Comics Roundup

>> Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hello true believers. Part of my monthly reading here at Gratz Industries is comic books and I thought it was high time I did a round-up of the few titles I subscribe to. Comics held quite an allure for me as a child, mostly because I was discouraged from reading them. I had three comics--as in three single issues of comics--that I treasured and hid in my closet so they would not be thrown away. The first was an Indiana Jones comic, the second a Micronauts comic, and the third an over-sized Hanna Barbera holiday special my dad got me in the hospital gift shop when he had gall stones. I wish I still had them now, but I don't. (The comics, not the gall stones--Dad has those in a little jar.) I dare say they all fell apart from multiple readings. (Again, the comics.)

Then, in college, I roomed with Greg Bunch, who spent the gross national product of Trinidad and Tobago on comics every month, back in the heyday of Vertigo and now-defunct or severely diminished upstarts like Valiant, Malibu, and Image. Greg always handed me the best of the best, which was where I got my first taste of masters like Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, and Alan Moore.

Yes, I'm a Johnny-come-lately, and no, I do not spend very much money on comics every month. I want to, but I just can't. My comics subscription has gone from small to large back to small again, with my concession being that I am free to purchase trade paper collections of comics I want but can't afford to collect. Trade paperback collections are easier to pull back off the shelf and read anyway, and they don't take up as much space. Because really, when is my collection of recent Batman issues going to ever be worth more than what I paid for them?

So on to this month's round-up. Selected thoughts on selected titles:

The Spirit 11 Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke. The relaunch of the iconic Spirit comic, originally written and illustrated by legend Will Eisner. This month's issue is heavier in tone than usual, with The Spirit battling El Morte, an undead mob boss created in the same accident that allowed the world to think Denny Colt (The Spirit) was dead. These books have been nothing short of fantastic, and a real highlight to my monthly comics haul. Unfortunately, it looks like Cooke is not going to be writing or drawing The Spirit after issue #12, which is late. These books have been fantastic--except for the one oversized special that bore nothing but a Darwyn Cooke cover. The stories in that issue were disappointing, and when Cooke leaves so will I.

The Flash 234 Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Freddie Williams II. Was there ever a more disastrous relaunch of a comic? After banishing Wally West and family to some alternate dimension in the latest ridiculous crisis, Bart Allen was given his chance to inherit the Flash mantle from a long line of scarlet speedsters. I liked Wally, but I liked Bart too, and I was fully ready to give him a chance to find his legs, so to speak. Unfortunately, DC wasn't. First they "aged" Bart and stripped him of every characteristic that had once made him fun. Then they handed over the reins to a pair of inept writers and an incredibly bad illustrator. (Seriously, was no one looking at this book before it went out!?) It's no wonder no one was reading this book!

After nine torturous issues they finally pulled the plug--on both the comic and the character. Bart Allen was executed, Rogues-style, for the sins of his writers, illustrator, and editor, and DC called a do-over, rebooting the reboot with Wally West miraculously back from wherever they had shunted him and fantastic former Flash scribe Mark Waid at the helm. The result? Well, it's been underwhelming. Wally disappeared with wife Linda and his new-born twins, and changeo-presto, thanks to the miracle of comics hokum, the kids are now pre-teens. And they have powers, of course. But the powers are kind of lame, and take a lot of the focus away from Wally and the Flash. I have faith in Waid as a writer (I'm fanboy enough to have sought him out for autographs at conventions) and I'll hang with him on the new book, but color me unimpressed so far.

Robin 167 Mostly missing Adam Beechen here. LOVED his work on this book, and I've been underwhelmed by the interim writers. Former Robin and Nightwing scribe Chuck Dixon is slated to take over soon, so I'll ride it out until then. If I'm not loving it by then I'll drop the book. I just don't have enough money anymore to continue to collect a title just for the sake of completism. That means I end up following my favorite writers and artists from book to book.

Ex Machina 32 Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Tony Harris. Continues to be an incredibly strong book. Glad I got in on the ground floor of this one. Mayor Hundred (a former superhero turned mayor of New York City) is in the Vatican to meet the Pope, but somebody is about to mess with his circuitry.

Hellboy, Lobster Johnson, and BPRD The Mignola trifecta! It's rare I get a Hellboy series--Mignola has his fingers in so many pies now and he's focusing so much more on the story side of things, really dipping deep into the folklore of the world to craft his stories. This one's been pretty trippy, and I'm going to have to go back and re-read them (which I was going to do anyway.) B.P.R.D. - the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense - has been the rare fantastic spinoff, almost as much fun as the original Hellboy comics the characters came from, and a great way to keep our favorites active even when Hellboy is off wandering the world on his own. Lobster Johnson is another trippy spin-off mini-series with a zany, campy feel to it. Not as zany or campy as The Amazing Screw-On Head, but probably better for its moderation.

2 comments:

Fabricationist January 3, 2008 at 4:10 PM  

Really, I used to have that kind of money? Maybe I should have saved it. All I buy these days are collected volumes as well and then only maybe twice a year when I have extra cash. One day I shall collect obscene amounts of comics again. I just hope I'm not so old I can't read at that point. I'm sure there's a good shop in Asheville.

TN-Tanuki January 3, 2008 at 4:32 PM  

Over on RevSF there's this: "Mike Ploog does The Spirit. Seriously, need I say more? When I heard that Darwyn Cooke was leaving DC's updated version of Will Eisner's The Spirit, it seemed like the end of comics greatness was at hand. Now, DC locates Ploog and he actually accepts the ongoing assignment of drawing the Spirit. This should be terrific."
Here's his Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Ploog
Maybe there's hope for The Spirit.

By the by, I'm lovin' Lobster Johnson!

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