Friday, February 18, 2011

Downsizing – Culling Titles and Adding Others

I am cutting back on some monthly purchases, and having some cut back from me. To preface anything, I am still insanely enthusiastic and dedicated to comics and this isn’t one of those ‘Dear John’ letters. This is more just a look at what I’ve been buying and what future solicits show me to be buying. And there’s a grand difference between the two that makes me smile just a little bit. There’s hope for the future. Hit the jump to see why Fantastic Four goes, why minis make room on my list, why Venom is added, and why The Walking Dead always makes me excited.

My current pull list has about 25 titles on it. It strains my budget every month, and I sneak a few past the boss at home to be honest, but in the end it is manageable. If only just. I try to keep a firm eye over my pull list and really comb through it on occasion to assess what needs to stay, add, or get shunted.

I think a large part of this habit became solidified at the end of 2010 when I looked at my Top Ten Comics of 2010 list and realised that ever though Marvel dominates my pull list it only came up with two titles in the top end. Two titles which no longer ship, which is even sadder. I’m finding I buy more Marvel monthly and yet it’s Vertigo and Oni and IDW and Image that give me the best stuff for the year. But why aren’t I getting more of those comics monthly?

Looking through the solicitations for May, I’m noticing a decline in titles I’m getting, though not a great deal, but there are many titles that will no longer ship to me monthly, so I thought it interesting to take a look at what and why.

Dropped Titles

I am making an effort to buy only comics I love (or like a lot) and stop buying out of habit or feelings of obligation. I don’t need to keep a run intact, and I don’t owe anyone anything. The best part is, if I drop a title I’m more likely than not going to find out what happens there anyway (if that’s a concern of me missing something) but usually it’s the experience of reading I care about, not the big moments. If I drop a book it’s because I’m not enjoying the monthly experience, be it art or writing. Most of the following titles are being dropped due to general malaise not because they are terrible.

Heroes For Hire

I’m just not digging this title. I came in for Iron Fist, didn’t get him, and should have learnt my lesson when I joined the New Avengers reboot for an Iron Fist fix but barely got it – though New Avengers was still good, solid fun, but it still got dropped. HFH is getting the big fat shaft because it’s just not exciting me. I really appreciate that Paladin has actually been the main character for the start of this run. It’s a bold choice but it doesn’t feel like he’s being used specifically. Any hero could take his place in the tale and that’s not good enough. If I get Paladin then I want the shameless guy mugging for attention and making me smile.

I am dropping this title because there must be better out there.

Generation Hope

I really wanted to dig this title, I did. Kieron Gillen is a great writer and I wanted to get on board but I now find myself in a bit of malaise with this title. The whole Tetsuo inspired Fifth Light was worked greatly, but then the title hasn’t gone much further than that. As I wait for the next issue, I find myself not entirely invested and enthused to see what’s coming down the line. Maybe it’s because this is tied more into X-continuity than I prefer. I don’t know.

I’m dropping this title because I’m just unsure and I was always taught, when in doubt, don’t.

Secret Avengers

I can remember when Brubaker/Fraction/Aja left The Immortal Iron Fist and plenty of internet jerks said they were dropping the title instantly. That annoyed me. I was definitely prepared to give Swierczynski a go as he picked up the reins, and I’m still glad I did. But I was staying on because I’m an Iron Fist fan. Here, I find myself in a similar situation but with a reverse outcome.

Brubaker was the writer on Secret Avengers but he’s off the title and I don’t think I’ll be sticking it out without him. Nick Spencer, an up and coming creator with a plethora of ongoings and plenty of good reviews behind him, will be taking over the book for an arc and while I think he’ll do a good job I also, sadly, see this as a good time to jump ship on the title. I really wanted to follow Brubaker doing something massive with this title and I can’t do it with someone else. Brubaker will leave and so will I.

Fantastic Four/FF

I have enjoyed Hickman’s run on the first family of comics. There have been some phenomenal moments, but there also been a few issues where I didn’t feel much of anything at all. I feel like maybe I should sit down with all the issues and read them as a massive beast and see if it impresses me more but as it stands right now, Fantastic Four has slowly been slipping down my ‘to read’ pile. With the end of the title and a relaunch focusing on the Future Foundation, not to mention Spider-Man coming on board, I think this is also a perfect jumping off point.

With this decision, I feel like maybe I will be missing something but I also think I can get something better elsewhere. And I can no longer afford to get everything that may have good/great quality. I need to trim down to just the great. So to go with my gut, the FF are no more. And if it does appear to be phenomenal then I’ll pick up the trade – it’s not like I actually ‘miss’ out on anything.

It also doesn’t help that I think the whole FF thing will only last for a while and then reset back to normal. Not that good stories can’t be told in the gaps between continuity and the status quo but I have simply lost faith in this title.

Miniseries Ending

It would appear that I’ve been dipping in for a lot of minis at the moment. It’s been fun to sample some different characters and creators but it is a strain when all the minis come at once. But it also means they seem to be disappearing all at the same time. Let’s have a look at what will soon be no more.

Ultimate Captain America

I am picking this one up purely for Jason Aaron and I will stick it out to the end because of him, and because it’s only 4 issues. The opening 2 issues haven’t been amazing, to put it bluntly, but the whole thing is some sort of Cap/Heart Of Darkness tale and surely Aaron will make that go somewhere. Even if he is dealing with "arrogant tourist Cap" (as paraphrased from Chad Nevett).

Watching this one ship off means one less $4 comic in my list. That’s always nice. It certainly was when Hickman’s Ultimate Thor fizzled to a close.

Osborn

Another $4 comic and I’m enjoying it enough to stick it out. I signed up from the start knowing it was only a mini and I didn’t fear it would spread into an ongoing. I was also drawn in by the creator, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and she’s given me some good stuff.

Captain America: Hail HYDRA!

This mini is 2 issues in and it’s a blast. It’s a comic that reflects the period the story takes place in through its art and through the overall tone and style of the tale. I am digging the hell out of this but it’s also an idea that wouldn’t suit an ongoing, and I’m not sure I could do this indefinitely. However, for five months, and only $3 an issue, this one was a no brainer. Tom Scioli has already dropped his knowledge on issue two but there’s plenty more goodness to come.

Power Man & Iron Fist

I actually didn’t have massive hope for this comic but the first issue won me over more than you might have thought. It was fun, real old school fun, and Van Lente must have had a blast writing this sort of thing. It will be sad to see it go, because it will mean no more Iron Fist, but it will surely have been fun while it lasted.

I’m also stoked that this one is another $3 an issue mini. It wasn’t even publicised but it made me happy, thanks Marvel.

Daredevil: Reborn

C’mon, son; it’s Daredevil. It isn’t exactly a vote with my wallet for support of Diggle on my favourite Hornhead. He dropped the ball with Shadowland and then I follow him into a mini the next month anyway, and with an increased price. Call me a fool, if they put out three Daredevil titles I’d probably pick them all up.

I am enjoying most of these minis but when they end it means 5 spaces in my pull list. That’s breathing space to pick up something new, or to just save some money. It’s a funny feeling to be happy to see something you’re enjoying end.

A Logical Ending

Secret Warriors

This comic has been pretty good, damn good in some areas. Hickman has crafted a good tale and, while his initial pitch was for about 60 issues, I’m glad he’s cut it down to 28. It’s a good title but, like Fantastic Four, I have been having my doubts of late. Wake The Beast was an insanely fun arc but the next arcs suffered from the malaise I’m sick of documenting; it was good, not great.

Being able to see this series to its logical and planned conclusion gives me a sense of achievement. It will free Hickman up to do something else, and from all accounts something more high profile. He stated he wrapped this up quicker because he didn’t want to be stuck writing this when there were better offers out there waiting for him (paraphrased, of course). That kind of made me worry Hickman was just seeing the title through for obligatory reason but I’m sure he’ll still make my loyalty worth it in the end.

The Boys

There’s still about two years on this title, and one more miniseries, but I’m already looking at this coming to an end. It doesn’t hurt to plan and prepare. But in this case, I will really miss this book. It had a middle slump for a while but more recently it has really hit a high note. It’s been fun and interesting and actually well written so if Ennis can keep it up then this should end strong.

The Bi-Monthly Shuffle

Many complain, but I actually like the bi-monthly titles. Sure, it requires you to remember the story and characters for two whole months (gasp) but who says one month is the ideal for gaps in instalments? TV shows run each week, why can’t comics (I know why they can’t, don’t tell me)? Who says one month is the best and any longer means you can’t keep the pieces in your head? The titles I’m reading bi-monthly/irregularly of late are all high quality books and the fact they ship further apart makes me feel like I can actually fit them into my annual fiscal budget.

S.H.I.E.L.D.

Everyone fawns over Hickman on the other titles and has started trashing this one and yet I am the opposite. I still dig heavily on S.H.I.E.L.D. even though I can see its flaws. There are big ideas here and I need my full 60 days to soak them in. Sure, it’s mostly just name-dropping, but it’s also a really fun ride. I can’t walk away from this title, at least not yet.

Scarlet

I loved that first issue of Scarlet. Loved it. However, each subsequent issue has impressed me less. It is only because this is bi-monthly, and the fact the premise still intrigues me and I don’t think we’ve seen it fully exposed yet, that I haven’t yet dropped it, which might sound silly. Consider this one on notice.

Incognito/Criminal

I love both these titles. Love them. I am with them constantly. I love every month when they ship. I have nothing bad to say here. Oh, and they’re only $3.50 an issue. That’s always nice. These two get an automatic in for me. No doubt.

New Titles

This is the fun part. As plenty of stuff goes out the door, I fill the spaces pretty quickly. I don’t fill every space but there is some fun stuff coming down the line and I’m going to jump on and see what tickles my fancy. The hope is always to pick the new book that is going to suddenly light a fire in my heart and brain. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m betting a few of these will deliver.

Venom

Rick Remender writing my favourite symbiote. With Tony Moore drawing. That’s a pretty big sell for me. I really want this title to sell me on big and wacky ideas. I don’t want this to feel like a companion Spidey book, I want this to feel like some wicked Venom book like I haven’t seen since the 90s -  and most likely hasn’t existed ever.

The character, the creative team, the hope. It all helps to sell me on this title and so I hope continually.

Journey Into Mystery

Kieron Gillen may not have got me on Generation Hope but if his Thor run is anything to go by then he’ll have a better chance with me in this title. I like the idea of him doing the ‘other’ Thor title. The one with Loki, the one where maybe Gillen can cut loose and impress me like much of his other work has. I have also looked at some preview art and it looks gorgeous. I’m not a Thor guy but Gillen made me care before so he’ll get an arc here to do the same.

Green Wake

I spoke about this title before on a Soapbox and I am still as excited for it now as I was then. A horror comic, hot damn, bring it on. This strange tale billed as Twin Peaks meets The Dark Tower just gives me anticipatory chills like every comic you are about to pick up should. It’s nice just to feel excited once more.


Fear Itself

Yeah, yeah, I’m buying into it. Why would Fraction’s story here (amidst a pile of big title Marvel work that hasn’t impressed me) suddenly impress me. The room wanted a Cap/Thor story and Fraction thought one up. There’s no guarantee of quality but it’s Fraction and Immonen and I just have to be there. I need ground floor admission.

I’m not usually an event guy. I got the trade of Secret Invasion and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t stellar. I haven’t really bought into any of the others and don’t have a massive urge to. Maybe this one will see me strike lucky first time.

I’m still keeping my eyes open for new comics to come in and excite me. I’m scouring the solicitations and waiting to see what will jump out at me. It’s nice to know my dance card isn’t packed full – there’s room for more courting to be done.

The Good and The Great

After such a purge and shuffle, I’m hoping what I’m left with will be good and great comics only, the majority being great. There shouldn’t be a comic that easily reaches the bottom of my reading pile. Everything should be strongly vying for my interest and attention. I look down the list and I see two distinct camps. I won’t mention any titles I’ve mentioned above, so here’s what’s left.

The good consists of: Batman Inc – brilliant debut, okay second issue, time to win me in. Black Panther: Man Without Fear – not bad at all but needing just that next step up to keep me for arcs. Thunderbolts – the Shadowland tie-ins won me over, the subsequent issues have been decent, I’m looking forward to more Declan Shalvey, and the Beta Team. Proof: Endangered – I really dig the concept, the smart writing, and the art, sold. Detective Comics – Snyder’s run started really strong but just didn’t stick the landing on that first arc, this is the best of thing bunch by far, so close to being bumped up.

These are all solid titles and I’m willing to give them some breathing room to really show me their best. I enjoy reading these comics but they aren’t filling any best of the year places just yet.

The great consists of: American Vampire – never an issue that isn’t pure brilliance. Kill Shakespeare – when this comic fires on all cylinders it’s hard to beat, solid work always. The Walking Dead – I am shocked how much this comic excites me each and every month, some of the best work out there.

There's nothing better than that giddy feeling you get when you're about to read a comic you know will be really damn good because it always is. I now have to consider my weekly haul a mission to find that moment, and only that moment.

Conclusion

When was the last time you really analysed your pull list? Sort it into the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. Think about what you buy and why. My dream is to fill a pull list with nothing but pure quality. I think I’m on my way as I don’t really pull down anything I loathe, so that’s a start. Which comics are you most excited about always reading? Which titles are close to being dropped? Do you ever sit back and reflect on your pull list and make some hard decisions? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to find out.


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11 comments:

Dominic Galliano said...

Ironically enough I have just done the very same process with my pull list. Especially with Marvel's new policy to strengthen it's core line by double shipping more often. While another occasional issue of Avengers Academy and X-Factor is awesome, there will be other casualties....

Secret Avengers is another out for me for exactly the same reasons as you.

Another casualty is Fraction's Thor / The Mighty Thor. I'd rather see them in nice trades at some point. However Journey into Mystery is indeed a yes, for Kieron Gillen goodness, and it's $2.99 to boot.

On the danger zone are Heroes for Hire and Generation Hope. Will wait out a few more issues. Herc is also on this list as Chaos War was so weak.

I think the only titles I'm buying out of habit are Avengers and Uncanny X-Men. Hopefully with Kieron Gillen going solo Uncanny will strengthen. But worried about upcoming crossovers in the X-Titles.

Avengers remains due to the strength of New Avengers, but the current arc of New Avengers could bring them both in danger.

The recent solicitations for Amazing Spider-Man have also placed it in danger. 3 issues as $3.99 is a lot and Slott is gone for 2 issues. But we get Gage and even more Avengers Academy!

Safe till they end are Terry Moore's Echo and Secret Warriors.

Safe ongoings are Iron Man, FF (but can see why you're jumping off), X-Factor, Academy, Invincible and Wasteland (whenever it's released).

And limited series I'm getting include Annihilators, Hawkeye and the main Fear Itself limited series... The tie-in will have to be exceptional for a buy in.

Ethereal said...

You hopefully read it, but if you didn't, try looking up the Suitcase method guest post I did. It hasn't worked lately for me as I've been much less critical with titles going in.

Here's a list of what I'm reading, and then what I'm most probably dropping.

Reading: Batman and Robin, Batman, Batman - TDK, Batman Inc, Birds of Prey, Brightest Day, Captain America, Black Panther, Detective Comics, FF (sticking around for the switch, too.), All three GL titles, Haunt, Invincible Iron Man, JL: Generation Lost, Osborn, REBELS (RIP), Secret Avengers, Secret Six, Secret Warriors, Shield, Spawn, Spider-Girl, ASM, Thor, UXF, Witchblade, Wolverine, Avengers, Avengers: Children's Crusade

Okay okay, there's alot in there, right?

Here's what will be off the list soon enough; Secret Warriors and Rebels are both ending soon, so those will be off. Osborn has 2 issues left, so that also comes off. Gen Lost and Brightest Day will also be coming off sooner rather than later. Black Panther might come off (If it gets cancelled), but I'll just be adding Moon Knight/Daredevil etc. Shield has an issue left. Children's Crusade I'm thinking about just trade waiting. Avengers, Secret Avengers, and BoP might all take the hit soon, as well as Thor. It's been frustrating choosing to stick with titles like Thor, and Avengers, because you know they'll get big stories due to the upcoming movies. Haunt and Spawn might also come off the books, just because I've mainly been picking them up due to habit.

There's a slight problem with all this though; News. Stuff like the announcement of Flashpoint, Thor getting a second title, Fraction off UXM, etc all make me want to pick up their stuff. Also the renewed interest in stuff like Booster Gold, and Doom Patrol has me second guessing.

Enjoy the cuts!

Danial said...

haha You're dropping 2 Moon Knight titles :)

From looking at the sales figures, I predict that Secret Avengers will only last one more arc anyway, so you might be jumping off at the right time.

IronFist Fan said...

I do not know why a talented writer like Brubaker will start something great and in the middle of it just drop it and leave it for someone else, just like it happened to Immortal Iron Fist, though Duane's run was good it does not match Brubaker/Fraction/Aja. And now he is leaving Secret Avengers for Nick Spencer. I do have high hopes for Nick Spencer, his Morning Glories is incredible.

As far as Heroes for Hire, it seems the current issue onwards will focus on Iron Fist hopefully it will lead to Danny having a lager role, i honestly do not see a "Heroes For Hire" book without Iron Fist, is understandable Luke Cage can not be part of it because of his role New Avengers and Thunderbolts.

That leads me to New Avengers as well, i am not surprised Danny's role is not as much because of the large cast and i do not think Bendis like using him much.

As far as Fred Van lente's mini i think he is doing a good job with Iron Fist, with a dose of fun and action i will be on board and hopefully it will lead Iron Fist getting his own solo book

Hickman's Secret Warriors i feel should have been the 60 issue run instead of the 30, now he is just cramming all the stories together, introducing characters and just killing them off, makes us the readers not getting the chance to appreciate the characters more. HOpefully also Daisy's team will find their own place in the marvel Universe after this ends.

Tony Soldo said...

My pull list keeps getting bigger and bigger. Its too much. I don't even read any mainstream titles. I do get books from Image (my favorite publisher), Icon, Boom!, and Oni Press. I currently get 18 books, and there are still more coming, like Butcher Baker, Super Dinosaur, and plenty of series I'm catching up to in trade. I love comics though, and there are just too many I love.

Ken said...

I need to check my pull list next time I go or need to tell my LCS they have me down for some stuff I took off my list. They keep pulling Batman for me but I only want Detective Comics, GLC when I only read GL and Emerald Warriors, and I still get pulls for Legion of Superheroes despite knowing that I cancelled that when Shooter's run was finished.

Kurtis said...

I'm the writer for Green Wake, and it's wicked to hear about your excitement for the release of our series. It's Riley's strongest work to date, and definitely mine as well (Though, I don't have a large library of titles, obviously, other than The Intrepids coming out in March)

Looking forward to your reaction when Green Wake hits in April!

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