What Are You Reading? with Rik Offenberger
Hey kids, it’s time once again for What Are You Reading?, a weekly look into the reading habits of your Robot 6 bloggers. This week our special guest is Rik Offenberger, comics journalist and public relations coordinator for Archie Comics.
To see what Rik and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
This week’s reading included two totally different comics about young men haunted by their father’s work-related deaths, which is an odd coincidence because they are otherwise totally different stories.
I had been reading the single issues of Joe Harris and Brett Weldele’s Spontaneous, but I sort of dropped off in the middle, so this weekend I went back and read all five issues, the entire story arc. It’s a great supernatural thriller about a young man and a slightly wacky investigative reporter tracking down the cause of multiple cases of spontaneous human combustion in a small town. The young man, Melvin, is driven by the memory of his own father exploding into flames before his eyes. The story stretches credibility a bit in places but also includes some good twists, and the pacing is perfect. I am also a huge fan of Weldele’s atmospheric, watercolor-styled art, which is perfect for a story like this. (You can read the whole first issue at Robot 6.)
Saturn Apartments is a sci-fi manga about a window washer in a huge ring-shaped apartment colony that circles the earth like the rings of Saturn. It’s located in the stratosphere, 35,000 feet up, so it’s not in outer space–the earth is right there, but no one lives there any more. Mitsu is the son of a window washer who disappeared while working on the lower side (the earth side), and when he starts at the same job, he wonders if his father wasn’t just trying to get to home to earth–but his first gig is in the exact same spot where his father disappeared, and that first-hand encounter changes his thinking. Saturn Apartments is your basic workplace manga in a sci-fi setting, and the entertainment in this book comes both from the technology and the personalities, especially the customers who’s windows Mitsu cleans. The ring-shaped complex is literally stratified: Wealthier people live in the upper levels, with access to natural light, while the lower class lives at the bottom of the ring in crowded, dark streets. The lack of natural light weakens their immune systems and makes them sickly. Creator Hisae Iwaoka uses this as a structural element in the story but doesn’t get too heavy-handed with it.
Batman: The Brave & The Bold #13: Once Grant Morrison has praised someone’s writing and picked them to write a Steel back-up for his ongoing Action title, one would think it would be a good time to notice the creator. I’d already been enjoying writer Sholly Fisch’s run to date, but this month’s Calling All Robins may be the writer’s best issue to date. His ability to capture the voices of the various Robins, through the myriad incarnation (plus one Nightwing) of the character is uncanny. Rich Burchett’s prowess at capturing the characters’ look (no easy fit) is the icing on the cake.
Batman & Robin #3: Not sure which I like more in this series; Bruce Wayne as father figure, or Alfred as the grandpa (with espionage savvy). One thing that threw me with Peter Tomasi’s writing in this issue, I think he may have had Daddy Batman use Child (Assassin) Robin as bait in a trap. An odd thing for a father to do to a son, even when it’s Batman.
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos Essentials Volume 1: I don’t know if it was intentional on the part of Marvel to release this Essentials volume on the same week of Veterans Day, but if not that’s one great coincidence. As much as everyone enjoys Jack Kirby’s art in some of this issues #1-23 collection (plus one annual), I really gained a newfound appreciation for Dick Ayers on this project. One funny quirk, the fact that Stan Lee named a story named “An Eye for An Eye” (issue #19) in which the then two-eyed Nick Fury…does not lose his eye.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #3: I would strongly recommend this book were it not for Jeff Lemire’s annoying narration crutch of S.H.A.D.E.NET (the computer program that runs operations and is seemingly technologically omnipotent or something). The monsters in this issue drawn by Alberto Ponticelli are a reason to check out the book, though. And I hope one day that they can get Arthur Adams (is he Marvel exclusive?) to draw a guest arc.
Black Panther #525: I normally would be overjoyed to have Shawn Martinbrough on art (working with David Liss’ strong script). And while I was quite happy to see him on this assignment, it seems like his art was too rushed in certain points. In fact toward the end of the story, a villain is introduced and I had to re-read the pages, as it appeared a page of the story was missing. But honestly as much as I am displeased by the quality of Martinbrough’s art, on his worst day, the artist outperforms 85 percent of current mainstream artists. And his noir approach is picture perfect, in a general sense, for this series.
Battle Scars #1: As little interest as I had for the Fear Itself event, I was pleasantly surprised by the basic premise of this limited series (Military veteran who is sought after by villains and protected by heroes). But I wonder how much we will see of series like this, given that editor Alejandro Arbona was recently let go by Marvel. Time will tell.
Jughead Double Digest #175: Jughead is always good for a laugh, and this issue is no exception. Jughead is featured as his super hero alter ego Captain Hero. Which is the best name a comedy hero ever came up with. He is join in his super hero adventure by Big Ethel, who has been looking for any way to team up with Jughead since before I was born. Its both fun and funny, it’s everything you want from a comic book. Pal’s and Paws is the following story and I don’t know what Hotdog is such a good foil for Jughead. It’s hard to do animal stories in comics but Hotdog has always been able to bridge the gap between funny animal stories and strait comedy stories. The double digest is the greatest value in comics with more comic pages per dollar then any other format. The balance of the digest is filled with Jughead tales spanning the generations. If you are a new fan then all the stories are new to you, but if you are a long time fan you get to re-experience your childhood love of Jughead as the classic tales cover every decade.
Mega Man #7: Mega Man is a video game-inspired comic that is so good you don’t have to have played the game to enjoy it. However if you are a gamer, Mega Man follows the game closely and adds depth and enjoyment to the game you already love. In this issue Mega Man searches for his kidnapped sister. Clues to clear Dr. Light’s name is coming up empty. Dr. Wily is still at large. Maybe Mega Man can save the day with the help of the six Robot Masters, or are the robots wandering right into Dr. Wily’s latest trap? It’s the mixture of both fun and excitement that Ian Flynn delvers better then anyone else.
Green Lantern #3: Green Lantern was never one of my favorite characters, but it is one of the best comics on the rack. Geoff Johns’ have overcome my concerns about a character who only had to think about what he wanted and his ring would do it for him. Hal Jordan has been put through his paces from one set of personal torture to another. Currently he has been stripped of his ring and finds his non-super life is a total mess. His greatest nemesis, Sinestro has offered Hal his powers back and Hal has to answer to Sinestro. However it’s not entirely clear that Hal will survive the experience. To make matters worse, the Guardians of the Universe, who give Green Lantern’s their powers, are now considering pulling the plug on the entire corps and starting over.
Huntress #2: I have been a Huntress fan since she first appeared in DC Super Stars. She started as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and after the first Crisis she became Helena Bertinelli, a girl whose family was killed by mafia rivals. She has always been a character who could stand up to Batman without flinching. In the current story, Huntress creator Paul Levitz tells a compelling story of Helena Bertinelli’s trip to Naples, where she ends up fighting the mafia to save young girls from a prostitution ring. It’s a full blown, hard core kick ass adventure that should please any comic readers and on top of it all, Marcus To’s art is outstanding.
FemForce #157: FemForce is the first all female team book. Bill Black and team have been building a small but very loyal fan base since 1984. I started reading FemForce with FemForce Special #1. This issue focused on the storyline involving Synn’s loss of control of her powers. The whole FemForce team have repaired to a high-tech government paranormal facility, The Colorado Project, where they hope to preform an experimental medical procedure to restore Synn’s balance. Stardust and Nightveil argue as to whether science or magic is the best cure to Synn’s ills. This issue also introduces N.E.D.O.R. Agents. Set in 1965, the strip answers the question, what if the Standard /Nedor heroes had been revived in 1960s, like the DC and Marvel/Timely heroes were? The store features Fighting Yank, Pyroman, Black Terror, The Commando Cubs, and other actual Golden age heroes, and introduces second-generation heroines Pyrogirl, Candi Future and Fighting Yank, jr. Plus Dinosaur Girl faces an Asian giantess who seems to be the first in an endless wave of new female Axis menaces.
Magneto Not A Hero #1: Erik Lasher is the best villain in any comic. In that he is so complex that he can be written as both hero and villain. He is the Malcolm X to Professor X’s Martin Luther King. He wants Mutant equality now by any means necessary. He is also a holocaust survivor, who really believes “Never Again.” In this four part story a video surfaces of Magneto murdering members of an anti-mutant group. It’s not clear if the tape is real or a fake. But Erik must answer to the Avengers for the contents of the tape as well as deal with the reaction from within his mutant community. The thing that makes Magneto fun is playing the line between being a mutant rights activist and being a mutant terrorist. Skottie Young does a great job focusing on Magneto and how others deal with him.
Uncanny X-Force #17: In Uncanny X-Force, Rick Remender goes into familiar waters as we are in part 7 of the 8 part Dark Angel Saga. The Saga actually began in June 1986 when Apocalypse first appeared and started a storyline that led to the end of the Angel and the birth of Dark Angel. One of my favorite lines in the book is Warren saying “X-Men don’t kill” especially since Dark Angel does kill and the entire Uncanny X-Force cast are the X-Men who kill. You could even go as far to say they are child killers. The events in Uncanny haven’t matched up with Schism yet. If you are a long -ime X-Men fan there are lots of little payoffs with fond memories of Age of Apocalypse. Even playing up the Phoenix and Weapon X relationship. While I find this all to be great fun and well thought out, I don’t know if it is even accessible to new fans. I hope it is, because this is all the wild violence that made Wolverine a super star in the early days of Uncanny X-Men and now he is leader of a team of like minded mutants.