Thursday, 31 May 2007

The Weekly Shop #12

Over the course of the last week I went to a wedding, helped my dad move house, had a couple of nice meals out with the missus and saw The Manic Street Preachers in concert. All of which took up a lot of time, involved drinking large amounts and left me behind on my reading. That means that I'm writing about last week's comics just a day or two before this week's haul starts clogging up my house. Not ideal, but I don't want to skip last week because ALL the books I bought were top drawer.

If I had to pick a favourite I'd probably go for Captain America #26. I don't read all of Marvel's titles, but I'm guessing that very few are catching the bleak post civil war vibe as well as this one. The Marvel Universe is a dark place at the moment and let's face it, mainstream comics don't come much darker than the one in which the title character is dead.

Ironically all the signs suggest that this book is just going to get even stronger now that Steve Rogers is on the slab. Why? Because Ed Brubaker writes the supporting cast so well. Sharon Carter, Bucky and The Falcon have taken centre stage and the dynamic between them and their varied reactions to Cap's death make for a cracking comic.

The Red Skull is of course my all-time favourite Marvel super-villain so it's been a treat to see him stalking the pages of Cap again, but his psychopathic daughter Sin, the hulking Doctor Faustus and the magnificently weird Arnim Zola are a fine supporting cast. All mad as a box of frogs. You get the sense that Brubaker is having a lot of fun writing them.

He's doing a top notch job on Criminal as well. Issue #6 marks the start of a new story "Lawless" which promises to be as gritty as the first arc "Coward". Those five issues come out as a collected trade this week. Definitely worth picking up if you missed the floppies, although personally I'd recommend tracking down the back issues because the superb text pieces which were included in those original issues won't be reprinted in the trade. For me those discussions of noir and neo-noir films are an essential part of what makes this book one of the best on the shelves.

There isn't a text piece in Issue #6, but there is an excellent letters page which is well worth reading for a nice reader review of "The Death of a Chinese Bookie" a film which I'll definitely be looking up. I like a good letters page, the best I ever read was in the back of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. On occasion it was better than the comic itself.

So anyway, Brubaker gets the number 1 and 2 slots in my best of the week. But on any other week I'd have put both Irredeemable Ant-Man#8 or New Universal #6 right up there. Both brilliant books, both doing something different and, for my money anyway, both succeeding because of the fresh approach they take to the super hero genre. A+ to both books, but A++ to Criminal and A+++ to Cap.

And while I'm handing out marks I give Back Issue #22 a B+. I really like the idea of this magazine and love the fact that as slick and glossy as it looks it still maintains the raw feel of a fanzine. My only real gripe with it is the themed format which each issue takes. I'm not saying that I don't want to read about the history of team-ups in bronze age comics, it's just that I think Back Issue could be even better if it didn't limit each issue to articles on a single theme.

It's still a fascinating read though. Hard to go wrong with an issue which features an article titled "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Robin's journey through the counterculture and into self-awareness"

I nabbed yesterday's panel of Cap spying on the Falcon from Back Issue by the way.

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