What Are You Reading?

Well bust my buttons, if it isn't time for another round of What Are You Reading, where we talk about all the comics, books and other reading matter we're currently engrossed in. Our guest this week is High Moon co-creator and writer David Gallaher, who's been blogging with us at Robot 6 all this past week.

David has quite a list of titles to pour over, so let's get to it. Click on the link below to get started.

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Tom Bondurant: I've been re-reading Spider-Man 2099, but now I have a strange compulsion to pick up "Hush"....

So far I've gotten through the first twelve issues of Spider-Man 2099, all of which which were written by Peter David, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, and inked by Al Williamson. For a book designed to launch an entire imprint, build a new Marvel future, and piggyback on the considerable goodwill of Marvel's best-known character, it stands on its own quite well. That doesn't mean it doesn't feel like Spider-Man, because there's enough humor and swashbuckling to make Miguel O'Hara a credible Spider-successor. It's a handsome package too, with Williamson's inks complementing Leonardi's pencils nicely. David also juggles a growing cast efficiently, for example using villains like Venture and the 2099 Vulture for world-building. He's just introduced the Net Prophet on the last issue of #12, and I know the NP is supposed to be a familiar Marvel character, but I can't remember who -- and don't tell me, I want to see if I can figure it out!

Man, I'm writing about Donna Troy a lot these days! I even watched bits of "Cougar Town" (during "Glee's" commercial breaks) to test my theory about her and Courteney Cox. Anyway, Blackest Night: Titans #2 is probably the most tasteless superhero comic I've read in a while, as well as one of the more ridiculous. Written by J.T. Krul and drawn by Ed Benes (with some inks from Scott Williams), its centerpiece is Donna's confrontation with the Black Lantern versions of her late husband and infant son (who were killed off-panel over ten years ago). What's tasteless is having baby Robbie half-decomposed. What's ridiculously over-the-top is having baby Robbie fly around attacking Donna. Sure it's horrific, and sure that's the point, but baby Robbie didn't have to look so ... dead. (In fact, Black Lantern Jade looked pretty healthy.) Blackest Night can get along fine without a dead baby, so it could have either made Robbie look more presentable, or hidden him in the shadows with his condition implied. It's too bad, because as it happens, Benes' work here is some of his best. It's moody and scary when it needs to be, and dynamic where appropriate. Terra's hinder still gets some undue attention, but at this point that's to be expected.

Finally, I did like this week's Justice League of America 80-Page Giant, a clever riff on the venerable JLA format which finds our heroes paired up and cast randomly through time. It's by a veritable horde of writers and artists, so some chapters come off better than others. Basically, each pair of Leaguers teams up with a classic DC character from the particular time period. I liked Green Arrow and Firestorm teaming up with the Bride to fight Ra's Al Ghul in World War II, as well as Steel and Wonder Woman as pirates fighting Starro. Sadly, I get the feeling that these kinds of stories only get done in these special-format issues because they're too "retro" and throwbacky for the cool kids who read the regular JLA book. That's ashame, because (as I get tired of saying) the regular JLA book could use a little structure, retro though it may be.

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Tim O'Shea: I bought/read/own the original Batman and the Outsiders when they were published back in the early 1980s. But I still could not resist the urge to snag a used Showcase edition that collects the first 19 issues of the series (plus a few crossovers here and there). Why? Because it's nice to see Jim Aparo's art in pure black and white. For me, I think Aparo will always be my favorite Batman artist. Also, this was an era in Batman comics where the tragic bastard actually smiled once and a rare while.

Chris Mautner: WW Norton was kind enough to send me a copy of Crumb's Genesis adaptation. I only got it in the mail yesterday, so I haven't had much of a chance to delve into it yet. It looks beautiful though. I hope to have a proper review of the book up soon.

I spent most of the past week or so reading an advance copy of I Will Not Write an Uncensored, Unauthorized History of the Simpsons by John Ortved. As the title so coyly suggests, it's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the popular animated show, and apparently there was a lot more bad blood amongst the creators and writers than one would initially imagine. The book is especially harsh towards producer James L. Brooks, who comes off as selfish and cruel at times, and Matt Groening, whose contribution to the show seems to have started and stopped with those initial Tracy Ullman shorts. It's one of those "oral history" type books, and Groening and a few significant others don't really contribute directly to Ortved's history (apart from the occasional old magazine interview). Still, for Simpsons fans, those of us that still have fond memories of the show anyway, it's probably a must read. It should be out in stores in a week or so.

Matt Maxwell: FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES: JOHN BYRNE v.1Someone reminded me of these in a twitter conversation recently and I was inspired to revisit these.  While they're not written in a fashion that we're used to today, they're as good as I remembered them.  And it's pretty amazing to know that John Byrne not only pencilled these stories, but wrote them and inked them, all on a monthly schedule like clockwork.  The stories themselves don't show it, either.  They're all engaging, and remarkably solid and dense.  Most of them are actually one-shots, where everything is wrapped up in 22 pages, which makes for a satisfying read.  Sure, by our standards, they're overwritten, but they're filled with imagination as well.  It may not be the Lee/Kirby FF, but it is an entertaining read nonetheless.

BLOOM COUNTY ARCHIVES v.1I couldn't resist, as this was one of three comics I was able to follow from beginning to end.  And as Berkeley Breathed was right there signing them at the IDW booth, I took the opportunity and ran with it.  Though i suppose this is cheating, as it's "What I'm About to Read", not really what I'm reading.  Just yet anyways.

[caption id="attachment_22778" align="alignright" width="100" caption="Domo"]


Brigid Alverson: I had pretty low expectations for Domo: The Manga. I never found the character very appealing — he’s one-dimensional and lacks the quirkiness of a lot of Japanese cartoon mascots. But Tokyopop played this one pretty well. Domo is the mascot for Japan’s NHK network and stars in a series of 30-second animated shorts there. Writer Clint Bickham chose a similar format for the book, with a series of very short stories, every one of which could be summed up as: Domo finds something cool and gets carried away, to the annoyance of his friends. The storytelling is almost wordless, which means the art has to be very good, and it is; Tokyopop picked some veteran global manga artists to illustrate the book. There’s not much depth to it, but it’s simple, bright, and funny, very good for what it is—a kids’ book.

I wish I could find Meg Cabot and Jinky Coronado’s Avalon High manga trilogy as likable. The problem with this set, the latest volume of which just came out, is that the manga are based on a set of prose novels with a fairly complicated back story (American teenagers are reincarnations of King Arthur and his court), so the whole first volume is recap. Coronado’s drawing style is a bit heavy-handed — her figures all seem very solid and fleshy—which also weighs the books down a bit.

Red Plains, on the other hand, is a comic for grownups. It’s a western, something I don't see a lot of, and the first story arc is about ranchers vs. settlers, a classic theme. I really enjoy Noel Tuazon’s loose, brushy inking style in the first arc, Range War, and I like Larry Watts’s tighter work in the later arcs as well. I’m still getting a feel for the story, and Tuazon’s art is so loose that it’s hard to tell the characters apart, but Caryn Tate’s solid, spare writing is keeping me hooked.

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David Gallaher: On the print side of things, I've spent most of the last three weeks reading all of the back issues from The Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition. I've always been a Marvel handbook junkie and I love having the opportunity to go back and re-visit all of these characters. Among my favorites, of course, are the old BOOK OF THE DEAD volumes. As much as I like reading the newer Marvel handbooks, for my money, these are still the best

Besides refreshing my old Marvel Lore, I've been really enjoying the trade of NEW WARRIORS CLASSIC Vol 1 - and I can't wait for VOL 2! Almost twenty years later, Fabian Nicieza's writing is still crisp as ever and Mark Bagley's pencils are dynamic, interesting, and engaging.

Speaking of the New Warriors, NOVA always tops my reading list. Several folks have often cited that Nova is a rip-off of GREEN LANTERN, but that's not a connection I tend to make [as I see far more of Doc Smith's LENSMAN in NOVA]. Richard Rider is simply one guy trying to do his best with the situation life has handed him. Over the course of the last ten years, Nova has gone from being a a bit of a joke - to being one of Marvel's stellar heroes. Abnett and Lanning are doing amazing things with this book. Pick up a copy of the series - and I think you'll agree. [Also, as a totally geeky aside, if my calculations are correct, NOVA will be approaching his 100th cumulative issue in about 17 more issues - which is around the time of his 35th anniversary as a character!]

Webcomics-wise, I've found myself really enjoying Cameron Stewart's award-winning series Sin Titulo. It's a moody, semi-autobiographical thriller -- and Cameron's storytelling is really at its peak here. And if you aren't familiar with any of the other comics on Transmission X, you are really missing out on some extremely well-crafted comics!

Also, I following the work of my peers on Zuda. This week, in particular, I've found myself reading or re-reading Ilias Kyriazis' MELODY, Andy Belanger's BOTTLE OF AWESOME, and Kevin Colden's I RULE THE NIGHT.

And, finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how Brad Guigar's EVIL INC. series always manages to keep me entertained.

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