January 2012 Previews: Recommendations, Reminders, and Ramblings

Books I Recommend You Consider

Channel Zero An Elegy for Amelia Johnson cover
Channel Zero: The Complete Collection An Elegy for Amelia Johnson
by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan by Andrew Roslan and Kate Kasenow
Dark Horse, $19.99 Archaia Entertainment, $14.95
JAN12 0092, due May 30 JAN12 0826, due March 14
It’s fascinating, once some time has passed, to look back at both near-future science fiction and a respected author’s early work. In the first case, you can see how the world turned out differently; in the latter, growing pains can be insightful and charming. What I remember of Brian Wood’s angry take on the media involves impressive design skills. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is included in this collection of the series, the prequel (which is the part illustrated by Cloonan), two design books, and extras and rarities. I’ve already reviewed this release, but as part of Diamond’s well-intentioned but disturbingly executed “Women in Comics” month, it’s been relisted.
Hark! A Vagrant cover Anyas Ghost cover
Hark! A Vagrant Anya’s Ghost
by Kate Beaton by Vera Brosgol
Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 First Second, $15.99
JAN12 1099, due March 21 JAN12 1131, due March 21
D&Q lists a new printing of one of my top ten of 2011, to make it easy if you haven’t ordered your own copy yet. First Second does the same with another of my 2011 Best Graphic Novels, Anya’s Ghost. Additional relists this month include Smile (Graphix, JAN12 1143, $10.99, March 21), Magic Trixie (Harper Collins, JAN12 1145, $8.99, March 21), and Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, JAN12 1158, $13.95, March 14).
The Coldest City cover Monsieur Jean: Singles Theory
The Coldest City Monsieur Jean: Singles Theory
by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart by Phillippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian
Oni Press, $19.99 Humanoids, $24.95
JAN12 1214, due May 16 JAN12 1160, due March
If you miss Queen & Country now that Greg Rucka has moved on, you might find this spy comic a welcome substitute. (Johnston even wrote the third Queen & Country Declassified: Sons & Daughters.) It’s set in Berlin just before the collapse of the Wall. I found it a little too sparse and remote for my taste, but I think devotees of the genre better appreciate those qualities. It’s been five years since I’ve last enjoyed reading about Jean, so I am optimistic about this volume, promised to be “published in English for the very first time”. It’ll be a good reminder to reread the previous stories, too.

Additional Thoughts and Reminders

I don’t care for a lot of what Dark Horse does — I’m just not the audience for Star Wars comics or the latest horror/sci-fi concept (a greatly overplayed category in comics these days, and one that I now sadly lump the Hellboy/BPRD franchise into) — but they’re worth watching for what I think of as their rescue program. As with Channel Zero, over the past couple of years, Dark Horse has been responsible for bringing some amazing work back into print in attractive, affordable editions. Some of my favorites include Scary Godmother and Blacksad. They’ve also picked up some very talented creators previously published elsewhere, including Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series and (a much longer time ago) Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. As long as they keep putting out these amazing works, it doesn’t matter to me how many other of their releases do or don’t interest me.

I knew Larry Young was still around, because he was kind enough to send me a Christmas card. As for AIT/PlanetLar, they’re relisting in this catalog two graphic novels originally released in 2007, The Homeless Channel and The Last Sane Cowboy And Other Stories. I didn’t care for either one, but if you’re interested, hey, doesn’t matter when they were first put out if they’re new to you.

Bravo to Archie for releasing the Archie Meets KISS collection (JAN12 0832, $12.99, April 11) promptly, with it scheduled to come out just a month or so after the four-issue storyline from Archie #627-630 concludes. Even better: this time, their plans for a deluxe hardcover collector’s edition (JAN12 0831, $29.99, April 11) are revealed at the same time the standard paperback is solicited, so buyers won’t be confused. (It will include 48 extra pages containing KISS photos, comic scripts, and other bonuses.) This demonstration of learning from history almost makes up for how their female-led titles are disappearing. This month, the only periodical comics offered are Archie, Jughead, and Kevin Keller. Oh, and the launch of Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 (previously Stan Lee’s Super Seven, then Stan Lee and the 7, but originally an eight-year-old cartoon pitch; JAN12 0848, $2.99, March 21).

As I’ve noted before, it’s a bad sign for a company when they ship multiple issues on the same day. If it’s not a thoughtless attempt to get more money in the same month, then it’s a sign of bad planning and inconsideration for customers and retailers, or possibly an attempt to get ahead of an unfavorable contract restriction (such as a release requirement or an expiration date). Ardden Entertainment is the latest to succumb, with two issues each of Wulf and Phoenix, all scheduled for the same day. They’re all resolicited, too, which suggests being overcome by deadlines.

I knew an Avengers movie would mean the typical deluge of Marvel product, but I didn’t expect that seeing all these collections and reprints and tie-ins and miniseries and series launches would tire me out to the extent that I want to be done with all of it. I was looking forward to seeing the movie, but now, I’m not so sure. May is a long time away to put up with all of this.

Ramblings on DC Comics

So much for expecting to enjoy Birds of Prey. Issue #7 (JAN12 0246, $2.99) is promoted as “the comic for people who think there’s not enough fighting in comics.” I think I’m the exact opposite.

Static Shock gets a new writer, Marc Bernardin, with issue #7 (JAN12 0282, $2.99), so I’ll be checking it out again. I’ve appreciated the former EW editor‘s honesty about comics in the past, and I really want to like this series, since I’ve always had a fondness for this character, so a fresh jumping on point is a good idea — even if it’s not being strongly promoted as such.

On the other hand, I’ll probably continue drifting away from Legion Lost. I don’t particularly follow Fabien Nicieza, former writer, so it’s not some loyalty thing, but I don’t recall any stories by new writer Tom DeFalco as particularly enjoyable or memorable, so I’ve got no reason to stay.

I’m really impressed by how much formerly forever-hidden material is being reprinted by the new regime at DC. This month alone, there are stories from a tabloid — DC Special Series #26, part of the Superman: The Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude collection (JAN12 0313, $19.99, April 18) — a Showcase black-and-white reprint of the first 18 issues of All-Star Squadron (JAN12 0315, $19.99, April 18), the series that first got me into the depth of DC history, and the troubled Secret Society of Super-Villains Volume 2 hardcover (JAN12 0312, $24.99, May 16). I say “troubled” because the first volume was originally solicited to contain the material now split across two books (thereby nearly doubling DC’s take). The Amazon.com reviews are, as a result, justifiably harsh, calling it a bait-and-switch rip-off. This second book is now planned to have all the extras and goodies — with one exception. The first volume reprinted issues #1-10; this book completes the series with #11-15 and adds DC Special #27, DC Special Series #6, Super-Team Family #13-14, Justice League of America #166-167, and a story from Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2. The missing item is the originally promised Amazing World of DC Comics #11, which contained an alternate version of the first issue of the series. It would have been a lovely bonus to the book set, so it’s disappointing to see that DC has apparently changed its mind on including it.


11 Responses to “January 2012 Previews: Recommendations, Reminders, and Ramblings”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Gosh that is good timing on a new Monsieur Jean collection, as I was just looking at the old one the other day and wondering what happened to the series. I hope they eventually get to the married stories though. (him married in those D&Q Quarterly books is what introduced me to it the strip)

    Dark Horse really is putting out some good stuff that I honestly thought I’d never see again. The Major Bummer collection especially was a major surprise, but really well put together.

    “So much for expecting to enjoy Birds of Prey. Issue #7 (JAN12 0246, $2.99) is promoted as “the comic for people who think there’s not enough fighting in comics.” I think I’m the exact opposite.”

    Eh that’s a preview blurb, from my understanding those are rarely, if ever, written by anyone actually working on the comics at the big 2 anymore. BoP has been one of the surprises for me, a fun action comic starring some really active women. I would expect that to continue.

    I’ll peek back at Static Shock with new writer then. Its a character I want to like, but the first 2 issues were just unreadably bad.

    Did Archie cancel the Betty & Veronica comics? Seriously? For another comic starring a guy? Huh, I know KK is popular right now, but wouldn’t think he’d be more popular than Betty or Veronica.

  2. Mark B Says:

    “I knew an Avengers movie would mean the typical deluge of Marvel product, but I didn’t expect that seeing all these collections and reprints and tie-ins and miniseries and series launches would tire me out to the extent that I want to be done with all of it. I was looking forward to seeing the movie, but now, I’m not so sure. May is a long time away to put up with all of this.”

    Unless, of course, you are an Avengers fan. Given your clear cut distaste with regards to traditional superhero fare, don’t you have to sort of recuse yourself on topics such as this to a certain degree (or at least put a disclaminer “Just so you know, I don’t like fighting in superhero comics, plus, I hate 99% of all superhero comics”)

    I mean, if the level of violence in Birds of Prey puts you off, then how on earth will you survive the Avengers movie? Or are you thinking it will be some Bendis like script about Squirrel Girls wacky adventures babysitting Luke Cages baby with special appearances by Power Pack and the Franklin kids?

    Reading your comments regarding the traditional offerings by Marvel/DC is like watching the CEO of General Motors critique the movie “Who Killed The Electric Car”. You don’t have any horses in the race any more and it makes any opinion just…well, you know.

    As for BoP, the numbers on that title are not good. They’re rapidly approaching pre september levels. Consequently, expect more efforts to liven things up. And I don’t mean more intricate relationship development between the characters. More like the Birds on the cover with dripping tentacles and lots of violence to push it towards an audience that will actually buy it in large numbers. You know the drill.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Just to correct a quick misinterpretation — I don’t object to the level of violence in Birds of Prey currently. I object to advertising that’s based on “more fighting!” because that’s not an approach that appeals to me, and I think it gives the wrong impression of the title and why it’s a good read.

    As for the rest of it, I’m not going to defend my tastes to you, because it wouldn’t be fair. I’ve got a whole website to talk about what I do and don’t like and why, and you’ve just got comment responses. :) Seriously, yeah, when it comes to superhero comics, I treat them as I do any genre. I have high standards for what’s really worth recommending. I know fans of just that genre don’t get that sometimes, because they ignore how hard I also am on manga and self-published works and all the others.

  4. Russell Lissau Says:

    All Star Squadron was the first series I ever collected, and the image shown here is the cover to my first issue. Thanks for the smile.

  5. Mark B Says:

    “As for the rest of it, I’m not going to defend my tastes to you, because it wouldn’t be fair. I’ve got a whole website to talk about what I do and don’t like and why, and you’ve just got comment responses”

    It’s ok. I can take it. And isn’t that what the comment section is for? Commenting on comments about your comments? Seems a bit defensive on your part. You can either choose to back up your comments with some sort of logic or choose to defend them or not, that’s completely up to you. Choosing not to sort of makes the initial comments kind of meaningless if you’re not going to go to the trouble of explaining or standing by them, no?

    As for the rest, I honestly don’t know how you can say “I treat them as I do any genre” with a straight face. Since I can’t see your face I have to assume, based on reading your site for a while now and on the most cursory glance at your archives (which shows a consistent and steady drop in coverage of big two monthlies over the last several years with the occasional spike that I can only assume is because you don’t get the same amount of hits going on about Finder ad nauseum) that your face is most certainly cockeyed. You didn’t forget that you have a history that can be easily examined, did you? You barely cover big two monthlies for one thing. And that’s totally fine. As you say, it‘s your blog. But a hundred comments on Hark a Vagrant vs. one comment once in a blue moon about how much you enjoy Daredevil can hardly be considered “same treatment”. Such a pattern shows that the issue ceases to be about “standards” so much as it’s about not liking a genre.

    You’ve made comment after comment about how you don’t care for the genre as opposed to not liking something because they don’t meet whatever standards you have for it. And that’s my point. You’ve thrown in the towel with big 2 monthlies. It’s not about standards when it comes to your coverage of comics its about just not liking them anymore because it’s a product that is consistently, basically the same. Just like cars on an assembly line. You either like Fords or Toyotas or you don‘t. Both are decently built cars but may not appeal to everyone. Nothing wrong with not liking a Toyota, but at least have the courage to say “hey, I don’t like Toyotas, I prefer Fords”. Archie is the same exact thing every month and you like that. Kate Beaton puts out the same product as well. So lets not pretend it’s about standards when there are many big 2 comics that you never mention that are getting just as much positive press as Daredevil. Even your industry news coverage rarely if ever touches upon big 2 events. Your coverage of the 52 basically consisted of “I’m out”. Granted, that’s kind of funny, but “same treatment”? Seriously? And no, farming out the occasional superhero stuff to KC doesn’t count. This is your blog, your opinion, your critiques.

    As you say, you are welcome to decline defending a position that has little facts and little in the way of consistent, chartable behavior to support it as it is your blog and I am merely a humble, blogless commenter. Cheers.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Not defensive, just realizing that if you’ve made up your mind that I “hate superheroes” (in spite of posts like this one praising Avenging Spider-Man for its, yes, fights or this one about the DC titles I’m enjoying, and you already figured out I like Daredevil), there’s not much I can say to change it, especially when my opinions in that area seem to anger you. (Plus, you ignored the smiley behind that sentence showing it was a joke. I was hoping we could chat friendly-like, and that might lighten the mood.)

    You seem to be confusing the genre (superheroes) with its two biggest practitioners, as well. I’ve praised Superhero Girl and Love and Capes, two indy superhero titles, a lot. Just because I tend to dislike DC and Marvel comics made to sell movies or toys doesn’t mean the genre is broken (just the particular commercial incarnation driving the American industry).

    It’s true, I don’t keep covering the same superhero monthlies over and over — but that’s a function of format. I don’t always have anything new to say about parts 2-5 of a story told in a title over six months. I’d rather cover more graphic novels and other stand-alone works. (That’s also why, contrary to your assertion, I don’t cover Archie much any more either, and when I do, it’s stories that deviate from their norm as well.)

    Thanks for the chance to elaborate more on my review philosophies.

  7. Another Manga Publisher Ceases New Releases » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Volumes 4-6 (Note: Volume 4 was offered in the latest Previews catalog, cover-dated January, so that solicitation will be [...]

  8. Mark Says:

    “there’s not much I can say to change it, especially when my opinions in that area seem to anger you.”

    I’m not angry at all. Just confused in that what you are saying seems to conflict a bit with the pattern of your blogs content and by the fact that you seem to be a tad elusive about it. And I never said that you don’t cover big two product, just that it’s very very rare. Since I was speaking comparatively about the lack of big 2 coverage vs big 2 coverage, citing 3 articles doesn’t really address the question. I mean, there’s a huge gap where you don’t even have the spinner rack feature. Again, just fact based on the information that your blog provides which is all I or anyone has to go by.

    And as I said, there are times when big two topics pop up in greater number. The 52 has sort of forced your hand a bit in that sense as it would be pretty crazy for you to not cover it in spite of your lack of interest even though as I pointed out you farm the majority of that out to someone else and rarely talk about it yourself. And yes, I saw the smiley face accompanying the snark. I had some snark as well (I thought the Finder comment was well crafted) but I don’t think my post reads as hostile or even argumentative. I just didn’t put a smiley face after it. I chose to go with a more universal “cheers” at the end.

    “You seem to be confusing the genre (superheroes) with its two biggest practitioners, as well”

    Actually I’m not and that brings up a good point. I’d make the case that big two product is a genre in and of itself given the rigid confines of its mandated style. I think companies like Dynamite Entertainment, the majority of Image product and Dark Horse to a large extent basically puts out the same thing as DC/Marvel. Of course there are exceptions. So I’m not asserting that the genre is broken. I’m saying that Love and Capes is a completely different animal from what DC/Marvel puts out. There has been article after article about artists not being able to break into the big 2 because they don’t draw in the house style.

    Let me be clear here, I’m not trying to say the genre itself is so limited that only big 2 product counts when it comes to superheroes, just that big two product, because of its age and history that is exclusive to them and “sameness” in story and mandated art style makes it something completely different and apart from those on the fringe like Love and Capes.

    I like other genres, I’m not saying to put out more coverage of big 2 product because I only like big 2 product. Just that your tone and patterns of content coverage makes it easy for one to come to the conclusion that you really don’t care for the majority of big 2 product which is ultimately the majority of the superhero genre. I also understand that big 2 coverage isn’t what your blog is exclusively focused on.

    Of course much of this is subjective and all about personal taste, but there’s really nothing all that diverse or singular or extraordinary about something like Daredevil or Legion Lost or Animal Man or Swamp Thing or whatever else is super popular at the moment that separates them from what DC/Marvel has been doing for decades. I’m just saying that, from what I read on your blog, you don’t seem to have much interest in big 2 product (the unquestionable majority of the genre) or examining what, in the world of big 2 product, stands apart.

    Regardless of what your content says about your feelings for the genre, I take you at your word. Not trying to convert anyone or even telling you what you should or shouldn’t do on your site. I’m just pointing out conclusions that are easily arrived at based on your blogs content. The content of the blog over the last few years doesn’t support the claim that you give all genres the same treatment. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe you or that the genres even deserve the same treatment. But there might be something going on there on a subconscious level and I just wanted to bring it to your attention. I just like to help. ;)

  9. Johanna Says:

    Glad to hear that I was misreading your tone. (I took, for example, “Cheers” as a blowoff, not well-intentioned, because I have been around snark too long.) I think, also, our expectations are different. For example, 3 reviews of a particular genre over 2 months is doing well for me, since I only aim for 2-4 reviews a week across ALL subjects. I think maybe your expectations were spoiled by the 52 launch coverage — which, by the way, wasn’t me farming it out. KC volunteered to cover all the titles, and since I always want to read more of his writing, I was happy to let him do so. If he hadn’t, I would have.

    As for your comment that I don’t really care for the majority of DC and Marvel comics — you’re right. As I posted a few weeks ago, while I was looking forward to somewhere between a third and a half of the new 52, now that I’ve seen the books, I’m only enjoying 5 of them. I’ve read SO many superhero stories over my lifetime that I have high standards, since with my limited time, I could choose to reread a really good older story. A new story is thus competing for my attention with not just what’s on the stands that week or that month, but with the many reprints out there. I don’t think I’ve ever hidden that opinion. However, I do try to talk about the few DC/Marvel books that I do enjoy and say why.

    It’s also the case that I’m as selective in other areas. Of the 8-10 movie coverage pitches I get a month, I respond to 1 or 2. Of the last batch of 9 manga I got, I covered one of them. This weekend, I reviewed 2 indies and decided against covering 6 more. There’s no way you could know any of that, but that’s the basis on which I say I’m treating them similarly to other items. Since this site is mostly just me, I have to be judicious with my time, and I do try to keep the name of the site in mind (in posting recommendations).

    Where I object to your characterization is the implication I got from your comment about my Avengers comment — I got the feeling you were saying that I shouldn’t talk about superheroes at all since you thought I didn’t like them.

    Other than that, this has been helpful in getting me to put some of my site philosophy into words. Thanks for that.

  10. KC’s Previews for March 2012 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] latest Westfield column hits on the big topics in the January Previews comic catalog: Avengers vs. X-Men (and the other Avengers projects), DC’s launch of Fairest, [...]

  11. Good Comics Out May 30, Short Reviews of Angel & Faith #10, Ghostbusters #9, Star Trek/Doctor Who » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Not only has it been years since we read any of his stories in English, this book was originally due in March. Anyway, good stuff is worth the wait, and this is a lovely introduction to European comics. [...]

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