Lately, I've been having trouble summoning up much enthusiasm for mainstream superhero comics. I'm not sure if it's fatigue induced by the extended crossoverness with no particular payoff of Infinite Crisis
or the increasing dullness going on in 52
(which I'm still reading every week, if only to keep up with Mr. Wolk's excellent blog), but I'm not really enjoying much of what I'm reading. The new Flash
title's been horrible. I kind of gave up Teen Titans
for those Liefeld-drawn issues. Birds of Prey
's been decent, but not particularly exciting. Robinson's Batman
story was all right, but not remotely near the bar he's set for himself. I'm hoping the upcoming Morrison run on Detective
will help out a bit, but, until then, I've been catching up on all the indie stuff I haven't read.
As I've mentioned before, I stopped reading comics for pretty much all of the 90's (from the time I was 15 until I was 25). While this certainly saved me from some good things (like just about everything Marvel published during this period), it also meant I had a lot of catching up to do. I'm just about caught up on the DC side. I read most of the big event storylines from the time (or at least skimmed them), as well as most of the recommended titles. So, now I just needed to catch up on the indie titles that either started in the 90's or were a little too adult-oriented for me to have read as a kid.
Started with 100 Bullets
, which I discussed below, and have since moved on to David Lapham's Stray Bullets
. I assume this title, and the fairly dramatic jumps in tone, location, and character must have been a little jarring in serialized form, but they work very nicely when each grouping is collected in the (lovely) hardcover collections. The first volume ("The Innocence of Nihilism") is, as the title states, fairly aggressively nihilistic, bordering on depressing. Once we move forward, and see some of the surviving characters making their way out west, it gets a little less brutal. Now, I'm not against brutality, per se, but it's hard to make much of an emotional attachment to characters that are likely to be dead by the issue's end. Of course, by the third volume, we're largely switched to another set of characters, but even they start to seep into each other's stories. Really, I think I'm mostly just impressed by the very neat way he takes small, compact stories and weaves them into a much larger constuction.
Also reading Cerebus
, which was, when I started going to comic shops, THE title everyone (or at least the creepy older guys who hung out at the comic shop) was into. I never really gave it a shot as a kid, but tried getting into it a few years ago (inspired by the hooplah of the series' conclusion). It's not an easy one to get into. The first few issues are very very heavy with parody - mostly of Conan - which didn't really do much for me. Of course, I'm sort of whishing I'd paid better attention to the first few issues, as they were apparently the only introduction to the various countries and peoples of Cerebus' homeland you get during the series. Once I got to the "High Society" storyline, I realized I was getting fairly well sucked in to the elaborately complex religious-political machinations that make up the series (at least in the first third). I'm currently in the middle of "Church and State II" and am just starting to feel like I have a handle on what is going on.
There's still a lot that's off-putting about the title. Sim's insistence on parody is jarring - I really don't understand the purpose of having an Elric parody who talks like Foghorn Leghorn or of making a very important, central character look and act like Groucho Marx. I suppose it's not any more absurd than having an aardvark as your central character, but it's enough to pull the reader out of the story. The worst offense is the "timely" parodies of superheroes. I'm currently having to deal with the Roach (the ongoing superhero parody of, in order, Batman, Captain American, Moon Knight, Wolverine, and Spiderman) engaging in the "Secret Sacred Wars." It's so unfunny I'm not sure it counts as parody.
On the other hand, Cerebus is perhaps one of the more relatable comic characters I've encountered. Shortly before writing this, I came across this:
It's like they made a comic about me.
Also started reading Love and Rockets
. I started with the first volume, which may have been a bad idea (based on what I've read about the series). Jaime's early stories all seem to be Archie comics set in a Dadaist sci-fi story. Which, normally, would be right up my alley, but they are so full of gibberish, it's almost impossible to read. Gilbert's stories are possibly worse (at least Bem
was), with the exception of the last story in the collection, which is apparently the first of the Palomar stories. I kind of liked that one. Are there any Love and Rockets
fans out there who can offer encouragement here? Should I keep reading, or is the first collection a fair representation of the series?