Dean Trippe's The Good Stuff (December 2010)

In the interest of helping the mainstream comics industry by both promoting their good stuff and ignoring their less successful attempts, Dean Trippe takes time out of his busy schedule to inform you about the best of the best put out by the Big Two. Here are his most recent favorites.

Welcome once again to The Good Stuff. As always, I’m the Internet’s Dean Trippe, creator of Butterfly, founder and editor of Project: Rooftop, powered by the rays of Earth’s yellow sun. Let’s talk awesome comics.

Batman, Inc. #1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette. More than four years into Morrison’s Batman stories, it’s now pretty easy to divide it up into large chunks. While any Grant Morrison DCU story is always gonna work better in the larger context of the GMDCU hyperstory (including DC One Million, Seven Soldiers, Final Crisis, etc), there are also nice, big bites to recommend as complete stories (the Club of Heroes arc, or R.I.P., for example) and solid jumping on points (Batman and Robin #1) for new readers. With the recent conclusion of the Simon Hurt/Return of Bruce Wayne megastory, Batman, Inc. offers the cleanest jumping on point since Grant’s first issue of Batman in 2006. As I’m sure you know, judging from the excellent sales numbers, this book is flat out action fun times, with new characters, familiar allies, and Morrison’s trademark take on the most capable man alive. Paquette’s art, having already previously floored me in his earlier Marvel and America’s Best Comics work, is so very welcome here in the Bat-Family. I’m sure I’m not shocking anyone with my expectable praise of another Morrison DC project, but as always, my favorite writer delivers not the promise of the characters. In New X-Men, he elevated the mutant population to a more visible minority status among humanity. In Batman and Robin, he put Dick Grayson in his rightful place, finally, as the heir to the Batman mantle. In All-Star Superman, he showed Superman to be the greatest hero in all of human history, both as a real person in the fictional world and as a fictional character in our world. And now in Batman, Inc., he hits Batman over the head with that lone avenger nonsense he’s always talking about and tosses him out into the world to use his complete set of skills to save the world from crime. Grant’s talent is always doing the most obvious thing you’ve never thought of. Brilliantly. Hyperstory followers should read Batman: The Return first.

Detective Comcis #871 by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla. As established above, I tend to follow anything Morrison does and skip anything else going on at the same time as his work on the same dynasty. More often than not, this rule keeps me from buying lots of “tie-in” comics that actually knot themselves up next to Morrison’s intricate tapestries. However, having seen some interviews with Snyder, it sounded to me like he really had a grip on the Bat-Family, especially Dick Grayson. So I picked up this first issue of his run on Detective. Thank God. Because it’s awesome. In the issue, Scott reveals an even better understanding of Mr. Grayson and his familiar ally, Jim Gordon, than I’d expected. This is a badass, quick-moving, action mystery with familiar Bat-mythos elements used in new ways. It fits very well together with my other favorite Bat-titles. Clearly, this is a writer who’s read Dixon’s Nightwing and Brubaker and Rucka’s Gotham Central. Jock’s scratchy, moody art suits the action mystery vibe here so perfectly. And the back-up feature illustrated by the brilliant Francavilla, unlike nearly all of the DC back-up features, gels brilliantly with the main story—not at all by chance, as Snyder’s handling the writing on both parts. So…I guess I’m reading another monthly.

iZombie #8 by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred. iZombie continues to be one of the most welcome books in my monthly comics pulls. The reliable goodness is hard to overstate, with Roberson’s very likable character writing and Allred’s always-rad art. It’s a high-quality book, packed to the brim with an expanding and clearly thought-out world. The monsters and monster fighters and friends and allies and, as I said before, set pieces, just make this story feel so delightfully REAL despite the outright insanity of following a zombie girl grappling with her unexpectedly continuing life among humans and monsters, all the while feeding on the disgusting, memory-filled minds of the recently deceased! I also like knowing that Chris and Mike are in this for the long haul, as they’ve revealed they have no intention of leaving this beautiful, creator-owned universe any time soon. Above, we see my favorite character, the ancient and immortal Amon (the series’ dapper mummy man!) talking with the shadow-stalking new villain, Mistress Galatea, a Frankenstein’s Bride-as-mad-scientist! This mashed-up collection of monsters and metaphysics could so easily have been a mess, but it’s really something special to find a series with this much fun and nonsense wrapped around so many distinct and likable characters. It’s rare for me to get locked in on Vertigo series with issue one, but iZombie’s staying on my pull for as long as they’re printing it.

Starborn #1 by Chris Roberson and Khary Randolph. Another new series from our pal Chris Roberson (iZombie, Cinderella, and who’ll soon be taking over the flagship Superman title), this time from BOOM! Studios. BOOM! is a bit outside my usual purview here at The Good Stuff, but the Stan Lee superheroes line, and of course, my fandom of the writer and artist merited at least a first issue read. Like his much lauded work elsewhere, Roberson’s writing familiar tropes with small, wonderful twists that set the whole story cockeyed to what you’re expecting. I’m actually a bit too fond of this issue to spoil a minute of it, so I’ve only included my favorite of the variously varied variants (Stan the Man homage, eh?) drawn by Paul Rivoche. Pick up this book. If you like comics, this one will like you back. Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads have the art well in hand here, with an animated, kinetic vibrance in line, motion, and color. With most of the Big Two titles rotating house style artists, this sci-fi superhero book is a welcome addition to my Wednesday spoils.

Superboy #2 by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo. One of my favorite titles from last year was Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul’s Adventure Comics, following the new adventures of Conner Kent Superboy, recently revived from the dead and trying to find his place in the world by following in the footsteps of his heroic mentor, Superman, and trying to avoid the mistakes of his other DNA-donor, Lex Luthor. Now continuing those threads in his eponymous monthly title, Superboy and his eerily Luthoresque BFF, Simon Valentine fight to protect Smallville from super-threats from without and within. Lemire is doing amazing, Silver Agey things here, ala All-Star Superman (which, thanks to colorist Jamie Grant, shares a vital collaborator). Pier Gallo’s art is confident and attractive, with a more unique artistic vision than most mainstream titles. I dug the first issue, but this second one locked it in for me, as my friend Tim Callahan had predicted it would. Lemire’s Superboy and Valentine team play off each others’ strengths and differences in that way one always wishes Superman and Lex could (or in the case of Superman’s friendship with the Luthor mirror character Leo Quintum, did). There’s a cool mystery building here in Smallville, so get on board while there’s still only a little catching up to do.

Thor the Mighty Avenger #7 by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. This title’s not long for this world, but every issue of Langridge and Samnee’s Thor is to be cherished. Langridge has such a clear grasp of Thor’s character, as a brash young man, soothed by friendship and romance, and attracted to sincerity and courage. Chris Samnee is a once-in-a-generation new talent, with serious storytelling chops and clear, gorgeous depictions of every character in any emotional state. Look, I read a lot of comics, and a lot of Marvel comics, many very good ones, but none better than Thor: The Mighty Avenger. I fully expect to follow these phenomenal creators wherever they turn up next. Unfortunately for us all, the majority of comics readers have been trained to buy all the titles that push forward the main megastory arcs dominating events from year to year, rather than simply buying the books from their favorite creators. So when a book of this quality comes along, with no need to keep up with fifteen other titles, nor contributing to the stories in those other books, it’s hard to get any traction with fans anymore. You want to know why comics sales are down? It’s not just the economy. It’s shortsighted sales tactics. It’s sad to see a series of this undeniable, universally recognized quality fall in sales battle. One more issue before Ragnarok, when Thor: TMA joins Nextwave in Valhalla. Bow your heads, ye mortals.

More Good Stuff: Knight & Squire #3 continued to reign, New Avengers #7 was a surprisingly delightful fanboy talkathon, Captain America: Patriot #4 ended its tour of duty admirably, and if you missed that Supergirl Annual #2, just hijack a time-sphere and get back to your LCS to pick it up. Trust me.

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