The summer comics of 2005

Originally written for eVent! magazine [ep] on July 30th, 2005.

Summer is when Hollywood’s high-octane action pictures hit the movie theatres across Canada, assaulting us with explosions, corny dialogue and more explosions.  Increasingly though Hollywood is running out of ideas and with only so many old films to remake like War of the Worlds, and only so many old sit-coms to bring to the big screen such as Bewitched, Hollywood is increasingly turning to comics for stories to put on celluloid.

The comic industry however, while revealing grand spectacles every bit as much as the movie industry, takes another path during the summer.  Far from dumbing down story lines the summer is when the major comic houses such as Marvel and DC, massive crossover stories that tie most of their popular titles together.  And so if you’re looking for a way to pass a few hours on a hot summer day comics may be the way to do it.

The question of course is for someone whose interest in comics may have been recently sparked by seeing a comic book movie such as Batman Begins or one of the Spider-man films, that first trip into a comic book shop can sometimes be overwhelming.  Shelves and shelves, boxes and boxes of comics to select from it can be hard to know where to begin.

Kelly Nanda of Ebenezer’s, a comic and hobby store in Vernon, notes that when first buying comics it is important to keep in mind the age of the reader when first starting out.  He points out that both major comic companies have different imprints and comics aimed towards different ages.  “Marvel came out with a line called Marvel Age that had Spider-man, Captain America and all the main characters and groups that were geared towards kids.  Marvel’s Ultimate line is geared more towards adults same with Marvel Knights.”

“It really comes down to the age group.  If you’re looking for some clean wholesome fun, everyday regular comic books, the normal marvel line, there’s no swearing and its very clean.”

So what big events are happening in the world of comics this summer? 

On the Marvel side of the fence there is the “House of M” storyline.  Bringing together the company’s most popular characters such as the X-Men, Spider-man and the New Avengers, the storyline is tying up loose ends from last summer’s events in the “Avengers Disassembled” story that saw the decades old Avengers superhero group disbanded.  After finding out last summer that the Avengers had been attacked by one of their own members Wanda Maximoff otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch who is also the daughter of the X-Men’s greatest villain Magneto, Marvel’s favorite heroes have to team up together to stop her from causing even further damage to the world.  Written by Brian Michael Bendis the comic should be as clever as it is action packed.

Another Marvel book to pick up is the Astonishing X-Men, which for the past year has been written by Joss Wheadon the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly television shows.  While lacking in the massive plotting of a cross over like “House of M”, Astonish X-Men is a showcase for Wheadon’s knack with dialogue and ability to tell a story.

DC might not have the star power of Spider-man, the X-Men and the Avengers to throw around but any comic that has both Superman and Batman in it is bound to attract notice which is why DC is counting on their premier super team comic the Justice League of America to keep readers on the edge of their seats with its “Crisis of Conscience” storyline.  Penned by Geoff Johns who was named by Wizard (the comic world’s top magazine about comics) as last year’s best writer and Allan Heinberg who is the writer and producer of television’s The OC, the book pits Batman against the Justice League meaning he’ll be fighting longtime allies like Superman and Wonder Woman.

Another DC book to pick up is All Star Batman and Robin, which features art by Jim Lee one of the best artists currently working in comics right now.

Still for new readers Nanda has some further advice, “Stick with what you know as well, your Spider-mans, your X-Men, your Captain Americas and your Avengers.  Stick with those and then maybe branch out into the more obscure ones. “

Other bits of advice for new readers check out Marvels Ultimates line of comics.  In most Marvel comics characters like Spider-man have aged.  Peter Parker is no longer a high school student but actually is a teacher now.  The Ultimate lines restarted the stories of the major characters, so now Parker is back in school and is just starting on his superhero journey.  They also tend to be closer to the movies that have made the characters even more famous than they were.  Read a couple of different issues at a time, or pick up a collection of issues in paperback form, that will allow you to get into the comic’s story quicker than buying one and waiting for the next month’s issue.

Like films comics are a broad market, with titles that aim at every conceivable taste.  If superheroes with capes do not end up interesting you keep looking, there are a lot of stories out there True Believer.