Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dark Horse Preview Review for August

Jim: As we approach the end of summer I already miss the glorious run the Orioles had in late July to get to 5 games over 500 almost guaranteeing a 500 season – oh wait we are reviewing August books. Dark Horse always has some interesting offerings so I assume this month will be no different.
Lee: Baseball??? Let’s talk baseball! GOOOOO Red Sox!!! But, this isn’t a baseball blog so back to comics!

BERNIE WRIGHTSON’S FRANKENSTEIN Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (W) and Bernie Wrightson (A) On sale Oct 29FC, 240 pages$29.95 HC, 9" x 12"
Few works by comic-book artists have earned the universal acclaim and reverence that Bernie Wrightson’s illustrated version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein was met with upon its original release in 1983. Twenty-five years later, this magnificent pairing of art and literature is still considered to be one of the greatest achievements made by any artist in the field. Now, Wrightson and Dark Horse Books are collaborating on a beautiful new hardcover edition of the book, published in a larger 9" x 12" format intended to show off the exquisitely detailed line art of one of the greatest living artists in comics today. This book includes the complete text of the original ground-breaking novel, and the original forty-seven full-page illustrations that stunned the world with their monumental beauty and uniqueness.
- The original edition of this book is nearly impossible to find. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy one of the most talked-about books of the last twenty-five years, Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein.
Jim: I have already ordered this book. The illustrations that Bernie Wrightson did for this book is some of his greatest work and the man is in the Frazzetta class of illustrators. I have been hearing about this book being done again for a long time and I’m very happy to have it see the light of day.
Lee: I really like the book but I am too much of an art guy for this. Don’t get me wrong, this was some Wrightson’s best work ever but it’s single page illustrations. Having barely managed to plow thru the actual text of the book I just can’t see $30 for 47 illustrations.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’S TAROT On sale Aug 1378-card deck, instruction pamphlet, 64-page softcover book, in reclosable box with magnetic closure $14.99
Lost hundreds of years ago, the Slayer’s tarot is an important artifact from Slayer history that came into existence after a group of women shared a vision of a rogue Slayer who would love a vampire and who would be aided in her fight against evil by a group of mystical allies. The heretical prophecy led to the suppression of the deck by the Watcher’s Council.
Written and conceived by Rachel Pollack, author of twelve books on the tarot, including the renowned 78 Degrees of Wisdom, she teams with long-time Buffy artist Paul Lee to create this one-of-a-kind tarot card set.
Jim: Sandman had a tarot deck done off of that book. You would think that DC is already lining up a tarot deck for the Madam Xandu book as she actually used the cards in the book as opposed to making Tarot decks for no real reason.
Lee: I thought we were reviewing comic books and not collectible cards! Give me a Mickey Mantle baseball card before this set anyday!!!

THE END LEAGUE VOLUME 1: BALLAD OF BIG NOTHING Rick Remender (W), Mat Broome (P/Cover), Sean Parsons (I), and Wendy Broome (C) On sale Oct 15FC, 104 pages$12.95 TPB, 7" x 10" A thematic merging of The Lord of the Rings and Watchmen, The End League follows a cast of the last remaining super men and women as they embark on a desperate and perilous journey through a world dominated by evil, in hopes of locating the one remaining artifact that can save humanity -- the Hammer of Thor. For his return to the world of comics renowned artist Mat Broome (X-Men, Batman) teams up with critically acclaimed writer Rick Remender (Fear Agent) for this, Dark Horse Comics newest superhero series.
Jim: I may have to switch to trades on this series because I find following bi-monthly series very difficult especially when they are as dense as a Lord of the Rings / Watchmen thematic merging.
Lee: I’m all over this trade. There is no way I can follow bi-monthly books. I’m shocked they even advertised it this way. Wouldn’t it have been easier to “call it monthly” and then just issue press releases all the time stating schedule delays? That’s what Marvel and DC do.

GHOST OMNIBUS VOLUME 1 Eric Luke (W), Adam Hughes (A), Terry Dodson (A), Scott Benefiel (A), Matt Haley (A), Adam Hughes (Cover), and others On sale Oct 22FC, 352 pages $24.95TPB, 6" x 9"
If you’re already dead, you might as well make the best of it. Someone brutally murdered reporter Elisa Cameron, but back from the grave as the spectral avenger Ghost, Elisa intends to find out who killed her and why . . . and grab a double dose of .45-caliber retribution. But Ghost’s journey to the truth follows a dark, twisted path, and the revelations she unearths may lead not to redemption, but damnation.
- Includes a roster of top creative talents, including screenwriter Eric Luke and comics superstar artists Adam Hughes and Terry Dodson.
- Collects Ghost Special #1, Ghost #1-12 (first series), and “Sweet Things” from Decade of Dark Horse #2.
Jim: Now this Omnibus I may have to get just for the art work. A beautiful female lead and art by Adam Hughes, Terry Dodson and Matt Haley – are you kidding me. Plus I remember it being a decent read.
Lee: See, I remember the art being good (in a Bad Girl kinda way) but I don’t remember the story being any good. A rare “art book” pass for me.

HELLBOY LIBRARY EDITION VOLUME 2: THE CHAINED COFFIN, THE RIGHT HAND OF DOOM, AND OTHERS Mike Mignola (W/A), Dave Stewart (C), Matthew Hollingsworth (C), and James Sinclair (C) On sale Oct 15FC, 278 pages $49.95HC, 9" x 12"
Since Mike Mignola’s Hellboy first hit the stands in 1993, it has become a cultural sensation, racking up a dozen Eisner Awards and inspiring numerous spinoffs, from a novel line, to video games, to feature films. Now, Dark Horse is pleased to present the comics that started it all, collected in deluxe hardcover editions. Sized at a generous 9" by 12", and handsomely bound to match The Art of Hellboy, each volume contains two full story arcs -- the equivalent of two full trade paperbacks. Each volume of the Hellboy Library Editions also includes extensive supplemental materials, including previously unreleased sketches and designs.
- Hellboy Volume 2 collects fifteen stories, presented for the first time in chronological order, with the original Chained Coffin introduction by P. Craig Russell, and a new, expanded sketchbook.
- Over thirty pages of new sketchbook material.
Jim: The best hard cover bang for the buck ever was Volume 1, this is a steal and great comic books.
Lee: I agree, I just got my copy of Vol 1 and it is amazing. I can’t wait for the second volume.

MISTER X ARCHIVES Dean Motter (W/A), Jaime Hernandez (P), Paul Rivoche (P), Dave McKean (P), Seth (P), Ty Templeton (P), and others On sale Oct 22FC, 384 pages $79.95HC, 7" x 10" When Mister X hit the shelves twenty-five years ago, no one had ever seen anything like it -- a fusion of film noir, Art Deco, and German Expressionism channeled through the talents of the greatest up-and-coming artists of the day. The story of a utopian city with architecture that drove its inhabitants mad and the never-sleeping architect who quested tirelessly for a cure, Mister X captivated a generation of comics fans and creators, transforming the landscape of their chosen medium forever.
- The masterpiece of legendary designer Dean Motter that featured the artwork of young superstars Jaime Hernandez and Dave McKean and helped launch the careers of independent icons Ty Templeton, Paul Rivoche, and Seth returns to print in a fully remastered hardcover collection!
Jim: I never read this material and the solicitation has me curious to try it out.
Lee: I will give you my trades of the material after I buy this. Mister X is one of the great indies from the 80’s and I can’t wait to have this collection of the material.

ROBOTS AND DONUTS Eric Joyner (A) On sale Oct 8FC, 184 pages $99.95 Ltd. Ed. HC, 9" x 12" In the years following World War II the major export from Japan wasn’t electronic equipment, but toys, specifically tin toys. Crafted in the shapes of submarines, planes, trains, cars, and horses, one of the most popular motifs was toy robots. Constructed in virtually every shape imaginable from the 1940s throughout the 1960s, they ranged in appearance from horror to science fiction characters. Today, these toys are not only fondly remembered by collectors but are being re-created for a whole new generation! Capturing this period in history became a passion for painter Eric Joyner and in Robots and Donuts he celebrates this forgotten era with images marrying the metal creations with images plucked from his imagination. And, almost always, with donuts. (Why? Well, who doesn’t love donuts?) This whimsical book also features a look into Joyner’s painting style as well as a glimpse at some of his other non-robot-themed artwork.
- Robots and Donuts: The Art of Eric Joyner appeals to both robot lovers and lowbrow art aficionados!
- With 176 oversize, full-color pages, this beautiful book is a great value!
Jim: If I had an extra $100 that was lying in my pants pocket, I’d still buy something else. This seems intriguing, but boy the $100 price tag has me running away from this book.
Lee: You’re kinder than me. Even if I had an extra $100 laying around I wouldn’t buy this. Joyner has little or no ties to the comic book world (that I know of) so why would I plunk down this much money for someone not comic related.
Jim: Dude I said I would not buy it.

On sale Oct 84" x 4" clear lucite cube $16.99
Joss Wheden’s blockbuster Serenity continues to capture the attention of fans of fantastic adventure. Dark Horse is pleased to support the “browncoats” with the next in our series of Serenity themed ornaments.
We have scanned the Serenity ship and using the wonders of modern science, crafted it as a wire frame 3D image inside a 4" x 4" clear lucite cube. This process has allowed us to acheive an unprecedented level of accurate detail.
We are adding a mechanism of ribbon that can be glued to the cube for hanging display, but as with most ofther “tombstone”-style collectibles, it may be best displayed sitting on a window sill or over a small LED light base. The LED light, commonly available on the open market, is NOT a part of the package.
Jim: WTH! Is this stuff really selling?
Lee: I would make fun of it more if my Uncle didn’t have a light up Enterprise on his Christmas tree every year. It’s really quite embarrassing.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE Gerard Way (W), Gabriel Bá (A), and Dave Stewart (C) On sale Oct 29FC, 232 pages $79.95 Ltd. Ed. HC, 7" x 10"
unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again. In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.” These seven children form The Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreevesoversized limited-edition hardcover features an expanded sketchbook with concept designs and original artwork; commentary from the artists; and the short story from the hit 2007 Free Comic Book Day issue.
Jim: It was a good mini-series, not $80 good.
Lee: Uuummm did anyone notice the hype calls it over sized but the dimensions are listed as standard comic size! I’ll get it… from ebay.

Jim: Dark Horse is a full service provider now days, new series, licensed material, reprints, hard covers and high end collectibles. Dark Horse has managed to serve and grow for a long time; you have to admire them as really the number three comic book company.
Lee: Yak yak yak, just say it was a slow month and move on! I just wonder who’s buying all the expensive HC’s?

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Fistful of Reviews

I received two weeks of books (and then some) in the mail today. Here's what I've managed to get through so far!

Green Arrow and Black Canary #8 (DC)

This was a 'meh' issue. Overall I've been loving this series, but the art was off at times this issue, and the big reveal this time wasn't as humorous (or interesting) as the alien one previously. The thief working with the Arrow crew is interesting but the puns this issue killed me (in a bad way). Also, I have yet to warm up to Mia. I'm not really sure why.

Titans #2 (DC)

Awful. The art is way to light and sketchy for me to take this book seriously - and lets face it, if Trigon's our main bad guy maybe some amount of seriousness would help while attempting to get into the plot. This version of Raven the high school goth also keeps throwing me off. Maybe it's just me but it seems like Winick is making fun of the Titans more than anything else - and considering that most of them are characters I value I don't find these spoof versions terribly amusing. I also liked Donna's galaxy type costume much better then the new red starred one. Anyway, the story could be interesting if the dialog wasn't off and the art wasn't... for lack of a better word... catty.

Wonder Woman #20 (DC)

What a cool issue - this looks to be an interesting story arc. The opening scene with Diana facing a pack of diseased wolves was masterful and touching. Diana's encounter with Beowulf was intriguing, and the overlaying plot, while still unfolding, was but subtle and intriguing. I haven't ever read an issue of Wonder Woman that I have so throughly enjoyed. It seems that Gail Simone has found Wonder Woman's voice.

Casey Blue #1 (WS)

This comic book may end up being fantastic... but after this first issue I couldn't care less. Mostly because I have absolutely no empathy whatsoever for the main character. Even the opening line managed to put me off of this story, "There's nothing sadder than a teenager's funeral." Really, I can think of plenty of sadder things. It would have been better to use 'child' instead of teenager - it would have worked better. Casey is pretty, popular, a jock and someone who mainly reads, "Seventeen and sometimes I look at pictures of Brad Pitt... This intellectual stuff makes my head hurt a little." Gag. Casey was apparently one of the girls I hated in high school. Maybe I have yet to witness any of her redeeming qualities, but right about now she's fairly uninteresting. The ending was at least mildly intriguing, if only because it leaves the reader wondering what the heck is going on. It's hard to anticipate another issue of stereo typical high school pretty girl though. Also, the art is pretty but the breasts need to be toned down a tad. Only on the teenagers though - just to make them look younger. The way they're drawn they look like they should be out of high school. Still, beyond that I enjoyed the art work.

Dynamo 5 #13 (Image)

This book is always a fun read - even when it's serious. Spencer's origin was entertaining. As much as this was a downtime issue it answered some questions and sets up for the next story arc. This was such a novel idea for a team book and I'm glad it's come together so well.

Birds of Prey #118 (DC)

This was a good issue that let us explore the relationship between Black Alice and Misfit further. I really like both of these girls and enjoy seeing stories about them. Misfit herself is rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters.

Twilight Guardian >Pilot< (Top Cow)

Huh. This was... unique. I can honestly say I enjoyed reading this book and I really related to the main character - if I didn't have a boyfriend I could have easily ended up living her life. The art was great. However, I'm not sure where Hickman is going with this. The premise is enough that I'd like to read more but it has to be going somewhere if it's going to be a truly good story - and at the moment there's no indication of it going anywhere at all. Still, seeing how the main character is an alternate reality version of me (along with Dark Angel ;) ) I would like to read more.

Robin #174 (DC)

So Stephanie is alive. Okay.... sure. I enjoy Robin, but I was never all that into Spoiler before, and I'm still not terribly excited by the character. I trust Chuck Dixon though, so I'll see where it goes.

Batman #676 (DC)

Okay, I'm still not terribly impressed. First of all Jezebel Jet is a truly ridiculous name.... but so was Silver St. Cloud so I can get over it. I have a feeling that if I'm to appreciate this Batman RIP story at all it's be after everything is said and done. The Joker was appropriately creepy though.

Echo #3 (Abstract Studio)

Another solid issue of Terry Moore's latest endeavor. In meeting Julie's sister, Pam, we learn a little bit more of her situation. We also meet the other witness to Annie's death and see that he's of a different mind about his experience than Julie. I really like this series so far.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ayre Force – A Review

Ayre Force
Publisher BDG Entertainment

Writers Adam Slutsky & Joseph Phillip Illidge
Illustrator Shawn Martinbrough
Colors Andrew Dalhouse & Felix Serrano

First off I’d like to thank Rip Town Media for supplying a copy of this book for our review. Next, for a fun time you should also go to and check out the website. It is really well done and has that action/adventure mode to it that no other book I have seen can match.

I have learned in life that it is always best to start with what you like about something before you talk about what you did not like. This has actually benefited me in both business and personal situations.

The art work on this book was extremely well done. Shawn Martinbrough know how to layout a book and tell a story. From the opening page until the book closes the art is easy to follow and very nice to look at. Shawn comes from the darker style of art world and is what is being called a noir style. Mike Mignola is probably the most influential artist in this category, but Shawn’s is lighter in tone then Mike’s work. Also Shawn can drawn distinctive faces very well and with such a large cast of characters in this book it was a very important element. The action scenes were so well done that you wish the movies could match what he does with a few style pictures.

The story itself was like a Mission Impossible type story, mixed with GI Joe and Tony Stark and everything else thrown in for good fun. The actual action/adventure itself was a decent and harmless popcorn type of entertainment. Calvin Ayre is an ex-mercenary who was a highly skilled covert operations person. For various reasons he and his gal Friday (a super sexy and incredible smart girl with a photographic memory) have to go free lance. Amazingly enough she sets him up as a playboy/billionaire. He then gathers all of these people who are musicians, fighters or whatever and turns them into Ayre Force and is fighting against an evil genius who runs a pharmaceutical company.

The opening of the story is them freeing bears that are having their bile harvested for certain drugs. This is the type of plight I was unaware was even occurring until I read this graphic novel. Of course I don’t think we would have a security force of armed helicopters and such guarding them, but then where would the action be without some creative license. We have a lot of high octane action, some political intrigue, a super powered villain force and ultimately the good guys win. As a story for the 10-14 year old boy crowd, who likes video games I think this is a good book.

The problems I have with this book is that first I’m nowhere near being a 10-14 year old boy and I have read better premises on a monthly basis from many writers. In just re-reading my own explanation of it, the book sounds a little lame on the surface, but you have to read the back of the book to understand what is going on.

This is a vanity project and Calvin Ayre is an extraordinarily wealthy individual who founded Bodog Entertainment. The group is based on real people who have then been turned into super hero versions of themselves. He has devoted the bulk of his time to his Foundation where he is trying to help out in a lot of humanitarian causes. This book is designed to highlight some of those issues. I can’t help but applaud some of the efforts of this Foundation as it purports itself to be.

As a graphic novel for the adolescent boys who are big into video games this is a decent graphic novel.

For any older group I think the premise will come across as a bad Tom Cruise Mission Impossible Movie (which I think is all of them).

In order for this to have a broader appeal the premise needs to be more believable and the book feels like it was writing down to a younger audience, which I believe is a mistake. I also think it suffered from having too many things it had to do and therefore was not an organic story.

Final Result – Great Art / Fun story for the right audience.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indies Preview Review for July Part 3 0f 3

Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Part 3 for your reading pleasure.

IDW Publishing
Journey Vol. 01 SC by William Messner-Loebs (w/a)
A classic adventure series from Eiser nominee William Messner-Loebs, Journey, introduced the world to Joshua "Wolverine" McAlistaire and the Fort Miami settlement populated by both real-life and fictional characters. And now IDW is re-presenting this acclaimed work in two comprehensive volumes, the first of which collects issues 1-13. Eisner-winning writer/artist Sam Kieth, Messner-Loebs' partner on The Maxx, provides an intro. Pages: 424, 6.625 x 10.187, B&W
Lee: After Zot, Journey is one of my favorite Indies from the 80’s. This series was an absolute masterpiece of comic book story telling! This is the story of "Wolverine" McAlistaire in the American frontier of the 1800’s. Good, good stuff.
Jim: Sadly it is confession time and this is one of those known masterpieces that I have never gotten around to reading.

Snaked SC by Clifford Meth (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Ashley Wood (c)
In a world of dirty politics, backstabbing friends and unfaithful women, Bill Timmons discovers that being a Snake is more than a metaphor... but he's unprepared for what will happen when he sheds his skin and the fangs start to show... and so is everyone else. Written by Clifford Meth, who Barnes and Noble called "one of dark fiction's best-kept secrets," this collection also includes a new foreword by Gene Colan and the original short stories the series was based on, as well as original illustrations by the incomparable Dave Cockrum! Pages: 104, 6.625x10.187, FC
Author here and artist here
Lee: Rufus Dayglo is a veteran of the British 2000AD series so he knows his art. I’m not sure who Clifford Meth is based upon the people that recommend him, it seems like he knows his stuff too. Finally, instead of a werewolf we have a weresnake. I’m all over this.
Jim: I think you might be snake bitten, this seems over hyped and probably the quote is from his brother who works at Barnes and Noble. Maybe they should send us a free copy so we can see. Okay this was a blatant try to get free stuff. Seriously I’m not as sold as Lee is.

World War Robot SC by Ashley Wood (w & a & c)
In World War Robot, a dwindling band of humans and robots face off in a battle that will likely end humanity as we know it... on Earth, on the Moon, and on Mars, too. Badass battles, really intense human/robot drama, and even a little black humor and political intrigue are the order of the day in this oversize (one foot long by one foot wide!), standalone epic courtesy of Wood.
Pages: 48, 12x12, FC
Lee: This is an absolutely huge book. I can’t believe the size on this thing. But, if you like Wood’s art then this is the way to see it. His Zombie’s v. Robots was fine so I’m sure the story will be adequate but this is all about the art.
Jim: A great art book, but the size makes it something I would never buy as I have nowhere to put it. I hate owning something that is just shoved away somewhere.

King Tractor Press
Family Bones Vol. 01 SC
by Shawn Granger, Orlando Baez, Kenneth Landgraf & Various
Family Bones is based on the true story of the oldest married couple on Missouri's death row, serial killers Ray and Faye Copeland, as experienced one summer by their unwitting nephew. Sean is trapped on the Copeland farm, a slave for his uncle. The heat simmers his skin to a full boil until the neighbor's beautiful daughter appears. Wendy quickly becomes his hope, desire, and fear; not to mention his one trusted friend. Together they discover each other and some very bloody family secrets. Collects issue #1-5 of the comic book series.
Pages: 176, 6x8, B&W Official site here
Lee: More true crime! I am always amazed at just how many really bad people there have been over the years that the general public hasn’t heard about. I’m sure this falls into the “either you like it or don’t” category but if you’re looking for something new in the horror department this looks good.
Jim: I’m always amazed by how bad some people are and then I realize that we have a tendency to think that the way we think is the way others think, so since we value life others must and they just don’t. That type of “true” horror is the scariest of all.

Metallic Rose Comics
Hoverboy (One-Shot) by Ty Templeton, Marcus Moore & Steve Molnar
The greatest hero of the Twentieth Century is back! Hoverboy, the Republican super-hero, and star of comics, films, cartoons and toys, is returning to the media that spawned him, in an all-new adventure by Eisner Award winning writer/artist Ty Templeton (Howard the Duck, The Exterminators, The Simpsons) and Steve Molnar (Avengers Adventures). With special appearances by George Bush, John McCain, and his Republican All-Stars, this is the Hoverboy comic to own! Full Color
Lee: Jill Thompson is always an art sell, and Ty Templeton is a 90% sell for his writing. He has a great handle on humorous situation and almost always entertains.
Jim: How did Jill Thompson get into this conversation? This does sound very funny.

Little Nothings Vol. 01: Curse of the Umbrella GN
by Lewis Trondheim
Another great albeit quite different blog! The great talent behind the new generation in Europe - the Dungeon series, A.L.I.E.E.E.N., and Mr. O - pours his heart out in funny snippets of everyday life. His paranoia, little annoyances, big annoyances, chase of rainbows, love of comics, travel impressions from around the world, dealing with kids, being a kid - it's all about life as we know it. A collection from his comics blog that expands his palette with full color painting, one can only be awed at Trondheim's uncanny sense of observation and relate to all his experiences closely.
Pages: 128, 6x9, FC
Lee: I pick this AGAIN because it was soooo good. I already have my copy and I devoured it in one day. This is a very humorous look at real life and real situations told by a master cartoonist. It is a joy to read.
Jim: You can’t pick the same book twice. There should be some sort of a rule against this.

Oni Press Inc.
Last Call Vol. 02 GN by Vasilis Lolos
Alec and Sam were lost and separated. But, when the pair finally find one another, it's not the reunion either one expects. Alec has aged ten years while Sam has only been on his own for ten hours! There's no time for the two to catch-up though! There's still the issue of who is murdering the passengers and how it's connected to the boy's appearance on the train!
Pages: 136, B &W
Lee: I recently picked up Vol 1 of this series and it was excellent. Luckily Vol 2 is close behind it. Make no mistake, this is a horror story with a great mystery wrapped around it. I’m torn because I hope this is a conclusion but at the same time I don’t want the story to end.
Jim: It sounds intriguing. I have recently been getting into Queen and Country and I understand the idea that you want it to end, but don’t want it to end.

Oog & Blik
Waiting for Food: Crumb Placemat Drawings Vol. 02 HC
by R. Crumb
Previously unavailable in the U.S.! You will never have to be irretated again if you are in a restaurant. You just bring this volume of Waiting for Food and your dinner will be served before you know it. This sort of thing, drawing in social gatherings, in restaurants, is my way of alleviating some of the stress involved in socializing... kind of like smoking.˜R. Crumb .
Pages: 96, 27x20
Lee: I like lots of Crumb’s older work so I am tempted by this. It looks like an easy way to get some crumb into my collection without having to worry if my kids read it.
Jim: I like Crumb, but not enough to really worry about getting any of his work. They may not make sense, but with all that I have I don’t need to collect stuff from people who I just like.

Red 5 Comics
ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction #1 by Kevin Grevioux & Geraldo Borges
With public patience for Middle East casualties wearing thin, the U.S. military adopts a new weapon - Zombies! Air-dropped into hot zones, the walking dead indiscriminately infect everyone. Engineered to dissolve at daybreak, they create a safe combatant-free zone. What could go wrong? From the creator the of Underworld movie franchise!
Jim: Our friends at Red 5 are jumping into the Zombie band wagon. Given that everyone likes to do super heroes, I see no problem in everyone trying out a Zombie concept. The premise is great and from there we have to see if the execution is as good.
Lee: I’m still a sucker for a good zombie story and this seems to have all the right elements. And even though it’s a huge cliché, I love the phase “What could go wrong?” Red 5 has been a miniature hit factory so far and this looks like a fine addition.

Steranko's History of Comics Vol. 2 SC
by Jim Steranko
Artist/writer Jim Steranko chronicles the epic story of comics' Golden Age creators and super-heroes such as Blackhawk, Captain Midnight, The Flying Heroes, Captain Marvel, the Marvel Family, Plastic Man, The Spirit, Uncle Sam, The Ray, Kid Eternity, and others! More than 455 dynamite illustrations!
Size: 9x12, B&W
Lee: This is one of the best (and most dense) histories of comics ever written. Steranko interviewed everyone and anyone who was alive from the golden age of comics to write this book. It contains so many stories from the people that created comics as we know them that this is a must have for anyone interested in comics history. If you’re only getting started in comics history go “Comic Book Comics” from Evil Twin Publishing first then come here for real information.
Jim: First off Comic Book Comics is real information and well done, just because it ain’t high fluting and all that don’t mean it isn’t chock full of good info. Second this is a great series and I only wish it had been continued. Easily one of the best histories I ever read.

Vanguard Productions
Amazing World Carmine Infantino Revised HC
by J. David Spurlock
Carmine Infantino, the legendary artist that launched the Silver Age and co-creator of The Flash, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and Deadman, tells all in this 180-page, heavily illustrated, autobiographic, career retrospective filled with his revolutionary accomplishments and anecdotes about his colleagues Jack Kirby, Julie Schwartz, Joe Orlando, Neal Adams, Joe Simon, Bill Gaines, and Stan Lee. Pages: 180, 11x8
Curt Swan Life in Comics SC by Curt Swan & Various
The elegant comic book art of Curt Swan defined the look of Superman for over 30 years. His amazing skills of storytelling, draftsmanship, and design brought a realism and sense of wonder to The Man of Steel's adventures, making them the best-selling comic books of their day. Filled with iconic and previously unseen pop art, this fascinating biography traces the artist's career from the beginning on features like Gangbusters to his rise as the top Superman artist. Engaging one-on-one interviews with Swan family members as well as comics legend associates like Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, and dozens more, paint a portrait of the man as elegant as the artist's own work. Includes never-before-published Superman art and sketches.
Steranko HC by Jim Steranko & Various
This massive, full-color volume of the controversial creator's career explodes with hundreds of images - many never before collected in book form! The package reveals a multitude of behind-the-scenes stories and analytical insights about comics' most innovative artist, writer, and performer - unknown Marvel art; work with Steven Spielberg & George Lucas; the Secret Origin of Mister Miracle; a collaboration with Harlan Ellison; an annotated Shadow Gallery, and more, in high-quality hardcover format! Also available is a limited Deluxe Slipcased Edition with 16-page Bonus Folio and autographed by Steranko. Pages: 128, 8.5x11, HC
Lee: I lump all of these together just to show how much information on artists is available these days. Vanguard does some of the best artist bio’s on the market. I have the Infantino HC and I love it! While I’m not a huge Swan fan, the Steranko book is very very appealing.
Jim: I’m actually more interested in the Curt Swan book. Steranko was a very appealing talent, but was only in comics for a short time and Swan was one of the best artists in comics ever and I believe he never even realized how good he was.

Virgin Comics LLC
Brief History of Death One Shot
by Arjun Gaind Art by: Ram Soni
A young suicide bomber prepares to destroy a busy train station. But at the moment of impact he is frozen in time, and comes face to face with the God of Death, a creature known as Yama. But death waits for no one... except for those few to whom he gives the choice of life. Will the tale of Yama's own lost soul help the boy to change his mind? The only hope for life is Death himself.
Pages: 56, 7x10
Lee: Now this is something you don’t see everyday. The story of a terrorist told from his point of view.
Jim: Ands I hate to say it, but I think it is a valid viewpoint to look at. Of course you can’t interview a suicide bomber, so this is the next best thing. We label a large group of people as terrorists and they have certainly earned that badge, but just remember what we looked like to the British at one point.

Zenescope Entertainment Inc
Beyond Wonderland #0 by Raven Gregory
The much anticipated sequel to Zenescope's instant hit ‘Return To Wonderland’ has finally arrived! It's been six months since Calie Liddle escaped the hell that is Wonderland. Now she is living a new life in a new city under a new identity. But something from beyond this world is out there, watching, waiting and scheming for a chance to take back what it wants. And Calie can feel it closing in on her... Wonderland is coming to the Big Apple and only one girl will be able to stop terror that it brings. .
Jim: Return to Wonderland was really a strong series and it was the first time it made me take Zenoscope as a company who can do a higher level book, so now the real trick is trying to replicate that type of success.
Lee: If you can mention Zenescope every month then I can mention “Little Nothings” as often as I like. I know you love this stuff I really don’t see the appeal.

Jim: If I ever decide to really give up the massive list of comics that I get I can almost guarantee you that it will not include this material. In fact I’d rather read more of these books then most of the big two and also wish more of the excellent writers and artists from the big two would do an indy project now and again.
Lee: Another fine month of books. There’s certainly something for everyone. Since we’ve been doing this, my big two list has been steadily shrinking and I don’t mind at all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Best to Worst of Last Week

I had felt like I had been in a bit of a malaise with comics lately. For about three or four weeks it was hard to find a “best book”. I chalked some of it off just a run of decent books, but nothing great. Also when reviewing things so many factors play a role and my own personal state of mind plays a role. Still since other fans I talk to hadn’t had their socks knocked off by much for that time frame I felt it must be the books more then me. Happily that time seems to be over and this week, like last week had plenty of excellent books to choose for a best book. I’d rather it be more difficult to choose a best book because of many choices, than have a best book be a default book.

Dead She Said #1 (of 3) – Writer Steve Niles, Art Bernie Wrightson, Colors Grant Goleash. Are you kidding me, Bernie Wrightson doing pencil and inks – WOW. Bernie is in a class with maybe one or two other artists, but I think he is in the Frank Frazetta and Dave Stevens class of lush and beautifully detailed line work. This issue is laid out great, wonderful page designs and just drops dead gorgeous art. The story is a horror tale and that just puts Bernie in his element. One picture is showing our main character’s intestines hanging out of his stomach it makes your skin crawl. One day I will have to own a page of original art from him, I just need to win the lottery. The story itself is also well done. We start with a hard boiled private eye straight out of a film noir central casting waking up remembering last night’s hang over. He wakes up and realizes his blood is all over the bed, his intestines are coming out of him and rigor mortis has set in. It dawns on him he is dead and he is pissed. A second story is shown where a family on a camping trip has the parents attacked by what appear to be monster ants. We then cut back to our dead detective who finds his apparent murderer dead and what appears to be a large blade or bug arm in his murderer’s apartment. This book is a great one right from the start. BUY IT OR REGRET IT!
Superman / Batman #48 – Writers Michael Green & Mike Johnson, Pencils Shane Davis, Inks
Matt Banning, Colors Alex Sinclair. This series is flat out unbelievable, in a good way. The Kryptonite saga has been the best arc this book has ever seen and this issue was great. Superman is fighting a modified soldier who has been given Doomsday DNA combined with Kryptonite. The battle takes them across Kansas and into Smallville. Batman is back talking down the other members of Amanda Waller’s strike force and turns them into his allies in helping to stop the Doomsday creature known as the “All American Boy”. Michael Greene cuts it close with some of his internal monologue of Bruce and Clark as being a little too dramatic, but the book flat out works. The end point of this issue has Batman finding All American Boy’s parents and a spark of humanity still resides in him and he stops fighting. Superman got the crap kicked out of him, but fought a holding action until Batman could help him. The art by Shane Davis and Matt Banning is incredible. Shane is moving up into probably my top five super hero artists list. Page after page after page of some beautiful shots make this a book to get for the art alone. Also the productions values on this book are very high and some nice special effects worked really well. One that comes to mind is the smoke coming off Superman as he is hit and then slides across a road. The colorist nailed this book also and with the quality of the paper it is a vibrant color that looks great. Anytime I’m reading a DC super hero book and the colors blow me away, almost all the time it is Alex Sinclair. If you have skipped this series, pick up the trade or hard cover of this arc, because it has been a terrific story. I can’t wait for the final chapter next issue.
Scalped #17 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art R.M. Guera, Colors Giulia Brusco. Almost every issue of this series ends up on my short list of best books of the week. This issue is no exception as we get to the conclusion of the “Dead Mothers” arc. The raw and powerful emotions that this book evokes are so palatable that it is almost draining to read an issue. The story starts with the young man whose mother was killed and Dash had befriended lying dead on the ground. He had tried to kill the man who had killed his mother and was killed instead. Dash arrives as the man is being arrested and at first is just devastated over what has happened to the boy. He shots the man and wounds him in the arm and leg before the police of the local jurisdiction stop him. Chief Red Horse is burying Dash’s Mom and Dash is nowhere to be found. Red Horse hires Officer Falls Down to find the killer of Gina Bad Horse no matter what it takes. We find Dash at a bar in full self-destruct mode getting drunk, provoking a fight and getting the crap kicked out of him. He ends up back at his mother’s home and breaks down into tears. This is a very emotional and powerful issue that rips out your guts as you can’t help but to empathize with Dash. The two page epilogue threw me a little as I did not recognize who the character was or who they had killed and I don’t think I was suppose to know him. Finally I liked that the arc is not a neat clean ending where this episode ends, this is one long continuing story. Scalped is the best work by a writer who has become a star rapidly in this business and if you are not reading it you are making a mistake.
Justice Society of America #15 – Story Geoff Johns and Alex Ross, Writer Alex Ross, Pencils Dale Eaglesham, Inker Prentis Rollins, Colors Alex Sinclair. This issue the JSA and the Kingdom Come Superman are fighting Gog. It was a terrific super hero battle against an impossibly strong foe. Obsidian can’t find any fears to exploit, so he goes inside Gog and blinds him. Gog fires his staff into himself to get rid of Obsidian. Hero after hero attack Gog and he continued to fend them off. We cut back to the mansion and Sandman is recovering with other downed members and tells Rick that they are not battling Gog. As a group of the JSA is attacking the bad guy he teleports and Sandman goes into the earth to join them. In the wilderness a great stone face being rises up and absorbs the bad guy. He looks to be 25 feet tale and announces to the JSA that he comes in peace and apparently he is Gog. The next issue we start the story line One World Under Gog. The art on this book is right up there with any other super hero artist you want to mention. Dale keeps raising his game and I think he is already in the top tier of super hero artists. The double page spread where almost every JSA member is running to attack who we thought was Gog is stunning and contains 14 characters. The story is exciting as you don’t know if we are heading for a Kingdom Come world or not. Add to that the one page 4 panel tease for what is coming next year and you have a book that I can’t wait to read every month. One thing that always lets you know a book is a hit with you is when you are upset that it ended and you have to wait another month before you get more.
DC Wildstorm Dreamwar #2 (of 6) – Writer Keith Giffen, Pencils Lee Garbett, Inks Trevor Scott, Colors Randy Mayor & Gabe Eltaeb. What sounded like a total throw away mini-series has to be one of the better surprise mini-series of the year so far. First off the art work is flat out gorgeous. Lee Garbett just gets better and better. With Giffen as writer, I’m sure much of the layout and design is his work and Giffen is a master story teller, but Lee’s pencils are great. Also this book has such a large cast and he gets almost each and every character right. Trevor Scott is a strong inker and that just makes the book look even better. The story has DC hero groups (Titans, LOSH, JLA and JSA) attacking many of the Wildstorm groups. It is apparent that someone is controlling the DC heroes, because they are not acting like heroes at all. This series is giving us a classic slam bang fight between heroes with a very good story and beautiful art.
Hellblazer #244 – Writer Andy Diggle, Layouts Giuseppe Camuncoli, Finishes Stefano Landini, Colors Lee Loughridge. Has this book ever been better then it is right now? When you’re reading a series in the here and now, you probably forget how good it has been under the pen of many other terrific writers, but god this series is fricking great right now. Andy Diggle has John as the ultimate con artist and self serving bastard around. Since he has a heart buried under it all we can still root for him and often the people who he screws with are worse then he is, so we can cheer against them. I loved how we had this big mystic showdown between John and some demon and after last issue you were wondering what was going on and you find out it was all a set-up to get a certain book out of the Vatican. The art work was well done also and while I think Manco is a better Hellblazer artist, we lost nothing but having this team serve as guest artist. I think a lot of credit goes to the colorist Lee Loughridge for using a certain color palette that makes the book always have a similar feel.
War is Hell The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #3 (of 5) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Howard Chaykin, Colors Brian Reber. Someone should just chain Garth Ennis to his keyboard and tell him he has to write war stories for the rest of his career. He always does his best work on war stories. Karl Kauffman is a naïve soul who is in over his head and he has finagled his way into being an aviator during WWI. We are seeing this well meaning man-child start to come into his own on a personal level. He is learning about life and war itself. At the same time he is becoming an accidental hero. When we first met him we thought he was just a buffoon, but we are learning that there is more to him then that and he is learning about this war as we are learning about him. Chaykin is doing an outstanding job on the art, and his stylized art works on this story. The big plus is Chaykin’s airplane drawing skills are terrific and an obvious plus for the story. This series has been a nice little gem so far and I look forward to the next two issues.
Catwoman #79 – Writer Will Pfeifer, Pencils David Lopez, Inks Alvaro Lopez, Colors Jeromy Cox. Selina shows up back in Gotham and then takes off the find Slam and saves him from the kid who can make duplicates of himself. Selina and Slam take the kid back to his office and Selina cons the kid into thinking he escaped and shot Catwoman. The whole scam on Selina’s part was to have the kid run back to the thief as she wants to pay him back from stealing everything from her. Another great issue in this series and I hate that it is ending soon, but I’m guessing the whole Bat-verse is being turned upside down with Batman RIP. I liked that no effort was spent to explain how she got back, as that will all be explained in Salvation Run and was unnecessary in Selina’s story. This is flat out a great series that delivers month in and month out. The art work by David and Alvaro Lopez is just top notch art work and they certainly have managed to be reliable. I would love to see this art team get a high profile job after Catwoman and taking over on Superman would be my choice.
Ghost Rider #23 – Writer Jason Aaron, Art Roland Boschi, Colors Dan Brown. Let’s start off talking about the art. The first page is a three panel layout with the top half being a beautiful shot of Johnny Blaze on his motorcycle with the kid hanging on for dear life. The entire picture is great, but the bike with licks of flame around the bottom is gorgeous. Then we have the crash of two cars and a bus, a scene where Ghost Rider cuts through a bus and ends with a single panel shot of Danny Ketch on his motorcycle. Jason Aaron’s script is hard edged, touches of humor and insane menaces is what is selling me on this book a lot, but make no mistake Roland Boschi’s art is just a big a part of what makes this book really shine, so I hope he is back after the next story arc. Ghost Rider has to be one of Marvel’s better series right now and with Iron Fist losing their creative team, it maybe in the top three for all of Marvel’s series.
Fall of Cthulhu #12 – Writer Michael Allan Nelson, Art Mateus Santolouco, Colors Cris Peter. This series continues to impress. This arc is about The Gray Man and he is pissed that his knife, which serves as his talisman, has been stolen. He is in the process of killing anyone associated with it in order to find it. The Gray Man is a supernatural being and after this issue it is obvious he cannot be beaten by conventional means. The sheriff enlists the aid of the young woman Lucifer who places his police car in a circle of runes to protect them from the Gray Man and sends the sheriff into the Dreamlands. From prior issues you know it will cost the sheriff a lot to get what he needs to stop the Gray Man. At the same time each arc works by itself, the entire series is tying together and you feel like it is building towards some sort of ultimate climax. I like this series because it works as a slasher and psychological type horror story.
Madame Mirage #6 (of 6) – Writer Paul Dini, Art Kenneth Rocafort, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios. This was a very good mini-series. It holds together better as a whole story better then it does as individual chapters. The massive delays between issues might be part of the problem, but I liked the book more and more the further we got into the series. Harper is successful in bringing down the bad guys, but since she killed someone in the process, she has decided to disappear and go off the radar. The art by Kenneth Rocafort was well done, but at times I thought he overdid some of his page designs and it was almost like adding too many special effects in a movie. His art is good enough that he should use a more straight forward approach except when needed. The impact of playing with the page design looses something when overused. Definitely a book that I will look to pick up the trade on as it is a keeper. I know this is planned to be a series of mini-series, but I’m unsure what would motivate Harper to continue as a more traditional super hero.
Birds of Prey #118 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Nikola Scott, Inks Doug Hazelwood, Colors Hi-Fi. This was a nice start to Tony Bedard coming aboard as the new writer. Instead of focusing on Oracle and the setting up of their new headquarters he focuses on Black Alice and Misfit. I thought this was a good choice and enjoyed seeing these two being caught by the Dark Side Club. It was also neat to see that the New Gods are coming back the way Grant Morrison had them in his Mister Miracle series that was part of the Seven Soldiers concept. Add to that the twist that we find out that Alice and Misfit are related by blood and you have a very good story. Alice says she hates Misfit, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out long term. The Birds of Prey manages to always be a great read and I think a lot of credit has to go to Chuck Dixon who created the concept.
Robin #174 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Chris Batista, Inks Cam Smith and Rick Ketcham, Colors Guy Major. The bulk of the issue is Robin, Spoiler and Violet fighting against a North Korean gang, but you know going in this is all about learning who Spoiler is so the fight was almost perfunctionary. Robin calls in Batman after Spoiler takes off and they both show up at her doorstep and she unmasks and it is Stephanie. Batman states that he had serious questions about her death and that is what he never put up a memorial. Since they killed her off so quickly, bringing her back is not that big of a stretch. Of course if it was really planned to be this way they would have dropped hints during the time when she was “killed”. All in all I’m happy to see her back and I’m very curious to see how she will fit into the Batman world at this point. Also how will this play out with Batman RIP. This is one of DC’s better series and Chuck Dixon just does a great job with Tim Drake.
Casey Blue Beyond Tomorrow #1 (of 6) – Writer B. Clay Moore, Pencils Carlo Barberi, Inks Jacob Eguren, Colors Darlene Royer. I ordered this book, but was almost ready to cancel it before I even read it and I’m not sure why, but it felt like it was going to be too generic. I was wrong. This was a great opening act. We start with the funeral of the main character and cut away to Casey watching her funeral from a tree. We then cut to a person garbed in leather coming through an “authority” type doorway on Casey’s date of birth and then cut to her in high school. We learn a little of Casey and her family and then we see her having headaches. She is knocking on someone’s door and then when the guy answers she starts to kick the crap out of him. We cut away again and she is in her car and comes out of her trance when her cell phone rings and she is covered in blood. Obviously someone took control of her and she has super powers. Everything else and every other question you have are left as a mystery. Carlo Barberi has a very clean line and pleasing style that I always enjoy and B. Clay Moore knows how to write a comic book and is becoming a “rising star’ in my mind. This was a terrific start to this series and I’m very happy to be aboard.
Echo #3 – Story and Art Terry Moore. This issue is all about giving us more background on our cast of characters. We find out Julie lost her family a couple of years ago and she only has her sister left and she is a basket case and has been institutionalized. Her estranged spouse wants nothing more to do with her and he made that clear when she went to visit him. The liquid metal suit that has bonded to Julie has her seeking out someone to help her cope with it. At the same time the same time we learn more about the park ranger who will be a major character, see more of the military’s plans to come after her and find out another person has a piece of the suit bonded to them. Also and a very important story element, we are told that the suit makes someone into a walking atom bomb. This was a slower paced, but necessary issue that gives us depth to our cast before moving forward with the story.
Pigeons from Hell #2 (of 4) – Writer Joe R. Lansdale, Art Nathan Fox, Colors Dave Stewart. This continues to be a good little horror story. This issue it appears that the only ones left from the group of friends is the two sisters who inherited this haunted mansion. The issue starts with Jason waking Sally and he decides he is going upstairs because he thinks he heard something. Jason tells Sally to stay behind and she is happy to do so. It is always a bad idea to go off by on your own in the creepy haunted mansion. Jason returns with an axe in his head and proceeds to take it out and attack the rest of the group. The two sisters save Sally and the sisters run out into the swamp and are attacked by ghosts. A bounty hunter runs across the sisters and they go back into the house and after a lot of trouble managed to kill the already dead Jason, who has hacked up their injured friend. We now have the sisters and the bounty hunter left in the house and we have no clue what has happened to Sally. The art by Nathan Fox is appropriately gruesome and has a nice vibe that really fits the story. All in all this is turning out to be a solid horror story and makes me want to read the source material by Howard.
Grendel Behold the Devil #7 (of 8) – Writer/Artist Matt Wagner. What a fast read this issue was and it felt like the end of the mini-series, yet we have a final issue. Grendel discovers the demon that has being following him around. He has the demon under his control and asks him why he is following him. The demon tells Grendel that Hunter has been his special pet for years and that he has been following Hunter since his birth. Enraged Grendel breaks the circle and the demon attacks and hits Grendel with venom that gives him a vision of the Grendel legacy and how wide and far it will grow. Once home Hunter no longer feels the demon’s presence and throws out his journal pages relating to the experience. I know we have to wrap up the reporter and police officer story line and such, but the last panel was him burning the pages and it could have ended there if we didn’t have a small sub-plot or two left. I’m sure Wagner has another rabbit to pull out of the hat for the finale. This has been a good series and I will get the inevitable hard cover when it comes out.
Tangent: Superman’s Reign #3 (of 12) – Main Story: Writer Dan Jurgens, Pencils Jamal Ingle, Inks Robin Riggs, Colors Dom Regan. Back Up Story Writer Ron Marz, Pencils Fernando Pasarin, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Dom Regan. I don’t know why, but this book continues to be better then I expected. I guess that in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure how this could be pulled off and I also was not sure I want the regular DCU involved. This issue John Stewart and Wally help out in freeing the Atom from the fascist government of the Tangent Superman. While the two Flashes and others manage to free the Atom and escape, John Stewart is captured by Superman. At the same time on the regular DCU world the JLA has determined that Flash and GL are no longer on Earth. The back-up feature fits in perfectly bringing us further up to speed on what has happened on the Tangent Universe Earth. So far this has been a well structured story and continues to pull you in and build interest.
Gutwrencher #3 (of 3) – Story – Keith Giffen, Steve Niles and Shannon Eric Denton, Writer Shannon Eric Denton, Art Anthony Hightower, Colors Carols Badilla. This was a nice end to this little slasher flick. It ended the way all good horror flicks end with the bad guy biting the dust and then an epilogue showing that the spirit had inhabited another body and the new possessed person was about to go on a killing spree. It had all the clichés that you come to expect in this type of story but it was done so well and was so entertaining that you didn’t care how cliché ridden it was. Just goes to show that you can tell one of these stories and make it enjoyable if you give us some decent characters and have good cinematography. I’m not saying the art was the best in actual rendering, but the layouts, design and coloring all did a very good job with this story.
Dynamo 5 #13 – Writer Jay Faerber, Art Mahmud Asrar, Color Ron Riley. This issue is setting up a test of the group. Maddie, who brought them together apparently, has had her brain short circuited and the Dr. Noble now has her under her care. During the battle last issue Myriad was knocked out and reverted to his true form, which is obviously not human. Once Maddie is safely under Dr. Noble’s care the other kids confront Myriad and he reveals his origin. Captain Dynamo bedded an alien woman after helping to fix a stranded space ship. She came to Earth and gave Captain Dynamo the child and he dumped him with the FLAG organization. Some group members feel betrayed and arguments ensue and they all go their separate ways. It is a classic story for a super hero group and a nice way to show the group is a group and no longer five strangers, as the group will most likely come back together on their own accord. Knowing how manipulative Maddie is portrayed, I wonder if she is faking the extent of her injury to test the strength of the group bond.
Flash #240 – Writer Tom Peyer, Art Freddie Williams II, Colors Tanya and Richard Horie. This was another good issue. The pace of this story is appropriately fast. Spin has somehow called in Gorilla Grodd. Now we last saw him going to his death in Salvation Run, so I liked that we got a reason why he was alive thrown in. Anyway, we have Spin and Grodd and the city going out of control acting out all the scare stories TV news constantly pumps out. Jay and Wally are trying to stop all of that madness. While Jay and Wally are occupied the twins get captured by the Dark Side Club. I already like the idea that the New Gods are coming back as humans on Earth as Grant had them in his Mr. Miracle mini-series. It is a nice way to have these characters as part of the DCU without being “gods” at this point. Once captured Iris while knocked out apparently goes into another accelerated aging cycle and appears to now be a young woman. Flash is back as a book to add to your list.
X-Factor #31 – Writer Peter David, Art Pablo Raimondi, Colors Jeromy Cox. This was a solid issue. As a series I think this book is not as good as it once was, but it is still a relatively strong series, but it is starting to lose my interest. I believe that the “Messiah Complex” interruption and events have really taken the steam out of the direction this book was going. At one time it was a story about the individual members lives and the occasionally circumstance that required them to fight off a menace. With the loss of Wolfsbane, Layla and the addition of the “M” tattoo on Jamie’s face from Messiah Complex events the book feels like it has been cut from its moorings and adrift. This issue itself was interesting as Mutant Town is blowing up and X-Factor is doing the best they can to save some people still in that section of the city, but I no longer know what this adventure does or has to do with the team itself. David is a strong writer and I will give him a couple more issues, but the book needs a direction again. Another saving grace is the strong art work of Pablo, whose dark style suits this book well and creates an almost “film noir” atmosphere.
Brave and Bold #13– Writer Mark Waid, Pencils Jerry Ordway, Inks Scott Koblish and Bob McLeod, Colors Rob Schwager. This series has a definite throwback feel to it, in that it is telling stories in more of the tradition of the silver age, but written much stronger and of course very good art work with Jerry Ordway. I like the way Mark Waid created a natural pairing of Batman and Jay Garrick, but having Batman investigating a murder in Gotham, but it was a protégé of Jay’s from his personal life. T.O. Morrow is using chemically enhanced robots and Batman and the Flash battle against them. The good guys win, but the best moments are about the relationship between Jay and Bruce. This was a very enjoyable one and done issue and was just a rock solid comic.
Iron Man Director of Shield #29 – Writer Stuart Moore, Pencils Roberto de la Torre & Carlos Pagulayan, Inks Roberto de la Torre & Jeffrey Huet, Colors Dean White. I was all set to drop this book as after the last arc and with a new writer I figured it was a good time to cut this book loose, but Stuart Moore’s story dragged me right back in. Tony as Iron Man has a team of Iron Men lights helping him on a mission to stop a terrorist who has same insane nanotechnology. At the same time a disgruntled Shield agent is going after the Overkill Horn which is from a Shield story from way back. A nice set-up and a solid adventure with some strong art work and I’m sticking on this title.
End League #3 – Writer Rick Remender, Pencils Matt Broome, Inks Sean Parsons, Colors Wendy Broome. I was all set to drop this book, but seeing the remaining End League members continue to soldier forward even after Astonishing Man is killed made me want to hang around a little longer. The bi-monthly publishing schedule for a book this dense when I read as many books as I do is a killer for me and I may have to switch to trades on this series.
1001 Arabian Nights The Adventures of Sinbad #1 – Writer Dan Wickline, Art Paolo Pantalena, Colors Nei Ruffino. This is another Zenoscope product and these are the people who are famous (infamous) for all the good girl covers and art. Lee complains about me always mentioning these guys, but often they are entertaining comics. Very seldom is this going to be the best thing going and often the women they portray are over sexed perfect women, but often the stories are fun, the art work is decent and they are fast reads, once in a while they produce some gems. This issue was a good starting point for a Sinbad adventure. Sinbad is trying to beat a bad murder charge and is on a quest to gather the necessary artifacts to make a visor that can prove his innocence. The first island they get to has a witch queen who runs the place. Sinbad gets invited into her private quarters and Sinbad is looking for a fun night as he is double dealing the queen. It is a fun action/adventure set in the mythical time of Aladdin. The one thing that is driving me insane is the smile they give Sinbad, it is so odd looking as to be disturbing. Again not a book to set your world on fire, but entertaining and lots of hot looking women.
Captain America #38 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Pencils Steve Epting, Inks Mike Perkins and Steve Epting, Colors Frank D’Armata. This issue absolutely nothing happens. We continue to tread water to make this story line last to issue #50 (my guess) and somehow I think it should have ended by issue #40. Seriously this story feels so stretched out it is insane. Worse, since it is well written it is not like Ed is phoning in a script like Loeb does with two page splash ever third page. The scarred Captain America is revealed as the fifties’ Captain America, the Red Skull’s candidate for President gives a speech; Bucky and Falcon break up some operation of Arnim Zola, that’s it. Finally, can someone explain how Falcon’s wings work now, as they appeared and disappeared a lot. A well written and well drawn series that would be best enjoyed as a trade or longer collection.
Pilot Season Twilight Guardian – Writer Troy Hickman, Art Reza, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios. If every a comic has been written about someone trying to be a “real” super hero this one was it. The Twilight Guardian is a young lady who every night puts on a hooded jacket and a domino mask and patrols her neighborhood. She reads an old comic for inspiration, carries a roll of quarters for weight in case she gets in a fight. By day she works at a dry cleaner and we learn she at least has a mother for family. There was something so sad and almost pathetic about this character and at the same time you felt her trying to find some sort of nobility and truth in her life. One view of the book would be that absolutely nothing happened; another is that you got to see what a real person would be like in trying to bring justice to their little part of the world. A book that stays with you as you feel this girl is so sad and lonely and you want to know what made her the way she is now. The one thing that bothered me was a practical bit, that could be explained away by many things, but has does she live in a nice house on her own and just is a worker at a dry cleaner. In a world saturated by super heroes I think this book will be hard pressed to win the “Pilot Season” contest, but it would make a nice original graphic novel.
Justice League of America #21 – Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Pencils Carlos Pacheco, Inks Jesus Merino, Colors Pete Pantazis. This issue we have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman meeting as a secret sub-group of the JLA. This is just insane and really does not fit the characters’ personality at all. Some of the dialogue between the characters was funny as Batman calls it a “Star Chamber” and other bits were cute, but it does not ring true. The whole “Trinity” thing is an interesting concept as these are the three big names at DC, but that does not mean they are the rulers of the super-heroes or Overseers of the DCU. It feels very forced. The rest of the story was about the Human Flame and how he almost escapes fighting Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, but is about to be beaten when Libra shows up and saves him. We then see that Libra has gathered a large group of villains and is offering them their hearts desire if they buy into his scheme. First up to prove himself Libra is granting the Human Flame his heart’s desire which is the power to kill the Martian Manhunter. The story is to be continued in Final Crisis. This was an okay set-up, but the actual comic itself seems to have lost whatever direction it may have had. The JLA series itself has lost its identity.
Loveless #24 – Writer Brian Azzarello, Art Daniel Zezelj, Colors Lee Loughridge. This is the final issue of Loveless and while I enjoyed the story and the artwork was fantastic, I felt like it ended in the middle of the story. I’m not sure how all of this tied together and maybe one day I will read an interview with the writer that will explain it, but I really felt like the story ended in the middle. Since I’m not 100% sure if this is where the book was supposed to end or not, maybe sales forced the book to stop on issue #24 and they were unable to rework the story. Anyway it is certainly a book that was different and had some good experiments in how to tell a story, that will I’m sure be used by other writers in the future. Unfortunately the obtuse story telling made it impossible to determine what story was being told.
Mighty Avengers #14 - Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Khoi Pham, Inks Danny Miki, Colors Dean White. First off, I can only hope the price code box has obscured or deleted the fact that this cover is an old John Buscema cover that has been lighted box or whatever and then skrullified. I mean come on how lame is it to constantly rip off these old covers, but even worse to have credits that say Cover Artist Marko Djurdjevic. I’m sure there are some fans who think this is his work. It is disrespectful of the artist who created the original, especially when it is a tracing of that cover for the most part. This issue was a Bendis talking issue where it was one long issue explaining how the Skrulls viewed the threat of the Sentry. Since it was mainly all skrulls talking no one having a “distinct voice” really mattered. The end game is that the Sentry is pushed over the edge and runs off to Saturn and goes catatonic and the void reappears as a good guy. This makes no sense at all and the whole Secret Invasion thing feels like the wheels are falling off. The artwork for this issue was a solid job by Khoi Pham and Danny Miki, but the actual story did not thrill me.
Countdown to Mystery #8 (of 8) – Eclipso Writer Matthew Sturges, Pencils Chad Hardin, Inks Robert Campenella, Colors Dan Brown. This was a decent series and a well done story. I liked that the Eclipso / Spectre War could only end if the human hosts ended it as the entities themselves were locked into a never ending battle. The one problem I have with the story is that Eclipso is back to being a merged being with Bruce Gordon, so in many ways we have just hit the re-set button on Eclipso and he is where he was when he first came into comics. Doctor Fate – Inspiration Steve Gerber. A really touching tribute to the late Steve Gerber by four sets of creators who ended the story in what they thought the Gerber style would have been. Ultimately they all left us with a new Dr. Fate struggling to figure out who he is and what to do with this power.
Checkmate #26 – Writer Bruce Jones, Pencils Manuel Garcia, Inks Travis Lanham, Colors Santiago Arcas. With Greg Rucka leaving the series and Bruce Jones taking over I was a little worried about what we were going to get. Bruce Jones is a competent writer, but he has failed to really hit any home runs for me in his work over the last few years. This issue was a good start to a new arc. A menace is starting up and hitting different parts of the word. It appears that the menace is taking the form of whatever culture it appears in. At the same time a soldier in Iraq is severely injured and is apparently lost all of his memory due to brain damage. Checkmate uses this raw material to make an “All Weather Soldier”. Due to an accident they instead create a creature that shifts form to match whatever type of creature attacks it. Also it appears that on some level he has not forgotten who he was as he has mentally reached out to his fiancé who was told he was dead. The new creature is called Chimera. You know going in that the Chimera will remember his past life and that can’t bode well for Checkmate as they created him. Also we already have so many great characters in Checkmate; I’m not sure why we needed to add another new character at this point. Still the bottom line is this was a good opening issue under the new writer.
Batman and the Outsiders #7 – Writer Chuck Dixon, Pencils Carlos Rodriquez, Inks Bit, Colors Marta Martinez. This was not a bad issue and as a series the book is showing small steps forward. This issue is almost 100% set-up as Batman has a group that has been captured and he is trying to pull together a rescue group. At the same time Metamorpho is stuck on a satellite and trying to survive all of these people who are under some sort of mind control. The pacing on this book is off and I know that has to be due to various editorial mandates that seem to be flying into this book left and right. Still I had two scenes which were great. One was Metamorpho getting smaller when he was stuck in space and needed to use his mass for oxygen. The shriveled up Metamorpho was funny looking and a nice spot of humor (regardless of worrying about science all of a sudden with this character). The second was Nightwing being called in by Batman to help him out. Love that the Bat-family acts more like a family in current continuity. This series is growing on me ever so slowly.
Spirit #17Cancelled – I had actually written a little diatribe about why I cancelled this comic but failed to save when I closed the document. The bottom line is the new creative team is doing a good job of presenting a light hearted and humorous take on the Spirit. It is not my vision of the character and therefore I have lost interest.

That’s a wrap on a strong week of comics and one book that got axed. The summer season kicks into high gear as both of the big two have their big event books cranking out during the summer months. I personally feel that Marvel has gone way overboard with all of their tie-in and cross-over and add on mini-series, but they will continue to do it as long as the sales justify it. Do me a favor and skip one of the cross-over or add on mini-series from the big two and try something new that you have not tried before, not just a different company try a western, a horror, a crime book, science-fiction or anything besides a super-hero book.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hercules The Thracian Wars #2 (of 5) - A Review

Hercules the Thracian Wars # 2 (of 5)
Publisher Radical Comics
Writer Steve Moore
Art Admira Wijaya
Colors Imaginary Friends Studios and Sixth Creation

In Comics Stores on May 29

Radical comics had forwarded preview copies of Hercules #2 and Caliber #2 coming out this week. If you missed issues #1, do not miss the second issues.

Comics are a visual medium first and foremost. Just like movies and TV you can’t help but notice the pictures first. If the art is bad it will take you out of the story and even the best writer with the world’s masterpiece of graphic fiction will not be noticed as well with poor visuals.

Hercules is blessed with some absolutely beautiful artwork. It is a realistic style that makes you feel like this people are very real. It is obvious that there is a lot of work being done via the computer, and sometimes it can make a picture seem almost too CGI for my taste, but this art has more or a painted feeling to it. Admira captures the grim and gritty feel to ancient Grecian times, as I imagine it would be.

Admira also has done some page designs that just really help to tell the story. There is one page where a battle is being fought and the leader is charging into battle yelling to send in the horsemen. The actual person charging is superimposed across three battle panels and the design is just breath taking.

Finally Admira captures both the blood and gore of the battles as well as capturing some of the quieter scenes with equal skill. I have to say I also feel sorry for Admira as they gave Hercules the lion skin to wear over his head and drawing that panel after panel has to be tiring, but it looks very cool. Admira is not a perfect artist by any means as there are some occasional poses or panels that don’t work for me, but the bottom line is that his work and the work of the coloring team makes this book stands out as an excellent looking visual. Seriously you could buy this book and just look at the pictures and get your monies worth.

The good news is you get a whole lot of story for your money also. I complain about many books that spread thing out and have issues where nothing happens. I could tell you the plot this issue is Hercules trains the Thracian troops and helps them in their campaigns to quell any rebellions in the countryside and then is lead into a trap. While that is the basic summary of the overall plot, it does not tell you how much information gets packed into this issue.

The scenes where Hercules and company are confronted by the real Thracian King and they learn that the hallway of men from last issue was a test, gives a lot of insight into how Hercules and the King think.

The actual training of the troops is also well done as Hercules and company give a graphic demonstrated to the Thracian army about what happens if you don’t do at they say. The battle as the the troops slaughter the villages does not leave a good feeling with Hercules, as it appears to be more then quelling a rebellion.

We also are getting the background story of Atalanta and Meleager, the “couple that works for Hercules. It is not only mixing in a lot of Greek mythology for us it also is giving us background on each one of Hercules' band.

Gwen (fellow blogger and my daughter) has long stated that super hero comics represent modern mythology for America. What this comic is doing is giving us the Greek myths in a graphic format and bringing it down to a more “true” level. Over time the myth of Hercules has grown and been made into more into what we have seen in comics today.

Grade A. Hercules delivers power, action, adventure, dynamite art and story.
Don't forget to pick up Caliber #2 - This is a strong book also and the re-telling of Camelot in the old west is as good as Hercules.
I hope to occasionally do a second post on Monday to give a preview review of a book that is coming out this week.