Tuesday, September 1, 2015

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Everyone needs a goal” or “How I read 200 comics in a month and almost lost my love of reading comics”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff


Let’s just say, this wasn’t fucking easy this month. :P

1. The Phoenix #180 (David Fickling Books, 2015) ***
Writers/artists: various
It feels like a looooooooooong time ago, but it was only July 1 when I read a free digital edition of this 32-page publication aimed at 6-12-year-olds, dated June 13, 2015. I thought it was quite cute and clever, and a noble attempt to get kids into the idea of reading the classic-style English weekly anthology comics (which is what I did as a child during the 1970s). I feel certain both my children would love it. But as they prefer hard-copy comics, I doubt I’ll ever buy any for them to read (overseas postage from England would be prohibitive).
Feel free to check it out at www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/free-digi-phoenix/.

2. This Damned Band #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Paul Cornell/Artist: Tony Parker
Spinal Tap meets The Omen. This shows promise.
3. The Tomorrows #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) **¾
Writer: Curt Pires/Artist: Jason Copland
Painfully hip attempt to combine cyber-punk sci-fi with art-punk sensibilities. Falls short.
4. Negative Space #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay/Artist: Owen Gieni
I’m not really sure what I just read, but Gieni’s artwork is quirky. Farel Dalrymple-gorgeously quirky.
5. Death Head #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***
Writer: Zack & Nick Keller/Artist: Joanna Estep (interior)/EM Gist (cover)
6. Zodiac Starforce #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***¼
Writer: Kevin Panetta/Artist: Paulina Ganucheau
I get these comics for free but I’ll definitely be checking out Negative Space #2 and This Damned Band #2. Death Head didn’t wow me, but I’ll probably check out No. 2 just to see where this mystical serial killer malarkey is leading. I got sent the preview of Zodiac Starforce, which is a manga-style, Captain Planet mash-up, but it slowly grew on me. Might read the next issue even though I’m not the target audience (I assume it’s aimed at teenage girls).
7. Adam.3 #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***
Writer/Artist: Scott Kolins
I have no fucking idea what this is about. Is the Tarzan-style dude a future-Adam of Eden fame? Or is he some Kamandi-style protector of some planet? I have no fucking clue.
8. The Eltingville Club #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Evan Dorkin
Arguably the most nihilistic take on comics/pop culture fandom ever created. Dorkin is one helluva bitter guy. Talk about biting the hand that feeds him.
9. The Paybacks #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ****
Writers: Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal/Artist: Geoff Shaw
Super-repomen and a Batman rip-off called Night Knight. Fucking love it!

10.-15. Scott Pilgrim Vols. 1-6 (Oni Press, 2004-10) ****¼
Writer/artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Great movie. Great soundtrack. Great fucking comic! For those who don’t know the plot, 23-year-old Canadian slacker Scott must defeat new girlfriend Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends to win the right to date her. Mucho video game ultra-violence and Canadian slacker humour ensues. Just so much fun.

16. Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Vol. 5 (Flesk Publications, 2011) ****
17. Bill Sienkiewicz Sketchbook 2009 (Self-published, 2009) ****
Signed editions scored cheap on eBay. Not bad.

18. C.O.W.L. #11 (Image, 2015) ***
Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel/Artist: Rod Reis
A flat, rushed ending to a promising series cut short by poor sales.
19. Material #1 (Image, 2015) DUD
Writer: Ales Kot/Artist: Will Tempest
Pretentious twaddle.
20. Invader Zim #1 (Oni Press, 2015) ***½
Writer: Jhonen Vasquez/Artists: Aaron Alexovich & Megan Lawton
21.-25. All-Winners Squad: Band Of Heroes #1-5 (Marvel, 2011-12) ***¼
Writer: Paul Jenkins/Artists: Carmine Di Giandomenico (interiors); Mico Suayan & June Chung (covers)
Another interesting series prematurely axed due to poor sales. A damn shame.
26.-28. The Mysterious Strangers #3,5-6 (Oni Press, 2013) ***½
Writer: Chris Roberson/Artist: Scott Kowalchuk
A quirky sci-fi/Mission: Impossible-style 60s comic with some charm. And, hey, it stars an ex-luchador, which can’t be bad, right?
29.-33. The Horror Of Collier County #1-5 (Dark Horse/Maverick, 1999-2000) ****
Writer/artist: Rich Tommaso
A disturbing look into one woman’s battle with mental illness, as seen through the prism of a 50/60s-style horror movie or episode of The Twilight Zone. Unsettling. 
34.-41. The Thing: Project Pegasus (Marvel, 2009) ***¾
- originally published in Marvel Two-In-One #42-43, 53-58 (Marvel, 1978-79)
Writers: Ralph Macchio & Mark Gruenwald/Artists: Sal Buscema, John Byrne, George Perez & friends
I find it hard to read Marvel comics from the 70s – the dialogue was so torturous and the characteris’ personalities were so underdeveloped and shallow. That said, Marvel still had a sense of fun and adventure to its plots and this one is an underrated beaut. The Thing visits a mysterious government facility exploring alternative energy options, initially to visit a captured friend called Wundarr and ends up working there as its security chief. Over several issues he deals with a saboteur and a slew of guest stars including Captain America, Thundra, Black Goliath, Man-Thing and Deathlok. It’s all quite stupid when you read it one hit, but this would’ve been heaps fun to read month by month.
42.-44. Strange Tales (Marvel, 2009-10) ****
Writers/artists: Paul Pope, Molly Crabapple, Peter Bagge, Jhonen Vasquez, Tony Millionaire, Matt Kindt, Stan Sakai, Max Cannon, etc
45.-47. Strange Tales II (Marvel, 2010-11) ****
Writers/artists: Rafael Grampa, Jhonen Vasquez, Jeff Lemire, Farel Dalrymple, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Terry Moore, Harvey Pekar, etc
A hit’n’miss collection of Marvel superhero yarns as interpreted by some of the best indie talent around.
48. Providence #1 (Avatar, 2015) *
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Jacen Burrows
Even Moore’s horror books are boring now. Disappointing.
49.-57. Murder Me Dead hardcover (El Capitan, 2002) ****¾
- originally published in Murder Me Dead #1-9 (El Capitan, 2000-01)
Writer/artist: David Lapham
58. The Woods #13 (BOOM!, 2015) **
Writer: James Tynion IV/Artist: Michael Dialynas
I officially give up on this sereies. I don’t know who all the characters are and, worse still, I don’t care what happens to them. And it WON’T END!!! Ack.

59.-70. Avengers/Invaders #1-12 (Marvel/Dynamite, 2008-09) ***¼
Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Kruger/Artists: Steve Sadowski & friends (interiors)/Alex Ross (covers)
Beautiful covers are the major highlight of this quirky series that sees a displaced Invaders visit the modern Marvel Universe post-Civil War. There’s everyone here from the Red Skull to Ultron to evil SHIELD LMDs to modern Sub-Mariner duking it out with junior Sub-Mariner. Ultimately, it leads to nothing except the unnecessary revival of Toro, but at least it’s fun and pretty to look at.
71. Captain America: Who Won’t Wield The Shield? (Marvel, 2010) **¾
Writers/artists: various
Marvel doesn’t do satire well and this tie-in anthology with Captain America: Reborn just isn’t very funny...even with Brendan McCarthy’s artwork and a guest appearance from Forbush Man.
72. Copperhead #8 (Image, 2015) ***½
Writer: Jay Faerber/Artist: Scott Godlewski
73.-76. Angel And The Ape #1-4 (DC, 1991) DUD
Writer: Phil Foglio/Artists: Phil Foglio & Keith Wilson
For a comedy miniseries this post-Crisis revival of an old 60s title is short on laughs and long on implied bestiality and demeaning portrayals of women. Overall, a big BLEH from me.
77.-98. Doom Patrol #1-22 (DC, 2009-11) ***¼
Doom Patrol: Writer: Keith Giffen/Artists: Matthew Clark & friends
Metal Men: Writers: Keith Giffen & JMDeMatteis/Artist: Kevin Maguire
Giffen’s attempt to repair the damage from John Byrne’s previous incarnation partially succeeds. It takes a while but this series was coming together...until The New 52 initiative killed it.
Much more fun was the Metal Men back-up feature in #1-7. The old Justice League (of 80s fame) team seem to be really enjoying their reunion.

99. JLA/JSA Secret Files & Origins #1 (DC, 2003) ***½
Writers/artists: various
100.-120. JSA #41-58 (DC, 2002-04); Hawkman #23-25 (DC, 2004) ****
Writers: David Goyer & Geoff Johns/Artists: Leonard Kirk & friends
This is the oldest comics I had in my collection in the sense that I’d never got around to reading them. I mean, 13 years is a long time. Not sure how I drifted away from JSA. I think I got sidetracked with life and the issues started piling up. After a while I had 20+ comics sitting there and I’d lost interest in the series. When a personal crisis hit in late 2003/early 2004 I made a decision at that time to cut waaaaay back on my standing order at Kings Comics. JSA was an easy cut at that point. Four years later, the JSA got rebooted, then a few years after they were retconned out of existence by the New 52. These decade-old comics gathering dust in my spare room seemed even less relevant than before.
However, in my attempt to reach my 200-comics goal, I decided to tackle them...and I’m glad I did. This was always a fun series with characters I really liked (I was a sucker for JSA in the 70s, Infinity Inc. and All-Star Squadron back in the 80s, too). The culmination of this run is the Black Reign storyline in both JSA and Hawkman, which leads to a big showdown between the JSA (and Hawkman) against Black Adam and his team of reformed super-villains and conflicted superheroes (including Atom Smasher) after they’ve violently liberated the African nation of Kahndaq (which is Black Adam’s homeland). Should heroes kill if it serves the greater need? The assassination of Kobra is an effective shock moment. This is a pretty powerful question and Johns (who was handling both books solo at this stage) is pretty much at his peak as a writer. Great stuff.
121.-123. Kaijumax #2-4 (Oni Press, 2015) **
Writer/artist: Zander Cannon
Whoa! This comic just took a turn for the worst. A so-called monster mash-up of Godzilla movies and prison flicks just went into decidedly Oz territory with #4. Our oversized hero gets RAPED in the shower? Er......this isn’t a fun read anymore.
124-125. Nailbiter #13-14 (Image, 2015) ****¼
Writer: Joshua Williamson/Artist: Mike Henderson
126. Chrononauts #4 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Sean Murphy
127. Southern Bastards #9 (Image, 2015) ****½
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Jason Latour
128. God Hates Astronauts #9 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Ryan Browne/Artists: Jordan Boyd (interior); Ryan Browne (main covers)
129-130. The Fade Out #6-7 (Image, 2015) ****¼
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips 
131-132. The Fox #3-4 (Dark Circle, 2015) ***¾
Writers: Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid/Artist: Dean Haspiel
133-134. Revival #30-31 (Image, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artist: Mike Norton (interior); Jenny Frison (cover)
135-136. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #5-6 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer/artist: David Lapham
137-138. Mind MGMT #34-35 (Dark Horse, 2015) ****
Writer/artist: Matt Kindt
139. Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #3 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer/artist: Bob Fingerman
140-141. Jupiter’s Circle #3-4 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Mark Millar/Artists: Wilfredo Torres (interior); Frank Quitely (cover)
142-143. The Black Hood #4-5 (Dark Circle Comics, 2015) ***¼
Writer: Duane Swierczynski/Artist: Michael Gaydos
A flat ending to what was a promising series. Could have been so much better.
144-145. Black Science #15-16 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Matteo Scalera
146-148. Secret Identities #4-6 (Image, 2015) ****¼
Writers: Jay Faerber & Brian Joines/Artist: Ilias Kyriazis
149-150. Groot #1-2 (Marvel, 2015) ***½
Writer: Jeff Loveness/Artists: Brian Kesinger (interiors)/Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire (covers)
151.-155. Ame-Comi Girls Vol. 1 (DC, 2013) **
- originally published in Ame-Comi Girls #1-5 (DC, 2012-13)
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Artists: various
Comics based on a figurine line is a bad basis for a comic. This title was pretty ordinary...although I’m sure there were fanboys who masturbated like crazy over this title. Me? I got the trade free from a mate. Still had a wank, though.
156-161. They’re Not Like Us Vol. 1: Black Holes For The Young (Image, 2015) ****½
- originally published in They’re Not Like Us #1-6 (Image, 2015)
Writer: Eric Stephenson/Artist: Simon Gane
A fascinating take on the superhero mythos. What if the X-Men were a bunch of selfish, nihilistic thugs who stole from and beat the shit out of innocents without conscious and without fear of the consequences? It’s chilling stuff.
162.-167. JSA: Strange Adventures (DC, 2010) ***¼
- originally published in JSA: Strange Adventures #1-6 (DC, 2004-05)
Writer: Kevin J. Anderson/Artists: Barry Kitson & Gary Erskine (interiors); John Watson (covers)
168.-186. Air Vols. 2-4 (Vertigo, 2009-11) ***¼
- originally published in Air #6-24 (Vertigo, 2009-10)
Writer: G. Willow Wilson/Artist; MK Perker
187-189. The Ghoul: Treasury Edition (IDW, 2014) **½
- originally published in The Ghoul #1-3 (IDW, 2009)
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Bernie Wrightson
Bernie’s artwork is nice in B&W and in an oversized format, but you can see he’s not the same Bernie of 40 years ago (and understandably so). As for Niles’ writing, this is pedestrian horror material. 
190-191. All-Star Section Eight #1-2 (DC, 2015) ****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: John McCrea)
Garth Ennis really, really, REALLY hates superheroes.
192.-193. Starve #1-2 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist ;Danijel Zezelj
Cooking and comics – what a tasty fucking combination.
194.-195. Airboy #1-2 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: James Robinson/Artist: Greg Hinkle
The greatest comic revival EVER. The greatest meta comic ever. This is arguably the best comic of the decade!

196.-198. Oh, Killstrike #1-3 (BOOM!, 2015) ****½
Writer: Max Bemis/Artist: Logan Faerber
Beautifully skewering Rob Liefeld, Alan Moore and all those lame superheroes with big guns and bigger pockets from the 90s. Brilliant stuff.
199.-200. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6-7 (Marvel, 2015) *****
Writer: Ryan North/Artist: Erica Henderson
201. Nameless #4 (Image, 2015) ****¼
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artist: Chris Burnham
202-203. Deadly Class #13-14 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Wes Craig
204. Silver Surfer #12 (Marvel, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
This series is still around and that’s cool.
205. We Stand On Guard #1 (Image, 2015) ****¼
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Steve Skroce
America invades Canada over water rights? Fucking A! This new series is awesome.
206. The Spirit #1 (Dynamite, 2015) ****
Writer: Matt Wagner/Artists: Dan Schkade (interior); Eric Powell (cover)
A nice debut for this reboot of The Spirit, even if the main character doesn’t actually appear in this issue. They’ve gone back to the original 1940s setting, which I think is crucial for The Spirit to succeed, I think. I have hope for this series.
207. Howard The Duck #4 Marvel, 2015) ****¼
Writer: Chip Zdarsky/Artist: Joe Quinones & Joe Rivera
208. Strange Fruit #1 (BOOM!, 2015) ****
Writer: Mark Waid/Artist: JG Jones
A helluva new book about the American South, racism and a Nubian God descending from the stars. This should be good.

209. Convergence: Crime Syndicate #2 (DC, 2015) *
210. Convergence: World’s Finest #2 (DC, 2015) *
Writers/artists: various

I swore I’d never buy any of these DC titles during this stupid “event”. But I picked up these two comics in the Kings’ remainder bin because they were “damaged” for two bux apiece. Plus they featured two of my fave classic groups of characters, the Crime Syndicate and the Seven Soldiers Of Victory. And y’know what? They both sucked! It was nice to see the characters again, but the storyline went nowhere and signified nothing. Who fucking cares, DC? Who cares anymore?

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