Sunday, March 31, 2013
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Just finished reading Mark Waid & Peter Krouse's inaugural title for <a href ="thrillbent.com">Thrillbent</a>, his experimental digital comics site (in partnership with writer John Rogers). I found the characters engaging eventually, though I was initially put off by yet another series whose premise revolves around analogues of more famous heroes (here it's Batman and Robin) and deviating from there.
Waid writes this more as a superhero comedy/drama revolving around family, something he has had plenty of experience with Fantastic Four and The Incredibles, and it genuinely made me laugh out loud more than a few times. The character of Galahad (the Robin of the scenario) started to read like Sterling Archer by the latter third (which I think is the perfect tone for the character which wasn't coming through quite self-involved enough initially).
The tagline of the series is " What happens when you’re a crimefighter and your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant, ungrateful douchebag?" In taking the Robin/ Batman tact, though, Galahad never meets the level of asshat-edness and insufferability of Damian Wayne.
I don't have a lot to say about the format. It's probably scaled for iPhone and iPad, so my Galaxy Note II led to a lot of scrolling. As well the "weekly" structure makes it a little annoying to read after the fact (as it's not continuous reading on the in-page app).
For free it's definitely a fun read.
And look, a guy wearing a coat of babies.
Friday, March 29, 2013
A few thoughts about Batman #455:
- I kind of forgot that Tim Drake was around already in 1990, but then again I forgot I'm old now.
- Tim was a very angry boy back then, quite unrecognizable compared to how he turned out under Chuck Dixon's guidance
-This was the start of the story arc that introduced Tim in costume (#457)
- Both Batman and Nightwing's inner monologues... florid and kind of poetic (but I wonder if readers who grew up with the comics of the late '90's or '00's look at this over-dramatic writing as challenging to read and enjoy as much as I do Silver Age writing... I grew up with it so while I recognize that its a little ham-fisted, I have no problem with it)
- Tim Drake's outward monologue is like an excerpt from a latin soap opera and Norm Breyfogle's art totally sells it
- Breyfogle is still one of my all-time favourite Batman illustrators
- This was 1990 so they were still trying to make Vicky Vale a viable character because of the movie
- Haha, Vale has to develop her pictures (topless apparently)
-an ad for The Flash TV show (Justice has never been faster... or more furious)... man I remember being so excited for that show (and loving it. I still quite like it)
- an ad for the four-part Superman title X-over Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite. I remember reading this arc and I think more than anything I had read before, this was what Superman should be. I may have to dig those out.
Solson was a short-lived publishing house founded by Gary Brodsky, the son of noted Marvel executive Sol Brodsky. Legendary illustrator Rich Buckler acted as publisher. They're primarily known for... well, they're not really known for anything. Solson was yet another in a long line of came-and-gone black-and-white indie press that appeared in the 1980. They published such wonders as "Codename: Ninja" ("So real, you'd swear it was a movie") and "Reagan's Raiders" (President Reagan and his cabinet do Rambo and Commando one better!" Here's the back cover ad for some of their publications (many of which I doubt actually made it to press).
TwoMorrows T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion and it's evident from the comments of the creative team (Michael Sawyer and James E. Lyle) that the project came together in any form at all was fortunate, but those fortunes ran out very quickly. The creators were disappointed with the cheapness of the publication and the fact that notes on the printing of the book were ignored. The series, intended as a four-issue mini with a plotted out follow-up, wasn't entirely dead in the water, as Rich Buckler had negotiated with rights holder John Carbonaro a 5-year licensing deal, but deals with alternate publishers ultimately didn't wind up with a published book.
The book itself is actually quite decent. Set in the wake of the exaggerated fallout of an excessively conservative, xenophobic, Reagan-era landscape, America has sealed off its borders, removed themselves from the United Nations (as well as booted the U.N. from New York) and is cancelling all visas, deporting any non-citizens, rooting out illegal aliens. But the government-sponsored "White Guard", street-level foot soldiers, are stirring up even more trouble, seeding violence among the small groups of illegals, letting them "take care" of each other. A resistance group of Americans and Francophones clash, people die, and in the chase, four of the clashing resisters discover an abandoned gateway to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Mountain and an off-kilter NoMan.
It's an alternate take on the Agents but it still adheres to continuity, utilizing the characters and situations from the past with a dedicated eye towards making it modern (1980's modern that is). Michael Sawyer's script is good, obviously taking influence thematically from The Dark Knight and Watchmen, but told in a more conventional comic book story structure. The art from James E. Lyle and Ron Wilber is very much '80's feeling, in the same mode as Tim Hamilton (Trouble With Girls), Bill Willingham (Elementals) or Ben Edlund's early Tick work. It's a little sparse in the background department and the faces and poses can be awkward at times, but it's the work of young artists with some genuine talent. In the aforementioned Companion, Lyle notes he did not like the inking, expecting more of a Klaus Janson-style, but Ron Wilber's inks are more akin to Jerry Ordway... it's good overall, but I can see how that would be disappointing.
In all a happy find in the 50 cent bin and a curious addition to the T-Agents collection.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Oh, I thought this was the final issue. Hrm. I've not been enjoying this storyline tremendously especially in knowing it's the last of the series. Taking the main characters and doing to them all manner of injustices was a fun twist for a few issues but in hindsight probably not the best thing for the series. We had just gotten to know Andrew and Tig before they got nasty and detatching the reader from them without making them even all that appealing as villains (I mean they were appropriately evil but not enjoyably so) has made it harder to maintain interest in the long run.
This issue feels like it's rushing to its finish but somehow it just doesn't feel like it's appropriately escalating, while the dialogue here, as in the last few issues, feels more than a little sloppy (the characters are starting to all sound alike, everyone is quippy in a way that doesn't work well with the looming end of the world before them). Also the series has kind of lost it's handle on how it's characters are supposed to act and how being a vampire affects their personality.
This was an amazing series to start but the last half dozen issues have tapered off in quality. Fialkov has some cool ideas and he can develop charaters well but he seems to be having trouble negotiating the two these last few issues. Perhaps it's an increasingly busy schedule or a declining interest knowing the series was facing cancellation... or it could be that it's just not working for me.
I kind of wish Fialkov had another arc, if only to see how Andrew deals with what happened to him and all his friends and associates in this one. Either way, hoping for a much stronger final issue.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I'm really fond of this series... I appreciate Paul Jenkin's myth-building and his use of archetypes as short-hand. What I don't care for is the extended tease and dancing around a reveal for the sole purpose of keeping the reader in suspence.
The conceit of the series is that 32 heroes and villains will fight to the death, March Madness style, until one victor remains. There is a purpose to all this beyond simple entertainment, and that reason is revealed to the contestants upon entering the fighting arena, and it's so huge a reason that it makes men and women kill. Of ccourse one the match is over the winner's memory is wiped. The other contestants can't know, for some reason.
The start of this issue has two characters dancing around the reveal at frustrating and unnecessary length. Jenkins is teasing this reveal for too hard that he's hitting the breaking point where the actual reveal might not support the build up.
That complaint aside, I like how he furthers the characters investigation into the hows and whys and what fors and WTFs of their predicament. I'm wondering at this stage how long the series is given that 4issues in the first round is almost complete. I'm guessing 12-issue maxi-series. I'm in for the whole ride.
Monday, March 25, 2013
After reading this trade, I'm certain I could only read Hawkeye and not need to read any other comic book ever, at all, period. Just Hawkeye from now on, that's it. It's that good. As good as I had heard. Better even. Considering I haven't heard a bad thing about it, I was kind of expecting it to let me down a little. It did not.
I'm not going to stop reading other comics (but I could, really), because I have a problem, but seriously Hawkeye is kind of everything Iook for in a comic book. Writer Matt Fraction has tapped into all the superhero tropes I love: the flawed hero, a sense of history as well as legacy, and capturing both the hero's perspective as well as the everyman's, giving the reader a very well-rounded look at a world with super heroes in it. We see the fantastic as well as the mundane and both of it is great. Fraction uses humour to great effect, situation and character-specific. I was reading early Palmiotti/Gray Heroes For Hire yesterday and there's a book that tries too hard to be funny but Fraction's comedy is wry, original, and seemingly effortless (his use of the old translated word balloon is inspired).
I was also pondering recently whether all the many female heroes I adore (Sne-Hulk, Spider-Woman, Batwoman etc.) are somewhat marginalized by being, at least in conception (and in name) derivatives of male counterparts and somewhat oppressed by having no perceived identityof their own (I think Red She-Hulk is the absolute worst example of this, doubly qualified). But here, in Hawkeye, Clint Barton has adopted Kate Bishop (who took his identity while he was deceased) as a nearly equal junior partner, allowing her to remain Hawkeye even as he has reclaimed the moniker (because lies in movies y' know). I also enjoy tremendously how much Clint and Kate enjoy calling one another Hawkeye.
Clint has a penchant for falling out/ getting thrown out/jumping out of windows as well as getting knocked on the head. I'd be thrilled if Fraction started dealing with Clint's concussion-like symptoms as an ongoing thread.
I liked David Aja with Fraction on Iron Fist but I love him here. Dynamic, creative and deceptively simple, his use of silhouettes is masterful and his comedic timing is on par with the greats like Kevin Maguire, Keith Giffen and Kyle Baker. Soo damn delightful. Javier Pulido does a good job as fill-in but just doesn't have the same pizzaz as Aja. But these two are so good they make Alan Davis, a legend by no small means, look kind of average and mundane in comparison (in the reprinted Young Avengers Presents #6).
I may have to add this to my monthly pickups since I don't know if I can wait for the next trade. And you know, two days ago I couldn't have cared less about Hawkeye. Sheesh.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
I strongly suspect that it was DC Comics Presents #47 (July 1982), in which Superman teams up with He-Man to battle Skeletor (but not before fighting one another first, naturally), or possibly one of the comics, such as All-Star Squadron #15 (see yesterday's 365 Comics #82), which featured the 16-page MOTU "preview" (not entirely sure what it was a preview for... the 3 issue mini-series that followed? That seems odd. I'm almost certain that the appearance in DCCP and in the Preview was more advertising for the toy line than any real attempt at storytelling with the characters). I don't know where my original copy of DCCP #47 disappeared to, but when I acquired a new one about 10 years ago, it felt instantly and intimately familiar (including the, to me, mind-blowing Whatever happened to... Sandy The Golden Boy back-up, which in some regard informed James Robinson & Geoff John's use of him as Sand in JSA). Reading the Preview yesterday was less intimate, but still familiar.
The DC Comics Masters of the Universe stories were always very interesting to me, even as a kid. There was a waywardness to them, an obvious lack of planning for who these characters were, what their abilities were, what their conflict was about, what the rules of the world were... that sort of thing. There's a definite sense of winging it, and, if I recall correctly, the DC Comics diverge drastically from the mini-comics that came with the early figures, just as the Filmation cartoon diverges quite wildly from the DC Comics, and just as the movie would diverge from the cartoon (consistency across media was not a strong point for the property). I lost the mini-comics rather quickly, so the DC Comics stood as character canon for me until the cartoon quickly usurped it to become the official He-Man.
I liked DC's less juvenile take on the characters as a kid, mostly informed by the artwork of Curt Swan (in DCCP and the Preview) and George Tuska (in the mini-series) which were informed more by fantasy tropes than superhero ones. DC introduced the Prince Adam/He-Man dual identity, as well as Cringer, as Adam's timid pet who transforms into a ferocious fighter. They used Teela as chief of security, but Teela with her snakeskin armor and staff was used as visual reference for the Sorceress. Mattel obviously was just starting to construct some sort of mythology on the way to getting the cartoon made, and Paul Kupperberg had a vastly different approach to the limited concepts than the Filmation writers did.
Kupperberg used the actual toys to guide his stories with the characters. He-Man and Skeletor each came with a sword (He-Man's sword was grey, Skeletor's blue) that could join together and "unlock" Castle Greyskull's front door. Kupperberg used that idea in the Preview, with Skeletor needing to join two halves to reveal the mighty secrets of Greyskull. Of course he had to shoehorn Superman in somehow, leading to an extremely disjointed story (the use of Zodak, the Metron of the MOTU, also caused a lot of confusion... was he good, or bad...it seemed like nobody really knew what he was up to?)
The Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel) Masters of the Universe stories were more in-line with the Filmation version of the characters, however, it seemed that the series was even more blatantly used to promote new action figures and toys than the early DC Comics were. As well, since Star was Marvel's "young readers" line, the writing of the series (from Mike Carlin, up to issue 8) was exceptionally patronizing, lacking any depth, passion or seeming interest in the characters. But then, if you're tasked with devising a 22-page story about Monstroid and the origin of Extendar that also weaves in the three-way conflict between Hordak, Skeletor and He-Man, while also containing a life-lesson about responsibility for (kid-proxy) Orko to learn, well, anyone would be hard-pressed to come up with anything less silly than this.
I loved this comic as a pre-teen for the very reason it existed. It featured all the new toys I could go out and buy. This was unlike the cartoon, which had ended production sometime in '85 and thus had no inclusion of new toys. My favourite episodes of He-Man were always those that featured more of the characters, vehicles and playsets from the toy line. But most episodes of the show frustratingly centered around the core cast, or worse, characters who were not toys!
I poke my head into the Masters of the Universe comics and animation and video games from time to time and am rarely happy with what I see, the two recent Origin one-shots about He-Man and Skeletor written by Joshua Hale Fialkov being the exception. There's not a lot of younger He-Man fans out there (the toys being produced are boutique toys for adults at this stage, never to be found in Toys-R-Us), the Masters of the Universe of the 1980's was lighting in a bottle and should not try to be recaptured. Instead, like Fialkov did, treat it seriously. Don't worry about the kids, because the kids aren't reading. The Masters has always been a unique hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy, so if there's any interest in modernizing the series, look towards Game of Thrones for inspiration. Or the complete opposite, make it an outright comedy (I mean, those names alone do half of the heavy lifting).
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Hoo Doggy... nothing used to make me as excited as seeing a whole gob of Superheroes in one place and these classic Justine League-style floating head-framed covers were always a key indicator that many heroes were inside.
This issue of All-Star Squadron is the fourth part (of five) in which (some of) the Earth-2-based ASS (this team was kind of created before acronyms became ubiquitous) teams up with (some of) the Earth-1Justice League and (some of) the future Earth 2 Justice Society. They're gathered to stop the time and dimension-hopping Nazi Per Degatan who has stolen nukes from Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis on Earth Prime... you know,"our" Earth. His using the nukes to attack the Allies of Earth 2 in 1942, offering all countries of the world to either submit or be destroyed. He's also enlisted the ever- untrustworthy Crime Syndicate of Earth 3 to help him defeat the heroes but they just keep stabbing each other in the back. No honor among assholes.
Meanwhile, the missing missiles on Earth Prime has escalated into full-scale nuclear war. Remember when that happened?
This is an exceptionally convoluted story made all the worse by Roy Thomas' over-keen exposition and the need to always have characters unnecessarily reacting to whatever the hell is happening (as well as entirely too much narration). One could swear Thomas was getting paid by the word.
The classic pair-offs happen here with Superman, Dr. Fate and Robotman doing something in space Superman should be able to do by himself, but they square off there against Ultraman (I never could guess his secret identity). Aquaman, Liberty Belle and Starman face Superwoman on missile island. Then Hawkman, Johnny Quick and Huntress fight Power Ring. I guess in Part 5 Steel, Firebrand, Green Lantern, Power Girl, Zatanna and Firestorm face Owlman and Earth 3 Johnny Quick before all the heroes reunite to face whatever escalating threat Degatan presents them with. Sooo formulaic. I love it but it's ridiculous.
This issue also comes with a bizarre 16-page Masters of the Universe preview hot off the heels of DC Comics Presents #46. I'll talk more on MOTU tomorrow.
I've read a couple of these early ASS issues lately and it amuses me how many people have written in to complain how much they could not give a shit about the cast of the book and how they just want the Justice Society back. They did read the title of the book right?
Oh, one last note. Liberty Belle comments that she's heard there's an Aquaman on Earth 2, too but that she's yet to meet him. Did we EVER meet Earth 2 Aquaman? I imagine Thomas had something planned there but that Crisis interfered.
Friday, March 22, 2013
This is heady stuff, certainly not pleasure reading. I've been having as difficult a time reading this on a monthly basis lately as I did the Invisibles. You know, I always meant to reread the Invisibles, and it has been 15 years I still haven't. I don't know if that realization means I should start tomorrow or if I should just get rid of them 'cause it's never going to happen.. At least this is only 18 issues long, but I'm pretty sure I'm going need a complete reread before I truely grasp all of what's going on. Oh, I get that it is mostly thematic in nature, but reading month-to-month consuming another hundred stories in between I kind of lose the thread quite a bit.
Dan has a great review of the latest issue (he's been paying closer attention than I have obviously) over at (a href="http://www.chud.com/129878/thors-comic-column-3222013/"> Thor's Comic Column this week</a>. I'd strongly recommend you read it.
I have a review of Five Ghosts from Image, Adam does Constantine, and Jeb takes a look at the looming spectre of cancellation over at Captain Marvel.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The "carded action figure" cover isn't exactly new (Scud the Disposable Assassin #9 is the example that comes to mind immediately) but I love it, mainly because I love carded action figures.
After reading a couple of pro-femme raves of this title (and thinking recently about what kind of positive comics I could find with female role models with keeping my daughter's comic reading future in mind) I decided to pick up the first two issues. It wasn't a hard decision given that I generally respond well to Cullen Bunn's writing (so long as it's not Deadpool), and a rotating roster of Marvel's heroines joining the odd couple of Misty Knight and Valkyre (Birds of Prey-style, but very much like a team-up book), and it wasn't a hard decision to check it out.
But really, I'm just sold based on funky covers alone. Looking ahead a couple issues, #4 has a paper doll cover and #5 has a Street Fighter homage), all from cover artist Mark Brooks, who manages to draw beautiful women, but powerful and unobjectified.
I've also tried out the "AR App" thing that you're finding in many Marvel comics for the first time. Enh. Conceptually DVD-style "bonus features" is a good idea, but it's also a financial investment, and I doubt there's much excess money in producing comics. But crudely animated images with stilted line delivery, cosplayers with stilted line delivery, and editors explaining what a mutant is (with stilted line delivery) isn't making me want to whip out my phone two or three times an issue. Has anyone found an essential "AR" yet?
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I recall noticing Priest's turn-of-the-millennium work at Marvel. I was reading mostly trades then, and I actually did pick up the first two trades of Black Panther, and have been waiting ever since for more (none ever materialized). When the Crew hit, again I was just starting to buy floppies again, but I was still massively in debt, and there was a $1.50 disparity between Canadian and US cover at the time...even today a $3.99 cover price gives me pause (it's the reason why I'm trade waiting on the Hickman Avengers series), but back in 2003, the $4 cover price made me choose my comics very judiciously. I also still wasn't much of a Marvel fan so a book centered around Rhodey (who, to be honest, I'm not certain I had read a comic with him in it to that point) seemed an easy pass. Priest did Captain America and the Falcon following the Crew with Bart Sears, who was one of my artistic heroes in the 90's so I was looking at it closely, but gave it a miss ultimately, because, again, I'm wasn't much into Marvel.
Now, for me and comics, it's not about the characters, or the company/universe so much as it's about the storyteller, and whether I like someone's point of view. And I dig Priest's POV. So, I'm starting to stock up on what I missed when I find them at the 50 Cent club (see 365 Comics #66) . Compiling runs of Cap and Falcon, Black Panther, Quantum and Woody, and now Crew are now on my mission radar. I'm not a religious man, but I realized a little more Priest in my life is not a bad thing.
[I should note that although the title on the cover quite clearly says "THE CREW", the actual title of the series is listed as "CREW" sans the "THE". Weird.]
[UPDATE: Just posted Mar 21:
Looks like Quantum and Woody are coming back. I'm going to be *very* disappointed if Preist is not attached. However if they reprint the original Q&W series in trades and that puts $ in Priest's pocket, then I'm all over those.)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Monday, March 18, 2013
I loooved Captain Carrot & Co. when I was a kid. I only had maybe 6 of the 20 issues of the series, which I'm quite sure came my way after the title was already cancelled, but I was somewhat fixated with it pretty much until I discovered Giffen/DeMatteis' Justice League and Byrne/Ordway's Superman titles on the newsstand. I was still keen for Carrot's return, up to and until the Final Crisis tie-in "The Final Arc". That series just didn't seem to recapture the magic of my youth, but I realize now that anthropomorphic funny animal comics are almost exclusively children's fodder.
My Captain Carrot comics were passed down to my step-son a couple of years ago and he seems to have keyed into them in the same way I did at his age. Next to Tin Tin and Astrix, they're hands down his favourite comics (certainly of those that have come from my old collection). I do manage to find the odd issue here or there to add to the run (it is about two-thirds complete at this point though they're not that easy to come by... I still don't believe that the Oz-Wonderland War mini-series exists... I've only ever seen the ad for it) but I haven't read most of the additions found in recent years.
Issue 14 I only read about in the letters page (err... Lettuce Page) of issue #18, so it's rather infamous to me, the debut of the Earth-C JLA: the Justa Lotta Animals, animal variants of all the DC heroes:
(with cameos from:
The Martian Anteater
The Item (the Atom as a tiny elephant)
Stacked Canary (really!?)
and my favourite, Firestork
Now in Captain Carrot-world Carrot's alter ego R. Rodney Rabbit is the illustrator of the JLA comic book so this poses a conundrum, which is explained by a visit to the JLA's original writer, Gardner A. Fox, who explains his understanding of the multiverse and the fact that he and Rodney Rabbit must be subconsciously tapping into another reality when writing his "funnybook stories" (a common explanation when breaking the fourth wall like this in comics).
But their actual coming together is the result of the teaming of Carrot's enemy Dr. Hoot and the JLA enemy Feline Faust. They've hatched a scheme to take over the JLA's home planet Earth C-minus and by scuttling the JLA over to Earth C and keeping them busy with terrorist acts from the likes of Armordillo and Amazoo (splitting off into smaller groups of 3 just like the real JLA). Once the two super-teams catch wise to the situation they teleport post-haste, hopefully to Earth C-minus (but potentially not).
I'll be blunt, this is some silly reading which I think is what appeals to kids so much and has adults straining to get through. There's some old-school pre-Crisis fun to be had (and I always loved Scott Shaw!'s cartoons) but at time the script is painful, mostly revolving around the Carrot/ Super Squirrel/ Wonder Rabbit love triangle or Yankee Poodle's mooning over Supes (who comes across like a real dick, seriously... he's more a villain here than Amazoo or Shaggy Dog). The reduction of the female heroes to lovesick gawkers is really, really sad, to the point where these crude stereotypes make me reconsider whether my kids should be reading this chauvinist Earth-pig material. My 11-you-old also consumes a lot of Archie so he's already getting a lot of this boy-crazy-girl crap (even today's Archies are still somewhat reductive).
Captain Carrot has returned, sort of, in the pages of Threshold in the New 52, but not as a cartoon super-bunny but as a one-eyed, leather-clad space pirate with a Han Solo complex. Its evident that DC is trying to make a Rocket Raccoon-like breakout character out of a silly property but they should instead try to create a new kids brand which is what he was created for in the first place.
[my favourite part of this issue: the cover illustrations of the creators as Earth C characters:
E. Nelson Birdwell
Duck G. Ordano
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
I commented on Sweet Tooth's brisk pacing in previous 365 Comics entries (#49-51) thinking that reading this series as a monthly would be maddening as each chapter seems so quick to read. At this point in the series (issues18-25) however I can finally see Lemire settling into the monthly swing as each chapter in this volume seems so much fuller than before and there's more in play as well as more to take in.
Also this volume is larger by two chapters than previous volumes so together it seems a lot more substantial than before. Yet it also is less satisfying somehow. Where the prior three volumes each had a distinctive arc with a definite beginning/middle/ end, Endangered Species feels more like a segment of an ongoing series and doesn't conclude with a satisfying stopping point. With two more trades (15 issues) left to go its amazing how, only halfway through the series it feels like we're barrelling towards the end point.
Friday, March 15, 2013
I've never much liked Humberto Ramos' art, which is a lie. Instead I mean to say I never much liked Humberto Ramos' art in mainstream superhero comics. He was one of the forebearers paving the way for Manga's broad cartoony influence on the American superhero mainstream, and I just never cottoned to it. Outside of the severe mismatch of his style with spandex, I actually have always found him to be a tremendous talent.
I haven't followed his career at all purposefully, but I've definitely seen him around, his work on various Spider-Man projects is almost inescapable (but I've never been Much of a Spidey fan either). It's nice to finally see his work in a genre that seems especially tailored to his style.
He has worked extensively with Paul Jenkins over the past decade or more, but Fairy Quest may actually be my first exposure to their collaborations. It's another entry in the "fairy tale shared-universe" conceit made popular by Fables (and later Grimm and Once Upon A Time), wrapped in a Princess Bride-esque narrative framework. I'm not a big consumer of fairy stories but this is as entertaining as any I've read. The main quibble is the foot that this was presented as a 2-part mini-series, when, by the end of this issue, it is evident that it is just the start of a bigger story (to be continued in the next mini-series "Fairy Quest: Travelers").
I guess this release structure permits the writer and artist time to work on other projects or take the time they need rather than feel the pressure of an ongoing or bigger mini series but this 2-parter does just feel like a very good looking and well conceived tease.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I still haven't read Batman Inc. #8. Thought the second printing was out this week but my shoppe didn't have it. But I know Damian is dead and that's a about all you need to know for this ish of B&R.
The silent issue can only really come about when a writer trusts his artist completely. Pete Tomasi has been working with Pat Gleason for years, first with an extensive run on Green Lantern Corps before taking over B&R. They're a very solid dynamic duo themselves. Gleason has become a very formidable artist and this issue really spotlights it, as the writer intended. The dialogue-free story deals with Bruce Wayne and Batman's grief over the loss of his son, and it takes a cold heart to not let Gleason's powerful and expressive pictures get to you.
It's a beautiful issue though I found it somewhat undercut by a letter from Damian to his father, the implication being Robin knew his death was a potential outcome of his actions. To me, however, letter took me out of the emotional visuals I had sunk into because it seemed manipulative on Tomasi's part, unnecessarily so.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I thought I should follow-up my look at the first 2/3 of this mini-series (365 Comics #61&62) with a look at the closing chapter where all things come to a head.
Rannagar is in chaos as Sardoth is comatose after Adam's psychedelic Zeta Beam trip went psychotic, the council is literally stabbing each other in the back, Alanna goes into stress-induced labor, the Earthwoman Eve arrives to reveal Adam's infidelity all while an alien armada attacks.
Writer Richard Bruning pulls no punches in this intense and frantic third act. It's serious about its subject matter and it's characters. Relationships here are even more complex than Bruning shows, all dealt with surprising maturity and striving to avoid cliches. The frailty of the Utopian ideal is highlighted as well as the fact that no man is hero to all people, and to some a hero may seem quite the opposite.
This series doesn't distill down to one simple idea, it is a rich exploration of one man searching for identity and trying to understand his life while it all falls apart around him. Despite the fact that Adam is the center of the book he's not the sole focus as it dives deep into the societal issues that are beyond his control that are the reason everything falls apart.
In not certain that the rather surprising and drastic changes Bruning made in this series sustained in the DCU (Alanna's death during his daughter's birth, Sardath's drastic personality shift, the floating city of Rann lost in space, Eve becoming a resident. The permanence of the Zeta beam) but I doubt it. Unfortunate though because it's quite obvious how much Bruning loves the character and he seemed to really be looking to contribute something grand and new to it.
I'm going to hare to pull out the '04 miniseries and the Rann/Thanagar War that followed to see what's up. In pretty sure Strange turned up in JLA at some point before that too.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Over at <a href="http://www.chud.com/127848/thors-comic-column-3813/">Thor's Comic Column</a> I cover the end of Rotworld, which really ended last month but concludes here.
The ratings got a bit botched in the publishing though, as I gave Swamp Thing a 3/5 and Animal Man a 3.5/5.
What I didn't get to talk about was Animal Man artist Steve Pugh. He drew my favourite arc of the original Animal Man series, Flesh and Blood (yes even more than Morrison's run, and I think it is largely due to Pugh's art) and I was so happy to see him return to this run on the character. Pugh is to me the quintessential Animal Man artist. I think only Brian Bolland, cover artist on the original series could give him a run for that title.
I'm sad Pugh is leaving the book (or being replaced, I don't know which) but last time he and Animal Man parted ways I didn't see him again for a very long time. He's just too good an artist to disappear like that. He needs a bigger spotlight.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Prior to the Crisis reboot of the DCU Superman was getting rather silly, or at least that's what everyone in this issue's letter column was hinting at. It truly did seem like Supes, more than any other hero, had difficulty adjusting to the times. I'm not certain that these mid-1980's issues of Action, 24 pages typically split between two or three stories, were all that different than the far-fetched, super-fantastical Superman stories of thirty years prior.
This issue finds Superman being challenged to a contest of feats by the champion of Krypton's sister planet of Ostok. It's a dozen and a half pages of super-competition like racing around the world and leaping to the moon, while Jimmy Olson digs to see if something fishy is happening. Turns out Ostok was decimated by the radiation of from Krypton's destruction and Superman's opponent was making a last ditch attempt at restoring his planet's rep as champions before he died. Its a sobering conclusion, ending with Superman in tears. Strong men also cry.
The second feature begins equally sobering with a drought and a field of dead sheep, which somehow manages to segue into a Mxyzptlk story, wherein he forces Metropolis to celebrate the birth of his son forever.
The cover by Eduardo Barreto is a wonderfully sombre represenation of the lead story, but it implies a far more serious tale than what is actually underneath (and Kurt Schaffenberger's pre-silver age style doesn't even compare). It was a similar complaint in the letter column, that the cover of issue 570 (also by Barreto) was striking but the lead story didn't live up to it.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Well, that title certainly grabs your attention, doesn't it? It did it's job, getting my attention, and getting me to buy the book, if only to find out whether its contents would live up to the marginally scandaIous title.
Didn't Madonna put out an art book called "Sex" about 20 years ago?
I wouldn't actually have picked up the book for its provocativeness, nor would I have picked it up if I actually knew what it was about. What sold me was the very striking cover design, perhaps taking a cue from Gaspar Noe title sequences. The purple hue on the wrap-around cover, featuring the protagonist slouched in an office chair with all sorts of crap blanketing the floor around him, equally suggests debauchery, or perhaps it's only in association with the title.
I was disappointed to learn this was another alt-superhero tale. A sort of "what if Batman gave up and decided to just try normal life as a billionaire for a change" situation (only Simon Cooke was more of an Iron Man-type hero). But average life can't measure up to the adrenaline highs of crime fighting so what will Cooke do to fill the void? Hint: see title. It transcends what little genre trappings it uses for flavour, and also establishes an interesting environment far its characters to inhabit in Saturn City, a concentrated metropolis with a Singapore feel. The main players are introduced without much background but the context of their appearance and their carefully crafted dialogue reveal as much as we need to know for now.
It's the brainchild of Joe Casey, but artist Piotr Kowalski is the star. His figures are good, a sort of Sean Philips/Steve Dillon feel but his architectural details, ever present in Saturn City, are eye catching and utterly fascinating. The city is a true marvel, perhaps the most visually interesting fictional city Ike sees in some time (that two page spread showing it off is worth staring at for a long while).
Colorist Brad Simpson is an absolute find. He nails the perfect tone for this story with his magenta-infused color pallette. I'm not sure what else he's done, but I've taken note and he's already on my superstar colorist list.
Sex also employs Sonia Harris as its graphic designer. She, quite literally, sold me this book. In recent years titles that utilise a strong graphic design compliment to the art grab my attention and keep it longer. I'm not certain where I'm at with the story, but the presentation alone has me for at least another 3 issues.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
There's a new shop here ih Toronto called Kensington Comics. It's far from your conventional comics retailer. For starters, there's no new comics, it's all back issues, and those back issues, well, they're dispersed throughout the store in no particular order.
The store is located in what must have been at one time an apartment space or at least a rented pair of rooms. It's accessed from the building's side entrance in an alleyway, and you have to walk up a narrow, creaky, twisty stairwell to get to the rooms. Once at the top of the stairs one sees a narrow hallway literally lined with comics. Thin plastic slats mounted to the wall hold comics about 10 deep and they coat the hallway from floor to ceiling with funnybooks. In the room immediately to the right are some vintage comic book store tiered fixtures overstuffed with comics. As well there's three custom made (a nice way of putting it) shelving units newly built and (at time of writing) awaiting stock, although one shelf puzzlingly is well stocked with used denim. Above all the racks, more slats bursting with comics.
The room at the end of the hall will find the shopkeep, (edit: his name's George) as exceptionally friendIy man (he'Il call you ''Brother" Hulk Hogan style within minutes) watching Movies or TV on his Mac. This room has more adequate custom shelving, wall to wall, 100 deep with freestanding comics. Above them, more slats filling the wall space up to the ceiling. Stepladders are everpresent to get at the high staff (or to hold your finds). Tens of thousands of comics, completely disorganised. The owner even has no idea what is there or where anything might be. It's like a comic nerd's fantasy -or nightmare - come to life.
Why would anyone shop there I hear you ask? 50 cents a book, or 50 for $20. That's why. The owner started buying comics in bulk off collectors for cheap to sell to the kids in his shop. Then his OCD kicked in and he kept buying. He's estimated he's got over a million comics now and he really has no interest in them personally. He likes buying them and selling them.
The experience is addictive, like digging through the 50 cent bins at a comic convention only more cozy. It's easy to spend 90 minutes there digging and not notice the time pass. The place is constantly restocking (check the facebook page for updates) so its already in a few short months built a loyal customer base of diggers, and at $0.50 or 50-for-$20 there's next to no risk buying a random book like Heroes For Hire #15.
It's a terrible book (mostly because its the end of a story that relies heavily on understanding the characters, their relationships with one another, and in knowing what came before, but also because it has four different artists within its 20 pages). It was not a fun Random Read.
But I like that skull cover. That's $0.50 worth right there.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I know I keep bringing it up every month, but that's because every month this book delivers like Dominos. It's top of the pile now every time it comes out and I read it with a big, dumb, goofy handsome smile on my face. I genuinely love this book. I kinda liked the TV show, but I love this.
My brother-in-law is not a comics reader (he's been known to dabble) but he loved Smallville from the get-go, watched every episode unironically, and had a relationship with it no geeks I knew did. Not quite as enthusiastic as <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z07MMlFqGvQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player">this guy</a>, but not too far off. He was kind of happy when the show was over, he felt somewhat liberated from his fandom. Two weeks ago I gave him my copies of 1-10 and he cursed me for bringing him back into the fold. He admitted they were really good and he was surprised by how much he enjoyed them.
I had originally collected the comics for him in the first place as a Christmas gift and continue to be surprised by how much I enjoy it (although I'm now just starting to expect it).
This month: Jay Garrick, more Speed Force talk and name dropping, Otis gets fired, Barbara Gordon returns, more memories from Earth 2, and a Speed force-absorbing super suit courtesy of Dr. Hamilton and STAR Labs. How can you not love this?
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Anyway, it would be three issues later that I would start reading BoP (yes, it was the wicked Power Girl cover from Phil Noto that drew me in, thank you very much) and I only realized that I missed out on something special when I learned that Ted Kord, Blue Beetle: personal hero, was a supporting player in the book. I love Ted and I was really enjoying the heck out of the series, generally, that is until Chuck Dixon left only a few issues later (or was forced out, I don't recall) and the series kind of tanked it with a rotating cast of writers until Gail Simone came along. I've always been meaning to go back and pick up the earlier Dixon BoP issues, particularly those with Beetle.
This is a recent acquisition and it opens up beautifully, with Beetle squaring off against Kalibak, of all things. It's a total fake-out but had me going for a squealing-with-glee second, as it turns out it's all a Danger Room-esque sequence to get Ted back in peak fighting shape. But something's wrong and Barbara sends him to the doctor. Ted is one of my favourite heroes because he's always been the most vulnerable. He's smart, but he's also impulsive and a little selfish. He's somewhat immature and not always responsible. He's also not the best at taking care of himself, having put on weight in the Justice League and here having a heart condition. His death in Countdown to Infinite Crisis was a true heroes death and it doesn't look like his memory is going to be sullied with a rebirth thanks to the New 52.
Anyway, I got off topic. The remainder of this book has Oracle and Black Canary investigating the whole "Bruce Wayne: Murderer" thing and annoyingly Oracle has to skate around Bruce being Batman with Dinah. I mean, it's really annoying. I know at that time in comics Batman's secret identity was not out with the rest of the hero community but it's such a grating plot point in this book.
This was Rick Leonardi's first issue as penciller, and it left much to be desired. Stiff figure work, inconsistent faces (in one panel Ted looks young, another really old), and awkward angles (one panel makes it look like Barbara's standing over someone she's talking to, and that's not right). Yet, at the same time there's the odd panel, say, about a dozen of them, that are really fun to look at, dynamic, well structured, interesting.
Anyway, Ted's story has sold me on continuing to find more BoP, which is good because I don't think I'd be keen otherwise.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I love convergence in a story, where multiple threads collide. This Adam Strange miniseries continues to surprise me with its almost effortless juggling of so many story threads in such a relatively short space.
I also love that this miniseries aims to relaunch the character as a more serious science-fantasy concept (and succeeds), distancing but not completely ignoring the character's high concept roots, nor does it dispense with continuity, still ir corporating Swamp Thing's visit to Rann a half decade earlier.
Richard Brunning puts on a masterclass on revitalizing a character, especially relevant in these reboot /retcon crazy times. Now, to track down that 3rd issue.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Friday, March 1, 2013
Invasion! still remains one of my all-time favourite event comics. It was 3 80-page issues released over 3 months which kept the cross-over disruptions to a minimum. It was well conceived and well executed and once it was over it didn't change anything all that drastically... except spawning L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 and Justice League Europe , excellent books both. The redheaded step-child of Invasion! was Blasters, the series that never happened.
Comics used to "backdoor pilot" series all the time, testing out heroes in team-up books and guest appearances and gauging reaction before deciding to give them their own series. By the time the 90's ended event comics seemed almost solely designed to launch new series (or reboot entire universes). Often now though new books pst appear, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks, unsure whether or not it's ready. For a brief time in the '80's it seemed that mini-series were the way to go, but the one-shot or Special seemed to be solely the domain of characters or concepts that couldn't sustain a series, pet projects of writers or editors put out to the public often in desperate hopes of gaining traction. Pilots, like in television, only sadder in some ways.
Blasters was supposed to be an Invasion! spinoff, you could tell, as these characters were positioned in the miniseries somewhat prominently. Alas, as Bob Greenberger explains in the editorial midway through the book, its biggest champion, Robert Loren Fleming, had a falling out with DC editorial and left their ranks for a while.This derailed plans and set the title back, but Bob Greenberger was still keen on the idea of exploring these misfit characters.
Rather than letting a lot of time and effort go to waste, Blasters was allowed this pilot, now with Peter David on board as writer and James Fry on art. It reads and looks like a now-or-never hastily constructed effort, very loose and playful. It toys with breaking the fourth wall, ala Ambush Bug or She-Hulk and David seemed to enjoy dropping plenty of gags throughout, including a cheeky reference to the Hitchhikers Guide, spider-aliens eating Pop Tarts, naming spider alien after Spider-Man creative teams, and playing with comic-book translation conventions.
Blasters obviously didn't make it beyond these pages and to be honest I dont think they ever appeared again. David knows how to write fun comics but this was a little too light. I could see the Snapper Carr as mental patient angle working on its own treated with more severity and making the humor a little darker, but here it's barely a thing, a throwaway character hurdle easily overcome.
As well Fry's art is pretty sloppy. I've seen him do solid work elsewhere around the same tiue period so I kun he's not always as uneven and unappealing as this.
Ah Blasters, we hardly knew ye. Probably for the best.