Sunday, December 9, 2012

RECENT READINGS: Speaking of impulsion; NOW and later

 

Those who know of my comics-buying habits are aware that I don’t like to add books to “monthly pull lists”. I don’t want to be stuck reading a title I’ve stopped enjoying due to a writer/artist change or because it simply no longer holds my interest. For most readers, that’s not an issue. They simply cancel the title and just end up with 2 or 3 issues that they don’t like. However, because I don’t always get to read books I’ve ordered until months later I’d be “stuck” with more than just a few copies. So I continue to order in advance just those books that I feel will be worthwhile in a single month. That also leaves me breathing room to indulge my other comics-buying inclination: picking up books solely on impulse. I don’t want to ever stop doing this. Some of my favorite reads and discoveries have been books I never intended to order yet picked up off a comics shop shelf purely on the whim of the moment. It also provides me an excuse to continue to frequent comics stores just to hang out and look around. My work requires travel, so this becomes a fun way to use up my evening - - visit the local comics store. Many of the books reviewed here have been purchased in different cities throughout the U.S.A.

Stitched

STITCHED #10 (Avatar): Mainstay Avatar artist Mike Wolfer takes over the writing duties here and moves creator Garth Ennis’ re-animated mummies (the “stitched”) from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka. Rashid Salib is an enterprising mercenary-type who’s discovered how the “controllers” command the living corpses and transports six of them to the estate of eccentric collector Phillip Strathmore. Salib hopes to fetch a hefty price for them, as Strathmore is a “hunter” of the “exquisite, the unique, and the dead.” Salib has also brought another mysterious artifact yet to be revealed. A stealthy unseen killer is brutally dispatching servants foolish enough to wander outdoors in the torrential rains. Wolfer does a nice job here at establishing the scene and adding the background details. While I’d love to see him illustrate this book as well, artist Fernando Furukawa does an admirable job all around - - close-ups, backgrounds, and the horrific moments. This is a good place to jump on this title, especially if you enjoy horror in comics.

Shadowman-2

SHADOWMAN #2 (Valiant): It works like a one-two punch. SHADOWMAN #1 jolts your head back and makes you pay attention. SHADOWMAN #2 hits you again = faster and harder while reminding you that you’re in for a real fight. Issue #2 does not give you time to breathe and re-group. Jab after quick jab, it provides the necessary background and introduces the other major characters without ever letting up. No pause for your cause. Just read it repeatedly. As a former fan of this character, I’m very pleased with what writer Justin Jordan and artist Patrick Zircher are creating and re-working here: The Abettors. The Brethren. Mr. Twist (a classic creation). Master Darque (the legendary Valiant villain). The primary red hues of the ethereal Universitas Divinum. SHADOWMAN #3 promises the knock-out punch: Shadowman versus Mr. Twist. Pick up the program/fight card now so you know what’s going on before the headline match.

I commented earlier on this site that I was going to hold off from spending time in the MARVEL NOW! books until six or more issues in, when trade paperbacks start to appear. Blame that impulse again. I picked up a couple titles just to see if I’m really missing anything great. Not so far - - but it’s still early. Hopefully, some of these titles will click with readers. Otherwise, 2013 is going to be a very long year for Marvel.

marvel-now-captain-america-1

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel NOW!): How does a new writer/artist team follow up after Ed Brubaker and company leave the title? Answer: you don’t try. It’s time for a different spin. As the end text piece explains, new writer Rick Remender decides to go bold: forget the gritty realism of the past and place the character in completely different environs = “high adventure, tough-as-nails, mind-melting sci-fi, pulp–fantasy with constant high stakes, real velocity, and fast action.” As inspiration, Remender refers to the long-ago Jack Kirby run on the title. If anybody can re-imagine that time, it’s certainly Remender. And his previous work shows he’s quite good at it. (FEAR AGENT, etc.) What I’m not sure of is whether today’s comics readers are actually craving what he’s planning. Comics are more sophisticated, mature, complex and better-written then they were back then. In Issue #1, right after Sharon pops the question to Steve he gets transported to this mystical land- - a universe (“Dimension Z”) dominated by arch foe Arnim Zola who wants to siphon some of the super-soldier serum from Captain America to fortify his own test-tube children. There are moments where Remender lets the Captain America persona we all know and love to shine through. I just don’t feel any connection to this new universe. (Just like Wolverine in the Savage Land - - sounds like a good pitch, but how will it play out?) The usually dependable art by John Romita Jr has some nice touches here (his depictions of the new land) but I have never seen it this sloppy and inconsistent before. Now I’m worried for both CAPTAIN AMERICA and Rick Remender. I wish them well.

deadpool_1_cover

DEADPOOL #1 (Marvel NOW!) : Deadpool remains ultra-popular for reasons I cannot determine. So I picked up this latest title to see if I can solve the puzzle. It might be because it’s a reminder of how ridiculous and preposterous super-hero titles can become, especially if they take themselves too seriously. The Deadpool books occur within the Marvel universe but exist mostly outside of it with no regard for continuity. It’s a not-so-serious look at Marvel that pokes fun at itself. I’m reminded of the very early MAD comics (from EC) that were spoofs of popular comic book and television heroes. New writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn put a modern spin on that popular MAD style. Artist Tony Moore is reason enough to pick up this book. His art style will really remind you of early MAD, and especially John Severin. DEADPOOL #1 sets him up as a subcontracted employee to S.H.I.E.L.D., hired to help put down the threat of re-animated former U.S. presidents. A necromancer is reviving them in order to fix the country’s problems, but they have a demonic intent of their own. I didn’t chuckle out loud while reading. I grimaced more than I smiled. But at least now I understand better.

indestructible-hulk-1

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #1 (Marvel NOW!) What can the very capable Mark Waid do to take the Hulk forward through the post-“Hulk Smash” days? Write into the storyline a month-long absence for Bruce Banner during which he assesses his current state and reconciles himself to the fact that he can’t survive without some Hulk in his life. Once he accepts that he can’t get rid of this other side, he works at adjusting in ways that would be more beneficial to everyone. He wants to be remembered in Marvel history in the same way that geniuses like Tony Stark and Reed Richards will be. So he develops ways to manage his current condition so he can go about helping the world. He auditions for a job and funding with S.H.I.E.L.D. by taking on the Mad Thinker and his latest creations. I like this change in direction and where it may take Bruce/Hulk in the weeks to come. INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK is my favorite of the three new Marvel books I’ve read - - but I’m not sure I’m onboard for this yet. The art by Leinil Yu is different and takes some getting used to. What’s going on in some of the action panels is a little confusing - - it looks a bit cluttered.

NEXT:  more RECENT READINGS

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