Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading, our weekly look at whatever books, comics or cereal boxes we happen to be reading at the moment. JK Parkin is on vacation for the next week, so I'll be your host until he gets back.
Our guest this week is Vancouver artist Jason Copland, who has contributed to the Perhapanauts series and currently draws the online comic Kill All Monsters (which is written, of course, by our own Michael May)
To see what Jason and the rest of the crew are reading, click below.
Chris Mautner: Adrian Tomine's Scenes From an Impending Marriage is a trifle, but it's an utterly charming trifle. If you don't know, this was originally a mini-comic Tomine did as a party favor for the guests at his wedding, now released in a somewhat expanded version with a thick hardcover coating. The comic follows Tomine and his fiance as they attempt to figure out who to invite, make invitations, try to find a decent dj,and all the other ridiculous stuff that's involved in planning a wedding. There's nothing here that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's gotten married in the past decade or so, watched a friend deal with the hassle of planning a wedding, or watched Father of the Bride a couple of times won't recognize. That works both in its favor (anyone who's gone to register their gifts at a local big box chain will appreciate Tomine's grumpiness here) and against it (familiarity can breed contempt, or at least bad memories, after all). But Tomine's story is so light and funny -- and grounded via some charity work about what really matters -- that it's hard to begrudge it too much. The AV Club's review compared it to an established artist putting out an EP after a series of notable albums, and that sounds about right.
Tom Bondurant: I really liked this week's Secret Six #31 (by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore), from its new-reader-friendly introduction to its cliffhanging final page. It picks up a plot thread from this series' first arc, the "Get Out Of Hell Free" card, and examines how the dysfunctional team would use that card -- but because this is Secret Six, it does so by killing one character and hinting pretty strongly that another is next. It took me a while to get used to Calafiore's work, because it's such a different style from Nicola Scott's, and I haven't disliked it by any means -- but this issue really showed me his range, from character moments to fight scenes to outright horror. The issue was so good, it almost made me think Simone and Calafiore are starting some sort of victory lap and the whole thing will end in a double-sized apocalyptic #36. That's just me being paranoid, though....
It had been so long since issue #5 that I wanted to read all the issues of First Wave before diving into this week's conclusion (by Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales). Curiosity got the best of me, though, and I liked the issue pretty well. Basically, the issue involves a couple of mad-genius villains with an aquatic city, devising all sorts of things to help them rule the world, etc. Along the way the Blackhawks fight a tsunami, Doc Savage fights a robot, the Spirit fights a giant iguana, and Batman scares one of the villains. Again, if I'd read the first five issues recently, I could have told you more about why any of this mattered. However, in a weird way, it's enough just to see these things, even out of context. The "First Wave" line had its share of structural problems (and why couldn't DC have gotten the Shadow involved?), but this miniseries might have been one of its better offerings.
Finally, ever since January's big bookshelf reorganization, I've been able to revisit some of my library's dustier corners. In the past few weeks I've read the JLA: Age Of Wonder miniseries (your favorite characters in the Gilded Age) and the first couple of Batman Adventures animated-series comics. However, in the on-deck circle is the first Gen13 paperback, something I had just about forgotten I owned, but so full of '90s goodness it is practically daring me to read it.
Carla Hoffman: I read a lot of stuff this week, including Annihilators #1 which is as awesome as water is wet and Avengers Academy #10 which continues to be hands-down the best Avengers book sold in this reality, but let's talk about the two issues I read thanks to obscurity. Ever pick something up because of a stray conversation or involuntary recollection? This week, I read Midnighter #6 and #7 for no good reason. I can't tell you what made me hanker for the Authority spin off, nor could I tell you what made me dive for two of the four single issue stories that were part of the 20 issue run. Something in my brain demanded I hunt these issues down and specifically read the these two out of something someone said or a conversation with a customer or who knows what. It's like when cookies sound like a really good idea after dinner and watching a guy in black leather kick people in the head was my cookie this week. The cookie was delicious.
For those of you who are curious, Midnighter #6 is a samurai's tale. Garth Ennis and Glen Fabry reimagined the Midnighter and Apollo for feudal Japan and oh man, it's good. Absolutely lyrical on Ennis's part and the art has tons of emotion poured into each expression or 'rose' the Japanese Midnighter leaves on a bone-littered grave. The concept is quick and stunning, full of dramatic tragedy and honesty to the concept of the main characters. Yeah, the Midnighter and Apollo aren't from feudal Japan and they really have no reason to be, but the story is so brilliant that it will haunt you for the rest of the day.
Midnighter #7 is a trip and a half; Brian K. Vaughan and Darrick Robertson craft a story from end to beginning. Seriously, the book is presented backwards from the best outcome to the inception of this particular battle. Clever, because this is the Midnighter's schtick (that the computer in his brain predicts the outcome of his fights before they even start) and outrageous because this is a story about a man who can hit someone with a staff so that his opponent's face explodes. Questions are tossed at your right and left as you try and figure out just how the Midnighter got to this point and then, BAM! Next page answer and a whole new situation that leaves you guessing. I suppose it reads the same backwards and forwards, but the backwards is the best part. Did I mention that a guy gets hit and his face explodes? 'Cause that totally happens and Robertson really lets you enjoy it with this detailed and dark arts.
I could not tell you why I picked these up this particular week, but I am so glad I did.
Tim O'Shea: If you're Marcos Martin, you have to wish they would have released Amazing Spider-Man 655 on any other week than when Fantastic Four 588 also is released (as happened last week). Sure the silent tale after the death of Johnny Storm is an amazing visual read by artist Nick Dragotta, don't get me wrong. But Martin's layout alone--and the way he frames and isolates characters in certain scenes may be one of the best comics I've ever had the pleasure to read in years. It deserves all the praise I can heap on it and more.
Thunderbolts 154: Jeff Parker makes me interested in a Man-Thing story for the first time ever.
Avengers Academy 10: Hazmat finds a way to go outside without her suit and sans her power. I was surprised that Christos Gage explored this character possibility this early in the series, but when you see the payoff to the scenario, it makes perfect sense and allows Gage to naturally advance the development of Jennifer/Hazmat's character. It's been awhile since I've seen the work of artist Sean Chen, but his style is a good fit for the series.
Jeff Lemire brings his A-game on two titles this week. First he teams with Emi Lenox, Matt Kindt and Nate Powell on Sweet Tooth 19, to tell three stories in one issue. Hell, the cover alone, which sports Lemire's incredible approach to design in a manner that allows all four artists (along with Jose Villarrubia) to contribute. Not to be too greedy, but I hope Kindt gets another chance to collaborate with Lemire on the series (and that's not to slight Lenox and Powell). Be sure to flip to the end, where Lemire interviews the other three artists. The amount of quality content I received for my $2.99 eased the hit my wallet took when I spent $4.99 on the Giant-Size Atom one-shot by Lemire. This one-shot allows Lemire to finish the Atom co-feature that previously began in Adventure Comics. Lemire clearly has a lot more ideas of stories to explore with Atom, and I hope the sales on the one-shot allow DC to consider an Atom miniseries by Lemire down the road.
I love it when I can find used copies of Marvel's Essentials collection. Even though I own many of the original 1970s Marvel Team-Ups, there's something enjoyable about seeing this much early John Byrne collected in one spot as there is in volume 3 (which covers issues 52 to 75). Byrne was still learning how to do effective and unique layouts in this stage of his career. There are scenes where he tries to show Spidey web-swinging and it looks anatomically as if Peter Parker has a broken back. It's also fascinating to see the impact of different inkers on Byrne's art, including Frank Giacoia, Mike Esposito, Dave Hunt (who handles a majority of Bryne's run), Bob Wiacek, Ricardo Villamonte and Tony DeZuniga.
Michael May: I finished a couple of pirate comics this week. The Boy and I read Stone Arch's The Seven Voyages of Sinbad by Martin Powell and Ferran. Powell does an exceptional job of condensing all seven voyages into 64 pages, keeping only the best, most exciting stuff, and Ferran kills on the art. There are discussion questions in the back, one of which is, "Which panel of art was your favorite?" We had a tough time deciding that, but a lot of fun revisiting the book and looking at every page to help us make up our mind. The monster designs are awesome and there's a ton of energy in the action sequences.
For myself, I read Apollo and Lewis Trondheim's Bourbon Island 1730, a sad story about the end of piracy. "Sad" because it's told mostly through the romanticized viewpoint of a scientist's assistant who would much rather be a pirate. But as he learns when he arrives on Bourbon Island, all the pirates are either becoming plantation owners or hangman's victims. Though the characters are all anthropomorphic animals, there's a lot of humanity in the story as the young assistant struggles to reconcile the way he wants to see the pirates with the reality that everyone else has accepted. As someone who also prefers the romantic version to reality, I can relate. Fortunately, even though many of the events in the book are brutally violent, Bourbon Island bridges romance and reality in a sensitive, gentle, bittersweet way.
Jason Copland: I’d like to preface my write-up by disclosing a few major factors that sway my comic book purchasing decisions. Firstly, being a drawer of comic book stuffs, I tend to base a large amount of my comic book buying solely on who drew it. For certain artists, I’ll buy any book that has their name on it. Books from people like Ashley Wood, Guy Davis, Paul Pope, Chris Samnee and Eric Canete are guaranteed purchases. The other factor influencing my buying is that I tend to stay away from the Big 2’s books, generally. No knock against superhero books, I just tend to be more interested in other genres and styles (of course, that’s not to say that I don’t buy any Big 2 books. Guys like Canete and Samnee do their fair share of Big 2 stuff, after all).
Alrighty, with that out of the way, here’s what I’ve read lately…
Afrodisiac by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca (Ad House Books) Now this is fun! From the '70s homage art to the snappy dialogue to the excellent production design, this book really entertains. I do kind of cringe at the tongue in cheek sexist/racist overtones but I tend to be overly sensitive to such things.
Florescent Black by MF Wilson, Nathan Fox and Jeremy Cox (Heavy Metal): This was my first encounter with Nathan Fox’s work. It won’t be the last, either. Wow, can this guy draw! And Cox’s colours make the line work explode off the page. It’s a mindbender of a book. Loved it!
Rodd Racer by Toby Cypress (Punkrock Jazz Publishing): I’m a huge fan of Toby’s work, and I’ve been waiting patiently since 2007 for Rodd Racer to drop. This was a labour of love so it’s no surprise that this book contains some of his finest art to date. Toby can weave a great little tale, too. The story moves at a fast pace, which is fitting considering the book is filled with street-racing action. This was a limited NYCC edition that has sold out, but luckily for everyone who missed out, Toby has mentioned that Rodd will be getting a brand new printing later in 2011!
Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore and CP Smith (Marvel): This was a fun re-imagining of the Wolverine mythos. The story is set in a hardboiled crime world in which Moore puts the non-mutant Wolverine through his fair share of beat-downs and losses. I’m a big fan of CP Smith’s work and he definitely hits the mark with his rough and gritty artwork. Smith's ability to convey textures and set the visual tone throughout the book is top notch.