Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Comic Book Wednesday - January 2013

This Comic Book Update will be a little disjointed. Well, it might be to those of you that read any of the comics I’m talking about. I started writing it prior to Saturday because I wanted to break up this week’s toy reviews. I thought for sure I’d be able to stop by the comic shop on Saturday and catch up on what’s happening, but I wasn’t able to.
So my impressions here are about a month old. Add to that the fact that I experienced somewhat of an epiphany on Sunday morning and you get a post that may not be worth posting. I dunno.
            The epiphany was that I’m buying a lot of habit comics. I mean, we all are; but it just hit me that I really didn’t give a shit what was happening in several comics. I was just buying them because I like the characters and have been hoping things would improve. Most of this has to do with the story arcs in the New 52 that have currently been running for sixteen straight issues. I’m fucking exhausted. I don’t mind an ongoing narrative, but I need to feel like something gets resolved from time to time. It’s funny that DC’s supposed reasoning for the New 52 catastrophe initiative was to bring in new, more casual readers but that almost all of their books are doing the thing that alienates people the most – establishing dense, years-long storylines that are inaccessible to the uninitiated. I can’t think of a single DC book that somebody could pick up and just dive right into without feeling utterly bewildered.
So anyway, here’s my pull list and a brief rundown of how I’m feeling about books. These aren’t plot summaries, just thoughts about what’s up. I’m also bringing back my verdicts (or whatever) for each title. And yeah, I know that technically only one comic can be on top of my stack, but when I get home and sort my stuff I always have five or so that are priorities.
Addendum: Okay, so I managed to pick up my stuff and read a good bit of it before posting. Other than the fact that I am totally hooked on Kieron Gillen's Iron Man, not much changed.,
A+X
Following in the footsteps of AvX, each issue of this series features two team-up stories. As is implied by the title, you get one Avenger and one mutant. It’s a good time just like the other book and requires minimal awareness of what’s going on in the rest of the Marvel Universe. Issue #2 featured a story about Tony Stark and Kitty Pride and had art which I absolutely loved. I want to see more from Michael del Mundo.
This is a book that anybody could pick up. You don’t have to know what’s going on at all and the creative teams are a mix of established and newer talent.
Verdict - KEEPER
ALL-STAR WESTERN
Still the best of the New 52 and one of my favorite comic books overall, which is not something I ever thought I’d say about a cowboy comic. All Star Western still has a story arc that spans the entire run thus far, but there have been arcs within that have clear beginnings and conclusions. The latest story involves Dr. Jekyll's alter ego hunting down an Eclipso gem (or whatever that might be in the New 52). That's some crazy shit.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
ANGEL & FAITH
This continues to be the most enjoyable of the Buffy books. That’s not to say the others are bad. It’s just that this one is very good. The characterizations are spot-on and the book is good at introducing new characters and concepts. It’s also very good at bringing back old characters. The entirely unexpected return of Ethan Rayne was a great twist. Rebekah Isaacs’ art is a blast to look at every single issue.
Verdict - KEEPER
ANIMAL MAN
The longer the “Rotworld” storyline goes on, the less relevant this comic seems to be. And it’s dragging Swamp Thing down with it. What were originally the most outstanding and exciting titles of the New 52 have become something of a chore to read. They are not bad by any means, but this whole Rot thing has gotten kind of tedious. I feel like we’re not getting anywhere. This book was part of my epiphany. I very much like Buddy Baker and his family, but I just can’t hang with this story any longer.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
BATMAN
So far the return of Joker (I always hesitate to call him “The Joker”. I feel like his name is Joker.) has been going very well. There’s enough action to keep me invested and enough suspense to keep me curious. I really can’t imagine where this is all going and I am dying to find out. after being let down by “Night of the Owls”, I am happy to be engaged again.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN AND ROBIN
This has almost become a comic about Damian Wayne, which is fine by me. It is currently tied in with the “Death of the Family” story.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN INCORPORATED
I have no idea what is going on in this book. Seriously. I couldn’t tell you if it would win me money. I guess somebody who may or may not actually be Talia al Ghul is... I dunno... fucking with Bruce Wayne for some reason. But I still love reading every issue and the thing will be wrapping up soon so I can go back and read them all and actually understand it. I do much better with big chunks of Grant Morrisson. And I hate to say it but I don't much care for Chris Burnham's art.
Verdict – KEEPER
BATWOMAN
The last issue got me excited again. If they could just stick with a straight damn narrative rather than trying to make this comic feel more convoluted than Pulp Fiction I’d be happy. When you only have twenty pages to tell a certain amount of story you need to be concise and figure out what is important to focus on. I think this book needs a new editor more than anything. I can’t give up on it yet, but I don’t know how much longer I can hang.
Verdict - PROBATION
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9
We got through the Billy the Vampire Slayer storyline without it seeming too preachy or forced or agenda-heavy and that’s a good thing. Billy is okay and I’m fine with him being a part of the gang. He happens to be gay, but that does not define his story or his character. Let’s hope it stays that way and doesn’t cheapen a comic that doesn’t need any more strikes against it. The story has started to meander a bit and the art… I am a huge fan of Georges Jeanty. I buy a print from him every year at Dragon*Con. But I think maybe he doesn’t want to draw Buffy any more. And that’s okay.
I’m going to be honest and say that the only reason I’m still getting this book is because Willow, Spike, and Angel & Faith are very good and I can’t buy those and not buy this one. But I do think it’s a bad thing when the flagship title is the weakest. But it was pretty cool to see Illyria pop up at the end of the last issue.
Verdict – KEEPER
CABLE AND X-FORCE
Either I didn’t tell the comic shop about a single one of the Marvel NOW books I wanted pulled, or my list once again got overlooked somehow. I’ll go ahead and take the blame this time because I think I was fairly unsure of trying any of these except for Uncanny Avengers. Whatever the case, I had to play catch-up with Hulk, Iron Man, and this one.
I was pretty pissed when I found out that Remender’s Uncanny X-Force was ending. I loved that book. So much so that I went on about it on the Earth Station One 2012 wrap-up at such length that Director Faber had to edit it out. Entirely. I was not initially interested in this book. I had never heard of the writer, though I do like Salvador LaRocca’s artwork. But the fact that the book was going to feature Forge, Dr. Nemesis, and Domino got me. Forge is one of my favorite mutants.
So far things are pretty crazy, with Cable acting like a terrorist and the rest of the team just kind of going along with it for reasons that I hope become clear before too much longer. Say, six issues.
Verdict – OFF TO A GOOD START
DANGER GIRL/GI JOE
This is all wrapped up now, but I mention it because it was a hoot and a holler and the art was super-fun to look at. Buy the trade when it comes out. You’ll get a kick out of the simple but action-packed story.
Verdict – FUN – GO BUY THE TRADE
DEMON KNIGHTS
It was with a heavy heart that I dropped this title. I love Paul Cornell, but this book just wasn’t doing anything for me. One of the big problems I’m having with the New 52 is how many of the titles are still telling the same story sixteen issues later. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be ongoing narratives, but this is all the same arc.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
DOCTOR WHO
This is IDW’s third volume of Doctor Who comics and the first I’ve checked out. I did pick up the thoroughly enjoyable Fairy Tale Life miniseries, but this is the first time I’ve followed the regular one. To be honest (and probably sound a little stupid) the Ben Templesmith covers of the first series put me off for a long time.
Anyway, the first two issues were fun and guess what else? The first story arc lasted two issues. TWO ISSUES, DC! Now we’re into the next arc, which is about Amy wanting the Doctor and Rory to bond. It’s fun and the characterizations are great. I highly recommend this comic to any fan of Doctor Who or clever writing.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.
I kind of wish Frankenstein hasn’t gone rogue, but this comic is still fun. I was concerned about Jeff Lemire departing, but the new writer is doing a bang-up job.
However.
The book lacks a sense of relevance. Or something. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I’m just never excited about reading it.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
HACK/SLASH
Hack/Slash is on a roll again. Issue #(?) was just straight fucked-up and raised the stakes to a level a lot of comics wouldn’t. Significant important characters that have been around for years were slaughtered and shit just really got cranked up to 11. I’m invested in this one in a way I haven’t been for a while.
Verdict - KEEPER
HAPPY
Grant Morrison's new 4-issue collaboration with Jacen Burrows is really fucked up, but very good. Buy the trade when it hits. You probably won't find the back issues.
Verdict - KEEPER
INDESTRUCTABLE HULK
I have never been a big fan of Hulk comic books. I stuck with Peter David’s run for a while years ago, but overall the big guy has just never been one of my favorites. I loved the show when I was a kid, which is something I still don’t quite understand. I remember watching the drama unfold and just waiting each and every episode for the Hulk to show up. Watching it years later I couldn’t figure out how it kept my attention. While Bill Bixby is certainly an engaging actor, as an adult I felt the “waiting for the Hulk-out” much more keenly. There are some great episodes, but there are also a lot where there was less of a narrative and more of a contrived sequence of events to lead up to Lou Ferrigno jumping through a window.
This book is awesome. Buy it. I know we’re super-early in the run here, but I am liking this characterization of Banner/Hulk more than any since Peter David wrote them. Banner will rule science. I can’t wait for him to interact with Reed Richards.
Verdict - KEEPER
IRON MAN
I like Kieron Gillen’s story so far – it’s definitely moving along better than Fraction’s snail-pace narrative – but I’m not a big fan of Greg Land’s art. Every character always looks like they're posing for an advertisement. It's kind of ridiculous. And the women all have the same facial expression.
But I've read four issues now and – like everything else I've read from Gillen – they're excellent. The first arc is five issues. Each issue is a story. And they're great. The concept of Stark going to modular armor to suit each situation is awesome. I can see where it could be limiting at some point, but like anything else all that matters is how good the writer is. And Kieron Gillen is damned good.
Verdict - HOOKED
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
This book isn’t testing my patience like Animal Man and Swamp Thing. That’s probably because it has had a few distinctive arcs and experienced a big (and crucial) change in creative team. The current cast of the book is a good one with strong interactions and the new quest that has been set up is engaging. We don’t know what the heck happened to Zatanna and Tim Hunter, but I’m invested in finding out. Just the fact that I can remember Tim Hunter’s name off the top of my head shows how well this team is being handled.
Verdict - KEEPER
NEW MUTANTS
So this is over now. I enjoyed what Abnett and Lanning did with this third (?) generation of mutants a lot. I was never quite as attached to Doug Ramsey, Sunspot, Warlock, and the rest of this crew; but I did get hooked on the comic after seeing some Bill Sienkiewicz artwork during one of the crossovers or something. There were a couple of rough spots in this run, but overall it was a pleasant continuation of what had come before. I liked the way the characters grew, developed, and interacted; though the relationship between Magma and Sunspot was a bit tedious after a while. The issue with the date between Magma and Lucifer was one of the most fun comics I’ve ever read and I’d recommend you track it down even if you don’t bother with any of the rest. It’s a strong stand-alone that should be in any comic fan’s collection.
Verdict – I’M A SATISFIED CUSTOMER
NIGHTWING
I really wish Dick would move away from Gotham and become his own man. Until this happens he is just going to be Batman’s subordinate. I loved where Dick Grayson was headed before the New 52, and as much as Kyle Higgins is doing a great job telling the stories, I feel like the character has regressed terribly. More and more with each passing month I wish the New 52 had never happened. Rather than growing to accept it, I am resenting it increasingly. But regardless of all that, this is still a good book with strong art and storytelling. I just think it could be much better if it were out of the Bat-family.
Verdict - KEEPER
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
I suppose this is the wrap-up to Rucka’s run writing Frank Castle, which disappoints me greatly. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything he’s done with Frank and was particularly looking forward to more from Punisher’s protégé, Rachel Cole-Alves. But I will say that he is going out with a bang. It’s been interesting to see the Avengers go after Frank, especially the Spider-Man bit. It’s come sooner than I would have liked, but this is a fitting end to a great story.
Verdict - KEEPER
REVIVAL
I’m afraid that in all my online (and in-podcast) gushing about Saga I have been overlooking this excellent book from Tim Seeley and Mike Norton. It takes place in a small town where the dead have come back to life in a strange way, but it is more about the interactions between people and society in general. Crap. That makes it sound like The Walking Dead. It isn’t like TWD. There’s tons of weird and supernatural shit going on. Revival is very much its own book.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
SAGA
I love Saga so much that I picked reading the first issue as my favorite geek-out moment of 2012 on the Earth Station One year-end wrap-up podcast. And I said a ton about it in my last comic book update. This is my favorite book, possibly ever.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
SPIKE
This story is moving right along. I like the bugs’ relationship with Spike. I also like that all of these side series are tying in with the overall storyline of Season 8. As a matter of fact, I think that might be what’s bugging me about Buffy – it seems to be less of a continuation of the story than all of these other books.
Verdict - KEEPER
STAR WARS
This picks up after the Battle of Yavin and takes a look at Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the true biggest hero of the Rebel Alliance - Wedge Antilles - trying to find a new base of operations. I am so excited to take a look at this mostly unexplored era. The story is basic but interesting and the art is great. It's a shame this thing probably isn't going to make it past twelve issues. Let's hope Marvel does the smart thing and simply carries Dark Horse's talent and concepts along when they take over.
Verdict – HOOKED,SO VERY HOOKED

STAR WARS: AGENT OF THE EMPIRE
I’m thrilled that the book that is basically James Bond in the Star Wars universe got a second series. This one is just as exciting as the first and deals with the main character questioning the orders of Armand Isard – his boss and the legendary (to Expanded Universe nuts) head of Imperial Intelligence.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
SWAMP THING
This is stuck in the same rut as Animal Man with the ongoing “Rotworld” storyline. Also, Scott Snyder is leaving. Granted, that might be a good thing given that I am tired of what’s been going on in the book. But I just don’t care enough about this version of Swamp Thing to keep going. I liked Alec Holland’s story initially, but that has taken a back seat to all this rot stuff. And I still have trouble reconciling what I know of Swamp Thing with this New 52 version.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
UNCANNY AVENGERS
Pure, unadulterated awesomeness. I love Rick Remender and I love John Cassaday. Although somebody seems to be having some deadline problems. It doesn’t bother me, because as with Saga I’d rather get an amazing book every couple of months than a rushed book once a month; but I’m afraid it might cause a problem for the creative team with Marvel. I used to be more of a stickler for timeliness, but since I don’t even make it to the comic shop every week (or every other week sometimes) I can’t complain. I never know when stuff is coming out anyway.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
UNCANNY X-FORCE
One of the best complete runs I’ve ever read. The only thing I didn’t like was the art in the Captain Britain Corps issues, and it wasn’t bad; just not to my taste. I’m bummed this is over, but I’m glad it never got shitty. I’d rather it end now than get handed off to some sub-par creative team who are incapable of replicating the magic Rick Remender worked with these characters. I wish the publishers would follow this model more often. Buy the back issues, wait for the trades or an omnibus or whatever, but seek out Uncanny X-Force. It gets my highest recommendation.
Verdict – SATISFIED CUSTOMER
WALKING DEAD
Get out of there, Carl! Comic book Carl is suddenly dumber than TV Carl. I almost wonder if Kirkman did that as a favor to the kid that plays Carl. Not that it was necessary, as TV Carl got 85% more awesome in the last season all on his own. Anyway, the comic just keeps getting more interesting as we learn more about the new antagonist, Negan, and the society he has built around himself. The past two story arcs have been some of the most intense yet and I can’t wait to see where the book is going. Walking Dead isn’t always at the top of my stack, but it is right now and has been for the past several months.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
It’s been a blast from the start and managed to stay that way through the Marvel-mandated AvX tie-ins. Once those were done we got a circus with Frankenstein’s monster secretly in charge and trying to kill the last of his creator’s descendants, who just so happened to be one of the child members of the new Hellfire Club. Things got weirder from there. I definitely prefer the book when Nick Bradshaw is doing the art, but Aaron’s writing is so tight and fun that it’s always a joy to read regardless.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
WONDER WOMAN
This is another title that has picked back up. After the big confrontation a few issues ago things have gotten fun. Orion has entered into the story as well as some dude that is basically Wesley Willis. You drop a Wesley Willis reference into your comics and you've got me for at least ten more issues.
Verdict – KEEPER
X-FACTOR
X-Factor is near the top of my stack every single month. I honestly believe Peter David is one of the greatest writers comics have ever seen. The man had a stroke a couple of weeks ago and I wish him a speedy and full recovery. My prayers are with Peter and his family. More on this tomorrow.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
X-MEN: LEGACY
I read somewhere that the first issue of this relaunch was amazing, so I bought the first two. They were good. Not so good that I feel compelled to keep buying it. And I like Legion - the character the book centers around – a lot.
Verdict – DROPPED IT

Other Comic-Related News
Normally I put some bits and pieces here, but I’ve got two things I’d like to focus on that I think warrant their own post. Actually, they might warrant two posts. I’ll find out once I get to editing and posting. So come back tomorrow for a bit about Peter David and possibly something else. But the something else may end up being Friday. We’ll see.
-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. Totally agree about animal man and swamp thing. I actually dropped them this morning.

    ReplyDelete