Monday, May 28, 2012

Kubert heads Baltimore Comic Con guest list

Baltimore Comic-Con Welcomes Back Joe Kubert! >(from the official press release) BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - May 26, 2012 - The Baltimore Comic-Con is proud to announce the addition of comic legend Joe Kubert to the growing line-up of creators attending this year's show, taking place September 8-9, 2012 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Kubert began his career in 1939 at the age of 13, working as an unofficial apprentice at MLJ Studios (what would eventually become Archie Comics). Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he made a name for himself at DC Comics working on such characters as Hawkman and Sgt. Rock. Aside from his art duties on several books at DC, Kubert also served as the company's Director of Publications from 1967-1976. In addition to being one of the most influential creators who began his career during the Golden Age of Comics, Kubert is also the founder of The Kubert School - a school dedicated to teaching the principles of sequential art and storytelling. Since its opening in 1976, Kubert has taught hundreds of students who have gone on to have successful careers in the comic industry, including his two sons, Andy and Adam. Recently, Kubert contributed a new Sgt. Rock story to the highly-lauded Wednesday Comics (DC Comics) in 2009, as well as drawing the lenticular cover to Craig Yoe's Amazing 3-D Comics in 2011. Along with Andy Kubert, Joe is currently working on DC Comics' highly anticipated Before Watchmen: Nite Owl. Kubert was inducted into the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1997 and received the Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album or Original Work and an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New for Fax from Sarajevo the same year. In addition, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998. He also received the Harvey Awards' Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. "We are absolutely delighted have the legendary Joe Kubert attending our show again this year," said Marc Nathan, show promoter for the Baltimore Comic-Con. "His inspiration and impact on the industry continues to be felt through not only his work, but the work of those who were trained through the Kubert School." In addition to Kubert, other confirmed guests for the show including: Laura & Michael Allred (Madman, iZombie); Brian Bolland (Dial H, Cover Story: The DC Comics Art of Brian Bolland); Greg Capullo (Batman, Spawn); Tommy Castillo (Grimm Fairy Tales); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (Avengers vs. X-Men, Liberty Meadows); Steve Conley (Bloop webcomic www.bloopstree.com); Amanda Conner (Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre); Lar deSouza (Looking For Group, Least I Could Do); Dan Didio (O.M.A.C.); Garth Ennis (The Shadow, Hellblazer, Preacher, The Boys); Rich Faber (Roboy Red); David Finch (Batman: The Dark Knight); John Gallagher (Buzzboy); Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman); Keith Giffen (Superman, O.M.A.C., Green Arrow); Gene Ha (Justice League); Larry Hama (G.I. Joe, Wolverine, The 'Nam); Cully Hamner (Action Comics); Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma, ACT-I-VATE, Trip City); Jamal Igle (KISS, Supergirl, The Ray); J.G. Jones (Wanted, Doc Savage); Barry Kitson (Captain America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four); Scott Kurtz (PvPonline.com); David Mack (Kabuki); Ron Marz (Artifacts, Voodoo); Bob McLeod (DC Comics Presents: Wonder Woman); Mark Morales (Avengers vs. X-Men); Jimmy Palmiotti (All-Star Western); David Petersen (Mouse Guard); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Frank Quitely (All Star Superman, Batman & Robin); John Romita, Jr. (Avengers vs. X-Men); Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge); Stuart Sayger (Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night One-Shot); Walter Simonson (Thor, Legion of Super-Heroes, Avengers); Ryan Sohmer (Looking For Group, Least I Could Do); Scott Snyder (Batman, Severed, Swamp Thing); Brian Stelfreeze (ICE); Karl Story (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Robin); Billy Tucci (A Child Is Born, Shi); Matt Wagner (Tower Chronicles, Mage, Grendel); Mark Waid (Daredevil, Incorruptible, Irredeemable); and Bernie Wrightson (Frankenstein). This year's Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 8-9, 2012. Convention hours are Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. The ceremony and banquet for the Harvey Awards will be held Saturday night, September 8th.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Burning Up With AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Fever (and spoilers)

UNCANNY X-MEN #11  (Marvel, June 2012)  Kieron Gillen, writer.  Greg Land, penciler.  Jay Leisten, inker.  GURU eFX, colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.

          The cover art is what enticed me to pick up this issue.  You can’t beat a good Greg Land cover - - and this is a really good one.  Colossus/Juggernaut and the Red Hulk exchange looks of extreme rage as they head butt and fist bump each other.

uncanny xmen 11

          The contents deliver on the promise of  a great knock-down, drag-out battle between these two.  Land’s illustrations are perfect for this.    His characters are very expressive.  The story is equally evocative.  In between the battle scenes, Gillen gives us an inside look at the current thought processes of several characters.  (Events in UNCANNY X-MEN #11 take place during AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 and #2.)

          Gillen reveals to us why Namor stands with the X-Men and it makes a lot of sense if you understand the character of Namor.  He made his choice because of the choices that Cyclops made.  In his own words - - “this is a man stating the autonomy of his people . . . this is a species of 200 declaring war on the United States of America.”  What follows while we gaze on Land’s interpretation of Cap’s shield taking the full impact of Cyclop’s focused eye beam is a caption of Namor’s thoughts that is so true to Namor that it’s brilliant in its’ simplicity - - - “I admire Scott Summers.  I would have his woman, of course. But that’s a compliment, in its’ own way.”

           It’s also quite appropriate for Gillen to share the thoughts of Colossus/Juggernaut as he prepares for battle with the Red Hulk and struggles internally with his light (restrained and in control = Colossus) and dark (irresponsible and burning with rage = Juggernaut) sides.  In the meantime, Hope wonders why no one understands or trusts her anymore and takes a decisive break/retreat from her protectors.  The decision by Cyclops at the end of the issue to initiate his own “Avengers Protocol” (code words) and make public his own mutant declaration of independence is bold.

          A good issue with one star each for script and art that makes you yearn to see what happens next issue. Yet, at the same time it’s not essential to the main A vs. X storyline and can be skipped if time and/or budgets are more pressing.

RATING FOR UNCANNY X-MEN #11 - - - - - FOUR STARS

UNCANNY X-MEN #12  (Marvel, July 2012)  Kieron Gillen, writer.  Greg Land, penciler.  Jay Leisten, inker.  GURU eFX, colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer. 

uncanny xmen 12

          Here’s another great Land battle cover.  The looks of determination on the faces of Namor and The Thing would be even more effective if it didn’t appear that the Thing was wearing a diaper ( - - maybe FF blue instead of the FF white that was on my copy? Looks like Marvel made a correction to their web page, where I obtained the photo at right.)

          This issue centers around the search for Hope, and the X-Men split into five teams to investigate five different probable locations she may be hiding in.  In the Tabula Rasa refuge an X-Men team runs into an Avengers team, both looking for Hope.  The ensuing battles are entertaining and lusciously depicted by Land.   After a few skirmishes, the X-Men get new info about Hope’s true location and depart.

          For comedic relief there’s some funny banter going back and forth between Namor, Sunspot and Hepzibah - - all flirtation, braggadocio and innuendos.  The Thing provides most of the amusing responses for the Avengers team.

  As much as I enjoyed this, I’m feeling that Gillen is just biding time and making a mild contribution to the A vs. X storyline until he can move on and tell the story he was really planning on. I might come back for that, but I really don’t want to read another issue like #11 and #12 until then

RATING FOR UNCANNY X-MEN #12 - - - - - THREE STARS.

New A 25          New A 26

NEW AVENGERS #25 + #26  (Marvel, June + July 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Mike Deodato & Will Conrad, artists.  Rain Beredo, color art.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters and production.

I highly recommend these two issues solely on the basis of the amazing artwork that you will drool over from the team of Deodato and Conrad.  It’s absolutely fabulous and helps enhance the story by Bendis in a dynamic fashion.  (Also,  based on this story I wouldn’t mind seeing what Bendis could do with a arc or two on the current IRON FIST title.)

Fans of the NEW AVENGERS team may be disappointed to find that none of the team members are present in this storyline.  The only connection to the team is that the story takes place in K’un Lun, the birthplace/training ground of the current Iron Fist and New Avengers member Danny Rand. 

Events in these two issues (and as I assume = the upcoming #27 and #28) take place several centuries ago.  Bendis is establishing a connection between The Phoenix Force and K’un Lun.  I initially thought this was a little bit of a stretch to try and build a semi-mythological foundation around the Phoenix (as if it needed anymore) and wasn’t sure I bought into it.  But, I’m going along with it for the sake of a good story.  It certainly helps that the illustrations are flat-out gorgeous.  I’ve never seen this quality of work from Deodato before.  Wow.  Also,  a knowledgeable employee (Brock) at New Dimension Comics in Cranberry Township, PA informed me that Bendis planted the seeds for this some time ago. 

Master Yu Ti has frequent dream prophecies involving a bird of fire, a girl with crimson hair, and the end of the world.  He finds a woman servant with flaming red hair in the village (an immigrant from the last pilgrimage to Earth) and recruits her to train as an Iron Fist.  Naturally, in addition to the red hair she bears an uncanny (pun) resemblance to Jean Grey.  So, is Bendis implying that the Phoenix Force has always been seeking out a red-haired avatar?  And, this apparently only happens when Earth is visited?  Perhaps this will be explained further in the next issue or so.

Revert back to present day where master Lei Kung consults the ancient manuscripts, finds the references to Phoenix, and wonders why he wasn’t ever told about this.  The explanation is that “the guardians of K’un Lun before us declared the secrets of the Phoenix to be kept until the time of its return.  That time is now.”  Apparently some one (Marvel editorial department) has a bad memory or K’un Lun would have been involved the last time when Jean Grey manifested the Phoenix powers.  So now the current Iron Fist must be “told what he has to do” or “the Earth will fall.”

The smartest man on Earth in that long-ago time, Leonardo Da Vinci, is recruited to help see K’un Lun through the prophecy to its conclusion.  As the training progresses, the girl Fongji (flaming bird) seems to learn how to control and balance both the dragon (Iron Fist) and the bird (Phoenix) powers surging within her.

I hesitate to proclaim these issues as essential to the Avengers VS X-Men saga  but I can’t stop feeling that they are. Obviously, the Earth survived this encounter with the Phoenix Force centuries ago thanks to what happened here.  So this may be the seed or clue to how the current threat may be handled now. So, the upcoming issues of NEW AVENGERS may actually reveal the answer to the conflict.  That settles it - -  consider this necessary reading!

RATING FOR NEW AVENGERS #25 + 26  - - - - FIVE STARS !!!!!

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #10  (Marvel, July 2012)  Jason Aaron, writer.  Chris Bachalo, penciler/colorist.  Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey & Victor Olazaba, inkers.  Chris Eliopoulos, letterer.

Wolverine-and-the-X-Men_10-200x303

     

            It’s a simple cover but I like it a lot.  It’s the image of a menacing Wolverine with extended claws that is revealed in the reflection off Cyclops’ visor that makes it special.  

           Most of the story takes place after the initial Avengers vs. X-Men beachfront battle at Utopia and Hope’s subsequent flight/escape.    Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magick visit Wolverine’s school and hope to change his mind about which side of the fence to stand on.  The banter between Scott and Logan as they stroll together on a (amusingly illustrated) tour of the school is priceless. Reading about the two sides debating back and forth like this is worth the price of admission.  I don’t want to spoil your fun by giving any further details about this.  Wolverine does not change his mind.  However, some others at The School are leaning in the other direction.

          The rest of the story gives more detail on the current inhabitant inside the body of a younger-looking Angel.  Is it Warren with some memory loss, or someone else? - - a real “angel”  perhaps?   This doesn’t get clearly answered --  but that’s the fun of it.  Aaron provides more clues/information but isn’t telling just yet.  Student Genesis also has some identity conflicts and gets lied to in order to alleviate some inner fears.

Next issue the “Death Commandos” from the Shi’ar empire arrive.  I’ll be checking back here next month.

RATING FOR WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #10 - - -FOUR STARS.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Readings from The Bottomless Stack 1: May 14, 2012

 

HIGHER EARTH #1  (Boom!, May 2012 – $1 first issue)  Created and written by Sam Humphries.  Art by Francesco Biagini. Colors by Andrew Crossley.  Letters by Ed Dukeshire.

Written by currently hot creator Sam Humphries (FANBOYS VS. ZOMBIES, OUR LOVE IS REAL) HIGHER EARTH #1 sold out in pre-order one week before it’s release and is already into a second printing.  Inventive and action-driven story-telling.  Bold and imaginative art.  Science-fiction adventure. One dollar first issue! That’s enough to do it for me.  I was impressed with the debut issue.

HigherEarth_01_CVA

In big, bright panels HIGHER EARTH kicks right in on the first page as a padded-uniformed man (soldier?) drops from above into a heap of garbage.  It’s a garbage world, and he’s looking for someone. Her name is Heidi and she survives on this desolate garbage-strewn world by traveling inside a huge armor clad mechanical grizzly bear.  She’s the only character that is actually given a name so far.  I had to learn the man’s name (Rex) by reading the text previews page in the back of the book.  That’s where I also learned that Higher Earth is the central command nexus of an empire of wildly diverse versions of Earth. “Space is dead” and travel between worlds occurs through portals in the sky.  Rex is apparently travelling illegally, as another soldier (fully armored) is tracking him. 

After a series of conflicts, Rex and Heidi escape to “Sunshine Earth 4” , a Moebius-styled world of skyscrapers and flying dirigibles.  This series is off to a great start.

THE HYPERNATURALS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY EDITION  (Boom!, May 2012) Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning.  Art by Brad Walker & Tom Derenick.

There sehypernaturalcoverems to be a trend at BOOM!  Studios to introduce several space-based, cosmic /science-fiction themed series ( HIGHER EARTH, EXTERMINATION, PLANET OF THE APES, etc.).  If  these are as well-done as their other series are, then we science-fiction fans are in for a real treat.  The latest is THE HYPERNATURALS debuting in July.  Here’s a great script team with an impressive track record (ANNIHILATION, CONQUEST, etc. sagas at Marvel) paired up with some equally-adept artists whom they have previously worked with. HYPERNATURALS recalls many great series, including THE AVENGERS, THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, and THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

In a future galactic society, individuals with hyper natural gifts are selected, trained and appointed to an elite team charged with protecting the universe from various threats.  Every member serves a five-year term, with a limit on three consecutive terms (due to stress, etc.).  In the series former team members are called back into service after the current team vanishes.  The FREE COMIC BOOK DAY edition is a prequel to Issue #1, highlights the members of the vanished team and reveals the events that led up to their disappearing while investigating a new deep space threat.  This is definitely a series to keep an eye on and one that I will be following (waiting for the trade edition).   

SAGA  #1  (Image, March 2012)  Written by Brian K. Vaughan.  Art by Fiona Staples.

Brian K. Vaughan moves over to Image where he creates a brand-new space opera series with artist Fiona Staples.  I liked the debut issue, but not enough to want to follow this monthly.  I was lukewarm to SAGA after one read, but it held my attention better on a second reading a month later.  I’m going to hold off and follow some of the critical reviews.  This may be one of those series that is best read in trades, the same way I followed his masterpiece, Y THE LAST MAN.  Considering that Issue #1 is now in its’ third printing, the reception to SAGA appears to be widespread.

JAN120485-01

In a battle that involves several planets and various races, a prison guard falls in love with a rebel captive.   They escape together and bring a new child into the world while on the run.  The first issue introduces them as well as the villains, a ruling race of humanoids with television sets/monitors in place of their heads.  It looks as silly as it sounds, especially a sex scene between two t.v. heads.  I’m sure Vaughan has a message buried in here somewhere.

The book reminds me in a way of the classic MOONSHADOW  (Epic Comics) in it’s light, airy art style and cursive narrative that includes some philosophy in the captions.  The narrative voice also changes without notice - - sometimes even from the thoughts of the new daughter as if in a flashback sequence involving her parents.  I’m keeping an eye on this book. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

AVENGERS / X-MEN: Versus + Round Three + spoilers

 

AVX: VS   #1  of  6  (Marvel, June 2012)

AVX VS 1

As the credits page proclaims, AVX: VS will take fights from the AVENGERS VS X-MEN limited series and “expand them into ALL-OUT SMASH-UPS!”  Every issue will focus on two different  “AWESOME BRAWLING . . . KNOCK-DOWN,DRAG-OUT WHUPPIN”.  The events in this debut issue feature fights that take place during events in AVENGERS VS X-MEN #2.  Those fights are:

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN VS. MAGNETO  - -  Jason Aaron, Writer.  Adam Kubert, art.  Morry Hollowell, colors.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters and production.

I came to this title without any expectations of significant or revealing story content.  I came  with expectations of viewing some good old-fashioned battle action.  I came  anticipating  great art.  I came expecting to have a fun and entertaining read.  My expectations have been met - - especially when the first story is illustrated by the dynamic Adam Kubert.  I like what he did here with some subtle changes to his regular style  -- maybe credit some of that to the rest of the art team.  You like big panels, and action that stretches across two pages?  You’ll be happy you came here.

Without telling too much and spoiling this for you - --  Tony Stark comes to the battle better prepared than Magneto.  Obviously a man in an iron suit should be cautious around a gigantic magnet, right?  Both protagonists reach out to space for some reserve power - - Iron Man via satellite and Magneto in the usual awesome but also exaggerated exhibition of his powers.  Although Magneto gets some new information in doing this and seems to have a slight change of heart or hesitation/reluctance to continue.  This ends with the victor that I expected to win this round.

While reading the AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN PREVIEW/PRELUDE  issue I speculated that the Scarlet Witch might have a prominent role in later events in this series.  There is a small hint in this story that lends credence to my suspicions. 

There are also some interesting and trivial captions throughout both stories with AVX FUN FACTS.  Mostly informative but not extremely useful or important, they add a light touch to the battles and keep the element of fun alive.  In one sequence the caption FUN FACT states that the Utopia Tower that Magento displaces and brings crashing down on Iron Man weighs 170 tons.  A few panels later Iron Man refers to having a 200 ton pile of rubble dropped on him - - - and the next FUN FACT caption refers back to this and states  that “Iron Man likes to exaggerate.”  Ha!- - said comment meshes nicely with his newly-restored/enhanced arrogance/bearing in these stories.

THE THING VS. NAMOR THE SUB-MARINER - - Kathryn Immonen, writer.  Stuart Immonen, pencils.  Wade Von Grawbadger, inks.  Jim Charalampiois, colors. 

Of the two battles here, the first one is my favorite. However,  this is just as much fun and the art is equal to the task.  The FUN FACTS in this story are rather amusing.  More insults get traded back and forth as well.  It ends as I also anticipated.  Hey, I’m 2 for 2 on guesses in this book!

Neither of these battles ends in any of the combatants needing hospitalization; and neither of the losers seem to be immobilized for long.  It just seems like they accepted the defeat.  I suppose if anything major is going to happen, it would have to occur in the main book.  As long as I’ve as entertained in this series as I was with Issue #1, then I can accept that easily.

 

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #3  (Marvel, July 2012)  Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman: story.  Ed Brubaker: script.  John Romita, Jr: pencils.  Scott Hanna: inks.  Laura Martin: colors.  Chris Eliopoulos: letters.  Jim Cheung & Laura Martin: cover art.

A vs X #3

I’m just going to say that even though this is the third book, nobody should be expecting this series to lighten up and coast just yet.  There are a number of significant things that go down in this issue.  I’m surprised and also very happy to see that things aren’t so predictable.  Please keep me guessing, Marvel.  Brubaker takes over the scripts for this issue, and brings his dramatic flair at an appropriate time.

***  YOU GUESSED IT - -  EVEN MORE SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD ***

If the team roster page is any indication,  the odds have now shifted in the X-Men’s favor by a ratio of 24 to 16 - - with Wolverine the lone member straddling the dividing line between the two teams. He’s been with the Avengers so far - - but will that swing the other way after events in this issue?  We’ll see - - and that’s why I read these books.  By the way, Storm is no longer on the fence and has clearly sided with the X-Men while her husband Black Panther fights for the Avengers.  Now that’s a dysfunctional marriage!

While the fights were going on Hope managed to escape, but not before a confrontation that didn’t end well for Wolverine.  When he starts to recover, he is greeted by the news that Cyclops and his team have surrendered to the Avengers!  What?  That won’t last - - this series would be wrapping up much sooner if that holds.   Meanwhile, Cap and Tony have an amusing discussion/debate about what to do next. As it turns out  Logan was right to be suspicious of the surrender. 

This issue revolves around Hope trying to avoid detection/capture by either of the two parties now seriously searching for her  (both the X-Men and the Avengers) and trying to cope with the frequent manifestations of the Phoenix Force within her body (even though the P Force is still not that close to Earth).    There’s a mole supplying information to one side while keeping the other up to date at the same time.

Cap and Logan have a difference in philosophies on how to handle Hope and come to blows over it.  One of them encounters a setback that could suspend their involvement for awhile.  The six page battle (viewed through infrared goggles, apparently) is the best work by Romita this issue.  It could have been a story in the VERSUS book except it’s a bit more serious and with serious consequences in the aftermath of this battle. 

Good issue.  Still happy with this series.  I am enjoying it.  However, it doesn’t even come close to the impact and entertainment value of THE CIVIL WAR  (which I consider a true highpoint for Marvel).  It’s still early so I may still change my mind.  And gladly if it happens.

Books I Read: Marvel's Season One

Marvel's "Season One" books are modernized retellings of their heroes' early days, not a reboot. (More of a "Year One" book than an "Earth One", to use the DC terms.) The stories are about 100 pages (basically a four-issue miniseries) and the books also include a reprint of a recent issue to see if the current interpretation is to your liking, and a code for a digital copy of the book to increase its value.


Fantastic Four Season One: I love the FF so I wanted to love this but emotionally I felt it was pretty flat, which is surprising from writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa who is definitely capable of more. I wasn't a fan of "4", his previous attempt at these characters, but Aguirre-Sacasa recently wrote the winter finale of "Glee" which had some surprisingly well-crafted emotional moments in it. Artist David Marquez is drawing an arc of "Ultimate Spider-Man" starting with #9, and I think his style suits that book much better than this one. I don't dislike the book, I guess, but I'd rather give a new reader some Lee/Kirby or Waid/Weiringo FF. The reprint is Jonathan Hickman's first issue (#570), which has more heart than the rest of this volume combined.

X-Men Season One: On the other hand, this is drop-dead brilliant. One of my favorite books of the year. There's so much water under the bridge that it's easy to forget that "X-Men" started as a teenage drama, but writer Dennis Hopeless remembers and comes up with a take that's like the best "young adult" fiction without crossing over into CW soap opera. Jamie McKelvie's excellent character designs are familiar, but different enough to make you look at old characters with fresh eyes. (I panned some of his early work, but McKelvie has become an amazing designer; his new Captain Marvel costume has inspired artists all over the Internet, and the book hasn't even come out yet!) The reprint is Kieron Gillen's "Uncanny X-Men" #1, which is a terrific comic but so different than the main part of this book that I don't know how new readers will process it.
Daredevil Season One: Wow, this is kind of a mess. Matt's origin is glossed over in a couple of pages in favor of a story about his first few weeks (months?) as Daredevil, which I guess is appropriate for a "Season One", but Matt's portrayed as an indecisive insecure worry-wart which is entirely wrong. Underconfidence has never been Matt's problem. This is the kid who dove in front of the radioactive materials truck, remember? Heck, he was a trained ninja before he even put on a costume. All Matt's greatest failures (Karen's death, his "outing", Shadowland, etc.) are all direct results of his recklessness. Yes, there's some angsty stuff in the early issues (and repeated here) where Matt's in love with Karen Page but doesn't feel he's good enough for her, but he also at that time was the guy who posed as his own twin brother. So, yeah, this didn't work for me at all. There are about a half-dozen villains trotted out and defeated in a couple of pages each, which somehow manages to make both them and Matt seem ineffective, and the plot about the priest and the city councilman involved in shady real estate dealings never quite takes off. (Though points to Antony Johnston for at least attempting some legal drama.) Not to mention that the priest figures out that Matt is DD because of his voice which I don't think we really want to draw attention to how silly this premise is that ALL MASKED SUPERHEROES DEPEND ON? The reprint issue is Mark Waid & Marcos Martin's Daredevil #1, which tells you everything you need to know about Matt in the first couple of pages and is perfect. Go buy Waid's first DD hardcover instead and leave this one alone.

Spider-Man Season One: This team has the hardest job of all, having to retell a story that's been retold dozens of times in multiple media including on TV a few weeks ago and on film a few weeks from now. They don't bring a huge amount of new stuff to the party, but writer Cullen Bunn and artist Neil Edwards do a serviceable job. The extra space gives them room to expand on Peter's fame before Uncle Ben's murder, and to give him time to grow into the power & responsibility lesson afterwards. (As Bunn's script points out, Peter never expected to be powerful, so why should that lesson from Ben have stuck with him above all others?) The first 20 pages of this book were one of Marvel's FCBD offerings, so you can sample for yourself and see if you're intrigued. The reprint is "Avenging Spider-Man" #1, which is a fun and not too continuity-laden choice (but I guess you need to know Spidey's an Avenger now), though after "Avengers" opening weekend I wonder how many people will read it and think the Hulk is colored wrong.

So, I'm about 50/50 on the first batch of "Season One"s with X-Men being a "must buy" and Daredevil being a "must avoid". I'm excited for the next batch, especially Dr. Strange (by Greg Pak & Emma Rios), but also Ant-Man (by Tom DeFalco & Horacio Dominguez) and The Hulk (by Fred Van Lente & Tom Fowler).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

FLASH BULLETIN! Reported sighting of BC Refugees in Delaware

 

Banished long ago from their regular haunts in Downingtown PA, the BC Refugees scattered to various locales but from time to time they show up in small groups to look for nests and gather more bedding.  Several of them were sighted on Saturday, May 5 in places where you may expect to find them - - haunting their favorite comic shops in the area - - - CAPTAIN BLUE HEN in Newark DE  and THE COMIC BOOK SHOP in Wilmington, DE . . . . . . . .

outside activity          CBS grand re-opening

Both locations were “hopping” all day Saturday so if you missed the sighting it is probably because the BC Refugees have been known to blend in with the crowd.   BC Mike was all over CBH most of the day but was spotted at an impromptu meeting at CBS with BC Jeff and Bill.  BCs Gary (Flash) and Seth (Kid Flash) were in and out early, while Captain Aaron was needed to protect the universe (so he couldn’t get off work).  BC Dan was on special assignment - - so special we don’t have any more details. BC Shane was stranded on Manhattan Island but luckily managed to find a good spot to be in.

Tom Zahler           Neil up close

Among the many guest artists at CBH, Tom Zahler (above left) and Neil Vokes (above right) were the most jovial, and deservedly so.  Tom has a number of projects (in addition to more LOVE AND CAPES)  for 2012 and FLESH AND BLOOD VOLUME 2 debuts later this month with more of Neil’s horrific (in a good way)  art.   A source at CBH told me they had an unofficial count topping 2,000 visitors for FCBD 2012, their biggest audience ever as well as their best sales day ever. 

artist meet and greet     baloon popeye's fave books

CBS also had an artist meet-and-greet area (above left) for sketches, etc. as well as a special appearance by the Balloon Guy.  Balloon Popeye helped draw attention to some of his favorite books.   In a wise move, CBS scheduled their grand re-opening (new location) on FCBD and also enjoyed record crowds and great sales.    The BC Refugees were very encouraged to see young people in attendance (from pre-school through junior and high school plus some college students).  They (or their parents) were buying books.  Hooray for comics and their contribution to literacy! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

FCBD 2012: The Comic Book Shop @ComicBookShopDE

While we're talking about Free Comic Book Day festivities at our favorite places, let me mention that my friends at The Comic Book Shop of Wilmington DE will be having their official grand reopening on that day in a new location! After 22 years in a small strip mall The Comic Book Shop has moved a couple of blocks north to the Plaza III shopping center and a much bigger & brighter location. Events include lots of sale prices, Khoi Pham and Adam Wilson signing and sketching, plus Star Wars & Ghostbusters characters and the folks from the Paperkeg podcast. Sale details and the schedule of events are available on their web site.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

FCBD graphic novel creators - - meet and greet

 

Both of these creators will be among the many artist guests at the Free Comic Book Day celebration at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark DE this Saturday.  Here is a brief review of their work:

Geoffrey Canada’s  FIST STICK KNIFE GUN  A Personal History Of Violence (Beacon Press)  A True Story In Black And White  adapted by Jamar Nicholas

          Originally published in book form in 1995, FIST STICK KNIFE GUN is auto-biographical and relates the grim realities of urban violence.  It is the personal story of a young Geoffrey Canada, one of four boys being raised by a single parent (mother) in a rough South Bronx neighborhood in the late 1950’s.  At the early age of four, a young and impressionable Canada gets a lesson in street survival and begins to learn what it takes to grow up on the streets and how to avoid becoming a constant victim of bullying, abuse and violence.  It is a sad and powerful story with a strong message and warning at its center.

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          Jamar Nicholas is the Philadelphia-based artist and educator who took FIST STICK KNIFE GUN and adapted it in 2010 for a graphic novel treatment.  Taking this disturbing narrative as a template and illustrating the pivotal events of the novel adds even more impact and takes this work to a higher level.  It will be impossible for most readers to finish this book and not be a little disturbed or uncomfortable from watching the transformation from cooperative passivism to confrontational activism that occurs as the young man develops, grows older, and forms deep-set values, morals and principles  - - all driven by a need to survive and avoid beatings.

          Jamar Nicholas adeptly conveys the severity of this survival tale in blood-less black and white,  avoiding any elaborate gory details yet still conveying the impact of the constant fights through the body language and painful expressions of the characters.  The art style employed is similar to that found in many graphic novels aimed at a younger audience, and will be easy for those readers to follow.  Through use of dark lines, gray tones and shadows the grimness of the situation is made all too clear.  Nicholas has a nice method of using facial expressions to clearly depict the emotions occurring without resorting to the exaggerated styles found in many comics for younger readers.   I am very impressed how he uses body language and changing facial expressions to show the progress/development of the Geoffrey Canada main character.  We can see in these changes how a young Geoffrey transformed  from an uncomfortable and cautious introduction to the “fight club” to a comfortable and confident protagonist and then to an arrogant and confrontational teenager.

          When Canada finally begins to carry a gun around in the early 1970’s he takes stock of his situation and makes a key decision that changed his life and direction.  Today he is the founder and director of the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The warning/message of the story is  detailed further in a very moving written epilogue by Canada at the end of the novel.

          Despite the controversial content of this graphic novel, it deserves a spot in every school library and public library.  By adapting FIST STICK KNIFE GUN to a graphic novel format Nicholas has made it more accessible and attractive for younger readers.  The message is clearly stated and not likely to be misconstrued by youthful readers.  Even better, parents should read it as well so a family discussion can occur.

ROBOY RED NUTS & BOLTS  (Red Giant LLC)  Created, Written & Illustrated by Rich Faber and John Gallagher

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          This graphic novel came about as one of the positive results of Kickstarter,  an internet fund-raising campaign to obtain printing costs for ROBOY RED, John Gallagher’s BUZZBOY and the soon to be released LEON by Jamar Nicholas.

         ROBOY RED NUTS & BOLTS is a very attractive and colorful  presentation that should appeal to any beginning young comics reader who want to move beyond stories featuring licensed properties into tales of original characters.  ROBOY RED is a popular cartoon character who (through the magic of some creators at the Roboy Red theme park ) is brought to life as a “nuts and bolts” boy robot.   He escapes from this and tries to start a new life with the help of some young friends.    His adventures involve stopping the bad intentions of some very colorful villains and are written and illustrated in a style that evokes classic comics from a simpler, more innocent time - - riddled with funny situations, silly puns, and asides to nostalgic figures and icons of the past.

          It’s a great introduction to comics and super-heroes for the younger reader and serves a dual purpose as an introduction to comic book creating to help inspire young people to try their own hand at this.  The back of the book has several well-written and illustrated insights into the creation and development of Roboy Red as well as a preliminary guide to drawing and scripting a comic book.

          Both Faber and Gallagher are founding members of Kids Love Comics, an organization promoting literacy and fun through comics and graphics novels.  Along with Jamar Nichols they host the Comic Book Diner, a podcast about the business and art of making comics and graphic novels.