Hello hello hello!  I’m here to let you know that I’ve added a new page called “What Am I Reading Now?”  As my monthly reading list shifts and changes I’ll add and subtract titles from this page.  This will give you an idea of where I’m coming from each month and might give you ideas for books you want to try or things that you think I should try.

I figured that I would dedicate this post to this page’s inaugural run by giving a brief run down of each title and my feelings on them.  I’ve added *Do Not Miss* to the beginning of titles that I think are really worth your time and money.

 

*Do Not Miss* Adventure TimeKaBOOM! Studios

Adventure Time #25

This monthly book by KaBOOM! follows Finn, Jake, and  a whole cast of other crazy characters on their adventures through the land of Ooo.  This is absolutely one my favorite books each month (and easily my favorite “silly” book).  If you are  a fan of the show this comic won’t disappoint.  They seem to have bottled lightning and transmuted everything great about the show into a comic that is more fun than any other comic I’ve read.  I literally laugh out loud (lol for you hip internet kidz) when I read it.  Each main story run is between 3 and 6 issues long so they feel like extra long episodes of the show!  In between those runs are individual issues that feel just like an episode.  I can’t recommend this book enough!  If you’ve never seen the show check it out; if you have seen the show go buy all of these.

 

Adventure Time: The Flip SideKaBOOM! Studios

This is a monthly mini-series by KaBOOM! which is in keeping with their tradition of having a 6 issue mini series running in tandem with their main Adventure Time series.  I would say that Flip Side is the strongest of these mini-series yet.  It centers on Finn and Jake on a topsy-turvy adventure to convince a wizard to kidnap a princess!  I’ve enjoyed this book more than the other Adventure Time mini series but I think it will be the last one I get until one really jumps out at me.

 

* Do Not Miss* BatmanDC Comics

Batman #27

This monthly book by DC was a part of their “New 52” a few years ago.  Under the tutelage of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo this book has easily turned into the best monthly series of the past 2+ years.  Even if you aren’t a huge Batman fan (I wasn’t) this book is well worth your time because of Snyder’s nuanced writing and Capullo’s gritty, dynamic art.  The real strength of this book has been the way that it reflects on the 75 year history of Batman and re-imagines the mythos.  It constantly reads the way Batman should read, looks the way Batman should look, and feels the way Batman should feel while simultaneously bucking your expectations.  Pick up a copy of Batman Annual #1 (written by Synder and Tynion, art by Fabok) and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  I can’t stress enough how good this book is and how good a mood I’m in any day I get to pick it up at the shop!

 

*Do Not Miss* Black ScienceImage Comics

Black Science #4

This monthly series by Image reads like old school sci-fi pulp for a modern era.  Honestly I picked this up after reading a review of #1 on ign.com which gave it a 10/10.  How could I not check it out?  And boy-howdy, let me tell you, I was not disappointed.  The thing that stands out most to me about this title is the unbelievable pacing.  It is a modern exploration in en medias res.  We come into the story right as things go wrong.  You are bombarded with phrases and concepts (anarchist league of scientists, trans-dimensional travel, the pillar) with no context but you never feel lost.  This allows the reader to be swept up in the excitement of dimensional exploration while having the back story filled in as you go.  Each issue is about 60% current action and 40% back story which feels impeccably balanced to me.  Another thing that made this a stand out for me was that this book hit right as Matt Fraction’s run on Fantastic Four was wrapping up.  It really shone for me because it felt like an adult version of what I wished Fraction’s Fantastic Four had been (on the other hand, his FF run was great).  They share similar themes: family, exploration, the boundaries of science and ethics…but Black Science does it better.  Give it shot if you like sci-fi and weird worlds.

 

Detective ComicsDC Comics

This is another monthly book by DC that was a part of their “New 52” and serves as a different kind of Batman book from Snyder’s Batman in a few key ways.  It tends to have much shorter story arcs that feature villains (and allies) broadly.  The first year was intentionally devoid of the Joker, who then reappeared in Batman during the “Death of the Family” story arc.  This gave the team time to focus on other Batman rogues such as the Dollmaker, Penguin (later Emperor Penguin), and Scarecrow.  This book seems to me to be more about action and detective work than character development.  And it is really fun in that way.  You don’t have to think much about it but the stories tend to be enjoyable and the art is varied and strong. Definitely worth checking out if you like the Batman.

 

Fantastic FourMarvel Comics

A brand new volume of the classic Marvel title, this new Fantastic Four seems to be taking a darker turn this time around.  I won’t lie, I love the Fantastic Four.  They have always been one of my favorites.  Something about the campy pseudo-scf-fi adventure thing really speaks to me.  Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four (and then FF) is one of my favorite runs of all time of any book.  I was wary when Fraction took over and they re-branded/re-numbered under the Marvel NOW! initiative.  As discussed in my Black Science post, I was disappointed in how the title turned out.  That being said, I loved FF and wish that it was still going.  I hope that this new volume turns out well but I have my concerns.  Fantastic Four shines when the odds are stacked against them, yet they can band together as a family against those odds.  Typically dark story arcs feel out of place for me.

 

Hellboy in Hell – Dark Horse Comics

I’m not entirely sure the release schedule for this Dark Horse title.  There will be a burst of releases for 2 or 3 months then nothing for 6 months.  But Atomic Empire considers it a monthly title, so here it is.  Any and all Hellboy books have been favorites for me for a long time.  I discovered Hellboy when I was about 12 and bought every trade paperback I could get my hands on.  I started collecting the issues thereafter.  While they only come out sporadically, they never cease to be a book that pleases.  With Hellboy in Hell, Mike Mignola is back on the art which is glorious.  His use of shadow to obscure and accentuate detail is unparalleled.  The dynamics of his forms is practically animated.  Hellboy books have always tended toward the esoteric and generally read fairly sparsely.  But if you can commit to reading things that you might not understand at first, you won’t be dissapointed.  I tend to read each issue a few times and, once the series is done, read them all in series because otherwise there is a lot of subtly that will slip through the cracks while you’re waiting 1 or 6 months for a new issue.  If you like mythology and religion, Hellboy is a great comic for exposing yourself to cool beliefs and stories from around the world.

 

MiraclemanMarvel Comics

This monthly reprint of the classic Miracleman stories from The Warrior magazine (amongst reprints from other volumes) is published by Marvel who acquired the rights in 2009.  I wanted to check this out because Alan Moore wrote the Warrior issues and I love me some Alan Moore.  I was intrigued by the fact that he explores themes in Miracleman that are similar to Watchmen.  I’ve been enjoying the book but it definitely feels like it was written by a younger author, which is really interesting.  The writing is much more heavy-handed than later Moore work.  It’s good, but not by any means his best.  I’ll be curious to move forward into the issues write by Neil Gaiman.  I tend not to love Gaiman’s writing so I’ll have to see if I want to continue with it.

 

*Do Not Miss* Superior Spider-ManMarvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #28

If you couldn’t already tell by the name of the blog, I.  Love.  Spider-Man.  He’s always been my favorite.  I like the costume.  I like the corny jokes.  I like the drama.  I like pretty much all of it (barring One More Day).  This is a bi-weekly series that tells the story of Spider-Man who has been mind-swapped with Doctor Octopus!  I was interested in the idea and not as resistant to it as a lot of Spider-Fans but I have been more or less disappointed with it until recently.  It took a while for Dan Slott to fully commit to the concept and there were some awkward issues at the beginning of the series with Peter’s consciousness exerting his will over Ock.  As the series moved forward, though, it came into its own.  Spider-Ock is not Peter.  He doesn’t tell jokes.  He is brutal, tactical, and uses words like dolt.  I can’t say that I “like” this Spider-Man, but he is fun to read in a cringe-worthy kind of way.  This latest story (which I believe is the last Superior arc before Amazing comes back) is called “Goblin Nation” and it has rekindled my passion for Spider-Man.  It’s back to the basics: Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin with the twist of Ock vs. Osborne.  I’m loving it.  I do wish that the whole “Superior” thing had just been a long story arc within Amazing rather than giving it its own title, but I suppose that was to give us the impression that this was going to last.  Check it out, this last story isn’t one to miss.

 

Superior Spider-Man Team-UpMarvel Comics

I picked up this monthly companion series to Marvel’s Superior Spider-Man because I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much Spider-Man.  This series has been strange.  It came out of the short lived Avenging Spider-Man which sort of reinvigorated the concept of the Spider-Man team up book.  I like team-up books.  They tend to be light and action filled and less story-heavy.  Since becoming Superior Team-Up, though, this book has actually been a pretty important companion book for the main series.  There is some overlap in the stories but mainly, due to the fact that this book has had a different writer than the main series, Spider-Ock’s personality has been different in this book.  While he was still being “good” in the main series, he was already scheming in this one.  It gave a glimpse into the sort of Spider-Man he was going to become.  I don’t think this title is much longer for this world but it has been a fun ride.

 

Superman UnchainedDC Comics

This is a more or less a monthly title by DC that I picked up simply because Scott Synder was writing and Jim Lee was on art.  I don’t typically love Superman.  I have some Superman stories that I do love but this is the first monthly Superman series I’ve ever bought.  Synder’s Superman is interesting.  He’s no dumb farm boy with black and white morals.  He kind of feels – not surprisingly – like Batman with superpowers…that operates during the day.  There has been an interesting exploration of the history and mythos of Superman (I believe this book was started to celebrate 75 years of the original superhero) which Snyder is really good at.  Lee’s Superman art is definitive for me and always has been.  In my head Superman and the X-Men are always drawn by Jim Lee, which I guess is a testament to when I was coming up.  It has been good but I don’t expect to continue with it after this first story arc wraps up later this year.

 

I hope this gives you an idea of where I’m coming from each month.  I know that several of these titles will be turning over soon for me so keep and eye on the “What Am I Reading Now?” page.  In case you’re curious today I’m getting Batman #29, Fantastic Four #2, and Superior Spider-Man #29.

SPOILER ALERT!  This post may include SPOILERS.  Consider yourself warned.

Another day another post!  This post deals with Silk Spectre #1 (of four total), another title that is part of DC’s Before Watchmen event.  Co-written by Darwyn Cooke (who you may recall wrote Minutemen #1) and Amanda Conner, with art by Conner, Silk Spectre #1 turns the clock back to 1966 where it focuses on the two Silk Spectres: the first, a middle-aged Sally Jupiter, and the second, her angst ridden teenage daughter, Laurie “Jupiter” Juspeczyk.  This issue intends to explore some of Laurie’s formative years to offer a deeper understanding of her relationship with her mother in Watchmen.  But I would say that it was easily the weakest of the three books that I read.

Something that no one wants to see: the Silk Spectre’s angsty teenage years.

The cover to Silk Spectre #1 has a lot and nothing going on all at once.  She stands largely in the center, fist clenched, looking…angsty? bored? detached?  Her fading body reveals figures from her past: her mother as the first Silk Spectre looms at the top, looking carefree and sensual.  Below her, Edward Blake, the Comedian…I think…looking lecherously ambivalent.  Then Nite Owl numero uno whose head is fading away for some unknown reason.  Her mother (again?) and her step-father, Larry Schexnayder, who looks bored, at their wedding.  Lastly, a fading version of herself as a young girl looking youthful and optimistic.  At the bottom is the snow globe from Watchmen #9.  What it is doing on the cover is beyond me.  Perhaps if it had been falling to the ground, moments away from crashing but frozen in time on the cover–an allusion to the “slow time” mentioned in issue #9–I might have understood.  But there it sits…conspicuously close to her crotch.

The art is modern–effective, but nothing to write home about.  The composition is not bad but certainly not good either.  Where this cover does shine is in the colors.  Paul Mounts (one of my favorite colorists!) provides a subtle nuance that the drawings lack.  The background has a quiet canvas texture while the costume looks fragile, as though it is made of parchment paper.  A touch that I love is that the yellow from the costume gradually changes into the skin of her young self, perhaps symbolizing the change from youthful optimism to teenage angst.  All that analysis aside, all I really pulled away from this cover at first glance–and let’s be real; first glance is all that matters for an item sold on a newspaper rack–was angst.

I will admit, this one was going to be a hard sell for me.  Silk Spectre is my least favorite character from Watchmen.  I have always found her to be needy, shallow, and less multi-dimensional than the other characters in the book.  Plus, I don’t really want to read about teenage girls who hate their mothers.  The story begins when Laurie is five, just after Schexnayder leaves and the snow globe has smashed (aside: wouldn’t it have been cool to see it careening on the cover and open the book to see it smash? C’mon editors!).  Laurie declares that she hates Schexnayder to which Sally rebuffs, “Oh sweetie, you’re too young to hate.  Wait until you’re older and the world gives you a good reason.  Trust me, it won’t let you down.”

Fast-forward to 1966, where a teenage boy, Greg, shows interest in Laurie.  Despite her daydreams about a relationship she tells him that she can’t go out with him.  We find out that she is alienated from her classmates because her mother believes that when she’s not at school she should be studying.  And when she’s not studying she should be training.  And when she’s not training she should be at school…you get the picture.

After thwarting a home invader (who turns out to be her mother in disguise.  Why? To train her, of course…yeah, I know.  That $%*# is messed up!) Laurie has it out with her mother and sneaks off to do teenage stuff with Greg.  After some late night parent bashing (and smooching) they retire to a cliché teeny-bopper diner where Laurie gets picked on by the most popular girl in school.  The girl says that everyone knows that her mother was the Silk Spectre and says some choice things about her mom, going so far as to call her a tramp.  Laurie punches the girl out and runs home, where Sally has been sitting, worrying, and drinking.  After another fight, Laurie runs away.  Feeling alienated from her peers because of her mother, she tells her “You make me ashamed.”  Finally, she meets back up with Greg.  The two of them hitch a ride with a hippie van heading to San Fransisco.

Well, that was a lot.  I will say this much for Silk Spectre #1, it may be one of the only comic books–ever–to feature multiple mother/daughter fights (both verbal and physical!).  I could see what Cooke and Conner were going for in this book.  They wanted to show why Laurie and Sally don’t get along so well in Watchmen.  But was this the best way?  Sure, her mother is manipulative and crazy in this issue, but teenage girls are not known for their objectivity.  All I am saying is that if they want to show what created such tension between the two of them they are going to have to try harder.  Hopefully not all four issues will revolve around her running away in 1966 and will instead contain a number of vignettes, throughout their lives before Watchmen (see what I did there?!), that portray several events that caused them to be distant.  A scene that I thought worked well was directly after the home invader training exercise.  They go from literally beating the crap out of one another to yelling at each other, and then, just as quickly as it began, the anger melts away and we see them acting like normal people; a little motherly concern and well intentioned daughterly indignation.  After all, in Watchmen they still interact with one another, they just don’t seem to like each other all that much.

The art throughout is serviceable.  It isn’t bad, it isn’t great.  It’s biggest flaw is that it isn’t consistent.  In some panels Conner conveys subtle emotion very well, while in others the characters look plastic.  Sometimes panels have dynamic energy, and sometimes they seem wooden.  And sometimes they are just poorly drawn (it is infrequent, but still, in a book that is part of a flagship event, I expect more).  I really liked Laurie’s little daydreams throughout the book.  Each one was done in a different style and each captured what it intended to very well.  I was also impressed with Conner’s commitment to detail.  From the castle in the snow globe to the photograph of the Minutemen to the original Silk Spectre costume, everything from Watchmen is just so.

As I suspected from the cover, Mount’s colors throughout were good.  Subtly textural and realistic.  The daydreams pop because of their cartoonish nature and bright, blocky coloring.  I was particularly a fan of the hippie van at the end.  It looked like it was straight out of Yellow Submarine!

Silk Spectre #1 was certainly not bad, but it wasn’t great either.  That is the third time I’ve typed that phrase (or a similar one) in this post and frankly that disappoints me.  In an event as ambitious and important as Before Watchmen I don’t want serviceable.  Or even good.  I want great.  And Silk Spectre #1 just didn’t deliver “great”.  The story was largely predictable, the art was consistently inconsistent, and when I finished it I was not blown away.  Even though I went into Silk Spectre #1 expecting not to be blown away, I hoped all along that I’d be proven wrong.  Here’s to hoping for issue #2.

While each book contains a two page chapter of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair I want to wait to review that story in its entirety.

Hello to all you good people out in internet land.  I’m still alive.  It just seems that I am capable of producing only one of these posts every year or so.  I really intend to remedy that soon.  A lot has changed in the last year.  The biggest change is that I am now a college graduate living in my home town of Durham, North Carolina.  I am currently looking for work within communications/marketing/PR and hope to find something soon.

While I haven’t been blogging about comic books recently, I have been doing a lot of work about comic books.  During my senior year at the University of Rochester I completed a Senior Thesis under the guidance of Professor Norah Rubel called Apocalypse Nu.  This thesis postulated that the creation of the super-hero archetype beginning in comic books in 1938–and throughout the Golden Age of Comic Books–can be seen as a modernization and continuation of the Jewish themes found in apocalyptic writings dating back to the Second Temple Period.  I hope to present some of the work right here as soon as I am done with my initial posts about the history of comic books if I ever finish them.

I also continued to work at Park Avenue Comics & Games until my move in May.  We came into some great collections while I was there including a serious selection of books featuring first appearance of Silver Age Batman villains.  We also attended the Wizard World Toronto Comic Convention in March.  While there, we picked up some great stuff for the store and our own collections (a post about my haul is in the works.  I hope to have it posted before the time I have grey hair…).  If you are ever in Rochester, New York (and you aren’t frozen stiff) I suggest you stop by the shop.  Not only does the shop have a great selection of comic books, games, collectables, and other weird/cool stuff, it is one of the only comic books shops in the whole world that doesn’t give off that unpleasant we-haven’t-seen-the-light-of-day-in-years vibe so often associated with geek stores.

I am lucky enough to still be able to get my comics from the store.  They are shipped to me every two weeks and often include little surprises slipped in (like Dynamite’s Pantha #1).  I mention this arrangement because in this week’s shipment I received the first three books of DC’s Before Watchmen event.  For those of you who don’t know (is there anyone?), Watchmen was a twelve-issue limited series published by DC from 1986-1987.  It features brilliant art by Dave Gibbons and the unparalleled genius of Alan Moore’s writing.  If you haven’t read it GO READ IT NOW!

Seriously. Like, right now!

Are you back?  Good.  It was fantastic, right?  There is a reason that Watchmen is considered to be a classic.  It is easily my favorite super-hero story of all time and arguably one of the best comics ever written.  I first read Watchmen when I was about 14 years old.  I had borrowed it from a friend who had recommended it to me.  I read through it in one sitting, gripped in a way that no comic book or book had ever done to me before.  When I finished it I closed it and sat still for a few moments letting it all sink in…at which point I turned the book over and read it again.  I won’t spend time analyzing the book here (maybe I will in a future post?  I just create work for myself…); instead I will give my first impressions of the Before Watchmen event and set the stage for my coming reviews of the individual books that comprise the event.

As the name suggests Before Watchmen takes place, well, before the events of Watchmen.  The event consists of seven titles, each with between four and six issues.  Each book focuses on one of the heroes from Watchmen, therefore the titles are Comedian, Nite OwlRorschach, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan.  There is also a book entitled Minutemen which focuses on the super-team from the 1930s and 1940s.  Each book contains a two page chapter of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, a nautical tale which parallel’s Tales of the Black Freighter from the original Watchmen.

I must admit when I first heard about this event I was not excited.  In fact, at first, I was pretty angry about it.  I felt that DC was cashing in on sacred (to a geek) material.  In my estimation, the most beautiful thing about Watchmen was that it was finite.  In a scant twelve issues Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were able to flesh out a story so intricate and captivating, full of characters so fragile and real that it consistently tops lists of greatest comic books (and book-books).  The idea that other creative teams were going to invade this universe–this sacred space–25 years later was more than I could stand.  I had felt the same way when Watchmen finally came to the big screen in 2009.  I felt (and still feel) that it had been called “the unfilmable comic book” for a reason.  And while I own a copy of the film (the deluxe director’s cut in fact) it has always seemed a crude attempt to copy greatness and therefore exists as an entirely separate entity from Watchmen the book in my mind.  Perhaps on its own I could consider it an enjoyable, even good, film, but when stacked up against the source material it–in my opinion–not only falls flat but also seems profane.

But Before Watchmen, much like the film, got under my skin and I just had to know what it was about, perhaps more so out of morbid curiosity than genuine interest.  So I added it to my pull list.  Seven titles, each with four to six issues…at $3.99 a pop.  Good show, DC!  You got me.  The first three, Minutemen, Comedian, and Silk Spectre showed up on my doorstep this week.  I read them and decided that I wanted to post about them here.  Because I have a blog and I should post on it sometimes.  I’m hoping to review each book in it’s own post in a timely (hah!) manner.  Hopefully I’ll have a new post soon.  But you know me…

I am the worst.