November 17th, 2005

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10:30 am - On modern comics...

Action Comics #1
Art by Joe Shuster.
So before I get into this, you ever notice that on the cover of Action Comics #1, the people are actually running from Superman? I mean, Superman is basically trashing some poor guys car. For no good reason. There's no sueprvillain. He's not catching it. Superman just decided to pick up some dude's ride and ram it into the pavement. Note the look of terror on the guy's face in the foreground. So that's the answer, you see. Infinite Crisis isn't blazing any new ground. Golden Age Superman was always evil, dammit!

So anyway, I was reading the news this morning and I came across an article about historic comics. I think they made some really good points. Reading through it brought to mind my Canonical List of Comics from three years ago. So I went back and reread the list. Three years later, and I'm still pretty happy with the choices, and even my omissions. Its funny, but three years later, and I find it even easier justify the omission of Sandman. I almost wish I had left out Preacher and gone with Animal Man. But at the time I was really trying to find as many good non-superhero books as possible. Anyway, anyone who wasn't around at the time, or anyone who was and feels like revisiting it, I'd love to hear what you think about it now.

Anyway, to do something a little different, I wanted to make a new list approaching it a little different. So I'm going to try and come up with 10 comics I think you should be reading now. This is going to be a little different than the old list. As opposed to canonical significance, I'm aiming for more of "what Mav thinks are fun reads." Things that are being published today, so unfortunately, I for once can't recommend Watchmen. That said, you should really go read it anyway. So in no particular order:

  • Runaways
  • Birds of Prey
  • Thunderbolts
  • Ultimate Spider-Man
  • The Ultimates
  • Infinite Crisis
  • New X-men: Academy X

Wow... I can't even get to ten. That really was my intent. I wanted more DC comics. In fact I really wanted to recommend Teen Titans, but in the last 3 issues, we've had two stories with art by Rob Liefeld, that pretty much rendered them unreadable, and the last one was an Infinite Crisis tie-in that not only was hard to read, but it had Jason Todd in it, who's return I totally oppose. I also wanted to put in a good non-standard superhero kinda book. But I can't think of any that have been really good must reads lately. The closest is Runaways, which isn't really a superhero book, even though its a Marvel book.

So anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, give me recommendations for the final 3.

Current Mood: [mood icon] contemplative
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On modern comics... - graffiti.maverick

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[User Picture]From: dryponder Date: November 17th, 2005 - 04:07 pm (Link)
Let's see, my top Books Worth Reading Right Now, in no particular order (just numbered to see if I made it to ten):

1 - B.P.R.D.
2 - Invincible
3 - The Ultimates
4 - New Avengers
5 - Green Lantern
6 - Daredevil
7 - Astonishing X-Men
9 - Planetary
10 - Nightwing

Recent goodies: House of M (Not the tie-ins, though), The Authority: Revolution, the first four issues of JSA: Classified, the Red Hood story, though those last two are all mixed up in the Infinite Crisis buildup, which is kinda complicated if you've been reading for less than a million years (though I have, and am enjoying that book as well).

I like the Pusle, which finally has Gaydos back on art. I like Gotham Central, but it's ending. I read Teen Titans, but the Liefeld thing was horrendous and I skipped those issues. I'm gonna try and get into DMZ, which I have, but haven't read yet. I'm reading the current Captain America series, but I'm not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I'm behind on The Middleman (and I'm the colorist, d'oh!).
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 04:18 pm (Link)
See, I don't like the Red Hood. But that's for philosophical purist reasons. I want Jason Todd to be dead. Same as Bucky being back in Cap. I am against it conceptually. Jason Todd means so much more to the Batman mythos as a costume hanging in a glass case than me does as a super-villain.

I've been reading the Pulse as well. And I am enjoying it, but not nearly as much as I liked the original Alias series. I feel bad about recommending it though. It just doesn't feel like its as accessible to a casual fan. It's kinda a thing where you have to sort of "get it" to like it. I almost want to remove Infinite Crisis for the same reason, same with House of M (which I left out because technically its over).

Just out of curiousity, how did you find me? You don't seem to have any obvious friend connections or anything. Anyway, if you stick around, welcome. I always like to hear points of view on stuff from people I don't actually know.
[User Picture]From: dryponder Date: November 17th, 2005 - 04:42 pm (Link)
I agree with your points, definitely. I'm against both the sidekick revivals in principle, and I avoided both books until recently. For some reason, my curiosity got the better of me and I read the entire Red Hood storyline, just to see what it was about. I mean, obviously, it feels like the writer (I think it's Judd?) saw the tease of the idea in Hush, and decided to work it out into his own little 'event.' Fine. But in reading what's been going on in the DCU lately, there's two points that make the Red Hood thing kinda interesting to me:

1. I like the divergent methods from his training by Batman. I like that Jason Todd (if this is him) has taken it upon himself to outdo Batman, in terms of cleaning up Gotham, and that he does it with flair.

2. He might not be our Jason Todd. With the whole Infinite Crisis stuff, the newest issue of Teen Titans implied that he might be, like Power Girl, Kal-L, and the alt. Luthor, a carry-over from Earth 2. Obviously, if that is the case, his revenge on the Joker is motivated by more complex feelings than PURE revenge.

3. (BONUS POINT!) I just like the whole 'taking on the former identity of the Joker' thing. It's a nice little story point, IMO.

Oh, and I just happened across your journal via -where I happened to see the Action Comics number one pic. I just wondered who was talking about AC1 and found the post. :)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 05:21 pm (Link)
Yeah, I'm wondering if they're going to use IC to justify the return as well. I still don't like it. Mostly because I don't think Jason Todd is really all that innately an interesting character. He's an interesting plot device. From a story telling point of view, death is a very strong statement. An important death can do a lot to mold a character. The death of the Waynes makes Bruce into Batman, the death of of Jason makes him into a paranoid asshole. With Jason not dead, Batman lacks a failing that serves to make him human, and understandable.

Similarly, I am always opposed to mucking with the Gwen Stacey character. Gwen was never very interesting when she was alive. Far less so than Mary Jane has become. Gwen's purpose to the Spider-man mythos is to represent Peter's fallability. While Uncle Ben dies because Peter does not act, Gwen shows Peter than even when he acts, even when he accepts responsibility, there's only so much he can do. Sometimes he just loses. When Marvel added the little affair with Norman Osborn that left Gwen pregnant a few months ago, I hated it. It showed a weakness of hers that didn't make sense. Suddenly she was no longer an innocent victem. She was now a tramp, who even though she wouldn't have sex with Peter, was so horny that she couldn't resist a man that she'd never had anything but contempt for. It was weak. The entire thing could have been fixed and the same story (which wasn't all that great anyway) could have been told simply by taking the extra leap and saying that Norman raped Gwen. Marvel was unwilling to make the character, even a vile one like the Goblin, into a rapist, so they took a cop out. I think making Norman a rapist would have added complexity to both his character and added an extra human dimension for me to care about with Gwen. Instead, it just made me like her less.

Of course, I wanted Norman to stay dead too. But only because I really like the line "And so do proud men die, crucified not upon a cross of gold, but a stake of humble tin."

Not all comic deaths are good. I'm fine with them bringing Hawkeye back for instance, since his death was useless and stupid in the first place. And when they decided that Aunt May was no longer dead, that didn't bother me either. Her death served no story building purpose for Spidey the way the others did. But I don't like when a character is killed or revived simply for the shock value of "oh look what we did."
[User Picture]From: dryponder Date: November 17th, 2005 - 05:34 pm (Link)
Haha, well again, I really do agree with your points. For some reason, the Jason Todd thing has me reading it, though. I feel kinda manipulated into caring, but there it is.

And yeah, the whole Gwen Stacy character-destorying is something I'm ignoring, you know, like how I ignore that Superman turned into an energy being for a while. Or that Lex Luthor is really a cloned body inhabited by the previous Luthor's brain...wait, is that still canonical? Good god. Anyway, and yeah, bringing back Norman shows that the writers can't think of new things to do.

And bringing back Hawkeye and Aunt may was good, and the only way to fix the mistakes of killing them. Bring 'em back. Act like it never happened.


Speaking of dumb moves, what about this whole 'No More Mutants' thing!? Joe Quesada basically said, 'We liked it when they were a small minority, so we're doing something totally ridiculous, like having Scarlet Witch make hardly anybody a mutant anymore.' For one thing, that's not 'No More Mutants' at all! That's 'Considerably Fewer Mutants' so that's what Wanda should've said. Dur. And the expansion of the mutants into a visible part of the Marvel U population was WAY more analogous to minority issues. Grant Morrison was totally dead on with that.

But whatever. They can't even get their books drawn by decent artists 90% of the time, so what do they know. And why do I care? (Because I have a degree in comics and I want the industry to suck less? MAYBE!)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 06:49 pm (Link)
I am torn on the whole DeciMation thing. In part, I think its a cop out. I understand Quesada felt like the whole "oh, he's a mutant" thing led to some lazy storytelling, but I don't think blanketly retconning it away is a good fix. As poorly defined as Scarlet Witch's powers have become over the last several years, I am still fairly well certain that when she said "NO MORE" it should have meant "no more" not "mostly no more."

What I think they should have done, is what Morrison was well on his way to doing. What Whedon has done a decent job of doing. And what I think was an excellent understory in New Mutants/New X-men:Academy X. Explore the place of the mutant in the Marvel Universe. In the 80s, mutants were the racially oppressed underclass(African Americans). It was a civil rights issue. In the 90s, they had the legacy virus and they represented Marvel's way of telling AIDS stories. Today mutants should have been an emerging nation(Israel/Palestine), or perhaps a growing minority that must finally be addressed (Hispanic Americans). There was so much that could have been done with the concept of Magneto running Genosha. There is so much that could have been done with Mutopia or NYX (both of which underdelivered, but the concept was sound). I'd love to see stories where the world naturally reacts to the organic evolution of the stories. I loved when Luthor became president in the DCU and every book had to react to that in a consistent and intelligent way. I loved that no one simply overreacted. It all made sense. Granted, now that he's out, half the DCU seems to have totally forgotten that Lex was ever anything but a supervillain, but it was a good idea while it lasted.

That said, I'm actually quite enjoying what's happened with DeciMation so far (these last 2 weeks). I am interested in where they go with "the 198." There's obviously a lot of potential for lazy storytelling here, where they simply ignore continuity, but there's also a lot of potential for interesting things. Seeing Lorna and Bobby deal with the loss of their powers in yesterday's Uncanny was the first time I've cared about those characters in years. And I thought the reaction of the school in New X-men was great. But this exploration can only go so long, and then they're going to have to go back to telling new stories, and I'd like to go back to the issues I was referring to a bit ago.

I like to think that DeciMation will be undone sooner or later. I know they said this is forever, but they said the same about Hero's Reborn. I think this is an interesting story to tell, but at the end of the day, it's going to just kinda dry up. I'm hoping its less than a year. Six months maybe. But I fear that it may go on until they can't figure out what to do and they need another big event. It will take way too long and it will just start to be annoying. Case in point, Wolverine's skeleton removal.

What I think will cinch it. As you joked about earlier, the MU needs Magneto. He is currently depowered. He can't stay that way. So something will have to reset him.

So what do you think about Infinite Crisis so far then?
[User Picture]From: dryponder Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:48 pm (Link)
Eh, I dunno about Infinite Crisis, really. I mean, I'm kinda enjoying it, but it's so complicated, and issue one starts off in the middle, or final act even, of the story. I was more into it before classic Supes started acting all Parallaxy. I mean, even a nice recap of the last year of craziness would've been nice. I had to finally break down and read a lot of DCU comics from the past 12 months to understand what was going on. Let alone the fact that the average reader could never understand what's really going on without extracurricular research, even with the issue 2 recap.

I mean, think about someone reading that book after it's been collected. It's not a complete, readable story. That said, having caught up on all the necessary information, it's a satisfying thing to see it all come together...I think.

The biggest concern I have is: Well what the heck are we even doing this for? Is DC wanting to rewrite their own history again? Really? Because last time, it lasted a while and then we started making excuses so they could get pretty much all the silver age stuff back in place. Krypto, Supergirl, Kandor, various colors of Kryptonite...and that's just in Superman.

Anyway. I'm reserving judgement, and enjoying the Power Girl arc, though Amanda Conner's art on JSA: Classified was WAY better than the art for this series. Man, that lady can draw.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:44 am (Link)
that's kind of my point with it. Its like killing a character or bringing one back just because you need something to do. From what I hear, much like House of M, DC wants to rewrite some of their characters. They think Batman has become too dark, etc. I personally just really wish they'd learn to deal with what has happened over time and build on it instead of rewriting it. That's the whole fun (and challenge) of a shared universe.
[User Picture]From: jeremiahblatz Date: November 17th, 2005 - 04:49 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 04:59 pm (Link)
ah yes... I've seen that before. Had forgotten about it though.
[User Picture]From: nlanza Date: November 17th, 2005 - 07:23 pm (Link)
I'm currently reading and loving:

* B.P.R.D.
* Y: The Last Man
* Fables
* Ex Machina
* Desolation Jones
* The Winter Men

I'm also pretty happy with Fell, though it's too new to tell how it'll hold up.

Authority: Revolution was pretty good, though it just finished and probably doesn't count.

If I had to pad current-books-I'm-enjoying to 10, I'd throw in Hellblazer, though it's kind of going through a slow patch now. Also 100 Bullets.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:03 pm (Link)
Oh, Was Authority:Revolution good? Maybe I should check it out. Back when I did that initial canonical list of comics thing, I was way high on the Authority. Then after it got cancelled and brought back as the toned down "post Sept 11 safe version" I pretty much hated it. I kind of enjoyed the first Kev story, but then even those started getting tired. So I gave up on it. I had heard they were going to try to get back to some of the stuff that made it great, but I hadn't checked it out yet. If its that good, maybe I should.
[User Picture]From: nlanza Date: November 17th, 2005 - 09:07 pm (Link)
I liked it, yeah. It's closer in quality to the original Authority than to the crappy toned-down one.
[User Picture]From: akiraking Date: November 17th, 2005 - 07:49 pm (Link)
I read a lot of comics, and my favourite books right now are:

Y The Last Man
All the Seven Soldiers of Victory books
The Walking Dead {!}
The Ultimates
Green Lanter Corps
New Avengers
All Star Superman [actually all the Superman books are good]

my guilty pleasure book is Blood of the Demon, which is hokey but works.

I tend to focus more on creators than characters, so anything by Grant Morrison or Robert Kirland I enjoy quite a bit...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:06 pm (Link)
New Avengers and GLC are both good books that I am enjoying, I just felt bad about recommending either just yet. New Avengers has been a little hit and miss. I pretty much thought the whole Sentry thing was stupid, for instance. Some times I really love Bendis's writing, other times I completely understand where every critic he has is coming from. GLC, I just haven't decided if its actually good or not yet. I like it, but it may be just that I like having the Corps back. We'll give it a couple more issues and see if it can keep my attention.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:31 am (Link)

The Last Man

I saw this and was attracted to the cover art, but (as mentioned in another comment) felt I couldn't get any sort of summary of "what it's about" to know if I'd like it or not.

What's it about?

[User Picture]From: nlanza Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:04 pm (Link)

Re: The Last Man

It's about a plague that kills every man on earth except one. Yorick, the last man, is trying to find his girlfriend. The various governments of the world that know about him are trying to figure out why he survived and whether that means any other men survived.

The character work is pretty good, and the story does a nice job of balancing the "oh my god, half the planet died" tragedy with some humor.

Also, there's a pet monkey.
From: ludimagist Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:03 pm (Link)
I agree with the people who said Y: The Last Man, and would also add Lucifer to the mix.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:07 pm (Link)
I never really got into Y. Maybe I should give it an honest shot since so many of you are pimping it.
From: ludimagist Date: November 18th, 2005 - 07:19 am (Link)
Seriously look into Lucifer too.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 01:00 pm (Link)
Yeah, maybe I'll check it out next week.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:27 am (Link)
Different, non-superhero, artsy and slow moving, but I like it.
Don't know if it fits your list, because I think it's one that some people will really like, but it's not for everybody, so I guess maybe not a "must read". But I thought I'd mention it anyway.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:15 am (Link)
I actually didn't realize they still made it. But yeah, I was trying to find things that were recommendable. That's why I had to let some of my favorites going. Anyway, what do you like about Kabuki?
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:29 am (Link)
The current series, started last summer (2004)? I think. 5 issues have come out, so, it's really slow. But it's called Alchemy.

What do I like about it? Well, I guess I like it's inwardness. It rather philosophical for a comic, and tends to be, well, deep, I guess. Someone that didn't like it might say it's trying to hard, or being falsely deep, but I tend to enjoy what it says. Also, I really like David Mack's art. (I think I add the disclaimer because I've found that other things that I like when they're philosophical, or trying to be deep, such as certain Animes, others reject for the same reason that I like it, but add a "It's trying to hard." sentiment. So, I figure that this might happen with this comic as well.)

Thing is, people tend to have a wide variety of what they'd like in commics, just like most other media, so I think it'd be hard to give some that'd be good to recommend to everyone. You'd have to know a person's taste to recommend anything, just like with film, or books.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 12:55 pm (Link)
Thing is, people tend to have a wide variety of what they'd like in commics, just like most other media, so I think it'd be hard to give some that'd be good to recommend to everyone. You'd have to know a person's taste to recommend anything, just like with film, or books.

Yes, that's absolutely true. My original attempt was to make general recommendations, sort of the way that I did with the canon list I did a few years ago (linked in the post). But I guess its not as easy to do with current books. But it should be. I mean, I can recommend current movies, right?
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:41 am (Link)

What I wish comics had

small tangent

I was in the comic store the other day, browsing around amongst comics I don't already read (i.e. most of them). I'd like to try some new ones out, ones comming out issue by issue right now rather than old storylines (TPBs) that I can get recommendations for.
Anyway, what I really wish comics had was a short description of what the comic is about on the back, just like a novel. So I can take a look and think whether or not it might be something I'd be interested in reading. It just seems to make sense to me. How else does one decide to start buying issues of something? Just by friend recomendations? Or reading Wizard magazine?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:32 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

These days TPBs aren't always old stuff. Most series from the big two (marvel and dc) publish trade paperbacks of a completed story arc just after the arc ends (roughly every six months). So you can keep up pretty easily that way. In fact, that's pretty much how jameel buys all of his comics these days. Anyway, those have write ups on the back. Some comics, notably Marvel, but also some indy comics have "previously in Amazing Spiderman" or whatever on the inside front cover. That can give you a little detail. Remember, an average comic is only 22 pages, so they really don't want to give away too much.

Beyond that, yeah, you can get a lot of info for the more popular stuff in Wizard. For the less popular stuff, you can either hear about it from word of mouth/internet or you can read Previews which is a monthly catalog of EVERY comic that is going to come out next month. And I mean EVERY comic. So it really will take you some time to go through all of it if you wanted to, but its a good way to learn about stuff.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:40 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

"Remember, an average comic is only 22 pages, so they really don't want to give away too much."

I don't really mean issue by issue (thought the "Previously on" is very useful for just getting into one, once I've decided to read it). I mean more the entire comic. So, if someone has never heard of Spiderman, they can read a blurb "This comic is about a teen who got bitten by a radioactive spider and now had spider-related powers, and has decided to dedicate his life to fighting crime. His motto is: With great power comes great responsibility."

We'd think everyone who has heard of Spiderman would know these things, but it'd be really useful for more obscure comics, that people might have never heard of. Also, I really want it to be on the comic itself, rather than have too look stuff up in a magazine or depend on friends so that browsing in the store can really be useful in helping me pick out new things to read.

[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:55 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

You know, a lot of them used to have exactly that at the top of the front page. In fact thats pretty much exactly what the Spiderman one used to say. Some still do have that, but a lot of them don't anymore, either they've replaced it with the the previously in thing or they've just dropped it altogether.

Its a shame, really.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:58 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

sad. :(

All this talk makes me want to just go to the comic store and buy a few random things that attract me by cover art, and see if I like some enough to keep buying it.

I should probably finish reading my "Essential Fantastic Four" first though.
1960s comics can be really amusing. No punctuation by the simple period anywhere! Also, I noticed a serious "50s radio show" feel. Wonder if they derived from that.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 01:00 pm (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

that's the point of the cover art really. To draw you in. There was a time when the cover had almost nothing to do with the content whatsoever. And that was the norm.

Even better than Essential Fantastic Four, you can get the first 44 years of FF on a DVD-ROM. Its awesome. I also have the Spiderman one. X-men isn't out yet.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:43 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

Also, I specified 'older' just because it's easier to get recommendations for older stuff. I can hear plenty of people talk about "you should read Watchmen" or "Hush" or something. But rarely what's comming out right now. which is, well, exactly what you're trying to do here.

Can you give a short description with your list and/or why you're recommending them? What makes these comics seem the type to recommend to everyone?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 06:17 am (Link)

Re: What I wish comics had

  • Runaways - Good character driven story. There was a nice strong mystery throught the first 3 story arcs. It did something rare. It took an ensemble cast of 6 new comic characters and made me care about them from the very first issue. And even with a bomb here or there, I have never stopped.
  • Birds of Prey - I like the relationship dynamic between the principal characters here. I'm actually also a big fan of the Robin book, but it hasn't been as good lately. Interestingly, I really like the idea of Batman but not the actual character himself. I think Batman is boring, but I like him as a backdrop for other characters and seeing how "more normal people" deal with this spectre behind them. I'm a big fan of Oracle. I was a big fan of Black Canary. Huntress has grown on me a lot. It's definitely a relationship book, and while it hasn't been as consistently good as Runaways, I've definitely liked the ride.
  • Thunderbolts - Simply put, the best "superhero" book around right now. A bunch of guys trying to do the right thing. They still have personalities and problems and such, but at essence its very pure and a good canonical example of the genre as it stands in modern times.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man - Its just fun. Its innocent teenage fun set in a believable modern universe.
  • The Ultimates - Again, an ensemble cast. I like reading about character relationships. This, like the Authority before it, comes across as a realistic tale of what would life really be like if there were superhumans walking the earth. Forget power and responsibility. This is power and corruption.
  • Infinite Crisis - Restructuring the the DC universe (yet again). Honestly, if you aren't into superhero, and in particular DC, comics already, then this is not for you.
  • New X-men: Academy X - Again, I'm all about the ensemble casts. This story is about kids going to school and dealing with their abilities and their world. There's not really villains most of the time, its just about the kids. Its actually a lot like the Harry Potter books.

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