Comics Reviews (March 4th, 2015)
The next episode commentary will go up next week some time, in its own post. Comics reviews follow, from least favorite to favorite of what I bought this week.
Rat Queens #9
Issue #8 of this came out five months ago. This is part four of an ongoing story. There is no recap page whatsoever. I know I’ve ridden this hobby horse before, but this is suicidally dumb, in an “I think I’m dropping this title because I can’t be bothered to figure it out” sort of way. Seriously, I don’t remember a comic from five months ago. I have enough trouble with one month ago half the time. And yet nobody thought “ooh, maybe we should remind readers of the plot instead of throwing them in the deep end.” Yes, I could dig through my unorganized back issue piles looking for issues 6-8. But I could also save $3.50 a month, and that’s what I’ll be doing. This looks like a fine issue, but honestly, I’m done with comics that don’t make the slightest concession to the fact that I read 30+ comics a month on top of all the other media I consume and probably need a refresher when I haven’t seen an issue for five months. You had room for a six page preview of another comic, you could have given me a fucking recap page. Ugh. So, yes, dropping this, and going to commit to being much more aggressive about this. I’m not asking for dumbed down comics, but I am asking for some basic reader friendliness.
A perfectly pleasant issue, although man, again, a cast page would be so nice right about now. Does this work better in trade? This must work better in trade. I think this has turned into the latest equivalent of The Unwritten – a book I pay money for so that in two years when I pirate it because I’ve lost all my back issues and reread it in one night I feel no guilt. In any case, if you’ve enjoyed the twenty-five issues prior to this, you’ll probably like this a lot too.
Whatever I may think about some of the steps along the way, Hickman is managing a gloriously effective pounding climax here. I’m especially fond of the teases of where Bendis’s X-Men plot is going, although the “massive alien army about to nuke the Earth” plot is fun too. I’m curious how he’s going to pivot to the Steve/Tony confrontation that obviously underlies all of this, and I don’t quite trust him not to just drop all the spinning plates, but right now this book is a countdown to May, and I admit, each step is suitably breathlessly exciting.
A superhero horror comic by Warren Ellis that doesn’t sell itself on its own value after one issue, but that is by Warren Ellis, and so gets trusted to pull it together over the next five, because while there are Warren Ellis comics that are not great, there aren’t really any that are bad, or even not good. Though one fears that this is really just an excuse for Warren Ellis to write Lady Satan. But who’s going to begrudge him that?
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4
Oh! The plot! Neat! Also, Kieron Gillen, unsurprisingly, writes fabulously good Guardians of the Galaxy. This is still something of a fluff book for me (although I find myself really loving the mystery of what’s up with Sera), but it’s at least one where I’m starting to see where it’s going and be invested in it, and I have little doubt I’ll be glad to have been along for the ride by book’s end.
After finding the first issue of this shockingly rough, this is finally starting to find its groove, admittedly just one issue before the end. Still, Monet, a character I admit I have no actual understanding of the origin or background of, manages to hold down an issue on her own, which is an impressive writing feat, especially coming immediately off the back of my immensely frustrating Rat Queens experience. So, fun book. A disposable minor work in Wilson’s career, but a nice little X-Men story, by the looks of it, and I’m glad Wilson is doing stuff like this for Marvel.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #9
This continues to be an utter delight. Ewing has some moments that are very, wonderfully, solidly Eleventh Doctor moments, that evoke huge, iconic moments of his tenure, but that are nevertheless utterly their own and part of this story. Top notch stuff.
The first issue of an arc, and thus putting pieces in place. There are books where this is the highlight. But Uber isn’t one of them. Uber is a book that sings when it’s doing payoff – when the bombs start to go off and the chain reaction builds to something appalling and unexpected and disturbing. Which it can’t do every month, of course. In other words, still love this book, and I can’t wait to see what this issue causes.
Missed the first issue of this, as it fell in the weeks I took off from these to finish up TARDIS Eruditorum. Interesting – very much a Grant Morrison comic for people who love The Invisibles. Probably my favorite thing he’s done since about Final Crisis. There’s a beautiful sense of Warren Ellis pastiche throughout it that I’m loving the hell out of. Quite excited to see this develop further.
Crossed +100 #3
A slower issue, as middles tend to be, but as fascinating and carefully layered as ever. One thing that struck me, reading this issue, was how Moore’s use of an artificial slang and his journal structure helps with the comic’s readability. No recap page, but because you’ve got Future writing up what happens and recapping events later, you don’t need one – the comic is doing all the teaching and catch-up work it needs to as you go. It’s a small thing, but a reminder of why Alan Moore is still better at this medium than other people.
Supreme: Blue Rose #7
A strange and hallucinatory fugue on Moore’s old strange fugues on Superman wraps up. I’m looking forward to rereading this, as there are definitely large swaths of things I missed in the monthly grind, but it’s beautiful and nuanced and fascinating, and I never felt more confused than I felt like I was supposed to be. Of this current wave of Ellis’s comics activity, this has been one of the real highlights.
March 4, 2015 @ 3:56 pm
I tradewait Saga and I can safely say that yes, it does read better that way.
March 4, 2015 @ 4:07 pm
I'm done with comics that don't make the slightest concession to the fact that I read 30+ comics a month
By contrast, I hate recap pages and feel cheated when issues have them. If I don't remember what happened, I'd rather look up the previous issue than lose a whole page out of every issue.
March 4, 2015 @ 4:12 pm
To be clear, I think recap pages should not come at the expense of story pages. But looking at Avengers #42 (which has a recap page and a cast page in addition to its title page) and comparing to X-Men #25 and Angela #4, it doesn't look like the recap pages do that – all three books are twenty story pages. Avengers seems to have sacrificed two pages of house ads instead.
March 4, 2015 @ 6:28 pm
Don't take the wind out of my angry sails!
March 4, 2015 @ 8:42 pm
Somewhat amusingly, literally the third comic book I ever bought was Uncanny X-Men #138 ("Elegy," the first issue after "Fate of the Phoenix"), in which the entire issue was a recap of literally everything that had happened since UXM #1. I was always strangely grateful that I was afforded such a clear understanding of the series' history right at the start, which is perhaps why I was always a bigger fan of X-Men than Avengers and Fantastic Four.
March 4, 2015 @ 10:53 pm
Text pages almost never come at expense of story pages. It'll have to be a full concept issue to do that, and last one I can think of which did that was the courtroom issue of Alias (And even that had art and wasn't text pages).
I will admit it grates when you give more content and people get angry that they've got less. I've had WicDiv reviews this month not notice we actually did a 40 page issue and said there was less stuff in it. I glare pretty hard.
I'm very much in the re-cap column, for all the reasons Phil says. I've had creators say that on Indie books, no-one complains about them if they remove them, and no-one ever says anything about them. Even if that's true, I don't believe it doesn't have an effect. I read a lot of comics, and fuck five months – I may not remember what's going on in your book from last month. GIVE ME A PROMPT.
March 4, 2015 @ 11:07 pm
Hickman's "Previously in Avengers…" TV-style collage recap must be quite a bit more work but I have to say it's really been worth it – definitely gets you in the zone for what's coming up.
March 4, 2015 @ 11:14 pm
Tula Lotay's art on Supreme Blue Rose deserves particular mention, I think – her figurework is perfect for the story, and the technique of having different layers in the art (and all those dreamy lines and squiggles) give the impression of different realities overlapping and intruding on one another was absolutely perfect, and given how many trippy multiple-realities stories we've had since the 1990s it's amazing nobody's tried similar before. I had no familiarity with her art before S:BR and I can't wait to see more of it.
March 4, 2015 @ 11:32 pm
Jon's a master at this kind of thing. I keep on meaning to ask him what the process is on doing them.
March 5, 2015 @ 1:59 am
I wonder if some people might have a reluctance to highlight what bits of the preceding story are important. It's like, on telly recaps, you will often see a flashback to an appearance of a guest star and then know they're going to turn up. Summarising a story is a way of saying which bits really mattered, and from an authorial hand that could give things away?
March 5, 2015 @ 4:09 am
I fully agree with you. I picked up the first one just on the strength of her art, and Warren Ellis' name (as Philip says, at worst he's ok, never bad).
That said, I only have a small idea of what was going on, and full re-read might help.
March 5, 2015 @ 4:36 am
Abigail: I actually think it's just because they're lazy.
March 6, 2015 @ 1:46 am
to add a smidge to Abigail's point, it also reveals when there has been excessive padding. Watching repeats of Red Dwarf 8's "Back In The Red" three-parter, the recap in part Two reveals a lot of padding in part One. This then made me view parts Two and Three more critically than I otherwise would have, and concluded the whole affair was probably purposefully padded out and could have been a tighter, funnier two-parter.
March 10, 2015 @ 2:06 pm
Agreed. I tried to do otherwise and quickly realized my mistake. But good lord does it read wonderfully in trade.
March 10, 2015 @ 2:14 pm
I rarely find that text-only recaps are much help in reminding me what happened; seeing the last two pages of the previous issue would do the trick much more effectively, but of course no one wants that, including me.
The main thing I do with recaps is (try to) make sure I'm not missing an issue from the last one I bought. Because I'm a walk-in-walk-out-with-a-stack buyer rather than doing subs, and because of all the fucking alternate cover art that goes on, I need help remembering which issue of each series I'm on when I actually have a chance to go to the shop.