Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Comic Book Reading Priority

Wednesdays really make the week for me. The kid doesn't have school so I get a little more time with her. I have a standing meeting at work that drags me in a little early. This gives me an excuse to leave a little early (when I can) and I try to get home before the little one is in bed. This often doesn't work, but I get excited about the idea. Also, it is new Comic Book Day.

As an almost forty year old man new comic books really shouldn't excite me as much as they do. By the standards of adulthood and maturity that the adults of my childhood attempted to install in me I need to,"put away childish things." Thankfully, I am not slave to such draconian ideas. I strongly suspect I will enjoy comic books, role playing games, video games, and cartoons my whole life through.

If you have paid attention to my Comic Book Pull List posts or listened to the podcast you know that I am an avid reader. I really do devour stories. I typically finish an audiobook a week. I will also read myself to sleep on the Kindle and plow through a novel or two on top of that. I really am rather insatiable in my love of the narrative.

Recently, I have experienced an unintended side effect of the podcast. I pick my books up on Wednesday as early as I am able. I rarely read more than a book or two that day. The last few weeks I have not even had a chance to put my books in reading order until Thursday.

Yes. I do have a reading priority every week. I tackle key issues first.Think of key issues as stuff introducing a new character, introducing a new power for a character, a character going through a major change, or a character dying. Batman #77 is a good example. The death of Alfred Pennyworth is a major life event for Batman. It puts that issue at the top of the pile.

After that comes any #1s. Love it or hate it #1 issues drive sales. Lots of readers get excited for new beginnings. Proportionately, the creators behind the comics work hard at grabbing the audience with #1 issues. I will say that X-men #1 might be a lackluster example of this. On the other hand, take a look at Marauders #1. Kate Pride breaking her nose on a portal to Krakoa in the first couple of pages set the tone for the rest of the issue. It was a delight.

 I work my way through event books next. Event books are a mixed bag. I think of it like a long term couple trying to spice up their sex life with a little kink. The event is going to give you their creators and characters putting forth their very best effort to give you something new and exciting. In all reality you often end up with more of the same thing you have been used to for a good long time. It always starts off strong and then reels things back in to a nice safe and comfortable place.

As an example of this I will point to Absolute Carnage. Donny Cates got off to a creepy start with lots of recognizable dead bodies in one big mass grave. Eddie Brock is having to reach out to Spidey for help. Spidey is his typical self, but Eddie has a new twist of responsibility for his son. The Venom symbiote is uncharacteristically blood thirsty and wants Carnage dead. Things are familiar but just far enough outside our comfort zone as to be interesting. In issue 3 we climax with Venom Hulk. By mid issue four Carnage has claimed the Venom Symbiote and Eddie magically gathers together a new suite from the cast off Codices. We are back to comfortable to finish things off. For further reference on this phenomenon please see Secret Empire, Spider Island, Convergence, Civil War, Civil War II, Secret War, Secret Wars, and most other events. There are exceptions (House/ Powers of X), but events are frustrating.

Next, I read ongoing series stuff like Batman, Flash, or Doctor Strange. These story lines make up the heart of comics. Characters and villains change very little from issue to issue for the most part. Somehow Batman fighting his (mostly) unchanging rogues gallery has remained (mostly) fresh for 70 years. I respect the creators that give us more than 50 issues of the same story. Books like The Walking Dead, Invincible, or Saga are really worthwhile. They break the status quo, and give the comics community something substantial.

 I finish up with mini series stuff like Death's Head or Dead Man Logan. These books are normally good for character evolution. They may or may not have universe effecting consequences, but I typically enjoy these books more than the events. They make almost no pretense about their importance in the greater narrative. Oddly enough because of their compartmentalized nature, mini series often tie up plot lines and set the stage for new ones. I like saving the best for last.

It is funny that I am having a problem as a side effect of the Podcast. I grab all my books on Wednesday and do my level best to read everything so I can report on them in the review episode we record on Sunday morning. This is a labor of love and I have a blast plowing through 15 to 20 issues in 4 days.

It typically means that Sunday afternoon, Monday, and Tuesday are completely and utterly bereft of comic reading. I find myself more and more caught up on back issues and books I only read in trade paperback. My back log of books is lacking. It leaves me a little bit at loose ends for those breaks and lunches. It is a strange problem to have. I tend to fill the time with lots of writing, D&D prep, and podcast prep. Sometimes I worry that I am one dimensional.

There are worse problems to have.

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