Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rolling in the Gutters

I am pretty thoroughly ensconced in the world of the written word coupled with the active image. And when I sat down to think of which comic books I would turn around and recommend to friends ,I realized to my surprise that I've actually read enough that I could hold forth on quite a few. So what started out as a Facebook post is moving over here because it kept going... and going... and going....
So here's a more-than-lengthy rundown of a few series I've enjoyed, and I'll end it with a few I dislike with ample explanation. Perhaps the ample explanation will be what leads you to try them out on your own and conversely like what I hate, making things awkward in future conversations. Life is awesome that way.

~Justice League~ It's pretty funny, the story's compelling, the art is FANTASTIC, and you watched all of these guys as a kid so you know the group dynamic. I don't want to give out too many spoilers, so I'll just say that Green Lantern spends a lot of time heckling Batman (well, everybody, but especially Batman) and it's pretty amusing. I get antsy waiting for this to come out.
~Batwoman~ The artwork is AMAZING in this. No, I'm not talking your typical comic book artwork. They have some of the most abstract yet amazing stuff around the edges, touching on hispanic artwork as well as amazing interplay of images... there are gutters without being gutters in this thing and it's amazing. The storyline borrows accurately from Hispanic culture and is an interesting interplay in and of itself, worth the read. Word of warning... you need to be okay with lesbians to enjoy the story line. Homophobes are probably not going to enjoy the implied sex in #4.
‎~Invincible Iron Man ~ Rolling in to issue #512 next month, this is one of the more morally and emotionally intricate stories I've followed. They just finished the Fear Itself arc, and while it was quite kitschy and an excuse to get everyone together in the Marvel Universe (think Marvel zombies except it didn't suck) it laid out some awesome groundwork for future problems everybody needs to deal with. VERY smooth segue in to Tony Stark being harassed by the Mandarin after the worst day of his life. If you want to catch up you can read Omnibus #1 and #2, and pick up Extremis. It's just a nice little read.
~LI'L DEPRESSED BOY!~ It will remind you of everything you hated about high school, and some of you in to college and beyond (ahem...) with all the awkwardness, the longing, and those brief awesome shiny moments of life when things are perfect. Reading it makes me ache in recognition and smile in understanding, cuz somebody else "gets it" and managed to craft a beautiful story out of such strung-out differences in living.
~The Unwritten~ is awesome. Start with the trade paperbacks, Vol. 1. It starts out making fun of the cult following around things like Harry Potter and how the media can explode around the smallest thing (and how the internet can kill) and it just goes from there in to something purely awesome about the creativity of humanity and how we can form realities with mere words. A quick spoiler? Frankenstein helps the protagonist hijack Moby Dick with a doorknob. Yes, I'm serious.
~A God Somewhere~ for people who are okay with their superheroes not being so super. An ordinary man gains super powers and starts out helping the world... and you watch through the eyes of his friends as he slowly goes insane and destroys everything that made him human. Also a good commentary on social strata and race and expectations. I loved this one.
‎~Nightmares and Fairytales~ for a weird take on all those old fairytales, the many, many stories are told through the eyes of poor Annabelle, a doll who gets passed from one little girl to another as something horrible happens to each owner in a fairytale-themed way. Despite this somewhat macabre outline, there is a lot in the story about love and hope and innocence that tugs at my heart. The art style is also very unusual, sitting somewhere between something Jhonen Vasquez would render and your average shojo manga.
~The Unknown~ The story of a woman dying from a fatal disease solving the case of a body missing from a closed room... I'm not finished with the series yet (there are only 4) but so far I am really enjoying the writing and the storyline. It's very Sherlock Holmes in the execution, and the heroine does not pull the "look at me, I have boobs yet I manage to be both smart AND sexy" bullshit at all. I must respect that.

There is something to be said for my old favorites, the ones that got me in to comic books in the first place... but considering that was Sandman and The Crow, I think I'll leave those out there as a "not a bad way to spend an afternoon" thing. I would honestly recommend you go read Neil Gaiman's American Gods over the Sandman, despite that being the thing that got him to super rock-star-dom in the first place. If you really want to get a taste for The Endless and Sandman's universe, though, I would highly recommend just snagging Preludes and Nocturnes and seeing if you're in to that. The series just gets more abstract from there. As far as the Crow? Well, my favorite was actually the one where a DEA agent came back after she was killed while pregnant with a child she hadn't told anyone about. It's a very dark storyline. Read it if you need a good downer. Or if you're a goth and that's your normal start to a day.

Another surprise thing to read? Swamp Thing. Seriously. The reboot has a rather complex story, and the artwork has a beautiful retro touch to it as well as some really creative framing of the panels that make it an interesting read. It's not my absolute fave, but I do get excited when I know another one is coming out.

Guilty pleasure right now? Aquaman. Yes, seriously. And all for the single phrase in the very first one - "What is it like to be NOBODY'S favorite superhero?" That sort of self-awareness not only made me chuckle, it told me that they were trying to make a concerted effort to make the story interesting.

Things to avoid? oh my, do I have things for you to avoid.

~Justice League Dark~ Wow, did I want to like this one. It has Constantine, Zatanna (remember Zatanna? She was the one always flirting with Batman) Deadman... and nobody else you've heard of. In fact, you probably haven't heard of Deadman if you're reading this post hoping to learn something. The story is weird, it's dragging, the artwork isn't all that fantastic, and it just feels like they can't get it together. A more accurate description? Remember the Justice League cartoons where Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman and, well, anybody else useful is gone and it's just the Wondertwins and freakin' Gleek to save the day? That's what it feels like. Not even the B team, we're on to the C team. it's harsh, but I'm going to drop it from my pull list after it has bored me for the fourth time.
~The Walking Dead~ okay, don't crucify me. But the story is repetitive, going on and on about the evil of mankind and the hopelessness of life and I swear to god if I'd read the word "dogrape" one more time I was going to scream. Resorting to sexual assault - REPEATEDLY - as part of your storyline doesn't make you edgy. It means you're possibly pushing the buttons of one third of your female readership. Which is what happened with me, I'll admit. That aside, let me go back to the repetitiveness. The characters are all petty and not just flawed to make the story interesting, but fatally flawed to the point of seeming to be beating it in to the reader's consciousness like an ogre wielding a club. I just got tired of what had seemed promising turning in to a story of caricatures. Oh, and dogrape.
~Suicide Squad~ Ugh... I only read the first one and it was so boring I couldn't get past it. They basically collect up a bunch of super-villians (from what I can tell, mostly out of Gotham) and send them out on impossible missions. I did not like the writing on this at all, just trying to be too cool, too edgy, and too "cashing in on the success of Arkham Asylum video games".
~Animal Man~ the artwork makes me squirm. Which is unfortunate, cuz it had a promising story. I just can NOT look at that artwork anymore, and that makes me sad.

I'm sure I'll think of others, and this doesn't even touch on the manga I've been trolling through (May I recommend Dogs vol. 0??? Because I seriously would!) but this is a good start. This is not, by the way, the least of what I am reading or have read. It's just the stuff that is more than mildly amusing or that made me physically laugh out loud. I hope somebody finds their way in to the wide world of all of this with the help of this info. Oh, and I take questions, feel free to post below if you have one!

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