01st Apr2013

Panel Discussion with Jack Kirby

by Jack Kirby

Jack-Comics

When Phil asked if I’d be interested in writing a regular comics column for the new site, I was happy to confirm that I most certainly was. In my mid to late teens I’d started picking up or being lent the odd graphic novel with some of Alan Moore’s stuff and Dark Horse’s The Mask books being my entry points. At university I read a lot of the well-renowned Batman books (Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween and so forth) but it is only in the last year or so that I’ve started reading more titles, more often and in the last few months, begun picking up monthly books.

I’ve continued to check out numerous Bat Family titles and others in the New 52, numerous Image publications and first time, read a little Marvel. I’ve got a small number of books on my standing order at Orbital Comics and I’ve been picking up whatever takes my fancy on new comics day too. I’ll be letting you know what books I’ve been reading and what I think of it on a roughly weekly basis, with the odd trade paperback thrown in too, as and when I pick them up. I’m going to write a bumper two week edition for this inaugural column, backdated to the comics I picked up on the 20th March. I hope you enjoy the column and please feel free to tip me off to any titles you’d like me to pick up in the comments below

20th March 2013

All New X-Men #9, Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Marvel

I was sold on the concept of All New X-Men: in an effort to talk some sense into a Cyclops gone bad, the original teenage X-Men from what is nominally but not overtly the sixties are brought to the present. Misadventure ensues. Or at least it should have. I’d been reading this title since it launched and dropped it from my standing order after the plot just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. In issue #8 we got a much vaunted appearance from The Avengers which failed to materialise into anything approaching excitement. I picked up #9 being on the shelf as it was, but again, it teases at much but little actually happens. The writing isn’t without wit, but the artwork can be overly complicated. I won’t be reading All New again, but I am looking forward to Brian Wood’s also new, all female X-Men title in May.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1, Frank J. Barbiere, Chris Mooneyham, Image

I bought this under the recommendation of Pop Culture Hound podcaster and Orbital Comics’ retailer, Chris Thompson. Five Ghost’s titular protagonist is possessed by five ‘literary ghosts’; a wizard, an archer, a detective, a samurai and a vampire, whose abilities he can utilise in order to hunt treasure. Set in the early twentieth century, the watchword here is pulp. I fully enjoyed the boys’ own trappings of the tale and Mooneyham’s smart artwork. Being the first of a five issue run, I appreciated that Barbiere didn’t faff about with too much excessive exposition and backstory and got on with the adventure. The signs are strong for a fun series and the next issue promises giant spiders. I’m in.

Constantine #1, Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire, Renato Guedes, DC

As it has done with several other titles and/or characters before, DC have nabbed Constantine from their subsidiary publishers Vertigo’s famous Hellblazer title, which ended last month with issue #300. Constantine gets a new, eponymous book under the New 52, which I picked up out of curiosity. It’s kind of okay – long term fans are apparently worried the character will be watered down under DC; having no point of comparison, I can neither confirm nor deny. The character does chain smoke (a trait I was aware of) but they kind of tease the first appearance of Constantine lighting up. Magic mumbo-jumbo and the like ensue in the book. I won’t commit myself to following this, but I will keep an eye on it as it progresses.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18, Scott Lobdell, Tyler Kirkham, DC

Scott Lobdell came under some not wholly unwarranted accusations of sexism when the Red Hood book was launched with the New 52, due to the cheesecake-portrayal of female character Starfire. I would argue that the way he’s developed the character over his run on the book somewhat makes up for her lack of clothes. In addition, the writing on the series is remarkably strong, as a snarky, irreverent branch of the Bat Family tree. Starfire’s ex-slave, alien sexpot princess and former Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper’s recovering alcoholic – with Killer Croc as his sponsor – make great foils for Jason Todd, the Robin that got killed back in the nineties (and duly resurrected, of course). All of the characters have come from slightly daft areas of the DC Universe but Lobdell has fashioned them into a coherent, compelling and fun on-going narrative. Issue #18 ditches more or less entirely the two supporting characters to re-evaluate Todd’s relationship with Batman in the aftermath of the Death of the Family crossover in a surreal dream sequence. It’s a markedly more serious issue than I’ve become accustomed to, though still very well written and marks a turning point in the rebuilding of the Jason Todd character.

27th March 2013

This month was something of an Image comics special, with the publishers putting out a number of interesting titles…

Savage Skullkickers #1, Jim Zub, Edwin Huang, Image

I picked this one up pretty much on the strength of the title and the fact that along with East of West (below) it’s a number one issue. Except it isn’t really. The Skullkickers have been around for a while now and I guess are poking fun at comic branding with this random number one issue, (last month, they were ‘Uncanny’ Skullkickers), which also has the no-doubt bonus effect of luring unsuspecting newbies like me in. Apparently we’ve got the amusingly-named ‘Dark Skullkickers Dark’ to look forward to soon as well. The book itself concerns a human, an elf and a naked dwarf who apparently traverse a fantasy land, savagely kicking skulls. This issue featured bright colours, amusing narration and satirical frivolity. It didn’t really matter that I wasn’t up to date on the narrative; I still had fun reading it.

East of West #1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Image

A proper number one here and an intriguing one to boot. Set in an alternative America where the Civil War was fought on multiple fronts and was interrupted by a comet hitting the middle of the country too. The US is divided into seven nations. We then fast forward to the year 2064 as three of the horsemen of the apocalypse awaken to bring the world to an end. The fourth horseman is AWOL and seemingly has an agenda of his own. It’s quite a complex scenario that Hickman has created and I had to read the book twice to fully grasp the thing, but I in no way minded doing so and look forward to seeing where the story goes. East of West is a classy western-flavoured addition to Image’s impressive roster of sci-fi that also includes The Manhattan Projects, Saga and Nowhere Men (more of which another time).

Hack/Slash #25, Tim Seeley, Elena Casagrande, Image

Hack/Slash is a series I’ve dabbled with a little bit though I’m more of a fan of Seeley’s Revival, to be honest. For the uninitiated, Hack/Slash sees goth chick Cassie Hack travelling around with her monstrous sidekick Vlad offing slashers. Seeing as this is the final issue, I thought I might as well pick it up. I’m not above admitting that potential resale value didn’t play into this decision. This issue had little of the goofy fun that I had kind of expected from my previous experience of the title and was rather a more serious(ish) conclusion to a six part arc I hadn’t previously read so again, the narrative was fairly lost on me. That said, I’d probably be open to going back and reading what’s gone before, but I think I’d prioritise reading Revival first.

Morning Glories #25, Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, Image

Those who happened across my interview with Joe Eisma will know that I’m a big fan of the work he’s done with Nick Spencer on Morning Glories, the tale of abnormal teens in an abnormal boarding school, filled with time travel, demonic ghost-like beings and intrigue. This issue is billed as a season finale though frankly it raises more questions than it answers. Despite having read the thing from the beginning and only recently at that, I hadn’t fully realised how many multiple threads the series had running and just how many characters there are. There’s something of an air of controlled chaos around this issue, with the proverbial hitting the fan on multiple fronts. Though it’s impressive to see the scale the story has grown to, I’m hoping for a return to the more taught and disciplined story-telling that has been one of the series’ strengths so far. Eisma’s artwork is nonetheless gorgeous to look at and the promise of the return of an important character does nothing if not leave you in fevered anticipation of issue twenty-six.

Thanks to @Nyssa23 for the suggested column title!

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