Each week, Matt Wilson, co-host of the War Rocket Ajax podcast and author of the brand new Supervillain Field Manual, examines a major comic news item and reviews a few selections among the week's comic book releases.
It seems like a fairly innocuous story until you consider why it's actually kind of a big deal. Most obviously, it's kind of shocking anyone would be spending money to buy a brick-and-mortar anything store right now, especially one that sells items with as limited a fan base as comics has. Second, Mark Waid has kind of been at war with a few comics retailers over the past 15 months or so, ever since the launch of his digital comics website, Thrillbent.
A few comics retailers took the launch of that site, as well as some comments Waid made about the viability of digital comics as a storytelling medium, as a betrayal. Some said they thought Waid believed that digital comics are the only viable option for comics readers.
Waid has repeatedly said he never intended that; after all, he continues to write comics for print. His buy-in to Alter Ego almost seems like the ultimate PR move, like he's saying, "You think I don't like print comics? I'll become one of you print comics salesmen, then. Say it now."
But I think there's a lot to this story that goes well beyond Waid's spat with his critics. It's about digital and print comics co-existing.
The very notion that those two formats have to be at odds is baffling to me. Certainly I can see how retailers could view digital versions of print comics as encroaching on their sales, but when you get right down to it, print comics and digital comics are two different formats that can do very different things. Just look at the print editions of "Batman '66" versus the digital versions on ComiXology, at least the issues with all the Guided View magic. They're almost like entirely different comics.
I hope what ultimately comes of this story is a message about people who read digital comics can read print comics, too. People who sell digital comics (or give them away for free) can sell print comics.
I don't know why we keep perpetuating the idea that a new medium always kills off an old one. People still listen to the radio. There are still record stores. There's even a resurgence in VHS tapes. Did those media have to change to adapt? Sure. But they're not gone.
Print won't go away, either. Let's not let fear of that happening kill the potential of digital comics.
And now for the comics of the week!
"Suicide Risk" #5
(Boom! Studios, by Mike Carey and Joelle Jones)
I came into this series fresh with this issue, and I'll say first and foremost that I wasn't lost at all. It was a really nicely crafted jumping-on point for the series, so kudos to the creative team for that. This issue was also dark. Like, super-dark. For a lot of it, I just took it as what it seemed to be: A collection of near-cartoonish horrors being perpetrated on a character. But then I saw what it was heading toward, and it started to make a lot more sense. I ended up really digging how it didn't hit me over the head with the way it would conclude until it happened.
"The Star Wars" #1
(Dark Horse Comics, by J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew)
Mayhew's art here is stunning. I don't know if he did the design work himself or a lot of it was based on already-existing designs, but the whole look of the book is as visually appealing as the actual "Star Wars" movies are. Mayhew really nails it. As for the story, well, you can tell it's a first draft. It actually reads a lot like the movie prequels in terms of there being lots of political talk and stuff about trade. The compelling story of the alternate versions of these characters really gets lost in it. I have no doubt Lucas wrote this; it's like a proto-Episode 1.
(Marvel Comics, by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena)
This is a complex comic. Like, almost too complex. With all the stories going on at once, you almost need a flowchart to know what's what (and I'm sure Hickman would be happy to make one). That said, this issue has some outstanding moments, like when Thanos' general shrugs off a comparison to the Bible and says it isn't like Herod at all, it's like Thanos now. Jerome Opena's art is quite stunning, too, though I have to say I preferred Jim Cheung's work on issue one just a tad more. I'd prefer a little consistency on that front.
"Forever Evil" #1
(DC Comics, by Geoff Johns and David Finch)
This is a ridiculous comic book. Goofy as all get out. It has Ultraman snorting Kryptonite like cocaine, for crying out loud. He blocks out the sun with the moon, as if either body will stay in place. The dialogue is ludicrous. And yet, unlike the "Trinity War" event that preceded it, I ended up really actually liking this. It hit a point of insanity that I couldn't hate. Keep things this crazy, DC, and I'll keep coming back.