Tuesday, April 08, 2008

2008 QUARTERLY COMICS REPORT guest column by John Judy of Quick Reviews

John sent this in a couple of days ago, but it slid down my email list. Fortunately, it's still current! Enjoy.

(What’s good so far this year)
By John Judy

Everything below is recommended as among the best stuff I’ve found on the stands so far this year. Some of it may have appeared earlier, but I only lucked onto it in 2008.

Where some material is better suited to specific age groups I mention it. Other times I don’t.

My object is to identify material that could be handed to an average reader with reasonable assurance it would be enjoyed.

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. This comic won the 2007 Eisner Award for “Best Continuing Series.” It comes out slowly, but one can still enjoy each issue by itself. You really have no choice at least until the whole thing’s collected in trade. There is a larger story being told but it’s not essential to getting a good read whenever the next issue hits the stands. Good for all ages.

ALL WE EVER DO IS TALK ABOUT WOOD GN written and illustrated by Tom Horacek. A collection of Horacek’s morbidly funny single panel cartoons. Definitely for fans of Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, and Ivan Brunetti. Recommended for teens and up.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR SEASON TWO. A four-issue mini-series by Harvey Pekar and Assorted Talents. The J. Alfred Prufrock of comics returns with his autobiographical shorts illustrated by Chris Weston, David Lapham, and other gifted collaborators. Recommended for teens and up.

ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and Franco Urru. The art here honestly isn’t great, but the story is essential for us fans of the show who always wondered what happened after the suits decided network TV might be getting too good.

ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard. The further adventures of the most conflicted lycanthrope hero on the stands today. Good stuff, somewhat graphic violence, appropriate for teens and up.

AVENGERS: INITIATIVE by Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli. A series about young heroes in boot camp. Pretty heavily tied in with Marvel Universe continuity but with mostly original characters making it easy to enjoy without being an uber-fan.

THE BAKERS: BABIES AND KITTENS HC written and illustrated by Kyle Baker, the Greatest Cartoonist of All Time. Two cats are adopted into Kyle’s home against his wishes. Hijinks ensue. Beautifully drawn hijinks. Recommended by me, my wife, and four year-old kid.

BAT LASH by Sergio Aragones, Peter Brandvold, and John Severin. Mostly for western fans but a great example of a classic cowboy story. Beautiful art by industry legend John Severin.

BLACK SUMMER by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp. An ultra-violent, post-Iraq, anti-hero adventure featuring the assassination of an un-named U.S. President and his cabinet. Chaos ensues. Teens and up.

BONE COLOR EDITION VOL.7: GHOST CIRCLES HC & SC written and illustrated by Jeff Smith. Great stuff for all ages, hugely popular among kids according to my school librarian aunt. Seriously.

BOOSTER GOLD by Geoff Johns and Dan Jurgens. Time travel stories that don’t suck from Johns and great super-hero art from Jurgens.

THE BOYS by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The continuing adventures of a black-ops squad charged with keeping super-heroes in line. So extreme that DC Comics actually cut the title loose to a new publisher. Older teens and adults only. You’ve been warned.

BRAVE AND BOLD by Mark Waid and George Perez. Classic Silver-Age style fun from an author who lives and breathes it. Best enjoyed by long-time fans but accessible for all ages.

CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. The continuing story of Captain America’s old side-kick Bucky filling in for Cap while he’s “dead.” Probably not for the non-initiated but if you know the characters it’s great stuff.

CRIME BIBLE: FIVE LESSONS OF BLOOD by Greg Rucka and Diego Olmos. Recently collected in trade, this is the first solo series of the new Question, relentlessly seeking out a mysterious Holy Book for criminals.

DAN DARE by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine. Space opera, zap-gun fights, a war comic in sci-fi clothing. All done up Ennis style. Good for young teens and up.

DAREDEVIL by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. Like Captain America it helps to know the back-story here, but basically it’s Marvel’s most “realistic” super-hero trying to cope with the kinds of crises that would come up when too many people know your secret identity.

DMZ by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli. A dystopian fantasy about a reporter navigating New York City after the U.S. has been torn apart by civil war. There are now four paperback collections available for anyone wishing to get up to speed. It’s worth doing.

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS by Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez. A weird sci-fi misadventure about a politically subversive scientist in corruption-riddled city.

DOOM PATROL VOL. 6: PLANET LOVE SC by Grant Morrison, Richard Case, and Friends. The final volume of Morrison’s legendary run on the junkyard dogs of DC’s super-teams. Collecting DP #58-63 and DOOM FORCE SPECIAL #1. Mid-eighties weirdness from the beginnings of Morrison’s career.

EC ARCHIVES: CRIME SUSPENSTORIES, VOL. 1 HC by Feldstein, Wood, Craig, Ingels, Kurtzman, Kamen, David, and Roussos. The EC Gods of 1950-51 have willed us these 24 twisted masterpieces. The first six issues of this series are all here. Hold onto your wallets because you’ll end up wanting a complete run of these beautiful hardcover editions.

EX MACHINA by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. The continuing story of a super-hero turned New York City Mayor who can talk to machines. Teens and up. Lots of trade collections available for starting at the beginning.

FELL by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith. The stand-alone stories of Detective Richard Fell, a cop banished from his home city for some yet-unknown breach of conduct. Teens and up.

GHOST RIDER by Jason Aaron and Roland Boschi. Pure, out of control motorcycle madness from the author/creator of SCALPED. Highly recommended, even though you hated the movie.

GREEN LANTERN by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Simply the best version of this character yet done. An epic police procedural drama set across the universe. Helps if you know your GL history but not essential. The future’s more interesting anyway.

GRENDEL: BEHOLD THE DEVIL written and illustrated by Matt Wagner. The return of Wagner’s masterpiece character, a novelist by day and super-crimelord by night, the baddest of the bad. Except now he’s got a stalker who may be even worse. Older teens and up.

GRAVEL by Warren Ellis Mike Wolfer, and Raulo Caceres. The adventures of a “Combat Magician” out to reclaim his territory after being written off for dead. It’s John Constantine on steroids without any delusions of higher morality. Older teens and up.

HARVEY COMICS CLASSICS VOL. 3: HOT STUFF SC by Various Creators. Collecting over 100 tales of comics’ original Little Devil, the Demon in a Diaper: HOT STUFF! A perfect gateway for all age groups into hardcore Satanism! A great follow-up to the earlier Harvey collections of CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST and RICHIE RICH. All ages.

HELLBLAZER by Andy Diggle and Leonardo Manco. Speaking of John Constantine, the Diggle/Manco run is universally acclaimed for bringing coherence and edge back to the original punk magician. Older teens, etc.

HOLMES GN written and illustrated by Omaha Perez. Author Perez explains it best: “What if Sherlock Holmes is constantly out of his head and Watson’s not much better off, the Dr. Gonzo to Holmes’s Raoul Duke?” This was great fun. Older teens, etc.

I SHALL DESTROY ALL CIVILIZED PLANETS: THE COMICS OF FLETCHER HANKS by Fletcher Hanks and Paul Karasik. A collection of the weirdly brilliant Golden-Age comics of Hanks, followed by the sad epilogue in which Karasik tracks down the artist’s only surviving relative to learn of his ultimate fate. Disturbing but moving stuff.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja. A martial arts epic set in the Marvel Universe. The story wanders all over the place but if you can keep track of all the flash-backs and intrigue it’s a good ride. Helps to be familiar with the characters.

INCOGNEGRO HC by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece. Part-Mystery, Part-History describes this story of a light-skinned Northern black man passing for white (“going incognegro”) to investigate his brother’s arrest in the virulently racist Mississippi of early 20th century America. Powerful stuff, deserving wider notice.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, and Dale Eaglesham. Best enjoyed by long-time fans, probably confusing to newbies. Still a great series of stories building on the legends of the original super-team of the Golden-Age.

KICK-ASS by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. A new series exploring the hideous results of a normal person trying to be a super-hero. Graphic violence, older teens and up.

KIRBY: KING OF COMICS HC by Mark Evanier. Years in the making, this is Evanier’s tribute to his former boss and long-time friend, Jack Kirby, the guy who co-created the foundations of the Marvel Universe and a lot more. Already going back to press, this book is a must for all subjects of The King. Highly Recommended.

LOGAN by Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso. A thrilling three-parter about Wolverine’s early adventures in a little city called Hiroshima.

NORTHLANDERS by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice. A new Vertigo series set a thousand years ago in the bleak world of a Viking village. Prince Sven, a prodigal son, returns from the Holy Land to claim his inheritance. That’s where the story begins. This is a bloody, fascinating adventure that draws the reader in with its depictions of how desolate and empty the Vikings’ world was back then and how one determined outsider could change the entire order of such a place. Not for kids.

PUNISHER by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov. The final series of Ennis stories in which the Punisher is stripped down to the grim core of his character. Perfectly complimented by Gorlav’s outlandish style. Easily the best run ever of a guy who started out as an occasional foil to Spider-Man.

RUNAWAYS by Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan. My admiration of the creative team notwithstanding this book was last seen in October of 2007 so it’s kind of hard to recall who’s doing what to whom. Fun stuff if you like “Back to the Future Meets Gangs of New York Meets X-Men.” And I kinda do…. Still, I’d like my own time machine so I could travel into the future to see how this all wraps up.

SATCHEL PAIGE: STRIKING OUT JIM CROW HC and SC by James Sturm and Rich Tommaso. A fictionalized account of the legendary ball-player’s life, from his early days to the peak of his career in the Negro Leagues. Highly recommended, as are all of Mr. Sturm’s other works. A preview is available online at www.cartoonstudies.org

SCALPED by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. The story of F.B.I. Special Agent Dash Bad Horse’s return to the Indian reservation he thought he’d escaped forever. This is a dark crime series that quickly becomes addictive as Bad Horse stares deeper and deeper into his personal abyss. Grown-ups only. Two trades out for those needing to catch up.

SERENITY: BETTER DAYS by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad. A story from the pre-Big Screen days of Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew. Y’know, back when everyone was still alive. Previews available at Dark Horse’s website.

THE SPIRIT by Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragones, and Mike Ploog. Following Darwyn Cooke’s run on Will Eisner’s most famous masked gumshoe, this is a series most enjoyable to fans of Eisner and pulp-era detectives. Pure fun, good for older kids on up.

STREETS OF GLORY by Garth Ennis and Mike Wolfer. A mini-series told in flashback about the closing days of the Wild West. Extreme graphic violence, but good for fans of Garth Ennis and Clint Eastwood. Not for kids.

STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY GN by Harvey Pekar, Gary Dumm, and historian Paul Buhle. A non-fiction account of the rise and fall of one of the most ambitious and controversial activist groups of the 1960s. For grown-ups and interested parties. Very well-timed publication.

THOR by J. Michael Straczynski and Marko Djurdjevic. An impressive revamping of the classic Marvel thunder god, exploring the meanings in myth and the question of what happens after ragnorok.

THUNDERBOLTS by Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato, and Others. Ellis’ take on a team of government sanctioned super-villains, wrapping up this year. Dark stuff, teens and up.

TRANSHUMAN by Jonathan Hickman and Jm Ringuet. A four-issue mockumentary-style comic about the creation and marketing of the world’s first superhumans by the creator of NIGHTLY NEWS, PAX ROMANA, and RED MASS FOR MARS. “Spinal Tap” Meets Supers! Very promising debut issue.

THE TWELVE by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston. A 12-issue series about golden-age super-heroes awaking in the 21st century and all the culture shock it would entail. Gorgeously rendered by Weston. Great for older kids and up. Already a contender for Best Book of the Year.

ULTIMATE HUMAN by Warren Ellis and Cary Nord. A four-issue mini-series where Ultimate Hulk fights Ultimate Iron Man. Hey, sometimes you just need an easy read amidst the heavy stuff.

WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard. The ongoing stories of the last humans alive after a zombie plague wipes out civilization. Imagine if the Romero movies never ended. Incredible suspense and continuous surprises derived from the systematic breaking of formula. You never know who might die (or worse) next. A guaranteed gut-punch per issue. Too intense for kids, but engrossing for older readers.

WAR IS HELL: THE FIRST FLIGHT OF THE PHANTOM EAGLE by Garth Ennis and Howard Chaykin. A foppish allied aviator meets World War I in “graphic” style. Not for kids.

WOLVERINE by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney. Aaron and Garney open their run on this title with a wild chase across the globe after Wolverine is tasked with the assassination of a long-time X-Men foe. Between this and LOGAN, Wolverine may be having his best creative year in a long while.

Y THE LAST MAN by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The series ended recently but is now available in trade paperback form. The saga of the last man on an Earth excelled past its cheesy sci-fi premise with issue one and never looked back. A real masterpiece worthy of sitting beside WATCHMEN and SANDMAN on bookshelves everywhere.

Great stuff so far and it’s only April. J


1 comment:

John Judy said...

Oops! I left off CRIMINAL by Brubaker and Phillips because...

Because it's so obvious it didn't need mentioning!