The Unread Canon 13: Ultimate Spiderman #1-13

Ultimate Spider-man #1

When Marvel’s Ultimate line first launched, I hated it with the passion that only a fanboy can muster to hate something they’ve never read.  I eventually got around to sampling many of the titles, and what I read, I hated.  That tarred my opinion of the entire line for a good long while.  From the crass big-screen action of The Ultimates (which I never finished but plan to soon) to the cartoony retreads of Ultimate X-Men, it just seemed like a waste.  Here we had a major publisher, probably the biggest monthly comics publisher in the world, and they were wasting their time and money doing gritty reboots of old stories rather than doing something interesting and innovative.

I similarly dismissed Ultimate Spider-Man, though, unlike the other core books of the Ultimate Universe, I’d never actually read a page of it.  But I knew everything I needed to know – Spider-Man hasn’t grown and changed enough that I felt he really needed to have his entire mythos retold bit by excruciatingly slow, decompressed bit.  But then, something happened.  General interest for the Ultimates waned.  Same thing with Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four and a variety of other titles.  But Ultimate Spider-Man grew more and more respectable as the years passed until it became essentially the centerpiece of the Ultimate line and, this past year, made our list of the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2011.

Last year was the year I caught up with Ultimate Spider-Man.  This year is the year I write about it.

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Delayed Posts

Greetings, loyal audience!  Cal here, with one of those, whaddaya call ’em, ‘good news ,bad news’ deals?

On the bright side, I got a job!  I’ll be moving for the next few weeks, completely upending my life and running off to an exotic land far, far away from Ohio.  What this means for you?  I’ll be able to afford comics again!  On top of my regular columns, once I’m moved in and getting paid, expect to see reviews popping up again.  I’ll also be able to afford Netflix and cable, so expect the TV reviews, both of older shows (Justice League Unlimited) and newer shows (… there are going to be, like, 6 superhero shows this year, so pick one), to become a more regular and varied feature.

The down side?  As I mentioned, the moving process might take a little while.  While I’ll be down to my new location pretty quickly, how regularly I can get connected to the Internet is another matter entirely.  As you’ve noticed these past two weeks, my updates on The Unread Canon, One Shot and Summer Rewind have been greatly delayed.

Rest assured, posts will be going up, but it won’t be like clockwork for the next month or so.  Thankfully, it looks like the fantabulous brucecastle has returned for now, to fill your souls with the sort of joy only a discussion of new comics can bring.

I know, you’re all bereft.  I’ll do what I can to assuage your wounded hearts, and until I do, I hope you all have a fantastic week!

– Cal Cleary

The Unread Canon #12: The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

As a beginning note, this may be my last installment on The Walking Dead, at least for now.  While I do have “The Calm Before” and “Made to Suffer” (they’re the last volumes of my collection) and I am enjoying the series, it doesn’t lend itself terribly well to this sort of critique, or at least it doesn’t the way I’ve been doing it.  The flaws remain the same: the forced, stilted dialogue in particular is something I doubt Kirkman is going to get over after 36 issues, nor his tendency to overexplain character’s motives.  Meanwhile, the story has slowed down considerably and looks to be going in a slightly more traditional path.  I’ll make my final decision in the next two weeks, after reading “The Calm Before”, but rest assured – should The Walking Dead be removed from the roster, it won’t be forgotten.  I fully intend to keep reading, and may jump in should I notice a particularly large shift in tone, some interesting new themes, or anything along those lines, I might jump in with an Unread Canon Interlude sometime.  And in the meanwhile, I’ll be taking some suggestions for what to follow next: right now, front runners include Ultimate Spider-Man and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Have any thoughts on the subject?  Chime in in the comments.

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The Unread Canon #11: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

It is my very learned opinion that Bryan Lee O’Malley made an excellent choice in the structure of his first two “Scott Pilgrim” books.  In the first book, we didn’t have much ground to stand on in regards to the character-based drama/comedy, and so those bits fall at least a little bit flat.  In return, however, O’Malley gave us one of the coolest comic book fight scenes I’ve ever seen.  In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, however, the fight is almost an afterthought to the growing supporting cast, but because of what he started building in Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, the focus on Scott’s weird friends and weirder world just flat-out works.

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The Unread Canon #10: The Punisher MAX: Up Is Down and Black Is White

“Up Is Down and Black Is White” is the fourth volume of Garth Ennis’ run on The Punisher MAX, and while it isn’t as strong as “In the Beginning” was, it’s leagues ahead of the last arc, the weakest in the series so far, “Mother Russia”.  The arc follows the Punisher, Frank Castle, when he’s truly cut adrift.  The bodies of his family are stolen and defiled.  Castle may not be enough of an investigator to puzzle out who done it, but he doesn’t have to be: the thief is an old enemy come back to haunt him, and one who knows him well enough to know what buttons to push.  And he announces himself on national TV.  This goes about as well as you can imagine it would.

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The Unread Canon #9: The Walking Dead: The Best Defense

“The Best Defense” is the fifth volume of The Walking Dead, and it’s pretty different from what’s come before.  Previously, each volume was a solid stand-alone story.  Yes, each one built off of everything that came before, and did so VERY, very well… but they were nonetheless essentially standalone stories.  You could conceivably read, enjoy and understand “Safety Behind Bars” without having read “Days Gone Bye” or continuing on to “The Heart’s Desire”, and while you’d miss out on some interesting and important character development, I think you’d find each story enjoyable in its own right.  But while “The Best Defense” is an engaging, enjoyable read, it’s also almost purely wrap-up from the previous arc and set-up for the next one.

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The Unread Canon #8: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon #7: The Punisher MAX: Mother Russia

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon #6: The Walking Dead: The Heart’s Desire

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Punisher MAX: Kitchen Irish

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Punisher MAX: In The Beginning

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

Having completely missed The Walking Dead when it first began (and then, having continued to miss it for years on end), I figure now is a good time to start looking back at the evolution of everyone’s favorite zombie comic.  Robert Kirkman began The Walking Dead in 2003.  Seven years ago.  These days, that’s an incredible feat even for mainstream superhero books produced by the Big 2, let alone a drama/horror book published by Image.  While zombies have in recent years experienced a MAJOR resurgence, from runaway hit novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to zombie film mash-ups like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, it’s still something of a surprise to see the episode hit 70 issues, with recent critical juggernaut cable station AMC ordering a pilot for the show (filming begins in May).  What was it that has so grabbed audiences?

Beware spoilers ahead

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As a Note

Hello, faithful reader(s)!  Cal here.

Normally, it being new comics day, you’d be seeing new reviews popping up pretty soon.  Unfortunately, a recent trip to the ER has rendered me unable to drive and, uh, well, basically broke.  I’ll still be posting up reviews from time to time, thanks to some help from a few friends, and with hope, our other fabulous reviewers will help fill the void.

However, I’ll be starting another column here, titled THE UNREAD CANON.

No, I’m not talking about the canon of either the Marvel or DC Universe.  I’m talking about the CANON.  The stories that you say, “You have to read this!” to your friends whilst waving a stack of floppies about like a mad(wo)man.  I’m talking about the stories that define a character, the runs that set up titles as meaningful or important.

I’m sure you can think of a dozen… and I’d LOVE to hear recommendations.  Right now, the three that will probably be coming up first are Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man.  Initially, I’ll be examining them one arc at a time, but we’ll see how that pacing works.

I’m focusing on things I HAVEN’T read before, or at least that I haven’t read much of, which is why some classics you might love aren’t on the list.  Of course, they also could be missing because I haven’t heard enough recommendations to go check them out.

Have a favorite?  Sound off in the comments and let me know what books you think I should look at next!

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

– Cal