Over the past year I’ve fallen behind on my comic-book reading. For the most part, I try to keep up with a number of series on a monthly basis, but for several reasons I just let this slip for the past twelve months…or more, in some cases. One reason I’ve done this is because of self-perpetuating laziness. I neglect to pick up a title for a month or two, and then I just decide to let it ride for a little longer. Which brings me to another reason for not keeping up on a monthly basis: avoiding serialization. In some ways, I like reading comics in monthly, or bi-monthly or tri-monthly, installments. There’s something to waiting, to anticipating the next narrative move, that is compelling. Yet this anticipation can also be a burden, especially with series that I’m really into. For instance, there’s a part of me that would rather hold on to several months-worth of Scalped before getting back to the storyline, have enough issues to get a good chunk of the story, and not just a tidbit. A third reason I’ve neglected the comic books has been my privileging of other reading material. The comics that I’ve been reading lately have mostly been graphic novels/albums (whatever you choose to call them) or collected series in book form. And of course my readings of fiction, history, and biography have also eaten up a lot of my comic-book-reading time.
But I’ve continued to get quite a number of monthly titles, and they’ve been building up. And this past week and a half, I’ve been playing catch-up and having a wonderful time doing it. Not long ago I caught up with Scalped, but then soon after that I went through back issues of other favorites of mine, Terry Moore’s Echo, Fables, and Jack of Fables. I really like where Echo is going, and now I’m waiting on the final issue to wrap up the series. Bill Willingham continues to do it with Fables, and the battles with the Dark Man as well as Rose Red’s problems have all been compelling. I can’t really say the same for Jack of Fables. Ever since Jack began turning into a dragon–basically, most of the stuff since 2009′s “Great Fables Crossover”–hasn’t been all that exciting to me. For awhile there, I thought that this spin-off was more intriguing, and more clever, than Fables. Now, I’m not sure where Jack of Fables is going. Maybe things will be redefined, or redirected, after this upcoming 50th issue.
I’ve also caught up with Sweet Tooth. I like this series, and enjoy Jeff Lemire’s work, and this strange post-apocalyptic series has sustained my interest so far. The same goes for the new House of Mystery. I was a big fan of the original House of Mystery, as well as it’s brother comic House of Secrets, when they were originally published by DC in the early 1970s. I was a so-so superhero fan growing up, but war comics and horror/mystery comics were my favorites, so anything with DC’s Cain, Abel, and Eve were okay in my book (and especially the parody of those type of comics, Plop!). Matthew Sturges’s more recent manifestation of Mystery is worth the update. It sustains some of the old House of Mystery feel, in that each issue has a separate, self-contained “horror” story–the original was made up solely of these episodic narratives–but there a overriding and sustained narrative running throughout all the issues. Also like the original series, it’s great with the weird stuff.
There were a few now-ended series that I thought were so-so. I’d been meaning to read two Vertigo mini-series, Greatest Hits and Bang Tango, for some time (esp. Greatest Hits, which began in 2008). The former was a curious take on superheroes…not near as inventive as Watchmen, of course, but interesting in its own way. Superheroes as rock stars. Bang Tango is okay, but it’s much like the other crime comics Vertigo puts out. The basic storyline is something you might find in Scalped or 100 Bullets. Steven T. Seagle and Marco Cinello’s Soul Kiss is an okay concept, but this is something that could have been better handled in one or two issues, not strung out over five installments. The opposite could be said of Warren Ellis’s Ignition City. This series had a lot of promise, but in its first manifestation (I assume there will be more Ignition City narratives), it’s poorly truncated. There seemed so much more lying behind the narrative we actually get in this five-issue mini-series, and I kept feeling the whole time that Ellis was holding back. It’s almost as if he were lazy and just didn’t want to flesh out the story where it actually seemed to have a life of its own. An unfortunate missed opportunity. And I hate to say this, but I felt the same with Alan Moore’s Neonomicon. I had high hopes for this title…and perhaps that was my problem. Because it was something by Moore, I was expecting more. Much like Ellis’s work, I felt that Neonomicon wasn’t as developed as it should have been, that there was a lot of potential that was untapped. And Jacen Burrows’s artwork didn’t do anything to endear me to the limited series.
But by far, one of the most fascinating series I read this past week is G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker’s Air. Someone at a Pop Culture Conference recommended this to me a couple of years ago, and even though I got all the issues as they were released, I nonetheless held off on reading them. Now that the series ended last October, I have the entire run in front of me, so I got to enjoy all the twists from beginning to end…and without having to fool with monthly waits. It’s a wonderful mix of the current political zeitgeist and fantasy. In fact, given all the crap we have to go through dealing with air travel, perhaps fantasy is the best way of trying to make sense of it.
Finally, there were two other relatively new Vertigo series I finally started, iZombie and American Vampire. The former is okay, although I’m more impressed with Chris Roberson’s writing than I am with Michael Allred’s art. It’s an interesting concept, though, and when I read the first several issues–and got a sense of Gwen being able to “hear” the dead victim by consuming his/her brain–I thought it would be a twist on Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. But it doesn’t go that far nor is it as inventive…which is too bad. I really like The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. A much better new series is Scott Snyder’s American Vampire. Perhaps what makes this so engaging is the fact that Stephen King helped to write the first five issues, and with such a sending forth, Snyder was poised for a weird and fun trajectory. I wondered if the storytelling would lag after King stepped off, but no, it’s sustained its quality…if not gotten a little better. Now that the two stories of Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones have really come together, the comic book is even more interesting.
And there’re even more comic-book series to catch up on. One I’ve been way lax in starting–although, again, I have all the issues–is Chew. But I’ll get to that. There’s only so much a guy can read at one time, right? I don’t want to devour them so quickly that it’s like binging on candy.