Welcome to What Are You Reading. I hope everyone had a nice Halloween and spent at least part of it reading comics.
Our guest this week is Chip Mosher, Marketing Director at Boom! Studios, publisher of such fine books as Irredeemable and The Muppet Show. As the image above hints, Chip’s been reading some rather interesting (and gritty) material, so click on the link below to discover what he and the rest of Robot 6 have been reading recently. Oh, and don’t forget to let us know what you have been reading in the comments section.
Tim O’Shea: My son really enjoyed the reversal of Atom’s usual power in Batman: The Brave and the Bold 10. Meanwhile, I just loved the sheer infectious nature of the story. Landry Walker makes me yearn for more Johnny DC titles written by him. And Eric Jones’ two-page spread (as Atom and a Mutant Giant Batman fight) is a sweet tribute to the old Godzilla films (nicely timed for Halloween).
Astra #2 (of the issue Astro City two-part special event) was more entertaining than the cumulative dragging sensation of Busiek’s Astro City/The Dark Age work. Let me clarify, while reading certain issues of The Dark Age, I’ve been engaged and entertained–but seeing how much more ground that Busiek’s been able to cover in two issues makes me partial to this quicker pacing. In terms of scope, I agree it’s an apples and oranges comparison, but I still find myself craving more Astra-scale tales.
As Greg Rucka’s Batwoman origin starts to play out in Detective Comics I’m slowly starting to appreciate why Rucka was so interested in developing Kate Kane. The final pages of this issue are some of the strongest I’ve seen from J.H. Williams III’s already impressive run. Rucka’s dialogue, mixed with Willams’ use of darkness and panel layout, is elevated by Todd Klein’s lettering particularly on the third to last page of the story. Did I mention Dave Stewart’s colors? Because I really should. I’ll be curious to see if and how DC collects Rucka and Cully Hamner’s Question back-up feature down the road. As this particular arc wraps, I’m left wishing the Question pacing was different. The final installment opens with a great foot chase scene that I wished had more space to play out. And the story’s conclusion carries an emotional closure that connects to the opening installment four issues ago. I think it would pack more emotional punch if I could read it in one sitting — a situation that admittedly would still occur even if the story had the lead position and page number volume of the main Detetctive story.
Speaking of Hamner, I just reread Warren Ellis/Hamner’s 2003 three-issue miniseries RED — in preparation for an interview with Hamner. This is likely my favorite Ellis-written tale, mainly because of Hamner’s exquisite work.
Finally, previous WAYR installments have sported me struggling with Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four. I struggle no more. Hickman’s conclusion, while a smidge rushed, strikes a convincing and winning tone with me. (Though I must admit, it cracked me up in the heat of battle on the world of Reeds, when one Reed would say address one of them as “Reed” and the others failed to all turn around in unison, and ask “which one?”…). I could have done without the Val and Franklin subplot, but you have to give readers something to come back for next issue I guess.
Brigid Alverson: It’s Halloween as I’m writing this, so it’s appropriate that I’m reading Beyond Temptation, a horror story told from a teen point of view. It’s horror lite—there’s a hawt demon and some vaguely drawn histrionics, but mostly it’s that more surreal kind of horror — a girl saves a demon’s life, and he must repay her somehow. When he hears she needs money, he makes money magically appear in her pockets. It’s sort of a modern version of the magic porridge-pot, with a bit of Twilight-esque forbidden romance. The drawing is rather rudimentary, and the script has some spelling errors and odd usage—the story is set in Europe and I think this is translated from another language. Usually these two things send me running from a webcomic, but this has an unusually good story, so I’ sticking with it.
Back on the printed page, I’m enjoying the first volume of Yuji Iwahara’s Cat Paradise. I absolutely adored Iwahara’s three-volume Chikyu Misaki, a gorgeously drawn manga that has a lot in common with classic kids’ films. Cat Paradise is more straightforward — you don’t stop to admire the art as much—but it’s still mighty pretty. The story is a schoolgirl’s delight—our heroine goes to a school where students are allowed to keep a pet cat, and it turns out that the students and the cats must unite to battle monsters that are attacking the school. Everything is imaginatively drawn, and all the cats have distinct personalities of their own—in fact, they are more interesting than the students. This is more than a cat manga, though. I am not particularly fond of cats, but I like a good story, and this one delivers.
Tom Bondurant: The LCS had a sale today — 20% off without costumes, 25% off with — so most of us donned our costumes for a family outing. The “Let’s Be Friends Again” guys were signing copies of their new collection, but the line was a little long and we still had to buy Halloween candy.
As for what I’ve been reading, I think I’ll just stop counting the number of styles JH Williams III uses in Detective Comics. What a great series that is.
Amy Reeder Hadley returned to Madame Xanadu for this week’s issue #16, in which Betty Draper is the victim of some very disturbing magical pranks. I really liked her work this issue, because I think it is an excellent fit for the clean lines of the late-1950s setting. Matt Wagner’s script was tight and suspenseful too, in part because I wasn’t sure exactly who was working behind the scenes.
This week also saw the American-comics debut of Congolese artist Pat Masioni, drawing the first of a two-part Unknown Soldier story (in issue #13). I found his work very similar to regular series artist Alberto Ponticelli, but that’s hardly a criticism: it’s expressive and efficient, and it kept writer Joshua Dysart’s script moving. LIke Madame Xanadu #16, the story begins with a
peripheral character and takes its time to get to Moses. That helped draw me into the story, and I’m looking forward to the next issue.
Finally, appropriately enough, I worked my way through Showcase Presents Ambush Bug. I hadn’t read his early appearances in the Superman books, and as it turns out I hadn’t read the Nothing Special, so some of it was actually new to me, but all of it was entertaining. I think I appreciate Keith Giffen’s sense of humor better today than I did when these books first appeared. Back then I was probably looking for the kind of gags which are many bloggers’ bread and butter — not that there’s anything wrong with that — so it was good to realize Giffen (and scripter Robert Loren Fleming) were in fact going for something a little deeper. Now, thanks to my LCS trip, I can read the final issue of Year None with an informed eye.
JK Parkin: The third edition of Matthew Loux’s Salt Water Taffy series is, like the others, a lot of fun. In this one, Jack and Benny solve a century’s old mystery and help out an old ghost tied to the town’s history.
And since I’ve been loving Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four, I picked up the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four trade. It’s a good intro to his work on the regular title, esp. the way he characterizes Reed. And the bits with Franklin and Valerie were worth the price of admission alone. Actually, there are lots of cool little touches in this, as Ben, Sue and Johnny are jumping through alternate universes where the FF are pirates, or cowboys or space rangers. Fun stuff.
Chris Mautner: Halloween seems like the perfect time to be reading Bernie Wrightson comics, so I’m glad IDW sent me an advance copy of the first issue of The Ghoul, his latest work with writer Steve Niles that I believe comes out in stores this week. Sadly, this issue feels a bit overly familiar. It’s basically Hellboy with a little bit of Goon mixed in — a trenchcoated police detective needs help solving a mysterious kidnapping, so he enlists the aid of The Ghoul, who works for a special supernatural, federal police force. Of course, it turns out the Ghoul is an actual monster, though quite the sardonic, kick ass tough guy as well.
It all has the feeling of walking down a well-traveled road. Certainly it’s nice to see Wrightson doing comics again, and Niles’ script is certainly breezy and competent enough. But unless there’s some major plot twists or change in tone in the next issue, there’s nothing here that isn’t in a hundred other supernatural detective stories that seem to be flooding the market these days.
IDW also sent me the first issue of the new Locke and Key series, written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. I’m not terribly familiar with the series, but if I’m reading it right, it’s basically a haunted house story with some fantasy elements thrown in. The first issue is basically a fight between the ghost of a dead killer and the astral projection of an apparently even worse bad guy. Rodriguez frames the sequence rather well. I like his characters’ burly, expressive faces. He throws in a lot of detail during the fight, but I never had a problem figuring out what was going on. The comic is a little too plot-heavy for me to start reading here, but I might go back and look at some of the previous trade collections.
Chip Mosher: When I am not completely immersed in comics, I like to read crime and hard boiled mystery novels. Ross MacDonald, Jim Thompson, Carter Brown, Charles Willeford, Donald Goines just to name a few. And if you are familiar with those guys, well you know that all those authors have passed away. So… I like to read stuff by a bunch of dead guys about people getting dead, but, hey, when I want a change of pace and read books by someone who is living, I turn to James Ellroy. Ellroy is called the “Demon Dog” of crime fiction and he’s damn good. Right now I am making my way through his latest “BLOOD’S A ROVER.” I love Ellroy’s muscular, clipped, staccato prose style and his labyrinthine plots. Reading his later work is like reading Kerouac poems, but about crime instead “the road”, and cool instead of pretentious! Speaking, Ellroy’s latest book’s title is taken from a poem titled “Reveille” by A.E. Housman:
Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad; when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough for sleep.
Which I thought was cool. (And, hey, might also be pretentious! Oh, well.) In any case, before I moved out to Los Angeles, Ellroy was fast becoming one of my favorite living writers, and since I have lived here I have had the opportunity to meet him several times; once doing a bus tour given by Ellroy himself! On that tour, we went around to the neighborhoods where he used to be do B&Es (that’s breaking and entering to the uninitiated), scenes of infamous murders that he works into his novels, and ending right at the spot where fifty year previous his mother’s body was dumped after she was brutally murdered (See Ellroy’s memoir MY DARK PLACES). The Ellroy bus tour was probably the best Christmas present my wife has ever given me. But I am weird that way. In any case, I am crime freak, a book freak, a conspiracy freak, and a history freak. If you’re freaky in the same way, I would highly recommend BLOOD’S A ROVER and the whole Underworld USA Trilogy, which includes AMERICAN TABLOID and THE COLD SIX-THOUSAND. It tracks the years from 1960-1972 and takes all the craziness of who killed JFK, RFK, MLK (but, hey, not MJK) and mixes it up in one blender of a bitchin’ series. And if you get the hardcover you can dig on those deckle edges. I love me some deckle edges. Did I mention I was a book freak? I think I did!