So yes, quite the grumpy little bastard the other day, wasn't I?
I think I'm allowed. I've had friends tell me I tend to be at my most entertaining when I'm foaming at the mouth about something. Apparently I was very entertaining during my post-university days when the combination of unemployment, living at home and no girlfriend made me a walking entertainment unit.
Anyway, when I'm in a bad mood like I was on Wednesday, I fall back on the surefire cure to put me in a better mood....comic books.
You may mock, but comics always make me happy. They have ever since I was a kid. It's the reason why I still read them nearly 35 years after I started. And hey, last week I got a Big Box of Comics from Chapters, which always makes me happy. Here's what I got.
It might seem like a lot, but my last order was two or three months ago. Once upon a time I used to go to Downtown Comics and drop $50 a week without batting an eye. So probably around $200 a month in comics. Now I drop that once every three months on graphic novels. I have more money, and I buy fewer comics. Funny how that works.
So let's say a few things about this batch, shall we?
Absolute Planetary, Vol II - I have been waiting, no kidding, more than five years for this book to come out. I stopped buying Planetary, the singles, in 2005 when I moved to Iqaluit. That, combined with the deeply erratic publishing schedule meant I had quite the wait to see how this series ends. And considering I view this as one of the best comics of the past 20 years, it's particularly torturous.
The volume isn't for most people. It's over-sized and expensive. But I do recommend picking up the trades for the series. John Cassady's artwork is stunning and Warren Ellis is having fun with this, getting to do his skewered version of everything from the Fantastic Four to the Lone Ranger. Plus, there are conspiracy theories and plenty of Mad Science. I like Mad Science in my comics. It makes me happy.
Amelia Rules: The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular - This is about as far away from Planetary as you're going to get. But writer/artist Jimmy Grownley manages a difficult feat here here; he's produced a book that will appeal to kids, but if you're an adult reading it, there's several gut bustingly hilarious scenes in the comic. Of all the books in the picture, Amelia Rules is the one that just about anybody can pick up and enjoy.
In this case, it's Amelia learning about popularity and the dangers of perhaps being a little too honest. It sounds like an after school special, but Grownley manages to find a way to get a message across without being preachy. Instead, he makes it funny, interesting and sometimes genuinely heartfelt. There's some surprisingly clever writing in here. I really can't recommend it highly enough.
Batwoman: Elegy - This is, all at the same time, a beautiful and mind-blowing frustrating book. First things first, artist J.H. Williams had produced one of the most stylish and beautiful comics I've ever seen. The art has been raved about from all quarters and the raves are justified.
On the other hand Greg Rucka, who is one of my favourite writers, has turned in a story that is at times beautiful, and at other times you want to smack your head against the way. The origin he crafts for the character is one of the best I've read in ages. It really is clever and poignant. However, the other parts of the story are deeply interwoven with years of obscure DC comics continuity. I've been following some of the threads for years, and even I had problems remembering everything.
It's too bad because it's the kind of comic you want to give to people. Kate Kane, the new Batwoman, is gay and is kicked out of the military because of it. She gains new purpose after seeing the Bat signal and see it as a calling to help others that she can no longer do in the military. But then we get into Crime Bible, werewolves and other things. I love the book, but there are times I wonder what Rucka was thinking.
Wednesday Comics - Is the weirdest and most beautifully packaged of the bunch. This is actually a nice comic for people who read comics as a kid, but haven't touched them since. The premise is this - back in the day there used to be one page, serialized strips of Batman, Superman and other characters. Last year, DC produced an over-sized series of anthology strips on newspaper format. This is the collection.
It's a big book, as you can tell. The artwork is mostly stunning and they do their best to play with the format a bit. The problem is that most of the stories are kind of flat. The best of the bunch is the Supergirl story, which is deeply fun. But most of them are kind of flat. Even Neil Gaiman's Metamorpho story didn't work, but then again, that might have to do with me never really caring for the character.
I'm glad I bought the book and I hope they try it again. But I just wish it had been a bit better.
Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour - I never enjoy Scott Pilgrim books the first time through. It normally takes me multiple reads over several months before I really get the swing of it. This book is going to be no different. I've read it twice and feel kind of eh about it. I am still looking forward to the movie, though.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites - Again, one of these books that works if you're not a regular comic book reader. A group of dogs, and a cat, deal with supernatural mysteries in their neighbourhood, Burden Hill (that is a groan worthy title, I must say). It's scary, clever, funny and the sort of thing you smack yourself in the head of for not thinking about it yourself. It also helps that Jill Thompson's watercolours are stunning to look at. It's only $20 for this hardcover, which I would consider a steal at twice the price. Well worth tracking down.
The rest are pretty standard comic book fare. I picked up Power Girl because I love Amanda Connor's artwork, not for any great love of the character. The story is so-so, but Connor's artwork is fun in a cheesecake sort of way. Ultimate Iron Man: Iron Wars is Warren Ellis slumming for a paycheck. I love the man's writing and he has some fun bits, but this is for the hardcore completest of Ellis or Iron Man only.
Captain America: Reborn is another one only for the hardcore fans. Dealing with Captain American's inevitable resurrection, it involves time travel, weird science and giant robots. It's weird because writer Ed Brubaker had been doing a espionage version of the character for years, steering clear of overt superheroics. Yet this is laced with over the top weirdness, that's too silly for Brubaker's previous tone, and yet too straight for over-the-top camp. Pity.
Irredeemable, Vol. 3 is Mark Waid's attempt to do a story about what if Superman went nuts. This is the last volume I'm going to buy of it. It just feels like it's dragging its feet entirely too much and not going anywhere.
X-Men: SWORD is for hardcore X-Men fans only, but that doesn't mean it's a bad comic. It's good, silly sci-fi fun about an agency dealing with alien threats to Earth. It was supposed to be a regular series, but got canned after five issues. Pity, I'd like to read more of the characters. I also like the idea the SWORD agency is there to protect aliens from Earth as much as they are to protect humans. Earth is a dangerous place if you're an alien, after all.
And there you go...those comics will have to do until about October, I should think.
1. Murder on the midnight wire - Bedouin Soundclash
2. General Taylor (live) - Great Big Sea
3. Headache - Liz Phair
4. So she's leaving - The Trews
5. Vittorio E - Spoon