Friday, December 30, 2005

In Passing...Bulleteer to Generation M

So I finally got a chance to catch up on my comic reading since the craziness of Christmas. Here are my mini-reviews for last week's comics...

Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #2 (of 4) - One of the best Seven Soldiers issues to date. In this issue, we get the answers to some burning questions from Seven Soldiers #0, like what exactly happened to the heros in Arizona? What were the circumstances that brought them together? The answers involve racism and monsters. Just awesome. 9.4/10

The Book of Lost Souls #3 - J. Michael Straczynski and Colleen Doran's "Icon" book continues as our mystery man visits another soul content with destroying herself, this one being an artist whose boyfriend overdosed. I liked the issue, despite a nagging feeling that the writer was being a little pretentious. 7.1/10

Runaways #11 - The runaways continue their adventure in the Big Apple as they confront Spider-man, bluff drug pushers and are inevitably attacked by a certain superhero group on the lookout for Cloak. There was plenty going on in this issue, bouncing between three different pairs of kids. 7.8/10

Manhunter #17 - Manhunter finds her family missing in the wake of accepting Mr. Bones' offer to be his hero-for-hire. But they haven't been taken by anyone she expected... I was really surprised by the ending and it got me really excited for the issues to come. 9/10

Generation M #2 (of 5) - The mutant killer strikes again after columnist Sally Floyd reports the killer's photos left at her doorstep. There are a couple of guest appearances of ex-X-Men in this issue, with a minor surprise at the end of the issue that you could see coming a mile away. 6/10

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another Christmas come and gone...

What I got for Christmas this year...

Graphic novels/Trades:
- The Cute Manifesto
- Excaliber Classics (volume 1)
- Catwoman: When In Rome

Novels:
- The Historian

DVDs:
- Anastasia
- Closer
- Open Water (I actually went to rent movies at my mom's and it was 20 cents more to buy it, so she just got it for me...) (I also watched War of the Worlds and Sideways on Xmas Eve)

misc.:
- lots of candy
- a burned Xmas CD
- chardonnay
- a book light
- a wallet
- socks
- DVD-Rom cases
- utensils
- money
- lots of Barnes & Noble giftcards
- a Target giftcard

I already used part of my Target card on House of Flying Daggers the DVD and picked up Robotika #1 and Sword of Dracula #1 from Big Brain in Minneapolis (and food) with my money.

And Patrick got...

Graphic Novels/Trades:
- Essential Spider-woman (volume 1)
- DC Showcase Presents...JLA (volume 1)
- Night Fisher
- Bambi and Her Pink Gun
- Hino Horror (volumes 1 and 2)
- Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four (volume 9)

Novels:
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

DVDs:
- Serenity
- Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
- King Kong (Original)

misc.:
- Lord of the Rings calendar
- several burned CDs
- crockpot
- pillows/a throw
- candy
- lots of Barnes & Noble giftcards
- a Target giftcard
- money
- a shirt
- pajamas
- socks/underwear

(Patrick already bought the Ganzfeld (volume 4) magazine at Big Brain, as well as King-Cat #64)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spider-woman: Origin

Like most people around this time of year, I've been busy at work and shopping for presents, so I haven't been updating as often as I wish I could. I'll be going home for Christmas for a few days starting tomorrow as well, so I won't have time to read comics, let alone discuss them, but I promise to be more consistent when I return. Yesterday, a UPS truck broke down on its way to Wisconsin, so no Wisconsin comic stores received their shipments until today, which was annoying enough, but hey, I got them and that's what counts, right? (well, all but Grimoire #7 and Mome, but that's the local store's fault for not ordering enough) But anyways, I did have time to read a comic before I resume packing and head in to my last day at work before having a five day stretch off...

Spider-woman: Origin #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Reed, with art by the Luna Brothers (favorites of mine)! The rise of Jessica Drew... This issue was pretty basic, lending its origin from the Hulk movie for the most part. I thought that Jonathon Luna was a little stiff with his art this time around, which was a little disappointing, but for the most part, he did a great job. I may be the only one who sees this, but I swear there's a little Hernandez Brothers influence in his artwork. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he said he was a huge Love & Rockets fan. Even though I wasn't blown away by this issue, I'm certainly not ready to write it off yet. It's about on par with most superhero stuff out there - I just hope it improves as it goes on, like the ending of this issue seemed to indicate it would...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

X-Factor

The debut issue of another X-Factor series launched this past week, from the minds of Peter David and Ryan Sook. If you recall, a few years ago Peter David wrote a Marvel Knights mini-series called Madrox, about the Multiple Man who we see in this new series leading a band of detective/heroes through his X-Factor Detective Agency. The new X-Factor is a sequel of sorts to this story, including the likes of Strong Guy and Wolfsbane, who were seen in that initial mini, as well as bringing in some fresh blood in the forms of Siryn, Rictor and M (who did not appear in this first issue, although she was mentioned). Madrox's relationship to his clones was explored in that mini-series, including the idea of him sending clones out over the world and reabsorbing them (and the information they gained), as well as his lack of control over the personalities and actions of the clones he produces. This interesting idea is picked up in the new series, indeed almost immediately, as Madrox confronts a former teammate from his X-Factor days via one of his clones. As the issue progresses, we learn that one of the cases that X-Factor investigations is taking on is about "M Day," when 90% of the mutant population awoke without their powers (thus, the big "Decimation" logo in the corner of the front cover), as well as some smaller cases like one Siryn is in the midst of working out (with the help of a new trick Siryn realized she could do with her voice). All in all, this issue was really solid. I'm really excited to see what David and Sook have in store for the characters they lovingly reintroduced to us, as the first issue certainly captured my interest.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

In Passing...DMZ to Secret War

Fables #44 - Part three of the "Arabian Nights (And Days)" storyline deals with the repercusions of Sinbad's friend, Yusuf, letting the djinn out of the bottle last issue, as the conflict is diffused in an unexpected way thanks to some astute Fabletown citizens. 8.5/10

Secret War #5 (of 5) - This has been a pretty lacklustre series. The art, painted by one Gabriele Dell'Otto, is great, but that's about all it's had going for it. This issue is all about the explanations, which were nothing that warranted this series to have been conceived of in the first place. 2.8/10

DMZ #2 - Intern Matthew Roth explores a dangerous "war zone" city with Zee, who keeps him alive long enough to talk him into carrying out his news crew's assignment and report on what really goes on in the DMZ. 6.4/10

And from the pages of Shojo Beat (Volume 2, Issue 1)...

Nana - Nana attempts to find bandmates for her roomie as she realizes she's been acting unfair to her boyfriend. Meanwhile, new characters are introduced to the series that may complicate some relationships in the near future. 8.9/10

Absolute Boyfriend - Riiko's mail-order boyfriend Night gets a fan club who goes haywire if any girls are caught talking to the poor guy. And Riiko's friend Satori isn't exactly the person she believed her to be. 7/10

That's all for mini-reviews this week. If any bloggers are reading this, I should let you know that there's a site for bloggers to recognize the best comics and artists of the year. If anyone else wants to give credit to their favorites, post them at The Comics Journal's message board! I, of course, posted mine based on my favorite ten of the year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In Passing...Spider-man to Mr. Miracle

Ultimate Spider-man #87 - Despite the disappointing "cool down" issue of the previous Ultimate Spider-man story arc "Warriors," Bendis has been on top of his game lately with the old Webhead. This new arc "Silver Sable" is just plain awesome (and not just because I'm partial to the obscure mercenary!) The Wild Pack mistakenly kidnaps Flash Thompson, thinking he's the man behind Spidey, while Mary Jane is completely jealous after seeing Peter with Kitty. Ayeyay. The high school soap opera, as always, is just as interesting and suspenseful as the heroics. 9.5/10

Necromancer #3 - What started out as a very promising series falls quickly into a silly "girl using magic" comic with this issue, as a mentor figure arrives out of nowhere to save Abigail from the clutches of...government officials in league with demons? Ugh. The only Top Cow book I've ever liked has just become another Top Cow book I'll never read. 4.8/10

New Excaliber #2 - Another book that had my hopes soaring with the last issue flounders. I loved the original Claremont/Davis Excaliber series, and actually had a shred of hope that this would be decent. The first issue was actually good, despite a few faults. This one takes those silly faults and magnifies them until there's nothing left of what was good. There are a lot of those really intricate moments like in the first issue where the team works together to make Dazzler's heart beat again, amid silly instructions from a single teammate (now, Kitty, massage her heart!). This issue is just page after page of that sort of drivel. I can't imagine anyone enjoying this sort of thing. Sorry, Claremont, I know you had some talent way back when, but by god, bow out gracefully! 3.8/10

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #2 (of 4) - Now, if there's anyone you can rely on to turn a crappy comic week into a great one, it's usually Grant Morrison. Unfortunately, this week it was Bendis, as another comic fizzles. This is the only Seven Soldiers book, really the only Morrison book, that I can not stand. It just doesn't make me care at all about what's going on. I don't like the characters, the story's dull and hell, the artists on the series can't even retain their interest, so why should I? 2/10

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Y-the Last Man #40 (Spoiler)

Brian K. Vaughan's Y-the Last Man #40 is another stand-alone issue focusing on secondary characters of the series. And is it just me or do the stand-alones seem to be better than the on-going plot? This series has gotten pretty silly as it's progressed, but there are still a few decent things happening beyond all of the crap. This particular issue is kind of a follow-up on events from a while back, where Yorick meets a woman named Beth (not his girlfriend Beth, but another one) who is hiding out in a church. Finally, we get the answer to questions brought up at that time - about what has become of the catholic church since the plague struck. It was a little disappointing, as they're merely searching the world for miraculaous conceptions. A little desparate, I guess. We also get to find out what little secret Beth's been hiding since Yorick took leave of her - particularly the little bun in her oven (did anyone out there believe that that wasn't going to happen?) Despite these few disappointing notes, however, it is an entertaining story as we get to see a strange relationship form between Beth and Yorick's ex-Amazon sister Hero. And it's kind of cool how Vaughan turns our expectations around on us and gives us a baby girl where a boy was expected.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Favorite CDs of the Year

1. Confessions on a Dance Floor - Madonna
Key Tracks: Hung Up, Sorry, How High, Push

2. Bleed Like Me ~ Garbage
Key Tracks: Why Do You Love Me, Metal Heart, Boys Wanna Fight, Why Don't You Come Over

3. Plans ~ Death Cab for Cutie
Key Tracks: Marching Bands of Manhatten, Summer Skin, Your Heart Is an Empty Room, Crooked Teeth

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Walking Dead: Heart's Desire

The fourth collection of Robert Kirkman's zombie saga, The Walking Dead collects issues 19 - 24 of the ongoing series, this story entitled "The Heart's Desire." But if you're looking for zombies this time around, you're going to be hard-pressed. Aside from the opening scene where another character joins the small group, there is little zombie action, but instead focuses on the delicate relationships between the existing characters within the safety of the prison they stumbled upon with the last collection. The new character that joins the group, Michonne, makes her debut slicing and dicing the zombies with a sword like a swashbuckling superhero, two zombies in tow without arms or jaws to render them incapable of attack. An unsettling appearance, but thus is the world left for the ones who have survived. There's an over-the-top speech given at the end of the volume that causes one (or maybe just me) to roll their eyes, but other than that, it was good clean soap opera fun, with just a spray of blood in the mix to sate the desire of those following the book for the horror aspect of the story. I expect that something must come along soon to stir things up and put people in danger once again because as it stands, the book's getting a little dull.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In Passing...Fell to Kitty Pryde

Fell #3 - Another self-contained issue of Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's noir series came out this past week, with our favorite law enforcer caught in the sights of a suicide bomber. I didn't like this issue as much as the first two issues of the series. I just thought it was a little dull in comparison without any real detective work and just a lack of action overall. Ellis showcased the quirkiness of Snowtown once again via a stroll through the street, where we saw a couple of shady figures, including the always-present nun wearing a Richard Nixon mask. 5.4/10

New Avengers #13 (spoilers) - The Silver Samurai confronts the Avengers and Ronin's true identity is revealed as Echo. Now, Echo as Ronin? Thirteen issues of being on the cover and then she decides to stay in Japan at the end and not be with the Avengers. Marvel needs to settle down with the cover campaigns as usual, instead of jumping the gun. The reveal was a big letdown, as anyone who hasn't read Daredevil for the past year wouldn't get who the character was, and the rest of us probably don't care anyway. I thought that the whole point of the New Avengers was to showcase the big guns of the Marvel universe on a team together. Echo doesn't exactly scream "big gun" to me. I doubt she could even headline her own mini-series at this point. Another problem: why is Echo in disguise? Why is she dressed like a man? Just to get the Marvel fanboys psyched up for the underwhelming revelation? Next time it had better damn well be Elektra under that mask if Marvel pulls a stunt like this again. Oh, and let's see Finch draw like...let's say, nothing else for this series. But anyway, the rest of the issue was decent! 7/10

Season of the Witch #2 (of 4) - I don't really care for the rapid pace of this mini-series, however it's inherent in the series' design, as each issue represents a season of the year (this issue being "Summer"). The issue does slow down at times to draw attention to key points in this character's development, but I get the feeling of being rushed when I'd like to slow down and take things in a little bit more. Our heroine isn't exactly the savior this world of magic and sorcery had probably hoped for, as she's fairly gullible and she gets into the bloodshed a little too much, but hey, this makes for an interesting character at least. 7.3/10

Generation M #1 (of 5) - This series wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. It is about mutants who have lost their powers but I was thinking more along the lines of each issue being a self-contained story about a specific mutant (this one being Chamber since he's, you know, plastered over the cover). Not the case, however. This series follows a columnist who battles her self-destructive past in the wake of her daughter's death to create a column that she feels needs to be told. Amid the "decimation" of the marvel universe, she decides to revive a failed column about mutant lives and highlight mutants whose lives have changed as a result of losing their powers (many of whom are still harrassed by people who rally behind the phrase "once a mutant, always a mutant" or are now physically impaired as their bodies can no longer function normally with their physical deformities). This could make for an interesting series with some things cropping up that are sure to thread through the entire series, like a rash of pictures sent to the columnist showing murdered mutants with signs thrown over them proclaiming "not enough died." 7.9/10

Kitty Pryde: Shadow and Flame #5 (of 5) - The mini-series concludes here with Kitty overcoming all of her obstacles and returning home. Of course, plenty of stuff leads up to that. This issue is pretty much one big battle as Kitty betrays Ogun's disciples, the Path of Destiny (who were about to betray her anyway), and turns them over to the mysterious J.D.S.S. and to the Silver Samurai (who is cropping up in a lot of books as of late). Meanwhile, she retrieves her beloved friend Lockheed and the green dragon she came to Japan to find in the first place. Paul Smith's art has been stellar throughout the series, this issue being no exception. This is probably the best Kitty Pryde mini-series out there. 8.5/10

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Soft Anchor

My autobiographical comic (mini comic) Soft Anchor is now available at Quimby's. The first issue is about events in my life that took place when I was seven years old. I grew up in an abusive household and my first real sexual experience with a neighbor boy take place during this year. I sent a preview copy to the store, so they should be posting a review sometime in the near future, and I will be sending copies to other stores as well, so be on the lookout if you don't want to pay for shipping! The first issue is entitled "Not a Ladybug." I'm presently working on the second issue which I have no name for as of yet.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Obligation fulfilled

I actually kept my New Year's resolution this year. Since graduating with my English BA degree, I haven't read much in terms of novels. Last year, I read only three books the entire year. Which was totally pathetic, having had to read two or three books a month in college. So, my New Year's resolution for this year was to read at least one novel a month. And I did.

January: Mansfield Park ~ Jane Austin
February: The Folding Star ~ Alan Hollinghurst
March: Northanger Abbey ~ Jane Austin
April: From Hell ~ Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell
May: Pride and Prejudice ~ Jane Austin
June: Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott
July: Persuasion ~ Jane Austin
August: The Mysteries of Udolpho ~ Ann Radcliffe
September: Mysterious Skin ~ Scott Heim
October: The Diary of a Teenage Girl ~ Phoebe Gloeckner
November: Madame Bovary ~ Gustave Flaubert
December: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ~ J.K. Rowling

Obviously I finished my December book well ahead of schedule, so if anyone thinks From Hell was a cheat since its a graphic novel can be rest assured that I will have completed the next Harry Potter book by the end of the year.

I definitely loved The Mysteries of Udolpho the best of all that I read. Pride and Prejudice, Mysterious Skin, The Folding Star and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were among the best of the rest. Little Women was the worst of the books, with Madame Bovary ending at a close second. Any of the other books I would recommend however, but I'd start with Pride and Prejudice for the Jane Austin books and Ann Radcliffe above all else.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Top 10 Comics of 2005

Continuing my list of my favorite ten comics of the year...

10. Girls by the Luna Brothers (Image Comics). I really didn't know much about this comics before I picked up the trade, but I'm glad I bought it. It takes place in a small town, very down-to-earth, a little hickish. But then strange things begin to happen involving a girl that was picked up naked on the roadside. It feels really strange when things happen that shouldn't just because it seems so grounded in this all-American community. You kind of feel the shock that these people must be feeling. It's really interesting, even if the metaphors are pretty blatant. It's kind of a screwed-up horror book. Very fun.

9. The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Saturday Rainy Day Fun Book by Chris Ware (Pantheon) Collecting Ware's comic strips from Rusty Brown to Jimmy Corrigan, from Quimby the Mouse to Big Tex, this book has it all: an ongoing strip that threads through the entire book, a comic strip you have to read in the dark, a comic strip on the edge of the book jacket...Chris Ware has to be the most creative book designer working in comics. I loved the Rusty Brown strips about an aging comic collector and the smart alec Quimby the Mouse. Ware has a way of digging deep into the human condition and laying bare the sadness within us all in his controlled art.

8. Superf*ckers by James Kochalka (Top Shelf) The crazy superhero book with a lot of swearing. I fell in love with James Kochalka while reading his American Elf collection of his sketchbook diaries. I just love his sensibilities. Superf*ckers is hilarious, with great strips about different superheroes living together and getting on each other's nerves.

7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press) This book just keeps getting better, as Scott Pilgrim battles Ramona's ex-boyfriends one after another while fending off Knives, his ex, who just kicks ass in this volume.

6. Spellbinders: Signs and Wonders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins (Marvel Comics) This is the witch story I've been waiting for. A new girl, Kate, comes to live in Salem with her parents, where she meets a group of real witches in a community where tension is high between the non-witches, the wannabes and the true witches. After a series of accidents, Kate soon discovers that she is being stalked by someone or something, and tries to understand the new powers that are manifesting within her. There are some genuinely scary moments in this great story, written by the man behind the acclaimed Lucifer series. And Mike Perkins' drawing is great. There are some scenes where I just had to stop and admire the art. Read more about this great series.

5. Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon) Burns' decade-long book is told through beautiful, very-controlled art that is consistent throughout this monstrous volume, an incredible feat considering how long it took to create this book. This horror story is about a sexually-transmitted disease passed between teenagers that cause mutations in their bodies upon infection. There's a lot more going on, however, beneath the surface. This is a masterpiece that will be enjoyed for generations to come. Read more.

4. Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore and Gene Ha (DC/America's Best Comics) I'd never read Top Ten before picking up this graphic novel, so I was really surprised that I loved it as much as I did (The only ABC book I'd even read was Promethea). Taking place after World War II, this story takes place in a city completely populated by superheroes, monsters and robots, and examines the prejudices between these groups, and against the rest of the human world. It's really a very clever book with beautiful realistic art by Gene Ha. It follows two characters closely - Sky Witch and Jetlad - as they grow accustomed to their new environment, going in different directions.

3. Dampyr by Mauro Boselli, Maurizio Colombo and Majo (IDW Publishing) IDW is awesome for publishing this long-running European horror comic in America. These volumes follow a half-vampire, half-human hybrid who, after years of swindeling innocent people by curing them of bogus vampire problems, is placed in a situation where he confronts the real creatures and learns where his true destiny lies. Incorporating all manners of monsters, this book is big on action and horror and lots of fun.

2. Nana by Ai Yazawa (Viz) Chronicled in the pages of Shojo Beat (with the first volume of the trade just out), Nana follows two girls with the same name (Nana) as they find themselves and try to put past heartache behind them. As fate would have it, the two girls come to live together in Tokyo. Full of tender moments and beautiful art, this book just stole my heart. After I read the first story in Shojo Beat, I put it down and thought to myself "Is this the best comic that I've ever read?" Seriously, if you're going to check out any manga this year, let it be this one.

1. Ultra: Seven Days by the Luna Brothers (Image Comics) Ah, yes. The moment you've all been waiting for. This was probably unexpected. It was for me too. This book was sitting in my to-read pile for months before I finally got around to reading it. And I was utterly blown away. This is seriously the best superhero comic I've ever read. Although, there's more to it than that. It's more of a drama than a superhero story, following a woman named Pearl who works on a police squad of superheroes as Ultra. The superheros of this universe are celebrities and Ultra is one of the biggest, having dated the perfect man. This book examines her relationships with other superheroes, with the spotlight, and how she tries to feel normal despite the fear and inadaquacy she feels. Full of twists and shocks, as well as touching scenes and realistic dialogue, this book is a perfect ten, well-deserving of its title of best of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Top 20 Comics of the Year: Part One

Okay, it's that time of year again, where lists dominate the internet, overwhelming us, pulling us this way and that. My list may not be a traditional view of the top twenty comics that have come out this past year, but they are the twenty I personally enjoyed the most. I'm not going to put something in my list just because I feel obligated to do so. And so, this is the first half of the best of the year...

20. Seven Soldiers: Guardian by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart (DC Comics) The new Manhatten Guardian surprised me by becoming my favorite of the maxiseries Seven Soldiers so far. I wasn't expecting much, but the creative zaniness of this story just worked, with each issue seeming like a story in its own right, all different from one another, but all great nonetheless.

19. Mora by Phil Harmon (Image Comics) A strange, disturbing horror story with three storylines drifting and overlapping through four issues. Read more

18. Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (and may I also mention the gorgeous covers by James Jean) (DC/Vertigo) This year's stories included the great "Homelands" arc, where we get to see where the NYC fables came from and who instigated their evacuation.

17. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (Marvel Comics) The beginning of the second "season" of the series, with a giant leap forward in art by Alphona, and the runaways creating a new life for themselves in the ever-changing series.

16. Manhunter by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz (and again, great covers by Jae Lee) (DC Comics) Including the "Manhunted" arc, this dark portrayal of superhero vigilante Kate Spencer is the best in years. A welcome new character in an already-crowded superhero universe.

15. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Marvel Comics) My number one book last year with the awesome "Gifted" story falls to fifteenth place with "Dangerous," even though it was a great story despite harsh criticism.

14. Mnemovore by Hans Rodionoff, Ray Fawkes and Mike Huddleston (DC/Vertigo) A real creepy mini-series that experiments with the medium and creates a great atmosphere to get disturbed in. Read more about this little horror number.

13. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon) This is a great autobiography from a woman escaping a country plagued by war. She's really interesting and goes through some trying times in Europe, lonelier than she's ever been.

12. Lady Snowblood by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura (Dark Horse) From the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, this samurai series was the inspiration for the phenomenal Kill Bill movies. Read more about volume one of this series.

11. Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda (Viz) This manga title I had trouble placing in my countdown. I was back and forth between this one and my number ten comic, but the other title won out. This is about a schoolgirl who uses her voice ala Veronica Mars to carry out missions for an enigmatic old man. Read more

Stay tuned for part two of my best of the year!

In passing...Black Widow to Zatanna

This past week was another slow one, as only a few comics came out for me. Aside from Frankenstein, here's what I read...

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #3 (of 6) - It's never a good sign when you have to go back through a comic to refresh yourself as to what happened... These past two Black Widow mini-series have been entertaining, but nothing to brag about. Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka's explorations of the Russian spy's escapades (under the Marvel Knights imprint also) were much better, as stories that had focus, lively characters, cool moments...in other words, everything Richard K. Morgan's versions don't have. Really, the only thing this series has going for it is the art, and even then, Bill Sienkiewicz is only doing the finishes. 4/10

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4 (of 4) - The wacky tale of magic comes to a head here as Zatanna has a cosmic magical battle. Chalk-full of those cool moments and interesting characters that I mentioned before, Zatanna delivers on all levels, as (like Alan Moore's Promethea), this comic breaks through the traditional structure of comics and explores panel composition. Like the other titles in the Seven Soldiers saga, this book expands on the overall universe that Grant Morrison has been weaving with the Sheeda, and ends where Zatanna would join the forces of the other six characters in Seven Soldiers #1. 8.8/10

Friday, November 25, 2005

Patrick's Top 10 of 2005

(I'll get around to posting my favorites of the year soon, but take a look at Patrick's list now...)

1. Walt & Skeezix by Frank King, edited by Jeet Heer, Chris Oliveros & Chris Ware

2. Black Hole by Charles Burns

3. The Complete Peanuts 1955 to 1956 & The Complete Peanuts 1957 to 1958 by Charles Schulz, edited by Gary Groth

4. Krazy & Ignatz 1935 to 1936: "A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy" by George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard

5. The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Saturday Rainy Day Fun Book by Chris Ware

6. Hanshin by Moto Hagio (as appeared in The Comics Journal #269)

7. Kramer's Ergot 5, edited by Sammy Harkham

8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley

9. The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, edited by Adrian Tomine

10. Superf*ckers by James Kochalka

Honorable Mentions:

Mome, Summer 2005, edited by Gary Groth & Eric Reynolds

The Dial and Other Stories by Chris Reynolds

Showcase Presents: Superman (volume 1)

Tales Designed To Thrizzle #1 by Michael Kupperman

Jack Kirby reprints (Fantastic Four, Captain America, Black Panther)

Luba by Gilbert Hernandez

Pluto (Naoki Urasawa) (In scanlations format)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Previews: February '06

What goodies are in store for us in February of next year...?

Antarctic Press:
- Alice In Wonderland #1 (of 4) - The cover of this solicitation caught my attention, but I didn't realize it was the creator of Neotopia until I read the captions later.

Archaia Studios Press:
- Mouse Guard: Belly of the Beast #1 (of 6) - This looks so damn cute. I love the art of the series.

Dark Horse:
- Hellboy: Makoma, or, A Tale Told By a Mummu in the New York City Explorers' Club on August 16, 1993 #1 (of 2) - Mike Mignola on a new Hellboy mini!

- Lady Snowblood (volume 3): Retribution part 1 - The first Lady Snowblood trade was great. It's a treat when I see a new one is coming out.

- Octopus Girl (volume 1) - The cover for this book looks awesome. You gotta love those great Japanese horror manga.

DC:
- Showcase Presents: House of Mystery (volume 1) - Isn't that a great cover? This volume includes work by artists such as Gil Kane and Neal Adams.

- Manhunter #19 - A new Manhunter is always welcome in my book. The first trade comes out fairly quickly if anyone wants to read the best DCU book out there presently.

- Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #3 (of 4) - Another great cover to another great series.

- Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #3 (of 4) - I was blown away by the debut of this Seven Soldiers series.

- Kid Eternity TP - I hadn't heard of this before, but Patrick said he'd heard it was a really underappreciated work by the creator.

Fantagraphics Books:
- The Comics Journal #274 - An interview with Abadazad creator Mike Ploog!

IDW Publishing:
- Night Mary TP - This has a cool premise. I've been meaning to check it out and now I'll get the chance.

- Dampyr (volume 10): House of Blood - Another installment of the great horror series.

Image Comics:
- The Portent #1 - This looks like a neat new series. There's a four-page preview with really nice art (reminiscent of Mignola) from Peter Bergting.

- Mora (volume 1): The Beast Will Show Their Teeth - This is one crazy good series. I really wasn't expecting it to be collected. Check this out!

Infinity Studios:
- Blood Alone (volume 1) - Another cool horror premise, although this is more of a love story, it seems, about a vampire girl. It comes with a slip cover and what a cover it has! I'll definitely check this out.

Marvel:
- Astonishing X-Men #13 - The triumphant return of the Whedon/Cassaday title! Yay!

- X-Men: Apocalypse/ Dracula #1 (of 4) - Cool cover. I...may check this out. Maybe.

- Giant-Size Ms. Marvel #1 - This could be fun - a bunch of reprints of old Ms. Marvel comics, and a new short story.

Narwain Publishing:
- Jenna TP - I wanted to check this out, but never saw the first issue...guess I'll be getting the trade!

Tokyopop:
- Someday's Dreamers (volume 1) - This has really pretty art, but by god, I hate when they compare series to other things. This does it twice - I guess it's a cross between Joan of Arcadia and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as Harry Potter and Sailor Moon. So, what the hell does that mean?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Morrison's Frankenstein

Will Grant Morrison ever cease to amaze? He must be the best writer working in mainstream comics right now (at least now that Alan Moore is "retiring"). In his new Seven Soldiers mini-series, Frankenstein, Morrison pairs up with Doug Mahnke, whose pencils perfectly compliment the writing of this monster title in all its dark, moody glory. In the opening scene, we are introduced to our main character, although most of the issue takes place over a hundred years later, depicting events that lead to his reappearance. For the most part, this issue follows a high school and the startling transformations that take place due to an outcast nicknamed "Uglyhead," who suddenly has the ability to hear the other students' thoughts, and uses those thoughts against them to bend them to his will. There are maggot monsters and Sheeda and cool action scenes. This is easily the most impressive debut of a Seven Soldiers title. And now that Frankenstein has returned, it'll be interesting to see what direction this book goes in next.

Monday, November 21, 2005

In Passing...Deadly Genesis to Manhunter

Since I don't like to spoil much in terms of plot, I'm going to start giving grades to my mini-reviews, out of ten points...

Runaways #10 - The runaways have gone to New York to aid Cloak in his quest to clear his name. And the kids get to meet some big time heroes. Is it just me or was there something really cool about She-Hulk walking by and the kids getting all starstruck? 9/10

Manhunter # 16 - Manhunter meets Mr. Bones and is presented with a proposition (following a fight with Skorpio, who has a really cool, sleak look even if he wasn't much of a fight). The status quo just doesn't like to stand still for very long in this book, as things are on shaky ground and shifting once more. 9.1/10

Fables #43 - Something interesting is brewing here, between Beauty and Prince Charming and Beast, between the animal farm and New York, between the Arabian fables and all of the others. It'll be interesting to see where all of this takes us. 8.5/10

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1 - This was boring when you get down to it. It seems that this is the story where we find the answers to the questions posed in House of M - like where did the energy from the mutants go? It just...doesn't make me care though. 2.4/10

Ultimate Spider-Man #86 - Ultimate Silver Sable. It's extremely nerdy that I'm loving this so much, but she rocks. Oh, and there's a fight between Spidey and Omega Red too. 8.6/10

All-Star Superman #1 - This is seriously the first Superman book I've ever read. The character's just had this boring air about him since before I can remember. The art and writing in this issue are great though. I'm still not sure about Supes, but I'll continue picking this book up. 8.5/10

Winner of the week: Manhunter
Loser of the week: X-Men: Deadly Genesis
Last CD I bought: Confessions on a Dancefloor - Madonna
Last Netflix rental I watched: Veronica Mars: Season One (Disc One)
Last graphic novel I read: V For Vendetta

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mora

Mora is a strange little tale, written and illustrated by Paul Harmon, from Image Comics. This four-issue mini is the "first act" of Mora, with maybe more to come? It didn't sell very well at all, but a lot of Image titles are extremely low on the sales charts and continue nonetheless. Mora consists of three stories that weave between the four issues, told by the narrators - a mutilated tortoise and hare. The story involving a young girl named Mora is about how this young girl befriends another girl in the city of witches, and has some odd "sixth sense" about her. In this city of witches, there are many dangerous creatures lurking about, crazed demons and child-devouring monsters, of which Mora and her friend learn through experience. The second story is almost exclusively related by the narrators, as sort of a fable, about a lion whose black soul consumes it, causing it to inevitably devour its own mother and her cubs. The third and final storyline is of a council of monsters and the delicate balance between them and the human world, as well as between each other. The monsters are made up of three creatures who became jealous of humans and have come to mimic them while preying on them - bats (vampires), snakes (witches) and wolves (werewolves). This saga is complete with fairies, odd relatives and a real sense of creeping darkness. One of the catch phrases of the book is "She couldn't know what she would become..." hinting at some kind of transformation of this young innocent girl that we come to know, whose power people feel. However, what that thing is, we don't know because the mini-series doesn't get that far. I recommend this work, but it is a dense read and you really have to be ready to invest a lot of attention in it, and do the work yourself, drawing similarities between the stories and simply making sense out of them. This book does not spell things out, but has the courtesy to assume the audience is capable of doing the work themselves.

Monday, November 14, 2005

5 Worst Comics of 2005

It's almost that time of year again when the "best of" lists appear all across the internet and on TV. Comics Reporter just linked to Amazon's Editors' and Customers' picks for ten best graphic novels of the year. Included in the editors' picks were lame things like Sin City volume one's second edition and Marvel 1602. What is going on over there? Not that the customer picks were any better. They were almost all humor collections. I'm not quite ready to do my "best of" list for the year, but I am ready to proclaim the worst comics of the year. Not that I read many comics that I'm sure would be in this list. I didn't read like, Tarot Witch of the Black Rose or whatever the hell that atrociously oversexed comic is, or other comics that I knew were awful. So, this list is really the worst five comics that I was subjected to this year. Enjoy and by God, pass on by when you see these titles in the store...

1. Gimoles by Mike Bullock and Theo Bain
I had to have been just asking for it with this title from Alias Publishing and Runemaster. It's completely cutesy, Disneyesque art with the most insipid, soulless "characters" to grace a comic book this past year. And that's saying something with all of the Claremont books that came out. The characters are so generic and do the things that were done in Fern Gully the animated movie, all over. Like, exactly. This is everything we've seen before reduced to its basic formula and as boring as it could possibly have been told. Seriously, this is possibly the worst comic I think I've ever read. And I read a fricking Jello-man and Wiggly comic, okay?

2. Of Bitter Souls by Charles Satterlee and Norm Breyfogle
Another uninspired comic that tries to do absolutely nothing different with what they work with. Yes, it has vampires and yes, it has superheroes. Yes, they're together in one book, but by God, do something cool with them! We've seen vampires like this getting staked like this a million times. The superheroes were designed on this artist's freaking lunch break. Oy.

3. The Stardust Kid by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog
I kept trying to like this comic. I picked up three issues of the series, even though I loathed the one before it because I loved Abadazad by these creators. Which makes you wonder how they could so completely and utterly screw this up. Yet they did. This title, unlike the others in the countdown, doesn't lack imagination. It's very imaginative. But it gets on my nerves like nobody's business. The narrator is annoying and condescending and tries to be clever, but isn't. The protagonist is the most reprehensible character ever. And each issue is packed with so much narration and miserable dialogue that it takes an hour to trudge through it. After reading this comic, you feel like you've been through an exhausting workout. And not in a good way.

4. Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis
Again, big fan of these creators on the original Excaliber series. Again, big failure this time around. From the jab I made at Claremont earlier, you must have known he'd be in this list somewhere. Well, here it is. Along with The Stardust Kid, one of the densest reads in comics. Like I said in my New Excaliber review recently, Claremont's books are just plain crowded. And I don't say that just because there are so many characters in his books (which there are. It's like he has to include all forty fan favorite x-characters in every issue to make the readers happy or something), but the pages are crammed with panels and unnecessary dialogue to overexplain everything. When he writes complex stories that only he could find fascinating for a book like Uncanny X-Men, his storytelling weaknesses are only amplified ten-fold.

5. Sea of Red by Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer and Paul Harmon
I'm always really hard on this book, but damn it, it just should have been a lot better than it is. It has a great premise, about vampire pirates and the revenge one seeks against another, but after you get past those surface elements, it's absolutely horrid. This is the biggest disappointment of the year just because I was so excited to get the trade and then I couldn't wait to burn the bloody thing. On the plus side, the trade is printed in an interesting way, but you just can't get past that sucky story (no pun intended) no matter how hard you try.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

DMZ


DMZ #1 by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli

The DMZ is the area that lies between two opposing American forces, comprising of the island of Manhatten. It's basically ground zero, a war zone, where civilians still live, wishing no part of either side's war. These civilians have become rather ruthless, stringing up bodies of any outsiders, laying down rules for different "territories" or neighborhoods. It's basically a gang-ruled area completely abandoned by America's two opposing forces. The first issue of the series works as a fantastic introduction as we follow an intern thrown into a news crew that is going into the DMZ to report on the type of life that the rest of the Americas can only imagine. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned and our intern ends up alone in this hostile environment, fighting to survive. If the rest of this series follows suit, this could be a really great series. My hopes weren't the highest when picking this book up, but I was really blown away. I definitely recommend picking up this book. One of the most original, best premises I've seen in awhile.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New Excaliber

Chris Claremont and Michael Ryan's new incarnation of Excaliber launched on Wednesday. Yes, I gave Claremont one more chance to not completely and utterly suck. Given my affection for the original Excaliber, I couldn't just let this one go by without giving it a look. So...the new team includes (as can be seen by the cover) Captain Britain, Dazzler, Pete Wisdom, Nocturne and Juggernaut of whom Captain Britain and Wisdom were part of the original team. Also appearing in the first issue were Excaliber favorites Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Lockheed. Even Courtney Ross, an old foe of the team, appears in the book. Meggan, my favorite Excaliber character after Pryde, was notably absent, which was addressed by her husband, Captain Britain. We may see her in issues to come - who knows? So, was it good? Shockingly, it was pretty good. The dialogue was kind of clumsy at times and the comic was a little crowded, which seems to be Claremont's trademark style these days, but everything else worked pretty well. There's an engaging story cropping up from the events of House of M and Uncanny X-Men (yes, you may be confused if you haven't read any Uncanny X-Men lately) and some quality of the old Excaliber series is captured here somehow (albeit a little clumsily). Involved in this story are some clones or something of the original five X-Men who have nearly killed Dazzler, and some confusion as to what's what. It's a good start to the series, at least, despite its faults. We'll just have to see where it goes from here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

In Passing...Polly to The Pulse

While last week was kind of a bust for comics released, plenty was released this week to satisfy the avid fan of the medium.

The Book of Lost Souls #2 - Colleen Doran and J. Michael Straczynski's "Icon" book from marvel actually made sense this time. It was a neat issue, drifting between a fairt tale world a housewife imagined herself a part of and well, reality. It wasn't exactly mind-blowing or anything, but it was a solid story to give us a taste of what the book is going to be like.

Polly and the Pirates #2 - Ted Naifeh's new mini-series about a little girl kidnapped by pirates continues in this funny, charming little comic. This is very different from the gloomy atmosphere of Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin, yet his artwork compliments this story all the same.

The Pulse #12 - Jesus Christ, this kid is never going to come out! How many issues do we have to wait to get a glimpse of the kid? Oh, wait, yeah, he was on the cover from issue one of the storyarc. Gosh, it sure is swell of those Marvel guys to overhype those aspects of their books (Ronin in New Avengers anyone?). This was a good issue. The series has improved dramatically since Michael Gaydos came on as artist, however...it's still just no Alias.

Y- The Last Man #39 - The "Paper Dolls" arc concludes in this stunning continuity-changing issue! No, not really. It was kind of a boring wind-down for a story that started out great, but just slowly ran out of steam as it chugged along. But that's the entire series for you - hit or miss.

Independent Films

Okay, here's a fun meme I saw at Tom the Dog's blog...It's Empire Magazine's 50 Greatest Independent Films. So, go ahead and copy it if you want and have fun (I changed the rules because I'm not computer savvy and don't know how to strike through letters)

Blue the ones you've seen and liked.
Red the ones you've seen and which you didn't like or which are just plain overrated.
Italicize the ones you haven't seen but want to.
Underline the ones you haven't seen and don't want to.
Don't do anything to the ones you've never heard of.

1. Reservoir Dogs - Quentin Tarantino's awesome. Good choice.
2. Donnie Darko - I love this movie but it's kind of annoying how it's become such a big cult classic. Whatever. Anyway, it's too high on the list. Although this was the movie that introduced us to Jake Gyllenhaal (drool)
3. The Terminator - Okay, if Terminator's on here....where's Star Wars? This is a crappy, hastily-strewn together list, but it's still fun to do this.
4. Clerks - Ah, yes. Kevin Smith. Foul language. Jay and Silent Bob. It all started here.
5. Monty Python's Life of Brian - I don't know, comedies usually aren't my thing and Monty Python just holds no appeal for me.
6. Night of the Living Dead - A masterpiece.
7. Sex, Lies, and Videotape
8. The Usual Suspects
9. Sideways
10. Mean Streets - I actually have this movie. I'll get around to watching it someday...
11. Bad Taste
12. Eraserhead - A very disturbing experimental film by David Lynch, one of my favorite directors.
13. Memento - An obvious choice.
14. Stranger Than Paradise
15. Blood Simple
16. She's Gotta Have It
17. City of God - This was really an amazing movie. Unapologetic and brutally honest.
18. Withnail and I
19. Lone Star
20. Slacker
21. Roger and Me - I think this is the only documentary on here, which is a shame (where's Crumb and Dogtown and the Z-boys?)
22. Nosferatu - This was a great film
23. The Evil Dead - I saw this when I was really young, so I don't remember much about it, but I do recall liking it...
24. Happiness - I'm glad this is on the countdown. This is just an awesome film. I would recommend anyone reading this list to go out and rent this. You'll never have another experience like it.
25. Drugstore Cowboy
26. Lost in Translation - We own the soundtrack =)
27. Dark Star
28. In the Company of Men
29. Bad Lieutenant
30. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
31. Pink Flamingos - Okay, I'm a gay man and I even hated this film. Completely overrated and just plain ugly to watch. Where are the good queer films like Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
32. Two Lane Blacktop
33. Shallow Grave
34. The Blair Witch Project - This was the first independent movie I actually went to the theater to see, at the Uptown theater in Minneapolis, before it went wide. It was a great experience. The theater was packed (I had to wait in line two days in advance of the screening to get the damn tickets) and was completely silent during the whole film. I loved it. It terrified me and it's one of my favorites still. And me...I was completely gullible and thought it was real. Don't ask me how I got into that frame of mind...
35. THX-1138
36. Buffalo '66
37. Being John Malkovich - A really unique, strange movie. Very enjoyable.
38. Grosse Point Blank
39. The Passion of the Christ - I'm just happy that this movie got people to watch fucking subtitles for once. It's not that hard!
40. The Descent
41. Dead Man's Shoes
42. Swingers
43. Shadows
44. Amores Perros - This should have been higher.
45. Mad Max
46. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - I just saw this again recently. The slasher film genre at its finest.
47. Blood Feast
48. Cube
49. Run Lola Run - Another obvious choice, but I love this one. I think this should have been higher too.
50. El Mariachi

Okay, this was screwed up. Where is Pi? Requiem For a Dream? Ghost World? Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)? Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson)? And Patrick mentioned The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat by Atom Egoyan. At least the fricking Big Fat Greek Wedding wasn't in it. Might as well have been for some of the crap they have in this list....

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I finished Phoebe Gloeckner's The Diary of a Teenage Girl this evening, a hybrid of narrative and comics about a young girl, Minnie, growing up in San Francisco with her single mother and sister. It was a really unique experience. It's told in diary format, so it's not exactly like I felt like I was doing what she was doing, but yet I felt myself get really anxious when she was stressed or confused, and really mad at the people who used her. As the novel progressed and her life spiraled more and more out of control, I felt a sense of hopelessness along with her, and the depression she suffered was instilled in me. I think it's a really great work of art that can convey those feelings so absolutely upon their readers. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is very honest and almost naive in a way, as Minnie pours out her heart in detail, indiscriminate of bad/good behavior. Her choices are kind of left for the readers to make sense of and condemn or not. I really enjoyed Phoebe Gloeckner's work that was on display in Chicago at the A & D show this Fall, "Cartoonist's Eye." Gloeckner illustrates for anatomy books, and does some interesting things with her skills. But anyway, I would highly recommend this book to people. I know it's been out for awhile, so it's merely my turn to sing its praise and renew interest in this material to those who haven't jumped on the band wagon.

Friday, November 04, 2005

In Passing...The Bulleteer & Spidey

It was kind of a slow week for comics (which was kind of nice since I'm flat broke). I had to pass on the trades I wanted for the week (Catwoman: When In Rome and Excaliber Classics), and settled in with a few floppies.

Seven Soldiers: The Bulleteer #1 - Another very promising start to a Seven Soldiers title. I think its debut was second only to The Guardian. While it was very straight-forward, it was just well-executed and creative and fun. Even when we see the cliche scientist getting carried away with his experiment, there's a great twist on it. Grant Morrison's awesome. Now we only have to wait for the last series to debut - Frankenstein!

Ultimate Spider-man #85 - This was a pretty lacklustre finale to what has been a great storyline. I was really excited with each of the last issues I read from this "Warriors" arc, but was left a little cold with this one. Ah, well. Overall, it was a great read. I consider this a kind of a "cool down" issue.

Novel I'm reading: The Diary of a Teenage Girl ~ Phoebe Gloeckner

CD in my car: Blink the Brightest ~ Tracy Bonham

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Season of the Witch

Jai Nitz and Kevin Sharpe's Season the Witch mini-series made its debut this past Wednesday with the issue entitled "Spring." Me, loving the witch genre of comics, had to check it out of course. I actually really liked the interior art of the book, despite the book's horrible cover by the same artist (I like how they advertise for this artist formerly working on Crossgen. What does that even mean? Shouldn't they have at least used a specific title or something?). Beyond the art, however, there's not much more going on. The story is about a mistreated girl (her parents are poor, so kids pick on her, yadda yadda yadda(even though I've never seen a kid picked on based on income before...does that even happen?)) who gets the chance to leave her crappy life behind to become a warrior in a mystical world. Very mediocre story, barely holds my interest, but God, the next issue has a great variant Darwyn Cooke cover. I can stick it out for one more issue. It can only get better, right?

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Chuckling Whatsit

And just in time for Halloween, I had enough time to squeeze in another book appropriate for the season, Richard Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit. This is quite a crime noir book, complete with lunatics escaped from the asylum, a band of thugs and people tiptoeing around every which way, watching everyone. There's a huge host of characters and more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. At its heart, this is quite a mystery, but the horror elements are close to the surface of the story as well. The Gull Street Ghoul has returned after a long absence to kill fortune tellers, boasting a mask sewn from human flesh. There are black crows galour and creepy, laughing dolls that get under your skin. A perfect book to read on a dark and stormy night. And Richard's Sala has such a unique, great style that's it's just fun to look at the panels and the dark atmosphere he presents.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #1

Finally! After a week of agonizing anticipation, your curiosity will be sated. The number one book to read for Halloween! But first let's have a quick recap, shall we?

10. Uzumaki by Junji Ito

9. Skinwalker by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Brian Hurtt & Arthur Dela Cruz

8. Spellbinders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins

7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore & Charlie Adlard

6. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

5. The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli & Steve Parkhouse

4. Mnemovore by Hans Radionoff, Ray Fawkes & Mike Huddleston

3. Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters by John Rozum and Paul Lee

2. Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh
...
1. Dampyr, written by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo, art by Majo
Yes, IDW Publishing, the company that specializes in horror has produced a comic worthy to be named the best book to read for Halloween. However, it's not written by Steve Niles. lol. It's actually a long-running European hit from Italy. I'm really glad that IDW undertook this project, as it seems that collecting something from the horror genre is easily overlooked when doing such things. I am hooked though. This series starts out with a dampyr - a half-human, half-vampire that is completely unaware of what he truly is. So, he travels Europe, making money from the superstitious townsfolk who believe their sick to be cursed by vampires. This dampyr, Harlan, performs bogus rituals upon their recently deceased to "rid" the towns of their "vampire" problems. Soon enough, however, Harlan is drawn into scenarios where true vampires are present, forcing him to examine his roots and his purpose in life. Filled with oodles of vampires, ghosts and other monsters, this is the perfect treat to read in the dark for Halloween. Great art, great storytelling and a gloomy atmosphere will transport you to a place fit to fright for the night.

Mark of the Succubus

Succubi have always been one of my favorite monsters (well, since Morrigan of the Darkstalkers cartoon). So, I was happy to hear about a series that featured one of the conniving demons, with a really classic twist. Mark of the Succubus is written by Ashly Raiti with art by Irene Flores, published by Tokyopop. It's American manga, so it's published in regular book format. I think it's got pretty good art all the way through the book, although the dots used for shading can be a bit much at times. There's one scene where a character changes into a blackbird, his arm changing first, completely encased in feathers that pull out from shoulder to forearm as he transforms - it's just a really cool drawing. So, the book is about a succubus-in-training who has just earned her permit to walk among the humans, and has unwittingly fallen for a human boy (and of course, one of the demon rules is not to get attached to humans). The boy is an unmotivated kid who's having trouble at school and at home, who would rather play the guitar than fill out college applications. But anyway, another twist occurs toward the end of the volume that's just perfect, but I'm not going to ruin it for you - read for yourself!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #2

I haven't read too many "gothic" comics like Emily the Strange and Lenore, but I have read Ted Naifeh. I didn't much care for Gloom Cookie, but I loved the series that put him on the map...

2. Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh
A sarcastic, bitter little girl claims the second-highest spot in the countdown, as she is deep in the world of witchcraft and monsters (her uncle Aloysius is a warlock, after all). The Eisner-award nominated Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things was the first book in the series that introduced us to Naifeh's universe of clawed hands and gloomy atmosphere. After that was my favorite of the series, Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics, followed soon after by Courtney Crumrin In the Twilight Kingdom. There's a werewolf character who haunts the woods near Courtney's house who appears in each of the volumes, along with a few other supporting characters, who becomes a sort of friend as the series progresses, if not a great source for information. As Courtney is drawn into her uncle's mystical world, she learns that she's really quite good at things having to do with the supernatural. In the Coven of Mystics, she even ventures to the goblin market to help a helpless creature. But aside from the cute monstrous elements, there are some truly scary moments as well, like the story of Tommy Rawhead at the beginning of Coven of Mystics, about a fearsome hobgoblin that stalks children. It was quite chilling. But overall, Courtney Crumrin is just a smart, witty story that's written damn good, full of action and suspense and everything that makes good little sarcastic girls fun to read about.

Friday, October 28, 2005

In Passing...Superf*ckers to Lost Souls

The Book of Lost Souls #1 - J. Michael Straczynski and Colleen Doran's new title published under the exclusive "Icon" imprint is a fantasy that spans from about the Victorian Era to the present, following a character as his hurt leads him to seek a way to end it all, but ends up with a mysterious book, and eventually having to choose before a creature bathed in darkness which side of the line he walks he will fall on - good or evil. I really like Colleen Doran's work on A Distant Soil, so I wasn't surprised that I liked the art of this series, although I was pleasantly surprised by the coloring - it really stood out as sensational (done by Dan Brown). Straczynski's story didn't exactly blow me away, but the dialogue was dead-on. I love the talking cat and what he represents in the scene he's involved in. The art and tone were easily enough to hold my interest had the storytelling been lacking (which is wasn't - it was more just a bare bones set-up that doesn't really explain much of what's going on), so I'm going to continue on with this series. I would even go so far as to recommend it.

Superf*ckers #273 (aka #2) - This book is awesome! I'm surprised no one's done superheros like this before. It just takes genius, I guess. I personally liked this issue better than the first (though some people's feelings are counter). I'm really sad that this series is only going to be three issues long. I hope James Kochalka has more stories to tell in this universe in the future. I really fell in love with his work after reading American Elf, and his sensibilities are just honest and wonderful.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #2 (of 6) - So far, I've been enjoying this mini-series better than its Black Widow: Homecoming predecessor. I think Black Widow is a great character, especially when Daredevil's involved in the thick of things. She's kind of out-of-place since the Cold War ended, so she has to really fight for some sort of voice in the espionage world. And as always, Bill Sienkiewicz does an awesome job on the book.

The Stardust Kid #3 - Okay, this issue is where I officially leave off. I keep trying to give the team of Mike Ploog and J.M. DeMatteis another chance with this book since I loved Abadazad so much, but my God, I can not stand reading this book. And it takes so fricking long to get through, it's so bogged down by condescending narrative that tries to sound more literate and playful than it is (God, the narrator is soooo annoying) and crappy, insipid dialogue. I just dreaded picking this thing up to read and the story is so not worth it, lacking the imagination and captivating characters of the Crossgen series.

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #3

There have been few good series of horror that kind of skate the line of superheros. The late Crossgen's Route 666 was one of them, as were Joss Whedon's television shows Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel (best damn TV ever) and his future slayer tale Fray from Dark Horse. Going into the top three books for Halloween, we find another such book, again from Vertigo/DC, again uncollected in trade format...(images courtesy of Mile High Comics)

3. Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters by John Rozum and Paul Lee
The Kadmons are world-famous monster hunters. Their adventures were first recorded in the eight-issue mini-series Midnight, Mass (taking place in Midnight, Massachusettes), and have been followed up in Here There Be Monsters with a grander story (probably due to the fact that the series was supposedly going to be picked up as a television series. Sales certainly didn't warrant a sequel). Their greatest foe is a demon named Magellan, whose ambitions reach new heights in this six-issue series, as he hopes to completely take over an entire town to claim for monsters (who deserve equal recognition with humans). Monsters scope out houses, slithering out from under beds or from closets, murdering humans without discrimination, gathering in the woods for a massacre. The Kadmons are on the scene, however, in this great-looking, perfectly-paced book (with awesome covers by Tomer Hanuka). There are some really creepy monsters (ancient ones) who appear in the midst of battle who seem to have popped directly out of some twisted contemporary art museum. This is just a great fast action story with monsters, involving magic and ritual and all that makes a holiday like Halloween fun, surpassing its predecessor in all things creepy and crawly.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #4

I've enjoyed many Vertigo-ish horror comics that have come out in recent years. Obviously, some are better than others. Some books that were good but didn't make my countdown that have the same feel as Vertigo titles are The Blackburne Covenant and The Devil's Footprints. Both are by Dark Horse, if I'm not mistaken. But the book holding the number four slot is truly Vertigo...

4. Mnemovore by Hans Rodionoff, Ray Fawkes, and Mike Huddleston. One of the true, great horror books I've read in recent years just came to a conclusion this past September. Mnemovore is a six-issue mini-series that follows Kaley after a skiing accident left her without many memories from her life. We follow in her footsteps as she reacquaints herself with family and friends frustrated with her condition, slowly regaining the memories she has lost. But there's something else there in her memories, in the lives of those around her, just out of the periphery of her vision. Something that doesn't want her to remember. Mnemovore has one of the greatest creepy atmospheres I've seen in a comic. It really creates a mood and sucks you into this world where strange things are happening. Through Kaley, you witness unsettling occurences. And the art and panels are used in such a way that you actually feel the memory loss that she undergoes, the frustration of missing pieces. Words are missing from word balloons, pictures fade or are completely absent. It's really creepy. The series just builds this palpable tension with each issue, ultimately climaxing in the final issue. Mnemovore was a real find. Unfortunately, sales for the series were very soft, so it may never be collected. If you're ever going to read this great story, seek out the back issues now. You'll be happy you did.

Previews: January '06

It's once again time to highlight those eye-catching items in Previews that may escape some people's radar...

Avatar Press
~ Blackgas - Warren Ellis does zombies!

Dark Horse
~ Scary Book (volume 1): Shadows - This is by the "Stephen King of Japan," Umezu Kazuo. Junji ito was influenced by this guy. This is going to be awesome!

DC Comics
~ All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4 - Black Canary makes an appearance! I can only imagine...

~ Manhunter #18 - The covers are drawn by Jesus Saiz again! Yay! Oh, and Manhunter gets a recurring villain!

~ Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2 - Of the Seven Soldiers books, this one looks most appealing to me. Mister Miracle #3 also comes out this month. I think its debut was the only issue I've not liked of a Seven Soldiers book thus far.

~ The Exterminators #1 - I saw a preview of this at Chicago Wizard World, and I was intrigued. I'll definitely give it a shot.

~ Fables #45 - The "Arabian Nights (and Days)" arc concludes. It started out a little slow, but I think it'll at least be fun to see some new characters in the series.

~ Y-the Last Man #41 - We got a glimpse into Agent 355's past in the last issue of the series. It seems this is the issue for her origin to be blown open.

Image Comics
~ Godland (vol. 1): Hello, Cosmic! TP - Patrick's probably going to check this one out, so I may have to give it a shot too, given the fun vibe the series gives off.

~ Fell #5 - I honestly wasn't expecting much from this series, but it's shaping up to be a comic that I look forward to every time it comes out.

~ Savage Dragon #123 - The Dragon returns after a fairly lengthy absence, minus the healing properties.

~Season of the Witch #4 - The conclusion of the mini. I just picked up the first issue, haven't read it yet, so I don't know if I'll make it this far...

~The Stardust Kid #4 - Once again, just picked up #3, and I haven't been too impressed with what I've read so far, so this past issue is the deciding factor. I didn't realize it took three months for an issue to come out...

~Necromancer #5 - I think this is the only Top Cow book I've ever actually liked.

Fantagraphics Books
~ Chimera #1 - Italian artist superstar Lorenzo Mattotti's book is described as: "a wordless fantasia of birth, death, gods, monsters, and humans, Chimera is the most astonishing visual narrative you'll see all year." Awesome!

~ Tales Designed To Thrizzle #2 - I'm not a big fan. I don't find it very funny, but by God, Patrick loves this comic. If you like this kind of humor, you'll be laughing out loud. At least give it a shot.

IDW Publishing
~ 30 Days of Night: Dead Space #1 - Vampires in space, the premise that has been, thus far, the killer of the horror franchises (Remember Jason X?). We'll see...

~ Dampyr #9: Forbidden Zone - The long-running European title continues with another great Ashley Wood cover.

Marvel Comics
~ Ultimate Extinction #1 - I won't be picking this up, but awesome cover!

~ Ultimate Spider-man #89 - More of the "Silver Sable" storyline (and even more Silver Sable coming up! It's Silver Sable month!!!) (Did I mention I'm a fan?)!

~ Black Widow 2: The Things They Say About Her #5 - Another female bounty hunter who's stolen my heart...(and money)

~ X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #1 - My favorite X-Statix character gets her own mini! I miss the series (although I did get a little bored with it toward the end).

~ Nextwave #1 - Warren Ellis brings together a bunch of second-rate characters like Meltdown of X-Force and Elsa Bloodstone. Hey, whatever man. Let this guy run with whatever the hell interests him...

~ New Avengers #15 - More of the most underrated superhero book, focusing on Spider-woman.

~ Runaways #12 - Whoa! James Jean is awesome! What a cover!

~ Spider-woman: Origin #2 - Jonathon Luna does the art for this Bendis-helmed series. Check out the Luna Brothers' Ultra if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed!

~ Sable & Fortune #1 - More Silver Sable! A new mini-series boasting an eighties-esque cover!

~ New Excaliber #3 - Damn. It's already starting to look shitty.

~ Snowbird Bust - Snowbird has one of the best costumes, makes for a great statue.

~ X-Men: Kitty Pryde: Shadow and Flame TPB - Collecting the mini-series that features my favorite superhero!

~ New Warriors: Reality Check TPB - I think the art is really cute on this series...

~ Spider-man vs. Silver Sable (vol. 1) trade - Yep, even more of our silver vixen! That "volume 1" is promising.

Narwain Publishing
~ Jenna #3 - What I think looks to be the most promising of the Narwain titles. And Newsarama just announced that Jenna's going to cross over with Ninja High School (a little-known series into its 100+ issues).

Oni Press
~ Polly & the Pirates #4 - A great mini-series from the creator of Courtney Crumrin continues!

~ The Tomb GN - This seems familiar for some reason, like I've heard of it before, but I don't know where. Either way, sounds like a fun premise.

Speakeasy Comics
~ The Grimoire #9 - A fun, all ages title of magic.

~ Strangeways #3 - An ongoing werewolf title set in the Old West. Awesome! I hope ot doesn't suck...

Viz Media
~ Nana (vol. 2) - The greatest shojo manga title continues to be collected!

~ Shojo Beat (vol. 2) #4 - And if you don't want to wait for the Nana trades, you can get it monthly in this anthology (along with a whole bunch of other shojo manga titles).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #5

Continuing with the countdown, we move on to one of the most celebrated series in comics, the series Vertigo/DC is probably best know for, and the one to put Neil Gaiman on the map.

5. The Sandman: The Doll's House written by Neil Gaiman, art by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli and Steve Parkhouse. The Sandman series is a very strange work overall, but strange turns to scary in the second volume of the series. So appropriately enough, Clive Barker writes the introduction for the collection. The Sandman follows the title character and his siblings that make up the Endless, which includes Death, a character who has become popular in her own right, who is present when the story begins, setting the tone. As with most of the stories in the series, a human is focused upon. This time around, it's Rose, a teenaged girl with multi-colored hair who is moving into a new apartment building with some strange, eccentric tenants, including the Spider-women, a pair of sisters in wedding gowns covered with spiders. But soon enough, Rose is on the road, winding up at a "cereal convention," a thinly-veiled meeting of serial killers. While this is happening, the Sandman Morpheus discovers that this girl is a vortex for dreams and will eventually begin to disrupt the Dreaming, so he goes to her. Now, one of the things that makes this volume of the series so creepy is one of the serial killers, whose habits we are treated to throughout the book. He's a magical nightmare of a creature called the Corinthian. He tortures his victims and plucks out their eyeballs to feast on, as he has no eyes himself, but sharp teeth in their stead. Obviously, this guy's psychotic, and winds up at the convention where his presence collides with that of the other two characters I've mentioned. It's a fun, thrilling read with, as Clive Barker says, "the grimmest collection of serial killers this side of Death Row."