Pull List Assessment Time

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to evaluate the old pull list instead of running on autopilot. Though my queue tends to be DC-heavy, there are several indie titles that I read either in trade or via review copy that are plenty good. Since V. and I are asked what we recommend or books that rock/suck, here’s assessment of what I’m reading and where it falls on the Great-to-Dropped scale. Those listed under “Promising” have not yet been added to the file, but they’re well on their way.

GREAT
Morning Glories: Image is firing on all cylinders with this book about a scary private school that traps and traumatizes its adolescent charges. Comic shops can’t keep it in stock, and that’s no surprise given the roller coaster of a plot, snappy dialogue and pretty art. Morning Glories is further proof that there’s some stellar work being done outside of the big publishing houses and the capes genre.

Morning Glories

Fables: Since I get this in trade form, I’m not current. The last volume, “The Great Fables Crossover,” was only so-so, but this book has been otherwise excellent. It also continues to evolve and expertly mixes fantasy and comedy with flat-out horror. I can’t wait for the next trade, “Witches,” to drop in December.

Batman and Robin: I’ve written before about how much I dig this book, so I won’t bore you with another love letter. Grant Morrison is handing the reigns to Peter Tomasi soon, but I’m a fan of Tomasi’s work and eagerly anticipate his work on Batman and Robin — especially since he did such a good job during his all-too-brief Nightwing run.

Madame Xanadu: After the most recent (and brilliant) issue about a deadened supermodel named Neon Blue at the height of late ’60s-fame, I was even more depressed that this comic is coming to an end. I have V. to thank for educating me about Madame X just in the nick of time. At least I’ll always have the back issues.

 

GOOD
G-Man: I initially started getting this Image comic for my children, but like Tiny Titans, it’s a smart, kid-skewing book that’s better than much of the fare for grownups. The most recent arc, “Cape Crisis” centers on young hero G-Man, who gets powers via a magic cape. The problem is that all of his peers (and his kid brother) want a piece of the action, and the results are darn funny. The news that Chris Giarrusso’s book is returning made me very happy, and the kids will have to pry it from my hands.

 

Red Robin: I didn’t like this comic at all when it debuted, but it has found a consistently good groove and done right by one of my favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza writes Tim Drake and the extended Bat-family well, and Marcus To sure can draw.

G-Man = good times

Birds of Prey: The Gail Simone incarnation of BoP was instrumental in getting me back into the comic book habit, and it’s been a fine reunion. While I’m not as mesmerized as I was the first time around, BoP is one of the books I look forward to most each month, along with …

Secret Six: This comic vacillates between “great” and “good,” so I have been spoiled. I love the characters and their bloody misadventures, and there is some real tenderness and heart underneath piles of bodies. My expectations for a Secret Six issue are probably unfairly high, but if it came down to cash flow, there are a whole lot of books I’d drop before this one.

Love and Capes: This book about a superhero married to a non-superpowered bookstore owner is light, bright and utterly adorable. I’m also reading this in trade, and there’s a longer overview here.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: As with Red Robin, I’ve already heaped lots of praise on the latest incarnation of Brian Michael Bendis’ long-running, consistently winning comic. The love-triangle drama between Peter, Mary Jane and Gwen is heating up again, and if enjoying juicy teen drama is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird: When I started reading this title after the “Read This, Too!” challenge, I immediately thought that this is the book Green Arrow & Black Canary should have been. The vibe between the title characters — formerly married, now dating — is sexy and fun, and the book is full of action.

 

 

 

Welcome to Tranquility: Another Gail Simone gem about retired superheroes and supervillains, and a whole lot of secrets and lies. See a recent review here.

Mystery Society: I was late to the party on this five-issue series about a wealthy, urbane husband and wife who uncover government conspiracies and recruit odball characters along the way to join their adventures. The story is a kick, but it’s worth reading for Fiona Staples’ artwork alone.

 

PROMISING

 

 

 

 

 

Haweye and Mockingbird

 

Thunderbolts: I read my first issue a few weeks ago and thoroughly dug it. Luke Cage is leading a group of formerly bad guys trying to go legit, and Jeff Parker spins a good narrative (with ninjas!). Declan Shalvey’s art is impressive, and as a Thunderbolts newbie, I found issue #148 easy to jump into. And no, I’m not reading Shadowland.

Freedom Fighters: I bought this comic based on Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Power Girl work, and I liked the first two issues quite a bit. It’s always a joy to see Nazis getting beaten up, and chances are good that this will be a dynamic team comic. Stay tuned.

Lady Mechanika: I’ve never been a Steampunk gal, but the artwork in this Aspen Comics title by Joe Benitez blew me away. The story focuses on a rifle-toting character named Mechanika, who is part human, part machine. It’s set in late 1800s London, and based on issue #0, it’s going to be a wild ride. My Newsarama review is here, but suffice to say that it’s worth checking out. If my stomach were sufficiently flat, this would SO be my con costume.

MEH
Wonder Woman: I think I got all the Haterade out of my system in this post, but I’m buying this book purely out of loyalty. I don’t want to give DC another reason to treat Diana like a stepchild, so I can’t bring myself to drop it.

First Wave

First Wave: At this point, only Rags Morales’ awesome illustrations are keeping this in my LCS file. This pulpy, character-heavy comic involving The Spirit, young Batman, Doc Savage and an alternative Black Canary got off to a nice start, but the long stretches between issues killed some of its momentum for me. There are only two issues to go, so I’m not sure it can deliver on its early promise or do justice to all the players.

DROPPED
Brightest Day: Pretty, but too draggy, convoluted and crowded. I might read it in deeply discounted trade form.

Power Girl: Judd Winick’s first few issues were better than I expected, but they just weren’t good enough to justify my $2.99. Part of the problem is that the previous creative team was so good that any successors would have a challenge on their hands. I don’t care enough about PG to read her adventures if the comic is just middling, so I cut it loose with no regrets.

 

Justice Society of America: I stuck with this book after Bill Willingham finished his “Fatherland” arc, but James Robinson’s follow-up just didn’t do it for me. I almost kept buying it just for Jesus Merino’s illustrations, even though story quality fell off in a major. The book is getting a new creative team, so I might give it another shot. Maybe.

 

Comic Judgment: Indie Edition

I read a bunch of comics this week, but I’m skipping the capes and cowls to focus on comely upstarts Mystery Society and Morning Glories.

Mystery Society #3 (of 5)
Writer:  Steve Niles
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letters: Chris Mowry
I slept on this title for a while, and frankly, it initially struck me as a little too precious: smoking hot, wealthy, urbane couple investigates shady government goings-on and conspiracy theories along with an unusual cast of characters. I’m glad I got past that nagging first impression. Steve Niles infuses Mystery Society with fun, wit and sex appeal, and Fiona Staples can draw her ass off. Her illustrations are elegant, and they really bring the characters to life.

And what characters! Mystery Society founders Nick and Anastasia are almost unbearably chic and rich, and they flirt constantly with one another (“I plan on molesting you later,” Anastasia tells Nick while he dodges bullets and villains. But their cheekiness and desire to do something meaningful with their money (They were just another broke pair of lovebirds once) won me over. Along the way, they recruit an undead Goth chick and a tubby robot housing Jules Verne’s brain. Robot Jules Verne cracks me up, whether he’s trying to settle his awkward body into an armchair or handing someone a business card while saying, “If you think of anything else, please call this number. It’s a direct line to my brain.” The most captivating characters are Sally and Nina, gifted, African-American twin girls whom the government experimented on and placed in some kind of age-suspension chamber in the 1950s. Did I mention that they’re all looking for Edgar Allen Poe’s skull?

That’s a lot of concept to pack into five issues, and it sets expectations high for a big payoff. For the moment, though, I’m enjoying this breezy, short-term relationship.

Morning Glories #2
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Joe Eisma and Alex Solazzo
Cover: Rodin Esquejo
Letters: Johnny Lowe
At a time when everyone’s talking about the demise of the comics publishing industry, it’s heartening to see an indie book flying off the shelves. This level of hype always makes me suspicious, but I gotta say that I am digging the hell out of Morning Glories.

Put a bunch of teen archetypes (brain, geek, douche, stoic, meanie) in a freaky private school, and you’re either going to get something compelling or something grating. Morning Glories is in the first camp, and the second issue rachets up the shock factor as some of the characters learn just how fucked up Morning Glory Academy is. A traumatized student is tased, repeatedly. A loony kid who tries to stab her roommate — in her sleep — is patted on her head and sent on her way. Want to leave campus? Good luck with that. This comic struck me as very similar in theme to Paul Dini’s new Cartoon Network series “Tower Prep,” which debuts next month, but I’m sure the differences will be apparent, especially in such different formats.

Nick Spencer provides some suspenseful story construction, and he certainly has a way with dialogue. (Wait; doesn’t Brian Michael Bendis get shit for giving teen characters precisely this kind of sharp, sitcom banter? I digress.) Joe Eisma’s interior pencils have a fresh, abstract quality, and Rodin Esquejo’s cover art is downright drool-worthy.

You can practically hear the Arcade Fire/Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack as you read Morning Glories, because I bet you a grande, overpriced beverage that it’s coming to a screen near you.

Spreading the Love (and Capes)

Love and Capes: Do You Want to Know a Secret? Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Thomas F. Zahler

Superheroes aren’t having much fun these days. While there’s some great work being done in the capes-and-cowls genre, it’s often so relentlessly grim that fans seeking lighthearted reading might as well head straight to the kids’ section of the comics shop (and I often do).

You should be reading this.

Thank goodness for Thomas F. Zahler’s Love and Capes, a funny, smartly written — and, yes, lighthearted — series about the intersection of heroics and romance. Bookstore owner Abby learns that her mild-mannered accountant boyfriend, Mark, is also a superhero known to Deco City as The Crusader. After he reveals his true identity, Abby experiences the perks (15-minute flights to Maui) and perils (picnics interrupted by crises) of dating a member of the cape community.

It’s appropriate that Love and Capes is billed as a “heroically super situation comedy,” because the quick banter and likable cast give it the feel of an especially good TV show. Zahler makes good use of the familiar: The Crusader is clearly a Superman analog, and his best friend, Paul, aka Darkblade, stands in for a certain serious billionaire who fights crime at night. Most of the derring-do takes place off of the page, so even when we see these two at work, they’re rarely talking shop. In one of the book’s many funny panels, Darkblade — while dangling a bad guy over a rooftop — tells Mark that his ill-timed request for relationship advice is “seriously killing my creature-of-the night vibe.”

Amazonia: Trouble in high heels.

Like all newly smitten, cute couples, Mark and Abby are just this side of annoying. (In this first volume, Mark’s only noticeable flaw is that he’s a tad jealous of Arachnerd, a web-slinger who is at the center of a blockbuster film franchise.) Zahler spices things up considerably by introducing Amazonia, an Angelina Jolie/Wonder Woman hybrid who happens to be The Crusader’s ex-girlfriend. How intimidating is she? Abby’s sister, Charlotte puts it this way: “Amazonia? Whoa. I’d do her.”

Speaking of Charlotte, her tart asides and single-gal perspective bring a lot of wit to Love & Capes. She’s an utterly charming second banana — a Rhoda Morgenstern to Abby’s Mary Tyler Moore (Cue readers born after 1980 saying, “Who?” in unison).

This book has such genuine, across-the-board appeal, and I was bummed to hear two LCS owners — both fans of the series — say they couldn’t interest enough readers to justify stocking the single issues. People, where is the love? The next time I hear a fellow comic lover complaining about the Big Two offerings on his or her pull list, I’m going to ask (in a slightly judgmental tone) why that person isn’t reading Love and Capes, among other things.

Do yourself a favor and check out the first two trade volumes, or head over to the Love and Capes website for a taste of the series. It’s mighty good.