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$20 a Week, Part 1 – The Pull List


I don’t have much disposable income. As a young dude, I’ve got to pay rent, food, dates, yada yada yada. Comics are a luxury item.

When I moved out on my own, I set my comics budget at $20 a week. With comics at $3-4 apiece, that’s not many books. Each purchase has to be justified. So what do I buy? How do I justify those purchases?

Most of my list is monthly superhero titles. That’s because of their shared universe. Seeing Iron Man and Captain America’s books react to each other is a big part of the fun. If a book is out of continuity or its own universe, I can read it on its own, often in a cheaper, collected format without missing out on any connections to the greater universe’s story.

Avengers Academy – Loving this book. I thought the quality of Avengers: The Initiative dropped right around Secret Invasion, but Christos Gage had a concept that pulled me in. Young people on the verge of becoming villains? Yes sir! His writing and Mike McKone’s art are great. Solid new book.

Avengers: The Children’s CrusadeYoung Avengers was a brilliant surprise. Allan Heinberg, who had worked on TV shows like The OC and Sex and the City, dropped himself in the middle of the Marvel universe and never seemed lost. Jimmy Chung slayed every page. Even better, this long-awaited follow-up features Magneto and Quicksilver, two favorites of mine.

Captain America – For six years, this has been one of Marvel’s best books. Ed Brubaker resurrected a 40-year-dead character. And it didn’t suck. He killed the title character. And it didn’t suck. He moved someone else into the role. And it didn’t suck. He resurrected Cap. And it didn’t suck too bad. If that, combined with the industry’s most consistent art in hero books, doesn’t belong on my list, nothing does.

Daredevil – Speaking of consistency … Smith, Mack, Bendis, Brubaker, Diggle. 12 years without a bad writer. Other than a rare fill-in, this book has been great. Brubaker/Lark’s “Devil in Cell Block D” and Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale’s Daredevil: Yellow made Daredevil my favorite hero. Lucky for me, he’s had a good book. Shadowland seems to be ending the current run, so we’ll see what happens.

Daytripper – Normally, this would have been a wait for trade deal, but these Vertigo books need a push at the start. I got sucked in. There’s only one issue left, but this has been a great, unique series. I dare anyone to show me another comic series about the various deaths of a Brazilian obituary writer. I’ve talked about Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s art before. It’s perfect. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

The Flash – I don’t read many DC books, but I’ve always liked The Flash. So when this relaunched this year, I wanted to check it out. Only a few issues in, the main draw has been the art. Francis Manapul’s figures are fun and distinct, but my hero is colorist Brian Buccellato. I don’t quite understand the process, but it seems like the linework gets an inkwash, then color over that, much like how Matt Hollingsworth treated Tim Sale’s art on the Marvel color books. The plot of Johns’ story has been slow-going, but he gives some nice setpieces, such as Barry Allen running on the spinning blades of a helicopter.

Invincible Iron Man – Matt Fraction understands the character of Tony Stark. His strengths, his weaknesses, his wants, his world. Add in one of the best current supporting casts in comics (Pepper, Widow, Maria Hill, Rhodey) and you’ve got a book that is always interesting. I’ve expressed my problems with the art, but overall these are the best Iron Man stories I’ve ever read.

Secret Six – DC’s best book. I’ve read a few things by Gail Simone, but nothing grabbed me like this. Her work with these characters, going all the way back to Villains United has been stellar. You wouldn’t know it reading Birds of Prey, by Simone is twisted. Nicola Scott was a perfect partner, but I can’t fault her for moving onto Teen Titans. Despite that title’s recent crap, it will get more eyes on her art. Give this book a chance.

Shadowland – I wish this book wasn’t important. Because it’s not good. One of Daredevil‘s greatest strengths over the past ten years was that it told personal stories. Matt Murdock was the Job of the Marvel universe. He was punished over and over, but was always a hero about it. Shadowland does a 180º. Murdock, seemingly possessed, turns on his friends, even allying with his greatest enemies. Paired with Billy Tan’s at best inconsistent art, this book isn’t good enough. It’s importance to some of my favorite characters is all that keeps it on the list. There are two issues left. I can only hope it ends well.

Stumptown – I wish Greg Rucka wrote more. His superhero work is worth reading, but he really shines with his own projects. Rucka writes believable female characters and stirring crime/espionage stories, so of course this is great. PI Dex Parios can already stand on her own with Carrie Stetko and my girl Tara Chace. Matthew Southworth’s art reminds of Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, and David  Aja, if more sketchy. The first arc just ended, but scheduling problems mean it’ll be early next year before the next story starts. Take this time to catch up.

Thunderbolts – I hopped on this book when Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato took over during the Civil War fallout. It dipped a bit before and during Siege, but Jeff Parker’s new Luke Cage-led team is off to a great start. Unlike that Siege-era team, packed with people Grizzly and Paladin, we now have known quantities like Crossbones and Ghost. Kev Walker’s take on characters like Songbird and Juggernaut are powerful and dramatic. It’s early in the run, but if it continues, this will be one of Marvel’s best.

X-Factor – I love this book, plain and simple. I was new to comics, but good reviews convinced me to give it a shot. I knew nothing about these characters, and now I list them all among my favorites. I talked about my love of Peter David’s writing last week, but in short, every choice he makes is with maximum dramatic effect in mind. The only shortcoming is the ever-changing pencilers. This book is ignored too much. It is so much more than just another X-book.

Young Allies – Along with Black Widow and Avengers Academy, Marvel’s Heroic Age has launched some amazing books. More than the actual characters, many of whom I wasn’t familiar with, writer Sean McKeever drew me to this book. If you’ve read The Waiting Place or parts of his Titans run, you know that he does teen soap opera as well as anyone. I don’t know if he loves being stereotyped as the youth guy, but why doesn’t Marvel give him Runaways? David Baldeon’s artwork is cartoony, but not exaggerated. His teens look like athletic teens rather than juiceheads or shrunken adults. This is another book you should jump on while it’s still new.

So that’s the pull list, but $20 a week can buy more than that. Coming up, I’ll talk about the series that straddle the fence between subscribing and being dropped, and those I follow, but in collected editions.

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