Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maybe I came down a little hard on monthly books last time

so to make up for it, here's a list of five monthly titles that I really enjoy. They're not necessarily my favorite monthlies (though some would make that list, I think) but they're books that often surprise me with how fun and engaging they are... books that help make my weekly comic purchases exciting. In no particular order they are...

Action Comics: It's really amazing that Geoff Johns is able to write so many books and not have a bad one in the bunch. He and Grant Morrison (and maybe now James Robinson?) pretty much define the DC Universe at the moment, and it couldn't be in better hands. Out of all of Geoff's books, though, Action is the one that always catches me off guard (in a good way)... I think I came into this title a couple years ago not expecting much from a monthly Superman book, and what Johns has delivered has consistently been among the best Superman stories I've ever read, stories that both touch at the heart of the character and are full of great villains and exciting plots. There hasn't been a bad arc since One Year Later thanks to him and his awesome team of artists. Eric Powell was a stud on "Escape from Bizarro World," and Gary Frank is a talent that has always deserved more recognition. I'm glad he's finally getting it.

Comic Book Comics: from the minds of the guys who brought us Action Philosophers comes this graphic look at the history of the comics medium that is both historically accurate and pretty hilarious. These guys really know their stuff... they've done their research, and they know how to put together an entertaining read. I am almost positive that if classes on comic books ever become common at a university level, this will be a standard text. I was fortunate enough to go to a college where there was such a class, and I know that if Comic Book Comics had been available then, it would have been assigned reading for sure. It helps, for me, that writer Fred Van Lente (who also does a lot of work at Marvel) and artist Ryan Dunlavey (who does a lot of those funny character-packed spreads for Wizard and Toyfare) are really cool guys... I had the fortune of meeting them at the New York Comic-Con, and they signed my copy of issue #1. I'm excited to see where these two vibrant creators go after their look at their home medium... politics, perhaps?

Final Crisis: I'm really bummed that so many people are down on this series. And, I mean, let's be honest, the reason why is kind of clear... it's dense. You have to read each issue at least twice to grasp what is going on. But to me, that's awesome. It makes buying this book so completely worth it, probably moreso than any other title on the stands. I love books (both comics and prose) where there's new things to discover in every crevice, new treasures unlocked upon every rereading, and Final Crisis is the epitome of a series like that. In a story filled with Evil Gods in human bodies, hilarious Japanese superheroes, one of the most badass villains ever (Libra!), and a hell of an awesome plot about the laws of reality being changed so that evil can finally win... my favorite thing about this series is that it is so completely worth four dollars. This is not decompression, my friends, this is hypercompression. This is also a damn cool way to tell a comics story.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane:
I have to admit it: I'm a sucker for these high-school Spider-Man stories. The fact that Spider-Man just fits so well in that setting is one of the reasons I love Ultimate Spider-Man, and it carries over into this book, which most probably feel is strictly for adolescent girls. Well, I'm okay with that, because that doesn't change the fact that this book is really good. It has been a guilty pleasure of mine since the Sean McKeever/Takeshi Miyazawa days (PS: Miyazawa is an amazing artist, and McKeever is one of the best new talents DC has), and now I don't even feel guilty about it anymore, thanks to its new writer, Strangers in Paradise's Terry Moore. This is a really sharp assignment on Marvel's part, and I'm sad that Moore's "season two" is only going to last five issues, because I'm pretty sure I could read this book forever. Guys, I know it sounds a little girly, but give it a read... especially if you like Ultimate Spider-Man, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Batman Confidential: Man, this book is cool... which I would not have expected to say, given that I never had any interest in Legends of the Dark Knight, basically the prototype book for this series. I think what got me was the premise for the first arc: Batman vs. Lex Luthor. It's a great idea, and one I wanted to see played out, and so started my compulsive owning of this series (see last post). The thing is, once I started, I never felt like not buying this book. I didn't necessarily think the first arc was fantastic, but it was not bad either, and I stuck around because wanted to read Michael Green's Joker story (this guy is a really good comics writer, by the way!), which I loved. I enjoyed the Wraith story from Tony Bedard and Rags Morales alright (good art, neat idea!), and I am just loving this current outing from Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire, which deals with the first time Catwoman and Batgirl meet. I'm not sure what it is, but this book just works for me. It has a great sense of humor, is full of action, nails the characters, and looks amazing! I cannot say enough about Maguire's art here... it's just so cute and attractive. I love the scene where Batgirl has to chase Catwoman through a nude hedonist club. I mean, just picture Kevin Maguire rendering a scene where a hyper-tense and nervous Barbara Gordon has to take off her costume (mask on, please!) and chase the sensual and perfectly-comfortable-with-her-own-body Catwoman through a nudist club. Yeah, it's great. I also feel like Fabian Nicieza is unduly ignored as a great comics writer... his recent stuff for DC has been fantastic, and I think his time on the 90s X-books has given him an unfair black mark in many comic readers' mind. I realize that the point of Batman: Confidential is to have rotating creative teams, but for my money Nicieza and Maguire could do this book forever. This story is just so good!

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