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Still More Great Comic Books!

November 18th, 2009
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In addition to highlighting some of the very best comic book series that are out there (click here to read about 100 Bullets or here to read about Planetary) I’ve also been having fun writing about some of the great books that I’ve been following on a monthly basis (or semi-monthly basis, as the case may be) when I make my weekly visits to the comic book shop.  Click here to read about books like Incognito, Kick-Ass, and The Nightly News, and here to read about books like Hellboy, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, The Dark Tower, and Batman: Streets of Gotham.

What else have I been reading?

Detective Comics — I am all for female heroes in my comic books (as well as TV shows and movies, for that matter) but generally I tend to think that female versions of male super-heroes (She-Hulk, Supergirl, etc.) are pretty lame.  So when I read that Detective Comics was going to start focusing on the newly-introduced character of Batwoman, I was less than overwhelmed.  However, when I heard that Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III were the creators coming on board the title, I quickly changed my tune and decided to sample the series.  Boy I’m glad I did, because the first five issues of their run have been terrific.  Mr. Rucka is spinning a taught, tense mystery/adventure story (something at which he excels), and Mr. Williams III’s art is absolutely jaw-dropping.  I’m baffled as to how exactly he produces the art I’m seeing before me (and surely colorist Dave Stewart is a key player), but it seems to be a constant mix of different media and styles, presented in wonderfully eccentric panel layouts (no simple panel grids to be found here).  Each page is truly a work of art.  Really wonderful.

Star Trek Romulans: Schism — The very first time, as a kid, that I paid any notice to the names of the creators behind the comic books I was reading was because I noticed that there was one guy whose work I was enjoying way more than anyone else’s.  That was John Byrne.  He was the first artist I really followed, and I made it my business to track down back-issues of his famous work (his lengthy runs on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four) as well as his less-famous work (Alpha Flight, Namor, etc.).  About the time that he was writing and illustrating the magnificent series John Byrne’s Next Men, I was convinced that he was the greatest comic book creator of the time.  Lately, Mr. Byrne seems to have fallen somewhat out of favor within the industry — he’s a name I often see criticized, and it’s been quite a while since he’s worked on a really high-profile project.  I must admit that I, too, have found myself disinterested by some of his recent work.  But I’ve found myself quite taken with his recent batch of Star Trek comics for IDW.  (I’ve long suspected that Mr. Byrne had a fondness for Star Trek, ever since noticing, as a kid, all the little Trek references that seemed to slip into his work on X-Men.)  Schism is the third part in what has turned into a trilogy of stories exploring the Klingon/Romulan alliance that was hinted at (but never really delved into) in the third season of the original Star Trek series.  Mr. Byrne has created a fascinating (no pun intended) story with lots of sci-fi action, great political intrigue, and the reappearance of a number of familiar faces (most notably the Klingons Kor and Koloth).  More, please!

X-Factor — Speaking of Star Trek, I’ve been a big, big fan of Peter David’s work ever since I noticed, back in the 80’s, that his Star Trek comics were way better than those written by anyone else.  I’ve followed Mr. David through a number of different comic book series for a number of different comic book publishers over the years, and I’ve seldom been disappointed.  I’ve also been following Mr. David’s work with X-Factor through several different incarnations of the series ever since he took over the book way back in 1991 (after the “Mutant Genesis” storyline).  As always, David’s X-Factor is full of ripping adventure yarns, terrific character development and continuity, and a lot of really funny humor.  The book has struggled a bit to find a consistent artist, but the recent work by Valentine De Landro has been very solid.  It’s by far the most bizarre, idiosyncratic of all the X-books, and that’s just the way I like it.  Here’s hoping the series continues to run for another 50 issues, at least!

Astonishing X-Men — The ridiculous delays since Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi took over this series had tampered by enthusiasm significantly, but issue #31, which began a new story-arc with artist Phil Jiminez, absolutely blew my socks off.  Agent Brand’s encounter with the Brood on an asteroid orbiting Earth goes terribly wrong, and the X-Men have to spring into action to attempt a rescue before her escape pod burns up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.  What follows is a riveting, edge-of-your-seat read.  As always, Mr, Ellis takes the sci-fi aspects of the story very seriously, which brings a real complexity and plausibility to what could easily be just another chronicle of silly super-heroics.  He is also able to masterfully pile on the tension in page after page, as each attempt by Agent Brand and the X-Men to extricate her from her situation only leads to new problems.  This issue is also the best work by Phil Jimenez that I have ever seen.  He layers an extraordinary amount of detail into every panel, all of which effectively serves his story-telling as the reader is kept clear on the ever-changing geography of the issue-long action sequence.  If the series continues with issues like this one (and if it is published on something approaching a regular schedule), then I will definitely be along for the ride!

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