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What I bought – 19 August 2015

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“I knew it,” Landsman says. “The minute I walked into the room and saw Lasker lying there, I said to myself, Landsman, this whole case is going to turn on a question of pie.” (Michael Chabon, from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union)
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1987 And All That: Groo the Wanderer #23-34

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born. Click here for an archive of all the previous posts in the series.

Groo1Groo the Wanderer #23-34 (Marvel/Epic) by Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Tom Luth (#23-32), Janice Cohen (#32-33), Phil DeWalt (#34), Stan Sakai, Jo Duffy (#23-27), Daniel Chichester (#28-34), Steve Buccellato (#32-34)

I’m always interested in the likability of characters in any fiction I consume. I don’t necessarily need to like the hero(es), nor do I need to hate the villain(s). In fact, a story with an unsympathetic protagonist that still gets me invested is often that much more enjoyable and engaging, ditto one that has a bad guy with whom I can empathize. For a goofy, lighthearted, action-comedy comicbook, Groo the Wanderer is surprisingly complicated when it comes to the likability of its cast. Just about every character, be they good or bad, major or minor, has an interesting mix of enjoyable and off-putting qualities. There’s a general silliness to everyone that makes them all fun to spend time with, but most of them are also selfish, judgmental, dishonest, and/or violent. It’s a collection of largely terrible people, behaving in wonderfully entertaining ways, and most of the time they get what’s coming to them in the end, so that there’s a nice narrative satisfaction when each issue resolves. On top of all that, everything is done in an art style that’s equal parts ridiculous and dense, so that what feel like simple stories are often deceptively more involved than they appear at first glance. Continue Reading »

Flippin’ through Previews – August 2015

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Oh, it’s a special edition of the latest tour through the Previews catalog! Will it be the new normal? We shall see!
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Flippin’ through Previews – July 2015

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It’s the dog days of summer (or is it? – here in the AZ, the dog days last from May to October, so I’m never sure when they actually are), but Previews #322 offers hope for the future! Let’s take a look!
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What I bought – 24 June 2015

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She even learnt the language of a strange country which, Signor Tosetti had been told, some people believed still existed, although no one in the world could say where it was. (The name of this country was Wales.) (Susanna Clarke, from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell)
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1987 And All That: Fantastic Four #304-307

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born. Click here for an archive of all the previous posts in the series.

FF11987 And All That: Fantastic Four #304-307  (Marvel) by Steve Englehart, John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Glynis Oliver (#304-306), George Roussos (#307), Phil Felix (#304), Janice Chiang (#305), John Workman (#306-307), Don Daley (#304), Ralph Macchio (#305-307)

There are two core components to the Fantastic Four: 1. awesome sci-fi superhero excitement, and 2. familial relationships and the drama that comes with them. Every creative team strikes their own balance between these elements, and I’m not here to say one blend is better than any other. I will say that these four issues, the first in a long run written by Steve Englehart, definitely focus hard on the interpersonal stuff (though there’s a healthy dose of action in each issue, too), and the results are great. Almost every character we see, whether they’re part of the titular team or not, has a lot on their respective plates, everyone carrying heavy personal baggage that informs what they do and how they act in interesting ways. There are villains with pathos, heroes who sometimes act like childish jerks, and many characters who seem as though they might break down completely at any second, adding a nice underlying tension to everything else that goes on. All of this is heightened by John Buscema’s expressive artwork, which delivers moments of quiet, brooding reflection with just as much oomph as the most hard-hitting action, and nails everything in between as well. Though these issues are not at all flawless, they’re consistently entertaining, they’re not afraid to make big, bold moves, and they shake up this title effectively and efficiently, which seems to be their primary goal. And they’re a nice reminder that we are all many different thing, that each and every one of us has our own inner turmoils and conflicts to wrestle with, and that these kinds of things don’t necessarily ever resolve for good so much as they grow and change and become more complicated over time. Continue Reading »

What I bought – 10 June 2015

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“The real revolution will be when women carry arms.” (Italo Calvino, from If on a winter’s night a traveler)
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Trade paperbacks, older editions, and miscellaneous for May 2015

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Here’s another post that’s a bit late, but that’s the way it is! You know you love it when I blather on about comics, so join me under the cut!
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Flippin’ through Previews – June 2015

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It’s a week late, but for some, it’s still too soon! Let’s dive into Previews #321 and see what’s the haps!
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1987 And All That: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #122-130

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born. Click here for an archive of all the previous posts in the series.

PPSSM1Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #122-130 (Marvel) by Peter David (#122-123, 128-129), Roger McKenzie (#124), Danny Fingeroth (#125-126), Len Kaminski (#127), Bob Layton (#130), Rich Buckler (#122), Malcolm Davis (#122), Dwayne Turner (#123), Greg Larocque (#124), Jim Mooney (#125), Alan Kupperberg (#126-129), Jim Fern (#130), Mike Esposito (#122), Bob McLeod (#122), Art Nichols (#122-126), Vince Colletta (#125, 130), Nel Yomtov (#122-123, 127), Bob Sharen (#124-125, 128, 130), George Roussos (#126), Julianna Ferriter (#129), Rick Parker, Jim Salicrup

I went back and forth a few times while reading these issues, debating with myself about whether or not it would be better to look at this entire run (meaning every issue of this title from 1987 before the “Kraven’s Last Hunt” crossover*) or if I should simply choose a single issue/storyline and zero in on that. Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (henceforth referred to as PPSSM) is effectively a collection of Spider-Man short stories, with most of the issues being self-contained one-shots. There is a throughline that connects several of them, but it comes and goes from month to month fairly arbitrarily, separated from itself by stories that have absolutely nothing to do with it and don’t even all take place at the same time. That lack of connective tissue is a big part of why this series leaves me feeling fairly cold, so ultimately I decided it made more sense to look at these nine issues as a whole, because when viewed together they leave a slightly different impression than taken individually. Continue Reading »

1987 And All That: Iron Man #219-221

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born. Click here for an archive of all the previous posts in the series.

Ghost1Iron Man #219-221 (Marvel) by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, Mark D. Bright (#220-221), Bob Sharen, Janice Chiang, Mark Gruenwald

A good villain should do two things: 1. Work as a compelling character in their own right, someone the audience is interested in regardless of circumstance, and 2. Jive with the hero within the specific context of their shared story. Judged by these two metrics, Iron Man #219-221 is a tremendous triumph, introducing readers to the Ghost, a supervillain whose concept is simultaneously so strong and so simple that he works as a character despite (or because of) a total lack of background details or origin story. We don’t need to know exactly where he comes from to understand his motivations and the danger he represents, and he’s a perfect foe for Iron Man because of both his power set and his ultimate goals. It’s always nice to come to the end of a story and feel fully gratified by it while still somehow wanting more, and that’s exactly what this Iron Man arc delivers. There are no glaring loose ends when the narrative concludes, but there are plenty of open doors and unanswered questions, so that it feels complete but also like it’s the start of something bigger (which, of course, it is, insofar as the Ghost has made numerous appearances throughout the Marvel Universe in the decades since this initial storyline was published). Continue Reading »

Flippin’ through Previews – May 2015

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Looking at Previews really is the best time to be a comics fan, because everything is great and nothing sucks! So let’s see what’s what in catalog #320!
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What I bought – 29 April 2015

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Genesis is a great lie; but it is also a great poem; and a six-thousand-year-old womb is much warmer than one that stretches for two thousand million. (John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman)
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What I bought – 22 April 2015

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“I couldn’t. Absolutely. I know you work en route. And I like taxis. I was never good at geography and I learn things by asking the drivers where they come from.”

“They come from horror and despair.”

“Yes, exactly. One learns about the countries where unrest is occurring by riding the taxis here.” (Don DeLillo, from Cosmopolis)
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What I bought – 8 and 15 April 2015

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All of our religions but the Judaic and the Greek think more of us dead than alive. (Joseph Heller, from Picture This)
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