The Midnight Comic Club Episode 8 – Frankenstein at Marvel & DC

As we come together for the eighth meeting of the Midnight Comic Club, we celebrate the November 32, 1931 release of James Whale’s Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff by looking at how Marvel and DC have integrated the character into their universes!

Starting with Marvel, check out Menace #7, X-Men #40 and the fantastic Monster Of Frankenstein trade paperback if you’d like to learn more.  Scroll on down for some images of those books as well as plenty of others mentioned in the episode. I also mentioned the Avengers: Legion Of The Unliving trade which you can check out here.

I should probably link to the episode, so here it is!

Here’s a few more of the Marvel books I mentioned: Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fear Itself: Deadpool/Fearsome Four and Punisher: Frankencastle.

Moving on to DC, these are some of the books I mentioned: Showcase Presents Superman Volume 2, The Demon By Jack Kirby, Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Volume 2, The Creature Commandos, Seven Soldiers Of Victory Volume 2 (though you should also check out Volume 1 as well), Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 and 2 and Elseworlds: Batman Volume 1.

Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT

trade-pileAnother week has gone by and I’ve knocked out another pile of comics, most of which came from my local library system. As you can see, we’ve got a mix of amazing indie artists, classic comic visionaries, crossovers and newer books. Hit the jump to see what I had to say on this batch! Continue reading Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT

Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

Wayward Volume 1 String TheoryBack when I started working for CBR, I covered Image Comics. It was a wild time when new creators were rolling in and producing these great creator-owned books. A lot of them have gone on to work at Marvel where I now interview them for that company’s website. I’ve since switched beats and now cover BOOM! Studios and IDW so I’ve lost touch with some of the books that everyone’s talking about and digging like Wayward and Descender. Continue reading Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

My 12 Favorite Trade Reading Experiences Of 2012

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.
outsiders looking for trouble  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. starman-omnibus-vol-3I 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. legend of grimjack volume 1I 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. Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 War of the MonstersI’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. secret avengers vol 1 mission to marsEven 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. the return of king dougReturn 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. bprd hell on earth 2 new world gods And MmonstersI’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. hulk red hulkI 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. izombie vol 2 uVAmpireI 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. american vampire volume 1I’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 1Batman: 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. lost_dogs_cover_sm_lgI 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.

New 52 Trade Post: OMAC & Green Arrow

OMAC volume 1 OmactivateOMAC Volume 1: Omactivate (DC)
Written by Dan DiDio & Keith Giffen with Jeff Lemire, drawn by Giffen & Scott Kolins
Collects OMAC #1-8

Do you ever get a group of trades and pull the ones you’re least interested in to the top and read those first? I can’t say it’s something I’ve done a lot of. When I was a monthly comic reader, I’d move the books I was most excited about to the top and get to the rest later. But, I recently came into a stack of New 52 books and wanted to read a few of the more random ones first just to see how they were.

One of those books was OMAC. I wasn’t super excited about the creative team or the fact that yet another one of Jack Kirby’s creations was getting yet another make over. But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by this series, which only lasted the 8 issues collected in this book. This new version actually stands for One-Machine Attack Construct unlike the One Man Army Corp of the original series (which I can’t believe I read three years ago at this point). Set in the new DCU, the human component this time is a scientist named Kevin who gets moved all over the chessboard by Brother Eye to do his bidding.

Basically, this whole series is a love letter to Kirby, or at least that’s how I’m looking at it. Giffen is clearly paying homage to The King’s style with his pages, all of which feature at least one of Jack’s trademarks: squared off fingers, Kirby crackle or the four panel pages he seemed to like. You could also say that some of DiDio’s story elements take their lead from Kirby’s. Not everything is explained super well and things just kind of happen, much like they did in Jack’s DC books.

I like the approach I mentioned above, but it does have its fair share of problems. There’s basically three levels you can enjoy this book on. Let’s called the homage one level. Then there’s the more basic level of a superhero smash ’em up bonanza which it definitely delivers. But, the third layer is a lot less satisfying. I mean, we’re never even told why Brother Eye chose Kevin. Worse than that, it’s never explained why Brother Eye (who annoyingly says “Eye” instead of “I”) even needs a human-hosted OMAC. Why doesn’t he just use a robot? I wish these questions had been answered in these eight issues but they weren’t. I can still enjoy the story that is told on the page, but it definitely could have been more satisfying.

KEEP/DUMP: I’m going to keep this one for now. Not sure if it’ll stay in the collection after a re-read later on down the line, though.

green arrow volume 1 midas touchGreen Arrow Volume 1: The Midas Touch (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul & Keith Giffen, drawn by Jurgens & George Perez with Ray McCarthy & Ignacio Calero
Collects Green Arrow #-6

I fell in love with the character of Green Arrow when Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead and was on board with the series up until a few years ago when Judd Winick left Green Arrow & Black Canary. I even started collecting the previous volume by way of lots on eBay and back issues found at conventions. As such, I’m always leery when I experience a new version of the character.

I haven’t written about it much on the site, but I actually really enjoy Arrow on The CW because they gave Oliver Queen a really solid, interesting and believable back story that I can sink my teeth into and enjoy. I can’t say that’s the case for this New 52 series, though. Sure you’ve got rich Oliver Queen dressing up in a superhero costume and running around fighting supervillains, but why?

This is something that I think some of the New 52 books completely failed on and others nailed really well: the question of why this book exists. I understand that DC and Warner Bros. wanted to continue with a book that had done fairly well before the relaunch and also wanted something that eventual fans of the series could read if they were so inclined, but in the book itself, what’s the point of it existing?

Much of the plot of the first arc in this book focuses on younger supervillains who get their jollies committing crimes and sending that out over the internet for people to watch. It’s the next level up from schoolyard or bum fight vidoes in a world with super powers. For some reason, this aspect of the story never grabbed me. It didn’t feel super new (Will Pfeifer did something sort of like this in the amazing HERO). I think I didn’t care about that part of the story because I didn’t care about Ollie. Sure you see him in his civilian identity blowing off the guy who runs the larger Queen family company, but that’s not enough. This is supposed to be a brand new universe where anything can happen, you can’t rely on old stories for that, you need to put enough on front street to suck me in or get me with one crazy hook and unfortunately Green Arrow had neither of those.

It did have one issue — #6 — drawn by Ignacio Calero who looked like a more stylized JLA-era Howard Porter. I’d like to see more from him in the future.

KEEP/DUMP: This one’s going up on Sequential Swap where it will hopefully get me another book.

Halloween Scene Trade Post: Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1

Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War Of The Monsters (DC)
Written by Jeff Lemire, drawn by Alberto Ponticelli
Collects Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #1-7

Back when I read the first issue of Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., I was pretty psyched about this as a comic. I dug the crazy sci-fi set-up created by Jeff Lemire, the spy elements and, of course, the idea of a team of monsters going out and smashing other monsters. For the most part, I’ve liked the weirder New 52 books that I’ve experienced and this is definitely up there. Since reading that first issue, I’ve read a few more Lemire books, like the soul-punch that is Lost Dogs and the first volume of his Vertigo book Sweet Tooth and have become a big fan of his. I also want to check out Swamp Thing which everyone seems to love and have The Complete Essex County waiting for me on my Kindle Fire.

Anyway, I should stay on topic. Here’s the deal with Frankenstein. He works for an organization called S.H.A.D.E. which stands for Super Human Advanced Defense Executive that’s run by Father Time who happens to randomly regenerate his body every so many years and is currently in the guise of a small girl wearing a domino mask. Frankenstein’s ostensibly married to the multi-armed Bride of Frankenstein, but they’re estranged. He also winds up leading a new team of monster-human hybrids based on the classic Universal Monsters: vampire, wolf man, sea creature and the mummy. They go on missions that include stopping an invading horde of extra-dimensional beings, saving a sentient planet from its own demons and fighting OMAC.

I was already into this concept because it’s monster soldiers, a concept I like just about every time I encounter it, including the Marvel miniseries Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. But Lemire takes things in directions I never would have thought. This isn’t just a big monster fight book, there’s also a great mix of alternate dimensions and even super-tech. The S.H.A.D.E. HQ is actually a shrunken down floating city with an impenetrable bubble around it. You have to get shrunk down and then teleported just to get inside. I love that kind of stuff and there’s a lot of that in here. Oh, I should note here that the shrinking tech was designed by none other than Ray Palmer, which marks this series’ closest connection to the larger DCU as far as I’ve read (aside from the OMAC appearance later on).

All of which is a commentary on Lemire’s versatility as a writer. Dude made a name by writing and drawing real world-based stories and has moved on to some of the craziest comics on the stands. I’m a big fan of that. I’m not as big a fan of Ponticelli’s artwork though. It can get really messy and hard to read. I appreciate the scope they’re going for on this book — our team of monsters fighting legions of evil monsters at one time — but it can get confusing at times. I will say that he does some really interesting things with page layouts where they look like splashes, but wind up actually containing several scenes. Take the page below, see how it all seems like one thing at first glance, but then you realize the water’s surface winds up acting like the panel break? That’s pretty rad. Maybe it’s an inking thing, because when he was inked by someone else on issue #7, it looked so different I thought it was a new penciler altogether.

Anyway, I had a great time reading this comic for all kinds of reasons and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I just did some looking around and saw that Lemire’s only on the book for another few issues. This news would generally bum me out, but then I saw that Matt Kindt took over and I’m pretty excited to see what he does/did with his run.

Haha, oh man, as I finished writing this I remembered that my pal Kiel Phegley had written about some upcoming DC cancellations on CBR. I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet post-NYCC and catching up on things. So, I just gave it a glance and saw that this book will get the axe with #17. That’s a bummer, especially because it feels like the kind of project that could have just as easily been a long-running Image series with like, two tweeks. Ah well, that’s Chinatown or whatever.

Vertigo Trade Post: Sweet Tooth Volume 1 & Dead Enders

Sweet Tooth Volume 1: Out Of The Deep Woods (Vertigo/DC)
Written & drawn by Jeff Lemire
Collects Sweet Tooth #1-5

I’ve been hearing good things about Jeff Lemire for a while now. Back when I watched the iFanboy podcast (I stopped when I was no longer keeping up with monthly comics) they always had great things to say about the writer/artist’s Essex Country trilogy and–if memory serves–even talked to him a few times in the con episodes I caught. He seemed like an interesting guy with interesting comics, so I was intrigued when he started doing Sweet Tooth at Vertigo. That’s basically the only reason I picked up this first volume of the book, on his name and buzz because all I knew going in was that the main character has antlers. That’s it.

To elaborate, some apocalyptic-like event has taken place. As a result, some people have evolved into human/animal hybrids. Gus, the star of the book, is one of them and has deer-like qualities. As the book starts, he’s living with his father in the woods and has never left them. But his father is old and passes away, leaving Gus with a set of rules he’s slowly breaking as his world opens up thanks to a man named Jepperd, a large, hardened old man with mysterious motives.

I really, really liked this collection and it got me excited to see what happens next in the book. In fact, the end of each issue had me feeling like that. Lemire has a great grasp of the format, creating tension and dread and then using those feelings to keep the audience interested. I finished this volume back in October, but wasn’t sure if it would fit in with my Halloween Scene Trade Posts, so I held off on writing about it, but I’m still chomping at the bit to find out what happens in the second volume.

Sweet Tooth–the name Jessep gives to Gus because he likes candy–reminds me of my favorite Vertigo series. There’s a lot of Preacher and Y: The Last Man in here, not in a rip-off sort of way, but in a thematic way. Gus is traveling with people he doesn’t know all that well and coming across other survivors who are hard to read. There’s also a lot of interest in the world that’s been set up, just like in those other seminal Vertigo books. I have so many questions that I want answered: what was the event, what’s Jessep’s deal, what’s the rest of the world like, what’s going to happen in volume 2, is everyone lying? Between his fantastic storytelling abilities as both writer and artist–his art as a darkness to it that fits the tone perfectly–I think Sweet Tooth has potential to stand up with those other big boys of long form sequential storytelling. Can’t wait to experience more of that world.

Deadenders: Stealing The Sun (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Warren Pleece
Collects Dead Enders #1-4, Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #3

Much like Sweet Tooth, I was intrigued by the world that Ed Brubaker created in his four issue Vertigo miniseries with Warren Pleece called Deadenders. Both comics have an unexplained event that really screwed up humanity and changed a few people in a mysterious manner. In the case of Deadenders, though, the protagonist is anything but an innocent farmboy. In fact, Beezer, is a drug dealing malcontent whose only aspirations seem to be hanging out with his friends and making money in any illicit way possible. What makes him so special, and what draws attention from a science group that wants to study him is the fact that he has these visions of the world before all the bad stuff went down.

While Beezer’s on the run from the organization that roughed up his dad, he also goes on a job with some friends and has an episode that leads to his best friend getting into a serious moped accident. That leads to him and some other people trying to pull off a crazy stunt for said friend. There’s more after that, but I don’t want to spoil too much if you’re interested in giving this book a read.

I had a whole paragraph written about how the book felt truncated and like there were far too many ideas crammed into a four issue miniseries and then I read that the comic actually lasted for 16 issues. That kind of undercuts all of my problems with this trade (ie, it felt like too many ideas for a mini, it didn’t answer enough questions by the end, etc). I was especially disappointed in the out-of-nowhere decision of one of the characters to do something thanks to a character we haven’t seen talking to him. I’m guessing this mystery was explained in a later issue, but how could I know?

I’m kind of surprised that DC/Vertigo hasn’t done a collection of all 16 issues of this series considering how big of a name Brubaker is. I think most of his other works have been brought together in book form, so why not this one? Anyone out there read all the issues? How was it as a complete story? I’m somewhat curious, but will most likely not even remember next time I’m flipping through boxes. I don’t usually like to read too much about a comic before actually reading it, but that might have changed how I absorbed this volume. On the other hand, I probably would have just skipped it if I knew it was such an incomplete story. Ah well, better luck next time.