Thursday, 1 November 2012

COMIX ZONE: 1/11/12

I started reading comics monthly earlier this year after recieving a bunch for free from a silly internet person and then trading those to the awesome guys at Travelling Man in Manchester for some newer series simply because I hadn't the patience to try and sell them on Ebay. Prior to that I'd not bought a single issue comic in maybe ten years. When people talk about making a leap, that's what that was like for me. For many years I was intimidated by following monthly series because of the amount of catching up I imagined I had to do. Cue DC and the New 52, their line-wide relaunch from last September that set everything back to #1 and made it a lot less of a hassle jumping on board a 70+ year-old series like Batman. Soon enough I had found a suitable point for some other Marvel series and before I knew it I was a regular comics buyer, juggling brand new ongoing stories with my usual consumption of collections of older stuff. Seems to me that, as I'm reading these things every week, I may as well write about them. You may find some inspiration in these words to pick something up yourself, as I have once or twice. I've started to branch out a little and jump onto some titles I've not been buying before just to get a feel for them, with varying degrees of success to date. Also, the Ebay store I buy these from (the fantastic A Place In Space - go there) usually gets these to me on the weekend (comics are released worldwide on Wednesdays, by the way) so my thoughts will usually be on the previous week's haul, on account of my stubborn-ass "can't afford it, can't read it" policy. No day-of-release downloads for me: less paper is 'twixt fingers, it shall not be read. That was an awful long introduction. Anyways, here's what dropped through the letterbox (read: had to be collected from the the Post Office 'cause my postman is, right, you know what he is? He's a doofus) this week, in alphabetical order for the sake of fairness.

Amazing Spider-Man #696

Context me: OK, I hover around the Spider-Man boards over at Comic Book Resources like a creepy bushes weirdo guy and a few years ago I started to notice an awful lot of chatter about a fellow by the name of Dan Slott being the best thing to happen to Spider-Man comics in years and that, following the disastrous history re-write of One More Day that you may or may not have heard of (or felt genuinely, and I mean not exaggerated for a single second-ly, sick while reading), the book was worth reading again. I picked up a few of his first issues, was hooked immediately by not only his lightweight handling of the older lore but his additions to the series and determination to get Peter out of the reset-mode that Editorial had forced upon him a year or two prior. Funny as hell and always paired with great one-of-a-kind artists, it's arguably my favourite series and further arguably the best run of Spider-Man since the 1980s or so.

Any good? Yes. Even on an off issue this series moves with such grace that it manages to satisfy. At the minute we're deep in the middle of a storyline wherein a classic supervillain (what's the point in being coy, you can see it's Hobgoblin on the cover image...) has returned to knock off the impostor who's been causing trouble for a whole buncha people in his name. The cheap thrill of just seeing him back would be enough to excite, but considering how lousy his would-be replacement has been the whole ordeal is elevated way beyond 'enough to excite'. It's nerd fan service of the highest order, coupled with great storytelling and art. Slott is careful not to make ASM a total nostalgia fest, using these characters more like a painter would use a box of old paints and brushes while working on a really weak metaphor. Things seem geared towards a big (a BIG) event for the 700th issue this December, but I've abstained from news sites and forums for the past while because, as I've learned, comics readers are much like soap fanatics in that they love to have stuff spoiled for them fucking months in advance.

Should I Buy It? This body of work, Slott's run on Spider-Man, deserves to be consumed in full. If you're at all interested in the character and catching some of the most fun twice-monthly stuff he's ever been up to let me know in the comments section and I'll hit you up with a reading list. I'm a coolguy. That's one word.

Batman Incorporated #4

Context me: Grant Morrison's been writing on Batman for about six years now and his entire run has been part of one mega-epic that's introduced Batman's son and brought back her mother (daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, Talia) as a major antagonist while dealing with all kindsa awesome like Joker sporting a forked tongue and Bruce being sent back in time resulting in Dick Grayson becoming Batman for a while and through to this 'third act', if you will, which deals with Batman literally founding a worldwide organisation of Batmen to tackle crime across the globe. Morrison's forte is polarisation, it seems, and you'll either dig it or loathe it, but I'm firmly in the "it's the best shit" corner. BI#4 just follows on from the last issue with Batman and co.'s pursuit of Talia's Leviathan organisation intensifying.

Any good? Despite my apparently-hesitant-to-say-anything description, yes, it is wonderful wonderful stuff. I always seem to forget how much I love Batman Incorporated in the four weeks that separate each issue, but it is never not fascinating and frequently laugh out loud funny. Chris Burnham is a wonderful artist too and this issue, showcasing a great many of the alternate Batmen (among them Spain's El Gaucho, a motorcycle-riding bandito) in a commendably violent manner is a highlight of his run so far. Morrison's grasp both of the characters and just of character in general is fantastic and the issue is loaded with subtle moments and a neat twist on the last page that sets up issue #5 perfectly. And y'know, when I think about it, like I have just now for the first time, I actually consider this series the main Batman book, despite the fact that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are knocking it out the park on Batman every month. It's odd, this series seems a little sidelined but much more important to the developing mythology of the character. Huh! Self-revelationment is neato.

Should I Buy It? Unlike with Amazing Spider-Man where I merely recommended you catch up on Slott's stuff, Morrison's Batman pretty much needs to be read in entirety. It works a lot better. So you'd need to read from the introduction of Damian through Bruce's "death", onto the Dick/Damian Batman & Robin and into the first and now second volume of Incorporated to get a feel for the big picture. It's megasuper fun though, and I fully recommend it. Reading order available from me as always, so comment below or Twitter us. Tweet us? The second one.
Batman: The Dark Knight #13

Context me: The Dark Knight is another of the four main monthly Batman books (the last being the thus-far sub-par Detective Comics). I'm not sure what its function is to be honest but I was sold on the cover for #11 and feel duty bound to see the current arc through.

Any good? It's not bad or anything, but it's such disposable entertainment at the same time. With so much going on in Batman and Batman, Inc. this series can't help but feel trite despite the better efforts of Greg Hurwitz and David Finch. I don't think it helps that the Scarecrow story they're working with has nothing to it that won't seem overfamiliar to anyone who's seen the Scarecrow once in anything ever before. The thing is, I should embrace it for using this format. I love that there's a Batman series just for telling other stories that fall either side of the bigger-picture stuff on Batman and Batman, Inc., I just don't like the particular direction. If they were introducing new characters I might dig it more. The 90s issues I've read of equivalent series (like Shadows Of The Bat, for example) often showcased totally shit villains, but I'm wired to appreciate stuff like that.

Should I Buy It? No. I imagine I'll be dropping the book after this business is wrapped, I'm afraid. Batman Begins tells a similar story better. I mean Jesus, there has to be more to Scarecrow than 'he'll make you see things you're afraid of and generally be a bit creepy'.
DD: End Of Days #1

Context me: Well, after many years and many aborted attempts I finally read all of Brian Bendis' run on Daredevil this summer and it shot straight into my favourite tenures of, just, entertainment ever, really. Since then he's been succeeded by Ed Brubaker (in an atypically dull stretch), Andy Diggle and Mark Waid, who has skewed the character away from the darker elements that have dominated the series since Frank Miller did his thang in the 1980s. As with every backlash (such as the darker comics becoming popular in the first place) there's a rebacklash and I've noticed the Jerk Society Of The Modern World is up in arms about Bendis undoing Waid's work at making DD a happier line. Those guys can get lost. End Of Days marks his return to the title, alongside pretty much a best-of of artists including Miller's inker (and occasionally penciller in his own right) Klaus Janson, the incomparable Bill Sienkiewicz on flashbacks and colourist Matt Hollingsworth who collaborate to give the book a bizarre definitive look combining, honestly, I really mean it, the best of looks for the character. It's a limited series, the first issue of eight, and deals with a proposed future where Daredevil has done something unspeakable, disappeared, reappeared and been killed (?), as reported by Ben Urich.

Any good? The phrase 'happy as a pig in shit' ought now to be reworked to 'happy as a Paul with new Bendis Daredevil in his hands'. It is awesome from top to bottom of every page. The script, the art, the idea, Jesus, every single thing about this series has got me pumped up, UP I say, for what's to come. That's all you get.

Should I Buy It? Yeah you should. It's a celebration of the character that works best if you've familiarity with the character, so read Miller's and Bendis' stuff first maybe and this'll feel like it was written for YOU. It's that good.

Spawn #224

Context me: Um... I have no idea. Spawn is, like, a cop now? And I think he's white, too. Maybe he has a split personality, or something. He's sure as hell not Al Simmons anymore. Basically, nothing I remember from Spawn appears in this comic, which I bought exclusively because the cover directly references one of Frank Miller's old Batman comics. It is a hideous beauty of a thing.

Any good? I haven't a clue. If you read an issue of Spider-Man from 1963, 1980 and 2002, you'll recognize at least one or two major points within each issue. The latest issue of Spawn I've read is #100 and whatever's happened between now and then has rendered this issue, which is pleasantly illustrated at least, a puzzle to me, and not a cool puzzle either like that one in Resident Evil where you have to tune a music box, a crappy puzzle where none of the...fucking, things are there and it's all just aarrrggggh. So I feel it's unfair to comment other than to say it doesn't feel at all...AT the Spawn I read in the 90s.

Should I Buy It? You kiddin'? I only bought it because I thought the cover was cool.

Wolverine Max #1

Context me: OK, so Marvel's MAX line is their adults-only imprint for stories with a tolerance for swearing, buttsex, that sort of thing. It's likely best known as the place Garth Ennis was able to write the best Punisher run of all time (Punisher Max #1-#60: GO), but generally allows creators to write characters in the way they may be more likely to behave. That basically means Wolverine can say 'fuck' a lot more.

Any good? I guess. I like half of the art, but read this week that the guy who did that half of the artwork has fallen out with someone else who works on the book and that the first will be his only issue on the series. The story seems interesting enough but suffers from the modern trend of writing comics for publication as collections, meaning that there's very little in it and it may be better waiting for the 6-issue trade to hit bookshelves. At least it's set in Japan. Asia's played host to the best Wolverine stories. It seems maybe a shame to deal with an episode from Wolverine's amnesia years on account of it's not the late 80s anymore, but if the story's worth that device being abused I'll roll with it. One thing I would say is that, an issue in, it doesn't seem like a justified use of the MAX imprint, which it may only boast so Marvel fans can't bemoan another main-series Wolverine book on the stand as they are wont to do.

Should I Buy It? Leave it a while. Maybe after the first arc I'll be able to muster a recommendation.

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