Welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where you'll hopefully find something to add to your summer reading list. Our guest this week is Chris Arrant, who you may know from his comic book journalism work for Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and various print magazines for Marvel Comics, or from his comic book writing, which includes Female Force: Princess Diana, Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo and 24Seven Vol. 2.
To see what Chris and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click the link below ...
When I bought this week's stack of comics, I went with the expectation that my favorite writer for the week would yet again be Jeff Parker--given that this week saw the release of the Namora one-shot and the latest issue of Thunderbolts. Both were exquisite reads, the one-shot in particular left me wanting more stories with Namora alone (which is probably how it should be)--partially thanks to the art of Sara Pichelli. My one regret--I missed out on buying the alternate Ramona Fradon cover edition.
Instead of Parker making the top of my list for the week (sorry Parker), that honor goes to Jonathan Hickman with Fantastic Four 580 and Secret Warriors 17. The villain Arcade is not someone I would have thought would appear in Hickman's FF run, so that element of surprise alone clicked with me. The whole reason I first got into Secret Warriors was that it starred Nick Fury. Fury has always fascinated me as a character because of his roots in Marvel history. So any cover that sports the title "The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos" (and stars Dum-Dum Dugan [christ I get giddy just typing his name]) is an instant sale. Hell, if Hickman pitched an Untold Tales of the Howling Commandos series, I'd be the first in line. Bottom line, both comics proved to be fun reads.
The unpleasant read for the week? Zatanna 2. In issue 1 I appreciated the introduction of the supporting cast, but in issue 2 I realize there's another member of the supporting cast I overlooked: Zatanna's breasts. Memo to Stephane Roux, I don't know if writer Paul Dini has script notes suggesting that you make her breasts more prominent in every scene or why you insist on working her breasts prominently in seemingly every scene. Really the point where a dream demon is trying to get into her dreams, and he lands on her sleeping stomach with his claws poking into her breasts (wow, she is a heavy sleeper, ain't she?) I just had to put the book down. Zatanna is a sexy character without going the 2010 version of Jim Balent route, people. Zatanna's breasts have become a supporting character (and lord knows at that size, it takes a great deal of magic to support those breasts) and a scene stealer in a bad way. I'll be back if and when the art becomes a little less obnoxious. And I don't blame Roux for the art completely, as I imagine that's exactly what Dini has asked him to do. There's other ways to convey the sexiness of Zatanna (for me the fishnet is enough) without making me feel like I'm watching 1980s USA Network's Up All Night with Rhonda Shear. It's a shame as I really like the character and looked forward to her own series finally happening with Dini at the wheel.
Sean T. Collins
It was a horror-filled week for me. Click the links for full reviews...
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: Impeccably drawn, indescribably brutal stories from World War I by the great French cartoonist.
Peter's Muscle by Michael DeForge: The altcomix up-and-comer keeps cranking out impressive stories that tread the fine line between humor and horror--this one's (mostly) a Spider-Man parody.
Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps! by Tom Neely: A sumptuous little collection of Tom "The Blot/Henry & Glenn Forever" Neely's cover versions of old horror-comics covers. Worth it for the colors alone.
A co-worker who's into comics is a big Invincible fan and let me borrow his hardcover volumes. And boy am I glad I did. This one great, funny, smart superhero comic -- the kind that you wish the big two were doing more of, when they ever do it at all. I love artist Ryan Ottley's clean, precise style, and am impressed with how well Kirkman is able to keep so many characters and plot threads piling up, one on top of the other, without the reader ever losing track of or getting bored with the story. It's been a genuine blast to read, and I'm only sorry I'm all caught up and will have to wait a bit longer for the next collected volume.
Silver Surfer: Parable – I’m re-reading this both as a lark and as a tangent to some research for a book I’m doing about Stan Lee, even though the real star of this seems to be artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud. This dramatically different retelling of Galactus’ visit to Earth gives Lee & Moebius a chance to put that religious undercurrent from Fantastic Four into the dramatic forefront. I’m sure readers at the time didn’t know what to make of this out-of-continuity tale, but for me it seems in a way a reaction to Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
King City – This series has been the most fun I’ve had reading single issue comics in a long time. I was an early convert to KC with the original TOKYOPOP volume, but these Image re-releases and now continuation are really exciting. Brandon Graham puts a lot of time into each page, with story and art not working together but being one – story as art, art as story. I’m going to be sad when this ends – but hopefully more work will be soon behind.
Techno Tuesday – It’s painful because it’s true. Andy Rementer’s Techno Tuesday strips really hits home with me about the beauty and sadness of tech-obsessed life. I’m conflicted – maybe that’s why I carry an iPod Touch, straddling the line and not wading into the full iPhone world.
City of Glass – Another choice inspired by a project I’m working. In many ways, David Mazzucchelli is comics’ great problem solver. He relays some very complicated information using the terms of sequential art to break it down. In most comics, the medium is a vehicle for storytelling while showcasing great art, but Mazzucchelli (with help in this case by Paul Karasik) uses some unique comic storytelling devices to clearly lay out a story – and really get to the heart of it, using the tools of sequential art to reveal a deeper truth.
Multiplex – The life & times of movie theatre employees. This dialogue-driven webcomic originally served as a vehicle of sorts for film commentary and snark-i-tude, but Gordon McAlpin has given those personality-driven commentaries their own characters who now years later are living, breathing, dating, fucking, arguing... and being stand-ins for the kind of people I hang out with in real life.
Joe The Barbarian – When you grab a hold of the first issue of a comic written by Grant Morrison, it’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” as to what the comic will be – but it’s Grant choosing. Sometimes he works on a very easy-going narrative, while other times reveling in a multi-layered approach that requires more than just a casual flip-through some readers might expect from other comics. Joe the Barbarian has been of the latter – and I’m really enjoying it. Yes, it’s not an easy read --- but it benefits from multiple readings, in much the same way that the Watchmen did (I really didn’t grasp the bigger things Moore was working at until about the fifth reading). And choosing Sean Murphy to illustrate this has been a very good thing --- his artwork is some of the most exciting work out there – Alex Toth meets Bill Sienkiewicz, with Bruce Timm onboard somewhere too. Both Morrison and Murphy are taking real chances here, sometimes failing but sometimes succeeding too. Once this is finished and inside one spine, I could see this as a real sleeper hit of a book if people will just work with it.
Fantastic Four – Family comics can be fun. These recent issues have really shown the polar opposites of a family drama and wildly speculative sci-fi really working well together. Hickman really get Reed and Sue, while developing the kids as the heart of the team. The onslaught of ideas present here gives readers here a perspective to the world Fantastic Four lives in, where their daily adventures aren’t served up single file but the world running past them and Reed & Co. are simply choosing what they should focus on first. Seeing Hickman’s unique approach to comics run through the characters of Marvel’s key titles is an interesting experiment. After the Millar/Hitch run under-whelming most, the choice to bring Hickman is a risky one – but it seems to be paying off. The idea of pairing this relative newcomer with industry vets like Dale Eagelsham and Steve Epting is a very important choice – they give the work an air of comic timelessness while also being able to work out any rough edges from Hickman. Hickman’s growing by leaps and bounds here – he’s done less than 50 comics, with a learning curve like the beginning of a roller coaster.
New Avengers – Stuart Immonen has quietly become one of Marvel’s key artists – readers may not know it, but Marvel does. Marvel has really put him to work, doing layouts for the end of the Millar/Hitch run on Fantastic Four, being the replacement for Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man, and most recently being the primary artist on New Avengers. Although Romita’s doing fine work on the adjective-less Avengers, Immonen’s work on New Avengers #1 shows some refined detail that tops his previous work on NA in the previous volume. I chalk it up to perhaps more time to spend on these pages, but whatever it is, Immonen knows what he’s doing and takes very measured steps and knows when to slow down, speed up, or bring attention to certain things. If Avengers is the classic team, New Avengers isn’t new – but rather the Modern Avengers. Bendis’ ain’t no slouch either – I feel as if he likes these characters more than the stalwarts.
Stan Lee: Conversations – I found this book while wandering the aisles of the FSU library, and having these interviews spanning from Lee’s early days to the 90s give you a different sense of the kind of character he is. Editor Jeff McLaughlin got some odd but amazing interviews in here, including a transcript from the Dick Cavett show as well as a rollicking unpublished interview with Lee over dinner and driving around Los Angeles.