Hey there, hi there, ho there, it’s time once again for What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger and Top Shelf pr guru Leigh Walton. Want to know what Leigh is reading this week? Of course you do! Click on the link to find out, then let us know what you’re reading in the comments section.
Tim O’Shea: Well, even though the next issue of Irredeemable does not come out until next week, it appears to be a Mark Waid kind of week for me. First off, Waid and Landry Walker’s written Incredibles is a must read for the villains–or more exactly, the villains’ dialogue. This month’s gem features such great moments as Mr. Pixel saying to a captured Jack-Jack: “So…baby. We meet a last.” prompting Jack-Jack’s rejoinder of “Zbtlz! Pbbb.” Waid and Walker’s ear for baby gibberish is uncanny. Second best line? When Tronasaurus voice drifts off and he collapses in mid-sentence. In reaction, Mr. Pixel turns to his fellow co-horts in the Confederacy of Crime and asks: “Oh, come on…did no one think to recharge Tronasaurus last night?” I love the book’s universal sense of humor (appealing to the kid in all of us).
The other Waid must read for the week is the first issue of the four-part Strange (that’s Stephen to his pals) miniseries. No longer the supreme sorcerer, Waid has Strange take in a baseball game in this first issue. Really. I had not read Rios’ work on Boom’s Hexed, so this is my first exposure to her style. It’s an acquired taste, and that’s not a slam. I just think it will take me some time to get used to her style. It appears that while Strange still clearly needs to heal thyself, he also may find himself in the mentor role again in this mini. I’m sticking around and not just because Waid is writing it, but also because the great Todd Klein is lettering the hell (pun intended) into the story. His word balloons consistently elevate the form to a higher level.
The wheels fell off Morrison’s Batman and Robin with issue 6. In one scene Robin is paralyzed with five gunshots to the back. Batman just stands there (apparently think to himself: “Well Alfred has no cure for paralysis last I checked.”) and says to Morrison’s prop tool version of Commissioner Gordon: “He’s in a bad way. But Robin’s a tough kid, right?…Your mom’s paramedics just turned up. You sure you don’t need painkillers?” And Gordon has no reaction as Talia’s goons (Talia is a criminal last I checked…) cart the child/sidekick away. Meanwhile freshly disconnected Batman gets distracted and angered by more crazy Jason Todd ranting with his latest round of crazy talk and forgets about Robin. The story was just a jumbled mess. I’ll give it a few more issues but my money may end up staying in the wallet on this one if it continues this nonsensically.
Back to Boom, Roger Langridge ends the Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson four-parter firing on all cylinders. He lays waste to the Muppets’ theater with a wrecking ball — many wrecking balls, and other means of
destruction, as well as an equal number of comedy bits. Really, if you think about it, collapsing rubble is the punchline to many fine Muppet Show bits.
Two books I read this week were ones I missed last week — and both have strong female spy leads.
Black Widow Deadly Origin (1 of 4 issues) was a big disappointment. I love Cornell’s writing, but some plot choices he makes early on in the tale bewilder me (including the apparent killing of a major character
in Widow’s long-established supporting cast). Also Tom Raney’s art (his style has changed over the years and sadly not for the better) seriously undermine the story. At one point Natasha is talking to a guy who is supposed to be James Barnes, but the guy looks nothing like him. Hell Natasha looks nothing like Natasha. We just know it’s her because of the red hair really. The best part (and strongest aspect) is the seven-page flashback drawn by John Paul Leon. It’s a real shame as Cornell opens the book with a James Bond-ian bit that falls flat because Raney’s just not up to the task that Cornell wrote for him. In his defense, a fight scene in the cockpit of a plane is no easy thing to convey kinetically, but I remember Raney having a stronger line earlier in his career.
My second missed opportunity came about because of the sneak peak that Vertigo offered for Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love motivated me to track down the issue this week. And I am truly glad I did. I lost interest in Willingham’s Fables several years ago and I never looked back. But this miniseries, which takes Cinderella the Spy out of Fabletown is a great concept. It’s too early to see how strong a writer Chris Roberson is, but the project’s appeal for me is the whimsical art of Shawn McManus. McManus gives a great scene on The Farm with a cat, a mouse and a bird that gets to the heart of why I enjoyed the read.
Brigid Alverson: Big manga week this week. I dove into vol. 2 of Yokaiden, Nina Matsumoto’s comedy/adventure about a boy avenging his grandmother’s death in the land of the Yokai. It’s very light and well done; Matsumoto has a sure hand and a killer sense of humor. I really enjoyed volume 1, and I have just dipped my toe into vol. 1 but I’m really looking forward to it.
A while ago, I was talking to a Tokyopop marketing person and she mentioned that the .hack books were among their biggest sellers. When I remarked that I had never read one, she admitted, “Neither have I.” Fortunately, Tokyopop is publishing the first three volumes of .hack//Legend of the Twilight as an omnibus edition. It’s a fantasy story set in a multiplayer game, with the characters slipping in and out of real life occasionally. I’m not a gamer, but so far I’m finding it pretty readable anyway. It helps that the game it is based on is fictional, so you’re not expected to know a whole canon before you start reading.
Time and Again is a Korean ghost story anthology that is running in Yen Press magazine; I got the first volume of the collected edition this week. The art is nice, with a very open style — lots of empty space in the panels, and a monumental feel to it—but it suffers from a terrible flaw: It’s hard to keep the characters straight and to tell who is talking in any given scene. The stories are fairly short, but I had to reread the first one twice, and really look at the details, to fully understand it. That’s a lot of work for a ghost story. The artist blanks out faces a lot, which makes it even harder to follow. It’s a nice book, and I like the idea, but it’s a bit too much work for a leisure read.
Matt Maxwell: X-MEN/AGENTS OF ATLAS #2
I love ATLAS, I really do. And I guess I can understand breaking it out of a continuing series and into little chunklets designed to cross over into other books and try to pick up crossover readership that way. I can understand the intent, but the process in this case is making the book harder to read. Instead of ATLAS #13-15, we have a differently branded miniseries and a one-shot (which I haven’t gotten to yet). I hope it’s a roll of the dice that works, but it isn’t for me. And while the creative team adds a second dimension to “two super teams meet and fight then realize they shouldn’t be fighting”, it’s not the best foot being put forward. I hear rumors of a rebranded relaunch after all this, and I really hope they come to pass, along with a consistent art team. I still firmly believe that this is one of the best books Marvel has, but it’s not feeling that way right now.
CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #1
I once swore I wouldn’t get this in singles, but I couldn’t stay away. Spinning out of the strongest arc of CRIMINAL (and a lot of people disagree with this), “Lawless”, THE SINNERS follows up the story of Tracy Lawless, U.S. Army turned reluctant hitman for the city’s crime boss. And it does a great job of setting up all kinds of potential complications and pitfalls for Tracy to wander into, along with the grimiest (in a good way) art that Sean Phillips has turned in for CRIMINAL yet. ATLAS may be my favorite Marvel book, but CRIMINAL is probably the best book Marvel’s putting out right now.
HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski
Yes, I read novels, but I don’t see getting through this one. Not that it’s badly written, but the choices in storytelling are the polar opposite to perhaps everything I try and do in my writing. And it’s weird, because on its surface, I should find it compelling, but instead I’m finding it totally impossible to read. Might be this flu (I’m sitting here swaddled and chill in spite of said swaddling) and maybe I should try some other time when I’m not feeling so awful, but my immediate reaction tells me that’s unlikely.
Tom Bondurant: My wife glanced over my shoulder at the swanky party scene from the Batman/Doc Savage Special and asked, “Is that a ‘Mad Men’ comic?” If only it were. I enjoyed Phil Noto’s art, but I kept wishing it served something more substantial than Brian Azzarello’s script. At first the issue — and actually, the whole “First Wave” project — seemed like the kind of no-nonsense, superheroes-are-the-anomaly approach well-suited to someone like Howard Chaykin. Indeed, the more I think about it, Chaykin might have given this issue the edge it needs. Instead, it’s a bland, inoffensive start which threatens whatever goodwill I still have (and yes, I still have some) towards the project as a whole. Also, this might just be me, but I was expecting a period piece, and this is pretty clearly set in the present. That didn’t help.
Note to Phil Noto, though: if you ever do a “Mad Men”-style project, I’ve got one customer already lined up.
In the grand scheme of Blackest Night, I have not been as impressed with the subplots played out in Green Lantern Corps. Mostly they’ve been personal to the GLs who appear frequently in the book, and where they haven’t involved Black Lantern versions of said GLs’ loved ones, they’ve involved the various Bad Lanterns (Kryb, for instance) who also appear frequently in the book. As a result, my expectations for GLC #42 (written by Peter J. Tomasi, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Rebecca Buchman) had been lowered. Well, that won’t happen again. I thought GLC #42 was an excellent, suspenseful, meaningful installment of Blackest Night. It was paced well, and (although I’m not good at judging such things) it might even work well on its own. Tomasi’s script was tight and efficient, and Tomasi and Buchman’s storytelling was clear and energetic. The simple plot concerned the Black Lanterns’ attacks on the Central Power Battery, and the Green Lanterns’ multiple attempts to stop them. I didn’t see the ending coming, and although I’m cynical enough to think it won’t stick, I’m also impressed that there doesn’t seem to be any loophole. (I suppose this means Ice’s death doesn’t send Guy over the edge….) Well done all, especially in the context of a big crossover.
Finally, by this time next week I’m hoping to be well into Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks Vol. 10 and the transition from John Romita Sr. to Gil Kane. Can’t wait!
Chris Mautner: When I first saw the cover to Robot City Adventures: City In Peril by Paul Collicutt, my heart did a little dance. A kids comic about a city where giant robots and humans live in peace? And where one of the robots is a giant lighthouse? This has gotta be great, right?
Wrong. It’s an amazingly dull, stiff affair. Collicutt’s art is way too sloppy and indistinct, especially where people are concerned, and manages to make what should be great fun — the lighthouse robot battling a giant squid in the downtown harbor — seem clumsy and boring. It doesn’t help that all of the characters talk in a trite expository tone. I was going to pass this on to my son initially, but I think I’ll pass now.
Leigh Walton: Lately I’ve been playing a bit of catch-up with my comics reading: I finally took the plunge and tore through Kaiji Kawaguchi’s EAGLE: THE MAKING OF AN ASIAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT, a fine piece of political entertainment from ten years ago. The plot — about a nonwhite Democratic senator who comes out of nowhere to run for president using only his optimism, charm, and political savvy — may have seemed outlandish in 1998 … but I think you can see where I’m going with this.
At times I found myself wondering whether somebody on the Obama campaign had been taking notes. Kawaguchi’s grasp of the American political system (both formal and behind-the-scenes) seems solid, with missteps here and there: audacity and hope will get you far, but it won’t get a majority of Texans to vote for gun control, to say nothing of the candidate’s foreign policy proposal. The overall structure is lumpy and imperfect, like most long-running serials, but Kawaguchi does an admirable job balancing the various strands of his drama, including a bits of sex and murder. Frankly, it’s impressive that he was able to keep BIG COMIC readers interested in American politics twice a month for several years.
Viz published the English translation (actively adapted by Carl Horn) in an unusual monthly format before releasing 5 massive tankoubon from 2000-2002. Despite four Eisner nominations it never took off in America and seems to have sunk without a trace; I stumbled across it in 2005 or so and marveled that it had become so obscure so quickly. In an ideal world this book would find the wide, middlebrow, airport-novel readership it deserves (and which it reportedly has in its native country). 2300 pages is a bit much to lug on an airplane, but it strikes me as a perfect e-book read…
I also read through my stack of JH WILLIAMS III DOES BATWOMAN, motivated by Jog’s excellent reading over at Savage Critics. Williams is at the point now where I don’t ask “is it magical?” but rather “what magic is he weaving this time?” In this case I suppose it’s still too early to tell, but I am heartened that this book exists — it should make a handsome hardcover. Rucka’s story is fine, but so far nothing for the ages… the project reminds me more of David Mack on DAREDEVIL than David Mazzucchelli on BATMAN, if you know what I mean.
Finally, I’m wading back into FROM HELL with a new appreciation for Eddie Campbell, having spent so much time promoting his ALEC collection (out next month, plug plug plug). It can be tough to put the book down after a few hours in Gull’s mind and then try to relate to normal society…
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