Comic Catch-Up #42

March 4, 2023

So it is post #42… which is, of course, the answer to the ultimate question. It was Jackie Robinson’s number that was retired by Major League Baseball across all teams. It was the final number of Hurley’s numbers on LOST. Number 42 is a significant number so it is a good day to do another special edition of the Comic Catch-Up.

I was pondering some questions the other day. One that I was thinking about was what causes me to try a new title? Especially now that I have been expanding my comic reading significantly past just Marvel. Why do I try something and not others?

What I came up with was clear. It was the writer.

When I was young, I was more into the artist. I remember being more of a fan of those people creating the look, the imagery, the beauty of the book than those who were writing it. I loved John Byrne, Walter Simonson, Arthur Adams, John Romita Jr (Spider-Man, of course), Frank Miller, among others.

Now, I honestly do not know a bunch of artists off the top of my head. However, when I see certain names of writers attached to projects, I feel my curiosity piqued. I have started the Bone Orchard Mythos because of Jeff Lemire. I gave Love Everlasting another chance because it was written by Tom King (who wrote the brilliant 2015 Vision series). Tom Tayler wrote my favorite run of Spidey books called Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Donny Cates is up and down, either being brilliant with Crossover or horrendous with the new Hulk series. Speaking of Hulk, The Immortal Hulk brought Al Ewing to the front. I have purchased several of Skottie Young’s books because of his work on Strange Academy. Even the old days would make me think about Chris Claremont. Several of those artists I mentioned earlier transitioned into becoming writers too.

Though it would be up for debate, perhaps my current favorite writer working in comics today is most likely James Tynion IV. I was introduced to his work on Something is Killing the Children and I have loved The House of Slaughter, The Department of Truth and The Closet. I never read any of his Batman books that I have heard he became known for.

One of the things I love about Tynion’s writing is that he has such a variety of tones to his work and his style, which feels the same, is actually very different. In SiKtC, Tynion IV does not use a lot of dialogue or exposition, relying heavily on the art/images to move the story along. The Department of Truth is much opposite, as several of the issues were exposition-heavy. The look of many of these books are extremely original as well. Different is important.

No matter what they style, James Tynion IV is an exceptional storyteller, in many ways pushing the format of comics into areas where they have never been before. If I see his name on the cover of a book (say, Blue Book #1), I am much more likely to pick it up than I would be if it were written by another comic writer.

So, I jumped into James Tynion IV’s oeuvre today with both feet.

The Department of Truth #18-22. The art was done on all of these issues by Martin Simmonds. I was terribly upset, because as I reached issue 22, I realized that the book had ended. I did not know that before. I was upset because I had really enjoyed this book. Even worse, I think this last few issues were just amazing. The exposition-heavy part of these issues had been lowered a bit as more and more truth started to come out. They went into more specifics about what The Department of Truth and what exactly was happening. I should have seen that as a clue that the book was wrapping up. However, they left off on a massive cliffhanger so I hope that we have not seen the last of Lee Harvey Oswald and the others.

Enter the House of Slaughter Free Comic Book Day. Art by Tate Brombal. This was the prequel for the ongoing series House of Slaughter that came out on Free Comic Book Day. I had not read it when I was doing the Something is Killing the Children catch-up day, and it was in the pile just waiting for the opportunity. With the Tynion day today, the moment was perfect. It weaved together much of the background of the original arc for Erica and threw some more spice in the mix.

The Closet #1-3. Art by Gavin Fullerton. I had no idea that there were only three issues in this series, done during the 30th anniversary of Image Comics. I had read the first couple of issues, but I did not know it ended with three because I had not finished it. So I re-read the whole thing to keep myself clear on what was going down. I am pleased that I did because it was a tough story that was filled with pain and fear. Thom is such a horrible person and a rotten father and husband, but you can still relate to the loser’s struggles. Of course, in the end, his own selfishness was causing fear for his son and the imagery of what the kid was having happen was just hard to read.

The Nice House on the Lake #1-12. Artist: Álvaro Martínez Bueno. This is the series that I ordered when I was going over the Eisner Awards looking for interesting independent books. This is not independent as it is DC Comics Black Label, but it definitely has an indie-feel to it. I loved this book as some benevolent ‘alien(?)’ who had been masquerading as a human for years, was instructed to find 10 exceptional humans to save before the end of the world. However, Walter (the ‘alien’) had grabbed the friends he had made during his time as a human and he took them all to a idyllic paradise, on a house on a lake. He found out that the human nature was too erratic. The series does an excellent job of building this group of people over the run of the 12-issues so that they are important to the reader and three-dimensional as characters. Much like a lot of Tynion’s work, the narrative is not just told in the typical comic book fashion. The use of text messages, memos and sketches make this a unique and engaging series.

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