Spandexless Reads | 04-19-2012 / by Alec Berry

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This (hopefully) weekly column will be nothing near original, groundbreaking or inspiring, and I'm not even going to pretend it is either of those three things because, let's be honest, every website has one of these "what are we reading" columns. It's Comics Internet 101, and I'm signing myself up for the class. Why? No pressure, yet, also, needs to be done. But, amidst the lack of originality, I can guarantee this: I'll have fun writing it, and it'll at least be interesting. Two important factors that I'm confident will push me through the semester while persuading a few of you to pass me. And if not, well, maybe I was never cut out for this anyway.

In recent weeks, I've been frustrated. I don't enjoy much of the online writing about comics, or more to the point, I don't see enough quality writing. Instead, I see press releases and hype interviews. I see preview pages. I see angry manifestos of how it could all be better or how people are personally offended by some publisher's decision when it really doesn't involve them. Hardcore, obsessed me says: "stick to your guns." Passive me says: "let it go, that's freelance writing."

At this exact moment of typing, I couldn't tell you what thought fits me, except, well, why drive myself crazy on such a miniscule thing like writing about comic books? In the grand scheme, this equals nothing even if my enjoyment of it extends above and beyond. Yet, I can't just lax up if I continue to shove words out into the internet cloud, can I?. I shouldn't become another one of those desensitized, uncaring individuals. There's a responsibility prepackaged with critical writing, right? Right?

But what happens when you treat all of this too seriously? When you profess yourself king of the ant hill and look at yourself as something larger than what you really are? When you place yourself in a bubble? Then you're ... THAT guy.

The bigger question is this, though: who am I to claim what's correct when I hardly really know anything? Or is there even a "correct" to be claimed?

That's what brings me here, balancing all of these questions in the introduction to a typical "here's what we're reading" column, hoping the grind of a weekly, standard Comics Internet column may somehow help me see what's important as well as allow me to truly cut my teeth as a writer for hire. That's what I want to do, after all, and rather than raising my chin, professing myself ready, it feels wiser to be here, writing a column everyone will source as a knock-off, riding the grind. Because, no matter the questions, I know all I really want is to be a writer, and comics criticism has seemed to really stick with me. It's miniscule as anything can get, but oddly enough, I'm not sure it's such a clear cut, easily done thing. There seems to be more to it.

Amidst all the existential crap though, I missed the point of introducing this site feature. Forgive me. In the future, I promise to stray from the personal focus approach. David Brothers can do that.

Spandexless Reads. Here the thoughts of various site writers and myself will reside, each week, offering up some sense of what we're digging or not digging on. Simple concept. Easy to go with. Strap in. We're strictly discussing comics. No business. No trends. No morals. Just the work, the way it should be discussed.

Class is in session. Here's to graduation day, and maybe by then, just maybe, I'll know a little something.

...

Prophet #24 | Brandon Graham, Farel Dalrymple, Joseph Bergin III | Image Comics

While I've seen it before, only months ago, the first page of this issue hits so hard you can't help but double back and give it another go. That's how good Farel Dalrymple is. The rush, fear and deterimination within John Prophet upon reawakening so protrudes Dalrymple's artwork and pacing it's hard to excuse or quietly brush off  the moment. When I'd heard this issue was to focus on another version of John Prophet, basically re-doing the character's awakening on a strange planet, I wasn't exactly thrilled as I expected it may come across repetitive. I was wrong. Both Graham and Dalrymple work together to signify this John Prophet as different than the one we've already come accustomed to under Graham's script. First Prophet bled that badass adventurer persona. A character so concentrated on the mission, there's nothing else. Here, with Prophet #2, we see a man dedicated to the mission, yet through a few subtle moments, understand this guy cannot shake his humanity. He feels pain, shows compassion for the old life and really only acts to insure survival rather than serve a cause. It's well done, and Graham still writes this book with excellent narration that only attributes to the bigger feel this comic contains.

Lewis the Dog | Karri Roberts | Self-published

Karri Roberts came to my attention simply because of the fact she's a cartoonist living in the grand ol' state of West Virginia and is an alumnus of West Virginia University, my current school. I don't know why, but I found those facts surprising. Growing up in WV will likely convince you nothing creative happens in the state, let allow comic book making, but, apparently, my upbringing was off. Roberts presents some fine work here, I feel. The story possesses some of that expected autobio existentialism, but she manages to soften it a bit with some comfortable humor, reminding you that some things may not be big universal conspiracies but rather coincidences. Some of her storytelling falls through because of slight pacing and illustrative issues, but for the most part she's produced a satisfying read. Her use of blacks really gives the book its visual edge. To check her out: go here.

Secret #1 | Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim, Michael Garland | Image Comics

Secret isn't exactly a bad comic, but neither will it impress upon you an urgency to keep reading. As Jonathan Hickman continues to roll out new creator owned projects, I figured it was about time we received another one in which characters lacking any real identity made up the focus. In Secret, the cast contains a plethora of super rich, super power white men, and the only traits really defining these men are those exact qualities. Again, Hickman seems to be shaping his actors into ideas rather than people, something I thought he managed to get away from a bit in Manhattan Projects. But still, it's not bad. The color scheme in it works pretty well, and it seems like Hickman has yet another bit of social commentary left in him. If anything, I'd rather Hickman do this than Fantastic Four. I just don't want another Red Wing.

David Anderson / Staff writer

I have a weird relationship with Dinosaur Comics (qwantz.com). It sits there on my bookmarks bar, one of the least clicked ones in the bunch. My daily habits never managed to absorb this comic into my rituals, but whenever I read it it's always amusing and funny. What is wrong with my brain that I can't motivate myself to read this as frequently as MSPaint Adventures or Kate Beaton? Whatever it is, I blame the President.

Erik Sugay / Staff writer

There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo with the idea that the world is going to end this year. It only seemed fitting that I read Vertigo’s Four Horsemen, a short series of vignettes briefly detailing what may have happened the last time the world was supposed to end. At the turn of the millennium, the titular Four Horsemen reenter our realm in order to administer harsh judgment upon mankind.

It’s been centuries and instead of being greeted by the expected shrill screams of doom and wanton panic, they’re warmly welcomed by the violent rioting of head-rocking followers chanting their names. Confused, the mythical beings take to a local pub in order to figure out how the world has changed in their absence. Mankind no longer fears them, so the Horsemen need to adapt. Each issue is dedicated to an individual Horseman interacting with unwittingly wise humans at said pub and, through those interactions, they hope to find a more appropriate way to bring about destruction in modern society.

Four Horsemen is a none-too-subtle reflection of the seedier sides of advanced civilization. One where the Horsemen aren’t even really necessary. Mankind is successfully bringing about its ruin all on its own.

...

Alright. I've given you a taste of what this column will be like, although I'm not one for strict formats so this thing could be completely different every week (who knows).  But, rest assured, as I said, I'll keep it interesting. That I'm sure of. Whatever is read by either myself or other site writers, well, thoughts will show up here. Long reviews. Short reviews. One liners. Whatever. Come here for discussion, and if you have comments, leave 'em. They may turn up later ...

I'm sure some of you read this and found it absolutely randomized and pointless. Maybe you're right. I don't know. As of right now, I'm not even entirely sure where I'll take Spandexless Reads, but that's exciting, I guess. The potential. Yeah. Potential.

So. What did you read this week?