In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
What’s your favorite comics re-read?
The story arc of Avengers Disassembled is entitled “Chaos”. I was certain, before it began, Wanda was the hidden antagonist. Everything that happened merely made it more clear. By the time I’d read the penultimate issue I was more frightened of than excited about the reveal and wrap up. I remember telling my husband I wanted three things out of the final issue:
1. A good motivation for Wanda’s actions
2. Magneto to show up and take Wanda away
3. Wanda to fall out of the sky and Captain America to catch her
Well, my own chaos powers must have kicked in because I got exactly that. And so that’s my answer: Avengers Disassembled (Avengers 500-503; there are also a number of tie-ins, but the one that I count is Captain America and the Falcon 5 and 6 aka “Steve and Wanda hook up“, a two-issue interlude which is, to me, absolutely beautiful on every level). I don’t really re-read all the issues. I re-read the last issue. I thrill over the two panel spread of many, many Wandas. Some of them I recognize because I read the comics, others I only recognize from scans I’ve seen, but playing “Name that Wanda” really never gets old. As for my three stipulations:
1. Plenty of people scoff at Wanda’s maternal motivation but I am a mother and I promise you, it is valid.
2. Magneto not only showed up — he showed up and demanded to be given his child.
And 3.? I could stare at this panel alone for an hour at the least. It is EXACTLY as I requested and imagined.
So much has happened since the Avengers were disassembled. Wanda’s shown up a number of times but at the same time, she’s never quite returned. I think that’s why I keep going back. When I finished reading Avengers Finale (“Issue 504” as it were) the first time I really believed Wanda could be both complicated and good. I’m still waiting.
The first time I read Gotham Central, I didn’t know anything about comics. I don’t just mean that I was new to the complex DC Universe or the ins and outs of life in Gotham City. I’d never heard of artist Michael Lark or co-author Ed Brubaker, and I only knew the other half of the writing team — Greg Rucka — because some of my friends liked his novels. Beyond that, I didn’t really understand how comics worked. I was still at the phase of trying to figure out whether to read the words or look at the pictures at any given moment.
I read the 40-issue series for the first time because I wanted a good story. One friend recommended it because it was a police procedural (and one with an obvious debt to my all-time favorite TV-show, Homicide: Life on the Street, at that); another recommended it because I was interested in stories about non-superheroes living in a superhero world. GC turned out to be a great backdoor entry to the world of DC Comics. I encountered characters from the Mad Hatter to Harvey Bullock to Captain Cold for the first time in its pages.
Of course, I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time. It took a lot more reading in DC before I realized, “Oh, that minor character in that issue of GC? He was somebody!” The beauty of the series is that I didn’t need to know all that stuff to read it in the first place. On a basic level, Gotham Central is just a story about cops doing their jobs in an especially weird urban environment. But all of the inside references to DC provided great “Easter Eggs” when I went to read the books again later. The reread also let me pay attention to particular characters, including Renee Montoya who had gone on to be a principal character in my one of my other favorite series, 52.
Since then, every GC reread has been a measure of exactly how deeply ingrained in the DCU I am. I catch new things every time, and with such an intricate book — and such a deep and complex fictional universe — I’ll probably never stop seeing new things. As I reread the stories, I also re-look at the pages. When I first encountered this book, I didn’t know enough about comics to have a bloody idea how well done it was. As I learned more, I could see the book again with a new eye for the art. And very recently, I’ve started paying attention to the way comics are scripted, and trying to create some of my own. This leads to new appreciation for the craft that these excellent writers bring to the story. (For instance, Brubaker and Rucka really understand where to break a page. Who knew?)
I could say that rereading Gotham Central is like seeing the stories again for the first time. But the truth is, it’s better.
I’m not much of a rereader in general, but whenever I do reread large chunks of some of my favorite series, it always fills me with glee and reminds me of just how much I love those stories, and comics in general. I’ve done this with Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, I’ve done this with the current run of X-Factor, and I’m considering doing it with Runaways sometime soon. Plus, I anticipate a Watchmen reread on the horizon, just to catch things I didn’t catch the first time in Alan Moore’s complicated text.
But the comic I’ve reread the most, and the one that doesn’t seem likely to lose that title any time soon, is Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. It’s the book that got me into comics, and it remains my favorite to this day. It’s my ideal comic, with close to my ideal cast of characters (if we could just swap out Emma for Jean…), perfectly blending humor and continuity and sharp emotional arcs with a backdrop of gorgeous John Cassaday art. I’ve probably read issue #1 alone at least 15 times, and it’s easily the book I most frequently recommend to comics newbies. I even made my local library buy all the trades when I was working there. I’m an Astonishing devotee, and I can’t imagine the book ever losing its rereadability.
What I re-read changes over time. I mean, there’s a reason I can name what happened in every issue of Uncanny X-Men from #173-#215. But I don’t re-read those much, anymore. I think I’ve re-read Astonishing X-Men a bunch. But. But. But the comics I re-read the most, the one I got back to a couple times a year, is Brian Bendis’s Alias. As I type this, I’m watching the Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days. (Not to be confused with any zombie movies.) And it’s obvious, given my love of this film, why I like Alias. It’s because I love Jessica Jones.
Jessica Jones is one of the greatest new characters in the Marvel Universe of the decade. In this defensive, surly, addictive-personality-type, poor-judgement-having, act-before-thinking ex-costumed-vigilante, Bendis gave the Marvel Universe another needed center. Jessica moves between the worlds of the different hero and vigilante groups, she talks to both Avengers and street thugs, and while she judges everyone she meets it doesn’t keep her from seeing people for who they are.
It’s that, that quality of empathy (which Jessica hides with incredible bitchiness and an aggressive desire to not pay attention) which makes her a good private investigator and a lousy vigilante hero. But the Marvel U doesn’t particularly need another spandex-wrapped chick wandering around Manhattan. What it can use is someone who speaks hero but understands what it is to be a victim. Someone who remembers powerlessness and who thinks that not everyone can find a way out of fear and loss. But Jessica believes anyone who is fighting to be stronger is someone worth respect, whether or not that other person succeeds.
Of course, she’d deny all this if you said it to her. And if you pushed the point hard enough she might lose her temper and sock you one. But that’s Jessica Jones — she’d rather hit you than hug you. Just so long as you never notice how much she cares.
So what about you? What’s your favorite comics re-read?