Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I've Been Reading 2012

So it's been a few weeks...more than intended of course...but at least in that time I've gotten some serious reading done! I'm now ONLY three weeks behind in my....umm...additional weekly readings and have managed to plow through quite a number of collections since that AvX blog. Let's jump right in!

First up was some back-to-back Robert Kirkman love starting with the "Invincible" Compendium.  Another of his Image books, this one was a book I'd been told repeatedly to read but, since I wasn't getting to it, a friend of mine got it for me as a birthday gift. Well I can say that I'm glad I waited to read it because it was great to read this story...well at least its first half...in one collection! 

To sum it up as much as possible without ruining too much, this one is the story of a kid named Mark Grayson whose father is a superhero and then said kid discovers that he too has superpowers!  It's a story of father-son relationships, of the dynamic in a family with two heroes, a family in which the heroes aren't having to hide it from their family...just the rest of the world of course.

Yet it it also a coming of age story, a tale of betrayal and disappointment, of friends and lovers...essentially it is a tale of life as told through the POV of a superhero kid. High school, college, girlfriends, teams, villains, friends, and aliens are all a part of this tale and by the way, it is quite graphically violent.  That is a trait of this series that I find very intriguing not because I'm a blood mark, but because of the color scheme of this series...it's bright and vibrant, alive I guess you could say, a stark contrast to that other Kirkman work of note: "The Walking Dead".

"Invincible" is available right here  in a handy-dandy Compendium that collects not only the first 47 issues of the series but also the Zero issue, an issue of The Pact series, and also excerpts from the 2004 Image Comics Summer Special.  I can't recommend this book highly enough and I cannot wait until there is a Volume 2 Compendium released, which I would imagine will come out shortly after the 100th issue is released.  That is, after all, what happened with "The Walking Dead"...

...and speaking of:

Continuing my Kirkman run, but mostly inspired by watching the 3rd season of the TV show, I reread the first Compendium of "The Walking Dead" that covers the first 48 issues of the now 100+ issue series as well as a story from the 2005 Image Comics Holiday special.  This marked the first time I had reread the old stories since my initial reading of them and it was quite interesting to compare them to the storytelling choices made for the AMC series.

Suffice it to say, and as anyone who has read the series knows, the comic and its TV adaptation share many similarities but the show diverges from the comic book continuity in many ways.  Some of those reasons may be due to the constraints of the medium, some may be conscious decisions, and some may simply be a choice of how the story best evolved.  There are characters that exist in the comics but not on the TV show and vice versa...at least not yet, but I can confidently say that I am ECSTATIC that the TV series has gone down its own version of the path first laid out in the comic. 

Some story beats are missing and are thusly missed, some changes have actually been for the better I'd say, and ultimately I must say that I prefer this to seeing a straight up adaptation of the comic book.  That could easily come off as soulless and going through the motions...the way the "Watchmen" movie kind of did in its almost complete marriage to the source material.

As for the comic book itself, it was just as engrossing on the reread as it was when I was first introduced to it some years ago...and at least a four years after the book initially started.  I feel like I read it for the first time around the time of "Secret Invasion" when Kyle Durden may have brought some issues on a St. Louis road trip.  I know he is directly responsible for introducing it to Kenny King and a few other people...

Anyway, it is quite telling how, despite knowing the fate of these characters by the end of the first 48 issues, I am still quite shook up by the way Lori dies or by what happens between The Governor, Michonne, and Rick.  The evolution of Glenn still is one of the most interesting aspects of the story and there are so many little moments, so many artistic decisions, that add to the story in ways my words can't quite encapsulate:

That look speaks volumes in the context of the pages, and I strongly suggest if you are a fan of the show but haven't read the books, or if you just dig well written character drama, then click here and pick up the comic.  It's violent, as one would expect in a zombie apocalypse scenario, and in done in B&W art as you can see from that image, but the lack of color...yeah it does nothing to dull the impact of the brutality, to lessen the blow of what these characters go through as they struggle to maintain their own humanity in the face of such inhumane circumstances...

To put it bluntly, I don't really give a damn about Thor.  As a comic book character, he was not someone I was every particularly interested in and pretty much only read Thor when he was included in some other book or story I actually was into. So the reasons I chose to pick this book up were two-fold.

The first being the fact that Warren Ellis wrote this book and that I have an increasing interest to read his material. Realizing he wrote this story also made me realize all of the other things he wrote when I was younger that I read with no care as to who he was like Excalibur, Doom 2099, all three Counter-X books, Wolverine, some Ghost Rider issues, and the "Sword of Damocles" chapters of the Wildstorm "Fire From Heaven" crossover.

The 2nd reason I bought the book...it was only $4 at the Discount Book store which is ridiculously cheap for a hardcover...and their pricing has, in fact, led me to buying many things I would not otherwise have bothered as you'll see.

Well this one picks up in the middle of some story with Thor dying and just runs from there into a rather entertaining story, albeit with some Mike Deodato art that is...inconsistent I suppose I will say. The guy does some good stuff but I also find him to be a bit all over the place in his older work and not very detail oriented ever...just check out his "Dark Avengers" and tell me if you think every female character is built the exact same. I think he's a good artist for covers & pin-ups but not necessarily the greatest for panel-to-panel work.  That being said, I would still rather look at his comics than a great deal of the people doing monthly work now...

As for the story, it was a refreshing take on Thor as he wasn't running around speaking in his Asgardian pseudo-Shakespearean style and threw his lot in with The Enchantress.  Ellis' intro pretty much sums up the idea behind the whole thing:

"Worldengine is a four-episode story intended to rip apart the Thor we know and retool him for the next century or, at least, until the next time you fancy retooling him. There are, of course, sound economic reasons for doing this, which have been explained to me in length, but they are less important to me, in the long run, than the artistic needs of the book. It’s been the same for thirty years, this comic, and as much as we all respect the legacy of Jack Kirby, I honestly think he would not be pleased to find the comic the same as it was when he started it. Kirby was foursquare for change."

As an adult, I would have loved to read more of Ellis' run on Thor (sadly it was only these four issues) but I don't know how I would have taken to it had I found this book when it first came out in the mid-90s.  Now, it is an intriguing look at early Ellis super-hero work.  Grab it here if you're interested...

Mark Waid and Captain America...that is a subject that could easily take up a blog all by itself and perhaps I will have to do that some time. Starting in 1995 and running through 1999 (with a slight interruption by Rob Liefeld's horrendous Heroes Reborn Cap series), Waid helmed Cap through a return of The Red Skull, some heavy political issues, hero worship, a shattered shield, and the return of the most important woman in Cap's life (thanks to Ed Brubaker): Sharon Carter.

This is a smart series, and controversial for one particular issue included in the Red Glare HC pictured above.  It's a 1999 issue focusing on Red Skull from his own point of view, inside his own head, so to say it was...racist...would be an understatement.  Now that may sound like a bad idea but this is the Skull, a Nazi mind you, telling his own story so of course it is going to be racist!  Still, Marvel edited the thing in its original release, Waid took his name off the story, and it never say the light of day in its original version until the HC was released in 2011. For more on the subject read here on CBR with a Waid interview.

Cap, kind of like Thor, was a character I didn't have a great deal of interest in until I began to read the Brubaker run starting with "Winter Soldier" (a run I continued to follow into Bucky's series but from the Cap angle I stopped following with the "Shattered Heroes" labeled arc). So with that, combined with my interest in Mark Waid and the rave reviews I had been given from friends who had read the books, oh yeah AND the fact that I got all of the HCs at the discount book store for like $6 each, I ventured into Waid's world of Cap.

Go buy this...seriously, it's just an awesome take on the legendary character and one that is just as interesting, in a completely different way, as Brubaker's take on the character, plus you've got some great artists in Ron Garney & Andy Kubert to flesh out the story.  This is where Sharon Carter's role in Cap's life begins to take shape, this has to be where Brubaker pulls some of his Cosmic Cube  ideas from, and it really puts the pieces in place for Brubaker's usage of Red Skull as well. 

The concept of hero worship and it's potential effects on both the hero & his worshippers that Waid plays with is one that I don't know if I've really seen in a Marvel or DC comic, and I guess...in many ways...I'd say that Waid's take on Steve is more fascinating than Brubaker's for me.  Honestly it is the character of Bucky/Winter Soldier that I always found most intriguing there...

Waid, during the movie hype, also did the "Man Out Of Time" mini focusing on the time frame just after Cap was resurrected (albeit in a modern period) that I read when it was initially released but have not read it since I purchased it last week in the discount store.  I will...part of my next batch of readings...but you, if you haven't read these, click right here to order them yourself.

Jason Aaron, Duane Swierczynski, Cullen Bunn, Rick Spears, David Lapham...
Mico Suayan, Arturo Lozzi, Travel Foreman, Dan Brereton, Timothy Green II, Khari Evans, Hatuey Diaz...

That's the talent responsible for "Immortal Weapons", a collection of one-shots starring the assorted characters from the Immortal Iron Fist issues penned by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Swierczynski. 

The quality varies from chapter to chapter, the highlight probably being the Fat Cobra & Iron Fist stories for me, but if you have read any of the Immortal Iron Fist run, then this series is a nice addition to that.  Again, another steal from the discount book store for only $4!  Man I wouldn't be reading ANYTHING if it wasn't for that place... 

Pick up this book here.

By far the strangest thing I found at the discount book store...the place sells nothing by Marvel books EXCEPT for the very, very occassional 2000AD books like this and something else I'll mention next.  For some background info, 2000AD is a UK comic book that has featured the talents of Moore, Grant Morrison, Alan Davis, Neil Gaiman, and Mark Millar just to name drop a few.  This was a collection of these short stories called Tharg's Future Shocks that were written by numerous creators and they were usually 2-3 pages in length, self-contained, and to me, read like something written for The Twilight Zone...if the Zone was taking place in a galaxy far, far away with seriously alien cultures.

A intergalactic handyman, time-hopping scientists, alien invaders, universal pirates...these are just a few of the concepts that Moore tackles in these short format stories.  It's such a difficult thing to sum up this book in any simple format, it is truly something you would have to check out for yourself.  Simply put, it is not remotely what I expected to read and that is NOT a bad thing...check it out here.

And in the continued vein of the 2000AD books, I also found some Judge Dredd there...and more importantly Dredd as done by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar as well as art by Carlos Ezquerra who I found out is one of the Dredd creators. This would be a character with whom I have absolutely zero knowledge about...never say the Sly Stallone movie, never read the crossovers with Batman, no se nada!

Yet despite by lack of knowledge, I felt completely comfortable reading this book as well as the "Crusade" one I also picked up.  You get a good feel for just who Dredd is as well as just what the whole premise behind his world really is...handy little recap blurbs at the start of every 5-page chapter really help as well.  Art is pretty good to look at too...

So now I am kind of intrigued to read a little more Dredd stuff so perhaps I will investigate that but if you're interested in reading some Millar/Morrison co-work then pick these up right here.  They are a quick read but a fun one!

This one was yet another cheap pick-up at the discount book store and was sold on the name that dominates the cover (obviously Marvel knows that too) as well as the John Romita Jr art.  I don't know anything about The Eternals (also obviously a theme for most of the books I get on discount) but this was quite a fun & exciting read for me, not to mention wonderful to look at as I have been a fan of JRJR for as long as I've been a comic book fan.

Long story short, this is a tale of God-like beings who don't remember that they are God-like AND if you're a fan of Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker's Uncanny X-Men run that introducted them to San Francisco...this is the story where that Celestial in the park comes into play.  Another great pick-up for a great deal and another one I can highly recommend to everyone.  It's on-sale right here.

I feel like I'm forgetting something else I've read in the last few weeks but I'll be damned if I can remember what it is after all of that, plus reading my weekly purchases.  I can tell you that right now, with those, I am of course digging Batman & the beginnings of The Death Of The Family. I am also pretty keen on the Rotworld stuff so far and, if you're a fan of both Garth Ennis & Grant Morrison, then I suggest you scoop up the first two issues of Happy because it is a Morrison comic but you can smell the Ennis on it. 

Speaking of Ennis, it was goodbye to The Boys this month...holding out hope for a complete collection Omnibus sort of thing...

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy is another great one...

Haven't had a chance to read too much of the Marvel NOW yet but I can say Mark Waid's Hulk book has some promise, that All New X-Men is an interesting premise that I am curious to see how it will sustain an on-going, X-Men Legacy is getting me to buy a 2nd issue but the jury is still out there, Uncanny Avengers has potential if they can get a regular shipping schedule going (sad to say that after only one issue), and we shall see what Cap, Thor, and the two FF books bring to the table.

Also, if you want something fun, but not so easy on the eyes...I am liking Scarlet Spider & Venom but I find the art lacking all too frequently...

In the DC corner...pick up Red Hood, by far the most improved book of the New 52. Talon is also quite a fun one, especially for those bitching (myself included in there sometimes) about the existence of prior continuity.  Talon is a book free of any loose ends, free of any ties to the Old 52, it is a clean slate character that we are all learning about for the very first time.

Not sure what I have on tap for the next one I write, but in the meantime...and as a strong example of my buying things at the discount book store because they are cheap...I've got a Fallen Angels HC, an X-Infernus TPB, and a X-Men: Phoenix: Warsong TPB to read!  I would have never bought any of those under any normal circumstances but hey...it probably cost me $15 total for all three.

I also plan to read, for the very first time, the entire run of Gaiman's Sandman!


Hey if anyone wants to buy me some X-Mas presents: