And now let us praise great comic books


I stopped reading comic books, mostly because I felt they were killing main characters just for shock value and to gin up publicity--and then bring them back and gin up more publicity. It just felt like cheap story-telling. I read Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men and thought it was pretty awesome. The Hellfire arc was thoroughly enjoyable. But then they went and "killed" Kitty Pryde. I'm not against death--but death seems to happen in comic books (especially to women) often because writers can't think of anything else to do. I don't know.

But we're not going to dwell there. Comic books are still--along with hip-hop, D&D, and my Dad's collection of black books--my first literary inspiration. They gave me my that sense of the fantastic and the magical that, as I've said before, I really believe all little black boys should have. Especially in these times. Listen to any Wu-Tang, Big Pun or Jeru album and you'll realize that I wasn't alone in this. Anyway, I've developed this habit--whenever I travel--of popping into the local comic book shop and perusing the collection. I always liked Dwayne McDuffie's work on Justice League Unlimited. For me, that show made the case against comic book movies. OK, that's too broad. But if you look at what they were able to achieve, with old fashion animation, it's just stunning.

And so I went ahead and picked up McDuffie's latest--his Fantastic Four run and his current Justice League. Man, he's killing it. I won't bore all the non-comic book fans here with a recitation of the arcana. But I'm going to talk to my people for a second. Nope, not even black people. I'm talking to those kids  who came up like me, whose folks mistook Malcolm's Autobiography for the Bible, gave them African names, but didn't prohibit them from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. If a 12-sided die and Swahili mark your childhood, than this is for you: Dwayne McDuffie has turned Anansi the Spiderman into a villan. And a cool-ass one at that. The writing is superb, and the pacing and action is great. But after all these years of Thor, Hercules and Loki--and believe me, I loved them all--there's something cool about seeing Anansi in a Justice League comic book.

At any rate, I doubt I'll ever go back full speed. Retconning Spiderman's marriage was the end for me. I get the argument against it, but what a cheap-ass move.

P.S. I know that cover has nothing to do with anything with this topic. I just love that series.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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