Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Digital or Print? What's best when reading comics?

I'm having a bit of dilemma at the moment, although it's (thankfully) not too life threatening (though maybe it is given how much I love comics). After previously pondering what I should cull from my comic book pull list as I head into 2014 (see here ), I started to then look forward and see what new titles I could pick up and replace them, immediately finding two titles which are, somewhat, rather appealling to me. These titles are Alex + Ada, a (presumably) 12 issue series by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan (released in November), and Dead Body Road, a six issue series brought to us by Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera (released in December). Now, the problem I've got isn't whether I should buy either book but in what format of should I buy them. Should I pick them up in print or digitally?

My collection in its digital glory (for now??)
Now, here's a little backstory. Up until this point I deal primarily in print issues. I've got 1000 single issue comics stored in a cupboard full of boxes as well a good bookcase full of trades. Everything I normally buy is physical, in your hands comics from a bricks and mortar shop (or several, as it's been in my lifetime). In truth Digital has not been something I've acknowledged until recently when I've started picking up mini-series that are on sale (Kingdom Come, The Nightly News, Superman: Birthright) or redeeming codes found in the back of Marvel's $3.99 books (Indestructible Hulk, Uncanny X-Force, Daredevil: End of Days). However, despite these trips into cyber comics, I've never picked up items from my pull list on the day they are released until recently with the All-New X-men and Indestructible Hulk specials, which are detailing the Arms of the Octopus story.However, now I'm eyeing up this new series the question I'm asking myself is 'do I pick them up digitally?' This is an enticing prospect and here's why. Like I said previously, my comic books fill a cupboard and a bookcase and that's just a thousand single issues and if I keep buying them that'll soon not be enough storage. A print copy takes up space and eventually it'll get to the point that I have to sell them (which i'm loathe to do). If I pick them up on digital, that's just nothing in terms of space. I could hold 16 gigs worth of comics on an Ipad which is about the same size as a trade. Then there's picking them up. At present, I pick up my comics from a shop, in the town centre, which I can't reach until the Saturday when I'm not at work, three days after their release. With Digital I can pick them up on the day which they are released.

However, there is then the downsides of digital. First up is the cost. Because I'm a regular customer of my local shop with an ongoing standing order, I'm eligible for 10% discount which, when on a budget, is not a bad thing. By going digital there is a pretty good chance I'm going to spend more on comics. There is also the collectibility of print, as if I did ever sell them, a print comic is likely to be worth more than a digital copy. Also, I kind of enjoy having a real, physical 'thing' in my hands to look at. However, the big issue against digital is the fact of enjoyability. Now, I don't know about anyone else but, while I enjoy reading comics on my ipad, I find them so much more enjoyable when they are real comics in my hands. I don't know why but this is how it is and I'm hesitant to get digital comics if they impede the reason I buy comics in the first place.

So, what do I do? With Alex + Ada being released in only a couple of weeks I'm more then likely going to use it as a test case and buy it digitally. I'm really tempted to do it as I continually worry that I'm running out of space at home, but I can't help but feel that digital comics take something away from the experience of reading them.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Daredevil: Life after Mark Waid?

Ok, so I don't know if it is true or false but it seems, having just read this this, Mark Waid's critically acclaimed run on Daredevil is coming to an end.
Daredevil #1. Where it all began
Now, there isn't any guarantee that this is true as, though Bleeding Cool's source is the Daredevil letter pages at the back of the comic, the way it is written could hint at some more subtle meaning (though I've got to admit, I don't know what). Therefore, it could simply be that Bleeding Cool are just making smoke and panicking me.

But, if it is true, where do I go from here......

I have to ask myself the question, in light of my planning to reduce the size of my pull list, is Mark Waid (and, presumably, Chris Samnee)'s departure a got time for me to jump ship from the Man without Fear's main title? I'm severely tempted, and here's why:
Waid gave us everything,
including new villains
Since coming on board, Mark Waid has created the boss of all comic books. It is without a doubt the best thing you can read on shelves at the moment, immensely surpassing anything else in quality, story, tone, you name it. I've got to admit that this book has been so good that I'm not sure anyone can come along and beat it, which forms the main foundation of my dilemma. I like Daredevil, a lot. Both the book and the character mean a lot to me (possibly more than Fantastic Four, surprisingly) and yet, if this is the best Daredevil story I've read (which is entirely possible) then the only way to go, quality wise, is down.
If Waid's going, so to must
 Samnee (I guess)
I saw it before with Fantastic Four (twice), most notably with the end of Jonathan Hickman's run. Hickman wrote a fantastic (pardon the pun), epic story during his time with the first family and, for me, it was a work of art that his successor, Matt Fraction just failed to live up to. As a result, Fraction's run has not impressed (as I've mentioned previously), causing me to consider dropping the book due to it not entertaining me.

So, with that in mind, should I stay on Daredevil and have my heart broken (again)? I could be wrong and the next creative team either maintain a similar quality level (or even surpass it)? Well, yeah, that is a possibility, but is it worth taking the risk when the alternative is the decimation of my appreciation for this book due to shoddy sub-standard storytelling? So, for Daredevil, is there life after Mark Waid? I hope so but, given past experience, I doubt it.



Thursday, 17 October 2013

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 Review

So, another small week for me, but it was a week that saw the continuation of Marvel's 'Arms of the Octopus' storyline, the special issue crossover which had began a couple of weeks back in the pages of All New X-Men Special #1. Now it was time for part two to continue that story within a second series special, this time the book being Indestructible Hulk Special #1.

Picking up where All New X-Men's special left off, the narrative switches perspective from X-Men's Beast to the Jade Giant's alter ego, Bruce Banner as he explains how, after performing Hulk's latest mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. (which subsequently saw the best Hulk to Banner reversal technique ever) he is called upon by Spider-Man and the New X-Men (as seen at the end of the last issue) to provide insight into the Gamma Irradiated Young Doctor Octopus that appeared previously. After a bit of investigating Banner came to the conclusion the X-men reached previously that a temporal anomaly has brought past versions of characters to the present, which is seemingly confirmed when the (supposedly) dead Abomination begins tearing up the city, resulting in the good Doctor to get a little bit angry....

Note the Hulk's receding hairline.
This special maintains writer Mike Costa from part one of the story (although the artist is different). However, despite the consistency in the writing skill, this issue didn't feel quite as engrossing as All New X-Men. I think the main problem here is that Indestructible Hulk Special #1 feels a lot like filler, especially introductions and catch ups between characters, some which were played out previously, giving a very repetitve feel. This is most likely the biggest problem of the issue as it takes a lot of space which could have been replaced by necessary plot development or action. That said, this 'filler' dialogue isn't the only problem as the art doesn't really help in my mind. I'm sure Jake Wyatt is a good artist (though I've not seen any of his other stuff) but I just didn't like how this issue was drawn, with the depictions of Hulk and Abomination most likely being the worst culprits.

I think if Arms of the Octopus had been a two issue story it might have worked well. However, in this additional issue Hulk (despite narrating as if he's the main character) feels a lot like a guest star in what is meant to be his own title. It's not a terrible is but, although the Abomination thread does help move the overall plot forward with a unexpected twist, it all feels like too much effort for too little reward. Oh well, maybe Spidey's issue can make up for it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The year end comic book cull

So, the year is nearly over. Ok, well not really as it is only October, but as Previews has released the comic book solicitations going all the way up to December, for me it's about time I did some clearing out of my pull list ready for the new year. Now, I don't have that many books in comparison to some people I know, but I'm a guy with a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed etc, etc. and so my comic book budget is pretty conservative and with such a conservative budget, new books are prevented from being looked out without cutting away some of the fat.

With that in mind, I've gone through my list and thought long and had about what should stay and what should go and this is the end result:

Daredevil (Marvel) - I could say that this book has been ok. I could say that this book takes up precious space. I could say improvements need to be made here. I could say these things, but they'd be a lie!!! Daredevil is time and again the best book I pick up. With consistency like that there really isn't an option, Daredevil is staying. No more can be said. - Safe

Daredevil: Dark Nights (Marvel) - Honestly, there is only one thing that makes this not as good as the ongoing series above; the fact that this is only an eight issue series. Going into the new year, there is only one issue left, but Daredevil: Dark Nights is that good that I'm not willing to quibble over one issue. - Safe

Lazarus (Image) - I think, for me, Lazarus has one thing going for it that a lot of other books just don't have; Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Ok, that's two things). I'm a big fan of both those guys and while Lazarus isn't perfect, it's still well thought out and incredibly interesting. With that in mind I'm confident this title will go in leaps and bounds and am willing to take the risk. - Safe

Think Tank (Image) - Think Tank has had its bump in the road, but its still come out swinging and it not only entertains me but makes me feel smarter (like the tagline promises). I still enjoy the book immensely and I plan to see where it goes. Besides, I rant that more people should read it and don't like to be a hypocrite. - Safe

The Activity (Image) - Ahh, the Activity. My longest running non Marvel/DC comic book (god that is sad, I should really have more). Continues to be strong, although its almost constant late release dates bugs me enough to consider dropping. Nonetheless, it's staying. - Safe (just)

Ten Grand (Image) - I gotta admit, I'm a little taken with Ten Grand and its unique, supernatural spin on the decade old Noir stereotype. That said, what drew me to this book was Ben Templesmith's art and now he's gone I'm not sure if the subject matter is enough to keep me invested. That said, I'm not willing to write it off just yet. - Uncertain

Earth 2 (DC Comics) - I love Earth 2. The main reason for that is that it's pretty isolated from the rest of the New 52, allowing it a great degree of freedom. However, though its art is fantastic, its writing has been known to be a bit clunky in places and the abrupt departure of James Robinson has put me off a bit. Then again, Tom Taylor is taking over and I hear he's got game, so I'm willing to give him a shot. - Uncertain

Indestructible Hulk (Marvel) - I had such high hopes for this series when it first came out. I mean, it's written by Mark Waid, you know, the guy writing gold over on Daredevil. Sadly, after the first couple of issues this series has just lost any interest to me. Now the Daredevil arc kept my attention and this Agent of TIME arc might just save the book on my list, but I'm skeptical at this point. - Cut

Mass Effect: Foundations (Dark Horse) - I'll be honest, there are times I think that the only reason I pick up these Mass Effect series is because I love the games so much (and I do, I REALLY do). With Foundations, I'm in two minds, the first issue was....adequate while the second issue was better. I'm an issue behind but while I suspect the series will not be of top quality, I suspect my completionist tendencies will save it from the chop. Serious thinking still required here. - Uncertain

FF (Marvel) - When the series was first conceived way back when, I was skeptical. However, what Hickman did with it turned me around. Now when Fraction took over I thought without doubt, it was one of the best books going. I'm inclined not to think that anymore as since Fraction jumped ship (and maybe a little before) this series has gotten much more non-sensical and a chore to read. Rather sad really as it started off with such promise. - Cut

Fantastic Four (Marvel) - Now this is the moment my heart breaks. I've got over 10 years of Fantastic Four issues. I have from the beginning of Waid's run all the way to present day. However, I guess that the series just hasn't recovered from Hickman's stellar run as it's been difficult to invest myself in. Now the Fraction's run (along with FF) ends in January and while I had planned to do the unthinkable and cut it, the recent reveal of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk as the new creative team has me more than tempted. - Safe (for now)

Where is Jake Ellis? (Image) - Ahh, Where is Jake Ellis? Well, that's actually a good question as an issue hasn't been released since the last new year. I'm tempted to cut it, not because it's not good but because I'm not sure if the last two issues will be released in my lifetime. That said, because it probably won't come out any time before the Superman/Batman movie, I might just leave it on, it's not like it costs me anything by not coming out. - Safe (by some miracle)

So, there it is. At the end of that, I could only bring myself to cut two books (although, I'm thinking Ten Grand will also get the chop, as will Fantastic Four if the new creative team doesn't meet expectations). That said, the book that have been hit are Marvel books (even if, sadly, one is a Fantastic Four-related book), which given my increasing love for creator owned work of late, may not turn out to be a bad thing. Of course, if any one who reads this wants to weigh in then please do, any excuse to not make a decision about comic books being cut.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Comics for the week: 09-Oct-2013

This week has been a bit of a small week when it's come to what needed picking up from my pull list and so I figured I'd just write about them together and save myself some time. The pick ups were, overall, pretty good with Think Tank #10, which is a damn good series that I was totally looking forward to, and America's got Powers #7, which finally (after a VERY long time since the first issue's release) saw the conclusion to Jonathan Ross' first (that I know of) foray into comics.

Firstly, Think Tank #10, which picked up where #9 left off, with David having been capture by his own superiors and locked up in a secret base (how very James Bond of him). However, with some help from an old friend, David breaks out and gets ready to save his girl and escape his employers once and for all, unaware that they intend to permanently fire him as a scapegoat for the fallout that has come from the use of his genetic weapon previously.

Now, after a shaky start (I'm not sure the opening press release would be wholly realistic. Do Governments really tell the world about secret military operations?) Think Tank continued to go strong, appearing to go back to the premise that originally enticed me to the book; escaping!!! Matt Hawkins and Rashal Ekedal continue to do sterling work with this book as the story really has me hooked as well as art thatis just beautiful and, i think, surpasses most other books on the shelves. Stuff I read online (as well as Hawkins own notes in the back pages) imply that the end may be near for Think Tank, and I after reading this I wonder if this is the first issue that gets the ball rolling toward the finale. Well, whether it is or isn't is regardless, I keep loving this book and so I'll be back next month for the next issue.

On the other hand, the same can't be said for the other book I picked up, as America's Got Powers #7 is the finale of a mini-series that (I think) has taken longer to release than a lot of full length ongoings. To explain the whole story would take a while (plus after taking so long, I'm not sure I remember it all), but in America people have been given superpowers and placed in a battle Royale type event. However, things get out of hand when one kid gives absolute power to another guy, who then threatens the world to bow to him. This is where this issue picks up, with the Military about ready to blow this super-powered folks off the map, Tommy Watts (the as mentioned 'one kid') must use his latent power to prevent world war 3.

Just from writing that feels like my brain dumped a way too much info. Now I previously said that this week was pretty good, but when I reference that to this comic, it is simply because it is now over. I don't know if I just lost enthusiasm due to the long wait between issues, but reading this was a chore and didn't really feel like a decent enough pay off at the end. In fact, the final page simply made it out that this series was a pointless prelude to something similiar that will occur in a sequel series. In the end the only thing I liked about this series at the end was the art, although Bryan Hitch's work alone is not worth the time I've had to wait. In the end though, I'm happy with the issue because the series is over and I can now bag it, back it and box it.

So, yeah, in the end I kinda lied at the start. In terms of quality the week wasn't that good as only half the books were worth reading. But, then again, the other half I don't have to pick up again so I count that as a plus (though it would have been better if I didn't have a real need to complete series that turn out bad).

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Review: Daredevil Dark Nights #5 - the devil vs the gnome

For me, Daredevil has really been going all guns blazing of late. While the main series has been nothing but top quality work from the great Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, a couple of fantastic mini-series have been released alongside: first the terrific End of Days by Briab Michael Bendis (arguably Daredevil's best writer in the last decade) and David Mack, which has then been followed (judging from  the first four issues) by a series with just as much quality. Thankfully, Daredevil: Dark Nights #5 continues this with the conclusion to its second story.
Continuing from the previous issue, while the Avengers continue fighting a giant monster in the heart of the city, Daredevil has tracked the criminal borrower-esque Buggit to his cousins home, who's been killed. With revenge on his mind, Buggit escapes with a bomb and, for Daredevil, it's a race against time to get across the city to reach the gnomes target, all the while saving lives and stopping super-criminals who are taking advantage of all the chaos.

As I pick up this issue, I find myself feeling a mix of fear and excitement because Shadowlands is still fresh in my memory and though up to now this series has been one of the two best series I pick up (the other, ironically, being Daredevil's ongoing), I'm always weary that it will come crashing down. Thankfully, Marvel keep dodging this bullet and have done so once again, with David Lapham finishing this two part story with some real flare and writing Daredevil perfectly.

In honesty, there is very little wrong with this issue, or even this series as a whole (although, the last three issues could change that) and if there was one thing I had to pick on then it would be the art not being as colorful as Chris Samnee's within the regular series. Of course, that's just unfair of me to say as Lee Loughridge has drawn this story with some real grit and style, keeping the issues in tone with the characters noir place in the Marvel U.

I'll be honest, I think DC should take notes as this is what Action Comics should be to Superman; an anthology series that focuses on 'day in the life' stories of a character to compliment the ongoing series. Daredevil: Dark nights is exactly that to me in that it has told two beautiful stories that aren't reliant on the constant goings on of Daredevil proper and the fact that the stories so far have been told so expertly by great creators is a testament to both them and the character. I'm already looking forward to the next issue and I'm gonna try and not fear it falling short, because I'm now skeptical it will happen.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Review: All New X-men special #1

This week I decided to do something a little different. It's a very rare occasion when I pick up a comic book that isn't usually on my pull list and it's an even rarer occasion that I pick up a comic that is part of crossover, but this month I found myself tempted for the Arms of the Octopus story that is being brought out across three separate specials. Therefore, this week saw the start of that story with the release of the All New X-men special #1.

The story comes from the perspective of (the younger, blue fur less) Hank McCoy who, along with the east of the original X-men (sans Angel), has travelled to the heart of New York City to take in the sights. However, while seeing the world of the future, chatting up young ladies and visiting old professors, Hank and the gang are attacked by the original Dr Octopus, Otto Octavious. Now this might seem like a not so strange occurrence, except that Ock is dead and his soul is currently housed within the body of the Superior Spider-man, who just happens to be in the area to help and is none too pleased with this new Doc Ock showing up.
I gotta be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I picked up this issue, but in the end I'm glad I did. Writer Mike Costa (who I haven't honestly never seen any previous work of) comes up trumps with this story with the youthful Hank making an incredibly charming lead above all the other X-men. After years of dead Jeans, Blue Hanks and evil Scotts, I found it nice to revisit the original cast with a very 'time gone by' attitude that appeared here. This was probably helped by Kris Anka and Jordie Belaire's work on the art, which has a very simple, elegant, 'yesteryear' look. It is truly gorgeous collaboration and I'm kinda hoping that they are working on all three for their beautiful art isn't limited to the past x-men but to the present day Spider-man who is a joy to look at and read. Costa has written this guy in a truly creepy, arrogant manner that I just love to hate while Anka and Belaire have somehow made him look ultra modern while the rest of the book keeps that elegant days gone look. If Spidey is written and drawn like this in the series proper then I'm tempted to pick up those back issues.

Hank certainly knows how to impress a girl
That said, there was still some room for improvement, particularly in the characterisation of the other X-men, who feel a bit two dimension against the fully fleshed Hank. Also, Ock and Spidey's motives and connections could have been better explained, instead of hoping the reader knows what is going on elsewhere (good thing I read on the internet). However, I guess that would require a much larger issue than what £2.99 could afford, although hopefully the other two specials that complete this story will be able to emphasisea mere fleck on some of these problems.
Overall though, this is a fun little issue, which not only makes me wonder where the story will go from her, but also teases the the appearance of the final hero to have a special grace this arc. Indestructible Hulk special #1 comes out in a couple of weeks to continue the story and I'm looking forward to see if it will maintain this great start to the story. I can only hope I guess.