What Are You Reading? | ‘X of Swords,’ ‘Green Arrow’ and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately — including comics from the past, present and future.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

Tom Bondurant

This week I finished all of New Super-Man, written mostly by Gene Luen Yang and pencilled by Billy Tan (issues #7-8,11-14), Victor Bogdanovic (#9-10), Brent Peeples (#15-16, 18-19) and Joe Lalich (#17). (Mariko Tamaki guest-wrote issue #19.) It ran for a total of 24 issues, the last 5 of which were subtitled to include the Justice League of China. As you might have guessed, it was a quick read; but a fun one. The Justice League (of America) guest-starred early on, and Superman and Lex Luthor got involved in a mystery surrounding Kong Kenan’s powers. That subplot ended up informing much of the rest of the series, as Kenan finally learned the necessary focus. Yang also threw in a couple of fun riffs on Knightfall (Bat-Man’s old rival becomes his Venom-powered foe Anathema) and the Death of Superman (the original Chinese Superman is transformed into a Doomsday-like giant). Speedster Avery Ho was introduced in Flash but joined the JLC; and the Chinese government’s answer to the Green Lantern Corps also fought the League. Finally, the last arc involved a North Korean “Aqua-Man,” who had to acclimate to life in a less repressive society. Meanwhile, Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman’s relationship deepened even as Bat-Man’s sister became the antagonistic Alpaca. Although 24 issues isn’t too bad a run, it’s hard to say where the series might have gone if it had continued. Maybe Yang had gotten all of the nods to the main-line DCU out of the way and he could have gone deeper into a more culture-specific super-team; or maybe it would have been a more light-hearted, character-focused book. Either way, I’m glad New Super-Man got the chance it did.

I also finished an even older trade paperback I’d picked up on a whim and never really gotten into. The New 52 Green Arrow was written and pencilled initially by Dan Jurgens and inked by George Pérez, and it was pretty far from the left-leaning, chili-cooking, goateed Ollie Queen. As a billionaire with a couple of tech people in his ear and no fancy facial hair, this GA was closer to the Stephen Amell version. However, the collection I read, The Kill Machine, was the start of a new direction under writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino. It started off with Ollie losing his fortune and going on a sort of vision quest, wherein he learned about his father’s involvement with a weapons-oriented secret society. This was all still part of the New 52 (April-November 2013), and it covered issues #17-21 plus a few more issues with Count Vertigo and the reworked Richard Dragon (#22-23.1). It was fine for what it was; and I can see where it tied into the Arrow show and vice versa. However, Lemire and Sorrentino have each done better things, so it didn’t really sell me on their run. To be fair, the Jurgens/Pérez stuff wasn’t too electrifying either. Apparently the New 52 wasn’t a high point in Green Arrow history, because I remember the Rebirth recalibration – where Ollie got back together with Black Canary and grew a goatee – as being better-received.

JK Parkin

I’ve spoken before about how much I’m enjoying Tom Taylor’s run on Suicide Squad, and this week’s issue #9 did not disappoint. This issue brought the Squad’s showdown with Ted Kord, the hidden-in-the-shadows villain revealed a couple issues ago, as the Squad fights to liberate countries and themselves. It ends with … well, with the thing you might have read about if you’ve been paying attention to the press on this issue. With this being comics, though, I wouldn’t count [REDACTED] out just yet, y’know? I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

I think I’ve said before that the current X-Men titles have been very hit-or-miss for me; they are at their best when they’re focusing in on individual character stories, and at their worst when trying to focus more on the greater societal impact of Krakoa and the New Mutant Order. I respect that a lot of fans have become excited about the X-Men again because of this new direction, and I’m perfectly okay with spending my own time and money on other comics I can get into.

So I went into X of Swords not really expecting much (and in fact questioning whether I wanted to jump down the rabbit hole of having to buy every single X-title between now and December to keep up with the story). But I’m a sucker for a good X-Men event comic, and based on the first issue, this could be one. It’s certainly taking a different approach than I think we’ve seen from such events in the past, and this first issue has done a great job of setting everything up. Now let’s see where things go from here.

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