What Are You Reading?

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today's special guest is STORM, who works at San Francisco's Isotope Comics, is the creator of Princess Witch Boy (the second issue of which will be available at APE this year), reads Heroic Tarot with X-Men cards and is a member of Writers Old Fashioned.

To see what STORM and the Robot 6 crew are reading this week, read on ...


Tim O'Shea

Any comic that sports Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez inked by Dave Gibbons warrants first mention in my stack of reads for the week. I'm starting to doubt I will stick around for all 10 issues in the Len Wein-written miniseries, but issue 4 of Legacies does probably sport my favorite page so far. Imagine a page in which Garcia-Lopez first 30+ villains(some of which despite reading DC Comics since the late 1970s I cannot ID). I've never been a big reader of DC's war comics, but I have to admit I got sucked into the "where are they now/character reunion" setting of a 1976 Easy Company gathering. I found the back-up story with Joe Kubert art to be far more engaging than the main tale.

It stinks that two Jeff Parker books come out in the same week, because it restricts the number of times I can praise the writer in a month. This month marks the second to last issue of ATLAS I get to enjoy--and Parker's throwing a few surprises in the mix. I have to admit I have not taken the time to appreciate Gabriel Hardman's striking sense of layout--until this issue. Thunderbolts 147 blindsided me with some unexpectedly great all-out brawl scenes. Anytime Luke Cage and Purple Man end up in the same room, John Walker/U.S. Agent's always been a pretty lame character over the years (read his Wikipedia entry and I think you'll agree) but I think Parker has perfectly cast Walker as the warden of the Raft, allowing him to narrate this issue in particular.

Request to CBGB editor Ian Brill, I'm loving issue 2 of CBGB as much as the first one, but given that I'm not well-versed in CBGB history--I don't recognize all the musicians. Sure I recognize the Ramones and Blondie, but I'm really dying to know who the guy performer in a tutu was. Any chance for some footnotes, Ian, or is that intentional for some reason? I don't know if Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic has an interest in writing more stories for this project, but I hope she does as I enjoyed her debut.

Pouring through the used copy of Essential Avengers 4 that I recently picked up, even though I've read many of these tales in different 1970s reprints over the years I still had a blast. Getting to see the artists of this period (Avengers 69-97) you are treated to alternating runs of the Buscema brothers (Sal and John) as well as a few issues by Neal Adams. Seeing these issues in black and white allows me to appreciate the art on another level. John Buscema may have been partial to non-superhero stuff, but damn was he good. Also I've always been a fan of the Vision and this run of issues offers a lot of him--including the wacky premiere of his rarely used synthetic mask (aka human disguise) in issue 79. Reading the Thomas/Adams stories, I find myself wondering why Adams and Thomas never re-teamed again more recently for a limited series at Marvel or DC. I imagine it may be that Adams prefers to write and draw his own stories, but who knows.

Sean T. Collins

This week I took a look at a couple of short story collections from the small press and a pamphlet with a sordid past. Click the links for full reviews...

Curio Cabinet by John Brodowski: A compellingly creepy blend of the intimate and the epic, the horrific and the sublime.

The Airy Tales by Olga Volozova: I'm not sold on the shaky, overly ethereal art here, but these made-up fairy tales capture the weirdo illogic of the stories you remember from childhood.

Al Burian Goes to Hell by Al Burian: Student work by a longtime zine-maker gets unceremoniously and unauthorizedly re-released by his unscrupulous former publisher. The weird story behind the book is a lot more interesting than the book itself.

Tom Bondurant

Like Tim, I enjoyed the backup story in DC Legacies more than the feature, and the feature was pretty good on its own. However, the backup highlights the main problem with an official retelling of DC-Earth's most current history -- namely, the degree to which the story is faithful to what "really happened." Personally, I thought the final fate of Sgt. Frank Rock was a clever way to appease both those who prefer he died in battle and those who liked his later superhero-universe appearances. The "Rock of Easy Company" did die by the last bullet fired in World War II, and his son went on to interact with Superman et al. In fact, my continuity-oriented concerns with the story had to do more with seeing the Losers as old veterans, because they were killed off twice in the summer of 1985. Crisis On Infinite Earths did it with shadow-demons in war-torn Markovia, and the more traditional Losers Special revealed their (apparently post-Crisis) battlefield deaths. Wikipedia says Gunner and Sarge were brought into the present in Birds of Prey, but that would still be after Legacies' Bicentennial reunion.

Still, all that is beside the point to a great extent, because DC can use about half-a-dozen cosmic events to claim that history was reordered thusly. What matters is the story, not the continuity, and this was a nice little vignette. Indeed, one of Legacies' larger goals has to be the establishment of an overall theme for DC's super-characters, and as long as it hits the high points I think it can take a mulligan or two on the fringes.

I've been big into the phone books again -- I read the first few issues of Essential Captain America Vol. 5, just to see how the book got from the Falcon/Red Skull subplot to Jack Kirby's last hurrah; and it was OK, nothing special. I have all the Kirby issues in color, so I can wait on Vol. 6. I've also been reading Essential Defenders Vol. 5, featuring J.M. DeMatteis/Don Perlin stories from the early '80s. Mostly these are standalone issues or short arcs featuring a classic team of Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Son Of Satan, and occasionally the Hulk and/or Namor. Again, nothing special, although I did like issue #92's "Eternity ... Humanity ... Oblivion!"

Now I'm going back and forth between Essential Defenders and Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Vol. 2. So far the latter is very deeply invested -- almost painfully so -- in "hip lingo" from the mid-to-late '60s. I remember some of that from Vol. 1, but I don't remember it being that bad. I expect the dialogue will improve before too long, because (as Legacies reminds us) the book won't exactly have a happy ending....


MEATCAKE COMPILATION by Dame Darcy (Fantagraphics)

Dame Darcy is an enchantress. Whether she is singing sea shanties in her band (Death by Doll) or making handmade dolls, this amazing comics creator weaves a magick spell on you! Nowhere does she do this better than in her amazing creator-owned comic book Meatcake!

Meatcake is a tour de force showcasing the most primal of passions! It is an issue of Creepy edited by Edward Gorey! It is a Gothic soap opera as written by Victorian lolitas! It is a celebration of love and hubris, beauty and decay! There is no other comic in the world that offers a titillating parade of mermaids, ghosts, sailors, sirens, faeries, witches and wolfmen in intriguing and compromising situations! You will be dazzled, you will be entertained, but above all, you will be enchanted!

The Meatcake Compilation features selected stories from Meatcake issues #1 through #11.STAR WARS: LEGACY by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema (Dark Horse)

I have a healthy amount of love for the Star Wars franchise (meaning I like the movies with which I grew up) and I think it's great that there's a title out there for almost everyone (I know quite a few 7 year olds who think that Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is the coolest thing ever), but none of them grabbed me until this one. The reason for this sudden selective Star Wars obsession? The art of Jan Duursema. Two years ago, I glimpsed an image of Cade Skywalker on the cover of Star Wars: Legacy and took it home. After devouring that issue, and falling in love with yet another anti-hero, I searched out back issues that week.

Star Wars: Legacy gave me a universe with which I was already comfortable and pushed it 125 years into the future. The story (plotted by both John Ostrander and Duursema, with script by Ostrander) was fresh and I grew to know and love the characters and political intrigues as much as the art. However, if an issue was without Duursema's pencils, my enjoyment diminished greatly.

Star Wars: Legacy ended last week with issue #50. It was a bittersweet issue because the cancellation came rather abruptly and more than a few plotlines were left dangling. My sadness was somewhat alleviated by the news in the letter columns of a new six-issue series titled War which will continue where Legacy left off, but I need to know if John Ostrander and Jan Durrsema will be a part of it before I get too excited. At any rate, I recommend checking out the trades of this fantastic series.

AVENGERS ACADEMY by Christos Gage and Mike McKone (Marvel)

This book is getting overlooked in the sudden onslaught of new Avengers titles and it deserves more attention than it has been getting. When I first heard about the concept I was intrigued. Sure, a training program by “Earth's Mightiest Heroes” for upcoming superheroes sounded cool, but what about the Young Avengers, New Warriors, Young Allies or all those kids that were in the Initiative? Why weren't they being used? Why did we need a bunch of new characters? And seriously, what was up with their names? Hazmat? Mettle? This is a joke, right? Mostly, I was just upset that all the new kids I had just gotten to know in Avengers: The Initiative were being scuttled.

Well, after three issues I can assure you that the Powers That Be knew what they were doing. This book is a gem. Thanks to the deft writing of Christos Gage (whose Avengers: The Initiative was quite the pleasure to read) and the stunning artwork of Mike McKone, I am happy to say that Avengers Academy is an entertaining and enticing read.

Thanks to rotating narrators each issue, I have been getting to know the new characters and Gage has been winning me over with their respective challenges and perspectives. Gage's decision to combine established heroes with new characters seems similar to how George Pérez and Marv Wolfman approached working on New Teen Titans in 1980. While Tigra, Quicksilver, the Wasp (Hank Pym), Speedball and Justice don't have quite the cachet that Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash had, they certainly have enough years of continuity between them to mine for future stories. In particular, Quicksilver has already become morally compromised to the wiles of one of his students.

Marvel comics have always explored the gray area between good and evil and Avengers Academy is receiving the full inheritance of that tradition. Now if only former guidance counselor Trauma could show up as a series regular. Gage, you hear me? Make it so!

STARMAN OMNIBUS VOLUMES 1 - 4 by James Robinson and Tony Harris (DC)

Call me late to the party if you must, but I never read Starman in single issues. There were a few times I picked it up out of curiosity (like the issues where the Mist's daughter hunted down random members of Justice League Europe and when the Will Payton Starman returned) but I never had a chance to read the full tapestry of Starman until now.

What a great yarn by James Robinson and what beautifully rich artwork by Tony Harris! I am awestruck by the complexities that Robinson manages to give each character, especially with such a large cast. Everyone gets a chance to shine in Starman (That was an accidental pun, but now that I've caught it, I'm leaving it). One would expect that a story that weaves together aspects of every age of comics together in one telling would, by nature of the beast, collapse in upon itself. However, one would be wrong.

Yes, this is a superhero book. There is punching and fighting and elements of the supernatural and pseudo-science. You can just as easily learn about the past and present of the DC Universe by reading this book as you can about analyzing the relationships between fathers and sons. However, at its essence, Starman is an exploration of human choices, an investigation into free will and destiny, and a celebration of life from generation to generation. Kudos to DC for presenting this modern day classic in such handsomely vibrant volumes. They make reading this masterpiece all the more enjoyable.

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