Friday, July 31, 2009

Shane Talks Previews: October 2009 - DC Comics

I've been realllllllly lax on posting on this blog.  There's a lot I want to do--some more Number One reviews, some trade reviews, an entire post about how you should read Phonogram and if you aren't you are missing out on one of the best comics ever...but, I figure I'll start with trying to get my look at Previews done.  Maybe I'll even finish it this month!  We will see.

I haven't actually gotten my copy of Previews in the mail yet--usually it's here by now, I'm not really sure why it hasn't arrived--so I'll be doing this entirely from the internet.

Azrael #1

This, this is the sort of book that Fabian Nicieza excels at.  An ongoing title featuring a D-list character that he can really shape.  I'm actually rather surprised to see Ramon Bachs on the art duties, because he's still listed as working on Red Robin this month.  I figured that one of the artists from the annuals--Calafiore or Mandrake--would be working on this title...but no, at least not yet.  Anyway, releasing the two annuals and then this title over the course of just three weeks sounds like a good strategy to keep the excitement going, so I'm optimistic.  We'll see how this goes, but reaction for the miniseries was fairly positive.

Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3)

The second new Batman launch of the month follows up on the fairly well-reviewed Arkham Asylum one-shot from earlier this year.  Arkham's been more or less ignored lately, serving as just a basic setting or plot device, but I think that it has so much potential--it's just creepy when done right.  David Hine excels at telling horror stories (his Spawn run was rather innovative), so I think that this will be a good book.

Batman: The Unseen #1 and 2 (of 5)

I love Kelley Jones' Batman.  He's eerie, demonic, more of a presence than a person.  He's exactly the way that I'd imagine the criminals of Gotham see him--a force, always there, waiting, coming to get you.  So really, any excuse to see him draw Batman again makes me happy, and I like that he's had a fairly steady set of limited runs to show off his skill.  Reuniting him with Dough Moench is just icing on the cake.

World's Finest #1 (of 4)

The newest volume of World's Finest will finally show the new Batman family and the new Superman family interact.  We've seen bits and pieces, but not too much--for the most part, they've been in their own little worlds, and that's good, it really gives them a chance to solidify their own direction.  But there's plenty of fun to be had here, too, and giving Sterling Gates (the only writer to really make the relaunched Supergirl "sing") the reigns is a good choice.  I can't wait for the hardcover of this.  I assume that the miniseries won't just focus on Nightwing, Flamebird and Red Robin, but will also pull in other characters--Grayson-as-Batman, the new Batgirl, Damien-as-Robin, Mon-El, Guardian, and others.

DCU Halloween Special 2009

Most people will probably look at Blackest Night for their horror fix this October, or to the many horror titles coming out from other companies this month (of which I ordered many--it is, after all, Halloween!)  But I really enjoy these holiday-themed books that DC puts out every year.  Sure, they're not brilliant (although the creative teams keep improving with each issue--Billy Tucci!  Rags Morales!--and it's often a good chance to see forgotten creators return).  I just really enjoy sitting down on the holiday in question and reading the issue, really getting into the spirit of things.  Unfortunately, I'll probably have to spring for weekly shipping to get this by Halloween...

Justice League of America #38

The new direction starts here!  Neither of these creators are exactly unknowns, and both have a history of strong, reliable work.  So I'm really, really looking forward to this book (of course, I'll be more excited when we get to see Mon-El, Donna Troy and Dick-as-Batman in the spotlight, coming soon!)  I really don't have too much else to say about this, other than that it's a shame that Dwayne McDuffie couldn't have been given the leeway to go in his own direction, as Robinson seems to be.

R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual: Starro the Conquerer

Okay, people need to be reading this book.  Seriously.  It's a serious cosmic title with unique characters, engaging plots, and ties to all over the DC Universe.  It is written by a talented writer and drawn by incredibly talented artists.  I hope that this annual, about Starro the Conquerer, draws in more readers (although as talented as they are, I wouldn't necessarily call any of the artists attached to this issue "top artists").  Still--please, buy this book, it is one of my favorite titles and it is dying!

As always, other comments:

The currently running Blackest Night tie-in miniseries (Superman, Batman, Titans) finish up, making room for the next round (I know of Wonder Woman and Flash--any others come to mind?)

Final Crisis: Aftermath concludes.  Despite loving everything about Final Crisis, I haven'tfollowed these books, but I'm looking forward to the trade editions (which, based on reviews, seems to be the way to go).  After that, we're just waiting on The Multiversity (presumably out in 2010) for when Grant Morrison makes his return to these concepts.

Tony Daniel returns to Batman for a story arc following up on Battle for the Cowl.  I really, really hope that he's improved as a writer, because...well, I do not want to see another Battle for the Cowl.

Chris Yost wanders over to Streets of Gotham for a fill-in arc.  Paul Dini's Detective Comics run had numerous fill-ins, so I'm not surprised to see them here (he may not be doing Countdown anymore, but he is doing Gotham City Sirens and will be launching the Zatanna ongoing soon).  In this case, though, I'm happy to see that Chris Yost--part of the current Bat-family creative team--is coming on board, instead of the random names we saw on Detective.

Jim Starlin's massive DC cosmic story finally concludes with the last issue of Strange Adventures.  I've enjoyed what I've read of it--it's not a brilliant book, but as with most things Starlin's done, it's reliable.  After this, though, I hope that DC focuses on promoting R.E.B.E.L.S.

Oooh, Walt Simonson goes over to Vigilante for art duties?  Interesting.  Not exactly a favorite title of mine, but it's always a treat to see Walt Simonson interiors...I wonder, is he just on for this issue, or is he going to be part of the regular creative team in an attempt to keep this book alive?  If so, it's a shame to see Leonardi go, but...Simonson!

Mike Grell is doing the pencils for the first of two issues of Warlord.  I hear that the title has been rather disappointing, but maybe this will help?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“New” Logo of the Week

From the news section of marvel.com: “Marvel is pleased to provide your first look at the new logo making its debut on the cover of FANTASTIC FOUR#570” (emphasis mine).fflogo From November, 1976: the cover to FF #176.ff176

Green Lantern: First Flight

wp8_320x480 This is the latest DC Animated feature – apparently they’re doing well since Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is due in just a few months. I liked this even better than the previous Wonder Woman movie (which I liked a lot too) because it made better use of the short running time. It starts with Abin Sur giving the ring to Hal Jordan on Earth, but it only stays on Earth for about 10 minutes and then the rest of it is a big intergalactic action/adventure flick. When Hal gets to space and meets the Guardians (not as stuffy here as they are in the comics) he’s hooked up with Sinestro as his training officer. Eventually – and I don’t think I’ll shock you by saying this – they don’t see eye to eye and Sinestro attacks the Corps with a yellow ring. (They keep it simple, though – none of the emotional spectrum and other colored Corps from the comics.) The voice acting is what makes it: Hal and Sinestro have the majority of the speaking parts and they’re played by two great actors. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU, Oz) plays Hal and Victor Garber (Alias, Eli Stone) plays Sinestro. It’s not deep, but the whole thing is a lot of fun. (A couple of scenes might be a little too intense for younger kids, but they go by pretty quick.)

The extras on the one-disc version aren’t impressive – surprisingly there is not a commentary track but there is a mini making-of preview of “Superman/Batman” (fun mostly because they reunited the voice cast of Superman, Batman, JLU, etc.) and a short feature of Geoff Johns and Dan Didio talking to the camera about “Blackest Night”. The two-disc version also includes more mini-features about current GL comics, the Green Lantern episode of “Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century” from 2003 (featuring Daffy Duck as a Green Lantern and Kevin Smith as the voice of Hal Jordan – I swear I’m not making this up) and a “Justice League Unlimited” time travel two-parter that has a brief Hal Jordan cameo.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jeff’s Comics Review, 7/22/09 releases, Conclusion

Wolverine Origins 38: Still not holding my interest. I do like that at least Logan acknowledges that he was stupid to get into his current situation, but I couldn’t care less about Omega Red and I have no idea who the character on the last page is supposed to be.

Star Trek: Spock: Reflections 1: On his way to the events of the Countdown miniseries (and therefore the new movie), the same creative team has Spock remember events from his past including his first visit to the Enterprise after Kirk’s death and an incident from his childhood involving Sarek. It’s not bad, but it’s a little thin on stuff actually happening. I’m interested enough to buy the trade, but I’ll probably wait for that instead of the single issues.

Gotham City Sirens 2: For whatever reason, Paul Dini decided that he couldn’t continue this series without addressing the idea that Catwoman knows that Bruce Wayne was Batman. I personally think this was better off unmentioned, but Dini pretty much pulls off an explanation involving a cover story implanted by Talia that Selena repeats to Harley and Ivy, satisfying them. It takes up half the issue and stops the story dead, but once Dini gets it out of the way he gets back to involving the women with Hush/Bruce Wayne which is great. Hopefully now that the identity “problem” is dealt with we will never speak of it again. (Well, until Bruce comes back, anyway.)

Outsiders 20: This is the end of the first post-Batman story arc, and not much is accomplished except a temporary setback for the bad guy organization. Still, the guest appearances were pretty entertaining and I like that the Creeper was genuinely scary. Good enough to stick around for another arc, but I wouldn’t say this is one of my favorite books.

X-Force 17: This is back in its own story instead of the Cable story, which is a good thing, but I found the plot and the art confusing enough that I couldn’t tell if the guards holding Surge were terrorists or well-meaning security forces. Which is kind of important because Wolverine cuts them into little pieces. I did like the U.N. debate about the mutant “problem”, though.

Amazing Spider-Man 600: This is 100 pages of all-new material (no reprints) for $4.99, which is a nice value. The 60ish-page lead story by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. (God knows how long this took him to draw – no wonder Kick-Ass is late) has a lot of great stuff including a brand new take on Dr. Octopus that’s not a joke, a great Daredevil scene about secret identities, some fun Spidey/Torch banter, and a surprise appearance by a character we haven’t seen in a long time. (Well, not a surprise if you read Previews.) Because of the size of the story, there’s room for a lot of great interpersonal stuff including a brilliant “power and responsibility” scene between Peter and Aunt May before the wedding. My only quibble with the new Doc Ock “origin” is that they make a big deal out of all the head trauma he’s suffered over the years from getting punched, which I think is another one of those superhero story elements that’s best not examined too closely. The other material is mixed: There are some parody covers that must have been funnier in the office than they are on the page, a Stan Lee story that’s one of those ironic takes on the character that’s the only thing he seems to write now (like the “Stan Lee Meets” books a while back), a young Peter and Uncle Ben story by Mark Waid that I loved, a cute story by Bob Gale about some kids thinking about the logistics of being Spider-Man, a decent Aunt May story by Marc Guggenheim that I could have lived without because it duplicates some beats in the lead story, a silly Zeb Wells Spider-Mobile story and a Joe Kelly Madame Web story that foreshadows an upcoming storyline. (There was supposed to be a Brian Bendis/Joe Quesada story, but that got pushed to next issue.) The lead story and the Waid story are worth the (reasonable) price of admission.

Runaways 12: Under a beautiful David Lafuente cover, this is really, really good. Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli focus this issue on the characters trying to figure out how to behave now that their family unit has been fractured again. It’s still not something you can come in on cold, but if you’ve been following this since the Vaughn days this is just as good. (Better than the Joss Whedon run, which I also liked.)

Avengers: The Initiative 26: I guess we’re caught up to the “present day”, since Norman Osborn finally unveils the new Camp Hammond (now Camp HAMMER) and starts selling the public on Initiative teams made of “former” villains. Also, the Negative Zone prison situation from “War of Kings” is touched on and Tigra delivers a message that readers of New Avengers might appreciate. A transition issue, as you can tell, but a good one.

Ms. Marvel 42: It’s “War of the (Ms.) Marvels”, which is pretty much what you’d expect except that it’s still told from Moonstone’s point of view which makes me wonder if the returning Ms. Marvel is really Carol Danvers. Especially considering the (intentionally?) confusing last page.

Incredible Hulk 600: The lead story is long enough that there’s finally room for both Ed McGuiness’ huge art and some developments in the plot. There’s still no reveal of who the Red Hulk is, but we now have a pretty good idea of how he came to be. Of course there have to be fights too, so it’s Red Hulk vs. Spidey and Red Hulk vs. Green Hulk the latter of which comes to a pretty decisive end. I don’t feel that a lot of the players, especially Ben Urich and Jen Walters, act in a way I consider “in character”  but this is from Jeph Loeb who has a pretty specific idea of how he thinks certain Marvel characters should act. (For example, he said in his most recent wordballoon.com interview that if he was to do Daredevil he’d do a swashbuckling book not a crime book.) So, it is what it is – I’m on board until I find out if my Red Hulk identity theory is right, and then we’ll see. The other stories are not great: a silly Stan Lee story with both Hulks, Willie Lumpkin and Galactus, a pointless story of the new “Savage She-Hulk” with dialogue like “The Sidhes’ Chromedruids speak the universal machine language – the Ogham Code” and “I am Phinn Mac Mram, chief of chieftans of the Tuatha de Turing” and a reprint of Hulk: Gray #1 (which actually is great but hopefully you already own it). There’s also a cover gallery like the one in Cap #600 and a couple of those cute “Mini-Marvels” type strips written by Loeb’s daughter.

Captain Britain and MI13 #15: A terrific last issue which still has unexpected plot twists (one of which is in the online preview pages, so beware) and cameos by a bunch of other British heroes that I guess Paul Cornell was planning to get to but ran out of time. It’s a satisfying (and very British) ending, even though I wish it didn’t have to be so.

Incredible Hercules 131: I didn’t love the art this issue, which felt a little rushed to me, but this is a great story about the family dynamics of and between the two leads. There’s a great scene with Amadeus’ parents, leading to a surprise about his family and a change in his relationship with Hercules, and even Zeus undergoes an unexpected change.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dynamite Reading

Thanks to fellow refugee Bill, I will reviewing two Volumes of BATTLEFIELDS written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, etc.) and published by Dynamite Entertainment. These were originally released as single issues.


Volume One is " The Night Witches" and tells the story of two Russian bomber squadrons, one male, one female, who fight to save their motherland from a German invasion. Lots of action, gore and personality as we experience the battle from both sides. Art is by Russ Braun (Jack of Hearts) and suits this tale well. Recommended.

Volume Two is "Dear Billy" and tells the story of a nurse stationed in Singapore during the Japanese invasion of WWII and the horror and despair she lives with day after day. I feel that to say more about this particular volume would ruin such an amazing and well crafted story. This one is my favorite of the two. Art is by Peter Snejbjerg (The Mighty) and fits like a glove. Volume Three of this series will be called "The Tankies". I don't know if it's out yet, but after tasting these two literary meals, I will be definitely be going back for thirds.

Jeff’s Comics Review, 7/22/09 releases, Part 1

Power Girl 3: It turns out that Power Girl is wearing the same costume here as in JSA vs. Kobra, but when Amanda Conner draws it it looks cute and when Don Kramer draws it in the other book it looks slutty. Palmiotti and Conner seem to know this, since they make jokes about it when Kara gets heckled during a prison visit. (“I love that they never wear pants.”) I would have rather seen more of the new supporting cast instead of the extended guest appearance by the new Terra, and I generally dislike “Manhattan becomes detached from the Earth” stories, but otherwise this is fun.

Nova 27: Somehow, I completely misread the ending of the previous issue and thought that it was Rich (Nova Prime) Rider in that scene instead of his brother. That makes this issue a race against time as Rich has to navigate some of the front lines of the war, including an encounter with Blastaar, to rescue Robbie. Abnett and Lanning deliver their usual surprise ending twist, which if it sticks will have some lasting effects.

Immortal Weapons 1: Jason Aaron tells the story of Fat Cobra in this issue, and strikes just the right balance of comedy and tragedy. There’s also an Iron Fist serial in the back by the regular team, which is a great idea to keep people from losing interest while the front of the book focuses on other characters.

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four 5: Loved this from the opening scene (“…get away from the children, Osborn.” “Make me.”) to Franklin’s attack (and the scolding from his parents that followed) to Reed fulfilling the letter of a promise but not the spirit, leading to Hickman’s run on the regular book where Reed will try to solve all the problems he thinks he’s created over the past few years. Hickman also references the Dwayne McDuffie run, which makes me happy. I’m very much looking forward to Hickman and Eaglesham taking over FF.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance 3: The idea is good here: Joe Casey is basically saying these characters are so generic that their enemies (“The Parasitic Teutons of Assimilation”, for some reason) can’t tell the difference between them and partygoers dressed up like them. However Chriscross, whose work I usually really like, doesn’t pull off the staging well and half the time I wasn’t sure which characters were “real” in each scene. Also, the Twitter captions are starting to annoy me, because they’re appearing when Most Excellent Superbat can’t possibly be typing (like during a kiss on a roof.) Maybe that’s just Casey trying to be funny, but if he’s going to use the gimmick he should play by its rules and not just use it as a glorified thought balloon.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 2: If you’re following Green Lantern and not just Blackest Night, I’d call this issue essential because there’s a major development for Carol Ferris in it. The Red and Orange lantern stories are also good, but nothing that looks like it will impact much on the main story. Also includes a short essay by Ethan Van Sciver about the design of the various lantern corps symbols.

Green Lantern 44: Geoff Johns says you don’t have to read Green Lantern to follow Blackest Night, but you do have to read Blackest Night to follow Green Lantern. That starts here, as this is mostly an expanded version of the Hal/Barry/Black Lantern Martian Manhunter fight from BN #1. It also gives some insight into what the Black Lanterns (assuming for now that they’re individuals, which I think they may not be) are trying to accomplish and ends with a significant development for John Stewart. Geoff Johns basically blew away my prediction at San Diego by saying that Barry will definitely be around after Blackest Night, but wouldn’t it be fun if that was a huge fake-out? (It’s not – Johns admits he’s a terrible liar – but it would be great.)

Supergirl 43: The best issue of the current team so far, as Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle tell the story of a Kryptonian coming-of-age ritual for Kara in the form of a letter to her late father. This lets us in on some of her innermost feelings, and gives an opportunity to show Alura as not the queen bitch of the universe for a change. Very well done.

Dark Wolverine 76: There’s a lot of this issue I like, with schemes going in all directions between Osborn, Daken and Bullseye, but I completely don’t buy that Daken could get into FF headquarters undetected. Even Way & Liu admit this by having the characters acknowledge how implausible it is, but then not explaining it anyway. If Daken’s going to be a total badass in this book, that’s fine, but I need to be shown that not just told it.

Guardians of the Galaxy 16: This is the issue with the original (future) Guardians in it, or at least a possible version of them as affected by events in the present day. I was looking forward to this anyway, but it was extra fun because I just read the two hardcovers that came out recently reprinting the original stories. (Which is a discussion for another day.) The contrast between the original team’s more traditional heroics and “our” team’s seat-of-the-pants approach is great.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds 5: Worth the wait, this is basically a giant love letter to the Legion literally featuring every Legion character ever. (Some of the art may have been cut off, according to inker Scott Koblish’s blog, but all the characters were drawn.) Not surprisingly this issue clears the way to tell stories of the “original” Legion in Adventure Comics, but to my surprise and delight instead of being decimated both “reboot” teams are given new purposes – in one case a new name and a new mission and in the other case fulfilling a prediction I made in one of my reviews of the earlier issues. Superboy-Prime’s fate is really clever and suitably ironic, and the fate of the 31st century Green Lantern Corps is seen. I’m sure you can go ahead and read Adventure Comics without this (and by the way the preview pages look amazing), but if you have affection for the Legion and haven’t been buying this off the stands you should definitely get the collected edition when it comes out.

More tomorrow, including Amazing Spider-Man 600 and Hulk 600. (Guess which one I liked better.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

meeting The Th3rd World

          As part of my Free Comic Book Day reviews I was saving my Th3rd World notes for the final write-up.  However, these were somehow misplaced (not that hard to imagine happening if you know my organizational skills) so I never got to it.  Fortunately, I have recovered them and just in time as the anxiously awaited first issue of THE STUFF OF LEGENDS will probably be released this last week of July 2009. stuff of legend

          i attended an informal workshop/presentation featuring one of the publishers and an artist from Th3rd World Studios during the FCBD activities at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE.  Th3rd World (based in Ocean City, NJ) is an independent comics publisher with some very interesting offerings for readers who enjoy something a little different. ( www.th3rdworld.com)

          The meet and greet session was devoted mostly to their latest offering, THE STUFF OF LEGENDS - - so I’ll begin by writing about that first.

          The story, by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, takes place during 1944 wartime in Brooklyn, NY.  A young boy whose bedroom is a proper habitat for the kind of great toys you don’t see anymore (made from non-plastic materials, mostly wood or stuffed fabric/cloth and including all types of soldiers and cowboys/indians plus a jack-in-the-box, spinning top, and various domestic and wild animals) is taken away by the Boogeyman.  The loyal and steadfast toys come to his rescue and the ensuing battle is the basis for this two-issue limited series (52 pages per issue).  The FCBD preview allows a generous 25-page sampling of the first issue and it is definitely worth your time and attention.

          THE STUFF OF LEGENDS has both the look and tone of a quality children’s book and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this enjoying a favored shelf position on the bookcase.  That obviously is the intention, as the front and back pages are elaborately detailed.  I almost thought I could touch this and feel the raised areas and texture of the cover.  I just can’t imagine how much time it must have required of the artist, inkers and colorists to achieve that look!

          The entire book has this type of dedication to detail.  Using varying shades of brown and gray and avoiding any vivid or bright colors helps give the book an authentic 1940’s look.  The use of borders at the top and bottom of each page that seem to simulate the pages of a book (including creased or rounded edges) further enhances the effect.  The credits page states “illustrated” by Charles Paul Wilson III, and that is very appropriate considering the quality of his work.  Each panel is as painstakingly detailed as a separate drawing in a premium children’s book.

          The placement of sunlight entering a room, the intensity of lighting that surrounds a lampshade, and the use of shadows and backgrounds are incredibly accurate.  But in addition to his ability to depict such intricate details, Wilson is also quite effective at conveying emotion in the simple expressions on the toy faces as well as body language.  Wilson is an artist to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of his action scenes in the first issue.  The FCBD preview only has a few pages of such conflict, and the two-page battle scene is a delight to view.

          The script also provides the same type of enjoyment and is as careful in the choice of content as the art that compliments it.  Prior to making a commitment to enter the dark world and attempt a rescue of the boy there is some engaging dialogue between the toys, more than you would expect to find in a simple children’s story.  The toys debate the pros and cons of attempting such a mission as well as discuss the probabilities of their success.  However, it is written in such a way to hold the attention of an adult reader but not to be so complex as to confuse any young children that were having this read to them.  It sounds hard to pull off, but it works here.

82219_206686_4          Th3rd World Studios started up in 2005 by Michael Devito and partner Jon Conkling.  Their first book was published in 2007.  SPACE DOUBLES managed to make the Top 300 list at Diamond Distributors, but as Mike explained this meant the book actually broke even rather than bring a huge profit.  Mike has worked in the comics industry as a colorist for various independent publishers, and Th3rd World was started to provide another avenue for unknown talents to get their work to the public.

          It’s obviously a labor of love or time-consuming hobby versus a profitable enterprise, as Mike explains that his Th3rd world duties require almost 40 hours per week and lots of contacts in addition to his regular day job.  And once a new book completes production work, he spends twice as much time on marketing it.  At any one time his garage may be storing 3,000 issues of various titles that he’ll take to conventions, etc. to promote.

          Charles Paul Wilson III is both an artist and part-time instructor at the Kubert School, where he graduated from the 3-year program.  His advice to aspiring artists is to be prepared to dedicate sometimes as much as 14 hours per day to drawing in order to develop good working habits.  He finds that editors value timeliness, personality, and talent and it’s a good combination of the three that will help make an unknown obtain work.

          Mike Devito’s advice to aspiring writers/storytellers is to find and partner up with a good artist.  It’s too difficult for editors to evaluate a writer’s work without seeing the accompanying art.  Mike says “you can’t guarantee success without it.”  For example, THE STUFF OF LEGENDS was based on a proposed idea and then went to an artist.

          Th3rd World Studios doesn’t develop ongoing series, 20 issue limited series, or even a 4-issue mini-series.  Mike says that on average an independent effort will only support 1-3 issues.  A better strategy that Th3rd World employs is to develop 2-issue series with 48+ pages on content in each, and then come back with a second effort/series for the successful ones. 

Wednesday Comics

My copies of Wednesday Comics #1-3 arrived in the mail this week, so I’ll make some general observations and then talk about each feature individually. First, I love the format. It’s the perfect size and somehow even though it’s newsprint it seems to be able to handle the full range of colors that modern comic books use. (Though not always successfully in a couple of cases that I’ll get to later.) I really think they could sell this to mainstream readers if they could get it in front of them (in Starbucks maybe?) and it cost a little bit less. It’s more relatable to people than a comic book – it’s like the Sunday paper without the newsy bits! – and I think they’d be interested in most of the features. This is really an artist’s showcase: so much so that I’m a little reluctant to take apart the stories only three pages in, but those three pages per feature were a $12 investment so I think I’m entitled.

Batman: This feature probably moves the fastest – Azzarello opens with a chilling murder, then the funeral (with a Bruce Wayne appearance), then a disturbing domestic scene – and the size suits Risso’s art really well. The coloring is atmospheric in the night scenes and bright (but not too bright) in the daytime scenes. It’s definitely not an all-ages feature, but since this isn’t aimed at the mainstream yet that’s not a problem.

Kamandi: Gibbons and Sook are doing a “Prince Valiant” homage here with both the art style and the use of captions instead of word balloons. One can question the wisdom of doing a riff on a strip that most of the readership is not old enough to remember – and I will question one of the later features about this – but it works here. It’s bright, it moves and it’s fun.

Superman: This is the one feature that everyone can see on the “USA Today” web site, and looked at from that point of view I’m not entirely happy with it. John Arcudi’s story is too introspective for this format, and Superman comes off a little bit whiny. Lee Bermejo’s art is great but it either was colored or printed too dark – I wish it popped off the page more. I don’t necessarily think this strip should be a throwback or completely traditional, but I don’t see people reading it at “USA Today” and wanting to go out and buy more.

Deadman: Good. It moves along, it uses the page well, and the coloring is just the right combo of dark and garish for this character.

Green Lantern: This is the strip I would have picked for “USA Today”. It’s classic without being retro, the colors look great, and it’s not too experimental.

Metamorpho: It’s got the feel of the classic Metamorpho stories, and I love the way Allred is showing motion on the page without breaking it up into panels. The goofy little “fan kids” strip is great too. I also note with amusement that still nobody seems to be able to settle on whether Metamorpho can become any element, or just ones found in the human body. (The bit about naturally occurring elements is new, as far as I can remember, but logical.)

Teen Titans: I kind of like the cartoony art and the pastel colors, but the story is a mess – too many characters and a lame villain.

Strange Adventures: I don’t always find Paul Pope’s work aesthetically pleasing, but I think his “Flash Gordon”-style Adam Strange works really well. And he’s using the ill-timed Zeta Beam, which was always my favorite part.

Supergirl: I’m not a huge fan of any of the Super-Pets, but this is cute and fun. I wish there had been a straight humor strip included, but this one will have to do.

Metal Men: I honestly don’t even care about the story in this feature; I just want to look at Garcia-Lopez drawing these characters as much as possible.

Wonder Woman: Wow, where to start. I think a lot of ambition went into this feature, but it didn’t translate successfully to the page. I’m not hugely familiar with “Little Nemo in Slumberland”, but since this is all dream sequences I’m assuming it’s supposed to be a take on that. Which I think is a problem in this case, because hardly anyone is going to get the reference. (At least “Prince Valiant” is still being published.) I want to like this, but I find it physically hard to read. The panels are really small, the figures in the panels are hard to make out because the coloring is flat, and I even have trouble making out the (hand?) lettering sometimes. And this is young Diana before she even has the iconic Wonder Woman look. Ben Caldwell took a big risk here, and he’d look like a genius if he pulled it off but I don’t think he did. (At least not for me.)

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.: Probably the most traditional of all the features – except for the content being a little too brutal for the newspaper, I could easily see this in the Sunday comic section. And what’s not to like about Joe Kubert?

Flash Comics: My favorite 0f all the features. I love the separate Iris and Barry strips, and all the wacky time travel science.

Demon/Catwoman: Um, OK. This pairing is just weird, and I hate Selena becoming an actual cat on the most recent page.

Hawkman: I like this a lot, but the preview art that Kyle Baker posted on his web page looked better – I think the colors are printing a lot darker than intended here.

So, mostly successful so far, and probably something I would buy year-round if they could keep up the quality.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

San Diego Open Topic

Anyone who’s back from Comic-Con with a story to tell, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Glory, glory . . . . . . .

STREETS OF GLORY TPB (Avatar, 2009):

          I previously wrote about STREETS OF GLORY after it’s initial 2007-2008 six-issue run,  in the days before the BC Refugees Blog. The release of a trade paperback edition of this worthwhile limited series gives me an second opportunity to sing its’ praises.

sogp      sogppg7

          STREETS OF GLORY is a good old fashioned Western done Garth Ennis style with art by the extremely talented Mike Wolfer.  Also, it’s one of the best of many worthwhile Garth Ennis efforts.

          The story could easily have been a novel by Loren D. Estleman and other noted Western fiction writers.   It contains classic Western motifs = loner gunman returning to town 20 years later to try and re-kindle a romance only to find that he unknowingly left her pregnant the last time; a corrupt businessman with money and bodyguards galore trying to manipulate events for his benefit; a savage Indian who haunts the area and keeps the townsfolk frightened; a young sidekick who sees the gunman as his mentor/savior, etc.

          The gunman is Joseph Dunn, a fictional creation of Ennis who wanderings find him in Gladrock, Montana in 1899 at the turn of the century while changes are coming.  Horseless carriages can be seen in town and the railroad is on the way.  It’s no longer a place for men like Dunn, a former Colonel decorated for both his service in the Civil War and later against the Indian uprisings.   But he never brought down Red Crow, a bloodthirsty renegade with a penchant for scalping and gutting his victims.  He finally resolves (seemingly) that matter in the fourth issue, but there is much more to this story which continues on and only gets better.  Oh yeah, there is plenty of Western wisdom stated here and symbolism abounds (and not hard to figure out either).  But it’s not corn ball.  In fact, I think it’s one of the best things that Garth Ennis has written.

          The art by Mike Wolfer is perfect for this story, from the backgrounds to the character visualizations.  If you read any history of this period you will recall the old brownish tin type photos of Westerners.  Wolfer has captured that look - - the grim determination you see in faces from that period, and how women were attractive for their time but not by modern standards.  His action scenes are also very realistic and bloody, as you might expect.  People who get shot seem to explode as the bullets exit their bodies, and guts spill when the Indian uses his knife, etc.

sogppg2-3          The narrator of this series, the young sidekick who is now gray and balding, is telling the story of what happened back then to a waitress at a diner. It’s now apparently sometime in the 1950’s.  There are some great lines in the last two issues.  One occurs when Dunn, after stopping a nut job employed by the evil businessman from raping /abducting/killing his daughter, asks the narrator/sidekick . . . “Know what I’m afraid of?”  The sidekick responds  . . “Why . . nothing, sir.  Nothing on God’s Earth.”  Dunn then replies: “I’m scared I fought hard for this country.  Only to hand it to fools.”

          Also near the conclusion of the story, the narrator tells the waitress:  “Joseph R. Dunn.  He was  . . . a hard man to get a fix on.  His flaws were many, his virtues absolute.  A violent man, but a necessary one.  He was of a time that seems so much larger than our own, that men are perhaps too ready to make myths of . . . But we all make glories of our pasts, our loves, or the memories might be more than we could bear.”  He apologizes to the waitress for taking up her time, and notices a wedding ring when he gets up to leave.  The waitress replies that she’s not married anymore.  Her husband died at Okinawa.  And she tells the narrator:  “He’d have liked to hear your story, though.  Very much.  He loved Westerns . . . He was always such a boy that way.”

Cartoon of the Week

science_is_coolThe whole thing is too long  to copy here, but you can see the rest of “Science is Supercool” at Abstruse Goose.

Press Release of the Week


Marvelman Now A Part of Marvel Comics!

The biggest news of Comic Con International in San Diego was revealed moments ago and jaws are still on the floor-the world-renowned super hero Marvelman is now part of the Marvel Comics family! Marvel Comics has purchased the rights to Marvelman from creator Mick Anglo and his representatives, finding a home for one of the most sought after heroes in graphic fiction!

"It is an honor to work with Mick Anglo to bring his creation to a larger audience than ever before," said Dan Buckley, CEO & Publisher, Print, Animation & Digital Media, Marvel Entertainment Inc. "Fans are in for something special as they discover just what makes Marvelman such an important character in comic book history."

Originally created in 1954 by Mick Anglo and appearing in some of the most celebrated comic stories of all time, Marvelman is Micky Moran, a young reporter gifted with the power to save the world by simply uttering the word "kimota"!

"I did not think it would ever happen," said Mick Anglo. "It's a wonderful thing to see my creation finally back."

Marvelman is back and he's found a new home at Marvel Comics! What's next for Mick Anglo's legendary creation? Stay tuned to Marvel.Com ( http://www.marvel.com/news/comicstories.8869) for all the news on Marvelman and this exciting new addition to the Marvel family!

And to join in the celebration, visit the Marvel Shop ( http://shop.marvel.com) to purchase limited edition Marvelman t-shirts! Plus, this September, don't miss the Marvelman by Quesada Poster exclusively at comic shops everywhere!

The wild worlds of Warren Ellis, part 2 . . . . .

APPARAT THE SINGLES COLLECTION Volume 1 trade paperback (Avatar 2005):

          Warren Ellis’ first efforts in an experiment to blend pulp fiction into comics in the U.K. are collected here, in a black and white edition that collects four of these one-shots, illustrated by different artists.  They were all intended as stand-alone stories but I wouldn’t mind seeing 75% of them return for another tale.  Hold off on Angel Stomp Future but bring back Frank Ironwine, Quit City, and Simon Spector.

          There is also absorbing reading here in short articles by Ellis that explain his concept and give a little background into each of the stories and characters.  He writes of the comics world of pre-1965 where in addition to super-heroes you could read romance, pirates, crime, western, horror, etc. and contrasts that with how post-1970’s super heroes came to dominate. The end result was that it liapparatpmits the possibilities of storytelling since super hero stories had to move at a much slower pace (in both timelines and character development/growth/aging) with no finite end.   So he then imagines a past where romance, crime, etc. were the dominant themes in comics instead of super heroes and speculates where those type of comics might be at today.  He also makes a connection with music, and the “singles” that were very popular in the mid-60’s and early 70’s, those little 3 minute masterpieces complete in themselves, and how he was trying to duplicate that same type of feel in these four works.  He pulls it off.  There’s a lot to like here.

          Angel Stomp Future is the weakest of the four tales, and seems like a means for Ellis to project a gloomy future society rather than set up a new character. She serves mainly as narrator and tour guide.  I love Frank Ironwine, a seedy grubby detective who reminds you of Peter Falk’s Columbo in the way he investigates a case.  The most powerful tale here is Quit City, about a female member of an adventurous group of pilots (ala Black Hawks) who has survived many narrow escapes - -  but none of that is detailed here.  And it’s not an origin tale - - it’s a retirement tale.  The real guts of this story is learning the circumstances that brought her to become a pilot and what might have happened if communications had been better.  I can’t give it away - - but this was the deepest and most moving tale here.  Simon Spector is a tribute to Doc Savage solely (no companions here) but brought up to date.  The future Doc Savage is a well-dressed and groomed giant of a black man who ingests massive amounts of drugs in order to enhance his calculating/deductive abilities and allows him to anticipate and head off the villain.  This collection is refreshingly different and worth a look, and without any of the gore and/or sex that Ellis sometimes dabbles in when Avatar gives him free license.

AETHERIC MECHANICS, A Graphic Novella (Apparat / Avatar 2008):

          I admire the style of this book more than I do the story; although the story isn’t bad - - it just abruptly ends with only partial resolution and leaving us to guess at the final outcome.  If I said the ending was appropriate then I might set you up and take away from the surprise . . . so I’m not saying that!          

This has an old-time feel to it, and Warren Ellis puts his spin on the whole Sherlock Holmes detective genre with Sax Raker (say it fast and it sounds like Sax Rohmner), the intuitive/deductive genius and his occasional fellow investigator and archivist Captain Doctor Richard Watcham.  

          They both inhabit a London of the early 1900’s that is under siege and at war with neighboring Ruritania,  who constantly fly bomber planes overhead while large H. G. Wells-like war machines stroll across the English Channel.  The homes and streets and clothing styles all look appropriately Victorian, although transportation includes steam-powered platforms and hovering carriages.  2436730984_fdd2a720ffThere  is no color here, just pen and ink artwork by Gianluca Pagliarani and Chris Dreier and elaborately detailed.  (Worthy of multiple looks.)  The cityscape scenes are a wonder to behold.  The two main characters investigate a murder involving a seemingly invisible man as suspect and uncover a much deeper conspiracy.  It ended too quickly for my liking.

I’ve been going a little BATS lately, part 3 . . .

 red robin 1streets of gotham 2 bat-outsiders tp

RED ROBIN #1 (second printing) by Chris Yost and Ramon Bachs:

          This title has surprised me by how good it is.  I haven’t read much of the Tim Drake aka Tim Wayne saga before, except once a few years back when I was persuaded to pick up a Robin TPB.  While I really liked the story (by Bill Willingham) I wasn’t motivated to start following it any further.  On the other hand, I picked up Red Robin #2 on a whim and now I’ve gone back and sought out the first issue. After reading this,  I finally care about Tim Wayne and will  follow this story to the end, and then maybe even through the second story arc.

          The basic premise of this book is that of a loner/self-outcast, now on an investigation that no one else seems to believe has any merit. Tim is determined enough to see it through, no matter how much adversity he must endure or obstacles in his path.  That is a foundation that should appeal to a lot of readers who will empathize with his situation.

          Tim is globe-trotting in search of the missing/presumed dead Bruce Wayne.  The first issue takes him through Spain, where he stops long enough to rescue a kidnapped daughter of a prominent politician from extortionists/terrorists. This serves as an introduction to both the new costume and new fighting style of Red Robin, who takes more chances than Tim Drake/Robin did and engages in bolder actions against his foes – like a nose-breaking, glasses-shattering aggressive head-butt.

          There’s also a flashback sequence where we see a disheartened Tim find out he’s not part of the new Bat-team and has to endure the insults of the new Robin (the smart-ass bad boy Damian) before he turns his back on Batman/Dick and walks away from it all.   Move forward now to Paris and see Tim acrobatically bring a moving car of armed robbers to a crashing halt while he walks away, unscathed and not bothering to see if anyone’s trapped in the wreckage.  The captions reveal to us his new resolve:  “And everywhere I go, there are distractions . . . . . Garbage like this. . . . . Keeping me from what’s important . . . . Keeping me from the search.”  That is one determined man.  This issue moves very quickly and ends with another unofficial member of the Batman family (Damian’s grandfather) observing these events and setting his game pieces (assassins) in play. To be continued. . . .

          The only quibble I have (and it’s minor) is that if Tim has truly changed his name and costume in order to distance himself from connections to Batman and Robin = then he should have picked a different costume and a less obvious name.  (Although I really enjoy Red Robin’s gourmet cheeseburgers.)   That costume seems to incorporate elements of both the Batman costume as well as the Robin costume.  Perhaps if the name “Red Robin” wasn’t associated with the costume nobody would catch on . . .  but really?  (And maybe DC needs to leave enough similarities/connections to the Bat family to avoid any interested readers from passing up the book by accident.  OK,  I’m more willing to accept that.)  

          For a better name for this character for use when in costume - - would you support  “RED HERON”?  - - - a mix of the “red herring” mystery plot device with a bird image replacing the fish.  Place your votes now.        

BATMAN: STREETS OF  GOTHAM #2     “City On Fire” by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen    PLUS    “Who In The Hell Is ‘Jane Doe’ ?” by Marc Andreyko and Georges Jeanty

          I don’t like this title quite as much as I do RED ROBIN but it remains interesting and the cliff-hanger endings to both stories will bring me back another month to see what happens.  The best highlight of this issue is the art by Nguyen on the fight scene between Firefly and Batman (which Jeff also mentioned in his review). Great images that tell the story without need of captions or much dialogue.  It moves quickly. 

          I’m looking for words to describe the art style of Dustin Nguyen. It’s somewhat different and unique and the best description I can come up with is that it looks like a Vertigo style (simpler lines, simpler backgrounds) with more color (adding blues and more vivid reds/oranges to the normal monochromatic earth tones that a majority of Vertigo titles display) and has a bit of a cartoonish-look to it in places without giving an impression of being juvenile.  

  11328_180x270Dini does his usual good job with the story, managing to mix a little character reveal here and there amongst all the action/plot details. The good-natured Alfred is taken advantage of and the devious nature of Tom “Hush” Elliott serves him well as he impersonates Bruce Wayne and puts a major hurt on the family without lifting a finger.  Does he ever !!  - - Wonder how they will handle this.

         

     In the second feature Manhunter continues her investigation into the mystery of “Jane Doe” both in her daytime role as District Attorney and her evening streets persona as Manhunter. The trail takes her to Arkham Asylum where she meets one of the creepiest female villains in Gotham.  The art is good but I’ve seen better from Jeanty.  I am sensing the possibility of a “Streets Of Gotham” style in the art for this book.  Like the front story, there is a Vertigo look to this second feature with the same use of simpler backgrounds and similar colors as described before.  Huh.      

BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS TPB #2: THE SNARE  Chuck Dixon, writer and art by Carlos Rodriguez, Julian Lopez and Ryan Benjamin

          The Bat book frenzy/fever has got me sweating enough that I actually traded some titles in order to pick up this book and give it a read.  Well, I did enjoy this but it wasn’t and isn’t essential reading.  Chuck Dixon is a good writer, well-versed in the DC continuity and capable of working within any title’s boundaries - - and that may be the problem I have with some of his work. It’s  good and competent but rarely great and often lacks that one or two things that would enhance the story.

          There’s certainly enough going on here in these stories from 2008 (Issues #6-10): OMAC has been taken over. There’s a secret space program funded by several corporations that seems to be creating a weapon of some kind.  Some of the Outsiders get caught (or trapped) within Chinese borders trying to commandeer their secret space shuttle.  Batman and The Outsiders have to figure out how to best utilize the Remac, a friendly version of Omac , that requires a human operator to don a virtual reality type hardware/headset.   The artists are all good at depicting teams in action and their styles are similar enough that you don’t get a shock when a new artist comes on every other issue.

  But there’s just too much stuff here and not enough substance. I’ve read this twice and have trouble remembering the core details - - probably because Dixon’s scatter-shot story-telling style  failed to engage me in these events enough to care. 

          It doesn’t help that rather than being a complete story arc this volume is just a continuation of events that weren’t resolved in Issue #5, then introduces some more conflicts and sort of resolves those (with lots of questions left unanswered)  and then drops a brand new plot development in the last two issues before it all ends abruptly.  You’d think DC would try to break this up evenly - - but I think it’s Dixon’s style that makes it impossible to find a good stop point  - - so just print the next 5-6 issues and leave it at that.

  I’m reminded of the overdose of superhero titles from the 1990’s and the Image bonanza of super-team books.  They all had good art and interesting stories but you couldn’t keep them straight and really didn’t want to. It’s one and done for me with Batman And The Outsiders.  Will I give Dixon another chance?  Oh, of course  - - I’ve read too many good works by him.  But this is sloppy, and I don’t care about what’s happening here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reviews of the Week (present company excepted)

  • Paul O’Brien explains the problems with X-Men: Messiah War more articulately than I was able to.
  • A brief review of Phonogram: Rue Britannia from Bill Harris. I bring this up not only because it is a favorite book of Shane’s but Harris is a blogger that doesn’t usually talk about comics so it’s significant that he really likes the book. Harris’ blog, dubious quality, is mostly about video games but it’s one of my favorite blogs even though I don’t play a lot of games anymore. He’s an articulate and funny writer, and his family anecdotes are always entertaining.
  • An unbiased third party from "The Weekly Crisis" blog reviews the Patsy Walker: Hellcat trade.
  • Finally, an excerpt of Harlan Ellison's opinion of Wednesday Comics from his message board: "...The paper is a hard matte-finish newspaper-supplement style, with a bounteous ration of eight or ten features, one page each. The BATMAN is wonderful. The KAMANDI by Dave Gibbons will remind you of FLASH GORDON and JUNGLE JIM. The SUPERMAN strip-page is written by John Arcudi, a favorite of mine, responsible for the best comicbook adaptations of ALIENS; DEADMAN, a brilliant HAWKMAN by Kyle Baker, a Kubert-Dad&Son SGT. ROCK; THE DEMON and THE CATWOMAN paired, a weird ADAM STRANGE story, METAMORPHO and idiot SUPERGIRL, TEEN TITANS and WONDER WOMAN strips stupidly drawn, incompregensible of adolescent to follow, plus GREEN LANTERN and a brilliant FLASH continuity. I am drunk in love with DC's WEDNESDAY COMICS...The artifact comes with my highest recommendation..."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jeff’s Comics Review, 7/15/09 releases, Conclusion

Batman: Streets of Gotham 2: Continued great stuff from Paul Dini as Tommy (Hush) Elliot’s new face becomes a problem for Batman. Dustin Nguyen’s aerial sequences with Firefly look great, and The Manhunter backup continues to get interesting story ideas out of using Kate’s outsider status to look at Gotham staples (in this case Arkham) through new eyes.

Action Comics 879: Even though they have a point, I think the cracks in the government’s anti-Kryptonian efforts start to show here as they are unwilling to distinguish between Flamebird and Nightwing and a couple of murderers they are trying to stop. There’s also another glimpse of the religious angle from the Annual, and Lois figures out a key piece about what’s going on with her family. I’m not sure if we’re meant to think that the woman who disappears and reappears at the end is the assassin from last week’s New Krypton. I’m also not sure what’s going on with the Captain Atom backup yet – he’s fighting a medieval army for reasons that aren’t clear yet, and he may be delusional. It looks great, though, and it’s by Robinson and Rucka so I’m sure patience will pay off.

Brave and the Bold 25: Another Milestone spotlight, this time with Hardware and Blue Beetle. Using Blue Beetle makes this a little lighter in tone than the usual Hardware story – he’s not an Iron Man clone even though he is incorrectly drawn with boot jets here (he’s supposed to have a jet pack) – but it’s a fun story and a pretty good intro to the character anyway.

Amazing Spider-Man 599: This is a huge development in the Harry & Norman Osborn relationship that, in my opinion, justifies bringing Harry back. I’d absolutely put this up next to any of the J.M. DeMatteis Harry Osborn stories from back in the day and say it’s of the same quality.

New Mutants 3: I liked the scenes between Sam and Dani where, as far as Sam is concerned, they’re no longer equals since she lost her powers on M-Day. The rest of it is getting a little too dragged out for my taste. (Hopefully this is a four-issue arc and not a six-issue one.)

Vigilante 8: This is finally completely on its own without any baggage related to Nightwing and the Titans, and I think it works very well as a straight crime series. However, eight issues in is pretty late to find its legs so I hope enough of the crossover readers stuck around to make this viable.

Incognito 5: I can’t imagine how Brubaker is going to be able to wrap this up in just one more issue, but you can tell he’s planning to come back to this world because he gives us a glimpse of the origin of superhumans in it. Zack also finds out that his origin isn’t exactly what he thought. The “Pulp Heroes” text feature is about Fu Manchu.

Agents of Atlas 8: Apparently this is on the 16-issues-a-year plan, because it’s been coming out at a relentless pace lately. I’m not in love with the guest artist, but otherwise this is a pretty good story of the team trying to clean up some of the seedier aspects of the Atlas Foundation and running into the Hulk. There’s also a little more about the history of Atlas, and my prediction about Jimmy Woo’s 1950’s girlfriend comes true.

Mighty Avengers 27: About half of this is devoted to the previously-unknown story of the Inhuman king that came before Black Bolt (though he’s apparently known enough that Quicksilver can recognize him on sight), who is not a nice guy, and the confrontation between him and a group of Chinese heroes. (Who are somewhat of a ripoff of “The Great Ten” from 52, but that doesn’t bother me too much because both universes need such a team.) The rest of it is about Hank Pym’s newly constructed Avengers HQ, which has some interesting ramifications. Not the best issue they’ve done so far, but not bad either.

Dark Avengers 7: I like that the plot of this crossover is progressing quickly, and I liked both Scott’s and Emma’s confrontations with Norman Osborn. And I love that “Dark Wolverine” is a member of both the “Dark Avengers” and the “Dark X-Men”. (Bullseye: “How many teams can that guy be on?!?”) My only quibble at this point is that there are so many characters that we’re not always getting to the ones I’m most interested in like Namor and Cloak & Dagger.

JSA vs. Kobra 2: Good, but the misdirection was obvious to me almost immediately so I have a hard time believing that Mr. Terrific would have fallen for it. (He’s suspicious, but he hasn’t figured it out yet.) The technology that Kobra stole has some chilling implications, but at this point it hasn’t been explained so you have to have read 52 to comprehend it. (It’s towards the end of the issue so hopefully they will go into it more next month.) My only other complaint is that I don’t think Power Girl is being drawn with her ass hanging out in her own book the way she is here, and it sort of undermines her authority as JSA chairman.

Punisher 7: I love the way the tension is mounting here – The Hood’s offer is weighing on Frank every moment which is causing him to lash out at his new partner (who has his own issues.) I also love that the resurrected villains are being portrayed as having been out of touch for a decade or more. (“Craziness, right? Saw me a sweet broad walking down 5th with her butt crack hanging out.”) I’m not sure what to make of the cover preview of next issue, showing Frank facing an 80’s-era Avengers team.

That’s two butt crack references in a row, for those of you keeping score. See you next week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jeff’s Comics Review, 7/15/09 releases, Part 1

Titans 15: This is a good solo issue starring Tempest (a.k.a. Aqualad) that reintroduces him, settles the fate of his family and sets up a surprising new role for him. Just as everyone over at Marvel seems to have one good Norman Osborn scene in them, everyone at DC seems to have a good Dick Grayson as Batman scene and the one in this issue is no exception. (Garth: “Well, I’m sure Bruce would be proud of you for what you are doing.” Dick: “He would have been proud no matter what.”) Even though I didn’t care for the Cyborg solo last issue, I’m starting to think that individual tales of these characters (or small team-ups) make more sense for this book than the whole team. It doesn’t really make sense for them all to be together with Dick as Batman and Wally and Roy with the Justice League (though that may be changing), but there is interest in these characters so maybe it would be better to follow them on a rotating basis. (I don’t think that’s DC’s current plan, though.)

Blackest Night 1: I’ve already told you almost as much as I can say about this without giving away any surprises, but I will say that Ivan Reis does a George Perez-level job here – there are a lot of characters in this book and they all look great. (The scene where Hal shows Barry all the characters that have died since he’s been gone is especially moving.) For the record, my prediction is that Barry will sacrifice himself again to bring all the Black Lanterns back to life.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 1: I’ve been hard on these anthology books lately, but this one worked for me. I think it’s because two out of these three stories are backgrounds for mysteries that Geoff Johns already set up in Green Lantern and are written by him. Johns and Jerry Ordway tell the origin of Blue Lantern Saint Walker, and Johns and Rags Morales introduce us to the Indigo Lanterns for the first time. Pete Tomasi’s Mongul story is fine, but it’s more like the kinds of stories I’ve criticized in the Marvel anthologies. (You don’t need to read this to understand Blackest Night #1, by the way, but anyone reading GL and GL Corps will be interested.)

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape 3: The only escape happening here is me from this book. It continues to be incomprehensible, which I have to blame on the credited editors: Dan DiDio & Rex Ogle. Which means I blame DiDio, because according to dc.wikia.com Rex Ogle is an assistant editor which means he’s probably not the one making the decision to release the book in this state. Maybe it will be brilliant when it’s collected, but if that’s the case then it should have been released as a graphic novel instead of as a monthly. I love the DCU spy characters, but I just can’t make enough sense out of what’s happening here to care about how it ends.

Deadpool 12: Weird, even by this title’s standards. I liked the resolution of the Bullseye/Deadpool fight (though I just re-read Batman ending a fight the same way in Grant Morrison’s JLA), but I’m not sure what to make of the last two pages.

Dark Reign: Mister Negative 2: I like that Mister Negative’s corrupting touch actually changes the corruptee’s internal monologue – they’re not possessed, their thinking actually changes. That’s a new twist on this kind of power that I don’t remember ever seeing before. The background of his family in China is also interesting, and the head-on confrontation with the Hood next issue should be fun.

Captain America 601: A stand-alone flashback issue not connected to the current storyline, featuring Gene Colan’s art reproduced directly from his pencils (no inker.) The result is uneven – brilliant in some places and sketchy in others. Whether that’s an artistic choice or the effects of age, I can’t say, but Colan has mostly still got it and any fan of his will find something to like here.

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special: Marc Guggenheim and Javier Pulido bring back the Blonde Phantom (last seen in John Byrne’s She-Hulk, if I remember correctly) in the present day in a 40’s-style hard-boiled private eye mystery. It works pretty well, but I had the mystery figured out way before the end. The rest of the issue is a new story of “Marvex the Super Robot”, and a couple of Marvex reprints. I’ve never heard of Marvex before, but he’s a robot that kills his creators and then goes out and becomes a superhero for no adequately explained reason. The new story is written and drawn by Michael Kupperman, who I’ve also never heard of. Wikipedia says his work “often dwells in surrealism and absurdity played as seriously as possible”, which is about as good a description of Marvex as I could have come up with.

Existence 2.0 #1: This Image title (for adults) from Nick Spencer and Ron Salas is a much more successful noir than the one above. It’s about an “evil” scientist that’s able to transfer his consciousness into his killer and live on to investigate his own murder. The writing and art remind me a lot of 100 Bullets, and there’s also some interesting stuff about the nature of identity. Recommended.

X-Factor 46: No review of noir titles would be complete without X-Factor, but we’re so deep in the current story that there’s nothing specific I can say without spoiling it. It’s great stuff, though, and I’m very interested to see how all the moving parts of this story come together in the end.

Fallen Angel Reborn 1: Peter David and J.K. Woodward are back with this excellent series, this time trying to pull in new readers by featuring a character from Joss Whedon’s Angel. I haven’t seen any Angel episodes (though I do have the DVD set), but Illyria is introduced without needing any background. In fact, most of this issue is introduction, making it a great jumping on point for new readers – which I highly recommend if you are – if not an entirely satisfying one.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers 3: I mention this only because this issue and next feature President Obama’s dog Bo, so there is a slight chance they will be collector’s items. (You laugh, but the Obama Spidey issue sold half a million copies, so who knows?) Also, Ig Guara’s artwork is beautiful and Thanos should fire his agent.

More tomorrow, including Dark Avengers, Mighty Avengers and Streets of Gotham.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Intern of the Week

I have no idea what this show is about, but I happened to catch this clip 30 seconds before “X-Men: Evolution” started the other night, and I thought it was a hoot. (“He knows what all those buttons do!”)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Have fun in San Diego!

To those of you heading out to San Diego for Comic-Con: have fun and watch out for the jumbo flying squid!

Edited to add: The Beat's Heidi McDonald thinks they're pissed off about being left out of the director's cut of Watchmen. She predicts that "the seemingly placid waters of San Diego Bay are about to become the scene of a savage battle between humans and beasts. Humans — who normally subdue squid using a light, seasoned breading and a few slices of lemon — will this time need squads of Elite Security personnel, armed with harpoon guns."

T-Shirt of the Week

jul091389

I’m happy for Bob Burden that his creation, which I have not read, has reached its 10th anniversary, but seriously? Is there anywhere outside of Comic-Con that you could wear this without guaranteeing at best an awkward conversation and at worst an extended hospital stay?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blackest Night is the DCU event you’ve been waiting for.

I just read Blackest Night #1, and since I don’t know if it will become hard to find I didn’t want to wait until my usual review to make this statement: This is the book that is the next (last?) chapter of the story of the DCU that started in Identity Crisis and continued through Infinite Crisis, 52, etc. I’ve long said that a lot of the disappointment in Final Crisis was that people were led to believe it was that chapter when it wasn’t. But it’s here now, so don’t hesitate to go out and get it if that’s what you’ve been waiting for.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cartoon of the Week

For Peanuts fans, from Let's Be Friends Again.

Superman at USA Today

USA Today newspaper will be featuring the Superman feature from DC's WEDNESDAY COMICS every Wednesday during it's 13 week run.
The first two episodes can be viewed at:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/2009-07-07-superman1_N.htm

The art by Lee Bermejo is stunning, and much more detailed than I'm used to seeing in the traditional newspaper comics (which I stopped paying attention to aeons ago). I wasn't sure what to make of the script by John Arcudi after Week One (Superman stops an alien from wrecking the city and learns that he's from Krypton). It gets better in Week Two where Superman seeks advice and comment from Batman, who is impatient, opinionated, and surly (not a good look for him).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I've Been Going A Little BATS Lately, Part 2




RED ROBIN #2 by Chris Yost and Ramon Bachs . . . . .



Based on a satisfactory experience with the 3 titles I've sampled so far I've decided to explore the Batman: Reborn titles a little further, continuing with this one which I picked up without benefit of reading Issue #1 for two main reasons:



1) It's a Batman-related book, and;

2) I like the cover art, a two-sided light/dark view of Robin/Red Robin descending from a spire into battle - - obviously symbolic since neither event occurs within the book but it's a nice touch - - as if to imply that the main character is going through some internal conflict with two separate directions/choices.




Indeed he is, and you can pick up the story and still enjoy this book without having benefit of reading Issue #1. It worked for me. It's a good, fast-paced story with some keen insights into how calculating Tim Drake has grown/become. If only he could confirm that he made the right decision to bolt and run from the Wayne family/Batman clan and pursue his personal mission to locate the missing/presumed dead Bruce Wayne/the real Batman. But he still doubts himself just a little and finally gets some support for his viewpoint from an unlikely ally at the end of this story.




His mission takes him on a globe trotting pursuit of clues from Paris to Berlin, all the while pursued by assassins. It's during his battle with three of them that we see how he has evolved as the captions share his thoughts during battle, always estimating the capabilities of his opponents and their next moves. It's an effective way for the writer to convey this to us, and the battles are a great way to show off the artist's talents. I was entertained and I'll be back again.




I can't say the same for the five-page preview of the re-booted DOOM PATROL in the back of the book. Based on what I saw here I'm staying away from that upcoming title. It looks to take place on Oolong Island, haven for mad scientists and mad monster creations (and one of the worst side-plots in the disappointing 52 series) and pits the Doom Patrol against guess who? - - another mad scientist and monsters. The new Doom Patrol features a huge gorilla in armor (at least it doesn't talk) and a blend of new and familiar faces, including Cliff = the brain inside the robot, and Larry = the energy being beneath the Invisible Man wrappings. I used to like both of these characters. What has happened to Keith Giffen? Is he all out of worthwhile ideas?





Shane's Number Ones! - June 2009

I probably won't be discussing the Marvel previews anymore--I just don't have the time, and I also don't pay enough attention to Marvel to really do it justice, so if any of you wanted to focus on that, please, feel free.  I'll probably get around to the independents at some point, though.

For the moment, however, I wanted to take a look at some of the number ones that I've read recently.  I got my June shipment about a week or so ago (for my July and future orders I've switched to bi-weekly, but June was monthly), and there were quite a few new titles there, so I figured I should give them a basic rundown, in case any of you were interested.

Dead Run #1 (of 4) - BOOM! Studios

Oh, how I wish that this was an ongoing series (and I even thought that it was, before this issue came out).  Anyway, a quick comparison, so that you get a sense of the story--Mark Millar's Old Man Logan story in Wolverine?  How he and Hawkeye basically take a road trip through a dangerous world?  Well, that's this, and I definitely noted a few similarities.  However, because this is an independent comic, the focus isn't on exploring the future of the Marvel universe--instead, we get to look at this world, where the roads are incredibly dangerous, and many couriers between the safe cities meet rather unpleasant ends.  That's the premise--our hero, a somewhat successful courier, needs to get from Las Vegas to San Francisco.  Not too bad of a drive, right?  Except for the fact that only one person has survived that trip.  One.  Out of many.  And the survivor?  He's not telling.  So our hero needs to make the run without the advice that would probably save his life.  The high mortality rate for the route has earned it a rather cheery moniker--"The Dead Run".  The art is a perfect fit for this book--it's darker, with plenty of browns, emphasizing the barren setting of the book.  The characters, of course flawed, are intriguing, and I instantly felt that this book would have a lot of potential.  As I said, I'm disappointed that it's a limited series--although they can't be on this one trip forever, I'd hoped that they might go elsewhere--but with luck, it might continue.  This is one title that I highly recommend, especially if you enjoy stories where the world seems lost.

...on another note, I'm disappointed that I didn't get this cover--instead, I got Cover B, which is just a pinup of the main character.  It's certainly not bad, but I do like this one much better.  Oh well, that's what I get for ordering online, I suppose!

Chew #1 - Image Comics

Chew has already been reviewed, so I'll keep it brief.  This is another book set in an alternate (and unpleasant) future, although civilization has survived much better here than it has in Dead Run.  I don't have much experience with writer John Layman, but his House of M: Fantastic Four miniseries was one of my favorite books from that event, and, well, he's sure to be a very in-demand writer now.  Ah, if only I'd opted for weekly shipping, I could've sold my first printing for a very pleasant profit...oh well.  Basically, the writing is great, the art is great, all of these things make for a very good book, one that, if the quality keeps up, I can see myself buying for quite some time to come.

Werewolves on the Moon vs. Vampires #1 - Dark Horse Comics

This is a book that I wouldn't have even paid a second glance.  But, on BC's last Wednesday, we all sat around poking fun at it, and as tribute, I decided to buy this three issue miniseries.  And it's certainly not bad.  I find it amusing that I read three "poor future" stories in a row, but while the other two were excellent, this...not so much.  As I said, it's not a bad comic--but it's certainly not a great book, either.  There were a few strong moments--humor ("Mommy, do you fink daddy brought me a prethent from earf?" "I hope he brought a speech therapist."), as well as the notion that both werewolves and vampires believed the other to be mythical.  The art is much the same as seen on the cover--I doubt it will win an award anytime soon, but it's serviceable, and you can always understand what's going on.  The lettering isn't traditional, possessing a much rougher quality than what one might find on a major publisher, but here, it worked, because this is obviously not a book we're meant to take seriously.  The creative team is clearly aware of how ridiculous the premise is, and they run with it.  Had I not read both Dead Run and Chew right beforehand, I probably would've given this title solid marks, but in comparison, it just doesn't hold up.  I plan to buy the remaining three issues (well, they're already ordered, so there's not much I can do either way), but for those on a budget, stick to the above titles instead.

Captain Blood: Odyssey #1 (of 5) - SLG Comics

This is the most recent adaptation of the famous adventure novel by Rafael Sabatini.  You may have seen the various movies, or recognize the character from his appearances in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  This, as the writer makes clear in his afterword, is a very direct adaptation, perhaps closer to a "translation", even--although not everything from a novel can be taken, obviously, this is much closer to the source material.  And I can respect that, and I'm sure that many fans of the novel will enjoy this quite a bit.  Myself, however?  I was not impressed.  I picked up the title because it seemed interesting--a series of miniseries', building together the epic story.  Here, I did not think that the characters were properly introduced, nor did I feel any connection to their goals.  It seemed like simply a series of events, rather than a story.  The art was...interesting.  The artist on the cover was the artist for the interior--but unlike the cover, the interior had no color, and more drastically, no inks.  It was very interesting, and on some pages it absolutely worked--using pencils only can provide a very intriguing mood.  However, the artist shaded black with quick scribbles, which was very jarring, and because this is a story set often in dark spaces, such panels were far more frequent than I would've liked.  Unless you have experience with the original novel, I would not suggest getting this book.  Fortunately, the publication schedule is delayed enough that I was able to remove the title from my pull list.  I'm interested in pirate stories, but this doesn't exactly satisfy that need.

Dead@17: Afterbirth #1 (of 4) - Image Comics

Speaking of a series of miniseries', though?  Dead@17 was a book launched at Viper Comics (a company that, for anyone interested, is hosting a talent search), but just recently moved to Image to get a higher profile.  And I'm very glad that it did--I only picked up this book after reading a four-page preview in the copy of Previews that I got on the final BC Wednesday, and I doubt that it would have had such a spotlight if it was still at Viper.  I did, however, grab the Omnibus collection of the first four volumes, and it's a purchase that I'd highly recommend.  Some of the earliest stories are a bit rough--grammatical issues and the like--but it's a very good supernatural horror story, and I devoured it in a day (and will be going back to reread soon).  The first issue of this new miniseries probably isn't the best point for a new reader, although it does recap as much as necessary to understand it.  The premise starts out simple--a girl is murdered, but rises again, only to find that the circumstances behind her death are far more complicated than anyone thought.  Stories featuring satanic plots, a war between heaven and hell, and more have been told in this series, and I look forward to future installments.  The art is endearing, and because Josh Howard is both writer and artist, the book really shines in a way that you only get with a single creator.  I'd say to consider buying this as we approach Halloween--if you get into that holiday, you'll really be in the mood for a good horror comic, and this should fit the bill.

Barack the Barbarian #1 (of 4) - Devil's Due Publishing

Okay, I know, just another comic to mock me for (Youngblood, Sonic the Hedgehog, Werewolves/Vampires, and now this).  But as with all of those others, something about it appealed to me, and I maintain that it's worth the few dollars that I pay (this is cover-priced $3.50...then the 40% or so discount, add in the small tax and shipping, etc.)  Larry Hama weaves together an interesting mix--it's in part an adventure story, outlandish but straightforward, and in part political satire, with people, places and situations changed just enough to fit into this new reality.  It's not a book that I'd follow forever, by any means, but for four issues?  I'm amused enough to follow that.  Tim Seeley's strong covers are not, unfortunately, reflective of the work inside, but Christopher Schons holds his own--the faces aren't always recognizeable, but the characters are unique and familiar enough to be identified without too much trouble, and as a storyteller he's more than sufficient.  The colors are vibrant and playful, exactly what I want in a book like this--as with Werewolves/Vampires, this book is ridiculous, and the creators play to that strength.

Going back to the story, there's clearly a mystery building, and although it's obviously based on real-world history, I'm having trouble figuring out what it is, but I will say that I'm intrigued.  The framing sequence for the story is also a unique one, and raises plenty of questions as to the nature of the story.  If you have more than a passing familiarity with politics, I'd say to pick this up--it's certainly not a serious comic, but if you can get past the absurdity of it, I think that there's something in here for everyone.

The part that amuses me most, though?  The legal mumbo jumbo on the inside cover claims that "BARACK THE BARBARIAN, all associated characters and their respected likenesses are TM and (C) 2009 Devil's Due Publishing.  The events and characters presented in this book are entirely fictional.  Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."  Really, Devil's Due?  Really?