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On the Comics Shelf!

Last month I wrote about a number of great comic books that I’d read lately.  Here’s some more of the fun stuff I’ve been reading these past few weeks:

The Marvel Art of Joe Quesada — I remember taking note of a young artist named Joe Quesada back when he was illustrating Azrael for DC Comics and a variety of books for Valiant Comics (like Ninjak and, as I recall, a zero issue of X-O Manowar), and I’ve been following his work ever since.  These days he’s one of the biggest superstars out there, but not just as an illustrator — Mr. Quesada has been the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics for a decade.  This gorgeous oversize hardcover is a comprehensive look back at his work for the House of Ideas.  In particular, I love the spotlight given to all of his phenomenal cover work.  I wish there was a little more commentary provided along with all the beautiful reproductions of his work (I’ve been spoiled by the way the Cover Run: The Art of Adam Hughes book contained commentary by Mr. Hughes for EVERY IMAGE), but that’s a minor complaint.  A stunning collection that sits proudly on my bookshelf.

Baltimore: The Plague Ships — Another winner from Mike Mignola and his team.  Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (working together to bring the lead character from their novel Baltimore,: or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire to the world of comic books) with wonderfully atmospheric art by Ben Stenbeck (and phenomenal coloring by Dave Stewart), the mini-series has me gripped so far.  Lord Henry Baltimore hunts vampires across Europe in the early 1900’s.  It’s grim and bloody and phenomenally good.

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects — Speaking of Mike Mignola, I must also heap praise on this wonderfully loony hardcover collection of his one-off story, The Amazing Screw-On Head (about a robotic head that can screw into various elaborate action-figure bodies in order to hunt monsters for Abraham Lincoln) along with a variety of other equally bizarre short-stories (many of which were written and drawn specifically for this collection).  Wonderfully off-beat and gorgeously illustrated by the phenomenally talented Mr. Mignola, I am in love with this handsomely-designed collection.

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories — I was a bit dubious that the characters from Joss Whedon’s triumphant web-series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (read my rapturous review here) could translate to comics, but this softcover collection (reprinting Dark Horse Comics’ Dr. Horrible one-shot from earlier in the year along with several other short stories spotlighting different characters from the Dr. Horrible universe) but boy was I wrong.  Zack Whedon wrote all of the stories and managed to perfectly capture the humor and strangeness of the original work.  There’s no music, of course, but the tone has been preserved intact.  It’s great fun getting to learn more about the Horrible characters, and all of the back-story felt perfectly of a piece with the Sing-Along Blog.  More, please!!

X-Factor — I will follow writer Peter David pretty much anywhere, and he seldom leads me astray.  After several years on this latest incarnation of X-Factor, I still find myself as amused and engaged by the stories and characters as I was when the series began.  Jamie Madrox (The Multiple Man) and a variety of other cast-off characters (though they’re still beloved by me — as they are beloved, clearly, by Mr. David as well as the rest of this title’s readers) run an investigative service and try their best to survive in the often-tumultuous X-Universe.  Mr. David has a great ear for dialogue, and he brings tremendous humor to the series while never losing the dramatic tension.  I love the way Mr. David isn’t afraid to bring in obscure Marvel characters and other bits of forgotten continuity into his stories (the latest issues feature Pip the Troll!!), and he’s able to weave X-Factor in and out of current X-continuity with grace and style, keeping the book connected to the rest of the X-books while still somehow allowing it to remain it’s own unique thing.  Now, if the series could just somehow get a regular artist, I’d be over the moon.

X-Factor Forever — I guess Chris Claremont’s X-Men Forever (an experiment which was unfortunately more interesting in theory than execution in which Mr. Claremont started telling X-Men stories that picked up from his last issue on the X-books, 1991’s X-Men #3) has been successful enough to warrant a spin-off.  In this 5-issue mini-series, Louise Simonson picks up telling X-Factor stories that take place immediately following her departure from the X-Factor series after X-Factor #64.  Back then, X-Factor consisted of the original X-Men: Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Hank McCoy, Warren Worthington, and Bobby Drake.  Ms. Simonson created the character of Apocalypse in the pages of X-Factor, and in X-Factor Forever she tells a large-scale story that reveals Apocalypse’s origins, his connections to the mysterious Celestials, and just what he’s been up to for the last several thousand years.  It’s a fun, retro-yarn that feels just like the X-Books I grew up reading in the ’80s.  Ms. Simonson’s writing style reads as rather verbose today, and perhaps a little overly expository, but the heartfelt, heroic nature of her tale is endearing.  It’s also fun to learn what she’d originally had in mind for Apocalypse.  Dan Panosian’s art is strong and works well with the story.  I’d love to read a second mini-series, Marvel!

Batman: Odyssey — Comics god Neal Adams has returned to DC Comics, writing and drawing a 12-issue Batman limited series (of which I have read 3 issues as of this writing).  I’m lukewarm on this series so far.  It’s amazing to be reading a new Neal Adams Batman story, but the whole thing feels a bit “off” so far.  The series has a very ’70s vibe, which I love.  It feels as if I’d magically discovered a 1970s Batman story-line that I’d never read before.  That’s fun, but my biggest problem with the story so far is that I think the familiar faces are acting all out-of-character.  (What was with that ditsy Talia in issue three???)  I’d love to see Neal Adams illustrate a Batman story written by one of the more modern comic book scribes (Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, etc.) … but failing that, I am still intrigued enough with this weird series to stick with it.

I’ve also been re-reading Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ amazing Ex Machina (about a super-hero who is elected mayor of New York City, though that simple description doesn’t do this complex series justice) from start-to-finish.  I’ll have a lot more to say about that soon.

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