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Figured I'd make a general post about comic books. Wondered if anyone read them regularly, either a somewhat frequent picking up trade paperback collections, or through weekly pull lists. (I have a weekly pull list, although I pick it up once a month because my comic shop is 45 minutes away now since I moved, so it's harder to get out there.)

My pull list is much shorter than it used to be, due to financial reasons (and some creative ones - looking at you Nick Spencer and your shitty run on Captain America):

Bitch Planet (Image)
Paper Girls (Image)
Ms. Marvel (Marvel)
Black Panther (Marvel)
X-O Man of War (Valiant)
Batman (DC)
Monstress (Image)
Injection (Image)
Moon Knight (which was great, but Jeff Lemire's run just ended, and I don't think anyone is taking it over) (Marvel)
Atomic Robo (IDW)

I also always pick up the new trade releases for:

Saga (Image)
Sex Criminals (Image)
Whatever crime noir book Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are working on.

Wish I could get more into the superhero stuff again, but I don't have the money to drop on dozens of comics anymore. And, neither Marvel nor DC have the quality of writers anymore. In some cases, what they've done with the characters has been...unsatisfactory. Barry Allen as the Flash is disappointing. All the confusion around what the hell to do with Superman has been annoying. Turning Captain America into a fascist. Or making Peter Parker the billionaire tech maven instead of Tony Stark. All left me dropping books. They've done some good stuff, to be sure. I loved what Jeff Lemire did to improve Moon Knight, for example.

The biggest thing for me has been Batman, though. I'm not a big Batman fan. I like him just fine as a character, but his comics have been - in my opinion - mediocre at best. This, minus a few runs here and there. It's telling that I previously thought the best Batman book was Gotham Central, in which he is an occasional guest star in it!

But holy shit, Tom King's run might be one of my favorite superhero books ever. It's such a small thing, but writing Batman like an actual human goes a looooooong way. It sounds minor, but giving him the ability to empathize with people makes him infinitely more likeable, and it hasn't come at the cost of recognizing that he has issues too. People might deride it as making Batman "too soft," but I think making him seem like an actual human actually connects him to his roots more. He isn't just a dark, terrifying hero/anti-hero mix that is - power-wise - the human version of Superman. He also lets Batman be intelligent, letting him outwit villains even when it comes at the cost of him taking a terrible beating. He's not invincible. He's not untouchable. He still doesn't do much "detecting," but his plans and schemes feel a lot more developed than a typical Batman book.

And I'm loving what he's doing with villains. For christ's sake, he got me to feel something about Kite Man. KITE MAN!!!

Anyway, do you read anything? Are there any comics you particularly love? Characters you prefer to follow? Creators you adore? Do you enjoy getting individual issues, or do you prefer trade paperbacks? Read any good runs?

There are 8 Replies

I read Watchmen recently. I dind't really like it... I also find comic books/graphic novels overstimulating.

Your enthusissm kinda makes me want to read them more though.

Posted November 8th, 2017 by Cetasaurus
Formerly KM8

I just finished reading the Luther Strode complete series today.

I think that it got a little cheesy towards the end, but it was very satisfying overall. The sense of danger faded a lot after the first act, but there were still some very vital, threatening character designs and well-choreographed fights later on. There's only so much you can do to a man, though, and I don't find his simple fear of losing the only person left for him as interesting as him dealing with his entire life falling apart initially. There's really no way they could have kept that level of tension up for the entire series, however, given the style and range that they were working with.

Posted November 8th, 2017 by nullfather

Well, if you think comics are overstimulating, Alan Moore is probably not a good writer to follow! I tend to agree with the general consensus that Watchmen is one of the best comics of all time, but that book is stacked. There's sooo much to it, which is how Moore generally writes. The same thing is definitely true of other works like From Hell or V For Vendetta, or even Top 10.

Posted November 8th, 2017 by Jet Presto

@Jet Presto, Yeah I kinda picked up on that haha. What makes Watchmen one of the best comic books of all time? Frankly, (and this might just be because of how my brain works/a general inability to appreciate the medium) I didn’t get a whole lot out of it.

Posted November 9th, 2017 by Cetasaurus
Formerly KM8

Well, some of it requires a fair amount of understanding of the historical, cultural, and political context of when it was written (as many pieces of art do).

For me, the biggest thing about all of Alan Moore's works is the depth and structure of his writing. There's usually a lot going on in a page or panel. Structurally, Watchmen is a tight graphic novel. There isn't a lot of fat. Even what was essentially the excess (the Black Freighter comic within the comic) served as a parallel story to mirror the central one. I always forget how much set-up is done for the interdimensional alien invader at the end, too. Side stories that feel like just a minor thing in passing actually matter to the plan in the end.

It's kind of tough to see now, but Watchmen was also one of the first books to really deconstruct the superhero genre. There were other writers doing this as well (notably Neil Gaiman and, of course, Frank Miller), but Watchmen used a lot of classic superhero archetypes to examine darker themes. Something like The Dark Knight did too, sure, but Batman was kind of a brooding character with a dark origin for a while. The way Miller uses Batman and Superman to examine the 1980s political atmosphere and conservative Reaganism was interesting, but his ultimately took the characters down kind of logical paths, albeit darker or more bleak ones. I even appreciate how it examines society's views towards superheroes themselves. It seemed in the '80s, people had grown more cynical. The days of campy, kid-friendly superheroes was starting to make way for people who were growing sick of how "clean" heroes were. Within the world of Watchmen, America went down a similar path. These Golden Age heroes, who were once idols and icons in American society, are completely forgotten and disrespected (even murdered by new generations).

Here, you've got a Superman who can't relate to humanity. You've got a detective like Batman or The Question who is completely unhinged from seeing horrors in a Gotham-like environment. You've got a tech nerd that feels inadequate outside his suit. You've got a young woman conflicted about the history of her mother whose mantle she took up. You've got a Captain America-like character who, from years in war, also become unhinged. You've also got a story wherein a superhero is actually the central antagonist. I really enjoyed the way it made classic archetypes seem reasonably twisted. I liked the ambiguity at the end as well. Was Ozymandias right in the end? Is security and peace built on a lie and facade sustainable? Is it ok that, to avoid a potentially larger and more devastating nuclear war, Ozymandias brought in an alien invader that both killed millions and united the world? It's almost that classic trolly problem. Even more is the question of what happens after Rorschach's journal is discovered? It asks a number of questions and leaves a fair amount to digest.

And as a comic, I appreciate the attention to detail. The way something like, "Fearful Symmetry" uses panel lay outs is great, and such a subtle thing that many readers might not even notice it. Or my favorite little detail is how Rorschach's speech bubbles are jagged only in scenes that take place *after* the kidnapped kid and the dogs story. It's everything in the present, but it's also the flashback sequences that occur after. His speech bubbles are normal in any flashback that occurs before that moment in his life, further confirming that moment as being the moment he became the Rorschach we see in the present. (I also generally love everything about Rorschach. He sort of more openly calls into question the issue of identity here. Are these people with a superhero alter-ego, or are they superheroes wit a normal people alter-ego? Every character deals with this, but I love Rorschach the most, obviously.) He gets a really great character moment at the end, as well.

I love the way the book is colored, an aspect of comics that often gets under-appreciated. It's certainly not a perfect book, but I think it does a lot with the format that many other writers would never even think to try today, never mind 30 years ago.

Posted November 9th, 2017 by Jet Presto

Speaking of comic books, I just found a bundle of 12 John Carter: Princess of Mars #1 alt cover posters in a thrift shop. Marked for public sale, not the promo version, but nearly indistinguishable. I can't find anywhere that has these in stock.

Posted November 9th, 2017 by nullfather

Structurally, Watchmen is a tight graphic novel. There isn't a lot of fat.

In terms of plotting, I agree. Even the Black Freighter comic didn't really bother me. I mean, it bothered me a little, but I got it. Just like you said, every side story actually matters to the plan in the end, and not in a way that felt horribly contrived. (My personal barrier here is that I consistently fail to care about plots...)

But honestly, there was so much symbolism jammed in there in such a heavy-handed way. I was like being beaten over the head with clock gears and snow-globes and what-have-you. In some sense, it was neat, like, there are a ton of thematic connections to make. But if I were an editor I would have trimmed that way down, made it more subtle at least. Take Rorschach's speech bubbles, which you mentioned, and that I also loved – that was very clean and not like forcibly shoved into my face. It shouldn't really be more obvious than that.

It's kind of tough to see now, but Watchmen was also one of the first books to really deconstruct the superhero genre.

That is fascinating, and I'm definitely relying on your expertise here (since I know next-to-nothing on the superhero genre). I greatly appreciate you starting to outline all of that for me, and explaining how Watchmen fits into the cultural context. I understand how that could be considered revolutionary.

Something you said, that Miller examines the "1980s political atmosphere," was actually a part of Watchmen I was super impressed with. (I have never read Miller but Moore does a similar thing). The story (at least, by my very limited perspective) successfully reconstructed the zeitgeist of a specific place and time in history. And when the story modified parts of history, that zeitgeist shifted in such a natural way. I felt fairly engulfed in the setting. Nothing struck me as anachronistic or out of line with how American culture might normally behave. Until the end I guess. I was fairly skeptical of the globe's response to alien invasion. That seemed a little too ideal. Maybe I am supposed to question how that would have ended up playing out in practicality? Regardless of what happened to Rorschach's diary?

I really enjoyed the way it made classic archetypes seem reasonably twisted.

This again might just be something that was lost on me, since I don't really know the superhero archetypes. I thought most the characters were OK. I did have a greater appreciation for Rorschach, whose identity seemed the most complicated/confused and yet his convictions the most extreme... Oh, and I thought Jon was pulled-off pretty well. I'm sure he was a challenge to write and bestow weaknesses upon. That was pretty clever how he was manipulated.

Some of my favorite pages were from Hollis Mason's memoirs. I did like how attention was drawn to the absurdity of dressing up in a costume and fighting petty crime, and how the characters all had ways to try to justify that decision to themselves (and, as you mentioned, struggle with identity). And it was a smart decision to place the story in the context of, well, the second generation of superheroes. It certainly gave the story a lot of texture, a lot to work with – both in terms of exploring the psyches of all the superheroes (past and present) and how they relate to one another, and in terms of building a richer history of masked vigilantes from which the current events could draw.

I liked the ambiguity at the end as well.

Me too.

And as a comic, I appreciate the attention to detail.

Yeah... Me too. I guess I just feel like a lack of attention to detail is a flaw. Attention to detail should be an expectation?

I love the way the book is colored, an aspect of comics that often gets under-appreciated. It's certainly not a perfect book, but I think it does a lot with the format that many other writers would never even think to try today, never mind 30 years ago.

Yeah haha, that was completely lost on me.

Thanks Jet Presto.

Posted November 10th, 2017 by Cetasaurus
Formerly KM8

As much as I enjoy comic book movies, video games, tv shows, and AT4W (a show about bad comics), I really don't read a whole lot of them. I've read Watchmen and TDKR and I didn't care for either of them. I've read several Captain America comics that I got from the library and various other comics over the years, but I've never actively kept up with any series in particular. I much prefer to have the whole story rather than just one or two issues. I also much prefer DC stories between post-Infinite Crisis and pre-New 52, simply because that seems to be where a lot of the good stories for the DC characters came from. As for Marvel, I think Cap is the only one I've read stories for, other than Spider-Man #26 from 1992.

All that being said, there is one book ice read that I loved. Kingdom Come was an amazing story from start to finish and I highly recommend it. The artwork is beautiful and the story is one that will hook you in and not let you go.

As for comics by other companies, I haven't read much. I've read a few Star Wars comics by Dark Horse and a Doctor Who trade paperback that featured the 7th doctor. But as I said earlier, despite my love of the characters and knowledge of some of their histories, I don't actively keep up with current storues

Posted November 10th, 2017 by -Riku-
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