Are Comic Books Accessible For New Readers? (Part I of II)

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About three years ago, I was reading pretty much every major comic book title that was published (and a lot of the minor ones). However, through the years, I've dropped various titles that I once was very fond of.

Now, due to curiosity, I have gone to my local comic shop and purchased a dozen titles that I used to read on a regular basis. I will review six of them here, and the other six next week. My judgment of each title will be based on the artwork, readability, new readership accessibility, and the amount (or lack) of confusion each title causes me. I should also warn you that there will be MANY SPOILERS, so if you'd rather read it for yourself, be warned. So, to begin:

Wonder Woman #160
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Drawn by Scott Kolins

The last time I read this title was when John Byrne was writing it, which was about three years ago. I suppose I was lucky with this issue because it is the first part of a story arc, and Vaughan was basically setting the table. In the story, Batman's old enemy Clayface comes to find Wonder Woman, who, like him, is also made of clay. He wants to absorb Wonder Woman in order to make himself more powerful.

During the battle, he manages to succeed, but only to an extent. Wonder Woman breaks free, although he does manage to steal a part of her, thus making him stronger and giving him the gift of flight. As the story ends, Clayface flies away, leaving Wonder Woman to seek out Troia for help.

Overall, the story was decent, but nothing too terribly outstanding. The artwork was definitely better than some comics I've seen, but Kolins isn't about to find himself on a top ten list anywhere. Vaughan did an admirable job at explaining confusing events of past issues, but in all honesty, the story isn't catchy enough for me to want to find out how it ends.

Green Lantern #127
Written by Jay Faerber; Drawn by Ron Lim

I last read Green Lantern a little over two years ago, just after Hal Jordan made an appearance in issue #100. This issue of Green Lantern is about a fire powered super villain named Effigy and his new companion, ice maiden Killer Frost getting together and wreaking havoc against Green Lantern. It's interestingly told from Effigy's point of view, which allows for a few humorous moments (such as when Effigy saves a mother and child from a forest fire, and then drops them into a lake because he doesn't want to put up with being called a "bad guy”).

Effigy and Killer Frost make an interesting pair, because Frost draws power from heat in order to make her ice. In a way, they seem to neutralize each other's powers, and romance sparks between the two. However, by the end of the issue, Effigy realizes that as long as he's with Killer Frost, Green Lantern will continue to fight them, so he basically leaves her to be captured. I'm sure there'll be another confrontation between GL and Effigy at a later date, being that nothing was really resolved with this issue.

I found this issue to be a decent story. There were some comical aspects, and both the writer and artist were good. However, I am under the impression that neither Jay Faerber or Ron Lim are the current creative team on GL, and they must have been doing some fill-in work. Regardless, I might be willing to pick up another issue somewhere down the line, although my motives are more out of nostalgia. However, I do think that if someone just picked up this issue and began reading, they'd have no trouble following along, which is always a bonus.

Captain America #35
Written and drawn by Dan Jurgens

I last read Captain America about three years ago. I had enjoyed the Waid/Garney tales before Liefeld mucked everything up, but their run after Heroes Reborn was very disappointing. On the other hand, Dan Jurgens used to be my favorite writer and artist, mostly because Death of Superman was my first real introduction to buying comics on a regular basis. However, I think he fails with this issue.

The story is about someone named Proctocide, who apparently should have received the title of Captain America, but didn't. He has been found by A.I.M., and they have turned him against Cap. A sub-plot involves Cap going on a date with his new girlfriend, which is probably what I liked the most about the story. I think a lot of the time, Steve Rogers gets left out of Captain America stories.

At the end of the the story, Cap fights Proctocide, and whilst he stops him from capturing something called "Omega", which apparently is a virus of some sort that, with a single drop, could wipe out all of New York City. The reason why I didn't like the story was because Jurgens really didn't go out of his way to explain what everything was and why it was that way. As a new reader, some things confused me, and I really don't have the desire to go buy back issues to find out all the things I missed (I get the feeling that I would just find MORE reasons to buy MORE back issues, and my wallet doesn't like that idea). All in all, Captain America has potential, but not much else.

Impulse #64
Written by Todd Dezago; Drawn by Eric Battle

I used to read Impulse back when Waid and Ramos were on the book, and actually stuck with it until around issue #38. Basically, #64 is part three of an ongoing story arc in Impulse. From what I can surmise, Bart has been captured and placed in a virtual reality (apparently very similar to what he had when he was growing up in the future). Meanwhile, the outside world is going to hell, and he needs to bust out to save the day.

Bart also has a V-R pal named Dox, who is his only companion in this virtual reality heaven. I suppose the reason Dox is there is so that, when Bart eventually escapes, he'll have something to be remorseful about. And by the end of the issue, Bart is confronted with his knowledge of reality, and that his mentor, Max Mercury is dying. Bart escapes from V-R, and tries to take Dox with him. Unfortunately, Bart fails, wakes up, and is, of course, remorseful. Bart escapes, probably toward the conclusion of the story next month.

Overall, due to the fact that I stepped in in the middle of an ongoing story, it was a little difficult to follow along with everything. I have to basically assume that Dox was the VR character that Bart grew up with, as opposed to someone new in his VR world. Also, I do not know how Max wound up dying in the hospital. Regardless, it was an interesting story, although once again, to find out all I'd need to know, I would have to buy back issues, and my wallet will not permit that I do that. I doubt that I'll find out how the story ends.

Iron Man #35
Written by Joe Quesada & Frank Tieri; Drawn by Alitha Martinez

I last read Iron Man near the beginning of the Kurt Busiek revival. Which, God bless him, was a HELL of a lot better than pre-Heroes Reborn. It wasn't, however, good enough to keep my attention. Iron Man #35 is an interesting issue that tells two stories. First, we are shown something that was probably from earlier issues of the series: the story of Max Power, a creature who was branded a scientist on his home planet (which is synonymous with heretic).

Apparently, Iron Man is trying to stop Power from what he wants to do, which is eventually return home by way of creating a potion that allows normal humans to have super-heroic powers for 15 minutes at a time. Also, apparently Ego, the Living Planet is a spore currently hiding out on Earth, which surely can't be a good thing. Iron Man, along with the Fantastic Four, go on a search for Ego, eventually leading them to a town that is actually All Ego and no human life. After a battle, Ego escapes and the story continues for another issue.

All in all, it wasn't a bad story. Quesada co-wrote it, and with the aid of Frank Tieri, does a good job of recapping and progressing the story. However, I didn't really see anything that convinced me to buy another issue, so I guess it falls in the limbo between a bad and good story.

Generation X #70
Written by Brian Wood (from a plot by Warren Ellis); Drawn by Steve Pugh

Back when Generation X first came out, I was an avid fan and actually followed the book for about three years. However, due to some creator changes, the book seemed to lose momentum and hipness, and so I wound up dropping it. This issue of Generation X was not extremely memorable.

I seem to recall that a year or so ago, Warren Ellis took an active interest in many of the X-books, promising to return them to past glory. Apparently, Ellis failed, since a lot of those books - including Generation X - are being cancelled. I don't know if he took an active role with Generation X, but this issue is a good example as to why many people are frustrated with the X-Universe. Basically, it's part 4 of a 4 part story, in which Emma Frost's sister is out to destroy the school and Emma, due to a long-standing jealousy. In the process, the team has to fight through a mutant-hating crowd in order to dismantle some bombs, and one member is either seriously hurt or killed.

I think the story was hard to understand and generally not worth the $2.25 I paid for it. Originally, I was very enthusiastic about Generation X, but I think the level of quality has dropped considerably. The artwork was uninspired and the story was hard to understand with very little recap. I honestly wish that Generation X wasn't cancelled - if only because I hope that someday, it will return to past glory. However, with stories like that, I can understand why it was given the axe.

So, of the six titles reviewed this week, I found only one that I might be really interested in buying again, which was Green Lantern. They all had decent artwork and interesting ideas, but were either not compelling enough to buy again, or were simply too confusing. Iron Man had a vaguely understandable story, but that one hardly kept my interest. Hopefully all of the titles I purchased will not be like that. After all, with a comic book industry that is having troubles selling titles, good, compelling stories are hugely important.

Next week, I'll be reviewing Wolverine #153, X-Men #106, Uncanny X-Men #387, Fantastic Four #36, Aquaman #68, and Avengers #34. I'm not optimistic.

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