Comics: October 2013 Pull List

Savage Wolverine #9 – I’m not generally a Wolverine reader, but I picked this up entirely on the strength of the cover. Artist Jock also handles the writing duties on this brand new arc that see Logan on an alien planet and having to survive there while trying to figure out where ‘there’ is. I think this first issue could have done with some more pages, to really establish the premise and showcase Jock’s art, but it’s an interesting start. I’ll likely pick up the next one just to see where it goes.

Young Avengers #11 – Still fun, still enjoyable, but I’m starting to worry that it’s becoming increasingly less about the story and more about the set pieces and fan service. By which I mean Less-Young Loki.

Lazarus #4 – Sadly an unsatisfying conclusion to the first arc. A brawl, an early reveal of a further conspiracy and the rest was all mop-up. It just didn’t make much of an impact.

Sex Criminals – Fun, bold, funny and unique. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky tell a tale of a girl who can stop time when she has sex. And what better use to put this ability to than robbing banks? Issue 1 is all backstory, but with lovely art and clever narration and witty dialogue. I was really looking forward to issue 2, but imagine my surprise when once again in the history of Comixology, a comic wasn’t available in the Apple store due to sexual content. I don’t know whether this is due to Apple or Comixology or some twisted combination of them both, like when Saga was pulled from the store, nor do I care. I’m an adult and I’d quite like to read what I want to read. Anyway, rant over. Anyway, finally I managed to get to it, and you know what? It was totally worth it. And I have no idea why issue two should be ‘banned’ over and above issue 1.

Three #1 – You know what makes Kieron Gillen sigh? Having his comic about Sparta compared to Frank Miller’s 300. You know what Three’s a lot better than? Yeah…

Saga #15 – Continued excellence and those criminally amazing last-page cliffhangers. I just want this to run and run and run. Only complaint: Needs more Lying Cat, especially after last issue.

The Sandman: Overture #1: It’s so good to be reading Gaiman writing Sandman again, and this is as wonderful as the original volumes. However, beware: Much like so many modern prequels, this only works if you are familiar with the original material, not as a standalone introduction to the series.

Comics: September 2013 Pull List

Following up on my August Pull List, I’ve managed to learn my lesson and wait until the end of the month to post September’s haul from Comixology:

Young Avengers #9 and #10 – While Gillen and McKelvie’s YA has been consistently excellent, #9 was a little disappointing, if I’m honest. There wasn’t anything wrong, there just didn’t seem to be anything outstanding; no stunning McKelvie double-page spread, no jaw-dropping cliffhanger. Solid, necessary, but somewhat workmanlike.

The follow-up issue though, that was a return to form. This time not for its action-packed double page spreads, so artfully constructed by Jamie McKelvie, but for its subtext, its plot implications. Oh Loki…

Thor: God of Thunder #12 – I’d been recommended Jason Aaron and Nic Klein’s series before, but issue 12 involves a mopping up of the previously concluded storyline, an overview of Thor through the ages dealing with the aftermath of a grueling trial. It was sold to me as an excellent jumping on point to the series. Sadly, while the art was good, the story left me utterly cold.

Lazarus #3 – This post apocalyptic tale of corporate greed continues its metamorphosis into a tale of inter- and intra-family conflict of Shakespearean proportions. Rucka’s story goes from strength to strength, and I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the first arc next month.

Saga #14 – Beautiful, in all it’s parts. Three strands of narrative keep this family… saga… high in the ranks of excellence: The dialogue and main plot, the captioned voice-overs wryly alluding to the greater story, and Fiona Staples’ wonderful visual narrative.

I would have liked to have been able to add Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, soon to be made into a movie with Ellen Page, or Gillen’s Über, but sadly they’re not available on Comixology.

Update: Über is now available on Comixology!

Review: Orange Is The New Black

I don’t have a good success rate when I review a TV show after just starting to watch it. I loved the first episodes of Once Upon A Time, but then walked away when one of its cleverest conceits was nullified; I loved the first episode of Life On Mars, but it failed to keep my interest; I truly meant to keep watching Elementary after the first three episodes, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep up with it.

So, having learnt nothing, I really enjoyed the first episode of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black. This is Netflix’s third attempt at exclusive digital programming after the excellent House Of Cards and the excruciable Hemlock Grove.

OitnB, an acronym unlikely to catch on, is ostensibly a prison drama, a fish-out-of-water story punctuated by flashbacks to Jason Biggs. If you’re anything like me, that’d be enough to consign watching it to some time after the fourth re-watch of the criminally underrated TV show Threshold. And yet OitnB shines. It has very strong characterisation, immense pathos, charm and the blackest humour. The use of flashbacks as visual punctuation is especially well done; even the insipid Biggs (apparently you can only have a digital only show with at least one semi-recognisable name) is used to good effect to highlight contrasts between the world outside and the world inside.

I’m hooked. I just have to hope I remain so. Digital distribution needs to establish itself, partly so we can move past established actor vehicles and onto true indie productions.

Comics: August 2013 Pull List Part 2

With hindsight, I really should have written the previous article at the end of the month, instead of half way through. You never know when something new is going to catch your eye. In this case it was:

  • Lazarus – Written and drawn by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, the creative team behind the excellent Gotham Central, this futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale of powerful families that rule the world is centred on their protector. The nigh-immortal sword and protector of the Family, their Lazarus, who may have just enough self-awareness and freedom to be a danger to the people she is built to slavishly obey and protect.

Comics: August 2013 Pull List

The launch of Comixology properly launched the age of the digital comic. Ingeniously easy to use, it succeeded in getting comics into the hands of comics readers. While comic shops fear the digital revolution, it turns out digital sales don’t cannibalise physical sales they add to them. So since a friend recently asked me what I was buying from Comixology on a monthly basis, I decided it was time for a new regular column.

  • Ten Grand – I’ll be honest, I’m mostly a follower of writers in comics. I know the art is important, and the artists’ ability for visual narrative can make or break a comic, but for me the characterisation, the dialogue, the storytelling comes first and foremost from the writer. There are two exceptions to this, two artists who would make me pick up a comic even without seeing who wrote it. The first of these is Ben Templesmith, the artist of the excellent 30 Days of Night. In Ten Grand he collaborates with J. Michael Straczynski on a spellbinding tale of urban horror of an ex mob enforcer, become heaven’s hit man, making an angels bargain to capture short glimpses of his true love. Even the best of intentions can lead to hell…
  • Young Avengers – The second artist I would always go to, is Jamie McKelvie, mostly known for Suburban Glamour and Phonogram. And it is with his Phonogram collaborator, Kieron Gillen, one of my current favourite comic scribes, that he creates Young Avengers. This is the Marvel book that’s okay to like; it’s the comic book aimed at teens, written for teens, and thereby managing to make this book a more mature superhero book than pretty much all its contemporaries.
  • Saga – Written by Brian K. Vaughan, famed for Y: The Last Man, with art by the sublime Fiona Staples, this science fiction family tale is nigh-perfect. High emotion, high adventure, action, darkly funny… and yet it’s in its minutia that Saga excels: Those tiny quirks of feeling, easy to miss but so expressive; the delicate timing; the in-your-face cliffhangers.
  • The Invisibles – Grant Morrison’s tale of magical freedom fighters battling the demonic forces of mundanity is not new, it has run its course. But the series was important to me, even inspiring an article, and so I have taken to re-read it.