BAM! POW! Batman: Not Just For Depressed People With Vigilante Fantasies Anymore!

Every now and then the media gets a wild hair up their ass and decides they should do a report on comics and how they’re edgy. And violent. And…not just for kids anymore! Pop culture writers have been doing this during most of my 29 years on this earth, and whenever they do so, they usually invoke the sound effects associated with the 1966 live action Batman series.

It’s a shorthand. It’s a reference people get.  Something familiar that they can associate with the thing you are trying to tell them about.

So when a new Batman comic was announced that was based off of the Adam West Batman series, I was not excited. I probably said “UGH” out loud. But the first issue arrived, and word of mouth was good. Really good. So at a price of 99 cents, I decided to check it out.

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I’m happy to report that Batman ’66 by Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case is a fun and incredibly well-crafted comic book that goes well beyond paying tribute to a property that people are nostalgic for. This isn’t an empty embrace of “camp” like Joel Schumacher’s films.

Parker and Case use the digital format to play with color, echoing and expanding upon the moments in the show when action would pause for a sound effect laid over the action. Going from one page to the next, the page layout will appear similar, but the colors, dialogue and action all change. Check out these two pages:
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Case’s artwork captures the feel and the designs of the show, but he brings his own style to the book, casting different “actors” that look a bit like their real life counterparts, but never look stiff or photo-referenced.

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I can’t wait to see what Case does with the Joker on the book, as his Riddler is jumping off the page with energy.

Parker’s script shines in amazing moments like this:

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 9.08.04 PMIt helps set the tone of the world. It gets away from the restrictions that a word like ‘camp’ puts on a book, and brings it fully into a realm that is fun without any pretensions.

Plus, we can look forward to a showdown with Dracula.

Or Count Floyd, I suppose.

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New Comics Days Are The Best Days…

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 9.48.59 PMYou may not know this, but there are new comic books every single week.

They come out on Wednesdays. All due respect to Odin and his day, but Wednesday is done. Let New Comic Book Day shine forth as a beacon of hope in a weak full of Tuesdays and Thursdays and…Mondays.

But let us return to the magic of new comic book day. Its a day on which you can discover something magical that you’ve never read before, or read the latest exiting installment of a series that you’ve been waiting at least 30 days for.

On this new comic book day, I purchased two such gems.

Young Avengers #5 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This must be Kieron Gillen week here, in which I rave about his work on two Marvel books in the beginning of the week, then lament that I didn’t tell people to buy his indie work instead, then tell you how awesome his new Marvel work with his indie collaborator Jamie McKelvie is! I know! I’m crraaaazy. Like a used car dealer’s pricing model!

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But hey y’all, this comic is GOOOOOOD.

Issues 1-5 of Young Avengers have dealt with a group of super powered teenagers battling their parents. And dancing. And flying in spaceships named after influential comic artists that are powered by imagination. Let me re-type this for posterity and for those of you that lack reading comprehension and would need me to type in all caps to give this the proper emphasis: Spaceships powered by imagination. Yes. Even questioning such a thing would cause the ship to crash, so the characters themselves have to suspend their disbelief in order to keep themselves suspended in the air.

Here’s where a GIF of someone clapping should go in honor of the excellent comic book that Gillen and McKelvie have produced.

So Young Avengers #5 fits the criteria of “eagerly anticipated series I’ve been following month to month.”

Subatomic Party Girls is the new discovery that made me all tingly and such with excitement.

Subatomic Party Girls is a fun fun fun fun fun fun comic book that fills me with such insane joy from typing the words Subatomic Party Girls.

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.13.20 PMThe enthusiasm from creators Chris Sims, Chad Bowers and Erica Henderson bleeds off the page. It also does the page bleeding equivalent of that on my tablet screen, too.

It’s about an all-girl band called Beryllium Steel, that’s about to be the First Band on the Moon! They wind up getting blasted into space much like Mike (and later Joel) of Mystery Science Theater 3000, though it appears they will have space adventures with space pirates rather than watch bad movies.

They space rock out while space training for space rocking.

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I don’t want to give up too much more about this comic. Henderson’s artwork is loose and kinetic. At the risk of being repetitive (while being too lazy to consult a thesaurus), I will say that her artwork is “fun.”

Bowers and Sims’ dialogue reminds me a bit of Gail Simone’s early work on Killer Princesses and Deadpool. Mainly for their ability to bounce bubbly characters off of comicly grumpy characters in order to aid in wackiness ensuing.

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.24.44 PMLook at that!!! There is a space cat pirate lady and she is grumpy as all hell while a space aardvark is dancing happily in the background. If that is not fun, I do not know what fun is. If I am correct about the fun-ness of this panel, the comic, and the authors’ intent (which appears to be having fun), then Subatomic Party Girls looks like F-U-N, and a great addition to my pile (well, digital pile) of comic books that I have to look forward to on New Comic Book Day!

Subatomic Party Girls (still loving typing it) is also only a mere 99 cents. So if my words have convinced any readers of my blog that they’re even slightly into checking it out, I’ll buy an issue for the first person that leaves a comment saying “Hey, Paul. I’d like to check that comic out, it sounds pretty good.”

More Digital Things To Buy With Your Digital Moneys

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Today (May 20th, 2013) on Comixology, there is a sale focusing on one of my favorite current comic book writers, Kieron Gillen. So for only 99 cents an issue you can get nearly full runs of his work on Journey Into Mystery and Uncanny X-Men. I say “nearly full” since there are some dips into crossovers here and there, but don’t worry about that. If you have $45…buy them all. If you have less than that, well, I’d say buy all of Journey Into Mystery. Its that good.

Here’s the sale. It’s good until 11pm tonight: http://www.comixology.com/Kieron-Gillen-Sale/comics-collection/1202

Journey Into Mystery is all about Loki, the Norse trickster god and brother to Thor. Loki that nearly ended the world, then sacrificed himself, then was resurrected as a child who remembers little of his evil deeds, but still has a treacherous nature. It’s a beautifully written and illustrated series. Gillen is paired with a number of talented storytellers including Dough Braithwaite, Mitch Breitweiser, Richard Elson, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Alan Davis and Stephanie Hans. It’s funny. It’s heartbreaking. It is well worth your moneys.

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That is Loki’s Hel-puppy, Thori. Yes.

Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men, in which he’s teamed with Carlos Pacheo, Greg Land, Daniel Acuna and Ron Garney, is a fun continuation of themes explored during Morrison, Whedon, and Ellis’s runs with the X-Men, in which Cyclops leads a team of mutants that’s goal is remind humanity that they are there to save the world while also reminding them they are not to be F’d with. There are no adorable hell-dogs in that series, but Namor is a pretty lovable jerk.

Buy these comics and buy them today. Come on. Hel-puppies. There’s at least 5 of them. They’re all adorable and evil.

The Old West That Never Was: East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta

I am firing guns into the air with excitement after reading the first two issues of East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta.

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Yeah, like that! Thanks, Mysterious Pale Cowboy!

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Anyway, East of West is a pretty damn interesting Sci-Fi Western Alternate History. It’s like a meaty chili comprised of genres. And meat. Literary and artistic meat. Hickman is setting up a mythology built on repeated phrases and symbols, while Dragotta…man, Dragotta is kicking some serious ass and really coming into his own with his own style. In the past, I feel like I’ve seen him trying to emulate Jack Kirby or Mike Allred, but this comic is where his art shines and is unique. He’s building and realizing a world that he and Hickman have imagined together, and it’s wonderful to see his style develop while building that world.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 9.54.33 PMSo what is the world of East of West? Well, rather than a United States of America made up of 50 states like in our plain old boring real world, Hickman and Dragotta quickly build a world in which the west was not won, but carved up along with the rest of the country into seven sovereign nations. Nations that appear to be united by a desire to bring about the end of the world.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 9.56.35 PMThere’s only one thing in their way. This guy.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 9.55.08 PMYes. THIS GUY.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 9.55.59 PMBLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM

Sorry. That’s Death. He’s not happy. Turns out theses apocalypse-happy world leaders have done pissed off one of the actual horsemen of the apocalypse. And he’s out to get vengeance against them and his fellow horsemen.

WESTERN STYLE

I have no idea how long this series is supposed to go on for, but I’m in it for the long run. If you’re someone who has enjoyed Blade Runner, Firefly, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Stand, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, or anything even remotely like any of those things, THIS COMIC BOOK IS FOR YOU. Read it. It is available for purchase wherever it is they sell these comic book things. Issues one and two have come out so far, so you can get in on the ground floor of this shindig.

Sorry. One more time.

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Iron Man, Iron Man Does Whatever an Iron Can

So you come out of Iron Man 3. You’re excited. You’re jazzed. You look down, you have jazz hands you’re so jazzed. You want to buy Iron Man action figures, you want to buy Iron Man…comic books. But what should you buy?

Well, to kick things off, let me start by saying that there is a lot you don’t need to read, and a lot you probably shouldn’t read. Iron Man has done a number of weird things over the years including starting a team called “Force Works” (I guess they were supposed to be violent and stuff?), having a mullet, being mind-controlled and becoming a murderer only to be defeated by a teenaged version of himself that took his place who then…became the same old Tony Stark from before…or something. Also, his suit gained sentience and wanted to marry him on a tropical island. ALL OF THESE THINGS HAPPENED. Does your head hurt? Mine does. If you don’t believe me, go to Wikipedia. You’ll probably come out of it wishing you had simply taken my word for it.

Anyway, if you’re looking to read about a Tony Stark/Iron Man that’s pretty similar to the one crafted by Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr (and perfected by Joss Whedon and Shane Black), these are the books you’re going to want to read:

Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates

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The Ultimates was the movie version of The Avengers before there was a movie version of The Avengers. Bryan Hitch illustrates widescreen action like few others, and with writer Mark Millar, presented a version of Marvel’s super team that existed in a more “real” world. Tony Stark is an adventurous, hard partying playboy, and all the characters are dicks to each other (YAY). Also, this is the comic you have to thank for having Sam Jackson play Nick Fury. It’s an entertaining (though almost ridiculously cynical) read, and the first two volumes are almost like storyboards/concept art for Whedon’s Avengers. I thought it was REALLY cool in college. Now I think it’s still pretty cool.Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 9.07.16 PM

Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s relaunch of Iron Man in 2006 presented a modern origin for the character, while also upgrading his tech in the present day with Extremis.

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Granov went on to design the armor for the first two Iron Man films. He also brings a widescreen, movie-esque approach like Hitch, but has a cold and digital photorealistic look for his characters. It feels detached. It’s harder edged. Ellis and Granov put Stark in situations where he has to kill to survive. Ellis, in addition to being able to write tough but caring characters, also researches the shit out of science. And it shows in this book. This is probably the most science-y Iron Man book that has ever scienced.

Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca’s Invincible Iron Man came out almost immediately following the first Iron Man film, and features a much more Downey-influenced Tony Stark (though LaRocca seems to use Josh Holloway’s face as a reference for much of the second half of the series).

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The run starts and ends with Stark in space. It begins with him confessing his nightmares to the reader and ends with him beginning to dream again. Fraction addresses nearly every single thing that has happened to the character over the years, yet manages to not induce suicidal thoughts like the Wikipedia page. It’s a greatest hits for the character, taking him through new highs and lows as his attempts to change the world as Tony Stark falter due to his attempts to save the world as Iron Man.

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Fraction and LaRocca also assemble a great supporting cast, starting with Pepper Potts and James Rhodes (who each get multiple variations on the Iron Man armor) and growing to include a team of scientists that complement Stark’s own genius. At times, LaRocca’s photo-referenced faces get distracting, but he makes up for it with some beautifully drawn action, and well-rendered suits.

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Fraction also brings the funny while adding dimension and gravity to Stark’s alcoholism. Under other writers its almost always been a gimmick, or something reactionary, to show how Tony feels awkward in party situations. Fraction has documented his own sobriety on his blog, and the understanding he brings to this aspect of the character really rings true without ever feeling preachy.

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This is probably my favorite run of Iron Man, and the perfect realization of everything the character has to offer. If you’ve liked any of the Iron Man films, and want to check out the character in comic book form, Read These Comics!

Read This Comic For Charity: Hawkeye #7

“Paul, you’re always talking about Hawkeye! What’s so great about it?”

Well, anonymous reader that found this site while searching for porn, I believe I’ve written about it extensively. I’ve mostly said things like: “It’s awesome.” “Hawkeye is awesome. Both the character AND the book.” “I have a writer crush on Matt Fraction.” “David Aja is ridiculously talented in his inventive panel layout and storytelling.” “Matt Hollingsworth purples all over the place in a spectacular manner.” And then repeated them with each issue that has come out.

Screen Shot 2012-10-18 at 8.43.57 PMThis panel is from issue #3. The car chase issue. It’s full of action and sexy times.

Screen Shot 2012-10-18 at 8.42.21 PMAnyway, I got you in here with promises of charity (or porn, if you googled “porn” and this came up as a result of me typing “porn” earlier.). Hawkeye #7, which comes out on Wednesday, January 30th, is about Clint Barton and Kate Bishop (both heroes with the codename ‘Hawkeye’) and how they deal with a fictional version of Hurricane Sandy (I do not give any fucks if it’s actually superstorm Sandy or whatever. It does not matter. Shut up, Al Roker). Writer Matt Fraction is donating his royalties to charity, so in buying this comic, you’re not only validating my opinion by listening to my recommendation, but you’re also doing a good thing for people.

You can also get issues #1-6 of Hawkeye at a slight discount, thanks to a sale on Comixology. For those who are lazy or don’t know how to use the internet, here is a link for you: http://www.comixology.com/Hawkeye/comics-series/8445

So to recap, Issues #1-6: Awesome, great comic. Issue #7, haven’t read it yet, but it will likely be pretty damn good, and some of the money goes to charity so you can feel good and stuff.

 

 

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues: The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

Identity. That seems to be my theme of the week (Sing it now, THEME OF THE WEEEEEEK!), as I have recently read and enjoyed a multitude of comic books dealing with that theme. Phonogram was one such comic, in which characters defined themselves through art and popular culture, specifically music. The comic I’m writing about today, Underwater Welder, features a character defined both by his father, and his own transformation into a father.

Jack Joseph is the titular Underwater Welder.

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He’s got a baby on the way. He welds things underwater. Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.36.14 PM

He lives and works in the sleepy town he grew up in. Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.36.02 PM

 

His life seems to be walking through life half awake, moving almost at a snail-like pace, like he’s trying to extend every second that still exists in the period before he becomes a Father. I capitalize “Father” not because Jack is about to become a man of the cloth, but because that word haunts him. His own father made his living underwater too. And drowned. On Halloween. When he was supposed to be trick or treating with Jack. And in the present day, it looks like Jack is going to become a father right around the time that he lost his own. It messes with his head. Big time. Lemire explores this in what can only be described as a Twilight Zone-y style, with Jack becoming lost in his own past as well as a ghost-town version of his home town.

So you’ve been plot summaried, while I’ve sprinkled in some panels of Lemire’s beautiful artwork. Based on my own artistic knowledge, I can only assume that he’s working in brush and ink, and he’s doing so wonderfully. It’s such a loose, yet committed style. I don’t know if he drafted anything in pencil, I’m sure he must have, but it looks like he just went for it, and nailed it.

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Pacing. Look at that pacing. It’s fantastic. It slows you down as a reader, forcing you to read at the art’s pace. With the slow drip of blood hitting water or a blade creeping along a face. Whenever it seems that business might pick up a bit, like a big revelation is coming, we’re forced to cool our jets via some close up inserts that slow that action down.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.35.39 PMIt was my instinct to move faster. That’s how I read. But Lemire’s art kept me in check. It.

Slowed.

Me.

Down.

To.

a crawl.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.39.52 PMWhilst all of Twitter was…well…atwitter about the Golden Globes and best films of the year, Comic Book Reporter and man about town Tom Spurgeon tweeted something to the effect that he had read a bunch of comics that were way better than any of the films nominated for best something or another. Yay vague references to things I saw on the internet! I hope I’m half-heartedly quoted one day as I am quoting Mr. Spurgeon right now! Anyway, this is a thing that is true of Underwater Welder. It is one of the best creations of narrative art produced in the year of 2012. Not just a great comic, or a great story, but beautifully executed storytelling.

This is something that I’m going to hand to people or buy and say “This is why you should read comic books.” It’s special. It’s smart. It’s true. And it’s done in a way that is different than a film or a prose novel. It’s the pacing.  I keep going back to that, but it’s true. Lemire had total control over me while I was reading this. I was drawn to move forward, but not without taking in every beautiful detail rendered in each individual panel, or spread out across the massive splash pages and two page spreads.

Thanks to Ben and Rebecca for recommending this to me. It’s a fantastic comic, and y’all (being everyone but Ben and Rebecca, and I suppose, Mr. Lemire) should read it.

 

 

Buy Things With Your Moneys: Digital Comic Books

This post is entirely for digital or digital curious readers. I’ve been reading comic books digitally for about a year now. I’ve read a couple of print things here and there, but I love reading panel by panel. As far as my (fast) style of reading goes, it helps me linger and study each panel more, whereas I used to tear through comic books quickly, sometimes missing important moments because I was in some sort of rush (for what, I don’t know? Life and comic books are too short). I’ve primarily been reading via Comixology on my Kindle Fire, though I have bought a few books through Amazon directly (though I don’t like their comic reader) and Dark Horse Comics. Both Comixology and Dark Horse are having some cool sales this weekend, so let’s talk about what you should buy (or maybe even gift–tis the season!).

Have we talked about Superman? (Read that in a tone of your parents approaching you with the sex talk in the most awkward way possible). So, son or daughter, what do you know about the last son of Krypton?

If the answer is nothing, or “Superman’s lame and we thought you created this blog to tell us all about more varieties of comic books than super hero,” then you should check out Comixology’s Superman sale. You can’t go wrong with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman. My dad likes this comic. And he’s pretty much hated any other comic book I’ve put in front of him. It is also one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books I have ever read.

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It’s a comic that is both fantastical and serious, or adult, or whatever qualifier I have to use to get those of you that only read “serious” fiction to read this amazing book. It is pretty much the only Superman book you’ll ever need to read. It’s a character defining work, taking the best core concepts of the character, and telling a story of a dying Superman’s last days on Earth expertly and accessibly. Frank Quitely draws a Clark Kent that isn’t simply Superman with glasses, or just a bumbling awkward guy. His Superman as Clark is PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT.

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 7.56.46 AMClark Kent is always slightly crouched. He doesn’t fit into his suit well. He looks like a stocky farm boy and not a well toned alien super hero (And he also apparently works with Jake “The Snake” Roberts? Look at that dude in the center of the panel). Anyway, at 99 cents an issue, you’re getting a great story that will look beautiful on your tablet or your computer if you haven’t tableted up yet. People pop movies like The Dark Knight or Jaws, or Wall-E to show off their latest HD television or projector to show off how baller it is. This is what you pop up on your iPad or other tablet-y device to show how baller THAT is.

“What does it mean to be an environmentalist after the world’s already ended?” This is the question posed in The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson.

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A series of environmental catastrophes have crippled the globe. We see this from the point of view of the crew of The Kapital, an environmentalist ship in search of it’s (titular) fleet-mate The Massive. Wood and Donaldson present things so starkly, so matter of factly that there’s no much opportunity for the reader to get lost in the “Whys” of the world’s end. No, the important hooks of the story become “How is the crew of The Kapital going to survive?” and “What happened to The Massive?” It’s a great first issue, and it’s taking all of my willpower to not buy the next issue and spend money that I shouldn’t.

 

The Massive, along with a number of other Dark Horse 2012 launches are on sale this weekend for a mere 99 cents.I’ve heard great things about Mind MGMT and Ghost as well. There’s also a number of Star Wars, Buffy, and Hellboy-related series that are worth checking out. I’m sorry I’m not more helpful in Dark Horse recommendations, but I’ve only recently gotten the app on my Kindle Fire, and I had to do so by hacking it. Having to hack an app onto my device sucks, and the reader isn’t as polished as Comixology’s, but as publishers go, Dark Horse is probably only second to Image Comics this year in terms of launching interesting new series by great creators.

Onto Marvel and back to Comixology. Marvel’s sale focuses on their “latest and greatest.” Click through here to check it out. My personal picks begin with Captain America, which was reinvigorated by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting as a spy/noir series, as well as Brubaker and Butch Guice’s spinoff series: Winter Soldier. Both series start with a character from the 40s who has been brought forward to modern times, but while Captain America was frozen in ice, The Winter Solider, aka Cap’s former sidekick Bucky, was brainwashed and running black ops missions for the Soviet Union. Both men are dealing with demons from their respective pasts while trying to do good in the modern world.

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Ed Brubaker is a writer who mostly manages to avoid crossovers, and makes Captain America’s rich history work for him rather than being a slave to continuity. The books dark color palate is a stark contrast to the “golly gee” red white and blue that most would expect of the “first Avenger.” If you’ve seen and enjoyed the Captain America film, this is a darker and meatier version of that.

The first issues of Jonthan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run are also on sale, and in these early issues he’s paired with artist Dale Eaglesham who has a pretty Kirby-esque style, especially in his characters’ faces, AND when drawing giant space god monsters (If you haven’t clicked over and bought this based on the words “giant space god monsters,” we have a problem). This is a pretty amazing Fantastic Four run, and a great story for both new and longtime readers. Hickman balances the story of a family with epic cosmic adventures. As I’ve mentioned before, they might save the world, but they’re not superheroes, and these issues are done by creators who get that.

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There’s also two great series by Matt Fraction (Shut up with the Fraction, already Paul!). Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca is a great buy for anyone who’s loved the big screen version of Tony Stark. Fraction writes broken characters well, and Tony Stark, a recovering alcoholic war profiteer trying to atone for his past is probably one of his brokenest. Yes, I just created the word “brokenest,” bro. Deal with it. Larroca’s art is gorgeous, though there’s some distracting moments where his characters are clearly modeled on actors like Josh Holloway or Bill Paxton. But again, other than that, his art is beautiful.

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I’ve also written about The Defenders before.

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This is a FUN series (though again, about some broken people) written by Fraction, with art by Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, and Victor Ibanez. Probably not for beginners, but for people who might have stepped away from comics, it’s a good “Oh, comics are GOOD again? Shiiiiit, that’s all you had to say.”

These 99 cent digital sales are like (insert addictive substance that you best relate to) for me. I have dropped so much cash on comic books this year, mainly through these sales. And more often than not, I’ve wound up with books that I’ve not only enjoyed, but LOVED. If you’ve been on the fence about reading any of my recommendations, or about trying digital, NOW is your time to check it out. Now being December 22nd, and I think you have until the 23rd to get the Dark Horse books, while Marvel and DC’s sales are running until December 30th.

 

It’s Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens

John McClane: “How about some Christmas music?”

Argyle: “MAN, this IS Christmas music!”

– John McTiernan’s Die Hard, 1988

There are few Christmas songs that are better than Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” There are few songs, period, that are better. Go ahead, play this track down as you read through this post (OR, play down my awesome Xmas playlist on Spotify: Keep Christmas in Die hard).

Christmas comics! So, it’s the holiday season (Note: I will used “Christmas” and “Holiday” interchangeably because I don’t give a shit about being all-inclusive OR about “keeping Christmas” in things. The exception being of course, Die Hard, as all Die Hard films should take place at Christmas), and while some of us like to contemplate realities in which we’ve never been born or look back in the ways that we’ve fallen short in helping our fellow man, some of us just want to relax and enjoy some Yuletide specials in the form of television, movies, or…COMICS!

So I scanned through the comic books that I own. And, it turns out I don’t have a lot of holiday/Xmas comic books anymore (I miss you so much, Howard the Duck Holiday Special!). And on top of that, most of them follow a couple of basic formulas:

1) Hero fights villain or criminal. They stop fighting in recognition of the season, and drink eggnog, or rebuild the orphanage they’ve just wrecked with their super powered fight.

2) Earthbound hero explains holiday customs to alien hero. Alien hero doesn’t get it. BUT THEN THEY DO. “Hark, the herald angels siiiing…”

3) Badass heroes that can’t take part in holiday mushiness are ultimately moved by it and then partake. (Wolverine says “Aw, shucks bub,” and drinks eggnog.)

Sometimes, when done well, these scenarios can work out (Both in Batman: The Animated Series and in the Justice League animated series. Both great, but not comics, so we shan’t be discussing them now!) But most of the time they beat your head in with a hammer with holiday “cheer” like an ABC Family original movie starring Jenny McCarthy.

Exhibit 1: The DC Comics 2009 Holiday Special. There are ten…TEN stories in this comic. Nine of them are the mediocre stuff I’ve described. Some decent artwork that elevates it a bit, but mainly the hammering in the head thing with the messaging and Zuzu’s flowers and such. The one in the bunch that’s good? The one with NO FUCKING WORDS.

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Batman pursues a criminal dressed as Santa Claus in this short by Jay Faerber and Peter Nguyen. He chases the criminal into a warehouse full of Santas, who are not the criminal’s buddies, but a pack of innocent Santas that invite Batman to share milk and cookies with them after he’s successfully stopped the robber.

The rest of the comic involves Snow Golems, the Flash not buying a present for his wife (and wackiness ensues!), and some other garbage that’s not worth your time or mine. I’m really going contrary to my own purposes in starting this blog in being so dismissive of this comic, but I feel I need the context of the bad in order to make y’all appreciate the good.

The Last Christmas by Gerry Duggan, Brian Poeshn and Rick Remender is a post-apocalyptic romp, that puts Santa Claus and his crew into a blend of und comedy mixed with a redemption/revenge tale. Marauders attack The North Pole and kill Mrs. Claus. Santa can’t die though, because one kid still believes in him. What starts as an attempt to KILL said child quickly turns into a heartwarming tale in which everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas and to love again. Well, not really, but Santa, his elves, and a bunch of survivors mess some dudes up. And a kid gets a bike.

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The Last Christmas contains plenty of one-liner jokes and references to classic Christmas specials and tales, but these are ornaments to a tree built on a hilarious and fucked up concept of a gun toting Santa Claus in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This comic is doing it’s own thing, and it does it well.

And then there’s Hawkeye #6. It’s been two weeks, right? So it’s about time for me to shower praise yet again on my favorite comic book for delivering a solid holiday jam. There’s a Spotify playlist created by David Aja, the artist of this fine comic book, to go along with it as you read: Hawkeye #6. But anyway, Aja, Matt Fraction, and the rest of the gang (Sorry Chris Eliopoulos and Matt Hollingsworth, carpal tunnel…shit, I typed their names anyway…dammit!).

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Anyway, the whole Hawkeye team puts together a great book that not only builds on the issues that have come before it, but presents a solid standalone tale of a man who feels the need to cut loose from his various entanglements, both for his sake and for the sake of others.

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It seems easier for him to leave. But he stays. And watches a Christmas special with some neighbor kids.

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It’s kind of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario. A good man talked out of a bad decision by realizing what it is he has, and that he’s not alone, and he should fight for it. But it’s not presented as an homage to that. There’s no point where Clint Barton wishes he had never been born. He’s just a crime fighter who happens to find a sense of responsibility and community during the holidays (after being severely beaten by a gang of trashy gangsters). This is why people refer to films like Die Hard, or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as their favorite holiday movies. The creators here are just trying to tell a good story that just happens to take place during the holidays. They’re not forcing goodwill or nostalgia for holiday specials past down the reader’s throat.

But anyway, so that’s 2.1 Christmas comics that I like a lot! You can buy Hawkeye or the DC Holiday Special (but don’t read the DC Holiday Special) on Comixology, or at your local comic shop. The Last Christmas seems to only be in print at the moment, so pick that up at your shop or on Amazon.

Also, I seem to recall a classic Superman story where his rocket lands in the North Pole rather than Smallville. Someone please tell me if this exists, as my googling cannot find proof at the moment. If it does exist, it’s pretty enjoyable. If it doesn’t exist…well, then someone get me a job writing DC’s next Holiday Special! Hypocrisy!

 

Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part 3: The Dead Walk!

Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

When is a zombie story not a zombie story? Well, Riddler, when it’s a Rural Noir! (I seriously did not notice that it said “A rural noir” above the title of every issue until the latest one. But in all fairness, this issue is the pulpiest).

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.20.35 AMSexy lady? Check. Dead guy? Check. Thing is though, in the rural town in this rural noir, dead guys don’t stay dead. But not in a way you’d normally expect. They’re not eating the flesh of the living (yet). They’re not seducing young virgins and drinking their blood (yet). They’re not even a jumble of body parts sewn together and re-animated by electricity (yet?). No, these are simply people who have died, come back to life, and are having a little bit of trouble with the concept.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.23.53 AMThe normal, rural folks in this small, rural town are also uncomfortable with the situation. They’ve all been quarantined by the CDC, and when no one new can come or go into a small down where the dead have come back to life, well, people are going to be a little on edge and might start hurling feces.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.26.46 AMRevival has been a pleasant surprise for me. I hadn’t really read anything by either of the creators before. I just heard “Have you read Revival yet?” so many times that I had to pick up the first issue. And then the second. Then the third. And so on. Seeley and Norton are crafting a tense, scary, and rural tale (at this point you have to have caught on that I’m overusing rural, but if you haven’t, well, here’s this explanatory sentence!). They’re building a mystery where I need answers, but it’s not a “crackhead LOST fan need to come up with a dozen theories and if I’m wrong I’ll hurl feces at the creators” kind of need for answers. The characters they’ve created are just as compelling as the mystery.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.33.11 AMMYSTERIOUS CAMERA PHONE IMAGE THAT YOU’LL NEED TO BUY THE SERIES TO DETERMINE WHAT IT IS! (just kidding, they haven’t told us what that IS yet, but it’s been creeping around the edge of the series, just waiting to jump in and open up a whole new bag of questions).

So, anyway. I’ve really enjoyed reading Revival this year, and I enjoyed even more the fact that I discovered this rural noir through word of mouth and not through some bland cheerleader review on a comic book ‘news’ site.

LEVAR BURTON MOMENT: You can buy Revival on Comixology, on Amazon, at your local comic book store, or check it out at your local library (maybe? I’ve never checked out a graphic novel/trade paperback at a library before, but have heard tales of some who have. So…do so at your own risk…muahahahahahahahah!)