Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I'm Reading: Strange Science Fantasy, Captain Swing, Daredevil: Black & White

Due to a number of circumstances - including being out of work for a number of months and winding down my current job, which is only temporary - I have cut way back on my comic buying, which was slim to begin with. Combined with my fiscal reality, I was also feeling burnt out on comics, reading many things that were not staying with me. Nothing seemed to resonate, drowning under the weight of my pile.

I did keep with a very few series - having ordered up to issue #49 of Ex Machina, it would have been foolish to forego the final issue that wrapped up the entire series (though that one felt rushed and unfinished). And there are some creators whose work I won't pass up barring the most dire of economic realities (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Los Bros Hernandez, and Scott Morse are my Mt. Rushmore of creators).

Which brings me to three of the best comics I have read in a long, long time. These books all came out recently and have made me more excited about reading comics than I've been for a while. These are books I will most definitely re-read at some point down the line (most likely many times, they are that good).

First, I picked up the initial issue of Warren Ellis's latest (or one of his latest) mini series from Avatar. I enjoy Ellis as a creator and his Avatar books have been particularly enjoyable. William Christensen, the publisher, gives his creators free reign to write and draw the books they want to do that the mainstream publishers won't do, and Avatar pays a comparable rate to that of the big guns. Which means we get undistilled Ellis, Ennis, Moore, et al. and it's more often than not brilliant. Though, Ignition City - one of Ellis's recently finished Avatar books - left me wanting more, a lot more. The art was serviceable and the story didn't excite me like his initial notes for the project as they were put forth on his now-defunct e-mailing, Bad Signal. So, I stopped pre-ordering his series and figured I would just stay away.

But I was in my LCS the other day and saw the first couple issues on the rack. The cover is gorgeous, and I decided to pick up the first one to see if it caught my imagination. And it did. Set in 1830s England, the old stable of constabulary and the new one are at odds with one another as a new villain wreaks havoc in London. Coined "Spring-Heeled Jack" this criminal utilizes electricity to propel himself over the rooftops in order to escape his adversaries while sailing off in an electrical pirate ship to his lair - all before the births of Tesla or Marconi. This series promises to tell the secret history of London as shown in the periodic journal pages from Captain Swing's (Spring-Heeled Jack's) journal. It's an interesting concept that involves a number of favorite tropes of mine including historical references and a science fiction feel that is as new as it is "retro," and I am looking forward to the eventual trade of this series.

I need also note that Raulo Caceres, who collaborated with Ellis on Crecy, is an artist whose work is worth seeking out. His attention to detail and flair for comic storytelling is fantastic and is perfect for this story. Lots of fun, good "Ellis-ian" ideas, and a mystery hanging at the edges that I look forward to seeing resolved.

The second book I picked up this past week was something I noticed in Previews when I was on CGS a couple months back - Daredevil: Black and White. 32, ad-free pages of b&w goodness. This is a Daredevil book you can sink your teeth into. Ann Nocenti returns (her run in the eighties with JRJr is a high point for me and one of the treasures in my personal collection) with a short prose story with spot illustrations by David Aja (from DD #500). It's perfectly moody and brooding as Matt toils with the realities of his life as a super-sensitive costumed hero. With wonderfully lucid prose that really get into the psyche of Matt Murdock and moody artwork reminiscent of David Mazzucchelli, perhaps the best DD artist in the book's history, this is worth the price of the book alone.

But there are two other stories hidden within. The second one I have yet to read, but the opening salvo from Peter Milligan and artist Michele Bertilorenzi is another brilliant feature. In it, Milligan asks, what would Matt Murdock do if offered the ability to regain his sight, and how would that affect him as Daredevil? It's a poignant tale that gets to the heart of who Matt Murdock is, and is one I want to re-read soon. It's that good, and the art complements the story nicely. Again, this one's worth admission price alone.

The final book is one I've been looking forward to since Scott Morse first mentioned it on his blog last year. Strange Science Fantasy. Morse is taking the 1950s science fiction tropes found in films and Marvel comics of the time (before they were Marvel, I know) and playing with them in his own distinct manner. Morse is a creators who always brings a sense of fun to his stories while also being able to tell stories that are meaningful as well. He jumps from genre to genre with ease, and I'll follow his work anywhere.

This series is from IDW and the first 2 of 6 issues are already available. Each book is 32 pages with no ads and a 1-page back up from Paul Pope. Getting these two artists into the same book is a joy for any comic fan. If you like campy sci-fi and fun comics, then you should check out this beauty. Guaranteed, you will not be disappointed.


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