Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Few Books I Liked More Than I Expected

A few weeks ago, I gave into the darkside and talked about disappointing issues ... here we go with some books that were pleasant surprises last week. These aren't the usual suspects that I expected to deliver and did: Seven Soldiers, Young Avengers, Conan, Captain America. These are the books that make comics a fun hobby - when you discover something that shocks you and makes you glad you took a chance.

  • Godland #5
    No - Godland being good isn't surprising in the least. It was just a whole new level of good. Issue 5 was pleasantly rolling along, replete in it's Godland-ness when there's a sudden break in the scene between Adam and Neela. The pained silence, the uncomfortability, the emotional honesty: it's an abrupt shift and signals that Joe Casey is headed somewhere past the "Cosmic Superhero Epic" genre that he's working in. Godland has worked within the emotional confines of the genre up until now, relying on indicated, overwrought melodrama. This scene introduces a whole new element of heartfelt naturalism, without undercutting the operatic style the series needs. From writing to art to color, it was a shock to the senses, and I hope to see it explored more.

  • JSA Classified #5
    Not everything has to be a breakthrough, an original, a revelation. Sometimes, there is joy to be had in seeing a familiar story done well. The newest JSA Classified arc, written by Jen Van Meter doesn't shatter expectations, or redefine sequential art. It's telling a classic caper story, and this first issue is a by-the-numbers "getting the gang together". The characters are introduced in quick but accurate strokes of characterization, and the pace never lets up. If Gail Simone is somehow unavailable for a future Suicide Squad relaunch, Van Meter's number should be on speed-dial at the DC Offices. She knows how to write these villains with charm and style, but ever forgets they are villains. After the continuity-laden first arc of the series that lead nowhere but the second issue of Infinite Crisis, a snappy, self-contained story that aims for nothing more than readability. It's fun.

  • 1602: New World
    I read the first two issues of this miniseries, and came away unimpressed. I let the rest sit until it was complete, and I could read it all at once ... and came away having done a 180. Greg Pak was a Rhodes Scholar in History at Oxford, and it shows. This is good, sneaky superhero writing. Whereas Gaiman's original series was very much preoccupied with the transplant of Marvel heroes to the Elizabethan age, Pak is very much concerned with exploring the conflicts and themes in the birth of the New World. A clever examination of faith, independence, persecution, and isolation in early America wouldn't sell many copies, so there are dinosaurs and spider-men and hulks. It's not the point, though. It's absolutely fascinating, and makes me wish the comics market was such that he could have written this without the fantastic elements. I also need to keep an eye out for his upcoming Hulk run. He does a flip here on the usual Hulk dynamic that makes the character more fascinating than I've seen before: by creating a dark Banner, it underlines the classic theme of the character by examining what "monster" means.

    It also has Hulk fighting dinosaurs. Hulk fighting dinosaurs.



Jhunt said...

Wow, that's some heady praise for 1602! I didn't like the Gaiman series very much, but maybe I'll pick up the hypothetical tpb if it's of such excellent quality.

Oh, and you're right. Not every book has to "change everything you think you know about X". Sometimes a nice, well-done superhero genre comic can really hit the spot.

Peter Hensel said...

I really liked 1602 as well. I don't see why it's hated on (well, it being a shameless tie-in to a Gaiman project might've made it look like it was a worthless tie-in) but Pak's excitement for the series really stood out.