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Friday, June 07, 2013

A Comic Journey: New Comics, New Reading, and the Happy Shaun

Nothing I'm about to say here will seem cohesive.  I've become obsessed with comics, if you didn't already know.  Gloriously and deliciously obsessed.  You all probably saw it coming, though, particularly after I wrote this post about my first trip to a comic shop in years (and this review I wrote some time back).  What follows will be a rough outline of my journey into this new obsession...thus far -- by way of what I've read.

Since my first trip to the comic store, I have read the following comics or hardcover/softcover collections (in print or digital form)(I've included quick thoughts under each item):

  • Batman (New 52) Vol. 1:  The Court of Owls (Snyder, Capullo, and Glapion)
    • I freaking loved it!  So much so that I have officially become a Batman nut, and this despite having almost always been a Marvel guy.  Snyder is an amazing writer, in my very humble and ignorant opinion.  If you are interested in superhero comics, I definitely recommend The Court of Owls.  I'm not sure you could get into it if you weren't already familiar with Batman as a character, but if you've seen the Nolan Batman movies and enjoyed them, then I think you'll love The Court of Owls.
  • Green Lantern (New 52) Vol. 1:  Sinestro (Johns and Mahnke)
    • Honestly, I was not impressed.  This collection contains the full narrative arc for the start of the new Green Lantern series, but it moves so quickly that all the character development is shoved to the side.  I love action in comics (see some of the stuff that I'll mention later), but I need something more than thin character conflict amidst lots of fighting and flashy stuff.  I don't know if this is a reflection of the entire set of Green Lantern comics (there are many), but this one didn't impress me enough to check them out.
  • The Avengers Disassembled (trade paperback)(Bendis and Finch)
    • I bought this because it forms the basis for the huge shifts in The New Avengers series.  Unfortunately, so much happens in such a short series that I couldn't get into it.  Essentially, the Scarlet Witch alters all of reality, killing off a lot of characters, turning people against one another, exposing some of her friends' worst fears, etc.  And why does she do this?  Because she's sort of gone insane.  The problem?  None of this is explored in any depth.  We start with action, we continue with action, and we end with action.  Maybe there's more to this that I'm not seeing, as sometimes happens in Marvel (other series might address what occurs here, for example), but considering how good the Avengers vs. X-Men cross-over has been thus far, I don't really see that as an excuse.  Basically, I was not impressed.
  • The New Avengers:  Breakout (Vol. 1, trade paperback) (Bendis and Finch)
    • Following the conclusion of The Avengers Disassembled, this first volume in the new-ish series actually improves upon the flaws of its predecessor.  But it still does not reach the same level as some of the things I'll list here that I actually loved.  Yes, there is a lot more character development (particularly surrounding Stark and Captain America as they deal with trying to make a new response team in a drastically different world), but I found the initial "OMG, all da mutants got out-a-da jail" plot pretty dull.  This stuff happens so often in superhero comics that I honestly can't figure out why humans and mutants alike haven't bothered trying to figure out ways to stop jailbreaks from happening.  That said, I do think this moves things in the right direction.
  • Uncanny X-Men #1 (Marvel NOW) (Bendis, Bachalo, Townsend, Mendoza, Vey, and Caramagna)
    • First, I do not recommend starting with this particular incarnation of the classic series (what is referred to as Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3).  The first issue refers to a number of huge events that occurred in the Avengers vs. X-Men cross-over, which you can find in trade paperback collections.  Basically, you need to read that cross-over before you dive in here, unless you don't care about what happened to some of the classic X-Men characters (deaths, people switched sides, etc. etc. etc.).  However, the first issue is really good.  For some reason, Bendis does an excellent job creating balance between character and the group-focus of the X-Men (something he didn't do all that well in the New Avengers stuff).
  • X-Men #1 and #2 (Stan Lee)
    • That's right, the classic X-Men!  And they are bloody terrible.  Yes, I know they are representative of the time period and that many of the things I can't stand about the classic Stan Lee comics existed for a reason, but I definitely prefer reading newer stuff.  Nostalgia is nice, but I can only take so many sexist jokes at a time...
  • Marvel Point One:  Behold the Watcher (2011) (too many names to list)
    • Everything I have to say about this can be found here.
  • All of the following are part of a narrative sequence -- hence the odd order.  I gave up trying to list all the names (sorry):
    • The Avengers:  Sanction #1 - #4, The Avengers #24.1, Avengers vs. X-Men #0-#1, Wolverine and the X-Men #9, New Avengers #24, Avengers vs. X-Men #2, Avenger #25, AvX:  Versus #1, Uncanny X-Men #11, and AvX #3.
      • Honestly, I'm still neck deep into this particular series, and I'm loving every single issue.  There's a lot of action, of course, but one of the things I really like is the attempt to get into the heads of each character as the action ramps up.  Basically, most of these issues actually explore the personal conflicts of the characters leading up to the physical conflict.  There are a few hiccups here or there, but I think the series is fantastic overall.  If you like group-based superhero stuff, I definitely recommend this one, not just because it's good, but also because it also sets up a lot of the stuff that happens in the Marvel NOW Uncanny X-Men series.

I am currently reading the following (w/ brief thoughts):

  • Batman:  No Man's Land Vol. 1 (trade paperback) (Gale and Maleev)
    • I'm loving this.  It reminds me a lot of Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises in terms of its basic plot (quarantined Gotham -- nobody is allowed in or out, etc.).  I'll definitely finish this one and get started on the second volume soon.
  • Batman:  The Black Mirror (hardcover) (Snyder and Jock)
    • I'm only an issue into this short run by Snyder (which I bought because Snyder's New 52 Batman is genius), but I already love it.  What I find interesting about all the Batman stuff is how many different artistic styles there are at any given time.  The character sort of remains the same (he's much darker today, I think), but the visual Batscape always changes.  Someone should write a paper about this...
  • The New X-Men (Grant Morrison sequence, Vol. 1) (trade paperback)
    • I picked this up on a whim.  I've heard good things about Morrison, so I decided to give his New X-Men series a shot.  So far, I haven't been disappointed.  The first volume is a little weak for me, but I know that the second volume starts with a bit of a bang (I started reading in the middle for some reason).
I think that's it...I'm not sure, though.

Basically, I'm obsessed...and having a damn good time of it!

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  1. The New 52 Green Lantern book is not a reflection of the other Green Lantern comic books, nor is it a good reflection of Geoff Johns' writing. Recently, I decided to attempt to read all of Johns' mid-2000 run on Green Lantern, starting with with Rebirth. It was a reboot of the franchise, and was absolutely amazing. Every single major character in the story had a great arc and great inner conflict. It was also all in six issues. The story takes place after the events of Zero Hour, where Hal Jordan went crazy after Coast City was destroyed and became Parralax. in an attempt to reanimate Coast City, Parralax destroyed the Green Lantern Corps and seemingly killed Sinestro. Hal eventually sacrifices himself to restore power to the Sun, and his spirit gets connected to Spectre. Rebirth is all about Jordan finding redemption for his actions, while the other Green Lanterns attempt to keep peace in the universe. It is essentially a miniseries made to bring Hal Jordan back, but it is so cleverly done and has such great and memorable characters that it didn't feel like a necessary series. The only problem is, you need to really have a grasp of Green Lantern lore in order to understand the backstory. It was fine for me because I have a DC Comics encyclopedia (and no, I'm not even a little ashamed that I have it). After reading Rebirth, I can honestly see why Green Lantern became the second most popular DC hero during Johns' run. There are so many subtleties that Johns expertly puts in his characters, like the way each Lantern uses their ring differently. It made me want to read the second volume.

    My best guess with the New 52 books is that the writers were rushed to get their stories out. If that is the case, Scott Snyder does an incredible job of working on the clock, because Court of Owls was freaking amazing.

    1. Well, maybe I'll give one of the previous Johns books a try. I didn't care for the new one, though. There were so many other good series (I felt the same about the New Avengers stuff by Bendis). When I run out of things to read, I'll go back to Lantern :P

      And Snyder is a bloody genius.