Having survived the Mayan apocalypse and an apparently endless loop of the song “Last Christmas” it’s time to turn our attention towards what really matters: comics! Up until this point many of my recommendations have been geared towards those who don’t enjoy your traditional cape and tights story. This week is no different. Now before you groan (like a zombie) and leave (like a Lori Grimes (that was sad, huh?) come with me if you want to live/escape this parentheses!), hear me out. What if I told you there was a title out there where the CIA had to stop corporately created super-heroes. And what if I told you this premise was only the tip of a decades long conspiracy in which comic books are just propaganda? And THEN what if I told you this title featured a blend of gritty violence, comic timing and touching human moments you expect from a romantic comedy Michael Bay “film” Expendables 3. Yeah, Expendables 3.
Perhaps most importantly, what if I told you this title was written by a man responsible for some of the most memorable Punisher stories of all time. If you’re STILL not convinced what if I told you one of the main characters is modeled after Simon Pegg. You know, the guy with the accent from Shuan of the Dead, Star Trek and soon…Expendables 3? I made that last bit up but yeah, that guy. You cannot read this comic without hearing his voice. Hilarious! Ok so what IF I told you to pretend I actually told you all the things I was only telling you hypothetically? Because you need to take a seat. I. Just. Did.
If you read this comic Simon Pegg will talk to you…in your head…as a character punching superheroes to death.
The Boys. This is the title you should check out. Garth Ennis just ended an amazing seventy two issue run in what will surely go down as some of his finest work. Without getting into spoiler territory, Ennis deftly handles Hughie – the fella Simon Pegg looks like – an everyman type who is dragged into this conflict when someone he cares about becomes collateral damage. Here’s the thing about the world Ennis has crafted: these heroes are created with amazing powers but no sense of morality and even less training. The general public has no conception of how depraved and monstrous their “heroes” truly are because of the great public relations provided by the comics. So who could possibly watch the watchmen? The CIA backed group The Boys is Ennis’ unqualified answer.
I’ll only say a couple more things about this title since I’d like to save some time for those who DO enjoy superhero stories (or at least don’t want to see super”heroes” killed in terrible – sometimes hilarious – ways):
1. Darick Robertson (the co-creator and penciler on the series) does a passable job but those who are looking for the more chiseled and detailed look associated with some mainstream titles may be disappointed. However, there is something to be said for the consistency of having a writer AND artistic team working on the entire series. In addition, what Robertson’s pencil’s lack in precision they make up for in personality. Hughie offers the underdog humor and heart that Simon Pegg brings to many of his projects and the smile on team leader Butcher’s face is the perfect blend of glee, cruelty and intelligence.
2. Ennis is patient with his writing. This is undoubtedly a good thing. The series is not so long that this patience wears thin and Ennis is always mixing in a healthy blend of sex, violence and humor to keep you entertained even when the plot isn’t moving forward at a breakneck pace. In a seventy-two issue run I probably found myself thinking “get to the point” once. The balance of not revealing back-stories or major plot points too soonwhile still keeping his comic fun to read is impressive.
Last name Butcher, First name whocaresmylastnameisBUTCHER!
So that’s what I have to say on The Boys. It is pretty easy to find the entire run in twelve collected trade paperbacks. While these trades are a few dollars pricier than your standard DC/Marvel paperbacks, they are well worth it.
On to some promised quick commentary on capes and tights…comics. First up is my favorite Marvel title out there: All New X-Men. I’ve always been a fan of what writer Brian Michael Bendis has done over in Avengers land and now he’s bringing his magic to my favorite childhood cartoon/superteam: The X-Men (are you humming the cartoon theme song in your head right now? What about now?) The comic features Beast’s cockamamie scheme to introduce the idealistic Scott from the past to the guilt ridden mutant revolutionary Cyclops of the increasingly tragic present. Sure, this sounds like a cheesy premise and time travel generally doesn’t work out so well but Bendis is the master and this is shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable five issue arcs (issue five comes out next week) in recent memory. Admittedly, the comic will be a lot more enjoyable for those familiar with the original X-Men. Seeing old humanoid Beast meet his present secondary-mutation/blue self or Wolverine reacting to Jean Grey or that same Jean discovering her telepathy and fearing present day Scott just as she is falling in love with her Scott? Gold. Comic goldness (Coincidentally, I would use the same phrase to describe cartoon Cyclops’ undergarment choices) Single issues aren’t too difficult to find and Marvel will be releasing a hardcover of the first story arc in February.
Over in DC-land I hope you don’t need me to tell you to read what Scott Snyder is doing with Batman. If you’re missing the Joker’s return in “The Death of the Family” storyline then stop it. Just stop it. But this is all a tangent. OBVIOUSLY read Snyder’s Batman. If you have been avoiding Justice League (or understandably disenchanted with the scattered nature of its first year) now is the time to jump on board. The trouble with Justice League stories in general is they boil down to Batman detecting since his ninja skills don’t do much against Darkseid’s invulnerability to being ninja’ed. This of course means other characters – most notably Superman – get their brains removed to highlight how Batman is the only one that can detect/show heart/operate the Keurig. What this title has desperately needed is some focus on character interaction.
This week’s Justice League #15 kicks off the Throne of Atlantis storyline in which Aquaman and the League must stop Ocean Master from using the combined might of Atlantis to start sinking part of Amurica. The threat of a single character’s enemy allows writer Geoff Johns to put in some good work. While previous arcs focused on Superman villain Darkseid or Wonder Woman nemesis Cheetah, there was just no time devoted to making these more recognized villains interesting. However, in the first issue of this arc Johns immediately sets up a sympathetic adversary. The crossover with Aquaman #15 is not critical to enjoying Justice League but you’ll be missing out on one of DCs best titles. Johns’ ability to turn clichéd throwaway interactions into comic goldness (seeing Cyclops’ underwear now?) is truly highlighted in Aquaman #15 and I can’t wait to see where this crossover goes.
Shameless plug time: Michael is the owner of Manifest Comics in Bayonne, New Jersey. He has the “job” of serving some of the best comic customers and fans a new shop owner could ask for. If you don’t leave near his shop you can still help out by liking the facebook page.