18 May 2012

Thought Balloon: Tough Decisions Once Again

Matt C: It’s been a long time since I last went through my pull-list like this but having seen a marked increase in the number of titles I was picking up each week (or, more to the point, the amount I was spending!) it became clear that it was past time to take a serious look at what books I’m buying and decide whether I really need them. Financial reasons obviously factor in highly, particularly with two under-5s vying for my attention (and money!), but there’s always the space issue to consider: having to justify to my other half why I need so many comics as the number of long boxes in our home increases just gets more and more difficult, and to be honest if I’m not getting enough out of a book the first time round, what are the chances of me ever reading it again?

Previously I’ve tried to keep the number of ongoing titles to about 25, and I’m going to try and hit that number again (or under), although I’m not so confident I will this time around. So, as before, I’ll start by listing the Top 10 titles in my pull-list at the moment:

1. Scalped
2. Journey Into Mystery
3. Batman
4. Daredevil
5. Prophet
6. The Unwritten
7. Saga
8. Wolverine & The X-Men
9. Sweet Tooth

Scalped is gone in a few issues, but for now it remains at the top. Saga has only had three issues on the stands, but it shoots straight into the Top 10 based on the quality so far, and I can’t really see it dipping out unless Vaughan suddenly goes bonkers or something (unlikely). Prophet is the other ‘new’ book that's entered into the 10, but if you’re reading it you’ll know why. The other seven are locks and in their current forms aren't going anywhere. Obviously this is an often-fluctuating list (several months ago Uncanny X-Force would be right near the top) but at the time of writing, these are my most eagerly anticipated titles every month.

The next ten are pretty solid. Some of them could easily creep up into the Top 10, but by the same token there’s always a chance they could head the other way. As it stands, I’ve no intention of getting shot of any of these:

11. Uncanny X-Force
12. Flash
13. Fantastic Four
14. Chew
15. Sixth Gun
16. Glory
17. The Activity
18. Animal Man
19. Invincible Iron Man
20.Secret Avengers

Invincible Iron Man is the one that’s dropped the most in my estimation in recent times, but I’m still holding out on Fraction to return it to its former glory. And speaking of Glory, that title – while not as immediately impressive as Prophet – has been rapidly moving its way up the list with each successive issue (as has, for that matter, The Activity). Along with the obvious inclusion of Batman in my Top 10, Flash and Animal Man are the only other New 52 titles to appear on my list of ‘keepers’. There’s probably another article in that somewhere, how the initial enthusiasm for the relaunch has dampened massively since last summer, but that’s for another time!

The next selection of 10 titles are the ones that are either getting chopped or are hanging on by a thread, so a bit more commentary is required:

21. Secret
22. Winter Soldier
23. FF
24. All Star Western
25. American Vampire
26. Manhattan Projects
27. Justice League
28. Batman & Robin
29. Batwoman
30. Suicide Squad
31. Incredible Hulk
32. Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist

I’ve only read the one issue of Secret so far so that could move up or down (although I was impressed enough to think it could go up). Winter Soldier is the only Captain America title I’m picking up these days, and although it’s not as strong as Captain America in it’s Brubaker heyday, it’s got great art and it’s a lot of fun, so it’ll probably be sticking around. FF has its ups and downs, it’s not as consistently good as Fantastic Four, but I’ll doubtless see it through until Hickman leaves (when I imagine it will cease to be). All Star Western is just about hanging in there. It saw a little dip after the first few issues but seems to be returning to fighting form again. American Vampire I very much like but I could conceivably drop this as a monthly title in favour of trade-waiting. Manhattan Projects has started off with a lot of promise but I’m not 100% sold just yet. It seems like it will be a keeper though. Justice League I’m flip-flopping with at the moment. Just when I think it’s a definite contender for being dropped it turns itself around with a superior issue. The Shazam! backup is currently the best thing about it but I could wait for as a collected edition of that if push comes to shove.

So now onto the ones that look like they’re going. Batman And Robin I like quite a bit, especially the dynamic between Bruce and Damian, but it’s consistently outclassed by Batman every month. Something I could probably revisit in a back issue box a year or so down the line. Same with Batwoman which I think has its storytelling faults highlighted when J.H. Williams III isn’t doing the art. Suicide Squad: loved the debut issue but it seems to have lost that spark along the way with no characters really standing out. Incredible Hulk has a lot going for it but the art problems are a definite drawback and it doesn’t really seem worth $3.99. Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist: love the Alex Ross covers but it became fairly muddled fairly quickly and did I detect some slight sympathy for Hitler’s plight under the boot heel of Ming in the last issue? So consider 28 to 32 on my list dropped then.

That just leaves the miniseries, and the thing about miniseries is once you reach a certain point you feel compelled to see them to the end (well I do, anyway):

Avengers Vs X-Men
John Carter: Gods Of Mars
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe
Rocketeer Adventures 2

I guess as Mouse Guard is essentially a succession of miniseries you could almost count it as an ongoing, in which case it would be near the top of my list. The Stuff Of Legend would be in the same boat - and be even higher - but I missed it off this time as it’s inbetween minis. Rockeeter Adventures 2 could probably fit this criteria as well. The rest I’m sticking with until the end, but after the All-Winners Squad: Band Of Heroes debacle I’m far more cautious about what limited series I pick up these days.

So essentially I’m looking at under 30 ongoings with a handful of minis to tag along. And yeah, I can just about live with that although I feel I could be more ruthless in the coming months if needs be. Image are putting a lot of titles out that are really grabbing my attention, and the output of the Big Two (DC in particular) are losing places on my list in favour of the creator-owned work. I still loves me some superheroes but there’s just too much incredible stuff happening elsewhere at the moment, and when money’s tight you have to make those – yes! – tough decisions.

I think longterm I’d like to see myself get my pull-list down to about 20 titles a month so the various graphic novels and heaps of back issues I have outstanding (not to mention all those books I have unread that – gasp! – don't have pictures) but from past experience I know in all likelihood something I haven’t heard of today will be one of my favourite series in six months time. But for now a bit of pruning was most definitely needed!


Andy C said...

Great posting, really interesting to see someone else's pull-list. I've only been into single issues for a year (previously just Batman trades) and it's scary how your list can grow from 1 to *ahem* more than you intended! It seems so easy to gain titles and yet so difficult to drop them! It's great though that the natural inclination is towards more rather than less titles. There's so much good stuff out there. And no single publisher has a monopoly, which is healthy.

I dropped Incredible Hulk after #3 and Suicide Squad after #8. I enjoyed Suicide Squad but couldn't really see it going anywhere after the first arc especially with an impending crossover with Resurrection Man. Harley Quinn though was a legend!

Batman and Robin has been really good (although #9 was substandard and a wasted opportunity to showcase Damian). Totally unlike Batgirl #9, my first Batgirl issue and a total surprise - even better in my opinion than the main Batman NOTO issues.

The New 52 turned out to be great for me as a newcomer. It made me try titles I would not have otherwise picked up (such as I, Vampire which I still enthusiastically anticipate), and that in turn lead to me trying titles like Sweet Tooth, Luther Strode, Saga, Sixth Gun etc. rather than just stick with what I knew.

Ironically, your posting about reducing your pull-list just gave me more titles to try! The most intriguing being Prophet. Was #24 a viable jump-on point? Theoretically I think it's a new arc. The online preview doesn't make much sense though to the uninitiated! I also need to give Daredevil a go.....

walkeri said...

Nice mix of titles on your pull list there Matt and after reading your past review of Prophet I might give it a look and The Sixth Gun as well,and I can understand the need to cut back and save the pennies,lord knows my wife keeps asking me to do just that,but as a guy who just loves comics I find it hard to cut back on a hobby I've loved since I was 9(now 47),as for my own pull list it stands at the moment at 107 ongoing titles which is costing me about one arm and half a leg each month,so if anyone is interested here is my pull list:

Amazing Spider-Man
Avenging Spider-Man
Scarlet Spider
The Avengers
New Avengers
Secret Avengers
Avengers Academy
Avengers Assemble
Dark Avengers
The Mighty Thor
Journey Into Mystery
Captain America And
Captain America
Winter Soldier
Invincible Iron Man
The Defenders
Captain Marvel
Incredible Hulk
Astonishing X-Men
Uncanny X-Men
Wolverine And The X-Men
X-Treme X-men
X-Men Legacy
Uncanny X-Force
New Mutants
Fantastic Four
Future Foundation

Action Comics
Legion Of Super-Heroes
Legion Lost
Teen Titans
Blue Beetle
The Ravagers
Green Lantern:New Guardians
Green Lantern Corps
Green Lantern
Red Lanterns
All-Star Western
Suicide Squad
Dial H
Detective Comics
Batman And Robin
Batman:The Dark Knight
Red Hood And The Outlaws
Batman Beyond Unlimited
Birds Of Prey
Justice League International
Justice League
The Fury Of Firestorm
The Savage Hawkman
Wonder Woman
Green Arrow
Thw Flash
Earth Two
World's Finest
DC Universe Presents
Justice League Dark
National Comics
Resurrection Man
Frankenstein:Agent Of Shade
Swamp Thing
Demon Knights
Animal Man
Captain Atom

Dark Horse:
Robert E. Howards Savage Sword
Conan The Barbarian

Warlord Of Mars
Warlord Of Mars:Dejah Thoris
Bionic Man
Bionic Woman
Lord Of The Jungle
The Lone Ranger
The Shadow
The Spider

Mars Attacks

Valen The Outcast

X-O Manowar
Archer And Armstrong

This doesn't take into account the mini series and one shots I also pick up.
I know there are a few titles on my list that are not out yet but I know what I like,and like I said
I'm just a guy who loves comics and I'll read anything that interests

Andy C said...

Wow Walkeri, you are hardcore! Aside from the cost, how do you find time to read them all?! I picture you in some kind of underground comics lair... am I wrong?!!! Respect due.

walkeri said...

Hi Andy C,thanks for the comment and no I haven't got an underground lair,but I do have a comic room that I escape to where I am surrounded by bookcases full of books,toys,statues e.t.c.,if you want to see what it looks like go to the Comic Book Resources website and under shelf porn you should see pictures of my room that I posted sometime ago,which will be under the name Ian Walker and I'm pretty good at managing my time so I always find the time to read them all each week.

Andy C said...

Just checked out the CBR page. Very impressive although I was hoping for something a bit more 'cavey' with more gargoyles!

Matt Clark said...

Holy crap Ian, I'd have to quit my job to read that many comics a week! Never was much good at time management though...

I'd thoroughly recommend Prophet (as I'd thoroughly recommend all the books in my Top 10!) but I would say the new arc is not a jumping on point, just a new 'chapter' of an ongoing story. Seek out the 2nd, 3rd, whatever printings of the issues since the relaunch or wait for the trade.

Always good to see someone new getting into the comic-buying habit with a passion!