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Comic Books And Me 2019

Technically, this is still a comic book blog – that’s how it started out, all those years ago, and although the blog has wandered into other areas of my pop-culture consumption (films, comedy, books, etc.), writing about comic books and comic book-related things is the still the primary driving force behind the continued existence of this blog.

However, despite my irregular blogging habit, the problem is that number of comic books I buy at the moment would disqualify me as a comic book blogger (if there were an official body that policed such things). I don’t buy very many comic books as they come out, and buy equally few trade paperbacks of regular series. I know I’m a broken record in this regard, but comic books are now way too expensive to keep up with what’s going on with the mainstream comic-book universes. The cost is enough to prevent me from buying new comic books regularly, or even sampling something untested and finding my new favourite thing, which is a shame.

The reason that I can still enjoy something of the buzz of new comic books is that I live in London. This means that I have access to a variety of libraries (anyone can be a member of any library, even if you don’t live in that borough, as long as you have proof of address), some of which still have sufficient money (despite the awful Tory government) to keep their graphic novel section updated. I get a regular fix of new stuff – albeit about a year after the first issue of the trade paperback came out – but I can hardly complain when I’m getting them for free. This has changed my comic book-buying habits, but it hasn’t eradicated them completely, and I still get the opportunity to sample the untested.

I thought I’d record the comic books I’m buying in the monthly format and the ones I get in trade paperback, plus some of the interesting ones I’m lucky enough to read via libraries. It’s a way to demonstrate my credentials as a comic book blogger, as well as keeping tabs on what the industry means to me at this moment of time.

Comic books I’m buying as actual comic books

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
My favourite comic book character in one of the best regular comic books by a creator who consistently produces quality; I can’t wait for the trade, although I still buy those as well.

Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Is this the most entertaining regular comic book being produced at the moment? This incredible space opera still uses the monthly cliffhanger to force you to keep reading, in a wonderfully written and drawn series.

Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
This excellent series (which is being adapted into a television show by Amazon) is a sci-fi book that unfortunately feels far too close to our reality, in a comic book that is excellent but also with something to say.

Injection/Trees/Cemetery Beach
I’m a big fan of Warren Ellis (as if the tag on my blog isn’t an indicator) so I usually buy his creator-owned stuff in the monthly format. I’m really enjoying Injection and Trees, both of which are on hiatus at the moment; I’m happy that he’s successful in other arenas (such as Castlevania on Netflix) but I do wish I could have even more Ellis comic books.

Trade paperbacks I buy

Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
What a cracking read, and such lush beautiful art. I buy this in trade paperback and I devoured each trade as soon as I bought them. I can’t wait to see what they do in Ascender (which I will also buy in trade paperback).

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
A deconstruction of and love letter to superhero comic books in all their glory, Black Hammer is the little-book-that-could – it’s been a surprising hit at Dark Horse, and I couldn’t be happier for it. There are characters that are recognisable but there is still depth and heart in the book that elevates it into something even more.

Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
I’m glad that Busiek is still writing more Astro City (I still find it strange that it found a home at Vertigo) because it means we keep getting his perspective on superheroes and superheroes universe, and that is a good thing.

Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
I started buying this in the monthly format, but it didn’t quite click for me in the first five issues. However, I picked it up when I saw it in the library; doing that caused everything to click into place and I had to buy the trades again.

Comic Books and me 2019 part 2

Interesting collections from the library

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen and others
The book for hardcore lady types (Friendship to the max!) is an absolutely charming and entertaining delight, and all libraries should be stocked with this series.

Giant Days by John Allison and Max Sarin
A comic book that is essentially a sitcom about three girls at university shouldn’t be as consistently good as this book manages to be; the writing and characterisation is pin-sharp and the art is fantastic, perfect at capturing humour and emotion. Thanks to the House to Astonish guys for putting me onto this.

The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
I bought the first collection – the concept is great, as is the art – but it didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped; however, I did want to find out what happened and fortunately it has been a sufficient success that the libraries keep stocking it (I recently read volume 7). I hope the libraries see it through to the end.

Batman by Tom King and various
I really enjoyed The Sheriff of Babylon by King and Mitch Gerads and then The Vision (with art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta) was a real eye-opener, so reading his Batman was an easy decision, also made easy by the fact that libraries always tend to get Batman books. The series has had some interesting stuff (I particularly loved the double-dating issues with Clark, Lois, Bruce and Selina) and some great art, but it never made me want to buy the books.

The Mighty Thor (Jane Foster) by Jason Aaron and Russell Dautermann
I thought this was a great idea and Aaron did a mostly great job of telling the story of a woman with cancer who picks up Mjolnir and is found worthy to be a Thor. It was a great twist on the character, and having an unworthy Odinson around made it better.

Miscellaneous collections

Although you can reserve books at libraries, the majority of libraries charge for this service and unfortunately I’m a cheapskate. This means that what I get to read is more random than I’d like, in addition to the fickle nature of what books are purchased by libraries in the first place. However, I still get to read a lot of mainstream books that I’m interested in.

I’m a big fan of Greg Rucka, so I was glad to be able to read his recent run on Wonder Woman; similarly, I’m a big fan of Priest, so I enjoyed his recent run on Deathstroke and I’ve been able to pick up the first two collections of his run on Justice League. Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye books were a lot of fun, so I’ll be looking out for her West Coast Avengers. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates started off rather slowly, feeling very much like a novel instead of a comic book, but it developed rather nicely (I haven’t seen any further collections in a while, unfortunately). On a different track completely, The Unbelievable Gwenpool was a charming meta delight, playing with the concepts of being a comic book character.

On the more independent front, Resident Alien by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse is a great little comic book, which I’m delighted will be adapted by SyFy. Trillium by Jeff Lemire was a great sci-fi comic book with a really interesting concept. Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Luca is a wonderful little book – I’ve only read the first two books and I’m desperate to find the next volumes. My greatest library find was 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss – what a great comic book; to quote my tweet, ‘Great dialogue and narration, absolutely perfect art and even brilliant lettering.’

Comic books are still a huge part of my life – I’m nearing the 1,000-mark of collections/OGNs borrowed from libraries over the course of 12 years – and continue to buy comic books. I just don’t buy anywhere near as many as I used in the early days of this blog over 14 years ago. But I’m still here and I’m not going to change.

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