Ambidextrous 299: Odds, Ends

DC Releases Blackest Night Firestorm

Gearing up for next week’s 300th column, so forgive my scattered thoughts this week…

Most of the upcoming article will be a field report of sorts on the many things we’ve been doing behind-the-scenes to prepare ourselves, and the world of comics, for the upcoming return of Miranda Mercury to the stands. From our new colorist to our new format to our new cover price, few stones will be left unturned, along with a small amount of reflection that seems necessary in one’s 300th internet column. But until then I’m clearing the deck a bit, hitting a few different threads that have been on my mind, yet aren’t worth devoting an entire piece to. We start with a Grant Morrison quote and move on from there…

Armageddon is Canceled Until Further Notice-

Lot was made of the sales charts for March, and the fact that the number one selling comic didn’t break the 100K threshold, which has long stood as the benchmark for great success in the direct market. So naturally this triggered a number of panicked commentaries around the ‘net that this is the beginning of the end for the direct market, and that we’d all better get our Kindles now before it’s too late. Which is incredibly premature, even considering that the industry as a whole in the midst of a transition. However, 2009 is going to be a great year for mainstream comics, and that’s not even in factoring the recent price bumps that’ll be helping to prop up the bottom lines of the major companies…which I assume is what everyone is really talking about when they predict “the end of the comic book industry.” Independent comics are always under incredible amounts of pressure and duress, and this was the case long before the new Diamond minimums were instituted.

But there are some huge, huge projects coming from both Marvel and DC this spring and summer, and there’s no question they’re going to sell incredibly well. If Blackest Night and the new Ultimate titles launch and we can’t break 100K, then I’ll join the bandwagon, but until that point, we do what pretty much every other industry is doing---dig in and ride it out. I know it always feels like we’re one major mistake away from a full-scale collapse, but one slow month isn’t going to spark it. As many suspected, April appeared to be a little more normal, and included the makings of a sales offensive from DC. Repeat after me---we’re not dead yet. More on this next week though.

Summer Movie Scorecard (1 for 2)-

Star Trek was amazing (as we all know) but Terminator Salvation was a dud, though a pretty one in spots. Besides the train-sized plot holes, the dialogue was uniformly awful, and every time someone had to speak, or, I don’t know, do anything to actually develop character, the filmmakers seemed bored and overly anxious to move onto the next explosion or big fight.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be viewed on cable when the time comes, even though my efforts to prevent almost everyone I know from seeing it have proven useless. I even have a friend that went to see that over Trek, which lost him some cool points, even though it appears it was his wife’s fault. Don’t know what it is, the movie just looked bad to me from the very first trailer, and my disgust with X3 knows no bounds. So instead of paying money to see it and being aggravated afterwards, I had to hear from all my friends how disappointing it was, even though I implored many of them over and over again not to go see it. I have an internet column…obviously I know what I’m talking about.

Again-

Some of you will never believe this---but Final Crisis reads a lot differently when the entire series is read all together. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the word “better” to describe that difference, and I try not to make a real definitive judgment on a comic series until I’ve had the opportunity to dig into it again, without the many distractions that can often impact the enjoyment of my serialized entertainment. To that end, I’m finally starting my long-anticipated Secret Invasion experiment---reading all of the New Avengers/Mighty Avengers tie-in material, along with the main mini and ones covering Thor, Black Panther, and X-Men. After that, I should be able to decide which story I liked better, and will likely need a break from anything written by Bendis for at least a few weeks.

Would’ve gotten to this sooner, but was temporarily delayed by the entire run of Ennis’ Punisher MAX (brilliant) and Millar’s Ultimate X-Men stuff, which isn’t my absolute favorite run of his, but has some of my favorite X-Men moments in it, if that makes any sense. I still think issue #15 is one of the best X-Men stories of all time, for instance, and if you treat Cyclops pretty well, then there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy your tenure with those characters. All the really good writers like Scott Summers and it shows in the work (see also Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon).

Priced to Move-

The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 1 (Image Comics)

1088 pgs for 59.99

Noble Causes Archives, Volume 2 (Image Comics)

798 pgs for 24.99

The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius (Oni Press)

376 pgs for 19.95

Couple things to mention here. First, all of the above trades are great, great deals, even without your standard comic store (or online retailer) discount applied. The Walking Dead is one of the biggest success stories in independent comics, and this gives you forty-eight issues of it, all in one violent, disturbing, heart-breaking collection. I recently donated my first few trades of this, with the intent of replacing them with this beast of a book, but as much as I love the title (having bought every issue of it) I find the series hard to return to for multiple reads. It’s really great, but also really depressing and enormously unpleasant in spots, and sometimes I feel like it’s a book I’ll keep buying and enjoying reading monthly, but might not keep for the permanent shelf. For those not faint of heart, and people that have been sitting on the sidelines listening to all the great things said about the book, they’re all very true and there’s no easier way to get on board. Will likely go down as Kirkman’s masterwork and the writer’s commitment to creator-owned work continues to inspire.

Still have the first Noble Causes Archives on the shelf, and will likely get to it after decompressing from the superhero explosion that will be the “Secret Invasion Re-Read,” but again, if you’re really into capes and want a book where truly anything can happen to anyone at anytime, you’ll dig Noble Causes. And Dynamo 5, which is also by Jay Faerber and also quite good.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius just might be my favorite Judd Winick stuff ever, just slightly nudging ahead of he and Doug Mahnke’s superb (yet brief) Batman run. This was from the period where everyone loved his work and didn’t always falsely accuse him of trying to fuel some “liberal gay agenda” in all of his titles. Which is nonsense, but deep down everyone knows that. Funny, profane, and even a little sweet---Barry Ween is pure, unadulterated Judd Winick, and hopefully, he’ll find the time to return to the character at some point. You know, whenever he stops being busy writing Batman again…with Mark Bagley art. Is anyone looking forward to that as much as me? The answer is no.

Sorry I couldn’t get to these on their actual weeks of release, but this feature doesn’t seem to work as well tacked onto the ends of interviews, which is why it was missing from the last Chew article. Looked over the Casey one and thought it didn’t really belong. In any case, go out there and save some money.

Three Times the Awesome-

So the upcoming Miranda Mercury revamp is going to see a few changes implemented on a number of fronts, most of them we’ll be talking about next week. Only thing I want to mention now is that our approach to the covers will be tweaked ever-so slightly, which was a decision and a conversation that ultimately led to the incredible Miranda Mercury triptych cover that hit my inbox this past weekend. Once we get it fully inked and colored, it’ll likely be the first piece of official artwork that announces our new colorist (who is already hard at work) and will replace the cover of #295 as our “stock image” that accompanies all major and minor press. Would love to run it right this minute, but I’m trying to be good and save it so it can achieve its proper impact. But my team always jokes (sometimes rightfully so) that I’m always asking them to draw completely ridiculous and impossible things in these scripts, but in this case, it’s all Lee Ferguson’s fault. I didn’t ask him to draw three beautiful inter-linked covers that demand to be turned into a fantastic poster…though I’m going to enjoy it as if I did. More on this next week as we turn the dial to 300…who knew I’d last this long?

Thanks for reading and back soon.

The Fiction House

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