Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Read these comics - Part III

I like comics. I told you about some before, and I told you about some again. I realized that I left out some really good ones last time, so here are some more recommendations:

Sex Criminals - After I wrote my last list of recommendations, I looked over and saw these comics lying near the computer, and I realized that this was the series that I wanted to write about in the first place, yet somehow I forgot all about it!

Perhaps that's somewhat deliberate, as I also kind of DON'T want to write about it. Giving an overview of the plot makes it sound juvenile and smutty, but I wouldn't be too interested in it if that's all it had going for it. Writer Matt Fraction creates characters that you can both empathize with and care about. Also, it deals with matters of sex and sexual desires like they're normal - because they are. In other words, this one isn't for kids, but honestly? I think that a kid would get a healthier view of sex from this series than he or she would from watching music videos, romantic comedies, etc. - or worse, listening to advocates of "abstinence only".

Okay, so what's it about? It's about a young lady who stops time whenever she has an orgasm. She meets a fella who has the same ability. They figure that they can commit crimes when they do this, but there seems to be some people out there who can do the same thing, and their job is to stop people like them.

Yeah, I know, that sounds dumb. It's awesome though. Chip Zdarsky's art is top-notch as well.

Daredevil - This series recently got a reboot/renumbering from Marvel as Daredevil has moved from his hometown of Hells Kitchen (a neighborhood in New York, not the TV show) to San Francisco.

DD has always been a bit of a second fiddle in the Marvel Universe, as generally speaking, most people who don't read comics recognize him (unless they remember the not-so-great movie).  However, comics fans tend to consider him a pretty important character, as he's continuously had a monthly comic since the mid-1960s.

Since Frank Miller's run back in the 1980s, writers have really put Matt Murdock through the paces, completely destroying his life and then rebuilding it again. Sometimes it's better than others, and with Mark Waid's run on the series, a nice balance has been found of putting the Devil through hell, superhero fun, strong characterizations, and compelling storylines. It definitely has drama, but it's not a big bummer all the way through.

Perhaps the most compelling storyline lately has been the subplot with Foggy Nelson, Daredevil's best friend, and his battle with cancer. I read a lot of comics, and it's rare that one really touches me, but I've found myself setting down some of those issues, sighing, and just taking a moment to soak it all in afterward.

And of course, I must take a moment to compliment the clear storytelling skills of regular artist Chris Samnee. He's the perfect match for Waid's stories.

Starlight  - This isn't a Flash Gordon series, but it might as well be. The main character is Duke McQueen, a man who went to another world and rescued it from it tyrannical leader. Now he's an old man, living an unremarkable life, and nobody even believes that he did what he did. Shortly after his wife passes away, he's revisited by a native of the planet Tantalus, letting Duke know that he's needed once again.

It's a great setup, and the writing by Mark Millar is some of his best and most heartfelt. Goran Parlov's art is great as well, although I would have preferred it if somebody with a style more akin to Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon's creator) was on the book. But then again, perhaps that would have made the tribute to Flash a bit TOO obvious. anyway, I can't complain if it looks as good as it does.

One thing that I really like about Mark Millar's writing is that it's always so accessible. With some comics, I find that I forget what happened in the previous issue, and I enjoy them a lot more when I can sit down and read a whole bunch of them all at once. While Millar's stuff pays off in large doses as well, I always feel like I can pick up the current issue and be right on board with the story.

There haven't been any collected editions of this comic just yet, so pick up the individual issues if you can. Otherwise, I'm sure that a collection will come out eventually.

I should also mention, since I'm writing about what's essentially a Flash Gordon tribute, that the current Dynamite! Comics Flash Gordon series by Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner is shaping up to be a pretty solid read as well.

The Twilight Zone - Rod Serling's creation is given the comic book treatment by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Guiu Vilanova. Fans of the show will probably dig it, even though it takes some liberties with the format. While the stories definitely have the vibe of a TW episode, they tie into one another. The first story arc has been completed, and we're about halfway through the second one. It's not entirely clear exactly how it's all going to tie together, but it's clear that there is a connection.

The first story deals with a Wall Street crook, Trevor Richmond, who's looking at some serious jail time. In order to avoid his fate, he pays a company to create a completely new identity for him. Not only that, but the company hires a guy to take his place so the authorities don't go looking for him.

In his new identity, Trevor learns that the new "Trevor" is a better man than him, and doing what he should be doing in the first place - taking responsibility and trying to make things right. Of course, this isn't going to stand, and he can't just go on with his new life.

The next story deals with a woman who keeps seeing visions of the future, and the mysterious company from the first story arc plays a more ambiguous part in it all.

Definitely some cool stuff.

Afterlife with Archie - Much like with Sex Criminals, I'm hesitant to actually write about this. The premise sounds stupid when I say it out loud, and honestly, I only bought the first issue as a bit of a curious lark. When I was done with it, my reaction was that it was far better than it had any right to be.

The premise is pretty simple. Do you know the Archie gang? Well, what if Jughead, in an attempt to bring his beloved dog back to life, accidentally unleashes a zombie apocalypse? Oh, and it's not funny.

I think that one of the reasons why this series works is that I grew up reading Archie comics. I already have something invested in the characters, and when things suddenly go so totally horrific, I feel like it's happening to people I care about.

I have a feeling though that this series would work well even if you were totally unaware of the comics or the characters. The publisher very wisely departed from the usual artistic style and got Francisco Francavilla to draw the series.

I've heard from more than a few people who were pretty skeptical at first, but writer Roberto Aguirre has managed to create something that hits a lot of nerves. I don't know how long he can keep this up, but since it doesn't feel gimmicky once you actually read it, I'm definitely on board for now.

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