Friday, September 16, 2005

Four-color Fridays v.1, #1

Although I devote a lot of time and energy into my Movie and TV addictions, my true pop-culture passion has always been comic books. At times in the past I’ve downplayed my fanboy predilections due to a desire to avoid the “you read comic books and you’re how old?” looks, but those days are long behind me. I now embrace my comic book love whole-heartedly and even managed to work comics into at least one assignment each semester while working on my Masters degree:

  • Introduction to Information Control: created a comic book database
  • Introduction to Information and Access Retrieval: created an annotated bibliography of comic books
  • Collection Development: created a collection development budget for comics
  • Genre Fiction: wrote a 15 page (single spaced) paper on the use of different genres in American comic books
  • Website Development: created the Infinite Monkeys web page
  • Electronic Databases and Information Services: forced my group members to answer reference questions about comic books

But now that I wear my comic book nature on my sleeve, I’ve discovered that most people, in an attempt to make polite conversation, ask the same question: “What comic books do you collect?”

I’m never sure how to answer that question, since the odds are that a discussion of the books I actually collect would more than likely cause my audience’s eyes to glaze over in a mixture of boredom and confusion, since there isn’t a Superfriend in the bunch. That won’t be a problem here, however, since I don’t actually have to look at your faces as you read this. So, what follows is a list of the books I’m currently buying in monthly format, instead of waiting for them to be collected in Trade Paperback (or TPB) format.


Birds of Prey: Only tangentially connected to the (mercifully) short-lived WB series. Originally conceived by Chuck Dixon, the book stumbled a bit after he left, but has regained its former glory (and, to me, even surpassed it) under the talented hands of Gail Simone. The series follows Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and former Batgirl, who, after being paralyzed by The Joker, used her l33t haxxor skills to become the superhero world’s resident fount of information, Oracle. BoP also follows Oracle’s (primarily female) field agents, most notably Black Canary and Huntress. Smart, funny, and action-packed book.

Firestorm: A revamp of one of my favorite characters as a kid. The original Firestorm was two people (a dim jock and a nuclear physicist) who merged together to form Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. Over the years the concept of Firestorm has been tweaked in several different directions, and I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the latest variation when I first heard about it. But, the likeable characters have won me over.

JLA: This is one of those series that goes on and off my pull list depending on the writer. The arc by the current team of Allan Heinberg (he writes for The O.C. ) and Geoff Johns (one of my top 5 “if he writes it, I will buy” writers) has it back on my list temporarily, but we’ll see where I stand after the dust from Infinite Crisis settles (more on that later).

JSA: One of the first series I got hooked on as a kid was Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron, which was set during WWII and revolved around all of DC’s original stable of superheroes. So it’s only natural that I would be attracted to JSA, which focuses on some of those Squadron characters, as well as their successors. Plus, it’s written by the aforementioned Geoff “he’s a frickin’ genius” Johns. Also picking up the spin-off series, JSA Classified.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The one series I feel compelled to buy no matter what. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs over the years (I’m looking at you, Sneckie!), and the latest revamp, in which the Legion is more of a cultural phenomenon than a super-team, is a far cry from the Legion I grew up with, but LSH will always hold a special place in my heart.

Manhunter: A relatively new series with ties to several old ones, this book follows Federal prosecutor Kate Spencer, the latest individual to don the helm of the Manhunter. Prompted to seek vigilante justice against criminals who have been able to escape the criminal justice system, Kate has proven to be an interesting protagonist. Can’t say I’m happy with the way the author has retconned out the last couple of Manhunter series for the sake of his latest plotline, but that’s my only real complaint with the series so far.

Teen Titans: Another title from Geoff “How many books is he writing?” Johns. This series brings back the majority of the team from the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans series from my youth (all of whom are represented in a slightly altered form on the Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans series), along with the latest versions of the original Titans. As usual, Johns’ grasp of the characters’ personalities make this a must read.

Y: The Last Man: This SF series by another of my top 5 writers, Brian K. Vaughn, is set in a world where a mysterious plague has killed off every male on the planet except for a stage magician named Yorick Brown. The book follows the adventures of Yorick and his companions as they try to discover exactly what it is that made him immune, while trying to keep his existence a secret from groups who would want to use him for their own means.

Infinite Crisis: As I mentioned in my very first post, one of the major comic book events in my childhood was DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, which caused massive upheavals in the status quo of must about every series DC was publishing. Now, 20 years later (dang, that makes me feel old), DC is ready to shake things up again with its Infinite Crisis event. So far they’ve been building up to the series with 4 precursor mini-series, each of which I’ve been buying like a good mindless fanboy. In addition to setting the stage for the Crisis, each one has been structured to reintroduce and revitalize a segment of the DC universe which has lain fallow for the last several years. The OMAC Project is setting the stage for a revamp of DC’s espionage titles; Days of Vengeance promises to redefine the scope of mystical characters in the years to come; The Rann-Thanagar War has brought in almost every major space faring character or race you could think of; and my favorite of the four, Villains United, is working towards making the super-villains of DC a true force to be reckoned with. While I’m a bit nervous about what the exact ramifications of Crisis might be, I am hopeful that the promises of a much tighter editorial control this time around will help things from spinning out of control like they did with the original CoIE. Oh, and three guesses as to who’s writing the new series . . .


Defenders: Another revamp of one of my childhood favorites, this time at the hands of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, who are probably best known in the comic world for their hilarious tongue-in-cheek version of the Justice League in the 90s. This is currently just a mini-series, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit, and am hoping it leads to more. Still, the Defenders just aren’t the same without Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Hellcat.

New Thunderbolts: Let me start by saying that I loved the original Thunderbolts series. Kurt Busiek took a bunch of second- and third-rate villains and turned them into three-dimensional characters who were doing their best to seek redemption. Even after Kurt left the series, I was a fan of Fabian Nicieza’s take, even if he did overdo the “twist endings” a bit. I was saddened when it was cancelled, and quite excited when its return was announced. However, this new series has not been able to recapture the magic of the original for me. There are still flashes of the book that I loved, but those flashes are a little too few and far between right now. I’m hoping that once the current Purple Man story is finished and all of this mind-control mess is straightened out, things will begin to gel a bit better. And now that Hawkeye’s back from the dead, I’m hoping that the return of my favorite Thunderbolt, Moonstone, isn’t too far behind.

Powers: Formerly published by Image, this recent addition to Marvel follows the adventures of a couple of police detectives who work the “powers” beat, dealing with super-powered crime. One of the benefits of a creator-owned series is that anything could happen to any character at any time, and that sort of uncertainty helps keep Powers on the cutting edge issue after issue. I would say “month after month”, but that might imply that Bendis and Oeming actually manage to put out an issue each month . . .

Runaways: Another book by Brian K. Vaughn, this series operates under an interesting concept: a group of teenagers discover that their parents are actually group super-villains known as The Pride. In the first series the teens gained powers and rebelled against their parents, defeating them. After the TPBs sold well, the series was renewed. In the new series the gang is trying to protect their base of operations from the sudden influx of villains who are swarming in to fill the power vacuum left by the absence of The Pride.

She Hulk: Dan Slott’s take on the Jade Giantess is one of the most consistently funny and entertaining books around. I only caught the first series in TPB, but am definitely going to be picking up the monthlies when they start up again next month. I’ve enjoyed Slott’s writing so much, I’m also tempted to pick up his Thing series which starts in November.

Ultimate Spider-Man: This is not your father’s Spider-man. Brian Michael Bendis’s reinvention of Spidey has its champions and it detractors. Personally, this is the only one of the Ultimate series that I have found to be a consistently engaging and entertaining read. Bendis takes a lot of crap for his decompressed and dialogue-heavy storytelling style, and at times I can agree with that (especially on Daredevil), but for this series it works for me.

X-Factor: Although not officially starting for a couple of months, this revival of Peter David’s X-Factor spinning out of his recent Madrox mini-series is a welcome addition to my pull list. Did I mention that Peter David is another of my top 5 writers right now? I didn’t? Well, now I did.

Young Avengers: When Marvel first announced this series, the hoots of derision by fanboys across the world were deafening. And now here we are, 6 issues in, and it’s one of the surprise hits of the year. Propelled on a wave of “What the heck is going to happen next?” YA has shattered the expectations of most of its early critics. Now that the first story arc is over, I’m curious to see in what direction the series travels.


For the most part, I only buy monthlies from the big two, and wait for the trades on everything else. The only exception right now are Soulsearchers and Company by Peter David and Hero Squared by Keith Giffen, two heavily comedic series that I doubt will be getting the TPB treatment anytime soon, and which I feel honor bound to support.

Still with me after that long and grueling tour of my reading habits? Good. Next time I’ll try to take a look at some of my “waiting for the trades” series.