Monday, November 22, 2010

Comics Cooldown

When I started my foray into comics some two years ago, my plan was to sample a little of everything, starting with as many origin stories and issue #1's that I could find. I started with Marvel and DC, intending get enough of a feel for the characters and histories to read through a few of the pivotal universe-spanning events such as Civil War and Crisis on Multiple Trade Paperbacks. In the beginning, my self-education was quite rapid and effective.

I gobbled up Batman: Year One and consumed one trade after another in single sittings. I already knew I liked Batman, so I eagerly digested Alex's copies of The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush, and I added a few more of my own purchases to the pile. Around this time, I hopped into the Ultimate Marvel universe--selected for its seemingly easier-to-follow continuity--and slowly plodded through the teen-focused Ultimate X-Men before picking up and burning through a few trades of Ultimate Fantastic Four.

A strange divide began to occur: I collected anything and everything with "Ultimate" in the title, leading to a shelf with complete runs of a few different series; meantime, another shelf was filled with a single Jonah Hex trade next to a single Wonder Woman trade next to a single Eclipso trade. Marvel was for continuing storylines; DC was for trying out new characters. As a result, collecting DC comics became much more interesting and fun.

Very few DC characters had the honor of multiple trades appearing on my shelf (as I refuse to buy single issues except in the case of very specific one-shots). I grabbed a few different Superman comics that showcased the unlikely fact that Lex Luthor is not the only villain in Superman's world. Green Lantern was sci-fi enough to catch my attention. Blue Beetle with Jaime Reyez became an unexpected favorite. Green Arrow will fill up a lot more shelf space as soon as I find a collection of older comics, predating Kevin Smith's Quiver.

On the DC side, I started prepping myself for the first Crisis story by scaling back on the heroes I knew I liked and focusing on the complete strangers. On the Marvel side, I gradually made my way through the Ultimate universe, slowing down whenever things got too angsty or heavy. For a while, especially when the video games I was playing at the time were getting to be frequently frustrating, I sat down to read comics on a regular basis.

Comics pretty much came to a halt when I found some video games that were truly relaxing, and some comics that were difficult to finish. Specifically, Dragon Warrior IV became exactly the blend of strategy and mindless repetition that I had been craving, and JLA: Year One turned into a pseudo-horror story where (minor spoiler) the heroes fought against an army of creatures comprised of other people's stolen body parts. For me, this was a little gross and definitely not what I signed up for when I picked up the book.

That's about when my interest in comics tapered off. Or, more specifically, my interest in superhero comics. I'm still reading through a black-and-white trade of the first several Booster Gold comics, but I missed a big event with Manhunters a few issues back, and all of a sudden things are getting a little more fantastical than I prefer. I was never really interested in the Justice League or any of their equivalents, and the story arc detour I mentioned made the trade even less appealing. Ultimate Spider-Man wasn't helping, either, because I got to the part where there's romantic drama and Peter Parker gets all angsty.

Oh, wait.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Shepherd Book Serenity comic just came out, and I can't wait to stop writing this and read it. I mean, uh, I'm excited. I recently polished off an Alien trade in preparation for my introductory post on the Alien movies, and it was pretty good. I've picked up a few original Star Trek comics that I'll turn to once I'm done watching the last bit of the original Star Trek that I haven't seen in full (The Animated Series). I'm sure I'll still need my fix; there's no questioning that.

Bottom line? I'm reveling in the sci-fi stories and growing weary of the superhero ones. I've mostly determined which characters and series I want to follow, and most of them aren't with Marvel or DC. I'll still read everything that's on my shelf eventually, but I'll need to return to Ultimate Fantastic Four or crack open The Atom (who endeared himself to me in The Dark Knight Strikes Again) before being enthusiastic about tights again. And capes.

It's not just the superheroes. I've picked up maybe one indie comic that I'd never heard of in the past...ever. I left The Goon in Chinatown, and am still patiently awaiting his grand return when Alex brings me the next installment (hint hint). Yet, I haven't clamored for more; I've just brought it up in passing a few times.

I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for comics as a thing; most of the reason I'm keeping up with comics at all right now is because the continuing voyages of the fandoms I enjoy are available in that medium. The allure of sprawling out on a couch to read comics isn't as strong now that I've been doing that more often with regular books and non-motion-controlled video games. I can't remember the last time I stopped to stare at the artwork.

I had grand plans of being "in the know" with Blackest Night and Secret Invasion, of being able to tell the difference between Brainiac and Krang...but I've already had enough of a comics education to stay afloat in most comics-centric conversations I've heard. One of the reasons I got into comics so quickly was because of how neat it was to be exposed to so many different fandoms in such a short span of time. There's still enjoyment to be found in trying out new comics, but I find myself settling on a few different characters and stories, and paying less attention to my broader mission. For right now, and maybe for the long run, that's good enough for me.


Scott said...

Have you thought about picking up the Star Wars or Star Trek trades? For example, there's a series of four trades by Dark Horse following Ulic Qel-Droma: Knights of the Old Republic, The Dark Lords of the Sith, The Sith War, and Redemption.

I can't remember if the Freedon Nadd Uprising issues are collected in Knights of the Old Republic or not, though... hm.

Star Trek has had some good runs too, no matter which series you follow.

Flashman85 said...

I briefly mentioned the Star Trek comics in the post, but I have actually read a few. Overall, I've really enjoyed them, and I've read from TOS, TNG, and VOY so far. I've got a DS9 that I picked up a little while back as well.

Star Wars, on the other hand, hasn't fared so well in comics for me. I really liked the Infinities "What If?" scenario for A New Hope, but the few other things I've read or flipped through felt kinda...dorky. I have a few more on my shelf to try from totally different series, so no final judgements yet, but so far it doesn't look like Star Wars will have much staying power unless I start finding some really good stuff.

Scott said...

Yeah, I can't argue with that assessment of Star Wars; the only storyline I've really found that has staying power for me is the one of Ulic Qel-Droma, which I mentioned.

There's an interesting one following Boba Fett right now, called Blood Ties, but I haven't read enough to be able to pass judgment. It's very well-drawn and -written, though.