Cost-effective Comics Reading (2.11.09 edition)

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Because there aren’t enough comic blogs out there right now telling you what’s coming out or reviewing new books, I figured I’d get a piece of that action and do it, too. What makes me so special? You tell me. You’re the one reading my blog.

Actually, I’m going to use this feature to see whether or not my comics buying has been cost effective. Every comic I pick up (unless I’m picking something up as an impulse buy) comes with an initial expectation. If a comic meets my expectations, it means I’ve broken even. If it exceeds them, it means I have added value. And if a comic let’s me down, it means I’ve thrown my money out the window.

My hope is by the end of the year, I’ll see how whether my comics reading has wasted me money or brought me more enjoyment than I expected.

THIS WEEK Reviews of Batman #686, DMZ #37, Incognito #2 and Scalped #25.

XPECTATI-O-METER KEY

HIGH Can’t wait to pick it up. Will stab a unicorn to read it.
MEDIUM HIGH Reading it will make me feel better about forgetting my dad’s birthday.  
MEDIUM It pleases me. 
MEDIUM LOW Beats a catheter.
LOW 
Someone should gouge my eyes out for even thinking of reading this.

• • •

batman-6862Batman #686
Writer Neil Gaiman
Artist Andy Kubert

Apparently, the in thing to do if you’re the writer on Batman is to comment on the character instead of actually writing an engaging story about him. Just ask Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman. 

Ah, I keed. Sorta (or on the square, as the kids say). Gaimain’s “Whatever Happend to the Caped Crusader?” wraps up the long-running Batman: R.I.P./Final Crisis/Batman: Last Rites/Bruce Wayne’s Really Fucking Dead story line with a metatextual funeral for the crimefighter, paying homage to the different eras of the Dark Knight with a series of “imaginary stories” (aren’t they all?) about how Batman actually died. The story — the first part of a two-parter — is an enjoyable enough pastiche that revisits some nostalgic staples of the Batman stories. (Why don’t more cars have big faces on their grills like the 1950s Batmobile, Catmobile, Jokermobile and the semi from Maximum Overdrive?) But the more time I spend away from the issue, the more it seems to bother me. I mean, it legitimately irritates me because it’s a story that in its effort to add a coda to the “death” of Batman and remind us why his stories are so enduring, it actually cheapens them by adding a pretention they never had. It trods well-worn ground in an unoriginal fashion (Ooo, get how the artwork resembles the artwork of the period this scene is supposed to represent? Clever. *yawn*) that’s really beneath Gaiman. Plus, if the shadowy woman who helps narrate the tale is really who she’s hinted to be … well, I’ll have to wait to read next issue to see how that’s handled.

And it’s that sentiment that forces me to cop out and not give a definitive opinion on this issue until I’ve read the second part. There are still directions for the story to go, thereby making a snap judgment is a disservice to the work. And although I poked fun at the staleness of shifting visual styles, Kubert does do a fabulous job on the art. When he’s required to evoke different artists, he doesn’t ape them but goes at the essence of what Dick Sprang or David Mazzucchelli brought to the character. 

The book is nothing if not well-executed. I just had higher hopes, which might still be reached.

INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium High
ACTUAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Pending until second part in Detective Comics #853 (3.18) 
COST EFFECTIVE? Pending 

• • •

dmz-392DMZ #37
Writer Brian Wood
Artist Riccardo Burchielli

Now that’s a way to end an issue: Pull away what could be the last piece of the main character’s faith in the ideals of the political leader he’s thrown in with and leave us waiting for the next installment.

Photojournalist Matty Roth has finally found someone to believe in with Parco Delgado, the newly installed leader of New York City. Delgado is a man Roth risked his life to get in power because Roth thought he could do some good for the people of the civil war-ravaged city. But now he’s seeing that the political process (and I use that term loosely in this case) is like making hot dogs: Even the best tasting weiners have enough rat shit in them to make you sick.

Wood continues to write one of the most politically relevant comics of the time. I’m eager to see how this story arc ends.

INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium High
ACTUAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING High. Expectations exceeded. 
COST EFFECTIVE? Yes. Added value of $1.49 (half of cover price) for half-unit gain. 

• • • 

incognito-21Incognito #2
Writer Ed Brubaker
Artist Sean Phillips

I’ve been a big fan of the Brubaker-Phillips team since when they worked together on Sleeper. I’ve followed them on their fantastic crime noir book Criminal, so it was a no-brainer that I would be picking up Incognito, the duo’s riff on a supervillain in the Witness Protection Program.

It’s a well-crafted book — Brubaker and Phillips are underrated in the industry because they make this kind of thing look so easy — and its high concept is a fresh one. But there’s something about the book that just nags at me. Brubaker re-creates the same gritty, atmospheric world he has with Criminal. However, he pairs it in equal measure with 1950s sci-fi tropes. Superheroes are called science agents, police officiers carry retro rayguns, and characters sport names like Ava Destruction and Von Chance. That juxtaposition just doesn’t ring true, and for the life of me, I couldn’t intelligently tell you why. Call it a gut thing. It’s not enough for me to stop reading the series right now (it only runs another three or four issues), but it is enough to lessen my satisfaction. 

INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING High
ACTUAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium High. Expectation slightly lower.
COST EFFECTIVE? No. $1.50 (half of cover price) for half-unit drop.

• • • 

scalped-251Scalped #25
Writer Jason Aaron
Artist R.M. Guéra

I was wrong when I predicted that there would be numerous scenes of physicallycrippling drug use and emotionally crippling sex in this scene. There were only scenes of emotionally crippling sex (that actually turned physically crippling). What the hell?

This issue begins a five-part arc, “This Then is the Rez, High Lonesome,” and we’re introduced to a traveling gambler who wanders into the Crazy Horse Casino, largely because he’s been thrown out of every big casino from Atlantic City to Vegas. Imagine a grittier, low class Danny Ocean. None of the usual cast show up until the very end. What Aaron does in the meantime is delve into the mind of a professional grifter, describing the tricks of the trade — counting cards, fake names, falling for prostitutes — along the way. At the same time, he develops a rich, fascinating character whose sharp, criminal mind is equaled only by his broken, despicable pysche. All of this plays out through Guéra’s dark, polished line.

Aaron has set the stage for an intriguing heist and a game of blackmail. If the mysterious grifter (the only names he gives are aliases he picks up in Keyser Söuze fashion) survives this story line, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in the series. 

INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium High
ACTUAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING High. Exceeded expectations.
COST EFFECTIVE? Yes. Added value of $1.49 (half of cover price) for half-unit gain.

WAS THIS WEEK COST-EFFECTIVE? Pretty much. Of the four books, two exceeded expectations, one was below expectations, and one is pending its second chapter. That puts me $1.49 ahead of the game. I consider that some smart, cost-effective shopping.

• • •

IN STORES WEDNESDAY (2.18.09)

Here’s a look at what I’ll be picking up this week, along with their inital ratings. Oh, and there might be another book that I might be picking up. A book I’ve been talking about lately. Of course, I dare not speak its name for fear of jinxing myself. That also means no one leaves comments talking about the afore(un)mentioned, got it?

Dark Avengers #2: I had very low expectations for this first issue (I was not a big fan of Secret Invasion), but it really impressed, so I’m on board for the second issue. But this series is on an issue-by-issue leash.
INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium  

Eden: It’s an Endless World Vol. 11: I dabble in manga (mention that in mixed company when you have), but this is by far my favorite series.  
INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING High 

Mysterius: The Unfathomable #2: This is a quirky little mini-series by Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler that has been entertaining so far.
INITIAL XPECTATI-O-METER READING Medium

2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment

2 responses to “Cost-effective Comics Reading (2.11.09 edition)

  1. I’m really impressed!

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