Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #32 - The Best Comics You're Not Reading!

Archie Comics continues to smoke the competition in storytelling, value and pure creativity,  Unlike other publishers, this company's "events" are not about forcing the reader to buy dozens of various titles to get the whole story.  In most cases, the story is self-contained within one title and limited to a small number of issues.  If there are variant covers, they are usually produced in the same volume as the "regular" cover.  This means no premium price, which in turn means readers can choose the cover they prefer (or both, if they so choose), without worrying about their comics buying budget. 

Over the past couple years, Archie has released fun and creative crossover events with everyone from rock band legend Kiss, to the cast of American Idol, and even the President of the United States.

This year will be no exception, as the Archie Gang prepares to meet the cast of the Glee television series, and then two of the most popular video game characters on the planet will square off against each other, as Mega Man meets Sonic the Hedgehog in the "Worlds Collide" crossover event.  For those readers that prefer a slightly more serious Archie story, there's the monthly Life with Archie: The Married Life publication, which started as a spin-off from the "Archie Gets Married" storyline that was published in 2009.  Each issue features two stories, one from the parallel universe in which Archie married Veronica, and the other from the universe where Archie married Betty.  The series is written by veteran comic book creator Paul Kupperberg, and has featured great art by Norm Breyfogle, Fernando Ruiz and others.  The magazine format is also a great value for the money, with issues running upwards of 64 pages for only $3.99, which is often the cover price for a typical 22 page comic from "The Big Two." 

Mega Man takes on Sonic in the upcoming Spring crossover event.

If that isn't enough, Archie fans can also look forward to this year's Free Comic Book Day offering, as the publisher releases a free 92 page World of Archie digest for the tenth anniversary of the day that serves as the comic industry's national holiday.  If you haven't checked out Archie comics lately, you owe it to yourself to grab a few titles at your local comic shop, and find out what you've been missing! 

The Riverdale gang meets the McKinley High gang this Spring!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #31 - The New Deadwardians!

The New Deadwardians
DC/Vertigo Comics
$14.99, color, 176 pgs.
ISBN-10: 1401237630 
Written by: Dan Abnett
Artist: I.N.J. Culbard

This eight issue mini-series about a zombie outbreak in England at the turn of the twentieth century would be interesting on its own.  Adding a societal class structure of vampires and their human servants to the mix, however, is what makes The New Deadwardians unique. 

George Suttle is the Chief Inspector of the Homicide Squad, although his deductive talents are wasted in a society where murders are rare.  Suttle has the makings of a good detective, but with most of the population already dead (either vampire or zombie), he has little motivation to excel at his job.  When Scotland Yard dispatches Suttle to investigate an actual murder, he finally has an opportunity to use his talents.  The murder victim is a vampire, whose mysterious death does not follow any of the normal rules that govern a vampire’s existence.        
It’s a different scenario where people become vampires, but continue living their normal daily lives, while trying to cope with the absence of familiar needs like sleep and hunger.  Even more interesting is that even in this alternate take on post-Victorian England, many of the same social issues exist.  In this reality, the struggle for women's suffrage and equal rights is more about being allowed to take "The Cure" (becoming a vampire), rather than the right to vote in an election.  The series is also an interesting study on the relationship between the vampires and the "servant class," which consists of the remaining humans that have not gone the route of either vampire or zombie. 

The entire mini-series is available in trade paperback format at your local comic shop, and is easily one of the most innovative Vertigo series of the past couple years.  It's definitely worth a look, even if the undead genre is not your cup of tea (no pun intended). 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #30 - Untold Tales

Untold Tales of PunisherMax #5
Marvel/Max Comics
$3.99, color, 28 pgs. 
Writer: Skottie Young
Artists: Mirko Colak, Norman Lee, Rick Ketcham

Cancelled comics never actually die; they just come back with “untold tales” of the title character.  Untold Tales of Punisher Max has been an enjoyable series featuring one-shot stories by creators that might not have otherwise had the chance to show their own perspective on comics’ most infamous vigilante, including crime novelists like Megan Abbott and Jason Starr.

In this issue, a son’s desire for revenge brings him face to face with the man that killed his father.  The story raises an interesting question: What happens to the family members of Frank Castle’s victims?  It’s a theme not usually explored with this character, and Skottie Young handles the story in a unique fashion.  The Punisher appears mostly in shadows throughout the story, taking on the role of the ultimate bogeyman in the boy’s eyes. 

Not all of the Punisher's victims are easily categorized as "bad guys."
Despite the “Explicit Content” warning that is commonly seen on Max titles, this issue would be acceptable for most audiences.  The exception is just one word of profanity that doesn’t really serve any purpose, other than to mandate the rating change.  Is it really necessary? 


While I'm on the subject of The Punisher, I am once again recommending the superb Jason Aaron/Steve Dillon PunisherMax series that ran for 22 issues from January 2010 to February 2012.  This series features some of the most intense and definitive Punisher storylines ever published, which is saying a lot considering the legacy of Garth Ennis' run on the previous volume of the series.  Aaron also took several classic Marvel villains and successfully brought them into the MAX Universe, including The Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra.  When the series was approaching its final issue in late 2011, an online interview with Jason Aaron discussed how the series was not so much a cancellation, as it was a planned ending to the storyline.  Aaron stated "PunisherMax is ending, the way I always intended.  It was not cancelled."