thrift store finds: a handful of modern era comic books

I don’t buy a lot of new comic books at thrift stores.

Please understand, “new” is a very flexible term when you’ve been reading comic books for twenty years. I define new as being anything published in the last ten years… but your mileage most certainly will vary on that definition. I don’t harbor many prejudices against the modern era of funnybooks; there have been some very awesome comics made in that time span. It’s just, as a personal preference, I don’t normally pick up stuff from that time period. They are books I had access to when first published. I passed on at the time, I don’t feel any particular need to pick them up now.

Recently, our local New2You Thrift Store received a huge collection of modern era comic books- most of ’em Marvel and DC. Somewhere mixed in between all the issues of Cable and Extreme Justice, I came across a couple of gems.

What If… Aunt May had Died Instead of Uncle Ben? #1, published by Marvel Comics in 2005, story by Ed Brubaker, art from Andrea DiVito. I’m a fan of Brubaker’s writing, his creator-owned Criminal series especially. This one shot had a nice, hooky premise. Even my wife Ellen, hardly a superhero comic fan, was intrigued by the cover. Brubaker’s pitch for the story is that without May, Peter Parker loses his moral compass and becomes less of a wise-cracking hero a bit more of a hard-ass.

It was a decent enough comic and DiVito’s artwork is quite good. It’s just sort of a boring comic by the standards of What If books of the past. That’s my personal preference, but I always more enjoyed the books where writers took the opportunity to really mess with the established stories. Brubaker even seems to realize the fact and acknowledges it a couple of times in the framing sequence. Calling attention to a flaw doesn’t mean it’s any less of a flaw… but like I said, the overall story was pretty nicely executed.

Nightwing #103-106, published by DC Comics in 2004, written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens. I bought these for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as I get older, I find I have a growing appreciation for Chuck Dixon’s body of work over on DC’s Batman titles. Dixon basically ran the show with the extended family of Bat-Books in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with lengthy runs on Robin, Birds of Prey (featuring original Batgirl Barbara Gordon) and Nightwing. Further, Dixon and co-scribe Beatty have done excellent work with these characters when they harken back to their origins. Robin: Year One and Batgirl: Year One are fantastic comics… and they were originally released as prestige format mini-series.

For some reason, DC decided to fold the Nightwing: Year One storyline into his ongoing series. This is probably why I missed the book on its’ original run. It fits right in with Dixon and Beatty’s previous origin stories, going so far as to reference some of them directly. The artwork from Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens is kinetic and exciting. I’m really glad I picked these up, although I’m sort of bummed I couldn’t find the first two issues of the six part series. I’ve basically been ensured a fruitless back-issue search for the missing comics.

Marvel Team-Up #14, published by Marvel Comics in 2006, written by Robert Kirkman with art from Cory Walker and Bill Crabtree. MTU is one of the few comics published by Marvel I picked up regularly during the mid 2000’s. Essentially a showcase for Kirkman’s writing, the author’s star was on the rise at this point  with his creator-owned works like The Walking Dead and Invincible. In fact, this issue features a crossover between Invincible and Spider-Man, drawn by Walker, the original artist on Invincible.

As a regular reader of both MTU and Invincible, this book is a joy to read. Kirkman does something fantastic with this book in that it’s a vital part of his Invincible ongoing story. It’s a neat trick. Walker’s more than game for the story; his artwork has an appealing angularness to it that fits surprisingly well with Spider-Man. The comic suffers from a buttload of exposition early on, but that’s par for the course when you’re talking about an in-continuity superhero team-up. It’s necessary… but also sort of boring.

I paid fifty cents apiece for each of these books, to a grand total of $3 dollars. It was a decent value, especially for that Marvel Team-Up book. I’ve been trying to find a copy of that in quarter bins for a few years now.

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