Sunday, 26 October 2008

State of the Nation

Time just keeps flying by. I was recently asked what comics I'm enjoying and was stuck for an answer. Then as I began to think, the names started to come like pregant rain drops, slowly but surely. The problem I have living in Barcelona is that I kind of forget that the books which I buy in collections do still come out as comics and the comics I buy monthly I wouldn't buy as books, for the most part.
On a monthly basis I'm picking up Morrison comics, Action Comics, The Spirit, more often than not Jonah Hex, depending who's drawing it and less frequently, Amazing Spider-Man, depending who it's by.

On a less than monthly basis I'm only picking up All Star Batman, Rasl and Acme Novelty Library, now that the outstanding All Star Superman has finished. That's it!
The latest issue of All Star Bats was the best to date, despite the mess around the swear words etc. Everything kind of comes together on story front and Jim Lee's art is the best of his career.
(On a related note, a LOT of fuss was made about the swearing, blacked out or otherwise, in the latest issue. While I don't particularly feel it's appropriate or necessary in a Batman comic, it rings slightly truer than Miller's bogus slang of the two Dark Knight books. Plus it would seem that Bastard is no longer a swearword at all, turning up all over the place in mainstream comics. Coming soon: C#nt)
Rasl has been really nice but it's only loyalty which has me getting the issues rather than waiting on no doubt one of the several formats it'll be collected in.
Back to the monthlies...
Morrison's Batman only began to speak to me after explaining to a friend what he's been missing. Can the villain of the piece really be Thomas Wayne? In a comics world where people talk about the death of Gwen Stacy and Bucky as sacrosanct, I don't think they'd ever considered that someone might try to bring back Batman's dad. Or is Alfred Batman's dad..? You've gotta keep coming back really.
I still don't know what the R.I.P in the current story holds for the future of Batman but I'm still very interested to find out; a testament to the strength of Morrison's writing in the face of unforgivably poor art and colours.
The main Final Crisis series has been a great, breakneck Morrison superhero story, full of, but not bogged down in, everyone and everything DC. It's hard to care about continuity when a company with Obsessive Continuity Disorder can publish the Death Of The New Gods eight part series before Final Crisis which hinges on a different death of the New Gods. So you have to take it on it's own terms, or certainly I do, as I couldn't care less about the rest of the 'Universe'.
Unfortunately, JG Jones who was described as the only person for the job has now bowed out. Initially he was going to share art duties, from half way through, with Carlos Pacheco but we now know Doug Mahnke will finish the book. This would be fine but he'll be inked by Cristian Alamy who he worked with on the dreadful Final Crisis: Requiem. I like Cristian Alamy a lot as an artist and an inker but he cleans up Mahnke which is quite unecessary. Morrison once more scuppered by the art of comics. An interesting note is that JG Jones has been quoted as saying Mahnke should have drawn it in the first place. I can't help but think that a reined in JH Willliams or Adam Kubert would have been better choices for the book from the get go.

Action Comics has been consistently great as mentioned in several previous posts. Geoff Johns is breathing so much life into the stories and characters and Gary Frank has nailed every design, page and deadline making it the best all round monthly. In a turn for the worse, DC have decided to tie it to James Robinson's Superman (which hasn't been great) and even Supergirl.
While the foundations which Johns has laid full of potential, with the whole of Kandor made full size (squashing who knows how many polar bears) in antartica , I'm simply not going to buy three Superman books of varying quality. A great jumping off point and really bloody irritating.
The Spirit has suffered from rotating artists but as the stories are done in one it's not too bad. New regular artist Mike Ploog did one issue. Paul Smith's done several but seems to have disappeared to be replaced by Chad Hardin and Aluir Amancio. The stories are still fun (and funny) thanks to Aragonés and Evanier though I really hope they'll still do the occasional special with good, big name artists. DC haven't released the sollicitation details correctly in months so you never know who'll turn up. We'll see.
Last up is Jonah Hex which is great fun. A labour of love, heavily researched, dense and pared down to fit most every story in one issue. I recently picked up a couple of stray back issues ,having started buying when Jordi Bernet began as frequent contributor. There was a great Pual Gulacy issue, though I'm not the biggest fan, and one by a guy, who's new to me, called Rafa Garres. His art is meaty and visceral, cartoony and realistic and coloured by himself to great effect. He's now done two issues (including the latest) and I believe is slated to be the artist on the series' first big six part story coming next year featuring Hex and pretty much every other DC western character.
While the above are the regular monthlies I keep an eye on/pick up I still scan Previews for fill-ins or minis by people who are worth following. This is how I know to look out for Vigilante by Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi (no word on the inker)in December. This'll be an ongoing though time will tell how long he'll keep it up for, we're looking at some good street level Leonardi for at least a few months.
While the above list doesn't look too positive as a representation of the thousands of comics published a month the list of regular and up coming collections just keeps getting bigger;Hellboy, BPRD, Umbrella Academy, Casanova (number one online here), Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider, 100 Bullets, Scalped, Fear Agent, Kyle Baker's Special Forces, Criminal, Dave Lapham's Young Liars, Joker by Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Conan, Joe Kelly's I Kill Giants, Joe Casey's Godland (number one here)and Charlatan's Ball, new Top Ten (sans Alan Moore).
Collections bought over the last several months and enjoyed include Silver Surfer: In thy Name by Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat, Metal Men by Duncan Rouleau (at left) , ClanDestine by Alan Davis, the Coraline adaptation by P Craig Russell, Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, Berlin by Jason Lutes, Superman: Kryptonite by Cooke and Sale (at bottom), Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Fantastic Four: The End by Davis and Farmer.
I appreciate the the above is all a bit dense but I feel the need to justify why despite the fact that the Previews catalogue is a daunting and depressing monthly browse, I feel there're still enough good solid books being made to make it worthwhile coming back. We have the likes of Mignola, Pearson, Fegredo, Sean Phillips, RM Guera, Alan Davis, Jeff Smith, Grant Morrison (more Seaguy coming!!!!), John Romita JR, Gabriel Ba, Risso...the list goes on, of great comics creators who are still producing great comics with varying degrees of regularity. We just need to invest the effort in filtering through all the tat. We'll see if I still feel this way this time next year.