Sunday, December 31, 2006

In Passing...Astonishing X-Men to Nextwave

Astonishing X-Men #19
Joss Whedon & John Cassaday

Whedon and Cassaday begin their final storyarc, picking things up immediately from where the events left off in the previous issue, with the X-Men whisked away by S.W.O.R.D. toward the Breakworld. It's a lot of set-up and dialogue this time around, but the dialogue is so witty and smart, and the character's struggles are so interesting, that it's really hard to mind the lack of action with the storytelling at such a high level of quality. Plus, I think these are some of the best pages we've seen from Cassaday thus far, particularly in the opening sequence. A

Jack of Fables #6
Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Steve Leialoha

A new story begins in Jack of Fables in wake of the big jail break, which has Jack relaying a story to a captive audience, about when he had borrowed the Ice Queen's powers to become Jack Frost. It's kind of a silly story so far, and not particularly interesting, but it's nice to get a glimpse of the Ice Queen's former naivety and warmth, as it were. B-

Crossing Midnight #2
Mike Carey & Jim Fern

I really enjoy Fern's art on this series and it's a pretty interesting supernatural mystery so far. It gets a little wacky at times, but so far it's proving to be a really fun book. It has kind of the same flavor as Carey's last Vertigo book Lucifer, although it's not quite at that level. B

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #11
Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen

The second-to-last issue of Nextwave sees the crazy cast infiltrating the Beyond Corporation's big factory in the sky. It's a lot of splash pages...and I mean, a lot of splash pages, illustrating the group's progress through the factory as they battle their way through hordes of zaney opponents. Fun as ever. B

Everybody have a happy, safe New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Top Ten Comics of 2006

Here we go. Following up on the bottom part of the countdown from yesterday, here are the ten best books of 2006. With a year full of fantastic books, this was a hard list to write up, but I'm completely satisfied with the end result. I love every book on this list and encourage everyone to seek these titles out.
10. Lost Girls
Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
"Gebbie's art in this book is beautiful. She tries her hand at different techniques that keep the story fresh and interesting, while Moore weaves a tale that seems pretty epic by its conclusion, complete with some genuinely erotic scenes."
Full Review here.
9. Nana
Ai Yazawa
"It's always those little moments in Nana that get me, where the characters pause in shock or try to brush something off as insignificant or just stare longingly up at a window, walk into a room worried... Ai Yazawa is just amazing. I can't say it enough. Her characters are so fully-realized that I hurt when they hurt. I watch in complete amazement as the story unfolds."
Full Review of Nana from July's issue of Shojo Beat here.
8. Hikaru No Go
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
"It's hard to believe that a manga about a board game of all things can be this suspenseful...As usual, Obata's art is stellar and Hotta knows how to keep his audience on the edge of their seats" (From reviews of Volumes Four and Six)
Full Review of Volume One here.
7. Castle Waiting
Linda Medley
"This is a wonderful first volume of the world of Castle Waiting, full of laughs and high adventure. I highly recommend this. If anyone out there likes Bone at all, there's really no excuse not to get this. It truly captures the feel of a fairy tale, without the typical tropes associated with them."
Full Review here.
6. Astonishing X-Men
Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
"Joss Whedon has said that he loved Morrison's run and that not enough has been said about it, and thus is building upon it here, where he is also introducing several really cool elements to the mythos. He's respected the preceding run and has taken advantage of elements that Morrison has left in his wake, just as Whedon has been creating things that whoever follows him on this series can pick up on and take advantage of to tell really cool stories...This is really the best stuff that superhero comics have to offer presently."
Full Review of Issue 18 here.
5. Ode To Kirihito
Osama Tezuka
This "rich, deep work...has the feel of a real epic as the characters travel to several exotic locales in their quest to escape tyranny and to expose the culprit behind the disease that leaves people in the form of Dog Men...An absolute pleasure. This work deserves all the acclaim its garnered."
Full Review here.
4. Sloth
Gilbert Hernandez
"Disturbing images are speckled throughout an extremely thought-provoking work, one of those few stories I feel compelled to go back to and re-read. Hernandez demonstrates his mastery of storytelling in a novel that makes him more accessible than ever to new readers, not to mention the beautiful artwork that graces his pages."
Full Review here.
3. Luba: The Book of Ofelia
Gilbert Hernandez
"Gilbert Hernandez is one of the best storytellers in comics. He weaves these tales of Luba's extended family and their affairs and tribulations and brings them to a sort of epic proportion, although the stories themselves are very small and intimate. He just writes them so grand and expertly...Over the course of the stories collected here, we see the sprawling cast grow in their own ways and go to places dark and light, with some stunning conclusions and revelations to their stories that are sometimes only hinted at. It's wonderful. It's complex...The creme de la creme."
Full Review here.
2. Death Note
Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
"If there’s any book out there with more action and thrills than Death Note, I would certainly like to know about it. This book embodies the term “page-turner.”...If you like mainstream genre comics, it really doesn’t get much better than this."
Full Review of Volume Seven here.
1. Adventures In Oz
Eric Shanower
"This is what Abadazad wishes it were: a magical, wacky universe with loveable characters in a beautful all-ages fantasy, crafted with a real love for the material. I'm sure that this book serves as an absolute treat for any fan of Oz, but has worked backwards for me and made me a fan of Oz. I fully intend to read Baum's works in wake of this fantastic read. Shanower brought the characters of Dorothy, Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion and others to life with a craftsmanship that could have only made Baum proud, making the life in the bustling Emerald City seem to breathe, transporting any fortunate reader to its streets and off the beaten path on the adventures the characters partake...Anyone who's read Age of Bronze knows what gorgeous art Shanower can produce, but this fantasy setting is perfectly suited to his abilities: rich, detailed environments, vibrant colors and top-notch cartooning make this an experience wholly unlike any other as the tenants of Oz battle witches, Ice Kings and trolls, and navigate through uncharted swamps and tundras...I give this book my highest recommendation and really can't convey what a wonderful experience this was to read. Anyone who loves comics has to find something to love about Shanower's phenomenal accomplishment."
Full Review here.
And that's all, Folks. Another year come and gone. With such art being realized now, the medium is really in a golden age and we can certainly expect some stellar offerings this next year as well. See you all on the other side.

New Releases 12/26 - 12/28

This week's entertainment release highlights....

DVD Releases (Tuesday, 12/26)
The Black Dahlia
The Descent
Jackass Number Two
The Last Kiss

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: The Devil Wears Prada
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Music Releases (Tuesday, 12/26)
Enigma - LSD: Love, Sensuality and Devotion - The Remix Collection
Matisyahu - No Place To Be
Switchfoot - Oh! Gravity

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Young Jeezy - The Inspiration

Comic Releases (Wednesday, 12/27, Some locations: 12/28)
30 Days of Night: Spreading the Disease #1
Captain America and the Falcon: Nomad TP
Dragon Head (Volume 5) TP
Flight (Volume 3) GN
Moon Knight (Volume One): Bottom HC
Okko: Cycle of Water #1 (of 4)
Savage Dragon Archives (Volume One) TP

Theatrical Releases (Monday, 12/25)
Black Christmas

Previous Week #1: Night At the Museum

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top 25 Comics of 2006, Part One

What a great year in comics. I can't say that enough. It was a really exceptional year for the medium. Any other year, any book in my top ten could have pegged down the number one spot. The books up through the very last on my list could have been on any other top ten list. In fact, there were plenty of books unable to make the cut this year that I really hated to see go unsung. But in the end, twenty-five is a lot of books and the line just has to be drawn at some point. And since the list is a long one, I'll be counting down my favorite comics of 2006 in two parts, the first part going up to number eleven, with the top ten being published tomorrow. I highly recommend every single comic on this list. Enjoy!

25. Niger #1
Leila Marzocchi
"This is one of the most gorgeous books I've ever read, constantly forcing me to admire each page as a work of art in itself. Just flip through the book if you don't believe me, even as early as the first page as the red hues bleed into the clouds in the sky for a really spectacular effect."
Full Review here.
24. Ghost of Hoppers
Jaime Hernandez
"The situations, how people reacted to things, seemed more life-like than anything I’ve ever experienced in comics, whether it was someone caught up in their own thoughts or something less typical like a stalker waving a knife in a woman’s face. And in light of that realistic world (and realistic eccentricities of the characters therein), the supernatural elements that creep around on the periphery of the book are that much more effectively scary."
Full Review here.
23. Krazy & Ignatz 1937-1938: Shifting Sands Dusts Its Cheeks In Powdered Beauty
George Herriman
"The Sundays featuring a group of crazy characters from Coconino County is really just very endearing and charming. When I picked up my first Krazy & Ignatz volume, I didn't expect to get much out of it, particularly with the disorienting way the characters talk within, but you kind of fall into a rhythm and it's a really rewarding experience by its conclusion."
Full Review here.
22. American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang
"The parable of the Monkey King is a really fun, whacky story that the art is perfectly suited to tell with its cartoony look. Jin Wang's childhood was equally as fun to read, with his cute little mistakes and his first crush, but of course growing up in a school primarily made up of White students led to quite a bit of name-calling and teasing that ultimately made him feel ashamed of his heritage. The story is pretty straight-forward, although some revelations at the end of the book add some layers to what's been going on throughout..."
Full Review here.
21. Eden: It's An Endless World!
Hiroki Endo
"Pencils just don't get much better than this. From cybernetic parts to action sequences to panels depicting wave after wave of gore, Endo is a master of his craft. That being said, the world he creates for us in light of the human plague that wiped out most of humanity, is pretty damn interesting too."
Full Review of Volume Three here.
20. Mouse Guard
David Petersen
"It really speaks to David Petersen's craft that much of the book is really a showcase of nature. It goes hand-in-hand with the beautiful mouse designs he's created for his book, simple but expressive. It's amazing what Petersen can do with the mice, given that most of their expressions are conveyed through only their eyes and ears. It just further exemplifies that he really is a thoughtful, interesting cartoonist."
Full Review of Issue Two here.
19. The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (Volume One)
Chester Gould
"They're addictive little stories without having to wait on the edge of your seat for the story to continue in the next day's paper. I was surprisingly charmed by the melodrama, Dick's relationships with Tess Trueheart, Junior and the police force, and the often complex coincidences that lead to cases getting solved."
Full Review here.
18. Naoki Urasawa's Monster
Naoki Urasawa
"This is one of the more higher quality manga that I am presently reading. Japan's Master of Suspense does a stellar job of creating tension and, well, suspense, with this mystery thriller. And each chapter seems to get better."
Full Review of Volume Four here.
17. Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon
Paul Daly & Steve Bryant
"I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed rereading the first issue. The beautiful art, the wonderful characters, the wit of the's all there between the impressive action sequences in 30's adventure comicstrip tradition. Teeming with jungle locales, evil nazis and good old-fashioned airplace chases, this is one comic that absolutely can NOT be missed."
Full Review of Issue One (APE Edition) here.
16. Fun Home
Alison Bechdel
"It's an interesting experiment in non-linear storytelling that really works wonderfully and leaves readers spellbound, putting just the right amount of emphasis where its needed without losing sight of the overlying themes."
Full Review here.
15. Sidescrollers
Matthew Loux
"This book is full of laughs, demonstrates masterful pacing, and really doesn't allow one to put it down easily. The characters contained within are really fun characters to spend time with too, but it's really the dialogue that makes this title stand out so much. It's whitty, smart and just captures the world these characters live in perfectly."
Full Review here.
14. Octopus Girl
Toru Yamazaki
"Toru Yamazaki continues to amaze with his wonderful characters in this disgusting over-the-top dark comedy/horror title. This book is all about the excess and the artist indulges in abundant amounts of snot, blood, violence and death as our anti-heroes rip the flesh from mens' backs and swallow little girls whole. But it's all really great (and to be fair, the little girl was torturing a fish at the time)."
Full Review of Volume Two here.
13. Acme Novelty Library #17
Chris Ware
"It's all very emotional and feels realistic, drawing you into this world of horrifying school drama, forcing you to experience the pain of that awkward age through these characters, and doing a damn fine job of it. We can all relate to some aspect of the story at hand, and Ware has a way of making it all come rushing back."
Full Review here.
12. The Fate of the Artist
Eddie Campbell
The Fate of the Artist "is wildly imaginative and insightful. Campbell pushes the medium of comics, kicking and screaming, as he creates a masterpiece with his seemingly endless supply of creative juices."
Full Review here.
11. Dragon Head
Minetaro Mochizuki
"As is typical with the series, the art is fantastic without a chapter passing that doesn't bring with it a truckload of suspense." (From Volume Three Review)
Full Review of Volume Two here.
And...the Top Ten is here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Manga Monday 20

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! This Manga Monday I'm going to be reviewing one manga: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Volume One), but please check out my review of Ode To Kirihito if you missed it a few days ago. Also, with the end of the year comes end of the year lists, and I've selected my favorite twenty-five comics of 2006, which I'll post in two parts, the first of which will appear tomorrow in the late afternoon, with plenty of manga ranked among its numbers! Check it out!!

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Volume One)
Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

First off, I must commend the designer of the cover, Bunpei Yorifuji, for the unique package of this book. One of the best comic covers I've seen recently. The interior art by Housui Yamazaki is really nice as well, amid the corpses and bloody stumps and knives. This thriller follows five young Buddhists who put their unusual talents to a collective good use as they form The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, where their clients are the deceased whom they assist in delivering their final requests in hopes of a karmic reward. Most of the stories are seen through the eyes of Kuro Karatsu, a young man with average grades at a Buddhist University. When he's asked to join a group of students praying over the dead in a nearby forest, he didn't expect to be roped into such morbid adventures with a group of strangers, but his gift of speaking with the dead certainly is essential for what the group hopes to accomplish. Also included in the great cast of characters are Numata, a dowser who's able to locate corpses in place of water, Makino, an embalmer who has studied in the states, Yata, who channels an alien being through a sock puppet, and Ao Sasaki, the brains of the operation. With an ecclectic cast of characters and such an interesting premise, this manga promises something unusual and delivers with intriguing plots and grotesque murder scenes. A great debut for the series. A

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Five Worst Comics of 2006

2006 was a year brimming with fantastic books. Unfortunately some duds always have to sneak into the mix, even when trying to carefully weed out the crap. So this list is a list of the five worst comics that I actually read, not including books like Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose that I know are awful but didn't subject myself to...

1. Jenna
Philip Osbourne & Various
(Narwain Publishing)

"And the artwork wasn't just poorly drawn, but the panels were sparse, jarring the reader from one scene of the story to another like reading a summary of a story rather than the actual events. Basically, the story follows the teenaged Jenna, whose father turns out to be involved in a cult that worships the demon Baal. She understandably freaks, as a man was recently executed for the murders that the cult committed, and a series of events then occur: her house burns down and her parents supposedly with it, she sleeps with her boyfriend which results in unexpected consequences, etc. Jenna herself is later revealed to be the anti-christ. It's all very silly. The main character's cute design was the only thing I enjoyed about the book, but even in her there were inconsistencies in her personality. It was all very generic and poorly executed."

Full Review here.

2. Blood Alone
Masayuki Takano
(Infinity Studios)

"Aside from the strange relationship showcased in this book, the characters feel rather flat and the situations with serial killers and spirits are uninspired and retread ideas seen in hundreds of other supernatural stories. The author attempts to graft some weak additions to the vampire mythos, but succeeds only in making those scary elements silly."

Full Review here.

3. Beyond!
Dwayne McDuffie & Scott Kolins
(Marvel Comics)

"Unfortunately, the entire first issue is like watching dominos fall. Nothing interesting or surprising really happens (especially the fake-out ending which no reader can believe to hold any weight). Given the diverse cast of characters, that's a real shame and disappointment. But to go one step further, the story is seen through the eyes of Gravity (whose mini-series I've been meaning to check out for awhile now), who McDuffie decides to make the most obnoxious, arrogant and down-right unlikeable voice he can."

Full Review here.

4. Moon Knight
Charlie Huston & David Finch
(Marvel Comics)

"This book takes itself way too seriously (the guy rides in a cresent-shaped ship for Pete's sake!), tries to distinguish itself from other Marvel books by making them sound cooler, and God, the ending is just the kicker. Completely overdone and melodramatic. I almost wet myself it was so awful."

Full Review here.

5. Book of Shadows
Mark Chadbourn & Bo Hampton
(Image Comics)

Book of Shadows "borrows a lot of elements from similar stories (gods of old coming to reclaim Earth as their own, a girl outrunning her magical destiny, a dragon thrown in for good measure, yadda yadda.) Even the title of the series leaves a vague generic stamp over it."

Full Review here.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Luba: Three Daughters

Gilbert Hernandez

The final chapter in Gilbert's Luba Trilogy isn't as epic or nearly as rich as the previous installment. It's basically going back and combing over some of the history of Luba and her two long-lost sisters, Fritz and Petra, as well as the vast array of supporting characters in the series

like Venus and Hector. It certainly helps to add a little depth to the supporting characters of the tale, but it does do a bit of retreading as the story brings the three main women to a point in which they are no longer speaking to one another. These are some of the best characters in comics however, so it's still a pleasure just to be able to spend time with the rich characters, and see where they are headed in the future. I admit I even cried a bit when the lovely Doralis' fate was revealed, something that had been hinted at for awhile now, which was also a strong note to end the trilogy on. A lot of goofiness ensues in this volume, a lot of dreams containing bizarre sequences of aliens and talking penises, but toward the latter part of the work, when the characters' lives are fastforwarded, it was really nice to see where their revelries took them. And as always, the art is spectacular. A-

Friday, December 22, 2006

In Passing...Fables to The Illuminati

Fables #56
Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham

The creators of the flagship Vertigo series take a moment to slow down with scenes of the holidays with the characters from Fabletown and the Animal Farm, as well as a chapter with Santa Claus in the North Pole. A nice, quaint little Christmas tale, but nothing spectacular. C

Ultimate Spider-Man #103
Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

The Clone Saga, Part 7 is just as crazy as the previous issues of the storyarc, with some stirring revelations and great moments with the characters involved. This chapter of Spidey's life is shaping up to be one of the best stories of the creators' entire run. A

Ms. Marvel #10
Brian Reed & Mike Weiringo
Mike Weiringo finishes his guest pencilling duties on this title as Ms. Marvel battles...Ms. Marvel. Yeah, it's one of those stories. Nothing new, nothing too exciting. This is easily the weakest arc of the series thus far, but at least it was accompanied by some great art. D+

The New Avengers #26
Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

I love love love Alex Maleev on this title. His pencils are just fantastic here in an issue with quite a neat little story. Wanda Maximoff makes her triumphant return to the Marvel U since House of M as Hawkeye seeks closure to what was done to him during said event. A

The New Avengers: The Illuminati #1 (of 5)
Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed & Jim Cheung

Bendis writes a lot of books. This one wasn't really needed. It's kind of neat (and extremely nerdy) to see what role Marvel's secret organization has played in past Marvel events in each issue of this mini-series. This particular issue deals with the aftermath of The Kree/Skrull War and how these six great figures put the kebosh on any future invasion plans the Skrull may have harbored....for awhile, at least. When I found out what the series was about, I really wasn't too keen on reading this issue, but it actually was an okay story. And art by Cheung is always welcome. C

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ode To Kirihito

Osama Tezuka

Ode To Kirihito is an acknowledged classic, and deserving of the title. This mammoth 822-page work is a steal at $25 (Thank you, Vertical, Inc.), and a rich, deep work to boot. It has the feel of a real epic as the characters travel to several exotic locales in their quest to escape tyranny and to expose the culprit behind the disease that leaves people in the form of Dog Men. Physicians the world over struggle to understand the epidemic and its nature, meanwhile hiding truths for personal gain. Two young doctors are at the heart of this story, one idealistic man (Dr. Osanai) and one with, well, real issues (Dr. Urabe). As Dr. Osanai ventures to a remote village with hundreds of cases of this "Monmow Disease" on record, he steps into a terrible conspiracy and leaves behind Urabe and a fiance to deal with several consequences of this trip, while having to struggle in his own horrific battle as well. Ultimately, this is a science suspense thriller with real heart that looks these dog-faced individuals in the face and confronts the real dark sides of men. It is a strange sort of tale, but not as odd as I was brought to believe given many people's reactions to the story, particularly in the face of some books I've read as of late. Ode To Kirihito was the first work I've actually read by master artist Osama Tezuka, and an absolute pleasure. This work deserves all the acclaim its garnered and I look forward to delving into other works from Tezuka in the near future. A

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Gilbert Hernandez

Contains Spoilers!

The genius creator behind the Palomar stories from Love & Rockets brings us an original graphic novel from Vertigo. Immediately in the story, we are introduced to Miguel Serra, who has just willed himself out a coma he willed himself into initially. He finds that he has a sort of living legend status among the townspeople, some of whom make fun of the teenager who moves much slower in wake of the year-long nap. Walking through life a little slower enhances experiences and hinders others, as he finds the people in his life react to him in different ways, some having changed, some not. Much of the conversations and events that occur through this book center around rock and roll and urban legends, one of which involves a Goat Man who haunts the nearby lemon orchards where many bodies are supposedly disposed of each year. This mysterious Goat Man, who wills people to trade places with him may or may not have something to do with the shift in chracters about halfway through the book. As Miguel slips into another dream, the scene abruptly switches to that of his girlfriend Lita awakening from a year-long coma, with the same guardians that Miguel originally had, and the characters from Miguel's existence partaking different roles than before, including Miguel himself who becomes a boy whom she admires but has never talked to preceding her coma. I'm sure the comparison to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive has been made before since the circumstances are quite the same and quite as disorienting, but it's also a very intriguing turn of events that really change how you look at some events from the beginning of the book, and how Lita is treated compared to the same circumstance occurring around a boy of the same age. Disturbing images are speckled throughout an extremely thought-provoking work, one of those few stories I feel compelled to go back to and re-read. Hernandez demonstrates his mastery of storytelling in a novel that makes him more accessible than ever to new readers, not to mention the beautiful artwork that graces his pages. I love the setting of the lemon orchard in this tale and the moment where Lita and Miguel discover something on a video they're watching is more chilling than anything I think I've ever read before. A must-read. A+

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Krazy & Ignatz 1937-1938

Shifting Sands Dusts its Cheeks in Powdered Beauty

George Herriman

The classic comic strip gets its second color treatment thanks to Fantagraphics Books. The Sundays featuring a group of crazy characters from Coconino County is really just very endearing and charming. When I picked up my first Krazy & Ignatz volume, I didn't expect to get much out of it, particularly with the disorienting way the characters talk within, but you kind of fall into a rhythm and it's a really rewarding experience by its conclusion. You'd think there could only be so many situations that come about from a strip that basically circles around Ignatz Mouse throwing a brick at Krazy Kat, who loves him, before getting thrown into jail, but Herriman manages to keep things fresh with another fantastic volume in a beautiful presentation, courtesy of Chris Ware's design. This is a real treat and a strong contender for any best-of list, even seven volumes (and fourteen years worth of Sunday strips) into the project. A

Monday, December 18, 2006

Manga Monday 19

Let Dai (Volume 1)
Sooyeon Won

Not exactly manga, the title Let Dai, comes from the hand of the best-selling shoujo creator from Korea, Sooyeon Wan, and is therefore dubbed "Manwha," the Korean equivalent to Japan's "Manga." People who enjoy "Shonen-ai" (or boy love manga) will find this to be an enjoyable title to take in. It's a beautifully-rendered story about an ordinary boy that's pulled into a violent world when he saves a girl from a gang of ruffians. In wake of this event, our protagonist Jaehee is subjected to beatings and threats as the gang takes an interest in him, particularly the gang leader Dai, a quirky but beautiful sadist. Jaehee is inexplicably drawn to Dai beyond all of the suffering he undergoes at his hands, and harbors a confusing but undeniable attraction to the boy he refers to as the devil himself. A-

Hikaru No Go (Volume 6)
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata

Another great volume of Hikaru No Go sees Hikaru's world evolve. Forced to leave some aspects of his old life beyond, Hikaru struggles to adjust to the new situations set before him and develop his game. Akira Toya, Hikaru's rival, is still a large presence in this book, as the boy faces his first tournament as a pro go-player in a three-part chapter. As usual, Obata's art is stellar and Hotta knows how to keep his audience on the edge of their seats as we watch Hikaru slowly make his way up through the game sphere. A-

New Releases 12/19-12/22

This week's entertainment release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tuesday, 12/19)
All the King's Men
Jet Li's Fearless
Lady In the Water
Little Miss Sunshine
The Simpsons: Season 9
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
A Scanner Darkly
The Wicker Man

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Superman Returns

Music Releases (Tuesday, 12/19)
Happy Feet Original Score

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Ciara - Ciara: The Evolution

Comic Releases (Wednesday, 12/20)
Albion TP
Athena Voltaire: The Collected Web Comics TP
Daredevil: Father HC
Fables (Volume 8): Wolves
Golgo 13 (Volume 6)
Little Lulu (Volume 13): Too Much Fun
Maintenance #1
Mome (Volume 6)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 6)
New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (of 5)
Wonderful Wizard of Oz GN

Previous Month:
Diamond #1 Graphic Novel: Y - The Last Man (Volume 8): Kimono Dragons
Diamond #1 Comic: Civil War #5 (of 7)
Diamond #1 Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 10)

Theatrical Releases (Friday, 12/22)
The Good Shepherd
Night At the Museum
Rocky Balboa (on Wed.)
We Are Marshall

Previous Week #1: The Pursuit of Happyness

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lost Girls

Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie

One of the big releases of the year, Lost Girls, from Top Shelf, is presented in three oversized hardcovers within a slipcase. Although it comes with a hefty pricetag, it's well worth the $75 for this deluxe presentation. Moore and Gebbie set off on an ambitious venture with this project, hoping to reclaim pornography as art. And while it is tastefully presented, I think John Cameron Mitchell's film Shortbus was more successful at integrating pornography into his artform by establishing fully-realized characters with real dilemmas and feelings. The three girls featured in this graphic novel are fairly flat, as their characterization comes pretty much from the same angle every time - that of their sexual history and desires.
Lost Girls gives a glimpse into the lives of Wendy, Dorothy and Alice, relating the events from their sexual escapades to make them fit the stories of Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland repectively, in grounded, more life-like versions of the fantasies that depict characters from each story as sexual partners and voyeurs. The three girls who come to meet each other at a hotel come to be friends and share their stories with each other as a relationship blossoms between them, culminating in an all-out orgy and some interesting revelations.
Gebbie's art in this book is beautiful. She tries her hand at different techniques that keep the story fresh and interesting, while Moore weaves a tale that seems pretty epic by its conclusion, complete with some genuinely erotic scenes. The creators aren't very shy about broaching the subjects of incest or sex with minors, and show no consequence to fornicating without protection, but as is stated in the story, fantasies are all right because we know they are fantasies. It would be appalling for a mother and child to have sex except within our imaginations, but we must be free to tell these sorts of stories nonetheless.
All that being said, this isn't a perfect work by any means. Toward the end of the third volume, the story does grow a little tired, and the gasping amid storytelling gets a little annoying, as does the same phrases the characters call out in moments of passion. But this was a really interesting, beautiful project put out by the husband and wife team that is an instant classic, and belongs on the bookshelf of every serious collector. I enjoyed this book immensely. A

Thursday, December 14, 2006

In Passing...The Killer to Gargoyles

This week in floppies...

The Killer #1 (of 10)
Matz & Luc Jacamon

The Killer is a comic originally published in France from 1998 to 2003, earning praise for being a gritty noir comic. The artist, Luc Jacamon, has translated it for American audiences via Archaia Studios Press. It's an introspective look at a killer as he waits in a room across the street for a doctor he's hired to assassinate. He contemplates the people around him, past experiences and what makes him tick. It's an interesting comic with some really nice art. It remains compelling throughout, earning its place among Archaia's other high quality offerings. B+

Devi #6
Samit Basu & Aditya Chari

I think it's time to drop off of the Devi bandwagon. It's a decent superhero book with some pretty impressive art, but there's so much more out there that I would rather be reading to continue with a book I never really look forward to. In this issue, Tara and the Devi's split personality is examined, leading them to contemplate one another's existence among the bloodshed and heroics. C

X-Factor #14
Peter David & Pablo Raimondi

Jamie deals with Monet and Siryn's discover of his dupe's actions while Guido tries to make peace with the atrocity he's committed. Madrox just can't seem to catch a break as he attempts to locate his dupes to gain a little more control over his life and team, and ends up in even hotter water than ever. This remains a really good superhero book, better than any secondary X-title released in years. B

Gargoyles #2
Greg Weisman & David Hedgecock

Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman wraps up the two-part story that began the third and final season of the television show before he relinquished control and the dull Goliath Chronicles killed the property on TV. Beginning with the next issue, all-new stories from the original creator promise to build the mythology of the universe and carry on a tradition of great storytelling. As it was, issues one and two served as good refreshers of the characters and recent events. B

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Delphine #1

Richard Sala

One of my favorite cartoonists joins Fantagraphics' prestigious Ignatz line with a dark tale set in a small village where a traveler is seeking his college friend Delphine, who left for the town at the beginning of the summer. Riddled with dark alleys and strange characters, the streets of this village, surrounded by a dark, mysterious forest, harbor trouble for our young traveler. Amid the noir atmosphere and sinister faces are even more disturbing figures that startle the reader from time to time. Delphine is featured here in an oversized format that does the art justice, as our protagonist is seemingly foiled in his search at every turn. This story is just beginning, but so far I prefer Peculia's adventures, probably merely for my affection of that character. This is some of the best art to come from Sala and I'm happy to see him showcased in this way, and I'm excited to see what dark twists he has in store for us as the story progresses. This is what Sala does best, both in terms of storytelling and art, and he is a master. A

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy

(Volume One)

Chester Gould

This is a really great action/adventure strip, beginning an ambitious reprint project from IDW Publishing. With over 600 strips, this volume took a lot longer to plow through than I imagined, though I enjoyed every moment of it. All strips between 1931 and May of 1933 are incorporated into this volume, with non-continuity Sundays collected in the back in color, while the later Sundays that incorporated the ongoing plots are integrated in with the other strips in black and white so as not to distract from the story. While many elements of Dick Tracy, like his sci-fi gadgets and distinctly freakish rogues gallery, haven't reared their ugly heads (literally) by this point, some familiar elements have been introduced, like his feisty sidekick Junior.

I can really see how exciting this book would have been coming out back when gangsters were plastered all over the headlines - they're addictive little stories without having to wait on the edge of your seat for the story to continue in the next day's paper. I was surprisingly charmed by the melodrama, Dick's relationships with Tess Trueheart, Junior and the police force, and the often complex coincidences that lead to cases getting solved. I'd been intrigued by the strip since I saw a showing of Chester Gould's in the Masters of American Comics artshow, and it's surpassed any expectations I had. And really, I couldn't have asked for a better person to introduce this first volume than Road To Perdition creator Max Allan Collins, highlighting the importance of the strip not just to comics, but to pop culture in general. A

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Tales of Old Palomar #1

Gilbert Hernandez

Hernandez' new comic, as the title implies, relates new stories from the classic early years of the village Palomar from Gilbert and brother Jaime's shared comic Love & Rockets. The characters that fans have seen age over the years under Gilbert's hand, and characters that have long since faded from the pages of the comics, are seen here once again in their youth when Chelo was sheriff and characters hadn't started to leave for America. It's refreshing to live amongst these characters once more. Gilbert began this new series with a rather simple story, but managed to throw in some disturbing images like those of monstrous statues that stand sentinel outside of the town proper. With such a huge cast of characters, Gilbert has plenty of material to work with here, although not much can happen in terms of major continuity changes, it could be fun to see gaps filled and histories revealed among the familiar faces. New Tales of Old Palomar is a part of Fantagraphics' Ignatz line, and as such was printed in an oversized issue. If any creator deserved to be a part of the prestigious line, it was Gilbert, but the book didn't really benefit from the oversized treatment as other artists' works may have, although the comic certainly didn't suffer for it either. This is a great start to the series and a nice blast from the past. A-

New Releases 12/12-12/15

And the highlights in new releases this week...

DVD Releases (Tuesday, 12/12)
The Devil Wears Prada
The Fox and the Hound 2
James Bond: The Ultimate Collection (Volume 3)
James Bond: The Ultimate Collection (Volume 4)
Material Girls
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
World Trade Center

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Superman Returns
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Ice Age: Meltdown

CD Releases (Tuesday, 12/12)
Eragon O.S.T.
Mary J. Blige - Reflections: A Retrospective
Taylor Hicks - Taylor Hicks

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Incubus - Light Grenades
My Barnes & Noble #1: Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong

Comic Releases (Wednesday, 12/13)
Curses HC
Doomed Magazine #4
Drifting Classroom (Volume 3)
Emma (Volume 2)
Naruto (Volume 12)
Phoenix (Volume 9)
Portent (Volume 1)
Spirit #1
Wonder Man #1 (of 5)

Theatrical Releases (Friday, 12/15)
Charlotte's Web
The Pursuit of Happyness

Previous Week #1: Apocalypto

Sunday, December 10, 2006

American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang

A book that has been appearing on the top of several best-of lists, American Born Chinese is a bit overrated as a showcase for the best the medium has to offer, especially in a year with an abundance of fantastic stuff available. I am very happy for new publisher :01 First Second in that they've had such success in their first year, in particular with this book, but at the same time, I must admit a little disappointment in light of the hype.
American Born Chinese is, for the most part, split between two stories, the first of which follows Jin Wang as he grows up amid cruel schoolmates as an outsider, and the second of which examines the Monkey King from Chinese folklore. The parable of the Monkey King is a really fun, whacky story that the art is perfectly suited to tell with its cartoony look. Jin Wang's childhood was equally as fun to read, with his cute little mistakes and his first crush, but of course growing up in a school primarily made up of White students led to quite a bit of name-calling and teasing that ultimately made him feel ashamed of his heritage. The story is pretty straight-forward, although some revelations at the end of the book add some layers to what's been going on throughout, grafting on more depth, and giving some of the symbolism a little more weight. Everything kind of came together at the end in light of a sometimes meandering plot, but overall, I thought it could have used a little something to drive the isolation Wang felt home. I had a great time reading this book, and I do recommend it, but there are certainly other books I'd mention before this title fell from my lips. B+

Thursday, December 07, 2006

newuniversal #1

Warren Ellis & Salvador Larroca

Warren Ellis attempts to salvage something from the ashes of an old Marvel franshise with the launch of this new series. I never read any of the original New Universe titles, so I'm not sure if the characters seen in this issue are updated, or whether they're brand new. But one thing I am sure of - this issue is pretty damn awesome. Not only do I love that sleek cover, but Salvador Larroca's art has improved vastly over the years and the style he's adopted for this title is a perfect fit and is really just plain gorgeous.
In this debut issue, a handful of characters are followed before, during and after "The White Event," a strange phenomenon that involves a white wave coursing over the planet and awakening superpowers within certain individuals, sometimes to devastating effects. It's all very cinematic and grand, and with the shifting scenes relating the time aroung "The White Event," the tension is palpable all the way through. Nothing particularly unique occurs here, but the execution is where the creators' strengths lie. The scenes where the characters' powers awaken are all really handled well, as is an archaeological dig in Latvia that's sure to play a big part in issues to come. The dialogue was also very realistic and established some of the characters nicely. Ellis and Lorroca make a great pair on this title and I'm really excited for what's forthcoming, particularly when it comes to the art. Hopefully, this series will be received by fans with a little more warmth than Ellis' last great launch, Nextwave. A

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In Passing...Manhunter to Ant-Man

Manhunter #26
Marc Andreyko & Javier Pina

Manhunter makes her triumphant return after a short hiatus, as Kate Spencer takes on a big-name client: Wonder Woman herself. A great fight sequence between the two and a nightmarish little scene with Cameron Chase's sister make this comeback a welcome one. And Javier Pina's art has never looked better (no, he isn't the one who did that awful cover). A-

Uncanny X-Men #481
Ed Brubaker & Billy Tan

Not too much action in this issue of Uncanny. A lot of strategizing among the players in the epic space opera, including a backstabber ready to go to any lengths to seize the Shi'ar throne. And Darwin gets bad-ass. But this felt like just another chapter in the story, and frankly, one I could have lived without. C-

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #3
Robert Kirkman & Phil Hester

Eric O'Grady proves why he's so irredeemable this issue, in case it wasn't made clear in the two previous installments, as he takes his abuse of position and powers even further. But his past may be catching up to him finally. There are some really neat things that occur in this comic, like when Ant-Man attempts to knock a man around while super-small and it doesn't go according to plan. This is a fun little book about an anti-hero and it'll be fun to see where the mischief leads the character. B-

My Favorite Christmas Music

The holidays are fast approaching and if you're like me, you play CDs in your car more often than listen to the radio... Here are five great CDs to watch out for this Christmas season.

Jingle Bell Rock
Brenda Lee

This is just a classic Christmas album. Most of the renditions of the songs on this CD are the ones you'll hear on the radio in classic form: Jingle Bell Rock, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Winter Wonderland. Also included are some really great treasures like Strawberry Snow, A Marshmallow World and the sappy The Angel and the Little Blue Bell. You can usually find this one pretty cheap and it's really a must-have.

Brand New Year

A surprisingly really well-crafted album (the best of any album the trio have put out before or since), this CD puts new spins on classics like Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls (featured on Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas) and a Hark! the Herald Angels Sing/Carol of the Bells mix to great effect, but introduce some really fantastic songs like the jazzy Santa's Got A Brand New Bag and Tinseltown. This is probably my favorite Christmas CD.

Home For Christmas
Amy Grant

A few songs on Amy Grant's Christmas CD are watered-down versions of classics like Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, but she's provided some really powerful renditions of Emmanuel, God With Us and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, as well as introducing the beautiful, emotional Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) and the definitive Grown-Up Christmas List.

Merry Christmas
Mariah Carey

Many people who aren't fans of Mariah Carey are surprised by how good this CD is. You've probably heard the best song the CD has to offer: All I Want For Christmas Is You, but hidden among the primarily choir-heavy tunes lie some other fantastic songs like Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and my favorite versions of O Holy Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (mixed with Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)).

Christmas With the Chipmunks
The Chipmunks

I grew up listening to this CD and still really enjoy listening to the goofy songs like the classic The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) and Frosty the Snowman. There are several versions of this CD available, so be sure to get the one with Up On the Rooftop, one of my favorites.

Other great Christmas songs out there (Look them up on I-tunes!):
All I Want For Christmas Is You - Vince Vance and the Valiants
Two-Step 'Round the Christmas Tree - Suzy Bogguss
Blue Christmas - Sheryl Crow
Sleigh Ride - Lorrie Morgan
My Favorite Things - Lorrie Morgan
Santa Baby - Mindy McCready
Silver Bells - Martina McBride
Ave Maria - Jewel

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Releases 12/5-12/8

This week's entertainment release highlights...

DVD Releases (Tuesday, 12/5)
24 (Season 5)
Boys' Briefs 4
High School Musical: Remix
How To Eat Fried Worms
Miami Vice
Pirates of the Carribean 2: Dead Man's Chest
Roseanne (Season 6)
Saturady Night Live (Season 1)

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Ice Age: Meltdown
Billboard Top DVD Sales: The Da Vinci Code

Music Releases (Tuesday, 12/5)
Brian McKnight - Ten
Charlotte's Web O.S.T.
Ciara - Ciara: The Evolution
Dreamgirls O.S.T.
Eminem - Eminem Presents the Re-Up
Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Jay-Z - Kingdom Come
My Barnes & Noble #1: Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong

Comic Releases (Wednesday, 12/6)
Cold Heat #1
Delphine #1
Essential Defenders (Volume 2) TP
Friday the 13th #1
Justice Society of America #1
New Tales of Old Palomar #1
newuniversal #1
Playboy Interviews Larger Than Life
Robotika HC
Runaways (Volume 2) HC
Showcase Presents: Shazam (Volume 1) TP

Theater Releases (Friday, 12/8)
Blood Diamond
The Holiday
Unaccompanied Minors

Previous Weekend #1: Happy Feet

Monday, December 04, 2006

Manga Monday 18

Eden: It's An Endless World! (Volume 4)
Hiroki Endo

The characters from Hiroki Endo's Eden are reeling from the shocking events of the previous installment, amid some of the best art in manga presently. For the most part, this volume takes a detour from its usual focus on Elijah, to look back at some secondary characters' lives following the outbreak of the epidemic that has ravaged the world. The unstable, intimidating Kenji takes center stage here as he grows up in his brother's shadow, where he idolizes his violent profession and authority. A really interesting, action-packed character study. A-

Hikaru No Go (Volume 5)
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata

Fujiwara-no-Sai's on-line presence continues to cause a stir as Hikaru's game improves drastically over the summer. With Akira going pro, Hikaru realizes he must catch up to him instead of vise-versa, and must make a difficult decision: apply to become an insei and take his game to the next level, or compete with his school's go team in tournaments. Hotta and Obata keep things tense as Hikaru slowly makes his way in the go-sphere, turning heads and coaxing readers to the edge of their seats with top-notch pacing. Every time one aspect of the story winds down, there's something ready to leap into its place with a vengeance, usually superior to what it's replaced. This manga is sure to entertain for volumes to come. A-

Saturday, December 02, 2006

In Passing...Cold Heat to Crickets

Crickets #1
Sammy Harkham

I haven't really read anything by Sammy Harkham before, so this served as a great introduction. I read the back of the comic first, with a mini-story featuring the Golem character from within, and I immediately took a liking to the art and the big dopey character. The story, simple as it was, was really cool, with plenty of great moments. An overall great, though brisk, read following a group of characters who meet in the forest. A

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #10
Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen

I'm not sure that this worked as well as the creators had hoped. Five of the Nextwave characters are attacked by an ultra-lame villain who imposes personal hells on their minds. Elsa Bloodstone's scene was the standout as usual, with a Mignola-inspired environment, complete with mimiced art, while Machine Man had a funny couple of pages as well. The rest of it kind of fizzled, although they were interesting attempts at unusual storytelling. C

Cold Heat #1
Ben Jones & Frank Santoro

One of the first offerings from Dan Nadel's new PictureBox Inc., I, like Patrick said to me following my completion of the issue, wanted to like this more than I did, especially in wake of the battle PictureBox had with getting distributed by Diamond. This was a cool little comic, however, that felt more like wading through a dream than reading a linear story, even if a story was in there. A young woman, Castle, is fired from her internship and goes partying. That's about it, although there are some other little complications that occur amid the crayon-colored, experimental pages. I'm definitely looking forward to more. B+

Friday, December 01, 2006

Crossing Midnight #1

Mike Carey & Jim Fern

Twins are born on either side of midnight in Nagasaki in this Vertigo comic full of bizarre events surrounding the boy and girl. As they grow up and apart, they adopt very distinct personalities and shed the innocence of childhood at the same time as evil forces swarm around them and they discover what make them unique from others in their daily lives. There are quite a few opposing forces in this book: belief vs. disbelief, abiding vs. rebeling, and tradition vs. contemporary life, as graphically illustrated in some of the opening pages of the story at hand, where a grandmother insists that her daughter and son-in-law pay homage to a family shrine so that the childbirth goes without incident, while the daughter argues with her medical charts and ultra-sounds that it's unnecessary. Through much of the scene one side of the old woman's face is hidden, but not distractingly so, until a full view of the woman's face is revealed as having been burned during the bombing of Nagasaki, grafting tradition to a pre-bomb Nagasaki and contemporary culture following, much like the differences between the twins born on either side of midnight.

I really enjoyed Jim Fern's art on this book and I absolutely love that cover by J.H. Williams III. Carey demonstrates a lot of thought in his storytelling, creating a fairly multi-layered work. Though it gets a little silly toward the end of the issue, this is one of the better launches from Vertigo in recent years and should produce some interesting stories. A-