Sunday, June 21, 2009

I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I've gone back and forth on the issue of whether I should buy comics in single format at all. There have been periods where I've bought only trades and periods where I've bought a few monthlies as well. Those latter times usually last 6 to 8 months before I give it all up and go back to trades. Well, I'm determined to try to find a way for me to buy and read both, even buying some things in singles format that I may want to buy in collected form later. Yes, it's all very complicated or at least I make it that way. Getting to the point, I bought a couple comics two Wednesdays ago that remind me why I do like to read things is serialized format.

I bought the new series of Booster Gold when it started up in 2007. I'd always liked the character and I found the book to be highly entertaining but ended up losing touch in the last swing back to trades. The series is now in the hands of Dan Jurgens, who originally created Booster and made the first series such a favorite of mine that I talked about it in a speech my freshman year of high school (in 1986).

I picked up #21 of the current series for 2 reasons. First, the cover promised Booster tangling with Batman (whose cape is now being filled by Dick Grayson, the first Robin, due to Bruce Wayne's death). Second, the series is now carrying a second feature - Blue Beetle. DC is adding 10 page co-features to a number of its comics as a way of justifying higher prices ($3.99 per issue on selected titles). It's pricey but in this instance, the comic was worth it.

The lead feature is the first of the four-part "Day of Death" storyline. Booster is big-time hero but he has to pretend he is an ineffectual glory hound in order to keep secret his status as a time-traveler. He is working with Rip Hunter, who seems to be up to something as the issue opens. Sure, it looks like he is looking for a chink in the Black Beetle's armor but Booster isn't sure he can be fully trusted. Rip sends Booster to the Batcave, because there are some pictures there that reveal the truth about Booster (Batman was the only one aware of Booster's mission but Batman isn't exactly Batman anymore). Booster decides to trust Dick with the secret (that he tried to save Barbara Gordon from being shot; Dick is very close to Barbara) when the Black Beetle shows up and decides to change the timeline. At the end, it appears he has succeeding in killing Dick in the past. I'm interested to see where the story goes from here.
I read the first issue or three of the Blue Beetle series when it first came out but quickly lost track. I've found the character to be a lot of fun on the Batman: Brave and the Bold TV show and welcomed the chance to check in the character in the comics realm. Plus, writer Matt Sturges is someone I like (I read his novel Midwinter a few months back and have enjoyed his work on Jack of Fables, though I'm woefully behind on that series) and artist Mike Norton always turns out quality work. Well, there was plenty to like. Most especially, a giant yellow robot named Thinko! that Beetle had to battle. A fun comic.
Two good stories in one comic book? That's the way it should be. I will definitely be back for the next issue.

On the other end of the spectrum is the latest series from Vertigo, The Unwritten. This is a creator-owned series from Mike Carey and Peter Gross (such an underrated artist) and the first issue was over-sized and priced at $1. How can you resist that? I didn't and while I liked the issue well enough, the series really takes off with #2. The book is the story of Tom Taylor, the inspiration for a series of Harry Potter-like novels by his father. But it turns out he might not be Wilson Taylor's son after all. The series is steeped in fiction; Tom knows geography by way of fiction, though he hasn't read the books. There are forces skulking about, including a man who creates a cell phone through letters and then let's it dissolve back into the same. And what is the deal with Lizzie Hexam? Is she more than the protagonist of Dickens' Our Mutual Friend? I can't wait to see where this series goes and I'm not going to wait for trades either. How's that for an endorsement?

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