2011 Reads

For as much time as I spend talking about comic books, I often forget to mention the things that I’ve read and the things that inspire me. Since getting back into comics in 2009, I haven’t picked up individual issues, and instead have been catching up on some amazing trade paperbacks of issues that I missed during my (ten year) hiatus. Below is what I read in 2011 and I can’t say that I was disappointed by any of it!

Ultimate Spider-Man: Volume #22: Ultimatum
Ultimatum: Requiem
The Amazing Spider-Man: Death & Dating
The Amazing Spider-Man: Election Day
The Amazing Spider-Man: 24/7
The Amazing Spider-Man: Died in Your Arms
The Amazing Spider-Man: Red-Headed Stranger
The Amazing Spider-Man: Return of the Black Cat
The Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet – Book 1
Secret Warriors – Volume #1: Nick Fury, Agent of Nothing
Secret Warriors – Volume #2: God of Fear, God of War
The Astonishing X-Men – Volume #1
The Astonishing X-Men – Volume #2
The Astonishing X-Men – Volume #3

The Mighty – Volume #1
The Mighty – Volume #2
Astro City – Volume #1: Life in the Big City

Chew – Volume #1: Taster’s Choice
Chew – Volume #2: International Flavor
Chew – Volume #3: Just Desserts
The Walking Dead – Volume #9: Here We Remain
The Walking Dead – Volume #10: What We Become
The Walking Dead – Volume #11: Fear the Hunters
Morning Glories – Volume #1: For a Better Future
Criminal – Volume #5: The Sinners
I Kill Giants

Irredeemable – Volume #1
Irredeemable – Volume #2
The Unknown – Volume #1

The Killer – Volume #1


The Last Days of American Crime

Read anything good lately?
Let me know!

Paper Dragon Ink

I’m not sure if you’re aware — but I LOVE comic books.

I’ve been contributing issue reviews to the website PaperDragonInk.com and in return, they let me read, think about, and discuss all kinds of crazy comics.

If you’re looking for some new reading, check out the reviews I did of ICE #3 (from 12-Gauge Comics) and Dracula vs. Robin Hood vs. Jekyll & Hyde #1 (from Mohawk Media).

Expand your comics palette!

To Sum it Up: The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

The DC Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O’Neil is a quick little romp through the utter basics of story structure, scripting, and dialoging.

Having been a huge fan of comic books for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had the desire to write and publish my own mainly just because I think it would be fun. For me, sequential art has always been a medium that ties together well-written prose with artwork that’s exciting and and full of detail.

If you don’t know the first thing about writing comic books, then I’d recommend this as an excellent place to start. Sure, O’Neil spends a lot of time on the very basics of storytelling, informing the reader of what’s necessary for Acts I-III. While you might be able to pick this up just from reading a single issue or complete story arc in a current title, it’s great to have a small reference book for your shelf that doesn’t require you to thumb through hundreds of pages to find the info you seek.

My favorite section offered up was that on scripting. Comic book scripting is one of those things that’s very much dependent on person preference or publisher. It helps the aspiring comic writer find the style best suited for him or her and provides interesting exercises in one’s ability to adapt to whatever the project requires. For effect, O’Neil juxtaposes his scripts with the finished product so you can see how artist interprets the writer’s ideas and direction.

Even if you have no desire to write a comic, this quick read will give you an appreciation for how the books are constructed. If nothing else, it will remind you that even though it only took you ten minutes to read a single issue comic cover to cover… the creative team spent weeks channeling their creativity into the medium.

It’s important to note that regardless of the fact that Batman and Superman adorn the covers of this book, the suggestions, tips, and tactics within are applicable to all styles of graphic storytelling. The section on plot structure alone should earn this a spot on any writer’s shelf.

TO SUM IT UP: Basic story structure as applied to comics. Straight. To the point. Written by one of the best in the biz.

Writing: 4/5
Art: N/A
Presentation: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

To Sum it Up: Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels

The author’s name, Peter David, is almost synonymous with comic books. In addition to long runs on the X-Men, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk, he’s also worked on numerous DC titles and has written a ton of prose books. If there’s one person that I would be more than happy to take writing advice from, it’s Mr. David. The icing on the cake is that he spends 187 pages dishing on writing tips specific to the art of comic books.

I’ve reviewed numerous books on writing for comics, but this was by far my favorite. David goes in depth on inspiration for stories, characters and their motivations, themes, story structure, and scripting. Within all of these sections he offers up highly detailed insights and tips to help you succeed in the industry, or in your self-published comics project. As with any good book on writing, these suggestions are strictly geared toward comics, and can be applied to writing just about any type of character-driven epic you can imagine.

To reinforce all of his ideas, Peter provides pages from existing comics — sometimes entire sections so that you understand how sequential art plays into voicing your ideas. A comic book is made up of moments frozen in time and specific beats that move the story along. David provides one of the best sections on pacing in comics that I have read to date. Though you may not be familiar with all of the pages within this book (there are some odds and ends of lesser known titles) they are all prime examples of what he is preaching within the pages.

Sprinkled in throughout the chapters are different exercises that the aspiring comic writer can use to hone and develop his or her skills. These should not be overlooked because it’s his way of saying “If you can do this, you just might be able to succeed in the comics industry.”

Whereas some Comic Writing books take the most basic approach possible, Peter understands that you’ve probably read a few hundred comics in your day and have the basic understandings. He spends more time helping the reader think about their story, their characters, and the overall moral to the story that they are trying to tell.

In addition to offering up typical writing advice, there are several appendices that detail tips for breaking into the industry as well as a section that addresses fan submitted questions. This book is currently in its second edition and is guaranteed to only get better in future releases. Pick up Peter David’s Writing for Comics (or Graphic Novels, if you’re afraid of the “C” word) and take your comic book aspirations to the next level.

TO SUM IT UP: Peter David gives you REAL advice on how to write them funny books.

Writing: 4/5
Art: N/A
Presentation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

To Sum it Up: The Killer – Volume 1

For years I had heard great things about this French crime book known as Le Tueur, or in English, THE KILLER. As a huge fan of crime fiction, I owed it to myself to eventually check it out. That day finally came, and I held in my hands a beautiful hardcover from Archaia Studios, who came come to be known not only for their original graphic novel stories, but for also putting a lot of time and care into getting the packaging just right. This book is no exception. It looks great, feels great, and the dark hardback fits the mood of the material contained within.

Our story is quite simple: The main character is a hitman. He lives by a code of ethics and handpicks his jobs, all with the intention of retiring to his out of the way home in Venezuela after making five million dollars. He doesn’t enjoy the job, he’s just good at it. Throughout the pages we pick up details about his past, his family, and how to get into the murder business. In the present, the majority of the story takes place while he locates a target and has been waiting for his opportunity to take them out. In fact, he’s been waiting and waiting and waiting. This is where the story takes a turn from the typical crime fare and rather than watch our guy spray brains across the wall with a sniper rifle, we see the physical, emotional, and psychological effects that his job has on him. He’s isolated, bored, lonely, and ready to collect his money. So what happens when a deadly hitman starts to lose it?

The French creative team behind The Killer consist of writer Matz, with all art duties handled by Luc Jacamon. I always prefer stories that deal with character development rather than high octane action, so Matz’s storyline grabbed me immediately. Even though we spend a large majority of Volume One inside the Killer’s head, I was never bored, and I was never sure where we were headed next. The flashbacks were used both sparingly and tastefully, giving us information as we needed it, rather than dumping it all out in one massive sequence. At first look, you can’t imagine yourself having any sympathy for a character who murders others for money, and yet Matz’s writing gives him depth as a human and before long, we’re more concerned with the mental health of a murderer than we are with the person that he has in his targets.

Jacamon’s artwork suits the story very well, and provides an interesting juxtaposition to the story. It falls more on the cartoony side of things without damaging the story, much like how Brian Bendis’s Powers is supported by a Mike Oeming’s contrasting art. The Killer’s sequential style works and the visuals remain interesting. I had a blast reading each page and then going back to the first panel and appreciating Luc’s artwork. This is one of those times where the writing is so good, that the art could have been done by anyone and the story would still be great, though after spending time with Volume One, I couldn’t imagine, and wouldn’t want to see anyone else drawing it.

Originally released in France, this book has been translated into English and holds up very well. The names still remain French but it doesn’t detract from the story. The editing was great, and I can only think of a few times where the translation was a tad rough. I’m glad that the translation was done because I can’t imagine not being able to read this fantastic story. I learned a lot from it, and it was a new and refreshing take on an old idea.

Volumes 2 and 3 have also been released by Archaia, so I look forward to seeing how our Killer holds up as his perspective on the world continues to skew.

TO SUM IT UP: What does a hitman think about while he waits to take out his target? It’s more interesting than you might think.

If you enjoy a good character story where you can step out the norm and inside the psyche of a “bad guy,” then The Killer will keep you guessing and keep you entertained.

Writing: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Presentation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5