Thursday, 27 August 2009

This Week's Comics (Slight Return)

Well, I surprised myself there. Here's what I actually got:

Batman and Robin #3
Batman Widening Gyre #1
Dark Avengers #8
Detective Comics #856
New Avengers #56
Secret Warriors #7

Yes, I did pick up Batman Widening Gyre. Flicking through it at the comic shop the art looked a lot better than the previous Kevin Smith Batman miniseries, although I think it's the same penciller. Different inker maybe? Anyway, there was enough there to intrigue me – Nightwing, Joker – so I bought it. Secret Warriors, again the art looked good at first glance, although not so brilliant on further examination. I read this one on the train back... and I'm not sure I made the right decision in buying it. It was OK, but the debut issue of this series – with its revelations about S.H.I.E.L.D., revelations that, for once in comics, were a surprise to me – is still the best one. Then again, the big tussle over the last few issues between Fury and Hydra has been kinda fun... Then again again, is "kinda fun" good enough...? Then again again again... I'm losing you here aren't I? Oh comics, why do you vex me so?

I passed on these:

Flash Rebirth #4 (of 6)
Green Lantern #45
Hulk #14
Incredible Hulk #60

Rebirth I realised I'm finding it hard to care not only that Barry Allen's back, but why he's back. So that's that. Anyone wanna buy the Ethan Van Sciver variants of #1-3? Green Lantern looked full of action, but also bereft of interest. Hulk I was pleasantly surprised by Ian Churchill's artwork (I'd heard he'd left the Liefeld School of Multiple Lines, but on a quick glance this looked like he'd enrolled at the McGuinness School of Chunky Goodness), but not pleasantly surprised enough to carry on reading the series. And Incredible Hulk now features Hulk's son. Yes, Hulk has a son, which he apparently sired on that alien planet during Planet Hulk. Hulk having a son feels wrong to me somehow; I've studiously avoided the Son of Hulk series up to now and basically pretended it hasn't happened, I can't hear you, la la la la. So I can't exactly start reading Incredible Hulk now Hulk's son is in it, can I? I do have some principles.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

An interesting wrinkle

to the story about there being no new comics in Christmas week, which I blogged about here. The FPI blog points out that, in the UK, due to comics coming out on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday, there'll probably be no new comics the week after either.

Two weeks without new comics. Gulp. Could this be, like when you're ill and end up quitting smoking, an opportunity to give up comics for good?

An Excellent Point

Martin makes an excellent point in the comments in the post before the post before this one: if you buy too many comics, you'll be more jaded about comics because the more comics you buy, the more likely it is you'll buy ones you either don't like or that are essentially shit. I still feel somewhat nonplussed about superhero comics at the moment, and believe that's partly to do with the formulaic nature of the genre, but perhaps by cutting down I'll regain some of my enthusiasm. Here, then, is the list of what I'll definitely be getting this week:

Batman and Robin #3
Dark Avengers #8
Detective Comics #856
New Avengers #56

Considering it's the last week of the month, which is the busiest week for comics (lots of comics slip in the schedule, and so end up in the last week of a given month, as publishers still want to keep them in that particular month for cashflow reasons), that's an incredibly restrained list. But it may expand. Here are the comics I will consider buying:

Batman Widening Gyre #1
Flash Rebirth #4 (of 6)
Green Lantern #45
Hulk #14
Incredible Hulk #60
Secret Warriors #7

Some of these I probably will end up getting. But I'm pretty sure I'm jettisoning Hulk. I'll flick through it (and Incredible Hulk), but I almost certainly won't buy it. I actually haven't minded the Loeb/McGuinness Hulk run, but I guess the key phrase there is "haven't minded". Not exactly a ringing endorsement, and so, in the spirit of the new age of comics austerity, so long Greenskin.

Widening Gyre is the new Kevin Smith miniseries. I gave up on his last Batman miniseries, Cacophony, after one issue, so this one I'll have a look through and see what I think. As for Green Lantern, Flash Rebirth and Secret Warriors, it's touch and go with all of them. Flash I'll probably stick with – I've come this far after all. Green Lantern I think has Doug Mahnke art and is part of the Blackest Night event, so that's likely a keeper, for now anyway. Secret Warriors... it's been alright so far. But alright isn't really good enough, is it? Hmm. I think I've just talked (or typed) myself out of a potential purchase.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

There's been

a certain amount of consternation in comics circles over this news, whereby it's been revealed that there won't be a new delivery of comics from Diamond (the one and only comics distributor) in the week between Christmas and New Year because of the way the holidays fall in the US and UPS deliveries and some other boring shit. Tom Spurgeon points out that there might be lost sales and resultant cashflow issues for comic shops, and something of a glut of new comics the week after.

My immediate reaction, considering my current slight disillusion with comics, was, great! A week off from the comic shop! In fact, I'm thinking of campaigning for more 'skip weeks'. The way comics publishers' schedules work, there's always at least one week a month where there are less comics coming out, and those that are coming out are either utterly run of the mill or out-and-out pigeon shit. So let's skip those weeks too! Not just in terms of customers not visiting comic shops, but Diamond not shipping any comics, and indeed publishers (and let's face it, we're talking Marvel and DC here) not publishing any comics! Just think: the mean average of comics' artistic worth – the good to shit ratio – would improve dramatically. We'd have fewer rubbish comics. Result!

Well it's a nice idea.

Those Christmas in-between weeks are always a bit odd. You don't tend to get any 'big' comics coming out that week. I seem to recall DC throwing the odd short 'event' into that week; some sci-fi take on their characters around the millennium? Does that ring any bells for anyone? (Is there anybody out there...?) And comic shops tend to be pretty quiet; a lot of customers will obviously be away. It's a strange, half-dead week of mundane comics. And now it's completely dead. So it goes.

This week's comics

Here's wot I got:

Daredevil #500 (Geof Darrow Variant Cover)
Dark Reign Hood #4 (of 5)
Ex Machina #44
Stand American Nightmares #5
Unthinkable #4
X-Men Legacy #227

An admirably short list, I'm sure you'll agree. It's a brave new world of restraint. The age of comics austerity, if you will. Of those, Daredevil #500 is Ed Brubaker's final issue, and thus my final issue too. None of incoming writer Andy Diggle's stuff's ever much grabbed me, and I need to cut back, so so long Matt Murdock. I'll also be bidding farewell to The Stand. Despite my problems with its past tense captions, I've liked the last few issues, but we're now moving past my favourite part of the King book, and it's still a top-of-the-pile comic, so sayonara Stu, Frannie et al.

Astonishingly, my local comic shop had the latest issue of Unthinkable (a great idea for a comic, but shoddily executed and, in my experience anyway, badly distributed), just a single solitary issue, so I had to grab it, if only to ruin some other customer's day. Bastard.

I passed on the following:

Big Questions #12
Blackest Night Superman #1
Invincible #65
Superman Annual #14

Big Questions I may pick up at some point down the line. I like Anders Nilsen a lot, but periodically is probably not the best way to appreciate this story, and I missed the first five or so issues anyway. A collection I would definitely acquire. Blackest Night Superman... I'm not digging the whole Blackest Night event as much as I hoped, so these spin-off miniseries are becoming less attractive. Superman Annual I flicked through, but it ended with a superhero crying a single tear. Fuck that shit. I've seen enough sobbing superheroes from DC to last me a fucking lifetime. Enough with the fucking blubbing. Man up, bitches. As for Invincible, I started picking it up again with the done-in-one crossover issue #60, stuck with it a few more to see what developed, was rewarded with some impressive gore, but it looks like business as usual now. End of.

And yes, I did get a variant of Daredevil #500. But it was only a quid more. And it's Geof Darrow. It's allowed. Look:


Wednesday, 19 August 2009

One thing I am going to do,

or at least try to do, is buy fewer comics. This is another 'phase' that comics fans go through periodically, traditionally referred to as "cutting back". It's usually sparked by disenchantment, or lack of funds, or both, as in my case. Comics right now are pretty bloody expensive. With the way the exchange rate is, and with more and more comics being priced at $3.99, you're talking an average of nearly three quid a comic. Doesn't sound a lot in isolation, but if you're buying five, maybe ten comics a week... it adds up. And that's without the occasional graphic novel thrown in.

So yes. Fewer comics. But speaking of graphic novels, I finally caved and bought a copy of Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter adaptation (a.k.a. Point Blank). I've been wanting to read the original anyway, and Cooke is a great artist/writer, and I was up in London, and Gosh had some signed bookplate editions left, and I got a discount, and... and I guess I'm just going to have to deal with the past tense captions thing (see previous posts). It may well make more sense, be less jarring in The Hunter than in The Stand. I can see how that might be the case. I'll find out.

Nice looking book though.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


following this blog regularly – if there is anyone following this blog, regularly or otherwise – might notice it hasn't been updated in a while. Couple of reasons for this:

1) I've been on holiday. Oh, lovely, thanks for asking.

2) I've gone off comics.

Now, point one I'd imagine will be taken as read. Everyone needs a holiday now and again. Point two, however, is slightly trickier. Kind of negates the whole raison d'etre of the blog, n'est-ce pas? Well, yes and no. Note the "mostly" in the sub-header, but also understand that all comics "enthusiasts" go through periods where comics just aren't doing it for them, for whatever reason. At the moment, for example, I'm bang into novels, first editions and the like. And comics usually suffer when compared to a really good novel (the likes of Asterios Polyp aside). I'll still buy comics, probably on a weekly basis, but I won't enjoy them as much as I have previously.

But don't worry. I'm sure it'll pass. It usually does.

Unless, of course, it doesn't.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Reviews: New Avengers #55, Fantastic Four #569

There's a brilliant synthesis that happens sometimes in superhero comics, where you get the right writer and the right artist working together and it just clicks. The comic feels seamless, natural – dialogue and artwork are a whole, as if they've been made by one creator rather than two (or three or four or five – if the lettering and colouring are working too, all the better). This brilliant synthesis actually happens less often than you'd hope; there are plenty of comics where there's a good writer and a good artist working together, but for some reason – something to do with complementary creativity – they're not the right writer or the right artist.

There's a neat illustration of this in two comics that came out this week. Both New Avengers #55 and Fantastic Four #569 feature Stuart Immonen artwork. Immonen's a talented artist with a flowing line and natural storytelling abilities. And yet the two comics couldn't feel more different. Fantastic Four was scripted by the British TV writer Joe Ahearne from a plot by Mark Millar, and despite lots of gorgeous panels of stuff exploding and heroes clashing, it doesn't gel. There's a disconnect between the spectacle and the script and an awkwardness to the story progression, all of which only distances the reader. It's pretty, but uninvolving.

New Avengers, on the other hand, despite consisiting of long stretches where it's essentially large groups of costumed characters talking to each other, is almost magical. Writer Brian Michael Bendis' character work is beautifully augmented by Immonen's storytelling. For instance, Spider-Man's full face mask generally makes it really hard to have him express any kind of emotion, but in a sequence where the Avengers are discussing killing Norman Osborn, Bendis' dialogue and Immonen's staging lend Spidey a surprising level of emotional intensity. One panel in particular – Spider-Man saying he'll quit the team with a dismissive hand gesture – is simple and yet incredibly effective.

New Avengers #55 may not be an important or historically noteworthy comic like, say, Watchmen or Batman: Year One, but the creative partnership here is as strong as that of Moore and Gibbons, or Miller and Mazzucchelli. It's the right writer, the right artist. It's an alchemy that's unique to the comics medium, but yet also quite rare within that medium, and so something to be celebrated.

Mind you, the cover's a bit crap.