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New Year?s Resolutions for 2008!

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We here at Guiding Lines, for the second year in a row are making choosing your new year’s resolutions easier. Instead of suggesting things for you to give up, we are suggesting things you should pick up. We have nine, low-selling books that we think you would enjoy. These are the titles you should add to your pull list now!

The deal is the same as last year. Each of these titles charted just outside the Diamond 100 on a regular basis over the last year. This is the danger zone when it comes to sales and might mean these titles are in danger of cancellation. They also share the fact that I believe they are some of the best comics on the market. After each title, I will list the chart position and sales figures for the last several issues of each title.

If you clicked that link above, you will see quite a few repeat entries on the list. Yes, of the nine books on last year’s list, eight of them are still ranking outside the Diamond 100. The ninth was Blade, which was cancelled back in August.

All are still deserving of your time, but, this year, we changed things up a little. In addition to the aforementioned Blade, we are replacing Hellblazer and Jack of Fables, because Vertigo titles have more leeway when it comes to sales, and All-New Atom, which is soon to undergo a change in creators (so telling you how good it has been under Gail Simone won’t mean much in a few weeks), with new books that are low in sales and high in readability.

So, with no further ado, the nine books you should make it your New Year’s Resolution to start reading!

Jonah Hex (#22=#149, 15,361; #23=#130, 15,157; #24=#156, 14,734):

I am both happily surprised and truly disappointed that this series is still on this list. I’m surprised because sales dropped around 4,000 units since last year at this time—which usually means sure cancellation—and disappointed because I still believe that this is one of the better books on the market.

People might be turned off by the book because it’s a western. But if you look beyond that, the series might just be the typical comic reader’s dream. The stories are mostly self-contained and don’t require decades of knowledge to know what’s going on. The writing by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray is sharp and witty and they are frequently joined on art by legendary creators such as Jordi Bernet and Russ Heath. And Hex is a rugged anti-hero with his own sense of morality, a popular archetype with many readers.

I am amazed that the series has lasted this long. But it might not be long for this world if readership does not improve.

Ex Machina (#29=#111, 17,708; #30=#121, 17,158; #31=#140, 16,755):

If you are hesitant about adding any of these books to your pull list because you fear long-term commitment, then this book is for you. Much like Brian K. Vaughan’s other series, Y: The Last Man, this title is finite in scope. Vaughan recently announced that the series is just about to head into its final year.

You might think that since the end is in sight, that it is in no danger of cancellation. You might be right. But I’m not willing to take that chance. Sales have dropped over 3,000 copies per issue since last year. If sales drop to such a point where it becomes too much of a financial burden to keep publishing it, you bet your sweet bippy the series will be cancelled.

And the political adventures of NYC Mayor Mitchell Hundred are as exciting as any superhero slugfest. He must deal with the deaths of staff members, attempts on his own life, citywide blackouts and startling secrets from his personal life all the while, unbeknownst to him, a conspiracy is afoot to destroy his administration and any hopes he will be re-elected.

Powers (#24=#96, 20,939; #25=#115, 21,348; #26=#121, 20,519):

Perhaps it was the move from Image to Icon (#26 sold about 5,000 less copies than the last Image issue), perhaps it was the recent price and page increase, or perhaps it was the sporadic publishing schedule (these three issues came out over a 7 month period), but this title has been in a sales decline. And with a book this good that is unacceptable. Granted, it ranks second in sales range of the nine titles (second only to the Walking Dead), but the drop is unsettling.

Trying to describe Powers in a sentence is impossible. Because the simple explanation, that it is about cops who investigate superpowered crime, just doesn’t do it justice. It is much richer and more complex than just that.

The latest storyline involves a serial killer who has been infecting young girls with a deadly Powers virus. Detective Christian Walker must find the culprit while hiding that he has secretly become Earth’s representative in the Millenium Guard (think Green Lantern Corps and you’ll be close) from his new partner, undercover IA agent Enki Sunrise.

Criminal (#7=#131, 15,205; #8=#152, 15,167; #9=#132, 14,736 ):

There is a saying that goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This series is proof that maxim doesn’t apply to comics, because the title is set to be cancelled and rebooted with a new number one. Usually, I’m against that practice, but this book is so good that I would support Icon making every issue a number one if it increased sales. And now you have no excuse not to jump on.

Criminal got the Eisner Award for a reason—because it is one of the best books on the market today. If you like your crime stories gritty with an extra helping of noir, then the book is for you. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are masters of this genre and it shows on every page.

As an example, the most recent arc focuses on a Army soldier stationed in Iraq whose brother was killed by a member of the criminal gang he worked with. The soldier goes AWOL, returns to the U.S. and infiltrates the gang to find the murderer and to exact justice. Heavy stuff but worth every penny.

Walking Dead (#41=#110, 22,679; #42=#102, 23,100; #43=#114, 22,713):

I’d like to think that this was a 2007 Guiding Line New year’s Resolution success story. Sales have increased over 2,500 copies since last year. But in reality, that is more due to the overall greatness of the book than anything I had to do with it.

You might be under the mistaken impression that this is a zombie book. It’s not. It is a human book. The humans just happen to be dealing with a zombie apocalypse, is all. All of the characters are richly defined yet wholly expendable. Anyone can die at anytime, as the latest arc can attest. The evil Governor has returned and has declared all-out war on the prison where Rick and his fellow survivors have set up camp. It has shown that creator Robert Kirkman pulls out all stops and he will stop at nothing to deliver a great story.

Hopefully, this series will be well inside the Diamond 100 next year and this will be the last year on this list. But I might include it anyway because it’s that good!

Checkmate (#17=#124, 19,840; #18=#114, 18,737; #19=#136, 18,077):

The spy game is very popular almost everywhere. Movies like The Bourne Ultimatum and Casino Royale were international blockbusters. The genre sold a lot of books and made Tom Clancy and John Le Carre rich and famous. And TV audiences make 24 appointment viewing. In comics, it doesn’t do so well, as sales for this title can attest.

This is a shame because this series is more exciting than a majority of the books on the market. The recent “Fall of the Wall” storyline was a pulse pounding, roller coaster ride of double dealings and back stabbings where nary a punch was thrown. It is a tour de force example of writing from Greg Rucka, and the series should be exposed to a wider audience.

Scalped (#8=#199, 7,942; #9=#187, 7,675; #10=#211, 7,528):

Remember earlier when there was more leeway when it came to sales on Vertigo titles? This is true but they are not immune from cancellation. This series is selling about as much as the recently cancelled American Virgin and more than the about-to-be-restarted-at-a-new-number-one Army @ Love. So Scalped is definitely on the chopping block, and it really doesn’t deserve to be. It is one of the best books to ever wear the Vertigo imprint, and that is saying a lot.

It tells the story of Dashiell Red Horse, a bad seed who returns to the Indian reservation where he was born looking for trouble. He hooks up with Chief Lincoln Red Crow, the man who controls almost everything in the reservation. He places Red Horse on the tribal police force to act as his personal enforcer in order to help clean up the reservation in preparation for the opening of a brand new casino. But Red Horse is secretly an undercover FBI agent, set to bring Red Crow to justice for killing two FBI agents 30 years in the past.

The comic is equal parts Sopranos, Wiseguy and The Departed. There is a reason why Scalped writer Jason Aaron is getting high-profile work at Marvel and Top Cow. Because Joe Quesada and Mark Silvestri know how great a writer he is. You should pick up this series and find out for yourself.

Shadowpact (#16=#126, 19,409; #17=#117, 18,377; #18=#137, 17,799):

You wouldn’t think that a book with a talking chimpanzee in the cast would be in need of sales help, but you’d be wrong.

The book revolves around a team of mystical beings who specialize in missions involving magic of all sorts. Let the JLA take on Starro. But if you have an evil wizard who names himself Doctor Gotham after the city that built up around him as he slept, then you call Shadowpact.

This is one fun book. Bill Willingham wrote the book with a great deal of humor and charm but didn’t forget the action as well. His Jack of Fables co-writer Matthew Sturges has taken over the writing chores, but the quality still remains high.

Blue Beetle (#18=#128, 19,139; #19=#126, 15,733; #20=#89, 27,582):

Don’t let the sales figure on issue #20 fool you. That was a tie-in to the madly popular Sinestro War crossover. That is the reason for the sales spike. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the increase is permanent.

In a perfect world, it would be. People reading the Green Lantern books would read the Blue Beetle tie-in, fall in love with the great writing and superior artwork, and come back for more. Perhaps they did. I don’t have access to the November sales figures yet.

But in case they didn’t, let me include it on this list once more. It is one of the best comics on the market today. Period. It has loads of humor, great characters and stimulating plots. What else can you ask for in a series? 

So, once again, there you have it—nine books in need of love and you in need of a New Year’s Resolution. That seems to be a marriage made in heaven. You might save a comic from extinction and find a new favorite book at the same time. Wouldn’t that make your new year great?

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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