How To Enjoy Your Hobbies When The World Is On Fire, Part II

When we left off, I still had 5 comic books to read. I just finished reading ’em (and doing my Previews order for April), and here’s how I did…

Brilliant every month, and some of the best reading you’ll ever do in the super-hero genre. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done an amazing job on this book so far.

…but wait, there’s more! Coates is also doing this book with Roxane Gay, and right now, the story’s focused on the origins of the Midnight Angels from the main Black Panther book. It’s very good, but with this and a third Black Panther book coming in April now (The Crew, focusing on Black Panther’s team; Ta-Nehisi Coates is also at least co-writing this one, and Butch Guice is drawing it), I’m concerned that Marvel’s trying to make me broke in the short term, and in the longer term, that they’re going to get me invested in characters in books that they’ll cancel once the promotion of the Black Panther movie is done. (See also: Ant-Man.) If you’re not sweating all of that, and just looking to read a good story, this is a solid book.

Remember when I said there were three Jeff Lemire books in my pull? Thanos is the third. This started off slow, aside from the “hey, I haven’t seen this character in the supporting cast in a while” factor, but it feels like it’s building up some speed now. If you’re a cosmic Marvel junkie, you’re probably already reading this or at least waiting for the first trade. Mike Deodato’s on art here, and while I haven’t paid really close attention to his career, I enjoyed his Wonder Woman a bunch, and this is of the same quality, even if the feel isn’t exactly the same.

You’d think that, with me being a pre-Crisis DC nerd, I’d have been all over this book, but the “Give Gerard Way his own line and let him get weird with characters I love” factor made me a skeptic going in. When I read the title of the book, and the initial promo copy for it, it felt like a bad case of “trying too hard”, but that’s a pretty good argument for not reading ad copy, and that’s about it. I flipped through it after passing on it initially, and ended up grabbing it right away. The book itself has been a lot of fun. This wasn’t been the best issue of the book (kind of a “middle of the story” feel to it), but the characters have been fun, the art’s the right kinda weird, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

Last, but not least, Future Quest has been awesome. I was also really skeptical about this latest attempt by DC to do something with their Hanna-Barbera characters (to the point where I completely passed on The Flintstones, which was a huge mistake on my part), and while it’s true that some of the line (Scooby-Doo Apocalypse and Wacky Raceland) is a mess, this is not in that category. It’s an ambitious attempt to link most of the early Hanna-Barbera super-heroes (Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, Mightor, and I’m actually probably forgetting a few in there), and while it’s a lot to keep up with at times, this is one of those issues where it REALLY works and comes together. There are 3 more issues after this one, and then I guess we’ll see what they do with the line in year 2 from there, but give this a look in trades if you missed picking it up initially.

So, I did it. I did a bunch of stuff I enjoy doing, despite the world being in the process of going to seed as I did it.

How do I feel? I’m still pretty distracted, exhausted and nervous all the time, and was even as I was going through the cards and reading the comics. Life is super unstable on a global level right now, so that’s understandable. I still think it is pretty important to keep doing the things you love at these times, even if you don’t get as much joy from them as you normally would, just to stay in practice on being a human being instead of a husk. So, even if I’m only half-enjoying what I used to fully relish, I’m going to try to keep at it, as should any of you reading this. The people who are doing the bad things want us to forget how to enjoy ourselves, and they’re pretty good at making joy difficult to access. This is just one more thing that we should not let them win on. They’ve gotten their way far too often already.

I’m too tired to scan stuff, but let’s talk about comic books anyway.

As I’ve mentioned, I do read comics, mostly superhero comics, and at least for now (I’m admittedly gun-shy, because of all the reboots in superhero-land), I buy new ones weekly. Here’s a cross-section of some of the ongoing titles I’m reading these days:

The Astonishing Ant-Man: it’s probably the weakest of the books I’ll talk about here, and admittedly, the storyline could use a bit of a kick in the ass right now as it feels like it’s treading water a bit, but the premise, locale and supporting characters make this a fairly interesting book. If you’re a fan of B-list Marvel comic book characters, particularly villains from the 1970s and 1980s, I think you’ll enjoy this.

Astro City: 20 years or so in, I’m finally caught up, and Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross do some of the best world-building I’ve ever read. If by some chance you’re not already familiar, and you like pre-Crisis DC Comics superheroes, this is a book to invest your time in. Start at the beginning, if at all possible. It’s totally worth it.

Black Panther: a very deep read through just 2 issues, but it’s been pretty fantastic so far. Ta-Nehisi Coates is new to writing comics (though he’s a lifelong fan), but he brings nuance and great respect for both his readers and his subject matter to Black Panther. The best new comic of 2016.

Captain Canuck: I love this book so much. It manages to do justice to 40 years plus of backstory (albeit staggered backstory at times, because of the book’s somewhat irregular publication history), handles a difficult juggling act by being a smartly-written book and a lovably corny one in the same breath (territory usually only occupied by the best issues of that other Captain), and remains unabashedly Canadian. Highly recommended.

Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: maybe the most beautifully illustrated comic on the market right now, a hell of a lot of fun to read, a great twist on an old favorite, and one of the best horror comics I’ve read in ages. Fans of 1970s DC horror books will adore this. It’s been on hiatus for some months now, but the next issue finally comes out on May 18th.

Clean Room: Gail Simone comes up with some profoundly fucked up shit when left to her own devices. I’ve only read a little of this, but I think I need to pace myself on it, because wow. Holy mother of crap, it ain’t right.

Descender: optioned for what will be a very expensive motion picture before the first issue even came out, and living up to that hype thus far, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have created an intriguing world full of characters I want to know a lot more about.

Moon Knight: just when I thought my beloved Moon Knight’s story couldn’t get any weirder, Jeff Lemire (yup, him again) has managed in just two issues to turn everything we know about the character completely sideways…maybe…we’re not sure yet. I’m definitely sticking around a while to find out, though.

Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat!: quirky and fun, with a character I’ve loved since I was a small child and her entire history being explored in a totally new way. If you like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (see below), you’ll probably enjoy this.

Saga: this one’s a little more complicated for me, and this might not sound like as much of an endorsement as the other books I’ve mentioned here, but stick with me. Some people seem to think this book is perfect, but I’m not one of them. I think there are times when, in the process of trying to realistically tell a story about imperfect, flawed beings, with a central focus on prejudice, the creators do seem to show their own asses on those fronts a bit. They’re rough moments when it does happen, but thus far, the rest of the story, and what its aim seems to be, does override *most* of the cringe-worthy dialogue, because yes, it is a pretty brilliant book, when it’s on. They’re telling what I feel is an important story, one that’s worth at least checking out to see how your mileage varies as compared to mine, and it is one of the most talked-about series of the past decade, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, yes, sometimes, they do kinda fuck up in the process of telling that story. Check it out and draw your own conclusions.

Silver Surfer: Dan Slott and Mike and Laura Allred have created a terrific story about relationships, wrapped around story about a former herald of Galactus and his new companion meeting up with all manner of truly weird characters. Tons of fun, and really touching at the same time.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: REALLY funny (I laugh out loud through entire issues, every month), refreshingly different, and actually pretty inspiring. It’s basically the opposite of The Dark Knight Returns, and I love it for that.

The Walking Dead: 13 years in (it’s damned rare that a writer sticks with a book of any kind, even one they own, for that long, and equally rare that they have the same artist for nearly the entirety of that run), and still light years ahead of the television show, which I kinda can’t stand. It’s the ugliness of human nature on full display, but it still keeps me guessing, I still care what happens to the characters (even the truly monstrous ones), and I still want to know more about them.

Vision: I can’t imagine Disney corporate is thrilled about this book, because it takes one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new stars and…well…let’s just say it’s not what I’d call an action figure seller. I would be doing you an injustice if I told you more. Sadly, it’s only going to run 12 issues in its present form (we’ve at least been assured it will be a complete, self-contained story within those 12 issues), as writer Tom King is under exclusive contract to DC now, but it is well on its way to being a classic, just over halfway through that run.

Speaking of DC, if you’re wondering why I’ve mentioned almost nothing they publish (and none of their mainstream superhero books), it’s because they’ve made much more of a mess of their addiction to relaunches than Marvel have. (Even with “relaunch with #1s, then “hey, another set of #1s” in some cases only a few months later, Marvel did what I feel was a pretty solid job with Secret Wars and its aftermath, all things considered.) I am going to poke my head in to see how the latest iteration of “the new DC” looks, but from what I’ve seen of their plans for their entire line, I am not overly optimistic. It seems way, way too safe to me, but in more of a pandering way than a comfortable, familiar way. It feels like Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” album, which reeked of “We know we’ve been awful and destroyed your faith in what we do! Here’s something that seems like the old stuff, but doesn’t really have the heart of it!”. I really think the company needs new people in charge, from the top down. They’ve presided over at least 3 failed reboots (arguably more like 5+), and they’ve kinda broken the hearts of people who were lifelong fans not so much of the very specific characters who filled the roles of their flagship superheroes, but of the way their adventures used to make us feel. They claim their latest fiasco is an attempt to return to the best the company had to offer, but it’s been a long time (about a decade, when “52” finished) since they’ve given readers reason to trust them. DC’s superhero line feels like…1990s Image Comics used to, not in the good way, and we all got sick of that in a hurry. You’d think they’d remember that, with one of Image’s founders helping to run things, but apparently not. I hope they manage to pull a win out of their collective asses, but I’m not exactly hopeful.

Sorry. Got off on a bit of a tangent there. I’m just taking the decline of DC on an uber-nerd, uptight level of personal, admittedly, and the absence of the bulk of their books from this would’ve been a huge elephant in the room, had I not addressed it.

With that said, I do hope that “what I can’t recommend” didn’t detract from what I did recommend. Every single book I mentioned above is worthwhile and entertaining in the ways that I describe, even the ones I describe as not being perfect. Check them out if you haven’t, and in the comments, feel free to talk about what you’re reading (but please, do your best not to include spoilers, because even though I moderate comments here, there’s a bunch of stuff I haven’t read yet, and I’d like to get to enjoy it in real time, if at all possible).