BTFT: Do New Comics Suck? Part 1

A column article, Bin There Found That by: Chris Wunderlich

Each and every week I take a look at (often) old (always) cheap comics. This week I figured I'd change things up a bit and explore the weird and wild world of new comics. Yes, despite my affinity for mysterious bargain bins, I still purchase new books from my local shop. When dealing with cheap books it's easy to ignore a bad book when it only costs a quarter. When you're paying $3.99 for as single issue, however, worth is a huge factor. So what am I reading every month? Why? And who cares? Consider these the unsolicited ravings of the malcontent modern collector.

Moon Knight

Let's start on a positive note, shall we? I was a huge fan of Charlie Huston and Mike Benson's Moon Knight series from back in the '00s. Gregg Hurwitz followed up admirably with his short lived Vengeance of the Moon Knight after that, but the character quickly fell into the hands of Brian Michael Bendis, an easy out for me. I never did give Bendis's version a try, but I kept rooting for the character. When Moon Knight popped up in the Warren Ellis run of Secret Avengers I was thrilled. He was the oddball loose cannon—sort of off mentally but not what one might consider an "anti-hero". Warren Ellis just seemed to… understand (no surprise there). When it was announced that Moon Knight would be getting yet another shot at an ongoing (this being that what, seventh volume?), I was skeptical. Of course, learning that Ellis would be launching things, it was a done deal.

And then things got even better. Declan Shalvey's work on Thunderbolts seemed like a poor man's Kev Walker to me at first, but eventually he became a star in his own right, absolutely rocking every panel he drew. When I saw his designs for the suited Moon Knight, I knew all would be well.

Despite all this, my expectations were still too low. This volume of Moon Knight is everything I want it to be and more. These are short, powerful, single issue stories--memorable, creative and surprisingly simple. I can't think of a series I am enjoying more.

Sure, I'd like to see more of the supporting cast I know and love. The multiple personalities, the rich Moon Knight lore—my favourite aspects of earlier series are not the highlight here, and it surprises me how much I love the book for it. The fact that this is a Moon Knight series almost seems like an accident. This book is an excuse for Declan Shalvey to show off and for Warren Ellis to experiment with storytelling. This is a superstar creative team in their prime, impressing with every issue they put out.

Now when these two marvels inevitably leave the book with issue 7, I doubt it will be ever be the same again, but Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood are due to come aboard and I'm excited to see what they have in store. Either way, Moon Knight is back and it seems like both Marvel and fans are paying attention. It will be a sad, sad day when this volume ends.

Avengers

And here is where things turn sour. Avengers is not the worst book on the stands, but it's easily the worst book I'm still buying. Why? I'm a glutton for punishment. I hate money. I'm an indoctrinated Hickman fanboy. Maybe I just want to see this series get better.

Choose any of the above—something needs to make sense. Month after month I lay down my $3.99 for Avengers and feel I must complain. When Jonathan Hickman started up this current volume I was pumped. He was fresh off his brilliant (I repeat, brilliant!) work on Fantastic Four/FF and he was lined up to tackle two Avengers titles (this and New Avengers, which I'll get to). Awesome!

For the first little while, Avengers rocked my world. Hickman did exactly what I thought he'd do… and more! Adding characters like Hyperion, Smasher and Starbrand to the Avengers were genius moves, and mixing in the likes of Cannonball and Sunspot seemed inspired. I was hooked on the new line-up and the first story arc impressed the heck out of me. And then things started to waver.

The first arc didn't really end. Things kept going, and going, and going--slower, and slower, and slower. The story was still intriguing but issues began to contain little more than a single thought. Scenes were repeated again and again and the plot almost hit a standstill altogether. Then Infinity came and things were back on track! The seeds Hickman had sown in Avengers started to pay off. It was an event book that I considered one of the best minis of 2013.

Yes, I thought everything was coming together. The art was consistently great (though Mike Deodato's stints were less than impressive) and Hickman finally seemed to be working up to a climax, much like he did with Fantastic Four. Sure, I'd spent way too much money collecting a story that probably could have been told in 4 issues instead of 23, but altogether I was satisfied. That's when the ball really got dropped.

Since the end of Infinity, Hickman has been spinning his wheels. There are a lot of plot threads dangling, many of which I'm incredibly interested to see through to the end, but they are mostly being ignored—hinted at if anything. There's still a lot of potential in Avengers, but Hickman has gone from his usual snail-like pace to a molasses of the thickest variety.

Issue 24 was a huge, double-sized book, and it barely contained any story at all. Issues 25-28 covered a fairly dull "evil Avengers" invasion that took much longer than necessary. Issue 29 was an "Original Sin" tie-in book that cost $4.99 and amounted to nothing more than a conversation between Captain America and Iron Man. And it was a boring conversation to boot!

So the story has dived, forgetting all the interesting concepts Hickman introduced, but how has the art held up? Poorly, that's how. Leinil Francis Yu has taken to pencilling the current books, and while his work is usually pretty good, he seems to be extremely rushed these days. The work is muddy, undetailed and not easy on the eyes.

Yes, every month I'm paying too much for a book that offers barely a sliver of a story with ugly art that seems to be going nowhere. Why? I guess I'm hoping Hickman will smarten up and quit stalling. He's better than this. Now when I hear Hickman say "I've already got the next three years planned out" I figured that's maybe one story arc, and it's an awful shame. I mean, his Fantastic Four/FF was brilliant!

New Avengers

Now don't get me started on the title of this book. These aren't the Avengers and they certainly aren't "new". But whatever, this book has other things to worry about, and with Jonathan Hickman at the helm again I'll give you one guess what the big problem is.

You got it—pace! New Avengers is still working on the same storyline from issue 1. We're on issue 18 now. Sigh…

The good news is this title is still interesting. Awful value, sure, but the story is maintaining. Hickman had a great idea for this ensemble of Marvel's powerhouse minds and I'm still intrigued. I won't give away any story points, but suffice to say Hickman has given us many mysteries to consider and has answered almost none. One might expect that when a story lasts more than 18 issues, a few questions may be answered while a few others are raised. Not here. We're still almost entirely in the dark and very few (if any) new elements pop in each issue. It's getting tiresome, but it isn't as bad as the flagship Avengers book.

The art, for one, is still decent. Mike Deodato again wiggled his lousy digitized work into a few issues here and there but for the most part I'm quite satisfied with the look of things. Current artist Valerio Schiti is doing terrific things with the book, which I think is helping things immensely. We're currently stuck in an arc that maxes out the "been there done that meter" with a team of Justice League analogues, but it looks so darn good I'm happy to ignore that it's all been done before.

Another positive note is the characterizations. Hickman has the voices of each character down and they have never seemed so "right". I'm a huge Black Panther fan, so his brief moments in the spotlight really shine for me, and characters like Maximus the Mad, Namor and Dr. Strange are all as interesting as they've ever been. Hickman still gets to write Reed Richards as well, so there's always that to look forward to. Without the awesome character work, this book would fall apart plenty fast, but there's just enough to hold it all together.

I still walk away from New Avengers feeling like I've been ripped off, barely getting an inch farther into what is admittedly a pretty great story, but it never leaves as nasty a taste as Hickman's other Avengers book.

Uncanny Avengers

Ahhh, deep breath—not everything in the Avengers realm is disappointing. Rick Remender has carved out a nice little corner of the Marvel U for himself and Marvel has been smart to let him have it. From Uncanny X-Force to Secret Avengers and now Uncanny Avengers it seems like Remender has been building one large story, much like Hickman so often does. The big difference here is pace. Remender knows how to tell long, complex stories that build in intensity and play on the reader's emotions while providing solid story development, characterizations and entertaining smaller stories month after month. This is the Avengers title I didn't know I needed.

When it first began, I didn't really care for Uncanny Avengers. I bought the book because I'd been following Remender's work and wanted to see where he would go next, especially with one of my favourite X-Men, Havok, in the lead. The first arc was neat but didn't thrill. The second arc was even neater. It took a while but not only has Remender won me over, he's convinced me he's writing the best Avengers book on the stands.

The art started out alright with John Cassaday giving his expectedly short intro run. I like his early work but lately Cassaday's work hasn't really done it for me. When Olivier Coipel took over I was pleased, but it's Daniel Acuna that's really kept me glued to the pages. I've loved Acuna since his Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters days and to see him helm the art in a Marvel flagship title has me giddy. He deserves to be in the big books and Uncanny Avengers is the perfect fit.

If there's one issue I have with the book, it's the core concept. The Uncanny Avengers are made up of equal parts X-Men and Avengers—it makes for fine team dynamics but Remender constantly harps on the notion of co-operation. "If humans and mutants can't work together we're all dooooooomed!" It gets old fast and when this concept takes center stage it weights the story down significantly. I like Havok leading the team, I love the choice of villains and I feel like all the right characters are on the team, but the constant hum and reminder of AvX really gets my goat.


So there you have it, a brief look at just four of the titles I decide to spend my hard earned dough on, month after month. Next week I'll take a look at four more—some rule, some stink, and some sucker me out of my life's savings. Stay tuned!

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