Friday, June 30, 2006

In Passing...Blue Beetle to X-Factor

Another week with plenty of floppies...

New Avengers #21 - This issue kicks off the "New Avengers: Disassembled" arc, a Civil War tie-in. Howard Chaykin takes over pencil duties as Captain America attempts to put together a team to resist the government's Superhero Registration Act. The team as we know it is obviously at odds with one another, with Iron Man and Spidey conforming, and Cap not. Perhaps we'll see a new team altogether at the end of this arc, led by Captain America? The renegade superheros? Well, we'll have to wait and see. This issue was awesome though, focusing pretty exclusively on Cap. In the next issue, Luke Cage is the star attraction. I think it's kind of a fun idea to go through all of the characters in this book... A

X-Factor #8 - The other Civil War tie-in I got this week guest-starred Quicksilver as well as Spider-Man, both of whom had pretty small roles. The next issue seems to be pretty Quicksilver-heavy, if the end of this issue is any indicator, but this particular issue was kind of dull, mostly having each character discuss their stance on Civil War. C+

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #6 - This issue was pretty much just a series of wacky events and villains - plenty of action, but little of those cool moments and flashbacks that make the series a stand-out. C-

Blue Beetle #4 - Jaime continues to adjust to coming back to his life after a year absence, rebonding with his friends as some new villains make a first move. As the cover indicates, Oracle makes contact with Jaime in a very short, but amusing, scene. B-

Ultimate Spider-Man #96 - I don't know if it was just me, but this issue seemed a little rushed and sloppy. As Patrick indicated, it was a lot of running around, screaming about vampires. Not much really happens to move the story forward, but it's a pretty action-packed issue. C

Runaways #17 - On the opposite side of the spectrum from Ultimate Spider-Man, the new issue of Runaways had a helluvalot going on. One more issue to go in the "Parental Guidance" arc, and...wait...did one of the runaways die at the end of this issue? Why does the next issue's cover say "One of these Runaways is about to die"? Was this a psyche-out? It looked like a death to me. It was who I thought would die...I guess we'll have to see if this runaway can dodge a bullet or not... B+

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Previews: September 2006

Cartoon Books:
Bone One Volume Edition SC - The complete Bone gets a new printing, for those of you who missed it the first time around. Only $40 for the whole saga! Buy it if you haven't already.

DC Comics:
I took a look at DC solicitations separately.

Fantagraphics Books:
Popeye (Volume 1): I Yam What I Yam HC - The next comic strip series to be collected by Fantagraphics is E.C. Segar's classic Popeye. It's been collected before, but not since the new trend of comic strip collections. Patrick only got his hands on one volume of the past editions, and loved it, so we're excited about this. Volume one will collect material from 1928 through 1930.

Mome (Volume 5) GN - The last one just came out, but this anthology is always a treat.

Shadowland GN - And here's a new graphic novel from Kim Deitch! It sounds weird but really cool.

Tales Designed To Thrizzle #3 - The hilarious comic from the mind of Michael Kupperman has left a huge impression on Patrick. I don't get much out of it, but whether you love it or not, you should at least give the comic a shot.

:01 First Second Books:
Another wave of :01 First Second Books is exciting news. I loved Fate of the Artist and A.L.I.E.E.E.N. from the first set of offerings, and am still looking forward to purchasing Vampire Loves. The new books coming out include two new ones by Joann Sfar (Klezmer and Sardine In Outer Space 2 (with Emmanuel Guibert), as well as Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick, American Born Chinese by Gene Young, Journey Into Mohawk Country by George O'Connor and Kampung Boy by Lat.

Houshton Mifflin Company:
The Best American Comics 2006 - "The Best American" series is coming out with a comic edition this year, edited by Harvey Pekar, featuring stories by some of the most exciting talent, like Jessica Abel, Lynda Barry and Joe Sacco.

Marvel Comics:
I have highlighted Marvel books separately.

Pantheon Books:
Chicken With Plums HC - A new graphic novel from Marjane Satrapi, the mind behind Persepolis!

Taschen America L.L.C.:
Little Nemo Complete Works HC - This is a new printing of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo In Slumberland strips, not quite of the same size as So Many Splendid Sundays, but available at an affordable $30.

Vertical Inc:
Tezuka's Ode To Kirihito SC - The complete 828 page work by Osama Tezuka is available for $25! That's amazing and a defininte must-have.

Also...
In the Studio: Visits With Contemporary Cartoonists TP - Todd Hignite brings us a collection of extensive interviews with the likes of Charles Burns, Robert Crumb, Ivan Brunetti, Jaime Hernandez, Gary Panter, Seth, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns Triumphant!

I'm not a big Superman fan. Never have been. I just find the guy dull, especially in light of other more complex superheroes out there presently. But man, I loved Superman Returns. Sure, he doesn't have the most exciting powers, but this story has heart. It focuses on his relationship with Lois and dealing with the fact that she's moved on since his absence. Lois Lane, for the record, is awesome in this movie. She's an extremely capable woman and Brian Singer reminds us all over again why we love her. And he does something similar with Superman. Clark Kent's kind of a non-entity in this film, but Superman is someone that I really liked, boring powers and all. I think the fact that Superman returned from a five year absence and had to earn the respect of the populace all over again made him vulnerable, especially given Lois needed said convincing as well. It was an interesting situation to see Superman in, and it made his character maybe seem a little more human in light of it. However, because of his iconic status, there are things that can be done using Superman that just couldn't be done with other men in tights, as Singer was all-too-aware (can you spot all of the blatant Superman-as-Christ imagery?). And Kevin Spacey makes a mean Luther while Parker Posey is great as the comic relief. The special effects revolve around Superman basically stopping disasters, but the action is stupendous and it is a special effects powerhouse. And, just to ease your mind, it's not too gay.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My 15 Favorite Video Games

Video games were a huge part of my youth. I remember opening my Super Nintendo on Christmas one year (or rather me AND my brother's Super NES) and being blown away because I wasn't expecting it. Needless to say, I didn't go outside much for the rest of that Winter Break. The following is a list of my favorite video games of all time, most of which...or rather, all of which, pre-date the Playstation 2 and Gamecube. What can I say? I have a fondness for the less flashy.

1. Final Fantasy II - The second installment of the ironically-titled Final Fantasy franchise released in the U.S. was actually Final Fantasy IV in Japan, but the previous sequels didn't make the cut to be released to American audiences (until collected on the Playstation years later). This is a turn-based RPG with a quality story and monsters that required real strategy to defeat. My problem with the later Final Fantasy games, beginning with the mega-seller Final Fantasy VII, is that they sacrifice story and strategy for graphics and voice acting. In Final Fantasy II, it could take hours to figure out that you have to cast, for instance, the spell "Wall" on a monster so that when she cures herself, it bounces back onto your characters, thus you must defeat the monster without magic. In later games of the franchise, basically using any strong spell or calling on any strong "Summoned monster" can kill an adversary, taking a lot of fun out of the gameplay. Plus, the earlier stories were long and sprawled over worlds where every corner of the map was free to explore should you choose. Later games are confined to a single storyline that brings you to specific places, with a lot of "extras" like card games to make it take more than 15 hours to beat. Final Fantasy II forced you to experience your characters to battle later foes, and overall the game could take over 80 hours to finish. Plus, the story was fabulous, nothing the oversexed mangaish games that came in later years could ever recapture. Rydia the Caller is to this day my favorite character from any video game.

2. Final Fantasy III - The next installment of the Final Fantasy frachise to come to America was Japan's Final Fantasy VI. This game stuck pretty closely to the formula devised for Final Fantasy II, but took the graphics up a notch, as well as adding some new elements, new summons, new spells, and the moogles that would riddle later games. Once again, we are treated to a compelling story, a full world to explore, and an intriguing mystery behind the main character, Terra. Oh, and this one's main character was indeed, a girl. It's important for many of these games to keep certain types of characters in your party: a white wizard to heal your team, a black wizard for damaging the enemy, a good fighter, possibly a character to summon monsters. This kind of thinking, of balancing, could be disgarded in later games in favor of characters that could specialize in pretty much anything. The end battle of this game required a list of all characters collected along the game's entirity: with one character's death, another would take their place. Deaths were frequent - the enemy could devastate your party with a single blow. Later Final Fantasy games are much simpler. The challenge doesn't exist as much as it formerly had. And quite often, the final battle seems just like any other fight.

3. Super Mario Brothers 2 - I love the odd-ball Mario game. No King Koopa in sight here. That's because this game was originally released in Japan as...well, not a Mario game at all, but a strange game called Doki Doki Panic. The playable characters fo that game were replaced in favor of the beloved characters of the first Super Mario Brothers, Mario and Luigi, with the added advantage of being able to choose which character to play, all of whom possessed different advantages, and included Princess "Peach" Toadstool and Toad. This was just a very imaginative universe and quite the departure from the first game of the series, with villains you'd hit with their own eggs, flying carpet rides and lots of digging in the sand for cursed keys. Oh and there was that fun slot machine thing at the end of each level.

4. Super Mario Brothers 3 - Going back to the original Mushroom Kingdom premise, Mario must save Princess Toadstool from that no-good King Koopa. The Mushroom Kingdom looked a whole lot cooler this time around since the first Super Mario Brothers, with raccoon tails and differently-themed levels that took you to deserts or a world of giants or an ice world...all while recapturing the little things that made the first game so special....mushrooms, fire flowers, star men...flying airships each helmed by one of Koopa's offspring...

5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past - The real-time RPG starring the loveable Link had our hero pit against the evil Gannon once more. There was a whole world to explore, each victory allowing access to another part of the land, involving invisibility cloaks and the like in a wonderful fantasy setting. Involving many side quests and puzzles, this was the best of the Zelda franchise with another great story that the best of RPGs can claim to have.

6. The Legend of Zelda - The intial game to introduce us to the world of Zelda appeared on the original Nintendo, with dungeons and secret entrances to caves of fairies and treasures. It was like nothing ever seen before and catapolted Link's world to the forefront of flagship titles for the system.

7. Super Mario Kart - Those loveable characters from the Mushroom Kingdom make their transition from their traditional roles to go-kart riders in Super Mario Kart, a racecar game like no other, involving four cups to strive for, battle mode, the infamous Rainbow Road, and plenty of accidents-in-waiting like red shells, banana peels and lightning bolts that shrink the competition down to size. There are eight playable characters in all, a pair of which each have similar strengths. The fun doesn't stop as you maneuver through ice tracks, sandy beaches and ghost houses to knock your fellow drivers off of the track in an attempt to claim the top prize.

8. Super Mario World - The game that came along with my Super Nintendo system for free: one of the best. I haven't played a Mario game since that has captivated my interest as much as this one has. Once again, the land of Mario is expanded into a wild world, with appearances by new characters such as Yoshi, and new concepts such as the cape and the bonus Star World.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game - Limitless hours of my youth (and quarters) were spent at my local Circus Circus avoiding the ski ball lines to play on arcade games. I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the time, so this game was like a little slice of Heaven to me, with all of my favorite characters, heros and villains alike, coming to life outside of the cartoon to interact with my favorite Donatello. Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder, Baxter Stockman...And if you died, you could just stick another quarter in to continue the game instead of having to "earn" your place in the game.

10. X-Men: The Arcade Game - And when my obsession with the Ninja Turtles had wained, the comic nerd in me found a new love in the form of the exact same style of gaming, but with the X-Men characters battling hordes of sentinels and Wendigo and Magneto. I loved playing the part of Dazzler, and it was always fun to have friends there in the game with you.

11. Mega Man 2 - Mega Man lived in a simple universe. He fought evil robots in a nice side-scrolling game with graphics that got the job done. You got to pick one of nine bad guys' levels to face, at the end of which you confronted the evil robot himself (named Metal Man or Snake Man or whatever). It was best to pick an easier level to defeat first because you gained the robots' powers as you defeated them, so the harder guys became easier to beat. Once all nine levels were defeated, it unlocked another bad guy...it's a whole thing.

12. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! - Working your way through the throngs of Mike Tyson's bitches was awesome. Each opponent had a different weakness. Everyone remembers King Hippo's pant-dropping moments, right? And yes, Mario's been fired from letting the princess get kidnapped too many times by this point, so he got a job as the referee.

13. Breath of Fire III - More of the same in the world of RPGs, but a damn good game with a great story and characters to match.

14. Wild Arms - Yes, I like the RPGs.

15. Sim City - You could build a city from scratch in this game, provided that you made decisions that earned approval from the city you built. Then you could clean up after all of the messes made by nature, including...monsters. But it was fun earning things like museums as your population increased. Kind of boring when I look back...but it entertained the hell out of me back then.

Monday, June 26, 2006

In Stores 6/28

Here are the highlights of the week...full list at Diamond.

Polly & the Pirates #6 (of 6) - The final issue of Ted Naifeh's wonderful tale of a prim and proper young lady pulled into a life of piracy comes out on Wednesday! The collection can't be too far behind, but for those of you who've been following the series in floppies like I have, a treat to the series' conclusion!

Eternals by Jack Kirby HC - Collecting the entire run of Jack Kirby's Eternals, this hefty book goes for $75, and brings another classic by Jack Kirby back into print.

Oz: The Manga (Volume 1) - The wonderful world of Oz gets the manga treatment, and when you think about it, Oz is damn weird and...manga may be a perfect fit.

Dragon Head (Volume 3) - The next installment of the awesome survivalist tale makes its way to comic stores! If you like Death Note, this is on the same level of suspense and quality.

Lady Snowblood (Volume 4): Retribution Part 2 TP - The Kill Bill-inspiring manga by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura continues with the second part of the "Retribution" arc.

Kitty Pryde Post

Mike Sterling did a post on all things Kitty Pryde, including links to fan fiction, discussions on the character, quotes from Joss Whedon, interviews with Ellen Page and more! Go check it out!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Death Note Volume 6

Volume six of the ever-popular Death Note offers what we come to expect from the title: quality story-telling and smart, fast-paced action. This book brings events from the previous volume to a head, with some very exciting moments in terms of both plot and character development. I know it's been said that with the fifth volume, the authors kind of wrote themselves into a corner and everything changed. However, the way things were set up by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, things can return to how they were previously, and it seems that that's the most likely thing to happen in coming volumes. While the tone of the series did shift with the major event from the last book, the quality has been consistent nonetheless and the world created is as fascinating as ever, even with the shift in perspective. I wish I was as excited about other comics I read as I am about this one, particularly other genre books like superhero titles, but really, Death Note is a step ahead of most offerings. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, this is the creme a la creme.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Few Tidbits

A few items of interest were uncovered by Patrick on some down-time at work...

Tom Spurgeon, of The Comics Reporter and editor of The Comics Journal Library, is publishing a book called John Romita: Generations this November from Dynamite Entertainment.
The Description, as provided by Amazon: While Steve Ditko and Stan Lee may have created Spider-Man, it was John Romita Sr. who defined him... Romita brought his clean, romantic style of illustration to the book. And his story is fully explored by writer Tom Spurgeon! From his days before Marvel, through the Silver Age and his days designing and creating the characters we know and love still today (including Wolverine, The Punisher and many, many more), Romita: Generations covers it all. Also available in a hardcover edition (1-933305-28-2, $29.99) (Paperback edition 1-933305-27-4, $19.99)

Also, the first volume of Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys will be available on October 3rd!

Eternals #1

The new six issue mini-series Eternals kicked off this week, from the minds of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. And although steeped in a history that I am completely unfamiliar with, this issue did a great job of introducing the concept of the alien race and porpelling an interesting story forward. Basically, the Eternals, an immortal race who've shaped the course of humanity, have been brainwashed by a group they've been at odds with since the beginning of their races, when they were both created by the galactic beings known as The Celestials. This race that they are at odds with are the Deviants, a despicable species who once enslaved humanity. And once some Deviant agents have discovered that one of the Eternals has gained some insight into his true origins and is trying to awaken it in others, they do their best to remove that individual from the scenario. It sounds a little complicated, but the characters are very recognizable and the main conflict is told through two men, although there are some other plots involving Sersi and Thena that give a little repite to the flashback sequences and tireless convincing that the awakened Eternal commits to. I think that these types of stories where a character tries to convince another of something unbelievable is always a difficult one. It's been done hundreds of times, and not always in the best, most believable respect. I think a show of superpowers would maybe do the trick here, or perhaps an encouragement of stirring up the disbeliever's powers, but the awakened Eternal here relies upon trying to merely convince the other of the truth with this spectacular origin tale. Would that ever really work? This is an interesting idea, with all of the players being assembled into their roles in the scheme of things, but we'll have to wait and see beyond the set-up stage whether this tale is one worth following or not. Neil Gaiman's hit-and-miss with me. I loathed 1602. Loved Sandman. But at least we get to be treated to some nice art by John Romita Jr. as we're taken on this ride.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gargoyles #1

Slave Labor Graphics has launched a new comic book series based on Disney's hit cartoon Gargoyles. The series, written by the creator of Gargoyles, Greg Weisman himself, takes place following the second season of the cartoon, but dismisses The Goliath Chronicles, which he doesn't consider cannon as these comics intend to be, as he did not work on that season. Art on the book is provided by David Hedgecock, Will Terrell, Greg Guler and Stephanie Lostimolo, Guler being the man who actually originally designed many of the characters that appear in the Gargoyles universe. Gargoyles is really a cartoon that stands up years later if you watch the DVDs (the second half of the second season is not available yet, nor are The Goliath Chronicles, but with any luck this comic may spurn a demand for at least the rest of the second season to become available), and the series has quite a fan base, with conventions and costume contests and the like dedicated exclusively for it. It's really amazing, but not surprising given the high quality of the storytelling and the amazing characterization witnessed from episode to episode, not to mention the intricate stroylines and subtle character-defining moments. But I'm here to review the comic book, not to gush on about its roots in animation. If you were a fan of the show, the first issue may seem familiar. That's because Greg Weisman did work on the first story for The Goliath Chronicles, and since those stories aren't to be considered canon, it rehashes particular events that occurred in the initial cartoons of the third season. I distinctly remembered many of the things I read in the comic occurring directly from my memory of the show, which really says a lot about the show's quality that it's resonated so, but also really made the whole comic kind of flow better for it because the action was already depicted live for me once. It was really a smart way to begin the comic series since the first episode of a new season is a great jumping-on point anyway, rehashing things you need to know to follow the story and characters, introducing Goliath, Elisa, Bronx and the rest of the cast, as well as the world that they live in. It's meant for new viewers, and here, for new readers or for readers who hadn't seen the show since it went off the air, or even for new readers in general. And just as it was back then, it's still a great comment on humanity and how they're willing (or unwilling) to share a world with others, and illuminating the actions that showcase who the monsters really are, and what drives them to perform certain acts. The cool thing about the Gargoyles at this time of their story is that the world knows that they exist and they fear them for their differences, for not understanding what they are, just like with the X-Men, and as such, they can stand for any number of metaphors: gays, nerds, minorities or pretty much anybody who feels like an outcast and misunderstood. The antagonists of this particular story can be interpretted as gay bashers or any number of hate groups or bullies, and that's something that transcends the comic its depicted in to real world ideas. The people that join this particular hate group are in for different reasons, some are hesitant about the violence associated with it...it just sheds light on any number of prejudices and weak reasons people lean on to do the things they do. Now, Greg Weisman has asked to give him until issue three to hook you on the series, simply because that's where he begins the new material and we'll start to see those seeds of intricate and ingenius storylines that the cartoon is beloved for. This series has a lot of potential, and while the art wasn't everything I could have dreamed for the book, it got the job done and it was a lot of fun to read. Check this book out.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

In Passing...Manhunter to New Avengers

Quite a week for floppies: Astonishing X-Men, All-Star Superman, New Avengers, Manhunter...and I'll have reviews of Gargoyles and Eternals later in the week.

Manhunter #23 - This is a great title. Really. It's life has been extended a little, but people, come on, pick up the damn book and give it a chance. In this issue, Chase fights for her life against a knife-wielding maniac and Kate Spencer kinds out a little more about her family ties. A-

All-Star Superman #4 - I personally think that Superman is just a boring character, but the All-Star series, I like. This issue's the Jimmy Olsen issue. If you've read Showcase Presents Superman Family lately, you'll probably find that this has a lot in common with those cheesy Jimmy Olsen stories from the 70's. Out there and whacky. But Grant Morrison isn't so highly-revered for nothing. There are some really cool moments, including a new kryptonite and a really neat take on the crappy Death of Superman comic that pits Jimmy against Superman. A-

New Avengers #20 - The fourth and final issue of "The Collective" gives the energy being Michael a purpose and a finale, involving the island of Genosha. And it's quite a cool moment. Bendis has done a really great job of making the New Avengers a great book month after month, with interesting ideas and a great group dynamic. B

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Astonishing X-Men #15

Contains spoilers! The first perfect issue of a comic book this year. Joss Whedon...okay, I've said this before, but he is just a master storyteller. It's The Hellfire Club vs. The X-Men in this issue, with some of the best fights, moments and dialogue of the series thus far. The opening scene was four panels of Emma Frost with the same expression on her face, and it conveyed a different emotion with each panel, and I felt each of them in turn. I mean, that's just genius. Then it's Cassandra Nova vs. The Beast and Wolverine, with Wolverine acting like a little girl, scared of the "moose." It was hilarious. I love what Cassandra Nova says about the situation later: "My two were simplicity itself. A beast who thought he was a man...and a frightened little boy who fancied himself a beast." The scene with Hisako and Blindfold was just as exciting as the ones with the X-Men battling the villains. Whedon has already made me care a lot for the secondary character Hisako. It was great to see her in action here in another mind-blowing scene. Then there's a moment between the villains from the first two arcs of Astonishing X-Men, Ord and Dangerous (who I never thought I'd see after the last arc, but she made for a chilling encounter here). I personally believe Emma Frost knew how things would go down here and prepared the team by bringing Kitty Pryde on in the very first issue of the series, words recalled by Kitty toward the end of the issue: "I wanted someone on the team that I hadn't really fought alongside. Someone who would be inclined to watch me, if I..." Then there's a scene when Emma's feigning ignorance as she brings the X-Men to her bedroom and Scott...she says "I just found him - He was fine when we went to bed..." Then Kitty notices that the bed was still made...I think this was a total nudge to Kitty that something was wrong, something that Emma thought Kitty would be able to pick up on. Then of course there's that moment at the end...Kitty rematerializes and stands up in a stream in an homage to the panel that defined Wolverine's character at the end of Uncanny X-Men #132 during The Dark Phoenix Saga. She even throws out the same words: "Now it's my turn." But it's more than Joss Whedon's storytelling prowess that makes this comic work. I'm gushing like I have a crush...John Cassaday's art has never looked better. Seriously, this is the single best-looking comic of the series so far. The scene between Beast and Hisako and Wolverine...Colossus vs. Sebastian Shaw...Kitty phasing through the Earth, unable to stop herself...it was all just impeccable. This is one of those comics that I just slow down to read and take in because it's so beautiful and I don't want it to end. Ah, anyways...perfection. Utter perfection.

Nightwolf #0

Nightwolf #0 is a prequel to a mini-series coming from Devil's Due Publishing next month called Nightwolf: The Price. I thought that the covers and solicitations were interesting, so I wanted to check it out. Little did I know that I would get a sneak preview into the world of Nightwolf a month early at a mere 99 cents.

Now, Nightwolf is written by Stephen L. Antczak with art by Nick Marinkovich, and the talent of the latter I think far outdoes the former. The story here is muddled and murky. As a reader, I had to do a lot more work than I should have for a straight-forward genre work. I didn't get that there was a family curse involved or anything from the work itself, but from things I read about it. That being said though, the art is really something. I don't know who Marinkovich is, but he's the perfect artist for a book like this. It's really the quality you'd expect to see coming from IDW nowadays, with moody, realistic pencils. The opening panel is just awesome - a punk with his throat ripped out just couldn't have been conveyed better. Marinkovich draws a sexy protagonist and a mean werewolf (who happen to be one and the same).

The premise is of a man cursed to become a werewolf once a month under the full moon, and to make up for the death and destruction caused on that one night, he induces a controlled version of the wolf (that he dubs "Nightwolf") to come out every other night to fight for justice on the streets. It's kind of a cool idea. The art's there, but we'll have to see if the writer can pull his act together to make a really compelling horror mini-series or not. So far, the characters are there, the premise is there, even a plot. It's just a matter of setting things up right for the series, with just a little more clarity on the circumstances surrounding the main situation. We'll just have to see where it takes us next month.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Marvel Solicits: September '06

Hot on the heels of DC, Marvel has released their solicitations of books shipping in September. Here are my highlights (full list at Comic Book Resources).

Ultimate Spider-Man #100 - The ultimate version of Spidey reaches his 100th issue. This a great series and I'm glad to see Bendis and Bagley reach this milestone on the series.

Blade #1 - I distinctly remember Joe Quesada saying that horror didn't work in comics (after a failed Blade mini-series had concluded) at a convention when asked of any Blade books in the works (an outlook that I completely disagree with). I guess a new hit TV series is enough to change his mind anyway...

Union Jack #1 (of 4) - The British superhero comes back for a four issue stint. Art by Mike Perkins.

Captain America #22 - I don't read Captain America anymore, but I may come back to it for the Civil War tie-in. It focuses on Agent 13 in SHIELD, and I thought that the SHIELD stuff was what really worked in the first issue of Civil War. Could be cool.

Ms. Marvel (Volume 1): Best of the Best Premiere HC - I'm not sure if this book really needs a hardcover, but it is a really good fun superhero book.

Zombie #1 (of 4) - A new MAX mini-series, in traditional zombie fashion.

Essential Thor (Volume 3) - Patrick's reading Volume 2 right now and loving it. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on some of their best work.

Essential Tales of the Zombie (Volume 1) - This could be a fun series to read a collection of. Marvel's caught the zombie bug lately, eh?

Astonishing X-Men #17 - I love this cover. Oh, and the mutant responsible for destroying the Breakworld is revealed here.

X-Men: Phoenix Warsong #1 (of 5) - Greg Pak, the mind behind the surprisingly good X-Men: Phoenix Endsong, brings another tale of the Phoenix entity, this one involving the lovely Stepford Cuckoos. Greg Land isn't returning for the sequel, but it had some solid storytelling the last time around, so I'm in. Art on Endsong is from Tyler Kirkham.

DC Solicits: September '06

The DC solicitations are up for books shipping in September. The full list is up at Comic Book Resources. Here are the highlights...

All-Star Superman #6 - This book's always a treat, and I love that cover.

Absolute DC: The New Frontier HC - If you really, really loved Darwyn Cooke's series, you can now pay DC $75 for a nice hardcover... I'm sure there are plenty of extras and all, but there's no way I'm paying that when two little trades are out there for $30. Anyways, this is not actually on sale until October.

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger (Volume 1) - Yeah, I don't know much about the DC Universe, so I have no idea who this is, but the Showcase collections are great. This is also an advance solicitation, available in October.

Krypto the Superdog #1 - Krypto makes the leap from his cartoon series to a new all-ages book!

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier HC - Here it is! Alan Moore's last work for DC is an original graphic novel hardcover about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen throughout the ages. This massive project will include a "Tijuana Bible," a 3-D section that comes with custom glasses, and a slew of other extras. This is also an advance solicitation, available October 25th. Absolute Editions of the first two The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mini-series will be available once more around the same time as well.

Wildcats: Worldstorm #1 - Another new Grant Morrison series makes its debut. This one will be illustrated by Jim Lee and Scott Williams and will "reintroduce" the Wildcats. It will be released on a bi-monthly basis.

American Virgin (Volume 1): Head TP - The Vertigo series about a full-grown virgin saving himself for the woman he loves when married (until she goes and gets dead), gets collected. Very nice art by Becky Cloonan.

Fables: 1,001 Nights of Snowfall HC - The original graphic novel from Vertigo's Fables series finally comes out. It seems like I've been hearing about this thing for two years. But that is one gorgeous cover by James Jean. This follows Snow White from the past as she charms a sultan whose captured her from marrying her by telling fantastic stories for...1,001 nights (Pretty much like the 1,001 Arabian Nights story). And, once again, DC teases us with the solicitation because it's not available until October 18. At least we can be assured that October will be a big month.

Monday, June 19, 2006

In Stores 6/21

Here's a highlight of books coming to comic stores this Wednesday (a full list of Diamond's books shipping can be found here)

Gargoyles #1 - Slave Labor Graphics are releasing a comic book series that follows the Gargoyles from the beloved Disney television cartoon series as they continue their adventures past the second season (ignoring the Goliath Chronicles debacle), with the original creative team behind the helm. Should be awesome - the cartoon really stands up well.

Eternals #1 (of 6) - A new mini-series from Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. begins, examining the mysterious alien race.

Showcase Presents Superman (Volume 2) - A second volume of that series that Patrick just couldn't get enough of...

Champions Classic (Volume 1) - Another series comes out from Marvel's "Classic" line of graphic novel reprints, this one featuring talent from the likes of Tony Isabella and Chris Clairmont as they bring together the Champions in the 70's: Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, Iceman and Angel.

Mome (Volume 4) - Fantagraphics' anthology of amazing talent continues with offerings from David B, Paul Hornschemeier, Gabrielle Bell, David Heatley, Sophie Crumb, R. Kikuo Johnson, and a slew of other exciting cartoonists.

Octopus Girl (Volume 2) - The fantastic, gory, silly manga known as Octopus Girl continues its run. This series really deserves a lot more attention than it's been getting...

Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 3) - While it's been in bookstores for a few weeks now, the new Monster is shipping to comic stores on Wednesday. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Essential Savage She-Hulk (Volume 1) - And finally, She-Hulk's origin and early adventures are collected in an "Essential" volume. This was one of the few books that I thought Marvel was really missing. I would have preferred a collection of Sensational She-Hulk though...maybe sometime soon...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In Passing...Civil War to Superf*ckers

I had the flu this weekend on top of working full days, so I unfortunately had little time to read comics until this evening. But, it's all behind me now and I'm caught up on the floppies, and am able to eat solid food again. It's funny how Saltines taste so good when it's the only thing you can keep down...

Superf*ckers #277 - The third issue of James Kochalka's wild superhero romp is great, full of blood, cursing, drugs, mutant cancers and a load of rip-roaring offensive material. Beyond all of this is a refreshing take on superheroes and warnings on the dangers of holding onto the past (which isn't exactly suggested in a subtle way, but is an appropriate place for commentary on superhero comics in general and their fellowship). This is an extremely funny book. Although I didn't think it was as good as its predecessors, it's still one of the best comics coming out. And there's a cute picture on the inside cover of James with his son Eli making faces. What a cute little kid. And hey, best cover ever. A-

Civil War #2 (of 7) - Yeah, you've heard by now that Spidey's out. Biggest mistake ever with his rogue's gallery. Other than that, a pretty lacklustre issue. That's all I have to say about it. C-

Ms. Marvel #4 - Doctor Strange sure is getting around lately. Here, he guest-stars to assist Mr. Marvel with a villain from her past...maybe? Who knows. It's all tied up with House of M and it's not like Carol Danvers has ever demanded a faithful following. But still, this is a pretty good issue in a fun, flashy superhero book. And Doctor Strange is cool. B

American Virgin #4 - What began as a pretty promising series has slowly but steadily declined in quality with each issue. By this point, it's gotten pretty silly. I don't care about the characters and their banter feels very forced and cringe-worthy and just not funny. There are some interesting ideas in there - I just don't know if the writer can pull them off. I am, however, digging Becky Cloonan's art. I may stick around for the next issue yet. D+

Fables #50 - The big anniversary issue delivers. The wonderful James Jean cover indicates a wedding special, which is part of the events contained within, but there's plenty of action and major events that take place first, involving Bigby's return and a major strike against the Homelands. This is a thick issue, with plenty packed into it, including the wedding in question, the reunion in question, and some new mythology thrown into the mix. Still as fun as the series ever was (and maybe even a little better). A

Friday, June 16, 2006

Art Out of Time: Part Five

The fifth and final chapter of Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 is "Form and Style," where the six cartoonists worked with their medium to push the designs of their pages and charaters to make those elements as much a part of the comic as anything else contained within.

Charles Forbell was constantly experimenting with the layout of his Naughty Pete strip, even though the strip always contained the same formula: the father of Pete tells the child not to do something or other, whereupon little Pete will do just that. Things will, of course, go wrong, and the last sentence of every page is of Pete saying "I guess Pop was right." Very basic, but each page is beautifully designed.

I didn't really get the appeal of T.E. Powers Joys and Glooms. It was very bizarre, with these little imps appearing in the panels to portray whether certain characters felt joy or gloom (or another random emotion like worries or delight). The strip would usually go along the lines of something like the Glooms would chase off the Joys at the moment that someone got bad news. Again, basic.

Now The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo was awesome. Gustave Verbeek created these two characters that, when turned upside down, would be the other character. So, the six panels that were displayed with each strip could be turned upside-down to enjoy another six panels that concluded the story. It's really a very clever, wonderful visual trick. A waterfall will turn to rain when turned upside-down, or a grassy hill with a tree heavy with berries, will become a fire with smoke. Some visuals work better than others. I sometimes saw an upside-down bear before I saw the monk it was supposed to be in that panel, and it was hard for me to focus on the character of Lady Lovekins, often opting for an Old Man Maffaroo floating up into the air, but they all work, just some better than others. It's very magical to experience and I just wish that they could have been printed a little larger like some of the other strips in the anthology to make the prose a little more legible.

Another comic I didn't much care for was Terr'ble Thompson by Gene Deitch. It was about a boy who imagined some pretty extravagant scenarios, where he was, of course, the ultimate hero. It was all very silly with some stylized dialogue and strange characters.

Jingle Jangle Tales by George Carlson was a very pretty comic, and probably the whackiest one in the entire anthology. George Carlson had quite an imagination, with some unusual characters, designs and situations that were maybe a little hard to follow, but fun in the end.

Last but not least was Norman E. Jennett's Monkey Shines of Marseleen. This strip follows the unhappy clown Marseleen and his various adventures with the circus, usually involving a a mischielf-making boy who tries his best to make life for Marseleen difficult. Marseleen always triumphs at the end of the strip though, making the best of the situations he finds himself in. This strip was really very pretty to behold and the situations, always creative.

The first four parts of my look at Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969:

Part One: "Exercises in Exploration"

Part Two: "Slapstick"

Part Three: "Acts of Drawing"

Part Four: "Words in Pictures"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Death Note (4 & 5)

I love Death Note. If not for Nana, it would be my favorite manga that I'm reading. I hear that volume six has come out, but I have yet to see it, so for all intents and purposes, I am caught up on the series. Oh, and there are a few minor spoilers ahead, so if you've procrastinated like I have, you may want to hold off on continuing until you're caught up as well. In volume four of the series, we are introduced to Misa Amane, the second Kira, who we got a glimpse of at the end of the third volume, but finally have a personality to attach to her. It's really cool to hear the motivations behind the people who are in possession of the death notes, and their intentions and philosophies. They're all varied. The fifth volume has yet another Kira who takes a completely different approach to the whole thing, one more adult-oriented and selfish, but very probable. And what I find extremely exciting about the series is that the concept of the death note is a tool that can be used to comment on society and life and death, and power and corruption. It's an ingenius metaphor like zombies, and George Romero's intentions for like Dawn of the Dead, commenting on consumerism. Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata have found such a way to comment on human nature with an exciting plot device and great characters. And with the world and rules they've created, they can use them from different points-of-view, from the person in control of god-like powers, or from the people examining his actions and interpretting things in that manner, or like in the unique case of Light, from someone who was Kira but has no knowledge of the experience and how he would utilize such powers, commenting on how he thinks he would use them. I think the writer's interpretation of how Light thought he would use his powers was perfect, as you wouldn't believe yourself capable of such deeds unless you've had the power. But onto the view of humanity through Death Note, I thought that the shinigami, or death god, who surveyed the committee speaking so casually of murdering people for money and company stocks surmised it best as this disgusting creature thinks "Humans are such...ugly creatures..." Perfect. The detective work on the series is just brilliant too. It's all very intricate and thoughtful, with characters second-guessing things and trying to put themselves in other shoes. Then, the details of the death note itself are complicated... It's a very sophisticated story and there's so much there. Like I said before, Death Note is easily one of the best manga around.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shojo Beat: July '06

Shojo Beat celebrates its one year anniversary this month with a new title, Vampire Knight, taking over the spot left from Godchild's departure. Also, as advertised, the magazine is a full 235 color pages. Don't get too excited though. Their definition of color is printing the black inkwork in blue and pink, alternating by story. Nice and misleading, and at first, quite distracting, but I got over it. The first story I read, Vampire Knight, was the worst. It's kind of a strain to read a story in bright pink. My favorites, Absolute Boyfriend and Nana, were saved from that fate however, and appeared in a less obnoxious blue. Still, I say nay to this sort of format in the future. It does nothing to serve the art and at the very least, slightly hinders it.

Okay, I'm officially over it now. So moving on...Vampire Knight. Much better than Godchild. It's in the same vain - all gothic and supernatural with hot vampires and the like, but good. I could see myself following this story as it unfolds, and indeed plan to read the manga beyond its initial bow in this issue. So, the premise...a young girl Yuki goes to Cross Academy and is placed in the role of Guardian with the overly-serious Zero. As Guardians, the two must keep the two groups of students that attend school there, to minimal contact. There is a Day Class and a Night Class. Each evening when the Day Class leaves the school for their dorms, the beautiful Night Class passes by amid a wave of admiration. But what the Day Class doesn't know is that the Night Class consists of vampires. You see, the headmaster believes that humans and vampires can coexist, so he set this school up as a step in that direction while they develop a way for the vampires to take a blood substitute so as not to be tempted by their daytime counterparts. Yuki and Zero alone know this secret and make sure the Day Class doesn't sneak out past curfew or there's any mischief from the Night Class. There's one vampire, Kaname, who Yuki's infatuated with. He's kind and was the one who saved her from a vicious vampire attack when she was just five-years-old (she has no memory of prior events, thus her placement in care of the headmaster). There are plenty of secrets going on all around them and tension is high between Zero and the vampires. This first chapter sets up the fairly complicated premise, but it promises plenty of fun in the future.

In Absolute Boyfriend, Riiko is haunted by the choice before her: Night or Soshi. But there's so much more at stake in this issue, with Night in the arms of another woman. It's all very stressful. This chapter kind of concludes the story that's run through the past few issues of Shojo Beat, and it isn't the most satisfying closure to that part of Riiko and Night's story, but it was still good.

Nana. 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. Anyways, I love Shin and there's a lot of him in this issue, as well as some nice moments between the Nanas. My favorite part of this chapter was when Nana Komatsu calls Misato and just stares, wide-eyed when Misato reveals Nana Osaki's secret so nonchalantly. Then it's Komatsu thinking back to things said in front of Osaki and realizing the meaning behind them all. Well played, Yazawa.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In Stores 6/14

Me and Patrick celebrated our sixth year anniversary today! We went to the zoo and ate out at a nice restaurant, and of course stopped by the local Barnes & Noble and picked up some manga. I got Veronica Mars Season One on DVD too!

And in comic shops tomorrow...

Megan Kelso's The Squirrel Mother Stories looks like a good read. It's a collection of her short stories on real-life dilemmas and situations. I really like Kelso's cartooning and hey, cute squirrels must be involved at some point.

Umbra #1 (of 3) - The new Image mini-series follows a police forensics technician in Iceland with some problems (anxiety, drinking...) and "her discovery of a very strange skeleton sets in motion a series of violent and tragic events. And then things get weird." I'll be there.

The new issue of Shojo Beat is in bookstores already, featuring a new manga: Vampire Knight. It's the anniversary issue, so it promises lots of goodies! Another milestone this week: Fables reaches its fiftieth issue!

And of course, the new James Kochalka Superf*ckers has arrived. It's been too long since the last issue and if the cover's any indicator, this one will rock as well. This is simply one of the funnest comics coming out right now.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Abadazad: The Dream Thief

Book two of the irresistible Abadazad series from J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog finally delves into material not seen in comic form when the initial three issues were launched by Crossgen years ago. Released simultaneously with book one (The Road To Inconceivable), The Dream Thief is part comic, part prose children's book. The angry protagonist Kate gets pulled further into the strange world of Abadazad under the care of Little Martha and Queen Ija, with appearances by some new whacky characters that are different to Kate than the Abadazad books published in her world. That's right. Abadazad, if you're unaware, is a successful series of children's books published in Kate's world by Arthur N. Pierson, who takes some creative liberties when adapting the stories related to him by Little Martha after she leaves Abadazad to grow up in the real world. One major change is that he makes Little Martha (the star of those stories) a white girl when she's really black. He didn't feel the world was ready for a black protagonist at that point in time (when children's stories featured Alice from Wonderland and Dorothy from Oz, each with similarities to the situations found in Abadazad). Beyond that, pretty much every character Kate encounters has been altered, making things a little disorienting for her. But with this volume, Kate learns a valuable lesson about the changes Pierson made to the world. But that's amid a rollercoater ride of crazy whales and invisible women and the villain of the tale himself, The Lanky Man. Kate's visit to Abadazad began with her desire to seek out her lost brother who she was told by a grown-up Little Martha, was in Abadazad, held prisoner by The Lanky Man in a chamber to steal his innocent dreams. It's a thing. But the new Abadazad stories remain true to the imaginative loveable stories initially launched by Crossgen, with high quality storytelling, great characters, and wonderful art (featuring some of the best Kirby energy crackle I've ever seen, courtesy of a magic umbrella). There are some themes that run through Abadazad that I think are rather bold to include in a book intended for young children, race issues being one, but I feel kids need to be exposed to things that force them to think and reevaluate cliches with works that subvert them. Abadazad is, when all's said and done, a story about a girl from a family torn apart, who's hurt and embittered in wake of it, and finds a place where she's important and wanted, something she really needs to be able to put things at home in perspective and to grow beyond her fear and pain. It may sound a little sophisticated for its intended audience, but kids are smart and can handle it in the end. Anyways, Book three of the Abadazad series (The Puppet, the Professor, and the Prophet) isn't scheduled for release until 2007, so we must make due with these few offerings of DeMatteis and Ploog's Abadazad universe until then.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Comics-and-More Turns One!

It's Comics-and-More's one year anniversary! That's 281 posts, from a brief welcome and 100 things I love about comics (which would probably look a lot different a year later) to a letter from Renee French. I'd like to thank you all for supporting my blog and I hope to make this coming year even better. Below I've listed links to twenty of my favorite posts (in a very rough order). Enjoy!

1. 50 Greatest Comic Characters

2. My Most Important Comics

3. Excalibur

4. Top 10 Comics of 2005

5. 5 CDs You Should Know About

6. 5 More CDs You Should Know About

7. Girls: Emergence

8. Hippolyte's Dracula, Book I

9. Ten Books To Read For Halloween #1

10. On-Line Comic Retailers

11. Mora

12. In the Meantime

13. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

14. Toys

15. My 5 Favorite Novels of All Time

16. X-Men: The Last Stand

17. Civil War #1

18. Peculia

19. Mouse Guard #2

20. Astonishing X-Men #14

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Follow-up on The Ticking

Renee French e-mailed me the other day about The Ticking review on Comics-and-More and had some cool things to say about the handwriting:

"I have to say thank you for the nice stuff you said about my drawings AND my handwriting. Nobody has ever mentioned that before. The handwriting stuff. I've always been sort of self conscious of my handwriting not having that comics style that so many cartoonists have. Always thought I was too sloppy. In this case, just so you know, just because you noticed it, not that it's that interesting...

The handwriting, the script, I did by just writing backwards. Then I reversed it by writing on the back of the paper with my darker pencil using a lightbox. Seems completely insane but it felt more like drawing the words than writing them and I liked the way it looked. The printing, both Edison's and the all caps stuff were done, written upside down. Didn't have to do any lightbox with that, just turn it right side up."

I really like creators talking about their craft. Thanks for the insight, Renee!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Art Out Of Time: Part Four

The fourth section of Art Out Of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 (edited by Dan Nadel) is "Words in Pictures," focusing more on strips that excelled with their plots, dialogue and wordplay.

I really enjoyed the adventure/comedy strip from Boody Rogers entitled Sparky Watts in this section. It follows the title character, who shrinks unless he gets a dose of cosmic rays every once in awhile. Here, he doesn't get them in time, and he goes on a little adventure ala Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but crazier. Featuring a really cute monkey and plenty of wacky bugs. And it's a quick read, which I appreciate sometimes.

Harry J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family really surprised me. I wasn't expecting much from it, but I really loved it. It's very much a slice-of-life strip. One page will be about imagining a bug brushing against you in the dark at night, but you don't see it when the lights are ablaze, another about trying to meet up with your partner when Christmas shopping and not recalling where you planned to meet, etc. They're really fun strips and I was sad when they were over, despite the hefty fourteen pages of them. A little strip called Hefty Brother ran along the top of The Bungle Family, and I may have enjoyed that more than the full page. Hard to say. It's all excellent stuff.

Hairbreadth Harry follows the protagonist Harry as he and a villain who appears in every strip, get revenge upon each other. It's pretty silly a lot of the time, as Harry turns into a baby when he jumps in the Fountain of Youth, the villain raises a pet dinosaur and tries to feed it people, Harry gets robbed and sewn into a bearskin, and so on, usually involving Harry getting the villain in the law's hands. It's fun.

Cecil Jensen's Elmo reminded me of Hairbreadth Harry a bit just because the protagonists of both are just so perfect and righteous (though Harry does have a little edge to him). In Elmo, the lead character is basically victimized by his boss, who doesn't like him. It's not really funny so much as weird, and very much an adventure strip, involving embezzlement and marketing.

The only strip I really didn't care much for in this section was Dauntless Durham of the U.S.A. by Harry Hershfeld, whick kicks the section off. There's a mischievous villain in this strip too who's after the main character and his girl, just like in Hairbreadth Harry, but many of the strips veer away from adventure and laughs and delve into lists. There's a series of strips that have several illustrations of things like a whale and a character will guess what the other character "should worry" pertaining to it. It's not particularly interesting or funny. The whale: "I should worry like a whale and blubber." And several other strips are just characters trying on different outfits. Very strange.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Monster Volume 3

Naoki Urasawa'a Monster has steadily gotten better with each installment of the series. The manga features Dr. Tenma, a brilliant surgeon on the run from authorities after he became the lead suspect in a serial murder case. Dr. Tenma is determined to track down the real killer. Each volume of the series actually feels like a chapter of a book, with a beginning, middle and end. Like a season of a television series, with an overarcing theme. In the latest volume, Dr. Tenma learns more about the killer's past as he visits East Berlin where the orphanages were scenes of true horror. One orphanage in particular, 511 Kinderheim, has a tragic past that the people Dr. Tenma interviews are less than happy to divulge details about. It's all very impressive, the mystery, the action, the drama. I think this latest volume really goes that extra mile to prove that Naoki Urasawa has earned his title as Japan's Master of Suspense. Although I hear 20th Century Boys and Pluto, later works by the author, are his real masterpieces. But for now, I'm completely content with the highly-entertaining Monster.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Civil War: Front Line #1

And from the pages of Marvel's big summer crossover event Civil War comes...more Civil War. Civil War: Front Line is the rest of the crap that didn't make it into the main mini-series. It's the leftovers. Think Generation M. Think The Pulse picking up plot threads from Secret War and House of M. If you really can't get enough of Marvel crossovers, you really can't ask for more. So, with this new ten issue (!) series, we get well, Ben Urich playing the investigator on the events of Civil War ala The Pulse (for the right wing), while alcoholic Journalist Sally from the recent Generation M mini-series reports for the left wing on the consequences of the Superhuman Registration Act. And there are guest appearances by the likes of Spider-Man and Iron Man, with superheroes revealing their identities and costumes giving up their reasons for staying anonymous. There are back-up stories for the rest of the crap that isn't covered in the main story, like of the only surviving New Warrior from the event that kicked off the whole war, and a poem about America's Japanese concentration camps with Spider-Man darting in and out of the panels to make it ridiculous. But hey, if it's your thing...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Art Out Of Time: Part Three

Continuing to offer my thoughts on Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969, I move on from the "Slapstick" section to "Acts of Drawing."

The first offering in this section is Charles M. Payne. His S'Matter, Pop follows a father who's besieged by these children prone to violence, accidents, etc. It was a pretty classic example of comics strips, nothing too exciting.

I did enjoy Fletcher Hanks' Stardust, The Super Wizard. Hanks' drawing style is really vibrant and just cool, with some really fun stories and superhero antics, unafraid of going over-the-top with silly powers and illustrating planets devestated by death.

White Boy by Garrett Price got plenty of page space. Eighteen strips was a little overkill, in my opinion, but I did enjoy them. And to be fair, it does take a few to get the appeal of the adventure strip among an Indian tribe and wildlife aplenty. Its naivety drew comparions to the childrens' prose series The Happy Hollisters, for some strange reason. It was just very...quaint.

I didn't really get the appeal of the strange Somebody's Stenog by A.E. Hayward. It was kind of imaginative, I guess, as we see the events surrounding a young secretary's life, but....sort of boring.

Jefferson Machamer's comics were really the creative ones. He incorporated things about comics into his strips, having his characters speak to each other about word balloons and the strip itself, like I find a lot of manga does. Very self-aware. Plus some characters will maneuver out of one strip to be part of another, etc. Machamer had a full page to work with in his Gags and Gals page, and took advantage of the fact, often having separate strips run the length of the top and bottom, differing with each page. The Gags and Gals comic took up the middle, the majority of the page, and had little scenes that for the most part, seemed to have nothing to do with each other and sometimes continued into the next day's offerings. Strange, but creative.

And then there's Rory Hayes. I became a fan of his when I went to The Cartoonist's Eye exhibit in Chicago last year and was first exposed to his work, his autobiographical nightmare world featuring teddy bears terrorized by demons. It's really fun, trippy stuff. Disturbing, bloody and violent, but fun. And sometimes it doesn't make sense, but that's alright too because it's a blast and I love Hayes' art.

Monday, June 05, 2006

In Stores 6/7

Some books of interest appearing on the shelves of comic shops across the country this Wednesday...

Arf Museum softcover - An anthology from Fantagraphics (edited by Craig Yoe) examining where fine art and comics meet. Appearing in this volume are ten unpublished paintings of Richard Felton Outcaults's The Yellow Kid, as well as a look at Picasso's "secret comics past" among other things. Should be really interesting.

Embroideries softcover - Marjane Satrapi's sketchier follow-up to Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return will be available in softcover for the first time.

Nana (volume 3) TP - The third installment of what I consider to be the best manga out there, comes to comic stores in case you haven't been following it in Shojo Beat (or just want the trades in addition, like me).

Manifest Eternity #1 - From Wildstorm/DC, this new sci/fi series, about a century-spanning intergalactic war, will examine the battle between two advanced civilizations, as an empire of magic invades an empire of science. Scott Lobdell and Dustin Nguyen promise each issue will focus on a different group involved in the conflict (elite fighter pilots, dragon riders, etc.) to showcase every perspective involved in the war from opening shots to cataclysmic conclusion. Sounds ambitious, if anything.

DMZ (volume 1): On the Ground TP - I found this series from Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli a little stale. There are some interesting ideas behind the futuristic world and the war zone the journalist/protagonist finds himself in, but nothing to hold my interest after the first few issues.

Civil War: Front Lines #1 (of 10) - Annnndd....I guess one Civil War book just isn't enough.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Art Out Of Time: Part Two

Following up on my first entry on Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionsaries 1900-1969, I will move on from the "Exercises In Exploration" section of creators to "Slapstick."

Now Vaudeville-like humor like from Milt Gross' work really isn't my thing. I think his Nize Baby is drawn well, but it kind of bugged me, especially the thick dialect. His Pete the Pooch (from Milt Gross Funnies #2) was a little better. The panels were bigger and it was a quick read, although the characters were still really obnoxious. It was kind of strange to see six panels from Nize Baby (from page 66) recycled and used again exactly in Pete the Pooch (pages 76-77). It was kind of a bizarre scene in the first place, so I don't know why he thought it needed repeating.

Stan Mac Govern's Silly Milly was a little better. His work was displayed in several short strips. They were kind of hit and miss, but overall, I enjoyed them more than Milt Gross' work.

Now I really did like Dick Briefer's "Frankenstein and the Sorcerer" from Frankenstein #4. It was easily my favorite of everything I've read in the book so far, following Frankenstein's monster and his group of monster friends, as his friends set up a surprise "Invention Party" for Franky and then the monster relates how he got a modeling contract. Still silly (and kind of dark sometimes), but in a good way.

Jack Mendelsohn's Jacky's Diary was also quite enjoyable. This strip is illustrated in faux-children's art, from little Jacky's perspective. It's really cute reading this kid's idea of what was going on at the circus because he really just didn't understand some things and got words wrong often (he thought the announcer called for a Human Cannibal, and the Cannibal was shy so he hid in a cannon without taking a bite out of anyone, before he ws blasted off accidentally). there's also a little camping scene at the end of the circus strip, and a fishing expedition. It was all really fun to go through.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Abadazad: The Road To Inconceivable

My favorite title from a company I had a lot of affection for (Crossgen) has been reborn in the form of a comic/prose hybrid from Hyperion Books. Abadazad: The Road To Inconceivable, by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog, is the first book in the series of Abadazad books for young readers. This first volume contains story from the first two issues of the comic. Much of the illustration has been done away with in favor of the sarcastic, angry prose of ten-year-old Kate, which was a part of the Abadazad comic in the first place, so it doesn't hurt the story at all. It stays pretty true to the feel of the original work. There's just a lot more prose. The story thus far has been flushed out by the creators, but nothing that conflicts with what has been told. It's all pretty much the same Abadazad many know and love, just formatted a little differently. Abadazad is a very imaginative world, featuring some colorful characters, and the pictures that we need to see are shown here. We see Queen Ija. We see the Shelloppers and Sour Flowers and the statue of the Floating Warlock. It's all still there, in color. The most effective part of the tale in the first few issues of Abadazad, I thought, were of Kate's relationship with her mother, and that's captured perfectly, still mostly in the original comics form. If you liked Abadazad the first time around, you'll still love it. If you haven't checked it out yet, I still highly recommend doing so. It is to be found in the children's section of bookstores, but let's face it: that's where the comic would have been found. It's an all-ages book, like Mouse Guard, like Bone. Hyperion seems to be giving these books a big push (not surprising since they spent around $2 million to acquire Crossgen's library for this specific title) and hopefully being packaged as it is, it will be enjoyed by a wider audience that it would have previously. I have yet to see the series progress past where the original comics had gone (only three issues came out before Crossgen went belly-up), but the second collection, The Dream Thief, is available as well (and in my to-read pile), and should delve into some new territory since we haven't had that for a long two years. Hyperion did a great job with these books. I commend them.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Harvey Awards

It's Harvey Award time again, so I'll just offer up some thoughts on the nominees...

BEST WRITER
Brian Michael Bendis NEW AVENGERS Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker CAPTAIN AMERICA Marvel Comics
Joshua Hale Fialkov ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
Mike Mignola BPRD Dark Horse Comics
Alex Robinson TRICKED Top Shelf

I wish I'd gotten my hands on Elk's Run, but it never appeared on the shelves of my comic store (not even the Bumper Edition). But I'm glad that they're not just ignoring the Speakeasy books just because they went under. I didn't read Tricked either, so I would go with Brian Michael Bendis among the remaining. New Avengers is a really underrated book. It's one of the best superhero comics currently. Plus, there's the excellent Ultimate Spider-Man by the man too.

BEST ARTIST
Frank Cho SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL Marvel Comics
David Finch NEW AVENGERS Marvel Comics
Eduardo Risso 100 BULLETS DC/Vertigo
Noel Tuazon ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
J.H. Williams III PROMETHEA ABC/WildStorm/DC Comics

Marvel got a lot of nominations this year, especially when in years past, they'd get one or two, at the most seven. This year? Over twenty. It's kind of like the year Crossgen had all of their creators vote for their books and got a bunch of nods. Doesn't mean they'll be getting the awards. David Finch? Come on. I kind of like Frank Cho, but I think I'd go with J.H. Williams III here,

BEST CARTOONIST
Frank Cho SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL Marvel Comics
Chris Eliopoulos FANTASTIC FOUR PRESENTS: FRANKLIN RICHARDS, SON OF A GENIUS Marvel Comics
John Kovalic DORK TOWER Dork Storm Press
Seth WIMBLEDON GREEN Drawn and Quarterly
Chris Ware ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #16 ACME Novelty Library

I'm going to go with Chris Ware. Acme Novelty Library #16 was awesome.

BEST LETTERER
Chris Eliopoulos FANTASTIC FOUR PRESENTS: FRANKLIN RICHARDS, SON OF A GENIUS Marvel Comics
Jason Hanley ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
Todd Klein MARVEL 1602: NEW WORLD Marvel Comics
Richard Starkings SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL Marvel Comics
Chris Ware ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #16 ACME Novelty Library

I just don't pay enough attention to the letterers...

BEST INKER
Charles Burns BLACK HOLE # 12 Fantagraphics Books
Scott Hanna ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Marvel Comics
Steve Leialoha FABLES DC/Vertigo
Paul Neary ULTIMATES 2 Marvel Comics
Tim Townsend HOUSE OF M Marvel Comics

Charles Burns, hands down.

BEST COLORIST
Frank D'Armata NEW AVENGERS Marvel Comics
Jason Keith SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL Marvel Comics
Laura Martin ASTONISHING X-MEN Marvel Comics
Patricia Mulvihill 100 BULLETS DC/Vertigo
Jennifer Rodgers THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS Archaia Studios Press

It's nice to see Archaia Studios Press getting some love. I am, however, going to lean toward the unconquerable Laura Martin.

BEST COVER ARTIST
Frank Cho SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL Marvel Comics
Steve Epting CAPTAIN AMERICA Marvel Comics
James Jean FABLES DC/Vertigo
Mike Mignola HELLBOY: THE ISLAND Dark Horse
Datsun Tran ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics

I'm a James Jean fan.

BEST NEW TALENT
Joshua Hale Fialkov ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
David Hine DAREDEVIL: REDEMPTION Marvel Comics
R. Kikuo Johnson NIGHT FISHER Fantagraphics Books
A. David Lewis THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS Caption Box/Archaia Studios Press
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa MARVEL KNIGHTS FOUR Marvel Comics

I wasn't terribly impressed with The Lone and Level Sands, I hate to say. I'm going to say R. Kikuo Johnson.

BEST NEW SERIES
BAOBAB Fantagraphics Books
DRAMACON Tokyopop
MARVEL ADVENTURES: FANTASTIC FOUR Marvel Comics
THE SURROGATES Top Shelf
YOUNG AVENGERS Marvel Comics
X-FACTOR Marvel Comics

I love the X-Factor.

BEST CONTINUING OR LIMITED SERIES
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY ACME Novelty Library
CAPTAIN AMERICA Marvel Comics
ELK'S RUN Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
RUNAWAYS Marvel Comics
Y: THE LAST MAN DC/Vertigo

Acme Novelty Library is leagues ahead of the others here (except maybe Elk's Run since I haven't read it). Y: The Last Man? Whatever. I do like Runaways a lot though.

BEST SYNDICATED STRIP OR PANEL
THE BOONDOCKS Aaron McGruder Universal Press Syndicate
THE K CHRONICLES Keith Knight Self-syndicated
MAAKIES Tony Millionaire Self-syndicated
MUTTS Patrick McDonnell King Features Syndicate
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Stan Lee and Larry Leiber King Features Syndicate

I don't read any of these, but The Amazing Spider-Man? Who the hell reads that? Any of the others.

BEST ANTHOLOGY
FLIGHT, VOL. 2 Image Comics
MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2005 Marvel Comics
MARVEL MONSTERS: WHERE MONSTERS DWELL Marvel Comics
MOME Fantagraphics Books
PROJECT SUPERIOR AdHouse
SOLO DC Comics

Man, Marvel is really reaching here. The four that aren't Marvel are all really cool projects. I wouldn't mind seeing any of them win.

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM - ORIGINAL
COMBAT ZONE Marvel Comics
THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS Caption Box
NIGHT FISHER Fantagraphics Books
TRICKED Top Shelf
WIMBLEDON GREEN Drawn and Quarterly

Night Fisher.

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM - PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED
BLACK HOLE Pantheon Books
DAISY KUTTER Viper Comics
LATE BLOOMER Fantagraphics Books
RUNAWAYS, VOLUME 1 HARDCOVER Marvel Comics
STOKER'S DRACULA Marvel Comics

I would like to say Late Bloomer, but I haven't actually read it, so I'll say Black Hole, which is awesome.

BEST SINGLE ISSUE OR STORY
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #16 ACME Novelty Library
CAPTAIN AMERICA #7 Marvel Comics
ELK'S RUN #3 Hoarse and Buggy Productions/Speakeasy Comics
HOUSE OF M # 8 Marvel Comics
LOVE AND ROCKETS, VOLUME 2, # 15 Fantagraphics Books

Acme Novelty Library #16. When Elk's Run is collected, I'm definitely going to check it out though.

BEST DOMESTIC REPRINT PROJECT
FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS Marvel Comics
MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE ALL-WINNERS, VOLUME 1 Marvel Comics
LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND: SO MANY SPLENDID SUNDAYS Sunday Press Books
COMPLETE PEANUTS Fantagraphics Books
WALT AND SKEEZIX Drawn and Quarterly

I think this is going to be between Walt and Skeezix and Little Nemo, but I'm going to go with the one I've actually read: Walt and Skeezix.

BEST AMERICAN EDITION OF FOREIGN MATERIAL
BAOBAB # 1 Fantagraphics Books
BLAME! Tokyopop
BUDDHA Vertical Books
EPILEPTIC Pantheon Books
PUSH MAN AND OTHER STORIES Drawn and Quarterly

You know, I wasn't a fan of Push Man... I'd say either Buddha or Epileptic, though I hate how easy the little dust jacket is to rip on both on them.

BEST ONLINE COMICS WORK
ACHEWOOD Chris Onstad www.achewood.com
AMERICAN ELF James Kochalka www.americanelf.com
PENNY ARCADE Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik www.penny-arcade.com
PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP Nicholas Gurewitch www.thepbf.com
PVP Scott Kurtz www.pvponline.com

I love American Elf. James Kochalka's the man.

SPECIAL AWARD FOR HUMOR IN COMICS
Kyle Baker PLASTIC MAN DC Comics
James Kolchalka SUPER F*CKERS Top Shelf and www.americanelf.com
John Kovalic DORK TOWER Dork Storm Press
Marc Sumerak FANTASTIC FOUR PRESENTS: FRANKLIN RICHARDS, SON OF A GENIUS Marvel Comics
Zeb Wells NEW WARRIORS Marvel Comics

Super F*ckers!!!! Yay!!!

SPECIAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESENTATION
WATCHMEN: THE ABSOLUTE EDITION DC Comics
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY Pantheon Books
EARTH X HARDCOVER Marvel Comics
FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS Marvel Comics
LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND: SO MANY SPLENDID SUNDAYS Sunday Press Books

Acme Novelty Library. Ware is the king of presentation.

BEST BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL OR JOURNALISTIC PRESENTATION
ALTER EGO TwoMorrows
COMIC BOOK ARTIST Top Shelf
COMICS JOURNAL Fantagraphics Books
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Marvel Comics
WIZARD Wizard Entertainment

Wizard? Marvel Spotlight? Yeah... Comics Journal. Yeah.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In Passing...Mouse Guard to Runaways

A smaller week when it came to floppies, but it was all good stuff...

Mouse Guard #3 - David Petersen's all-ages book continues with the "Rise of the Axe" chapter, where the villain of the tale makes a move. Beautiful as ever, this colorful, enchanting book is one of the best of the year. I'm sad that it's already half over. Hopefully there'll be more on the way once the mini-series is completed... A

Ultimate Spider-man #95 - Part one of the "Morbius" storyline introduces us to the world of vampires in Spidey's world. Meanwhile, Peter and MJ have a little talk in wake of the Krakoa Island incident. B

Runaways #16 - The runaways try to deal with the issues that ended in Molly's abduction last issue. Tensions run high between them in light of the hurtful things said. And there's a nice ending to the issue that made me happy. I wasn't sure how much I would like Victor on the team, but I really enjoy his interaction with the others. He's fast-becoming one of my favorites. A-

Art Out Of Time: Part One

Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 takes 29 unsung figures from comics and features their work, briefly putting them into context in comics history. The book is broken up into five categories: Exercises In Exploration, Slapstick, Acts of Drawing, Words In Pictures, and Form and Style. I will be commenting on my impressions from each of these sections separately, beginning with this entry and "Exercise In Exploration," in which the artists explore different worlds (internally and externally).

The book begins with Harry Grant Dart's The Explorigator, which draws comparisons to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo In Slumberland. A gaggle of children explore various lands and wackiness ensues. And like Little Nemo In Slumberland, it suffers in reproduction because it was really meant to be oversized. Here you have to strain to read the word balloons, not really allowing you to experience the art with the story as it was meant to be. I certainly don't blame the publisher: people are hesitant enough paying $120 for the classic Nemo material in its original size.

The Wiggle Much by Herbert Crowley was another strip in which it was meant to be much bigger than its depicted in this volume. Again, the words are small and cause you to strain, but one of the strips is offered over a two page spread, so you are allowed to get a feel for how it was meant to be experienced. But it is damn strange. I don't know that it really matters that you can't read the words: it's all nonsensicle babble, possibly poetry? It rhymes, then doesn't. It has bizarre art and characters. It's just all very weird.

The mischief-maker Slim Jim torments a town and its police force in Raymond Crawford Ewer and Stanley Armstrong's strip. It's really a fun strip where Slim Jim finds fun ways to escape capture and generally cause mayhem amid some really beautiful art.

My personal favorite comic in the "Exercises In Exploration" section was Walter Quermann's Hickory Hollow Folks. The art is really just gorgeous in this strip, as a slew of animals that live together in a forest carry out various adventures. One strip will be about a small raccoon afraid of his shadow, and another will be a hound dog detective disguised as a bee (and shrunk down to size) to find out what become of some special honey. It's just really fun and colorful. It's so strange that this strip ran in only one newspaper for over twenty years! Crazy.

I also enjoyed Ogden Whitney's Herbie strip, where the title character, a portly kid whose father thinks he's good for nothing, battles monsters for the safety of the world while sucking on different-colored lollipops that give him various powers. In the strip offered here, Herbie fights the Lock Ness Monster and does some really strange things (a dog bites his pants, he bites the dog's butt back, etc.)

Howard Nostrand's story "What's Happening At...8:30 P.M." (from Witches Tales #25) follows an alien-looking creature as he ventures home to find the streets empty and fear in everyone he glimpses. As the story proceeds, we learn that something is going to happen at 8:30 P.M. and the protagonist panics as the time draws nearer. It's really a silly idea for a story when all's revealed, but it was entertaining.

"Colorama" from Bob Powell's Black Cat #45 is another more serious strip that's really just silly when it comes down to it. It's over-the-top drama that borders on surreal upon its conclusion.

It was really exciting to go through the first section of the book and I'm looking forward to more. I feel like it's a secret stash of comics I discovered or something. The book's originally priced at $40, but you can get it for $25 at Amazon, plus free shipping. It's a really nice thick hardcover book, easily worth that price.