Friday, April 30, 2010

Indies Preview Review for June Part 3 of 3

Into the home stretch...

Classics Illustrated Vol. 10: Cyrano De Bergerac HC by (W) Edmond Rostand, Peter David (A) Kyle Baker
Cyrano de Bergerac yearns to confess his love to for his cousin Roxanne; he is a talented poet and musician who should have no trouble doing so. Yet his large nose has him convinced that no woman would ever be interested in him. When Cyrano finds out that Roxanne is enamored with the handsome Christian de Neuville, a tale of romance and heartbreak begins that is wonderfully captured by Peter David and Kyle Baker. $9.99
Lee: Peter David! Kyle Baker! Classic story!!!! I’m sold. I’m never going to read the original so I may as well read the comic book cliff notes. I have many of these books and they are highly, highly recommended.
Jim: I want to read the original. I have been avoiding this stuff, but David and Baker is hard to resist.

Roaring Brook Press
How I Made It to Eighteen GN by (W/A) Tracy White
What happens when a girl hates herself and her life, has a breakdown, admits herself into a mental hospital, realizes she is in trouble, starts talking and stops lying, and then writes an honest and amazing book about her experiences. From the Ignatz-nominated creator of webcomic Traced. $16.99
Lee: Wow! Does this sound like a interesting story. I can’t imagine what this girl went through. But, I’m gonna read and find out.
Jim: Seen this movie before. I don't know why slice of life book "A" appeals to me and book "B" does not, but this feels like book "B", perhaps too self indulgent.

Leviathan GN by (W) Ian Edgington (A) D’Israeli
In 1928, the Leviathan, the largest cruise liner the world had ever seen, was launched, bound for New York, with a crew and passenger complement totalling nearly 30,000 people. It was never seen again. Twenty years later, one of the remaining passengers, Detective Sergeant Lament, begins to investigate the mystery at the liner's heart. What he discovers will change his world forever and might just bring the Leviathan home. $22.00
Lee: This has been around for a long, long time but I’m still interested. It seems to be a rift on the very old ‘ghost ship’ theme but Edgington is a very good writer so I’m willing to give benefit of doubt. Not to mention that I love D’Israeli’s art so I was sold on this as soon as I read it.
Jim: Sign me up on this one too. Good creditors and a cool premise. Often when a book is still hanging around it is because it has merit.

Scar Comics
Madam Samurai GN by (W) Gary Young (A) David Hitchcock This hard-hitting tale of vengeance spans the world, from 19th-century Japan to the crime ridden streets of Victorian London. As a young mute girl searches for the killer of her grandfather and her mentor she finds herself caught in a web of vice and violence. What hope does she have of finding her quarry if she can't even find a bed for the night, and who is the mysterious Jack The Ripper the English police have been hunting? $12.99 Visit the Madam Samurai site here for free previews.
Lee: There seems to be more stories mining the Victorian era than ever these days. There was Helen Killer, Shakespeare, and now this. Yeah, yeah I’m mixing eras but you get my point. For the most part these types of stories have been good so I’m willing to give it a chance.
Jim: I think historical fiction is an area that is ripe for good comic stories and this may be another one, although Jack The Ripper has been overdone.

Scraped Knee
Bridge Project GN by (W/A) Various
San Francisco and Portland have a lot in common - towering bridges, coffee slurpin hipsters, and incredibly talented indie-comic scenes. The Bridge Project anthology teams up some of top cartoonists (David Chelsea, Graham Annable, Scott Campbell, etc.) from each city to collaborate on stories together resulting in touching and fantastical results. $9.95 Visit the site here CLICK the Matt Leunig for art samples and a general idea of what this might be.
Lee: I’m always up for anthology titles. I freely admit that they are always hit or miss but the chance to see new artists is too much for me to pass up. Basically, this looks like fun.
Jim: Coffee slurping hipsters? When was this put together in the seventies or sixties. Right now I'm off anthologies without a connecting theme.

Titan Publishing
Simon & Kirby: Superheroes HC by (W) Joe Simon (A) Jack Kirby
Beginning with Blue Bolt in June 1940, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby set the standard for costumed heroes. Their creation Captain America, remains one of the most famous heroes in comic book history, and their work for Timely and DC Comics raised the bar. This volume introduces some of their most exciting characters: Fighting American, The Fly, Lancelot Strong, and the Hollywood swashbuckler known as Stuntman. Presenting the complete Fighting American, their first collaboration, The Black Owl, and Captain 3-D, lavishly restored and presented in full-color for the first time, this is the only edition authorized by both Joe Simon and the estate of Jack Kirby, gathered from the official Simon and Kirby archives. With an introduction from comics legend Neil Gaiman! $49.95
Lee: I have problems recommending this book. Not because of the material but because I’ve heard that comic shops had trouble stocking this. In fact, my comic shop had problems so I ended up getting it off Amazon. I don't want to advocate Amazon! You should always support the local store… but this book is so much fun that you just need to get it. Think of it as cheating on your diet, sometimes you just need to stray for the sake of a chocolate bar.
Jim: I think I own this book, it is somewhere in my house I know it. Definitely a good book to own.

Lee: Another good month! And no matter how much Jim complains, I'm sure I've cost him money yet again. Hopefully, I've cost you some money too.
Jim: You always cost me money and often my biggest gripe is I should spend more on this and less on the big two because this is often much better.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Indies Preview Review for June Part 2 of 3

Continued from yesterday...

Grand Central Publishing
Knight Life: Chivalry Ain't Dead SC by (W/A) Keith Knight
Irreverent, topical, and always un-PC, The K-Chronicles has delighted, shocked, and just plain freaked out readers across the country. In The Knight Life, Keith Knight's collection of comic strips loosely based on his life, he skewers just about every political figure and social issue. $17.99 An excellent example of the strip here.
Lee: Wow, what another great find. I was thinking this was more slice-of-life stuff but it appears to be more skewer the idiots social commentary. And I’m all for that. This looks like great fun for all…. As long as your over 21.
Jim: Did you read this guy's crap? It is so knee jerk liberal as to be redundant. I can probably predict every opinion this guy has before I read his strip. PASS!

Ghostopolis HC by (w/a) Doug TenNapel
Imagine Garth Hale's surprise when he's accidentally zapped to the spirit world by Frank Gallows, a washed-out ghost wrangler. Suddenly Garth finds he has powers the ghosts don't have, but he's stuck in a world run by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who would use Garth's newfound abilities to rule the ghostly kingdom. When Garth meets Cecil, his grandfather's ghost, the pair search for a way to get Garth back home - and nearly lose hope until Frank Gallows shows up to fix his mistake. $24.99 Visit Doug here and read his very entertaining blog.
Lee: TenNapel has made his living producing graphic novels once or twice a year. If this is the direction of comics, then TenNapel is the poster child of success. In regards to this book, I’m not really sure. I liked TenNapel’s early works, but each successive volume has become heavier, and heavier handed with it’s positive message. His work is still very good and entertaining but it’s very close to a sermon about being saved and redemption.
Jim: Think that might be a syndrome of his being a Dad and trying to be positive for his kids which means he lost some of his edge from his Earthworm Jim days, who is still a favorite character of mine.

GG Studio
A Skeleton Story #1 by (W) GG Studio (A) Alessandro Rak
A Burtonesque noir fairy tale... Will Musil, Burma, Scarlett, Jack, and John are no longer tenants of the world of the living. They're dead. While each faces their role in the afterlife differently, Will seeks his own redemption in the underworld as a detective, at the service of the Old Lady. A wonderful opportunity presents itself one day when two unwanted guests crosses the border between worlds: a little girl and her cat... #1 of 5, $2.99 Visit Rak, the artist here.
Lee: I don’t think the cover really does this justice. I looked at Rak’s art and he’s very, very good. The art will be animation influenced but the composition from the pages I saw was great. This is a little bit of a stretch but I think you will be pleasantly pleased with the result.
Jim: I have ordered one of GG Studio's books as I'm sure my store wouldn't order it without my asking them to and this is the problem with new/small publishers. You get afraid to want the book as it may never get published.

Humanoids Inc
Metabarons Vol. 01: Othon & Honorata SC (new printing) by (W) Alexandro Jodorowsky (A) Juan Gimenez
Discover the lineage of the galaxy's ultimate warrior in these collections featuring the complete original artwork. The first volume introduces the Metabarons' ancestors and reveals their origins in a galaxy corrupted by greed, power and terror. Volume 2 sends Aghnar, the son of the first Metabaron, into battle against the psychic witches of Shabda-Oud. Volume 3 documents the life of the ruthless cyborg Metabaron, Steelhead. $17.95
Lee: This is actually a re-release but it’s soooo good that it deserves mention. This is one of the most intense science fiction comics ever written. It’s a generation spanning study about a warrior’s blood line. It’s amazingly brutal but not too violent. I can’t say enough about this. I have all the original issues but I want the trades so I’m getting this.
Jim: I loved this book when it was printed in the US, it was a great generations spanning saga and if you missed it this is a great way to read great material.

I Box Publishing
Stardrop Vol. 01 GN by (W/A) Mark Oakley
An uplifting tale from the creator of Thieves & Kings. Princess Ashelle has secretly come to Earth to escape the fires of galactic civil unrest and her warlord father. A kind and cheerful girl, her only wish is to make friends and have adventures in the beautiful small town she has discovered. But between boys, finding normal clothes to wear and paying the rent, the challenges for an alien girl pretending to be human are many - and the reach of the Galactic Empire is long! $9.95 Visit Oakley here.
Lee: Oakly is a fantastic writer! If you’ve never read ‘Thieves & Kings’ then it’s worth your time to search out back issues or trades because it’s great. And now he’s got new work, so I’m sold. Not to mention that it sounds fun.
Jim: I also recommend using Lee's links on doing a search yourself to see more about these creators and have the chance to buy their work often direct.

Treasury 20th Century Murder Vol. 03: Terrible Axe Man HC by (W/A) Rick Geary
New Orleans, after the First World War. The party returns to the Big Easy but someone looks to spoil it. Grocers are being murdered in the dead of night by someone grabbing their axe and hacking them right in their own cushy beds! The pattern for each murder is the same: a piece of the door is removed for entry, the axe is borrowed on the property, and the assailant aims straight for the head! Why? The man is never found for sure but speculations abound which Geary presents with his usual gusto! $15.99
Lee: I turned Jim onto these awhile ago and he loves them! Now it’s your turn. If you love true crime, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Jim: I actually hate to say it but Lee totally got me into these books. Geary stuff is a great read and so well researched from what I can tell. I recently read about the murder of Abraham Lincoln and if you think you know what happened, think again.

Concluded tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Indies Preview Review for June Part 1 of 3

Lee: I thought this month would a little bit lighter than usual. I was wrong. There’s a ton of good and unusual stuff to be had.
Jim: Unusual, that could be Lee's code word for stuff only he would love. Truth be known I wish I had the time to read all of this stuff just so I could judge on the material and not just the solicitation copy.

Antarctic Press
Last Zombie #1 by (W) Brian Keene (A) Joe Wight (CA) Fred Perry
Check your fuel tanks, weapons and supplies; buckle down tight; and get ready for a thrill ride that may leave you breathless-or not even breathing! Brian Keene, the horror novelist acclaimed as one of the major forces behind the new era of zombie popularity, is bringing an all-new fright-filled feature to Antarctic Press! Follow the frantic journey of a man seeking his one ray of hope in a post-apocalyptic nightmare United States. The zombies have come and (mostly) gone, but the disease is still out there, threatening the survivors. The country swarms with roving packs of wild animals-and worse, desperate humans-ready to do whatever it takes to survive. Through it all, one man must drive from California to New York to reunite with the woman he loves...before it's too late for either of them! Shocker Award recipient and two-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Keene known worldwide for his novels and short stories of the shambling undead! Keene teams up with A.P. powerhouse Fred Perry (Gold Digger, Fred Perry's Legacy, The Littlest Zombie) to tell a terror-tinged tale for the ages! #1 of 5, $3.99
Lee: When I see that a published novelist is entering comics, it always makes me excited. I think it’s because in some way, it legitimizes our hobby. That said, it looks like Keene has published a number of beach-read zombie/horror books. So, he’s a writer, but not a major name. Based on his experience, and the fact that Joe Wight has been around for awhile (see Twilight X) you have proven creators. So, if you’re looking for a new horror story then this could be worth checking out.
Jim: A published writer is not any guarantee they can write a comic book. I worry because so often a strong editor is the missing part of the equation to help bridge the gap from novelist to comic writer.

Boom! Studios
Grasshopper and the Ant HC by (W/A) Harvey Kurtzman Forty years ago, the late comics genius Harvey Kurtzman created a marvelous beatnik take on the ancient Aesop fable that appeared in Esquire magazine, where the panels were reproduced small and blurry. The story remained forgotten and unknown, even to most Kurtzman fans, until Denis Kitchen Publishing released this rediscovered gem in a Smythe-sewn hardcover in 2000. Now BOOM! Town, in association with DKP, offers readers a second chance to own this Kurtzman classic. Selected as One of the Best 100 Graphic Novels in Steve Weiner's book of the same name, this 10 square hardcover is shrink-wrapped to assure mint condition. Introduction by Denis Kitchen. $25.00
Lee: This is an excellent book and an awesome read. I already have the DKP version so I won’t be getting this, but it’s worth the money. It’s outstanding.
Jim: This sounds like a winner and a book that belongs in my collection, so sign me up.

Pale Horse #1 by (W) Michael Alan Nelson, Andrew Cosby (A) Christian Dibari BOOM! Studios re-invents the Western - and you've never seen the Old West like this before. Ex-slave and former Union soldier Cole has spent the years following the Civil War building a reputation as the most fearsome bounty hunter in the land. But when the tables turn and a bounty is placed on Cole's head, all hell breaks loose. Finding himself unable to protect the thing most precious to him - his family - Cole goes on a rampage of revenge, leaving only a trail of blood in his wake. With nothing but his horse, his one surviving son and his gun, Cole's rampage leaves no stone unturned and no culprit alive! Covers by Leonardo Manco and Robert Adler. #1 of 4, $3.99 See a 10 page preview here.
Lee: We seem to be in the midst of a big Western revival. Between this, Jonah Hex, Lone Ranger and others the market hasn’t seen this many Westerns on the stands since Jim was a kid! It looks very, very good and I can’t wait to read it.
Jim: Not sure it re-invents the western, but it looks like a good story. The Western has been having a revival of sorts and now if only the movies will go back and make some more.

D. E./Dynamite Entertainment
Bullet to the Head #1 by (W) Matz (A) Colin Wilson Never before available in the US Market! A crime saga in comic book form as the story centers around buddy crooks and buddy cops and one unlikely official in the middle - with a target on his head! Issue #1, newly translated for the US comics market! $3.99 You can read about Wilson here.
Lee: This is sweet! Wilson is a very prolific british artist who’s worked on Judge Dredd, amongst others for years. His style is excellent and this should be very, very good.
Jim: Matz is the author of Killer coming out from Archaia and that was also a good story, so this has all the right credentials.

4th Dimension
Lackadaisy Vol. 01 GN by (W/A) Tracy J. Butler St. Louis, 1927. Prohibition has sparked the engine of organized crime. Fueled by the fortunes of bootlegging, gangsters rule the city though speakeasies - Speakeasies like Lackadaisy. Competition is fierce, and in this city, you're either holding the gun, or taking the bullet. But with all the cunning, tenacity, and sly ingenuity they can muster, the Lackadaisy gang might just have a chance! $19.95 There are several previews pages here.
Lee: I was prepared to mention this, but not love it, until I saw the previews. Butler is obviously influenced, or works in, animation. This reminds me of Aristrocats with drugs, drinking, and guns. What’s not to love????
Jim: The art is great, but I'm not looking for a cartoon book with this type of premise.

Fantagraphics Books
Lucky in Love: A Poor Man's History HC by (W) George Chieffet, S. DeStefano (A) S. DeStefano
I was fifteen in 1942, and I was five foot three, which is the tallest I ever was. I had jet black hair and a smile as big as day. Readers and moviegoers have read and seen many growing-up-in-the-big-city-then-being-drafted-into-World-War-II tales, both real and fictional, but none with the visual pizzazz and feisty humor of Lucky in Love. Co-created by George L. Chieffet (script) and veteran cartoonist and animator Stephen DeStefano (plot and art), Lucky in Love is almost the flipside to dramatic works on the same theme such as Alan's War and You'll Never Know. Elegantly drawn in a supremely confident, lively, cartoony black-and-white style that recalls Milt Gross as well as classic Disney animation and comics, Lucky in Love is a unique coming-of-age story that follows its lovable eponymous hero Lucky Testatuda from his rascally teen years in Hoboken, New Jersey's Little Italy to his induction into the air force and subsequent wartime experiences. Lucky in Love shows what happens when a feisty young man merges his erotic fantasies with 1940s film myths: Moving from the 40s to present day (from which an aged, present-day Lucky looks back on his life), the book contrasts Lucky's vivid fantasy life with the darker reality of World War II (including a masterful set-piece sequence that echoes Harvey Kurtzman's classic EC war comics) as well as his first fumbling, cash-on-the-barrelhead sexual experiences. Ultimately the poignant discoveries Lucky makes on his way to adulthood bestow upon him a very different kind of heroism than that of which he had dreamed... The second and concluding volume, Lucky in Love: Lucky for Life will be released in 2013. $19.99 Visit DeStefano’s blog here.
Lee: All I needed to know about this was that DeStefano was involved. As the creator of ‘Mazing Man, one of the greatest comics of the 80’s ever made, I was sold. The art will be absolutely stellar and the story sounds great. What’s not to love?
Jim: What's not to love - IT WILL BE RELEASED IN 2013 for the concluding volume. I'll be luck to even notice it by then.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nova: War of Kings - A Review

Nova: War of Kings is a perfect of example of how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have made Marvel’s cosmic books one of, if not the, most consistent and entertaining line of comic books of the past five years.

In this fifth collection of the Nova series, our titular hero has lost the Nova force and needs cosmic armbands from his dead best friend to go fight the insane alien supercomputer that used to live in his head (and is currently living in a planet with a giant face on it) to stop it from brainwashing innocent people into becoming an intergalactic police force. And that’s only the first two issues! If that doesn’t sound completely awesome to you, then you are not cool and we cannot be friends.

This book moves at a breakneck pace, going from a powerless Nova on earth, to Nova fighting the Worldmind as the new Quasar, to him being Nova again and having to rescue what’s left of the Nova Corps from the War of Kings crossover, all in only six issues. Yet it never feels rushed or inorganic. Each part moves effortlessly to the next without feeling jarring or disorienting.

The reasons for the success of Marvel’s cosmic line, which benefits enormously from Abnett and Lanning writing basically everything in it, are all on display in this volume. There are tons of utterly insane cosmic stuff on almost every page, from Ego the Living Planet to the ghost of the Protector of the Universe to a crack in the universe itself. But the sense of scale is always appropriate. After living through an endless succession of intergalactic catastrophes, a powerless Nova can’t reconnect to life on Earth. The immensity of the intergalactic War of Kings is appropriately enormous. The difficulty of not only policing the galaxy, but trying to reassert that police force’s authority after its been entirely wiped out, is displayed as a suitably impossible task.

That is actually one of my favorite ongoing threads of the new Nova series. The concept of Nova is a thinly veiled ripoff of the Green Lantern Corps. When they killed off everyone but Nova himself during the Annihilation crossover (also a great book), Marvel sorta ripped off what DC did when they drove Hal Jordan nuts and eliminated the Green Lantern Corps. The difference is Marvel has done a much better job following up on the storyline. Now don’t get me wrong, Kyle Rayner is my favorite GL, but I always felt like DC never really did enough with the idea of what happens when an intergalactic police force is reduced to one man. Nova never lets you forget it and Abnett and Lanning have done a great job mining the concept. You really get a sense of one man against the universe and when a brain damaged Worldmind tries to rebuild the Corps in a single go, during the middle of an intergalactic war, it all goes about as well as you’d expect.

Nova: War of Kings starts you off in the middle of the storyline, but once you get settled, its very easy to follow. Abnett and Lanning do a good job of keeping the reader up to speed and grounding you in the midst of all this cosmic craziness. Nova himself is a very relatable and sympathetic character, despite having off the chart super powers and having galaxies rise and fall around him. Andrea DeVito and Kevin Sharpe do a pretty good job on the art. You never have a difficult time following the story. Still, it all feels a bit blah to me. DeVito, who handles the bulk of the book’s art chores, feels very old school to me. His art style puts me in mind of a Mike Zeck or Patrick Zircher’s older stuff. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just find it a bit wanting when we have these gorgeous Daniel Acuna covers, who, for my money, draws the best rendition of the new Nova costume to date.

The bottom line is, if you’re thinking about buying a super hero book set in outer space, you should ask yourself one, simple question: Do I want to read a book where the main character gives a sentient planet a lobotomy with fist lasers before the halfway mark? If the answer is yes, Nova: War of Kings is for you. If the answer is no, don’t worry, I think Green Lantern is crossing over with Rainbow Brite next week or something.

The Week of April 21 In Review

I find it interesting that Marvel has pushed the $4 comic to the point that it is fast becoming the norm. At the same time with the ipad the new digital price point is $2. It is only a matter of time before you can get the digital version the same time the print book hits the stands. At a $300 price point in the future it won’t take many comics to add up to enough savings to make the switch. Of course my hope would be we generate more comic fans then ever and even if print sales drop to miniscule numbers it should still be worth an additional income stream for the publishers. What I find interesting is that at $2 the publishers must be raking in huge profits. No retail cut, which is usually half of the book price, no brick and mortar distribution and I’m guessing a much cheaper cut for the digital distributor and no printing costs. I just hope the creators are making deals to make sure there cut from the digital side is fair. In other words royalties on digital sales should be higher at a $2 price point.


Brave and Bold #33 – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Art Cliff Chiang, Colors Trish Mulvihill. JMS has been having a terrific run on this book and each one and done has been an excellent story. The stories have been on a more human level with sometimes going a little moralistic on us and sometimes just telling a great adventure tale. The series has been so strong that I have ordered the hardcover collection of the book so I can keep this run on my bookshelf. This story was one that will resonate with me for a long time. It works on multiple levels, but mostly it worked because it showed what friends try to do for each other. When you see the cover and see Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Batgirl on the cover you think this is going to be a pure good girl book where JMS uses the fact that he is telling stories out of continuity to put this group together with Babs as Batgirl. It starts off with Zatanna having a dream, and then we cut to Wonder Woman saving the day against a terrorist type bomber. It also gives us a quick prelude into how JMS views Wonder Woman whom he will be writing soon and I like his approach to Diana. She is swift and sure of her actions, confident and even shows a sense of humor. “Z” tells Wonder Woman she is putting together a special ladies night and convinces Diana to go out and they next proceed to round up Batgirl. Over Babs protests they convince her to go out. The rest of the book is about there girls going out on the town, clubbing, dancing and having a drink or two. Innocent fun, but the type of night they hardly ever get. Not long after that night Barbara Gordon is shot and paralyzed by the Joker and we learn that “Z” had a premonition about what was going to happen and wanted Barbara to have a night where she danced one last time. It was very sentimental, but hit me right in the heart. I love some of these characters and while it is all fantasy it was nice to see these characters looking out for each other. Cliff Chiang cleans line work, great layouts and storytelling ability was icing on the cake. Chiang is a premier artist and one of the reasons that I’m starting to think DC may have a stronger art team then Marvel.

American Vampire #2 – First Story – Morning Start - Writer Scott Snyder, Art Rafael Albuquerque, Colors Dave McCaig. Second Story - Deep Water - Writer Stephen King, Art Rafael Albuquerque, Colors Dave McCaig. One of the things I have become very conscious of when reading comics is how much of a unique marriage the art form is between words and pictures. The old adage is a picture is worth a thousand words. Still we need the words sometimes to learn just who the characters are in the drama we are engaged in and how they are feeling about what is happening. Knowing when to insert words and when not to add captions and dialogues has been something going on in comics for years. Read comics from the sixties, seventies and even till the nineties and you will see many writers have captions which are totally meaningless as they are just describing what the artist drew. I’m almost certain that with writers doing full scripts that someone thought it would be good to include almost every word that was written. Under the Marvel way I can read old Marvel comics and see where Stan was forcing a story into a book that had nothing to do with the art as he scripted it after the art was done. To make a comic truly work well the marriage has to be one of knowing when to step on the gas and when to let the art do the work. For a newcomer Scott Snyder has gotten it right apparently from the jump, especially with this book. The opening four pages is my evidence to support my view. Page one we open with Pearl’s friends coming into her room wondering what has happened to her. The pictures give us the setting and the words let us know her friends’ concern. It immediately made me recall that we ended last issue with Pearl being attacked by vampires and thrown into a ditch. Cut to page 2 and 3 side by side and we see Pearl torn up and staggering around in the desert obviously more dead than alive as her friends drive up in a car. The dialogue is at the bare minimum as Rafael’s pictures carry the drama and magnitude of what has happened to Pearl. Page 4 we are at the hospital and the doctor provides details as what is happening to Pearl and why she is dying. The dialogue is conveying needed information for the reader, but is conveyed in a natural way as to make it part of the story. See my full review here.

Other Books of Note

Avengers vs Atlas #4 (of 4) – This was another terrific issue in a great series. I consider this to just be part of the ongoing Atlas series which restarts next month. One of the things that appeals to me about this series is Jeff Parker is using obscure characters, that are essentially new characters, just already owned by Marvel. These are characters that can have growth and development and are not locked into some artificial time wrap that forces so many characters to remain unchanged by the corporate giants that own them.

Batman Streets of Gotham #11 – The lead story by Dini and Nguyen was very well done. I enjoy that this Batman and Robin are very unique. Dick Grayson is not Bruce Wayne and the few scenes he has in the book he is portrayed as an effective Batman, but somehow Dini allows a different persona to shine through the mask. Damian is a very different kind of Robin as his fight with Zsasz and his willingness to just use blood as a mask. He is the most dangerous Robin ever created and keeping him in check is a job that perhaps only Dick can do as Bruce would not have tolerated his actions. The Manhunter backup works and does not work. It has a strong story and very good art but the 10 pages feels like we just get going and then stop. I’m not sure if that is a failure of the writer or me as the reader who is now like Pavlov’s dog and expects a comic to be 22 pages.

Battlefields #5 (of 9) – Ennis does a wonderful joob with theese fooking characters. Of course typing the dialogue for the Scottish Sergeant must be a pain as I have to stop my spell check from trying to fix my typing when I pretending to type in the voice he uses for the Sergeant. This issue had an especially tough ending as the tank crew apparently shot up a German woman trying to gather firewood. Ennis never lets us forget how war is tragic and brutal.

Crossed Family Values #1 (of 6) – I was wondering how they could make the depraved and hopeless post apocalyptic world interesting again and David Lapham managed to show his twisted and sick side with this issue. It’s all so totally wrong, but Lapham has me pulled into this story and I want to see where it goes.

DV8 #1 (of 8) – I was on the fence on this book going in as I have no clue who these characters are, but Brian Wood was writing it and I thought I would give it a shot. I was all set to drop this book until we got to the end. The idea that these super power beings got shunted to some primitive world and they each have become a god to a different tribe made me decide to get the next issue.

Farscape #6 – This issue was exactly like I was watching the TV series. We are building on what has gone before and still building new mysteries. I have always had an interest in Pilot and getting back to his home planet and learning more about him is great.

Green Lantern #53 – It is nice to know that some things never change and Sinestro is still a bastard. Also this was a good issue that immediately built on what happened in Blackest Night and set up a whole host of story lines. It seems like Johns could be writing this book for many more years to come and has plenty of ideas for the book. I just hope Dough Mahnke stays at artist as he is a terrific artist and someone who can meet a monthly deadline.

Guardians of the Galaxy #25 and Nova #36 – Both books were decent issues with Guardians being the better of the two books, but I was very disappointed with the fact that apparently these are the last issues of the boosk and yet Marvel is saying nothing. Both books say the Thanos Imperative is next and we have word of that mini-series but no clue as to where the rest of the stories that have been started are going. We do know Nova will be a Secret Avenger which sucks as what Rich Ryder was doing rebuilding the corps was pretty darn cool and I think would be a full time job. All in all I have to say right now I’m a little disappointed as I like having some inkling of what the plan is and if it is to merge all the storylines into the Thanos Imperative for now why not tell the fans.

Justice League of America #44 - This book is struggling to be good. The roster consists of Batman, Donna Troy, Congorilla and Star Man (blue alien variety). I get that Robinson seems to be being crushed with editorial mandates and can’t ever say a thing about it, but this is a weak line up. Also Robinson is using captions as thought balloons and it is hurting the flow of the story. I understand he is trying to give us more depth of characterization but during the battle scene it just hurt the pacing of the book. I do like Congorilla Bill and hope that we can at least get a showcase edition of his stories, such an odd character.

Power Girl #11 – I already miss this creative team. Terra, Ultra-Humanite, Satanna all combined in one excellent Power Girl adventure. I should have made this a best book again, but it is killing me to see this book come to an end. Besides all the other great things this book does in the space of a one page opener the creative team brought up anyone up to speed as to what was happening and gave regular readers new information on how Ultra-Humanite was still causing grief for Power Girl. We only have one more issue and then the adjustment period to a new creative team, always awkward after this strong of a run on a book.

The Spirit #1 – This issue had a great story and wonderful art to start this series off. My enthusiasm is tempered as Mark Shultz (writer) is only on this book for three issues. I liked that this Spirit is playing in a dirtier city and that instead of playing it for humor it has a harder edge to it. I think this is the way to go with the Spirit, otherwise he loses relevancy in today’s market. Plus he is supposed to be a new Spirit in the First Wave Universe. The backup feature was also well done and a nice little almost classic Spirit story, whereby the Spirit is not the focus of the story.

X-Men Legacy #235 – Second Coming Chapter 4 – The linear storyline is what is making this series work so well for me. The fight between Cyclop’s troops and Bastion’s has been obviously plotted out very well and each book is hitting their plot points. It is perfect for a lapsed fan like me as I’m learning about the new status quo of different people as I go along. Rogue has obviously changed dramatically as she now can borrow other people’s powers and be a multiple powered super human. Of course I don’t know how long it lasts or if it somehow affects the person she is borrowing from, but I’m learning. I’m starting to get the feeling that Cable will not survive this adventure, which is a bummer as I’m growing to like him now.

X-Factor #204 – I like this book now, I used to love it. It is still good; it just has a plodding pace and at times seems to lack a cohesive direct. As far as calling it Revelations and making it relate to Second Coming, it was okay, but no revelations were to be found.

Well that wraps up another week of comic book goodness. As we wrap up the month of April I can only hope that the Orioles can start to pull their collective heads out of their, err, out of the sand and get going and start to win some games. I just watched us win game three as I’m typing this. I was not expecting playoffs this year, but this team is one that I think can be a lot of fun to watch as they have some good young talent at the core of this team.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What I’m Getting Wednesday April 28

Hard to believe it is the end of April. This is a huge year for stuff happening with my family as both of my daughters get married and Gwen graduates from college and the specter of becoming a grandfather at 35 looms nearby. Lee seems to enjoy reminding me that this may happen in the near future, but age is all in your mind and as my wife would be more than happy to tell you I’m still a child. My co-workers would agree as my almost 100 action figures in my office can testify too. But you want to know what I’m getting this week as do I.

This week is an extremely literate week with some of the best written books on the market hitting the stands in decent numbers. Of course I love how many well written books are out there. I think our favorite past time is enjoying a true renaissance in quality. This week we have Madame Xanadu #22, Northlanders #27, Scalped #37, Locke and Key Crown of Shadows #5 (of 6), Stumptown #3 and Echo #21. I mean this is an embarrassment of riches. I usually order my books once I sit down to read them with some must reads at the top which includes new number ones, end of mini-series and the big event book. Then I constantly reorder during the week as I read everything. I always try to save a great book for last and any one of these books could fill the bill. Buy them, read them and love them like I do.

This week also has the books that cost me too much and are forcing me to skim read some Essentials and Showcase collections to find room on my bookshelves. I really have cut back some on hard covers, but not enough. This week has the DC Library JLA by George Perez Volume 2, JLA Deluxe Edition HC Volume 3 (the Grant Morrison run) and Marvel Masterworks The Inhumans Volume 2 #136. I often seriously think about dropping all but 20 comic series and just read all the collected and new OGNs I have in my house. My wife would be happier.

The rest of the list is rather extensive as the last week of the month is almost always a big week. Of course May has so many new titles coming out every week maybe a big week. A short aside, because of the $4 price point and ton of new series coming out I’m trying like mad to drop books and this week Thor got kicked to the curb. JMS was making Thor special and now Thor has become generic again. I will try out Thor again once the next long term creative team comes onboard.

From the independent side of things the rest of my list includes, The Great Unknown #3 (of 5) in which the Unknown is the publishing schedule on this book, Invincible #71, Walking Dead #71, GI Joe Cobra II #4 and Incorruptible #5. I’m still amazed at how great GI Joe Cobra has been and look forward to that book every month. Also hats off to Kirkman for having two highly successful creator owned series that are both up to number 71, both are very good books.

Marvel is also pushing out a lot of books for me this week with Captain America #605, Fantastic Four #578, Iron Man #25, Mighty Avengers #36, New Avengers #64, Secret Warriors #15, Siege Secret Warriors #1, Thunderbolts #143 and X-Force #26 Chapter Five of Second Coming. Most of these books are Siege related. I’m actually a little shocked that Siege #4 is not out, but it will be out May 12. I think the one shots were to fill in the time or perhaps a slight delay due to production issues. The Second Coming sage continues to impress me with the linear nature of the story and how well it is helping me learn the new status quo of the x-people. It is fun to say that I’m enjoying x-books again.

The DCU and Wildstorm books of course are the largest segment of my list. While in my imaginary purge of books many of these would bite the dust I still have a lot of fondness for DC characters, although this may be my last issue of Outsiders as the book is unrecognizable since Dan Didio took over.

The list is Action Comics #889, Authority the Lost Year #8 (of 12), Detective Comics #864, Garrison #1 (of 6), Gotham City Sirens #11, Green Lantern Corps #47, Justice League The Rise of Arsenal #2 (of 4), Justice Society of America #38, Outsiders #29, Superman #699, Superman Last Stand of New Krypton #3 (of 3), Teen Titans #82, Victorian Undead #6 (of 6), The Web #8 and Wonder Woman #43. This week’s Superman books leads into Free Comic Book Day with War of Superman #0 and then May the entire War occurs in 4 issues coming out weekly, I love that idea; a mini-event that is done quickly.

38 books and only 3 are collected editions and we will be doing a Cosmic Comics Conversation on Sunday for my friend’s comic store. That is a lot of reading by Saturday. Of course I can skip some books and read them Sunday as certain books will never be mentioned.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heaven's on Fire

Ah, love. You had me at Satan, Mr Aaron.

Say what you will about the resolution of the Jason Aaron Ghost Rider run, the concluding mini-series, Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire had fun elements that made it worth the reading.

Because I came in late to the Aaron Ghost Rider I'm not going to look at the entire run until I pick up what I missed somewhere down the line. I'll stick to just Heaven's on Fire for now. Where the story picks up Zadkiel, a renegade angel (wasn't that Lucifer's job?), has overthrown Heaven and taken the throne of God. I could stop right there and delve into the philosophical and religious conundrums that presents, but it's all in fun, so I'll let it go. Zadkiel doesn't have God's omnipotence or omniscience yet because it takes time for all the powers to transfer. I'm not sure why they transfer at all because God's not dead or anything, just somewhere else, but, again, we'll let that deus ex machina (literally) go.

Our two surviving Ghost Riders, Johnny Blaze and his brother, Danny Ketch, are trying to overthrow Zadkiel and restore God's rule. This requires them to protect the child anti-Christ because if he dies, Revelations can't come to fruition and Zadkiel seals the deal of his rule. Man, you really don't want to think about the conundrums here, but they keep coming rushing to me as I summarize this stuff. Let's go on to the fun.

Damien Helstrom, Son of Satan, wants to kill the anti-Christ, just because he's an evil little snot, but Helstrom's ex-girlfriend, Jaine, prevents him. She's some sort of demon hunter mercenary with a living gun that's pretty cool. The meat bullets it fires is even cooler. The Ghost Riders are frequently at each other's throats while they're on their quest, and Sister Sara, the caretaker of the Ghost Riders, is inexperienced in her job. Hot, though. The story goes through varies trips with the eventual restoration of God to the throne, but it's the small points that make it a fun ride.

Aaron had me in the first issue when the anti-Christ is working at an investment bank under the name A. Satan, which he keeps telling everyone is pronounced Shutan. Hockey references make infrequent appearances in comics, or the wider culture, for that matter, but this is a great reference to a hockey player from the Czech Republic whose name is Satan and pronounces it that way. It's also a good example of how the young anti-Christ may be evil, but not at all wily yet. His constant copping a feel of Sister Sara when he's riding on her motorcycle is another fine example. (And can I just say that Sister Sara keeps reminding me of Two Mules for Sister Sara, a great western comedy that also involves blowing stuff up and unlikely fighting? Don't know if Aaron intended that reference.)

The quest involves fights with a great cast of D list villains. The only thing I would have liked to have seen would have been a simple caption when they show up so I know who they are. My knowledge of these Marvel villains is not encyclopedic, so I quicly figured out what they could do in terms of powers, but not who they are. Even a little one off mentioning of names in conversations would be nice, though that could be a little hard without the self referential because our heroes don't know who some of these guys are, either.

Roland Boschi's art fits this series well. It's a little rough around the edges, as are our Ghost Riders and their various nemeses and allies. I presume he did the inking, too, as there's no inker credited. It's dark when it should be and doesn't obscure the rough edges that this kind of story needs. Dan Brown's colors work nicely, muted for the most part.

It's a good end to the Aaron run on Ghost Rider. I'd like to have had more Aaron work on the title, but if it's got to end, so be it. The back up run of reprints from the original Ghost Rider's first two issues and an issue of Marvel Spotlight on The Son of Satan were really not necessary. They do highlight how far comics writing has come, but I don't really need a reminder of how bad a lot of that old stuff was, iconic characters or no. I'd rather have had that removed and the books priced a buck cheaper. If only KISS had been in this story, it would have been a masterpiece for the ages, no matter the conundrums of the plotting.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Standing the Test of Time (With or Without Pants)

Coming in around 800 pages and weighing just over five pounds, this week I finally finished reading the Howard the Duck Omnibus. I had started reading this almost immediately after I got it a year or two ago, but I had only read through issue 5 of the 31 issue original run. I picked it up again at the beginning of this year. This is now the third omnibus I’ve read from cover-to-cover with the other two being the Amazing Fantasy Omnibus and the Incredible Hulk Omnibus (that probably counts as 10 Marvel Masterworks! – not that it’s a competition or anything). I probably would have finished it sooner, but I’ve been filling my “spare” time reading the Silver Age Green Lantern archives – now on Volume 5 I’m happy to say.

In addition to the original series, including the Annual and Marvel Treasury Edition, this book also contains Howard’s first appearances in Adventure into Fear, Man-Thing, and Giant-size Man-Thing. There is also a Marvel Team-up story, the very short-lived two-issue HTD revival (issues 32 and 33), and an in-depth interview with Steve Gerber from FOOM #15 . All of Howard’s 1976 Presidential Campaign updates are reprinted; however, the full letter pages are not, even though they are for the Silver Age omnibuses.

I’ve been a Howard fan since I first started collecting comics and I picked up issue #15 on the stands (most likely at the Colonial Heights 7-11) back in 1977. It was also a favorite of my older brother. I eventually got the earlier issues. Initially, I was really on the fence about getting this volume, since I already have every issue, except for #32, #33 and the FOOM article. Yet, I couldn’t resist the lure of the hardcover, even though it’s a bit unwieldy.

Now, I’ve read the entire series a few times, but it’s been quite a while since I last did, so it’s always interesting to see how my maturity affects my reading of the material. I certainly appreciated some of the humor this time around that I didn’t get as a kid. The great thing is that although the series is FIRMLY rooted in the culture of the seventies, the stories don’t seem outdated at all. Certainly, HTD is known for it’s biting social commentary, which is excellent, but it’s the characterization of Howard and all those he encounters that really stand out.

The series was strongest from issue 4 through 19, and it’s no coincidence that issue 4 was the start of Gene Colan’s nearly uninterrupted run on the title. These issues consist of one on-going “organic” saga, where Howard becomes a Presidential candidate, which ends due to a fabricated scandal, suffers a nervous breakdown, meets KISS, and tangles with Doctor Bong and loses his girlfriend, Beverly, and much more (see below). Along the way he teams up with the Defenders and is even possessed by the Son of Satan’s soul-self. The presidential issues (#7, 8, and 9) should be required reading for everyone, especially since we still have the same problems with politics today.

One of my favorite issues is number 19. As you can see, the cover is a parody of Amazing Spider-man #50. Howard has been turned into a human being or a “hairless ape”, as he likes to call them. His human persona always reminded me of Peter Falk’s Columbo. Throughout the issue, Howard’s duck persona is seen floating around as his conscience. The real strength of the issue is Howard’s involvement with Amy, a woman, who practically drags him back to her place where they basically have a discourse on human relationships. Amy is involved with another guy named Elton and he’s been draining the life out of her by his neediness. By the end of the issue Howard is a duck again – the transformation was spurred on by their intimate activities – VERY tastefully revealed in one of the next issue’s recap sequences. The whole Doctor Bong/human-Howard storyline, running through issues 15, 17, 18, and 19 is really good, but it really marks the end of the book's momentum.

I didn’t include number 16 above, because that was the revolutionary “Deadline Doom” issue. This was a very sought after comic 30 years ago and at the time was the most difficult to find for my collection. Rather than using a reprint, which was common place then, Steve Gerber wrote a text piece about his move to the West Coast with him talking with Howard along the way. It provides a great insight into Gerber; however, it had an unexpected negative effect for me. Since Howard is Gerber’s conscience, I couldn’t see Howard as just Howard for the rest of the series. I was too focused on Gerber. If Howard was having relationship problems, then Gerber must have been having similar problems. Howard was always Gerber’s voice, but Gerber became Howard’s voice.

Knowing of Gerber’s later struggles with the HTD newspaper strip, the conflict with Disney over Howard’s supposed similarity to Donald Duck, putting pants on Howard, and his battle to gain ownership rights further affected my reading of the rest of the series. However, most of the remaining stories were still enjoyable, especially the Ringmaster trilogy (#25, #26,and #27). So, Gerber left on a very high note.

I did discover that the two-part Star Wars parody issues (#22 and #23) that I loved as a kid were a little too over-the-top for me today. Bill Mantlo picked up the book with issue #30 after Gerber had left and continued the series in the Black and White magazines – all of which I own, but I’ve yet to take the time to read all of them. Some of the non-Gerber/Mantlo fill-in issues and the revival series were VERY difficult to finish – the magic was gone by then.

You’ve got to give Marvel credit for putting this together. They were trying to get it published so sales would help Steve with his medical expenses. Steve wrote the forward to the book not long before his death and it seems like he made peace with Marvel and his past frustrations with Howard. The volume was printed just after he died, but it’s a fitting tribute to his legacy as a comic book writer. It’s a great way for new readers to discover that Howard the Duck still works after all this time (with or without pants). Ironically, now that Disney owns Marvel, maybe Howard can finally leave the trousers behind.