Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

A good week of comics, made even better by an early reading of Irredeemable coming to the stands this Wednesday. Now if spring would actually start to arrive here in Maryland I think life would be on the upside again. Of course that means the grass starts to grow and back out cutting the yard and such, but for the first few months of spring and summer I actually enjoying getting out there and sprucing up the yard, once July/August hits then I keep thinking artificial grass and/or hiring a yard service.


Battlefields Dear Billy #3 – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Peter Snejbjerg, Colors Rob Steen. This book just blew me away. I knew going in a war story by Garth Ennis would have a harsh ending and he would make us feel how horrible war is, but this book is the strongest war story that Ennis has done. Dear Billy ends with the young nurse Carrie slitting her wrist in warm bathtub and dying. The reason why she took her life was the war was over and the Japanese had been defeated. The group of people who had raped and taken away her innocence and piece of mind had been defeated.

Before she learned the nurse she is out with Billy as he describes a mission where he and his fights shot rockets at large groups of men trying to escape from their opponents who had beaten them. The bombs blew the overstocked and defenseless barges to smithereens, but they fly back and strafe the water to ensure as few survivors as possible. The water is blood red with the corpses of the dead Japanese. This is war and it is brutal, but Carrie does not mind the story. In fact she manages to kill one more Japanese soldier in the hospital before a doctor tells her to leave as people have started to put two and two together and may link her to the deaths. Carrie is broken, but functioning and is taking pleasure in her relationship with Billy.

What crushes her and causes her to go over the edge is when the war is won. She hears from Billy and his American friends that reparations and trials will not be the focus of the end of the war, but a massive rebuilding effort to rebuild Japan. Carrie is horrified that these people who did what they did to her will not have to pay the price they should pay. Carrie loses it when she learns how the Japanese are going to be groomed as allies as a barriers against the Russians. She rushes out of the restaurant and Billy follows and confronts her and she asks what are we suppose to do about the Japanese and Billy says “Now we learn to love them, Carrie.”

This is the breaking point for Carrie and she goes back to her room, writes the “Dear Billy” letter and explains everything to him and then slowly gets in her bath and kills herself.

This is a story that will stay with me for a long time and one that shows how horrendous war is and how no one every wins.

Daredevil #117 - Writer Ed Brubaker, Artists Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano Colors Matt Hollingsworth. Part of me is still bothered by the fact that in 20 plus years no one has been able to take the character to any other place then what Frank Miller did for Daredevil. I love this story, but I also recognize the inherent weakness in a character that is becoming stuck in an endless loop. This issue works its way through the Kingpin returning to New York and Daredevil’s fight against all that has gone wrong in his life and the meeting between the two of them that sets the stage for the rest of the arc.

The Kingpin has come back to New York and immediately finds Turk. Wilson goes out to let the underworld know that he is back in town and things are going to get bloody.

Daredevil is attacking a private eye that photographed him and Dakota, is fighting with Master Izo about the Hand, fighting with Milla’s parents about custody of her and watching Dakota (who maybe the best match ever for Matt) walk out of his life. The Hand wants Matt as their leader and his inability to control himself and the collapse of his world is leaving Matt looking lost and hostile. Turk shows up and gets the message to Daredevil to meet the Kingpin and they meet. The Hand had set the Kingpin to go up against Daredevil, but Wilson Fisk has other plans. He tells Daredevil what happened to him overseas and proposes an alliance against the Hand, where he and Daredevil will look to take them down forever. Matt wonders what happens to their alliance after their battle with the Hand is over. Fisk delivers a great line to end the book when he says “I wouldn’t worry about after, Murdock…I wasn’t planning to survive..” Wow, can’t wait for the next issue.

The regular art team is back and Lark, Gaudiano and Hollingsworth are like a well oiled machine. Daredevil is blessed to have such a talented crew. Lark has great design, Gaudiano is the glue that always keeps this book having a consistent look and Hollingsworth keeps the book a total “noir” feeling without losing the artwork. The emotion of the story is conveyed well as is the action. The story telling is great as you are never lost reading this book.

Madame Xanadu #9 – Writer Matt Wagner, Pencils Amy Reeder Hadley, Inks Richard Friend, Colors Guy Major. It is impossible not to pick this book month after month as a “best of the week”, just on artwork alone. This issue we move forward to WWII and we are in America, specifically New York. We start with a tough cop putting a hurt on a local pimp who has dared to bring his girls into a district this detective told him not to. As a long time Spectre fan I immediately recognized Jim Corrigan as that police officer.

We then shift the Madame Xanadu and she is experiencing some problems with her magic. She calls on her boy friend and lover Zatara (the father of Zatanna). After a dalliance with him she finds out from him that the Phantom Stranger has been trying to gather a group of mages for what is to come. Xanadu is ticked off as she and the Stranger have danced throughout the centuries and this time she puts a binding spell on him, so when he next appears he is trapped. At the same time Jim Corrigan is headed towards his fate which is causing signs to go off all over the place when Madame Xanadu does her readings.

The story just flies by and once again Matt Wagner has deftly interwoven a large cast of the regular DCU while having all the freedoms of a Vertigo book. Amy Reeder Hadley continues to turn in some beautiful artwork with great page designs and terrific camera angles. Also she shows off the clothing of the main character and I don’t usually notice it, but I’m guessing either Amy or Matt Wagner is doing their homework or Amy should be designing women’s clothing.

Another masterful chapter in one of the best series on the stands.

Oracle #1 (of 3) - Writer Kevin VanHook, Pencils Julian Lopez & Fernando Pasarin, Inks Bit & David Bryant, Colors Hi-Fi. Another title under the Battle for the Cowl banner and is acting as a replacement for the Birds of Prey book I guess, but it is 100% focused on Barbra Gordon which is alright by me as I love Babs.

This issue is all set up, but with a three issue series it almost has to be set-up, crisis and resolution as you have very little time to do much else. The sub-title: The Cure could refer to many things, but the fact is that Babs is focused this issue on what happened to her legs, so the obvious indication is that she may end up no longer being in a wheel chair.

The story shows Babs getting re-established in Gotham and she is tracking down the anti-life equation (not sure why). We see that she has moved into less then stellar accommodations, but still hooks up enough equipment to be Oracle. The whole being in a normal apartment building thing just rang false for me. At the same time Oracle is doing this the Calculator is visiting his daughter Wendy (the Wendy mauled by Wonder Dog in Teen Titans and now in a coma) and he is also pursuing the anti-life equation. Caught in the middle of this is a hacker who has an avatar getting their head blown off and the same thing happens to her behind her computer.

The battle is joined as Oracle and Calculator continue their long running battle with the goal appearing to be the anti-life equation and obviously a cure for Wendy or Babs. One final comment, the entire Battle for the Cowl is acknowledged as to what is happening in the city, but is part of the background of the story. It could even be argued that this feels to be an Oracle mini-series and is not a true tie-in.

The artwork is strong and Babs is shown as both smart and sexy. It is a limited action issue, but still the artwork manages to keep the book moving and the flow of the story is well done. The coloring has to jump from light to dark, to serious, to semi-comical (when in the role playing game) and manages to do a great job throughout.

Proof #18 – Writer Alex Grecian, Art Riley Rossmo, Colors Dave Casey. I continue to sing the praises of this book and this issue would be a great jumping on point for new readers. This issue we get a peek into Proof’s past and we get the heart warming story of the ugliest woman in the world (who looks to be related to Proof). We also have a murderer running through Victorian England and Proof becomes involved with that as well. It appears Proof is part of a traveling carnival and freak sideshow, but as one of the mangers of the operation instead of an attraction. This issue brings to it what I love about the series, it has a solid story and an adventure, it is filling in the character of proof, it drops great little factoids in the story and has the wonderful art of Riley Rossmo. Alex Grecian (writer) and Riley (co-creators) just bring their energy and joy to this book. Since this is a flashback and we started with Julia’s (the world’s ugliest woman) corpse, we know this can’t end well, but I can’t wait to see Part 2.

Batman Battle for the Cowl Commissioner Gordon – Writer Royal McGraw, Art Tom Mandrake, Colors Guy Major – This issue was a pleasant surprise. This various one off books they are doing hanging off Battle for the Cowl appear to be almost throw away books. I have always like Jim Gordon and I enjoy Tom Mandrake’s art, so this book had two pluses going in, but I had zero expectations as to what I was getting. What I got was a great story that showed how the GCPD and Gordon had become too reliant on Batman. Mr. Freeze captures the Commissioner and Jim comes to the realization that no one is going to save the day but him. He manages to take down Mr. Freeze on his own. We then cut to the rooftop and a discussion that Batman has been sited again, but he may have killed a bad guy. Jim states that it is time the GCPD started to do their job and enforce the law. It was very well done and well illustrated. A good entry in the “Battle for the Cowl” event.

Wonder Woman #30 – Writer Gail Simone, Pencils Aaeon Lopresti, Inks Matt Ryan, Colors Brad Anderson. This book is building and building. We have Zeus creating his own champion as a counter point to Wonder Woman. This issue we see Zeus creation and he is Achilles. We also see Hippolyta praying for a return of her warriors and they do start to return as well as the Zamorans who are welcomed back as sisters. These are both background stories as Wonder Woman is pursuing Genocide who has captured Etta Candy. After some ruthless interrogating of Cheetah (Diana must be watching 24), she goes to the headquarters of the Secret Society where Genocide was created. Wonder Woman is in a total take no prisoner mode and rips the place apart and finds Etta, who is all but dead. Wonder Woman brings the headquarters down and confronts T.O. Morrow about how to find Genocide. A lot of raw emotion and Gail seems to be tearing Wonder Woman down as it was pointed out that Cheetah is taking away from Wonder Woman all the things in her life that she can. Wonder Woman is a strong book right now and while the elements of the story all need to come together the book is working.

Conan the Cimmerian #9 – Writer Tim Truman, Art Tomas Giorello, Colors Jose Villarrubia. Not 100% sure Conan deserves a best of the week status, but after the long and winding seven issue start to this series I wanted to mention this book is back and we are where we should have been with issue #2. The story of Conan learning to be a mercenary is a very good one and we can see that Conan is learning how to battle in new ways and that treachery can strike from your comrades in arms as well as from an enemy. The artwork of Tomas Giorello is far superior to the covers they are putting on this book and in fact Joe Lisner’s work, while technically very good has always left me cold. Bottom line this book is back in my good graces and I’m looking forward to Conan every month again.


Thunderbolts #130 – Writer Andy Diggle, Pencils Bong Dazo, Inks Joe Pimentel, Colors Frank Martin. So the Thunderbolts have fallen so fast and so quickly that I almost have to review to determine what the heck happened. First we had Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato take over the series and whether it was a long term plan or not this was the core of the group that would make the Dark Avengers. Once Warren’s run was over a fill-in team bridged the gap until Andy Diggle took over the writing chores and the Thunderbolts have a whole new modus operandi, they are now the Black Ops group for Norman Osborne. There first mission has to be a failure as they are suppose to kill Deadpool who can’t be killed (especially since he has his own comic series). Then the team is filled with characters that are so low tiered that I have never even seen a few of them. Add to that an artist who is nowhere near the strength of Deodato and I find that the comic I was enjoying ahs morphed into a pretty bad book. Add to that I forced to buy Deadpool and have yet to see the “charm” the crazy assassin has and I’m totally disappointed. I liked Diggle’s work in Green Arrow Year One, Losers and Hellblazer, so I’m giving this book a little rope, but not much.

A bunch of books to be excited about and I probably was a little too easy this week with my best list as Conan and Wonder Woman probably should have been to best of the rest, but I was just in a more positive mood (yeah, yeah – I’m the king of realism about the economy but I have a positive outlook – I’m positive the US is going bankrupt – see positive). Wow, that is the type of digression worthy of Peter David’s old column.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What I’m Getting Wednesday April 1

So Lee sent me an article that was from a reviewer of comics and graphic novels. In the article he talks about a company that will give you a review for a fee. I believe they quoted around $400 for a 400 to 500 word essay that will sing the praises of your work. I guess I have always known this type of stuff was out there, but still what utter crap. I received a couple of e-mails from a website that was producing a best of the web awards for 2008. How flattering that I was e-mailed I thought for half a second and then read it cost $250 to have our site nominated. I think I rather hand out the awards after collecting the money as opposed to being a recipient. It just cheapens all of the rest of the awards to have that type of stuff around. I heard that “The Golden Globes” was a made up award show also and the idea that it is foreign writers is a crock, now that it has been around for so long it has gained legitimacy, like the Mormon Church and watch in another 25 years Scientology maybe considered respectable as opposed to a bunch of quacks. Well no one pays anyone on this blog - sadly. But in 50 years we will be considered a classic website.

The books I’m looking forward to most this week are:

Agent of Atlas #3 – I have such a fondness for these characters and the way Jeff Parker has made them work is just a thing of beauty. Jimmy Woo, Venus and the rest are turning into my favorite Marvel group book. The hype “Back in the 1950's our heroes fall deeper into the mystery of the Dragon's Corridor- leading them to Communist plots and two mysteriously familiar bodies on ice. In the present day, a similar trail of intrigue winds back to secret plans of the Atlas Foundation. The Agents look to be building a hellish arsenal for Norman Osborn, and they've just gotten the attention of none other than Captain Ameica!”

Dark Reign Fantastic Four #2 (of 5) – The Fantastic Four was one of the comics that made me fall in love with comics. The first issue of this mini-series was decent and since the writer on this book is taking over the regular FF, I’m hoping to be able to fall in love with the characters again. I have to accept that the Torch will be portrayed more like his movie version, but maybe I can get past that. The word “The fallout of Reed's machine results in Sue, Ben and Johnny finding themselves in the middle of a super hero Hyborian-age civil war, while Reed searches for answers to questions that can only be found in alternate timelines. Back on Earth, it's Val and Franklin versus the agents of H.A.M.M.E.R.!”

Farscape #4 - I’d be really upset if this series was over, but BOOM has plenty of Farscape material coming out, just as a series of mini-series. I just love this book and love that one of my all time favorite shows feels like it is back. What’s inside “Writer(s): Keith DeCandido, Rockne S. O'Bannon, Artist: Tommy Patterson, TV’s science fiction masterpiece FARSCAPE returns! The battle for Hyneria comes to its shocking conclusion! This is a game-changer for the Farscape mythology, ‘Scapers! Don’t frelling miss this!”

Flash Rebirth #1 (of 5) - DC has put a ton of marketing push behind this book and has bet the Flash franchise (for at least five years) on the back of this book. The Flash franchise has been almost ruined of late and bringing back Barry is full of perils and problems. DC has their number one man on the job with Geoff Johns and a top tier artist (who hopefully will make the schedule on this book) Ethan Van Sciver. If it wasn’t for Irredeemable coming out the same week I would think this book would be the early pick for book of the week. DC says “Written by Geoff Johns; Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver. Through the decades, many heroes have taken the mantle of The Flash, but they all ride the lightning that crackles in the wake of the greatest hero the DC Universe has ever known, the man who sacrificed himself to save the Multiverse: Barry Allen! Following the events of FINAL CRISIS, Barry has beaten death and returned to a fast-paced world that a man out of time wouldn't recognize. Or is it a world that is only just now catching up? All the running he's done before was just a warmup for the high-speed race that he and every other Flash must now run, because even though one speedster might have beaten death, another has just turned up dead! From Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, the visionaries responsible for the blockbuster GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH and THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR, comes the start of an explosive and jaw-dropping epic that will reintroduce to the modern age the hero who single-handedly birthed the Silver Age of comics! DC history will be made, and the Flash legacy will be redefined!"

Irredeemable #1 – This has to be the book of the week, you can see my early review here, the word from BOOM is “Get ready for the newest original ongoing superhero series from Mark Waid! Irredeemable dares to ask the question: what if the world's greatest hero decided to become the world's greatest villain? It's a twilight of the superheroes-style story that examines super-villains from the writer of Kingdom Come and Empire! With a special afterword by Grant Morrison.” This book has cured me of the malaise that I felt comics had fallen into lately. A tonic for the comic book blues.

Jersey Gods #3 – This book is a great new series. I love it when the book reflects the passion of the creators and it is obvious that these guys are producing a labor of love. Plus it is coming out on a regular schedule which is very important. Join me for another chapter of “New Gods in Love”, you’ll have a blast. The official marketing blurb “Civil war erupts on Neboron - Barock, Helius and Rushmore's plan to kidnap Deltus and bring a quick end to the skirmish fails miserably. On Earth, Zoe gets an earful from her parents. She also discovers the reason why her best friend's been ducking her and it ain't pretty. Also in this issue, MARK WAID, begins his JERSEY GODS story. This, the first of four consecutive six-pagers by WAID, sets the stage for his ten thousand year-old war story that tells the tale of a crucial battle in the history of gods of Neboron and features art by Eisner Web-comic nominee, JOE INFURNARI - "The Transmigration of Ultra-Lad."”

The Mighty #3 – This is another one of the “creator” owned series being published under the DC banner (like Jack Cross and Simon Dark). This book is an examination of what it would be like to have a true Superman in the “real” world and he is apparently the only hero. Power corrupts and apparently super power corrupts in spectacular fashion. This type of story has been done before, but so far not like this. This series is worth the price of admission. The hype “Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne; Art by Peter Snejbjerg; Cover by Dave Johnson. Alpha One may be the most powerful being on the face of the planet, but emotionally, he's vulnerable – and he needs a friend he can trust. His ally Gabriel Cole, who has just officially taken command of Section Omega, is becoming that friend. But neither man knows the danger they tempt by inviting each other into their homes. And what amazing secrets are hidden in Alpha One's underground headquarters?”

Scalped #27 – Hard to continue to come up with superlatives on a book that I said was my favorite series of the year in 2008 and is consistently one of the strongest books on the stands. If you are not getting this book, you are missing out. Under the cover “Written by Jason Aaron; Art by Francesco Francavilla; Cover by Jock. He's Dash Bad Horse's boss and Chief Red Crow's archenemy, but what do we really know about FBI Agent Baylis Earl Nitz? This issue, take a peek inside Nitz's train wreck of a life, littered with ex-wives and lethal grudges, and see for yourself just how far he's willing to go to take out his enemies.”

Shrapnel #4 (of 5) – This series is building and building and the great thing about it, is that it is only the first story that is over after issue #5 as the series is a trilogy. Radical’s comics most ambitious series to date. The word “Desperation takes hold in the rebellion. While Sam struggles to forge a fragile alliance with the Martian colony forces, a dark figure resurfaces, creating a staggering loss for the Militia. As war hurtles toward its final battle, can Sam conquer the conflicts of her past to protect humanity's future?”

Supermen First Wave of Heroes (1939-41) GN – Fantagraphic books is a sure sign that you will get a quality product and this sounds like so much fun that I can hardly wait. This book has a smattering of forgotten “golden age” supermen characters to read and enjoy. What they are saying “Edited by Greg Sadowski; Introduction by Jonathan LethemOf the 22 stories appearing in SUPERMEN! the vast majority haven't seen print since first publication, including the notorious 1939 Wonder Man debut by Will Eisner. Wonder Man lasted one issue after a successful DC Comics lawsuit cited the similarity to its son of Krypton. This lawsuit inspired more individual and offbeat approaches, and it's on these mavericks and oddballs we focus this collection. The roster features such no tables as Basil Wolverton, Jack Kirby, Jack Cole, Fletcher Hanks, Ogden Whitney, Lou Fine, Charles Biro, Fred Guardineer, and Dick Briefer. Fighting villainy is hard work and in SUPERMEN! it's downright ruthless.”

War of Kings #2 (of 6) – The first issue was a blast and featured a great battle between Vulcan’s troops and the Inhumans. Vulcan’s quick withdraw after capturing Lilandra felt a little weak, but we are suppose to think that Lilandra was his goal and not the defeat of Black Bolt. Marvel says “The cosmic heavyweights come out swinging! Black Bolt! Gladiator! The Inhumans! Vulcan! The Starjammers! As Kree outworlds burn, Shi’Ar forces move in for the kill—as first blood goes to Vulcan and the Imperial Guard! Can anything withstand the military juggernaut of Vulcan’s Imperium? And are the lines of allegiance drawn as clearly as it first appears? The major players make their big moves as the battle that will reshape the cosmic power structure rages on!”

The rest of the list:

Astounding Wolf-Man #14 - Incarcerated! Is this the end for Gary Hampton, The Astounding Wolf-Man? No, dear readers--this is only the beginning!

Authority #9 - Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and Christos Gage; Art by Simon Coleby and Ivan Reis and Livesay; Cover by Simon Coleby. The Authority find themselves in a battle for their lives against a being of immense power and they'll need a miracle to survive in one piece. Do they still have an ace up their sleeve? And one of the members of the team will be taking an incredible step toward recovery...but at what cost?

Batman Battle for the Cowl Man-Bat - Written by Joe Harris; Art by Jim Calafiore; Cover by Ladrönn. Spinning out of the events in BATTLE FOR THE COWL, Gotham City is in chaos and the villains of Arkham Asylum are running amok. One such villain is the evil Doctor Phosphorus who seeks out another scientist in this one-shot to help him grow even more powerful. But when that scientist is Kirk Langstrom, a.k.a. Man-Bat, Doctor Phosphorus – and all of Gotham – will get much more than they bargained for!

Dead Romeo #1 (of 6) - Written by Jesse Blaze Snider; Art and Cover by Ryan Benjamin. Jonathan Romero, aka "Dead Romeo," was the lead singer of the '80s rock band "The Dead Romeos." But that was before a mysterious set of circumstances turned him into a vampire and sent him straight to Hell. Now he's back on Earth and he has a difficult choice to make: Kill his true love and earn his permanent release from eternal damnation – or protect her and burn for eternity. Either way, someone is going to die!It's vampires, romance, rock and dismemberment like you've never seen before! New writer Jesse Blaze Snider joins artist Ryan Benjamin for a bloodsucking good time in this all-new 6-issue miniseries.

Deadpool #9 – Sucked into a cross-over with Thunderbolts – arrghh. - “MAGNUM OPUS,” PART 3 OF 4 Tie-in to “DARK REIGN” SPECIAL CROSSOVER WITH THUNDERBOLTS! Love is in the air — but so are a whole lotta bullets! Is Black Widow really falling for Deadpool, or is she using her feminine wiles to bamboozle our questionable hero? Here’s a hint: her name is Black Widow! Don’t do it, Wade! MAGNUM OPUS, the shoot-‘em-up romp of the year, revs toward its conclusion as Deadpool pulls an ace from up his sleeve. Enter: TASKMASTER!
Haunted Tank #5 (of 5)- Written by Frank Marraffino ; Art by Henry Flint; Cover by Ted McKeever. April 2003: The Haunted Tank rolls into Baghdad after only 21 days of conflict, and its crew looks forward to a quick rotation home. But as their ghostly compatriot knows all too well, in war, things aren't always how they first appear. And those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Invincible Iron Man #12 - Pepper Potts takes flight! Maria Hill fights back! And Iron Man heads for a Stark Lab hiding somewhere in the briny deep where Norman Osborn dispatches PRINCE NAMOR to take him out. Man oh man is THAT gonna be a fight for the ages. By Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca!

Jonah Hex #42 - Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; Art and Cover by Jordi Bernet. It's Jonah Hex as you've never seen him before: as a kid! During a particularly tense duel, Jonah is reminded of the lessons of his childhood. And to say that Jonah's father was a believer in "tough love" is the understatement of the year!

Justice Society of America #25 Written by Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway; Art by Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek; Cover by Alex Ross. The "Black Adam and Isis" epic concludes here! With Billy Batson banished from the Rock of Eternity, the Justice Society calls upon an old friend to help in the battle against the Black Marvel family and stop Black Adam and Isis once and for all!

Noble Causes #40 – Final Issue - Race and Liz return as the long-running superhero saga comes to a close. We’ve saved the best surprises for last! With a special wraparound cover featuring the entire series cast, past and present.

Prototype #1 (of 6)Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti; Art and Cover by Darick Robertson and Matt Jacobs. Acclaimed writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (COUNTDOWN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, JONAH HEX) join forces with artistic powerhouse Darick Robertson (The Boys) for a 6-issue WildStorm epic like no other. In anticipation of the upcoming multiplatform Activision video game comes the hyperkinetic world of PROTOTYPE! Follow New York homicide detectives as they track a serial killer unlike any they've ever faced, and enter a new era where human extinction and monstrous evolution collide!

Remnant #4 (of 4) - The whole world is falling apart, and CIA agent David Sacker is stuck in the middle of it. He comes face-to-face with the true villains that are behind the planet-wide attacks in this gripping finale. Featuring sensational interiors and cover by hot newcomer artist Julian Totino Tedesco!
Seaguy The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (of 3)- Written by Grant Morrison; Art and Cover by Cameron Stewart. In 2008 alone, superstar writer Grant Morrison killed Batman, put the entire DC Universe through its FINAL CRISIS and concluded the unanimously beloved ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. But what does a writer who's written every significant Super Hero do when he can create any Super Hero he wants? The answer, of course, is SEAGUY! Morrison (THE INVISIBLES) rejoins original SEAGUY artist Cameron Stewart (SEVEN SOLDIERS) in an all-new adventure starring the cult-favorite character! In Seaguy's cartoon future world, everyone is a Super Hero and no one dies. It's absolutely perfect...Or is it? In this follow-up to the cult 2004 miniseries, Seaguy resurfaces with a sinister new partner, a hatred of the sea and a rebel restlessness he can't explain. Why are Doc Hero and his ex-archenemy Silvan Niltoid, the Alien from Planet Earth, whispering strange equations? Why is Death so useless? And can that really be the ghost of Chubby Da Choona mumbling uncanny warnings and dire prophecies of ultimate catastrophe? When the grotesque powers lurking behind the corporation known as Mickey Eye and the Happy Group attempt to erase Seaguy's entire existence, can he possibly get it together in time to save a world so far gone it can't even imagine the horror lying in wait? Find out here in Morrison's own personal reframing of the Super Hero concept for the 21st century.

Secret Warriors #3 - THIS WEEK'S BREAST COVER AWARD - The most talked-about new Marvel series continues as HYDRA's plans pick up speed while more remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. fall. Nick Fury reconnects with an old colleague and finds out that the balance has shifted between him and some of his former soldiers. All that, and the Warriors suffer their first casualty of war.

Strange Adventures #2 (of 8) – Sometimes I feel like this is the title of my life. -Written by Jim Starlin; Art by Manuel Garcia and Al Milgrom and Jim Starlin and Rob Hunter; Cover by Jim Starlin and Rob Hunter. Adam Strange discovers that someone – or something – is stealing stars. But no one believes him! Has Adam gone crazy? Meanwhile, Comet remains in hiding until the arrival of a very unexpected visitor while Bizarro tries putting an end to a senseless war.

Superman Batman #57 - Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and Mike Johnson; Art and cover by Whilce Portacio and Richard Friend. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning return for a special 3-part story! The Prankster succeeds in creating his ultimate revenge when he makes The Man of Steel disappear forever! It's up to the World's Greatest Detective to find his friend, but to do that, he'll have to embark on a quest to a place that could mean the end of The Worlds Finest Duo! Robin and John Henry Irons guest-star in part 1 of "Nanopolis"!

Teen Titans #69 - Written by Sean McKeever; Art by Allan Goldman and Julio Ferreira; Cover by Eddy Barrows and Ruy José. Get ready for the debut of the new Teen Titans line-up! What surprising heroes show up as part of the team? Who made the cut and who got sent home? And where do they go from here? This special issue sets the stage for the "Deathtrap" crossover with TITANS, which kicks off in the upcoming TEEN TITANS ANNUAL!

Teen Titans Annual 2009 - Written by Sean McKeever; Art by Fernando Dagnino and Raul Fernandez; Cover by Andrew Robinson. Prelude to the "Deathtrap" crossover between the pages of TEEN TITANS, TITANS and VIGILANTE! Titans Tower has mysteriously come to life to attack the Teen Titans! But The Titans have one secret weapon their unknown assailant doesn't know about. Will they be able to use this weapon in time to save themselves? Find out as the story continues in TITANS #12! And be sure to check out the awesome interlocking covers by Andrew Robinson spanning the entire "Deathtrap" story that create one massive image!

Trinity #44- Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza; Art by Mark
Bagley and Art Thibert, Mike Norton and Ande Parks, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens and Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher; Covers by Shane Davis and John Dell and Jesus Merino. Earth – and all of reality – is under assault from space, magic forces, other dimensions and more! But if Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman changed forever, does it mean salvation for everybody else – or disaster? The Trinity leads DC's heroes and some surprising allies in a sprawling battle to save reality! Featuring Krona, Morgaine Le Fey, the Crime Syndicate, Despero, Enigma, the JLA and loads of other DC heroes and villains!

Universal War One Revelations #1 (of 3)- The Purgatory Squadron's survivors have done the impossible: By traveling through time, they've shut down the impenetrable Wall that cut the solar system in two. In doing so, they've discovered that the rebelliousColonization Industrial Companies have hidden a satellite in Earth's orbit that could destroy the planet just as the CIC eradicated Uranus. But the Purgatory Squadron has a trump card. Now stranded three days in their own past, they just might be able to return to Earth without notice. That gives the team of outcasts and criminals three days to stop a cataclysm that could bring about the first universal war.

X-Men First Class Finals #3 (of 4) - How metal is a giant ghostly Magneto presence trying to crush the X-Men? VERY METAL. And have no fear of the weirdness stopping there, because now the black and gold-suited X-Men have just arrived to add to the confusion our graduating class find themselves in! And the brilliant Hank McCoy will foolishly end a sentence in a preposition like we're doing here!

I have to say that the doldrums that seem to be infecting my comics (or at least my outlook) is being lifted. Irredeemable was a point of demarcation for me in that I had not read a book in awhile that had made think that “wow” great book. I’m looking forward to April’s comics now and my vacation at the end of the month. See even in a depression you can still have some fun.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Welcome Cross Over Failure

Back when Vertigo was new many of its titles were transfers from the DCU. Titles like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Doom Patrol were originally DC but were turned into Vertigo titles when they took to less superhero themed stories and went off into more existential plots. So an attempt to do a cross over event probably didn't seem terribly outlandish in '93-'94 when Vertigo put out The Children's Crusade. With the current Vertigo titles being unrelated to one another, in terms of shared universe, a cross over seems like a foreign idea, but it was a vestige of the DCU origins of those early titles.

The Children's Crusade was 2 issues. Two long issues of 58 and 59 pages each. In addition, elements of the story ran through Balck Orchid Annual 1, Animal Man Annual 1, Swamp Thing Annual 7, Doom Patrol Annual 2, and Aracana Annual 1, but I'm only going to look at the two issues that begin and end the story because I've found that all you need to know about the story is in just those two issues.

Written largely by Neil Gaiman with some assists by Alisa Kwitney and Jamie Delano, the first issue was drawn by Chris Bachalo and the second by Peter Snejbjerg. The impetus for the story is the disappearance of all the children of a small English village. The one child who didn't go missing, because she was in London at the time, returns to London to hire detectives to find the her little brother. She doesn't care about the rest of the children, and really doesn't want her brother back, either, but her mother's sad without him. She ends up hiring The Dead Boy Detectives, Edwin Payne and Charles Rowland, who had previously appeared in an issue of The Sandman and their own limited series.

Paine and Rowland really have no idea what they're doing. All their knowledge of sluething comes from 19th century and early 20th century serials or novels, in the case of Paine, and noir movies in the case of Rowland. They go to the village by train, even though they're ghosts. They find the more direct forms of travel available to ghosts to be frightening and try to avoid them.

After much stumbling around they end up following Tim Hunter, of Books of Magic fame, to Free Country. Free Country is another dimension that's a sort of haven for abused children from throughout the centuries. Several are the pitiful remains of the actual Children's Crusade of centuries past, while others come from more recent times. One of the leaders is a kid named Wat who had a hand cut off for stealing. Needless to say, they're all bitter about the treatment they received from adults in the real world. Unknown to them, a Cockney kid named Junkin' Buckley and a talking rabbit named Jack Rabbit are manipulating them to bring over every child in the real world to Free Country so that Jack Rabbit, who is really the same evil monk that lead the original Children's Crusaders into slavery, can once again gain control over large numbers of children to sell to various buyers.

The Free Country leaders have already brought over a lot of children, not just the missing kids from the English village, but the numbers are somehow taxing Free Country's ability to sustain them all. That's the plot thread that brings in the children from the various Annual stories. Each of them has powers of some kind that can sustain Free Country, even if they're not still there. The main hope, though, is that Hunter's great potential magical abilities will stabilize the place indefinitely.

The telling of the story has some nice touches. There's the usual bits of humor in the ineptitude of the Dead Boy Detectives and some additional humor in the Free Country ruling committee arguing about how to welcome Tim Hunter while failing to recoginize him when he tries to introduce himself. A bit of farce in those points, but at other points there's some real poignancy, particularly in the story of the survivors of the original Children's Crusade. Told in a first person narrative, the horrific need to sacrifice one of their own to escape their captors is as effecting as any story you'll read.

This story has a hard edged look at childhood. As bad as the abuses of the adults are, the kids don't behave much better. On the lesser side of ill behavior, Tim Hunter is his usually disaffected self, Maxine (Animal Man's daughter) is simplisticly animal centric like her father, the girl who hires Paine and Rowland is petty and spiteful, her little brother is fat and nasty, and Suzy, of Black Orchid, is totally flightly and insubstantial. More maliciously, Buckley is purely greedy without conscience, Wat is single minded without thought of collateral damage, and the boy who survived the original Children's Crusade is blinded by that experience. Only the ghostly Paine and Rowland maintain any sort of childlike wonder or innocence, which is sort of surprising because they were both killed by abusive schoolmates at the same English private school.

It's something of a stretch to include all the other child characters from the other books Vertigo was publishing at the time. I think it would have worked just as well with just Hunter and Maxine, leaving out Tefe from Swamp Thing, Suzy from Black Orchid and some girl from Doom Patrol who's name escapes me. From what I've read the series wasn't very popular and shortly thereafter Vertigo gave up on the idea of cross stories between the universes of its titles. So, even though this was a good story, it was better for Vertigo that it wasn't a success. The proliferation of cross over events in Marvel and DC is a real drag on the ability of writers to tell good stories. By this happy coincidence of failure, or at least lesser results than hoped, the Vertigo line went in a different direction, away from DC, and now has such wonders as Scalped, Unknown Soldier, Haunted Tank, and Fables. Why, two of those even have DC origins, but without the burden of hewing to the DC history are being told in entirely new and exceptional ways.

As a last tangentially related bit, I want to give a shout out to Vertigo's Madam Xanadu which had a sexual encounter depicted with actual nudity and not just forced, artfully placed bed sheets. I don't know about you and yours, but when I've had sex with my wife, we don't carefully place the sheets to cover ourselves when we're done, nor when we're in the midst. Hopefully other titles aimed at adult readers will follow in these foot steps, especially such graphically violent titles as Invincible, Gemini, and Proof. I should also acknowledge that Scalped crossed this bridge awhile ago, but Madam Xanadu brought it more to mind for me because the nudity involved the lead character, although, come to think of it, Dash Badhorse was naked in Scalped, too. So, my apology to Jason Aaron and Scalped for not giving them the appropriate shout out earlier.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Irredeemable #1 - A Review

Irredeemable #1
Publisher BOOM Studios
Writer/Creator Mark Waid
Art Peter Krause
Colors Andrew Dalhouse

Release Date April 1

This book opens up and grabs you by the throat and never, never let’s go. You feel like you jumped into a speeding car and then the pace quickens. One of the best first issues of a super powered comic book I have ever read. Waid is showing just how good he can be and it is great to see a writer that is deep into his career still step up and show everyone exactly how it is done.

This book is one that on the first reading has me waiting for the actual printed copy so I can read it again and then has me anticipating the second issue. If the first issue is any indication of how the rest of the series will be I think we can declare 2009 over early and hand the best new series award to Mark now and end the suspense.

Sounds a little over the top and almost like Waid and Boom slipped me a few bucks, but it really is that good of a book. I have been feeling that comics have hit a sort of malaise recently and that many of the books have been good, but they have all been missing the indefatigable something to make me think “Wow” what a great story, and this one has it.

Irredeemable is about a Superman type character who apparently has gone over to the dark side and now is after the rest of the long underwear set. The first few pages are the character not only taking out one of his former allies, but killing that hero’s children and his wife. I think this was just in case we were going to think that maybe he had some reason for taking out his allies, we are seeing that he has gone way over the edge as it appears that there are no innocents in his world.

After that we flashback and see a scene where the Plutonian has just saved the day and defeated a huge robot monster in front of a baseball crowd. The cheers are deafening, but he also hears the jeers and harsh remarks of his critics.

We then cut to the hero group he was a part of interviewing one of their members in trying to get information about what has happened. This scene was fantastic, not only is there an urgency in this group trying to find out what is happening, but we are given clues and hints of mysteries about things that happened that may have impacted the Plutonian. At the same time the plan the group hatches to try and survive is laid out and the last panel we see the Plutonian show up and scatter them to take off via a teleportation device and the Plutonian utters “Perfect”. A chilling ending.

Just an utter hold on to the sides of your seat thrill ride, that builds characterization, story and suspense. A beautiful comic book and a textbook in how to start a series.

Peter Krause on the art chores and Andrew Dalhouse on colors delivered the goods. No matter how great a story you have, if the artist is sub par on has no ability to handle the type of material then the book can be a failure or at least not garner the acclaim it may deserve. Krause delivers on every level, with layout, pacing, expressions, action and more. The book looks as good as it reads. The coloring enhances the mood perfectly and never obscures or overwhelms the art, muted when needed and bright and colorful when called for.

Thanks Mark, Peter and Andrew the malaise that I felt had been in my comics has now been removed. BOOM has a solid winner and has just announced to the market, if you were ignoring us before because we were not doing super hero books, well we are here now and we can do it as well, if not better then anyone else.

OVERALL GRADE A – WOW- Irredeemable is a flat out winner! A tonic for the comic book blues.

This issue comes with the Comics And... Money Back Guarantee. If you buy this book and don’t like it, mail me the book and I’ll reimburse the first 25 people who send it to me (one per person), personally I would hold onto it and get it signed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Indies Preview Review for May Part 3 of 3


Oni Press Inc.
You Have Killed Me HC by (W) Jaime S. Rich (A) Joelle Jones
Things just can't get any worse for Antonio Mercer. A private eye by trade, a dame from his past has resurfaced in his life as a client - along with all of the emotional baggage he thought he"d left behind forever. Of course, this unusual client doesn't have just any case; her family is mixed up with seriously dangerous people, and the body count is just starting to pile up! $19.95 Visit Jones here
Lee: Oni has published a lot of good crime comics in the past and this looks to follow in that trend. And, the art looks really good too! I’m sold.
Jim: Yeah, I have to agree. I missed out on Queen and Country and Whiteout when they first came out, I'm jumping on this bandwagon early.

Panini Publishing Ltd
Doctor Who: Cold Day in Hell SC by (W/A) Various
The enigmatic Seventh Doctor's comic strip adventures are collected for this first time in this volume that reprints 11 classic stories from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine! The famous Time Lord encounter Death's Head, heat vampires, the Ice Warriors, and even himself. The original black-and-white strips have been digitally remastered and are collected for the first time ever. Writers include Grant Morrison (Final Crisis), Simon Furman (Transformers), Dan Abnett (Warhammer), and Alan Grant (Batman), with art from Bryan Hitch (Fantastic Four), John Higgins, Dave Hine, and more. $23.99
Lee: What are the odds there would be not one, but two, Dr. Who books in the same month? I’m not sure which Dr this is but that’s a talented group of writers/artists attached to this collection. I’m sure it’ll be nice to read and look at, but I’m not sure I’m going to buy it.
Jim: Pass. Dr. Who is just not my cup of tea. I think it is more of a Brit thing, then an America thing (not that he does not have a hard core fanbase here, there are 300 million people plus here, so if even 1% of 1% of the population would buy it these guys would be giddy).

Pantheon Books
Asterios Polyp GN by (W/A) David Mazzucchelli
Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. He leaves the city and relocates to a small town in the American heartland. But what is this "escape" really about? As the story shifts from present to past, the pieces of Polyp's life come together and we meet Hana: a sweet, smart, first-generation Japanese American artist with whom he had made a blissful life. But now she's gone; what has happened to her? Mazzucchelli's extraordinarily imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception becomes a masterpiece: a great American graphic novel. 344 pages. $29.95
Lee: That’s a lot of pages for not a lot of money. Mazzucchelli has come a long way from his roots as a superhero artist. He’s quote the indie artist and storyteller. Pantheon has been publishing some really good alternative material lately too, so I’ll probably take a chance on this.
Jim: Mazz is a talent and the premise sounds great and I have certainly blown $30 on a lot of material that was not worth recycling as toilet paper, so I think I'm taking a chance also.

Classics Illustrated Vol. 05: Hamlet HC by (W) William Shakespeare, Steven Grant (A) Tom Mandrake
William Shakespeare's Hamlet is one of the most revered and best-loved plays of all time. The story of a young man who strives to avenge his father's death has been performed and read constantly since it debuted at London's Globe Theatre over four hundred years ago. Madness, family, and revenge are only a handful of the universal themes found in this tale. Tom Mandrake's art combined with Steven Grant's adaptation truly realizes the dark nature of this story. $9.95
Lee: Classic Mandrake with an outstanding script by Grant. I really, really like these Papercutz reprints.
Jim: I can't do it. Classics Illustrated was okay when I was a child (back in the Stone Age), but now I have no interest.

Radical Publishing
Cholly and Flytrap: Center City HC by (W/A) Arthur Suydam
The classic noire action-adventure from comics superstar Arthur Suydam (Marvel Zombies), now collected for the first time, with new, hand-painted colors from the creator himself! Center City remains the belly-button lint of surviving society, a final human outpost oozing crime and racial tension between man and machine. Enter Cholly and Flytrap, who get caught in the crossfire between the city's two power brokers: the Siamese-twin Hobbs Brothers and paranoid paraplegic millionaire Amiel Luvitz. When sumo-master Flytrap is mistakenly shanghaied and forced into slavery in a secret fight world, his partner Cholly's odyssey to rescue him from certain doom begins. A ground-breaking and compelling epic told by an ultimate storyteller, now in a deluxe hardcover edition. $19.95
Lee: If I remember correctly, this was originally published in Marvel’s Epic magazine back in the early 80’s. It was a fun little story with great art by Suydam. It’s very Heavy Metalesque.
Jim: I'm a little surprised to see Radical go down the reprint road, but I think often a publisher woes a creator by doing a "beauty" project for them.

Salty Sugar Comics (Need Nvs)
Seaweed Vol. 01 HC by (W/A) Ben Balistreri
Emmy Award-winning designer Ben Balisteri, designer for Cartoon Network's Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, releases his first self-published graphic novel. Mildew the bat doesn't have long to live, but he holds a mysterious map to the White Library, where eternal life and cures for any affliction can be found. He entices Seaweed and Poisson to take him in their boat on an incredible high sea adventure with the map as their guide. The volume also includes a bonus making-of segment detailing the artist's process for creating his lush animated-film style from thumbnail to finished product. $29.95 Visit Ben at his blog here
Lee: I’m always up for a good adventure tale. And this looks like a doozy of a tall tale. The cover does a great job of selling this as equal parts humor and adventure. It doesn’t hurt that Balistreri has lots of animation experience so it should read well!
Jim: Way too pricey and way too cartoony for my taste. When I want this type of material I want to watch it as a cartoon.

Top Shelf Productions
Far Arden HC by (W/A) Kevin Cannon
Meet Army Shanks, crusty old sea dog and legendary brawler of the high Arctic seas! He's got just one mission: to find the mythical island paradise known as Far Arden, which lies hidden, so they say, in the wintry oceans of the far North. But there's more than just water standing between Shanks and his goal: he'll have to contend with circus performers, adorable orphans, heinous villains, bitter ex-lovers, well-meaning undergraduates, and the full might of the Royan Canadian Arctic Navy! Not to mention he's not so sure how to get to Far Arden in the first place! Far Arden is an epic journey through a world not quite our own, written and drawn with strokes bold and swift. Thrilling, eccentric, lusty, genuinely moving, and often hilarious, this may be the best adventure comic you'll read all year. $19.95 Visit Kevin here and read the book here
Lee: Another web comic makes it to the printed page. Month after month there are more books like this. I read the first chapter and I enjoyed it. A humorous romp with fun, cartoony art which looks nothing like the cover. But, this is to much fun to pass up.
Jim: I do love that web comics are making it to the printed page more and more often. I think we are starting to see that the business model for webcomics is heavy upfront investment of time and talent and then build a fanbase and get published. A huge gamble, but with some decent upside potential. I guess the advice is, do the webcomic, but keep your day job.

Second Thoughts GN by (W/A) Niklas Asker
Jess is a writer living in London. Andrew is a photographer on his way to New York. They do not fall in love - not exactly - but their brief encounter in Stansted Airport will impact both of their lives more than they can imagine. In Second Thoughts, the clean, emotional ink-work of Swedish newcomer Niklas Asker guides two characters through modern city life and love, as they struggle separately yet somehow together. Past and present, reality and fiction overlap in this sweet, haunting, and ultimately inspiring graphic novel. $9.95 Visit Asker here, and the gn’s official webpage here
Lee: I’ve always liked the diversity of Top Shelf’s offerings. This is as different from ‘Far Arden’ as any book can be. There are many reasons to try this. One, Asker’s art looks good. Two, the story sounds interesting. Three, Top Shelf publishes some of the best real life comics out there. And, that’s good enough for me.
Jim: And the price point is reasonable. When a regular comic often cost $4. $10 for this sounds like a bargain.

Lee: A very good month indeed. Just when I get bored and wonder where comics are going, along comes a great month like this.
Jim: All in all a very good month, which means it will cost me a lot of money. But not really when you consider the bang for the buck the indies are ahead of the curve compared to the big two (most of the time).