Monday, November 30, 2009

Comics I Read: Catching up #5

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas 1-2: Well, I can’t say Marvel isn’t doing enough to promote this group: there’s this two-parter, plus they’re involved in the latest Hercules storyline (see below), then a miniseries with the (original!) Avengers in January. This story is set after “Utopia” which means Jeff Parker gets to use Namor, who has history with both teams. It’s a fairly standard fight-then-team-up plot, but Parker has a good grasp of the X-Men – for instance, after the teams reconcile Iceman makes a joke about how the Atlas members will probably be teaching at the institute in a couple of years – and you should get a decent idea of what the “Atlas” solo series is like from this. Don’t worry about the anachronisms at the end of #1; they’re explained in #2.

Superman: Secret Origin 2-3: The Legion stuff in #2 is great, and does a nice job at showing both what the Legion means to Clark and what he means to them. Johns also has a little fun having the Legionnaires refer to some things that haven’t happened yet, like the “Earth/New Krypton War”. However, #3 is brilliant, as Johns jumps ahead in time to do a story nobody has ever done before – the story of what Metropolis was like before Superman arrived. It’s not to be missed. Yeah, the Chris Reeve homage is full on now that Gary Frank is drawing Clark as an adult again, and Johns does some scenes reminiscent of the first movie, but it works because Reeve and “Superman I” are a touchstone for a lot of people. (Or at least for me.)

REBELS Annual 1: I wasn’t expecting to like the new origin of Starro, but Tony Bedard tells it really well, through the stories of Starro’s minions, and his motivation – he thinks “good” and “evil” are meaningless – is different and interesting. He also manages to integrate it into established history in a way that didn’t stretch my disbelief too much. Well done.

REBELS 8-10: Adam Strange and Captain Comet arrive just in time to give the book a boost, and the “Blackest Night” crossover in #10 is accessible and interesting enough that I think there’s a good chance new readers will come back for more. The ending to #10 was given away in the advance publicity, but [SPOILER WARNING] how can you see Vril Dox with a Sinestro Corps ring and not want to come back and see what happens next, right?

Incredible Hercules 134-137: Hercules and Amadeus Cho are on separate voyages of discovery in these issues. Herc’s story is the more lighthearted one, of course (especially the recap pages), but it’s in character for him and I loved the Thor appearances. JMS’ Thor is so operatic that it’s a nice change of pace to see the character in something less weighty. Somewhat suprisingly, the Cho story is much better – since he’s a brand new character, Pak and Van Lente are able to change how he sees himself and his purpose in life more than they would be able to with a more established character. Well worth your time, and the subsequent reuniting of the characters looks like it will be good, starting with…

Assault on New Olympus: …this one-shot setting up the conflicts between Herc, Cho and the Olympian gods with a Spider-man fight and an “Agents of Atlas” backup – set after the miniseries above -- thrown in for good measure. There’s really no reason this couldn’t have been an issue of the regular book but, like “Agents of Atlas”, anything that gets people to sample “Incredible Hercules” is OK with me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meeting writer Greg Cox . . . . .

THE AUTHOR SIGNINGS AT CAPTAIN BLUE HEN COMICS 11/07/2009

         Opportunities to meet authors, chat with them and ask questions in relaxed and casual surroundings don’t occur often.  So, it was a real treat to be introduced to three separate writers on the same day, at the same location.

          I opted to ask all three writers (Cox, Parkin and Thompson) the same opening question: At what point did you decide to pursue what you do as a career?

                  Greg Cox explains   For Greg Cox his youthful aspirations to become a writer came to full fruition  while enrolled in college.  As an English Literature major his pathway became clearer as he distinguished himself from his fellow classmates.  Greg refers to himself as the “token hack” of his class whom he considered to contain an abundant number of “literary snobs.”   He is also very grateful for the guidance in creative writing he received there, including instruction from renowned professionals such as Vonda McIntyre.       

          He realized he was among the first of a few to appreciate all types of literature one day when an instructor rhetorically asked the class “who would demean themselves by writing novel-length adaptations of movies and television shows?”  It was GGreg_Cox_Photo-256x380reg alone who responded by vigorously waving his hand back and forth in the air and shouting “I would!  I would!” and thereby earning his “hack” designation.        

His first job in the field came in the form of an editor position at Tor Books (specialists in fantasy and science fiction titles) in New York City.  Tor Books would often be approached by movie producers about publishing and even sometimes finding writers for novelizations.  Greg volunteered one day to write an adaptation, and then became the “token tie-in guy” at Tor.  So his early years at Tor began as an editor taking part-time writing jobs on the side.  Today, Greg Cox is a full-time writer who also does editing work part-time.  He left NYC and moved to the Oxford, PA area several years ago.    

           terminator                    Greg has written adaptations of the Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Underworld movies, Star Trek series and novelizations of DC Comics Infinite Crisis, 52, and Countdown.  His latest original novel, TERMINATOR SALVATION (based on the current movie), was just released in paperback in October 2009.  He’s also working on a sequel to the recent Star Trek movie, as well as a novelization of DC’s Final Crisis.

          When working in the comics medium he uses the writer’s script as the starting point, and then prefers to work from black and white Xeroxes of the art.  Cox says most of the time the final chapters he receives are in script form only and not completely finalized.  He often calls authors to find out what happens.  On one occasion when he called Greg Rucka, he learned that the writer had only a vague idea and was still fleshing out the details and still working out the mechanics and specifics.  When writing movie novelizations he generally works from the script as well as still photography or production art.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recommended Books for Younger Readers: List # 1

          As mentioned in a previous post, I’ll be devoting some space from time to time for a continuing list of recommended books for younger readers.  With the help of the fellow BC Refugees, it should be a nice resource for anyone (me, for example) who wants to persuade younger readers to investigate the worlds of wonder available in the literary/visual medium of comics and graphic novels.

         The books listed here are not ranked or in order of quality or preference, but by alphabetical sequence to make things easy to follow.  I’m listing recommended ages (purely subjective on my part - - - every young reader, regardless of age,  has a different level of reading comprehension so choose according) as well as a credit to the person who suggested the book.  There are many other titles I could list here but I don’t want to include a book if I haven’t personally read it and verified it, and I would ask all contributors to follow the same guideline.  This is a work in progress.  You can submit future additions to the list here or via personal email to me.

13370_180x270   female-force-tpb   62797new_storyimage-25704195%7C100x150

BATGIRL   (DC, current run)  10+ years (mike)

FEMALE FORCE    (Bluewater) 8+ years (mike)

MARVEL ADVENTURES books   (Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, etc.)  8+ years (brian)

300px-Muppet_Show_1a      NOV090546   7547_180x270

THE MUPPET SHOW   (Boom) 8+ years  (shane)

RUNAWAYS    (Marvel) 12+ years  (brian)

SHAZAM    (Dc, Jeff Smith run)  8+ years (jeff)

42ce62074c32983c    13437_180x270    13651_180x270

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG   (Archie)  6+ years  (shane)

SUPERGIRL: COSMIC ADVENTURES IN THE 8TH GRADE   (DC) 10+ years (jeff)

TINY TITANS   (DC) 8+ years (jeff)

NOV090447       NOV090564

 

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN   (Marvel, current run)  10+ years  (mike)

WOLVERINE: FIRST CLASS   (Marvel)  10+ years  (jeff)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Comics I Read: Catching up, Part 4

Vigilante 10-12: This is the final story arc of the series, and it explains who the new Vigilante is and his relationship to Adrian Chase. It’s an exciting story that gives a good insight into his personality and motivation, and if the book had started with this story it might not have been cancelled. Not that I fault DC: It certainly seemed like a good marketing strategy to start with a mystery and a Nightwing/Titans crossover, but based on results it backfired. Maybe people wouldn’t have bought it no matter what, but in the end it turned out to be great work from Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi.

Dark Reign: The List – Spider-Man: If for some reason you can only get one of “The List” specials, this is the one to pick. The seeds of the end of Norman Osborn’s “Reign” are planted here, and Dan Slott does it in an unexpectedly subtle way that I really enjoyed. I’m not sure if this is Adam Kubert’s first Marvel work since his DC exclusive ended, but it’s certainly the highest profile and it’s (as always) terrific. (There’s also a reprint of a relevant issue of “The Pulse” that made me wish for a collection of that series.)

Dark Reign: The List – Secret Warriors: I know this was hard to find, so I won’t go into too much detail because this really needs to be experienced rather than summarized. Mainly this is a Nick Fury solo story with lots of great scenes between Nick and Norman – Nick’s own version of “the list” is especially great – and Ed McGuinness’ art shows uncharacteristic restraint, which works well here. It’s not necessarily a vital “Dark Reign” chapter, but it is vital for “Secret Warriors” readers because it has s0me of Hickman’s patented “infodump” graphics at the end showing more secrets about the conspiracy.

Invincible Iron Man 17-19: I know Matt Fraction’s “Iron Man” run is controversial among our circle, but I have to say that I’ve found “World’s Most Wanted” – which ends in these issues – to be my favorite Iron Man solo story arc in a long time. It’s non-traditional, but the character was left in a non-traditional place and I love the way that Fraction has shown Tony doing penance for the events of “Civil War” and “Secret Invasion” without making him out to be the bad guy. And arguably he wins at the end, even though he definitively loses. Even the elements that seem silly out of context – like Pepper in armor – are well thought out, organic parts of the story. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, for which the covers look amazing. There’s a relatively cheap ($40 list) collection of issues #1-19 coming in March, which may be the best way to read this material if you haven’t sampled it already.

SWORD 1: This reminds me a lot of “Captain Britain and MI-13”, which I mean as a compliment. It’s not as epic as “MI-13” – it has more of a “West Wing” feel – but it’s got that light adventure touch that I love when it’s done well. The heart of the book is the relationship between Beast and Agent Brand, which is wonderfully written (“I haven’t time for acts of affectionate sweetness now, Hank.”) and Kieron Gillen brings in classic Marvel ass Henry Peter Gyrich for conflict. Not to mention Brand’s brother, and Lockheed, and the rest of an ensemble that we’re just starting to meet – this is a really packed first issue. Apparently some people are complaining about how Steven Sanders (whose work I’m not familiar with) draws Beast, but for me this is the first time I’ve liked the way that Beast looked since Grant Morrison changed him to be more cat-like. I also loved the backup story by Gillen and his “Phonogram” partner Jamie McKelvie showing all the efforts being made to rescue Kitty Pryde after “Astonishing X-Men.” It gives me high hopes for the second “Phonogram” trade, which I preordered from Amazon last week.

Fantastic Four 572: OK, my prediction from last month was wrong, but interestingly Hickman gets to a similar place in a much better way than I was thinking. (Which is why I’m not writing the book, I suppose.) I’ve heard some complaints that this arc was too Reed-centric, but my opinion is that Reed is the hardest character in this book to write. Hickman has proved that he gets Reed and I think the end of the story shows that he’s planning on telling stories of the whole family. (He certainly gets the kids, who he uses really well.) And of course I can never think of enough good things to say about Dale Eaglesham’s art – the last couple of pages of this issue are especially wonderful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Turtles Forever


I really am risking you all thinking I’ve gone off the deep end here, but you know I have to call ‘em like I see ‘em and I had a tremendous amount of fun today watching the animated movie “Turtles Forever” on CW Kids.

First, a little history: the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic started in 1984 as a B&W parody of various comics of the day (mainly Frank Miller’s “Daredevil” and “Ronin”) and evolved into a fairly serious ninja comic with some sci-fi elements. Then, in 1987 the animated series featured a silly, kid-friendly version of the turtles with multi-colored headbands and their initials on their belts. It exploded into the most popular thing in kids TV – even into pop culture – and to this day the stuff invented for the series (“Cowabunga”, pizza-loving, “Turtle Power”, etc.) is what most people think of when they think of the Turtles. Eventually, the series ended, as all fads do. A new animated series started on Fox Kids (now CW kids) in 2003, and I watched the first few episodes out of curiosity. It turns out that the new series was much closer to the original comics, with the first couple of seasons actually following the first years of the comic fairly closely. The threats were more credible, and the stories more “realistic” and grounded, and I’ve continued to enjoy it through the years even when it drifted a little (like the season they spent 100 years in the future).

Now it’s time for the second series to end, and they’ve sent it off with an animated feature where the 1987 turtles get dumped into the 2003 turtles’ world. I didn’t have high hopes, but it’s clever and funny while still keeping the modern adventure spirit of the current series. The contrast with the “modern” turtles shows just how ridiculous the 80’s turtles were, but with affection for them too. I won’t tell you what the Shredder – the scary one from the current series – does when he has access to the multiverse, but you can catch a glimpse of it in this trailer. (There’s a longer trailer at that page too, but I’m not linking to it because it emphasizes the comedy and I don’t think it’s a fair representation of the story.) Fans of the original comics will find a lot to like in the last few minutes of the movie too. It’s a nice close to all eras of the turtles, now that they have a new owner. (The original creators are no longer involved, and there’s also a nice homage to them at the end of “Turtles Forever”.)

Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of the show, and I love that a lot of thought and care was put into it. If you’re interested, it’s airing again in three half-hour segments on CW Kids for the next three Saturdays from Nov. 28 thru Dec. 12 at 10:30am. Presumably, it’ll come out on DVD at some point, although Amazon.com doesn’t currently have a listing for it. Let me know what you think. (Of the movie, that is, not my mental state.)

Edited to add: According to tmnt.wikia.com, "the uncut version of film will appear on the CW4kids's website sometime in December that includes 12 minutes of footage cut from the version that aired on TV."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Video of the Week


I don’t usually post stuff like this, because I figure you can find your way to Newsarama or wherever on your own, but I couldn’t resist the above trailer for Geoff Johns’ two-hour Feb. 5 Smallville event. There are more JSA members visible – in costume! – than have been announced so far. Watching Smallville usually makes me want to chew my own arm off, but Johns’ Legion episode last season was an exception and I have high hopes for this too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lone Ranger #17 up for free preview..

I know there alot of guys who read the Lone Ranger series in trade paperback, but Newsarama has issue #17 up in its entirety. It's the start of a new arc, so it'll be awhile before the trade shows up. But if you're interested, here you go:

http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album.php?gid=1302

Another great cover. I've personally only read the first couple of these, but man, does it look nice.

Comics I Read: Catching up, Part 3

Captain America Theater of War: Ghosts of My Country: This is my favorite of the “Theater of War” specials, even though Cap doesn't actually appear in it. It's actually a series of vignettes written by Paul Jenkins and beautifully drawn by Elia Bonetti set in various US wartimes, featuring the ideals that Cap represents. (Sometimes by counter-example, as some of the characters fail to live up to that ideal.) It's articulate and haunting, and I preferred it to the stories that inserted Cap into “real” war settings.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance 6: Fun, although it still didn’t quite work for me. However, this issue was worth it for the panel with GL John Stewart, the female Dr. Light, and the new Firestorm where Most Excellent Superbat’s narration says “They finally sent in the Justice League to clean up. At least, they said they were the Justice League. I didn’t recognize any of them.” I’m amused that DC let Joe Casey get away with that.

Flash: Rebirth 5: Worth the wait for Ethan Van Sciver’s art – he really outdid himself. This issue also goes to show that I should always trust Geoff Johns, because all my continuity concerns from the early issues are brilliantly explained here. I liked all the new Flash “family” members and costumes, too. (I’m not sure I quite agree that the “Impulse” name fits the character who’s taken it on, but for now I’ll file that in the “trust Johns” category.)

Adventure Comics 4: The gag of Superboy-Prime being a fanboy is still amusing, but only just. I enjoyed this issue, but the idea is running out of steam. (Which Johns seems to realize, since the just-solicited issue is “starring Black Lantern Superboy”.) I’m interested enough to see where it goes, but I miss the Conner/Smallville stories already. On the plus side, Jerry Ordway’s art is the best I’ve seen from him in a while (and I say that as someone who always likes him.) The “Legion” backup is good, and having just reread “Legion of Three Worlds” in hardcover I now realize that Johns is specifically using these backups to follow up on plot threads he started there.

Punisher 9-10: I applaud Rick Remender planting Frank Castle firmly in the Marvel Universe, while still keeping his essential character. I recognize that it’s not for everyone, but fortunately Marvel’s smart enough to be publishing a separate crime-based title for the purists. These are two great stories: first the story of Frank’s current partner and his relationship to Frank’s greatest enemy, and then Frank’s truly horrific response to the Hood’s offer to resurrect his family. #10 for sure is essential reading for Punisher fans, even if the premise of this series bugs you.

Dark Reign: The List – Punisher: Wow, that’s a definitive ending. Crime story purists should stick to PunisherMAX, because this issue is really going to piss you off. (Though you may not be able to resist the temptation of the John Romita Jr. art.) Personally, I thought it was really well done, and though I’m nervous about what Remender has planned next, the glimpse of it in the back of this issue, and the quality of this and the issues above make me willing to give it a chance.

Dark Reign: The List – Hulk: A nice battle of wills between Bruce Banner and Norman Osborn’s right-hand woman, with a surprising development for Banner that will impact the main series. (I’m a little disappointed at that, because I like the current stories and was hoping to hang on to the status quo for a little longer.) There’s no Red Hulk to be found, so those of you who are annoyed by him will be safe. As with Punisher above, this is by the series’ regular writer, so it fits nicely with the ongoing series while standing enough alone for people who are just interested in “Dark Reign”. (But I bet they’ll be intrigued enough to pick up Greg Pak’s Hulk book after this.)

Dark Wolverine 78-79: I liked these issues better, because Daken comes off much more balanced with Osborn and the other characters in the story. I recognize that he’s supposed to be the hero of his own book, but it was getting to be too much for me and I prefer this more measured approach. I haven’t read enough of Wolverine’s old solo book to be familiar with all the villains that Osborn is manipulating, but they also come off as well rounded characters. To me, this has been the most interesting story arc yet and I look forward to the conclusion.

Dark Reign: Young Avengers 5: Speaking of being the heroes in their own book, the Young Avengers come out rather better than expected against Osborn’s team here. However, Paul Cornell makes it plausible enough that I don’t mind, and this issue has a nice balance of tying up loose ends and leaving some for the future. This remains my favorite “Dark Reign” tie-in, and frankly I’d love to see Cornell stay in charge of these characters even if Allan Heinberg is available.

Dark Reign: The List – Wolverine: This is a fun romp featuing Logan, Osborn’s Captain Marvel and Fantomex. It’s of little consequence to “Dark Reign” or “Weapon X”, but it comes the closest to the spirit of the Morrison X-Men than anything I remember seeing since he left, which is a pleasant surprise from Jason Aaron. I also loved Aaron’s backup story, which I think is a reprint.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2010 Comicon scheduled

The 11th annual Baltimore Comicon has been scheduled to occur in August 2010.
More details can be found here:

http://www.comicon.com/baltimore/

The 10th anniversay Comicon broke sales and attendance records, as well as raising some substantial funds for several charities. This con also hosts the annual Harvey awards and you can see the results of the awards presentation here:

http://harveyawards.org/

A rare 3.5 stars from me for Star Trek...

Just saw Star Trek: "The new version movie" and absolutely loved it. As many of you know, I'm not good on seeing movies in the theater. I haven't checked the extras yet, but they look extensive.

A couple of problems from a geek standpoint, but solid acting, good characterization and dazzling visuals made for a great movie. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to all, and you don't need alot of "Trekkie" knowledge to enjoy it. There are a couple of inside-jokes they threw in there for fanboys, but nothing too important to the story. BTW, Jeff was impressed too, so it's not me.

And I did enjoy the comics prequel "Countdown", written by the same team that did the movie. IF you have a chance to pick it up cheap, read it in bookstore or library, it does shine some light on the villain's motive that the film didn't have time for.

All in all, check it out if you haven't, and I think you'll be very entertained.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Previews: DC Comics - February 2010

It's back!  Sort of.  I do miss discussing previews, but I just haven't had time to really go through it lately.  I'm going to try to be better with posting here, though--either looking at previews or writing articles.  There are a few articles I'm considering, but I'm trying to decide which direction to take.

Anyway!  There actually isn't too much of note with DC Comics this month--Blackest Night continues onward and a few titles return to their regular storylines after the crossovers--but there are a few interesting things of note, and that's what we'll be looking at.

Milestone Forever #1 (of 2) - DC Comics


When it was first revealed that the Milestone characters would be integrated into the DC Universe, this series--something to tie up the original Milestone storylines--was suggested, but no announcement followed.  Instead, we did get the introductions of the characters--Static in Terror Titans, Icon and the Shadow Cabinet in Justice League of America, and others in Brave and the Bold.  Dwayne McDuffie was heavily involved in all of this, including writing the JLA issues, but after being fired from the title, many people wondered what would happen.  Static was appearing regularly in Teen Titans, sure--but that was it.  Icon would've been part of the JLA, but with McDuffie's departure that was obviously no longer the plan, and Dan Didio said that there were, in fact, no other plans for the characters at this moment.

It's good to see that McDuffie is returning for this.  I know that not everyone is a fan of these characters, but I think that Milestone produced many underrated titles.  They're not masterpieces, maybe, but it was a very, very solid line, consistent for years.  I'm glad that DC is continuing to publish collections featuring the characters, and I'd recommend them.

This series will, presumably, end the Milestone universe and "recreate" the characters to match their appearances in recent DC titles.  In some ways, I'd consider it similar to the recently-reviewed Tanget: Superman's Reign, reintroducing characters from a DC imprint of the 90's, a final epilogue to their story.  Hopefully, this is just a beginning and not an end.

Human Target #1 (of 6) - DC Comics


This is the other big launch of the month.  Len Wein created this character years ago, and with the recent television adaptation (hopefully more successful than the first one), he makes his return to the character.  I have very limited experience with the Human Target, but Len Wein's recent return to DC demonstrated that he's still capable of telling very solid stories, avoiding most traps that "older" creators fall into.  I don't see him becoming a modern comics superstar, but he's competent, and I'll be ordering the trade of this, and giving the television show a try as well.

The Web #6 - DC Comics


Matthew Sturges comes on board, taking over after Angela Robinson's brief stint and Marc Guggenheim's fill-in issue.  Sturges has been somewhat hit-and-miss, but lately he's been on his game much more than before, coming into his own, no longer just "Willingham-lite".  I think Sturges suggested that he'd be tying the Web in with his JSA All-Stars run somewhat, but don't quote me on that--if he did, though, it might be a good way to help preserve both titles.  The launch of two Red Circle ongoings, without JMS attached, was risky--and it's not like JMS brought huge sales to the one-shots, either--but I'm really intrigued, and I hope that DC sticks with this for a bit and lets it find its footing.  With Sturges and Trautmann writing the main features, they'll be reliable at the least, and both writers have displayed a talent for long-term storytelling--I just hope that they get a chance to use that.  Plus, any excuse to see more of these covers makes he happy.  They're amazing.

Another note here--Derenick and Sienkiewicz are just an incredible combination.  I read Reign in Hell recently and was blown away.  I can't wait to see how they've been doing on The Web.

Titans #22 - DC Comics


The Titans franchise hasn't exactly been at the top the sales charts lately--after Geoff Johns left, Teen Titans continued to fall, and surprisingly, Titans did the same with Judd Winick's departure--he's not my favorite writer, but his Titans work apparently clicked with a lot of readers.  DC is making an attempt to reinvigorate the franchise, by moving many of the classic players to Justice League of America, putting other iconic Titans into Teen Titans (Beast Boy, Raven, Kid Flash, presumably Superboy), and reinventing this title into a Deathstroke-led team.  It's an idea that's been toyed with before, during Titans Hunt back in the early 90's, but I think that it has potential--depending on the creative team and the ultimate choice of direction.  It won't stand on its own, not in the current DCU, but if the writers can tie this and Teen Titans together, I think that they'll have a chance to pull the franchise back up.

Anyway!  This is the first of the two-part story that brings the classic team to a close.  I'm really interested to see how it goes, actually--I'm a longtime Titans fan, and I'm pleased with Dan Didio's enthusiasm to get this franchise back on top.  Hopefully it works.

Demo Volume 2 #1 (of 6) - Vertigo


You know?  I still haven't read a single Brian Wood comic.  Weird.

But I know that others have, and that he's generally hailed as amazing, so I thought I'd make a note of this.  His earlier series, Demo, makes its return here, and hopefully it'll do just as well.  I probably should get around to reading the DMZ trades I own.

Speaking of, what a nice transition to my other notes!

DMZ reaches issue 50 this month.  That's a huge milestone for any comic, but especially for one that doesn't feature superhero icons in today's market.  Good for Wood.

Speaking of issue 50, Michael Turner returns from the grave to do a Supergirl cover for her landmark issue!  Or, you know, it's a stock image they had him do years ago.  Either way, Sterling Gates is knocking this series out of the park--the book has real stability and quality for the first time since Peter David left.  This is probably a good issue to jump on, so why not give it a try?

Blackest Night and most of its tie-in issues are marked as "Top Secret" in February.  It's a strategy recently used by Marvel to mixed results, but I know that it has me excited, and I'm not even all that interested in this event anymore.

Both Green Arrow/Black Canary and Adventure Comics are renamed for this one month, with new creative teams, into Black Lantern Green Arrow and Adventure Comics Starring Black Lantern Superboy.  I'm not really sold on J.T. Krul (the writer of this GA issue), although I am curious as to what it'll mean for both Ollie and Conner--but Tony Bedard on Adventure Comics?  Yes please.

Finally, there's a reprint for the first Absolute Planetary to coincide with the second Absolute collection.  I'll be buying these, I think.

Exploring My Back Pages (November, 2009) . . . .

THE END LEAGUE #1 – 4 (Dark Horse, 2008-2009):

I’m very impressed with what writer Rick Remender has created here. It’s forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of his work. Previously, I read the first two issues of FEAR AGENT and liked them but not enough to want to follow. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the mess he made of the last four issues of THE ATOM a few years back. I’m wondering if the title was already doomed by the point he took over and he got the call to finish it off. (The Atom power and suit gets handed down to a new player - - it’s not the classic Ray Palmer in this version until the final issue.) At the very least, I may have to re-visit some FEAR AGENT books.

I’m reminded of the clever ALMALGAM series of titles a few years back, featuring morphed DC-MARVEL characters (Iron Lantern, Dark Claw, etc.) that was creative, light-heartened and fun. Remender has borrowed some classic DC and Marvel archetypes and altered them while still making them recognizable enough to make us recall the original characters. Like the Amalgam books it’s very creative but very, very dark and fatalistic but still fun. (How could that be fun?, you ask. Because it’s still a superhero title, so there’s no need to get serious and despondent about it. It’s entertainment.)

14500

The most powerful man in the world, Astonishman, gets so full of himself that he doesn’t think things through properly or seek consultation. He just acts, and in Issue #1 we learn of his mistaken decision that plunged the world into its present apocalyptic state. Earth is almost destroyed and a byproduct of the radioactive fallout is that every one in a thousand individuals becomes super-powered. Instead of using their new gifts to aid humanity, these special humans use their powers for purely selfish reasons. So instead of a world with a multitude of heroes we get a world full of super-villains who branch off into separate gangs, enslave the non-powered humans, and fight each other for control of more territory. Astonishman, full of guilt for what he’s wrought, assembles a group of true heroes to combat the chaos and restore order. But the odds are against them, so they stay together mainly as a matter of survival while the villains continually try to pick them off. The end of the first four-story arc is definitely not upbeat, and a number of prominent characters die (and I doubt very much they will be “re-born”.)

I’m sure some comparisons to WATCHMEN will be and have been made and it’s easy enough to make a connection. However THE END LEAGUE is much more than just a rehash of those ideas and goes off from its beginnings in an entirely different direction. I find it to be much, much darker than WATCHMEN. In spite of what happens in Alan Moore’s classic saga there are under-currents of optimism. THE END LEAGUE is riddled with hopelessness, at least in Issues #1-4.

It’s definitely worth your looking into. The art in the opening run is premium grade, slobber and drool worthy. Matt Broome does an outstanding job. Some scenes just explode off the page. It’s too bad that mid-way through Issue #4 Eric Canete takes over and finishes pages 15-22. Canete’s art is decent but it can’t hold a candle to Broome’s work here. Seems like a bad decision to compare them like this side by side in the same issue. Maybe that had to be done in order to meet the book’s deadlines, so maybe Canete had to rush it a bit. In any case, I wouldn’t let a change in artists keep you from looking this title up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Comics I Read: Catching up, Part 2

Blackest Night 4: It’s a little disconcerting to have Hal Jordan yanked out of the story at this point, but it really can’t be helped (see below), and it does put an interesting spotlight on the rest of the characters. This is very much a middle chapter, but I loved all the Ray Palmer and JSA scenes and the twist with the Jason Rusch Firestorm. The Scarecrow scene, however, seemed bolted on for no apparent reason – maybe it will pay off in one of the tie-ins? (But not in “Blackest Night: Batman”, which is already done.)

Green Lantern 46-47: As much as Hal Jordan is missed in “Blackest Night”, you can’t blame Geoff Johns for wanting him front and center in this book for the story he’s been building too since he revived it. The Hal/Carol/Sinestro (Green/Violet/Yellow Lantern) triangle is really great, and adding the late Abin Sur and sibling into the mix worked really well emotionally. (I love that Hal is over his regrets: “Go ahead and play the universe’s largest violin for me.”) Doug Mahnke is also doing a terrific job; I especially like the way he draws Sinestro.

Green Lantern Corps 40-42: These issues are balanced nicely between Kyle’s emotional journey and the battle for Oa. Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are outdoing themselves, especially in #42 which has some stunning single and dual-page splashes. Of course, everyone’s talking about the shock ending to #42, about which I will say only this: It’s very well done, and if there’s better evidence that those killed in “Blackest Night” will be back at the end I haven’t seen it.

Reborn 4: Other than my confusion about how the Red Skull got separated from Arnim Zola, which I don’t remember reading and at least one person I talked to doesn’t remember either, this is great stuff as usual. I should have seen the ending coming – it’s the most interesting thing that could happen, after all – and many of Hitch’s pages are really amazing (more so even than in his recent FF issues.)

Booster Gold 24-26: I liked the interactions between Booster and the new Batman, but the real gem here is the “Blackest Night” tie-in in #26. Jurgens does his best work yet on both story and art, as Booster revisits the day of Ted Kord’s funeral – a must-read for JLI and/or “Infinite Crisis” fans – and we’re let in on all his resentments about that event. Meanwhile in the present day, Black Lantern Ted Kord goes after Booster’s ancestor in the present with his personality just tweaked enough to seem the same, yet sinister. (You’ll never look at “Bwah-ha-ha” the same way again.) I prefer the “Blackest Night” tie-ins as separate miniseries instead of issues of the regular books, but if the rest of the regular book tie-ins are this good I withdraw my objection.

That’s all I have time for today. Tomorrow, I hope to get to all the “Dark Reign” issues I haven’t covered yet up through last week.

Best X-Men run ever?

I thought Bill and Ben would especially enjoy this article. Tim Callahan of CBR makes the case that the Morrison New X-Men issues are the best run in the series ever.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=23729

I am not much of an X-reader, but I find that hard to believe. Plus, I'm not a Quietly fan, so I don't agree his art is a big asset to the story. Just my humble opinion.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Youth Market: Observations and Opportunities

There are certain things that I do instinctively, sometimes on a subconscious level that I don’t become aware of until after I’ve finished.  After working ten years in a basic research function, observing, asking questions, documenting and constantly reporting opinions on new products  to a corporate marketing department I find myself sometimes going about my day 24/7 in “survey mode”, even when it involves my leisure time and/or my hobbies.  I see something.  I make a mental note. I recall it and attempt to analyze what it means.

OBSERVATION:  Despite predictions (since the explosion of personal computers in the 80’s) that written literature is out of style and that “nobody takes time to read anymore”  traditional fiction continues to sell and bookstores keep staying open and making profits.  Modern marketing is sophisticated enough to identify blossoming mass interest in a specific writer, style, or type of book and then turn around and enhance that popularity by a thousand-fold through promotion, publicity, tie-in events, etc.  Think of the popularity of Goosebumps, Dan Green and the DaVinci Code, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, and lately Stephenie Meyer and Twilight.  Adolescents can’t get enough of Harry Potter and the Twilight vampires. They buy all the books, see the movies, and gobble up the toys and fan publications.

OBSERVATION:  Over the last 5+ years I feel the comics industry has made a noble attempt to try to bring in new readers, specifically those of elementary and middle school age as well as the 16 through 20-year-old adolescents they have extended major efforts to entice to comics.  Both of the Big Two publishers have dedicated “young reader” lines with youthful versions of classic heroes, etc.  DC has adapted some popular cartoon series to comics.  Archie Comics has been at this forever with the Riverdale High School gang.  Boom Studios and others have revived the Disney books along with the popular Muppet series.  There are rumors of a  Harvey revival in the works. (Casper, Wendy, Hot Stuff, Baby Huey, etc.)   And if you explore the ever-expanding world of manga available there is a wide variety of “teen” or “young adult” comics out there, often with very mature themes.

QUESTION:  What better source can you think of for young readers interested in finding illustrated versions of their favorites and then exploring all that comics has to offer than a local independent comic shop?

OBSERVATION:  As I visit and patronize many of these comic shops along the Eastern United States I see plenty of evidence of their efforts to attract this audience.  For example, Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE (my most frequented shop) has an easy-to-find and  full multi-shelved section stocked with books for young readers.  Yet, in all my visits here and elsewhere I seldom see those younger readers in the comics stores.  Something has to happen to get them inside in larger numbers.

QUESTION:  Why should I care?  On the other hand, the argument has been made that modern comics are as good as they are because the publishers have recognized that their primary readership is an aging, more mature reader and have improved the quality of their output accordingly in order to maintain that core audience.   I care because I care about the comics industry in general, and would love to see their audience grow even larger.  New readers become new writers and artists.  New participants bring new ideas.  Fresh blood. Keep it premium blend and keep it circulating.

OPPORTUNITY:  What can I do?  Share what I know and what I love with the younger readers in my circle of familiarity - - - cousins, nephews and nieces, children of friends, neighbors, etc.   There are plenty of books out there that seem perfect to introduce to younger readers.  I can think of a few right off the top of my head - - the new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, the new Batgirl, and one more that I’ll get to shortly.  I’m planning to single them out on this website whenever I can and perhaps my BC Refugees colleagues and I can begin to build a recommended list.   I’ll start that process today with these books and welcome future additions and contributions.  (I know Shane is very fond of Boom’s new Muppet series.  He wrote a very favorable review which sounds very encouraging.  I haven’t listed that book here only because I haven’t read it yet.)

RECOMMENDED FOR YOUNGER READERS:

1. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN COMICS  (Marvel, new series 2009)

2. BATGIRL  (DC, new series 2009)

3. FEMALE FORCE  (Bluewater Productions, new series 2009)

QUESTION:  Why FEMALE FORCE, you may ask?   Aren’t comic biographies simply boring and doomed to low sales numbers because of lack of interest?  I think it depends on the subject matter.  For example, in spite of my admiration for Abraham Lincoln or JFK I don’t think many students have much interest in reading books about them today, even a shortened comics

female force cover

biography.  But if you focus on more contemporary figures and open it up beyond just the historically significant or political movers and include entertainers, popular writers, etc. then you have a bigger audience.  If you narrow that focus even further to prominent females, you hopefully become a magnet for a group of readers that comics has never enjoyed in large numbers – females, girls in primary school to adolescents, young women, etc.   That’s why I feel this can become a very important book.  Wouldn’t it be an interesting side-effect if a comics biography generated enough curiosity and interest to  learn more to send young people into books stores to see what awaits in the non-fiction and biography shelves?

QUESTION AND OPPORTUNITY:  What else can the comics stores do?

The most recent FEMALE FORCE, issue #9 which arrived at comics stores on November 11, features a biography of Stephenie Meyer, just one week before the latest Twilight film, NEW MOON, debuts in theaters.   Comics stores should explore any opportunities to get Twilight fans into their stores.  Why not get the cooperation of movie theaters and give away flyers that promote the comic and offer a percentage discount off the cover price (with a copy of the handout presented at the store)?  Get them in the store, ask them what other books, films, etc. interest them and show them what’s available in your good old neighborhood comics store. (Yikes, I just read an update.  FEMALE FORCE: STEPHENIE MEYERS sold out by Nov. 12 and a second printing has already been scheduled.  Why not issue a rain-check and take orders for those issues for those new readers?)

This issue also marks the very first biography to be adapted to a motion comic, now available through I-Tunes.  You can preview the motion comic here at 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeoqrmUgBF0

Is this a title worthy of promoting and featuring?  I think it’s very well done.  I admit to having a jaded opinion of comics biographies of anybody (no matter whether I admire them or not) - - it’s just not the sort of comic I would normally purchase.   If I hadn’t been shown an advance copy of FEMALE FORCE #9 (in sequence including the trade paperback, although all their covers say #1) I wouldn’t have made the connection to my earlier observations and opportunities.  Since it’s debut in early 2009, FEMALE FORCE has featured Caroline Kennedy, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Princess Diana and Sarah Palin.  The next issue will focus on J. K. Rowling.

There doesn’t appear to be any earth-shattering moments in the “true life” story of Stephenie Meyer.  Good upbringing, good schooling, good marriage, blossoming career as a writer. We learn little details from her life, such as meeting her future husband when she was four years old (but not really taking any notice of him), the numerous rejection slips from publishers,  and her persistence. The original title of her vampire sage was “Forks’ (for Forks, Washington where the story is based) until the publisher convinced her to change it.  The idea for the series came from a vivid dream she experienced. (Drat, I knew I should have written several of my dreams down while they were still fresh.  Note to self: better keep a notebook by the bed.)  It’s not fascinating details but a nice summary/background. 

The writer Ryan Burton and artist Dave MacNeal apparently recognized this shortage of solid usable material, as they have book-ended the biography with a fictional -- (are you sure?) --

female force interior

sequence featuring the original Count Dracula (although not identified as such). These scenes open in Transylvania and are moody and atmospheric and are a great tie-in to the actual biography. (Dracula is grateful for the publicity).  

If you know some Twilight fans,  it’s not a bad idea to order some of the second printing of this book and introduce them to FEMALE FORCE.  Who knows, it may lead to a visit to the comic store. 

Quick update and a question...

Hey guys,

Earlier, Jeff was kind enough to add me a poster, then shortly after my old PC died. I have a library a block away, so I got to use their PC, but didn't have time to follow up here and let me tell you, taking 4 kids to the library everyday is quite a task. Anyway, a couple quick points:

First, for anyone reading here that I didn't have their e-mail, I'm trying to make up for lost time by having everybody who is available meet @ the Chick-Fil-A in Downingtown Monday 11/16 at 11:30. It will be good to see everyone again.

Second, BC has re-opened 8 stores with paid-up-front, long leases, including the Exton store. They are talking about selling comics there, and have asked to meet with me to discuss it. I doubt I would be interested, but I will keep you posted. Assuming I decline, would any of you be interested in running it for them? Just LMK and we'll see what happens.

Third, my wife and I are both out of F/T work so I have plenty of time now if you need help with anything.

Fourth, some of you many remember Tony Conaway, a loyal BC customer and very well-known writer/comedian. I've wanted to link his blog before so here it is: http://wayneaconaway.blogspot.com/

And lastly, can someone explain where to find out how "Ultimate" Peter is back? Was it in the "Requiem" post-Ultimatum series? Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks and back to the regular reviews/info, etc...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Comics I Read: Catching up, Part 1

Adventure Comics 3: Those of you enjoying “Red Robin” should definitely pick this up. You don’t need to know anything about Superboy’s ongoing story, and the scenes between Conner and Tim have been building in the DCU for years. (A simple “I believe you” was one of the most touching lines I’ve read all year.) The Legion story wasn’t my favorite of the series so far, but it does have an interesting piece of the “Legionnaires in the 21st century” puzzle.

Blackest Night: Superman 2-3: Long-time Superboy fans – I’m talking to you, Shane – should definitely at least pick up #3 because there’s a surprise development for Conner that I think they’ll be pleased about. (It’s referred to in Adventure #3, which may have come out first – I’m not sure about the order because I’m catching up on the whole month at once.) #3 is also a must-have for anyone following the “New Krypton” storyline because there’s a game-changing development. It’s not clear where it fits in the ongoing Superman timeline – hopefully James Robinson will make that clear in “Superman” soon. (None of the Superman books will be able to ignore it, that’s for sure.)

Blackest Night: Titans 2-3: I liked the catharsis that Donna goes through about the loss of her husband and child, but the explicit physical way in which she does it was a little over the top into bad taste for me. (Admittedly, there’s a personal bias at work here, so your mileage may vary.) I liked Beast Boy’s similar story arc better, and he didn’t have to do anything awful to get there. The developments about Dove, and the way they fold back into what we’ve seen about Don Hall in “Blackest Night”, were also good.

Blackest Night: Batman 3: As I predicted, it turns out that Gordon was unconscious in the back of the plane last issue, so he missed everyone’s “parents” coming to visit. (It would have been interesting to see him get a visit from Sarah Essen, but I guess there wasn’t room.) I didn’t quite buy the Deadman/Etrigan stuff, but this is another must have for “Red Robin” fans – the reenactment of Jack Drake’s “Identity Crisis” death scene is absolutely chilling.

Daredevil 501: I take back my criticism about this title’s “The List” special needing to be a regular issue. It turns out that Andy Diggle has crafted his opening issue so well that it works whether or not you’ve read the special. I love the depths that he’s pushing Matt to – though I suspect the “sacrifice” in this issue is a trick – and changing the Hand’s uniforms to resemble Daredevil’s is genius.

Brave and the Bold 28: Boy, this was kind of preachy again so I have to assume that JMS is doing it on purpose. So far, I prefer the more fun stories that Mark Waid was doing, and there are a couple of things in this story that I have quibbles with: I don’t buy that Barry, a police officer, is that reluctant to use a gun, and I don’t buy that Barry, an experienced time traveler, would give as much information to Blackhawk as he does. There’s also a minor art problem: unless there’s a change from “Rebirth” being reflected here, I think Barry’s uniform is drawn and/or colored wrong. Barry’s uniform is supposed to be the one where you can see his eyes, right?

Amazing Spider-Man 608-610: I’ve got mixed feelings about the “Who was Ben Reilly?” story. On the one hand, it’s well written and exciting – Marc Guggenheim always does a great job and I’m sorry to see him leaving the book – and heaven knows it’s easy for anything “Clone Saga” related to turn out to be a complete disaster, which this is not. On the other hand, at the end of the story I don’t think having Ben involved (in flashback only, fortunately) really did much other than to highlight Peter’s heroism, which we were aware of already. It was interesting to see Kaine again – he’s more vicious here than I remember him, but that’s probably because I’m used to the “kindler, gentler” version from “Spider-Girl”. Overall this story was more of a hit than a miss, but it wasn’t my favorite among all the stories that Guggenheim did.

X-Factor 48-50: The end of a long storyline, arguably too long, but on balance I’d say that slowing down the pace gave Peter David the space to do the kind of character development this book is known for. For instance, showing Guido’s reaction to Rictor & Shatterstar’s relationship (and blowing his mind with Shatterstar’s behavior), fleshing out Darwin’s character, making everyone think that future Von Doom was weak and senile, and the stunning revelation of how Layla Miller “knows stuff”. I think this will read terrifically well in trade, and the preview of the new direction – starting with another anniversary issue! – looks great too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where To Go, What To Do . . . . . . . .

AUTHOR SIGNING EVENT ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7:

     This Saturday, I’ll  be heading to Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware for a noon signing / meet-and-greet with three authors who specialize in the genres of popular culture that we BC Refugees enjoy.

          Who will be there? - - - - GREG COX . . . .  LANCE PARKIN . . . . . and DAVE THOMPSON.

   All the details, information, address, etc.  can be found here:

http://www.captainbluehen.com/2009/10/08/author-signing-at-captain-blue-hen-november-7/

     Of the three, I’ve only met Greg Cox before, at a previous library signing in Oxford, PA. -  where I live and so does Greg.   Greg is well-known for writing the paperback novelizations of many superhero and science fiction movies (Daredevil, Star Trek, Terminator, the upcoming Final Crisis novelization) and is currently working on some new fiction set in the Terminator universe.

     Lance Parkin has authored many Doctor Who novels, as well as non-fiction about Star Trek and Alan Moore.

     Dave Thompson is mostly known for his extensive rock biographies, of which the most recent is the Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) story.  I’m most interested in meeting Dave, as collecting music and attending concerts is my #1 hobby  (even more than comics - - believe it or not).