Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This just in!!

I have important breaking news* for the new year!!!

Ed Brubaker can sure write some crime fiction!

*I am pretty sure I am the last person for whom this was breaking news.

Coward (Criminal #1 tpb) - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This is just a terrific story. If you like crime fiction, or well written stories with great art, you'll love this. Truth is, you probably already love it. I am a bit late to the party on everything, but being first has never interested me. The goal is to read and enjoy good comics, not to break any records for reading them before everyone else.

I am a big fan of comics that read like really good movies. I know that not everyone is, but I don't really understand that prejudice. This reads like a good movie that I would like A LOT. I am really into the sort of movies where the main character is holding back and then despite trying to stay above such things, is eventually unleashed. (A History of Violence, The Unforgiven, etc.) This has a bit of that, combined with another thing I love, and that is the character type of the mastermind. The character that has everything planned out. They think of angles that you can't believe even existed before that person thought of them.

In Coward those things are presented in the form of Leo, a pickpocket and heist planner with a knack for making it out alive by following some solid rules, and a reputation for being a coward. The story is about a job gone bad, and throughout the course of the story we see a lot of compelling and well written characters, and really get into the mind of Leo and learn what he is really all about.

There is a lot of humanity in this book. There is a certain sympathetic view of a certain class of criminal that really rubs off on you when you read it. I highly recommend this, and have already picked up Volume 2: Lawless.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back in the New York groove...

I will be in New York City for work next week. I will be out there late Sunday through the following Saturday. I may not have a single bit of time of my own, but if I did, are there any of those big fancy New York comic shops near where I will be? I will be staying right around Battery Park, and Working around the World Financial Center? not terribly far from there? If anyone that sees this happens to know that part of the city, let me know if there is any place close to it that is worth noting.



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Comic Book Day before Christmas

I wasn't going to pick up my comics today, but I ended up having to ride out and pick up a last minute gift card. I'm glad I did. The nice part was that while they had just had the busiest day of the year, they were empty when I showed up so there was no trouble chatting with my friendly LCS guy while I browsed. The other great thing was that it was a good strong week for me. I wish every week could bring me a really solid four or five good titles. As it is, I am pretty happy with what I get right now, but I still have those slow days.

My LCS gave us all a nice discount as a present and I bought the first trade of David Lapham's Young Liars. I am looking forward to reading this, and will post about it at some point.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2 - Except for the awful scene of the guy who had his arms and legs cut off, I really enjoyed this issue. I love the characters, so any time we get to see more of them just being themselves, it's a good thing... We see more Kraken in this one and a nice dose of Rumor, including a cool full page thing by Ross Campbell. Ba's art is great as expected.

Runaways #5 - This thing keeps being just endearing enough to me that I can't drop it. I really love Ramos' art. I really love it. I have said it before, but I loved his art on the New X-Men, and i love this as well. It's perfect for the age of the characters and the tone of the book. This one had a lot of vehicular goings on, and the effects of the scatter spell have finally worn off, thank god. It was pretty fun, which is good enough for me.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #3 - Holy Cats Mike Kunkel can cram A LOT onto a page. Fortunately for me the amount of stuff on the page tones down a bit as this issue goes on, but the effect of it all gives the book a sort of hyperactive in a good way, kid vibe (Sort of like the adorable Mary Marvel in this same title). This issue brings us the inevitable... Theo Adam gets the magic word and becomes Black Adam! It's good fun and the art is great.

Atomic Robo - Dogs of War #5 - I guess it had to end some time. This was a pretty incredible mini series. The art is fantastic, and the writing was superb. The story and the backup stories were just good comics. It is great to see Robo at different points in his 'life', and see the way his attitudes have changed, etc. The ending of the book is done well, and says a lot about the character. In this issue Robo's upper half fights nazis while his legs relax in a crate...

Watching Batman again

When Tim Burton's Batman came out, I dragged my wife to the theater to see it. I would later figure out that it might be best to not make her see the movies that I am frothing at the mouth for when I know she has no interest in them. I didn't love the movie. There were a lot of things I liked about it, a bunch of things that could have been done better, and a few things that were just stupid in my opinion. That didn't stop me from seeing each Batman movie as they were released. I love Batman, and however progressively more awful each movie was, there was still some joy to be had if you are a fan (although some of them might be better if you don't know the source material).

Unlike a lot of people, I thought the movie was pretty much ruined by it's Joker. I thought the movie focused WAY too much on Nicholson. I thought his performance was OK, but I didn't like most of the things about the way the character was written and portrayed. I thought it suffered a bit from Burton's excesses, but I liked the look and feel of things just fine. Michael Keaton made a fine batman, but didn't hit the Bruce Wayne notes. I thought Keaton was great as a rich playboy with a secret double life as Gotham's Dark Knight Detective... but he didn't seem very Bruce Wayney to me. He was perhaps too squirrely to seem like Bruce Wayne for me. I also didn't like the inclusion of the man who would be Joker in Batman's origin story.

All of that said... My daughters have never seen any of the old Batman movies as far as I know. We have watched the new ones in the theaters, and they have loved them, just as I have. I decided recently that They should probably have a sense of what went on before, so I added Batman to my Netflix Queue and we watched it together last night.

They loved it. They had no issues with it, and enjoyed it without the burden of having grown up reading tons of batman. They have both watched cartoons with the character their entire lives, but I think that may allow a greater tolerance for other takes on the character, than when you have old comics canon ingrained in you. Talking to my 14 year old, she says there is no question that Ledger's Joker is way better than Nicholson's, and that the new movies are better than the old one, but none of that kept her from enjoying the film.

I have to say that I enjoyed the movie way more this time than I did previously. There are aspects still that i think are stupid, but they don't ruin the movie for me, and there is a lot that is done just right. I like dark and deco Gotham. I like Joker in the style of Cesar Romero, I think it can work. I like Heath Ledger's Joker for what it is, and his performance was better without seeming as omnipresent as Nicholson's. My new opinion on this movie is that it isn't nearly as bad as I recall. I had no problem enjoying it this time. I will probably go through all of the old movies with my girls. I have no doubt that they will enjoy them on at least some level.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does this feel wrong to anyone else?

After happily finishing the fourth issue of the Terra mini series that I enjoyed partly for how relatively light it was. Regardless of what it was about or what happened, there was an over all feeling that just came off as not overly heavy. Great taste, less filling I guess. I am a bit of a fan of that, if it isn't already obvious to you. I can certainly handle heavy and serious stuff, but I don't think everything needs to be that way.

Here is Dan Didio's piece from the last page of the comic. You may have seen it in another comic, but for me it was in Terra #4 as i said.

"The dead shall rise."
Well, at least that's what Geoff Johns keeps telling me. And since I've seen some of his plans for next year's epic, BLACKEST NIGHT, I have to say this will easily be one of the most anticipated events in comics for 2009. The story has been building and building since the Sinestro Corps War helped define everything we knew about Green Lantern, and Blackest Night promises to do the same for the entire DC Universe.

Starting in July, Blackest Night will rip through the DCU as the different color Corps are faced with the onslaught of the Black Lanterns. Our heroes such as the JLA, JSA, Titans and more are forced to defend Earth against some very familiar faces. As a matter of fact, any character who has died in the DCU is eligible to be a Black Lantern (and you know how many have died in the last couple of years). Geoff answered a couple of fans from several DC Nation panels at conventions this year when fans would ask about the status of certain deceased members of our universe, and the answer was always the same. It would go something like this:

Fan #1: Are there any plans to bring back Martian Manhunter?
Geoff: Yes…Black Lantern.
Fan #2: Will we see Aquaman this year?
Geoff: Black Lantern.
Fan #3: How about Pantha?
Geoff: Black Lantern.
Fan #4: I'd like to see the return of Max Lord, Solovar, and Airwave…
Geoff: Black Lantern. Black Lantern. Black Lantern.

Now, we can't say exactly who comes back wielding a black ring this summer, but we can tell you for sure to expect the unexpected. I know July seems like a long way away now, so we have plenty of action going on in Green Lantern (Red Lanterns and Agent Orange) and Green Lantern Corps (Star Sapphire and the Sinestro Corps) to keep you occupied. And in February the Origins & Omens event sweeps through the DCU featuring a certain narrator who is a central figure in Blackest Night. It's all adding up to be one of the biggest and best events in the history of the DCU, so get ready.

I'll be back next week to fill you in on the Titans (both regular and teen) and give you an update on a certain villain and a certain crossover that will turn teammates into enemies and change the status quo of every character involved. Sound serious? Welcome to the DCU in 2009.

To be continued...

I was bugged by the parenthetical up there. I realize that this is a guy plugging the big event to presumably an audience that is hungry for it, but It just feels like winking and smiling about all of the characters that have been killed off, and that doesn't sit right with me.

I am really not a fan of gratuitously killing off characters. I know that characters have been dying or seeming to die, or being announced as dead for as long as there have been hero comics. I generally don't care for it. Have characters die, only if it makes sense and is essential to the story. Worse than most of the ridiculous temporary deaths that big named heroes seem to have every now and again are the deaths of underutilized characters. They are usually brought in just long enough to make them interesting and show their potential before being offed, etc.

Is it something to be proud of that you have amassed a great stable of dead heroes and their friends and loved ones? Is dragging them out of their graves to use them as villains really something that needs to be done as a company wide event?

It's probably not something to actually be bothered by, I guess. From some of the searching around I did about this, there are at least some folks excitedly banking on their favorite dead hero coming back evil. I guess the key to anything like this is good writing and plotting, etc. With good enough writing anything is possible.

Comic Book Day 12/17/2008

Not as much going on for me this week, but still a good week

Amazing Spider-Man #581 (Dan Slott, Mike McKone)- Way to not be dead, Harry... Poor Harry, you would think there would be someone happy he isn't really dead. This issue begins a story arc called 'Mind on Fire'. It starts with Spidey getting set up to look like the tracer killer, and ends with the Molten Man wreaking havoc in a suburban home. The art is decent, it's a good read.

Spider-Man Noir #1 (Hine & Sapolsky, art by Giandomenico) - I have a good bit of hope for this mini. Like X-Men Noir, I think this one gets off to a good start. The art is awesome, and the writing is good. I like the set up. It may not be 4 dollars awesome, but it's pretty good. It lives up to the noir label, and spins the story in some interesting ways. Regular Spider-Man's uncle was killed by a regular old robber... the Noir Spider-Man's uncle was EATEN BY A CRAZY GUY. The Enforcers, the Vulture, Black Cat, Norman 'the goblin' Osborn are all present here.

Tiny Titans #11 (Baltazar, Franco) - Terra Trouble. Poor Beast Boy, He's crazy in love with Terra, but she returns rocks instead of affection. There are a number of other cute bits in this one, including a good one about changing names featuring Robin and the male Starfire(Red Star). Cute and fun as usual.

Terra #4 (Palmiotti,Gray,Conner) - This series seemed to come out really fast. It was nice to get the new installments so quickly. Sadly, I am not convinced I want to read something called Terror Titans, but I guess I will look, since that is where Terra is available with the end of this mini. I really liked this . I LOVE how Terra and Power Girl are portrayed. Power Girl comes off as fun and friendly and nice. Terra has the fish out of water awkwardness that is the stuff of sitcoms. The end of this book is great. It is a female super-hero buddy comedy. I think that should be an ongoing series.

Beanworld Holiday Special (Larry Marder) - I picked this up this week as well. It's cute and quirky and has a cool style about it. peculiar is the word on the cover, and it is fitting. This is the first Beanworld i have read, and I consider that a shortcoming of mine

The Annotated Wondermark (David Malki) - This isn't a new book. I met Malki at Heroes Con this year (by that I mean I stood in front of his table). I had never read or heard of his work prior to that. I picked this $10 trade collection of strips yesterday, and I love it. I will go back soon to pick up the hardback Beards of Our Forefathers. The strips are done using public domain images with a decidedly 19th to very early 20th century feel about them, and the humor ranges from childish to disturbing, to sublime. There is also a great deal of humor in the presentation of the material. The front and back cover are funny, the front pages about how to read the book scream Monty Python to me for some reason I can't really explain. It's good funny stuff.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Episode 4

Episode Four: Invasion Of The Secret Santas - I liked this episode more than the last one. I'm not sure how it would rank against the others, but it was better than the Aquaman episode. The intro this time features Batman and Blue Beetle again, and they face off against the Sportsmaster, who has apparently been around for a good long time. There is a lot of humor in this one, and it is mostly visual. It also has some of the darkest moments of the series so far. The main story is Batman and Red Tornado vs Fun Haus, who most internet chatter seems to say is the Toyman without any pesky ownership issues.

I never cared much for Red Tornado. I don't have any great thing against him, but he never did much for me. In this episode he is played completely as the robot trying to get the human experience. He doesn't really have any personality, and speaks in 'robot speak' like 'Observation: my character is a robot stereotype"... Ok, not that phrase specifically, but you see what I mean.

So... Fun Haus has an extremely convoluted plot to steal presents from what appears to be a small town where Red Tornado lives. First he sends aliens to attack, then he sends Santas in to attack, then he relies on every kid in town getting a specific action figure that will come to life on Christmas day 'Small Soldiers' style and then steal presents for him. I imagine that he spent way more money making all the stuff for this caper than he could ever recoup from it.

Running through this are two themes that are interwoven. The first is that Red Tornado wants to feel 'the Christmas spirit' that people feel, and the second is that Batman for some reason is avoiding it. During the course of things we see a yet again conveniently altered version of the origin story where this time young Bruce is a brat who doesn't get what he wants for Christmas, so his parents take him to a movie to make up for it, and get killed on the way home... Yep, right in the middle of the goofy show that doesn't feature Bruce Wayne is the very serious double murder, and this time it is Christmas related AND it is even more his fault.

The particularly good parts of the episode to me are:
  • When Blue Beetle KO's the Sportsmaster's goons, all the bowlers trapped in giant see through bowling pins clap for him.
  • Each time there is a new attack by Fun Haus's creations you get the close up of the same lady screaming in the style of old monster/invasion movies.
  • Red Tornado giving Batman a 'World's greatest detective' mug.
  • Red Tornado overloads himself and blows up, and then attributes it to the 'Christmas spirit' that he has been so desperately seeking.
  • All the little action figures transforming into a giant robot.
  • Batman goes through roughly 1000 batarangs in this episode, I swear.
  • Blue Beetle inviting Batman over for Christmas dinner.
  • Batman riding a reindeer to catch up with a runaway sleigh.
It all came together to form a pretty enjoyable episode, despite containing a combination of what I saw as weak elements. I am still enjoying this series.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Popgun Bullets: Popgun Volume One, part five - The next 50 pages

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

  • p201 Super Tron - Sheldon Vella - This comic is crazy with color and style. There are places in it that I had to go back and re-read several times to figure out what was going on and exactly which character things were happening to. It's pretty fun though. It is also up to 60 screens on Zuda at the time of this writing. The interactions between the robots in this seem very pre-teen. Even after reading a lot more of it online, I am not fully sure what to make of it, but I've enjoyed it.
  • p217 They Shoot Ponies, Don't They? - Mark Sable, Rob Guillory - The art is good, the story interesting. We get a tale recounted here by perhaps the smallest badass in the old west. It's a story about a town trying to keep itself cut off from the rest of the world in order to be 'normal'
  • p224 Grow Seven Monsters Ad - Danny Hellman - This is a one page fake ad that lampoons comic book mail away ads, and suggests that the bitter recipients of the disappointing crap may grow up to be serial killers.
  • p225 Tiger-Man: Mark of the Squid - Mike Bullock, Marcelo Di Chiara - This is a classic old school all ages Batman and Robin style superhero story. It is certainly well done for what it is, and as a bit of nostalgia for a time that maybe never was, it made me smile. Super Hero's young sidekick is kidnapped by odd villains and superhero goes and kicks some butt, all the while seeming heroic. This is by the same person who did Lions, Tigers & Bears, which is great, and in which Tiger-Man is a comic book hero. I highly recommend the two trades of that as good all ages fun, geared toward a younger set.
  • p237 Cheeseburger-head - Erik Larsen - not a bad little bit about a guy who wakes up with a cheeseburger for a head, but it sort of feels like something that was pulled out of a drawer when asked if he had a contribution for the book.
  • p243 Black Circle White: The Recycle Soul Project - Jonathan Hickman - The art is great, the layout cool and stylish. I don't get this at all. I mean... I do, I guess, but I have no real use for it.
  • p248 A Man Named Wattson In A Head Among Skulls - Kris Anka - Speaking of things I don't need in an anthology... There are 3 FULL PAGES of ... NOT STORY here. Three. We have a cover, a title and a dedication page before we get to the first page, which also has a title on it. I am just not a fan of this piece.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Popgun Bullets: Popgun Volume One, part four - The next 50 pages

Part One Part Two Part Three

  • p151 Solomon Finch -vs- 100 Vampire Bikini Girls - Julio Figueroa, Chamakoso -This is a cute story with great manga style art. It's 10 pages about two police detectives who bust a crime ring based out of the trendy and popular restaurant 'Bikini Vampires. It isn't deep, but I would certainly read more of this sort of thing.
  • It's Mexican Wrestler Funnies - Andy Kuhn - Man, When did Mexican wrestlers elevate to the level of Pirates, Ninjas, Monkeys, Bears, etc.? I am not knocking it, but I swear nearly all things hip or alt, etc. probably have at least one masked wrestler in them. I have no issue with it, just sayin... This is by Andy Kuhn, so the art is great, and it is an extremely funny take on taunting and trash talking.
  • The Death Of The Midnight Sky - Rick Remender, Josh Hoye - I appreciate the style of the art in this, and recognize it as well done, even though it isn't my thing exactly. I like the story well enough. It's really just a short narrative, but it's done in a neat way, and certainly uses the medium well.
  • p172 Aqua Leung: Ambush - Mark Andrew Smith, Paul Maybury - I really liked Aqua Leung a lot. The writing was good, but the art was fantastic. What we have here is a piece where the art is really the star.
  • p179 Blood Inside - Nick Stakal, Chuck BB - I like the art here, especially the cool looking kind of viking guy in the beginning, but I have no idea what I am looking at really. I guess it is two glimpses of last moments with blood loss, I don't really take anything away from this.
  • p183 Express Elevator To Hell Tour - James Stokoe - Nothing really happens in this. We get told what's going to happen, but mostly it is a cool looking tentacled guitar ? playing guy in a hat who is leaving hell. The art is trippy, but there is no substance here.
  • p191 Love Will Tear Us Apart - Tim Seeley, Jeremy Dale - This is a sweet little piece about a guy who falls in love with a girl who is too free to be tied down to another person, only to kill himself when she leaves him and comes back as a zombie after a zombie outbreak. The art is decent, the idea is ok.
  • p197 Space Mutha Fucka - J.Latour - This is short, the art is good, the idea is funny. It's not exactly my thing, but it is funny. It takes the gun as penis thing to a logical conclusion.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Comic Book Day 12/10/2008

I have been really happy with the comics that have come out in the last several weeks. There has been almost nothing that I haven't liked, and quite a few that I have greatly enjoyed.

Ambush Bug Year None #5 - Bringing you more Dan Didio than you ever expected to find in a comic. It's still very funny stuff. The art works great, and Giffen sure knows how to write funny books. One of my favorite bits is Darkdidio (Didio as Darkseid) telling his flunkie to unleash the Anti-Sales equation.

Echo #8 - This was a bit of a nice departure from the slow build up we have been reading for a few issues. We finally get to see the first encounter between the two 'wielders' and it shows us a bit more about the magnitude of the powers the 'metal skin' gives people. Julie's pursuers are all getting closer, and none of them seem inclined to give up.

Amazing Spider-Man #580 - Another different artist and writer, but we still get a nice looking, well written (presumably) done in one story about the Blank coming to town. I swear Spider-Man should have let Aunt May stay dead for all the trouble he has to face because of her. Does EVERY villain he faces have to somehow threaten his aunt even by just odd coincidence to get Spidey to notice them? This was a fairly light read, but not a bad one. It read like the old Spectacular Spider-Man issues I used to love when I was younger, more or less.

The Forsaken World Ythaq #1 - This is another Marvel import from Soleil. Good job Marvel! I missed Sky Doll, but I will pick it up in trade at some point (or maybe the HC, who knows). Based on reading this issue, and the bits of Sky Doll that I saw, Soleil seems to know what they are doing when it comes to putting out beautifully illustrated comics. The issues are 48 pages of story, with a cover price of 5.99. I would love it if they were cheaper, but with the quality of product, and the enjoyment I got, I will probably continue to pick it up until I feel it isn't worth it. This is another one I am not sure why it needs to be mature content, but since they are just presenting the original content, so I understand that, at least. The story is fun, with lots of action and sci-fi and fantasy... the whole 9 yards. It starts on a starship and ends up on an uncharted planet with strange factions and mystical powers. It was a lot of fun to read.

No, I don't like everything I read, but sometimes I just don't post about stuff I think is crap. I don't see any great reason to.

X-Men and Spider-Man #2 - Christos Gage and Mario Alberti are doing a bang-up job on this. I was unsure about it, but the art made me buy it. It's really great so far. The story centers around the idea that Kraven worked with Mr. Sinister to get DNA from the X-Men, etc. and Spider-Man is working with the X-folk to take care of it. The first issue was Spidey with the original X-Men, and this one has him working with a newer lineup from the time of the Marauders, right around the time of Kraven's last hunt. The art and writing are good enough to justify getting this if you are a fan of the characters at all.

Courtney Crumrin And The Prince Of Nowhere - I have made no secret of my absolute adoration of Ted Naifeh's work in it's various forms, and specifically with regard to Courtney Crumrin. This is another terrific Courtney Crumrin story. It stands out a bit, as she seems at her most vulnerable, and most adolescent here. I have to admit that at the moment I don't know how old she is in the comics, but her feelings of estrangement and her fear of being alone are at their strongest in this story. I highly recommend that if you have not read any Courtney Crumrin comics, you go out and get some. The same thing goes for Polly and the Pirates. They are just good comics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comic book days gone by

I missed a couple weeks of posting about what I picked up. I will make up for that here. This will not include the items i just picked up today. I promise I will be brief.

Amazing Spider-Man #579 - great stuff still. Mark Waid & Marcos Martin have put together a great story. This is the conclusion of the story with the shocker and the train full of jurors in the collapsed train tunnel. Spider-Man always uses every ounce of his strength and never says die... it's part of his essence and what makes him a hero.

Justice Society of America #21 - I am still enjoying this arc that never ends. I have no issue with how long it has been going on. In this issue we finally see the ugly side of Gog.

Jack Staff #19 - I like Jack Staff a lot. I didn't think this was the greatest issue, but it was still good.

Terra #3 - I am liking this series way more than I thought I would, as i have said before. It's really good, though. It's not too heavy, it's got some surprises in it and some pretty wild aspects to it as well. Just one more issue to go.

Umbrella Academy: Dallas - I loved the Umbrella Academy, and so far I imagine I will continue to love it right on through this series as well. The characters are great, the writing is fun, and the art is pretty awesome. I am pretty sure I could write amazing comics as well, if only LynZ would have my baby.

Madame Xanadu #6 - Still enjoying this. Death of the endless makes an appearance in this!!! Yes, I will be excited and happy to see her anytime she appears. The art is beautiful, even when it is depicting ugly things. The tension between Madame X and Phantom Stranger ratchets up a bit here.

Incredible Hercules # 123 - Love & War part three - Clearly I only buy things I know I will love, right? This is another great issue of one of the best series going right now from Marvel in my opinion. The issue ends with the promise of great things to come. I look forward to seeing where they go with Hera.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters #2 - This is a beautifully drawn book. The story, while not actually a Japanese folktale, sure has the feel of what I would think a Japanese folk tale would be like. Since I have not previously read the story, I am looking forward to continuing to see how it progresses.

Haunted Tank #1 - I'm not sure I am much of a fan of war comics. I don't think I remember reading Haunted Tank, but I bet I have at least one haunted tank story in some giant sized war comic somewhere in my boxes. I think I would like this better if it was presented without the profanity and the overly colorful language. It could be a war/adventure comic for teens without that stuff. The audience for this stuff didn't used to be adults, but sensibilities change, etc. I like that the descendant of Civil War hero JEB Stuart is the black Sergent. I am not a fan of war stuff set in the places we currently have conflicts, but that is just a thing of mine. I probably won't get this again, but it wasn't awful. The art is pretty great.

Runaways #4 - I love the art. I love Humberto Ramos' work. I love the characters as well, but I am not sure I am loving the writing as much as I want to. I don't think a lot happens here, and it just didn't do a ton for me. If someone were to say that this is really for teens and that it is speaking right to them, I would accept that, but previous incarnations, especially the early stuff, was just great reading no matter what your age.

X-Men Noir #1 - I was apprehensive about this title. The idea sounds cool as can be, and yet I was assuming it wouldn't be something I would like. Fred Van Lente is great, though, and has written a good first issue of this unusual take on the X-Men and their 'universe'. Dennis Calero's art sets the perfect visual tone, and the result is interesting enough to make me want to read more. $3.99 is a bit steep, but I plan to read more at this point. It is the X-Men set in a non-powered film noir world (at least i assume they have no powers... I guess I could have read it wrong or missed something. The Brotherhood... are cops... get it.. the Brotherhood... Well it's actually pretty cool so far.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Immortal Iron Fist

The Immortal Iron Fist: Volume 1 - The Last Iron Fist Story, Volume 2 - The Seven Capital Cities Of Heaven. (Fraction, Brubaker, Aja, etc.)

I picked up volume one in paperback, and volume two in hardcover a while back at my local used bookstore. It took me a while to get to them, but I was finally able to read them over the past several days. I had picked up the first issue or two of the series when it came out, and had liked it, but for some reason didn't keep getting it. I have never heard anything but praise for the series, and was very excited to find both volumes at the same time at a decent discount. I wish I had volume one in hardcover now, but while I like having hardcovers, I only buy them when they are available on the cheap.

When I was a kid, some of my favorite comics were Power Man and Iron Fist. They were always fun, and they focused on 'street level' superheroes, which have always been my favorites. There was the buddy aspect, and both were cool characters in my eyes. I never considered Iron Fist all that seriously, though. I thought Luke Cage made a pretty good transition from somewhat silly d-list hero to fairly relevant modern day hero, but I just hadn't seen that for Iron Fist until this series.

The good news here is that this series is a pretty fantastic example of how to make a good comic. The first two volumes really present one story, so I am sticking them both in this post. Here is what we get:

  • Daniel Rand in real life. We see him and his corporation and people he associates with
  • A nefarious and fairly outrageous plot involving Hydra
  • Really good history and background involving at least 4 people with RAND as at least part of their last name.
  • A mystical martial arts tournament between the immortal champions of 7 magical cities
  • A great deal of insight into the Immortal Iron Fist and the legacy of that title
  • Luke Cage and the new Heroes for Hire stepping in to help
  • Political intrigue in a mystic setting
  • Awesomely cool and fun depictions of fantastic martial arts at the highest level of mystical mastery.
The whole thing had a feel of a pulp adventure story involving the mysterious east and mountain climbing and cities that appear only once every ten years. There is unrest and treachery and revolution in the air, even as outside forces look to invade and destroy .

It's a romp. It really is just an excellent example of how to write a great adventure story. It has much more the feel of an adventure story than a superhero story. It's the nature of the Iron Fist character. This series works to give the character the sort of depth and weight that you would expect from a headlining hero. It's hard to think of someone as third tier when you have seen into their history and character so deeply. It's really good stuff.

The art is completely brilliant. The layout is terrific and David Aja is the perfect artist for this. There are some other artists who contributed in different spots as well, but Aja's work just makes the character, sets the tone perfectly, and compliments the writing to such a degree where what you get, really is even better than the sum of it's (pretty incredible to begin with) parts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Go figure - Supergirl follow-up

This is a quick update to my post about Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade.

I read it and thought it was cute and ok.

My 9 year old daughter read it and laughed through the entire thing. YES, she pointed out that Supergirl looked like a boy in a panel or two, but then she also pointed out that she has, in her lifetime, been called a boy as well (her name is gender neutral, but is currently a wildly popular name for boys).

I asked her if she would like to continue getting the title, and she was excited about doing so.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Episode 3

Episode Three: Evil Under the Sea
This episode opens with Batman and Atom thwarting Felix Faust in his plot to open Pandora's box using a magic book. I really like that the episodes open at the tail end of an encounter. It's fun and it lets you get a double dose of heroes and villains each time.

It was a cute sequence, and it is nice to see that they are running with the current/modern versions of folks like Blue Beetle and Atom, but it left me with several questions. I really don't know if this is a case of the character being presented wrong, or just an example of my ignorance. I am betting on my ignorance as it rarely fails me.

Atom seemed to fly and be able to manipulate things much larger than him while he is shrunk to smaller than the eye can see. He opens some locks, looses some chains, 'levitates' a book, and later floats batman himself, etc. I certainly imagine that when you are subatomic you can of course move in any direction you wish, I have no issue with him moving around like that, I just don't think I have seen the character do some of the things shown in this segment before. I am not real familiar with the new Atom, but I couldn't find anything suggesting the power(s) we were shown. That being said, other than making me curious about that point, It didn't impact my enjoyment of that bit.

The main story of the episode has Batman teaming up with a bearded, orange and green suited Aquaman with two good hands. I have never followed Aquaman all that closely, but when I watched this, I didn't feel like I was watching aquaman, I felt like I was watching Marvel's Hercules. Aquaman was all happy and gung ho about adventure, and certainly more self obsessed than I have ever seen. I wonder again if I missed a chapter somewhere that he was portrayed like that, or if we are just seeing some minor 'character-lifts' to fit some characters into the tone of the show. I didn't care for the way aquaman was portrayed in this. He was a bit too much of a goof for me, and it seemed out of character.

I liked the episode a lot, however, and there is just one reason for that... Black Manta! I realized something about myself this morning, and that is, despite never having intentionally followed him, I sort of love Black Manta. As much as I hated Super-Friends when I was little(not that I didn't watch it, mind you) I think I always really liked at least the character design of Black Manta. He does not disappoint in this episode, and is badass and sneaky as ever. The other villain is Aquaman's half brother Orm who is mostly sniveling and back-stabbing while briefly putting an octopus on his head to be Ocean Master. Everything around Aquaman seems to be true to form, but the Aquaman just doesn't feel that way to me. It's still plenty worth watching.

The War At Ellsmere

the War at Ellsmere - Faith Erin Hicks (SLG, $12.95)

I think it is important that before you read anything else here, that you watch this.

You kind of adore Faith Erin Hicks now, don't you? If you say no, I won't really believe you, but I promise that if you go read 'the War at Ellsmere' (and 'Zombies Calling') you will. If you didn't just click on the link to her site and find this yourself, here is an 11 page preview from the author's site that absolutely captures the awesomeness of the book.

Now that I have that out of the way, Here's my actual review:

The War at Ellsmere centers on Juniper, a new scholarship student at the ultra-prestigious boarding school Ellsmere Academy. Juniper is well aware of her intelligence without being vain. She decided to pursue an education at the school because she is certain that it will give her the best education, and will best prepare her for her college and career aspirations. Her intelligence and drive are not things she lords over others, though. She is down to earth and a good person at heart. That being said, she is not above challenging the status quo, or pointing out wrongs when she sees them.

Juniper is paired with her roommate Cassie who is the poster girl for meek and friendly optimism. After a mildly bumpy first meeting, the two quickly become the closest of friends and allies. They are able to each contribute greatly to one another, filling in where the other may be weak.

If you read the preview that I linked to above, you will see the first meeting between Juniper and Emily. Emily is the Evil Genius of Ellsmere, complete with her own henchgirls to help execute her evil plans. Juniper is not just a threat by daring to defy Emily and directly confront her about her cruelty and underlying weakness, she is competition. Emily is very comfortable in her position as a top student. She respects Juniper's intelligence and sees her as a sort of sporting competition. This all sets the tone for the book. There is a lot more to it, with themes of friendship and elements of fantasy that work naturally into and through the plot of boarding school student from the wrong side of the economy versus the overly privileged and powerful.

There is a great deal of charm to this book. It is beautifully drawn, and perfectly written. I have nothing negative to say regarding any aspect of it. It is fun and funny, as well as touching and compelling. There is a lot to it. It is a very familiar theme in a fairly familiar setting. The author mentions as much in the video above. It is influenced by the books she read as a girl, and it shows. This is a great book for girls (although I think it is a great book for everyone, really). I will pass this along to my 14 year old now. She enjoyed Zombies Calling, and I am certain she will enjoy this every bit as much.

The book opens with a very nice introduction by Hope Larson, and ends with an illustrated overview of the 'artistic process' drawn by Hicks. I love the extra stuff she includes in her works. This is only one page, printed on the back cover, but it is extremely funny and contains the single cutest panel I have ever seen. It's worth picking up just to read the back cover, but I think you should probably read the actual graphic novel while you are at it. I am seriously looking forward to whatever her next project may be.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

P-Brane: The Green Man

P-Brane: The Green Man - Chris X Ring, Jesse Heffring, Pawel Pogorzelski, Angus Byers. (graviton publishing). This is probably the first graphic novel I have read that has a photographer and a director listed in the credits. This is also the first comic That I received a review copy for. The goal of my blog is surprisingly far removed from receiving free stuff, or ever making any sort of money, but I love free stuff and am not allergic to money by any means, although you might think I am by how quickly I get rid of it. When I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of the book I said sure, I will read anything I can get my hands on and I will post my honest opinion on my blog.

I was excited about getting the book, but nervous for a number of reasons. I was worried that I would get it and hate it. Another thing about me is that while I can certainly be snarky and mean if I want to, I don't believe in being mean. I think being civil and good natured is a better way to go. I don't like reviews that call names, I don't like reviews composed of obscenities and wildly negative hyperbole. I am sure I could write one, but it's not what I am going for.

I got the book pretty quickly, and was excited to dive into it. I started reading it and I had great difficulty doing so. I really didn't like it. I thought the dialog was pretty terrible, and the art was like a wall keeping me out. The cover art is great, and the cover image is used once in the story, but my first viewing of the photoshop processed photography-as-comic-art made it seem completely inaccessible to me. I have become quite a fan of stylized art in recent years, but it just seemed like dark blobs on the page to me. In many cases I couldn't make out what was being shown, and the characters seemed surprisingly inconsistent. At that point I put the book down to let some time pass out of fairness to it. Yesterday I picked the book up and started at the beginning again.

This isn't a terrible book. It's pretty good actually. I had time to get used to the art, and while I do not flat out love it, I applaud the experiment, and in the end it did not keep me from getting into the story. I have no doubt that they will continue to refine the process and when they do this again, it will probably suffer from less of the issues I felt it had. For the most part this served as decent and workable art. It's entirely black and white, but due to the way it is processed it makes it so that in many cases the characters don't look like themselves from one panel to the next. Worse offenses than that are the panels where you have no real idea what is happening because of how the black space runs together, etc. or the ones where it looks like a picture that has just been photoshopped. Sometimes in comics I think that too real or too 'photo referenced' can be a negative thing. At it's best its like good Sin City style art, at its worst it can be a bit like a copy of a copy of a photograph.

I am not sure if this next part will make sense to anyone but me. I consider that the writing is pretty good, but the dialog is terrible. There is a TON of really bad dialect written into the dialog with 'dat's and 'dem's and the like. Some of the story is way overly wordy with too much 'tell' and not enough 'show'. That being said, it's a pretty decent story for the most part. I am not a fan of the very last chapter, but otherwise, for the type of story it is, it's pretty neat.

Now that I have that out of the way, here is what I see as good:
  • fantastic cover by Vitaly S Alexius
  • good concept / interesting premise
  • good panel design and layout
  • extremely ambitious project
  • excellent progression in the story. The sense of building intensity is conveyed well
  • chapter 6 is particularly good visually
  • It was an enjoyable read for me.
I really do like the idea behind the production. I think it's a neat idea, but I wonder why this approach was better than having the entire thing drawn in the style of the cover. It definitely has a distinct look to it and conveys a mood of it's own and a tone for the story. In the same way that it was undertaken like a film, it does suffer from some poor 'cgi' effects in places. The effects and the jets and space ships just seem really out of place with the look and feel of the people in the scenes. I imagine that that is an aspect that will be refined more in future undertakings as well. I certainly applaud the creator's vision with this project. I also appreciate it's scope. In the interest of fairness, and since this review may seem to skew a bit negative, here are some links to explore for a broader picture of things: An article with some good pictures showing the process, a super positive review, another super positive review, the companies site with videos, etc.

The story itself builds very nicely. We have a main character with slightly green skin and no memory who quickly finds out that he has abilities beyond normal folks when he thwarts a mugging in an alley. He also goes on to learn things while he sleeps, build amazing devices, discover others like himself and speak with and bargain with powerful aliens for the fate of humanity. I really liked how when we first meet him He takes out some small time muggers, and then things progress to him taking out a mob hitman, a group of pedophiles, and eventually a 'Bin Laden-style terrorist leader, all the while learning more, and progressing more to what will be his big mission. I am not sure I would buy this, but I am certainly not worse off for having read it. There are some very good bits in it, and a lot of potential and room for improvement as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Unless you are allergic to awesome, you are going to enjoy this comic. Yes, I have been posting a bit heavy on the Zuda love lately, but I can't help it. For some dumb reason I had resisted actually getting into Zuda for a long time. I had checked out items specifically recommended by one or two people, but never even tried to go beyond that. It was as if someone gave me a giant box of pretty great comics for free and I shrugged and said "why don't you hold on to them for now." Fortunately for me I have gotten past that. In the past month I have read at least four free online comics that are every bit as good as the best titles that I am paying upwards of four bucks for in the store. The scales are off my eyes I guess. I promise that I will expand my focus beyond Zuda and cover any good webcomics I find.

Enough of that general stuff, now for something specific.

Click on this link to go to Celadore.

Celadore is written and illustrated by Caanan , and centers on the kick-butt monster hunter Celadore and her band of extraordinary compatriots. Celadore herself is no slouch, but the 'people' she surrounds herself with are positively supernatural. Jams is a 'Frankenstein-Monster', Wax is a shapeshifter, Ness is the(a?) tooth fairy, and their seems to be no end to the possibilities of other creatures that she may work with or against in her world, which looks an awful lot like this one except for the aforementioned sorts of creatures running around in it.

Right off the bat Celadore is put into a situation that you might think would end her monster hunting duties. Her soul is pulled right out of her body and ends up in the body of a young girl who had been in a coma for three months. This development doesn't slow her down, as her strength and abilities convey to the new body, and she ends up with two new companions in the form of the 'ghost' of the girl whose body she inhabits and that girl's adventure seeking, ninja-loving best friend.

I hesitate to say things like this, because I don't want anyone to think that this is any sort of knock-off. This is a truly fresh and fun comic, written perfectly, and drawn equally as well. To me it is like the best possible marriage of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Kim Possible. For the record, I love both of those to a near unnatural degree. It is different from those two shows in as many ways as it is similar, and I mean that as high praise.

I certainly hope this comic continues to be picked up by Zuda and that we get to see lots of further adventures with the cast of characters we were introduced to in this 'origin story' of sorts. I also would love to see a paper copy some day that I can put on my shelf and flip through without page loads and stuff.

If you follow the link I put in above, and you like the comic, do everyone a favor by registering a free account and submitting feedback about the comics you like. It is one of the ways they decide what to keep supporting on the site.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boys may be boys, but girls must be women

This link was posted in the comments of one of the several fine blogs I read.

Newsarama exclusive Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, preview!

I have had this comic on my pull list since I first saw it in previews. I get Tiny Titans and Billy Batson, I regularly borrow comics and 'graphic novels' geared toward teens and younger. Some of the best comics out there right now thankfully have kids as their target audience.

I have two daughters under the age of 15. I have been a Girl Scout leader for years, and have lead troops ranging from Brownies through Cadets. I have long lamented the senseless over-sexualization of female characters of all ages in comics.

Go read the preview if you haven't already, then read the comments. Half of them are to the effect of 'it's a dude in a skirt', or 'they need to fix her hair' to make her look like a girl, or 'give her eyelashes', etc.

I don't know if this series will be as good as the others I mentioned earlier. The preview looks pretty good. If I have any concerns about the comic, I promise you that none of them are due to the main character who is called Supergirl, not being feminine enough for 'my tastes'. See... Unlike apparently a good number of the sort of people who fill up the various message boards complaining about their favorite young teen characters not having enough curves, I don't have a 'taste' when it comes to girls.

I showed my nine year old daughter the pictures of Supergirl from the preview and asked her if she knew who the character was. She did. I asked her if she thought the character looked like a girl or a boy, and she said that she looked a little bit like a boy. The reason she cited was how messy her hair seems to be. She then pointed out something that should seem pretty obvious to most people, and that is that the character's name is SuperGIRL... She's a girl. I don't think her sensibilities were offended by the character design at all, and she had no difficulty identifying the character or the character's gender. She thinks the comic looks cool.

Body image in girls certainly isn't made less of an issue through the constant barrage of models and actresses and images of female characters that all meet various improbable benchmarks that are presented as standards for judging female beauty, and female worth. Comics and fanboys didn't invent this issue, but as a general rule, the comics industry hasn't seemed to do much to show that women come in all shapes and sizes.

I'm glad to see comics like this being made. Hopefully it will be well received by it's target audience and stick around for a while. Hopefully the message board neanderthals will go away.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Zuda, it's the Zima of comics

By that I mean delicious, refreshing and totally hip, of course! Maybe I don't understand the name, maybe I don't fully understand how you know which comics will continue to be updated and for how long, etc., but I DO know that I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of a lot of really great comics thanks to that site

Zuda, as you know is the DC comics web comics arm. They have monthly contests that pit web comic offerings against each other for something... honestly I am not fully clear on how all of this works. I have poked around some, but other than the basic idea that I read things, I rate them, and I give my vote to the one that I think is best, I may be too lazy to figure it out beyond that.

Here is the December contest page

There are a number of good entries here. I won't detail them all, but my favorite two right now are:
Angus Frump Kills Christmas A Single Soul

I recommend reading all of the offerings, but Angus Frump Kills Christmas is extremely well done and non-stop funny. It is very polished in it's art and in it's humor. I certainly hope we get to see plenty more of it.

A Single Soul looks very promising, and stands out thanks to the pretty incredible pen and ink drawing, as well as what looks to be a sort of mythological horror / action/adventure motif. Given it's nature I will need to see more of it to really know anything about it, but so far it stands out a bit more than the other offerings I liked after 'angus'

If you are looking for other recommendations of top notch comics to read, I would put the following three up against just about anything else I read regularly in terms of quality and entertainment value: High Moon, Night Owls, Bayou.