• Columns 

    How Are You Not Reading These?!

    By | May 21st, 2009
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    I’m unsure if I am going to make this a regular comic day column, but this is the inaugural edition of “How are you not reading these?!” This column will be dedicated to books that are extremely high quality and happen to be drastically underread. Don’t tell me you don’t have room for these books in your pull lists either, as you can always stop buying Hulk (I’m looking at you…America).

    Now on with the show, and if you have any feedback on other books that you feel are underread or deserve a spotlight, please share with us in the comments. We are always down with new, quality books.

    Secret Warriors: Plots by Bendis and Hickman, script by Hickman, pencils by Caselli – April sales rank: #31

    Okay, okay, this is kind of cheating. This is already a great seller and it is a high profile project with industry giant Brian Michael Bendis behind it, plus it is a spin off of mega-event Secret Invasion. Terrible choice to lead off this column, right?

    In my mind it’s perfect actually.

    The reason why is simple: it is, in my opinion, the best hero book that Marvel is releasing right now. The fact that it was behind 30 other books and 19 Marvel books is absurd.

    This book highlights the team of unknown heroes that Nick Fury brought together to ward off the Skrull invasion in SI, as they fight the good fight against H.A.M.M.E.R. and Hydra (who was revealed to be the puppet masters of Fury’s beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. in issue one) and try to survive and learn how to be heroes while they are at it. The cast of characters is superb, with Fury obviously being the man and new characters like Phobos (son of Ares, instiller of fear, keeper of awesomeness) the currently unnamed new character that was introduced in issue #4 being standouts as well. However, as seen with founding member Yo-Yo, Bendis and Hickman are not afraid of taking characters out of the equation.

    That brings up one of the two biggest strengths of this book: Hickman’s fearlessness. Jonathan Hickman has long been raved about with his independent work, but I’ve always found it to be a bit wordy and unfocused. I always said that he needed a good editorial staff, and that’s what he received here. However, with Bendis supporting him, he is still allowed to do plenty of outside the box thinking, and this series is all about that. Whether he is restructuring the Marvel U’s history with the Hydra reveal, incapacitating primary characters, or portraying main characters as incredibly cold (see: Fury’s quote on the last page of #4), he is perpetually taking risks. That’s the main reason why the storytelling is so spectacular.

    The other main strength is Stefano Caselli and his career defining pencils. When he first came up with Civil War: Runaways/Young Avengers, I thought he was mediocre. His work on Avengers: the Initiative was far better, and this surpasses that by a good amount. It really is some of the best work out there, with his lines being very clean, action scenes being staged to give a lot of kinetic feel to them, and characters faces being expressive and distinct throughout. Flipping through the book, I could pick out five different pages that I could see as wallpapers for my laptop in no time (speaking of…).

    This book is top to bottom the best book Marvel is producing right now. The stories are packed, the characters are original and entertaining, the villains are scary, the dialogue is tight and fun, and the art is spectacular. You have to be reading this book.

    Secret Six: Scripts by Simone, pencils by Scott – April sales rank: #97

    DC’s mega crossover Infinite Crisis had a dirty secret. That secret was the fact that the four lead-in mini-series were actually the best part of the whole thing. Best of the four was Gail Simone’s Villains United, which followed a new Secret Six who did not want to join Lex Luthor’s new Secret Society of Super Villains. Strangely enough, after the Crisis, two of the lead-in series received ongoings, but this team did not. Flash forward three years and DC finally comes to their senses and brings Simone back onboard with Birds of Prey compadre Nicola Scott on pencils. Did Simone still have it with these characters after three tumultuous years?

    Continued below

    Hell. Yes.

    Not only did she still have it, but she improved on the formula by adding former one note Bat backbreaker Bane and an original character named Jeannette to the mix. In spots that used to feature a range of characters (Mad Hatter, Parademon, and Harley Quinn amongst them), having stability at these spots to join Catman, Deadshot, Scandal Savage, and the hysterically bizarre and androgynous Ragdoll was a brilliant decision. Not only that, but Jeannette provided a love interest for Deadshot in the book, opening up entirely new possibilities for the formerly hardened character, and Bane was presented in an entirely new light. Gone was the one note, grunting musclehead. Now we have an honorable, strangely caring (his relationship with Scandal in the opening arc was a huge eye opener), and occasionally dryly hilarious standout in his place.

    One of the reasons why Gail Simone is such a brilliant writer is because she can infuse any character vitality and spark when she is allowed to, and DC editorial is off her case here and the results speak for themselves. While the opening arc was wonderful, the most recent issue (#9) was the best one so far. It followed Catman, Bane and Ragdoll as they protected Gotham City (in their own way) with Batman gone, in a way honoring the Bat but also proving to themselves that they could do what he does. It provides a lot of insight into what it means to be a anti-hero/villain (respectively) with the rest of the heroic DCU looking down upon you, and provided a lot of depth and understanding to the characters of Catman and Bane. Plus, it was quite hilarious with Ragdoll giving us all kinds of hysterical antics as per usual.

    You can’t forget penciler Nicola Scott either, who is providing as many sight gags as Simone is giving in the words. She also has a firm grip on the characters, great action chops, and the perfect mix of realism and comic form on the market. While it isn’t as electric as Caselli’s work, it is stellar in its own right and perfect for the book.

    With the possible exception of the Green Lantern books (and I stress to you, it’s very close), this is the best book DC is releasing in the primary DCU (Vertigo does not count). It has a lot of room to grow, and I would hate to see such a stellar book get cancelled like fellow Infinite Crisis spin offs Shadowpact and Checkmate. Get this book now!

    Guerrillas: Written and penciled by Brahm Revel – April sales rank: Ummm, really low?

    Guerrillas is probably the most underappreciated book on the market. I say that with much respect to Atomic Robo and Remender’s infinity non big 2 books, but it’s true. There is just not a huge market for quarterly $5.99 black and white comics about soldier apes in the Vietnam War.

    To that, I say this: your loss.

    Brahm Revel is producing one of the best books of the past few years with basically no one noticing, and he is doing it all pretty much by himself. He is much more well known as an artist (still not that well known) and he produces simple and clean work throughout this series, sacrificing needless style for storytelling power, grace within communication, and action scenes that actually make logistical sense.

    With that said, his work while in the writers chair is even more impressive. He manages to tell a quiet story about a scared soldier, a mad scientist story, a variation on Saving Private Ryan, and a man meets nature story all within one cohesive and well plotted story. He cleverly uses flashbacks, he deftly uses his art to indicate communication when words are unneccesary, and he never settles on ridiculous ideas that could help him sell more but would reduce the quality of his work.

    This is being released by Image, and I say kudos to them for supporting a book like this. With the exception of the Walking Dead, this is my favorite Image book by far. I highly recommend picking this up and supporting Revel, who is sacrificing a lot to produce this book himself and had to delay it to quarterly so he can pay the bills. It may seem like a lot as it is $5.99, but this book is a long read and comes in at nearly twice as many pages as a standard comic (56 pages, no ads). If you love comics, you should most definitely be reading this unheralded gem.

    Continued below

    Don’t just take my word for it either, Revel has extensive previews of each issue on his website. Check out issue one here.

    David Harper

    David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).