The Spirit Of Halloween In Comics

By Nick Dean

family@post-journal.com

The masks may be put away, but the spirit of Halloween lives on year-round in the pages of comic books!

The costumes! The escapist fantasy!

For heaven’s sakes! Why are you even reading this column!? You could be holding a comic book instead.

This is my favorite time of the year. Candy, creepy comic books and cool weather. I love the fall. Bring on the snow days, I’m ready to do some reading!

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE

Something’s rotten in Riverdale.

I’m not a regular reader of Archie comics, but last month I picked up the first issue of “Afterlife With Archie,” a new ongoing series by writer Roberto Aguire-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla.

I know what you’re thinking. I had the same thoughts myself. Does the world really need more zombies in our entertainment mediums?

I picked up the first issue of this new ongoing series and was pleasantly surprised. We may not need more zombies in our television, movies and comic books, but I’m certainly enjoying what these guys are doing in the pages of Archie.

This first issue of “Afterlife With Archie” begins with Jughead losing his dog. The poor guy will do anything to bring his dog back, even turn for help to Sabrina (who, you know, is a teenage witch). It’s as a result of his actions and her help that Jughead gets sick and becomes a shambling undead monster.

There’s death in the pages of this Archie comic as well as the promise of much more gore, as this first issue ends with Jughead arriving at a high school dance.

What really piqued my interest in this new series and sold me on buying it was the involvement of Francesco Francavilla as artist. I first noticed Francavilla’s art when he was doing a back-up story in the pages of Detective Comics a few years back. Since then, I’ve been hooked. He has his own series for Dark Horse as both writer and artist, a comic called “The Black Beetle” which is great pulp noir.

Back to Archie though, the thing I liked most about this book, aside from Francavilla’s art, was how adult it felt. As I said earlier, I’m not a regular reader of Archie comics, so I was surprised just how modern-acting the kids in the story were portrayed. Despite the Archie Comics Universe holding on to a lot of its “look” from the past, it seems the company has tried to keep current with the content of their characters. Really interesting stuff. I’m on board for the second issue, which comes out this Tuesday.

DAMIAN WAYNE RETURNS

The son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul has inherited the cape and cowl of Batman as his own!

This isn’t happening in DC’s current continuity, of course, but in a four-issue mini-series which launched on Oct. 30.

Entitled “Damian: Son of Batman,” the new series by writer/artist Andy Kubert gives us a “What If?” sort of “Elseworlds” take on Damian’s days as an adult.

Reintroduced into the DC Universe during Grant Morrison’s run on DC Comics, Damian quickly became a fan favorite of readers. Raised by his mother, Talia al Ghul, and the League of Assassins, Damian found his way to his father and ended up becoming Robin – squiring under the first Robin himself, Dick Grayson.

Things went well for a long run of comics, but ended badly in the pages of Grant Morrisson’s “Batman, Inc.” It was in that comic that, during a war between mother and father, Damian died and has since been absent from the DC Universe.

Now comes this four-issue mini-series about Damian from a “possible future.” And although it doesn’t bring Damian back into the current continuity, it’s still a welcome story nonetheless. Grant Morrison did great things with his “Elseworlds” style stories about future Damian. He really built the character a neat future Gotham of his own, so I’m looking forward to Kubert continuing on with that in this series as, from the looks of it, we’ll see Damian shed his Robin costume for his trench coat version of the Batman costume.

MARVEL UNLIMITED

I read a lot of comics.

I’m not going to lie though. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t really read all that many comics.

What do I mean? Well, there are a number of publishers out there which print comics. And a few of those publishers, well, they each put out tons of comics. So, every week there are dozens and dozens of new issues for sale (not to mention all the many years worth of back issues).

So what do I read? Well, I’ve got a few titles I pick up each week. But I read more than that. Whether it’s a free issue I find online or a book I borrow from a buddy, I read more than I buy – and I still don’t put a dent in everything that’s out there to be read.

When it comes to purchasing comics though, I usually only fork over cash for specific DC and Vertigo stuff (with the occasional Spider-Man or Dark Horse book thrown in).

I’ve added a new expense to my monthly comic-buying budget though: Marvel Unlimited.

Marvel Unlimited is an app you can download and also, I believe, a section of their website which you can access with an account.

So what is it? Well, it’s sort of like a Netflix for comics. You pay a monthly fee and then get to read as many of the available books as you want. Of course, this being a Marvel app, only Marvel comics are available. But the selection’s still sizable. Marvel has more than 13,000 comics to read through the app, both new and old.

A subscription costs $9.99 a month or $69 annually. I was hesitant at first. I mean, after all, $10 bucks will buy you about three print comics. Plus there’s the fact that you don’t get to own anything, even digital copies, through the Marvel Unlimited app.

Still, for $9.99, I’ve already read about 20 comics in the last two weeks. Add to that the fact that I’m a DC/Vertigo collector, not a Marvel collector, and that makes this app perfect for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading comics. And I love reading Marvel comics. I just don’t collect many Marvel titles. Sure, I’ve got a bunch of books from throughout the years, but DC’s really what I like to save in bag and boards.

So, after weighing all that and trying out the app, I’m hooked. I pay one low price and read as much as I want. It’s not interfering with my usual collector purchases, but honestly, I think I may cut back on some DC print comics. The New 52 just isn’t doing it for me anymore. There’s great stuff coming out of Dark Horse and Image, so I think I’m going to make a change in my subscriptions, but that’s got little to do with Marvel Unlimited.

In terms of selection, Marvel Unlimited has comics from throughout the decades. Want to go back and read “The Avengers” of “The Uncanny X-Men” from their start? That stuff is there! And there’s recent comics too. After a six-month delay from arriving in shops, the newer issues go to Marvel Unlimited, which is understandable. The company still wants to sell its print books.

TRIVIA QUESTION

Game Of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage plays what character in the upcoming X-Men movie “Days of Future Past”? Skip to the “Assorted Etceteras” section at the end of this month’s column for the answer.

ASSORTED ETCETERAS

So much else happened in October: The Captain America trailer came out and we got to see The Winter Soldier in action. Not to mention Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman Overture” and the conclusion of X-Men: “Battle of The Atom.” There’s just never enough time in the day or space in this column to properly Nerd Out!

In answer to this week’s trivia question, “Bolivar Trask” is the name of the character Peter Dinklage will play in the movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

More from me in a month’s time.

Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. For more, visit Nerding Out With Nick Dean.blogspot.com.