This Week’s Comics

A good number of indie books and an X-Title back on the ol’ pull list.  Who’da thunk it?!?!?!  Here’s this week’s noteworthy titles.

  • DAREDEVIL #5 – Back issues of Mark Waid’s Daredevil title has been REALLY hard to find, presumably because of how damn good everyone is saying it is.
  • FF #11
  • GLADSTONES SCHOOL FOR WORLD CONQUERORS #6 – One of the few titles I’m allowing myself to pick up new, and I can’t find issue #5 ANYWWHERE!  Damn!
  • GODZILLA KINGDOM OF MONSTERS #8 – While I’m still digging this book, I wish there were more clear-cut story arcs.  As it is, each issue just adds on to the events without any clear goal in mind.  Maybe IDW just wants to tell The Walking Dead with kaiju?
  • RED WING #4 (OF 4)
  • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ONGOING #3 – A surprisingly good reboot of the Turtles’ continuity, I’m enjoying this one a lot.  Worth picking up for some old-school comic storytelling.
  • VENOM #8
  • WOLVERINE AND X-MEN #1 – Jason Aaron gets his own X-Title coming out of Schism, and even though I more or less figured I’d never be able to wrap my head around X-continuity again, I’m going to give it a shot.

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

“All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

A true Game Tape may or may not happen for the next two weeks. It’s a lengthy explanation, and I’m sure you don’t really care. Suffice it to say, my local comic shop is either moving or shutting down. Verdict will be rendered in two weeks. No books came yesterday, and today we found out why. Damn it. I really like this store.

Instead tonight, a few thoughts on Geoff Johns and “Blackest Night.”

I’ve got some real issues with the issue that came out last week. This whole deus ex machina of deputizing people for 24 hours is pretty weak. It also forces the rest of the story to be nicely resolved in a day’s time. Tommyrot. Luthor and Scarecrow are really going to work for the betterment of the universe as team players? That a black ring can be over ridden and destroyed by one that appeals to the wearer’s truest or best self? Whatever.

The thing is, I’ve grown to like Johns. When he’s on, he’s on. The guy can find interesting and new facets of a character. He can even tell a good story. When he’s on. The problem comes when he’s stretched too thin and writing too many books. Everything becomes watered down and weak. That whole return of Barry Allen mini that Jesse was on about at Thanksgiving is exactly one of these times when he’s too busy to write a good story. Bow ties and Prof. Zoom pushing kids down stairs is what we were stuck with.

You want to have creative control and say over the whole of a comic book universe? Fine, be an editor. Work with people who can consistently tell stories to shape a universe. Collaborate with other creators. Don’t stretch yourself so thin “creating” stories over five or ten books. Individual titles, readers and characters suffer when you try to do it any other way. How do I know this?

Because, as a fair yarn spinner once wrote of the New Gods, “Our story has always been a generational one.” Prophetically, he could as easily have been speaking of writers on one of his better known titles. This yarn spinner is none other than Mark Waid. They guy didn’t invent Wally West as the Flash, but he might as well have.  Waid wrote Flash off and on for about a decade. He’d write some really good arcs, trickle down to some adequate ones, to some meh stories. Then he’d leave for a while. This became a cycle, and you could start to predict when he was going to leave for a break. It always came about three months after you started seeing his name in more than two titles. He becomes EIC at Gorilla Comics in the early part of the last decade, and it’s not long before Flash gets a new creative team. Comes back, later starts writing for Marvel too: time to move away from Flash again. And so the off and on romance goes.

Johns, take a page from Waid. Know your limits. You’ve exceeded them. Write a few titles well or move to an editorial position if you want to steer the ship. Stop producing these merely adequate and lesser stories.

Deconstructing a comic book collector

Jesse and I are putting together a questionnaire about people’s personal collections for distribution later in the month (hopefully). Thinking up questions has gotten me thinking about my own mound of long boxes. The question I spend the most time reflecting on is: what books/ artists/ writers informed my taste in comics?

These are the three biggest influences for me.

1. Marvel Milestone Edition: Giant-sized X-Men #1 I wonder if it isn’t weird that the book that seriously got me into comics is a mass market reprint. Right around the time I turned twelve I got a copy of this reprint from Walden Books. Changed my life. I had previously only dabbled a little in Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman, but seeing the fast pace and the variety of characters spoke to me. I loved Cyclops as a near stoic leader, and I loved seeing Professor X putting the team together. I had never seen or read anything like it, and I wanted more. The X-Men were my gateway drug into comics.

I still have a deep love of the mutant world, but I don’t follow the convoluted stories and plot threads in most of the current titles. Looking at my collection now, I see that it influenced me in a deeper way: a majority of my collection is team books. In most cases, I would rather read about a team than seeing an individual going it alone issue after issue.

2. In the same way that you can break down the group sports fans into more specific groupings, you can break down comic book collectors.  Generally, most collectors can be compared to baseball fans. Rabid, detail/ minutia minded, fact filled, and dedicated. There are a couple of groups that stand out as especially rabid and stereotypical: Legion of Superhero fans and golden age fans. Golden Age are essentially Yankee fans. There’s a love of history, tradition, an age gone by, and legacy. Legion fans are Cubs fans. It’s harsh, but true. Every time there’s a new Legion series it’ll start off with a bang, but it’ll peter out before or during the playoffs. Just like the Cubs each season. So Legion fans stand out because they stick around to the bitter end and complain, but they come back series after series knowing it’ll only end in heartbreak. This is a roundabout way to say that I’m a golden age fan. What turned me on actually wasn’t exactly a comic book; it was a book about comic books.

The summer between junior and senior year in high school, I had to spend my days with my father at work. He worked in the library of the local university. Here I found an encyclopedia of golden age characters. It was surprisingly comprehensive in both detail about character and variety of entries. I learned of Captain Triumph, Air-Wave I, Blue Beetle I, Hyrdroman, Hourman, Starman, Vision I, Angel I, etc… I practically memorized the book. Coincidentally, it was around this time that Sandman Mystery Theatre published it’s Hourman story arc. I scooped it up and that’s all she wrote. I was the comic book equivalent of a Yankee’s fan for good.

3. Kingdom Come is, for me, the best most enjoyable alternate reality story/ dystopian comic book story. I read this book at least once a year and I’m still finding new things in both the art and writing. Yes, Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are revolutionary and brilliant, but they’re brilliant in the same depressing way that Brecht and Wagner and Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are brilliant. Kingdom Come stands out because it speaks to the optimist in me. The book ends with hope. As grumpy as I can be, it comes from a place of disappointment more than depression, spite, or plain contrarian views. A frustration that things aren’t as good as they could or should be.

Hope is what comics are about for me.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not Pollyanna-esque or any other uninformed optimism. Hope is people using their abilities (magical or unrealistic as they may seem) to make their world a better place in some way. Certainly you stray from that goal from time to time, and you can lose your way pretty easily. Kingdom Come shows that if you can just relocate that path you’ll come out better and stronger. It’s a helluva story with art that will knock you on your ass. At the end of the day, it’s THE comic book in my collection.

These three books are what have shaped me as a collector. Each is emblematic of a theme or trend you would notice if you looked at my collection as a single body of work. What books, titles, artists, or writers have shaped, guided, or informed your collections?