I don’t read a lot of new comics. I have my titles, but due to high prices, slow stories and constant reboots, I find myself buying fewer and fewer monthlies. This isn’t to say there aren’t any good series on the stands—there are plenty! I’m just a cheap, cheap collector and when I find a stack of Groo comics and a single issue of the latest X-Whatever for the same price, my choice is clear. I buy lots and lots of comics, from lots of different places for dirt cheap. It may take me over ten years to collect an entire series I’m looking for, but when the price is right it’s all worth it.
This is my passion.
My madness begins now.
I have an extensive list (i.e. piles and piles) of unread, random floppies. I try to read at least one a day and usually go through three or four. When I’m finished reading them, they accumulate into a “finished” pile, which eventually gets organized into long boxes. Standard comic-book aficionado formula, I imagine. What are all these random, cheaply acquired comics and why should you be interested? To answer that, I plan on reviewing every single issue I read. I’ll do this in chunks, with small reviews, but with purpose.
Read Bin There, Found That and the next time you find yourself up to your elbows in a quarter-bin you’ll know exactly why you should buy Tom Vietch’s run on Animal Man. You’ll understand why you need that issue of Static with a Moebius cover. You’ll have the strength to try Eternal Warrior, the courage to purchase Topp’s Kirbyverse and the obsession to collect anything with the name Ostrander on it.
At least, that’s my hope. Let it begin!
Marvel Comics The Gargoyle #1-4, written by J. M. DeMatteis, drawn by Mark Badger, 1985
Before picking this series up, the only exposure I’d had to Marvel’s Gargoyle was from Earth X’s sequel, Universe X. He was an interesting key player in that series and I was intrigued to learn more. This mini from DeMatteis and Badger seemed right up my alley.
I enjoyed the DeMatteis/Badger pairing when I first experienced them back on DC’s Martian Manhunter but found that work to be very abstract and disorienting. Upon opening The Gargoyle I was pleasantly surprised to see Badger’s work to be much more accessible without sacrificing any of his trademark expressiveness. It still has messy moments but certain pages are downright beautiful. His work here is as good as it’s ever been.
DeMatteis’s story is great too. Isaac Christians (our titular Gargoyle) is brought to life in every way. For a character I knew practically nothing about, I was pleased to get an in-depth, original origin. An old man’s spirit stuck in the body of a Gargoyle? I loved it. Christians’ is not portrayed as a typical hero. He isn’t young, he isn’t very brave and he is all too aware of his failings. The love story here is great and the WWI flashbacks are brilliant. Unfortunately, as is common in four issue minis, the story loses its way halfway through and some of the lore and exposition take the focus away from the best parts of the book. At first I wasn’t sure the ending worked, but those last few pages are remarkably moving.
Fantastic covers too! Pick this one up, but be patient with it.
Marvel Comics The New Defenders #152, written by Peter B. Gillis, drawn by Don Perlin, 1986
My first issue of The New Defenders is also the finale of the series. Such is collecting on the cheap. I opened the book excited to see more of the character Gargoyle, but found his role to be very, very small here. Disappointing, but there are still plenty of neat characters.
Manslaughter, Andromeda, Candy Southern—these folks were Defenders? I went into this book expecting to know everyone, but the few unfamiliar additions were pleasant surprises. Gillis’ story unfortunately runs too long and seems like quite the disappointing finish to a series 152 issues in the making. A strange character called the Interloper dominates the story as the team fights off their crazy ex-member (and later cosmic favourite) Moondragon and the entire conflict seems underwhelming. There’s an obligatory Secret Wars tie-in moment that doesn’t seem to fit at all and by the end the entire issue seemed like poorly structured house-cleaning. From here Beast, Ice-Man and Angel are free to join X-Factor and we can forget about the rest of the Defenders. Disappointing!
Don Perlin’s pencils are neat but nothing special. The action was good, the characters nice and clear and the layouts adequate, but there were no “wow” moments. Considering some silly story elements (the power of your spirit!), Perlin does the best with what he is given. I kind of wish the Interloper didn’t look like the guy on the cover of “Aqualung,” though.
This did not convince me to grab more New Defenders, but I’ll probably still look for older issues.
El Capitan Stray Bullets #20, 22, written and drawn by David Lapham, 1999
After reading Stray Bullets: Killers #1 I needed more. Fortunately I still had a few older issues I hadn’t read yet, so this was a perfect opportunity. Man, what a series.
Stray Bullets is probably one of my favourite books; I just don’t think about it that much. Every time I finish an issue I sit and stare at the ceiling, letting the weight of the story settle. It’s funny, it’s real, it’s unique, creative, exciting—I could go on.
So I will: It’s gorgeously drawn and expertly written. It’s easy to digest single issue stories that connect to make a bigger picture. It delves deep into dark, dangerous themes. It’s about crime, but more importantly—life.
Issue 20 deals with a cheating professor who finds himself in way more trouble than he expected. Series favourite Monster makes an appearance and things go from bad to really bad, to really really bad. It’s terrific. Issue 22 takes the cheating husband theme in a different direction and focuses on really great dialogue. It reminded me more of a short two person play, or a scene from a very well-crafted movie. Not as heavy as issue 20 but just as captivating.
Gah! David Lapham, I can’t wait for more. Buy this series, every issue if you can, even if they aren’t cheap.
DC Comics Forever People #3 (of 6), written by J. M. DeMatteis, drawn by Paris Cullins, 1988
I had already read issues 1
, 2 and 4 before reading this, but I’d forgotten most of the story. It’s sort of complicated, with the Forever People being torn from a utopia dream world to battle some “evil darkness.” Someday I’ll have to read this mini in order because there is a lot to like here.
The 80s had some very cool interpretations of Kirby creations and DeMatteis certainly took his in his own direction. As always his story is very complex, metaphysical and deeply thematic. This might turn away some readers initially, but his dialogue is also finely tuned and his characters perfectly portrayed. Reading this third issue out of order really ignited my curiosity and once I collect the fifth issue (I own but haven’t read the sixth yet) I’ll try this series again, in order. DeMatteis has really hooked me on the characters.
I’ve always like Cullins art, too. He seems to be an unfortunately forgotten artist these days–an injustice. His expressive, cartoony but never too over-the-top style fit the mid-80s Kirby revival perfectly. His facial expressions and dynamic posing are in top form here.
Grab this issue if it’s cheap, but perhaps wait until you find the others to read it. I don’t believe this series has ever been collected, but it should be!
DC Comics Omega Men #4 (of 6), written by Andersen Gabrych, drawn by Henry Flint, 2007
I read the other issues of this mini a while back but only recently found this missing piece to my collection. This is a very, very cool mini that never got the attention it deserved, by two creators you might not have experienced before.
Gabrych is a writer I’d never heard of and haven’t read much from since, but he nails this Omega Men mini. I was always curious about the team and never really sure where to start so I was especially happy that this series delivered. I’m an Omega Men fan from here on out. The mainstay characters of the series are well written, but the real charms are Vril Dox, his synthetic lovestruck computer and Lianna, the Zamaronian raised blue-skinned guardian child. Dox’s attitude is on right on cue, his computer is an original creation we need to see more of and Lianna–she kicks all kinds of butt here and I’m tempted to buy any book she happens to appear in.
If my brief description up there didn’t convince you this is a mini worth reading, just open the book and Flint’s artwork will. He’s work might remind you of Frank Miller, but it’s much less noir. It’s crazy, expressive madness and it makes every action in this book explode off the pages.
This issue Tigorr saves his wife, Dox tough talks an insane alien wannabe deity, Darkfire discovers the hidden power inside an obsessed A.I. and Lianna beats the crap out of zombie Darkstars. It’s awesome, alright? Buy it, read it and go buy some more.
Next time I’ll be looking at a recent Hercules series, some random DC stuff and a whole pile of different Hawkman issues.