Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mouse Guard: Fall and Winter 1152

I read David Petersen's Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Winter 1152 recently, and then again for a second time over the past two days. I was bowled over on the first read. The art is beautiful, and the writing is tight. This is a comic made for the medium. There is no shortage of dialog and narration to be found, but the story is told in the art.

These books are square volumes, shorter and wider than a standard comic. It makes use of the size very well, and gives us a good number of full page and even two page spreads that really set the tone and also punctuate just how strong the art is in this. The characters are distinct, even though most of them are extremely cute mice.

The basic story isn't exactly brand new ground. It's a lot like a lot of classic adventure stories. It takes place in something akin to a medieval setting. It features a small group of adventurers on a mission. The main characters are part of a group of elite warriors whose heyday was in the past to some degree. There is a conspiracy afoot, and the order to which they belong is cast in a negative light. Along the way they have opportunities to face perils, meet characters from legends and fight foes that seem to greatly outnumber or outclass them. There are a lot more standard elements that I could name. Add to this that there is no way to avoid comparing this to at least the excellent Redwall series of novels by Brian Jacques.

Beast of Burden #3 came out last week. This also excellent comic is by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. I read the issue and loved it, and then my ten year old daughter walked over to see what I was reading. I explained it to her and showed her some of the pictures. The art in BoB is also exceptional as well as being very cute in places. She asked to read the issue, and loved it. She is also now a big fan of Mouse Guard. I was thinking about these two very different series, and started to think about something they had in common.

Mouse Guard and Beasts of Burden are both comics I would call 'all ages'. I would actually call them 'most ages', but either of them could be read to a younger reader and edited a little on the fly if needed. Kids nine and up I would say should love these stories.

Mouse Guard made me feel the same way that movies and stories like Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers and Zorro made me feel as a kid. It's exciting and full of action and adventure. The characters are real and flawed, but that isn't the focus, they are also brave and daring, and selfless in their quest to protect those they are sworn to protect, and to complete their missions for the greater good.

I highly recommend these books. Check your local libraries (that's where I picked up mine). And after you read it, share it with a kid. There is a lot to be gotten from the brave little mice of the Guard.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CBD 11/29/2009

Image United, Detective Comics, The Tick New Series, Ultimate Avengers, Beasts of Burden

Image United #1 - I had no interest in getting this until I read something recently that talked about it and it got in my head for some reason. It is both a crossover book AND an image comic filled with all of the characters I was turned off of in the 1990's. It is slightly better than my expectations, but not great. I don't think I will get any further issues, but this wasn't exactly terrible. There is something that I secretly like about this stuff but am afraid to admit.

Beasts of Burden #3 - This is really a great series. I've said this before, but the art is fantastic, and the writing is every bit as good as the art. This comic is about animals that dabble in the supernatural. The animals are cute and compelling and distinctive. The dialog is natural and fast paced. It would make a fantastic cartoon in my opinion, which isn't always the case. There is a lot of action and suspense in this issue, as well as humor in the form of banter. Great stuff. It is a tiny bit to the right of pg, but I think this would be a good comic for kids over 10 or so, and it certainly works for me as well.

Ultimate Avengers #4 - I think that I would absolutely buy any comic where the focus was all the big powerful heroes trying to beat up Captain America, and Captain America Schooling them as he is inclined to do (same thing with Batman... It's a thing of mine). Again, I don't think I will continue to get this title, but something about it calls to me when I see it on the shelf. I think that I am hoping it will be a reprint of the first Ultimates series.

Detective Comics #859 - This is another chapter in the Batwoman origin story. I am still really enjoying this. It's nice to read this as it isn't a story we've seen before.

The Tick New Series #1 - Reviewed Here... Go buy it, you'll love it. If you don't love it then you are incapable of love and I can't help you.

The Issue at Hand: The Tick New Series #1

The first issue of the new ongoing Tick series came out last Wednesday. Unfortunately for me i didn't pick up my comics until today. The really great news is that in addition to there being a copy in my box, there was also a copy on the shelf. This is in a store that doesn't tend to use a lot of shelf space for comics that aren't from the top four or five publishers, but it was there. Hopefully it will catch the eye of someone who has fond memories of the Tick from its various incarnations who didn't realize that a new series was starting.

Despite some very unnecessary self deprecation by the author, both on his blog, and on the Arachnida page at the back of the comic, This is an exceptional book. I understand the fear that there will be disappointment from people who are only familiar with the Tick from the very excellent Fox cartoon that ran in the 1990's. There are a lot of characters that were created exclusively for the show, and they will not be in the comic. There are a lot of characters from the cartoon that created very strong and lasting impressions on people. I don't see this as a negative.

In the case of the Tick, I think that the humor and the tone are most important. The cartoon recreated and perfected the tone and humor of the original comics. Subsequent comics in my opinion were created with an awareness of what had already been done.

This latest offering does the same thing. It draws upon the tone and the humor, it uses existing characters, and adds it's own new elements. Cereno perfectly creates situations and stories within the existing framework of the character, and does so at a level that keeps you from even wondering about the creative team as you are reading it. This is an extremely funny new book that feels familiar in the best possible way. Les McClaine's art is fantastic in the same way as the writing is. When you look at it, it looks like what you are expecting. The book will get a lot of people's money based on the fact that it elicits this sense of familiarity. The good news is that you get more than just the familiar in both the writing and the art. The expressions that McClaine brings out in the characters are what really tie the comic together.

Issue number 1 focuses on two separate Christmas parties. One is for heroes at the Comet Club, and the other is for sidekicks in the Sidekick Lounge at the same venue. In each party there is a gift exchange going on, and stories are being told by both the sidekicks and a group of super-villains gathered in a lounge at the institution in which they are housed. There is an underlying story relating to the gifts, but we also see a handful of times when the Tick ruined a number of villains Christmas-time exploits.

The Tick New Series #1 is good comics. It's funny, well written, and the art is spot on. The 4.95 price tag may seem a bit steep in relation to mainstream comics, but don't let that stop you. If you love the Tick, you will love this. If you are a fan of funny riffs on superheroes, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Tale of One Bad Rat

I borrowed this Bryan Talbot Graphic novel (Dark Horse Books) from the library a few weeks ago, and just got around to reading it.

The title of this book is in the style of Beatrix Potter. The cover art and font are obviously a nod to the small volumes of stories featuring animals that many of us grew up loving. The story relates to Potter in a number of ways, and is a nice story about overcoming abuse and learning to live and finding peace with yourself. It is a bit neat, and perhaps overly straightforward in its telling and its resolution, but it is still very well done.

There are several themes that run the course of the book. One is a connection to Beatrix Potter, One is vivid visions or hallucinations, One is the theme of child sexual abuse and the toll it takes on the victim, and the last one is rats. These are all tied together in a way that helps us to feel what the protagonist, a girl named Helen, who is homeless when we first meet her and has a pet rat. is going through, and to really see how she is coping with a history of many years of sexual abuse by her father, and emotional neglect by her mother.

Helen goes from one place to another, encountering something at nearly every point that triggers flashbacks to her abusive past. It is something that is ever present, and keeps driving her on. She has a strong interest in Beatrix Potter and goes more or less on a pilgrimage of sorts the the area in which Potter lived and wrote her stories about. In addition to meeting a number of people who just want to use her, she does encounter a number of good souls.

The overall feeling of the book is one of hope. Helen takes control of her situation by the end of the book and it ends on a good note. She is greatly helped toward this end by people she happens upon when she is at a low point, who end up being good and kind to her and step into a positive sort of parental role that she had been lacking in her life.

It's a good story, I'm glad I read it, but I don't particularly love it. The art is good but not a style I like very much, and the story is well written, but didn't blow me away. It's a good book to borrow first.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Talkin bout the same thing over and over

I picked up this weeks comics today. It was a light but good week and I picked up a little bonus comic to read as well.

The Unwritten #7 came out, and it continues to be really good and really compelling. The is great, the covers are even better, and the writing is pretty awesome. I love the fictional geography aspect of this probably more than anything else, but the whole conceit of the power of stories and their influence and their standing as a commodity of sorts is really neat. There is a lot going on in this. There are a variety of things that will eventually come together, and the promise of learning a lot more as everything develops. This is one of those smart comics that doesn't come off as pretentious or trying to be more than it is. One of the core stories is basically Harry Potter. The power is in stories, no matter what the stories are.

Batman and Robin #6 - I am not loving every second of this title, but I am liking it a lot. It is going a long way to keep me reading it. The team of Dick and Damian is a good one. Both characters have strong well defined personalities, and bring a lot to the table. Both provide different perspectives on the Batman identity and make for good action and an interesting dynamic. The Jason Todd Red Hood and his crazy sidekick Scarlet were a good counterpoint to Batman and Robin, and the flamboyant Flamingo was a tough enemy, but still came across as sort of generic and with only the flashiness and brutality standing inplace of actual character. I am enjoying this more than a lot of relatively recent Batman stuff. I still like Batwoman more, but this is pretty good for a Batman fix.

I also picked up SuperGod, but haven't read it yet. Touching the ultra glossy cover was like taking a time machine back to the 90's but I don't hold that against it. I am pretty sure I will like this just as I tend to at least LIKE most things Warren Ellis writes. I'll talk about it more when I don't have to make stuff up to do so...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CBD 10/07/09

North 40, Batman and Robin, Models Inc, Doctor Voodoo, Haunt

North 40 #4 - Aaron Williams, Fiona Staples - Still loving this series. I am not always a fan of horror, but this really has me hooked. It is well written, and the art is fantastic, with emphasis on just a great job on the colors. It isn't what I would call a comedy, but it certainly has a sense of humor. It comes off almost in a Twin Peaks meets Lovecraftian apocalypse sort of vibe. At this point the law is trying hard to maintain order in the face of all the strangeness, and things are gradually coming together. There is so much to take in at this point that i am not asking for the plot to move any faster than it is. Each issue brings us new mysteries and new insights into the characters we see. It's creepy smart and fun.

Batman and Robin #5 - Grant Morrison, Philip Tan - I like this title, and I liked this issue. I think it is well written, but just a bit more extreme than I am interested in . I think it's great, I just don't think it beats out some of the other titles I am reading for my comic dollars. This title vs Detective comics at this point... I have to go with BatWoman. It isn't really a contest like that, but given limited funds and rising prices, I do have to keep jockeying my money around where it gives me the most bang, or lets me pick up things I just 'have to check out'. The story lines move from a guy who replaces faces to a guy who eats them... I'll check back in with this title later I think.

Doctor Voodoo #1 - Rick Remender, Jefte Palo - I loved this issue. I haven't paid much attention to Doctor Strange in a really long time. I used to love it when I was in Middle School, though. For some reason, it was like Daredevil at the time for me, Maybe my local library had some runs of it and I read a lot of it. My library back then had these bins of single issues that were beat to hell, but you could check them out. They stamped right on the comic, it was kind of great. I like Brother Voodoo, and if this issue is an accurate intro into how this will consistently be, then I will need to put this on my pull list. It starts out with Dr. Voodoo getting the easy upper hand over Dormamu, and certainly gets no less awesome on it's way to a cross dimensional battle of indeterminate length with Dr. Doom. It was really awesome on a very high level for me.

Models Inc. #2 - I think this is a pretty decent comic. It has a LOT of human interaction, some murder mystery elements, etc., but probably isn't something I will keep picking up from this point on. I don't think this is a bad book at all, I just think it isn't a book I am particularly interested in reading.

Haunt #1 - Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Todd McFarlane - Despite the fact that I have been making fun of this character since the first picture of it was released (See... It's from Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane, and the McFarlane cover image really really looks like a cross between Spider-Man and Spawn... More like a hybrid of the two than like Venom in my opinion, but it has a venom-esque look as well.) That being said, this comic has some Spawn-like elements to it... Mercenary or government killer type who dies and becomes something else... That being said, it really is something wholly new. I really enjoyed this issue, and think it is a pretty great setup to an intriguing and interesting ongoing story. Ryan Ottley's Pencils have Todd McFarlane's inks over them, and the art is brilliant. My favorite 'panel' has the good guy jumping over the front of an oncoming jeep and simultaneously shooting the driver in the face while kicking the passenger in the face. As the story goes on, the soldier is killed, but his ghost keeps appearing to his brother who is a priest. When people show up to kill the brother, the soldier's ghostly self merges into his brother and becomes this other sort of creature. I guess it sort of is like Venom, if the symbiote was his brother. I was not at all surprised by the quality of this book, but I didn't think I would like it as much as I did. I am glad I succumbed to my curiosity and picked it up. It definitely has me for a few more issues at least.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Fistfull of SPX 2009 part 1

I've had a chance to get through a good number of smaller comics at this point, and I am pretty impressed with what I have read so far. I think it says a lot about the things I choose to pick up and buy, as well as a lot about the quality of the offerings at SPX this year that I pulled out a pile of minicomics and really truly believe they were all pretty awesome. I am sure I picked up some things that I won't love this much, but this first batch, pulled randomly, is filled with winners.

Bizcochito - Dennis Pacheco - - This is billed as 'a tale of sweet revenge', and 'a cautionary tale in two acts'. This small square mini is 24 single panel pages, and tells a story that spans a 13 year time frame, and highlights the fact that some people will wait far longer than you might think to exact revenge. It is very cute, very well drawn, and very available to read for free. If you follow that link you will be on a page that shows several of Pacheco's works. bizcochito is toward the bottom of the page. Well worth reading. Budgeting and a desire to get a wide variety of creators are the only reasons I didn't buy more of his work. He was not able to be at SPX, but his work was well represented.

Earth Minds Are Weak (1-4)- Justin J Fox - - here is the blurb about the first issue from his website.
"Issue 1 of an 80 pg. wordless adventure, The Story of Suave Prospects. This surreal tale focuses on four brothers. Born into the world as naive adults, they explore a mythical temple in search of their Ids. Magical candles, the living dead, dancing beer labels, alien plants, shape-changing mushrooms and a tavern in the belly of a whale are just some of the dream-like elements that they encounter. 4.25” x 5.5”/21 pages/b&w"
The art is fantastic in this. I am not sure I understood much of anything in the four small books, but it was interesting and made me think and try to decode what was going on, and what we were being told in each of the panels. In that regard I enjoyed it a lot. It's trippy. I don't think I ever have an opportunity to use that word, but it applies here. There is a heavy sense of design and mythology (central american) represented in the black and white. You get a lot of really heavy black and white, but also a lot of fine textures drawn in very thin lines. There is a strange mystical,sexual, and psychological vibe at work, and while I don't feel I understand it, I get it, and I like it.

Four Stories - Tom McHenry - - I was standing in front of Sara Bauer's table trying to figure out what to buy when I picked this up. I laughed so hard at what I saw on the random page I flipped to, that I felt obligated to buy it. The pieces in here aren't exactly funny, but the title of one of them just killed me... it was "Fucking Comics on the GodDamn Internet", which is a short sort of existentialist piece about two webcomics creators sitting in a cell talking about their place as basically mankind's last hope in some alien gladiatorial arena. It works. This also contains the story No Argument is Ever Won, which hits WAY too close to home for me about the dickish behavior we subject the people we love to, and geek... identity issues? The piece that hit me hardest is probably the Rag and Bone Man. Inside the strange sad story of a couple losing a baby, is this concept of selling things like memories and abilities, for money. This is a powerful and effective small volume. The art is good and the writing is great.

Hey Pais, the best thing in the WORLD - Sara Bauer - - Hey Pais is a journal comic by a cat. It is simple and cute and funny and endearing. It is really just a nice comic. It is also a webcomic, so follow that link and enjoy! The mini comic I picked up is especially precious. In March, Paisley decided that she was going to make a March Madness inspired bracketed competition to determine the Best thing in the world. It was divided into four divisions of People, Food, Activities, and Events. There is a tiny little envelope inside the front cover with a very small copy of the brackets, which include among other things: Ice Cream, Dropping Beats, Morrissey and Unattended Bread. There is one comic for an item in each division in each round. It is very cute, and very funny. Inside the back cover is another tiny envelope that contains the brackets with the results all written in. I LOVED this. It makes me smile to take out the little brackets. It's sweet and nice and funny.

Outreach - Raina Telgemeier - - It was really nice getting to meet Raina. She is just nice and friendly and accessible. Her art is fantastic, and she is a perfect choice for the graphic novel adaptations of the babysitters club books. I picked up two small volumes from her that have panels drawn from real life classes she has done for kids. I LOVED the fact that she had minis for sale. She has quite a few books under her belt, but she also had minis available, which is a genius thing to do in the context of a show like SPX especially. If she lived closer to Virginia I would be trying to figure out how to have her attend an event for our Girl Scout service unit. The cover for Outreach #2 is cute and smart. It has a boy and a girl reading comics on it, and the boy is reading a comic labeled comics for girls and the girl is reading the one for boys. PLUS her booth was giving away a cookie with each purchase!! it was delicious. <--- disclosure per the new FTC rules...

Ok, I am getting tired now. I know it doesn't look like much, but this is 9 comics covered. I have a bunch more that I have already read, but they will come in another day or so. Be sure to check out the sites for these folks!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cross Country - MK Reed

Another longer work that I picked up at this year's SPX is the book Cross Country by MK Reed. I was excited to pick it up as I really enjoyed the two smaller works of hers that I picked up last year. For a tiny blurb on 'I will feast on your whore heart' and 'Myrtle Willoughby' go here.

Cross Country is a story about a guy named Ben who has taken a job as the assistant for an heir to a big chain store as he goes on a road trip visiting various stores as they celebrate milestones or have events, etc. Greg, Ben's boss, is a spoiled self centered frat boy asshole, and Ben is immediately sick of him, but he does his job and puts up with it.

Ben is a decent guy, but he has not gotten over the girl who left him in college, and is subjected to frequent and sometimes disturbing dreams about her still. Ben keeps in touch with his best friend Tara, via phonecalls and postcards, and ends up getting back in touch with his ex, and staying with her for a day. Greg ends up facing some consequences for his actions, and everything ends on a sort of promise of things getting at least somewhat better for Ben.

It's a great story with excellent and enjoyable dialog. It's smart and comes across as very genuine. The dream sequences are interesting and well done, and give us additional insight. Reed's art is simple, but well done and consistent. The story is dialog heavy, but in the way that a car trip and a reunion with an ex would be. It doesn't feel unrealistically padded or anything. The characters are distinct and there is a good bit of humor as well.

In a very basic and complimentary way, this book reminds me of the movie Sideways. There are a lot of basic similarities. Not even close to exactly the same, just the basic feel and some of the themes with the characters.

I highly recommend this. You can read a preview of the book, or order it for 10 dollars through the author's website

You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man

Carol Tyler was a VIP at the 2009 Small Press Expo. I had never read anything by her before this weekend. I had seen her name, and read a very little bit about her, but that was it. That was another one of those situations where my ignorance is my loss, whether I realize it or not. Fortunately for me SPX was there to help me. I attended the Q&A that comics critic Douglas Wolk did with Carol on Sunday of the show. I am really glad I did.

Listening to Carol Tyler talk was a highlight of the show for me. I think a lot of the creators and exhibitors there would have been greatly served by hearing the parts of her story and her approach to cartooning that she shared. She spoke at length about her new book from Fantagraphics that deals with her father's time in World War II and his long silence about it. Part of what was really driven home in her talk was how her father's story is not an exceptional one, how from the time of the war forward he was part of a great fraternity that includes pretty much anyone that has gone to war, and his tendency to be closed lipped about it is the rule of his era.

Her father is a poster child for that era in my opinion. He pursued the woman he was attracted to, he was a bit of a goof and a wise-acre when he was younger, he served his country because it was what people did, and after the war he didn't speak of it for decades. He was crusty and could be a real son of a bitch, but he did what he had to to support his family. I could go on further with traits like that. All of those things make him identifiable and also give the story it's impact.

We are served the story in the context of the artist herself. Her husband left her and her daughter, and she is doing what it takes to keep things going for the two of them. Throughout her life she saw evidence of his involvement in WWII, but it was not a subject her father would talk about. It was an empty space in his story that she thought must hold some clues to understanding him as she knew him. His unwillingness to talk about his war-time past ended with a phone call she received from him one day, and that kicked off what would become the impetus for this book. The book contains an account of her life at the time, focusing on the rebuilding of a scrapbook of his army days, and recounting his story from that time.

The art is wonderful, and I believe she said it was done entirely in inks. Her style is one of cartoony but expressive and identifiable people set against lush and beautifully detailed backgrounds that are just superb. Her caricature of herself is one of the most honest representations I have seen from an artist. The book itself is over sized and reminiscent of a family album in its dimensions. She stated in her talk that she wanted it to be something you really had to sit down with and take slowly, rather than some other format more fitted to a fast read. It was a real pleasure hearing her talk, and also having her sign my copy. I am sad that I have to wait until the end of 2010 for the next installment, but I am certain it will be worth the wait.

One of the things I was most affected by was her imperative to collect and tell people's stories. She has her class do exercises in that vein, interviewing real people and relating real stories. She speaks of the stories she has collected that she hopes to actually produce some day, and it is just magical. It's hard not to be affected by the enthusiasm, or impressed by that gift for seeing things that way. If you have a chance to meet her, or see her speak about anything, really, I recommend it.

Here is a link to Douglas Wolk's write up of this book in the New York Times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Post SPX... post

I volunteered at SPX this year, and attended both days. It's a great experience. I didn't meet a single person among the volunteers who wasn't just great, and the volunteer coordinator is pretty awesome, and made me feel welcomed and useful, even when I was standing around with nothing to do. They keep a good number of people on hand just in case anything comes up, and I stayed and worked when there was something I could do, so I didn't feel like a freeloader. I carried a ballot box around for the Ignatz ballots so that exhibitors could get theirs turned in without having to leave their booths, and later I went around to a couple rows of exhibitors to show them where to go when they left for the day. It was fun, and it was a good way to get around and make eye contact with a lot of exhibitors. For instance, I really wanted to meet Kate Beaton and say hi, and tell her the usual 'your stuff is really cool, etc' but there was always a crowd around her... So instead, I got to tell her where to exit when she left... it was almost like talking.

Some high points for me from Saturday were getting to meet Eden (from the comicsgirl blog) and Dan Govar (Saulone on Zuda, creator of the comic Azure) in person. I walked around the exhibit hall with Dan, and it was a lot of fun. I have been watching him draw on livestream and chatting with him a good bit lately there. Eden is responsible for my even knowing that I could volunteer, through her enthusiastic advocacy of volunteering at spx, etc. It really was a great experience. I also got to say hi to a good number of people I had met the previous year, and meet a variety of new and awesome people. I really enjoyed meeting Miss Lasko-Gross, and the other folks in the House of Twelve booth. She was funny and nice, and I had a lot of fun yammering at her. I hope to buy 'a Mess of Everything' at some point in the future, but it wasn't in my budget for SPX.

I attended one panel on Saturday, and it was the critics roundtable. it was absolutely worth sitting in on, and I will make a point to get to that sort of thing any time I can. It was absolutely packed with a pretty broad range of people who write or post about comics. It helped me understand some things about myself, and appreciate some of the panelists a little better.

I was absolutely dead and my feet were screaming in pain when I got home last night, but I took a hot bath after my Wife and daughters wouldn't stop laughing at my wincing everytime I moved my legs. The bath and sleep certainly helped.

Sunday morning I got up and went back. I picked up most of the things i had made mental notes about. I stopped and saw Joe Flood again and picked up a comic I had wanted to get from him. I attended two panels, One was the Carol Tyler conversation, and the other was about comics and community. The Carol Tyler one will be the subject of its own post at some point. She was wonderful and insightful. I broke a rule of my own and risked castration by walking right out of the panel when it was done and buying her book so that I could have her sign it, but most importantly because I have to read it now that I have heard her talk about it... It's become important to me. Seriously, It was a funny and touching and insightful talk. Things like that really make a good con even better. The comics and community one annoyed me a little, but was not without some good stuff, and was still worth attending. My thoughts on it will probably pop up again somewhere.

I will make a point to volunteer next year. There was no downside to being there... If I had to pick one, it would definitely be:

Rob makes an ass out of himself in front of people he respects... SPX edition.
I was running around telling the exhibitors how to leave the showroom when I walked up on Joe McCullough and Tucker Stone talking to people at one of the exhibitor's tables. I am a big fan of both Joe and Tucker. Joe writes insight filled smart wordy posts with a comics scholar's knowledge of the material and the greater 'world of comics' that it exists within, etc. I did an ok job telling him how much I respected his work. Tucker was talking to someone, so (assuming they are friends, as they drove down together I think, and they seem to have some camaraderie at least), I then rambled like an idiot to Joe about how much I appreciated Tyler's work as well. Sometimes I can't make myself stop talking. I related that when I first read Tucker's work I was appalled by it and wanted to act as sort of the anti-him, but then I read more and more and realized that regardless of how he was conveying it, his words generally echoed my sentiment, just with the word 'fuck' appearing more in his work, and with his showing a bit more passion and a sharper sense of humor. I think at the core of his criticism is some of the most honest comics writing you will get. It doesn't wear a pretentious overcoat like a lot of people with his kind of exposure seem to, and I appreciate it.

So instead of saying anything coherent directly to him I think I made Joe worry that I might have had a knife on me or something, or wonder how I had changed out of my hospital gown on my way to the expo...

It was still a good time.

Coming soon I will start reading and posting on the great volume of mini and not so mini comics I picked up at the show.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Tick ongoing series

What is better than the idea of a new Tick ongoing series? Maybe one that is written By Benito Cereno and Drawn by Les McClaine? Maybe one that kicks off with a holiday special?

Yes, really.

Don't let this one slip by you. If you want to pick this comic up, you will most likely have to order it in advance. Tell your local comic shop that you want it (Diamond code SEP09 0937 ) or order it at a savings from some place like... this for instance:

I am genuinely excited about this. There really aren't many comics that I have been this excited about in a while. The Tick is absolutely a sentimental favorite of mine. It is great to see it in the hands of two people who seem completely qualified to function on the level such a title needs and deserves... no pressure guys... just ALL THE PRESSURE IN THE WORLD!

Insert some sports metaphor about success here.

While you are waiting for the book to come out, you should check out Benito's LJ, or follow him on twitter or both.

SPX - Small Press Expo Sept 26, 27 Bethesda, MD

I am very excited about going to SPX again this year, and just as excited about volunteering(for the first time) as I am about going at all. I had a lot of fun going last year, and many times more fun going over all the things I got, and thinking about the people I met and posting about the Mini comics and things like that.

So, if you are interested in going this year, here are some links...

Check out the SPX site if you haven't. Lots of great people will be there, including Kate Beaton, Liz Baillie, MK Reed, Danielle Corsetto, Josh Cotter, and many more!

Fistfull of SPX - This is the series of reviews of all the mini comics (and not so mini) that I picked up last year

comicsgirl has some very helpful posts related to SPX in the form of a survival guide, and a food guide. If you are going, you should read them.

I will most certainly post about the experience, as well as anything I pick up. I may be twittering off and on during the event as well. I am talkinboutcomx on twitter

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CBD 09/16/2009

Beasts of Burden, Tiny Titans, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Atomic Robo

It's really nice when the comics I get meet the level of excitement that going to the store and getting them generates in me.

Beasts of Burden #1 - I am surprised that there was a copy of this on the shelf. I am guessing that it was purchased for someone and then accidentally got shelved. Yay me! This comics is written by Evan Dorkin and illustrated by Jill Thompson. I described it to my daughter as sort of like scooby doo, only the gang is all dogs, and a cat I guess fills the odd person out spot that Scooby occupied in his group. That is really only a valid comparison on the surface, and even then it's a sketchy comparison, but it made me laugh. The story is cool, the setting and the premise are even cooler, the characters are distinctive. There is humor and drama and right there tying it all together is art that is cute and stunning and fully capable of conveying the sort of horror/supernatural element of the story as well. Burden Hill is a town with dark and sinister secrets, according to a paragraph on the inside of the cover, and it is up to the animals that live there to protect the town and its other inhabitants. The Dogs and cats and scenery are all just beautifully done, and the animals work together using their wits and resources (including a dog that can cast spells!) to get through difficult situations (in this case a giant frog that is eating pretty much anything or anyone it wants to.) This isn't a kids title exactly, but I would certainly let my 10 year old daughter read it.

Batman and Robin #4 - Still good, even without Frank Quitely on board at the moment. There are some points where the art me be a bit confusing, but I don't see it as particularly bad or anything. I am viewing it like I am supposed to think it's awful, because everyone has worked hard to create that expectation. I am pretty sure Philip Tan is not a fan of that assumption. Frank Quitely is a pretty great artist. It would be hard to follow him on a title. Nothing in this book makes me unable to follow or enjoy the story, so I find it hard to have a negative opionion about the art. So I will say. Good job guys. We get Red Hood and Scarlet popping up in place of Batman and Robin, or ahead of them, and doing very un-Batman sorts of things. I don't really dig the whole 'let the punishment fit the crime' catch phrase, but 'who am I to judge' (maybe that will be my new catch phrase)

Batgirl #2 - I really like the Phil Noto cover to this. There is a sort of old school sexiness to the shot of a fully clothed woman pulling up or adjusting her boot. It is not done in a lurid way, it isn't cheesecake, or even overtly sexual, but I like the picture. The comic is ok, and features a good bit of Oracle seeming jealous of the new Batgirl, or overly protective or something. I liked it, but I don't think i will continue picking this up, unless I am in the situation where I can get it and still come out under 20 bucks.

Atomic Robo Shadow from beyond time #5 - This is the final installment of the third volume of Atomic Robo. I loved this series. This issue, for being strong and funny, and resolving things nicely, is probably the weakist issue of the series. That distinction still allows this issue to be better than a majority of comics I read. I loved it, it just didn't have the bang for me that some of the other issues did. It's still funny as heck, and has a really great take on non-linear time that feels almost like time travel but isn't, because time travel is impossible... There is a description of evil computers vs normal computers that is hilarious and brilliant as well. If you didn't read this as it was coming out, do yourself a favor and pick up the trade. Great stuff. Clevinger, Wegener, Pattison and Powell is certainly one of the all time best groups of four names to see together on the front of a comic. Here's looking to volume 4!!

Tiny Titans #20 - The latest installment of the Eisner award winner for best publication for kids, continues to delight. This issue deals with magical holes created by Raven, and their many uses. The best part of the issue is the spread where Alfred is polishing the Eisner! I would do that if I had an award winning comic that I wrote and drew. Good job Baltazar & Franco!

Wednesday Comics #11 - I will be very sad to see this over. The awesome thing about this issue in particular is how big everyone is going. I would say this specific issue has the greatest concentration of oversized panels of the entire run. The Flash wins for layout design, but Green Lantern and WonderWoman are also just beautiful. There is a lot of good in this issue. Looking at the whole run so far, I would say that Teen Titans is the only feature that didn't seem to work for me on any level. Even Emo Superman went big and bold art-wise. Once it is finished I will go back and read each feature straight through. This has been a very successfull experiment in my opinion. I sure hope they continue to push boundaries of art and design and such in other ways. I would love to see another weekly collection like this at some point.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CBD 09/10/09

Models Inc., Wed. Comics, North 40, The Unwritten, Ult. Comics Avengers, Nomad, Kick-Ass

The Unwritten #5 (Mike Carey & Peter Gross) I think this is one of the best single issues of comics I have read this year. In this issue the story steps back a bit and shows us just how deep things go, and how the literary conspiracy/cabal stretches back probably as long as stories have been written. This issue focuses on Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. The primary focus is Kipling, and it is just brilliantly written. It wraps the realities of Kipling and Wilde, for instance, in the fabric and context of the story, and ties them together in an achingly sad story. Fantastic stuff. You could almost read it out of the story context and still have it be a meaningful read. I highly recommend this series.

Models Inc. #1 (Tobin & Villagrasa) - I kind of wish that Marvel Divas was more like this title. I don't Dislike Marvel Divas, and I like Tonci Zonjic's art a lot, but this title seems to have a lot more going for it in characters, interaction, a fun spirit, and a better cover. Why Couldn't Marvel Divas get the sort of cover treatment that this has. Divas had Super ladies drawn in unsexy 'sexy poses' on the cover, this has a relatively classy magazine cover feel in which the character is drawn sexy and pretty, but much more realistically, and not in a pose that only occurs in a Men's magazine. You get Model stuff, fashion stuff, some action stuff. It's really not bad. The Tim Gunn backup is especially great if you have Tim Gunn Fever! as all right minded folks should, and as far as celebrities dropped into comics go, it's a good bit, and is funny and pretty well done.

North 40 #3 (Williams & Staples) - This really looks to be a great series. It is genuinely creepy as well as funny. It feels like a perfect TV show setup. Seriously. There are a lot of good characters in a relatively limited environment. There is a great deal to be discovered regarding what the full effects of the event are, as well as an effort to set things right somehow, and in the middle of it we have a Sheriff just trying to keep order in a small town that's turning into freak central. The art continues to be great, and really provides the right atmosphere. I think the writing is well done and is paced nicely. Really good read. If you like horror, old gods, monsters and small town sheriffin', you are well covered with this.

Kick-Ass #7(Millar, Romita Jr) - I wanted to hate this. I wanted to stop getting it. I don't always love things that are sold as brutal and bloody and over the top. I don't actually have a problem with Comic book as movie sales pitch, especially if it's a good comic. Kick-Ass is really a good comic. Written extremely well, and drawn great too. This issue absolutely pushes all the right buttons for me. I am unable to resist a good 'Rocky' style comeback, and this has one of the best comebacks ever. Kick-Ass gets absolutely destroyed in this issue, and then formulates a plan to get out of it by getting beaten mercilessly until he can get his pants back on. It's brilliant. There may be a message about the dangers of comic books in this, but I think it really is more about the awesomeness of comic books.

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #2 - This is looking pretty good. I sort of stopped reading vol 3 early on of Ultimates, and I didn't really follow Ultimatum. This series seems to grab some middle ground between the two, and is off to a good start. I know I'd cut my face off if I had Steve Rogers' good looks. Pretty good, but I can't afford to keep getting everything I like.

Nomad: Girl without a World #1 (Sean McKeever, David Baldeon) - I didn't know what to expect from this, but I was compelled to pick it up. It's about Rikki Barnes a girl from another earth who is inexplicably on this earth now. She is the Bucky of her world. She wants desperately to meet the Captain America of this world, but something comes up every time she tries. In this issue that something is the Black Widow. BW tells Rikki that plenty of people know about her, etc. and that She's not going to let Rikki meet Cap. There is also the plot line where Rikki has chosen to be where she is on this earth because although she doesn't exist in this reality, her brother does, so she puts herself close to him. This comic gives us High School drama, dimension travel, Action, and butting heads with adults. I think if it keeps this balance it will be a good title, and maybe one that kids (boys and girls both I would hope) can like.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No such thing as a Wednesday without comics

In an attempt to make Disappointment Wednesday a little less so, I went the webcomics route. There is a ton of really great stuff out there for free just waiting to be read, and even still I don't tend to read enough of it. I read a large number of items on Zuda, and have a handful of others that I frequent, but still I don't even touch a fraction of even the most well known and regarded comics on the web. I went the easy route and started at ACT-I-VATE.

ACT-I-VATE is a webcomics collective that was started by Dean Haspiel in 2006. It provides a place for talented, hand picked creators to host their comics and serialized graphic novels. There is a great lot of great and recognizable talent there. There are dozens of offerings, and previously I have only read one or two. Not sure why, but then I am never sure what keeps me from reading good stuff that everyone else is smart enough to read when it's new.
Here's What I read there:
Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire - Paul Maybury - This was a Zuda contest entry at one point. I loved it there, and I love it here. Especially wonderful is the last page where Maxy confronts Paul about the book that he's supposed to do about Maxy. Maxy J. is a stuffed toy who loves chicken nuggets and writing checks. He leaves his girl after she has grown up and put him through the indignity of having sex with someone in his bed. It's sort of cute and sweet and sad. Maxy is naive and self centered and a bit delusional. It's a really good character. I love Maybury's art, and would love to see this go someplace.
Beanbots - Kevin Kobasic - I may use the word sweet alot in this post. Beanbots focuses on a Dad and his two daughters (I am a father of two daughters, so it really resonates, but it is good regardless of that) The art is sort of soft focus and cute, but in a way that drives home the whole raising girls thing. If you have girls, or know them, or were one, or are one, you know that especially when they are little they can be a cross between the cutest thing you have ever encountered and a Tasmanian devil, or sometimes the actual devil. They can undo anything you are secure in, and make you love more than you thought was possible. This is a very funny strip, but there is a reality to it that is just perfect. One of my favorite strips has the Dad taking care of the two girls and walking with them in public. They have angel halos and he has a superman cape. By the end of the strip both of them are bawling and he has an ass for a head(hopefully you follow that link to see the whole thing).
Flowing Wells - Andrew Dimitt - This is another comic that was in a Zuda competition once. 8 screens and the sort of storytelling that this is didn't translate well into the Zuda model. That is a sort of Weakness in the Zuda concept, but it certainly isn't damning in my opinion to Zuda or this strange but excellent comic. Flowing wells is almost entirely narrative so far. The art is really great, and very clean. I am seriously a big fan of this. I don't fully get it, but the concept as I understand it is very cool. It is something that really needed space to grow and develop, and given that, draws you in well. As I understand it, Flowing Wells is like if the Sims took place on an actual planet and everything was actually built upon the planet and the sims that were created there suffered under various mods that caused all sort of problems, including giving them free will. When we join the story there are very few 'people' left there.
Underwire - Jennifer Hayden - This is perhaps my favorite. These pieces are absolutely from a woman's perspective, but they are less gender specific than they are just true to life, easily identifiable pieces of on the human experience. The art is absolutely perfect. It is personal and accessible and expressive. I have linked to my favorite panel of my favorite story. Visit the link then start at the beginning of the story. Each chapter is a 12 to 18 panel strip that comes off as a short story or vignette. They all work for me and give us looks at real and different every day sorts of occurrences elevated to art. I highly recommend this. The panel I have linked to is a situation that my wife and I definitely experienced ourselves with our oldest. We pointed out the moment things changed as well. Hayden is working on a graphic novel - "The Story of My Tits" which is scheduled for 2011 from Top Shelf, according to her website . It is definitely on my list as something I need to get when it comes out.

For the final webcomic I read, I looked no further than someone I follow on twitter, and whose blog I regularly visit - Keven Church - I have only read a few entries of his webcomic The Rack, but it is definitely something I want to read. Today I chose to Read the 'limited series' spin off of the Rack-
Lydia: A comic strip about corporate culture. - There was no issue with understanding and enjoying this, despite my limited experience with The Rack. It was very funny, very well drawn, and extremely well written. It wasn't Dilbert, and it wasn't The Office, it was yet again unique, despite covering an angle on a set up that has been done a good bit. This takes it from a slightly different direction than we have seen it before, and works. Lydia went from working in a comic shop to working in a corporate environment where it was immediately clear that management was flaky and imbalanced, but not immediately clear what the job was that she was hired to do. Good clever stuff, go read it now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sympathy for the Zuda

I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about Zuda for a while. Zuda is a webcomics competition and site that is owned by DC Comics. It seems to get more aggressive negative press than it does positive for no good reason in my opinion. Non-Zuda webcomics people seem to become elitists when it is brought up(or when they constantly bring it up), and many comics bloggers seem to find some way of giving a negative spin to whatever they say about it. People who don't read the comics there seem to lay in wait for opportunities to post comments about how they don't read it for one weak reason or another.

It is not uncommon to see people bashing Zuda and then giving the disclaimer that there are some great comics there, but for whatever reason, despite great comics (and happy creators) Zuda is depicted as somehow bad or doing it wrong, or secretly going to sneak into your houses and delete your non-Zuda favorites from your computer. I don't get it. I have read what I have seen written and most of it just makes me wonder where the need to slam things comes from.
I have no vested interest in Zuda. I get the bulk of my comics from my LCS and my local library, and sometimes from Amazon. I read a number of non-Zuda webcomics and know that there are a lot of really good ones out there. I also acknowledge that there are certainly a great number of areas for improvement. There are bound to be. Few things start off perfected. I am going to talk about my personal experiences with Zuda and where I think they excel.
The comics - Zuda is home to a large number of comics that I would rank among my favorite comics I am reading these days (regardless of format). Bayou, Celadore, Azure, Night Owls, Imaginary Boys, and High Moon are all very well written and drawn, and are every one of them very different from the other in style and substance. Zuda has a monthly contest that puts a lot of 8 screen 'pilots' in front of my eyes, and has introduced me to a great deal of talent I might not have otherwise found on my own. Contest winners may go on to have their comic become an ongoing series, and this introduces variety and freshness to the mix.
The Format - I like that Zuda is community and feedback -centric. This is not unique to Zuda, but I appreciate it a lot in a webcomic. It's one of the things I think can really set webcomics apart from their print only brethren. Each comic has its own open thread that everyone can post in, ask questions, leave feedback, etc. and in most cases the creators actively keep up on the posts and reply regularly to the people taking time to read their works. There is a real sense of appreciation there. All of the creators I have encountered really seem to appreciate their fans and readers. The Zuda interface itself is a flash viewer. This gets an awful lot of the hate. Zuda recently made a good number of changes to their site, and improved a number of navigation and viewing features, but that still doesn't seem to appease critics.
I have been looking at a lot of webcomics sites lately. I don't use feeds for my comics reading. I guess I am behind the curve, but that doesn't stop me from reading and enjoying webcomics. I genuinely like Zudas viewer. No, I can't read them on my iphone, but there aren't many webcomics that are practical for reading on my iphone in my opinion. In IE, Firefox and Google Chrome (yeah, I use three different browsers...) I am not currently seeing any real issues in accessing and using the Zuda site and the comics viewer. Here is what I like about the viewer
  • You can browse the screens in a small view that you can still more or less read in most cases. I don't like to read them this way because...
  • You can go to full screen and really see the comic in a screen fitting format that gives you the best view of the art, and is even easier to read.
  • It remembers the last screen you read of any given comic and starts you out there when you revisit
  • There is a thumbnails view that can scroll across the bottom of your screen for easy navigating
  • Comics are submitted in a specific aspect ratio so that they fit most monitors in full screen view, so no matter which view you use you don't have to scroll around.
I just don't understand people who suggest that any of those things is just an insurmountable barrier to their accessing and enjoying comics. I could read some really good comics on the web for free, but screw that, I refuse to maximize. I refuse to use a flash viewer, and I refuse to sit for a screen load time that is generally about the same amount of time that many other webcomics take to have their whole page refresh when you click 'next'. If people have systems that flash is incompatible with, then that is a real issue, and I hope that it is being looked into or considered as an issue to be resolved in a later update, etc. If the percentage of potential viewers affected is too small to justify changing or fixing, then that is just the way it is. Those sorts of things happen sometimes, and it is unfortunate.
The sense of community, and the sense of genuine enthusiasm for the medium of comics, and appreciation of their peers and the guidance and support they get through their organization is really palpable among the creators I have had the pleasure of chatting with. It's genuine, and it's refreshing. No I don't expect that every creator needs to be my 'friend' in order for me to read their works, but I do appreciate the sense of really trying to make something work, and really appreciating their readers and peers. It's a lot like following a local band and seeing them break into a greater music community.
If you haven't given Zuda a chance, give it a chance. It isn't the enemy of webcomics, it is another avenue of opportunity for webcomics that can exist right out there alongside every other comic you like. I don't like every comic on Zuda, but you are missing out on some exceptional ones if you write it off. Zuda is on twitter, as are many of its creators. Following them is a good way to know when updates are available without visiting the site, or hearing about upcoming events, etc.
I am also not implying here that Zuda is an underdog either. I doubt it really needs me defending it in any way. I get a good bit of enjoyment from the site, just don't understand what seems to be a steady assault of it. I am tired of everything being about tearing down instead of lifting up. That is part of my general philosophy here. I realize it doesn't make me look like an important critic of the industry, but that's just not an aspiration of mine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

CBD 09/02/2009

Chew, Strange Tales, Wednesday Comics, Sweet Tooth, UltCom Spider-Man, North 40

You are correct that not all of the comics I listed there are actually new this week. I found Chew #3 not long ago in a store that is not my LCS, and I was happy to see the 4th and 3rd printings of 1 and 2 show up on the shelf long enough for me to buy them. North 40 #2 is one I should have gotten when it came out, but didn't. The good news is that my LCS hunted it down for me, and now I have it.

Chew #1,2,3 - John Layman and Rob Guillory - The concept for this, which is: In a world where poultry is outlawed... one man with the ability to get sort of psychic impressions by eating things will... do cool stuff as an FDA agent. I wouldn't wish Tony Chu's ability on anyone, as it means he will routinely be called upon to eat really nasty stuff, and experience all the horrors of the food processing industry as well. In the three issues so far he is solving crimes, hearing that the bird flu panic is a hoax, going from cop to FDA agent, and falling in love. I guess I read a lot of clever things, but this series is clever, it is interesting and funny, and the character design / artistic style is really great. I plan to grab the rest of it as well.

Wednesday Comics - I think my comments on this have been pretty consistent. I will just jump to the thing that for no good reason jumped out and me and made me laugh.
Supergirl - Amanda Conner's art continues to be the cutest most endearing stuff ever. I love that it is in WC because it is just fresh and light and fun. The writing is cute and funny as well. They are at Dr. Midnite's and he has alerted Supergirl to something fishy going on in the sun. I would love an ongoing like this is, done all ages style. The thing that made me laugh was that all rear shots of Streaky and Krypto have their butt-holes drawn in. Maybe it's been like that the entire series, but still it made me laugh. I am 12, and I am living with it.

Sweet Tooth #1 - Jeff Lemire - I really like the distinctive style of the art in this comic. I haven't read any of Lemire's other works, and I will need to remedy that. This a very well told story so far, and definitely uses the medium well. The dialog is spare, and most of the story is told solely in pictures. It is the story of a boy with antlers who was raised by his father in a strict religious environment, in a secluded area. We find out that there have been other children born similarly, but possibly with other animal characteristics. It's pretty compelling so far. I think I will give it a few issues if I can. It shipped with a $1 cover price, which is a sure fire way to get me to read something.

North 40 #2 - This is just getting better. I am enjoying the developments a lot. The writing is great, the art is great.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man - The second half of this issue really just made it for me. Spidey fights a mother/daughter team and it is just awesome classic spider-man fun.

Strange Tales #1 - Exceptionally funny takes on Marvel characters by a varied and unexpected collection of artists. James Kochalka, Nicholas Gurewitch, Jason, Johnny Ryan, Dash Shaw and more. The bits range from cute to just wildly funny. Certainly worth getting the next 2 issues in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ranma 1/2 vs Usagi Yojimbo

I am pretty sure that before this week I had never read any Ranma 1/2, or any Usagi Yojimbo. These 2 series are unrelated except for the facts that 1. I picked up 2 volumes each at my local library, 2. I just read 2 volumes of each of them, 3. I am talking about them now (or' talkin' 'bout' them, as it were).

Usagi Yojimbo - Stan Sakai - This is a pretty straight forward lovingly done tribute to a genre. It also uses anthropomorphic animals to tell its stories. I am a big fan of Kurosawa's samurai era films. I also bought a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub when First Comics put out the English language editions with the Frank Miller covers in the late 80's. Usagi Yojimbo started around the same time I think, and I have been aware of it, and thought it was cool, but never read it because sometimes(most times) I am slow to pick up on things.
The volumes I got from the library are numbered 2 and 3, and are put out by Fantagraphics. In this case I don't think starting with volume 2 was bad because it contains what was the first 6 volumes of the Usagi Yojimbo comic, and starts right off with a very nice origin story retelling by the main character himself.
You should know by now that I tend to like nearly everything I read on some level or another. Even I have a ha
rd time believing me when I re-read my reviews. That being said, and unnecessarily apologized for... I really love this series so far, and can't believe it has taken me this long to actually break into it.
The really great thing about this, is that the art is fantastic. It's dynamic and expressive (I think those are important things for art in a comic like this), and allows you to distance this work from its 'source' material. It makes this telling of things completely its own. I don't feel like the use of Animals here is completely allegorical in nature. I don't feel that every animal represented is directly representative of some characteristic of the specific character. Some are, but I don't think it is trying to be that deep all the time. I consider that a very good thing. The way it is done is light, has a good bit of humor, but also comes across as having more depth than just that. Usagi is a real character and we are on his journey with him. He is very much cut from the same cloth as the heroes of the genre I mentioned earlier, and his story is expertly told. Plus... You have to admit that a kick butt samurai rabbit is an extremely cool character design.
This is well written and well drawn. If you like the stories of Zatoichi or Miyamoto Musashi, or any of the others I mentioned, you should give this a shot. If you aren't sure about those things, give this a shot anyway. I think this is a pretty accessible window into the genre.

Ranma 1/2 - Rumiko Takahashi - I am not a big consumer of manga. I have read a number of titles, but nowhere near the hundreds that my daughters have read. I have seen Ranma 1/2 for a LONG time, my library has a ton of it, but I have never tried to read it, and never really understood what it was about. I decided on my last trip or 2 to the library that i would specifically pick up some things I had sort of avoided reading for a long time, and make an effort to read them.
Ranma 1/2 is the story of a father and his daughters who run a martial arts school. He has arranged with an old friend that one of his daughters will become engaged to the friend's son, sight unseen. When the friend and his son show up, it becomes clear pretty quickly that something strange has happened to them. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that they had gone to China and chose to train in an area covered with cursed springs. Anyone falling into one of the springs comes out of it oddly and mostly comically transformed. The transformations are triggered by hot and cold water. The father turns into a giant panda when he is splashed with cold water. The son turns into a girl. To change them back they need to be doused with hot water.
Ranma Saotome is the boy in question. He is an expert martial artist. Akane Tendo is the daughter that ends up engaged to him. Her sisters decided that since Akane seems to hate all the boys she has met, that a boy who is also a girl would be ideal for her. There isn't a ton of depth here, but there is a lot of action, and even more humor. There are also a lot of boobs. lots and lots, but no sexual situations. I will probably let my 10 year old read this. As far as nudity goes, it is about as inoffensive as you can get, and is generally used for humor one way or another.
Akane is also extremely skilled in martial arts. Prior to Ranma showing up, she was able to beat up all the boys in her area. She is not keen on being anyone's fiance at the moment, especially not someone she didn't choose. She is hard-headed and has a quick temper, but she is not without her endearing qualities as well.
In addition to Ranma and his father, we get another character that has had misfortune at the cursed springs. He blames Ranma for it, and is intent upon destroying him. Unfortunately for him, his changed form is that of the cutest little black pig you will ever see.
Obviously this is filled with improbable situations where the changing characters are doused with water far more than anyone should ever expect to be doused with water. I laughed out loud constantly as I was reading this. The second volume moves into the realm of odd specialty fights that Ranma must be a girl to help out in. First it is a Martial Rhythmic Gymnastics battle, and then it is a Martial Figure Skating battle. I admit that those things seem kind of dumb to me, but they are really pretty funny, and very smartly executed. Again, there isn't a ton of depth, but there is a lot of action and cuteness and humor.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Casanova v1 TPB

I have had Matt Fraction's Casanova: Luxuria for about a year or so. I have tried to read it a few times prior to this and just wasn't able to. The very beginning of it is kind of dense. What i understand now is that instead of getting confused and setting the book down, you just need to give it a few more pages. Don't stress out if you don't fully understand it as it starts out pretty fast and gets the confusing stuff out of the way pretty quickly. It quickly turns into a sort of joyride if you just go with it.

Casanova is another thing that I will call a love letter to comics. You really get a sense that Fraction just loves the hell out of comics in the way this is written (including the statement 'I love Comics' actually appearing in the book, but that isn't what I am talking about). You get a lot of fun comic conventions all over the place in this. Mad scientist, evil mastermind, super spy, robots, giant robot, time travel(time/space/dimensional travel), life model decoys, multiple earths, death that isn't final, psychic duels, advanced civilizations, and much more are packed into this story.
Casanova Quinn is the son of the leader of the big law enforcement organization E.M.P.I.R.E. His sister Zephyr is also a super spy/agent. After his sister is killed, Cass is pulled into another timeline where the Casanova there had been killed, and the Zephyr there had not. From that point he is enlisted by Newman Xeno to be a double agent, and to run missions for W.A.S.T.E. The AIM to EMPIRE's SHIELD. The missions are sometimes just piggybacked onto his EMPIRE missions, but are often counter to the objectives. He is constantly facing off against his sister and Xeno and other elements. When the volume ends he is in a good position to start anew, with a base of operations and a freshly assembled team.
It's a romp, a wild ride, it's a well done story with a lot of humor and a great deal of cleverness about it. The art is by Gabriel Ba and works very well with the story. If you've never read it, here is a link to a good CBR article on it that includes a preview of the entire first issue

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lucifer, the first 4 Trades

I think I have re-read most of the first volume of the Lucifer trade about five times. I have enjoyed it every time, but for some reason I have waited to read any further than that, even though I got the first three trades for my birthday a while back, and have had volumes 4 and 6 since last year (half priced trades at Heroes I think, and I still need to pick up v5.
In the past five days I have read the first four trades. This amounts to issues 1-28 of the comic. If I had the fifth volume right now, I wouldn't be writing this.
Lucifer is a spin off from Sandman. Lucifer was a character in certain storylines in Sandman, and one of the things that happened there was that he abdicated Hell, and had Dream, of the endless, cut his wings off. If you have read any Sandman at all, you know that not only is it very well written, but it is also a very dense and I would say fertile work. It is very thick with characters and worlds and possibilities. As you read Sandman, you get a feeling that all of those places existed outside of the storyline, that they were real things with their own histories and futures, and that
whatever we saw in the comic was just a glimpse. It is a very rich work in that regard. There are a lot of possibilities for stories that could be picked up and told. Some of them have been, and many have not. According to the introduction in volume 1, Lucifer is the character that Neil Gaiman most wanted to see 'spun off'. I think it was an ideal choice for that honor, and I think it is clear that Mike Carey really was the right person to do it.
The character of Lucifer is one that I think would be hard to write well. He is clever and sly, he is an individualist, as well as a being of great power. He is called the prince of lies, but as the comics make very clear, he keeps his word. His intellect and his cleverness are such that he seems to operate exclusively in the 'very big picture' view of things. You may think you have him at a disadvantage, but you can't be sure he hadn't already allowed for that, and built it into his plan before you even started to formulate yours. He is a master of negotiation, a master of the bluff, and he is always aware of the true rules that govern any situation. He also commands respect, and may not tolerate it when people don't know their place.
The beauty of this series is in the telling. When you are reading it, you are always seeing multiple angles. You are never perched on Lucifer's shoulder for very long, but you see the plot building through the points of view of a great number of supporting cast. Sometimes the supporting cast are recurring characters, and sometimes they are almost just incidental. In one, we see two unfortunate 'pilgrims' who happen into Lucifer's home uninvited, in another we get a wonderful story of a female centaur that was born in Lucifer's realm outside of creation. She sees the future and seeks to warn him as he is their creator.
My favorite character in the stories is Elaine Belloc. When we first see her she is a young girl whose friend was killed, only to remain her friend as a ghost. Elaine sees ghosts, and is able to call on the spirits of her Grandmothers to give her guidance. We learn a lot more about Elaine as the story goes on, and due to his saving her life and always being honest with her, she is considers Lucifer her friend.
Ultimately the stories relate to Lucifer's rebellion against heaven, and his desire to have a creation of his own where no-one bows down to anyone, and religion is the only thing that is truly forbidden. He makes a lot of enemies in the process, and their machinations are rolled into the story as well, creating a compelling and interesting series of stories and events.
I truly believe that this series is brilliantly done. I would say that it is every bit as good as Sandman, but I think it's standing as a byproduct of that series makes it hard say that. It's the flawless heir in my opinion, a very worthy offspring to a very good comic. It takes the character (and some of the supporting ones) and continues them in a way that just moves naturally from everything we saw about them in the first place.
I strongly recommend giving this a read if you haven't already. If you aren't a Sandman fan you should give it a read anyway. (If anything, just give Sandman: Season of the Mists a read before you start this).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Heartbreak Soup

I am not sure that I have given Gilbert Hernandez and his work the love they deserve. Since I first fell in love with Love and Rockets (in the mid to late 80's) it was more about Jaime and the Locas stories. I read a good bit of Palomar stuff, but I never REALLY read it. It could be argued that I did that with a lot of the Love and Rockets stuff I had in general, at first, anyway. I got the Locas hardcover when it came out a few years ago, but didn't pick up Palomar, and then felt stupid when it was no longer available. A few months ago I picked up the lovely 2007 Heartbreak Soup paperback. and last week I ordered the second volume that covers Palomar stuff, Human Diastrophism.

I think a lot of my dismissiveness in the past is probably due to a lack of maturity on my part. When I was first encountering this stuff I was maybe 17, and the punk edge of Maggie and Hopey appealed to me more than the goings on in a small town. Twenty-two years later I must have matured enough to appreciate it. I started reading it and could barely put it down until I finished. It was a good meaty read, and not something you could just speed through. It's about 285 pages of comics, and it is very dense with dialog and characters and intertwined plots. There are also very helpful little pronunciation guides at the bottoms of the pages that help with character names. I am ok with Spanish pronunciation, but still found it helpful.

In this volume there isn't really a single theme, a single steady plot that drives the volume, etc. We get a good number of individual stories that all exist in the same basic setting, using some amount of the same characters at various points in their lives. It really functions as a window on a small town in Mexico and focuses on the lives, loves, heartbreaks and triumphs of the people that live there. I was trying to think of something that it brings to mind, and I guess two things really struck me as being evoked in the stories. The first is the Eisner's Contract With God Trilogy, and how it really highlights a location as the central focus and we see the world that revolves around that spot, and the people that come and go. The other is the Andy Griffith Show. Palomar could be Mayberry. Both are filled with characters you might find in any small town, and both, despite their size and distance from a big city will not tolerate being made to look like bumpkins or let their 'simple country nature' be taken advantage of.

Gilbert's art is a masterwork of cartooning skill. Palomar comes across as a fully populated, 'living' town. Every character is distinct. Every character shows a real range of feelings and emotions. Faces are expressive, but body language is also clearly communicated through the art. If there is one place that I personally believe he excels the most, it would be in his portrayal of children. The stories are filled with children. If not in the foreground, then in the background. They are delightfully, and perfectly portrayed. There is that sense that kids can be kids regardless of where you put them, or what situation they might be in. I just found them to be real.

I can't speak highly enough of this. If somehow you have made it this far in your life and you haven't given this a read, then you owe it to yourself. The paperback is 14.95 and can be picked up online for less. I can't imagine that anyone has captured the human condition any better than this. The stories are sweet and sad and sometimes optimistic, and sometimes not. It's a lot like life, only with better writing and art.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CBD 08/26/2009 - a really good week for #comics

Invincible Presents Atom Eve, Detective Comics, Batman & Robin, Wednesday Comics, Shazam

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #7 - I am pretty sure I asked my LCS to cancel this for me, but I am pretty happy they ignored me. Each time I see it in my stack, I can't bring myself to not get it. This issue may be the best in the series so far. It just has everything going for it. It is fun and has real plot and action and humor in it. The art is very good, and the overall style just works for the sort of comic it is. I think this is a kids comic that embraces that fact and at no point talks down, or has any other agenda than to tell a good story and entertain. Dr. Sivana is at his evil genius best in this. I sometimes think Baltazar and Franco should just write every kids comic. Byron Vaughns art is also just perfect.

Batman and Robin #3 - This series, despite the lack of Bruce Wayne as Batman, is probably my favorite Batman treatment in a long time. It has the true spirit of Batman and Robin in it, but also the dynamic of trying to fill big shoes, and a sort of reluctant partnership. We know what Dick Grayson can do, but being Batman is another thing entirely. This issue continues with the two main characters not working together. You know they should be, but they aren't. It ends with a better understanding of why the partnership is important. The story continued to be really creepy and edgy, without being too far over the edge.

Detective Comics #856 - JH Williams makes this title worth getting even if they stopped putting any words in it. The layouts are every bit as lovely as the art itself. The writing in this is no slouch either. I've seen reviews that speak a bit critically, but I just don't see where anything is being done wrong in this title. Developments in this issue ramp things up even more, and I am excited about how this is going. We get to see a little bit more of Kate as a person in this one, and it is very well done. I think Rucka is portraying his characters as real and fairly rounded people. We have a main character who is a lesbian, but I don't think we are getting just a caricature or a stereotype or worse, a school boy fantasy, we are getting a complex character. I know this is another Alice in Wonderland themed villain, but I don't have any issue with it, and kind of love it, regardless. I am loving this so far.

Wednesday Comics #8 - I will be really sad when this is over.
Kamandi - still the prettiest thing ever.
Adam Strange - Very well done, still liking it more than I want to
Wonder Woman - Still not trying to read it yet
Green Lantern - I do a shot every time he says Dill. I thought this week was better than most. Green Lantern is in it and there is something happening.
Flash - still a solid story.
Teen Titans - Maybe the best week for this. Still should be way better, but I do want to love Galloway's art.
Supergirl - Honestly, I think it's humor and awesomely cute art make this one of the best entries in a field of strong entries.
SGT Rock - I like the art a lot, but the story is a bit underwhelming so far
Superman - I like the art and the scale of this, but it is pretty slow moving. I don't hate it though
Demon/Catwoman - I LOVE this this week. Maybe it's picking up. I want to like this, and haven't really until now.
Metal Men - Not a big fan of them, but I liked this week, and may enjoy the rest of it
Metamorpho - This is another lazy writer installment. Instead of a game board we get a periodic table... part one of two...
Deadman - I am really enjoying this. The art and writing pair perfectly. It's fun stuff.
Batman - still solid
Hawkman - Still pretty crazy good. I am not a fan of everything Baker does, but I like this

Invincible Presents Atom Eve (collected edition) - I picked this up when it came out as a two issue... series of two issues. I like this format better. I like the heavy cover and having the whole story in one piece. Definitely pick this up, especially if you didn't read it yet. You do NOT need to be a regular reader of Invincible to appreciate this. This is good comics. I swear I got a lot more out of this by reading it again. It is very funny and very well well written. The art is also well done and very expressive. This story also has a pretty sad element to it, and that is done very well, balanced nicely with the humor. Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde are talents very much deserving of recognition. Look for their upcoming continuation of Eve's story in the Atom Eve and Rex Splode mini series coming out in October, and Hector Plasm: Totentanz coming in November. Benito is also going to be writing the new ongoing series for The Tick which starts in November as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zuda - August competition - Vote Rogue Royal

As is true every month, there is are a lot of great entries in the competition this month. My vote this month goes to Rogue Royal. It is a comic Sci-Fi space adventure strip, and it is awesome. The art is cute and stylish and fun. The strip is extremely funny and well done. The first 8 pages introduce us to our heroine, Ember Zeram, Space Princess, and how she acquires her weapons. Go check it out, and vote for it if you like it. I recommend reading all the entries, but this one gets my vote

Rogue Royal

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CBD 08/19/2009

Wednesday Comics, Tiny Titans, Atomic Robo Shadow From Beyond Time

This week I also picked up Empowered V5. I am not including a picture. But if I did, it would double the number of hits I get here. I haven't read it yet, but I had meant to pick it up for a while, and they were out of my first choice which was Planetary V1.

Wednesday Comics - Another good, enjoyable issue. Notable this week: Metamorpho isn't a cop out writing-wise, and Green Lantern appears in more than one panel of the Green Lantern strip. Kamandi continues to look like a frame-worthy homage to classic newspaper strips. Supergirl gets another extremely funny and cute page with Aquaman, Deadman is also striking this week in it's full page layout, and looks sort of like Eisner designed a page and had Kirby draw it. Strange Adventures and Hawkman continue to be very good comics. I think they should make this year round and sell it for 2.50. That would be a comics revolution. Do it in X #week runs, and switch up at the end of each run while continuing to focus on Art and design coupled with good writing and 'classic comic strip' sensibilities.

Atomic Robo Shadow From Beyond Time #4 - If Atomic Robo is on the cover, it's like a written guarantee that you will enjoy the contents. That isn't hyperbole. Even taken out of context with the series it is in, I have not read an issue yet that didn't make me laugh, and didn't leave me feeling satisfied about how I spent my comics dollar. That isn't hyperbole either. It may actually be understatement. This series moves through time, making each issue like it's own separate thing, even though all of them contribute to the whole. The best part of this one is Carl Sagan as a kickass Rambo... of SCIENCE.

Tiny Titans #19 - This is another sure thing for me. It is sweet and nice and fun. It is geared toward young kids, but makes me smile as much at 40 as it would have when I was a little kid. My daughters routinely read this before I get my hands on it, and enjoy it at ages 10 and 15 too. at $2.50 it's perfectly priced as well. This issue focuses on friendships, and highlights Bumblebee and Plasmus, as well as Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. Lovely stuff as always.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Age of Bronze: Betrayal, Part One

I picked up the hardcover of this Eric Shanower comic at the library a few days ago because I wanted to finally give Age of Broze a read. I had picked it up a few times and was scared off by how dense it seemed, and the historical aspect of it, even though I am a big fan of mythology(Greek and otherwise) and generally like things about ancient civilizations and the warfare of those times.

I was at the library and resolved to give some things a chance that I had avoided in the past for whatever reason. I am sort of running out of things I haven't read from the comics collection at my local branch and figure that I should broaden my scope even more than I already have. I borrowed this book, as well as a Star Wars graphic novel, Ranma 1/2 , 2 Justice League themed audio books on CD, and a Cartoon History of the Universe.

What I didn't realize at the time is that I sort of had the wrong book in my hands, and had picked up not Age of Bronze #1, but Age of Bronze Betrayal #1. I still want to pick up the initial stories, but my lack of background on this was no barrier to enjoying it.

Age of Bronze Betrayal starts with the Trojans and the Achaeans on more than just the Brink of war. All the gears are in motion, and preparations on both sides are in full force. We get a very good 'story so far' recap and detailed maps to help make sense of everything that's happening. It helps a lot, especially since I haven't read the previous installments. This is apparently part 3 of 7, but again, It is a great read on it's own. It reads like a history, but it is shown in a way that keeps the humor and drama and intrigue at the forefront. There are a TON of heavy hitter type characters, and all are dealt with as individuals. I think this might be the best format for this sort of story.

The art is clean and beautiful, and even though the story contains at least a hundred dark haired guys with beards, all of the characters become easily identifiable as you get farther into the book. It was engrossing and compelling and made me keep my eyes on it until I had finished reading it. It's an excellenty done historical fiction account of the Trojan War. I recommend it if you like any of the sort of elements that it is composed of.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Potential - Ariel Schrag

I recently picked up Ariel Schrag's Potential at borders in the remainders section. It was $2.99. I was browsing the aisle and it caught my eye as 'looking like comics' and indeed it was comics. I also picked up Best American Comics 2006 at the same time for the same price.

I am a sucker for comics autobiography. I have a very high tolerance for some things that seem to bother other people. I actually tend to appreciate the sort of 'here's what I did today, isn't it special?' sort of web comics that I have seen panned in books and articles about webcomics. That isn't to say that I don't like exceptionally good stuff (Fun Home, A Drifting Life, Persepolis, etc.), just to say that I am not a snob with this stuff.

Potential was written in the summer of 1997 after Ariel Schrag's Junior year of High School. It is part of a series of comics she drew each summer during HS that dealt with the prior school year. It is drawn in a pretty rough style that while occasionally difficult to distinguish characters by looks, is still really expressive. The style itself seems to reflect the situations it depicts, making it feel like you are reading the author's emotions at the same time you are following the story and the characters. The facial expressions as well are very good, and you can feel the character's ups as well as the too frequent downs.

The story is one of self-realization and experimentation and awkward High School social drama. It is also a look at what life can be like when everyone knows you are documenting everything. It is also about reconciling your sexuality with your preconceived ingrained notions of the way things need to be. In the book, Ariel is really only sexually attracted to girls, but considers herself a virgin until she has sex with a guy. I don't think there are any apologies in this, or attempts to make things like that look reasonable either. It is a good representation of the sort of chaos that can constantly bombard you in adolescence.

This comic has a lot of nudity in it. It also seems to have a requirement that the word 'dyke' be used twice in every line of dialog. I love lesbians, but am not a fan of the word dyke. I guess that is something I should get over, but it always sounds like an insult rather than a non-judgmental sort of label. There are a lot of words like this, and in general I'm not a fan.

I enjoyed this book. It made me really sad in places because I understand a number of things she was going through better than I would like to. Almost everything she goes through is at least an offshoot of a sort of universal theme, if not a universal theme itself. That's the great thing about autobiographies, as you read other people's stories you find that you are not really as unique or alone as you might think.

I will most likely get the rest of the books relating to her HS days at some point. It is doubtful that I will get as good of a deal on them.