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.