I’ve been toying around with the idea of picking this book up forever. Finally after it staring at me on the rack during our entire Free Comic Book Day Podcast I decided I’d give it a good home. I didn’t know too much about it, I knew it was set in the 1950’s; it was black and white and written by Matt Fraction with art by Howard Chaykin. But the reviews, oh the reviews! It all seemed so divisive. Some people really enjoyed it while other people scoffed at the very idea that I even read it, let alone pay money for it. Now granted part of that might be Chaykin’s reputation or the fact that every single cover for the issues contained a woman in black frilly lingerie (more on both these things later). In the name of pulp I gave it the old college try.
Summer always seems to be a hot bed for the comics industry releasing trade paperbacks and this year is certainly no exception. I did my best to compile a list to the ones I feel are worth noting. Please realize though that all issue content and artwork are subject to change and shouldn’t be deemed as official. The dates also reflect online retailer likes Amazon (brick and mortar comic shops tend to get their hands on these a few weeks ahead of time). So think of this as more of a guideline.
Sledgehammer 44 Vol. 1
Release Date: June 10
Collects Sledgehammer 44 #1-2 and Lightning War #1-3
I’m not as well versed in the Mignolaverse as I’d like to be, but I try not to miss anything that takes place further back in its history. Mainly Lobster Johnson and any of the B.P.R.D. secret origin stories that occur in the 1940’s. This trade collects two miniseries, Sledgehammer 44 by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and art by Jason Latour and Lightning War by the same writing team with Laurence Campbell art.
What about the story you say? I don’t know the finer details but I can tell you it involves a man in iron suit dropped into the front lines of WWII to decimate Nazis. Do you really need to know anymore? It seems like Mignola’s twist on Iron Man and I’m more than ok with that.
The X-Men family of comic series have varied greatly in quality over the years. They’ve gone from some of the most entertaining and poignant stories in the medium to unreadable dreck and back again. Like most readers in my generation, I cut my teeth on X-Men comics and that undoubtedly shaped my tastes regarding all types of fantasy. And naturally, many of the best and brightest authors in the industry are eager to take a shot at writing these characters, and while some of these new takes on Marvel’s Merry Mutants have redefined the characters for a new generation, other visions fell so very, very flat. And the remarkable aspect, of this creative quagmire is that some of the most spectacular failures in the history of X-Men comics have been at the hands of otherwise phenomenal writers.
There are a great many runs of the series that are either forgettable or contemptible, but nonetheless unsurprising. For instance, Scott Lobdell’s long tenure as writer of both core X-Men series in the 1990s. These issues, despite being published at the height of the X-Men’s popularity, are largely forgotten. And that was no accident. Any stories in his run that aren’t shunned are remembered only for their art. But no one is doing a spit-take over a shitty Scott Lobdell story. Lobdell is a master of ruination, he’s currently hard at work in his efforts to make Superman an irrelevant footnote over at DC and seems to be doing a wonderful job of it. Similarly, Chuck Austen’s runs on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men are often cited as the worst in the history of these series, but it’s not as if we had any reason to suspect they wouldn’t be. Everything else he had done up to that point had been unimpressive, so the clusterfuck he left behind at the Xavier Institute only stands to reason.
And that’s my point. When bad writers write bad stories, it doesn’t come as a shock. However, when otherwise acclaimed writers step up to the plate to work on the X-Men, they very often fail as well. These books are, in that sense, sort of akin to the Sword in the Stone. These capable knights, so to speak, approach this task with confidence and great expectations, and then shamble away in defeat a few months later. Today, I give a few of those enormous letdowns.
While discussing the new Hawkeye series, I was asked if I had ever read the Immortal Iron Fist one from a few years ago. I hadn’t, beyond what the character looks like I didn’t know a damn thing about him. I was told that the series was the first pairing of Hawkeye’s creative team, Matt Fraction and Dave Aja with the addition of Ed Brubaker. A bit of a dream team of sorts for the medium. It seemed too damn good to be true. When I finally got around to picking it up, I absolutely devoured it.
I don’t buy a lot of new single issue comics. To me it doesn’t make any sense to go buy 1 comic for 5 individual series that I will read in 10 minutes than forget what happened by the time the next issue is released. God forbid if it’s delayed too. I prefer to buy trades if I can, that way I feel like I accomplished something when I’m through. I can also get a whole storyline at once and perhaps even an ending/closure. I might be everything that’s wrong with the modern day comic industry.
With all that said, I probably keep an eye out on Amazon for trades that are being released more than most people. The month of July has some excellent releases on the docket that I’m looking forward to and you should too.
Saga Vol. 2
Release Date: July 2
Collects Issues #7-12
Saga has been one of the most critically acclaimed and interesting new series. In Vol. 1 we are introduced to Marko and Alana, two star crossed lovers on opposite sides of a galactic war. When they bear a child it forces them to go on the run and become fugitives. The book is populated with endlessly imaginative characters and landscapes. In general terms it would be considered Sci-Fi but it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of desperation, but ultimately of hope. Vol. 1 ended with them being able to escape the planet they were stranded on and head to outer space. Shit is going to get intergalactic in Vol. 2.
If you ever told me I’d be reading a Hawkeye ongoing comic I would have laughed at you. Hell, I’ve never even read a true Avengers comic, not to mention Hawkeye was the character I liked the least in the Avengers movie and the first volume of the Ultimates. So what gives?