Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wild Midwest

It's easy to peg why I bought The Kents, DC's 1997-98 12 issue series. John Ostrander and, more importantly, Tim Truman. I've been a Truman fan since my college days when he was publishing Scout through Eclipse. He was also the first comics guy I actually met, as he spoke at an English class a friend of mine was taking. I sat in and, it being a small liberal arts college, it wasn't hard to get some time to talk to him afterward. Scout and Wilderness are amongst my favorite writings still.

Truman brings a good amount of historical research to his work, when it's a sort of work that's based in a historical epoch or even if it's set in an imaginary future, so long as the history is important to the story.

Though Truman didn't have anything to do with the writing this time, Ostrander did the same kind of thorough work. In some of the pages at the back of the book he expanded on the research that went into the project and provided some of the source material, should anyone want to check it out. He also talked about how the original pitch for the story was to feature Floyd (Deadshot) Lawson's family as the central characters, but DC's execs took the bolder step of having the Kents be the featured players.

But enough of that. On to the story. The set up is that Pa Kent, amatuer archeologist, is digging in the foundation of a previous Kent farmhouse that stood on the Kent farm when he finds a strong box. The contents of the box are the journals of Silas Kent, Nathaniel Kent, Joshua Freeman, and Mary Glenowen, along with some letters from Jebediah Kent and Belinda Kent. These documents tell the story of the Kent family from 1854 to 1874, primarily in Kansas. Pa Kent goes through them and gets them in order and sends 12 packets along to Clark Kent in Metropolis. It's a good story device that lets Pa introduce things and fill in bits that would be missing from the documents. Ostrander even has Pa comment on the oddity of his own story device, given that Pa could call Clark to talk about the documents or Clark could just fly there. It's a nice little touch that shows how much Ostrander put into thinking about his story and how it would be told.

The start of the tale has Silas Kent living in Massachusetts with his family, made up of wife, Abigail, and children, Nathaniel, Jebediah, Belinda, Lucy, Joel William, Owen, and twins Jonathan and Emma Lou. Silas helps escaped slaves on the underground railroad and, with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, decides to head to Kansas to help make it a free state as it would have been under the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri Compromise had agreed that states north of a certain parallel would be free, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act left it up to the vote of the people in the territory, even though Kansas was north of the demarcation line. Many New Englanders like the Kents were bent on seeing that Kansas be a free state, and Massachussets even passed a law providing assitance to those who would go.

Only Silas and the two oldest boys, Nathaniel and Jebediah, go to Kansas. The others are left behind in Massachussets because of the danger of Kansas. Kind of hard to think of Kansas as dangerous now, unless you think teaching science is dangerous, but in those days it would earn its nom du guerre, Bleeding Kansas. Silas is a printer and brings a portable press with him. He publishes a pro-free state paper. Nathaniel is close with his father and his father's cause, and is clearly envisioned as a look alike to Clark, though there would be no blood relation between them. I thought this a good choice because we don't have depictions of what might have been photos of Nathaniel Kent and the story is told as the imaginings of Pa and Clark from the documents they're reading. It would only fit that they would think of the forthright, upstanding young man of the story as appearing like Clark.

Younger brother Jeb is not at all interested in the cause. He's mostly interested in hunting and taking up with as many women as he can. He leans toward the slave state cause in advocating upholding the law, while his father and brother are more akin to the protesters of the Civil Rights Era advocates of resisting "unjust" laws. Just being in the eye of the beholder, of course.

Silas Kent is killed by a slave state ruffian, but Jeb falls more toward that cause nonetheless. Nathaniel keeps the printing operation going as well as a farm. As a result of his brother's needling about Nathaniel advocating for blacks but not knowing any, Nathaniel befriends a neighboring farm family composed of a freed slave and his wife and son (Joshua Freeman), whose freedom he had bought after his own release from slavery. Jeb, on the other hand, finds himself friends with William Quantrill, later of Quantrill's Raiders fame.

In fact, actual historical figures are sprinkled throughout the story. Harriet Tubman, William Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, Jim Lane, Wild Bill Hickock, John Wilkes Booth, Buffalo Bill Cody, George Armstrong Custer, and a plethora of generals and government officials are to be found and fairly accurately depicted. Ostrander even throws in a distant relation between Jim Lane and Lois Lane for good measure. Hickock and Quantrill are featured more than any others, being bosom buddies to Nathaniel and Jeb, respecitvely.

But the story is also populated with some of my favorite DC characters from the era, Jonah Hex and Ke-woh-no-tay, Scalphunter. Those were some of the best, used, coverless books I bought from a local convenience store when I was a kid out in the sticks of PA. Ostrander uses them to good and important, not just cameo, effect, too.

To some extent the story follows a predictable path. Jeb and Nathaniel come to a violent separation over slavery, with Jeb thinking he's killed Nathaniel. When the Civil War breaks out Nathaniel serves as a scout and spy for the Union Army while also searching for Joshua Freeman's parents and, eventually, Mary Glenowen, who's half Welsh and half Delaware Indian. The relationship between Nathaniel and Mary is the requisite love story in the piece. Jeb rides with Quantrill's Raiders, and after the war with the James Gang headed by Jesse James. Nathaniel finds Mary, settles down and has kids while working as a sheriff. But there's a final confrontation with Jeb, who's realized that his own son is a sociopathic wastrel. Jeb sets up his own son's gang for ambush by Nathaniel and the townspeople. Naturally, he winds up killed by his son before his son is also killed.

The greatness of the story is in all the detail Ostrander brings to the table. Not just the historical details, which make for a nice touch to an American History minor like myself, but also the character consistency. Jeb's letters to his sister Lucy laying out his story, and which he never mails to Lucy, do as much to develop his character as the imagined story pieces. Jeb is a man who never quite admits to himself his own responsibility for the situations in which he finds himself. He'll often say he's following his destined path, or he can't get out of a given situation he's in, but not until he finds his grown and warped son does he confront is own life. Even then, he's more interested in stopping his son, whatever the cost to himself, than in accepting that his own bad decisions have lead him to this point. It's much like the pathology of gang members today, with the exception that Jeb came from a more stable family life at the start.

Nathaniel, like Clark, is soemthing of a straight arrow. He has his moments of anger, but he regrets them and thinks on what he can do to prevent recurrences. Even when he's bent on pursuing and killing Jeb for shooting him, he puts that aside to search for Joshua Freeman's parents and for Mary Glenowen. Eventually he lets go of the anger and desire to kill his brother, if not altogether forgiving him.

There is a lot more to this story than the summary here. Neither side in the free/slave fight is depicted as all good and pure. There are lunatics and fanatics on both sides, both historical and fictional, be they Jim Lane or John Brown on the free side or William Quantrill or Bloody Bill Anderson on the slave side. No question, slavery is depicted as wrong, but there's no illusion that the free staters thought blacks and whites were equal. Just as importantly, the Missourians who cross into Kansas to try to swing the state to slave are noted to be almost entirely made up of people who don't own any slaves themselves. Missourians, on the whole, were not wealthy enough for slaves, but even those without were wedded to it on principle. Without stating it outright, Ostrander brings out the contradiciton of this and the manipulation by wealthy slave holders that has these poor whites fighting for something they are unlikely to own, on the principle that they are superior to the slaves. And that was a lynchpin of slavery. It couldn't have been maintained without the poor whites being convinced that it was in their interest for wealthy people to have slaves, which couldn't be done without the mythology of racial superiority. That the free staters also bought into the racial superiority argument, for the most part, made it that much more difficult to muster forces to fight at times. It's hard to have people fight for the freedom of other people they believe to be their inferiors.

It reminds me of the Republican strategy of the last couple decades, which relied on convincing people to vote against their own interests in support of the wealth of others, at the expense of those same voters. The demagoguery of "welfare queens", wanton immigrants or terrorists serves the same purpose of setting up voters to believe they're superior to someone else who needs to be kept in check. Only by supporting the wealthy and the powerful can these unwanted people be kept at bay from the hard working common man/woman. Nevermind that the wealthy and the powerful are escaping paying their own share into the fight or are asking only the down trodden or families with long standing military tradition to bear the burden of the fight. Not that that strategy is working out well for the GOP these days. With no table scraps for the wealthy to toss to the masses, the masses aren't too happy with the wealthy.

But that's just me. Ostrander doesn't say any of that. Extrapolating is fun.

I should also point out that the last 4 issues featured the art of Tom Mandrake rather than Truman. This was clearly a planned thing and not a scramble at the end because it was mentioned as coming along in the first issue. Mandrake was an excellent choice, too. His art is similar in style to Truman's so there was no jarring break between issues 8 and 9. It's not the same, but it's in the vein.

I highly recommend getting this story, either by way of back issues bins (such as Lone Star Comics) or a trade. Hell, according to Amazon the trade can be found used for less than $4. A steal, I tell you! It cost me more than that just for the first two issues.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Fistful of Reviews: Belated

The Unknown #1 (BOOM!)

I really enjoyed this comic book. It was fun and serious at the same time. I really like the female lead and her Holmesian detective style. Of course I'm an easy sell for this type of story as I really enjoy the detective/mystery genre. Either way this was a good opening. Waid does a great job of introducing the two main characters in a short span of time while still moving the plot along. I also enjoyed the art as the visual impact of the book went hand in hand with the movement and feel of the written work. My only complaint (a minor one) is the fact that the detective's blose always seems on the verge of snapping a button right over her clevage. It seems a bit silly to me.

Unwritten #1 (Vertigo)

The concept for this book is intriguing. The idea of a person being born from a story and not even being aware of is a fun idea. Still the use of Harry Potter (Of course he's not actually called that but it was pretty blatant) was irritating. I understand that it's an easy reference that most of the readers can relate to but I think the story would have interested me more if the books Tommy Taylor starred in weren't so obviously alluding to popular fiction. Carey is a talented writer and could have easily come up with something on his own.

The Unthinkable #1 (BOOM!)

Hmm, a lot of U titles coming out all at the same time. Regardless, I don't think this book is my style. I'll give it a chance as if stories are written well enough the genre doesn't make a big difference but so far the story hasn't grabbed my interest. I bet Jim loves it though. Conspiracy theory is a favorite genre of his :) The story was well written and has some cool ideas. It just doesn't seem to be my cup of tea.

House of Mystery #13 (Vertigo)

While this issue was well done I feel cheated. I enjoy the side stories in HoM but for me it's all held together by the actual plot. Having an issue with only stories was frusterating as I want to know what's going on with the actual story. To have to wait a month for what seemed to be a filler issue is very irritating. That said the short stories were clever and entertaining. I just hate to be left hanging on a cliffhanger.

Echo #12 (Abstract)

It seems like this story is finally heating up! Julie and Dillion have more of a purpose now that Annie's told Dillion where to go. Ivy has caught up with the two and revealed Annie's fate to Dillion. The crazy old guy is dead (I'm guessing) leaving Julie with more of Annie's suit. Julie's sister has escaped the mental hospital. Excitement everywhere! I'm really looking forward to the next issue :)

B.P.R.D. : The Black Godess #5 (Dark Horse)

I'm so happy they finally got Liz back. Now the end of the world can continue apace.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Indies Preview Review July Part 3 of 3

Ta-Da - Presenting Part 3! As promised............

Brownsville GN by (W) Neil Kleid (A) Jake Allen
'Jewish gangster' isn't a term you hear much, but back when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn and licorice cost a penny a bag, street corners were lousy with young, Semitic toughs looking for adventure and excitement - none more so than in Brownsville. Follow the intertwined lives of Allie Tanennbaum, Abe Reles, and scores of hoods organized by Louis Lepke Buchalter into the deadliest hit operation in Mafia history, 'Murder, Inc.,' as they escape the mean streets and lonely tenements of East New York. $12.95 A very, very old CBR interview with lots of preview pages here

Lee: Yeah, yeah, yeah I know this is really, really old but I wasn’t working this column back when this was released. So, I shall mention it now. NBM is a quality publisher with an excellent track record of printing great books. This looks to be a really good crime story so I’m going to give it a chance.
Jim: I was going to go off on a smart aleck rant about how Lee picks stuff, but let's face it this book does look good. I love crime stories and books with a solid historical perspective, looks like Lee is costing me more money.

Outlaw Entertainment
Hat Trick GN by (W) Jason M. Burns (A) Armando M. Zanker
Ray, a would-be magician, discovers a world of magic through his famous uncle's top hat. With the help of a few of the world's inhabitants, including a six-foot-tall talking rabbit named Poof, Ray must uncover his true potential and defeat the evil that is enslaving the world! $14.95 Zanker’s comicspace with art samples here
Lee: Sometimes I don’t know why I pick books. In this case, the hype is ok. The interior art is ok. There’s nothing spectacular about this listing but something about this screams “interesting.” I like to support the little guy so I might have to give this a try.
Jim: It has a certain charm to it that the cover conveys. Plus I think the idea of magic being real is always a wish fulfilment type fantasy.

Th3rd World Studios
Stuff of Legend #1 by (W) Mike Raicht, Brian Smith (A) Charles Paul Wilson III
The year is 1944. While Allied soldiers storm a beach in far-off Normandy, in a child's bedroom in Brooklyn, a small group of toys loyal to their human master fight an unseen war to save him from every child's worst nightmare - The Boogeyman. Discover the series that Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman) says is 'a real page-turner. Economical, effective storytelling, with both story and art complimenting each other perfectly, and hinting at something darker.'. #1 of 2 $4.99

Lee: We reviewed the preview copy of this for free comic book day and it was well received. You can find opinions here, here and here. It’s worth adding to your pull list.

Titan Publishing
Epic Chronicles of Hagar the Horrible 1973-74 HC by (W/A) Dik Browne
In a world filled with dragons, wizards, sea monsters, Norse gods and titanic battles strides the world's mildest marauder, Hagar The Horrible! Following the noble traditions of Beowulf and umm.. that movie The Vikings starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis comes the epic saga of the best-known and most-loved Viking in the history of the world, the loveable, Hagar the Horrible - and his unending quest to put mead, swag, and meat on the family table! This mighty tome collects the first two years worth of Dik Browne's Reuben Award-winning comic strip that helped to forge the legend of Hagar the Horrible, and make him one of the world's most popular cartoon characters of all time! $19.95

Lee: I’m sure you already rolled your eyes but to be fair, the early Hagar the Horrible is very good comics. You probably don’t need more than this book in your collection but it’s worth having there. What I find odd is that Titan Publishing, a British company, is issuing this. Does anyone else find that odd?
Jim: I find many things odd, but I'm not getting personal in this column. Dik Browne is a great cartoonist and this strip was always fun. It was not the best strip ever, but it is good pure fun and entertainment that is worth your time and money.

Lenore Noogies HC (PX Color ed.) by (W/A) Roman Dirge
Lenore: Noogies collects the original Lenore comics in color for the first time, comics that went into multiple printings with over a million sold so far! Lenore might only be small, but her talent for mischief - and occasional wanton destruction - is anything but! Featuring stories about limbless cannibals, clock monsters, cursed vampire dolls, taxidermied friends, an obsessed would-be lover, and more fuzzy animal mutilations than should be legal, never has the term 'something for everyone' seemed more sinister and bizarre! This fantastic exclusive hardcover will feature a superb new inset cover and exclusive extra material including a signature page from Roman Dirge and four frameable color art cards shrinkwrapped with the book! $24.95

Lee: I never read Lenore until Jim sent me an old reader copy. Surprisingly enough I really, really liked it. Unfortunately the trades are out of print. But luckily this far more expensive hc is being released. Luckily I love hc’s so I’ll be getting this. One of the best goth girl strips out there, it’s worth a read.
Jim: Actually it wasn't a book I read that I sent to Lee, I beleive it was left over from when I had my store back in the mid 90's. I'm pretty sure Gwen and Jamie liked this book also.

Tool Publications
Colodin Project GN by (W/A) Ken Krekeler
Steven Richards is telling the FBI a story. It is not a happy story, and it doesn't end well. Richards is a private investigator. Six weeks ago, he was hired to solve a murder. Today, he's the cause of widespread panic which threatens now to eat the world. He's telling the FBI that there's a place where all the gifted people go. Special, secret people with impossible powers and abilities. These people look like They sound like But they are not like They are part of the Project. $14.99 The official site with lots of previews here

Lee: This looks really, really cool. I like the old secret organization and superpowers premise. Krekeler’s art has a certain appeal to it. I recommend looking at the previews but I think I’m sold on this one.
Jim: It has a great sounding premise, but when I'm trying something in this corner of the market I tend to stay away from what sounds like another take on super heroes.

Top Shelf Productions
Surrogates HC (special ed.) by (W) Robert Venditti (A) Brett Weldele
This special edition collects the original Surrogates graphic novel as well as the new prequel, The Surrogates: Flesh And Bone, into a super-deluxe single hardcover volume. Designed to look like an owner's manual, this edition contains everything you need to know about your new surrogate purchase! $75.00

Lee: YOW!!! $75 for a hc???? It was good but I’m quite happy with my tpb.
Jim: The old "it is being made into a movie, so let's gouge somebody" deal. Regardless the story is a good read, but the trade is just fine.

Surrogates Vol. 02: Flesh & Bone SC by (W) Robert Venditti (A) Brett Weldele
In a dark downtown alley in Central Georgia Metropolis, a juvenile prank goes too far and a homeless man is killed. When the ensuing investigation reveals that the attackers aren't who they appeared to be, justice depends on the testimony of a single witness, a street snitch with a history of providing information to a uniformed cop named Harvey Greer. Harvey is placed on special assignment to track down the informant, but others have their own designs, including a wealthy socialite and an ex-con turned religious leader known to his followers as The Prophet. As days pass and anger among the anti-surrogate population grows, the city stands on a razor's edge. Will punishment be exacted in a courtroom or on the streets? This sci-fi/noir police thriller is a prequel that sheds new light on the characters and events of The Surrogates, soon to be a major motion picture from Touchstone Pictures starring Bruce Willis. $14.95

Lee: I’ll get this but honestly, I have low expectations. The original was good because of it’s unique view. But, this smells of movie execs forcing a writer to shoe horn in new material. I hope that’s not the case which is why I’ll give it a try.
Jim: I 100% with Lee on this. It has a stench of a forced prequel. Still maybe the writers had this idea before, but it was not profitable to trot it out until now. Sign me up on this one also.

Twomorrows Publishing
Marvel Comics in the 1960S SC by (W) Pierre Comtois
After being relegated to the realm of children's literature for the first 25 years of its history, the comic book industry experienced an unexpected flowering in the early 1960s. This book presents a step-by-step look at how the company emerged as one of the most dynamic, slightly irreverent, and downright original contributions to an era when pop-culture emerged as the dominant force in the artistic life of America. Marvel Comics in the 1960s takes the reader from the legendary company's beginnings as helmed by savvy editor/writer Stan Lee, to the full maturity of its wild, colorful, offbeat grandiosity. $27.95

Lee: I am all over this! This combines two of my favorite things: reading about comics history and Marvel comics. Marvel in the 60’s revolutionized comics so I’m very, very interested to read this.
Jim: Lee has slowly gotten me back into reading more about comic history and I recently read a good retrospective on Tower Comics and Thunder Agents. I maybe buying this book also.

Lee: Well it was another good month. I can see Diamond policy is starting to remove some of the fluff. That's good because I can see material I missed better. But, it's also taking some of the better foreign material that Cinebook published. Still plenty to read though.
Jim: I agree it did remove some stuff that maybe was cluttering up the field for some good stuff, but I still rather have the choices then not. All in all an interesting month with STUFF OF LEGEND being my number one pick.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random Bits of News and Other Things

DC announces an ongoing Magog series by Keith Giffen and Howard Porter. Are they kdding? I mean the JSA has Hourman and Liberty Bell husband and wife team that is virtually untouched, Dr. Midnight, the revamped Sandman, Damage and many other characters that would be fascinating and great to carry a book and we get Magog. This guy is a bizarre homage to some of the worst 90 characters every created. Who the hell green lit this idea at DC? This is really a bad idea in my opinion, Giffen has been more miss then hit, Porter’s style is all over the map and there is no buzz on this character. It will not last past 12 issues is my guess.

A new Golden Age Human Torch mini-series from Marvel was announced. As it stands it sounds like a cool idea, but it is being packaged by Dynamite Entertainment like the Avengers/Invaders book that I dropped after about three issues. Marvel had Image take over some of their books when they were in or near bankruptcy and that was an abomination (not the Hulk’s foe, just an abomination). So again I have to ask who thought the Avengers/Invaders thing was going so well they would do it again. Plus Alex Ross is involved and it is eight issues long. This guarantees a drawn out overly hyped idea by Ross that will fall short, even with Mike Carey helping to write it. I think Alex keeps trying to recapture some of the magic of his early work, but keeps falling short. He should try his hand and writing and drawing a mini-series for DC utilizing the Kingdom Come Superman and I think he may do well with that, but right now he has too many concepts that may sound great on paper, but are falling short on execution.

Trinity from DC is finally over. 52 was a great series, Countdown was a dismal failure and this book is an unhappy over 1,000 page graphic novel full and sound and fury that did nothing but waste some really good talent. As a six or even 12 part mini-series, this would have been enjoyable, as it was, it was not and is rated as another failure from DC. Points for being daring, but I ain't buying into another 52 issue weekly series again. If they do another every issue better keep me in the game or I will drop it like a hot rock.

Captain America #600 is being released on MONDAY June 15 and they are rushing a second print of Captain America #50 back to stores for June 10. This appears to be so Marvel can make a major announcement on either Monday June 15 or if their solicitations are being released online on Tuesday, so the solicitation can have stuff in it they will not count as a spoiler after Captain America #600 is officially on the street. I don’t like it, sounds like a blatant stunt and as an ex-retailer making customers come in twice a week is asking too much for many and I assume it would mean extra shipping costs. Also I was not even open on Monday and Tuesday because by Sunday you have seen 95% of your weekly base anyway.

Gripe, gripe, gripe do you have any good news Jim?

IRREDEEMABLE #5 - Written by Mark Waid, art by Peter Krause, covers by Gene Ha, Dennis Calero, Dan Panosian, and Jeffrey Spokes. New arc! And only 99 cents! This is your chance to hop onboard the superhero event that dares to ask: What if the world's greatest hero decided to become the world's greatest villain? 24 pages, $0.99.

That’s right one of the best new series (if not the best new series of 2009) is offering issue #5 for only 99 cents. You buy it and you don’t like it mail it to me and I’ll send you a buck and a quarter (to cover the mailing) – Good for the first 50 people (one to a person). This book is that good. Really I can’t stand seeing some of the weaker titles have ridiculous sales numbers. RETAILERS ORDER THIS BOOK / READERS BUY THIS BOOK.

And one more happy thought a quote from Ron Smith's commentary recently (the one person I like to listen to on the radio):

….I visited the site, which provides a daily compilation of stories relating to the current gigantic wave – hence “tsunami” – of mounting pension debt, both public and private, that threatens to drown the American taxpayer.

When one checks out the multiple stories posted there each day, it becomes apparent that we are in for it. There seems to be no escaping financial disaster. Yet the politicians and their bureaucrat servant class tell us all will be well. They say the bottom is near and a recovery just around the corner. President Obama took on the burden of enormous debt amid the worldwide collapse of credit and decided that it would be a swell idea to add to it. His $3.6 trillion federal budget for FY 2010 is beyond monstrous, somewhere in the neighborhood of insanity.

He assures us that we can regain prosperity by going green, even though the jobs to be created by hugely expensive green programs are by most sober analyses going to be lesser jobs than the ones lost in attempts to wean us from fossil fuels. The Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill would, if passed, represent the largest tax increase in the history of this republic. This is demonstrably insane. Boosting the cost of living substantially in the name of effecting climate change doesn’t seem like a logical thing to do in the face of the fact that no matter the cost to be borne, we can’t really do anything dramatic about changes in climate. Even Al Gore’s fervent ally, NASA scientist James Hansen, opposes Waxman-Markey as something that couldn’t justify its cost because there isn’t really any benefit to be derived from it.

Read the whole commentary here

New Avengers #53 – A Review

New Avengers #53

Publisher Marvel Comics

Writer Brian Bendis

Pencils Billy Tan

Inks Matt Banning

Colors Justin Ponsor

So I’m getting to the point where I think maybe I’m a little masochistic as I keep getting this book and it keeps on absolutely killing me. Add to that it is also a $4 book for the same page count and you have another thing I hate and yet I’m getting this book. If nothing else this book stirs my passion about what is wrong with Marvel at times and Bendis in particular.

Let’s start with the good points first. The whole Dark Reign thing appears to be Bendis’ baby and turning things upside down has been interesting many times in the past few months. Bendis idea of making these Avengers as renegades has been fun also, although they are very public renegades. His actual grouping of Avengers is also unique as we have Bucky Cap, Hawkeye Ronin, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. Not a classic grouping but still a lot of potential and the last member Doctor Strange, who is more of a retired member at this point. The overall story idea is interesting in that Dr. Strange is no longer Sorcerer Supreme and we are trying to find out who it will be. So on the surface Bendis does a lot right.

The execution of the idea is where it all falls apart. His dialoguing of this group makes me think Bendis is a frustrated sitcom writer and he probably is laughing his ass off as he writes this stuff. Occasional humor in comics is great and I have had many moments when I have laughed out loud reading a comic. The problem her is it is too sophomoric and is Bendis shoving lines into these characters mouths whether they fit the established personality or not. It hurts to read some of the dialogue coming out of these characters mouths. If I read it without following the lines from the word bubble 80% of the time it could be any character talking as they all talk the same. Then there are other things where an Avenger calls Wolverine over because they need his nose. Spider-Man says he hates guns, Bucky Cap tries to have everyone carry a gun and finally Brudder Voodoo showing up as he is the new Sorcerer Supreme apparently. Why Bendis has to have him saying Brudder Voodoo to affect some accent is beyond me, but I guess having the new Sorcerer Supreme become black makes sense in Marvel liberal land.

One other issues I’m having are Hawkeye as Ronin. Hawkeye was and is an archer and making him into a pure hand to hand fighter goes against the grain in a thousand different ways. I know over the years he has played other roles, but if you are going to have Clint Barton, he needs to be Hawkeye. Next issue is the overuse of the Hood. The Hood has been so steeped in Bendis’ books, that we are going to like him and think he is a great super villain kingpin and that it that in Bendis’ mind. Another issue is the taking Doctor Strange down a peg. I hate it. Doc has been hanging around the MU for years under utilized and we know ala the Ancient One Doc can be around for hundreds of years, so replacing him just stinks. Also using Brother Voodoo feels like pandering to the fact we have a black President as opposed to anything that makes any comic book logic. Finally the lack of continuity between the Dark Reign books is another problem for me. I’m not expecting everything to line up perfectly. Heck with characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man, they have too many books to worry about it at all. The lower tier characters like Ms. Marvel and such are different and what is happening in their books when it is major should be reflected in other books.

So what keep me hanging around on this book are a few things. The art by Billy Tan is certainly well done and good art is always a plus in a visual medium. Also this is a core Marvel Universe book. I could stop almost every other Marvel book and just get New and Dark Avengers and at least stay in the loop a little bit about what is happening in the MU. Since I do a webcast, the blog and enjoy talking about books it is important that I keep a perspective on what is happening and following this and Dark Avengers gives me that perspective. I do not have to follow any of the other Dark Reign books and currently only get Electra and the FF mini-series, everything else with Dark Reign I have tried and dropped or never tried and I plan to continue that trend for now.

Overall Grade C – Solid art and some interesting ideas, butchered by sloppy characterization and a writer who needs an editor that is allowed to edit the book for content.

Indies Preview Review for July Part 2 of 3

We now return you to our regularly scheduled previews reviews with the last of the July reviews barely making it into the proper month. Now Part 2 - when last we left Lee and Jim were commenting on books, let's look in and listen again....

Fantagraphics Books
Scrublands GN by John Daly
Fantagraphics Books is proud to announce the debut collection of John Daly, the first book the company has published by a South African cartoonist. Daly's cartoons, offbeat, hallucinatory, and often hilarious, seems descendant from the substance-induced work of Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Victor Moscoso, and S. Clay Wilson, filtered through the artist's own unique vision and sense of the absurd. Stories alternate between full-color and black-and-white, and range from representational Jim Jarmusch-like scenarios to wild visual excursions, albeit linear ones. $16.95

Lee: Stoner comics from South Africa, what’s not to like about this book???? The best description I can find is 126 pages foe $17, 70 of which are devoted to a wordless color voyage into psychedelic questing, sexual landscapes, and semi-sci-fi spiritualism. For art fans like me, this sounds great.
Jim: Yeah, great, great. This sounds really interesting like watching grass grow or paint dry. Who knows it maybe great, but this is not selling me on it. Plus unless it is about growing up in South Africa, why is it important as to where the artist is from. So important it is the first line in the solicitation.

Red Monkey Double Happiness Book HC by (W/A) Joe Daly
'I live in Cape Town. It's a beautiful, dirty, dangerous, laid back port town on the tip of Southern Africa where the people drive fast and talk slow,' narrates Dave, aka the Red Monkey, in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, Joe Daly's sensational follow up to his debut short story collection Scrublands (a 2006 Ignatz Award Nominee) The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book features two of Dave's adventures: 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding.' In the introductory story, Dave, who is equipped with monkey feet that enable him to climb most anything, has a Very Bad Day until - accompanied by his didgeridoo-wielding, freeloading friend Paul and assisted by his babysitting charge Chu Woo - he solves a mystery, getting the girl in the process. 'John Wesley Harding' is a tale stuffed to the gills with with action, adventure, conspiracy theories and weed, as Dave and Paul, in their quest to find a missing capybara named after the Bob Dylan album, stumble across an environmental menace with criminal implications. In this full-color graphic novel, Daly expertly cartoons the Cape Town milieu, the wetlands that surround it, and the ethnically diverse oddballs who occupy it. Dave and Paul, a well-meaning pair of stoners in the tradition of Cheech and Chong or Harold and Kumar, not only get into hilarious trouble in their rambles, but also ask the larger questions, such as 'what the hell am I doing with my life?' and 'what steps can I personally take to help protect the earth and the other species that inhabit it?' (though most people's answers to these questions don't include sword fights and hovercrafts) The South African cartoonist brings a refreshingly original -and utterly hilarious- voice to the comics medium, a dry, deadpan wit anchored in everyday reality combined with an outrageously deranged plot, rendered in a style that somehow successfully merges detailed representational drawing with bigfoot cartooning. The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, which is sometimes noirish, often funny and always politically incorrect, is well-suited to older teens and adults. $22.99

Lee: Now, if you don’t want to read the Joe Daly’s Scrubland because it sounds just a little too weird for you, then you can try this. Red Monkey is far more of a story. Granted it’s a story like the Undergrounds of the 70’s but it’s still a story. You can’t go wrong picking either book.
Jim: This is closer to something that I would try. I know I mention this a lot, but it would be great if more comic stories could afford to carry this stuff on speculation, but since the direct market does not allow returns, there is little incentive to try some of this material as a retailer.

Harper Collins Publishers
Neil Gaiman Coraline SC by (W) Neil Gaiman (W/A) P. Craig Russell
New York Times-best selling novel and new childrens classic Coraline springs to life as a gorgeously adapted graphic novel! When Coraline steps through a door in her familys new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own, only better. But theres another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go! This beloved tale becomes a visual feast as artist P. Craig Russell brings Neil Gaimans enchanting, nationally best selling childrens book to new life. $9.99

Lee: I’m sure I picked this before but I’ll pick it again in case you skipped the more expensive hc. Gaiman is at the top of his game with this excellent fairy tale. It’s more Grimm’s Fairy Tales than you would think. A very good fantasy novel with incredible art by Russell.
Jim: Agreed.

IDW Publishing
Angora Napkin GN by (W/A) Troy Little
Halloween is upon us. Historically this ancient event has been identified as the day in which the boundary between the living and the dead becomes unstable. It is on this fateful night that we find Beatrice, Molly and Mallory, the pop music group known as Angora Napkin, crossing paths with the wandering dead. Thats how they meet Dennis, the zombie boy, who agrees to eradicate all life on Earth. Now, the girls of Angora Napkin must stop the horror they’ve unwittingly released (and make it to their gig on time)! $19.99

Lee: I already have this book but Angora Napkin was excellent. A very entertaining humor and zombies book.
Jim: Lee has a man-crush on Troy. He loves this stuff and every time it is solicited we will see it picked.
Lee: Maybe I should pick Proof from Image more often! Hello Mr. Kettle.

Richard Stark's Parker the Hunter HC by (W/A) Darwyn Cooke
Darwyn Cooke, the Eisner-Award-winning writer/artist of such classics as DC: The New Frontier, Selina's Big Score, and The Spirit, now sets his artistic sights on bringing to life one of the true classics of crime fiction: Richard Stark's Parker. Stark was a pseudonym used by the revered and multi-award-winning author, Donald Westlake. The Hunter, the first book in the Parker series, is the story of a man who hits New York head-on like a shotgun blast to the chest. Betrayed by the woman he loved and double-crossed by his partner in crime, Parker makes his way cross-country with only one thought burning in his mind-to coldly exact his revenge and reclaim what was taken from him! HC. Full Color. 144 pages. 6 x 9 $24.99

Jim: I'm a huge fan of noir comics and I love Darwyn Cooke's work, so for me this is a no brainer even at $25. I hope it is as good as the preview I read.
Lee: I have no doubt this will be good. Is there anyone who doesn't like Cooke's work?

King Hell
King Hell Signature Series Vol. 01: Epic Pack SC by Rick Veitch & Various
Three signed editions of Rick Veitch's masterful EPIC collections in one specially priced pack! Over 250 pages of mind-bending stories and lush painted art in three beautiful volumes: Abraxas and the Earthman, Heartburst and Other Pleasures, and Shiny Beasts. Includes collaborations with Alan Moore and S.R. Bissette unavailable anywhere else. And to top it off, each book in the pack is personally signed by Rick Veitch! $45.95
Lee: These trades have been in print for a long time but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. These are collections of Veitch’s early work and also some of his best work. What’s really nice is that all the books are signed! And, for not that much over cover price. It’s worth considering.
Jim: Veitch is very hit or miss for me and his work is often almost too undergroundish for me. Other times I find his view points to be fascinating.

Mirage Studios
TMNT Collected Book Vol. 01 SC by (W/A) Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Mirage Studios proudly celebrates its 25th anniversary by reprinting the classic first eleven issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles along with the four micro-series by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird! Over 540 pages of martial arts action as only the two masterminds of mutant mayhem could depict! An ideal opportunity to relive the glorious days of the Turtles' origins as well as an excellent place for new readers to see where the Turtles phenomena began! $29.95

Lee: I know Jim isn’t a fan but I can’t wait for this. The original TMNT has been out of print for far too long. These stories were actually quite good and far different from the cartoon drivel that was produced from it. The only question, get this now and let my kid destroy it or wait for the hardcover and let my kid destroy that?
Jim: Lee is correct I'm not a big fan of this stuff, but I do love the whole story of how this stuff made Eastman and Laird a boatload of money.
Lee: True true. But the story of how Eastman proceeded to LOSE a boatload of money is even more interesting.

Part 3 of TOMORROW!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Best and Worst of Last Week

So it was slim pickings last week as the best category was impossible to reach for mainstream Marvel or DC book. That is a pretty sad commentary on the state of the industry lately when it has been so hard for almost any “regular” Marvel or DC book to make that mark. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it is. The Dark Reign was an interesting idea and on paper and looked like a sure winner. I think the over use of Tony Stark being followed up by the overuse of Norman Osborne has run its course already and we still have months left with Dark Reign. DC on the other hand looks to be on the upswing with Blackest Night looking to be really good, the Bat franchise has been re-started, Superman while not hot is very good, Flash and Wonder Woman are also strong, the problem with DC take that away and their top line and they are done. DC needs Iron Fist, Ghost Rider type books to fill out their line and they really have nothing of that caliber at this time.


Four Eyes #3 – Writer Joe Kelly, Art Max Fiumara, Colors Nestor Pereyra. I have such a hard time with this series, because the frequency with its publication makes me fear for its life as I cannot believe it helps sales, but this is an excellent series. Joe Kelly seems to do his best work with younger characters (see Barbara in the award winning I Kill Giants TP, the award is Comics And’s Best Coming of Age Story in this Century – totally made up, but aren’t all awards. Also see I Kill Giants issue #1 here.) The art work by Max Fiumara is beautiful and I can not imagine anyone else drawing Enrico, our young boy who is now looking to hunt dragons as his late Father did. Set during the first Great Depression the book is grounded in reality, but has the fantasy nature of a world that includes underground dragon fighting (Mike Vick might have enjoyed this). Max’s work brings it all too glorious life. Max’s style is unique in that it is an exaggerated perspective on people, but close enough to realistic to not be impressionistic. Solid page and layout design make the book both visually exciting and easy to read. His nuanced work on facial expressions is very strong and can convey a range of emotions both subtle and forceful. The color work matches the book and provides the proper mood and tone for each scene and never takes away from the art. The story is touching as Enrico is trying to be a man in a world that does not tolerate failure with anything less then death. This issue Enrico has to face death at the hands of a dragon and the result was not what Enrico would have expected. This is a series that should not be missed and is one of my favorite books whenever it hits the stands.

Invincible #62 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Pencils Ryan Ottley, Inks Cliff Rathburn, Colors FCO Plascencia. Robert Kirkman promised to make this book exciting after the rather lackluster period the book went through before we got to issue #50 and boy has he delivered. Before I get to that I have to say that the artwork on this book is really stepping up to the plate. The two page spread on pages 2 and 3 was fantastic. Conquest and Invincible had met in a midair collision and the resulting force was like an explosion. We see the shockwave hitting worker’s trying to unbury a city that was recently destroyed during the Invincible War. The resulting blowback and the huge sound effect really made me “feel” the force like nothing else I have seen in a comic, great stuff. Kirkman has loaded this issue with action and moving the plot forward and added a nice twist. Often it seems as we get action or plot, but this issue we got both. Conquest is apparently testing Mark to see if he can be a true Viltrum and Mark is coming up short. I enjoyed the little twist at the end where we see Cecil is trying to resurrect some of the Invincibles who were killed in the war to be undead soldiers for the government. I was not even thinking that way so it was a good surprise and is exactly what Cecil would do to try and protect our world. I hate that we are working up to the death of Atom Eve as she is a favorite of mine, but her living in Invincible’s world would be dangerous.

Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special – Since so few comics made it to the best of category I thought I would give this book a sort of free pass into the best of category. Not that the book is not entertaining, it is, but not sure if it rises to what I need for a best book, but the concept and the execution of what Marvel is doing in general deserves a best book mention. Each issue of the 70th Anniversary books have been taking the old Timely Comic titles and doing a new 22 page story. Then is has been reprinting a golden age story, that sometimes lines up with the new story. There has been a definite effort to make the new stories have the same feel and stylistically the art has been more along the lines of the golden age artwork. The entire package has been the new standard price of $4, but you get a golden age reprint and a brand new story in each and every book. This is a great way to see some of comic book history without buying a high end hard cover. So let’s give credit where credit is due and Marvel deserves credit for putting together some fun stuff to celebrate their 70th year of existence.


Batman Battle for the Cowl #3 (of 3) - Okay we wait months and months for this book and at the end of the wait do we get the grand reveal that in fact Dick Grayson is the new Batman – NO we do not, the end leaves with an open question as to who is taking over the mantle of the Bat. What a crock of unmitigated sh*t. Yeah, I know you can read this book and say there is no question that it is Dick Grayson and I can point out spots in the FCBD Blackest Night that solidify Tim as Red Robin, but they never actually show Dick putting on the costume. This type of ending instead gives DC room to switch it up as to who is Batman if they want to before they actually make the reveal. So why I threaten to cancel the Bat-verse I have to hold off, but no matter what happens now a series that I dreaded has become a bitter disappointment. See my full review here. I know many people will thing this is an over reaction, but I’m telling you it is a cheat, they did not say Dick is Batman, this type of coy trick is crap and it has left a bad taste in my mouth for the way DC is doing things.

Brave and Bold #23 – Cancelled. Certainly a professionally done book, but it is missing that something extra that it had when Waid and Perez launched it. I may pick it up on occasion, but it is no longer on my pull list. As I constantly harp on with the switch to most books being $4, even three dollar books get a harder look. I do not mind good stories that are not in continuity, but this book seems to have no idea of what to do and the next few solicitations are showcasing the Milestone characters coming into the DCU proper. Those types of meaningless adventures of that type are unappealing.

Green Arrow / Black Canary #20Cancelled. This was a hard book for me to drop. After since right before the one year later jump and till the conclusion of the Green Arrow series and into this series I was enjoying this book. Also GA/BC are an integral part of the main DCU, which I tend to like more then the central MU. After this series started various things started to come apart on the book. First Cliff Chiang left doing the art and Mike Norton came on. Mike is a solid and professional artist, but I equate him to Sal Buscema from the old days, he does good work, but you will not sell the book based on his art. Then the story started to deteriorate. The whole thing about Connor was too dragged out and then the ending of changing him into a super human was horribly contrived. It appears under Dan Didio DC wants to remain in the past and therefore every younger version of their heroes is being pushed off to the sidelines. Kyle is now a character in GL Corps, Wally’s role is yet to be determined and poor Connor has lost the ability to shoot an arrow and is now some sort of poor man’s Wolverine without the claws. Way the JLA heroes are not allowed to be second generation and JSA’s are allowed is a mystery to me. The final straw was getting a new writer and Andrew Kreisberg who has done the excellent Helen Killer book and great work in Batman Confidential has come up short in this series. This issue opens with Green Arrow and Black Canary in costume going to marriage counseling. In comic book time this couple has only been married for five minutes and their history goes on for years, it wasn’t even cute. I have given this comic more rope then it deserves and may check in on it now and again, but for now it is off my list.

Vigilante #6Cancelled. Here we have a series that in six issues has yet to tell us the identity of the main character. The book has not been that strong to keep us on the edge of our seats. How can a new series hold me if I can’t get any handle on who the main character is and why he is doing what he is doing. Six issues is way too long to keep me guessing. Also it got dragged into a horrible cross-over with the Titans and Teen Titans using a character I never liked (Jericho) as a bad guy. On top of that Vigilante does not kill Jericho, instead rips his eyes out. This is a guy who will only kill and I guess maim bad guys. Finally Marv Wolfman’s writing has not kept up with the times 100% and it comes across as not old, but just missing that certain something for me.

Killapalooza #1 (of 6)Cancelled. I could not even finish reading this book. I guess I knew going in that the premise was one I did not like, but often I’m surprised, but this thing was boring to me. It is a shame as I enjoy Hairsine (the artist) work. The impression I got that it was trying to hard to do too many things, super powered sci-fi assassins that are a mega rock band.

I know a bunch of people who think I have been harsh about the ending of the Battle for the Cowl and everyone is saying of course it is Dick Grayson and the variant reprint of #1 shows Dick half as Batman and half as Nightwing, so why did I rate the book so harsh? In my opinion it is because DC was not playing it fair. You can read part 3 and still make Tim Batman. Plus the book was all about who becomes Batman and we did not get to witness Dick making the final decision to do what he had to do. I have also read criticism that the story was dumb because we all knew it was going to be Dick. Well so what, knowing where a story is going or how it ends is not always what the story is about, the journey is the story. Let’s face it we know in 95% of the comics we read the good guy will win, but how will he win, what will it cost him, what type of victory is it? Those are the questions we read it for, not because we expect shock endings all the time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Continuity Crisis Resolved

Have you ever been reading a comic and tried to figure out what the heck is going on. This will happen often to me as I’m reading a book and I see a character that is flying when for the last four months in that character’s book their ability to fly had been destroyed somehow. Aquaman shows up in a book and he looks more like Orin, Spider-Man is still in his black costume after abandoning it in his own comic after awhile.

Well almost all of these problems can be resolved by checking sales figures for comics. It has been determined that if the sales of a comic are below 20,000 books a month, then there is no impact to continuity. As a writer you are free to ignore it and move on.

There is even a codicil to that rule. If your books are some of the highest selling books on the market than you are free to ignore almost any continuity and pick and choose at your leisure. This explained why Geoff Johns, Brian Bendis and other top selling writers are able to work as fast as they do. Research is cut down immensely if you can just go on memory and make stuff up as you go.

In fact I have started to add my own corollary to the continuity rule. My rule is that if I never read it, it never happened. It doesn’t always work, but at least it allows me to skip over inane elements in certain stories at different times.

Why Spider-Man Should be Married

The recent announcement that the Spider-Man newspaper strip had gone back to Spider-Man being married (pictured below) and my reading three trades worth of J Michael Straczynski’s run on Spider-Man has drawn me back into this discussion.

Number one, whether I am a fan of Spider-Man in his current books certainly has no impact whatsoever on Marvel’s bottom line, but facts are facts and the fan base for comics seems to be eroding. The continual decline in the print market with the depression that we are in continuing to deepen all add up to a need for comics to do something truly dramatic to make an impact and maybe, just maybe bring in some new fans. The way to do that is to allow their characters to change and grow.

Constantly hitting the reset button is just goosing the franchise, but not really doing anything other then that.

When comics first come out with super heroes continuity was almost an unheard of idea. From issue to issue some things might change, but they were episodic adventures of characters and the idea of truly advancing the character was not even a passing thought. The audience was young boys and in a couple of years they were onto other things. Before the idea of continuity and character development took hold we had the Comics Code Authority. Comics were sanitized and we had episodic adventures of squeaky clean characters that gave us a Batman who walked in the sunshine all the time. These books are great fodder for blogs that want to poke fun at old comics because they were hokey and written for six to eight year olds.

Then the sixties came along and DC restarted their other heroes and modernized them as they realized times had changed and the heroes needed to change with them. Again it was all episodic adventures and the idea of true continuity was not reflected, plus everyone knew their fan base of 8-12 year old boys turned over every four years so who cared. Elements of continuity crept into the books as Barry Allen got married and Hal changed jobs, but nothing too heavy.

Marvel came on the scene and by design or not Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko re-wrote the rule book. Comics were not written down as much, actual continuity was a huge element and boy did things change. Spider-Man started out in high school and by issue #28 he was graduating from high school. What happened before matter to what happened next. Spider-Man could not be beaten to a pulp at the end of last issue and show up fine and dandy next issue. If Spider-Man had a broken arm in his comic, he would have one when he made a guest appearance in another comic. It was awesome and it made me a comics fan for life.

So in the sixties DC knew enough to update and modernize their heroes and Marvel was daring enough to allow true growth and change in their characters.

Then the story goes Marvel become the number one company and Stan Lee said no more change, just the illusion of change. So ended the great experiment of Marvel.

I never understand why it is once you have success you just stop being what made you successful. I mean why not keep on being bold and daring, but change stopped and illusion became the king.

Even with that dictate the weight of the years and number of stories pushed their characters forward and Peter graduated from college after many years, got married and became an actual living breathing adult character from the teen-age boy he had been.

Then Marvel decided that what really made Spider-Man popular was that he was a single guy and they did One More Day and just retro-conned half of Spider-Man’s life. For me they ruined the character and I read one issue since then and no longer care about Spider-Man.

Now truth be told I had not been a huge fan of the character for awhile, but I checked in on him every once in while and would enjoy a story here and there. In fact the “Back in Black” story line after Aunt May was shot was a very good story, but then Marvel wrecked it.

I’m not sure what the sales numbers are anymore, but I read that Spider-Man sales, even with the stunt of running three issues a month of Amazing are flat or less then when they were running separate monthly titles. When was the last time we saw sales on a book grow and sustain that growth? I think the answer is almost never, because we have the same fan base as we always have had and goosing sales by a stunt only works for a period of time. Then the thrill is gone and so are we.

Now in re-reading JMS’ run on Spider-Man I saw a lot of growth and change. Not all of it was great, but we had Peter and Mary Jane get back together after hitting a rough patch in their marriage, Aunt May finding out the Peter was Spider-Man, Peter as a teacher back in his old high school and other elements. It is a very good read and some of the better Spider-Man stuff I have read in years. It was still the illusion of change, but JMS was sneaking in some significant adjustments. In that run it was a huge deal that Aunt May found out who Spider-Man was, now it is used in every other issue of his book and Avengers.

The problem is it has all become a crock of crap. Ultimate Spider-Man was the young Spider-Man who Bendis swore to never allow him to get too old because it ruins him. Marvel thought that was not good enough so decided to magically alter Spider-Man and wipe out Mary Jane and his marriage.

Why is this wrong?

First off comics need to bold and daring again and do what Marvel started out doing. Letting their characters change, grow old, die, what ever. They are all imaginary stories, but how much more exciting if we actually do not know what will happen again. Will we lose some fans? Maybe, but if these fans have hung on through some of the really horrible stories of before why leave now.

Next the fan base is not turning over every four years, so the fan base is getting bored. Once you have read the same story ten to twenty times, you get jaded and move on or jump more into independent books and their ilk or write a blog complaining about this stuff. We need new fans, not the same fans, the direct market is dying and we need to excite the potential fan also. So much of the entertainment medium plays it safe that you get bored of it, be bold and daring and the stories will be better and the creators may have more stories to tell. JSA is better than JLA because we have new characters to tell stories about.

Stop the convoluted histories. Cyclops went from being an orphan to having more siblings then the Osmonds. Over 40 years of building on the back of a character will do that. No one ever thought this stuff would go on forever, but it won’t if we don’t try to change.

So Spider-Man should have stayed married and the writers can deal with it, honestly. Mary Jane tries to get powers, Mary Jane gets pregnant, Peter appears to be dead and Mary Jane has to deal with it, Aunt May dies and Peter mourns and grieves and moves on like we all have to do in life. Instead of opening up possibilities by having nothing happen the stories generate a sameness, the fan base erodes and the industry comes closer to dying or being so small as to hardly matter.

I have read that some creators think that leaving Peter the same is a good thing. The rationale is that new readers get to discover what he is and they become fans and older fans can go along or move on. This way each new generation gets to discover what we discovered. To this I say “bullsh*t”. I came into the middle of many stories and picked up what I needed to know and what new generations are they talking about? No kids are coming into stores for the latest GL or Fantastic Four as they are too adult for young children anymore.

The only constant is change, so it has been said, and without change it becomes stagnant, fetid, old and worn out. I have also read and believe you love something more for its impermanence. A plastic rose is not the same as a real rose and we cherish people in our lives because it will not last forever.

So Marvel and DC be bold, be daring, be innovative, take a chance and go forward and let’s stop trying to reset the world and instead build on the world we have. Connor instead of Ollie, Bart instead of Wally or Barry, let Jean Grey stay dead, Spider-Man stays married, the Human Torch grows up, Dick remains as Batman and see what happens.

What I’m Getting Thursday May 28

So the month of May had four hard covers from Marvel get pushed into June, 2 Omnibuses (Iron First and part of Brubaker’s DD run), the last Punisher Max by Garth Ennis and a Marvel Masterwork. The reason why this annoys me is that it means one week very soon I could have well over $200 in hard covers alone waiting for me one week. Now my hard cover orders have been slowly decreasing anyway as I have reached a saturation book, but this type of stuff is bad for the business as I believe no one (and at least me) likes to have to purchase everything at once. Plus how can you schedule for a reprint be so far off?

The books I’m looking forward to most this week are:

DC Comics Classic Library The Roots of the Swamp Thing HC – Case in point this book is coming out the day DC said it would. I actually wish this was a higher end hard cover as the art by Bernie Wrightson deserves a high end reproduction and an oversized presentation. This volume contains “Written by Len Wein; Art by Bernie Wrightston and Nestor Redondo; Cover by Bernie Wrightston. The tales that made Swamp Thing a fan-favorite are collected in hardcover for the first time! Featuring the first appearance from HOUSE OF SECRETS #92 along with SWAMP THING #1-13 and featuring moody art by legendary artist Bernie Wrightson!”

Green Lantern #41 – The build up to Blackest Night continues as what looks to be a major event that could actually be good is only about six weeks away. Johns has almost been quite lately compared to last year but all of the foundation he is building is about to pay dividends. The company line “Written by Geoff Johns; Art and Cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion. Prelude to BLACKEST NIGHT! In "Agent Orange" part 3, the truth behind the eternally corrupt Vega System is finally revealed and the Green Lantern Corps will pay dearly for uncovering the secret. Meanwhile, the greed of Agent Orange knows no bounds as his demand for the universe explodes. Plus, Hal continues to struggle with the abilities of his new power ring.”

Immortal Iron Fist #26 – Marvel’s best titles (for me) seem to be the books that do not necessarily play in the main universe. Iron Fist, Daredevil, Thor and Captain America seem to be books that stay within themselves and for me are the better titles. The marketing pitch “Danny’s escape from Hell gets down to the wire! Trapped in the mystical and secret eighth city of monsters, Danny and the Immortal Weapons have to make the prison-break of a lifetime…with Davos waiting to meet them outside! But will he help them run…or shove them back to their deaths?! By Duane Swierczynski (CABLE) and Travel Foreman (ARES)!”

Last Days of Animal Man #1 (of 6) – This is an interesting mini-series. First off we have Gerry Conway coming back to comics after he had stated in many interviews that he was done with comics. Marv Wolfman and Len Wein have recently returned to comics and neither have hit any home runs for me, so let’s see what Mr. Conway can do. Second it is the end of Animal Man’s career and for all intents and purposes is an Elseworld story which DC has stated they don’t do anymore, so what do they want to call this? The word “Written by Gerry Conway; Art by Chris Batista and Dave Meikis; Cover by Brian Bolland. Is Buddy Baker losing it all? Everyman hero Buddy Baker has fought hard for our world, and for his family. But by the year 2024, the Earth has seen better days: The heroes are growing tired, the villains have grown nastier and Buddy's own hometown of San Diego has struggled for years to recover from a cataclysmic typhoon. His children have grown and his marriage has gotten colder… and now, as San Diego faces the most vicious Super-Villain it's seen in years, his powers are starting to fail him! Without his powers, without his family – who is Buddy Baker? Can he still be a husband? Can he still be a father? Can he still be Animal Man? And more importantly, can he even survive the bloodthirsty plan his arch-rival's progeny has in store for him? Comics legend Gerry Conway (TV's Law and Order) makes his return to DC with this can't-miss miniseries.”

Madame Xanadu #11 - This is the return of Mike Kaluta to the interior art of comics. Mike’s work has not been seen in any mainstream comic book in many, many years. His portrayals of Madame Xanadu (the few times he did it) are probably responsible for making this former minor character so memorable. Mike’s work is more of a classic illustration style, but it is lush and gorgeous and this book is certainly getting top notch talent to work on it. If Amy needs a breather no one could be a better artist to do this book while she catches her breath and gets ahead on the next arc. The hype “By Matt Wagner; Art and cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta. Master illustrator Michael Wm. Kaluta jumps onboard for a 5-issue story with the seductive sorceress he first brought to life 30 years ago. Kaluta joins series scribe Matt Wagner to weave a mystery that jumps between the Spanish Inquisition and 1940s New York City. Long-buried secrets come back to life as Madame Xanadu investigates a murder 500 years in the making. Featuring colors by Eisner Award-winner Dave Stewart.”

Mouse Guard Winter #1152 #6 (of 6) - Hands down the best all age book on the stands and it captures the classic story telling techniques of old by telling serious stories with danger and excitement with fanciful characters. I’m looking forward to the hard cover on this book. What’s inside “With the food and medicine shortage still unresolved, hares and riders depart from Lockhaven, but not to redistribute food throughout the territories; instead they ride on a desperate search and rescue mission for Celanawe and Lieam, still unaccounted-for. A dramatic climax as this final chapter of Winter 1152 sees the mice honoring the death of one of their own.”

The rest of the list:

Astounding Wolf Man #16 LOCKDOWN, Part Two As the world-ending plans of THE FACE draw nearer to completion--Stronghold Prison is attacked! Amidst the chaos Wolf-Man must face off against Zechariah for the final time. Will it lead to his escape--or his demise?

Back to Brooklyn #5 (of 5) - MINISERIES CONCLUSION! Bob Saetta and his scumbag brother Paul can avoid it no longer, the FBI and the police department are running low on body bags as the sh*t hits the fan. It's brother vs. brother in one of the bloodiest climaxes in comic book history. Brooklyn's underworld will never be the same, and neither will you!

Batman in Barcelona Dragon’s Knight- When a string of bizarre murders hits Spain's beautiful coastal city of Barcelona, The Dark Knight makes solving this crime his top priority. Full of international intrigue, high adventure and even higher stakes, BATMAN IN BARCELONA: DRAGON'S KNIGHT showcases The Caped Crusader in a different type of Gotham – but one no less dangerous! Fan-favorite writer Mark Waid (KINGDOM COME) delivers an exciting, non-stop one-shot full of surprises while Spanish art sensation Diego Olmos (SUPERNATURAL: RISING SON) beautifully illustrates his home city. Featuring a gorgeous cover by best-selling artist Jim Lee (BATMAN, SUPERMAN).

Battlefields Tankies #2 (of 3) - Garth Ennis (W); Carlos Ezquerra (A)The death ride of the British armoured divisions continues as German resistance intensifies, littering the Normandy countryside with smashed tanks and bloody bodies. Meanwhile, Corporal Stiles and his crew continue their quest to rejoin their unit- assuming there's a unit left to rejoin. Worse still, mutiny begins to rear its head- at the worst possible time, with hungry Tigers on the prowl...

Crossed #5 (of 9) - by Garth Ennis & Jacen Burrows The most controversial series of the year continues as Garth Ennis pulls out all the stops to write the most twisted book of his career! Cindy and her rag-tag team of fellow survivors are still on the run, but now the Crossed has focused all their energy on a vicious new game: bringing as much pain and suffering to the survivors as they can! Nothing is going right, but this is no fairy tale - there are no magic cures on the horizon. When civilization crumbles in one terrifying moment; when people are gleefully breaking into unthinkable acts of violence all around you; when everyone you love has died screaming in agony: What do you do? There is no help. There is no hope. There is no escape. There are only the Crossed! This stomach-churning vision is brought to vivid (and more than a little disturbing) life by his partner in crime Jacen Burrows.

Dark Reign Elektra #3 (of 5) - A fatigued and badly wounded Elektra is out of H.A.M.M.E.R. custody and on the run, and Norman Osborn wants her neutralized. Nothing for it but to send his best anti-Elektra operative – the Dark Avengers’ own…HAWKEYE! He killed her once when he was Bullseye. Does a wounded Elektra even stand a chance? From Zeb Wells (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Clay Mann (DAREDEVIL)!

Farscape Dargo’s Lament #2 (of 4) - Ka D'argo lives on - only in this pulse-pounding Farscape mini-series set in-continuity during season 3 between episodes 'Revenging Angel' and 'Fractures.' D'Argo and Jool are stuck in the middle of a global war, and a figure from D'Argo's past is only going to make things worse!

Final Crisis Aftermath Ink #1 (of 6) - In the wake of FINAL CRISIS, the Tattooed Man is considered a hero for the first time in his life. At first, the rewards from his new lifestyle are a welcome change from the rest of what his existence has been, but soon the pressure to stay above temptation and evil start to wear him down. Matters are quickly complicated when he wakes up in the middle of the night to find his body covered in unfamiliar tattoos that seem to have a life of their own. In this 6-issue miniseries from newcomer writer Eric Wallace (TV's Eureka) and artist Fabrizio Fiorentino, the Tattooed Man finds himself in the middle of a life and death struggle with his own powers and the master plan they seem to have for him – whether he likes it or not!

Ghost Rider #35 - "TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS," PART 3 Johnny Blaze has come to a monastery in Japan, just wanting to be left alone as he waits patiently for the end of the world. But when a local biker gang begins terrorizing the town, Blaze realizes that his work as Ghost Rider isn't quite done yet.

Gotham Gazette #1 Batman Alive - Written by Fabian Nicieza; Art by Dustin Nguyen, Guillem March, Jamie McKelvie, ChrisCross and Alex Konat; Cover by Dustin Nguyen. A city looking to rise up. A new Dark Knight is casting his shadow until dawn's early light. A cop looking to solve a murder whose solution may be worse than the crime. A reporter who can reclaim her social standing only by rejecting everything she believes in. A doctor who has found new life by compromising her old one. One hero who has determined a course of action no matter whose plans it spoils. Harvey Bullock. Vicki Vale. Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Stephanie Brown. These four ordinary people living extraordinary lives look to regain their balance in a city that turns lives upside down. Morning comes to Gotham City and the time for mourning has passed. How do the people of Gotham City deal with the sudden arrival of hope? Find out in this new one-shot!

Guardians of the Galaxy #14 - A WAR OF KINGS TIE-IN! The savage battle between the Shi’Ar Imperium—ruled by Emperor Vulcan—and the Kree Empire—controlled by Black Bolt—explodes across the universe! The Guardians of the Galaxy know they’ve got to stop the war before it shakes the cosmos apart at the seams, but will any of these heavy hitters listen to a rag-tag bunch of self-appointed galactic protectors who spend half their time quarreling amongst themselves?

Hero Squared Love & Death #3 (of 3) - The final (probably), absolute (pretty much) last (finally!) issue of Hero Squared (well, maybe). Find out what happens to Captain Valor, his parallel-world alter ego, Milo, and at least one homicidal ex-girlfriend!

Justice League of America #33 - Written by Dwayne McDuffie; Art by Rags Morales; Cover by Ed Benes. It's Dharma vs. Starbreaker for control of the greatest source of power in the DC Universe. No matter the victor, the Justice League loses!

Justice Society of America #27 - Written by Jerry Ordway; Art by Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek; Cover by Jerry Ordway. The younger JSA team members find their headquarters in total lockdown – with The Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat trapped inside! Can the junior JSA-ers break into their own home base? And what secret from the Atomic Age seeks retribution from the three founding members?

The Literals #2 (of 3) - Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges; Art by Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy; Cover by Mark Buckingham. "The Great Fables Crossover" part 6 of 9! Even with his two Fable muses pressed into service, Kevin Thorn is having trouble getting started on his next grand opus. He seems to be suffering from a bad case of, "What's that malady that affects writers and keeps them from getting their work done?" Meanwhile, the Page Sisters go to guns a-blazin' against the Genres.

Moon Knight #30 - “DOWN SOUTH,” PART 4 The little Mexican town of El Paso Del Norte is getting crowded. First, there’s Moon Knight, whose current alter ego, Jake Lockley, is playing bodyguard to a young woman who’s in the crosshairs of virtually every assassin South of the Rio Grande. Then, there’s the Zapata Brothers, a duo of outlandish assassins that’s determined to collect the bounty. And then there’s the Punisher, who’s crossed the border on the trail of some Russian Mobsters. Oh, and did we forget to mention the phantom predator known as Toltec, who’s got his sights on everyone?

Ms Marvel #39 - The Dark Reign is in full effect. Carol Danvers is dead. Moonstone has taken on the mantle of Ms. Marvel. And the only hope for the forces of good is . . . Machine Man?! Brian Reed and Patrick Olliffe kick off a new chapter in the legend of Ms. Marvel!

New Avengers #53 - WHO WILL BE THE NEXT SORCERER SUPREME? And will he or she survive the initiation? The Avengers fight a battle that they know will shape the future of the Marvel Universe for years to come!

Northlanders #17 - Written by Brian Wood; Art by Vasilis Lolos; Cover by Massimo Carnevale. "The Viking Art of Single Combat" continues. On a snowy coastline of Norway, two Vikings face off in single combat. Seconds slow to minutes. Minutes slow to hours. Then, slower still, until the fight takes on a greater meaning. Viking warfare is deconstructed and dissected in this bitter and lonely brawl to the death with visually stunning art from Vasilis Lolos (Last Call).

Nova #25 - The Nova Corps rushes to the front line of the terrible conflagration between the Shi’Ar Imperium and the Kree Empire—and gets decimated! To save them, Richard Rider must wrest control of the Nova Force from no less than the Worldmind itself! Be prepared for shocks and surprises in this stunning showdown issue of the series.

Starcraft #1- From the bestselling Blizzard computer game comes the most explosive sci-fi action comic ever created! Join the WarPigs, a disbanded team of outlaws reunited by their former captain for one last job: the assassination of Jim Raynor! Join creators Keith Giffen, Simon Furman and Federico Dallocchio for WildStorm's explosive foray into the world of STARCRAFT with this new ongoing series!

Superman #688 - Written by James Robinson; Art by Renato Guedes & José Wilson Magalhães; Cover by Andrew Robinson. Mon-El's role as Superman's stand-in for Metropolis is threatened by a sudden and mysterious power loss. How can he be the hero he needs to be without any special abilities? Meanwhile the Guardian and his Science Police go to the rescue of a missing member of the Legion of Superheroes. And who is the spy within the Science Police ranks?

Sword #17 - Dara may be fighting a losing battle when Knossos' power not only overwhelms her, but becomes a threat to the rest of the world.

Teen Titans #71 - Written by Sean McKeever; Art and cover by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson. "Deathtrap" aftermath! The team picks up the pieces following their crossover with TITANS and VIGILANTE as Ravager returns. But is she friend or foe?

Trinity #52 - Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza; Art by Mark Bagley and Art Thibert, Mike Norton and Ande Parks, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens and Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher; Covers by Jim Lee and Scott Williams and Mark Bagley and John Dell. The final showdown. The world hasn't just been changed, it's been destroyed. Can the Trinity still save the day? Not if Morgaine le Fey and Krona have anything to say about it. Answers, revelations and more come fast and furious in the mother of all action finales! Guest-starring just about everyone and featuring a final cover by TRINITY interior artist Mark Bagley!

Wildcats #11 - Written by Christos Gage; Art by Neil Googe and Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. The Wildcats' visit to the Hawaiian Islands takes a turn for the worse when they learn a dark secret that Majestic wanted kept hidden, and he'll kill to protect it! To make matters worse, when the 'Cats are away, the Daemonites decide to play as Defile and his army launch an all-out assault on the HALO building, which is full of helpless survivors.

Wolverine #72Logan and Hawkeye have finally reached their journey’s end, made it to New Babylon, and delivered Hawkeye’s secret cargo. But the completion of their mission has come with a great price…and Logan is out for revenge on the man responsible for the annihilation of the world’s super heroes, the President of the United States! Don’t miss the penultimate issue of the greatest Wolverine story ever told by modern masters MARK MILLAR and STEVE MCNIVEN! Part 7 (of 8). – Not even sure why I finishing this story as it has been pedestrian at best.

Wonder Woman #32 - Written by Gail Simone; Art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan; Cover by Aaron Lopresti. It's all been building to this issue, the penultimate chapter of the mind-blowing "Rise of the Olympian" storyarc. It's Wonder Woman vs. Genocide in a final, brutal showdown that leaves Diana with one of the toughest decisions she's ever had to face – and that's just the start of what happens this month! Do not miss this crucial story in the life of the greatest heroine in the DC Universe!

Last week almost every book that I had targeted for cancellation, was in fact dropped by me (see tomorrow’s post). This week I have a few books on the edge. Starcraft #1 because any new series I look at with a jaded view unless it has can’t miss potential. Final Crisis Aftermath Ink is also on that list. I have continued the first three Aftermath series, but so far I’m not committed to a single series till the end. Finally Ms. Marvel is a borderline book as it is now about Moonstone being Ms. Marvel and I’m not sold on that concept. Finally I have to say I’m glad Trinity has finally come to an end. I was hoping this book would be good but it was way too long for what it turned out to be. A six issue mini-series that fizzles out is an $18/$24 hit, a 52 issue series was $156 miss and a waste of DC’s talent pool.