Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Fistful of Reviews

The Great Darkness Saga Deluxe Edition (DC)

Ah, back when Levitz wrote a good Legion story! All sarcasm aside this is a beautiful book and has a lot of the Legion stories going on before the true beginning of the Great Darkness Saga. The art is shiny and the story is just as good (and addictive) as I recall. Thanks again to Jim for this awesome edition to my Legion collection!

Batman Inc #1 (DC)

Why do I get the feeling this is another one of those Grant Morrison books I won't really enjoy until it's in trade format? It wasn't bad but it was disjointed and somewhat hard for me to follow. I hate it when stories bounce around so much I have no idea what's actually going on. Sadly that's usually how reading Grant Morrison's books tends to be.

The Astounding Wolfman #25 (Image)

This was the last issue of what's be (for the most part) an entertaining series. I'm glad they wrapped it up as I think it's a better story for having a conclusion of some sort. We got to see the main character go through quite a coming to power story of sorts. The reason the elder has bit hit and turned him into a werewolf in the first place was revealed and now the Wolfman is the leader of the remaining werewolves. It was fairly well done and overall I believe it to be a fairly good story arch.

Brightest Day #14 (DC)

I liked the focus on Boston Brand this issue and hopefully he'll be able to move forward now that he's realized he actually wants to live his life. Also him and Dove as a couple could be pretty interesting. Best of all was it appearing Batman knows about Max Lord now!

Superboy #1 (DC)

I'm glad we can continue to read about Conner's adventures and I enjoyed the first issue. Nothing terribly exciting but a solid fun cape book.

X23 #3 (Marvel)

I've actually really liked this book thus far. I didn't really know much about this character before this spin-off series but it looks like she could be made into a pretty interesting character if Marvel actually allows her to grow and change.

Warlord of Mars#2 (Dynamite)

After the first issue I had thought that the story was going to progress more slowly but this issue moved the stroy forward rather rapidly. It looks as if we'll be seeing John Carter on Mars next issue. I did like how we find that Sarjoka was added to Tars Tarkas' entourage though. Tars Tarkas' background is pretty cool as I've always wanted to know more about him.

Supergirl #58 (DC)

This cover is so pretty. Amy Reeder's art for the Supergirl covers has been amazing. As for the story itself - I have a hard time caring about what happens to Cat Grant but the Dollman villain is interesting.

The Legion of Superheroes #7 (DC)

Every time I see Shadow Lass and Earthman together I have an urge to shred this comic. At least Mon'el tounced him. Even if it was random and poorly explained. Bleh.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Week of Nov 24 in Review

I was reading JSA #45 and as I was reading it I was ticking off the plus and minuses of the book and that gave me the inspiration for a new format in my weekly review column. As with all such experiments if I find that I don’t like this format or it is not working for me I may switch back next week to what I call the capsule review.

I find that reviews can take many forms. One is what I classify as the visceral review which is an emotional reaction that I either loved the book or hated the book. At times that emotional reaction is so strong that any constructive or instructive remarks illuminating the why of the review can be lost. It can boil down to a feeling and there is often no rationalization for feelings.
Other reviews are often summaries of what occurred in the comic. If one goes too far into that type of review it can ruin any chance for a reader to enjoy the book, if it doesn’t go far enough you risk perhaps not making sense of any criticism or praise you may be offering.

Another type of review is what I would classify as the college term paper and I wish I had more time to do those types of reviews. This is the review that dissects the entire book and can often be a page by page analysis that encompasses everything about the book from balloon placement to release date as well as the actual writing and the art.

With this format I will attempt to illuminate what I thought was good and what I thought missed and will avoid on this cut of the format giving any letter or numeric grade to the book. Life’s no fun if we don’t experiment every now and again - of course I think that is a quote from Dr. Jekyll.

For Detective Comics see my full blown review here.

Justice Society of America #45 – Writer Marc Guggenheim – Art Scott Kolins

What I Liked – The book has a direction again and a plot. We have a WWII mission that is connected to today’s menace, Alan Scott facing a serious injury, Jay Garrick finding a new purpose in life. A smaller cast, the JSA has a ton of members, focusing on a core group helps to get to “know” them. Mr. Terrific has a plot line, he is a favorite character of mine and while him having a problem that is making him lose his intellect is troubling, having him overcome it (I hope) has the promise of a good story.

What I Didn’t Like – The art is too static. I enjoy Kolins layout and design, but it appears the art is computer driven. At this point I think we still have some room for the art itself to improve. The captions introducing the characters, Marc is getting Fraction cute with them and personally I hate it. One such caption “Jennifer Pierce a.k.a.Lighting – Electricity manipulation. Currently Starstruck” It refers to her being near Superman. Let the dialogue and art tell us what she is, I don’t need a caption.

Vampirella #1 – Writer Eric Trautmann – Art Wagner Reis

What I Liked – It was fun seeing a character that I had only paid attention to on a very infrequent basis over the years. The characterization of Vampirella, I had an immediate feel for the character after reading the issue. The art was decent and more on the photo realistic side of the coin.

What I Didn’t Like – I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a storyline. A number one issue should be more new reader friendly; there was a feel that I was suppose to know more than I did while reading the story. The coloring was heavy handed and muddied the look of the book. I understand it is a dark book but I wonder when the color is slopped on some panels if it is not to hide flaws in the art.

Madame Xanadu #29 – Writer Matt Wagner – Pencils Amy Reeder – Inks Richard Friend

What I Liked – Amy Reeder back on the artwork. I love her work and for me she is the Madame Xanadu artist. Of course Richard Friend is a great addition to the art as he enhances Amy’s wonderful line work. The story was a nice wrap up and put a nice cap on the series that takes us up to the dawning of the JLA.

What I Didn’t Like – It was the last issue of the book. From what I have read DC is taking back all the characters they lost to Vertigo and are drawing a more definitive line between the two. This is a tragic mistake as this book was a glorious melding of the DCU and the Vertigo line. Ultimately I’m guessing sales did this book in because if it was selling like hotcakes I’m sure Madame Xanadu would have been given a “Constantine” exemption to the new rules.

Amazing Spider-Man #649 – Writer Dan Slott - Pencils – Humberto Ramos – Inks – Carlos Cuevas

What I Liked – Nice background on bringing lapsed readers up to date on the newest Hobgoblin. Great bits of characterization with Peter Parker, the character is more in line with what I believe to be the original version of the character. Great art work, the fluid style of Mr. Ramos is a good choice for this book. The pacing is great, this book just flat out moves and takes the plot forward, great stuff.

What I Didn’t Like – The generic villain in Marvel comics seems to be white supremacists. Look I understand they don’t want to show Latinos or Blacks as the only villains in the piece, but let’s be a little real world and mix it up.

Batwoman #0 – Writer J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman Art J.H. Williams III Batwoman, Amy Reeder Pencils and Richard Friend Inks – Kate Sequence.

What I Liked – The art. J.H. Willams and Amy Reeder, heart be still. Very different artists, but both are talented to the extreme, a great looking book. This was a solid introduction to the character giving us a solid action sequence and a decent set up giving us her background and basic history.

What I Didn’t Like – The split story, story “A” on top and story “B” on the bottom. It makes for a disjointed read most often and a rather ambitious ploy for rookie writers. Using Bruce Wayne trailing and spying on her for almost a month as a story telling device and him having a hard time trying to figure out who she is, it demeans the Bruce Wayne character. He has better things to do and could figure it all out in a heartbeat. It would have worked if he had hired a private eye to do the foot work for him, like Jason Bard. It was only 16 pages of new story and art for $3, I know we are dropping to 20 pages, but 16, ouch.

On occasion I try to get back into series I have dropped for whatever reasons. I need some impetus to jump back on, but it can be as simple as a light week. For the Outsiders is was the addition of Keith Giffen as co-writer and artist, for Uncanny X-Men it was praise from a friend about this current issue and for Power Girl it was because I love the character.

Outsiders #34 – Script and Plot – Dan Didio – Pencils and Plot – Keith Giffen – Inks Gray, Wong & Davis

What I Liked – I also got the previous issue to serve as a primer on where the book is right now. I enjoyed Giffen’s pacing, layouts and pure out and out action. This book moved and took off and was a marked changed from the prior issue. Giffen has an almost Kirby type quality to his artwork at this point. He is certainly a distinctive style and it continues to develop. I also enjoyed the interaction with all the characters. I will check out the next issue to see if I can be hooked by this book again.

What I Didn’t Like – The group is not a group at all from what I see and is now broken into two parts. I’m just coming up to speed on the storylines right now so it is hard to judge what the two sets of character have in common anymore. The Manazons, I believe this was something Didio was trying to push into the Wonder Woman book when that train wreck went under. It has to be the worse name ever for a group of people and not sure why they ever needed to have that name. In fact they were a throw away bit that was unneeded even in this story.

Uncanny X-Men #530 – Writer Matt Fraction, Pencils Greg Land, Inks Jay Leisten

What I Liked – A couple of interesting storylines are started. We have a virus outbreak, we have the White Queen trying to kill Sebastian Shaw with Kitty and Phatomex’s help, we have Angel running an X-Men team since most everyone is under Quarantine and we have a bad guy making over five humans into a new version of the original X-Men. There is even a plotline about some bad guy turning Chinatown in San Fran back into a communist state.

What I Didn’t Like – Greg Land. There must be three or four blonde bombshells running around and half the time I have no clue who is who. Plus Greg apparently only has about four poses saved in his computer and then pulls them up every time. Add to that the occasion odd bits of characterization Fraction throws in and this book is maddeningly interesting and a tough read all at the same time. It is 50/50 if I get the next issue.

An underlying problem with the X-books is no internal consistency from series to series in how the characters act and a real lack of direction for the book. Under Roy Thomas, Claremont and Byrne, Claremont and Grant Morrison the main X-Book was usually going somewhere. Under Brubaker and Fraction (when I have checked in) the book meanders.

Power Girl #18 – Writer Judd Winick – Art Sam Basai

What I Liked – I love Power Girl, I have from the moment they introduced her in JSA many years ago. The art is very good. I get the impression this is all being done on the computer, but it is laid out well and is solid on the work of the star of the book. The story is decent and ties into Justice League Generation Lost, which I’m following.

What I Didn’t Like – I loved the prior version of Power Girl and I’m still trying to appreciate this version, I’m 50/50 about whether PG makes my list again. I also don’t like how Judd has almost totally ripped up what had been established about PG’s personal life.

Locke & Key Keys to the Kingdom #3 (of 6) – Writer Joe Hill - Art Gabriel Rodriguez

What I Liked – I love this series. The story about the three Locke children and the mysterious keys that unlock all sorts of strange and wondrous things is a great one. While the danger of the “Dark Lady” lurks around them and is disguised as a young man who is their friend. I’m also enjoying how Joe Hill is telling short stories as well as still letting us know there is a larger story being told. Finally Gabriel Rodriguez has been dynamite since issue #1 of the first arc and continues to impress as the story moves along.

What I Didn’t Like – Nothing really.

Scalped #43 – Writer Jason Aaron Art Jason LaTour

What I Liked – In-between major story arcs Jason Aaron usually takes a bit player in his drama and gives us their story. In this issue the sheriff next door to the reservation is exposed as a blowhard and fraud, excellent story. The art was solid, while not up to the standards of the main artist, it certainly did the job.

What I Didn’t Like – Zilch.

Hellblazer #273 – Writer Peter Milligan - Layouts Giuseppe Camuncoli – Finishes Stefano Landini – Art Second Half of the Book – Simon Bisley

What I Liked – Constantine obviously in love but still the ultimate bastard. Epiphany is in the past and she is trying to use a young John to get back to her time. John from our time goes back and meets his past self while trying to bring Epiphany back. Peter has crafted a great story about love and John Constantine and it is working.

What I Didn’t Like – Again this is a solid book and I wouldn’t change at thing at this time.

Captain America #612 – Writer Ed Brubaker – Art Butch Guice

What I Liked – The story line is an interesting one, what will happen with Bucky now that his past as an assassin for the Soviet government is public knowledge? Can he be accepted as a hero even if he was under mind control? The art, Butch’s style works well with this book as Captain America is a much a noir book as any other under the pen of Ed Brubaker.

What I Didn’t Like – More Nazi type villains, the trial is a good enough story without setting up a “Bucky saves the day ending” that sounds boring. Hopefully Brubaker is better than that. The pace of the story needs to be faster, Ed tells some great stories, sometimes it takes too long to tell the story.

Uncanny X-Force #2 – Writer Rick Remender – Art Jerome Opena

What I Liked – Opena’s art has a great quality to it, it is gritty, detailed and has a lot of weight to it. This issue he continues to impress. The fight between X-Force and the Horsemen on the Moon a very cool battle. Remender has chosen a good team and appears to be having fun telling this first story.

What I Didn’t Like – The caption boxes were overused and at times it was hard to tell who the heck thoughts we were supposed to be hearing. I find it amusing thought balloons are no longer used but there has been a big return to us listening on a character’s thoughts again.

Thor The Mighty Avenger # 6 – Writer Roger Langridge – Art Chris Samnee

What I Liked – The story was a great one where we see that Thor is in love with Jane Foster and will do almost anything for her. The art is great, Chris has clean lines and it is deceptively simple looking style, yet brilliant in story telling ability. Langridge has made me fall in love with his versions of these characters.

What I Didn’t Like – Marvel is cancelling this book. The disjointed style of the way the story was broken into two concurrent story lines. They merged and made sense after a point in time, but at first it was difficult to tell what the heck was going on.

What I Really Don’t Like – Marvel could easily push this book and make it more of a success but has apparently abandoned what is easily the best Thor title on the stands and one of the only Thor titles which I believe could generate mass appeal. That mass appeal could translate to a lot of trade sales when the movie hits. I’m totally guessing here, but this book was created as a younger book and therefore not targeted to the general comic reader. The problem is the book reads at a higher level and with Chris Samnee’s art it has more of an adult appeal. At the same time there is a simplicity to it that makes it feel more like a kiddie book to some readers. Marvel recognized that they had a different kind of book and did a half assed job of repositioning the marketing. What Marvel needs to do is re-launch the book as a new book and put the full court pressure on to push it. Let Langridge adjust his writing if he wants to make it read a little higher level (I think it works as it is). Of course Marvel and DC always have a problem when a book does not fall into a pre-existing continuity.

Batman Odyssey #5 (of 13) – Story and Art – Neal Adams

What I Liked – The art.

What I Didn’t Like – There is no story. The whole thing is like a bad dream or a delusional ranting of a madman. This is why we teach our kids to never take drugs. This book is insane and maybe it will all magically come together down the road, but I worry that no one but me will still be buying it.

So I may try this format again next week or not. One thing I feel is owed to the creators is that if I like or dislike something I should try to express more whys then I often do. Of course I know creators may never read all the myriad reviews out there but to be fair we should try to have a rationale for our opinions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


A few months ago Lee didn't know who might by this, the Flesk version collecting all 14 issues of Mark Schultz's Xenozoic Tales. Well, here I am. The thing is, even though it's been published several times previously by other publishers, I hadn't seen any of those. And this is a lovely version. Plus, from what I've read, none of the other collections had all the issues that this one does.

Patience is one of my things. It's also required for a fan of this work. I started reading Xenozoic Tales in its original single issue format, starting with its appearance in Death Rattle #8 in 1986. I then got various of the 14 issues, but unfortunately not all. Publication was generously described as erratic, which meant it was 1994 by the time the 14th issue came out. By then I had gone from a college sophomore to a working drudge with a law degree and a wife. I never knew if there was an ending to the story because it was mostly the later issues that I missed.

Guess what? There isn't an ending to the story. Sometimes that's a writer's choice, leaving things open ended. That's not what this feels like. It feels like Schultz just didn't finish it.

Here's the story that there is. In the late 20th, early 21st Century humanity moved to living underground because the surface became uninhabitable due to pollution. This wasn't just a toxic morass but also increased natural disasters triggered by pollution. This was fairly insightful in 1986. Global Warming had not been presented as an impending issue at that time, but that's a lot of what the disaster was.

Anyway, about 500 years later, humanity came back out of its caves only to discover that something had been triggered while they were gone. Latitudes as far north as NYC were now tropical. Sea level was much higher. The remnants of NYC are half submerged, fully submerged if not among the taller buildings. Most noticably, once extinct species are now dominant. Not just the dinosaurs but also mammoths and other long gone mammals. There are new species, too. The secretive Grith are the most notable. These are humanoid lizards who don't speak but can communicate with humans, if they so choose, via Scrabble tiles. They are telepathic amongst themselves and other lizards.

Into that setting we find Hannah Dundee, an ambassador from the Wassoon community that lives in the swamps. She's coming to the City in the Sea (the submerged NYC), ostensibly to improve trade relations and to seek some cessation of Jack Tenrec chasing undesirables into Wassoon territory. In fact, her arrival at the City in the Sea is almost the moment of her death at the hands of poachers who want to kill her.
Jack Tenrec is a mechanic in the City in the Sea, though he doesn't actually live in the city. He lives across a bay in a huge garage where he restores 1950s era cars, particularly Cadillacs, and makes them operable on fuel derived from dinosaur guano. Jack's role isn't simply devising and restoring mechanisms, though. Mechanics in this culture are keepers of the faith, almost shamans. Their role is to remind the people of the decisions of their ancestors that lead to the disasters that drove them underground. They are also the ones the Grith most often choose to communicate with amongst humans.

This post apocolyptic future merely provides a back drop for Schultz to tell stories. Really great stories. Each issue is largely a complete story in itself with underlying themes that continue to run forward into other stories. When it starts, Jack is an influential man in the City in the Sea, though his influence is both feared and the subject of jealousy for many members of the ruling counsel of governors. The counsel are made of representatives of different segments of society, akin to a gathering of guild leaders. Function is the determining social glue, not race or ethnicity. Hannah is trying to learn more information about how the cataclysm occurred, which she thinks she can find in a vast library that's slowly being recovered from its watery fate. This library is closely guarded by the City in the Sea. No outsider has ever been permitted to enter, but Hannah manages to do so, with some assistance from Jack. Jack had saved her from the poachers on her arrival and she allied herself to him quickly.

A romantic relationship develops between them, which is only hinted at through most of the tales. In fact, there's a more noticable animosity between them in the early stories, with the romance being more subtle. Eventually Schultz reaches an issue where he flashes back in time to just before the cataclysm. It's revealed that there's a substance that was part of an experiment that likely caused the explosion of species that occurred after the humans retreated underground. In fact, the issue in question centers around the discovery of some of this substance and its escape into a nearby lake. The scientists monitor and try to isolate it but despite their efforts a new niche of life develops at an exponential rate. Jack and Hannah are there, trying to contain the substance with the scientists. This is the first issue where it's directly shown that they're spending time between the sheets together.

Unfortunately for Jack and Hannah, a segment of underground workers who've been the primary workers on pumping water out of the buildings to recover books and other items have developed a philosophy that the mechanics are holding humanity back and that nature needs to be exploited more to the benefit of humanity. As a result of some nefarious, and criminal, actions, as well as some deals with other counsel members, a new counsel member named Scharnhorst takes control. She promptly has Jack seized but in the confusion, Hannah escapes, as does another ally of Jack named Mustapha Cairo.

Hannah, and Jack's one ally on the counsel, Governor Dahlgren, effect his escape. Dahlgren continues on the counsel, appearing to go along with Scharnhorst, while Cairo begins a guerilla campaign to stop Scharnhorst and the counsel from reigniting another cataclysm. Meanwhile, Jack and Hannah escape to Wassoon. There they run into royal court machinations, including an ex-boyfriend of Hannah. This, unfortunately, is where things end. Wassoon is plotting to help Jack return to the City in the Sea and some level of power that would allow them access to the books therein.

It's unbelievable how much story Schultz packed into one teaser in Death Rattle #8 and 14 single issues. The synopsis here only touches on the surface. There's so much character developed, as well as individual stories of minor characters who haven't even been mentioned. In fact, several of the story devices use the story of a minor character, such as Remfro Rynchus, to advance the larger story of intrigue.
Schultz also is able to develop strong characters of both genders. In addition to Hannah, Governor Dahlgren and Governor Scharnhorst are pimary female characters with strong personalities, even when only sketched in short appearances. With Dahlgren there's a clear past of romantic relationship with Jack to complicate matters with Hannah. On the male side, Mustapha Cairo is the most oft mentioned, though Governor Nock is also well developed. Each character is not only well drawn in pen and ink but well drawn in character. Individual physical traits are expressed in both movement and behavior.

Would that there were more. But I'll be patient. My patience was rewarded with this collection. Perhaps more patience will bring at least a few more issues to further the tale to a concluding point.

Still, I recommend this tome. There's a nice introduction by Craig Elliott and a foreward by Schultz, as well as some new drawings by Schultz. It's also in the original black and white, not the colored version that came out under the name Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. It's comics and not movies, but it always seemed a bit wrong to read the stories in color.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Package from New York 2!


, everyone still has plenty of turkey leftovers to enjoy. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I even got married around this time of year. In fact my wife and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last Sunday. We were still in school (her 1st year grad and me last year under grad) at the time and got married at the beginning of the week-long break. Well, I've been itching to tell you about my latest package from New York for two weeks now and I thought this would be a fine time to celebrate (Plus, I really had to put out that Spider-Girl review last week as quickly as possible).

If you recall my last package from New York was from the legendary Herb Trimpe and that original artwork was funded by my Amazing Spider-man sale to Ted Levine of Superworld Comics at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Well after the influx of cash, one of the first things I like to do is troll the internet for affordable original artwork. Since I already had two great Trimpe commissions I was specifically looking for some original comic art from Herb and I stumbled across a site (sorry no link -- it's closed now) that showed the cover to Godzilla #17 redone by the legendary Fred Hembeck. I then jumped to Fred's site and discovered his amazingly reasonable rates (only $150 each + shipping) for classic cover redos.

Now, the tough part. What should I ask him to do? It had to be a piece he'd never done before (he redoes pieces but I wanted something unique). Unfortunately, my first two choices he'd already drawn: Avengers #181 and Journey into Mystery #108. Well, my main familiarity with Fred's work was the Fantastic Four Roast from 1982 and Fred Hembeck Destroy's the Marvel Universe. I really wanted to get the most characters on the cover as possible in case I only ended up getting one, so I decided on Fantastic Four #242.
This was a nostalgic pick for me as it was the very first John Byrne FF I bought. I remember someone showing me the scene where the Thing punches Terrax through several buildings at the Comic Book Club in middle school when I was in the sixth grade.

That's me on the far right at age 11. The girl Kim Lewey died after 7th grade. Check out the book the girl in the middle is holding: Bah, Hembeck! -- talk about coincidences...

I had just started going to a comic book store (to pick up the now direct only Micronauts) not too long before. I got #242 at a 7-11 most likely, but when I next went to the comic store (Nostalgia Plus) I got #243 AND Fantastic Four Roast. (Here's a funny redo of Fred's cover to that issue.) One of the neat things that Fred does is draw something special in the UPC box and I asked for him to show Willie Lumpkins with Reed's brain device, since #242 came out the same month as the Roast. Fred even did one better by making all of the guest stars on the bottom of the cover smiling, because you know they're thinking about the jokes their going to tell at the Roast. Here below is my original (I scanned it myself this time) and Fred's awesome redo.

(Click on the image to see it in detail.)

In order to save on shipping, I had asked Fred to send me a scan of FF#242 before he mailed it in case I wanted to commission another piece. After seeing this masterpiece, of course I ordered another one. Again I went for a nostalgic pick, selecting Star Wars #3. I bought this issue soon after seeing the movie at the 7-11 across from Petersburg General Hospital back in the spring of 1977. Boy, did I love that book (this was before videos folks and it was the best way to relive the movie). That cover still thrills me to this day. I asked Fred to highlight the joys of 7-11 and 1977 in the UPC box.

Fred didn't send me a scan ahead of time, which was great, because when I opened the package I couldn't stop smiling. Have you ever had the sensation where you can feel your mouth curling up at the corners even when you're not trying -- that's what was going on. I told Fred I was beaming!!! And after the week I had had that was quite an accomplishment. (The Lord's timing is perfect). Here below (again) is my original and Fred's fantastic redo.

(Click on the image to see it in detail.)

My wife innocently said that my two oldest daughters could do that. Ouch! I don't think she appreciates how much work it is to have your own style like that.

Not shown in the scans is Fred's signature, which is in a really classy style,
where he references the original artists and the date of the cover. The only problem was that his artwork wouldn't fit into my polyglass sleeves of my original art binder. I guess I'll have to buy frames for them -- they certainly need to be hung on the wall. I've already ordered a third piece, which I'm really excited about. I figure one day I'll have a whole gallery of Hembeck redos. Man, talk about cool.

Fred also included in his packaging a signed Mid-Ohio Comic-con poster that he did of Secret Wars #1 and a really nifty note.

I also purchased the THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS, which runs over 900 pages (only $20 + shipping).

I'm just over a third of the way through this massive tome and I LOVE IT!!! Fred is like the original comic blogger only he hand writes his commentary and draws it too! It's really outstanding and deserves a post of it's own to praise it. (You should have it for your private reading room Lee.)

Got a favorite comic cover? Can't afford the thousands to ten-thousands of dollars to buy the original artwork. Well a Hembeck Classic Cover Redo will suffice just as well! Get in line and go order one today -- my next one is on the docket already.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Marvel Preview Review for January 2011 Part 2of 2

Continued from yesterday...

Written by Jason AaronPencils & Cover by Ron Garney
Written by Mark MillarPenciled by Steve DillonCover by Greg Land
Written by Brian Michael BendisPenciled by Rafa SandovalCover by Bryan Hitch
Written by Brian Michael BendisPenciled by Sara Pichelli
Written by Jonathan HickmanPencils & Cover by Carlos Pacheco
Lee: I would like to point out that the death of Marvel’s Ultimate line has been GREATLY exaggerated. Sheesh, for a line that two years ago basically imploded, Marvel is releasing 5 books this month.
Greg: It still publishes Ultimate Spider-Man, which is all I ask.

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Davide Gianfelice Cover by Jock
The apocalyptic events of Shadowland have left the once-proud legacy of Daredevil in tatters. Now, far from the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen, a new evil is rising, and the only man crazy enough to face it is a man with nothing left to lose. The road to Hell was paved with good intentions, but the long road to redemption is the far harder path. 32 PGS./ $3.99
Lee: So, Black Panther is Daredevil and Daredevil is drunk homeless dude with his own title searching for redemption. Makes perfect sense to me.
Greg: I dunno, I'm kinda surprised that DD hasn't become drunk and homeless before now, given all the crap that gets dumped on him. I've been largely disappointed with Diggle's DD run so far, so this is the last chance I'm giving him. I have high hopes, but well, we're seeing how Shadowland is turning out.

Written by Matt Fraction & Kieron GillenPencils & Cover by Greg LandQuarantine.
When your very body is betraying you, and you see life leaking out of your friends drop by drop, what would you give up for the cure? Cyclops discovers what the Sublime Corporation wants. Can he afford to pay it? Meanwhile, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw reminisce over old times Via The Strong Language Of Pugilism. Part 3 (of 5)32 PGS./ $3.99
Lee: Check it out, Pam Anderson makes her first appearance on a X-men cover.
Greg: No porn is too old for Greg Land.

Written by Matt Fraction Penciled by Fãbio Moon & Gabriel BãCover by Gabriel Bã
Meet Casanova Quinn: prodigal son of a law-and-order family hell-bent on keeping the world safe and sound, now blackmailed into betraying his father and the international law enforcement organization he controls. Luxuria collects the first volume of Casanova as its titular star transforms from devil-may-care thrill-seeker into the most dangerous man in the world. What happens when the ultimate player gets played? Find out in this genre-bending sci-spy epic. Gorgeously re-colored and re-lettered by hand, this staggering psychedelic spy-fi epic is collected for the first time as it was meant to be made. By the Eisner award-winning team of Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, Thor, Uncanny X-Men), Gabriel Bã¡ (Umbrella Academy, Bprd: 1947), and Fãbio Moon (Daytripper, Sugarshock). With all-new, all-different, never-before-seen bonus material! Collecting Casanova: Luxuria #1-4, 152 PGS./ $14.99
Lee: The original series was released as a fancy hc, why not this time too? Oh well, I’m getting it.
Greg: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!!!

Written by Mark GruenwaldPenciled, Cover by Rik Levinsby Rik Levins
What has brown fur, fangs and a star-spangled shield? Why, it’s Capwolf! When old Cap foes Dredmund Druid and Deadly Nightshade begin mass-producing werewolves, Captain America investigates only to become one himself! How will the world’s greatest Avenger get out of this one? Featuring a rare battle between Cap and Wolverine, and guest-starring Cable, Wolfsbane and Doctor Druid! Collecting Captain America #402-408. 136 PGS./ $14.99
Lee: Seriously? They are collecting Cap Wolf before… I don’t know…. Anything else. These weren’t good comics by any stretch but now everyone can relive the pain again.
Greg: I guess it was so horrible that everyone should have to relive it? I have no idea why this is being published.

Written by Scott SnyderPenciled by Manuel GarciaCover by Mike Fyles
Can Tony Stark’s heart be tamed before it’s too late? Wealthy adventurer Tony Stark has a deadly addiction to danger. His lust for life is being pushed to the limit, his adventures becoming deadlier than ever. Obsession and a need for fortune and glory ignite his genius mind to find new ways to put himself at risk. As he becomes more reckless, the lives of those around him are jeopardized more and more. With his friends dropping quickly, he presses on in search of excitement. Soon, he will find himself with no one left to save him from his vices and the fascists that pursue him. What is he running from? What secret is driving him toward almost certain death? Stark may just destroy himself before the Nazis have a chance to! Collecting IRON MAN NOIR #1-4. 112 PGS./ $14.99
Lee: In case you missed the series, and in case you didn’t pick up the premiere edition of this, it is now being released as a tpb. Snyder’s star is rising fast and this is your chance to get in on the ground floor.
Greg: Well I'm glad that the Noir imprint contributed something to the comics industry. I mean, other than a few fun levels in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.

Written by Joe Kelly & James Felder
Penciled by Walter Mcdaniel, P. Woods, Steve Harris & Yancey Labat
Cover by Walter Mcdaniel
Collecting DEADPOOL (1997) #18-25 & #0 and DEADPOOL & DEATH ANNUAL 1998.296 PGS./ $29.99
Lee: Interestingly enough, instead of buying this because I want it, I find myself waiting to see if it will appear in hc! So, let me be the first to say it, why isn’t this in a fancy hc format? A classic run on a what has become an overused character and it’s not available in hc. It seems to me Marvel is missing a chance to gouge it fans.
Greg: Why isn't it available in HC? Have you seen the art on this book after Ed McGuiness left? Poor, poor Joe Kelly

Greg: In 2010, Marvel is a company that is simultaneously publishing a collection of stories about Captain America becoming a Werewolf AND Casanova. I'm not sure what this says about the comic industry.
Lee: Personally, with so many reprints of "classic" 90's material, it feels like high school alllll over again. I wish I could figure out the rhyme and reason to their reprint schedule.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, it's Thanksgiving and the only person working today is me! Who knew but the French don't celebrate Thanksgiving, so I get to work today.

As for the rest of you, stop checking the blog ya big geeks and go spend some time with family and friends!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Detective Comics #871 – A Review

Detective Comics #871

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder

Art on Batman Jock

Colors David Baron

Art & Colors on Commissioner Gordon Francesco Francavilla

Format 30 Pages Story and Art

Price $4

DC has been promoting the new creative team coming onto Detective Comics and I have certainly been a fan of writer Scott Snyder’s work in comics so far. In fact I have tagged him as a future star in the field. Jock is certainly an artist whose work I love and have enjoyed since Losers. Francesco Francavilla is an artist I have known since the great series from Boom by Chip Mosher and Francesco, Left on Mission. So the stars were all aligning for me to be enjoying this first issue of Detective and they did not disappoint. If this is what we can expect from Detective Comics from now on then the Batverse just got a whole lot better.

The story is broken into two parts with the main part drawn by Jock and features Dick Grayson as Batman. The second half focuses on Jim Gordon and is drawn by Francavilla. What I loved about the stories is that while each was their own thing they are obviously set in the same time and place. It is shown with an ease and grace that makes the relationship both obvious yet elegant in the way the parts are part of one whole. It is done by using birds. In the Dick Grayson part of the story we have Dick looking out of his balcony window and wondering why he is seeing Vultures. In the back up story a crime is committed at the aviary where someone has released all the birds. So it becomes obvious where these vultures were coming from in the first half of the book, but it is subtle and elegant in that it is never pushed as a connection, it is just there for us to see. It is a great device that allows us to understand both stories are taking place at the same time.

The first part of the book about Batman is longer and starts with a story telling device that I’m not fond of. The device is having the captions tell us one thing and the pictures convey another thing. I understand the need to drive both elements of the story at the same time, but for me it interrupts that perfect marriage of words and pictures that I love. In this instance it worked. The reason it worked is because that style was only used for the first three pages and then the narrative lead into the words and pictures merging back into a single whole again. The reason I normally hate that style of storytelling is that often it never ends, but here Scott used it to set the mystery and then move into introducing us to Dick Grayson.

The brilliance of the story is the way Scott has weaved in characterization, acknowledging the rest of the Batverse, throws in some new elements for us (a state of the art crime lab being offered to GCPD via Wayne Industries) and then develops Dick as Batman. This Batman is every inch a Batman to be reckoned with and at the same time a very different Batman. I love how Scott has managed to balance and establish Dick as Batman, but also as his own man. The actual story and mystery is laid out with such fluidness and elegance (which is what this book has in spades) that I was just drawn in and enjoyed the read from beginning to end. Jock’s work conveys all the right elements and he spots his blacks in a way that keeps Batman as a true creature of the night.

The backup or second half of the story is done just as well. It features Jim Gordon and a mystery surrounding the return of his son who has not been seen or mentioned for quite some time (back to Batman Year One per a quick internet search). Francavilla is a great artist to be matched with Jock. While they have very different styles, they both know how to spot blacks and set a great noir tone to the stories. The fear that Gordon is feeling is palatable as the story progresses. One is left wondering what the mystery with his son is, did he die horribly as a child, is he back for som sort of revenge and why did he show up at the aviary prior to the birds being released? This is what you want out of a book with a title of Detective.

I’m purposely ignoring giving this an almost page by page analysis because I want you to go out to the store and buy this issue as we are seeing the start of what should be a great run on a Bat book. For me this is a happy circumstance that marries the guy who I have wanted to be Batman for years with a writer who thinks things out and plots a story like no one else in the business.

When you read this book you know that Scott has a beginning, middle and end for this story. At the same time you can see him laying the foundation for Dick Grayson and how he is Batman now. I loved the simple beginning of Dick talking his childhood and about red and blue pins denoting what type of town the carnival was going to be in and how Gotham was a black pin. The Flying Graysons had to up the ante for Gotham as Dick has to remember that he has to up his game to be Batman. For some reason I have a feeling we will hear more about this element and of course the story is called “The Black Mirror”. It is hard to not read a lot into Scott’s story because he doesn’t waste anything. He has dialogue when needed and none when the picture tells the story.

The story and mystery itself involves corrupt cobs, murders, a mysterious manipulator, Batman showing off some ultra cool moves and right now being a little out maneuvered.

Overall Grade A + - If you aren’t reading this book you are missing what could become a classic.

I can overstate this enough about Scott; his work is executed to a “T”. If you don’t believe me think about how DC has been promoting the heck out of this run and they signed him to an exclusive almost right away. Heck Stephen King was more than happy to attempt his first comic book script on Scott’s American Vampire book. Scott in addition to be very talented appears grounded and I don’t see him every getting an ego that is out of whack. He also respects these characters. Too often I see writers wanting to tell a story and they cast these characters into their plays and could care if it all fits or not. They are the writer and the character will do whatever they tell them to do, after all they are just fictional characters, right? Not in my book. Scott gets it and seems to be one of us who love these characters and respects them. I’m guessing he wants to tell stories about these characters and not the other way around. It maybe a fine line to some, but I can see it clear as day at times. For me Scott is in that mold of making comics into more of literature with pictures, as such other books like Scalped, Echo, Locke and Key and a few others.

Summary – buy it – read it and I hope you love it too. Batman done right.

Marvel Preview Review for January 2011 Part 1of 2

Lee: I was all prepared to kill Marvel over the supposed price reduction. But then I did some counting and Marvel actually didn’t do so bad. In a totally non-scientific manner, I counted all the books listed in previews (87) and counted the number of books priced at $2.99 (29) and Marvel dropped prices on about a 1/3 of it’s line. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not great but it’s a start. Now if only they would reduce the total number of books then life would be grand.
Greg: Why would Marvel reduce the total number of books. If it says Marvel I want to buy it even if I have to sell my body to the night to get the money. I love Marvel.

Written by Mike Carey
Pencils by TBD
Cover by Chris Bachalo
Variant Cover by Olivier Coipel
Mutantkind’s final war starts here. If you don’t know which side you’re on, check your DNA.32 PGS./ $3.99
Lee: I believe this is the third of fourth final war between mutantkind and humankind. Sheesh, can’t they think of some new threat already?
Greg: I think this is some alternate reality storyline in Mike Carey's run about world without the X-Men. I generally like Carey, so I'll probably give it a shot.

Written by Jason AaronPencils & Cover by Ron GarneyVillian Variant Cover by ED Mcguinness
Captain America meets his ultimate nemesis the Captain America of the Vietnam War! As new enemies face off, old secrets from the super soldier project are revealed. From the superstar Wolverine: Weapon X creative team of Jason Aaron and Ron Garney, get ready for a hard hitting story of one man’s quest to serve his country and the sacrifices he must make.32 PGS./ $3.99
Lee: Probably well done but I’m not sure that I need another Cap story in which he has to sell a piece of his soul because of his beliefs. This is going to make me sound old but I miss the days when Cap was good and fought on the side of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Greg: I'm just glad Jeph Loeb isn't writing this.

Written by Jonathan Maberry
Penciled by Sergio CarielloCover by Adi Granov
From the dark days of World War II to the Heroic Age, witness the brutal battle between Captain America and the immortal evil known as Hydra! How far back has the gruesome group been killing its way to capture the secrets of eternal life? What can Steve Rogers do to halt its sinister spread “when the horrific hordes of the undead rise to stop him? Find out as award-winning horror novelist Jonathan Maberry (Doomwar) teams with five different artists to capture five different time periods “including Sergio Cariello (Lone Ranger), Tom Scioli (Godland), Phil Winslade (Wonder Woman), Kyle Hotz (Conquest: Wraith) and Harvey Talibao (Psylocke) “ and guest-starring The Falcon, Black Panther, Nomad, Nick Fury and The Avengers! 32 PGS./ $2.99
Lee: The idea behind this series sounds fine but I’m more interested in seeing all the different artist renditions of Cap. Hotz! Scioli! Can’t wait to see it. This should be an excellent series… art wise at least.
Greg: Ah, another miniseries making a pitstop at comic stores before its a trade at Barnes and Noble in time for the movie.

Written by Tom Defalco
Pencils & Cover by Ron Frenz
And The Demigod Declares Death! Nobody ever said being a super-hero would be easy, but the new Thunderstrike just can’t catch a break. With Gruenhilda the Valkyrie criticizing his every move, the man who would be Thunderstrike begins a quest to recover his stolen mace. Along the way, he adopts a daring different persona, uncovers a plot to invade Olympus and soon finds himself in a fight for his life against a super-powered demigod who is on a mission of vengeance! 32 PGS./ $3.99
Lee: And this cover represents everything that I don’t miss about the 90’s. A lighting shaped mohawk? Seriously? Then again, I have picked this title every month it’s been released because the covers have been so bad. At least it stands out in a crowd.

Written by Matt FractionArt & 50/50 Covers by Salvador LarrocaVariant Covers by Marko Djurdjevic, Joe Quesada & John Romita Jr.
Giant-Sized Anniversary Issue! Three generations of Starks face their ultimate foe, seventy-some years in the future while, in the present, Spider-Man joins Iron Man as he tries to fill in the blanks of his missing memory. What if amnesia was a weapon? What if the smartest man in the land had ten nightmares that all came true? Who is the son of Tony Stark? What's inside of the rings? The future starts now, for the Marvel Universe's favorite futurist. The Eisner-award-winning series makes a four-hundred-something-issue leap and raises a glass of non-alcoholic champale in salute to Ol' Shell-head! By Matt Fraction (Thor, Uncanny X-Men, Casanova) and Salvador Larroca (Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four), with special guests Howard X, Y and Z! 104 PGS./ $4.99
Lee: WTH just happened??? Last month this was Invincible Iron Man #33, this month it’s #500? What anniversary are we celebrating now? At least DC was smart enough to jump 1 million issues into the future.
Greg: Bah, they shouldn't have been renumbered in the first place. The important thing here is its more of Fraction on Iron Man. Stop your bitching.

Written by Paul Tobin Penciled by Clayton Henry
Cover by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic
Spinning From The Amazing Spider-Man!The greatest secret Spider-Girl has is her secret identity. Her secret protects both her and the lives of her friends and loved ones. Anya Corazon makes a fateful decision to share that secret with someone but what are the consequences, and why has the Red Hulk come for a rematch against Spider-Girl? 32 PGS./ $2.99
Lee: SWIPE ALERT! Well, it might not be a perfect swipe of Attack of the 50’ Woman but I can’t help but feel this is a swipe from somewhere. Maybe it was this picture!