Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Choose my superhero trade paperback for me!

Cronin does that whole "U-Decide" thing every few months, and this is the same kind of thing. First, a story. Gather round the glowing fire of the computer monitor, children, and I'll tell you the horror of my most recent visit to the comics shoppe!

Oh, it was a glorious November Saturday here in Arizona. It was, in fact, last Saturday. I was puttering about the house, with no plans to visit the local purveyor of fine graphic literature, when the unthinkable happened:

My children woke up.

Oh dear. What to do with a three-year-old and a five-month-old who ought to be sleeping but aren't? WHAT TO DO????? Usually, in this situation, I stick them in the car and go for a drive. That makes them happy!

So, I headed to the comic book store. Good times. As I entered, I told myself that I was going to go hardcore superhero title. I was going to pick up a trade paperback that had nothing but old-school superheroes spouting clichés and kicking villain's asses! Whoo-hoo! Fuck yeah! Avengers, Captain America, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Outsiders, Fantastic Four - it was on!

Here's what I bought:

The Coffin by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston
Gun Fu by Howard Shum (of Aquaman fame!) and Joey Mason
The Judas Contract by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

Now, you may say that the last one counts, but I didn't mean something from 20 years ago. I meant cutting edge superhero stuff! Kick-ass superheroes with a modern sensibility! My problem was, I couldn't make up my mind. Nothing leaped out, grabbed me, shook me, and said "You must buy me!" Of course, I would have run screaming from the store if that had happened, but at least I would have bought it!

So. Here's the question. Next time I go to the comic book store, what superhero trade paperback should I buy? The qualifications: it must be recent (nothing older than, let's say, 2001) and it must be published by DC and Marvel. I don't want any Ultimate stuff, either, because I've read most of it. Tell me what trade I should read and WHY. That's important. Why should I spend my fifteen bucks on this? I'll read your comments and decide. Obviously, I buy superhero stuff on my own, so if it's something I already have, it will be disqualified. Don't let that stop you, though! WHAT SHOULD I BUY, GOOD READERS???? I NEED YOUR HELP!!!!

Thank you for your time.

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Blogger T. said...

I bought the Judas Contract trade paperback a few months ago and was incredibly disappointed. I think that storyline, looking back, had to have been the "jump the shark" moment for the Titans. After reading it, it becomes painfully obvious why the book couldn't hold its popularity.

11/15/2005 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I enjoyed it, but didn't think it was super-duper. I had read some of the issues years ago, so I was in no hurry to buy it. Not bad, but not great.


11/15/2005 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Reread the trade and tell me what you think. I don't think it ages well at all. It should have been WOlfman's last arc.

Have you tried any of JMS' Spidey? I liked "When stars turn cold."

11/15/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

The first TPB collection of Mark Waid & Barry Kitson's Legion of Super-Heroes run is coming out on Wednesday, and I like it a whole lot--an excellent jumping-on point for anybody intimidated by the Legion's terrifyingly huge, complicated history. (It's sort of a reboot and sort of not--basically a reboot that doesn't invalidate anything that's come before it, if that makes sense.) Waid's one-line pitch for it, if I remember correctly: "It's not a superhero team: it's a youth movement."

11/15/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Waid's Fantastic Four run was consistently entertaining. Also -- and I'm sure I'll be stoned to death for saying so -- but I've really enjoyed Loeb's Superman/Batman.

11/15/2005 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad said...

Runaways, by Brian K. Vaughan (who it looks like you're a fan of from your weekly reviews) and Adrian Alphona. I've read the bulk of it in digests, of which the latest is out, but there's also a nice, thick hardcover collecting the first year's worth of the series.

It's a fun, fast paced teenage soap opera with this simple premise; every teenager thinks their parents are evil, but what if you found out they actually were? The characters all have distinctive personalities, the dialogue is often very funny, and it's overall a very "I can't wait to see what happens next!" kind of ride. It's also the only Vaughan title I've been able to consistently follow.

If you haven't read it, you really need to give Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier a try, too. It's out in two trades, which is annoying, but I think the story is more than worth that hassle. It's another take on the formative years of the Silver Age, but it uses the period to great effect, has some excellent chracter material for everyone involved, from main character Hal Jordan to Rick Flag to the Suicide Squad. It is also stunningly gorgeous. Easily my
favorite comic of 2004.

I assume you've read Milligan and Allred's X-Force. If not, do so. The later X-Statix issues were okay, but I think their run on the X-Force title that preceded it was far superior. It's a novel take on mutants that plays around with genre conventions and expectations while still telling an excellent story. And hell, the guest art comes from guys like Cooke and Duncan Fegredo.

I'm one of the people who liked the Dark Knight Strikes again a whole lot. I thought it was a fun, fast ride, although even I wasn't a big fan of the ending. I did like the garish art, though, as it still showcased Miller's talent for kineticism, but obviously it's an acquired taste at best. I thought it was a big, fun superhero story which served as a great counterpoint to its forebearer.

I'm pretty sure you've read or are going to read anything Grant Morrison writes, and Alan Moore is a pretty obvious answer, too. Read Top 10 if you haven't though. Just do it, damn it. It's Moore, so you know you'll get a dense, satisfying read with rich characterization. Couple that with Gene Ha and Xander Cannon's detailed art and you've got a winner. I liked the first arc of Tom Strong, too, but it's probably the lightest Moore you'll ever find. It is worth a look if you're interested on his take on the pulp hero archetype or just a character who thinks with more than his fists.

There are other superhero comics I've followed in the last few years, but not in any sustained way I adored the first arc of Astonishing X-Men, for instance, but I can't reccomend the second one, as it lost me around the 10th issue. I've also drifted away from the likes of Sleeper, Brubaker's Captain America, Ex Machina, and Ultimates over the last year or so, although I do plan on catching up with at some point.

11/15/2005 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

Black Widow - intriguing spy thriller, beautiful art.
Caveats: cheesey at times, ends on a lead-in to volume 2.

11/15/2005 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger David C said...

Another vote for the Mark Waid Fantastic Four - he just nails those characters perfectly.

11/15/2005 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Seconded on Superman/Batman, but perhaps only for the first arc, because of the bubbly McGuinness art, and because Loeb's scripting hadn't descended into cretinous nonsense yet.

Are any of the Gail Simone Deadpool or Agent X issues available in trade? Because those are great fun, especially Agent X, which surprised me with its quality.

Young Avengers if it's out. More like a proper Avengers story than its parent title, and gorgeous art from Jim Cheung. But as I say, it might not be out.

And if you can find it cheap, get Wolverine: Snikt!. There's not much story, and what is there is largely borrowed from the artist's own Blame! with the names changed, but it looks great. But it's so light on story that I'd only get it if it's been knocked down to half price or something.

11/15/2005 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She-Hulk. It's funny.

-Ralf Haring

11/15/2005 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Oh, and I'll be a dissentign voice and say avoid Waid's Fantastic Four. Great art throughout, but the characterisation and scripting were really off kilter.

Anything before the "Grey Goblin" arc from JMS' Amazing Spider-Man is worth a look.

11/15/2005 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Totally agree with Kelvin, I think Waid's FF is horrible and the Jack Kirby as God shtick was both a terrible deus ex machina and fanboy pandering at its lamest. The characterization was indeed off as well.

I also agree with the pre-Sins Past JMS Spidey, good stuff. I head the post-SIns Past stuff is good as well.

11/15/2005 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Hickey said...

Thirding Superman/Batman. It's dumb action-movie stuff, but *fun* dumb action-movie stuff...
Also seconding any and all of Moore's ABC line that you've not read.
I assume you've read Morrison's New X Men. If not, do so.
Formerly Known As The Justice League and I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League are some of the best comics of the last few years - if you've not read them yet, do so.
Has the Engelhart/Rogers Dark Detective mini been traded yet? If it has, get that.
The first Godland trade should be out soon, too...

I suspect you've read most/all of those, but right now we're at a weird point where there's less 'pretty good' stuff coming out than ever. There's lots of great stuff, and lots of crap, but less stuff that you can just pick up and be sure you'll enjoy without it changing your life than ever.

11/15/2005 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

Count me in favor of Waid's FF. The last couple of arcs weren't as good as I thought they could be, but "Unthinkable" (volume 2 in the trades) rocked my socks.

If you can go outside of Marvel/DC, how about "Invincible"? The first two trades were excellent.

But if you haven't read Top 10, by all means get that.

11/15/2005 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Young Avengers is out in hardcover, as is Brubaker's Captain America. If you're willing to spring for an extra few bucks, they both come with high recommendations. Brubaker's Cap has lost some steam since then, but those first few issues are top-notch, and Young Avengers remains a damn fine Avengers book... it out-Avengers New Avengers significantly.

Robert Kirkman's Invincible would be another good choice. Light, funny, and packed with titanic superhero battles and all your favorite cliches. It's not groundbreaking, but it's plenty good. Dan Slott's She-Hulk is another excellent old-school superhero read, and it's exceedingly funny to boot. The trades are also a great value, because the individual issues are crazy-dense.

The first trade of the Johns/McKone Teen Titans, before the book became buried in its own hubris, is damn solid, and only $10. It's reasonably self-contained as well. The first arc of Astonishing X-Men is also quite good.

There's really been a pretty decent selection of superhero material up until recently, come to think of it. I don't think it was until this last year or so, when everybody got caught up in bad crossover stuff, that things really started to get strained.

11/15/2005 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Invincible is good, as is the new Marvel Team-Up, so trades of either of those series are good choices.

11/15/2005 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Foss said...

I came onto Waid's FF with "Unthinkable," and from what I've read, I'd recommend the two-part Spider-Man story (highly, I might add), "Rising Storm," and "Hereafter." Some of the stuff that preceded that particular storyline looked good, but "Authoritative Action" and "Disassembled" weren't very good. Otherwise, the run was fun and had a great sense of humor.

11/15/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Brady said...

I'm not sure if it counts as a superhero comic (although Superman makes an appearance), but the recent Adam Strange mini was quite good. It's been collected in trade, and called Planet Heist.

Also, Dan Slott and Ty Templeton's Spider-Man/Human Torch was a pretty good mini. A look back at the pair's friendship/rivalry over the years, from the 60's to the present.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned these yet...

11/15/2005 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yeah, the Spidey/Torch book is a good bet, and I believe it's available in cheapo digest form too.

11/15/2005 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Soar said...

Brubaker's Captain America hardback, so that you can catch up to #11, out a few weeks ago and one of the best Marvel comics of the year. Although it's presented as two arcs, it isn't, it's really a 12-issue arc, but Brubaker can pull it off, I swear.

Brubaker's Catwoman trades (all of 'em are out now).

Heinberg's Young Avengers, (first 6 issues in hard cover) even if it IS a time-tavel Kang story, something that makes me want to take my shoes off and bang them on the comic. Because the characters and the story are actually very good and the dialog is fun and snappy, the SINGLE saving grace for the nasty Disassembled mess.

Slott's She-Hulk trades are very good, too, light, fun, fast, with the ever-quirky Bobillo art in the first trade and the more standard Pelletier art in the second.

Vaughan's first Runaways series in hard cover - starts somewhat slow but picks up charm and the funny as it goes on.

Nicieza's second New Thunderbolts trade, which came out last week, I think, and collect something like issues 6-12 (?) of the current run, including my favorite issue of the series so far, #9, the Radioactive Man issue. It is an older-style action superhero book written with lots of twisty plot bits, fairly "modern" sensibilities and it explores the characters through the plot.

And I bought The Coffin a few weeks ago and liked it pretty well, although I had some quibbles, too. Between that and The Atheist, over on Image, I'm turning into a Hester fan.

11/15/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Dizzy D said...

Seconding/thirding/whatever the votes for Runaways.

Mr. Majestic (It's Wildstorm, but DC had bought it by then)Collects the Joe Casey-series 1-6 and the Alan Moore single story. Good old fashioned superhero fun with even a bit of education included in the first issue. Art by McGuinness is easy on the eyes. (And in case it's necessary I can get you a TPB for about $5 over here. A bookshop had them in large quantities)

11/15/2005 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

Brubakers Captain America - but its only in HC right now

If you liked the Coffin, Get Deep Sleeper also by huddleston and Hester...oh shit it't not Marvel or DC okay...

Huddlestons and lieberman (though his run on gotham knights is horrible) run on Harley Quinn was awesome. No Trade yet though.

kinetic which was part of the Ill Fated Focus Line with Warren Pleece art and written by Puckett and Heinberg.

Batman Adventures the best batman animated series adventures next to gotham adventures by Dan Slott and Templeton, and cheap too in collections, if you want progress within a universe there it is, but they stopped putting them out for batman strikes...bleargh

She Hulk is awesome, just get the Slott Trades

Batman, Red hood Saga reads extremely well in collected format, due to Doug Mahnkes drawings, also cheap $9.95 american for 7 issues! with good paper!

11/15/2005 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous KDBryan said...

Seconding Young Avengers, Runaways and She-Hulk for good superhero reads. Especially Runaways - good plot twists, funny dialogue and Vaughn gives the observant fanboy a few in-jokes about Marvel Los Angeles as the series goes on. I'm still waiting for a "nudge nudge" moment about the Champions, considering the recent issue with Swarm.

Along the lines of more superteam mayhem, I've heard they're putting out Peter David's X-Factor in trade soon. There's a fun superteam for you.

11/16/2005 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger markus said...

Mark Millar's run on Wolverine: Enemy of the State and Agent of Shield. It doesn't make a lot of sense and has its weak moments, but it's non-stop over the top action.

11/16/2005 04:36:00 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

What about JSA - The Golden Age? I simply recommend it because I'm planning to buy it at some point and want to know if it's any good before I shell out the duckets... Wait that's too self-interested...um, I heard it's good and I plan to pick it up. So you could use this title as like a comic-book-club reading title or something.

11/16/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

"Mr. Majestic (It's Wildstorm, but DC had bought it by then)Collects the Joe Casey-series 1-6 and the Alan Moore single story. Good old fashioned superhero fun with even a bit of education included in the first issue. Art by McGuinness is easy on the eyes. (And in case it's necessary I can get you a TPB for about $5 over here. A bookshop had them in large quantities)"

Hugely seconded. I *LOVE* this book. A pure science fiction take on Suerman, kind of the opposite of the John Byrne "Let's ground everything in REALITY And ZZZZZZZZZ" take on the characters.

I'll second Kinetic, too. It wasn't brilliant but it was interesting, and I'd like to hear another take on it.

11/17/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Does your local library have trade paperbacks? Here in New York, you can take stuff out. I do it all the time.

If you want something recent and cheap, try Livewires. Adam Warren is a trip to read.

11/18/2005 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger spitzig said...

I think Rising Stars is recent enough for you. I thought it was really good. It started out as a murder investigation, and expanded.

I just read Wanted, and liked it. It was all about the super-villains--they'd won against the superheroes years ago. Someone referred to it as very juvenile, and that's probably accurate. At heart, I'm sure I'm still a bit of a teenager.

11/20/2005 10:58:00 PM  
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