Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Marvel (2016, Q3)

This is going to be a lot more difficult, what with Marvel’s second Marvel NOW relaunch imminent. But for completion’s sake (I’m doing Q3 for the other companies), and because there’s still some recommendations to make, I’m still doing it. Also, I reconsidered by criteria, and I don’t think high issue count is a problem so long as the series catches you up well, which Marvel series do with a good recap page (DC really needs to do this). So here we go.

1

Silver Surfer
Written by Dan Slott
Currently on issue 6

Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer is the comic that made me like the Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd). So much that I went diving into the back issue bins and bought a ton of his first big ongoing, written by Steve Englehart. Slott’s run is about Norrin Radd’s adventures with human companion Dawn Greenwood, a girl who never really left her home town. At least that’s what the previous series, also by Slott, was about. The current ongoing is about Surfer and Dawn returning to Earth after their exploits, and the hijinks that ensue.

But Silver Surfer’s plots, aside from being Silver Age-level craziness, mainly serve as a way to explore the relationship between Norrin and Dawn. Because he doesn’t understand many human customs — don’t worry, Slott’s the one writer I’ve seen who can pull this off consistently without it getting annoying — and she’s experiencing the wackier side of the Marvel universe. Their relationship is adorable, and you do get attached to Dawn as a character, rather than just an audience surrogate. But at the same time, these stories feel epic, and the Surfer’s way of speaking definitely adds to that. The stories are big and epic, but never lose heart because of Slott’s focus on Norrin and Dawn.

Another reason the dialogue works is the art style. The series is drawn by one of my favourite artists, Mike Allred. His art style can best be described as pop art, and is essentially a more modernised version of the style you’d see in Silver Age comics from artists like Jack Kirby. Thick line work gives everything a classic look, and this suits the Surfer’s cheesier dialogue. Laura Allred’s colours make the style even more distinct, and the result is a series that looks fittingly retro yet modern.

If you’re looking for heartwarming yet epic stories that feel like am homage to a more innocent time, all focused on two incredibly endearing characters, and would like to see one of the best artists today in his comfort zone, pick up Silver Surfer.

2

Old Man Logan
Written by Jeff Lemire
Currently on issue 11

Even if you’ve never read an X-Men or Wolverine comic, you’ve probably heard of the “Old Man Logan” arc my Mark Millar. It’s kind of like the The Dark Knight Returns for the character; in a world where supervillains rose up and took over the world, a old and retired, pacifist Wolverine must come out of retirement and become the hero he once was. It’s a solid story, if overrated. It got a follow-up during Secret Wars that was kind of a straight-up sequel at first (it through in some new elements that weren’t really foreshadowed and the canon is weird) before veering off into random stories because Brian Michael Bendis makes his stuff up as he goes along. Long story short: Logan ends up in the mainstream, post-Secret Wars Marvel universe at the end of the story.

Lemire’s ongoing does a good job catching you up if you haven’t read either of the previous stories, and is a much better comic than its predecessors. Lemire portrays Logan as a broken man looking for some purpose in his life, even after rejoining the X-Men, and Logan works very well as a lone wanderer. Plots range from Logan trying to prevent his timeline from coming to fruition by killing people, even if those people are innocent; trying to connect with his future wife, in a non-creepy way I swear; and just trying to come to acclimate to this new world. Lemire isn’t afraid to paint Logan as a bad person, even if he’s had a rough life. Logan’s brutality is not downplayed, and his viciousness is on display often. And, and this is really important, Lemire does a good job toning down Logan’s abilities so as to not have him as overpowered as he’s often written. This Wolverine has to take time to heal, he’s slower and not as strong as he once was, and this fallibleness makes Old Man Logan a much more interesting character than the original Wolverine, while also allowing for smaller threats to be threats.

All this blood, gore and violence is beautifully illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino. Sorrentino is known for his dark, painted style and complex layouts. But he can control himself and use simple layouts, often drawing attention to more brutal acts with inset panels and red colouring. However, when Sorrentino lets loose, his artwork is beautiful to look at. The washed out look of the series works amazingly well, considering the type of character Logan is and the stories he’s involved in. The dark art style and thick shadows create an atmosphere that makes Old Man Logan stand out from Marvel’s usual fare, and suits Wolverine like a glove.

The only downsides I can think of for the series is that the current arc, until its most recent issue, seemed to lack a point beyond exploring Logan’s time with his wife Maureen. It becomes more apparent later what the point of it is, however. And the other problem is that, having read the original :Old Man Logan” story, his universe is begin retconned to better fit with the Marvel universe as it is now. For example, in the original story it was specifically shown that the Captain America active during the villain uprising was Bucky Barnes. However, we see a reference Sam Wilson’s Captain America in the current series… but also a reference to Bucky Cap. It might just be a clear retcon, but Logan also has no memory of a female Thor. So it’s not clear what is and is not canon with Logan’s timeline, since what was canon has been changed already. Some elements that didn’t exist in the original “Old Man Logan” arc are explicitly new to him, like the Terrigen crisis and his “death”, but others aren’t, like Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run. So Logan is supposed to be a man who doesn’t understand this universe… but we don’t know what he doesn’t understand until he encounters it and specifically says so.

Old Man Logan is an engaging, dark comic about a man who has experienced an amazing amount of tragedy in his life, and acts accordingly given his situation. While there are some problems regarding continuity, they’re only really a problem if you think about them. A brutal, nuanced look at the character, this is the best Wolverine has been in a while.

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