What Are You Reading? with Thom Zahler
Hiya kids, it’s time for What Are You Reading?, a weekly look into what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today’s special guest is Thom Zahler, creator of the delightful superhero/romantic comedy comic Love and Capes.
To find out what Thom and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
I didn’t get to Baltimore: The Plague Ships before Halloween like I’d planned. I had illusions about reading the novel it’s based on first, but I’m slow with prose and the graphic novel was just sitting there on my reading table; taunting me with its gorgeously gruesome Mignola cover and its peg-legged, harpoon-wielding hero. I’m sure that I would have gotten more out of it had I read the novel first, but Mignola and Christopher Golden did a fine job (as they will) of keeping the comic self-contained and filling in enough details to explain the world (an alternate reality in which WWI was cancelled on account of vampire-plague) and What’s Come Before (Lord Henry Baltimore may have sort of caused the whole vampire-plague and is hunting the Vampire-in-Charge for reasons having as much to do with Revenge as Saving the World).
Ben Stenbeck’s art has a great look (he’s got a special gift for fungus-zombies) and in the sketchbook part he explains how closely he worked with Mignola on creature designs. And thanks to Dave Stewart’s colors, The Plague Ships feels very much like part of the Hellboy-verse even though it’s not.
I wasn’t planning to say anything about Justice League #3, because I’m still frustrated by the price tag, but I have to mention how perfectly and succinctly Geoff Johns updated Wonder Woman’s mission for the post-Flashpoint DCU. “This place…is filled with so many wonderful things…but there is also a darkness that lurks here too. One I’m going to fight. That’s what I’m here for. That’s why I’m staying. To fight.” The post-Crisis missionary-of-peace/Amazon-warrior dichotomy never worked for me, but this essentially updates her Golden Age motivation for coming to our world and it’s awesome in its simplicity.
Natsume Ono’s Tesoro is a collection of her short stories that were published between 1998 and 2008. Ono has a lovely, linear drawing style, and we can see it develop from scribbly to more controlled between the earlier and the later stories. Her storytelling technique improved as well. I like Ono’s work because her characters are so human; a lot of manga characters behave in stereotyped ways, almost like little person-bots, but hers have moments of real doubt, awkwardness, and silliness. Several of the stories are set in Italy, as were her manga Gente and Ristorante Paradiso, and others reflect small incidents in everyday life in Japan. The book is beautifully produced with French flaps and earth-toned inks, and it really feels like something special. While genre manga such as Naruto and Vampire Knight will always dominate the American market, it’s nice to see Viz bringing over more literary titles like this one.
It’s well known that Osamu Tezuka was an admirer of Walt Disney, and that shines through in his Princess Knight, which was originally published in 1953. The edition I am reading, published by Vertical, is actually a retelling of the story that Tezuka did in the early 1960s, but the Disney connection is still there; this is a children’s story, and it is filled with adorable animals and cutely rounded angels and villains. The pacing also makes me think of animated cartoons, with lots of short gags and asides. Princess Knight was one of the early shoujo manga that set the style and the conventions for many manga that followed, but it is quite enjoyable in its own right, aside from any historical significance.
Supergirl #3: As I settled into the third issue of this series, I realized something I should have realized at the outset of this series. Why did DC set up a new universe where right out of the gates it’s clear that Superman is not the sole survivor of the destruction of Krypton? Why did the new Supergirl have to be so oddly related to Superman, essentially in the same way it was in the old DC universe? I was distracted in the first two issues as the new Supergirl gathered her wits about her. In this third issue, I just found myself bored, feeling like the series has settled into another Supergirl series that will suffer ultimately lackluster sales and tread on the brink of cancellation. But I am getting ahead of myself, for right now, with this issue #3, I realize I have no interest in returning for issue 4.
Blue Beetle #3: Again a new DCU retreading much of the same ground as the last Blue Beetle series. But in this instance, there’s a major difference in that I find myself still interested. And the reason likely is the supporting cast—namely Jamie’s strong family ties. In this issue, writer Tony Bedard allows Jamie’s mom (and her love of her son) to shine through with a really great, intense scene. Also the villains in this round of the Blue Beetle seem a bit more violent than the last one (not an asset, or a detriment, merely an observation).
Captain America #4: For the first arc of a new Ed Brubaker Captain America title, this plot is sluggish and not engaging at all. What really astounded me in this issue was Steve McNiven’s art; more specifically his portrayal of Sharon Carter in one scene. Worried about the fate of Steve Rogers, McNiven has Carter nervously bite her lip. It would be understood she’d worry about Steve, but to have a longtime, accomplished SHIELD agent and a member of the Secret Avengers bite her lip? The helpless female lip bite is beneath Carter’s character, no matter how much she may care for Rogers. (Plus it shows minimal faith in a guy that just a year or so ago proved he could come back from the friggin dead)
Birds of Prey #3: This new incarnation of the Birds of Prey has little in common with the old one, but to my delight it continues to work for me. Writer Duane Swierczynski does a great job of juggling all of the cast members and giving them little moments to impact the storyline, while still moving it forward and engaging.
Avengers Academy #22: I was glad to read writer Christos Gage tweet that the book is not at risk for cancellation (unless the rumors of its cancellation negatively impacts the number of people buying it, then we have the infernal self-fulfilling prophecy), so I can respect his request for folks to pre-order the book. For Quicksilver fans wanting to know if he was ever going to talk to dad (Magneto) in this series, you get your answer in this issue. Clearly Gage had been loading up and looking forward to writing this issue, but in his haste to tackle the meet-up at every single angle, he dropped the ball slightly. I still love the series, do not get me wrong. But when given the chance to unleash a major character reveal, the reaction to the news is muddled and lost amongst the other action ongoing in the issue. It is my hope this reveal has rippling impacts. In the meantime, however, I still consider this the best Avengers book Marvel is publishing.
Thunderbolts #165: Regular WAYR readers will not be surprised. A book written by Jeff Parker? O’Shea loves it. Indeed, but this is an extra enjoyable Parker story (no really), because it is a time travel story. Parker getting to play in 1940s Marvel, with the Invaders is never a bad thing in my book. With this issue, Parker is at his best with the Namor and Satana scenes (though the dialogue and action from Moonstone is a close second).
Mark Waid’s Daredevil has been raking in its share of accolades. You now why? It’s fantastic! Everything they say is true. Mark’s writing a comic book in the very best sense of the world: long stories, short stories, overreaching arcs and yet ever 20 page issue is a satisfying chunk. What’s most remarkable to me is how quickly he manages to pivot Daredevil from the bleak character he’s been to a more shiny happy character, and yet it doesn’t feel forced but effortless.
Mark, along with his artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin are also finding new ways to show and to use Daredevil’s powers. That’s not an insignificant task for a character who’s been around as long as The Man Without Fear has. They manage to visually illustrate Daredevil’s very non-visual senses in just a stunning way.
Really, I love everything about it. It’s Shakespeare the way it was meant to be seen.
Over at DC, I find myself loving Action Comics. That’s a superhuman feat in itself because the new telling of Superman’s early years is not the one I’ve gotten used to, or even the one I’d prefer. But Grant Morrison is harkening back to the early 30’s rough-and-tumble Superman and carrying me along for the ride. It’s a Superman with a bit of an edge, and if you’d pitched it to me that was I would have turned it down. But it seems to be working.
Grant Morrison has a way of embracing all the varied, and sometimes conflicting, facets of a character. He’s making this book one of the ones I have to read as soon as it comes out. And the art by Rags Morales is just beautiful. That guy must have gone to a good school. (Kubies rule!)
You may have missed it, but Dracula the Unconquered was one of the highlights of Halloween. The other was seeing the Tim Burton exhibition at the LACMA, but that’s not important right now. The book, written by Chris Sims with art by Steve Downer and Josh Krach is the type of comic I want to see more of. I think in complimenting Chris on it, I compared it to a Twix bar. It’s got all sorts of sugary goodness to it, but enough of a solid crunchy core to it that it’s not empty calories.
Dracula the Unconquered takes place in 1901 as Dracula is freed from his imprisonment in the Tower of London by nefarious people for nefarious plans. I don’t want to spoil anything more than that. Here’s the thing: it’s an all-ages comic. My goddaughter will love it when I give it to her, and I love it to. It doesn’t make the common all-ages mistake of talking down to its audience. She will like the fun art and the frenetic pace of the story.
Most interesting to me is that Dracula here seems to have the bloody past from the novels, and yet the character is instantly engaging and likable. I’m looking forward to seeing how Chris straddles that line.
Also, the comic is embracing digital only. It’s a 24-page story all for just a dollar! (Listen up Big Two.) It’s the perfect price that you can’t say “no” to, and distributed in a way that wouldn’t be possible years before. I thing digital and print books can co-exist, and I’ going to enjoy seeing Action Age help carve this path.
Lastly, while I haven’t finished reading it yet, I adore Lora Innes’s The Dreamer, published by IDW. The second collection of Lora’s time-traveling historical romance just came out this week, and so far it’s just as good as the first. Lora writes and draws the book, with colors by Julie Wright.
Lora excels at portraying very grounded, human characters doing grounded, human things. It’s an artist’s compliment, but I envy her ability to portray fashion and fabric in a way which eludes so many of us. Yet, her art is never overwrought and has a Disneylike quality to it. It’s just so… smooth.
It’s also a historical piece and Lora doesn’t skimp on the history. She’s clearly got a love for the American Revolution time period and it shines out of every inch of the book. She doesn’t sacrifice storytelling for accuracy or the other way around either, it’s very much a well-balanced approach. I find myself thinking “I wonder if that really happened” and then, more often than not, find out that it did indeed. It’s great to see someone who cares so much about the accuracy of the world they’re building and the story they’re telling.
The book also exists as a webcomic, too, so give it a look at http://www.thedreamercomic.com/.