What Are You Reading? She-Hulk, Merrick the Elephant Man and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has checked off their “to read” list lately.

We’re back this week with another look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately, covering the “gambit” of old X-Men issues to the fourth-wall-breaking antics of a certain green giantess.

Have a look at what we’ve been reading, and let us know what’s been on your list in the comments.

Shane Bailey

Uncanny X-Men Trial of Gambit by Scott Lobdell, Joe Mad and a few fill in artists: It’s a weird slice of X-Men comics, with overwrought emotions coming out of all the characters, and weird out-of-place characters thrown into the story just to showcase some Joe Mad designs. The Phalanx story involving the Shi’ar that precedes the title story is pretty good, though, and has Rogue start to step into a leadership position in the X-Men while also starting the Deathbird/Bishop relationship and pushing him into his own book for a while.

On the self publishing front I read the wonderful Merrick The Elephant Man by Tom Ward and Luke Parker. It’s a great story about “The Most Remarkable Man Ever to Draw the Breath of Life!” — a turn of the century tale of a man in a freak show and how he exacts revenge on those that take advantage of him  It’s very Mignola-esque, and I mean that with the highest of praise. The pacing is incredibly well done in the story and, unlike the X-Men story I mentioned above, the drama and emotion the characters go through are handled perfectly. If you’re looking for a story a bit off the beaten path then I recommend you pick this up. You can read the first issue for free here.

Carla Hoffman

Longtime readers will always have “comfort comics.” Comics book stories and titles that you remember fondly, feel a longing for, or put you back in a place where your love of the medium flourished.  The comics that taught you that words and pictures could be used to tell your story.

Sensational She-Hulk ran from 1989 to 1995, which both seems like a long run for such a forgotten little gem of a book and a very short time for the lasting impact it had on the way I learned about comics art and storytelling.  Strap in, this one is going to be personal; I had a rough week and I had no idea the depth and breadth of solace I was going to find in John Byrne’s scripting and drawing of the Jade Giantess. Keep in mind this is the early ‘90s and breaking the fourth wall to talk to the reader wasn’t the cool edgy thing that got your movies made, oh no.  That kind of stuff was for Ambush Bug or Forbush Man, one-off joke characters that were derided by the superheroes they commented on. She-Hulk was different; she had a reverence for the funny books she was in and talked to the reader to explain tropes or exposition because she wanted you to be a part of it, too.  When she tells you they only have four pages left so they better find a way to beat the Z-list villain this month, it’s because you deserve a satisfying story.  When she complains there’s been too many subplots dangling around her issues, She-Hulk wants to make sure the reader doesn’t get confused. 

The only person to do this right is John Byrne.  He’s a respected writer and artist who has done incredible stories with the Fantastic Four and X-Men, a man so dedicated to his work and comics as a whole he tells you about it in the pages of Sensational She-Hulk.  He brings in references from the stories he was working on at the time for Marvel (West Coast Avengers and Namor to name a couple), there are pages devoted to tales from the Timely Comics era and obscure stories from Tales to Astonish, he tells you about ideas he has for the book that you’re reading right now like you get to be a consultant on the title.  The stories are absurd, breezy, pulling in so much from the comic book style of the time, fashion of the ‘90s, and a love of the medium.  If you want to fall in love with comics again, if you want to know what early 1990s Marvel looked like, or even if you want a bunch of cheeky pin-ups of Shulkie herself, please read at least Sensational She-Hulk #1-8.

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