Even with all the Halloween-related work I had going on this season — which included healthy doses of Warren’s Eerie comics and Marvel scare books — I still had some time to read a few other things leading up to the big day. I’ll hit these up in a quick hits fashion, but still wanted to call out a few fun aspects of each book. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Trade Pile
As I mentioned in my list of favorite reading experiences of 2012, iZombie has quickly become one of my favorite comic read experiences around (check out my reviews of volume 1 and 2 if you’re so inclined). I wrote in that post, “This series is the rare mix of intriguing characters, wacky situations, rock solid architecture and mythology I want to study PLUS one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen.” That feeling continued into this third volume as all kinds of craziness goes down and we’re even introduced to a whole new team of characters called the Dead Presents who seem pretty important to the overall narrative. I think it’s a great sign when a book like this heading into its final arc doesn’t shy away from introducing new characters, especially ones that I’m so intrigued by.
One of the keys to this book, in addition to the mythology and characters is that Roberson does a great job of giving everyone a secret, one that you don’t necessarily learn the truth about for issue after issue. I mean, I’m introduced to Gwen in a broad way in the first volume and she explains what her deal is, so I’m on board. I like the character and I’m along for her adventures. But most of the give information at that point has very little to do with her pre-undead life. The realizations and reveals that come from that aspect of her were great and almost unexpected because I was so invested in this character that I forgot that I know almost nothing about her.
This volume is all about answers and reveals while still leaving plenty of large question son the table like what will happen between Gwen and Horatio now that he knows the truth about her? How will they stop the zombie outbreak? What’s the deal with the Dead Presidents? What’s up with Gramps? Ahhh, there’s so many questions. Even though I read this book a while ago, I’m still excited about it and getting my hands on the last volume to see how everything wraps up.
Another favorite discovery of last year was Scott Snyder’s American Vampire (check out my review of the first volume here). This volume focuses on Las Vegas lawman Cashel McCogan in 1936. He’s a good man doing his best in a place overrun by bad folks. In addition to the run of the mill monsters you might expect, he’s also got a nasty vampire problem on his hands that will reveal dark secrets about Vegas and lead to dark personal realizations for McCogan himself. I don’t want to get too deep into the details for fear of spoilers, but the payoff to the second page in this collection that finally reveals whats in his backup is pretty amazing and disturbing.
The story also circles back around and shines the spotlight on volume one star Pearl and her man Henry who discover along with the audience that there’s an organization out in the world dedicated to destroying vampires. They actually want to test Pearl in exchange for supposedly never bothering her again, but Pearl is understandably wary. And, of course, we get more Skinner Sweet, the OG American Vampire.
Much like iZombie, this book is so great because the characters feel real and robust, the setting is intriguing, the action is intense, the art is rad and the horror fits with the subject matter. I want to dive into this world and soak up every drop of story. I’m excited to get my hands on the remaining books.
Fables is one of those Vertigo books that I’ve been hearing great things about for years. One of the guys I used to work with at Wizard would devour the new issues every time they came out and I was at a party once where a woman read through the first volume in a corner while everyone else stood around, drank and talked. I thought that was pretty weird, but I figured it indicated something interesting about the book. Even though I hadn’t read it, I knew the basics: all the storybook characters you’ve read about are real and in our world for some reason. Why did I finally decide to check the book out? Well, it’s mainly because of Once Upon A Time, a show I really enjoy that has very similar themes.
In fact, I think watching OUAT has gotten in the way of my reading of this book because I compared every character in the comic to their counterpart in the show. I wasn’t doing it in a “This was ripped off” kind of way but more of just a constant comparison which got kind of tiring.
I also wasn’t super interested in the story of the first arc which revolves around Fabletown’s resident PI Bigby Wolf trying ro figure out who killed Rose Red (Snow White’s sister). The whodunit is kind of a perfect way to introduce the reader to a group of characters who will go on to be major players in the comic (I assume), but I had two problems with this set-up. First, I didn’t know Rose Red at this point and therefore wasn’t really invested in finding out who killed her. Sure, her sister was upset and wanted to find out what happened, but something just didn’t land with me and get me super involved. The other problem I had was that I figured out the big twist pretty early on, so a lot of the procedural stuff wasn’t super interesting. To be fair, I’m not sure if I actually parsed out what was going on or had the answer rattling around in my head.
So, at the end of the day, I wasn’t super absorbed by this first Fables outing. I’ve got the second and third volumes thanks to a Swap, but I’m probably going to knock out a few smaller books as well as the next Y: The Last Man Deluxe hardcover before getting back to them. Maybe I’ll wait til Once Upon A Time‘s season ends to avoid some of the comparisons.
I write about a lot of trades on this site, about two a week if I’m on my game. But, I actually read a lot more than that. So, this particular list is the 12 books or runs that I enjoyed the most reading or re-reading this year. Most of them have been covered on the site, but others have not. I’ll give the latter a few more words than the former, but hope you enjoy.
I read all of Judd Winick’s run of Outsiders this year, but didn’t write about it? Why? Well, it was a pretty big reading project, something that makes it harder for me to write about as a whole. But, I still really enjoyed this reading experience. Winick brings a realness to superhero comics without letting it get too in the way (if that makes sense). I know a lot of people think he forces issues into books, but I think these are the kinds of things that should be talked about and seen. Anyway, this was a fun superhero reading experience that made me remember how fun the DCU was back when this book and Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans launched. Good times. I haven’t written about James Robinson’s Starman because I haven’t finished the last omnibus yet. I haven’t finished it because I kind of don’t want to finish it and I also need quiet time to really sit down and finish it. This series is up there with Preacher and Sandman for me in my list of all time favorites. It lives in my heart and I was elated to discover that I still like it. This is what shared universe superhero comics could and should be. I know I just read the first two volumes of Grimjack, but the experience has stayed with me. I love that world and keep thinking of great ways it could be interpreted for different genres. Right now I’m thinking about a Crackdown/Amazing Spider-Man style video game set in Cynosure where you take on jobs or just spend your day drinking in Munden’s Bar. If you dig Hellboy, B.P.R.D. or 100 Bullets, I think you’ll enjoy Grimjack. I’ve had a lot of different feelings about DC’s New 52. At first I was upset that “my” versions of the characters would only survive in my trade shelves and long boxes. Then I realized that I don’t really read new issues anymore and I still have my collection (and books I’ve never read from that era) to enjoy. I also realized that I’m almost 30 and have better things to worry about. With that behind me, I was able to dive into various trades with a mostly clear head and enjoyed them for the most part. I appreciate how DC was attempting to hit all different kinds of genres and audiences, of course, not all of those attempts were successful. The least successful tries in my opinion, though, were the books that just failed to set up a basic reason why that book existed aside from “to make money.” I still have a pile of them to read and am getting a sense of the new U, which is kind of fun. Even though I read the second arc of Ed Brubaker’s Secret Avengers first and the first second, I had a great time reading this “black ops” take on superheroes. Bru writing Captain America/Steve Rogers is always aces in my book, but throwing in a lot of other street level-esque characters was even cooler. I’ve only read these first two volumes, but was satisfied with Brubaker’s ability to create an enjoyable sci-fi/spy mash-up story that felt well contained while still making me want to read more. Return of King Doug came out of left field for me. It was gifted to me by a pal and I knew nothing about it, but Greg Erb, Jason Oremland and Wook-Jin Clark reminded me so much of the kinds of stories I love from the 80s, but while also doing all kinds of new, funny things I enjoy. Read this now. I’ve said this before, but one of the things I miss most about not working at Wizard anymore is access to all of the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics that came out. I’m super behind, but I did get my hands on some B.P.R.D. trades this year for a little catching up (Hell On Earth: New World and Gods And Monsters). That’s still the best damn comic series around and has been for a while. I don’t mind playing catch-up on some books. I’ve been super happy re-reading things like World War Hulk and catching up on Hulk, Incredible Hulk and Red Hulk this year. Super fun, popcorn books mixed with well thought out ongoing superhero tales filled with monsters? Yeah, I’m all over that. I read the first iZombie trade in 2011, but was delighted to get my hands on the second and third volumes in 2012. I wrote about the second one here and have a post in mind talking about the third. Anyway, this series is the rare mix of intriguing characters, wacky situations, rock solid architecture and mythology I want to study PLUS one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen. So, so, so good. I’m pretty surprised there are two Vertigo books on here. It seemed like for a while I was reading nothing from them. Now iZombie and American Vampire are two of my faves. Then again Chris Roberson and Scott Snyder are two of the best newcomer writers around, so that’s no surprise. In this case, Snyder takes two things that have become old and boring — vampires and American history — and makes them both super interesting and intense. Can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes.Batman: Knightfall Volume 1 was pure, nostalgic joy. All of the Batman comics that got me into Batman in one place in one fat volume? Yes, yes and yes. I have the second and third volumes waiting to be read. Maybe next month after knocking off a smattering of random trades I want to check out. I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t write about Jeff Lemire’s Lost Dogs. It’s one of the few books I’ve bought through Comixology for my Kindle Fire. The long and short of it is that this story about a simpleton trying to save his family. It’s raw and rough and hits you in the gut. I don’t know if I liked the experience of reading this story, but it was certainly powerful. I can’t remember if it made me cry or not, but it came close.
I’m certain I missed a few books that I didn’t write about, but this is a pretty solid list by all accounts. I should probably branch out into more diverse trades and graphic novels — and I plan to — but what can I say? I love me some superheroes. I also happen to love all kinds of other comics, so let’s continue to make and talk about awesome comics.
It’s safe to say that I was both impressed by and absorbed with the first volume of Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s iZombie, the book about a zombie named Gwen who digs people up once a month to eat their brains and deal with some of the residual problems therein. The mix of a grand, well explained mythology, new twists on old themes, multiple interconnected storylines and characters I was both interested in and concerned for made for excellent reading.
As such, I was pretty jazzed when I was able to set up a Swap for the second and third volumes. Every time I find a new series I like, one of the fun aspects comes in tracking down all the trades on the cheap. Sequential Swap is always the first place I look. If that doesn’t work, I usually keep an eye out for website sales and the like. Mostly, I’m pretty patient when it comes to such things, so I don’t mind waiting a while. I was surprised and happy to discover I wouldn’t have to wait too long to continue on with Gwen’s adventures.
Actually, now that I think about it, Gwen almost takes a backseat in this collection. She’s definitely there and dealing with her own thing — which involves eating the brain of the mother of her old friend which actually brings up some long-forgotten parts of her pre-undead life — but supporting characters Scott the were-terrier, Ellie the ghost, Gwen’s monster hunter boyfriend and even a coven of vampires also get a good deal of page time which makes this world feel all the richer.
Some people might see this collection as kind of a set-up or bridge before things presumably get crazy in the third and fourth books (that’s all there is, the fourth isn’t even out yet). There are definite hints at larger things going on in this universe, but I’m far more interested in what’s going on with the characters and how they react to the wild situations they find themselves in the middle of. I have confidence that Roberson will continue to bring unique twists and turns to some of the tropes we’re so familiar with. I’m especially looking forward to what happens when Gwen and her boyfriend Horatio find out the truth about one another. But be cool, don’t say anything, I’ve got two more books to read!
Back when I was still at Wizard, I remember reading the first issue of iZombie. I remember not getting very into it for some reason, but after recently getting the trade and giving it a read, I really dug the series.
The book stars Gwen, a single girl living in Eugene, Oregon whose friends happen to be the ghost of a girl who died in the 60s and a were-terrier. Oh, and she’s a zombie. Not your usual shambly, brain craving kind, but the kind who digs one up from the cemetery she works at/secretly lives in and absorbs memories from once a month. With those extra memories in there, Gwen feels the need to right any wrongs done to the person before their death. This time around, that leads to a man named John Amon who happens to be a mummy.
I won’t give away too much, but I thought the explanation for the various kinds of monsters–there’s also vampires, poltergeists and a few others–in relation to levels of the soul was pretty fascinating stuff. I don’t know if that’s been around before, but it was the first time I’d seen it. So many horror stories or stories set within the usual parameters of the genre skip over explanations that it’s nice to see one actually well thought out and explained clearly.
The story, which has a really good TV feel to it, is helped greatly by the artwork of Mike Allred. That guy’s just fantastic all around. I had really started to enjoy Madman before I left Wizard and haven’t gotten caught up since. While my initial thought is that I wish Allred was writing as well as drawing this project, I think Chris Roberson really helps ground things. Sometimes Allred get’s pretty darn heavy and out there and it can be difficult to follow. Roberson keeps things quick and clean and smart, which I like. I compared the story to a TV series above and I think that’s pretty accurate. There’s a lot going on in these issues, including Gwen’s main story, her time with John Amon, the were-terrier dealing with a friend discovering his true nature, a tribe of vampire women who feed on men at the paintball field they own and a pair of monster hunters. Everything seems really well balanced with peeks at other stories and background information to be seen and even the longterm and big decisions Gwen will have to face thanks to meeting John Amon.
By the time I was done reading the first volume of iZombie, I wanted to read the next and the next and the next. I want to know more about Gwen and how she became a zombie, what she’ll decide to do with Amon’s offer and also learn about all the other side characters a lot more. Too many stories kick off with an avalanche of back story before showing why certain characters are interesting and cool, I prefer this method which displays them as such and then will eventually explain more about them. More comics should be like that.
HELLBLAZER: EMPATHY IS THE ENEMY (Vertigo)
Written by Denise Mina, drawn by Leonardo Manco
Collects Hellblazer #216-222
John Constantine is one of those characters that I have a lot of love for, but don’t know if I really get the character from my limited experience (a few trades here and there, Azzarello’s run on the book and random issues while working at Wizard). It’s the same way I like the Creeper. Anyway, I’ve got a list of all the Hellblazer trades and I’m slowly checking them off the list. I got Empathy here from Swap and enjoyed myself. One thing you need to know about reading a Hellblazer comic is that, it’s completely normal to have no idea what’s happening. Constantine always runs into someone who he knew from the old days, does some vague magic and deals with some big demon or some such. That’s been my experience at least.
This time around, Constantine’s got to deal with a man who is reading empathy. After helping him, John has the sickness now which is leading him towards a Scottish cult on an island. There’s a lot of info thrown at you that will probably make a lot more sense on a second reading, something I hope to do if I ever get the whole series. Even with everything going on, the slow burn of the story allows you to think about things without ever slowing to a crawl. Mina has this great way of making everything seem important and has a knack for writing interesting side characters. And Manco might be the perfect Constantine artist. He’s got a kinetic style that makes the panels seem to almost hum with magic.
If you’ve never read a Hellblazer comic, this is as good a place as any to start. The only continuity thing I didn’t really know about was why Constantine has sworn off magic. I’m guessing it’s after a particularly harrowing encounter with a demon in a previous arc, but it’s never really explained. It’s also not really that important because, SPOILER he does in fact use some magic.
HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL. 3: THE SPACE BETWEEN (Vertigo)
Written by Matthew Sturges with Bill Willingham and Chris Roberson, drawn by Luca Rossi, Jim Fern, Grazia Lobaccaro, Ralph Reese, Sergio Argones, Eric Powell, Neal Adams, Gilbert Hernandez and David Hahn
Collects House Of Mystery #11-15
Boy, I hope you guys are reading House Of Mystery. I’ve been a big fan since it launched and even reviewed the second trade here. The idea is that the House of Mystery is a place outside of time that travels from different dimensions come to while traveling. Most of them can leave, but a few people are stuck there. In exchange for getting hooch and food, the patrons have to tell a story which is sometimes written by someone other than Sturges and drawn by a different artist. With the third volume, though, the ongoing story takes on a life of its own with star Fig dealing with her dad now being stuck in the House and the truth about some of the big players in the book. To make up for the lack of side stories, the 13th issue actually consists of all side stories by the likes of Neal Adams, Eric Powell and Gilbert Hernandez.
This is definitely not a good place to start reading, obviously, but I can’t recommend a comic book more than House Of Mystery. It’s good for longtime Sandman fans–yeah, it’s that House Of Mystery–, non comic book readers and people trying to check out something new aside from superhero books.
HOM is one of those books that I wait for the trade on because there’s so much going on, but that means that I’m behind. So, I’m still waiting to find out what’s going on with the huge cliffhanger at the end of this trade.
LUCIFER VOL. 1: DEVIL IN THE GATEWAY (Vertigo)
Written by Mike Carey, drawn by Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, James Hodgkins, Warren Pleece and Dean Ormston
Collects The Sandman Presents #1-3, Lucifer #1-4
I really wanted to like Lucifer. I love Sandman and am a big fan of Mike Carey’s writing, but I found the second half of this collection (the first four issues of the ongoing series) to be nearly impenetrable. Gaiman had this amazing knack for weaving these epic stories that also included regular human beings. Sometimes you’d be reading through the issue trying to figure out why the hell you were supposed to care about some blond girl and then, bam, it all makes sense. Unfortunately, in this story, Carey doesn’t have that knack.
I liked the first story enough, which showed Lucifer doing a favor for heaven to get rid of some ancient shadow gods. Like the later story, it involves a regular person getting sucked into something much bigger and it pays off. The second one though just seems to keep winding around the main story without really making it clear soon enough why I should care about this kid aside from the fact that he’s persecuted. Meanwhile, Lucifer’s dealing with a fellow fallen angel and his tarot cards of death. It just didn’t suck me in enough to keep reading so I actually quit two or so issues in. As a side note, it’s hard to tell exactly where the issues began and ended because they didn’t reprint the friggin’ covers between issues (I hate that).
Any Lucifer fans out there? Is it worth continuing on?