Sunday, February 07, 2016

This Week in Comics

Just four this time, and no DCs. How odd that is, given how many DC comics I read pre-New 52.

Barb Wire 8
This got weird in a hurry. Turns out the whole mess Barb got embroiled in involved a human/AI combo and a conspiracy. But all's well that ends, maybe, sorta. A fun, fluff of a comic. It doesn't stick with you, but it's fun while you're reading it. Or so is the case for me.

Shutter 18
Sort of a recap issue with flashbacks for Kate, and well, the usual weirdness. This remains the weirdest comic I've ever read. Oddly fun, too.

Captain Marvel 2
I don't know Alpha Flight, so some of this is really new to me. Anyway, Carol and her team encounter danger while exploring a seemingly dead space ship. I have no idea where this is going, but it is interesting.

Velvet 13
The mystery and the conspiracy deepens as Velvet gets some answers and yet more questions as things continue to not be what they seem or even what she's already figured out. This has been one helluva ride and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment, which takes too long to get here. Why can't this book be monthly?!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Secret Identity

I've had Secret Identity sitting here for years in one of the stacks on unread graphic novels and collections. I didn't know what it was when I bought it, and I didn't know much about author Kurt Busiek. All I knew was that Stuart Immonen's art was amazing. The cover had caught my eye, so I bought the book. And now, over a decade later, I finally read it.

It is nothing short of brilliant. If you haven't read it, you should. It's about what it might be like to develop superpowers in the real world. Our world. It's about a teen named Clark Kent -- for the comic book character, because his parents had a weird sense of humor -- and how he got teased over his name. About how he always felt he was an outsider, not sure who he was or what his place in the world would be. In other words, an average teenager. And then one day, he discovered he could fly.

Everything he knew about himself changed, and part of that was not knowing who or what he was and that having more implications than ever. Finding his way in life got infinitely more complicated as he contemplated becoming a hero. The book -- originally a mini-series -- examines what it means to be a hero, what the ramifications might be if that became public. It looks at privacy and government overreaction, while at its heart, it remains a coming-of-age story, taking Clark from his teen years to a man of sixty, thereabouts. It's about making decisions and trying to live your life and it's about being human and what that means, too. And it's about hope and love and doing what is right. It's a graphic novel for the ages. And I'm very glad I got around to finally reading it.

Three on Thursday

After the load of comics I got last week, this week was rather slow for me. But the three comics I got were all wonderful.

Black Magick 4
This is worth it for Nicola Scott's art alone, but we get to read Greg Rucka's story, too. Ro enlists the aid of her fellow witch and friend Alex to help her solve the mystery of the man who tried to kill her, while death of a killer turns out to be murder, not suicide. And we just know all this is connected somehow. I'm not the biggest fan of the supernatural genre, but in the right hands, it can be fun, and the hands of Rucka and Scott are most capable.

Black Canary 7
Things just got surreal. It turns out Ditto is sentient sound made physical and she's brought the elements together, including Dinah and the music group, to fight Ditto's "people" who/that view her as a threat because she has more abilities than they do. Or something like that. Wu's art continues to impress and Fletcher seems determined to mine Dinah's Canary Cry for all it's worth. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever read a superhero book quite like this. It's fun and different.

Saga 33
No Hazel, no Marko, no Alana, and yet, still awesome and entertaining as we catch up with Upsher and Doff, our intrepid journalistic duo. When they learn the Brand -- who had cursed them to keep them from telling the story of Marko, Alana, and Hazel -- is dead, they decide to get back to reporting the story, and that means tracking down Marko, Alana, and Hazel. And things, as they tend to do, get complicated. I can't wait for the next issue.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Grayson

I wasn't going to read this. Nope, not for me. I was limiting my New 52 DCU reading and what they did to Dick Grayson, having his identity as Nightwing exposed, then presumably killed, did not sit well with me at all. But I kept reading nice reviews about the Grayson comic, and I do love spy stories and intrigue and well, when I saw the first two paperback collections were out, I caved and bought them. And just finished reading them. And yeah, I liked them.

First, the art is great, mostly that by Mikel Janin. The book features some nice layouts and Dick has never looked better. Tim Seeley and Tom King are crafting a doozy of a story, and the end of volume 2 comes off as a game changer, leaving us to wonder just what Spyral is and what they're really after. The book features Helena Bertinelli with frequent appearances from Midnighter. Dick is truly at his best here, which is my favorite part of the book. His personality is intact, he's skilled, confident, at the top of his game. If I can't have him as Nightwing or even Batman, this will do.

My only quibble is there's a disjointed feel to a lot of the writing, and given I read both volumes this weekend, that's saying a lot. Stories seem to start in the middle and the explanations aren't always complete. And stories don't always pick up where the previous one left off, so there's some gap remaining that can be a source of confusion. But that's a minor annoyance.

I still have no intention of reading the monthlies -- I end up double paying for enough books as it is, buying trades to replace monthly comics which stand nicely on the shelf and take up less room -- so I'm trying to not think about how far ahead things have progressed already in the story with no clue when I'll be able to read more via the next collection.

But I'm happy to read a New 52 book that truly has a fresh feel to it while maintaining the essence of the starring character. It's rare I get to say this: Well done, DC.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Busy Week

I got and read a lot of comics this week and they were rather entertaining.

Star-Lord 3
The year one revised history for Star-Lord continues. This is an odd little book, and it takes a bit getting used to since this is the first time I'm reading a retconned background for a Marvel character. Still, it's fun and in this issue, Peter makes strides in becoming a full-fledged member of Yondu's crew.

Captain Marvel 1
And... another first issue. Marvel is getting almost too much like DC with all these number ones and reworked characters, etc. However, that doesn't take anything away from this next chapter for Carol Danvers. I never read any Alpha Flight stories, but Carol is now in command of an international Alpha Flight, starting a tour on their space-bound base. Carol is a bit torn between the desk duties that go with command and the urge to get out and fly, and there's plenty of potential here. The writing team of Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters comes from the Marvel TV 'verse, meaning they're capable at the helm and Kris Anka's art is clean and efficient and easy on the eyes. A nice start all around.

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death 1 (of 6)
This mini-series starts with what is mostly a setup chapter that includes a cameo from Harley Quinn that serves to isolate Ivy a bit as she and Harley end up at odds. Ivy is trying to fit in in her new job, getting a second chance at being part of normal society while getting the opportunity to pursue her botanical experiments. The last page finally sets the actual story in motion. Amy Chu is writing a decent version of Ivy and Clay and Seth Mann's art is stunning. I wouldn't mind a bit more movement, but it sure is nice to look at.

The Spirit 7
This take on The Spirit feels classic. Our intrepid hero inches closer to learning the truth about why he was held captive and by whom. A fun book.

Harley Quinn 24
Another fun book. Harley spends a bit too much time trying to figure out who got Mason transferred to Arkham, saving the real excitement, I hope, for the next issue. Still, there's a sufficient amount of the usual lunacy to keep things hopping.

Ms. Marvel 3
The current arc concludes with Ms. Marvel saving the day, and Bruno, with Bruno's girlfriend Mike's help. Mike is a super addition to the team, even if she has no clue Kamala is Ms. Marvel. What's amazing is that things don't end up as neatly as these stories usually do, with everyone hailing their savior. Jersey City might be safe, for now, from Hydra's scheme, but Ms. Marvel still gets flak from the citizens she helped due to her photo being used without her permission to publicize Hydra's evil plot. It's the little complications and details, as well as characters you can believe in that make this book so special.

Titans Hunt 4
Still enjoying this. The former Teen Titans still haven't come all together, but at least the fighting has ceased as the ones who are together start to realize how many memories they share. This is an intriguing story and a slow burn. I hope the payoff is worth a year's worth of chapters.

Astro City 31
A one-off dealing with escaped nightmares threatening the city as everyone shares the dreams of Samaritan's living nightmares. The story is a bit odd with fragmented narration, but the ending is quite moving.

Super Zero 2
I'm not sure where this is going, but I'm still enjoying the ride. Her first plan to gain superpowers having failed, Dru implements plan B, which does not go well. Add her parents helping out the homeless vet Dru "hired" to help with plan A, Dru's life is a mess. But things might be changing. This is a charming book.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Problem with the Big Two

A very interesting article points out the problems with Marvel and DC as their sales decline, with an emphasis on how many titles they put out each month.

Here's my comment on the post:
I’m a Boomer, in my early 60s. I read more Image comics than from any other company. Saga, Lazarus, Velvet, Black Magick, Descender, Shutter, and Copperhead are amazing comics and they don’t force me to read crossovers with titles I don’t have any interest in. From Marvel, I read Ms. Marvel and am looking forward to the return of Captain Marvel and Black Widow. From DC, I read Red Hood Arsenal (but only because Roy Harper is my favorite character; the book kinda sucks right now), Harley Quinn, and Black Canary. Astro City continues to amaze and delight. 
I like diversity and variety. I grew up a DC reader, getting 30-40 titles a month, but I got tired of reboots and being made to feel like I don’t matter. I got tired of endless crossovers and the unrelenting lack of fun in most DC books. It was the New 52 reboot that drove me to find new comics to read and inspired me to sample Image titles. 
I can’t help buy wonder if DC and Marvel even know who their readers are or what readers they want to encourage. It seems that every time I get to like a character or comic, they’re rebooted or canceled. It’s too frustrating for me.
I wish I could enjoy the other good books at DC, but I feel I've read about as many Batman and Superman stories as I care to, at least right now. I'm tempted by the Lois and Clark book because it's the pre-new 52 version of the characters, or so I've heard, but so far, I've resisted. If I can't keep reading stories set in the pre-new 52 'verse, then I want something as different as possible from that. Harley Quinn and Black Canary are giving me that, with nice art, good writing, and a fun attitude. Similarly, Gotham Academy is something new to me. But Starfire is just too bland for me to take seriously, though the art is nice. It's a good book for younger readers getting into superheroes.

As for Marvel, I've never read more than a few at a time, but it seems that as soon as I get into a character or storyline these days, everything is turned over. And that's okay, as long as what follows is good. But I'm a bit dumbfounded by the change in Star-Lord, though I'm still giving the new, revised origin, year one book a chance. I'm nervously looking forward to the new Captain Marvel and Black Widow. And I'm very glad nothing substantial as changed with the excellent Ms. Marvel.

But all the event stories and crossovers and reboots, etc. are exhausting. I didn't mind a crossover for a book or two in the past, but these days, it's an investment in time and money I don't want to make. I've got stacks of graphic novels and collected editions (just finished Alias and have started The Pulse: Jessica Jones) to read. I don't want to have stacks of monthlies, too. Stories that continue for too long is another issue. Sure, Image books do that, but the best finish an arc with issues coming out on schedule, then take a break for their creative team to stockpile issues for the next arc. (I'm looking at you, Team Saga!) But with Image books, there really is a feel that you're reading a novel in monthly or bimonthly chapters, bringing to mind the old pulp magazines, the format in which authors like Charles Dickens were first published. If the story is good enough, the characters engaging enough, the art special enough, I'll happily read that way. At least the books stand on their own, each with its own universe. Each gives me a unique reading experience. The stuff DC and Marvel are putting out don't quite do that. After a while, it all starts to feel the same.

I applauded DC's most recent attempt to resurrect its lineup. Continuity didn't matter as much as telling a good story. But in reality, this doesn't work so well, at least not for me. Because when it's about characters like Starfire, who in her book seems to not have been in a relationship with Roy Harper, but in Red Hood Arsenal, Roy is still trying to get over their breakup, it leads to a mental disconnect I found confusing and irritating. DC, like Marvel, was always set in one universe or multiverse. We knew what Earth our Earth-bound characters were on. We knew where everyone stood. And we knew everything was connected somehow. But now, in an attempt to make their books more reader friendly, to entice new readers, they've created what I see as a mess, a muddle, a lot of pieces that might or might not be connected. And if they are connected and you don't read all the books -- the crossover events that seem to come more and more often -- you end up lost and might give up. When characters deviate too much from what they were, from their essence, you might give up, unless you love the new version more, and how often does that happen? And Marvel is probably just as guilty of this, but I don't read enough and haven't read enough Marvel titles to know for sure.

My solution to what bothers me about DC, and to some extent, Marvel, is to read more Image titles, with a smattering from other companies as they interest me, along with Vertigo and Dynamite imprints. Maybe a diversified market is good. Maybe more competition is good. Maybe it's time DC and Marvel shared the audience and the wealth. I can get behind that.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Week in Comics

This week has been the usual mixed bag of comics reading.

I did finally read the 2 volume Alias trades I'd picked up a long while back, now that I've seen the Jessica Jones Netflix series. I'm glad they've reissued it, so if you haven't read the series, you should. Be aware it's a Marvel Max series, so lots of cursing and sex. I was surprised by how different the original is compared to the show, especially how much the Marvel superhero community is part of the comic. I loved it, and just got a copy of the follow-up, Jessica Jones: Pulse, which is part of the Marvel 'verse proper. So, less sex and cursing with asterisks inserted.

Now, on to the monthlies!

Gotham Academy 14
Yearbook is a strange issue, with short stories of no consequence, all by different creative teams and tied together with a framing story of Olive giving Maps a blank scrapbook so she can put together her own yearbook after she's rejected for the official yearbook club. Of note is the short story written and illustrated by the always delightful Katie Cook.

Red Hood Arsenal 8
I honestly have no idea why I'm still reading this. I would say, for Roy Harper, but really, this book is no longer serving him well. Our intrepid duo, plus Joker's Daughter (a character I've long disliked) end up in the under underground of Gotham where lots of weirdos live. I'm really getting tired of Jason's narration always including references to his past. Time for some forward thinking, Jason!

Descender 9
The Tim bots get in some bonding time, and Andy gains a clue as to the whereabouts of his childhood chum, Tim-21. I love this book, and am constantly amazed at how much more I enjoy Lemire's writing on his original material, than on an established property such as....

Hawkeye 3
Billed as chapter 3 of 3, it's merely the end of part one of an ongoing story I long ago lost interest in. Instead of concluding the arc, this issue just meanders around in two time periods to get to the point where current Clint tells current Kate, after he visits brother Barney on Barney's new island he bought with Clint's money, that they need to go rescue the weird kids after all. And we still don't know why those kids matter and how being prisoners of SHIELD all the years into the future affected... well, anything. Meaning, I still have no idea what this story is about. And the flashforward art is just plain ugly. I'm dropping this.

Starfire 8
A bit of fluff as Kory and Dick Grayson have a friendly reunion. Not much happens, but what does, looks nice as usual.

Codename Baboushka 4
Ah, Baboushka wasn't fooled by Stirling, though she figured it out too late to avoid being captured. But! She escapes and the chase in on! Stirling is still trying to find the mystery intell that was to be auctioned off in the clandestine meeting on the ship and it's up to Babouska to find it first. A fun romp under a lovely cover.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

New Header

Folks who actually visit this blog, rather than read via a newsreader, might have noticed a revised header. The old one featured comics no longer around. I'm not completely happy with the covers I used, but I had only limited issues for some titles to work with. As I find better covers, I'll probably rework it again. But it's nice giving this old blog a tiny bit of a facelift.

One Two Three

Three reviews to start the new year.

DC Comics Bombshells 8
I love the covers. I wish the interior art was as nice. Not that I don't like the interior art, but it's a mixed bag with a number of different artists working on different scenes. Some I like, some I don't like nearly as much. Best part of the issue is the backstory for Kortini, nee Courtney, which includes how her and Kara's parents met.

Barb Wire 7
Barb concludes her story of how she originally tracked down Avram Roman and how he got away. By the end of the issue, we learn things might not be as they appear. Breezy entertainment, with the usual comic book violence.

Bitch Planet 6
It's back! With a one-off backstory for one of the inmates, Meiko Maki, who was killed in the previous issue during the big Megaton match at the prison. This was particularly sad because her father was, in his way, a feminist who appreciated his daughter's skills and talents. This is brilliant satire from Kelly Sue DeConnick.