Mike’s Miniseries Meltdown!

I like miniseries (or, if you want, "Limited Series," which is what Marvel calls them). I find myself using the word "special" to describe them, which is a bit…well, it's a bit precious, I guess, but I can't think of another word right now so I am just gonna roll with it and chalk it up to a significant lack of sleep I've experienced for the past few days.  

I like miniseries because they can, at least for me, crystalize the spirit, the tone, the soul, I guess, of characters that we've either known for years and years or who are totally new to us.  I remember old school miniseries, like Death – The Time of Your Life, which I just recently found while digging for something else (naturally).  I mean, when this came out (1996?!), I really had no knowledge of Sandman, but the book looked interesting and, since it was a miniseries, I figured it would be a good level of commitment for me, with this whole Neil Gaiman thing. That story gave me a real sense of what was going on with Sandman, and it was really fun to look through those books again and realize just how much of that story I remembered, and to this day, I've always had a real fondness for the character.

I mean, yes, you can pick up an ongoing book for a 4-5 issue arc, but there is always this nagging feeling that since you've already been collecting the story for 4-5 months, you are kind of obligated to continue on with the series. Yes, I know–that's ridiculous and maybe it's my own problem. But even so: a miniseries gives you a beginning/middle/end, both in terms of writing and of artistry.  Oneshots are fantastic examples of a moment in time, but miniseries allow for a little give and take between the reader and the creators. The stories and characters get to simmer in your head and your heart a bit, providing tremors of a relationship that you may end up returning to years later (like my relationship with Death, which in any other context might sound a bit weird).  

Of course, miniseries are a fantastic way to share more involved stories with friends who have experience with comics but want a little more than just a single issue. I remember happily giving my friend Jonny my three issues of We:3–I didn't see him for months, but when we did finally hang out again, it was great to hear him rave about the books; if I had just given him a single issue, it would have been okay, sure, but it wouldn't have made nearly the impact that the whole story did.

Two weeks ago, I was inundated not only with oneshots, but with miniseries as well–in fact, as I might have mentioned, that last article was supposed to cover both, but it made more sense to split them into two. Let me apologize that I am not able to talk about any of last week's books; I was traveling Thursday and there were not comic book shops in rural Massachusetts, where I was for a wedding. I am also gonna try to cover quite a few of these books–kind of to underscore just how crazy that week was, with so many oneshots and miniseries–I hope we can actually discuss them in the comments section below, but one thing at a time.

First, Deadpool Pulp #1 (4 issue series; Art 4, Story 4).  Let's get one thing straight: I know nothing, at all, about Deadpool, other than that one extra scene at the end of whatever movie it was where he looked at the camera. Like, I don't even remember the movie. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I think.  Anyway, I know he's a polarizing character and, I admit, I think the main reason for my not reading much of him is because he's such a popular character and I was being kind of snotty. Still, if there ever was a case of a cover forcing me to buy a book, it was this fantastic, poetic cover by Jae Lee and June Chung that just got me in. Plus, I like pulp–but not in orange juice–and I wanted to give it a go.  This is your typical first issue (indeed, most of my choices are), so there is a bit of setup, which is fine.  Like a oneshot, however, this book exposed me to an artist whose work I have never seen before, Laurence Campbell, who reminds me a lot of Michael Lark with a smattering of Sean Phillips.  Really good stuff.  The story seems to be one of those origin stories set in a modern tale of murder and espionage, and I must say, I really quite enjoyed it.  It wasn't gimmicky (like, Deadpool didn't start yapping at the camera, which, you know, is a gimmick) and Deadpool's outfit (an early version) is only hinted at, really.  There is a palpable sense of lunacy and dread throughout the book, probably delivered more by the art than the script, though the story itself is wonderfully messed up.  This is a good book, I thought, and I wonder if this will turn some folks on to the character, or, at least, provide some insight into a character that some may find irritating. I will keep reading this miniseries and do a series review of it a few months from now (along with the other books).  But all in all? A great surprise and if you haven't seen it, I think you might wanna flip through it the next time you get to your store.

I guess I was the only one who didn't know that DC was bringing the Elseworlds imprint back, but I guess they did, at least a month ago, with the three issue miniseries, Superman: The Last Family of Krypton.  I actually passed up the first issue (I've been a little suspicious of almost every book that has the word "Superman" printed on it), but when I saw the Elseworlds logo on the second issue, I snagged them both up, and wow, am I glad I did.  Again, I am treated to the art of someone I don't really know–Renato Arlem, and while I have heard of Cary Bates, I don't think I've read much by him.

This is what Elseworlds is all about: taking an existing story, a myth and hero we all know and completely upending everything about it.  From the outset, our expectations are turned upside down: the opening sequence shows Kal-El's rocketship fly away away from Krypton, only to be destroyed by one of the meteorites flying away from the exploding planet, but it's actually a dream–Jor-El's, who now lives on Metropolis, with the rest of his family, in a world he is helping advance with his science and technology.  And Kal-el? Well, he's special…but so are his brother and sister!  That's all I will say about it, but suffice to say, I am having a terrific time with this book.  This is the kind of thing that miniseries are just perfect for: telling short fables that are completely unhindered by continuity, and, in this case, history.  Arlem's art is a bit like Alex Maleev's (it has that photocopy thing going on), which can be a little distracting, but I still really liked it, and Cary Bates is clearly having the time of his life re-imagining everything about Superman (and at least one other hero, too, come to think of it). Both issues get a 5 for Story and a 4 for Art, and if this the first modern Elseworlds book, it is a heck of a return to form.  Superman fans should buy this.

I admit it: I am sucker for Black Cat. More so when Amanda Conner draws her. It's cool, I am fine with it, obviously, because I keep stealing glances at issue #3 out of the oddly titled Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat four issue series while I type this sentence out. Alas, Conner doesn't do the interiors–Javier Pulido and Javier Rodriguez (along with Matt Hollingsworth) do the heavy lifting here–which, you know is totally and utterly fine with me, because I love that retro-feeling Pulido art, ever since first seeing his work in Human Target, way back when.  Jen Van Meter writes a pretty solid, if somewhat confusing heist-because-of-kidnapping story, but it's less the plot and more the character that keeps me buying this book. I have especially enjoyed the quick interludes where Black Cat talks with Spider-Man (there's a string of misunderstandings and frustrating conversations over a few beautiful pages); it's great to see Spidey clearly having just as bad a time as Black Cat is having, but we're not really sure why. The story is just a lot of fun; that's not to say it doesn't have stakes–it does–but you kind of get the feeling that things are going to work out just fine.  This is just a nice spotlight on a character that a lot folks want to see more of, though there's probably not much of a demand for a full time series; which is fine, it's kind of nice to have little stories here and there–it keeps things fresh and makes the character's appearances mean more. This is something else miniseries do–keep popular characters out there, without the strain and pressure of having to do a full time book, only to have the fans upset when the book gets dropped. So far, I am giving the book a 3 in Story and a 4.5 (can I do that?) in Art.  I hope that enough people are checking this out so we see another miniseries next year.

I will say it: Simone Bianchi gets a bad rap.  It just seems to me that a lot of people rag on his work, and, I gotta say, I don't really know why.  His layouts and artistry are pretty bad-ass (I mean, when it comes to layouts, only J.H. Williams has been more creative). Yes, I can see why some folks may have disliked his work on Astonishing X-Men, but I would still urge his detractors to check out Thor: For Asgard #1 (of 6) while it is still on the shelves.  Bianchi draws a pretty fantastic Thor–I mean, just go and check out the cover of the book, unfold it so you can see the front and back (or just click on the pic to the left).  It's gorgeous.  Robert Rudi's story, which is out of continuity as far as I can tell (which makes sense, being a miniseries and all), is everything I expect from a Thor story, with a nice battle scene opening the book, political intrigue (with subsequent bedroom intrigue later on), and a wonderful twist at the end, which makes reader hope that this book gets delivered on time.  It's good–it's what I imagined a Thor story was like when I wasn't reading Thor, and, for me, captures the whole Norse pantheon in a way that I haven't seen yet. It reminds me a bit of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, which is a very good thing: if you like fantasy and felt that Thor hasn't really lived up to what Thor could be, I think you might like this book. I am going to give this a Story 4 and Art 4. (I am going to buy a flame-retardant suit for tomorrow, I think.)

Finally, some miniseries are more showcases than anything else (like, uhm, Marvel Showcase?). I Am An Avenger is a 5 issue miniseries and if the first issue (Story 4, Art 4) is a sign of things to come, this could be one of those books I really hope appears in my stack as often as possible.  I had a blast reading these short stories from the likes of Jim McCann and Cris Samnee, Chris Eliopoulos, Duane Swierczynski, and others.  There were four stories here and I know I am going long so I will make it quick:

The Books of the Iron Fist – One of my favorite stories of the year. A very touching followup to the Iron Fist (what happened to that book?!) story regarding his relationship with Misty Knight. This is a sad, beautiful tale, and it really stayed with me–this…this is a story about relationships that you don't get very often, if ever, in a mainstream comic. As corny as it sounds, but if you care about Iron Fist, run and pick this book up.

Homecoming – Wonderful art by Chris Samnee and a great "here we go!" tale with the Young Avengers, whom I like when I ever I read about them. This is a great creative team and I hope that this "first day of school" story continues with the next issue; it was charming.

Welcome Home, Squirrel Girl – I know nothing about this character at all, but if people like her, great. She's cute enough but, like…is it a joke? No idea. Anyway, she's back and if you are a fan, I think this story will give you a brief rush of goosebumps. Maybe. Neat art by Tom Fowler, though.

Gnu Recruit – A cute one pager featuring the Pet Avengers. Not hilarious, but fun.

So that's my miniseries round up of two weeks ago. Again, sorry about the timing, but I hope it highlighted a few titles that you might find interesting. These books really are fun–you can feel the excitement and passion of the creators in these books, because they are just relatively brief flashes of story that are a wonderful distraction, especially when we start getting weighed down by events and stories that rely so much on continuity and timeliness.  When these books are all done, I will do a followup to see if the promise they…promised was fulfilled.

See ya in seven!


Mike Romo is still an actor in LA. Check the email, feel the twitter.


  1. Squirrel Girl was very prominent in Dan Slotts Great Lakes Avengers Mini’s which were pretty funny. Wish he would do another one.

  2. Wow. This is the most praise I’ve heard for Deadpool Pulp.

    My friend, who was once ali3nheadhunter on this site, picked it up on a whim and I thought about it too…..But in the end didn’t get it. I loved the Jae Lee cover for it, did you think it was great too Mike?

    Also glad to see Laurence Campbell is getting some love. He grew on me after a while from reading Punisher MAX a long time ago. If my shop has another extra copy of it then I’m definitely gonna pick it up.