Archie Comics

I recently got turned back onto Archie comics when I decided to dive into Jughead, which is currently being written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics).  I’ve only read the first two issues (this part of the run currently by Chip Zdarsky) but it’s fantastic. Very reminiscent of the classic Archie comics I remember reading. 

So I think I’m going to start picking up the Archie digest comics every now and then. My brothers and I used to read them ALL the time when we were kids. In fact, I’ve been meaning to pick up our old collection again next time I’m at my parents house. 

The greatest thing about these comics is that they’re easy to read through, and are funny no matter how old you are.  And I don’t think the humour has changed in the over 75 years the comic has been around. I love that each writer keeps the same overall style while brining their own flair to the series. 

I just found a book that must be from 2008 or so. It’s things like this panel that crack me up every time. 

Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?
Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?

I’ll do a full review post of the Jughead run once I finish it. But spoiler alert – it’s fantastic and you should read it. 

My Personal Comics Renaissance

I was never a huge comic book reader when I was younger.  In fact, minus a few issues that have fallen apart or I’ve given away, I still have all of the books I’ve ever owned since my days as a youth.  Spoiler alert: that’s not very many comics.  The point here is that I didn’t have a large collection, and definitely wasn’t using my allowance to buy a new comic book every week or month.

I remember liking the idea of super heroes – Spider-Man specifically – but I don’t know how I got into that kind of thing, or how I ever first realized I “knew” Peter Parker’s origin story.  I guess it’s just one of those things that gets ingrained into popular culture that we’re aware of all the time.

I added to my collection when I was in high school, a little bit, when I found some cool Star Wars comics that I enjoyed.  Still not on the ground floor of when Star Wars came back into pop culture either – I was still more into the novels than the comic books.

But recently after discovering podcasts like Make Dad Read Comics, I’ve been getting more into comic books.  Some of them are pure indulgence (such as Civil War) but I’ve been largely more judicial in choosing comic books to read.  I’m not extremely interested in the super-hero genre, but tend to gravitate more toward the “literary” comic book.  More independent stuff.  I’m not counting Vader in that category, mind you.

But I also used to read web comics all of the time.  This is one area I’ve struggled to get back into, and I don’t know why.  Web comics are basically like news paper comics, but there are some really good ones out there that deserve attention.  Unfortunately I’m having to discover that all over again.  Dinosaur Comics is perennially my favourite, but I can’t say I can name others right now.

I think my personal renaissance stems from there being more choice these days.  The quality is also higher than what I remember as a youth – even 15 years ago, the quality was not as good as it is today.  I think it’s amazing what some people are able to come up with, and I’m always in awe of what people are able to draw.

Got any good comic recommendations?  Web or otherwise?

Vader Omnibus – Volume 1 Review

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Vader comic book series, and it was recently recommended to me by Patrick of Make Dad Read Comics to read it – I had a $50 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I finally picked up the first 12 issues, collected in Vader Omnibus – Volume 1.

If you haven’t come across this comic book before, the general idea behind it is that it follows Vader’s antics immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  It joins the long standing tradition of comics and novels filling in the space in between films, which I can always get behind.

I finally finished the book over the weekend, and I can say that I really enjoyed it.  One of the interesting things that it does is knock Vader down several notches.  He’s somewhere in between his status in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; he’s still taking orders from other Imperial officers (Tagge, this time), but isn’t quite as fearsome as he appears in ESB.

What’s interesting is that the Emperor is really displeased with Vader in this comic series.  The destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope is a big failure for the Empire, and for Vader in particular.  At this stage in the comics, Vader must really prove himself to the Emperor again, while being placed under the supervision of an Imperial officer.  What results is Vader taking it upon himself to gather his own covert forces to track down Luke Skywalker.

There are several cool flashback moments in the comic that re-contextualize Vader a little bit.  It made me realize that he was probably thinking of his past at a few different points in the movies, even though the prequel trilogy came much later.   But the real highlight of these first 12 books are Captain Aphra and her droid factory (I’m hit or miss on Triple-0 and BT but more on the hit side than miss).  I just found out today that she’s going to have her own comic book series – and I think I want to check it out.

I would gush more, but I need to give this another read through.  Especially since I also just learned that the second volume is coming out Feb 28th, so I have another book to pick up soon.  Suffice it to say that the Vader series is well-written, well-drawn, and is fun to read through.  I definitely recommend it!

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud over the weekend – yes, I typed that correctly; I started the book sometime Friday and finished it Sunday.  If you want to skip my review entire, I’ll tell you straight up that I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

As I mentioned, I was able to finish it in a weekend.  Surely I missed a lot of information, but at around 215+ pages, it’s not a very dense work of non-fiction – there aren’t a lot of words, and the bulk of it is juxtaposed next to images to help drive the point home.  It makes for a very quick read, but the material is there to make it a very deep dive if you’re so inclined.

The format is presented in black and white, with one chapter briefly featuring bits of colour (for emphasizing the uses of colour in comics).  Everything was otherwise clear in terms of conveying information, so definitely no marks lost for lack thereof.  In fact, I think the one chapter about the use of colour helped to bring attention to the material at hand.  Releasing it in colour may have diluted the information a bit, maybe.

The book is clearly well-researched.  McCloud knows what he’s talking about, and goes back to information and comics centuries’ old.  There are a few parts where it feels slightly repetitive, but never dry.  I really enjoyed how it made me realize some of the unseen techniques going on with comics that I hadn’t really considered before.

At times I felt a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas presented, and I feel like McCloud went a little far-afield with some of his ideas.  But overall it was presented in a friendly format and is a fun essay to read through.  4/5, definitely recommend.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

infinitiesanewhope16 years later, I finally read Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope.  If you’re not familiar with the title, the Infinities series is basically a “What If” series of comics published by Dark Horse in the early 2000’s, starting with A New Hope in 2001.

I first picked up issues 2, 3, and 4 – probably 16 years ago – based on the cover of the books; at the time, I couldn’t find issue #1 in the comic book shop, so I never read the books.  Finally, this year, I found the first issue and got to reading.

Overall, I’d give the series a 3.5/5.  The first issue is definitely the weakest, starting off with a quick summary of what really happened in A Ne w Hope, with some narration boxes saying…”what if something changed” (I paraphrase)?  In the case of SWI:ANH (my abbreviation), the detail that changes is Luke’s torpedoes fail to destroy the Death Star.

What follows is that the Rebel Base gets mostly destroyed, but the Rebels  manage to escape…for a few minutes.  Han and Luke believe that Leia is dead, triggering a massive angry outburst from Luke.  They manage to escape, and on starts this new saga.

I think the best part of this story has to be the depiction of Coruscant as the seat of the Empire, taking familiar locations from Episodes I and II and flipping them around.  For instance, the artists draw the Jedi Tower almost exactly as it appears in the prequel films, but use it as the Emperor’s private residence.  It’s a very fitting place for the Emperor to set up shop, really.  But the artist team get the details perfect, including the landing platforms that are used as well.  I recognize them all from the prequel trilogy.

Overall the writing is pretty sharp and tight.  I recently read the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse, and didn’t really enjoy the writing in that series.  However, the story progresses well for Infinities and the character choices make sense.  Well, Han doesn’t really have much to do other than shuttle Luke around – but I liked the sequence where Han, Luke and Chewie head to Dagobah.  That part does work.

If you can track the series down at some point, I definitely recommend it.  I’m going to look for the other Infinities series soon – hopefully they’re just as good.  Next up though, I have the first 12 volumes of the new Darth Vader series on the way to my mailbox, so I’m looking forward to getting started with that.