Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In which I ramble on and on and mention some DC books I might buy

So today is the day that DCU implodes and the New DCU aka DCnUaka New 52 takes arrives on the shelves of comic book stores to take its place.

How do I feel about this?

As you may have noticed, I haven't been updating this blog much lately. I also haven't been keeping up with comics news as much as I usually do. (I keep falling behind on my RSS reader and having to mark hundreds of posts as read without so much as glancing at them when I get overwhelmed.) I've also fallen behind on my reading of actual comic books, although I keep buying them, which is a little worrisome a I watch my to-read pile climb higher and higher on my desk toward the ceiling.

Have I completely lost interest in comics?

No, of course not. Like all of you, I'm sure, I have other things in my life besides comics. And sometimes those things tend to take over and demand more attention, and comics become less important. I think that's what's happening now. Because I still love some of the stuff I've been reading.

But what about the DCnU?

To be honest, it's been kind of a crazy stupid emotional roller-coaster ride for me, to an extent that I find almost embarrassing. I know, it's just comics, right? I don't know why I get so worked up over some of this stuff. But I read interviews and reports from comic cons and opinion pieces and really bad PR from DC and I think it's just overwhelming. The whole thing sounds like such a terrible mess, and so many of the decisions just sound like such terrible ideas.

Meanwhile, I look at blogs like this one, where artists have been submitting their own alternate takes on DC characters and what they'd do with them given the opportunity, and it's a little hard not to bang your head against the desk. There's so much creativity, so much diversity of styles and ideas, such a willingness to explore what these characters could be. I would give at least half the books on that blog a try, whereas there's only a small handful of actual books from DC that appeal to me in any way. It just makes me wish that DC wasn't so uptight about maintaining a consistent look and feel across the line. I wish they were a little bit more willing to take risks. I wish they were actually seeking out a different audience, expanding beyond the current demographic and giving young, creative, talented people free reign to play with their characters and come up with new and exciting comic books.

I don't really see the DCnU as doing that. For the most part, it's the same people doing more or less the same thing they were doing before. I'm not saying there's no creativity in the New 52. Obviously some creators (maybe most? maybe all?) are very excited about their work and I'm sure there will be some good and some bad and some just kind of average comics to come out of it. But I don't see it as being focused on the future or a younger readership or a more diverse approach to superhero comics. There's a very 1990s retro feel to a lot of the art (and the 1990s are the worst possible decade for anyone to get nostalgic about) and for all the big superficial changes it just feels like more of the same.


On the other hand, I can't help but get excited about some of the books. I listened to the amazing, amazing interview with Scott Snider on the Three Chicks podcast and, oh, my God, did he ever sell me on his books. All of them! I was already planning to buy the new Swamp Thing (1) but had decided to take a break from the whole Bat family for a variety of reasons. But when I heard Snyder talk about what he has in mind for the Batman (2) book, wow. Sold! 100% sold.

I've also been sold on the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman (3). I've always been a fan of Chiang's art, but when I started seeing some of the preview art from the first isues I just started drooling. Brian Azzarello calls this a "horror book," which, I don't know, is totally not what I would have expected from Wonder Woman. I still think it could go either way in terms of storytelling, but I'm curious enough to check it out.

I am also sold on Jeff Lemire's Animal Man (4) (though not so much on his Frankenstein) and very tempted by Paul Cornell's books, both Stormwatch (5) and Demon Knights (6).

And Batwoman (7) goes without saying.

There have also been some books announced beyond September that I think are very promising. Marcus To drawing a Huntress (8) mini-series? James Robinson writing a Shade (8) mini-series (with Jill Thompson doing one issue)? Nicola Scott drawing JSA (9)? Dustin Nguyen on a secret yet-to-be-announced Batman project? All of these sound very promising and I will definitely be considering them for my pull list.

So it's not all bleak. There are books I'm excited about, and in the end my DC pull list might not be as dramatically reduced as I had expected it to be. If you've been keeping track (or looking at the convenient numbers in brackets after each title) that's as much as 9 books I might end up buying each month. And there's at least a handful of others that I'll at least be tempted to browse through on the shelves.

And then there's Batgirl.

I can't decide what to do about Batgirl. I'm still devastated that Bryan Q. Miller's take on the Stephanie Brown version of the character is gone. That book had such a unique voice. It's really sad. And then, even worse than that, is the whole undoing of Babs as Oracle thing, which has already been talked about ad nauseam and which I won't get into again.

The Batgirl situation (combined with a few other concerns) were enough to at one point make me want to stop buying DC comics entirely. Now that I've learned more about the books that are coming out, Ive softened up a bit, but part of me still really wants to take a stand and refuse to buy Batgirl. I don't want to support that change with my money, and as much as I'm dying to know what Gail Simone's take on the whole thing will be, I feel like buying this book would be a compromise that I'm not willing to make.

Sometimes I pick the stupidest things to have convictions about. Some people are calling for a Marvel boycott because of the way they treated Jack Kirby and his family. Surely that's a more noble cause than what DC is doing to a fictional character. But I'm not really in this to be noble, I guess. I'm also not calling my refusal to buy Batgirl a "boycott." I just don't want to be part of it. Even though I think that Gail Simone will probably write a very, very good book and I wish I could support her.

Will I crack and buy it anyway? Will I read it in trade paperback? Digital comics? I don't know. I reserve the right to change my mind about it. But for now, this is where I stand.

And now, excuse me, I have to go back to reading Game of Thrones.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Books I read: 'Tec, Gates of Gotham, Mystic, Rachel Rising, Severed, Sweet Tooth

Hey, everyone. I'm back.

Detective Comics #880
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Jock; colours by Dave Baron; DC.

I like Jock's art a lot, but for some reason Francisco Francavilla's issues always pack a bigger punch. I don't know if he just happens to get the best scripts from Scott Snyder or if it's about the choices he makes as an artist. Jock's Joker looks terrifying, but the horror pales in comparison to the creepy pacing of the last couple of issues. Maybe what it comes down to is simply that Jock has been handling the issues featuring Batman whereas Francavilla focused more on the Gordon family. I almost wish Batman wasn't even in this story at all. Not that this is a bad issue. It's a great issue, and it moves the story along nicely, setting things up for what is sure to be a shocking finale later this month. Still the best Batman book currently on the stands.



Gates of Gotham #4
Story by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins; written by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott; art by Dustin Nguyen and Derec Donovan; layouts by Graham Nolan; colours by Guy Major; DC.

That's a long list of credits. Three writers on a single issue? Two artists plus a layout artist? Sounds like a rush job to me. I find that I care less and less about this mini-series with each issue. Good thing there's only one issue left. I imagine I will stop caring completely after that one. For a big mystery about the secret origin of the city of Gotham, there isn't really a whole lot that grabs my interest in this. Cass Cain's inclusion in the cast seems kind of pointless. She's just running around with all the other bat kids, not really doing anything that is specific to her character. There was some nice interaction with Damian a couple of issues ago, but nothing much since then.



Mystic #1
Written by G. Willow Wilson; pencils by David Lopez; inks by Alvaro Lopez; colours by Nathan Fairbairn; Marvel.

Holy shit, this was awesome. This is definitely the best thing I've read from G. Willow Wilson so far. And that art! Those colours! Everything about this comic book is fantastic. Very cool premise, great characters with unique voices, dialogue that flows naturally, beautiful art with expressive faces and body language, gorgeous colours, engaging female characters. Seriously, get on this while you can. Pick up this baby. It's the best comic I've read in months.



Rachel Rising #1
Story and art by Terry Moore; b&w; Abstract Studio.

A girl wakes up and pulls herself out of a shallow grave in the woods. She was apparently strangled to death earlier and doesn't remember exactly how she ended up there. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it's a nice introduction to the character and premise. Nice black and white art. Looking forward to more of this.



Severed #1
Story by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft; art by Attila Futaki; Image.

Creepy, slow-paced horror story with beautiful art. I don't really want to say anything more than that. Just read it.



Sweet Tooth #24
Story and art by Jeff Lemire; colours by Jose Villarrubia and Jeff Lemire; Vertigo.

Those who complain that "not much happens" in this series will hate this issue. Because, well, not much happens in it. That is, if you define "stuff happening" as actions moving the plot forward. At the end of the last issue, Gus was shot by an unknown shooter. He spends most of this issue slowly bleeding to death and dreaming. At the end, we still don't know who shot him or whether he will live. (The caption "Continued?" at the end made my heart skip and caused me to glance at the September solicits to confirm that this wasn't cancelled! Which of course it isn't.) The thing is, what I get out of this book isn't just a story. I feel like Lemire has developed his own comic book syntax with this series and it speaks to me on a different level than most monthly comics I read. It's possible that this reads better in collections than in single issues, but I don't care. I love reading it in single issue. And even if I zipped through this issue in a few minutes, I know that I will keep going back to it and rereading it and taking in the beautiful art and symbolism.


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