10 THINGS I LIKE ABOUT NOVEMBER ’10 COMICS (and a couple I’m not so crazy about).

by KC Carlson

Well, Christmas is over! Hope you had a great holiday season!

Of course, in the real world, the holidays are still several months away! But in the wacky world of comic book advance ordering, pretty much all of the industry’s major wares have already been offered up. Since the last three months have been SO packed with goodness, this month’s offerings pale a bit in comparison. Still, there’s plenty of great stuff if you dig around a bit, so here are my picks, along with a bit of commentary here and there since I haven’t had much chance to talk about current comics lately. On to it…

New Avengers #6

New Avengers #6

1. Avengers Titles: I am immensely enjoying most of Marvel’s recent Avengers books since The Heroic Age bannering began. (For those of you not playing along at home, The Heroic Age is not a crossover. The Heroic Age is the banner under which many of the Avengers (and other) titles have been thematically linked. All of the books work independently from each other under a common theme of heroic optimism after the very public defeat of Norman Osborn and his evil Avengers dopplegangers. Mostly.) My favorites of the bunch are the relaunched New Avengers by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen, which comes pretty darn close to being the perfect superhero comic for me, and one of the few out there right now where the writing and artwork aren’t competing with each other for attention.

Which is what I think is happening in the flagship Avengers book. Bendis and John Romita, Jr. (whose work I normally love) aren’t meshing well together yet. Avengers #7 introduces the Red Hulk into the team, which will be good for JR Jr., who excels at the big bulky powerhouse characters (see: World War Hulk).

I’m also really digging the oral history of the Avengers that’s been winding its way though both of the key Avengers books, with Bendis providing character insight to stories that were produced before anybody cared about such things. I’m also greatly amused that Marvel is doing the oral history at all, because I pitched one about the JLA to DC’s book department over a dozen years ago — including actual published quotes from the original stories — and they looked at me like I was a bug. Then they asked me “What’s an oral history?” Bet they’re working on one now. Oral histories rock!

Uh, oh. Somebody dies in New Avengers #6. I’m guessing it will be one of the supernatural dudes (Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, or Brother Voodoo). You have to believe in magic!

I’m loving Avengers Prime for the Alan Davis artwork, but I’m wondering why the story has foolishly split Cap, Thor, and Shellhead into different realities, instead of working on the original premise of bringing the three characters together to resolve their differences. I’m also really enjoying Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, despite the fact that it seems like it’s the slowest produced mainstream title out there (far from it, actually). I think it will be worth it to finally catch up with Wanda, the Good Little Scarlet Witch Girl, and I hope that the popular character is redeemed a bit. Both story (Allan Heinberg) and art (Jim Cheung) are exceptional.

Thunderbolts #150

Thunderbolts #150

My other big fave is the revamped Thunderbolts, which is pretty much back to the original T-Bolts concept of villains working to reform/better themselves. In the original series, a bunch of ’em were already headed in that direction, and now the villains are a lot more amped-to-11 hardcore by writer Jeff Parker, with added wildcard potential (Man-Thing as transport?). The current issue is a big 96-page anniversary, with a 40-page lead story guest starring the original Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. Those are quite the anniversary guests! Hope there’s plenty of cake!

I’d also give props to

* Hawkeye and Mockingbird: one part Moonlighting, one part Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and a whole lot of dynamite!

* Invincible Iron Man: every issue better than the next — and did you read that Annual?! Can’t wait to see what writer Matt Fraction will do with Thor!

* Captain America: dragging a bit since Steve Rogers returned, but I think some interesting things will come out in the upcoming “The Trial of Captain America.”

I do have to mention that Heroic Age: Villains #1 is a pretty dumb title, when you think about it, and maybe pushing the concept a bit too far. While there may be a few unnecessary (or pushing it) titles under the Heroic Age banner, at least most of these books do actually have something heroic and positive about them, while most of Marvel’s Distinguished Competition’s Brightest Day bannered books are anything but “bright,” instead largely concentrating on torturing characters and wallowing in general unpleasantness. There seems to be a big disconnect between title and execution there. Don’t get me wrong — I was totally excited by the return of the 12 dead characters at the end of Blackest Night. But that lasted all of a week, until Brightest Day #0 started making their newly re-won lives miserable again. I’d hate to think that the “Brightest Day” concept was just manipulative hype and nothing more. Hope that changes soon!

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

2. New DC Comics Titles: DC mainstream rolls out four new superhero titles this month, two of which will drive fans batty!  Batman: The Dark Knight is a new ongoing monthly, written and drawn by David Finch (in his first writing assignment?) with inking by Scott Williams. Slated to focus more on supernatural and esoteric Bat stories, this new title kicks off with a six-issue arc that explores the ramifications of the murder of one of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friends . . . I’m sorry, but the title of Grant Morrison’s new book makes me laugh. It’s called Batman, Inc. I think it’s funny because I thought that DC was holding that title in reserve for the company itself, for when all their other imprints and character franchises ultimately fail, and Batman is the only thing left. It’s hard to tell what this title is going to be about from DC’s solicitation copy (which has been pretty generally useless for actual information in trying to decide what books to order lately), but it sounds like Batman may finally be cashing in on all that lucrative licensing of his name and trademark. Or something. At least it will look great, as Yanick Pacquette is drawing it! . . . Apparently, DC feels confident in putting Superboy back in his own regular monthly title again. The Superboy storyline in the recent Adventure Comics run was pretty awesome, but this book will be done by the new creative team of Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth) and “up and coming” artist Pier Gallo. The initial storyline will explore a side of Smallville that nobody knows about! (Probably not the sunny side!) . . . Just in time for DC’s experiment with the Red Circle characters (Mighty Crusaders) to go away forever, DC lunches yet another venerable old superhero franchise — the all-new adventures of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents! Written by Nick Spencer and drawn by artist CAFU, this new series will present brand new characters who will take over from the original Agents. They have to make some difficult choices — specifically,  will their new powers kill them? . . . Actually, there’s one more “new” superhero book this month, but it’s a Johnny DC book, and more of a relaunch. All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold continues the adventures of the Caped Crusader teaming up with just about anybody in the DCU, although we hear that the new emphasis will be on the “big guns” like Superman or Wonder Woman, rather than the quirky “fan-favorite” (but non-big-selling) characters of its previous incarnation. It’s now written by Sholly Fisch and illustrated by Rick Burchett.

Vampirella #1

Vampirella #1

3. Vampirella #1:  Honestly, I haven’t been a Vampi fan since the original Warren days a billion years ago, but I certainly recognize the importance of the character in the overall fabric of comics, so a new Vampirella #1 should be a pretty big deal. (Besides, I heard somewhere that vampires are hot right now!) This new Vampi series is written by Eric Trautmann and drawn by Wagner Reis, and since Dynamite is publishing it, it’s going to have ONE MILLION DIFFERENT COVERS!!! Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but there will be covers by Alex Ross (2 of ‘em),  J. Scott Campbell, Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, Joe Madureira, and others. (NOTE: Due to possible limited availability, not all covers may be available from Westfied.) The first issue also features a “rare” Vampi story by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. (I like my bloody steaks medium rare, myself.) Sounds like something everybody can sink their teeth into! (NOTE: Westfield is not responsible for the condition of comics that you’ve sunken your teeth into.)

John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars

4. Dark Horse Fantasies: Dark Horse is putting some great fantasy series back into print with a couple of new collections. John Carter of Mars features timeless work originally printed in the acclaimed DC Comics Tarzan and Weird Worlds series by a who’s who of fantasy greats including Marv Wolfman, Howard Chaykin, Murphy Anderson, Gray Morrow, Sal Amendola, and Joe Orlando. Meanwhile, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone collects the long-out-of print comics adaptations of the first two Elric novels — Elric of Melnibone and The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, originally published by Pacific Comics and First Comics — adapted by  writer Roy Thomas and illustrated by artists P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert. Look for more details on these two great collections in Bob Greenberger’s upcoming previews here at the Westfield blog.

Shockrockets

Shockrockets

5. IDW: Danny Husk: The Hollow Planet: Springing out of a recurring character from The Kids in the Hall, Scott Thompson’s Danny Husk debuts in an all-new graphic novel written by Thompson and Stephan Nilson and illustrated by Kyle Morton. In this new story, the unflappable everyman Danny Husk finds himself in a world where his average looks and demeanor make him an exotic and much-sought after individual. With the help of an oddball cast of characters, Danny must rescue his son and escape before the Prince of Mu has them all executed. Watch the blog for Roger Ash’s interview with Thompson for more details — It’s Westfield’s first audio interview! . . . Also from IDW this month, the third volume of Alex Raymond’s incredible Rip Kirby and Volume 2 of Jack Kent’s delightful King Aroo — both new classic comic strip collections from the Library of American Comics! . . . Plus, a personal favorite of mine is back in print (in a nice hardcover presentation for the first time). Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Shockrockets, one of the best miniseries of its era, was originally published by the late, lamented Gorilla Comics. The Shockrockets are an elite squadron of hi-tech aircraft built with a fusion of alien and terrestrial technology and flown by the best pilots available. Operating on an unstable Earth after a devastating invasion from space, the Shockrockets are tasked with protecting the planet, a mission that becomes more intense when an rookie outsider joins the team after a freak accident and makes waves with the rest of the squad. Beautifully illustrated hi-flying action in a 160-page full color hardcover.

Captain America: Man Out of Time

Captain America: Man Out of Time

6. Mark Waid: The Kid That No Longer Collects Comics is back to write the character that he was born to write in a new Marvel miniseries. Captain America: Man Out of Time is a five-part story examining in-depth the era just after the Avengers free him from the iceberg where he’s been in suspended animation for half a century. How will Steve Rogers adapt to the world of the 21st century? It’s illustrated by Jorge Molina (Avengers: Initiative) . . . If that wasn’t historical enough, Waid is also teaming up with the father of Marvel Comics himself — Stan Lee! — with a second new title for Boom! Studios — Stan Lee’s The Traveler. (Stan’s Soldier Zero #1 debuted last month.) The Traveler is another classic man-out-of-time story, as the mysterious Traveler battles the forces of evil and finds all of history — and the future — hanging in the balance! It’s drawn by Chad Hardin (Amazing Spider-Man) . . . If that wasn’t enough, Manic Mark is also writing new issues of his regular fan-fave Boom! series this month —  Irredeemable (#19) and Incorruptible (#12). Inconceivable!

Stan Lee Universe

Stan Lee Universe

7. The Stan Lee Universe: Speaking of Stan, if you’re new to comics (or just old and forgetful like me) and don’t really have a handle on the whole “Stan Lee mystique” thing, check out the new The Stan Lee Universe book, published by TwoMorrows. It’s edited/compiled by Roy Thomas (who was there) and Danny Fingeroth (a True Believer!) and promises to be the ultimate repository of Stan Lee ephemera (i.e. interviews, mementos, and trivia) from the Merry Marvel years — some of which comes from Stan’s personal archive and has never before been seen by the public. The book includes cool swag: Notes from Richard Corbin and Will Eisner on projects that never happened. Pages from Stan’s Silver Surfer screenplay for Roger Corman. Unpublished notes from Stan and Jack Kirby’s Silver Surfer graphic novel. Plus interviews and testimonials from John Romita (Sr. & Jr.!), Todd McFarlane, Roy Thomas, Dennis O’Neil, Gene Colan, Al Jaffee, Jerry Robinson, and others! Available in both 176-page softcover or 192-page hardcover (with dustjacket and 16 pages of material not in the softcover). Face front, effendi!

Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition

Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition

8. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition: The rabbit ronin is celebrating his 25th Anniversary this year, and to celebrate, Fantagraphic Books is publishing a massive 1,200 page, two-volume slipcased hardcover which will serve as the complete omnibus for all of the the character’s earliest adventures — basically the first seven volumes of Usagi Yojimbo, plus lots of bonus material. This will include two Usagi/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover stories, tons of sketches, a full-color cover gallery, and a lengthy career-spanning interview with award winning creator Stan Sakai. It’s not often that charm, whimsy, and epic saga are all part of the same work, but Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo not only combines but defines all of these qualities. It’s a prodigious achievement in comics, and this is your chance to get in from the very beginning.

Return of the Dapper Men

Return of the Dapper Men

9. Return of the Dapper Men: It’s Anorev, a world between time where machines have worked so long that it’s become play and the clocks have all stopped at the same time, until the day that 314 dapper-looking gentlemen rain down from the sky to start the world again. Now Ayden, the only boy to still ask questions; Zoe, the robot girl all other machines hold dear; and the Dapper Man known only as “41” must discover what happened to make time stop, and to learn what “tomorrow” really means. The sun is setting for the first time in memory, and once that happens everything changes. Return of the Dapper Men is a 128-page hardcover all-ages graphic novel by writer Jim McCann and artist Janet Lee and published by Archaia. Not only is the concept fascinating, Lee has a unique art approach that includes decoupage — which means that her original pages, instead of being the usual paper, are actual blocks of wood! Roger Ash recently spoke to the creators about this new work and that interview — with many more details about the story — will be right here at the blog soon! Be sure to check it out — before we all run out of time!

10. Try something new. No, really. I dare you.

And you pick. Don’t just listen to my picks. Try something new, or something you’ve heard good things about — not just the stuff you normally look at. You might be missing something really big!

Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.

Then write and tell me about it. (Yes, it’s homework. September is back-to-school month, remember?) But when you find something really cool, the best thing you can do is share it.

KC CARLSON asks the musical question: Is it time for the comics industry to have its own self-help book? Giving Up the Ghost: When It’s Time to Lay Your Tired Old Comic Book Character (or Franchise) Down to Sleep (Instead of Relaunching It Over and Over Again). Does comics need a Dr. Kevorkian? Or do comic book publishers think that Euthanasia is a great title for a new war comic about new recruits set in Iraq or South Korea?

As always, Westfield disavows any knowledge of my actions.

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