What Are You Reading? | Ironheart, Midnighter and more!

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

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately. You can play along in the comments if you wish.

Now here we go …

Shane Bailey

On the advice of a great friend I read Ironheart by Eve Ewing and Luciano Vecchio, and this comic is wonderful. It’s super smart, has interesting villains and problems, and fun. It deals with some dark problems, but you know what I really like about this comic? It’s full of hope, and I really needed a book like that now.

A lot of people talk crap about all the legacy heroes at Marvel, but those people didn’t read this book, they didn’t give these new characters a chance. Riri is every bit as great a character as Tony and more. Tony has had around 50 years to grow and become the popular character he is today. I’m all for giving Riri the same chance.

Another thing I really liked about this series is that every chance she gets, Riri looks for another way out besides violence. Yeah she’ll fight, but she always looks for another way out first. It also recognizes the characters shortcomings. Her insistence on handling things herself and not asking for help. Her insistence on being a loner even though her friends help get her through most of her adventures. And finally get past trauma, losing a best friend and her dad to violence. All of that is presented really well and isn’t given an easy solution. It doesn’t get wrapped up like a sitcom, it’s part of this character and something that she will always deal with.

I’m going to be sticking with this character for the long haul and I think you should to. Now to read 2020 Ironheart by friends Vita Ayala, Danny Lore and artist David Messina. With their track record, I’m sure theirs will be just as good.

Carla Hoffman

Does Garth Ennis do love stories? There is love in his writing, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you reflect on his work. Catholicism, Cowboys, Americana, ultra violence, machismo, Word War II, it’s Garth Ennis bingo time! Romance is rarely in the conversation, more so for his work with Steve Dillon. A fantastic artist full of raw meaty detail and unflinching expression, he’s not exactly the guy I’d go to for a loving embrace or longing stare that wasn’t toward some grotesque obscenity.

That’s why Midnighter #6 from the first solo series in 2006 sticks with me so much. Part of three ‘done in one’ issues after the first arc of the book started by Keith Giffen, Garth Ennis and Glenn Fabry take the reigns of Wildstorm’s most lethal character and don’t give you what you expect. Yes, it is violent, that’s a given: people heads pop off, splatters of blood, piles of bones, it’s tense and visceral. It’s about honor and duty, loyalty and strength. And yet, it’s not set in WWII or Texas or other scenic Ennis locales; it’s set in feudal Japan and it’s most of all, about love. 

Do find yourself a copy of Midnighter #6 to remind us all that everyone has greater depth that we can know.  And hey, stick around for Midnighter #7 too because Brian K. Vaughan writes that one backwards.

Tom Bondurant

This week I re-read Matt Fraction’s 12-issue run as writer of The Defenders. Published in 2011-12, it featured art from Terry & Rachel Dodson, Mitch Breitweiser, Victor Ibañez, Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton, and Mirco Pierfederici. I bought this series when it came out, but apparently the only things I remembered were the initial plot (featuring Prester John from a minor corner of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four) and little footnotes at the bottom of each page imitating the old ad copy that Marvel used to put there. In hindsight this series seems like the “Morrison JLA” version of the team, basically riffing on the original’s weirdness with most of the founding cast members and some deep continuity cuts.

That means we get Doctor Strange, Namor, and the Silver Surfer teaming up with the Red She-Hulk and Iron Fist to save all of creation by … well, I won’t spoil it, but it’s an appropriate solution for the quintessential “non-team.” A set of previous-generation adventurers pops up in the back half of the series, and they’re obscure enough to warrant reprinting their Official Handbook entry at the end of the second paperback collection. Moreover, their part of the plot hinges on a mystic golden frog from Jack Kirby’s mid-1970s Black Panther run, and speaking as a more casual Marvel fan, boy was I glad I had read those stories. The arc ends with a glimpse into Marvel’s multiverse and a white void consuming everything, which made me wonder if Fraction was trying to tie in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

I’m making it sound more obtuse than it actually is. Really, it was a diverting read, and even kind of rah-rah for the Marvel U at the end. The art was a mix of styles, but it all worked together pretty well. Not the best Fraction or Defenders, but not bad either.

Otherwise, this week I got exactly three single issues at the reopened, re-Diamond-supplied LCS: Justice League #44, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #10, and Justice League Odyssey #20. I have really been enjoying Jimmy Olsen (that’s some good Fraction right there) and the Justice League issue was a nice throwback-style story despite the book itself openly treading water until Death Metal starts.

That leaves JL Odyssey, a series I am enjoying even though it seems to be telling an endless single saga, and whittling down its original cast to do so. Written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Will Conrad, this issue finds Green Lantern Jessica Cruz preparing for another make-or-break encounter, this time at the Lord of Time’s stronghold. It’s almost not worth going into the details, because the point seems to be spotlighting Jessica’s nigh-limitless endurance. I like Jessica as a character, and I like how she’s grown into a starring role both in Green Lanterns and in this book. I don’t know how much longer this series can go under its current lost-in-space-versus-Darkseid format, but for now it’s kept me engaged.

JK Parkin

It was an exciting week at my house due to the arrival of the second Mech Cadet Yu trade paperback, bringing us more stories featuring Stanford Yu and the Mech Cadets getting drawn into a new war with the alien Sharg. Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa ratchet up the action and intrigue in this second volume, showing us that the greatest threat to our heroes may not be the gigantic aliens attacking the Earth. My son loved it, so you can bet volume three is on its way to us now.

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