So, I’ve been reading some comics lately

Posted: May 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Detail from "Richard Stark's Parker: The Score" — art by Darwyn Cooke

I’m going to be straight with you — I haven’t been reading any current comics lately. Or for a while, actually.

This is for a few reasons, ranging from the vagaries of a freelancer’s income to a distinct lack of enthusiasm for much of what’s being produced. The blame for that lies mostly with DC and Marvel, but the smaller, more interesting publishers suffer for it because, man, the crap just sucks away any energy I have for digging out the good stuff.

Still, it’s not as if I haven’t been reading comics — I’ve just been reading older graphic novels and trades that I manage to find at my fairly excellent library branch. (And by “older” I mean anything from months to years; it just depends on what catches my eye on any given day). With that said, here are some comics I’ve read recently:


Bad Medicine – Vol. 1: New Moon

Nunzio DeFilippis , Christina Weir (writers); Christopher Mitten (artist); Bill Crabtree (colorist)

Released earlier this year, this volume collects the first five issue of Bad Medicine, a kind of X-Files/Universal Monsters mash-up, but with a team of Scullys and one sorta-Mulder instead of the more familiar lonely conspiracist vibe. Getting into the story took a little effort at first, but once characters are in place and backgrounds start getting filled in, things roll along at a good pace (though the idea of an only partially invisible man is pretty great right from the start). Speaking of characters, most of the supporting cast are only standard archetypes at this point, but solid enough to hold the reader’s interest, especially when anchored by the multi-layered, possibly crazy-but-unflappable lead of Dr. Randal Horne.

The art is scratchy and angular, and while it could easily be annoying and distracting, it works well in the setting and brings a weird kind of realism to stories about unseen madmen and rampaging werewolves. Often, Mitten whips out a great facial expression, too, adding needed characterization to people we’re just getting to know (his use of body language, in general, is natural and expressive).

Overall, I dug it and would like to see more from this title, which is a solid 3/5.


Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis, Vol. 1

Mike W. Barr (writer); Alan Davis (artist)

Look, I wanted to like this. I really did. But whether it was the wooden dialogue or my own trouble seeing Davis’ art on anything that isn’t Excalibur, I just couldn’t get into it. While I appreciated the fact that Barr emphasized the detective part of Batman’s Dark Knight Detective moniker (missing from the collection’s title, you’ll notice), the stories themselves just felt weighed down by a few too many “lads” and “chums” to feel like anything more than some sort of parody. The collection also spans years ranging from 1986 to 1991 (with a genuinely awesome black-and-white one-shot from 2002 thrown in), which some readers might recognize as the Jason Todd years. Personally, I never hated Jason with the fiery scorn some have for the character, but it did bug me that Barr turns him into a patchy hybrid of Dick Grayson and Burt Ward; the puns … my God, the puns.

I’m sure it’s just me, and maybe I just don’t love Batman enough, but this hit me as 2.5/5.


Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score

Darwyn Cooke (adaptation/illustration)

This third installment in Cooke’s Parker adaptations continues to build on what has been a strong series of graphic novels from a couple of masters. Richard Stark was a pen name of Donald E. Westlake, a legendary crime novelist who, almost as an aside, created the iconic Parker — a stoic, all-business  thief whose chilling propensity for violence is matched only by the smolderingly dangerous schemes he finds himself running. If you’ve never read a Parker novel — or hell, if you’ve never read any Westlake book — do yourself a favor and get to it; you won’t be sorry. Cooke brings the style and pitch-perfect graphic sensibility that made his DC: The New Frontier such a beauty to these adaptations, and The Score is no different. Done-in-one, the story is quick but muscular, with plenty of meat there for fans of crime, noir and gritty, slow-burn thrillers. In terms of both writing and art, Cooke just nails it. 4/5



Craig Thompson (writer/artist)

Habibi is — and I say this without any hyperbole — a masterpiece. Powerful, heartbreaking, honest, obsessed with the human and the cosmic, truly epic in scope, this book is something that anyone who claims to love comics has to read. It’s something I’d recommend everyone should read. I’ve meant to read it since it was released in 2011, but kept putting it off for one reason or another, and quite frankly was intimidated by its sheer 672-page bulk. It turns out to be a completely immersive 672 pages. The work — from the obviously painstaking research into Islam, to the thoughtful scripting and gorgeously detailed illustrations — is staggering in its ambition and artistry. On the surface, Habibi is about a young girl sold into marriage and the orphan boy she cares for once she finds herself on a path to slavery and a precarious life in hiding. Slavery of one kind or another is a running theme throughout the book, and of course so is its flipside need for freedom. But Thompson also bends and stretches his characters — and his readers — around concepts of faith, culture, storytelling, gender, love and desire, and the story’s setting itself. I was stunned when I finished reading Habibi, and instantly put it in my top 5 Must-Read list of graphic novels. I really don’t know why this book doesn’t come up more often in comics circles. 5/5


Image: Detail from “Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score” — art by Darwyn Cooke

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2 Comments on “So, I’ve been reading some comics lately”

  1. 1 Scott S. said at 8:22 am on May 2nd, 2013:

    Cooke’s “Parker” adaptations are just so, so good. I haven’t read the original novels yet — I keep looking for “The Hunter” in the local used bookstore, but I may eventually shell out the extra bucks to get it on the Kindle…

    Haven’t read “Habibi” yet — haven’t even finished “Blankets” yet… :/

  2. 2 Maxo Romero said at 10:57 am on May 5th, 2013:

    I have the same obstacle with “Blankets” – it’s just so dang big! But after reading “Habibi,” I think I’m ready to give it a try.

    And holy smoke, the “Parker” books are great, aren’t they? I might’ve shouted when I saw it in the library. And possibly pushed people out of the way.

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