Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Change in Scenery

Lee is on a secret mission so he left this for me to post.

By Lee

Change is the spice of life. It really is! From the time you are little to now it’s all about change. There’s the change when go from riding a tricycle to riding a bike. The first time you change from riding IN THE car to DRIVING the car. The first day of school. The first day of college. The first apartment when you live on your own. It’s all about change.

As you get older, change comes in smaller doses. There’s big change such as getting married and having kids but after that it’s all small. Mostly it’s small because you’re dealing with all the changes your children are going through. And, as all parents know, that’s more than enough for everyone.

Personally, I thrive on change. When I was little my parents moved a lot so we were always changing houses and schools and friends. When I got older I was always changing jobs and looking for new things. Now that the kids are here I need to be somewhat more stable so change is less frequent. But because I still crave change, it means I need to look in little places for it. To that end, I try to change some little thing every week. This weeks change… the stall I use in the bathrooms at work.

To be frank, changing stalls in the bathroom is borderline “big” change. You have to understand I have been using Stall #1 for over three years so this isn’t a change to be taken lightly. I mean there are three stalls, always have been, always will be but stall #1 is really the “throne” among “thrones”. You see stall #1 is closest to the door and, whether real or imagined is slightly bigger than stall #2 or #3.

So the question becomes, should I now occupy Stall #2 or Stall #3. Now, stall #2 is of course the middle stall and that has certain advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that you are the center of attention and it makes it be easy to identify (by shoes) who sits down next to you. Now this is good if you want to make conversation, although talking is a no-no in the men’s room. But, knowing who’s been making what noises in the bathroom could always come in handy later. Gossip, no matter how noisy and messy, is always useful.

One of the disadvantages of stall #2 is you know who is sitting next to you. If they are having a good day it’s no big deal but what if it’s a problem day. I really don’t want to be in the stall next to my boss as he’s hhhheeeeeaaaaaavvvviiiiinnnggggg and gggggrrrrrruuuuunnnnnntttttiinnnngggggg away with little beads of sweat on his forehead. I just don’t need that. What if he asks me for a square????? This doesn’t even begin to address the issue if there’s a “full house” and I’m the middle man. Can you imagine the competition if there’s a grunter on the right and a gasper on the left? I would have to create my own “action sound” just to be able to sit there.

Obviously, Stall #3 comes with its own pluses and minuses. On the plus side is the fact that it’s used less often than Stall #1 so I don’t have to worry about “hot seating” if you will. Or any leftover odors, for that matter. And, Stall #3 is almost always open so you don’t have to wait for an opening either.

But, on the downside, Stall #3 is farthest from the light. Which means that Stall #3 is a little darker and feels a little smaller than all the other stalls. I don’t need lots of room while I’m sitting down for a private moment but neither do I want to be all squished up. The dark thing is kind of unsettling too. I’ve seen enough monster movies in my day to know the guy in the dark and grungy stall always gets it first. And, to be honest, I really don’t want some algae monster growing around the bowl reaching up and giving my buttock a tweak.

As you can see, I was in quite the dilemma. Finally I decided to go to the second floor and use Stall #1 in their bathroom. Sometimes, it’s best to keep the change small.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

It has been a funny couple of weeks with no books being major producing an absolute number one book like some weeks do. Still a lot of really good issues of series came out and a very enjoyable week’s worth of reading. While I still get a ridiculous number of books the recently culling of about 20 titles has enhanced my enjoyment immensely. I have not felt like I had many comics that I was forcing myself to read because I picked up the comic for some convoluted rationalization.

Batman #675 - Writer Grant Morrison, Pencils Ryan Benjamin, Inks Saleem Crawford, Colors Guy Major Morrison has hit his stride with Batman. He brings back the man with ten eyes villain from the silver age (a great Neal Adams cover on that story) and he is now the nine eyed man as he is missing a finger. He appears as a terrorist coming to kidnap Bruce's date of that evening. She has just dressed him down as she is tired of his disappearances and she senses a dark side that he will not reveal. The kidnappers grab her and Bruce and are drag them off into the kitchen. At the same time Dick and Tim are out taking out some criminals and discussing Bruce, Tim is worried that something is wrong. We also cut to Talia, Damien and Merlin as she is also concerned about Bruce. The story ends with Bruce beating the crap out of the bad guy as Bruce and his date realizes that Bruce is Batman. Reminded me a lot of the whole relationship with Silver St. Cloud, but Morrison is probably taking even further then Englehart would ever have been allowed when he was doing his story with Marshall Rogers (side note that story needs to reprinted as a high quality hard cover and dedicated to Marshall Rogers). Ryan Benjamin does a very good job with this story, but it is not in Tony Daniel's class yet. So I missed Tony, but feel Ryan's work is still very good. This is the issue before Batman R.I.P. begins and what a great set-up. More and more Morrison's run on Batman is starting to stand out as one of the great runs on this character.
Northlanders #5 – Writer Brian Wood, Art David Gianfelice, Colors David McCaig. This book is getting better and better. This issue we get the back story on Sven and his life. As a young boy while his father was away his home was attacked and he did not grab a sword to defend his mother. He was only about eight and would have been killed, but his mother who was raped calls her son out as a coward. She tells him he should have died defending the house and that he will never be a man. He rejects the Viking's philosophy and runs away from home and is promptly captured and made a slave rowing a ship. Eventually he makes it to Constantinople and is sold off to a new master and falls in love with his master's daughter. A few years later his master is killed and he saves the daughter (Zoe) from the assassins and she takes over the house. They both grow up and are lovers and friends, but never marry. After a point in time Sven decides he needs to go home, although rich due to Zoe's fortune and living well he needs to go home. We cut back to the present and see Sven is committing to avenging Zoe's death at his Uncle's hands (which occurred last issue) and is now willing to die for that cause. This gives the book a great emotional content and sets up the battle to come. Instead of it being a pointless battle, you know why Sven will do anything now. This was an excellent issue in a series that is getting better with each issue.
Thor #8 – Writer J. Michael Straczynski, Pencils Marko Djurdjevic, Inks Danny Miki and Crimelab Studios, Colors Laura Martin. Thor has become such a wonderful series, that I can’t believe how bored I was with the first three issues. Instead of nothing happening, now the book is full of events and moving the story forward. This issue Thor and Odin come to an understanding of their relationship and Odin passes the mantle of leadership to his son. Thor comes to the conclusion that Sif is lost to him forever, yet we find that she is trapped inside an old woman dying of cancer. At the same time Don Blake and Jane Foster met again (as Jane is unknowingly the doctor to Sif). We have Thor as the leader of Asgard, Don Blake back in continuity and seemly a different yet joined entity with Thor, the evil machinations of Loki (as it appears she is behind Sif being trapped inside the old woman and not being released as the rest of Thor’s people were when he called them back). The art by Marko Djurdjevic is great work, heavily towards the realistic side and is only a notch below the John Cassady class. I hope JLM stays on this title for a long time.
Mighty Avengers #12 – Writer Brian Bendis, Art Alex Maleev, Colors Matt Hollingsworth. This issue of Nick Fury (it was called Mighty Avengers, but it was a Nick Fury comic) was terrific and since I just read the Secret Wars trade it worked even better for me. We finally find out where Nick Fury has been for all of this time. He knew during Secret Wars he had crossed a line and needed to disappear, as he did he started to realize some things were not right. A person who appears to be the Countess is with him, but he follows her and finds out she is an enemy. Nick kills her and finds out she is a skrull. Since then Nick has been a shadow pulling together information on who might be a skrull, Nick plans to be ready when the sh*t hits the fan. Bendis is at his best with a solo character and more of a set-up story then an action/adventure or group book. This story plays well as one man versus a world that will not believe him. Alex Maleev’s art was superb, Nick had that world weary, yet determined look about him that struck just the right chord. It has to be great as a writer to see your vision realized in such an exceptional manner. I loved seeing Nick Fury come back into prominence and in a very cool fashion.
Fables #72 – Writer Bill Willingham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Leialoha, Colors Lee Loughridge. How can you not enjoy an issue where we get to see Cindy (Cinderella) go so bada** on Hansel. Hansel leaves Cindy and tells a henchman to shot her once they are fifteen minutes out and then he leaves with Pinocchio. Cindy escapes and then grabs a huge construction truck to crash into Hans get away car. Then since she can’t kill him as too many Mundy’s believe in him, she shots out his kneecaps. The action continues from there and ultimately Pinocchio gets to Fabletown. Next issue we start to see what has been happening with the war. I really love this series and feel this two issue spy saga that was fast paced and loaded with action was a perfect antidote to the last arc, that while well done was overly long and a little drawn out.
Fall of Cthulhu #11 – Writer Michael Alan Nelson, Pencils Matt Santolouco, Inks Andre Coelho, Colors Cris Peter & Arthur Fujita. This is a truly creepy book. So many horror stories are total posers as the horror never feels real enough or it is all classic horror movie set-up. It is even more difficult with a comic to get that creepy vibe into it as it is static and you have no sound. This book manages to do it almost ever issue out and it is often both graphic and subtle in what they accomplish. This issue we start a new story arc and it begins with what appears to be a vagrant girl being picked up and arrested. As the small town sheriff tries to figure out her story they get a call about the home she was found in. The people have been killed and immediately the girl freaks and begins to draws strange symbols in the dust around her and tells the sheriff they are all dead. He goes to investigate and finds horribly mutilated bodies. When he gets back to his office he finds more death and destruction and the girl still locked in her cell inside the circle saying “I told you we’re all going to die”. If you let yourself into the story you can really get a true horror feel out of it and you are right with the sheriff wandering what the F#%@ is going on and trying to hold back your terror.
Superman Batman #47 – Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Pencils Shane Davis, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Alex Sinclair. It was another good issue for this arc involving Superman and Batman ridding the world of Kryptonite. This issue they find out another cache is in the middle of the United States and the US government is behind it. As they are taking it apart a group of Kryptonite powered US soldiers appears and attack Superman and take down Batman. Batman is taken captive and being interrogated by Amanda Waller, who states that there is no way the government can sit back and trust Superman to always do what they deem to be right. The story ends with Batman still a captive and Superman having barely beaten back the governments team, when Amanda unleashes “All American Boy” whom is a Doomsday clone with Kryptonite for his bone weapons. Shane Davis is an artist who is really on the rise and I would hope to see him given a high profile series or mini-series to do in the near future. Overall this has been the best arc since this series was launched.
Justice League of America #20 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Art Ethan Van Sciver, Colors Brian Miller (Hi-Fi). What a great issue of JLA, possibly the best issue since the book has re-launched. A lot of the credit has to go to Ethan Van Sciver. His work has become reminiscent of Brain Bolland and that is a high compliment indeed from me as I love Bolland’s work. The one page panel when Wonder Woman is lowing the plane to the ground is just beautiful. The story was also well done as it focused on the Flash and his reluctance to really sign up for the JLA again as he is a lot of other responsibilities now. As Wally and Diana talk over things, they respond to an emergency together, Wally realizes he has to put in the time for the JLA. Well written and great art, what the JLA should be all the time.
Dynamo 5 #12 – Writer Jay Faerber, Art Mahmud Asrar, Colors Ron Riley. This was another great issue. In the span of 12 issues this book has jumped up to be one of the best group books on the market. This issue we see the group have to break into their own headquarters to save Maddie and Hector’s Mom from bad guys who have taken over their headquarters. Since their headquarters are underwater by a dock they come in though a warehouse entrance, via underwater and with the teleporter. This series has great super hero action/adventure, wonderful characterization and just a joy to read. This book generates a lot of the same type of vibe the early silver age books like X-Men and Fantastic Four did when they first started, but have the advantage of being written in a more modern style. Asrar’s art work is very good and has gotten better, but I really think he would be helped by a strong inker as I believe that he needs the help at this point and we could maybe see this book on a monthly schedule if they added an inker.
Death of the New Gods #8 (of 8) – Story and Pencils Jim Starlin, Inks Art Thibery, Colors Jeromy Cox. This series ended very well. It was a bit heavy on the explanation of everything, but it was well done. It sort of lead into the end battle between Orion and Darkseid that was in Countdown #2. Ultimately we have seen that all of the New Gods have died and the Source wants to make a fifth world and try again. We also see that the Source crashed Apokolips and New Genesis together and made it one world. The Source’s results still looks like two different worlds, just on the same planet. How all of this feeds into Final Crisis is beyond me. I think what I enjoyed the most was Starlin’s art work and his use of Superman as almost a bystander this time since his power was nothing compared to the Source and Darkseid’s new power level. I think with an extra issue or two this could have been the big lead-in to Final Crisis and DC should have canned Countdown.
Fallen Angel #26 – Writer Peter David, Artist/Colors J.K. Woodward, Color Assist John Hunt. This was a great issue and threw the status quo wide open. I love the risks that I’m seeing more and more creators taking with their characters and creations. Lord Moloch has become the new Magistrate of Bete Noire. He has decapitated Malachi and beaten the crap out of anyone else. Angel takes Malachi’s head and draws out his last breath and uses it to power herself up to an incredible level. She knocks Lord Moloch out of his tower and destroys the tower. She then takes her son Jude (the former Magistrate) and Mariah and leaves Bete Noire. Lord Moloch is now the Magistrate with no one really able to oppose him and Angel knows that while she lost the beginning of the war, she needs to retake to city or our world won’t be worth living in. A real shake up of the structure of the book and the type of stories we will be seeing. In my opinion David has reinvigorated this book and will have me looking forward each month’s issue. JK Woodward owns the look of this book and has done a great job as artist on most of the IDW issues.
Birds of Prey #117 – Writer Sean McKeever, Pencils Nikola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood, Colors Hi-Fi. I did not check, but this must have been Sean McKeever’s swan song on this book, which while it was a short run, was well done. In fact I believe Sean’s work on this series was better then what he has been doing on Teen Titans. At least with Countdown over a fair number of writers who were losing time to working on that train wreck have a lot more free time. It was a good issue and had plenty of action, adventure and plot points resolved, but it was also rushed to clear the tables for the next writer. I thought the plot was good enough that Sean should have just passed on his outline and Tony Bedard could have executed against it well enough. In many ways this series brings out the best on whomever is working on it and it has to be a very surprising series for DC to have lasted 117 so far.
Neozoic #4 – Writer Paul Ens, Art J. Korim, Colors Jessie Lam. I’m an unabashed fan of this series and I have no problem singing this book’s praises, especially when each issue just ups the ante a little bit more. This issue the dinosaurs are over running the city, the PDL is doing there best to save the day, the Talpids have captured the king and his family and then things get worse. Lilli’s sister is killed by a dinosaur and Lilli and Claw are fighting over the Talpid child that Lilli saved. The child seems to be the cause of the problem and as Claw goes to kill the child Lilli pushes him away and he falls into a hole and appears to be dead. The issue ends as Lilli gives the child to Pax to take to safety and it appears all of the PDL have been taken out by the Talpid’s attacking the city. A ton of things happening and a lot of action/adventure, just a fast reading, breakneck pace issue that was great. I do have a problem with this issue and that is the dark almost orange hue tone that seemed to be layered over each page as if we were looking at the book through a light orange coated lens. It may represent the atmosphere or something, but I thought it muted an otherwise nicely drawn and colored book.
Space Doubles #3 – I really have enjoyed this series and a detailed review of this issue can be seen
here. The bad news is that we will not see issue #4 and #5, due to sales, the GREAT news is that we should see a trade that contains all ten stories from the series. I hate it when as series this good does not generate enough sales, but go out and BUY THE TRADE and ORDER IT FROM YOUR STORE.
Wormwood Gentleman Corpse #12 Calamari Rising #4 (of 4) – Story and Art Ben Templesmith – Ben Templesmith continues to produce funny and outrageous stories with Wormwood. This last arc had a few weak spots but the insane ending made up for it. I’m not sure how many more story lines this concepts has left in it, but I think one story arc a year is enough as I want to see Ben’s other projects hit the stands also. The dimensional hopping Elvis was priceless and the redneck fairy dimension Elvis was a real gem. As always not for the faint of heart, but humorous and often LOL material.
Secret History of The Authority Hawksmoor #2 (of 6) – Writer Mike Costa, Art Fiona Staples. This series is coming together very well. The story is out of Jack’s past and he is in San Francisco and is having trouble with parts of the city not speaking to him. Apparently San Fran and Jack have had a difficult relationship. As he is investigating a murder he meets a young girl who is a ninth generation mixed breed human/kherubim and has powers. The rest of the story involves Jack trying to figure out what is wrong, having a run in with some super powered terrorist types and getting his a## kicked. He ends end in the girl’s apartment and was making out with her as we cut away and see someone is spying on him. The art work by Fiona Staples has a light line and occasionally sketchy quality to it and is very appealing. This is a very good mini-series so far.
Shadowpact #24 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Art Phil Winslade, Colors Mike Atiyeh. This is the penultimate issue of Shadowpact as the three Shadowpacts ban together to try and stop the Sun King. It was a great issue where the three teams from 100 years past, today and 100 years in the future join forces to stop the Sun King who has been the background menace for a long time. The set-up for the next issue is when we see Dan Cassidy has put on his Blue Devil armor (as he is no longer an actual Blue Devil) and confronts his brother, as the Shadowpacts are stopping the Sun King. I have a feeling a few lives will be lost in this battle, but I hope Shadowpact is left in tact so they can be used in other stories down the road.
Tales from Wonderland Queen of Hearts #1- Writer Joe Brusha, Art Daniel Leister, Colors Nei Ruffino. This was a solid issue and a nice addition to the Wonderland material. Not only do we get the origin of the Queen of Hearts, but we learn a little bit about the Wonderland dimension itself as part of the back story. The summary is a scientist accidentally discovers a portal to another world. He uses a mirror frame to disguise the portal. He throws a rabbit and a cat into the portal to see if they return. Later at a party he leaves his door open and twin girls who were visiting fell into the mirror and were ripped apart and joined together to form the Queen of Hearts. The scientist son also went in the portal and the scientist is going to follow and we shall learn who they become most likely in the next one shot. This builds on who populates Wonderland, but it still leaves the mystery of what is this dimension to be explored. This was a nice job on expanding on what has been the best work from Zenescope. Also the art by Daniel Leister was well done and I’m enjoying his work more and more. The Wonderland spin-off has been vastly superior to its parent book Grimm Fairy Tales.
Checkmate #25 – Writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, Pencils Joe Bennett, Inks Jack Jadson, Colors Santiago Arcas. The introduction of the Rooks, the end of the Kobra story line and the end of Greg Rucka’s run on Checkmate for now (I have no information, I just know that you never know what might happen in the future). This was a nice story as we see that the Rooks are the heavy hitters for Checkmate and are a last resort type option as they do not take prisoners. At the same time the rooks are unleashed to stop the baby factory, the JLA is stopping the unleashing of several million sleeper agents. What I really enjoyed is just when you are sure the rooks are going to kill the newborn children, we find out Checkmate is committed to trying to save them instead. A sappy fell good ending, that was better then the alternative.
Ultimate Spider-Man #121 - Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Stuart Immonen, Inks Wade von Grawbadger, Colors Justin Ponsor. After a couple of months of what I felt were less then impressive efforts we got a great one and done episode. When Bendis is just focused on Peter Parker and some supporting cast members his books always read better. For the most part Bendis never gets the "voices" for many of his characters in group super hero books. This issue Peter and Kitty have to turn in the "baby" they had as a class assignment and the baby is broken and burnt. Peter then tells the tale of how he is at the daily bugle and Omega Red attacks the place and that is how the baby got destroyed. Of course he leaves out how he saved the day as Spider-Man. Great high school stuff, great action and some fun characterization brought this book back into my good graces. Even Stuart Immonen's art looked better and less rushed, although there was one panel with Peter and Mary Jane where I had to look twice as Peter looked prettier then MJ, but that is a very minor quibble.
Sheena Trail of the Mapinguari - Writer Steven E. deSouza, Art Viicenc Villagrasa, Colors Elizabeth John. This was a nice little one and done 48 page tale of Sheena. The mini-series has given us a status quo for Sheena that she lives both as Rachel Cardwell and Sheena of the Jungle to act as the protector of the forest. This issue a mythological creature is used as a front by a group of people to try and take over some land in the jungle. Sheena's friend Bob Kellerman and enemy Martin Ransom are all caught up in the scheme of things. Ultimately Sheena's saves the day, destroys the bad developers and finds out the creature actually exists. It was a solid and enjoyable yarn that also advanced all of the characters. Sheena is shown to be cold blooded and calculating by nature when she needs to be and also knows that Bob Kellerman has more then a friendship interest in her. Bob is shown to be more of a stand up guy and not the slightly helpless wimp that his role might make you think he is. Martin Ransom is shown to be slowly coming around to understanding and respecting Sheena's abilities and I think down the road he probably wants her also. Sheena as a series is also earning my respect bit by bit as this story had more depth then before and the art work was solid and did not stray to the good girl style, but had a more realistic bent to it.
1001 Arabian Nights The Adventures of Sinbad #0 – Story Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco and Dan Wickline, Writer Dan Wickline, Art Guy Vasquez, Colors Garry Henderson. This was a 99 cent promo issue to give us a taste of the series to come. On one hand it was a nice job giving us an 11 page prequel that adds some back story to the regular series and at the same time does not hurt you if you skipped the zero book. We also got some preview pages of the regular series and this was important as the regular series artist with a more dramatic style then the zero issue artist and I believe was better for the series, so without that the zero issue might actually work against generating readers. The other hand is Radical Comics is giving us a full 22 page issue to launch two series and I think a one dollar #1 issue would have been a better enticement to draw in more people. Still the actual story was well done as we find out Sinbad is a pirate, hero, thief and womanizer depending on whom you ask and now has a crew of differently skilled people as his crew for this latest adventure.
Uncanny X-Men #497 РWriter Ed Brubaker, Art Mike Choi, Colors Sonia Oback. This issue was a middle chapter whereby the two story lines were both advanced, but absolutely nothing was resolved. I often yearn for the days when continuing series has sub-plots running that were resolved even if nothing much else was going on. This issue we see Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler get captured by some giant Russian robots (that cost more then their economy could afford). We also see Scott and Emma try to find out who is behind San Francisco being changed into a groovy hippie world. The hippie world is so clich̩ ridden as to be ridiculous, but since it is a mind control thing, it can be forgiven as being a person view of that time and not actually representing that time frame.
Spirit #16 #16 Writers Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, Art Paul Smith, Color Lee Loughridge. The new team on this book seems to be getting into the groove and I have to admit that I’m also slowly adjusting to their take on the character. The Spirit is being played as more of a light-hearted book with the Spirit being kind of a laissez-faire type of hero. In this issue, a movie star is killed and the Spirit goes under cover and ends up accidentally becoming the stand-in for a Zorro character. As he investigates, he feeds numerous leads to Commissioner Doyle. Finally the Spirit cracks the case and finds out that the star was killed on accident and it was a minor bit player who should have been killed instead. The Spirit’s leads got Doyle in trouble, so even though he solved the case Doyle is running after the Spirit grumbling about his “help”. Cooke’s Spirit was lighter in tone but still had a dramatic edge. Aragones/Evanier’s version is more comic in tone and has no dramatic edge. Paul Smith’s artwork is well done and his story telling abilities are top notch, but the style he uses is more of a cartoon style. He maintains the fluidness of his old X-Men days, but not the more realistic style that he had for that work. I’m probably saying it wrong, but Smith’s work is still great, just different, but suiting the tone of the book perfectly. I’m still just not sure if this portrayal of the Spirit is one that is appealing to me, but it is slowly winning me over.
X-Men First Class #11 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Nick Dragotta, Colors Val Staples. This was my least favorite issue in this series to date. It was all pure fun with “The Continuiteens” as Jeff Parker had an issue indulging a pure humor whim of his (I guess). It was about a group of teens who were acting as guardians of Marvel continuity and enlisted the help of the X-Men to set things right. It was a lot of fun and very light hearted, just not as good as what has been going on in this book. It reminded me of some of Dan Slott’s work when She-Hulk was a good title, just not what I have come to expect from this series.
Countdown to Final Crisis #1 – Head Writer Paul Dini, Keith Giffen Story Consultant, Pencils Tom Derencik, Inks Wayne Faucher, Colors Pete Pantazis. Talk about ending with a whimper. The last issue of this series was at least consistent with the rest of the series, pretty much a waste of space. It capped the series about nothing with nothing. My favorite nothing bit was the “Challengers” going to monitor central and telling them they will be watching them. The group of four was Ray Palmer Atom, Donna Troy, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Forager the bug girl. This is a group sure to scare ultra powerful beings, what a joke. Thankfully Donna has a life in the new Titans book and Kyle is busy in the GL Corps.

That wraps up this week and I’m looking forward to tomorrow to pick up the Adam Strange archives and what appears to be another strong week of titles. On a side note I’m happy to see the Orioles are at least playing well if not outright competitive. I don’t think they are winning anything this year, but I think it will be more fun to see them grow over the course of the year. As for the Ravens the first two draft choices were not what I would call great, but only time will tell.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What I’m Getting Wednesday

The five week month comes to a close on what looks to be a strong week of comics. We have a new publisher entering the market with two $1 number ones, DC Universe Zero and the last of the silver age Adam Strange material in an Archive edition and plenty of other great books. The market share report from this remote corner of the comic book world is DC with 43% (13 items), Independents with 40% (12 items) and last Marvel at 17% (5 items). Plus I may pick up Glamourpuss by Dave Sim and an action figure of Darkseid and Orion could make it to my office (where most of my action figures now reside).

Action Comics #864 – Superman’s life has been very eventful lately and this issue we are supposed to see if Superman can generate a personal life. It is always a tough balance for writers to give us enough of a hero’s personal life and also tell the super hero adventures. It is even harder given the big scope stories most writers like to tell. Many books have abandoned even giving a hero a personal life.

Adam Strange Archives Volume 3 – I’m very happy to see the last of the silver age run of Adam Strange finally come out as an Archive edition. This is some of the best silver age material out there and I believe highly underrated at the time (but who knows as fandom did not exist like it does today). Adam was always known as the thinking man’s heroes and I miss this type of series, even Adam’s own stuff today never even touches these stories.

Blue Beetle #26 – I’m going in with some serious reservations about paying $3.50 for a book that is Spanish. I understood the premise and the idea behind the book, but to add the script in English at the end of the book is even worse. I do not want to have to flip back and forth so I can read what the heck I just paid for.

DC Universe Zero – From anger to joy in 1 second flat. I hate paying $3.50 and not being able to read a book, but 50 cents for Johns, Morrison, George Perez and others to set up what is happening in the DCU and give us hints of things to come. I wish DC would do something like this every year regardless of whether a big cross-over event was coming or not.

Green Lantern #30 – The second part in the updating and revamping of Hal’s origin. Part 1 was well done and I enjoyed how Johns is putting out a linear story of Hal’s past well before he become GL. John’s view of Hal’s past has had flashbacks and such here and there but this is a solid updating. As with Oliver Queen’s recent updating of his origin, nothing essential is being changed, but they are giving us a more detailed view of who the hero is and modernizing it.

Jack of Fables #22 – Of all the books coming out this week this has to be the least anticipated one. I thought that the charm of the series was that Jack never won, but somehow my interest in this series has dropped off of late. I’m not sure if it is the addition of the “other Jack” or just an overly complex plot on a book that needs to be less involved.

JSA Classified #37– This series is coming to an end, which is a shame because the JSA has so many members who do not have their own books that we need a place to see more about the individual heroes. Of course this series should have been more about year one views on every member, but it ended up being a series of random adventures of these characters.

Legion of Super-Heroes #41 – In addition to this Legion group I have been re-reading the Zero Hour Legion and I have to say that I have enjoyed each incarnation of the Legion of Super Heroes. The Legion has to be one of my all time favorite groups and Jim Shooter’s take on this group has been well done so far.

Showcase Challengers of Unknown Volume #2 – I believe we get close to the sixties time frame when DC started to take all of their non-powered groups and tried to make them more into a super-hero concept. Challengers were never pushed as far as the Blackhawk series but it still got pretty wild, especially the death of Red. This volume is in between the time of Kirby and that era. This is the timeframe that I have the least familiarity with, so it should be interesting.

Superman Batman Torment Hard Cover – I do not like the six issue hard cover material for the most part, but since I have been buying certain arcs that I wanted to keep in my collection here and there I decided that I might as well go the hard cover route. This arc was a nice story about Batman and Superman versus Darkseid and it was done well enough that I want to have the ability to re-read it at sometime.

Teen Titans #58 – The book has gotten better since Dan Didio took over as the editor of the book. Dan has said he sees this book as having potential to be a franchise type book for DC again and has shown his level of commitment by being the actual editor on the book. No pressure for a writer there at all.

Teen Titans Year One #4 (of 6) – A guilty pleasure as this book is geared towards a younger audience, but I have found it to be well written enough to enjoy as an updated version of the silver age Teen Titans, which was also a book they tried to gear towards a pre-teen crowd. Back then that meant saying groovy every other page.

Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters #8 (of 8) – This has been a great mini-series. Now that we have had two strong mini-series can we get a green light for an ongoing series? More new characters and revamps are done in this book then any other DC book. The catalog of characters (from I believe Fawcett comics) is being raided almost very month. I’m buying the trade of this series when it comes out.

Crawl Space XXXombies #4 (of 4) – Porn stars and Zombies, it is almost like Laurel and Hardy, Lewis and Martin, Peanuts and the Circus, Werewolves and Nuns, just perfect pairings. A great take of genre mashing with a tongue firmly planted in their collective cheeks, flat out fun.

Noble Causes #33 – Wow it seems like #32 was just released a couple of weeks ago and that is a good thing. If you are trying to generate new readers and draw us in and keep our interest up then two issues in less then a month is a great way to do it, especially with a group book.

Proof #7 – Proof is going after the man who is killing dinosaurs in Africa. Proof has no clue that the whole dinosaur hunting thing was to draw Proof out so the hunter could hunt Proof. This is one of the better new series that has hit the stands in the last year.

Complete Green Lama Featuring the Art of Mac Raboy Hard Cover – A Dark Horse archive edition, which means high production values and a quality restoration process. The character itself is unknown to me but Mac Rayboy is one of the Golden Age artist whose work is of an illustrators quality, so I’m buying it for the art and hope the stories are fun enough. More of a Lee move, then my normal reasoning, but Mac Rayboy's work is great.

Abyss #4 (of 4) – This is the final issue of this fun Red 5 series. It took me two issues to really get into the story as it seemed like it did not know whether to be a comedy or a straight super hero story. It is both. A super hero story that is having fun at its own expense and still telling a super hero type drama.

Atlantis Rising #5 (of 5) – Platinum Studios has announced that a studio has optioned this material for a movie. I’m always curious to see how far some of these projects ever make it and wonder how much someone paid for that option. This has been a relatively weak series that has had some less then stellar art that has made the story hard to follow. Still I have been interested enough to follow it till its ending.

Black Summer #6 (of 7) – This is the penultimate issue of this look at super-heroes in the “real world”. I’m always amused when writers say what would super heroes be like if they were in the real world, because the existence of such beings would essentially change the nature of everything so it is all speculation, yet some writers act like they "know" how it will be. This book has been a solid action/adventure story, but my favorite parts have been Ellis’ commentary on the current political climate that exists in the US today. I know he is not from here, but still good commentary is good commentary.

Caliber #1 – This is a full size comic book from new publisher Radical Comics for a $1. Hard to complain about that in today’s economy. In addition to that it was a good read and a highly enjoyable book. Check my review here.

Grimm Fairy Tales Piper #2 (of 4) – I had high hopes for this series since I enjoyed “Return to Wonderland” so much and this sounded like it could have similar potential. The first issue was a bit of a disappointment. Since Zenoscope is never going to be “War and Peace” I go in with lower expectations then I do on other material and it still missed the mark. Bottom line this book may get cut if issue #2 does not pick up.

Helen Killer #1 – Another book that I have had the opportunity to review prior to it coming out and that review is here. This is a fun historical fiction book, that takes real characters and events and then fictionalizing those elements.

Hercules #1 – Radical Comics second offering and again it is a full size book for just #1. And again we have a review of this book here. For a $1 you can’t go wrong. It is a unique view of Hercules and what it might have been like in Ancient Greece.

Local #11 (of 12) – I almost thought we would never see this series again. This is the saga of Megan as we check in with her once a year as she moves from city to city. I’ve grown fond of this character and hope that at the conclusion she has found a place to settle down and be happy.

Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula – It is funny to see how companies play with the idea of doing a series or not. The Daredevil Annual was really a preliminary test balloon for a Tarantula series. No we have a one shot that is really all Tarantula, but using the Daredevil name to give it a boost on sales. It reminds me of TV shows that have someone on for one guest appearance and they announced the series staring that person as spinning out of the main series. This issue the Tarantula has moved over into the good guy side of the equation, but goes to Matt Murdock to help resolve a gang problem.

Iron Fist #14 – This is the slam bang conclusion to the “Seven Cities” saga. I know a lot of fans of Iron Fist disagree with me, but I think this arc has been too convoluted and stretched out way too far. Still 95% of the time the ending makes or breaks most story arcs.

New Avengers #40 – This issue we are promised to have it revealed as to the how and why of the Skrull invasion and the story spins out of the Illuminati mini-series. Bendis seems to be keeping the actual story contained in Secret Invasion and is using the Avenger books to fill in the back story, so far it has worked well.

Ultimate Human #4 (of 4) – This is the wrap-up of the Warren Ellis and Cary Nord series that brings the Ultimate Universe's Iron Man and Hulk together versus The Leader. The first three issues have been entertaining and I assume the ending will be as well.

X-Men Legacy #210 – The end of last issue the newly revived Professor “X” was going toe-to-tow with Exodus in the physic plane. This is a weird X-book as I feel it has no rhyme or reason to be anymore then a six issue story arc and may then revery back to just X-Men. Also I'm not sure where they are going with the Professor X character.

As I stated this looks to be a very good week of books. It is the first time that I have had three preview reviews of titles in the same week and all number 1 issues. Don’t forget it is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY SATURDAY, you can see where I shop e has planned by clicking here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Radical Comics Reviews – Hercules #1 and Caliber #1

I always love to see new publishers enter the market place. It is fun to try and discern their marketing and business plans from the outside looking in. My first career was in banking and finance so that side of things always appeals to me. Sometimes I believe a publisher enters the fray with the idea to just make good comics and see where that goes and then develops a plan as they go along. Others seem to have a direction from the jump, but they all give us more choices and that is a good thing.

In order for this to work, the fans (me and everyone else) have to buy some of their offerings so they have a chance to grow and develop. Radical is making it very easy, for 1/3 of the cost of a regular comic and ¼ of the cost of many books lately you can try out one of these books. Each #1 is only $1 with 22 pages of story and art, so get to you store Wednesday and buy one and if you like it add to your pull list.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars #1 (of 5) – Writer Steve Moore, Art Admira Wijaya, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios

The story opens with two of Hercules comrades going to Thrace to meet with the King who has hired them to be mercenaries and train their army. The King’s palace is just the one halfway decent building surrounded by a large fence. Cotys, the King greets the men inside of an eating hall surrounded by drunken countrymen. The Thracians then mock Hercules and the Grecians in general. The Grecians tell their version of what Hercules is like. This was a great starting point as we get to see what perhaps the “real” world of the time looked like and perhaps what Hercules really was as opposed to a mythological demi-god.

Hercules and the rest of his warriors arrive in the hallway. The insults continue back and forth. You get a sense that this is not going to go well for Hercules and his group of people. They have only eight versus a highway of drunks true, but still a lot of people. Enter another man dressed in full armor and when he sees it is Hercules he repeats what appears to be a running joke that everyone expects him to be bigger. He proceeds to insult Hercules and his prowess. Hercules tells him to stand near an object and he will show him how well he can shot his arrows. Hercules shoots the warrior through his armor plated chest plate and pins him into a stone wall and all hell breaks loose in hall.

A bloody battle ensues and Hercules and his group kills almost everyone in the hall including King Cotys. They were invited to Thrace to be mercenaries and after the battle they wonder why this happened. Also they realize these men were not fighters at all. It feels wrong and something is not adding up.

As they leave the hall they walk out and have an army of soldiers staring at them and the real King Cotys is walking towards them and looks extremely pissed.

Now my summary does not do justice to the actual writing. Steve Moore uses one of Hercules’s men as the narrator. The way he tells it and the tone he gives the book has both a matter of fact tone to it and a tone that implies world weariness. The beats of the writing is just so well done, that I grasping for the right way to describe it. It feels like the telling of an epic tale, but doing it from a ground level.

The art work is extremely well done. The design and layout of the pages make the story flow very well. The narration, dialogue and art work together to tell the story and move you panel by panel. When I first starting reading the use I thought the use of Grecian names would really hurt the story flow as I find it difficult to get into a story if I can’t pronounce the names that I’m reading. This was not the case as the art and story were such a perfect blend that I just keep going forward page by page. The style is a realistic style that works very well for this story. It has the barbarian type vibe, yet feels like true Ancient history.

All around this was an excellent comic. If you have read the recent run on Incredible Hercules from Marvel and enjoyed the flashback to the ancient Greece stories of Hercules in that book, pick this book up, if you liked the 300 picked this book up, if you want to read a good graphic novel’s first chapter, pick up this book.

Hercules: The Thracian War is an epic saga and we get a front row seat. Grade “A” If you pass this book up for $1, you are making a big mistake.

Caliber #1 (of 5) – First Canon of Justice – Writer Sam Sarkar, Art Garrie Gastonny, Colors Imaginary Friends Studio

This is a very different comic book story that starts in the Old West. We open as a man (jean Michael) who we learn is half French and half American Indian is trying to generate a vision. He is a mystic and he has a mission to find out who should wield this special gun. As we see him trying to learn who is supposed to give the gun to we also see his vision of a World War in the future. He asks what this war is and he is told it is six generations removed. If the sixth generation does not accept the law, the world will end. His mission is to find the person who should have this gun and teach how to use and when not to use it and that person will be the Lawbringer.

At the same time we are being introduced to a town in the old west that the railroad is going through. We have the Chinese who are building the railroad and are being treated as essentially a sub-human labor class and an American Indian reservation that appears to be in the way of the rail road’s easiest path.

We meet a young man who runs to his father after learning of a Chinese worker is being treated unjustly. His father is the Captain of an army troop that appears to be providing security for the railroad. His father tells his son that he has to let the local sheriff handle it as it is not his jurisdiction. Then the father goes to investigate a ranch where it appears all were killed by the Indians. We know from an early scene it was not Indians, but a group of men in masks. The Captain is not jumping to judgment about who did despite the planted “evidence”.

This is all set-up for a powder keg that is about to explode. Right before the explosion our mystic Jean Michael turns up and gives the gun to Captain Pendergon, assuming he is the chosen one. The Captain goes out to the reservation to question the Indians about the killings. The Indians deny any involvement, but the tension is high as the Captain and his man have marched onto Indian land. The railroad guy is off and hidden nearby and orders the Captain to be shot, which causes a war between the Indians and the Calvary. The Captain in the midst of the battle tries to fire the gun and a lighting bolt kills him. Jean Michael is confused as the vision showed the Captain’s face, but we know he is just a generation off. The story ends with both sides losing a lot of people and the young boy getting the noticed his Dad has died.

The art work was stellar on this book as well. The polished look and high productions values appear to be one of the qualities we can look for from Radical comics. The art work had an illustrators touch to it, realistic, but not so photo realistic as to take away from the story, just art that you would enjoy in any book that had a dramatic tone to it.

The story is fascinating. We have a mystical weapon which we know will make it to a young’s man hands and we also know this story stretches out for generations. I hope that the entire story will not be in one five issue arc, as I love the concept, art and story so much I want each holder of the weapon to have their own five issue arc, as I assume we have to have the weapon move from generation to generation.

This is another winning title from Radical Comics. Caliber is a western tale with mystic overtones and looks to be a saga that stretches across decades. Grade “A”.

The best $2 you spend to end the month of April will be buying Hercules #1 and Caliber #1.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jorge Vega - Interview - Author of Gunplay

When I reviewed the Gunplay preview book I was harsh on it and it landed at the bottom of my list one week. Jorge contacted me and we started to e-mail back and forth and I become more interested in Gunplay and Jorge as a result. Jorge is going to send a copy of the graphic novel to me and I'm going to review it and hopefully having my opinion changed. Jorge was also nice enough to allow us to do an interview with him and personally I always find that my appreciation of someones work increases the more I know of them. It helps to frame their work and sometimes the insight gained opens up the material itself.

Jim: What is your secret origin? In others words who is Jorge Vega?
Jorge: I’m a pretty low-key guy. I grew up in Queens, NY. Went to college in Connecticut. Taught theater in Long Island and then wound up buying a house and raising kids in Massachusetts. I’ve bounced around quite a bit in the last few years—but family and writing have been my anchor. I’ve always been a storyteller, or tried to be. Graduated with a degree in playwriting—which is maybe why I tend to start with the dialogue in most of my comic projects. That’s a little ass backwards, I know, but I always hear a character’s voice well before I have a grasp of their situation.

Jim: You won the contest to get your book published. Was this you first attempt?
Jorge: At getting published? No. Far from it. I’d been submitting work to everyone and anyone who’d consider me. Sometimes at their request but mostly not.
Have you had any other published work?
I’ve had some plays picked up by small theater companies. But, in terms of comics, my publishing credits prior to Gunplay were limited to webcomics and anthologies mostly. Things like Warmageddon (

Jim: What exactly did you have to write to win the contest (full script, premise)?
Jorge: They’ve changed the rules a bit this year. I like to believe the adjustments are the result of some of my conversations with the Platinum Studios crew. You see, all I had to write for last year’s Comic Book Challenge was a half page synopsis. Not even a true synopsis, really. It was more like a print “trailer”. We sent that out along with one page of fully finished art and it was enough to get them interested. They invited me out to San Diego, along with 50 other creators, and I made a live pitch to them. From there… well, we won. But the hysterical thing was that they still had no idea of whether or not I could write! I mean, all they knew was that my artist, Dominic Vivona, kicked ass and that, when placed before a panel of strangers, I was an effective communicator.

This year, the rules are a little different. They’ll be looking for three finished pages, with dialogue, along with a lengthier synopsis.

Jim: Are you writing this as a full script or are you working with the artist in design and layout?
Jorge: Well, though we’ve produced a graphic novel, Dom and I approached the work as four 22-page chapters or issues. Our process was a pretty straight forward series of conversations; each conversation preceded me writing a new chapter. I’d go write it, hand it off to Dom, he’d churn out thumbs of the whole chapter, we’d talk about them, modify the script or the images depending on what felt best and, then, Dom made magic happen.

Jim: Who would you count as your influences?
Jorge: August Wilson, Mark Twain, Richard Wright, Octavia Butler… American masters like that.

Jim: Is this a paying job – or does the book have to sell so many units before you see a payday?
Jorge: Both Dom and I received a pretty substantial page rate as well as a percentage of unit sales and anything else that may or may not happen with the property.

Jim: What is the hardest part of writing a graphic novel for you?
Jorge: The ending. Heh. Even when you have a crystal clear picture of how your story ends, getting from point A to point B or C can be a little tricky. As a writer, you want to give you characters and your story room to breathe and stretch out. That creative elbow room leaves space for the reader to really connect with the story and to see things through a different set of eyes. Then you suddenly realize you’re three-quarters of the way through your total page count and you need to bring resolution or, at the very least, a sense of closure to things. I tend to get a little panicky in the home stretch, wondering if I haven’t rushed things and forced the reader down a very narrow tunnel in the final quarter.

Jim: Do you have any other proposals in the works?
Jorge: A bunch. Several of them are already looking like they’re going to happen, too. I’ve got a pretty frightening story about child soldiers in the Congo. There’s also this other story about a pregnant teenage crime lord and one about spontaneous combustion. How’s that for variety? As WuTang Financial suggests, I like to “diversify my bonds, ninja.”

Jim: What are your aspirations? All creator owned material, work for the big two, screenplays?
Jorge: Any, all or none of those things are fine with me. Essentially, I’m interested in making writing my nine to five. Gunplay’s opened the door to that possibility but there’s still a ways to go toward making it my reality. There’s no part of me that’s feels I must write for the big two or I must be an indie star. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy if either of those things happened but I’m not actively looking for that. I love to write, plain and simple, and in my perfect world writing would be paying for some new aluminum siding.

Jim: What mainstream character (Marvel or DC) would you love to write?
Jorge: I’d be down to do something with the Hulk, especially a Defenders book. Oh, the stories I’d tell with that crew. Aside from him, the characters that I think’d be fun to play with aren’t that mainstream. Marvel’s Brother Voodoo is a character I already have a clear vision for and, in a completely different direction, I’ve got this Doc Samson story I’d love to tell. But who’d want to read that, right?
Well… me.

Thanks again to Jorge for taking time to "talk" to us and give us an interview. I'm looking forward to reading the graphic novel now. Which is coming out this Wednesday April 30 I believe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

DC Preview Review for July

Jim: It is always a love/hate thing with me when there is a lot of material that I want to buy. I love it because I want it, I hate it because my hard cover and trade collection is getting to be huge. I’m growing beyond all my bookcases. Besides the hard covers DC is hanging in mainly with the status quo and a Final Crisis Mini-Series.
Lee: I will say I was pleasantly surprised by Marvel this month so I have high hopes for this too.
Gwen: Jim, obviously you have reacher the point in which you must convert the attic into a library. Congratulations.

FINAL CRISIS: REQUIEM #1 Written by Peter J. TomasiArt by Doug Mahnke & Christian AlamyCovers by J.G. Jones and Doug Mahnke
A very special FINAL CRISIS one-shot honoring the passing of a great hero who’s been a staple in the DC Universe for years. All that remains is one final memory that the League experiences together as they must fulfill his last wishes or die trying!
On sale July 9 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Jim: Looking at the cover and reading the solicitation it sounds like the Martian Manhunter. This would make sense as they he has never made it to being an “A” list hero. I’m still looking for at least a Showcase reprint of the time frame when he hung out with Zook. As much as I hate seeing some hero who I have affection for bite the dust, I’m okay with it if it actually lasts for a decade or so.
Lee: Yahoooooo, let’s flood the market with more pointless one shots. This is what I hate about the mega crossovers.
Gwen: I'm fond of Martian Manhunter... Blue Beetle, Bart Allen, Karate Kid - why can't the kill someone I don't like? Oh well.

FINAL CRISIS: ROGUES’ REVENGE #1 Written by Geoff JohnsArt and covers by Scott Kolins The critically-acclaimed FLASH team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins reunites for a tale of villainy and twisted justice tying in to FINAL CRISIS! Captain Cold and the Rogues were accessories to the murder of Bart Allen. They’ve become what they never set out to be -- wanted! Wanted by the good guys, by former Rogue Pied Piper, and by the Secret Society of Super-Villains. But just as they try to disappear underground, good, old-fashioned revenge yanks them back. And where is the Flash during all of this? It’s a Crisis -- take a guess.
On sale July 16 • 1 of 3 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Jim: Now DC has added this and I thought we were getting the Legion Crisis tie-in this month also, but I have to give DC credit, two mini-series and a one-shot are all that have been added on and none of the regular series are dealing with Final Crisis. I prefer the more contained events as opposed to the universe wide cross-over stunts THAT NEVER WORKS.
Lee: So the options, as I see them: (1) mega crossover that affects every book and drags the line down or (2) Mega crossover that doesn’t affect the individual books but triples output with extraneous miniseries which drags down my pocket book. These are options????
Gwen: "And where is the Flash during all of this? It’s a Crisis -- take a guess" Is there some grand rule somewhere that says the Flash has to be an integral part of any Crisis? Seriously....

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #1 Written by Keith Giffen & Robert Loren FlemingArt by Giffen & Al MilgromCover by J.H. Williams IIIVariant cover by Giffen
The wait is over -- everyone's favorite Bug is back, courtesy of the original AMBUSH BUG team of Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming! Cities will be destroyed! Cats and dogs will live in sin! Every unanswered question of the DC Universe will be answered! Live heroes will die and dead heroes will live! Okay, none of that actually happens, but join us anyway for this totally irreverent romp through the DC Universe as only Ambush Bug could give you!On sale July 23 • 1 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Jim: On one hand I could have lived with never seeing Ambush Bug again, on the other hand I might buy an Absolute of all of his earlier material. Sometime it hits me as funny, other times it is a big “eh”.
Lee: You might buy an absolute of this material? Seriously? I might buy an Essential. But there are limits, even for me.
Gwen:I was never all that interested in Ambush Bug - I could care less about this as a result.

THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: THE JOKER #1 Written by Arvid Nelson Art by Alex Sanchez Cover by Andy Kubert
THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: PENGUIN #1 Written by Jason Aaron Art and cover by Jason Pearson
THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: POISON IVY #1 Written by J.T. Krul Art and cover by Guillem March
THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: SCARECROW #1 Written by Joe Harris Art and cover by Juan Doe
THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: TWO-FACE #1 Written by David Hine Art and cover by Andy Clarke
A cast of top creators lends their talents to THE JOKER’S ASYLUM -- a special month-long, weekly series of one-shots starring the greatest villains in Batman’s rogues gallery.
Each issue tells a special stand-alone story that gives readers an inside look into the insane lives of the Dark Knight’s greatest adversaries. And all the stories are narrated by the Asylum’s leading homicidal maniac -- The Joker!
THE JOKER on sale July 2 • PENGUIN on sale July 9 • POISON IVY on sale July 16 • SCARECROW on sale July 23 • TWO-FACE on sale July 30 • Each 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Jim: The writer line-up looks so damn strong and I love Batman villains, ah sh*t, I’m buying this.
Lee: The writer line up includes J.T. Krul! Who??? I’ll wait to see if it gets the fancy HC treatment. Otherwise I’m ok missing a series of one shots.
Gwen: This looks neat. Since Lee's not interested I'm thinking I'm a shoe-in for Jim sending it to me ;)

BATGIRL #1 Written by Adam BeechenArt by Jim Calafiore & Jonathan GlapionCover by Andy Clarke Fresh from appearances in BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, the enigmatic Cassandra Cain stars in this six-issue miniseries written by Adam Beechen (COUNTDOWN, ROBIN) with pencils by Jim Calafiore (GOTHAM UNDERGROUND)!
Now that Batgirl has finally gained Batman’s trust, it’s time to conquer her inner demons and prove herself to the rest of the world. This six-issue epic will take Cassandra on an intense, personal journey involving friends, family and foes!
On sale July 16 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US
Jim: What happened to the Batwoman series? DC was so gung-ho on her and now it is like she never existed. I had some reservations about her, but I thought she was an interesting add to the mix, instead we get Cassie Cain back. I was never a Cassie Cain Batgirl fan.
Lee: WOW. Whatever did happen to that Batwoman series? In with a bang, out with a whimper. Oh well, some Bat-female-type is better than no Bat-female-type so I’ll take it.
Gwen: There was a Batwoman series? Last time I saw her she was in Gotham Underground. I've never been a huge fan of S&M Batgirl and she certainly didn't gain bonus points when she went over the edge. Still, it'll be interesting to see if they actually redeem her or if she just goes back and forth forever.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #50 Written by Michael Green & Mike JohnsonArt by Ed BenesCover by Ethan Van SciverVariant cover by Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
Celebrate fifty blockbuster issues with this extra-sized extravaganza as we reveal the untold tale of Thomas Wayne’s meeting with Jor-El and how it shaped Gotham City’s future! You don’t dare miss this one!The past was just prologue for this latest adventure of the World’s Finest duo as an ancient Kryptonian artifact is uncovered, unleashing past and present dangers that may alter the duo’s future. Not even the guest-starring Titans will be able to save them! This issue also features a variant cover by the original SUPERMAN/BATMAN art team of Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines!
On sale July 23 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Jim: One thing that has been fun in the DCU lately is the fact that some books totally exist in their own Universe. No matter what has happened in this book it never impacts anything else. It reminds me of the Silver Age.
Lee: Thomas Wayne meets Jor-El??? Are you kidding? But, it does seem very, very silverage so there’s a chance it could be good. As long as some writer doesn’t decide to make this a “real” event in three years.
Gwen: This book is 50/50 with me. Sometimes I love it; sometimes I can't even get past the first few pages. This issue piques my interest at least.

SUPERGIRL #31 Written by Kelley PuckettArt by Drew Johnson & Ray SnyderCover by Stephane Roux Following her startling decision last issue, where does Supergirl go from here? Her relationship with Superman is shattered, and for the first time in her young life, Supergirl finds herself truly alone. But with a new day comes a new threat and a new ally -- enter: Empress, last seen in YOUNG JUSTICE!
On sale July 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Jim: This book has actually gotten good lately under Kelley Puckett. Really. I’m not kidding, I swear.
Lee: April Fool’s was weeks ago! Let it go man no one’s gonna believe this book is any good. Ever.
Gwen: You're kidding, right? The crack laced in the book’s pages has finally overridden your judgment.

JONAH HEX #33 Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin GrayArt and cover by Darwyn Cooke
A special issue drawn by Eisner Award-winning artist Darwyn Cooke (DC: THE NEW FRONTIER, THE SPIRIT)! Jonah Hex travels to Canada on the trail of his latest bounty. But with the Mounties hot on his heels, this isn't going to be an easy job.
On sale July 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Jim: I love Jonah Hex and I love Darwyn Cooke’s art, but together. I mean it fells like a pickles and ice cream thing or beer and milk.
Lee: I don’t wanna respond second anymore! What kinda lead up is Pickles and Ice Cream? Beer and Milk? What the ?!?!
Gwen: I agree, it's hard to imagine Darwyn Cooke's style meshing well with Jonah Hex.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA ANNUAL #1 Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Jerry Ordway, Cover by Alex Ross“Welcome to Earth-2!” Power Girl has made a life for herself on our world, as a member and chairwoman of the Justice Society of America and as a hero in her own right.
But she’s never stopped dreaming of one day returning to her Earth -- the parallel world where the members of the Justice Society were the only heroes. Where her best friend was Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman. And where evil was a little easier to fight…wasn’t it? As her greatest wish comes true, Power Girl’s about to find herself back on Earth-2, surrounded by friends she thought she’d lost forever.
On sale July 30 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Jim: This could be very good or come across very lame, but I’m looking forward to it. It almost seems cruel as Power Girl has already been through a lot.
Lee: They have screwed with Power Girl so much I just don’t care anymore. I’ll let you tell me how it is.
Gwen: I really enjoyed all of the old Helena Wayne stuff, so this could be cool Unless it's some sort of cruel trick.

ABSOLUTE RONIN HC Written Art and cover by Frank MillerRONIN, the acclaimed epic by Frank Miller, visionary writer/artist of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, 300 and Sin City and director of the upcoming movie adaptation of The Spirit, is collected for the first time in hardcover in DC’s oversized, slipcased Absolute format! In this tale, the legendary warrior known only as the Ronin -- a disgraced 13th century samurai, is given a second chance to avenge his master’s death and regain his honor. Reborn in a futuristic and corrupt 21st century New York City, the Ronin must defeat the reincarnation of his master’s killer, the ancient demon Agat.This breathtaking Absolute Edition includes rarely seen promotional art, fold-out pages and more special features.Advance-solicited; on sale September 24 • 328 pg, 8.25” x 12.5”, FC, $99.00 US
Jim: A) I’m not sure this demanded the Absolute treatment. B) $100 price tag is too high, it could have been done of $50 or even $75 C) I’m probably buying it.
Lee: A) It didn’t demand absolute treatment. B) $100 is waaaayyyy to high and even I wouldn’t have hesitated at $50 C) I’m getting it on ebay for $50 three months after it’s released.
Gwen: For once, Lee makes more sense than Jim. Creepy.

SUPERMAN: KRYPTONITE HC Written by Darwyn CookeArt and cover by Tim SaleThe amazing story from SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #1-5 and 11 by Darwyn Cooke (DC: THE NEW FRONTIER) and Tim Sale (BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, Heroes) is collected in hardcover. While Superman attempts to survive his first encounter with Kryptonite, will Lois Lane fall prey to a mysterious stranger?
Advance-solicited; on September 10 • 160 pg, FC, $24.99 US
Jim: A no-brainer for me. Loved the story and loved the creators. Lee: See, with all the bad press about the story being late I can’t remember if this actually was any good. I wish DC would notice that this kind of stuff costs them sales.
Gwen: This does look cool and doesn't seem too terribly expensive. I think I'm looking at a future Christmas gift for my boyfriend here.

SUICIDE SQUAD: FROM THE ASHES TP Written by John OstanderArt by Javier Pina, Robin Riggs and Jesus SaizCover by John K. Snyder III
The Suicide Squad makes its triumphant return in this new volume collecting the recent miniseries. But how did team leader Rick Flag Jr. survive a ground-zero nuclear blast and return from the dead?
Advance-solicited; on sale August 20 • 192 pg, FC, $19.99 US
Jim: Another one, same story as the Kryptonite HC.
Lee: I didn’t read this. Unfortunately there’s just too much out there this month so I shall pass. Maybe Jim will loan me his copy.
Gwen: I haven't read this either, I was never really into the Suicide Squad.

GOTHAM CENTRAL VOL. 1: IN THE LINE OF FIRE HC Written by Ed Brubaker & Greg RuckaArt and cover by Michael Lark
The first ten issues of the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series is collected in hardcover for the first time! Written by Ed Brubaker (Captain America) and Greg Rucka (DETECTIVE COMICS, 52), this series pitted the detectives of Gotham City’s Special Crimes Unit against the city’s greatest villains -- in the shadow of Batman himself.
Advance-solicited; on September 3 • 240 pg, FC, $29.99 US
Jim: Now they are pissing me off. I just recently decided to pick up the trades of this great series and now you are going to do hard cover collections. ARGHHH! Good news for Gwen as they leave my trade collection they migrate to Gwen’s place. Unless Lee cons her out of wanting them.
Lee: Gwen can have them because Poppa getting a brandy new hardcover.
Gwen: Yay! I win!

INVASION TP Written by Keith Giffen & Bill Mantlo Art by Todd McFarlane, Bart Sears, P. Craig Russell, Joe Rubinstein and othersCover by McFarlane & Rubinstein
The massive 3-issue miniseries from 1988 is collected for the first time! In this universe-spanning saga, the deadly but emotionless Dominators have come to Earth to wipe out the threat posed by metahumans. But what is the real reason for their attack?
Advance-solicited; on sale August 27 • 256 pg, FC, $24.99 US
MILLENNIUM TP Written by Steve Englehart Art by Joe Staton, Ian Gibson and othersCover by Joe Staton & Mark Farmer
The 1988 8-issue miniseries MILLENNIUM is collected for the first time! The Guardians of the Universe have left our dimension behind -- and in their absence, the deadly robotic army of Manhunters threatens the survival of the DC Universe!
Advance-solicited; on sale August 6 • 192 pg, FC, $19.99 US
Jim: See this is what I meant in the introduction way too many trades that I want. I recently re-read Invasion and it holds together okay as a stand alone, not perfect but okay. Millennium is a big pass, a really bad series and event.
Lee: Now for every marginal (and it was marginal) Invasion miniseries you have a Millennium miniseries. Eh to both. I shall be passing.
Gwen: Wow, these came out when I was 6... I don't think I ever read them.

BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM! #1 Written by Mike KunkelArt and covers by Mike Kunkel
Welcome to the brand-new, all-fun adventures of Billy Batson as the World's Mightiest Mortal -- Captain Marvel, from acclaimed writer/artist Mike Kunkel (Herobear)!
Thanks to a magical rift created when Captain Marvel battled Mr. Mind’s monsters, 14-year-old Theo Adam has been returned to Earth from banishment. For Theo, there’s just one problem: He can’t remember the magic word that gives him the powers of Black Adam. There’s only one solution: follow Captain Marvel and get the word out of his alter ego, 11-year-old Billy Batson.
On sale July 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US
Lee: Talk about a character DC has no idea what to do with. Jeff Smith did a kid friendly mini-series that people loved or hated. Then Winnick tried to modernize the character. Now we have another kid friendly miniseries. What are they doing???? That said, I love Kunkel’s work and this is an absolute no brainer for me.
Jim: I disagree; DC has finally gotten this character right. The Billy Batson Captain Marvel fits as a kids’ book, but not as a modern super hero. Freddy as Captain Marvel works in the modern DCU, so do both.
Gwen: I LOVED the Jeff Smith Shazam work, it was excellent. I have no idea if I'll like this, but it does look cool.

STORMING PARADISE #1 Written by Chuck DixonArt/cover by Butch Guice
It’s 1945, and Europe lies in ruins, the Nazi war machine defeated. As the United States looks east to the last remaining Axis power and the final push in a long war, a miscalculation in the Manhattan Project results in annihilation of the team of scientists developing the American atomic bomb. America's only remaining option is Operation Olympus -- the invasion of Japan! But the bloody, island-hopping campaign that brings American forces to Japan’s doorstep won’t prepare the G.I.s for the horror they will face as women, children and the few surviving Japanese soldiers begin the grim preparation for repulsion.
This brutal, revisionist look at the second World War could only be handled by master storytellers Chuck Dixon (ROBIN, TEAM ZERO) and Butch Guice (ACTION COMICS, Daredevil). Every angle of this conflict will be touched upon, from the infantry storming the beaches to the Army Air Corps bombing the home islands of the Empire of the Rising Sun to the desperate struggle of the Japanese to save their culture from annihilation, as the true meaning of “war is hell” is explored in full.
On sale July 2 • 1 of 6, 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Lee: I am shocked! SHOCKED! You didn’t pick this. As we’ve said many many times before Chuckie D- (he loves when I call him that!)… Chuckie D- is a proven commodity. Add in Butch Guice, another proven commodity and there is no way this could go wrong.
Jim: True, but I did order the series.
Gwen: Despite my aversion to War genre stories this looks interesting. Mostly because my grandfather (not Jim's Dad) would have ended up invading Japan if not for the A-bomb being dropped. Chuck Dixon is a solid writer too which makes it even more appealing.

WILDCATS: WORLD’S END #1 Written by Christos Gage Art/Covers by Neil Googe and Trevor HairsineAfter the shattering conclusion of NUMBER OF THE BEAST, a jaw-dropping new status quo will be established in the WildStorm Universe -- and it begins now! Christos Gage (WILDSTORM: ARMAGEDDON, THE AUTHORITY: PRIME) and Neil Googe (WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY, MAJESTIC) bring a unique new vision to the classic Wildcats team, reuniting the classic team with some surprising new members. Also, a new monthly backup story begins, kicked off with the return of John Lynch by Gage and X-Men: Deadly Genesis artist Trevor Hairsine!
On sale July 30 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Jim: So I’m guessing we have officially abandoned all hope of a Grant Morrison / Jim Lee Wildcat series at this point. The WU has become radioactive in my mind and needs to sit on the side lines for a few years and then be dusted off and brought back to life.
Lee: I’ve think they’ve screwed it up so bad I’m not sure they can every bring it back now. Then again, I didn’t think we’d every see Youngblood again and it’s back so what do I know.
Gwen: The WU hurts my head.

THE ALCOHOLIC HC Written by Jonathan Ames Art and cover by Dean Haspiel
Jonathan A. is a boozed-up, coked-out, sexually confused, hopelessly romantic and, of course, entirely fictional novelist who bears only a coincidental resemblance to real-life writer Jonathan Ames, critically acclaimed author of Wake Up, Sir!, The Extra Man and What’s Not to Love?For the fictional Jonathan, writing and drinking come easy. The hard parts of life are love and hope. From a touching relationship between Jonathan and his aging great aunt, to an inebriated evening with an amorous, octogenarian dwarf, to the devastating aftermath of 9/11, Ames’s first original graphic novel, with gritty, poignant art by Dean Haspiel (THE QUITTER), tells a story at once hilarious, excruciating, bizarre and universal, about how our lives fall to pieces and the enduring human struggle to put things back together again.Advance-solicited; on sale September 17 • 6.875” x 9” • 136 pg, B&W, $19.99 US MATURE READERS
Jim: See I should drop one of the reprints above and get this. It has a great premises and sounds more enlightening then re-reading some old spandex stuff.
Lee: I don’t know… it’d be like reading an biography that someone else wrote about you. Anyway, this feels like DC trying to break into the slice-of-life market. Unfortunately, I read enough indies that that have limited to no editorial control so a book from one of the big two that has an image to protect leaves me kinda cold.
Gwen: Sounds interesting.

HEAVY LIQUID HC Written by Paul Pope Art and cover by Paul Pope
Paul Pope’s Eisner Award-nominated epic is collected in hardcover for the first time, completely recolored, with bonus sketch material. Meet “S,” a man addicted to “heavy liquid,” a substance that’s both drug and art form, in a future New York that’s a sci-fi metropolis.Advance-solicited; on sale September 24 • 256 pg, FC, $39.99 US MATURE READERS
Lee: I love Paul Pope’s art and most everything that he does. BUT, I don’t remember how good this is. It’s a good price for a nice HC but I need to re-read my issues to make sure it’s a keeper.
Jim: Paul Pope is very stylized and for me it is not worth a $40 hard cover.
Gwen: I honestly have no interest in reading this, it doesn't even sound like a very intriguing premise to me.

One of Batman’s most famous crime-fighting gadgets is the latest addition to the JLA Trophy Room: Life-sized, fully functioning Bat-Cuffs -- the same size as regulation police handcuffs!
Reproduced for the first time ever as a high-quality prop replica, these metal Bat-Cuffs unlock with a special bat-shaped key. They fold in half for easy transport, or can be displayed on the included stand.
Packaged in a 4-color box, the Bat-Cuffs also come with a 4-color Certificate of Authenticity and a second, duplicate Bat Key.
Advance-solicited; on sale December 3, 2008 * Prop Replica * $125
Jim: If these are working cuffs I can replace the set we have at ho… err I mean why who would want hand cuffs that is so ridiculous.
Lee: And, this is why we let Gwen review because comments like Jim makes just leave me tongue tied.
Gwen: He's my father. If you're tongue tied at those comments how do you think I feel?!?

Under special arrangement with Japanese manufacturer Kotobukiya, DC DIRECT brings the exquisite craftsmanship of KOTOBUKIYA to fans.
Manufactured again to meet popular demand, this SUPERGIRL Vinyl Statue stands approximately 10” tall and is packaged in a 4-color window box. She serves as a great companion piece to the previously released SUPERMAN Vinyl statue, and is manufactured to order.
Advance-solicited; on sale December 17, 2008 * Vinyl Statue * $89.99 US
Jim: The detail on this statue is amazing. This looks extremely well done.
Lee: Oh yeah! That’s exquisite. Yum yum. (Jim: And Lee complained about me??)
Gwen: *hands Lee a napkin to wipe away the drool*

From the pages of the much-loved ’80’s series of hilarious and action-packed stories that re-defined the term “Super-Hero Team” comes DC Direct’s JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL action figures!
Based on the series from Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
Jim: Gnort gets an Action Figure, even worse I will buy one.
Lee: Gnort, schmort! I love the retro shoulder pads’n’head sweat band Black Canary. Wow, was that a bad costume.
Gwen: Hah, these are pretty funny. I have waaaay too many action figures though, I really just want them to complete the Legion collection.

Jim: A decent month for DC. Lots of hard cover and trades, no over kill on Final Crisis add ons and if you check out the ongoing series a lot of good story lines. I think DC is getting their act together after the Countdown debacle.
Lee: Overall, this was a pretty decent month. Although the $100 price tag on Ronin makes me scratch my head.
Gwen: A decent month, and thanks to DC I get a few trades for free!