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!

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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.

 

 

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 Two: The Secret of The Ooze

 

Favorite comic books of the year post, PART 2! (I almost typed Part @ cause I held down the shift key. And you would have been yelling “Part AT what, Paul? Part at WHAAAAAT? So you’re welcome for me saving you from that agita). As is common in this Western culture of ours, we must sum up the things we enjoyed during the period of the fiscal year in order to…well…seem smart to all our friends. I wrote part one yesterday, go read it if you haven’t. I’ll be waiting.

Today, I’ll be focusing on one book: Casanova: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

I wrote about the mini series preceding Avaritia, Gula, a little while back. That is one of the few things I’ve written that I’ve liked recently. But enough about me. I’m talkin’ bout Casanova. The interdimensional super spy that can’t help but hurt everyone he loves and hates himself for it. I read both Gula and Avaritia this year. As I mentioned, Gula floored me. Avaritia…it ALMOST floored me, but was still pretty damned amazing.
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Fraction’s second issue involves dimension hopping as well as airing his anxieties as a writer, AND some anxieties about the medium as well as genre that he’s chosen to tell this story in. Not in a “comics are bullshit and I want to be a novelist” way, but really in an honest, “step back and wonder what it is you’ve done and how much your audience is reading into things (answer: A LOT. See this post – Roy)” kind of way. It’s also done in a hilariously entertaining manner via Gabriel Ba’s kinetic artwork and Fraction’s self-mocking dialogue.

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But oh yeah, there’s also a story in this thing. This tale of a super spy living in the wrong dimension with no friends, no family, only a mission. His mission (which he didn’t choose to accept), is to kill every single version of his arch enemy Newman Xeno, sometimes destroying entire universes to do so. It takes a toll on the guy.
Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 7.14.46 AMBut after killing so many versions of Newman Xeno before he can become a totally evil guy, something funny happens.

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Casanova has a conversation with the guy and sees he’s not so bad. He sees the potential to undo a wrong (turns out all this dimension murdering and time travel CREATES his archenemy) by making sure that one of the Xenos (real name: Luther Desmond Diamond) can live a normal life and be a good guy. He also manages to fall for him in the process. EMOTIONS? You just got taken on a ROLLER COASTER.

You can buy this series in all the places I tell you to buy things, but you really should start with the first book, Casanova: Luxuria. If you’ve already read that, as well as Gula, then you’re set! Go ahead and read Casanova: Avaritia, worry free (except for the worry that you might cry, cause there’s a good chance you will). This is one of THE BEST comics I read this year, and honestly one of the ones that restored my enthusiasm in the medium.

 

Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part One

Because I either won’t be able to limit myself to a Top 10 or have enough content to make it to Top 10! Also, why be like everyone else, when I can be a quirky variation on everyone else instead? Ha-HA! Merry Christmas you old building and loan!

Hawkeye

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I think I’ve stressed how much I love this comic. IF you’re not a jerk, I will make sure it finds its way into your stocking this year (However, I have very low levels of consideration for jerkdom, so you likely ARE a jerk and will get nothing. Buy your own comics, cheapskate!) Anyway, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido are jamming a metric shit-ton into each and every issue of this series about the “Avenger that’s just a dude.” They’re joined by Matt Hollingsworth on color and Chris Eliopoulos rocking some sick fonts as letterer.

This is like a really advanced “How-to” comic book. In action scenes the characters MOVE, the colors POP (“Pop-pop!” – Magnitude), and other great stuff happens that I would put in CAPITAL LETTERS. The conversation scenes are also a welcome change from the “copy and paste the same head while borrowing the pacing from a Mamet film” scenes that have invaded comics in the past ten years under the guise of “inventive” and “mature.”

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Fraction’s take also quickly expands beyond the “Avenger who’s just a dude” logline into “Avenger who’s just a dude and wants to make up for the crappy things he’s done but might still do more crappy things. Oh, and he has a female sidekick who he probably shouldn’t be a role model for, but it totally works and their relationship is screwed up and sweet, but you can’t help but kind of want them to kiss. Once. Even though she’s barely 18 (can’t wait to see what search results that gets me) and he’s 30 something. Oh, and ARROWS and PURPLE!” Ahem. I believe I got a bit carried away, but I’ve been a big fan of Hawkeye for years, mostly based on his look and a “Captain America can’t tell me what to do!” attitude that had carried over the years since Stan Lee was writing him. So it’s nice to have a GREAT Hawkeye book to back up my love of a character who can often be written pretty crappily (see the past 10 years of comics – Smilin’ Stan).

The Sixth Gun

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The Sixth Gun is a western-action-horror (with a smidge of comedy) comic book written by Cullen Bunn with art by Brian Hurtt. Like Hawkeye, its creators know how to do great action, while creating memorable characters that you’ll care about. Drake Sinclair starts out as the typical “man with no name” but quickly becomes “guy with a name and checkered past chock full of self-loathing that maybe has a heart of gold,” and Becky, while starting in the “damsel” role has been slowly growing into her own as well. The first six issues are EPIC and jam packed. Like you’ll feel like the bartender did a couple rounds of buyback. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, ladies and gents: the generous bartenders of COMICS! Tip them well!

It also has monks with guns, ghouls with guns, creepy hooded guys with guns…AND THE GUNS ARE MAGIC (well, 6 of them).

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Some of you might read this rambling premise summary and say “That sounds like a great movie.”

Jonah-hex-posterNo. Shut up. That would NOT be a great movie. It’s already a great comic book, it doesn’t NEED to be translated to the big screen. None of them do. Didn’t I say shut up already? Shut up.

Saga

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No, but seriously, Saga does have it all (most importantly, action und comedy). Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples have BROUGHT the noise and that noise is a Girl Talk-style jam of Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Comedy. THEN that jam is backing a classic boy meets girl, boy knocks girl up, girl has (girl) baby,  and they all go on the run (in a spaceship) story. It’s a fairytale. It’s a worthy successor to Star Wars (yeah, I said it Star Wars nerds). It’s a damned good comic that’s executed incredibly well.

So that’s part one of this “not a top ten” list! You know where you can buy all of these things, and if you DON’T, then I’ve given you sufficient information for a quick Googling. Part Two to come tomorrow, maybe with some comics I haven’t already written about in the past 6 months.

 

 

Not, NOW! Then! Not THEN, Now! (Oh, and Hawkeye is still awesome)

Marvel NOW!

Well. It’s maybe slightly better than DC’s New 52 as far as stupid marketing names go, but it’s mostly a stupid marketing name that’s been slapped on a number of good comics.

Last year, DC Comics relaunched their entire superhero line by canceling every title it was publishing, and launching 52 series starting at #1. They also made all the heroes younger and restarted their histories and made me type this goddamn stupid sentence explaining it all.

Now (haha, now), while I have been trumpeting comics that are outside the super hero genre, I am still susceptible to stupid marketing names, and on top of that, Marvel does seem to be pushing this as a creative-team focused relaunch, rather than a “everything you know about the characters is different” approach. This week, I bought a couple issues of from this venture, and I think most of them are pretty good entry points for people looking to check out some good comics.

Fantastic Four seems to offer a continuation of what has come before. That was my first reaction anyway. The challenge presented for a creator on any of these titles is maintaining a faithfulness to the concept while also making it interesting and relevant and interesting for readers new and old. Simply parroting out the core concept of a character or characters without adding anything to it…well, what you get in those instances are forgettable comic books, or memorably shitty comic book films: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Amazing Spider-Man…I could go on, but that would not help anyone.

Upon re-reading this issue, I feel like it’s a great re-introduction of The Fantastic Four. Writer Matt Fraction (yes, I know I’m all “Fraction, Fraction, Fraction” lately, but, well, Shut up.) and artist Mark Bagley are so far presenting a great looking family adventure comic.

Fraction’s got a pretty good grasp on each character dialogue-wise. In this first issue Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny and the kids all stand out from each other, and the premise for this run is laid bare: the adults are bringing the kids with them on adventures to be closer to them…and because their powers might be killing them.  While some of Bagley’s “normal” looking people have very similar faces and expressions, he’s really bringing his best work to the bigger, weirder moments and characters, so I can’t wait to see him cut loose on more adventures as the series continues.

Deadpool offers a fast paced and funny comic book, with Tony Moore’s art offering as many visual gags as there are one-liners uttered by Deadpool and almost every other character in the book. Said one-liners are written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, and while the supporting characters seem to get the better material in the first issue, by issue two nearly every joke by the wise-cracking mercenary is landing, too.

The second issue offers a battle with Teddy Roosevelt (I LOVE TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND ILLUSTRATED CARICATURES OF HIM!!!) that is sprinkled with a few Looney Toons-esque moments. And this slapstick filled smackdown is just a small portion of the greatness that is this issue. There’s also Electricity Ghost Ben Franklin. Let that sink in, then go buy these comics.

X-Men: Legacy is something that didn’t interest me as a concept. “Professor Xavier’s crazy son goes off on his own to fulfill his father’s zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” But I heard some good buzz about it, so I decided to check it out. Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat have created a book that embraces and rejects the X-Men concept at the same time. Or maybe it doesn’t. I honestly don’t know yet, because in the first issue, these two creators build two worlds and then shatter them, leaving me curious as to what will come next. I honestly think this comic would be even better for someone with almost ZERO knowledge of the X-Men, so if you’ve never read an X-Men comic before, but are interested in exploring the trials and tribulations of a powerful and extremely unstable young man, check out X-Men: Legacy.

And, as my title said, Hawkeye is still running strong. It also technically fits into Marvel’s NOW! initiative of pairing fantastic writers, though it is thankfully free of that silly red all caps branding. This story arc has Javier Pulido subbing in for regular artist (and cover artist) David Aja. According to the letters page, Pulido and Aja will be swapping on story arcs, and after this excellent issue, I am more than OK with that. I’m not going to go into the plot of the issue. Just imagine me projecting you a slideshow of some awesome panels.

THIS

THIS

THIS

and THIS.

Awesome panel slideshow aside, this is shaping up to be a great book that will define Hawkeye as more than “the dumb guy with a bow and arrows.”

So, I’m pretty impressed with Marvel’s…ugh…NOW! efforts that I’ve read thus far. I bought these all on Comixology, and you can too if you’re someone who has been looking for an entry or re-entry point into some Marvel Comic Books. Both the creator focused marketing and the quality of these comics gives me some hope that Marvel isn’t just churning out books soullessly in support of other media endeavors, but is going through a period of experimentation again as they did in the early 2000’s.

Awesome Comics Are Awesome: Comics I Bought, Week of 10/17/12

More Horror!

Bongo Comics has been adding issues of Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror to Comixology and I’ve been buying them. It’s interesting seeing The Simpsons in another medium, and honestly theses horror parodies are a better fit than a “normal” Simpsons comic book seems to be. It also helps that issue #13 which I purchased this week, has contributions from comedians Brian Posehn, Patton Oswalt, and Thomas Lennon. Also, rather than attempting to strictly adhere to the character designs of the show, the artists on this book are given a bit more freedom to blend in the looks from the horror films and comic books that are being parodied.

I’m gonna make you buy this.

Horror, more of it!

Revival #3 continues to world build, or rather town build as we’re introduced to a few more of the characters around town, while checking in on some of the living dead we’ve met so far. The horror is built upon in visual, physical ways like above, and through terrifying comic book sound effects like below. Nookie as your ring tone? Who knows if that girl’s life is in danger or not, but her not being trapped in a room with a douche is DEFINITELY in danger.

So yeah, I am still hearting this comic by Misters Tim Seeley and Mike Norton very muchly. Like I mentioned the last time I talked about Revival, physical copies of it are selling like hotcakes, so I recommend buying some digital hotcakes on Comixology.

Seriously, you’re gonna be all up in this comic book.

Now, onto ACTION! CAR CHASES! ARCHERY! COMICALLY DISGUISED FULL FRONTAL NUDITY!

Issue 3 of Hawkeye, entitled “Cherry,” by the gentlemen listed in the above panel, continues to prove that I am right for buying this comic month after month and you are wrong for ignoring me and not buying it. (If you are reading it, isn’t it totally awesome?????)

Yes, bro. It is awesome. So there’s a new show out called Arrow. I haven’t seen it. It’s based on Green Arrow, but I guess the kids hate adjectives these days, so they lost the “Green.” And it looks super serious in a way that people afraid of genres of any kind can only make things. Anyway, Hawkeye and Green Arrow are the archery based super heroes of Marvel Comics and DC Comics, and aside from that, they have one thing in common: Trick Arrows. Electric arrows, handcuff arrows, sonic arrows, boomerang arrows, ETC. Some creators will deal with it snarkily. The team on Hawkeye embraces the ridiculous, flips it, reverses it, grates some fresh cheese over it, and serves up a meat and potato filled comic book experience of AWESOME. I will overuse the shit out of that word. It will lose meaning, and then be given new meaning, and be defined simply through the use of this comic book.

In addition to taking back trick arrows for everyone, Fraction and Aja also take back comic sound effects. Too often, comic book sound effects are seen as some archaic thing, a sign that the medium is cheesy. Well, when “CRASH” is an integral part of your panel composition like in the panel above, you’re taking sound effects FOR SERIOUS.

The other thing Fraction and Aja are up to is cramming so much action into so many panels onto so few pages, you’ll swear you’re enjoying the nooks and butter filled crannies of a well toasted English Muffin. Does that make sense? It doesn’t matter does it? This is an artfully crafted AND entertaining comic book and it is something that makes me excited about this medium every single month. Even in the quiet, tense moments portrayed below:

And then of course, there are the bat-shit moments that have our main character, Clint Barton, leaping away from gunfire in the nude, his naughty bits obscured by a retro-styled icon representative of his classic look.

All of these comics. I bought them. You should buy them (Especially Hawkeye!). I purchased them on Comixology, but you can also stroll into your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Store, and buy them there. Or buy them online and have them shipped to you. I don’t care! Just buy them, you’ll like them.

Buy Hawkeye. Do it. You’ll thank me.

I Do Not Even Know How This Got Out The Door, Defenders #1-6

Seriously, this is one of those books that I can’t believe Marvel has published. I’m not trying to say that in a stuck up manner, but they’re a fairly conservative publisher when it comes to trying new or expiremental things and it’s just so…weird and fun.

Credits! Defenders is written by Matt Fraction! I have been gushing all over his work…GUSHING…as you’ve seen in my reviews of Hawkeye and Casanova. I can’t say the dude has done no wrong because when he turns off his weirdness and tries to write modern-y superhero stuff or crossover work it comes off pretty bland. But when the man’s writerly equivalent of Hulkamania is allowed to run wild, it runs wild. And it does so in Defenders.

He’s aided by artists who each bring unique styles to the different genres that Fraction plays with by focusing on each Defender. Terry Dodson brings a very bright, super-hero-y vibe when the whole team is brought together. Michael Lark gives the book a dark, 70’s vibe that fits perfectly with issue 4’s focus on Doctor Strange’s blend of magic and failed relationships. While Mitch Breitweiser takes us underwater for a tale focused on the undersea King Namor; and Victor Ibanez’s issue 6, which is all about Iron Fist, echoes the pulpy feel of both Hawkeye and Fraction’s work on The Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker and David Aja.

Doctor Strange, he’s got problems. Interpersonal problems. This is laid out for you, along with the fact that he’s a magician, fairly quickly without the baggage of years of comic book continuity. You can pick this book up and read it without having spent thousands of dollars on comics (or wasted dozens of hours reading summaries of comics you no longer read on Wikipedia — oh, self loathing!) like me.

Anyway, yeah. Dr. Strange, he’s bad with the ladies. Probably the only person to de-Hulk a Hulk-ified person through sexual grossness. His general inability to deal with womenfolk, and with normal people, is mostly played for comedy, but issue 4 really takes a look at a guy who knows he’s messed up, and that he’s made mistakes.

But in spite of that knowledge, and a willingness to make amends or do better, it’s not enough. He can’t make that connection.

I’ve really honed in on Doctor Strange, probably cause I’m weird and awkward myself. But Fraction puts together a whole team of misfits and weirdos, and is fairly straightforward with what role each character is playing. The book is alternatingly narrated by an omniscient third person narrator, as well as each of the series main characters, Doctor Strange (weirdo, possible sex-werido–the dude has probably bought phone sex…but through a crystal ball), Namor (haughty, yet lonely king), Iron Fist (Kung Fu adventurer and billionaire, down with the swirl), Red She-Hulk (used to be married to The Hulk, now a Hulk herself, she’s a tourist through the Marvel Universe), and The Silver Surfer (an outsider looking in). Characters like Molly (Strange’s love/hate-interest) and a first-issue guest starring Hulk are also given their own chapters to narrate, giving even guest stars equal footing with main characters. Sometimes the narration overlaps for some fun moments where characters gang up on Doctor Strange by thinking the word “creep.” Basically there’s a lot of narration in this series and a lot of personality to it.

This kind of casual (?) narration is really enjoyable to read. It’s not the “This is the greatest thing you’ll ever read this month” style of Stan Lee, but more of a friend telling you a story vibe (A fairly dark story about people getting molested and such. OK, just that one guy, but still).

When I read that title, I knew I was going to love this series. And then Hulk says it later in the same issue (though sadly, he’s a coherent, Hulk and does not say “Hulk hate self and want to die.”)

Here’s an example of more awesomeness in this book. Not only is Red She-Hulk yelling at a Tiger-man about a big-ass sword, but it’s also got something you may have noticed in some of the other panels. Random text, perhaps commentary from Fraction that appears at the bottom of most pages of each issue. I almost missed this reading this panel by panel, but when I zoomed out, I saw it. Sometimes it fits into the story, “Shut down the engines. Save the universe.” Sometimes it’s random like above. And sometimes, it’s promotional blurbs for either current Marvel books, or books that don’t exist like Werewolf by Night Nurse (which I am very sad doesn’t exist).

This was me last week. And this week too, but I’m trying to fight through life and read more comics!

But yes, there’s a team in this book, and the team finds a series of machines that seem to be able to alter and rewrite reality. A character in the first arc is wiped from existence, while The Defenders find themselves in entirely new costumes at the blink of an eye. They also find that they can’t talk about the machines with any other characters. Defenders seems to be about comics, and really the superhero genre in general. So many feel barred from the super hero genre because of years of backstory and continuity, but Fraction and his team show how that all doesn’t matter. Sometimes creators come in and change things around, or ignore what other creators have done before them. Fraction is riffing on this. On the malleability of comic book characters and their histories. Characters are wished into existence and comic book series that didn’t exist are referenced through the running commentary/editor’s notes.

So much comic book criticism, or criticism of the medium of comics (or rather dismissal) focuses on inaccessibility. Defenders is dense, and full of history, but it’s all accessible within this story. And it’s a story that’s ending, with issue 12 in November. It’s a great series. It’s a weird series. But it’s a lovingly created series, and that’s the kind of comics I want to read. The kind that creators create in order to tell a story. Not to get characters from point A to point B for a marketing tie in, but because they have a story they want to tell.

Casanova: Gula or Bear With Me As I Talk About Comics and Emotions

I’m going to do something weird here, so bear with me.

Ok, ready to indulge me? Of course you are! I’m not going to start with the beginning, or with the most recent volume. Today, we’re talking about Casanova: Gula, the second of three volumes of Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabion Moon’s Casanova series. You most definitely should start with the first book, Luxuria, and read the follow up Avaritia. And then read the four books that are to come (there’s supposed to be one for each deadly sin).

I’m talking about Gula, because as I mentioned in my post earlier this week, this book really moved me.

“I’ve told a lot of lies. Pretended to be a lot of things to a lot of people.” THIS. Man, on man. THIS. First off, this (again with the this?) is the titular character of the series, Casanova Quinn.

SUPER QUICK PLOT DOWNLOAD! Casanova Quinn is an international thief, hunted by his father and sister who are super spies UNTIL he’s brought into a parallel universe where HE is known as a super spy and his sister is a super criminal AND…shit, well, it’s complicated. And that’s mostly setup and dealt with in the first volume, Luxuria. This volume, the above panel? Well, it’s where shit gets real. 

But that panel, and the scene that it’s a part of? I felt it. I really did. I could go into the anxiety I feel in being someone different to different people, but it would get all rambly. Short version, this comic book series gets me. On both a “real shit that I feel” level and on a “crazy fantastical action-adventure level.”

That page? Both levels at the same time. Art talk: Gula is drawn by Fabio Moon, while his brother Gabriel Ba draws Luxuria and Avaritia. They’re very similar, but I feel like Moon draws everyone just a smidge bulkier. I love both their styles. They manage to pull off kinetic balls to the wall action while making their characters emote like crazy. Also, Cris Peter’s colors are insanely good. Aside from this book and Hawkeye (which Fraction also writes), I don’t know of too many that use colors so effectively. And this series started out as a book with a two-tone color scheme in order to save money on printing and keep the costs down (It’s great in two-tone as well, but THE COLORS, DUKE, THE COLORS! Um, disclaimer I guess…if you are color blind, you may not appreciate this book on a color level like those of us that aren’t color blind do).

I tend to, or at least used to tend to read comics fairly quickly. Sometimes missing things and needing to go back. Reading panel by panel digitally has helped with this, but Fraction adds a suggested soundtrack to some of his comics. I haven’t done this yet, but I want to attempt to read a comic, with the suggested soundtrack, at the pace of the music. I will report back when I do so.

SEX!

On top of you know, emotions and all that, this book is DRIPPING with sex. And not in a “Hey nerds” kind of way, but in a “We’re artists from Brazil, so we’re going to draw sexy art in a mature, artistic, sensual manner” sort of way.

And I think I mentioned balls to the wall action? What about…boobs in your face action? Like the “using an empty gun as a weapon move” that I’m so fond of, the “distract the opponent with boobs, then kick them in the face move” is one that isn’t used enough, despite it’s innate practicality, efficiency, and high success rate.

So I started kind of deep and then covered myself up with a few layers. This comic goes back and forth with that as well. There’s a lot of “Matt Fraction, Comic Book Writer” in this series, and how that makes him feel.

Casanova: Gula is something that worked for me. The book appealed to the part of me that loves over-the-top action (und comedy), to the part of me that loves slow-cooked food, to the part of me that loves sex (and sexy things), and to the part of me that’s gotten gut punched emotionally. It is most definitely not for everyone. But for those who know me, and in reading this site have gotten to know me a bit, if you feel we’re pretty alike, then you should most definitely READ THIS COMIC!