Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm Still Reading Comics

I've been absolutely overwhelmed with work and extra-curricular activities this month (like trying to help out my poor, video game deprived children), but I'm still keeping up with my weekly comics fix. I don't know how much longer I'll keep buying such a massive amount of comics each week, but for now, I'm still getting a ton of stuff each Wednesday. I'm now at the point where each comic I buy is not just a slice of entertainment or a piece of art, but a crucible upon which I test my willingness to keep up with this unbelievably expensive weekly hobby. So how do some of last weeks comics fare? Do they make me want to keep going? Abandon floppies in favor of trades? Give up on the whole medium entirely? Let's see.

COUNTDOWN TO MYSTERY #1 is surprisingly good. I've been on a bit of a Steve Gerber kick lately, and if I had some more free time, I might be inclined to write about two other Gerber series I recently read: Omega the Unknown and Foolkiller. Both series are fascinating portrayals of New York as a corrupt urban jungle, and both series rise above their mainstream Marvel setting to ponder serious questions about violence and justice (in their own basically goofy but oh-so-serious ways). Gerber's Doctor Fate story in Countdown to Mysery has shades of such philosophy--it feels in many ways like a Bronze Age comic--and the artwork nicely matches the tone of the story. I don't really care about the hellspawn demons which propel the cliffhanger, but I'm going to stick around to see what Gerber does with this flawed Doctor Fate in an urban landscape. The back-up Eclipso story is also better than expected, and I'm curious to see how Darkseid fits into everything. I'll keep buying this one.

ARMY @ LOVE #7 continues Rick Veitch's satirical hijinx, and the characters continue to be completely incompetent and/or completely devoid of ethics. All of which is the point, but this book does not read well in monthly installments. (Although you have to respect Veitch's ability to both write and draw this comic on a monthly basis--how many creators can do that anymore?) This will probably read better in the trade--I'm positive it will, but I buy it to keep the series alive. That's possibly a stupid reason to keep buying it, but if we all stopped buying it, we wouldn't see what Veitch has planned for this series. Then again, he might not have much of a plan. It might just be the same satirical idea (America is a sex-obsessed, selfish, idiotic country--imagine if the military acted that way too) over and over. I think there's more to it than that. Then again (and I may have referenced this before) Vladimir Nabokov, as a professor, railed against satire, saying that if it's a good book, it doesn't matter if there's satire in it, and if it's not good, then it doesn't matter if there's satire in it either. Satire itself isn't enough to make a good book bad or a bad book good. I'm horribly paraphrasing his point, but I think my point here is that Army @ Love needs more than just its satirical foundation to sustain itself, and after seven issues, I'm not convinced that it has anything more. But I trust Rick Veitch enough to keep paying a few bucks a month to let him play around in this particular sandbox.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES IN THE 31ST CENTURY #6 is by far the best issue of the short-lived series. It not only features a massive amount of Legionnaries, but it's got page after page of futuristic Green Lanterns, plus Starro the freakin Conqueror. This is honestly one of my favorite comics, and because DC releases collections of these Johnny DC titles in the smaller digest form (which makes the lettering and the artwork way too small for my tastes---that size is great for Manga, because it was created for that format, but shrinking standard American comics down to that size absolutely ruins the impact of the artwork), I will definitely keep buying it monthly. I wonder, though, if the comic will shift to mirror the "more mature" tone of the second season of the cartoon. Perhaps it will serve to fill in the gaps between Season One and Season Two, but then I'm not sure that it makes sense as a television tie-in anymore. (Viewers will pick up a comic with characters that look quite different than their cartoon counterparts this year.) We'll see.

The demise of IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN with issue #12 saddens me. I've been telling everyone how great the book is since the very beginning, but I guess I just don't have enough friends. It's Robert Kirkman's best Marvel work yet, and its demise is enough to make me doubt the current direction of mainstream comics. It was definitely different than anything else on the Marvel shelf, and that means it was a GOOD THING. Different is good, people. Don't hate.

JLA HITMAN #1 featured the best characterization of the Justice League that I've seen in years. This comic is a bit of a strange beast though. It's deeply linked to continuity, and nearly every two pages contains a footnote referring to a past issue of the Hitman series, but I don't see how it fits into JLA continuity. The Hitman actually tried out for membership during Grant Morrison's JLA series, and the characters didn't seem to know him back then, but in this comic they don't refer to the fact that he ever tried out. Normally, I wouldn't care so much about the inconsistency, but when the comic keep bringing up the past meeting between the characters, it becomes an annoying omission. I really, really liked this issue otherwise. It even makes the horrible Bloodlines event cool in retrospect (mostly by making fun of it).

UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE #1 is very good, by the way. I don't know much about My Chemical Romance, other than that song "Welcome to the Black Parade" or whatever it was called was pretty much my favorite pop song of last spring. I couldn't get enough of that sucker. I don't really seem to like the rest of the songs on that album, but many of my students do, and they mock me when I actually say the entire name of the band, instead of the hip abbreviation "MCR." Like I'm supposed to know that. I am ever so old. Yet, Gerard Way can write a playful comic, and Gabriel Ba's art is even more stunning here than in (the much greater) Casanova. This comic does feel like a mix of other influences, but since those influences are things I like, I don't mind AT ALL. Many others have pointed out the Mike Mignola, steampunk, Matt Fraction, Grant Morrison, european design, zany feel of the comic, and I know exactly what they're talking about, but to me, especially by the end of issue #1, the comic feels most like Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums, but with aliens and superheroes. And that sounds just about right to me. I'll keep buying it if this quality keeps up, and then I'll probably pick up the hardcover collection too.

I've read a lot of other comics this week, but just based on what I've written about here, you can probably tell that I'm not giving up the weekly habit anytime soon. Luckily, I am so freakin' wealthy that I can keep up this insane fixation. As long as I'm willing to sell everything else I own on Ebay.

1 comment:

Elliott said...

I really will miss Ant-Man. It's really the only Marvel book I've been buying and it's demise seriously has me thinking about quitting Marvel altogether. I've already basically turned into a trades only kinda guy and this is almost the final nail in the coffin for monthlies (I'm still buying Casanova though). It just seems to me that all of the books that I've really loved and invested my money into monthly over the past few years from Marvel have been canceled due to low sales, so I think I'm done. I have no more faith in the general comics buying public. It's much more satisfying to read things in trade for me anyway.