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Comic Books (and Books About Comic Books) I’m Reading

June 2nd, 2010

I’ve been catching up on some wonderful comic books lately (as well as some books/publications about comic books).  Here’s some of what I’ve been reading and enjoying:

Do Anything: Thoughts on Comics and Things by Warren Ellis — This collection of essays (subtitled Jack Kirby Ripped My Flesh: A Grand Tour Through Comics & Culture As Seen Through a Burgled Robot Head) as a phenomenally entertaining madcap history of comics, specifically the work and influence of comic book master Jack Kirby.  Mr. Ellis is one of the very best comic book authors working today.  His work is usually characterized by a torrent of BIG IDEAS that tend to unfold at a rapid clip, and that quality has been embodied in spades in these collected essays.  Mr. Ellis bends language to his whim (turning, for example, the use of a parenthesis into an art form) as his thoughts pour forth in rush that is at once hilarious and insightful.  This tome is thick in “inside baseball” for the world of comic books, and there were a great many names and references that were unfamiliar to me.  But that’s part of the fun of this collection.  At its essence, Do Anything is a powerful exhortation for creative folk to make their own, original work.  I defy you to get to the end and not be filled with the desire to double your efforts in your own creative endeavors.

Modern Masters Volume 24: Guy Davis by Eric Nolen-Weathington — The continuing Modern Masters series, published by TwoMorrows Publishing, has been one of my very favorite comic-book related publications ever since their first installment (spotlighting the extraordinarily talented Alan Davis — no relation to Guy).  I have devoured each subsequent volume in the months and years since.  I was absolutely delighted to see the latest installment spotlight Guy Davis, whose wonderfully idiosyncratic work I discovered and fell in love with in the past few years’ worth of B.P.R.D. mini-series.  Mr. Davis’ work manages to be at once cartoonishly stylized — with the frequent use of simplified exaggeration in his characters’ expressions and poses — while also being extraordinarily detailed.  Mr. Davis is one of those rare artists who seems to be able to draw just about ANYTHING.  As with all of the Modern Masters volumes, this over-sized book consists of a long, in-depth interview with Mr. Davis by Mr. Nolen-Weathington.  The interview is far-reaching, covering Mr. Davis’s youth and start in the business, through his period working for DC (most notably on Sandman Mystery Theatre), up to his involvement in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe.  There is also a fantastic portfolio section at the back of the book, with a series of black-and-white and full-color reproductions of Mr. Davis’ work from throughout his career.  For anyone interested in learning about the best artists in the comic book business, this Modern Masters series is for you — and this spotlight on Guy Davis is a particularly wonderful edition.

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor by John Byrne — I’ve written before about how much I have enjoyed Mr. Byrne’s recent Star Trek work for IDW, and this latest miniseries is a particularly terrific example.  There’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek quality to these stories (taking place between the original Star Trek series and the start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture).  They’re not campy — but they’re also not edge-of-your-seat intense either.  They’re just FUN.  Byrne has a great ear for the voice of the late, great Deforest Kelley, and as always his illustrations are of the highest quality.  He’s able to capture the “look” of the Original Series Trek universe — the starships, the sets, the costumes — really well.

The Terminator: 2029 by Zack Whedon & Andy Macdonald — I love the first two Terminator films, and I’m convinced that there is a fertile world of stories to be told set in this universe.  Unfortunately, while there has been some merit to each of the post-James Cameron installments of the official saga (T3, Terminator: Salvation, and the Sarah Connor Chronicles), all of them have felt wide of the mark.  So thank heavens for Zack Whedon.  Only two issues of this new mini-series, published by Dark Horse, have been out as of this writing, but I am totally on-board with this story so far.  They’ve really captured the elusive “feel” of the first two films, even while charting a wholly-original story set in post-apocalyptic 2029.  I can’t wait to see where this story is going.

S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver, and Christina Strain — Just as Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. have re-emerged in prominence, through their key roles in the recent Avengers comics as well as the Iron Man films, comes this series about S.H.I.E.L.D. — that has absolutely nothing to do with the Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. we all know.  No, this new series spans the time from ancient Egypt until 1953, detailing the secret story of the men who have always fought to protect humanity, from Leonardo DaVinci and Galileo’s quest to stop Galactus to the involvement of Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards (fathers of Tony Stark and Reed Richards) in the fight against “the Dark Man.”  It’s a wonderful jumble of Marvel Universe history, gorgeously illustrated by Mr. Weaver.  Only the first issue has been published so far, but what a first issue.

Detective Comics Featuring Batwoman by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III — I’m not one for female versions of male superheroes.  Why not just create a brand new female character, as opposed to just adding “she” or “woman” to the name of a male hero?  But this story has been nothing short of a masterpiece.  Neither Rucka nor Williams III have ever been better.  This series was cut short too soon.  Sniffle.

I’m got more comic-book stuff to write about soon, such as my project to re-read all of the amazing superhero-gets-elected-mayor-of-New-York series Ex Machina, so stay tuned!

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