Comic Book Interlude 9
1. "American Splendor" by Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, and Others (1976-1991)
Underground comic, largely autobiographical in nature. Parts of it are good, but it's extremely repetitive, and at times crosses that line between art and masturbation. The author, Harvey Pekar, writes about life in Cleveland, and people that he knew there. Everything I said about "Ordinary Victories" could be applied to this one.
It was later adapted into a film starring Paul Giamatti. The movie is probably much better than the comic book.
2. "J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation" by (of course) J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank (2002)
Super boring comic book about a policeman trapped in limbo. The art is also too "superheroic" for the subject matter.
Dear Mr. Straczynski: If you're going to put your name above the title, you really ought to come up with something less derivative than this. You've got a good ear for dialogue, but good dialogue doesn't make up for a lackluster story.
3. "Nailbiter" (Volume 1) by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson (2014-2015)
An "interrogation expert" investigates his friend's disappearance in a town full of serial killers.
The writing is ok, even if the concept of a town full of serial killers is a bit implausible. The art veers between manga and Frank Miller.
If Nailbiter was adapted into a movie (stranger things have happened), it would be a campy affair, but under the right director it could work. Writer Joshua Williamson doesn't have J. Michael Straczynski's ear for dialogue, but other than that this comic book is much better.
4. "New Avengers" 1-33 + Annual by Jonathan Hickman and Various Artists (2013-2015)
Secret Wars makes SO much more sense after you've read Hickman's New Avengers! Now I know what those "other Earths in the sky" really are! Now I know how Doctor Doom got involved in the first place! Now I know how the Avengers first learned of the "Incursions!"
This, and it's also a good run of comics in its own right. I think I might like Hickman's run on New Avengers even more than Secret Wars. To be sure, Secret Wars is still vastly superior to DC's Convergence, but Secret Wars - despite a great beginning - was something of an unfulfilled promise.
Hickman's New Avengers issues build more gradually, and he maintains a nice sense of tension throughout. Most of the art isn't that great, but the story more than makes up for the art. I really liked the interplay between Namor and the Black Panther, and Black Swan is/was an interesting character.
5. "Preacher" 1-66 + 6 Specials + Saint of Killers by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (1996-2000)
I wouldn't blame you for finding a comic like Crossed off-putting. It's violent, it's transgressive, and it's more than a little repetitive.
But Preacher? Yes it's violent, but it's as cleverly written as any comic book out there, and the art - although far from flashy - tells a great story. Preacher is iconoclastic in the way that all great art is iconoclastic - it says what it wants to say, and the devil take the the hindmost.
Preacher is excellent stuff, and if you have the patience I think you'll find it just as spellbinding is I did.
6. "Punisher MAX" by Garth Ennis and Various Artists (2007-2009)
Garth Ennis brings a bit more of the old ultraviolence to this series featuring Marvel's most famous psychopath.
It's not as riveting as Preacher, but it's easier on the digestion than Crossed. I haven't read through all the issues yet - just the first two storylines, but I plan on returning to them when I have more time.