Friday, July 31, 2009

Make Mine Marvel

Not the words you would expect to hear from me and they arte in fact not a sentiment I have had in a long time, but I find it is harder and harder to find books from Marvel that I want to try and harder to even like after I try them. Recently I tried Dark Reign Lethal Legion and found that even though it was well written I had no desire to get issue #2, even though issue #1, due to a sales promotion from my store, was free. The whole Dark Reign thing has gotten so out of hand from Marvel that I now skip any of the mini-series they produce and I’m only getting Dark Avengers and New Avengers as the core titles that are 100% Dark Reign. I know Punisher and Secret Warriors could be considered Dark Reign, but they are ongoing titles and well done books, as is Agents of Atlas, which is a favorite of mine and is considered Dark Reign at this point. My skipping the Dark Reign mini-series basically wipes out over 50% of the Marvel titles. From this week alone that was Dark Reign Goblin Legacy, Hawkeye, Lethal Legion, Sinister Spider-Man, Young Avengers and Dark X-Men.

Marvel of course destroyed my love of Spider-Man with the whole One More Day thing. I still can’t get back into the book no matter how good it is. I know there have been retro-cons before in comics and many heroes have had hard reboots, but this was done in such a way as to disrespect the history of Spider-Man and his fans. It was an artificial soft reboot and something Marvel has never really done before. To me I can’t invest in a character that can change again at the drop of a hat. Listen, I like to read solid stories about characters as much as the next guy, but for continuing series I want the continuity to count. So I have invested my money and time into a character and then a Devil can change things with a mystical blink of an eye. Well that is all well and good, but I do not have to reinvest into that character again. Maybe I will change my mind one day, but not yet. At least when DC did the hard reboot with Superman with Bryne redoing him they gave the Silver Age version a send off that is remembered as one of the best stories ever by Alan Moore. My abandoning this character drops at least one book a week off Marvel’s list for me to pick up.

The Convoluted Event Centric X-Men have fallen off my list. It took me forever, but I realize nothing is ever going to happen with them. Matt Fraction has become annoying and the idea of dragging them into Dark Reign is making me want to pull off even Dark Avengers after the crap issue that Caption Fraction did. I’m so tired of his captions and how “cool” he thinks he is. I’m guessing Fraction is left of Karl Marx in his politics also and "knows" he is right about many things. I want to like X-Books again because they gave me a lot of pleasure over the years and Grant Morrison was making them interesting again, but I keep falling off the X-Books. I have tried Cable, Uncanny multiple times; X-Men Legacy, New Mutants, Dark Wolverine, Wolverine Origins and they are having that same endless feeling of walking on a treadmill. These are characters that are stale from overuse and the same stories are being told over and over again. Aside from X-Factor and the rare mini-series by skipping the X-verse that cuts out about 25% of Marvel’s output. A small aside, remember when Queseda promised to cut back on the number of X-titles, ha, ha, ha and remember we believed it, so young and foolish. The last change that actually happened in the X-Men is Jean Grey being offed and Cyclops hooking up with Emma and that was under Morrison. Now the X-books are event after event after event.

Now the Ultimate corner is not that big, but Jeph Loeb is someone whose work I avoid at all costs. I have given him so many chances and excuses in my mind as to why he is missing the boat, but I’m convinced he has one gimmick and that is too try and make everything a big deal, but more importantly to make sure he is teamed with great artists. He is living off a false reputation and most of his work is nonsense. So I decided a good time to leave the Ultimate Universe behind and I had tired of a forever 16 year old Spider-Man. After ten years he was never going to leave high school. My distaste for Loeb also cuts the Hulk out of the equation. So farewell Ultimate Universe.

Now Marvel wants to revisit their history and they have Claremont redoing the X-Men from 15 years ago, redoing the clone saga and other worthless events. I like seeing older stuff sometimes, but not reliving the past with endless “What If” stories.

Marvel has left me with Iron Fist, Thor, Daredevil, Captain America, Ghost Rider and a few other series but that is about it. I want to try new series from them, but everything is being poured into meaningless Dark Reign mini-series. Worse when you look at Marvel’s line-up they have very few new characters. Look at all the new generation of heroes DC has and with adding Milestone, Red Circle and now the Thunder Agents the amount of characters that DC has with untapped potential is monstrous. Marvel has won because they have tied in so much of their universe together you get sucked into tons of their books and then spend almost your entire budget on their books. For fans like me who are not hooked on their core concept I feel almost shut out. I want to Make Mine Marvel on occasion as they were the company that started my love affair with comics, but with this marketing plan I have to keep Making Mine BOOM, VERTIGO, IDW, DC, ONI PRESS, ARCHAIA, TH3RD WORLD, IMAGE, DARK HORSE, any one but Marvel.

It is almost sad as I worry they will pull the rest of the line into the core Universe and I will be on the outside looking in. My wallet will be happier, but I won't as I miss the days when I enjoyed the X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and other books. I will keep hoping for more titles like Punisher to arrive and will keep trying them out, but Making Mine Marvel is a thing of the past.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #3 (of 3) - A Review

Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #3 (of 3)
Publisher DC Comics

Story 1 – Kilowog in New Blood
Writer Peter Tomasi
Art Chris Samnee
Colors John Kalisz

Story 2 Arisia in Daddy’s Girl
Writer Peter Tomasi
Art Mike Mayhew
Color Andy Troy

Story 3 Blackest Night Director’s Commentary
Commentary Writer Geoff Johns, Editor Eddie Berganza, Associate Editor Adam Schlagman
Art Ivan Reis

I rarely devote doing a full blown review to a series like this. This three part mini-series gave us some nice background on characters and some of the different corps that are running around in the Blackest Night event. For someone who wanted some back story or a taste of the GL Universe this mini-series was a nice little extra. If you wanted to skip the whole darn thing, you could have skipped it as well, but what made me want to give it a spotlight was the last feature in this book.

The first two stories were stories that told us about Kilowog and Arisia’s beginning as Green Lanterns. Both are two of my favorite members of the GL Corps and both stories are written by Peter Tomasi, one of my favorite writers of late. Both stories had excellent art and I was enjoying this issue and thought it was perhaps the best of the three issues. Finally I don’t want to sell these two stories short as both were great origin stories of these characters and these were high quality productions that made this book an excellent value just with these two stories.

As with the other two issues I was expecting a third story and I was hoping it would be about one of the other corps as we have less information on the newer corps then we do on the GL Corps. Instead we got a reprint of the Blackest Night free comic book story. Now you might think what a lousy trick to sneak in a reprint of a comic that was given away for free a little while ago. It sounds like the typical cost saving move a company might do and tell you it was to ensure everyone got to see it. Instead they gave us an enhanced version and made it into a DVD style commentary section. In addition to that they stripped away the color and the inks and they let us see Ivan Reis’ pencil artwork. It was a great idea and instead of feeling like a cost saving move, it was a nice extra.

The commentary was a little on the tame side and at times the associate editor’s remarks sounded like he was fawning over Johns. Still it was an enjoyable read and I would love to see this type of commentary added to the entire Blackest Night series once it is done. The reason is that once it is done they can talk about things in an open manner, because at this point they can’t say 100% what is going on without giving away the story.

What sold the concept for me was reprinting it as just the pencil artwork. Reis’ work is even more stunning without the inks and the colors. While both processes enhance the end product and make the pictures pop off the pages, those processes add layers on top of the pencil artwork and detract from the actual talent of an artist’s pencil work. If you ever want to see what an artist work looks like without color just copy a page or two on a black and white copier and you will be able to judge the art more on its own merits. Here we don’t have to do that as we get Reis’s pencils in all there glory. His work is stunning and the amount of line work and shading he is doing is astonishing. Reis has to be considered one of the top artists for super hero work in comics. He is moving into a Neal Adams type of class and these pages are offered as proof of my assertion,

Overall Grade A – Two terrific tales of two of my favorite GLs and then the special “commentary” version of the Blackest Night FCBD prelude.

Thankless Jobs

Of all of the terrible parenting jobs there are, I’m convinced little league baseball coach is one of the worst. How do I know? Well, this year I got roped into that thankless job. To make matters even worse, I volunteered for the position. Actually, I got the one job even lower than Coach, I got to be dugout mom for Boy’s baseball team.

It started innocently enough when the Coach sent an email asking for a volunteer to keep the score book during the game. I’m good with numbers. I like math. I get to be a part of Boy's team without actually having to do work. How hard can it be to be scorekeeper?

What wasn’t explained in the email was that the scorekeeper would sit in the dugout. And, since Coach had to be on the field to pitch, or call outs, or whatever, the score keeper would be responsible for keeping order in the dugout. That's right, the scorekeeper would have to attempt to control 10-12 little boys. I don't believe it was an accident that little detail was not in the original email.

So my job consisted of making sure the boys got their helmets on. Letting them know when they were batting. Generally preventing them from killing each other or hurting themselves. In between these lovely activities, I had to keep score.

Since I was in charge of everything related to the dugout, it was assumed that I always knew where the bathroom was. It didn’t matter if I had never been to the field we were playing on, all the boys asked me where the bathroom was at some point in the game. Normally, even though I never had a clue where the bathroom was, it wasn’t a problem.

One game, little Tommy waddled up to me doing the dance. With his legs crossed, and a slight shiver, Tommy says, “Coach, where’s the bathroom?” As usual, I have no clue, so I point into the distance at some sheds off at the horizon. “I think it’s over there.”

Without another word, Tommy runs off and returns shortly thereafter.

Another little factoid about little league is once one child has to go, they all have to go. I try to push the mass exodus off as long as I can, until finally, near the end of the game, all the boys have to go. As they start to rush off en mass, one of the boys turns, “Where is the bathroom?”

As I started to point into the distance, I realized there was one person who knew where the bathroom was. “Tommy!” I shout, “Where’s the bathroom?”

Tommy looks at me with glee, “I don’t know. I just went to my car and peed in a cup.”

Before I could speak, a small cheer went up from the gathered boys, and I heard, “Cool, can I go pee in your car?”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Justice Society of America #29 – A Review

Justice Society of America #29

Publisher DC Comics

Writers Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges

Art Jesus Merino

Color Allan Passalaqua

So my habit has become to try and pick two or more big books for the week and read them first and do a review of those books. This week the “big book” was a lot harder to find. The Stuff of Legend I have already reviewed and re-reviewed and when you look through the rest of what has come out, there are some good looking books, but most everything is in a middle chapter or something and few books that jump out as must be read. For one of the book this week I choose Justice Society of America #29 as we have a new creative team taking the helm of the book.

For both its first run of about 85 issues and for the vast majority of the issues in this run Geoff Johns has been a constant in guiding this team. Over that time frame the JSA has become the preeminent team in the DCU as they have surpassed the JLA in terms of consistency and quality stories. Also since the bulk of this team is not involved in solo series there is very limited mucking around with the team by editorial mandates. The JSA gets to exist within the DCU but does not have to try and tie into the DCU for specific events. If you have been reading just this book you would not even notice Final Crisis had occurred, Bruce Wayne is dead, Superman is off planet and the list goes on and on. So for me this book is number two in my love for group books in the DCU, with the Legion of Super Heroes holding down the top spot. When I heard Johns was leaving the book, I was okay with that as around 100 issues of a book is a solid run. I was nervous about who was going to take over the book and when I heard it was Willingham and Sturges coming onboard to write it, I thought this could be fun and bring new life into the comic. Jesus Merino on the art was not a plus or a minus. I have never looked for his art and I have not looked at it closely enough to form an opinion beyond the fact that he can do a decent super hero style.

After that really long introduction I have to say that I enjoyed this issue and it gives me hope for what is too come. There was no slow preamble like my review had, we jumped right into the mystery with a black egg shape object being found by Jay (Flash) Garrick. After some probing of the object we find out that it is Todd (Obsidian) who acts as the guardian of the JSA brownstone. He has been reduced to this state and the JSA have to figure out what happened and why.

At the same time we are introduced to a couple more junior members of the JSA and this is where I have a problem. The whole generational thing is cool, but turning the JSA into a kids’ camp with guardians is a little bit of a stretch and the kid sidekick for Mr. America is a really lame character, but I will give the writers enough rope to hang themselves on that one.

Next a rather “Z” list villain Tapeworm calls out Wildcat or else he will kill some hostages, The JSA does the smart thing and brings almost the whole team to take him out and make sure the hostages are saved. The bad guys were set up exactly for this reaction and they also have a large group ready to take out the JSA. Each one of the bad guys is specifically chosen to be a perfect foe for various JSA members. The battle goes badly and the JSA is defeated.

Back at the brownstone Mr. Terrific is studying the egg (or actually Todd). So when Mr. America’s sidekick walks in he never notices that the kid is under someone’s control, which allows Mr. Terrific to be knifed in the back. So the first chapter ends with the JSA beaten and Mr. Terrific bleeding to death and Todd trapped as some sort of dark matter egg.

Now the heroes being dead or beaten at the end of issue #1 or when a new team is coming onboard is cliché ridden, but the book is being narrated by an unidentified member of the group so we have no fears, if we had any at all, that the team is dead. What I liked is that the JSA is a large and powerful group and it is obvious that someone has planned how to take them down. One thing the JSA lacks is a true rogue’s gallery as the book has focused heavily on events more then actually fighting super villains. That has a plus and a minus, the plus is a lot of characterization and the minus is what is the group doing? It looks like the new team has some ideas on giving the JSA a menace worthy of them. I think this was a very good story and an excellent start for the new team and I’m looking forward to finding out whom or what is behind all that has happened.

The art by Jesus Merino was well done. I enjoyed the page layouts and design of the book. We had some tradition pages and we had the design of each page play into what was happening on the page. The battle scenes were different than character scenes, good camera angles and a good ability to express emotion. At times I felt like he was channeling a little bit of John Severin and other times a little Tom Mandrake, but all in all a nice job and I hope he remains the artist and can deliver a monthly book.

Overall Grade --- I’m not sure I’m wavering between a “B” and an “A”. It was a good start and feels like this book is in good hands. I liked the plot so far, I liked the art so far, I’m looking forward to the next issue, but there was no “wow” moment for me. How about a rare “B+”.

Indies Preview Review September Part 3 of 3

And now the concluding segment.

Joe & Azat GN by (W/A) Jesse Lonergan
Joe is an American in the strange land of Turkmenistan, who finds a good friend in Azat, a Turkmen dreamer whose optimism knows no bounds. With tales of doomed desert cab rides, nights of endless vodka shots, unlikely business schemes, and secret girlfriends, Lonergan not only captures the bizarreness of the Peace Corps experience but also reveals the hope in seemingly hopeless situations. $10.95. Visit Lonergan here

Lee: Finding hope in a Peace Corp situation is a very difficult thing, indeed. It sounds interesting. Actually, it probably should be required reading for anyone foolish enough to want to join the PC.
Jim: Geez, now this sounds like something that I would really never want to read.

New York Review Books
Poem Strip GN by (W/A) Dino Buzzati
Dino Buzzati's pioneering graphic novel relocates the story of Orpheus and Eurydice to a ghostly version of modern Milan. The Orpheus figure is a guitarist and Eurydice is Eura, who is no sooner seen and desired than lost. Her lover follows her into an underworld of temptation and delusion, at once bar, strip joint, hall of mirrors, horror show, and tunnel of love. He tells stories to wake the dead and returns with a precious secret that may be everything or nothing. 240 pgs. $14.95

Lee: Ok. I picked this because it looked cool and found out it was something way more than I imagined. To start Buzzati, the author, wrote this 1968 and died in 1972. Buzzati apparently was quite the accomplished author and artist. Since I love Euro art, and classic literature, I’m going to give this a try. Not to mention 200+ pages for $15 is a very good deal.
Jim: Wow, now Lee is going heavily into stuff just because it is European. Sometimes certain things are just way away from what my interests are and these is another easy pass for me.

Classics Illustrated Vol. 06: Scarlet Letter HC by (W) Nathaniel Hawthorne, P. Craig Russell (A) Jill Thompson
In addition to his graphic adapations of opera and the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, P. Craig Russell is known for both his collaborations with Neil Gaiman and his adaptations of Gaiman's prose works, all of which makes Russell an inspired choice to adapt The Scarlet Letter. Russell broke down the novel into script form and layouts, providing Jill Thompson the foundation for her beautifully painted pages that bring Hawthorne's tale of adultery and secrets to life. $9.95

Lee: I’ve gotten every one of these reprints and loved all of them. The art is always good and the stories are classics. What’s not to like ? In this case, I’m sold on Jill Thompson’s art.
Jim: What's not to like, how about just reading the actual classic novel itself. When I was a child these amused me, now if I was going to read the story I would read the source material.

Sterling Publishing
How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion HC by (W) Rene Goscinny (A) Albert Uderzo
Every one of the Asterix stories refers to a decisive moment in Obelix's life - when he, as a six-year-old boy, fell into the Druid's cauldron of magic potion. As a consequence of this accident, he developed phenomenal physical strength. But what actually happened? How did Obelix make that life-altering plunge? Here, at last, is the full story of what took place on that incredible day! $12.95

Lee: Asterix is a classic all ages European book. I never met anyone who’s read it that didn’t like it. This is wonderful material in a great slightly, oversized format if you haven’t tried it before.
Jim: If you haven't tried it before, you probably won't be trying it again. For Part 2 I was praising Lee for great choices, now I think his trip to France has turned into a Euro-snob.

Titan Publishing
Best of Wizard of Id HC by (W/A) Johnny Hart, Brant Parker
The Wizard of Id has enjoyed great success; it was named best humor strip by the American National Cartoonists Society Set, and currently appears in 1,000 newspapers worldwide. Set in the oppressed, shabby, medieval kingdom of Id, the strips follow the ups and downs of the everyday lives of peoples of Id - from King, the dwarfish, tyrannical king; to Wiz, his wizard; Sir Rodney, his chief knight in faded armor; and a whole smorgasbord of dingbats, shysters, failed jesters and perpetually disgruntled peasants. Let The Wizard of Id take you on a satirical tour of modern day life and American culture! $19.95

Lee: This is very odd because last month Titan offered the Hagar the Horrible reprint. This month it has Wizard of Id. Since when did a British company get reprint rights to a bunch of American comic strips? When Johnny Hart wrote “Id,” it was a very humorous strip. Please note, he hasn’t written it in the past decade.
Jim: Lee is right, when Hart wrote it it was funny. This strip gave me two lines I still use to this day. Remember the golden rule, those who have the gold, rule. The second someone yells "The Peasants are revolting" to which the King agrees, which still makes me laugh.

Nemi Vol. 03 HC by (W/A) Lise Myhre
Nemi Montoya is the vegetarian, cynical/romantic, hilariously honest twenty-something goth, star of this third hardcover collection of her strip by artist and writer Lise Myhre! Join Nemi, her blue-haired best friend Cyan, and a host of twenty-somethings as they discuss, life, the universe, dating, horror films, the Lord of the Rings, and everything else in between. 'Funny, honest, and strangely compelling. Who knew how irresistible the misadventures of a hot, rebellious, wise-cracking goth woman could be?' - Jeff Smith (Bone) $14.95 You can read a week of Nemi here

Lee: For this month’s oddest pick, we have Nemi. It’s actually a Norwegian daily comic strip that’s reprinted in various British newspapers. And, it’s darn good. I’ve started reading it daily and it’s quite funny.
Jim: Well send it onto me so I can make my decision based on something. I like the artwork.

Goth GN by (W) Otsuichi (A) Kendi Oiwa,
A notebook that leads to murder...a refrigerator filled with hands...a pit of dead accidental suicide...a boy buried alive...In these haunting stories, two teenagers linked by an obsession with murder and torture explore the recesses of humanity's dark side. A dark, haunting collection that question's humanity's fascination with murder Shrinkwrapped with Parental Advisory sticker on the front cover, 192 pages. Content Indicator: Moderate Sexual Violence, Excessive Gore, Moderate Violence, $10.99

Lee: I don’t pick many manga books but how can you not pick one that has excessive gore? Hummmm, there’s something interesting the blurb says “Excessive Gore” but it only has “Moderate Violence.” How do you manage that?

Jim: Yeah, listen when someone ordered something like this from my store that I had back in the nineties I was waiting for the police to raid the place. Excessive gore, you mean outdoing the last issue of Invincible? Shrink wrapped with an advisory sticker, hell I'm afraid to read it now.

Top Shelf Productions
Alec: Years Have Pants Life Size Omnibus SC by (W/A) Eddie Campbell
For the first-time ever, the groundbreaking autobiographical comics of master cartoonist Eddie Campbell are collected in a single volume! Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the Alec stories present a version of Eddie's own life, filtered through the alter ego of 'Alec MacGarry.' Witness Alec's progression 'from beer to wine' - wild nights at the pub, existential despair, the hunt for love, the quest for art, becoming a 'responsible breadwinner,' feeling lost at his own movie premiere, and much more! At every point, the author's uncanny eye for irony and wry self-awareness makes even the smallest occasion into an opportunity for wit and wisdom. This edition collects the previous Alec books, as well as a generous helping of rare and never-before-seen material, including an all-new 35-page book, The Years Have Pants. Available in HC and SC editions. $35.00

Lee: Alec has been in print for a long, long time but I’ve never read it. I’ve never heard anything bad about it and it’s been in print forever. So I’ll pick up a copy. BUT DAMMIT! They also offer a more expensive hardcover which is absolutely going to kill me. Actually, I’m just buying the hc.
Jim: Pass. I know this has gotten good reviews, but I still have no interest in it.

WW Norton
Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb HC by (W/A) Robert Crumb
The eagerly awaited graphic work retells the first book of the Bible in a profoundly honest way. Peeling away the theological and scholarly interpretations, R. Crumb, using the actual text work for work, has imagined the Bible as it really was. First serialized in The New Yorker, this graphic work is now available in a collected edition. Also available in a Limited Hardcover Edition, slipcased with a signed print, limited to 500 copies. $24.95

Lee: I want Crumb in my collection. He’s too influential not to have something by him in your collection. The problem is I tried a reprint of his work from ’69-72. Uummm, I’m glad I read it but I have to keep it on the top shelf, behind some other books, turned sideways, and wrapped in plastic because it’s not for kids. But, this sounds better.
Jim: Ha, ha, I know what Lee means, but just because someone was influential does not mean I have to own it.

Stitches HC by (W/A) David Small
One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the young boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die. Small, a prize-winning children's author, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist. Stitches will transform adolescent and adult readers alike with its deeply liberating vision. The official site is here limited previews but worth looking into. $23.95

Lee: To borrow another sites term, this is definitely a ‘buzz book.’ At least in the world of indies it is. There is lots and lots of hype about this and I can see why. It sounds like an incredible, uplifting journey with fantastic art to go with it. I’m sold.
Jim: Okay I have ripped Lee for some picks in Part 3, but this one sounds like a great story. I may have to climb aboard this train.

Watson Guptill
Spy vs. Spy: Danger, Intrigue, Stupidity SC by (W/A) Antonio Prohias
Spy Vs. Spy was a long-running feature of MAD Magazine. These stories, some of which has been out of print for over 40 years, are now collected into three volumes - Danger, Intrigue, Stupidity; Masters of Mayhem; and Missions of Madness. The crazed work of Antonio Prohias enthralled readers with its madcap adventure and derring-do; now these stories are introduced by longtime MAD editor John Ficarra. $11.99

Lee: Spy v. Spy is one of the Mad Magazine properties that always seems to be in print. They did a nice hc collection several years ago which I missed. But, I won’t miss them this time. This is a collection of the original SvS shorts that started it all. Very, very funny stuff.
Jim: I loved Spy v Spy and for $12 this is well worth your time if you have never read this material before.

Yen Press
With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child Vol. 05 GN by (W/A) Keiko Tobe
Hikaru is in the 6th grade now, reaching the end of his elementary school years and preparing for junior high. Sachiko had hoped for Hikaru to attend the local junior high, but not only is the special education system inadequate, there are bullies there who will try to take advantage of Hikaru. Sachiko will have to work harder than ever to find a perfect school for Hikaru while fighting the Board of Education that wants Hikaru to attend a school for the disabled. $14.99

Lee: Call it a sign of weakness or whatever but this is one book I know I cannot handle. Do I think it will be good? Oh yeah, this sounds great. Do I bet it’s an absolute sob fest? Oh yeah, sobbius Festivus. I’ll letting everyone else know that they should read it, but I’m not going there.
Jim: You know I going to take the politically unpopular view and say maybe the kid should be going to a handicapped school. I think all of the "nice" thinking that every child should be in a regular school is actually some sort of fantasy world view. I was on a Board of Education in New Jersey and actually fought some of these battles.

Yotsuba & I Vol. 05 GN by (W/A) Kiyohiko Azuma
Enjoy Everything! That's Yotsuba's motto! In this Eisner-nominated series, a little green haired girl delights in enjoying the things that the rest of tend to take for granted; a perfect series for kids of all ages. Yotsuba encounters Cardbo! Lends a helping (hindering?) hand! Goes stargazing and even swimming! And starts an all out war with her dad's assistant who she mistakes for an intruder trying to break into their house?! $10.99

Lee: I’m a huge fan of all ages books, from Amelia Rules to Bone, I love them all. And this easily fits the bill. I’m really curious to see how manga handles the same material so I’m all over this.
Jim: Lee has worn me out, too many picks. I'm not a huge magna fan and therefore pass.

Lee: This was an amazing month for indies. Actually, I wish the publishers had spaces some of the books out because I can't afford eveything I want this month. So much to choose from and not enough money.
Jim: Part 2 cost me a fortune, this page not so much. Still tons of stuff to consider and something that should hit almost anyone's taste in graphic entertainment who reads more then super hero material,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

I’m glad I skipped the big #600 issues from Marvel. While Spider-Man sounded like it was a good story, Hulk sounded like more of the same. I think that while Loeb/McGuiness have their fans with this work, long term this is a bad idea for the Hulk, especially with the plans they have announced. Also I believe it is still a mystery as to who is the Red Hulk. After dragging it out for a very long time, you better have a very good answer.


Final Crisis Legion of Three Worlds #5 (of 5) - Writer Geoff Johns, Art George Perez, Inks Scott Koblish, Colors Hi – Fi. I’m a Legion of Super Heroes fan and probably always will be. I’m not sure exactly what resonated with me with this group, but through five year gaps, clones, reboots, rebirths and different incarnations I have always had a soft spot for this group of characters. I know that the names and the stories have not all aged well, but I think Jim Shooter made this group a special place and Levitz and Giffen sealed the deal with their run. When Shooter wrote the book when he was 14 years old, he probably was writing a more adult book then most of what DC was producing at the time. The older writers were writing for that imaginary 8-12 year old and Shooter was writing for himself and not trying to dumb things down. Then as comics matured and Levitz/Giffen hit the book, the Legion started to grow up. Multiple reboots and editorial mandates started to cause the 30th Century to unravel and then a year or so ago Geoff Johns said screw it, Superman was part of the Legion and restarted the original Legion all over again.He decided to make them older now and made their continuity be from the Levitz era, so he picked what he wanted to use for the most part, but he remained true to the core of the group. It was a great series in Action Comics and Gwen has the hard cover and I got the trade after having read the books. See my full review here.

Invincible #64 - Writer Robert Kirkman, Pencils Ryan Ottley, Inks Cliff Rathburn, Colors FCO Plascencia. Wow, what an incredible frelling issue. I have to say when it comes to his three main books Kirkman really knows how to keep it interesting. He promised a while ago that he would keep this book fresh and exciting and the Conquest story line has done just that. It was one of the quickest reads I have had of a comic and yet it was a very satisfying and enjoyable book, regardless of the tons of gore and blood. I’ve had issues with the level of violence in certain comics, but have always said that when presented in the right fashion and makes sense within the context of the story I have no issue with it. Still I thought we came very close to crossing the gore line this issue, but it never went over it because it made sense within the context of the story. I was happy to read in the letters pages that Kirkman also felt this was as far as he could go with the gore in this book and stated that it is never gore and blood for the sake of the violence it is just the violence will be graphic at times. In an odd way it makes the book more realistic as people with these power levels would generate some serious damage to each other. I was wondering how Mark would be able to beat Conquest and was worried that the adrenaline rush over his anger of Eve’s death would all of a sudden help him find a new level of strength. While this can happen in real life, Conquest was shown as too powerful in his own right for this to be the answer. The answer was excellent. See my full review here.

Green Lantern #44 - Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks Christian Almay, Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen & Rodney Ramos, Colors Randy Mayor. So I have read that you only need to read Blackest Night to get the entire story but reading Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps gives you the entirety of the story. The other series are just additional background or individual stories of different heroes dealing with the risen dead. Instead of being a bunch of bull, so far this is working out as advertised which a nice change of pace. Also, unlike World War Hulk, where the actual series Incredible Hulk was total garbage this issue of Green Lantern was well done and a very good read. If you sense my enthusiasm for this issue is less then it was for Blackest Night #1, you would be correct. Blackest Night set the bar incredibly high and this issue while an excellent comic had a more narrow focus and therefore did not have the epic feel Blackest Night #1 had. We start with a three page sequence of a Black Lantern ring reaching J’onn J’onzz on Mars and we see another one of the dead coming back to life. I have read that Geoff Johns is playing with the whole concept of death in the DCU and I have to say that I’m enjoying what he is doing with this. The dead are the friends and comrades of the heroes and the various remarks being made show you that the line between being alive and dead is a thin one in the DCU. See my full review here.


Dethklok vs The Goon – Unreadable. It was more about Dethklok then Goon and I could not even read the book.

Quick Hits

Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #2 (of 3) – I’m enjoying this mini-series a lot. What I especially appreciate is the background of some other people from the other corps done in short stories. Each is entertaining and well thought out with some nice looking art. I think they provide some good back story for Blackest Night, but if you have a limited budget, you can skip this series and it will not affect your enjoyment of Blackest Night one bit.

Gemini #4 (of 5) – The gap between issues made me actually drop this series, but what the heck it is only two more issues and Jay Faeber is an exceeding nice person, so supporting a book of his is easy, plus this is a fun book. I thought that maybe it got canned due to low sales. Hopefully issue #5 will follow shortly.

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 – This is a well written series and I’m sure not huge seller for Marvel, but the art was so atrocious that I was considering that it maybe time to drop this series. Now I’m hanging on because the book is so well written, but if sales were slipping before this asking for the series to be cancelled. I get the feeling Marvel is so over-reaching they are really reaching with some of the artists they are using, who are really minor league type artists.

Immortal Weapons #1 (of 5) - Writer Jason Aaron (Fat Cobra) Duane Swierczynski (Iron Fist back-up), Art Mico Suayan and others (Fat Cobra) Travel Foreman and Stefano Guardino (Iron Fist), Color Edgar Delgado and Others (Fat Cobra) June Chung (Iron Fist). I think I didn’t like the origin of Fat Cobra. I say I think I didn’t like it because it should have been an impossibility for me not to have liked it. I have enjoyed the Iron Fist series, perhaps even more since Brubaker and Fraction left it, I love the Immortal Weapons themselves and Jason Aaron is writing probably the best comic on the stands in Scalped. So what happened to this book? The premise is that Fat Cobra has indulged in so many drugs and drunk to excess that he no longer remembers how he got to where he is and he hires a writer to research his life. See my full review here.

Ms Marvel #42 – I enjoy this book and actually have enjoyed the evil Ms. Marvel better then Carol Danvers. Now Danvers died in her book, but it was never acknowledged in New Avengers, so I only barely remembered how she died anyway. This issue she is now apparently been killed and reborn again as someone else. It is all very confusing, but still a great fight between Ms. Marvel (Moonstone) and the “real” Ms. Marvel.

Power Girl #3 – This series is coming along very well and if you have skipped on it, I would recommend trying it out. It is a solid super hero series that tells a straight story, but is not too serious.

I can almost put Wednesday comics into the best category every week, but I figure at this point after three issues you are either a fan of the series of not. This was a little bit of an off week, especially compared to last week, but still and what is most important it was an entertaining week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Superman staring in “Autograph Please” - A Review

Superman Past and Present

Publisher DC Comics

Format Soft Cover Trade

Price Point $19.99 Retail

On occasion I pick up some of these random trades that DC puts out that has stories from different eras that are thematically connected. The theme that connects them is thin at times, but still when the mood strikes me I will pick up and read the trade and then send it on its way to Gwen or some other person I know who might get a kick out it. What drew me to get this trade is the material I have not even re-read yet which is the Superman of 2965 of which there are four stories. He was a descendant of Superman and the stories were by Edmund Hamilton with art by Curt Swan and George Klein. These guys would have been super stars in comic books today. I can’t wait to re-read those stories.

The idea always occurs to me to do a review of the book, but time gets away and I fail to do so. This book was to be no different, but instead of reviewing the whole trade I decided to review one story that I have read so far, “Autograph Please”. It was from 1947 and was written by Jerry Siegel (yes that Jerry Siegel) and art by John Sikela.

Old stories are very easy to mock and make fun of and it is because so much of it was written for a much younger audience. We have had the panels from the sixties that have been mocked on the internet and are almost legendary. We have to remember that a lot of this was written from such a different perspective then how we view comics today it is almost a foreign language. In fact a lot of what I read from the Golden Age and other earlier times I read as much for amusement value as I do for anything else. I also like to look at the art and the way a story is structured. What the old stories do show is a decent story can be done in a few pages; this story was 12 pages long. A lot of writers could learn a lot from these books and realize that every damn thing does not need to be an epic.

What made me stand back and decide to even write up a review of this story is how the story is not even really about Superman at all. The idea is that the Daily Planet needs to boost circulation, which sounds like all newspapers today, so they decide to run an autograph contest. The person with the most unusual collection will win a prize and as Metropolis has thousands of autograph hounds this will surely boost circulation. When you stand back and look at that premise, you have to laugh a little and remember this is the basis for a Superman story. He has fantastic powers and is more powerful then any other mortal on Earth and he is helping to boost circulation of the Daily Planet by working the autograph collection story as Clark Kent.

The crux of the story is young Johnny, about 12 years old, who has a collection that is very unique, but he thought no one would like it. His doctor called Clark to enter his collection. Johnny is a ward of the state and in a wheelchair. You see Johnny has been cured of being a cripple, a word that has fallen into non-use, but has low self esteem and thinks he will never walk again. If only he could win this contest, then maybe he would gain the confidence he needs to walk again. I’m going to let that soak into your brain for awhile as it had to for my mind. The idea was so out there that it threw me off. The kid is cured and can walk, but won’t walk because he lacks confidence. Dump his a** out of the chair. Sorry, sorry, that was harsh and hard hearted of me.

Next we find out a rich kid of the same age is bored and has decided he wants to win the contest. He uses his money to hire people to go and get thousands of autographs so he can win the contest. He even says it is not fair to Johnny, who has gotten a headline as the front runner in the Daily Planet, but he does it anyway. His bodyguards hatch a plan to use these autographs and then forge these famous people’s name on checks to steal money from the bank. I love the simplicity of the bad guys. They will copy these signatures on checks and take them to banks to cash them. I guess in the forties having actual accounts and checking for someone’s identity was not a thought. It was so much easier to steal money in those days, no need to deal drugs to get money.

Finally Superman enters the fray. He flies around the world collection fabulous autographs of famous people world wide and gives them to Johnny. The rich kid Alexander not to be outdone hires thousands of clerks to get more and more autographs so he can win the contest.

So the contest is now apparently down to Johnny and Alexander. Note that neither of them is actually doing anything themselves anymore. Apparently the contest had no actual rules, so instead of being a contest of what your collection is like, it is now just about the shear number of famous ones you have collected.

Again Superman has to come to the rescue for Johnny. Superman, and this is where the Past and Present theme finally ties in, flies in a “weird mathematical design” pattern trying a brand new stunt and flies back in time. He collects autographs of George Washington after helping him cross the Delaware River, Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci and more and more and more. Again he gives all of these to Johnny for his collection. I would think Johnny would be the winner hands down at this point.

As this is happening Alexander discovers his men are robbing money with the autographs and is going to turn them in. Lois who is in the bushes outside his house (don’t ask) overhears what Alexander is going to do, but gets caught by the crooks also. Superman who is going to see Alexander about the forgery of celebrity signatures happens to show up and saves Lois and Alexander. Superman then signs a document saying how Alexander had nothing to do with the theft.

Finally the big contest comes to its resolution and it is a draw. Yes, even with famous people from hundreds of years ago Johnny is tied with Alexander. Fortunately a letter arrives giving Johnny another signature of it is Superman’s autograph. Yes, the document Superman had signed was sent in by Alexander so Johnny would win. He has become a better person due to Superman’s example. Ben Franklin, Lincoln, John Adams, William Shakespeare are all just another entry, but with Superman signature Johnny now wins the contest. Upon hearing the news Johnny jumps up from his wheelchair and can walk again. His doctor yells out “Keep walking Johnny and never be afraid of anything again.” I think under the doctor’s breath she tells him to keep walking and don’t come back, but that is just me.

To put the capper on it Perry White tells Clark that circulation is now up 10% due to his great idea. Clark ends the story with “But best of all, it helped straighten out two completely dissimilar youths!” Completely dissimilar seems a little like overkill, but who can blame him for the hyperbole with such an exciting adventure.

All snarky remarks aside, it told a complete story with a lot going on in twelve pages. The actual page layouts and panel designs were pretty damn innovative with circular panels as part and parcel of a few of the page designs. As a said a lot to be learned by today’s creators in a story like this.

I guess what was so bizarre to me is how underutilized Superman was in this story. Sure he stopped some crooks, was an inspiration and all of those good things, but that was it. He used his powers to break the time barrier to get autographs to give to a kid to help him almost cheat to win a contest so he would gain self confidence and be able to walk. I mean it was such a stretch. You have to wonder if this was not some sort of way to try and do a story about a fad that was big at that time. I have to go outside now and try to run in a mathematical design and try to go back in time and make some investments.

What I’m Getting Wednesday July 29

The Comic Con as always was a huge event and as has been the norm the last couple of years while things are announced they have calmed down on “big” announcements and slowed down on signing or at least announcing all of these exclusive contracts deals with creators. I know that Marvel getting the rights to the Marvelman character was played up as a major level event, but outside of republishing the Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman run on the book I don’t see this character as being any major add for Marvel. It’s a nice vanity piece, but it is not something that is shaking up the core Marvel Universe. Now I do not read all of the news in detail, but it seems to me that Marvel was relatively quite. Unless you count the horrible idea of the Red She-Hulk, why did people continue to buy Loeb’s trash? I noticed DC is adding another JSA book and I like that idea of that group has such a large cast of good characters it needs more room to actually play with them. Hopefully this will be more of a second core book and not like the JSA Classified which was a solo spotlight book and eventually become a book for every writer to tell a Wildcat story. Johns is going to write the new ongoing Flash book and I’m guessing he will have to drop Green Lantern soon as his plate is getting really full. If he does quit GL after number 55 as people have speculated then he will have had one hell of a run on the book and will have to be considered one of the most influential writers ever on GL. I was excited about Shooter coming over to Dark Horse to try and write as much as the Gold Key Characters for them in new series again. The first year of Valiant Comics was perhaps their best year and that was when Shooter was in charge of everything. I have heard all the negatives about Shooter, but as head writer with Dark Horse this has potential. I’m looking forward to a new Magnus Robot Fighter book the most.

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

Detective Comics #855 - I loved JH Williams III artwork on last issue and while some people feel Rucka tells a similar story too often, I’m enjoying finally getting a Batwoman series. The hype “Written by Greg Rucka; Art by JH Williams III; co-feature Art by Cully Hamner; Cover by JH Williams III. "Elegy" part 2 of 4 by Greg Rucka and JH Williams III! Batwoman captures her enemy, a madwoman known only as Alice who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable extras – including Kate! But when the tables are turned, Batwoman finds herself in a hallucination slamming the present into a collision with the past, and the hints of a threat that will claim the lives of every man, woman and child in Gotham City. And in the all-new co-feature starring the Question, Montoya's quest to find a missing young girl turns deadly."

Justice Society of America #29 – I know it is sacrilegious but I’m glad to see a new writing team on this book. Johns did some great stuff, but his long story line with Alex Ross as a co-plotter seem to cause the book to loss some focus. Willingham and Sturges seem to have good plans on what they want to do and I’m looking forward to their run on this book. The word “Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges; Art and Cover by Jesus Merino. A new era begins for the Justice Society of America as writers Bill Willingham (FABLES) and Matthew Sturges (BLUE BEETLE) take over the series with new artist Jesus Merino (SUPERMAN ANNUAL) just as two new recruits make their debut with the team! Strange happenings at the JSA Mansion are weird precursors to an all-out attack on all members of the team — all but one! And what is the strange connection that new members King Chimera and All-American Kid might have with the turmoil?”

Kid Colt (One-Shot) – I love picking up books like this that take characters that have not seen the light of day for years and dusting them off and doing a one shot on them. I would not sign up for a mini-series but a one time return to an old Marvel Western character is great. Now he needs a Masterwork to be published. What’s inside “The issue is written by Tom DeFalco, with art by Rick Burchett and a cover by Luke Ross. Framed for murder, Blaine Cole, one of Marvel's original western heroes saddles up to ride again as Kid Colt! Against a deadly bounty hunter, a corrupt Sherriff and the scavengers of the west, odds are against the Kid and his ally, the steady-shooting Everrett Hawkmoor. But that's the way they like 'em.”

Madame Xanadu #13 – Between Scalped and Madame Xanadu Vertigo has two of my favorite series. I love this book and look forward to each and every issue. The interior contains “Written by Matt Wagner; Art and Cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta. A young daughter pleads for Madame Xanadu to use her powers of sight to investigate deeper into her father's mysterious death. But the family secrets Madame Xanadu digs up are the kind that no one truly wants brought to light. Generations of deceit can charge a heavy toll, and the fortune-teller will discover why it's better to let sleeping dogs lie.”

The Stuff of Legend #1 (of 2) - Have I mentioned this book before? I think I wrote two reviews of it here and here and Thomm said this here and Gwen said this here. Go out to your store and buy this and if they did not order like some stores I know, make them order a copy for you. This is truly a wonderful story and well worth your time and effort to obtain it. The marketing pitch “The year is 1944. An allied force advances along a war-torn beach in a strange land, outnumbered and far from home. Together, they fight the greatest evil they have ever known. Never ending waves of exotic enemies come crashing down on them, but they will not rest. Thousands of miles away, the world is on the brink of destruction. But here in a child's bedroom in Brooklyn, our heroes, a small group of toys loyal to their human master, fight an unseen war to save him from every child's worst nightmare. Led by the toy soldier known as the Colonel and the boy's faithful teddy-bear named Max, the toys enter the realm known as The Dark. There they will face off against the Boogeyman and his army-- a legion of the boy's forgotten, bitter toys. Fighting to survive insurmountable odds, the toys will discover this is a battle not only for the soul of a child, but for their own as well...”

Wednesday Comics #4 (of 12) – A friend of mine has complained this is the most expensive newspaper every published. If you look at it as 15 strips with artwork that would cover 2 pages at least in a comic book, you are getting the same amount of material as you would for a 32 pages comic for $3 and a 40 pages comic for $4. It is a very different product for retailers and the market is not as easy to define as a regular comic, but for me it is a wonderful project and something I look forward to every week. DC says “Various Writers and Artists. In July, DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with WEDNESDAY COMICS, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today! WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28" x 20" tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14" x 20" page. Spearheaded by DCU Editorial Art Director Mark Chiarello, whose past editing credits include BATMAN BLACK and WHITE, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER and SOLO, each page of WEDNESDAY COMICS spotlights the continuing adventures of DC heroes."

The rest of the list:

Battlefields Tankies #3 (of 3) - A narrow escape brings the Tankies a brief respite, but it's out of the frying pan and into the fire as they run into their arch-nemesis: Germany's deadly Tiger tank. Can David overcome this particular Goliath? Can the British forces fight their way out of the slaughterhouse Normandy has become? And who will kill the big-mouthed Robbo firstthe enemy, or Stiles, his own commander? The last Battlefields story comes to it s deadly conclusion, in part three of THE TANKIES.

Blackest Night Tales of the Corps #3 (of 3)Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi; Art by Rags Morales, Chris Sprouse, Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke and others; Covers by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter. In this 3-issue miniseries, writers Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi (GREEN LANTERN CORPS) reveal the secrets behind the Lanterns of BLACKEST NIGHT! Bear witness to Blue Lantern Saint Walker's pilgrimage of hope, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris' sacrifice for love, Green Lantern Kilowog's courageous beginnings, Red Lantern Vice's source of rage, Orange Lantern Blume's bizarre creation, and the first appearance of the mysterious Indigo, leader of the Indigo Tribe!

Complete Dracula #2 (of 5) - Dynamite presents an unprecedented comic book series starring the Lord of the Undead - Dracula! Writers John Reppion and Leah Moore are joined by painter Colton Worley for a 5 issue odyssey of life, death and the blood that flows within us all! This fully-painted series features a massive 32 pages of story and art per issue, each page fully-painted in a rich, moody style by Worley, all under covers by modern master John Cassaday! Join us for this authentic and exhaustive adaptation by Moore and Reppion, who also provide bonus materials such as script pages, annotations and samplings of the original text by Stoker!

Fear Agent #27 I Against I (Pt 6 of 6) - A cold day finds Heath Huston face to face with the last man he ever thought he'd see again. When the dust settles on planet Westx, Heath learns that his life is a lie and everyone in it a conspirator. Nothing will ever be the same. The nature of the universe and Heath Huston's role in it is all revealed in this, the blood soaked conclusion to the "I Against I" storyline.

Final Crisis Aftermath Ink #3 (of 6) - Written by Eric Wallace; Art by Fabrizio Fiorentino; Cover by Brian Stelfreeze. Things are not looking up for Mark Richards, the Tattooed Man. His family is in trouble, his powers are out of control, and his city is looking to him for help before it goes up in flames. Too bad Mark is too busy getting his face kicked in by a couple of new villains to do anything about it. This is the part where being a hero gets tough, and Mark realizes he might not be up to the task.

Justice League of America #35 - Written by Len Wein; Art by Eddy Barrows and Ruy Jose; Cover by Ed Benes. The cards are stacked against the remnants of the Justice League! And those cards are the Royal Flush Gang! Can even Superman and Wonder Woman save a team whose luck has run out? Featuring the deadly return of an old foe.

Last Days of Animal Man #3 (of 6)Written by Gerry Conway; Art by Chris Batista and Dave Meikis; Cover by Brian Bolland. Enter the League of Titans! Buddy Baker is cracking up, but can he rely on a little help from his friends? Or should a wounded animal just slink away to die? Starfire has an opinion on the subject, and she's never been one to keep her feelings to herself…

New Avengers #55 - The issue is written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art and cover by Stuart Immonen. One of the Hood's gang has found a way to power drain the New Avengers and it turns the tides of the Dark Reign in ways no one would have expected it. Plus the new Sorcerer Supreme has a lot to learn, and they're going to learn it from...Spider-Man?

Northlanders #19Written by Brian Wood; Art by Danijel Zezelj; Cover by Massimo Carnevale. "The Shield Maidens" concludes its blood-drenched telling of Thyra, Grettr, and Lif – three wives of slain Danish warriors who seek revenge on their killers. The myth of the Valkyries, the idyllic figures who guide dead warriors to Valhalla, is shattered by the stone-cold reality of love lost.

Proof #22 - 'JULIA,' Part Five. Proof arrives in Russia too late. Julia's child is born and death is in the air.

Secret Warriors #6 - The issue is written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, with art by Stefano Caselli and a cover by Jim Cheung. The shocking conclusion to the first arc It's the ultimate Marvel super-hero spy experience. No one is safe! Don't believe everything you've been told! You will be lied to!

Superman #690 - Written by James Robinson; Art by Renato Guedes and José Wilson Magalhães; Cover by Andrew Robinson. As media mogul Morgan Edge fans the flames of Earth's distrust of all things alien, Mon-El wrestles with his looming demise and what to do with his remaining life. At the same time, forces from the future must prevent Mon-El from meeting Sodam Yat – the Green Lantern from Daxam known as Ion – for the sake of tomorrow. And General Lane rolls out his plan to ensnare our hero by lining up a vicious crew of villains – but to do this, Steel must fall. It's a wild ride setting up next month's crossover event in the SUPERMAN books!

Teen Titans #73 - Written by Bryan Q. Miller; co-feature written by Sean McKeever; Art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson; co-feature Art by Yildiray Cinar and Júlio Ferreira; Cover by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson. In the first feature, the team attempts to rescue Wonder Girl from the new Fearsome Five, as Calculator enacts his revenge on the team for not protecting his children. In the 10-page co-feature, Ravager faces the drug problem that could kill her!

War of Kings Ascension #4 (of 4)Written by DAN ABNETT & ANDY LANNING, Penciled by WELLINTON ALVES, Cover by BRANDON PETERSON. What happened at the end of WAR OF KINGS #4, and what did Darkhawk have to do with it? Only Chris Powell knows the terrible deeds the Fraternity of Raptors will carry out to protect their so-called “Great Purpose”, but who will believe or trust the paranoid warnings of a lone young Earthman? The entire universe thinks he’s committed an appalling crime—and now Darkhawk is cosmic enemy #1!

Wildcats #13Written by Christos Gage; Art by Shawn Moll and Drew Geraci; Cover by Ryan Sook. After the explosive events of last issue, the Wildcats are in shambles. There couldn't be a worse time for them to confront the archvillain known as Tao, but they don't have much choice, as his plans are coming to fruition and the fate of what's left of the world hangs in the balance. There's one bit of good news: they won't have to do it alone. Team Seven is back...but can even they turn the tide against a madman who can alter reality itself?

Wolverine Noir #4 (of 4) - Written by STUART MOORE, Pencils and Cover by C.P. SMITH. New York, 1937. On a dark train platform, in the hellish skid row called the Bowery, Private Eye Jim Logan gets one last chance to crack the case that's been tearing his guts out. But even if he finds his missing partner Dog, Logan's own shattered life may never be the same.

Wonder Woman #34 - Written by Gail Simone; Art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan; Cover by Aaron Lopresti. "Birds of Paradise" part 1 of 2! After the status-shattering events of WONDER WOMAN #33, the world's most sensational team reunites, as Wonder Woman and Black Canary go undercover among some of the worst villains of the DC universe! It's gonna be a bad day for some bad men when the two toughest women in comics join forces!

This was quiet week to end the month, which is unusual as often the last week is a killer week for books. The five week month really spreads things out and actually I finding that I enjoy the more leisurely pace that this type of month offers, especially since I have been very busy at work and we had a lot of entertaining happening this month. I love it when my daughters visit, but miss them a lot more then normal after they are gone again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Insomnia's Finest

Short and sweet today. My first exposure to Matt Wagner, so far as I can recall, was Sandman Mystery Theatre. No doubt acquired due to my abiding fondness for The Sandman, Vertigo started this, quite possibly the best noir comic ever, in 1993. It had little connection to The Sandman, actually, other than some of our hero's impetus being that he couldn't sleep without premonitionary nightmares, which were related to Morpheus's 70 years of captivity that started in 1916.

The Sandman Mystery Theatre was set in 1938. It's opening arc was, considering how things go today, the soul of brevity. Four issues was all it took to bring us The Tarantula, and set up the series run of 70 issues. With The Sandman having a run of similar length, I'm starting to think 6 years is just about right for a good, long concept story. But that's a topic for another day.

Out titular hero is the Golden Age Sandman, one Wesley Dodds. Wesley has inherited his father's myriad business interests, and accompanying wealth. Though he had little interest in business, he now runs the corporation(s). He's plagued by nightmares whenever he tries to sleep, so he doesn't sleep much. These nightmares tie into crimes plaguing NYC is some manner, so he uses a specially developed gas that works like a truth serum to investigate the crimes. To prevent being effected by the gas himself he wears a mask that appears to be surplus from WWI. The gas is delivered by a modified pistol.

One of the more interesting things about the setting of the story is that, despite the country being in the throes of the Great Depression, there was still great wealth about. Dodds is a member of high society. Parties are still thrown. Judges and district attorneys and high politicians are still working the rooms. All wealth did not disappear in the Great Depression, any more than it has now. (I'll refrain from naming our current economic condition, as I make no pretense of knowing whether it's akin to the early '80s or the '30s, or neither.) People were not suffering from unremitting mysery. Hell, as the stories show, Harlem's jazz clubs were at their peak at this time.

So, our cast, other than our hero. We have Dian Belmont and her father, the DA. She's a college graduate and jazz club afficionado. No job. No boyfriend. Lives at home with dad. We have the coarse and racist, but intelligent in solving crime, Detective Burke. There's retired judge Thomas Schaffer, unrepentant liberal and friend of Wesley Dodds. These four would remain important elements throughout the series.

In this particular story Dian's friend, Catherine van der Meer, a fellow party girl, is secretly dating the married Albert Goldman, a mobster of many years. Catherine is kidnapped. A succession of unknown, lower and middle class other girls are kidnapped and killed by a person who, in ransom notes, adopts the nom du crime of The Tarantula. Though Catherine is the first kidnapped, she's never killed like the others.

As it turns out, the Goldman family is particularly sordid. Prior to carrying on with Catherine, for many years Albert had been sleeping with his own daughter. She's now used her sexual prowess to gain hold over him so that he alters his will to make her the sole beneficiary. Learning of their removal as beneficiaries, Albert's alcoholic wife and son are, collectively, The Tarantula. The kidnapping is but a ruse to get Catherine to disclose anything she might have learned from Albert during their affair.

There are, of course, many other details to the story. And the art of Guy Davis, along with the coloring of David Hornung, is a co-equal to Wagner's writing in this story. The art can only be described as appropriate for its setting and story, and meant as the highest of praise. There are no glamour shots here. There are no sticks with tits or steroidal gorillas. These characters are drawn like real men and women. There's meat on the bones and weakness of the flesh. I presume that Davis did the inking, as there's no separate credit for it, and that too is wonderful.

Among the elements setting the stage for future tales is the attraction of the bookish, origami creating Dodds to the partying Dian Belmont, as well as her attraction to him. Cleverly, this mutual attraction is sparked by the disdain each has for the hero worship of Lou Gherig at a party. You gotta love the little things in a story that seem like they can be thrown away, but actually reflect how real relationships develop.

If you haven't read this, find it. Buy it in singles or trade. Doesn't matter. If you have any affection for the noir movies of the '30s, '40s and '50s, be they Bogart's and Cagney's gangster works or a later classic like Double Indemnity, you don't want to miss this. Even if you're not a fan of noir, if you enjoy good stories well told, then this should be near the top of your list. I'll run through a few more story arcs down the line, too.