Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Madness - - Decimal Points .4 - - - March 31, 2011

WOLVERINE #5.1  (Marvel Comics, April 2011)  “Happy”  by Jason Aaron, Writer.  Jefte Palo, Art.  Nathan Fairbairn, Color Art.  Paolo Rivera, Cover Art.  VC’s Cory Petit, Letterer. 

Above the art on the splash page/credits page is a short but accurate summary of the game-changing event that led to the transformation of Logan into Wolverine.  Below that art is another short  but accurate summary of what has happened to Wolverine in the years following his escape from the living weapon experiment through his association with the X-Men and Avengers and involvement with his children = Daken and X-23.  The last sentences bring us right to the current situation and takes us right to the events of this particular “Point One” issue . . . . .

“He’s been to hell and back.  Literally.  But there’s one experience Logan’s never had before . . . “

That single page contains more information that a new reader or a returning reader will obtain about the current state of Wolverine than in the following 22 pages.  For someone hoping to find a convenient “jumping on” point in this title, WOLVERINE 5.1 is less than satisfying.  What they will get is an amusing and entertaining story that wraps up and resolves it’s single issue conflict yet leaves the possibility of more with a post script cliff-hanger ending.  I like Jason Aaron and the body of work he is creating both at Marvel and DC/Vertigo.  I like this story.  It’s a good example of his style and what he’s capable of.  He strings an engaging story together and entertains the reader at the same time.  Yet, this book pales when compared to the power and impact of the other three I’ve reviewed.  I kept looking for a similar revelatory or inspiring moment while reading WOLVERINE 5.1 and it never occurred for me.  (I haven’t read the rest of the “Point One”  books beyond the 4 that I’ve reviewed here.  It is possible I’ll act on impulse and pick up another one later.  I’ll let you know if I do.) 

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I also feel that WOLVERINE 5.1 may be the least attractive of the four “Point One” books I’ve written about as far as the art team goes. It could be that Jefte Palo’s style is not my personal favorite.  It’s more of a minimalist style with elements of pulp/noir and muted coloring.  There are some nice touches and the close-up expressions are well done.  But the art here also pales in comparison to those other books.

The experience that the opening page refers to Logan’s missing is . . . . a birthday party.  Huh? 

It’s also a surprise party.  So while Logan is off on an impromptu tracking effort and rescue mission through the Canadian woodlands,  the guests arrive early at his present homestead .  This allows Aaron to have a little fun and “goof”  on some established Marvel characters as they gather and socialize while waiting for Wolverine to show up at the door.  I laughed several times at some of the situations and dialogue - -- something that the goofball villains (the Buzzard Brothers) in this issue also made me do.   However, the last two pages seem to indicate that the Buzzard Brothers are returning , gaining their freedom from prison in exchange for servitude as killers for another criminal organization.  Odd. 

Could it be that Aaron is simply running out of ideas now that Logan has been to hell and back?  Is he trying out a lighter side now?  Is Wolverine going to become a humorous super-hero title now?  I wouldn’t welcome that - -  and it would be completely out of character.   I also feel that the Buzzard Brothers are a bit one-dimensional and the entertainment and comedy value will become less and less with repeated exposure.

There’s just nothing special in WOLVERINE 5.1 to make me want to “jump on” and start reading this book.  I appreciate the single issue story here.  I enjoyed it.  Most readers will.  For that reason alone I feel it’s worthy of mention here.  Rating:  B+.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Madness - - Decimal Points .3 - - - March 30, 2011

THOR #620.1  (Marvel Comics, May 2011)  Script: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning.  Art: Mark Brooks.  Color Art: Sonia Oback & John Rauch.  Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino.

Wow!  Who is Mark Brooks?  I can’t recall seeing his art before.  It’s magnificent!  An epic look fit for a mythic book.  Art lovers are going to pick this as their absolute favorite “Point One” book.  It is gorgeous to look over.

The story is not too shabby, either.  It starts off with the preparations for a celebration revolving around Thor.  It’s also very funny to imagine a pizza and beer delivery going to Asgard.    It’s Thursebolt, the feast of Thor.  I’ve been reading Thor titles on a fairly regular basis (but not every single title) and this is the first time I’ve heard of Thursebolt - - but I like it.  It makes a great framing device for Abnett and Lanning to set up their story.  Many and various players get to step up to the “podium” and toast/roast the God of Thunder - - which lets the writers touch on some major points in the back-story / history of this title.   It also permits a greater number of full-page and double-page panels that are worthy to behold.

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Aye, but there be treachery afoot - - a big heavy stone foot, to be exact.  The Grey Gargoyle has taken advantage of the occasion to search Asgard for the secret of immortality - - The Apple Of Idunn.   ( I remember that old adage - - “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” - - forever!)   Thor uses his wits to get out of this one  - - in a stoic way.  (Read it – you’ll get what I’m talking about.)

This is a very fast read.  If not for the fabulous art I might think I was cheated of a standard story.  I’m not disappointed at all. This is good fun.  If THOR 620.1 is an indication of the style and tone that Abnett and Lanning are going to utilize, then some light-hearted tales are coming.

However, THOR 620.1 does get the job accomplished.  It gets the reader the background without really touching upon any more recent storylines (except the relocation of Asgard to Earth)  - - and does serve as a proper “jumping on” point in this series.  RATING = A.
P.S. . .  I can’t wait to see that movie in May!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March Madness - - Decimal Points .2 - - - March 29, 2011

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500.1  “What It Was Like, What Happened, And What It’s Like Now” Matt Fraction, Writer.  Salvador Larroca, Artist.  Frank D’Armata, Colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, Letterer.

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This was my second favorite of the “Point One” books that I read.  The reason is similar to why I made CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1 my first pick - - - it gets into the core of the character - - what makes Tony Stark - Tony Stark, and what makes Tony Stark Iron Man  - Tony Stark Iron Man. (No, I’m not stuttering. Read aloud and put more emphasis on the pronunciation when the names are repeated for full impact.) As I read IRON MAN #500.1 I felt like a Roman Catholic priest sitting in the dark cubicle of the confessional and hearing the sins of the church member through the little screen that separates the thin walls of the  booth.  And, true to form and the legend of the original Iron Man, Tony doesn’t take his confessions to a church.  He bares his soul at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.   That is the root of this story.  It’s a great root, thick and meandering with multiple limbs and multiple branches.   Writer Matt Fraction touches on all of them.  It’s a work to be admired.  Nicely done.  Funny, very revealing, and a little sad all at the same time.

Before I get into more detail about how this may be the best story from the pen of Matt Fraction that I’ve read (so far) I should praise the art of Salvador Larroca.  Larroca came to my attention when I was still paying a little more attention to the FANTASTIC FOUR books (although I’ve never been a steady reader of that title - - no particular reason why), and I followed the progress and maturation of his style on various books through the coming years.  I really appreciate the little spin he put on his work on IRON MAN #500.1.  It’s got the Larroca stamp on it but I can’t recall seeing him utilize the multi-panel per page, smaller panel style that he employs here - - and he’s damn good at it.  There is a lot going on in the shadows, lines, expressions and overall depth in these panels.  And for spice, he put a few new touches in place that will remind you just a bit of Moebius.

Back to our story.  I’m less cautious about giving up some details and spoiling the story here than I was in reviewing CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1.  That’s because you could know exactly what happens in this story before you pick up the book and still enjoy it immensely.  That’s because it’s in the telling of the tale that the magic occurs.  Fraction puts this together perfectly - - the words carefully chosen - -  sometimes almost conveying a different meaning if we were just hearing them (but seeing the images reinforces what Tony is actually talking about)  - - the segues, the pacing - - magnificent!

Now, after all the crap and hardship, the challenges that Fraction has put Tony Stark/Iron Man through he turns to his past and puts his stamp on his personal development and growth.  He’s going to make this book extremely popular with psychology scholars. 

As Fraction tells it, young Tony didn’t know how to act around his fellow students  - - so when dealing with those awkward moments trying to socialize and fit it – he just tried to act like his father did when he socialized - - he partied and drank.  The drinking loosened up his inhibitions enough to give him self-confidence and learn how to cozy up to girls, and then women.  As Tony tells it . . . . “The circuit was – anxiety, booze, women forever.  I’d get overwhelmed by my own powerlessness and the unmanageability of my life and  . . I’d reach for one or the other or both.” 

There’s more (and how telling it is):  “Someone told me once that the age you start drinking is sort of the age you freeze at, developmentally, until you sober up. . . . I buy that.  During the time of life where you’re supposed to be figuring out who you are, how to talk to people, what you want, how to be . . . I was comfortable being plowed, getting girls, and letting people down. . . . . Can’t disappoint anybody if they don’t expect anything from you . . .”  Brilliant !

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But as Tony grew, he matured a bit and found his calling in his work and created a new habit/cycle. Fraction puts exactly the right words into Tony’s narration to make his points: “The work . . . the women . . . gettin’ sauced twenty-four seven . . . I had built myself a shell,  (perfect irony in that choice of word)  and I disappeared inside.  (again, the perfect example).  However, before you think this is getting hopeless - - Tony relates how he changed, and learned to relax and accept his responsibilities and not revert to old habits (well, not all at once anyway). 

You must read this to the last page  or you will miss two real end caps that will make you smile.  One involves a phone call to an old “friend” that I won’t reveal.  The other is a fitting tribute stenciled into the restaurant nameplate in the last panel. 

End result:  While at many instances I have not liked the character (CIVIL WAR comes to mind immediately) I now like Tony Stark more than ever before.  Knowing all his flaws, I accept him for what he is.  He’s conscientious,  and he seeks meaning and purpose.

I think I chose CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1 as my favorite of the “Point One” books for purely sentimental reasons - - there’s just so much history, etc. behind it that it evoked some warm memories and caused me to really take the story to heart.  Because Fraction really does out-writes Brubaker in IRON MAN #500.1 .  I’m sure that a new reader picking up these two books would choose IRON MAN #500.1 as the better of the two works.   You also have my permission to call it a draw.  Rating:  A+.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March Madness - - Decimal Points .1 - - March 28, 2011

I’m going to review several of the Marvel “Point One” titles  - - as described, they are intended to be a good “jumping on” point for new readers or readers coming back to these books after an absence (like me).  So, to fulfill their purpose  they need to give a non-regular reader a feel for both the tone of the book as well as the characters - - and give them enough background to follow the stories that come next, or even begin in # .1 issues. That’s a tall order.  Whether or not they succeed in accomplishing all of that is subject to interpretation and debate.  What all four books that I read had in common  = they were all great reads with excellent stories and art.  You will get your need for entertainment satisfied.  I’m going to review these in order of my personal favorites - - and none of them are runner-ups.  All are contenders.  This first one merits a grade of A+.

CAPTAIN AMERICA  #615.1 (Marvel Comics, May 2011) Writer: Ed Brubaker.  Artist:  Mitch  Breitweiser.  Color Artist; Bettie Breitweiser.  Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna.  Cover Art: Daniel Acuna

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The cover painting by Daniel Acuna catches the eye immediately.  The form of Captain America leading the charge of U.S. Forces through a WWII battlefront just leaps to the front of the cover.  It almost looks like a photo of a clay animation model was transposed over the rest of the painting.  I can’t stop looking it over.

Without going into  a lot of “what has gone before” (tons of complex storylines there) and back history (boy, is there ever – all the way back to the 1940’s!) Brubaker conveys the importance  of what Captain America means to the Marvel Universe as well as the “feel” of what it means to wear the outfit and “be” Captain America.  It’s ambitious.  It’s powerful.  It’s inspiring. It may create a lump in the throat. 

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The sentiments work (and get expressed through an unlikely source/outlet) mainly because of the talent of writer Ed Brubaker.  He “gets” Captain America, and more than almost any other writer who has scripted his tales – Brubaker has put such a dramatic  interpretation on this character as if he (Brubaker)  is the sole creator and “owns” it.  Too many other writers would attempt this and the results would be sappy and melodramatic, far from convincing. Brubaker pulls it off because of his skills.

Now I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me  - - my stockpile of Captain America books.  There was a time when CAPTAIN AMERICA was the one book that I had to read every month.  I  decided to take a breather after the two story arcs that followed “The Death Of Captain America”.  I liked those stories but felt that I didn’t “have to” read them each month.  So I collected the issues that followed, as well as THE MARVELS PROJECT and CAPTAIN AMERICA REBIRTH.   I wasn’t totally in the dark.  I knew that Steve Rogers was back and chose a different role as leader of the Secret Avengers while Bucky continued to wear the Captain America outfit.  I know that Bucky just experienced some major legal troubles.  Now I need to back-track and pick up all those details.  I believe some great reading lies ahead.

Mitch Breitweiser on art does a commendable job (as always).  I especially like some of the action scenes featuring Steve Rogers to the rescue.  Steve Epting really set the art standard for the modern Captain America book, and Breitweiser handles it in equally high fashion.

I also like where this title is heading, and all along have felt that the events I believe are soon to occur are inevitable.  How they come to the foreground again is the basis of this .1 issue, and well worth the reading.  I don’t want to spoil it for you with any crucial details - - I just want to persuade you to read it.

And while there may be several Captain Americas featured in this issue, Steve Rogers is front and center most of the time.  Make no mistake, he is who this book is about.  No matter what happens or who wears the outfit, Steve is the man - - and as far as I’m concerned - the central character of this book – now and forever, amen.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Books I Read: Finals (Vertigo Resurrected)

This is a classic Vertigo miniseries by Will Pfeifer (HERO, Catwoman, Amazons Attack *cough*) and Jill Thompson (Sandman, Invisibles, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman), re-presented in DC's new "DC Presents/Vertigo Resurrected" 100 pages for $7.99 format. Somehow I missed this when it first came out, but I've heard good things about it in the years since and I'm happy to have the opportunity to read it now at a bargain price.

The story is set at a fictional university where everyone's senior project is an extreme version of their field of study: for example, the physics student is building a time machine, the religious studies major has started her own cult, and the criminal justice student is committing a series of ever more audacious crimes. The main character is a film student, which is appropriate for Pfeifer, a film buff who writes a movie blog for the Rockford Register Star. (Pfeifer's Film Freak arc in Catwoman is also fondly remembered.)

We follow the film student as he follows his friends, trying to find a theme that will suitably impress his senior project advisor. Things spin out of control, as you might expect, with highly entertaining results. It plays more like a screwball comedy than a satire, similar in tone to Gail Simone's "Welcome to Tranquility", although Pfeifer makes a heavy-handed point about the university system on the last page.

The great Jill Thompson is, like Stuart Immonen, one of those artists that adopts a different style for every project. Those expecting the elegant style she used for Sandman will be disappointed, but the "rough" style she uses here is perfect for the manic energy of the story. Despite my minor quibble about the ending, I really enjoyed this and I recommend it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Madness 3/27/2011 - - - DIGITALIS

 

I just finished what I thought was going to be a short survey after receiving an email invitation from Marvel.com.

It asked many questions related to comics on the internet, digital comics and digital subscriptions, comics apps for smart phones, etc.  Seems like Marvel is trying to plot their future direction and determine some trends so they can respond accordingly.

I think they are smart to do so, and appreciate the thoroughness of the survey - - which gets into many other areas of popular entertainment, entertainment habits, etc.  I’d encourage anyone who cares about the future of this important medium to respond.  I wanted to be sure that I could indicate my preference for print, and there were several responses that allowed me to do so.  Even though I’ve warmed up to some of the other presentation formats for comics, nothing beats holding the book in your hand. 

I tried to copy the link here from my email invite.  It must be personally synced to my individual survey because it wouldn’t come up.  I’m sure if you go to www.marvel.com you can find a link to participate.

Be prepared to spend 15-20 minutes answering this.  Thanks if you do.  I wouldn’t devote any space to this here if I didn’t think it was important.  More comics companies should survey their market (and many do) to see how their product is perceived and what is preferred. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Going Bats Madness 3/26/2011 – DARK KNIGHTS

BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT #2  (DC Comics, May 2011) “Golden Dawn, Part Two”               Written and Penciled by David Finch. Inked By Scott Williams.  Colored By Alex Sinclair.     Lettered by Dave Sharpe.

This books fits David Finch like a bat-glove.  This is the title he was meant to draw.  I’m amazed at his work in Issue #2.  It just gets better.  I know many readers will wait to pick this up in trade paperback or hardcover --  and I can’t blame them.  It’s sure to be a beautiful book.  But I can’t wait that long when the work is this good.  I want to get it in regular doses.

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In Issue #2 Batman (Bruce Wayne) continues to investigate the disappearance of Dawn Golden, his childhood “friend”.  Issue #1 ended with Batman surrounded by the Penguin’s cronies with huge guns.   He manages to escape by using a new device that I haven’t seen before.  Seems Batman is not the only one getting out of a jam this issue.  Killer Croc makes his escape from the Gotham City Police Department as they escort him to Arkham Asylum.  The Penguin does know something about the missing Golden, but Batman doesn’t get it out of him.  Meanwhile, a supernatural element is prowling the dark alleys of Gotham and preying on the homeless.  The Demon (Etrigan) senses its presence and is about to get involved.

THINGS I LIKED ABOUT FINCH’S SCRIPT/ WRITING STYLE:  1) He shows Batman losing his cool and resorting to what most would consider torture.  2) The Batmobile gets hacked into.  3) There’s a tie-in between the rage that Batman experienced and possession of a strange necklace that belonged to Dawn.  4) Commissioner Gordon shows a little attitude.

THINGS I LIKED ABOUT FINCH’S ART:  1) The contents page where Batman is ascending a flight of steps with a grim look of determination and anger on his face.  I’m almost feeling scared for the fleeing Penguin. 2) I’ve never seen the Penguin depicted as this deformed and ugly. It suits him.  3) More panels of wet and cold rainfall - - picture-perfect images as seen from above and looking down. 4) The multi-panel scene of Jason Blood’s willful transformation into The Demon.  4) Panels that show blurred images as we realize that we are looking through Batman’s eyes as he regains consciousness.  5) The closing scenes where a single homeless man is pursued and confronted by the supernatural creature (who resembles a monstrous version of  Ragman).

They Said it Better: Xombi #1

I was a huge fan of Milestone comics in their heyday, and of all the attempts to revive them since. So it won't surprise you, especially those of you who know me, that I loved the new Xombi #1. It felt to me as if the book had never stopped, yet it had everything in it a new reader needs to know.

But don't take my word for it. After all, I admit I was predisposed to love this book. Listen instead to San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs, who says that he hasn't liked a lot of comics lately. His comments also have a comic book store spin on them, which is appropriate for the community from whence this blog sprung. (Yes, I just used "whence" and "sprung" in a sentence, apparently. Deal with it.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

March Madness 3/25/2011 - - - THE MISSION - eerie

THE MISSION #2  (Image Comics, March 2011) Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber, Writers.  Werther Dell’Edera, Artist.  Arianna Florean, Color Artist.  Dave Sharpe, Letterer.

In my March 13th review of THE MISSION #1, I commented that the story covered some familiar themes in fantasy/horror fiction and the telling of the tale would determine if this was an original variation on those themes or just another mediocre or derivative version. After reading THE MISSION #2, I’m happy to report that this delivers the goods.  It’s captivating and a little frightening/eerie.  It holds the attention.   This is a very good book. 

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Just how far would a person stray from the center of their comfort zone if  refusal meant a threat to their personal salvation or the welfare of their family and loved ones?   And in making the choice would the unfamiliar and unpleasant aspects of those decisions start to become comfortable?   By taking one step off the beaten path, could that person become lost and begin to wander farther and farther from the straight and narrow, the usual trail? 

These questions come to the surface after reading what happens to the main character, Paul Haskell, in THE MISSION #2.  Not only does THE MISSION present a suspenseful and weird mystery in this book - - it creates thought-provoking psychological and moralistic questions.

Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers.  I can’t really tell any more without revealing some of the details . . . . . 

After failing to carry out his mission in Issue #1, Paul tries to return to his regular work/family life but has major regret/doubt nagging at him - - and regular reminders from the television news of the awful consequences of his inaction.  There’s another note waiting for him on his car windshield and another meeting/confrontation with Gabriel.  Gabriel gives Paul a new mission with two objectives this time.

Paul acquires a gun in an act of bravery that turns the tables on a would be thief, and continues his detection/pursuit with new determination. He lies to both his employer and his family to cover up for his absences while trailing his target.  When he finds him,  his target is engaged in some further weirdness, self-abuse and blood-writing on walls in a sleazy hotel.  The target hints that he knows something of Paul’s mission and that they share a common history.

Paul finishes his mission without violating his principles and values.  Yet, as he exits the accident scene with a look of grim determination on his face - - the caption box on the building in the background contains just two blunt words  = “mission accomplished.”  We, the readers, realize that Paul has just had an experience that will work profound changes on his psyche.  He will never be the same. 

So ends the first two issues of THE MISSION.  This would make a great one hour pilot episode for a television series.  It also makes a neat little two-issue story arc that lays the foundation for the actions and regrets to come in future issues.  THE MISSION #3 goes on sale April 2011.

March Super-Hero Movie Madness 3/25/2011 – CAPTAIN AMERICA

The official CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER movie (July 2011 debut) trailer is all over the web.  I found a link to it here, via Fandango:

http://www.fandango.com/movieblog/fanboy-fix-full-captain-america-trailer-superman-casting-and-more-660897.html?wss=fanmail&type=Newsletter&mailing=3.25.11%20Newsletter

I like this trailer, especially the transformation scenes from scrawny, skinny Steve Rogers to the Ultimate Super-Soldier = Captain America.  I’m excited to see this movie now! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March Madness - - March 24, 2011 – STRANGE Memories

DOCTOR STRANGE: FROM THE MARVEL VAULT #1  (Marvel Comics, April 2011) “This Old House”  Roger Stern, Writer.  Neil Vokes, Penciler.  Jay Geldhof, Inker. Lee Loughridge, Colorist. Jared K. Fletcher, Letterer.

This is Doctor Strange the way I remember him best = keeping the world safe from the intrusion of otherworldly or supernatural demons and entities.  The front page of this one-shot tells the story behind this particular story.  “This Old House” was a script in development by Roger Stern back in 1998, intended to become MARVEL UNIVERSE #8.  However, the series was canceled before the story was completed.  Thanks to the efforts of Marvel Editor Tom Brennan, it was finished this year and finds its’ way to publication now.imageHandler

It’s worth seeking out for a number of reasons.  One, its’ a flashback story that occurs in the early history of Doctor Stephen Strange, right after he completed his studies with the Ancient One and returned to New York City.  Two, it reveals how Dr. Strange came to occupy the old brownstone in Greenwich Village, the manor that became his sanctum sanctorum.  Three, it’s a  great story “dedicated to the Masters – Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.”  Story and art are respectfully done in the same style.  Wow, Neil Vokes reminds me how much I miss the work of Steve Ditko and how great his work on this title was.  Vokes has the trails of vapor and weird angles of the other dimensions down to a science, as if he was a devoted pupil of Steve Ditko. 

Dr. Strange buys the mansion from a reluctant real estate agent who reveals the site has served as foundation for seven different homes in its history, all burned in tragic fires.  The site is alleged to have been the one-time home of a satanic cult practicing human sacrifice.  Stephen sets about to identifying the spirits that now occupy the premises and has his hands full trying to banish them from this particular realm. 

If you long for some stories told in the good old days style of Lee/Ditko, this is the one for you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Horror Hunter Madness 3/23/2011 – Edge Of Doom #2

EDGE OF DOOM #2 (IDW Publishing, December 2010)  Written by Steve Niles. Art by Kelley Jones. Colors by Jay Fotos. letters by Amauri Osorio

After I recently  finished voting in the annual Rondo Hatton Horror Awards and nominated EDGE OF DOOM as the Best Horror Comic of 2010 - - I realized that I’ve only featured that book one single time on this website.  I need to catch up!  (So many comics --- good comics – so little time!) 

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Issue #2 takes a different turn from the horrific elements of the first issue and presents a science-fiction story that would fit right in with the best of the EC Comics tales from the 1950’s.  Which is the whole point of the EDGE OF DOOM series  - - using original tales patterned after those classic comics to pay tribute to the EC stable of writers and artists. 

The advance IDW press release for this story summarizes the story very well:   “Another tale of stark-raving four-color madness from our horror hosts Steve Niles and Kelley Jones! On an exploratory mission to a strange new world, space pioneer Morgan is left behind when his ship lifts-off without him. With years alone on a deserted planet, and struggling to keep his sanity, he creates a bond with the most unlikely of companions—his three-foot-tall weather robot. But can you trust your soul to a bucket of bolts? “

Niles and Kelley have collaborated many times before and they are the perfect team for these stories.  Niles sets the scene up within carefully chosen captions and dialog and Jones beautifully depicts the events.  I love the look of this book.  Even more, I can’t get over how adept Jones is at manipulating his own fantastic style to pay homage to different artists    - - - Steve Ditko in Issue #1  and Wally Wood in Issue #2.  

Morgan establishes a friendly relationship with the tiny weather robot, who becomes his confidante and counselor.  Through the first year of solitude on the lonely planet Morgan holds onto hope and remains optimistic that a rescue is on the way.  He gets a major setback that crushes his attitude in year two of isolation.  Year three brings even worse news as he discovers some of the consequences of humans exploring an alien planet.  Shortly after that the batteries of “Axl” reach the end of their limited lifespan and Morgan is completely alone. 

There’s a twist to this story revealed at the end that is worthy of the best of the original Twilight Zone television shows.   EDGE OF DOOM reads fast and always rewards on subsequent readings as it reinforces the greatness of its simplicity.  Good stories don’t have to be complex.  It’s very hard for me to get tired of these stories no matter how many times I read them.  A marvelous book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness - - Phoenix / Atlas - - - March 22, 2011

PHOENIX #1  (Atlas / Ardden, March 2011)  Writers = Bre ndan Deneen + Jim Krueger.     Art = Dean Zachary.  Colors = Mai.  Letters & Design = Richard Emms.

I wanted to like this title more than I actually did.  I’m just excited by the very notion that a comics company would be resurrected almost 40 years later and have another go at market acceptance and profitability.  That’s admirable.  I’m pulling for Atlas to survive and thrive.  It could be the feel good comics story of this decade.

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However, I’m not going to recommend a title simply because I like the publisher, the writer, the artist, the character, etc.  It can’t be poor quality.  It must have some entertainment value. Fortunately, PHOENIX is worth your examination.   While it may turn out to be the weakest of the new Atlas titles (I haven’t read GRIM GHOST yet, so the jury is still out- no final verdict yet) it does have it's moments. And, those moments are interesting enough to bring me back for a few more issues.

As I recall my 1970’s introduction to these characters it was PHOENIX that was the first Atlas title I purchased; and it was the first one that I dropped from my regular reading.  It’s no longer a part of my collection and I can’t remember much detail except that the costume here looks very familiar with a few new touches. Foremost are the bright white alien writings across the chest and limbs of the costume that look as if they would glow in the dark.  It’s a different look and without it this costume might be too ordinary.

That PHOENIX #1 from the 1970’s (as I recall) was the origin issue and the best story of the 3 issues that I purchased.  It wasn’t exactly clear then (and that’s true of the current version as well) exactly what Phoenix’s powers are other than flight and enhanced strength.  The upgraded version of Phoenix also seems to be able to generate flaming energy and channel it towards his fists, which permits him to discharge it in a blast of explosive propulsive fire.  The #2 and #3 issues from Volume 1 (as I recall) seemed a little too generic and formulaic =  another super-strong hero defeating average super-villains in standard situations that weren’t that original or interesting.  They didn’t seem to expand on the implied promises of the origin issue, so I dropped it.  I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen here with Volume 2.  I actually look forward to seeing where this goes.  It’s already different.  It’s pretty clear the aliens aren’t going away.  As I remember Volume 1, they were already an afterthought by Issue #2.

phoeni14

As I read the opening pages of the new PHOENIX I quickly realized that I was entering mid-point of a story line despite the #1 identification on the cover.  It wasn’t a flash forward either.  The succeeding pages never refer to how Phoenix got into the dire situation depicted on page 1- 7 and onward.  So I visited the website at www.atlas-comics.com and learned that there was a #0 issue published in a limited run as part of the New York Comic Con in January 2011.

From what I can surmise, Ed Tyler along with his best friend Max and fellow townsfolk were abducted by aliens. From there Ed somehow gets an alien suit with special powers. The web page text refers to how “each time he dies he comes back more powerful than before.”   This is very effectively depicted on page 1 of Issue #1, where in nine panels we see Ed injected by the aliens and writhing in obvious pain, then perfectly still and seemingly dead in the next panel, and finally eyes back open and alert in the third panel.  This sequence occurs twice more before moving to a double page spread that reveals Ed strapped to a gurney with probes and deadly needles stuck into his body in numerous places. Its a very effective scene, drawn from an overhead view looking down on Ed and the backs of the alien heads as they hover over his form.  It’s some of the best art in the issues.  And, while some of the art is very good the overall impression is one of inconsistency.  In many places the art of Dean Zachary appears a little rushed, fuzzy and blurry.  Artist Zachary seems to be going for a semi-painted look, but it doesn’t work on every page.  Too many pages focus on the foreground characters and action and don’t have any background detail other than a contrasting color.

However when the art works it works well and I would like to see some more before deciding whether I’m a fan or not. It may look inconsistent for a reason.  Back on the web site I see that the art team on the special #0 issue was Ian and Guy Dorian.  Perhaps they couldn’t be part of Issue #1 and it was a hurry-up assignment given to Zachary.  It does appear that Zachary will be the artist on the upcoming Issues #2 and #3 so I’ll get another chance to view his work.

Ed does escape from the alien ship but is unable to free his friend Max who is still alive and remains behind. Apparently the dead bodies of everyone else from their town remain on the ship, including Alexis whose passing Ed obviously mourns but the connection is not revealed.  The aliens want Ed back for further study/experimentation and send hunters in pursuit.  Ed, still in glowing costume, flees to the apartment of Denise - - his wife? girlfriend? just someone he knows?  The script in this issue by Deneen and Krueger is all action, flight, and pursuit.  Guess I’ll need to read some more issues before deciding if I like this story also.

Call me curious.  It’s fun in an old-fashioned way and I’d like to see more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness – Get happy. Read Superboy. March 21, 2011

SUPERBOY #5  (DC Comics, May 2011)  “The Superboy / Kid Flash  Race”                                      Jeff Lemire, Writer.  Pier Gallo, Artist.  Jamie Grant, Colorist.  John J. Hill, Letterer.

I have previously written several favorable reviews about SUPERBOY on this site.  Almost every month I’ve had good reason to do so - - as each issue seems to provide further evidence that this is becoming a great superhero book, and one that should be added to your pull list. SUPERBOY is one for all the ages.  Every comic reader can find something to enjoy and appreciate here.  Even more so, it’s one of those books (like the revived Crossgen SIGIL at Marvel)  that seems to be the best hope of attracting the attention of those young middle-school aged readers in their most formative years. It is without doubt the one book that I would recommend without hesitation to those younger readers.  If you have been following my reviews of SUPERBOY and are curious to see what the fuss is all about  - - there is no better time than now, with Issue #5.  Everything I love about this book is in ample evidence here - - and it’s a stand-alone story.  It’s not continued to the nextSuperboy 5 issue and you don’t need to read any prior issues to follow everything that’s happening here.  It’s about a globe-spanning race between Superboy and Kid Flash - - and it is every bit as cool as it sounds. 

Writer Jeff Lemire re-caps the previous four issues in just four pages and in a very entertaining fashion that won’t bore anyone who’s followed the story so far.  Lemire is a master at bringing that sense of  small town / home town simplicity, tight-knitted families and communities, social responsibility, and honest values and principles to everything that he writes.  Smallville has never seemed so appealing as it does here.  It reminds me of my first introduction to Superboy and ADVENTURE COMICS back in my youth, and that sense of warmth and comfort with these characters - - stories that usually were complete in one issue, featured situations and conflicts that were compelling without being complex, with noble heroes that were publicly appreciated and rarely featured any “dark” aspects or situations.  Lemire has brought those more innocent and family-friendly sensibilities of yesteryear to SUPERBOY but given it a modern update.  The world is more complex.  There are “dark” aspects and situations.  He just acknowledges this in his script without permitting it to dominate or foreshadow the story at the root of this title - - - a young person approaching the world with a firm sense of optimism but still somewhat troubled by situations that seem uncontrollable and not perfectly right.  Couple that with the normal teen anxiety over developing romantic and loving relationships and you have the template for a long series of captivating adventures.  Artist Pier Gallo seems to be in sync with Lemire’s outline for this title and his drawings here perfectly captures and enhances the feeling and moods that Lemire is working hard to evoke.  The rest of the art team help paint the vivid picture.  This is a rich book to look at.

This Superboy is the hero with a deep sense of responsibility for his actions, who often agonizes that “truth is, the damage left behind afterward is worse than the fights themselves.”   Three issues later, Superboy is still trying  in his own way to help Smallville recover from the damage done by battle with The Parasite , which was followed by a rapidly growing outburst of vines and kudzu.  He thought that was caused by Poison Ivy and her control over plants, but it was traced to a poor farmer turned into “a pawn in some larger game” that still has more details to be revealed.  Long after other writers would have ignored or downplayed these issues and simply moved on, Lemire continues to milk this vein for everything it’s worth.  It’s the premise behind this issue - - - a fund-raising race between Superboy and Kid Flash to help support “the farmers and small business owners of Smallville affected in the recent super villain attacks.”

During the opening pages, Superboy flies into town to begin the race as his thought captions share with us the details of everything that has led up to this point.  His worries about Smallville and his part in the damage move on to his indecision on how to proceed in his stalled relationship with Lori Luthor and regrets over his breakup with Cassie (Wonder Girl). By page three his concerns and worries have escalated to the point that they occupy a full, one-page panel where overtop of the flying Superboy is transposed the outline of a jigsaw puzzle with one big whited-out missing piece in the center of the page. Cut to the next page where just the missing blank jigsaw piece is seen hovering over the town, with the approaching Superboy in the center.  Maybe he’s starting to figure out some of the puzzles in his life and finding the right pieces - - one of them being this benefit race.  It’s a clever mechanism to quickly indicate many conflicts and a single but beginning resolution without tons of thought balloons.  I’m always finding clever and neat touches like that in this book.

I’m not going to spoil anything by providing the details of that race here or tip you off to the outcome - - but there is a lot of fun in store for you if you decide to read this.  Some of the things that occur during the race are very clever and the back and forth banter between Superboy and Kid Flash is good fun reading.  This is the DC super-hero book to recommend to everyone.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Comics Technology Madness - - March 20, 2011 – Doctor Who

I’m not the biggest fan of all the new formats for comics.  I much prefer holding a book in my hand and flipping through the pages.  I still get a little uncomfortable with digital comics, motion comics, smart phone comics, etc. - - but I’m becoming more and more adept at using them every month and my tolerance level has increased “exponentially” (or insert appropriate tech/marketing word here).  One thing that’s occuring that I’m absolutely onboard with = these changes are creating new formats for comics. That results in  new markets that bring in new audiences that keep the art form (the original American comic book) alive and vital in the 21st century.  And if these new formats create enough curiousity in the original item to drive new readers into comic book stores to view and hold the real thing - -  well, I consider that a good thing.  What follows is some information from the official IDW press release . . . . . . . . . .

BBC Worldwide America and IDW Publishing bring DOCTOR WHO comics to digital audiences worldwide

[Doctor Who comics on the iPad]San Diego, CA (March 19, 2011) – IDW Publishing and BBC Worldwide America have today announced the global digital launch of IDW’s critically acclaimed DOCTOR WHO comic book series. Doctor Who fans worldwide can now follow the Doctor’s comic book adventures on their Apple iPads and iPhones, and Sony PSPs, along with IDW Publishing’s entire catalog of DOCTOR WHO comics, which is now out in digital form.
One of BBC Worldwide’s most successful franchises and the longest running science-fiction television series in the world, Doctor Who follows the adventures of the Doctor, the mysterious traveler who, with his human companions, journeys throughout all of time and space, facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. IDW’s extensive catalog of DOCTOR WHO comics features both original stories and reprints of classic adventures. Currently, IDW’s DOCTOR WHO brings readers all-new adventures of the Eleventh Doctor that augment the on-screen excitement.
“We’re excited to bring out DOCTOR WHO comics on the PSP, as it’s a perfect comic for the game audience,” stated Jeff Webber, IDW’s director of ePublishing. “For Apple devices, while all of the issues are also available in our IDW Comics app for our regular readers, there are many ravenous DOCTOR WHO fans that may not be familiar with the comics. So we created a stand-alone DOCTOR WHO Comics app that lets us feature the Doctor at the top level of the app store, offering users worldwide a completely focused experience.”
Ed Casey, Director of Licensing, BBC Worldwide America, who brokered the deal, said: “DOCTOR WHO fans are loyal and passionate and I’m sure they’ll love the fact that they can now get their [Doctor Who comics on the PSP]favorite Time Lord in this 21st century format.”
Prior to this digital launch, IDW’s DOCTOR WHO comics were only available in print in North America. Available to international readers for the first time, DOCTOR WHO digital series presently includes over forty issues, with more added each month. The full catalog is available for iPads and iPhones as a custom branded app, and as individual issues on the PSP.
Added Webber, “Plus, it’s just awesomely fun to build an app that keeps the look and feel of something that could be a part of the TARDIS itself. It’s just possible that the app might start pulling in comics from the future that haven’t even been created yet!”
Doctor Who returns to BBC AMERICA screens in the U.S. on Saturday, April 23.
DOCTOR WHO Comics are through the below links:
Apple apps:
DOCTOR WHO Comics    http://itunes.com/apps/idwpublishing/doctorwhocomics
IDW Comics    http://itunes.com/apps/idwpublishing/idwcomics
Sony PSP:
http://playstationcomics.com

Visit IDWPublishing.com to learn more about the company and its top-selling books.
About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The Transformers and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s DOCTOR WHO; and comics and trade collections based on novels by worldwide bestselling author, James Patterson. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studios; and is the print publisher for EA Comics and ComicMix.
IDW’s original horror series, 30 Days of Night, was launched as a major motion picture in October 2007 by Sony Pictures and was the #1 film in its first week of release. More information about the company can be found at IDWPublishing.com.
About BBC Worldwide
BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  BBC Worldwide, America, with headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, brings together all of BBC Worldwide’s businesses in the U.S.  The company exists to maximize the value of the BBC’s assets for the benefit of the UK license payer, and invests in public service programming in return for rights. BBC Worldwide has six core businesses:  Channels, Sales and Distribution, Content and Production, Home Entertainment, Global Brands and Magazines.  Under these businesses fall two key brands in the U.S. – digital cable channel BBC America and a bi-coastal production arm responsible for the smash hit Dancing with the Stars for ABC.
Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod touch, and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Content purchased from the iTunes Store is for personal lawful use only. Don’t steal music.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Awards Madness - - - 3/19/2011 - - Rondo Hatton Awards

This is the final week to vote in the NINTH ANNUAL RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS.  The deadline for ballots is midnight, March 27, 2011.

ronlogo1

The annual awards are fan-based and dedicated to the best in horror in 30 different categories.  This year’s awards are dedicated to the memory of Gloria Stuart, Ingrid Pitt and Verne Langdon.

More information about the awards, including previous winners, and an e-mail ballot can be obtained at:

http://www.rondoaward.com/

Here are the categories for the awards:

  1. Best Movie Of 2010
  2. Best TV Presentation of 2010
  3. Best Classic DVD
  4. Best DVD Collection
  5. Best Restoration
  6. Best Commentary
  7. Best DVD Extra
  8. Best Independent Film Or Documentary – there are video links to clips or trailers.
  9. Best Short Film – there are video links to clips or trailers.
  10. Book Of The Year
  11. Best Magazine Of 2010
  12. Best Article
  13. Best Interview – award goes to the interviewer.
  14. Best Magazine Cover - - these are all reproduced on the web site.
  15. Best Website - - lots of links (and new discoveries!) to these sites.
  16. Best Blog Of 2010
  17. Best Convention Of 2010
  18. Best Fan Event Of 2010
  19. Favorite Horror Host Of 2010
  20. Best Horror Comic
  21. Best Horror Audio
  22. Best Soundtrack Or Horror CD
  23. Best Toy, Model Or Collectible
  24. Classic Most In Need Of Restoration
  25. Writer Of The Year (for 2010)
  26. Artist Of The Year (Pro)
  27. Artist Of The Year (Fan)
  28. DVD Reviewer Of The Year
  29. “Monster Kid” Of The Year - “for efforts beyond the call of duty to build a better world of gods and monsters.”
  30. Monster Kid Hall Of Fame

It’s a lot of categories, but it doesn’t take that long to get through - - and it’s a lot of  fun.  Here’s your chance to vote for your favorite, especially horror comics (my favorite of all comics genres - - my pick this year was EDGE OF DOOM).  You can type your picks on an e-mail or just cut-and-paste the ballot onto an email and place an X by your choices, highlight your choices, or “leave a claw print!”    Just include your name to ensure that the ballot will be counted.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March Heavy Metal Madness 3/18/2011 - - - Iron Man 2.0 #2

IRON MAN 2.O #2   (Marvel Comics, April 2011 – release date 3/16/2011)  Nick Spencer, Writer.  Barry Kitson, Kano & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artists.  Matthew Wilson, Colorist. VC’s Joe Caramagna, Letterer. “Palmer Addley Is Dead” Part 2 of 3 

Iron Man 2.0 #2

It wasn’t that long ago that I reviewed Iron Man 2.0 Issue #1  (BC REFUGEES, March 11, 2011) .  It was my first encounter with the work of writer Nick Spencer (MORNING GLORIES, ACTION COMICS, etc) and I was impressed.  He did an outstanding job in the first issue of establishing the new setting for the main character  (James Rhodes, War Machine), and then set about planting clues and information for what became a very intriguing mystery for Rhodey to figure out and solve.  I anxiously awaited Issue #2 so I could learn more - - so I snatched the last copy of this off the shelves of Captain Blue Hen today.  (Sold all their copies by the 3rd day of display? - - not too shabby!  I’m sure they had at least 8-10 copies in their new releases section.)

Why isn’t this book called WAR MACHINE Volume 3, you ask?   The reason has to do with Rhodey’s new assignment and Stark Industries’ obligation to the federal government and the military.  As the contents page summary puts it so succinctly . . .

“Lt. Col. James  (Rhodey) Rhodes is a U.S. Marine Corps pilot and a good friend of Tony Stark - - the Invincible Iron Man.  When Stark equipped a suit of Iron Man armor with custom heavy ordnance, Rhodey became the hero War Machine . . . and when War Machine lent his services to the United States in the interest of national security, he became the Department of Defense’s own . . . IRON MAN 2.0.”

In IRON MAN 2.0 #2 - - Rhodey continues to investigate the continuing terror attacks using weapons technology developed by a now deceased (suicide) agency developer (Palmer Addley).  Who leaked his plans, and who’s building the weapons?  

In the opening pages, set in Baghdad, Iraq a U.S. bomb team successfully dismantles and removes a vest bomb from a citizen forced to wear it.  However, due to some sabotage (and the mention of Palmer Addley again) the bomb explodes with devastating consequences.  This opening sequence is very suspenseful as the bomb team works to dismantle the device.  It gives evidence that writer Spencer has some detailed military knowledge (or he just watched THE HURT LOCKER enough times until he memorized the details).  This sequence was very convincing.

Rhodey recruits Suzi Endo, a communications expert, to help him trace the source of the bomb - - which leads to Russia.  Apparently Rhodey and Suzi had a brief romance brewing in their past.  Rhodey investigates the Russian location and quickly finds himself rendered helpless and his armor power locked down.

I’m not going to give away anymore.  Don’t wait for the trade.  Go out there and snatch up Issues #1 and 2.  The first story arc concludes next issue, and it should be a fascinating ending.  Show your support for single issue sales - - good numbers ensures that the trade edition will get published.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Crossgen Revisited Madness – March 17, 2011

SIGIL #1  (Marvel Comics, May 2011) Mike Carey, Writer. Leonard Kirk, Pencils. Ed Tadeo, Inks. Guru Efx, Colors. Rob Steen, Letters.

The Crossgen era at Marvel was ushered in last week with the debut of SIGIL, soon to be followed by the highly anticipated return of RUSE.  I’ve also chosen to write about SIGIL today as my way of honoring St. Patrick’s Day.  By writing a review of a book about a red-haired, green-eyed “Colleen” I pay my respects to my Irish heritage.  The other option was to pour a Guinness over my laptop - - - I picked the first choice instead. 

crossgen sigil

At first SIGIL seemed an odd choice of Crossgen book for Marvel to revive/adapt.  Most of the Crossgen books took place in fantasy settings - - and I remember SIGIL as a galaxy-spanning good old science fiction space opera.  (See the cover image to the left.)  It wasn’t even one of the Crossgen books I was following on a regular basis.  (That would be RUSE, SOJOURN and a few others.)  However, it seems that this new SIGIL is honoring that fantasy tradition.  The Marvel version is anything but a science fiction tale.  Maybe that will change as it moves along.  I’m inclined to doubt that.  It appears that they took the title more for the sigil emblem that is tattooed on or adorns many characters of the Crossgen universe rather than a single-themed book.

Nevertheless, I like this book.  I’m excited for SIGIL and optimistic about it’s future.  What I like most is the light-hearted style that Mike Carey employs in the script.  It’s a “feel good” book in spite of some of the unpleasant things that happen in SIGIL.  More importantly, it seems perfectly suited  (in my unqualified opinion) for a younger audience comprised mainly of middle-school teenagers who should take to this title for the same reasons that ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN appeals.  It seems to relate to them – especially female students -- and to get it right.  Admittedly,  I’m doing a little deduction here since I do not have any teenagers in my immediate family to survey.   But I do take notes when my wife relates stories of what goes on at the high school where she works.  I could see some of the non-fantasy events in this book ,especially  the fighting over boys and taunting/ridicule that goes on, happening at our local school.   And the peer to peer conversations in SIGIL seem to ring true to me.

marvel sigil 1

Samantha (Sam) Rey seems a little distracted and that’s perfectly understood.  She’s had a rough year.  Her beloved mother, Vanessa, passed away (an unexplained but accidental death) and her father struggles to hold down a demanding full-time job while helping a failing teen-aged daughter cope  with the pressures of maintaining school grades. Sam has a rash-like birthmark below her collarbone that resembles a sigil, and seems to become more noticeable  whenever she has vivid and repeating dreams of old mansions and royalty. She’s been drifting off into this dream world more and more frequently, and this occurs at the worst of times - - in one instance right in the middle of a final exam in a history class that she is failing.

She’s also being threatened at school by Tamara, a short-haired muscular husky blonde who thinks Sam is paying too much attention to “her” boyfriend.  Sam really doesn’t care for Roberto but he seems to be stalking her and this gets Tamara fired up.  She and her brutish band of girlfriends would love to give Sam a real beating.  They ambush Sam after school, and as she flees and seeks a hiding place she drifts away again  - - this time right into the other world and onto a pirate ship.  It’s the good ship El Cazador (from a short-lived Crossgen series about a female pirate captain) and one of the occupants seems to know her as well as her mother.

Mike Carey covers a lot of ground in this first issue and does it very skillfully, dropping essential details and background on every page while still moving the story forward.  He’s got even more to explain in future issues.  Still, it seems easy enough to follow by just focusing on what is happening in the immediate formarvel sigil 2eground.  What I suspect is happening in the background is that Sam is slowly being pulled into the world once occupied by her mother.  I suspect in future issues we will learn of THE FIRST, another Crossgen title about two rival royal families, the firstborn descended from the gods.  They are most likely the relatives of Sam.

 

The art team on this book is stellar, and it even looks like a Crossgen book.  There’s a subtle touch at work that I admire - - or maybe it’s so subtle I’m making more of it than I should. It just seems that the panels that take place in the fantasy world have slightly more vivid coloration and more sharply defined inks. 

This is a very good start for SIGIL.  I’m looking forward to the next issue, and hoping that more of the Crossgen universe gets welcomed and accepted by the Marvel universe of readers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Horror Hunter Madness- Grimm Myths March 16, 2011

 

GRIMM FAIRY TALES MYTHS & LEGENDS #1 – 2  (Zenescope Entertainment, January + March 2011) Story by Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco.  Written by Raven Gregory. Art by David Miller. Colors by Jason Embury with consultation by Nei Ruffino. Letters by Jim Campbell.

Zeno 1 Zeno 2

Rather than being an adaptation of classic fairy tales or simply based on them as parent title GRIMM FAIRY TALES does,  GRIMM FAIRY TALES MYTHS & LEGENDS is an original story and set in current times.  The “myth” or “legend” referred to in the title appears to be a werewolf  for this first story arc. It’s a fierce and stalking predator of gigantic Incredible-Hulk-sized physique with a bloody appetite - - all vividly depicted in the Zenescope house style of gore and girls. All of the Zenescope books I’ve read feature gorgeous women with enhanced anatomies in seductive and teasing poses and situations.  They sometimes come close to being R or X-rated adults only fare but always stop short, back off, or withdraw.  (“Relax, don’t do it” . . . . . as Frankie says.)  I’m not complaining about that - -  just want you to know not to share these books with the kiddies.

The institution being stalked by this mega-werewolf is the Seidwell Rehabilitation Institute, a treatment center that caters to troubled adolescents  - - as long as their rich parents keep paying the steep monthly fees.  The institute is located in the deep woods of South Dakota and contained within a fenced-in area. Three security guards ensure the 22 residents remain confined to the building and immediate grounds. The nine faculty members are free to leave each evening, with the security force, three orderlies and two EMT members on site all the time.  As you might suspect, by the end of Issue #2 their numbers have decreased thanks to the determined werewolf who sneaks into the compound in Issue #1.  In addition to being big and mean, the werewolf apparently also possesses shape-shifting abilities which complicate matters further in Issue #2.

The story focuses on a small group of residents being counseled by staff member Britney Waters, a very conscientious and understanding person who cares deeply for the welfare of her charges.  There are six members in her group therapy sessions and each of them has a different disorder and interesting personality.  Take away the stalking werewolf and you would still have a captivating storyline about the residents.  Of course every single one of the female patients is beautiful.  None of the male patients are that appealing, but some of the staff and security guards are studs (equal time for women readers).  These patients include Lydia, a skimpy Goth-clothed, raven + frosted short haired, heavily tattoo-ed, pain killer addicted anti-social complainer; Brian and Louis -  inseparable buddies and both big-time alcoholics in denial;  Tanya Rosenburg, who is a sex addict; big and bloated David, who suffers from binge disorder; Andrea, who’s got serious self-mutilation issues; and Eric, a catatonic schizophrenic who never speaks.  Hunky but married Dr. Christopher Patricks shares Britney’s concerns for her group, but head administrator & chief of medicine Dr Wilson just cares about the big money coming into the institute.

The art is wonderfully detailed. Outdoor backgrounds are depicted with the appropriate dark atmosphere and sense of hopeless isolation. Large panels, free of dialog and captions, enhance the action scenes and impact of the bloody carnage.  This is a well done production.

G.F.T. MYTHS & LEGENDS is more than a mere horrific stalking werewolf story - - even though a new reader wouldn’t know that just from reading these two issues.  There is a deeper storyline that traces all the way back to events from the very first issue of GRIMM FAIRY TALES.  There is just one two-page scene in Issue #1 that alludes to this but offers no explanation.  There will be more than just a single werewolf causing havoc in modern times before this series ends.  Several creatures from the realm of Myst escaped into the real world.  The evil witch Baba Yaga captured them for her own sinister purposes.   (I didn’t know this.  I learned of it by searching the Zenescope web site.)

Also, Britney Waters is more than just a curvaceous counselor who cares about doing her job properly. She is the same Britney featured in The Little Red Riding Hood story from that #1 issue of GRIMM FAIRY TALES.  She was the hero of that story and her true purpose at Seidwell Rehabilitation Institute has yet to be revealed.  Meanwhile, the creature from another world has caught her scent and is out to destroy her before she can realize her destiny.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this all that much after reading the debut issue.  It took another look to make me realize there is a good bit of depth to this story - - and it’s worth following.  I’ll probably wait for the eventual trade edition to complete reading this story -  and expect to enjoy it more when it’s complete. 

It’s also nice to see a smaller independent comics company having some success, especially one that offers books rooted in the horror genre rather than the standard comics fare.  In addition, it’s also cool that they are a Philadelphia-based company (Fort Washington area).  I plan to support them more in the future. Hooray for horror! - -  as long as it’s done correctly.

They Said It Better: Wildcats 3.0 Year One and Year Two

I just finished rereading Wildcats 3.0 in its new "Year One" and "Year Two" volumes, and I don't have anything to add to this Comics Alliance appreciation of the series other than to say I recently read some issues of "G.I. Joe: Cobra" and "G.I. Joe: Origins" (Hi, Aaron!) and in my opinion the writers of both those series were influenced by Joe Casey's work. (Also influenced: Matt Fraction's Iron Man. But that's a discussion for another day.)

Wildcats 3.0: A Look Back at a Comic Too Far Ahead of Its Time

March First Issue Madness 2 - - The Intrepids March 15, 2011

 

THE INTREPIDS #1 ( Image Comics, February 2011)  Kurtis J. Wiebe, Co-Creator, Writer.  Scott Kowalchuk, Co-Creator, Illustrator, Cover, Designer. Justin Scott, Colorist. Frank Zigarelli, Letterer.

It’s been a month of discovery for me ( even though I’m discovering books one or two months after their release dates).  Next up on my list - - and a nice surprise - - is THE INTREPIDS debut issue from Image featuring a new team of both heroes and creators. It’s not deep.  It’s not dark.  It’s not philosophical or controversial. It’s just a little bit thought-provoking.  What it is  - - is loaded with entertainment and a fresh approach to a familiar format.

THE INTREPIDS will remind you of both THE X-MEN (the original Uncanny ones) and THE DOOM PATROL (the originals again).  It calls to mind THE X-MEN much more than it does THE DOOM PATROL although readers familiar with both can find things in THE INTREPIDS to trigger the memories.

intrepids-01-cov-2x3-300dpi

One of the reasons I quit on THE X-MEN titles was because all their innocence had been taken away. Today’s core team (the major X-books, not the ones with new and younger members) have been through the mill - -  they are savvy, street smart and the exact opposite of naive and innocent. They are world-weary and have made me weary of the next major crisis, the next shocking development, the next betrayal, the next changing of allegiances, the next major, major, big impact, must read, mega-event, ultra-crossover, blah, blah, blah.  I miss the younger Charles Xavier and his young charges. Those were the days - - and they aren’t coming back.  But now I have THE INTREPIDS – and I like them because of the fun memories they have stirred up. 

According to a few sources, the first issue of this book was a runaway hit, selling out in one day.  ( I wonder how exactly that was measured (distribution level?), but it really doesn’t mater right now.)  

It’s getting a little late as I write this, and I’m getting tired  - - so I’m going to insert some publicity information here right from the Image Comics web page to give you a little more background - - -

First Issues of Carbon Grey and Intrepids Sell Out Immediately at Distribution Level and Require Second Printings

Berkeley, CA – March, 10, 2011 – Image Comics has introduced a slew of recent hits with titles like CHEW, MORNING GLORIES, SKULLKICKERS and INFINITE VACATION, and now two more will swell the ranks. A second printing of Kurtis Wiebe and Scott Kowalchuk’s THE INTREPIDS and Hoang Nguyen’s CARBON GREY are both being rushed to press to satisfy retailer and reader demand.
In THE INTREPIDS, a retro-styled band of orphans have set out to correct the threat of mad scientists under the tutelage of Dante, a genius inventor. Up and coming new writer/artist team Kurtis Wiebe and Scott Kowalchuk have provided a great cast of idealistic young heroes and pit them against such unique henchmen as cyber bears and battle baboons!


“Scott and I are thrilled to hear that THE INTREPIDS has made such an impact with readers," said Weibe. "Having the first issue sell out in one day is more than we ever expected. Thanks so much to our fans, we promise to keep THE INTREPIDS on time and packed with quality!”

“New ideas are our stock-in-trade here at Image and we've been unleashing a flurry of them since the beginning of this year,” added Image Publisher Eric Stephenson. "Both THE INTREPIDS and CARBON GREY are books we picked up during convention season last year, at Emerald City and Wondercon, respectively, and it's really gratifying not only to have them out, but to see such a positive reception for them, in just under a year."
INTREPIDS #1 Second Printing (DIAMOND), a 32 page full-color science fiction adventure comic book, will be on sale April 13, 2011 and THE INTREPIDS #2 (FEB110472) will be on sale April, 6, 2011. .

Me again. . . Welcome back.   The mission of the INTREPIDS seems to be to head off all the mad scientists around the world before their crazy schemes can see fruition.  And who better to know where the mad scientists are hiding out than the good mad scientist who is the team-builder and mentor to The Intrepids - - Dante.

Dante  (I’ve looked over the pages several times and can’t find a last name for the guy!) is a scientific prodigy, who was betrayed early in his career when his former partner and now main nemesis stole off into the night with the plans to some of Dante’s greatest bio-mechanical creations.  Now in his middle years (or later, hard to tell) Dante has been taking in abandoned orphans and given them a new opportunity.  He outfits them with various augmentations and powers and sends them out on missions to thwart those scheming mad scientists.  Rather than seem over the top or just plain silly, their story as told by writer Wiebe is fun while it entertains and enlightens you, filling in the background behind some of the events of the first issue.

Dante himself as drawn by Kowalchuk looks like a sleazy version of the distinguished late actor Vincent Price.  With several scenes of Dante rescuing his first charge, Crystal, from living in alleys and giving her instructions and counseling -  I almost expected to see him groping her or taking advantage but it doesn’t happen.  ( I guess it’s the sly way that artist Kowalchuk sneaks in some facial expressions and looks that might indicate something else was going to happen.)  This is a book you could probably introduce to a young reader new to comics.  It might get them excited about a super-hero team the same way I felt about the first X-Men when I was introduced to them. 

Crystal is a little buxom blonde on the plumpish side (I like that these characters aren’t physically perfect or fully mature and proper adults) ,  and likes to wear dresses, heels, and mink coats when she’s firing her guns and using the enhanced targeting accuracy that Dante gifted her with.  Doyle, a big lumpish man who needs corrective lenses seems overly strong.  Rose, also sporting a bit of baby fat, like the Rocketeer has enhanced powers of flight as long as she’s strapped into her back-pack. Chester is a sleaze-minded master hacker and communications expert.  Both Chester and Rose wear augmented power gloves from time to time.

That’s the line-up. They act as spies. They steal secrets.  They go on undercover missions to get info on bad scientists and run  into cyber-bears and vicious baboon guardians/security forces.  Look into THE INTREPIDS.  You may find some fun.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March Madness - - - Who Wants To Play? - - March 14, 2011

I just finished making my picks for the NCAA College Basketball Tournament on a Yahoo web site.  I joined a league that includes my older son, girlfriend, some of his buddies, cousins, etc.  It’s just for fun and bragging rights - -  no money involved.

The thought occurred to me – - - why not start a BC Refugees March Madness related to comics?  That could be tons  of fun!

There are lots of possibilities - -  picking the top selling books for the month of March.  (We’d have to wait for Diamond’s final results to know who won that one).  Or, just pairing off different super-teams head to head and then eliminating them for a final four.   If you like the idea, leave a comment here and I’ll try to put something together.

Now, where did I put that thinking cap?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March First Issue Madness - - March 13, 2011 = The Mission

THE MISSION #1  (Image Comics, February 2011  ) Jon Hoeber + Erich Hoeber, writers.  Werther Dell’Edera, artist.  Arianna Florean, color artist.  Dave Sharpe, letterer.

THE MISSION poses the question:  Could anyone kill another person for a good reason?  For the right reasons?  Would anyone kill if it meant saving their family?  Saving themselves?

Mission

I’ve encountered several variations on this theme in other stories before.  An ordinary person is suddenly asked to do the extra-ordinary = to perform a task out of their comfort zone and often in direct violation of their own principles and values.  They’ve been enlisted or forced into service to a higher power.  They are asked to accept their mission without benefit of explanation because it involves gods or demons.  They feel as if they refuse they will disrupt the balance between chaos and order, or something equally dreadful will happen as a consequence.  It’s in the telling of the story that separates the original variation on this theme from the mediocre or derivative.  I can’t tell just from this first issue which of those two pertain to THE MISSION.  I certainly like the way it’s presented here .  The story involves the reader from the beginning and the pacing is very good.  I like what I see it and think this book promises even more.  Time will tell.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to give a little more detail about this book and try not to elaborate too much on some of its major points and plot threads.  If you prefer to be surprised when you read it, then just go out and pick up the first issue and make your own judgment.

Middle-aged business man Paul Haskell has a good job, a loving family, and his physician has just pronounced him in good health.  As he departs the doctors office and enters a parking garage he is confronted by Gabriel, who prefers to be called Gabe.  This is not a towering angel glowing with spirituality and bearing a flaming sword.  It’s a swarthy old man in  a pullover holding an outdoor lantern.   He informs Paul that he’s been selected for a mission and hands him an envelope bearing his assignment.  Paul doesn’t take him seriously.

The next day when Gabe confronts Paul at an outdoor cafe, things get more serious and Paul suddenly receives some different news from the family doctor.  He’s more annoyed than he is frightened and still doesn’t completely accept what Gabe is telling him.  That night he has a vivid nightmare that causes him to get up and read the contents of the envelope.

The next day he observes and follows his target, trying to figure out what this person may have done to merit execution.  At the last minute, Paul decides to abandon the mission and this has fatal and bloody consequences – but not for Paul.  He’s left to tearfully contemplate what has occurred as a result of his decisions as the issue ends.  It’s a very powerful ending. 

The art is very well done, and expressive without going over the top or being flashy.  It’s very good in a subtle way that you don’t notice unless you go back and read it a second time.

All-Star Superman (Blu-ray and DVD)

DC/Warner's newest animated home video is an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's epic "All-Star Superman". I can't imagine how hard this story must have been to adapt, given the time constraints, but the late Dwayne McDuffie did a fine job. Basically the Lois Lane and Lex Luthor threads of the story are retained, and the Jimmy Olsen, future Superman, and Bizarro scenes are cut. (I wish he had been able to include my favorite scene, pictured at right.) It's still remarkably faithful, opening with Morrison's minimalist origin ("Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple. Superman.") and ending with Luthor's realization of why Superman is who he is. McDuffie made two changes to the scenes that he did use: one, about the disposition of Solaris the Tyrant Sun, that I disagree with and the second, about how Superman's genetic code is preserved, that I like very much. The film is not a substitute for reading the book, but it is very well done. The animation is as close to Quitely's art style as is probably possible, and James Denton voices Superman with the calm warmth and rationality that made Morrison's book such a joy to read. The other voices are terrific too, particularly Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for the new Harry Potter and DC Universe Online that cannot be bypassed. Which is fine the first time you put the disc in, but subsequent plays should be grounds for justifiable homicide. (Preferably of someone responsible for can't-be-skipped trailers, not a random bystander.) There's also a Grant Morrison mini-feature and a commentary track by Morrison and Bruce Timm. (Knowing what we know now, it's a shame McDuffie was not included.) The film is aimed at teens and older viewers, but there's not much in it that's not suitable for an interested kid except for Luthor's "execution" which is pretty graphic.

I'm not prepared to write about Dwayne McDuffie's legacy at this time. Honestly, thinking about it still leaves me too sad for words. (I've lost my fair share of people I'm actually related to, so I don't usually get too involved emotionally when strangers die. The last time I felt like this about someone I don't know was when Peter Jennings passed.) Fortunately, the Internet is full of remembrances from people who actually did know him. Tom Spurgeon has a compiled links to many of them at Comics Reporter. I found Gail Simone's words and Wil Wheaton's especially moving, and I also like Tom Brevoort's effort to recognize the living. Milestone co-founder Michael Davis says in his latest blog entry that DC is planning a Static Shock tribute book, and I hope Marvel is planning something similar. In the meantime we still have this film to enjoy, and given animation lead times I assume quite a few "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien" episodes written and/or story-edited by McDuffie are in the pipeline.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Randomizer Madness - - Birds, Holmes, etc. . . March 12, 2011

BIRDS OF PREY #10  (DC Comics, May 2011)  Gail Simone, writer.  Inaki Miranda, artist.  Nei Ruffino, colorist.  Swans, letterer.  Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, cover artist.
“The Death Of Oracle” conclusion:  “The Gristle And The Ghostly”

birds of prey 10

The Death Of Oracle story arc wraps up here in nice fashion.  Oracle gets what she wished for - - her faked death which ensures she can remain a background player in crime prevention.  As Barbara Gordon so aptly puts it: “If I’m out in the open, then the criminals get cautious.  And we can’t have that. . . . . Because my goal is that they never see me coming.”

Second tier criminal The Calculator gets the credit for disposing of Oracle, and ups his credentials by doing so.  Word gets around because he’s a big bragger, and likes the free drinks all his associates are buying him now.   But he doesn’t earn his stripes easily - - and not before the Birds Of Prey crush his credibility with the hired guns, as well as abuse him both physically and mentally.  The fun in this issue is reading how they manage to escape from execution, turn the tables on The Calculator, and still deliberately leave him with the false credit of taking out a major player on the crime-fighting scene.

The battle scenes here are brilliantly portrayed by writer and artist and worth the price of admission.  In addition to being a somewhat dark and serious book, this is a hell of a lot of fun.  The past three issues have featured three different artists.  I commented earlier that the transitions in art from issue to issue have been mostly seamless, and I credited the book editor for conveying a sense of continuity and style.  Inaki Miranda now gets a second consecutive start on the art and the style seems a little different than the past three issues.  But I sure like it.  Issue #10 of BIRDS OF PREY reminds me a bit of the stylings of Daniel Gete  (LOGAN’S RUN). But don’t get used to Miranda.  The letters column reveals that Jesus Saiz takes over as artist with Issue #11.

I’m beginning to understand why my fellow BC Refugees support this book.  Check it out.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE  #2  (Dynamite, 3/09/2011)  Written by Scott Beatty.  Illustrated by Daniel Indro.  Colored by Tony Avina.  Lettered by Simon Bowland. Covers by Francesco Francavilla, Aaron Campbell, Daniel Indro.  

sherlock year 1 - 2

Issue #1 was very much plot-driven.  It had to be since it was essentially a stand-alone issue meant to introduce and establish the character and setting without forcing the reader to wait another month that a story arc would require.  A smart move.  Issue #2 allows writer and artist to stretch and flex a little more, as it begins a multiple issue storyline involving a new serial killer  (of males!)  on the streets of London.

We’re given much more background on both Holmes and Watson (the able narrator of these books - - his captions are concise and witty at times).  We learn of Watson’s subtle humor as he berates the police officers while willingly taking their wages as a medical consultant at crime scenes, etc.  His probing and inquisitive nature also gets us a peek at the lifestyle and habits of Holmes, a most peculiar individual indeed.

Beginning with the opening splash page and continuing through the following pages, artist Indro perfectly establishes the scene and evokes the mood and somberness of dreary Victorian London so perfectly.  I marvel at his research and detail.    

As in Issue #1, writer Beatty plants clues throughout the story - - although they are not so obvious this time and a little harder to decipher who might be behind the killings.  All I can figure out is that theater and plays of ancient Rome have a connection to them.

I am really enjoying this book and look forward to it each month.