Recent Dorkiness

The Nattering Nabob of Negativity

As I believe I've already mentioned, it's been a long couple months here on the nerd farm. Or, rather, OFF the nerd farm. Nothing dreadful, understand. Busy times made more exhausting by a cold that just won't quite fade away. Cold medicine that's dulled my brain too much to write a lot more than a paragraph at one sitting. Ugh. On the upside, though, not writing has left my leisure time open to enjoy more of the things I enjoy, which in turn gives me way more to write about. It's also caused me to re-evaluate the stuff I like. When funnybooks were something I read in-between writing about them, the fact that I wasn't being blown away by everything I was spending money on didn't seem that important. But after a month or two of mostly reading them with very little writing... Man. Why the hell am I spending so much money on stuff that's only mildly entertaining? So I've decided to pare back a bit, and only buy stuff that I'm genuinely excited to read. This cut-back is still a work in progress, but who's lost the most of my business so far? Comixology, to be honest. Since my digital comics purchases were mostly things I didn't like enough to buy in print, a cut-back on stuff that's not blowing me away means that most of my digital funnybooks are gonna go. So what have I cut? Glad you asked... Swamp Thing, by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette Don't get too excited; the art's as good as the book gets. To be honest, I'd already decided to drop this book. Scott Snyder is a writer I want to like, but just... don't. He's very good at individual scenes and concepts, but I always find something lacking in his work overall. On this book, he just keeps inviting comparisons to the Alan Moore run, comparisons he inevitably comes up on the losing end of. His “everything you know is a lie” take on the character is neither as inventive nor as compelling as Moore's, his “kids' insane asylum horror” not as scary or real, his “dudes with their heads twisted around backwards” not as freaky or terrifying. Now, as I think I said in my last review of this book, “not as good as Alan Moore” isn't much of an insult. But beyond that, Snyder's run as a whole just feels a bit rote. Bland. Sanitized. Take the idea of rotting, for instance. It's Snyder's major villainous theme in the series thus far, and it could be a very effective vehicle for visceral horror. But it's just not, and I think that's down to Snyder's approach. The early issues set the groundwork for greater horrors to come, but ultimately it's too... nice... to truly horrify. There's no creative vitality behind it, no sense of perverse delight or demented excess powering the horror. There's also no real insight into what truly disturbs people, and so it doesn't cut deep enough to scare. It's just too white-bread to be effective. It's horror for pussies and small children. And... Well, I don't think I can really insult the book any worse than that, so I'll move on...

Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Owlman?

I’d given the Batman relaunch a miss initially, but I’d heard enough good things that I gave it a shot, buying the first three issues at the reduced digital back-issue price. And it’s not bad. I like the Court of Owls, and the mystery surrounding them. It’s a perfectly serviceable little Batman story that feels, to me, like a decent episode of the 1990s animated series. I can’t find anything specifically wrong with it. It’s perfectly OK, and I think the book’s in capable, if not particularly inspired, hands.

I just don’t find it compelling enough to even spend two dollars on a month-old digital copy.

Animal Man, by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

I’m not dropping this book completely, just going digital, and waiting a month to get it cheaper. Because the visceral horror element is working marvelously here, largely due to Travel Foreman’s talent for drawing really grotesque swelling fleshy things.

Embiggen for even greater gross-out effect!

That’s some supremely effective body horror right there, and it’s thus far propelled me through a story that I honestly find a little dull. I just don’t care about The Red and its avatars, and I don’t like the way the book’s less about Animal Man, and more about how he’s now a (kinda weak-ass) guardian for his own daughter, who’s really the important one. It just seems counter-intuitive to me to go out of your way NOT to make your title character the most central one in the book.

And don’t even get me started about the talking cat.

Of course, the writing’s not all bad. Lemire handles complex character relationships well, and he’s done a nice job establishing the Baker family dynamics. He’s even managed to write Our Hero’s cute kids in a way that doesn’t make me want to vomit. But that aspect of the book feels a bit underdeveloped to me at this point; it’s really just a backdrop to all the “avatar of the Red” crap, and I’m getting bored. But maybe I can cope with that for two bucks a pop…

The Flash, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

Another perfectly fine little comic that I’m sorely tempted to keep following. It’s not great, but it features a totally competent and unselfconscious kind of writing that I’d like to see on more mainstream super hero books. It’s pleasant without being cute. It’s good-natured but not naïve. And it’s very friendly to new readers, which was the whole point of the DC Reboot to begin with. It also has a creative spark, a vitality, that’s too often lacking in work-for-hire funnybooks. Francis Manapul is turning in some very creative work visually, coming up with neat speed tricks that play out around inventive layouts designed just for them. It’s neat.

And… damn if I haven’t talked myself into continuing with it. I’m definitely moving it to the one-month-later Cheap Bastard plan, though. Because, enjoyable as it is, it’s still merely competent on the writing side, and that does limit my affection for it.

Supergirl, by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar

And speaking of books that are merely competent… I enjoyed the first three or four issues of this book, but it’s just not much better than OK, in story or art. And, as I said at the top, I’m tired of paying money for “just OK.”

I, Vampire, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino

Despite my love of Fialkov’s indie work (Elk’s Run, and the excellent Tumor), and despite my nostalgic fondness for the I, Vampire property… This book just isn’t doing it for me. The writing hasn’t been great, and there’s a definite “been there, done that” feel to the proceedings. And honestly… For every really evocative image artist Andrea Sorrentino turns in…

Mary, Queen of Blood, in a happier moment.

There’s another one that looks like douchebag night at the goth club.

So you might notice that Comixology’s loss is also DC’s. In part, that’s because DC offers such an attractive digital pricing strategy for books that I was only mildly interested in to begin with. A less charitable person than myself might put that lack of interest down to a general creative failure in the DC Reboot, and even I have to admit that most of the books really aren’t very good. Of course, I also subscribe to the theory that 90% of everything is crap, so the fact that I’m still buying so few of the Reboot titles doesn’t really surprise me. Hell, considering how long it had been since I bought a DC spandex book not written by Grant Morrison before the Reboot, it still represents a significant improvement in quality for them in my book.

Of course, DC isn’t responsible for the only casualties of my cut-backs, as you’ll see…

Butcher Baker, by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston

I was really big on this book initially. Outrageous super hero action that reads like it comes from an alternate universe where Miller and Sienkiewicz’s Elektra Assassin became the new Spandex Storytelling Bible in much the same way that Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four did two decades earlier?  Sign me the fuck up! And make no mistake, this is a fucking beautiful book.

I mean, look at this shit!

Mike Huddleston is turning in mind-blowing work here, with a dizzying mix of art and coloring styles that both matches and elevates the purposefully crass action. And that action itself is nothing to sneeze at. I mean, I can’t help but feel at least a little love for any comic that features a cartoon stand-in for Buford T. Justice working with a naked hermaphroditic fertility god/dess.

So why am I dropping the book? Well, as the series has progressed, it’s become less about the insane over-the-topness that sold me on it in the first place, and more about the title character working through some kind of self-loathing midlife crisis. And I just can’t take the whining anymore.

Fantastic Four / FF, by Jonathan Hickman and A Variety of Artists

I’ve turned on this book awfully quick, and it’s purely for economic reasons. A re-read of some recent issues made me realize that spinning half the plotlines out into a second comic has spread things too thin. I mean, I like this book… as a single, densely-packed funnybook series with ten million things going on. But I’m not sure I’d keep buying it if they raised the price to four dollars, and now I’m paying six to get the same story. So it joins Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and the Bendis Avengers stuff on the pile of Marvel books that have priced themselves out of my range of interest.

(An aside: were Marvel to introduce more attractive digital pricing like their number one competitor, I might start back reading quite a few books that I’ve dropped over pricing issues. For two bucks apiece,  for instance, I might keep reading Fantastic Four. And I’d be all over that new Brubaker Cap series like a drunken teenager on prom night…)

SHIELD, by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver

Shiny!

No pricing concerns here. I just think it’s gotten silly.

Iron Man, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca

I still dig this book, but I’ll probably never re-read any of it. And since Larocca’s artwork doesn’t do much for me, either… It’s silly to keep cluttering up my house with funnybooks I’ll never crack open again. So I’m going to keep reading, but I’m switching to digital for it. It’ll chafe to pay out… wait… This book costs four dollars! Well, shit! That might do more than chafe. I’m gonna have to think about this…

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About Mark Brett (431 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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