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Comic books read today (6/7/13)

Today I only had enough energy to read three comic books:

WORLDS OF ASPEN 2011 #1 — This FCBD comic from two years ago was just dreadful. A series of badly drawn, badly written excerpts from uninteresting upcoming titles, all of which have presumably been cancelled by now if the quality of the previews is any indication.

ASTONISHING TALES #3 — This Marvel comic from 1970 features a Ka-Zar story with art by Barry Smith (not Windsor-Smith yet) and a Dr. Doom story with art by Wally Wood. Neither story is particularly exciting in terms of the plot or characterization, but both stories have fascinating artwork. The BWS story is clearly from his early period, prior to Conan #24 or so, when he was mostly a Kirby clone, but the storytelling shows flashes of brilliance, especially in the action sequences. The Dr. Doom story is just masterful. Woody’s artwork is powerful and elegantly simple. He took a rather boring story by Larry Lieber and turned it into a science fiction epic. In general, this run of Astonishing Tales was a showcase for some fascinating artwork (later issues featured Inhumans stories by Neal Adams) although it was never particularly well-written.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #114 – The trouble with these 100-page giants is that they take forever to read (which for me is not a good thing given my short attention span) and that, because of the perfect binding, they have a tendency to fall apart while being read. Luckily this one was in good enough condition to survive reading.

This issue features one original story and three reprints. The new story is a Batman/Aquaman team-up by Haney and Aparo, which, as one would expect, is exciting and funny but also rather bizarre. There are two entirely separate plots —  one involving a Mafia informant and the other involving a hydrogen bomb planted by Turkish (excuse me, “Karatolian”) drug smugglers — which are connected to each other only by coincidence, as the informant and the bomb are both on the same airplane. Aquaman also claims at one point that the U.S. government is trying to kill him due to his opposition to the use of dolphins in warfare. This is never mentioned again. The artwork in this story is fantastic; Jim Aparo was a veteran Aquaman artist by this time and he does a great job of drawing undersea combat.

The first reprinted story is from Teen Titans #5, which I already have. I remembered this story as being one of Haney and Cardy’s less interesting Titans stories, but as I reread it, I found it surprisingly compelling, even though Cardy’s artwork is not as gorgeous as usual. (Incidentally, I think Nick Cardy may be the greatest living comic book artist from the ’60s or earlier.) The second reprinted story is the first Brave and the Bold teamup, featuring Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter. Again, the story, also by Bob Haney, is exciting and produces a genuine feeling of tension, even though George Roussos’s artwork is rather boring and Green Arrow and Speedy are indistinguishable from Batman and Robin. The final reprinted story, an Aquaman story from Adventure Comics, is not particularly interesting.

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Blogging about every comic book I read, continued

I’m doing this experiment because it’s fun, but also because I want to give myself an excuse to (A) write more and (B) read some of the comic books that have been sitting in my to-be-read boxes for years. I also think it would be useful to have a record of which comic books I read in which order. I have that information for books, because of Goodreads, but not for comic books.

Today I read the following four comic books which I bought this afternoon. This account will contain SPOILERS for comics that came out today.

ASTRO CITY (2013) #1 — I’ve been following this series for almost 18 years and it’s probably the one comic that I’ve been reading continuously for the longest time, though there have been numerous long gaps in its publication, mostly due to Kurt Busiek’s health. I’m overjoyed that Kurt is finally healthy enough to continue producing this, the best superhero comic book of the past two decades.

This issue offered a lot of rewards for longtime readers; it was a pleasant surprise to see Ben Pullam, whose previous appearance was in the first issue of Astro City I read, back in 1996. It’s also a departure for the series in that it introduces a character, the Broken Man, who displays fictional self-awareness and communicates with the readers — one of the best lines in the issue is about how you miss stuff if you’ve been spending a few years reading about stuff that happened thirty years ago (obviously referencing The Dark Age). The actual story, though, was maybe a little too compressed; I was surprised at how quickly Ben decided to go through the dimensional door.

Overall, however, this was a solid Astro City story and I’m excited to read more of this series. I just wish it was being published by Image or some such company, since I would rather not give DC any of my money.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #30 — This series is consistently funny and entertaining and features some fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the best character in the series was Broo, and as of this issue he is still in a state of mindless berserker rage. That had better be resolved soon. Otherwise, this issue was as entertaining as usual. I wish Nick Bradshaw had done the interior art as well as the cover, since he is easily the best artist this series has had; I wonder if he’s not fast enough to do a monthly title.

SAVAGE DRAGON #188 – This issue was an improvement over the last two. It was exciting and surprising; the sudden death of the Little Wise Guys was rather disturbing in a way that’s quite typical of this series. I wish there had been a more informative next issue blurb, as this issue ends on a rather depressing note and I honestly have no idea where the story is going from here. I’m glad that Erik didn’t reuse the ugly experimental coloring technique that he used for #187.

HEROBEAR AND THE KID SPECIAL #1 – I have never really gotten into this series. It’s cute and beautifully drawn, but it seems kind of antiquated and nostalgic, and most of the characters, besides Herobear and Tyler themselves, are variations on very familiar patterns (e.g. the Miss Wormwood-esque teacher). It almost seems like it would be better for nostalgic adults than for actual children — in support of this, I observe that the back-cover blurb says “Remember your childhood?” As a minor but significant point, I reeeeeeeeally hate Mike Kunkel’s habit of emphasizing words by adding extra letters rather than by using expressive lettering. I’m going to buy at least the first issue of the upcoming Herobear miniseries, but after that we’ll see.

Today I also read the following three comics which I already had:

INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE #1 – Being a big fan of Invincible, I bought this a few months ago mostly because of the title. I like Phil Hester’s Guarding the Globe, of which this series is a continuation. This particular issue was enjoyable but not particularly memorable. I wish Phil Hester was writing Firebreather instead of this series.

THE JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY FEATURING NANCY & MELVIN MONSTER: THE DRAWN & QUARTERLY FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2009 — As the title indicates, this was a FCBD comic from several years ago. It’s a preview of D&Q’s hardcover editions of John Stanley’s Melvin Monster and Nancy. The three Melvin Monster stories involve a little monster boy who acts contrary to his nature by trying to be good, even though his monster parents are apparently trying to kill him and the local witch schoolteacher refuses to teach him anything. These stories were kind of insubstantial, but were funny and perfectly drawn. Of the two Nancy stories, the first one was rather nonsensical, but the second one was the best story in the issue, featuring a character who resembles a less evil version of Barks’s Gladstone Gander. Based on this issue, I am not particularly eager to buy the John Stanley Library hardcover books, but I do keep an eye out for John Stanley comic books if I can get them at a reasonable price — I actually do have one original issue of Melvin Monster.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #4 — I’ve probably had this comic for more than five years without ever getting around to it. This issue features a Captain Marvel story by two Eisner Hall of Famers, Archie Goodwin (who is best remembered as an editor but was also a brilliant writer) and Steve Ditko. Unfortunately, neither creator is at its best here. The story revolves around Primus, a scientist from another dimension who tries to defeat a race of soul-stealing shadow creatures by exiling them to earth instead. (Curiously, Goodwin presents Primus as a hero and never really condemns him for his act, even though it leads directly to the death of at least one person; meanwhile, the shadow creatures are presented in a totally unsympathetic light. This is an example of the offensive Always Chaotic Evil trope.) The story ends depressingly with the death of basically all the characters except Captain Marvel himself, and I assume Primus and the shadow creatures have never been mentioned again. Ditko’s artwork here is typical of his late period in that it shows little stylistic evolution relative to his classic work from the ’60s. Overall this issue was quite forgettable.

I would welcome comments on any of the above — one other reason why I’m doing this is because, for various reasons, I no longer post at comicbookresources.com as much as I used to, and I’d like to have more opportunities to talk about comics with other people.

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An experiment: Blogging about every comic book I read

It occurs to me that I really like writing about comic books, so maybe it would be fun to write a quick comment or review about each comic book I read. I don’t know if this will be sustainable in the long term, but we’ll see.

Tonight I read the following comic books:

Morning Glories #17 and #16 — I bought these months ago but didn’t bother to read them until I finished the second Morning Glories trade paperback, which has been on my to-be-read pile for almost a year. Both of these issues were fantastic. I’m really impressed both by the depth of Nick Spencer’s characterization and the emotional subtlety of Joe Eisma’s art. I accidentally read these issues out of order, but it ended up not mattering as they were both entirely self-contained.

Savage Dragon #186 and #187 — I read these in order to get caught up because #188 is coming out tomorrow. I’ve been following this series off and on for about nine years, because it’s consistently one of the most fun comics on the stands. These issues were both quite fun, but I’m starting to have some doubts about whether the series is maintaining its consistency. Erik has always had something of a problem with unflattering depictions of female characters, and I have some trouble with the way he’s been writing Angel lately. Issue #187 was rather hard to follow and was almost ruined by an experimental coloring scheme which, in my opinion, was a failed experiment.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading all four of these comics.

I’ll try this again tomorrow when I go to the store and buy new comics.