Sunday, February 28, 2010

Johns in Action

Another month, another look at a series run by a given writer. As regular readers know, Geoff Johns has been a writer I've been following for awhile now, though I've come to the conclusion it's not in my economic interest to buy everything he writes for DC. Too damn prolific. And with Chris's Invincible Super Blog recently taking on (more like lambasting) the Smallville episode/movie that Johns wrote, why not take a look at some of Johns's Superman work in the comics?

I started reading with Action Comics 844, a way back in '06, when Johns was teamed with Richard Donner and Adam Kubert. Of course, this lead to the usual problem of Kubert delays in getting the art done, which was too bad because I thought Johns and Donner did a good job on this arc, which told the story of Chris Kent's arrival in the DCU. Still, after going along well in issues 844-846, there was a hiatus on the conclusion of the story all the way to issue 851 and Annual 11. The story used Zod, Ursa, Non and Bizarro to good effect, with a particularly heroic turn by Mon-El, as well as Chris. Kubert's art is great, of course, but, man, does it kill the flow when there's a 4 issue break to get to the penultimate issue, though I think it was bumped an extra issue for the issue 850 special that was created by Kurt Busiek, Johns, Fabian Nicieza and Renato Guedes.

The issue 850 special was a nice bit of work, too. I'm sure Jim liked it, as it used the Legion as the device to look at Superman's history and incarnations on other parallel worlds. It also developed Supergirl more than other appearances, at least based on my second hand knowledge of what's been going on with the character, aside from an appearance in Brave and the Bold that was just in left field. Her often whiny tone is taken down a notch through her viewing of life through Clark's perspective growing up and as a man on his own. A very good one and done tale.

Skipping ahead to issues 855-857 (as I'm skipping the non Johns stuff), we come to my favorite of the Johns run. Escape from Bizarro World was great fun. Johns teamed up with Donner again on the writing, and Eric Powell, of The Goon fame, on art. In fact, after reading this and the opening arc, I'm think Donner might be one to read if he writes something on his own. I was never all that impressed with the Superman movies, but his contribution here was great.

Bizarro kidnaps Pa Kent and takes him to Bizarro World, which is a cubed planet Bizarro has created for himself by forcing asteroids together. It circles a blue sun that gives Bizarro the power of vision that creates whatever Bizarro dopplegangers he thinks of. As a result, Bizzaro World is populated by odd knockoffs of the people we know from Superman's world. Superman flies there in a ship so he'll be able to bring Pa back, but the blue sun has its own unpredictable effects on Superman's powers. For a time, Pa has the same powers as Superman as a result.

The best part, though, is when Bizarro creates his own JLA. Batman is dumb as a stone. Flash is fat and slow. Wonder Woman ties herself up in her own lasso, a fitting homage to the character's bondage origins. Best of all, though, the Green Lantern is a Yellow Lantern of the Sinestro Corps, totally inept as he is, and he's called away by his ring to fight in the Sinestro Corps War. Superhero comics with humor. Gotta love it. And Powell's art is perfect for this story. Easily the best Bizarro work I've ever read, and some of the best Superman.
Which is not to say the next arc in issues 858-863 wasn't great in a totally different way, though it too was written by Johns. Along with Gary Frank, who's art is so great at capturuing a realistic feel, Johns took Superman to the 31st Century for a story with the Legion of Superheroes battling an Earth run by Nazi types who were either rejects from the Legion or villains, so long as they were born on Earth and willing to eject, kill, or impound any aliens on Earth. To their leader, Earth Man, they were acceptable to the Justice League of Earth.

Johns was overtly political in this one, going after the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in the US now. While he made the anti-immigrant crowd a set of straw villains, it doesn't invalidate the fact that the perspective he challenged can only lead to the same logical end, if followed through to its end. There's even a similar attempt to re-write history in this story, as is often done when anti-immigrant proponents conveniently forget our own heavily immigrant origins (and the chimera that is the distinction between legal and illegal immigration in most of US history). I liked the touch of having the Earth born Legion substitutes being the key to defeating the Justice League of Earth.

Issue 864 was a one off story with Joe Prado that went into the Time Trapper's involvement in the preceding arc and that tied into the Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds story, without any requirement of knowing what happened in that story. Unfortunately, it was mostly forgettable. Hell, I just read it in the last week and have already forgotten most of it.

Issue 865, though, was a stand alone with Jesus Merino that was far more memorable. I've never been a follower of the Toyman stories with Superman, not having been much of a Superman reader before picking up on this run of Action Comics stories (with the exception of John Byrne's re-launch of the character back in the '80s). I really like this issue, though. After the Bizzaro World Story, this may have been my favorite story. It wrapped up some disparate presentations of the Toyman into a logical continuity. 'Course, it may have seemed more logical to me than someone steeped in all the stories that had gone before. Merino's art is great, and the Toyman is a sympathetic, if psychologically damaged, villain. I particularly liked the Toyman's objection to being locked in Arkham with Batman's various damaged nemeses, 'cause he's not a Batman person.

Issues 866-870 were a Braniac story, told again with Gary Frank on art, along with Jon Sibal. Again, a fittingly realistic depiction for the story told. Supergirl came across as heroic as I've seen the character since her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. This arc had more of the traditional supporting cast of Lois, Jimmy and Perry than the preceding ones had, at least since the opening arc with Chris Kent. Johns had the characters well formed and well used, including Braniac and the more minor supporting cast at the Daily Planet. Nothing tops the death of Pa Kent in this arc, prosaic as that death was.

The final arc of issues 871-872 were less enjoyable, in large part because they were part of the larger New Krypton story that ran in other titles, which I think I bought at the time, but didn't re-read in the course of this retrospective. Pete Woods did the art this time around. It was a heavier style, with a blockier format. It was sometimes distracting, but really, the great melodrama that unfolded in this arc was so distracting in its own right, I don't think the art made a differencde. Too much of what's carried forth into the internicine politics of New Krypton stories going on currently, which I'm largely skipping. At least Zod didn't show up as ally of Lara until the end. This arc seemed more editorially driven to shake things up in the Superman corner of the DCU and less an organic strory as created by Johns.

All and all, a good run of stories that I enjoyed, despite the petering out at the end. The non Johns fill in issues were passable, but largely forgetable. At least the New Krypton arc introduced Nightwing and Flamebird, whose stories I've enjoyed in the subsequent Action Comics issues.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Simple Question

Last month, I attended my 20th ApologetiX concert. This one was held in Fredericksburg, VA, but I’ve traveled as far as Pittsburgh, PA to see the band. The last concert I attended was held in that “city of champions” back in October, when my oldest son and I went on a road trip to see them record their new LIVE album, “The Boy’s Aren’t Back’n Down”. If that title sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably thinking of “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy. You see ApologetiX performs Christian parodies of rock songs. The lyrics are superb and they are all excellent musicians – their parodies sound almost exactly like the original songs. If you’d like to purchase their new album or find out more about the band just visit their website:

So, what’s that got to do with comics? Well, more than you know actually. J. Jackson has been the lead singer and lyricist of the group since the band started 18 years ago. He also happens to be a friend of mine as well as a fellow comic book fan. He even has had two letters printed in Marvel Comics: Micronauts #25 and Marvel Team-up #105. Well, after the show I had J sign my Cosmic Comix Conversation T-shirt to commemorate my concert-attending milestone and he asked a simple question:

“Matthew, what’s you’re all-time favorite comic book character?”

And you know what, I hesitated…I mean I couldn’t come up with an immediate answer. In fact, I really didn’t even know where to begin. My wife chimed in and said “It’s got to be Spider-man of course – you used to drive around in a car with a “SPIDEY” license plate.” She was referring to my old 1977 Chevy Nova (black and beautiful) that I got in my senior year of high school. Man, I loved that car, but I… “sniff”… traded it in “SOB” after I graduated from Tech, so that I could get an economy car for commuting “WAUGGGH!!!” I even had a black costumed Spider-man (Mattel Secret Wars action figure) hanging from my rear-view mirror and I was known as “Spider-Matt” in the dorm. A color copy of the cover of Amazing Spider-man #185 graced the top of my mortarboard when I graduated. For much of my life I identified with Peter Parker like no other comic character (and getting married to my best friend like Pete marrying MJ is my favorite similarity).

With so much history between Spidey and me, why would I hesitate at J’s simple question? Well, I think it comes from the fact that I haven’t regularly read Spider-man for 5 years. The Sins Past story line where it’s revealed that Norman Osborn fathered Gwen Stacy’s twins was too much for me to bear – I dropped the book right at the counter and wouldn’t even purchase the issue in my box – ending my consecutive run of Amazing Spider-man to 499 issues. I even was on a JMS boycott until I read his first Thor HC, which was excellent. I almost jumped back onto the Amazing Spider-man bandwagon after reading issue 600, which I reviewed on another site. However, issue 601 and the aftermath of Peter’s drunken “hook-up” with his roommate, kept me away. That’s not the Peter Parker I remember and it certainly isn’t the Peter Parker I always identified with growing up.

So, what’s going on in current continuity actually does seem to affect my like of a character. I’m for change and growth in characters (I love the Spider-Girl alternate reality series), but they need to remain true to their characterization. Now that I’m reading the Green Lantern archives, I can imagine the outrage when Hal turned into Parallax the first time. Of course, we now know that wasn’t the same Earth 1 covered in the original stories, so that makes it better. I really enjoy Mark Waid’s “Irredeemable” series, but I’m especially glad that he could not tell that story in a Superman’s Elseworld tale. There are just some things you shouldn’t do or mess with.

In a future post, I hope to write more about the Spider-man newspaper strip HC I’m reading, but I will say that it’s helping to remind me about how much I still like “classic” Spider-man. So, from a historical standpoint, Spidey probably is my all-time favorite, but I like so many others, in so many different genres – you can’t always compare them. Ironically, our local store is holding an online tournament of comic characters starting Monday, March 1st, akin to the college basketball playoffs. You can visit it, and see the brackets here.

Unfortunately, I didn’t vote on the nominees, so I’m left to pick from the characters listed. However, at least there is a variety to choose from and the match-ups should be fun. Will Spidey come out on top? Will I continue to pick him throughout the tournament (I don't know Galactus is pretty tough)? Now, if it were Spider-man versus Spider-Girl or Owly – he'd never make it to the next round.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Indies Preview Review for April Part 3 of 3

Continued from yesterday... and into the home stretch.

The Light #1 (of 5) by (W) Nathan Edmondson (A) Brett Weldele
The new series from the writer of Olympus and the artist of The Surrogates. In Oregon, a mysterious virus infects anyone that looks into an electric light. An abusive father blindfolds his daughter and together they escape town as people are burning alive from the inside out. A fierce, action-packed and gritty tale of survival, The Light is 28 Days Later meets 30 Days Of Night. 24 Pgs / FC / $2.99 Visit Weldele here. There was a 5 page preview at Newsarama here.
Lee: While this seems to be a new take on the generic zombie-virus theme, the strength of the creators makes me interested. It’s worth getting the first issue. And, even though it’s an Image book I bet these guys actually finish it on time. A rarity for Image books.
Jim: Definitely worth a look at issue #1. Zombie tales are just like super hero stories, while we have seen a lot of them, if done well they can still be entertaining.

Turf #1 by (W) Jonathan Ross (A) Tommy Lee Edwards
A four- issue hard boiled noir crime thriller with girls, guns, fangs and aliens.New York, 1929. The height of prohibition. The cops turn a blind eye while the mobs run the city, dealing in guns, girls and illegal liquor. But the arrival of the mysterious Dragonmir Family from Eastern Europe with more of a taste for blood then booze co-incides with a series of brutal attacks on the gangsters themselves. As the gangs fall before the fangs, only handful of mobsters survive. But an unlikely alliance formed between tough guy Eddie Falco and a character from a LONG way from New York City – a long way from Earth in fact - offers the humans a glimmer of hope. As the strong willed young reporter Susie Dale from the Gotham Herald tries to survive in the middle of the maelstrom, and an ancient prophecy unfolds, no one can guess who’s going to win the battle for this particular slice of Turf. 32 PAGES / FC / $2.99
Lee: This is another big release for Image. I really like Edwards art and the covers look great so I’ll try the first issue.
Jim: I agree again. It has a strong artist and a premise that could go either way. Still Image has had some great successes lately with Chew and Cowboy Ninja Viking.

Splatterman OGN by (W) Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (A) Giancarlo Caracuzzo & Paul Mounts
Splatterman is the blood soaked story of two comic creators and their ultimate horror character creation gone very bad. A “done-in-one” graphic novella that truely lives up to its title, it’s all brought to you by the twisted minds of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Jonah Hex, Powergirl, Back To Brooklyn) and illustrated by Giancarlo Caracuzzo (The Last Resort) and Paul Mounts (Powergirl, Wanted) and lettered by Bill Tortolini. 72 Pgs / FC / $6.99
Lee: 72 pgs for $7 is a pretty good price but I’m not sure I want to read a blood-gore book. I wonder if this isn’t just an attempt to out B&Gore Ennis’s work over at Avatar.
Jim: This has a lot going for, not the least is the writing team, but gore done strictly to have gore, I don't know. This will have to be a release day decision.

Home for Mr. Easter GN by (W/A) Brooke A. Allen
Tesana has never really fit into anything before but her daydreams. But an attempt to connect to her peers by joining in a pep rally committee leads her to discover a little white rabbit that lays bright colored eggs. Realizing that she may have found the real Easter Bunny, Tesana embarks on a journey to restore him to his natural habitat, to keep him safe from greedy hands! 6x9, 208pp, B&W, trade pb, $13.99 See preview pages here.
Lee: It looks like I’ll finally have an Easter related book in my collection! This looks like a book that will be a ton of fun to not only read but look at. The previews are really good.
Jim: Yeah, I happy for you. The Easter Bunny hole must have been a tough one to fill. I goes Easter is not a big deal for me as I gave up Easter for lent - ha, ha. I crack myself up sometimes.

Pantheon Books
Bodyworld HC by (W/A) Dash Shaw
An Eisner Award-nominee! Fifty years from now, a devastating civil war has left the country in shambles. Professor Paulie Panther - botanist, writer, and hopeless romantic - arrives in the experimental forest town of Boney Borough to research a strange plant growing behind the high school. Paulie soon discovers that the plant, when smoked, imparts telepathic powers. But when he shares this remarkable drug with his new friends, he finds that they're not interested in mind-expansion. Indeed, it appears that Paulie's brash individualism might not be at all welcome in a town that prefers conformity! 384 pgs. $27.95 Visit Shaw’s site with extended previews here.
Lee: Definitely check out the previews. Well, it’s not so much a preview as the whole comic… but it’s still worth checking out. This is very interesting indeed because it appears to be trying to do so much. And, it largely succeeds. Good themes, good art, and a ton of previews… what’s not to like.
Jim: Great premise. Maybe it was just marijuana and it was so much conformity as everyone is stoned.

Classics Illustrated Vol. 09: The Jungle HC by (W) Upton Sinclair (A) Peter Kuper
The Jungle recounts the shocking tales of immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his family, who find themselves at the mercy of a brutal system in the stockyards of Chicago. The original book's expose of the dangerous and unsavory practices in the meatpacking industry created a public furore that led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. The mood and atmosphere of the times is captured beautifully by Peter Kuper's artwork. $9.99
Lee: This is a must have! I’ve gotten a bunch of these and Papercutz is doing a great job of reprinting these. In this case, Kuper (probably best know for Spy v Spy) does an amazing job translating Sinclair book. This is well worth the investment.
Jim: I'm so over Classics Illustrated.
Lee: I think you miss the point of these books. Yeah, it's Classics Illustrated but it's classics by some of the best artists in the medium today. Artists given free rein to produce a beautiful book. These are masterpieces not only of written word but of art too. They are worth the investment.

Pure Imagination Publishing
Movie Comics Featuring: Man from Planet X SC
Hollywood goes Comics! Gil Kane does The Lost World; Evans and Williamson depict When Worlds Collide; Wally Wood takes a Fantastic Voyage; Cameron does The Man From Planet X; and Buscema does Ivanhoe! Rare movie adaptations from some of comics finest! $25.00
Teen-Aged Dope Slaves and Reform School Girls SC
Pre-Code comics at their worst! Teens run wild, get hooked, and more often than not wind up dead. Drugs, sex, and death. Top it off with a Kurtzman venereal disease story, and it must be on your coffee table. Impress your friends. Make them want what you have. $20.00
Lee: Everytime I swear off PI’s books, they come out with something new and amazing that I must have. To start with are reprints of Kane, Williamson, and others at their prime. This is material that will probably never be reprinted elsewhere. That’s a gotta have. And how can you pass up Dope Slaves? There are few things funnier than 1950’s ‘socially aware’ comics. Think “Reefer Madness” in book form.
Jim: I have so much of this era of material from these artist that I need no more in my collection, although it sounds awesome.

Radical Publishing
Legends the Enchanted HC by (W/A) Nick Percival
You think you know them? Think again! Violently ripped from the pages of folklore emerge the Enchanted, supernatural immortals living in a dark, steampunk, creature-infested world where nature, technology and foul magic are in constant conflict. When the twisted, burnt remains of the half-wooden, half-mechanical warrior, Pinocchio are discovered, wolf-hunter Red Hood and giant-killer Jack realize the fragile rules of their existence have been shattered. With the help of the other Enchanted (the mercenary Goldilocks and psychic exterminators Hansel and Gretel), Jack and Red team up on an adventure to stop whatever, or whoever, is destroying their powers and murdering their kind. $19.95 Visit Percival’s website here.
Lee: I read the preview of this the other night and it was… different. I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea, but it’s got merit. It’s a violent, and very bloody, take on fables. So, if you’ve read Fables from Vertigo and felt it wasn’t… enough. It wasn’t bloody enough, violent enough, dark enough… then this is the book for you.
Jim: You should have read some of the Grimm Fairy Tales stuff I used to read from Zenoscope, blood and gore with plenty of women! Radical, whether you like the material or not, always produces a quality book.

Top Shelf Productions
120 Days of Simon GN by (W/A) Simon Gardenfors
Swedish cartoonist/rapper Simon Gärdenfors left his home to spend four months on the road. His rules were simple: During the 120 days he wasn't allowed to return to his home, or to spend more than two nights at the same place. Otherwise, anything could happen - and it did. The result was an epic adventure across Sweden as Simon slept on strangers couches, visited an ostrich farm, ate a psychedelic cactus, practiced free love, received death threats, was beaten up by teenagers, got adopted by a motorcycle gang, drank obscene amounts of alcohol, and sacrificed his underpants to the Nordic god Brage. $14.95 An extended preview here.
Lee: Seriously, who thinks this sh*t up???? Leave your home for 4 months???? I give him credit and I’m sure this is a heck of a story and it’s something that I could never do.
Jim: At this point in my life this type of adventure does not appeal to me. I bet the 20 something crowd would love this book.

Hey Princess GN by (W/A) Mats Jonsson
Hey Princess is a story of moving to the big city, and being young, insecure and desperate to be as hip as everyone else. When first published in Sweden, the book received praise among both critics and readers for its incisive and entertaining account of indie pop-listening young people in the mid-1990s. Hey Princess takes its place in the proud tradition of self-deprecating, confessional, sex-obsessed and guilt-ridden autobiographical comics, but stakes out a unique identity by virtue of its Nordic setting and biting social criticism. $14.95 Visit Mats here make sure you click ‘in english’ and ‘comix’ for previews
Lee: While the art looks incredibly crude, the story sounds immensely entertaining. Since I was a 20-something single in the 1990’s I’m sure this will bring back many happy, and probably not-s0-happy, memories. Top Shelf has a way of finding quality material so I’m going to take a chance, but if anyone but Top Shelf were publishing this, I would’ve passed.
Jim: I will pass. I was a 20 something earlier then Lee.

From Shadow of Northern Lights Vol. 02 SC
Never before has this much talent been brewing so close to the Arctic Circle, and this volume gathers the work of Marcus Ivarsson, Sofia Olsson, Sara Granér, Kobeinn Karlsson, Anneli Furmark and many, many more. Pick up this anthology and check out this emerging and amazing Swedish comics scene. $14.95
Lee: It’s not often that I pick three very similar books from the same publisher but these are worth it. Yes, they were all published in a country that only gets three hours of sunlight in a good year but they are all very different. Of the three, I think I’m going to try this anthology first. The opportunity to get a wide variety of art and story is too appealing to pass up.
Jim: See the anthology is the most appealing to me. For $15 I get to experience a slew of talent that I may have had no exposure to before. Add into the mix that it is from a quality publisher and this is certainly worth a gamble.

Lee: This really was a great month. After the last few which were light, we're back to full tilt budget crushing delight.
Jim: I managed to not be as tempted as Lee and while I spent a few bucks I was not crushed.An occasional breather is good.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Five Reviews - Irredeemable #11,Flash Rebirth #6, Scalped #35, Walking Dead #70 and New Avengers #62

I want to try and get more reviews out faster when I have some time and while some of these will probably be repeated on Tuesday I thought five shorter reviews might be fun.

Irredeemable #11 – The last couple of issues had me falling a little off this book. It started out for at least six of the first ten issues as absolute dynamite, but the reported unlimited nature of the series had slowed down the various reveals about the Plutonian. Also it seems apparent that in order to make the series go on for a long period of time various plot points were dragged out. This issue reeled me back in and has put Irredeemable back into a top spot on my list. The background story about Bette Noir and the Plutonian was great. From how she decided she wanted to seduce him, to the special candle that could take away his powers so they could make love. The best part was the horror she found behind his eyes while they were intimate. Add to that the creepiness that Tony exudes now as he travels with the robot Samsara and what he did to his foster parents’ child and the Plutonian makes your skin crawl. The story advances all the storylines very well and has a ton of additional twists in it.

Flash Rebirth #6 (of 6) – A nice ending that wraps up the premise of what was going on between Barry and the Reverse Flash and firmly re-establishes Barry back into the current DCU. I’m still not 100% sold on the whole deal, but I could not help but smile as Barry and Iris were back together again.0 Barry tells her how he wants to slow down and enjoy his time with her and friends. This story also had plenty of great foreshadowing about the various rogues who will be plaguing Barry’s life and setting up what Barry will be doing in his secret identity. I have been pretty down on this series but the ending pulled it out and made the series a solid reintroduction of Barry Allen.

Scalped #35 – So possibly the best series on the stands does a standalone story about an Indian couple who lives out in the middle of nowhere in the badlands. After all the unbelievable raw emotion and hard hitting action, a simple story of two older people who love each other truly and completely. Even with the wonderful artwork of Danijel Zezelj to help out, you think this will be okay at best, but it was terrific. From page one until the end I was immediately drawn into their story and never wanted to put the book down. When I thought they had died at one point I was sad for I had come to care about Mance and Hazel an amazing amount in such a short time. Aaron crafted a beautiful story that showed us what these people are like and we can only aspire to have something as real as they have. This was an outstanding story that stands so well on its own and yet adds to the tapestry of the life that is lived in the badlands. I bet we see them again one day. This could be one of the best single issue stories I have read in years and yet I believe it will tie into the overall story also.

Walking Dead #70 – This issue is classic Robert Kirkman and is an issue that proves why Walking Dead is such a long lasting hit and a great book. Rick and crew are welcomed into a community that seems to be a safe haven from the world outside. We get a great conversation between Rick and the leader of the community that they are being interviewed to join. The back and forth give us a ton of insight into the community and how Rick sees things but it is never exposition to explain, it is a natural dialogue that reveals things we want to know. Then we get to see Rick get cleaned up and given his a new job of being a constable to help patrol the community. It is a touch of Pleasantville in the midst of the Zombie Apocalypse. Just in case you were getting too comfortable an exchange at the end lets you know this town has issues and dark secrets sure to cause Rick and his crew troubles. It was just a well constructed and very well written issue that was (as always) illustrated perfectly by Charlie Adlard. I should buy a page of his Walking Dead run; it would be very cool to own a page from a long running top notch series like this. I need a Rizzo page from 100 Bullets also.

New Avengers #62 - I included this book because these were the five books I got around to today and my thought was to do brief reviews on all the books I read. Unfortunately I have less than stellar things to report on this book. The cover screams the Hood is in this book and he was not. It screams it is a Siege tie in and it is not. It also is written by Brian Bendis who is writing the Siege and the two books are inconsistent. Marvel has been tightening their continuity and because of that I have come to expect more consistency when I see Character A appear in different books. This is especially true when the storyline in both books are tied together. It is even more expected when the same writer is writing the two books. In Siege #1 Captain America is sitting at home in his costume when he hears about the Siege and runs out to gather a group. In this book that same scene is replayed, but Cap is not in costume and he is surrounded by most the Avengers and the Secret Warriors. Oh sure you can come up with a stupid explanation to help make it work, but no prizes aside it sucked eggs. Add to that the crappy Bendis dialogue and the art by Daniel Acuna on the Spider-Man versus Spider-Woman and I was happy that the book ended and unhappy I was charged $4.

Hard to not have enjoyed this week so far as out of seven books I have read we have had five great books, one okay book and one book I could have passed on altogether.

Indies Preview Review for April Part 2 of 3

Continued from Yesterday...

:01 First Second
City of Spies GN by (W) Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan (A) Pascal Dizin
Mystery, intrigue, and pastries abound in this World War II spy tale. Evelyn typically satisfies her longing for adventure with the help of a pencil and a sheet of paper. But when she makes a new friend, Tony, she's happy to abandon her art for a real-life search for spies. When the two accidentally uncover a genuine mystery, it looks like Evelyn might end up in the kind of adventure she writes in her comics! $16.99 Visit Dizin here
Lee: The story sounds cute but I am completely sucked into the art! The art has that retro 50’s feel that’s clearly been inspired by Herge’s Tin-tin, Daniel Torres’s Rocco Vargas, or even Freddy Lombard’s Chaland stories. (Go look’em up people! Those are books worth finding!) It’s so different from what’s out there now I can’t resist. I’m all over this.
Jim: It sounds a little too cute. I would want a 10 page preview or more before I committ.
Lee: Do you find Tin-Tin too cute??? It's the same thing! Take a chance.

Booth GN by (W) C. C. Colbert (A) Tanitoc
From the pen of American historian C.C. Colbert and the brush of French comics master Tanitoc comes a thought-provoking perspective on John Wilkes Booth, one of the greatest villains of United States history. How did this renowned actor of the stage become of of history's most infamous assassins? $19.99 There’s a bio, with art, on Tanitoc here and previews here
Lee: I originally picked this because I always pick at least one historical fiction book. Then I hunted around and found samples of Tanitoc’s art. DAMMIT! :01 Second needs to stop publishing these books. The art looks fantastic. The story sounds great. And now I’m getting another book that I can’t afford.
Jim: Lee has gotten me hooked on historical fiction also. I find that my tastes runs the gamut in comics like it does with prose books and I'm always up for learning more of history.

Lee: This is off topic but I gotta say that I have, and love, almost all the :01 Second books. They are a great publisher and I talk about them almost every month. So, if they are so good why does their web site S*CK A*S so much. It’s awful. I hope you’re reading :01 Second people… fix the damn site and make previews easily accessible! Heck, even SLG has better website than you.
Jim: Lee brings up a great point. The small publishers need to have better websites in general and keep their content updated. If people read or hear about a product they want to check it out. Having your book for sale on Amazon does not cut it. Having art samples, quick interviews with your creators, links to where the book can be bought or ordered, those are the things people need. Heck Lee adds more links into his picks then the publishers give out.

Resistance GN by (W) Carla Jablonski (A) Leland Purvis
Paul and Marie's bucolic French country town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII, but the siblings still live in the shadow of war. Their father is a prisoner of war, kept hostage by the Germans. When their friend Henri's parents disappear and Henri goes into hiding because of his Jewish ancestry, Paul and Marie realize they must take a stand. But how can they convince the French Resistance that even children can help in their fight against injustice? $16.99 You can visit Purvis here
Lee: What’s a month of indies without some historical fiction? In this case, we’re doing WWII from a non-soldier perspective. Good story, good art by Purvis, this sounds like another winner for :01 Second.
Jim: Sure you like the French stuff. This is a pass for me, it is not grabbing my interest.
Lee: What? I'm sorry but I'm throwing the yellow contradiction flag. One book up, Booth, you say you really like historical fiction and yet you pass on this. I would argue that the French resistance is more interesting than John Wilkes Booth. Dude just shot a man. Anyone can do that. This is about a whole country trying to save itself from evil oppression. If you're limiting yourself to one historical book, I would argue this would be better.
Jim: Again Lee's love of the French comes out. It kids fighting the Germans. Yes historical fiction can be interesting, and no not every subject is worth my time.

Fantagraphics Books
Artichoke Tales HC by (W/A) Megan Kelso
Megan Kelso's First New Book In Four Years Is A Fantastic Generation-Spanning Saga. With Artichoke Tales, six years in the making, Kelso expands her range (and her page count) by creating a family saga spanning three generations and an entire continent. Artichoke Tales is a 176-page coming-of-age story about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso's visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic. $22.99 Some background on Kelso and art samples here
Lee: There not much more to say other than this just sounds really good. Since I have little girls, I’ve started reading more of this type of material and darnit… if it isn’t really good most of the time. Kelso art looks great too so this is an easy buy for me.
Jim: Yeah, I'm at a different point in my life than Lee and this material has no draw for me.

Dungeon Quest Book 01 SC by (W/A) Joe Daly
A SURREAL SUBURBAN ROLE PLAYING GAME YARN FROM THE CREATOR OF THE RED MONKEY DOUBLE HAPPINESS BOOK One day Millenium sic Boy decided to grab his hobo stick, his bandana, and his Swiss Army knife, bid his mom goodbye, and head off on a quest for adventure. Joined by his best friend Steve (weapon: baseball bat; clothing: wife beater, cargo pants and sandals), they soon find themselves in a violent altercation with two other adventure seekers. It ends badly for their antagonists (Whoa, check it out, dude! You actually knocked this dude's brain right out of his cranium!) and Millenium Boy and Steve become the proud owners of fancy weapons upgrades (a crowbar and a steel chain) So on they trek, and the next inductee to their group is the muscle-bound Lash Penis. And then things start getting weird! Readers of 2009's Red Monkey Double Happiness Book will recognize Joe Daly's delightfully unique stoner/philosopher dialogue and distinctive character designs, but the hilarious over-the-top Role Playing Game action (complete with periodic updates for each character's status in ten criteria, including dexterity, intelligence, and money) propel this new story into a heretofore unachieved action-comedy realm. By the end of this book (the first chapter of a projected four-part epic), the trio has been joined by Nerdgirl the Archer, Lash Penis has nearly had his arm cut off, theyve acquired a whole new nifty bag of tricks, and the menaces have become increasingly surreal and lethal. Where will it end? Stay tuned for Dungeon Quest Book Two in six months! $12.99
Lee: I picked up Daly’s Red Monkey Double Happiness book and loved it. It was great stoner comics fun! And now Daly’s got a brand new story. I’m sold.
Jim: I still need to read Red Monkey first and apparently get stoned first.

Meatcake GN by (W) Dame Darcy, Alan Moore (A) Dame Darcy
VICTORIAN HUMOR, HORROR AND ROMANCE GUEST-STARRING ALAN MOORE! Dame Darcy is one of the most beguiling presences on the comics scene-musician, actress, cable TV star, fortune teller, dollmaker, and last but not least, cartoonist to the core-and has been bewitching readers for over 15 years with her neo-Victorian horror/humor/ romance comic Meatcake. Alternating between one-off (often cruelly tragic) fairy tales and ongoing romps starring her eclectic cast of characters, including Effluvia the Mermaid, the roguish roué Wax Wolf, Igpay the Pig-Latin pig, Stregapez (a women who speaks by dispensing Pez-like tablets through a bloody hole in her throat), the mischievous Siamese twins Hindrance and Perfidia, Scampi the Selfish Shellfish, the stalwart Friend the Girl, and the blonde bombshell Richard Dirt, all delineated in her inimitable luxurious scrawl, Meatcake is like a peek into the most creative, deranged dollhouse you ever saw. Meatcake is an expanded reprint of the out of print hardcover with more stories assembling the very best of Darcy's work (including Hungry Is the Heart, the legendary collaboration with Watchmen's Alan Moore) $22.99 About Darcy here and her art gallery here
Lee: In terms of independent creators, Dame Darcy has been around forever. The problem for me has always been her art. I can’t describe it but there is something incredibly ugly and appealing about Darcy’s art all at once. As I drift farther and farther away from the Marvel/DC house styles it appeals to me more and more but I still think it’s going to be an acquired taste. But, with a new collection coming out, maybe it’s time I tried.
Jim: Good luck with that. I understand that the longer you are into comics the more you want to try different things, but somethings will never work and this maybe one of those for me. Are you going to buy one of her comic pages?
Lee: I love buying comic art and if I could afford one of her pages, I would. Although it's still very, very odd looking.

Weathercraft HC by (W/A) Jim Woodring
THE FIRST GRAPHIC NOVEL FROM A MASTER OF THE FORM, CO-STARRING HIS BELOVED FRANK CHARACTER For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of Frank. Weathercraft is Woodring's first full-length graphic novel set in this world-indeed, Woodring's first graphic novel, period!-and it features the same hypnotically gorgeous linework and mystical iconography. As it happens, Frank has only a brief supporting appearance in Weathercraft, which actually stars Manhog, Woodring's pathetic, brutish everyman (or everyhog), who had previously made several appearances in Frank stories (as well as a stunning solo turn in the short story Gentlemanhog) After enduring 32 pages of almost incomprehensible suffering, Manhog embarks upon a transformative journey and attains enlightenment. He wants to go to celestial realms but instead altruistically returns to the Unifactor to undo a wrong he has inadvertently brought about: The transformation of the evil politician Whim into a mind-destroying plant-demon who distorts and enslaves Frank and his friends. The new and metaphysically expanded Manhog sets out for a final battle with Whim. Weathercraft also co-stars Frank's cast of beloved supporting characters, including Frank's Faux Pa and the diminutive, mailbox-like Pupshaw and Pushpaw; it is both a fully independent story that is a great introduction to Woodring's world, and a sublime addition to, and extension of, the Frank stories. Weathercraft will be a defining graphic novel of 2010. $19.99
Lee: This is shocking but I don’t actually have any Woodring in my collection. Well that’s all about to end because I’m getting this. Yes, I know there won’t be any words but that’s offset by the really, really pretty pictures. There’s lots of high profile creators with new stuff this month. It’s like Christmas in whatever months the books actually come out.
Jim: Key phrase being in whatever month these books come out. It is maddening when you order this stuff and it shows up a year later.

Gestalt Publishing Pty LTD
Changing Ways SC by (W/A) Justin Randall
David Barrot moved to Grey Oaks after the tragic death of his son, Cale. He bought a farm on the outskirts of town with his wife and daughter to begin life anew, putting aside the dark events of their past. Unfortunately for them, the dark just won't leave David alone. The first sightings started months ago, igniting rumors of disease and infection. Newspaper stories of strange side effects and mysterious lesions spread quickly. Perhaps it was inevitable that the people of Grey Oaks would be next. 120 pgs, FC, $17.95 Visit Justin Randall here.
Lee: Randall’s art is very similar in style to Templesmith, so as an art guy I’m sold. Add that to an interesting contagion story and I’m willing to give it a try.
Jim: This does sound like it is worth a try. Lately I have been taking fliers on OGNs a lot more so I can get the whole story all at once and not worry about if the series will ever be concluded.

The conclusion tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blackest Night#7 (of 8) - A Review

Blackest Night #7 (of 8)

Publisher DC

Writer Geoff Johns

Pencils Ivan Reis

Inks Oclair Albert & JoePrado

Colors Alex Sinclair

I was looking forward to reading this issue a lot. Once I got into a series like this I actually ignore news site stories about the series and all the rest of the internet chatter because I want to experience it myself. I enjoy trying to recapture the feeling I had as a kid when you picked up the next issue of a comic with no clue about what was coming next.

This book met my expectations and then some. The story starts with Nekron menacing one of the Guardians and in fact taunting him as to the fact that they guard the universe but never actually live in it. We then break into the Rainbow Corps going into action. In the span of one issue Johns squeezes in action from almost every corner and manages to give quality screen time to a ton of characters.

It is a testament to Johns’ skill in that he puts in moments for Lex Luthor, the Scarecrow, Mera, Wonder Woman, the Atom, Ganthet, Larfreeze, Black Lantern Air Wave, the cavalry of Rainbow Lanterns headed up by Guy Gardner and more.
Each moment is given its due and that is because of Ivan Reis and inkers Oclair Albert and Joe Prado. I’d be remiss if I did not mention colorist Alex Sinclair as every page is a masterpiece of matching the color to the story and with a rainbow of corps it was a heck of a lot of work.
Ivan is being asked to do George Perez type of crowd scene by way of the Neal Adams style of art. What an amazing job. Ivan Reis is the number one super hero pencil artist in the business right now. We have had times when it was Jack Kirby, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, George Perez, Bryan Hitch and others have held that torch on occasion, but with Blackest Night Ivan is the new king of the hill. Panel designs, layouts, expressions, crowd scenes, close ups, camera angles, emotions, you name it and Ivan does it and does is in spectacular fashion. In reading the book I was catapulted along at a high rate of speed as I wanted to see what happened next, but at the same time I slowed down to enjoy every page. I want the Absolute to be able to really enjoy this work.

This issues we find out another secret the Guardians had been hiding and that is The Entity, which is the living light bestowed on the Universe (i.e. God) is hidden on Earth and life began on Earth. Nekron’s goal is to kill the white light of the Entity. Now why this type of comic book convention smacks of the same arrogance that middle age man had when he thought the sun and universe revolved around Earth, it works as a comic book convention.

I loved the twist ending, which I will not spoil and look forward to next month’s wrap of Blackest Night.

Geoff Johns has gotten himself that seminal moment in his career. Johns has always been a good to great writer but was great at telling us good stories about usually DC characters. There are multiple runs on his books that I would be happy to own on my bookshelf, but until Blackest Night he did not have that one event that was all his that put his stamp on something, that seminal moment. Add that into his new role at DC and you can equate Johns to being the new Stan Lee/ Julie Schwartz for the DCU, just in multi-media.

I know I skimmed saying what this book was about, but again I’m not looking to take away from someone else reading this before they read the book. Needless to say it is all out action with the Rainbow Corps versus Nekron with the Guardians biggest secret being discovered and a good logical twist as to how this issue ended.

Overall Grade A – Story and art, super hero comics at their best.

Indies Preview Review for April Part 1 of 3

Lee: Ohhh baby, is it a big month for indie books! There is a ton of new and exciting stuff that needs to be talked about so let's get to it.
Jim: Translating Lee from above: OMG my wallet is going to emptied and the coffers of my store will be filled to overflowing. Looks like the store owner's kids can go to Harvard after all.

Ablaze Media
Cosplay Fever SC by (W) Rob Dunlop, Peter Lumby
Cosplay Fever is a celebration of an extraordinary art-form, with over 300 beautiful photographs of talented cosplayers in stunning costumes. Cosplay has been a significant subculture in Japan for decades, but it is now growing in popularity all over the world. See amazing costumes from manga, anime, movies, video games and other popular media. An essential book for anyone interested in cosplay. $19.95
Lee: Cosplay is definitely a subculture all to itself. Do I need a whole book about it? I don’t think so but I remember Gwen dressed up once and I’m curious to see if she’s in here.
Jim: I'm guessing she did not make it. I waiver between being jealous that I don't have the nerve or body to every dress up as Batman or something and thinking are nuts to go around dressed in a costume as an adult.

Avatar Press Inc
Crossed Vol. 01 HC by (W) Garth Ennis (A) Jacen Burrows
Garth Ennis has pulled out all the stops to write the most depraved and twisted book of his career, one that also may be his most poignant human drama! Crossed is Ennis horrifically visceral exploration of the pure evil that humans are truly capable of indulging and collected here are all ten heart-stopping chapters. This gut-wrenching vision is brought to vivid (and more than a little disturbing) life by his partner in crime Jacen Burrows. Imagine, for a moment, the worst crimes against humanity. Picture the cruelest affronts to decency. Conjure your darkest nightmares. and then realize it could all be so much worse. When civilization crumbles in one terrifying moment; when people are gleefully breaking into unthinkable acts of violence all around you; when everyone you love has died screaming in agony: What do you do? There is no help. There is no hope. There is no escape. There are only the Crossed. The Crossed collected volume is available in three editions, all with new covers by series artist Jacen Burrows. This Special Edition Hardcover is limited to only 2000 units! $32.99
Lee: First, I’m not getting this. The series is what it is but it doesn’t need a permanent home in my collection. Basically, for me, it raises a question about the person who does buy it. My collection is geeky, I get that. But, I can show my collection to people and not be embarrassed. I have things in my collection that I can point to and say “made into a movie” or “literature with pictures.” Yeah, I have all the Fantastic Four Masterworks which scream I have trouble growing up but none of these things could be, or would be, considered offensive by most people. Crossed is very, very close to something that would be considered offensive to the ordinary person. Do you really want that on your shelf?
Jim: I may, it all comes down to how it ends. I have also read that David Lapham is writing a second mini-series. The ending is critical to the story. If it ends up being depravity just to be depraved, than it becomes another Kick Ass and not worth my time. If Ennis makes a point, it could be worthy of owning. I love these discussions because all of have lines we do not want to see crossed (no pun intended) and they are different for each person.

Bluewater Productions
Claw and Fang #1 by (W) Mike Kutcher (A) Matias Basla
A warrior king will be reborn! Hunted to extinction by a renegade demon, the Firewoman is the last of her kind. She survives driven only by the hope she can bestow her power upon the one person able to restore balance, but the one she seeks has given up on life in the real world, prefering a virtual one. $3.99
Item Notes: Available with four covers (1) each by Dan Brenton, Matias Basla, GMB Chomichuk, and Steven Babb
Lee: The book looks and sounds ok but I really wanted to comment on the last part of this solicit…. *4* covers? Are you kidding me? I like some of the Bluewater books but a small publisher like this doing multiple covers seems like a poor business decision if you ask me.
Jim: The multiple cover thing is actually worse than it was in the ninties and it seems to me it is just a gimmick to try and pry more money from the same hands not trying to increase your market. Sort of how the government does taxes.

Boom! Studios
Codebreakers #1 by (W) Carey Malloy (A) Scott Godlewski
Busting foreign spies on domestic soil. Cracking the code on drug and human trafficking. Shutting down the mob. They are the elite Cryptanalysis Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, examining manually encrypted documents and records of illegal enterprises, providing expert testimony, forensic assistance, and identification of terrorism, foreign intelligence, and criminal activities in support of federal, state, local, and international law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. Meet the best of the best at puzzling out the truth and protecting all of us from those that would steal information in ways that can shatter the global community and kill. But what happens to the Cryptanalysis unit when one of their own goes missing? Covers by Julian Totino Tedesco and Brett Weledele. $3.99 Visit Godlewski here
Lee: Every month, I really like seeing what Boom! is offering. They have a really diversified catalog. While I tend to prefer the Disney stuff, I keep coming back to books like this. It sounds like it will be really good and Godlewski looks like an awesome artist.
Jim: Plus Boom is a publisher that you know will put out a quality project and if it is a mini-series it will be completed (unlike Image).

Mickey Mouse Classics: Mouse Mayhem Vol. 01 HC
The magnificent Mickey Mouse returns yet again with another colorful collection of comic classics! Danger is afoot as our diminutive mouse hero confronts some of his most memorable foes in these treasured stories, featuring the debut of one of Mickey's arch enemies, The Rhyming Man! $24.99
Lee: All I can say about this is… keep’em coming boys! I love this material. I wonder if Boom has any say in the material published? We’re way past due for a fancy hc of Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse dailies.
Jim: Good question? Chip, does Boom have any say in what is published?

Del Rey Manga
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies GN by (W) Tony Lee (A) Cliff Richards
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen's immortal classic of Regency romance, brought to glorious, gory new life with zombie mayhem from Seth Grahame-Smith. The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller, and now the story is a graphic novel - the perfect format to bring this remixed masterpiece to zombie-loving pop-culture fans. Elizabeth Bennet is one of England's most fearsome warriors, whose speed with a sword is only matched by her quick wit. But she faces her most formidable foe yet in the haughty, conceited, and yet strangely attractive person of Mr. Darcy. As the two lovers meet in the ballroom and on the battlefield, they’ll soon learn that nothing - not even bands of ninjas, disapproving aunts, and an army of ravenous zombies - can stop true love. $14.99
Lee: I guess it was only a matter of time before this became a comic book. But, I still don’t understand the appeal. Then again, we read, and liked, Helen Killer so I shouldn’t throw stones.
Jim: I just find it funny and was amused that this horrified (and not in the scary type way) fans of the actual novel. It was ripe for being made into a comic book.

Sayonara Zetsubou Vol. 06 GN by (W/A) Koji Kumeta
This darkly-humorous fan-favorite series continues, as the world's most depressed teacher tries to kill himself in ever more elaborate fashions. $10.99
Lee: In the last year or so, I’ve read more manga than ever before! And, this looks like it will be another fine addition to my collection. This sounds very funny, but I wonder how well Japanese humor will translate for American audiences.
Jim: Wow, this sounds a little dicey. I don't think mainstream America would find someone trying to committ suicide as funny. Of course we may, but wow would this cause a firestorm if the right media outlet read about this.

Stuff of Legend SC by (W) Mike Raicht, Brian Smith (A) Charles Paul Wilson III
A stunningly beautiful graphic novel, The Stuff of Legend is a wonderful and haunting tale of loyalty, friendship, and perseverance in the face of a nightmarish foe. When a child is taken by the fearsome Boogeyman, his loyal toys rally and stage a rescue operation to get him back. Led by the fearless Colonel, Max the Bear, Percy the Pig, Jester, and others must fight hordes of toys in order to save the boy from the absolutely fearsome Boogeyman. Can they unite and defeat their foe, or will internal divisions threaten to lose the boy - and themselves - forever? $13.00
Lee: We reviewed the first issue of this a long, long time ago and all loved it. Now that the series is done you can get the tpb in case you missed it. This is highly recommended!
Jim: It is highly recommended. To be fair this is part one of a multi-part story and not a complete story, but it is well worth getting.

Drawn & Quarterly
Black Blizzard GN by (W/A) Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Created in the late 1950s, Black Blizzard is Yoshihiro Tatsumi's remarkable first full-length graphic novel and one of the first published examples of Gekiga. Susumu Yamaji, a Young pianist, is arrested for murder and ends up handcuffed to a career criminal on the train that will take them to prison. When an avalanche derails the train, the criminal takes the opportunity to escape, dragging a reluctant Susumu with him. They flee into the mountains, taking shelter from the storm. Black Blizzard uncovers an unlikely love story and an even unlikelier friendship. $19.95 Preview pages here
Lee: Ok, let's start with the basics, per wikipedia "Geika is Japanese for "dramatic pictures." The term was coined by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and adopted by other more serious Japanese cartoonists who did not want their trade to be known as manga or "irresponsible pictures." So, basically, this is the indie world of Japanese comics. That's perfect for me! Not to mention, this sounds like a great story. I'm sold.
Jim: It sounds fascinating, let me know what you think and maybe I will pick it up after you read and review it.

Wilson HC by (W/A) Daniel Clowes
In his all-new graphic novel, one of the leading cartoonists of our time, Daniel Clowes, creates a thoroughly engaging, complex and fascinating character study of the modern egotist, outspoken and oblivious to the world around him. Working in a single-page-gag format and drawing in a spectrum of styles, the cartoonist of Ghost World gives us his funniest and most deeply affecting novel to date. Wilson, an opinionated middle-aged loner, loves his dog and possibly no one else. After his father dies, Wilson sets out to find his ex-wife with the hope of rekindling their long-dead relationship, and discovers he has a teenage daughter, born after the marriage ended and given up for adoption. Wilson eventually forces all three to reconnect as a family - a doomed mission that will surely, inevitably backfire. Wilson is Clowes first all-new graphic novel that has not been serialized and is being presented in book form for the first time. $21.95
Lee: New Clowes! Need I say more. This pick is just to point out the obvious that you should be buying this.
Jim: Lee is a fan.

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Best and The Rest

DC has the Brightest Day starting soon and Marvel has the Heroic Age, we here at Comics And… are starting the Sunshine and Optimism Age of Comics And. As a new dawn comes into comic book land no more cynicism or snarky remarks, no more ripping apart of the comic companies and their stupid moves, no more making fun of silly a** covers and excessive blood and gore. Kick Ass is great, we love Frenchie and Johns can slice and dice anyone he wants. Yes everything and everyone is lovely and brilliant. Nah, just kidding want the heck is the point in that. Remember if it wasn’t for stupid and ugly people you could never be smart and great looking!


Battlefields #3 (of 9) – Happy Valley Part 3 (of 3) – Writer Garth Ennis, Artist P.J. Holden, Colors Tony Avina. Maybe it is just the way it ends, maybe its understanding what somebody is willing to do or maybe I’m just constantly surprised how good Garth Ennis is when it comes to war stories, but damn this was a great issue. First I like to talk about the artwork. PJ Holden is not a name I was not familiar with and his art he has more of a cartoon type style to it in some ways along the lines of a Darwyn Cooke. I was not sure it would work with this book, but the work is especially strong and works well with the aerial bombing runs (see the scans of two pages). The work is very dramatic and with some great coloring work and strong story telling ability of the artist any fears I had were proven unjustifiable. The art works great. The story is also heartfelt. You expect some brutal endings from Garth because he is telling war stories and stories need an ending, but Garth still surprises me. In this issue the main character our young and heroic pilot is the one who dies. He does not die in a huge blast or by kicking out the crew and driving the bomber and its bombs into a target, but he dies because of exposure as he did what he had to do to get his crew home. It was the crew’s last operation before being sent home. For the young pilot Ken Harding he was just starting his tour of duty and he was a special pilot, not only did his mates lose a new friend, but a young man who had possible greatness stamped on him was lost. Garth shows us again and again the various tolls that war takes on us. Garth both celebrates the heroics of the people involved and shows us the human cost the war takes on the individual. For all the reasons and even when they maybe the right reasons that nations go to war, it is the people who suffer for the pride of these nations. This is amazing work by Garth, PJ and Tony, just amazing.

Joe The Barbarian #2 (of 8) – Writer Grant Morrison, Artist Sean Murphy, Colors Dave Stewart. – It seems to me that even great writers on occasion find stories that show us why they are great writers and what makes them a cut above the ordinary. The last time I was this impressed with Grant’s work was All Star Superman and that only went down as the all time best Superman story and this book impresses me in how much I feel like I’m seeing the world with the same eyes as young Joe. I hope it holds up for all eight issues and if it does we will have what I would consider another seminal moment in Grant’s career. Sean Murphy is doing fantastic work in both representing the fantasy aspect of Joe’s world and cutting back to the “real” world every once in awhile. I have to mention Dave Stewart on colors. Almost anytime I see his name on a book I know that it is probably a high quality project. Regardless of the talent of the artist a great coloring job makes it better and even a book with artistic mistakes or gaffs can often be corrected by a great colorist. Stewart is one of the industry’s best. The trip across his room with his friend Jack the Rat at his side flashes from the fantastical battle that is probably in his mind, to the actual need Joes has to get insulin to avoid falling into what could be a fatal diabetic coma. A riveting story that is both cool and fantastic in the battles being fought by Jack and Joe against the toys come to life and at the same time is tragic and worrisome as you fear for Joe from falling prey to his illness.

Other Books I Wanted To Mention

Atomic Robo#1 (of 4) – Just a joy to see this series back for its fourth mini-series. Atomic Robo always brings a smile to my face. This adventure we start with a character named Bernard being interviewed for a job with Action Scientists. He and another candidate are talking to Robo when his competition is killed by invading vampires from another dimension. Action ensures and Bernard saves the day and gets the job. Great stuff, Clevinger, Wegener and Pattison know how to make comics and make them fun.

Authority the Lost Year #6 (of 12) – This book reminds me of why I enjoyed the Authority so much years ago, but the regular series is a sad travesty of what it had been, I think I’m dropping the regular series as well to join with Wildcats, but I will give it one more try. Back to the Lost Year, this issue we are in a reality where the Authority ruled the world, but ultimately fought over which way to go either science with the Engineer or magic with the Doctor, our Authority is in the middle.

Avengers vs Agents of Atlas #2 (of 4) – One of the best battles the original Avengers ever had and the Agents gave us good as they got. This series is put together very well and is just a blast to read. Jeff Parker is writing his a** off and Gabriel Hardman is doing a beautiful job on the art work. This is one of my top series and by that I mean all of the Agents of Atlas appearances. Even the backup story by another creative team was a lot of fun.

Blackest Night The Flash #3 (of 3) – I’m a sucker for a happy ending from time to time and this one was exactly that as Bart is saved from being consumed by the Black Lantern ring and the Flashes run off to face the enemy. The juxtaposition with the Rogues side of it was also well done. I have some hope that Johns can make me accept that Barry will be the main Flash in the DCU.

Devil #1 (of 4)– I was very hesitant to try this book out because I have never been a huge Manga fans, there are exception with Ranma ½ and Battle Angel as examples. As I was first reading this it felt familiar and nothing new was coming out of it, but I stuck with it and I’m looking forward to issue #2. Two main characters have been successfully introduced, the menace of the vampire virus is well established and some level of mystery that surrounds our two characters was hinted at well enough to have me intrigued.

Doctor Voodoo #5 – Apparently the last issue. While I’d rather see Dr. Strange be the Sorcerer Supreme, I’m still a little bummed this series crashed and burned so fast. I think the series was started a little too fast for a “D” list character being promoted to the “A” list and hoping fans would just flock to it. At this point Dr. Voodoo will have to build a following by guest staring in other books and work back to a solo series. Hindsight is 20/20 but it was easy to foresee this series failing. Take an old character mostly forgotten, then given prominence and a new role in a high profile book (Avengers) and after one adventure given a series. Add from the talent pool a medium known to under the radar writer and a no name artist without an inker. What was the draw?

Farscape #4 – This is a great series for any fan of the TV show as it carries on the continuity from the show and moves the story forward. It is well written and feels like the TV show and has strong covers, the interior art is passable but weak. It will hold the fans of the show, but I do not see it expanding its base because comics are a visual medium and the art is not a drawing card. Regardless if you watched Farscape you should be buying this comic.

GI Joe Cobra II #2 (of 4) – This book continues to make left turns when you least expect them. We were all set up to assume Chuckles was broken and beaten, but when Chameleon comes to save him we find Chuckles is still looking to bring Cobra down with his own plan. This is an excellent spy story and action thriller with tight plotting and solid art work. This series is moving up into being one that you will want to have on your shelf for a long time.

Green Lantern #50 & Green Lantern Corps #45 – We are one week from Blackest Night #7, which is the penultimate issue of the series, and these two issues have pumped me up for the battle to come. I have to really take my hat off the Johns and DC (especially Peter Tomasi) as this event against all odds continues to hold my interest. Even with knowing a fair amount about what is coming out down the road I still have no clue as to the ultimate ending of the book.

Incredible Hercules #141 – If you pay attention to solicitations and other news of what is coming, Hercules’ death was not a surprise ending. What I liked was how the Agents of Atlas back-up tied into the front story and how the front story seems like it is what this series has been building up to for the entire run of the book. It not only has me looking forward to the memorial issues and the new mini-series featuring Amadeus Cho, but now I want to get the trades of what I skipped.

Justice League of America #42 – What an odd grouping of characters. It was almost like the names were put into a hat and drawn out. Also we are past Blackest Night and Hal seems none the worse for the wear, plus we are reintroducing the “New Gods” as new versions of the old characters. It takes time for a group to come together, but even with all these disparate elements impacting the book I enjoyed it. Mark Bagley is having every DC character in the world being thrown at him and he is doing a bang up job. Robinson is dancing around elements yet getting his story started and it should be off and running soon. These “New Gods” are roaming around trying to gather objects and not caring who they run over to get them. The League is out to stop them and find out what is going on. It looks like the JLA maybe finally getting on track.

Rasl #6 – A friend of mine sends me this book otherwise I would have skipped this series as I never read Bone (I know heresy). This series draws me in more and more each issue and this one had tons of stuff about Nicholas Telsa, who is probably the least well known and one of the most important people of the 20th century. I just wish the publishing schedule was a little more coherent.

Once again the other category is ruling the roost with me. I was talking about writers in comics today with one person and about who has the better books Marvel or DC and I realized all the best stuff right now is Vertigo and all the other small publishers. That is not to say DC and Marvel have crap books, what it means is great books are everywhere right now. In some ways these are the best times in comics ever.