Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Pull List

So, there are 100 things I should be doing right now.

And this ridiculous blog post is not among them.

But it's what I'm doing anyway. Topic: Comic Books.

So, one of the problems in reviewing comics is that they should be reviewed more by a run of issues than by the single installment. That used to be easier to do, back before the emergence of the six-issue arc as the predominant storytelling form. Now, monthly buyers basically need to wait half a year to figure out if a series is any good.

So, here's my little corner of fixing that. What I'm going to do is rate my pull list, the books I'm reading every month, from top to bottom, with notes. I'll update it every, say, two months. That should give a really good track on those titles. If other blogs do likewise? The world will be a better place. This doesn't include books I'm reading by trade - those apologies at the end.

Okay, so my pull list, as of today:

Cream of the Crop
1. Casanova - Holy shit. Here is a book that does not know how to mail it in. Every month is a fucking incredible smorgasbord of over-the-top insane sci-fi action, dense as all get-out, yet so light on its feet you never feel bogged down. This title moves at a breakneck pace and trusts you to be smart enough to keep up. Sometimes that means rereading issues, but hell, that's why you bought them right? Kickass art, kickass story, and hey, look, it's even a dollar cheaper than everything else on the rack.

2. The Spirit - I'll admit, I didn't really see the point of putting out a monthly Spirit book in 2007. The greatness and charm of the Spirit stories always lay mostly in Eisner's craft, not the mostly generic lead. That is until Darwyn Cooke decided to showed up and did a book so bursting with charm and craft, Eisner must be pulling it in heaven. Cooke is on writing and art chores here and he's not mailing either in. He's taken the Spirit, recognizes everything that made it great and modernizes it. Remember those great splashes? Well why not make them two page spreads! Eisner used his full 8 pages to craft one tight story - why not use all 22 of the modern book? And did I mention the oh-so-necessary re-invention of Ebony? It's the complete package, a smart, smile-inducing, gorgeous book that demands to be read and reread.

3. All-Star Superman - It is very rare that you find a talent quite as unique as Grant Morrison. We might never see quite this mix of brilliance and insanity again. Everything you love about Morrison is here: the masterful grip on metaphor, powerful vision, virtuoso writing style and most of all, a sense of flat-out fun. Morrison delivers on everything that makes Superman great - the whimsy, the supporting cast, the bigger-than-life adventures - and packs it so full of new ideas that it's a joy to read. And you know, that Quietly guy can draw, too.

4. Captain America - This has been Marvel's best offering for a while now, but I always forget about it until a new issue comes out. Then I sit and bask in it and for a week, I remember just how good it is. Brubaker's story is masterful, working in everything you loved about Captain America into one giant epic with distinct, satisfying arcs that all play in together. It's good. The art is even better. Epting - with a major assist from colorist Frank D'Armata - is drawing his ass off here, and every issue looks gorgeous.

5. Astonishing X-Men - Speaking of pretty art, I will buy almost anything John Cassiday draws. Couple that with a quipy, action-packed and cinematic script from Joss Whedon that nails all the characters and puts them in an extremely fun space epic, all without using a single standard-issue X-Villain? You've got one damn good funny book, my friend.

6. World War Hulk - Yeah, it's an event book. Yeah, the tie-ins are crap. But if the Hulk fighting the entire Marvel Universe for five issues doesn't sound like a good time to you, maybe you're not a real comics fan. This series is delivering that in spades, with every issue bringing the savagery in a story whose end I can't predict right now.

Good Stuff

7. She-Hulk - Jumping Hulks, if you haven't been reading Dan Slott's awesome She-Hulk run... well it's basically too late to start now, it ends next issue. But it's worth buying the trades. This is the funniest funny book out there, kemosabe.

8. The Immortal Iron Fist - Despite one or two semi-confusing issues, this Kung-Fu book remains a thing of beauty - gorgeous artwork highlights a balls-out martial arts story dripping with grit and almost retro-cool.

9. Thunderbolts - Six issues in, Thunderbolts has managed to live up to the hype. This book stands out because it's not so much fun as disturbing. You're not rooting for the Thunderbolts. You're watching in horror as they run roughshod over any concept of decency. Toss in Deodato's dark, realistic art, and the book really comes together.

10. Buffy: Season Eight - Speaking of living up to the hype, if you were a Buffy fan, you should be buying this comic, period. So far, almost everything you loved about the show is in there. I say almost because, let's face it, drawn hot women just aren't as fun to look at as real ones.

11. Hero Squared - The other quality humor book on the market. Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis do their JLI schtick, and it works really well. Good characters, surprisingly great sitcom/soap opera/super-hero storyline. Now if only the art was a little more crisp.

Solid Reads

12. Detective Comics - It's tough to argue with Paul Dini doing his Batman: The Animated Series thing every month. So I won't. Great one-and-done stories here, although the recent Zatanna two-parter was underwhelming and there have been far too many fill-in issues.

13. Fell - Ben Templesmith is a daring choice to draw a sixteen-page book, but it works. Ellis is always looking to experiment too, which is fun. The only thing keeping it in this section is that sometimes a sixteen page mystery works out exactly as well as you imagine it would.

14. Invincible - If you like old-school superheroics, back when heroes were more into punching things than being metaphors and crap like that, then you should read Invincible. It's a great book that's almost always worth your $3. My only reservation here is that some storylines took a long time to go nowhere (Reanimen, Anton Levy, Mauler Twins), but things have been really picking up lately.

15. Avengers: The Initiative - Every issue of this Civil War spinoff has brought the noise; it even managed to almost make its World War Hulk tie-in work. It would be higher if I cared about the characters more.

16. The Irredeemable Ant-Man - What a fun book. If you haven't been reading - and not enough of you have, because next issue is the last - S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Eric O'Grady is the worst guy in the world, and he's just stolen a new Ant-Man suit. Hilarity ensues. Eric's not a villain, he's just a dirtbag, sinking to new lows each issue. I'd rank it higher, but the terrible World War Hulk tie-in is still bugging me. No pun intended.

17. Punisher War Journal - If I'm buying a monthly Punisher book, you know it must be good. The last storyline went on just one issue too long, otherwise it would be higher.

18. Transformers - I'm actually loving IDW's take on Transformers. It's obviously all been really well thought out. Now if only they actually inked the thing, we might have something here. Seriously, these books mostly just look lousy. Sorry guys, they do. Also, every issue costs $4.

19. Runaways - Whedon's dialog and characterization is spot on as usual, but his run has been a little perplexing. Why are the kids in New York again? Why would they be so stupid as to seek out the Kingpin? And why do the tired old Victorian time-travel thing?

Treading Water

20. New Avengers - Leinel Yu's art is great. The team line-up is great. Some issues I love this book. Others, I start thinking about other ways you can spend $3.

21. Amazing Spider-Man - Here's the thing about Strazinsky's Amazing - it's usually one of the first things I read the week it comes out. Important stuff happens. It's even exciting. The only problem is, it's not really any fun. Is it too much to ask that my Spider-Man book be fun? I don't think it's too much to ask.

22. Ex-Machina - Extremely smart series, but it's often late and doesn't really read well as a monthly. Might switch to trades on this (again).

On the Edge

23. Batman - Reading this, you kind of want to lean over to Morrison and go, "Hey, man, are you sure you're okay to drive?" His Batman is sometimes playful, sometimes confusing, but mostly it's just totally aimless. The thing is, this could STILL wind up looping back around and looking completely fucking brilliant a year from now. Or we could all be scratching our heads going, "What the fuck was up with that Joker issue? Did that happen?"

24. Checkmate - I think I enjoy Checkmate. Really, I do. I think, after over a year, I finally know who everyone is and can follow the really pretty interesting superhuman international politics plot. But it's something of an effort to read, and the recent Outsiders crossover was a big turn-off.

25. Mighty Avengers - It aspires to be old-school. It often succeeds. It's had at least one jaw droppingly excellent fight scene. But Bendis's writing seems a little off, particularly in the non-cliffhangers. It's just not coming together for me yet.

26. Powers - Usually the bright spot in the Bendis oeuvre, Powers pissed me off enough last month to drop this low. Maybe if it actually came out sometimes, I'd have a more balanced view to judge it on. Also, the letter columns, previously the best part of the book, are now a shell of their former selves. Sigh.

27. Action - This book just pisses me off. Stop with the fill-ins. Finish your fucking story line before you start a new one. If the Donner-Johns story wasn't so damn good when it came out, I'd've dropped this, and frankly, there's still time.

Up soon: recently dropped, thinking of picking up, stuff I get in trades

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