Monday, May 31, 2010

The Asian Atom is Dead - Is DC Racist - Part 1 of 4

We decided to do something a little different and take a topic that is a hot button and let all of our contributors take a stab at what they think. Everyone did a great job and I have broken it down into a series of extra posts for this week set to post at 5PM. A small side note we were going to do a series of comments, but after one round I think we got a lot of good thoughts out there and thought we would cut it off at one response per team member.

Jim: The internet has been buzzing about the death of the Asian Atom Ryan Choi and personally I thought DC made a big mistake, but not because they are racist, but because they have gotten stuck on the silver age version of many of their characters. Now anyone who follows this blog has been bored to death by my harping on changing who is under the mask. Green Arrow should be Connor Hawke or Roy Harper, Batman they have right (for now), Aquaman should be Tempest, Atom should be Ryan Choi, Flash should be Wally or Bart, Green Lantern should be Kyle or John Stewart and the list goes on and on. In regards to Marvel I think Tony Stark, The Fantastic Four, Hawkeye, Hank Pym, Cyclops, Iceman, The Beast, Spider-Man and on and on should also be new people in those roles. The continuous nature of comic book publishing creates a unique creature that remains 29-39 years old, but they have 50 years of history weighing them down. A good story works with whoever is playing the role, but a fresh face can create its own kind of excitement. Starman as Jack Knight was a great example as are many of the characters in the JSA. Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt) is infinitely more interesting than a generic Terry Sloane (the original Mr. Terrific).

Of course to generate some interest a few dimwits decided to throw a bomb at DC by calling them racist since a lot of characters that have been replaced are non-whites, conveniently forgetting that the only reason you can even try to throw out that charge is because DC has taken chances making their characters come from a more diverse ethnic mix. No one can say Marvel is racist because they have never changed their characters at all.

This is a long preamble to a different kind of post we are trying on Comics And. We are going to do a long “conversation” about legacy characters versus new kids, about is DC racist, about Marvel being stuck in “forever” mode (August solicits has a New Mutants Forever series starting) and I’m sure other things. I’m starting off the post and since my arguments are well known. I may come back and play devil’s advocate and change sides if needed. Lee comes next, then Greg, then Gwen, then Thomm, then Matt or whatever. My hope is to try and at least put a slightly more thoughtful and, knowing us, at times a little inane, series of posts actually discussing what we all see as the best and worst parts of continuously publishing characters for 50 years.

For the record I think killing Ryan Choi made sense in terms of the story, as it established these were actual bad guys and not like the wimps in Thunderbolts and Secret Six. Those crews, while bad guys, never seem to actually take down any good guys. The mistake was taking a character rife with potential and destroying his career as the Atom before it had a chance to start. Ray Palmer’s story has been told and told and told. I’m ready for Ryan Choi’s story and DC muffed it. It was not racist. It was Didio’s insane idea that these characters are iconic and can’t be replaced, so DC is trapping themselves into the same thought process Marvel has, which is that only a certain person can be that hero. This creates a long term problem that nothing can ever truly happen to a character, so you either change the playing field he is in (Dark Reign) or try to remake his character to make him more interesting (Hal Jordan). By doing this we continue to make ourselves a more insular group because you can’t explain a character to anyone unless they have an hour or two to talk about it. As proof of this I direct you to Black Widow #1 and the six pages of history t
hey needed to give you to fill you in on her history. Convoluted does not even come close to doing her history justice.

Now of course I haven’t even touched on retro-cons and making a
character gay who was straight before, but before I go on too long, what do you think Lee?

Lee: Honestly, I think Choi, the Atom, and the resulting hub bub are irrelevant. The bottom line is that second tier characters get killed all the time. They are used as cannon fodder to give the latest crisis weight. In this case, DC created many new characters over the last 5-10 years that just didn’t survive. It just so happens that many of the characters were minorities.
As for changing the face under the mask, I don’t think that matters either. I want good Batman stories. Personally, I would prefer Bruce Wayne because I don’t want to read about how Dick Grayson ‘grows’ into the Batman shoes. It’s too easy for writers. Take the established character, Wayne, and make new things happen.

We got great stories like No Man’s Land because Wayne has been around so long.

Part 2 Tomorrow

What I’m Getting Thursday June 2

June begins and we get a five week month as well as a Thursday shipping day since we have the Memorial Day holiday this week.

For the blog this week we have a four part series running every afternoon where all of our members weigh in on the death of Ryan (Atom) Choi. Good thing or bad thing, racist or circumstance and other thoughts.

Let’s keep it simple this week and do the lightest part of the week first and build from there.

Marvel has Avengers Prime #1 (of 5), Daredevil Omnibus by Brubaker and Lark Volume 2, Hawkeye and Mockingbird #1, Stephen King’s “N” #4 (of 4) and The Thanos Imperative #1 (of 6). It is interesting that Avengers Prime is a bi-monthly mini-series. So that means issue #5 shows up February 2011. I’m not sure I can follow a five part series spread out that far, but I will give the first issue a shot. I’m hopeful that the Hawkeye and Mockingbird series is fun and can succeed in that type of book where Green Arrow and Black Canary failed.

As is the norm for me the DCU side of the ledger has the most books coming in with Adventure Comics #12, Batman Confidential #45, Brightest Day #3, Great Ten #8 (of 9), Joker’s Asylum The Riddler, Jonah Hex Now Way Back HC, JSA All Stars, Justice Society of America #49, Nemesis the Impostors #4 (of 4), Red Hood The Lost Days #1 (of 6), Red Robin #13 and Superman/Batman Annual #4. Rounding out the DC Entertainment side is IZombie #2 and, Demo Volume 2 #5 (of 6) from Vertigo and God Somewhere TP from Wildstorm. I have to say that Brightest Day has my attention and the bi-weekly publishing schedule is perfect. I have to laugh though as Marvel and DC are both doing new scheduling options with DC going bi-weekly and Marvel going bi-monthly.

The other category is its normal eclectic mix with Invincible #72, Sea of Red Slipcase Collection, Blacksad HC Volume 1, Irredeemable #14, Killer Modus Vivendi #2 (of 6), Mouse Guard Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4) and Echo #22. The new Mouse Guard series is a nice idea with David Peterson overseeing other creators doing some short stories on his creation. This is a great way to keep Mouse Guard on the stands as David works on the third mini-series.

I was trying to keep it as short and sweet as possible this week as we have the four part series going out this week also which I spoke of in the introduction. I have also been reworking my list a lot lately and trying to cut further back on book so that hopefully the list will be more comic centric and average fewer books per week in the future.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lost, the Comic Book Analogy

Why is Lost like a comic book? Sounds like a riddle, but it really is like a comic book, especially a superhero comic book. It hasn't been around 70 or so years like Batman and Superman, but in 6 short years it accumulated as much continuity baggage as any comic that's been rebooted in the last 30 years.

Lost really is the most successful comic book ever shown on TV. With a peak viewership around 16 million and an average by its end of 10 million, that's a whole lot more eyeballs than a comic gets. With that many people buying into that complex story, comics publishers, especially Marvel and DC, should really take a flyer at that market, pitching involved stories with strong characters and fascinating mythology. Hell, Lost even helped pique interest in comics with the first season appearance of a Spanish version of Green Lantern/Flash: Faster Friends Part One. Granted, the two characters who had interest in the book were a 12 year old kid and a man in his twenties who was also a little too deeply into Star Wars, but still, the audience watching the show encompassed a much broader and more diverse portion of the populace.

So here's why Lost is like a comic book. It's the story of about 14 survivors of an improbable plane crash, a la a team super hero book. Like Thunderbird in the re-creation of the X-Men 30 some years ago, characters who weren't necessary any longer were eliminated, though they never really went away. Each character inhabits a personality type or ethnicity or both, but is developed individually. There are villains to fight. There's science and magic blended together. There are causes to follow, often conflicting. There's no beginning and no end (don't let the end of the show's broadcast fool you).

How likely is it that the main 14 from the crash of Oceanic 815, as well as about 30 more, would survive that crash? More likely they'd be turned into pudding. But, that's no more unlikely than a radioactive spider bite turning a teen into Spider-Man instead of a kid with a sore hand. So why wouldn't that audience buy into the various improbable superhero origins?

The various personalities? Like the X-Men, JSA, JLA or the Avengers, the Lost cast each represented something(s) about humanity. It's the development of those initial archetypes into whole characters that's interesting, and superheroes, when written well, do the same, especially in a team book. Distinct voices, personalities, and outlooks are key to successful team comic books, as was the large cast of Lost.
This may be the weakest point for attracting fans of Lost to comics, though. Comics too often take one step forward only to take two steps back. A character's development suddenly takes a radical turn or just drops back to some place in the past. Does Peter Parker ever get over whining about his life, masked beneath the facade of endless quips? I remember times when I read Spider-Man as a kid where he seemed to be moving forward, but years later when I gave up, he was just the same, despite all that had happened. And don't even start on Tony Stark or Henry Pym personality shifts.

The double dealing and villainy in Lost is one of its strongest links to comics. Within the survivors there's ongoing suspicion of Sayid, Sawyer, and Kate. Michael kills fellow survivors to get off the island with his son. Ben infiltrates the survivors before proceeding to help to kill off most of the extraneous ones. Charles Widmore's motivations are never clear, but he's as deadly as Ben. Hired killer Martin Keamy. The Others. The Smoke Monster/Man in Black. Even Jacob is amorphous enough in character development that there's a certain amount of uncertainty as to whether he's a villain. This kind of thing, with turnings by the White Queen and Rogue to the good guys' side, or the infiltration of the JSA by Kid Karnevil, is so much like comics, Lost fans ought to leap into the comic book world.

Most significantly, Lost has no beginning or end. The six years shown tell a story arc, but they're not end points to that universe. The glowing light at the center of the island is never explained. Who built the structure around it is never addressed. Several of the characters who crashed on the island eventually leave the island to lead lives that are unexplored. The characters who stay behind on the island also have more stories in their lives. Even dead characters seem to have a lot more story to tell and keep hanging around. Comic books do the same thing all the time. Sure, there's an origin story for most superheroes, but then there are further developments of origins, ret-cons, and just plain re-booting. The thing about Lost is that there are a myriad of other stories to be told, just like the never ending stories of comic books. It's also similar to the fan fiction of a Star Wars or Star Trek, which have lent themselves to comic book story telling over the years.

For my money, Lost was the best comic book ever shown on TV. I wouldn't be surprised to see it crop up in new versions with more stories at some point.
And, just so you know, I liked the Lost finale. It concluded its story arc with the right moments and in keeping with the characters it had developed. Christian Sheppard's speech to his son at the end summed up a lot when he said it was time to move on. Seldom do a show's writer's speak that directly to its obsessive fans.
The most disappointing thing about the conclusion of Lost was the absolute failure of so many critics to do their jobs. In The Washington Post in particular, the entertainment staff spent the weeks leading up to the conclusion making smart ass remarks (ie all the survivors were young and hot, demonstrably untrue), which was petty enough, but then after the finale actually aired they wrote about the plane crash "survivors" having been dead the entire run of the show, which was diametrically opposed to what actually happened on the show. The comparison to The Sixth Sense was entirely facile because there was no surprise ending of the character who was the narrative window being dead all along as there was in that movie. It was as though they hadn't watched the show at all. That's like me reviewing a comic without reading it, which would be disingenuous and dishonest.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bedside Bundles

Okay, this might fall into the category of TMI (too much information), but I’m going to show you a shocking picture.

I know. Disgusting isn’t it? That, my dear readers, is my nightstand. Nearly all comic fans have one (I suspect), especially if you like to read something before going to sleep. Whether it’s a comfy chair, a room with indoor plumbing, or your warm bed (or all of the above), we all have our favorite places to read our comics. Usually right before bed is the best time for me, after the dishes are washed, the kids are tucked in bed, and my wife and I have watched a TV show on DVD. (We recently watched the last three episodes of the 1990-91 Flash series and are working on season three of the Incredible Hulk, while we wait for the next Doctor Who disc to be available at the library.) Since, I often get up very early for work, I’m lucky if I get a few pages read before I start to nod off. So, my progress on books is often pretty pathetic – hence, the mess.

Well, actually this blog is partly to blame as well as some of these piles are directly related to recent posts or planned posts for the future. The picture is a bit dark, but on the floor there is the John Byrne Fantastic Four run (around 60 issues). I was trying to find that birthday cake image – it was in issue #271 (I guess no one wanted a no-prize). The zero issue of the Flash (and the pile beneath it) on the bed is just one-fourth of another idea I’m working on. The white backing board (near the Toy Fare) was deliberately turned over to obscure the series title, but it’s related to the anticipated post for next week, which should relate nicely with the special four-part series that Comics And has beginning on Monday.

There are several hard covers scattered about as well (none of which are readily visible). On the nightstand itself is the Spider-man Newspaper strips HC, which I haven’t read in months. Beside the nightstand is both the new and older edition (borrowed from Jim) of Prince Valiant’s first adventures. I’ve been reading that to two of my daughters (along with The Hobbit), but it’s been a few weeks since we had time. There are also two volumes of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories (1 and 3) that I got earlier this year – both unread. Finally, I’ve got the two Iron Man Omnibuses somewhere down there. Unfortunately, the new sequel didn’t really inspire me to read more Iron Man comics like the first movie did.

Three of the most memorable new comics I read this week can also be seen: Archie #609, Love and Capes #13, and Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #1. My local store offered two free comics (priced $4.99 or less) to subscribers who cleaned out their box this week. So, I went against my IDW floppy ban (because I love their trades so much) and picked up issues one and two of “McCoy” (I really liked it). It was a great promotion – I told the owner that it made up for the disappointing books I got last week (Avengers and Legion of Super-Heroes). Love and Capes should probably get a post on it’s own – it was TERRIFIC! Zahler thinks of everything. Mark (the Crusader) and Abby are vacationing in Hawaii, sunning on the beach, but given his super powers, he really doesn’t tan that much. So, Mark has to fly up directly in front of the sun to get a good dose of UV rays that can actually brown him a bit.

Another reason for some of those “brown-bagged” bundles is my wife’s recent knee surgery. The surgery was supposed to last three hours, so I packed (over-packed more like it – just like I do when I go on vacation) a whole slew of comics to read. However when we got there, they had moved up the surgery time (without telling us), so she was prepped more quickly than we expected. The whole thing was over so fast that I only got an issue and a half read (after the daily Bible reading). I was really looking forward to catching up on my reading that morning!

Lately I spend more time writing about comics (or thinking about what to write) then reading them, so I hope you’ll forgive this “lighter” post, but I’m going to take some time to catch up over the long holiday weekend (on reading and cleaning!)

What does your nightstand look like?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Indies Preview Review for July Part 3 of 3

Lee: Ok, I didn’t think I would get a chance to check for more books but I gave up sleep for the team! Here’s the last of the last Indie picks.
Jim: Geez Lee is such a martyr, I mean good guy.

Antarctic Press
Boneyard: Resurrected #1 by (W/A) Richard Moore
Remastered by the chroma-kings of GURU-eFX, the original issue of Richard Moore's Boneyard rises from its grave to brighten your day in a whole new way! Michael Paris arrives in the quiet, curiously overcast town of Raven's Hollow to handle his recent real estate inheritance—a cemetery. One inhabited by monsters, no less. The townsfolk all welcome him warmly, certain that he'll sell the land to them. Then they can destroy that moldy old graveyard and drive off its horrible inhabitants. But the monsters, especially a charming, sexy vampire named Abbey, have their own side of the story to tell... Featuring all new cover art and bonus sketches by Richard Moore! $3.99
Lee: Let’s start by saying Boneyard was an awesome series. It was great! It was full of warmth, happiness, and humor. More books should be like Boneyard. That said, it was published by NBM. I wonder why the sudden move to Antarctic? But, if you missed it the first time, this is your chance to catch up.
Jim: I have tried to read Boneyard a couple of times and it never clicks for me.

Candlewick Press
Salem Brownstone HC by (W) John Harris Dunning (A) Nikhil Singh
A mundane life takes a strange and magical turn in this rich gothic fantasy told with vivid black-and-white art. As he twists the key and slowly creeps into the grand mansion left to him in his father's will, Salem Brownstone has an eerie feeling that his world is about to change. First there's the appearance of a beguiling contortionist from Dr. Kinoshita's Circus of Unearthly Delights, then a crystal ball, then an attack by the sinister Shadow Boys. It seems Salem's father was a powerful magician, and the son has inherited his dark legacy - and an unfinished battle for life or death. $18.99 A long discussion of the book with Dunning here. And Singh’s art here. Finally, if you’re really curious, there’s a Youtube preview somewhere too.
Lee: This crew came from the small, small press scene and has enough of a following to support a hc. I’m impressed by that. The story seems to be very Goth with comparisons to Lenore, and the goth books from SLG. The art looks good too. I’m taking a chance with this one but I pretty sure I’ll be pleased.
Jim: Good for you because I'm not. I like some of this type of material, but usually only read it when it is gifted or loaned to me.

Humanoids Inc
I Am Legion Deluxe HC by (W) Fabien Nury (A) John Cassaday
A supernatural take on World War II featuring lush artwork by John Cassaday in a deluxe hardcover format. World War II rages as two supernatural entities pursue collide in a conflict hinged on ideologies and the lives of men. Beneath it all, the Nazi pursue a project called "LEGION," centering on a young Romanian girl named Ana with the ability to possess other bodies. $17.95
Lee: I’ve always held off on this because it was “just another trade.” I buy enough trades that I decided to pass. Now, it’s a fancy hc and I’ve caving. I loves me some Cassaday art, especially in hc.
Jim: The art was fantastic but the story was tough as crap to follow in chapters, I'm in for this and hope it reads better in one sitting.

Last Gasp
Tokyo Underground Vol. 02 HC by (W/A) Brian Flynn, Joshua Bernard
The definitive book on toy shopping in Tokyo is back! Updated and expanded, this refreshing guidebook covers the essentials of travel to Japan without getting bogged down by extraneous information. A comprehensive resource, Tokyo Underground 2 makes the most secret shops and the coolest destinations accessible in a single book, offering a true insider's glimpse into the absolute latest in Tokyo toys, trends, and culture. $19.95
Lee: Not that I’m going to Tokyo anytime soon (heck I just got to France) but this sounds really cool. I managed to go to the toy and comic shops in the town I live in but I sure would have loved a guide book. Could you imagine a toy/comic guide to DC or NYC?
Jim: You are kidding me, please tell me you are kidding me about getting this book.

Honey West #1 (cover A - McClinton) by (W) Trina Robbins (A) Cynthia Martin
The return of the world's first female private eye in fiction and on TV! As tough as Mike Hammer and as sultry as Marilyn Monroe! Danger lurks in Hollywood when topless piano player Mimi Malloy walks into Honey West's office. There's been a double homicide at her nightclub, the Purple Pussy, and Mimi suspects she's the next victim! Honey goes undercover as a go-go dancer and mixes it up with Hollywood hippies to uncover the "Killer on the Keys." Available with covers by David Lloyd and Malcolm McClinton or a special Anne Francis photo variant. $3.99
Lee: In case you missed it along the way, I love Comix and the queen of Comix was Trina Robbins. She’s had a long and storied career in both the Comix and Comics. She’s an author I trust, and Martin is an excellent artist too. This should be very good.
Jim: It's Honey West, how can it be anything but good. I'm not even sure I remember the TV show as it was probably before even my time, but Honey West is too good of a name to not try out at least issue #1.

Networked: Carabella on the Run GN by (W/A) Mark Badger & Gerard Jones
Some alien invasions are loud and bloody, some are quiet and friendly. The blue-skinned girl named Carabella thinks she's escaping the oppression of her own world, but instead she's exposing the earth to an invasion so soft and friendly that everyone welcomes it - until Carabella herself sees what's happening and tries to make anyone see that our websites, our cell phones, and even our shoes are being used to steal first the privacy and then the freedom of everyone on Earth. $12.99
Lee: Huuummmm, this is interesting. Let’s start with the plus’s: (a) Jones is a great writer who’s been in the industry a long, long time and (b) Badger has a great style that I’ve always liked since his first started in the 80’s. But, the story sounds awfully preachy to me. I think I understand the message but the hype reads like “After School Special” and not sinister, good read story. Tough call.
Jim: It sounds like what the government is already doing to us poor serfs and vassals. If the message is an examination of those issues okay, if it is preaching then it is a pass. We need a preview to make a better call.

Th3rd World Studios
Stuff of Legend: The Jungle #1 by (W) Mike Raicht, Brian Smith (A) Charles Paul Wilson III
Following the liberation of the board game town of Hopscotch, a brave band of toys continues the quest to rescue their human master from the nightmare realm of the Dark. With the Boogeyman's army fast approaching for battle, Max the teddy bear and his friends discover one of the Dark's oldest secrets, and a new threat that could destroy them all. #1 of 4, $4.25
Lee: The first Stuff of Legends was a huge hit and I’m sure this will be too. Jump on the bandwagon with all of us because there’s plenty of room.
Jim: I love this book and so happy to see if back for part 2. The beginning of Stuff is a thing of beauty, this should be just as fantastic. Can't WAIT!

Vanguard Productions
Vanguard Frazetta Classics Vol. 01: Johnny Comet HC by (W/A) Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta's famous newspaper-strip masterpiece Johnny Comet is back in a hardcover for the first time in 20 years! But, for the first time in any collection, it is being shot from Frank's personal artist's proofs making this the best reproduction ever! This is the definitive, official edition authorized by Frank Frazetta. Sunday pages NOW in FULL COLOR! $39.95
Lee: This sounds like an awesome collection. Since Frazetta died we should be seeing more and more of his work, and while I will miss his talent, I’m happy to rediscover material like this. Hopefully, Vanguard did this oversized in order to see the art and didn’t shrink it too much. Either way, I’m getting it.
Jim: Easy one to order, I just hope with Lee they did it justice.

Lee: A little out of order this month, but still a big selection to choose from.
Jim: Always way too much for me to spend, but I'm happy when the books show up.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Indies Preview Review for July Part 2 of 3

Fantagraphics Books
Artist Himself: Rand Holmes Retrospective SC by (W) Patrick Rosenkranz
Rand Holmes was Canada's most revolutionary artist in his heyday, the star cartoonist at the Georgia Straight newspaper in British Columbia during the 1970s. His hippie hero, Harold Hedd, became the spokesman of the emerging counterculture as he avoided work, explored free love, and flouted drug laws. The Adventures of Harold Hedd spread across the globe in the wave of underground comix and newspapers of the era and Holmes became famous - or at least notorious. While his comic character was bold and blatant, the artist was shy and quiet, well on his way to becoming a complete hermit. This book is an intimate and expansive account of a very private man who expressed his deepest feelings in the then disreputable medium of comix. "He didn't talk much but he sure wrote a lot," avowed his widow Martha. This biography/retrospective includes generous selections from his private journals and correspondence, family photo albums, sketchbooks, and personal anecdotes from his friends and colleagues. His artistic history began haltingly on the lonely windswept plateau of Edmonton, flourished in Vancouver and San Francisco, and concluded peacefully on Lasqueti Island, a remote backwater in the Straits of Georgia where he lived out his dreams of pioneering and homesteading. Holmes' life story is richly illustrated with drawings, comic strips, watercolors, and paintings that span his whole career, from the hot rod cartoons he drew as a teenager, dozens of covers for the Georgia Straight, pornographic cartoons for the sex tabloid Vancouver Star, to complete comic stories from Slow Death Funnies, Dope Comix, All Canadian Beaver, Death Rattle, Grateful Dead Comix, and many more. The full-length Harold Hedd comic novels, Wings Over Tijuana and Hitler's Cocaine are reprinted in their entirety together for the first time. This unique collection of art documents a lifetime of work by one of the most talented artists of his generation. Holmes died in March 2002 from Hodgkin's lymphoma, and his ashes are buried next to the Art Centre he helped build on Lasqueti Island. A retrospective exhibition of his original work was held five years later at the community hall. A DVD documentary of that event accompanies this book. Author Patrick Rosenkranz met Holmes in his salad days and remained in touch throughout his life. The Holmes family gave him complete access to their art collection and personal files, and encouraged him to tell the whole truth about Rand Holmes' life and work. $39.99 Read about Holmes here.
Lee: I cannot wait to get this. Rand Holmes was an amazing artist and creator. I’ve lots of his later material when he was working on Death Rattle for Kitchen Sink. This is a cheap and easy way to see what underground comix were. Not to mention you get a dvd too. This is a keeper.
Jim: I have become more interested in this type of material the older I get. It is not enough to just love and enjoy the medium but I want to know more about it and the creators, this sounds like a very cool book.

Image Comics
Crusades Vol. 01: Knight HC by (W) Steven T. Seagle (A) Kelley Jones
The Dark Ages Begin Again An enigmatic 11th century Crusader has come to render a terrible justice on the citizens of 21st century San Francisco. His acts of unspeakable violence spark a firestorm of moral soul-searching in the hearts and minds of the city's most colorful figures. Putting together the pieces of the Knight's mysteriously brutal puzzle is the voluptuous Venus Kostopikas, a fact checker for a dying newspaper with aspirations to rise above her station and lead her own crusade. This first of two skull-crushing, re-mastered volumes collects - for the first time - the macabre $29.99
Lee: I’ll probably get this because of Jones’s art. There aren’t many hc’s full of his work out there so I have to get them when I can. I have the series and I remember it being pretty good. I think it was complex enough that I got lost on the monthly so I’m betting it’s better in one sitting.
Jim: I remember the monthly as being incomprehensible as I would get lost between issues, but I also remember liking this book quite a bit. Hard to go wrong if you are a Kelly Jones fan and I'm also signing up for this book.

Chew Omnivore Ed. Vol. 01 HC by (W) John Layman (A) Rob Guillory
"JUST DESSERTS," Part Three Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he's a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn't mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. He's been brought on by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, to investigate their strangest, sickest, and most bizarre cases. This gorgeous oversized edition, loaded with extras, follows Tony for the first ten issue of's pick for "Best Indie Series of 2009," and MTV Splash Page's "Best New Series of 2009." Collects the New York Times best selling "Taster's Choice," as well as the follow-up story-arc "International Flavor" $34.99
Lee: This is interesting and not necessarily in a good way. One the plus side is the fancy hc. I gotta admit, I love it. But, I was specifically waiting for this. I purposely avoided the trade in hopes this would come out. So, the question, is Image cannibalizing it’s own market by releasing this as quickly as they did.
Jim: Love this book and have been enjoying this series, but it is not a hard cover want of mine.

Raw Studios LLC
Alien Pig Farm 3000 SC by (W) Thomas Jane, Todd Farmer, Steve Niles (A) Don Marquez
We know what happens when aliens attack the White House, and we've got a pretty good idea of what happens when they attack Sigourney Weaver, but what happens when a race of pig-eating, flesh-gnarling sonsofbeans attack a Kentucky moonshining town? Well. You best put your feet up, sit a spell and kiss yer sister on the mouth "cuz you about to find out. It's gonna be up to Johnny Ray to kick some green-skinned butt and keep his moronic brother Elvis out of trouble, while protecting the sister he loves. It's aliens, rednecks, and rednecks! $14.99 A link to our review here, and the Raw website here.
Lee: I had to pick this. Todd Farmer was the first ‘pro’ to ever write us here at ComicsAnd. I know I picked up the series and enjoyed the heck out of it. I’ll get the trade and show it to my French friends, “you wanna know what America is really like? Here, read this.”
Jim: Just a fantastic series and I wander what Todd Farmer is up to, I'll have to try and remember to check up his blog and see what he is doing. This was an out and out fan book and if nothing else the Dave Stevens cover is worth the price of admission. I wish Raw Studios would do more comics.

Rebellion / 2000AD
Complete Als Baby GN by (W) John Wagner (A) Carlos Ezquerra
The mobsters govern the city of Chi-Town and the toughest of the tough is Al Bestardi, also known as Al the Beast. Al gets an offer he can't refuse and the hardest hitman in town has to get pregnant. Machine guns mix with morning sickness in a classic comedy sci-fi tale from the pages of 2000 AD! $28.99
Lee: If anyone can pull this kind of twisted silliness off it’s Wagner. From what I read about this series, it's Wagner without a lot of restraint and having read lots of Wagner, I can only assume I'm in for one crazy ride. Add, classic art by Ezquerra and I’m trying it.
Jim: Oh if this was by anyone else I would say pass, but Wagner and Ezquerra are definitely able to pull this type of premise off and make you laugh.

Top Shelf Productions
Ax Vol. 01: Collection of Alternative Manga SC by (W/A) Various
Ax is the premier Japanese magazine for alternative comics. Published bi-monthly for over ten years now, Ax contains the most creative and cutting-edge works of independent comics from the world's largest comics industry. Now Top Shelf presents a 400-page collection of stories from ten years of Ax history, translated into English for the first time! This groundbreaking book includes work by 33 artists, including Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life), Imiri Sakabashira (The Box Man), Kazuichi Hanawa (Doing Time), Akino Kondoh, Shin'ichi Abe, and many many more! $29.95
Lee: As soon as I read “alternative manga” I was done. Sold. Send me my copy now. I’ve read some of the Underground Manga and that stuff is trippy enough. I wonder what the Alternative stuff is. This should be crazy fun.
Jim: I get the feeling your retailer will have this book in a brown paper bag under their counter with your name on it.

Twomorrows Publishing
Thin Black Line: Perspectives on Vince Colletta SC by (W) Robert L. Bryant
Vince Colletta is perhaps the most prolific comic book inker ever, and certainly the most controversial. He jumped in at the last minute to rescue hundreds of comic books about to miss their printing deadline, often racing through the work of artists who fans say he should have worshiped. Join Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Mark Evanier, and dozens of other comics pros as they recall the Vince Colletta they knew and worked with, and pull no punches in their praise and criticism of the most notorious inker in the history of the medium. $14.95
Lee: The hype is perfect for this book because Colletta is certainly the most controversial figure of the silver age I can think of. The little know truth is that he’s a great artist. And, if you look at his work when he’s wasn’t crushed by a deadline, it’s very, very good.
Jim: To call it the thin black line is comical. Hey Vince may have been all Lee says he was and maybe it was all about deadlines but he hacked out some awful stuff and took great artwork and made it ordinary or worse. I respect he was making a living and he was a product of his times, it does not make his inking good.

Vanguard Productions
Art of Neal Adams HC (W/A) Neal Adams
From his Ben Casey newspaper strip to Creepy magazine work to groundbreaking comic books, Neal Adams' work serves as an inspiration for every illustrator who works in the field. Coinciding with the launch of his Continuity Studio, Adams expanded into cutting-edge advertising work, amusement park ride design, magazine illustration, animation, and paperback book covers. Included in this collection are classic and rare works spanning the artist's noted career and a unique selection of Neal's seldom-seen paintings. Fully annotated by the artist, this is the one we have all waited for. Also available is a Deluxe Signed Slipcased Edition, which comes with 16 additional pages of vintage Adams artwork. $39.95
Lee: I’m really on the fence with this book. Vanguard has outstanding production values and I know the book will be top notch. But I have so many of Adam’s stories in hc already that I’m not sure I need an art book about him. Then again, this appears to focus on his material after he left comics and I don’t have anything about that. My only recommendation, if you’re going to get this book, spend the extra dollar or two and get the additional pages. They’ll be worth it.
Jim: Pass. I love Adams work but I have tons of it in a lot of high end hard covers and do not need this in my collection.

Lee: Gotta say, lots and lots of good stuff this month. But, I think Top Shelf wins for best book because I’m looking forward to the Alterna-Manga.
Jim: Since we added a part 3 that was unexpected, end comments seem premature. Still always some very cool and off the beaten path material to be had in the indies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Indies Preview Review for July Part 1 of 3

Lee: This is a crazy month for me personally so picks are kinda light. Somehow flying back and forth to France is impacting my comic time. Who knew? There’s still lots of great books to choose from and I can’t wait to share them with French people later.
Jim: And while I have not been moving to France I have had a crazy schedule with graduations and marriages impacting my life. The blog takes a lot of time and I'm always amazed at people who maintain a solo blog and do it daily.

Adhouse Books
3x4 Artbook HC by (A) Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, Nate Wragg
The creative team behind the art books The Ancient Book of Myth and War and Sex and Science are at it again, this time with a whole new slant on modern design! 3X4 is a unique collection of paintings built around the simple aesthetic of the numbers 3 and 4. Be it shape, line, texture, or color, this collection boldly adds a new perspective to modern art. $14.95
Lee: You can argue whether music and comics go together but you can’t argue comics and modern art. I love these types of books because it really shows what creators do in their free time and how they continue to push themselves. There isn’t a story but I’m sure this is pretty to look at.
Jim: Wow you can count me out on this book. I hate modern art when it is taken to the extremes and this certainly seems to be one of those artsy type projects that has no appeal to us poor uneducated masses who can't understand the obvious skill of painting monkeys.

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics
Warlord of Io Vol. 01 SC by (W/A) James Turner
A slacker prince inherits a space empire and finds himself responsible for the lives of billions. Emperor Zoz of Io has retired, leaving his slacker son Zing in charge of the Ion Empire. After initiating sweeping social reforms to impress his friend, Moxy Comet, Zing upsets the army by cutting the military budget to pay for them. Can one slacker prince get up off his ass long enough to save the galaxy? $14.95 There’s a 40 page preview here.
Lee: I really liked Turners work on Rex Libris but I’m not completely sold on this. Turner’s art has improved which I like. But the story appears geared towards tweens. I was hoping for more adult type stuff for me but I’ll get it and give it to the kids. I know they’ll love it.
Jim: Another easy pass for me. I saw some of this book in a comic given to me by the owner of the store I frequent and it does feel like it is geared to a younger set.

Boom! Studios
CBGB #1 by (W) Kieron Gillen, Sam Humphries (A) Marc Ellerby, Rog G
The most legendary name in alternative music comes to comics! For decades CBGB was the club that broke acts - like The Ramones, Blondie, Misfits, and the Talking Heads - that changed the world! Now BOOM! Town brings comics' best talent to tell stories of love, music, heartbreak, confusion and rebellion! The first issue will rock your world with contributions from Kieron Gillen (Phonogram), Rob G (Couriers), Sam Humphries (MySpace Comics), and Marc Ellerby (Love The Way You Love). Featuring a cover from comics' superstar Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets)! #1 of 4. $3.99
Lee: YEAH BABY!!!! CBGB in comic book form! I am all over this but I have no clue what to expect. I’m sure the club is just the setting for tales of youth which is ok. But, I’m really hoping for some punk rebellion stories ala Derf’s classic “Punk Rock and Trailer Parks”
Jim: We are three for three with books I will pass on. Maybe it is Lee moving to France, but music and comics is not that natural marriage for me like it is for many.
Lee: Would it make you feel better if you thought that CBGB stood for Comic Book Guy's Bar?

Cartoon Books
Rasl Pocket Edition Vol. 01 SC by (W/A) Jeff Smith
Collected in this new pocket edition is the hard-boiled, sci-fi tale of Jeff Smith's inter-dimensional art thief known only by the strange four letter word found spray-painted at the scene of a crime: RASL. This 6 1/2" x 9" double edition collects the first seven issues of RASL in one heart-pounding book! A compact, affordable, edition of RASL: a sci-fi/noir tale of violence and corruption where murder and passion mix with folklore and cutting-edge physics. $17.95
Lee: Smith must be doing some great drugs because his reprint philosophy has me scratching my head. The first two collections were oversized, and expensive, for 3 issues so I passed. Then there was a ridiculously expensive hc of three issues, so I passed. Now, it’s back to normal size, normal pricing, and a normal number of issues. I hear good things so I’ll get it but he’s not making it easy on me.
Jim: I agree the reprinting of this book has been crazy. A good friend of mine Jeff has been sending me this book and I have really enjoyed it so far, so crazy reprinting aside, it is a good story.

Classic Comics Press Inc
John Cullen Murphy: Big Ben Bolt Dailies Vol. 01 SC by (W) Elliot Caplin (A) John Cullen Murphy
Presenting the first volume in a planned reprinting of the complete run of John Cullen Murphy's classic American comic strip Big Ben Bolt, written by Elliot Caplan. The debut volume will feature dailies from the comic strip's start February 20, 1950 to May 24, 1952, with an introduction by his son, writer Cullen Murphy. $24.95 You can read about Murphy here and here.
Lee: Wow, is it me or is there just a ton of strips being reprinted these days. At some point, they are going to start reprinting bad ones! Luckily this isn’t one of them. Murphy would eventually be the artist on Prince Valiant and if that isn't enough to sell you on this material nothing is.
Jim: Murphy became the Prince Valiant artist after many years, Hal Foster will always be the Prince Valiant artist. The number of strips getting reprinted is crazy. I have had my fill of these and will have to pass on this book.

Drawn & Quarterly
Wild Kingdom HC by (W/A) Kevin Huizenga
Standing out amongst his contemporaries, Kevin Huizenga is the leading cartoonist of his generation. Featured here is suburban everyman Glenn Ganges, a modern day Dagwood Bumstead who tackles and stumbles with such heady topics as mysticism and science. Starting off wordless, The Wild Kingdom grows more complex page-by-page, ending with a cataclysmic encounter of nature and technology. $19.95 You can read Kevin's blog here.
Lee: Ganges is very good and Huizenga is a great artist. If anyone can pull this concept off it's him. It's worth checking out.
Jim: The premise makes my head hurt. This sounds like I need a preview to make a good decision.

D. E./Dynamite Entertainment
Green Hornet: Golden Age #1 (remastered)
A new series of Golden Age reprints featuring the classic adventures of the original Green Hornet! Each issue in this new series of classic Hornet material is 40 big pages, featuring stories all inspired by the man who started it all Fran Striker! Completely re-mastered for today's discerning reader and collector, Dynamite has also commissioned Joe Rubenstein to create brand-new covers, inspired by the Golden Age comics of yesteryear! $3.99
Lee: Wow. GA Green Hornet reprints. Hummm. Really? In comic book form? I guess there’s a market for this stuff, but surprisingly enough, it isn’t me. There’s no hook in this material. I can do GA funny animals, I can do GA horror books, but the capes better have a darn good artist for me to get it. Since they are listing artists, I’m going with generic art. I’m passing.
Jim: I have enough Golden Age material to last forever at this point. I think it is informative and fun to read some Golden Age, but you can fast reach a saturation point. A hard core Green Hornet fan may enjoy this, but it is not for me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Legion of Super Heroes #1 - A Review

I grew up a Marvel fan, weaned on the power chords of the X-Men cartoon’s theme song, so it is difficult for me to understand what DC is thinking in the best of times. However, during the Dan Didio era, I have had quite of a bit of more trouble understanding them than usual. The decisions made by the company, at least on their books not written by Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison, frequently seem equal parts erratic, mystifying, heavy handed, and devoid of common sense. Which brings us to the latest relaunch of the Legion of Super Heroes.

I didn’t grow up on the Legion, so unlike some members of this blog I cannot rattle off a definitive list of Legion chair people off the top of my head (HI JIM). However, the Post Zero Hour Legion was the first DC book I really got into and I enjoyed the Abnett and Lanning and Mark Waid Legion runs, so I’d like to think I understand the appeal of the concept. I’m not a diehard enough fan to read the title regardless of quality, but I’m interested enough in it that I’d like to be reading a good Legion title. Which is why Legion of Super Heroes #1 is such a frustrating disappointment.

Written by longtime Legion scribe and the most mustachioed man in comics, Paul Levitz, this book picks up from the Silver Age continuity reestablished in Geoff John’s Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes storyline. A xenophobic Earth is trying to regain entry into the United Planets. As a sign of good faith, they transfer the Time Institute to Titan while also demanding that Earth Man, the fascist villain at the center of the Superman story, gets admitted to the Legion in exchange for them keeping their headquarters on Earth. All the while, Oa starts looking for a new Green Lantern and scientists at the time institute start an intergalactic disaster by looking at the dawn of time.

Taken in isolation, this is not a bad issue. There are some interesting ideas at play here, like putting Earth Man on the Legion or the bureaucracy of an institution whose task is to study time. However, the book struggles to overcome some clunky, dated writing. Just take this piece of dialogue from a scientist of the time institute: “Yet when you speak of such exotic mysteries, I feel a chill in the room. Not from the breeze the hovercrane let in, but from my soul.” I’m sure that sends chills up Chris Claremont’s spine, but lines like that just ground the book to a halt for me. On the art side, Yildiray Cinar is very good in places, while much rougher in others. All in all, he gives the kind of performance you’d expect from a developing artist.

Where the book becomes a massive failure is the fact that it is a first issue of an ongoing title. If we had been getting a Legion book for the past year, and this was just Levitz’s first issue on the title, I would have no real problem with this. However, this is the relaunch of one of DC’s oldest and most confusing properties. I know that they brought the Silver Age Legion back in Superman and they starred in some back up stories in Adventure Comics and also played a role in a Superman crossover, but this is the first ongoing book with “Legion of Super Heroes” on the cover since they cancelled Mark Waid’s iteration. Since the early 90’s, they’ve re-ordered the Legion’s continuity multiple times and for fans under the age of 30, this is probably their first exposure to this Silver Age Legion.

Relaunching this book needed to be done with care and an eye on setting the agenda for a Legion that DC went to considerable lengths to bring back. DC even went to the trouble of assembling Geoff Johns and George Perez (an A+ level creative team by anyone’s standards) together on a miniseries to sort out its current continuity. Yet DC waited over a year to publish an actual Legion of Super Heroes title and when it does finally publish it, it looks indistinguishable from a new story arc in a preexisting ongoing. This does not feel like the launch of an ongoing series that desperately needs a clear identity and mission statement, it feels like watching episode 6 or 13 of a television series. If you haven’t read Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes or Legion of 3 Worlds, then I have no idea how you could keep up with this book.

The same week this was published, Marvel put out Avengers #1. Now, I know some of my fellow bloggers disliked that book, but one thing you could not argue about it was that the people making understood what that issue needed to do. They made a book, despite being part of Brian Bendis’ 5 plus years on the Avengers franchise, that at least tried to be accessible and feel like the beginning of something new. That is precisely what Legion of Super-Heroes needed to do and it failed spectacularly. As Jim said in his post earlier today, I cannot see how a title that takes this approach from issue #1 is going to bring in new readers, or even lapsed Legion fans.

I have no idea what DC’s strategy with this book is. I know that the Legion has been a notoriously hard sell in the modern era and that the last two reboots (Abnett and Lanning’s Legion Lost and Mark Waid’s Threeboot) fell short of expectations. So maybe their plan is to appeal to the older fans who grew up on the Silver Age Legion, and ignore everyone who didn’t. Perhaps they’re right. The versions of the Legion that I liked certainly didn’t do well enough to stick around. I’m probably not the audience for this book, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t figure out how anyone in DC editorial thought that this would be a good way to relaunch one of their oldest franchises.

The Week of May 19 In Review

This was a very busy week for me and when then happens I end up writing way too much on Sunday, which is usually day 2 or day 3 of doing most of my writing. When that happens I have a tendency to have less to say about the books I read that week, but I think this week had a lot of good books, but not many of them generated me wanted to do any commentary at of any note.


American Vampire #3 – Writer Scott Sndyer “Rough Cut”, Writer Stephen King “Blood Vengeance”, Artist Rafael Albuquerque, Colors Dave McCaig. This series is three for three. The story of Pearl, the young starlet who is now the second American Vampire, is the front half of the book. We start with Pearl telling her friend to get out of their shared apartment because it is too dangerous. Hattie is worried that someone is after Pearl, but Pearl is after the people who left her for dead in the desert. Pearl is now a dangerous creature in her own right. The pacing of this book is superb and the marriage of words and pictures is a thing of beauty. When you are reading the book the words fit and your eyes follow naturally from panel to panel and page to page. When the action picks up the dialogue slows down allowing the pictures to carry the story. We are treated to a great vampire death when Pearl shoves one of the older vampires into a cactus remarking how the needles are mainly wood. As the story progresses we, along with Pearl, are learning her weaknesses as well as her differences from the older breed of vampires. The back up by Stephen King is really started to hit its pace and this issue we see Skinner back in the land of the living and ready to take revenge on foes and almost anyone else. The level of violence that shows you that this Skinner knows no bounds and lacks any subtlety the slightly older Skinner seems to posses now. This book is another winner from Vertigo.

Zatanna #1 – Writer Paul Dini, Pencils Stephanie Roux, Inks Karl Story, Colors John Kalisz. This was a good start to a new series. Personally the first page showing “Z” chained like Wonder Woman from the golden age and a phallic symbol device about to go into her back I thought was an off way to start the book. Of course it was part of her magic show and maybe Paul’s point was only during her show will “Z” play the victim. We are treated to a murder mystery and “Z” is brought in by a police detective to help him figure out what is going on. Zatanna is able to determine all the magic that went on and even finds out who is behind it. She goes to confront the underworld magician and tells him to back off. Of course he won’t and we will see the repercussions over the next couple of issues I’m sure. The police detective is an obvious choice for a love interest of Zatanna, but I think it would be a mistake. A non-powered male with a super power female always comes off like an emasculated wimp. Tom Tresser as Nemesis is a very cool character, as Wonder Woman’s boy friend he came off poorly. Still Paul did not make the detective a love interest yet, but it sure feels like we are going down that road. Of all the new series this week Zatanna was the best and looks like it could be a strong ongoing series. A quick side note Marvel is trying to pump up all the “Women of the MU” and have one shots for Sif, Dazzler, Rescue and more while DC has series for Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Super-Girl, Birds of Prey and now Zatanna.


Brightest Day #2 – I like the way the series is being structured with each issue giving us a few pages about each story we are following and one or two characters getting additional attention. As this is a bi-weekly series that pacing can work. Also the quality of the art team is impressive as all the artists are doing a great job.

DCU Legacies #1 (of 10) – With Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert doing the art on the first story I would be hard pressed to not like this issue and I did like it. Still the thematic approach to this story was reminiscent of Marvels of even the Dark Age, both Kurt Busiek books. Still I’m not sure how else you could do the story outside of getting the everyman’s viewpoint. The second story being told by a detective investigating a crime scene after Dr. Fate and The Spectre was entertaining as the detective acted as a debunker of what was seen and refuses to believe what happened.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 – I’m a huge Legion fan, so I’m giving this book some leeway, but if I wasn’t a Legion fan I would probably so this book was a miss. It was too continuity laden from prior stuff going on with the Legion and assumes everyone who got this book knows what is going on. I found it difficult to remember all the little nuances of things that had happened with the Legion lately, so a new reader I feel would be lost. Plus the artwork was decent, but very generic super hero type of work. A lot of artists as they are growing into what will be their style develop what I might call the “Sal Buscema” style. Solid storytelling and distinctive characters but missing that extra factor to make it stand out or be something unique. Finally while the multiple storylines appear like they will be interesting it was a lot to drop into the first issue. I will like this book because it has tons of characters I care about, Levitz still appears to be able to write a decent comic and the art will suffice, I’m harsh on this first issue because I do not see it wowing lapsed LOSH fans or bringing in new readers and I want that to happen so I have a regular Legion series for more than one or two years.

X-Men Legacy #230 – Second Coming Chapter 8 – I really enjoyed how Bastion has trapped most of the mutants under a sphere. The entire war between Bastion and the X-Men has been laid out very well and is holding together halfway through the story. So often these grand battles lose something in the translation but so far kudos to the mastermind of this storyline as it is working.


Atlas #1 – It is so hard to put this book in this category as I love the Agents of Atlas, but this book while good was a horrible way to start a new number series. The book was a story about 3-D Man that was well written and interesting but did nothing to tell us about the Agents and what they are doing. The first issue about the Agents of Atlas should be about the Agents of Atlas. I like this book so it did nothing to dissuade me from continuing the series, but I was already sold on this book. For potential new readers trying this book out they learned almost nothing about the stars of the book which is a mistake.

Avengers #1 – I’m done with the Avengers and I’m done with Bendis’ work on this series for now. Why? Because I am. That makes no sense. So that would be nonsense? No sense is not always nonsense. Well you should have a reason. I do have a reason. What is the reason. The reason is because of this type of banter that Bendis feels the need to put into his books. It also is about the fact that the Avengers is being set up like a group of groups and not a real team of characters. Plus John Romita’s art is not to my liking. It is very blocky and almost choppy at times. Jack Kirby at the end of his career was not as good as he was during his heyday, but his work often felt way too blocky and that’s what JRJR’s work feels like to me. Sometimes he can hit it out of the park, but this is not it. Finally I’m looking for ways to cut back on my list. The number of books I get is way too many and with everyone pushing price points to $4, I’m cutting books as much as possible. Since Marvel is trapped in Amber, they are the easiest to cut. This team has Tony Stark, Clint Barton, Thor, Spider-Man and Wolverine on the team. The freshest face on the team is Bucky as Captain America. The first story is about Kang telling the Avengers to go to the future and stop their children from being bad guys. We see Kang meet up at the end go to the future and meet up with the Hulk of the future who is apparently going to be some Machiavellian type figure. This is as bad as Lost where characters do whatever anyone says no matter how many times the person telling them has screwed them over. Here we are to expect the Avengers are going to mess with time to stop their possible future kids, which means they are trusting Kang. Bendis super hero group work really falls apart for me and when the art is not to my liking it makes it easy to drop. I may come back in a few months, but this was a bad first issue.

Even though I had two (almost three as LOSH was skating on thin ice) in the books that missed classification, nothing was a bad comic. Avengers #1 is a matter of taste and Atlas was a matter of editorial mistake. The editor should have final say over a book’s direction and a good editor would have had Jeff Parker make this the second issue and give us a better introduction of the books’ stars to start things off.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What I’m Getting Wednesday May 26

This week is the end of a four week month and as is the norm this week is a huge week for me. The hardcover and trade collections are going to be killer. I have way too much still on order but I’m eliminating a lot going forward. Marvel Masterworks have hit the wall for me and unless it is prime material or something new I have pretty much stopped getting Masterworks. I’m also watching my orders for stuff like the various collections offered on older stuff from the fifties and all of that as I have more than enough of that in my collection. It is time to ease up and maybe actually read some of it. That being said I still love the hard covers and will continue to pick up solid offerings.

The premier hardcover this week has to be Wednesday Comics HC collection. This book is collecting weekly series that brought back the feeling of the great Sunday comic strips The solicitation covers it with DC saying “This is it! The oversized, hardcover collection of DC's 2009 weekly comics sensation that USA Today called "cool, classic-looking." Featuring composite cover art, the WEDNESDAY COMICS HC includes: ADAM STRANGE written and illustrated by Paul Pope • BATMAN written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso including additional panel art on each page!• METAMORPHO written by Neil Gaiman with art by Michael Allred • DEADMAN written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck with art by Dave Bullock…..” Not every strip was a winner, but enough to make this purchase a no-brainer.

The other hardcover I’m glad to see is Marvel Masterworks #137 which takes the Avengers run to issue #100 and is a great point to end the Avengers Masterworks collection on. In some ways this volume is the crowning jewel of the Avengers run, if nothing else for the artwork. The solicit says it all “Written by ROY THOMAS Penciled by NEAL ADAMS, SAL BUSCEMA, BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH & JOHN BUSCEMA Cover by BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH The Marvel Masterworks bring you the original be-all, end-all Avengers event-Kree/Skrull War-in the march up to Avengers #100! Caught in the crossfire, Earth has become the staging ground for a conflict of star-spanning proportions! For those eternal intergalactic enemies, the merciless Kree and the shape-changing Skrulls, have gone to war, and our planet is situated on the front lines! Can Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, bring about an end to the fighting before humanity becomes a casualty of war? And what good are even a dozen super-powered champions against the vast military machines of two of the great empires of the cosmos? The key to victory lies with the expatriate Kree Captain Mar-Vell and his human host, honorary Avenger Rick Jones! And because one super-saga wasn't enough, we'll wrap it up with a three-part classic that assembles every Avenger from day one against the combined threat of Ares and the Enchantress in Avengers #100. Written by fan-favorite Roy Thomas and featuring the trend-setting artwork of Neal Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith, there's no disputing the fact they're Marvel Masterworks one and all! Collecting THE AVENGERS #89-100”

The other hard covers are the long delayed Eerie Archives #3, Captain Marvel Death of Captain Marvel HC, and The Torpedo HC Volume #2. Add to that list two trades of DC Greatest Imaginary Stories Volume 2 and Spider-Man The Complete Clone Saga Volume 2 and this week is a budget buster even without a single comic book. Not to mention Lee forcing me to buy some art this week. In order to cut down on all of this I will have to make a rule that no more trades unless I’m completing a run and no more hard covers that just collect a short series, like the Ghoul HC from last week. Solid well made archival type collections of the right material and OGNs should be it.

Marvel ends up being the lightest batch of books this week once the collected works are eliminated. I have already dropped the Avengers so I very curious to see if Secret Avengers #1 can make the grade. The advertisement for the book has not excited me as the group is a real grab bag of super heroes and on the surface appears lame, but Marvel has a strong talent on this book with Brubaker and Deodato so I’m willing to give it a chance. Marvel also has Fantastic Four #579, Secret Warriors #16, Thanos Imperative: Ignition, Thunderbolts #144 and X-Force #27, Second Coming Chapter #9.

DC is always broken into two groups for me with the main DCU and Vertigo. Vertigo has one of my favorite series with Madame Xanadu #23. Of course this blog has long been a fan of Amy Reeder and we should have something coming up soon that will give us a chance to highlight Amy. She will be doing the Supergirl covers in the future and I hope DC signs her to a long term deal as she is one of the best artists in the business. Also from Vertigo this week are two other very strong series with Northlanders #28 and Scalped #38.

The regular DC brings us the biggest selection of new comics and features a lot of BIG releases, but for me the number one book is Power Girl #12. This issue marks the end of Palmiotti, Gray, Connor and Mounts superb run on this title. I would have thought at the beginning this book would not work, but it is one of DC brightest new series and a book that is fun, smart, sexy, action packed and builds up great characters. The rest of the DC is packed with major books with The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 6), Brave and Bold #34, Detective Comics #865, Gotham City Sirens #12, Green Lantern #54, Green Lantern Corps #48, Justice League Generation Lost #2, Justice League Rise of Arsenal #3 9of 4). Mighty Crusaders Special #1, Superman War of Superman #4 (of 4), Teen Titans #83, The Web #9 and Wonder Woman #44.

The other category has two launches that sound very cool with Mystery Society #1 by Steve Niles and Fiona Staples. IDW says “Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins are the Mystery Society and bring new meaning to 'underground cult' status! Stealthily avoiding the authorities, this skullduggery duo spend their time and money righting wrongs committed in the world's underbellies. This issue, Ana defends their secret headquarters as Nick goes on a rescue mission breaking into Area 51 for a bounty that you will not believe!”

The other new series is from BOOM Studio, 7 Psychopaths #1. The premise is “From Criminal co-conspirator Sean Phillips! 7 men, 1 impossible mission - assassinate Hitler! With World War II in full swing, there's only one-way to draw the war to a quick end: kill Hitler. But who would be insane enough to try? Joshua Goldschmidt knows just the men to do it. Insane? Psychotic? Mad? Call them what you will, but the seven psychopaths are now the only hope the world has! In the vein of Inglorious Basterds, with art by the critically acclaimed Sean Phillips.” How can you resist that premise. The rest of the other category is Choker #3 (of 6), Proof #27, Chimichanga #2 (of 3), Green Hornet year One #3, Incorruptible #6 and Wolfskin Hundredth Dream #2 (of 6).

Damn that is a ton of comics. At least next month is a five week month and spreading the amount of books over five weeks after this month will be a blessing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Walking (and Flying and Swimming) Dead-ish

Not exactly traversing new ground here, but with the finish of Blackest Night I re-read the 8 issue series to see what I thought. When the singles were coming out I read them at the same time as the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps issues that were also part of the story. This time I wanted to see how the series holds up on its own as a stand alone story.

Truthfully, not so well. It starts out alright with the commemoration of various dead heroes and villains that lays the groundwork for all the dead to return later in the issue. It could use a little tightening on the editing. Though I'd really like to know what a naval cavity is, I think Damage is referring to his nasal cavity. Also, maybe I missed something, but the Freedom Fighters appeared quite alive at the beginning, and the next time I saw them they were dead and fighting the living. Still, it takes off quickly with the dead returning and the fighting starting. The problem is that after that it's all fighting and not much coherent plot.

I think the problem is that too much of the plot is in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Just glancing through Blackest Night again, the first 4 issues feel like ancillary stories. Other than a bit in the first issue or so, there's little Green Lantern, Hal Jordan or otherwise. In fact, it's mostly Barry Allen or Ray Palmer, two more of the vaunted returned heroes who'd given up their mantle, one way or another. They and other Earth bound heroes are just running around, trying not to be killed by the Black Lanterns, but not progressing the story of what's going on in a broader context. Nekron, the force behind all the Blackest Night deus ex machina, doesn't even show up until the end of the fourth issue.

Glaringly, the fifth issue starts with the rainbow corps consisting of one representative from each of the ROYGBIV color rings. How they came to be together was something that occurred in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, so if you're just reading Blackest Night, you have no idea what's going on. That's not a good thing. Similarly, John Stewart shows up with the rest of the Green Lantern Corps midway through the sixth issue, again without any explanation within Blackest Night.

What is a good thing is the direct confrontation with Nekron that begins at that point. I also liked the Black Rings taking over all the heroes who had been dead but were now alive, except Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. One might think that's Geoff Johns playing favorites with the two characters he's particularly guiding these days, but at least it's consistent with the story.
Then there's the somewhat controversial aspect where each color ring replicated itself from its primary standard bearer's ring and sought out another representative to double the forces of the rainbow. Some have complained about the Atom being the representative of Compassion due to his activities in the JLA, but within this story it appears consistent with how he's been represented. What I find more troubling, plot wise, is that Wonder Woman, who's one of the Black Ring wielders at this point, is retrieved from those ranks by a Violet Ring of Love. That seems like a glaring problem for the plot. If one of the other color rings is on the finger of one of the dead or formerly dead and severs the connection of the Black Ring, why not replicate as many rings as necessary to take out all the dead and formerly dead with other color rings? The same thing happens later when Black Lantern Superman is severed from the Black Ring connection by the White Ring, but that I can justify to myself because the White Ring is supposed to be different from the colored rings.

That a Guardian becomes a Green Lantern is also more than a little flimsy in logic. First off, the Guardians are powerful enough to handle a Green Lantern without a ring, so there seems little need for one to wield a ring on top of that. Second, there are already 4 Earth originating Green Lanterns and a plethora of others from other planets running around at this point. What's the need for a Guardian to be one too? If none of the other Green Lanterns were near enough, why not have the ring seek out a new wearer altogether, thus having 2 Green Lanterns and a Guardian representing Will? Not nearly as much of a problem as the Violet Ring severing the ties of the Black Ring to Wonder Woman, but still less than ideal plotting.

I can't say as I get the resolution, either. The white light force hidden on Earth is brought out. Sinestro has it inhabit him, which doesn't work out when he tries to kill Nekron. An all white light corps shows up, composed of Hal Jordan, Superman, Wonder Woman and some others, but I don't know what the point is there. They're no more effective than the white light Sinestro at fighting Nekron directly. Nekron's not defeated until his connection with Black Hand, his tether to this universe, is severed. Oh, and the Anti-Monitor was the power source of the Black Lantern and ends up back alive in the end, though banished back to his universe. That alone is highly disappointing in this story. It's like we're full circle back to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU. We'd already gone that route with the recreation of 52 parallel universes and a baffling number of origins and re-boots to various characters, all attempted to maintain a coherent continuity, but the revival of the Anti-Monitor just seems to put the nail in the coffin.
Of more chatter that I've seen is the revival of a few of the dead, who are now at the center of Brightest Day, I guess. I'm not reading that, so I only know what I get second and third hand. With the little bit that's presented at the end of Blackest Night, the Hawks as a loving couple seems to be yet another reversal of the DCU to its pre-Crisis status. The only thing new and interesting out of these revivals, in this limited first glance, is a living Boston Brand, no longer Deadman.

Like a lot of these event stories, there's so much going on and so many characters involved, even with a re-reading I lose track of what's going on with who. And in this case, the visual isn't helping. Not Ivan Reiss's pencils. Those are excellent. No, my problem is with the way the Black Lanterns are depicted. There's some hint of the dead person's original costume or hairstyle, but mostly they all look like zombies clad in black. Not being a total DC drone or anything, I don't know who a large number of these Black Lanterns are unless a name is mentioned, which isn't often. The Black Lanterns are just one mass of confusion to me most of the time.

At the heart of the matter this is no story for anyone who just wants to pick up and read a good story. It's a fan's reading material, and the deeper into fandom the better for understanding. That alone makes it a failure to me, sales or no. I had skipped the weekly issues of 52 but read the story in trades. I could understand what was going on there without reading any tangential titles. In fact, 52 was almost entirely free of ties to other books, which is what any limited series should be, in my opinion. Crossovers amongst ongoing titles I can live with, but a limited series should be a self contained story. This isn't. Worse yet, even a crossover wouldn't have helped the casual reader. There's no way someone who hasn't been reading DC comics for years would have any idea who the Anti-Monitor is. Considering that he's the power source for the Black Lantern, that's a pretty major piece of information that's missing.

I'm not going to complain, as some others have, about the emotional spectrum that the colored rings are supposed to reprsent. Yeah, will is not an emotion, but it's close enough in the world of comic book super hero logic. Perhaps if Johns had reached back to the early days of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern when the wielder of the ring was chosen for fearlessness, it would have fit a little better, particularly if it's described as bravery. Whatever. Not that big of a deal.
In reading this entire blockbuster story, the only time I was moved was when Gen, Jason Rusch Firestorm's other half, as well as his girlfriend, was killed by Black Lantern Firestorm Ronny Raymond. Rusch's impotence in saving Gen, as well as the gruesome method of demise, really had me feeling for both Rusch and Gen. The rest of it feels like the usual superhero stuff that has no lasting consequence. Ironically, I'd now like to read more stories of the Gen and Jason Firestorm. Seems like there would have been a lot of good story potential there. How do they deal with the intimacy issues? That alone has years of storytelling potential. The only hope that I have out of it is that I strongly doubt she'll stay dead. I certainly hope no one believes the proposition that this story represents the end of reviving the dead in the DCU. If so, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

In the end, I'm back on the side of not buying single issues of event stories. It's just not worth it. If there's something there worth my time, it'll soon be a trade and I'll get it that way.