Panel by Panel: March 2011 in Review

Wow, what a terrible month for reading. I only read 22 things this past 31 days, a significant drop-off from the rush of material in January and February. There were a lot of things going on for me outside of my reading-blogging world, and that showed in my reduced time to sit back and do reading for pleasure. I need to change that in April, because I like my life to be in better balance than this.

You can find my complete reading list for the year here.
It's definitely more representative and more comprehensive than this month would indicate. (I am not exclusively a manga and capes comic reader, which is what kinda happened for the third calendar page of the year.) Because the total reading is so short, we'll just combine everything into one section this time, rather than break it up. May this be the last month where that is so in 2011!

Indie Books (1)

  1. Parker The Outfit by Richard Stark Adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Manga/Manhwa (12)

  1. Ceres Celestial Legend Vol 1 by Yuu Watase
  2. One Pound Gospel Vol 1 by Rumiko Takahashi
  3. One Pound Gospel Vol 2 by Rumiko Takahashi
  4. One Pound Gospel Vol 3 by Rumiko Takahashi
  5. One Pound Gospel Vol 4 by Rumiko Takahashi
  6. Aqua Vol 1 by Kozue Amano
  7. Aqua Vol 2 by Kozue Amano
  8. Karakuri Odette Vol 2 by Julietta Suzuki
  9. Nana Vol 9 by Ai Yazawa
  10. Aria Vol 1 by Kozue Amano
  11. Aria Vol 2 by Kozue Amano
  12. Natsume's Book of Friends Vol 1 by Yuki /Midorikawa

Superhero Stuff (9)

  1. Invincible Iron Man World's Most Wanted Book 1 by Matt Fraction and Salvadore Larroca's Photoshop
  2. Hulk Volume 1: Red Hulk by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinnes
  3. Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Barry Kitson, and Others
  4. Secret Invasion: Front Line by Brian Reed and GG Studios(?)
  5. Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers by Chris Yost and Takeshi Miyazawa
  6. X-Men: Noir by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero
  7. Irredeemable Vol 3 by Mark Waid, Peter Krause, and Diego Barreto
  8. Final Crisis by Grant Morrison and Others
  9. Irredeemable Vol 4 by Mark Waid, Diego Barreto, Howard Chaykin, and Others
March: The month of Japanese comics and Capes

This list is so weird to me because it's more like a throwback to my reading habits in 2006 rather than 2010. What looks so abnormal to me now would have been perfectly normal to the man who started writing down his thoughts on the comics he was reading, mostly for the enjoyment of just a few friends. Let's break this down into the style of a great Western, shall we?

The Good

By far, the best thing I read in March was Darwyn Cooke's second Parker adaptation, The Outfit. I raved about it at length, but consider this another plug for a graphic novel that I think just about anyone could read and enjoy.

Not quite on that level but still awesome is Mark Waid's Irredeemable, which in Volume 4 does more in one panel than a lot of comic book series do in page after page of their own runs. I can't think of a good reason why anyone who likes superhero comics would stay away from Irredeemable, but if you aren't reading it yet, definitely get on board and see a master at the top of his game.

I've been doing a pretty good job of only reading good manga these days, and March was no exception. Aqua/Aria is a new favorite, and Natsume's Book of Friends looks promising, as it reminds me strongly of Mushishi. Plus, any month that sees me start to read Nana again is going to be a good month, regardless of how short my list is.

The Bad (But Fun)

I admit it. I enjoyed the first volume of Jeph Loeb's much-maligned new run of Hulk. It's big, dumb, and stupid, reveling in over the top dialog, action, and ideas. You're not going to mistake it for Watchmen anytime soon, but sometimes you just need pages and pages of completely unbelievable smashing.

Invincible Iron Man was bad for a different reason. While I love Fraction's storytelling, the completely photoshopped art just kills this one for me. We get on people like Jim Balent or Rob Liefield for their artistic choices, but at least they are *drawing.*

The Ugly

I had two rare misses by creators I almost always like, Rumiko Takahashi and Fred Van Lente. One Pound Gospel is just uncool in its premise, ruining most of the usual Takahashi physical and verbal comedy. Meanwhile, X-Men Noir just tries too hard I think, forcing things just a bit too much because of the complicated nature of the X-World. It also has the unfortunate distinction of killing characters just to do it, which tends to turn me off.

However, the Ugliest of the Ugly is a tie between the God-awful Secret Invasion tie-in books and the ridiculously overrated Final Crisis. The former is not a huge surprise to me (other than why I was bothering to read it?) but the latter really disappointed me. Some of the problem lies in the collection itself, which is extremely disjointed because so many things are happening off-panel, presumably in other books that I did not read and probably won't. There are definitely times when it's impossible to tell the whole story, such as how Batman goes from being captured to being the ultimate hero--all without the reader seeing a thing, a cardinal sin in my opinion. However, from turning legitimate DC heroines into bondage figures to discussing terrible crimes that should never be used in such a lighthanded manner (pun intended) to having an ending that made absolutely no sense, this is easily Grant Morrison at his self-indulgent worst. I cannot believe I found myself wishing Geoff Johns had written the crossover instead, but I think he would have done a much better job.

So that was my March. How was yours? Read anything good that I should read, too? Wanna beat me over the head for not liking Final Crisis? Let's talk in the comments!