In this week’s Panelology, we take another look at a comic book collection. But not just any ol’ collection; your collection! That’s right. Have you ever felt like your collection has been missing something. Is there a story-shaped void in your collection that needs to be filled? If so, I offer four suggestions to get your geeky jollies out on. Some of the stuff is obvious and mainstream. Some of the stuff is out of the way and may take a little bit of effort on your part. But what self-respecting comic fan doesn’t put a little effort into his or her collection?
The Surrogates #’s 1-5, Top Shelf
By Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele
Available in The Surrogates issue #’s1-5 or in Hardcover/Softcover TPB
This book was a recent “read” for me. I had heard for quite a while now that this title was flat out awesome. Despite the praises, I just never really checked it out. That is until the recent $3 Sale at Top Shelf. Words can barely even describe how awesomely good this book is. The Surrogates tells the story of a society that has devolved into technological dependence and addiction. People can buy android surrogates to interact with the world in their place while they lay around all day and play out their own lives vicariously through these androids. It’s not original to say this, but how very Philip K. Dick. The comic is smart by having playing off the themes of humanity’s fascination of technology and the alienation it causes. The artwork is brilliant and subdued. Everything just clicks for this book. I’m anxious to see how the movie turns out, which will no doubt give this book a well-deserved higher profile.
Fell #’s 1-8, Image
By Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith
Available in Hardcover, TPB and issue #’s 1-8
I don’t consider myself a rabid Warren Ellis fan. He’s just one of those creators that seem to create a fervent, cult-like following for much of what he does. In fact, m y only claim to Warren Ellis fame is that I did have a beer in a bar whilst sitting next to him a t HeroCon a few years ago. That’s pretty much it. Outside of a few titles like Ministry of Space, Transmetropolitan, and The Authority, I never really enjoyed much of his work, and of those three, I only thought Ministry of Space was superb. However, Fell is probably one of my favorite titles currently being published. Why? Well, for one reasons it’s cheap. It’s a two-buck comic that dings in usually around sixteen or so pages. Yet it accomplishes much more in those Spartan pages than most comics do in a whole year of story arcs, crossovers, and big budget events. The book follows the crime-fighting antics of Detective Richard Fell in the mythological/seedy city called Snowtown. Cop shows are fodder for my brain, but Fell has an underlying mystery and symmetry to it that goes beyond the homicide investigations one can see at any given hour on basic cable. Templesmith’s wonderfully erratic art punctuates the sordid depravity of Snowtown like no artist could. The only frustrating thing about this book is its tardiness. Started in 2005, only nine issues have made it to stands thus far. Pick these issues up or turn in your fan boy badge at the door.
All-Star Superman #'s 1-12, DC
By Grant Morrison & Frank Quitley
Available in TPB, Hardcover, and as issue #’s 1-12
I hate Superman. I can’t really explain the origins of this strong dislike for the most iconic comic book character. I’ve always had a strange aversion to him, ever since I was little. He just seemed to be too strong and invulnerable, too clean and infallible for my jaded taste in comic books. However, I love Grant Morrison. Like Warren Ellis, he’s created a cult of devoted fans that follow his work wherever he may land. While I wouldn’t say I’m a member of that cult, I do tend to pick up books with the Morrison stamp of approval. Morrison and Quitley were phenomenal in their X-Men run together. When DC started their All-Star line in a somewhat hokey attempt to counter the popularity of Marvel’s Ultimate books, I decided I would give one of my favorite teams a try at my least favorite character. Much to my surprise, they actually managed to write a great story and they pulled off quite a magic trick; they made me like Superman. Superman seemed believable through Morrison’s vulnerability. Though the story covered a lot of ground in twelve issues, the overarching theme was that Superman was dying. Facing mortality made Superman seem relevant, like he actually had a dog in the fight for life instead of just moral responsibility to save humankind from itself. That didn’t happen in the 90s when Superman faced death and overcame it. Yet it happened here, quietly and without black polybagged gimmicks. For the first time in comic book reading lifetime, I felt for Superman. This book is essential for anyone’s collection because it represents a true, unique vision of the man of steel that doesn’t just strictly involve super-heroics as usual. To borrow a phrase from President Obama, this was change we could believe in. This was Superman.
Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1, Marvel
By Brain Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
Available in single issue format or in Ultimate Annuals Vol. 1, Ultimate Spider-man Hardcover vol. 8, or Ultimate Spider-Man TPB vol. 15
While many fans are still irate with Marvel over the dissolution of Peter and MJ’s wedding, the Ultimate universe still has the couple sporting around. However, in late 2005, there was a sudden yet plausible shift in relationships in Ultimate Spider-Man’s life. Yes, you read that right. It was a believable shift in the relationship that didn’t involve Mephisto or Peter selling off his soul. Peter and MJ were kind of in a slump in their relationship. Much like her Marvel Universe counterpart, MJ had been the target of several attacks on Peter, who has been pretty fast and fleeting with his secret identity. A lull in their relationship left a female emptiness to be filled. Enter Kitty Pryde. Yes, that “Hey, isn’t she in the X-Men?” Kitty Pryde. While fighting the Shocker these two realize that they work well together on and off the field of battle. For Peter, here was a girl who actually defend herself if, say, Rhino decided to show up unexpectedly. For Kitty, Peter represented someone who could actually empathize with her and her powers. In my opinion, this is by far the best issue of Ultimate Spider-Man yet to be published. Also, it marked an end for me. While this was a great issue, it marked the pinnacle of the series. Ultimate Spider-Man just hasn’t been that gripping since then. It’s fun and entertaining, sure. But it just doesn’t grab me like it once did. Hopefully that will change soon, but this issue is possibly the best written story of this decade. It’s fun, playful, and genuine. You can’t go wrong with that.
Next week, just like everyone else in the multiverse, I'll be talking about the bad economy. Fans can find their investment into their favorite hobby taking a nosedive when the economy goes the way of Jean Grey. What can a fan do to deal with the economic malaise and get their comic book fix?
That's next week.