Comic Book Round Up

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The Bendis deluge: Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most popular comic book writers going, DC paid him the big bucks to step away from creating and shepherding new characters at Marvel to come revitalize Superman.

Part of that deal- on top of Action Comics and Superman (which are two distinct comic books that feature superman, one as more Clark and the other as more Cosmic Kryptonian), a special walmart trade paperback project and a Man of Steel miniseries that kicked off his time with DC- were two new independent books Cover, a spy series about a comic book creator (but not as masturbatory as that sounds) and Pearl, a yakuza tattoo artist thriller. Both above, both gorgeous collaborations that I recommend.

If you’re counting, that’s 4 ongoing books that are all worth your time plus two trade paperbacks to go run down- Man of Steel is going to be easy to find, the Walmart stuff, I don’t know anyone who has had luck getting what they want consistently and it will all be eventually collected when that special deal is done.

But most people don’t read comics, they just don’t! People who read comics don’t even read comics! So if I’m going to recommend one thing, it’s Cover #1. Go to a comic book shop and get as many consecutive issues as you want but I guarantee the #1 will hook  you. The reason Cover takes the bacon is that it’s relatable to any business traveler. I just made it sound hugely boring, just the most boring. Wow have you taken an airplane to a conference, well I have THE BOOK FOR YOU. No what I mean is, the way that business connections are made, the kind of easy trust that comes from mutual benefit, dinners, being known for one thing that you can provide for a market. All of that can be a bit isolating, a bit boring, it’s a job. The key in cover is that the central comic artist gets offered a little bit of excitement, it sneaks up on him and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes him.

Bendis has other ongoing books, a mobster book United States VS. Murder, Inc. which is a crime fiction alternate history I’m not up on. Scarlet, which is a kind of activist crime book that I’ve just barely started, the earlier trade paperback that serves as preface for the ongoing has such a strong first couple issues that I keep promising myself to get caught up.

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THE BIG LIMITED SERIES EVERYONE IS READING: Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis will probably be better as collected stories, delays on top of already slow release schedules make the books painstaking to keep up with.

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Doomsday Clock is more frustrating in this way than Heroes. Tom King’s excellent collaborators ship on time and Doomsday smells like a conflicted writer not a production pipeline issue. The longer Doomsday Clock goes, we are more than halfway done now, the more the excellent DC Universe Rebirth Issue that initially revealed Doctor Manhattan seems more like an anomaly, an urtext of the symbolic reactionary goals of the new universe that never quite gets the fleshing out that it deserves. As a single issue I can absolutely rec DC Universe Rebirth in the context of the linked article to understand comics more broadly if you’re not a regular reader or even if you are and hadn’t considered it that way.

This kinda meta, heart and soul, creation and aims thing is what’s interesting to me, not seeing the Watchmen characters again. These characters, who have clearly had their definitive stories already told, were never suited to ongoing evaluation. Watchmen is The Text as far as 101 classes on comics go. It’s the “literature” that people who don’t respect comics find some reason to respect. It doesn’t get better than that but I guess I’ll love them forever if somehow Doomsday Clock twists in the last couple issues here to match both Rebirth and Watchmen… but that’s doubtful. Things could really go wrong! Spending plotty time on new characters was a choice and certainly a nice bit of IP for future development but I’m not sure it was necessary.

The limited series that’s getting collected soon, you should be anticipating the hardcover for Mister Miracle:

Mister Miracle (B&N Exclusive Edition)

There’s not an easy way to describe Mister Miracle… maybe that it’s a kind of depressive Mumblecore Sci Fi book with just enough space kings and queens, traded babies and fates of the realm for a John Carter ass pulpy good time. Gods of The Fourth World actually, Aliens, whatever. It’s a bit much but the contrast between the mundane and the Too Much is really what makes the book. The birthing issue is very beautifully done and one of the more touching moments in comic book history.

The Ongoing Dilemma: Comic books that come out issue to issue have an interesting challenge, how do you tell a compelling serial story over many issues without losing that zip, snap and crackle that makes a single issue a fun worthwhile buy and read on its own.

This disjointed nature of issue to issue reading, heavy readers will know better than a casual reader, and they will know it is to their detriment. The mental burden of keeping dozens of storylines straight, the ones you care about you may revisit, the big ticket Mister Miracles etc you keep in the front of your mind but not like Nightwing #24 or the dozens of interchangeable Mark Waid Champions issues that never clear a quality bar that keeps them with you. All the same, you keep reading for some reason. A heavy pull list means you forget what happened in the last issue if you don’t have multiple ready to read in sequence.

There’s no way to rectify this other than to re read an entire run as a single unit. This is why rebuying is such an industry mainstay, a successful ongoing gets collected into a hardcover and people buy again because they want to read it as a continuous finished work. There’s a different flavor, storage is easier but the downside to only reading this way is who is patient enough to not read single issues?! Most people, it turns out and definitely most *normal* people. Ms Marvel for example continues to do numbers 10x in collected what its ongoing single issue sales are. They’re just different markets, like the difference between book publishing and magazine publishing.

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