It's my birthday today. I'm 26. Guess I should take stock of my life, right?
Yesterday, I debuted a new column on The Chemical Box all about comicbooks published the year I was born. I feel quite honored and grateful to have been given the opportunity by Alec and Joey and the rest of that crew, and I love that the whole project got to kick off one day before my birthday. Seems fitting, considering the unifying theme of titles from 1987.
Last week, I also put up my first piece on SquarePop, the culture/entertainment review site I signed up to write for a few months back. It's about "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and "Safety Not Guaranteed", two films that hold a lot of the same meaning for me. It was an enjoyable diversion to write about something other than comicbooks for the length of one piece, and I'm equally thankful to the managers of SquarePop for letting me do so on a (hopefully) somewhat regular basis.
All of this is to say that, here at the end of my twenty-sixth year, I'm in a pretty great place as far as my writing. I've been keeping up with all of my personal deadlines for publishing columns on Comics Matter, and been lucky enough to have a few chances to branch out from this blog and write for other people. I don't always love everything I write because, you know, who does? But I keep on keeping on with it, and it is rewarding more often than frustrating so far. So thanks again to The Chemical Box & SquarePop, and to the Internet in general, for the awesome, free gift of a platform from which to jabber about comics and movies and why I dig 'em.
Ok, writing: check. Check-plus, even. But how goes the reading?
That's a tougher call. Obviously there are some damn great titles out there right now, but even though I've been on a mission lately to tighten up my pull list, I still find myself reading some real garbage almost every week. And some incredibly mediocre stuff, too, which can be just as annoying. The DC titles I follow, of which there are only six, definitely have a lot to do with the sense of a lack of quality. I would consider all of the following books to be on the "chopping block" as of now: Batman, Birds of Prey, Dial H, and Earth 2. They're all maybe two bad issues away from being dropped completely, except Batman which I may well cut before issue #18 is released next month. The conclusion to the "Death of the Family" story this week was profoundly disappointing. For most of the event, Batman was pretty bad at being Batman, and then in the final chapter The Joker decided to suck at being The Joker, too. Yes, I get it, he totally blew up the trust amongst the Bat-family, and yes, that is a pretty nasty thing to do. But you know what would've been truly evil? Actually HURTING one of them. At all. In like a permanent, maybe even fatal way. The Joker can slay countless innocents, but he keeps himself contained with characters who have their own titles to support. That's stupid. And yeah, he did technically have a plan that could've resulted in their deaths if Batman and company hadn't been able to thwart it, but even that was needlessly flimsy and complicated and, ultimately, the Bat-kids and Alfred beat The Joker's final play inexplicably. They overcome what is supposedly a new and improved Joker toxin by wanting it badly enough. Weak sauce.
So I am going to probably give that series one last reread, and if it somehow surprises me I'll keep it around. But not even the promise of a Riddler story is going to convince me to spend any more money on a book about a superhero who's off his game but stubbornly refuses to see it.
Birds of Prey has a new writer starting soon, so I'll wait and see if Christy Marx can return that book to its former glory. It hasn't been the same since Jesus Saiz left, but I'll give the new creative team a fair chance before letting it go. As for Dial H and Earth 2, those titles both had strong debuts, but for the past several months have been in a slump, and the longer their respective downswings last, the less I believe they'll ever climb back up. So if they haven't made clear shifts in the next couple of months, I'll be too tired of waiting to do so any longer.
If all of those books got dropped, the only DC titles I'd be reading are Wonder Woman and Threshold, the latter of which is new enough to still be in its three-to-five issue probational period, so it, too, may well be dropped soon. And Wonder Woman, while strong overall, has several looming problems. It made the Amazons into rapists, but only after killing them all. It has a tendency to get caught up in the Greek god soap opera elements, sometimes becoming too melodramatic and/or clever in its dialogue, which is tiresome. And of course, there is the fact that it barely stars its title character, and even when she is on the page she is one of the least interesting or developed members of the cast. So, truth be told, two or three shitty issues in a row might well convince me to abandon that series, too.
So DC is not doing it for me right now. Marvel is better off, no question, with a couple reliably great titles like Daredevil and Thor: God of Thunder. And, though I did not enjoy either of them nearly as much as it seems many others did, Young Avengers and Fearless Defenders both hold great promise. But nothing else I am reading from them gets me noticeably excited. I know Hawkeye is supposed to be one of the best current superhero books, but I don't see it and disagree. It's fine, but not great, sometimes fumbling its humor and often telling boring stories. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is in basically the same place as Dial H or Earth 2: several issues in a row that were not up to snuff are making me reconsider it. Dark Avengers is solid but rarely incredible, and Uncanny X-Force has only had one decent-but-not-great issue so far, so it's in the same boat as Threshold.
That leaves Journey Into Mystery, which I actually love right now, but eventually the current storyline will wrap and new creators will be brought in and it could look like anything when that happens. Marvel has the edge over DC nowadays, but it's a slight edge at best, and neither of them compare to Image's current output.
Change, Prophet, Revival, Saga, Storm Dogs, Where Is Jake Ellis?, and Witch Doctor: Mal Practice are all as good or better than any of the Big Two titles I named above. Same goes for Valiant's Archer & Armstrong and Harbinger, though I admit it took the former some time to get warmed up. I look forward to these titles more than anything from the "mainstream," and month in, month out, they deliver the goods. My reading may not be at the overall level I'd like every week, but there are plenty of gems in there keeping my love alive and well.
Oh, just for the sake of being thorough, there are only four titles on my pull list that I didn't mention yet: The Answer!, The Black Beetle: No Way Out, Hellblazer, and Rachel Rising. The first two are new but had stellar debuts, and the other two are almost always the best comicbook of whatever week they're published. Hellblazer is a Vertigo title, so technically it's also from DC, but it only has one issue left, which is infuriating, so even though it's good it counts as a point against the company.
There'll always be more to read, though. My dad has been following some Marvel NOW! titles that I have not, and for my birthday he shipped everything he's collected so far to me as a present. So now I have some catching up to do with those. Plus my fiancee, Katie, and her parents each got me gift cards to the biggest local comicbook store, so I have a day of digging through back issues ahead of me that I can't wait to get started.
In fact, I think I'll do that now. This masturbatory summary of my feelings on every comicbook I currently follow has been my birthday gift to myself. And, if you're still here, then reading it has been your birthday gift to me. So thank you for that. Sincerely. Now it's time to put someone else's gifts to me to good use.