Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Indie (2017, Q1)

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).

I actually found it somewhat difficult to find any indie stuff I’d recommend to new readers. Sure, there’s stuff that’s great, but a lot of it requires that you’ve been following the series for a while. Also, a lot of comics are on breaks, though I’m recommending them anyway (this practice is actually part of why I love Image). But beyond that, indie stuff generally needs to be of a higher calibre to grab me, as I’ve got no loyalty to anything but the creators. But there were some surprises here and there, so join me after the break for my indie comic recommendations for new readers for Q1 of 2017.
Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Indie (2017, Q1)”

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – DC Comics (2017, Q1)

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).

DC’s output has finally levelled out a bit, with the Rebirth titles being frequent enough that I can now determine quality more accurately, so quite a few things have dropped off this list. At the same time, both the Young Animal imprint and the rebooted Wildstorm universe have been establishing themselves, and have been mostly excellent, so they easily fill in for the series that I wouldn’t recommend. Join me after the break for my comic recommendations for new readers based on Q1 of 2017.

Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – DC Comics (2017, Q1)”

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Marvel (2017, Q1)

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).

So as a whole, I have to say I’ve been pretty disappointed in Marvel’s output this year. There are some good ongoings, but they’re few and far between, as everything seemed to be caught up in the abysmal Civil War II–or rather, dragged kicking and screaming, since every tie-in seems to have at least one rant on how the event is dumb. But there are some gems, and if you’ve seen my “Top Ten Comics of 2016” list, you probably know some of what’s going to be here. Anyway, join my after the break for my comic recommendations for new readers based on Q1 of 2017. Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Marvel (2017, Q1)”

ResurrXion, Part 4 — Hopelessness and Greg Land (Rantings)

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Holy crap, that’s an ugly haircut… and costume. Also, what the hell emotion is Yardin trying to convey with that face?

Jean Grey
Written by Dennis Hopeless (aptly named)
Art by Victor Ibanez

When ResurrXion was being teased, lots of people thought the original Jean Grey, killed during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, was returning. Well, that’s not the case. But even disregarding that, this comic is just… hopeless (I know, I’m so clever).

The plot will feature Jean confronting the Phoenix Force, without the experience her older self had. The world needs her to be the Jean they need her to be. It’s an okay twist on things, but it still just sounds so boring. She’s obviously going to be the Jean they need or is going to disappear at first and eventually take up the burden. That or she can just go home and Rachel Summers, who writers remember exists since she’s in X-Men: Gold, can just get the Phoenix. Or maybe the original Jean does finally come back. It doesn’t help that Jean’s just not very interesting. This Jean’s characterisation varies depending on where you read her, and not because she develops naturally; but because she’s just poorly written. Hopeless states that Jean wanting to get prepared for the Phoenix Force’s arrival is relatable to young adults thinking of the type of adult they want to be, and how this is largely based on people’s expectations and your own experiences. Which… is how that works, last time I checked. It’s pseudo-philosophical bullshit that just comes off as dumb. Jean can prepare for the Phoenix: learn self-control, mediate, psychologically prepare herself like Hope Summers in AvX, learn to use her powers more, make plans if it goes wrong, etc. Really, there are ways to prepare, and suggesting otherwise is pretty stupid. Like this series, actually.

If it wasn’t clear from the last two paragraphs, let me make it clear: I don’t like Dennis Hopeless. At all. The guy’s dialogue is godawful and he seems to think it’s clever, but comes off as a dumber and shallower Kieron Gillen or Matt Fraction. He doesn’t care about characters’ histories and personalities and bends them to suit his mediocre plots, such as in the awful Avengers Arena, Avengers Undercover and All-New X-Men (volume 2) series. And when he’s not killing off new characters with potential or writing generic fluff, he’s writing mediocre popcorn stuff like Cable and X-Force. And when he’s not doing that, he’s writing cliche-filled boring stuff like Spider-Woman. Hopeless likes to romanticise things like teenage waywardness and motherhood and frame them within the superhero genre, but he’s just too transparent about it and does little else in his stories. The guy is just a bad writer who somehow gets consistent work, and I can’t even say he’s got some magnum opus that justifies keeping him around, or even some good but flawed stuff like Cullen Bunn does with Magneto. At least not anything that’s relevant enough that people talk about it (maybe there’s some amazing, obscure series of his out there that nobody ever bought, like Alex + Ada (except even that series is popular and acclaimed enough to be cited as a work in solicitations). Hopeless seems to be kept around because Marvel need someone to write the books they seem to only publish because they have the IP.

That was a huge rant, so I’m going to give Victor Ibanez his own section. Looking at his prior Marvel works, he seems to be a fill-in artist, and an inconsistent one at that. He did a few issues of Storm and Extraordinary X-Men, and judging from them, he seems to really hate backgrounds because they’re nonexistent in a lot of his panels. His characters look good, however, and he’s got some range. He can do a less stylised look while not being minimalistic or intentionally ugly. Or he can do a more typically superhero look with lots of detail when called for. However, the man’s faces are just off sometimes, and his stuff seems to go off-model somewhat frequently, with things like absurdly long necks and just weird body proportions in general. He’s got potential, but right now, he’s a mixed bag.

Jean Grey already had an uphill battle by using the time-displaced version of the character that the majority of fans have grown tired of. But then Marvel saddled it with their worst writer, and I have absolutely no interest in this series. Jean Grey looks like it will be another crap series by Dennis Hopeless. No thanks.

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I already think I’ve seen that Logan somewhere before.

Weapon X
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Greg Land (I just threw up in my mouth a little)

It’s not really an original thought to suggest that the only current X-Men series that are actually good are All-New Wolverine and Old Man Logan. So when Weapon X was announced, it was assumed that one of the writers of those series, Tom Taylor and Jeff Lemire, respectively, would be writing Weapon X and that it would be a kind of team book featuring the Wolverine family of characters (Logan, Sabretooth, X-23, Daken, etc). However, at best we were about a quarter right.

But ignoring all of that, I like most of the cast. I don’t think Old Man Logan has interacted with the now sort-of heroic Sabretooth yet, and it will be interesting to see how that works out. Jeff Lemire wrote a good Lady Deathstrike over in Old Man Logan, and Pak wants to build on that, which I’m glad to hear, and she does have a weird relationship with the Weapon X project (her father developed the method by which Adamantium was bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton). I know next to nothing about Domino, but she’s got a kind of cool look. Thunderbird is boring to me (you can tell I don’t care about him because I forgot he also went by “Warpath”, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever read him as Warpath), but he was an okay supporting character in Ed Brubaker’s X-Men run. Also of note: why isn’t X-23 here? Pak has said that there will be some familiar faces as guest stars, and I hope Laura shows up, because it’s weird that she’s not on this team, given their goals.

The actual story involves a new Weapon X project, one with even more power and resources than the original. That’s an okay plot, though I swear it’s been done before and I really hate sinister shadowy organisations with unseen goals. It barely ever works out. But yeah, Logan and Sabretooth have to form a team to stop the bad guys, using methods that group members won’t agree on. Pak also said that Weapon X will test the heroism of the heroes and the villainy of the villains, and deconstruct the morality of the characters. With a huge threat like a bigger, better Weapon X, I think that it might actually work, especially since everyone on the team is already an anti-hero, at best. The series seems to be an X-Force series in all but name, focusing mostly on Weapon X-related characters.

Greg Pak is a good writer who excels at emotionally grounding characters, such as in Storm and Action Comics. While his work can lack strong narratives, his character work is always very well done. But then there’s the art. It’s Greg Land. The internet has archives of his bad artwork. The guy’s artwork is badly posed, because he’s copying other work, and does not flow well at all. And that’s when characters aren’t blatantly traced from born, such as in Uncanny X-Men, where Emma Frost dodging a missile was blatantly a tracing of a woman masturbating. His actions scenes suffer because of the aforementioned copying, his characters can look different from panel to panel because of the aforementioned copying, and his dramatic stuff fail because there’s always a part of you that knows, or at least thinks, that you’ve seen the picture somewhere before because of the aforementioned copying. Apparently Land will also be doing a decent amount of splash pages in Weapon X, and I can already see the awkward photoshopping, posing and placement. When he actually draws original art for a story, things look okay, or even good like in Nightwing. But I think Land long ago stopped caring about the quality of his work. Hopefully a new artist comes on after an arc or two, but I doubt it since Land is the “bad, but gets stuff out on time” kind of artist.

Weapon X sounds like it will be an interesting read with bad art. There’s room for good character development and interactions, and hopefully the villain is just a plot device to allow for it. The art is not going to be good, there’s really no avoiding that, but hopefully it’s at least inoffensive in how bad it is. I’m looking forward to it.

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

Here are my recommendations for readers from companies that basically aren’t Marvel or DC. I know it’s kind of harsh to only have one category, but if I didn’t do this, I’d have one comic for Aftershock, tons for Image, etc. So here’s my recommendations for indie comics, using the same rules as my DC recommendations: Generally avoiding thicker reads, comics with very little hand holding and series over a certain issue count. Don’t worry, I’m not recommending The Black Monday Murders if you’re new! Also, no Saga, because I feel you need to read that series from the beginning to fully appreciate it.

Cover

Animosity
Published by Aftershock
Currently on issue 2

I you like animals, Animosity is the comic for you. Set in a world where animals are suddenly anthropomorphic and can speak, Animosity is a surprisingly interesting. Aside from the obvious animal abuse issues that arise, there is also controversy over the very act of eating meat and the idea that humanity should have dominion over animals. Not only that, but there’s exploration of how animals acted before the unexplained event. Without spoiling anything, it’s a very good read. Marguerite Bennett writes really good drama without any of it feeling forced. Her relationships feel grounded real, despite such a fantastical event occurring.

Rafael de Latorre’s art is beautiful to look at. He can actually draw different face shapes, making him better than lots of comic book artists working for the Big Two. But De Latorre honestly is very good at drawing faces, and his facial expressions clearly convey emotions while still being subtle. At least when things call for it, because he can still have fun during intense scenes. De Latorre’s obviously really good at drawing animals, otherwise he’d be a poor fit for this series. The softer colours help give the world a more vibrant feel, but that doesn’t meant the series is averse to shadows when the need arises. Animosity is easily one of the best looking comics being published.

My one sticking point is that the world Bennett creates is genuinely interesting, and is ripe for exploration. There are a number of issues that are briefly mentioned and are really interesting, at least enough for an arc each, but so far many have just been glossed over in favour of a story focused on Sandor, a house dog. Not that the story isn’t good, because it is, I’d just like Bennett to do more with the interesting world she’s built.

Animosity has a great premise which leads to a great world. While Bennett doesn’t always fully explore all the elements of this world, the main story of a Sandor’s is worth the trade-off, at least for now. Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Indie Comics (2016, Q3)”

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

So I’ve been planning to do a kind of “new reader” piece for a while now. In fact, I have been working on something for a while now focused on the history of a specific character and their significant stories and whatnot. But it’s taking tons of research and I can’t see it being that regular a thing. I’ll try my hardest, but it’s definitely not something I can do often.

But I really want to write a kind of guide to help people get into comics every now and then. As in ongoing series, not just older stories. And it’s also something that can be done regularly, what with the frequent relaunches Marvel and DC seem to love. And what better time than now, with DC’s Rebirth having had enough time to cook that a series’ quality can be determined (as long as they retain the same writers, and to a lesser degree artists, that is)? Of course, this will mostly be from what I read, but will also include series that I’ve heard are good from fans and friends. To make it perfectly clear, I’ll make sure to mention how I know the series is good. Since this will be focusing on new readers, I won’t be recommending the thicker reads like Black Panther, the stories that don’t hold your hand at all like Batman, or series with over a certain number of issues even though I enjoy them. I was going to just make one list, but it was huge, so I’m separating these by publisher. Anyway, here we go. This list is arranged in descending order (most recommended to least), and series I don’t read myself will always be at the bottom.

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Wonder Woman
Currently on issue 6 + one special issue (Rebirth one-shot)

Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman is the comic that will make you like Wonder Woman. The story isn’t that important: Diana is trying to find Themyscira after finding out that her New 52 origin is a lie. What’s great about the series is that its characterisation of Diana as a compassionate, patient and loving person who’s still willing to fight when things call for it. The plot is interesting though; it introduces a decent villain, a cool subplot featuring Steve Trevor that ties into Diana’s quest, and makes great use of Cheetah. And all that is finished off with some great mythic elements that always elevate any Wonder Woman story.

At least that’s the plot of the odd numbered issues. The even numbered issues tell the “Year One” story, which is basically what Diana’s probably going to learn herself. It’s essentially a modernised version of her Post-Crisis origin, wherein pilot Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, and Diana escorts him back to “Man’s World”. However, since there are foregone conclusions, Rucka doesn’t waste time detailing them, instead focusing on smaller emotional scenes that didn’t get much focus the first time around, before focusing on his own story. It ties in neatly with the odd numbered issues as well.

The art for both stories is phenomenal. Liam Sharpe’s thicker lines and strong eye-work given Diana a real sense of strength. Nicola Scott’s Wonder Woman looks younger and much more naive, with a dorky innocent smile across her face. Both artists nail backgrounds, posing and expression, and are honestly just great. And Rucka knows when to cut back and let the art tell the story, or just add layers to a scene.

If you want to get into Wonder Woman, now is the time. I cannot recommend the current Wonder Woman run enough. It’s easy to get into but still has depth.

Note: The Rebirth special is pretty irrelevant and kind of just outright not good. It’s just an issue long statement that Diana’s confused about her origins. You can safely skip it. Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – DC Comics (2016, Q3)”