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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.
I read 5 comics last week: Batman/Superman #31, Avengers #8, Darth Vader #19, C-3PO #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #10.
The best comic I read last week was Batman/Superman #31.
I am not sure that there is an artist who is more unsung that Doug Mahnke. Truly, I am trying to recall an artist in recent times who gets less appreciation than Mahnke and I cannot think of one. He’s been working at DC on some very prominent titles for years. He’s been involved in big events. He’s illustrated the top characters at the company. One would think that his name would sell comics on its own and that he should be publicized as one of the best artists at DC. I have no idea why this is not the case. Just take a look at Batman/Superman #31 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Manhke’s lines are tight. His characterization is very solid. He captures the big moments of action (Superman and Batman vs. Chinese warriors) and the small moments of contemplation (check the Clark/Alfred scene – brilliant). Doug Manhke is simply very, very good and one of my favorite artist working today. Give him a big book, DC. Put him in the rotation for one of the twice monthlies!
Oh, and writer Peter Tomasi who, it seems, is effectively bridging the gap between the New 52 and Rebirth is no slouch, either. Actually, these two creators are perfect for each other. They are not the sexiest names in the business, but they are truly the most consistent. Tomasi writes big, high concept stories and puts together arcs that hold together, that are taut in their pacing and not decompressed to the point of glacier-like pacing as with some other writers. I love his plotting, mainly because it makes sense. A reader can follow it. Tomasi doesn’t trick the audience, he invites them along for the ride. I truly enjoy his work.
Both their talents are on display in Batman/Superman #31. Telling the story of a dying Man of Steel who engages Batman on one final mission, Tomasi brings some unexpected emotion to the story. I have to note that this issue is the first time in a long time I’ve cared about Superman in the comics. Tomasi quickly gets to the core of the Superman/Batman dynamic in this book and, more importantly, he finds a core to Superman that has been lost in these last stages of the New 52. Perhaps it’s the freedom to write a story wherein Superman will likely die or perhaps it’s just that Tomasi is that good.
I’d like to see these two creators get their due. A book like Batman/Superman #31 should be read. It’s words and art portraying the best versions of beloved characters. These guys are good.