Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly round-up of … well, what we’ve been reading lately.
Today our special guest is the legendary Gilbert Hernandez. Known best as the co-creator of Love & Rockets, his other works include Sloth, The Troublemakers, Chance in Hell and Yeah! with Peter Bagge (which is being collected by Fantagraphics)
To see what Gilbert and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
This week I started Essential Iron Man vol. 1, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it (I’ve already gotten Vol. 2, an impressive chunk o’ book) — but wow do the writers love the word “transistor.” Everything in the golden-trashcan suit is transistor-powered. Heck, everything Tony Stark owns is transistor-powered. I’m waiting for the Smurfs to show up and say, “dude, you’re getting way too much use out of that one word.”
I also caught up with Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge, the 2008 miniseries which reunited everyone’s favorite Flash foes with writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins. Originally I skipped the miniseries because Johns and Kolins’ Rogue work never really grabbed me, but this time the paperback was pretty inexpensive. Besides, I figured it would probably play into future Johns-written Flash stories. Essentially, the Rogues kill their way out of a situation they killed their way into. These aren’t particularly likable crooks, like in Secret Six or Suicide Squad, and Johns and Kolins don’t apologize for them. Rogues’ Revenge is a decent noir story, so I suppose it’s a credit to Johns and Kolins that they’ve remade the Rogues from hallmarks of the shiny Silver Age into noir protagonists. It’s a brutal little tale, told bluntly and efficiently, but it didn’t do much to change my feelings. The Rogue spotlights were never my favorite issues, and this was a three-issue version of those one-issue flashbacks, offering some background on the larger Flash arc. Not a bad digression, but I still prefer the good guys.
Finally, speaking of spotlights, Batman Beyond #4 (written by Adam Beechen, penciled by Eduardo Pansica, inked by Eber Ferreira) looks mostly at Terry’s friend Maxine, ace hacker and all-around source of support. Of course, by the end of the issue she’s asked to make a choice which will surely have devastating consequences not just
for her, but for Batman and his allies. Another devastating development comes after Nightwing’s secret identity is revealed, and Terry has to go old-school to mitigate the damage. Pansica and Ferreira’s styles are certainly different from Ryan Benjamin’s usual work on the series, but in this case it makes sense. When Nightwing appears, he looks like something out of the Chuck Dixon era. I really enjoyed this issue, and I think Beechen has a good handle on these characters and their world. It’s a nice hybrid of DC-Animated continuity and extrapolations from the current Bat-books. However, it’s turning into its own thing, which looks like it’ll be a lot of fun to follow.
I read the Black Widow: Deadly Origin collection by Paul Cornell, Tom Raney and John Paul Leon. As much as I like Black Widow, I’m not that familiar with the intricate details of her long continuity outside of general knowledge like “she used to be a bad guy and dated Daredevil and Hawkeye for a while.” Cornell’s put all that together in a way that makes sense without letting the massive history bog the story down. Deadly Origin isn’t just an exercise in continuity-cleaning, it’s an action-packed spy story (complete with a killer, Bond-esque teaser opening) that also has something interesting to say about Black Widow and the people in her life. I’ve been interested in Cornell for a while, but I think this is the first thing of his that I’ve read so far. It certainly won’t be the last.
Art-wise, I enjoyed both John Paul Leon’s flashback sequences and Tom Raney’s drawings in the modern-day adventure. I’ve been a big fan of Leon’s since his Milestone days and Raney’s got a great knack for facial expressions (among other things) that very much sells the emotionally draining journey that Black Widow travels in this story.
The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though. Except for Sala, those other guy’s comics only come out every five years or so, so I’m usually looking at reprint collections for my fix. I look forward to the complete Dick Tracy and whatever nutty 1940’s/50’s stuff Fantagraphics and IDW put out. No new mainstream stuff.