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.

GrimJack Trade Post: The Legend Of GrimJack Volumes 1 & 2

legend of grimjack volume 1The Legend Of GrimJack Volume 1 (First Comics/IDW)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Timothy Truman
Collects GrimJack back-ups from Starslayer #10-17

GrimJack is one of those characters that I had a vague awareness of, but never really knew anything about, aside from the fact that he had a funny hat and a big sword. It wasn’t until I was listening to one of the SmodCast podcasts (I think it was either Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave or The Secret Stash) and Walt Flanagan started talking about how much he loved the book that I thought, “Hey, I should check that out.” To Sequential Swap I went and made a trade for the first two volumes of the 80s First Comics offering as reprinted by IDW.

If you’re unfamiliar with the character, GrimJack is an old soldier who now works as a kind of gun-for-hire helping people who need it. That alone is interesting as he’s essentially a Clint Eastwood character (Clint’s voice circa Dirt Harry was GrimJack’s voice as I read), but then you’ve got the book’s imaginative setting. GirmJack lives in a place called Cynosure which is a city that exists in a pan-dimensional city that touches different dimensions at various times. Because of this, there’s a lot of dirty dealings going on, dirty dealings that GrimJack sometimes runs afoul of.

This first collection is interesting because, in addition to intros by John Ostrander — a writer whose later work on Suicide Squad I like very much — Tim Truman and editor Mike Gold, there’s also a new wraparound story that introduces the reader to many of the characters who will show up in the series including GrimJack himself and his bar, Munden’s. This is interesting because the second volume has absolutely no extras.

Anyway, this book collects the short stories that originally appeared in the back of Starslayer and while they obviously share characters, they’re mostly one-and-dones which is good because they offer the reader the chance to get to know GrimJack by way of the things he does and doesn’t do. These tales really run the gamut, from the first one about a god who has abandoned his people and taken to drinking in a Cynosurian bar to sci-fi/fantasy story co-starring Starslayer. There’s also a vampire one and one where he goes to a world populated by adorable cartoony animals.

I’m a big fan of the variety found in this collection. In addition to the character stuff I talked about, it also gave Truman the chance to draw, well, pretty much everything. It also shows how crazy GrimJack’s world can be. While reading this collection, I kept thinking about how cool a movie, TV series or even video game series would be. There’s so much meat here that could be explored and exploited. With Eastwood probably too old to play the part, who would make a good GJ?

legend of grimjack vol 2The Legend Of GrimJack Volume 2 (First Comics/IDW)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Tim Truman
Collects GrimJack #1-7

Soon enough, GrimJack proved popular enough to warrant his own series from First Comics, which wound up going for 81 issues. While still crossing all kinds of genre ground, these issues definitely carried over into one another a lot more. I’ve got no problem with this because, unlike a lot of stories these days, there’s no decompression at all as you’re constantly propelled forward either in the story itself or from one to the other. You also get to learn a lot more about GrimJack, his world and his past. He’s one of those characters like John Constantine where he’s got this big huge past filled with battles, friends and foes. The nice thing about reading from the beginning, though, is that you know what’s actually been on the page before and what’s new, unlike when I’ve read random Hellblazer trades.

After reading these two trades, I definitely see what Walt saw in these books and agree that it’s worth a read. I do have a bit of a problem, though. As I said above, the series wound up going for 81 issues, but there are only 8 volumes in this series from IDW which get up to #54. For whatever reason, they stopped making these books and switched over to the smaller omnibus format collections. It’s kind of annoying to not finish out one format and switch to the other, but I could adapt. The real problem is that those books seem to have stalled out too with the second omnibus hitting in 2011 and nothing else. I’m sure GrimJack collections aren’t exactly burning up the charts, but I do wish that companies would finish reprint projects like this once they start. I don’t know how it all breaks down, but it seems kind of crummy to promise a full run of a series and not follow through on it.