After watching X-Men: The Last Stand, I decided I wanted to catch up on changes to the comic book universe. I’ve been out of comics since the mid-nineties, when I graduated from college and moved out to SoCal. So I’ve missed almost a decade’s worth of stories. Gotta be something big that went down between then and now, right? The major stories should be nicely packaged in graphic novel format by now.
So I go down to my local comic book store to see what I could find. What I found, sitting behind the counter, was a guy who looked and dressed exactly like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I shit you not: brown hair in a pony tail, goatee, overweight, wearing a t-shirt tucked into sweatshorts pulled up to his bellybutton. Surreal. I figured this would be the guy to talk to. I give him a rundown of the situation, figuring he won’t even know where to start. Actually, I was pretty sure he would know where to start. But he doesn’t. He tells me nothing really stands out when you look at the last ten years. Things are pretty much the same as I left them. I think, maybe it’s like when you talk to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and nothing really stands out: same job, same house, same life – nope, nothing new to report. Oh, but it has been hot out, recently… Anyway, he points out a book that’s gotten good reviews, written by Joss Whedon of Firefly/Serenity fame. I pay the man and take it home.
About two pages into it I’m thinking, who’s the blonde bimbo sleeping with Scott Summers? Flipflip. She’s in charge of the school? Where’s Professor X? Flipflip. Flipflipflip. Where’s the hell is Professor X?
Those were exactly the kinds of changes I wanted to read about. So I jump into the Batmobile and make a bee line back to the store. “What’s the deal?” I ask Comic Book Guy. “You said nothing changed. Trust me, things have changed!” He sticks to his guns for few seconds before he breaks down and admits that running a comic book store doesn’t actually leave him time to read comics. He hadn’t read comics since Magneto was on trial for, I don’t know, being Jewish or something. It was before I got into comics, so he was useless to me.
Well, I was on my own, so I turned to the most reliable source of wisdom I knew of: Amazon reader reviews. I really want to support my local comic book store, but if they can’t give me the advice I need, then I don’t mind saving over 30% at Amazon. I mean, that comes to about $5 a book. Combined with my Amazon Prime trial, I get everything cheap, tax free, and delivered within 3 days. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Sure, you can’t flip through them, but I’m after the major stories everyone knows about and has enjoyed. Previewing usually has little effect on my purchase decision unless the art is truly sub par.
So I plowed ahead and bought some highly rated stuff, and over time I’ll be chiming in on them with short reviews, starting with these. I’m still not caught up with the stories, but I’m definitely impressed with the state of the art (litterally). The artists are fully utilizing digital ink and paint systems, to the point where they’re adding things like motion blur and depth of field. Yes, depth of field! In a comic book! Like I’ve said before, we’re living in the future.
The only complaint I have is the book bindings. No, they’re not falling apart, they’re actually bound too tightly. This is fine until you come across two-page spreads showing epic battles (House of M is full of these), and you can’t clearly or fully see the part where the pages meet. They need to use the lay-flat binding that O’Reilly uses for their computer books. That would work perfectly.
Gifted / Dangerous
These two books collect Astonishing X-Men 1-12. They’re written by Joss Whedon, so there’s a lot more humor than usual. One issue I had with Gifted is that X-Men: The Last Stand borrowed heavily from it, so there are many plot parallels (figures, the first book I buy has a storyline I’m already familar with). As soon as it’s released, I plan on picking up Torn, which collects issues 13-18.
House of M
This is HUGE, meaning world altering. Meaning it alters the current, mainstream Marvel universe instead of creating yet another alternate. It involves the X-men, Avengers (new, old, I really don’t know since I never read that series), Spiderman, and others. Also features Scarlett Witch, Magneto, and Quicksilver (at least they were baddies in the 90’s; nothing’s clear anymore). The art is pretty fantastic, IMHO. Without giving anything away, it’s a good place to start to see the state of the universe after certain super-powers have their way with it.
On the way:
- Decimation: X-Men – The Day After: follow-up to House of M
- X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga: Ok, this took place before I started reading comics, but is supposedly an all-time great and I’ve never read it.
If anyone has any suggestions, preferably in the mainstream Marvel or DC universes (I’ll get to non-superhero stuff later), I’d appreciate them!