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The holiday season is an awful time to blog, unless your blogging is about Christmas or the holiday’s. This season can also be a difficult one for picking up and reading your comics every Wednesday, but there is good news. The holiday’s are over; mine were great, how were yours? I have also caught up on all my comic book reading.

I read some pretty great comics over the past month. Most of my weeks have been fairly big with the exception of this week, which was just two comics. Instead of doing a best and worst of each week I have missed, I’ll just be doing the best from each week. However, I’ll add some comments about other comics too.

December 22, 2010:

My pick for this week went to a series I just began to pick up in issues after reading the first three trades. Chew #16 opens up with some background on the chicken prohibition: where and when it began, but we still don’t know the what and the why. We also get a new type of, what I am going to call, food power. We get a character who actually gets smarter when he eats. Layman uses this issue though to demonstrate to his readers how one of these food powers can cause problems for it’s user. The story, as always, is a crazy ride where you’re not sure what’s going to happen, and this is one of the things I love about this book and another series I gave my pick to, and will talk about later. What we often see in a story can be predictable, which most times is a result of the genre it is placed it, as it follows certain beats and formulas; think CSI.  Chew is a book  that uses a number of genres and formulas, but uses them to it’s advantage, not only by using one formula instead of another or turning a genre staple on its head, but by also having a very different premises gives way to an unpredictability. I can’t forget to talk about the art and story telling of Rob Guillory. This man packs so much into his panel that forces you to read this book in a few ways. You can read it through fast or slow, or multiple times, and each time you will notice something different. A great example of this is the first couple pages of this issue where we see the progress of Mother Cluckers chicken from opening day to it’s eventual closing. Each panel offers lots of easter eggs, but more importantly tells a story about the declining mom and pop operations and the rise of the corporate world. these were pages I kept going back too. This series is one of my favourites right now, because it’s different, and it’s not super heroes, a genre I am slowly getting sick of, save for a few books.

December 29, 2010:

This week’s pick for best comic goes to SHIELD #5, a Marvel book set in the world of superheroes but isn’t about superheroes. What’ so inventive about this book is that actual historical figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Nostradamus and a few surprising others are responsible for the creation and maintaining of SHIELD, the world’s defence against anything that threatens it. More so, it re writes the histories of some Marvel characters, most predominately Howard Stark and Nathan Richards, the fathers of Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic respectively. This issue had some Kirby like flavour to it, lots of technologies introduced that seem far beyond the time period of the 60s, but presented, and drawn by Dustin Weaver, in fantastic ways, much like Kirby did in the 60s and 70s with books like the Fantastic Four and his creation of the New Gods. This tech is very different from Kirby’s, but its extravagance is very similar; this is a great way of making the technology used look fresh, but dated not only to today, but the time period it’s presented in. Also the big reveal and cliffhanger demonstrates the lengths and the thought put into the ideas of Jonathan Hickman, who, as with his other boo, the Fantastic Four, is creating a larger story, but re-building a part of the Marvel Universe. The only downfall of this book, and it is not much of a down fall at all, is that tis book is bi monthly, and we won’t see it until late February. The wait at this point has been well worth it.

I’d also like to point out quickly the final issue of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven‘s mini series Nemesis. I picked up this book on its concept, what if Batman became the Joker, and while this is an interesting one, a guy as smart as Batman, who plans for everything, have the mind of the Joker; it’s a scary thought. This book however was terrible, with unnecessary acts of violence, inappropriate twists and an ending that made a mockery of its self. I really love some of Millar’s work because he really does look at the larger aspects of society and how we are shaped by them, but this was just useless action and a reason to bring up some dumb ideas.

January 5, 2011:

Until this week I was collecting three Avengers titles: Secret, Young and Prime. This week I picked up two of these books, my favourite, Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade and my least favourite, and the book that ended this week: Avengers Prime. These two books had similar beats, which included a big action scene, and were beautifully drawn by a guy who has been around for awhile (Alan Davis on Prime) and a guy who’s been around for a few years (Jimmy Cheung on Young). The characterization and story however were opposite ends of the good/bad spectrum. Avengers Prime was to be the book that reconciled Thor, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark after so many years apart. It was also be the story that transitioned from Siege to Heroic Age. Unfortunately, due to timing and an emphasis and humour, Avengers Prime did not do its job well. The series started out very strong, but once it started ignoring continuity in other books, conversations about who slept with who, and Steve Roger turning into Captain Kirk, the book became less about the reconciliation of these three friends (which does occur but in an unsatisfying manner) and more about, well I’m not sure really. On the other hand, Alan Hienberg (yes of OC fame) crafts a story full of characterization, fantastic dialogue, an intriguing twist and a great surprise. for me, this has been the most Avengers-like book I have read. This issue does answer some questions about the whereabouts of the Wanda Maximoff, but it also leaves some to be answered later, and with five issues to go, it’s hard to say where this book is going to go, and that’s a good thing. The only weak characterization in this book so far has been Wolverine. This issue was his best so far, but ultimately he is being used for a particular purpose, which I don’t mind since he is in a dozen other books. I made Young Avengers my pick of the week because it was able to give you a lot without overcrowding the characters or the story, and the cliffhanger was great. These books are bi monthly as well; it hurt Prime, but Young’s quality is benefitted from this scheduling. I can;t wait to see what ramifications this book will have on the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Side note, Superboy #3 came out this week, and because I picked up this weeks comics a week later, I missed out on it, which was okay for me, because after two issues I decided a superman in high school story is not what I wanted. Sorry Jeff Lemire, I loved you Essex County, but your Superboy is not for me.

January 12, 2011:

After  this paragraph, I will be caught up on my picks. This week was small; one DC book and one Marvel book. the problem is, I loved both of these books, so it was very hard to choose. Ultimately I went with THUNDER Agents #3 because it is paced, characterized, drawn and plotted unlike most of the books I read. Now I realize I have given this book my PoW for best book every time I read it, but it really is something different, and lately, different has been winning out for me. With this issue we are introduced to N0Man, a Dr. Manhattan type hero, who was one of the original THUNDER Agents, who gets called back to duty. What we also get is a little more history of the older THUNDER Agents, and this is provided by the love him or hate him artist Howard Chakyin. His past NoMan pages really emphasizes two things: the past, which is important to this story, it almost seems like Chakyin is used to represent a story that was told in another book, almost like using older footage from a TV show in a later season. the other emphasis Chakyin gives the reader is the deterioration of NoMan’s ability to feel. He becomes emotionless, and is really brought out in the darken sockets of NoMans eyes, all while surrounded by slightly cartoonish figures. This is a great way to visually show the readers so they do not have to be specifically told. Kudos to who ever’s idea this was.

The other book I picked up was Amazing Spider-Man #651. Dan Slott has really re-invented Peter Parker. Not only does the finally to hist first arc Big Time have some modern silver age lining, it lets Peter has a life he has wanted to live without feeling to forced. You know that Peter will always get the short end of the stick, but this time when it comes, I think he will tackle this challenge in a completely different way then he used to. Slott also has this great way of making old ideas seem new, but natural at the same time. The next arc is a different, but similar artist, which has me excited to read it, plus very happy that I can read a Spider-Man books again.

I hope to get back to some articles this week or next. I am currently working on the second part of my “Can Superman be Modern” series, which is yielding some interesting thoughts on Superman’s future.

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I’m going to do something a little different for this week’s picks. Because they were two comics that I couldn’t choose for my best pick, I decided that I would have two best picks no worst pick. Now I picked these comics as the best more because of what they represent to their respected series and place within their company’s line up.  So here we go:

Best #1:

Detective Comics #871 – This is the first issue with the new creative team of writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire) and artists Jock (The Losers) and Francesco Francavilla, and if you read my pull list post for this week you’ll know I was very excited for this book. I wasn’t disappointed at all with this book, or the Commissioner Gordon back up (Francavilla). Detective Comics now follows the Batman of Gotham City, former Robin and Nightwing, Dick Grayson as he looks into the theft of supervillian items that are being used by a new big bad. The issue follows Dick and his new relationship with Gordon and is old school Batman detective style. This is the Batman that I favour the most, and Snyder and Jock nail down the tone with this comic. When you read a Batman book no matter if you are looking at Batman or Bruce Wayne, you always see Batman, but with this issue, you see Batman and you see Dick; the two coexisting as one. This is something I didn’t see during Morrison’s Batman and Robin, which was Dick in a batman suit. Snyder gets the Batman mythos, and he gets Dick Grayson. There were times when I was reading Batman’s dialogue to Gordon about various medical drugs, and he wrung them off like a season pro, and for a second I thought, this isn’t Dick, but then I realized that Dick has been around a long time, has been solo, has been a cop, he’s no amateur, he’s been tought by the world’s greatest detective, there is no way he wouldn’t know any of this stuff. What helps make Dick and Batman co-exist is Jock’s art; he draws a true to form Batman, and with Snyder’s writing it just works. Jock also has some stunning panels and he can really tell a story within the story; he’s pretty damned good. The back up, which I tend not to read, is also great and works on its own and within the main story itself, and add Francavilla’s ability to draw a realistic down trodden but never give up hope Commissioner Gordon, and this book is going somewhere special. This definitly goes to the top of my pile.

Best #2

Amazing Spider-Man #649 – This is the second issue of new permanent Spider writer Dan Slott, and this was a better issue than last for the sole purpose of being ready to tell a story, a new Spider-Man story. The first issue was merely set up for this issue, which opens up with a bang, well a lot of bangs, and then throws in a surprise. I’m not going to give it away, but suffice to say it’s shocking. This issue is filled with a great Aunt May and Peter scene, which has a Ditko panel thrown in for good measure, that really demonstrates this book’s new direction, one that seem’s logical, but a direction that’s never really been travelled before. We finally get to see how Peter’s new job is going to create some great new, but classic styled, Spider stories. Let’s not forget the art though; Humberto Ramos has a very cartoonish style that really works for a Spider-Man book, which is evident in the action scenes of Spidey and the Black Cat mixing it up some two bit hoodlums. Ramos does a lot of little things in his panels that make them move or give them something to take in before you move to the next. While Peter is still Spider-Man, this book feels like something new when in reality it isn’t. I also love that this book comes out bi-weekly!

Final Verdict

I chose these two issues because they both made classic books feels new without losing any of their classicness. Furthermore, these books pushed their respected characters forward without losing that classicness, and that is a rare thing to see with new creative teams on older properties. The fact that it happened twice this week, well you can see why I choose them as my best picks. If you do want a worst pick, I would give it to Captain America. It was a pretty humdrum story that I wasn’t too interested in, but that’s okay, these two picks certainly made up for it.

I’m going to be talking a lot about comic books, and while I have said I am going to focus my blogging to this topic, this topic is still a pretty broad one.  A good portion of the comics I read are of the superhero persuasion. I am though working on building a pull list/library of non-superhero titles, but I find this to be a slow process as my Local Comic Book Shop (LCS) primarily stock superhero comics, and of the non-superhero titles that do come, only a few are available. What I am trying to say is that most of the discussion I will have on this site will be about superheroes, and these will be heroes from Marvel and DC. But please note, I am reading comic books from companies that are not the big 2 and that are not about superheroes, and I will talk about any comic book related material, and if you have a recommendation, please give it here.

I guess then I should tell my blog readers (those of you who are going to read now, and for those who will back track my posts at a later date, that is if I keep this blog up and running) what books I am reading.

I’m mostly reading ongoings: Uncanny X-Men, Secret Avengers, SHIELD, Thor, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Invincible Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, The Walking Dead (in trade paperback), Skull Kickers and American Vampire. As you can see, that’s a lot of Marvel; it’s what I started on, so it only makes sense I keep reading them. There are also a number of mini and maxi series that find their way in and out of my pull list: Avengers Prime, Astonishing X-Men: Exogenesis, Astonishing Wolverine and Spider-Man, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, Nemesis, Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade and Brightest Day.

So I guess I read about 20 books right now, though I am looking to drop some of these soon. I’m struggling to get through Uncanny X-Men, Batman and Robin and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. The last one is a shock to me; this is a critically acclaimed series with amazing art. Chris Samnee is a great artist and story teller, but I can’t seem to get on board with Robert Lethridge’s writing. This book is old school superheroes, and for some reason, it doesn’t do it for me. Dropping Batman and Robin would mean for the first time in a long time I wouldn’t be reading a Batman book, and that’s somewhat disappointing.

But there are a few books I am looking to pick up, and one is a Batman title; Detective Comics with Dick Grayson as Batman.  As I mentioned in my pull list for this week, Superboy starts up this week. I’m getting this solely because of Jeff Lemire, who’s Graphic Novel Essex County is fantastic. The only other book I am considering picking up right now is Amazing Spider-Man. It has been a long time since I picked up a regular Spidey book, and with all I’ve heard Dan Slott say, and all the Humberto Ramos preview art I have seen, this is easily the book I am anticipating the most.

So there’s what I am reading; like I said a lot of superheroes. Though please, if there is anything you would like to recommend, please, I’m all ears, and eyes I guess since we are talking comics. And as for posts go, this one is pretty boring, I know, but I think it is important none the less. Helps you get to know me. Next week I will have an actual discussing something comic related, I promise

Panel Flow

Kyle Lawlor

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