Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To Read or Not to Read: Bedlam, East of West, and Mighty Avengers

You know what series I should be gobbling up? Bedlam. For starters, it's drawn by my current favorite comicbook artist, Riley Rossmo. His off-kilter, kinetic style has proven to be adaptable to many different tones and genres, and never disappointing or dull in the least. He created my favorite comic of last year, and was the artist of the very first title I wrote a full column about on this blog. His work fascinates me, as does his career, which has very rarely involved Big Two work yet seems to be about as consistent as any artist working in comics today. To have him on an ongoing series, a relatively high profile one at that, should almost automatically mean a commitment from me.
     But I'm not ready to go back to Nick Spencer. I spent a lot of time and money on several of his titles, and with a few small exceptions, they all aggravated me with their pacing, lack of payoff, and focus on big, sprawling, cool ideas and events rather than, say, a relatable or even understandable story. He writes great dialogue, and builds strong characters through it over time when he chooses, but sometimes he doesn't even do that. I haven't read some of the work that made his name, primarily Existence 2.0 and Existence 3.0, but I read most of what he did in the year or two after that, and overall it was unsatisfying enough for me to swear off the guy for a while. The concept of Bedlam interests me, because I'm basically a sucker for stories that center on the villains (except DC's Villain Month, which can go fuck itself...but that's for another time), but most of the elevator pitches of Spencer's stories sound like they're up my alley. That's why I started reading his stuff in the past, and kept reading even after it started to wear on me. I kept hoping the books would step up and realize their potential, but Spencer never made it happen.
     Bedlam gets good reviews, by-and-large. At least as far as I've noticed. Maybe someday I'll check out the first trade paperback, like if a friend of mine has it or I find it on sale. And I believe in some pile somewhere I actually have the first issue, part of a massive treasure trove from this year's Free Comic Book Day. So if I ever dig it up and get to reading it, and it totally melts my face with awesome, then I'll likely track down the rest of the series. But for now, Spencer is too big a snag, even collaborating with Rossmo.
     East of West isn't on my reading list for basically the same reason, except that I don't dislike Jonathan Hickman nearly as much as Nick Spencer. It's more that Hickman has fairly regularly proven to read better in collections than monthly installments. It was true of his Fantastic Four/FF run, and I definitely got more out of S.H.I.E.L.D. when I read it all at once than one issue at a time. Same goes for Secret Warriors, which lost me partway through when it was coming out, but upon a reread I was able to appreciate what it was doing far more. Hickman's narratives tend to have a lot of big concepts and small details both, and to keep track of them all, it's helpful to read everything as close together as possible. So, if anything, I'm trade-waiting East of West, but even then, I doubt if I'll buy the collected volumes as soon as they're available.
     For one thing, I'm not eager for another dystopian future setting. I'm not sick of them, exactly, it's just that they've never particularly appealed to me to begin with, and recently they've become so ubiquitous that I feel like I need a really good, specific reason to invest in a piece of dystopian fiction.
     Nick Dragotta is just shy of being that reason for now, though he's a seriously talented artist, so I imagine East of West will be something I pick up someday. He's not as high up on my personal list as Riley Rossmo, but that's purely due to my own tastes, not an objective comparison of their technical or storytelling skills. Dragotta is every inch the artist as Rossmo, and with Hickman having a slight edge over Spencer, East of West is more likely to get a look from me than Bedlam, probably.
     Those two titles have writers I'm not wild about with artists I adore; Mighty Avengers has the opposite problem. Well, Al Ewing isn't a writer I adore, necessarily, but that's only because I'm not especially familiar with his work. I've read a bit of his Judge Dredd stuff, and it's all been fantastic. What really makes me want to read this series is its cast. Luke Cage? Jennifer Walters? Monica motherfucking Rambeu?!?! Yes, please! Honestly, White Tiger, a new Ronin, and a new Power Man all entice me as well. I could live without Spider-Ock, but I'm not riled up about that enough to be turned off completely, since he'll be just one of many voices in this series, instead of the star character. But Falcon is a definite plus, and so is Blue Marvel, whose debut series I read and enjoyed, so on the whole it's great-looking lineup.
     But uggggggh...Greg Land SUCKS. He's the anti-Rossmo, with his stiff, robotic figures and complete lack of vision or originality. Sitting here now, I can't think of a single creator (not just artist) whose name on a project would make me less likely to buy it. I want so much to support Mighty Avengers, for so many reasons. It's mainstream work for Ewing, it's a cast full of characters I love, it stars several female and non-white characters, and it's a team worthy of the name "Avengers," for a change. Yet to spend any more money than I already have on comics drawn by Greg Land...can I afford to do that, really? Not just in my wallet, but in my spirit, I'm just not sure I can.

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