was very well done and logical and I’m very curious to see where it all goes.
Again, the a-word was not at all used for shock value here. It was used because it’s a compelling story and a real thing that people deal with.
CATWOMAN
I hope all the people that flew off the handle about the first issue of this book didn’t just burn it and stomp off in a little snit (though I’m pretty sure they did), because Catwoman has turned out to be a very fun book that is absolutely nailing the characterization of Selina Kyle. Judd Winick is doing a very solid job of crafting story and character and Guilleme March’s pencils are perfect. Nobody working today does facial expressions and body language better than this guy.
DANGER GIRL
Abbey Chase and her pals are back. Well, back full time. We’ve had all sorts of one shots and miniseries since the original ongoing ended, but this is actually a new ongoing series from IDW. Or at least I thought it was until I started seeing #1 (of 4) all over the place. But it’s still a big, fun read by Andy Hartnell with new regular(?) artist Chris Madden supplying awesome art. And then there’s
DANGER GIRL VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS
Which is so much better than I ever expected it to be. I don’t want to give anything away because the plot unfolds very much like an Indiana Jones movie and is extremely well executed. This is going to sound weird to say about a comic featuring scantily-clad nubile chicks shooting guns and blowing stuff up pretty much constantly, but the creators showed a lot of restraint as far as the storytelling goes. Nothing is done just for a cheap, “Ooh – look at that!” reaction. These guys crafted a story.
DC COMICS PRESENTS: DEADMAN
Oops. This is where the comic shop’s pre-emptive strike bit me. I cancelled this one to coincide with the beginning of the Challengers of the Unknown arc. But they didn’t pull the last Deadman story for me. And I have really enjoyed this Deadman story. You should buy it when they collect it. You know – two or three years from now.
DEADPOOLMAX 2
This title is just as ridiculous as its predecessor. I lost interest in the regular Deadpool book, but this one keeps me going. Lapham and Baker are fantastic. I’d love to see them do a Lobo revival.
DEMON KNIGHTS
This book is still a hoot and a holler. Vandal Savage is great. I look forward to the wrap-up of the first arc and maybe taking some time to actually get to know the characters, though. This is one of those titles that I’m enjoying despite the feeling that I ought to know more than I do.
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.
We’re still getting a lot of big, swashbuckling, monster-sized action out of this book, but they’re switching the creative team soon and that concerns me a lot. Jeff Lemire has become the reason I’m reading this book. I’m not saying that nobody else could make it interesting, but there are plenty of people who could fuck it up.
GI JOE
IDW’s GI Joe titles are absolutely EN FUEGO. “Cobra Command” has been the best story arc/crossover I’ve read in years. Cobra is totally dominating, but GI Joe is not left looking incompetent – they’re catching up. There’s an amazing balance to the conflict that even Larry Hama at his best struggled to achieve. It’s very difficult to make both sides of any war seem effective for long, but Chuck Dixon and Christos Gage have been doing a bang-up job. The art on these titles has been consistently strong as well.
GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO
I don’t even want to admit this here, but I have to. I dropped ARAH. It had gotten to the point where I was making myself read it and I finally realized I was only pretending to enjoy it because I love Larry Hama and his old Joe continuity so much. But just like when Chris Claremont came back to write X-Men again I just can’t so it. The writing style is just too dated. And it’s funny, because I complain so much about modern writing styles as well. There’s just no pleasing some folks, I guess.
GREEN LANTERN
I still really dig this, and the recent turn of Hal Jordan finally trying to have a life and then getting roped back in by Sinestro is just great.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS
I dropped it. I just don’t care.
HACK/SLASH
We've finally jumped onward into a new arc and it's awesome. Seeley's writing and Leister's artwork are both a blast. Also - one word: GORILLACONDA.
HUNTRESS
This has been a great book and probably the most solid, old-school story of any of DC’s New 52 (or any other company, for that matter). Paul Levitz’s story has been consistently engaging and well-paced and Marcos To is an excellent visual storyteller. I have not felt confused or left behind by a single panel of this book. Buy the collection whenever it comes out. And I am thrilled that Levitz will be writing the new Brave & the Bold comic featuring Huntress and Power Girl, even if Power Girl’s new costume is blander than a rice cake with tofu on top. No boob window, my ass.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN
I am veeery close to dropping this one. It certainly isn’t bad. Matt Fraction is crafting an interesting story and has been building up to the return of the Mandarin for what feels like about fifteen years now. Salvador Larocca’s art is awesome. But it takes so very long for anything to happen. I feel like each issue is about three pages worth of story stretched out across twenty pages. This one ends up on the bottom of my stack every month now and that is not a good place for a comic to be.
JUSTICE LEAGUE
Jim Lee’s art is absolutely wonderful and there are small moments of joy hidden in between all the snark and dickery, but I am very tired of this book being stupid. I mentioned in my debut appearance on the Earth Station One podcast (Episode 98) that all licensed comics were fan fiction. The creators just happen to be getting paid to write about the characters they grew up loving rather than posting their stories to the dark corners of the internet. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Justice League. There is no doubt that 12-year-old Geoff Johns is writing this book. I know I should stop buying it, but I really want to know how they handle Darkseid and if the team will ever stop acting like douches.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
This book, on the other hand, works better when the characters are being jerks to each other. The tensions and friction between the “members” of the group is very interesting and helps to drive the story. This is, however, the New 52 title that I feel the most left out of. Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna are the only characters that I am really familiar with and I feel like I should know more about what’s going on than I do. I don’t see any way a “new reader” could or would keep up with this book. But I like it.
NEW MUTANTS
Abnett and Lanning keep putting out fun, youthful stories that remind me of the very best “young X-Men” tales from when I was a kid. The latest is just a fun payoff to something that happened an arc or two ago. I like that they saved it for a while. I’m not sure the world is ready for hipster Mephisto, though. But definitely pick up New Mutants #37 if you see it in the shop. It’s a mostly standalone story that I think anybody could enjoy.
NIGHTWING
To me, the relationship between Kyle Higgins and Scott Snyder seems to parallel that of Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. Not so much the mentor aspect as the fact that to a certain extent one is a lighter shade of the other. And I mean that in the best way possible. Higgins’ storytelling is just as compelling as Snyder’s and obviously as well planned out, but perhaps a bit more popcorn and easy to digest. He’s taken what Snyder did with Dick Grayson and run with it. I was so afraid of Dick becoming a lesser, sidekick character after the reboot and Higgins hasn’t let it happen. This book is strong and interesting with or without the rest of the Bat books.
PUNISHER
Rucka’s Punisher is just as good as his Batwoman. Buy this book.
RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS
Yeah – after defending this book I ended up dropping it. I liked it, but not enough. When it came down to picking between it and some of the titles I added this one just lost. I thought the story was fun, but by issue four it was already so convoluted and weird that I just didn’t really care.
RED LANTERNS
This was one of the most boring books I have ever read.
THE SHADE
Fantastic! And issue #4 with the Darwyn Cooke art is just one of the best things ever. That’s another one that you should pick up if you see it in the comic shop. You can read it without any other knowledge and still dig it, I think.
STAR WARS: INVASION
I’m still digging the further adventures of the Yuuzhan Vong. If you liked New Jedi Order you’ll like these. If not, you won’t.
STAR WARS: AGENT OF THE EMPIRE
James Bond in Star Wars. Seriously – that’s exactly what this is. The main character even looks suspiciously like Daniel Craig. This book is more awesome than you think it is. Did you hear me?
JAMES BOND IN STAR WARS.
SUICIDE SQUAD
I am still digging this one. And the new “Hunt for Harley” storyline has me intrigued. I feel like this is a fast-moving book with a fresh format and it feels very different from all of the other New 52 titles. I call that a success. Yeah – it’s no Secret Six, but I think we can all agree not much is.
SWAMP THING
Swamp Thing is still my favorite book out of the New 52. Another Snyder masterpiece. Alec Holland’s journey has been absolutely fascinating. And I love how it is on a collision course with Animal Man and maybe even Justice League Dark.
TEEN TITANS
I’m enjoying this one, but it is on notice. I really want to see what happens with the team, especially now that Superboy is involved. And I definitely like the new characters of (spider chick and brick house or whatever). If this one settles out to have a lighter tone and a fast pace I’ll be happy.
UNCANNY X-FORCE
This is still the best ongoing story on the shelves right now. I’m not crazy about the current artist. I can’t remember their name at the moment, but they’re just a little too stylized compared to what we’re used to. Either way, Remender’s use of the Captain Britain Corps in the current arc is awesome. I have no idea who the reveal at the end of issue #23(?) was supposed to be. That’s probably my fault more than it is the artist. I had a serious Marvel lapse for a few years.
UNCANNY X-MEN
I hadn’t planned on picking this one up after Kieron Gillen’s excellent run on the last volume ended, but for whatever reason I did. And I’m glad because it is excellent. The story is a direct follow-up to the events of Uncanny X-Force’s “Dark Angel Saga” and has been hugely entertaining so far. The interaction between Hope and Namor is like a dirty inversion of the Wolverine & Kitty/Jubilee/Armor/Whatever Young Mutant Girl He’s Hanging Out With This Week formula. I’m just waiting for some trampy former student to show up over in Wolverine & the X-Men and press charges against Headmaster Logan. Just like on Ringer.
VENOM
They’re doing what basically amounts to an update of the “Midnight Sons” story. And it’s a lot of fun, but the current writer does not have Rick Remender’s talent. I really hope he’s just filling in. He doesn’t seem to have the feel for characters that Remender does. But you should at the very least pick up the first Venom collection. I do believe it’s out now.
WALKING DEAD
Do I even need to talk about this one?
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN
I am totally on board with this one. Jason Aaron has a knack for writing the younger X-Men – Quentin Quire in particular – and Nick Bradshaw is… well, he’s Nick Bradshaw. I know him from his work on some of the older Army of Darkness comics and I believe he did a Danger Girl or two. The guy’s a fucking dynamo and I don’t know how it took this long for him to land a major title. If you haven’t seen his work please go find some. I know he seems cartoonier than I normally prefer, but the guy’s work has so much freakin’ depth and attention to detail and just continuity that I can’t help but love his work.
Here, I’ll do you a favor – go buy this stuff and be amazed:
(Bradshaw’s work)
WONDER WOMAN
I still love this comic, but issue #6 put me off a bit. I had to re-read it a couple of times to figure out what the heck was going on and what the resolution was supposed to be. I’m still not quite sure I’ve got it. It was still an exciting issue chock full of awesome mythology and I loved the characterization of Hades. It was all just a bit screwy. And while the fill-in artist was competent, Cliff Chiang was sorely missed.
X-FACTOR
I have never read a bad Peter David comic. Maybe I’m just lucky, maybe there are none. I don’t know.


SPECIAL EXTRA!

THE WALKING DEAD TV SHOW
I don’t know why I keep watching this show. I don’t particularly like it. I like Glen, Andrea, and Shane. Maggie’s okay. They live their lives, whatever. But it’s so boring. And they talk so much. And it takes so long for anything to happen. The events of the first half of season two should have happened in three episodes. Sophia being a zombie in the barn did not have the impact it should have because we all stopped giving a fuck about her by the fourth episode. I had, anyway. I was much more concerned about that guy from The Boondock Saints dying of exposure or something.
And I am so fucking sick and tired of whiny, pseudo-intellectuals saying, “But it’s about the characters.”
Guess what, dipshits? The comic is about the characters, too and I’ve read ninety-six issues of that and haven’t fallen asleep once. I can’t make it through a single fucking episode of that show without nodding off.
Oh, look – Laurie’s being a bitch again! Whee!”
Ooh – maybe Dale is going to start moralizing… yep.”
How are these actors being less subtle about the messages their characters are conveying than the printed fucking word!?!
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be so harsh. But people seem to get really irrational about their defense of this show and it gets me all worked up. I start off with a minor complaint and just one, “NO! IT IS THE BEST EVAH! YOU IS WRONG!” sets me off looking for more flaws than I would have otherwise noticed.
Like in the episode that played on 2/12. Why the heck did Laurie try to send Boondock Saints guy off after Rick? Rick had already gone off after Herschell. He knew shit was urgent. He knew that girl was passed out. Nothing was going to make him move more quickly because he already knew the stakes. But Laurie totally illogically decides that somebody has to go after Rick. It’s stupid. It’s like the writers said, “Okay, we need Laurie in a car wreck, but we don’t know how to get her there. Eh, fuck it.”
And guys – trust me when I say I am a dumbass who misses stuff like this all the time. But that really bothered the shit out of me.
That scene in the bar was pretty kickass though.

-Phantom

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