Adam Bender reviews… Comics!

Reading comics is one hobby that’s stayed with me since childhood. A new crop of writers and artists are keeping the genre fresh and telling smart stories that even mature readers can love.

Here’s some of my recent Goodreads reviews, reprinted for your bloggy enjoyment. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions on what I should read next!

Batman, Volume 1: I Am GothamBatman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the great Snyder / Capullo run, I was skeptical of a fresh creative crew coming on board, but the new team of King and Finch really works! It’s a bit of a slow start with the initial “Rebirth” comic (which happens to be co-written by Snyder), but I raced through Batman #1-6, enjoying every minute.

King packs in the action without losing the intelligence of a good Batman comic. And whereas I felt Snyder sometimes gets a little excessive with trying to be epic, King’s narrative approach feels a little leaner and more streamlined. Finch’s art is also exceptional — it just has a real classic feel with action that’s easy to follow.

I also loved King’s superb work on The Vision, so I’m excited to find out where he takes Batman next!

Speaking of King’s Marvel Comics series…

The Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a BeastThe Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a Beast by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Tom King knocks it out of the park again in the second half of his Vision story. This book’s got everything — a clever premise, memorable characters, beautiful art, robots with feelings… If you like sci-fi, even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a comics fan — you owe it to yourself to read this book. King is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers in comics today.

No need to have any background on The Vision, though you’ll definitely want to start with The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man. Maybe watch the second Avengers movie if you want a quick take on his origin, but not necessary.

Superman: American AlienSuperman: American Alien by Max Landis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fresh spin on Superman, this mini-series captures what it’s like to grow up feeling like an alien. It gives the Kryptonian a humanness that often gets left out of stories about the Man of Steel. The artwork varies in style with the tone of the story, showcasing some of the best artists in comics today.

The hardcover edition is beautifully presented with vivid colors and interesting extras showing original sketches and layouts. One complaint with that edition, however, is that occasionally part of the image and even text gets caught in the fold due to the way the pages are bound together.

Descender, Volume Three: SingularitiesDescender, Volume Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume 3 loses some of the momentum of previous books, with each issue focusing on flashbacks to flesh out the backgrounds of various characters. These characters needed more fleshing out, so it’s good to get to know more about them. Also, the issues about the robots characters are particularly clever. But like season two of Lost — when it took many episodes to resolve a single, short event — this book doesn’t do much to resolve the cliffhangers from Volume 2.

Of course, it’s hard to nitpick a book that looks this good. Nguyen’s watercolors shine once more, transporting the reader to a fully envisioned sci-fi universe. And Lemire continues to do a great job mixing action, humor and the bittersweet.

Just don’t come into this one expecting much progression of the main plot.

Well that’s all for today! Follow me on Goodreads to keep tabs on what I’m reading!

Holy Reboot, Batman! DC Comics Now More Accessible

Detective Comics #1 is a must read for Bat-fans

I’ve been following the DC Comics reboot with a lot of interest. I’ve always been a comic book fan but for the last several years have felt a bit left behind.  Too many conflicts in the so-called “continuity” had made it hard for even a fan to explain what was happening.  Some heroes had died and come back, others gone evil and back.  Or both, in the case of Green Lantern.

So I’m glad they’ve decided to start fresh and renumber every comic back to #1.  I know some people out there are miffed at the lost history, but I personally was getting tired of having to go to Wikipedia every time a comic referenced a mysterious super vortex first seen in issue 367. I was also getting sick of all the crises constantly afflicting the DC universe.  Seriously, they had a “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” an “Infinite Crisis” and a “Final Crisis,” and the last two happened in the span of a few years.  I don’t care about earth-shattering events; I just want to read a good story!

Swamp Thing #1: Better than you might think!

And good stories they are.  DC so far has only released about 14 of the planned 52 books labeled #1 this month, but there have already been some winners.  I’ve read five of them — Justice League, Action Comics (Superman), Detective Comics (Batman), Swamp Thing and BatgirlJustice League is a great introduction to the DC Universe and has more action than a Michael Bay picture (in a good way). If you’re looking for something a a little darker and more sophisticated, check out Detective Comics, which is a classic Joker story with a twist, or Swamp Thing, a devilish tale of  horror (environmental horror?)

Action Comics reminded me of old-school 1940s Superman, but didn’t wow me as much as the others (though I guess some might find it interesting seeing Superman in jeans and a T-shirt). But then, I’ve always been more of a Batman fan. The Batgirl book has strong writing, but feels very much like the first in a larger story arc. Oddly, it also seems to require some knowledge of the character’s past.

The thing I think is really going to boost sales at DC Comics isn’t the narrative reboot, though. It’s digital comics.

Have you heard about this yet? You can now buy digital versions of all of the new comics, the day they are released, and read them on your PC, smartphone or tablet.

This addresses two of the main reasons I stopped buying actual issues of comic books:

  1. I had to make special trips every time I wanted to go to a comic book store. The two shops I know of in Washington, DC are in Georgetown (which takes a Metro ride and a bus transfer to get to), and Union Station (which also requires a $2 Metro ride)
  2. I have very little space to store comic books.

Digital solves both of these problems.  I can buy a comic with a mouse click or a tap on my phone’s touch screen, and they’re all stored online so I don’t have to buy an entire filing cabinet.  The price per comic feels a little steep since it’s the same as what you’d pay for a print edition, but damn if it isn’t convenient.  Longtime comics fans might scoff at the idea, but I am sure it’s going to bring in a lot of people like me who were having trouble keeping up.

What do you think of the DC reboot? Does digital distribution make the difference? Please leave a comment below!