Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Problem with Comics Pt 2

From yesterday...

LEE I think this just confirms Thomm's oversaturation comment. But this is nothing new either, Hibbs (original post author) and Rusty (the local store) have both said it. I would argue that you would see a general increase in the sales if you chopped half the titles. People would be interested again, and those 2k people that supported Hawkeye & Mockingbird would now support Avengers.

As for continuity, the current universes are completely impenetrable to a newbie. Heck they are impenetrable to me and I grew up with the stuff. I think the death knell for me was when Bendis explained that Civil War was just the start of a five year plan! Seriously??? So to "really" enjoy that I need to read 5 yrs of back material???? Of course, as I type that I think of Sandman which was one 5 yr plus story that I never complained about.

THOMM But, Sandman was a largely self contained story that didn’t require finding a bunch of background material. There were some references to other DCU characters, but nothing that required finding out more than what was presented in the Sandman run. It’s fun to make reference to wider things in the world of comics. Literature does it all the time, too. It can encourage a reader to read more things. The problem with comics, especially now, is that you can’t read a title for the enjoyment of that title unless you’re reading a slew of other titles to know what’s going on. Sh*t, they could just put summaries of what’s going on elsewhere in the inside cover, but they’re not even that courteous to the reader. It’s all a game of trying to force the reader to choose between all or nothing. Well, I’m choosing nothing and so are a lot of others.

LEE I knew there was something that I was missing. I think of all the Dark Reign tie in's and now I remember. Because Lethal Legion was a necessary read... anyway. But, the same could be said of all the books. Why would I read Green Lantern these days? It's just building to the next big event. There is no motivation to get it when I know I will be required to buy six different books for the same story in six months.

Another problem that no one talks about, it has stopped me from reading current series because I can't tell the level of event meddling that is going to crush the book. It's why I stopped reading Peter David's X-factor and why I don't pick up Secret Six, I am afraid I don't know enough about the surrounding universe to enjoy it. The only one I am considering now is Giffen's Doom Patrol because Jim doesn't shut up about it. And, of course I ordered FFRRRAAANNNNKKKKEEEENNNNNCCCCAAAASSSSTTTLLLEEEE Because it appeared self contained... and maybe because of Greg.

THOMM Very true of the hero books. I haven’t run across it in Secret Six. The only event that’s crept in there was Blackest Night. Because that was only tangential to a more important fight with Waller and the Suicide Squad, it didn’t really make any difference whether the rest of Blackest Night was read. The reader might not have had any idea why these dead guys were running around but they were just a dues ex machine in any case. Somewhat ironic the lack of event ties to Secret Six, considering it originated in one.

JIM One comic versus 20, big difference

LEE So Secret Six is safe to read????? Greg? Jim? Gwen?

JIM Secret six is self contained 99% of the time. DP is canceled in about 2 months.

GWEN The reason Sandman worked wasn't just because it was self contained. You could skip issues here and there and still understand what was going on with the book. Gaimen wrote it in such a way that it was a viable monthly book that you didn't even see was all pulling together until the last arc or two. Heck even some of the older Legion arcs had a good method for building story over time. You'd have one or two main plots you’d be following while some of the (current) background characters would be mentioned as side notes until their story came to the foreground. Personally I blame writers like Grant Morrison who rarely write for a single issue. I could care less about events or the bigger story if I'm reading a monthly. If the issue doesn't generate some sort of interest on its own then release the story as a graphic novel.

THOMM True, though Morrison is only one of many who have succumbed to the large story siren. Oddly enough, I’ve never been all that impressed with Gaiman’s few forays into super hero works, nor Willingham for that matter.

LEE I can't believe I am going to do this... but to defend Morrison. His work on Doom Patrol was contained and All Star Superman may as well have been a collection of single issues. That worked. As for Sandman, the story arcs were always 6-8 issues long. That was huge for the time. Heck it's still long today. Gaiman was just phenomenally talented telling a story that had never been tried before in comics. It helps to be first.

THOMM Gaiman did throw in some shorter arcs to his stories. I can think of several, especially the ones he did in distant historical settings, that were stand alone or 2 issue arcs. Much as All Star is hailed as the best Superman ever by some, I wasn’t all that impressed. It picked and chose from Superman lore and put together a good story, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking in Superman stories or stories in general. Best thing going for it may have been that it wasn’t an event that had a slew of other things tied to it.

In summary...
JIM As you, dear reader, can see we have some wide ranging discussions, but the bottom line is that the Union is in serious problems. We discussed the problems, but the solutions we have disagreement about. Still we have readers of different ages and genders and we are can see that the cape and cowl set is a stagnant beast that appears to be heading for a fall. The number one selling title in February had sales of around 70,000 and that is what the stores purchased, not what sold. That is a very low number and does not bode well for the industry.

This post is brought to you by the letter &$*%!

So things have been a bit cranky (or crankier than usual) around these parts lately and I wanted to write a blog that would lighten things up.

Then, I lost it in a power surge. Given that anything I try to write now would be dripping with power company inspired rage, I thought I'd share something cool instead.

When Zach Snyder made Watchmen, it was noted by many people that perhaps literally translating comics to film, particularly Alan Moore comics was a bad idea.

As this video below proves, he was simply missing a vital ingredient: legos.

Its amazing how effective that is considering its, y'know, legos.

And no, that's not Mark Hamill, but its a damn good approximation of him, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Problem with Comics Pt 1

Recently, Jim, Thomm, and myself had a discussion about what we felt were the problems with comic books today. Below is a transcript.

LEE Hey team, did you read this? Hibbs, of Savage Critics fame, wrote a great piece on the malaise of comics. See here. I wish we had written this because it is probably the best write up of what I perceive to be many of the problems with the DM today.

To pick on Jim, I don't think the answer is a new Batman, or Spiderman, or new anyone under the cape/cowl. It's a major way to change the character but I feel that it's more knee jerk and doesn't solve the underlying problem. I think the problem is the stories suck. Characterization was been shoved aside for, lack of a better term, shock and awe.

I think Greg/Jim mentioned it in the monthly Cosmic Comix panel (Store website here and podcast with Jim, Greg and more here.) that Batman joked with GL that he hadn't removed the mask in forever. That's the problem, GL isn't a person with problems, he's a mask going to the next battle. Combine that with everything just leads to the next event and there is NEVER a jump on point. I've so far removed from the Marvel/DC universe that I have to read trades of books written 20 yrs ago if I want my superhero fix. Sorry to bash yer idea Jim...

THOMM It’s a Catch-22 for the Big Two. The stories circle around in faux appearance of development, mostly in story and not character, to keep the core fans happy with things happening to the beloved characters. They can’t stray too far from what the characters are because they’ve become writ in stone over the years, especially the bigger characters like Batman, Spider-man and so forth. Changing more minor characters is even hard quite often because of the totemic view many fans have of characters.

Jim’s idea of introducing new characters behind the masks helps to get around those issues and allows for the development of new characters, but it removes the beloved original from the equation, which leaves the Big Two losing a bunch of readers who want those. Unfortunately, the big two have started to killed off the new version after a short period, as seen in Ant-Man and now Blue Beetle. I suppose the next step is to revive Ted Kord, if Jaime’s actually dead. Look at me, using the word actually. Of course he’s not dead.

Cards, Comics and Collectibles has embarked on a marketing ploy of selling trades and hard covers at 50% off every Sunday in March. I’m seizing the opportunity to spread out the pain of purchases and hit the store yesterday. Nary a superhero tale in any of the purchases. I got the pocket sized Strangers in Paradise first volume, a book about Nat Turner, and Brian Vaughn’s Pride of Baghdad. Unless the store runs out of interesting independent titles to check out, I doubt any superhero books will be coming home with me this month.

LEE If you're looking for trades ideas, then go here. One of the best reviewers of Indy books I've read. I wri... *cough* ...I read the column weekly and have found the reviewer to have superior taste in material.

You have a point Thomm but we had good stories and things "changed" in the 80's/90's and we didn't have the issues that we have today. I personally want to blame continuity more than anything else. Suddenly everything HAS to matter. The events have to be bigger, and better, and more earth shattering than the last event. Continuity has loosey-goosey before and the only time it really, truely matter is when the publisher revived a minor character. Nowadays, continuity is cannon and can't be broken. I find it interesting that Marvel took a break from all the events with the year long 'heroic age' stuff and sales slipped. All that means is we going to get more events that are bigger and better and more convoluted and drive more people away from stores.

JIM I still believe that a new whatever is the way to go as Cap and Batman are better reads because of it. Of course Secret Six and Thunderbolts are cool because you can do whatever. In many ways I have moved on as Vertigo and others of that ilk are what I enjoy the most.

THOMM Sales for the Heroic Age dropped? A curious result, what with the plethora of super hero movies and their success.

LEE Reading the comments at the bottom of Hibbs post was interesting too. One person said they want back into a store to try a book and saw shelves that had 5 Thor titles, and 6 Cap titles, and 12 X- titles, and decided if there was that much of it, then the chances were most of it was junk. And, I think that is what happens; you can't even begin to know where to start looking anymore. Marvel/DC floods the stands with books and none stands out anymore than the others. Then they all stink, and good books Thor by Landridge, ends up getting axed even though it was good.

THOMM Oversaturation is definitely a problem for the Big Two. It ties in with the events problem, too. They’ve created a system of books that is entirely impenetrable to the casual reader. Hell, as someone who reads comics regularly, it’s not worth my while to try to figure it all out or even sample bits of it. Just imagine the level of apathy of someone who doesn’t read comics in the first place. Whenever I try to get someone interested in comics it’s not any of that Big Two super hero stuff. It’s Vertigo, Image, Boom, Red 5 or something along those lines that can be enjoyed just within the book in hand.

JIM Another issue is the direct market. Which saved comics is now killing the market. The stores have to buy the books and with the market being flooded a store can't gamble. Therefore a critical darling like Thor The Mighty can't generate extra sales because when a reader gets interested the store can't stock extra copies of that title.

And the talk concludes tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Amazing Kindle

We've gone on about the future of comic books on this blog quite a bit. I've given a lot of thought to the future of books in general and with technology like the Kindle, the Nook and broader devices like the ipad I wonder how the future of the written word will progress. Despite my love of reading I was somewhat resistant to the idea of digital readers as I really love having an actual book in my hands. I enjoy the whole experience of reading. Turning the pages, even the smell of books (yes, I'm aware I'm a weirdo). So the idea of the Kindle, when I first was exposed to it, didn't appeal to me all that much - but now? I love it.

So how did I go from being wary of an e-reader to practically sleeping with my Kindle under my pillow? Honestly it started with my cell phone breaking. At one of my soccer games some bug spray broke in my soccer bag and destroyed my phone so not only did I have to get a new one but I also had to get a new plan asmy contract was almost up anyway. Jim offered to help me get into AT&T and even ended up getting my an iphone for Christmas. Having an iphone is like having superpowers it does so many cool things - but one of the reasons I wanted one was to try out the Kindle app. After just a week with a tiny (an annoyingly bright) kindle screen I was hooked - but I hated that the screen glowed. It would give me a headache if I read too long and I started dreaming about getting an actual Kindle - but it was way too expensive for me. Luckily my little sister (regardless of the fact that I told her we were on a budget for the holidays thatnks to saving up for my upcoming wedding) and her husband got Andre and I one gift - a Kindle. Of course, poor Andre hasn't been able to use it at all since we got it.

The Kindle it one of the coolest toys I've ever gotten.

1. The Kindle instantly sends books to me. I don't have to go to the bookstore (the nearest one is 20 minutes away as bookstores have been slowly closing down). Instead I just go onto Amazon and can read any book as soon as it'sbeen released. I can preorder books and have them show up on my Kindle the moment they're hitting the shelves. I read very rapidly and the idea that if I get a new series book and like it that I can have the next book in my hands as soon I finish the one I've initially picked up - it's fantastic.

2. You can get most classics (including A Princess of Mars) for free on the Kindle. This has been a great way of clearing my shelves. I haonestly have way too many books around my house. I was drowning in books and even though I re-read almost everything in my collection I sometimes have a hard time finding my books. I've managed to give away three boxes of books since getting my Kindle. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of books I'm keeping and want to have in their paper format - but there are plently I can enjoy just as well without them taking up space in my house.

3. I can keep tons of books on the slim and light Kindle. Which means the fact that I can read an average novel within a few hours doesn't mean I have to bring a heavy bag of books with me on my extremely long upcoming trip to Europe. I can just have them on my Kindle - not to mention it hold a charge for something near a month - so I don't even need to worry about it losing power.

4. The inkscreen is excellent - little to no glare and no headache inducing glow to the screen. Also, my Kindle is only a little larger (thin obviously) than an average paperback - so it;s easily transportable.

Of course there are some things I'm not fond of. Like the price of some books. I can only hope the money goes to the writers but I doubt it - while there are cheaper books for the Kindle I feel like there should be a price cut for all books - as obviously the digital book avoids the cost of paper, ink and distribution - so there is no reason a Kindle book should ever cost the same as a paper book.

Also, it's a bit harder to tell where I am in a book as it's much slower to "flip through". Even so, this is easy enough to adapt to.

Manga and black and white comics are great on the Kindle but of course the lack of color doesn't work as well for most comics. I'm sure their will be later versions of digital readers that have both a glare free screen and color.

Either way, I love my Kindle - but where does this leave the business of books? How much will be lost as more and more people discover the joys of digital books? Border has already declared bankruptcy and there are more and more bookstores disappearing evry day. I can only think that comics may not be far behind as the paper comics are already highly priced and there are so many good online comics that are offered for free - with their creators surviving off of donations and their online stores. I'm sure the book business will adapt but as with any major change things always get lost along the way even as we gain the new.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Week of March 23 in Review

Last week I tried to go negative on almost every book I read and this week I will try to go positive on every book that I will review here. After that back to what I liked and what I didn’t like. Right now that is my favorite format in reviewing comics. In the spirit of being all positive let’s start with the good things about what the government has done lately. Hmmm… nope nothing coming to mind, onto comics:

Batman Dark Night #2 – Writer & Art David Finch, Inks Scott Williams, Colors Alex Sinclair

I add the colorist because in being positive a great colorist adds a lot to a book and Alex Sinclair is a master at making books look great and this book does look great. I was never a huge fan of Finch’s art, but I’m changing my mind. It is powerful and it continues to get better and better. Add in Scott Williams as the inker and the book is drop dead gorgeous. The page layouts and camera angles used are all well done and Batman is every inch the personification of power, with the Penguin being his polar opposite. This book shows why pencils and inks are still the best way to produce a quality comic page, way too many books are shot from pencils or drawings done direct to the computer and it often shows. As for the story it is decent, more of a generic Batman story but Finch is doing his first writing so I’m giving him some leeway.

Batman Incorporated #4 – Writer Grant Morrison, Art Chris Burnham, Colorist Nathan Fairbairn

I have always had this great love for the old Batwoman character. The innocence of the character made me laugh as she has a Batpurse and other such things. Grant has said he considers every Batman story cannon, and he reinterprets the original Batwoman and adds his twist to make the character a little more feasible. This story has all of Grant’s wonkiness and is moving the main plot forward, but works because of the charm the book invokes. Finally Burnham makes this book shine, where Yannick’s work has not wowed me.

Fables #103 – Writer Bill Willinham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Leialoha, Colors Lee Loughridge

I was a little shocked to see the book open with Snow and Bigby naked on the ground after having a tryst in the woods. It is hard to not like a book with that type of start. I love Fables again like I used to love the book. Fables fell into a kind of blah period after the war, but the build up to round 2 with the Dark Man has me looking forward to each issue again. The North Wind is looking to find Bigby and Snow’s ghost child as he believes the child to be a danger. Somehow I bet the child plays a role against the Dark Man. Ozma has her group have pulled together and strange things are happening (Beast can’t change into a Beast anymore). Events are coming to a convergence and I have no clue where we are going next. Buckingham, Leialoha and Loughridge continue their terrific artwork that makes Fables consistently one of the best looking books on the shelves. Fables is in a great groove right now.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5 (of 6) – Writer Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert Pencils, Digital Inks Mark Roslan, Justin Ponsor Colors

Rusty (my local store owner and friend) made me buy this book as I had skipped this series. He was right as you did not need to read the prior four issues to get what was going on. Spider-Man and Wolverine have been manipulated by Mojo and some Luke Cage wannabe (who has time spanning powers) and now we are down to the final fight between everyone. This was a well done and very enjoyable read that had action, humor and some cool fight scenes.

Captain America #615.1 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Mitch Breitweiser, Colors Bettie Breitweiser

The art was very good. I enjoyed the scratchy realistic style brought to the book by Mitch. The story itself was essentially the next issue in the storyline. I guess some justification can be used to call it point one as Steve Rogers is forced to contemplate taking up the mantle of being Captain America again. With the movie coming out and the big two stuck with the idea of only one person being the hero forever, it is a matter of when Steve becomes Cap again and not if. This issue was very good and gave a solid rationale for why Steve would consider it and a nice twist that Nick Fury was pulling the strings behind the scenes.

New Mutants #23 – Age of X Chapter 4 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Steve Kurth, Inks Allen Martinez, Colors Brian Reber.

The Age of X story has been well done. I can’t believe how much work Mike Carey put into this series to just wrap it up in six chapters. The big reveal was hinted at this issue with the idea that this world is its own thing and outside of the “real universe”. Also it appears Legion may been behind why this happened to the X-Men. You can see that since it is something that is happening to the X-Men, the impact of what occurred could easily be a continuing impact on the X-Men if they remember their time here. Finally the art by Kurth was better than his earlier job and his propensity for drawing people with their necks bent was barely noted.

Hulk #31 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Gabriel Hardman, Colors Elizabeth Breitweiser

I recently dropped the Hulks book, but I’m enjoying this series. While the Red Hulk concept is ridiculous even by comic standards Parker has taken the Red Hulk and made into his own thing. Even with the obsessive General chasing the Red Hulk repeating an old story line, this book proves one of my points. That is if you take a new person under the hood (or changed into a Hulk) and play the same scenario you will get different results because it is now Thunderbolt Ross as the Hulk and not Bruce Banner. I know the Hulk is a character that can live forever, but still telling Bruce Banner stories gets old and this is a fresher book. Of course Jeff Parker makes it work for me as his writing always seems well thought out and he respects the characters he is writing. Hardman’s art has a rough feel to it, but it works.

Green Lantern #64 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks A gang of four led by Christian Almay, Colors Randy Major – War of The Green Lanterns Part 1

Green Lantern Corps #58 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Tyler Kirkman, Inks Batt w/Rob Hunter, Colors Nei Ruffino – War of the Green Lanterns Part 2

Since this is an “event” I reviewing both books together. Each book had a separate focus and is not really coming together at this point. Both books have strong art teams who can carry the day of all the space adventure we have going on. The base premise is Krona is back and he has all the entities in his control. He has used them to take over the Guardians and also put the Parallax entity back into the central green lantern battery on OA. This sets up Kyle and John Stewart as powerless foes of the GL Corps on OA. Hal lost his group of rainbow lanterns and is now solo facing an uncertain universe. All in all a decent start to the event even thought the themes are a little repetitive. I hope the final resolution has some impact to the GL universe and that one day we get to see Hal have a private life again.

FF #1 – Writer Jonathan Hickman, Art Steve Epting, Inks Steve Epting & Rick Maygar, Colors Paul Mounts

Thematically a good follow up from last issue. I liked that it has been some passage of time and as Spider-Man joins the group Sue Richards gives an explanation of what has been going on since Johnny died. The book is showing a big emphasis on the family aspects of the Fantastic –err – Future Foundation and it was fun seeing Valerie pushing Dr. Doom as a candidate for membership. I had a bunch of issues with this book also, but this is positive week.

Uncanny X-Force #6 - Writer Rick Remender, Art Esad Ribic, Inks John Lucas, Colors Matt Wilson

Amazing how much I have come to love this series. Remender seems to have found his niche with Marvel. While I may enjoy Franken-Castle when I sit down and re-read it, I thought it took the character to a ridiculous spot for a hero grounded in reality. This book works. Rick has great characterization, terrific actions scenes and is building off some wild Grant Morrison concepts and making it all work. While Esad’s art is not Jerome Opena, his work is decent and with Lucas and Wilson on inks and colors respectively, the book has a consistent feel to it. When you have a group of characters that can add Deathlok and alternative future heroes turned into Deathloks and make it all fun, you have a winning formula. I will voice one complaint here and that is can Rick finish up Fear Agent, I would like to see how it ends.

5 Ronin #4 (of 5) – Psylocke – Writer Peter Milligan, Art Goran Pavlov, Colors Lee Loughridge

Each issue has been better than the last. This issue we get a thematic exploration of Psylocke. She is a bizarre character from how Chris Claremont and Jim Lee made her over, but Milligan reinvents the character as an Oiran (a Japanese prostitute that was often an entertainer also). Pavlov’s light line work and Lee Loughridge’s coloring gave this book a terrific feel that was light at times and very dark at other times. We see how Psylocke only plays at being the subservient Japanese woman and she has a plan for revenge. Finally the series is actually starting to tie together as one cohesive overall story. I thought that each issue stood on its own. I could easily read a series about this Psylocke or a Psylocke series by Milligan.

That’s a wrap for this week. I tried to remain positive but what these two weeks have taught me it that it is almost impossible to do a review without pointing out both sides of the equation as many books have good and bad points. I just wish many books would stop using clichés so heavily. Daredevil Reborn stands out as silly with the end being Matt being shot in the head, it is part 3 of a four part mini-series and a new DD series has been announced, why we would think he is dead at all. The dramatic effect is gone and we are left with how he survived as the only cliffhanger, which is I guess an inevitable problem with many books, put the hero and danger and watch how they escape. Regardless, I enjoyed my little experiment. I find being negative can be more visceral and being positive forces seems to be more intellectual.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Strangers in Paradise, Pocket Edition Volume 1

Cards, Comics and Collectibles really has my number for March. Every Sunday in the month is 50% off on trades and hard covers, so I’m stocking up.

The first read out of this stack is Strangers in Paradise, Pocket Edition Volume 1. I’m way late in the game in reading this series, what with it having started in ’93 and ended in ’07. Better late than never, and the Pocket Edition was a steal to begin, only more so when reduced to half price. This volume collects volume 1 and volume 2 of the original series. It’s a total of 16 issues, as the first volume only had 3 and the second 13. Publisher shifts account for the varying volume numbers. The third volume runs 90 issues, but none of those stories are in this Pocket Edition. Lots to anticipate, though.

Terry Moore is both writer and artist for the book. It’s his work on Echo that brought me to this book, really. I haven’t finished reading Echo, or even caught up to where it is in trades, but Echo has beautiful art and a great adventure story in a sci-fi vein. Strangers in Paradise is a different animal.

I think the most accurate description would be a soap opera with adventure. The core of the story is the relationship between Francine Peters and Katina “Katchoo” Choovanski, two women who went to high school together, went their separate ways, but ended up living together in a rented house in Houston. They’re probably mid ‘20s when the book starts. Katchoo is an artist/painter. Francine is some sort of wage slave. Into the mix we also have Freddie Femurs, a lawyer engaged to Francine, and David Qin, a young art student from New York who meets Katchoo on the street and strikes up a friendship.

Well, that’s how things start out. A lot develops in the 16 issues here. Francine’s been dating Freddie for a year but they’ve never had sex, despite his impassioned pleas. Born of frustration, and his inherent skeeziness, Freddie embarks on an affair with a co-worker, only to have Francine, dressed only in a negligee and trench coat, walk in on him and the co-worker mid coitus. Francine’s had bad experiences with men leaving her after she had sex with them so she’d been holding out on Freddie, who she loved. She was finally breaking down at their one year anniversary and was going to have sex with him. When she leaves him she tells him he missed out because she’s great at sex, something an ex-boyfriend of hers later confirms to Freddie.

Meanwhile, Katchoo loves Francine. She also grows to love David. And she loved Emma, a woman who saved Katchoo from life as a teen alcoholic on the streets of LA, but brought Katchoo into a life of prostitution. Granted, Katchoo was high end and only had two clients, both of whom were women, but the high risk of the profession is fairly evident when Emma dies from AIDS. Katchoo doesn’t want Francine to know about that part of her past but she does break down and tell David at one point when Emma is dying. Eventually Francine does learn all that, with none of the ill consequences Katchoo feared.

Katchoo leaves Houston for Toronto, where Emma’s in hospice, without telling Francine much more than that she was leaving. Francine is a comfort eater, as well as being a bit needy with men (which has the benefit, to men, of her being really good at sex to please men). By the time Katchoo returns Francine has put on about 30 pounds. It’s a combination of the break-up with Freddie and Katchoo leaving, but through the rest of this volume she doesn’t lose any weight, so Francine has the, unusual for comics, appearance of a chubby, attractive woman who’s a main character in a story.

Naturally, Francine also thinks she’s in love with David, but that doesn’t seem to last. Of course, it might come back again in later volumes.

Freddie ends up engaged to Casey, the hottest aerobics instructor in Houston, according to someone in this story. Casey is her own bundle of insecurities, having had at least two nose jobs and a boob job, according to her mother.

Then there’s the adventure. Emma and Katchoo are suspected by Darcy Parker in the theft of $850,000 of Darcy’s money. Darcy’s married to a man in his 70’s, while she’s probably in her 30’s. She seems to be involved with some sort of mafia, though it’s a bit vague at this point. She’s also, it turns out, the older sister of David Qin. She sent David to get close to Katchoo when she located Katchoo, though she didn’t count on David being in love with Katchoo.

Darcy only employs women and has no respect for any man. Her aide de camp is Samantha (Sam), and her primary enforcer is a woman named Tambi, who has an identical twin. Darcy does subcontract out to an ex-cop named Digman to follow Katchoo, even though he’s a man. Darcy eventually has Digman killed by Tambi and her sister, but it doesn’t go very well. Digman talks about who his employer is before he dies, so the police are after Darcy. Katchoo is threatened with the death of Francine if she doesn’t give Darcy back her money, but Katchoo goes to the police and brings them in on the meeting, wearing a wire. Sam, who didn’t actually steal the $850000 from Darcy but had been skimming millions over the years, is framed by Katchoo so that Darcy believes Sam stole the money. Sam winds up shot in the head by the police, Darcy arrested though soon out on ROR, and Tambi’s sister charged with Digman’s murder.

And thrown in with all that Darcy loved Katchoo, too. Sort of. More like felt as though she owned Katchoo. In fact, she has all her possessions who are human tattooed with a lily, which Katchoo has on her left breast.

All of which sounds interesting but doesn’t actually capture all that Moore provides. It’s not just the plot that is important here. In fact, the plot is somewhat less important than the characters Moore builds and how he presents his story. There’s a manga element to the character depictions, with the occasional exaggerated facial expression, but it’s not so heavy handed as to be distracting, as is often the case in manga, at least for me. Moore also uses prose narrative at times, laying some story in book form with side illustrations rather than pictures with words. There are items of poetry reproduced, as well as some songs written and reproduced. There are dream sequences that differ in style of depiction, depending on the dreamer. Some take a “realistic” approach while others intentionally evoke the juvenile, in keeping with the dream. It’s a lot of detail work that shows a love for the craft and the characters, giving them more flesh by having them have memorabilia.

Of course, it’s the love between Francine and Katchoo that drives it all. They’re quite a confused, damaged duo, too. They love each other. They love David. Francine loves Freddie. Katchoo loves Emma. David loves Katchoo. At one point Francine and Katchoo are about to kiss for real for the first time when David arrives. After a long hard conversation in the rain, Katchoo ends up kissing David instead. Francine takes off for Hawaii on free tickets Freddie had left when he tried to get her back at one point. He ended up abandoning that, at least for that moment, and going off to Hawaii with Casey to get married, naked under a waterfall. They’re all very conflicted people with crashing motivations, both within themselves and between them. It’s a sort of engaging, entertaining train wreck of humanity, told very well.
There's also a lot of little details with neighbors and tangential friends. These often add humor to the moment, though our main duo provides plenty of humor amidst their adventures and romances. For all the talk of sexual activity by Francine and Katchoo in the past, I don't think either of them has any sex during the entire year this volume encompasses. That's kind of funny in its own right. If you're looking for titilation, this isn't the place. Sex is prevalent as a topic, not an observable event.

My only drop out of the reality constructed was when someone said the $850,000 wasn’t really Darcy’s money but mob money she was handling. I’m sorry, what? This money disappeared four years previously and the mob’s still letting Darcy account for it? Why hasn’t the mob taken punitive measures already? They’re not known for being forgiving.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

FF #1 -- A Review

Jim started us off on a negative note on Monday, so I might as well finish the week the same way. Rather than keep you in suspense, let's see the grade at the top of the page (just like in school), but we'll still save the summary statement until the end:


I don't know about you, but in my house a "C" is almost equivalent to an "F" (in my county they use an"E" instead - gotta protect the child's self-esteem you know). However, despite the two F's on the cover, this book certainly isn't a total failure. It is a bit mediocre though and I'm more wary of the new direction now that I've seen a glimpse of it. Oh, I'm not dumping the title this soon, I'm willing to give it a few issues at least, but I have plenty of misgivings...

Let's talk about some of the pluses first. The variant cover by Daniel Acuna is really great and inviting. The positive vibe coming from this image really sets you up for something new and exciting. The art by Steve Epting is also excellent (isn't it always). I especially liked the red and blue Spidey scenes when he's swinging toward the Baxter Building and I love his version of the Thing's head, which reminds me of Byrne's.

I actually like the new costumes for Reed and Sue, but Spider-Man's suit IS atrocious. Hopefully, the fact that he can change it mentally will mean that he soon will. I don't mind the Thing's outfit so much, but I think his boots are too small. The Thing's feet are usually huge and I can't imagine them fitting into those confining shoes. I know it's a nitpicking thing (no pun intended), but it just looked wrong to me.

The interiors of the Baxter Building look nifty with the broad staircases and windows, but functionally it doesn't make much sense. This is the most technologically advanced team on the planet and they don't even use an escalator or an elevator most of the time. Forget about saving the world, they'll be spending all their time climbing the stairs. I suppose it's designed to give that friendly non-profit "foundation" feel to it.

There isn't much action in the book. Only their brief battle with A.I.M when the Wizard is freed. Not sure why the Wizard was naked either. It's a lot of setup and we do at least get two new recruits in the issue, Spidey and...more on that later.

One of the biggest problems I had with the story right of the bat was Johnny Storm's video log. "How convenient" to quote the Church Lady. He just had the foresight that he was going to die and put this thing together, even naming Peter Parker as his replacement! I just don't buy it. And if Spider-Man's going to be on the team at a place where "everybody knows [his] name" already, why, why, why does he have to keep his mask on the whole time, especially during dinner?! If Peter didn't have a sweet job at Horizon, I'd be more on board with him being a part of the Future Foundation. There's only 24 hours in a day, dude.

Since I already brought up dinner, I have to mention the deplorable multicultural "prayer" offered by Alex Power. He mentions God, Jesus (by inference only, not by name -- too divisive I guess), the Ancient Ones, evolution, random-chance, and even the Devil. All the while, Sue and Reed are smiling proudly at his politically correct behavior. The fact that the different cultures and even species can coexist peacefully and work as a team, even function as a family is commendable, but equating that everyone's belief system is equally valid is another thing. Without even getting into who's beliefs are "correct" or not, implying that Jesus and the Devil are equal and compatible is INSANE. They can't all be equal at the same time in one person's mind, because what that really means is that none of them really mean anything to the individual. Maybe that's the point. Wouldn't it be more "tolerant" to have each individual pray according to their belief (or unbelief) and be respectful of who they are, even if you don't agree?! If I thought this was more than a one-time occurrence, this scene may have drove me away completely.

If Valeria wasn't annoying enough already, now we have Nathaniel Richards back (from the future no less), so he can tell Reed what he's doing wrong all the time. Why? Because he already knows what's supposed to happen. A prime example is having Doctor Doom join the group!!! More insanity. Maybe Reed should have been the one to have "died", because he seems pretty ineffectual as a leader right now. I do agree with his Dad that terraforming the Moon is a "terrible" idea. What right does he have to mess with the Moon?! That whole dinner table exchange was silly. Is this Eight is Enough or Leave it to Beaver? I think Hickman is trying too hard to emphasize the "First Family", by eating dinner and playing video games together. I think you can show the familial love and affection, without showing all the "normal" daily activities. Next issue, Sue goes grocery shopping at Aldi's (because she can save 30 to 50% plug plug).

Last but not least, let's talk about the value. The book was $4 for 29 pages and only 24 were actual story pages. I usually expect a four dollar book to have like 32 pages or something. We had a two-page credit page, it looked nice, but what a waste of space -- it's not like a television show where the opening title sequence is that important. Then we had the two-page silhouette roll call, not terrible, but it made me feel a bit gypped. None of these "extras" would have been an issue if it had only been three-bucks.

Not a promising start. Nice to look at, but conceptually there are a lot of problems. Hopefully, next issue will be better.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Indies Preview Review for May Part 3 of 3

Continued from Yesterday...

Pure Imagination Publishing
Comics on Trial Vol. 01 SC by (W/A) Various
Discover the dark chapter in comics' history when Congress held a series of hearings that explored whether or not comic books contributed to juvenille delinquency. Testimony from Walt Kelly, Milton Caniff, William Gaines, and Frederic Wertham given in April and June of 1954 is included. These are the hearings that almost killed the comics industry and lead to the creation of the Comics Code Authority. A must-have for historians and fans alike. $25.00
Lee: Ahh, the comic book cliff notes on one of the biggest events of comic book history. I love it!
Gwen: Oh the many things that contribute to juvenile delinquency - comics, D&D, magic cards - I'm amazed I wasn't locked up in juvie for most of my childhood. The real irony of these trial being, for me, the fact that comics actually taught me a lot about being a good person - not the other way around.

Secret Acres
I Will Bite You and Other Stories GN by (W/A) Joseph Lambert
I Will Bite You! includes the Best American Comics selection, 'Turtle Keep it Steady,' plus several new stories. Juxtaposing an economy of line with sophisticated, unusual narratives, this is the long-awaited debut of an artist many are watching with interest. 128 pgs. $14.00. Visit Joe here.
Lee: Lambert linework is really interesting, and his stories seem to have plenty of indie appeal to them. This is certainly a book worth taking a look at.
Gwen: I really like the title "I Will Bite You". While it's true that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover having a title or a cover that makes me take a second look does tend to influence some of my reading decisions.

Shh Productions
DPD Doktormentor: Jail Babe Surgeon #2 by (W/A) Peter Pants
This all-real-photo comic story features girls gone bad and crazy B-Movie style adventure as the mystery of Doktormentor unfolds with more thrills, chills, and ta-tas. Who has been informing police of the mad doctor's experiments on the female inmates of Lake Erie's infamous women's prison? The young policewoman closes in on the doctor as more inmate clothes come off! And who's side is the ultra-sexy Nurse Nawdy on and is her uniform next to come off? It's 'Prison Girls Gone Wild' with lots of topless action and sexy humor! #2 of 3, $9.95
Lee: I think the cover blurb “Will this bi-sexual nurse die a virgin?” tells me everything I need to know about this… this… ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT book. This is to balance out all the girly books I picked earlier.
Gwen: I can't stop laughing. I mean, I'd never buy this book, but it's like the entertainment I get out of reading the tabloid covers while in line at the grocery store.

Top Shelf Productions
Homeland Directive GN by (W) Robert Venditti (A) Mike Huddleston
Dr. Laura Regan is one of the world's foremost authorities on viral and bacteriological study. Having dedicated her career to halting the spread of infectious disease, she has always considered herself one of the good guys. But when her research partner is murdered and Laura is blamed for the crime, she finds herself at the heart of a vast and deadly conspiracy. Laura must evade law enforcement, mercenaries, and a team of cyber-detectives who know more about her life than she does - all while trying to expose a sinister plot that will impact the lives of every American. $14.95
Lee: Let’s start with the caliber of the creators, Vendetti wrote ‘The Surrogates,’ forgetting the bad movie, was an excellent comic. Mike Huddleston is a fantastic artist who has worked on many great books including my favourite, ‘The Coffin.’ This is another quality book from Top Shelf.
Gwen: I heard the Surrogates movie was decent. Either way I am interested by the premise for this book - it actually sounds like a cool idea for a TV show.

Gingerbread Girl HC by (W) Paul Tobin (A) Colleen Coover
There are plenty of established facts concerning 26-year-old Annah Billips. She likes sushi and mountains, but hates paper cuts and beer breath. She dates girls and boys, and loves to travel. She may have a missing sister, or she might be insane. Did Annah invent an imaginary sister named Ginger during her parents' ferocious divorce, or did her mad scientist father extract part of her brain and transform it into a living twin? Boyfriends, girlfriends, magicians, pigeons, bulldogs, and convenience store clerks follow Annah through a night in her life in an attempt to determine that one last fact about Annah - and the Gingerbread Girl. $12.95 Visit Colleen Coover here. Read the opening sequence here.
Lee: And another stellar offering from Top Shelf, husband and wife team Tobin and Coover are established creators who continually generate outstanding work. Without a doubt, this will be good! The book is being released as a webcomic too, so check out the links.
Gwen: The descriptions here really pull me in. It sounds like a book that will have a lot of underlying meaning inter dispersed with light hearted and wacky encounters. Very cool.

Toy Vault Inc.
Godzilla: Kaiju Wars Board Game
It's an all-out brawl of monstrous proportions, and Earth is the battlefield! The Xiliens have pitted Godzilla, Rodan, Gigan and King Ghidorah against each other in a catastrophic battle, and only one monster will emerge victorious! In Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars, players pick a monster and a scenario, stomping over terrain and destroying buildings on their warpath - all while fending off aggressive military attacks, bombs, traps and, of course, other kaiju! Special abilities are used to eliminate the competition or force them to tuck their tail between their legs and run away before they are taken out. The game is jam-packed with pieces sure to please any gamer, with the four fully painted 2 3/8 plastic Kaiju figurines, 90 stackable plastic tiles for building skyscrapers, four individual monster playmats, 86 terrain and power tokens, and much more. You've never had so much fun ravaging the world as you will when you play Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars! $69.99
Lee: If I thought I could sneak this into my house unnoticed it would be there tomorrow! But there is no way Wife is going to believe this “just” showed up. Sigh, this looks sooooo awesome in a giant monster crushing buildings sort of way my inner little boy is dying to play this. Actually, my inner little boy is dying to play this with my own son and crush him silly! And I wonder why Wife won’t play games with me?
Gwen: Come on Lee, just use the excuse you bought it for your son! Not that I wouldn't be into playing this, how awesome. Sadly, while Andre would probably also enjoy this $70 is a bit too high of a price ticket for a board game. I don't even spend that much on video games. Excellent idea though.

Villard Books
Life with Mister Dangerous GN by (W/A) Paul Hornschemier
From rising star Paul Hornschemeir comes a touching, often funny, always heartfelt graphic novel about a twentysomething girl trying to put her life into order. Although Amy struggles to define a life outside of the example her mother provides for her, her past and present romantic life are a mess and the only person she truly cares about lives half the country away in San Francisco. As a result, she finds herself spending too much time watching a cartoon, Mr. Dangerous. And lately, it seems that Mr. Dangerous has been trying to talk to her through the television! 160 pgs. $22.00 Read Hornschemier blog here.
Lee: Hornschemier is a talented artist and writer, so a new collection of his material is something to look forward too. I’m not sure he’s a rising star since I’ve been reading his material for years now. I would describe his work as quirky, slightly depressing, but always entertaining.
Gwen: Ahh, when you know you're watching too much TV - when it starts talking back. Regardless I'm sure this will be a well done book, solid art as well.

WW Norton
Influencing Machine HC by (W) Brooke Gladstone (A) Josh Neufeld
Nearly 1 million weekly listeners trust NPR's Brooke Gladstone to guide them through the distortions and complexities of the modern media. This is a visionary and opinionated work of graphic nonfiction on the media and it discontent. 192 pgs. $23.95 Visit Josh here.
Lee: This pick is for Jim & Thomm! Everyday, behind the scenes, I have to deal with those two. It’s like getting Foxnews and Huff Post sent directly to my inbox with some additional, completely unnecessary innuendo and swearing. But, other than that, I love reading about media distortion so I’m sold.
Gwen: This isn't really a topic I'm all that interested in reading about. I hear enough about it as it is.

Yen Press
Beauty and Squat Bears HC by (W/A) Emile Bravo
Beloved fairytale worlds collide in this adventure for kids and parents. When stepmother's magic mirror declares that Snow White is the fairest in the land, Snow flees the kingdom and finds herself at the doorstep of the seven squat bears' cabin! But the squat bears aren't interested in harboring fugitive princesses. The best place for a beautiful princess is with a prince! Setting off to find a prince, the squat bears quickly learn that the lives of royalty are far more trying than they seem! 48 pages, $14.99
Lee: This is a little thin for the price but Emile Bravo is another fantastic creator! I have a copy of his Eisner nominated book My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, and I loved it. Even though it’s thin, I have no doubts this will be fantastic and I can’t wait to get a copy.
Gwen: Interesting but I'm not sure I'm sold on this version of Snow White. Even so, the squat bears are pretty adorable.

Lee: What a great month! There is so much out there from established creators that there is very little that will disappoint. My budget is crushed again.
Gwen: Indies are so much fun. There's such a variety to choose from and it's such a refreshing change from mainstream comics.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Since Joe Quesada took over Marvel Comics a decade ago, Daredevil has become one of Marvel’s marquee titles. It’s been a solid, albeit unspectacular seller (excluding an association with Kevin Smith, back when his name could actually sell something), but the creative teams associated with the title have always been top flight.

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev did one of the best runs ever on the character for five years, and certainly left more of a lasting impact on the character than most creative teams. Ed Brubaker followed with a solid run alongside Michael Lark and David Aja. Andy Diggle was met with some excitement, but his run, and particularly the Shadowland crossover, never really got off the ground and sapped a lot of the book’s momentum in the marketplace.

Most everyone I talk to has reached the point where they’d grown tired of every writers’ attempts to outdo their predecessors’ efforts to make Matt Murdock’s life as miserable as possible. Matt had gone on a quest to find himself and most of the DD fans I knew thought it was time to give him a break for a while, like Marvel did with Thor for a few years.

When Marvel announced that they’d be launching a new DD series, I rolled my eyes. But then Marvel caught me off guard with the creative team.

When the book relaunches, it will be written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin.

THAT made me sit up and take notice.

The quality of the creative team is evident. Mark Waid has been responsible for some of the best superhero comics of the past 20 years. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin are not only fantastic artists, but over on the Spider-Man books, they’ve been doing some of the best art Marvel has ever published. The quality of this team is not why I am so excited however.

I am excited because these guys are all drastically different from the kinds of creators that have worked on this book for the past decade. Since it went over to Marvel Knights, aside from a few brief stories, DD has been a relentlessly grim crime book with art to match. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. It harkens back to the character’s creative high point under Frank Miller. However, it can get a bit tedious after a while. Which is what makes this so intriguing.

I never would have guessed Mark Waid would be the next writer on Daredevil in a million years. He is known for solid character based superheroics and his run on the Flash spearheaded the industry's revival of positive, fun superhero books in the 90's. Since Bendis took over the book, the book has been helmed by writers who cut their team on crime books. While Waid is capable of writing some darker stuff, his background is in superheroics and I'm pretty certain whatever approach he brings, it will be way different from the past ten years. Fortunately, Waid's strengths not only promise a breath of fresh air, but a return to the basics of the character.

Miller’s grim vigilante take on the character is certainly valid, but it didn’t come along till much later. As originally conceived, Daredevil was a swashbuckling, devil-may-care adventurer. We really haven’t seen this character since Karl Kesel and Cary Nord’s run on the book, which almost immediately predated the Marvel Knights stuff. Their run wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but it was MUCH lighter than anything most of us associate with Daredevil (Kesel cited Bugs Bunny as his inspiration for the character of Daredevil in a Wizard Interview and oddly enough it worked really well).

Given Waid's track record, I think that is the vein of story we can expect from his run, particularly since he has said in interviews about his run on the book that not only is it the most fun he's ever had writing a Marvel character, but that his run on the book "won't drive you to drink." Couple that with two of the best artists working anywhere in the comic industry and I am more excited about Daredevil than I have been in years.

I honestly think this is the perfect creative team at the perfect time for this book and I am super excited for their run.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Indies Preview Review for May Part 2 of 3

Continued from Yesterday...

Fantagraphics Books
Celluloid HC by (W/A/C) Dave McKean
A woman arrives at an apartment, but her partner can’t get away from work. She is disappointed and settles in for a night alone, but finds a film projector with a reel of film loaded. The film is scratched and blurry, but she can make out a couple making love. When the film burns out, a door is revealed which leads to a misty town square... and a series of fantastical sexual encounters. But the plot doesn’t really matter. Celluloid is a rare instance (especially among Anglo-Saxons) of a top-flight cartoonist working within erotic — even pornographic, to embrace the word — parameters, with the intent of creating a genuine work of art. As the artist says: “There are so many comics about violence. I’m not entertained or amused by violence, and I’d rather not have it in my life. Sex, on the other hand, is something the vast majority of us enjoy, yet it rarely seems to be the subject of comics. Pornography is usually bland, repetitive and ugly, and, at most, ‘does the job’. I always wanted to make a book that is pornographic, but is also, I hope, beautiful, and mysterious, and engages the mind.” Dave McKean's first original graphic novel since his landmark book Cages brings to bear the astonishing range of illustrative and storytelling skills that have served him so well on his collaborations with Neil Gaiman and elsewhere. Celluloid is a rare 'erotic' graphic novel that is also a genuine work of art. 232 pgs. $35.00
Lee: Wow, that is a lot of text for a single book. But, it is shiney new stuff from Dave McKean so it’s ok. After reading it though, it reminds me of Alan Moore’s opus, Lost Girls. I don’t know if this will gain that kind of notoriety but it’s worth looking at.
Gwen: Absolute pass for me. Mostly from the phrase "But the plot doesn’t really matter."

Yeah GN by (W) Peter Bagge (A) Gilbert Hernandez
Move over, Josie & the Pussycats! At last, a girl-centered comic book that actually appeals to girls (and even their parents)! Originally published as a nine-issue comic book series from 1999-2000 by DC's Wildstorm imprint, this all-ages gem (approved by the Comics Code Authority, no less!) is collected here for the very first time. 208 pgs. $19.99
Lee: I have girls and I am always on the look out for new material that will appeal to them. Even though Bagge is known for his work on Hate, he grew up reading Archies and the like. He’s the perfect writer, and Hernandez’s skill with the brush is unparalleled. This is an easy buy.
Gwen: I'd be more interested by this but the solicitation doesn't really say anything about the plot. I'll just have to take Lee's word on the creative team as I'm not familiar with their work.

Gil Jordan: Murder by High Tide HC by (W/A/C) M. Tillieux
Another classic from the Golden Age of Franco-Belgian comics, finally brought to American readers. Imagine Hergé (Tintin) put in service of a series of wise-cracking, fast-paced detective stories - punctuated with scenes of spectacular vehicular mayhem - and you'll see why 50 years later Gil Jordan is still considered a masterpiece in Europe. 96 pgs. $18.99. Read about Tillieux here.
Lee: It’s common knowledge that I love me’s some Euro art. I’ve never read this, but I have read Tin-tin so anything from that time, place is an easy sell for me. This should be an excellent book for everyone.
Gwen: This does look to be very good. I'm a sucker for detective stories though.

Queen of the Black Black GN by (W/A/C) Megan Kelso
Before her comics were serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine ('Watergate Sue,' 2007) or released by Fantagraphics Books (Artichoke Tales), Kelso was crafting and self-publishing her own works. Queen Of The Black Black collects the best of these early works, creating an engrossing chronicle of an ambitious young cartoonist carefully developing her own unique style and approach. 160 pgs. $19.99 Visit Megan here.
Lee: Kelso is a highly respected, very successful cartoonist and this is a chance to see her early works. For me, it is not to be missed because, if it’s anything like her later works, it’s fantastic.
Gwen: I'm not familiar with Kelso but the website makes me interested in this book.

Kids Can Press
No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women GN by (W) Susan Hughes (A) Willow Dawson
A female pharaoh? A woman general in the Kahn's army? A female Viking raider? No way, you say? Look again. Appearances can be deceiving! From ancient Egypt through the Middle Ages to the 19th century, this historically accurate graphic treatment is perfect to transport readers back to bygone eras when daring women dressed as men for love, freedom, and adventure. 80 pgs. $8.95 Visit Willow Dawson here and read an interview about this book with her here.
Lee: This appears to be another excellent book targeted directly at girls and I love it. I love historical comics and a chance to read about a topic not often discussed, women’s role in history, is too good to pass up.
Gwen: Excellent idea! I definitely want this book.

Lucidity Press
Anthology Project Vol. 02 HC by (W/A) Various
The Anthology Project Volume Two expands upon the concepts established in the first volume of The Anthology Project to include an international group of artists collectively exploring a central theme. Twenty-one diverse storytellers with backgrounds in comics, illustration, video games, and animation unify to create a truly memorable reading experience. 280 pgs. $29.95. An excellent review of Vol 1 can be found here and previews for this book can be found here.
Lee: Loved, loved, loved the Vol 1 of this series. Anthology is a wonderful little book with great art and a whole slew of different stories. This is one of those rare anthologies that had far more good than bad and I can’t recommend it enough.
Gwen: I always like the idea of getting to sample a wide variety of creators with one book. It reminds me of the short story compilations publisher put together for different genres. It's a chance to see a lot of work you may not have otherwise picked up.

Kinky and Cosy HC by (W/A) Nix
Shocking! Disgusting! Meet the most dangerous twin girls in the universe! Their record of wrong doings, on purpose or not, will raise your hair on end. A darkly subversive collection of cynical comics gags that is sweeping Europe. Nothing is sacred for these two lil' monsters! South Park meets Monty Python. Heavily promoted online with serialization on NBM's front page and viral videos. 96 pgs. $14.99 Some samples here and the official NBM more previews here.
Lee: This is a collection of strips the tread that fine line between humor and incitement. Much like Sinfest, this is edgy, and funny, and not for your kids or your mother. Very funny.
Gwen: The previews are intriguing but not a genre I'm into.

Pop Sandbox
Next Day GN by (W) Paul Peterson, Jason Gilmore (A) John Porcellino
The Next Day is a ground-breaking graphic novel, constructed from interviews with survivors of near-fatal suicide attempts. In this poetic and profound philosophical exploration, illustrated by acclaimed small-press legend John Porcellino ('A master at miniature poignance,' Entertainment Weekly), four diverse participants each answer the same key questions about life, the decision to end it, and what comes after. $16.95. Visit Porcellino at his site here, and buy some of his mini-comics!
Lee: Wow, does this look incredibly depressing. That might not be nice to say, but it’s true. Beyond that, this looks awesome! Not awesome in the whee fun sense of awesome, but awesome in discussing a subject that many of us have probably encountered, and not understood, at one time or another. Porcellino has a very simple style which will probably off set some of the grimmer aspects of the story.
Gwen: While this may indeed be depressing so is House of Sand and Fog and The Bell Jar - and yet still well worth experiencing.

The conclusion Friday...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Indies Preview Review for May Part 1 of 3

Lee: What a great month. There was so much out there that this is another oversized, 3 day smorgissss... big helping of books. Lots of girl friendly stuff, lots of all ages stuff, a couple of though provoking books, and even some awesome Godzilla goodness to be had. Read on and hold onto your wallet because this month is a killer!
Gwen: You can never have enough Godzilla goodness!

:01 First Second
Anya's Ghost GN by (W/A) Vera Brosgol
Anya would give almost anything if she could have a real friend. So she takes the first offer of friendship she gets - from a ghost! But things don't quite go the way she'd expected. 224 pgs. $15.99. Visit Vera here and read a 17 pg preview here.
Lee: I don’t know what it is about this that just screams “good” to me but it does. Maybe it’s the stylized cover, maybe it’s the smooth art, maybe it’s just the way that Brosgol seems to capture the female tween/teenage angst so quickly and perfectly in the preview. Who knows, but it looks great.
Gwen: This looks very cute - it reminds me a little of Neil Gaimen's Coraline theme-wise, but I loved the original Coraline story so that's a recommendation for me.

Adams Media Corporation
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: Could the Empire Kick the Federation's Ass? and Other Galaxy-Shaking Enigma by (W) Matt Forbeck
Could a Jedi knight use his light saber to deflect a beam from a phaser? Which aliens are cooler: the Cardassians or the Chazrach? Have any Federation ships ever made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs? And most a fight between the Empire and the Federation, who would win? Fans of Star Wars and Star Trek have been debating these questions over the Internet for decades. Now, side by side, they can line up aliens, technology, story points, weaponry, and heroes from the two great science fiction/fantasy stories of our age. This book compares the two series, offering detailed information about both universes, as well as trivia, quizzes, quotes, and information drawn from the huge body of movies, television, and novels that have grown up during the past thirty years on these two iconic settings. 256 pg. $14.95
Lee: I can’t believe someone actually wasting their time writing this because we all know that Star Trek would win, hands down. One Vulcan death grip and Obi-Wan Potato Head would be putty. No contest.
Gwen: Oddly enough this was almost a debate when I had my friend Cathy as a roommate as I was a big Star Trek fan and she was a huge Star Wars geek. Although if the Ewoks could defeat the Empire I'm pretty sure the Federation would have little trouble.

Don't Eat Any Bugs Productions
Cupcakes of Doom GN by (W/A) Ray Friesen
Lousy Vikings have challenged our heroic-ish pirate pals to the ultimate baking contest, so Captain Scurvybeard and his crew embark on a quest to find the long-lost cupcakes of DOOM! With plenty of sword fights and sea serpents, this is an epic fit for silliness connoisseurs of all ages! $12.95 Read a review of Friesen’s other book, « Another Dirt Sandwich here and read an interview with him here.
Lee: I first talked with Ray back in 2008 and I have been a fan ever since! An outstanding creator with huge amounts of talent for producing outstanding all ages work. It’s the kind of material that I will always recommend! Order your copy today.
Gwen: This looks extremely amusing. Also I really want to know what cupcakes of Doom would taste like. Mmmm, doom.

Drawn & Quarterly
Paying for It HC by (W/A) Chester Brown
Brown calmly lays out the facts of how he became not only a willing participant in but a vocal proponent of one of the world's most hot-button topics - prostitution. Paying For It offers an entirely contemporary exploration of sex work - from the timid john who rides his bike to his escorts, wonders how to tip so as not to offend, and reads Dan Savage for advice, to the modern-day transactions complete with online reviews, seemingly willing participants, and clean apartments devoid of clichéd street corners, drugs, or pimps. Complete with a surprise ending, Paying For It provides endless debate and conversation about sex work and will be the most talked-about graphic novel of 2011. 292 pgs. $24.95
Lee: 300 pgs discussing the sex trade for $25???? SOLD! Ok, all honesty aside, Brown is a fantastic artist/author and while I expect some controversy from this, I also believe it will be highly entertaining.
Gwen: This book will probably be useful for cultural anthropologists. I'll admit a certain fascination as far as being curious about this book with it''s controversial topic, but as there is so much other good material coming out this would be low on the list.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Martian Chronicles GN by (W) Ray Bradbury (A) Dennis Calero
The Earthmen came by the handful, then the hundreds, then the millions. They swept aside the majestic, dying Martian civilization to build their homes, shopping malls, and cities. Mars began as a place of boundless hopes and dreams, a planet to replace an Earth sinking into waste and war. It became a canvas for mankind's follies and darkest desires. Translated into gorgeous, full-color art by Dennis Calero, Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles: The Authorized Adaptation graphically translates fifteen of Bradbury's famous interconnected science-fiction stories, turning an unforgettable vision of man and Mars into an unforgettable work of art. Available in hardcover and softcover editions. 160 pgs. $17.95
Lee: This is the latest in a long standing tradition of adapting one of the greatest science fiction stories into comic book form. I am not sure how many times it has been adapted in but it’s a lot. And, I seem to love every version. Calero, artist of X-men Noir, is an excellent artist so if you don’t already have a copy, or three, on your shelf, now’s your chance.
Gwen: I really dislike Ray Bradbury. It's a personal thing and I know his Martian Chronicles are widely liked but I can't stand the man's writing. However for those of you who do enjoy Bradbury this looks to be a well done adaptation.

Image Comics
Breed Col Vol. 01: Book of Genesis HC (s/n) by (W/A/C) Jim Starlin
Jim Starlin's groundbreaking series, 'Breed, is collected into this must-read volume, 167 pages of blood-drenched action. Ray Stoner discovers that he's not exactly who he thinks he is. He's not human; he's 'Breed: half human/half demon and in trouble with just about everyone. $49.99
Breed III #1 by (W/A/C) Jim Starlin
'Book Of Revelations,' After being attacked by some of his fellow 'Breed, Ray Stoner realizes he can no longer hide from what he is: a monster. He returns to the mystical city Elsewhere and discovers much has changed. The struggle he is unwillingly part of has become extremely more dangerous and the stakes astronomically higher. #1 of 7. $2.99
Lee: This gives me mixed feelings. The original ‘Breed series was published in ’94-95, and I remember it being pretty good, but it’s been so long I am not sure that I care about it anymore. Heck, I don't think Gwen was even alive when this saw print. Anyway, I certainly don’t care enough to pay $50 for 170 pgs, that’s for sure. So, if I can’t muster the energy to re-read the original story, then do I have the energy for the new story?
Gwen: I like Jim Starlin's work an while I haven't read it I was definitely alive if it was published in the 90s having been born in '82. It looks like some pretty awesome stuff.

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors #1 by (W) Mark Andrew Smith, (A/C) Armand Villavert & Carlos Carrasco Welcome to Gladstone's School for World Conquerors, a top-secret academy for the children of the world's greatest super villains to learn the trade. Join us as Kid Nefarious, Mummy Girl, Martian Jones, Ghost Girl, and the infamous Skull brothers unearth the School's and their parents' hidden past. $2.99. Google the title and you can find a ton of previews…
Lee: This definitely has piqued my interest. MASmith wrote The Amazing Joy Buzzards from Oni, so he’s got a good handle on humor and knows how to write a good story. I’m not convinced about the art though. From the previews, the figure work was good and the composition made sense but the backgrounds were completely empty. The artist used color as a background and didn’t actually draw anything so the pages feel empty. This is a day of release decision for me.
Gwen: I'm a bigger story person rather than an art person but comics don't really work as well without a good balance between the mediums. I do like some of the character names though.

Vanguard Productions
Vanguard Frazetta Classics Vol. 02: White Indian SC by (W/A) Frank Frazetta Vanguard Frazetta Classics continues with The Complete Frazetta White Indian which collects the complete Frank Frazetta sixteen issue run of White Indian from the back pages of Durango Kid comics. Legendary illustrator Frank Frazetta leads us through the wild adventures of Dan Brand and his blood brother Tipi. Now in softcover, 200 pages of Frazetta's pre-Conan, pre-Tarzan, savagely-beautiful work are collected in full color for the first time. This is the definitive, official edition authorized by Frank Frazetta. $24.95
Lee: If you've never seen Frank Frazetta's amazing comic book work then this is a great, inexpensive way to see it. Vanguard has great repoduction values and this is a bargin. Not to be missed!
Gwen: As I really love Frank Frazetta's artwork this is very appealing to me especially as I'm only familiar with his paintings.