Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paul's Picks! - January 25, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Well it's time for another Pick of the Week, and I find myself on unsure ground. There are some weeks where the chosen pick is screaming at me, and then there are those weeks when everything runs together so much that I have trouble pointing out the "best" of them; this is one of those weeks. Don't get me wrong, there were some great books, and if I had to pick a favorite I'd go with The Flash #5 by Francis Manupal and Brian Buccellato, but I'm afraid if I spend this week's article outlining what I love about their incredible run on the series, I'll just be repeating what I've already made clear in weeks past. Instead, I want to talk about something other than a single issue that tickled my fancy. This week, my pick is Comics that Make an Impression.

As I said before, it's not as if I didn't have any exceptional books this week. There were some really interesting reads, from Justice League #5 to TMNT #6. However, I couldn't help but feel that too many of this week's pulls just felt like "the next issue." Of course I realize that's exactly what they are, but I'm afraid you miss my point. When I go by my local store and pick up my pulls for the week, there are always certain titles that I can't wait to read. After all, that's why they're on my pull list. But the must exciting part about reading issues weekly is that you never know when a book is going to jump out at you, making such a lasting impression that it stays with you long after you finish the last page. Issues like Batman #5 by Scott Snyder, which I spent at least an hour contemplating once I had finished reading it. It didn't jump out because I favor the author or the illustrator, it did so because the creative team made something special.

Yep. That kick's butt.

That's what I'm looking for when I settle on my weekly picks. I'm not looking for "the next installment," or even an all-star issue by an all-star team: I'm looking for a book that hits me on some level. Alright, alright, I know there are some of you out there right now thinking, "Ugh, here we go, another speech on the literary relevance of comics and how it's a legitimate art form..." But that's not what I'm talking about. Yes, I do believe in the artistic and literary relevancy of comics (doesn't everyone?...), but I am also a firm believer in comics that just kick some butt, plain and simple. Justice League #4 kicked butt when Darkseid showed up at the end. Batman: The Dark Knight #3 kicked butt when Batman went and put the fear of God in Lieutenant Forbes. Go ahead, ask anyone, ask Seth who the fanboy is in this relationship: I know it's me. What I'm talking about isn't necessarily a "literary" quality. I'm talking about sticking out, packing a punch, being memorable. That's what I want from my pick of the week.

As I mentioned before, my pick this week would be Flash #5 (which I will discuss in more detail on our upcoming Podcast, which EVERYONE must go download after the weekend!), because out of all my pulls this week, it was the one that made an impression on me. There are a few things that I tend to look for, things that make the books hit home and that make them Pick-worthy:

Make an Emotional Connection. Back in the week of November 9th, Batgirl #3 made my pick of the week based on this tactic. While the art and action certainly hit home, it was the emotion and realness of the character that gave it the push it needed to land the pick. Sometimes a good book doesn't need explosions or psychotic villains to be interesting: it just needs relatable characters.

Draw some Eye Catchers. On the other end of the spectrum, a book doesn't have to be all about "characterization" and "language." Sometimes a good comic just needs to look awesome. Of course, terrible writing can get in the way, but let's be honest: there are few terrible writers out in the industry with ongoing books. Even with sub-par dialogue, a book can make a lasting impact with the kind of images that hold the reader's attention too long to over analyze the writing. Not to downplay the writing on the Flash, but I often find myself trying to read and decipher the art even more than the writing itself. This is what I'm looking for: an artist who is telling as much of a story (or more) than any author.

I can see his thoughts. That's so cool...

Do Something Unexpected, but with class. This is something I've seen a lot of in the relaunch: the shock factor. Whether it's the key protagonist in a seemingly lethal predicament at the end of an issue, or some crazy revelation or appearance that the reader never would've seen coming, this is probably the most common way that the team tries to wow us. After all, that's why they call them "hooks." However, if done correctly, the author may just convince us of real danger or surprise, instead of seeming predictable or shallow. Want a prime example? Compare the endings to Green Lantern #3 and Batman #5. Too totally different scenarios, but both in the same vein of shock and wow. One left me feeling annoyed, one left me with my mouth laying on the floor. It's all about execution and believability.

Old dog? Meet new tricks.
It's OK to do something "old" if you can make it FEEL like something new. Yes, the DC(n)U has had it's share of fresh moments but also it's share of "been there, done that." However, just because we've seen or read something similar in the past doesn't mean that it can't be just as good or better than before. For example, take a look at the two "Secret Origin" series done by Geoff Johns. Green Lantern: Secret Origin was absolutely amazing. It took something very old and retold it in a way that felt completely new. That book alone could convert anyone to Geoff's brand of comic book storytelling. However, the Superman: Secret Origin mini that he did with Gary Frank was pretty lackluster. The writing was good and the art was fantastic (I love Frank's Superman), but the story itself was just meh: more of the same, without even a particularly fresh insight. You want a fun read on the origin of Superman, Grant Morrison gave us a very nice take on the destruction of Krypton in Action Comics #5. And that's just it: it doesn't always have to be something new, crazy and exciting, but it needs to feel like it is.

For the sake of running way too long, I'm going to end here. These are just a few of the things that I look for on a monthly basis, but this is by no means a comprehensive list of requirements. Here at Ancillary Characters, we love comic books, we love characters, and we love talking about both. As an avid fan and reader, I expect the guys out there to put their real work into it and give us something worth reading and talking about.

**¡¡Important Notice!!**

As of tonight, we will have recorded our very first Podcast here at Ancillary Characters! It may take a few days to get it all mixed and ready to submit, but we will have it up and ready to download ASAP! I hope you'll all go check it out, as we'll be starting off biweekly to build up a base of listeners. I hope you all really enjoy it, should be a blast!

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