Saturday, March 27, 2010

Comic Buyers Guide Fan Awards 2010

          The finalists have been announced and voting will take place between now and May 31, 2010 for the CBG Fan Awards 2010.  You can cast your vote for your favorite nominees at the www.cbgxtra.com web site.

          For discussion purposes I’m going to list my picks here. I welcome your comments, feedback, etc. I hope some of you will make your picks public as well. This could be fun.

  1. FAVORITE EDITOR - - - Joe Quesada
  2. FAVORITE WRITER - - - Ed Brubaker
  3. FAVORITE PENCILLER - - - J H Williams III
  4. FAVORITE INKER - - - Scott Williams
  5. FAVORITE COLORIST  - - - Paul Mounts
  6. FAVORITE LETTERER - - - Chris Eliopoulas
  7. FAVORITE COVER ARTIST - - - John Cassaday
  8. FAVORITE STORY - - - Sgt. Rock & The Lost Battalion
  9. FAVORITE SERIES  - - - Jonah Hex
  10. FAVORITE ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL - - - Asterios Polyp
  11. FAVORITE CHARACTER - - - Captain America
  12. FAVORITE PUBLISHER  - - - Boom Studios

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is This The Face Of Captain America?


The official press release can be found here (as long as I did the link thing correctly):

http://insidemovies.moviefone.com/2010/03/23/chris-evans-marvel-comics-captain-america/?ncid=webmaildl8

I hope he's the right choice - - - I have high hopes for the Captain America movies after seeing what a great job was done with Iron Man.
I've only seen the first Fantastic Four film, but nobody in that movie impressed me. Chris Evans was the Human Torch. Let's blame that on the director and keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Search Of Horror 2

DEVIL #1 of 4  (Dark Horse)   story and art by Torajiro Kishi and Madhouse Studios

16473              It wouldn’t be hard to justify labeling this as “horror”, “dark fantasy”, or “science fiction” as this complex and fast-moving story touches upon all three genres.   If you like vampire tales, John Woo crime/action films, and/or horror movies with seemingly indestructible monsters (as seen in ALIENS, etc.) then this book has something to interest you. 

          Whether DEVIL takes place in a future society or an alternate universe is unclear, and may be explained in future issues.  A new virus with vampire-like symptoms is spreading across the planet. It turns victims into “Devils”  = =  not exactly vampires but super-powerful blood suckers.  The lifespan of an infected Devil is just a few days but the virus is fast-acting.

          Officers of the Special Investigations Unit “Devil” are instructed to apprehend victims of the virus and secure them in special institutions for observation and study in hopes of finding a cure.  The summary on the credits page mentions that there is a new and deadly strain of “Devil”, apparently derived from cloning experiments.

          Special Investigator Takimoto is a classic anti-hero using his position in order to locate and take out victims of the virus, dispatching them handily with his over-sized gun.  There is a very artistic image of a classic kill-shot and his grim reaction in two panels on page five that communicates so much about this character without any dialogue balloons.  I love the shading and city background in the execution panel.  The art is very interesting, and reminds me of what some Vertigo crime books (particularly 100 Bullets) might look like if the artists were more manga-influenced.  (The adult version of manga, not the exaggerated cartoony style.) 

          Female detective Migiwa’s methods conflict with Takimoto’s.  She is more sympathetic to the victims and wants to get them to the treatment centers.  They both get called to a crime scene and confront one of the new ultra-powerful strains of Devil who seems to be able to slice through human tissue and car roofs with the blade of his hand.

         As events in the first issue wrap up, the Devil and Takimoto seem to recognize each other and find a connection in the female victim, who reminds them of some illusionary goddess “Mariko” - - who detective Migiwa also resembles.   The plot thickens as the blood spills.

LEGENDS THE ENCHANTED #0  (Radical)  created, written & illustrated by Nick Percival

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   I realize that by writing about another book that seems to be more “dark fantasy’ than horror that I am not strictly adhering to any set rules.   While this clearly appears to be a fantasy creation, finding beloved storybook characters like Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio,  and Jack The Giant Killer inhabiting this dark world and either being victimized or partaking in the bloody violence is “horrific” enough for me.  If you consider FABLES to be an R-rated version of the classics, then LEGENDS merits an  X-rating - - no one under 17 will be admitted without parental escort and guidance.  Grim is too mild a word.   Those sharp bloody blades in each of Red’s hands aren’t anything that she pulled out of the basket that was going to Grandma’s house.  More likely is that those are on loan from Freddy Kruger’s tool box.

       The story is creepy and intriguing. But it’s the art that is going to hook (or pig stick, and not let go) people into checking out this book.  It appears to be a mix of photo realism and painted imagery. The colors are rich and bleed and wash all over the place, especially in the backgrounds.  It’s very impressive to inspect.

           If you like the work of Simon Bisley, you are going to be crazy for Percival’s art.  Every person looks meaner than hell, or about to be dispatched there as they writhe in pain (poor Pinocchio! – and he doesn’t look very friendly or safe either. )  The setting for these events seems to be a mixture of modern technology, steampunk (second time I’ve referenced that this month!) and the dark, shadowy, creepy castles and villages of yore (as long as you can accept Jack riding his motorcycle to get there).  Jack’s still dispatching giants.  Red Riding Hood’s still being threatened by wolves, but this time its a pack of grotesque were-wolf creatures.

          LEGENDS THE ENCHANTED is a special edition $1.00 preview of the hardcover graphic novel, set to debut in April.  It’s a great taste of what’s in store, and should tease a good amount of comics fans to add this to their spring order lists.

Monday, March 22, 2010

. . . . . something completely different

TIME LINCOLN (Antarctic Press, March 17, 2010)  story and art by Fred Perry

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           I remember seeing this title solicited in PREVIEWS and passing on it.  However, after seeing it resting on the new releases shelf at my local comics shop  (Captain Blue Hen in Newark, DE)  I was strangely attracted to it.  After being hypnotized by the cover I picked it up - - just another one of those impulsive buys that frequently result in new and pleasing discovery.  (This also serves as a testimonial for why we need to support comic shops - - I have them to thank or blame for this!)

          The beautifully depicted steampunk cover by Brian Denham with a head shot of Abraham Lincoln as centerpiece forces you to pick it up and examine the contents.

          From that point you are  hooked.  Once you view the contents and see the historical characters in futuristic yet outmoded Victorian garb and gadgetry (that’s steampunk for ya!),  all drawn in a manga style (but without the big eyeballs, thank you) you’ll want to read it.  It’s amusing and entertaining without consciously trying to be, just by its very nature.

          As the cover blurb claims - - - “In His Final Hour, He Lived A Lifetime”  - - TIME LINCOLN reveals that Abraham Lincoln’s assassination could have been a fraud.  Minutes before then, he may have  escaped  into the time-stream to spend the moments before his death traveling throughout history in an effort to make changes for the betterment of the world.  Issue #1 takes place mainly within the historic Booth Theatre and sets the stage for adventures to come and introduces the main characters.  

          I get the feeling that this is a one-shot, trial issue to see if the sales numbers would support a limited or ongoing series.   I would certainly return for more.  The contents allude to some previous encounters that would make great story arcs.  The back cover hints even further, with a classic hand-shake meeting between Presidents Lincoln and Obama.

    Without spoiling any major plot developments or surprises, the major villain attempting to manipulate the time stream is Joseph Stalin.  There is an interesting back story revealing his origins as a super-villain that includes a visit to Rasputin. Lincoln is assisted by an able quartet comprised of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver and Sir Isaac Newton. 

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          Fred Perry does a great job with story and art.  His drawing style has a manga influence but does incorporate a little more background scenery than is typical of this format.  His art has a fluidity to it that is fun to follow.  The fight scenes between Lincoln and Stalin are neatly captured in wide-screen and angular panels.   It’s nice to see him stretch the boundaries of his style (script and art) and experiment a little beyond his work on GOLD DIGGER, the title that along with NINJA HIGH SCHOOL from Ben Dunn  helped establish Antarctic Press.  (Although I have to admit that I haven’t picked up an issue of GOLD DIGGER since the early days, so I may need to adjust my impression.)   Please support this fine work from a smaller independent publisher.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Siege: The End of an Era

I do not know if I'd read Siege again.

But right now, I acknowledge that it is, without a doubt, the blockbuster conclusion that we have been promised.

For the past however-many years, Bendis has had control of the Marvel universe, guiding it through major events and redefining it. Mainstream press was attracted to Spider-Man's unmasking in Civil War, to Captain America's death and eventual return. From Avengers: Disassembled on, Bendis has told a massive story that completely changed how readers viewed the Avengers. For the first time in a very long time, these characters, these icons in the Marvel universe, have topped the charts--and they haven't gone away.

I've had my criticisms of these stories. More than a few, actually. I don't think that they hold up on rereads, and I usually feel that they're a connection of big moments loosely linked together by a flimsy narrative. That is not that sort of story I want to read. For many people, however? These are the books that matter. I respect that.

And when Bendis has a big moment, he presents it in a way that gets people talking. The death of Ant-Man in Disassembled started everything, but from there, we had the famous "No More Mutants" in House of M, the reveal of the Illuminati in New Avengers, and the body of Elektra decomposing into its true Skrull self, kicking off a period in the Marvel universe where nobody could be trusted.

Secret Invasion had its fair share of these big moments--the collapse of Tony Stark's armor, the destruction of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, the "lost heroes" emerging from a Skrull ship, Clint Barton's vow to destroy the Skrulls once and for all, and--ultimately--the headshot that took out the Skrull Queen and positioned Norman Osborn as the mover-and-shaker in the Marvel Universe for 2009.

I had more than a few complaints about the stories in Dark Reign, but as a concept it was wonderful--for the first time, everybody in the Marvel universe would know what it felt like to be Spider-Man. Even if they won, they lost. When the Avengers were removed from power and replaced by some of Marvel's greatest villains, you could feel the complete shift in tone. 2009 was a very dark year.

We've heard teasings of The Heroic Age for months, but Siege finally brings us there--with one of the darkest events we've seen in a long time. The other events--House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion--they all had major effects, setting up Marvel for the next big story, but Siege is a conclusion.

For evidence of this, we don't have to look any further than one of the big characters of the past several years--the Sentry. He was originally created by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee as a "forgotten hero" in Marvel's publication history, but after his initial miniseries, that was it. And it was a good story--certainly better, in my opinion, than DC's earlier attempt at a similar concept (Triumph), but after his "revival", the Sentry was once again forgotten. When Bendis launched New Avengers, he brought the Sentry to the forefront of the Marvel universe, and for a time, it seemed like he was being positioned as the Superman of the Marvel universe, in a time when Thor was out of commission. Jenkins returned to do another miniseries with the character, with master artist John Romita Jr., and I enjoyed this even more than his work with Jae Lee. A highly recommended title that really captured what made the Sentry work in the context of the greater Marvel universe.

As time marched on, however, it became clear that not everything was as it seemed with the Sentry. His brief appearances in Civil War reinforced the separation he felt from everyone else, and his role in Mighty Avengers strongly suggested that he was significantly more powerful--and more disturbed--than we'd ever suspected. It wasn't until Dark Avengers, and now Siege, however, that his story was fully defined.

The Sentry is one of the most chilling characters I've seen. I've always had a fondness for the unbelievably powerful being, one that the heroes cannot begin to stand against. Obviously, they must succeed--but it becomes clear that it won't be without cost, in one way or another. In Siege, Bendis has transformed this character--this character that we thought might be Superman--into one of the most frightening villains we've seen in a very long time.

Olivier Coipel proves his status as one of Marvel's biggest artists by reinforcing this point--that the Sentry is utterly terrifying.  My blood went cold when I saw some of these panels.  I haven't seen such raw fear and darkness in Coipel's work since his breakout hit Legion Lost, and although I've loved his work since then, I haven't felt like this.  Comparing the image above by John Romita Jr.--the Sentry as a golden guardian, radiating light and hope--to the panel below by Coipel, we can see just how far the Sentry has fallen.

There is no way for the character to come back from this.  He continues to devolve in the third issue of Siege, to the point where he's no longer recognizable.  This is his end, and with him goes the past six years of the Marvel universe.

From here, we move onto The Heroic Age, and a relaunch of Avengers by superstars Bendis and Romita Jr., among many, many other titles.  We're promised a lighter tone, an emphasis on what it means to be a superhero.  I'm sure that there will be loss, tragedy hardship--Marvel has always been a soap opera, and dramatic entertainment requires pain--but I think that 2010 will be very different than 2009.

I do not know if I'd read Siege again.  But right now?  I'm captivated.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Comics I Read: Catching Up #22

Vengeance of the Moon Knight 2-5: Pretty good stuff from writer Gregg Hurwitz. I could have lived without the Sentry appearance in #2, but otherwise he does a good job of showing Marc Spector fighting his killer impulses (and winning, for a change) and the use of The Hood to resurrect an old villain is clever. Jerome Opeña gives the art the feel of the original series, which is nice, and there are some nice action moments but his faces are sometimes a little bit sketchy. Overall a good read that doesn’t rise to the level of “must have”.

Siege 3: There’s another big act of destruction in this issue, although it’s not nearly as (literally) visceral as the last one. (It makes me wonder how much Matt Fraction has been lying in his “Thor” interviews lately, though.) It’s great fun to see the “real” Avengers again, though we don’t quite get the Cap/Iron Man/Thor together moment I was hoping for. I didn’t feel the “White House” expository captions in the first few pages added much to the story – is there really anyone reading this who doesn’t already know who all these characters are? I’m also a little confused by the last page, which feels like it was meant for me to have an “a-ha!” moment but if I was supposed to recognize that figure I didn’t. Edited 3/19 to add: The last page made a lot more sense after I read "Dark Avengers" #15.

Siege Embedded 3: Putting aside my doubts about Ben Urich surviving the things that happen to him this issue unscathed, Brian Reed and my current favorite new artist Chris Samnee do a great job showing the huge battle in Siege #3 from an outsider’s perspective.

Batman 695-697: Fortunately, I read these in one sitting so I wasn’t annoyed by the cliffhanger of #696 where Batman figures out who Black Mask is but the reader still doesn’t know. There are so few writer-artists left in mainstream comics that I hate to criticize Tony Daniel, but I didn’t love the idea that Dick was mind-controlled for much of #696. He may not be as hyper-competent as Bruce (because he’s not as paranoid), but I have trouble believing he would have gotten into that situation. Also, the Black Mask reveal in #697 wasn’t that surprising – I thought Daniel telegraphed it in #695 – except that a few months back when they used him to introduce some new villains it seemed like he was on a different path. Makes me wonder if he was a mind-controlled pawn too, and the real villain is still out there. Edited 3/19 to add: David Hine tells Newsarama that the character in question was planned to be the Black Mask all along.

Justice League: The Rise & Fall Special: Eek. This is way off in a direction I don’t even slightly agree with. It’s one thing to say that Ollie snapped after Lian’s death and hunted down Prometheus, but it’s a far cry from his cold, premeditated attempted murder of Electrocutioner in this issue. Not to get all ranty about this again, but Ollie’s the guy who was devastated enough to join a monastery the last time he thought he killed someone and he was the voice of morality in “Identity Crisis”. Obviously, Lian’s death and Roy’s injury change things, but not to this degree. Despite my complete rejection of the plot, J.T. Krul’s writing is good – there’s a particularly nice scene between Wally West and Dick Grayson about taking over their “father’s” roles – and Mike Mayhew’s new art style is as great here as it was in the “New Avengers” annual.

Green Arrow 31: This issue, which follows directly from the one above, is worse. Mainly because of the art, but there are also more inexplicable character decisions. Ollie seems to actually contemplate hurting Dinah at one point, directly contradicting all the character development in this very book over the last couple of years, and even if I bought the premise that Ollie would become a murderer I wouldn’t believe that he’d allow Mia to be involved in it. Again, it’s the plot that bothers me but the actual scripting is pretty good – the scene between Conner and Ollie is well done.

Amazing Spider-Man 622-625: I didn’t love the Morbius story in #622, but I don’t think there was anything really wrong with it other than he’s not one of my favorite characters. Mark Waid’s Vulture two-parter in #623-624 is excellent. Not so much for the new Vulture, who isn’t that interesting, but for J. Jonah Jameson. Waid gets JJJ better than anyone, to the point in this story where I actually sympathized with him instead of Peter when Peter gets fired. Joe Kelly’s Rhino followup in #625 is both wonderful and tragic, with the only misstep being the last page – why would Peter walk away from unemployment benefits?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD

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I just got through watching Warner Animation’s latest DC Universe movie – unfortunately, I had to be home sick with a fever to have the time – and it’s my favorite so far. Originally conceived by writer Dwayne McDuffie as the bridge between the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” animated series, this classic story of the Justice League vs. the Crime Syndicate has been modified to stand alone. (But if you squint, and pretend they used John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan, it still basically fits in the original continuity.)

McDuffie tends to think his sci-fi concepts all the way through, and I think his take on the “infinite Earths” concept will please even people who don’t normally like the idea. His take on it makes Owlman into perhaps the most nihilistic character in the history of animation. His Batman is pretty ruthless and scary too, and not afraid to make a surprising sacrifice for the greater good. The fight scenes are terrific too, and there are lots of cameos by both other Justice Leaguers and other Crime Syndicate counterparts.

The voice acting is, as always, excellent, especially James Woods as Owlman, Gina Torres as Superwoman and, surprisingly (to me, anyway) William Baldwin as Batman. I wasn’t as thrilled with Mark Harmon as Superman, not because there was anything wrong with his performance, but because his voice didn’t seem to get lost in the character – I pictured the real-life actor every time Superman spoke.

The 10-minute “DC Showcase” shorts make their debut here with “The Spectre”. It’s based on the 70’s version where The Spectre would wreak horrible (and often ironic) vengeance on the guilty. In a stroke of genius, it’s “shot” to look like a 70’s cop show, including “defects” in the film stock! “30 Days of Night” writer Steve Niles makes the horror scenes pretty brutal by 70’s standards but mild by today’s live-action film standards, and the daytime scenes are like a Raymond Chandler novel. I think the piece actually works better the less you know about The Spectre, so I don’t want to give any more away than that.

The opening scene of “Justice League” is maybe a little too violent for younger kids, but otherwise I don’t think there’s anything most of them couldn’t handle. (Although the subtleties of Owlman’s motivation may be lost on them.) “The Spectre” is basically a mini horror film, so younger and more sensitive kids should probably skip it.

Extras are fairly thin: there’s no commentary, and the one-disc version has features on all the other DCU movies including the upcoming “Batman: Under the Hood”. The second disc of the two-disc version has a documentary about DC Comics since “Identity Crisis” that I haven’t watched yet, and the usual two bonus animated series episodes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

DYSFUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION

THE BRONX KILL   (Vertigo Crime Graphic Novel) written by Peter Milligan with art by James Romberger.  Available in hardcover on March 17, 2010.  Black & White with Gray tones.  Suggested for Mature Readers.

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Peter Milligan earned his spot on my personal list of writers to watch some time ago.  With THE BRONX KILL, a tight little crime/mystery thriller about a family with some troubled history, he moves onto my even shorter list of crime writers to pay attention to.  The quality level falls in between the works of Ed Brubaker and David Lapham.  THE BRONX KILL builds suspense like the master Brubaker while the gritty dark side of human nature he details reminds me of Lapham’s hard-core tales.

          For three generations the males of the Keane family have sought careers as policemen.  Each of them wanted to be a “cop” until Martin Keane made a decision to go his own way and pursue his lifework as a writer.  His father never approved and constantly belittles that decision, lecturing his son on the proper life choices at every opportunity.  When Martin returns home to introduce his fiancée at a Christmas dinner that remains the source of tension.

          Along with a tradition of law enforcement in the Keane family is a troubling history of death and desertion.  Martin’s grandmother quit the family life very early, never to return and leaving his father to be raised by his grandfather and several aunts at the age of infancy.  In the opening pages of this book we learn about another dark moment in Keane history as two shadowy figures gunned down his great-grandfather (and namesake) in an abandoned lot near the Bronx Kill, a NYC river canal between Harlem and the Bronx.

          Martin, a failing novelist whose second book was panned by critics, brings his girlfriend Erin, who bears a strange resemblance to his grandmother, to this site as the memories return while serving as inspiration for his third attempt at a novel.  He departs for Ireland for further research on the family, leaving Erin behind.  On his return he seems determined to get some of these troubling matters off his chest by incorporating them into his novel.  There’s a neat little plot device used by Milligan who scatters typed rough drafts of this work, including notes scrawled in the margins and underlined passages, throughout the story.

          Things get even more complicated as Erin (now his wife) disappears and Martin becomes the prime suspect in the police investigation.  Martin’s search for her uncovers even more family trouble and his continued writing becomes even more personal and reveals his concerns and fears.  When he finds the answers the truth is more depressing and grim than his fiction. Trust Milligan to slap readers across the face with the disturbing reality.

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           There is a nice flow to THE BRONX KILL as events unfold similar to a 1950’s or 1960’s classic grade-B black and white crime movie.  The art by Romberger perfectly compliments the style and mood and enhances the darkness of the situations depicted.

          While I enjoyed the story as well as admired Milligan’s skill at defining his characters so that we understand them internally and externally I had trouble finding any to actually care about.  The more I learned about them the more distanced I became.  However, Milligan still managed to hold my interest as I wanted to keep reading and learn what happens.   While he skillfully depicts the dark side of human nature so well (GREEK STREET is another fine example), it seems as if Milligan is distanced from his characters.  It feels as if he is simply a very adept reporter/observer just doing his job by recounting a sad and sordid tale.  I get the same feeling when reading stories by Lapham.  Brubaker, on the other hand, makes me believe that he truly cares for his characters and that makes me feel similar sentiments.  When Milligan achieves that reaction with me then I will move him even further up my personal list of favorites.

           At first glance the art of Romberger seems a little rough and simplistic.  But after several pages into the story that is forgotten as his true skills are revealed.  He is a master of the facial expression and body language and enhances the story the same way a film does for a novel adaptation.

          THE BRONX KILL is a nice addition to the family of graphic novels in the Vertigo Crime series.  While it is very reminiscent of those crime films I mentioned the themes of this story would have been taboo in those black and white B-movie days.  THE BRONX KILL is certain to offend some readers.  Like a bad taste in the mouth, it will linger and disturb long after it is put down.  Once I lose that feeling, I’ll remember even longer the great entertainment value derived from examining Milligan and Romberger at their craft.

Cartoons of the Week

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John Kovalic gets the last word on the Amazon.com graphic novel kerfuffle here and here.

Bargains of the Week

B00280LZBI.01.LZZZZZZZB002FGUHBE.01.LZZZZZZZ The single-disc editions of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Green Lantern: First Flight are getting marked down from $19.98 to $14.98 on March 16, so if you don’t have them yet this might be the week to get them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

IN SEARCH OF HORROR #1: VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS

 TRUST VINNIE FOR CHILS

          While super-hero tales still continue to dominate the selection of current comics choices there seems to be an increase in the number of quality horror and dark fantasy titles.  My interest and appetite for such fare has been revived, especially after reading the new re-boot of CREEPY (getting much better as of Issue #2) as well as promising new titles like WE WILL BURY YOU.  I’m going to continue exploring new books and writing here about the ones worthy of your investigation.

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          One book that caught my eye is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS  from Bluewater Productions, their first ongoing series that began in mid-2008.  It’s an anthology of horror tales, featuring a single story each issue by some promising writers and artists.  The tie-in device incorporates a narrator to introduce and conclude each story ala classic comics like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, CREEPY, BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF TERROR, ROD SERLING’S TWILIGHT ZONE, etc.  The narrator here is Vincent Price, king of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s drive-in horror movies and a personal favorite of mine.

           I’ve sampled three separate issues of VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS and found them all to be interesting and worthwhile.  There doesn’t seem to be a set writer or artist for the series and this helps to keep it fresh and different with each issue.  I’ll begin with my favorite of the three, the current issue that arrives in comics stores this month:

VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #16  untitled story by Nick Lyons (writer), Juan Tomojok (artist),  and Kamui Oscuro (colorist)

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          This is an Old West story with very dark overtones, like a hybrid of spaghetti westerns and stalker horror/gore fare.  The fear monger is a seemingly unstoppable and towering gunman with a grim berserker determination to kill (like Friday The 13th’s Jason and Michael from the Halloween films).   The story including flashbacks is presented very well and moves along at a rapid pace.  The art alone is worth the price of admission; and the color work here is breathtaking!  It’s a triple threat to thrill.

          The Western-themed cover hints at the contents within.  It draws immediate attention with just the image of a lone wanderer in a long coat advancing towards the front cover.  He resembles the classic Man With No Name but those facial features look like Uncle Vinnie much more than they do Cousin Clint.

          Yet, right away on Page 1 it appears as if someone else has taken over Vincent’s cover garb and is also assuming the duties of the narrator of this story.  A few panels later this same narrator seems to become the antagonist as he walks off the porch front and becomes the maniacal gunman who opens this story.  You are also pulled immediately into this story by the intriguing art and vivid colors.  There is incredible line work to admire in the details of the porch posts and backboards along with the numerous folds of the long coat, which appear to be lifted by high winds.  The color work throughout this issue is remarkable, particularly the use of various shades and hues of red and blue to indicate sorrow, trouble, fear, apprehension, peace, calm, and happiness.

          The beginning flashback introduces the heroine Emily Scott and reveals the incident that brought her troubles.  Some time ago a crazed gunman broke into their home and killed her husband.  She and her young son survived thanks to the husband’s quick thinking as he hid them away just as the front door was broken in.  Haunted by the memory of this event, she moves to another town where she is still bothered by nightmares that revisit that terrible night.

          One day while walking her son to the school house (the “Eastwood” School – nice little homage there) Emily spots the wanted posters for Soulless Sam, the subject of local conversation as he has been terrorizing nearby towns with his killing spree.  And her fears and apprehension begin all over again.  Just as she meets a kind local man who takes an interest in Emily and her son, the murderous gunman shows up in town and it’s a deja vu moment for Emily as her new acquaintance helps her hide while he positions himself behind a door to defend against the bloody predator.

          Like all horror comics true to tradition VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS ends it’s stories with a shocker or twist ending.  I did not see the ending of this story coming - - yet it is a shocker and very unexpected.  There has been some outcry on some fan review sites about this story, accusing the writer of building suspense and then running out of ideas and not knowing how to end the story.  I think the ending is deliberate and I admire that.  It takes some bravado to defy the horror fan base and offer something different.  This is a great story with a neat little spin and true-to-tradition moral at the end.

VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #13 (cover date November 2009) “The Abominable Dr. Phibes in The Deadly Comedy”.  Story and Art by Adriano

         Dr. Phibes is back! - - one of my favorite Vincent Price movie characters gets revived in this original story by Adriano.  It seems Adriano is also a fan, as this story is very faithful to the Phibes continuity and follows the same twisted path and dark humor of the two films.  The wronged Phibes is once again trying to find ways to resuscitate Victoria, his preserved wife and his life.  Just as he did before, he devises inventive means to murder and accomplish his purpose.

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          Another great cover helps set the tone and gives a good indication of the grim contents as well as the comedic undertones.  Murder by champagne bottle.  The victim is depicted as dead and surprised with the bottle cork firmly embedded between the eyes while a bored Dr. Phibes seems to bemoan the spilled champagne.

           The opening page murder takes place back stage at a theater presentation of Jack And The Beanstalk.  As the panel art zooms in on a close-up of the soon to be dead main actor in his dressing room it passes a wall of playhouse posters, all heralding various productions that bear the names of Vincent Price movies (House of Usher, The Comedy Of Terrors, etc.)

          Adriano’s art is fascinating, almost a hybrid of the styles of Ben Templesmith and Gahan Wilson with a painted look featuring a wash of colors and bleeding, dripping inks.  Adriano is also the colorist and compliments his line drawings appropriately.  It’s a delight to behold.  He also introduces a new character to the world of Phibes, the sinister and brooding Thanatos (many mythic themes throughout this story) - - the father of Victoria who disapproves of his son-in-law and appears to be aiding the inspectors.

          I enjoyed this story and hope that Adriano returns with more adventures of Dr. Phibes.

VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #2 (cover date October 2008) untitled story by Chad Helder (writer), Giovanni Timpano (art), and Jesse Heagy (colors)

          Through the use of some clever Photoshop software or cropping/editing the photographic image of Vincent Price’s head rest neatly atop the formal dining gown attired figure that narrates the opening and ending of this story.

          The story recounts the early days of a Neanderthal tribe as they encounter the first were-wolves and learn they are transformed family members.  The lead character is faced with hard decisions as he must battle and defeat his own brother in order to rescue his daughter, abducted by a fearsome werewolf in the opening pages.  In addition to being one of the earliest encounters to feature monsters, there is also a ghostly and inspirational presence.

          Dialogue is kept to a minimum and relies on the art more to move the story along.  It’s very well done and the absence of word or thought balloons allows for more appreciation of the drawing and coloring.

          There’s a cool twist to the ending of this story that made me smile.

Rondohammer

         VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS has been nominated for a 2009 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Horror Comic.  The list of all the nominees and numerous award categories can be found at www.rondoaward.com.   Comics are listed as Category #21 and VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS will compete for the award with 12 other nominees, including THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN, BEASTS OF BURDEN, THE COMPLETE DRACULA, and VICTORIAN UNDEAD.

          The awards are named in memory of movie actor Rondo Hatton and the bust is an image of  The Creeper, one of the characters he portrayed.

          It’s a really neat website so be prepared to spend some time exploring it.  You can also download an awards form and submit your choices as this is a fan-based award.  Voting is being conducted now through April 3rd.

 

         

  

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Amazon Omnibus Sale, um, Glitch

I’m late on this, ironically because I was out most of the day yesterday at a comic sale, but while it lasts check out the links below to Rich Johnston’s discovery of a lot of Marvel Omnibus hardcovers on sale for $14.99 or less! It’s not clear to me whether it’s an error on Amazon’s part or not, but since they don’t charge until they ship the worst that can happen is that your order gets cancelled.
The Great Amazon $14.99 Graphic Novel Sell Off Of 2010
and
Daddy, What Did You Buy In The Great $14.99 Amazon Day?

Edited at 5pm to add: Johnston's blog now says it's officially a glitch. We'll just have to wait and see which (if any) orders get shipped.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekend TV Newsmagazine of the Week

Neil Gaiman is featured on CBS Sunday Morning this – wait for it – Sunday morning on CBS at 9am.

Edited to add: The video is available online here.

Comics I Read: Catching Up #21

Green Hornet 1: I haven’t been that into Kevin Smith’s recent Batman series, but I like the beginning of this series based on Smith’s unused movie script. There’s just enough of his trademark snappy dialogue, but without too much of his trademark crudeness. The front half of the book is the last case of the 1960’s TV show Hornet, and in the back half we meet his son who (presumably) is destined to become the new Hornet. I’m actually more interested in the old hornet, but the last time this was done I wound up liking the modern quite a bit. Phil Hester, of course is a terrific artist and pencil artist Jonathan Lau makes good use of his breakdowns.

Justice League: Cry for Justice 6-7: I need to discuss the ending, so major spoiler warning! Wow. I’m near speechlessness about how abruptly this went off the rails. This series took itself a little too seriously from the beginning, but at least it had a goofy charm. (And #6 proved me right about Freddy not being able to say “Shazam”, which made me happy.) Now, at the end we have Green Arrow’s (adopted) son maimed, his granddaughter dead, and himself a murderer. I by no means think our heroes should have easy lives, but this all seems unnecessarily cruel, contradictory to everything that’s happened to GA since “Identity Crisis”, and (worst of all) I don’t think it leads to a story I’m interested in. Plus, why spend all that effort building Prometheus back up to a credible villain – or at least he was credible until he had a defense for almost everything in #7 – and then shoot him in the face with an arrow. (Which, now that I think about it, also condemns I.Q. since Prometheus says he has the capability to restore his mind.) Again, I don’t expect everything to be “lighty brighty” after the end of “Blackest Night”, but I can’t fathom the doom and gloom here.

War Machine 9-12: I’m not the only one that enjoyed this series – it was just nominated for three Glyph Comic Awards – although I may have been the only one buying it at the end. These last few issues are a great political thriller from Greg Pak, including one of the most unusual courtroom scenes ever (thanks to Ares) and a great scene with Rhodey’s mother. (“I just knew you’d come home dead some day, Jimmy. That’s just what happens when someone like you heads out into a world like this.”) Well worth your time in trades, and I hope Marvel will do an oversized hardcover of the whole series if “Iron Man 2” does well at the box office.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cartoon of the Week

Click the image to see the cartoon full size, and please be sure to check out John Kovalic’s many other fine cartoons at dorktower.com.

DorkTower801

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Comics I Read: Catching Up #20

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Blackest Night 7: There’s not a ton of plot movement here until the last few pages, but I really liked the twist on Orange Lantern Lex Luthor’s greed and all the other characterizations are great as usual. As to the ending, the revelation about the origin of life in the universe kind of makes my head hurt to think about but, as I (and to be fair a lot of others) predicted, a White Lantern does emerge. Johns managed to catch me completely by surprise by giving that role to an unexpected character. Well played, sir. The real star of this issue, though, is Ivan Reis. I don’t know if it was the extra time or what, but his work is even more stunning here including some amazing double-page spreads like the one above.

Black Lantern Green Arrow 30: This is a lot like many of the other recent tie-ins where the hero has to watch from inside as Nekron uses their body and memories to taunt their comrades, but what brings this to another level is that Ollie’s behavior doesn’t need to be twisted much: he has real secrets that would hurt his family if exposed. (Like the fact that he abandoned Conner as a child.) A good start from new writer J.T. Krul. I criticized his Titans issues, but he’s got a good handle on things here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Genius Idea of the Week

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I got an ad in the mail today for a local dental office that practices “Sedation Dentistry”. What is Sedation Dentistry, you ask? The ad – which I am not making up – says “You’ll be sedated just enough to be unaware of the treatment, as if you were sleeping. You’ll wake up refreshed, with little to no memory of what was accomplished.

So, basically you go there voluntarily, they knock you out and take your money. Genius! Why didn’t I think of that?