Trying to figure out what to read after DC's New 52? IGW humbly suggests some great indie reads! Plus, news and reviews from the last two weeks!
The News Reel
In a stunning shocker, writer J.T. Krul announced that he was stepping down as the writer of Green Arrow. In an open letter to his facebook friends, J.T Krul admitted that he simply could not come to terms with DC's new editorial mandate that said that the character should have mutton chops instead of his usual goatee. "I'm not a fan of DC's new direction with Oliver Queen," said Krul. "Losing his lustrous goatee and giving him mutton chops robs the character of everything that places him apart from the dozens of other archers running around comics." DC pointed out that it was not his beard that set him apart but rather his liberal sensibilities, hot temper and misfortune with the ladies, all of which they also disposed of in the Relaunch.
Marvel and DC have been engaging in guerilla marketing tactics in social networking. DC fired the first shot when they bought ads that appeared every time someone searched for a Marvel character on twitter. Marvel countered by buying ad space on Youtube that popped up whenever someone searched for DC's TV ads or video reviews. DC upped the ante by setting a bag of dog crap on fire and leaving it at the front door of Marvel's publishing office in New York. No words on how Marvel will respond, but rumors indicate that Marvel has stockpiled a large amount of toilet paper.
Marvel announced that Ultimate Comics Ultimate Spider-Man #1 was the top-selling digital comic of all time. In related news, my aunt announced that her daughter's lemonade stand had also broken all records and had become the top-selling lemonade distributor on her block. Industry analysts believe that the sell-thru volume of the digital comic and the young girl's lemonade stand are comparable.
Cross-Promoting Indie Books During DC's Relaunch
DC has dominated the comic book industry buzz in recent months. Their (sort of) relaunch and (sort of) bold new direction has captured the industry's fascination and overshadowed several other "major" announcements from Marvel, leaving many fans frustrated that their favorite company is being overlooked in favor of the abolition of Superman's overpanties. When discussing DC's dominance of the press yesterday, I realized that DC's recent press blitz has been detrimental to a different genre of book that has nothing to do with islands of spiders or a hairy mutant's penchant for filicide.
Independent comics have long been a rugged underdog when compared to comics that the big two put out. Although many indie books are superior in quality to their mainstream counterpart, their lack of recognizable characters and a dedicated marketing department puts the books at a disadvantage. However, unlike "mainstream" superhero comic books which rely on a dedicated fanbase's desire to read regular installments of their favorite characters, indie comics benefit by being "slow burners". Titles such as Y: The Last Man continue to sell years after the series' end due to a steady buzz and interest from "non-traditional" comic book readers.
If you're enjoying some of DC's new books, why not branch out a little and check out a corresponding independent title? Below is a list of some of DC's New 52 and some series you might want to try out if you're looking for more comics in a similar vein.
If you liked Justice League: Geoff Johns has stated that the new Justice League focuses on the interpersonal relationships between characters such as Green Lantern, Batman and Superman. Another superhero book built around relationships is Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley's Invincible. Invincible chronicles the struggles and development of Mark Grayson, the teenaged son of the world's premier superhero. After a stunning twist twelve issues in, Mark has to step in the role his father once held while juggling his relationships with his family and friends.
Invincible's strength is the methodical build-up of various subplots and arcs. Kirkman grows his plots organically and doesn't rush them to fulfill a need for a "big event" in the book. While I can't say that a moment in Invincible has shocked me per say, it is satisfying to watch a long-running subplot come to fruition. Invincible isn't a "perfect" superhero book, but neither is Justice League. If you're looking for a book that mixes action with characterization and drama, Invincible is the book for you.
If you liked Batwing: I've seen comments on several boards that Batwing fills a hole left by the cancellation of Unknown Soldier, a book that focused on the civil war in Uganda. While the first issue of Batwing only hints about the geopolitical turmoil in Africa, Jonathan Dysart's Vertigo series really digs in and brazenly confronts the reality of child soldiers and the daily brutality in one of the most ignored conflicts occurring today. It's a hard-hitting, uncompromising book that examines not only the tragedy in Uganda but also the ugliness of human nature.
If you liked Animal Man: There are plenty of superlative horror comics published by independent publishers today. The finest of these is Locke and Key, which is one of the best comics in publication today. At both Animal Man and Locke and Key's core is a unique family dynamic that's tested by paranormal forces. While the Baker clan struggles with Buddy's life as a superhero and his connection to the Bleed, the Locke family have to contend with a mysterious force that haunts their father's childhood home and may have something to do with his death at the hands of one of his students.
Locke and Key is brilliant, frightening and dark with rich, vibrant characters and a paranormal plot that leaves you constantly begging for more. Gabriel Rodriguez's artwork is phenomenal and catches the surrealism and emotion that the Locke children face and their struggle to maintain a normal life in the face of mounting tragedy. There's a reason that Joe Hill's series was adapted into a TV series pilot (which was unfortunately passed by Fox, who decided that Ramsey's Violently Cursing at Food was a safer programming choice) and is widely hailed as a favorite by many industry pros. Do yourself a favor and read the first arc of Locke and Key and try not to hurt anyone when you rush out for more.
If you like Men of War: Men of War examines the life a soldier living in a world of superheroes. If you enjoy war genre comics, DMZ is a Vertigo title that examines civil war and the collapse of society from the eyes of an embedded reporter. Set in a not too distant future where the Island of Manhattan has become a battleground between the United States and a collection of separatist states, DMZ is a nuanced book that examines ideologue, warfare and American culture in a captivating series.
If you're more interested in how superheroes affect other public servants, be sure to check out Ex Machina as well. The Brian Vaughn series combines superheroics with modern day politics in a post 9/11 world. Shocking, controversial and engaging, Ex Machina is a must read for anyone curious about political discourse in a world of superpowers.
If you like I, Vampire: While I, Vampire hasn't come out yet, early buzz has the series pegged as a dark horse during the DC Relaunch. Vampires have always had a home in comics and there are currently two superior vampire stories on shelves today. The first is Undying Love, written by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman. The series is an action-packed series that focuses on the relationship between badass John Sargent and Mei, who's been bitten by one of the strongest vampires in existence. In order to save Mei from the eternal life of a vampire, Sargent has to face off against vampires and other Chinese supernatural creatures.
The other series is the much lauded American Vampire series by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. American Vampire examines the emergence of a new breed of vampire in American history. Snyder has built a surprisingly deep world in a variety of historical backdrops ranging from the Pacific Theatre of World War II to the Wild West. It's an amazing story and will instantly draw you in.
If you Like All-Star Western: Do you enjoy the Wild West? Would you like to see what happened after the West was won? Check out Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's modern day examination of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota. Much like Jonah Hex, All-Star Western's spiritual predecessor, Scalped doesn't hold back in showing the seedy underbelly and corruption in one of the last corners of the Old West. Scalped is a powerful read that captures the "spirit" of the Wild West in a modern setting.
If you're looking for a different twist on a Western tale, why not try The Sixth Gun, the best supernatural western on the market? Set in the Reconstruction Era, The Sixth Gun mixes thunderbirds with gunslingers and mummies with a train showdown. The book focuses on six guns of immense power who fall in the hands of Drake Sinclair, a mysterious rogue, and Rebecca Moncrief, an innocent but able-bodied girl.
If you Like Teen Titans: Teen Titans is the popular teenage superhero title that has suffered lately from a string of mediocre artists and writers. If you're looking for a more consistent source of angst, romance, drama and a whole lot of danger, check out Nick Spencer's Morning Glories. The Morning Glory Academy is a deadly academy in which students live up to expectations or die gruesome deaths, often at the hands of their teachers. A new group of students don't take too kindly to the administrations' brutal philosophy and look to escape with their lives intact. Spencer tosses in hints of a supernatural mystery mixed with Lost-like flashbacks to make the series one of the most captivating reads on the market.
If you Like Red Lanterns: Red Lanterns may have been a stinker of a title, but it does feature one of the coolest characters to come out of DC in the last five years. Dex-Starr the Rage Cat is the angry blue furball that has won the hearts of everyone not named Punchy McChimneySweep. If you're looking to get a fix of kickass animals without having to suffer from one of DC's worst offerings, try IDW's revamp of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
It's impossible not to know the basic concept behind the TMNT. Four turtles were mutated in a lab experiment and evolved to become pizza-loving teenaged ninja. The revamp is written by Kevin Eastman, creator of the TMNT, and is delving into some less-explored corners of the TMNT mythos. Whether you're a fan of the cartoons and movies or simply are looking for a fun comic, TMNT is the book for you.
If you Like Swamp Thing: Swamp Thing, written by Scott Snyder, showcases the writer's ability to write weird and creepy tales that leave readers uncomfortable and wanting more. Another one of his creepy horror tales is Image's Severed. Severed is a period piece that focuses on a young man's search for his biological father who gains the attention of an unusual killer. The book is a disturbing read that leaves readers on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next.
So what are your cross-sells for the DC Relaunch? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
The New and Improved Comics (with Spoilers!)
The Top Spot (Part One): My LCS's manager handed me a copy of Optic Nerve #12 and told me that it was one of the top comics of 2011. He was right. I've never heard of Adrian Tomine before last week but I'll be sure to hunt down the rest of his work in the coming weeks. Optic Nerve is simply unlike anything I've ever read before. His writing is simple and deep at the same time and his stories are both absurd and filled with genuine human emotion. If you're looking to expand your horizons, check out Optic Nerve.
The Top Spot (from Last Week): Casanova Avaritia was pretty phenomenal too. It's been over three years since the last time we saw Casanova Quinn swashbuckle his way through the multiverse. In the first chapter of Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba's newest miniseries, readers see a Casanova unlike any we've ever seen before. It appears that Casanova's actions in the first two miniseries have finally caught up to him as he's been relegated to a miserable existence of wiping out multiverses that have been infected with a dimensional cancer. Ba's art takes on a depressed hue as Casanova falls deeper into a pit of self-loathing. Like the rest of the Casanova series, Avaritia #1 is deserving of multiple re-reads.
DCnU: The Keepers
Animal Man: Animal Man is probably my favorite series thus far. Jeff Lemire often fills his series with an underlying creepiness to give his various titles an extra edge. Animal Man is filled with that same creepiness but also showcases strong characterization in both Buddy Baker and his family. While Lemire's work in Superboy felt stiff and lacking substance, Animal Man is chock full of layers upon layers of intrigue and characterization. Travel Foreman's art, while a bit rough, matches the dark tone of Lemire's writing perfectly. All in all, Animal Man showcases why sometimes restarting an entire line is a good thing.
Demon Knights: I'm convinced that there are two writers named Paul Cornell working for DC. There's the smart, witty writer who can effortlessly add a dearth of characterization in a few panels and then there's the sloppy, rushed writer whose stories leave one's mouth gaping searching for answers. Luckily for readers, the superior Paul Cornell showed up to write Demon Knights. It's a strong first issue that introduces a vaguely noble Vandal Savage, a young and rebellious Madam Xanadu and a fun twist on the classic "Girl falls in love with superhero and his alter-ego" love triangle that DC seems to revel in. It's a great read and leaves you wanting more and more.
Batman and Robin: Having missed the first part of Grant Morrison's Batman saga, I've never read a story about Bruce Wayne coping with his sadistic adolescent son Damien. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason deliver a strong first issue that demonstrates why many considered their Green Lantern Corps to be the stronger Green Lantern book for the better part of 2009. The plot focuses on Batman's attempt to move his life forward in an attempt to be a role model to his son while protecting his Jason Todd like behavior. Meanwhile, a new villain seeks to rid the world of its surplus of Batmen with deadly results. Overall, Batman and Robin is a fun, if slightly superfluous, read.
Green Lantern: Ever since Blackest Night, Geoff Johns spun the wheels on Green Lantern waiting for the DC Relaunch to start. Long storylines that relied on all flash and little substance plagued DC's flagship series for over a year. Thankfully, Green Lantern's new status quo has corrected these problems. Sinestro is appropriately evil with a dash of misplaced nobility and arrogance while Hal Jordan proves that he really is the most worthless being in the universe. Seeing the Green Lantern universe that Johns' so carefully built over the last seven years turned on its head is a blast to read and Doug Mahnke's art is amazing as always. Haters be damned, this is a good book.
Superboy: I will admit that I've never read a single book with Scott Lobdell's name on it. This was my first experience with his writing and I simply don't see what the negative buzz surrounding the writer is about. Lobdell sets up Superboy's new origin and supporting cast deftly and prevents the first issue from falling into ho-hum origin territory. While it's evident Lobdell used the Young Justice cartoon as a reference to how to make Superboy different and interesting, he still pulled off a fun first issue that has me intrigued about how this series and Teen Titans will play off each other. Also, R.B Silva might be DC's most underrated artist on staff. He's simply an amazing artist who compliments Lobdell's sardonic lightheartedness.
Other Keepers: OMAC, Resurrection Man, Legion Lost, Frankenstein, Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Batwing
On the Marvel Side of Things: Daredevil #3 provided another gorgeous chapter into Mark Waid's reinvention of Matt Murdoch. Between Waid's new status quo and Paolo Rivera's amazing art, this book has consistently sat on the top of my comic pile every month. Frankly, I'll be stunned if this book isn't at least nominated for an Eisner next year.
X-Factor 224.1 reminded me why I keep picking up Peter David's long running X-title. David is by no means a perfect writer but he really gets this team of mutants and isn't afraid to throw some shock and gore to prove his point. I'm almost dreading the book's involvement in the idiotic Regenesis. I guess Madrox and Wolverine do have something in common: they've both killed off their children in a shocking fashion.
What's in an Event?: I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but Captain America feels out of his depth in Fear Itself. Between jumping out of Quincarriers for no particular reason to attempting to convince a bunch of yokels to engage in a shootout with evil Asgardians who've leveled half the planet, it seems that something has snapped in Steve Rogers' head. I certainly hope someone looks at the psychological toll losing Bucky a second time has on the Sentinel of Liberty.
Second Verse, Same as the First: I'll admit that I read the first issue of the new Ultimate Spider-Man series with a certain layer of skepticism. Ultimate Peter Parker is a character I've grown up with over the last decade and no one was more pissed when Marvel editorial deemed that it was time for the character to go. However, Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli have earned at least a few more months to see where the story goes. Miles Morales is definitely different than Peter Parker. But how it'll affect the Ultimate Spider-Man book is yet to be seen.
Last Words: What a shitty couple of weeks it was to take off from talking about comics. The last few weeks have been both exciting and filled with great comics. In addition to all the other great comics mentioned above (and Fear Itself), some other books that shone were Mystery Men #5, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4, Mystic #2, 27: Second Set #1 (reviewed by yours truly), Amazing Spider-Man #669, and The Sixth Gun #14.
Sorry for the break last week. My cat fell ill two weeks ago and I've been spending the bulk of my time nursing her back to health and dealing with a seemingly neverending litany of real life crap. Luckily, my cat is better now and I'm back to producing 3,000 word columns for shits and giggles.
Are you attending NYCC? Would you like to draw undue amounts of attention to yourself and your half-cocked opinions? The Outhouse is looking for a comic book fan to dress up as Amanda Waller and confront DC about the lack of overweight characters and writers hired by the company. In exchange for making a scene, we promise to grant you constant media coverage throughout the next two weeks and blindly defend your opinions from fans who point out the holes in your argument.
A column focusing on digital comics is in the works. Sadly, I suppose this means I'll actually have to buy a digital comic.
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer