Comics I have read and enjoyed: Part 1 of an ongoing series (probably)

So, I’ve not updated in a year, sorry, I’ve been busy.

But I’m going to make an effort now to get back into things and, as a self imposed writing exercise, I’m going to write about the some of the comics I’ve read recently and just how fantastic or unfantastic they’ve been.

First off, Scott Snyder’s Batman – By far the best book of The New 52 (the huge relaunch of the entire DC line that was pretty much the biggest thing in comics) is already one of my favourite comics ever, and it’s only on issue 6. I was aware of Scott Snyder before I had started the series, but I hadn’t actually read any of his work apart from Gates Of Gotham which I loved, I have since then read Batman: The Black Mirror, which has won a huge amount of critical acclaim for it’s beautifully told crime/horror story, and have put American Vampire on my must read list.

Anyway, for those unaware, Snyder’s Batman features the Caped Crusader investigating a shadowy organisation that have ties to the foundations of Gotham City. As Batman’s investigation progresses, he faces some of his most difficult challenges yet – both physically and mentally. You may be thinking this sounds very similar to Grant Morrison’s story Batman R.I.P. which features Batman investigating the Black Glove organisation – but it’s very different. Firstly, unlike Morrison’s Batman, who was painted as the ultimate human being (which is in no way a bad thing – I’m a big fan of Morrison’s entire run on Batman) Snyder’s Batman is fallible, at first he doesn’t believe the Court Of Owls exists, believing them to be nothing more than a myth, it takes some time before he realises they’re a credible threat. One thematic similarity between Morrison and Snyder’s work is the way that they utilise the comic medium in a way that other media can’t – for example, Morrison subtly used a recurring red and black pattern throughout his story, placing panels in a checkerboard style that provided clues to the plot. Snyder, to emphasise Batman losing his mind starts placing the pages upside down, forcing the reader to physically rotate the comic. It’s a technique I don’t see very often, and would probably become cliche very quickly if repeated, but it certainly helps raise the comic above other releases.

The story itself is marvellous, with fantastic action sequences and fight scenes, but with an incredibly creepy undertone that reveals more and more upon repeated readings. This is enhanced by Greg Capullo’s artwork, which works best in more recent issues as Batman gets beaten and drugged. A standout of the book has to be the way Batman’s costume is treated, covered in rips and blood, and most interesting visually – a broken lens on his cowl, revealing one incredibly emotive eye which helps make Batman look that much more vulnerable.

It’s an absolutely first-class comic, and I’m so glad it’s one of the first New 52 titles to be collected into a hardback.

Keeping with the New 52 theme, another comic I’ve enjoyed has been the controversial Red Hood And The Outlaws, while the first issue got a lot of negative press for it’s portrayal of Starfire, the series has quickly developed and become one of my favourites. Maybe because I’m a fan of all the Robins, and the idea of a rogue Robin is interesting to me, but the series has a unique spin on what could happen to sidekicks who go off the rails (although Starfire was never a sidekick, she’s never been a ‘big name’ super hero in my opinion). Plus I really like Jason Todd’s costume, I was never a big fan of the superhero style get up he wore early on in Morrison’s Batman and Robin, but I do like the whole jacket over a costume look. Plus the fact he’s nwo wearing a batsymbol is pretty cool, referencing his ties to Batman, but also making a visual statement that he is quite far removed from his former mentor.

It’s a really 90s style comic that’s a lot of fun, and surprisingly a heart to it. There are a few quite emotional scenes that sneak up on you, in particular one flashback scene in which Bruce Wayne actually behaves like the father he should have been. Touching stuff.

Moving onto Marvel, what might have been my favourite comic of the past year is Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, the much talked about introduction of the African American/Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales. I had heard a lot of good things about Bendis’ entire run on Ultimate Spider-Man, but I only started reading during Peter Parker’s last days, so I went into the rebooted story not sure what to expect. What I found was one of the most touching and well written comics I have ever read. First off, Miles Morales is not Peter Parker, and while they both gained their powers from a spider bite, that is where the similarities end. When we first meet Miles, he’s just won a place at a prestigious school, but instead of being happy, he instead feels guilty for filling a slot that another child could have deserved more. It’s a nice way of introducing a character, and it immediately shows that this is a kid who’s smart, but not sure of himself, while being sensitive and empathetic and it helps the audience empathise with him when he encounters what happens next. See, Miles also has an uncle he’s close to, like Peter, but instead of the saint like Uncle Ben, Miles’s uncle is a career criminal who we see robbing Oscorp, and picking up a certain arachnid along the way. This leads to Miles being bitten by a similar spider to the one that bit Peter Parker, and gaining super-powers. But instead of finding joy in his new powers (which differ slightly from Peter’s) he despairs, this is after all, a world where super powered teenagers are figures of hate and scorn, and Miles believing himself to be a mutant, isn’t best pleased with his situation. It’s a bit of a slow burner, it takes some time for Miles to get used to his powers, and it isn’t until the 6th (I think, I can’t remember) issue that we see him accept that he is the new Spider-Man and put on the cool black and red suit that’s on the covers.

This is a book that literally anyone can enjoy, even non-superhero fans. I can’t recommend it enough.

There have been some other fantastic books that I’ll write about later, like Peter Panzerfaust, The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode and a whole bunch more, but I’ve already written, like, a billion words (to the closest billion).

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