Happy New Year and 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.
This week I read a handful of DC’s “Future State” titles, but I am not going to say a lot about them right now. Most of them take place against what seems like a very familiar totalitarian dystopia background, so they are both very dense with exposition and busy with action and showing how the characters have changed. In that respect I did like Joëlle Jones’ Wonder Woman for its fairly uncomplicated story about the new Amazon (rainforest) Wonder Woman of the Amazon (rainforest) going to a Beetlejuice-esque afterlife. It introduced the characters well, it was told in an engaging, energetic style, and it stood alone in a way that the other books didn’t.
Otherwise, since the last time we compared notes I caught up on some collected editions. These included a couple of 1982 arcs reprinted in Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics Volume 2, namely “The Wristwatch Plantation,” written by Sharman DiVono and Larry Niven and drawn by Ron Harris; and “The Nogura Regatta,” written by DiVono and drawn by Thomas Warkentin. In the first arc, Niven brings back his creation the Kzinti (created for a non-Trek short story) as an invading force seeking to control a colony of cute-ish insectoids. The second arc involves a trope which I’m pretty sure was used on the Buck Rogers TV show and later on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager – the “lighthearted starship race gone wrong.” Both arcs are entertaining enough, and worth reading if only to see how Trek was translated into daily four-panel (plus big color Sunday-page) form.
I also read both paperback collections of the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes, from the days when LSH and its companion Legionnaires basically told a biweekly story. Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer and Mark Waid shared writing duties, while Lee Moder pencilled Legion and Jeffrey Moy pencilled Legionnaires. (The collections are under the Legionnaires title.) Of course, the Legion has been a giant soap opera basically since the 1970s, so the format isn’t new; but here, it’s coming almost as a bright and shiny response to the end of the downbeat “Five Years Later” era. Moreover, it’s clearly intended to evoke a Silver Age vibe, and to emphasize that these are teenagers who, in the 20th Century, wouldn’t have been olde enough to drive. Longtime Legion readers probably recognized various recurring romantic subplots, leadership struggles, and the obligatory “is there a traitor on the team?” However, the storyline which dominates Volume 2 is a Daxamite invasion with clear white-nationalist overtones. It’s a powerful arc that does shake up the status quo; but unfortunately the collection ends shortly thereafter, and on a cliffhanger to boot! Here’s hoping that DC puts out a Volume 3 before too long, so I won’t have to go hunting through my longboxes for the Superboy crossover and the return of Mon-El.
Finally, I have cracked open Avengers Omnibus Volume 1, and just finished the landmark Avengers #4. What strikes me about this issue (and the series’ early issues) is its density. Sure, everyone knows the sequence where Captain America is unfrozen; but here it happens in the context of an ongoing Sub-Mariner plot, and the back half of the issue features Cap helping the Avengers repel some extraterrestrial baddies. Of course, I was curious to see if Cap would recognize his old buddy Namor (he didn’t); and when I read issue #3 I kept thinking of the What If? issue where the embryonic Avengers decide to split up, and – spoiler! – Iron Man dies trying to take on Subby and the Hulk himself. With Cap on board, though, it’s time for Cap to get creepy, Vertigo-style, with Rick Jones….
Crossovers by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw and Dee Cunniffe has a very interesting, very “meta” premise, about a comic book crossover that spills over into the real world. I’ve been wondering just how far they’d go — like would they play it safe and create new characters to represent those spilling over into the real world, or would they not? Well, issue #3 started with some pretty direct references to the end of Watchmen, moved on to feature an appearances by the Paybacks (an old Dark Horse title by Cates and Shaw) and then the biggest surprise of all shows up … one I don’t want to spoil. I hope we get more of that. I’ll also say that the creative team has done a great job in terms of tone and setting; the scenario is bizarre, for sure, but they do a good job of grounding it in the real world and in showing us how our world would react to such a thing.
My son and I have been enjoying Power Pack, the new miniseries by Ryan North and Nico Leon that ties into the whole Outlawed event. In particular it’s good to hear him laugh so hard at Katie’s intros for each issue — which are comics she created herself.