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What COMIC BOOKS have you been reading?
However, Wir has a nephew, a teen maybe a year or two younger, by way of Wir's older sister who got pregnant when she was a teenager. This nephew is initially friendly to Wir, but we eventually learn that the nephew is an oxy addict and everybody is afraid of him. The nephew pressured the grandmother into including him in her will, and there is a rumor that he might be interested in seeing her die soon. That's why Wir spends the night at his grandmother's house. At one point, he gets in a scuffle with the nephew, who shows up to ask granny for some money.
On the last night of his visit, Wir stakes out his grandmother's house. When the nephew shows up, Wir sneaks up behind him and chokes him to death from behind with a length of rope, garotte-style. Wir drives off with the body and buries it in a shallow grave, then puts a stick of dynamite in the mouth of the body, and lights the fuse. BOOM. End of issue. The next issue is all about a different member of the team on her own leave.
After decades of consuming violent media, I am not easily shocked, but this issue snuck up and clobbered me. Wir's actions were illegal and excessive for the situation, but also made sense in context of the character. He is constantly risking his life as a member of a black ops suicide squad, so he can't be sure that he will be able to protect his friends and family from his violent drug addict nephew. So he does the only thing that makes sense to him, leaving a stunned me unable to judge him.
I enjoyed Infinity Inc at the time, because it did a nice job of aging the classic JSA heroes and rolling out a young generation of legacy heroes, who just happened to be about the same age as me. But All-Star Squadron was less interesting to me because of the WWII setting, the corniness of some of the old heroes, and the deliberately old-fashioned artwork.
So I finally gave All-Star Squadron a try, hoping that the writing by Roy Thomas would make up for my other concerns. Sadly, it did not. I tend to fast forward through standard tropes these days, unwilling to spend my remaining years on boring repetition, and A-SS was loaded with tropes. Since it was free, I did read the whole series, and even slowed down to normal reading pace at times, especially during the relatively enjoyable storyline featuring the Monster Society of Evil.
I was also curious to see how the series played out during the final year, while Earth-2 was retroactively destroyed by Crisis on Infinite Earths. That ended up being very disappointing. Roy got ahold of some old, unused golden age artwork featuring various solo adventures of JSA members, and re-wrote them as cross-dimensional adventures during Crisis. After a few issues of that, Roy switched over to simply telling origin stories of various Earth-2 heroes, before finally ending the series months after the Crisis ended.
As a palate cleanser, I am reading issues of Starman that are not covered in my incomplete collection of Starman trade paperbacks. The writing is significantly better than in All-Star Squadron, but there are a couple of references to that A-SS run, since the original Starman was from Earth-2. There was also a very surprising reference to a Swamp Thing story from the legendary Alan Moore run.
I’ve also been working my way through the Metrobook collection of Astro City, which is my first time returning to the series since the initial run. It’s still great despite some of the stories not aging as well as the others.
I also picked up a slightly dented copy of Talbot’s Grandville L’Integrale for a third of the sticker price, it’s a hefty ‘ultimate edition’ tome that could break some bones by dropping on your foot. Maybe that’s how it got the dent. A steampunk anthropomorphic Badger solves crime in an alternate timeline where England has recently regained independence after generations of subjugation by France. The stories are a bit of a ‘Boys-Own’ lark, nothing particularly deep or innovative or surprising but a good selection of ripping yarns that keep pulling you forward.
1. Reading comics on an iPad is surprisingly nice
2. I don't understand comic book fans. The fact this was well regarded is a deep puzzle to me. It was merely fine for large swathes of its run plot wise. I found most of the art passable to bad for the majority of its run. Half of the stories featuring iconic characters felt like cliff notes versions of the stories I know. I know the character has entered the collective unconscious and we don't need to keep telling the same stories but if we are going to tell the same stories then we should do so competently.
3. I think I like the idea of superhero/villain stories more than I actually do.
To further drive home point 3, I recently read Azzarello and Bermejo's Joker and it did not have any impact on me beyond having a very good aesthetic. It also touched upon 2 because if this is one of the best Joker stories ever then I probably don't need to read any more. I have read The Killing Joke in the past and did find that enjoyable.
I didn't like what Bendis did with the regular Avengers, so I wasn't interested in trying his Ultimate Spider-man. But he must have done something right, because Marvel finally ended the entire Ultimate setting (with a bad, dumb story) but salvaged Miles Morales from the Ultimate setting and put him in their main continuity setting (which Alan Moore famously nicknamed the 616 universe). I haven't ready any comics with Miles Morales, but found him delightful in both of the Spider-verse movies. I don't know how Marvel handled moving him to another universe, but it seems like the character would be gutted if he lost all of his family and friends from his original world. For what it's worth, I finally warmed up to the Bendis writing on his lengthy run on Uncanny X-Men. He used to take a lot of flack about his boring fights, disrespect for continuity, and the way he made every single character seem like a stammering ninny, but he learned and improved. By the time he was writing Uncanny, his characters had distinctive voices and he had a strong grasp of relevant comic history.
sornars wrote: To further drive home point 3, I recently read Azzarello and Bermejo's Joker and it did not have any impact on me beyond having a very good aesthetic. It also touched upon 2 because if this is one of the best Joker stories ever then I probably don't need to read any more. I have read The Killing Joke in the past and did find that enjoyable.
I will insist to my dying day that the best Joker story ever was Steve Englehart's The Laughing Fish. Was a two-parter in the 70s and perfectly encapsulated both the madness and the menace of the character. They even swiped it for a Batman: The Animated Series episode (without giving a credit to Steve; I asked him about it years later at a convention and he said he received an "acknowledgment payment" which was quite generous, so he wasn't bitching. Weird that they couldn't even do a "based on" or something like that, though.)
For your general impressions, I hesitate to put words in your mouth, but you might be a bit jaded on the whole superhero/villain thing. I know I got there sometime in the early 90s after I discovered that a lot of what I was reading was basically recycled stuff that I'd read when I was a kid, but with a few different villains mixed in. It's a weird thing having to hew to the model and not end up repeating yourself over and over. Also, I always credit Jim Shooter with pointing out that every issue of a regular series is someone's first read, even if it's issue #779. Unless you're going to do a wholly sequential story that has a beginning and an end, so you can tell people "Don't pick up issue #27 of Y: The Last Man and expect to know what's going on. Start from the beginning.", you're going to have to bend in the direction of that Shooter principle to suck in those new readers and make them feel like they know what's going on.
Both of those concerns are why, when we were running our studio, we didn't do superhero stuff and we made certain to loudly declare that all of our stories had a beginning, middle, and end and coming into the middle was not advised. Both of those concerns are probably why we never made it in the comic industry dominated by often incompetent superhero stuff, but you give the people what they want.
Jackwraith wrote: ... we made certain to loudly declare that all of our stories had a beginning, middle, and end and coming into the middle was not advised. Both of those concerns are probably why we never made it in the comic industry dominated by often incompetent superhero stuff, but you give the people what they want.
Funnily enough I chose the Ultimate run because it does have a beginning, middle and end! In it we get an origin and a conclusion to the character. In spite of that I feel like a lot of things were either resolved off screen or in other issues which I didn't know how to find.
I used Marvel Unlimited to view these and I find it fascinating that they haven't managed to crack the continuity issues that their cross-selling model introduces. They have things organised by series but sometimes things would happen in issues in other stories but those weren't sign posted in the app nor in the issue itself. I'd need to be deep in the lore to know that Spider-man meets the X-men in Ultimate X-men #blahblahblah. Not reading these contemporaneously made this all the harder.
I don't think your assumption re: superheroes is far off the mark but the odd part is that I've never had sufficient exposure to the source to get jaded about it. I also believe that super hero comic books fill the same niche that soap operas and harlequin romances do, just targeted at different demographics and none of those represent the sort of media I want to consume. (I also think sports hits the same space but for whatever reason I do enjoy that).
It might be time to admit that Gillen just isn’t for me. There’s the occasional intriguing premise like The Wicked + The Divine, but his work never got me demanding the next issue.
Arthur is revived in Once and Future as an ultra-nationalist (not even Anglo-Saxons). He is opposed by a retired magic hunter and her grandson. Other legends return and are defeated by fulfilling their stories. It felt like Neil Gaiman by way of James Cameron. Pretty (absolutely gorgeous color work) and well told but lacking the intelligence.
Duncan was a an actual likable Gillen character. Decent guy dragged into a war he never knew existed but does his best despite being continually dumped on by everyone.
I’ve never cared for the Fantastic Four, but Mark Waid’s run was a delight. The heroes actually enjoy being heroes (with the exception of Thing) and have appropriately weird adventures. Would have enjoyed more low key jaunts to weird places, but it feels like Waid was forced to rush to the fireworks factory. The explosions were great (Doom is sent to Hell after building a new armor from human skin, Mister Fantastic takes over Latveria, and the team meet God to save Thing), but Reed Richards following the science where it goes would have been great, too.
By the same token, I’ve never cared for Green Lantern. I have, however, cared for Grant Morrison. His run could have been twice the length to draw out the villain and the stakes. Otherwise it was plenty of Morrison imagination bursting out from the setting’s decades of history while constrained within a police procedural frame. It’s not All-Star Superman, Batman Inc., or even New X-Men but solid work still.
The real treat was a little indie recommended by the clerk: Do a Power Bomb! by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer. Girl’s mother dies in the ring. To resurrect her she joins with the man who killed her in an interplanetary single-elimination tag-team tournament hosted by a necromancer. Lariats, top rope jumps and finishers abound. A complete story in a single volume that touches the back with barbwire-wrapped folding chair and the heart with earned soul. Just amazing.
So the moral is that even though I’ve never paid a thought to the Fantastic Four, Green Lantern or professional wrestling, the respective teams made me care.
The series starts out rough, with changes in writer nearly every issue at first. Starting with issue #7, Marv Wolfman takes over the writing and stays until the end of the series. Though I am not personally a fan of the art of Gene Colan, with his sloppy and impressionistic linework, it was great that he stays for the entire run, because non-costumed comic characters can be harder to identify from issue to issue when the artist changes. That was one of my biggest problems with the popular Sandman series from Vertigo.
For much of the first two years, Dracula serves as a recurring villain, with a crew of vampire hunters getting the majority of the character development. Blade (best known for his trilogy of pre-MCU movies) debuts during this period, though he is sporting earth tones, wooden daggers, and an afro. Sometime around issue #21 or so, the focus of the series shifts to Dracula himself, showing more sympathy for his struggles and suffering. Dracula also comes into more frequent conflict with other evil-doers, such as a Satanic cult leader and the nefarious Doctor Sun, a Chinese mastermind reduced to a brain floating in a nutrient tank. Late in the series, Dracula marries a mortal woman, gets her pregnant (magic is involved), and is even temporarily turned back into a living human by Satan. All of these developments offer additional opportunities for character exploration and development for Dracula.
Is it worth your time to read Tomb of Dracula? Maybe, if you are a horror fan who is especially interested in vampires. Otherwise, probably not. The writing is decent for comics published in the '70s, but falls short in comparison to most other fiction. The artwork is stylized and not my preferred style, but it might be for you. And if you are a big fan of Blade, he is a very regular recurring character for more than half of these 70 issues.
Tried Wonder Woman: Dead Earth on the strength of the team’s Do a Power Bomb!. She wakes up in a post-apocalyptic Gotham and does what heroes do: try to save it. Think it would have been better with original characters. Too much history to the heroes to make all their choices totally fit. Gorgeous art.
The winner of my recent reads was Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s God Country. Much a companion piece to their Buzzkill where the hero only gains his greatest powers while blackout drunk, here an old man with Alzheimer’s regains his strength and memory while wielding a magic sword. Just wonderful stuff that juxtaposes mundane struggles and suffering against the fantastic to bring triumph to the former and gravitas to the latter.
For reasons that I can't quite fathom, Elric has never made it to the big screen or even the small screen, but his books have been handled decently as comics. First Comics covered all of the early books with some decent though highly stylized artwork by P. Craig Russell and Michael Gilbert. So when I recently learned that a French creative team is currently doing new Elric comics of the classic books, it just took one peek at the artwork to catch my interest. The writer is Julien Blondel, and the main artists are Didier Poli and Robin Recht. The publisher is Titan Comics, but I purchased a boxed hardcover set of the first four volumes via Amazon for the amazing price of $42.11.
Is it good? I have mixed feelings. The writing is decent, but it takes some liberties with the original text. It's the same story, so far, but Elric himself is written as more cruel and less intellectual. The art is also good, at least on par with Russell and Gilbert, but it is dark, bloody, and features quite a bit of nudity. So far, the art has a bit of a Sin City look, at least in terms of colors, mostly black, white, gray, and of course red. The artists depict Elric as having an athletic build, which seems directly at odds with most of his previous depictions as thin and sickly.
The overall tone is very grimdark, with overtones of s&m for much of Melnibonean society. The Elric of the books might lounge in an a therapeutic herbal bath while reading, but this Elric prefers freshly-killed servants floating in his bathwater, though his bath is more like a large jacuzzi. Another example... in the books, Doctor Jest was the highly-skilled royal torturer who subtly but relentlessly extracted information from his subjects. This Doctor Jest has short stumps instead of arms, with an array of spindly mechanical limbs mounted on a framework on his back, with each limb terminating in a different torture instrument, and he uses magic to suspend his subjects in the air while he separates their limbs from their torsos. This version is a bit too overbearing for younger readers, and lacks subtlety.
I am only partway through the second volume so far, but it appears that this first set will cover the events of the '70s paperback Elric of Melnibone. The first volume has an enthusiastic introduction by Michael Moorcock, and the second volume has an insightful and well-scribed introduction by Alan Moore. If you enjoy comics and Elric, this first boxed set is a very good deal, but it might not be your style.