It takes very little to get me to rhapsodize over either of the defining writing Steves (Gerber and Englehart) of Marvel’s 1970s super-hero comics. For me, Englehart embodied a number of qualities whose general scarcity led me to dump spandex comics a few years back:
He tended to take fallow ideas and inject them with new life and potential. (The Cat’s old costume + a retired romance comic heroine = Hellcat. Enchantress’s sidekick-weapon becomes independent character and first female Defender. And so on.)
His crossovers were generally restrained and sensible in terms of not derailing the momentum of any of the books involved. Just because comics companies have abused the concept doesn’t mean his Avengers-Defenders War wasn’t an entertaining story.
He tended to leave female characters more interesting and formidable than he found them. Male characters too, now that I think of it.
He managed to find the comedy in melodrama without undermining suspense or lapsing into self-referential cynicism. (Example: rivals Scarlet Witch and Mantis independently coming to the conclusion that Wanda must be the Celestial Madonna, because seriously, consider the alternative.)
Really, Englehart’s (and Gerber’s) comics are some of the few from my childhood that I can still read and enjoy without irony. Or at least too much irony.
Real vol. 4, by Takehiko Inoue (Viz): Inoue’s tremendously good comic about wheelchair basketball continues.
Higurashi: When They Cry vol. 2, by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi (Yen Press): I read the first volume over the weekend, and I’m intrigued enough to see where it goes for at least another volume. I wish the characters were as involving as the creepy plot twists.
As you know, Viz is rolling out two series from Naoki (Monster) Urasawa at the same time, the aforementioned 20th Century Boys and Pluto. I like 20th Century Boys fine, but I suspect I’d like it a lot better if I weren’t reading it side by side with Pluto, which I think is superior. So I thought I’d throw out the question as to which book readers prefer.