Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading, where we glance over at our bedtables, pick up a comic or two and wave them about in the air in front of your face.
To find out what Tucker and everyone else is currently reading, click on the link below. Go man, go!
[caption id="attachment_5897" align="alignright" width="98" caption="Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1"]
Tom Bondurant: I'm still trekking through the Marvel Essentials catalog. I finished Essential Thor vol. 3 and just started Essential Avengers vol. 2. A trip to the local library also yielded the first Exiles collection (written by Judd Winick and penciled by Mike McKone), which would probably have been more intriguing if I had done any advanced X-Men studies. Fortunately, the library had Mouse Guard 1152 and Heartbreak Soup, so I'm looking forward to each of those.
And boy, Battle For The Cowl #1 was mediocre. Writer/penciler Tony Daniel focuses on Robin and Nightwing, but he throws the Knight, the Squire, and Damian into the mix without explaining who any of them are. (I know who they are, but considering this is a first issue, I shouldn't have to.) Unless I missed something, he's also emasculated Damian and rolled back the shot of confidence Peter Tomasi gave Nightwing. Plus, all the Arkham patients were put on buses, and no one tried to escape? Really? Those things didn't look like they could keep an elderly tour group from a roadside buffet. Still, look -- there's a police strike, just like Watchmen! So far DC's managed to surprise me with the identities of the other Nightwing and Flamebird, not to mention Sky-Knight over in Trinity, but the next guy in the Bat-suit looks obvious enough for me to skip the rest of BFTC.
[caption id="attachment_5916" align="alignright" width="96" caption="Essential Avengers Vol. 1"]
Lisa Fortuner: That's a coincidence, I just started Essential Avengers vol 1. I'm only halfway through the fifth issue, though. So far I'm finding Rick Jones considerably less annoying than I remembered. I really wish I had a color printing of issue #4 for the panels with defrosted but not-yet-awakened Captain America. Even in black and white it's my favorite Cap image. Must be the Sleeping Beauty fan in me.
Tim O'Shea: Out of curiosity, I bought Action Comics 875 to see what an issue without Superman reads like, and boy was it bad. I never understand the insistence to write dialogue in Kryptonian language only to have it translated. It takes away from the narrative. Memo to DC editorial: clearly gone are the days when every DC artist draws Lois Lane the same way, so if you're going to use her in a scene, toss readers a bone and actually identify her in some manner. Metropolis with an opening shot of the Daily Planet before showing a female watching a news report on TV (she says nothing and interacts with no one) was enough for me, but it again it was annoying and distracting -- not entertainment. The mystery of Flamebird and Nightwing smacks of "run of book soon to be forgotten," which is not what I normally get with Rucka.
On another front, the DC Nation teased us with Frank Quitely's take on Batman and Robin. How soon before Quitely tires of drawing people looking like they need to go to the bathroom? And why are Robin's legs (first panel) so incredibly lumpy? Is young Damian trying to fill out his costume more, by injecting mashed potatoes?
Booster Gold 18 features Booster teaming up with...Booster. That makes for some fun moments, but the plot takes an even more interesting turn with Michelle finding out about her past/future/alternate history/whatever one wants to call it (it's always so hard to say in a time travel book).
With Ghost Rider 33, Sara the (former?) nun takes center stage. When Jason Aaron introduced Sara, I dismissed her to be an annoying distraction. Boy was I wrong, as Aaron has constructed an engaging supporting cast with this book. And just to remind readers, before Aaron wrote Ghost Rider, I never ever gave two licks about this previously (to me, at least) utterly useless character.
I just got a copy of Top Shelf's Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell--so I look forward to reading that. I'll hopefully talk about that next week.
[caption id="attachment_5918" align="alignright" width="111" caption="Black Jack Vol. 4"]
Chris Mautner: Vertical was kind enough to send me the fourth volume of Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka earlier this week and I devoured that as quickly as possible. It's basically more of the same delacate balance between high melodrama, slapstick, off-kilter lunacy and up-close images of icky body organs that I've come to expect from the series so far.I really enjoyed it, but I haven't come across any of Tezuka's works yet that I haven't liked on some level.
I was surprised to hear from some critics that they found the manga hard to come to grips with -- that they were perplexed by the main character's motivation or thrown off by the BJ's admittedly disturbing sidekick, an five-year-old girl who speaks in a weal cutesy diawogue and likes to refer to herself as Black Jack's "wife" (and hoo boy, has she got a doozy of a secret origin).
I admit these things can throw you off a bit (though it helps to remember this was originally written for kids) -- the plot at times seems in service to the melodrama. Why for instance, does Black Jack keep from getting a medical license, other than the fact that it makes him a more tragic and outlaw figure?
Ah, never mind. This is a great series, full of blood and guts, both literal and figurative.
[caption id="attachment_5919" align="alignright" width="108" caption="Monster Vol. 16"]
Tucker Stone: I'm getting a new rug delivered in a couple of weeks, and I've been using that as an excuse to move a bunch of boxes and stacks of comics around, which of course turns into a process of reading the random stuff I hadn't gotten to yet. It's been fun -- I found a copy of Duplex Planet Illustrated #2, an odd little Fantagraphics anthology comic that has these short anecdotal stories from the residents of a retirement home illustrated by all kinds of different artists. I assumed my favorite was going to be the Chris Ware piece, but I actually preferred the American Splendor-ish one where an old guy confuses whitewash with mouthwash.
I was also plowing through the recent reprint of Sandman Mystery Theatre, a comic I didn't pay much attention too when it was originally released. I'm a big Guy Davis fan, and it's really cool to be so immersed in that and then get a chance to see his current work on B.P.R.D. It's sort of the same thing over and over again -- Wesley catches somebody who is bad, has sex with his girlfriend, some side character says something that's racist -- but it's pretty entertaining.
This past week, I finished the entire Monster series by Naoki Urasawa, which was really great. I had stopped keeping up around the 10th or 11th volume, and finally knuckled down and decided to read the entire thing as quickly as possible--I finished it on the way to work, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I had when I was reading it in the two-month installment fashion. The final volume, which is pretty much wall-to-wall action and confrontation, was that much more exciting because I was reading it at the same fevered pitch that the characters were operating at.
My next big comic thing is going to be this full set of Epic reprints of Moebius' Blueberry series. I've never read them, never read anything about them -- it was just a "huh, that's pretty cheap" purchase. I like what I've read of Moebius a lot, and I'm looking forward to these, but it's always weird to buy 15 pounds of comics you know nothing about beyond the creators name.
Non comics wise, I just finished Notice, by Heather Lewis. it's maybe one of the most depressing books I've ever read, even worse when you read it as an author's suicide note, which it very well could be. It's all kinds of sexual depravity, delivered in this clinical, almost autistic tone. Just page after page of a very realistic, visceral horror, as the narrator has some of the most detached and degrading sex she can find. It was totally gross and terrifying, but I still wish it was part of high school curriculum. It could take the place of A Separate Peace, which nobody needs to read now that Brendan Frazer has given us the film School Ties.