Thursday, August 28, 2008

Echo tpb v1 Moon Lake - Terry Moore

Echo v1 Moon Lake - Terry Moore, Abstract Studio $15.95

I was very excited to see the Echo trade paperback on the shelf today. I had missed being able to collect the floppies since I don't think they ever hit the shelves at my local comic shop. I have a great store near me with top notch people who work there, but I think economics keep them from getting shelf copies of a lot of non mainstream stuff. They have almost never failed to get things in for me when I ask for them, but I do prefer some degree of browsing and impulse buying .

I saved it for last, after I finished reading my haul of individual issues, and had time to post about them. I was able to read it in one sitting, and wish I had more of it already.

As in Strangers In Paradise, Moore once again gives us a nice mix of compelling characters, all of whom had lives going on before we started watching them. Julie Martin is in the middle of a divorce that she doesn't want to finalize, brought on to some degree by her effectively losing her whole family all within the past year. She is out taking pictures to beef up her portfolio when she is witness to something she can't fully understand.

In the skies overhead, a woman named Annie is coming to realize that she is not long for the world. She is test piloting a top secret 'super-suit' and loving it until it becomes evident that she is going to be blown up in the air as part of the testing by her superiors. We only see Annie for a brief time, but she was already immediately likable. She is the first person you see in the book, and then not too long after that, she is blown up and raining down on the countryside.

Julie Martin sees the explosion and takes pictures before she and her truck are covered in small beads of matter. Several pages later, Julie will be stuck in a breastplate of silvery metal with a tendancy for electrocuting people when it sees fit to do so.

After this, we meet Julie's soon to be ex-husband rick, Annie's boyfriend and all around decent guy Dillon Murphy, an NSB investigator Ivy Raven who we first see playing with her toddler before getting on a plane to go aid the search for the remains of the suit, Julie's sister Pam who is institutionalized with only a fleeting grasp on reality, a host of bikers, and a homeless guy who thinks he's god and has some amount of the device himself.

The book is a really great introduction to a new story. Plenty of characters, plenty of things to care about, lots of unanswered questions, and interesting people on all sides of the central conflicts. The art is clean and pretty. Characters are expressive, and I can tell them apart for the most part. They seem like real people. The storytelling is efficient and crams a ton of stuff in without seeming rushed and without skimping on anything.

I am hoping that it maintains this level and is able to run to whatever completion Moore sees for it. No... I'm not going to marry Terry Moore... He just happens to have some decent stuff and I happen to be reading lot of it lately.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Comic Book Day (08/27/08)

Today was sort of a big haul for me. I picked up a lot of good reads. I'm not feeling like big reviews, so I will just give some general impressions here. I will also start using a (writer/penciller, publisher) format.

Amazing Spider-Man #569 (Slott/Romita Jr., Marvel)
Another decent issue. Anti-Venom finally makes his inevitable appearance at the very end of the book. I never had a great deal of use for Venom. I think previous Spider books were killed for me by Venom and Carnage and clones, etc. The angle that this is coming from is potentially pretty cool. I like that Venom wants to eat Eddie Brock's brains. I like Osborn going after Spidey with the Thunderbolts... good balance, enjoyable issue.

Ambush Bug Year None #2 (Giffen/Fleming, DC)
Plenty of funny in this book. The source wall is vacationing on a beach, the embodiment of the Comics Code Authority 'postage stamp' pops up here and there, I like Giffen's Ambush Bug anyway, but this is pretty goofy and fun even for that.

Justice Society of America
#18 (Johns/Eaglesham, DC)
Holy Cats!! I think I may have actually been surprised by this issue, and I guess maybe I shouldn't have been. I have been having a good time reading the whole arc with Kingdom Come Superman and Gog... and now finally(and inevitably) Magog. The Ross covers are pretty, like Ross covers tend to be. The writing is great, and the art is ok. I don't really love the interior art, but it doesn't suck, and it gets the job done. I am not crazy about the Earth 2 Power Girl thing that's going on, but we'll see how it goes.

Madame Xanadu #3 (Wagner/Hadley, Vertigo)
I am in love with Amy Reeder Hadley's art. It really is just beautiful. The interiors are as lovely as the colors, and although I don't usually comment on this... I think the color in this book is just great. The story of our long lived title character has moved to the court of Kublai Kahn. We see her referred to as Madam of Xanadu by the current incarnation of the Phantom Stranger for the first time. We are several hundred years after Camelot now and times have not been easy for her up to this point. Her years with Kublai Kahn have been pretty good to her so far. Marco Polo features in this story as well, and I am genuinely enjoying this title now. It's still early, but this is pretty good stuff. If you haven't jumped on, definitely pick up the inevitable trade, which I assume will have this arc and the previous one in it.

Runaways #1 (Moore/Ramos, Marvel)
Terry Moore's first issue of Runaways is pretty good. I kind of love Humberto Ramos's work. I loved it like crazy on X-books and enjoy it here as well. His range is good enough that he captures the sort of goofy whimsy of a teen cast, but also the drama and emotion and weight when called for. Moore's writing is good, the characters come across in a way that seems perfectly in keeping with what I think of them. The plot so far has some promise, but it will take a few issues for me to have a real opinion on that.

Skaar, Son Of Hulk #3 (Pak/Garney, Marvel)
This to me is sort of like a green skinned Conan title. There is non-stop action, but there is more there than action... I've been enjoying it, but I am not sure how long it will do anything for me. I guess one of the things I like is that it isn't set amidst secret invasiony civil war-y crap, but that could be said of a million other things. It has that warrior king intrigue going for it... which may be it's attraction to me.

Teen Titans: Year One #6 (Wolfram/Kerschl, DC)
One of two mini-series finales for me this week. I wanted to like this series way more than I actually liked it. I sort of felt like this issue was a big waste. It used a lot of space to convey almost nothing. I enjoyed the art throughout, though, and appreciated having teens drawn looking young. Kudos on giving us a young female heroine that looks like a kid and not like a swimsuit model.

Ultimate Iron Man II #5 (Card/Ferry, Marvel)
The other mini-series finishing up this week. I liked this issue a lot, although I guess I could take or leave the series overall. Orson Scott Card is a name that based solely on my love of Ender's Game (etc.) This was well written, but I kind of hate the spin it puts on Iron Man(same as with the first run). I guess the good news is that it makes use of it's 'ultimateness' and does something a bit different with the story, but still, not my favorite.

I also picked up Terry Moore's Echo TPB v1, but that review will get it's own post once I have read it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hello Stranger(s)

I have owned the Pocket Book editions v1-3 of Terry Moore's Strangers In Paradise for a few years. In that time I have repeatedly picked up volume 1 but have never been able to get all the way through it. I have no idea what makes a book an easy read for me, and what makes it one of those things where the planets need to be aligned just right for me to get past the first few pages.

I liked what I read each time. I liked the art. I have no issue with black and white comics. I have no problem with slice of life or relationship drama or thrillers or... anything really. In fact, with it's emphasis on characters and character development, and no shortage of compelling female characters in all shapes and sizes(Look! there's a character that gains weight yet is still portrayed as attractive and as a person... that's positively Love & Rockets!!) this should be an ideal series for me.

So why did it take me so long to finally get through the first volume? I'm just slow I guess. Seriously, I'm way slow sometimes. I only got into Sandman and Hellboy and Preacher, etc. in the past three or four years.

Strangers in Paradise is terrific so far. I am not the biggest fan of all the prose and poems and lyrics in it, but I respect their use. The art is terrific and expressive, it captures the characters and their emotions perfectly. In a few cases I get mixed up as to which character is which, but that never lasted long. Moore also makes use of Tex Avery style animation art and Sugar and Spike influenced cartoon styles in dream sequences to hilarious effect. This is a well done book by someone with a real knack for using the medium to full effect. There is a lot of real emotion between characters, It's good stuff and I highly recommend it to anyone that doesn't mind actually reading comics.

A side note that has recently been pointed out to me is how similar Frank Cho's women are to Terry Moore's. Man... They are really similar. I'm not sure that means anything. I have met both Terry Moore and Frank Cho at Comic Con's. Both seemed nice. This little bit really isn't going anywhere. Some day when I get through the series I will post something actually in depth about it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hey Washington Post... *thumbs up*

Today in the Washington Post three quarters of the front of the Style and Arts section is devoted to an article on Graphic Novels. The story continues on to the entire center spread of the section, as well as the entire last page of the section. That is a TON of real estate devoted to comics. Add to that the two page spread in the Book World, and the medium would appear to be actually getting a bit of the respect it deserves.

The story is by Washington Post Staff Writer Bob Thompson with Illustrations and comic strips drawn by Johnathan Bennett. The story is written from the perspective of a 'Prose Guy' with extremely limited exposure to graphic novels prior to this journey. He starts out at the Graphic Novel Symposium "SPLAT!" and has conversations with a variety of notables.

He points out a good deal about the medium, and how it is and isn't used in this country, and the factors that have lead to broader acceptance, etc. It uses the comic strips to prove the point about it being a medium and not a genre as some treat it. He also quotes Scott McCloud in referring to the modern definition of so-called graphic novels as really just meaning big fat comics with spines.

I don't read much in the newspaper these days. I prefer to get my news exclusively from fake news outlets. I saw the article, I read the article, and I'm glad I did. It was interesting, I learned some things I didn't know, It took comics seriously and not as a joke or a fluke. It used comics to communicate it's message, but didn't do any of the old standard gags that so many articles have historically used.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Pro (We're all adults here... right?)

The Pro - Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti (Image) $7.99

I saw a reference to this somewhere, and had made a mental note that I wanted to read it. I was happy when it showed up in my Local Comic Shop, and I bought it right away despite the 'adult' sticker on it. I don't buy that much stuff that is marked 'adult', but it is more for the fact that I don't buy things based solely on the fact that they have adult content in them or not. I like what i like, and if it contains bad words and boobs sometimes, even better. The lack of those things doesn't make me turn up my nose at a comic either. Several of what I consider to be the most enjoyable books out right now are firmly in the all ages category (Tiny Titans, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, etc.) I am sticking some of these disclaimers in because this blog is new, and it doesn't hurt for me to devote some space to my tastes and worldview and such.

The Pro is about a hard working hooker with a heart of the stuff that hearts are usually made of, but certainly not gold, who is selected to receive super powers by a creepy alien who likes to watch. She isn't held up as a villain or anything due to her choice in jobs. If anything, there is a sense to the book that being a whore may be a bit more respectable than being a so-called super hero. I am going to stop with anything that sounds like I am over thinking this. This IS the book where the Superman analog shoots down a plane while climaxing from a 'thank you for saving my baby' blow job.

The plot is great, the setup is great.The book asks the question "Can a down on her luck whore prove that anyone can rise to the occasion and become a super-heroic force for good?" The answer is a resounding 'fuck you and your hypocrisy!' The backup story where The Pro is attacked because her superspeed handjobs are taking away business from the multi-armed Ho, the dusky doll with a dozen dick hands.

Yes, this is Garth Ennis screwing with the super hero genre he loves to hate. It's funny, the art is terrific. It's reasonably priced, if you like mature funny, then I recommend you get it. I wouldn't want a steady diet of this, but it works.

The other thing that made this book cool to me, perhaps my favorite part of it, is the sketchbook with commentary by Amanda Conner at the end. I could read stuff like that all day.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Blindspot - Kevin C. Pyle (Henry Holt) $13.95

I'm not sure if I have seen a $13.95 book before. This is another title that I borrowed from the library. I am uncertain if I will buy it now, but I probably should. I have read a few reviews of it, and I have to assume they are correct in what they are positing, but it isn't the vibe that I got from the book when I read it the first time.

Blindspot centers on Dean Tollridge, a young boy who is perfectly happy being a young boy and living a life rich in fantasy, imagination and play. We know he is a good kid, we know that school doesn't interest him at all, we know that he has a full and active imagination and that playing 'army men' is the primary joy in his life.

The book is 8.5 x 11, and close to ninety pages. The story is told in vignettes but still has a definite flow and progression to it. The art is used effectively to get the story across. There are a number of conventions used throughout. The most immediately recognizable is the use of single color panels and pages to create different moods, or as a sort of shorthand. In contrast to that is the comic book world of the army men play. When Dean and his friends are running missions in the woods and in neighbor's yards, the panels are in the style of golden age army comics. The book is even dedicated to Sgt. Rock as well as the author's parents.

I saw this book as a coming of age story, a story about learning how to live happily in reality and not trying to hide inside of fantasy completely. The reviews I read focused on a larger statement about war in our society in general. As a kid who played in the woods a lot and had a very active imagination and no particular desire to fit in at school or have to deal with real life, I saw it as more straight forward than that.

The standard things intrude on Dean's childhood. School work, the playgraound pecking order and the macho aggression forced on boys, the discovery of the opposite sex and sex in general, the reality of things we have idealized, such as the difference between WWII and WWII comics and play, and the cruel and ugly realities that are out there in the real world, like homelessness and mental illness. The story has a great ending, and would be a great story for boys of a certain age, but I think it might be lost on modern boys of a certain age. I don't think the target is 39 year old boys of a certain (38 and 10 months or so) age. I enjoyed it, and was sort of touched by it. This isn't the second coming or anything, but well worth it's price, and a good read.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comic Book Day (08/20/08)

Comic Book Day, as I am sure all of you know, is a weekly holiday much like Christmas. Every week, usually right around Wednesday the faithful gather in comic shops all over the country to collect their presents in return for cash... or credit. Here's what I got this week. What did you get? hmmm? Anything good? Anything Awful?

NinjaTown - The adventures of Wee Ninja Volume 1: $6.50 Devils Due Publishing, Art and Stories by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, and others. This is a 48 page dialog free collection of stories featuring characters from the Shawn Smith NinjaTown collection of plushies. I have been on an Art Baltazar kick lately, which is why I picked this up. The stories are cute and accessible. My daughters were as excited about picking it up as I was. There's a pogo stick race, giant waffles and ninja chickens... What's not to like, right? I thought it was mostly just ok with some splashes of awesome in it. I am happy that I bought it, but wasn't exactly floored by it. I have been enjoying Tiny Titans a lot, and dialog free comics such as Owly and Corgi too. I would probably pick it up again without hesitation on a day when I'm not maxed out with other stuff.

Inredible Hercules #120: $2.99 Marvel, Written by Pak and Van Lente, Pencils by Rafa Sandoval. Ahh Secret Invasion... I will never love you the way you want me too. I have really enjoyed Incredible Hercules up to this point. This issue was no exception. Of all the Secret Invasion stuff that I am not interrested in, I really like the God Squad angle in Hercules. It has successfully pulled off being fun and interesting without my having to read any of the rest of the sprawling ugly mess (I am not really a fan of mega crossover events in general. The good news is that it IS possible to have enjoyable arcs inside of those things that don't require you to buy every issue published. If you haven't picked up any of this series, you can still find most of the issues since it started on the shelf if you want them. It's good, fun, buddy comics.

Amazing Spider-Man #568: $3.99 Marvel, Written by Dan Slott, Pencils by John Romita Jr. I am in the camp that thinks that the whole Brand New Day thing was stupid and unnecessary. That doesn't change the fact that for the most part I am really enjoying the series these days. We are seeing new characters and some different situations, it isn't too broody, etc. This Issue is the start of another story arc, and we get some more of the Menace, some Thunderbolts, and an Eddie Brock story. There was a brief moment early on when I thought i would drop this title, but I like the 3 times a month schedule, and it has been pretty solid overall.

DC Special: Cyborg #4: $2.99 DC, Written by Mark Sable, Pencils by Carlos Magno. I used to be a big Teen Titans fan. Way back when New Teen Titans first came out it was my favorite title. Teen Titans/ Titans lost my interest a while back, but the fun as heck Teen Titans cartoon, and the overwhelmingly adorable Tiny Titans (and the year one stuff as well) worked to renew my interest enough that when the Raven mini series came out with it's stylish and breathtaking art, I picked it up. I enjoyed that as much for the art as anything else. Because I was pulling Raven, my lcs pulled Cyborg for me as well and I didn't make them cancel it. I need to make them cancel it now. It's an ugly book and simply has nothing in it that holds my interest.

Young X-Men #5: $2.99 Marvel, Written by Marc Guggenheim, Pencils by Yanick Paquette. I am enjoying Young X-Men. I like the characters that are in it and had mostly enjoyed the Academy X / New X-Men titles. I was glad they were carrying on in one form or another. This issue is pretty good, and conveys some emotion in it in an effective way. It also continues to answer a few of the questions that had been laid in front of us. I will continue picking this up for as long as it delivers on it's promise of giving us a sort of young fresh take on the X-Men like New Mutants did for a while and the other titles I mentioned as well.

Previews - I love previews. I like being able to keep up on the things that are coming out. If I didn't have previews I wouldn't get that sinking feeling of having forgotten to tell my LCS all the stuff I wanted from the latest Previews before it was too late that I like so well. I know I like it, as I am constantly experiencing it.

I may post a recap of what I find noteworthy in previews, or I may just move on to writing up Blindspot and Strangers In Paradise Pocket Book 1.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fletcher Hanks

Fletcher Hanks: I shall Destroy All Civilized Planets- Paul Karasik

This is a book that I only had a mild curiosity about initially. Fortunately for me, I ran across it in my local library. Don’t forget to check your library for comics, you may get lucky and actually stumble across things you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. I will most likely buy the book now. Amazon has the paperback for under 14 bucks, which is a bargain. Busiek’s Astro City and Eisner’s Contract With God Trilogy are other examples of books I have bought / will buy based on getting them from the library first. I had never heard of Fletcher Hanks, never saw his work previously, and am not as much of a ‘Golden Age’ fan as some people are. I had seen the title a few times and was curious about it, but had no real preconceived notions of what it was. Just looking at the thing doesn’t give you much of a clue either. The book is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie (let’s say for sake of clarification that it’s like the Sixth Sense and not The Village). It really is the afterward to this thing, very nicely rendered by the editor, that kicks your ass and makes you want to physically move away from the book.

I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets starts with a table of contents and divulges nothing but the title and the character that is featured in each of the 15 stories that follow. It also gives us the promise of an Afterward by the editor, Paul Karasik. It is followed by a dedication page that has a picture of who we must assume is Fletcher Hanks, Jr. holding a drawing of ducks. At this point I was not certain that Fletcher Hanks, Jr. wasn’t the Fletcher Hanks of the title, I mean the guy looked really old, and I had no prior knowledge of any of this stuff.

Nearly all of the 15 stories center on impossible heroes with limitless powers that seem to sprout up at their convenience, and bad guys with twisted faces and often racist undertones, bent on destroying civilization or wreaking havoc, or getting revenge against nature itself. The plot structure is a fairly solid formula. There is a twisted faced bad guy in a suit or jungle explorer garb. The bad guy sees a means to commit a crime against society or the jungle, or both, either employing readily available technology from some pre-existing arsenal, or by somehow corrupting innocent yet giant jungle creatures. The hero is aware of the crime and sweeps in and fixes the situation with a power that completely takes care of the situation without the need or possibility of any sort of fight. The part that makes Hanks’ work stand out is what happens once the crime is thwarted. Once the villain is defeated the hero condemns them to bizarre and sometimes fatal punishments, such as an ice prison where they will be frozen for centuries but aware enough to contemplate their crimes, turning them into monsters to be hated or killed when they are sent back to their people, left to be devoured by a golden octopus, etc. There are some exceptions to that formula, but not very many.

Most of the stories in the volume focus on Stardust the Super Wizard whose hands seem to inexplicably get big enough to go around a man’s waist here and there, although I guess being a super wizard is a sort of built in explanation, or Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle whose pretty face turns into a skull when she faces the bad guys, and is apparently touted as the first female superhero. There are two other characters who get one story each in the volume. They aren’t as compelling as the big two I guess. Each character is written under a different pen name, and without any introduction, my feeble brain was like ‘who the hell is Barclay Flagg and why is he in my Fletcher Hanks book?’.

The stories are a bit twisted and simplistic, and that is their charm. The art is a bit on the ugly gnarled side, but I don't have an issue with it except that it isn't very good for the most part. Some elements are great, but there are lots of examples of just sloppy or lazy work, I think. He is said to have always gotten his work done on time though, and was a one man show, so that doesn't really take anything away from it. Aside from the Fantomah and Stardust stories we have a space guy(Buzz Crandall) and a lumberjack(Big Red McLane). Maybe there aren't enough lumberjack heroes these days.

The real gut punch to this volume comes in the form of the afterward. Paul Karasik does a beautiful job of telling the story of how the volume came to be, and how he met with Fletcher Hanks, Jr., a charming 80 something year old former CNAC pilot in WWII and son of the artist, and learned that you don't have to like an artist to enjoy their art.

I will probably buy this sometime soon as I said. It think it's pretty inexpensive to get a good quality volume of some pretty neat and twisted early comics. I think the afterward helps sell it for me, but you may want to skip it or read someone elses copy if you don't have any interest in having examples of this sort of work in your personal library.

Comments? Questions? Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it. This is a discussion you know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hector Plasm: Totentanz


Written by Benito Cereno, art and cover by Nate Bellgarde.

The creative team behind Invncible Presents: Atom Eve return to their original creation, a modern-day member of an ancient cult whose duties dictate that he roam the earth to protect the living from the dead...and occasionally to protect the dead from the living. It's the follow-up to the book WIZARD MAGAZINE called one of the top 200 comics released during its publication history.

48 pages, $5.99, in stores on Nov. 5.

I will do something here that I promise won't be an everyday occurrence. I am recommending that you buy this before I have even read it. Hector Plasm: De Mortuis is the previously published volume of Hector Plasm stories, and having read that I can recommend that you buy it if you can find it (Copies were still available through Diamond a while back, and may still be as far as I know). Benito Cereno and Nate Bellgarde have created a compelling character with wit and intelligence... Wit, Intelligence and lots and lots of untold stories.

Hector is a Benandante, a 'well-walker' or 'do-gooder' He wanders the earth with his blade astayanax, his companions Sinner and Saint who are in the tradition of the angel and devil that sit on your shoulders, only much bigger, and the humors within his body that he manipulates to his needs to aid him in solving problems, helping the living and the dead, and fighting evil.

The stories so far range in their pacing and level of action, much in the way that Hellboy stories do. Sometimes the story is about the legend as much as it is about the title character, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always enjoyable. De Mortius is good to pick up as it has the sort of origin story 'Born with a sillyhow', Sillyhow referring to the caul Hector was born with, the layer of amneotic sac that covered his head. The Caul is taken as a sign of good luck and that he will grow up special.

It's good stuff, Well written, well drawn with a style of it's own and packed with folklore and supernatural goodness. Buy it, you'll feel smart that you did.

Note: I re-read Hector Plasm: De Mortuis again before I wrote this, so that my opinion was fresh on it again. I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first several times. If you get it and read it, tell me what you think here, or in email - The same goes if you have already read it. This place should be about discussion and exchange of ideas and opinions.