Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DC NEW 52: JUSTICE LEAGUE #1

GEOFF JOHNS, WRITER. JIM LEE, PENCILS.  SCOTT WILLIAMS, INKER. ALEX SINCLAIR, COLORIST. PATRICK BROSSEAU, LETTERER.  $3.99  (24 page main story and  4 page sketchbook feature)

NOTE: Do not- - - DO NOT ! - - read this review if you have not read your copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1  yet!  Instead, pick it up and read it now.  I’ll wait for you. 

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This is the book that many comics fans have patiently waited for.  It’s so monumental an event that even DC made sure everybody knew how important it was by only releasing two super-hero titles this week: FLASHPOINT #5 - - the end of the current era, and JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 - - the beginning of the new age.  Is it a really a huge event? - - - Is it a significant break-through? - - - Is it worth the hype and worth the money?   . . . . .  Well . . . . . . . . . . I’m happy.

Artist extraordinaire Jim Lee is a personal favorite.  As I mentioned before, I am buying this book for the art, so a good story to go along with it would be a bonus.  The art does not disappoint.   I also got a good story - -  just not a great story.  It’s the opening chapter in what I guess will be a major introduction of all the members of the new team and the story of how they came together - - so I’m expecting that to take up between 4-6 issues.  Hey, it’s Jim Lee art!  You don’t clutter it up with a lot of dialogue and detail.  Need to take you time to tell your story.

So, what happens in Issue #1? 

1) The world apparently doesn’t understand super-heroes and doesn’t trust them either. But the events of this issue occurred “five years ago.”  So I can’t speak for the current timeline just yet.

2) Batman and Green Lantern meet for the first time, although they apparently were aware of each other before this. 

3) A huge mechanical winged creature blows itself up and leaves behind a box, which Batman believes is some kind of alien computer.  And because Superman is an alien, Green Lantern suspects he is connected to it somehow. So he leads Batman on a trip to Metropolis to meet Superman who punches first and then asks a question.

4) In a brief interlude, we eavesdrop on a high school football game in Metropolis where a superstar receiver/running back wows the pro scouts. We learn he has issues at home, especially with Dad, and oh yeah - - we all think he will become the hero Cyborg (cause he looks just like the guy on the cover, without the armor and enhancements).

What did I like about Issue #1?

1)  The art.  Oh yeah. I liked it a lot. 

2) A little more humor and light-hearted tone than I am used to seeing from Geoff Johns.

What didn’t I like?

1) Green Lantern.  This version of Hal Jordan/Ryan Reynolds is cocky and arrogant, asks obvious questions, and makes wisecracks that, while they may be funny the first time will start to annoy with repetition. (Is he trying to act like Peter Parker/Spider-Man?)  Johns has made him stupid and naive.   However, Batman acts like the Batman I know and prefer to see.  Thanks for not messing him up.

Do I hate this book?  Absolutely not.  I hope you read it too.  It’s a little bit of fun . . . and the art is wonderful !

Am I disappointed?  Not really.  I’m more surprised that this debut has such a spotlight on it, considering what it actually delivers in content, etc.

Next week 13 more books  (all #1’s !)  go on sale.  I’m in for ACTION COMICS and ANIMAL MAN and plan to review them here eventually.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tomorrow is also when the Universe re-starts - - - again

 

Thanks to Dave at Captain Blue Hen for bringing this  YOU TUBE video to my attention.  This is meant to be funny, DC fans.  Please don’t send anyone hate mail.

Even though I share a name with one of the main characters in the video, my views are more in line with those of the pretty lady.  I’ll be taking a dip but I’m not going in for the full swim.

PREVIEWS: What’s new in TPB for Wednesday 8/31/2011?

I wanted to keep this review separate from the preview of new August 31 books I wrote about yesterday. It deserves a treatment all it’s own.  I missed the new series when it debuted, but I did check out the first trade paperback and  - -Wow!  Keep reading . . . . . . . . . .

PLANET OF THE APES VOLUME 1  (BOOM! Studios)  Specially priced $9.99 introduction to the first four issues of the new series.  Daryl Gregory, writer.  Carlos Magno, artist.  Juan Manuel Tumburus, colorist Chapter 1.  Nolan Woodard, colorist Chapter 2-4.  Travis Lanham, letterer.

Finally!  - - - A reason for me to get excited again about PLANET OF THE APES !!

I go way back with this material.  I read the original novel (which preceded everything else) way back when I was in middle school and discovering many science-fiction masterpieces courtesy of my school library.  The novel floored me, and I was even more delighted with the film version (the famous one with Charlton Heston).  Then came some disappointing paperback novels, and far too many movie sequels none of which came even close to the quality of the original.  Marvel did a black and white magazine that didn’t thrill me.  Even the Dark Horse comics seemed to lack any punch or energy.  Tim Burton’s remake took advantage of the advances in movie special effects and made me a little excited again - - but the movie dragged and failed to make its points effectively  - - not emotional enough when it needed to be.  I haven’t seen THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (which did very well and garnered many favorable reviews) because I was afraid of being disappointed again.  And now . . . . . . . . . .

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The only commonality between BOOM! Studios’ version of PLANET OF THE APES and those other sources is the setting and the basic premise - - - a future Earth where intelligent simians and humans share space.  In fact, this comics version goes way back  - - long before the events of the original PLANET OF THE APES novel and subsequent first film.  Long ago The Lawgiver, the ruling orangutan, (a la Abraham Lincoln)  freed the humans from servitude and created a society where apes and humans peacefully co-exist.  But not on common footing, as close examination of the community reveals a separate residential neighborhood  (South Town, referred to by apes as “Skin Town) across the river from the Industrial Zone and situated far away from the gardens of the City Tree, the Lawgiver’s Estate and the Western Suburbs.  Human are permitted to make a living in their own community or to cross the river where they can labor in the factories.  Nevertheless, the society works despite some deep-seated bad feelings among the elders of both races - - and human and ape children are schooled together, not separately.  It may sound like the author is creating some deliberate symbols here, but after reading this all the way through I believe it’s unintentional.  BOOM!’s PLANET OF THE APES is a simply a great story that is told very well, and readers are going to see many similarities between this and events from history, both current and past.  (Civil War, segregation, racism, Israeli-Palestine conflicts, terrorism, suicide bombers, crazy religions, warmongers, pacifists, Republicans versus Democrats,class distinctions, rich versus poor, etc.) 

The story opens up with the murder of The Lawgiver, a deliberate and public assassination by a human disguised in black ninja gear.  A squad of gorillas is recruited, led by a former war criminal, to comb every inch of South Town and find the murderer.  There is much debate in South Town about how to resist this and the pregnant mayor Sullivan, a former pupil of The Lawgiver and classmate of Queen Alaya of the apes, wants to keep the citizens pacified while still conducting their own search to uncover the assassin.

The art team is just incredible.  I’m unfamiliar with the work of Carlos Magno, but he’s got me paying attention now!   I thought the best art I could find this week would be in the pages of the new JUSTICE LEAGUE but Magno can stand on equal ground with Jim Lee.  This is gorgeous work that you must examine for yourself. 

PLANET OF THE APES may be the best prelude or prequel to a film property that I have enjoyed in any format.  Well worth your time and investment.  Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

PLANET OF THE APES #5  (BOOM! Studios special priced $1.00 issue) Daryl Gregory, writer. Carlos Magno, artist. Nolan Woodard, colorist.  Travis Lanham, letterer.

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The first story arc ended with a martyr’s actions, a suicide explosion for a cause, that triggered a new war between apes and humans.  Issue #5 picks up the second story arc and deals with how each side prepares and then engages.  At these special prices - - - for a $11 investment you get the content of 5 comic books that you may want to read several times in order to get all the content and value from them.  That’s approximately $2.20 per issue and quite the bargain.

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As unrest builds, the city of Mak finds it difficult to keep the factories running without human labor and some circles in government even discuss offering humans some seats in the governing council to bring about cooperation.  A separate faction in South Town, all born as mutes and inspired by the recent suicide act, offer themselves as martyrs in order to get their city back.  As crowds gather in the streets, the apes dispel the curfew violators with weapons fire from blimps hovering above.   Both sides discuss arming themselves further with heavier weapons – and some from very unlikely sources.  Tensions are mounting and rising to a breaking point. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, August 31, 2011?

THE VAULT #2 of 3  (Image Comics)  Sam Sarkar, story.  Garrie Gastonny & Sakti Yuwono, art.  Garrie Gastonny & Bagus Hutomo, cover. 

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The story may be dark, but the art work on display here is blinding in its’  illumination.  I can’t believe the detail, especially the more difficult facial features in the close-up views.  Backgrounds, foregrounds, machinery details, landscapes and vistas - -  it’s all so photo-realistic.  Wow. I just had to start this off by talking about the great art to be admired in this series.  Now, on to the story . . . . . . . . .

The dark secrets of the treasure pit on Sable Island that were hinted at in Issue #1 begin to be revealed in THE VAULT #2.  Some secrets are better kept locked away and unseen, as the explorers find out.  At the end of Issue #1 a massive vault was hauled out of the treasure pit just as a furious storm/hurricane begins to threaten the island.

Naturally, the explorers who invested in the expedition want to open it immediately. Concerns are expressed that the contents might disintegrate if exposed to air, especially as the x-ray images indicate it may be skeletal remains.  Others feel that it can’t be human - - and the size, weight, density, etc. seem to indicate the contents are stone (like a statue) or metal rather than bone.  That would also seem to explain the metal rod inside what must be part of a sculpture.  The curious win out, and the “sarcophagus” is opened.  The contents seem too heavy to be a body, and are wrapped tightly in rope and hemp.  Once the wrappings come off, it does indeed resemble the skeleton of a large winged creature.

So, what do you think?  Does it come alive and start attacking everybody?  I’m not going to tell you everything.  THE VAULT is a genuine scare, even more so if you keep remembering the opening of Issue #1 with its implications of a Biblical and/or mythological threat on a grand scale.  Suffice to say that all the explorers agree it’s time for the rescue ship to come and take them off the island.  They seem to have escaped the threat  - - - for now.  Recommended.  Can’t wait for the ending next month.

THE RINSE #1  (BOOM! Studios, $1 introductory issue)  Written by Gary Phillips. Art by Marc Laming.

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If you enjoy Ed Brubaker’s CRIMINAL stories, then you’ll want to check this out. Story and art are on an even par with the quality and style of CRIMINAL.  I’m a sucker for first person narration when it’s done well, and I was immersed in this book after five pages.  CRIMINAL often features engaging and sympathetic characters who just happen to be outlaws and crooks.  Jeff Sinclair in THE RINSE walks a similar path, dispensing his wisdoms and observations as he moves through the story just as if he was sitting beside you at a bar and sharing a great story.

The “rinse” involves methods to hide or “launder” large amounts of money through businesses where cash transactions “don’t raise a red flag” - - - art auctions, shell companies, banks and brokers, sports memorabilia, bars and restaurants, etc.  Jeff Sinclair of San Francisco is a master at moving and rinsing big sums for a variety of clients.  When he agrees to help someone new to stealing money from the boss help to conceal, hide and move that stolen cash around - - we see his soft side.  He knows he shouldn’t help but he also knows the client will get killed otherwise. For the boss is a big casino owner/mobster and he’s angry and hot on the trail.  I would like to see more so I’m coming back.

OTHER BOOKS WORTH A LOOK ON AUGUST 31 - - - - -  DEADPOOL MAX #11,  IRON MAN 2.O #8  (both Marvel). FLASHPOINT #5,   JUSTICE LEAGUE #1  (both DC).    HELLRAISER  #5,  Stan Lee’s THE TRAVELER #10  (both BOOM!).  THE SIXTH GUN #14 (Oni).  WAR GODDESS #1`(Avatar). 

JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS BOOK LAST WEEK . . . . . . . . . .

WAREHOUSE 13  #1  (Dynamite, August 24, 2011 release)  Written by Ben Raab + Deric A. Hughes.  Art by Ben Morse. 

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Warehouse 13 is one of my favorite television series.  It’s entertaining and amusing and creative. The collective group that maintain the warehouse of ancient mystical artifacts for the government and their agents (formerly Secret Service) who travel the globe to “snag, bag, and tag” any dangerous artifacts at large are funny, quirky and endearing.  The comic maintains that tone perfectly and is a great reading companion to the series.  The story is complete in one single issue and reads just like an episode of the series, including dialogue that you could visualize them saying.  Seismic disruptions that create enormous sinkholes that swallow neighborhoods seem to be created rather than natural, which sends Micah and Pete off to South America to investigate.  The art by Morse is a step above mainly functional (as some of these adaptations seem to go) and does justice to the actual appearance of the characters on the show.  You can even recognize them.  Well done.  I’m back for more fun next month.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ADVANCE PREVIEWS: Completely different UNDERWIRE

 

UNDERWIRE   ( Top Shelf Books ) October 2011 release, listed in August PREVIEWS.   Graphic novel, black and white, 80 pages.  Auto-biographical material. Mature Readers 16+.  Jennifer Hayden, writer/artist.

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I was intrigued by the premise for this graphic novel when I read the description in the August PREVIEWS, and curious about the contents.  I consider myself fortunate to get an advance look at this novel.  UNDERWIRE  is a delightfully quirky, sketchy and irreverent look at the life of a mother of two children (now in her forties) and the obsessions and compulsions that make up her everyday life.  I couldn’t stop reading, chuckling and smiling until I got to the very end.  Fortunately, it’s a fast and absorbing read.

I’ve also been impressed by the quality of almost every auto-biographical comic work that I’ve read or examined in the last two years.  It’s a sub-genre in comics that is sometimes overlooked and neglected (count me among the guilty).  Granted, it’s also harder to find.  Most fans of auto-biographical comics place advance orders so they can be assured of getting those books they are interested in.  It’s certainly harder to find many books in this category in your local comics store. UNDERWIRE definitely qualifies for the short list of auto-biographical books worth a look.  If you enjoy the light-hearted style of contemporary newspaper comic strips like CATHY and others, you will love UNDERWIRE.  If you’ve been curious and want to begin to explore some auto-biographical works in comics, then UNDERWIRE is an excellent starting point for you. 

Writer/artist Jennifer Hayden began her literary career as a fiction writer and children’s book illustrator.   A voracious reader of ARCHIE COMICS during her youth, she later renewed her interest and became one of the featured creators on Dean Haspiel’s website dedicated to giving an outlet to New York City area indie comics creators - - - www.ACT-I-VATE.com. , where UNDERWIRE debuted as a web comic.

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UNDERWIRE the graphic novel reprints the first 22 chapters from the web comic and adds 17 new pages of material.  Her full page sketches of various goddesses throughout history are particularly interesting.  The chapters are very quick reads, and sometimes only 2-3 pages of story. Hayden does not deviate from the main points of each chapter, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of detail in such brevity.  I could imagine the contents of one of her 3 page chapters requiring almost 12 pages to convert the story to text only and still capture all the detail.  The general style is 4 or more square panels per page, and the shading and art reminds me just a little of Robert Crumb.  What’s even more remarkable is that Hayden does not create her panels in pencil and then embellish later.  She does every panel in ink.

You can get a feel for her style of story-telling in “Watercress”, the very first chapter of UNDERWIRE.  Jennifer and then 12-year-old daughter Charlotte stop for lunch during a downtown outing. The maturity and sophistication of her young daughter is revealed in her choice of made-to-order sandwich at an upscale deli. They are unable to find a spot to stop and eat until they come to a street corner bus stop.  The young adult angst and anxieties of Charlotte come to the fore when she fails to locate the watercress on her sandwich  (it fell to the ground).  Meanwhile, Jennifer shares her thoughts as this occurs via thought balloons, and embellishes with details about what else is on her mind, such as is the seedy looking passenger leering at her young daughter and thinking perverse thoughts?  Real life. Real funny. Four pages and done.

No subject is taboo.  “The Coven” deals with Jennifer and friends swapping gossip and scandal during a get-together for drinks at her place while their teenaged daughters eavesdrop and react in pure shock.  “Swampy” details one of Jennifer’s horny dreams which ends up overlapping with her husband’s sweaty fantasy after he has an equally horny dream.  One of the story brings her son’s diagnosed ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) front and center.  There’s a great story in “Dear Prudence” relating her anxiety attack after side-swiping a deer while driving her car at night.  Not every story is cynical or sarcastic.  There’s a heart-warming Christmas story and some fond memories of relatives to share as well.

Hayden lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, three cats and one dog. S he is presently finishing up another auto-biographical graphic novel about her breast cancer experience that she has been working on for several years.  THE STORY OF MY TITS will also be published by Top Shelf Books.  She is also posting a new web comic, S’CRAPBOOK, at  www.onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.com .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DC: The New 52 Prologue



We're here. Less than a week away from the debut of the new 52, in the form of Justice League #1 but Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. We've been waiting for months, hearing all different things, and within days we'll have access to what is already set to be the top-selling comic of 2011, reported at over two-hundred thousand copies (for comparison, it's rare and very significant for a comic to sell over one-hundred thousand in the direct market, and it only generally occurs for highly anticipated launch issues or big events).

Justice League number one. Comic's biggest superstar creators. Iconic characters. The beginning of a new, unprecedented era.

Yawn.

I'm sure the book will be...well, exactly as expected. Major superhero stories, basically an epic summer blockbuster in comic book form. But I find myself not caring that much. With all we've heard about it so far, it's an origin story that I'm not that interested in reading. We know the characters, we know the bad guy, we even know quite a few story beats. But somehow I don't care all that much.

That's the case for a number of titles. For others, I'm really, really looking forward to them.

Presented here: the top ten books from DC's new 52 that I can't wait to read.

Stormwatch, by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulvelda, is, without a doubt, the comic I am most looking forward to, and it's been so ever since it was announced. Paul Cornell's books have been some of the best comics published by the DC and Marvel for years, and this just feels like a perfect fit, especially after his year-long Lex Luthor epic on Action Comics. Many of the characters here are just as morally ambiguous, and I feel like he'll do a fantastic job of integrating the characters into the DC Universe in a way that matters--a task I'd previously suggested was impossible. In every interview, he seems to "get" the characters in a way I haven't seen since Warren Ellis' groundbreaking runs on Stormwatch and The Authority. As for the artist? I don't know much about Sepulvelda, although a casual Google search shows that he was involved in the Thanos Imperative for Marvel, which, if I recall, looked pretty decent. Solid and serviceable. I'm looking forward to watching him improve here, preferably along with Cornell for the long ride.

I was actually moderately surprised to realize that Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth was second on my list, especially because I just wasn't entirely sold when I heard about it. Booth's art isn't my favorite--good but a bit too flashy, without as much emphasis on storytelling--and I'd been hoping for Nicieza to take over the book, as early rumors suggested. But the more I thought about it, the more it worked for me. It's a stark departure from the hundred-issue run we just had, a run that didn't do much for me, turning many of my favorite nuanced young characters into boring, one-note teenage stereotypes. Thinking about the creative team, I realized that Lobdell was responsible for the 90's X-Men--and although some of the plotting was hit-or-miss, I loved the soap opera aspect of those books. I'm optimistic here. And for the art? Booth's designs are really growing on me, and the pages I've seen look...well, actually really, really good. Lobdell and Booth are recreating these characters, and my fingers are crossed.

Coming in third, we have Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I'm going to miss Jock like crazy--he was the perfect collaborator for Snyder--but Capullo will add a particularly dynamic new look, and I feel that action sequences were occasionally Jock's weakness. Batman is a flagship book, and for a superhero line, that often should mean big action. I may not be sold on his character designs for the villains (especially Riddler--I'm sorry, the question-mark mohawk just does not work for me), but his work on titles like Spawn and Haunt made him a perfect fit for Batman and the darkness of Gotham in general. In turn, that makes him an excellent match on Snyder, who has been building Gotham into a character of its own in his Detective Comics run. I've been claiming that Snyder's 'Tec run has been the best Batman run of the past decade, and having just finished it the other day, I maintain that position--it beats Dini and even Morrison, hands-down. I pray that he and Capullo can continue that magic here.

Yes, I'm listing Hawk and Dove by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld as my pick for number four, and if you're judging me on this, I'm judging you right back in return. I know the jokes about Rob Liefeld--and they're old and tired, and, honestly, pretty inaccurate these days (he's improved his anatomy, his expressions, and has been not only hitting deadlines but working on multiple books a month). But you know what? I don't even need to justify it--I'm an unapologetic Rob Liefeld fan. The energy and enthusiasm he puts on the page are unparalleled by anyone in comics, and reading his interviews and Twitter shows that he's more excited for this project than anything else in recent years. It'll translate. But don't let me talk just about him--Sterling Gates has more than proven himself as a fantastic writer, especially of younger characters after his run on Supergirl that redefined the character. Hawk and Dove are two of my favorite characters, and I absolutely believe that Gates and Liefeld will bring them back in a big way.

There are no pants in Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, at least not by the title character, and I'm just fine with that--her costume is reimagined, but closer to her iconic representation than it's been in awhile. I wasn't entirely sold on this creative team at first, I'll admit--I was excited because they worked sheer magic on their Doctor Thirteen story, but Azzarello doesn't usually write what I want to read. It's all quality--but frequently not to my taste. But the more I thought about it, and the more I read about it, the more excited I got--and it was probably reading that he planned to make this more of a horror title that cemented it as my number five choice. And Cliff Chiang's art is flat-out gorgeous. I have no idea if he can hit a monthly deadline, but for as long as he's on the book, you can expect to enjoy it based simply on aesthetics alone. In all likelihood, though, it'll be so much more than that. Diana's needed an amazing run for years--Rucka and Simone's runs were missing just something--so maybe we'll get it at last.

You can't not root for a book like Action Comics by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, especially after Morrison's critically acclaimed All Star Superman. I may miss the old Superman, with his parents and emphasis on humanity and his marriage to Lois Lane--but with Morrison at the helm of the new version, I don't care nearly as much. He claims that Superman will simply never stop moving--appropriate for a book titled "Action", no? Given that Morrison has helmed more than a few of my favorite comic book runs (most noticeably New X-Men, which I continue to reread over and over, at least once a year in its entirety), I can give him all the goodwill here that he needs. And the artist? Rags Morales wowed us all with Identity Crisis, with a particular skill in delivering powerful expressions. His art isn't always to my taste, and sometimes his characters look too much like actors, but so far I haven't seen that as a problem here. Even if so, though? It'll be brilliantly written and so pretty. Done.

I've been waiting for Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman for far too long. That wait, in fact, is why this is only hitting number seven on my list--my anticipation has faded in favor of other projects. Still, this will undeniably be an amazing book. Williams worked with Greg Rucka to present a fantastic Detective run a few years ago, giving this character--previously just a "lipstick lesbian"--much-needed depth, transforming her instantly into a character who could be around for decades to come. Despite Rucka's writing, though, the real draw was undeniably the art; innovative layouts and superior illustrations allowed Williams to catch everybody by surprise. He'd always been a great artist, but now he was one of the best. I have no idea how he'll work as co-writer with Blackman, but the zero issue was certainly serviceable--but the primary draw will still be the art, even when Williams alternates with Amy Reeder Hadley. Worst case scenario, if the writing sucks? Comics are a visual medium. Sometimes, the art is enough.

I'm very optimistic about Superboy by Scott Lobdell and R.B. Silva (whose work, incidentally, isn't pictured on the cover.) Part of that is probably nostalgia--I grew up reading Superboy, written by writers like Karl Kesel, Ron Marz and Joe Kelly, and illustrated by artists like Tom Grummett, Ramon Bernado (from whom I have original art--thanks, Jeff!) and Pasqual Ferry. And for me, as I mentioned before, Geoff Johns ruined the character. I'm so excited to see the character reinvented and hopefully given, once again, a real personality. The solicitations suggest that Lobdell has some exciting plots lined up for this Superboy, and I've already sung my praises about his character-driven soap opera work. But let's also give great credit to R.B. Silva, an artist on the rise. He was part of the Jimmy Olsen backup stories in Action Comics recently--which, incidentally, were easily the best Olsen stories since Kirby. His work is clean and crisp in a style all his own. And as a storyteller? Superb. For the first time in a long time, Superboy is in great hands.

Having not particularly loved Paul Levitz's Legion return, I'm all in for Legion Lost by Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods. I know that he's far from Mike's favorite writer, but Nicieza has proven time and time again that he's what I want in comics, with great pacing, firm plots and a nuance for character growth. His ability to take lesser-known characters and evolve them led to fan-favorite runs over at Marvel, most noticeably New Warriors and Cable & Deadpool. He hasn't had quite that success at DC, perhaps due to lacking the right fit. Here, he has it. You've got the lesser-known, non-iconic characters spinning out of a popular franchise that Nicieza can run with. And with Pete Woods as an artistic collaborator? I've loved Woods for years, and he's only gotten better, especially as a storyteller. The original Legion Lost is a particularly favorite title for me, and although this new incarnation has nothing in common except the name, everything I've read gives me reason to believe that, just maybe, I'll fall equally in love with this title, too.

Demon Knights, by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves, rounds out the list. I'll admit that I debated a lot as to what to put here. Books like The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Green Lantern, Grifter, Men of War and Voodoo all competed strongly for this spot. But it was Cornell's past track record, plus the use of many fantastic characters, plus a unique setting...plus a desire to use at least one book from every "New 52" category (in this case, "The Dark") that led to me picking this title. Cornell's previous work set in Britain has always been brilliant, which gives this title extra points--he's just a perfect fit to handle Arthurian Knights. It was likely how unique this title is, though, that really intrigues me. There are no superheroes, it's not set in present day, and it's not a relaunch of a current title. That gives Cornell a lot of freedom to craft his tale (but sadly, may mean the title won't last long). Artist Neves hasn't done much, but what he has done is eye-dropping. He'll do just fine at the new DC comics.

And there you have it--my top ten anticipated titles. Are any of these on your top ten? If not, what are you most looking forward to? Let me know, I'm genuinely curious.

I'm also going to make a promise, here. Every week, from August 31st through the end of September, I'm going to read and review every title from DC's new 52. I'm not going to lie--I'm not going to buy all of them. But like it or not, this is a huge event in the comics industry, and if the store was still together, we'd be talking about it. A lot. Seeing what new titles work, what titles flopped, what titles should be hits but are being ignored, what titles will lead to that next big event. So, to anyone reading this blog, I ask that you join me, each week of September, for a discussion about the books. As I said--this is history in the making. Let's be a part of it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BALTIMORE COMIC CON: Big attendance, fund-raising, costumes

taken from the official press release

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - August 24, 2011 - The Baltimore Comic-Con would like to extend a gracious "Thank You!" to all of those who helped make the 12th annual show a success.   The success of the show would not have been possible without the contributions of all exhibitors, guests, staff and most importantly – the fans.

Much of the show's success was made possible by the attendance of the Guest of Honor, Stan Lee, who made his first appearance at the show this year. As a founding father of Marvel Comics, Lee's presence was a great draw to fans, retailers, and guests alike. In addition to his appearance at the show for autographs and photos, Lee was also the focus of a special panel moderated by Jimmy Palmiotti.

The guest charities who attended the show -- the Hero Initiative, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBDLF), the Baltimore Human Society, and the 'Ringo Scholarship Fund -- collectively raised over $14,000 to support their worthy causes.

"The CBLDF raised $5,000 at Baltimore Comic-Con thanks to the generosity of Baltimore's incredible community of comics fans," said Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  "We're grateful to Marc Nathan and his entire team for putting one of the most enthusiastic and well-attended comics centric shows in the US, and for helping the CBLDF raise these much needed funds!"

"Our 12th annual show was our biggest show to date," said Marc Nathan, show promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "After years of requests from fans to bring Stan Lee to Baltimore, 2011 seemed like the right time, and the weekend's success proved it! We are elated with how well the fans received Stan and are already planning for what we can do to top this year's show in 2012."

Save the Date! Baltimore Comic-Con 2012!

Mark your calendars now for next year's Baltimore Comic-Con, which will take place the weekend of September 8-9, 2012 at the Baltimore Convention Center. 

Baltimore Comic-Con Announces Costume Contest Winners

The 3rd annual Costume Contest took place this past Saturday, August 20, 2011and saw a myriad of incredible and creative costumes. With approximately 200 entries and costumes ranging from classic super-heroes to video game characters, this was by far the best and most successful contest thus far.BCC Costume Contest 2011-1

The grand prize winner for Best Over-all Costume, and the recipient of the $1,000 cash prize, was Robert Day for his Optimus Prime costume.

Winners for this year's contest include:

Over-13 Category

Best Male Superhero: Wade Brown - MODOK

Best Male Non-Superhero: Vincent Posbic - Master Chief from HALO

Best Female Superhero: Lisa Hissinbothan - Storm

Best Female Non-Superhero: Devin Houser - Joker

Best Group (majority of member over 13): Jay Buechle & Leigh Alexander - Bengali & Cheetara from ThunderCats

BCC Costume Contest 2011-2Under-13 Category

Best Male Superhero: Michael P. - Two-Face

Best Male Non-Superhero: Jeffery S. - Link from Legend of Zelda

Best Female Superhero: Maria H. - Hitgirl

Best Female Non-Superhero: Ashley L. - Zombie from Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (tie) & R. Hill - The Corpse Bride

Best Group (majority of member under 13): RJ, Peter, and Jayden J. - Luke Skywalker and Mandalorians

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BALTIMORE COMIC CON: Visionary Enters The DEADLANDS

Baltimore , Maryland COMIC CON August 20, 2011:  There is a new series of weird western one-shot books based on the popular role-playing game DEADLANDS.  Three books have been introduced so far, distributed through Image Comics, with the fourth one scheduled for release in October 2011.  Audience members of the Baltimore Comic Con Visionary panel were introduced to the creators, writers, artists and editors during a spotlight presentation.   They included writer/editor Ron Marz, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and David Gallaher, artists Lee Moder and Steve Ellis, and Visionary Comics executive director and writer/colorist C. Edward Sellner.

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L to R:  J. Palmiotti; R. Marz; D. Gallaher, S. Ellis, C.E. Sellner  (missing from photo: L. Moder)

Sellner explained that he purchased the publishing rights from Pinnacle Entertainment, owners of the DEADLANDS  role playing game property.  Visionary’s initial comic book debut began with the four one-shot titles (three of four released so far) and then a possible monthly series.  During the panel, the creators spoke a little about their specific titles as well as the opportunities and challenges that came with working within a pre-established game universe.  All the writers said they were pleasantly surprised by the freedom to create both new characters, situations, and even tinker with the landscape within the DEADLANDS game world. They half-expected Pinnacle Entertainment to lay down a long list of ground rules, and also insist on final editorial say on the books.  Instead, they have been very easy-going and cooperative.

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Ron Marz, who also serves as editor of the four books, commented how easy the job became. What it boiled down to is “just do a good comics story, and we’ll tweak it if necessary to fit the rules of the game world.”    He said he learned a valuable lesson about editing from working with Archie Goodwin many years ago:  “Hire the right people as editor and then get out of the way.”  Speaking about Pinnacle, Marz  said “we were allowed to write the kind of books that we’d like to read. They let us run within the world of DEADLANDS.”  Jimmy Palmiotti added that it’s “the most freedom I’ve ever had working in a licensed game world.”   Referring to Marz, Palmi0tti enjoyed the working relationship:  “Ron is easier to work for because he’s not an editor who thinks he is a writer.” - - - He is a writer who understands editing.

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Marz commented on DEATH WAS SILENT, the book he scripted with art by Bart Sears, calling it “the most violent thing I’ve ever written.”  He thought it would appeal not just to weird western fans but also any readers who crave “seeing comics with people doing stuff  and not standing around talking about stuff.” 

The world of the DEADLANDS game is a mixing pot of western settings, steampunk, horror, supernatural and mystical elements and even adds some science-fiction elements.  More on the game itself can be found on the official website:  www.deadlands.com

Deadlands_Variant_web

There were some mixed opinions on whether the DEADLANDS comics would pull more of its audience from comics fandom or from gaming enthusiasts.   Ron Marz thought that the comics audience would be more aware of the books than the gaming audience. He’s hoping the gamers respond to the inevitable trade paperback editions.  (My comment: Probably a good point, especially if they are merchandised in the gaming sections of  bookstores and hobby shops, right beside the game manuals, etc.)   David Gallaher noted that he’d seen more reviews of the DEADLANDS comics on gaming websites versus comics sites.  “Gaming is very strong for many comics stores, and those that carry both seemed to do well with these comics.”  Sellner added that future plans may include some alternate editions geared for this audience, that would include gaming information in the extra features.  Steve Ellis said he suspects that gamers will take some of the created characters from the new comics and work them into their personal DEADLANDS world, using the comics to provide a back story / history.

The VISIONARY COMICS releases to date:

THE DEVIL’S SIX GUN (June 2011)  by writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis.

MASSACRE AT RED WING (July 2011) by writer Jimmy Palmiotti + Justin Gray and artist Lee Moder.

DEATH WAS SILENT (August 2011) by writer Ron Marz and artist Bart Sears.

BLACK WATER (scheduled for October 2011) writer Jeff Mariotte and artist Brook Turner.

I’ve read the first three titles and thoroughly enjoyed them all.  I recommend them to anyone who enjoys weird westerns or just a well-told tale. You may expect to see some future reviews of the books on this blog.  You can learn more about this new project at www.visionarycomics.com.

DC Endings: @GailSimone's Secret Six

One thing I didn't anticipate with the DC relaunch was the emotion of all the current books ending these last couple of weeks of August. Batgirl, Red Robin, James Robinson's Justice League, Superman, Supergirl and many others have come to an end with a mixture of sadness and the promise of what might have been. I saw Keith Giffen at his Baltimore Comic-Con booth over the weekend and mentioned that I was sorry to see Doom Patrol go. "Yeah, that one hurt", he said, shaking his head. But by far the book I'll miss the most is Gail Simone's Secret Six.


When I talk about Secret Six, I often say something like “I can’t believe what Gail Simone is able to get away with.” And that’s true, but it occurs to me lately that I’ve done a disservice to the book by focusing on that. It’s not the best thing DC published because it was shocking, though it sometimes was, or that it featured the most diverse cast in comics (admittedly a low bar), it’s because of the the book’s incredible heart. These characters are broken, probably irrevocably so, and yet they get up every day and do what their hearts tell them to do. Which sometimes, as much to their surprise as the reader’s, is the right thing. It’s inspiring, is what it is.


I've been meaning to write about Secret Six for a while, but I got stuck after the paragraph above trying to articulate my thoughts well enough to do justice to Gail Simone's intricate creation. Fortunately, ComicMix's Marc Alan Fishman has summed it up pretty well. Hopefully, all the Secret Six trades will stay in print for a while so that anyone who hasn't read this great series can still experience it.


Don't get me wrong: I'm still really excited about the DC relaunch, even more so after the "New 52" panel in Baltimore this past Saturday. (I briefly wrote about the panel on The Comic Book Shop's Facebook wall, and CBR's report is here.) I just didn't expect to be as affected as I have been by the ending of the previous era.

Monday, August 22, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, August 24, 2011?

 

MARKSMEN #2 of 6  (Image/Benaroya)  Script by David Baxter.  Art by Javier Aranda, Garry Leach & Jessica Kholinne.  Cover by Tomm Coker.  Fan Expo Canada wraparound cover by Nam Kim & Jessica Kholinne.

“Post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure” - - - I used that short description last month to lead into my review of MARKSMEN #1.  It still serves to describe the contents of Issue #2, which goes on sale Wednesday, August 24th.    After reading about the events that occur in Issue #2, we still don’t know the time period in which MARKSMEN takes place or even how things happened to get to where they are today.  I did have some pre-solicit information from Benaroya Publishing that explained some of that. However, I can’t share that with you since I can’t locate that information and I also can’t recall any of it.  What I do plan to do is just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Marksmen#2_FanExpo_Cover

What you may appreciate are some battle scenes  (and a good knock-down fight) that are wonderfully depicted by the art team, reminding me of the classic Wally Wood style and beautifully detailed- - just like the best desert action scenes with armored jeeps and tanks from the pages of G.I. JOE comics.

Along with the action/battle scenes we are treated to some behind the scenes strategy sessions that give the reader a preview of just how well the enemy of New San Diego has prepared their battle plan and what appears to be a victory for the town could end up back-firing on them.  This issue also brings up the question of whether it is wiser for a superior force to just beat back the enemy invader - - or to mercilessly pound them into submission/retreat while killing as many of their numbers as possible along the way.  MARKSMEN #2 brings up this issue, but it doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it.  It’s there for you, but only if you care to probe a little and speculate as you read.  And that is one of the things I really appreciate about this book.  It can be a rollicking good action-adventure story to be enjoyed for pure entertainment value - - - or it can leave us to imagine and think about what decisions the survivors of this future world must face every day.  There are questions here about proper battle strategy between superior forces and seemingly over-matched opponents, science versus religion, solar versus fuel-powered economies, etc.

Marksmen#2_Cover

As the issue begins the jealousy that was building up in issue #1 between Lt. Herc and Sgt. Drake McCoy erupts into a great street fight brawl that ends just as quickly once more brass intervene, with both combatants shaking hands and then cooperating with each other on the armored defense mission.

The Duke and Deacon and  a large horseback posse ride up to New San Diego demanding the release and return of the “defectors” from their church/religion.  It’s a ploy to get into the city.  A squad of 10 Marksmen in heavily armored vehicles ride out to meet 70 of the Lone Star Rangers, who are armed only with pistols and no automatic weapons in an obvious mismatch.  Rather than parley/negotiate, the first shot gets fired and battle ensues.  But the Duke and Deacon manage to escape the massacre and retreat to their congregation who are fired up over the bloodbath and seem primed and ready to follow their leader  (which may have been the underlying plan all along).  Is everybody on the inside of New San Diego on the same side now?  Layers and layers.  Recommended.

OTHER TITLES WORTH EXPLORING THIS WEEK:

BATMAN, INC #8  - -  Some are dismissing this book as frivolous and insignificant.  It doesn’t matter to me if these events have no bearing in THE NEW 52 bat-future.  This is a fun and highly inventive book to read.  Isn’t that why we read some of these books?  Is that enough?  I say if the story is well written and illustrated and you enjoy it  - - then that should be enough.

BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT #5  - - Likewise, I am enjoying this book for similar reasons - - mainly to marvel at David Finch’s art.  When he is also the scripter it gives him full artistic license to experiment a bit with the illustration - - and I love that.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #3  - - - For the money and the value it’s the best ongoing anthology title in the market.  Tons of good art and interesting storylines, many of which are being serialized.  Neal Adams’ BLOOD is just one of many.

FLASHPOINT PRESENTS PROJECT SUPERMAN #3 - - Ok, so almost every one of these FLASHPOINT 3 issue mini-series is an Elseworld tale under a different label.  As long as it’s a great story and entertains me, I can live with knowing that it will have no bearing on THE NEW 52 universe spin.  This is just different and exciting. 

KILL SHAKESPEARE #12 OF 12 - - - Finally!  I’ve been waiting for the last issue so I can start reading this title from start to finish.  After picking up Issue #1 a long time ago and thoroughly enjoying it, I knew this was a story that would be served best at one setting.  Expect to see this reviewed from me in the future.

WAREHOUSE 13  #1 - -  based on the sucessful SCY-FY TELEVISION series.  Don’t know if this is going to be worthwhile but I’m going to check out Issue #1 to find out - - because I love the tv show!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

BALTIMORE COMIC CON: Day Two Images, part 2

little spidey - terminator Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 012 one of these does not go Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 036

Little Spidey + his other armored friend.     PUZZLE: One of these does not belong here.

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Nightcrawler auditions for the next remake of the Jazz Singer.  The Rogue Sisters.

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Shop for comics + collectibles ‘till you drop.  National Guard was busy - so Stargate Security offers help.

princess butterfly Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 041 the Vader gang Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 022

Little Princess Butterfly gets accents.           The Vader Gang works the perimeter security.

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Optimus, you cover the side exits.    Mark Waid graciously signing a stack of books.

BALTIMORE COMIC CON: Day Two images

 

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Captain old school America.                              What should we call our new team – the Cobra Joe Titans?

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Dazzler sings accapella.                                      The crowds never thinned out until late afternoon.

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Little Spidey + Big Transformer.                      Can you bring me a bottle of water, please?

BATMAN: I do love that official team logo

 

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND AUGUST 21, 2011:

Jason Baker of Pittsburgh made the drive to Maryland to attend the BALTIMORE COMIC CON this weekend.  Was it worth the ride, Jason?  I think you’d say yes.  It was another great day of activities at the COMIC CON.  I spotted Jason wearing this cool team tee-shirt at one of the afternoon presentations and he was nice enough to allow me to take this photo.gotham rogues Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 027

Jason is wearing a memento of his time spent as an extra on the set of the new BATMAN movie, part of which was filmed in Pittsburgh.  Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, temporarily became the home of the Gotham Rogues football team for filming of an action sequence in which Jason was a crowd member.   The classic Pittsburgh buildings and tenements substituted for the architecture of Gotham City.  I can’t wait to see this film.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

BALTIMORE COMIC-CON: Day One images

 

There was an abundance of interesting panels/presentation, artist exhibits,and creator meet-and-greets in addition to an enormous vendor space crammed with deals on books, movies, clothing and toys.  In spite of the large space it filled up with patrons quickly, in what may be a record-breaking attendance at BALTIMORE COMIC CON today.

GA and BC Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 003 red skull Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 004 Plenty of well-designed costumes for the annual competition were showcased, including lots of favorites like Green Arrow, Black Canary and The Red Skull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indie comics creators Jamar Nicholas, John Gallagher and Rich Faber celebrate the success of their Kickstart campaign to obtain funding for a three-pack of all-ages graphic novels featuring their signature characters for young readers.  They also spear-headed a large boxed-in rectangular area of the convention dedicated to works for kids and art and coloring activities as well.  A large number of equally- minded young adult comics creators partnered with the three, who also host the popular Comic Shop Diner podcast.

 

 

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At left, BC Refugee and aspiring book publisher/author Gary Zenker hears some of the finer points of the trade and gets advice from BOOM! Studios founder and chief executive officer Ross Richie.

At right, BC Refugee and huge fanboy Bill Broomall praises the new DAREDEVIL title from Marvel while a grateful writer Mark Waid welcomes the chance to talk about his current favorite book and the great team of artists he has to work with.  In a very neat touch, Mark had a rubber stamp in Braille that he used to autograph all copies of DAREDEVIL along with his actual signature.

terminator Baltimore Comic Con  August 20, 2011 001

 

My metallic friend (anyone holding a huge gun in my presence automatically becomes a friend) urges one and all to return tomorrow for Day Two of the Baltimore Comic-Con.