If you’ve read this blog long, or know me personally, you’ll know I read comics. I’ve read them for most of my life, and it’s probably my favorite storytelling medium. If I could draw I’d totally make my own. Alternatively, if you are an artist and want to draw for me, let me know. 🙂
I’ve toyed with the idea of posting reviews of the week’s comics, but since I switched to ordering mine a month at a time, I don’t get them every week like I used to. This is a bit awkward, as I often have to duck spoilers all month, and can’t really participate in current discussions until weeks after the books have come out. Annoying, but comics are getting too expensive for me to buy them at full retail anymore. Looks like Marvel may be making the jump to 4 bucks an issue soon, for example.
Anyway, I frequently get asked which books I read on a regular basis. This list changes periodically, as I lose interest in some characters, or creative teams (that’s the writer and artists, for the uninitiated) switch out. There are whole lines of books I’ve picked up or dropped, and there are certain characters who I’ll probably never drop, regardless of quality or creators. It’s probably incredibly hard to understand unless you’re a comics reader.
I should note that this isn’t everything I read. There are some excellent series that I pick up in trade rather than issues, such as Walking Dead, Powers, and Ex Machina. I’m working on picking up all the Y The Last Man trades, though that series is done. It tends to be more mainstream books that I read in singles. Then I can stock up on the indy books in hardcover to make my bookshelf look smart.
There are also the odd mini-series that I read. I’m checking out Brubaker’s Incognito, and I buy anything that says Astro City on it (though those are rare nowadays, and it’s been a while since any new Astro City material). I’ve been keeping up with the big DC event, Final Crisis (though I haven’t gotten the last two issues yet, should be coming in today!).
I should also note that there is plenty of great stuff I don’t read, and a lot of it’s probably better than what I do. I’m not made of money, you know!
So, here are the ongoing books I pick up every month, at the moment at least (I’ll put in a jump in case you really don’t care and just want to skip it 😉 ):
- Daredevil – you know how I mentioned earlier the books we’ll read regardless of quality? Daredevil, for me, is the one. Luckily, DD has been a consistently fantastic read for at least the past ten years. It’s sporadic before that, with some great runs (like Frank Miller’s – yes, he was awesome once) interrupted by mediocre ones. Through it all, I read. ‘Ol hornhead is one I’ll never give up. Is he a lawyer? Yeah. Is he just a blind guy with a stick? Sure. Is he frequently miserable and depressing? Maybe. But I loves me some Matt Murdock, whether he’s overrun by Miller’s ninjas, Smith’s heavy Catholicism, or Bendis’s stammering dialog. He just works for me. The past six or eight years has seen Matt in costume for all of about three panels, but it’s still a great series. If you’re ever in Golden’s Comics, in Waco, TX, check out the huge gap in their Daredevil back issue run. Yeah, that was me, back in high school.
- Captain America – I’m a huge fan of Cap, too, though I don’t know if he’s in the fanboy stage yet. I’ve read some really bad Cap, and some really good. At the moment, it’s great. In the deft hands of Ed Brubaker, this series has been solid awesome for quite a while. He resurrected Bucky, one of the characters who was always considered untouchable, and it worked. He killed off the title character, and it worked. He featured business-attire Red Skull’s freckled, cutesy psychopathic daughter leading a group of guys in snake costumes, and it worked. This is the run that all future Cap writers will be compared to.
- Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps – Writer Geoff Johns has done wonders for the Lanterns. He brought back Hal Jordan, reformed the Lantern Corps, and redefined them in such a way that the yellow weakness actually makes sense and is even kind of awesome. He even rewrote Jordan’s origin story and in the process created what is easily the definitive GL story. He’s made the Corps relevant again, in a DC universe that had relegated them a historical footnote. It’s amazing. Even Guy Gardner is likeable (and not in a “love to hate” sort of way). I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, because any time someone asks for a comics recommendation, fans immediately say “Green Lantern.” It’s just that good.
- Justice Society of America – another Johns series that has always been solid superhero adventure. If you like the idea of heroic legacies – great heroes passing the torch, teaching and inspiring others – this is the book for you. The end of the last big arc, featuring an alternate-Earth Superman, nearly had me in tears. Luckily, I have a heart of stone. Excuse me a moment, there’s…there’s something in my eye.
- Booster Gold – easily the most obscure character on my list, Booster Gold has actually been around since the mid-’80s. A disgraced athlete, Booster came back in time to our era to try and make it as a hero. And by “make it” I mean become rich and famous. At his core he’s a somewhat unlikeable guy. Greedy and selfish, his yearn for greatness is primarily driven by the need to be a celebrity. On top of all that, he’s not the brightest guy to ever put on a mask. But he’s developed nicely over the years, and recently came into his own as a protector of the time stream. I really came to love him during his Justice League International years – his team up with the equally-unknown (and recently, sadly, deceased) Blue Beetle is one of the classic superhero duos.
- Iron Man – not a whole lot to say here. I’m as big a fan of the super smart techie heroes as the not-so-bright ones. I do wish they’d find a story other than “Someone has stolen Stark tech and needs to be stopped” though. The return and reimagining of the Mandarin last year was one of the best story arcs I’ve read in comics in a while.
- Thor – Thor has actually been absent from the Marvel Universe for a while. He was sort of dead. But not really. It’s complicated. At any rate, he’s back and the book has been excellent, and the art has been gorgeous.
- Ms Marvel – I’m a big fan of female heroes, so when one of them gets their own series I have to check it out, because it’s so uncommon. Poor Ms Marvel has always been defined more by who she hangs out with rather than who she is, which is something this series has admirably been trying to address. I’m kind of on the fence as to whether I’ll keep reading. Carol has been cursed a bit by her success – since she’s a bigger part of the Marvel U. than she used to be, she keeps getting pulled into the big events, and as a result her own series keeps getting derailed. Praise be Odin they’ve finally (mostly) stopped with the cheesecake covers.
- Hellboy/BPRD – it’s hard to call these ongoing, since they’re more of a series of limited series. But there’s a definite line of continuity. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a bad issue of anything related to Hellboy. Even without Mignola on art (and I think he has only limited duties on writing, except when he’s directly credited), they’re always great. If you are even remotely interested in stories of supernatural horror, you should be reading these.
- Buffy Season 8 – and along that vein, we have the comic book continuation of the television series. I never really read any of the old Buffy comics back before the official Season 8 series, but in general they weren’t great (with the notable exceptions of Fray and the Tales of the Slayers/Vampiresbooks). These, on the other hand, have been excellent. The arcs without Whedon have been just as good, if not better, than the ones he penned himself. And those Jo Chen covers? Worth the cover price all by themselves.
- Echo – by Terry Moore, the man behind the famous Strangers in Paradise. I still haven’t read Strangers in Paradise, but I saw a chance to get in on the ground floor of his new series and went for it. Echo is different, a science fiction series about a woman who accidentally comes into contact with an experimental battlesuit and the hilarity which then ensues. Of course, by hilarity I mean people exploding. Excellent storytelling and art. The series is still new, but I’m liking it a lot.
I guess that’s pretty much it right now. I recently dropped several books that were okay, but not great (Green Arrow, X-Factor, She-Hulk – which is odd, because I love Peter David). There are characters for whom I occasionally pick up the odd arc, like Superman, Batman, and the Fantastic Four, if I hear they’re good, but I don’t read them regularly. There are reasons I don’t read Spider-Man, don’t get me started (though Ultimate Spidey is fantastic, I read it in trade). X-Men I abandoned a long time ago, though I did read the recent Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men, which was excellent.
For those keeping track, I’m pretty evenly split between Marvel and DC. I don’t buy into the whole company vs company thing. It’s ridiculous and I’ll waste no more space on it than I would a silly Mac vs PC debate.
Wow, that’s super long. Well, if you got this far, I applaud your stamina! If anyone wants more specific recommendations on particular characters, feel free to ask. Since I can’t really do weekly reviews, maybe I’ll write a series of articles focusing on particular story arcs from the past few years I liked. Hmm.
[Updated to add Echo, which I foolishly left out at first.]