Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Greg Hatcher Legacy Files #22: ‘Friday’s Annual Inventory, 2009 Edition’

[Greg culls his pull list again, as we find here from 2 January 2009. As always, fun ranting comes with it. Dang, I love being reminded of what was going on at any particular time in DC and Marvel’s publishing history. It’s weird!]

As usual for the first column of the year, today I’ll take a look at what my regular pull-list comics decisions are, what I’m going to keep getting and what I’m going to throw overboard. Sort of the fanboy version of a New Year’s Resolution.

The thing that gets depressing about this? Every year since I started doing it, the list gets smaller, at least when it comes to ongoing monthly series. I think overall I’m actually reading more comics than ever, but that’s because of the booming market in bookstore-targeted reprint volumes. (Which is something I love, don’t get me wrong.) But new comics took a real hit in 2008 as far as my buying habits are concerned.

The main reason is that the standard monthly comic is just not an attractive package for me any more. I think Marvel and DC superhero comics as I remember them, the ones in serial monthly book format, are pretty much dead or dying.

Understand, I’m mostly talking about format here. What I mean is the idea of a 22-page monthly superhero comic book, as a discrete, single-issue unit of entertainment, is something that I think is essentially over at DC and Marvel. No one even pretends that’s the primary vehicle for presenting a story any more. They’re done now mostly as loss-leaders for an eventual book collection, since the last couple of years have shown that the market will support trade collections of even the weird, offbeat stuff.

And the structure of the monthly comics themselves has changed to accommodate that. They’re not stories any more, not even in the sense of being episodic installments of a larger serial. They are chapters of stories, completely useless without the surrounding chapters as context.

There’s no point in rehashing all over again whether or not this is a good thing. For better or worse, that’s what superhero comics have evolved into. Long-form books issued as a chapter a month.

Now, I’m largely okay with this … when I get to read the story AS a book. I just wish publishers would follow this line of reasoning all the way to the end and realize that this really is what they’re doing now, and quit hanging on to the 22-page monthly as some sort of arbitrary limit on how comics need to be done. As regular readers will recall, I have become a bookstore evangelist. For the kind of superhero stories we see today, reading them collected in a book is simply a better way to consume them. Better for the storyteller’s preferred pace, better for the price, more convenient to store … just plain better.

However, I’m not going to go through all that again, except to point out that this year I decided to put my money where my mouth has been. The bulk of my comics buying has been through Amazon or other mail-order houses, picking up remaindered trade collections of comics for pennies on the dollar.

There have been a few series I like so much that I get them monthly anyway, either because I want to support them or because I just can’t stand waiting. And there are a few more where I split the difference — I get them in trade collections, but I get the collections NEW, so the publisher still gets the sale and not a used-book dealer. I feel very strongly that a vote with one’s wallet is the only one that counts and I’ve tried to hold to that philosophy.

But even so, the numbers are still going down. This year it was because a lot of my regular books either got canceled outright or they were miniseries that finished up. And the few books that I’m still getting as monthlies are embarking on new directions that almost seem designed to drive me away.

Exhibit A: Astonishing X-Men.

Now, I was prepared to give this book the benefit of the doubt. I put up with the glacial pace of the Whedon/Cassaday run because I was enjoying it and I didn’t have to buy into a lot of X-crossover crap to understand it. It slid pretty seamlessly into my collection behind the Grant Morrison stuff and I was just happy to have an X-book out there I could enjoy again. So the Ellis/Bianchi version had a certain amount of goodwill from me going in.

And, despite some serious reservations about Simone Bianchi’s art, I was on board. (I suspect the muddy look of it is more the fault of the coloring, obviously the work of yet another Photoshop incompetent who can’t be bothered to check how the pages will print on a real press.) I usually like reading Warren Ellis doing straight-up superheroics and let’s face it, if there’s anyone who was born to write arch, snide Emma Frost one-liners, it’s Ellis. And it even looked like the book would be staying on schedule, another hopeful sign.

However, after an encouraging start, the whole thing grinds to a halt for two months so I can spend an additional eight dollars for 32 pages of story — that’s TOTAL, not EACH — and a few extra features, none of which really interest me.

Let’s stop and examine this from the economic point of view. Ghost Boxes #1 gives us two 8-page stories, both of which are supplementary to the main narrative. Then it gives us a little feature about the artist and the scripts for the stories we just read. For this material we are charged a dollar more than the regular book.

My response to this is basically: Are you kidding me?

And finding out this was the first of two, and this was substituting for issues of the actual comic (as opposed to being issued simultaneously, the way DC does its Secret Files books) my response is quickly amended to: Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?

If this was done as a strategy for, say, a DVD, it would go something like this. “Let’s take that second disc of behind-the-scenes crap off the Casino Royale double set and, instead of selling it as a bonus, packaged with the movie, we’ll offer it separately, market it as the next chapter in the James Bond series, and we’ll charge 33% more for it than we would for the regular movie!” Can you imagine the outrage over that? Consumers would scream bloody murder. And they’d be right.

But I’ll bet most comics readers following Astonishing X-Men rolled right over for it. I think even our other Greg went for it, though I recall he was grumpy about the price. Or maybe it was Brian, I can’t remember. [Edit: I don’t think it was me. Even then I was moving to trades quite a bit, and this didn’t really interest me.]

Not me, though. This just tells me it’s time to cut Astonishing. Obviously this is a book better read AS a book. Better for my wallet and certainly better for my blood pressure. I’m just grateful my shop didn’t count Ghost Boxes as part of the regular series and pull it for me, or I’d have been livid at being on the hook for something that is so clearly a rip-off. As it is, it’s just another series that’s been moved to the trades-only-if-at-all category.

Astonishing was the last Marvel monthly book I’d had on my pull list. I cut the Ultimate books earlier in the year, because I just couldn’t justify spending the money for books that are regularly collected in trade, especially when the trades themselves are discounted so quickly.

So what about DC?

Well, they’re doing the cutting for me, looks like.

Both Birds of Prey and Nightwing are getting canceled. This is kind of a shame.

Although both books had been showing fatigue after good long runs, each one was also ramping up towards doing good stuff again. Tony Bedard on Birds of Prey especially was hitting a nice groove. Peter Tomasi on Nightwing was more uneven but even with the occasional misstep like #149 (and believe me, that was a HUUUUGE misstep, that was an awful, awful issue) I was nevertheless getting the sense that he understood what needed to happen on the book and what a Dick Grayson solo series should be doing.

That’s a big deal. Often at DC in recent years, I get the feeling that the creators don’t really know, or worse, don’t care, what kind of book they’re working on. The Flash is not the same as Teen Titans, which in turn is not the same as Detective, which is a different book than Justice League. This seems so obvious that the only rational response to my pointing it out is “duh, Greg,” but if that’s so, why doesn’t anyone at DC seem to know this? The DC superhero line over the last five years is often written with the same vaguely arrested-adolescent “adult, serious” sensibility. These are wildly different characters, setups, premises … and yet so many times they all have the same morose tone. A grim story that might work pretty well in Batman is ridiculously out of place in Flash or Teen Titans, but that same “darkness” is apparently now de rigueur for the entire mainstream DCU line. (To my mind, that kind of thinking was what led to Tomasi’s hideously inappropriate and lame Nightwing #149.) And if a book strays from that, if it gets tagged with the dreaded label “fun,” well, that’s it, game over. Superheroes are serious business at DC.

That’s why it’s getting to be a rare treat when a DC book hits the right note. Bedard was doing it and Tomasi was (mostly) doing it. So you have a pair of books that have been foundering for a while, but the talent on them seems to have righted the course and they finally have a real direction again … and DC decides that they need to cancel those titles.

I should be fair-minded about this. Sales were certainly low enough to justify that decision, and the new guys have each had about a year to bring the numbers up, so I can’t really fault DC for the cancellations. But it is a shame.

In addition to Nightwing and Birds of Prey I’ve been getting Batman and Detective as well. Usually for me those two titles are close to bulletproof; I’m a Bat guy and always have been. But again this is where I start to wonder if DC is trying to make me go away.

Take Detective. This has been a pretty entertaining Bat book for a while now. Paul Dini has been doing solid stories and his track record with the Batman character is really stellar when you include his animation work. I haven’t minded the rotating artist merry-go-round he’s had to work with, I’m mostly a story person.

But then we get this “Heart of Hush” crap.

What is it about Hush? Why does DC keep bringing him back? Did DC editorial lose a bet or something, or is there some contest to see how many Bat books the character can take down? Gotham Knights was chugging along nicely until it became Hush Comics and it promptly tanked. Did they learn nothing from that? Because now it’s happening in Detective.

Let me spell it out in small words. No one likes Hush. He was a lame villain from his first appearance and he has only gotten lamer. He doesn’t make sense as a character on any level. (To take the most obvious flaw — I leave others for commenters to amuse themselves pointing out — but picking one off the top of my head, here’s a stupid Hush factoid for you. Hush knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, and he has routinely circumvented the cave security. So he can destroy Batman any time he wants with a phone call to the local press. “Meet me at this cave on the Wayne property, I want to take you on a little tour.” I can believe Ra’s al Ghul not doing it because he wants to co-opt Batman, he’s still hoping for Bruce to join the family business and give him that Bat son-in-law. But Tommy Elliott? What’s stopping him?)

And the more other writers try to fix him or rehabilitate him, the lamer he gets. Sadly, “Heart of Hush” was no exception, it killed a lot of the goodwill the book had with me. On top of everything else, it had the “R.I.P.” logo plastered all over it which didn’t affect my pull list but I bet it sure made some other folks mad when they discovered the bait-and-swtich.

Grant Morrison on Batman is more problematic. Again, I was enjoying what he was doing, maybe not swooning over it like some of my colleagues but on the whole I thought he was doing good work. Then we got “R.I.P.”, which, sorry, strikes me as a bit of a mess.

Take the trademark Morrison style away and what’s left is exactly the same thing Geoff Johns gets pilloried for — an attempt to integrate old forgotten continuity into the character’s history again. Johns does this with Green Lantern or Brainiac and fans jeer. Morrison does it with Zur-En-Arrh and the Club of Heroes and fans say it’s a work of genius. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is in the execution.

The thing that bothers me is that when Morrison himself is going around saying things like, “every detail that’s been in the book for the last couple of years is significant, everything is a clue to the grand design that’s unfolding,” and “When we begin to suspect the identity of the villain, I think it’s the most, like I said the other day, it’s possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years,” and then he doesn’t deliver — does not, in fact, come close to delivering — it annoys me when so many critics and fans act like he did. (Geoff Johns did a story where he implied Hal Jordan was cooler than Batman and fans loudly hooted at him for having a “man crush.” Morrison does a story implying Batman is tougher than the Devil himself and follows it up with one where Batman is tougher than Darkseid. Where’s all the man-crush snark over that, internet?)

I read the same story as everyone else, and I’m sorry, but once you strip away all the self-referential, meta-continuity-patch stuff out of “Batman R.I.P.” there’s not a whole lot left: a group of villains have a plan to do nasty stuff (what nasty stuff that might be is never quite clear, which is one of the things that bothered me) and it looks like Batman’s lost and gone crazy, except it turns out he was smarter than they thought and he pulls out the win. It was okay, it was cleverly executed, but the identity of the villain sure wasn’t the most shocking revelation in 70 years; in fact, there were no shocking revelations at all, just a couple of teases of one.

For my money, it wasn’t even the best Batman story Grant Morrison’s done in the last TWO years. And I know it’s not just me because Greg Burgas made a similar observation last week. [Edit: Boy, I’m smart! I wish I knew what Greg was talking about!] I don’t happen to think Grant Morrison really is “the God of all Comics,” so it doesn’t bother me that much that he’s just having fun playing with old Batman stories, but I do wish fans would stop talking about it as though it’s Watchmen-level transcendent when he does it. Especially when it’s as muddled as “R.I.P.” got in places. Now, I really, really liked the “Last Rites” two-parter that followed “R.I.P.,” but you didn’t need “R.I.P.” to do that story. It doesn’t erase “R.I.P”‘s basic flaws for me.

Worse, once again DC has pulled a bait-and-switch because “R.I.P.”, it turns out, wasn’t really a complete story at all. It was yet another prelude to two different mega-crossovers — “Battle For The Cowl” and Final Crisis.

“Battle For The Cowl” technically hasn’t started yet, we’ve just seen some teaser images. But it’s safe to say that it has something to do with replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman.

To which my response is basically a big snort. Replace Bruce Wayne? Yeah right.

Seriously. Dark Knight just grossed, like, a gazillion dollars. There’s a new Batman cartoon. DC has published countless stories hammering home the point that only Bruce Wayne has what it takes to be Batman, it’s his destiny. Stories including “Knightfall,” the novelized version of which was in print for many years and which was about — what? A battle for the cowl. Not to mention the most recent story to make this point about only Bruce having what it takes, the Last Rites two-parter Grant Morrison just concluded.

For God’s sake. Does no one at DC even try to be an editor any more? Was no one brave enough to raise their hand in an editorial meeting and say, “You know, this Battle For The Cowl thing might seem a little too much like going over the same ground. Maybe doing yet another put-a-new-guy-in-the-costume story is going to be a tough sell to fans when we’ve walked back or canceled every other time we’ve ever done that with a character, including the Barry Allen return we’re currently in the middle of. And do we really want to do a new-guy story with Batman? We’ve been saying over and over again that Bruce Wayne is the one and only Batman. I think our credibility might be gone with this concept. Can’t we try something else?”

Yes, I’m pre-judging. But damn it, I’m the audience DC apparently wants, the knowledgeable comics fan. This is the sort of thing that goes through our minds when we see the ads. And what’s going through my mind, right now, is the notion that I probably am not going to like this a lot and I might just as well skip it. For the first time in twenty years I’m thinking of letting the Bat books go. I felt like enough of a tool hanging in there with Judd Winick and that Red Hood stuff; I refuse to make that mistake again, especially when prices will probably pass the four-dollar mark on monthly comics in 2009.

Final Crisis, itself, has its own problems as far as I’m concerned. Again, I was getting it anyway so I’m not as angry as others might have been when they got to the end of “R.I.P.” Still, how livid do you suppose Bat-readers were who were not buying that book when they reached the alleged end of an alleged epilogue and discovered that, oops, there’s a whole new title that they needed to go back and get to see the end of this?

Anyway, I was already reading Final Crisis and I’m enjoying it well enough, I guess.

It’s not doing as much for me as it is some others here, and it is far too reminiscent of Morrison’s JLA arc “Rock of Ages” for my comfort, but as company-wide crossovers go, it’s pretty solid. (Although, again, where was the editorial department? No one thought to ask, “Is this going to be different enough from ‘Rock of Ages’? Do we really want to go with Darkseid AGAIN as the villain for our big crossover?”) But, you know, that’s the way it goes. It’s the business they’re in. Suggesting super-heroes might be too repetitive is a bit stupid considering the total-retro state of the DC landscape right now, I suppose.

So if we let the “Rock of Ages” similarity pass, I guess my only real complaint with Final Crisis is that no one in it is ever introduced. If you don’t already know who everyone is, you’re in trouble. Now, with Superman or Wonder Woman, or even the Green Lanterns, fine, I can accept that; but not a thing about Shilo Norman? Libra? The Super Young Team? There’s not enough context there to give us anything to work with. (C’mon, you know the words, sing it with me: “Where was the editor here?”)

But realistically, that’s probably not a problem for the current superhero comics reader base, so maybe Morrison and DC are just figuring, why bother? It makes me sad that this is a legitimate case you can make regarding current superhero comics, that you don’t need to introduce characters or do any setup because everyone reading it is already so hardcore it’s a waste of space … but that’s another column.

Anyway, I went for Final Crisis. It’s on my list. I even have fallen for a few of the tie-ins. I skipped Rogues’ Revenge, but I admit to picking up Revelations and Legion of 3 Worlds.

And the ones you have to read to make sense of it, of course: Superman Beyond

… and Submit and Resist.

So, am I pleased with the ‘event’ overall? Yes and no.

I don’t really regret getting any of these comics. I just want to like them better than I do. The main Final Crisis story seems to suffer a little from deja vu. Revelations is well-done but this kind of cosmic story is a bad fit for Renee Montoya, and it doesn’t seem like it really needed to tie in to Final Crisis, anyway. Neither did Legion of 3 Worlds, though that’s fun if you are a DC nerd, which I happen to be, and it will really knock you out if you are a big Legion geek, which I’m not, really. The point is that those two are okay stories on their own but they are strictly what I call “logo-only crossovers,” they’re not true tie-ins.

Superman Beyond, Submit, and Resist? Again, they’re okay but I’m a bit befuddled as to why they’re not just done as regular issues of Final Crisis. I don’t see any advantage to treating them as separate titles when they’re not, and a real disadvantage to doing it since readers trying to stay on a budget might very well have skipped them and miss huge chunks of the story.

The escalating schedule screwups are irksome but I console myself that this is a temporary annoyance, and that it’s not as though it’s dated material or something. Eventually I will be able to read the whole thing at a sitting. But it is one more nail in the coffin of the monthly comic as far as I’m concerned.

Truthfully, there is a key point that DC as a whole seems to have forgotten when it comes to these big Event books. Sooner or later, for the gimmick to work, you have to finish.

I don’t think DC knows how to finish a story any more.

Let’s recap and you’ll see what I mean. We started with Countdown to Infinite Crisis, which ended on a cliffhanger. Then we got Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, Day of Vengeance, and Villains United, all of which were supposed to be finished stories that instead, surprise, just led into Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis SORT of finished but really spun out into 52, which ran for a year and led into Countdown which ran for another year and morphed into Countdown To Final Crisis. Somewhere in there we had mini-series like Amazons Attack and Countdown Arena, neither of which had actual conclusions but instead led into other series. Now we have Final Crisis with a bunch of spin-offs and tie-ins, and that doesn’t count issues of the regular books with the “Sightings” logo on them, a logo that suggests they’re all a part of the same sprawling mega-saga.

How long has this been going on? Three years? How stupid are we, that we keep falling for events that are allegedly to set up a platform for telling individual stories — “You need to know this to understand what’s going on in our books!” — but the platform setting those stories up is never finished? “No, really, soon you’ll see the shape of the new DCU. Not, not after THIS miniseries, after the NEXT one. No, not THAT next one, this OTHER next one. We call it Final Countdown to Crisis on New Earth, the day Evil gets a rematch because of a technicality.”

After a while it stops looking like the unfolding of a master plan, and a lot more like there really is no plan.

If I’m going to read comics from a company with no plan, I’ll stick to Marvel Essentials reprinting all that crazy shit from the 1970’s. Those are at least cheerful in their anarchy.

But I think this is my last event crossover. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me seven or eight times in a row and I’m clearly a DC fan. However, even WE have a point where we’re out of patience.


There are DC books I like that I definitely am hanging on to, though. It’s not all bad news.

Here’s a little crossover that I actually quite enjoy, that ties in to nothing, that’s just a story with a defined beginning, middle, and end.

This is bombing big-time, from what I hear. But you know what? I like it, it’s got that old-school JLA/JSA thing going on … except it’s not the JSA teaming up with the League across time and space, it’s the Tangent crowd. I enjoyed the Tangent one-off books when DC did them the first couple of times, and it’s nice to see the characters again; but it’s not necessary to be up on those books to understand this series. At its core this is basically a big Justice League story.

And if I can’t have big ol’ JLA stories in the actual Justice League comic because they’re all too busy sitting around relating to each other or talking about the inspiration of the big three or having wild sex or some damn thing, well, hell, at least I have Superman’s Reign. I appreciate its unpretentiousness, I like that it has an extra backup story in every issue … it’s so not everything that we have come to expect from Dan Didio’s DC that I wonder how it ever got on the schedule in the first place. I’ll be sad when it’s over but glad that at least it gets to be over, if that makes sense. I approve of a mini-series, or even a maxi-series, that actually does what it’s marketed as doing and concludes its tale in the final issue.

Speaking of big sprawling JLA series, I wish there was more fan buzz on Trinity. Because it’s really good.

This is actually a much more satisfying weekly serial event that the various Final Crisis Countdown Crapola stuff we’ve been getting. It has the great misfortune to follow Countdown and I am afraid it had to take a lot of the ill will engendered by that series. It does not deserve it. It has nothing to do with Countdown or Final Crisis or any of that stuff, and for me that is actually its great strength. It’s over in its own corner, telling one story well in weekly installments. That was what we wanted from Countdown and didn’t get.

I don’t know that I have a lot to say about it other than it’s the kind of well-structured superhero story we’ve come to count on from Kurt Busiek. I’m always a sucker for the alternate-universe, “It’s A Wonderful Life” premise of trying to repair damage to the timestream after important figures are removed from it, and here Busiek is giving us a lot of cool riffs on what might have happened if there was no Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman in the DCU. (The evolution of the JSA into a sort of quasi-fascist police organization was something I certainly would not have thought of, but Busiek makes it plausible.) And I especially like the team of Lost Sidekicks led by Alfred. This is one of the very few places where DC is getting the fun of the serial storytelling experience exactly right … it’s weekly, it’s always on time, you get the pleasure of anticipating the next chapter without getting all pissed off that it’s taking too long to get here, and it keeps you guessing.

There are those who dismiss Trinity as not being innovative enough, or too old-school, or whatever. To those folks I’d say — maybe you’ve been reading superhero comics too long, because you are way too jaded. A big story with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the rest of the JLA is supposed to be a fun old-school adventure. If you want groundbreaking, cutting-edge stuff, I’d suggest that a corporate-owned series starring the company’s three biggest franchise characters may not be the smartest place to look for it. Books with those kind of company-owned characters that still strain self-consciously to be innovative and cutting-edge almost always just end up looking pretentious and condescending, or sometimes just plain nauseating. (Judd Winick’s Titans or Brad Meltzer’s Justice League leap to mind.)

I’d much rather have the superhero team book that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be and just wants to be a GOOD superhero team book. And that is Trinity. It’ll do for me, certainly, until I can have my JLA back in the actual Justice League of America book again.

Isolated unpretentiousness is definitely a big seller for me: I prefer my superhero stories unencumbered by a lot of crap. So I’m very pleased with two team books that turned around for me in 2008.

Both Superman/Batman and Brave and The Bold pleasantly surprised me by suddenly reverting to the kind of stories I remember from the old versions of those titles. Superman/Batman, especially, apparently got good when no one was looking. Michael Green’s been channeling the spirit of the old World’s Finest gimmick stories (“Batman has Superman’s powers!”) and layering that with modern craft and characterization, and it really works for me. If you got chased off the book by the excesses of earlier creative teams, let me assure you that it’s safe to come back now.

Likewise, both Mark Waid’s swan song issues on The Brave And The Bold and the fill-ins that followed have been entertaining, fun comics, which is really what you want from a rotating team book like The Brave and the Bold. I’m totally cool with the idea of rotating creative teams and after the last couple of months I don’t care if J. Michael Straczynski ever shows up at all. It pains me to think this is exactly the kind of book fans snoot because it’s not ‘important’ or ‘doesn’t count,’ because to me that was always the great charm of Brave and the Bold. I’m hoping Mr. Straczynski keeps that going when he eventually gets here.

Since Julie gave me the first trade of the new Justice Society book I’ve been picking that one up too, and I’m sorry to say I’m not enjoying it as much as I did the first Geoff-Johns-helmed version.

I like the title enough to hang in there with it a little longer; Johns is still working that Thomas/Buscema Avengers classic team-book style to great effect. But honestly, “Thy Kingdom Come” has gone on WAY too long, it’s been pretty much the last year or so. That was a five-issue story, max, and for some reason Johns keeps padding it. Of all the books I decided NOT to cut, this was the closest call. It’s very much on the bubble.

I’m feeling a somewhat similar ambivalence about the Superman group of titles — Superman, Action, and Supergirl.

“New Krypton” is shaping up to be maybe a bit long, and though I’m happy to have the real Kandor back, I’m only “meh” about the story and it doesn’t deserve the amount of padding it’s getting. You could lose a third of this and never miss it. I really liked “Brainiac” that preceded it, though, so I’m willing to give them a little rope; last year I thought Action was the weakest of the Super-titles, but now that the book is back in Metropolis it seems a lot stronger. (Maybe I’m just less of a Legion nerd than I am a Superman nerd.) I was tickled to see both oafish 70’s jock Steve Lombard AND slutty Lois & Clark Cat Grant back in the Daily Planet offices. Why had no one thought of that combination before? It’s so perfect.

So even if “New Krypton” is a bit long, I’m still on board. Especially since my misgivings are mitigated somewhat by the amazing new stuff from the new Supergirl team. In one issue Sterling Gates gave the book a direction, an identity, a mission statement, and a badly-needed infusion of energy.

That alone bought them enough goodwill for me to ride out “New Krypton” and see where we go from there. James Robinson, after a shaky initial arc on Superman, seems to be finding his footing now too. So they stay on the list for now.

There are DC books I only get after the trades come out, but I like them enough to support the trades when they are new, so DC knows they are selling. (Voting with my wallet, remember!) Chief among these is Jonah Hex.

I love this book is out there and I’m thrilled it seems to be healthy. If you like Westerns you will love this. That’s all the review you need.

Likewise, Manhunter I always got in trade. I guess I have one more coming.

I think that might have been a book that does better in the trade format, period. I’m sorry to see it go … but I can’t fault DC, if it’s not selling it’s not selling. But this would be the perfect time to suggest the GoGirl [Edit: dead link alert!] solution — how about finishing it up with a couple of black-and-white trade digests and go straight to bookstores with it? I’m pretty sure that printing in black-and-white only would give you quadruple the page count for the same price as a full-color 32-page comic. Maybe more (think of what bulk Shonen Jump gives you for what they charge.) Cheap for DC, nice for the fans, and Andreyko gets to finish without having to truncate his story or rush it. Worth considering, anyway.

The last book I get in trades is Dark Tower. I was about to say this is the first year in decades I have no Marvel books coming at all until I remembered this one.

For Stephen King fans, this series is a great joy. For those that aren’t fans of the novels, it might be hard going at first but I think it’s worth it. I myself am very fond of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his weird medieval Western milieu: if Conan is sword-and-sorcery, then this would be sixguns-and-sorcery, I guess you’d say.

But definitely the book editions are the way to read it. Single issues are way too expensive for this series at $3.99 each, and it just reads better collected in trade. But Peter David is doing great work here and Jae Lee’s art is haunting in a way that’s hard to describe. You should check it out if you’re not already.

And finally, The Lone Ranger is back on a regular schedule and so I’m right there with it.

This is probably a silly one to get monthly because the schedule’s a little erratic and Dynamite issues it in five or six different book editions. But I can’t stand the idea of it getting canceled for low sales, so I support the monthly. Voting with the wallet again.

And that’s the list. Cut three regular monthlies, added three regular monthlies, so that’s a wash. Three more very close to getting cut, and most everything else is limited-series stuff that’s almost certain to be collected in book form. I probably should just make the full switch to trade-only and be done with it … but I’m not quite there yet. Almost certainly by next year, though; I won’t have a choice. When all these limited series expire I think I’ll be under the minimum my store asks for them to maintain a pull list.

See you next week.


  1. Jeff Nettleton

    I was getting….none of this. I bailed on regular comics and was spending more time getting albums from Cinebook, though I did pick up the odd trade, now and again. Even then, it was more earlier stuff I missed or wrongly ignored, like Planetary or Great Lakes Avengers. I might pick up something current, in book format, if it struck my fancy; but, after Infinite Crisis and some of the tie-ins, very little had.

  2. “Maybe doing yet another put-a-new-guy-in-the-costume story is going to be a tough sell to fans when we’ve walked back or canceled every other time we’ve ever done that with a character”
    I’m of the same opinion but I’ve come to think that for younger fans, maybe “new guy in the costume” is no different than “new girlfriend for superhero” was to me in my teens — something nobody expected to be a game-changer.

  3. Le Messor

    So much agree on Astonishing X-Men.
    I never blamed Simone Bianchi for the colouring – all comics looked like that at the time (the Whedon / Cassaday X-Men was a welcome change), and I hated it. Her drawing technique was excellent, but her posing was terrible – the characters looked like they were the templates for game characters.
    I didn’t realise at the time that Ghost Boxes was replacing the main series (I think I figured it out); but it was the final nail in the coffin for me.

    I’ve never read Nightwing #149, so I don’t know what he’s talking about there.

    Was that a Todd Nauck cover for Birds Of Prey? (Looks it up.) Frank Quitely? Really? I would not have picked that!

    Johns does this with Green Lantern or Brainiac and fans jeer. Morrison does it with Zur-En-Arrh and the Club of Heroes and fans say it’s a work of genius. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is in the execution.
    I don’t know, but other possible differences could be: different fans. Different execution. Different characters.

    ‘The DC events never finish’:
    Yeah, I remember when Marvel had event after event, and they got real old real quick. Kind of turned me off the whole thing.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, I don’t know what happened in Nightwing #149 either. He was raped in issue #93, so that’s not what Greg was referring to. I’ve looked at a few reviews, and it just sounds like a normal grim-n-gritty issue, so I’m not sure what Greg was talking about.

      Simone Bianchi is a dude, by the way. Those Italians, naming their boys girls’ names!

        1. Greg Burgas

          Those liars!

          I did that years ago, when I assumed Joann Sfar was a woman. Someone pointed out that he is, in fact, a dude, so now I’m a bit obsessive about finding out someone’s gender before I start throwing around pronouns. I’m positive that the first time I saw Bianchi’s name, I simply assumed he was a woman!

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