Monte Says: Comics Old and New

Monte Says is a regular feature here on the Monte Cook Games website, in which Monte talks about topics related to the Cypher System—or anything else on his mind!

I read a ton of comics. I have to admit, though—very few of them are the new titles of the big two, DC and Marvel. I used to be a huge Marvel zombie. In the 80s and 90s, I could rattle off the real names and origins of even pretty obscure characters (Mad Dog? That’s Robert “Buzz” Baxter. Basilisk? Why, you mean Basil Elks?) and give you the whole timeline of the various Kree/Skrull conflicts. Today, though? Not so much. I don’t think it’s a matter of quality. I’m not trying to be a comics hipster here. Tastes just change.

Anyway, here’s a rundown of just a small percentage of comics I’ve been reading lately. Some of these are old (mostly re-reads), and some current.

Cypher-System-Rulebook-11-Robert-Pitturru

Sandman: Having purchased Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Overture, I recently reread the whole series—reading Overture at both the beginning and the end, which turns out is pretty appropriate. Like the rest of nerd-dom, I loved this stuff back in the day, and was trepidatious about how it would hold up. The answer? Spectacularly. Great stuff. Dust off your old issues and reread them.

The Invisibles: This series, by Grant Morrison, came out in the 90s, and it was like it was written just for me. The late 90s were when I was most into conspiracies, paranormal, Phillip K. Dick, Lovecraft, millennialism, and general fringe thought, and that’s exactly what the Invisibles was all about. My recent re-read of the whole series, along with two different companion books, Anarchy For the Masses and Our Sentence is Up, was entertaining and inspiring. I love Morrison’s work, and in many ways the Invisibles is the heart and soul of all things Grant. If you’ve never read it, track down the series, but be ready for some heady stuff. Be prepared to need to go back and reread it again to really take it all in.

The Wicked and the Divine: Kieron Gillen’s series is set in the modern world—and revolves around the truisms of modern life—but presupposes that 12 of us mere humans actually wake up one day and discover that we’re actually gods. It’s a fantastic follow-up to the Sandman series, and overall is fairly Gaiman-esque, which I can only write as a huge compliment.

Saga: There’s probably not a lot I can say about Saga that hasn’t already been said. Brian K. Vaughn’s space opera love story is, unsurprisingly well plotted and filled with great characters. There are things I don’t love, like how the vast majority of the aliens are anthropomorphic animals that really just present as humans in fur suits, or how the real issues involved in the story are decidedly 21st Century Earth issues (as opposed to being universal), but these are really small quibbles. I eagerly devour each new collection of this series as it is released and always wish it were longer.

Hellboy: I am entirely unashamed to admit that I am a Mike Mignola fanboy. It’s funny, though. I never loved his art until he started also writing. Somehow the combination of his art and his words really works for me. Doesn’t hurt that so many of his passions reflect my own—weird paranormal and occult lore, Nazis as bad guys, and monsters of all kinds, usually presented in non-traditional ways (or rather, often in ways that reflect traditions other than those that most people are familiar with). The Mignola-verse, as it’s called, can seem like nothing more than monster-bashing (at its finest) but in truth there’s really a lot more going on there, with some really great character-building over the long term, particularly in the “side” characters. (Hellboy himself isn’t really very deep, but that in part is probably why the whole thing works. He’s the constant around which everything revolves.) I read the new stuff as it comes out, and am in the process of re-reading all of Hellboy, which will of course lead to BPRD, Abe Sapien, Baltimore, Lobster Johnson, Frankenstein Unbound, Witchfinder, and even (or perhaps especially) the Amazing Screw-On Head.

Descender: Newest of the series I’ll mention today, this science fiction series by Jeff Lemire is intriguing. At first blush, it’s about a little boy who’s a robot, but in truth it’s really about a whole lot more than that. It’s got some weird (and not always in a good way) worldbuilding, and it gets cliched here and there, but damn if I didn’t want to be able to immediately read the next issue after I finished the first collection. There’s something intriguing and compelling in this story, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

As I said, that’s just a small snapshot of the reading I’m doing. Maybe next time I’ll go over more.

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