Comic Redemption – Summer 2010 Edition

It's official: I like comics again.  

 
I admit it, I have been having a hard time getting back into things.  I had a stack of comics that was only getting larger, and almost every time I dove back in, I was just getting annoyed and stopped reading them.  Repeat this for a few weeks and you not only have comics coming out of your ears, you find yourself in a bit of a crisis and suddenly asking yourself: do I even like comics anymore?
 
This past weekend we went out to La Quinta, which is near Palm Springs, to get away for the weekend.  I figured this was "do or die" for comics and me–if I couldn't enjoy a stack of comics while sitting by the pool and sipping mojitos, then I was done, kaput.  So I spent much of Saturday catching up on several weeks' worth of comics, including Detective Comics, Batman, Northlanders, Brightest Day, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Doc Savage, and a few others.  
 
I gotta tell you: my experience? Not pretty. For whatever reason, I just hated–hated–what I was reading. With each book I read, the more I got frustrated–I just wasn't getting into the stories and was distracted by the art, especially in Detective Comics, and found myself shrugging mightily after almost every book.  There was a guy at the pool that I knew from LA whom I had talked to about comics when I noticed him reading the first Scalped trade before an audition, and I welcomed the opportunity to complain about the dozen or so issues that I had just slogged through…like that was the best part of reading those comics–complaining about them. Not good, people!
 
What was wrong?  Well, I think I figured it out. In many cases, the books seemed less like actual stories and more like trailers, or highlight reels from another, longer, book.  There were stories (Detective seemed to suffer from this) where there were just too many leaps in chronology, hopping from scene to scene, and, what's worse, each scene seemed really light on plot, just covering the basics to keep the story running to the end. You know what I mean?  There were scenes, but they just didn't go very far to keep the story's momentum up, and you just got a sense of the story rather than experiencing it.
 
Now, I realize that this can happen when you are rushing through a book, when you are just covering the pages to get to the point of the story–and I admit, I do this when a book start covering material that I am just not interested.  (Unfortunately, I find myself doing this a lot in backup stories, especially The Question/Huntress backups in Detective–I know I am supposed to like them, I just don't care at all.) But there are times when I think that the writer has a story that just can't be told in 28 pages, you know? 
 
As we've discussed before, that's the trick–getting a story that works within those 28 or so pages, not just a story that can fit, but a story that has pacing that leverages the 28 pages, that inhabits it instead of being limited by it.  It seems like the really good comic book writers think in terms of 28 pages, while others think of stories and just try to edit them so they work in that format.  I dunno…what I do know was that I wasn't rushed, I was in a great mood, I was happy, life was good, and I still hated almost every single issue that I read.  So much so that when we left the hotel? I left the comics next to the Gideon Bible, deep in the nightstand drawer. Let someone else try to enjoy them!
 
So, I was nervous. I had an article to write and I did not want to write the "I give up on comics" piece that exists, someplace, in all of our psyches.  I knew that I had at least 8-10 issues of Amazing Spider-Man I had forgotten to take on our trip, and while I was digging around for those, I found another whole stack of comics, more recent ones, hiding under a few magazines.  Like, all of the new Heroic Age books, Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat #1, Batman #700, and a few others that I still have yet to read. This stack was actually thicker than the one that's sitting in La Quinta right now!
 
I was out sick with a crazy sore throat yesterday–I got something over the weekend–so I decided that this was a sign, that this was comics' last chance to win me over, that the universe had waited until the last moment to show me, that yes, when you read comics created by people who know how to make good comics, that all can be right in the world.
 
I gotta tell you; I was not understanding the whole slew of Avengers books. Academy? Secret? New? Why so many books?? Why so many first issues?  What order to read them in?  Do I really want to start all this up again?  At first, like I wrote a few weeks back, I was ambivalent, but yesterday it all seemed to click.  Once I dropped my suspicion about the whole #1 thing–like, do we need to restart everything??–I just settled down and really, honestly was amazed at just how much fun I was having reading comics again. Here were relationships that I enjoyed, plots that looked compelling, art that was inspiring.  I really enjoyed all of the Avengers books, and, for the moment, am pretty much convinced I will continue to pick them up.  Then I read Captain America #606 and had the feeling I hadn't read a good Captain America book in several months! I read Thunderbolts #1 and giggled like a little girl when the art on each page just got better and better. I left the Heroic Age books and leapt into Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat #1 and was thrilled to see the Javier Pulido art–I raved about him in that Human Target hardcover years ago!–I was like a kid in a candy store.
 
Then I turned to my DC books and despite the fact that I had no real idea what was going on in Batman #700, it didn't matter, because there was Frank Quitely drawing Batman again!  It was like I had been gone for months to some strange bad comic book camp and came home back to my favorites!  I mean, even Brightest Day #4 made me happy–I have a history with the old Hawk and Dove characters and am really enjoying getting a chance to hang out with them again, plus any chance to spend time with Boston Brand…well, it made my day.  And, then, to cap it off, I get a healthy dose of Andy Kubert art in DC Universe: Legacies #2, and again I marvel at the old school skill of a master like Joe Kubert.
 
Of course, this happens to everyone, when you get into a bad patch of books and slowly crawl out, but in this case it was just so clear, the difference between creators that knew what they were doing and those who didn't. Like, to see Bendis and Brubaker rock their issues so cleanly and with such ease–it was really inspiring. Bendis, in particular, killed it with his issues of Avengers. That he can make it look so easy, so effortless, to balance out humor, drama and action, in just a few pages, is nothing short of inspirational. I look at the Frank Quitely pages in Batman #700, and I don't know how there could be a better Batman creative team than Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.  
 
Comics had been bringing me down lately. I was felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of books and felt a tad manipulated with the whole slew of first issues that were coming out. Yes, I know, no one is forcing me to buy these things, but at the same time, what are you gonna do? I am a comic book fan, and that's part of the deal, giving first issues a chance.  There are just so many titles that are coming out more than once a month, too, that it's really easy for stack to get out of control–and I wasn't getting anything out of it.  I seriously was ready to give up–but I am glad I gave the Heroic Age books a chance. Yes, I could have a used a month or two before they came out, but so far, the books have been funny, entertaining and compelling–well worth my time and my ducats.  
 
What about you guys? Have their been any books that have brought you "back" into comics? That got you excited about them?  I'm really thrilled that I am almost caught up with my books–I think I should be caught up with Amazing Spider-Man tonight–and am looking forward to catching up on the many Pick of the Week Podcasts, too.  That's been another part of it–listening to the podcast really keeps me interested in comics, in a way, because I feel like I am part of the conversation, a bit. When I let the comics and the podcasts pile up, I just find myself not caring as much, more easily frustrated, more likely to regard reading comics as a something to get through rather than enjoy.  
 
So, here's hoping things continue to get better and better!  Let me know what books you are excited about, if you don't mind–and which ones you have dropped because you just can't care about them anymore.
 
Next week: iPad Comic App Round-Up!
 
 

Mike Romo is an actor in LA and finds that he doesn't like the new Wonder Woman outfit, either.  Twitter/Email!

Comments

  1. It does seem that once you got through your DC stack and jumped into Marvel, it brought back your love of comics.  Just an observation…

  2. @cubsmodno: BATMAN, DC UNVERSE: LEGACIES and BRIGHTEST DAY are Marvel?

    Also, Mike don’t fall so far behind on you’re reading! If you stayed engaged then you’d know that you brought some pretty crappy books to the pool (i.e. DETECTIVE and DOC SAVAGE).:)

  3. Great article!

    The Flash is reminding me of why I love comics with every issue. 

  4. I’m having that feeling at the moment as well, Mike. Its tough to keep up with all the books I want to read and then when I do get to them they arent quite what I was after, or in some cases not at all what I was after!

    I have picked up and droped Birds of Prey, Avengers: Prime and Dust Wars recently from a combination of art, story and expense. Not to mention all the books I get on a regular basis that are not quite doing it for me. I have, because of finances and well as jadedness, had to really trim my pull list down to the books that I really love at the moment and try to save some dosh But also I want to get down to the stuff I really love and not books that just look pretty or I feel like I need an idea on beause everyone else does.

  5. i’m having that feeling as well. Perhaps i just expect more from my comics? I think the price is affecting my expectations. When i walk out of a store with $30-50 worth of stuff and i’m not wowed by anything it pisses me off because i feel cheated and ripped off. Hurts even more when its a character i love like Batman. I agreed with a lot of what you said about the comics not feeling like a story and more like a part of something else (but in a bad way)

    I’ve been slowly moving to trades so that I’ll have time to figure out what’s worth reading and what is lackluster. My comic reading habit is a lot more budgeted than others so I’ve been going for "safer bets".

    As far as floppies, The Flash, Chew and Mystery Society have all been pretty fun and satisfying for me so far.  

  6.  

    Everything goes through waves. I had the feeling that with Civil War at Marvel and during 52 at DC things got better, could be just me, but to my real point here now:

    I think never before in history have so many absolutely BRILLIANT people worked on comics, so why am I so often disappointed lately. Maybe my standards have risen, but I really think it’s this MONEY WAVE HIGHPOINT that Marvel and DC seem to be surfing on right now. The greatest writers and artists are LURED with money to assignments their heart isn’t really on… Yes, probably they say "wooHOO, I’m finally THERE! The big BUCKS and the superfamous superguys with MY name on the cover!", but shortly after that they will realize, that the control over the major players is not really in their hands. The companies dictate them what to write and what not.

    That way the only thing that keeps them happy enough to carry on like that is the money and as soon as money-motivation is not alligned with the feeling-of-purpose motivation of a job anymore, art stops being art.

  7. True Marvel is kicking major ass, like me.  Just drop the DC books and you’ll be even happier! 🙂

  8. I got really heavy into reading comics again during the height of Civil War, but since then I’ve been feeling a little underwhelmed — espeically with the Heroic Age stuff which seemed like a bit of a step backward. It’s disapointing when there is a team like the Secret Avengers staring some of my favorite characters (Steve Rogers, Beast, Moon Knight and War Machine on the same team?! Awesome) written by one of the best in the business isn’t catching my attention.

     

    I will say that Chew and the Greg Ruka/JH Williams run on Detective had both been keeping my attention. I just wish there was more out there that was.

  9. Ive been teetering on the edge of giving up comics altogether for a while… There are some books that just dont grab me the way they used to, like GL, GLC, Captain America (All of which i dropped). The  only book im getting today is Atomic Robo, which is sheer awesomeness by the way

  10. Price is what does it for me.  When you have a family and bills to think about and still want to invest in your comic book passion, it becomes disappointing when your books don’t live up to the expectations.  It’s why I’ve kept my collection lately focused on mostly Vertigo and a few DC books because I feel the writing has just been of much better quality there as of late.  I’ll get a couple of Marvel every now and then, but only to keep up with the main franchises and even those have been underwhelming what with the Heroic Age not really living to its promise (at least in my view).

  11. @Conor:  If you look, all the books he took on his trip and didn’t like were DC.

    He later rediscovered his love for comics amongst a stack of Marvels. Sure, a few DCs ended up being good in the end, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  12. @cubsmodano: Ah, I see. into the corner you go with Kick-Ass.

  13. Excellent article (I can relate).

  14. @Kick-Ass: =_=. that’s an insane comment my friend. Birds of Prey, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Brightest Day, and Joker’s Asylum have been keeping me pretty happy over the past few months.

    The only thing I’m really looking forward to from Marvel is Second Coming. Aside from that I’m only reading the Avengers books, Ultimate books (except Ultimate X, Loeb ruined any chance of a decent Earth 1610 X-title since Ultimatum or as I’d like to call it "the time he took out his son’s death on the readers") and I’m slowly losing interest in the Loeb titles. Soon It’ll just be Ultimate Bendis, Second Coming, and Avengers titles.

    Lately I’ve been really into the trade paper back and indy crowd. Aside from oneshots, and mini series I may one day be only reading trades from the main two companies. DCBS I love you.

  15. I’m starting to get tired of Bendis and DC’s "street level" trend going on, really thinking about dropping all Avengers and anything else Bendis does, it’s good, but I’ve had enough to last for awhile.  I want to pick up some more "indie" books like Cowboy Ninja Viking or something, I’ve also discovered a weird dislike for trades and story arcs. of course now I want to explore SHAZAM and maybe the Losers, yet I want something current and relevant just don’t wanna feel like I’m catching up. kinda struggling if I need Green Arrow and Daredevil, or Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, that kinda stuff. . . just bought a Previews for the first time in 8 years.  

  16. I can see the point about DC.  I mean, he read a bad DC comic, so every DC comic ever must suck.  That’s a logical leap.  

    Next time, Mike, please start your stack with Deadpool, X-Men Forever, any Wolverine not written by Jason Aaron or Age of Heroes, so that the Marvel Zombies can trip over themselves trying to explain that you can’t judge a company by one title.

    That said, I’m not sure what will pull me back into comics, as I’m slowly slipping out.  Just about every Marvel title I’ve read in the last month has pushed me further out, however  (Christ, do I miss Guardians, already). 

  17. This article got me to reflect on the comics I’m buying.  I think the trick is to not get roped into reading certain comics out of habit or because you feel like you ‘need to’ when you stop enjoying them or they just don’t thrill you anymore.  I try to quickly let series go if they’re not doing it for me and stick with stuff that I look forward to reading every week or try new things.

    For a while I was down to only the cosmic books on the Marvel side of things (partly because they cancelled all the comics I liked) but a couple of the Heroic Age launches (Thunderbolts, Atlas) have pulled me back a bit.  I’m getting a bit weary of the Green Lantern titles and wondering if its time to take a step away.  Part of the problem is there will soon be 5 issues a month including Brightest Day and Emerald Warriors.  I should really just drop Brightest Day…

  18. I will buy the rest of the Black Cat mini solely for the Pulido art.  I was "meh" on the first issue but the artwork was fantastic.  Good, good stuff.

  19. @Quinn – Ditto on missing the Guardians

  20. I’ll totally agree that the podcast keeps me reading week to week. Without it I easily drift away and read nothing for weeks or months before catching up in giant binges.

  21. Price is definitely an issue..It throws up a wall real quick… I had $4 dollars in my wallet and had some time to kill…went in the LCS and found one I was mildly curious about…$4.99. Screwed…

  22. Mike…I think you might need to buy less books. Maybe you feel obligated to buy a ton because you wanna support the industry (or your shop) and because you’re part of the iFanboy staff, but I think you need to cut some books. You need to axe the books you don’t *love* and keep the ones you do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new books, but you may wanna try…less new books. Maybe move some stuff over to trade. I think too much burns you out, especially if they aren’t consistently awesome.