Friday, April 15, 2005

Comics to Check Out, Take 2

I previously did a post that revealed which comics I pick up on a regular basis and why.
Of course, that post, "Comics to Check Out" was over six months ago. While not much has changed, my list is still a bit different.

Gone are The Ultimates, Manhunter and Bloodhound.
Black Widow is finished.
And Birds of Prey has lowered itself to "maybe I'll drop it" and back up to "maybe I'll keep it"...

I've organized them into three categories: The Hit List (books that are pretty much guaranteed to stay on my list for now), The Danger Zone (books that are in peril and may be dropped any second) and The Rookies (books that I'm currently trying out).

The Hit List

First we have 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I started reading 100 Bullets around issue 26. I didn't know what the hell was going on. But I thought the characterization and dialogue were both great. So great that I went and found the first couple of trade paperbacks that reprinted the first year or so and from there I was hooked.
I even went back and got Jonny Double, a trade that reprinted Azzarello and Risso's mini-series that they did before 100 Bullets. It has a lot of the same feel as 100 Bullets and it's also reccomended.
Nothing new to add.
Still the same good shit.

Next is Daredevil, by Brian Micael Bendis and Alex Maleev. Bendis and Maleev have done a splendid job of taking a "just another superhero" and turning him into a living and breathing character that grows emotionally. Turning the book into the comic equivalent of The Sopranos, Daredevil (in no short time) sets himself up as the Kingpin (translated as the Godfather) of Hell's Kitchen. Why? Because someone else would have if he didn't. Maleev's art keeps the story grounded in reality, even when some weird stuff does happen at times.
Bendis and Maleev are set to leave the title at the end of the year. Until then, I expect to still be picking it up.
After that? Who knows.
No word yet on who's to follow them.

Gotham Central, written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and drawn by Michael Lark, tells the story of the cops of Gotham City, the stomping ground of Batman, Catwoman and other costumed menaces. You would expect a cominc book that was set in such a place would cater to Bat-fans and play up the super-heroics of the environment. Nope. What we get here is in-depth character stories of the people who are at the very bottom of the Bat-food chain: the cops. Kinda like Law and Order or CSI meets very dark city with crazy people who wield more than just guns.
The characters are given more dimension than you see in most other comics and you really start to care for them after a while.
Brubaker and Lark have left the book, both defecting to Marvel.
Rucka, with newcomer Kano on art, has a pretty rough ride to keep the fans on the book after such a major change.

Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory is only a few months old and has impressed me so much that I look forward to picking up the rest of the massive thirty-issue mini-series.
Morrison has demonstrated how to take old characters, breath new life into them and tell an entertaining story. And do it all within one issue! No decompression here.
Shining Knight, Guardian, and Zatanna have each been a fun ride so far.
This series has gotten most of it's publicity of late by being the anti-Infinite Crisis. If you don't like one, you may just like the other.

The Danger Zone

Birds of Prey, written by Gail Simone and drawn by Ed Benes and Alex Lei, fills my need of plain fun storytelling. I find that throughout my comics reading experience I've had at least one book that was lighthearted that balanced all the other books I was reading. Birds of Prey seems to be the one at the moment. And Gail Simone has proven herself to be a great character writer with this book and Rose & Thorn.
I recently dropped this title but picked it back up.
Gail Simone has branched out and is now doing three monthly books instead of one. While I don't perceive any change in her work because of it, I find myself wanting to either get them all or none.
With that and the stories not grabbing me anymore, plus the departure of Benes (who took me a long time to adjust to), I wasn't sure if I'd be keeping it.
I just started reading Hawkman which is drawn by the new Birds of Prey artist, Joe Bennett. I liked his work on the few issues of Captain America and Falcon that I picked up during the Avengers: Disgraced storyline. And his work on Hawkman surpasses even that.
So his being on Birds may keep it from dropping off my list anytime soon.

Legion of Super-Heroes, by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, started off with a shocking new take on the classic team. I quickly warmed up to their version of the teenage heroes but have recently found the book to be spinning it's wheels.
I think the writing is good and the art is great, but it's not keeping me excited.
Add to this Waid's "bizarro"-style reworkings of the powers of most of the characters and the hard to swallow kids vs. adults theme, and it gets kinda muddy.
Still getting it, but not sure for how long.

The Rookies

Hawkman, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose, has been added to my monthly reading list mostly because of sneaky marketing.
The Rann/Thanagar War is starting soon and it's really gained my interest. DC says that the mini-series will re-establish the sci-fi side of their colorful universe.
The War will feature three prominent heroes: Adam Strange, Hawkman and a Green Lantern (in the form of Kyle Rayner).
Fortunately, Adam Strange recently had a mini-series that leads into the War, Hawkman just started a year-long storyline with the addition of a new regular artist (Bennett) and Green Lantern is relaunching with a new #1 in just a few short months.
What does this mean?
Perfect timing.
So I jumped on Hawkman with the start of the year-long storyline and I haven't been disappointed, yet. I was so impressed with Bennett's art that it's kept me from dropping Birds of Prey, even.
I've also begun tracking down issues of Adam Strange and I'll be checking out Green Lantern when it starts.
Call me a sucker.

Solo is a book that deserves it's own spot. This anthology series that focuses on individual artists is a project that me grinning from ear to ear, which means it probably won't last.
It's a great concept, however.
Each issue is devoted to one artist and they either write their own stories or have someone else write for them. So far, the line-up's consisted of Tim Sale, Richard Corben, Paul Pope and Howard Chaykin. Darwyn Cooke's issue is set to come out in June.
It surprises me that a mainstream publisher would try something so... artsy. But I'm pleased, nontheless.

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