Thee Comic Column #138: Return!

Weirdworld_Vol_1_5_TextlessYou may have noticed this column disappeared for the previous three weeks and became what can can only be described as sporadic for a time before that. The three weeks hiatus is a first – since I started Thee Comic Column* back in 2012 I’ve missed a week here or there, but never consecutive weeks. I need this column – it’s where I go to put down my thoughts on what I’m reading, how I’m feeling about the comic world, its trends, its ups and its downs. I once flirted with the idea of writing ‘journalistically’ and dabbled in it a microscopic bit, only to realize that journalism is not the kind of writing that I’m here for. Sure, I’m opinionated about the things I like (and dislike) and as such I like to ‘talk’ it out on the page occasionally, but there’s only so much time in a day and storytelling is my true calling. So the last few months have been a flurry of activity in that department as I finish the novel I’ve been writing for three years. Also, I went through some dark life stuff and am still climbing up out of that, so during all of that it’s probably not a stretch for me to say that I’ve read very few comics. That’s changed now –  I’m catching back up; slimmed down my pull at The Comic Bug a bit to cast off the stuff that I wasn’t really enjoying (Sandman: Overture for one, which we address on the forthcoming issue #24 of Drinking with Comics) and really began delving into some of the books that I’ve been behind on. Lazarus, Saga and Velvet are all books that I’ve been reading monthly since they began but haven’t had a chance to sit down and re-read in a tight, controlled burst. Doing that is at the top of the list. Also, there are a bunch of titles I want to pick up that my Dw/C co-host Mike Wellman turned me on to: Airboy and Weirdworld are both at the top of that particular list. And yes, Weirdworld is a Marvel book and I’m technically off Marvel books, however since it doesn’t tie into any of the standard Marvel characters I have now successfully detoxed from I’m considering it an acceptable cheat. Plus, I mean, when you look at Mike Del Mundo’s art, the fact that Jason Aaron’s writing it, or characters from freakin’ Crystar the Crystal Warrior are in it, well, Weirdworld is a title I just can’t pass up. Growing up I was always intrigued by that kinda grimy late 70s/early 80s pulp fantasy stuff but never really knew how to get into it. This will be revisionist education, if nothing else.

(And if I’ve convinced myself, that’s great)

It was, no pun intended, weird not reading comics for a couple of weeks. I might have picked one up here or there, but I there was such a disconnect with the culture of comics in general that I actually became a little concerned. Like I said, there was some heavy shit floating through the air and my disinterest with comics suggested to me that I might have fallen into something of a depression. Situational, but depression nonetheless. When you can no longer derive joy from that which previously made you ecstatically happy, well, something is up. Right now, drowning in a bunch of catch-up piles of comics, I’m happy again. Happy, and glad to be back.

Here’s what I’ve loved in the last week of catch-up:

Sex-Criminals-6-coverSex Criminals. Yes, everyone has been telling me to read this since it began, and yes I initially dismissed it, erroneously figuring anything that had sex so blatantly in the title was going for the easy pick-up. Of course, I was wrong (Thank You!) and everyone else was right. Recently while home in Chicago I hung out with my good friend Mike Shinabargar from Amazing Fantasy Comics and he filled me with good beer and then put the first two trades of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s sensation in my hands and sent me home with them. It was exactly what he did back in ’04 when he tired of my short-sighted refusal to pick up The Walking Dead and once again, a new love has been born. Now the only problem is the conundrum of coming into a monthly series several issues after its already begun; how do you proceed? Trade only? Trades and then floppies monthly? Wait only for the trades? It’s difficult and different books read better in different formats. Sex Criminals seems as though it could work well in either a monthly or every-six for the trade but I got in with the trades, LOVED it and think I will just wait – albeit with bated breath – for the next.

TheFadeOut08The Fade Out. This is the first of the Brubaker/Phillips pulp/noirs I’ve read from the beginning and it just gets darker and darker. And of course when dealing with pulp/noir, darker and darker = better and better. A fairly simple murder mystery set in the early days of Hollywood has developed a number of intricately plotted complications and our protagonist – if he is indeed the good guy remains to actually be seen – really has his hands full. All the better for us, eh? 40’s Hollywood is a helluva place to set a noir, and the comic world’s pulp/noir masters really go all in here, scraping every dark alley, gin-soaked barroom and flop house motel for as much dirt and grime as they need to build the perfect tone and really transport us back into the past.  Down and out writers, communist blacklistings, cigar-smoking, knuckle-dragging studio security goons and a murdered starlet; secret porno pictures, illicit happenings on a major studio owner’s remote ranch, and alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. Sound great? You bet your ass it is! Also, Devin Faraci’s backmatter essays on real life Hollywood lore has been an exemplary bonus that probably won’t make it into the trade, so if you’re waiting for the trades on this one you’re missing out!

Injection4Injection. Having been a fan of Warren Ellis’ for quite some time I would have thought nothing could really exponentially intensify my love of his work. That changed last year when Marvel’s pairing of him with artist Declan Shalvey on a re-launched Moon Knight gave us six of the most glorious issues of any superhero book in some time. When the team left Moon Knight I did too, a heavy heart and a bottomless hole where those beautifully executed widescreen one-shots sat every month for much too short a time. Then Image announced the team’s creator-owned Injection and I became ecstatic. Injection, now four issues in, is one of the most perplexing and intriguing storylines Ellis has come up with since Doktor Sleepless died an early death due to a heartbreaking hard drive loss. Information is doled out in short order and the characters make no acquiescence in getting up to their dark business in spite out our often having no frame of reference for what exactly it is they’re doing, how it impacts the overall ‘world’ they’re in or even what it means in the context of the moment. Frankly though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the definition of slow burn – an overused but colloquially accurate term that defines a story that takes patience and attention to navigate. Not enough of those these days in my opinion, so I’m in and wading through each issue with the metaphorical magnifying glass at the ready, sussing out clues and slowly growing to love the sandwich-obsessed characters.

It’s been a while, but I’m back in the deep end of the comics world and it feels absolutely great. This stuff is archetypal to my brain and without it I felt like that fish at the end of Faith No More’s video for Epic. With them I feel complete.

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* An archaic pronoun once meant to descry a singular object or person, that was never the intention with this column. It’s merely a nod to Genesis P-Orridge and thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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