Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Chris Butcher.
Butcher is the manager of The Beguiling in Toronto and founder of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He'll be at the UDON Booth #5037 and The Beguiling Original Art Sales Booth #1629 at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below ...
Iron Age #2: Jen Van Meter writing a 1970s era adventure with Power Man and Iron Fist, color me interested. Drawn by Nick Dragotta? Sold. Added bonus: the second tale sports artist Sal Buscema drawing Iron Man armor with a nose and Johnny Storm in his red costume. I only wish they could have worked in the Spidey Mobile.
Red Robin #25: In the second to last issue of Red Robin, we see he's developed his own Robincave. Wow that should be an interesting for ... one more month. The final days of DC Oldverse are killing me. Particularly given how well writer Fabian Nicieza utilizes Cassandra Cain.
Batgirl #23: See my Red Robin thoughts above. I hate to see this book going away. If DC is foolish enough to not give writer Bryan Q. Miller a monthly assignment, I hope Marvel scoops him up. The Bombshell/Stargirl/Supergirl/Miss Martian team up cameo would have made for a fun all-female team book pitch for Miller if the universe was not ending.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #8: Sorry, but I had to crack up at the blurb quote slapped on this issue: "If you haven't jumped on yet, now's the time." Yes, by all means, jump on board with a month to spare.
Jonah Hex #69: Drawn by Jeff Lemire, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray reveal Jonah getting to confront his dear old dad. The story far exceeded my highest expectations. And all it is two men talking for the bulk of the tale, and yet it is much more than that. Glad to see the writers will still get to play with Jonah in the DCNuverse.
Alpha Flight #2: Reading the comments section of my interview this week with miniseries artist Dale Eaglesham, I am bewildered by the folks unwilling to consider the characters acting out of character might be the victim of mind control. Neither Fred Van Lente or Greg Pak are writers known for doing Chuck Austen-scale butchering of characters, so I am waiting to see how things play out. But in general, I am loving what I read and looking forward to more (hopefully this series becomes an ongoing).
Mystery Men #3: Of all the new characters introduced in the five-issue miniseries, this issue features my favorite to date: The Doctor. (The guy takes folks out via scalpel with abandon, a pulp noir Wolverine kind of...). I wish this project was an eight-issue miniseries, so that the storytellers could give more of their back story and (in the case of The Doctor) better explain what tragedies fuel his vigilante justice.
I really, really enjoyed Ryan Estrada's Aki Alliance, which is available to read or download for free at his site. It's a funny, snarky story about a girl who sets out to make friends with everyone in her fifth-grade class, and it's simply delightful. Estrada presents a number of different challenges: His heroine, Aki, tries to compete in a Scrabble tournament while coaching a friend in a boxing match, take the middle ground when two girl gangs (both of which claim her as a member) start a turf war, and solve a ridiculous grade-school riddle. Most of the book is done in a cartoony style that mixes in scrapbook elements, but he also plays with other styles—one chapter is done in manga style, another like a sprite comic. He clearly had a lot of fun with it, and in the end, no lessons are learned. Good stuff.
I also enjoyed Mameshiba on the Loose! much more than I thought I would—in fact, it made me laugh out loud. Mameshiba are cute, rounded creatures (the name is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for "bean" and a breed of dog) who were first featured in animated shorts on Japanese TV, popping out of people's lunches and spouting random bits of trivia. The comic goes way beyond that, really bringing these odd little beans to life with distinct personalities and plenty of cuteness. In the first, and longest, story, the beans team up to rescue a pea who has fallen down the drain and into the sewer—the jokes just write themselves, but writer James Turner doesn't stop there, and he comes up with a zany set of sewer dwellers for the beans to contend with in equally creative ways. The second story is a trip to outer space, again with plenty of slapstick and random humor. Viz has come up with a great kids' comic here, and I hope the kids find it.
What am I reading? Why, single-issue new comics, surprisingly enough.
I ran TCAF—The Toronto Comic Arts Festival—a few months back, and quite honestly in the lead-up to and the downtime after that fantastic event, I feel like I’ve read fewer comics than ever. I moved houses in there, too, and so all of my TCAF purchases like Paying For It by Chester Brown and Vietnamerica by GB Tran are still in boxes, waiting to find a shelf to call home.
Oh, and I’m going to be on The Best and Worst Manga of 2011 panel Friday night at Comic-Con (6:30pm! Room 26!), and so I’ve been feverishly trying to catch up on my manga reading. While I will save the majority of the surprises for the panel, I want to give a special shout out to Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, an outstanding slice-of-life/baseball manga. It is so good—created at such a high degree of craft from a masterful author who’s been working in the manga industry for 40 years. It possesses so much of what I love about manga, including engaging characters, a surprising story... and the whole thing just breathes. It's a pleasure to read and spend time with. I actually feel confident recommending it to people who don’t normally like manga at all, or even sports. That’s an accomplishment.
But yeah, if you look at what I last read, it’s just a thick stack of single-issue comics. I thought Jason Aaron’s X-Men Schism #1 was a solid start to that mini, great premise, but I found the change of artists halfway through the issue jarring—it reminds me what I don’t like about most corporate superhero comics. Also on the Marvel tip, Brubaker and McNiven’s Captain America #1 was a really solid start, very clean continuity-wise if you haven’t been following... the last 5-10 years of Marvel comics, actually. Some nice art by McNiven there too, I felt like he was stretching himself a little more than he had been as of late, and that incredible glossy sheen that his work had on Civil War that I felt was missing on Nemesis? Back here with a vengeance. Oh, and props to Brubaker (and Sean Phillips) on another outstanding Criminal miniseries, with Criminal: Last of the Innocents. Another great, tangled noir series, this time with a twist that no comic fan will want to miss.
Over at DC, I’ve been trying to stay on top of the main Flashpoint series, but I’d missed all of the spin-offs (no time to read, son, we’re selling comics!). I sat down with my friend Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein #1 and #2 and thought those were fun takes on the characters, with more a few excellent surprises thrown in there for good measure as well. If this is what we’ve got in store for Lemire’s ongoing Frankenstein series in September, I’ll definitely be reading that. Speaking of friends who write comics, I also just caught up with my buddy Jim Zub’s series Skullkickers from Image. I think the most interesting thing, for me, is how much he throws against the wall in every issue. You’re at this dinner party in issue #7, and there’s so much possibility for mayhem as the dwarf and the bad ass (shorty and baldy) rub shoulders with the hoi-polloi. Zub runs through all the jokes in under five pages and then kills everyone except for the leads. Breakneck action comedy, both literally and figuratively, no screwing around. Check it out.
Probably the single issue I’ve most enjoyed in the last little while though? I was fortunate enough to get an advance look at Casanova: Avarita #1 debuting this September from ICON. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Cass fan from before the first issue came out, so it won’t be any surprise to hear that I liked the new issue... but man, it’s great. Gabriel Ba just killed with the art on this issue, and the story is a harrowing natural progression from the first two arcs. I’m kinda sad that there’s only four issues of this series to come, but elated that it’s going to be this good. Pre-order it with your retailer, pick it up this fall. You won’t regret it.