Tagged: matt

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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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 2: A Long Time Ago

So here we are at my second column of TRY SOMETHING NEW! already. Wasn’t too pleased with how the the first one came out, 20/20 hindsight and all, but we press on. New comics wait for no man or woman and so this column where I berate you for not buying enough new comics waits for no man or woman. Let’s get right into the berating, shall we?

Geoff Darrow

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #19 comes out this week. Is it stupid to call a series that is on issue #19 “something new?” Sort of. But I did it anyway. DARK HORSE PRESENTS is a monthly anthology of short comics, sometimes stand alones and sometimes serialized stories, from a mix of the best creators in comics and the most exciting newcomers. Each month Dark Horse Presents offers you something new, hence it’s inclusion in this column. Ranging from one page absurdity pieces to stunning series beginnings, DHP has something for literally every type of comic fan. Lately anthology books have had trouble finding an audience which is a shame unto itself, but the level of talent and great comics in DHP turns that shame into a tragedy. This month alone features a new story from Matt Kindt’s excellent MIND MGMT, Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen bring back X, and Gabriel Hardman and Corrina Bechko start a giant monster story called STATION TO STATION.

A bunch of issues back DARK HORSE PRESENTS premiered a new series by writer Frank Barbiere called THE WHITE SUITS. I thought it was one of the best introductions to a series I had read in years. Equal parts SIN CITY, 100 BULLETS, & WINTER MEN, that first chapter filled a void in comics that badly needed filling- smart and stylish crime books with a healthy amount of conspiracy. Now THE WHITE SUITS is returning and I couldn’t be more excited. Even if the other stuff in DHP doesn’t interest you, I promise this story is worth the price of admission alone. RIYL: Short stories, great things in small doses, being into cool stuff before everyone else.

Nowhere Men #2

NOWHERE MEN #2 Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, & Jordie Bellaire have crafted a really interesting book in NOWHERE MEN. The simple tagline/premise of “What if scientists were our rockstars?” opens the door just enough to make one curious without revealing anything at all. The first issue firmly established Stephenson’s remarkable ability to build interesting worlds and characters all while using some clever narrative tricks. Bellegarde turns in the work of his career so far making pages that are both very effective and visually unique without being hindered by being too “sylized.” And Bellaire is simply one of the best colorists in comics. The book has all the “sciencey” feel of a Jonathan Hickman book, without all of the actual “science.” Other than that is was hard for me to say what the book was about… which I loved.

Since it is a medium that relies on people coming back and paying every month, comics tends to rely on playing it’s cards early and then twisting and turning every month after to keep you interested. It’s feeding the reader just enough so they feel like they paid for a meal, but not enough to that they won’t need to eat again very soon. This works (moderately) well for the industry, but is a terrible hindrance to storytelling as a whole. The NOWHERE MEN team seems to have decided to not care if you “get it” in favor of building a smarter story that unfolds at the pace they want it to. I tend to love comics that are willing to take chances to do better work and that is why I bothered to write this recommendation. If you are a reader who prefers the safe and predictable there are plenty of other books you might want to grab instead. Don’t mind us. We’ll be over in the corner eating weird food, playing with switchblades, getting bad tattoos from sketchy dudes, and reading unpredictable comics. And laughing at you. RIYL: MANHATTAN PROJECTS or TRANSHUMAN, mid-70’s KRAFTWERK, or a weird movie that I am imagining that is a cross between 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and DR. STRANGELOVE.

Iron or the Waar After

IRON OR THE WAR AFTER Archaia does a great job of finding comics that are truly breathtaking and original and wouldn’t fit in at any other publisher. IRON OR THE WAR AFTER is the newest example of this. Shane-Michael Vidaurri writes and illustrates this surreal tale about anthropomorphized animals engaging in espionage during a literal Cold War. The subtle, slow pacing and beautiful and delicate watercolors almost guarantee that this book will fly under a lot of people’s radars this year. They also guarantee that those who pick it up will have a new favorite book. RIYL: Watership Down, Beasts Of Burden, or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Comeback #2

COMEBACK #2 I’ll say it right now. Note the time. Ed Brisson is the next superstar writer in comics. If the Big 2 publishers are not already scouting him then their editors are sleeping on the job. His self published series MURDER BOOK is on par with the best comics published in the last 10 years.

COMEBACK is his new book at Image/Shadowline and the first issue made quite an impression on everyone who was lucky enough to find a copy. Gritty crime noir meets slick sci-fi in a “time travel gone wrong” story. Michael Walsh does stunning work in the wheelhouse of folks like Sean Philips or Alex Maleev. That should be all you need to know.

LOOPER, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, MINORITY REPORT, INCEPTION, I am sure that Mr. Brisson is already tiring of the comparisons, but there is something inherently cinematic in the way he tells a story. It’s crime for people who are bored with crime, sci-fi for people who are sick of sci-fi. COMEBACK would easily make my Top 10 comics of the year list if I didn’t think Top 10 lists were demeaning and obnoxious. You should go ahead and buy this book now so that when it inevitably becomes a hit movie you can say “the book was way better” and other annoying but true things. RIYL: CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO, or other stuff by Ed Brubaker, Movies by Christopher Nolan that don’t involve a growling dude dressed like a huge flying rodent, Philip K. Dick.

That’s all the room I have. Thanks for taking the time to read this stuff. Please don’t hold it against these great books that I am sort of obnoxious and don’t take this very seriously. Even if none of this stuff grabbed you, remember to try something new. It’s good for you. Stay tuned for my “Top 10 Best Comics of ’12” next week.

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