Panels and Colors

It’s been around two years that I’ve been reading comics (regularly), thanks to the New 52 and Brandon at Wizard’s comics. There’s been some ups, downs, and complete blindsides. But, one thing has really stood out to me – how does DC keep making such awful decisions?

I don’t want to make this post into a big ‘bash DC’ thing that people that are way more in tune with things are able to do in a much more intelligent way than I feel I can, but as a consumer, its becoming increasingly difficult to justify continuing to support the things DC does that I DO like a lot because of what has been happening to the other stuff that I like. It’s putting me in a position that I just don’t know what to do – do I continue to buy the stories that I like and supporting the titles I think have really interesting characters, or do I just walk away on principle?

I don’t know what the answer is. I guess I’ll have to talk with my trusted comic advice folk on that.

Changing gears a little – Marvel, on the other hand, has been engaging me big time lately and seem to be doing lots of things ‘right’ in the eyes of this consumer.

Last night, I read the first three issues of the current X-Men event, Battle of the Atom. HOLY HELL. It’s so good. The event isn’t like the  events I’ve read from Batman (Night of the Owls) where the other titles have tie-ins and aren’t really necessary to read. Each book is engaging the main story. Each book is necessary reading. Each book doesn’t seem ‘shoehorned’ in so that they can throw a special event banner on the cover. When I heard about the event, I was a little weary, given that I didn’t really know if I was buying into something worth my time (and money). In short – it has been so far.

(Edit: A reader asked what X-titles I was reading to get a sense of how much knowledge I have of what is going on with the mutants. I’m only reading X-men. Battle of the Atom #1 does an excellent job of summarizing the major plot points you need to know to get into this event.)

Feeling my way through the masses of books that are available (and of interest to me) has been a really eye-opening experience. I’m glad that I’ve picked up this hobby and I expect that I will keep buying comics for years to come.

What’s that feeling?

This week was another big week in my comic file, as shown below.

Needless to say, it was an impressive lineup, especially with Dancer in the mix, which I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced.

Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures

I started things off with Atomic Robo, since I wanted a bit of a humor pick me up after the day I had.  Oh boy, did it deliver.  I’ll admit, I haven’t read all of the Robo books yet.  I’ve read Vol 1, 3, and all the FCBD books, plus #1 of this arc.  After Vol 3, I didn’t think it could get much better (seriously, H.P. Lovecraft is in it, how could it get better?).  I am telling you right now, I was so wrong.

At first, I looked at this panel and had a pang of recognition.  Then it dawned on me.  These were the characters from Team Fortress 2 (if you haven’t seen the videos introducing the characters, Google them, its totally worthwhile).

I was not expecting this turn of events.  But damn, it’s opened a whole new world of potential awesome for Robo.  Just imagine if Robo met GLADoS?  Seriously, I think my mind just exploded with how crazy good that confrontation would be.

This issue of Robo has solidified a spot in my file for the foreseeable future.

Dancer

I was really excited for this book when I saw it announced.  I’m a big fan of the writing of Nathan Edmondson, especially in The Activity.  The solicits for Dancer put the book on the ‘other side’ of the law, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The first issue sets up the characters lives, then tears it down.  They are forced to go on the run by an unknown assailant.  When they finally get a glimpse of him…let’s just say it’s shocking.

When I finished the book, I was satisfied, but disappointed.  But then, as I gave it time to settle and I mulled the book over in my head, I wasn’t just satisfied.  This was the EXACT kind of story I am very interested in reading these days, but the disappointment lingered.  I didn’t understand it.

Then it dawned on me.  I was disappointed that I didn’t have more to read.  This doesn’t happen to me too often.  I recognize that I need to wait to get some closure from whatever I’m reading and I can live with that.  But when I am faced with this sort of feeling, I’m pretty sure this is a good thing.  Why?  I am anxious to see more, I want to keep reading.  This means Edmondson and Klein have been wildly successful in making me care for the story, and that’s great.

Winter Solider

I didn’t read this book, but I know it’s going to be awesome.  You know how?

Yea.  A Gorilla with a Minigun.  I HAS to be amazing.

The world is shrinking…

I try to tell people (via Twitter) about the books I really enjoyed in a given week.  #yeggeek usually puts out a question to the masses about what book(s) they enjoyed in the week, so I am usually involved in that response string.

But sometimes I miss that.  Or something is so enjoyable, I feel the need to tell people about it right away.  Last week, Mind the Gap and Higher Earth fell into the later category.

A few hours later, I got a reply from Bryce Carlson (@brycercarlson), the Managing Editor of Boom! Studios, thanking me for reading and spreading the word.

Yesterday, I had expressed that I was excited that I was going to get two books by Nathan Edmundson (@Nhedmondson) and Nathan also responded with a thanks for reading.

I have had similar experiences with other comic creators, Greg Rucka (@ruckawriter) and Kurtis Wiebe (@kurtisjwiebe).  In the RPG realm, regularly interact with Sean Preston (@realityblurs) and countless others on an occasional basis.

Having creators respond to you (a fan) is pretty cool.  It’s even more cool when they’ve just come across the tweet (or whatnot) based on a social media search and took the time to respond.  It makes me feel great for being able to say “I appreciate your work” and know they’ve read and appreciated the feedback.

Anyway, in the world of social media, its great to get real-time feedback and acknowledgement that your fan mail has been read.  Great stuff.

Earth 2 and the Ultimate U

It’s no secret that Ultimate X-Men is one of my favorite file comics right now and the reason for that is exactly the same as the reason I was really excited to jump in on the comics train when the New 52 launched – it’s free of the burden of all the stories that came before it.

Yes, I realize Ultimate X-Men has 100 issues of backstory, but ultimately, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much in the 10 issues I’ve read thus far.  Sure, some of the details might be nice to have (and, I’m picking up the trades from EPL as I can) to fill that all in, but if the trades weren’t easy to get, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

What I love about the Ultimate universe is that there’s only a handful of books that cover the whole universe (right now, it’s Spider-Man, Ultimates, and X-Men), compared with the huge number of titles in the regular Marvel U.  If I wanted to read everything that occurred in the Ultimate Universe, I could easily do that.  The Ultimate U also gives writers the chance to give characters a different story and a chance to make different choices.  It’s all very compelling (and I’m sure it would be moreso if I was more familiar with some of the characters).

Hell, without the Ultimate Universe, we wouldn’t have Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury.

Now, this brings me to Earth 2 from DC.  I wasn’t going to get this book.  I have enough in my file and there’s a number of great-looking independent titles coming in the next few months that I’m looking at picking up.  So, I was going to avoid wave 2 of the New 52.

Then Brandon (as @wizardscomics) tweeted:

Earth 2 is pretty fantastic. Feels like an Marvel Ultimate comic, with a clear cut DC taste.

All my resistance was shattered.  DC’s own Ultimates line.  Well, that was great news for everyone except my wallet.

And let me tell you – this book did not disappoint one bit.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there are some pretty gut-wrenching moments during the first part of the book.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how the heroes in the world begin to take shape.  It’s very exciting for me.  So far, there’s only the one book set on Earth 2 (World’s Greatest has Earth 2 inhabitants trapped on Earth Prime, so it doesn’t count), so you can grab one comic and have the entire Universe.  That’s awesome.

So, if you want to read a superhero comic and have been afraid to, now’s the time.  Go buy Earth 2.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Free Comic Book Day 2012

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day (FCBD).  The whole family made the trip out to Wizard’s Comics for the occasion.  I had checked out what was available on the Free Comic Book Day website and really only had one book that I really wanted to pick up, which was Atomic Robo.  I really wasn’t sure about anything else.

So, here’s what we ended up coming home with:

I bought the Queen & Country Definitive Edition Volume 2 and Jackson was very excited about The Penguins of Madagascar.  I always try to make a purchase at these sorts of events, since supporting the shop is as important as trying to introduce new readers to comics.

Anyway, this morning, Jackson asked for his new books.  I put them out for him and here’s the result (he wasn’t exactly pleased I was taking his picture):

Anyway, FCBD 2012 was a great success.  I look forward to all the great books that are coming out this year and the continued enjoyment of reading by my son!

Letters to other blogs…

A few weeks ago, @soupytoasterson asked me if I’d be willing to write a bit about Greg Rucka’s novel A Gentleman’s Game for Comics! The Blog’s letter section.  Today, that letter ran, in the feature Um, Actually.  The actual letter is at the end of the section.  I’m not sure it closes with the power of

but, it’s hard to be better than Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading.

My letter discussed how I discovered the novel, some brief thoughts on it, as well as where I was going from here.  In short, I like Rucka’s comics, spy books are cool, and I’m going to read some comics.

What I didn’t talk about in the letter was my historical reluctance to ‘mix media’ with universes that I really enjoyed.  When I was younger, I consumed many, many books in the Star Wars expanded universe.  What I slowly, but surely realized, was that these books were ruining Star Wars for me, so I stopped reading them.  But, from about that point on, I can’t recall a single universe that I followed in one medium, then picked up in another.

It should be noted that in this, I’m not counting books made into movies.  I’m talking about the EXTENSION of a universe, not a RE-IMAGINING of one.

I don’t know what changed in the past year or so, but I’m going to say that because of some of the books in my comics file being so far off of what I’d pick on my own, I’m more willing to give (borderline) looking books a try.  On top of that, there were some damn good Star Wars books (in addition to the stuff I didn’t like), so, why care about the medium in which the story is being told?

If I stuck to my old ‘one medium per universe’ mantra, I’d be missing out on some really awesome looking stories in Queen and Country, a bad-ass origin of the Jedi in Dawn of the Jedi, and of course more background to the Mass Effect universe.  Frankly, that’s an injustice to me, a fan of these series.  Absolutely, there’s stuff I don’t want to explore in other formats (for instance, the Firefly, Battlestar Galactica RPGs), but damn, I’d love a sourcebook for playing as a CTU Agent in the world of 24.

Not all expanded universe material will be good.  I KNOW this.  But, by letting the stuff that I subjectively found uninspiring/uninteresting overrule the stuff that’s amazing, I’m pretty sure that’s letting the bad-guys win.

So readers, I’m going to read/watch/play in the universes I love.  I’m going to follow my favorite characters.  If a storyline doesn’t interest me, I won’t interact with it (I certainly won’t start a petition to change it).

The big pile

The second week of the month has always been an incredibly heavy week for me in comics-land.  This week, I came home with 7 titles (and had left 2 books behind, to pick up another time).  What was in the magic box this week?

Batwoman – I like how this story arc is being told.  Unfortunately, Amy Reeder’s art has just been too inconsistent for me.  I really, really, really like some of her pages and then, there’s other pages that are just so wildly off from that.  DC has recently announced that Reeder will be leaving the title after issue 8.  From what I’ve seen from her replacement (Trevor McCarthy), there is another very talented person going on the book.  I just hope that the art is consistent.

Batgirl – I really don’t know what to say about this title.  I enjoy reading it.  Barbara’s struggle with her past is really engaging, but the main story arcs are just not doing it as much for me.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this book.  I think I’ll evaluate it once Night of the Owls is completed.

The Activity – For me, this book is really well done.  So far, each issue is a single mission (so you can really read any issue and follow it pretty well) and is packed with some really fantastic art and writing.  I would like to see missions maybe go longer (read, span several issues), but, I appreciate the accessibility of the self contained issues.

Ultimate Comics X-Men – What I like about the Ultimates universe is that it’s really small (in terms of books).  I could add Ultimates (and, I think I will) but I don’t feel that I NEED to.  I really like the look of the art in X-Men and the story has been really engaging thus far.

Grifter – This issue was a real improvement over the last few.  I enjoyed it, and felt I got my money’s worth.

Peter Panzerfaust – This book is fun.  A daring rescue and great action.  Fantastic art.  From what I hear, there’s a real HOOK in issue 3.

Saga – I’m not going to say anything else about Saga that I haven’t already said.

Thief of Theives (2 issues) – I left these behind.  I’m going to pick #1 up this week, and assuming I like it, #2 will come home the following week.  Brandon says its both Leverage and Ocean’s 11, which makes it good enough for me.

It’s quite the haul.  It’s unfortunate that I have such a heavy week, and then the rest of my weeks are generally 2 issues, but there’s not much I can do about that (aside exercise self control and leave some books for another day).

A confession

The comic people that read this blog are probably aware of a little book called Saga.

I read the preview in Previews.  I was mildly interested, I suppose.  Nothing matching the excitement of the comic book fans that I follow on twitter though, who were exploding with joy and excitement.

I asked Brandon to add it to my file.  I thought about changing my mind a few times between then and yesterday.  In the end, I bought it.

I wanted to find it ok.  I seriously did.  Just ok.  I didn’t need more books in my file.

It was more than ok.  It was great.  The preview was a terrible preview.  The book was fantastic.  The art was great, the story was engaging, and damnit, I want more.

So, I feel bad for hoping it wasn’t going to be good.

The Rest

Back in Number Six, I noted that I’d talk about the other books in my comic file, and this seems like the best time to do that!

When I started my file, a benefit I received was free issues of the Previews magazine.  This is a dangerous magazine, let me tell you.  I quickly started fliping through it and found a few different titles to add to my file.  Then, by recommendation, I picked up a few more here and there.

So, here’s the rest of my file (that have been released):

The Activity – A modern-day covert-ops team fighting terrorism and what-have you.  It doesn’t work for everybody.  I like it though. There’s some fantastic panels.

American Vampire – I picked up Volumes 1 & 2 at the library and was really drawn into this Scott Snyder book.  I had mentioned this to Brandon and he snuck the start of a new storyline into my file.  Anyway, a fantastic read.

Fatale – A horror/noir story.  Brubaker/Phillips.  Awesome.

Peter Panzerfaust – A retelling of Peter Pan.  In World War 2.  He’s a resistance fighter.  One issue in, and it’s a keeper.

Star Wars – Dawn of the Jedi – This is the story that tells the beginnings of the Jedi order.  I’m high on Star Wars these days, and I’m giving the EU another shot.  This has been worthwhile so far.

Winter Soldier – Bucky Barnes reprises his role as the Winter Soldier.  He’s a bad-ass spy and is joined by the Black Widow.  Commie Gorillas with Jetpacks and mini-guns.  Buy it.

Number Six

Back in August, DC launched the New 52.  As I had blogged, I was very excited to start seriously reading comics.

Now, 6 months later, I’m still just as excited as I was prior to the launch of the New 52.  I’ve added, removed, experimented with a variety of books.  I’ve also taken the digital plunge (I definitely prefer the paper copies, but sometimes the price is right!) and overall, I’ve been really happy with what I’ve read thus far.  I do need to say many thanks to James Leask and Brandon Schatz from Comics! The Blog for helping me navigate this strange new world.

So, most of the books in my file are six issues in.  What are they?

Batwoman – when Brandon gave the first issue of the Elegy run in Detective Comics, I thought he was a bit crazy. Who honestly reads Bat-anything-that-isn’t-man?  Alright, so I was so wrong.  J. H. Williams III has some damn pretty pictures.  Williams is taking an arc off of art, so #6 was a little inconsistent, but the story was still very strong.  My favorite book.

Batman – Scott Synder has amazing talent.  His take on Batman is fantastic and puts the character right into the stories I want to read.  Amazing stuff.  The mind-bending #5 was worth every penny I’ve spent on comic books through this whole new-hobby thing.

Detective Comics – The first arc of DC was shocking, a little horrifying, and well, off putting (to some).  Personally, I loved it.  Was definitely walking a fine line – I could easily have seen it going a few steps too far for my tastes, but I think it stayed right where it needed.  Now Batman is facing off against the Penguin and the tone of the story is quite different and welcome after the heavy first arc.

Batgirl – I got sucked in by the hype of this book on Twitter.  It’s not my favorite title, but, it is a nice change of pace from some of the darker/heavier things I read.  Barbara Gordon is still scarred from the events of the Killing Joke, and that makes this a good book – Batgirl is hesitant and overly analytical, which gets her into trouble.

Grifter – This started out great.  It’s fizzled for me.  I’ll be hanging on until #8, just to complete the arc and get out when the switch writers (which, has me miffed…).

Justice League Dark – One of two “large” team books in my file.  Reading comics has me realized that I like lone-wolf stories.  This realization (and a rather un-inspired read) lead me to drop Justice League proper.  Dark however, is different.  I like the subject matter more, the story drew me in.  I don’t see Dark leaving my file anytime soon, as it’s currently one of my top 5.

Severed – A 7 issue mini-series that captured my attention.  A slow-burning horror book that ended perfectly.  Some people don’t like it.  I quite enjoyed it and I’ve passed it along to a friend who is also enjoying it.

Ultimate Comics: X-Men – I discovered that this series restarted a few months late, but I was able to pick everything up.  I wanted to read a Marvel Ultimates title SPECIFICALLY because they were going to include a digital copy for free with all copies.  I’m really digging the world that currently exists for the mutants.  #7 was a bit meh until the end, but I expect very exciting things to start happening pretty soon.

Last of the Greats – After 5 issues, the status of this title is up in the air.  I’m a little torn.  The first issue was amazing, then the books declined slightly until #4, which completely turned me off.  Since I knew that #5 might be the last, I kept with it – and I’m not sure if #4 was so awful that anything would look great, or if #5 was actually a return to great.  I don’t know if this book will see any more issues, and if it does, if I’ll continue.

So, that’s about half of my current books.  I’ll talk about the others in a future post.