Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Week's Haul & Thoughts On Print v. Digital

New comic book day yesterday! Here's what I picked up from the Ye Olde Local Comic Book Shoppe (LCS):

All-Star Western #7 (DC)
Captain America & Bucky #628 (Marvel)
Daredevil 10 (Marvel)
Flash #7 (DC)

Light week for the floppies. However, I buy other titles that came out this week but I deferred these to my digital purchases via Comixology. As the digital comics drop in price after a month, I wait for the price change, so I'm about a month behind on many of my titles.

I've slowly become a digital enthusiast for a number of reasons:

-Storage. What do I do with these 30 plus issues per month. They take up space. A part of me wishes I would treat these like the Sunday paper, read it and into the recycling bin it goes. But, that's not going to happen. So, transferring to digital allows me to purchase issue by issue and doesn't clog up my house. (Related, I have around 20 longboxes in my brother's basement and he's moving soon, so I need to find space for those in my place. Sigh.) Also makes reading comics during travel easy. Load up the iPad with comics to read, saves space on carrying around trades. (The trick is to get the iPad away from the kids during airplane rides.)

-Ease of Use. I mean this in both the reading experience and the ability to buy. It's really easy all around. Plus, I have an iPad 3 on the way and Comixology has upgraded the comics to be compatible with the retinal view or HD or whatever the iPad 3 is bragging about. Should be great! (I'm not a fan of the "guided view." I have it set-up to see the full page then tap to view each panel then again see the full page before moving to the next page. I need to keep the experience of turning the page somewhat intact.)

-Taking Chances. Buying digital issues makes it easier to take a chance on a series, writer, or artist that pique my interest. It's a cheaper gateway than buying a trade. Buy the first issue then if I'm hooked, buy more. That's how I discovered the amazing Sixth Gun (Oni Press). I bought the first issue on a lark for sale ($0.99) and soon after the entire back catalog and it's now in my monthly rotation. Conversely, switching to digital for some titles allow me to cull my list. Since I wait a month to get the cheaper digital price, I can see if, when the discount takes effect, I'm still interested in the title. I haven't officially dropped titles yet with this method, but I do have a few that I'm a few issues behind in purchasing. Plus, no back issue hunting if I let a month pass without buying. It's always available for downloading.

Now, slowly becoming a digital enthusiast doesn't mean that I'm wavering in my enthusiasm for the print monthlies. There's still a jolt of excitement in going to the LCS on Wednesday and scanning the shelves for the new arrivals or wandering around the aisles looking for a new title, writer, artist to discover among the trades and graphic novels. Though I don't really socialize or linger in the shop, I still feel a sense of community with the other patrons and employees. I suppose a bit of nostalgia comes into play as well when I eavesdrop on a conversation between two teens discussing the events of new Spiderman or Avengers or Batman. That was me over 25 years ago when my brother, a friend, and I would go comic shopping together and excitedly discuss what we were purchasing, why we were purchasing, and probably joshing each other about the lame stuff in our piles too.

Also, I'm a flipper. Nothing better than sitting down with a pile of comics and flipping through each to get a taste of what's going to happen. Can't really flip through the digital pages. An added bonus to getting the floppies each month is that my soon-to-be 5 year old at home also loves flipping through my weekly haul. It brightens my day to watch him happily sit on the couch with a pile of comics studying each page. (He likes anything with Captain America, Flash and monster books like Godzilla.)

So, for me, it's not a case of print versus digital. Rather, it's print and digital. I'm happy to be an advocate for both.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEWS: Pick of the (Last) Week and Other Noteworthy Mentions

So, I'll be implementing a grading system for my weekly comic reviews as follows:

Highly Recommended

I suppose it's the equivalent of a grading system using stars and, perhaps, at some point, I may switch to something with wiggle room for half-stars and what-not, but for now the above standards will be used.I'll also be focusing on the stuff I'm digging and not spend too much time on the pedestrian or downright disappointing fare. I have a quick trigger finger these days with dropping books that bore me, so there's little use writing about it if I'm not sticking with it. So, this week we have some thoughts on my "pick of the week" from last week's haul as well as some thoughts on other purchases.

Planet of the Apes by Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno and published by Boom Studios has been a standout comic over the course of its first year. It takes place around 80 years before the original Planet of the Apes movie at a time of uneasy tension in ape/human co-existence.

Planet of the Apes is a great example of serial monthly comic writing. Gregory’s plotting during this inaugural storyline has been tight and focused. Wonderfull compact, increasingly complex, and always full of surprises it’s been a humdinger of a ride so far. It begins with the assassination of the great leader and the apes response focusing on the relationship between Alaya, the great leader’s niece and Sullivan, the human mayor of Skintown, who were raised together during a more peaceful time. #12 is the culmination of that storyline. It's a taut, brisk read without a standout fight sequence by Magno between Bako, a leader of the human resistance and Nix, a gorilla commander. As the epilogue demonstrates the events of the past 12 issues will continue to resonate in the next storyline. Since it's start a year ago PotA has been one to look forward each month. (I'm working on a larger piece covering the full run of PotA to date, which will hopefully be completed soon.) Highly Recommended

Dark Horse Comics has the distinction of having the two runners up to the coveted Colbinski Chronicle's "pick of the week." Ragemoor, a new 4 issue series by writer Jan Strnad and artist Richard Corben, spins an exceptional tale of a castle with its own sentience. And it seems evil to boot. I'm a sucker for haunted house stories and Ragemoor takes a haunted concept and runs with it. Corben's cartoony art adds to the gothic atmosphere and he does some incredible things in protraying the castle as alive and malevolent. Look at that cover. Ragemoor wasn't on my "to buy" list and then that cover just screamed at me from the shelf (as if it too had its own [hopefully, not malevolent] sentience) The first issue concerns a relative's return to Castle Ragemoor with plans to swindle it from the current occupants, who assure the newly arrived guests that he doesn't remain in the castle by choice and, why would you come back, you're just causing trouble for yourself. And that's enough for me. I'm hooked. Recommended

I'm still working my way through Eerie Presents: Hunter, a new hardcover collection of the Hunter stories from Warren's Eerie magazine in the 1970's. I've read the first 6 stories and it's pretty mind-blowing stuff. Hunter is a "demon hunter" tracking demon mutants in a post-apopalyptic world. There's some interesting world-building in each 8-page story (each of which can also stand on their own) culminating with an intense 2-parter that completes the "Hunter" portion of the collection. Next, on to Hunter II stories! The purple-prose, standard for the 70s comics of this type I've read, can be a bit much, but I forgive that indulgence as Paul Neary's art compliments the overwrought narration perfectly. The heavy ink lines Neary implements brings out the dread and chaos of Hunter's world. The writing is definitely the product of the anxiety of the times, like much doom-inspired sci-fi of the period showing humans on a collision course with terror of their own making. However, the dark shadows of the demons, the innovative panel arrangements, and the iconic attire of Hunter (spacesuit with helmet, staff in hand, fur shorts around the waist) make this a timeless tale. The opening tale has Hunter seek sanctuary in an old monastery only to come face to face with his prey. Information flows on a need to know basis, which only adds to the suspense, and the art reeks of desperation, isolation and misery. I would love to see a new Hunter series that takes the various germs and kernels of these stories to re-create this character and his world with modern sensibilities. Paul Neary may even be available to draw too. Highly Recommended

Other Thoughts
Wonder Woman #7 revealed some interesting things about Paradise Island and Amazonian history, but definitely felt like a bit of a placeholder issue as Wonder Woman's quest to rescue Zola from Hades has yet to begin. Lennox seems to have way too much influence over Diana's decisions the last few issues. Interested to see where this goes. Good

Justice League #7 was almost dreadful and I'm not sure where this book is going or what it's trying to do. I get it, Batman is serious, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern isn't. And that pretty much summed up the heroes interaction with each other. Disappointing

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I’m Back. Maybe. Sorta. We’ll See.

Yikes. It’s sure been a while since I last posted anything here. Plenty has happened, no time to write it down. Or something like that. Anyway, one interesting thing – in the context of this here blog, at least – is that I now read comic books on a regular monthly basis again. It started slowly. Check out a series here, pick up a series there. Oh, hey, that graphic novel looks good. Let’s give it a shot. Then it became a small, but steady stream of monthlies. I also discovered digital comics and that allowed me to check out some writers and artists that I was unfamiliar with since my last serious regular buying, which was probably sometime in 1993.

So, it was slow and steady and very fun to begin weekly treks to the local comic shop (LCS). During this time I wasn’t buying many superhero comics as I avoided most monthlies from DC and Marvel as everything seemed to be tied to some big “event” with universe-defining crossovers. I tired of “events” back in 1992; I wasn’t going to use my newly found comic reading time on such nonsense again. So I avoided the Big 2 and stuck to the little guys and comic genres like horror, crime, and monsters. Good stuff really. But I missed the capes and tights.

Then, in September 2011, DC Comics re-launched their entire line of superhero comics, starting each at number 1. Sure, this was just another gimmicky event in many ways, but it also provided me an opportunity to jump right into the action.

Now, 7 months after DC’s “New 52” re-launch, I am completely ensconced in around 40 (!) monthly titles from a half dozen publishers. My plan is to use this blog now as a comic book review/thoughts/essays forum. I’ll, at least, update it weekly with a list of the week’s haul and try to provide timely reviews and thoughts as well. We’ll see how it goes.

Last week's recommendations:
Exile on the Planet of the Apes #1 (Boom)
Fantastic Four #604 (Marvel)
Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #7 (DC)
Saga #1 (Image) *Pick of the week*

This week’s haul:
Eerie Presents: Hunter HC (Dark Horse)
Justice League #7 (DC)
Planet of the Apes #12 (Boom)
Ragemoor #1 (Dark Horse)
Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1 (IDW)
Wonder Woman #7 (DC)