Friday, 27 November 2015

Novembers comics (so far)

In truth, I kind of expected not to write about any print comics for a few more weeks. The reason being is that, as my local comic book shop is in the town centre, I hadn't planned on any more than one trip before the new year so I could avoid the crowds of Christmas shoppers.

Well, things (as per usual with me) haven't gone to plan, though in a positive way, as I was able to go in last weekend.

And, like the last pick up of print comics, it's only two books and only one of them managed to impress me.

(This is becoming a bit of a trend).

So, first up was Lazarus #20, which finally returns after (what feels like) a lengthy absence, and sees Forever, recently resurrected, trying to regroup with her team and finish the mission. Meanwhile, at home, Johanna's plans take an unexpected turn.

Now, Lazarus is one of my top books (which, in fairness, doesn't take much as I pick up so few) but after reading this issue, I think it's break and delayed releases has given the series a slight breath of fresh air. Issue 20 was captivating from start to finish, with Forever taking a back seat while Casey and Johanna taking the lead, with more supporting characters like Arthur and Marisol being given more time to shine. This issue really made me think of the book as more an ensemble series than before.

But also, the political manoeuvring which was occurring in the home portions really have me more intrigued about what is to come. I've also been left with questions about the loyalties of characters I'd previously thought I had a good handle on. Issue 20 was a fantastic instalment and has me looking forward to 21.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can say the same after having read Unfollow #1, which tells the story of a social media mogul who, on his deathbed, bequeathes equal portions of his vast fortune to 140 random strangers as well as inviting them to meet at his remote island home.

Unfollow was a really interesting book when I saw it in previews a few months back with the concept feeling like a internet inspired ten little Indians. However, after an intriguing start, this book really fell apart for me afterwards with some unusual events, like a talking leopard.

However, the biggest problem for are the characters, with the first characters of the 140 introduced coming across as rather arrogant and unlikable to me. Added to this is an ending which feels unconnected to the main story, with a guy who looks like Hershal from the Walking Dead (seriously!!), I've come away from reading this issue feeling rather underwhelmed.

So, once again, I've finished a reading session with only one book wowing me. The hard part for me now is do I give Unfollow another chance (breaking my recently set up rules) or do I stay strong and drop it for something else.

Either way, issue 2 will be a guarantee for me, as it comes out next week. That said, this won't be the big part of my next reading session as Where is Jake Ellis'? final issue comes out.

All I can say to that is 'finally'!!!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Superman: American Alien #1

This weekend I was away at my in-laws, which means my time was not being taken up by masses of housework and 'real-life' problems.

It also means I got free time to read my comics sooner, which is convenient because this past week saw the release of Superman: American Alien #1.

I've been quietly looking forward to American Alien since its announcement. Looking like and described as a series focusing on Superman in his youth, at key moments which defined the character we all know now, I envisioned this being the New 52's answer to Smallville (though maybe a bit better) with the character coming across more as I remember him pre 52 rather than the tortured, un-Superman like character I'm currently seeing in DC's main super titles. However, this last week has seen my confidence waiver due to other 'bad' opinions cropping up on the Internet (I really should avoid spoilers).

That said, I've since realised that I was worrying about nothing. This is because, after reading it, I've discovered that Superman: American Alien is vastly better than I ever could have imagined!

Taking place during Clark's childhood, the first issue follows his learning to fly (which seems to kick in at inappropriate moments and he lacks any control over) and its impact on his feelings of normalcy when compared to everyone else, as well as his relationship with his parents.
And, after reading it, all I can say is wow! This book is such an incredible book and feels so quintessentially Superman in its hope and optimism that I don't think I have ever read a better take on the character.
That's a strange thing to say given its story is a lot about Clark's angst and worry about being different. However, the thing is that Max Landis seems to have really infused this book with heart, especially between the Kent family who read almost exactly like I always envisioned them to be; never afraid, always supportive and it shows how Superman is such a genuine character when he grows up.
But to me, the truly best part of this book is the portrayal of Jonathan Kent who, while starting off seemingly a little afraid of his son's change, really shines as such a great father figure, equal parts stern yet caring. I could truly believe how Superman became Superman with this guy as a dad (and I kinda hope I can be this kind of when with my own kids).

And then there's Nick Dragotta's art, which I feel silly for having doubted before seeing this book (I mistakenly remembered him drawing some bad books on FF. I don't think that was him now though). There's a scene which best encapsulates the whole feel of the book and its this:

This is such a cool, fun and light-hearted panel that it pretty much explains rest of the book, using the art to keep the issue balanced against the angst and worry Clark goes through in the plot.

So, after reading this, and despite having not yet picked up and read my print comics (a couple more weeks before that happens), I'm convinced that Superman: American Alien is my best comic of the month, if not the year. It was absolutely phenomenal and, after reading it five times already, I'm totally looking forward to the next issue now. Even with a different artist on each issue, if this book has the same feel on them as it does here, I don't think I'll ever read a better Superman ever again!!

That's actually a little sad now that I think about it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Black Science #17.

I'm now a week behind on my comics. This is better than being the month behind that I was last week, but I figured after that catch up I'd more likely to stay up to date for the foreseeable future.

Well, work and general real life seems to have proven that plan wrong.

That said, I have actually read what book (yes book, as in only the one) came out last week, it's just a shame it took me half a week to read and another half to actually get my thoughts down.

But, as proven here, I've finally gotten round to both and so, here are my thoughts on Black Science #17. (Be warned spoilers ahead!!!)

After issue 16 pretty much finished the books first arc (and at 16 issues, that was the longest arc I've ever seen), issue 17 started the 'Godworld' arc. Taking place three years later, we find Grant McKay alone in a strange world salvaging scrap. It seems that just after the last issue the Pillar exploded, separating McKay from his team and Children and scattering them all throughout the Eververse.

Since then the books' lead has been trying to find them, a task he's struggling with as his memories have slowly been 'eaten' away while he's been searching for an elusive power source. However, things seem to ramp up again when, after having a dream of his childhood, McKay encounters a weird alien, a monster from his past and his brother in quick succession as he continues his search for a way off of the 'Godworld'.

Sounds pretty exciting huh? Well I have to admit that this wasn't the case for me. This is because after a real rollercoaster of a first arc, I was totally caught off guard by such a drop in pace for this rather slow burn issue. I also found what happened after his 'dream' to be a little confusing and had me wondering is it all a dream or hallucination? I expect it is because how else would his brother have found him but then anything is possible in this series so I think I'll find out next issue.

In truth this wasn't an overly bad issue, as the art is still fantastically pulpy, but is only memorable for me because of the questions it has me asking. By the end all I want to know is where are the rest of the cast? Did any of them die? Why did the Pillar explode? What happened with the Snake/ghost things in three years? and so on and so on.

So not the greatest of returns, but it did a job which I like in my comics, it had me wanting the next issue, if for no other reason than to answer my questions.

Thankfully I won't have to wait as long as I just have for those answers!!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Rebuilding my pull list.

Recently, I listened to an episode of the podcast Longbox Review entitled The Gutters: The culling, in which the host, Eric, went through his pull list and cut it down from seventy five to ten.

It got me thinking about my own pull list, which I've spent the better part of 2015 whittling down to a bare minimum in order to make up for the fact that I'm not as rich as I used to be.

Well, finally, after almost ten months of planning, calculating and cutting I think I've reached that point. I think I've finally gotten my pull list down to the bare minimum I desired.

Now I can rebuild it, after all I have the technology!!! (Six Million Dollar Man. Get it? Because I'm rebuilding ..... Ok, I'll move on).

So, going forward my pull list will consist of several rules in order to keep it at its best:
  1. My Monthly budget will be a fixed figure and any monies not spent on comics during that month will roll over to the next month. This will allow me to the odd extra comic here and there but, regardless, there will be no exceeding that combined total. In the event of that there are too many comics on a pull list then cuts will be enforced (For which see rule 2).
  2. Division of comics between digital and print will consist of the simple plan that all limited/mini-series are bought digitally while all ongoing series will be bought in print (with the exception of Black Science and Copperhead, which were already being picked up digitally). There are logistical reasons for this, such as I'm wanting to save space while I'm not ready to go fully digital yet. But also, digital mini-series mean that I can cut them short to pick back up later in the event of over spending in a particular month, without getting too far behind in a story.
  3. Decisions over whether to drop a series will occur after one poor issue (in my opinion). This is mostly to weed out the stronger new books from the substandard ones (again, all based on my opinion). Also, because I have to order print comics at my LCS two months in advance, I can't give a book more time to impress me as it means ordering further along. Effectively, a comic will last for three issues at minimum. However, titles I have long runs on will get an additional issue to regain itself as I'm pretty much invested by then anyway.
And so, there are the criterion for my pull list (Hey, if Asimov can have three laws of robotics, I can have three for my comics). Of course, I strongly suspect I'll have broken these before I'm halfway through 2016 but at least I can try and control my collecting and stop myself from boing bankrupt or, even worse, being forced to give up comics just as they are getting good.

Now, this is probably not that interesting to anyone else as it's a lot of gobbledygook (even I started getting lost), but I figured if I wrote it all down it would make not sticking to the plan a whole lot harder.

But this is theory, now I've got to put it into practice.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Comics from October.

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote anything here, which is a sad side effect of having a hectic life of late. It isn't the only side effect either as regular reading of comics has also fallen by the wayside, hence why I've only just gotten round to reading the comics released in October now.

That said, it's a little depressing that it still took me so long to pick up and read only two print books which were released during the month. I guess that's a testament to just how busy I've been.

However, read them I now have and, while the reasons for picking both books up were both very different, so were my reactions to them after said reads.

First up, I read Black Magick #1 which I picked up due to it's creative team. Greg Rucka has been killing it writing Lazarus, while Nicola Scott's art on Earth 2 was freaking phenomenal and so I figured this book had to have been a sure thing. Of course, this belief waned when I checked out the preview, which I found less than stellar.

Well, that'll teach me to put stock in preview pages because reading the whole issue reaffirmed my original belief. Black Magick is a sure thing! While starting a little slow, once a funny scene with a mobile hit, the issue became a lot more engrossing and, much like Lazarus, ended with questions on my mind compelling me to return.

But, that was nothing compared to the art because, while it was very different to what I'd seen in Earth 2, Scott's art was truly stunning in black and white, made only better when I turned the page to find half of a full page spread filled in glorious colour. What a way to make a panel stand out! By the end, I have to admit I was hooked and knew right there and then that this will be hitting my pull list.

However, the same couldn't be said for Batgirl #45 which, after having dropped title previously, I had picked up for the concept of Alyssa's wedding found within, along with all the raves I'd been hearing about it. Sadly, this issue proved once again that, while Batgirl by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and Babs Tarr is a nice enough read, it just doesn't hook me like others do (or Black Magick did).

The problem here is that I don't know why I can't get on board with this book. It's like the opposite of the Chilli-Chutney sandwich from Red Dwarf (I'm showing my age now): All the right ingredients, but no mind-blowing, post hangover food (it's an episode during series 2. Check it out).

In the case of the comic, the plot is fun enough, even if too much Dick Grayson for me, and the characters are written really well and come across very happy and fun. And then there is the art, which is just absolutely fantastic and makes me wonder why I've never seen Babs Tarr's work before. That said, it all just didn't gel for me and it means, no matter how sweet the issue was, this isn't a series for me and so won't be getting a second chance.

 So, that was October done. It was short and sweet, although I'd have preferred both books totally wowing me (although neither was actually terrible). That said, next month is November, which means Unfollow, two Lazarus issues, a new Superman mini starting, more Black Magick and the return of Black Science.

Sounds promising. I just hope I can pick them up more frequently.