If you're here in the Panel Discussion programming block, you might be a lapsed comics reader, trying to find a way back to the JLA Satellite. Or you might someone killing time until you pick up your weekly Wednesday pull list. Or maybe you've said goodbye to dozens of longboxes to embrace the promise of digital comics. Whichever it is, you're still interested in the good stuff.
Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion Dozen. This week's shorter on quantity, but not on quality. Chime in with what you think everybody needs to be reading in the comments below.
Action Comics #8
Over the last seven months, Grant Morrison's made the most familiar superhero origin story in the world feel fresh again. The Superman of today isn't as physically strong as he used to be but his personality—lonely, cocky and self-righteous—burns brighter than it has in decades.
Animal Man #8
Yes, the Earth's at risk of being overrun by a malformed manifestation of decay in this superhero comic. But what gets me coming back to Animal Man month after month is the churning circumstances of Buddy Baker's family. Being a superhero can be a sentence to permanent outsider-dom and your mother-in-law's going to hate you for the danger and weirdness that you bring to her daughter's life.
Even as two TV shows rip off the Vertigo imprint's take on fairy-tale characters, Bill Willingham takes his Fables franchise into ever more interesting directions. This series—focused on the untold stories of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and other female character—preserves the playful tone of Fables and showcases amazing art by Phil Jimenez.
Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Hardcover
Comics fans never thought they were going to see this great, long-ago work from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, featuring a hero from the pages of the writer's 1990s Doom Patrol series. The character of Flex satirizes old Charles Atlas fitness ads and legal woes generated by lawsuits from the body builder's estate kept it out of print. If you love the trippy feel of Morrison's superhero work, then get ready to jump into the deep end of his imagination in Flex Mentallo.
Danger Club #1
Some people hate teenage sidekicks. Not me. I love the skewed take on parental dynamics that happen between superpowered mentors and sidekicks. This new creator-owned book from writer Landry Q. Walker and artist Eric Jones takes a darker than their work on Supergirl and Batman for DC Comics' young readers line. I think this pair's got the talent to find an interesting take on metahuman adolescents.
The Luna Brothers turned out sharply imaginative interpretations of superhero and fantasy clichés in Ultra and The Sword. In this book, Joshua Luna flies solo on a comic that shows what happens when the mentally unhinged Sam gets the power to probe the dark psychological terrors that most people don't reckon with. It's a creepy but beautiful trip.
Avengers vs. X-Men #1
I'll be honest: after reading the preview of Avengers vs. X-Men #1, I worried that Marvel Comics' next big crossover would feel bloated and impersonal. But now that the full first issue's here, I found the kick-off to AvX better than expected. Five writers get a plotting credit here but the deft pairing of the cosmic and the personal comes alive via Brian Bendis's distinctive dialogue, with the stakes for either side clearly delineated. It's a giant punch-up, to be sure, but I hope the focus doesn't stray too far from superhero soap opera.
Toy Story #2
Even Disney acquired Marvel a few years ago, there's not been strong representation from the House of Mouse's characters in Marvel Comics publishing. That makes this series featuring Woody, Buzz and friends a welcome presence. It just might be the thing to start a lifelong love of comics in the lives of the kids you care about.
Readers who only know Brian Bendis from his superhero work on Marvel's Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man books may not know that he honed his talk-heavy writing style as an independent creator first. This sci-fi drama—set in a world where superhumans are only beginning to become a fact of life—gets back to those roots. These aren't the noble crusaders of the main Marvel Universe and there's every chance that they'll be a different kind of interesting because of that.