Saturday, April 30, 2011

Planet of the Apes #1 -- A Review

Planet of the Apes #1
Writer: Daryl Gregory

Artist: Carlos Magno

Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus

Letterer: Travis Lanham

Publisher: BOOM Studios

Price: $3.99

Even though Charlton Heston made his shocking damnation in the shadow of the partially buried Statue of Liberty two years before I was born, and the fact that I never saw any of the other POTA movies in the theaters (The awful 2001 film doesn't count), I LOVE the Planet of the Apes! Blame it on the MEGOS. I only had four : Doctor Zaius (aka Baron Zemo), General Ursus, Peter Burke (aka Peter Parker), and Alan Verdon -- all from the 1974 TV show. I can remember seeing some snippets of the show, but given that I was only 4.5 at the time, it must have been the MEGO commercials for the Tree House playset (which I never got [sob] -- see it at 1:20 in the video below) and the plethora of Ape toys in the Toys R Us aisles that fueled my fascination prior to ever watching a rerun of any of the movies.

Whenever I got around to seeing the films, Roddy McDowall (Cornelius/Galen) quickly became one of my favorite actors (I remember watching him in Fantastic Journey too). I love the time travel aspects and the paradoxes of the series. My favorite film is Conquest of the POTA and when I purchased the DVD boxset, I bought the one with the lifelike Caesar bust (and you've seen it already if you watched the Living the Dream video -- I told you Caesar was watching).

There have been many POTA comics over the years. Of course there were the movie adaptations by Marvel in both comic and B&W magazine format as well as a host of who-knows-what continuity comics by various "independent" (non-Big Two) publishers. The most recent was, The Revolution of the Planet of the Apes, published five years ago by Mr. Comics, which told the story immediately following the Conquest movie. It was excellent! I really think the key to a good POTA comic is firm ties to the film chronology. Luckily, the new BOOM series does just that!

If you recall the end of the fifth movie (Battle of the POTA), we were left with a hopeful scene of the humans and apes "living in perfect harmony" and being taught by the orangutan Lawgiver. It was said to have taken place circa 2680 (or so) about 600 years following the flashback story with Caesar. I'm not certain, but it appears that we could be starting this series at the tail end of that very scene (Although, I'm sure the Lawgiver gave more than one lecture). It doesn't really matter to me, but the important thing is it evokes the same image and immediately connects you with the film, which makes what happens next all the more powerful.

The Lawgiver is assassinated by a human (working for a bomb-worshiping mutant priest), disrupting the delicate "peace" between sapiens and simians. I always wondered how you could have that happy scene in film five and then 1200 years later have humans being hunted like animals in the first film. That's where the theories of circular and linear/alternate timelines come in, which are fun to think about. Obviously, this series seems to be taking the circular approach, so we're seeing what leads up to Taylor's discoveries. One of the new developments is that the humans are starting to be born mute (I hope they come up with a rational explanation for this, but it has to happen sometime, so it could be due to lack of use, malnutrition, genetic engineering [okay, maybe not that in a primate society]).

Considering that the Lawgiver is the only "known" character and he's gone by the fourth page, Gregory has created a lot of interesting new characters. He's also greatly expanded upon ape society and immediately we have a well-defined class system rife with political intrigue and racism with building tensions. I really like the deteriorating relationship between the Lawgiver's two grandchildren: the ape, Alaya and the human, Sullivan -- both leaders of their people. All the details flow naturally from the story -- nothing is introduced via narration -- you just get it as you go along. You can tell that Daryl's really thought this all out and he's established a fully developed internal history (like Tolkien did).

Sometimes you can have a good concept, but the art may be only serviceable, especially on more niche properties (like Warlord of Mars). Well, let me allay any such notions, because Carlos Magno is PHENOMENAL! I could hardly believe that the stellar art on Cover B matched the interiors as well. The colors by Juan Manuel are equally rich and complement the inks perfectly. The detail reminds me of a cross between Mike Kaluta (Conan the King #20 -- that was a great political storyline too) and Gary Frank. The pacing and layouts are great. BOOM has assembled an incredible team on this book.

I believe that this series may jump around a bit telling many stories throughout the POTA movie continuity. I hope so -- as long as they don't do any spin-off mini-series. I'd rather see them rotate in a new storyline like Busiek did in "Born on the Battlefield" for Dark Horse's Conan. I have a hard time imagining that Magno can produce this level of quality month in and month out without a break. I also hope this will become a labor of love for the creators and that they won't be wooed away by the Big Two anytime soon. I want to see 10 years of this stuff AT LEAST!

GRADE A(pe)+: Downright Awesome! Many New Details In'a Really Terrific Yarn! A Perfectly Engaging Start!

One of my favorite MEGO memories was playing with these figures on the Claremont Beach along the James River. It was the perfect post-apocalyptic setting and best of all I had one of those glow-in-the-dark necklaces from Kings Dominion, which made a great electric whip for Urko to use on the hapless humans.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Indie Preview Review for June Part 3 of 3

Image Comics
Rodd Racer (One-Shot) by (W/A/C) Toby Cypress
In a crowded futuristic city controlled by gangsters, the Thunder Alley Rally is the biggest racing event of a generation. The city's greatest racers battle across the concrete jungle, through chasms of wet neon city streets for fame, glory, and sacrifice...But one racer races for much more. Rodd Racer races for revenge while the city's deadliest killers chase him. Greatness has a price. 80 Pages / FC$7.99 Visit Toby here.
Lee: Yep, write ups don’t get much more generic and uninteresting than that. Luckily I know that Toby is one heck of an artist so I am going to give him benefit of the doubt on this one. He has a wonderfully fluid and exaggerated line that suits this material perfectly. You may remember him from the Killing Girl Image mini a few years ago.
Gwen: As I'm more of a story person the art alone isn't enough to pull me in. Now maybe if they were racing horses I'd be more interested...

Kids Can Press
Binky to the Rescue Vol. 02 GN by (W/A) Ashley Spires While in hot pursuit of an alien invader (a bug), Binky accidentally falls out the space station porthole (bathroom window) and finds himself in outer space (outside) for the very first time. But just as Binky begins to explore, he discovers that his copilot, Ted (stuffed mousie), is trapped beneath an enemy warship (wasps' nest)! Binky must rescue Ted from the clutches of these evil aliens! 64 pgs, $8.95 I highly recommend visiting Ashley’s excellent site here.
Lee: Ok, this is probably a little younger than most of what we read but darn it, this looks great. It’s hard to beat stories about house cats with over active imaginations for pure fun. I just might have to get this for the kids.
Gwen: I'm not sure why but this kind of reminds me of Egg Story. As I absolutely adored Egg Story I find myself drawn to this book. The art is pretty cute too :) Also, for whatever reason, Binky is the perfect name for the main character. I need this book.

America Yakuza Moon: True Story of Gangsters Daughter GN by (W) Shoko Tendo, adapted by Sean Michael Wilson (A) Michiru Morikawa
Born into the family of a wealthy yakuza boss, Shoko Tendo lived her early years in luxury. But labeled 'the yakuza kid, she was the victim both of bullying and discrimination from teachers and classmates at school, and of her father's drunken rages at home. By the age of fifteen she was a gang member; by the age of eighteen, a drug addict; and in her twenties, a willing participant in a series of abusive and violent relationships with men. After the death of her parents and her own suicide attempt, she began a tortuous, soul-searching reevaluation of the road she had taken and an unconventional act of empowerment finally helped her take control of her life, leading to redemption and happiness. 192 pgs, $15.95
Lee: Tendo’s story was originally a novel and has since been adapted into comics. In terms of content, this looks to be a fascinating book about life within the Yakuza. If you enjoy American crime fiction, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this.
Gwen: I think I'll pass on this - not that it doesn't look pretty amazing - but so was House of Sand and Fog and that left me feeling wrung out for days after experiencing it. Maybe in a few years I'll come back to these type of soul searching stories but recently I've appreciated slightly lighter comics.

Rebellion / 2000AD
Judge Death: Life and Death of GN by (W) John Wagner (A) Pete Doherty, Frazer Irving, Andy Clarke, Various
Who is Dredd's Nemesis Judge Death and where does he come from? The answer to these questions and many others can all be found here! From Death's origin through to his final destruction - killing was his business! 224 pgs, $23.99
Lee: I have always been a huge Judge Death fan and this book is sure to be great. I believe this will collect all the Frazer Irving JD art/stories and that alone is worth the price of admission. It is just fantastic, and Wagner wrote a story that matched the art. Good stuff.
Gwen: I remember loving the Judge Dredd books when I was a kid. I was so sad when the movie came out though. I mean I get that they had to show his face since they cast "name" actor as Dredd (Sly. Stalone) but they never show his face in the comics - it just threw the whole thing off. As a result of that movie I started dislike Stalone in pretty much everything. But I digress - the comics were good stuff.

Spiderbaby Grafix & Pub.
Teen Angels & New Mutants SC by (W) Stephen R. Bissette
Writer/artist Rick Veitch's career bridges the underground comix of the 1970s, mainstream DC and Vertigo Comics, and the self-publishing revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. In that extraordinary body of work, Brat Pack remains a landmark, and Teen Angels & New Mutants is the first in-depth study of a creator and graphic novel worthy of the autopsy. Teen Angels offers a crash-course on teen pop culture and superhero sidekick history, fresh analysis of Dr. Fredric Wertham's seminal books, and charts the 1980s comic book explosion and 1990s implosion. 412 pgs, $30.95
Lee: Where to start with this selection? The fact that Brat Pack is a forgotten classic, Veitch was a creator ahead of his time, or the fact that the author, Bissette, is amazing in his own right. Brat Pack was one of the most brutal, deconstructionist comics about side kids ever. In fact, it may still be the mostest. A chance to read more about it, and a study of comics at the time is not to be passed up.
Gwen: Hmmmm, I have never heard of this before - not that Lee doesn't do a better job of selling it that the solicitation :)

Steve Jackson Games
Munchkin Card Game Deluxe Edition
Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Admit it. You love it! Munchkin has been a runaway hit for the last 10 years, with international sales of more than a million Munchkin games, plus lots and lots of supplements! Compete with your friends to kill monsters and grab magic items. Fast-playing and silly, Munchkin will make your group laugh out loud. And while they're laughing, you can steal their stuff! Now in a special deluxe edition complete with gameboard, 6 plastic munchkin pawns, dice, cards, and more, Munchkin is illustrated by John Kovalic! $29.99 Visit the official site here.
Lee: Sadly, this sounds like a great deal of fun because this is exactly what I want out of my role playing games. I don’t care about abilites, or playing nice. I really just want to kill monsters and occasionally screw with my buddies just for fun. This just might be the game for me.
Gwen: This is a great game :) As I have many many gamer friends I was first exposed to this years ago. It is a lot of monster killing joy - although I still prefer D&D but I like my characters to have a good story more than anything else.

Sunday Press Books
Forgotten Fantasy Sunday Comics 1900-1915 HC by (W/A) Lyonel Feinigner, Winsor McCay, George McManus, Various
From 1900 to 1915, American newspapers offered some of the most beautiful and fascinating comics ever printed. Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland is known worldwide, but many of the great fantasy comics have virtually vanished - until now. Complete runs of Kinder Kids, Wee Willie Winkie, Nibsy the Newsboy, The Explorigator, plus Dream of the Rarebit Friend and a dozen more. A genuine treasure of classic comics, all in the original size and colors. $125.00
Lee: Yes, I know this is unaffordable to most, if not all, of us but it is too good not to mention. These original Sundays are filled to the brim with absolutely stunning artwork. It is stuff you probably haven’t seen but will blow your socks off. It is incredible. And, this art will be published at full size, a whopping 17 x 15! Order your copy from Amazon now.
Gwen: Wow... waaaaaay out of my price range :(

Top Shelf Productions
Okie Dokie Donuts: Open for Business HC by (W/A) Chris Eliopoulos
Good morning! Welcome to Okie Dokie Donuts. Run by pastry pioneer and cunning culinarian, Big Mama! Okie Dokie Donuts is the best little donut shop in town! What's her secret? Big Mama rolls in a heaping serving of love into each of her hand made creations! Loyal customers can't get enough of her tantalizing turnovers. But running a donut shop isn't easy! Trouble is always poking holes in Big Mama's fun. But as long as our large and lovely heroine has friends and plenty of chocolate icing, nothing can stop Okie Dokie Donuts from reaching the highest levels of becoming a pastry powerhouse! 48 pgs, $9.95 Visit Chris here, and read his webcomic.
Lee: Eliopoulos, writer/artist of the fantastic Franklin Richards series from Marvel, brings us his latest offering Okie Dokie. And I am very excited! Eliopoulos has proven time and again that he can write consistently funny stories and I am a sucker for a humorous story. A little slim for the price but sure to bring a smile and a chuckle to your life.
Gwen: What an off the wall concept. Definitely not my cup of tea but really, I have this issue with eating what I read about. So I really try to avoid anything that has pastries and such as a focus point.

Lee: Overall an excellent month. As usual I think I am most looking forward to the stuff from Humanoids and Fantagraphics. Time and again they continue to provide quality material.
Gwen: I'm looking forward to the Binky book. I'm not sure why but that one really stuck with me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Dead ain't Dead

A few years ago, in a strange bit of synchronicity, two of comics longest standing definitively-dead-and-they’re-never-coming back characters both reemerged when Ed Brubaker brought back Bucky in the pages of Captain America and Judd Winick resurrected the second Robin, Jason Todd, in the pages of Batman.

Resurrections in comics are always tricky business and I think how these respective characters have fared in the years since is particularly interesting in how similar their circumstances were. Both were characters that fans were never expecting see alive again, both were largely controlled by a single writer, and both were brought back as villains.

Bucky was the original dead-means-dead superhero. When Stan Lee brought Captain America back to life in the 60’s, he killed Bucky in a flashback to give Captain America a little pathos and something to angst over. We’ve seen some other people wear his costume and we’ve seen him in too-many-to-count time travel stories, but I think Uncle Ben is the only character I considered less likely to return before the Winter Soldier storyline.

Jason Todd was the second Robin and really the first modern legacy character if you think about it. He was a scrappy and edgy street kid. Then the creative team got tired of him, got him killed through a 1-800 number call in stunt, and he’s been a stand in for Batman’s guilt ever since.

Judd Winick brought back Jason Todd as the Red Hood (the Joker’s first alias), a vigilante determined to wipe out crime in a way that met his own ends. Also, he was super violent and had no compunctions about killing. He fought Batman for the Under the Hood storyarc, guest starred in a few of Judd Winick’s other series and really hasn’t been seen much in recent years.

Ed Brubaker brought back Bucky as the Winter Soldier. Brainwashed by the Russians after they found his body and given a cybernetic arm, Bucky was used as an assassin throughout the 21st century by the Russians through the miracles of cryogenics. Co-opted by a Russian ex-general and then the Red Skull, he eventually had his memory restored thanks to Captain America using a cosmic cube. Eventually, he became Captain America following Steve Rogers’ death. He’s currently serving time for his crimes in a Russian gulag.

Of the two storylines, the Red Hood storyline was met with more excitement, if only because it became clear right away that Jason Todd was back. He made a couple appearances in books like Teen Titans and Green Arrow, but once the Batman story ended, his role in the DC universe sort of evaporated.

The Winter Soldier took about six issues for people to realize it was Bucky, and most people couldn’t believe it. I mean, he wouldn’t bring back Bucky would he? Especially as a cyborg Russian killer? Well he did. He became a mainstay in the Captain America series and Brubaker has written more issues of Captain America with Bucky as the star than Steve Rogers.

The enthusiasm gap on the stories seems to me to be inversely proportional. Enthusiasm for Jason Todd waned while a lot of people have loved what Brubaker has done with Bucky. And while the Red Hood has sort of vanished from the DC universe (which is puzzling considering how popular he initially was), Bucky has become a mainstay in Marvel’s. Hell, even if he leaves the Cap identity behind, it looks like he’s not going anywhere for awhile.

To me, the difference is clearly tied to the thought the creators put it in bringing the characters back. When Brubaker brought back Bucky, his editor, Tom Breevort, was deeply uncomfortable about the idea and made Brubaker answer a series of questions how the story would work. One of the key components was that it couldn’t compromise what Bucky’s death did to Cap. By making him a Russian assassin, Bucky remained a wellspring of guilt for Cap, even in the land of the living. Even though the death of Cap was unplanned, Bucky’s storyarc felt natural and remained in the forefront of the book.

Winick on the other hand, brought back Jason Todd in the midst of the run up to Infinite Crisis. He promised there was a great story about how he was alive and how it had nothing to do with Infinite Crisis. When the annual came out with his origin, it was a hodgepodge mess where Superboy Prime (right out of Infinite Crisis), punched the universe so hard that Jason Todd came back to life. Further more, once the initial storyarc in Under the Hood wrapped up, Todd got caught up in the utterly woeful Countdown miniseries and has since been relegated to occasional miniseries in the DC universe.

That either of these characters came back with any level of commercial success is a testament to their creators, but it seems to me that Brubaker had a far more comprehensive plan for Bucky than Winick did for Jason Todd. I don’t think there’s been any forward momentum for Jason Todd since Under the Hood ended. On the other hand, I don’t think that Marvel could have possibly done a better job bringing back Bucky. He’s been the star of Captain America for over 3 years, a member of the Avengers, a guest star who actually draws attention, and for some fans (me and Jim at least), more popular than Steve Rogers.

Bringing characters back from the dead is frequently derided, but both of these characters have been at the center of some of the most interesting superhero stories of the past few years. Maybe we should try bringing back Uncle Ben?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indie Preview Review for June Part 2 of 3

Fantagraphics Books
Man Who Grew His Beard GN by (W/A) Olivier Schrauwen
Olivier Schrauwen has staked a reputation over the last decade as one of Europe's most talented storytellers. This, his first American book, combines seven head spinning short stories which mix influences like Winsor McCay with subversively surreal humor and subtle criticism of twentieth century tropes and images. $19.99 Visit the artist here and read his lambiek here.
Lee: The influence of Winsor McCay is soooo evident it’s incredible. And I love every single line. This should be a visual treat and not to be missed by art fans.
Gwen: Not really looking to be something I'd like to delve into but I'm not as much of an art person as Lee. I like my art to be soothing, not jarring, but it certainly would be interesting to a lot of the people I took art classes with in college.

The Cabbie Vol. 01 HC by (W/A) Marti
Introduction by Art Spiegelman Spanish cartoonist Marti incorporates elements of Scorsese's Taxi Driver with the brutal squashed perspectives of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy to create an eye-popping tale of urban justice as meted by the Cabbie. This graphic novel revives the Cabbie character who was most recently seen in Marti's debut solo comic Calvario Hills. $19.99 Read Marti’s lambiek here.
Lee: The art appears to be Dick Tracy, but the story appears to be Ennis Punisher…. Yep, I am sold. Fantagraphics has really been putting out some great foreign material lately and hasn’t missed yet. I can’t wait to read this.
Gwen: Actually the concept here is looks to be highly entertaining. Lee will have to let me know how it is. Great character expressions from what I can see.

Sidekicks GN by (W/A) Dan Santat
Captain Amazing, superhero and savior of Metro City, is getting old. He's out all hours battling arch-villains, catching thieves, and helping little old ladies cross the street. He doesn't even have time for his house full of pets. He needs a sidekick! Captain Amazing's four pets agree. But each one of them thinks he should get the sidekick spot - and a chance for one-on-one time with the Captain. Get ready for sibling rivalry royale as pets with superpowers duke it out for the one thing they all want - a super family. $12.99 Visit Dan here. See previews here. But, best part… buy a book and get free art here! Now that is just awesome.
Lee: It’s got a hamster in a Captain America outfit, need I say more? I don’t but I will. This looks just great. Fun, humorous, and best of all spectacular art. And, on top of that, a pre-order gets you free art. This is the best deal I have seen in a long, long time.
Gwen: YES! Super pets in a different setting/world!!! AWESOME. As someone who has yet to get tired of Ace the Bathound and Comet the super-horse this book appeals to me at a giddiness-inducing level :) Of course I grew up reading the Bunicula books and the Legion of Superheroes early comics so I may be predisposed.

Heavy Metal Magazine
Requiem Vol. 03: Queen of Dead Souls HC by (W) Pat Mills (A) Olivier Ledroit
After death the world of Resurrection awaits human souls. In Resurrection, the elite and the most depraved are reborn as vampires. One such vampire, a German soldier killed during World War II is Heinrich Augsburg, and he must discover for himself his new existence as a vampire in the afterlife. This volume collects chapters seven through nine of the acclaimed vampire epic, originally published in the pages of Heavy Metal. 112 pgs, oversized, $19.95 A brief bio with some art here.
Lee: I am all over this too! Pat Mills has been writing good stories forever so no need to worry about that. And Ledroit’s art looks just fantastic. And, coming from Heavy Metal I am sure it’s got all sort of adulty stuff in it. Not for the meek, that’s for sure.
Gwen: Of late I must classify myself in the "meek" category as far as this type of book goes. I am burnt out on dark adulty stuff at the moment although I'm sure after a break I'll be able to have fun with this genre again.

Humanoids Inc
Bombyce Network GN by (W) Corbeyran, Cecil (A) Cecil
A twisted tale of intrigue set amid early 20th-century France, a time know as the Beautiful Era, but where the emerging technologies and high fashion only serve as cover to the most sordid of deeds. Written and drawn by prolific European stars Corbeyran and Cecil. Highly recommended for fans of Criminal and From Hell. $19.95
Lee: I loves me some Humanoids. This isn't for the meek and most places are giving it the mature label. No doubt this will be good but it will be adult in nature. Historical noir, plenty of violence and adult content... this is gonna be good.
Gwen: Of course intrigue in 20th century France may get me out of my meek slump...

Image Comics
50 Girls 50 #1 by (W) Frank Cho & Doug Murray (A) Axel Medellin (C) Frank Cho
Hot on the heels of his blockbuster New Ultimates run, Frank Cho teams with Co-writer Doug Murray (The Nam) and artist Axel Medellin (Elephantmen) to unleash a new universe-spanning sci-fi epic! Join in the fantastic voyage of the Space Vessel ESS Savannah and her beautiful crew as they fight their way from hostile aliens and exotic worlds, searching for the wormhole that will take them to their ultimate destination: Home. #1 of 4, $2.99
Lee: STOP, this is a complete rewrite of what I started to say! At first, I was somewhat excited because, beyond the obvious titilation factor, it sounds like a good sci-fi adventure. Solid writer, artist who appears to know what he's doing. Good stuff right? Until I did some research and find out that Medellin won a talent contest to draw the book. Good for him! Everyone deserves a chance. Then I saw he won the contest in 2009. Seriously, 2009! That's isn't a comment on Medellin's ability but more a slam to Cho's perpetual lateness with everything. We will never see all 4 issues so waste your... I mean spend your money wisely when it comes to this book.
Gwen: Ah hot chicks fighting hostile aliens and discovering exotic worlds - I see how this originally appealed to Lee ;)

Image Comics
Graveyard of Empires #1 by (W) Mark Sable (A/C) Paul Azaceta
Afghanistan. Marines face a never-ending onslaught of Taliban. But even hell can get worse. The dead are coming back to life in The Graveyard of Empires, and only together can both sides of the today's conflict survive tomorrow's undead assault. Writer Mark Sable (Unthinkable, Two-Face Year One) reunites with his Grounded co-creator, Paul Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man) to tell this controversial tale of terror. 32 Full Pages of Story! #1 of 4, $3.99 Visit Paul here.
Lee: Marines, Afghanistan, and the walking dead! This will be great. It doesn’t hurt that the art is by Paul “Potter’s Field w/ Mark Waid” Azaceta is a great artist. I’m sold.
Gwen: Excellent art. I find the idea of countries at war having to unite to fight zombies to be pretty funny. I mean, who'd ever think all we need for world peace is the walking dead!

Sam & Twitch Complete Collection Vol. 01 HC by (W) Brian Michael Bendis (A) Angel Medina, Alberto Ponticelli, Jonathan Glapion &Jamie Tolagson (C) Ashley Wood
The Spawn Universe's favorite detectives come at you full-force in their own groundbreaking series. Featuring an all-star cast of creators, the bar was set high for gritty crime fiction when Sam and Twitch first came on the scene. Follow the exploits of NYPD's two most dedicated public servants as they try to uncover the secrets behind the Central Park Witchcraft murders and also solve the mystery of Udaku. Collected in an all-new size and format, Sam And Twitch: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 brings you the art and stories that made this series a classic. Extra features include a cover gallery and behind-the-scenes art. Collects Sam and Twitch #1-13, 320 pgs, $29.99
Lee: AUUUGGHHHH I hate when they do this! I just broke down last year and got the trades of this material and now they are releasing a hc. Ohhhh fart. Now I will have to spend the money twice to get the same material. A great story and well worth the investment.
: I never really got into the whole Spawn and it's spin-offs thing. Not that the art wasn't shiny but for whatever reason it never really clicked with me - although I've known plenty of fans who loved this stuff.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Week of April 20 in Review

This week has the distinction of being one of the worse weeks in comics in my recent memory, possibly the worse week since in trying to come up with a review column. Not that the books themselves were horrible but the material presented was all so bland and boring or a middle chapter syndrome thing as to not generated any real interest.

Only three books were comment worthy. First up is Uncanny X-Force #8 which was another brilliant issue. Rick Remender has truly found his niche with taking this diverse group and not giving a crap about other continuity for these characters and just proceeding to write a great series. He uses Wolverine in Wolverine’s more or less base character mode, the anti-hero but someone with a depth of experience and some strong leadership skills. As Deadpool is a cipher to be used in any manner, Rick uses him as the typical crazy assassin, but has given him some depth of character that I have not seen anywhere else. Even crazy can be a person and Rick has made Deadpool into a real character and not just a caricature. In hindsight Rick was the perfect person to continue the Grant Morrison creation of Fantomex. I think Fear Agent was a great learning ground where you have a character that seems cavalier, but has a ton of history that plays into what shaped the character. Fantomex fits that mold. Finally Archangel and Psylocke are two characters that have been underutilized and Rick has made their relationship and what is happening to Archangel one of the more interesting sub plots in comics. At the same time all of this is going on Rick has told three stories in the span of eight issues which keeps the pace of this book at a very satisfying clip as opposed to the doldrums so many other series fall into. The schedule is kept up by using rotating artists that have all delivered their own work but built off the opening feeling given to us by Jerome Opena. This has become my favorite Marvel series and certainly one of the best super hero books being published.

Next up is Spirit #13. I hardly ever mention this book but David Hine and artist Moriat have given us a series that has developed the Spirit into something that is more appealing to modern taste yet I believe maintains the underlying quality of the Spirit. Moriat’s artwork has a wonderful quality to it that keeps the Spirit’s cast of characters bordering on less realistic side, yet is rich and complex in the layouts and page design. I could look as his work all day. Another great quality of Moriat’s work is the women are all curves and not overly endowed or overly sexualized, yet are beautiful. Hine has crafted some great stories and this arc gave us the oddest assassin in comic, a kindly old Professor type who makes killer dolls.

The last book I want to comment on is Invincible #79. Atom Eve finally makes a big reveal and tells Mark she aborted the baby. The entire issue was a set up so we could get that ending. On one hand I thought this was pretty daring thing to do, as it is an event that happens in the real world often but seldom addressed or presented in super hero comics. Of course it is an easy cop out as having children can always be the death knell of a comic since writers apparently think that you can’t be a super hero and have a family. Of course given how most writers ignore the secret identities of characters anymore I guess that proves the point that writers can’t handle giving their characters private lives anymore. At a minimum it is a lost art at the moment. Once I put this comic down my reaction started to change. First off Atom Eve is so weak that she decided she can’t raise a child on her own? Where is the heroic quality in that? Wouldn’t she want to make sure she still had part of Mark around in case he didn’t make it back? On top of that she is so pathetic that she wallows in her misery and packs on the pounds? Would any male hero be treated with such disdain and be shown so weak? I wonder. Finally the cover shows a slim and hot Atom Eve, while the interior gives us the Kristie Alley Atom Eve. I think I find the whole thing insulting to the character of Atom Eve. It makes her pretty damn weak and causes me to think Kirkman went for the shock value qualities instead of letting his characters tell their own story. By that I believe that Atom Eve became fat and had an abortion so we could be shocked, but the way the character had been established neither of those would have occurred. The best written books seem to let the characters tell the story as opposed to the writing forcing something artificial or a character so he can generate a shock.

No for why this week was such a bummer, first off I hardly got any independents, which hurts the overall quality of what came out and my Marvel list only had Hulk and Thunderbolts on it besides Uncanny X-Force. Neither book was bad, both were basic entertainment. It really comes down to DC being a bitter disappointment and since that was the bulk of my list it brought the week down. Batman and Gotham City Sirens were both interrupted by the Azrael story since that comic was canceled. I don’t think bringing in that story line did either book a favor. DMZ, Fables and Hellblazer were all decent, but I expect more out of Vertigo. Green Lantern and GL Corps took two issues to move the plot ahead one point. Crap one comic took the entire book to get the four Earth GLs to take a different ring. JLA just continues to lack direction and has a hodgepodge of heroes that should be some “C” level group, except for Batman. LOSH I’m still trying to figure out what characters are doing what and we are spending issues setting up storylines. Paul Levitz is still finding his feet in writing this book and needs Giffen. Teen Titans is boring and Ms. Scott’s artwork that was great in Secret Six feels off for Teen Titans. Supergirl is actually decent, but any hope for the series is dimmed by a rotating creative team which never gives this book a chance to get a rhythm. Finally Zatanna was a fill in and felt like a fill in, a fluffy piece of work that wasn’t worth the price on entry.

That wraps up this week’s review.

PS – I passed on Super Dinosaur because a friend of mine told it read very young. While I can applaud efforts like that in trying to generate interest with younger readers, it is not what I want to read.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Indie Preview Review for June Part 1 of 3

Lee: As always a great month ahead. It’s another mixed bag with a surprise or two from established talents, a revival of an old property, and the usual flurry of kid friendly books towards the end.
Gwen: I may not be around for next month's indie preview review, but don't worry, it'll only be for one month!

215 Ink

Vic Boone #1 by (W) Shawn Aldridge (A) Geoffo (C) David Lloyd
Former motorcycle dardevil, Vic Boone is hired to clear a woman's name after she's blamed for a series of grizzly murders. To find the real killer, he'll have to beat robot thugs, get help from a human fly, and escape the all powerful (not really) Raygun Radicals. $2.99 See some previews here, some more previews here, and visit Geoffo French website here.
Lee: I am not sure why this looks like so much fun but it really does. Actually, it's all based on the art. The crazy coloring in the previews and in some vague way the art seems to be influenced by Darwyn Cook so I am sold.
Gwen: I just like the drastic career switch here. How exactly does one go from motorcycle daredevil to crime fighter? I mean I guess Johnny Blaze made the jump (sort of). Either way, this does look like it could be a fun book.

:01 First Second
Olympians Vol. 03: The Hera Goddess and Her Glory GN by (W/A) George O'Connor
This is the third book in the Olympians series, a set of books about the Greek Gods for young readers. This book tells the story of Hera, Queen of the Gods, and the many heroes who won her patronage - and her enmity. 80 pgs, $9.99 Visit the official site here.
Lee: My kids recently got into all the Greek myths and this could be an excellent way to fuel their interest. This is volume 3, but the others look just as good.
Gwen: This looks excellent - but I have to say, a lot of the Greek God mythology is really not kid friendly. I mean it'd be pretty hard to make a kid friendly version of most of the Zeus myths. I really like the look of the art too :)

AAM Markosia
Hope Fall SC (Ultimate edition) by (W) Tony Lee (A) Dan Boultwood
Twenty years ago they murdered her - and now she's back to even the score, as Helen, a falling Angel returns to the town she died in to extract revenge on the four men who killed her - while discovering an Angelic conspiracy that dates back to Jesus Christ. Will God allow her to gain vengeance? Or is the Angel Michael right about her true purpose? Hope Falls: The Ultimate Edition collects the Eagle Award-nominated five-part series by New York Times Best-Selling List author, Tony Lee, and his MTV Comics collaborator Dan Boultwood, in a brand new format 128 pgs, $17.99 There is a 7 page preview here, just follow the link on the page. Also, the official site is here.
Lee: This is an interesting little book. It claims to be a master piece, eagle nominated no less, has great blurbs on the cover, but I can’t find a single review of it online. Maybe some reviews are out there but I can’t find them without a more complex search. No matter, this is one of the rare times the cover blurbs have sold me. The art looks good and Tony Lee, even if he is a grouch, is a pretty good writer.
Gwen: This looks like an interesting concept although it is odd that it's hard to find any reviews. I'll have to wait and see what Lee thinks about it since he's already been sold.

Adhouse Books
Welcome to Oddville HC by (W/A) Jay Stephens
Welcome to Oddville!, the complete collection of newspaper comic strips by award-winning cartoonist Jay Stephens, best known for his animated TV series Tutenstein and The Secret Saturdays. Join 8 year old superkid JetCat on her misadventures throughout the weirdest city since Oz! Oddville! is chock-full of strange and wonderful denizens, including a ghost pumpkin, a rude snail, a discarded bandage, and a gang of talking apples - all in spectacular full-color! 88 pgs, $14.95 Visit Jay Stephens here and read all about Oddville-Jetcat.
Lee: OOOOHHHH (squeals like a slightly older version of Gwen) this is great !!!! My kids destroyed my copies of Oddville long. Actually it might have been Jetcat Clubhouse but whatever it was, it was great. Just an excellent, excellent book.
Gwen: Hey! I don't squeal... much....

Airship Entertainment
Girl Genius Vol. 10: Agatha H & Guardian Muse SC by (W) Phil & Kaja Foglio (A/C) Phil Foglio
Adventure! Romance! Mad Science! Deep in the heart of the damaged machine that is Castle Heterodyne, Agatha discovers her mother's long-abandoned secret laboratory. But waiting inside is a relentless guardian that is not what it seems! Other surprises as well await you within Book Ten of the Hugo Award-winning series! 144 pgs, $22.95 Visit the site here, and read the comic online here.
Lee: Girl Genius has been quietly published for several years now. I read it for awhile, then stopped. Not because of quality but because of an overwhelming mass of other books. A great series that is worth checking out.
: This does look like a really cool series. I especially like what I've seen of the art.

Antarctic Press
Diary of a Zombie Kid SC by (W) Fred Perry (A) David Hutchison
Middle school is horrific enough for any 5th grader's first day. But for Bill Dookes, it's a festering, rotting, undead nightmare. Since Bill's deadbeat dad got arrested trying to burn the house down for the insurance, Mom's had to make ends meet by volunteering to various medical research companies for cash. This would be fine if she hadn't brought home a mysterious zombie virus! Now Bill has to deal with skin problems and body chemistry changes that make puberty look like a walk in the park! And then there's his ever-growing appetite for BRAINS! 128 pgs, $14.95
Lee: This is just too good to pass up. My kids tore through the Wimpy Kid books and loved them. I am all for a zombie version of them.
: I don't know - I have problems with zombie versions of already written stories. Is this just a spoof? Or is it like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Because that was just an atrocity. So if it's a spoof it could be cute but I'm not familiar enough with the source material to be able to tell.

Archaia Entertainment LLC

Old City Blues HC by (W/A) Giannis Milonogiannis
Built on the ruins of the country once known as Greece, New Athens of the year 2048 is a city crawling with life. Low-life, that is. From mech smugglers and drug dealers, to corrupt politicians and all-too-powerful corporations, the city is at the mercy of high-tech criminals. And it's up to Solano, Thermidor, and the rest of the New Athens Special Police to keep the city in order. When the cybernetically augmented founder of a tech corporation called Hayashi is found murdered, it seems to be just another case of cyborg persecution. But Hayashi Corporation's strange response to the incident raises suspicion in Solano and the Special Police. $14.95 Visit the artist here, and read issue #1 here, and issue #2 here.
Lee: A story set in Greece, you don’t get many of those these days. The story sounds good and the art, while obviously influenced by manga, is nice to look at. This is certainly worth investigating.
Gwen: Considering the set up for the city I'm not sure how much of this would actually have anything to do with the story being set in Greece. But if it is pulling in actual Greek culture (even if it's futuristic) I'd be interested.

Boom! Studios - Kids
Happiness is a Warm Blanket Charlie Brown HC by (W/A) Charles Schulz, Stephan Pastis, & Craig Schulz (A) Bob Scott, Vicki Scott, & Ron Zorman
For the first time ever, Charles Schulz's world-renowned comic strip, Peanuts, takes the stage as a graphic novel! Adapted from the new animated special, this timeless retelling takes us back to the neighborhood and features Linus's insecurities, Charlie Brown's kite-flying woes, Lucy's unrequited love for Schroeder, and everyone's favorite beagle, Snoopy, in a lively and colorful spin through Charles Schulz's imagination. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is certain to please old and new fans alike! $19.99
Lee: And so Peanuts continues sans Schulz. This should be very, very interesting. As a Peanuts purist, Snoopy looks a little off, but other than that I will be checking it out. I am far to curious to see what they do with the characters to skip it.
Gwen: I never understood the appeal of Peanuts. I was more of a Calvin and Hobbes kid myself. Of course I also really wanted my own talking stuffed tiger.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Proof 1-15

With Proof, the Alexander Grecian and Riley Rossmo Bigfoot tale being put out by Image, switching to a series of limited series format, a la Hellboy, I sat down and re-read the initial 28 issues that were intended to be an ongoing monthly series. While I remembered most of the overall structure of the stories therein, I found that details had escaped me. A lot of that had to do with the inability to keep to the hoped for monthly publishing schedule. Sometimes that was obvious even on the re-read because promised next issues actually showed up a couple issues later. But at least they weren’t tied into some other book that was jumping on from a big reveal that hadn’t happened in this book yet, even though the new launch was on the stands. For anyone considering jumping on to proof with the Endangered miniseries, and I recommend doing so, here’s what happened so far.

The first four issues were the arc entitled Goatsucker. The eponymous character of the arc is also known as a chupacabra. Naturally, these issues lay out the groundwork for the characters. We’re introduced to John Prufrock, the Bigfoot hero of the stories, who was discovered by the Lewis and Clark expedition when he was an adolescent. He was brought back to Washington and stayed with Thomas Jefferson for quite some time. His learning of manners from Jefferson lead to his sartorial habits that he still maintains. Nicknamed “Proof”, he’s a far better dresser than his former partner, Wayne, who schlubs around in oversized sweaters.

Proof and Wayne work at the Lodge, a joint US/Canadian venture in Washington state that houses cryptids. Cryptids are mythical creatures, fables and urban legends that are unable to or having difficulty with surviving in the modern world, overrun with humans as it is. The Lodge’s mission isn’t to capture or hunt the cryptids but to provide them shelter. There are malicious gnomes and fairies, a Dover demon, and numerous others. It’s a large, sprawling facility in a rural setting.

The Lodge is headed by Leander, who appears to have run it since its inception. Wayne cares for the cryptids and doesn’t do field work any longer.

Ginger Brown, an FBI agent, is introduced as a new partner for Proof after she’s saved by a golem (named Joe), during a NYC jewelry store robbery gone bad. While everyone else is hailing her the hero of the event, she steadfastly maintains it was the golem who saved the day. Because of her willingness to believe what she saw over what she’s been told is possible, the Lodge recruits her. During the course of Proof and Ginger’s first mission to seek out a chupacabra, also known as a Mexican Bigfoot, Elvis, a Minnesota sheriff is introduced. He’s the sheriff of the town where the chupacabra has arrived and is killing people. That’s what chupacabra’s do. They kill people, skin them, eat the innards, and wear the skin, which doesn’t deteriorate so that, other than an incision where the skin is re-sewn, the person appears to be the same person who was eaten. The primary clue that it’s not the person any longer is a different voice and language skills, but that’s usually not an issue because the chupacabra doesn’t interact with people who knew the deceased.

This chupacabra is seeking out Proof, which explains why she’s in Minnesota and not Mexico. Mi-Chen-Po has sent her on this mission, having her seek out a bigfoot called Gulliver, which is what Proof was called while working in a circus in the late 1800s.

A lot is going on in these four issues. Grecian and Rossmo really make a firm establishment with this opening arc. Personalities are quickly developed. There’s tension between Ginger and Proof because the latter hasn’t had a partner in quite awhile and doesn’t really want one. As a result, he tends to go off and leave Ginger behind. They also bring on Elvis as an agent at the Lodge after his mother dies from a stroke and is consumed by the chupacabra, who then takes on his mother’s skin. The chupacabra ends up residing at the Lodge and going by the name Nadine, which was Elvis’s mother’s name. Of course, Nadine first tries to poison Proof, but he’s immune to most poisons.

His reason for seeking her out was as much personal as a mission from the Lodge. Proof was alone when he was found by the Lewis and Clark expedition. He’s never met any others of his species. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, he seeks out possible family. This was why Mi-Chen-Po used Nadine to draw out Proof.

The next four issues are the single issue Sabbatical (which is technically part of the Goatsucker arc but seems separate to me) and the three issue The Company of Men. The first is really integral to the latter, so I’m considering them all together. Sabbatical really introduces Autumn Song, an employee of the Lodge who hates the cryptids, and Proof especially. She has numerous advanced degrees but doesn’t get to do field work. Instead she’s been doing administrative tasks. She’s also been torturing and experimenting on fairies and other smaller cryptids.

That’s not revealed in this issue, though. This issue address the pregnancy of a fairy, among whom childbirth is a fatal event. The males of the species are few in number, exceedingly large, and immobile, once they reach a certain age. The females are tiny and indiscreetly carnivorous. Because they’re so dangerous they’re hemmed in by iron, to which they are allergic, and the males and females kept separate to keep their numbers down. However, one female escaped and mated with one of the three males on the property. All the males sit immobile under a larger tree.

The Lodge discovers there must be a pregnant fairy when one of the males is found to be hollow. Apparently the mating results in a dead, hollowed out male. Don’t know if Grecian and Rossmo intended any broader metaphor there, but I’m sure some would argue it’s one that’s on point. The gestation is very short, and the female gives birth by being torn asunder by other female fairies and a bunch of gnomes. Not sure why the gnomes are involved, being a different species. Looks like they’re just as voracious as the fairies, though. I’m not entirely sure why the Lodge was worried, though. Most of the young that fly out after the sundering of the mother are eaten by birds. Only a few survive, one of which is male. They all go to live with Nadine.

During the course of that story Nadine was also having a confrontation with Elvis, who’s none too happy she’s wearing his mother’s skin. Turns out chupacabra’s have some pretty impressive fighting skills.

The Company of Men introduces Col. Dachshund, a former US military man who now spends his time traveling the world hunting down cryptids so he can eat them. Along with his sidekicks, the bookish Lawrence, and the twins who provide obese muscle, he’s currently in Africa, where he has hunted and killed two dinosaurs and is seeking a third, their offspring. He’s also hosting a party to consume the Dover demon and proof. To accomplish this he’s enlisted Autumn Song to take the Dover demon to Africa on a mission that she, Proof, Elvis and Ginger are sent on to find the colonel.

In a bit of triple agent intrigue, a member of the colonel’s staff calls Leander to let him know about the colonel and his activities. This is at the colonel’s instruction to bring Proof and the Dover demon to him. It’s also known to Leander that it’s at the colonel’s instruction, so Proof is aware that the colonel is seeking him out, though not aware that the Dover demon is being spirited along, too. When they arrive Proof is captured, Autumn goes over to the colonel’s side of the matter, and Ginger and Elvis are lost in the jungle with the baby dinosaur. Autumn’s true colors are eventually revealed to all, but not before some tense moments where she has an opportunity to eradicate one of the other agents who is unaware. The colonel and his crew are captured in the end, but Autumn escapes.

The Dover demon has prophetic abilities and tells Lawrence that he’ll be eaten by fairies. Proof breaks the colonel’s leg. With no law being broken in killing cryptids, the colonel and his fellows are taken to the Lodge to be held captive, surrounded by fairies who are only kept out of their residence by a ring of iron. No iron is anywhere within their residence so that they can’t leave by carrying iron with them, which is sufficient to ward off fairies. Nonetheless, the colonel immediately starts his people to work on trying to devise a means of escape.

Issue nine is a standalone called A Perfect Gentleman. It’s really more a transition than a standalone, actually. Elvis and Ginger embark on dating, which leads to Proof and Wayne taking Elvis into Seattle for a makeover. There’s a good bit of playing around by Rossmo, who gets to draw Proof in various hats and Elvis in several suits. Sort of a paper dolls thing. Proof is well known among the clothier set. Elvis loses his Presley inspired hairstyle, too. It’s also revealed that Wayne is gay when Elvis makes an unfortunate joke.

The issue introduces Isabella Bay, a psychologist for the Lodge who doesn’t live at the Lodge. She’s tasked with treating Ginger for her fear of what happened with the golem. The issue concludes with a leap into the next arc with a setting in rural Illinois, a sick boy in bed and his mother leaning out a window asking God to send angels to take the boy home.

Issues ten through fifteen are Thunderbirds are Go. I didn’t remember this arc being as long as it was and was surprised at its languid pace when re-reading it. While Proof is in Illinois, Ginger and Elvis go to NYC to wrap things up with her apartment and her one time boyfriend, Marc, who’s a police officer. She also intends to visit her former police commander, Belinda, but, at the airport she and Elvis are met by an elderly rabbi, who she’d seen when she’d had the incident with the golem previously.

The long and short of her part of the story is that the five of them end up in the sewers looking for Joe the golem, but Mi-Chen-Po has been seeking out Joe, too. He has some cryptid dog-like creatures with him that he sends off to fight alligators that are living in the sewers. This is a problem for the humans because the alligators were attacking them, but the cryptids are just as indiscriminate in attacking. Mi-Chen-Po wants to convince Joe that humans are only out to harm Joe and to come with him. Joe has been cared for by the rabbi’s family for many, many years, though. In the end he decides to go his own way and not go with either the humans or Mi-Chen-Po.

During the course of all that it’s revealed that Marc is an ass and an albino alligator takes his right hand. Belinda ends up working at the Lodge. Issue ten also has a back-up story that reveals Autumn’s torture of cryptids. Issue twelve has a back-up story that shows Nadine is smuggling nails into Colonel Dachshund’s residence. But the main story is the slow part.

Proof goes to Illinois alone. He rescues the sick boy from a giant bird but succumbs to the illness the boy has. The mother belongs to a sect led by a minister whose eyes are gone. They protect this flock of giant birds, which stay around the area because the mother is ancient and decrepit, living in a nearby cave. Because of Proof’s illness he’s first captured by the boy’s mother, but then escapes and calls for backup, but ends up in the mother bird’s cave, with the mother bird outside at the mouth of the cave and the flock circling overhead. The backup consists of Savage Dragon, Isabella and a couple of human agents, one of whom is torn to pieces. Savage Dragon is also torn in half, and much of the story ends up with Proof and Savage Dragon sitting next to each other in the cave while Proof overcomes the virus and Savage Dragon regenerates a lower half of his body (which makes me wonder if the lower half of his body generated a top half so that there was another one of him wandering around somewhere).

That sitting around really drags the story out. That story ends up with a flare gun being shot at the flock, once Proof and Savage Dragon are healed, which somehow sets the entire flock and the surrounding woods on fire, wiping out the thunderbirds. More interestingly, the rabbi and Mi-Chen-Po run into one another in the sewers and each try to convince Joe to go with him. What’s interesting about that is that the rabbi speaks Mandarin.

More to follow…