Project 365: One Comic Every Day, Week 15

The premise is simple: read one comic every day for the entire year. It seems like a simple task but there is no way that I read 365 comics last year, even if you count the individual issues in collections. So, this year, I am committing myself to this reading challenge, in the hope that I can broaden my reading habits and fully engage with my favorite hobby again.

I’m away on holiday in bonny Scotland this week, and I won’t be taking any comics with me. I always take an easy read holiday book with me (this time I have Simon Scarrow’s Day of the Caesars), but I will leave comic reading up to fate. Hopefully I can find a comic shop or two.

The Transformers
The Transformers #150 Credit: Marvel Comics
Comic Number 99: The Transformers #150

This issue, The Legacy of Unicron, or the Origin of the Transformers, is the penultimate part of a Simon Furman written story and the continuation of his epic future based storyline. The artwork is bright and bold but not as exciting as the Target: 2006 story-line. Some of the action sequences are very fluid with an art style that matches.

The Transformers is always an easy read and my aim is to get to the end of Furman’s future epic before the end of the month, but that’s still 50 issues away.

Comic Number 100: Demon Wars: Down in Flames #1

While in Edinburgh, we stumbled across Forbidden Planet and picked up this comic. It is written and illustrated by Peach Momoko and is a visual treat. The art flows across the page like thick paint that is barely contained within the panel borders.

I found this fascinating from a visual perspective, but the narrative didn’t grasp me. My son, however, thought it was excellent and he immediately started searching online for related titles. We now have to track down the previous stories, which means that Demon Wars did its job.

Comic Number 101: Unknown Soldier #223

In a small hobby shop that looked as if it was opened to sell someone’s random collection of geek stuff, a couple of comics caught my eye. The first, this issue of The Unknown Soldier, was originally published in 1979, written by Bob Haney with art by Dick Ayers and Romeo Tanghal. The story is a fairly straightforward espionage adventure tale with the Soldier sent to Norway to sabotage a Nazi installation. It has plenty of cliches, but Haney’s scripting and the Ayers/Tanghal artwork is tight enough to stop the story becoming tiresome.

I have a growing collection of The Unknown Soldier comics — maybe I’ll get to reading some more later in the year — and this is a nice addition. The best part of this story is that it opens with the Soldier going on a holiday to Scotland. Out of the hundreds of The Unknown Soldier comics, I wonder how many of them start in such a way? I am willing to bet not many, so it was a nice happenstance that I managed to find this one while in Scotland.

Comic Number 102: The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1

I don’t know anything about Chapter House Comics, the Canadian publisher of this 2015 superhero comic written and drawn by Jason Loo. After a quick internet search, I didn’t recognize any of the other titles they have published, but some of the names related to the publisher did stand out, such as Lev Gleason. Gleason was a publisher back in the glory days of comics, with titles like Crime Does Not Pay on his roster.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard is part parody, part serious superhero. This issue is a sort of origin story, but the Human-Lizard already seems to be an established character, at least within its own world mythology. There is an element of Kick-Ass about this comic with the central character being a bit useless but I found the writing a lot more charming than the work by Mark Millar. There is a likability aspect to the characters in the Human-Lizard and a sadness that you can empathize with. There are moments in the script that feel rushed, either because the narrative appears to jump or the a sequence doesn’t quite gel together, but for the most part, Jason Loo tells a great superhero story.

Comic Number 103: Foul Play by Grant Geissman

Foul Play — full title Foul Play: The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C Comics! — is a magnificent book about the famous publisher and some of those who worked on some of the greatest comic strips of the 1950s. Geissman includes a brief history of the publisher in the introduction to the book before giving detailed biographies of a number of artists, all who worked on the crime and horror comics released by E.C.

Each chapter is a joy to read. Not only do they contain fascinating glimpses into the lives of the artists, but they are accompanied by a plethora of images including sketches, letters, and photographs, most of which I have never seen before. Plus, each chapter includes a full story illustrated by that chapter’s artist. This means that reprinted in this book are some of the greatest, most recognizable E.C. comics along with a few lesser known, but still as exciting, stories.

Interior pages from Foul Play

The only complaint I have about this book is that Marie Severin was not given a full chapter to herself, instead included with the ‘Best of the Rest’ chapter at the end. Severin’s color work was instrumental to the look of so many of E.C.s stories that she deserves more page space in this book.

I picked this book up from Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in the UK. Its comic section was pretty feeble with very few individual comics and the graphic novels section contained slim pickings. There was a large selection of UK annuals for Beano or Rupert the Bear but other than that, not much on the comic front, so I was especially pleased to find Foul Play on the shelves.

X-Men #200 and Uncanny X-Men #488 Credit: Marvel comics

Comic Number 104: X-Men #200 (and Uncanny X-Men #488)

While I was away, I watched a couple of superhero movies to pass the evenings. Thor: Love and Thunder (which I had not seen before) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (which I had seen before but remembered virtually nothing about ). I enjoyed watching both films, the latter more than the former, but neither are particularly outstanding. So, to finish off my week, I picked up some X-Men comics. I would have also read some Thor but I couldn’t be bothered to look for them. I’m technically still on holiday; I’m allowed to be lazy.

After the whole House of M disaster (for the X-Men characters, not the creative teams. I was actually a fan of that particular story), the number of mutants in the world suddenly dropped to around 200. Beast, Hank McCoy, found himself on a mission to reverse what had been done by the Scarlet Witch, but to what lengths would he go? In Endangered Species, McCoy would discover exactly how far he would go to save the mutants. Marvel released this story in eight-page chapters spread across all of their X-Men books at that time so, when you do a reread like this, you get to see what is going on in the rest of the X-Men universe and not have to focus on a single storyline if you don’t want to.

For me, I enjoy re-reading the comics that Endangered Species were a part of. There were some great writers and artists working on X-Men books at the time (2007). I’m a big fan of Humberto Ramos’ style; there’s something unique about the way he draws characters and fills his panels. X-Men #200 is a thrilling adventure with backstabbing and fight scenes all over the place, and this is also true of Uncanny X-Men #488. Endangered Species starts off well with a touch of mystery and a lot of moralizing, which is always at the heart of the best X-Men stories. I’m glad I picked this story to reread, as it allows me to read a selection of different comics with different styles and agendas. It also reminds me of a time when I used to be able to buy any and all of the tie in comics, back when I was more of a collector than I am now.

Comic Number 105: X-Factor #21 (and New X-Men #40)

X-Factor by Peter David is a change of pace from the other X-Men comics at this time. It has a focus on adult relationships and there is a more mature tone to the comic. The humor hits the mark and the characters have depth. This is reflected in the third chapter of Endangered Species but on a smaller scale. The story is as much about Hank McCoy as it is about saving the mutant race.

New X-Men is the only title that I haven’t enjoyed while reading the actual main story. Part of it is down to issue 40 being part three of a four part story. Even with the “previously in” section at the beginning, I still have trouble following what is actually going on. The characters are all very similar and the way they are drawn on the page makes some of the excessive action sequences difficult to follow. The artwork is by Scottie Young, whose work I have never personally been a big fan of. He draws fantasy characters and settings really well with a distinct style, but unlike Humberto Ramos’ work, I do not find it aesthetically pleasing.

I also think there is the biggest contrast between the main story and the Endangered Species story in New X-Men, with neither complimenting the other particularly well. There is a gulf between not only the narrative action of the New X-Men but also the style and presentation. In the past I’ve skipped the New X-Men issues, only reading the Endangered Species chapters. Maybe I’ll give them a go this time, but I’m not so sure.

This week has been relatively comic-free for me, which has made a refreshing change.
Half of the time, even when I am not reading comics, I am thinking about them, thinking about how many issues are in the run I’m reading or what to read next. I’m also constantly thinking about the comics I am reading in terms of cultural or critical importance. Is the comic relevant? Is it simple entertainment? Having a break from that is soothing. I am, however, wishing I had picked better films to watch on my holiday.

Darryll Robson
Darryll Robson
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. A student of Comics Studies and still patiently waiting for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.