Since Tony asked, here’s a look at the newer books I’m actually digging these days. It may be a sign of the end times, but I’m actually finding more books that I really like in recent months than I have in the past decade, and many of them are the rebooted DC titles. Given the amount of curmudgeonly bitching I’ve done in the past regarding the quality of the books I had been finding, I figure it’s only fair I give credit where credit’s due when I’m actually feeling enthusiastic about many of the titles I’m finding on the shelves of the comic store again.
Starting with the titles from the DC reboot, since we discussed them at length before they were ever released but only Tony has weighed in with reviews of three series’ so far: I picked up somewhere around twenty of the first issues, and only found a couple of them to be duds. My favorites among them:
OMAC: a big, loud, bombastic, fun comic to read. Besides Keith Giffen returning to his Kirby Klone roots for the series, Dan Didio shows he gets how to write Kirby characters, unlike whoever wrote that Eternals mini a few years ago. There’s a big difference between giving the readers a mystery, and giving them a series of revelations– Kirby did the latter, and Didio brings the same to OMAC while at the same time throwing in giant robot sewer gators. He also uses expository captions in this book! I almost cried when I saw them exhumed, and I may cry again now that I’ve seen this book is among the first on the chopping block of failed New 52 titles. Hopefully Didio and Giffen have a Kamandi book up their sleeves at some point.
Batwoman: As mentioned before, I am breaking my grilled cheese rule for this book. Let it be known that J.H. Williams III made me eat crow with this gorgeous comic. I really like the supernatural angle the series seems to focus on and hope they make it a regular theme; it really separates the series from the gazillion Bat-spinoffs. My only concern is that they keep the book all-ages accessible since it is part of the Bat-family; I don’t see Bruce Wayne in his underwear as much as the protagonist of this series.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: I’ve taken to this book a lot better than Tony, apparently. It delivers for me all the science weirdness and idiosyncrasy I hoped for from Mister Terrific. I was surprised this one survived when OMAC didn’t, so here’s hoping it gets a long, healthy run.
All Star Western: I have a huge pile of books in my pull which the kind folks at the Ogre are being very patient with me for slowly chipping away at week by week. As a result, some titles might wait a while before I get around to picking them up and reading them. All Star Western sat in my pull for four months before I picked it up, and I’m kicking myself for waiting. Love this book, love the characters, love the mystery story, love the atmosphere, love the very simple line work of the art and muted coloring. I wish this were simply a Jonah Hex ongoing, but I’m guessing it will rotate several lead characters and creative teams.
Action Comics: Breaking another of my personal rules here– “avoid Grant Morrison superhero books.” Nevertheless, I’ve always liked comics that reflect the times they were made in, and the writer does a great job of reaching back to Superman’s roots as a depression-era crusader for the everyman and make him part of the 99% of today. Well done, but I expect it will be tough to maintain in the long run. Here’s hoping we don’t get a new world war to recast Superman in a more nationalistic image, anyway. Love the artwork, too– like Superman with a Mort Drucker influence. In a good way.
Superman/Batman/Justice League: Good, shallow, pulpy superhero fun. George Perez writes the densest comic I’ve read since, well, he wrote Wonder Woman. Mostly self-contained episodes, at that. I’m looking forward to Dan Jurgens returning to Superman in the next couple months, also. I’m surprised to be enjoying a Batman comic for the first time since Kelly Jones was drawing it; Batman is a detective again, Bruce Wayne has a role to play, and there is a civilian supporting cast. Good stuff, as long as no one uses the word “incorporated.” As for the Justice League… okay, lightweight story, but I have a soft spot for team books, and some of these characters were introduced better here than in their own books (I’m looking at you, Azzarello). Also, it’s always funny when they occasionally try to make Aquaman seem impressive. Darkseid happens to materialize his base in the ocean, huh? Okay, next issue a bunch of bank robbers try to escape by boat… And the next…
I, Vampire: This one tenuously hangs onto the top tier, as it’s horribly decompressed and the artist is a Jae Lee clone. But I need a horror comic since they decided not to give Swamp Thing the reboot he needs and put John Constantine on a super-team, and it does feature Andy… excuse me, Andrew Bennett in the title role. I’m listing it as an enjoyable read, provisionally.
There are a few the jury is still out on: Batgirl, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark (which should have been called Night Force, dammit), Flash, all need a little more oomph if they’re going to stay on my reading list more than another month. The first issue of Hawkman didn’t tickle my fancy, but I see my favorite DC villain (I can’t believe I just wrote that), the Gentleman Ghost, will be appearing soon, so I might check back in. As for the duds… Catwoman and Red Hood never appeared on my reading list, so I missed some I apparently would have found outright insulting. Detective was too gory for a superhero book, Wonder Woman and Supergirl were overly decompressed fight scenes which told me nothing about the characters. Men of War was just an all-around failure (seriously, we can’t have a regular war comic set in modern times?). Firestorm was the biggest disappointment, my favorite old DC character recast in a tepid book.
The continuity-lite accessibility of most of these books, coupled with the lower price tag, has actually sucked my comic buying dollar away from most of the Marvel books that would normally have my loyalty. A few gems I’m sticking with: Daredevil has been pure joy, as Mark Waid takes the character back to his pre-Frank Miller laughing swashbuckler days. Frank’s run was great but everyone that followed (Nocenti/Romita Jr. excepted) was just imitation. DD needed a change of pace, and the character is back to being as fun as he was in the Lee/Colan days. I just wish Marcos Martin would settle into a book, any book, for the long haul.
I enjoyed Marvel’s short lived Atlas series enough to follow the creative team over to the Red Hulk’s comic, and was rewarded with a series of very compressed and winding adventure stories with a cosmic scope that hearkened back to the old Tales to Astonish days. I’d put this series in a care package for Kish, believe it or not, even if Red Hulk doesn’t keep T-Bolt Ross’ mustache. The latest plotline, however, was an unnecessarily long 5-parter, so I’m waiting to see if the series’ best days are over. Hopefully not.
Spider-Man: I was hooked on this character when I was five, and only the bad old days of the 1990’s clone story have ever kept me away from the character. This is one I’ll stick with through peaks and valleys, but the post-MJ days have been mostly peaks, and being able to subscribe to the series directly from Marvel for less then $1.50 per issue will keep it on my reading list for a while.
I would enjoy Marvel’s frequent “event” miniseries’ if they didn’t mostly flow from overly long, convoluted storylines in other books. Secret Invasion and Siege suffered from this (the latter I didn’t bother checking out), but Fear Itself I really enjoyed. Great Avengers story with a gazillion defining character moments, my favorite being Cap making a desperate last stand against the forces of evil with a militia of farmers and store clerks whom he deputizes as Avengers. Brought a tear to my eye, that did. If only they didn’t have all the crossovers from that series, especially the ones that immediately followed the “.1” issues that were allegedly designed to attract new readers.
Speaking of brand loyalty… I wrote a few years ago lamenting John Byrne’s work appearing in pro wrestling mags, but he’s rebounded quite well in my eyes. I’d been enjoying his licensed books at IDW (assorted Star Trek series’, Jurassic Park, and particularly the Angel vs. Frankenstein Halloween specials), but this past year he’s revisited his Next Men series and promised a sequel to follow, gave us the Ian Fleming-flavored Cold War spy series, and he even has an original superhero book in the works. That’s a lot of projects in an industry where most artists can’t handle a single monthly. Show those kids how it’s done, JB.
So there, I said some nice things just to prove I’m not a total grouch. I haven’t been visited by three ghosts, though, my heart is still in the same place it was six months ago. I’m well aware that DC has gone five months now without any rape in their stories, and that must be killing them. We’ll see how long they can hold out. Until then, I haven’t liked this many new comics since 1999.