hey kids comicsAbout a year ago, I had almost no reasons to go to the comic book store. For me, this was akin to a crack addict saying, “Nah, I’ll hit the crack house some other time.” Nothing looked good any more. There were days I’d actually leave Hi-De-Ho empty-handed.

Now I’m leaving with an empty wallet, instead, and it’s all Marvel’s fault. I haven’t read this many Marvel titles since the days when Jim Shooter ruled the place from his freakishly tall throne.

A little background: when I got back into comics, in the late ’90s, the industry was in dire shape. The speculation boom had gone bust. Image Comics had spawned a bunch of copycat titles with big guns and bigger tits (on both the men and the women). DC was mired in another reboot of its continuity, and Marvel went bankrupt.

Not a good time to get back in the habit, I guess. There were a lot of weeks with literally nothing to read in the new releases section. Fortunately, I had years of back issues waiting.

But last year, I was all caught up on my back issues. And I was facing that same lack of interest in anything new. Maybe, I thought, I have finally grown up.

Ha. Fat chance. I decided to ignore Marvel’s abysmal Civil War and try some new stuff. It began small, with MAX titles, like Terror Inc. — about a mercenary zombie who has to replace his rotting limbs with body parts from the terrorists and bad guys he kills; I mean, sure, why not? Then I moved on to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s space opera stuff — Annihilation, followed by Conquest. Then World War Hulk, because who can’t root for the big green guy kicking the crap out of everyone on Earth?

This Wednesday, I realized I was counting the weeks between issues of Nova. I haven’t done that since I was 12 years old. While I wasn’t looking, I turned into a comic-book junkie again.

But can you blame me? Here’s what I’m reading these days:

  • Agents of ATLAS — A group of forgotten heroes from the ’50s returns to assume control of the worldwide empire of their greatest foe, the Yellow Claw. If you had told me, a year ago, I would buy the adventures of Marvel Boy, Venus, Gorilla Man, and the Human Robot, and enjoy the hell out of it — well, I would have said, “Pull the other one, future guy, it plays jingle bells.” And yet, here we are.
  • Captain Britain and MI13 — Dracula declares war on England by firing vampires out of a giant space-cannon from his secret castle on the moon. Seriously, go buy it right now.
  • Nova — Just brilliant, funny and smart super-heroing in space. Abnett and Lanning took a second-tier character and gave him a moral center sadly lacking in a lot of the A-listers back in the Civil War, and then they bounced him through two intergalactic wars. It’s like the very best episodes of “Buffy” mated with “Battlestar Galactica.”
  • Dark Reign — All of it. The bad guys get to run the Marvel U. for a while, and it’s all pretty cool. Villains putting on hero costumes, and taking over the job of world-saving. They’re actually not half-bad at it, which might be a comment on how messed-up the good guys have left the world. But the best of the lot is Dark Avengers, which features the Green Goblin trying to convince the world that he’s really a hero, dead Spider-Man girlfriends notwithstanding. Also includes Norman Osborn talking sense into a mentally ill Superman-clone called the Sentry, and doing a better job than any hero did.
  • Incognito — Ed Brubaker writes about a witness protection program for super-villains. Pulp noir with guys who can throw a Buick a city block.
  • In trades: Mighty Avengers, Secret Invasion, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America.

See, this is what comics ought to be about — less angst, more insane plot twists and humor, and of course, healthy doses of mind-boggling violence.

So clearly, I’m not growing up any time soon. Thank God I got a book contract. These things ain’t cheap.