When I was a kid, getting a comic book (singular!) was a treat or reward; comics weren’t a weekly kind of thing for me, which is probably why I can still remember so many of the comics of my youth — I read them until they disintegrated! In the recent years, comics have gone from a nice break kind of thing to a chore to a kind of pleasant ongoing relationship, one that has admittedly been kind of bumpy this year.
Finally, this weekend, I was able to escape town and spend much of it catching up on comics, and while I still have lots of books to catch up on (I don’t even know why I even bother to pick up Thunderbolts anymore, for example), I feel like I am at least aware of what’s happening in the various books everyone else seems to be talking about these days.
The title that was absolutely necessary to catch up on, of course, was Scalped, which ended with issue #60 (last week’s Pick of the Week) and marks the end Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s truly groundbreaking series, the likes of which I honestly have no idea if we’ll ever see again. I started reading Scalped in trade, and then hopped onto issues after the second or third book. Like many of you, I have considered the title to be one of the finest comics being published — I am hard pressed to find another book with such an incredible cast of fascinating characters and thought-provoking story lines and themes. To have a comic that takes place in the sullen, grim landscape of a Native American reservation with grim, sullen and desperate characters engaging in some of the most truly harrowing violence and cruelty in recent memory…to have that last for sixty issues, basically five years, and be super compelling? An incredible accomplishment and, quite honestly, a kind of a victory for mature comics.
For all of my love of the title, I had managed to miss a few of the most recent issues and had to dig through my various stacks and buy quite a few more digital versions to make it to the last issue fully intact. This actually worked out quite well for me — I was bouncing between print and digital for much of the afternoon, and then, towards the end, was full digital by the time I got to the last panel.
It was interesting how as the story drew to a close, as things started to fade into finality, my experience of the book literally became brighter and sharper. As much as I appreciate Vertigo’s titles, I truly dislike the paper stock they use and I think many of their stories suffer because of it, Scalped perhaps most of all. R.M. Guera’s pages are dark, and the rougher stock can make the inks and colors seem muddy at times. This can work, I suppose, given the subject matter, but when seen on the iPad, the colors were just incredibly vibrant, the yellow flames and bright red blood searing their images onto my brain. It reminded me of stories I have heard from people who have had near-death experiences, where everything becomes more vivid and more intense — the last issues of Scalped were very much like that for me. I don’t know if Vertigo or DC will ever offer the full runs of their books in iPad-friendly “trades” but it would be interesting to see how the full series looks and feels on a digital device; I was surprised at just how much better the art looked (and I have always loved the art a lot).
Speaking of trades, I can’t help but look back at the ends of other series I have read over the years and feel a bit sad that Scalped has joined the ranks of Local, Y: The Last Man and Ex-Machina. It’s very cool that we have the opportunity to read them all in one go, or experience them in new and fantastic formats (I can’t wait for the FEAR Agent hardcovers), but, as I have written before, time is such an important factor when it comes to monthly comics that it can be a disservice to read them all in one go – Daytrippers is an excellent example of this, and I think Scalped is very much the same way. A lot of the tone of Scalped is this feeling of never being able to escape the Prairie Rose reservation, that no matter how awful it got, you just had to deal with it, because it wasn’t like you were going to leave, right? Month after month, year and year, regular readers of Scalped, whenever they opened up a new issue, felt that sad hopelessness, which made the few bright moments in that book really stand out. I had a relationship with Red Crow, Dash and the rest of the characters not only because of my shared experiences from a plot point of view, but from being with them for so long. My life was different five years ago, just like the characters in Scalped. And now we are both moving on, we are all leaving Prairie Rose, unsure of what comes next, certain in only one thing — we are never coming back. A reader who tears through the trades in a week or two, even over a couple of months or a year…that reader will never know what that feels like. You need that time not only to build tension, but to provide a real sense of release.
I was excited to catch up with Daredevil because of Chris Samnee’s amazing work on #12. I caught up to issue #16 on Sunday and felt a little disoriented, having gone through a lot of twists and turns only to return to that feeling of, “uh oh, Matt’s life is about to fall apart again,” which, to be honest, I was hoping we could avoid for a while. Like many readers, I was very enthusiastic about the “new” Daredevil (he smiles!) and now, a little over a year later, the whole “nothing lasts forever” feeling is really coming into play, now that I know that Paolo Rivera (and his dad, who was inking the book) were leaving the book. Thankfully, we have Mike Allred on one issue and Samnee after that, so I am not really complaining…I just loved what Rivera was doing with the art, is all.
Catching up with Daredevil was fun, but the issues did not feel as inspired as the first part of Waid’s run, which is fine. I am happy to be on it and I am somewhat curious about what happens next, but I have this nagging feeling things could have been…better, somehow. I don’t know. We’ll see. I am staying on the book, I like the relationship with Kirsten McDuffie and still think Waid is doing great things with Matt, so I’m happy. I’m just curious as to where this book will end up going — which is good, right?
I ended my catch up by starting up with a relatively new series, Fury MAX. I don’t know if I am a fan of Nick Fury, I mean, I like the guy and everything, and I remember really liking Avengers: 1959, but clearly, when Ennis does his take on a character, especially one as important and influential as Nick Fury, one must take notice.
I don’t know if you are reading Fury MAX, but from cover to page to panel, this book pretty much won me over by its great art, riveting plot, and taught dialogue. I just loved it and if the first arc is any indication, this book should be a lot of fun for even the most jaded of comic book fans. For me, this is kind of the way I’ve always wanted Fury to be, an intelligent soldier whose intense cynicism doesn’t get in the way of doing his duty. Fury has long been one of the more “adult” characters in the Marvel Universe, and letting Ennis just go with Fury means that the character can (to me, at least) really be himself, and give readers an idea of just how a man like Nick Fury becomes a man like Nick Fury. Despite what what I wrote about Scalped, reading the first four issues in one blissful poolside sitting was kind of perfect, given the pacing of the first three issues. I am really happy that Ennis is still on these MAX books; for all of my complaints about Marvel (I tried to get back into AvX and I am just at a loss), for whatever reason, these MAX books really work well, and letting Ennis get his Ennis on is a real treat — and if Goran Parlov (interior art) and Dave Johnson (covers) stay on the book, I only see this title getting better and better.
So that’s where I am with the comics these days, working hard to catch up on books as the dog days of summer linger on. While I have been pretty good with keeping up to date with Action Comics, Batman and even Spider-Men, my inability to make it to the comic book store more regularly has made it hard to keep up on books that are printed on, you know, paper. Which is fine, I have accepted the fact that comics are about enjoying comics, not about being up to date. As sad as I am to see Scalped come to a close, I was happy to see Daredevil plugging away and excited to discover a new gem in Fury MAX. Robert Jordan has his the ever-turning Wheel of Time, we have our (hopefully) always-growing Stack of Books.
How about you all? Any books that you’ve finally — finally — caught up on this summer?