Lately I’ve had a lot of free time, thanks to now being a part-time student. Because of this I’ve spent a lot more time working out, updating this blog and, of course, reading. Because I’ve been reading a lot, and because I like writing about what I read, I’m going to give a quick run through on what comics I’ve been reading — at least the stuff I have anything to say about. This is just quick and dirty stuff, with no real structure going on, similar to when I used to tweet long tweet chains. This stuff is old enough to not really be current, but some stuff will be fairly recent.
The Fourth World Saga by Jack Kirby
I bought the Fourth World Omnibus when it initially released and I really enjoyed reading bits of it. Then it had to be recalled for that printing error, but then I got it back! The Fourth World stuff has always interested me as has Jack Kirby’s work, so the initial Fourth World stuff, which is pure Kirby, is something I hyped myself up for immediately after it was solicited.
While I find this stuff really enjoyable and interesting, the biggest sticking points for me are the issues of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, which focus on Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion. Neither is interesting and it just takes away from this overall saga. Superman exists to babysit them when his involvement could easily stand on its own. However, Mister Miracle is a treat to read with high-concept ideas and interesting characters, The Forever People I find myself liking more and more because of our quaint and earnest it is in depicting space hippies and Orion is the typical epic cosmic stuff that’s always fun with older work. While the writing style means I need to read this in chunks — and I probably won’t even be done with this by this time next year — I like getting to this now and again. It helps that I don’t really know how it all ends.
Venom by Rick Remender
Rick Remender’s Venom run is the Venom work that got me to properly care about the character outside of his villainous role. While my opinion on it soured over time because of the mixed artwork and Remender’s somewhat clunky writing style, on yet another re-read I’ve found myself enjoying it more.
Remender’s Venom really is just a modern updating of the essential Spider-Man idea — of a guy balancing superheroics with his daily life. What makes it interesting is Thompson’s addiction, the darker villains and the Venom symbiote’s need to be violent. While I know the run peters out — I am dreading reading that “Circle of Four” story again — and I wish it’d have gone on longer so Remender didn’t have to rush his run, it’s a good read. At least the start of it.
Carnage by Gerry Conway
In the lead-up to Absolute Carnage, I read an obscene amount of Carnage comics. they’re not that great and tend to be very focused on hyper-violence and “kewl” symbiote stuff, but sometimes there’s fun. Especially if the writer knows what a stupid character Carnage is. Gerry Conway actually doesn’t quite go that route and instead goes for a pulpier tone, with some dark mythology in there for a little bonus.
I think part of what makes this series engaging is that Carnage, despite having his name on the title, is not the protagonist. He’s very clearly placed in the position of antagonist, with the role of protagonist given to some newer characters, all hunting him, including our old pal Eddie Brock. In this series, Eddie was going by Toxin, essentially continuing the role he played in Venom as a symbiote-hunter. John Jameson also gets some good moments as his Man-Wolf side is played up and the art really gets into the dark violence of the story — I’m surprised that artist Mike Perkins has ended up on The Immortal Hulk at some point. But yeah, Carnage is just an enjoyable comic that nicely leans into dark god stuff that I can see Donny Cates acknowledging a bit during his Venom run.
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
I read a fair amount of Ms. Marvel when Kamala debuted, but I just didn’t stick with the book. I was cutting down and Spider-Verse was happening, so I dropped it. But I have the first two oversized hardcovers and getting back to this series, I remember why I love it.
While I’m not Pakistani-American like Kamala is, the first issue does a great job of allowing her situation — low-key feeling embarrassed of her culture while also protective of it and knowing it’s a part of her identity — feel just applicable enough to my own culture and upbringing. I’m not really around her age anymore, but these are issues that I think a lot of people grow up with and Wilson writes them well. The gamer lingo however… it feels just a bit forced and awkward, not helped by fake product names like “World of Battlecraft”… seriously, couldn’t even make it something with the same syllables to make it less awkward?
The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis
Here’s another series I read monthly before dropping off. In this case, it’s because the plot just became too unwieldy to follow month-to-month. Reading it in big chunks at a time has done wonders for me, however, and I like this series more and more. Of course, it helps that I partly already know what they’re talking about thanks to having read some issues already, because otherwise… yeah, I’d be a little lost.
The secret war going on between IO and Skywatch is really interesting, and Ellis does a great job of updating the secret super teams that WildStorm had for the modern day. Things are less “X-Men but with more pouches” and more “sleek sci-fi secret conspiracies”. I’ve had very little exposure to the original WildStorm, with the stuff I’ve read limited to some of Planetary, The Authority and Sleeper, with only the latter being anything I particularly enjoyed. And note: it’s not by Warren Ellis, it’s by Ed Brubaker, who at his worst is still better than 99% of other writers. But yeah, the characters are enjoyable, the art is excellent and really sells the tone and now that I grasp the plot it’s a lot more fun.
Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen
I was craving a bit of 90s and so decided to dip into Image. I tried WildCATs but that really is… 90s Image. I’ve read Spawn before and trying to go back, it’s clear McFarlane isn’t that great of a writer, though his art has held up very well. And so I came to Savage Dragon, the other Image superhero book still being published today — and still being written and drawn by Erik Larsen, no less! I knew the series has a cult following, but I didn’t know what to expect going in.
It’s actually a fun time. the comic is gritty at times and the fighting is hard to follow, but is otherwise a pretty fun character-driven comic. Dragon himself feels a bit like Silver Age Superman, just reacting to what’s going on a round him, but he is a character in his own right, if a relatively subdued one (yeah, subdued in early Image!). The plots are fine and the writing seems to be Larsen largely playing off superhero tropes in fun ways. The comic’s pacing is all over the place, with a time-skip and relationship occurring off-panel without informing the reader properly, but that also makes it a pretty brisk read, in stark contrast to Spawn‘s walls of text — this brisk, ever changing status quo reminds me a bit of The Promised Neverland, actually, and I can follow the action scenes in both about the same… as in not very well (yeah, this comic is very 90s). There’s just this fresh creative energy to it that’s addictive. While I doubt I’ll stick to it, I’ve found some characters I like in Alex Wilde and Savage Dragon, and the plot is strangely engaging when it wants to be.
Aquaman by Kelly Sue DeConnick
I haven’t really cared about Aquaman since the end of Jeff Parker’s run. Dan Abnett’s run was okay at first but soon devolved into constant fighting and misunderstandings and it all became a bit too much. It didn’t help that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther had started by that point and its first arc far exceeded what Abnett was doing. I barely bothered with the Rebirth run, not helped by a crossover, and didn’t like when Kelly Sue DeConnick said she would be Momoa-ising the character — Cullen Bunn already tried that once and it wasn’t good, and it’s okay to not synergise across media sometimes.
But the first issue of KSD’s run — yes, only the first issue, but I’m aiming to catch up — was good despite be hating the idea of am amnesiac Aquaman. In fact, being told that is what turned me off reading this at first. But KSD is a good writer and adds a good mythical quality to the comic. But… seriously, let Arthur and Mera get married. Wally West has had enough time to be restored by Geoff Johns and subsequently ruined by Tom King in the time since Arthur proposed! Also, this is the exception to this stuff being old, seeing as KSD’s second arc just finished.
Hellblazer by Peter Milligan
I’m a big fan of Garth Ennis’ Hellblazer run, and that’s high praise from me, since I mostly dislike Ennis’ work. It often contains shock imagery for the sake of it, whereas his earlier work, while still being dark, had a humanity to it that has since disappeared (that same humanism is present in stuff like Preacher and Hitman too, other Ennis works I mostly like). Other Hellblazer runs I’ve tried just haven’t quite hit that sweet spot for me, but I at least wanted to read Peter Milligan’s run, just so I could understand the ending of the Vertigo run of the character.
What I’ve read so far is pretty solid. John Constantine has the self-destructive edge to him that I like and his poisonous influence on the lives of others is in full effect. The story with his love interest — who I like despite forgetting her name — is… weird. I have no clue what Milligan was trying to say about abortion or anything, or if he was just being edgy, but it’s appropriately horrifying if a bit tone deaf. Plus, Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art is appropriately dark and just a bit creepy at times. The stuff with the plague doctor was fine, but my disconnect with Hellblazer has always been my lack of knowledge concerning British culture and politics, so it didn’t quite land with me the way Ennis’ rant against authority overall — in the shape of Constantine railing against Parliament — did. The issue I’m up to introduces Epiphany Greaves, who I’ve heard is fairly hated, but in all honestly I tend to not like Constantine’s love interests in general. Too bad doctor chick doesn’t stick around.