What Are You Reading? | ‘Amazing Spider-Man,’ ‘The Vain’ 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.

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

Carla Hoffman

I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.  Amazing Spider-Man #50 is a terrible issue to have the #50 on the cover; nice round issue numbers like this should have easy to read stories that can entice both a collector or a new reader; it’s a way to keep away those pesky #1s that restart the entire series and celebrate the longevity of an enduring character.  If it’s a 100th issue or an “Anniversary Issue,” that cover is going to catch people’s attention, so you want your best material under it to lure people back to check out the next one.  This ASM #50 is the tail end of the Sins Past storyline and part one of Last Remains and should have been a no brainer for readers young and old to join in on the next big chapter of Peter Parker’s adventures.  Instead…, well, any book that starts with digging up the corpse of George Stacy is just not going to be a good time. 

Longtime readers of Nick Spencer’s run might be completely satisfied with the turn of events, as our longtime shadowy tentacle monster man is putting in some sort of grand design on Spider-Man and his long-sorted history, that all the clues have been right in front of me and now it will all make sense, but it’s a fact there’s going to be a decimal point issue (#50.LR) coming out this week to try and explain more about the comic I read today. There’s a gravitas to the story that feels bigger than the information we got in the actual comic, that this should mean something but there’s just not enough information or interest to make it sink in.  Maybe it will read better in the trade.

Captain America #24 was really interesting, and I have the artist to thank for that. Daniel Acuña artwork is impeccable throughout, bringing tension and dread to each page of what essentially is long conversations. Ta-Nehisi Coates, as a comic writer, can be a little dry for my tastes, but paired with Acuña, the words have more weight and depth through the thick lines and space between each panel. Color placements are key and this moody political thriller has more than just shades of grey in its palette to work with; there’s a warmth to the faces of Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers as they spar and talk. Aleksander Lukin is drawn with Hitchcock-ian shadows and fearful eyes. It all evokes a feeling of calm before a storm and since the next issue is #25 (an anniversary issue no less!) where we’ll get a classic Red Skull vs. Captain America confrontation, the storm is definitely on the horizon. This issue is all you really need to understand what’s going to happen next issue and while it might not be a complete story in and of itself, I feel it accomplished more that ASM #50 and could easily recommend it to long time Cap fans or someone new looking to see what Steve Rogers is up to these days. And really, the Red Skull painted by Alex Ross on the cover should sell the book like hotcakes on its own.

JK Parkin

The first issue of The Vain, the new vampires vs. G-men comic by Eliot Rahal, Emily Pearson, Fred C. Stresing and Macy Kahn, sets you up with all the tropes you might expect from a 1940s “gangster” story, as a young FBI agent with a lot to prove starts investigating a quartet of robbers who hit blood banks. Because they’re vampires, of course. If that’s all the book was going to be, it would be fine, as Rahal would have plenty to play with in terms of story, and Pearson’s art brings it all to life in a stylish way. But then you get to the last page, and wow — we get a fun swerve that sends the story in a totally different direction. Nicely played.

Going from vampires to zombies — hey, it is October — I somehow missed the fifth and last issue of Year Zero, the AWA title from Benjamin Percy and Roman Rosanas, when it came out, so I bought it this week. This book has actually been more like an anthology, telling five different stories about how a zombie plague has impacted the people in five different places. This issue not only wraps up those five stories, but also gives us a view into how the whole plague started. I get that between The Walking Dead and World War Z and the countless other comics, movies, video games, books and TV shows about zombies that some people are tired of them. But if you aren’t, this is a well-written, beautifully drawn comic that introduces several compelling characters. I understand a second volume is coming, and it’ll be interesting to see if it introduces new characters or follows the lives of the ones from the first volume.

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