A new post about comics.
Well folks, I haven't written about comics in a while, but that doesn't mean I'm not reading them. I just haven't had a big idea for a blog entry about them lately. I don't now either, but I feel like writing about them, so this will just be a quick and dirty rundown of some comics I've read lately, with no overarching theme to tie them together. Let's get it started.
Moon Knight #13
This double-sized issue helps to make up for the fact that there were a bunch of shipping delays during the 6-issue story arc that just ended. Those delays, as well as Charlie Huston's roundabout, non-linear storytelling methods, helped to make that arc seem a bit disjointed when read month by month. I'm sure the people who wait for the trade collection will get a nice, unified read out of it, but I found my attention span tested a bit over the course of the run, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Perhaps this is why, according to the back page of this issue, Charlie Huston is out of there as of the next issue. I guess I can understand it, but I'm still disappointed. A year and a half ago when I read the first issue of the new Moon Knight run, I'd never heard of Charlie Huston, but between the outstanding first half-dozen-issue arc of this run and my discovery of his awesome hardboiled-vampire novels starring Joe Pitt (if you haven't read "Already Dead", run do not walk to the nearest horror/mystery themed bookstore and pick that motherfucker up. Now. I don't care if it takes your last $12. You'll thank me later), I've come to love his writing a lot. This issue was a great refresher as to why I feel that way, especially in light of the ambivalent feelings I had about the just-ended arc. It's a dark and spooky story about Moon Knight finally dragging his ass into S.H.I.E.L.D. and getting registered--despite the fact that everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks he's a nutjob and doesn't want him registered at all. If you're not keeping up with the action in the wider Marvel superhero universe, you'll be somewhat at sea where the wider framework in which this story exists is concerned, and I really don't feel like taking the space to explain it. Google "Marvel civil war" or something. But trust me, if Moon Knight has to exist within that wider framework at all (and I suppose he does, just like Ghost Rider does, though I really prefer to think of both titles as standalone horror comics rather than Marvel universe superhero titles), this is the best way for it to happen. It just makes me that much more bummed that Huston is leaving the title. But I've still got an entire series of crime novels by the guy to check out, as well as a recent standalone hardcover horror novel about a crew of teenage boys that looks really good. Plus, to soften the blow, Marvel's bringing in Javier Saltares and Mark Texiera, the amazing artistic team who've been making me so happy on the recent relaunch of Ghost Rider. If this means they are leaving Ghost Rider, I'm bummed, but it's offset by how happy I am to see them drawing Moon Knight. Hopefully the new writer (Mike Benson, about whom I know nothing) can live up to Huston's prior work and to the gifted artistic team he's getting.
All-Star Batman and Robin #7
Well, I guess the absurd shipping schedule this comic is on (one issue in all 2006. One.) has been alleviated somewhat--this is the second issue this year. It's sad that that actually seems impressive at this point, but I hear Jim Lee is really busy. Whatever. If this comic were half as good as it should be, I'd be tearing my hair out, but as it is, it started off a bit dodgy and keeps getting worse. In this issue, Batman and someone I'm pretty sure is an alternate version of Black Canary (she's been in the book for three issues, you'd think I'd know by now...) have sex. With their costumes still on. What is THAT shit. Dumb is what it is. I keep waiting for Frank Miller to turn this early-years Batman character back into the awesome guy he was in Miller's "Year One" four-issue mini, but let's face it--that was 20 years ago, and somewhere in the interim, Frank Miller overdosed on testosterone and lost his mind. Sin City was pretty decent, but since then I haven't seen a worthwhile comic from the guy. It pains me to say this, and before I read this issue I wouldn't have admitted it, but nonetheless it's the truth. I may very well cancel this title next time I'm at the comic store. Good grief, I can't believe I'm saying that about a Frank Miller-penned Batman title, but there you are. And by the way, no, the sex scene wasn't the only thing that happened in this issue. But it's the only thing that stuck with me enough that I remember it now, four hours after I read the damn thing. Sigh.
Detective Comics #837
Another Paul Dini-penned one-and-done Batman tale. I've enjoyed Dini's work on recent issues of Detective, for the most part--his old-school Batman adventures have made a nice counterpoint to Grant Morrison's innovative work on recent issues of the eponymous title. This issue, though, is a tie-in to Dini's weekly book, Countdown. While I will read most of Marvel's universe-wide big-event crossover miniseries, I generally avoid them when DC does them, because let's face it: they usually suck. Perhaps I'm biased by the fact that I either have no opinion of or actively hate 90% of DC's heroes, but I don't think that's it. If you ask me, the idea of how to construct a superhero universe that fuels DC's superhero line is just not that good or interesting. Batman is grittily realistic enough to be exempt from this as long as he's left alone in much the same way I like to see Ghost Rider and Moon Knight left alone. Unfortunately, he's one of DC's big marquee guys, so they don't leave him alone too often. This issue of Detective is an example of that. I started out reading DC's weekly book, 52, last year because I was interested in some of the characters it focused on (Elongated Man, The Question, Gotham Central's Renee Montoya) and I liked two of the book's writers: Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison. I'm not as big a fan of Mark Waid's, and I think Geoff Johns pretty much sucks, but those two were enough to get me reading. I enjoyed it at first, but it piled up new issues in my comic box so fast that I got hopelessly behind by the time the series was 3/4 of the way through, and didn't catch up until it had transformed itself into the Paul Dini-penned weekly, Countdown. Which is apparently working its way towards Final Crisis, which looks to me like it will suck just as bad as Infinite Crisis did, if it's not even worse. I read the last 10 issues of 52 and the first 14 of Countdown all in one big shot, and the dropoff in quality that occurred with the transition to Countdown was enough to cause me to cancel the title. I'm just not interested. And the reason I just went through that whole explanation was to make clear why I was sorta bummed when I picked up this issue of Detective and saw that it was a Countdown tie-in. I try to believe that Dini is still just as good at the one-shot Batman adventures as he was before I read Countdown, but I can't help but be a little bit prejudiced by the fact that I didn't like his writing on that title as much, and I certainly didn't want this issue of Detective to read like an issue of Countdown. Well, you'll be glad to hear that it didn't, for the most part. There were a few loose threads left by the end of the issue, which denoted ominous goings-on in future issues of Countdown, but I just ignored them because I don't really give a flying fuck. I was left with a satisfying tale that barely featured Batman at all, in which former super-villains The Riddler and Harley Quin (whom I've always had a soft spot for) were the heroes. I actually really enjoyed the storyline, and it's nice to see Harley finally getting her head straight. I know, she's just a comic character, why do I care? Hey, if I didn't, I wouldn't read the damn things.
Apocalypse Nerd #6
I stuck with this one to the end because I love Peter Bagge's old series, Hate, and was overjoyed to see him doing a new series (even if the issues did sometimes come out as far as 6 months apart). However, I never liked it as much as I liked Hate. The storyline (Pacific Northwest is nuked, certain city-fied types miss getting killed by the nuke because they're out in the woods at the time, said city-fied types must now find ways to survive) is less believable than the real-world tales of Hate, the characters are far less sympathetic--even the hero of the story, such that he is, makes me want to reach into the comic and smack him about 50% of the time--and the humor is a lot more mean-spirited than it was in Hate. Or at least, so it seems to me. Maybe if I reread my old issues of Hate now, I'd change my mind, but the fact is that I enjoyed them a lot more when I was reading them. Another thing I didn't like about Apocalypse Nerd--it seemed like death and murder were treated way too lightly and happened way too often. I think Bagge has always had a much more misanthropic outlook than I do, but his vision of the way the world would go if society's laws and constraints were removed just strained at my sense of disbelief. Worst of all, this issue, the final one in the miniseries, ends really anticlimactically. I thought I was going to get some sense of everything being wrapped up, but it didn't happen. Also, I've enjoyed the "Founding Fathers Funnies" backup feature in this title, probably more than I enjoyed the main storyline, but this issue's was far less funny than any previous ones. Even the one-page back cover strip was kind of lacking compared to the ones that preceded it. On the whole, rather a letdown. Still worth checking out for the dyed-in-the-wool Bagge fans, but those of you who haven't checked him out before would do well to start out elsewhere--both Hate and Neat Stuff make way better entry points.
American Virgin #20
This comic has ridden the fence with me from the very first issue. It always features portions of the storyline that are cringeworthy and others that are awesome, sometimes on the same page. However, the most recent story arc really pulled me in, and I was very satisfied with its conclusion, and interested to see where writer Steven Seagle would take things from here. Based on what I'm seeing in this issue, though, I'm starting to think that the conclusion of the last arc was a bit of a bait-and-switch. He's now moving things in a direction that would basically nullify its conclusion, depending on the way things go. And if that happens, I will find it hard to maintain my sympathy for his main character, the always a bit hard to believe pro-virginity evangelist, Adam Chamberlain. This issue's ending leaves the choice in Adam's hands, whether he wants to stand up for himself or let others around him talk him into the nullification choice (I'm trying really hard to keep this write-up spoiler-free for those who haven't caught up with the series--sorry if it leaves me speaking super-vaguely), but it looks like things are going in the direction I don't want. I'm not too into that. But I'll give Seagle one thing--the events of this issue got me really fired up, which means he's totally sucked me into caring about his characters and where their story is going. Even if he makes choices I don't like with the next issue, I'm with this title for the long haul.
Gotham Underground #1
Hoo boy. Not sure what led me to add this to my pull list in advance--perhaps I thought it would be a sort of sequel to Brubaker and Rucka's late, lamented Gotham Central, starring the cops of Gotham City's homicide department with only occasional appearances by Batman. But it's not--it's closer in feel to recent issues of Detective Comics, with their out of continuity standalone Batman adventure stories that nonetheless make me feel like I need to be way more acquainted with Batman's rogue's gallery than I generally am. At least when Paul Dini writes them, they're pretty well constructed, whereas some of the non-Dini writing on Detective in recent years has left me really cold. As does this issue. Bruce Wayne spends most of the issue dressed as a small-time thug named Matches Malone rather than as Batman--what's that about? Is that something that's been done before? In the 60s? Well, who knows at this point (answer: bigger comic nerds than me), but I didn't really enjoy it. Or anything else about this issue, to be honest. There are a couple of big marquee characters that I really enjoy reading about, for each company--Spider-Man is the big one for Marvel--and I often feel like each company churns out an excess of titles for each character, just to get superfans to spend more money. There are some titles that feel essential, and some that don't. Right now, where Batman is concerned, only his eponymous title feels like it's essential. I still read Detective because it's a lot of fun sometimes, but it's less than essential. Gotham Underground is worse than that, though, it's extremely inessential, and I probably won't pick up any future issues.
Suburban Glamour #1
This is Jamie McKelvie's new title. McKelvie did the art for Phonogram, a Kieron Gillen-penned miniseries that I loved. It reminded me of the best Hellblazer issues I've read, but also had a big musical link--the main character was obsessed with Britpop. I had a blast reading it, digging on the references to bands I loved, and even checking out some new bands whose names got dropped in the story but whose music I hadn't heard (I was less than impressed by Sleeper, but Kenickie are actually pretty damn good). McKelvie's art was enough to get me to take a chance on his writing as well, and Suburban Glamour ends up feeling a lot like a high-school version of the twentysomething Phonogram. Main character Astrid has evidently picked up the interest of some demons, or something like that, but most of the comic just focuses on her and her best friend Dave trying to get through high school being the sort of alterna-teens that might grow up to be punks, or indie kids, but right now are still listening to some kind of cliched mainstream-alternative rock. That's not to say that My Chemical Romance aren't fucking great (an offhand reference in this issue gives the idea that they are Astrid's favorite band), but you can just tell that these kids will get way further away from the mainstream once they get a little older. I guess what I'm saying with all this is that I'm reminded of myself and my friends in high school (though these kids are more social and well-adjusted than I ever was), which only makes me like this comic more. And don't get me wrong, I'm interested in the main storyline of the comic, the demons and etc, but most of this issue was just Astrid and Dave hanging out in school and at parties, trying to figure out their place in the world and have some fun along the way. And I liked that. I hope it stays that way through the rest of the series (though I can imagine it might not, as there are already only three issues left). I would definitely recommend this comic to fans of the urban fantasy writer Charles De Lint, whom I love, and whose work this definitely reminded me of.
Doktor Sleepless #3
Warren fucking Ellis continues to be a stupendous badass, not only with his two flagship creator-owned series but also in Thunderbolts and a couple of other places. But it's Doktor Sleepless that is my favorite of his writing right now. Issue #1 led a lot of people to say that this series would be Transmetropolitan part 2, but I didn't see it at the time and I definitely don't see it now. In addition to the darker, creepier sensibility of this comic, I also see a lot of concepts being explored that were either in the background or left out entirely in Transmetropolitan. That comic was basically Warren Ellis pulling a Hunter S. Thompson on the entire world he saw around him, though it was thinly disguised through a veneer of dystopian near-future sci-fi. We've again got the near future dystopian sci-fi veneer, and Doktor Sleepless the character seems pretty angry and monomaniacal, but the resemblance to Transmetropolitan ends there, and anyone who was in doubt of this fact after the first two issues should understand exactly why that's the case after reading issue #3. I don't want to get into it too much for fear of spoiling, but it seems that Doktor Sleepless's viewpoint is not going to be what drives this comic. It may have seemed that way in the first two issues, but the camera is pulling back a bit farther at this point, and it's starting to seem like Doktor Sleepless's viewpoint is but one piece in the narrative tapestry that this comic is constructing. We also are getting the views of his former lover, Sing Watson, and with this issue, the views of John Reinhardt, who supposedly IS Doktor Sleepless, but is apparently at least one other person besides, and maybe more. Then there's the viewpoint of Nurse Igor, Sleepless's assistant, who looks to have her own dark secrets and past traumas to work through. And who is this Albert Cannon guy? Maybe our big villain? Maybe something else? Whatever the answers, I'm on the metaphorical edge of my seat waiting for them. I see big things coming from this title, and I'm very excited for them.
Next time (tomorrow perhaps?), the new EP by Coalesce, and a very old EP by Sunny Day Real Estate. Stay tuned.