Headed out to the beach this coming week?
Well, let me make some summer reading recommendations for your Fourth of July!
Whether on the sand or curled up next to the warm glow of a computer screen, there's no lack of quality comics to read this holiday break.
“Batman: Earth One” will soon be released by DC Comics. The book, which is similar to DC’s successful “Superman: Earth One,” is authored by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank.
Forget the usual crime books, the trendy trilogies and that erotic fiction genre du jour that's all the rage. Comic books are where it's at, and there's no lack of options to choose from this week - whether you're a longtime reader or a newbie to the format.
So save room when packing the sunscreen and be sure to download all the right tablet apps; there's precious little time to waste and way too much content to get through for just one extended weekend.
Not just a "new releases" list, what follows are a few books (both old and new) worth taking along wherever you're spending the coming holiday.
BATMAN: EARTH ONE - DC Comics hit a pretty big home run a while back with J. Michael Straczynski's original graphic novel called "Superman: Earth One." The book retells the story of Clark Kent becoming Superman. In its own way, DC's "Earth One" is sort of like Marvel's "Ultimate Universe," a new place for creators to retell superhero stories in a new era without being encumbered by canonical continuity
Confusing? Just know this: DC's "Earth One" books are decent "one-and-done" reads that require little going in, but deliver quite a bit for new and old readers alike. So, with the success of "Superman: Earth One" a year or so ago, DC is now releasing a similar Batman book - authored by Geoff Johns and illustrated by artist Gary Frank. As it won't be out for another few days, put "Batman: Earth One" on your future reading list and instead pick up "Superman: Earth One" as a starter this weekend. Or, if you really want to read a retelling of Batman's origin, just grab that dogeared copy of Frank Miller's "Year One." That always gets the job done!
GET JIRO - Published by DC/Vertigo, the graphic novel "Get Jiro" is Anthony Bourdain's first foray into the comic book world. News of the book was announced back in 2010, when Bourdain told a Canadian magazine about the project - saying it would be about "ultra-violent food nerds" and a "slaughter-fest over culinary arcana."
Now two years later, the book is about to hit store shelves and is receiving positive feedback from critics and fans alike.
Bourdain is the host of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations" and author of "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly."
In "Get Jiro," Bourdain not only crafts a unique new character to serve as his protagonist, but he's also deftly authored a convincing futuristic world for his hero to live in. The world's been radically restructured around food, with neighborhoods being organized by quality. In this new hierarchy, chefs reign supreme and Bourdain's Jiro finds himself in the middle of a war between two feuding top-level cooks.
On Vertigo's website, Bourdain writes the following about the creation of the book:
"Our guiding principles were at all times 'Let no man question our recipe for blanquette de veau-or our pot au feu' and 'Let's make the violence really cool.' In this, I think we have succeeded."
The book's a gorgeous and engaging read from the outset. Langdon Foss's artwork pops from the page. Both story and illustration feel cinematic at moments, leading me to hope there will maybe one day be a movie adaptation - or at least a second book somewhere down the road.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: DEATH OF THE STACYS - Marvel has a hardcover graphic novel which collects two classic story lines, the death of Gwen Stacy and the death of her father, Capt. George Stacy. Sure, these stories can surely be found in their single-issue form online, but Marvel's not lying when it calls a collection like this a "premiere" edition.
Why read this book now? Well, we're only days away from the release of "The Amazing Spider-Man," the new Spider-Man movie starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. In the movie, Emma Stone will play Gwen Stacy and Denis Leary will play Captain George Stacy.
IRON MAN: EXTREMIS - Here's another Marvel comic that's not exactly new, but will soon be timely and is so good it's always worth checking out.
The six-issue series was sort of a relaunch for Stark and Iron Man back in 2006. The Warren Ellis story sort of sets up a new status quo for the character in the Marvel Universe, giving him a little bit more of an edge right before big event books like "Civil War" and "World War Hulk."
Some of the aspects of the updated Iron Man back story were used in part in the first Robert Downey Jr. film in 2008. From all that's been said of "Iron Man 3" though, it looks like more of the "Extremis" story's plot will be making its way into the coming movie.
In "Iron Man: Extremis," Stark has to deal with the test subject of a new super soldier serum - though this time it's not a serum like the one Captain America once took. Instead, a colleague of Stark's has created a nanotechnology that is able to alter basic elements of human biology, making the test subject super strong and imbuing him with superpowers. To overtake the test subject in the end, Stark has to choose whether to try to take the Extremis and risk his life or not be fast enough to win the day.
The first few issues of DC's new "Before Watchmen" series have hit stands. "Watchmen," of course, is the classic 12-issue series from 1986 which was made into a pretty sweet little movie a few years back.
This new series of prequels from DC expand the back stories of some of those characters from the original Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons series. In total, the prequels amount to seven separate limited edition series and a one-shot epilogue book.
Even the idea of revisiting the "Watchmen" world and putting out new material featuring the characters has been a contentious one. Some don't think the characters and Moore's original series should be revisited or tinkered with in any way. There's a fear among some that doing exactly what this "Before Watchmen" is doing will somehow lessen or cheapen the value of the original series. Of course, I think both can exist wholly separate of each other despite sharing the same name and characters.
Decide for yourself, I guess. The first issues of the first few series are out now, with more to come this month. I see no reason not to buy 'em, read 'em and evaluate 'em for what they are. Plus, with creators like Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and J. Michael Straczynski authoring the various series, I've got to believe there will be at least a little something of merit and worthwhile in those books somewhere. DC could have done much worse in picking out creative teams for these books. The authors they landed though, and the respective books they're each on, does give me (and likely at least a few others) some hope.
Last month's column was almost entirely about gay characters in comic books.
Following up on that, The Associated Press reported recently that a gay couple from Ohio tied the knot at a comic book store in New York City last month. The gay couple describe themselves as "comic book geeks."
The wedding of architect Jason Walker and health care worker Scott Everhart was timed to coincide with the marriage of Marvel Comics' first openly gay hero, Northstar, and his longtime boyfriend Kyle Jinadu.
The comic book couple married in the pages of "Astonishing X-Men" No. 51, which hit store shelves early last month.
According to The Associated Press, the real-life couple said one of their first dates was going to a comic book store. They said they are "geeks in love."
Midtown Comics co-owner Gerry Gladston told The AP he was happy to help promote acceptance and tolerance.
As noted earlier, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is only days away from being in theaters, but this month will also bring us the third and final piece of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
I just had to throw that in there. It feels like we've been waiting ages for this film to arrive. And not to rush things, but the third Nolan film will soon be behind us and DC will be working toward a Justice League movie - which means a rebooted Batman character in the films. Henry Cavill's turn as Superman will come first though, and hopefully there will be a few other solo films just as Marvel led into "The Avengers."
It's weird how, even now as I write about how excited I am for the third Nolan Batman movie, I immediately begin thinking down the line to the next big thing. More and more it seems like the actuality of all these comic book movies don't live up to the hype.
Nope, I take that back. I just remembered what watching "The Avengers" felt like. Time to try to catch it once more in the theater before it's gone, so I'm out. More from me in a month's time.
"Nerding Out With Nick Dean" is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month.