Every now and again I read a comic and am just like “Wow, this book is sick,” but don’t always have more than a few sentences to say about it, let alone a whole post. To that end, with no ambitions whatsoever of any sort of regular schedule, I use this recurring feature to babble about books I’m really digging.
Books like these.
It’s a bit of a tricky thing to recommend Amazing Spider-Man to folks, since while Steve Wacker, Tom Brennan and their team do an incredible job not only cranking out three issues monthly but also keeping a large overall framework for readers to follow, at the end of the day you do still have a creative team and focus that rotates every issue or four (or three or six), so even if somebody digs one arc, they may not love the next. However, if you’re going to give ASM a shot or haven’t in awhile, now is a really good time as they just finished one very strong story and are about to embark on what I feel will be another. Zeb Wells’ four-part “Shed,” bringing back The Lizard and making him creepier than ever, was the kind of intelligent, outside-the-box mini-epic he’s so good at writing and managed to hit paydirt on both the psychological thriller and big action levels. And man—Chris Bachalo, dude. I mean, the guy is basically a legend in this business, but he is constantly stepping up his game, and did so again here as his Lizard literally made me scared to turn the page sometimes (whatever, it happens); Props to Emma Rios as well for helping get the book over the finish line with style. Now we’ve got Joe Kelly and Michael Lark coming in for “Grim Hunt,” another four-parter which is going to wrap the Kraven saga that’s been building nearly a year or so (and I do love me some Kraven). Plus back-up stories by J.M. DeMatteis and two-page “newspaper strips” by Stan Lee and Marcos Martin! Great time to jump on the Spidey bandwagon at least for a bit by tracking down “Shed” and then grabbing “Grim Hunt”—and on the topic, while you’re hitting the back issue bins, also try and snag issue #625, a freaking heartbreaking Rhino story also by Kelly with art by Max Fiumara.
I liked her fine as a Daredevil or Captain America supporting player—though not as leader of those much-reviled-by-me leather jacket-wearing Avengers—but have certainly never had enough affinity for The Black Widow that I thought an ongoing solo series with her as the star would interest me (I liked those Greg Rucka minis, but partly because they were short and mission-driven). I’ve thus been kinda pleasantly surprised by the first three issues of Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s series and how into it I’ve gotten. It helps that a genuinely intriguing mystery is being crafted that I can’t figure out but am able to follow enough to want the next set of clues, but Liu’s Widow is also just a smooth operator. She comes off bad ass in a way really only a chick in leather that doesn’t mind using her sexuality but can figure out six ways to kill everybody in a room can. The use of guest stars from Wolverine to Iron Man to Elektra has been well-tempered too, so that they enhance rather than overshadow Natasha. I’ve also grown quite fond of Acuna’s work the past couple years, and this is a really nice fit for him, as he draws beautiful women, but also really knows how to pull a fight sequence together, and both skills are pivotal here. Kudos as well to my buddy Alejandro Arbona, who edits this book and I know is putting the hours in to really make it sing; you’re doing great work, pal. Liu and Acuna are going to be departing after the first arc ends, so definitely give this one a try ASAP.
Ok, y’all know I love the Muppets, but honestly, I was even more into Fraggle Rock than the main Muppet Show or Sesame Street (to contrast to my musical tastes: I dig metal, but I dig hair metal particularly as a subset, so Fraggle Rock is the hair metal of Muppets metal to me—get it?). It’s such a fun but wickedly subversive concept; I swear guys, a kid can watch that show and parents can feel totally safe because they’re going to just learn good lessons about friendship and junk, but c’mon, you know Fraggle Rock is totally about drug culture. A bunch of hippie types who live underground, have constant munchies for radishes, destroy anything constructed by the “establishment” Doozers and commune with a soul-talking trash heap? Jim Henson wasn’t even trying to hide anything, dudes! Anyways, all that aside—and it’s a lot to put aside, maybe enough for another post someday—Fraggle Rock was always just a fun release for me because it was so bizarre and yet strangely relatable (even before I ever did anything to make it relatable if you smell what I’m cooking). Archaia has done an excellent job catching both the fun innocence and trippy weirdness of “The Rock” in their initial limited series that is wrapping this month. It’s a neat collection of short stories with tight morals and nice all-ages-appropriate adventure plus a solid tour of the Fraggles’ world, which really was Henson’s biggest triumph as far as physically laying out a large and varied space for his creations to inhabit. There’s also a nice mix of creators from more known folks like Jeffrey Brown to my boy Neil Kleid. On a related note, it’s a not-so-secret dream of Kiel’s and mine to do a black and white mature readers version of Fraggle Rock that really gets into what we know the mythology is all about, so do start any grassroots support efforts you can there.
MARVEL ADVENTURES SUPER HEROES
Touched on earlier this week, but to reiterate: this is a really fantastic comic. It’s ostensibly all-ages and each issue is standalone to a degree, so definitely this is the book to hand to any kids you want to catch the comics bug, but if you’re an adult who enjoys fun, clever, sequential art and storytelling, I find it difficult to conceive you wouldn’t also like what Paul Tobin is doing here. Despite the title, it’s really a series about an Avengers team co-led by Captain America and The Invisible Woman with Iron Man, Thor, The Vision, The Black Widow and Nova filling out the rest of the roster. Villains thus far have included Magneto and Mysterio, so right off the bat you get to see how the Avengers interact with X-Men and Spider-Man bad guys, which is just fun. Carrying over from the previous volume, Diablo is sort of the team’s frenemy, plus Reed Richards is a frequent guest star as he’s got some secret plot involving Black Widow and keeping tabs on Sue that gets teased out just a bit more each issue. There are actually a few subplots like that, including Cap having something of a crush on Sue and Vision trying to become more human. There are really limitless possibilities in a Marvel Universe where the Avengers are just getting started with a roster like this plus there’s not a lot of continuity or prior claims by other books to restrict the scope of the stories, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck every month. Also: Paul Tobin writes a really fun Nova.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Tony Bedard’s DC space opera epic when it first debuted, and there were times during the first year or so where I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to follow for the long haul, but lo and behold, I’ve stayed tuned in each month and I think it’s really developed into something special. It took Bedard awhile to get all the pieces into place as he’s working with quite a large cast that seems to be growing monthly plus using that old school—or I guess it’s now also new school—“Paul Levitz on Legion” method of jumping the camera around to different planets every couple pages, but he’s gotten the hang of it and it works. His Vril Dox is exactly the complex bastard/hero he needs to be in order to remain one of DC’s more compelling obscurities while the infusion of cult favorites like Adam Strange, Captain Comet and now Starfire has been balanced well against new characters like Wildstar and the like. Initially I wasn’t so into the idea of one villain like Starro dominating so much time and space in the book, but now I can’t believe I was so opposed, as it works like a good TV show where the villain and their crew are basically part of the ensemble. Claude St. Aubin also does a stellar job on art, with a grainy style that also tackles big set pieces and large-scale action quite nicely. Very interested to see where this book heads with Brainiac coming in as a new major threat and Bedard continuing to grow his horizons out rather than substitute anything.