20 March 2015

Titles you should be reading.

The great problem of comic book collectors, probably for collectors of things generally, is collection expansion. One item or line, leads to another and your promise (to yourself or concerned loved ones) to collect only a few books, looks more like a junkie's promise that heroine won't be a gateway to a larger world of misery. First you start buying on weekly visits. Then you agree with your local comic shop owner that, "yeah, I probably should get a folder." After that it is a short walk to collecting 10-15 different titles, plus the event books, occasional trades. All of this leads, inexorably toward falling behind in your reading, and a giant (growing) pile of comics you wonder if you will ever have time to read. 

I'm not even treading water here, I'm drowning in unread books. This isn't as terrible as it seems, though I do wonder why I'm so terrible at keeping up with the reading. Never mind that. Despite the fact I am not wholly caught up, I can point you in the direction of some great titles. 

She-Hulk Issues 1-12. By Soule, Pulido and Vicente
The series has been canceled, but as of 20 March 2015 you can probably still get all the back issues in your local shop, or collect it in trade paperback. Just about every iteration of She-Hulk has been interesting, quirky and fun. This run is no different. Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner, is a fascinating Hulk. Comfortable in her own skin, she doesn't change when she is angry, nor is she brutish when she does change. She is a capable lawyer, and chooses to be an adventurer. 

In this iteration, we get a quirky art style, and Walters, mostly walking away from superheroing, to pursue her own practice. She is often hired by super-powered beings, or by people who make highly advanced sci-fi gear so there is adventure, and occasionally patent law. In addition to the day to day workaday world she inhabits, she also lives in a building, one of the few in New York City, that will openly house the weird, and uncanny. So adventure abounds.

The tone though is light, and our heroine smart. Visually its kind of a glory. For all these reasons, Marvel fans have managed to overlook it, and the book wasn't picked up for more issues after twelve. You can't see it, but I am, at this moment flipping off Marvel fans for consistently over looking this gem of a character. 

cover #8
 Interior art (#8)

Definitely give Jennifer Walters a whirl. You will thank me for it.

Velvet Issues 1-ongoing Brubaker, Epting and Breitweiser. 

 Velvet is classic Ed Brubaker. It is espionage, through a pulp tradition lens. This doesn't make it light fare by any means, and its conceit, an uber on the other side of her prime (early to mid forties) is engaging and new, even if the story of a mole in the agency and larger conspiracies isn't. Secret Agent Velvet, a Cold Warrior if ever there was one, is engaging, tough and smart. What begins as her personal investigation into a suspicious murder (a friend and agent is accused of killing another agent) widens into a larger story about the roots of the Cold War, and conspiracies within her super secret organization that carry our heroine forward into the 1970s. Mystery, a bit R-rated, awaits. It is a master class in the non-superhero comic art form. 

X-Men Issues 1- Ongoing Various Teams

Its hard to know where to begin with this book. The adventures are fairly standard Marvel Mutant Fare. Consistently plotted, generally well scripted, though its tactical dialogue seems too often to be trying hard to impress, this title is unique mostly in the roster of heroes it gives us. And this roster also influences the human stories that have almost always formed the heart of great X-Men teams. Sure the X-Men save the world, form a ready allegory for racism and and xenophobia and homophobia, but for any of that to work, the stories have to be built on good relationships and family drama. The roster is pretty much all women, in fact the only actual X-Men in the book are women, generally with a nucleus of Storm, Rachel Summers (Phoenix), Psylocke, Monet (no codename), and Jubilee (her actual name). All of these characters have deep history in X-Men mythos, and have deep ,sometimes troubled and tense relationships among each other. This core of X-Men gets to play in the rich fields of the X-Men's rogues gallery with all its grudges and its scheming minds.

Like any X-title it swaps out writers after a few story arcs, and so the quality of the adventure and the internal dynamics can be hit or miss but the book generally rewards the reader, and the all-female angle doesn't feel too much like a gimmick so much as a way for writers to play with the deep field of X-Men that don't always get their own due. It is worth your time.

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