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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.

After months without my iPhone (long story) I finally received my new iPhone 4. It is so nice to have it back, but trying to remember what apps I had is kind of difficult (I lost my mac the same week I lost my iPhone). While going through the multitude of apps, I decided download the free comic book apps: Marvel, DC, Image and Comixology.  I wasn’t going to; I wanted to read my first digital comic on the iPad, but I was bored the other night so I decided to read a free comic off of Comixology’s free app. I didn’t want to read any old comic, i wanted something new, fresh and a first issue, so I picked Chew #1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

Before I get into the digital aspect of this comic, I want to talk about the comic itself really quickly. This comic is all kinds of crazy. It has a wild premises; Detective Tony Chu can see the psychic remnants of the food he eats, except beets. The catch is that Tony will eat the flesh of the dead to see how they died. Ya, crazy. It’s a really well written comic with some great art by Guillory. I think I will pick this up in trades cause it was the fun. Now on to the digital aspect of this comic.

My initial reaction was amazement. I love comics, but one of my biggest issues with them have been that I am able to see the coming panels before i read them, and sometimes that can play spoiler. It doesn’t happen often, and i haven’t been really spoiled in a long time, but it still has happened and will probably happen again. When viewing a comic in an app like comixology’s, you view it panel by panel; just swipe your finger to the right and you get to the next panel. It was great to read the comic like this, giving me a feeling of unexpectedness, which would work really great in some genres: thriller, detective, horror. But there was one issue with this; larger panels were broken down segments of word balloons. This gives you another dimension of unexpectedness, as you can’t see what sentence is next, but what it also did was not allow you to see the panel in its entirety, and i didn’t like that, as viewing a full panel obviously is apart of the story telling. At this point I’ve only read one comic and haven’t been through the options so I could very well change aspects of how to view any comic, but this is about my initial reaction to reading a comic on a digital app.

I will definitely read another comic on one of the apps I have; probably the free ones for now. I need to see what comics are for sale and see if anything is something I need to, or have been looking forward to reading. This has gotten me thinking about the future of digital comics, and more than likely the future of comics in general. Right now almost every comic that you can get off these apps are comics that have been out for at least 6 months, hardly any are day and date. Marvel is playing with day and date releases with their Ultimate Thor mini series, and I believe Robert Kirkman and Image are doing something similar with The Walking Dead. Ultimately what some fans want is to have all their comics day and date instead of going into their local comic shop and purchasing hard copies. I can certainly see the attraction; you can sit on your couch, press download, read and when your done just hit the close button. You don’t have to store your physical copy anywhere, and your girlfriend won’t get mad at you for leaving them around. The flip side of this is that the direct market and LCS will lose money because customers just aren’t coming in. But nothing is as simple as it seems.

Companies like Marvel and DC don’t want to lose money on producing day and date if enough people aren’t going to purchase them, and there is faithfulness to the direct market who have been selling their product since spinner racks have become a thing of the past. With the addition of products like the iPad, iPhone, netbooks and droid phones there is an untapped market who may want to jump into comics given the opportunity. It’s still early in the digital game, both in software/viewing and distribution and the big players need to do something to really test the waters. If you want to see what people are willing to buy, make a comic only available digitally. make that day and date, market it like crazy, and see what happens. Technology is moving fast and if these companies don’t move with it someone else is going to offer a product that is far better than theres.

lately it feels like comics have taken a big step towards the grave; as a fan and would be contributor it saddens me to see this. there is hope out there, it better get here soon though.

Panel Flow

Kyle Lawlor

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