Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Dark Horse assistant editor Jim Gibbons, who I spoke to about his new job on Friday.
To see what Jim and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below ...
Top of my stack this week was the first issue of Roger Langridge's Snarked! His remained Walrus and Carpenter are con men with hearts of gold, and while neither of them is too bright, the Walrus has a certain practical ability to get things done. So when Princess Scarlett and her baby brother, Prince Rusty, are in danger because of scheming by the palace advisers, none other than the Cheshire Cat himself points her toward the rascally pair. It's good, old-fashioned comedy with a familiar storyline and gentle humor that both children and adults can relate to.
I also enjoyed the second issue of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia. I feel like this is a very muscular story that sort of grabs you and drags you in. Kate Corrigan and Johann Strauss are in Russia investigating some sort of icky problem, and the plot moves along briskly in this issue with a bit of exposition and a nasty case of possession. There seem to be several strands to the story, and it will be interesting to see how Mike Mignola and co. tie them all up.
With the third volume of their Archie Archives, Dark Horse has found their formula -- minimal front matter (this one features an introduction by Archie Comics president Mike Pellerito but no other historical information) followed by a solid collection of vintage comics. Volume 3 features comics from 1943 and 1944, and in addition to the odd look of the characters -- Archie has prominent buck teeth, Jughead looks like one of the Dead End Kids and seldom opens his eyes‹there's the strangeness of wartime Riverdale, where goats run freely and people worry about ration points. A bit of background on these comics would have been nice; a number were inked by Janice Valleau, whom David Hajdu highlighted in the opening pages of The Ten Cent Plague as an established comics artist who left the field during the dark days of the 1950s.
Sweet Tooth #26: I hate to agree with my pal Dugan Trodglen, but I suspect he is right when he feared writer Jeff Lemire’s involvement in the new DC52 would negatively impact the quality of this book. I am a huge fan of guest artist Matt Kindt, but this first installment of a three-issue arc bored me immensely, no matter how effectively Kindt drew and painted the story, Lemire's script was heavy on narration and less engaging than what I come to expect on Sweet Tooth.
Huntress #1: Remember the whole new DC52 and how everything is starting from square one (unless you were connected to Batman [and were not Barbara Gordon])? Well Paul Levitz was writing Huntress in the late 1970s (albeit Helena Wayne back then) and Levitz is writing her again more than 30 years later. Way to shake it up, DC. I boughtthis book against my better judgment because I have enjoyed artist Marcus To so much in the past. Huntress going against Italian organized crime…again. Yippie. Won’t be back for issue #2.
Action Comics #2: So Rags Morales and Brent Anderson split up art duties on writer Grant Morrison’s second issue. Anderson’s Lois Lane is distinctive (in a good way). Just wondering, am I the only person that tires of Kryptonian dialogue that no one understands? Small quibble, I promise. The book continues to be a fairly interesting read, though clearly rehashing the same Superman ground we’ve seen before. A great deal of the new DC52 smacks of high-end Elseworlds so far, but for now it’s selling quite well of course.
Thunderbolts #164: Modern day pseudo-Thunderbolts trapped in 1943 Austria along with the Invaders provides for some hilarious faux wholesome period dialogue (Boomerang saying “Aw, shucks” for example) from writer Jeff Parker. Artist Kev Walker looks immensely stronger on art (unlike last week’s complaint) when inked by Terry Pallot. Really hoping next week I will not have to stare at another Marvel house ad touting an Avengers Solo book launching October 2010 (really nice attention to detail, gang).
Hulk #42: Wonder what happens when Thunderbolt Ross starts dabbling in foreign policy as the Red Hulk? Nothing that makes Steve Rogers happy, but it does make me content (as well as set up the foundation for some interesting guest stars) in the first installment of the "Hulk of Arabia" arc. With the series increased publishing schedule, there’s no way that artist Gabriel Hardman can draw every issue. So I was pleased to see that Patrick Zircher’s artistic style (while not exactly like Hardman’s) in this issue is not a jarring transition to a style that clashes with Hardman.
I was traveling for the past couple weeks, visiting family and friends in Texas, which meant I had some down time to catch up on some reading -- mostly on my iPad. Considering it's setting and subject matter, I think Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One was written specifically for me. Dystopian future (check), virtual reality (check), a street-smart teenager (check) and more '80s references than you could roll a 20-sided dice at (huh?). The story is set in a future where the real world is something everyone wants to escape from, but luckily there's a virtual reality world, OASIS, that's filled with various planets, quests and avatars of all kinds for someone like our hero, Wade, to dive into. Wade's a poor kid in Oklahoma looking for a break, and when the creator of the virtual reality world Wade pretty much lives in dies, the kid goes on a quest to solve the riddle the guy left in his will. Fans of the old Atari game Adventure will remember the three castles you had to find the keys for; James Halliday set up a similar quest in the OASIS, and whoever can find the three keys, open the gates and solve the puzzles within will not only get the guy's enormous fortune, but also control of the OASIS. Halliday was raised in the '80s on John Hughes movies, TV sitcoms, video games, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons and Rush songs, and all of that comes into play as Wade tries to solve the puzzle before anyone else -- including a shady corporation who wants control of the OASIS. Just following along to see what references Cline would throw in next was fun, but what really made the book was the main character, an underdog you can't help but cheer for.
On the comic front, I downloaded a few on the road, including the first two chapters of the new Ultimate Spider-Man and the last two chapters of X-Men Schism. I haven't read any USM since maybe the second or third story arc; I was always good with the first Peter Parker and never felt the need to follow the second, despite the fact that the book was well crafted. But I was curious enough about Miles Morales to see how they'd introduce him, and after reading the first two issues I can say I'm hooked, at least for a few more issues.
As for Schism, while the series read like a prologue to the upcoming X-Men relaunch, i.e. it didn't feel very self-contained and didn't introduce a lot of surprises, I dug some of the elements of it. One the new Hellfire Club, and second, Jason Aaron's Wolverine. I never read his take on the regular Wolverine series, but I think I see some trades in my future. And I'll at least be checking out the first few issues of Wolverine and the X-Men later this year.
The majority of what I end up reading is directly related to my work as an assistant editor, but here are a few things I've been enjoying in my spare time…
Mike Huddleston's work on Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain has been consistently blowing me away, so I've been checking out a bunch of Mike's other work. I recently read the Phil Hester penned The Coffin after hearing Guillermo del Toro give it a personal recommendation at Comic-Con—that's a pretty good pedigree as far as I'm concerned. It's a very enjoyable and really great looking read about keeping souls on earth after death in robot "coffins." Up next, I'll be delving into Huddleston's The Homeland Directive written by Robert Vendetti. I've flipped through it and the art looks phenomenal. I'm psyched to jump into that one.
B.P.R.D Hell On Earth: Russia #1 was an amazing first issue. Tyler Crook is really hitting his stride and I'm super excited to see how the Bureau interacts with their Russian counterpart. Given, B.P.R.D. is one of my favorite comic series of all time, so… not a hard sell for me there regardless.
Based on what little I've read, Green River Killer is shaping up to be one of the best graphic novels of the year.
In the realm of superheroes, I've been enjoying Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force. It's much preferable take on the X-Men's wetworks team than some comics in recent years, as far as I'm concerned—a lot less angsty and a lot more fun. Plus, the Age of Apocalypse nostalgia they've been throwing in there seems directed specifically at readers like me who grew up thinking AoA was one of the best things to ever happen in comics.
I'm always working my way through a few massive archival books. Right now I've got bookmarks in Marvel's gigantic Howard the Duck Omnibus and the Jack Kirby's Eternals Omnibus. And if I do things right, I've always got unread Stan Sakai comics around. Right now, I'm trucking through Space Usagi and starting up Fantagraphics' beautiful Usagi Yojimbo omnibus. Sakai's an absolute master, so I always aim to have some of his work on hand.