What I’m Reading : Graphic Novel TPB Recap

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THE PUNISHER : BLACK & WHITE – The Punisher is one of those characters that a little bit of goes a long way. It is such a basically one-note character that has been so exhaustively written about, that it is hard to do anything fresh or exciting with that character, but Nathan Edmondson attempts to do just that with PUNISHER : BLACK & WHITE.

A new city, a pet wolf, and a mixing of street level and super-powered bad guys, and add to that a worn motif of ‘laws and cops as incompetent, and only Punisher’s brand of brutality gets it right’ and the whole story just comes off as so much badly applied makeup to a decaying corpse.

An okay, if immediately forgettable six issue storyline, with an inferior and unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, spells a story worth trying but not worth buying or keeping. Grade : C-/D.

 

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BLACK WIDOW : THE FINELY WOVEN THREAD –The prolific Nathan Edmondson takes his talent for the gritty to chronicling the exploits of everyone’s favorite sexy Russian super-spy, in BLACK WIDOW : THE FINELY WOVEN THREAD.

Edmondson uses a softer touch here than in his Punisher run, and it’s a better fit, as this time it is an understated espionage tinged series of stories, that serves as a vehicle for the real selling point, which is the lush, painterly, sumptuous art by Phil Noto. The story itself is largely unmemorable, thankfully what warrants a 2nd and third viewing is the art. So overall grade: C/C+.

 

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COMIC OF THE DAY: Al Ewing and Greg Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS and the Black White Nick Fury?!


Marvel Comics.

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You know them? They are owned by Disney, they are brother to Marvel Studios that produces those box office shattering movies that have been all the rage for the last several years.

Well Marvel Comics while not the money maker of the film or video division, is the idea-space for those other mediums, and as such has an importance that belies its modest publishing revenue. As such, they are not going any place.

That said they could be doing better. But at every turn the publishing arm seems to be almost antagonistic to their customer base.

Tactics such as over-saturation of the market and expensive cover price of its titles ($4 is way too much to pay for an ad strewn comic with no additional content) translates into the audience (me) making a conscious choice to avoid all their books at best, and limit my consumption to one or two titles at worst.

Enter… THE MIGHTY AVENGERS.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS by Al Ewing and the criminally castigated and underrated Greg Land is my favorite Marvel Comic, and the only one I purchase monthly.

Now don’t get me wrong there are other Marvel books I like, Aaron’s THOR, Remender’s CAPTAIN AMERICA and UNCANNY AVENGERS, the new MOON KNIGHT and IRON FIST has me interested, and if all those titles were $2.99 rather than $3.99 I would pick them all up. But I really do feel if any company can successfully ‘hold the line at $2.99′[an euphemism for not raising prices]… it is Marvel Comics, and their refusal to do so… is a misplaced arrogance, a belief that the entrenched fan-base will buy the books regardless.

It is a price gouging mentality, and I am proof to the contrary.

Rather than them getting $15 a month from me for five $2.99 comics, they get $3.99 for one comic. That greed, that one dollar extra cover price, has cost them $11 from me, $11 that now gladly goes to Image Comics or Dark Horse Comics.

And more than that, I am now trained to wait. I’ll wait till a Marvel series gets collected and is available at my local library and I’ll read it for free. So yeah Marvel Comics, that $3.99 cover price… here is one concrete case where you have actually lost business because of it. So great job there.

And the one Marvel Comic that I do get, is Ewing and Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS.

Al Ewing creating a frenetic and pulp-inspired book that every month delivers a satisfying story, and one of the only books on the stands that offers multiple characters of color, treated respectfully (rather than as punch-line’s such as other Marvel Books are doing. Example being ‘Nick Fury’ gate. :).

Movies made workable the character of Nick Fury, by using the popularity of actor Samuel Jackson.

Now Marvel Comics wants to integrate that successful character from the movies with the 1960s comicbook version. So the brilliant way Marvel Comics decides to do that is by labeling the Black Nick Fury as the ‘son’ of the White Nick Fury. Wtf? Really? :).

That’s the direction you’re going? Can you say demeaning, bigoted and stupid? Hey Marvel here’s a solution for you… How about they are both just Nick Fury, with no relationship to each. Nick Fury being a title, like ‘Christopher Chance’ that gets passed to whoever is worthy. Took me two seconds to come up with a better way for both Nick Fury’s to coincide without demeaning and denigrating the Samuel Jackson version.

Who would have thought it would be the movie Marvel Universe that would get it right, and the comic-book Marvel Universe that would increasingly be the disappointment.)

Which is why Al Ewing’s MIGHTY AVENGERS is such a treat and a surprise. Despite being hamstrung with having to participate in Marvel’s various events (could not be less interested in Marvel’s Crossovers) Al Ewing manages to use the handicap of the crossover as a springboard to tell his own highly imaginative and absorbing tales of werechickens (don’t laugh, it’s pretty cool)and inter-dimensional evils, while at its heart always being a very generational story. A book that is about… Fathers and Sons.

Add to this Greg Land, who has had to suffer the recriminations of people with not a fiftieth of his talent, self styled art ‘critics'(parrots jumping on a bandwagon) who unable to create art, and ignorant even of the process, yet think themselves schooled to heckle their betters.

If you think Greg Land uses ‘porn stars’ for some of his inspiration, I would say two things to you, 1/ who cares and 2/you probably watch way too much porn. :).

Every artist from Jack Kirby to Gene Colan had a little stock/trace file, for poses or buildings or cars or fashion. You know why? Because it is a bloody job and stock photography and images are tools, and drawing, making your deadlines, is a job. And being able to take those inspirations, regardless of where they come from, and craft a functional and beautiful story out of it, takes immense talent. Greg Land is an immense talent, and his work on MIGHTY AVENGERS is drop dead gorgeous, brimming as it is with 70s Indie Black Empowerment images.

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So from writing to art, there is a one-two energy Ewing and Land have going here, that hopefully will continue for sometime. But when and if MIGHTY AVENGERS goes the way of other Marvel Titles, here’s hoping these guys create a similar creator owned title at Image.

I would love to see Al Ewing creating his own pulp-inspired or sci-fi tinged characters, and Greg Land drawing them. For all the good things Image has, a book with a majority of ethnic characters is not one of those things.

Perhaps it is time there was such a book.

So Marvel for all my bashing on them has to be applauded for THE MIGHTY AVENGERS. But if all involved really want the series to grow, 1/add a letters page and back-matter, 2/focus on stand-alone stories primarily, and 3/making it a $2.99 rather than $3.99 book wouldn’t work.

But other than that a fantastic read, month in and month out.

Oh and Al and Greg, two more suggestions, One/change the preamble that starts the book to be something with a little more import and oomph, and two/ Let Luke Cage take back the name Power Man. It’s a good name, and it’s his.

Thanks for reading and if intrigued by the above you can buy back copies of the Mighty Avengers or the Trades here:

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=24852602&affid=200301p0
http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=25358810&affid=200301p0

Enjoy!

Graphic Novel Review : Hickman and Pitarra’s MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2!

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“The World has rules, created by those who consider themselves above them. So we became radicals, who accepted neither.” — Jonathan Hickman’s THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2



THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2- I find writer Jonathan Hickman’s work very hit and miss. Quite frankly more miss than hit, while always filled with elaborate and imaginative ideas, his work generally lacks an emotional quotient, an emotional core, to make it worth reading.

His writing then becomes simple extrapolations of the head, that lack heart. Cold and off-putting works. I find this of almost all of his mainstream work that I have tried, SECRET AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR, his current AVENGERS work I find unreadable dreck, with nothing to keep anyone emotionally interested or invested.

His Indie work can be likewise a gamble. Volume 1 of his Image series THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS was okay, if unremarkable. However I’m glad to say Volume 2 is much better, as Hickman is finally starting to pull taut the threads of his story.

The art by Nick Pitarra does a lot of the heavy lifting, with fun sight gags and panels that makes this far more entertaining than arguably the words or script alone would convey. I point you to the panel of the oval office orgy (say that three times fast 🙂 )for proof of that.

So lifted up on Pitarra’s visuals Hickman’s MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 2 is finally starting to hit its stride. And while Volume 1 is okay to read, it is not necessary, you could just pick up Volume 2, as it brings you up to speed pretty quickly. Grade: B. Worth a Purchase.

The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2 – Price your copy here


Graphic Novel Round Up: HAWKEYE MY LIFE AS A WEAPON

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HAWKEYE MY LIFE AS A WEAPON – This book does excel on several fronts. Writer Matt Fraction crafting a mainstream super-hero book that is refreshingly free of super-heroics. Rather it is a very ground-level heist, crime flick with a typically poorly used character in Clint Barton’s Hawkeye, finally allowed to shine.

The story is neither deep nor great, while visually reminiscent of such classics as DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN and BATMAN YEAR ONE this book lacks the depth to make it the equal of either of those. However that’s fine, not everything has to be excellent or great, there is a place for very good, and that niche MY LIFE AS A WEAPON fills admirably.

There are missteps to be sure, the collection sports only five issues of the series, with two of those being done by a less accomplished artist than David Aja, and the last story feels like what it is, a weak filler YOUNG AVENGERS story that has no place in this collection. At $17 for the softcover it’s an expensive read that ends on not a completely satisfying note. I personally am glad I rented this rather than buying it. Grade: B-.

What I’m reading and watching! Quick ratings!

What I’m reading! Quick ratings!

BATMAN AND ROBIN BORN TO KILL by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason- After reading one disappointing ‘NEW 52’ book after another (ACTION COMICS by Grant Morrison comes to mind) I went into this read with some trepidation, but it was unwarranted. Tomasi crafts a solidly engaging read that is good from first page to last and complimented by great art by Gleason and Gray. Strongly Recommended! B+.
Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill (The New 52)

SUPERMAN BATMAN SORCERER KINGS- Is a hodge-podge of four different stories, none of which really ever rises to become anything more than tedious. D.

What I’m watching:

Just finished watching Michael Moore’s SICKO and CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY back to back, and they are both powerful, essential, if not always easy viewing.

CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY is particularly brilliant, has been called Moore’s Magnum-Opus and I concur. It’s a courageous, informative, and well put together film. Sometimes Moore has a way of perhaps working a theme into the ground, and beating us over the head, and I felt that in SICKO, acutely. ‘Yeah, okay I get it, other countries have better healthcare than the US, how many examples are you going to show me? Move on to solutions.’.

Somewhere in most of Moore’s films that thought process rears up, however it didn’t in CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY. Potentially Moore’s last film it is undeniably his best. And both films, will make you want to make real, hard changes in your life. As it makes clear that the people you entrust with your well being… don’t care about that… at all. Both films should really be seen, and CAPITALISM must be seen.
Capitalism: A Love Story

WEDNESDAYS WORDS Review: SUPERMAN ACTION COMICS Vol I by Grant Morrison

This is a special Wednesday Words Review as opposed to our normal coverage. Enjoy:

SUPERMAN ACTION COMICS by Grant Morrison- Starts off impressively, but true to just about everything I’ve tried by Grant Morrison it loses its way in the middle, and completely falls apart into uninteresting storytelling by the end. The first chapter is very strong. The second chapter is strong till the last few pages. The third chapter, again strong, but loses it in the last few pages as Morrison tries to build his overarching story, which I’ve come to the conclusion he’s not really good at. He’s a great idea guy, but going from imaginative idea to compelling and satisfying storyline/wrap-up is a leap Morrison has always, in my estimation, failed at doing. He’s the X-FILES of comics.

From issue #4 up is all the over-arching, high-idea storyline, and the problem with it is… it is incredibly uninteresting. And it stays uninteresting till it limps to what has come to be a norm for Grant Morrison, a poorly told, to the point of near incoherence ending. And it is not a point of not getting Grant Morrison, as his cult is quick to jump to, it’s a point of his writing stops being in anyway a compelling and fun story, and feels like a chore and dissertation that the writer himself has long lost any interest in. And the variable art quality doesn’t help. Another Morrison D-. The only real saving grace of the series is the enjoyable, exquisitely written and beautifully drawn backup strips by writer Sholly Fisch and artists Brad Walker and ChrisCross. The backup strips are an easy B+. I wish Sholly Fisch had written the main story rather than Grant Morrison.

Final Grade: D- for the main Grant Morrison storyline. B+ for the Sholly Fisch back up stories. So can’t recommend buying the book but if you can get it for free from a friend or the library, the backup strips are worth a look.

Superman – Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52)