Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been enjoying on the comics front. Today our special guest is our friend Ron Richards, one of the co-founders of the popular comics website iFanboy.com. To see what Ron and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
I got into the Christmas spirit a bit with Scrooge and Santa, by Matthew Wilson and Josh Kenfield. It’s a cute update of A Christmas Carol, with a cynical modern-day Scrooge who loves shiny gadgets almost as much as he hates Santa Claus. This is a kids’ comic with lots of humor and plenty of action. Scrooge kidnaps Santa and tries to take over Christmas, but the FBI and his sweetheart of an assistant thwart him at every turn. There are lots of goofy chase scenes, some magic, and plenty of in-jokes for fans of the original book as well as some other holiday classics. Kenfield’s art is expressive and dynamic — sometimes a bit too dynamic, as it was hard to follow what was going on in some of the action sequences — but overall it’s a fun holiday story.
In Doug TenNapel’s mind, the afterlife is sort of like Yugoslavia — seven different kingdoms, all set against one another and then reunited by a single conniving ruler. It’s a dreary place, filled with danger, and the ghosts keep escaping into the world of the living to get away from it. In Ghostopolis, the story is set in motion when a talented but washed-up ghost wrangler accidentally sends a young boy, Garth, into the afterlife before his time (Garth is dying but at the moment is very much alive). Of course it turns out that Garth has special powers, and soon a number of different parties are after him, each for their own reasons. The bare outline of the story — boy strays into forbidden kingdom and must get back home — is as old as the human race, but the world that TenNapel conjures up is original enough that it feels fresh anyway.
This week I read the first hardcover volume of Brightest Day which … well, to be honest, it left no impression on me whatsoever. It wasn’t awful enough to make me want to slag it, nor was it decent enough to make me want to admire it, even begrudgingly. Actually, I found myself rather bored by it, despite the presence of giant zombie sharks, dead baby birds and psychotic Martians that flay families alive while they’re playing Rock Band. The whole thing seems so concerned with set-up and continuity that the pace is rather slack, and I didn’t find enough reason to care about Boston Brand or any other of the cast’s plights I’ve talked before about my dislike for Ivan Reis’ over-rendered art before and that dislike continues here. Maybe everything picks up in Vol. 2, but at this point I’m not terribly inclined to find out. I didn’t hate the book — I couldn’t work up enough emotion to do that. All I felt was a bout of extreme indifference.
I don’t know if Paul Cornell has enough material drive or interest to do a Knight & Squire ongoing, but three issues into this six-part miniseries and it is fast becoming one of my favorite monthly reads. Comics rarely make me genuinely laugh, this issue did. One-part comedy exploring Shakespeare’s take on King Richard III/one-part social commentary on the borderline absurdity that social media has the potential to be (in Knight & Squire’s world,Twitter is called Twunter [with a slogan of “Let Your Fingers Do the Talking”]). The story involves historical clones, including Richard III, who artist Jimmy Broxton has handle a gun, like a modern day posturing criminal in one scene, to great effect.
Some comics talk me to death in an effort to show the reader seemingly how smart the writer is. I am relieved to find that while Nick Spencer pours a great amount of story and details into every page, it’s not heavy handed. Quite the opposite in fact, the details draw me into THUNDER Agents #2 even more. As much as I enjoy Cafu’s pencils on this series, Chriscross handles many pages in this issue in a style that is a poor match for Cafu. After several pages of Chriscross almost cartoonish characterizations of face, it was jarring to go back to Cafu toward the end of this issue. It was so jarring I did not recognize the main character (compared to how he looked on Chriscross’ pages) until someone actually said the character’s name.
Paul Tobin’s all ages work on Marvel Adventures continues to captivate me. He’s written the best version of the Vision that I have read since Kurt Busiek last handled him. My only complaint? I wish Scott Koblish had been given enough time to draw the whole issue, as again I was distracted when the latter pages of the issue shifted to the different art style of Peter Nguyen. Fortunately, however, all the characters were still easily recognizable.
The Thin Black Line (TwoMorrows Publishing) – While not a comic book per se’, this is a book about a comic book creator. After reading the first two Fantastic Four Omnibuses and hearing about the work of Vinnie Colletta, I’ve been fascinated by the man and his work, so when TwoMorrows Publishing put out this book about Colletta, a retrospective of his career and investigation into his legacy as one of the most controversial inkers in the industry, I had to read it. I seriously couldn’t put this book down and read it cover to cover over 3 nights. I can’t say I can definitively say that Colletta is as bad, or deserving of the comments people have made about him, but now I definitely have greater insight to the man, his work and the controversy. I’m not saying it was okay to erase Kirby art so that he could inker faster, but now I get it. Any fan of the silver age and/or the craft of making comics has to read this.
Uncanny X-Force (Marvel Comics) – The standout for my vote for best new series of 2010 is the one I was most worried about once it was announced. The creative team of Remender and Opena are one of my favorites (if you haven’t read Fear Agent, stop reading this and go buy it now!) and the idea of them on an X-Book, as an X-Fan, got me super excited. But the fact that it was picking up the much maligned X-Force as black ops/death squad and was adding Deadpool and Fantomex, two of my most hated characters, to the team had me worried. But after just a few issues, I have to say, Remender and Opena pulled it off. This is easily the best book in the X-Universe right now and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Cowboy Ninja Viking (Image Comics) – One of the most imaginative and creative ideas in a comic book that I’ve seen in a very long time, this espionage/action/thriller from AJ Lieberman and Riley Rossmo (of Proof fame) gets better and better. The idea of an assassin with 3 distinct personalities that take the form of a common archetype is brilliant, and the number of combinations and archetypes used has kept me engaged from issue #1. The inventive use of word balloons in the lettering is just an added bonus to the look of this book, which along with it’s unique use of color, makes this unlike any comic on the stands right now.
Glamourpuss (Aardvark-Vanaheim) – I don’t know if anyone else is still reading this besides me and 2 of my friends, but I never miss an issue of Glamourpuss by Dave Sim. Now to be honest, I could do without half the book, as Sim practices his photorealism art by replicating fashion photography and does wacky magazine/pop culture send ups. But the meat of Glamourpuss lies in the historical exploration and telling of some of the greats of comics and cartooning, like Alex Raymond and Stan Drake. Through his research in the photorealistic style of cartooning, Sim has uncovered and is telling an amazing behind the scenes story of comics in the 1940s and 1950s from both a process standpoint, as well as a historical view of the industry. Every issue is absolutely enthralling.
Hulk (Marvel Comics) – I have often gone on the record that I am not a Hulk fan. Despite growing up a Marvel Zombie, Hulk never really connected with me. I read Peter David’s run here and there, the Bruce Jones run as well as tried to pick it up here and there. But after getting caught up in Loeb’s Red Hulk run, I decided to give Jeff Parker and Gabe Hardman’s start on Hulk with issue #25, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. Easily one of the best, classic Marvel-esque comics being published right now. Hardman’s art is dynamic with a touch of retro to it, and Parker is telling some great stories, complete with dramatic cliffhanger at the end of every issue. This is how super hero comics should be done.
Justice League: Generation Lost (DC Comics) – Speaking of super hero comics, we’ve been saying over at iFanboy.com that one of the best books DC puts out these days is Justice League: Generation Lost. Judd Winick has been telling issue after issue of what is some of the best Justice League stories in a while. Taking the remains of the old Justice League International characters, along with some new blood in the form of the modern takes on legacy characters like Blue Beetle, Winick has just delivered quality every 2 weeks. I could read Max Lord stories for hours and thanks to this book, I’m getting that along with some humor and most recently some awesome Cliff Chiang covers.
Return of the Dapper Men (Archaia) – As we get to the holidays, my go-to present in giving the gift of comics has been Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee. This book is unlike any other graphic novel you’ve ever read or seen. Truly a modern fairy tale, McCann has written a story that is totally all ages, that could be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. If you haven’t seen the art yet, are you in for a treat. Janet Lee’s first visual story telling work is amazing, and you have to read the bonus material to read about her process and how she went about making each page, each of which is an individual piece of art. This is the must read Graphic Novel of the 2010 Holiday Season if you ask me.
Artifacts (Top Cow) – There’s been a lot of hype about Artifacts recently and all of it is deserved. One of the challenges of Top Cow has been it’s accessibility of the characters and stories. Many people have a negative opinion based on past depictions and images of characters like Witchblade or the fact that they’ve been around for so long, it’s hard to pick up with the story. But with Artifacts, Ron Marz has been able to create an event book that is completely accessible to new readers, as well as enjoyable to anyone who’s been up on the Top Cow Universe. Every issue has read like an action flick and it has the promise to be one of the best contained series once it’s all said and done.
Wuvable Oaf (Goteblud Comics) – A local indie comic fave here in San Francisco, Wuvable Oaf is the excellent series written and drawn by SF native Ed Luce. Touching on all things that are cute and adorable, like kitties, and the fierce world of dating withing the gay scene, to the realities of music from Morrissey to Slayer, Wuvable Oaf has it all. Every issue is an event, and as evidenced by Ed Luce’s recent interview in legendary punk zine, Maximum Rocknroll, is on it’s way to becoming a cult classic. Do yourself a favor, if you have a good sense of humor and are open to something different, then seek out Wuvable Oaf, you’ll never be the same