I’m a big comic book fan. I have been since I was a little kid. To give you an idea of my mania: when I was in college at the University of Tennessee, I discovered that I could buy comic books with my meal plan money…
I went through a phase, as many comic book aficionados do, of rejecting my love of comics as too juvenile. When I moved from Tennessee to California to begin graduate school in 1999 (yes, I was in the Class of 1999, and we partied like it was 1999, too), I tried to sell all of my meal-plan purchased copies of Batman and Catwoman at the local comics shop (LCS) in Memphis. They refused to buy them, because my books were so new that the market was suffused with back issues. With all of the foresight of a 22 year old, I dropped four years of Bat-family comic books into the trashcan at the McDonald’s across the street. Those books seem to be worth about $2 each today, compared to the $3-$4 price of new books. But I don’t buy comics as investments: I buy them as artwork, an amalgamation of visual art and the art of storytelling. When I regret tossing those comics in 1999, it’s because of the connection to the stories, not because of some treasure trove of lost value.
Once I had a real job and disposable income again, I started back collecting comic books. At first I only bought one or two issues every six months: things I read about in the New York Times or some fanboy site. Then in 2010, about a year before DC had their New 52 promotion, I really dove back in, getting a box at my Eugene LCS.
At first, I was just pulling titles as a fanboy: anything with Batman! But some of them weren’t that great… Why was I buying them, at $3 each, if they weren’t great? Because of Batman, that’s why. But Last December, I read about Greg Rucka’s instruction to comic book readers: stop buying the ones that suck. Vote with your money. (BTW, Jill Pantozzi, on whose blog I read Rucka’s position, has become one of my go-to comics reporters: I really appreciate her insightful commentary).
Greg Rucka says to stop buying the books I don’t like. What a great idea!! And from the writer who got me back into comics, too: his Batwoman story line in Detective Comics was the key piece of literature to persuade me to get a box at the LCS again after all this time.
Since then, I’ve been winnowing my list down. Some of these books have great potential in terms of characters, but they’ve been botched by the creative teams (can I say that!!? I guess so, because it’s my opinion: I’m just calling them like I see them). I decided that making a list of the books I read and why I like them, as well as a list of the books I drop and why I drop them, would inform the comics creators better than the silent vote of my dollars. So I’m going to post from time to time about my pull list: which comics are solid, which are gone, and which are on the bubble.
Without further ado, here is my list, by publisher, in alphabetical order by title:
- Detective Comics– I’ve included this title so I can opine about it, but it hasn’t been on my pull list for a while. It was great when Scott Snyder was helming it before the New 52, but they moved him onto Batman. The new volume of Detective was bad from Issue 1, with Tony Daniel’s awkward face-off storyline for the Joker leading to a tepid conclusion that did not justify the grotesque splash page at the end of issue 1 (don’t follow this link if you’re squeamish). The current Layman/Fabok run put me off with its pedestrian artwork and emotionally empty stories. If it gets better, I’ll pick it back up again, but each month I peek inside, and each month it’s the same: blah.
- Batgirl– I have to admit, I was one of the fanboys delighted to hear that Barbara Gordon would be back as Batgirl. I relented in my distrust of the New 52 just because of this book. What’s more, it’s written by Gail Simone, the originator of the Women in Refrigerators website. How could it go wrong? And it didn’t, until DC almost screwed it up, by pulling Simone off the title briefly before fan pressure got her back. DON’T SCREW IT UP AGAIN.
- Batman– Scott Snyder’s run on Batman has been great. His work on this book has been consistently good, and his narrative creations have driven wider events across the DCU: The Court of Owls, the Death of the Family, and now Zero Year. Keep up the good work!
- Batman and…– This used to be Batman and Robin until Robin (Damian Wayne) was killed off in Batman: Incorporated. Now it’s Batman and whoever will help him through the grieving process. Tomasi has done a great job working with the tough material he’s been given here: I really have enjoyed each of the issues playing thematically with the Five Stages of Grief. Also, I find I really do care whether Carrie Kelly will become the next Robin.
- Batman: Incorporated— I swore, before the New 52, that I would never read Batman: Inc. because it was such a wrong-headed concept. You can’t sell franchises of Batman?! When it was re-introduced in the second wave of New 52 books, I picked it up, second-guessing myself because: Grant Morrison. And sometimes it’s good to second-guess yourself. This book has been good, but I’m not sure what will happen to its particular piece of continuity now that Morrison is done. Le sigh.
- Batman: Lil’ Gotham– I get this one for my daughter. She’s 7. She loves superheros. There are almost no superhero titles appropriate for 7-year-old-girls. Why’s that? Her money’s green like mine. Actually, it is mine. But it’s still green. You can use it to buy pizza or whatever it is that comic book executives do with money.
- Batman/Superman— This book, by definition, started on the bubble (as all Supes books do for me). I’m not sure it will stay on my list after next month: it seems to lack emotional drive. I’m sorry, but Superman just does that to comic books.
- Batman: The Dark Knight– This was the first book I dropped after I read Rucka’s suggestion. I love Batman, but Finch managed to make this book a dull slugfest with too many splash pages, and Hurwitz hasn’t gotten my attention to get me back on board.
- Batwing– Oh, man this comic was good for the first long story arc by Judd Winick. David Zavimbe, a police officer from the Congo, was a recovered child soldier who swore to kill no more and joined Batman: Inc. as the ‘Batman of Africa’. Tragedy: his long-dead brother turns out to be his nemesis from this arc, mirroring elements of the Batwoman: Elegy story arc I referenced in my intro, but still emotionally effective nonetheless. I don’t know why, but with the introduction of the new creative team 5 issues ago, they dropped emotionally-complex David for Luke Fox, son of Batman’s engineer, Lucius Fox. Luke seems to have no emotional complexity to drive the stories, and the book has lost its direction. It’s on the bubble for me, and if it continues in its current direction, I’ll drop it after next month.
- Batwoman– Greg Rucka has moved on, but the art of J.H Williams III was always an important part of the emotional effectiveness of Batwoman. The story has been consistently effective and I have never been disappointed by this title. Keep up the good work.
- Green Lantern: The Animated Series— I get this one for my daughter, too. She loves it. I enjoy it.
- Legends of the Dark Knight– This is a good book: it’s an anthology, so new creators each month. It was originally online-only, but is now available in print, which is good, because I’m holding out for print comics. I read all of my scientific papers online; I don’t want my hobbies to be too close to my work.
- Nightwing– I’ll admit, I have been buying Nightwing since the New 52 event for two reasons: 1) Dick Grayson can be very funny, as he was in the Snyder run of Batman. 2) Nightwing often crosses over with Batgirl. I’m starting to wonder if those reasons are good enough. I want to find out who the Prankster is next issue, but after that, Nightwing is on the bubble.
- Superman Unchained— I picked this book up because Scott Snyder was writing it. I’ve always agreed with the critics who say Superman is too powerful to be emotionally effective, and I’ve sworn several times never to pick up a Superman book again. I thought I’d give it a try because of Snyder, but I have to admit this book is already on the bubble after three issues. Can anyone make Supes interesting?
- Wonder Woman— This book can be hard to write, because Diana has so much cultural baggage. The Azzarello/Chiang team has done a great job, and I plan to keep following this book. I know it’s working because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT BABY ZEKE’S POWERS ARE AND WHY HE’S GOING TO END THE UNIVERSE!!!
- World’s Finest (Huntress/Power Girl)– I have really enjoyed the Huntress in previous mini-series, so I picked this one up hoping it would deliver. It’s been both good and bad, but the current Desaad story line is severely lacking in emotional effectiveness, moving World’s Finest to the bubble. Plus: why did Power Girl’s costume change back to the fanservice boob window? And why was the explanation for the change hidden in a crossover with Supergirl?
- Deadpool— No one compares to Deadpool. None of these other comics consistently have me laughing out loud, or re-thinking the tropes that underpin superhero story arcs. Posehn is doing a great job with these stories: intellectual-stupid humor at its best.
I had Wolverine on my pull list briefly, too, but I just can’t get excited about its current run, especially since they’ve gone back to the old ‘Oh noes! The hero lost his powers!’ story line to squeeze some pathos from the characters.
- Red Sonja– I started reading this book because I saw that Gail Simone would be writing it. We’re two issues in, and I’m quite satisfied. Keep up the good work.
- The Shadow– I’ve loved the shadow since I saw the move with Alec Baldwin. I know: fake fanboy here. This book has been consistently good, and I plan to keep getting it as long as 1) the stories are compelling and 2) the Shadow’s laughter literally fills the frames before he executes the baddies.
- The Shadow: Year One– This could have been bad, as many other Dynamite attempts to expand their universe have been (I’m looking at you, Masks). But it wasn’t, and it continues to be compelling, so I’ll keep picking it up.
I also pick up IDW’s My Little Pony comics for my daughter. They’re surprisingly good, and I feel like reading comics is better for her brain than watching them on TV…
A brief note about Women in Refrigerators: My friend Kelsey loaned me the Green Lantern trade with the infamous woman in the refrigerator. I was so horrified by what I read that I Googled ‘woman in refrigerator’ and found Simone’s site, documenting the wholesale use of female character-death as a simple-minded motivator for male heroic action. I like it when the internet allows me to make that kind of important connection.