Monday, June 1, 2009

more random readings from May 2009

What else did I finish reading last month?  Here’s a cross-section of various titles . . . . . . . . .

WITCHBLADE #126 “War Of The Witchblade Part 2” by Ron Marz and Stejepan Sejic  (Top Cow/Image)

Preface:  Now here’s an interesting concept! = In order to attract new readers to its’ titles Top Cow is giving out free books each month as part of it’s Let Us Win You Over project.  (www.topcow.com/freecomics)  Every month it’s a different title. And they work through different comics shops each month as well.  In April the title was Witchblade #126 and one of the participating dealers was Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE (my preferred supplier) so voila! - - - I find a copy in my hands.

Since the last time I explored the Witchblade series the mythology has expanded to a battle between the forces of light and dark with each side choosing its agents on Earth, hence the Darkness vs. the Witchblade.  I’m still not overly interested in this type of fare on a regular basis, but the writing has improved dramatically under the able hands of Ron Marz (a skilled veteran whose best work to me has been the series he did for the late lamented Crossgen books, then followed by Samurai at Dark Horse).  Witchblade wielder Sara Pezzini got mixed up with Darkness mobster Jackie Estacado, got pregnant and had a baby.  During that sequence the Witchblade was divided between Sara and another agent, Danielle Baptiste. A consequence of separating the Witchblade between two carriers is that each side is leaning towards either darkness/chaos or light/order.  Sara is getting a dark personality while Danielle wants to make it all better.  They both decide they need to remove the Witchblade from each other, and this begins the war.  This issue follows the events that led each of them to their decisions. 

Judging froAprilWB126m the praise heaped on Sejic in the letter pages he may be an artist to watch.  He employs a style that looks suspiciously to me like computer aided design, and this is really evident on some of the close-ups (the facial expressions remind me of many early computer game characters and have that synthetic vs. real kind of look).  His work is referred to in an answer on the letter page as “digital painting” (okay then – isn’t semantics wonderful?)  I find it very interesting and worth a look.  He does seem to use actual pencil-ink-color methods as well, and sometimes blends the two styles together on the same page or even in the same panel.  It’s kind of fun to view the pages and try to determine what parts were drawn and what was done with computer.  Witchblade is definitely worth your checking out if you’ve been yearning for something a little different - - and if you get to Captain Blue Hen soon you may be able to snag a free copy.

 

SGT. FURY & HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS One-Shot (Marvel) by Jesse Alexander and John Paul Leon:

This is 100% absolute fun from cover to cover.  I enjoyed it just as much on the second read.  Fury’s squad are given an improbable mission = parachute into Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia and follow the railroad tracks to a hidden German base.  Investigation only. Do not engage the enemy and stay out of trouble. From the moment Fury jumps out of the plane and directly into trouble it’s 100% improvisation.  Fury and the Howlers meet a sultry Russian Black Widow agent on a similar mission, destroy an incredible number of German tanks and planes ala Indiana Jones fashion,  foil Baron Zemo’s atomic plans,  destroy Baron Strucker’s super weapon and heist a Japanese submarine loaded with gold- - - only to be scolded, etc. with a kick-ass ending with another surprise. The Howlers as I remember them - - fearless, fun-loving and wise-cracking. I recall Marvel’s ad slogans when introducing this book in the 60’s = the war comic for people who hate war comics.  You won’t be disappointed.

WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #1  2nd printing (Marvel) by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney  “The Adamantium Men”, Part 1 of 5:

Two scenes into this and I felt that I was reading a Marvel MAX book.  The violence and brutality are surprising for a regular Marvel book (just a parental advisory on the bar code box).  It opens in Columbia with some shadowy figureweapon x 1s with possibly radioactive adamantium claws slaughtering a band of radicals without discrimination for innocent bystanders in the village. Cut to San Francisco where Wolverine deals with some subway thugs in bloody fashion.  Wolverine meets with Maverick who lets him know the Weapon X blueprints were obtained by Blackguard, a private military contractor with unknown motives.   Cut to the border between Washington state and Canada where Logan uncovers the Blackguard Research facility, only finding evidence to confirm his deadly suspicions and arriving too late to prevent it.  My guess is that Aaron’s take on Wolverine will be to show his darker, more animalistic and bloody side plus his grim determination and often callous disregard for feelings and consequences.  It’s a fast paced book, well-written and decently illustrated - - yet it failed to grab me and make me care for more.  I will give it a second or third look,  and probably hang around for the end of the first story arc. 

WOLVERINE WEAPON X #2 (Marvel):

The subway victim Wolverine rescued in the last issue is a newspaper reporter, and this issue opens up with a very funny editorial conference discussing possible front page stories (and writer Jason Aaron sneaks in a plug for his other books). This female reporter is determined to do her own investigation into the mysterious Logan and Weapon X, and gets an anonymous phone tip about Blackguard.  I get the feeling she’s going to be in danger soon, Wolverine will probably rescue her again,  and  then engage in romance. (We’ll see.)  This issue Aaron focuses on the drinking habits of Wolverine to humorous effect.  The action finally kicks in when two Blackguard enhanced assassins try to take him out and he sneaks up on them and ends it violently leading to a further confrontation with a whole pack of adamantium enhanced operatives.  Again, it moved fast but it still hasn’t moved me.  But I’m still hanging around and will pick up issue #3.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #50 (Marvel) by Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross:

A good stand-alone story that focuses on Bucky, the current Captain America and reveals some of his past, the early days of WWII, meeting Steve Rogers and their first assignment as Captain America and Bucky. There are some quick scenes highlighting their days together as well as their last fateful adventure.  These reflective moments help define Bucky’s resolve and determination to try his best to live up to the Captain America legacy and ends on a celebratory note. 

The middle story is about Steve Rogers and is an illustrated summation of his days as Captain America, as written and drawn by Marcos Martin.  I liked it. It was touching.  The issue ends with “Passing The Torch” a short two-page piece by Fred Hembeck.  I’m not a fan of Hembeck’s corCAPA050_cov_smny cartoons but what makes this one memorable to me is the reference to and rehash of Strange Tales #106 from 1963, when Stan Lee revived Captain America (but actually as a villain using the same type of costume) in a Human Torch short story,  Johnny Storm  used to share the magazine with Doctor Strange, and I actually remember reading this issue – it was my first ever exposure to Captain America, which I thought was cornball at the time.  I changed my mind a year or more later when I picked up Avengers #4 and was wowed by the actual Cap’s rescue from an ice cube.  (Sure wish I still had those issues. Duh.)

WOLVERINE #73 (Marvel)  two separate stories, with continuations promised:

This issue pre-empted and pre-ceded Wolverine #72, which is the concluding chapter of the lengthy “Old Man Logan” storyline by Mark Millar.   Wanting to cash in on the movie’s popularity Marvel thought that first-time customers entering a comic store for more of Wolverine would be confused by that story (the last days of Logan, etc) so they put this one on the shelf instead.  That’s a wise move - - but it sure confused a lot of the faithful and caused me a double-take when I saw it on the new releases shelf  (but I wasn’t going to accuse the late lamented BC for missing an issue again, at least not before I made some inquiries and learned the real story).

“A Mile In My Moccasins” must have taken Jason Aaron about 15 minutes to develop but it’s still a clever little glimpse into the life of Logan:  drink, fight, drink, fight, play cards, drink with hookers, drink, fight, pause to meditate, fight, drink, and occasionally wind up in bed with a woman (but not necessarily in the same order as I placed it). Art by Adam Kubert makes it much easier to drink down and like it.  This was subtitled “Part One” - - - what could possibly happen in Part Two except more drink, fight, etc.?

“One-Percenter” Part One by Daniel Way and Tommy Lee Edwards finishes up this issue, with the beginnings of a story that reminds me of the type of tales that were being told in this title when this current Volume ( I lost count, sorry) started up 72 issues and approximately 6+ years ago.  The art is adequate and same goes for the story which seems like many other stories.  Logan drinks with an old buddy who’s a member of the board of an old motorcycle gang experiencing a lot of member dissension and revolt.  It leads to murder, etc. and Logan comes in to help his old buddy.  Ho-hum. Some of the jokes and snappy responses help make it tolerable, especially when a police officer who stops Logan looks at his driver’s license and says “This your current address, mister . . . Claremont?”    Mm-hmm . . .

That’s going to be it for me for awhile.  I’m getting ready to leave for Pittsburgh for the funeral of my wife’s aunt who passed away quickly from complications following open heart surgery.  My wife, Denise, is already there to help comfort her mother (the only surviving sister) and help her cousins make the preparation.   I stayed behind to assist my son with some summer school assignments and re-schedule my work assignments for this week so I can get there Wednesday.  I’m feeling sad and distracted and having a hard time focusing on some paperwork/reports, so this has been a pleasant diversion to help clear my head and restore my focus.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Thanks for your attention.  See you soon. . . . . . . . . . . .

16 comments:

  1. Ron Marz's Witchblade has been one of my favorite surprises, and has quickly become one of the best comics I'm reading. I'd definitely say to track down the first trade he did (there's a new series of Witchblade trades for the Ron Marz run, so it's identified simply as Volume One) for its very affordable price of $9.99. It's easily accessible, incredibly well-written, and even looks nice with art by Mike Choi. I cannot praise this book enough, and wish that more people would give it a chance--it's gone way beyond the T&A of its original years.

    On a more personal note, I'm very sorry to hear abou the death in your family. My condolences, it's difficult for everyone involved.

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  2. Sorry, I have to talk about Witchblade more. When Stjepan Sejic took over the book, I was astonished that an artist this good could meet a monthly requirement, but he has, month-in and month-out, ever since the First Born event (which was my first exposure to the Ron Marz run, and simply blew me away with how good it was).

    Of course, Sejic does use the computer to make the process easier, but even still, it looks very nice. He's already been doing covers for Marvel, but he's signed onto Witchblade through issue 150. After that, though, should he choose to leave Top Cow, I wouldn't be surprised to see him at DC or Marvel.

    Digital painting is something I'm familiar with--other artists, such as J.K. Woodward on the IDW version of Fallen Angel, have used the style to great success. It's much faster than actual painting, and while there are differences in the finished product, I'd argue that the much greater speed of digital painting outweighs the slightly better quality of actual painting, especially on a monthly title.

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  3. First of all, I'm sorry to hear of the passing of Denise's sister. Our thoughts and prayers are with you family and hers.

    Secondly, Witchblade?!? Is that thing still in print?? They should add the letter "S" to the title and make it a good book!

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  4. Thanks for the kind words. Denise did not lose her sister - - it's her aunt. She would be 80 years old and was a sweet person.
    Good news for the Top Cow curious: They have printed new editions of two trades and are going to offer them at the introductory price of just $4.99! - - Witchblade Vol 1 (the same one that Shane mentioned) and The Darkness:Accursed Volume 1. Go to www.topcow.com for more information.
    P.S. . . Dan, you are funny. The dyslexic version of that book would be called Bitchslwade.

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  5. Oh, right, I forgot that Top Cow was doing that.

    Seriously, five dollars, how can you NOT buy it?

    Also, glad to see that it's not just you me and Jeff using the blog, Mike.

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  6. That's right . . . . FIVE DOLLAH !!!
    And if you pick up the Witchblade book and are attracted to it, would you then get a FIVE DOLLAR FOOT LONG? (I couldn't resist after you set that up so nicely for me).

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  7. My apologies, Mike. Five dollars, eh? That DOES appeal to the cheap in me. I'll check them out. Are these out now or coming out. I went to Top Cow's website and found nothing on this. Then again I'm not 'puter literate like SOME people.

    Mmmm. Footlongs...

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  8. The trades have been out for awhile (especially the Witchblade one), but I'm not sure about the five dollar printing. I'll defer to Mike on that one.

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  9. There's a full page ad for these $4.99 trades on the very back inside cover of WITCHBLADE #126.
    If you can't find them let me know - - I might be able to get them or order them for you through Captain Blue Hen. I could then get it to you at Gary's Comicpalooza on June 27.

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  10. Volume one is on the Top Cow web site for $4.99:

    http://www.topcow.com/store/product.php?productid=1292&cat=31&page=1

    I don't know what the shipping cost is.

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  11. I'll buy it if there's a good coupon...

    Seriously, WB has been getting good reviews for a while now, but I don't think anybody gave them any merit...

    Sorry too to hear of your loss MC, hope all goes smoothly on getting out there.

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  12. Thanks to all for the tip about the $5 trades from Top Cow, Witchblade and The Darkness. I picked them up at Granite Run yesterday. I'll read them and bring them along with some other titles to Comicpalooza if any one wants to borrow them.

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  13. Beware! Look out! Heads up! I just finished reading the $5 Witchblade trade. The good news is it is a well crafted story with matching art that makes one's escapist journey a worthwhile trip. The bad news is that while reading , the book fell apart in my hand. Now I'm no roughneck when it comes to books, but the sound book separating from cover just breakes my heart. Sections of pages began to fall out as well. I'm looking forward to reading the Darkness trade but I'm a little apprehensive. I guess you get what you pay for. Stay tuned..

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  14. Hope that's not an omen, Dan. I picked up the Darkness $5 trade at New Dimensions Comics, Cranberry Township store while in Pittsburgh. (They were sold out of the Witchblade trade). If my copy holds up, I'll bring to Gary's event.

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  15. I have the Darkness trade, Mike. I just haven't read it yet. I'll bring it along for others to share if it holds up.

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  16. I finally got the $4.95 Witchblade trade, which took so long to arrive (from topcow.com) that I had forgotten I ordered it. I liked it, and I'll blog about it soon.

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