November 30, 2010

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Panel by Panel: November 2010 in Review

Welcome back to Panel by Panel. Since I'm not doing a review of everything I read anymore, I thought this would be a cool way to talk about my reading in more general terms.

My 2010 reading list (including a complete rundown of November's reads) is here.

Let's look at how November's readings shaped up, shall we?
Indie Stuff (5)
  1. Mysterious the Unfathomable by Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler (2010)
  2. Fingerprints by Will Dinski (2010)
  3. Potter's Field by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta (2010)
  4. Strange Tales by Various (2010)
  5. Chew Vol 1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Good Stuff Under the Radar

In a month that wasn't my best for reading, a few comics really stood out. Mysterious the Unfathomable and Potter's Field were both great comics that I hope my reviews can boost a few sales for. They're established creators playing with their own works, and show that it's still possible to create a comic that has a sense of wonder or excitement while also feeling very modern. I was also happily surprised by Fingerprints, a comic I wasn't sure if I'd like but had a good, Dan Clowes-like story within. Look for a review of that one soon. The only real disappointment was Chew, a series I'd heard good things about but that just didn't work for me. The premise of knowing the life of what you eat is cool, but it seems to get used more to make gross jokes than sharp storytelling. Just not to my taste, if you'll pardon the pun.

Favorites: Potter's Field, Mysterious, Fingerprints

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: The Strange Tales anthology was good, but I didn't love it as much as I thought I might. Chew was not as good as I'd hoped.

Manga/Manhwa (4)

  1. Ooku The Inner Chambers Vol 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga
  2. Emma Vol 7 by Kaoru Mori
  3. Jormundgand Vol 1 by Keitaro Takahashi
  4. One Piece Vol 1 by Eiichiro Oda

Hug Your Favorite Translator

I'm still not reading a lot of manga, but when one of them is Emma, all is forgiven. I love that series so much, and I wish it was still in print. On the other hand, while I generally like Fumi Yoshinaga, I'm not feeling Ooku at all. The second volume plodded for the most part, with entirely too much exposition, much of it in "Fakespeare" as it was dubbed on Twitter. After much thought, I've decided to take it off my reading list. A shame, because I like historical period pieces, such as Cantarella, even if they take liberties. I just can't get over the aggressive telling, not showing. Combined with the bad translation, it's just not a fun read. On a completely different note, Jormundgand was popcorn action flick fun and I'm now a part of the One Piece Appreciation Society (though I refuse to try and collect all of the volumes--for now).

Favorites: Emma, of course, and One Piece.

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: Sadly, I'm finished with Ooku, and I don't recommend that anyone pick it up, despite the usually solid creator.

Mini-Comics/Zines (11)

  1. Carl Finds Love 1 by Sara Lindo
  2. Carl Finds Love 2 by Sara Lindo (2010)
  3. Miss Sequential #2 by Marissa Falco
  4. Merman Issue 4 by Joey Weiser (2010)
  5. Spaz! #3 by Emi Gennis
  6. Zinc Comics Presents Annual by Brian Payne
  7. Costumed Crimefighter Comics #3 by Josh Tonn
  8. The House of Schmerz by CAD
  9. Necrocomicon #1 edited by Brian Ehpienpreis
  10. Spare Parts by Anthony Woodward (2010)
  11. Deafula by The City on Fire (?) (2010)

Mini-Comic Roulette

I didn't read quite as many mini comics this month, and those I did were more of a mixed bag than last month. Joey Weiser and Sara Lindo were solid, of course, but some of the things I got from Poopsheet were a little rough around the edges. I did find an Anthony Woodward sketchbook mini that was nifty (and had a shout out to Plants Versus Zombies). Part of the joy (and pain) of mini-comics is that they can either be really good or really bad. This month I got snakebit a bit in an admittedly small sample. I only managed to read 1 zine, which is really terrible of me.

Favorites: Mermin keeps getting better as the story progresses. Sara Lindo should draw more comics so I can read them. The zine, Deafula, was quite good.

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: As you'll see as I post them, most of the Poopsheet stuff I got this time wasn't really to my taste.

Superhero Stuff (8)

  1. Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and June Cheung (2010)
  2. The Spirit Book 2 by Darwyn Cooke and others
  3. Batman Gotham After Midnight by Steve Niles and Kelley Jones
  4. Captain America: The Death of Captain America Vol 3 by Ed Brubaker and others
  5. Captain America: The Man with No Face by Ed Brubaker and others
  6. Batman: Knightfall Vol 1 by Various
  7. Batman: Knightfall Vol 2 by Various
  8. Daredevil Noir by Alexander Irvine and Tomm Coker
Clearing Out the Capes

I spent a bit of time housecleaning my capes stuff, to see what I like and want to keep. I also picked a few randomly off the shelf at the library. I found the Spider-Man Noir book intriguing enough to see if the library has more, even if I didn't give it a full review. I'm a sucker for What If, Elseworlds, and so on, so any alternative imagining has appeal to me. Plus, being willing to make Doc Ock a Nazi and exposing American attitudes to African Americans in the 1930s takes some guts. Unfortunately, the Daredevil Noir was predictable, tried too hard to emulate the visual style of the Bendis years, and took a lot of the good feeling I had from the first trade. It's probably worth one more try before I pass judgment.

Not quite as good, and I just can't seem to get with the majority opinion on this, is Brubaker's Captain America run. The end of the Death of Captain America story gave a nice closing to what I had been reading a little while back, but the first arc of Bucky-Cap was awful. An attempt to merge old and new just didn't work at all, and the only consolation was a hysterical take on the Sulking Sub-Mariner.

Re-reading a comic shouldn't depress you. Unfortunately, that was the case when I came back to Knightfall, a series that marked my start of picking up Batman on a regular basis. Watching a great character fall into angst just because they wanted to shake up the status quo was painful to go back and read. Lines about needing to be darker and edgier pervade the pages. The dialog, from usually reliable sources like Moench and Alan Grant, just don't do anything other than sit there as an ugly reminder that soon, no mainstream comic would be appropriate for a child. I was crushed at how much I disliked this story arc on re-reading it, from Bruce's arrogance/despair mood swings to Dick's apathetic stance towards Jean-Paul taking over as Batman. I'd hoped for a fun romp and instead got a sour taste in my mouth. I wonder what else is lurking in my collection like this.

Favorites/No Need: I liked the wrap-up of Brubaker's Death of Cap story, but I didn't think much of the first arc after it. I'd suggest trying the Noir line from Marvel, if you find a trade somewhere on the cheap. Everything else I read really isn't must reading, at least to me.

Erased the Panels

I gave up on Spider-Man: Fever, an attempt to capture Ditko's magic that had none of the complexity of his storytelling and only an echo of his artistry. The use of a Crowley clone for the umpeenth time also didn't wow me. It was actually the only comic I didn't finish this time around, but my reading in general was lower than it had been.

On a side note, I finally opted to dump my prose books that relate to superheroes. I'd had some of them for ten years now and never touched them. I looked at them, looked at some of my other unread books, and realized they weren't doing me any good. Hopefully others who read such things will find a boon at the local used store when I give them up.

So that's November as a reading month for me. Not quite as much as October, but a few real gems. Overall, I wasn't quite as pleased with what I read, partly because there were a few books I was expecting to like better than I did. I'm hoping December will be a little more promising. What did you read and what did you like/dislike this past month?