Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baltimore Comic Con update: more guests announced

Baltimore Comic-Con Welcomes Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire!

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - June 30, 2011 - The Baltimore Comic-Con is pleased to announce the addition of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire to the line-up of creators attending this year's show, taking place the weekend of August 20-21, 2011.

Keith Giffen, who will be making his only convention appearance this year at the Baltimore Comic-Con, is a writer/artist who has worked on such title as Legion of Super-Heroes, Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and his creator-owned series, Hero Squared. Most recently, Giffen was named artist on the DC title O.M.A.C., launching in September.

Writer J.M. DeMatteis began his career in the late-'70s working on DC Comics' horror line of books. In 1980, he moved over to Marvel, where he worked on The Defenders and Captain America. Over the next 30 years, DeMatteis would write nearly every major character in both the DC and Marvel Universes, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Daredevil and Doctor Strange. In 2010, he teamed up with long-time collaborator, Keith Giffen on DC's Booster Gold series.

Artist Kevin Maguire, who has worked with both Giffen and DeMatteis on several books, began his a career in 1987. He has worked on such high-profile titles as Batman Confidential, Captain America and X-Men. Most recently, he worked on the latest relaunch of Doom Patrol at DC Comics.

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Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire are well-known for their run on DC Comics' Justice League in the late '80s, which added a humorous brand of storytelling to the superhero team dynamic. Their appearance at the Baltimore Comic-Con marks only the second time they have all been together at a show. In addition, all three creators will be appearing on a panel together at the show.

"The three of us have only been together at a convention once before - and that ended in screaming, physical violence, and millions of dollars in property damage," said DeMatteis. "I look forward to doing it again!"

"With the recent release of the latest Justice League International trade from DC, we couldn't be happier to have the creative team behind that book at this year's show," said Marc Nathan, show promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "That series' lighthearted tone and fantastic humor added something different to a comic landscape that was filled with 'grim and gritty' books and should be on everyone's essential reading lists."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ADVANCE PREVIEW: One Is The Loneliest Number

DISCORD  (AAM / MARKOSIA, Original Graphic Novel, August 2011 release)  Paul J. Salamoff, writer.  Giuseppe D’Elia, artist.   

With DISCORD, writer Paul J. Salamoff makes use of  two genres familiar to comics (super-hero teams and space adventures) and puts a unique and creative spin on them.    DISCORD deals with alterations, modifications,and enhancements  to the human body in a manner that goes beyond all those science fiction stories we may have read about clones, cyborgs, androids, bio-science and genetic engineering.  At its’ core, DISCORD shines a spotlight on concepts of self, identity, purpose in life and the struggle to achieve harmony.   I’ve seen a two-chapter preview of this upcoming graphic novel and plan to add DISCORD to my order list for August 2011.

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Wander outside your familiar surroundings for a moment and imagine these events:  You are off the beaten path and traveling with a group in a very remote area when a serious accident occurs.  You are unconscious, severely injured, and the sole survivor of the trip.  Immediate and complicated surgery is mandatory for you to continue living.  Those who find you are not medical professionals, but true novices.  They do their best to keep you alive but they don’t fully understand who or what you are.   When you finally regain consciousness and awaken you don’t even recognize yourself.  You have been altered, down to your very core.  You question who you are,  your very essence, and struggle to grasp how you move forward from this point on.  You return to your home and memories of love, friendship and family.  You hope to find understanding, compassion, help and guidance in your new life.  Will you be accepted or rejected?

You are Chromatic (an appropriate and prophetic name), leader of the super-hero Team War Hammer.  Following a battle on a space station with super-villain Sinew, your team crash-landed their transport on an unknown planet where it exploded in a fiery mass of body parts, metal and plastic.   The sentient alien life forms pulled some of your anatomy from the wreckage.  After studying the data on the ship computers they attempt to resurrect you using whatever material they can salvage.  You come to life after being patched together like a future version of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein’s creation.   You will carry memories of your fellow team members with you forever - - - because you are wearing them. Every time you look in a mirror you will get a reminder.  You also seem to have the same super powers as your team did and will need to adjust and adapt to use them properly. 

In the written introduction to DISCORD,  highly respected writer/creator/editor Mark Waid calls DISCORD  “a very clever twist on standard superhero tropes . . . . . a story of optimism cloaked in dread and terror.”  He goes on to praise it:  “Moreover, I could easily see where Paul and Giuseppe could use it as a platform to say some very subtle and clever things about personal identity, loyalty and camaraderie.” 

I could go on to describe the first two chapters and the written synopsis of the next few chapters in detail, highlighting some of the key points and scenes that moved and delighted me.  I’d rather not spoil it for those of you who are going to pick up this book.  You will find that Salamoff also does a fine job with superhero team creation and quickly familiarizes the readers with some of their quirks and personal behavior.  This just helps readers understand the level of grief that Chromatic must be experiencing as he walks through life carrying these memories like  personal baggage.  D’Elia’s art style is equally remarkable and he seems to get the essence of what the writer wants to convey.   Salamoff and D’Elia are very subtle  (as Waid observed).  Rather than hit you over the head to make their points, they detail and illustrate the scene and sometimes leave the rest to the reader.  Rather than state exactly and in great detail everything the characters must be feeling and thinking, they leave a lot of it up to interpretation and the reader’s imagination.  Imagination is a very powerful thing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

BALTIMORE COMIC-CON UPDATE

Baltimore Comic-Con Welcomes Batman #1 Artist, Greg Capullo

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND  - The Baltimore Comic-Con is happy to announce the addition of super-star artist, Greg Capullo, to the line-up of creators attending this year's show. The show, taking place on August 20-21, 2011, will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center in downtown Baltimore.

Capullo Batman CoverGreg Capullo began his mainstream comic career in the early '90s, working on the Marvel titles Quasar, X-Force, and What If? In 1993, he left Marvel for the Image Comics series' Spawn, where he took over regular art duties with issue #26.

Over the course of his career, Capullo has provided covers and interior art for such Image titles as Spawn, Angela, The Creech and Haunt. In addition, his art as graced album covers for Korn and Disturbed. In 2007, his artwork was collected in the hard cover book, The Art of Greg Capullo, published by Image Comics.

"We're thrilled to have such a talented and prolific artist join the pool of talent already attending this year's show," said Marc Nathan, show promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "Greg's previous work on Spawn and his work on Haunt were really well-received, so it's a real treat for our fans to have him on board."

Capullo was most recently announced as series artist on the DCU Batman title which begins in September, when DC Comics will re-launch its entire line of superhero titles in the wake of their "Flashpoint" event.

"I was born to do Batman," said Capullo.  "My mother has a drawing of Batman & Robin that I did when I was four years old. I'm finally fulfilling my destiny."

Confirmed guests for this year's Baltimore Comic-Con include: Guest of Honor, Stan "The Man" Lee; Jason Aaron (Scalped, PunisherMAX); Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead); Nick Cardy (Aquaman, Teen Titans); Cliff Chiang (Greendale); Frank Cho (50 Girl 50, X-Men: Schism, New Ultimates); Todd Dezago (Super Hero Squad, The Perhapanauts); David Finch (Brightest Day, Batman: The Dark Knight); Ron Frenz (Spider-Girl); Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez (Wednesday Comics, Batman Confidential); Michael Golden (creator of Bucky O'Hare); Mike Grell (Action Comics, The Pilgrim); Brad Guigar (Evil, Inc., Courting Disaster); Steve Hamaker (Bone); Cully Hamner (Red, Red: Eyes Only); (Dean Haspiel (The Alcoholic, Act-i-Vate); Jamal Igle (Supergirl, Zatanna); J.G. Jones (Doc Savage, DC Universe Legacies); Barry Kitson (Secret Invasion, Amazing Spider-Man); Laura Martin (New Avengers, Thor); Mark Morales (Fear Itself cover artist); Kevin Nowlan (Wednesday Comics); David Petersen (Mouse Guard); Brandon Peterson (Ultimate Vision, Strange); Craig Rousseau (Marvel Her-Oes); Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo); Walter Simonson (Thor); Jeff Smith (Bone, RASL); Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Iron Man 2.0); Brian Stelfreeze (Wednesday Comics); Karl Story (DC Universe Legacies); Tim Truman (Conan the Cimmerian); Neil Vokes (Flesh & Blood, Eagle: The Original Adventures); and Thom Zahler (Love and Capes).

The above information provided via the official Baltimore Comic-Con June 10, 2011 press release.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

ADVANCE PREVIEW: Underwater Adventure with a Dark Side

 

THE VAULT #1  (Image Comics) Three issue mini-series, debuts July 27, 2011.  Written by Sam Sarkar.  Art by Garrie Gastonny.  (Pre-order available in the current June PREVIEWS)

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THE VAULT would read like a straight-up adventure tale of undersea exploration were it not for the two-page prelude that hints at much more dangers to come, and on an epic scale.  I am more than content with learning the details of the exploratory mission in Issue #1 and getting the background on the characters and settings.  The writing is engaging and the beginning of this quest has its share of suspenseful moments, especially when the reader knows that unknown danger and threats lie ahead (thanks to the prelude).  I can’t wait for this series to explode once the dark and supernatural elements come to the foreground.

To further whet the appetite, this promises to be a threat of mythological and Biblical proportions. The two-page opening prelude depicts an epic battle between bat-winged albino white angels and harpies-like webbed and clawing demons/devils.  An enormous dragon as well as Shiva, the goddess of death, lurk in the background as if orchestrating the activities of their dark minions. The only text is a small caption box containing the ominous prediction:  “This is the beginning of how it all ends.”

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As if continuing with the Biblical theme, many of the characters have names with Old and New Testament references =  Michael, Gabrielle, and Jesus. The captain of the seafaring vessel for this group is named Stone (the surface on which Ten Commandments were inscribed) and the prophetic name of his boat is The Revelation.  Writer Sam Sarkar, a 23 year veteran of the entertainment industry, seems to mix in a hearty blend of references that will make some readers want to look for symbolism on every page.  I also suspect he has done his homework well, and the setting for this storyline is based on actual global history/events  (with artistic license to exaggerate, of course).  Sarkar began his career as an actor and then became a television writer.  His first work in comics that I’m aware of is CALIBER (where he first teamed with artist Gastonny) and I hope to see much more from him.

Sure enough, I found plenty of information at the Wikipedia website on both Sable Island, the setting for THE VAULT, and the Oak Island Pit where the explorers find buried treasure and more.  Sable Island is a narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar of an island southeast of Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s known as (and also referred to in THE VAULT) as “the Graveyard of The North Atlantic”, being responsible for 350 shipwrecks as it is located in the middle of a transatlantic shipping route and frequently surrounded by heavy fog and treacherous ocean currents.  Also, although not as geographically close to each other as Sarkar describes, there exists an Oak Island Pit widely debated as either the site of pirates’ (Captain Kidd) buried treasure or just a natural phenomenon caused by a sinkhole and/or natural underground caverns.  The legend is further enhanced by actual stones found on the island with symbols and inscriptions that hint of buried treasure below.  In addition to pirate treasure, the pit has also been rumored to be the resting place of Marie Antoinette’s fabulous jewels, or the hiding place of documents that give evidence that philosopher Francis Bacon was the real author of William Shakespeare’s famous plays.  Others say that the exiled Knights Templar  used the pit as the secret resting place of either the Holy Grail or The Ark Of The Covenant.  All this provides a rich source for an imaginative author to expand upon.

As Sarkar tells it, the exploratory crew in THE VAULT find not just buried treasure  - - as they explore the Oakland Pit with previous platforms and a flood channel cut into it they discover a new chamber below the eleven treasure chests. Their ground-penetrating radar leads them to believe the Pit was constructed similar to the style of the great pyramids, with a second and larger secret chamber or vault just below the main room.  They uncover and bring to the surface a large coffin-like container, which imagery shows to contain a huge skeletal form inside (just as the first issue ends).

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There is a rich list of characters in THE VAULT, and little bits and pieces of their background are revealed as the story moves forward.  Many of them have invested their life-savings in hopes of becoming millionaires once the underwater excavation concludes.  The group ally with a foreign investor, known only as Mr. Kirilov, as their money seems to be running out.  The suspicious and mysterious Kirilov brings a high-tech underwater digging robot to speed the mission up, as well as numerous crates of guns and arms for “protection” as he warns that their info-sharing with outsiders will end up bringing modern day pirates to the island to steal their findings/treasures.

The two characters who seem to be the most appealing are Michael Page, the senior diver and budget director  and archaeologist Gabrielle Parker.  There’s a humorous moment early on when Parker, in a high-tech diving suit, comments about needing to relieve himself and worrying about shorting out the $6 Million dollar gear.  Gabrielle via intercom chides him for not planning for “peeing” in the design as he explains that it would cost an additional $200,000 to add that feature.  Another character of note is Argentine communications specialist Jesus Mondragon, whose bald pate and last name remind me of Marvels mystical, philosophical Moondragon.  As if to drive the point home, Jesus is seen reading a curious book  - -  The Art And Interpretation Of Eschatology (the study of the end of the world).  The Oxford English Dictionary, in its definition of Eschatology ( yeah, I just had to look it up)  mentions its’ concern with the “four last things” - - - death, judgment, heaven, and hell.  (Gulp.)

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The asking price for admission to THE VAULT is worth every penny just for the incredible art.  Garrie Gastonny came to fame with his beautiful work on CALIBER , Radical Comics’ gothic western with ties to Arthurian legend and illustrated in the simulated-painting Radical house style.  Interest grew with his later work on SUPERGOD and PAINKILLER JANE.  The artwork here on THE VAULT will earn Gastonny further recognition and interest.  It’s simply the best thing he has produced so far in what hopes to be a long career in comics illustration.

The astonishing attention to detail is admirable.  Gastonny doesn’t seem to miss anything, and capitalizes on the vast potential of the setting and background of the exotic and remote locale of this  story.  The underwater scenes are picture perfect and include every detail, from several species of fish in the background to coral and rock outcroppings, the reflection of sunlight refracted by the waters as it glints off the visor glass on a diver’s helmet, as well as every single shaped air bubble as it rises to the surface.  The colors and ink work just pops off the page - - so rich in portrayal.  I don’t know who the rest of the art team is but the work here is splendid.  (My preview copy was lacking a full credits page.) 

Friday, June 10, 2011

A unique way for indie creators to manage publishing costs . . . . . .

If you read this blog on a regular basis, then you already know that I am an advocate for encouraging young people to cultivate an interest in literature by starting with comics.  I support any quality book or creator or project that works towards meeting those ends.  I recently became aware of the Comic Shop Diner project to offer a graphic novel library for young people with three fine books from these creators.  I ordered a set at the $50 level and plan to gift it to a young nephew or niece for an upcoming birthday or Christmas present.  If you like what you read here, please consider making a contribution.  And, since John Gallagher can tell you about this project much better than I, we now interrupt our regularly scheduled blogcast to bring this public service announcement . . . . . . .

Posted by John Gallagher Like

Okay folks we are down to the wire-- we have begged, pleaded, marketed, e-mailed, called friends,. family-- but I guess I goofed up. Jamar, Rich and I were told for years that there weren't enough kids graphic novels out there-- fun, funny, something that makes kids excited to read.  Was I wrong? Maybe everyone is all full up?

We just haven't done a good job of making our case. So here is the message I am sending out to everyone-- librarians, teachers, friends, etc., basically reminding folks of what we have done for others, and now we need help.

Librarians, Educators, Friends, Family, Lovers of literacy and creativity,

My name is John Gallagher, creator of the Buzzboy comics and I'm asking for your help in funding the "Comic Book Diner Project", a 3 book set of all-ages Graphic Novels, by Rich Faber, Jamar Nicholas, and me. Each book is 96 pages, full color, and full of comic stories, how-to's and drawing tutorials. Buzzboy, Roboy Red, and Leon: Protector of the Playground are the three books, and we are trying to pre-fund them through Kickstarter.Com-- all you need is an Amazon account to sign up, but we also have other ways of helping organizations buy the books, at an educational discount.  Buzzboy is the world's coolest super sidekick. Roboy Red is the tale of a runaway robot. And Leon is about the world's first latch key superhero. Together they make up almost 300 pages of action fun, and fantasy for an all-ages audience. 

We think that by selling these books together (and in a collector's box set), we are helping young people create the beginnings of a graphic Novel library within their own home. If you or a friend are a retailer or educator, we have a special way to order the books to get the proper discount (just e-mail me at john@sky-dog.com, and upon proof of organization, we can apply the discount)

You can see the type of fun comics we create by visiting our Comic Book Diner website (www.comicbookdiner.com), and I hope you will see in the art our dedication to young people in creating entertaining stories that are fun to read.

Just a few things about us:

I am a co-founder of Kids Love Comics, an organization helping promote all-ages comics-- we have exhibited at several conventions and book festivals over the last 8 years, including ALA, BEA, San Diego Comic-Con, ALA Book Festival, and more.

Through Sky-Dog Comics, I published More Fund, and Even More Fund, raising over $30,000 for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Rich edited, and all three of us contributed time, art and stories.

Rich and I published "Drawing Strength" a benefit sketch book for Hurricane Katrina victims, raising $4000 in one weekend at the Baltimore Comic-Con. I also sent 1,000 Buzzboy comics out to New Orleans book donation programs, all on my own dime.

Jamar is an educator and motivational speaker, encouraging inner city kids to reach high and be creative. He was handpicked by Geoffrey Canada to adapt "Fist, Stick, Knife Gun" as a graphic novel, telling the tale of Canada's ascension out of Harlem.

Rich and I have spoken at over 100 schools and libraries between us, all with a focus on promoting the magic of Comics and Reading.

We have also both taught cartooning classes at Moore College and Susquehanna University.

Jamar currently teaches cartooning at Arcadia University.

We really love creating comics for all ages, and intend to move forward no matter what-- but this funding will help us to get the books in the hands even quicker. So p;lease go to kickstarter.com-- for $40, you get a three book set, with sketches and signed by the Comic Book Diner Team. Back us for $50 and get the set in a limited edition collectors box. There are other rewards, offering free art and even cameos in the books. Please check it out, and thanks for your consideration.

Best

John

    Care to comment? View this update on Kickstarter →

    Wading In Bluewater: biography and more (part one)

    Continuing the exploration of smaller comics publishers and their works

    I’ve affectionately referred to Bluewater Productions in the past as “the little company that could”.   Since it’s beginnings Bluewater has played around the edges of the standard super-hero fare offered up by the bigger companies, publishing titles in other genres including science fiction and supernatural fare.  They seem to have struck pay dirt with their series of  biographical comics and have explored and taken this little –utilized sub-genre to new heights never before achieved.  When it comes to biography comics,  Bluewater is the trailblazer.  In addition to providing a variety of educational and informative titles, they’ve found a way to make them entertaining as well.  These books should be a part of every school library, especially the trade paperback collections.  More than just a method to encourage youth to pursue reading, they also have the potential to motivate and inspire based on their stories.  Let’s explore a sampling of some recently released titles:

    POLITICAL POWER: HILARY RODHAM CLINTON   Jerome Maida, writer.  Daniel Fitz, art.  Jane Leung, colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.  Joe Phillips, cover.

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    What catches the eye immediately are the photo-realistic portraits of Hilary Clinton on the front cover of this issue.  The front page recaptures the swearing-in ceremony as she began her duties as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States of America.  The teaser caption asks: “Want to know how this woman of incredible ambition fell short of her ultimate goal only to still become one of the most powerful people in the world by mending fences with her once bitter rival - - and what she has accomplished since?  Then read on.” 

    The story begins with her disappointing third place finish in the Iowa Democratic Presidential Primary in January 2008 and introduces all the members of her campaign staff.  The depictions of Hilary, Bill and the others by Daniel Fitz aren’t as accurate as the spot-on portraits by cover artist Joe Phillips - - yet they are close enough to be identifiable.  I assume some artistic license by the scripter here, as it’s hard to imagine the Clintons acting this angry at losing the first primary challenge.   As I kept reading this account of the events in Hilary Clinton’s political life from the 2004 primary and elections through her run for president in 2008 and eventual reconciliation with Obama, I got over my shock from the initial pages and began to admire the balance in this story.  Writer Maida is not anointing Clinton as a saint - - far from it.  He writes a very fair and frank accounting of her politics and policies, highlighting the strengths along with the weaknesses.  In the process, he reveals the inner machinations of the American political process, especially presidential campaigns.   There is a ton of detail and information in this book.  The art compliments the story and doesn’t need to be flashy.  There are large text boxes and large word balloons of dialogue throughout.  It’s jam-packed with all the details.  An admirable job.

    FEMALE FORCE: KATHY GRIFFIN   Marc Shapiro, writer.   Gene DiCicco, penciler. Steve Wands, colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.  Michal Szyksznian, cover.

    GRIFFIN

    This is much more biographical in nature than the Political Power insight into Hilary Clinton.  It begins with a dream/fantasy sequence while Kathy Griffin waits to go on stage, and then goes immediately into straight biography beginning with her ambitious teen years.  She was the center or attention and had an ability to make others laugh.  Griffin dropped out of college and sought Hollywood stardom as an aspiring actress. That soon changed to “struggling actress” and she ended up joining a comedy troupe  (with Phil Hartman) and developing her current comedic style  - - a blend of human observation and confessional narrative.  This later became a very acerbic and mean-spirited comedic attack on various celebrities which made her famous but also got her banned from various late-night television shows and certain networks.   The upside and the downside of Griffin’s life are summarized and detailed here.   The art is good but more comic/cartoony in style and tone than the Political Power book.  Despite that, it’s a well written and obviously researched glimpse into the life of a 21st century female comedian.

    STEPHEN KING  (Bluewater Comics Orbit – release date June 15, 2011)  Michael Lent and Brian McCarthy, writers.  Kent Hulbert, penciler and colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.   Michael Szyksznian, cover.

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    This appears to be narrated  by Stephen King (but not actually written by him) and begins with that near-fatal day when while walking down a Maine back road he was struck by a passing van, to end up bruised and beaten in a ditch by the side of the road = “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” . . . . . “Here lies the world’s most successful living, soon to be ex-living, writer in the world.” . . . . . But before I could die, I had to be born.”

    Having followed the prolific literary output of Stephen King since I picked up his first paperback novel, Carrie, and then Salem’s Lot and The Stand . . and on and on . . . what I knew of his personal life and values  I obtained from various short newspaper and magazine features.  This  comic does a fine job of providing the essential details on the live experiences and occurrences  that make King the unique person that he is:  a father who abandoned the family, a hard-working single parent mother who raised two sons, the encouragement his mother provided to develop his writing skills, his later drug, alcohol and prescription medicine addiction and recovery - and the events following his accident.  It’s a nice, concise biography that puts the spotlight on the personal development side of the macabre master.

    HOWARD STERN  (Bluewater Comics Orbit – release date June 08, 2011)  C W Cooke, writer.  Kent Hurlburt, penciler and colorist.  James Reed, letterer.  Michael Szykznian, cover.

    HOWARDSTERNA

    I was expecting a joking and/or cynical biography here since Howard Stern has such notoriety and is such a public figure very familiar to any one who listens to even  a modicum of talk radio broadcasts.  What is impressive here is that writer C W Cooke in a light-hearted easy-going fashion is able to accurately convey the impression of what a censorship buster and freedom of speech trail blazer Stern was without having to get into any explicit details, leaving that out and keeping this book suitable for all ages. I respect what Stern has accomplished even though I’m not a big fan, and can’t take extended doses of his radio show.  But once in a while I can be entertained by it in much smaller samplings.   Stern has achieved numerous success in not just radio, but non-fiction (two best sellers), movies and television shows.   It’s only right that a comics series that focuses on important contributors to contemporary society should shine the spotlight on  his corner of the stage as well.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Preview: BLOOD spills tomorrow 6/08/2011

     

    SAMURAI’S BLOOD  #1 (of 6)  $1.00 introductory price  (Image Comics/Benaroya Publishing, June 08, 2011 release date)  Story:  Owen Wiseman.  Art: Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton & Jessica Kholinne.  Cover: Jo Chen.

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    SAMURAI’S BLOOD flows across the pages like the ripples created by tiny flat stones being skimmed across the surface water of a quiet lagoon.  If you immerse yourself and allow it to happen, it will plant  your Western mind like a seedling in a newly furrowed field of Eastern soil.  Your subconscious will readily accept the grains of Samurai philosophy and wisdom in text boxes scattered across the illustrations. For 32 pages you will experience civilization in 17th Century feudal Japan as if you are there.

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    I have not been so quickly integrated into the world of this type of story since enjoying the issues of THE PATH (Crossgen) as written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Bart Sears and others.  Writer Owen Wiseman is a student of Japanese history and culture as well as an admirer of the films of Akira Kurosawa  - - and those impressions are seamlessly threaded throughout the story of SAMURAI’S BLOOD.  The art is equally splendid.  If you appreciate the work of SAMURAI: HEAVEN AND EARTH (Dark Horse, again written by Marz) and the art style of Bart Sears, Jonathan Lau, Matthew Smith and Luke Ross you will be reminded of that high quality while reading and viewing SAMURAI’S BLOOD.

    The art team of Kim, Dalton & Kholinne gets everything right in every detail, from exquisitely depicted landscapes to fluid action and fight scenes to facial expressions. The opening sequence where a young Samurai moves stealthily through a grain field in a sneak attack on two sentries is masterfully detailed. The body language of the group members gathered for a short trial and judgment by the ruling head of the Sanjo clan reveals their emotions and previews their intentions. 

    “The first order of a samurai is to serve his master.  A single betrayal is more shameful than a thousand murders.” . . . . . . . . . . “Betrayal makes widows of women and monsters of men.  The lives of those who suffer it and the souls of those who commit it are but rice for its table.” . . . . . . . . . . “Betrayal is destruction, as pure as it can be found in the world.” . . . . . . . . . . “Betrayal is the atavistic spirit of man laid bare.” . . . . . . . . . . “And yet all the glorious rise of man has been an upward spiral of betrayal and vengeance.”

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    A simple judgment is deemed wise by many but wrong by just one, who uses the decision as his impetus to first betray, and then set his loyal soldiers upon the task of systematically ridding the land of all members of the Sanjo clan.  Very soon just a single branch of the family remains, removed from the usurper’s sphere of influence and living peacefully in a quiet village on the outskirts of the dominion. As the forces of evil surround the village, three samurai teenagers must conceal their identities and flee. SAMURAI’S  BLOOD will follow their trail in the following issues and reveal what fate has in store - - vengeance or death.

    “All things good and evil are under the way.  Even betrayal is but a ripple through the weave of human destiny.”

     

    The scenes where soldiers surround the village as seen from afar in one panel and then from overhead in the main panel are picture perfect in their use of depth and dimension.  The following fight scenes with a one-man standoff  (this occurs twice, with two different participants) are both delightful and sorrowful (because of the outcome) to behold.

    Look for destiny and it does not exist. Focus your mind on living, and destiny will disappear.”

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    Quickly the three teenagers adapt to the abrupt changes in their lives and set their course.  The brother and sister have an understanding that begins with the brother’s acceptance that his best friend has become her lover.  The best friend immediately falls into his role of samurai to the brother, and sets about his first order to see to the safety of the two remaining Sanjo clan members.

    There is now BLOOD on my hands, and I cannot get it off.  Nor do I want to. 

    DC: The More Things Change...

    So. Much. News!

    DC's plan to relaunch their entire line has led to a lot of chatter, positive and negative. Love it or hate it, though, all eyes are on them--and they're taking advantage of that, rolling out new press releases on a daily basis. It's always a treat to wake up and learn what new titles we'll be getting. I'm not sure of the current count, but we're probably halfway there, no?

    Some more big news came yesterday with announcement of DC's new Bat-books. Tony Daniel writes and draws Detective Comics, DC's namesake title, dealing with a new threat known as the Gotham Ripper. I'm a total sucker for riffs on Jack the Ripper, and Tony Daniel has actually really impressed me with his recent arcs, including his handlings of the Gotham criminal families, as well as the return of Hilda Dent. I'm very interested in seeing where he goes with this. That's all secondary to Scott Snyder taking over Batman (I'm kind of curious, though, why they essentially just swapped Snyder and Daniel's titles, especially given that Batman is more associated with superhero action, while Detective is more mystery oriented, and the original assignments played to each writer's strengths.) Snyder is joined by Greg Capullo, a real catch for DC, and one that they allegedly had to fight Marvel for. While I can't say that I think Capullo is the best fit for Snyder's work, he does draw a dynamic Batman, as shown in the attached cover. Impressive, right?

    From there, DC rolled out other Bat-announcements. Some were more of a surprise than others--as expected, DC kept to a winning formula by relaunching Batman, Inc. by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham for a twelve-issue conclusion to the Leviathan saga, and Tomasi and Patrick Gleason return to Batman and Robin, pairing up Bruce Wayne (now, incidentally, the only Batman) and Damien on a regular basis for the first time. Father and son, Batman and Robin. Should be a fantastic dynamic. Dick Grayson isn't gone, though--he's back as Nightwing, in a redesigned costume and a new ongoing series by Kyle Higgins (?) and Eddy Barrows. Honestly, not a creative team that thrills me...who's Higgins? Quite a bit of red in Nightwing's costume, too--but it's definitely Grayson. Oh, and David Finch relaunches Batman: The Dark Knight with fill-in artist/collaborator Jay Fabok. This series was a big deal when it first launched, but with the delays and DC's recent acquisition of Greg Capullo, who draws an equally dynamic Batman--on a monthly schedule, no less...yawn.

    The women of Gotham are getting just as much attention, though. The biggest news is the announcement of a new Batgirl series...starring Barbara Gordon in the role for the first time in, what, two decades? This is going to be a seriously controversial move for some, but DC seems ready to fight that with an excellent creative team. Ardian Syaf, one of DC's most reliable artists, is on pencils, while Adam Hughes paints stunning covers--but most importantly, Gail Simone is writing, and there's nobody fans trust on the character more than her. I'm curious as to the behind-the-scenes, given that she was a fervent supporter of keeping Barbara in the wheelchair, but her statements on the new series are encouraging, to say the least. Personally, I'm all for it. I loved Cassandra Cain, and I was enjoying Stephanie Brown's series, but if you're going for iconic, it's Barbara Gordon all the way. I didn't even grow up with her as Batgirl, and she's still Batgirl for me. Sure, I'll miss Oracle, and one might argue that getting an iconic Batgirl in no way makes up for the loss of Oracle to the DCU, but in a way, Simone already set that up in her "Death of Oracle" storyline, removing the character. I just wish I knew what this meant for the other Batgirls--I'd like them to remain a part of the DCU, one way or another.

    Moving on to the other female characters--Kate Kane finally gets her long-promised ongoing Batwoman series by already-announced creators J.H. Williams III, W.Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder, which will be well worth the price in art alone. Judd Winick returns to the Batman universe with Catwoman with art by Guillem March. She's back on her own--no more Sirens. Poison Ivy hasn't gone anywhere, though, as she's apparently starring in the relaunched Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz, for a covert-ops team. Who else do we have? I believe that's Black Canary, with a redesigned outfit that still manages to keep the fishnets. Could that be Katana? It's not a costume I'd expect from her, but who else would be so clearly Japanese-inspired and wielding, well, a Katana? As for the final character--it could be Huntress, but I'm more likely to believe Rose and Thorn, the dual-personality character that Gail Simone revamped and tied to the Birds several years back. The tattoo is what's leading me to that conclusion--otherwise, I'm drawing a blank.


    The last two Bat-books announced seem rather random--but very intriguing--to me. The first, Red Hood and the Outlaws. To start, I'm astonished that they're not going with "Outsiders" here. It's so similar and would fit the characters perfectly, while still being an established franchise. I guess it's had too many failures in recent history? Anyway, Jason Todd leads a team of DC's less savory heroes, including Arsenal (who, incidentally, seems to have both arms--I wonder how much of Cry For Justice remains in continuity?) and Starfire, written by Scott Lobdell and illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort. Impressive. I know that I'm intrigued. Potentially more interesting, though, is the acknowledgement of Jason Todd, while Tim Drake still remains unseen. Has that generation of heroes been removed? Remember, we haven't seen any of them so far. Or will he show up in the Teen Titans and be exclusive to that title? I'm really hoping for the latter. The other surprising title is Batwing, starring the Batman of Africa (as introduced in Batman, Inc.) by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver. All I can imagine is that Winick must've had a really interesting pitch, because this seems to be too odd of a concept to fit in with DC's "new reader friendly" approach--but hey, I guess I'm intrigued here, too.

    It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of DC's new books are just renumberings of the old books, with the same creative team, stars and premise. After all, if something is working--and I mean working really well, as in "consistently in the top 10"--why change it? That's why Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke remain on Green Lantern starring Hal Jordan. Peter Tomasi goes back to Green Lantern Corps. with Fernando Pasarin, taking Guy Gardner with them from the now-defunct Emerald Warriors. Here, we'll see Gardner and John Stewart lead the rest of the Corps in a series that Tomasi obviously knows how to write. Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham, meanwhile, hop on over to Green Lantern: The New Guardians with Kyle Rayner and a Lantern from every Corps, while Peter Milligan and Ed Benes give us Red Lanterns, starring Atrocitus. What's the over/under on how long Benes stays on this title, folks? While I like his art, he hasn't been able to do a full arc on a title recently, and I don't really see him as a good fit for Milligan, either.

    I'm tempted to split the rest into a second post...but I won't. We've had teases of DC's new Dark line for awhile, without any hints of what it might be. Today, that all changed. It looks like DC has reclaimed not just their Vertigo characters, but also the same territory--weirder books with a supernatural theme that just don't fit in with the standard superhero line. To start, Scott Snyder teams up with superstar artist Yannick Paquette to launch Swamp Thing, for the first time in years, with occasional artist Francesco Francavilla coming along to help out. I don't know how much of the White Lantern mythology will stick around in the new series, but this is basically the best creative team I could've hoped for on the new book. Meanwhile, Peter Milligan and artist Mikel Janin launch Justice League Dark, the newest collection of supernatural heroes. For this outing, we have John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, Deadman and Madame Xanadu--perhaps others as well? The cover seems to suggest Black Alice and Enchantress, perhaps. It's interesting that DC has attached the Justice League name here--in the past, they've gone with random names (Primal Force and Shadowpact, to name two) for this concept, and the titles inevitably attracted few readers, even with a big push off of major events. Here, they're tied to a flagship, which will inevitably help. Look, they're learning!

    I suppose it was only a matter of time before Paul Cornell got his next British-themed title. He's the writer for Demon Knights, starring Etrigan and set in the time of ancient Camelot. Art is by recent Green Arrow artist Diogenes Neves, and this title actually sounds...really, really interesting. If nothing else, Cornell has earned more than enough faith to warrant a look. Have there really been any stories that truly explored Etrigan's ties to Arthurian legend? Madame Xanadu over at Vertigo gave us hints, but that's all that comes to mind immediately. Others might find Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman more interesting (the cover certainly is, if nothing else). Given that Lemire's Superboy excelled at the weirdness of Smallville while playing Superboy as the straight man, this is likely an even better fit, and one that will continue to stress the importance of Buddy Baker's family. Lemire isn't just on Animal Man, though--he's also writing Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE, spinning out of both Flashpoint and Seven Soldiers. Art is by Alberto Ponticelli, a name that sounds vaguely familiar, even if I can't place him immediately. Again, though--this is the kind of title Lemire was made to write. It's just far enough from the main superhero line that he should have excellent creative freedom, too.

    As is only appropriate, Resurrection Man is back! Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning return to the character they made famous about, what, ten years ago? And they're joining up with a very reliable artist, Fernando Dagnino. Yeah, I'm excited. A bit less excited for the new I, Vampire though--nothing against the character, but I have no idea about either member of the creative team (Josh Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino). Could be worth a look, I suppose. Perhaps the most significant announcement of the day, though? Voodoo, by Ron Marz and Sami Basri. First of all--that's a fantastic creative team, and Marz's star is pretty hot, coming off of a very successful Witchblade run. More than that, though, this is the first official announcement about a relaunch of the Wildstorm titles. We don't know if they'll be truly integrated into the DCU, but it's looking that way--the solicit suggests that Priscilla Kitain is just now learning about her alien heritage. This could be one of the areas of the new DCU that gets rebooted, rather than simply tweaked. I wonder if this, along with the rumored Grifter, might be a miniseries that leads to a WildC.A.T.s ongoing? Just speculation on my part.

    So. What are you getting? Who needs to eat, right?

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Lightning Round - - - June 05, 2011

    I’ve been reading a lot lately and putting aside books that I feel deserve a later write-up. The pile is growing faster than I can keep up with. Rather than wait far too long to give them some attention, I’m going to feature them in the “Lightening Round”.  Every book mentioned here is worthy of a longer review.  I’m forced to compromise with a shorter summary - - but I hope you’ll check some of these books out.
    KIRBY: GENESIS #0  (Dynamite Comics, 6/01/2011 release date)
    What a fantastic blend! =  some of the lesser-known creations of legendary Jack Kirby as faithfully interpreted and illustrated by the art team of Alex Ross and Jack Herbert.  You will drool over this book - -  please move the pages a respectful distance from yourself in order to preserve your copy for multiple viewings.  Once this series was announced, I anticipated some great visuals.  But, I never imagined that a decent story could wrap itself around so many characters.  I could be wrong. 
    kirby
    In the hands of master craftsman Kurt Busiek this could indeed become not just a new epic, but an engaging tale as well.  I love how he incorporated some elements from the KIRBY: KING OF COMICS biography by Mark Evanier.  Back in 1971 when the Pioneer IO Jupiter and beyond probe was launched, the Los Angeles Times asked various artists to create some ideas for what should be featured on the plaque that the Pioneer would carry as cargo.  Kirby, of course, drew two super-heroes with an Earth and Moon as the only background.  Kirby disagreed with the mission and cautioned that Pioneer could be providing a map back to Earth for alien strangers.  His words:  “My point is, who will come a-knocking – the trader or the tiger?”  Busiek has changed history a little, and has the Pioneer probe actually carrying Kirby’s artwork.  That should make for a very provocative alien visitations/close encounters tale.
    But pick this up in order to have all the time you want to spend with this fabulous art!  It’s true to Kirby’s vision and his style shows throughout.  It’s some of the best I have seen from the Ross/Herbert team since the AVENGERS/INVADERS Marvel/Dynamite mini-series.  Issue #1 of KIRBY: GENESIS comes out this month as well.
    THE MISSION #4  (Image Comics, May 2011)
    It seemed to me that eventually main character Paul would break down a little and quit resisting so much.   This issue opens with a friendlier-than-normal chat with Gabe, who asks “You ever wonder what it’s all about, Paul?”  He replies “The truth is I used to wonder.  Now I’m not sure I want to know.”  Paul gets his next mission handed to him as Gabe responds “You’re not as dumb as you look.”
    mission
    At least this time Paul isn’t being ordered to kill anyone - - just steal an artifact from a small, unguarded Native American museum.  Not so fast! - - - things aren’t as simple and get very complicated following his successful lift of a small ivory box.  This is a conflict - - so there are two sides engaged.  Paul meets some members of the other team, and they are more experienced as well as ruthless.  Just when it looks like Paul has incriminated himself thoroughly, the police officer turns out to be another recruit given an unexplained mission to assist Paul.  THE MISSION continues to bring up questions of morality and principles - - and gives examples of what seemingly normal people might do when pushed. Issue #5 comes out this month.  Everybody should be reading this book!
    RED SPIKE #2 of 5  (Image Comics, June 2011)
    If you’re in an impulsive or sampling mood, better pick up this book as well.  When Issue #1 came out there may have been some skeptics who passed this up, considering it just an attempt to cash in on the current popularity of the G.I. JOE books over at IDW.  (After all, it’s an IMAGE book - - and didn’t they break into the market in the 1980’s with art-driven clones of somewhat familiar super-hero teams?)
    RED SPIKE is not just some covert action team knock-off.  It goes much deeper in Issue #2 with a neat mix of very revealing flashback sequences that add depth and mystery to the main characters.  The seemingly friendly rivalry between super-soldiers Matt and Greg in Issue #1 may not be so friendly.  Greg has always been a black sheep and has resented the big brother/mentor role that good soldier/company man Matt has taken on since Day One together.  One of these two had a very traumatic childhood, witnessing a sick father shooting his mother and then bloodily taken down by a squad of soldiers.  (My guess is this happened to young Matt - - who came under the wing of the government and was raised by them.)
    red spike
    Greg is shown to be impulsive, competitive, jealous and full of rage.  He has done jail time for unspecified crimes.  In his early days of training, he showed both smarts and consideration for others in his wooing and winning Margaret’s heart.  However, Greg seems to have changed since those days  - - perhaps accelerated by the augmentation to his adrenal system.  His corrective surgery is put to the test and fails.  He goes rogue.  Meanwhile, the senator from Issue #1 investigating the Red Spike program doesn’t seem to be planning to uncover and close it down  - - it’s a political power  grab and he wants control.  “Curious and curiouser” as my friend Alice remarked.  Issue #3 comes out in July.
    SUPERBOY #8  (DC Comics, August 2011)
    Pier Gallo is back on art, and just in time for the beginning of a new and exciting story arc - - “The Secrets Of Smallville.”  His style suits this book so well – as if he is always on the same page as the scripter.  The back-story of Smallville that writer Jeff Lemire alluded to in earlier issues and the threat that the Phantom Stranger warned Connor Kent of so many issues ago is coming to the foreground - - and it’s a good one.
    superboy
    Back in the frontier days of Smallville, the Nate Kent family kept the law and the dark and supernatural Eben Took family broke it.  The Kents won that feud and the sinister satanic ways of the Tooks came to an end - - although not all family members were captured or perished in the burn-down.  They’ve been in the background all this time waiting for their moment to resurface.
    Lemire tells this story like a mystery, laying out the pieces one at a time as Superboy assembles them and unravels the puzzle.  The Rise Of The Hollow Men storyline begins here with “Part One: Into The Broken Silo".”  If you have been waiting for a jumping-on opportunity to pick up this book - - this is it!
    UNDYING LOVE #2  (Image Comics, May 2011)
    I can’t believe I found this copy in a back-issue bargain bin.  Bonus! - - it pays to visit your local comics shop!  Now that I’ve read two issues, I’m in for the run - - at least the first story arc for sure.
    Writer/artist Tomm Coker is for real.  Whenever an artist can illustrate action this explosive and cram it into a small panel format as well - - that makes me pay attention in a hurry.  Some of the backgrounds have a photo-realistic detail, and they may have been cropped in and colored differently for effect.  No matter.  You will enjoy this eye candy.
    undying love
    Partnered with writer/colorist Daniel Freedman this pair have cooked up a fast-paced bloody tale on par with your favorite Hong Kong guns-and-ninjas action movie.  The lone gunman, whose name we learn is “Mr. Sargent”, busts up the VIP room at a casino/night club in search of the king vampire Shang-Ji.  He gets bit in the process and survives with help from his new friend, the boy/mystic/sage from Issue #1 who seems to be too wise to exist inside such a youthful body (another unnamed character I’m getting attached to - - especially after his impressive but grisly surgical skills.) 
    Issue #3 comes out this month. Have you  noticed that 60% of the books featured in this article are published by Image?  Who knew I’d be praising so many of their titles.  Our beloved industry is maturing further, it seems.  Read more comics.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    DC: New Number Ones

    And the news just continues to hit us. Some of the rumors have been confirmed; some have been contradicted. And there's still plenty more information coming.

    Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang take on Wonder Woman, which isn't a creative team I expected but one I can support wholeheartedly. Forget Straczynski--this is the all-star team I've been waiting for. Azzarello is mostly associated with crime and noir titles, but he's proven his worth on the more fantastic books, too. I can't wait to see him tackle Diana. And Cliff Chiang is one of my favorite artists in the industry. Everything he draws is simply stunning. Most importantly, though? This pair was responsible for the brilliant Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Morality run, and I've been waiting to see them reunite ever since.

    A new The Flash is confirmed. Prior to the announcement that Johns was leaving the franchise, he was the half of the previous creative team I expected to stick around--but instead, Francis Manapul returns to art duties. The creative dynamic has changed a bit, though--while Manapul is still on art duties, he's also writing the title. Meanwhile, Brian Buccatello is joining Manapul for both scripting and art (presumably finishes and fill-ins). I have no idea who Buccatello is, but after Flashpoint, all eyes are on the Flash--DC must have high confidence in this creative team.

    Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver finally collaborate--with both of them writing The Fury of Firestorm. Indie comics writer Brian Clevinger was originally attached to the project, but I'm much happier with this creative team, and I love Van Sciver's redesign of the character. Both Jason and Ronnie have unique, solo Firestorm looks--and when combined, they become something bigger than themselves, a truly inhuman elemental force. And we can't forget Yildiray Cinar on art duties. Cinar's been doing a great job on his Legion run, but his real talent shines through in his sketches, where he's free to experiment in style without being restrained by in-house inkers. I hope that they give him more creative freedom on this book, because I think that he could really go up against (and work with) Ethan Van Sciver to truly define the character's look.

    Oops--James Robinson isn't on Hawkman (and Nicieza isn't on Teen Titans). But the creative team for The Savage Hawkman is Tony Daniel and Philip Tan...again, this doesn't make it a book I'm jumping to buy. Brett Booth is on Teen Titans, though, so there's that.

    Also, a new OMAC series is launching by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen. ...it'll look soooo pretty, at least?

    His days in the forest are over, and Green Arrow is back to superhero action! J.T. Krul continues scripting, and as appropriate for the more traditional direction, superhero extraordinaire artist Dan Jurgens is pencilling. Truthfully, I don't have much to say about this. Krul has captured Ollie's voice in the most recent series, but the plot didn't floor me, even with its ties to Brightest Day. Maybe with this new run, he'll change my mind.

    Speaking of Dan Jurgens, though--he's the new writer for Justice League International, with a lineup both familiar and surprising. Booster Gold (I love the new costume), Fire, Ice and Rocket Red all continue over from Generation Lost, as does Batman (but which Batman? If you look closely, there's no yellow circle on this Batman either. Is that design element gone already? Are there even multiple Batmen anymore?) But Guy Gardner has returned to to the JLI as well, and appropriate newcomers Vixen and August-General-In-Iron help round out the roster. And then there's the final character, an unidentified female. I have no idea who this is--does anyone? My first guess is Gypsy, or even a very-much redesigned Donna Troy to represent Themyscira in an international line-up. Or maybe she's even a new character. I'm glad to see Aaron Loprestri sticking around as illustrator, but I'm a little disappointed Dan Jurgens is taking over instead of Judd Winick, who really made the JLI relevant for the first time in a long time. I guess this means that Booster Gold won't be returning, though. Also of note are Captain Atom and Blue Beetle's absences. One is somewhat explained, though:

    J.T. Krul and Freddie E. Williams II launch a Captain Atom ongoing that seems to touch on aspects of the character as developed in the alternate realities of Watchmen and Superman Beyond. It's an interesting place to go with the mainstream version of the character, and given his military views it could also make for a serious dynamic. I'm just not sold on the idea of Krul writing it--but maybe I'm wrong. I hope he proves me wrong. At least the interiors will be full of energy, though--Williams II is excellent at that.

    Deadman headlines not Adventure Comics, but DC Universe Presents, in an arc by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang. Jenkins can be hit or miss sometimes, but he's best with stories that explore a character's psyche, which is absolutely perfect for Deadman, and Bernard Chang is a solid, reliable storyteller. This will be a rotating book each arc, though--I wonder who else we can expect?

    Finally, Mr. Terriffic gets an ongoing series and a new look, and I love it. There's going to be a serious science and technology thing going on here, and Eric Wallace should do a great job with it. Roger Robinson is a surprise, but I guess a good fit after his run on The Web.

    All in all, there's a lot to be excited about here. So. What's next?