I read a lot of comics. I look forward to the Previews catalogue each month and my new comics every Thursday or Friday. For as long as I’ve been reading them, comics have primarily consisted of 22 story pages. Sure, the argument over that arbitrary number re-surfaces from time to time, and perhaps monthlies aren’t as in favour as Trades and OGNs, which find a more welcome home at bookstores, but to make a story have impact in 22 pages is no easy feat. Not every comic I read is a winner of course, and some steal minutes from me as I trudge through them. However, this month has been a good one. And of course, if you read comics, you more than likely want to work “in” comics as a creator. If that’s you, then take note of these recent releases in how to craft an engrossing story.
Dark Avengers #3. Ever since Avengers Disassembled from a few years ago, which tore apart the traditional Avengers crew, the spin-offs have been abundant. We’ve had Young, New, Mighty and now Dark. They’ve all made sense and added something to the mythos though. However Dark Avengers, launching from Secret Invasion is a great twist. With Norman Osborn replacing Tony Stark as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D, he quickly re-named the agency H.A.M.M.E.R and made in his own team in his dark image. So instead of Spider-Man, we have Venom, Bullseye instead of Hawkeye and Daken is Wolverine, and so on. What a great surprise, and it could go anywhere. Bendis showed again that he’s the master strategist of the Marvel Universe. In Dark Avengers #3, things quieten down somewhat and the first few pages are a prime example of deft characterisation balanced with superb pacing, helped ably by Mike Deodato’s pencils. Basically Osborn and disturbed hero Sentry are chatting. They’re two unusual men having a heart to heart. It goes on for 9 pages, but it’s the most riveting Avengers entry I’ve seen for ages.
Similarly, Justice League of America #31, written by Dwayne McDuffie is a great example of dialogue. Sure it’s from the mouths of costumed adventurers, but that doesn’t mean it’s all capital letters and exclamation marks. As JLA chairwoman Black Canary struggles to hold the roster in place she visits all the members for their reasons why the JLA just doesn’t cut it any more. There’s no action here, just pages of engrossing dialogue. Sadly, this may be the high point in this book for a while.
If you want to see what simple, hectic action looks like read this month’s Punisher #3, The Punisher #68 or Dark Reign Elektra #1, for an awesome escape sequence. If humour’s your thing, grab The Goon #32 (or any of them) by Eric Powell. I also picked up the Athena Voltaire/The Black Coat special from Ape Entertainment. It’s my first foray into those character’s books, but I was impressed, especially as two creators managed to write simple adventure tales starring two different characters in two different eras, but managed to effectively tie the narrative through both.
It’s worth picking up something you normally wouldn’t every time you visit the LCS, because you just may find a pleasant surprise.