Some Comics That Don’t Suck
There are a lot of people out there who say we need more positive thoughts in comics. Mind you, the Ostrich Policy of ignoring large problems has only gotten people into bigger trouble, but fine. I’ll play ball this once. Let’s talk about some comics that don’t suck.
In fact, let’s talk about some comics that aren’t setting the world on fire and sell less than 20,000 copies. Comics that could use a little more attention.
Jim Shooter is reacquainting himself with the Gold Key characters he more famously rebooted with Valiant. Magnus, Doctor Solar, Turok and Mighty Samson are all getting the revival treatment. I’m liking Doctor Solar and Turok, but Magnus stands out as the best of the bunch. A bit lighter in tone and with fewer plot layers than you might expect from Shooter, you have a nice little world of rebel robots trying to kill their human oppressors, a touch of political intrigue and a hero who’s also trying to stay underground. Bill Reinhold has a nice, clean art style, reasonably consistent with originals. If you like what you see here, go ahead and check out the rest of the line. I’d probably recommend Doctor Solar as the next to try.
Don’t take my word for it, take Marvel’s. Tom Brevoort has good things to say about this book, and you know how rare it is for Marvel editors to praise a DC product. Then again, Marvel signed T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents writer, Nick Spencer to an exclusive and handed him Secret Avengers based largely on this book. What you have here is a well-crafted espionage tale that involves technology artifacts that give agents super powers. There’s a generational legacy aspect, since the artifacts date back to the 1960s. It’s a well-crafted crafted ride and its crossover free. (DC and Marvel could both stand to embrace less crossovers.)
Obviously a labor of love for everyone involved, Jonah Hex is an oddity in modern comics. Not only is it a western, almost all of the stories are told in single issues. Yes, you can just pick one up and see if you like it. No six month investment required if you want to stick with it for a full story. Your creative team is Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray writing, accompanied by an all-star rotation on the art. These are mean, western tales in the Italian tradition with revenge and a bit of irony as the reoccurring themes. A very consistent product, that’s been hanging around for going on 6 years.
OK, I don’t _know_ that this is selling less than 20K, but it would be a pleasant surprise if that wasn’t the case. Only the first issue has come out, but it made a strong impression on me. Xombi was a Milestone title in the 90s, and not the flagship title. Honestly, I’d heard some good things about it, but never got around to picking it up. The best way to describe this book is early Grant Morrison Doom Patrol. I’m hit and miss on Grant Morrison (mostly miss, these days), but I LOVE his surrealistic run on the Doom Patrol and this is the closest in tone I’ve seen to it. Your hero is David Kim, the “Xombi.” A man infected with a nanotech virus that will repair any damage to his body, rendering him effectively immortal. A science-based hero, he’s operating in the world of the supernatural, with a squad of super-powered nuns as the supporting cast in the first issue. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, but the internal logic was there, the crazy ideas were there and it was a lot of fun. Original writer John Rozum returns with superlative art by Frazier Irving.
AKA, “I love me some Phil Hester”
Originally a spin-off from the Alex Ross Project Superpowers book, Black Terror has become the new flagship, at least for me. The Project Superpowers line is best summed up as “if you think they aren’t actually making Marvel Comics because the cross-overs have screwed up your titles, get this instead.” This is solid, traditional superhero book with the titular Black Terror trying to come to grips with having been caught in a mystic trap for 50 years and what changes have happened both in the world and with himself. You could almost call this a horror version of Captain America, if you really needed a Marvel analogue. Project Superpowers is the mother ship, driving the universe’s plot, but Black Terror is the characterization heart of it. And let’s face it, there’s a place for superheroes that aren’t in 30-title crossovers.
This started out as Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau adapting the long-abandoned Kevin Smith movie script (NOT the Seth Rogen version) with the son of Britt Reid taking up the mantel of the Hornet. And that was entertaining. That was the first story arc. The second one has just wrapped and we see Hester and Lau taking off from the end of the “movie” and setting up how this will work as an ongoing series. It’s a bit more twisted, perhaps a touch less by way of banter, than the Smith version, but it’s a solid urban superhero book with a little bit of ninja antics on the side and a bit more comic relief than some books.
Yes, it’s a 4-issue mini-series that’s over. So go out and dig up some copies. This is probably my favorite Image book after Chew (which seems to be doing all right). The premise: injured musician encounters mystical forces that can make him able to play again, but these are the same mystical forces that cause so many musicians to buy the farm at the age of 27. A clever little series and I’m under the impression there will be a second act. Just get it.
Nick Spencer is the “It Boy” of comics right now. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC. Iron Man 2.0 and Secret Avengers for Marvel. Morning Glories was his breakout book with Image. For my money (and Spencer’s getting some of my money), Infinite Playlist is his best title. Infinite Vacation is a twist on the old branching time stream multiverse plot device from science fiction. At every point in a person’s life where there’s a decision, there’s a reality where you took each possible choice. Did you drop out of school or stay in? Did you stick with your music and become a rock star? These realities have become a commodity as people bounce in and out of their “other potential lives.” One of the most imaginative pieces on the market today.
An offender from the category of “when the @#$^ is the next issue coming out,” Turf started with a bang and, if ICV2 is to be believed, dropped like a lead balloon. And that’s a shame. Turf really reminds me of something Eclipse Comics would’ve published. (Yes, that _is_ Aztec Ace on my nightstand. Missed it the first time, and loving it now.) The high concept is vampires and gangsters making war for possession of New York City in the 1920s with a crash-landed alien thrown in the mix. Yes, that sounds like a bad B-Movie, but there’s a plot and some characterization to push it above that. Tommy Lee Edwards on the art isn’t likely to hurt anyone’s feelings, either. While British Celebrity Author Jonathon Ross (near as I can tell, he’s somewhere between Johnny Carson and David Letterman in the UK, but a bit naughtier) initially started out with some purple dialogue that smacked of a childhood filled with Don McGregor comics, he smoothed it out from issue two on… but I’m not so sure the purple prose didn’t fit the pulpy setting. Now if they could just keep a schedule…
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