Friday, March 23, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 21st, 2007

What started out as a slow week for me comic-wise (with none of my regular comics coming out this week) turned into a decent week of reading when I decided to expand my reading a bit. I had thought I'd only have "Reinventing Comics" by Scott McCloud to review but now I have Runaways Saga and the Spirit #1, 3, and 4 (I'm still hoping to track down a copy of #2). So let's get to it.

Runaways Saga -- I knew this was a mistake for me to pick it up but I decided to do so anyways. The rundown of this book is that you get the story of the Runaways up until Whedon's takeover of the book and it's from the viewpoint of their youngest member Molly. You get a few bookend pages where the team finds her diary and such, the rest is her diary entries with accompanying snapshots (panels from original comics). For anyone who has read the books already the only benefit is a few cute "Molly moments" in her diary entries (like saying "Cloak and Dazzler" instead of "Dagger"). Otherwise, it's really of not much benefit to them. For those who haven't read Runaways but are looking to jump on with Whedon's run, it does provide you with a pretty good synopsis of the story and a decent feel for the book. On the other hand, I enjoyed the series enough to say you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not reading the whole thing. The digests aren't all that much anyways or if you've got money to spend, they are collected in hardcover.

Spirit 1, 3, and 4 -- Might as well kill three birds with one stone. :) In my continuing quest to add classic comics to my "have read" list I figured the Spirit should be on the list. After all, Wikipedia has this to say in their current entry on the character/series:
"His namesake, seven-page weekly series is considered one of the comic-art medium's most significant and classic works, with writer-artist Eisner creating or popularizing many of the styles, techniques, and storytelling conventions used by comics professionals decades later."
But it was suggested that on top of reading some of Eisner's work (I have the "Best Of The Spirit" on order) I might want to consider checking out this new series. So I figured that after having a pretty bad week and no weekly comics to read why not give it a try. As for the books, they're fairly easy books to read with simple artwork (though don't take that as an insult, the artwork works for a book like this) and easy to read dialogue. There's no big moral quandary in these books, just interesting characters thrown in to dangerous situations. Issue #3 gives you a background on the Spirit and a few other characters but other than that, there wasn't much but I still found it pretty easy to dive in. Partly because each book is pretty much a separate story and written well enough that you can figure things out. I was worried about reading 3 and 4 without reading 2 but I had no problems whatsoever. The twists with narration (such as in issue 3 where different characters narrate different portions of the story or the twist in issue 4 that I'd rather not say for fear of ruining a nice surprise) give you a little bit more insight into the various characters and make them more enjoyable as you can connect with them. Even characters that don't narrate seem to have a way of making that connection. It really is a great job by Darwyn Cooke (the writer and penciller). But one character that stood out for me was Silk Satin in issue 4. That issue alone made me think I'd probably pick up the series if she was the main character instead of the Spirit. She (and the other characters) had a real human quality to them but I was delighted to see her pick up the Spirit and carry him to safety at one point. You just don't see scenes where the "damsel" turns the tables and saves the hero too often. So I guess in some ways it's sad that the scene made me chuckle so much as it's probably something that should happen more often in comics. All around, the three issues made for a fun, enjoyable read and a nice throwback to the classic heroes. I really do hope that I find issue 2 and I'll most likely be picking this series up for at least a few more issues. And I'm even more eager to get my "Best of the Spirit" TPB now.

Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud -- After reading Understanding Comics I was blown away by Scott McCloud's knowledge of and passion for comics and it really opened my eyes to so much that I missed or had taken for granted with comics. Making Comics is jam packed with so much useful information for anyone wanting to be in the comic book field (not just for an artist or writer, I felt anyone working in comics should read it). But from what he said in Making Comics, I knew this book would be the tougher book to read. This book delves more into the status of comic books as they are today, what he sees working and what doesn't, what needs to be improved and what needs to remain, and what he sees as the future of comics (some of which we haven't hit yet despite his prediction that we would... the book was written a few years back). I found myself agreeing with so much of what he has to say in this book that it actually scares me. When he talks about comics diversifying, gaining a new audience, and getting recognition for being more than childhood fantasy stories about men in tights flying through the air (though those stories do have their place as well) I found myself going "Yes, we really need to keep this in mind and make sure people realize this." In other parts such as where he talks about the future of comic making (producing more and more comics digitally) or comic delivery (delivering them digitally) I might not have been so quick to jump on his bandwagon but he does give strong arguments that made me think. And I'm seriously considering dropping my old paper and ink method for a Wacom Tablet. The ability to deliver comics digitally still hasn't reached the limits that he puts out there. Free webcomics have continued to grow and for some, advertising has allowed them to make at least some of their money back, but the ability to pay for comics to be delivered to you digitally still isn't there. To make a long story short, even though this book wasn't as fun or easy to read as his other two, the points he is making are important ones. And even if you don't agree with them (whether it's because you don't see the same future as him or because you just want to hold on to the past) they are all worth considering and discussing. Scott McCloud has stood up and by doing so he has made a serious statement about comics. And I think it's something we (the comic enthusiasts) should take notice of.

I'd love to go on and on about Scott McCloud's book (just as I could spend way too much time talking about his other two books) but perhaps that will have to wait until another day. For now, I do hope that perhaps another comic enthusiast or two will see yet another positive review for his work and decide to give it a look. Because whether you agree with all his points or not, the discussion is worth having and the first step is listening to what someone has to say.

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