Sunday, June 29, 2014

PANEL BEATER: Random Thoughts From My Recent Comics Haul

It's been a wee while since I dove into my pull list and gave a few thoughts on what's working great, what needs a kick and what needs a shove. Here's four hits that serve to do just that.

 COMIC OF THE MONTH:  SAGA #19 Only one comic could start with a 'splash page' of the birth of a tv-headed baby, with only a test-pattern face so far 'pushed through', and that is Saga from Image Comics. Note, the kids not WiFi yet.

Fast forward several months from the last issue and writer Brian K. Vaughan with artist Fiona Staples, don't waste time dealing with the repercussions of the elapsed period - infact they in-panel tell us not to worry 'you'll catch up', continuing to write and draw one of the most realistically written casts in all of comics. Alien genocidal war backdrop notwithstanding. Throw in the words 'skish', 'sister', 'bus-fare' and 'menstruated all over the living room' and Saga (despite a brief hiatus both real and fictional), is still the best reason to read indie I've ever met.

X-O MANOWAR #25: Cheers to Valiant for doing an anniversary issue worthy of the title. This celebratory number has all the things that used to make bumper issues so sweet; a one page origin recap, a story that teases the future, a centre spread pin-up, handbook pages of the cast, behind the scenes excerpts, top creators, one of the best covers of the year and more. 

While I'll admit my favourite was the Owly and Wormy kid friendly tale Armor's Day Off, I have to ask how come the company putting out the best modern take on a classic comic staple is also one of the newest?

NEW WARRIORS #5: Despite Faira Sar Namora's horrific visions of the team, this book's drama is almost lost in a sea of jokes, some of which are still running from the first issue. New Warriors should be young heroes trying to find humour and truth in a dark world, not rowing in the complete opposite direction - super-sped by artist Nick Roche's art style. 

The saviour, is that the dark interludes are stunning. Case in point: the Penance side of Speedball mentally warning the telepathic Hummingbird not to read his thoughts on his 'self cutting' or 'dark side' again, while multi-tasking as Speedball, he chats with the rookies over a table full of Romanian food. How does a guy with no mouthpiece eat a sandwich anyway?

 Fulfilling what I said The New Warriors should be above, this issue hyped as 'Dead means Dead' delivers on it's promise. While I won't reveal which of the Renegades falls here (in the best death scene since Blue Beetle, Ted Kord), I will say it is just one of an issue of killer moments, as the on the run Harbingers turn and face their rival Toyo Harada.

Multiple assault fronts, multiple twists = multiple cool. While the anniversary issue is not far off, ending the series, with Harbinger: Omegas set to rise from its ashes, I hope folks don't wait till the new series to jump on board. With issues that deliver this much punch, the more that go past, the more you really miss out.

 What do you think? 


  1. The only bad thing about Saga is there's not enough Saga. In fact, every time a new issue comes out I squeal delightedly "Saga!" and when I'm done reading it I groan despairingly "Saga!". Out loud. My children think I'm nuts. BKV is my favorite current writer, which is saying a lot, I didn't think anyone would ever push out Gaiman. But you are correct about his ability to make such an unrealistic setting more real than anything taking place in the "real world" of the big publishers. His characters have more life and soul without the intense trying you can see evident in other writers. It's effortless. It carries you off before you notice you've gone.

  2. Thanks Random - I think you hit the disembodied guardian angel on the head with that last sentence. Every issue of Saga feels like three pages have passed instead of twenty odd. Luckily the letters pages are just as entertaining, or I'd only want to pay half price. No I wouldn't - I'd still pay full price.

  3. Exactly right. It's the only comic I feel is worth the overinflated cover price for both writing and artwork. I recently got a friend hooked on BKV. She's been through Y, Ex Machina, and is on the third volume of Saga. She's gonna be so mad at me. I'd better start getting together my collection of Runaways

  4. Glad to see Valiant's comic offerings continue to impress and continue their usual excellence.

    Ahh Saga. Trying to beat the childbirth scene from Miracleman huh?;)

  5. From someone who's been through that beautiful, disgusting, hilarious miracle of childbirth, Dale, I have to tell you that the depiction in Saga hit closer to my heart than Miracleman. Not that Miracleman didn't wax beautifully poetic and wasn't perfect in it's own way, but when I read Saga I was immediately crying and laughing and brought right back into the delivery room and saying "YES! That's exactly how it was.". Except without the wings and horns. Although I did check for those. BKV just seems to have a sense of cutting through the poetic bullcrap while putting doses of it in without noticing. He writes humanity while using the alien. It's kind of astonishing, really. I've said for years there's a reason the baby comes out down there while the woman's head is at the opposite end, and that's so she cannot see the grossness. I have no idea how fathers ever want back in after watching that show. And he expresses that in that scene. I'm sure other mothers can relate to that. What amazes me is that he caught on to the sentiment. Everything Alan Moore wrote is true too, absolutely, but his prose was lacking some of the down to earth sentiment that BKV put in without losing any of the uplifting miracle of childbirth parents experience when their child is at last in their arms. And that is why his take is the better of the two. IMHO

    1. *I'm talking about the childbirth scene from the first issue, not the computer baby from the most recent one, btw.

  6. That's what I find so shocking about Brian's writing style Random. He doesn't do poetry yet he does, he doesn't do soppy yet he does touching. It's like he knows exactly when to stop. Little detail but just enough... I think that's why the infant narrator hasn't got tiring yet.

    1. In total agreement. He doesn't talk down to the reader, but seems at the same time to elevate everyone to the same plane without sounding pretentious. He seems to speak a universal language.
      There are few writers that I instantly recommend to everyone who reads. Not even Gaiman will I do that for, because I know some readers will be put off by some of the imagery and topics. But BKV, he's never missed even with the touchy topics. And that's rarer than rare. It's not even gold. It's a treasure without a price on the stock exchange.