Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Giving in to Peer Pressure

Two of my very favorite series are ending this month: Dan Slott's humorous and charming superhero series The Thing, and the Steve Gerber/Mary Skrenes prison drama Hard Time. Even thinking about this depresses me, as both were exactly what I love in comics: entertaining, smart, fun reads that earned my cash.

I'm so cheesed. The Thing was the only Marvel book I read; as a former big-league Marvel Fiend, to find myself still reading comics but not touching Marvel is amazing. And Hard Time? Jeebus. Someday soon I'll have to write a postmortem on the series and why it gave me hope for the medium. With any luck, it'll be remembered as an unjustly ignored oasis of Damn Good Comics.

Therefore, out of solidarity with most of the other bloggers I read and because I'm running perilously low on comics I like, I'm giving a new, widely-beloved underdog a shot: Manhunter. The basic premise does little for me, but when so many smarty-pantsed bloggers rave about it and go into hysterics at the prospect of its cancellation, then fine, I'll give it a shot.

A few thoughts:

--Much as I grouse about the cheesecake covers on Dan Slott's other smart, funny book, She-Hulk, twenty bucks says that the horndog appeal of said covers keeps it alive. Betcha. -sigh-

--Hawkgirl: a letdown. A letdown with protruding nipples and what I can only describe as "comedy breasts." Man, what the hell is that about? Or did I answer that question with the previous thought?

--When I go into the shop, there's so much material now that rests in a nebulous gray zone, where it interests me enough to want to read it, but not enough to part with three bucks to do so. Stacks and stacks of stuff catch my attention, but almost never quite enough. I have a hard spending cap, not a large one, and it's ingrained in me a high standard of comic buyin'. That which is boring, derivative, or suckass must go, and it must go immediately. That which is okay but not gripping tends to stay on the shelf too. This leaves a shockingly thin field from which to draw. Also, it means I do a hell of a lot of fishing, picking up random issues of stuff I've never heard of, in a foolish hope that something will strike my fancy. Seldom does it succeed. Argh.

--Someday, when the Comic Book Gods are less cruel, they will allow the publication of a Showcase Presents volume of The Brave and the Bold when Bob Haney was writing it. The insane Whirly-Bat, Earth-Haney, Batman-checking-out-hot-girls-on-a-sunny-afternoon days of yore. And on that day, I will do the Happy Fanboy Dance.

--Essential Defenders Volume Two, the fruit of Crazy Marvel at its craziest and best, would also generate this dance, at an even greater intensity. You should see it. The Happy Fanboy Dance is part MC Hammer, part polka, part lambada, and just a smidge of morris dancing. The ladies, they love it.

--The small-time indy comic Elk's Run got a glowing mention in Entertainment Weekly some time back. Two things should be noted here: first, Elk's Run really is excellent. It's one of the few comics I recommend wholeheartedly, even to non-comic fans. It does the medium proud. Second, EW has a circulation of over 1.6 million. Net result of this staggering publicity, the likes of which few comics could even dream? An increase of about three hundred issues sold. Yes, the distribution system for comics is powerfully messed up. Gads.

--I read a chunk of Nextwave in the shop, and to my dismay, I didn't find it funny. Absurdist humor is tough. The issue (the one with Fin Fang Foom and his giant pants) felt tone-deaf. "Giant Chinese Dragon from Outer Space + Superheroes + Giant Pants" should equal comedy gold, but it didn't pull it off. Argh. Had I the money to spend on comics I don't dig, I'd buy a few issues and dissect the crap out of 'em, see why it doesn't resonate for me.

--Conan: Fun. Loud. Interesting. But I always burn out on him after a year or two. Just can't keep that stuff up for too long before it becomes a blur of over-muscled swordsmen, monsters, and angry self-pity crafted into sullen contempt. Bored with him again.

--Thinking of this, is anybody reading the new Warlord series? Is it any good? The blogosphere, at least the part of it I read, has been silent. Bart Sears art scared me away.

--I'm so bored and frustrated with the bulk of the world-o-comics that I'm inching towards picking up another Internet Darling, in hopes that maybe it is as good as people say. The target? Scott Pilgrim. My hesitation? The last few Internet Darlings I tried were huge letdowns.

Blankets was a young adult novel written by a young adult. Reading it as a grown man felt bizarre. Polly and the Pirates never caught my imagination. Two issues of boredom was enough. Street Angel was okay, but not nearly as clever or interesting as the blogosphere seemed to think. It's a trifle, a pleasant diversion, jammed with pop culture riffs. Not the stuff of greatness. A friend loaned me the first collection of Invincible, and it was pretty good, but...I just can't work up the interest to buy it. The first issue of Fell was online, and I read it. Lemme just say that cynicism is both boring and unsophisticated, and that to shock me takes a lot more than sexual deviance or violence. Thus, I give it a pass. Leafing through the works of Internet Darling James Kochalka turned me off of his works completely. Again, I'd be more than happy to discuss it at length, but I'm not paying for one of his books. Maybe if the library has one.

Scott Pilgrim has the earmarks of another book I wouldn't much like. I was born a few years too early to catch the manga vibe. The world of small-time musicians is one I've lived, and it holds no interest for me anymore. I can't romanticize it. The video-game-esque approach sounds like a recipe for meaninglessness, and thus, boredom.

And thus I hesitate. Could be great, could be something that Everyone Loves But Harvey. Hurm.

So I throw it open to you, the comic book internet folks: what's good out there these days? Is there anything you'd call great? Right now I'm reading Action Philosophers, The Black Coat, Blue Beetle, Godland, Rex Libris, Jonah Hex, Shaolin Cowboy, Aquaman, Elk's Run, and one or two others that I can't remember off the top of my head. Oh, and 52 for the goof, at least for now. Graphic novel recommendations would also be appreciated. Assume I have the classics already.

--You know what would be cool? If ATMs dispensed not only cash but donuts. "I'll take...forty bucks...and a cruller..."


  • Jeez, and people call me cynical and jaded ...

    I will pimp Rex Mundi until I die! Until I die, say I!

    By Blogger Greg, at 8:18 PM  

  • Agreed on Hard Time and "hope for the medium" -- well, so much for that.

    Are you not reading Jack Staff by Paul Grist? I'm not the kind of person who tells other people what they should be reading...but you really should.

    By Blogger Richard, at 1:40 AM  

  • Thanks for the suggestions, folks!

    The two comics that I get that I'd forgotten to mention are All-Star Superman, which is a hoot, and Secret Six, which is my favorite cape-n-cowl book. Villain-centric stories, well-written? Sweet.

    Lemme see here...

    Loveless and Rex Mundi? I've heard a little bit about both, and they indeed sound worthy of tries.

    I'm wavering on Scott Pilgrim, but I'll probably give in and get the first volume soon.

    I did get Jack Staff for a while--I have the last few Elephant issues, the Elephant trade paperback of the first six, and the first dozen or so issues from Image. It's way cool and different in the best way, but over time I lost interest. I'm a very story-driven reader, and the storylines in Jack Staff didn't work all that well for me. The stories were driven by mystery heaped upon mystery, and the resolutions never quite clicked in my head. It's a book that I agree everyone should at least check out--Grist is incredible, and his layouts should be studied by every serious fan of the medium. I don't regret dropping the book, but it's one that I don't hesitate to recommend to anybody who hasn't seen it yet.

    By Blogger Harvey Jerkwater, at 9:55 AM  

  • Rex Mundi is my favorite series of the past 3 years (besides Sleeper, RIP). It's smart and well-drawn, with a very interesting "what if" premise.

    I found Scott Pilgrim vol. 1 amusing, but I'm not sure if I want to commit to 7 volumes worth.

    Currently, I'm engrossed in King by Ho Che anderson (I found the original 3 volumes at a used book store, and paid about 35% cover price). Biographies aren't my thing, but I'm rivetted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:59 AM  

  • My standing recommendation is Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I've discovered about myself that I'm constitutionally incapable of not collecting Legion comics, so you should take that with a grain of salt, but it really is good these days. I also checked out Wonder Woman this week and quite liked it.

    By Blogger Matthew E, at 3:28 PM  

  • Let's see, you're reading Hex and Godland, so really, everythin else is just gravy.

    I would recommend my very favorite mini of the last couple of years, the Peter David Madrox series that's out in trade now.

    Or, if you're inclined towards a longer saga, buy the first trade of Azzarello's 100 Bullets and just see if you're not hooked.

    By Blogger Chris, at 3:40 PM  

  • I picked up the first trade collection of 100 Bullets during a previous spell of "there's nothing to read, lemme try this thingy here." It was...okay. Not enough to get me interested in continuing on with the series, but not too bad.

    Here's an odd one for you: I cannot work up the slightest enthusiasm for Y: The Last Man. I borrowed a collection from the local library and couldn't get through it. Call me a dirty heathen and a walrus fondler if you must, but it didn't do a dang thing for me. Well-constructed, well-written, dull as my cousin Manny.

    I'm an ornery, difficult man. Can't help it.

    By Blogger Harvey Jerkwater, at 4:05 PM  

  • I also resisted the Scott Pilgrim hype at first, let down by the mere okayness of Street Angel, but O'Malley really delivers the goods in the first volume. Not convinced that it has the legs to live up to the hype through to the end, but three volumes in and I'm firmly on the bandwagon.

    I second the Madrox TPB recommendation, too! Great character-centric read.

    Have you ever read Artesia? Just discovered it myself and tore through the first TPB last night and absolutely loved it. Highly recommended!

    By Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, at 4:49 PM  

  • I don't know what is going wrong with Hawkgirl, but it's definitely a disappointment so far.

    I'd be tempted to just ask Chaykin and Simonson to switch jobs on the title, and see how that works out....

    By Blogger David C, at 10:41 PM  

  • You didn't like Nextwave, Street Angel, or Fell? There's no hope for you. Those are some of my favorite comics in years.

    Have you read Scurvy Dogs? You'd probably hate it, I guess, but try it anyway.

    But then, I found Godland to be joyless, so what do I know?

    By Blogger Bill Reed, at 9:22 PM  

  • I have a trade paperback of Scurvy Dogs, and I dug it. My copy was a prize, won from Greg Burgas a year ago with my salty pirate speech. Aahr.

    By Blogger Harvey Jerkwater, at 9:07 AM  

  • Harvey -

    You know how f'ed up the distribution system is? Your estimate of a 300 issue increase is about 200 issues too high.

    That means 100 people out of a potential 1.9 million decided to:

    a) check the book out
    b) go to their LCS
    c) Place an order for the book
    d) Returned within one to two months
    e) Found that their LCS actually remembered to order the book

    Needless to say, we're excited about the Vilard deal.

    By Blogger Jason, at 12:29 PM  

  • Harvey. Scott Pilgrim is worth a shot. I was unsure about it when I started reading the first volume but it does ooze a lot of charm. You'll either be won over mid way through the first volume or find it totally irrelevant. I let my suspension of disbelief run away with me and got caught up in the sheer manic joy of the story. The 3rd book is my least favourite but I was also quite distracted when reading it.

    I'm really liking Northwest Passage for a bit of rollicking adventure done in the Bruce Timm style and in a location not seen very often in comics.

    I'm also really liking Mouse Guard but it's not exactly a meaty series. It is very much a young reader's series but kind of like The Little Prince is a young reader's book. It's a streamlined beautiful book but you aren't going to get the same crammed content per dollar spent as you'll get with the Action Philosopher's first trade.

    By Blogger joncormier, at 2:39 PM  

  • Warlord is awful. The blogoverse is silent because everyone is trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

    I'd second the vote on Supergirl & The Legion of Super-Heroes - Next to Sword of Atlantis its my favorite hero spandex book right now.

    By Blogger Marc Burkhardt, at 8:42 PM  

  • Valuable resource of peer pressure news summaries:

    By Blogger ng2000, at 3:54 PM  

  • Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:40 PM  

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