This Week’s Comics

Wow…I’m not actually picking anything up this week.  That’s okay, there are still some things worth talking about.

  • DC COMICS PRESENTS GREEN LANTERN #1 and JACK CROSS #1 – I’m really curious to see how these DC Presents books turn out, as they’ll be reprinting decent-sized chunks of comics for $8.
  • GHOST RIDER BY JASON AARON OMNIBUS HC – I’ve mentioned a few times how much I’ve loved Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider run, and now you can get the whole thing here in one big chunk.  It’s pricey, and you can probably find the individual issues for less, but you can only bludgeon small varmints with this volume.
  • IMAGE FIRSTS HAUNT – I was fairly impressed with this book until I got further in and became convinced it’s just more of the same McFarlanage.  Still, if you’re curious or like your comics Spawny, this is a good way to give it a try.
  • UNCANNY X-FORCE #1 – A new X-Force team vs Apocalypse?  I like the idea, just not the price tag.


I was fairly unimpressed with Skullkickers #1 from a couple weeks ago. Having a book with two unnamed protagonists is unnecessarily complicated, and I didn’t find the story or art to be especially easy
to follow.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the last issue of Atlas.  I’m no good at saying goodbye.  Somehow, Deadpool Team-Up slipped under my radar two weeks ago.  Written by Jeff Parker and co-starring Gorilla Man, I really like the idea of this book teaming Wade up with all sorts of characters AND having them written by the people who know them best.  Good call Marvel.  I’m looking into diving into this one.

That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

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The New Writeness

Matt wrote a great piece on Superman last Tuesday, and how nobody gets what makes him great any more. I agree with almost all of it, but I do think there are a few writers out there who could get him right. Despite a lot of wailing and whining about dull books that shouldn’t be (I’m looking at you, Judd Winick), there are some really talented writers creating some of the most original books on the stands right now…And they’re doing it with superheroes and for the Big 2.  If Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and James Robinson represent the last generation of great comic writers, here’s the new generation of folks taking comics in their best direction.

  • Jeff ParkerAnyone who’s spent even a few minutes here knows that some days are just odes to Jeff Parker, but there’s a good reason for that.  More than anyone else, Parker is making comics FUN again.  Sure, there’s a time and place for angst and darkness, but comics don’t have to be JUST that.
Places to Start: Agents of Atlas, hands-down the best comic book on the stands right now.
  • Jonathan Hickman From critically-plauded Secret Warriors to the incredible new S.H.I.E.L.D. series, Hickman knows how to take a Big Idea and infuse it with personality.  Even his Dark Reign FF mini-series had heart and personality in what would have otherwise been a typical romp into the Negative Zone.  He gets the most credit here for making Franklin and Valeria actually interesting.

Places to Start: Fantastic Four, where Hickman turned the traditionally-boring First Family of Marvel back into the madcap adventurers they are.

  • Jason Aaron I was surprised as anyone else to find out exactly how good Ghost Rider could be when I read his run on the title last year. Aaron focuses on the darker side of the Marvel U and applies a grindhouse sensibility that works remarkably well.  His book for Vertigo, Scalped, is supposed to be incredible, and is at the top of my list to check out next.

Places to Start: Ghost Rider or Wolverine: Weapon X.  His second arc, with Wolverine in an asylum, was one of the scariest things I’ve ever read.

  • Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak Both of these gentlemen write fantastic books on their own, but their coming together on Incredible Hercules created a two-headed, four-armed monster that writes some of the best (and funniest) action scenes in comics.
Places to Start: The Incredible Hercules, featuring the strongest man alive and his sidekick Amadeus Cho, the 7-th smartest person in the world.
What makes these guys stand out so much?  It definitely starts with the Big Idea.  Whether it’s assembling a new pantheon to the kill Skrull gods or revealing there’s a Ghost Rider out there on a shark, there’s always a new idea that’s FUN, rather than “Batman fights everyone in the Rogue’s Gallery because I want to use them and then he meets up with Superman but they’re friends now”.

It used to be that on a good day, out of smart, funny, and action-packed you might get two out three, but not any more.  And comics is all the better for it.  I just wish I could figure out why these guys are almost exclusively working for Marvel right now and not, say, writing Superman.

Am I missing anyone?  Am I an idiot for not mentioning Rick Remender?  Or Andy Diggle?  Chastise my lack of vision in the comments section…

This Week’s No Comics

Last week I was tempted by new releases like no week in recent memory. Specifically, both GL #50 and JLA #41 piqued my interest and passed the flip test.  Green Lantern, was especially hard to pass up because of curiosity and because a guy in my LCS that afternoon was trying to convince me how good it was.  Still, Matt’s word counts more than strangers at the comic shop, so I stuck to his guns and passed on them.

And this week?  There’s nothing coming out for me.  Again.  Milestone Forever looks intriguing, but I never read the original comics in the early 90’s (I really should try to find some sets on ebay).  Siege #2 is out, but in addition to the $4 price tag, I apparently completely missed #1.  Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire wraps up this week, which is fairly exciting news.  I’m hoping to be able to pick up the complete set and read the finale of Jason Aaron’s run very soon.

Since there’s so very little else to talk about, I’ll mention that I tore through the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch miniseries yesterday, and while it didn’t capture some of the subtleties make Jason Aaron’s run on GR so excellent, it definitely took its style and tone from Aaron’s run.  This means that if you’re like me and looking for some solid Ghost Rider to tide you over until Heaven’s on Fire wraps up, this is the book for you.

Danny Ketch fills in the blanks between the end of Ketch’s 90’s series and his reappearance in the most recent series, and it reads very much like how I imagine a Warren Ellis Ghost Rider comic would read.  Two years previously Danny Ketch had the Rider exorcised from him by an Ellisian “technomagical uber-punk voodoo woman”.  Ketch is now essentially a junkie looking for a Ghost Rider “fix” now, trying to get the high back.  He’s told (and we learn) that the Ghost Riders are too powerful and become unstable, and Ketch is given the charge to work for Heaven and reabsorb the Riders of the world.

The junkie aspect is played a little heavy (from the title page, it appears that the original name of the story was “Ghost Rider: Addict,”) but it makes sense and is a nice take on the concept.  Danny is essentially the Alan Scott of Ghost Riders: tied to the larger brotherhood but essentially a freak accident.  It’s also nice to see Shoba Mirza (she’s the Hindu Ghost Rider with the flaming elephant) again, though she’s the only other Rider we get to see.

The next time I read something with Ghost Rider, I want to see the Shark Rider involved.  Still, this is a fun, quick story that answers some big questions from the main story.

That’s it for me for this week.  What are YOU getting?

This Week’s Comics — And a Cry for Pity — And a Correction

  • BATMAN THE UNSEEN #3 (OF 5) – Good news, Larry Hama!  Kelley Jones and Doug Moench are still out there proving that no matter how awful a team’s Batman run was, someone out there still thinks it was great and is willing to pay for more.  You should have your mini by 2013.
  • BATMAN WIDENING GYRE #3 (OF 6) – Does anyone out there know if this is any good?  I do like Smith’s writing and the scripts are all in so it should come out on time, but his last mini (Cacophony?) was pretty much universally panned so I passed it up.
  • HAUNT #2 – I actually dug the first issue and am interested in seeing where this goes, at least for the first story arc.  A note, though, Todd: you only get to redraw Spider-Man so many times.
  • GHOST RIDERS HEAVENS ON FIRE #4 (OF 6) – I can’t wait for this to wrap up so I can sit down and read the ending of the most Awesome Ghost Rider run ever (okay, that may be setting the bar a little low).  But Marvel?  $30 for the Danny Ketch TPB?  WTF???
  • X-MEN VS AGENTS OF ATLAS #2 (OF 2) – I did wind up getting issue #1, and it was EXCELLENT (not that I’ve read any bad issue of AoA yet). And Carlo Pagulayan’s art is extraordinary.  I hope this drums up more interest in the Agents’ regular series.


I owe DC an apology for my comments on last week’s issue of Batman. Judd Winick’s run on Batman is apparently over and he’s been replaced by Tony Daniel.  I really enjoyed his art with Grant Morrison, but I
wonder if part of the reason I found Batman RIP so hard to read was because the art wasn’t telling the story correctly.  I guess we’ll find out!

I had hoped to put up resplendent pictures of me in my M.O.D.O.K. costume from Halloween, but the geniuses at A.I.M. weren’t working with me and the costume never finished coming together.  Maybe next
year.  All I know is that it would have probably just been easier to grow my head until my body could no longer support it, then invent a hoverchair.

So, that’s it for me.  What are YOU getting this week?

Badassery

Sometimes you find Awesomeness in the places you least expect.  If there’s anything else I turn to comics for, it’s finding bits of pure  bliss that you can’t get anywhere else.  It doesn’t always come in the same form; they’re all Awesome, but Michael Kupperman is different from Silver Age Batman is different from Ghost Rider.

Yeah, I said it: Ghost Rider.  Johnny Blaze, Danny Ketch, all that. You’d think a guy who made a deal with the Devil (excuse me, MEPHISTO) and rides a motorcycle around with a flaming skull would be Awesome by default, but it’s more hit or miss than you might think. Having just finished reading all the way through the latest volume, it’s definite proof that Ol’ Flamehead can go both ways.

Let me get the bad out of the way first: the initial 19 issues are terrible.  There’s solid art by Mark Texiera, who I (and apparently MANY others) consider to be THE Ghost Rider artist, but the story is straight out of “13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo,” wherein our hero must recapture escaped souls and send them back to Hell, a story so generic and dull that the writer skipped through about 90% of them and jumped straight to the big (anti-) climax.

Once issue 20 rolls up, though, that ALLLL changes (minor Awesome SPOILERS are ahead, but probably none for real plot).  When Jason Aaron takes over, the entire tone (right down to the lettercol) gets darker, more epic and  much funnier.  This is the Ghost Rider book I expected Garth Ennis to write!

We start off with psycho cycle nurses, throw in some cannibal disfigurements, a prison story, and The Orb, then wind up with a war in Heaven, kung-fu nuns, U.S. 1 villains and the Ghost Riders of the future.  Oh, and did I mention there’s also a couple guys with flaming skulls riding motorcycles around???

On paper, none of it should work.  Establishing a lineage of Ghost Riders out of nowhere screams out as hackery to me (as  seen in the movie).  Wars in Heaven have been done to death.  The “everything you know is wrong!” conceit is usually when you know that the idea well has run dry.  And yet here it all makes sense and — most  importantly — is fun.

I’ve read a few Johnny Blaze stories, but Ghost Rider in the 70’s never really seemed to know if he was a monster or a superhero (The Champions?  Really?).  I got most of my exposure to GR through the first couple years of the 90’s Danny Ketch series, though I completely missed out on the Noble Kale/Vengeance/family relation business. Aaron weaves all of this together so well…I’ll just say it: He’s the Geoff Johns of Ghost Rider.  Without necessarily being beholden to previous continuity, he definitely knows it and incorporates more than he has to in order to keep the diehard fans happy without (and this is the most important part) losing the casual readers like me.

You know those captions where Stan Lee used to tell you the image was so awesome that it would speak for itself and he wasn't going to say anything?  That's what I'm doing here.If there’s anything that showcases how good this run is, it’s issue #31, part of Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance.  After explaining how it’s ridiculous that God would only send His spirits to America and OF COURSE other countries would have Ghost Riders, we get one of the top 10 splash pages of all time: Spirits of Vengenance Through the Ages.

Russian Ghost Rider on a bear?  Check.  Shiva GR on a flaming elephant?  Absolutely.  Dog Sled Ghost rider?  Naturally!  Ghost Rider on a shark?  Fuck Yeah! I don’t care how his flame works underwater, I just need to read more about the adventures of Shark Rider (and thankfully the responses on the letter page show I’m not alone).

Volume 7 of Ghost Rider never really concluded, it’s wrapping up in the pages of Ghost Rider: Heaven’s On Fire and then that’s it for Jason Aaron on Ghost Rider, at least for now.   But the sheer Awesomeness of his run there will keep me checking out his work on Wolverine and Punisher.  I can’t wait: assuming this was no fluke, I see him putting out some company owned books for a while to build a name for himself, and then we’re going to get a career-defining book out of him.  His Preacher*, to make another comparison to Garth Ennis.

Awesome.

* Assuming I didn’t just “predict the obvious” because it’s already out and called Scalped.