TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 3: In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Third column. I am coming out of my sophomoric slump with an all star one this week. The only problem is that the comic industry basically takes the last week of December off meaning that there are less than 10 mainstream comics releasing. I’m not going to resort to recommending comics that I don’t believe in 100% (actually like 80% but you get the point) just to fill space so I’m going to resort to recommending books that don’t really fit the “TRY SOMETHING NEW” criteria. That’s called integrity folks. It’s not just a great metal band from Cleveland.

Before I move on to books that need your attention I would like to give a nod to Dan Slott and the Spider-Man team for wrapping up Amazing Spider-Man this week in an interesting and different direction. Mr. Slott and the Spider-Man crew have put out a really great book for a few years, consistently among the best superhero books on the shelf. Every time they try and push the story forward, evolve the character, or even just do something compelling they meet with a great deal of resistance from folks who want their superhero books to be a never changing constant in their lives. I am not sure what drives a person to want to read the same thing year in and year out, but my thanks to the Spider-Man team for not giving in to them. These are stories not security blankets. The curtain goes up, we meet a character, the curtain goes down and that character is somehow different. That is how stortytelling is supposed to work. Anyway, buy SPIDER-MAN #700 and celebrate the end of an era.

Of the handful of new titles this week, the only thing that really caught my eye as “try something new” material is Brian Wood & Ming Doyle’s MARA #1 from Image. Brian Wood has long been a favorite of mine for, at worst doing interesting and unique books (COURIERS, NEW YORK 4), and at his best being among the top writers in comics (DMZ, NORTHLANDERS, LOCAL). With his new series from Dark Horse, THE MASSIVE, easily making the best books of the year list, and his work on ULTIMATE X-MEN quickly becoming one of the best runs that book has ever had, I was very excited for MARA. Mr. Wood is good for nothing if not keeping you guessing, and MARA certainly does that in spades. A dystopian tale about the world’s most famous female volleyball player. I don’t think I need to really say anything else. Either that interests you or it doesn’t. Personally I love reading something I have never read before and this easily falls into that category. In a year of weird premised comic books, a 20+ year old story by Alan Moore takes the cake (FASHION BEAST) but MARA certainly gave it a run for it’s money. RIYL: Brian Wood’s more “out there” dystopian work, the volleyball scenes in Top Gun, or sci-fi that doesn’t “feel” sci-fi.

On to things that didn’t come out this week but you should pick up. Anders Nilsen is one of the great indie comic creators to emerge in the last decade. Everything he touches has a deeply personal and intimate feel and this allows the stories he choose to tell to be both wildly unique and relatable. His epic BIG QUESTIONS is a must read for the “lit” comics set and deserves it’s place on shelves alongside other modern classics that start with “B” like BLANKETS, BLACK HOLE, BUILDING STORIES, and BORING, DAVID. But Mr. Nilsen’s most personal work has also been the one that was the hardest to get for years, DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW. Finally back in print, DGWICF is bar none one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking stories I have ever read. Using journal entries, photos, postcards, and comics, Mr. Nilsen recounts the love he shared with his fiancee, Cheryl Weaver. You follow their tale through vacations and young love, her getting sick with cancer, her hospitalization, and, heartbreakingly, through her memorial. This book is an amazing tribute to the love shared between two people and the fragility of the human experience. RIYL: Crying.

SAUCER COUNTRY is the new ongoing series by a couple of the more interesting creators in comics from one of the best publishers. Paul Cornell (Dr. Who tv show, BATMAN & ROBIN, CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI-13, etc)), Ryan Kelly (BOOKS OF MAGIC, DMZ, etc) have put together a great political alien abduction series that is as smart as it is fun. Equal parts X-Files, EX MACHINA, and The Manchurian Candidate, this book is worth picking up if you are a fan of any of that stuff. RIYL: All the stuff I just mentioned. Come on, pay attention.

My final recommendation of recent stuff that is worth grabbing is MARK TWAIN WAS RIGHT. The always excellent Microcosm Publishing releases this collection of comic journalism about the 2001 Cincinnati riots. Dan P. Moore recounts through personal experience and interviews the days leading up to and after the police shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black teenager. MTWR tells the story of the riots and civil disobedience from a perspective we are rarely are offered, the community itself. The Cincinnati riots are a major moment in recent American history and the roots and causes of the anger and sadness that took over that city for days deserve your attention as much as anything on a comic store shelf. It’s one of those rare instances where comics aren’t just telling this important story better than other media, comics is the only one telling it. Support a unique voice, support a worthwhile book, and get yourself a great book all at the same time. RIYL: Comics journalism by folks like Joe Sacco, Ted Rall, or Guy Delisle.

That’s it for my my third column. Can you tell I wrote this one when I was extra tired? I can. As always, thanks for reading. And to those of you who do, thanks for supporting new books and new ideas in comics.

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