Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21st, 2008

It was a slow week for me, but i had a hankerin' for comics, so i picked up some things that weren't new or on my list.

Lucky Vol.2 #1 - I read part of an interview with Gabrielle Bell on The Daily Crosshatch, and liked some of the samples i found online. I haven't finished reading this one, partly b/c i read comics until i couldn't stay awake last night, and partly b/c it's got a lot of content. It's all six-panel grids with plenty of text. That's cool by me. So i don't have much to say about this one except so far so good and i like the use of blacks on the page.

New Tales of Old Palomar #2 & 3 - I told Chris that Gilbert Hernandez's stories are more depressing than Jaime's, but that's not the case here. (I'm not sure it's a fair comparison anyway; it's just that the later Palomar stories in the Heartbreak Soup trade i read had some pretty bleak moments.) If you don't know what Palomar is, it's a small town in an unspecified area of Central America (i think of it as a small island nation on the Pacific side of Central America, but can't remember if that's accurate). Moreso, it's the home of the characters who populate Gilbert Hernandez's stories. It has a lot of the familiar aspects of small towns in fiction: everybody knows everybody, eccentric characters, childhood adventures become the stuff of legend, etc. But it has a mystical side, too: ghosts and witches are real, and the ancient stone statues outside town have a magical presence. Mostly it's the sum of its inhabitants, whom Hernandez endows with remarkable humanity. They feel like real people, for good and ill.
Having read the first Palomar stories will help you recognize some characters here, but i don't think it's necessary. Each of the stories here are self-contained. In #2, some of Palomar's boys get kidnapped by some weird people in unitards who speak an unknown language (it's rendered as a bunch of hashes, kind of like Woodstock's word baloons in Peanuts). It falls, as usual, to Sheriff Chelo to rescue the boys, and she gets into quite a scuffle with the weird people. #3 has two stories. In the first, firecracker Tonantzin is haunted by the Blooter Baby. To get rid of it, she consults with the local "witch" (who has cool Ditko-Dr. Strange windows in her house; there's a lot of Ditko influence in los bros Hernandez' work, which is awesome). It works, but the result is a bit different than you'd expect. The second story sees the return of the hash-mark-speaking people, and their rather gruesome revenge on Chelo. These stories emphasize the otherworldly aspects of Palomar. There's more focus on being imaginative than on being dramatic, which is cool by me. I really liked these.
New Tales... is in Fantagraphics' "Ignatz" format, which is oversized. I thought i wouldn't be buying these b/c i think they're kinda pricey, but, well, they're really pretty, and i enjoyed them, so i guess it was a good buy afterall.

Trinity #12 - There's a lot of action in this one, and some character development/clues about Enigma. I'm curious to see what's up with these weird powers John Stewart is manifesting. And hats off to Busiek and Nicieza for packing plenty of story into each half--maybe that's part of what i like about this, that it moves at a pace a bit more akin to the stuff i grew up with. Is Madame Zodiac a new character? It seems like i would have heard about a mystical woman living in Gotham.

Madman #10 - It's the least experimental, but most solid issue of the series. A lot of events of the last several issues are in clearer focus now. I really like Haley and Whelworne. I feel like the Madman story is moving ahead again. I know that Allred will do some more experimental issues, and i'll probably like them (varyingly, of course), but it's really nice to have a more "traditional" issue like this (and hopefully we'll see some of those experimental things woven into, and enhance, "traditional" issues). Also, the first letter on the letters page, from a Kat Roberts, echoes a lot of how i feel about comic art. It's always encouraging and refreshing to know that there are kindred comic souls out there.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Blue Beetle #29 -- The new writer, Matthew Sturges, starts with this issue. Though the cover credit still says "Rogers", who hasn't been the writer for at least two months. Rogers' run was great, so there's trepidation about a new writer taking over. So far, so good.

There was also trepidation about this issue's subject: illegal immigration.* Politics is the opposite of art and entertainment. If this story falls into politics--i.e., this party's policy is right, the other party is wrong; or the people who support X are good, and their opponents are bad--it will fail as both art and entertainment. The only way this kind of story can succeed is if it addresses the reality that the politicians are trying to manipulate. The reality is complicated, nuanced and contradictory, while the politics is simplistic, arbitrary, and deceitful.

Thankfully, Sturges is steering towards the reality so far. There are characters involved in various aspects of the issue. None of them have been portrayed as saints or devils. Everyone is sympathetic so far. The only cliches or political spin i noticed were delivered by reporters, which is appropriate, since that's what they do in real life. There is a bad guy involved, but he's clearly not meant to represent any element of the real life problem. Jaime, of course, is caught in the middle, and, true to his character, wants to find a solution that does the least harm to everyone. It remains to be seen whether this story will conclude without decending into politics, but so far, so good.

Okay, on to the good stuff. Rafael Albuquerque is still the series' artist, which is great. Pairing him with another writer on this comic highlights how much of the series' "feel" is attributable to his contribution. Plus, i can't imagine any other artist making a flying coyote dude look cool.

The coyote dude figures in a very entertaining sequence in which two wannabe supervillains fight over the right to use the name Hellhound (aparently the last guy to use that name died in Salvation Run--this is a nod to "universe" continuity that doesn't intrude on the main story or make you feel like you're missing something by having not read something else; well done). They're fighting in a cheap wrestling ring, with a small audience (presumably friends or henchmen) egging them on. Blue Beetle busts up the match and, while he's clobbering both would-be Hellhounds, suggests alternate names so they won't have to fight in the first place. This sequence makes me think that Sturges has a decent grasp on the character; it's a good sign--and it's fun and funny.

It'll take a few more issues to form a real impression of Sturges' run on this series, but after the first issue, i'm hopeful. Recommended.

*I call it illegal because, per law, it is. Don't assume that, by recongnizing that it's illegal, i think it, or the people who do it, are automatically bad. I don't. Speeding is illegal, but we all do it all the time and don't consider it or ourselves immoral. There are loads of legal activities that are immoral, and the government that writes the laws often does immoral things. So i'm not making a connection between law and morals here. Identifying it as "illegal immigration" rather than "immigration" clearly identifies the issue that people are arguing about.

Trinity #9 -- See, i knew Busiek was going to bring in the Crime Syndicate, a la his JLA run. Now all we need are the Qwardians. This issue also features some of Wonder Woman's and Batman's supporting casts. The second story features Oracle, Nightwing, and a couple of Bat rogues. McDaniel does another cool two-page spread in this issue. Like the one from last issue, it isn't just a "splash", but does a lot storytelling. This guy really knows how to lay out a page (or two). There are also more new (AFAIK) characters: a flamboyant and highly skilled martial artist called the Swashbuckler, and a bizarre guy called the Trans-Volitional Man--and what he does is even weirder than his name.

I also got Dynamo 5 #15 and Justice Society of America Annual #1. Both are good. Maybe i'll post reviews of them later, but i've felt kind of cruddy this weekend.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Previews for October 2008

Do i want to dive into this New Krypton thing? It might be fun to follow this thing across the three “super” books. That's almost a weekly series. However: do i want to add another three monthly books to my sublist? Maybe i could drop Green Lantern Corps, then it'd be a net two adds. What i really want is to read more trades, so i'm hesitant to add more monthlies.

Example: check out the Fantagraphics section on pages 288-9. They got some classic collections in Popeye, Dennis the Menace, Zippy, and Mr. Natural. My interest in these varies wildly, but at the least, any of them would show me more of the artform, whereas the Superman stuff, as cool as it might be, is something i'm already well familiar with. The argument is pretty much the same with the newer collections. So, more of the same, or something new? Maybe i should go to the library and see if they've got any of this stuff.

You know what? I'm kinda getting tired of Buffy, too. When Renee died, it was like, so that's what we're doing here: more of the same. Pointless character death? Abruptly halting the progression of Xander's character? Meh, shrug, and phooey to that. And it keeps going in all these different directions. I don't know whether i should just enjoy it as episodic stuff with a season-plot in the background, or if this stuff with Dracula and Fray and whatnot is part of the season-plot. And i like Buffy less as a character. I'm putting it on my maybe-i'll-drop-it list.

Savage Dragon is coming back. At Acme's quarter bin sale, i picked up a couple issues of this series, and i'm intrigued. It's good superhero stuff. And the issue solicited here has a bunch of the Golden Age public domain characters that were in Image's First Issue Project. So i'm probably going to pick this one up.

Image is soliciting a collection of the new Firebreather series, but the only issue i've seen so far is #1. ??? Have the other issues not shipped, or has my local comic shop somehow missed them or been shorted on them? IDK. But i'm thinking of dropping it from my sublist, b/c either the schedule is messed up, or i'm not getting the issues when it comes out.

Stuff from my sublist: Atomic Robo & the Dogs of War #3, Blue Beetle #32, Buffy #19, Comic Book Comics #3, Dynamo 5 #18, Fables #77, Firebreather #6, Jack of Fables #27, JSA #20, Madame Xanadu #5, Noble Causes #39, Secret Six #2, Trinity #18-22, Wonder Woman #25

Other stuff that interests me (my “maybe” list): The Bradleys by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics), Delayed Replays by Liz Prince (Top Shelf), Tales to Suffice by Kenny Kiel (Amaze Ink/SLG), Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison, Philip Bond & D'Israeli (DC/Vertigo), Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez (DC/Vertigo), Outlaw Territory by various (Image), Hey Wait... by Jason (Fantagraphics), Savage Dragon #141 by Erik Larsen (Image)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cloverfield and Final Crisis

I just watched Cloverfield on DVD. It was fun. Having heard criticisms and letting the hype pass no doubt made it work better for me.

I watched one of the "making of" shorts. It's the one where they discuss designing the creature. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Everything they said made sense, that it's a "baby" and is propelled by fear. That makes sense. I even thought that a few of the cries/roars of the creature sounded a bit scared or defensive, but that's a common trope in monster movies, so maybe i heard that b/c i expected it. Anyway, it all makes sense. It works. But it's not in the movie. There's nothing in the movie to tell you that the monster is newly hatched and acting on frightened instinct.

There's also the bit in the short where J.J. Abrams says he was inspired to make the movie by all the Godzilla toys he saw in Japan. Wouldn't it be cool if America had its own monster? Sure, it would be cool. That's not in the movie, either. The monster is barely seen in the movie, and it certainly does not lend itself to toys. More importantly, the movie isn't about the monster. The audience can't sympathize with it.

The ideas that went into designing the creature are interesting. The designers apparently put a good deal of thought into creating some feasible alternate biology. It's impressive. It's not in the movie, either. In the movie, we see that the monster moves strangely, that its body is oddly put together, that it has weird critters that fall off of it (there's probably a well thought-out explanation behind that, but it's not in the movie), etc. But just seeing glimpses of that stuff on the screen (the dark, shadowy, constantly shifting screen) doesn't convey all the thought and intended coolness of the design.

This makes me think of Final Crisis. When i read an interview with Grant Morrison, the ideas and rationales he gives for FC make sense. They sound cool, even. But they aren't in the comic. (Or at least not #1, which is the only one i've read. From the reviews and message board posts i've read, they aren't in #2, either, or not so as people can spot them.) For example, the idea that the Fourth Worlders are becoming like ancient polytheistic gods, "possessing" people when they dive into whatever concept a particular god embodies? That's a very cool idea. It ain't in the comic.

I've wondered before if there were aspects of Countdown or One Year Later that weren't being conveyed from the creators' brains to the page. Like, if you could sit in on the conference call where the big ideas are hashed out and the broad plot outlined, you'd get a lot more out of the comic than when you just read the end product. Apparently the same is true of Cloverfield: if you know all the stuff that went into designing that weird kaiju, you'd probably have a whole other level of appreciation for the movie. But you can't get that from the movie, b/c it didn't make it from the creators' brains to the screen.

It feels a bit like listening to someone tell stories about cool stuff that happened in their Dungeons and Dragons or WoW campaign. If you're a player in the game, it's fun and exciting to reminisce about all the killer monsters and wicked maneuvers, and barely-made saving throws, etc. But if you weren't a player in the game, and you're just hearing about it after the fact, it's really boring. Sure, you can follow the plot, but the cool factor doesn't translate. You have to be in on it to get the full--or any--effect.

This phenomenon is no big deal when it comes to telling stories about D&D campaigns, or that crazy thing that your friend did in college that only you and your buddies thinks is funny, or in some fanfic for a niche audience, but when it becomes a factor in something intended for a wider audience, it's a problem.

I don't know what you would call this, but maybe it's something that science-fiction-y geek-culture-y things are more prone to?

Note, i'm not saying that either Cloverfield or Final Crisis are bad. I liked Cloverfield, just not as the "Godzilla for America" thing that it was apparently supposed to be (in fact, i doubt that was the actual intent, regardless what Abrams says; maybe it started out that way, but...). I didn't like Final Crisis #1, but maybe i'll like the whole thing when it's done, but i won't be surprised if i like it for something other than the grand re-imagining of Kirby's Fourth World that it's apparently intended to be.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Water Baby
by Ross Campbell
156 pages, black and white, paperback, $9.99

Ross Campbell has established a very distinctive style, not just in how he renders things, but in tone, themes, and those little elements that make a writer's work recognizable. There are hot girls in tiny, punky outfits (often dirty and ragged), but the hot girls have different body types and do unhot things like pick their noses. There are some really creepy visuals. The settings are always kinda rednecky and lowdown. There's a nihilistic vibe. Some of the same bands are referenced that are referenced in Wet Moon, but i don't know if they're real, or he's just using the same made up bands.

Brody is a teenage (?age not given?) surfer in Florida. She has lots of tattoos and skull-themed swimwear. A shark attacks her and takes her left leg. The rest of the book is obliquely about how she recovers from this. Well, not all of it is oblique. Some of it is directly about the physical recovery. It's the psychological stuff that is appropriately oblique. This takes the form of Brody's relationship with a worthless leech of a guy whom i wouldn't mind to have seen shot named Jake. I'm not sure how well that part of it worked. It performed its narrative task, but it didn't feel significant. Getting shed of this bum didn't feel like an emblem of Brody conquering her injury as much as her finally ceasing to be an embarrassing pushover.

The plot is straightforward, but has a loose flow. The second half of the book is a road trip, and that always lends itself to a jangly, episodic, meditative form or story, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The purpose is to give the characters room to reveal themselves to the reader in a casual, organic way. You know who they are through dialog, mannerisms, and those sorts of character work. There are no info dumps or exposition-disguised-as-dialog. This is how Campbell's series Wet Moon works, too. The best moments in that series are when Cleo obsesses and when Trilby dorks out or gets disproportionately offended by the least significant slights.

Unexpectedly, Water Baby is darker than Wet Moon, even though WM is very gothic (in both the Southern Gothic and Siouxsie Sioux sense), has more drooling rednecks, physical oddities, and decay. But WM does have bright spots like Trilby's manicness and a sense that the characters are moving and having a bit of fun along the way. In Water Baby, there are fewer bright spots. Brody and Louisa are friends, but we don't know how much they really care about each other. Brody is moving forward by the end of the story, but it's slow, and the nature of her moving forward involves getting tougher, harder. She starts off cynical and sarcastic, so getting harder doesn't make her more sympathetic.

Where her vulnerable side comes through, and this is pretty effective the more i think about it, is in the dream sequences where her trauma about the shark attack manifests itself in various bizarre, horrific images. In these scenes, her anxieties play themselves out via dream logic, and in the moments before she falls asleep and after she wakes up, we see the same emotions in her body language.

Campbell is a major talent, IMO. His pages look incredible. He marries beauty and grotesquerie not only in the horror elements, but in the mundane (i.e., hot chicks picking their noses). His shapes are amazing. The balance of detail and expressiveness is just right. His interest in the macabre and in unconventional beauty will likely keep him outside the mainstream of direct market comics, but could easily garner him a sizable following outside of it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Short Reviews for the Week of July 2nd 2008

Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam #1 - If this represents the state of kids' comics, kids are darn lucky. This comic looks great. It's full of color, energy, and movement. There's also a ton of story here. You get about four times the plot of a normal superhero comic. The panels-per-page ratio is high; and it flows well and is never crowded. Who is this Mike Kunkel? Where have he and his serious comiker skills been? Playing tether ball with a wrecking ball? That's superhero brilliance.

Trinity #5 - The fight with Konvikt reminds me of Superman's first fight with Doomsday: the JLA has gotten beaten up by this mysterious, one-dimensional badguy who came out of nowhere, and it's up to Supes (and Wonder Woman and Batman) to take him out. I like when WW is shown to be Supe's equal. If she isn't quite as strong, she's a better fighter.
When Bats is questioning him about his spaceship, Graak says that he isn't a "sciencelizard". Could that refer to the Psions of the Vega system? They're lizardy, and into the kind of superscience that could create and/or contain someone of Konvikt's power level.
Now the Big Three are clued-in that someone else is in on the cosmic stuff from issue one, so maybe that thread will develop further next issue.
In the second half of the book: So, Gangbuster is related to Superman b/c he used to operate in Metropolis, and we can assume that Tarot corresponds to Wonder Woman in this "street level" triad b/c of her connection to the magical/mystical (and her gender), so that leaves the Batman slot open. Who could the third member of this group be? I think this story is happening on the west coast, so maybe someone from Busiek's Power Company series?

Buffy #16 - It's cool to see Fray and her world again. Karl Moline's Buffy is really tall. We get another peek at what Twilight and his crew are up to, but not much. I hope that thread gets some decent development before it comes to a head. It would kinda suck to get an info dump about it just in time for the big fight. I wonder how all these elements will tie together, too. Dawn's changes, time travel, Dracula, the scythe, etc. Maybe they won't. Maybe this series isn't following the TV season model literally, where the season ends with its plot threads wrapped up, or at least repositioned for the next season. Maybe it's more like old serial comics, with subplots that move at their own pace in relation to the major plot.

Fables #74 - I loved this issue, just like the last one. The title, "A Very One-Sided War" is very accurate. The Fabletown forces are p0wning the Empire at every turn. What's best is that they're doing so by being smart--by planning, by innovating, by anticipating. When big scary orcs are getting shot in the face by rabbits, it's not a battle, it's a humiliating rout. The Emperor sums it up when he says "Our real sin was a lack of imagination." It tweaks that part of my brain that loves strategy and tactics. Good stuff. Of course, since things have gone so well for Fabletown so far, you know that there's a huge bucket of shite just waiting to fall on them. I don't know what the Emperor's last ditch plan is, but it's gonna be nasty.

Jack of Fables #23 - Continuing a tale from Jack's past, this issue has Jack in New Mexico in 1883. There's a great two-page spread (pages 2 & 3) of the town, Lilly of the Valley, which i think much have been drawn from reference material (it's convincing in its detail), but doesn't have that annoying photo-referenced look. It looks like a real slap-dash, ramshackle frontier town. Bigby Wolf is tracking Jack. I think this will be their first encounter, so Jack must have 'ported over from the Homelands sometime in the mid 19th century (we saw him in the Civil War in an early Fables issue). Both of these characters work well in an Old West setting, Jack as the greedy bastard, Bigby as the bar-brawling, New World barbarian. Of course we get another funny non-sequitor page of Babe the Blue Ox's daydreams, too.

Dynamo 5 #14 - Jay Faerber's comics are rooted in the superhero comics of the Bronze Age, it seems. (This is a good thing IMO.) That's true for a lot of writers, but where Faerber differs from some contemporaries, is that it never feels like he's trying to deconstruct or recast or re-imagine the superhero genre. He continues the tradition, adding some new elements, but never taking it apart. In Dynamo 5, the team's origin is that their superpowered male genetic contributor, Captain Dynamo (a superman type), had affairs with their mothers, and they each inherited one of his powers. It's easy to imagine that concept being worked into a series the point of which would be the fallibility of heroes, disillusionment, moral ambiguity, etc.; it would drown in self-importance and faux sophistication. Dynamo 5 does touch on some of that more "serious" stuff, but it doesn't dwell on it. It never forgets that it's a superhero comic.
In this issue, the fallout from an attack on the team's headquarters continues. With their leader/mentor/drill sergeant (and Captain Dynamo's widow) Maddie in a coma, the 5 have retreated back to their families. None of these are in Tower City, the city D5 is supposed to defend. Thus, the city is being overrun by supervillains. The only 5ver in Tower City is Myriad, and he's too busy philandering to fight crime (he inherited skirt-chasing as well as shape-changing from Capt. Dynamo). Maddie is under the care of Doc Noble (from Noble Causes), and when Scrap visits her there, she gets some good advice from Zephyr Noble.
Meanwhile, a new hero going by Vigil is trying to fight the invasion of villains in Tower City. At first i thought maybe Vigil was Scrap in a different costume, but that's not the case. From what's in this issue and what i've seen in Previews, it looks like the next few issues will see an alternate Dynamo 5, with Scrap, Vigil, and others yet to be determined. Now, that's an old trope in superhero comics (most often used in Fantastic Four), but somehow i'm still excited about it here. Maybe it's the execution, maybe it's that Dynamo 5 is creator-owned so it's more possible that the status quo could actually change.

Noble Causes #35 - The "pitch" on Noble Causes is that it's superheroes as soap opera. All superhero comics have that element, esp. superhero teams, but here it's really played up. There are moments that are just ridiculous, but at the same time fun, in that soap opera way. The Nobles are a super-hero family. Doc Noble is married to Olympia (his first wife, Gaia, is in prison). The kids include Rusty (in a robot body), Zephyr, Frost, Surge and Minutiae. Celeste and Slate married in.
Here's an example of the super soap opera of Noble Causes. It's a minor spoiler from an early story. Doc's first wife cheated on him with his doppelganger in an alternate universe.
Current plots come to a head in this issue, as the Nobles discover a traitor in their midst, and the adversary who put the traitor there. They don't figure it all out at once, though. Different subsets of the team are discovering different elements, but it's all hitting the fan at once. Surprise follows surprise, building suspense, tension, and the anticipation that next issue will be a knock-down drag-out.
Artist Yildiray Cinar has some strong moments here. There are some well-laid out pages here that do a lot to convey action, and surprise.

Blue Beetle #28 - Pfeifer guest-writes again (new regular writer Matt Sturges beings next issue) with a very entertaining one-shot that incorporates the legacy of the original, Golden Age Blue Beetle and gives a lot of page time to one of this series' strengths: the supporting cast. A supervillain who fought Dan Garret back in the '40s has apparently resurfaced in El Paso. Jaime, along with his friends, Garret's granddaughter, and Peacemaker (a sort of reluctant mentor, and metatextually, a tie to the 2nd Blue Beetle's origins in Charlton Comics) have to figure out why and how an octogenarian supervillain and his monster have become a threat again. The answer is surprising, and fits perfectly with the tone of this series, wherein the hero is always able to find a solution that's better than the obvious one.

Madame Xanadu #1 - There's a very cool world here that's inviting because of its visuals and intricacy. DC fans will find some cool and intriguing takes on the continuity around Kirby's take on the Arthurian mythos. This issue sets up a lot: who Xanadu is, or who she was to start with, her connections to other important characters like Merlin, the Phantom Stranger, and Morganna, and the world around her. Matt Wagner brings the strong script as you'd expect, and young artist Amy Reeder Hadley shows serious chops of her own. Her characters look great, they act well, her backgrounds/environments are convincing and interesting to look at, and her storytelling is smooth. I wonder how it would look with some heavier lines here and there, but that's not a criticism. Big props also go to Guy Major on colors, who contributes greatly to the mood and sense of place.
I'm excited about to see where this one is going. It's full of narrative corners to explore, and characters i want to see more of.

Jonah Hex #33 - The Darwyn Cooke art is what convinced me to pick this up, but i've read a few other issues of this current Hex series, and i've enjoyed all of them. As usual, this is a done-in-one story, and it shows, in the age of (sometimes thinly) drawn out mega-parters, that a great story can still be told in 22 pages. Hex haunts this story, as it's told by someone who was rescued (sort of) as a boy by the devil-eyed bounty hunter. It's got the grit this series is famous for: the unforgiving environment, the heartless villains and perhaps as heartless protagonist. This is a great issue.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

HeoresCon 2008

We had a great time there yesterday. I spent most of the day just being in awe of all the incredibly cool stuff everywhere. I browsed around Indie Island and Artists' Alley, and went to the "conversations" panel with Evan Dorkin and Jaime Hernandez. I met the hosts of Indie Spinner Rack. So many nice, friendly creators! I could have bought a print or a mini comic or sketch from practically every table, but of course didn't have that much dough.

Stuff i got:

Signed: Perhapanauts #1 by writer & artist, Scott Pilgrim Vol.1, The Mourning Star Vol.1, Miranda Mercury #296; never found Roy Thomas to get my All-Star Squadron #1 signed.

Prints: Big cover to Miranda Mercury #297 by Lee Ferguson, and a Daybreak print by Brian Ralph

Comics: Chiggers by Hope Larson, Ayaje's Wives and The Ghosts by Matt Wiegle, You Don't Get There From Here #7 by Carrie McNinch, Black Ghost Apple Factory by Jeremy Tinder, Phaze 7 #13 by Alec Longstreth, Breathers #0 by Justin Madson, The Fart Party #5 by Julia Wertz, Danz Comix Digest by Dan Rhett, Papercutter #5 & 6, Nerd Burglar anthology from Tugboat Press, Daybreak vol. 1 & 2 by Brian Ralph, and I Was a Teenage Comic Nerd and Other Stories by Liz Prince.
Whew! All mini-comics and small or self press, except Chiggers which is Simon & friggin' Shuster (go Ms. Larson).

Sketch: i said i wasn't getting any sketches, but i had nothing for Jaime Hernandez to sign, and he had no books to sell, so i bought a sketchbook and got a great Hopey sketch from him. He's a really nice guy, too.

Cool fabric book mark: from My Brain Hurts auteur Liz Bailie

Best Cosplay: Darwyn Cooke-designed Catwoman, looked inCREDible; runner-up: some kinda victorian alternate of Wonder Woman, maybe from an elseworld?

Panel: Tom Spurgeon from the Comics Reporter hosted an informal panel with Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets) and Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese, Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast). It was cool to hear Hernandez talk about how he constructs a story (considers the needs of the story then kinda intuits it) and Dorkin snarky/bitter/funny. When asked about new creators following in their wake, Dorkin riffed jealously: "i wish they all had one crotch so i could kick it!" It was a fun panel.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Short, Sinus-Problem-Impaired, Reviews for Comics of June 11, 2008

Local #12 - Local reaches its destination at
last, as Megan returns to her deceased mother's house in rural Vermont. At first read this issue didn't work as well for me as previous ones, but that might be the bug i've come down with, so i'll read it again later when my head is clearer. Ryan Kelly's art remains awesome.

Wonder Woman #21 - It dawned on me while reading this one that there was a Beowulf series from DC back in the 70s. That explains why he isn't like the real Beowulf. I'm liking this arc, but i'm a sucker for the sword & sorcery, so YMMV. Wonder Woman has a flying clamshell vehicle? She borrowed it from Venus, i reckon? While it's kinda cool to see a new version of Nemesis, i'm not keen on the DEO portion of WW's current status quo.

Madman Atomic Comics #9 - I think i'll enjoy this series more if i stop expecting it to be the adventures of Madman and friends, and instead accept that it's Mike Allred's Experiments In Making Comics featuring Madman and friends. This entire issue consists of two-page spreads that follow a battle as it moves down a street in Snap City. Imagine a movie filmed entirely with one camera on a track rolling from left to right, and that's a close approximation. It's cool that Allred makes it work, but the story isn't very interesting.

Wildguard Insider #2 - The first story stars Lillyhammer, who has a fun punny name, and i don't generally like puns. I don't know the background referred to here, but it' still fun, and Todd Nauck's art is attractive. Btw the deal here is that the team called Wildguard is the result of an American Idol type TV show for superheroes. I got this series b/c i'd wondered about the previous Wildguard comics but never bought them, and this has turned out to be a good primer/introduction to the characters. There are a handful of short stories here, focusing on different characters. Some of these heroes made the final team, others didn't. Astro-Girl is like a younger, female-r version of Adam Strange. Power Temp superheroes part time. (Joey Mason's art on PT's story is great.)

Green Lantern Corps #25 - Less Mongul = better GLC. The origin of the black mercys is cool. Mother Mercy is all lovecraftian-looking, which is more cool. This story explains why the black mercys' powers are different here. Not a bad issue, at all. Gleason's excellent art makes even the grody bunch-a-corpses scenes engaging. Here's hoping next issue begins with Mongul's head exploding, and a new, interesting villain taking his place.

Trinity #1 & 2 - A promising start to a weekly series that apparently will be thankfully free of constraining continuity concerns. Busiek gets the characters right in every scene, and conveys everything clearly to the reader. Bagley's art looks maybe even better that his Ultimate Spidey stuff.

#1 - Cosmic stuff with screaming faces made out of nebulae: could any of this be related to the JLA/Avengers and Busiek's JLA run that followed it? That face doesn't look like Krona, but you never know.

The lunch scene does a good job of defining these characters vis-a-vis each other, and sets up the mystery that will drive at least the first arc of the series.

A ghostly castle is a cool thing. The choices for the anti-trinity aren't what you'd expect, which makes them interesting. Most folks think this Enigma guy is the Riddler, and he may be, but it doesn't fit IMO. Riddler ain't that technological or spooky. Plus, i like his private eye act in Detective, so i don't want that abandoned. Maybe he's Riddler from the future.

Dig that Ragman in the alternate Gotham scene. It's all Joe Kubert-y. Nice.

Is that yahoo on the last page the same as the nebula-face at the beginning? Probably, but looks a bit different.

#2 - A micro-solar system? Cool. Kinda Silver-Age-y. I wonder why it didn't disappear like the other alternate reality stuff? Hopefully there's really cool and weird stuff on those planets, and we'll see some crazy adventures there.

I think these alternate reality scenes are not multiverse-related. I think they're just brief, alternate timeline or imaginary worlds.

Those insectiod giant robots that Wonder Woman's fighting are cool. They remind me of Bagley's work on Thunderbolts.

Tom Derenick is a really good superhero artist. What's going on with John Stewart's powers here? I've never seen anything like that happen to a GL before.

The two-story structure looks like it will work, especially if they're closely linked like in #2.

Okay, i really don't have a lot to say about this, b/c i enjoyed it and it was pretty uncomplicated. So other than saying "i liked it", that's about all i got.

Comparison to Final Crisis (inevitable, right?) - This doesn't seem to be tied into/tied down by continuity concerns. No other series counted down to it, and it doesn't claim to change the universe. So the stakes and expectations are very different. It's easier to read this as just a good superhero yarn, and i'm happy with that.

Good so far.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Comic Reviews for the Week of June 4th, 2008

Manhunter #31 - This series lands on its feet again. The past is neatly recapped in two pages, then it jumps back into the action with a fight scene, and the rest of the issue gets to the substance of Manhunter's life, her supporting cast, and her newest adventure.

See that scene with Iron Munro? That's how you work DC continuity, even fairly obscure continuity, into a comic. You name the character. Through natural-sounding dialog, you establish that this guy used to be a superhero. Now i know sometimes characters are just dropped in there, without identifying them or giving any context whatsoever, but for my money, this works better. But i guess i'm just lazy b/c i don't want to wait for the "director's cut" reprint to find out who the folks on the page are.

Back to the story, Iron Munro comes off as a jerk here. No, i don't have much sympathy for the guy who wants to "catch up for lost time" after ignoring his family for decades. Go make up your lost time wherever you were for the last thirty years, jerk. You have no right to ask other people to alter their lives just b/c you suddenly decided it might be nice to "connect" with your grandkids. Jerk.

I liked the phone conversation between Dylan and Chase. That was sweet in that "we're too cynical to be sweet" kinda way.

I'm not happy about the possibility of the Joker showing up, though. Unless Manhunter kills him. Somebody needs to kill that character. I hate him.

Between Director Bones and Atomic Skull, there are two skull-headed guys in this issue! That is cool. Does Atomic Skull have invisible skin and stuff, too, or is he just a skeleton powered by atomic energy magic? Manhunter took him down too easily, too. He didn't even try to hit her, seems. He just seemed confused. It was kind of sad.

I'm really dubious about the "real world issues" thing. It's really hard to do justice to real issues in fiction, and even harder when said issues are background for superhero action and soap operatics. Plus, anything that reminds me of politics is a big minus. However, and perhaps paradoxically, i was excited by the idea of a superhero rescuing a "real" person who was in "real" trouble. That line about "we fight aliens, evil geniuses, you name it...why can't i find one missing girl?" was onto something. It would be cool to see a superhero, especially a "street level" one like Manhunter, rescuing people from man's inhumanity to man instead of fighting fantastic threats all the time.

Blue Beetle shows up at the end, and that's good, and it's enough to convince me to pick up the next issue.

Noble Causes #34 - Talk about your superhero soap operatics, hoo boy does this comic have soap operatics to spare. The Nobles are a serious super team. There's a kaiju-sized pharaoh stomping downtown Cairo, and they don't even send the whole team to deal with it, they just send three people. And those three people p0wn the cyclopean menace. It's all the interpersonal drama and emotional machinations that give them real trouble. This is fun.

I like the world Faerber has built. This, along with Dynamo 5, is a good example of how to build a broader continuity for faithful readers without depending on it too much and alienating newer or more casual readers.

I like how Bonechill is freaking out about the Nobles trying to capture him. Plus, he's the third skull-headed guy this week, so bonus.

This world has a prison for supervillains in orbit? Wow.

I'm not sure what that sentence on the last page means. How do you hire someone to do that? Especially someone who was "an accomplished super-hero in her own right" at the time. But i'll go along with it for now.

Buffy #15 - Mixed are my feelings. This has some of the great Buffy action and snarkiness that i love, but also some of the Buffy cliches that have come to annoy me. No one can be happy for long without Tragedy! stepping onto the stage and randomly killing people. Drac shows admirable concern for Xander, but i'm not buying the Drac/Xander friendship...or whatever it is.

Way to go Dawn with the rallying of the troops! The um, Dawnbot, however, was not so cool. But for an uncool thing, its idea of what makes it a teenaged girl was really funny. "I like blue jeans and irony." That cracks me up.

That discussion between Willow and Buffy, where Willow is saying, in a sarcasm-disguising-honesty-jokey way, that it bugs her that Buffy didn't decide to "experiment" with her, was kinda wierd. Can't two people of the same sex just be friends?

Drac's sword is "one of the ancient your scythe"? That line begs for a future story to explain/explore it. Maybe i've played too much D&D, but that line implies all sorts of epic backstory and +5 vorpal sword enchanting.

Vlad the Impaler stealing Drac's Big Bad vibe was nicely done, as well. He was just as scary as a human as he is as a vampire. (Though if you like your Europe European and not Turkish, you gotta give the guy his due.) This hits one of the major BtVS themes: we are the monsters! It also once again gives the lie to that malarkey about the human soul being removed when a person gets turned into a vampire. That's Watcher poppycock. And it's a badass scene to boot.

I'm not sure what the "kill every single one of them" page is supposed to make us feel. Sometimes it's necessary or justified to obliterate your foes in a kinda genocidal way? Or, this is Buffy going Too Far, or becoming jaded?

Satsu, you are losing my respect. Buffy used you. She was a huge jerk to you, taking advantage of your genuine feelings for her momentary enjoyment. Do not tell her how great it was. Do not give her one for the road. Tell her to go screw herself next time and stay out of your life.

This issue has a beautiful cover.

Justice Society of America #16 - That was an unexpected twist. It was played well, too. Although of course it's going to end badly, for now i almost believe that it won't. Well done.

Gog's tell is that he repeats the phrase "i made them/him good again." I MADE him GOOD. It's that theme of "trying to make the world the way you think it ought to be is bad" thing that Johns uses so much lately. That was Black Adam's sin, and Sinestro's, and probably some other folks' whom i'm forgetting. He's gone to the well a bit too often on that one, especially since he's never clarified the difference between that villanious motivation and the motivation of our admirable heroes--not to my satisfaction, at least.

And speaking of Black Adam, here he is. I'm going to ignore that retconning rubbish about his powers being inherently evil and the apparently futile diversion of said powers to Mary Marvel (i'm also going to ignore the last year of Mary Marvel stuff while i'm dipping into denial). So Isis may be back, huh? That could be cool. The "Black Marvel Family" is a concept worthy of further exploration.

That double page spread of Gog being "cast out" from "paradise" is awesome. What's that beneath his left hand? Ain't it the same eye-in-a-triangle symbol that's on FDR's grandkid's arm? (That, or the Illuminati goes back even further than i thought.) Interesting...

What happened with Damage was cool. I hope it sticks, b/c angry Damage was becoming too one-note.

Another strong issue for JSA. When's the next one?!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Perhapanauts #2 - This is a pretty packed issue, but it never feels rushed. We get a JLA parody, a good chunck of character background/development for Arisa, Choopie becomes king of some little goat-gremlins, we get a strong hint to Molly's origin, and a surprisingly affecting journal entry from MG about his relationship with Arisa; oh, and the back cover is a funny gag on '50s sci-fi/monster comics. Arisa, the telepath of the group, had been a bit of a cipher up to this point, but this issue gives her new and deeper dimensions. It was a huge leap in character development. If you like adventure comics with good characters, you should read this.

Usagi Yojimbo #112 - Usagi and friends start out helping a young girl escape from a crime boss, and wind up taking out the whole criminal operation in a scene of mad samurai action. UY is a fun, exciting comic. Sakai's cartooning skills are topnotch.

Fables #73
- I was thinking about how epics and Events in comics used to happen in the regular series (i.e., The Great Darkness Saga, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Judas Contract, etc.) and how much better they were back then, b/c they got the proper amount of build-up, the story stayed focused b/c it was in one title and not difused over multiple minis, etc. etc. Well, that's what's happening in Fables right now. Fabletown's attack on the Advesary's empire has been building for the last 72 issues. While telling us lots of entertaining stories over the past six years, Willingham & Buckingham have put everything into place, strategically, emotionally, dramatically, to deliver a truly epic-level action story. This is incredible stuff. This is one of those series that you look back on and realize that you've really been reading something special.
The preview of Madame Xanadu in the back was very cool, and confirmed my decision to add that one to my sublist. :)

Firebreather #1 - A strong first issue. The character and his world are set up, we get a feel for who everybody is and the tone of the series, and we get ominous hints of big doin's to come. I'm intriqued by Firebreather's father. I had assumed he'd be some kind of kaiju, dumb and lumbering but awesome by sheer audacity, but it turns out he's more like a great wyrm of the D&D variety, all ancient and scheming. Kuhn's art is expressive, attractive, and has the storytelling chops. I'm digging this.

Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men - FINALLY. This qualifies as a good epic comic story, too. I like the sections with the other MU heroes, and especially how they were taken out of the fight (though, cool as it was, we don't find out how it was done, do we?). I would say i'd like to see Whedon write more MU characters, but i know it'd take a hundred million years for the stuff to come out, so i'll settle for this. Lots of big action and badassery here. Collossus and Kitty Pryde are the stars, with Spidey ably playing Special Guest Star. I suspected that the giant missle threat might be solved the way it was solved, which was depicted very cool by Cassaday. This series has convinced me that Cassaday isn't just an over-rendering "realist", but is actually a top-tier comic book artist. He tells the story, his characters emote, his characters all have individual faces (even the attractive women), and his tech designs are unusual and cool. Good stuff.

Blue Beetle #27 - It's a testament to the character, supporting cast, and situation that these fill-in issues while waiting for a the next creative team are still more entertaining that your average superhero comic. The last page felt a little arbitrary, but otherwise a solid and fun issue. One of my favorite series.

Shadowpact #25 - If it's gotta end, at least it ends well. And hey, here's another smackdown that gains significance and entertainment value by having been set up over the past 24 issues. The Shadowpact, with help from their time-displaced allies, take on the Sun King and all his nigh-unstoppable power. Blue Devil gets his groove back, and the Phantom Stranger lets his hair down a bit. Blue Devil is the character that gets a real boost out of this series, at least potentially. He faced off an entire eldritch army by himself, faced down the legal department of Hell, and showed his leadership mettle. I'd like to see more of this team, but honestly i don't expect to. It was good while it lasted.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final Crisis #1


I felt very little about this comic. I read it and thought, "I'm not sure what that was about." Then i waited a while, read it a second time, and i still didn't know what it was about.

Anthro (who isn't identified, and neither is his setting) is met by Metron. (It's neat that Morrison combines the image of the burning bush from the Old Testament with the Prometheus story from Greek mythology, but it doesn't add to the story.)

Dan Turpin (who isn't identified, and neither is his history with the New Gods) finds the expiring Orion. We get the hint that the New Gods have been reincarnated somehow (as we've seen in Seven Soldiers and Birds of Prey).

John Stewart investigates. The Black Racer is floating in the background. I guess that's the new Black Racer. The New Gods reconstituted themselves really quickly. They're already online before the last of their old forms has completely croaked.

I like Mirror Master's accent.

Why would those supervillains stage a protest march? Aren't they all wanted for multiple felonies? Shouldn't they be hiding out instead of marching down the street in costume? And why is that lone panel in the middle of the "League of Titans" bit?

It's good to see that Luthor, etc. aren't simply accepting Libra as the new boss. And Libra's dig at Vandal Savage was funny.

The cell phone bit confused me. I thought that maybe the Human Flame was watching something he'd recorded earlier. So i thought maybe he was watching the execution of Martian Manhunter on his phone. Something about that scene didn't flow well for me. That might just be me.

I kind of like the New Gods being in human forms. Of course it will depend on what sort of role they play, but it could be cool. I suspect that Darkseid's machinations have somehow fused the New Gods' essence with humanity, which is fitting since all of his plans seemed to involve Earth anyway, and "New Earth" is the "foundation stone of all existence."

Is it me, or are the Leaguers talking about the New Gods as if they don't know them? As if Orion, Lightray, Big Barda and Mister Miracle weren't members of the League? Has that bit of history been changed, or has the reincarnation of the New Gods somehow caused amnesia?

I don't know what the Monitors are here for. Thematically, they're another level of cosmic power and mythology; they're like another pantheon of gods who may be higher than or in competition with the New Gods. How does their story relate to the others? The other stuff all ties to Darkseid's plans, but i don't see how this one does.

Then Anthro meets Kamandi. Apparently Anthro is either transported to another Earth (if this is the Countdown version of Kamandi) or the distant future (if this is the old school Kamandi). Kamandi is not identified, and neither is his setting. But we do learn that Metron set his own plan into motion before he croaked, and this is the good guys' Last Best Hope.

The monitor who was "exiled" wakes up in his new, human form (more gods becoming men, soon to strive towards godhood again; Morrison's working his literary themes) for i guess the first time.

This issue was set up, as you'd presume a #1 to be, but while it put the pieces into place, it didn't give us any indication of what kind of game is about to be played. Any thread between these various plots has to be deduced by the reader. That's not necessarily bad, but it's not Summer Event Series storytelling. The stakes are unclear.

It was odd.

Readers not already familiar with DC's superhero universe will have a lot of questions. Characters and concepts are not introduced in several instances, as i noted. If you haven't read Seven Soldiers, you might scratch your head about the Dark Side Club. This is a big minus for an Event comic, which is intended (or so i always thought) to sell to a lot of people, not just faithful DC fans who follow their "universe" as a whole. Something as simple as caption boxes, or a couple editorial pages, would have helped.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Son of Short Comic Reviews

Birds of Prey #118 – So this takes place after Final Crisis, looks like. At least, it has the new version of the New Gods that we saw in Seven Soldiers. Interesting. We've seen this superpeople fight club thing several times recently. Are all the Apokalipsians black? That's not...y'know...kinda racist? To make all the bad guys black? I'm not accusing anybody of being racist, i'm just dumbfounded that the folks at DC wouldn't see the implication, and diversify accordingly. Nicola Scott is really good. I like her style. This issue is mostly about Misfit and Black Alice, both of whom are cool. They both learn something surprising here. It's good to see some fairly new characters getting page time and development.

Dynamo 5 #13D5 tries to recover from getting their butts kicked last issue. There's a revelation about one of the characters which was totally unexpected, but works very well. It fits with everything that had already been established. It looks like next issue we'll see a slightly different version of the team, which should be fun. Thumbs up.

JSA #15 – I enjoyed this, but there's not much to say about it. It's all Fighty McPunchkick, in a good way.

Project Superpowers #3 – I got lost reading this. It felt like i'd missed an issue. There were too many indistinct scene changes, too much first-person narrative from too many characters. This ain't a movie. We can't automatically tell that a new person has started talking in the narrative boxes like we can tell when a different voice starts doing a voice-over in film. A different colored bar beside the box doesn't help that much, either. How about a different font, or a differently shaped box, a different manner of speech? Look at pages 8 and 9: Samson and the Scarab are talking. Then half of page 9 cuts to Shangri-La, where the Black Terror is tearing through some bad guys. Why does this bit with Black Terror interrupt the Samson/Scarab scene? Are they supposed to be linked, or somehow comment on one another? I can't see how. It's confusing. And on page 10, what's going on there? Was this thread introduced previously? Is it referring to the FCBD issue? Who is this person 'Devil is talking to? Why put only one page of this in the issue? Where are Pyro and Hydroman? Can't they spare a box saying “Coney Island” or something? This was just confusing.

Wonder Woman #20 – This felt kinda like an episode of Xena, with its use of not-quite-right mythology. (Beowulf died fighting that dragon, and he didn't have to chase Grendel, he killed him in Hrothgar's mead hall, etc.) Xena bit Wonder Woman's style, not the other way around. Never forget that. It's still a fun issue, though, b/c it's really hard for Gail Simone to write a bad comic. There's the unexpected appearance of Stalker, an obscure character from the 70s. (No prior knowledge necessary, however.) I'm not sure if that's actually cool, or just a bit of trivia.

Green Lantern Corps #24 – I loved last issue, i didn't like this one. Mongul is boring. Boring boring boring. What's his deal? Does he have a motivation? Oh, he's psychotic. Yawn. All the dead bodies orbiting that planet was kind of dumb. Why couldn't the lanterns fly around it? Or was it supposed to encase the entire planet? It would take trillions and gajillions of bodies to surround a planet, even a small one. And why did it stink? There's no atmosphere in space, thus no medium for the smell to travel through. If the lantern rings let in smells, wouldn't they let in poison gases? Aren't the black mercies supposed to show you your fondest dreams, thus lulling you into a fantasy world you don't want to leave, while it slowly kills you? Isn't that what makes them cool and memorable? But here, they're showing Ion and Arisa their fears. (And some future stuff, like the multi-colored rings killing Ion?) What gives?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Comics of Free Comic Book Day
Brief reviews

I've read most of them by now. With this weekend's nice weather, i've sat in the backyard reading, which is cool. The only ones i haven't read yet are the EC sampler and some of the kid-oriented stuff.

Broken Trinity Prelude
- I knew next to nothing about these characters (Witchblade, Darkness, Angelus). The opening story here is an introduction via a story being written by a reporter for an alternative weekly paper. It was informative. Definitely i know more about these characters than i did before. I'm not rushing out to buy the trades, but i'm slightly intrigued.

Amelia Rules - All four of these stories are very good. The first one, "The Things I Cannot Change" really impressed me. It could have been cheesey or maudlin, instead it was emotional and smart. This is good stuff. Obviously it's aimed at kids, but it's intelligent an nuanced enough for grown ups.

Hero By Night/Gunplay - HBN is pretty cool. It's old school superheroics. There seems to be a lot of story potential built into the set-up. The Gunplay half of the book looked kind of cool, but it seems like they pulled pages from various issues, and they didn't flow well at all, so it was hard to tell quite what was going on.

X-Men - This was a good read. It felt a lot like a Buffy episode, including the depiction of the demons as simultaneously very nasty and chuckleheaded. Pixie is cool, even if she's a bit munchkined out (she can fly, teleport, throw pixie dust, detect magic, and has a demon-killing soulknife? c'mon...). What does a Welsh accent sound like? Is this the creative team that will be taking over the regular comic? Is Pixie from the Morrison run?

Shonen Jump Special - Not bad, but these selections are too short to give much of an idea of the series. I can fill in some gaps b/c i know enough of the "shonen" tropes that these things usually follow. I didn't read the one about basketball.

Marvel's Best-Selling Authors - Meh.

Kid Houdini and the Silver-Dollar Misfits - I like some of the art, but the book didn't hold my interest. Why Houdini?

The Moth - The art here is awesome--design, layout, linework, it's all stupid good. The Moth is a likable character, too. I just might pick up the regular series when it starts.

Del Ray & Dabel Brothers 2008 Preview - The Dresden Files bit could have told us a lot more about the main character, but it made me wonder about it, so it did what a preview is supposed to, i reckon. Wild Cards is actually very interesting. Are the novels in print? I haven't seen them, even at Ed McKay's. Frankenstein i didn't read. The monster should not look like Fabio's prettiers, skinnier son. In Odd We Trust might be a good read, but i'm not sold on it.

Avengers/Invaders Sketchbook
- It's got some sketches in it. That's it. That "previously unknown" Golden Age team looks kinda cool. But what's up with that guy having a star over his nose?

Ignatz - Some of this stuff is too "heavy" for me--life provides enough problems on its own, thanks. Baobab has a cool setting and strong art, but if it's all as laconic as the pages here, it could be hard to read. Grotesque: i like the art a lot, but i'm not sure what it's about. Interiorae: why do these women want drugs, apparently whatever drugs they can get? i'd like to read this just to see what's going on. Delphine: this looks cool. Remember Sala's cartoons on "Liquid Television"? Those never made sense to me, but this thing looks cool. Reflections: There's no story here, but the character drawings are great. Ganges: I liked this. I'll have to look for it at the store. It's funny. It's accessible. The art is sharp. What makes me hesitant about getting into these Ignatz book is the price. A while back i got the first issue of New Tales from Old Palomar, and it was 7.95. They're bigger and have more pages than a regular comic, but it might make more sense to buy them when they're collected.

Dan Dare/The Stranded - Dan Dare is fun. The Stranded seems complicated. Ramayan 3392 A.D. looks fairly kickass, but that little snippet didn't tell me much.

The Death-Defying 'Devil - Here's some background on 'Devil and superbaddie the Claw. The Claw is crazy pulpy badguy fun. So, are the people in the story calling 'Devil "Devil" or are they calling him "Daredevil" but we just read it as "devil" b/c of copyright issues?

Atomic Robo - This is the best FCBD offering. It's high-octane action with humor, and it stars a robot built by Tesla. It's really good. Neozoic is cool, too. I want to read that trade when it comes out.

Bongo Comics Free-For-All! - This was funny. I dug it. Way funnier than that not funny movie they made.

Drafted - That was really good. The ads and solicits didn't make it look this good. I can see how it might devolve into a shoot-em-up/bad video game type of thing, but it seems smarter than that. Now i want to read this series.

Owly And Friends! - It's very, very cute. Johnny Boo made me laugh. Yam: an enjoyable read.

Comic Book Diner - Nothing here did anything for me, but the character design of Buzzboy is cool, and the colors on Tbyrd Fearlessness are awesome.

Hellboy - Best FCBD offering next to Atomic Robo. "The Mole" is creepy and surreal, and a nice character study. I really need to start reading those B.P.R.D. trades, b/c Guy Davis rocks. "Bishop Olek's Devil" has a great lovecraftian monster.

Jughead - Now i want to visit that museum. But watching "The Wire" has made me afraid to go to Baltimore. Wouldn't it have been crazy if Bubbles had walked in there and tried to con Archie out of some money for smack? Or, is Jughead's food problem a metaphor for drug use? Hmmm...

I volunteered at the local store. I got there a few minutes after they opened at 10:00, and there was a very long line outside the store. That line did not let up for over three hours. That's not b/c we were slow, either. We were stuffing bags with free comics like we had tapped into the Speed Force. We made three types of bags: kid, teen, and adult. It was a lot of work, but worth it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maggie the Mechanic
by Jaime Hernandez

The earlier stories in this collection don't feel very focused, but they are still fun, and by the end of this book the world and characters are in sharp relief. Even secondary characters get fleshed out with backgrounds, complex motivations, etc.

Maggie and Hopey are two young women living in Southern California. In many ways their world reflects the real world of the early/mid eighties, when these stories were created. Mexican-American and punk/hardcore elements are most evident. There are also many invented and fantastic elements, too. There are countries like Zymbodia, there are dinosaurs, rocketships, etc. These elements never take the focus off the characters.

Maggie is a mechanic. Having grown bored with fixing cars and such, she's landed a job fixing rockets and robots. She's the assistant to famed "prosolar mechanic" Rand Race, for whom she quickly falls. (These stories originally appeared in the periodical "Love & Rockets", which Jaime shared with his brothers, and here we've got both love and rockets.) This job takes her to exotic foreign lands and introduces her to many strange and entertaining individuals.

Hopey plays bass in a punk band. Physically she's the "pixie" type, tiny and pretty, but she's the biggest hellraiser of her circle, and the most emotionally jaded/guarded. She'll tell off people several times her size or throw a bottle at a cop, but she keeps most non-violent feelings close to her chest.

Other characters include Hopey's bandmates, their older and disturbed friend Izzy, Daffy the flighty Japanese girl, Izzy's brother and Maggie's crush Speedy, bombshell Penny Century, horned billionaire H.R. Costigan, and many many more. In fact, one of the back pages has a cast of characters with 63 portraits.

The stories range from short, comedic slice-of-life vignettes to adventure yarns to intimate character portraits. Jaime Hernandez does all of these well, and you reading them you understand why this series has remained popular and influential for decades.

Jaime's art style is clean and smooth, though he sometimes uses a lot of fine lines and crosshatching, esp. to convey grittiness. I can see the influence of Ditko and Mobius, which are both good things IMO. He draws a wide variety of people. Most of his women are attractive, but they're different. He also draws places and things very well. You have no problem recognizing Maggie & Hopey's neighborhood as a sunny, urban, aging locale. The level of detail is just right.
Serenity: Those Left Behind
By Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad, Laura Martin

This story takes place between the TV series and the movie. It feels much like an episode of the show, maybe a two-parter. The dialog and story beats fit. Will Conrad and Laura Martin make the characters look like the actors.

The art is strong. It conveys the same world, the same "look" as the show. Martin's colors are an equal part of the equation with Conrad's pencils/inks. The lighting effects add to the dramatic quality, and some of the space scenes would be hard to follow without the colors to distinguish and shape the objects on the page.

I liked the story, but it wasn't quite like the show. Some film properties translate well to books. (I've enjoyed several Star Wars novels.) I'm not sure that Firefly is one of them. I didn't like the movie b/c i felt it departed too much from the show, thematically and stylistically. This comic matches the show better, but the intangibles added by the cast are missing. A new Firefly comics series has begun recently. I'll try it and see if this trend continues.

The detail and "realism" of the art detracts from the storytelling, IMO. The characters look mostly like the people from the show, the sets look like the sets, etc., but there isn't much sense of movement. I don't know why not b/c i'm not sure what makes static images in panels convey motion in the first place. It happens in lots of comics, but it doesn't happen here, or it doesn't happen often enough that it stood out to me. Or maybe it's just that no drawing of Inara can ever be as gorgeous as the "real" Inara
Short Reviews for the Week of April 25th, 2008 A.D.

Number of the Beast #2 - It starts with two superheroes having sex in a cheap motel room. Turns out Honeybee has a real stinger, and it freaks Aeronaut out. How very naughty. I am shocked and/or impressed at this comic's flaunting of convention. It would have been funnier if it had turned him on. Basically, the heroes get more of a clue re: they're living in a VR program. Great art and character designs from Chris Sprouse. A "dramatis personae" page or "handbook"-type backup would be appreciated.

Fables #72 - Cinderella can kick all kinds of ass. I love how Willingham makes his characters very capable, without turning them into Mary Sues. Now that they've told us the war has started, the next issue better be about the war, or this book will officially be an annoying tease.

Birds of Prey #117 - I'm just a mark for these characters. I can't explain why. Even for Misfit. All Zinda has to do is show up and i'm like "Zinda is awesome." The bad guys in this issue look goofy (pinstripes? spiky mohawk? lizardman with suspenders?) but they still come off as legit. That's no mean feat. What happened with Superman? This was a fun comic.

The Spirit #16 - It's definitely a different comic now. I'm not sure if i dig it. It's still done-in-ones, which is good, but they're kinda generic. They could happen to just about any superhero; they don't feel particularly Spirit-y. The art is great.

Dynamo 5 #12 - This one picks up directly from #11 and it's all action, baby. It's a freightload of fistacuffs. There's a villain with a skull head here. That is always cool. On the last page we have an unexpected and nicely bizarre twist. I really like this comic.

Shadowpact #24 - Generally i think the "legacy" thing is played out, but sometimes it works, like this issue and JSA. But i could be prejudiced b/c these other Shadowpacts look really cool. There's a 19th century pugilist, complete with twirly mustache, and some dudes who look like they 'ported over from Marvel 2099. Phil Winslade is awesome. The Sun King is a great idea for a villain. He's come off consistently creepy throughout the series. He could work in a D&D campaign. Blue Devil's "brother" looks totally sickass without his scarf-deal. Another good issue.