February 3, 2011

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Panel by Panel: January 2011 in Review

Welcome to the first 2011 Panel by Panel! This is where I talk about my reading in general terms, go over some books I didn't finish, and talk about some of the books I read but didn't think needed a full review for whatever reason.

You can find my complete 2011 reading list here.

January was a weird month, filled with a lot of days off work for bad weather, which meant a lot more time for reading. I hit 63 total things read, which is unlikely to happen again until summer, and maybe not even then. Still, what a great way to start my reading year!

Indie Books (14)

  1. Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
  2. Elric The Dreaming City by Michael Moorcock adapted by Roy Thomas and P. Craig Russell
  3. Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown
  4. Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert and Kerascoet
  5. Richard Stark's Parker Book One The Hunted adapted by Darwyn Cooke
  6. Bugs Bunny What's Up Doc? by Various
  7. The Ray Bradbury Chronicles 1 by Ray Bradbury adapted by Various
  8. The Ray Bradbury Chronicles 2 by Ray Bradbury adapted by Various
  9. The Ray Bradbury Chronicles 3 by Ray Bradbury adapted by Various
  10. Beware the Creeper (Vertigo edition) by Jason Hall and Cliff Chiang
  11. One Plus One Volume 1 by Neal Shaffer and Daniel Krall
  12. Hotwire Vol 1 by Various
  13. Kull The Vale of Shadow by Alan Zelenez and Tony De Zuniga
  14. 7 Psychopaths by Fabien Vehlmann and Sean Phillips
A Rather Strange Mix

Though I'm not a big fan of the character of Elric, I love reading Roy Thomas adaptations. Paired with P. Craig Russell, the results are amazing. Elric's world pops from the page in vibrant yet muted colors that confirm that this is a land very different from our own. The work here reminds me a bit of Gil Kane in its facial renditions, which is pretty cool. I just wish some of this was used on a character I liked better. Elric doesn't register with me, which kept me from liking this one more. Those who are fans of Michael Moorcock really need to seek it out, however, as does anyone who admires Russel's artwork. I do not recommend looking for the Kull story that also came out in the Marvel Graphic Novel series, as the author just doesn't seem to be able to capture Howard's magic. Kull is too much like Conan here, and the tone just doesn't work for me.

Tales of Woodsman Pete is about as far as you can get from Russell, featuring simple drawings and characters who seem to talk to no one in particular. It was a bit too aimless and rambling for my taste. Similarly, One Plus One had an interesting concept but it was all too vague for me. A great sense of creepiness was in the story, but I felt like it had no real payoff. 7 Psychopaths was better than those other two books, but the execution was lacking in terms of the script (not in terms of the art, which was awesome as usual from Phillips).

Speaking of Creepy, I dug out my old Vertigo Beware the Creeper single issues, and found that story to still be interesting enough to keep around. I like that Hall really strayed from the original premise, allowing the story to live as its own idea. It's got a lot of noir appeal and would make a good collection, I think, though the interest is probably limited. It is of course weighted down by the required Vertigo breast shots, but they're minimal, and I liked how real life figures were weaved in and out of the narrative. Worth picking up in the 50 cent bins if you ever come across it.

Favorites: Incredible Change-Bots, Miss Don't Touch Me, Parker: The Hunter

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: One Plus One, 7 Psychopaths, Tales of Woodsman Pete

Manga/Manhwa (18)

  1. Ranma 1/2 Vol 1 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  2. Ranma 1/2 Vol 2 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  3. Ranma 1/2 Vol 3 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  4. Emma Vol 9 by Kaoru Mori
  5. 20th Century Boys Vol 2 by Naoki Urasawa
  6. One Piece Vol 2 by Eiichiro Oda
  7. One Piece Vol 3 by Eiichiro Oda
  8. Ranma 1/2 Vol 4 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  9. Ranma 1/2 Vol 5 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  10. Nightschool Vol 4 by Svetlana Chmakova
  11. Cat Paradise Vol 2 by Yugi Iwahara
  12. Karakuri Odette Vol 1 by Julietta Suzuki
  13. Time and Again Vol 1 by JiUn Yun
  14. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio
  15. Bleach Vol 6 by Tite Kubo
  16. Emma Vol 10 by Kaoru Mori
  17. Ranma 1/2 Vol 6 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)
  18. Ranma 1/2 Vol 7 by Rumiko Takahashi (R)

Manga Mania!

After spending the back half of 2010 not reading a lot of manga, my fondness for Japanese comics came back with a vengeance here in January, as I devoured books from favorites both old and new as well as starting my year-long series on Rumiko Takahashi. This month saw me finish Emma and Nightschool, continue 20th Century Boys and One Piece, and return to older reads Ranma 1/2 and Bleach, as part of my plan to finish as many comic book series as I can. I think that 2011 will see a lot of manga reading, as that's where the majority of my unfinished series are lurking.

Overall, it was a solid selection, as I mentioned in the reviews posted so far and the ones coming up over the next few weeks. There was only one manga I didn't like much, Time and Again.

Favorites: Just about everything.

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: Time and Again, Cat Paradise

Mini-Comics/Zines (19)

  1. Monsters in Sweaters by Anne (MC)
  2. The Dream, Dream, Dream Zine by Leann Leake (Z)
  3. Carnival Anthology by Various (MC)
  4. Negative Capability Issue 1 by Jeff Miller (Z)
  5. The (Old) Woman Question by Athena Currier (MC)
  6. Spinks! Issue 1 by Sarah Martinez, Roxane Myers, and Sally Catlin (MC)
  7. Messed Up Fairy Tales by Various (MC)
  8. Soft Hearts, Sharp Teeth by Megan Brennan (MC)
  9. You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania #3 by Sari (Z)
  10. Daily Catch Anthology by Jon Chad, c. frakes, Katherine Roy, and Laura Terry (MC)
  11. The Very Real Story of a Real Gay Kid Issue 1 by Katie Omberg (MC)
  12. Candy or Medicine Vol 2 by Various (MC)
  13. Candy or Medicine Vol 3 by Various (MC)
  14. Candy or Medicine Vol 4 by Various (MC)
  15. Candy or Medicine Vol 5 by Various (MC)
  16. Candy or Medicine Vol 6 by Various (MC)
  17. A Murder of Crows by T. J. Kirsch
  18. Ninja Zombie Robot by Dan Wyke
  19. Mermin 5 by Joey Weiser (MC) (2011)

Take Your Medicine

I read a fair number of mini-comics and zines to start off the year, dusting off some things I got recently and some older issues that I somehow missed. It was a pretty mixed bag, but then that's not unusual when I'm effectively going through my mini-comic slush pile. I think I'm being a bit pickier when it comes to mini-comics, because there's more out there than there used to be. Weiser, Omberg, and Anne are of course solid creators, so no shocks that they were the best of the bunch. Kinda proud to get the first Mermin 5 review in. :)

Favorites: Mermin, Monsters in Sweaters, the Dream Zine, and Gay Kid

Superhero Stuff (12)

  1. Marvel 1602: New World by Greg Pak, Greg Tocchini, and Mark Morales
  2. Marvel's 2004 What If's by Various
  3. The Astounding Wolf-Man by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard
  4. Wolverine: Not Dead Yet by Warren Ellis, Lentil Yu, Edgar Tadeo, and Gerry Alanguilan
  5. Avengers The Initiative Vol 2 by Dan Slott and others
  6. Marvel Adventures Hulk Vol 1 by Paul Benjamin and others
  7. Marvel Adventures Hulk Vol 2 by Paul Benjamin and others
  8. Avengers The Initiative Vol 3 by Dan Slott and others
  9. Booster Gold 1 Vol 52 Pickup by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens, and Norm Rapmund
  10. Mighty Avengers Vol 3 by Brian Michael Bendis and others
  11. Mighty Avengers Vol 4 by Brian Michael Bendis and others
  12. Invincible Iron Man Vol 1 by Matt Fraction and Celebrity Photos Salvador Larroca
Put a Cape On It!

I read a bit more superhero comics than I'd planned to this month, but having the Marvel Digital subscription makes this easy and almost risk-free, since if I don't like something I can just move on, without having paid more than a few pennies for it. More on my thoughts on Marvel's digital program in a separate post someday soon.

I'd hoped that Warren Ellis would bring something to the table with the Wolverine trade, but despite some nice touches, it could not get over the time period in Marvel during which it was written--the very late 90s, with Logan stuck in a bone skeleton and fighting to prevent being a savage animal if he was angered. In the end, despite some clever lines, this was more Wolverine as "the best at what I doubt" instead of "the best at what I do"--which is a shame because Warren Ellis writing confident Wolverine would have been great. Not really worth the read for fans of Ellis or the character.

Erased the Panels

One night I had a very bad reading selection. I started and stopped Gatcha Gacha, a manga that was recommended to me when I mentioned I hadn't been reading any Tokyopop lately. Maybe I'm growing out of my fondness for teen-based manga, but this one just felt like a clone of every other manga I've read, with vague homophobia added on top. I don't really need another good but stupid girl falls into a love triangle manga in my life, when there are others to read that do this same idea better. Then I moved on to No Dead Time, from the usually reliable Oni Press, and within a few pages, I was completely turned off the comic, which had annoying boxes giving each character a voice, featured ever-changing caricatures that made determining the action almost impossible, and was just generally unpleasant to look at. I didn't get into the characters, and, following my resolution to save time for comics I like, this one got the boot as well. If I'm losing patience reading mediocre stories with characters I like, then one with unfamiliar characters is just not going to cut it. Fortunately, I had other, better reads this month, or it could be the start of a long winter!

Amulet Book One was on the border, but I ultimately decided not to finish it. I like Kibuishi's long-running anthology, Flight, but this story felt too much like it was designed to be an animated film storyboard for my taste. In addition, the plot is one I've seen far too many times, and I don't want to read multiple books to get to a finish I saw coming in Book 1. Perhaps I'll pick this one up again in a few years and see if my opinion has changed. I also passed on Bete Noire 1, which had a lot of comics on the edge. The trouble was, they'd fallen off the other side and forgot to have cohesion. I like experimental comics, but these didn't seem like my cup of tea.

On the superhero side, I stopped reading The World of Krypton because the stories of Superman's home planet just didn't wow me, despite the creative team of John Byrne and Mike Mignola. I'm just not sufficiently interested in the characters to care.

The worst book I tried to read in January, however was Spent by Joe Matt. We bought it when we were first getting into autobiographical comics, but I'd forgotten about it until recently. I wish I had kept forgetting about it. The main character is unlikable and his adventures are frankly disgusting. Avoid. I'm rarely this hard on a book, but it was really bad.

So that was my reading in January. What did you read that was interesting?