Top Ten: Comics That Work Best As Monthlies

Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.

So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:

Comics that put “character” first!

Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.

“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!

There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s  about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.

Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!

I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.

Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!

Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!

With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:

ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”

With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.

CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross

All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.

DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina

We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!

DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen

Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.

FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.

GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres

The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.

HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness

Heh. I really do love this book. Honest. HA!

INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker

Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?

JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham

Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
Cliffhangers? CHECK!
SOAP OPERA?!? TRIPLE CHECK!!!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #51 – Read A Ton of Good Books Lately?

(Be advised, the following “Feature Review” space reserved for fanboyish fanboying.)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #18 (*)

This cover is absurd. That is all.

Detective Comics #848 (*****)

Paul Dini, you monster. You took out her heart? OMFG!!!

Secret Six #1 (*****)

OH! I missed you girls so much!

Quick Hits:
100 Bullets #95 (*****): Heh. Irony. How ironic? (I mean, what can I say? Besides me and like five other guys, who else is still reading this bloated self-indulgent masterpiece?)
Anna Mercury #3 (***): This book feels like half a comic, or a web comic. For $3.99 it feels lazy.
The Authority #2 (***): Relaunch! Even with DnA, I’m still a lot o’ bit bored. I like the whole “World’s End” idea, but some of these titles are just BLAH! Where’s my Nemesis ongoing?
The Boys #18 (****): The thrilling conclusion to “I Tell You No Lie, G.I.”… thrilling really isn’t the word. The near-rape scene was disturbing and the park stuff was sweet… I don’t know, The Boys is complicated and so are my feelings about it… stop asking personal questions!
Criminal #5 (****): Dude, she is totally playing you! And! I’m hoping she isn’t, because if she is, then Brubaker is getting a tiny bit predictable.
Dreamwar #4 (***): This needed to be over already because I just don’t care anymore.
Final Crisis: Revelations #2 (***): OH! Emotions! Upheavals! Duty! Revenge! Mercy! …cliché? There was just too much hand-holding and feeling-sharing. BLAH! Spectre needs to kill more bad guys. Soonish.
Green Arrow and Black Canary #12 (*): IT’S OVER… my involvement!
Green Lantern #34 (***1/2): Mind wipes, all around!
I Kill Giants #2 (***): The art is interesting and the characters are… interesting, but I hope the hook for this series isn’t just “crazy girl makes friends”. Show me something, Joe Kelly, show me anything and I’ll love you forever.
Invincible #52 (****1/2): Bruce is right, this book rocks! It’s been rocking for two issues now, and it better keep rocking or I’m gonna have to start bashing Kirkman again!
Nightwing #148 (*): I’m no expert on bullet related injuries, but the logic in this issue just feels WRONG. Dick gets shot twice, loses two bodies worth of blood and within 24-hours is up and around like nothing happened?
Savage Dragon #137 (*): Why do I still support this book? It’s sooooooo Terry-Bull.
Wonder Woman #24 (****): Queen of Fables? BLAH. Dude, but those white gorillas are funny as ####! What a great addition to the supporting cast they’re turning out to be. Simone is a genius.
Young Liars #7 (****1/2): Even with the fever dreams, not as crazy as usual. But yes, this “Amy Racecar” stuff is cool and I’m looking forward to more.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #46 – DC Events: Batman R.I.P. & Final Crisis!

So, my laptop died yesterday. I only mention this because for the immediate future, there will not be scans to accompany my reviews. You see, my scanner doesn’t work with XP 64 or Vista, and seeing as how I just spent 800 bucks on a new laptop (w/Vista), it may be a few weeks ‘til I can grab an affordably price compliant scanner. Oh, I also need a new printer, but that isn’t really relevant to you guys. Anyway, on with the scan-less reviews.

Batman #679 (****)

Finally! An issue of RIP I can understand! I’m so late on this, and everyone else has said everything worth saying, I’ll keep this short. The Batman of Zur-en-arrh is OUTSTANDING FUN! Dude, he cuts out his own tooth!?! Converses with imaginary gargoyles and Bat-Mites!?! Beats the living crap out of everybody!?! And next, The Joker!?! OMG!!! I approve.

Detective Comics #847 (****)

This issue, Dini continues with the telling (or is that re-telling?) of the “Origin of Hush”. So far, I like it. I like it better than the rushed garbage that was the introductory Jeph Loeb story (even if it was 12 issues of Jim Lee). But, I don’t like how civil Selina and Zatanna were. I was definitely looking forward to that fight. How do you guys feel about the Scarecrow retcon? Is this cool? I’m on the fence. I need more input. But, so far, like the rest of his run, I’m enjoying this arc.

Robin #176 (****)

Whoa, is this better than the first issue? Hell yes! My favorite stuff, and the RIP junk is nice but I really don’t care about it so much in a book starring Robin, anyway, the best stuff about Fabian’s run so far is that, unlike Dixon, he’s got Tim acting exactly as you’d expect a teenager to act in response to the return of a presumed dead girlfriend. RIGHT!?! He finally admits that he’s pissed at her. Screw Batman RIP, this is what I want from my Robin. Robin’s inability or refusal to act like a real person was one of my biggest complaints about the Dixon stuff, and I’m glad Batman editorial or Fabian or both have decided to do something about it. Well done, sirs.

Nightwing #147 (***)

Um, how does this tie-in to Batman RIP? And where the hell has Two-Face been since One Year Later? Please, explain. Aaaaand, I still hate the way Tomasi writes Dick, er, Richard. Whatever. Maybe Tomasi can only write villains? His black Adam was crazy scary as was his Mongul, and the villains in the “Manhunter Memorial” tie-in were spot on, but his Green Lanterns SUCK, his Justice League SUCKS and his Richard Grayson SUCKS. DC, give this man a villain book!

Final Crisis: Revelations #1 (****)

This was very nice. Spectre killing bad guys? FINALLY! Anyone else grossed out by the way Spectre deals with Effigy and Dr. Light? Oh, since they’re dead, does that mean they’ll both show up in Reign in Hell? That would be cool. What else was cool, how about more infos on Libra? SWEET! Who is this guy? Seriously! The revelation is gonna be sick, I tell you. Oh, is that what the title is referring to? Mayhaps. Question was in here as well, and that stuff was nice, but I’m still not sold on her character. It’s well written, but I just don’t care about Montoya. Since this is a tie-in mini that Grant specifically asked Rucka to write for him, I’m reasonably sure that by the end, we’ll come to view this series as fundamentally essential to the Final Crisis epic. It’s definitely been the best of the tie-ins so far, although I have yet to read Legion…

Final Crisis: Director’s Cut #1 (****1/2)

Why buy this? A number of reasons, actually. 1) The black and white J.G. Jones pencils are A-M-Z-I-N-G. Just, WOW. Without the color and the word balloons, his skill really shows through. And if you had any questions about what was going on, these uncluttered pages answer them. I would definitely buy a hardcover like this. Seriously. It’s like the Ultimate DVD Special Edition. 2) Full Morrison Script. And, um, CRAP this is hard to read. I feel sorry for Jones. Seriously, this stuff is insane with the heavy. The description of the “Orrery of Worlds” is migraine-inducing. 3) By far, the best reason to buy this is the interview with Morrison and Jones in the back. The comments are revealing to say the least. Morrison and Jones explain scene and dialogue choices, metaphors, motivations, as well as hints of things to come. Usually, these Director’s Cuts are a lame attempt to grab more cash, but in this case, if you’re trying to decipher the mystery that is Final Crisis, this is a must-buy. For real though, this is by no means necessary reading. BUT, if you are already enjoying this series, this is definitely worth checking out. Or, wait for the hardcover/omnibus/abosulte edition. I’m sure it’ll be reprinted in there.