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Showing posts from February, 2006

RIP Speakeasy

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As reported by Newsarama, Speakeasy Comics will cease publication. It's always too bad when a new publisher isn't able to make it. I had a kind of affection for Speakeasy, even though I didn't really care for some of the books I picked up from them. I did read The Grimoire for the first half dozen issues and have been looking forward to Elk's Run being collected (which may still happen elsewhere). The recently released Athena Voltaire mini-series was a really good read and kind of reinvigorated my excitement for the company in the face of several disappointments, but at least Athena Voltaire will continue in its webcomics form and maybe (hopefully) The Flight of the Phoenix mini will move to another publisher. Chris Butcher reported a Speakeasy source as saying that March books will still ship, so I'm going to at least get my hands on the second issue for now... This isn't as devastating a blow as Crossgen's demise, as I was quite invested in many of…

Black Widow 2

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The Things They Say About Her is Richard K. Morgan's follow-up to his previous Black Widow mini-series, Homecoming. Some events from that story are carried on here, but for the most part, it is a story all its own. This six-issue mini-series follows Natasha Romonova as she attempts to track down Sally Anne, a runaway being used in experiments that are tied up with the Black Widow program conditioning that have affected her life, and the lives of over two dozen other Black Widows. Throughout her adventure to Cuba, Natasha encounters Yelena Bolova, the blonde Black Widow who has starred in previous Black Widow adventures in Natasha's stead, as well as Nick Fury and Daredevil himself. Sean Phillips layed out the series with Bill Sienkiewicz doing finishes. Unfortunately, the art was pretty much the only thing this story had going for it. Richard K. Morgan manages to make an uncompelling Black Widow story even less compelling in this sequel of sorts. Full of dull villains navigati…

In Passing...no love for my local comic store

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I'm really annoyed by my local comic store. Aside from the typical Marvel and DC titles, anything's a gamble at (I'll illustrate some restraint from using their actual name and just say a local store near my apartment, in Milwaukee). I often miss Image and Dark Horse titles, manga trades, and now, I've missed out on one of my most-anticipated titles: Mouse Guard. I was seething when I left the store. The arrogant staff has been overheard speaking of how they deserve an Eisner for being the best store in Milwaukee (as laughable as the stores of the area are) and how well they use their space (half the store could easily be taken up by more books - they have two nearly empty shelves of alternative comic material, and there's no excuse for the small selection of trades when there is so much extra space in the store and the demand for that format is rising so substantially) and the store manager actually made a comment to someone asking about The Comics Journal about h…

Previews: May 2006

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ADV:
Neon Genesis Eveangelion: Angelic Days (volume 1) - This manga is based on a Playstation 2 game from Japan where the characters from the popular anime series star, out of continuity, in a romance comedy of sorts. Weird.

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics:
Wonderland #1 - This looks like fun. A pretty, cartoony story of what happened in Wonderland after Alice left the kingdom.

Dark Horse:
Lady Snowblood (volume 4): Retribution Part 2 - I'm admittedly behind on the series since the first trade came out, but it's always nice to see a new one come out. I think this is the finale?

Octopus Girl (volume 2) - Yeah, the firs one hasn't come out yet, but god, the covers look so awesome I can't believe it will be anything less.

Fantagraphics Books:
Castle Waiting HC - Collecting the entire Castle Waiting story, this should be a great read. I've been meaning to track this down for a while. Saves me a lot of work.

Krazy & Ignatz 1937-1938: Shifting Sands Dusts Its Cheek in Powdered…

The Lone and Level Sands

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The Lone and Level Sands is an original graphic novel published by Archaia Studios Press this past December. It was originally self-published in black and white, but was colored by Jennifer Rodgers for its Archaia Studios hardcover debut. Written by A. David Lewis and illustrated by Marvin Perry Mann, this book has very beautiful production values. Nice glossy pages, a nice book jacket and just an overall very professional presentation. The story, basically, is a retelling of the book of Exodus, from the perspective of Ramses the pharaoh. The idea behind the story is really interesting, of a man who tries to do the best for his kingdom in the face of Moses, who is depicted as a ruthless, pretty arrogant messenger for a wrathful god. He taunts Ramses as locusts are on their way: "Diminishing water, scarce food, virtual imprisonment within their homes - where is your nation now, Pharaoh?" God is the bad guy here, manipulating people on both sides to make his prophecies …

Shojo Beat: March '06

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The March edition of Shojo Beat magazine contains an exclusive preview of Aishiteruze Baby, as well as more Nana goodness and Absolute Boyfriend!

Nana is consistenctly the best manga out there, even with such great new titles coming out like Dragon Head and Monster. Ai Yazawa is just a master at soap opera, whether dealing with money issues or secrets between friends, she gets the feelings across to the reader amid a tidalwave of emotions. She just knows the perfect moments to have her characters react in the right ways. In this installment of the series, Nana calls home to find out why her mother sent money to her account and gets a shock of sorts. I can kind of relate to how she felt at one point when her mom says "Just don't come home" - I think anyone can really. Your parents are always a fallback and it's always "home" in the space where you grew up. When my mom changed my bedroom to a guest room when I left home, I felt a little hurt. Then she sold the…

In Passing...Runaways to Spider-woman

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A lot of really good action in the floppies this week. New Avengers and Manhunter were pretty much straight action, and great action at that. Spider-woman: Origin contained probably one of the most satisfying action scenes I've read in awhile...

The New Avengers #16 - We're already sixteen issues into this series? That went rather quickly. First of all, loved the art. Steve McNiven is awesome. And while this issue had no actual Avengers in it aside from a brief video interview with Tony Stark, it was really exciting. Mostly, the story takes place on a SHIELD aircraft where the agents basically watch a super-powered being have a lot of fun killing people. And I had fun watching it. 8.7/10

X-Statix Presents: Deadgirl #2 (of 5) - This is really a fun series. It's really silly, but seeing a bunch of dead characters in one comic again is nerdtastic. Dr. Strange is awesome, even though I've never really thought of him as hot like the girls in the book seem to... And I like Dea…

THINK ABOUT COMICS: Fantagraphics

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A Column By Patrick Markfort

This week, I’m paying tribute to my favorite publisher, Fantagraphics, by reviewing three of their recent releases.

The Comics Journal Library 6: The Writers Book One: I’ve been a big fan of this series of collected interviews from The Comics Journal since the first volume on Jack Kirby. It’s very nice to have this material collected, particularly for someone like me who came rather late to the magazine. This volume collects interviews with mainstream comic book writers between the years 1975-1985, an interesting time for American comics, as a growing level of sophistication in comics storytelling seemed to be pointing towards something, although nobody seemed to have any idea just what it was pointing towards. The writers featured here (including Chris Claremont, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, and others) were the last generation of American comics writers to work in the medium before the idea of the “graphic novel” had become a viable alternative to the month…

Strangehaven: Arcadia

I wasn't surprised at all, after reading the first collected edition of Strangehaven, "Arcadia," that it has been compared to Twin Peaks. I would be quite surprised if Gary Spencer Millidge wasn't inspired by the show to some degree, as the atmosphere of his book, the way the story unfolds, drew comparisons for me to nothing else. The story follows Alex as he is taken in by a small secluded town, Strangehaven, following a car accident. The supernatural circumstances that caused his accident carry on through the story, although the eccentric residents of the town are thrust to the foreground of the tale. Among the strange characters of Strangehaven are a man who claims he's an alien stranded on earth with x-ray vision, a shaman from an Amazonian Indian tribe and an elderly lady whose house is filled with animals that she has conversations with. While the story meanders to all of the different corners of the town, the main events center around Alex and his bud…

Mother, Come Home

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It took me a while to get into this book. I did immediately love Paul Hornschemeier's art however. He kind of bounced between a more sketchy art he used in dream sequences with thinner inklines, to a more fully-realized style that's really just beautiful. The coloring in particular is great. The story follows a young boy who watches as his father falls apart in the wake of his wife's death. He has to grow up quickly to take care of things around the house and his father, while dealing with his mother's death on his own and resenting the treatment he receives from relatives and teachers. I'm not sure exactly why it took all the way through part one of the book to finally get into the story, but I think it was a combination of being turned off by the father's behavior and the tedious explanations given through the child's thoughts. You have to do a bit of work to transform a child's confused rationale and half-truths into something more coherent a…

Eden: It's An Endless World!

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I'd been meaning to check this one out for awhile now. The cover for volume one of this series is really beautiful, I think, and the interior? Just as wonderful. Even absolutely horrifying images of corpses and gore are hard not to admire right along with great close-ups of soft shading upon the main character, Elijah's face. Eden: It's An Endless World! is basically a post-apocalyptic manga, where a virus has decimated most of the world's populace, forcing many people to forego their flesh for cybernetic bodies, and others to scavenge for food and shelter, avoiding the Propater, a vicious military group. Mysteries are abundant in this book, from a killing machine to the corpse of a young boy ravaged by dogs to the father that Elijah remembers nothing about. The fluid storytelling leaves these questions on our minds, salivating for more, while touching us with moments of real tenderness. Eden really does shine in a genre that's grown tired over the years.

THINK ABOUT COMICS: Manga

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A Column by Patrick Markfort

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Think About Comics. This week, it’s another all-manga editon, as I’ll be taking a brief look at some manga I’ve read recently.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (Volume 1): This had been one of my most anticipated releases for 2006, and I wasn’t disappointed. Urasawa begins his tale of a young doctor being terrorized by a monstrous former patient with the skill of a master storyteller, building tension throughout this first volume and leaving me wanting more, while at the same time providing a satisfying reading experience. You’ll want to track this one down.

Cromartie High School (Volume 2): While I didn’t find myself laughing quite as much while reading this second installment of Eiji Nonaka’s comedy series as I did reading the first, it is still one of the best humor comics currently being published, and one of the strangest manga I’ve ever encountered. As I said when I reviewed volume one, I recommend flipping through this o…

In Passing...Fables to Black Widow

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Next week has some great floppy releases. This week, not so much. Ah, well. Just gives me an excuse to pick up another trade.

DMZ #4 - Stand alone issue. During this story, Roth is searching for a group of AWOL soldiers around Central Park called "The Ghosts." During his exploration of the area, he's taken in by a group of environmentalists securing the park and Central Park Zoo. This issue left me a little cold. I hope the series doesn't turn into a string of "cool ideas" where Wood showcases what "this part" of NY is like now, and then "this part." There's something to be said for these things, but I don't really go to comics for a tour. If something like this is so elaborately illustrated, I want it to be a big part of the series, really advancing the plot and characters. 3.2/10

Fables #46 - Guest penciller Jim Fern unfolds a story of forbidden love between wooden soldiers in part one of "The Ballad of Rodney and …

The Oscars

Obviously, the Oscars are coming up, so I'm putting my two cents out there about who I'd like to see win...

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain
I still want to see Good Night, Good Luck before I make a final decision, but man, I can't imagine it being better than Brokeback Mountain.

Actor In a Leading Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)

Actress In a Leading Role: Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice)
It seems like all of the actresses in this category are kind of dark horses. The most obvious choice is Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line, but I have a feeling someone like Judy Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents), a more seasoned actress, will come out triumphant.

Actor In a Supporting Role: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
I'm a little impatial here because I'm smitten with him...

Actress In a Supporting Role: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
I just want to see Williams win because I think it's surreal that she's even nominated. I still get that Paula Cole…

One Hundred Demons

It's been a long while since I've read a Lynda Barry comic. I think she was my introduction to more alternative material with some Marlys strip or another. I can't believe I just got around to reading One Hundred Demons, considering how much attention its gotten and how much I admire the artist. But it finally happened and, of course, I loved it. I'm used to her style and storytelling, but with this collection, it seemed like Barry was really drawing some really interesting, honest conclusions about the human condition. Not that Barry's previous works were superfluous or anything - it just seemed like she went to the next level here and really delved deep within herself, asking pertinent questions. One of my favorite things about the collection were the pages that introduce each chapter of the book. They're done in a sort of scrap book/collage type style that was just really fun to look at. I spent minutes at a time just pouring over the pages at the fi…

In Passing...Bulleteer to Silver Sable

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Two Marvel and two DC books to review this week. Kinda lame, but at least I squeaked in a Speakeasy title earlier this week (and would have had another one if my local stores had carried The Flying Friar). Ah, well. Here they are...

Y - the Last Man #42 - I keep getting really really close to dropping this title, but I was sad that I didn't get The Flying Friar, so to fill the empty void that the friar left behind, I bought the damn thing. Even though I did enjoy this issue, I think this is definitely a series I could do without. I may watch for how it's being collected and read Y-the Last Man that route, but some exciting shit has to go down next to keep my interest as is. This issue focused on the lovable monkey Ampersand and followed his journey from just before the plague hit to the present, giving us glimpses into how Yorick's relationship really sat with Beth before she left for Australia, and linking some seemingly random events together. And, of course, it shows…

THINK ABOUT COMICS: Secret Comics Japan

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A Column By Patrick Markfort

Secret Comics Japan
Edited by Chikao Shiratori
Secret Comics Japan is an anthology of contemporary (the book was published in 2000) “underground” or “secret” manga. These terms are explained by the editor, Chikao Shiratori, in his introduction, wherein he contextualizes the manga reprinted in this volume in regards to the larger manga scene in Japan. Most of the work here originally appeared in the now defunct manga magazine Garo (for which Shiratori worked as an editor), a famous publication specializing in avant-garde manga, but, as Shiratori explains, the term “underground” may no longer be applicable, as so many of the storytelling tropes and styles (and, indeed, many of the artists themselves) first appearing in Garo have since been assimilated into mainstream manga. This anthology, then, seeks to collect a sample of works representing the crème de la crème of unusual manga of the type generally only appreciated by connoisseurs.

The book gets off to a bit…

Athena Voltaire

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A new title appeared on the stands of comic book stores on Wednesday courtesy of Speakeasy Comics, but Athena Voltaire isn't new to the world of comics at large. When I picked up this comic, there were quotes from the likes of Warren Ellis raving about the series, an impressing "Eisner Award nominee" logo in the upper right-hand corner. This naturally caused me to wonder what I'd missed. Had there been a previous Athena Voltaire mini-series? A quick stop by Speakeasy Comics' site and Athena Voltaire's own website, and I discovered that Athena Voltaire is an acclaimed webcomic, up for best digital comic at the 2005 Eisners. The heroine makes her first print debut in the mini-series Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon, by series creators Steve Bryant, Paul Daly and Chad Fidler (with Kevin Volo and Thompson Knox working with Fidler on colors). The Speakeasy title makes for an impressive debut, as the company's high production values do the colorful,…