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.
Some weeks are busier than others, and it can be difficult to find time to read some comics, never mind write about them. This week was all about catching up on new comics, comics that have been released in the last few weeks that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. One of the reasons they start to build up is the aforementioned time issue, but another factor is that I’m reading more and more in a digital format these days. I barely go to a comic book shop, and I buy new comics even less. I’m lucky enough to have access to a few preview comics and our library has some good digital content so I don’t need to sign up to Comixology or Marvel Unlimited.
Although, I find it harder to read comics on a computer than I do picking up an actual physical copy. There is something to be said for the materiality of a comic book. The physical weight seems to imbue the narrative with metaphysical weight and makes the reading experience more real. A computer is artificial in nature and, for me at least, the screen creates a distance between myself and the comic, like a realization of the fourth wall. I find it harder to become immersed in a comic on a computer. The knock on effect is that I put off reading the digital comics building up in my special folder marked “comics.”
Of course, the other problem I have with a lot of new comics that I read is that they just aren’t very good. Imagine flicking through the television channels and there is nothing but Police Procedurals on. One or two of them might be worth watching, another few might do if you can’t find anything else, but the majority aren’t even going to make you stop flicking. That’s how I feel about the comic industry at the moment. The main publishers aren’t putting out many titles that I’m even intrigued by, never mind ones that I find irresistible.
It happens with comics. It comes in waves. I’m not saying there aren’t any good comics at the moment, I’m just saying it’s harder for me to find ones that I’m interested in. Maybe San Diego Comic Con will bring a slew of new title announcements to get my engines revving again.
Comic Number 196: Planet of the Apes #4 (Marvel)
From the ending of this issue, I am led to believe this is the penultimate issue. I even started to search for the Marvel solicitations to see if there was an issue after number 5 but the whole experience was bringing out the grumpy old man within so I gave it up. I have better things to do with my time.
Unfortunately, reading this iteration of Planet of the Apes is not to be considered as better things. It has been a disappointment so far. This entire issue is a fight on a boat with a voice over conversation that is, in essence, simply an information dump. The artwork is okay, and displays some moments of impressive action but there’s no depth to it. No wonder or excitement. Even the badly translated Indonesian PotA comics have a hook to get you reading. They may be dreadful in a number of ways but they also have a sincerity and a clear love of the franchise. This Marvel comic feels like a standard Marvel comic with all the trappings that come with being published through a massive corporation. I have read good things from David F Walker previously but this series has been a missed opportunity to really re-light the Planet of the Apes comic series. BOOM! Studios did a fantastic job with the franchise, and historically, Marvel opened up the simian world. Where previous series have been the chimpanzees and orangutans, developing ideas and creating political intrigue, this series is the heavy handed gorilla, bashing its way through the narrative in the hopes that it will come out on top at the end.
Comic Number 197: The Savage Strength of Star Storm #2 (Image Comics)
The series opener for Star Storm didn’t impress me at all. But occasionally, a bad first issue can lead to something greater. Issue 1 may have just been finding its feet, working through the kinks etc. Unfortunately, this second issue hasn’t succeed in finding its way.
The plot is very disconnected, with narrative elements appearing and disappearing with no explanation. The opening sequence is heavy with exposition that sets up the story, allowing the characters and the action to move from a funeral to a zombie attack via a family drama involving a vigilante mob princess. With more consideration, the narrative could have flowed more smoothly and the onslaught of story threads might have been less jilting.
The artwork doesn’t help the fast pace of the narrative, either. For large parts, the characters are quite static and inhabit awkward panels. For example, in once scene, two characters have a conversation in a panel while all of the other characters are lined up as if they are waiting for a bus. There is no visual or narrative need for such a composition and it pulls the reader out of the story. There are also some inconsistencies within the artwork, such as characters clothes changing between panels when there was no indication of time passing. This also makes it difficult to follow the fast flow of this story because, as a reader, you are stopping to re-read sections for narrative clarity.
I found this comic to be a frustrating read. This is a story brimming with over the top characters and an outlandish B-Movie plot, which could be very entertaining. Unfortunately, those elements are lost in a visual style that doesn’t embrace the unique qualities of modern comics and a narrative that doesn’t take the time it needs to introduce the different elements. At the moment, Star Storm has all of the toys out of the box but isn’t sure which ones it wants to play with.
Comic Number 198: Con & On (Ahoy)
I don’t really like being negative about comics but occasionally it is difficult to find good things to say about something (see Comic Number 197). With Con & On #1, I wasn’t sold on the whole narrative but I enjoyed the way it was told, if that makes sense? To put it another way, I didn’t really care for the setting and the plot but the script was brilliant and the artwork delightful. It’s like watching a ballet and appreciating the talent of the dancers and respecting the choreography of each sequence but not really liking ballet.
The characters in this comic are wonderfully written, especially the caricatures of the comic creators and the obvious reference to the British Invasion. The narrative may seem to paint the comic industry in a poor light, but writer Paul Cornell is such a positive person, it is difficult to imagine this comes from a place of bitterness. The negative elements are more like that feeling of disappointment in a friend when they do something wrong.
Marika Cresta’s artwork is wonderful and captures the excitement, over whelming, chaos that is the convention scene. The layouts contain many overlapping panels, the building blocks of comics stacked on top of each other as if they haven’t quite found their place on the page. This mirrors the central characters journey through this opening issue because they are young enthusiasts looking for their place in the industry.
Con & On is a comic about the industry, it understands comics as a medium, and has an interesting collection of characters to follow. It has a lot going for it.
Comic Number 199: Dead Romans #5 (Image Comics)
Every issue of this that has come out has impressed me. Fred Kennedy, Nick Marinkovich, Jose Villarrubia, and Andrew Thomas and doing a superb job of creating a comic that looks outstanding.
This issue shows the reader the cost of living with Rome from the point of the invader and the invaded. It also highlights the reach of the Roman Empire, demonstrated through the mix of nationalities that ride with a Roman army. As exciting as the story is, the historical facts seem to ring true, though I am not an expert.
It goes without saying that I love this series, I’ve mentioned every issue in this ongoing project. The subject matter fascinates me (I am currently listening to the audio version of Simon Scarrow’s Death to the Emperor and reading Pompeii by Robert Harris) and the artwork in this comic looks fresh and exciting. I could read this every week.
Comic Number 200: Antarctica #1 (Top Cow Productions)
Go into this one cold, if you can. I did and it really paid off. Therefore, stop reading this and go read Antarctica instead…
I knew nothing about this comic when I read it so I really got caught out when the crime mystery took a science fiction turn right at the end. You knew something was coming; Simon Birks teased at it all the way through, and there is something about Wili Roberts’ artwork that hints at a science fiction story. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
There are some impressive moments in this comic. Take the second page as an example. The same location drawn at different times, across a number of the years but featuring the same characters. They stack on the page like color coded emotion with the final panel featuring a heart breaking moment in the central characters life. You really feel for Hannah at that moment. It is a magnificent piece of storytelling.
There is another moment in the comic with the exact same page layout, five widescreen panels, with a single viewpoint. It’s as if these traumatic moments in Hannah’s life affect her in the same way, that they are linked in some way.
Antarctica is an impressive opening to a comic book series. The first issue draws the reader in by focusing on the central character and following her step by step from childhood to the world altering cliffhanger. One to keep an eye on.
Comic Number 201: Blade #1 (Marvel 2023)
I read the new Blade comic.
Insert shrugging emoji here.
It was just a coincidence that this came out this week because me and my son watched the first movie last weekend (He was curious what it was. He enjoyed it). I took that as a sign to read the new comic. I don’t know why I do this. Marvel just isn’t giving me anything at the moment. I should just step away. This is a good comic that will appeal to Marvel readers, but that’s not me at the moment. Check out the reviews by people who have more of a stake in this game.
Comic Number 202: Alien #4 (Marvel 2023)
What did I literally just say about Marvel?!?!
The Alien franchise, much like the Planet of the Apes franchise, is one of those properties where I enjoy the extended universe. I never really got into the Doctor Who books or the vast array of Star Wars comics, however I have always enjoyed a good Alien comic. The early Dark Horse comics (published at first by Titan comics in the UK in collected form and by Trident in a monthly magazine) have been regular reads of mine for years. Just like the films they are entertainment of the greatest order. They swing through the genres from horror to war story to allegory and center on the human condition.
However, the latest Alien output has been less than great. The first series that Marvel put out was plagued with problematic art thanks to the controversial working practices of the artist, but it also suffered from mediocre narratives and lackluster scripts. At least Thaw, written by Declan Shalvey, has a punchy script and fast paced action similar in vain to the 1986 Aliens movie. Andrea Broccardo’s artwork is more fluid and suits the story being told. It is a well rounded comic but does suffer from overused story elements.
All in all, it has been a good reading week, despite the lack of time I’ve had to actually pick any comics up. Reading brand new comics is more of a challenge than reading older ones from my collection, the quality is more varied and sometimes it is difficult to find anything positive to say. Either because the comic isn’t very good or, as is more often the case, it doesn’t appeal to me on a personal level. I have become so tired of the superhero genre that I give it a wide berth and I’m always disappointed when I dip my toe back in but it’s very rarely the fault of the creators. It is a genre, as a whole, that has lost its appeal for me.