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Showing posts from March, 2006

Dragon Head (v.2)

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The second installment of Mintaro Mochizuki's Dragon Head hit comic stores this week and did not disappoint. If it weren't for Nana, I would say that this is the best manga series going right now. It is the best horror manga. For those of you unaware of its premise, some sort of disaster has taken place that caused a train full of students and teachers to crash. Only a few students survive the accident to find themselves trapped in a tunnel that is slowly collapsing. The first volume held many slow moments as the characters adjusted to the situation (and tried to make sense of it), while the second book is full of non-stop action. The tension mounts between the survivors as their situation grows progessively worse and they become desperate to escape their prison. If you're going to check out one new manga title, let it be this one.

In passing...Superman to The Illuminati

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X-Statix Presents: Deadgirl #3 (of 5) - This whacky comic features more appearances (by dead characters) than you can shake a stick at. The Piano Player? Is he for real? Anyway, it's a lot of fun and it's all brewing toward a big dead superhero showdown. 8.7/10

All-Star Superman #3 - I'm sure there's enough buzz about this high-profile book to keep anybody occupied, so I won't bore you and repeat what others have to say. It's Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, for God's sake. If the cover alone isn't enough to make you pick it up... 8.6/10

Ultimate Spider-man #92 - Of course Spider-man gets caught up in the X-Men's mess, given who his girlfriend is. I'm just hoping this isn't the excuse Peter's been looking for to avoid another great relationship. It's always fun to see Spidey interact with the mutants and this one doesn't disappoint in that regard. 8/10

New Avengers: The Illuminati - I kind of like the politics in these su…

A Distant Soil: Coda

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Colleen Doran's fantasy/sci-fi epic continues, picking up the pieces from the startling events of the end of the previous collection (some of the most utterly shocking moments I've ever experienced in comics). In volume four of A Distant Soil, we are treated to more beautifully elaborate illustrations of an alien universe as our characters work to bring about the downfall of the religious dynasty's hierarchy. While A Distant Soil has always suffered from an unwieldy cast of characters, it seems much more controlled in "Coda." Many of the characters are mere background fodder as the focus of the story engages a handful of important figures within the saga. Unfortunately, Doran's epic story will be concluding very soon, as only one more volume is scheduled for release. As the title draws to a close, the tension of the story mounts and we are subjected to much of that here in the fourth volume. Anyone who hasn't experienced the beautiful wonders of A …

Strangehaven: Brotherhood

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Gary Spencer Millidge's second volume of Strangehaven, entitled "Brotherhood," picks up a few weeks after Alex goes on his camping excursion (from the end of the last book) and plays catch-up with what he's been up to, while continuing the soap opera lifestyles of the rest of the town. Although this time around, things are expressed that give the reader a better idea of what's going on in the small sleepy village, things are still left lovingly vague. Strangehaven customs take place that are slightly unnerving, despite the explanations behind them, leading one to think that some of the stranger elements behind the townspeople may be less innocent than they appear. This is where some of the story's plots are paid off, as well, as some pretty big events take place toward the end of the volume. But really, it's fun enough just taking in the realistic art and getting to know the characters of Millidge's universe through the small town politics and slowly-…

On-line Comic Retailers

Over the past month or so, I've done a little experimenting with on-line comic retailers to find which one I would purchase through, given that my local comic stores (since moving to Milwaukee) are almost on a weekly basis, missing something or another. I picked three stores to try out: Silver Bullet Comics, Mile High Comics and Mycomicshop.com. Now, these are my experiences with them and I'm just relating them on my weblog, so you can take what I say at face value or not. I'm rating each store in a few categories, including website design, shipping options, selection, how easy they are to use, how they kept me updated on the progress of my order, and how speedy their process was from ordering to receiving it on my doorstep. I used four comics to check on each store's selection: Mouse Guard #1 (Archaia Studios Press), In the Blood #1 (Boom! Productions), Alice In Wonderland #1 (Antarctic Press), and The Portent #1 (Image Comics). All categories are rated out of …

In passing...Silver Sable to Nextwave

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Patrick's brothers were in town, so I didn't get around to reading this week's comics until now... Unfortunately, it seems the floppies weren't up to their usual snuff.

Manhunter #20 - Part of DC's big "One Year Later" event, we see what's happening in Manhunter's life (you guessed it) one year later. And, well, it seems as if Kate Spencer's dealing wiht the same old stuff. Sure, there's a little mystery over the events of a big superhero team-up she was involved in, and some characters have gone and changed their lives up a bit, but otherwise, I have to say, a little disappointed. This big DC event left this title with some rather unspectacular elements to sort out. 6/10

Sable & Fortune #3 (of 4) - This book began with some potential in there somewhere, but amid the espionage and big hair, it just got kind of silly. Issue three of the Silver Sable and Dominic Fortune mini-series put a big fat stake into the heart of the book. Too many c…

Previews: June 2006

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Abrams Books:
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries (1900-1969) - Created by Dan Nadel, with hundreds of illustrations, I think thsi one speaks for itself.

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics:
Gargoyles #1 - The Disney cartoon continues here following the events of season two of the terrific show (ignoring the horrendous Goliath Chronicles). The original series creators lovingly return to their opus.

Antarctic Press:
Oz: The Manga (volume 1) - This one's been on my periphery for awhile, but I hadn't heard too much about it. It looks really nice though, especially framed by all of the critical acclaim, so it may be time to check it out now that it's collected.

Archaia Studios Press:
Artesia Besieged #1 - Mark Smylie's epic resumes! This series is fantastic with some of the best art that I've ever seen. Unforunately, I collect the trades, so it'll probably be a while before I get my hands on the complete next chapter...

Ballantine Books:
Flight (volume 3) - The acclaimed…

Soft Anchor Review!

My mini-comic Soft Anchor #1, was reviewed by Shawn Hoke over at Size Matters. Check it out and get a glimpse of some interior art.

Unearthly

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I was startled to discover that such a thing as this existed, given my enthusiasm for the works of Ted Naifeh, yet here it is: a manga series written by the creator of Courtney Crumrin and Polly and the Pirates, with art by Elmer Damaso. I wasn't too keen on Gloom Cookie, which was illustrated by Ted Naifeh and written by another writer, but I thought that it could maybe work better the other way around. And it did. Naifeh was originally going to illustrate this manga himself (see the character concepts in the back of the first volume), but opted to let another artist do just that. Fortunately for us, that illustrator is quite competent because the first volume of the series is really very good. It's about a shy high school student named Ann, who develops a crush on a boy (Jem) in one of her classes who seems to return the affection. The most popular girl of the school (Rae) also notices Jem and the two kind of butt heads over him. Meanwhile, Jem has been replaced by an al…

5 More CDs You Should Know About

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I had a lot of fun doing this the first time around, so I thought I'd expand my list of CDs you should be aware of...

Musicforthemorningafter ~ Pete Yorn (2001) I talked about Pete Yorn's second CD (Day I Forgot) last time, but his debut CD is where it's at. This is what put Yorn on the map and established him as the real deal - a modern rock legend. He's the best songwriter, crooner, rocker out there. You may have heard a few of his songs already on some movie soundtracks, but this CD is full of A-grade music. Key tracks: Life On a Chain, Black, Lose You, For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is), Closet.

Poses ~ Rufus Wainwright (2001) A more sophisticated sound rises out of Rufus Wainwright's sophomore effort (which was quickly followed by two more very critically-acclaimed albums). Full of strings and beautiful vocals, as well as a few techno beats, this CD is an operatic wonder that will supply hours of entertainment. Key tracks: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Greek So…

Retro Review

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In 1986, Star Comics (a division of Marvel Comics publishing titles such as Ewoks, Heathcliff, He-Man & the Masters of the Universe and Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham) published a little title called Care Bears. Issue number five tells the story of the first Care Bear (and Care Bear Cousin) in light of the "new Care Bears movie." While the cover of this Stan Kay/Howard Post comic may look like it could contain some decent art at least, it was deceiving. The art was absolutely crappy, as was the coloring and shading. I feel for the kids who were treated to such a poor display as this (I wonder why Star Comics didn't catch on...). In this book, Hugs and Tugs are given the Story Star, which tells them about the first Care Bear and really, the origin of the Care Bears and Care-a-Lot. Before they get to hear the story, however, two kids being neglected by their parents wish for real animals instead of stuffed ones, and the two diaper-clad bears appear. S…

Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships

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Age of Bronze is a comic book epic story depicting the events of the Trojan War. A tale masterfully woven by creator Eric Shanower, the first book of the series entitled "A Thousand Ships" (the book opens with dialogue from Doctor Faust, in which is said "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships" in reference to Helen of Troy, whom the Trojan War was fought over) illustrates the events that lead up to the war. I'm a big fan of mythology and this didn't disappoint, despite the fact that I've read about the Trojan War several times through college. Familiar events unfold in this story (although some things I didn't recall ever having read) to remarkably realistic and beautifully-detailed art. This is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. No doubt about it. In a story where there are a lot of word balloons discussing negotiations and the like, Shanower still manages to make it look wonderful and keep things interesting. And…

Not exactly a timely review...

The Flying Friar (written by Lying In the Gutters' Rich Johnston, penciled by Thomas Nachlik) is a graphic novella published by the late Speakeasy Comics before they fell apart. It was still available at a few on-line comic sites last time I checked, in case this review tickles your fancy. Now, I put off reading this for a while after I got it just because the art didn't really do anything for me (and it is pretty thick and intimidating for a floppy). But I buckled down and sat down to read it, and actually enjoyed it. The art kind of grew on me as the story proceeded, but it was an adjustment and I still wouldn't say that it was to my taste, but despite the art, the story was actually really nice. It's about a boy named Joseph who becomes a monk and gains the ability to levitate (as well as see things that others don't see). It's kind of a quiet story, about the boy's relationship to another local boy and his father who's interested in his gifts,…

In Passing...Runaways to Absolute Boyfriend

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This week's offerings...

Spider-Woman: Origin #4 (of 5) - Jessica Drew joins SHIELD and goes missing...again. I really like The Luna Brothers, but I have to say, I do prefer their art on their own books. It's just not as solid on this mini-series. That's not to say that I don't like the art here - I do, but there are little things that bug me here and there. This is a nice continuation of the story, however, and it's shaping up to be a great book. 7.4/10

Seven Soldiers: The Bulleteer #4 (of 4) - What I think has proved to be the best of the Seven Soldiers mini-series thus far (with only one more issue of Frankenstein to go, to tip the scales), The Bulleteer comes to end as she confronts her arch-enemy Sally Sonic. The issue focuses more on the latter, however, going into her past to examine how she became the way she has. It's a really cool issue and brings events from the first issue to a close. 9.1/10

Runaways #14 - Things go back to the beginning, through flash…

Claymore

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Claymore, from the pen of Norihiro Yagi, is a manga series set to debut in April. The March edition of Shonen Jump gave its readers a little taste of what the series is like in the form of a 64-page preview. Basically, the story follows a claymore warrior who comes to a small village to rid it of a yoma, a monster who takes the form of humans so that it can blend in with them and basically feast upon them. Claymore are named after the swords they carry - a name thrust upon the warriors because they are, basically, weapons themselves. Claymore are humans who willingly take part of the demon within themselves to become a half-breed. They are manufactured by humans to fight the yoma, and are doomed to travel from village to village, destroying the creatures, for cash. It's because the claymore are half-demon themselves that they are able to see the yoma for what they are, and as they battle the creatures, their eyes become like that of the monsters (thus the first scene is entitled &…

My 5 Favorite Novels of All Time

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1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe - An important novel in shaping the gothic novel and modern detective story, this ambitious book is part travelogue, romance, novel of manners, mystery and even incorporates poetry. Originally published in 1794, this novel follows Emily St. Aubert as she tries to escape the clutches of her evil step-uncle Montoni to reunite with her lover, Valacourt. She is held captive in the castle Udolpho where she tries to unravel the many mysteries that surround her, including eerie music, odd family resemblances and strange disappearances.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin - One of the last Jane Austin novels I actually got around to reading, her most esteemed novel (from 1813) ended up being my all-time favorite in the end (although Sense and Sensibility and Emma certainly put up quite a fight). Following Elizabeth Bennet, from a family of five daughters, we watch as the siblings struggle to find suitors since (with no male heir in the family) the…

Mouse Guard

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Better late than never. This is one the year's offerings I was really looking forward to, but unforunately, I wasn't able to track it down via any local comic stores. It was even hard to get on-line, although I did eventually manage to get my hands on a copy. And it was well worth the wait. David Petersen's Mouse Guard #1: Belly of the Beast follows three mice of the Mouse Guard as they try to discover what has become of a grain peddler who never made it to one of his destinations. While it is a simple story, it's a very beautifully illustrated all-ages comic. I'm a sucker for cute comics and this is one of the best, with exquisite detail given to the character designs for the book (facial expressions, etc), and richly-rendered backgrounds. Mouse Guard follows a string of new titles published from Mark Smylie's Archaia Studios Press, the mastermind behind Artesia, including The Lone and Level Sands and Robotika. This is definitely a company to watch, with…

The Historian

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Elizabeth Kostova's best-selling novel The Historian follows a girl who lives a rather luxurious lifestyle. Her father is a retired professor and she is fortunate enough to be able to travel with him all across Europe for lectures and the like. In their library one day, she stumbles across a book with the image of a dragon in the middle of blank pages. After questioning her father about this, her father slowly relates a tale of the supernatural, of his search for the tomb of Vlad the Impaler and the truth of the legend of Dracula.

The Pros: Elizabeth Kostova's prose reminded me of Ann Radcliffe a bit, incorporating chapters that bordered on travelogue, and blending it with elements of the supernatural. Through these instances, as with Radcliffe, I was not bored. The story is very engrossing from beginning to end as the mysteries are unveiled. Kostova writes a wonderful story in a beautiful style with several very suspenseful, truly horrifying moments.

The Cons: The story…

Looking back on The Pulse

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Brian Michael Bendis' The Pulse came to a conclusion this week, after a fourteen issue run. Featuring Bendis' beloved character Jessica Jones from the acclaimed Max title Alias, this title never lived up to its predecessor. The move from Alias to The Pulse saw a few changes that weren't necessarily bad for the story: It could use mainstream characters, but had to cut out the extravagant cussing from the mature title. It shifted Jessica from a private eye to a reporter, where she was able to interact more with Marvel Universe's big stars. The tone became lighter in tone with more supporting characters. It still couldn't recapture the magic of Alias, however. I think a big part of the problem was that The Pulse became Bendis' book to examine things from his other projects. There was a big House of M issue, a drawn-out Secret War story...the stars of the story just weren't being flushed out in light of the company-wide crossovers. The only issue wher…

Toys

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With VH1 counting down the top 100 toys in their special mini-series "I Love Toys" this week, I thought I would list some of my favorite toys from my youth...

My ten favorite toys...
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures
2. X-Men action figures
3. My Pet Monster
4. Nintendo
5. He-Man/She-Ra action figures
6. Jump rope (Including chinese jumpropes!)
7. Bicycle
8. Lite Brite
9. Crayola crayons
10. Matchbox cars

My five favorite boardgames...
1. Clue (I would always be Miss Peacock)
2. Guess Who? (My favorite was Maria. She wore a green beret)
3. Peanuts (Did anyone else play this?)
4. Battleship
5. Monopoly

Stuffed animals I collected...
- Tiny Toons
- Popples
- Care Bears
- My Pet Monsters (including the My Monster Pet puppets)

I played with a core group of figures whenever I busted out the action figures, including these guys...
Futura (Filmation Ghostbusters) - I don't know if anyone remembers this girl, let alone the cartoon she came from, but I loved this purple-skinned vixen from t…

In Passing...Fell to Frankenstein

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This was really one of the biggest weeks in comics in awhile for me (in a time when two or three issues is the norm. The debut of American Virgin, the conclusions of The Pulse and Mister Miracle, and a lot of other floppies.

Ultimate Spider-man #91 - Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley just keep outdoing themselves. The dynamic between Peter and Kitty is awesome! And I'm not saying that just because I'm partial toward Kitty Pryde - it just works! Patrick was saying, and I agree, that he hopes this is lasting, that Peter doesn't end up just going back to Mary Jane because it's what the fanboys want. Mary Jane's in a place where she just needs to be herself (as her proclaiming "I'm going to get that Peter Parker if it's the last thing I do" (a few issues back) illustrates). She needs someone else to come into her life, or she needs to just become strong on her own two feet. And Bagley's art just seems to improve with every issue. There are some …

American Virgin

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The new Vertigo title American Virgin made its debut in comic stores today, sporting a beautiful Frank Quitely cover. Written by Steven T. Seagle with art by Becky Cloonan, this comic follows a 21-year-old virgin, Adam Chamberlin, as he promotes abstinence on a tour to "save yourself to save yourself." The son of a TV minister and a mother who calls him "a prophet for the new age," Adam has a lot to live up to, especially since his two other siblings didn't grow up invested in good Christian values. He's the perfect son, and as such, preaches to youth and gets them to sign virginity pledges, showcasing a beautiful girlfriend who volunteers in Africa who will return to Miami soon to marry him. As a virgin, Adam not only will refrain from having sex until married (though he distinguishes that his message isn't not to have sex, but to wait until God has shown you the perfect one to have it with), but does not masturbate either. Through this first issu…

The Other Award Show

On this past Saturday, one day prior to the Oscars, another awards ceremony for achievement in film took place: The Independent Spirit Awards. Probably the only awards show you should pay attention to. And here were the nominees (and winners in bold):

Best Picture:
"Brokeback Mountain"
"Capote"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
"The Squid and the Whale"
"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"

Best First Feature:
"Crash" (Paul Haggis)
"Lackawanna Blues" (George C. Wolfe)
"Me and You and Everyone We Know" (Miranda July)
"Thumbsucker" (Mike Mills)
"Transamerica" (Duncan Tucker)

Best Director:
Ang Lee - "Brokeback Mountain"
George Clooney - "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Gregg Araki - "Mysterious Skin"
Rodrigo Garcia - "Nine Lives"
Noah Baumbach - "The Squid and the Whale"

Best Female Lead:
Felicity Huffman - "Transamerica"
Dina Korzan - "Forty Shades…

Ms. Marvel

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Joining the ranks of resurrected Marvel titles such as Spider-woman, X-Force and Moon Knight is Carol Danvers AKA Ms. Marvel. And this hero goes back to basics - she's strong, she flies, and she can shoot energy beams. Very generic. Under the pen of Brian Reed and Roberto De La Torre, Ms. Marvel is seen as wasted potential. No, that's not my review of the issue. It's how Carol sees herself. She's like Superman, after all, except you know, a girl, and should be right up there with "the best of the best" (as the issue is titled). She looks back at her accomlishments and realizes that she has great potential to really be a powerful, accomplished force in the realm of superheros, but she's stuck with C-List status. Why? Because she's lazy. Because she doesn't push herself. So, in this comic, Carol vows to do just that: realize her potential. Become a force to be reckoned with. When she kicks Stiltman's ass, she wants him to know who she is. Ms. Ma…

In passing...X-Factor and Nextwave

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Nextwave #2 - Warren Ellis' romp of D-List characters continues as the first story arc concludes. While not as laugh-out-loud funny as the first issue, the story continues to delight and shows no signs of slowing down. Elsa Bloodstone is easily my favorite character of the bunch, being the bitch that nobody else on the team really likes, and English at that. The Captain's kind of a non-character at this point, but the other's are all likeable in their own ways after a mere two issues of fast-paced action. 9.1/10

X-Factor #4 - This is kind of a clean-up issue that brings recent events in the book to a close: the assassin that confronted Layla Miller, the riot in Mutant Town, the client who supposedly murdered her own sister. It's a pretty Monet-focused story as she witnesses all of the events on her way from X-Factor HQ to the police station where Madrox is waiting for her. It's probably the weakest of the issues to date, but it still manages to hold onto the …

Peculia

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I've finally gotten around to consuming a book I've been anticipating reading for awhile now, Richard Sala's Peculia. I loved Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit, so this collection of his Evil Eye comics (#'s 1-9, plus a special color chapter made exclusively for the trade) was on the top of my list. I love Richard Sala's sensibilities, how he uses gothic conventions and gives them a silly/fun tone. And his unique art style is really beautiful, particularly how he shades with horizontal lines and provides a perfectly dark, unsettling atmosphere for his stories (and uses any excuse for a little T&A). Richard Sala is just a master at what he does. Almost immediately we know exactly who our protagonist Peculia is as, instead of a bird coming to greet our beautiful blonde heroine, a bat flutters down to this raven-haired beauty, to which she puts out her hand and says "Oh! Hello, little bat! Out kind of early, aren't you?" She is really one of the best…