Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome to the inaugural edition of what we hope will be an ongoing feature here at Robot 6. Once a week I’ll be polling my fellow contributors to ask them what comics are currently lying right next to their bedside table. Our hope is that this weekly peek at our reading habits will surprise and perhaps inspire you to check out some good books (or at least avoid some bad ones). And just to sweeten the pot some, each week we’ll also bring in a special guest star from either the comics industry or the blogosphere to chime in with their selections. Since this is our big debut week, we thought it would be fun to have some of CBR’s staff help us out.
And so, without further ado, here’s what we’re reading this week …
My bedside companion is Showcase Presents Enemy Ace (Volume 1), featuring Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert’s tormented World War I flyer Hans von Hammer. The book spans almost twenty years, from the character’s introduction in 1965 to a three-parter from 1982, and also includes work from John Severin, Howard Chaykin, and Frank Thorne. Like Kanigher and Kubert’s Sgt. Rock, von Hammer is a great stone face to the men under his command. Unlike Rock, however, von Hammer only lets down his guard to a fellow “killing machine”: a wolf which roams the nearby forest. Certainly von Hammer is the best he is at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty; but these stories don’t glorify his victories, focusing instead on the character’s inner struggles. Of course, Kubert’s work looks great. It’s a treat to see how he switches from the deserts and forests of Sgt. Rock’s battles to the wide-open skies where von Hammer rules.
Absolute DC: The New Frontier. There’s some serious delayed gratification going on here, but I’m glad of it. I don’t remember why I wasn’t immediately interested in New Frontier when it was initially published — I’m a huge fan of James Robinson’s The Golden Age, so you’d think I would’ve quickly latched onto this too – but the Absolute edition was already planned by the time I decided I should probably check it out.
I knew the Absolute version was how I’d want to read it, but it’s taken me this long to save my pennies and order my copy. I couldn’t be more pleased though. Not only do I now see what the rest of the world was talking about, but the extra story pages and annotations make me really thankful that this is the way I’m taking it in for the first time. It’s a package equal to the brilliance of the work.
Action Philosophers Giant-Sized Thing Volume 3. They canceled this series right after I finished with the first two trades, and single issues were tough to track down. It’s a shame they did, because what I read was phenomenal. Biographical stories and the major theories of famous philosophers boiled down to basic, easily digestible pieces that explode with the same sort of wild energy that spills from Silver Age superhero stories. One of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever read, but alas, it was educational and so it failed to catch on.
I’ve got a couple of things lying around half-read at the moment, which is usually the case with me. I just wrapped up the new, third volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack, which is awesome and should be available from Diamond any week now.
I’m also halfway through the following: I Live Here, the Mia Kirshner edited book about refugees and human misery, which is very well put together but makes for such traumatic reading that I need to put it down every now and then; Against Pain, the new collection of Ron Rege Jr.’s work from D&Q (it’s nice to have all this material in one place); and Kramer’s Ergot 7, which I bring out late at night (gotta keep those NSFW images away from the kids), flip through a few pages, and then put back in its hidey-hole.
Hellcat: Marvel needs to make this miniseries an ongoing or find some other monthly book for writer Kathryn Immonen. In a market lacking a strong number of female leads, Hellcat is a zany exception.
Ghost Rider: I have never ever given a damn about the Ghost Rider character dating back to the 1970s or 1980s when I first saw him in a forgetable Marvel Team-Up issue. I mean, I remember thinking when they did that substitute Fantastic Four team that featured him, I thought: “Nice Art Adams art, but who needs Ghost Rider.” For the first time in the character’s long and varied existence, Jason Aaron has actually got me reading and enjoying Ghost Rider.
Any of the Marvel Adventures line: Marvel continuity chokes on so many event stunts it’s amazing any plot resolution every occurs. The only Avengers book I can read these days is targeted for children. Paul Tobin’s Fantastic Four with David Hahn on art meets a monthly deadline and entertains me, which is more than I can say for the regular FF Millar/Hitch ongoing.
Tiny Titans (Johnny DC): Any book that feeds my son’s sense of humor pays for itself with one reading.
Firebreather (Image): Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn bring folks a book with a teenage hero, divorced parents and a custody switch that requires air transport and secret government agency help. And some of the oddest father-son bonding battle scenes one can imagine.
I’ve had my nose in history books, mostly, but to settle on my favorite comics of the year I went back and reread the first season of High Moon, then caught up with the second season. (That’s what we’re calling them, right? Seasons?) David Gallaher and Steve Ellis have really created something impressive that merges the darkest and dustiest corners of the much-mythologized Old West with the best elements of the Hammer horror films.
Last night I read Ex Machina #40, the self-referential issue that guest stars Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris as themselves, pitching Mayor Hundred on doing the comic book biography Paul Levitz talked him into doing for charity. It was nice to read a “done in one” issue of this excellent series, and that last page was classic. Also on my bedside table is Acme Novelty Library #19, which I started reading again as I was going through potential candidates for my “best of 2008″ picks. I’m still in the early part of the book, where the ship has just taken off and everyone’s getting used to life in space.
I just finished reading all eight Walking Dead trades (an amazing series that I somehow have been missing for years, because I am dense), rereading The Filth trade paperback (which I still think is a brilliant failure as a story), and I just got caught up on last week’s quality releases like “Green Lantern” #36, “Scalped” #24, “Wolverine” #70, and “Incognito” #1. The first issue of Incognito is the strongest start of any Brubaker/Phillips collaboration, I would have to say, and that makes it pretty damn good.
I try to keep up on pretty much everything that’s out there, so how’s about I mention which books I liked best that came out this week?
Incognito got off to a great start, matching the level of quality Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips brought with Criminal.
Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera did another excellent issue of Scalped.
Northlanders was an awesome read.
Captain America was a good action-filled issue with an interesting mystery.
Incredible Hercules was a lot of fun.
Cary Bates continues his impressive return to comics with a fun Fantastic Four story in Cosmic-Sized Fantastic Four.
Eric Powell’s The Goon was a blast, as usual.
Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo produced another good issue of Proof.
Kurt Busiek’s Marvels sequel is very good.
Kick-Ass was fun.
Haven’t read Star Wars: Legacy, Jack of Fables or Back to Brooklyn yet, but I bet all three of them would be on the list if I had!
Rereading Sandman in the Absolute Volumes, which is causing an imbalance in the bed department. Also, there’s a stack of Beanworld after the recent Dark Horse special issue got me all wistful. Oh, and the Mighty Book Of Boosh which I got for Christmas and does have a comic in it, therefore it counts….