Monday, January 30, 2006

Dungeon

Is this good timing or what? I finished Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim's first volume of Dungeon, "Duck Heart," just as Trondheim becomes the grand prix winner at the Angouleme Festival. I think this was a great introduction to the acclaimed creators. Dungeon is one of those books that seems like a no-brainer to have in comics, but once you've read it and look around for similar books, they're noticeably absent. It's a very cartoony, fun, and just wacky book full of monsters fighting goofy heroes. The closest thing to this in American comics is probably Jeff Smith's Bone, but this takes that sort of fantasy to another level. It's wildly creative in a way that just breathes life into the pages whereas a majority of the medium is stale. There is no peer for Dungeon, though its premise is simple: that of a dungeon where warriors come to fight monsters to win treasure. We see more of this type of thing in cartoons on Saturday mornings than in comics, which is strange considering how this type of storytelling lends itself to comics so easily. It can be cartoony and zany and still be smart enough for adults, which is, I think, what scares most people away from creating this type of book - this sort of storytelling usually isn't seen as both (which is a crock because we see more and more examples of it every year when it comes to animation). Let's hope the Angouleme Festival holds some weight for any creator itching to work on a project like this.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Secret Voice

I finally got around to reading the comic that everyone's been talking about and I have to say that I'm impressed. Zack Soto's The Secret Voice is a treasure to be sure, an ongoing comic that showcases characters from his Secret Voice Universe, including that of the main story of the issue, "Dr. Galapagos," as he battles rock trolls in a mainly silent story. Lots of action and creativity are invested in all of Zack Soto's stories. "Day 34"
follows a man in a life boat as he stumbles upon some weird things in middle of the ocean, while "Smog Emperor" became my favorite of the stories, following a young boy who is troubled by the superpowered being he has the ability to turn into to deal with his problems. Between the stories, there's a page of plugs and an editorial explaining the goals of the comic, but what I enjoyed most of all were the pages "excerpted from the Official Handbook of the Secret Voice Universe," which featured characters we see in this issue and others we do not, like St. Xixis, who Zoto refuses to give us much information about and Smog Emperor, which certainly contributed to understanding the actual comic that appeared later. All in all, this is a very fun book and if anyone reading this hasn't gotten on the band wagon yet, I really recommend that you cave into peer pressure.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Nextwave

Warren Ellis is awesome. Throwing together a team of D-List superheroes including Elsa Bloodstone, Machine Man, The Captain (haven't ever heard of him), Monica Rambeau (a previous incarnation of Captain Marvel) and Meltdown (or Boomer or Boom Boom) of X-Force, Ellis has created a force to be reckoned with. From the awesome Stuart Immonen cover (citing the phrase "healing America by beating people up") to the theme song on the back cover (taking a cue from James Kochalka's Superf*ckers), this comic is awesome. It was smart to use a bunch of characters not on Marvel's radar of "we have to keep them iconic because, oh my God, the movie!" so Ellis could really have the creative freedom to do these characters justice (and reinvent them really). Before even reading the comic, I could tell who my favorite character would be - Elsa Bloodstone. I read the Bloodstone mini-series a few years back and...well, I never finished it because it sucked, but I knew - I KNEW - that in capable hands this character would be awesome. And here she is in all of her awesome glory. The story follows this group of characters as they attempt to thwart Beyond Corporation's plans (who has funded HATE, the group our five heroes were a part of before realizing they were being funded by a terrorist organization). But anyways, the plot is beyond the point - this is easily the funniest comic I've read in years. Buy it!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

In Passing...The Pulse to Polly

I am going to review Next Wave #1 very shortly, but until then, here's the mini-reviews:

New Avengers #15 - The new team goes public with their roster in this issue told from the perspective of Ms. Marvel as she goes to witness the event. Tensions are high before the big moment, as teammates are unsure of the decision and how their place amongst the members may reflect their image negatively in the public eye. 7.1/10

The Pulse #13 - Following the events of New Avengers #15, Jessica Jones is in labor and doing the usual screaming and cussing as Luke Cage does the typical daddy-to-be-unsure-if-he's-helping thing. I was hoping for some moments that we haven't seen elsewhere here. Oh, and Ben Urich confronts D-Man in the New York sewers. 6/10

Season of the Witch #3 (of 4) - Jessica continues to wreak havoc among the king's men in an effort to free the peasants of Asamando from his tyrannical reign, and going about it the wrong way as usual, becoming a tyrant herself. Nicola Scott's art has really grown on me as the series has progressed. He draws Jessica's love interest, Fox, perfectly lovely and sexy, and just seems more comfortable with fight scenes and the main character herself in this issue. One of the things I look forward to most about this book is the art gallery at the back, where other artists take a stab at illustrating Jessica and the cast of characters. Mike Worley does a great, fun Simpsons-esque page on the back cover. 8.2/10

Polly and the Pirates #3 (of 6) - Polly is made an offer by our villain of the story and must make a choice and face some hard truths about herself...and her mother. Ted Naifeh continues to dazzle with his art and storytelling mastery. 8.9/10

Ultimate Spider-man #89 - Spider-man has finally been captured by Silver Sable and her Wild Pack, and now faces his kidnappers and the man that hired them. There are some really great flashback sequences in this issue (with great Bagley illustrations), of Silver Sable, her employer and Peter Parker himself that all work really great to soften the villains of the book, provide motivations, and contrast the characters. Easily the best Bendis book of the week. 9/10

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Previews: April 2006

Highlights of the recent Previews catalogue from Diamond (lacklustre as the issue was)...

Archaia Studios Press:
Mouse Guard #2 - This book looks so beautiful, I just can't help but mention it all the time...

Dark Horse:
Scary Book (volume 2) - More horror manga goodness as Kazuo Umezu's anthology series continues...

DC:
Fables #48 - Bigby Wolf has been missing from the pages of this series for awhile, so it'll be fun to see what the grump has been up to.

Seven Soldiers #1 - Finally! The conclusion of the Grant Morrison saga!

Fantagraphics Books:
The Complete Peanuts (volume 5): 1959-1960 - I'm behind on these, but I loved what I've read so far. And Patty's on the cover!

Nymph GN - This sounds cool and has a great cover. I will be checking this Frank Thorne book out.

:01 First Second:
A.L.I.E.E.E.N. SC - I'm a sucker for cutesy comics. Weird cutsey comics fall into that.

IDW Publishing:
Adventures In Oz tpg - Collecting five Eric Shanower Oz books, IDW hits a new high.

Angel Spotlight: Illyria - Okay, I'm a Buffy/Angel fan nd God, I loved Illyria. I have to check this out.

Marvel:
Marvel Milestones: Beast & Kitty Pryde - I've just gotta highlight a Kitty Pryde special, even if the story being collected ("Kitty's Fairy Tale") is sub-par.

Moon Knight #1 - Uh...was anybody waiting for this to happen? Well, if they were, they must be disappointed it's drawn by David Finch.

Ms. Marvel #2 - I'm going to at least check out this book. What a great Frank Cho cover!

New Avengers Annual #1 - I wasn't so keen on Olivier Coipel's art in House of M, so I'm a little sad that this is drawn by him, but hey - it's a wedding issue! Real weddings are never this fun.

New Mutants Classic (volume 1) - I loved Excalibur Classic, and it's really a nice format to present these books in, so I'm happy about Marvel collecting New Mutants in this manner.

Ultimate Spider-man #93 - Bendis and Bagley have been on a roll with the Ultimate Spider-man lately, so of course I'm looking forward to the Deadpool storyline.

Wolverine: Origins #1 - And does this really constitute an ongoing series? Sigh.

Narwain Publishing:
Free Fall tp - Since I can't find a single issue of any Narwain books, I'll just have to resort to buying the trades...

A little boring this month admittedly, but there's a lot of good stuff that's already coming out regularly that'll make up for the lack of excitement.

And the results of the Comic Bloggers' Poll for 2005 were announced!
My favorite comic of last year, Ultra: Seven Days was #7 on the list of mini-series or one-shots (and the Luna Brothers were #8 of the writers), and my top original graphic novel, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners was #1 in that category (with Gene Ha as #5 artist)! Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison were #1 in the artist and writer categories, and the #1 on-going title? Fell. Weird choice, but I do like that series. Black Hole was #1 for collected material.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Confessions...

When I was in junior high, I began reading my first novels (outside of school). I'd gone up to my aunt's house in Grang Forks, ND for a week and brought along a set of books I'd gotten for Christmas so I wouldn't get bored. They were paperback teen thrillers. There was a Diane Hoh book, an R.L. Stine...but those young adult thrillers shaped how I thought of books growing up. I loved them and began to consume them like mad. They were obviously really trashy books, but I had a lot of fun reading them. I kind of became obsessed with them after awhile and (let's just say I didn't have many friends at this stage in my life) I went so far as to do a yearly awards ceremony for young adult thrillers, called the Feary Awards. I bought and read every single young adult thriller that came out each year and had silly categories like "Best 'Trapped' Book" and "Best Werewolf Novel." Needless to say, the audience for the Feary Awards began and ended with me and my notebook. I didn't stop reading young adult thrillers for a long time. A year or so into college, in fact, when my boyfriend pointed out how ridiculous it was and slowly weened me off of them. I think a lot of comic book fans are like that presently. They grew up reading comics and read juvenille superhero titles for too long instead of growing naturally into the next stage of reading, more intellectual graphic novels, something with more substance than a typical Green Lantern comic will provide. I'm not saying that reading Green Lantern is a bad thing in and of itself, but there's something to be said for expanding your palette. I'm reading Harry Potter right now, a children's book, and loving it; But I also read Jane Austin and Margaret Atwood. I read Ultimate Spider-man AND Acme Novelty Library. People should read what they enjoy, but also pursue more substantial works to grow, otherwise they just don't know what they're missing. I just wanted to admit this weird part of my life and relate it to the equally weird fans of comics. If you thought that my obsession was strange, then what does that say about only reading stacks of comics geared toward teenagers from Marvel and DC every week. What does it say about Wizard Magazine having an annual awards ceremony with "Best Supervillain" and "Best Heroine" as categories (both of which were part of my Feary Awards)? Things need to be put into perspective sometimes.

These were some of my favorite young adult thrillers growing up...



The Vampire Diaries, a four-book series, by L.J. Smith was my all-time favorite YA thriller.








The Body of Evidence series of books by comic book scribe Christopher Golden, a series still going, starring Jenna Blake and at one point optioned for a TV series.








Remember Me by Christopher Pike. One of the first YA thrillers I ever read about a girl who died.







The Dark Hearts trilogy by Daniel Parker about voodoo in New Orleans, the story that made me believe The Skeleton Key would be a cool movie (and boy, was I wrong)







The Dark Secrets books were more traditional mysteries by Elizabeth Chandler, the best being Legacy of Lies.






Elvira had a series of books (with help by John Paragon) and they were pretty silly, but really fun. Elvira would always be trying to seduce one hot young policeman or another while dealing with general supernatural wackiness. The books included Transylvania 90210 and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf.








Sweep was one of the last YA series that I ever read and one of the best, about witches, written by Cate Tiernan.







The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike was a favorite, spawning five sequels.







I remember thinking that Chain Letter by Christopher Pike was extremely ruthless and truly horrifying. Don't know how well that would stand up now...








I pretty much thought that R.L. Stine was way overrated and actually dreaded reading his books sometimes they were so bad, but I read them anyways for the sake of the Feary Awards. The Cheerleaders trilogy I actually enjoyed, however.

Friday, January 20, 2006

5 CDs you should know about

There are plenty of CDs that come in under people's radar that really deserve more attention. I wanted to highlight five CDs that I felt were extremely neglected from the past five years, favorites of mine...

Slow Down Kid ~ Val Emmich (2004) This CD blew me away. I bought it on a whim when I was listening to some music at Border's one day. I really just listened to the CD because I thought the guy was cute, but my god Val Emmich is talented. His music is bursting with the raw emotion that so much music is lacking. His lyrics can be painful and touching, but are mostly very angry and lost. This kid can sing and write and rock. Key tracks: Medical Display, Bury Me, Separate Things, Shock, Unstable.

Who's Got Trouble? ~ Shivaree (2005) I first became aware of Shivaree because of her song Goodnight Moon on the Kill Bill Volume 2 soundtrack. I gave a listen to her most recent CD after that and was extremely impressed. The more I listened to this CD, the more I fell in love with the bluesy, smoky tone of her music. Full of depressing numbers and whimsical songs alike, this CD is a real pleaser. Key tracks: New Casablanca, I Close my Eyes, Someday, Little Black Mess, The Fat Lady of Limbourg.

Neon Nights ~ Dannii Minogue (2003) Recognize the last name? Well, you should because this is pop icon Kylie Minogue's younger sister. But Dannii's been around for awhile too, starting her music career back in the early 90's (after being a TV actress). This was her first CD made available in America (in the wake of Kylie's big blow-up). She also does dance music and between her and her sister, do it the best presently. If you like club/house music, you will love Dannii. Key tracks: Put the Needle On It, Creep, I Begin To Wonder, Hey! (So What), Mighty Fine.

Mindy McCready ~ Mindy McCready (2002) Maybe the most familiar name on the list, this country singer made it big with her debut platinum album Ten Thousand Angels. Since that time however, Mindy's fallen off the map, but through no fault of her own. With each CD she has come out with, she's steadily gotten better. Her last CD was her best coincidentally, simply titled Mindy McCready. Citing a good mix of mature and playful songs, this is the country CD to have in your collection. And try not to let the fact that she was addicted to prescription drugs and tried to commit suicide sway you from her favor. Rumor has it she's due for a comeback. Key tracks: Maybe, Maybe Not, Lips Like Yours, Lovin' Your Man, Scream, Don't Speak, If I Feel Your Hand.

Day I Forgot ~ Pete Yorn (2003) Pete Yorn had some moderate success with his first CD Musicforthemorningafter, but didn't get quite so much attention for his second effort, which is really just as good. Pete Yorn's music is moody. He can croon through a ballad with the best of them, but I prefer it when he really cuts loose and just rocks out (he has a great live CD for just that). His music is just brilliant; the best songwriter currently out there. Key tracks: Come Back Home, Carlos (Don't Let It Go To Your Head), Committed, Turn of the Century, Burrito.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In passing...Deadgirl to Runaways

There were quite a few good titles that came out this week aside from All Star Superman. It's becoming rare that I have a week with seven comics to read. Not to complain or anything. It is a good thing. But it does make me wonder if I need to be a little more patient with my purchasing. Most of these titles are within the first few issues of their runs and if I waited a few months, I'd be able to just enjoy the collected editions, which I find to be the ideal way to read most comics since the stories usually lend themselves to that format better (and how often would I dig through a clumsy longbox to reread something as opposed to pulling it off of a bookshelf where it can properly be displayed?) But then there are comics like Manhunter, who has only recently had a first trade come out (and who knows if more will follow?). If I waited for all of my books to be collected, I could miss out on them altogether. And then there are the titles I don't want to wait on, like Astonishing X-Men. Ugh. It's so hard to know what the right thing to do is sometimes...

Manhunter #18 - Things come to a head in the current Manhunter arc, as Kate Spencer tracks down the kidnappers of her family and battles her nemesis Phobia. I was unaware of anything of importance to the DC universe at large during this story, but The Pulse covered a little issue that comes up with a DC character becoming part of the book and being outed at the same time. It wasn't distracting at all during the story. I didn't realize that this character was anyone important but a character that would presumably be recurring. But it was only a little scene anyway that didn't interrupt the flow of the story or anything. Overall, a very suspenseful issue. 9.1/10

Testament #2 - The biblical story that this issue aligns with is "Sodom and Gomorrah." A protest is taking place defying a draft that represents Gomorrah when Jake is trying to save his ex-girlfriend Dinah from the oncoming trouble that's about to go down, but the NATs represent Gomorrah at another point when they're "disciplining" a strange man. The parellels work in both cases, but it seemed more of a struggle to get the stories to line up as neatly as they did in the first issue. Still, this was a really good issue. It just seemed the NATs were thrown in a little too conveniently to align with the theme and didn't contribute much beyond that. 7.7/10

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #3 (of 4) - Well, an issue of the mini-series that I actually liked! Revelations galore as this issue comes to a stunning conclusion. The ending is really extremely brutal and well, disturbing, just when you think things couldn't have gotten any worse. I really liked how the offenders were so casual about what they were doing, talking about parties and such as they performed their duty. It seems that the solution that is referred to at the end of the issue, the last great escape for this escape artist, is pretty obvious, but not everything needs to be shrouded in mystery, I suppose. 9.2/10

X-Statix Presents: Deadgirl #1 (of 5) - X-Statix returns with a favorite character of mine - Deadgirl! Although I was a little disappointed that the hero in question didn't make an appearance until the very last panel of the book, it was still an entertaining issue overall. The story follows Doctor Strange as he discovers a disturbance in Hell. But...the doctor has troubles of his own. He's depressed. He has hemorrhoids. He's well, strange, and yearns for a normal life that he can't have. It certainly is an interesting take on a character that is overlooked too often. And it makes for quite a bit of fun in the face of the danger the world faces here (what with the dead returning and all). 9/10

Runaways #12 - The "East Coast/West Coast" story concludes as Cloak's imposter is confronted by the juvenilles. The New Avengers have some rather embarrassing moments in this issue as the runaways are able to accomplish what the professionals are not. I really enjoyed the art of the issue more than usual, particularly at the beginning when the kids are riding a flying carpet amid a gaggle of pigeons. And the way the enemy was defeated was pretty clever, in my opinion. 8.9/10

Spider-woman: Origin #2 (of 5) - Jessica Drew's story unfolds as she's deep within the hydra snake nest, making friends, learning how to use her powers and fight, and being generally brainwashed into the folds of evil. This is a pretty good origin story, as origins go. I really enjoyed watching Jessica's progress with the Taskmaster and her memory alike. This is just a great, fun superhero comic. 9.3/10

All Star Superman #2

I've never been a big Superman fan. He's always seemed dull to me, a little too perfect and untouchable and ultimately, conservative in comparison to Marvel's heroes. Which begs the question: why was this comic so damn awesome? The obvious answer to this question would be the creative team, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, both masters of the medium and frequent collaborators on some of the most innovative runs of superheros to date. And of course, that's a big part of this issue's success. But the thing is, I wasn't completely blown away by issue #1 of this series either. It was cool and all, but it still left me a little cold in the face of the main character. So...what changed? Well, two words: Lois Lane. I think the success of this issue relies on this supporting character because when told through her eyes, Superman really is cool. When we're following Superman, the mystery, the allure, of the character isn't present. It needs that distance, that removal, to really showcase how awesome it is that Superman is who he is. It's cool that Superman feeds suns to scary pets. It's cool that he has secrets in a laboratory that could spell doom for our heroine. And you know what? It's damn cool to see Superman just walk around and be Superman. And therein lies the genius of this issue. With a filter, with a different perspective, we see why this character has so many devoted fans and deserves that "All Star" title. This is easily the best book of the week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Excalibur

Excalibur Classic (volume 1) recently collected issues 1-5 of the original international X-Men team, along with a prelude issue entitled "The Sword is Drawn," no doubt riding the wake of the recently-launched New Excalibur series, which cites a reunion of former members and a classic take on the team that readers have been supposedly salivating for. Truly an underlooked series, I was a little worried that the book wouldn't hold up from my thirteen-year-old eyes to the present. Excalibur was, after all, my first love of comics and something very dear to me, as I grew up with Kitty, Brian, Rachel, Kurt and Meggan. Maybe that's why it really did read like a classic story to me, because it was so revered at the time. But, God, I had so much fun reading it all again that I have to believe there's something there that doesn't have to do with my own prejudices of growing up with it. Re-reading these issues really brought a new appreciation to something I've been calling one of my favorites out of habit over the past few years. I can now truly say that it is one of my favorites with a new confidence. Alan Davis was the first artist whose work I was able to recognize and I just think he's damn good at what he does. I think he's more than merely competent, as some people have said. I think his illustrations are beautiful. And this was a time when Claremont, who I almost loathe in present-day comics, was at his peak. He hadn't lost his touch from the days of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past quite yet. This is probably his last great work before going on to rest on his laurels and remine old concepts over and over to the dread of his readers (or potential readers). Excalibur begins in the wake of the X-Men's supposed death. These superheros decide to continue fighting for Xavier's dream as they come together to face the duel threat of the warwolves and Gatecrasher's technet, both bounty hunting teams hoping to drag Rachel Summers back to the mojoverse. Throughout the following issues of the ongoing series, the team faces threats such as Juggernaut, the Crazy Gang, and Arcade, and we get to see the beginnings of a huge ordeal, as Courtney Ross (Captain Britain'a old flame) is replaced by the utterly ruthless Sat-yr-9. And while they deal with their adversaries, the team moves in together and squabbles over small things and big things alike, reminiscent of reality shows in a way as people are confused about feelings for one another and get comfortable with each other encrouching on their lives. While reading these stories, I've also come to realize that I really missed Meggan (who actually first appeared in Alan Moore/Alan Davis's Captain Britain. Another overlooked classic story). She was so naive and wore her emotions on her sleeve. She was kind of the glue of the team, the heart. It was so much fun reliving these moments with these characters that I can only hope that Marvel will see fit to continue publishing subsequent collections of this modern-day classic.

Friday, January 13, 2006

In Passing...Fables to Lost Souls

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! Flipping through the channels, I was happy to see Jason on cable. It made me happy. Anyways, the reviews...

DMZ #3 - This issue concludes the first storyarc of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ. Opening with missile strikes in the downtown area, the issue hardly stops to catch its breath as Matty is confronted by the military as well as Zee, forcing him to make a decision about his position and what he plans to do. A satisfactory ending of the first story of what promises to be a great, gritty comic. 8.4/10

Fables #45 - Yusuf's fate is carried out in light of his treachery in this issue of the "Arabian Nights (and Days)" arc, and we get to see what has become of Boy Blue at the animal farm, and where this arc leaves Sinbad and the Arabian fables. This is very much the wrap-up issue of the story, but it was interesting and fun nonetheless. 8.5/10

The Book of Lost Souls #4 - Oooh. A two-parter. Since its debut issue, this Icon series has been all about the stand-alones, but this issue breaks the pattern with a cliffhanger. And it's a pretty good one, as it serves to further the mythology of our shadowy hero and the Dark Man. This issue is about a hitman who has a colorful past who depends on a Corinthian knock-off (from Sandman - no eyes of his own, collects eyes - you know the one) to get him a new life when he's gotten himself into a corner. The Dark Man is very interested in this man, and our protagonist is left with a very difficult decision. Now, Colleen Doran is a great artist on this book. I love her A Distant Soil, don't get me wrong, but I was getting a little sick of the big eightie's hair she gives her characters. Here, she proves that she can draw prostitutes and hitmen along with the best of them. It's a nice change. A good look. 8.5/10

And from the pages of Shojo Beat (February 2006)...

Absolute Boyfriend - Riiko finds out the truth about her best friend as Night's groupies move in for the kill. I didn't really care for the art of this book at first, but it's kind of growing on me. I'm just not used to the rapid pace and panel structure of a lot of manga yet. It's nice to experience something different though. 7.8/10

Nana - Nana Komatsu finds herself in a bit of a bind this issue. She's indulged a little too much when it came to shopping. So, she finds herself strapped for cash and scurries to remedy the situation, while Shoji has a nice time (maybe too nice of a time) with Sachiko, the new girl from his work. This book is always such a treat. I especially enjoy the new boy in Osaki's band, Yasu. Yazawa just draws the cutest guys. 9/10

Last movie I saw in theaters: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Last book I read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

DVDs from Netflix:
- Mean Girls
- Grizzly Man
- The Short Films of David Lynch

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Catwoman: When In Rome

Catwoman: When In Rome is the latest mini-series featuring our favorite cat burglar. And it really does showcase why Selina Kyle is such a cool character. She's witty (her Italian starts with Armani and ends with Gucci), she's a lonely screwed-up superhero/villain, and she's deliberate about some rather tongue-in-cheek choices she makes (mainly, her dominatrix outfit). But beyond that, this book doesn't showcase Gotham's finest. I can't be the only one reading Batman comics who's sick of seeing ten villains from Batman's rogue's gallery shoved into one book just to...well, shove them into one book. Hush was enough. More than enough. Unfortunately, Jeph Loeb had some idea that that's what the fans wanted with this book instead of a good well-rounded story. Fortunately for our heroine in question, the artist Tim Sale saves the series with his beautiful rendition of Rome. I rather like his background drawings of hotel rooms and oriental rugs more than his characters, but he draws a mean Selina Kyle. The covers of the comics (or "chapters" in the collected edition) feature some of the most beautiful pictures I've seen in comics this past year. Another cool thing about this book is The Riddler. He's Selina's side kick throughout the book and really makes a very good one. I never would have thought to put him into this sort of role, but it works splendidly and I'd actually like to see him in that role again some time. Batman, of course, makes an appearance in the book as well, which was rather annoying because Catwoman's a character who can stand on her own two feet and throwing the Dark Knight frivolously into the book for no good reason other than to put him in (the reason for his appearance given is just extremely lame) is frankly, an insult to the main character.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Exterminators

The new Vertigo/DC mini-series The Exterminators made its debut in comic stores this past week. Written by Simon Oliver and illustrated by Tony Moore, this gritty tale of, well, exterminators, is an ugly book. But not in a bad way. It's illustrated well by Tony Moore of The Walking Dead fame. I just mean its full of rather vile images. Lots of disgusting bugs obviously fill the pages, making me squirm in particular (God, I hate bugs), along with plenty of blood and gore and squished bug guts. The characters of the book are just as reprehensible as the job they perform, swearing and treating women like sex objects. The protagonist has recently come out of prison and illustrates some violent tendencies he has while other characters eat bugs and other such disgusting things. The book's pretty much about this group of eccentric characters of Bug-Bee-Gone who are going to have a real struggle on their hands as some evolving cockroaches in a poor area of Hollywood are about to threaten man's very existence, much in the way of the Black Plague. This is an enjoyable first issue if you can overlook its excessive swearing, gross-outs, and disturbing behavior, but it may be pumped full of a little too much testosterone for most people's tastes.

Used Book Store Treasures

While Milwaukee's comic book store market may royally suck, at least the area bookstores carry a good variety of alternative material and manga that are lacking where they should be found. Today, me and Patrick went to Downtown Books in downtown Milwaukee just by chance and low and behold, they have a wealth of comic material on the third floor of the used bookstore. Most of it is floppies, but there was a graphic novel section with some real finds. I picked up a few books I've been meaning to pick up for awhile with some absurdly low price tags (and in mint condition!). I got Strangehaven: Arcadia and Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships. The first volume of the Age of Bronze series was probably going to be the next trade I picked up anyway, so it was a total bonus that I got it for $6.99 when it sold retail at $20. Strangehaven's first volume? A mere $7.99. But those weren't the only finds. Patrick picked up a trade published by Marvel back in 1989 collecting old monster comics called Monster Masterworks. For a mere $7, he got a trade full of pre-Fantastic Four Jack Kirby monster comics with some Steve Ditko ones thrown in for good measure. It's really a cool collection with eerie watermarks over the credit pages of gnarled trees and swamplands. Included in the book are stories like "Groot, the Monster from Planet X!" "The Threat of Tim Boo Ba!" "Taboo, the Thing from the Murky Swamp!" "Zzutak!" "Grottu, King of the Insects!" and "Fin Fang Foom!" all separated into three sections: alien Invaders, man-made monsters, and ancient menaces. Really, you couldn't have found a better treasure.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What a news day...

Quite a few announcements were made today in the world of comics. I always hate the weekends when nothing is being posted, but Monday...ah, I love Mondays. There's Lying In the Gutters, Richard Johnston's rumor column over at Comic Book Resources, as well as Diamond's updated shipping schedule for this week and the next. It's just a nice way to begin the week. But this Monday, on top of those things, we get some fairly big announcements (see more at Newsarama).

Chimera Studios is leaving Speakeasy for a U.K. publisher. Sad news. I really like Speakeasy. Not that this is a particularly nasty loss. Of Bitter Souls was one of my 5 worst books of 2005 and Smoke & Mirror was "eh."

Also leaving Speakeasy is a book I was really looking forward to - Strangeways, about werewolves in the Old West. Matt Maxwell reported that he was pulling it out of the company, which sucks so close to the release date, especially since there's no publisher lined up for the book. Ah, well. At least Speakeasy has Rosario Dawson's book lined up...

Will Toale was confirmed as the face (and body...and I mean, body) of Aquaman in the WB series which is slated for next Fall.

And lastly, Marvel has parted ways with Toy Biz, Inc., venturing forth with their toys by way of Hasbro.

Books I'm planning to pick up this Wednesday at the ol' local comic store:
- Book of Lost Souls #4
- DMZ #3
- Fables #45
- Shojo Beat: February '06
- Spider-man vs. Silver Sable TP
- X-Men: The 198 #1 (provided a quick glance through the book is enough to convince me of giving it a shot)

Acme Novelty Library #16


Rusty Brown was one of my favorite strips from the Acme Novelty Library hardcover that came out last year, so I was very pleased with Acme Novelty Library #16, since the main story revolves around Rusty Brown's childhood. Rusty Brown was such a screwed-up adult that it's really neat to get a glimpse of him in his youth, especially at this point in his life since it's a highlight for him - meeting Chalky White, his best friend, for the first time. In fact, a strip that runs along the bottom of the Rusty Brown strip is a strip featuring Chalky, as well as his sister whom I think was my favorite character of the entire book. It was really cool to have this strip run beneath Rusty's because the events took place at the same time and characters from the Rusty strip would weave into the Chalky strip at times, from another perspective. Rusty's father is also prevalent through the Rusty Brown strip and not surprisingly, is a very screwed-up man himself, and is very reminiscent of the Rusty Brown we see in future versions of the character. Throughout our brief encounter with Rusty, we get to see his weird infatuation with Supergirl blossom, and Chalky's reaction to sharing Rusty's secret passion (without officially meeting Rusty either, which was a really neat way to play it out). One back-up story is of an apartment building and the tenants that live there, one woman having a prosthetic leg, a man having fantasies about this woman, etc. It's really a story told in a complicated structure that Chris Ware fans are probably all but used to by now. But it's really fun to work your way through it, just as it's fun to admire the book's structure generally. I really enjoyed the realistic portrayal of the inside cover of the book, an homage to used library books and a great way to begin your reading experience.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sable & Fortune

Ah, another obscure favorite character of mine makes her leap to her own mini-series in the wake of a seeming Silver Sable renaissance, as she's featured in Ultimate Spider-man as well as the video game, and has a collection of her best battles with Spidey coming out very shortly. I remember seeing Silver Sable in some old Marvel trading cards, probably Marvel Masterpiece's first series, and she was instantly sealed in my heart as a favorite, with her knowing grin and silver outfit that matched her silver pistol. I have a few issue of her short-lived Silver Sable and the Wild Pack series from the early nineties, but since then, it seemed like she'd disappeared from the Marvel Universe. I sometimes joked with Patrick that I would love to bring back the character as a Marvel Knight, but it seems that that honor was given to more capable hands, by Brian Michael Bendis in an ultimatized version of the character. Brendan Cahill and John Burns take her reappearance to another level, as she's thrust into the limelight in Sable & Fortune, where she unwillingly joins forces with Dominic Fortune, a devil-may-care P.I. I'd never heard of until I read about the character at Fanboy Planet and later, in the back of the first issue of the series. I guess he's a Michael Chaykin creation that predates his Blackhawk. The mini-series is six-issues long and I believe it's painted, even though the credits only list John Burns as a penciler and no one is credited for the colors. Either way, it's beautiful work. The style, as was pointed out in the above-mentioned article, is very sixties spy movie inspired, complete with some major eighties hair going on for Sable. But overall, the first issue is a very fun foray into adventure and espionage and I can't wait to see what's in store for us.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In Passing...Frankenstein to the Last Man

Kind of a slow week for comics this time around. I picked up a couple of first issues, which I'll review later (Sable & Fortune and The Exterminators), but right now, I'll do a couple mini-reviews of new comics, as well a comic that I tracked down while in Minneapolis.

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2 (of 4) - One thing you have to say about this mini-series is that the perfect artist was assigned to the job. I couldn't imagie anyone doing this dark, moody title better than Doug Mahnke, from the first page of Frankenstein atop a buggish horse to the bloody conclusion. Once again citing ties to other Seven Soldiers books, this one almost feels like an echo of what's happened before in Klarion the Witch Boy (which is even noted in the comic itself). But we should be used to patterns emerging between these titles by now, shouldn't we? 7.8/10

Y - the Last Man #41 - Another issue dedicated to one of the secondary characters of the series, this Y - the Last Man delves into Agent 355's past, including her childhood, recruitment into secret services and several shocking moments to her character. But for such a mysterious character as 355, the payoff could have been a lot better. There's nothing too fascinating in 355's past to warrant her as the bad-ass of Yorick's little entourage. Vaughan delivers yet another so-so issue of this overpraised series. 5/10

Sword of Dracula #1 (volume 2) - The Image Comics black-and-white mini-series made a jump to color a few months ago as the series moved to Digital Webbing. Jason Henderson's Sword of Dracula got quite a bit of attention when it first launched over a year ago, due to deals with video games and the like, but with its second incarnation, it seems to have been quite overlooked. The series is kind of like Dracula vs. the military headed by a Van Helsing. A bit cliche, but Henderson adds onto the Dracula myth enough to overlook the presence of yet another hot young Van Helsing heir in skin-tight leather. This time around, Ronnie Van Helsing's militia group, Polidorium, is competing with another undead-hunting group while Dracula seizes a political opportunity to become president of a small country. This series seems to be more bent on examining the main character, including her battle with an eating disorder which was unveiled in the first mini-series, and also glimpsing into Ronnie's past which is actually being revealed slowly and quite chillingly. The pace of this comic is really effective, my only complaint being a messy opening scene where the action was a little hard to make out. 8/10

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Robotika


The first issue of Archaia Studios Press' new four-issue mini-series Robotika hit the shelves a few weeks ago and I have just been able to track it down via a trip home to Minneapolis (at Big Brain). I have been fond of this publisher for years, ever since I dicovered Mark Smylie's beautiful masterpiece Artesia. But Archaia Studios is expanding to publish titles such as my much-anticipated Mouse Guard: Belly of the Beast and the just-released OGN The Lone and Level Sands (which I have yet to see in the flesh). But at least I got my Archaia fix with this single issue. I have to say, the production qualities of the floppies are wonderful. It's really a thick comic with great glossy colorful pages and back-up pages explaining the universe. And the issue, written and drawn by Alex Sheikman (art by Joel Chua) is incredible, starting with the gorgeous Sook cover. The story, admittedly, is an odd sort of tale about a future world where there have been many manifestations of cyborgs and robots, but where true artificial intelligence has yet eluded the great minds of the time. At least until now. A great scientist has just perfected such a creature, and for his trouble was murdered, his prized find stolen almost immediately after the discovery was made. A warrior, Niko, has been summoned by his queen to retrieve the creation before a meeting of other nations which is to take place in four days' time. The issue is filled to brimming with beautiful, strange images and colors, including some fascinating character and clothing designs. This is truly a unique vision in comics and I can't wait to see where the world of Robotika takes us next.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Films of 2006

Over at Ain't It Cool News, they've listed 80 films to watch out for in 2006, and I wanted to highlight a few that sound cool.

Black Snake Moan - a film with a nymohomaniac Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson and...Justin Timberlake. And he's supposed to be blowing people away with his performance. (I'll be happy if he takes his shirt off a few times...)

Marie Antoinette - Sophia Coppola's new film has a lot to live up to in the wake of Lost in Translation, but I have faith.

Superman Returns - duh.

X3 - I'm a little nervous about Brett Ratner filling in and adding so many new faces to the franchise since Bryan Singer's departure, but God, I loved X2 and I have to believe this will be cool...and Kitty's in it, man! And look at that actress playing Psylocke. Awesome!

Grind House - Quentin Tarantino is a god. And hey, I love horror movies.

V For Vendetta - I just read the graphic novel, and Ain't It Cool News has just been hyping up the film, so I gotta give it the benefit of the doubt.

Brick - Film noir for teens. And Joseph Gordan-Levitt, who was hot and just great in Mysterious Skin.

Art School Confidential - From the Daniel Clowes short strip. Ghost World was awesome, so expectations are high here...

Monday, January 02, 2006

In Passing...New Avengers to the Boy Wonder

It took awhile, but I'm finally caught up on my comic reading for next week's barrage. Despite the absence of the second volume of Lady Snowblood from my local store's shelves, I got everything I wanted.

New Avengers #14 - Frank Cho's first issue, complete with a wink to his Liberty Meadows comic, the name plastered blatantly across the front of a big-breasted woman's tight t-shirt. I kind of liked the art. There were a few pages that were really just pretty. With this issue, we finally discover what's been going on with Jessica Drew. The big secret is revealed. 8.4/10

X-Factor #2 - The debut issue of this series was nearly perfect. So, it's no wonder that the second issue had to disappoint at least a little. The art in this issue seemed a little rushed, a little less clear than in the previous issue, and the whole issue felt a little clumsier, a little less organized and controlled. But, on the bright side, it was still great. We get to see Monet finally, in all of her cocky glory, and we are introduced to some interesting dispalys by the big bad. 8/10

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #4 (of 6) - To be honest, I've had problems with Richard K. Morgan's Black Widow stories. They just haven't been up-to-par with past creators' visions of the femme fatale. That being said, this issue was better than it has been. I love Bill Sienkiewicz' art and if he can do anything, it's make a woman look beautifully deadly insane (i.e. Elektra: Assassin). The story is finally allowing Natasha to cut loose and do what she does best. 7/10

Ultimate Spider-man #88 - With his school in chaos, Peter Parker ponders his secret identity once more, but at least this time he can talk to somebody about it - he's got an X-Men as a girlfriend, after all. Meanwhile, Silver Sable comes up with a new plan to capture Spider-man. 8.4/10

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #3 - Black Canary is awesome again. Gail Simone's watered-down version of the character is plain bland in Birds of Prey, making her hard to distinguish from the rest of the cast. Frank Miller and Jim Lee's vision of the character is uncompromising and just plain awesome! Frank Miller's just great at making a character a real force. Elektra, Black Canary, Batman...it's the type of thing that really separates a great writer from the writers who merely want to be great. 8.5/10

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Testament

Testament is a new series that debuted last week by Vertigo/DC. The debut issue was really interesting - one of the best debut issues of an on-going series I think I've read in awhile. The first few pages take place in Biblical times (featuring Abraham), then the story fast-forwards to a future reality, with a parellel first page. From there, the story diverts quite a bit from its ancient roots, but the theme remains between the two stories, quite eerie and always kind of hovering on the periphery: a father's sacrifice of his son. Meanwhile, the book lays the groundwork for a really interesting world, complete with plenty of government conspiracies having been realized. A group of rebels hope to change the government with high-tech wizardry as well as with experimental "ritual" drugs and the prophecies induced by them. Beyond the story, I was also really drawn to the art. I'm not really familiar with Liam Sharp, but his pages were just awesome. Highly recommended.