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.

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.

Colored pages…

One of my good friends has always been into Comic books.  I’d read them here and there, but never collected.  As I got older, I became more intimidated by the huge history of the characters, which hindered me getting into the books.

Along came the Ultimate line from Marvel.  Everything was reset.  It was a great starting point.  I read Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates for a while, in trade paperback form, but I found that the stories weren’t very strong as time passed.  I stopped reading them.

I discovered Gaiman’s Sandman, which I enjoyed and also benefited from me starting from square one with that character as well.  The Watchmen was another that I really enjoyed (and of course, I read because of the movie).

For my birthday one year, I received the Batman: Hush trade paperbacks.  I loved it, but the six or so titles that featured Batman confused me.  I didn’t understand why there were so many titles, what the differences were and how important it was to follow them all.

This year, I heard about DC relaunching their titles, starting everything back at #1.  I talked to Brandon, the manager at Wizard’s Comics University about the relaunch and got a good sense of what the different titles would be like and to just get an idea of what was out there.  I wanted to read Batman stories.  He pulled out a copy of Detective Comics #854 from his personal collection and gave it to me to try out.  It was the first issue of the Batwoman: Elegy story.  The art was amazing.  The Batwoman character blew me away.  I promptly picked up the Trade Paperback (at Chapters, it was close and available, sorry Brandon!).

Anyway, with the relaunch, I’ve got three titles that I’m definitely putting in a file: Batwoman, Batman, and Detective Comics.  Several other titles were of interest, but I was unsure about them.  On a one-issue  trial: Justice League, Justice League Dark, Batman: The Dark Knight.

In anticipation, I re-read Hush.  I caught something I hadn’t caught before, which I really liked.  When in Gotham, everything seems to have a sense of darkness or dread about it.  The city isn’t a pure place.  You can tell by the way everything is depicted.  The action moves to Metropolis, and the city is completely different.  It’s bright and hopeful.  Every panel shows this.  It was really need to realize and really added depth to the locations.

The Dark Knight Returns

If you haven’t read anything by Frank Miller, you’re missing out.  Up until the movie Sin City, I wasn’t aware of how great Frank Miller’s (of course, I wasn’t back on comics then either)  stories were.  Watching that movie really kicked me back into comics, which I’m quite thankful for.  I’ve re-discovered a great world, and my collection of graphic novels keeps growing.

Now, I didn’t pick up Sin City, mostly because I could never find the first volume to start with.  After I heard about the movie 300, I had to have the source material.  It was FANTASTIC.  I dabbled around in a large number of Marvel series (the only exception was Identity Crisis and Watchmen from DC).    My friend Kent, gave me Batman Hush for my birthday (or was it Christmas…), which gave me a new perspective on the Dark Knight (and DC comics, in general).

During my vacation in Vancouver, I purchased a number of comics, including the first collection of Sandman (but Neil Gaiman is for another post entirely), the graphic novelization of Red Prophet, The Ultimates 2.2, and The Dark Knight Returns. I just finished The Dark Knight Returns, and I’ve been blown away. The story was amazing, and really makes you feel the emotions of the characters. The raw anger/hatred shown by Batman towards the Joker was intense. You want Batman to pull the trigger. This was what Batman was ment to be – dark, gritty. This book has revitialized Batman as a comic for me. Its did the same thing asBatman Begins did for the movies.

Comics and Roleplaying

As I had mentioned yesterday, I picked up the Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures graphic novel as well as the new prequel comic First Death. I finished First Death #1 yesterday and I was impressed, the story was enjoyable and I can’t wait for the next issue. I started Guilty Pleasures yesterday as well, which follows the novel quite closely, from my recollection.

I hope Marvel continues to produce this series, as I enjoyed the books (until Anita turned into a superslut, at least…).

I’ve also been trying to promote my other website, d6d20, a roleplaying community. I created the site to fill a need that I felt existed in my other club that I participate in, SWRPGA. d6d20 is all about playing any rpg that you want. We’ve got a few other projects that we’re developing based on the SRD, but I’m not about to release more information than that.

So, if you’re interested in roleplaying online, come check out d6d20.

My final item today is a call for anyone interested in developing a web application for video conference, including a text chat client.  I don’t have the know-how to develop the project, but I have a vision.  If you’re interested, get in touch with me and I can tell you more.