Saturday, July 31, 2010

CBGB OMFUG #1 - A Review

Concerts are a funny thing. They are more than just listening to music in a crowd of people. They take on extra meaning. You remember how the music made you feel, what was happening in your life at the time, the girl you danced with, the girl who just dumped you. They’re not an event, they’re an experience. And sometimes, the place you see a concert is so special, it gives the concert an extra meaning.

CBGB was a club in New York City that through a confluence of luck and circumstance, helped shape the evolution of Punk music and the subculture that surrounded it. Performances here by bands like the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie have entered the stuff of legend and there are always about a million more people who say they were at the shows than there actually were. From 1973 to 2006, CBGB was a wild place, home to some of the best live music in the country. A million and one stories were born here, and that makes it a perfect subject for an anthology series like this.

The first issue of BOOM! Studios’ anthology contains two stories. The first is a NYC Punk Carol, where Phonogram’s Kieron Gillen takes a page from Dickens, and has a disillusioned punk rocker, struggling to live up to the legacy of his music, meet the Ghosts of Punk Past, Present, and Future. Gillen is a perfect choice for the lead story. Music is not an easy thing to write about, but he did it successfully throughout his 2 Phonogram miniseries and he does it again here. His enthusiasm for Punk shines through and draws you in. I like a few punk bands, but I’m hardly an expert, yet I got sucked in as the singer’s encounters with the ghosts explain the history of CBGB and how it influenced punk music. It introduces you to the relevant players in the history of this place with humor and ease. Anyone who ever got lost jumping from link to link in Wikipedia should have no problem reading Gillen’s story. Artist Marc Ellerby’s art evokes the simple style of indie greats and is perfectly suited for a story that is basically about the history of such a low fi, rough around the edges brand of music.

The second story, the Helsinki Syndrome, follows a punk fan in the late 70’s who has to clean out his dead uncle’s apartment. Once there he finds out that his uncle had a band called the Helsinki Syndrome that was “a constant sonic assault for an hour and a half.” It’s short, but it’s a great story about a kid learning about his family and going further into the punk culture. Rob G’s art is amazing and makes you feel like you’re right there in that grimy 70’s rock club with the characters. His depiction of the Helsinki Syndrome on a double page spread is incredible, and to paraphrase the main character, is the most punk fucking rock thing you’ve ever seen.

CBGB is something I picked up on a total whim at the comic shop, but I’m glad I did. It’s a tribute book that celebrates something important in our pop culture history without being exclusionary, tedious, or boring and that’s no mean feat. Whether you wear a suit to work or a safety pin through your ear, you should check this book out. Its good stuff.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Indies Preview Review For September Part 3 of 3

Humanoids Inc
Madwoman of the Sacred Heart HC by (W) Alexandro Jodorowsky (A) Moebius
Professor Alan Mangel's journey of madness begins when he impregnates Elisabeth, a student, with what she believes is John the Baptist reincarnated. They meet and conspire with people convinced in bringing forth the Second Coming of Christ. Are they delusional? By the creators of The Incal, Moebius and Jodorowsky. $29.95
Lee: I got as far as Moebius on art and I ordered a copy. Then I read it slowly and saw that Jodorowsky of Incal and Metabarons fame was the writer and I knew this would be great. Then I read the description and thought… wtf did I just order? Oh well, I’m still getting it.
Jim: You need to do a review after you read it, it has potential to be glorious or a total disaster.

Insight Editions
Morav: History of Robotic Warfare GN by (W) Fon Davis, M. Zachary Sherman (A) Budi Setiawan
Lt. Michael Okeda, a cocky fighter pilot with a sketchy past is thrust into the terrifying new world of giant robotic warfare when he and his fellow soldiers uncover a conspiracy to dominate the globe. As they struggle to make their way back to their home nation of Tangri, they are forced to use every ounce of guts, mettle, and wit they have to survive. Going up against a private army of trained mercenaries with the latest cutting-edge robotic warfare technology at their disposal, Okeda and his comrades in arms are about to experience the fight of their lives. 132 pges collecting the 6 issue comic book series combined an extra 30 pages of bonus material. $19.95. Check out the website here.
Lee: This book is just a complete cluster! PRO: I complain about indie marketing all the time but these boys got it right. A simple search yielded a website that was loaded with information. Good job boys! CON: The website is useless for comic geeks. It appears that this has been in the works since 2004 and gone through various revisions. It also appears that this might have been the basis for a game, video or board, pitch that was never accepted so it became a comic book instead. PRO: Sherman was the writer for the Radical comics Shrapnel series and we interviewed him here. I will always try to support anyone that is willing to take time to talk to us.
CON: I managed to find two preview pages buried in the site which looked good but nothing else anywhere.
I have no clue what to do with this book, I want to support it I need some previews before I’ll order cold.
Jim: Just reading everything you wrote has turned me off on this book.

Oni Press Inc.
Guerrillas Vol. 01 SC by (W/A) Brahm Revel
Private John Francis Clayton is on his first tour of duty in Vietnam, facing death at every turn in the middle of a war he doesn't understand. Clayton is just trying to stay alive when he encounters an entire platoon of... simian soldiers?! This squad of chain-smoking chimps is the most dangerous fighting force in the jungle... but whose side are they on? $14.99 The official Guerrillas site here and Jim’s interview with him… right here at ComicsAnd, here.
Lee: This is an easy, easy buy. Revel has had some trouble with the publishing schedule but now that it’s all collected in one place I can’t wait to read it. Jim raved so much way back when and now I can see what all the excitement was about.
Jim: Plus he will be finishing the story over a couple of volumes. I love this book!!!!

Penny Farthing Press
Shadrach Stone: The Big Man GN by (W) Stuart Moore (A) Jon Proctor, Jeff Dabu
Meet Shadrach Stone, a successful Manhattan literary agent who has told lies his entire life to get whatever he wants. These lies have enabled Stone to have a life that most would envy, until tragedy strikes the city and life as he knows it ends. As fast as he had acquired wealth and success, he loses it as his ability to lie disappears. He becomes a recluse in his apartment, until he is introduced to a group of people who need an expert in lies to regulate the damage that has been done to humanity by the lies told over the centuries. $19.95 There’s a really, really old blog here about Shadrach here and Stuart Moore’s blog here.
Lee: Stuart Moore has written quite a bit for Marvel and DC so he’s not a new name. In fact, his book, Spider-Man: Back In Quack #1 hits stands in September, the same month that this book is scheduled for release. But, I think this was written in 2009 and only seeing the light of day now. I don’t think it’s bad, just the truth about getting creator owned properties published in this day and age.
Jim: It is a very cool concept and I think Moore has some great ideas so I'm signing up for this book in hopes it gets published.

Radical Publishing
Ryder on the Storm #1 by (W) David Hine (A) Wayne Nichols
Ryder on the Storm follows Ryder, a private eye hired by the beautiful femme fatale Katrina Petruska to investigate the horrifically bizarre suicide of her lover, Michael Hudson. Ryder's journey to solve the case and finish Hudson's work leads him to discover a truth more sinister and terrifying than he could have ever imagined -- demons walk among us. Now he must team up with the last demon hunter, Charles Monk, to take down the cabal of ancient evil controlling the city while struggling to reconcile with the dark side of his own nature. #1 of 3, $ 4.99
Lee: This is expensive at $5 for a single issue but with David Hine writing it should be good. His strength has always been the bizarre and horrorific. I’m looking forward to this.
Jim: Don't forget this are over sized issues clocking in at more pages then you would get from either of the big two, the bang for the buck is always there with Radical. All I needed to see was David Hine's name and I'm in on this book.

Titan Publishing
Charley's War: Great Mutiny HC by (W) Pat Mills (A) Joe Colquhoun
Renowned UK comics writer Pat Mills (Marshal Law) and legendary artist Joe Colquhoun (Johnny Red) continue the thrilling, humorous, and horrifying story of World War One soldier Charley Bourne. In September 1917, Charley is caught in the mutiny by troops against harsh treatment at Etaples and faces divided loyalties as the rebellion gathers pace. Eventually, back on the front line, he faces death once more as a stretcher bearer. $19.95
Lee: YAHOO! A brand new edition of Charley’s War. The best, bar none, WWI war story ever. This is one of the absolute classics of war comics without any of the feel-good stuff in a Sgt Rock comic. As grim, gritty, and real as it gets. If you like war stories you need to read this.
Jim: I have one volume of this book and I have to read it. So many people love this series and I'm sure I will also.

WW Norton
Stitches GN by (W/A) David Small
2010 Eisner nominee! One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, he had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist. Stitches will transform adolescent and adult readers alike with its deeply liberating vision. $15.95 David Small's site, with art, here.
Lee: I picked up the hc of this book and it was every bit as good as people say. Now it’s being released in an affordable paperback so there’s no good reason not to get this. An amazing story that you will enjoy.
Jim: Great premise and a strong recommendation from Lee, I'm sold, plus it is only $16 retail, not a lot to gamble on what sounds like a great book.

Lee: This was another strong month with lots of interesting offerings. But, Stitches is the book to read in case you missed it. I'm glad it's going to sc because it more people will take a chance on it and enjoy it.
Jim: I'm sold, I'm sold already, I'm getting Stiches, geez! No indy month should leave your wallet full.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Captain America Out of Time

An announcement that came out of Marvel is that Mark Waid will be writing a Captain America story about Cap being a man out of his time. Instead of Cap coming back in the sixties he will be coming back I guess in the late nineties or something because the Marvel sliding continuity scale is going to be used. Ultimately if it is a good story the idea of a man out of time can be interesting, but the sliding time scale always presents problems.

The way I understand it is Marvel has decided that everything started 10 years ago or so and everything has happened since then. So that mean the FF has fought Galactus, met the Inhumans, Reed and Sue have had two kids, the Torch has had five or six major relationships, the Avengers have built a huge rouge gallery, Hawkeye has been a crook, then an Avenger, then Giant-Man, then Hawkeye, founded the West Coast Avengers, was killed, was resurrected, was Ronin and is now Hawkeye again all with the last 10 years.

If you try to shove 50 years of stories into the last 10 years nothing makes any sense. How can Cyclops have gone from being an orphan to having siblings everywhere, Jean Grey die and be reborn, Cyclops have married her clone, had kids, gone from Westchester to San Francisco and on and on in only 10 years.

I know they have done it to try and protect the idea that their characters don’t age, but considering Marvel was built on growth of their characters what they have created is stagnation to the nth degree. How did the FF get their powers if their origins happened 10 years ago. It seems dumb to have stolen a rocket ship and launched into space and been exposed to cosmic rays to gain powers. Why did none of the Astronauts from the sixties and seventies ever develop powers? Bruce Banner ran out to protect Rick Jones from an explosion in the nineties? I don’t think above ground testing would be in play at that point. Iron Man apparently invented his armor in Afghanistan, I hope that war last because where do we go next.

The sliding scale makes no sense at all. Have you read any of the history of the characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye and Mockingbird in the back of their first issues? Marvel leaves their entire history out there and then expects us to believe the sliding scale stuff.

It actually starts to change the characters. Waid says Steve will be delighted how far racial and gender equality have come along. I think he has never talked to anyone who is from WWII, because they never even thought of gender equality at all. Steve Rogers being gone almost sixty years would not be an icon anymore as the 24/7 news media would rip him to shreds with coverage.

The times we live in and grow up in shape us in many ways. The vast majority of these comic characters were created or recreated in the sixties. The time period is why so many are involved in journalism of a type that hardly exists anymore. By holding these characters to an artificial ten years it makes them even more unreal then they are. In addition to keeping the same people under the masks Marvel is making it harder and harder to care about their characters when part of what makes them who they are is constantly erased.

I like the idea of the series as it was the concept being explored in the apparently orphaned series “The Twelve” by JMS and Chris Weston. The problem with doing this series is they are time stamping Captain America once again and the series loses its relevancy within two years of being published as Cap now showed up in the year 2001.

Indies Preview Review For September Part 2 of 3

Boom! Studios - Kids
Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion Vol. 01 HC by (W/A/C) Don Rosa Finally available in a Deluxe Hardcover Edition! Want more of Don Rosa's monumental The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck? This Companion volume is it, featuring the pre-chapters, the post-chapters, and the in-between chapters of Don Rosa's Eisner Award-winning series. This is the first Volume of two. $24.99
Lee: I haven’t talked Ducks in awhile so now a good time to remind everyone how good these stories are. As silly as it sounds, these really are action packed adventures for the entire family. And now available in hc!
Jim: Quack, quack, quack. Lee loves the ducks and so do millions of other people. Don Rosa was the acknowledged master of the ducks.

Drawn & Quarterly
Make Me a Woman HC by (W/A/C) Vanessa Davis It's easy to understand why Vanessa Davis has taken the comic industry by storm: her comics are pure chutzpah, gorgeously illustrated in watercolors. No story is too painful to tell - like how much she enjoyed fat camp; Nor too off limits - like her critique of R. Crumb; Nor too personal - like her stories of growing up Jewish in Florida. Using her sweet-but-biting wit, Davis effortlessly carves out a wholly original and refreshing niche in two well-worn territories: autobio comics and the jewish identity. Davis draws strips from her daily diary often centering on her relationships with men, her mother, and eventually her long-time boyfriend. $24.95. Visit Davis and see previews here.
Lee: If you like slice of life stuff, then this is the book for you! From the previews I read it doesn’t appear that she holds anything back and that’s males for some of the best stories.
Jim: Slice of life stories that have raw and true feelings to them are often the best stories, but this does not interest me.

D. E./Dynamite Entertainment
John Moore Presents: Dead Soldier #1 by (W) John Moore & Richie Smith (A) Dean Hyrapiet
From acclaimed filmmakers John Moore (Max Payne, Behind Enemy Lines and The Omen) and Richie Smyth, comes the story of Colonel John Donner, aka John Doe. It's the last days of World War One? The Great War. On an obscure patch of mud, a small company of American soldiers fights to the last man against a powerful German offensive. John Doe is the only American survivor of the attack. He wanders alone for days amongst the maze of trenches and blast holes. Shellshocked, badly wounded and without food or medicine, he is lost. Through a twist of events, Donner is transformed into a creature of unthinkable power, a monster that pledges he will avenge the deaths of his fallen comrades, not only on the muddy battlefields of WWI, but across the generations to the slaughter-fields of the War on Terror. With abnormal strength and agility he hunts his enemies. But Donner's actions have not gone unnoticed ? and he will soon face an enemy from a place he could never have contemplated. #1 of of 4, $3.99
Lee: I really enjoy stories set during the WW1 era so my interest is definitely piqued. Add the monsters on the battle field theme and I’m basically sold. And, Hyrapiet did the art for the highly forgettable Nick Cage VooDoo Child series. To be clear, art was good, story was dumb.
Jim: Yet another "Hollywood" name writing a comic. You just said Nic Cage's story was dumb, this doesn't sound any better.

Vampirella Archives Vol. 01 HC by Frank Frazetta, Neal Adams, Tom Sutton, Donald F. Glut, Forest J. Ackerman, Ernie Colon, Billy Graham, Alan Weiss & Jeff Jones
In September 1969, Vampirella #1 debuted with a stunning cover by the legendary Frank Frazetta -- and quickly made publishing history! The writers and artists that contributed during the magazine's original run included Jose Gonzales, Archie Goodwin, Doug Moench, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor Smith, Estaban Maroto, Frank Brunner, Mike Ploog, Ruby Nebres, Richard Corben, Wally Wood, and many more! Dynamite now collects this legendary magazine in a hardcover archive edition FOR THE FIRST TIME! Featuring work by Forest J. Ackerman, Donald F. Glut, Tom Sutton, Neal Adams, Ernie Colon, Billy Graham, Alan Weiss, Jeff Jones, and Frank Frazetta, Volume One collects the first seven terrifying issues of the magazine's original run, reprinted in its magazine-sized format, and features the very first Vampirella cover by the immortal Frank Frazetta! $49.99
Lee: How did DE ever get this license???? I imagined that DH, because of Creepy and Eerie would have. The initial couple of issues are somewhat uneven but this is too nice a format not to get it.
Jim: Harris has owned the rights for this forever, so Dark Horse was not buying the rights to Warren, just to Creepy and Eerie as Blazing Combat was republished by Fantagraphics. Uneven is right, but I can't resist and the art line up is impressive.

:01 First Second
Koko Be Good GN by (W/A) Jen Wang
Koko's always got a new project cooking, even though they typically end in disaster. But this time will be different, Koko promises herself. This time, she's decided to Be Good. But how can a girl whose greatest talent is causing trouble get her act cleaned up? Honest, wrenching, and funny, Koko Be Good is a story about human nature and the inhuman efforts we make to find ourselves. 300 pgs $18.99 Visit Jenny and read a preview here.
Lee: This looks great, and if the quality in the previews can be maintained, it will be excellent. :01 is one of my go to publishers when I need a good book so this is an easy sell for me.
Jim: This sounds very good and 300 pages for $19 hard to go wrong.

Dawn Land GN by (W) Joseph Bruchac (A) Will Davis
Ten thousand years ago, Young Hunter set out on a quest to overcome the Stone Giants who were terrorizing his people. Pitted against these creatures of legend, Young Hunter journeyed to the innermost heart of his own humanity - and entrusted with his tribe's most dangerous secret, a weapon that would change mankind forever: the first bow and arrow. $19.99
Lee: Imagine my surprise when I find out Dawn Land was actually a prose novel first published in the early 90’s! Go figure. From what I gathered, this is a compilation of Indian myths and folklore rolled into one longer story. I might have to give this a try.
Jim: I'd rather read Scalped.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Little Prince GN by (W) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (W/A) Joann Sfar For over sixty-five years Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, a whimsical story with a fairy tale touch, has captured the hearts and minds of its readers. This exciting graphic adaptation features beautiful, new artwork by Joann Sfar. Hand-chosen by Saint-Exupéry's French publishers for his literary style and sensitivity to the original, Sfar has endeavored to recreate this beloved story, both honoring the original and stretching it to new heights. A vibrant, visual gift for longtime fans and those experiencing the story for the first time. $19.99
Lee: I live in France so I had to pick this. Not to mention, I think anyone in America who’s ever had HS French has read this book. Or pieces of this book, because I know that I never finished it! Oh well, this is a classic no matter what and with the added benefit of Sfar on art chores I’m sold.
Jim: Geez you move to France and now it is all about you, what a narcissist. I had HS French and we never read this book, but for me this is a pass.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

American Vampire #5 - A Review

American Vampire #5

Publisher Vertigo

Writer Scott Snyder and Stephen King

Art Rafael Albuquerque

Colors Dave McCaig

Format 32 Pages of Story and Art

Price Point $3.99

This issue is the conclusion of the first story arc by creator Scott Snyder and Stephen King’s origin of Skinner Sweet. Both stories were excellent and this sets up this series to be Vertigo’s next big thing. The potential in this book is amazing and I’m now just waiting for issue #6 to get here.

The first half of the book dealt with Pearl taking her revenge on the Vampires who created her and her friend who betrayed her. It was the fastest fifteen pages of comics I have read in a long time because the story was just that exciting and well paced. Scott has already become a master at marrying words and pictures and if his DCU material is even half of good as American Vampire then DC has a new big name in the making. I see Scott moving up the ranks rather rapidly if all of his work is this strong. I’m hesitant to tag him as the next Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison for DC because Scott is his own person and I think he will be the next Scott Snyder and it will be a good thing.

When you break down his fifteen page story concluding Pearl’s story for now it is an amazing thing. The first page uses the nine panel grid and lays out seven panels as we see Rose and Henry prepare for the attack on the vampires who made Pearl into an American Vampire. We have dialogue from Pearl setting us up for the story to come using a story from her childhood. You flip the page and we have the vampires conversing about their plans and on the adjacent page the doors are swung open by Pearl and Henry as they attack. From there we have limited dialogue, plenty of action and some terrific lines. Now while they are “lines” they come across as something the characters would say as opposed to lines that are clever to just be clever. We wrap up that fight and cut to Pearl taking her revenge on Hattie. Again another great fight scene between the two girl friends who are now both vampires. We then get a quiet three page ending that show Pearl and Henry with a happy ending for now and a great scene with Skinner Sweet setting us up for stories to come where I’m sure Pearl will be called upon by Skinner in some future time. It was truly a mini-masterpiece in comic books. It gave us a satisfying conclusion to the first arc, established a great character in Pearl and laid the groundwork for the future. In addition the story had humanity (I know odd with vampires), romance, all out action fight scenes with appropriate amount of blood (it is a vampire story) and was just very well told.

Skinner Sweet’s half of the book was also excellent. I have always liked Pearl’s story better, but this issue was King’s best chapter and made me enjoy the Skinner story almost as much as the Pearl story. One quick side note, I have loved and read many Stephen King’s books and have a desire to read more, for him to actually put his name out there and write a comic for the first time like this was pretty darn amazing. The man does not need to do this and he certainly did not have to put himself out there like that. Bravo, Mr. King, bravo, for showing us that you can always still try and branch out and try new things no matter how successful you already are in one area.

I’m not sure how much of Skinner’s story is from Scott and how much is from Mr. King, but I have to say that the end story was excellent. We got to see how Skinner infected his long time enemy James Book and how Skinner escaped the collapsed mine. We get to see Skinner tell the old vampire group to shove it and watch as a young girl Abi gets Book to leave her with a child. The last page was great as we see an older Abi with her young daughter watching Skinner and she is plotting her revenge for what he did to James Book. This chapter was extremely well done and I thought the flow of the story was the best it had been. It appears to me that Mr. King has already learned what he needs to do as a comic writer and I think he has a chance to hit the big time.

Finally Rafael Albuquerque is killing with his art on this book. Every issue gets better and better. His expressions, camera angles, the turn of a person’s lip, the layouts, page design, panel design, the weight to his characters it all gets better and better. Rafael is someone whose artwork just continues to grow. I love watching an artist that is coming into his own and grow before your eyes. When he was announced as the artist for this book I never thought he would work out, but he has proven me to be 100% wrong and now I can’t imagine him doing super hero work again. Obviously he can do either, but wow he is just impressive on this book. I’d be remiss to not mention Dave McCaig’s color work. It is an area where I have to intuit someone’s ability because I know little about how the job is done, but I know good when I see it. His work is excellent in this book and is used to great effect in many segments of the story telling. His enhancement of the art makes Rafael look that much better.

Overall Grade A+ - American Vampire is a thing of beauty and joy to behold.

Now I would like to propose that DC use this series to launch a digital version of the collected edition. With Stephen King’s name attached to it, the book will garner more exposure, but selling it as a halfway done project or by issue will not garner the regular reading public’s attention. Take full use of digital capabilities. First the book can be read straight as Pearl’s story and then Skinner’s story, two stories for one. Then have the option of showing the script side by side with the page. Add in some character sketches and preliminary work by Rafael. Add the option for someone to look at the book in black and white with or without captions. Finally do interviews with the creators and have the interviews as back material. Have an option where the interviews can be listened to so we can hear the creators talk about the book. Finally offer the commentary track where Scott or Steve could comment as the pages as turned. Not utilizing the full capabilities of digital and just selling the same product as on the stand for iPads or whatever is missing the boat. The digital world needs to garner a new audience and special books and projects deserve putting it all out there. Charge close to the same price as the collected edition or better yet keep it at half price, but $15 a pop for this type of digital product could sell big time and generate a whole new audience for the medium we all love.

Indies Preview Review For September Part 1 of 3

Lee: A strong mix of old and new material this month but I can’t help but feel that we’re in a holding period because Christmas is right around the corner. I know that’s hard to accept when it’s over 100 degrees outside but these are September previews. Hopefully it will be cooler in September.
Jim: Looking ahead at Lee's picks for this month we are starting off with a lot of animals. Not sure what that means, but it is better then his bathroom obsession.

Abrams Comicarts
Art of Jaime Hernandez: Secrets of Life & Death HC by (W) Todd Hignite (A) Jaime Hernandez
In 1981, three Mexican-American brothers self-published their first comic book, Love and Rockets, and changed American cartooning forever according to Publishers Weekly. Over 26 years later it is still being published to critical and commercial success. Jaime Hernandez's moving stories chronicle the lives of some of the most memorable and fully formed characters the comics world has ever seen. His female protagonists, masterfully delineated with humor, candor, and breathtaking realism, come to life within California's Mexican-American culture and punk milieu. The notoriously private artist has opened his archives for the first time, revealing never-before-seen sketches, childhood drawings, and unpublished work, alongside his most famous Love and Rockets material, much of it photographed in color from the original art. Available Again, Not a New Release $40.00
Lee: This isn’t a new release but I’m still interested by it. Hernandez has been an influential artist and writer for 26 years and this is a perfect way to get to know him. If you’re interested in the people who make comics then this is a must have.
Jim: An art book by an artist whose work while very good has never appealed to me. An easy pass.

Adhouse Books
Duncan the Wonder Dog Vol. 01: Show One SC by (W/A) Adam Hines
What if animals could talk? Would some of them form a militant group in reaction to how humans treat them? Would humans treat them differently? Come explore this dense tome of an alternate universe where the lavish renderings recall the work of Dave McKean. Duncan the Wonder Dog will be one of the most talked about books of 2010! 400 pages, 8.5" x 11" SC $24.95. Download the 38 pages preview here.
Lee: Let’s start with the obvious, this book is HUGE. A full size book clocking in at 400 pages. We’re talking ‘From Hell’ size territory here. Yowza! I strongly recommend checking out the preview because I can’t describe the book. It’s part art book, it’s part story, it’s definitely good.
Jim: The bang for the book is there and it certainly has potential. I'm always looking for something new and this book looks like it is worth checking out.

Allen & Unwin
Tango Collection: Talent from Australia New Zealand by (W/A) Various
The perfect introduction for anyone curious about this exciting and versatile storytelling medium, this is a vibrant showcase of the most creative comic book talent in Australia and New Zealand, with more than 50 contributors including Nicki Greenberg, Andrew Weldon, Bruce Mutard, Mandy Ord, Gordon Reece, and many more. Collecting more than 60 stories, this quirky, experimental, and fun collection is a feast for the senses, a celebration of love in all its guises, and an introduction to a new breed of writer. Foreword by comics guru, Dylan Horrocks. 248 pgs. $26.95 Visit the site official site here and there’s a 20 or so page preview here. (click google preview to see it).
Lee: Amazing, this is just reaching American shores now after it was originally released in December 09. I’ve never seen art from Down Under but I picked this because I’ve enjoyed the Swedish/Norwegian anthologies from Top Shelf. And even though I was interested this is a heavy month for me with Marvel/IDW hc’s so I was thinking no, but after looking at the previews I’m thinking yes.
Jim: I'm not sure why a different locale makes any difference in what the art looks like. Even with a future son-in-law being from New Zealand I'm not compelled to pick this up.

Alterna Comics Inc
Unlikely Trio: Last Barn on the Left One-Shot by (W) Scott & Callie West (A) Scott West
LilBit the mouse, Mrs. Butters the cat, and Abby the Collie dog join together to confront a scary monster that lives in the barn of their small town. Can the three friends overcome their fears and get through this adventure? Kids can be the colorist in this black and white adventure that features fun activities in the back of the book. Alterna will be donating all proceeds to the ASPCA foundation to help protect animals in need! $3.95 A 17 page preview here.
Lee: Dammit the last thing I need is a guilt trip book that helps a good cause. Both the story and art looked good so for $4, I’ll help the cause.
Jim: Not me.

Anthology Project
Anthology Project Vol. 01 HC by (W/A) Various (C) Joy Ang
The Anthology Project collects the comics of artists unified by their delirious pursuit of compelling narrative and notable artistic work in the medium of sequential art. Its humble intent is only to delight. Fifteen artists from varying disciplines are provided a venue to bring their personal visions to life in this eclectic collection of short stories. $24.99 Visit the Anthology Project website here.
Lee: It’s a cover of fish. It’s a beautiful picture but it isn’t going to sell comic books. And I think the cover does a disservice to the book because it looks very good. In the theme of the Flight, Popgun, & Liquid City anthologies, this will have lots of color and a diversity of stories. I’m betting it’s good, I just hope people find it.
Jim: I'd rather gamble on something like this then the Down Under anthology. Still more of a book I would want to page through at a store before buying.

Arcana Studio
Redball 6 Vol. 01 GN by (W) The Miller Bros. (A) Jok, Studio Haus
Awakening in the sprawling necropolis of Near Dis, Wayne soon finds himself assigned to the NDPD's elite 'spiricide unit - the so called Redball 6 - with five other dead cops from different periods of human (and nonhuman) history. Redball 6 is a darkly comedic police procedural set in a sprawling necropolis called Near Dis, an unhappy city in the littoral region of the Big Black itself. Near Dis! No one wants to be there; almost everyone ends up there. A purgatorial way station for borderline cases, Near Dis is home to legions of minor devils, wayward angels, and countless human spirits eagerly waiting their chance to move either up or down the celestial ladder. $19.95. See previews here.
Lee: This sounds like it might be fun! I’m always interested in demons and cops stories so I’ll give it a chance. And, Jok’s art is pretty good too.
Jim: I don' t know. I'm tired of all the demonic stuff, this sounds almost like a generic indy book, if that makes any sense. Pass.

Archaia Entertainment LLC
Okko Vol. 03: Cycle of Air HC by (W/A) Hub
It is the Spring of 1110 in the official calendar of the Pajan Empire. Okko is called upon to assist the daughter of Lady Mayudama, who has retreated into a profound silence. The best doctors have been unable to provide even a diagnosis of her condition. Okko may prove to be her last resort. But a strange force that has been prowling around the region for over a week has also arranged a meeting with the ronin for a duel of incomparable violence... Collects all four issues of Okko: The Cycle of Air mini-series. $19.95
Lee: I enjoyed the first two volumes in the Okko cycle and I’m sure this one will be good too. If you haven’t tried it, you really should. Great stuff.
Jim: I have breezed through Volume One and this is solid work. One day I will pick up Volume 2 and this Volume.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Feel Good Moment of 2010

(Credit to Comics Alliance for pictures)

Being a comic fan isn’t always easy. Most people tend to regard us with a level of contempt somewhere above telemarketers, but below lazy gas station attendants. And sometimes the insular, never pleased, constantly complaining, and often hygiene deficient nature of this fandom gives everyone else good reason to think this way. But every so often, we get reminded of what a wonderfully insane, creative community we’ve all made ourselves part of. I had one of those moments when during this year’s San Diego Comicon.

Prior to this year’s Comicon, the Westboro Baptist Church announced they would be protesting the event. For those of you who don’t know, the Westboro Baptist Church is a hateful group of bigots who are best known for protesting soldiers funerals around the country with signs declaring “God Hates Fags.” Now, this is terrible no matter what their rationale is, but their rationale is (SURPRISE!) insane. Apparently, because America permits homosexuality, God is killing our soldiers overseas. They’re a despicable group of assholes who do their level best to aggravate and upset everyone wherever they go.

Now, I know you'll all be shocked, but the rationale for protesting Comicon doesn’t make much sense either. It seems that everyone there worships superheroes as false idols. I think. Needless to say, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean I REALLY like Franken-Castle, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered undead vigilantism as a serious life choice.

Anyway, when these idiots show up, there usually isn’t a great way to respond to them. They are put a respectful distance away from the event and given a police escort to ensure that their first amendment rights are respected. No one gets hurt, but people usually walk away angry and bitter. Well, comic fans had a better idea.

Three hateful bigots were met by a peaceful crowd of con goers, many in costume, holding ridiculous protest signs, creating a scene of beautiful lunacy. Highlights include a Starfleet officer holding a sign declaring “God Hates Jedi,” Bender wielding a sign stating his desire to “Kill all humans,” and my personal favorite, “Darkseid Is.” It really has to be seen to be believed. Check out more photos (and an interview with Gail Simone about the protest) over at Comics Alliance.

Hearing about the Westboro Baptist Church in any capacity is usually enough to piss me off, but when I saw these pictures, it made me proud to be a comic book fan. Only comic book fans could come up with such a cheerful, funny, and gloriously insane response to this kind of bigotry. They took something sad and turned it into something positive and joyful. Even now, when I look at these pictures, I get a big, dumb grin on my face. Confronted with the lowest form of life possible, comic book fans responded with something uplifting and fun. Good job, fellow comic book fans! Thanks for brightening up my week. And ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

The Week of July 21 In Review

I assume that most comic book readers are readers in general. I personally have not read a lot of regular books lately, but I still read lots of news and non-fiction when I can. Thomm was talking about pornographic and how is it defined I have been thinking about how quick we are to condemn people when certain words are used. The “n” word seems to be a bigger taboo then saying f**got or ret*rd, but I understood various communities are upset about those words also. If we say the “f” word, then people will be confused about what you are talking about. I have always thought that we give too much power to all the taboo words by making them taboo. If we said f**k, sh*t, n**ger and people did not go crazy about them, they lose some of their power. George Carlin was great talking about this stuff. As a society there is polite language we use in business and other words we may use when angry, upset, drunk or just goofing off with friends. Political correctness and politeness has been taken to extremes in condemning certain language. It is taken so far today that it borders on censorship and that’s when we start to have problems in our society. In our blog I try for PG-13 and or lots of **&^^% to make our points, but it is to be polite and because it is an open blog that anyone can view. I just think in general I’m concerned that in our desire to never offend anyone we are actually creating an atmosphere where we will soon be Orwellian in how we have to communicate.

Odd prelude to a review column, but I sometimes digress before I even begin!

First up was Walking Dead #75. The actual issue was great and showed Rick going off the deep end over this guy Pete he thinks is beating his wife. Michonne takes Rick down and now we have no clue what is going to happen inside our little compound. What I loved was Kirkman having fun with the backup story that was about Rick being captured by Aliens, turned into a super soldier and then finding out aliens are behind everything. It was over the top and ridiculous and just out and out fun and a great way to celebrate an anniversary issue in a book that does not lend itself to special things happening when a certain number hits. Kirkman seems to let the story dictate what happens and is not forcing his story to fit some artificial break point to make 75 anything more then another good issue in what has to be considered one of the best all time series.

After that I choose a book that was on the bubble for me and New Avengers #2 is cut from my list. First off it is $4 for 23 pages of story and art; second the Bendis dialogue is now even intruding during fight scenes and making everyone sound like a loon, third the fight was choreographed badly. The back matter to give us our bang for the buck is an oral history of the Avengers, in other words crap.

Next up DCU Legacies #3 (of 10) and this is another drop. Frankly for a long term fan like me this book is boring. No re-establishing of history, just plain old boring stuff. I can’t see wasting any more time or money and I do not see a trade in my future with this book either.

Now I’m going out of order, but I’m mad because I have to drop Power Girl. I loved this book and in two issues the new team has thrown out everything that made this book special. They are bringing her into DCU continuity inside of her own book, destroying her company and have left her supporting cast in the dust. Power Girl #14 also had some horrible logic in it just to get to where the writer wanted it to go. The whole bankruptcy thing was insane. Just because the company looks insolvent would not have bankers coming in and taking everything. That was acceptable in the Silver Age, but in modern comics things need to be closer to how the real world works. Second the whole transaction between these arms dealers made no sense at all and again it was a means to an end to get to the alien monster. Worse the damn sphere could have just showed up and any schlep could have been the one taken over by it. I hated to do it, but I’m not supporting this crap.

Time Masters Vanishing Point #1 (of 6) was a little iffy as DC is charging $4 for a regular size comic and it was just good enough to keep me hanging on. I love all the forgotten heroes like Rip Hunter, so that suckered me in a bit. Also while they are searching for Bruce Wayne it really feels like this is a Rip Hunter book, which is fine by me.

Brightest Day #6 was another strong issue in this series. What I sense about this book is that Tomasi and Johns have a story planned out and know where they are going. Often it appears either editorial mandates or a lack of planning impact some books and the writers flounder. This series comes across like they know where they are going and how they are going to get us there and we jump in for the ride. This issue we get the whole retro-con of who Mera is and that her people are offspring of Atlantis also. The mystery with Firestorm is being well done and the other stories are all progressing well. This is one of DC’s top core series.

Hellblazer #269 came out this week. From a book I was about to drop; now I’m back into this series. Not sure what is going on 100% because my attention waned and I don’t remember all the stuff with Shade the Changing Man from almost 20 years ago, but the story of John going crazy is fun. The art by Camuncoli and Landini is perfect for this book and just great art.

The House of Hush storyline in Streets of Gotham #14 was very good, but it was the shorter story this month and only a prelude. I’m so programmed that when I read the front of a book with two stories I expect the front half to be the longer story. It is very interesting what is going on right now with Hush and I’m looking forward to the rest of the story. The backup story featuring Two Face was also entertaining making the complete package a welcome issue during a less than stellar comic week.

Bullet to the Head #1 came out a month ago and issue #2 came out this week, but I’m hoping to read it next week. Somehow I missed that Matz (the writer of Killer) had a series out from Dynamite. I tend to ignore Dynamite on occasion. This was a great start to a book that promises to have plenty of political intrigue and intergovernmental issues as two hit men walk in and kill an ex-Senator with a bullet to the head. I will need to get the collected edition of this series as it is already that good.

Azrael #10 by David Hine immediately made the book readable. I have no love for the character, but I’m a David Hine fan and he immediately drew me into the book and set up a good first story. This book is now on my list.

Atlas #3 and Thunderbolts #146 are both examples of why Jeff Parker has become my favorite writer for Marvel comics. The stories are always entertaining, the characters are spot on and the artists are both strong, yet unique. There is nothing generic about these books and they are pure escapism and great fun, yet telling a strong story at the same time. In fact Mr. Parker may force me to read a book about the Red Hulk as I hear he is taking over that book.

DV8 #4 (of 8) was another very good issue in what is an excellent series. I’m very curious to see how this series will end because the ending will make or break this book.

Wow after a couple of week where I had a bunch to say I find myself with a lot less to say. There were a lot of solid books this week but many are in the middle of storylines. If a book is good, the story flow is good and the plot is advancing often there is little to say. Also in writing weekly I sometimes suffer from writer’s block and I think that may lead to shorter columns.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Alan Moore Debate

So the whole debate with a friend of mine Shawn started when I did a tweet about the recent story involving Alan Moore and DC comics. I stated “The whole Alan Moore thing is crazy, he has no room to complain as he knew what he was getting into from the beginning. – Jim” This started a longish back and forth that I thought was interesting enough to be worthy of a post.

Alan Moore is one of the more imposing figures in the comic world with some giving him godhood status, but the man without a doubt had a major impact on comics. The debate follows:

Shawn: Saw your Tweeter post and wanted to shed some light on the history of Moore's grumblings for you. Even he will joke with interviewers and say perhaps he's just grumpy about it, but his arguments have some merit.

Back in the day the original agreement about Watchmen (and V for Vendetta) was that as soon as either one goes out of print, all rights revert back to Moore. This is in his original contract. Back then there was NO Graphic Novel that had been in perpetual print before. Somewhere along the way even the longest running printed GN's eventually went out of print. Therefore the creators were in a consistent Catch-22. (This is still before the big creator-owned push.) Moore and DC had a falling out years later about something else. Moore left.

Moore was doing the ABC line for Jim Lee while Lee sold his company to DC. After he knew he was selling his company, Lee flew to England to explain the situation and Moore agreed to stay on the ABC books as long as DC did not stick their fingers into his business, and as long as he was paid by a "dummy" corporation, so as not to receive money from "DC." Levitz continually censored portions of LEOG (most famous was the Marvel Douche in the back of one of the issues) and it got to a point where Moore decided to tie-up the loose ends in his titles and leave. He did make it work for a number of years but slowly DC editorial started editing his stuff without talking to him first. So once again, he left.

Flash-forward to V For Vendetta. Don Murphy, a Producer, went public saying that Moore supported the film project. Moore got pissed because he did nothing of the sort. He wanted nothing to do with it. All that he wanted to clear it up was not money, but a public statement by Murphy saying he misspoke. It didn't happen and from there on out all royalties were to be paid to the artists. Gibbons got Moore's share of Watchment film rights royalties, etc.

Now a year or two ago there were rumors of more "Watchmen" comics. Moore was approached by DC. They wanted to give him the rights back if he would write some prequels and sequels to the book. Now, Moore basically didn't want to work for something he felt he was swindled against before. And he's long since moved on from Watchmen and simply doesn't care about it anymore.

Now Moore is without a doubt an eccentric. But keep in mind Neil Gaiman did not own Sandman for a number of years. His creator-owned credit (he has weird portions of ownership, i.e. movies have to be done through WB, etc) came years later retroactively. Sandman started in 1989, four or five years after Watchmen came out. It wasn't until the 90's creator-ownership took center stage. Gaiman lobbied for some kind of new arrangement. Moore and DC butted heads for many years. He felt film Producers were saying he was happy with the film when he wanted nothing to do with it. And a simple "no he's not, we were wrong" would have made him happy. He had his name removed from the Watchmen film. Now, years later, DC comes in and says, cash in on this property by writing prequels and sequels and we'll give you the rights back now after all this time.

He should have known better. So should have countless other writers. It's easy to look back from 2010 and say in 1984 Moore should have known Watchmen would be a hit and stay in print for the next 25 years, but there was really no way of knowing. The book could have been ill-received and he would have had the rights within two years.

If Moore's being interviewed and he wants to share that Didio and Co (it was his idea for more Watchmen) wanted to get him to work more on older works to get rights back after all this bad blood between them, I think he's allowed to give his side of things.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, I got all of that, but Moore has been paid millions for his work from DC so let’s not cry over that. Moore has felt free to rape historical characters for LOEG and has not (to my knowledge) sought out whoever might be the children of those people to pay them. Moore also used Marvelman as a basis for a book and never once consulted the creator of that character to my knowledge. Plus the man thinks he is a f**king magician. So while he certainly is due respect for stuff he has done, it does not mean he is right about all of his dealings and doesn't mean he is not a loon.

Also, Levitz fought and got payments for Neil Adams and Denny O'Neil for concepts used in the first Bale Batman movie and Adams even said no one owed them money as they did all their work as work for hire.

Shawn: I actually don't think he's made millions man. He used up most of the $ from back then on independent comic comics that never took off and at some point, like the films, he decided to stop taking royalties for the books too. They all go to the artists. All of the LOEG characters are in public domain. Anyone can use them. Marvelman was done at Eclipse comics and they had the rights at the time. I'm not saying Levitz is a bad guy, far from it. But he was known to butt heads with Moore. (Levitz was always more of a company man and Moore, is well, a f**king Magician. lol) Think of it this way, DC has Moore in a Catch-22 about the rights. Technically they've not gone back on the contract, but Watchmen caused the rules of GNs to change. Because of this oddity (now a regular thing) Dc never revisited it, though they agreed to do so for Gaiman on Sandman. I'd argue Watchmen and V For Vendetta are as much Moore's as Sandman is Gaiman's.

Coming to Moore after all of this time to "cash in" on sequels just to get his work back speaks of DC's new initiative. EVERYTHING is a f**king franchise now with multiple Batmen, Flashes, GLs, etc. They're trying to mine everything for TV, movies, whatever. They want more comics to expand that BRAND. DC is making me sick over it at the moment.

You have to admit Moore stands by his principles by forgoing royalties.

Jim: He (to my knowledge) has accepted the royalty payments for the copies of the Watchmen paperback and with the sales of that book being in the millions of copies sold, even at $2 a pop, Moore is a wealthy man because of that book.

I think you are giving him too much credit, because the Watchmen are not his great creations, they are just twisted versions of the Charlton characters that were originally cast in the role.

Also Moore has made many contradicting type of statements.

Finally your argument about public domain is correct and Moore is on solid legal ground. So is DC. I'm just saying don't act like he is this poor put upon creator who has been shafted by the man, when has built his career on the bones of other people's creations.

Neither side is clean, but Moore is the one complaining.

As for franchises, yeah Marvel and DC cannot leave well enough alone, heck Dynamite tries it with some books and even BOOM has done it a little with Incorruptible.

Shawn: I think you hate his ego and not the circumstances. Were this Eisner, it would be a different argument.

AND, you can say they started as the Charlton characters, but Moore makes them different and all his own. :P

Jim: Built on their frames and the basis for them are from the Charlton characters.

Shawn: Dude. They are totally different now.

You can say Plutonium owes his "framework" to Superman but he is definitely his own character.

Jim: They would have been revamps of the Charlton characters with names like the Question, Peter Cannon Thunderbolt, etc, - DC did not want the characters altered that much, so he changed the names.

Shawn: I'm well aware of where the project originated. However, Rorschach's character, in both appearance and back story, is completely different from The Question. The Owl also, is a different design. Doctor Manhattan is nothing like Captain Atom, etc. They were changed so much there is nothing of the originals left in them. It makes them a wholly unique and original creation.

Jim: Really? I would disagree because the Plutonian is still Superman inspired and the characters in question are inspired by the originals. Without starting with the Charlton characters does he still get to Rorschah and the rest on his own? I say no.

My bottom line is that Moore is not this paragon of pure virtue defending creator rights. He is an artist, who is probably a little crazy and has done some amazing comics, but that does not make him sane (see Vincent Van Gogh).

Shawn: There is nothing left of the Question. He is GONE in Watchmen. Plutonium, though inspired by Superman, is a creator-owned character by Mark Waid. Same with Invincible being inspired by Superman but is owned by Robert Kirkman. By that same token, Watchmen's creation is owed solely by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

You are confusing your personal feelings about Alan Moore and his character with the point of his being disgruntled with DC and not wanting to do Watchmen 2: Electric Boog-a-loo. Just because he may be a writing genius that is batsh*t crazy, doesn't make him wrong and doesn't make DC right.

He may be a cranky old guy, but he sticks to his guns. His stance against DC has gotten worse and worse over the years because there continues to be problems added to problems. His problems with the ABC line and the film side saying Moore loved what they were doing when he said nothing of the kind. I bet if you created something that you didn't own and someone was making a watered-down version of your story into a film and they said you "loved it and supported the project" when you in fact did not, you'd get pissed too.

This is Mark Millar and Brain Bendis all over again. We get it. You don't think much of the crazy Magician with a cave in his basement. Gotcha. It doesn't mean he now never has a point and is constantly wrong. Personally I think we need more eccentric weirdos in comics.

Jim: You are missing my point. I think Moore is a crazy person, but also has some obvious creative genius. Part of that genius is the ability to see things in a different light. Swamp Thing is a prime example in that he twisted the concept just a little and made it go from normal Swamp Monster to something exciting and cool.

What has he created from whole cloth without building on someone else's work that has been as cool as Swamp Thing, Watchmen and Miracleman?

Also I'm also saying he has made a lot of money off of his work, so his constant stances (which are not all consistent) get to be a little old.

I'm not saying he does not have some points, I'm just saying he is not 100% right and I'm sure DC is not 100% right (god knows I find it hard to defend corporations).

It is the nature of the beast that in order to profit from a creative vision you sometimes can't control all of it.

Not sure why you think this is Millar and Bendis all over again. Moore has generated work that I will love forever, Millar and Bendis have their talents, just not so much that I enjoy. In fact Moore's final Superman story maybe one of my favorite Superman stories of all time. The first Miracleman run is also high up on my all time list.

A long debate about Alan Moore, if nothing else the man does stir things up.

What I’m Getting Wednesday July 28

I have hit a sort of blah period again with comics. I know that between all that I read and all that I write about comics that burnout can occur on occasion, but lately the cape stuff has lost favor in my eyes. I have cancelled New Avengers and Power Girl from last week and I’m very iffy on Legion Of Super Heroes. This week offers some hope.

Thundra King of the Congo Archives – This is from Dark Horse and contains a complete issue drawn by Frank Frazetta, which is the reason I’m getting this book. I read where the late Frank Frazetta had one of his paintings sell for $1.5 million. Thankfully this archive retails at only $50.

Archie Pureheart the Powerful Trade Volume 1 is out from IDW. This short lived time when the Archie characters were running around as super heroes some of the time was amusing if memory serves. Plus it was only $20 and nostalgia catches up to me sometimes.

Life with Archie The Married Life #1 is out from Archies comics. I blame Matthew as I read the trade that covered the two possible futures with Archie being married to Veronica or Betty based on Matthew’s review of the books. Now I’m curious to see how things progress. Two Archie products in one week is some sort of record for me.

Two BOOM books are on my list. I have been sucked into 28 Days Later #13 and 7 Psychopaths #3 (of 3). Both books feed into my need to read more than super heroes, but I have to enjoy the concept, writing and art also and both books hit the mark.

American Vampire #5 hits the stands. I can’t wait to see how King wraps up the origin of Skinner and I’m anxious to see what happens to Pearl, who has become a favorite fictional character of mine already. This would make a great TV series.

Madame Xanadu #25 hits the stands and has been heavily reported that it is being cancelled. This is a sad state of affairs, but at least Amy Reeder is still doing work for DC. This arc has different artist for each issue so I’m missing Amy’s work, but it is still an excellent book. I hope it gets some sort of hard cover down the road as I think this book has potential outside the direct market.

Thor The Mighty Avenger #2 is out. The first issue was a great re-imagining of the Thor character and I’m looking forward to this series a lot. It has a wonderful quality of being an easy read, but actually containing more then what it appears on the surface.

It is a really bright day this week from DC with Flash #4, Green Lantern #56, Green Lantern Corps #50, Green Arrow #2, Justice League Generation Lost #6 and Justice League of America #47 all under the Brightest Day Banner. Flash, Green Lantern and GL Corps are all solid books and no thoughts of dropping them exist. JL Generation Lost is probably safe but I’m still not 100% sold on that series. GA and JLA are on my radar to be dropped. JLA has been a disaster for a long time and GA still has a chance, but the first issue was uneven at best.

Dark Horse in addition to the Archives has Fear Agent #28, Abe Sapien Abyssal Plain #2 (of 2) and Buzzard #2 (of 3). All of a sudden Dark Horse in back on my radar with the Gold Key launches now being mixed in and the last arc of Fear Agent finally coming out.

Marvel has become a smaller and smaller part of my list and only has two other titles that I’m getting this week with PunisherMax #9 and Secret Avengers #3. Punishermax is a book I’m wavering on, but I have hope that Aaron can keep it entertaining. I think the book suffers from comparison to Garth Ennis’ great run.

Outside the regular DCU we have Northlanders #30 and First Wave #3 (of 6) in addition to the other books mentioned. Rags Morales is doing an amazing art job on First Wave and the series itself is excellent if suffering from a slow publishing schedule. Northlanders is frankly just a great series and every issue is at the very least a good one.

The rest of the list is Action Comics #891, Authority the Lost Year #11 (of 12), Batman The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 (of 6), Detective Comics #867, Gotham City Sirens #14 and Wonder Woman #601. Of those books Action Comics is already a favorite as Paul Cornell is making a series about Lex Luthor an interesting one. Wonder Woman will be an early read for me as I’m anxious to see how the new direction goes. Sirens is on my “will I drop it radar” as the book has no real direction.

Looks like it has the potential to be a good week, but only reading the books will let us know.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Falling Love

With iZombie getting Mike Allred some good attention, I think it's a good time to look at the first work of his that I read. It's also a good way to get the bad taste of Dazzler: The Movie washed away.

In 1993 Vertigo put out one of the more unusual comics. Not so much in the story or the art but the format. Entitled Vertical, the one shot book was slightly less than 3 1/2" x 10". In keeping with its title, it gave the book a feeling of everything being elongated that worked especially well for scenes depicting heights. It was also like reading a foreign language in that there was no reading across panels horizontally. It was strictly a vertical read. While well suited for this story, it's not a format that would work well for most stories.

Mike Allred did a great job on the art. It's his distinctive style and really captures the feeling of the era in which the story is set. Steven T Seagle wrote the story, which is an interesting, small scale story. The characters are well developed in 66 pages, which with the format used is about the equivalent of 33 pages (possibly less) of a regular book. With this short story Seagle did a good job of staying away from stock stereotypes to move the story more quickly. He acknowledges the racial and social background of the era but doesn't restrict himself to those elements.

As to the story itself, it's set in 1965 in Soho in the Andy Warhol Factory. Warhol's a tangential character, but the vibe of the story shows how he's a strong influence in the lives of the central characters. Brando Bale works at the Factory as a go-fer of sorts. He wanted to join the military but has a bad foot that makes him 4-F. The bad foot doesn't keep him from jumping off buildings, though, always landing with no ill consequences beyond minor scrapes and bruises and the brief loss of consciousness. Zilly Kane is an aspiring actress with platinum blonde hair who comes to the Factory to try out for a role in a Warhol film.

Naturally, these two beautiful people meet and have a strong attraction. Brando feels guilty about it, for reasons that aren't initially explained. Still, he takes her out for a free hot dog in the park and shows her how he jumps from heights and never gets seriously hurt. He also talks about a brother who died in Korea and how he ended up at the Factory before getting her bumped to the front of the long line for the screen test. Zilly's the one the director, Kerr, wants, and he wants Brando to play opposite her.

This leads to one of the more amusing sequences of the book. The guy who was supposed to be the lead is named Tony Century. He walks around the Factory naked all the time. He's mad that Brando is taking his part and hunts for Brando. Zilly tries to warn Brando but he proceeds to tell her about the dead woman he sees when he jumps off of high structures, so Century finds him and punches him in the jaw before she can warn him. There's really no point to the whole naked guy sequence. He doesn't move the story forward at all because Brando tells Zilly what he needs to tell her anyway and Century storms off to find Warhol after that one punch. It's just that the whole idea of a naked guy lurking around the Factory because Warhol thinks it's shocking so encapsulates the ridiculousness of the whole Factory thing that I can't help but smile about it.

But back to the story. Brando's big reveal is that he doesn't jump off heights becuase he's a daredevil or suicidal. No, he jumps because he sees the ghost of his dead love when he's falling. Seems our pretty white boy had a black girlfriend of whom his father disapproved. One night, while the two of them were sneaking out his window, they fell off the roof. She died and he damaged his foot landing on her. There is an element of the suicidal in his leaps, though, as it appears he's hoping he'll die so he can be with her.

Things have changes with his love at first sight meeting of Zilly (who has the voice of her dad in her head that tells her things she, by all appearances, shouldn't know, and that she should marry a nice Jewish boy). He's torn between his feelings for Zilly and his guilt about his dead love. He seizes a jet pack (Warhol's a pack rat who's got boxes and boxes of things just stacked around), tries to take off to get to a sufficient height to break his neck, but Zilly, having grabbed a helmet, grabs him around his legs and holds on. When the jet pack's unable to carry both their weight they tumble downward, with Zilly hearing her dad say it's ok to be with Brando (she's Jewish and Brando is not) and Brando hearing his dead love absolve him for her death. The survive, miraculously as Brando has in all his previous falls, but landing on Warhol's boxes of junk, just as Warhol makes his only appearance in the book.

It's a nice little diversion. It could have used some editing help, though. First off, where Zilly's holding on to Brando's legs while he's using the jet pack, she'd have been roasted like a chicken on a spit. It's an otherwise realistic story (leaving aside the voices in heads and ghosts), so this jet pack element in the story is hard to take. This isn't Rocketeer, after all.

Second, at one point the dead girlfriend's name is Lula but at another it's Lona. Doesn't make any difference which one it is, but it's an easy, glaring error that should have been noticed by an editor.

Those are fairly minor points, though. I think it's more impressive that we have a good idea of what's going on in Zilly's head even though Brando is our narrator. We have an easy window into his thoughts that way, but not so clear a view of what Zilly's thinking. Nonetheless, we do get it, even what her dad's telling her in her head. That's a good bit of writing, there.

I have no idea what the availability is on this book. It was $4.95 in 1993, which was pretty expensive now that I think about it. Guess I had some free money back then. Didn't have kids, so I may well have. Anyway, if you get a chance to pick it up, I definitely recommend it for both Allred's art and Seagle's writing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ALL AGES sometimes really means ALL ages: Marvel Adventures Super Heroes – A Review

I doubt you’ve even heard of this comic. If you had you probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance because of the Marvel stamped on the cover. To add further confusion, each issue thus far has sported a bigger character logo above or below the actual title. So, you might think that issue 1 was Iron Man, issue 2 was Thor, issue 3 was Captain America, and issue 4 was Nova. Maybe I’ll find out the rational for this one-day, but this really secretly is a new Avengers title and it’s mighty good!

Paul Tobin is the writer of this series and the first four issues have been penciled by Ronan Cliquet, inked by Amilton Santos, colored by Sotocolor, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. To date each cover has been illustrated by Clayton Henry and friends. I have to mention the creators right away, because all of their work is so superb. The combination of Cliquet and Santos reminds of Stuart Immonen’s style back when he was drawing Superman regularly years ago (with maybe a little Alan Davis thrown in). There is such smoothness to the lines and the facial expressions perfectly handle the varied emotions of the characters. The panel layouts are great and the dense story flows effortlessly. The colors are phenomenal too. We’re talking I need to get some original art material here.
I’m going to try to forego my usual ultra detailed panel by panel description of the issues, because it would take me forever to do so. However, I do want to touch on some of the elements of the story that I find so appealing. First, it’s a whole new universe. Now, I’m not certain (may need to ask the writer some day) if this story is actually a continuation of the last MASH title that ended a few months ago, but it really doesn’t matter. Here’s the cool thing. The Invisible Woman (Susan Storm, not Susan Richards) is in the Avengers and it appears that she’s at least the co-leader of the team. Trust me, it works -- magnificently. Adding to that is the budding romance between her and Steve Rogers. Sue still loves Reed, but it reminds me of when high school sweethearts go away to different colleges, you never know whom you might fancy in a new place. It’s not like they’re engaged or anything and to be honest, she doesn’t even really acknowledge her feelings yet. A common complaint about super hero comics is the constant retread of old ideas just told in a new more modern way (even in the Ultimate universe). Well, I’ve never seen this before and right now I can imagine that anything could happen.

Another thing I like is that Nova is on the team and HE HAS THE CORRECT UNIFORM!!! He definitely is the new kid on the block, so he’s still in the “proving himself” mode. In issue 4, Captain America (thinking they have an easy mission) says, “…this might be a good chance for Nova to shed his rookie status. Work without a net, so to speak.” So, you’ve got that whole “coming of age” aspect going on, which is good for some humor. Now Nova is still young enough (out of high school though) to act like that (versus how Johnny Storm is portrayed in the regular Marvel U after years of being a hero). In issue 3, he finds out that some of the team is fighting Diamondhead. “DIAMONDHEAD? You’re fighting Diamondhead? He’s MY VILLIAN! I’ve fought him like FIFTY TIMES! DON’T do ANYTHING! I’m coming to HELP!” It’s just so awesome, I love Nova so much.

I guess I should mention the rest of the team. We’ve also got The Vision, Iron Man, Thor, and the Black Widow. Now one of my earliest issues of the Avengers was number 160, where the Grim Reaper captures him and Wonder Man. So, he has always been one of my favorite characters. Remember the days when the Vision was THE only character to appear in the corner box on the covers. The Vision has gone through so many changes over the years, I’m really enjoying this back to basics approach. Having him disable someone by phasing his hand in their body is just so cool. Although, seeing him at his proper power level is great, it’s the emotional drama that I really like. In issue 3, he decides on a human name, Victor Shade. The rest of the team is commenting on his choice. “Whenever I hear of Victor, I think of Victor Von Doom” “Maybe you could think of a name with less menace to it.” “We need to think in terms of public relations. Victor Shade is rather DARK don’t you think?” “ENOUGH! Do I ridicule YOUR names? Do I NOT LISTEN to YOUR ideas? Do I MOCK your THOUGHTS? Your FEELINGS? YOU TREAT ME AS A MACHINE!” as he slams his fist on a panel. “AND I AM NOT!” The Vision even gets a girlfriend at the end of the issue (don’t worry she’s not the reality altering Wanda Maximoff). More evidence that this series isn’t rehashing old stories.

I really like how Natasha is portrayed here as well. In issue 2, we discover that she’s working secretly with Reed Richards to help “steer” Sue from “the sidelines’. I have no idea what it’s all about yet, but it’s just one of several ongoing plot threads. Each issue so far has been stand alone, but it’s also building into a larger tapestry. I totally enjoy this breaking out of the story arc format we have today. This isn’t part 4 of 6. It’s just issue 4 of the title. The character interactions, the dialogue, the out of costume moments all remind me of the Uncanny X-men and the New Teen Titans when they were at their peak. However, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as “old school” like the way Spectacular Spider-Girl is written (which I also love), in case that’s not to your liking.

There have been a plethora of villains so far: Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants (#1); Mysterio (#2); Diamondhead and the Owl (#3); and Kraven the Hunter (#4). Kraven as a licensed bounty hunter enlists the Avengers help in apprehending a certain (red and black, slightly nuts) mercenary, who they never actually name, maybe because it has the word “Dead” in it. It’s funny though. They’ve also encountered guest stars like the Blonde Phantom and Namor. I anticipate that anyone could show up (did you catch Gwen Stacy entering the bookstore on the first page above). It all just flows so naturally.

I honestly don’t know why they didn’t use the Avengers name in the title, considering Marvel just launched several new Avengers series. I would never have discovered the book myself, if I hadn’t picked up the first three issues at the library. Afterwards, I asked my comic store to back order them for my own collection (I hope the gold coloring on issue 2 doesn’t mean it’s a second printing). While I wouldn’t put this in the same writing style of the incredible Thor: The Mighty Avenger series, but like that title this is an all ages book that really can be enjoyed by more than just kids. You owe it to yourself to try an issue out.

Now, I’ve got to determine if Tobin’s Marvel Adventures Spider-man title is just as good.

Grade A+: Absolutely wonderful. Simply put, the BEST Avengers book on the stands today and one of the best Marvel titles!!!

I'm on vacation with my family right now and will back posting on 2010 August 20th. Thanks to Greg (07-31), Lee (08-07), and Gwen (08-14) for filling in for me while I'm away.