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Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. Today our guest is cartoonist, musician and publisher Zak Sally. Sally is known outside comics circles as the former bassist for the band Low, but inside comic circles, he’s known for great books like Like A Dog and the Ignatz series Sammy the Mouse, the collected version of which Sally will be releasing any day now from his own La Mano 21 press.
To see what Sally and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click on the link below.
Tim O’Shea: Dean Man’s Run 1. The nice thing about being a fan of Greg Pak’s writing? Every once and awhile, you luck out and get a sneak peek of his upcoming work. This Wednesday, January 18, marks the first issue of his collaboration with artist Tony Parker for publisher Aspen Comics, in collaboration with Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla on Dead Man’s Run. I’m interested at the set-up Pak has built with this series — hell as a prison with folks looking to break out. Rather than being Con Air Metaphysical or something, the writer casts a guy who happens to be a cartographer the lead of the series. It’s a quirky choice for hero casting (a variation on Amadeus Cho, admittedly) and Pak also constructs a great many monstrous hellmates in the cast that allow Parker to draw some interesting folks. If Pak plans to explore the warden character (as seems to have been teased in this issue) he might the right formula for an engaging series.
Wolverine and the X-Men 4. When has anyone ever described an X-title as fun? It’s an apt term for this Jason Aaron-written series. That’s not to say the read is a goof romp by any measure. While there’s comedic elements, Aaron uses Deathlok as a guest lecturer to great effect in this issue. I’ve not noticed artist Nick Bradshaw prior to this issue, but I like his style.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold 15. The core appeal of this series? Rudimentary tales that are done in one (but that I could see stretched out for four issues in the non-DC Kids/regular DC line). Not to spoil anything but where else could I get a Batman versus Darkseid battle in one regular sized comic book? Thank you writer Sholly Fisch. Side note, the way that Stewart McKenny draws eyes on his heroes reminds me of Fred Hembeck (that’s a compliment in my book).
Secret Avengers 21. This issue has Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen together again. And everybody wins. If Marvel editorial does not get Ellis to write a Steve Rogers miniseries at some point (unless he has no interest, of course) they are idiots. Ellis’ Rogers is not like Brubaker’s (or like anyone else for that matter). Two bits of Rogers dialogue gave me pause: “I don’t believe in torture. It’s ugly, dishonorable and unreliable… So I’m going to let my colleagues do it.” (A line that could also be interpreted as bluffing on Rogers’ part admittedly, until you see the next scene) Or when a battle starts going south for the Secret Avengers and Rogers suggest blowing up the building where the heroes (other than Rogers) are, Hank McCoy says: “Steve, I have the greatest respect for you. But I will not kill again for you. And especially not my own team.” Which prompts Rogers to respond: “Then give me options.” I was reminded of Ellis’ Global Frequency with this set of issues.
The Shade 4. This is the writer James Robinson I remember from Starman — writing stories that hooked me from the first panel, lacing teasers of other tales in between bits of dialogue. It would be insane if poor sales kill this miniseries. This particular issue is a Times Past flashback to 1944 drawn by none other than Darwyn Cooke (inked by the equally great J. Bone). Longtime Robinson fans will be pleased to see which masked man he works in this issue. The cinematic visuals of this story are made even more juicy by Dave Stweart’s colors and the exquisite lettering of living legend Todd Klein. Seriously, if I am editor Wil Moss I would just be giddy with the talent I get to wrangle on this project. If you are a fan of Cooke’s art, you need to read this issue, for the love of God the man makes shadows fascinating.
Black Panther 528. What’s more fun than watching Spider-Man or Daredevil beat Kingpin? The methodically thorough way in which Black Panther is torturing Wilson Fisk. Writer David Liss infoms readers that T’challa is one of the smartest heroes in the Marvel universe by actions, not by having characters say: “Wow, is he smart.” Am absolutely bewildered as to how industry veteran Michael Avon Oeming was garnered for an arc that almost everyone (I assume) knew was the series’ swan song. Not an insult of Oeming, I love his work on this story, but surprised to see him involved. I hope this arc is not the last we see of Liss in the Marvel U.
Batman & Robin 5. I think it will be a tight race for the first Robot 6 reader who gets to tell me I am mistaken for liking Peter Tomasi’s Batman in this series more than I like Scott Snyder’s Batman. But it’s true. Tomasi effectively juggles the Alfred (as surrogate grandfather), Batdad and Damian dynamics. Also, I am pleasantly surprised at how strong artist Patrick Gleason is with angst-ridden Bats. Looking forward to seeing how things play out with Damian in issue 6.
Captain America 7. Fairly certain that Brubaker could have all the characters singing “Mah Nà Mah Nà” on a continuous loop and as long as Alan Davis was the artist, I would still say: “outstanding read”. Fortunately Brubaker writes more than that. But honestly, Alan Davis inked by Mark Farmer and colored by Laura Martin (with Larry Molinar) is eye candy of the highest caliber. Excuse me while I redrool over some of the pages. Added bonus, Cap rides shotgun while Sharon drives the flying car. Cannot get enough of the SHIELD flying cars (I am a child of 1960s/1970s Marvel, what can I say).
Scarlet Spider 1. Yeah, it’s a spider clone. But by setting the book in Houston — and with the tagline of “All of the power. None of the responsibility.” writer Christopher Yost and artist Ryan Stegman hope to give readers a book unlike any other Spidey title. And after interviewing Stegman, I think they might have what it takes to succeed. This is striving to be a quirky book — the hero rescues an elderly lady and then cusses her out for putting herself in a dangerous situation. I like what I saw in this first issue (an unlikeable character begrudgingly playing hero [granted not a unique concept]) and while not eager to part with $3.99 on a monthly basis quite yet, I will likely be back next month. In the long run, Yost might be too busy working on the Avengers show for Disney XD, but I really want to see Yost’s approach to Marvel characters grow in popularity.
Chris Mautner: I’ve spent most of this week reading Grant Morrison: Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics, a new, analytical look at the work of the famed Invisibles author by Marc Singer. Singer might be best known for his blog, I Am Not the Beastmaster, where he regularly writes about comics (when he’s not busy teaching that is). Singer has always been one of the smarter comics bloggers out there, so it should be no surprise that Morrison is a highly insightful, erudite examination of one of the more popular writers in comics today. Singer hurtles himself chronologically through just about the entirety of Morrison’s bibliography, making the larger point that Morrison’s great feat might be in the manner he takes abstract and challenging modes of expression and applies them to mainstream comics. And though Singer throughs out the occasional bit of jargon, his book remains an engaging read. Anyone interested in Morrison’s work should read this book.
Zak Sally: Strangely, i’ve been reading books without pictures; I know for a lot of cartoonists, they say “comics; I don’t read comics in my spare time, I read REAL BOOKS.” Whereas for me, I read comics constantly. So I actually got to the point recently where I thought I’d better back off a little, since I hadn’t read a straight prose/no pictures book in some time.
So, right now I’m almost finished with this Little, Big book by John Crowley and … the whole way through, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. and now I’m almost at the end and thinking that maybe it’s the latter.
Also, dipping (well, diving, really) into some heavy Philip K. Dick research. Not so much his novels (although I just cracked Clans of The Alphane Moon, which I’d somehow missed in the past 26 years) but re-reading a lot of biographical material about him — Lawrence Sutin’s excellent Divine Invasions bio, and I Am Alive and You Are Dead by this French guy Emmanuel Carrere (which is pretty good as well). Also the 4 volumes of Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick that Underwood-Miller did in the 80s (anyone out there looking to get rid of their copy of 1938-71?), and a couple other things as well. Why? Because i’m going to make a BOOK WITH PICTURES out of it, of course. It’s a huge undertaking and you got to dive deep, with that stuff.
I also just got a bunch of whacked-out Hollow Earth theory books– you know, where there’s another world inside the earth, accessible via deep tunnels at the earth’s poles. It’s well documented, and apparently quite nice in there, real temperate and lush, and I plan to visit at my earliest convenience.
It strikes me as I write this that the theme is: “crackpots” taking unpopular and/or bizarre notions and creating real, living valid worlds for themselves out of it.
Yup. makes sense.