Thursday, March 24, 2005

The way I read comics and what I've been reading

One of the reasons why I had to convince (all right, beg) Cronin to let me post on the blog is because I don't buy many weekly comics. Never mind the lots I pick up on E-Bay or the trades I get at ye local book store. If you don't read everything that comes out in a given week, it's hard to stack up to the man.

Then again, I guess he's got a point. My affinty for the single issue has grown lately, but that still means I only buy a half a dozen single issues a month, and I rarely get them the week they come out. I have to either not be able to wait for the trade or be worried there won't be one to read something in single issues. That's why I read two Marvel monthlies; I know that everything they publish is going to get a trade anyway, and given somebody like Bendis' pacing, I'd rather have all of the story at once than get it piece meal anyway (I got the first two hardcovers worth of his DD run at Christmas. I liked them, but I can't see how anyone could read them monthly. Maybe Greg can explain it to me, since he did put up that Decalogue review).

What about trades, then? Well, another reason I like them is that I feel I can buy them at my leisure, so I don't usually break my neck to pick them up weekly. It also depends on my cash flow. If I have a decent amount of money, I'll probably get one or two a week. If not, that may be all I pick up a month besides my six "must buys." And whatever I come across on E-Bay.

Anyway, this is a longwinded way of saying not to expect volume when (and if) I do "This is what I bought this week" reviews in the future. Unless I do something sneaky like include stuff I've read over the course of two weeks. So I'll do that right now. In alphabetical order:

Astonishing X-Men #8- I can't really sing this comic's praises without letting you know my biases. It's one of my favorite comics right now. But I can't say that it's because it's blazing any new trails of innovation or reinvigorating the X-Men franchise and making it relevant for the 21st Century or anything like that. It's not that it isn't well done, solid superhero comics, either. It is drawn and written well, by my estimation. I just don't think there's a possible way that I could dislike John Cassady drawing a Joss Whedon written story featuring Grant Morrison's X-Men cast sans Jean Grey with Kitty Pryde, my nerd crush from years gone by. This book strikes me as the strengths of Claremont and Morrison's run combined without their excesses, but also without the spark of creativity both of their runs had when they were really firing on all cylinders. It's good comics that get my fanboy juices flowing when little else does, but I can't say it's more than that. Still, the name on the tin is Comics Should Be Good, and I think this one is.

Batman #603- From the "I picked it up this week but it isn't new" file, we have part 11 of Bruce Wayne: Fugitive. The good reason to pick this up is that it's by the team that have made Sleeper one of the best comics that not enough people read, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. That, and it was a $1.50. It's a self contained story about a Batman visting the Detective who was assigned to investigate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne on his death bed. Brubaker hits the right notes here, having Batman drop his guard enough to actually look human at times as he talks to the man that promised to find his parents killers. Phillips' art features the kind of layouts that worked so well on Sleeper, and he captures the emotion perfectly. I'd call this a very good self contained story, even if it is sentimental crap, especially for something in the middle of a ridiculously long crossover.

Legion of Superheroes #3- I'd only read two issues of Legion in my life prior to Waid and Kitson's relaunch, so I have no real basis of comparison, but I'm really enjoying this run so far. It's got a lot of things I like to see in monthly comics (humor, good character work, and self cotained stories), and the high page count for $3 is also a plus. The body of the issue is devoted to backstory about the featured character on the cover, Triplicate Girl, and Waid finds a nice device to relay it. It's also got the humor that I've enjoyed in Waid's comics. Even when the gags are obvious, he makes them work. It's fun comics with a something sinister brewing in the background, so that's another good one.

Marvel Team-Up #5: It's not in my nature to buy part 5 of a 6 part serial from Marvel these days, because as I said above, I can usually wait for the trade. That, and I do have enough OCD to want to read all of the story if I'm going to read something. That said, I was offered this for $1.50, too, because the shop over ordered. And I'll be damned if I can turn down a comic for $1.50.

I can't say I'm surprised that this is a six part storyline, since that's the length everything Marvel publishes these days is (how the hell did that become the standard length for trades, anyway?), but... it's Marvel Team-Up! Having a six part storyline seems to defeat the purpose, at least a bit. It's a close defeat.

Coming in on this storyline at part 5, it gives me a chance to finally see if those "The story so far" blurbs on the first page can actually integrate you in to a storyline. And what do you know, they can. It's not like I couldn't have figured things out for myself, but still, I've never actually had an oppurtunity to see if they work before, given that I don't usually start buying Marvel monthlies at part 5 of a storyline.

Anyway, the issue itself; on the bad side, it reminds me of the kind of comics Alan Moore bemoaned in his essay about writing comics. It's all plot. Subplot on top of subplot. Plot, plot, plot, like walking through a bog, as the Magus says. Another detriment is the scenes with Sunfire and the mysterious villain, which are really overblown. That said, Kirkman does have a good handle on Spider-Man (wouldn't mind seeing him get a monthly gig writing the web head), and aside from those bad scenes with Sunfire and mystery villain, I do think all the subplot shifting is well paced. He works the obligatory "missunderstanding, fight, and team-up" formula of Team-Up's gone by in well enough, too, even if the Team-Up part will presumably be left to issue 6, which I will probably buy. So, I'd have to say this is good, too, but not without its problems.

Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian #1 and Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #1
I think we need a sign somewhere around here that says "You don't have to be a Grant Morrison nerd to write here, but it helps!* (*You have to be a Grant Morrison nerd)." Because I sure as hell am. Enough so that even on my limited comics budget, I'm buying every single one of these mini-series. Both of these issues deliver an origin story, set the plot in to motion, and give us a nice cliffhanger (I'm going to have to do a post just praising Morrison's cliffhangers. They're part of what makes me love his comics). They both have beautiful art, in two different styles to boot. It always a treat to see Cameron Stewart's work. As a member of Morrison's fan base who like Seaguy, this re-teaming of the collaborators behind that series was probably the SS mini I was most looking forward to, and the first issue didn't dissapoint. I've never seen Simone Bianchi's work, but it's definitely a treat, too. It reminds me a little bit of Cary Nord's art on Conan (probably because of the setting), but not as washed out looking. These are very good first issues.

Solo #3- This is my first prolonged exposure to Paul Pope's work (he wrote and drew all five stories), as I had only read a couple of his short stories in DC anthologies before. This a series of them, and they're all very good. In fact, I'd say this is the best comic I've read in this bunch.

It's all well done, from the the Sandman-esque mythology of The Problem in Knossos, to the take off on Kirby's OMAC in Are You Ready For The World That's Coming, to the Robin story which serves mainly as a way for Pope to make observations about the nature of Batman, Robin, and the Joker.

But the best two stories are done in the "slice of life," for lack of a better term.
Life-Sized Ghost Monster is a cute story about dissapointing novelty items ordered out of comics (the issue of OMAC that Pope referenced, in a nice bit of continuity). On This Corner was my favorite stroy in the book, though. It didn't have a plot, really, but Pope's wonderful narration made it an excellent mood piece about the events of one evening on a New York street corner.

So, you can see that I'm not a harsh critic, I'm long winded, and you really need to buy Solo 3.


Blogger Chad said...

I get most of my comics shipped to me once a month. So I won't be a weekly reviewer either. Yay us!

I agree with you about On the Corner being the best of the bunch of Paul Pope's Solo issue. I'm up and down on his work, but that was a real high point.

And, despite what everyone must think given my We3 post, I am huge Morrison nerd. I'm looking forward to Guardian and Shining Knight very much.

3/24/2005 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Shining Knight was awesome. That horse was brilliant and I was sad to see him go. As for Guardian, I didn't care for it. Homeless Subway pirates fighting the, whatever. The writing was weak as was the idea.

But damn, that Paul Pope Solo made an instant fan out of me.

3/24/2005 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad Curran said...

Chad: My point (not sure if it came across that way; I wrote that stream of consciousness) was more that I don't have a huge pull list. I'll probably have something to review every week. Right now, I have a big stack o' trades I can pull from. So I'm sorry, I can't join you. But It's good that we agree on Solo and general Morrison nerdery (I thought you qualified that you were a fan of his prety well, and really, it's not like you said you despised We3 or anything.

Spencer with a lame Spidey villain's moniker for a last name:

Maybe it's the fact that a lot of the first issues I've read lately didn't need to be 1s or were so slow burn the superhero didn't put his costume on until the 5th issue, but I was pretty much equally impressed by both of the 1st issues of Seven Soldiers. The Subway Pirates are the kind of ridiculous idea that makes me gravitate to Morrison's work (and gyrate, sometimes), I thought Guardian and his supporting cast were well drawn given the space alotted, the stuff with the Newsboy Army was funny ("I'll take the bike, you hold on to my dignity"), and the action scenes were cool. And c'mon, the cliffhanger, dude, the cliffhanger! I will miss the horse in Shining Knight though (provided he's dead. That damn bunny in We3 held on for awhile despite the nasty head wound).

3/24/2005 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

The horse isn't dead. In this month's Previews the blurb is about Justin and his horse, Vanguard. So that's that.

Brad: I haven't really jumped into the whole trade paperback thing yet (as you can see by my weekly purchases). Usually it's stuff that I missed picking up early on, for one reason or another (like 100 Bullets, which I faithfully buy it trades). I guess I'm old-school - you young'uns wouldn't know about that! And I like Daredevil so much that I don't want to wait for the trades. It's frustrating sometimes, but in each issue, there's usually something that makes me stop and appreciate that I bought it.

3/24/2005 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

You love Cassaday so much that you can't even spell his name right!!

Nyah ha ha ha ha ha!

Blame Trix for that, he always likes to make fun of people for that.

And that Brubaker/Phillips issue was quite cool.

3/24/2005 11:02:00 PM  
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