Monday, April 8, 2013

I didn't die! And here are some Comic Books You Should Be Reading.

Chapter 4 is going up. Really. On Wednesday. We’re having a one-week delay so I can finish my piles and piles of tax paperwork. I am part of that charming American segment known as the “1099 economy”, which means that I have a billion pieces of paper that must be assiduously collected and filed so that I don’t get audited into the next millennium. The last scene of Chapter 4 will get written after that. And before you groan, Chapter 5 was written weeks ago, so there’s no way in hell that’s not going up on schedule.

So, to tide you over until the taxman is satisfied, here are the best comic books sitting in my stack of recently read titles:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve been really excited about this series. I’ve mentioned before that Star-Lord, the leader of GotG, is one of my all-time favorite superheroes, and I was pretty annoyed that the Marvel higher-ups allowed him to be killed off a few years ago in the Thanos Imperative miniseries. Granted, it was how he would have wanted to go—guns blazing, a universe about to collapse on him, shooting Thanos in the face a whole bunch of times and wisecracking all the way to his doom. With his best friend/occasional sidekick/all-purpose straight man Nova by his side, Star-Lord had a good end. But while I was psyched at the news of an impending Guardians of the Galaxy movie and happy to hear that Star-Lord would be returning to life in the comics—written by a big-name comic scribe, no less—I was apprehensive. Did I really want one of my childhood favorites to be sucked into the latest Marvel Comics megastory?

Well, so far I’ve been pretty happy with it. Nobody has yet explained how Star-Lord is alive again, and the World War I steampunk uniforms of the previous GotG have been replaced with some pretty stupid outfits that make everyone on the team look like Imperial Stormtroopers with arc reactors, and Iron Man is somehow a member now, but Brian Michael Bendis is getting the writing mostly right at the moment. He’s doing a good job with that world-weary, middle-finger-to-the-universe attitude that keeps my favorite character alive in a cosmos that constantly demands that he be, well, cosmic. (Which he never is, at least not anymore.) I’m also intrigued by the new take on Star-Lord’s absent father, an alien prince who used to be pretty much a good guy and is now more of a jerk. I’d wondered for years why nobody ever tried to have a word with Star-Lord about royal succession and the fact that Prince Jason never had any other kids, and now it looks like this hard-bitten hero’s going to be sucked into palace politics or die (again) trying to get out of them. Good times for me. I’ll probably give this title its own blog entry in another month or two.

2. Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon. This series, from the creative team that produced Dynamite Entertainment’s The Trial of Sherlock Holmes, keeps the old detective magic alive as Holmes investigates a series of murders apparently committed by Spring-Heeled Jack. Perhaps the best part of this series is that writer Leah Moore seems committed to keeping Sherlock Holmes weird—he leaves Watson hanging in mid-conversation so he can go investigate some random detail in a corner of the room, and generally creates quite a bit of social awkwardness that’s strongly reminiscent of the literary Holmes, even more than the obscure clues and bizarre crimes for which his stories are known. I can’t wait to see how this case will shake out, and how the Watson-Holmes relationship will evolve.

3. Young Avengers. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvin and Mike Norton have taken over for Allen Heinberg and Jim Cheung on the saga of the superpowered teenagers who might be the next generation of Avengers … but definitely are in a lot of trouble, all the time. On top of the chaos-magic user Wiccan, his Skrull-Kree boyfriend Hulkling, and the snarky archer Hawkeye (a teenage girl, not the guy in the Avengers movie—long story), Gillen and company have added three new members to the team: a universe-hopping powerhouse named Miss America, an antisocial character named Marvel Boy who absolutely cannot be described in a single paragraph, and Loki. Yeah, the Norse god of mischief. He’s somehow a teenager (don’t look at me, I haven’t been paying attention) and doing all the usual Loki stuff, only with a bunch of superkids to work with. And they don’t want to work with him because, well, he’s Loki. It’s a blast to see Kid Loki work with that. Best line of the most recent issue: “Now that it’s clear exactly how communally buried in the waste of trolls we are, can we talk like civilized superbeings?”

4. Nova. This is Marvel’s other new “cosmic” title. In it, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness bring us the saga of Sam Alexander, a teenage boy who inherits his father’s helmet and superpowers as a member of the Nova Corps. Except it turns out Sam’s dad wasn’t one of the straight-arrow space-cop Novas we’ve come to know and love … he did something a little more like interstellar black ops. And now 15-year-old Sam’s neck-deep in it, along with Gamora the green-skinned assassin and Rocket Raccoon the gun-toting space raccoon. This goes about as well as you’d expect. I still can’t read this title without giggling, especially the most recent issue, in which Sam tests out his powers and sets off every car alarm in town. And then he accidentally flies into the moon. Yeah, the actual moon. (“Off. Turn. Something. Stop. MOOOOOOOON!”) It’s that kind of comic book. No celestial body is safe …

5. Daredevil. I’ve blogged about this. Everybody’s blogged about this. This title won pretty much every Eisner Award there is, and it’s still awesome. They’re up to four volumes in hardcover and it’s still awesome. I thought they were going to run out of awesome after several arcs with terrific villains (Coyote had a stupid name, but ohhhhh the drama) and crazy twists with Daredevil’s powers (losing all his senses? What now?) and a romance that kind of made sense (the girl actually came to her senses and dumped Matt Murdock the Trouble Magnet for a good and non-crazy reason, which just makes her more awesome) … but now the title is balancing the mysterious appearance of crazy people with Daredevil’s hypersenses against the very personal drama of Matt’s best friend, Foggy Nelson, having cancer. Not the happy cured-in-two-issues kind of cancer, either. Daredevil’s been nicknamed the “Man Without Fear” since the 1960s, but Mark Waid’s wacky, supposedly lighthearted run on the title has taken this superhero to some intimately scary places, both professionally and personally. Honestly, just pick up any issue or collection you can get your hands on and start reading. It’s all that good.

Two more days until Rae and Trevor come back. Until then, happy reading!

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