You might not realize it, but it’s harder than it looks to even try to write an entertaining column every week… Let alone actually be entertaining. (I know. I often look back at my old columns and wonder what I was smoking when I read certain topics.) Below is our Weekly List of Hardcovers, Trade Paperbacks & Manga Books. When you look at it, I’m fairly sure you’ll see a pretty lame collection of… Stuff. (Gonna make for one iffy Insideman’s Weekly Stack next week). I look at the same list and realize it’s also going to make it exponentially harder to come up with a fun and interesting topic this week.
So Screw It. I’m not even going to try.
Instead, I’m going to list a bunch of shit that bothers me about the books you see in the list. I could go on and on… So I promise just to hit the major low points.
First thing you’ll notice (if you follow this column fairly regularly), I successfully stopped myself from buying several books that almost any other week would have been certain purchases. It’s not because I’m grumpy. (Even though I am.) I don’t even know if I care for 50% of what I ended up buying.
The Dancer GN? Didn’t I already see a similar story when I watched The Bodyguard one night? (Hopefully, I didn’t.) The Savage Hawkman Vol 1? (Seriously, are you as upset as I am with how useless DC Comics has become with the advent of the New 52?) Crow Midnight Legends Vol 2 Flesh and Blood?The first volume was one of the worst written, poorly drawn Trades I have ever had the misfortune of reading. No way IDW didn’t know this was a massive POS when they decided to reprint this old crap. Just trading off Alex Maleev’s current (well-deserved) profile, they are.
Art Of Judge Dredd Featuring 35 Years Of Zarjaz Covers HC? I don’t care how large the actual book is. I don’t care how cool or beautiful the covers are. It’s 272 Pages with partial color for $68 USD. No way it cost that much to print. (Seems like somebody was counting on the Dredd film being a big hit.) And now Fantagraphics has the EC Comics license… And they’re breaking up the stories by Artists? Do you have any idea how much more these reprints will cost packaged this way? Still, 240 pages for $28 USD make them look like a bargain compared to that Judge Dredd cash grab. (At least I haven’t seen the Dredd cover art in 20 different configurations like I have these EC Classics.)
And how about the size of the balls on the “new” Valiant? Valiant Masters Bloodshot Vol 1 Hardcover for $24.99? You could repopulate a huge forest with the number of Bloodshot #1 Chromium covers still sitting around in storerooms. Eight 25¢ bin comics for almost $25 USD? No wonder my retailer was selling it on release day for 50% Off! (I don’t care if there IS an “ALL-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN STORY by the original creative team of Kevin VanHook and Don Perlin!” I really don’t.)
Yen Press (a Manga Publisher I normally love) is releasing their first two Twilight Manga volumes in an all-in-one collected edition– just in time for the last decompressed Twilight disaster to hit theaters. And please don’t even get me started on the apathy and lack of anticipation I feel for Millar and Yu’s Supercrooks. (You make this shit when you have the creative freedom to do anything?)
So that leaves me looking forward to the following: Bride Of The Water God Vol 12, Gantz Vol 25 (only marginally), Shaolin Cowboy Adventures Magazine, Star Wars Agent Of The Empire Vol 1 Iron Eclipse (entirely W.D. Prescott’s fault) and Triage X Vol 1.
Given the number of Graphic Novels & Manga released, this is one weak week.
Andrew Loomis Creative Illustration HC
Archie Giant Kids Jokebook HC
Art Of Judge Dredd Featuring 35 Years Of Zarjaz Covers HC – Pretty but Pricey
Astonishing X-Men Vol 9 Exalted – Own the Hardcover
Binky Vol 4 Takes Charge – I like Binky, so sue me
Brief Guide To Star Wars
Cartoon Utopia HC
Crow Midnight Legends Vol 2 Flesh and Blood – 1st Volume was Terrible!
EC Harvey Kurtzman Corpse Of The Imjin And Other Stories HC
EC Wally Wood Came The Dawn And Other Stories HC
Fear Itself Youth In Revolt – Own the Hardcover
Freakangels Complete Collected Slipcase Edition – Recommended
Full Moon Phases Of The Moon HC
Head Full of Noise
Heads Or Tails
Huntress Crossbow At The Crossroads
J. Scott Campbell Ruff Stuff Vol 1
J. Scott Campbell Ruff Stuff Vol 2
Legion Secret Origin
Lost Girls HC – Own the Slipcase Hardcover
Marvel Tales By Alan Davis
Marvel Vs Capcom Official Complete Works
MMW Captain America Vol 2 SC
Ninjago Vol 5 Kingdom Of The Snakes HC
Savage Hawkman Vol 1 Darkness Rising
Shaolin Cowboy Adventures Magazine
Showcase Presents The Flash Vol 4
Spider-Man Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 6
Spider-Man Flying Blind – Own the Hardcover
Star Wars Agent Of The Empire Vol 1 Iron Eclipse – Prescott Recommended!
Star Wars Dark Times Vol 5 Out of the Wilderness
Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic Vol 10 War
Valiant Masters Bloodshot Vol 1 Blood Of The Machine HC – Oh No!
Wolverine And X-Men By Jason Aaron Vol 1 – Own the Hardcover
X-Factor Vol 16 Together Again For The First Time
Black Butler Vol 11
Black God Vol 17
Bloody Monday Vol 8
Bride Of The Water God Vol 12
Disappearance Of Nagato Yuki-chan Vol 2
Durarara Vol 4
Gantz Vol 25
Infernal Devices Clockwork Angel Vol 1
Pandora Hearts Vol 12
Triage X Vol 1
Twilight Manga Collector’s Edition
Given that he’s been writing comics for some 30+ years, Peter Milligan should have long since reached his CED (Creator Expiration Date™). I’ve mentioned this several times before… I think all writers have only “X” amount of great stories hidden deep in their brains. Some have lots, others have just a few. If you listen to some of the people knocking Milligan’s run on DC’s New 52 title Justice League Dark– you’d think his creative spark has flickered out. (I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t know if I agree with the criticism or not.)
But what I do know: If those JLD critics aren’t enjoying themselves, they’re reading the wrong Peter Milligan comic book. Milligan’s Hellblazer is the place to roost.
It’s really easy to ignore a comic that’s in the 200s or 300s in numbering. People think a book published that long must be boring and played out. Newcomers can’t imagine being able to understand a character or story that’s been developing for over 24 Years. They also don’t get that new creators take over continuing titles all the time– and all it takes in one creative person to liven things up. This general misunderstanding about the accessibility of comics with long runs is one of the main reasons Marvel continually restarts their titles at #1. (The other reason, of course, is greed.)
Hellblazer is up to Issue #296 (and counting). Like any long-running series, this Vertigo book has had its ups and downs. But the number of fantastic stories far outweighs the few lame ones lightly sprinkled in here and there. The comic actually got way better after Vertigo shed its self-important phase (the first 7 to 10 years when almost everyone considered anything Neil Gaiman [and others] crapped out were instant masterpieces)… And decided to focus instead on just telling taut adult horror and fantasy stories.
The worst thing that ever happened to this book was actually a movie– the Keanu Reeves’ film travesty, Constantine. Warner Bros was too pussy to call it Hellblazer (didn’t want to bait America’s almighty Bible Belt)… Which should give you some idea of the roundabout, suspect way in which the filmmakers approached the material. This abomination was as far away from the comic series as you could imagine. If you’ve only watched the movie– and you enjoy intellectual horror with lots of conniving action and sarcasm… You really owe it to yourself to pick up some Hellblazer Trades.
And apparently, after that almost 30 years in the biz I mentioned before– the Milligan/Constantine combination was just a wonderful accident sitting around waiting to happen. The latest volume (entitled The Devil’s Trench Coat) is one of the best Hellblazer collections ever… Focusing on the malevolence imbuing Constantine’s “lost” piece of outerwear (the ubiquitous, ever-present Trench Coat)– as it falls into the hands of one unfortunate person after another. The Trade also collects a second story arc sending Constantine back to Hell… In an attempt to convince his sister to stop punishing herself and leave the devilish domain for a more heavenly clime.
It’s all as crazy and maniacal as it sounds.
If you’re not in the mood to buy umpteen volumes, then I suggest you start with Milligan’s Hellblazer run in this order: Scab, Hooked, India, Bloody Carnations, Phantom Pains… Ending with the current Devil’s Trench Coat. The value is there– each comic only costs a little over $2 USD in collected form– and that’s if you pay full cover price. (Many online shops sell the Trades for as much as 40% Off cover.)
I recommend a lot of books in this column… But few this highly. If you love your horror fast and raw– with an attitude that makes you want to turn the page in heady anticipation… You will not find any contemporary comic better than Peter Milligan’s Hellblazer.