Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Ryan Cody, creator of Icarus and illustrator of Villains and Jesus Christ: In the Name of the Gun. You’ll be seeing more of Icarus around these parts starting very soon …
To see what Ryan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
I bought a copy of Strangers in Paradise from author Terry Moore himself at C2E2, and it helped make the trip back go more quickly. This is a classic book that came out during my long hiatus from comics, and I’m glad to have finally discovered it. Just in the first few chapters Moore quickly sketches out a set of characters—Katchoo, Francine, and David—and sets the story barreling out of the gate at full speed. I love their personalities, his deft hand with dialogue, and the twists and turns of his stories, and I’m definitely signing on for the whole series.
I also read an advance copy of, One Soul, by Ray Fawkes, which is due out from Oni Press in May. Fawkes splits each page into a nine-panel grid and tells 18 stories in parallel on each two-page spread. His characters are widely separated in time and space and never actually meet, but they have a lot in common, and parts of their lives echo each other. I read it once, but I know I will have to read it a few more times, partly because it’s hard to keep 18 characters straight and partly because I know I’m going to see more in each re-reading; there are many patterns and subtleties that are only starting to emerge.
I read New Mutants #23 this week and suddenly, everything makes sense. Having already read the start of this ‘new perspective’ side event (Age of X: Alpha and X-Men: Legacy #245) back when they were released, I wasn’t expecting much from chapter four of this storyline. At first glance and being thrown into the action as it were, the characters just seemed like pale Age of Apocalypse shadows and the idea of a full scale war between mutants and humans was something I know I had read before. There was nothing to stick to as far as where this whole thing would be going. But there is a new an interesting piece of the plot that shows up in New Mutants #23 that reminds me that no one would or should get away with printing the same old story, no matter how cool the character designs are. I’d tell you more but that would ruin the discovery of it on your own, which is always part of the battle. Mike Carey is giving nothing to you directly, but through deduction, you’re actually working right alongside Magneto and Rogue to find out what’s really going on.
So fellow X-Fans, take note: if you read the first part of Age of X and compared it to something you have already read or didn’t find anything interesting in the infinite war between mutants and humans, give it another chance. Read New Mutants #23 as see if the twist doesn’t make you think a little more kindly on those earlier issues. If it does, go back and read them (that’s X-Men: Legacy #245, New Mutants #22 then X-Men: Legacy #246; don’t worry there’s a list in the back) because I know you’ll catch things the second time around. Things that really do make this a story I don’t believe we’ve seen before, despite some familiar window dressing and the ever-so fashionable lens of nostalgia. I’m already starting to re-think my ideas of a ‘never-ending battle between mutant and man’ and what that really means…
I finished the first volume of Jeff Nicholson’s Colonia, but I don’t think I’ll be going back for the second. In his introduction, Nicholson compares what he’s trying to do with Bone, and I can see the similarities. As a concept, it works wonderfully: an innocent boy and a couple of companions enter a world filled with strange people and creatures, but instead of Bone‘s medieval-fantasy setting, Colonia‘s locale in based on the early days of New World colonization and piracy. That’s a milieu I enjoy more than the Middle Ages, so it should have worked.
Unfortunately, though his story is interesting, Nicholson isn’t as proficient as Jeff Smith at creating humor in his art. The dialog is funny enough, but the visual timing’s all off and Nicholson lacks Smith’s gift for expressive faces and slapstick. That also makes the characters rather flat, so while I really wanted Colonia to work, I kept thinking that I should be reading Bone instead, pirates or no pirates.
I am kicking myself for neglecting to mention a release from last week, the 128-page Yo Gabba Gabba Comic Book Time anthology. Imagine a book with a range of talent including, Michael Allred, Philip Bond, J. Bone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Chris Eliopoulos, Matthew Loux, J. Torres (who also co-edits the book with James Lucas Jones), and Dean Trippe (among many, many others). For whatever reason, I’ve never seen the Yo Gabba Gabba show, but despite my ignorance I immediately fell in love with this book. Why? Because Jamie S. Rich (who wrote the first story in this anthology) provides a story resolution that partially involves The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Seeing an Allred-drawn character singing Rolling Stones lyrics is the kind of left field moments I love in a story.
My tastes don’t lean toward horror or supernatural, but one has to take notice when BOOM publishes the first issue of a new Hellraiser series, written by Clive Barker. And there’s a back-up tale written by Larry Wachowski. I am a lousy judge of horror, but I speculate that the folks who enjoyed Hellraiser under Barker’s vision will really enjoy this book. Even though not a fan of the genre, I will admit I was impressed with the linework on the main title from Leonardo Manco.
Graeme’s post that praised BOOM! Studios’ Dracula: The Company of Monsters reminded me that I had allowed the comic to drop off my radar. That’s despite the fact I am a huge Kurt Busiek fan (see the aforementioned aversion to horror). But this week, prompted by Graeme, I read the series’ first volume (collecting issues 1-4) –a story created by Busiek and written by Daryl Gregory–and will likely try to track down the more recent issues. This modern day take on Dracula has him terrorizing board rooms–and gives us odd scenes of the vampire acclimating after his resurrection and reading the New York Times.
There’s no doubt that Marvel is flooding the market with Thor and Captain America one-shots, due to the upcoming theatrical releases. But Kieron Gillen actually pulls back the mask (real and metaphorical) on Batroc the Leaper–indulging in some interesting character exploration. I am hard pressed to recall another writer examining the fiscal and logistical challenges to the life of a villain. Added bonus: the 1967 battle between Batroc and Cap, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby from Tales of Suspense #85. It includes two great moments: Stan Lee having Cap mocking Batroc: “How’s this for some fancy stuff weeth zee hands” (as he punched the villain) and Lee shutting up and allowing Kirby to do a fight scene for one page (nine panels) with no dialogue.
Following Blackest Night, I had thought Green Lantern was in a bit of a rut, gazing into the Rainbow Lanterns’ collective navel without having much of a direction. However, I was pretty impressed with the first two parts of “War of the Green Lanterns” in GL #64 (written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Doug Mahnke, inked by Christian Alamy et al.) and Green Lantern Corps #58 (written by Tony Bedard, penciled by Tyler Kirkham, inked by Batt with Rob Hunter). GL #64 pulls together the past year’s plot threads into a neat little bundle of revenge, tied together with the longstanding notion that the Guardians’ omniscience doesn’t always make them right. What’s more, Krona’s plan involves the return of some “classic” Green Lantern mythology; and as ominous as those developments were, it was good to see Johns returning to them. Bedard and Kirkham come at the same events from a different perspective in GLC #58, but they too end up with our heroes facing overwhelming odds. “War of the Green Lanterns” could actually be that proverbial storyline which changes everything, but it’s setting up those changes nicely so far.
Having just spent some time with the ’70s Batman Family stories which reintroduced Kathy “Batwoman” Kane, I was delighted to see her return in Batman Incorporated #4 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Chris Burnham). The issue worked well as an interlude in Batman’s Argentinian adventure, but it may have worked even better as yet another giddy deconstruction/celebration of Goofy Sci-Fi Batman. Robin’s dialogue about “even the dog wear[ing] a mask … makes it all dumb instead of special[,] like it doesn’t matter anymore” is probably the most pointed criticism of the (for lack of a better term) “anti-goofy” reader. Still, once again Morrison has given meaning and resonance to a dusty corner of Batman lore, even echoing the great Alan Brennert’s treatment of an aging, wistful Batwoman in the classic “Interlude on Earth-Two” (Brave and the Bold #182, January 1982), while continuing to advance the “United Colors of Batman” theme he’s been working for the past five years. Just a really great issue all around, and I haven’t even mentioned Burnham’s wonderful work.
Sadly, for someone who claims to be a writer himself, I do not read as much as I should, and what I do read is mostly comics. One book I just finished was Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier. I found a used copy at Hastings for $8 and thought there was no way to go wrong there. It’s basically a beautifully illustrated biography of Jack’s life in comics. It touches a little on his youth, mostly in how that affected his later ideas of the stories he wanted to tell, and goes through his long career. There was nothing scandalous or really mind-blowing about it, but it was a quick read and gave a good impression of the greatest comic creator ever. It also has some beautiful artwork in it including some variant designs for Marvel’s Norse Gods that are amazing.
Another recent book I read, and in part had read to me, was The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women by James Ellroy. It’s a biography that has the single focus of Ellroy trying to explain and come to terms with his relationship with women, and how those relationships reflect back to him being 10 and his mother being murdered. It has a snappy pace and is hilarious more often than not. Biographies are probably my favorite types of books when I do sit down to read, it’s often that the truth can be as entertaining as fiction if you care enough about the subject.
The artist side of me mostly follows other artists when it comes time to read comics. No matter how good the story is, if the art is boring to me, I can’t get through it. I really enjoy the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy books, Guy Davis did some fantastic work on those and Arcudi and Mignola have created a great universe for the characters. I try to follow Powers as much as I can, again I think the setting and relationships coupled with insanely talented art make for good reading. Last but not least, I just finished reading The Winter Men by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon. That was fantastic, from plot, to script, to art, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It had everything I love; crime, amazing powers, corruption, bad language and even a tiny bit of nudity. I highly recommend it.