There are still dinosaurs like me that actually buy physical comics. The easiest way to do this is to go to one of the few remaining comic stores and start a “pull list”. This means they include you in their monthly orders for comics and pull the issues you want. Then you come in and pick them up. It’s pretty simple.

Unfortunately I can not recommend this method for any reason besides the luddite joy of it all. If you like comics and you want to have a little bit of community added into this hobby then it is fun. But it is also the most expensive way to buy them. Besides the current monthlies I collect I read the vast majority of my comics with my kindle fire.

Electronic comics are much cheaper and the format has become perfected in terms of readability. You just swipe and it takes you frame by frame through the whole thing. Just for comparison if you had collected all of Coates’ Black Panther run at $3.99 per issue as they were released that would total $50 for just the first year alone. Coates has now done 24 issues. And that entire run was on sale on amazon electronically for $12 to celebrate the Black Panther film. The monetary difference is insanely huge! Even without the sale each collected edition is probably around $10 for 5 issues. No matter how you slice it you’re saving money by going with e-comics. Even the monthlies are cheaper this way.

In other words I have a pull list because I like physical comics. It’s a retro indulgence. That being said I’m going to recommend two contemporary series that I enthusiastically pick up. Collect them however you want. These two series are Captain America and the Black Hammer universe.

Captain America MAGA Style?

It’s been almost 2 years since Marvel decided to have Cap say “Hail Hydra.” There was massive bipartisan backlash against this mostly because it came out that Cap had always been evil…and then in typically convoluted fashion that turned out to not be true either. Anybody who reads comics knows that they pull this kind of thing a lot. This medium is essentially soap opera for boys. People die and then we find out they didn’t. Twins show up, people get cloned, long lost children appear out of nowhere. It’s all the same corny stuff that makes soaps addictive to their audience.

What made the hail hydra thing simultaneously stupid and annoying was that it was a cheap attempt at perpetuating Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” debacle while everyone knew that it wouldn’t be permanent or would turn out to be false. In other words they insulted America with the old leftist cliche that non progressives are Nazis, despite the fact that the National socialists were of the left just as “progressives” are always of the left. As stupid as that was if there was any chance that something interesting would happen to Captain America because of it there might have been some merit. But everyone knew they weren’t risking anything at all. Cap would eventually go back to normal.

It was the “literary” equivalent of photo shopping Thomas Jefferson with a swastika. But the advantage to all this is that now Mark Waid is on the title and he is MAGAing this book like the Jerries’ U-Boats are right off the east coast again. But there is clearly anti Trump commentary in this run, and it’s not very subtle, but it’s much more clever than the Hail hydra junk was. And rightly so. I voted for Trump because I couldn’t vote for Clinton and I’ve been pretty happy from a policy perspective with his first year. But the guy has tons of character problems, none of which are surprising. He’s the same gross guy he’s always been. I mean he was a democrat and he’s always lived like one.

I don’t think he poses any real threat to our country, unless he really did collude with the Russians. But the president should always be in the media’s metaphorical cross hairs. No matter what party or skin color he or she represents. But the upshot is the creative team of Waid Sammee has truly rejuvenated Cap in a crazy retro way. The art feels classic, not old, classic. The writing is action based but clever. The third issue of the run was essentially a retelling of “the most dangerous game.”

I don’t want to be too gushy but this is what comics are supposed to be like. They can be dark and speak to big issues but I think they should more often than not focus on telling the sorts of stories that young boys can get into. The content has generally become so adult since the early eighties that children cannot be left alone with comics anymore. This book refutes all that. The writing is great and engaging but it’s completely clean. It’s fun but also taking big risks. I don’t want to reveal too much but Waid has never been scared to go big and crazy with a story. And his stuff is generally treated with intense reverence. Especially his epic run on The Flash and the amazing Kingdom Come. I hope this team stays together for a long time. They could be starting a quiet revolution.

Black Hammer

2. Jeff Lemire and Max Fiumara, Doctor Star & The Kingdom Of Lost Tomorrows, issue #1-.

Jeff Lemire is a great comics writer. But I guess he got bored or something because since mid 2016 he’s basically been creating his own super hero universe with the help of Dark Horse Comics. A universe that can match Marvel and DC for scope and complexity. The world he created is called Black Hammer, because that’s the name of the character who is basically the primary super hero of the universe. It’s sorta like calling DC’s universe The World Of Superman or Marvel’s The World Of Spider-Man.

At first I thought he was doing something high concept but relatively small or limited. Like an update to Watchmen sans the nihilism. But the first 13 issues were bigger in scope than a mere miniseries. And when he did the first spinoff series it became clear Lemire was doing something pretty amazing. The titles alone draw me in for their sheer retro romantic insanity. The first spinoff was Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion Of Evil. This industry often feels too normal. It’s not really true because crazy awesome stuff is always going on. But Sherlock Frankenstein!? The juxtaposition is absurd but the name perfectly captures the character.

That miniseries only lasted 4 issues but a lot was accomplished adding many compelling layers of richness to the young Black Hammer universe. Doctor Star has only had one issue come out so far but it’s already blown away everything else Lemire has done in this continuity so far. This book is fun and heart wrenching. Everything Lemire is doing with the Black Hammer universe is derived from some aspect of super hero pop culture history. Black Hammer himself is like a combination of Thor and Captain America. Golden Gail is a complicated lady version of Shazam/Captain Marvel. Barbalien is a gay version of Martian Manhunter.

And that’s where some people may be turned off. The series isn’t drowning in SJW madness but there’s certainly some adult progressive themes. Sex and sexuality isn’t a constant theme but it’s there. This series wasn’t designed for young boys the way that Waid’s Captain America is. But I’m continually impressed with the originality on display. The word deconstruct gets used way too much these days, and I think most people would say Lemire is trying to do that with superheroes. I don’t really think that’s what is going on. It’s a bit simpler and more profound than that. He’s using the language of super hero tropes to tell a new kind of super hero story.

It’s most similar to what Mark Miller has done with his excellent Jupiter’s Circle/Legacy series. The foundational ideas and concepts are all familiar to superhero fans but they’re doing new things with them. It’s both fun and intellectually compelling, which is very hard to do. This world doesn’t look like it’s gonna lose steam any time soon, I highly recommend it. Doctor Star looks like the high point to me so far. The character is hard to explain, especially since not much has happened yet. But there’s aspects of Dr. Manhattan (from Watchmen), Captain America, and maybe even Green Lantern. It’s already a very compelling mini series after just one issue. Check it out ASAP.

Educator, podcaster, & writer

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