This week, comics on TV have suffered a few setbacks, with one cancellation, two pre-cancellations, and of course, the end of Smallville. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. This week I look at comics that could, and should be kick-ass TV shows.
In the classic EBI, though, I zoom back in time to November 24, 2004 to take a look at some more of the best comics I’d never read…
Everything But Imaginary #90: Best Comics I’ve Never Read-Wizard World Dallas Edition
Never being the sort to let reptition get between me and a good column, it’s time once again to delve into some of the best comic books I’ve never read. This continuing series of columns here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters features comics that I’ve never read before but that you, my faithful readers, recommended to me. So now it’s time to give you my two cents. Comics I dig graduate to my must read list. Comics that I don’t are banished to the bottom of the long box.
However, this is an extra special edition, friends. As you remember, a couple of weeks ago I hit the Wizard World Dallas convention in search of great stuff. Even wrote a column about it. And I know you all read that column carefully because, in all the seven pages I typed, the one bit everyone remembers is the line about me dropping a t-shirt into the toilet while attempting to get dressed one morning. (No, I did not wear it. Please stop asking me.) So this special edition of the Best Comics I’ve Never Read deals with three treats I picked up right there at the con. In ascending order of enjoyment.
First up is Knights of the Dinner Table. This is a title that has been recommended to me repeatedly, mostly by my friends Chase and Jenny, who appreciate the humor involved in a bunch of geeks crowded around a kitchen table playing roleplaying games. The creators are Jolly R. Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steven Johansson, and David S. Kenzer, although to be perfectly honest I’m not sure who does what. Being such a gaming geek myself (although I don’t have as many opportunities to geek out in such a fashion as I used to) and a big fan of similar gaming-related comics like Dork Tower and PVP, I gave this a shot. I specifically found Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble Vol. 4, which reprinted issues 10-12 of the comic book. Normally I’d insist on getting in on the ground floor, but Chase assured me you can jump in anywhere with this title.
The strips are funny, and painfully similar to what I remember of my own far-off gaming days. However, I didn’t find them quite as funny as those other gaming strips I’m a fan of. And the art, I’m sorry to say, is a major drawback. It’s not to say it’s necessarily bad, but it’s horrendously repetitious. Nearly every panel is exactly the same — the characters sitting around the table. Positions don’t change, poses rarely change… a great many of the panels look like they were simply photocopied and given new word balloons. Comics are a dual medium, written and visual, and when the visual aspect is so bland it’s hard to rise above that.
Still, the writing is smart and funny, enough to solicit quite a few laughs from me during the long car ride home from Dallas. (I wasn’t driving.) So Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble Vol. 4 gets a marginal thumbs-up from me.
Moving on, the next recommendation was made by our own Reviews Queen Andrea Speed. Normally I prefer to only spotlight books available in collected form in these “Best I’ve Never Read” pieces, but the TPB of this is going to come out in the very near future, so I’ll treat it as such. Andy spent months telling me how great District X is, so despite not particularly caring for the character of Bishop (he was, in fact, the reason I stopped reading any X-Men comics in the early 90s), when I found the first five issues of this title in a dollar box on the first day of the convention, I picked them up and read them at the hotel that night.
Well, I spent the next two days wandering from dealer to dealer, desperately trying to find issue #6. Nobody had it. That should tell you something right there.
Fortunately, my own local comic shop still had it in stock when I returned, so I’ve read the whole “Mr. M” storyline which will be the first District X paperback. This is hands-down the most original comic with an “X” in it I’ve ever read. Not really an X-Men book at all, only Bishop’s largely supporting role links it whatsoever. This is really about a section of New York City where like has attracted like; sort of a Chinatown or Little Italy, except populated entirely by mutants. The comic really stars Izzy Ortega, a good, decent cop trying to keep order in the middle of a strained marriage and a dirty partner. Izzy’s really a great character for what is essentially a cop drama. He’s a good man, but not infalliable. He loves his wife and children, but there’s a distance there he can’t quite overcome. That distance is literal with his wife Armena, whose mutant power cocoons her in a clear, water-filled sac whenever she falls asleep, making it impossible for Izzy to even enjoy those quiet moments at night with her.
David Hines has crafted some great characters, although personally I hope to see a closer examination of Izzy and Armena’s relationship as the series progresses (it’s really the strongest aspect of the book, I think). At any rate, this title really took me by surprise by how good it is, so you can call this a proud graduate to my must-read list.
Last but most certainly not least, I found the first trade paperback in a series that more people have recommended to me than I could possibly count without taking off my shoes and socks: Jay Faerber’s Noble Causes. This title is billed as sort of a behind-the-scenes look at a superhero family regarded as royalty by the public but torn apart internally. Very soap opera-esque in its pitch, which may be why I avoided it for so long. The first volume opens with the wedding of Race Noble, son of Doc and Gaia, to a simple, ordinary woman, a bookstore owner of all things, rather than the superheroine they all expected. His family is chagrined, many of them expecting this relationship to be a passing fancy he’ll outgrow and divorce. I was convinced he never would. I was right. The reason I was right, though, astounded me.
The first volume in this series is Noble Causes: In Sickness and in Health. After reading the whole thing in one sitting, I’m desperate to find volume two, Extended Family. This book is phenomenal. The writing drifts from funny to sad to horrifying, the art (by a variety of creators) is just wonderful, and the twist on superhero comics is something I have genuinely never read before. So Noble Causes: In Sickness and In Health, gets my highest possible recommendation.
So let’s recap. Here’s my must-read list, as presented to you:
The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius series
Astro City series (Vol 1: Life in the Big City)
Bone series (Vol 1: Out From Boneville)
The Complete Peanuts
District X: Mr. M
Dork Tower series (Vol 1: Dork Covenant)
Fables series (Vol 1: Legends in Exile)
Fantastic Four: Imaginauts
Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction
Herobear and the Kid
The Liberty Project
Noble Causes: In Sickness and in Health
Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
24 Hour Comics
Understanding Comics/Reinventing Comics
The Wizard’s Tale
And next, here are the comics I’ve been told to read by you fine people. Feel free to suggest more:
Black Panther: The Client
Cerebus Vol. 1
A Contract With God
The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and Witchcraft
Doom Patrol: Crawling From the Wreckage
The Gypsy Lounge
Hulk: Boiling Point
Invincible: Family Matters
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy in the World
Jinx and Goldfish
Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1
Red Rocket 7
Rex Mundi: Guardian of the Temple
Safe Area Goradze
Spirit Archives Vol. 1
V For Vendetta
The Waiting Place
The Walking Dead
Everybody got that? Good. I want assignments.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 17, 2004
It was a slow week, friends, nothing really spectacular, so this week’s favorite is the one that probably gave me the most hope. JLA #108. This title has been floundering for a long time, ever since Mark Waid left around issue #60 or so, and it was starting to look like we’d never get a good JLA story again. Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney are fixing that, bringing back some great villains and telling a wonderful, old-school superhero tale. This issue was part two of the six-part “Syndicate Rules.” I can’t wait to see what happens in parts 3 through 6.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.