“Why You Should Read This” #3: Lightning Round
Things have gotten kinda bleak out there in the world. Everyone is looking to find a nice trade or hardcover to stay at home and avoid the messy climate, literally and metaphorically, so I thought this time around I’d recommend a few books at once without going into so much depth. Let’s talk about why YOU should read these books, LIGHTNING ROUND STYLE:
Book #1: Immortal Hulk
I don’t know why I even have to mention this one. You’ve heard of it, your mom’s heard of it, your dog is probably coming by the shop and picking it up, and also recommending it to his dog buddies. However, I’ve seen the stats, I run the numbers, and the percentage of people picking up this book is not 100%, so let me try and convince you.
What if Hulk was a horror book? Wow, that was easy, but no, really. This book is a strange mix of deep Hulk continuity and a new direction mixed with the inherent horror of a guy who turns into a giant monster. Al Ewing is at his best, and I severely underestimated him before this because the writing is clever, it’s sharp, it’s hard hitting and it’s profound.
Joe Bennet on art is a masterpiece. He manages to make Banner transforming into Hulk look incredible (yeah I said it), and that’s just on art. Him and Ewing mess with everything from pages entirely devoted to quotes, to panel layouts, to even the title cards of the book, and you don’t notice it right away, but they omit the usual Marvel summary pages from this book and it works wonders.
This book is a master class on creativity and direction in comics. I don’t even know what pages to use on here because I don’t want to spoil your first time reading it. Come by or give us a call to order a trade, a hardcover, or however you want to read it. Don’t bother looking for floppies, they’ve gone up in price and for good reason. Each week it comes out, it’s one of, if not the best book on the racks. And the best thing?
It’s not over yet.
Book #2: The Flintstones
I realize this seems like a joke, because every time I’ve talked about this book in the last month I’ve had to explain myself, but bear with me.
Everyone knows The Flintstones, right? Classic 60s cartoon, even I knew about it, and I grew up in Mexico. But it’s a dumb cartoon. There’s only one joke, and it is “what if (thing from modern times) but in prehistoric times.” It’s not smart or deep, it’s a show whose biggest cultural contributions are the widely spread idea that men and dinosaurs coexisted at the same time, and vitamins.
Mark Russell takes a different approach by making this book actually say something. Each of the 12 issues is centered around a different topic, and it manages to both be as charmingly funny and gimmicky as the source material while adding different layers of irony, social commentary, and some really clever humor.
On the artistic end, Steve Pugh makes the characters here look incredible while maintaining their integrity. He goes nuts on the backgrounds, and a lot of the easy jokes come from the art, from the rifles being slingshots to having coffee at Starbrkks. Every character’s face is intimately expressive, and half the jokes wouldn’t be as funny if not for his execution.
In 12 issues, this team manages to make the best of an outdated franchise to talk about war, religion, commercialism, capitalism, marriage, objectivism, voting, and so much more. It is the comic book equivalent of Black Mirror, showing us our society by looking into theirs. It is a veritable buffet of all the best things comics have to offer; humor, art, commentary, continuity, and I’m not joking when I say it’s one of the most poignant comic books of the past decade.
3. Batman: The Court of Owls
Coming hot off the critical success of Batman: The Black Mirror, DC Comics handed their biggest book to Scott Snyder for the New 52 relaunch in 2011. His overarching Batman storyline lasted until Last Knight on Earth in 2019 (arguably it is still ongoing), and his Batman lives on currently in Dark Nights: Death Metal and in his run on Justice League. The Court of Owls (and City of Owls, they often get truncated into one story) runs 11 issues and is an explosive beginning to a new era of Batman.
Snyder is the closest this medium has to having a true blockbuster version of comics. There’s enough here in terms of expanding on the mythology mixed with bombastic action that anyone can pick this up and read it. He’s a solid writer telling his version of Batman and a tale of conspiracy and intrigue all at once.
Greg Capullo is excellent as well. His style here is a little rougher, his inks a little heavier and less sketchy than they would be by the time of DC Metal or even five or ten issues of Batman down the line, but it’s still great art. I’ve heard some criticism of his style but it’s clean and distinctly his, and that’s certainly worth something. With great character designs and dynamic action scenes, as well as how long he was on the title, he’s cemented himself as THE Batman artist of the decade.
It’s easy to read, it’s fun, it’s accessible, and it’s the first thing I recommend to someone starting out on Batman. This one is available in trade, hardcovers, and a slipcase collecting the first three volumes of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman Run. It’s well worth the read.
4. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has been around for a while. 2003 was a long time ago. Funnily enough, it ended unexpectedly a month after I started working at Limited, so I kinda feel like I killed it for everyone. Still though, 16 years is nothing to scoff at. Surely there must be something going on, right?
I picked up the first trade back in June for no reason at all. No one was really talking about it, the show wasn’t on air, I just saw it and decided to see what the hype is about. And I get it. Robert Kirkman is solid. He knows how to make characters bounce off of each other, how to write those tense moments where the wind changes and a plan goes to s#!t and they have to think or fight their way out of it. He knows how to surprise. Some of his characters are a little quick to appear disposable, but in a zombie dystopia, it’s okay to have a little telegraphed carnage, and it works.
It’s artistically solid too. The first 6 issues are drawn by Tony Moore and he does a great job in establishing the premise and getting you started, but I preferred when Charlie Adlard took over in issue 7. They way his lines convert roughness and weariness is amazing, and there are panels in which he stands out in sheer terms of expression. Adlard and Cliff Rathburn doing shading is a great combo for a book in black and white.
The strength of this team is showing how people reach their limits, in describing with gruesome detail how they all break, some all at once, and some piece by piece. Kirkman writes them into different situations, and Moore, Adlard, and Rathburn show us how they bend and snap. It’s harrowing, it’s gory, it’s good.
If you like zombie flicks, it’s definitely worth reading. If you’ve watched the show and have never read the source material, it’s worth checking out. The first hardcover (12 issues) is an excellent primer for what it’s all about, and from what I’ve heard, those early episodes are page to screen with their adaptation. If you’re just a fan of comics and their construction, then pick this up as a display of how to say more with less. Don’t let the fact that it’s in black and white turn you off. After all,
There’s not a lot of color in the apocalypse.
5. Tales from the Dark Multiverse
Essentially a dark take on Marvel’s What If? series, Tales from the Dark Multiverse looks at 5 of DC’s biggest storylines and shows us their dark potential. What if they went wrong?
There’s a lot of big characters attached to this project, from Scott Snyder (hint) and Tim Seeley writing to Javier Fernandez and Kyle Hotz on art. Each of the books has a solid blend of writing and art that ties the whole thing together, and all five book share the theme of critical moments, situations where it went wrong, in one small way or another. The Dark Multiverse is where the Batman Who Laughs came from, after all, and we get a little glimpse at other worlds that reside within.
What if Sinestro didn’t share the White Lantern’s power in Blackest Night? What if Ted Kord hadn’t been killed in Infinite Crisis? What if Terra stood up to Slade in the Judas Contract? You get to see these all play out, and they’re all worth a look.
All the stories are heavily driven by plot with some good characterization by the respective teams. Solid art, some styles a throwback to the respective era of their source material, and some of the pages on here are absolutely gorgeous.
The hardcover edition collects all 5 stories, as well as the first issue of their respective book: Knightfall, Blackest Knight, Infinite Crisis, Judas Contract, and Death of Superman. It’s a fun and easy read, it’s got bloody fists and a few heartbreaking moments, and it might tie into Snyder’s current Dark Knights: Death Metal in some way. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?
I hope you add something to your bookshelf today. You can pick up or order any of these and lots more at Limited Editions Comics and Collectibles, and you can reach us here for any questions you have. Hope you enjoyed this lightning round edition of the blog, we’ll see you next time.