Saturday, January 31, 2009

Criminal Volume 4 - Bad Night

Criminal Volume 4 - Bad Night - Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips - I like this series so much that picking it up when I see the trade is almost an involuntary muscle reaction for me. This volume focuses on the character Jacob. He is the counterfeiter we saw in Lawless(v2 of the trades), and the cartoonist behind the Frank Kafka comic strip we first see in Coward(v1 of the trades).

Jacob is an insomniac, a former counterfeiter that can't seem to stay all that former, even when he tries, a cartoonist, an easy mark, and a former suspect for murder. Like a good movie, or a really good series of comics that read like movies, we learn a lot about this interesting and flawed character while at the same time being pulled through a constantly moving and evolving story. Brubaker is really good at developing characters and giving insight and back story without it slowing down or taking anything away from the central plot. I think I become a bigger fan of his with each thing I read.

That being said, now that I am 4 trade paperbacks into this series and feel a need to rank them somehow, I am not sure where I put this story in order of favorites. I am almost inclined to say that I like them in exactly the order they appear. Coward is really my favorite, but I think I like the next three almost equally. This one may lose a few points for the sheer fight club-ness of it, but that is not to say that it has anything in common with fight club outside of the insomnia-surprise plot device. That aspect of it is only a piece of the total package, and certainly works.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Comic Book Day 1/28/09

Big Day! (some of these were released previously, but they didn't show up at my LCS until today.

Tiny Titans #12 - Faces of Mischief!! Finals Crisis!! The (hall) Monitor meets the Anti (hall) Monitor!! This book has it all. Trigon and Slade take their kids out for a day of fun and leave Darkseid in charge. Seriously, This title is as funny and enjoyable for me, as it is just adorable. I really wish more titles were this good.

Incredible Hercules #125 - I am not a fan of the type of book this issue was. I don't love those... changed world House of M style things. In this case it's House of XX Chromosomes. It's good, I just don't love the device. That said, I guess this is a decent wrap up to an arc I enjoyed a good bit, so I am not actually complaining. It was fun with all the references to the different women in different positions in the Amazonian world order. Also, in addition to some humor, I thought Emma Frost as the White Phoenix was pretty cool.

Echo #9 - This issue has 9 pages of dream sequence. All of them are decent and more or less contribute something, but I just wish that we got more in a serving than we do. I think this will be great in a long format, but it is a little maddening to read an issue at a time. My frustration is not at all that I think it is anything less than pretty great, it's just a pretty slow moving thing so far.

Black Lightning Year One #2 - Great issue. Solid writing and art. I don't think that is too much to ask of any comic being mass produced these days. I think this is a Year One story more on the lines of Green Arrow and Teen Titans, rather than Huntress. I like black lightning, even when he looks like grown up Static.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3 - Again I will say it... Great art, Great writing, lots of crazy crap thrown together in a way that makes me smile. It's good, and promises to only get better as far as I can tell. We get more explanations in this issue than in all the previous seasons of the show Lost combined... Actually, we get a lot of Number 5, and it's awesome.

Runaways #6 - This is the conclusion to the first arc, and I think this issue makes up for anything that needs making up for from the previous 5 issues. It's sad, it has action and fun as well as more or less resolving things. I am bummed by the sacrifice at the end, but I hope it isn't the last we see of that character.

Final Crisis #7 - I cannot even pretend to understand this at all. But!! Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew seem to appear prominently at the end! I got that when it was first coming out...

Justice Society of America #23 - This carries the Faces of Evil branding and features Black Adam. It was OK, but I doubt I will keep with this title. I like the Justice Society. I liked All-Star Squadron, I like the characters in the book, but I am not sure that I need to keep getting this.

New Avengers #49 - Luke Cage is Awesome. I stopped getting New Avengers a long time ago, but the dynamic between him and Spider-Man in the beginning was enough to merit getting the title. This issue has a lot of Luke Cage awesome as well as some Jessica Jones and baby stuff. It was a good issue, and # 50 should be pretty good as well. The art was great.

I bought the 4th Criminal tpb. I will post about it when I finish it.
I picked up previews, but haven't been able to open it yet

Superman: Infinite City

Superman: Infinite City - Mike Kennedy & Carlos Meglia - This is a 24.95 hardback released in 2005. I picked it up for 12 bucks at the used book store that I go to. I am increasingly hot for hardcovers, although I am trying not to fully give in to that. I prefer to get them with 'found money' or used if possible. I have resisted buying the mediocre batman volumes that have turned up in the used bookstore, but while I have a decent collection of Batman on my shelves, Superman in under-represented. I understand this probably isn't what anyone would recommend, but I enjoyed it a lot. I absolutely love the character design and art. The pages seem a bit cluttered, but this is to me, a sort of 'out there' romp. The premise is crazy and fun. The plot holes may be huge in places, but honestly, it is possible to just not worry over them and enjoy the story.

Superman busts a criminal that is using a super high tech weapon. He traces the weapon to Infinite City, which at first glance seems to be a sort of diner in the middle of nowhere. Lois and Clark go to investigate. When they get there and do just the most minimal investigation, they get pulled into a strange temporal pocket that is a sort of nexus between realities and worlds and such.

The good news is that Superman gets to see his dad again. The bad news I guess is that his dad is a sort of construct, and there are plots and concerns and mechanical swarms, etc. I thought it was fun, I recommend it, but maybe not at 25 bucks.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Episode 8

Where is the fun in having a blog if you don't try to have recurring features?...right?

Opens with Batman and the Ted Kord as Blue Beetle 'two years ago' breaking into some bad guy lair
In the main story we get Jaime Reyes and his friend sitting at a campfire while Jaime tells the classic Green Lantern origin story. His friend thinks it's stupid and doesn't believe that the ring chose the lantern for his heroic traits, but that he just lucked into the ring. This gives Jaime a fit. He needs to know that heroes are chosen and not just made by dumb luck. He wants to believe that he has the scarab because he is worth it, because there is more to him than even he fully comprehends. He seeks out Batman, who happens to be fighting Dr. Polaris, and after Jaime keeps getting in his way, Batman pulls a LLoyd Benson and tells Jaime he is nothing like the previous Blue Beetle. Jaime seeks out Info in Hub City, and the Scarab takes him to Ted's old Lair. He then ends up on Science Island!! meeting Ted Kord in person... or is he...

Turns out, the guy that Jaime meets and is tricked to power up an army of robots by, is not the Good TED Kord, but the evil(and or misguided) JARVIS Kord... fresh off his stint as the Avenger's butler... ok, not really. Jarvis wants to achieve world peace through total domination via robot army. Yep, Jaime shows his heroism, Batman confirms that he was chosen, and that even Ted, who was awesome... Never got the scarab to work like Jaime did.

This is a good episode. The opener is great because instead of seeing Batman as competitive testosterone junkie as we have when he teams up with Green Arrow, We see Batman and Ted... Science geeks having conversations about gadgets as they kick butt. I really do like what the series is doing. It is so much less about fighting and action (which is there) but it is all about the team up, and the personalities and relationships, etc. Only it's done in a way that is more subtle than that. I mean, it's still obvious, but it isn't after-school special heavy handed. For only seeing Bruce in flashbacks in this series, and despite a near whackiness to it... We actually see a good bit of the real Bruce.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Comic Book Day 1/21/2009

I actually made it to my LCS on Wednesday, instead of on some later 'Comic Book Day Observed'. It was a pretty light day for me, but that rarely lasts very long. Here is what I picked up:

Amazing Spider-Man #584 - I will probably appreciate this more in the context of the story arc, but on it's own this issue wasn't as compelling as the other stuff I read.

Spider-Man Noir #2 - Noir pretty well covers it. I am enjoying this so far. Anxious to see the Daredevil treatment

Black Lightning #1 - I thought this wasn't bad. Decent enough art. The story was fine. It was about the same speed as Lean on Me, with some of The Substitute thrown in maybe... probably other movies of that ilk, but with the promise of some electrical powers eventually.

Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil - Honestly, there is almost no other tactic as effective at getting me to try a new series these days as putting 'all ages' on the cover. There really are a lot of outstanding all ages and kid targeted titles right now. I think it's cool. This issue centers on a Sinister Six team consisting of Mysterio, Kraven, Sandman, Vulture and Chameleon. Dr. Doom has given them a mission to pull off. It's funny and fun, well written and well drawn. I think we know for sure good comics are possible. What possible excuse is there for making bad ones?

Dark Avengers #1 - I didn't want to even like this. The title makes me assume I will hate it. The branding of the next big event makes me feel the same way. Unfortunately for my preconceived notions, I read it and found a lot to enjoy. Norman Osborn is on top of everything. What is the first thing he does? Why recreate the Avengers, sticking himself in it as BOTH Iron Man and Captain America, and usingbad guys to fill the costume of easily recognizable good guys. I'm Sorry, Carol won't play? Hey Moonstone... You're Ms. Marvel now. Bullseye... You can keep the word eye in your name... but instead of a mamal, how about a bird this time... Hawkeye... It has potential. The sort of backup of Nick Fury gathering his tiny little troops together and the promise that he will be disturbing some shit, as they say, made me smile.

Empowered Volume 4. - Another pretty great volume. I will review this as well as 2 & 3 at a later time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Episodes 5,6,7

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Episode 5 - Opens with Batman and Guy Gardner at Green Lantern central(Kilowog also appears). Guy is being a jerk and unleashes a big bad guy that kicks some Green Lantern butt before being taken back down to size. The main story centers on Batman and old-school costume, clean-shaven Green Arrow being zapped back to the dark days of camelot and facing off against Morgan Le Fey. It also features the Demon Etrigan in his original time. The story has a running joke/theme in it that Batman and Green Arrow keep a running tally of the bad guys they defeat as though it is a sort of macho contest between them.

Episode 6 - Opens with B'wana Beast and Batman going after Black Manta in a giant tri-pod robot machine. It's pretty funny, and in the course of the intro he fuses a spider and a horse, as well as a pelican and a shark. Batman is a bit freaked out by his partner's power. In the main story Batman teams up with the ever-aging Wildcat in a story that I liked a lot despite the cliche'd generational battle. It was done really well. A teenage version of the Outsiders (Katana, Metamorpho & Black Lightning) are the badguys in this, although the real badguy is Slug, the mastermind that has been using the kids to carry out his own agenda. The neat part and the funniest in my opinion, is how Wildcat and the outsiders actually agree on a bunch of things (like hating shopping malls). I think wildcat is portrayed as just a guy in a suit here, but it is a little ambiguous to some degree. I have always really liked the character, as well as the outsiders that showed up in this.

Episode 7 - Opens with Batman and Kamandi running from ratmen and trying to get an antidote for some horrible something that is plaguing Batman's time period. They have to get to the time portal (on the torch of the mostly submerged and askew Statue of Liberty. Batman tells Kamandi to look in the statues nostril before jumping through the portal, and claerly goes back to the past and hooks Kamandi up with a sweet Kirby-style blaster device. In the main story Batman teams up with Boston 'Deadman' Brand, as well as old style Green Arrow and non-addicted Speedy to take on Gentleman Ghost. My only issue is that Batman uses meditation to astral project, and in doing so he is able to fight with the ghost, etc. I just don't think it would work that way... Ok... now that that is out of the way... I enjoyed this. It was fun, and I always liked deadman, even though I never had a great deal of use for him. (My issue isn't that Batman used meditation and projected himself out of body... It's just that i don't think he could hit a ghost that way).

I really like this show. It is fun, and shows a bright blue suited Batman who seems like he has some amount of fun fighting crime and has friends that he jokes with while he does it. There is a lot of little voice over narration by him that gives us further insight. It's great. I am glad there is a show like this. I am glad there is an outlet for this sort of storytelling about this character. I had thought that maybe I should have lead with something about Batman dying, but he was never really dead in that episode.

I don't have a problem with grittier batman stories. I really think that Batman is a character that benefits from different perspectives. I think his nature and his history beg the creation of these different incarnations. While I like this one a lot... I really wish we still had a show along the lines of the Animated Series or Justice League or Justice League Unlimited. I actually think we could all really use the JLU series to never end... Stories could be told as long as they wanted to tell them, new characters introduced and showcased... I guess it isn't my decision. I Liked the newer Batman cartoon with it's sort of 'Ultimate batman universe' feel to the villains. There were a number of things that show did right, but it just wasn't the same either.

I like the short intro bits and the main stories. It feels like a comic with a backup story in it, and maximizes the situations and matchups and pairings we get to see. I think the voice acting is pretty decent as well for the most part.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A little bit of comic book day

I stopped by my LCS today and picked up the very meager offering waiting for me from last week. I also picked up X-Men and Spider-Man #3 and two more volumes of empowered. Even after doing so I still have 30 or so bucks in store credit left.

X-Men and Spider-Man #3 - I am really liking this. It amazes me because I hate Mr. Sinister and the bad guys that cropped up around the same time more than almost anything in comics. I hate everything Spider-Clone related to nearly the same degree. I am not a fan of Venom, and less so of Carnage. Having said that, I must point out that I can handle them all just fine in this context. The art is beautiful, the slices of continuity are extremely well done and fun in my opinion, and it takes a lot of crap I don't care about and turns it into an interesting story I am happy to read. I will say it again for emphasis... Mario Alberti's art is just phenomenal here, and Gage has done a great job writing these pieces so that they seem authentic representations of the time periods they represent.

Amazing Spider-Man #583 - This isn't the worst issue I have ever read, but I don't think it's very good. About halfway through the story the art goes blurry. That may just be my copy, but that was a bit annoying. That isn't what makes this issue bad. It's one of those kind of overview stories narrated by a supporting character while we see some different angle on our hero. It's a bit schmaltzy and brings nothing to the table in my opinion. I can live with that. The backup in this is the Obama story that features Spidey and the Chameleon, and as others have pointed out, it reads a lot like a Spidey Super Stories. I think that's not a bad thing when it is a story featuring a president elect. It's cute, I don't love the art, but it isn't bad. Also as I have seen others point out, it is a little strange to take what people had to know was going to be the most hyped single issue in a while, and fill it with a crappy story featuring speed dating and no shortage of drunkenness, etc. This would have been a good issue to really show the appeal of Spider-Man to a non-comic reading audience, and instead it just isn't. My opinion on this issue is that the most awesome part is the giant 5 page ad for Agents of Atlas. If nothing else, I plan to buy it when it is out.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #2 - Another good issue. In this one, Linda Lee continues to struggle with fitting in, and the brief glimpse of Supergirl that we see shows us that she is continuing to struggle with controlling her powers. Two additions pop up in this issue that will allow for more plotty fun. Belinda Zee, the opposite of Supergirl comes into existence due to an accident Linda has involving some Kryptonite and an overhead projector. She is everything that Linda isn't, for good and ill. Lena Thorul starts school and takes an instant liking to Linda. Lena likes Linda, but hates Superman as she is Lex Luthor's little sister! This is fun kids stuff done pretty well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Some thoughts on the rash of blog on blog violence

This post will contain no links or pictures.

I am also going to refrain from using direct quotes if I can. It is not really my goal to pick up any hits or receive any traffic from the things I am writing about.

A few years ago I was a fairly active participant on a message board linked to a web comic. The web comic was awesome, and I had met the creator at a convention and was absolutely charmed by her and the hangers on in her booth. It was just a nice group of people. The discussions on the bulletin board ranged from the comic, to who was going to what conventions, to general video game chatter, etc. I think there were between 10 and 15 people posting there on a regular basis. It was fun and light and nice. The core was an extended group of friends, some who had known each other in real life first, some who hadn't, some friends of friends, etc. I wasn't part of the core, but that wasn't an issue, everyone was friendly and welcoming.

This was a message board attached to a comic that was great, but not exactly huge. The artist was nothing but nice and seemed to have fun doing her thing, and this was part of her public face. This was an aspect of her as a creator hoping to gain an audience or sell some merchandise, or just keep turning out a pretty fun and by no means controversial comic.

One of the people on the message board is a friend of one of the core friends. He has a friend who shows up and starts posting as well. He seems fine, although he doesn't seem like he has even read the comic... ever... He seems to enjoy the community. Everything is still ok until the attacks start. First there are a series of people who have also never read the comic that show up and maybe make a real comment or so before just using every opportunity to just attack this other guy and smear him in the group, etc. It was ugly.

Then the guy is throwing crap back at the attackers because he knows who they represent, etc. He knows who the kingpin is and he calls them out. Then the kingpin shows up and just spews vitriol. It was ugly. This person is a very well known comic book writer. I was appalled and a bit freaked out by it. The writer had a lot of claims against the guy, and while they may have all been valid and true, it was pretty shitty to use the message boards related to a really small time artist, working to carve out a niche and build readership, etc., for that kind of personal vendetta.

It greatly soured me to the writer. I WANT to like them, but I have difficulty doing so now because of how they comported themselves in public. It makes it hard for me to even pick up books they are associated with.

The questions I ask myself now are these: Would I feel the same way if the writer had a blog devoted to slamming this guy? What if they had a general blog, but took every opportunity to personally slam the bastard in their posts? What if it only happened every now and then? Would I still feel that everything they did was tainted, or would I just think they were petty and irrational, but their blog is their place to be as petty and irrational as they wish? Would I fault the company they write for? Would I refuse to buy that company's titles because they employ writers who do things like that? Would I call upon the company to fire this person? Would I suggest that this person was unfit to work there because of their personal views and personality?

Would I go on my own blog and blast the individual publicly? No I wouldn't. Honestly, after having seen more things this person has posted, my opinion of them is no longer really affected by that one time. They have a history of being really outspoken and fiery at times, but although I would like it if people carried themselves differently 'in public' I am not the civility police, or anything close to that. In fairness, the writer apologized for the way things went down, and for the fact that it played out how it did and where it did. They directly addressed the artist whose site it was, etc. It showed some class, but at the time didn't really erase anything that went on.

I am for civility. I am for a positive spin where possible. I generally believe that if there is a possibility of taking the high road on something (especially where others are involved) that it is preferable to do so. I don't think everything in life needs to be an I win, you lose situation. I don't think that the beliefs and opinions of others invalidate my beliefs and opinions. I don't think that people who disagree on something need to act like enemies.

I also am not a fan of link posts in general. I try to put links in my posts wherever possible to enhance the experience, take you to someone's site so you can see more about them, site an original post on something, that sort of thing. Many link posts, and places that use link posts as regular features, seem to do so in a way that doesn't serve any great purpose but to antagonize, name call, or 'call people out for the purpose of inciting others to jump on the bandwagon of attacking the person being linked to.

There is a lot of ground that can be covered relating to comics and the comics industry, and related fields of interest. I am a fan of snark. I am a fan of humor. I am not a fan of bad natured attacks and sweeping generalizations that are not presented tongue in cheek or with any sense of irony. Rarely will you find any two people with the exact same definition of a concept, even one that both would claim to embody or support. Discussion and debate are good things. Name calling and bullying are not. Civility should be a given. I don't care that this is done over the Internet. Civility is something that we all strive for. We cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, but we can each control ourselves.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom

Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom - 5 issue mini series - Palmiotti & Gray, art by Phil Noto

I picked this up recently, and just had a chance to read it last night. It is another Palmiotti project that popped up on my radar recently (yes, my radar is notoriously slow to pick things up).

This mini series is basically Superman and Supergirl go camping and talk about stuff. There is another, almost inconsequential story that this is set within the context of, but that story carries no real weight at all, and I am not sure it needs to. This is less of a criticism than a statement of fact. I really enjoyed this series, and my reasons for that are several.

Superman and Supergirl are portrayed in a really great way in this series. Superman is closer to the George Reeves standard than he is sometimes drawn. He is not hyper muscled, and he looks like he has some age and some wisdom to him. He comes across as the embodyment of those things you want Superman to embody, and he is very interested in helping his cousin become the sort of person the world needs her to be. He also very obviously cares about Kara.

Supergirl is a teen(or there abouts). She is portrayed as such. She doesn't come across as a fembot or a sex kitten. One of the particularly great covers shows her in the midst of putting her hair up, and it has a 'humanizing effect' She also, at one point makes a remark about losing a cup size from not eating for days. Seriously, I know those things might seem a bit cliche, but you don't usually get that level of down to earth realism. It helps put the 'girl' in supergirl without resorting to cheesecake poses. She has the mid-drift top and supershort skirt, but still manages to look more realistic than overly idealized sexy. Most of the series is spent with her wearing basically something like a jumpsuit. All of those things stood out as underlining the idea that we were getting into her head and her character, not her super-skirt. This is a relationship comic, and a coming to terms with what you can and can't do sort of thing, and it works.

Here is the plot more or less:
We meet Maelstrom. She is from Apokolips, and her goal is to become Darkseid's wife or queen or whatever. She decides that in order to get his favor she will bring him the head of Superman. She goes to earth via a boom tube and unfortunately Superman is off planet doing good. Supergirl fights her and is bested and left disturbed about it when Maelstrom destroys a hospital full of people. Superman shows up in time to save Supergirl and send Maelstrom back to Apokolips. Maelstrom goes through a variety of punishments before getting a chance to try for Superman again, this time with an escort of the Female Furies.

Superman takes Kara on a camping trip to a planet where they have no powers, and during the course of the trip she learns a lesson about how her powers aren't the only thing she has going for her, etc. It is really the point of the story, and gives us a great look at compassionate Superman really trying to help his cousin learn and grow. Eventually, through Kara's growth, they get off of the planet and back to earth in time to defeat Maelstrom and the Furies, etc. The Maelstrom part of things really only exists to justify and frame the real focus of the story. It also shows us a good view of the differences between how good and evil operate.

The art is mostly awesome. There are a few places where things have issues in my opinion, but mostly it is great. For the record, I really think that Noto's Kal and Kara look a LOT like Adrian Pasdar and Helen Slater...

Friday, January 16, 2009


Ok, first run over to Wit War and look at this review of Gail Simone's 'You'll All Be Sorry" When you get there, scroll down to the picture of Black Canary. Isn't that awesome? 'Does this outfit make my ass look empowered' I laughed a lot.

Empowered v1 - Adam Warren - I have been seeing some chatter on this title for a while. It is possible that I have seen it before, but it's seeming nature and my unfamiliarity with it may have kept me from purchasing it. Don't get me wrong. I like 'sexy' just fine, and I am a fan of 'funny' I am not generally a fan of things that just seem straight up exploitative or are poorly written, or designed solely for titillation, etc. This title isn't really any of those negative things, and is mostly really funny.

It is a comic that looks like it is going to be borderline superhero porn at first glance, until you see there is no detail that makes it lewd, only a lot of drawn skin and sexual situations that are generally done as a lampoon of a lot of superhero conventions. There isn't even any actual cussing in this title. The sex scenes are just borderline R rated, and maybe not even that. The volume is clearly labeled explicit content, and marketed to an audience that has seen enough of the genre to understand the jokes. I have no issue with this from the onset due to those things, but that doesn't guarantee that I will like it.

What does ensure I will like it is the fact that it is extremely funny, well written and nicely drawn in a sexy manga style. The story centers on the lovely super-heroine Empowered. She thinks her name is pretty dumb, as do most other super-folks who encounter her. She had to pick it on the spur of the moment, and that's what came to her. Her powers manifest themselves by way of a skin tight liquid latex like 'membrane'(suit) that she wears. The suit grants a variety of powers including the ability to shoot power blasts from her hands sometime, and super strength sometimes, and if she concentrate she can make the suit turn invisible... not make herself invisible, just the suit. The problem with the suit is that even light contact such as brushing against a plant might cause it to shred, and the more it shreds the less powerful it is. This leads her to be captured by pretty much every bad guy she encounters, which leads to her being bound and gagged, and in need of rescue at the end of every run-in.

One of the things about this book that keep it from being as slimy and sleazy as some might imagine a title about what I just described might be, is the very real seeming insecurities that the characters (especially Empowered) have. Empowered is a friendly, very nice, and well meant woman. She is hurt by the fact that her fellow heroes don't like her, that enemies think she is a joke, that her suit is humiliating, etc. She has so much insecurity about so many of those things that it makes you feel really sympathetic to her. She feels all those things, but she keeps going out and fighting crime and trying to make a difference.

In the course of being bested by the bad guys she meets the one person who seems to respect her and take her seriously, despite her tendancy to lose quickly and end up in bondage. She ends up dating him. A similar situation occurs when she encounters Ninjette, another villain who after besting her, gets fed up with the other bad guys not showing up, and invites Empowered out for dinner and drinks. They become fast friends.

It is really hard for me to communicate just how funny this title is, while at the same time being a little self indulgent at times with the sex and sex talk. It isn't terrible, but if you start noticing that stuff it means the funny has slowed down or stopped. I am not going to cover everything about the title here, but I will say, there is a pretty great sequence where she is bluffing the bad guys by telling them she actually gets stronger with every bit more skin she shows. This screams a sort of Witchblade comparison, and is pretty great. I recommend this title if you are an adult who appreciates a sexy superhero lampoon done in manga style, and don't mind references and scenes of 'personal topiary' and non graphic sex of a variety or two. Here are some pages I found while poking around looking for them.

Palmiotti much?

Sometimes you accidentally end up reading a lot of stuff by a writer or creative team. Recently I have read and or bought what I feel is quite a bit of Jimmy Palmiotti. Fortunately for me this has been a so far very enjoyable thing.

You may recall that i gave a good bit of lip service to the recent Terra mini series that he wrote and Amanda Conner drew. I liked it a lot. I also just bought the floppies of the Superman, Supergirl Maelstrom mini, but I haven't read that yet.

This post is really all about Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex: Face full of Violence, Guns of Vengeance & Origins - Palmiotti, Justin Gray, etc. (DC, $12.99 each) - I had not read any of this latest incarnation of the scar-faced gun slinger. My older brother was a big Jonah Hex fan when I first got into comics way back when. He collected Jonah Hex and Black Lightning. I read his Jonah Hexes, as well as picking up some of the post apocalyptic Hex series, and some of the supernaturally themed stuff that I didn't care for. This series is mostly made up of 'done in one' stories. It's nice. You can pick up any of the books and flip to a story and have a complete little morsel that doesn't require you to have read much else to enjoy.

Palmiotti and Gray do a great job with the character, and a great job with the series. Jonah Hex is sort of like a Western version of the Punisher, if the Punisher also worked as a bounty hunter. He looks like a cold hearted bastard of a killer, and to some degree that's true, but that isn't the whole story with him. Like the Punisher, he has a mission of sorts, and a very real code that he lives buy and enforces. There are a lot of things he won't tolerate, and lord help you if you end up on the wrong side of him.

The fact the stories are generally stand-alone, does not mean that they don't tell an over-arching story, or that you don't have events that relate to one another from story to story. Quite the opposite, you do get a sense that the guy you are seeing is the same guy, that he has one history from story to story, and that events from the stories you see may matter in later stories. It works well for making a solitary character compelling and real seeming.

I am thinking that I will see if my Dad wants to have a look at this. He is very into westerns, and he used to read our comics when we had them laying around the house. I imagine he would like this a good bit, as well as Brubaker's Criminal.

If you like gritty and violent western action that is pretty well written and mostly well drawn (although somewhat inconsistently). I recommend picking up a copy and giving it a chance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Comic Book Day in the City

I had it in my head that I was going to hit Forbidden Planet again this week since I am working in New York again. I figured I would go on Wednesday as I did last week, since mid way through the week I can usually find a way to get out early, and Forbidden Planet is open until midnight on Comic Book Day, which is pretty cool. You may recall when I asked people for suggestions of where I should go while I am in the city, and Eden was awesome and suggested checking out Toy Tokyo. I googled all of the suggestions I had gotten, and figured I could take a cab to Toy Tokyo, then walk to Forbidden Planet, then cab it back to the hotel for dinner. It sounded like a perfect plan, but little did I know it was even more perfect... MORE PERFECT than I had planned.

I had no trouble finding Toy Tokyo, and it was pretty awesome. It's a small place, but absolutely jam packed with toys and figures and such. Most are in a price range that excludes me from buying them, but I did pick up a few things for my girls, and I had a great time walking around. The clerk there was adorable and very nice, and she helped me figure out what direction I needed to go to get to FP.

So I walked down St. Marks Place from 2nd Avenue... Which is impossible to do without the King Missile song 'Detachable Penis" running through my mind. The awesome thing is if you watch this video... at about a minute and thirty-six seconds, the guy is walking directly in front of where Toy Tokyo is!!! I saw the 'Love Saves The Day' awning. I think I am right about this anyway... If I am wrong, then he is right in front of St. Marks Comics , the next awesome place I went...

St. Mark's Comics is on St. Mark's Place, and I just happened to see it as I was walking. St. Mark's Place itself was a new experience for me... I have never been anywhere like that before. It was cool, but a little freaky to me. It's like walking on the boardwalk in Ocean City(Maryland) only it's a city street and there are no Thrasher's Fries... The comic store was fantastic. It's like you took a rundown rowhouse and stuck a comic shop in it instead of demolishing it. My foot almost went through the floor at one point, I swear. It was really neat, though, with tons of stuff on the shelves and lots of older independent and underground stuff. I was glad I went there, but I didn't get a whole lot.

I had no trouble getting to Forbidden Planet, and it was pretty awesome, just as it was last week. My daughters sent me with some cash this time and I picked up a few things for them while I was there. I also picked up more things for myself. I need to put my comics habit on a diet, but at least I have plenty of good stuff to read and write about when that finally happens. Tonight I picked up the following:

Empowered (TPB) Volume 1
Jonah Hex: Face full of Violence (I have the second and third volumes and needed this one)
Heartbreak Soup - Gilbert Hernandez - I have some of this already, but I missed out on the Palomar HC so I need this and the other trade to make up for it... plus I know it's good, and it is only 15 bucks for nearly 300 pages!
Stray Bullets (TPB) Volume 2
America's Best Comics Sampler - 5 bucks!
Young Liars #11
Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comics #14 (from St. Mark's Comics)

I need t go relax and read some now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's like Magic...turning cards into comics

I sold my collection of Magic The Gathering cards yesterday. Actually, I traded my cards for $250 bucks in store credit. I picked up some stuff, then went back today and picked up some more. I still have about 70 bucks in credit left over. Here is what I have picked up. You may notice that I do indeed take people's advice when they give it.

The Collected Stray Bullets Volume 1 - David Lapham
The Punisher (Max) Volume 4 (Hardback) - Garth Ennis
Girl Genius Book 1 - Phil * Kaja Foglio
Sleeper Volumess 1-3 Brubaker & Phillips
The Goon Volume 4 - Eric Powell
Jonah Hex Volume 2 & 3 (I will get vol 1 next time I go, but they aren't numbered. I understand that the issues are standalone stories, but I still wanted to take them in order.
I also picked up my weekly stuff.

I need to get a new bookshelf. This is exciting stuff .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Forbidden Planet - NYC

I took the advice of my dear friends and readers and made an effort to get out to Forbidden Planet while I was stationed here in New York this week for work. It was fantastic. I don't think I have been in a store that made me this giddy in a long long time.

I have mentioned before that the excellent comic shop I go to is run fairly conservatively, which is a really smart thing for a comic shop in my area, as I have watched a lot of shops fold in the time I have lived there. I love the people there, and they will get anything I ask, but that requires that I ask. At Forbidden planet they just have a ton of stuff crammed into the space they have. They have a big new comics wall, and a lot of recent back issues, as well as shelves and shelves of trades and hardcovers and collections of all sorts.

I figured i should make use of what was available that I could not get at my LCS (in addition to one or two things I could have gotten if I were not spending the week in New York.)

Here is my list:

RASL 2 & 3 - I got the first issue and the next 2 never showed their face in my LCS.
Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3, 4 - I double checked, and apparently I still need #2. If I go back next week I will pick it up.
Young Liars #7 - 10 - As I wrote recently, I finished the trade that collects v1-6. I decided I should read more of it as soon as I can, and FPNY helped me by having these on the shelves.
Hexed #1 - It looked neat so I picked it up
Solomon Grundy Faces of Evil One Shot - I love the character, and now I realize I don't need the mini series that is coming.
Marvel SuperHero Squad #1
Neozoic #6 - I actually want them all, and will pick up the trade.
Maelstrom (Superman / Supergirl)1-4 - I saw good reviews of this on blogs I read, so i had to have them.

I also got a bunch of bribes for my girls that include a number of cute little statue-y and mystery box sorts of things.

It was really fun to go there. I wish I had something like that closer to my house. The staff was pretty decent as well

The Nipple Whisperer

Among the small pile of comics I recently purchased through itunes that use the iverse browser, two of them are Ghost Whisperer. The Ghost Whisperer comic is written by Becca Smith and Carrie Smith The art is provided by Elena Casagrande. My daughters and I love the Ghost Whisperer TV show, and I thoroughly enjoyed the comics. Seriously, I enjoyed it. It captures the feel of the show pretty well.

In this story line, Melinda is encountering the earthbound spirits that are full of anger and vengeance based on the circumstances of their deaths. In the first two issues at least, neither were actually killed by the people they have sworn vengeance upon, but both were victimized to some degree by peers, and met their deaths through accidents facilitated by their being picked on.

In each of these cases, the spirits are goaded on by another earthbound who believes himself to be the egyption god Osiris. When Melinda ultimately helps the girls to the light, Osiris is angry and lashes out at her. The art isn't phenomenal, but it's certainly not bad. The stories aren't earthshattering, but they are good, and have the tone and framework of the show for the most part.

My issue with this, and reason behind the title of this entry is a sort of bizarre and out of place series of nipples poking through shirts in both of the issues. I have no problem with nipples,I'm something of a fan even. Put them in a genre where it makes sense to show that sort of thing, and don't use high school kids, etc., and I probably won't feel weird about it. In the Ghost Whisperer, Even Melinda isn't presented in an overly sexual way, and Jennifer Love Hewitt is a looker by some people's standards (mine included). Generally, she dresses somewhat frumpy in the show, with layers, etc. When she does dress up, it's usually in sort of old fashioned seeming timeless or classic type outfits.

In the second issue, a girl died by falling into a swimming pool and getting tangled in the cover, and drowning. The first time we see her her nipples are prominently drawn in. Yes... I guess you could say there is some realism to that, but is it necessary, and does it really make sense or seem right in the context. I don't think so. In the first issue, The nipples pop up on the high school girls who pulled a mean prank on a classmate that lead her to run without looking where she was going and get hit by a car. In this same issue is a series of panels of the girls in a variety of bizarre poses for the circumstances. I will go with the idea that the girls might have a sleepover, but this is skinemax fare, one on her hands and knees on the bed, another is arching her back sitting on the edge, leaning back on her hands.... oh did I mention the lolipop the hands and knees girl is posing with... This just struck me as bizarre. I really didn't think that GHOST WHISPERER was really a show that relied on that sort of crap, and it was just out of place to see it in a comic. Yes they are all high school girls, but no I don't have tons of outrage, I just wonder why it was necessary. This isn't an ultra visible mainstream comic marketed at kids, etc. I mean, this is a comic offered on itunes, but the GW property may not be as attractive to most kids as it is to my girls.

People have nipples... as I pointed out earlier. I realize that, but generally they aren't flashed around quite as much in tv and movies as they seem to be in this comic that has no real use for sexuality in it. Does that mean it is just thrown in to spice up a fairly dull title? Were those details actually written into the script, or is this the solely the artists vision? Kind of strange, kind of unnecessary detail. I would like to read the rest of the series, though.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Young Liars

Young Liars Volume 1 - Daydream Believer - David Lapham: The picture over there is not from the trade I have, but i couldn't find one online, and I don't have a scanner with me. I read this on the shuttle from DC to New York on Sunday. Since that time I have re-read it, and gone over some parts of it several times. I'm not sure how to review this. I am not sure what my opinion even is on this. At first it looks like one thing, and then like another.

Is this comic a big ugly ugly mess, or is it hip and cool and several kinds of awesome? Are we seeing a story in which a guy and a girl who belong together kind of end up together, or are we seeing a story where a guy with a stalker-like obsession for a girl that only tolerates him out of convenience ends up as her controller after shooting her in the head maybe on purpose?

The book is populated by people who seem like one thing, but are really at least one other thing, and none of those things are particularly desirable. It makes me think of the sort of awful mind control fantasy porn fiction that has been around forever. Loser guy is hot for a girl who is too aloof for him, so he learns mind control and makes her his sex slave and humiliates her, etc.

Danny is the main character, but his friends are ever present. Rich guy who is always trying get rich quick scams, bulimic model, bitchy and aloof girl who is a rock groupie that lives to pleasure even minor rock stars, Transvestite, nicest guy on earth heroin addict, Sadie, the girl he has always loved, but due to a bullet lodged in her brain, pretty much just lives to dance and fight, and not get caught and sent back to her rich uber-depraived father. Danny himself is a sweet protective friend who wants to be in a band, and lives to take care of Sadie, or he is a murderer and psycho who holds Sadie prisoner more or less, due to her susceptibility to his suggestion thanks to a bullet that he put there in a sort of blind rage after she told him how she really felt about him.

It's really hard to know what is real in this story. It jumps around a lot, back and forth in time. I just don't find it as deep and compelling as i would like to, and if I am not careful, it just comes off as creepy. There is a bizarre plot involving trying to find a painting, as well as one involving the large group of hit people who Sadie's father has sent to bring her home and kill everyone around her basically. Even the glimpses of Sadie prior to the bullet in her brain shows a stark contrast to the vibrant and fearless Sadie. She comes off as sort of a bitch and a user as well. Mostly it all just makes it difficult for me to decide what I really think of it. Who knows, I may love it!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dead and the Dying

The Dead and the Dying (Criminal v3)- Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips - It really is true. This series seems like each part that is written is done so just the make the next part even better. It's like each successive volume is the real point of the series. I am really glad that the series started out with Leo. If it had started with just dumping us right in the middle of the Lawless family, it would have probably kept me from enjoying the series. I swear that we got Coward as a way of making Lawless more meaningful, and even more tolerable. In this volume of the series we get to see one side of things first from a focus on Gnarly before he was tending bar at the Undertown. We get a story about a fairly sympathetic character first, before we see the Lawless side of things.

I have loved every bit of these three volumes. All of them are filled with real and tragic characters. None of the characters is without at least some humanity in them somewhere, even Teeg Lawless or Sebastian Hyde. We sort of see three downfalls in this volume, maybe four. I'll go with four. Four tragic tales of the beginning of the end for each of the people featured. One ends in death, one we know ultimately does, and the other two lead to internal changes and loss of friendships , and such.

Gnarly, the big bartender who states in the last volume that he is Switzerland, was a boxer. His father was behind the rise of Sebastian Hyde's father, and the two boys grew up as friends until a woman and other philosophical differences came between them. Danica is the woman that comes between them. We see her rise and fall as well. She plays a part in the stories of the three men that are detailed in this book, as well as having her story told out in aching detail throughout the whole volume.

We follow Teeg Lawless as he comes back from Vietnam forever affected by what he experienced there, and despite being an awful and abusive husband (and eventually abusive father) He loves his sons and refuses to let them suffer for his misdealings, only to resent them for affecting him that way later on in their lives. This is some heavy stuff, but it never feels anything but real. There is a lot of sex and violence, but that is because it is about characters for whom sex and violence are their stock-in-trade.

So I guess I have to wait until February or so for the next volume to come out.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I just finished reading Lawless, Volume 2 of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal. I very recently reviewed the first volume . I enjoyed it so much i immediately picked this one up and read it. I am not sure how often this happens, but reading volume 2 actually made volume 1 even better. Nothing in Coward feels like it is actively setting you up for the second volume, not in the way that some movies seem to devote a lot of time just advertising their inevitable sequel. It set up the world, and a portion of the history from a certain perspective, and then volume 2 clicks right into place making full use of that history and setting and builds upon it.

Lawless is a fully separate story from the first one, but it has common points and locations and characters. Things that are casually referenced in the first volume are important in this one. You don't have to have read Coward, but it builds the scope and richness of Brubaker's creation. Also, the characters in this one are very different than the characters in the first. It is really some incredible skill at work here. These are stories about a certain level of the criminal element, but everyone we encounter is a fully developed character with loyalties and perspectives and family and history and their own sense of morality. Tracy Lawless is in no way Leo Patterson. He isn't his brother Ricky or his father Teeg either. Tracy is back in town after a stint in the military. His younger brother is dead and he wants to get some answers.

He and his brother had not been close ever, but he was family, and Tracy feel like he is responsible for how Ricky turned out. He believes that the crew Ricky ran with was responsible for his death, so Tracy takes up with them as a driver. During the course of his return he pissed of the wrong people and has to deal with way more than he bargained for. There is plenty of action and suspense, but we also see a lot of flashbacks to the rough childhood that shaped his worldview and ruined his brother.

I feel like this series could be about almost any sort of neighborhood or community and still be good. The execution is just great. It's like cheers if we went home with the patrons and found out they were all thieves and murderes, only minus the lousy writing. Brubaker has a formula here that doesn't even come off like formula. When it's really good I guess we have to call it something else. Brubaker is giving us a writing class with these. I am anxious to pick up volume 3.

Oh... Sean Phillips art is absolutely perfect for this as well. (bad form not to mention the art)

2009, the year in which Rob tries 2 new things at once

I received an ITunes gift card for Christmas. Yesterday I used it to purchase a small handful of 99 cent IVerse Comic Reader comics, and downloaded all the free ones as well. I wasn't sure what to expect. Frankly, I had figured that it would be a clunky affair that involved upsizing and downsizing constantly. They get around the need to do that by cutting the page up into custom panels, and making each of those panels a separate page. It is an interesting effect, and I think you can both lose and gain a good bit through that presentation.

The really cool part about viewing these custom panels separately is that you really get to focus on the panels apart from the whole page. That in turn creates an effect that could be good or bad depending on the comic. You can't see where it is heading, you have no greater context, and anything that would have been conveyed by the whole page layout is lost. There is also a good bit of cropping, so you are not seeing the entire page as printed. In the comics I have read so far (all of them for the first time) I see the presentation of these single chunks as a pretty cool and effective thing. You really get a chance to appreciate the skill of the artist this way. It really allows you to pull a great deal of emotion from the individual panels, as well as creating a bit of suspense by having to view it bites.

Neozoic #1,2 - Ens, Korim & Lam (Red5 Comics) - I have been trying to get this comic for a while to no avail. I was thrilled to see the first two issues offered through ITunes. I have an IPhone for work, and now it has comics on it. It is quite a happy IPhone now.

The idea behind the comic is good solid science fiction stuff. In the Neozoic world, the moon was hit by an asteroid 65 million years ago. It has a giant bite taken out of it (I am forced to think about the Tick at this point and giggle, although in Neozoic it isn't done in a funny way.) Mess with the moon and a lot of things change. Dinosaurs and giant beasts share the planet with humans and other humanoid creatures. People live in walled cities and have a mixture of modern and archaic technology. The society is built up around a religion, etc.

So far I love this. I have only read the two issues, but it is awesome. There is a sort of military, or military like structure, a monarchy, a rabid media, a society that is at odds on a number of issues, with it's share of protestors and dissenters . There is another race or offshoot of people that live outside of the walled city, possibly underground. There is a lot to build upon.

I am not always a fan of things that mix dinosaurs and people, but this was really good stuff. I am genuinely interested in continuing to read this. It has action and political overtones, and perhaps the single most attractive female character ever. You want honesty from me... right? Well, you get it anyway. The character Lilli, who seems to be one of the primary characters, if not the main character, is absolutely stunning. The art in this is pretty amazing. Many of the characters, male and female alike, give off that vibe. (See the cover art above, which is not from either of the issues I read, but it is lovely so I used it.)

In addition to the amazing illustration is the color. Red5 comics, at least Atomic Robo and Neozoic, really seem to value color. The color in both of those titles is really like another player in the game. It isn't so much that color themes are used to convey specific things as it is the color is so perfect that you notice it's quality on equal footing with the art it is embelishing.

I took a sample page from the publisher's site I then cut it up in photoshop to pretty much match what you get on the iphone. That is them running down the left side of this pasge. I think it works really well. I know that for me there was a greater sense of immersion with viewing this way. It sort of takes the comic and presents it to you like storyboards for a film. I don't have an issue with reading comics like this if they are all done as well as this one is, and offered for free or at a very reasonable price (99 cents is a good price for a comic. Getting the issues in this way also gives a bit of the sense that you are owning something you can keep. I think there is room for improvement, and we will probably see this develop over time. I don't love the fact that every issue is installed as a separate application on my phone. I would prefer to launch the app and pick issues from a library for example.

The only other comic I have read so far is the first issue of David Hutchison's OZ the manga. I think this may really be a format that the manga style really just shines in. There is a lot of movement in the panels, and a lot of reaction and expression shots, and getting those isolated in their own screen has a great effect. If I can find some sample pages of that I will chop it up similarly and post one to show how well it works.

I am happy so far, but I will keep you posted.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The best of 2008, a year of Pro's and Con's

Here is my best of 2008

  • Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC - My daughters and I drove to Charlotte, ate at the Penguin and the Bar B Q King Drive In. It was an awesome roadtrip. We listened to an Artemis Fowl book on cd and stayed in a nice hotel with our Wii hooked up to a second television, ate fancy expensive french fries at the hotel and they got to play in the pool. Oh right, we also went to the comic convention. At the con, I got to meet Jaime Hernandez and he drew a picture of Maggie and Hopie for me. I met Matt Wagner and Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde, Danielle Corsetto, Robert Kirkman, Craig & Todd, and many more. My oldest got second place for her age group in the sketch contest. I bought an enourmous pile of half priced trades, and had a great time. It was just perfect, and nearly every bit of it was a highlight
  • SPX - Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD - This was also my first year going to this con, that features small press and mini comics, etc. It was another fantastic experience. I met James Kochalka, Liz Baillie, Joe Flood, Paul Karasick, Renee Lott, The No Lemon Press folks, Justin DeCarlo, and more. There was so much energy and hope and potential at this thing. There really was a pervasive vibe of cameraderie that was infectious. I attended the interview that Jog did with Brian Lee O'Malley (meeting him and Hope Larson at heroes was yet another high point) and I actually asked a question... well mostly made a statement, but I also made a joke, and was nowhere near the oddest person raising my hand. This was all a big deal for me, as I am not historically very good at being outgoing in situations like this. Up until this year I attended cons and stood 100 feet from people I adored and refused to get closer or speak. Conventions are much more enjoyable when you get chatty and friendly with the mostly friendly Pro's that attend those things pretty much for that purpose.
  • My Blog!! I had been posting comic book reviews and such on my personal LJ for a long time, but this was my first attempt at doing something like this. I was very nervous about doing it, but it has been extremely rewarding in my opinion, and I have learned a lot already, and have encountered a lot of really great people with some really great blogs and opinions as well.
  • Zuda - Free comics online... REALLY GOOD free comics online.
  • Super Hero and or Comic Book Movies - Iron Man, Dark Knight, Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Hancock... All good movies, with a few of them being GREAT movies. I know Wanted was changed to a crazy degree for the film, but I enjoyed the film more that the comic.
  • The Middleman (TV Show) - Yep, this series gets its own entry. It is absurd and awful and sad that we probably won't get this back, and if we did, it probably wouldn't have the awesome Natalie Morales in it. This is one of the best and funniest comics related tv shows ever. It was superbly cast and acted, Hillariously funny every episode, and just all around great. Only the animated the Tick generated as much comics related funny in my opinion. Just a great show that I structured my schedule around while it was on the air.
  • Hardbacks and trades on the cheap - I picked up a number of hard back comics this year, and while I always used to act like I didn't care for them or something, it was only out of jealousy. No I am not ready to pay 99 bucks for something I can get for 15, but when I can get the hardcover for very close to the price of the trade, then there are a bunch of things I would love to have the HC of.
  • Talking comics and webcomics with my friend Frost - This was a high point of my year as well. She is an artist, and throwing ideas back and forth with her about those topics is always a good time.
Probably a lot more, but that is all for this post. If I get my stuff together in the next month, I may do a best comics post, but we'll have to see how things go.