Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blackest Night Redux

Awhile ago I read the 8 issues of Blackest Night in one sitting and talked about that epic. I mentioned then that I needed to go back to Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps from that period to re-read them, too. Well, now I have. I re-read Green Lantern 43-52 and Green Lantern Corps 40-46. The verdict? Eh.

Green Lantern focuses on Hal Jordan, with some face time for John Stewart, while Green Lantern Corps focuses on the rest of the corps, particularly Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner, but also some of the better known alien Lanterns, such as Kilowog, Arisia and Salaak. Mogo also has an important role in that book.

My first impression is one of exhaustion. It's nothing but non-stop fighting throughout the two books. There's no time to contemplate anything. As soon as one Black Lantern is down, another pops up. There are movements afoot to ally with other Lanterns from the color spectrum, which leads to the total elimination of some Black Lanterns, but mostly it's one punch 'em up after another, with lots of telling me what's happening by various characters, because, to be honest, a lot of the time it's too hard to figure out in the art. There's just entirely too much going on.

Of course, there's bouncing around between the three titles. An honest promotion of the the Blackest Night saga would have said that all three are necessary to understand what's happening, because there's no way you could have just read Blackest Night, a realization that hit me about 3 issues into it. That's when I picked up the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps issues that were tied in.

My benchmarks for mega events in the big two, and particularly in DC, are Crisis on Infinite Earths and 52. Those were large events that earned the sobriquets epic and saga. I've used both terms so far with Blackest Night, but that's only in the most pedestrian sense of length of story and density of plot. In the benchmark tales there were major events with lasting repurcussions. Crisis, in particular, carried forward for many years.

What made both of those work for me, though, was that I could jump in without much knowledge of the large DCU cast of characters and enjoy the story, learning what I needed in the context. Oh, there were many characters from many worlds eliminated in Crisis with little explanation, but I didn't need to have all that to understand the significance of their loss in the context of the story. Similarly, in 52 the C list characters who became the leads in the story were well developed and I could glean what was needed to enjoy the story and follow it through.

Blackest Night doesn't do that. Even reading all 3 core titles, I don't know what was going on with a lot of it. The overall arc of fighting Nekron makes sense enough, but all the various dead who fight the heroes are bringing baggage of their own in each encounter. Sometimes there's pontificating or a flashback to explain the significance of the character. Sometimes not. Some of the Black Lanterns show up to fight and there are conversations with the heroes showing that they know each other but I sure don't.
A major factor in that is the depiction of the Black Lanterns. The decision to make all of them shaped like their living counterparts but clad in a black uniform with the Black Lantern logo, pallid or grey skin, curled back lips to expose teeth, and so forth makes them easily identifiable as dead but doesn't help much in identifying them individually. I think the black costume with the logo was a particular mistake. If the dead looked dead in physique but retained their original costumes it would have gone a long way in helping identify the character. It might have alleviated some of the exposition that was used, too.

Of course, the fact that most of the dead were minor characters to begin didn't help matters, either.

My overall view of Blackest Night and its ancillary titles is that it was better than Legends or Secret Wars II, but nowhere near Crisis or 52. Probably not as good as the Sinestro Corps War, for that matter. It's likely put an end to my cross-over reading for quite awhile, too. I like Geoff Johns as a writer, more often than not, but no matter who's writing these things now, I'm going to pass. There's always the trade if it turns out to have been any good.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Vinyl

I always enjoyed trick or treating as a kid on Halloween, but my favorite part about the day now is seeing my kids get excited about it and socializing with the neighbors (Although dealing with the costuming is a real pain -- try doing it for SIX children!). Seriously, next to shoveling snow at the same time, Halloween may be the only time you actually get to talk to some of these people (I don't mean the people right next door who hopefully you're on good terms with -- more like the ones down the street). For a self-proclaimed introvert, I really like to meet and greet sometimes.

Ever had the experience where you bought candy and almost no one came to the door? -- It's such a downer. It's like if no one shows up you've been rejected somehow. So, I feel it's my civic duty to help those people not go to bed disappointed. Usually they're just so happy to see the kids dressed up too. Oh, I like the candy also, but only if it's primarily plain M&M's or Special Dark miniatures. Fortunately, my children always give me a generous offering of my favorites. My wife usually gets "the bad" candy, so we won't be too tempted to eat it if we're left with a lot -- this year the kids requested "good" candy and she actually acquiesced (M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers, Twix). I guess the kids didn't want to be embarrassed in front of their friends.

This year my wife and I are actually invited to a costume party Saturday night (no kids). I have no idea what we'll wear, but I always enjoy seeing her dressed up! I was thinking I could be Logan-5 and she could be my female pair-up, but I doubt we could pull that together in such a short amount of time. Most likely, I'll be Bruce banner in ripped purple pants (which I dyed a few years ago) and a ripped shirt -- usually no one gets it though. That's the other hopeful aspect of Halloween -- will people appreciate or even recognize what you dressed up as? The kids really agonize over getting the "right" outfit.

Then there are the school activities. This year, my son who is a tuba player in the middle school band, will be marching and playing tunes while a local elementary school goes on their Halloween parade march. It should be awesome -- the band will be playing "Don't Stop Believing", "Gonna Fly Now", and "Sweet Caroline" -- good tunes all!

Do to unfortunate scheduling conflicts (re:other Halloween parade and preschool pick up) I missed the full set (very upset about that) and only got to hear two songs, but they were really good. Eric is dressed as The Doctor

In getting ready for this Halloween-eve post, I was thinking about my old Power Records "The Curse of the Werewolf!" comic. I used to get these at the school book fairs back in the mid-to-late 70's. In hindsight, this book seems to be a little violent for a first-grader, but I've always enjoyed it. The Mike Ploog art is phenomenal. I listened to it this past week and despite a few skips, the music and narration really took me back.

The cover is by Neal Adams, I believe (cover clipped at bottom).

Just check out this incredible transformation scene.

Whenever you see the really large text, it means it's been edited from the original story. Turns out (now that I have the Tomb of Dracula omnibus 1 and 2), this isn't just a sole reprinting of Marvel Spotlight #2. After this scene at the mid-point of the book, it goes into Werewolf by Night #15 (to show how the curse began in his family) before finishing up with a few pages of Tomb of Dracula #18 (which preceded the WbN story) and ends in the middle of a fight between Drac and Jack. The closing dialog is totally new, but it flows pretty well I think.

But why take my word for it when you can download the issue itself and the soundtrack. Thanks to the good folks at Power Records Plaza, who saved me the trouble of making a recording myself. As an extra bonus, I can now listen and read the comics I never managed to get before (Good thing I didn't purchase those Planet of the Apes ones off of ebay last week).

I also wanted to share the ultimate Halloween vinyl album, Disneyland's "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House". I especially like the water torture track. It's actually too creepy for some of my kids to listen too -- I certainly don't want them having nightmares. I remember my brother playing this a lot. I found a site devoted to this classic audio recording, but you'll have to go to iTunes or somewhere else to actually listen to it.

While I don't consider this a "real" holiday, I do hope y'all have a safe rejection-free Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

IDW Preview Review for December

Lee: Well, not only is Thomm coming off the bench but he’s on the field playing. Welcome to IDW!
Thomm: As long as IDW doesn’t stand for I Don’t Wanna, we’re all good.

Doc Macabre #1 by Steve Niles (w) Bernie Wrightson (a & c)
Got ghosts in your garage?! Tired of those pesky zombies roaming around your front lawn? Have no fear! Doc Macabre, the one-man supernatural sweeper-upper, is here! There's no job too big for Doc, who, with the aide of his right hand man, er robot, Lloyd, will have you back resting in your lounge chair monster-free! (For a fee, of course!) Niles and Wrightson's latest opus begins here! #1 of 3, $3.99
Lee: If I understand, Avatar is the personal publishing house of Ellis and Ennis’s cruder work and IDW is the personal publishing house of Steve Niles. Niles seems to be pumping out a lot of material these days. All of it being 3 issue limited series. This is a tough call because I read most of this in trade format. I’m interested but three issues isn’t very long.
Thomm: Is there anything new in this genre? I read Dead, She Said and wasn’t overly impressed. I always like Wrightson’s art but not $12 worth for 3 issues. Maybe a collection of a bunch of these 3 issues stories into an anthology would be more enticing, for me anyway.

Iron Siege #1 by James Abraham and Andrew Hong (w) Trevor Goring (a) Tim Bradstreet (c)
WWII with a horror twist! An outfit of U.S. soldiers captures a group of Nazis led by a high-ranking SS officer. But when they come across a deserted town with a dangerous secret, they must forge an uneasy alliance to survive an unspeakable nightmare. It's Dawn of the Dead meets Assault on Precinct 13 in Iron Siege, a three-issue miniseries presented bi-monthly in Golden Age size. With incredible artwork by Trevor Goring and cover by Tim Bradstreet! Bullet points: Bi-monthly 3-issue WW II-horror miniseries in a Golden Age comic format! Covers by Tim Bradstreet! #1 of 3, $3.99
Lee: On the one hand, I love that this is oversized. Goring has been doing comics since the early 80’s with 2000ad before moving on to bigger and better Hollywood projects. From the few examples I can find, nothing big enough to link to, his art is very good. And, on oversized paper should be excellent to look at. But, the bi-monthly schedule is a killer and will crush any momentum the book will have. I’ll pick it up as a trade later.
Thomm: Nazi zombie fodder? Not bad. It’s at least something different, but it’s not leaping out at me as something to buy. Maybe it’s that BPRD and Hellboy have plumbed the Nazi/horror angle already or that outside The Walking Dead the zombies just aren’t much appeal to me.

Joe Hill's The Cape One-Shot by Joe Hill & Jason Ciaramella (w) Zach Howard (a) Howard x 2 (c)
Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom takes a month break in December, but in its place is another Joe Hill extravaganza! This special one-shot takes Hill's acclaimed short story from his best-selling short-story collection 20th Century Ghosts and adapts it to comics! The Cape will walk you along the fence of childhood innocence, and then throw you face first into a brick wall. Explore your dark side in this tale by Hill and Jason Ciaramella, with art and two covers by Zach Howard. $3.99
Lee: Hummmmm, as usual I am torn on this material. I really like Locke & Key, but Hill’s prose work left me cold. Not to mention that $4 for a one shot is just too much for me these days. I’ll wait and see what people say.
Thomm: Oh, don’t think you’d get off that easy. You’re supposed to buy both covers for a total of $8. I’m a little behind on my Locke & Key reading so I don’t know if it’s still being sustained as something to read. Besides, the promo doesn’t really tell me much of anything, unless I already know the short-story that’s the origin of the book.

Mystery Society Vol. 01 SC by Steve Niles (w) Fiona Staples (a & c)
Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins are the Mystery Society and bring new meaning to underground cult status! Stealthily avoiding the authorities, this skulduggery duo spend their time and money righting wrongs committed in the world's underbellies. Now, experience the group's early exploits in this first collection from the mind of Steve Niles! $19.99. Visit Staples blog here. Read a five page preview of the first issue here.
Lee: Now this is how I like to read Steve Niles stories! It’s all collected in one place and has a good artist. The story itself seems to be more humor and action than horror which is always a welcome change.
Thomm: Well done, this could be a lot of fun. It certainly looks good in the preview, though it’s hard for me to read the text in that format. I’ll wait for the word on the street, though.
Lee: Actually, this is a collection of issues already released. You have to wonder how well it did when even we here at Comicsand... don't recognize a title. But, reviews were mixed. Basically, good humor, good action, but not clear motivation as to why the characters are together and why they are doing the things they are doing.

Reid Fleming: World's Toughest Milkman Vol. 01 HC by David Boswell (w & a & c)
David Boswell's classic counterculture icon is collected here in an oversized hardcover format. This volume collects the first Reid Fleming comic and the mini-series, Rogues to Riches, as well as Heartbreak Comics. Bullet points: A classic series that has gained cult status since its initial publication 30 plus years ago. Two volumes that will collect the entire run of Boswell's hilarious anti-hero! $29.99 Follow this link, scroll to the bottom and you can read the entire first issue for free.
Lee: Reid Fleming ROCKS! I can’t wait to get this. Created during the height of the Flaming Carrot craze, Reid Fleming is a comic masterpiece. It’s one of the early books that felt more like comix, than comics. Well, without all the adult content and drug references that is. I highly recommend checking out the first issue.
Thomm: This would be something for me to check. I remember reading about Reid Fleming but I never picked up any issues. This is a good way to start.

The Suicide Forest #1 by El Torres (w) Gabriel Hernandez (a & c)
Just outside of Tokyo lies Aokigahara, a vast forest and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Japan... which is also the most famous suicide spot in the entire world. Legend has it that the spirits of those many suicides are still roaming-haunting deep in those ancient woods. This series from the creators of the acclaimed The Veil examines the lives of Alan, an average worker from Tokyo and his rather unhealthy relationship with Masami, and Ryoko, a forest ranger who recovers the suicide victim's bodies from the woods. We discover that behind Ryoko's unconcerned surface lies a secret, and these three lives will be forever changed by the darkness waiting for them in the Suicide Forest. #1 of 4, $3.99
Lee: Torres and Hernandez , creator’s of last year’s horror masterpiece The Veil, are back with more gory goodness. The Veil was very, very good and that makes this an easy buy. I’m sure the simple hype above isn’t doing this story justice.
Thomm: Alan? The lead character's name, in Japan, is Alan? Ok. I can’t speak to The Veil, but a comic about a forest ranger whose job is to retrieve the bodies of suicides has a lot of potential. Not sure he’s the focus, though.

Train Me, Gamble Vol. 01 SC by Rudy Solis (w) Santiago Espina (a & c)
Andrew Smith, the world's largest monster bad-ass, has been given the task of defeating Admiral Porter, a military sociopath bent on ruling the planet Fistful. There is only one problem: Andrew can't fight worth a damn! In order to ensure his victory, he seeks out martial instruction from the greatest fighter in the galaxy: Gamble, a 10,000-year-old, jive talking, hard drinking, fast living man who doesn't look much older than a kid. Hilarity and large amounts of violence ensue, culminating in a climactic coming of age story set in the fun as hell future. Bullet points: A cross between Incredible Hulk and Rocky, Train Me, Gamble is an action packed, comedic tale that will prove even a monster can be a hero... $17.99 Visit Rudy Solis here.
Lee: And yet another book that I’m on the edge about. The story sounds good but a monster named Andrew doesn’t sound exciting. There’s a very large disconnect between my image of largest monster bad-ass and the name Andrew. Maybe that’s part of the humor, I don’t know. A bigger problem for me is that I can’t determine if the art is going to be any good. I’m too big an art guy to take a chance on this without a preview or two.
Thomm: You pick up on Andrew but not Alan? The promo throws out a lot of trite phrases that don’t make sense in the context. How can Andrew be a bad-ass if he doesn’t fight? How’s it a coming of age story of we don’t know Andrew’s age? Whatever. Sounds more like a cross between Of Mice and Men and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Thomm: Nothing’s really jumping out at me here as something that’s “have to have”. I need to get me some more Locke & Key, though. Reid Fleming would be next on the list.
Lee: Not the usual over the top, this is awesome month from IDW but still very strong. As they say, there is something for everyone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fantastic Four 584 - A Review

Another week, another book by Jonathan Hickman.

As I mentioned last week, Hickman is one of the most exciting new writers in comics today, but his mainstream work has been a bit uneven. Fantastic Four has been probably been the best example of this.

After a great initial arc, where a Secret Society of Reed Richards from across the Multiverse tried to solve every problem ever, the book has been a mix of great ideas with often sloppy or confusing execution.

However, with the addition of artist Steve Epting last issue, the book seems to be getting back on track. This latest issue does a particularly good job of juggling a barrage of ideas and storylines, something it has not had a lot of success doing since its first arc.

The main story of the issue follows the Thing as he gets to be human for a week and the Human Torch takes him out for a night on the town. I feel like I’ve read this story about “Ben Grimm becomes human again” a million times, but here it really worked well. Maybe it’s because of the acknowledged one week time limit, so no one is pretending it won’t be reversed, but I suspect its that the story is built around one of the best depictions of Ben and Johnny’s relationship I’ve ever read. From Johnny’s cruel practical joke at the beginning to the night they spend on the town to their final stop, its all extremely well done and feels like one of the more realistic friendships in comics.

Meanwhile, the Invisible Woman is going to escort Namor to Old Atlantis and back in New York, Silver Surfer and Galactus show up to ask Mr. Fantastic why Galactus’ corpse from the future is being hidden under the earth. The last half of that sentence is why I love comics so much.

The entire issue really clicks. The story about Ben’s regained humanity is compelling and even when we’re checking in on the subplots, we’re interested to see where they’re going. One of the biggest things this issue has going for it is the book’s new regular artist, Steve Epting. Epting has been one of the most underrated artists in the industry for a while now. Here, though, he really shows his range drawing everything from Reed’s crazy astronomy lab to a football game. Even better, after years of working on the heavily shadowed, espionage driven Captain America, Epting gets to work in a brighter color pallet with Paul Mounts and it makes his art look fantastic.

I know that Jim and a few other friends of mine gave up on this book a few months ago, but this is a really, really good issue and it’s the second in a row. Hickman really seems to be hitting his stride with Epting as the new artist. If you haven’t been reading FF, give it a look. This is very promising stuff.

DC Preview Review for December Pt 2 of 2

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Seth Albano, Tony Bedard, Joey Cavalieri, Kevin Grevioux And Dara Naraghi
Art By Renato Arlem, Roberto Castro, Richard & Tanya Horie, Carlo Sorianoand more
Cover by Matt Haley
From the dawn of time (Anthro) to the far-flung future (Legion of Super-Heroes), sentient life has honored the winter holidays with celebrations and rituals as diverse as the universe itself! Join DC Comics – and a stellar team of writers and artists – to honor the vast and diverse holidays of the DC Universe in 6 tales of holiday cheer! Starring the aforementioned characters along with Superman, The Spectre, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern John Stewart for a HOLIDAY SPECIAL like no other! 56 pg, FC $4.99 US
Lee: Nothing screams the Holidays like the Macy’s day parade. I’ve been many a time and I hope to take my kids some day because it’s that much fun. As this cover illustrates, DC understands how much fun it is too! Why there’s the very family friendly spirit of vengeance, Spectre!? Wha? Ummm, and also the very family friendly scarred… western… bounty hunter???? Ok maybe DC doesn’t have a complete handle on this but at least there’s a caveman in the back who looks normal… except for OMG someone hooked the lines holding the cave man under his loin cloth!!!! Ok, that’s not family friendly.
Gwen: Wow, I don't think I would have looked at that cover twice if not for Lee's comments. These holiday specials aren't usually that exciting so I can't say I'm especially looking forwards to these. Also, why isn't this a holiday one-shot? Does anyone really want a 6 issue miniseries for the holidays?

Written by Paul Levitz & Keith Giffen
Art and cover by Keith Giffen & John Dell
The legendary team of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen reunite on the Legion for the first time in 20 years! And their next 31st century masterpiece introduces the all-new, all-deadly Emerald Empress! She’s ultra-twisted! She possesses entire planets! And she devastates the Legion so completely, one Legionnaire will never be the same! 56 pg, FC, $4.99 US
Lee: This is going to shock people but I really am interested in this. I know Levitz has destroyed the LSH for everyone but I’m betting that Giffen can save this and make it interesting. Please note, I wouldn’t dress my children as the Emerald Empress for Halloween…
Gwen: UGH. Until someone fixes Shadow Lass Paul Levitz is on my don't really want to read list.

Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Art Baltazar
The crossover event of the millennium takes a turn for the magical as Sabrina the Witch and Raven take center stage, causing everything in the world of the Tiny Titans and Little Archie to get mixed up more than ever! And Veronica finally brings the other little kid with an “R” on his shirt home to meet her father. Can Robin’s utility belt help him in this kind of situation? And who is responsible for that mess in the Batcave? Archie can’t blame the penguins this time! Join us for the Earth-shaking conclusion to this climactic event! Aw yeah, epic! #3 of 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Lee: The real question, does Gwen perceive herself as a Veronica (oh la la) or Betty (Go bake me a cake and be happy about it)?
Gwen: Ummm... neither? I mean really, why would you stick around and wait for Archie? He's not a bad guy but talk about spineless.

Written by Stuart C. Paul Art by Christian Duce Cover by Michael Geiger
A reunion with the Soothsayer sends Valens on a journey into madness, Egyptian mysticism and ungodly torture as he discovers Caesar’s assassination was only the first step in the conspirators’ ultimate plan: the extermination of every vampyre in Rome. Now Valens will have to face the true mastermind behind the murder… #5 of 6 • 32 pg, FC $3.99 US
Lee: … and a pick for the ladies because that dude has a giant cock. WHAT???? He does. Fine, ya bunch of goody two shoes. He has a giant chicken and the troll chick has a big furry beaver.
Gwen: ..... I have nothing to say here.

Written by Ricardo Sanchez Art by Pop Mhan Cover by Drew Johnson
It’s the final issue of this exciting miniseries based on Rift: Planes of Telara, the MMO fantasy game from Trion Worlds. Events build to a shattering conclusion, as the opening of a massive Death Rift above the city devastates Port Scion. Only one chance remains to save the people of Telara…#4 of 4 • 32 pg, FC $3.99 US
Lee: And let’s not forget the obligatory chicks fighting cover. It was just gratuitous when Marvel did it for the Savage SheHulks, but DC does it with style. There’s something about a metal bikini that just screams classy. Please note, I wouldn’t dress my children in this for Halloween…
Gwen: Ok Lee, you are fired from DC. I will do picks from now on. Does anyone even know what this book is outside of the people who play the game? Why are we even talking about this? The art does look shiny though.

Four of DC Comics’ biggest names – all renowned members of the JLA – in classic, heroic body styles. These figures are evergreens for any fan – and for any retailer! Stock up in preparation for Free Comic Book Day on May 7!
Batman • The World’s Greatest Detective! - 7”
highWonder Woman • The Amazing Amazon! - 7” high
Superman • The Man of Steel! - 7” high
Green Lantern • The Emerald Knight! - 7” high
Lee: Seriously, how many action figures of Batman can DC produce? What is the difference between this one and the last three that they issued? I still think Marvel is the worst offender at this robbing their fanbase but DC isn’t much better.
Gwen: These are 7" high Lee - geeze.

Gwen: Well that was... interesting. Don't worry... I'll pick DC from now on.
Lee: HEY! What's that supposed to mean? I picked a diverse pile of books to talk about. But, I will gladly give up the DC picks if you want them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DC Preview Review for December Pt 1 of 2

Lee: Eh, this is gonna be a rough month. For years, Jim has culled the DC previews for hot books because he is a DC guy. The problem is that I am an Indies first, Marvel second, and way way in the back of the bus lies my love for all things DC. So, this month, I shall pick books based upon: (1) so much blood I wouldn’t show it to my children, (2) Monkeys, because Jim loves monkeys, and (3) the viability of the super-person outfit being a Halloween costume that I would dress my children… or Gwen… in.
Gwen: Maybe next month I should pick DC...

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith Cover by Rodolfo Migliari
Guy Gardner is seeing red rage! Much blood will be spilled, as the truth about his shocking pact with Atrocitus and Ganthet stands revealed to his teammates Kilowog and Arisia. And whose side will Sodam Yat find himself on? 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Lee: Yeah, I know the blood thing is the whole concept behind the Red Lanterns… but it doesn’t make this cover any less disgusting. This is gonna look great on the shelves at the store.
Gwen: I'm still wondering where this story line is going. It hasn't been a bad book so far but all the mystery makes me feel like the book has no direction.

Written by Marc Guggenheim Art and cover by Jerry Bingham
“Super-Powers” part 2 of 5! Now: Batman gets to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances in Gotham City only to find himself facing something very alien to his experience as The Dark Knight! Then: Bruce Wayne finds himself facing something very deadly to his existence – the sword of the villain, Huairen! 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Lee: DC tries to do bloody covers, See Emerald Warriors, but they’re really only one of’s. DC’s bread and butter covers are ludicrous costumes for women. Take this cover for example, all you need is some duck tape and two post-it notes and you have a costume. Now that is simplicity of design. Please note, I wouldn’t dress my children in this for Halloween…
Gwen: I don't think that only applies to DC - Marvel likes their mostly naked women too - as do most of the comic book companies with cape books. As a woman who reads comic books the naked women thing does get old after awhile.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski Art by Eddy Barrows Cover by John CassadayThe epic “Grounded” story arc brings The Man of Steel to Des Moines, Iowa! A chance encounter there, however, suddenly thrusts Superman back in time. So somehow he’s Superboy again, the world is on the brink of nuclear Armageddon and it’s all his fault!Please note: This issue’s content was previously solicited for issue #705. 32 pg, FC $2.99 US
Lee: I’d have to verify but I believe that on every single one of Straczynski’s Superman covers, Supes has been walking or standing. Pretty cool!
Gwen: After reading this solicitation all I can say is: huh? I've actually enjoyed a lot of the Grounded storyline but I feel like it's gone on too long at this point and it could have been done as a mini series.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Francis Manapul
BRIGHTEST DAY rushes forward! Now, make way for Hot Pursuit – the latest speedster to come out of the Speed Force! He’s here to make sure no one breaks the speed limit – hero or villain! And just wait until you see whose face is under Hot Pursuit’s helmet… 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Lee: Due to the lingering recession, Ghost Rider is currently without a series. In order to make ends meet he has been forced to sell the motorcycles with flaming wheels…. Et voila, a new villain is born at DC.
Gwen: Hah! Make sure that no one breaks the speed limit? *Falls over laughing*

Written by James Robinson
Art by Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter & Norm Rapmund
Cover by Mark Bagley & Rob Hunter
With Washington, D.C. in the hands of The Omega Man and the full extent of his horrific power revealed, the JLA is forced to make a difficult decision. Is there no choice for the World’s Greatest Heroes but to team with the World’s Worst Villains – the Crime Syndicate – in order to save both Earths? How will this desperate action be affected by Ultra Man’s betrayal of everyone. . . and the reappearance of Dark Supergirl? 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Lee: I know, I know, I praised the costume design in Batman Confidential #51, but there still something about the classic Supergirl, teenage Porn… I mean Teenage PROM Queen, that gets my head a-racin’. Please note, I wouldn’t dress my children in this for Halloween…
Gwen: Supergirl's costume is really not that bad. Not in comparison to most. Regardless JLA is a terrible comic book of late and adding the Crime Syndicate to the mix just makes it worse. This book needs an overhaul.

Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Howard Porter & Art Thibert Cover by Freddie Williams Ii
Left powerless, Cyclone struggles to lead a “normal” life apart from the ALL-STARS. But the sudden appearance of a team of Cy-Clones leaves her questioning her mental powers as well! And how can she prove she’s the one and only original when the others seem to have her abilities – and more? 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Lee: Jim loves monkeys and if you notice, there’s a monkey on the cover. The little fella is wearing a loin cloth and fez. Perfect for Jim!!! Nothing screams ‘I love Halloween’ like greeting little trick or treaters at the door in a loin cloth and fez.
Gwen: I like the Cyclone character and am happy to see a focus on her character. Not enough has been done with this character so far and she has a lot of potential.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Parker The Outfit – A Review

Parker the Outfit

Publisher IDW

Adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Format Hardcover 152 Pages of Story and Art

This was a great book. I absolutely loved it. The New Frontier was Darwyn Cooke’s seminal work in comic about super heroes. This is another seminal piece of work that is a love letter to Richard Stark and a masterpiece of illustrative fiction.

Parker is a man, pure and simple. He is hard as nails and uncompromising. He wants woman to f**k and he wants to do the next job to have the money to be able to enjoy the good life while it lasts. You cross him and you die, you try to push him or take him out, he won’t back down and you better have you will in order.

In a political correct world where we all have to act the “right way”, not hurt someone’s feelings, be afraid that if we look at a girl the “wrong way” we could be sexist and make sure that we acknowledge our feminine side, Parker is throw back. If you don’t like what he has to say, too bad. He is not a good guy, but he is a man without compromise. All the ugly truth of what being a man used to be about is what Parker exudes.

He lives a life that is on the edge and he lives like he could die tomorrow and given what he does I don’t think he wants to live a long life. He wants a world that he can live like a king for as long as he can and then he goes out and steals so he can live like a king again. He avoids killing innocents not out of some moral code, but to avoid getting a death penalty.

This volume chronicles Parker’s continuing war with the Outfit (read the mob). Parker changed his face to avoid detection and one night when he is with a woman named Bett a hit man comes in to take Parker out. He finds out he was fingered by one of the few people who knew what he looked like now. After Parker takes out the hit man Bett is sitting on the bed and we get this piece of purple prose from Richard Stark:

“Her name was Bett Harrow and she’d always been rich and never had a problem that wasn’t fashionable. That much Parker knew about her. That and the fact that in bed she showed a panther like craving for brutality. Her expression surprised him. Not fear or astonishment but breathless. Expectant.”

This is fantastic material. It is unrelenting, unforgiving, raw and gritty as hell.

Parker goes after the Outfit. He pushes back so hard and cost them so much money that eventually they relent and promise to lay off him. Of course Parker kills the guy who fingered him and he kills the Outfit guy who put the price on his head, but not before he made a deal with the number 2 guy to leave him alone once Parker ensures his promotion. It’s not like you can’t see how the plot of the story will go from the beginning; it is the journey that is the reward.
Another scene in the book is when Parker confronts the gut who fingered him. Parker points the gun at the guy and he starts to plead for his life. We were given the back story of how they had worked together recently. Since we are so programmed to the main character having a streak of good in him, even when he is the bad guy, I had a slight expectation that he might let him go. I read the first book so I also doubted he would. He didn’t, it was great, once someone screws you over, why would you let them live, if only real life could be that easy. What I enjoyed was the line after he shot: “It was an unreliable gun, Parker fired three times.” How unbelievable cold is that to pull the trigger, nothing, again nothing, third time – BOOM.

It almost makes you want to take up a life of crime and be that hard edged dangerous guy. A male fantasy to be sure, but one that is uncompromising in its maleness and revels in its testosterone laden abandon.

The setting being in the fifties is perfect also, no messy technology and geekness to deal with, the women are women and the cars are the huge stylish rides that were American cars.
Cooke also does a great job with varying styles of storytelling. When Parker asked his cohorts across the country to take out Outfit places, each robbery that is conveyed is told in a different story telling style.

Cooke is a master at pacing. The story and words work together in perfect harmony to create a book that moves fast, grabs you by the throat and never let’s go. It is also layered with tons of story, wonderful artwork and it made me go back and re-read some sections and other times just marvel at the layouts, page design and the art itself.

It has to be one heck of a job to figure out how to layout a story that is this long, what to keep, what to drop. It is an obvious labor of love done by an artist who is at the top of his game. When they do the movie, they can just shoot straight from this novel and it is done.

If there is a better graphic novel that has been produced I don’t remember it (unless it was Parker The Hunter). If you want capes and heroes stay away from this book. If you want a book with a hard edge star that so no mercy and is a guy in some ways 90% of the males in the US would like to be for at least a little while, this is the book. This shows how a graphic novel is done. This is a book you need to read.


Next week back to the week in review.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Fistful of Reviews

Warlord of Mars #1 (Dynamite)

AWESOME! I am so excited about this book. It's great that the creative team decided to expand the story from a Princess of Mars without actually staying from the heart of the story. They did a great job on this book and I am super excited for the next one!!!

Bruce Wayne: Long Road Home - Batgirl (DC)

Batgirl has got to be the cape book I have the most fun with recently. It's a really solid book and it's been great to see how much Stephanie has grown as a character. It was amusing in this book how Steph gets around Oracle's orders by getting help from Proxy instead. It was also great when she slapped Bruce across the face. Priceless - and well deserved too.

Madame Xanadu #27 (Vertigo)

This was an enjoyable story and I understand the decision to get different artists for the different senses the story is portraying but I miss Amy Reeder :( She'll be back on the last sense though, from what I recall.

izombie #10 (Vertigo)

This issue was hilarious. Not only did we get Scott the were-terriers origins but we also got a new character: Scott's dead grandfather the chimp. Coincidentally shortly after I read Scott's origin story I myself almost contracted kitten lycanthropy. Sadly I got no super powers from the bite - only a tetnus shot.

Turok: Son of Stone #1 (Dark Horse)

This book was surprisingly fun to read - I even enjoyed the back story which was a reproduction of an old Turok comic book. I will say the new Turok finding himself in a strange land was better than the walking through a cave original story to find a strange new realm. In the new book they got sucked into a vortex. Also there was a lot more action/plot going on.

Titans #28 (DC)

I was interested in this issue for the first few pages because someone actually cared about the Atom (Ryan). Then it didn't mention him the rest of the book and I stopped caring about this issue.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Daredevil Love and War

Frank Miller has always had an economy of motion in his tales, and the Marvel Graphic Novel: Daredevil Love and War from 1986 is no exception. What's different about it is the low level of violence. Relatively low, anyway.

Much as I like seeing Miller do the art as well as the writing, this book had the great Bill Sienkiewicz doing the art, making it quite possibly even better. The oversized format doesn't hurt, either. It allows Sienkiewicz to present the Kingpin in all his imposing glory. The Kingpin is a hulking, malevolent mass, even in his most tender moments with his comatose wife, Vanessa. But, it's Sienkiewicz's depiction of Vincent, the drug addled psychopath that brings forth his best in representative, rather than literalist, presentation. Vincent frequently resembles a baboon more than a human, which is very much in keeping with his pychological state.

The story is a fairly simple one. Kingpin's wife is comatose. There's no organic reason for it, according to experts who have seen her. She occasionally babbles words. There's a psychologist who's tops in the field that Kingpin wants to work with his wife, but to ensure the proper motivation for getting the job done, Kingpin kidnaps the man 's wife. Her name is Cheryl Mondat, and she's blind. Vincent is the pill popping hired underling who kidnaps Cheryl. He fills her with valium to keep her compliant/unconscious while he feverishly hallucinates being a white knight protecting his queen.

Meanwhile, Daredevil's involved because, as usual, Kingpin wants him dead. Daredevil finds out from his favorite stoolie, Turk, that Kingpin, in addition to wanting Daredevil dead, has kidnapped a doctor's wife to force the doctor to cure Kingpin's wife. Daredevil tracks down the kidnapper, who is wounded while fleeing. Daredevil stashes Cheryl Mondat at his place for safe keeping while he goes to rescue the doctor. Vincent goes to his sister's house and kills her. He then goes to Nelson & Murdock, in the middle of the night, to get them to be his lawyers. He breaks in and kills the cleaning lady. He gets Murdock's address and heads to Murdock's place. He breaks in and is surprised to find his queen, who manages to kill him with a hot poker.

Daredevil dislocates his shoulder trying to sneak into Kingpin's headquarters and, when he finally does get in, finds the floor where Dr Mondat is kept empty but for the doctor. This is because, while Daredevil was rescuing Cheryl and then trying to rescue the doctor, the doctor had gotten through to Vanessa. With children's letter blocks she spells out X-K-A-Y-P. This infuriates Kingpin, but he lets both Vanessa and Dr Mondat go.

When the story started, Kingpin was thinking about his power and influence countered by his inability to cure his wife. At the end, Kingpin contemplates only his power and influence, unfettered by his love for his wife.

These were halcyon days for Daredevil, as far as I'm concerned. This story was one of many that Miller and then Mazzucchelli did that really captured the character and made him something more than a lower level Spider-man. His struggles were his own, unique to who he was and his powers, but he wasn't so burdened with every imaginable ill as I read that he has been since those days. Seems like now the only thing that hasn't happened to him is child abuse.

This tale in particular is a great way to enjoy the character without having to be intimately familiar with him. It's short story telling done right. The character who undergoes change is not Daredevil. It's Kingpin. Superficially, Vanessa undergoes change in a greater wakefulness, but she's essentially the same person, deathly afraid of her husband. Kingpin, in his recognition that Vanessa fears him more than she loves him, if she loves him, and his determination to not only move on without her but to do so without eliminating her, is a major development in his character. This being capes comics, I'm sure it didn't last, but it was an obvious contrapoint to Vincent's mania and obsession with Cheryl. Kingpin is cold and brutal, but he loved Vanessa in a sane way.

If you haven't read the book, it's worth the effort to find it, though that's not too hard these days. It's on Amazon for as low as $4.91.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Warlord of Mars #1 -- A Review

Publisher: Dynamite

Writer: Arvid Nelson

Artist: Stephen Sadowski

Colorist: Adriano Lucas

Letter: Troy Peteri

Format: 22 pages of story and art plus 2 pages of backmatter

Price: $1.00

Last week when I mentioned this book I hadn't had time to read it yet and was basically judging it by the awesome Joe Jusko cover (I like the logo too). Later when responding to Gwen's comments on the post, I mentioned that I really liked it. First impressions being what they are, it was enjoyable, but that's not to say there weren't some problems too.

Let's focus on the positive aspects of the book first. It seems to be a trend these days (at least with Vertigo titles) of having the first issue be only a buck. That's a great way for people to try it out with little to no risk. The cover alone is worth that price. The book's full size too. I really liked the opening narrative page, which felt like it was lifted right from the novel (as I remember it anyway). So, that put me in the right mood right off the bat. The closing "backmatter" page talking about finding the manuscript and Carter's instructions of his burial tomb, equipped with ventilation was also nicely done. This is another important element from the novel that shows the creators know the source material well. All in all it reminds me of the formatting of Dark Horse's Conan. That's the storytelling style of today, which is fine. This leaves less captions in the book itself (like the Marvel series) and more time for fighting!

And boy is there a lot of fighting -- bloody fighting too. The story is pretty much evenly divided into a John Carter tale (still on Earth) and a Tars Tarkas tale. Both of which are providing a good backstory for when the two eventually meet, which will probably be at the end of the first arc.

John's in an Arizona saloon with another former Confederate buddy when four US Calvary men come in and start making trouble. It seems like John's going to take the high road and avoid a conflict, but when they insult Virginia he starts shooting at them -- lethally. I'm a Virginian by birth and I still consider it "home", but I thought it was an extreme reaction. When he challenged them, they did put their hands on their guns, so I suppose it's a Han/Greedo pseudo-self defense action, but it degraded his character a bit to me. Luckily for him, the owner is an ex-Rebel too (who finishes the leader off), so he's going to tidy up their killing spree and claim that Indians did the soldiers in. Turns out those soldiers were scalping Indian children, so they were really "bad guys" and probably deserved some swift Western justice.

In the Tarkas story we have him rescue some young Martians from the white apes. There's a nifty four-armed decapitation of one of them. Like I said -- lots of blood. It seemed a little excessive to me, but it wasn't so bad that it made me not want to read the book. Tars also liberates a female Martian, who showed fear (a bad thing in their society) -- so there will be a coming conflict with him and the Martian chieftains.

It's a solid, entertaining set-up story with lots of action and the art is very good. I like the figure work and the variety of POV in the panel compositions. Stephen has a lot of talent and it looks like he's a good fit for this title. However, he has some trouble with his consistency from panel to panel. Here's an example:

On page4 we have the top panel with the four US officers facing us with the bar behind them. The leader is the second one from the left. The guy furthest to the left has a non-Calvary hat and a red bandanna. The leader is holding a drink in his left hand. Second panel, the bandanna guy then whispers into the leader's left ear and is shown on his left, when he was on his right. Now most likely the two turned around and are now facing the bar in this panel, but there isn't enough information (background or the bar itself) to make that clear. I was just thinking how did he get on his other side with the bar behind them. In the third panel, the leader slams his drink down with his right hand, instead of his left. Again, he probably switched hands off panel, but it seemed wrong to me at first and I shouldn't even have the impression that something is out of whack (even if it really isn't).

Over all I like the face work, but Carter's buddy and the bandanna guy look too similar, so part of the time I wasn't sure who was getting shot. They both have bandannas too. There are also a couple of scenes where John looks like he has a mustache. In the Tars Tarkas section, we've got one Martian called Tars and another with a broken tusk called Tarkas. That really confused me, since I'm reading a story about Tars Tarkas. Tarkas might be an official title or something that Tars will eventually earn or win, but if it is then I didn't remember it and it wasn't explained.

I know I'm making some nitpicking comments for a book I did like, but those elements did distract me while I was reading the story, so I think they're worth mentioning. All that can be fixed with a little more hands-on editing and I think this has the potential to be a really good series.

Grade B-: An entertaining read and a good start to the series with a few flawed elements that I expect to disappear as the creative team gains more experience.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Indies Preview Review for December Pt 3 of 3

Image Comics
Viking Vol. 01: Long Cold Fire SC by (W) Ivan Brandon (A/C) Nic Klein
The most violent criminal underworld in history! Finn and Egil, brothers - one bad, one worse - are trying to stab and steal their way to a seat at the table. Two men at war with the world around them. But today's the day the world fights back. From the writer of The Cross Bronx comes a crime book for the 9th Century. This collection includes lots of never before seen new material. $14.99
Lee: From what I can see, everyone loves the art in the series and thought the story was too light in single issue format. Which means it will read perfectly in a collected format. I’m an art guy so I wanna see what all the hub bub is about.
Gwen: As a story person this solicitation does nothing for me. Next!

Light Vol. 01 SC by (W) Nathan Edmondson (A) Brett Weldele
It is as sudden as it is deadly. Its origins are unknown. When it strikes, a father must risk all to protect his daughter and escape across the Oregon countryside-before they are infected by The Light. Collects The Light #1-5 $16.99
Lee: WWWaaaayyyy back in time, I picked this as a book of interest, and Edmondson actually stopped by to encourage us and support the book. Well, that’s good enough for me! If a writer is going to leave a message on the site, then the least I can do is try his book. It doesn’t hurt that it still sounds good.
Gwen: I read this already - Jim was sending it to me. It's worth reading but it's very surreal. It's got a good horror vibe going on as well.

Manx Media
El Vocho GN by (W/A) Steve Lafler
With El Vocho, green energy comes to the comics as Steve Lafler offers a crackling urban romance pairing Rosa, a brilliant inventor, with laconic Eddie, geek artist. Rosa and Eddie meet in a fender bender and tempers flare, but cupid shoots his arrow and the two fall for each other. Can love blossom in this tense thriller, pitting big oil against budding genius Rosa? $12.00. Visit Steve here and read an early review here.
Lee: This story sounds really interesting and the art looks really good too. It’s not often that I link to reviews but I really liked it, and it provided a clear picture of what the book will be all about. If you like off kilter, slice of life stuff then this is probably the book for you.
Gwen: Working in claims I have a hard time buying the premise but it still looks like it could be a pretty cool book.

My New New York Diary HC by (W) Julie Doucet, Michel Gondry (A) Julie Doucet
In 2008, the famed director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) proposed to legendary cartoonist Julie Doucet that they make a film together. Little did Gondry and Doucet know that the process itself would be the film, and they'd soon be starring in a reality comic and film of their own devising. My New New York Diary contains all of Doucet's drawings for the film, as well as the DVD containing the film itself. Both the film and Doucet's graphic novella are being released only in this deluxe, hardcover volume which does full justice to the richness and warmth of Doucet and Gondry's collaboration. NOTE: Book includes DVD.$24.95 Previews of Julies work can be seen here.
Lee: Doucet is an amazing cartoonist who has produced some excellent books. Some are crude, some are brutally honest examinations of her life, and all are very good. If you want to not only read about a great indie creator, but also see her then this a great book.
Gwen: Honestly if the art turns me off I have a hard time reading a comic. So this may be amazing but I won't be able to read it :(

Titan Publishing
Classic Bible Stories Vol. 01: Jesus & Mark SC
Two of the acclaimed comic strips based on stories taken from the Bible for the classic British comic Eagle are collected in this softcover edition, Frank Hampson's Jesus, Road of Courage, the life story of Jesus, and Mark, The Youngest Disciple, the story of the man who wrote the first New Testament gospel to be circulated. $14.95
Lee: Take note Matthew, this pick is for you! Actually, this pick is for every art lover out there. Frank Hampson is one of England’s greatest artists. His work is absolutely breathtaking and amazing to behold. If this is the only way to get his art, then I will buy this book. Plus the story is good too.
Gwen: Really? I don't think I can say anything in response to this as a pick without offending someone...

Undercover Fish Books
Dracula: The Dead Travel Fast Vol. 01 GN by (W/A) Andy Fish (A) Veronica Hebard
Andy Fish applies his twisted sense of humor and his dark sensibilities to Dracula, setting the story in 1931 and mixing in Nazi's, ghosts, and werewolves. Jon Harker travels to Transylvania on his first business assignment with a reclusive eccentric client, meanwhile his fiance Mina is tempted by the strapping young Texan visiting her friend Lucy in London. Includes a sketchbook section with notes on the script. $9.99. Visit Andy here and see previews here at the official site.
Lee: For some reason I feel like I’ve either picked Fish’s books or heard about him, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where. No matter, Fish has a unique art style that appeals to me and a sense of humor to match. This should be fun.
Gwen: I'm in the mood for Halloween stories right now and this seems to fit the bill. I agree with Lee here, this looks like it could be a lot of fun!

Lee: All things considered this is another strong month. Lots to look at and some things definitely worth buying.
Gwen: Indie solicitations make me want to write out an early Christmas list :)