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Semi-Annual Inventory

by  in Comic News Comment
Semi-Annual Inventory

Well, I used to do this just once a year but publishers keep canceling stuff on me. And it dawned on me that the reserve list has completely morphed into something different since the last time I talked about it, so here we are again.

To be honest, I only have a pull list any more because there are a very few books that I want to make sure get a ‘wallet vote’ from me. The vast majority of comics in this household come as book collections, generally remaindered or used. Since we are apparently trapped on this hamster wheel of serialized monthly 32-page booklet comics no matter how little sense it makes to keep doing stories that way– I will spare you the dissertation on why comics were originally designed in that format to accommodate newsstands, spinner racks, and magazine distribution networks, all of which are no longer relevant issues in comics publishing– but for whatever insane reasons, publishers and retailers have ruled that we’re stuck with that. So, okay. There are a very few books I enjoy enough that I will support them in that format. These are the current ones on that list.

Aquaman by Abnett, Eaton, Jiménez and Morales. Published by DC.I’ve always liked Aquaman and I always am rooting for the book to be good. I’m frankly annoyed that this Rebirth stuff is screwing with what was shaping up into a nice new direction from Abnett, and it’s thoroughly unnecessary. There’s no reason this couldn’t have just been the next issue of the regular series, but because it’s Rebirth, there’s a lot of needless setup to do– and as my colleague Greg Burgas points out, it’s kind of ridiculous because we all know it, and anyway everyone feeling defensive about Super Friends really needs to let all of that go, that was in the previous millennium. I got over being annoyed over the Super Friends back when I was in high school, for crying out loud. But I like the idea of setting up the Atlantean terrorist cell and it’s an okay enough opening act for the new arc. I just wish that we could completely dump the idea of Aquaman as the Atlantean King. I like it much better when Aquaman is the king of the SEA and just occasionally drops by Atlantis.

All that being said… I still like the book and I’m hoping the weak Rebirth issue is just a corporate mandated hiccup, because the issues leading up to this were great fun. More of that, less of this. But I’m still in.

*

Archie by Waid, Staples, and various others. Published by Archie. I am not nearly as sentimental about Archie comics as some, though I do have a soft spot for the characters; mostly nostalgia for the Saturday morning cartoons of years past. But I started picking this up on the strength of Mark Waid’s name and I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised. Not just because the book’s good– because it is– but because nostalgia isn’t the engine that’s driving it. I don’t know why I was surprised because Waid has a pretty good track record of sussing out the good part of a character or series idea and building on that. But this re-imagining of Archie and the Riverdale gang is something on a level with what Gatiss and Moffit did with Sherlock, or Ron Moore did with Battlestar Galactica. It feels that fresh. Waid even figured out a way to make the Betty vs. Veronica thing play like something real people might do, and to make Veronica Lodge sympathetic, which I would not have thought possible.

I don’t want to shortchange the artists here, either. Fiona Staples and Veronica Fish have both made the book their own, though everyone is still recognizable.

Best of all, each issue is a complete reading experience. The stories are largely done in one; sometimes with a little next-issue stinger, but always a complete narrative experience. There is a little filler in the back, a classic reprint from Archie’s early years. This is all I ever need from a comic. It’s not actually any heftier than a monthly book from Marvel or DC, but it feels like I’m getting more for my money.

Likewise, Jughead from Zdarsky and Henderson is a hoot, as well. Same basic format as the Archie book but Jughead is funnier and weirder. The first six issues each had a little fantasy interlude where Jughead becomes a space ranger or a superhero or Dr. Who (sort of). But that’s not necessarily a selling point for me, and it struck me as a device that would get old quick, so I was glad to see it go with the latest issue.

Jughead and Archie having their camping trip disrupted by the Mantle family reunion is horror enough, though I was half-expecting some sort of Jughead fantasy about Camp Crystal Lake. Jughead as Jason is probably over the line, though this is the company that is currently publishing Afterlife With Archie, so anything’s possible. And the art from Erica Henderson, and now Derek Charm, is amazing. I gather Zdarsky is leaving soon and Ryan North takes over the writing on the title; I hope he keeps the same weirdness Zdarsky brought to it.

I can tell that weirdness is Jughead’s stock in trade from the vintage reprints in the back of each issue and Zdarsky did a great job of keying in on that. Let’s hope North does too. But I’m won over enough to give the new team a shot.

*

Future Quest by Parker, Shaner, and Rude. Published by DC. Okay, now THIS one is completely driven by nostalgia. Full stop.

I don’t care. Someone at DC seems to have sat down and said, “Okay, let’s just put every single thing Greg loved in 1968 into one comic and see what happens.” Reading it made me feel like I was seeing an actual professional production of this kind of fan fiction. You know, what most crossovers should be and almost never are: putting all the cool stuff in one place. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to figure out but somehow a lot of comics creators miss it, with all the talky self-justification we seem to get any more when someone publishes a big event crossover thing. (Looking at you, Rebirth.) Seriously, reading through the first issue of Future Quest my grin got progressively larger and it almost physically hurt when I got to the last page and realized I’d have to wait a month for the next installment. It’s just plain made of pure awesome.

I suppose it dates me that I recognized every silhouette in that vortex scene. But I am certain that I was meant to, and that’s part of the fun. I have no clue of if this is a limited series or an ongoing but I am in as long as Parker and Shaner are doing it. They own me now.

*

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane by Matt Wagner et al. Published by Dynamite. Well, there’s just no way I was missing this. I’m always up for the Shadow, though I confess I did skip the previous Shadow/Twilight Zone miniseries. But Matt Wagner? Story AND art? Absolutely.

I’m sure this will be getting a trade collection but I don’t care, I just can’t stand to wait. I’m immature that way sometimes– not too often any more, but this and one other on the list, Future Quest, fall into that category. Sometimes I just give in to my need for immediate gratification.

I’d have been happy if he was just writing it, but he’s drawing it too, and it’s practically a master class in mood and atmosphere as well as in getting the story told smoothly and with style. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Wagner doing the one-man-band routine like this– I think the Shadow/Grendel crossover was the last one– but he’s sure not missing a step. It’s great stuff.

All that being said, I’m kind of hoping Margo doesn’t actually die. She fares much better in the comics than anywhere else, and of all the comics versions, Wagner’s is my favorite. I’d like this Margo to stick around.

But I’m in either way.

*

Still picking up Spider-Man 2099 and James Bond. The first Bond arc, Vargr, was a tiny bit of a letdown– I don’t know why, it was good, but just not quite as good as I’d hoped. Warren Ellis certainly has a good sense of the character and his world, and the guy in the comic is definitely Ian Fleming’s Bond. But something was missing. Maybe it’s just that the Fleming Bond needs that running interior monologue he always had in the novels, and that’s hard to pull off in comics. But it’s nevertheless good stuff and certainly I’ll be back for arc #2.

Spider-Man 2099 is suffering from the same kind of corporate-mandated interruption from Marvel as Aquaman is from DC. Even so, Peter David is doing some very cool stuff– like giving us a Sinister Six from an alternate future that our hero Miguel is desperately trying to prevent.

Anyway, it’s a wallet vote. Peter David has said that it’s the monthly sales Marvel looks at, and it’s his book so I figure he would know. I’m happy to give them my monthly sale as my vote to keep it going.

And that’s it for the monthly stuff. As for other new books, I keep up with Conan and Grayson in the trade editions. That’s pretty much it. They canceled all the other books I was interested in. Even Star Trek is going away and I thought that was just about bulletproof. But it’s probably going to get a relaunch after the new movie comes out.

Although I’m ambivalent about Conan after Fred Van Lente leaves, and I hear Grayson‘s going away and we get Nightwing back. So we’ll see about both of those.

Anyway, that’s the list. A little larger than I’d thought it would be last year at this time, but still not all that much on it. But then again, every year I say this is IT, trades only for me, and every year there are a couple of titles that keep me coming back on Wednesdays. I might as well own up.

See you next week.

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