So my plan to catch up with my comics is still working to a degree. I’m current on all of my Marvel comics, getting close with the independents and I’m watching the DC and Vertigo piles grow. The good news is how much I have enjoyed the independent side of things. The indies don’t follow the rules of the big two which is refreshing. The overload factor is the last part of this week’s column where I have discovered via my ebay sales and checking out some other things that Marvel and DC have turned trades and hard covers from higher end collections of great series into a market that is so flooded no one cares or values these books anymore.
There are four books I want to mention this week, Thief of Thieves, Lobster Johnson, Saga and Hell Yeah. Three are from Image and one is from Mike Mignola and Dark Horse.
Due to the fact that I was backed up I have read three issues of Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand in the span of three weeks. My father would talk about the serials movies where you would see an episode a week and of course TV’s mainstay is the weekly episode. Comics are monthly or longer, but once a week is a great pace and worked very well for this book. Lobster Johnson is a hero from the late thirties and often ends up dealing with the mystical horror elements that run through BPRD. This time the Burning Hand is a creature that is made up of black flame and is destroying parts of the city at the behest of a mobster boss type. What is making this book go from enjoyable to outstanding is the art work of Tonci Zonjic (click to link to his website). I first noticed his work on “Who is Jake Ellis” and fell in love with his clean lines and great story telling. He has made this mini-series of Lobster Johnson my favorite one so far. It is such a pleasant change of pace. I love all the Mignolaverse stuff, but Lobster Johnson stands on its own very well and yet adds to the overall world that Mignola has created with Hellboy and BPRD. Of course having Mike Mignola and John Arcudia as writers does not hurt and wrapping the whole thing up with a Dave Johnson cover and you have a what comics should be, cool cover, great story and beautiful art.
Next up it Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough. Let’s start with the art first. Shawn’s work is never going to be a great fit for super hero stuff, but with projects like this his work fits perfectly. He has a noir type style and is someone who seems to be a lot of time and effort into page design and makes the book read very easily. Now with Kirkman more of the idea and conceptual framework guy (from what I can tell) and Nick Spencer as the scriptwriter, we are not going to have a book that moves too fast. I get the feeling they are in this for the long run and all the character building and set up is going to pay off as the story progresses. I read two issues back to back and enjoyed this book immensely. We started off with a heist showing the bona fides of our main character and then ended with a twist that he is quitting stealing. Within these two issues we also got some background on his co-work, protégée and are building up to what made him drop out of this huge caper (thing Ocean Eleven on steroids). I can’t wait until issue #3.
Saga #1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples hit the stands. Now Brian has a mystique around him because he has achieved a high level of success in Hollywood and many people loved “Y the Last Man” and “Ex Machina”, neither book was a big deal for me. Fiona Staples on the other hand is an artist whose work I first paid attention to with a mini-series about Jack Hawksmoor of the Authority. This issue was certainly ambitious, part Romeo and Juliet, part Star Wars and part Bringing Up Baby (now that should be an obscure reference). The center of the story is the narration by the baby that is born to start the story. So you know one part of the story from the jump and that is the baby lives long enough to become someone who can narrate a story. Her parents are of mixed ancestry with the father having rams horns and the Mom having insect/fairy type wings. It is a romance between two warring races, one that lives on the main planet and one that lives on the moon. Obviously they much have a common history somewhere along the line in order to be able to mate and procreate. I have read many reviews and most are singing the praises of this book, but I for one would like to reserve judgment. There are elements of this adventure that are exciting as the young couple with their child is now on the run. The relationship between the couple is mixed with humor, exacerbation and love. The war is spread over a vast array of planets giving it the galactic empire feel that I first got from Asimov novels, but most would now relate to Star Wars. The down side is that it is a beginning only and there are the bizarre TV headed royalty and ass f*&^%$g that feels gratuitous. I’ve signed up for the book for now and think this could be a fun series, just think too many people are throwing roses of greatness at this book way too early.
Now Hell Yeah #1, by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz may have been my favorite book this week. Neither creator was a name I’m familiar with, but now via the links you can learn more about them and I will be looking for more of their work in the future, but especially want to follow this story. This story was full of energy and just moved at light speed. Our central character is a child of a super hero and a regular human (or so we are lead to believe). The world was dramatically altered by the appearance of a race of super heroes and we are now witnessing the growing pains of a teen-ager who is the first generation who grew up in this new world order. He is super powered and somewhat out of control. The end has a great twist using alternative worlds type idea. The story is not perfect and neither is the art, but it is two creators at the beginnings of their careers and the potential within this book surpasses a bunch of books on the stands already. I would equate these guys to a Triple AAA player who you know with a little more seasoning will set the Major Leagues on fire. If I was DC or Marvel I’d be knocking on their doors already. Finally I included the inside front cover that shows these guys have a good sense of humor.
The final part of this column has no way to make a clean segue, so let’s just get into it. I love hard cover collections and enjoy many of the trades, but the market is now so flooded with product that no one cares about them at all. In order to move Masterworks and DC Archives the price point has to $15 or even less on Ebay. I listed about 20 smaller trades and little hardcover graphic novels for $5 and little traffic is generated. There are exceptions to the rules, but Marvel and DC has slashed prices to clear out inventory and then your local comic shop will sell them for $10 after they paid $5 for many hard covers and trades. What is worse is the quality of the reproductions has fallen off. DC Archives are still well done and IDW is the class of the industry right now, but way too many are poorly put together. The FF visionary runs are muddled messes; many of the DC books are sloppy and poorly colored. What was once something to be put together with the right way is now slapped together and off the printer without a second thought, introduction or care in the world. Almost every title is deemed worthy of being collected as opposed to only the best getting put together. Plus with the ability to print to order books can have publication runs of fewer than 1,000. That was unheard of in previous years. The bottom line to this commentary is to make sure you know what you are getting before ordering any trade or hard cover and/or wait three months and get for half price or less.
Next week’s list is Thunderbolts, Uncanny X-Men, BRPD, BPRD HC, Eerie The Hunter HC, Goon, Memorial, Batman, Birds of Prey, DCU Presents, Catwoman, Voodoo Child, Fables, GL Corps, Hellblazer, Justice League, Nightwing, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman. See these lists are getting more reasonable in my world.
Be here next week for another exciting column.