Well it has been quite a long time since I had a moment of free time to dedicate to the old blog here. If there is anyone still out there remotely interested, here's the quick hits of what I have read over the last month or so along with a few initial thoughts.
The Essential Avengers, Volume 1.
I had this book for quite a long time and started reading it when I was home sick with the flu. That long? Really? Wow, I'm almost embarrassed to say I never actually finished reading it. I love to see the Jack Kirby art on it's own, well, inked I guess. It just gives such a great view of how to lay out a panel, and a page for super action in a constrained time/format. Then Don Heck takes over and suddenly the page layouts appear a lot more vertical. Panels rise and stretch up as opposed to Kirby's much more horizontal spreads. It's actually quite impressive that although Kirby's panels are generally smaller they seem to contain way more action. He really is the master of having the panel frame the action to a point where the frame implies there is much more going on outside of it. Don Heck's panels tend to completely contain all the action. The weird part is, when I was younger and thinking of comics in my daydreams, I was probably thinking of Don Heck's art. He just seems to be the image of what I remember Marvel Comics being. Not so much these days, but still, he's good at being generic I guess. That wasn't meant to be an insult, it's what I think any work for hire artist needs to work for – like the Hardy Boys authors or whatever. It doesn't ruin the work, but they survive by being quick and consistent not rule breaking and bold.
Planetary Books 1-3 and Crossing Worlds
I really loved this collection. Nothing like a bit of comics more or less about comics, in my opinion. I'm a bit of a sucker about media examining itself and playing with the form and genre assumptions. I like the relationships that are build and how the story is build around an espionage story but it's really about the relationship of comic books and pop culture.
30 Days of Night: 3 Tales and Spread the Disease.
They do a decent job of tying together some loose ends and random characters from the other stories. Decent X-files type material with special agents and vampires. Also, vampires in space is a great idea.
Corto Maltese: Encore un peu plus loin
This collection shows how Hugo Pratt really shines in the short tale. I enjoyed this collection of short Corto Maltese stories a million times more than the book length adventure I had read previously (which is still exceptionally good). A few of the characters from Tango are introduced in this collection, and the art being in black and white means there is just that much more wonderful linework to take in. It's simply breathtaking. There are a bunch of small morality tales and the double-triple-cross taste of your own medicine adventure yarn. But really, what other collection of comics will have a surly amnesic sailor regain his memory by taking magic mushrooms, a zombie-priest led island uprising revolution, and a WWI British soldier relive a battle through his dying delusions? There is a lot to enjoy here, but mostly Pratt's love of the Caribbean and South America.
Now, I've read a bunch more of the Ultimate Spider-man trades as well and I'm trying to figure out how to say "I liked it and it's good comics, but it won't really challenge your assumption of the medium or anything, which is really the point I guess anyway, so while inessential in the long run, still enjoyable when you read the story" in more than one way. I do have to say that I really don't know how I would feel about the stories if I was reading them in the monthly format. I think it would completely remove the level of enjoyment I get out of the stories.