Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DC After Flashpoint – An Opinion

So DC has made their major announcement that they will be re-launching every title in September. Also every book will be available digitally the same day it is released to the comic stores.

Of course this blows up the DC post that Lee and I have coming next week, but opinions are impacted at points and time and I’m willing to let my old viewpoint be published after this new viewpoint.

Much of what I’m thinking is almost random so:

1) Long overdue. DC was languishing with their super hero line with only the Bat books holding my interest. Outside of those books I could have dropped every DC super hero title.

2) The direct market has become an anvil around the neck of the growth of the comic market. With the iPAd and other table style computers the digital age for comics has arrived. Of course charging $3 for a digital version is not going to garner great sales. DC has to realize that the digital market will be more of a new market place and we old print people will migrate slowly to that market place. The brick and mortar stores are in for some rough times and many will not survive.

3) Throwing the baby out with the bath water. I just have a bad gut feeling that Dick is back to being Nightwing and on a personal level I will be bummed. Of course with massive change everyone should be upset because we all have things we liked.

4) Didio is one of the major architects of this change. Isn’t this the same guy who got rid of Connor Hawke, Wally West, Ryan Choi and Kyle Rayner (for the most part) in favor of staying with the same stale characters.

5) The Silver Age started in 1960/1961 after 50 years I think we need to redo everything. It is a bold and daring plan and I applaud DC in taking the gamble. This was desperately needed. Now I only hope they allow their characters to grow and change going forward.

6) I’m glad I’m not a retailer anymore. How the heck do you order this stuff? The creative teams will be all important, but boy the changes better be heavy duty to get people’s attention. So far the announcements and rumors feel a little meek for this type of change. When COIE came out in 1985 they were going to radically shake up the DCU and chickened out. This time they better make it work.

7) Bottom line, tell good stories. Back when Loeb and Lee were on Batman the Hush storyline was a good story (at the start), the book sold like hotcakes. So bravo to all the changes but it will be a major flop if the stories suck.

8) Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League. My first thoughts, Johns hasn’t written any good stories for awhile, with Superman Secret Origin being his best stuff lately and Lee better be five issues ahead because he can’t make a monthly deadline. This appears to be the centerpiece for the new DCU and if it can’t hit a monthly schedule all the buzz dies in a heartbeat.

9) I bet DC has a trap door to pull the plug on all of this. I’m guessing that they have built in an escape hatch in case the entire idea flops. As an executive I would want to know what they plan to do if the idea is DOA. Let’s read Flashpoint carefully for the escape from this new reality.

10) If this succeeds Marvel will be forced to follow suit.

11) Didio, Harras and Johns track record is unimpressive. Johns is stuck on the Silver Age, Didio has editorially mandated stuff and screwed up titles like no one else (Outsiders jumps to mind as well as Sean McKeever on Teen Titans and McDuffie on the JLA) and Harras has done what exactly?

No matter all these thoughts, what this has done is has me excited about Flashpoint and excited about DC in general. I know they are going to disappoint me with Batman and I’m worried where Grant Morrison is in all of this, but I’m hopeful it will be good. Of course we will probably get a young hip Ollie Queen written by Scott Lobdell and art by generic super hero artist. Instead I want to see a new Green Arrow written by Jeff Lemire with art by Tim Sale, in other words make it different.

The Week of May 25 In Review

This is the last two weeks in review as I have read a ton of books to get catch up since I was gone for a week. I have to mention the Kindle reading experience was a great one. I downloaded the Foundation Trilogy and a collection of Phillip Dick’s work before I left. The Kindle is lightweight and easy to carry and has a charge that last a long time for just reading purposes. I had never used one before. My wife loaned me hers and I have to say I can see the appeal. Printed books are in trouble or at least have to adjust to lower print runs. It was my best friend as I had long flights to go to Greece and back. Okay enough about me; let’s get into the comics for the last two weeks.

I usually like to try and start on a high note, so let’s start with Uncanny X-Force #10. Marvel is doing a fantastic job with pumping out this series what seems like every three weeks or so. Rick Remender and various artists are doing a great job keeping the book consistent and the quality is high. The pace of the book is also well done. Last issue we saw Archangel take over Warren’s body. Now many series would drag out this story forever, but in one issue the rest of the team figures out what is happening and managed to stop Archangel, a little late, but saved one person’s life. The team has to solicit the help of the Beast from the Age of Apocalypse and is now journeying to that reality in order to try and save Warren. Also we learn Archangel is the heir to Apocalypse, so when they killed him they actually set this problem in motion. Now the $4 tab was an issue, but they reprinted the entire issue of Iron Man 2.0 #3 and hooked me onto that series, so well done by Marvel’s marketing department. Marvel best super hero series right now is Uncanny X-Force.

Strange Adventures #1 and only hit the stores this week. An $8 anthology of science-fiction based stories under the Vertigo banner. Very hit and miss as are all anthologies, but I would certainly support this type of book. My favorite story was the Ultra the Multi-Alien story by Jeff Lemire. Jeff told a touching story about a man radically changed and what is was doing to his former life in about 8 pages. This story also made me even more ticked off that DC has never bothered reprinting some of their great science fiction material from the fifties and late sixties. While, except for Adam Strange, much of it is dated and is a product of its times, there was some great artwork and some stories that still retain some charm that seldom see the light of day.

The Mighty Thor #2 was in my stack of books and after issue #1 I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue with this book but the story had more cohesion this issue. Galactus is coming to Earth to eat Asgard or at least the seed of the World Tree. While Fraction is moving the story at a slow pace the art of Olivier Copiel and Mark Morales on inks makes the pace tolerable at this point. I keep waiting for Fraction to wow me and he has yet to deliver. The biggest problem I have is his pacing and of course that the singe issues do not always stand up on their own accord. Too many writers are creating their own mini-epics and write an arc and not a single issue of a book that fits into a bigger story. You can’t always do a single issue that stands alone, but it can be done better than most writers do it today.

As you can see this week I’m back to more generalized comments because my new preferred method and what I liked, what I didn’t like and overall gets too long while trying to cover so many books. One day I may put some consistency into this column’s format.

Walking Dead #85 hit the stands and I think this book is suffering and may have jumped the shark. This issue, for no rational reason, Rick is confessing what he did to his girl friend out loud. A random person hears him and he swears them to secrecy. It was nonsensical and an obvious way to allow the information to be learned by the rest of the group for some future conflict. Kirkman has made no secret that he never had the book planned out for a long period of time and is now making it up as he goes along. He also moved from Kentucky to LA to work on Season 2 of the TV show of his comic. There is a board game and video game coming out for Walking Dead I believe. All of this success is well earned for Kirkman and I’m happy to see him cash in on his success. I read where he would often pay the artist, but garner nothing for him in the early years. So to see someone of his ilk and caliber do well is great. Still I get the feeling he is now writing more for shock value on his books then giving us left turns that in hindsight made perfect sense. Whatever the reason the book has fallen down in my view, but still a series I will follow. When you are riding at the top it is easier to fall down.

A note on Avengers #13, which I decided to read as it was well received by a friend of mine. This was a talking head book by Bendis where the Avengers are apparently being interviewed like a reality TV show and we are filling in the story as we go along. First off Spider-Man is portrayed like an imbecile in this book and I can’t accept that within the main MU continuity that a major character should be portrayed so at odds with the way he is in his own book. In the rest of the MU Spider-Man is the smart guy who is a wise ass and cracks jokes. In this book he is a joke. Wolverine is shown passing out from drinking, where it has been heavily documented that due to his healing factor he can’t get drunk. Finally the whole concept is absurd and one of the reasons why Marvel comics get on my nerves because the base idea is that super heroes are the reality stars of the MU. In my book reality stars are a joke and therefore it makes a joke out of these characters being heroes.

The War on Green Lanterns came out with Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine, comprising issues Green Lantern #66,Green Lantern Corps #60 and Green Lantern Emerald Warrior #10. The war is a serviceable event and an okay read, but nothing that will go down as a great story or arc. I have no clue what Krona’s plan is and don’t care. Mogo, the planet lantern, is destroyed and the GL Corps has been freed. Now the entire corps is ready to face off against Krona and the entity possessed guardians. It lacks impact because so much has been changing within the mythos of the GL Corps, that I no longer have a real handle on what the heck is what. I hope we can take a deep breath after this is over and establish a new status quo and just tell some good stories again soon.

Alright to try and wrap things up for this catch-up week some short and brief comments:
American Vampire #15 - Great as always and Rafael Albuquerque continues to make his art better and better.

FF #4 – Interesting, but for gosh sakes can we get to a conclusion on a plot point resolution eventually.

Batman Gates of Gotham #1 (of 5) – Good opening and a cool idea of taking a lot of recent years retro-cons and making them into a more cohesive history.

Batman and Robin #23 – Judd Winick kills on the Red Hood. I thought this arc would bore me and I was wrong.

Captain America #618 – A good series, but like Hickman, Brubaker needs to pace his stories better. At least Ed has conclusions along the way, but the arcs move very slowly.

Well that is a wrap for this week and last week’s books. I know I left a bunch of books out, but when reading over 50 titles to catch up, the cut to make the review or remarks list gets a little tougher. Onto the list for this week that includes all the Flashpoint books. After having a good experience with issue #1 of Flashpoint and hearing all the rumors of what DC is doing after Flashpoint (which amount to the entire DCU line being re-launched) I have decided to indulge in checking out all the Flashpoint first issues. The list is Adventure Comics, Flashpoint, Flashpoint Abin Sur The Green Lantern, Flashpoint Batman Knight of Vengeance, Flashpoint Secret Seven, Flashpoint World of Flashpoint, House of Mystery, Izombie, Jonah Hex, Secret Six, Superboy, Sweet Tooth, Wonder Woman, Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing X-Men, Criminal The Last of the Innocent, Fear Itself, Herc, Hulk, Thunderbolts, Uncanny X-Force, Halcyon, Who Is Jake Ellis, BPRD Dead Remembered, Hellboy The Fury, Solomon Kane Red Shadows, Witchfinder Lost & Gone Forever, Green Hornet Year One, Grim Ghost, Phoenix and Wulf. Hey wait a minute aren’t five week months suppose to be a little lighter in volume, maybe later on in June.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Congorilla – 1992 – The Mini-Series Review

So DC killed Congorilla in 1992, a terrible tragedy and a horrible mistake. The mini-series was by Steve Englehart, Neil Vokes and Jay Geldhof. I had to laugh as Dick Giordano was the Editorial Director and Tom Peyer was the editor of this book. The amount of talent and almost more of an indie type talent line up was amazing. I can’t imagine DC having this type of line up on a book today and more is the pity.

Of course now I’m confused since Congorilla is in the JLA and he died in 1992. I’m confused as to how he come back to life. Of course, once again I’m going ape sh*t over DC and their infernal monkey business about reprints. Where is the collection of the original Congorilla material? It doesn’t have to high end, but darn it, if Dark Horse can make those Gold Key collections work, DC has tons of stuff that would be more fun than a barrel of monkeys to see published again.

The series itself was an interesting story. I’m guessing no one had used this character for nigh on twenty years and probably Englehart had a neat idea for the character and then had to sell it to DC. Today he would have made some sort of character that was close to Congorilla and done this as an Image book or something, but it worked great with the character that inspired Engelhart.

Back in the fifties and early sixties all the comic companies left had their science fiction books, war book and of course jungle adventures. Congo Bill was straight out of the stereo type that we had then as the white hunter who comes to Africa. As near as I can tell he was a decent sort and the tribal king gave Bill a ring to switch bodies with the golden gorilla and became Congorilla. Bill also had a ward with Janu and apparently raised the boy. I’m thinking all man who never married had wards back in the forties and fifties, no one has wards anymore. Later on there was some point that Bill decided to stop being a man and switched with Congorilla forever leaving his body to roam about in the jungle with a gorilla mind. How much of this is “canon” and how much Steve Englehart made up on the fly is unimportant. It is also the beauty of taking this type of character and using him, no one cares about him and probably only two or three people would know his “actual” history.

Steve then crafts a story where Janu is now a lousy drug runner and manages to switch his mind with Congorilla. Bill in Janu’s body gets mangled by the bad guys after Janu and Janu because a ruthless drug dealer running his world as Congorilla. Bill ultimately gets back into his old body, which they make a point of saying how old he is and he is the ancient age of 56, WHICH IS VERY YOUNG (I’m very close to that ancient age). Bill fights Janu to the death and kills the Congorilla body. Bill and the Africa priestess who helped him run off into the sunset.

I get the feeling it was Steve saying we should all be ourselves type of thought, but he killed Congorilla. Now people say I have an obsession with monkeys and I just say I like them. Still I have to say I was deeply offended by the cavalier nature in which the actual mind of Congorilla was treated. When first given the ring Bill was suppose to only switch places for an hour. Then Bill gets tired of his life and just takes over the Gorilla body. Nice way to treat the body that has saved you’re a@@ a thousand times. Then he lets his body that thinks it is a gorilla, roam the woods and fend on its own without being an actual gorilla. What a pal! Geez would you treat your dog or cat that way? Finally Bill kills the Congorilla body leaving, I guess, Congorilla’s mind in Janu’s body. Not very nice of Bill as he and his lady love ride off into the sunset and poor Congorilla is a young human.

Now a quick search on Congorilla’s history never reveals how he came back to life, but next up is an old Vertigo series called Congo Bill, which should be a wildly different take on the character.

It’s fun to re-read this type of stuff. Of course I had owned this and sold it long ago and now I picked it up at a sale for $5 or less and will send it to someone else again, but I think there is true beauty in sharing this material. Of course I’m sure few have the same affection for the big golden ape that I do.

PS - Whatever blog member wants this let me know as if I hear from no one I will send it out next week.

Detective Comics #877 – An Example of How to Make Comics Great

Scott Snyder is doing such a great job with Detective Comics that every issue can almost be my default best book of the week. A fair amount of it goes to the fact that right now DC has made Dick Grayson into Batman and that simple change has meant a world of difference for me. For years I have spoken about the need to make real changes to the characters and the best way to do that is to change who is under the mask.

I believe that the print comics’ medium is going to become a thing of the past. It is not that it won’t survive, because it will, but it may never be what it once was in its heyday. There are many reasons for that such as the fact that comics stayed a dime as Time, Newsweek and all were going up in price. This was why comics were isolated to the back of newsstands or the spinner racks. That led the direct market, which led to comics going even more out of the public eye. Plus in the US comics have always had the taint of being for kids no matter how much they have changed over the years. Now the printed comic is a boutique market place item that is slowly dying. Some of the signs are the constant reprinting of the same material in different formats so suckers like Lee and I will buy the same material two, three or maybe more times (I think I have not gotten the same material in four formats yet). Other signs are the joy when a comic has a sales number of 100,000 for an issue; heck the worse TV show in the nation probably gets more viewers. The digital market place and other factors also play into it. To me the one overriding factor is the soap opera nature of comics. No matter what you can come back ten years later and all the same players are still there. It is a nice safe comfortable womb that you can leave at anytime knowing when you come back all will be the same. The illusion of change is king. My hope is that declining sales, creators unwilling to bring new characters into a universe, since ownership is all important, will force companies to be daring and allow change to occur within the books. Detective is giving us a hint of what that is like.

In this issue we have Batman having an adventure. It is often subtle but Scott is writing a different Batman. Dick does not react the same way Bruce does. Dick relationships are different. A great example is when Tim Drake is giving him a hard time about being smitten with Sonia Branch. Dick states the radio is breaking up and Tim says it can’t happen with 5G and then Dick clicks off the radio. You can feel the brotherly love between the two. Dick is willing to admit that he might have made a mistake. The character can have the same adventures, it is just how the hero reacts is going to be different. We can’t assume the outcome and therefore the book becomes fresh and new.

Of course having Jock as the artist sure as heck doesn’t hurt. Jock is no slouch when it comes to the art department and I think it is great that he and Scott have teamed up for this book. Jock has beautifully designed pages. Page by page the ebbs of flows of eight panel pages, one panel pages, 3 panels, 4 panels, whatever and the flow of the story is always smooth as silk. Scott is already a master and knowing when to shut up and when to have the characters talk. Plus Scott seems to respect the characters and they never feel like they are acting out of character.

Is this the beginning of a trend? Is DC willing to let change actually happen? It would be funny if they led the way in that cycle as they had done a great job with having Wally as the Flash, Connor as Green Arrow and Kyle as Green Lantern, but overwhelming nostalgia made them recycle the worn out silver age version of those characters which led to more stagnation. Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four are all worn out characters and concepts. Using the Ultimate Universe to try and spice things up didn’t work that well, because you still had the warm comfort of the womb in the regular MU. The companies need to be bold and daring. When someone dies, let them stay dead and move on. We can always do elseworld stories or a tale from the past, but for continuity going forward when I see a character die at the end of the book, my question should be who will replace them, not how are they going to be resurrected.

Detective Comics is showing us the way and giving this fan a fantastic series and a great read and one I’m sure I will read again and again. If it only last a year or so, I will take what I can get because I can always just drop the book if it is stagnant again. The final summation – Detective Comics is a top series and needs to be on your list.

Not so much a review as a celebration of how to make comics new and vibrant again. Maybe, just maybe I can be proven wrong and in five years sales of printed comics will be higher than now.

Also today is Memorial Day a day set aside to remember those who died in the service to our country. Take a moment to remember those who have fallen and died because regardless of our politics or whether we believe a war was right or wrong, these men and women deserved to be remembered.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Words and Phrases

I’ve been a parent for awhile now yet I am continually surprised by the things that come out of mouth. Don’t get me wrong, deep down I knew it was inevitable that I would say the same things that my mother said to me but it doesn’t make it any less surprising when it occurs. Even more surprising than the ‘don’t make me come up there’’s are the things that I NEVER thought I would have to say. What kind of things might I be forced to say ? Well, I had the chance to say some new things just the other night.

The kids were getting ready for bed and I was talking to Boy while he dried off after his shower. It’s ordinary chit chat about Pokemon, how good the Red Sox are, how good the Bruins are, how good Judge Dredd comics are, you know, the usual stuff. It's at this point that I see the most interesting thing. Going in and out of his nose is a booger. Yep, it's like a whack-a-mole in one nostril. Wheeeze out, and there, like a flag in a strong breeze, is a booger. Breath in, no booger. Breath out. Booger.

I do the only thing a parent can do, I squeal Ahhhh Hey Suess (literally so I don't use the Lord's name in vain) what is that?
What's What Dad? Boy asks.
Whadda ya mean what’s what ? Ya got a booger flying in an out of yer nose. It's disgusting.

And then it dawned on him. He realized that he had finally disgusted his father. His eyes get wide like saucers, a malicious glint entered his eye, and sudden he's breathing in and out as fast as he can. Booger, nothing, booger, nothing, booger. It was nasty.

So, again acting like the parent that I am, still squealing like a little girl, Ew, stop it. Now you're just trying to be disgusting. For the record, that is a phrase from my childhood.

In a voice that was somewhere between defeated because he had to stop his fun, and glee because he had grossed me out so much, he says Fine, I'll stop but I want to see it.

Let me answer the obvious question, no I don’t know why he wanted to look at it. Anyway, he leans into the bathroom mirror to see the booger going in and out. But, after all the blowing whatever molecular bonds attaching the booger to his nose have weakened. So when he gives and extra strong blow, it LAUNCHES out of his nose and onto his upper lip.

I am ready to vomit. And maintaining my sterling parently voice, squeal, Aaahhhh it's on your face now. Ick.

I changed diapers that disgusted me less than this. Maybe it’s because he’s older and I expect him to know better, but I never thought I would say the following :
1) Stop, don't clean your face with your finger
2) No, don't use the towel either
3) How about a kleenex?? Don't you think a kleenix is a better idea.
and finally,
4) Yes you can show your Mom before getting the kleenex.

Other than the first one, I never thought I would say any of those things.

Ok, maybe I've just been waiting for the right time to say the last one....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Recent Reads

Did you hear the most exciting news of the week? Stan"The Man" Lee is going to be the guest of honor at this year's Baltimore Comic-Con! I'm super-stoked about this as I thought I'd never see him in person...EVER! I have the perfect item for him to sign too, my first-edition Marvel Masterworks No. 1, which contains signatures of various creators (including John Romita, Dan Slott, Mike Weiringo, Kurt Busiek, etc.) and some nice head-shot sketches by Erik Larsen. The problem is that I bet the line to see Stan will be tremendously long and they'll probably have to hide him in his own room somewhere, so you wouldn't even get to see him from a distance on the main floor. This year's Con will break ALL attendance records. Mark the date -- 2011 August 20-21 -- less than three months away (too soon if you ask me, but not to be missed).

Okay, that had nothing to do with today's post. Although, technically, I did recently read about it an e-mail yesterday. No, today's post is my highly sporadic version of Jim's Week-In-Review, Thomm's monthly The List, and Mrs. Gwen's Fistful. Basically, I try to talk about a lot of books -- briefly. I was going to try a countdown to the best issue, but to be honest some of the stuff is a little mixed bag and I would deliberate on it too much (and this is supposed to be the "quickie" post -- yeah, right). So, I'm going to go with that old standby -- alphabetical order.

AL -- The All-New! Batman: The Brave and the Bold #7

This was a fantastic flashback within a flashback story that explains Batman's attitude and costume change from the grim-and-gritty black and gray black bat only to the blue and gray yellow-oval bat. The catalyst for the change is the Golden Age Green Lantern (who also used to operate out of Gotham City). Just like in the FCBD story, there are some great page layouts. Yeah, it's a "kiddie" book, but it's still a GREAT comic series.

AM -- The Amazing Spider-Man #661 & 662

Here's a mixed bag offering. These things came out almost right on top of each other, weekly or bi-weekly. I guess they're just treading water to get to issue #666. Not exactly a fill-in, but close. Spidey spends a day substitute teaching at the Avengers Academy.

Now, #661 was really funny, especially when Striker explains how Spider-Man could have still gotten paid without disclosing his secret identity back when he was a celebrity performer. It's a total burn and Peter really reacts to it, because he's being plagued with self-doubt (more than normal) by the Psycho-Man. The first part ends with all the kids chanting "Hate, Hate" with their sites set on Spidey. There's also a great eight-page backup with stellar art by Javier Pulido showing Peter going through a typical day and a To-Do list. In a bit of discontinuity, there's a panel with Psycho-Man that has NOTHING to do with the main feature.

The second part of "The Substitute" in #662 was resolved fairly predictably. Reilly Brown did the penciling for both, but this installment seemed a little rushed. The two-page Infested piece is really not giving me any enthusiasm for Spider-Island. The saving grace of the book was the Magnetic Man back-up feature. Peter helps a former small time villain recently released from prison, and tempted to return to crime, by giving him a job at Horizon Labs. It did a nice job illustrating the difficulties that come with being six-years out of society. Peter's actions reminded me of things Batman has done over the years trying to rehabilitate people.

FF -- FF #4

Barry Kitson draws a great Thing (he seems a little too tall though, must have been the latest mutation)! I did like the round-table dialogue concerning the other Reeds and how they treat Doctor Doom. The rest of the book...Well, let's just say I want to like this title more than I do, so no change since last time.

GO -- Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #3

Best issue so far! We're finally starting to get some more plot and I liked all the little characterizations of the people encountering the Monsters, from red-necks to this "reality's" version of the President and Lady Ga-Ga. Especially the jubilant South Korean border patrol soldier, who says "Suck It" to his enemies, when Godzilla chooses to stomp on North Korea instead. There was a nice bait-and-switch with the full-size twin girls, making you suspect a certain friendly caterpillar-ish creature was going to emerge from the egg, when instead you got the hideous Battra. My favorite part -- a quick glimpse of the real twin miniature girls who sing "Mo-th-ra"!

IN -- Incredible Hulks #628, 627 #629

Yes, I listed those out of order on purpose. I totally missed issue 627 and ended up reading 628 first. It was a fun ride continuing from the great 626 featuring "Mann"-favorite artist, Tom Grummett. The story actually read fine skipping an issue, but I'm glad I got the whole arc (too bad Grummett's off with the next issue). Tyrannus was trying to unleash Pandora's Box, which was said to contain Hope, with the intention of making the world a better place under his rule of course. Turns out Hope alone and abandoned for ages turns sour and angry. When it's unleashed the Hulk sucks it in and swallows the force, absorbing it into his system. It was cool. What wasn't cool was Betty's reaction, which I'll paraphrase for you --" Oh, boo hoo. I can't take it anymore. Your life as the Hulk (and a hero) is too stressful for me (after nearly 50 years), I guess I'll have to become the She-Rulk forever." And She does. And she off with Tyrannus again. Just...like...at...the...beginning...of..the...ARC!!! C'mon people! I guess you could have skipped the whole thing as nothing really changed, except there's no chance for her to be Betty anymore. I still liked it though and plan on following Pak's run to it's conclusion.

KI -- Kirby: Genesis #0

WOW! What a great looking book and a promising series. Busiek and Ross together again, bringing to life some of Kirby's most...ummm, interesting creations. Seriously, this is the stuff Jack never really got much use out of, but these guys are going to mine it for all it's worth. Galactic Bounty Hunters this ain't. Kurt uses Kirby's drawing in honor of the Pioneer 10 space probe and his feelings about a select few, giving away way too much detail about mankind as the premise. The probe ends up accelerating at a phenomenal speed (Sorry Einstein) and travels to a remote part of the universe where something receives the message and then answers...explosively and creatively -- sending back a whole slew of Kirby characters to Earth. It's a kooky concept, but it's certainly Kirby-esque. We've got a few regular characters, including a star gazing boy named Kirby to help ground the series. It's only a half issue with tons of interesting back matter in the rear. Ross does the thumbnail layouts and paints some of the images, while Jack Herbert does the pencils with Neal Adams like quality. The colors by Vinicius Andrade are incredible too. Best of all the price was only $1 for this introduction. Don't Ask, Just Buy It!

EXCELLENT -- This may well be the next buzz book!

PL -- Planet of the Apes #2

If you read my review of issue 1, you already know how much of I love this series. The second issue is just as good. Tensions continue to mount between Ape and Human over the Lawgiver's assassination. More great characters are added and Skintown is going to be invaded by the White Troop in search of the killer...a day early! It's not going to be pretty, but it will be pretty exciting.

SP -- Spider-Girl #6 & 7

I had dropped the book, leaving issue 5 on the stands. It's going to be canceled after issue 8 anyway. So, I wasn't even looking out for issue 6, which I discovered a few weeks late. All but two pages were drawn by Clayton Henry and it was the closest thing to the quality of issue 1 I had seen. It was great. Spider-Girl takes down the Hobgoblin on the "cheap" versus Spidey's multi-million dollar sonic dampening suit. It's really a shame this series has had such a sporadic artist rotation, because when Henry draws it, I love it. At least 50% of issue 7 was drawn by Henry, co-starring the desperate reader grabbing Spider-Man. I guess you have to use full scripts, when you never know if the artist is going to be able to finish the whole book or not.

VE -- Venom #3

Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was so tempted to drop it. Like Greg, I liked the concept in ASM, but the execution in the monthly has been poor. I was interested, because of Flash Thompson, but the focus hasn't really been on him enough -- just Venom, being Venom. One more issue to go before this arc is over. I think I can hold out a little longer -- maybe.

Apparently Marvel is trying take full advantage of any interest in Thor, because they're charging $3.99 for 22 pages of story. Issue 2 looked really interesting, especially since I've been catching up on the JMS HC's and the Fraction Worldtree arc from the library. But that's price gouging at it's worst!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everybody!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Alternately speaking

Alternate realities are a tried and true part of superhero comics. From the imaginary stories of the Silver Age to the grim and gritty possible futures of the 80’s, they provide creators to play around with these characters that an ongoing publishing schedule typically won’t let them do.

With Flashpoint and to a lesser extent Age of X, 2011 looks to be the year of the big alternate reality crossover.

Now, a successful alternate reality hinges on two important things, the presentation of some different takes on familiar characters that are still grounded in something about the character to be believable and an interesting, ugh, flashpoint on which the history we all know changed.

What Geoff Johns is doing with Flashpoint is cute, honestly. But if want to see an alternate reality story done right, you’ve got to go to the book that did it first and did it best: Uncanny X-Men.

Days of the Future Past is probably one of the best modern comic book stories ever written and it is probably THE best alternate reality story in an ongoing monthly title. It presented a horrible future that was intrinsically linked to the book’s premise of mutant rights. And best of all, it was genuinely shocking. We forget this now, because like anything good in comics in the 80’s it was copied so often that we associate it more with its terrible clones than the actual story itself.

All the X-Men got killed in the future, not by some futuristic new villain, but by the Sentinels, something we saw all the time. In the present, the X-Men fought to stop the event that caused the future and even when they won, it felt more like they delayed everything as opposed to stopped it.

Perhaps the most effective alternate reality storyline came about a decade later out of the same book when they launched Age of Apocalypse as the X-Men’s summer crossover. Xavier’s crazy son went back in time and killed his dad by accident, changing history so that the X-Men got formed (by Magneto!) too late to stop Apocalypse from conquering the world. Characters were radically different, but it all made a certain amount of sense when you looked at the world they had created around them. Best of all, they sold the new reality very well. Just like Flashpoint, they launched a million titles to show you how our favorite characters were doing in this new world. Unlike Flashpoint, they cancelled their previously existing titles and it was in the age before the internet, so we didn’t know what was happening in a few months. How long was this going on? Was it permanent? It was pretty cool.

The world building that went into Age of Apocalypse was pretty thorough as well, but what set it apart from almost any alternate reality story I’ve read was how it treated the main characters. Most alternate reality stories have a character who either remembers the real world or a character from the real world. Other characters may or may not have their memories of the real world restored. Age of Apocalypse didn’t really do this. The time traveling Bishop was trying to get the X-Men to fix anything, but he was now old and crazy. No other characters ever got their memories of the real world back. They just believed anything had to be better than the world they lived in. This lent some real weight to their struggle to restore reality, because they were effectively killing themselves and everything they loved.

The hardest thing to do about an alternate reality storyline is making readers care about a world that is probably going to be gone in a few issues. No title has done this as consistently well as X-Men, because when this book is at its best, its not focusing on plot gymnastics, its focusing on characters. Look at Mike Carey’s Age of X storyline. Even though it was a creation of Legion (the same character responsible for Age of Apocalypse), the whole reality was his fractured mind’s attempt to make him a hero and every hero involved in the story is being forced to cope with who they were in the alternate reality.

Avengers and Flash and whoever can try to unseat it, but X-Men remains comics’ alternate reality king.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scalped 13-17, Bad Mothers

A Special Thursday Post by Thomm...

Rather than my usual of looking at a long arc of a book, or even its entire run, I'm going to take a look at the Bad Mothers chapter of Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's master work. It's akin to looking at just one chapter in an unfinished book, but it's one of my favorite arcs in the story and one of the most pivotal. It can be viewed as a short story all its own, too.

From the beginning Gina Bad Horse is dead, found along a road not far from her abandoned car. Reading previous issues lets the reader know that she was returning to the reservation from visiting Lawrence in prison when she was murdered, but that's not necessary for understanding what's happening. The story opens with Red Crow sitting by her body, reflecting, while tribal police are hanging back, waiting for his orders.

Meanwhile, Dash Bad Horse is his usual kick ass self, busting meth houses and employing heavy physical threats to get information out of suspects. In this particular meth house a body is found. The woman is a naked, strangled meth addict. Her five kids, the oldest of whom is 12, are in a room next door. Her name is Pamela Bittan, and she's our second dead mother.

Dash is entirely unmoved when eventually told of his mother's death, but Red Crow is determined to find the killer. Dash is moved, in time, by Pamela Bittan's death because 1) it's his case, and 2) Shelton, the oldest Bittan kid, ends up befriending Dash when he comes to the precinct every day to find out of the killer's been caught.

It doesn't take long to figure out Bittan's killer is Deisel, a blonde guy who claims he's part Kickapoo and, as it turns out, is an undercover agent for the FBI, as is Dash. Of course, that's a problem. Agent Nitz, who's in charge of the FBI on the reservation, doesn't want Deisel arrested or his cover blown. He doesn't care about Deisel killing a meth addict, or that Deisel's a meth addict himself. He just wants to take down Red Crow and any of his cohorts (including Gina) who Nitz holds responsible for the deaths of two FBI agents in the '70s.

Aaron sprinkles in a bit of back story with a flashback to Dash's childhood when Gina is trying to teach him about Lakota lore. They're visiting a cave that was the entrance to the inner world where the Lakota lived in happiness and plenty until a trickster lured them to the surface with promises of abundant resources that didn't exist, even before the Europeans came and killed off the bison. Dash doesn't want to hear it. There's also a scene when he's a teenager where Gina has acquired some arrowheads for Dash's collection. He ignores her, continuing to read a magazine and listening to whatever's eminating from the headphones he only briefly takes off at Gina's insistence.

This back story meshes with Dash's developing relationship with Shelton. Dash takes him out and teaches him to shoot a pistol. Dash takes him camping. After learning he's inherited Gina's house, the home in which he was raised, Dash finds the arrowheads he once collected nicely presented in a shadow box, something Gina had obviously done for him but he had never seen. When Shelton's relatives come down from Canada to take him and his siblings, Dash gives Shelton the shadow box.

The problem with getting Deisel, though, is that he's in Nebraska, out of the reservation. The local sheriff, a rather stereotypical bigot named Karnow, won't cooperate, in part because the bars and liquor stores in his town, White Haven (which is more than a little heavy handed on Aaron's part), are losing business since Red Crow opened his casino, which sells alcohol. Red Crow was supposed to only allow out of town visitors to drink at the casino, not the local drunks who keep White Haven afloat when they come across the border. See, other than the casino, the reservation is dry.

Unfortunately, Shelton runs away from his relatives and trades the arrowheads to some drunks for a ride and a gun. He gets to Nebraska and tries to kill Deisel but isn't a very good shot. Deisel shoots him dead. Dash pulls over the drunks on a DUI and sees the arrowheads. He immediately heads to Nebraska when the drunks tell him of the trade for the gun, but Shelton is dead already. Deisel is under arrest, on his knees with his hands behind his head, but Dash tries to kill him. Shots to the shoulder and leg don't get the job done, and Sherrif Karnow kicks Dash's gun out of his hand before he can get off any more shots.

This is probably the only heroic thing Karnow has ever done and is probably more motivated by animus toward Dash and Red Crow. Aside from his anger about lost business in his town, in their earlier meeting Dash had called out Karnow on his alleged service in combat in Vietnam, as Dash's jump instructor was a member of the unit Karnow claimed and that unit was out of Vietnam 2 years before Karnow claimed he was there. On top of that, Dash corrected Karnow that High Noon starred Gary Cooper, not John Wayne.

Dash ends up back at his childhood home, broken. He doesn't attend the funeral for his mother.

In the meantime, Mr Brass, an agent of the Hmong gangster who has bankrolled the casino, has arrived in town. He's a sadist who's missing an arm. He's old enough to have been involved in the Vietnam War and that's probably where he learned his torture skills. He's there to make sure the Hmong money is not being wasted and to force Red Crow to toe the line.

Of course, there's suspicion run rampant throughout. Red Crow thinks Shunka might have killed Gina, though Red Crow had ordered no one to harm her. Nitz and Dash think Red Crow killed her. The tribal council just wants the whole thing to go away, coming right after the opening of the casino as it has and being bad for business. Red Crow ends up assigning Officer Falls Down, probably the only honest cop in the tribal police, to find out who killed Gina, giving him blanket authority and resources. Gina's murder is not solved in this arc, though we the readers are clued in in the epilogue whrre Catcher is doing his best Lady Macbeth.

Aaron also includes small appearances by important characters such as Carol Red Crow and Dino Poor Bear. Carol's in the throes of her addictions and mostly shows up in jail for Dash to get her released. Dino's working as a janitor at the casino and observes enough to see that Red Crow, upset at his treatment at the hands of the FBI and the murder of Gina, stomps a guy who was found trying to play weighted dice at craps.

There's a lot going on in these five issues and they've set up all the issues that have come since. The previous 12 issues had established who the basic players were, but it's the murder of Gina that sets the rest of the story in motion and underlies nearly all the chapters that have come since then. It's tight writing that puts together an excellent shove into the meat of what will happen. The only resolved story in this chapter is the murders of Pamela and Shelton Bittan, and even those are only resolved in the sense that we know who did it. We don't have any resolution of what happens to Deisel, other than his being taken into custody with a couple holes in him courtesy of Dash.

That's one line. We also have the line of Nitz being so angry at Red Crow and Gina. We have the line of the Hmong involvement in the casino and the torturer they've sent to monitor things. We have the relationship between Red Crow and Shunka, which involves a lot of trust, but now some misgivings. We have Red Crow's developing relationship with Dash. We have Red Crow's ongoing failed relationship with his daughter, Carol. Most importantly, we have the unresolved murder of Gina.

There's not much in the way of human kindness in this story and what there is results in hard feelings. Dash befriends Shelton, only to find him murdered. Red Crow feebly reaches out to Carol, only to have her yell at the unknown caller. Gina's kindness from the grave in, both in leaving the house to Dash and the creation of the shadow box for his arrowhead collection, is met with Dash's disdain and confusion. The mother he has despised for so long did something kindly for him and he has no ability to react to that with any kind of acceptance.

Mostly this is a story of hard people in hard circumstances. Kindness isn't in their composition and when it does show up, it has to be pushed away. That sums up the series so far and is what makes this chapter so great at setting it all in motion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indies Preview Review for July Part 3 of 3

The conclusion...

Pure Imagination Publishing
Comics on Trial Vol. 02 SC by (W) Greg Theakston
A fascinating look at the comics and the courts. The DC vs. Victor Fox suit testimony (including Will Eisners) is featured, as well at the final report of the 1954 Congressional Hearings into the Comics. Also featured are the depositions in the Kirby Estate vs. Disney/Marvel trial, including Roy Thomas, John Romita, Larry Leiber, and Stan Lee. $25.00
Lee: This is for the real die hard comic geeks out there! I read a bunch of the depositions when they were posted online and it was excellent. Never in a million years did I believe a legal deposition could be exciting but it was. Full of insight about the comic industry, how it works and the people who were in it. This is a must have for comic historians.
Thomm: Definitely for the historian rather than the aficionado. The title doesn’t match up with the content exactly. The title makes me think of government persecution but a lot of this is about internecine squabbles. Still, it’s hard to get around how the creators were stiffed when discussing comics history.

Steve Ditko: Angry Apes ‘n’ Leapin Lizards SC by (W) Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko's Angry Apes n Leapin Lizards collects the artwork produced by Steve Ditko for Charlton Comics during the time of his tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, including science-fiction and fantasy work, with guest appearances by Gorgo and Konga. Theakstonized for maximum reproduction. $25.00
Lee: If you love Ditko’s art then you will love this book. These books are oversized and contain some of the best b&w reproductions of art out there. It’s just too bad the stories are mind bendingly stupid. Yes, I have some of the originals so I know first hand how bad the stories are. But the art is pretty.
Thomm: Pretty doesn’t compensate for stupid, be it people or comics. I’ll pass.

Renegade Arts Entertainment
Shame Vol. 01: Conception GN by (W) Lovern Kindzierski (A) John Bolton
The first volume of a powerful horror trilogy from an all-star creative team! Have you ever wondered what the cost of a selfish wish might be? A good woman, Virtue, is faced with that dilemma when she finds that her child-to-be is the spawn of the demon, Slur, a demon who has heard her wish for a daughter and magicks a quickening of her womb. Virtue gives birth to Shame and imprisons her in a magickal enclosure to protect her from her father - and the world from Shame. But Shame will go to any length to escape the prison into which she was born and bring her will into the world. 64 pgs, $9.99 See previews here.
Lee: I have no idea who the writer is but I sure know who John Bolton is!!!! He’s a master of the craft and it’s obvious that he hasn’t lost his touch. This is just gorgeous to look at and I can’t wait to get my copy.
Thomm: I like this concept. Seems more like mythology than horror to me, but that’s a plus so far as I’m concerned. I wonder what the right wingers who say we’d be better off with more shame in our culture think of this one? (That would be US culture, not Lee’s shameless French culture.)

Th3rd World Studios
Stuff of Legend: Jester’s Tale #1 by (W) Mike Raicht, Brian Smith (A) Charles Paul Wilson III
Continuing the saga of the New York Times-bestselling graphic novel! Following the shocking revelations of The Stuff of Legend Volume 2: The Jungle, Jester embarks on a solo quest that will take him to the farthest corners of the Dark. High seas adventure awaits! #1 of 4 $3.99 Visit the Legends homepage with lots and lots of previews at the bottom here.
Lee: I think it’s safe to say the whole blog has been reading “Stuff of Legends” since day one. Here’s a chance to jump on the bandwagon and see what all the hub bub is about.
Thomm: I was later than the rest of our esteemed corps in getting on board with this. Having found it much more satisfying as a trade than in solo issues, I’m going to keep going that route.

Intrepid Escapegoat #1 (Curse of the Buddha's Tooth) by (W/A) Brian Smith
It is the dawn of the 20th Century, and mankind is caught between a golden age of scientific discovery and a dark era of arcane magics. One brave soul dares to walk the line between these two worlds; he is Thomas Fleet, known far and wide as The Intrepid EscapeGoat, star of the stage and screen. When EscapeGoat and his assistant Isis (a 2000 year-old mummy girl) arrive in foggy London for a performance, they are challenged to debunk an exiled Princess's claims of supernatural powers. Can they unravel the mystery surrounding The Curse of the Buddha's Tooth? The all-ages action and adventure from the Free Comic Book Day hit continues here! #1 of 3, $3.99See a 6 pg preview here.
Lee: Just because there isn’t a lot of all ages stuff doesn’t mean there isn’t any. The best offering this month appears to be the Escapegoat. There isn’t much to say other than it looks like a ton of fun.
Thomm: I was going to say something about curses and Buddha not really going together, but since it’s an all ages book, I’ll let it go. But I got nothing else.

Top Shelf Productions
Any Empire HC by (W/A) Nate Powell Nate Powell's follow-up to the Eisner winning Swallow Me Whole examines war and violence, and their trickledown effects on middle America. As a gang of small-town kids find themselves reunited in adulthood, their dark histories collide in a struggle for the future. 304 pgs, $19.95. See previews here.
Lee: If this is anything like Powell’s other book, Swallow Me Whole, then it will be fantastic. SMW, rightly so, won numerous awards and was just fantastic. Well, it was fantastic but a difficult read. Hopefully this will be slightly simplier but I have high, high hopes for it.
Thomm: I’m curious as to what a trickledown effect is from war. I’m trying not to pre-judge it based on the utter failure of the idea of trickledown economics.

Infinite Kung Fu GN by (W/A) Kagan McLeod
The Martial World is ruled by a mysterious emperor whose five armies are each headed by a cruel and highly skilled kung fu master. Lei Kung, a soldier in one of these armies, grows tired of his master's evil ways and seeks enlightenment elsewhere. However, he soon finds that he's been chosen as the one who will put an end to the emperor's tyrannical rule, personally! Allegiances are blurred, techniques are perfected, fists fly, limbs are lost and blood vessels burst in this tale of furious rivals, supernatural masters, walking corpses, and above all, raging kung fu! 464 pgs, $24.95. A 19 pg preview here and McLeod’s site here, with even more previews.
Lee: This appears to be a blend of every cheesy 70’s kung Fu, western, and horror movie mashed into one book. And I’m thrilled to see it. From the previews, it appears McLeod has been influenced by euro style page composition so there should be plenty to read. This is worth the chance.
Thomm: Kung Fu zombies? Interesting. Lots of page for the buck, too.

Vertical Inc
Tezuka’s Book of Human Insects HC by (W/A) Osamu Tezuka
The Human Metamorphosis is recognized as one of Osamu Tezuka's most cinematic titles. Reading much like a thriller, this title has more twists and turns than MW and features a timeless leading lady. 368 pgs. $21.95
Lee: Ok, I’m not really sure what this is about but it’s a single book story which is rare in Manga. It’s done by one of “godfather” of Manga, the man who created Astroboy, Tezuka. To be fair, Astroboy doesn’t mean a thing to me but the regard that Tezuka is held in certainly does. And, since I only need one book to get a complete story and sample his work… sold!
Thomm: I don’t know anything about Astroboy, either, and I’m not a Manga fan, so this isn’t in my bailiwick. The fact that the teaser doesn’t tell me anything about the plot doesn’t help, but if this is your sort of thing, it sounds like an easy decision to buy.

Lee: Thomm did a great job filling in for Gwen this month. A huge thanks to him for helping. Even if he did grous about having to play nice. Lots of good books this month... now go order one from your local store!
Thomm: I played nice and didn’t suffer an aneurism. Don’t get the idea that this will make for a long term trend, though.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Indies Preview Review for July Part 2 of 3

Continued from yesterday...

Fantagraphics Books
Amazing Mysteries: Bill Everett Archives Vol. 01 HC
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives is a stunning companion to 2010's critically acclaimed Fire and Water. This volume collects over 200 pages of never-before-reprinted, beautifully restored, full-color stories from one of comic books' greatest visionaries and most accomplished artists. The resulting package enhances Everett's place in history as one of the first and best comic-book creators of all time. 224 pgs / FC / 7.25 x 9.5, $39.99
Lee: Everyone knows I love old comics, so books like these are perfect for me. Everett was one of the greats to come out of the 50’s. While he never achieved the commercial success of others, he was truly an artists artist. This is well worth the investment.
Thomm: The words investment and comics should never be uttered in the same sentence. It’s nice, but not for me.

Armed Garden & Other Stories HC by (W/A) David B.
David B., the creator of the acclaimed Epileptic, gives full rein to his fascination with history, magic and gods, not to mention grand battles in this witty, literate and absorbing collection of stories - all based on historical fact, or at least historical legend, and delineated in a striking two-color format. “The Armed Garden” concerns a Prague blacksmith, Rohan, who is subject to visions of Adam and Eve urging him to lead humanity back to paradise before the fall. 112 pgs, $19.99.
Lee: If the hype reads odd, it’s because I took a summary that I found elsewhere and placed it here. It’s a cleaner explanation of what the book is about. Now then, I am coming into the game late on this one but David B., is a French comic book artist and writer, and one of the founders of L'Association. To further explain L'Association did to French comics what 60’s Marvel did to American comics. He is a master of the form and his American work has always been highly praised. Now he turns his attentions to the story of gods, magic, and man. I, for one, am sold.
Thomm: This is more my thing. I like myths and legends, minored in history, and generally enjoy historical fiction. A little religious zealotry is often entertaining, too.

Nuts HC by (W/A) Gahan Wilson
In the 1970's, Gahan Wilson, eschewed his usual ghouls and vampires for a wry look at growing up normal in the endlessly weird real world. This new hardcover volume reprints every Nuts story from the National Lampoon, re-instituting color in some - and in one episode, 3-D. If you don't remember being a kid, this book will bring it all back.... for good or ill. 144 pgs / PC / 8 x 8 $19.99 Samples of Nuts can be seen here.
Lee: Can there ever be enough Gahan Wilson???? Nope, I don’t think so either. This collection from National Lampoon should be wonderfully sarcastic and humorous. If you’ve never enjoyed Wilson’s twisted sensibilities then you don’t know what you are missing.
Thomm: I don’t know what I’m missing. Still, National Lampoon was a lot of fun, even without Chevy Chase.

Gallery Books
Crow SC (special edition) by (W/A) James O'Barr
The graphic novel that inspired the film series! On the eve of Halloween, street thugs kill Eric Draven and his fiancee. Unable to find rest, Eric's spirit reutrns from the dead, guided by a crow, to exact revenge against the murderers of himself and his beloved. This special edition of the classic graphic novel features thirty pages of never-before-seen material and a brand-new design. ~240 pgs, $18.00
Lee: Hummm, this poses an interesting dilemma. On one hand, I am not sure that I care about the Crow anymore. On the other hand, it was a hugely successful movie, and has a legion of fans. Maybe I’ll reread the books first, they’re somewhere in my long boxes, before making a commitment.
Thomm: Unfortunately my experience of this is limited to the occasional TV show episode, which I don’t think meets up to the quality of the books or movie, based on what I’ve seen about either. It looks like something to check out on sale.

Genesis West
Potential Vol. 01: Two Percent Hero GN by (W) David Schwartz, Michael Thibodeaux (A) Michael Thibodeaux
With great power doesn't necessarily come great courage! The Potential realizes this and wants to avoid getting squished, splattered or smashed! He tries to avoid trouble, but he's made a deal to be a super hero. Will he grow comfortable with danger or will he keep trying to weasel out of his commitments? Find out! Cover by Jack Kirby! 140 pgs, $16.95 Find an 8 pg preview here.
Lee: This is about as straightforward as it is going to get this month. This looks to be a silly story poking fun at many of the superhero clichés. The preview makes fun of Spawn and provides a good idea of what you’re in for. Humor is always good.
Thomm: An easy set up for some good humor, if executed well. If not, it’s just juvenile, usually.

Humanoids Inc
John Lord Vol. 01 by (W) Denis Pierre Filippi (A) Patrick Laumond
An old-fashioned yet truly original noir tale set in 1920's New York where an unlikely pair of detectives reactivates a special investigative agency known as the UPIs to probe the grisly death of one of theirs. A pulpy tale of crime, full of snappy dialogue, twists and turns, and the unraveling mysteries of the past. $19.95 Visit Laumond French site here and see previews.
Lee: Euro style noir ! And, the incredibly beautiful artwork of Laumond. No, I’m not all that familiar with the artist, but his painted style is just fantastic from the previews. I have yet to read anything from Humanoids that hasn’t entertained me so I’m giving this a try too.
Thomm: Go, Guinea pig, go! You’re our canary in a coal mine. I don’t know how you have any money left at all, living in the heart of Euro comics like you are. Me, I can’t stop chuckling that the investigative agency has the same initials as a press syndicate.

Image Comics
Strange Girl Omnibus HC by (W) Rick Remender (A) Eric Nguyen, Jerome Opena, Nick Stakal & Peter Bergting (C) Eric Nguyen
For the first time, in one volume: Rick Remender's critically acclaimed indie hit, from start to finish! Ten years after the Rapture, a beautiful occultist and her pet demon embark on a road trip to the last open gateway to heaven, in hopes of befriending God and escaping hell on earth. A bare-knuckle, action-driven series, peppered with social commentary and dark humor, Strange Girl is a story about the bewildering nature of religion, what would happen if the dark future predicted by many came true, and what a good person would endure for not having faith in advance of it. Collects Strange Girl #1-18, 450 pgs, $59.99. Read my review of the whole series here.
Lee: I have the trades so I’m pretty sure that I don’t need a hc of the series, but it’s pretty good. It certainly is worth investigating if you haven’t given it a shot yet.
Thomm: Ah, irreverence. Now that’s for me. If it doesn’t cross over into out and out stupidity like Preacher, I could enjoy this.

Pacific Comics Club
Connie: Menace of Mo Tung SC by (W/A) Frank Godwin
Connie goes underground in 1930s China to break up a criminal gang. Before she's through she's tangled with the Japanese Air Force, Mongolian nomads, and a cadre of anarchists determined to bring down the Soviet government! Fast paced story and especially fine artwork by Frank Godwin. 50 pgs, 14" x 8,5", $14.95 An outstanding history of Godwin here with many, many art samples.
Lee: Over the past few years I’ve really starting getting into older strips and one name that keeps cropping up is Frank Godwin. A master draftsman, his art is impeccable. Add that to a story written in the 30’s and I’m sure to get plenty of action and silly stereotypes. This should be fun.
Thomm: The stereotypes are sure to be like the ones common to that era. What’s more interesting to me is the perception of the Soviet Union at the time. Depending on the blinders of the writer, many still viewed it as a utopia in that era. ‘Course, they didn’t have to live through it.

The grand finale tomorrow... will Thomm finally lose his cool and poop all over a book???

Monday, May 23, 2011

Indies Preview Review for July Part 1 of 3

Lee: This month Thomm joins me for Indies since Gwen is getting married. Everyone say hello to Thomm. “Hello Thomm.” According to previews, school is out so everyone stopped publishing kids books. Apparently kids don’t read in the summer. And so, this month is heavy on big boy comics.
Thomm: Lee tells me I have to play nice. We’ll see how that goes.

12-Gauge Comics
Loose Ends #1 by (W) Jason Latour (A) Chris Brunner
No one seemed to notice Sonny Gibson as he stepped back into The Hideaway, a dusty little honky-tonk nestled off the Carolina highway. But before the night was over, Sonny would be on the run. From the law, from the criminals, even from himself. Loose Ends is a gritty, slow cooked, southern crime romance that follows a winding trail down Tobacco Road, through the war torn streets of Baghdad, and into the bright lights and bloody gutters of South Florida. #1 of 4, $3.99 Visit the official site here and see some previews.
Lee: I’m always a sucker for a good crime story and this looks like a good one. It doesn’t hurt that Brunner, whose art really appeals to me, has been working in comics so I know the visual aspects of the story will be good.
Thomm: As someone who’s read quite a few James Lee Burke novels, this is very appealing. I like the cover, too. Hey, we’re off to a good start with playing nice.

Abstract Studios
Terry Moore’s Echo Complete Edition SC by (W/A/C ) Terry Moore
Julie is in the wrong place at the wrong time when an explosion in the sky rains liquid metal that sticks to her and becomes a symbiotic armor. When Julie discovers the metal is a prototype nuclear weapon, she runs rather than give it back to the army, and the chase is on! Winner of the Harvey Award for Best New Series, Terry Moore's critically acclaimed sci-fi series is available at last, from high-flying beginning to earth-shattering end - all 30 issues in one complete volume! 600 pgs. $39.99
Lee: Ahhhh, my wait is over. Everyone is talking about how good this book has been and now I can find out for myself. $40 for 30 issues is a great value for an outstanding story.
Thomm: It’s a great series. I’ve been buying the trades, so I’m not going to re-buy it here, but if you haven’t read this, it’s well worth the $40. We’re two for two on playing nice.

Rachel Rising #1 by (W/A/C) Terry Moore
Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason revenge! Don't miss the Premier Issue of this haunting new series by Eisner and Harvey Award-winning creator Terry Moore! $3.99
Lee: I still kick myself for missing the boat on Echo, but fool me once as they say. I have no doubts this will be utterly fantastic.
Thomm: Not only Echo, but having read some of the early Strangers in Paradise, you won’t see me passing up on Moore’s future projects. Each one has been totally different from the last, but the quality remains high. The one consistent characteristic, aside from the quality, is a strong female lead. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to turn in my irascible license.

Adhouse Books
Forming HC by (W/A) Jesse Moynihan
Forming is a super-mystical epic in which Jesse Moynihan details the spawning of worlds, and the trajectory of consciousness on Earth. Volume 1 follows the trials and tribulations of primeval gods and demi-gods as they vie for control of primitive Earth's resources. 112 pgs, 12" x 9", $29.95 Visit Jesse and read the webcomic here.
Lee: This is the definition of indie comics! Great concept, street punk attitude, and demi-gods all wrapped up into one. You can read the first 3-4 web comics and have a real good idea if this is for you or not. Note the size too, this book is big.
Thomm: And we’re done with nice. I’ll toe the line to some extent and just say this ain’t for me.

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics
Malleus Maleficarum: Guide to Catching Witches GN by (W) Heinrich Kramer, Jacob Springer, Mike Rosen (A) Mike Rosen
In 1487 Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger wrote the Malleus Maleficarum, the premiere manual for exposing, capturing, prosecuting and burning witches used by every right-thinking European magistrate of the late middle ages. Cartoonist Mike Rosen's tongue-in-cheek adaptation of this uplifting tome answers all those nagging questions: Do witches kill newborn babies for use in their rituals? Can they turn men into beasts? Can they steal men's appendages, collecting them in great numbers, to hide in, say... a bird's nest up in a tree? 136 pgs. $10.95
Lee: Yeah, baby. A comic book version of the original witch hunters guide. This makes me smile just thinking about it. How can burning a witch not be fun.
Thomm: I just hope it includes the wisdom of duck/witch weight ratios.

Boom! Studios
Elric: The Balance Lost #1 by (W) Chris Roberson (A) Francesco Biagini (C) Francesco Mattina, Benjamin Carre
Afterword by Neil Gaiman! For 40 years comic fandom has thrilled to the exploits of Elric since his introduction in Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian in the early 1970s. Neil Gaiman called Elric's creator Michael Moorcock my model for what a writer was while Warren Ellis said he is one of the eight core sites in my creative genome. Now the godfather of the Multiverse teams up with hot New York Times bestseller Chris Roberson (Superman, iZombie, Stan Lee's Starborn) for an ongoing series that sees a crisis break out across multiple worlds with Moorcock's other two most famous fantasy franchise characters, Corum of the Scarlet Robe and Dorian Hawkmoon! The workings of Fate are being tampered across the Multiverse, upsetting the Cosmic Balance. Elric is on a quest to restore The Balance and save the Multiverse from ruin! Elric, Corum, and Hawkmoon are forced into action far and wide, but will they fight on the side of Law... or Chaos? $3.99
Lee: By the time you read this, FCBD will have come and gone. Hopefully you picked up the Elric book that was offered. If not, maybe your store still has a copy. I’ve always loved Elric so I am excited to see his continuing adventures. A perfect book for sword and sorcery buffs.
Thomm: I remember the ads for it but never read it. At this point it has a writer I like and recommendations by other writers I like, not to mention a good publisher, so it’s well worth a look.

Diamond Select Toys
Universal Monsters Series 2 Retro Cloth Action Figure Set (2)
A Diamond Select Release! Emce toys design and sculpts! The best-selling retro cloth line continues its terrifying return! Fans have waited for retro cloth figures of the true Universal Monsters for over 30 years, but they only had to wait a year for the second release. Now, as part of our annual Halloween collector tradition, DST will serves up more of your favorite mon-stars!. This year's series will include the iconic Dracula, and the shambling Egyptian horror, The Mummy! Each figure stands 8 tall with over 14 points of articulation and an authentically detailed full cloth outfit. $37.98
Lee: We don’t talk about toys much but these look really cool. And, they aren’t all that expensive for 2 figures. I loves me the classic horror monsters so I can’t wait to get these.
Thomm: I can’t bring myself to channel Jim and feign interest in the toys.
Lee: That's not feigned interest in the toys by Jim. Have you seen his barbie... ummm, action figure collection. Trust me, not feigned in the least.

Drawn & Quarterly
Big Questions SC by (W/A) Anders Nilsen
A haunting postmodern fable, Big Questions is the magnum opus of Anders Nilsen, one of the brightest and most talented young cartoonists working today. This beautiful minimalist story, collected here for the first time, is the culmination of ten years and more than six hundred pages of work that details the metaphysical quandaries of the occupants of an endless plain, existing somewhere between a dream and a Russian steppe. A downed plane is thought to be a bird and the unexploded bomb that came from it is mistaken for a giant egg by the group of birds whose lives the story follows. The indifferent, stranded pilot is of great interest to the birds - some doggedly seek his approval, while others do quite the opposite, leading to tensions in the group. Nilsen seamlessly moves from humor to heartbreak. His distinctive, detailed line work is paired with plentiful white space and large, often frameless panels, conveying an ineffable sense of vulnerability and openness. Big Questions has roots in classic fables - the birds and snakes have more to say than their human counterparts, and there are hints of the hero's journey, but here the easy moral that closes most fables is left open and ambiguous. Rather than lending its world meaning, Nilsen's parable lets the questions wander where they will. The official site is here and contains previews of all the books that are in this collection. 7.25 x 9.25, FC, 658 pages SC $44.95, S/N HC $69.95.
Lee: This is one hhuuuuggggeeeee book that’s for sure. It’s a FC phone book of new comics. The concept sounds great and the preview is very interesting indeed. D&Q is fairly discriminating in what it publishes so I trust that this will be good.
Thomm: It’s a lot of book for the buck, that’s sure. Interesting concepts, too.

More Tomorrow