Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2016 Pros & Cons

Comics 2016!

Eight comics a week times 52 weeks, plus a few extras from conventions and Free Comic Book Day…

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

Anyway: time again for another set of lists with comics in them!

For reference and maybe unconscious oblique insight, here’s what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop, series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of December 2016:

Marvel Comics:

Black Panther — Acclaimed scholar Ta-Nehisi Coates revisiting all the best parts of Christopher Priest’s grand yesteryear, referencing several years’ worth of Avengers comics I never read and have no desire to catch up on, and writing more filibusters than we’ve seen in the field since Don McGregor bowed out. Frequently thought-provoking, sometimes over my head, occasionally dry, but FINALLY getting to the point these past few months. And as one of the six guys who bought every issue of The Crew, it was all worth it just to see that forgotten idea back in full effect.

Great Lakes Avengers — The only Avengers title I’m buying because it’s the one least likely to get snagged by crossovers. Bonus points for funny stuff.

Hawkeye — The Jeff Lemire/Ramon Perez run had great art but fizzled by the end. The Kate Bishop relaunch is only one issue in, opinions pending but leaning toward more favorable.

Karnak — Warren Ellis revamps one of the real Inhumans into the Most Nihilistic Man in the World. I wouldn’t want to be him, but I’m curious to see where this is eventually going if and when the conclusion arrives before the end of the world.

Moon Knight — Marc Spector’s fractured personalities brought to life and to cross-purposes by four different artists working in four different realities, edging toward either a merging of the personae or a new, even more warped mind-state. Looks great, but I’m concerned whether or not this really is going somewhere.

Mosaic — The current Inhumans books are like the Roman Reigns of the Marvel universe, but this tangential spinoff, about a pro basketball player given the Terrigen-mist powers of Jericho from the Teen Titans plus the memory-retention power that Rogue used to have, is spinning their premise in a different direction with themes involving the differences between strangers and the secrets held by those we thought were on our side. And I love to pieces that I recognized the Queens subway station that was used as a scene setting in #1 (111th Street, on the R line, half-mile north of the Unisphere). I knew we took that trip to New York City last year for a reason.

Ms. Marvel — One of the year’s most heartbreaking titles, in which our young heroine suffered the dual anguish of walking away from her idol Captain Marvel (thanks heaps, Civil War II) and severing ties with her once-BFF Bruno, both as a result of the hardest of choices, and not always making the best ones. Can there be happiness for a teen super-hero after a crossover ruins everything? I look forward to finding out.

Power Man & Iron Fist — I was leery at first of Iron Fist’s reimagining as a big white dork, but those concerns fell by the wayside when the Heroes for Hire got real as Civil War II reared its ugly commercial head. Not only did they fight back hard against its Minority Report consequences, but Luke Cage gave the best speech about why the entire idea was stupid in the first place.

Silver Surfer — Dan Slott and the Allreds continue the greatest blatant Doctor Who homage of all time, in 2016 celebrating fifty years of Norrin Radd as well as 200 comics with a “Silver Surfer” title on the front. Norrin and his companion Dawn Greenwood in their amazing universal travels have become one of my favorite ongoing comics couples. Most memorable moment: Norrin decides to reunite Dawn with her deadbeat mom without asking, only to learn the very hard truth that some people were never ready to be parents and will never try to be.

Star Wars — I buy the entire line for my wife until and unless we both agree we’re wasting our time. I’m much happier with this book whenever the stories star anyone but Luke, Han, or Leia because that’s how my fandom rolls. Also, I’d like Stuart Immonen back on art chores, please and thank you.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra — I’m pretty sure I like this one more than my wife does. This Darth Vader spinoff has lightened up quite a bit from the previous series without the Sith Lord as the center of attention, leaving more space for the evil droids Beetee and Triple-Zero to shine. True confession: I had absolutely no idea Aphra was Asian (or, uh, space-Asian?) till Twitter broke out in flame-war over the subject last month, despite her two preceding years of comics. Make of that what you will, though to me, given the nature of Salvador Larroca’s art, the entire discussion wasn’t removed far enough from “oh hey btw Dumbledore is gay” territory.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron — Writer Charles Soule has nailed Oscar Isaac’s voice and quirky lines just right in my mental readings, and Poe’s nemesis Terex, the former ‘trooper graduated to officer, is proving a worthy, complex adversary.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl — When I write an entire entry about a single comic book instead of limiting myself to capsules, that means I super-like it and I need say no more. Ryan North and Erica Henderson continue making best comics even bester.

DC Comics / Vertigo / Young Animal:

Astro City — Kurt Busiek’s long-running creator-owned super-book is an old friend that stays comfy and familiar while sometimes trying on new clothes. Not every issue is a keeper, but I’ve enjoyed the run of guest artists visiting town. Most memorable story: the one where Quarrel contemplated the pros and cons of super-heroing in middle age, and looking for that thin line between “I still got it” and “I’m too old for this”. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a super-midlife crisis quite like hers.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye — My favorite of Gerard Way’s “Young Animals” imprint, cowritten with Jon Rivera, is also the most linear and has the most supporting roles for the original Wild Dog. The dispirited Mr. Carson and his estranged adult daughter have an interesting dynamic and bring out the best in flashy adventure from artist Michael Avon Oeming

Deathstroke — Stamp the words “written by Christopher Priest” on any comic and I’m all over that new-release shelf. I’d buy a Marmaduke reboot if he were involved because I know it would be the greatest Marmaduke in world history. I haven’t liked Slade Wilson since the 1980s, but Priest has dialed back the “antihero” copout persona of the past two decades and turned him into an actual villain protagonist, one mired in tricky world politics, stymied old foes, and burned acquaintances from past eras. Timelines shift forward and back, complex schemes remain hidden until the final pages, and the reader has to work to keep up — wants to keep up, in fact. All of these make a Priest comic a Priest comic. Not just the best DC Rebirth title out there, but one of the best titles on the stands, period.

Doom Patrol — At long last, Gerard Way can let his Doom Patrol homage The Umbrella Academy rest easy in retirement while he takes the wheel of the real deal. Pacing was iffy at first as Way and artist Nick Derrington rush to cram all their ideas in at once, but by #3 more of it is shaping into a cohesive narrative with friends old and new. Casey Brinke is fun for a viewpoint character, though I’m irritated that her eventual code name was revealed in the Young Animals back-matter months before we’ll be seeing its first usage in the story itself.

Future Quest — Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids, and other Hanna-Barbera sci-fi characters in this super-group jam were in reruns by the time I started watching Saturday morning cartoons, but I remember just enough of them to make this kindasorta worth it for the time being. If guest artist Steve Rude keeps popping in now and again, that surely wouldn’t hurt.

New Super-Man — Prior to this series, my only exposure to the work of Gene Luen Yang was the Avatar: The Last Airbender short stories he wrote for every Free Comic Book Day. And every time, they were the best things about FCBD. I’m not wild about DC’s New 52 in general, with or without the “Rebirth” rebranding that hasn’t cured all its ills, but this title is an outlier happily borrowing continuity elements from it while plotting its own course. In a world where China decides to create its own living, state-supervised knockoffs of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, our young wannabe Kenan Kong — a schoolyard bully when we first meet him! — struggles in the mighty Peter Parker tradition to adapt to his unstable Kal-El-ish powers, bossy peers, older heroes who scoff at his immaturity, loopy new villains, and a disapproving father who’s more than meets the eye. For anyone who misses them good ol’ days when “fun” wasn’t banned from the DC Universe, here’s solid evidence that someone’s willing to change that.

Shade the Changing Girl — The original Peter Milligan version had fantastic artists on fractured tales that drove a younger me away after the first year’s worth of frustration. With the Young Animal relaunch, Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone have a bizarre act to follow and at this point are still setting pieces in place as the original Shade’s #1 fan has come to Earth to inhabit the body of a teen girl gone comatose under shady circumstances. Hallucinatory imagery, shifty classmates, and the aliens left in her distant wake make for a disjointed narrative at times, but I’m trying to hang in there till at least the end of the first arc to see how much of it adds up.

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman — When DC’s digital-first retro titles (see also: Batman ’66) show up on paper, I pick them up for my wife the classic TV-super-hero fan. I’m old enough to remember when writer Andy Mangels was writing about comics in the pages of Amazing Heroes, so for me it’s neat in a different retro way seeing him have a blast with the MeTV Saturday night lineup.

Dark Horse Comics:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 — Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs are my favorite Buffyverse comics team ever, and seeing them throw the Scoobies against a kaiju as the Big Bad may prove to be their best comics season yet. Fingers crossed.

Groo: Fray of the Gods — Sergio Aragones! Mark Evanier! The same old characters and jokes! The definition of “mulch”! Fans of old Groo comics can find more of the same here, and more!

Mae — Sad but real talk: I’m close to dropping this one. I wondered how in the world writer/artist Gene Ha would pull off a monthly title, especially one so packed with fantasy settings and creatures and made-up fantasy names and whatnot. The most recent issue had an answer: guest contributors who very much aren’t Gene Ha, and who are several years away from that level. I have concerns.

Image Comics:

Descender — Dustin Nguyen’s watercolor art and Jeff Lemire’s shades-of-gray flawed cast are kind of a sci-fi dream team, one that gambled on spending the last several issues letting each character take a turn in the origin spotlight. The overall story slowed to a near-halt, but together the new details add depths to the players that should bear great fruits in the rendezvous to come.

Injection — Once again Warren Ellis science-fiction comics win the top of my reading pile in this not-too-distant-future conflict between a rogue AI and the disbanded think tank that spawned it. It helps that Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire are my favorite art team of the moment, so I don’t mind the months between arcs quite so much.

Lazarus — The Greg Rucka/Michael Lark dystopian sci-fi (there’s that genre again) skipped a month here and there, but gave us some surprising, revelatory twists in the true nature of Forever Carlyle’s super-soldier nature as well as her counterparts working for the other rival families. We’re long past the point where new readers can hop aboard without starting at #1, though.

Manifest Destiny — I remain the only “Lewis & Clark & Monsters” fan I know, but I’m in for the long haul, even though the heavy use of flashbacks in the “Sasquatch” arc could’ve used some trimming.

Paper Girls — Comics bylaws require every collector to follow at least one Brian K. Vaughan series, so as a prude I choose the least R-rated one, in which time-traveling doppelgangers, dystopian future armies, and misshapen monsters team up to send 1988 and 2016 smashing into each other with disastrous consequences for our four heroines. I’m not convinced my home state ever had a grand total of four teen-female paper carriers back in the yesteryear when teens were encouraged to deliver newspapers, but if it did, I imagine they were at least as resourceful and savvy as this team is.

Rumble — Otherdimensional hero trapped in a straw body but retaining his giant super-sword has to rely on a pair of well-meaning barflies to guide him through our world while defending himself against the creepy-crawlies who’d see him dead. In the hands of creators John Arcudi and James Harren, this adventurous romp slowly cultivated a supporting cast and a stylish look that’s become a monthly favorite, though I hope its low sales haven’t doomed it. That would be just like me to kill a good comic by liking it too much.

Snotgirl — Somehow Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley has me following the tale of a self-absorbed fashion blogger who thinks she’s smarter and deeper than she actually is. Between him and co-creator/artist/co-writer Leslie Hung, I can’t put it down and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s those little hints that there’s more going on with her competing bloggers and quote-unquote “friends” than our dear shallow Lottie realizes. But I don’t know if I’m anticipating her learning the valuable life lessons she desperately needs or simply looking forward to her next comeuppance.

Other publishers:

Archangel — Trendsetting author William Gibson comes to comics with a tale that mixes time travel and alternate Earths with a sensible truce that sorts out how both could work at the same time without begetting constant plot loopholes. I’m not even bitter that of course WWII is involved because it’s William Gibson. And some friends, I guess.

Archie — The Mark Waid reboot lost a little steam in Year Two and I’m not sure the introduction of the all-new all-different Cheryl Blossom is helping. Still miles ahead of the perfunctory sub-sitcom grocery-aisle Archie from my childhood.

Betty & Veronica — Twitter tells me I’m supposed to hate what Adam Hughes is doing here, but so far I don’t exactly yet. With only two issues to date I’m not offended or bored yet. I’m relieved it’s not wall-to-wall cheesecake, but that may be just me.

The Comic Book History of Comics — IDW Publishing presents a colored, remastered version of the Fred van Lente/Ryan Dunlavey self-published nonfiction comic-about-comics series that I never saw the first time around. I know a fair bit about comics history, but not everything. It’s light-hearted and informative and worth a look to anyone who wants to know where the field has been, not just what’s approved on Tumblr today.

4 Kids Walk into a Bank — From the creators of We Can Never Go Home, one of my favorite comics of 2015, this is an engagingly talky crime drama about a quartet of kids who decide to rob a bank before thugs force one of their dads to do something he’ll regret. In a recent interview, co-writer Matthew Rosenberg confessed his own problems brought on the recent publishing delays, but I’m cool with being patient for this one.

Jughead — The first several issues written by Chip Zdarsky were witty and wild, but now that he’s been usurped by Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s Ryan North, this is now even better than Archie. If that had happened in the old days, the Goldwater patriarchs probably would’ve had aneurysms and ordered beheadings in the office. Thankfully those days seem long gone, though I’m still not sure what I think about the current regime allowing The CW to move forward with Sexy Riverdale Murder Soap.

Comics that haven’t been publicly canceled but appear only once every other blue moon:

Copperhead — On hiatus, purportedly resuming sometime with a new artist.
The Dying & the DeadIs this still going? it’s been lots of months since the last issue.
Nonplayer — One issue published in 2015 (bring total published issues to two), nothing since.

Series and miniseries that were canceled or ended as planned:

Angel & Faith
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10
(greatly improved over seasons 8 and 9)
Howard the Duck
James Bond 007: Eidolon
(if this is never finished, I promise I’ll be upset)
The Sheriff of Babylon (Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ intense Iraq crime drama is one of the Year’s Best Comics)
Star Wars: Darth Vader
Star Wars: Kanan
Superman: American Alien
(I don’t agree with all of Max Landis’ choices, but a few issues were powerful)
The Vision (Tom King again with one of the Year’s Best Comics — an outstanding, tragic treatment on Robots Aspiring and Failing to Be Human)

Titles I either dropped, or tried once but opted out of continuing:

Aliens: Defiance
The Autumnlands
(bringing in Tom King helped till I realized the New 52 continuity wasn’t actually going away)
Black Monday Murders
Black Panther: World of Wakanda
(romance isn’t for me, but major props for bringing back thought balloons)
Blue Beetle (20 pages per issue of just Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes arguing and arguing till it’s not funny)
Captain Kid
Captain Marvel
(making her the villain of Civil War II was a massive misstep)
Circuit Breaker
Doctor Strange
Green Arrow
Invisible Republic
Jessica Jones
(#1 was more depressing than the Netflix series, which I thought was impossible)
The Killer Inside Me
(without Bill Mantlo or the Marvel-owned half of the cast, why bother?)
Mother Panic (grim-‘n’-gritty antihero bringing the Young Animal batting average down to .750)
No Mercy
(the crossovers came far too soon)
Shipwreck (not all Warren Ellis titles are created equally)
Slapstick (the cartoonish, once-jokey hero is now a murderous antihero? really?)
Starbrand & Nightmask
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(a year-late line-by-line adaptation with zero variance? exactly why?)
Vigilante: Southland

And that’s kind of an overview of my 2016 comics highlights. Apologies for a few miniseries may have fallen through the cracks, including a new Atomic Robo miniseries I’m sitting on till I find the missing issue #2. I hate when that happens.

One response

  1. Pingback: From Guestwriters 2016 in review | From guestwriters

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