So I’ve been doing a lot of bitching about comics lately. Most of this has come from DC’s recent “reboot”, in which they did everything except for actually try to make there comics better. In fact, I tried to view the reboot optimistically, and even had plans of reviewing the entire line. But in large the books are so terrible, so watered down, and so uninteresting, that I gave up after the first week, and the whole thing has made me despair a little for the comics industry. If books this bad are selling so well, is there any room in today’s market for anything other than dumb, generic superhero comics?
I hope so, and so I give you some recommendations of some recent reads:
Daredevil #1-4 by Mark Waid, Paulo Rivera, and Marcos Martin
Yes, my first pick is a superhero comic. And not only that, it’s a mainstream superhero comic, with a famous, recognizable character. And it’s one of the best things I’ve read this year. Why? Because it’s one of the few superhero books on the stands right now that actually remembers that IT”S A COMIC BOOK! Every issue of this is like a masterclass in the comics medium. Waid and his partners aren’t just telling us a story, they are showing us a story, in vivid, Technicolor terms. Waid’s Daredevil does more to showcase what comics can do than almost any other book on the stands right now, and if you’re not reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re a communist.
Infinite Kung-Fu by Kagan McLeod
A 400 page kung-fu epic? Sign me up. This is a love letter to Shaw Brothers style kung fu movies, with the emotional drama, bad-ass fight scenes, and goofy nonsense that implies. McLeod has been working on this in some shape or form for over a decade, and it’s great to see such a unique, personal take on the kung-fu mythos in comic book form.
Lil Depressed Boy by S. Stephen Struble and Sina Grace
Are you a sardonic hipster that loves music, comics, and died a little when Scott Pilgrim wrapped up? Good news folks, Lil Depressed Boy is here. LDB has quickly become one of my favourite character studies on the stands, and is a welcome breath of fresh air to all of the high-concept, adventure comics that are currently on the market. It’s the story of a sad little guy who meets the love of his life.
The Last Mortal by John Mahoney and Filip Sablik, and Thomas Nachlik
Image has put out a lot of high-profile books this year, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. The fact that its been pretty much ignored is sad, as I think it’s one of the most well-crafted high concept stories I’ve read this year. The pitch is absurdly simple: One day, a guy finds that he can’t die. That’s it. That’s the whole thing, and in a lesser talents hands we would have 25 pages of a poor man’s Wolverine knock-off. But the creators realize that it is strong characters that make high concept work, and have put together a smart and sad crime story that simply utilizes, and not relies on, it’s superpowered origins.
The Hidden by Richard Sala
Holy crap. If you can find a creepier, more spine-tingling comic book story this year I’ll come over and mow your lawn*. I’ve never read a Sala story before, and I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. Sala’s expressive art perfectly accentuates the terrible sadness of the post-apocalyptic Frankenstein update he’s telling here. If you’re in the mind for great, beautifully drawn horror, this is your book.
*Offer only good to people who live in my condo.
Green River Killer – A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case
I opened this book, by the guy that used to write the long rambling love letters to Lost on EntertainmentWeekly.com every week, with some reluctance and trepidation. In my experience, just because you’re a good prose or non-fiction writer doesn’t mean you can write good comic books, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Green River Killer isn’t just a good comic book, it’s a GREAT one.
It’s the story of Jensen’s father, a Washington State police detective assigned to help track down one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. There are a lot of mis-steps that one could take putting together a story so personal, yet so part of the public record, but Jensen takes none of them. This isn’t the killer’s story, it’s his fathers, but Jensen’s resistance to over-sensationalizing his dad’s story is admirable. This isn’t an episode of Mannix. There’s no big shoot out and the end, no “ah-ah!” moment where everything comes together in the parlor with all of the family sitting around. And still Jensen and Case manage to craft a smart, entertaining read about one man’s life work. It’s a small story, but a great one.