Monday, July 31, 2006

Manga Monday 2

This week for Manga Monday I'll be taking a look at two really good books put out by Digital Manga Publishing...

Desire
Maki Kazumi & Yukine Honami
My first yaoi manga! I wasn't really sure what to expect from this. Yaoi manga is basically manga written by women, about gay men, for women. I'm not sure if such a market really exists yet in America, but in light of Brokeback Mountain...maybe? Either way, as a gay man, I found this to be a really exceptional book. It's kind of sexy, with a lot of interesting relationships in the book, including the one between the third member (Takashi) of a three-man group of close friends and his interactions with the other two men, whom this book focuses on. He's the one character that both Toru and Ryoji can talk to about their feelings. We see the entire story through the eyes of Toru, beginning with his reaction to Ryoji's blunt confession on the very first page of the book: "I wonder why...when I look at you, I get...turned on." Toru can be a bit thick-skulled, well, most of the time, but that was the only thing that bothered me through the book and it's a minor gripe. Altogether, it was fun to wonder with the characters at how everyone else would react to certain things, and second-guessing right along with them. This is a really nice story with some great art by Yukine Honami. A

Bambi and her Pink Gun (Volume 1)
Atsushi Kaneko
This doesn't look much like traditional manga. I actually didn't think it was when I first laid eyes upon it, but it's authentic, straight from Japan. This book follows the odd character of Bambi as she avoids assassins who are offered a large sum of money for her death and the return of the child that she has in her possession at all times. Bambi and her Pink Gun is full of beautiful art, despite the creator's use of disgusting imagery through much of the first half. The title character, who always introduces herself with a guttural "Me Bambi," establishes herself as a much more likeable protagonist as the story evolves as well. Atsushi Kaneko weaves a really fun, action-packed tale with this book, and a shows a real creative flair in making the dozens of assassins unique and interesting. I found the book a bit off-putting immediately after the first chapter, but I honestly can't wait to read the next volume upon its completion. This book is admittedly extremely violent and bloody, but man, it's a really, really great read. Don't pass up the chance to experience this story. A

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Jack of Fables #1

Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Tony Akins

I went into this book expecting not to like it too much, given that I thought the "Jack in Hollywood" arc of Fables was one of the worst of the entire book's run. But once it gets past the flashback sequences, Jack gets into trouble, as per usual, and the book takes a really interesting turn. The art by Tony Akins is pretty similar to Fables' Buckingham art, and James Jean is covering this spin-off as well, so it's not too far a departure from the original series - it just doesn't take place in Fabletown and it's creating its own cast of Fable characters. Speaking of other Fables, there are some fun guest appearances in the background, and one really shocking return that I wasn't expecting at the end of the book that pretty much sealed the deal for me to pick up the next issue. Anyone unfamiliar to Fables lore need not worry since the brief explanations get readers up to speed quickly enough (and really there's not much to what the Fables are...) I've always kind of thought of Jack as an abrasive character, but he's kind of enjoyable here since he's hit his low-point. He's still kind of a jackass, but at least he's entertaining. A-

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Double Dragon

Two tales from Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon have hit the shelves of comic shops this week, both following up on events from earlier in the series. The first story goes much further back in the comic's history, dealing with events that took place prior to the first issue, while the latter stars a supporting character in light of events from the title's more recent past.

Savage Dragon #0
Erik Larsen
The origin behind the long-running comic's title character is revealed at long last! From the outset, the green-skinned Dragon was found in a burning field naked with no memories of a past life. For Image Comic's tenth anniversary, Erik Larsen decided to finally reveal the finheaded hero's origin in the Image Tenth Anniversary Hardcover, where other launch titles saw their original creators come back to the books. Since Larsen never left, he upped the ante on his title with this story. And it was an epic tale involving an alien race, a chosen one, sacrifice and betrayal. Of course, given that Dragon is such a morally-grounded good guy in the comic series, it stands to reason that he was formerly not such a noble guy. It wasn't too hard to see that one coming. You could even say that it was expected. It was a fine origin, albeit void of many surprises and not exactly very awe-inspiring as the cover boasts. B

She-Dragon
Erik Larsen & Franchesco!
Events from Savage Dragon #117 saw She-Dragon shoved into Dimension-X by one of Dragon's shorter enemies, Mr. Glum (the one now ruling the world back in current continuity), a fact that is rehashed via flashbacks along with several other pivotal moments in She-Dragon's history (many of which were pretty superfluous to the story at hand). But about a third into the book, we are treated to an actual story of She-Dragon's adventures in Dimension-X, including running into Dragon's son Malcolm and Dragon's dark doppelganger, both of whom ended up in Dimension-X at various times along with a slew of other characters. Forget trying to follow this book if you're not invested in the series. Despite the ample flashbacks, there are a ton of in-jokes including an appearance by G-Man who appears in back-up strips of Savage Dragon who also went to Dimension-X. I didn't even remember Dragon's dark self, but had to ask Patrick for a refresher. It's all very convoluted. But it was a fun story. She-Dragon, originally a spoof of She-Hulk, has always been one of my favorite characters from Savage Dragon, and as such it was nice to see her kick some butt in her very own one-shot. I loved the art on the book by Francheso, despite the ample amounts of T & A and the lame excuses for having her attire ripped to shreds for the sake of the story. Key events take place in this book that bring things up to speed with current continuity and will be followed up in the very next issue of Savage Dragon. C

Friday, July 28, 2006

In Passing...X-Men to Blue Beetle

X-Men #189
Mike Carey & Chris Bachalo
We got a glimpse of a few of the new villains of the series in the previous issue of the "Supernovas" storyline and now we're treated to a whole team of them. And they're pretty cool and interesting, something that I don't think's been done in one of the secondary X-titles for years. Aurora and Northstar finally make their appearance in the book and there was a short interlude scene from Shi'ar space that I really enjoyed. B

Blue Beetle #5
Keith Giffen, John Rogers & Duncan Rouleau
Not a fan of Duncan Rouleau's guest pencils. It was really hard to understand what was going on in some action panels and...well, I just think it's kind of ugly. But I'm dropping Blue Beetle after this issue for more than that. The story just isn't compelling me to keep reading. It's all getting very stale and uninteresting. D

New Avengers #22
Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Yu
This issue of the Civil War crossover focuses on Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. It was a very touching issue, what with a little one in the mix. And I really enjoyed this exchange of dialogue and the comparison Cage made:

Iron Man: Luke, they will come to your home and they will take you out of here. And if that doesn't work, they'll call us in next, Do you want that? Is that what your goal is?

Luke Cage: Oh. Is it Mississippi in the 1950's now?

Iron Man: Oh. Come on!!

Luke Cage: The difference is...?

Iron Man: Stop it. Will you stop?

Luke Cage: Getting pulled out of your home in the middle of the night for being different is the same now as it was then.

Jessica Jones: Does have a timeless quality to it.

Luke Cage: Don't it?

I was really impressed with Leinel Yu's art on the book and was happy to hear that he would be the regular artist when things with Civil War cool down a little. And Bendis always writes Cage and Jessica really great. Very good issue. A

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Batman #655

Issue #655 of Batman sees Grant Morrison taking over writing chores, with Andy Kubert on pencils. You'd probably expect something a little out there from the writer behind Seven Soldiers, We3 and The Invisibles. Or at least some really wild new concepts thrown in there ala New X-Men. But in the end, Grant Morrison didn't provide much of a departure from the previous incarnations of the series. It's all pretty straight-forward. There are some interesting things involved in the story, including the character of Bruce Wayne and the new role that that puts Alfred in, as well as the situation surrounding the first story arc, which the title isn't shy about relating: "Batman & Son." I'm really not too keen on Andy Kubert's pencils. They get the job done, but it's nothing special to look at. There was a cool scene at the beginning of the issue where a laughing-gas-poisoned Jim Gordan and visiting Batman both chuckle over the same twisted joke about an article in the newspaper. That was the only moment that really struck me in the whole issue.

Overall this was something that won't get any fanboys upset. This is one of DC's biggest books and as such, Morrison took a rather mainstream approach to it, but I can't help but feel like I was waiting for something else... I don't want it to be different and wacky just for the sake of being different and wacky, but I was looking forward to a higher quality story maybe? Possibly something a little more epic like THE Two Face story or something...

Now, I know people criticized Joss Whedon when he took over Astonishing X-Men because he decided to make it more of a traditional superhero book, but at least it was superior storytelling there. For some reason, I'm expecting that Grant Morrison isn't going to get the backlash that Joss Whedon did. The situations are a little different, as Whedon followed up a highly inventive run on New X-Men, but should that really be a factor? Grant Morrison's one of those writers that seems to garner attention from the alternative community a bit more than other creators and as such, he seems exempt from criticisms that other writers and artists would get over the same sort of things. Is it because he's earned more respect via his track record? Just a thought...

As Morrison's run on Batman progresses, it may turn into something special, but for now it's just kind of...there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Previews: October 2006

This is going to be one exciting month for comics! The highlights...

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics:
Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery GN - A teenage detective solving mysteries in her haunted town. Beautiful cover.

Archaia Studios Press:
The Killer #1 (of 10) - A tale of a cold, methodical assassin in a brutal noir story. If ASP's track record's any indicator, this should be awesome!

Robotika HC - Alex Sheikman's strange four issue mini-series is collected in a deserving hardcover volume.

DC Comics:
DC solicitations were examined separately.

Drawn & Quarterly:
Acme Novelty Library Volume 17 HC - I wasn't expecting to see this already! Chris Ware brings us the second part of his introduction to Rusty Brown!

Fanfare/Ponent Mon:
The Ice Wanderer GN - The new graphic novel from Jiro Taniguchi (The Walking Man) collects six shorts of "men confronted with a savage nature."

Fantagraphics Books:
The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 - Sally starts kindergarten! Linus introduces Sally to the Great Pumpkin! More classic Peanuts!

Let Us Be Perfectly Clear - A collection of Paul Hornschemeier's (Mother, Come Home) short stories.

Gemstone Publishing:
The EC Archives: Weird Science (Volume 1) HC - The hardcover archives collecting EC Comics classics begins with Weird Science and a foreward by George Lucas.

IDW Publishing:
The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (Volume 1) HC - The first volume of the recently-announced Dick Tracy archival project puts the strips from October 1931-May 1933 into print.

Image Comics:
Impaler #1 - Looks like a cool horror series with some nice art by Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich.

Marvel Comics:
Marvel solicitations were looked at separately.

Papercutz:
Degrassi: Extra Credit (Volumes 1 and 2) - The Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation comes to comics!! I bet Kevin Smith's itching to write a story...

Top Shelf Productions:
Owly plush toy - It's sooo cute...

Virgin Comics:
John Woo's Seven Brothers #1 - Garth Ennis and Jeevan Kang present a comic about seven men with nothing in common who come into the service of a strange woman.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In Stores 7/26

It's another fairly big week in comics. Here are the highlights...

30 Days of Night: Three Tales TP - IDW collects three stories from the 30 Days of Night universe in one paperback: the 30 Days of Night 2005 Annual, the three issue mini-series 30 Days of Night: Dead Space, and 30 Days of Night: Picking Up the Pieces, a story originally published in Tales of Terror.

Batman #655 - Grant Morrison takes over writing duties! Should be super-cool!

Castle Waiting (Volume 2) #1 - In wake of the Castle Waiting collection recently published by Fantagraphics, Linda Medley begins turning out new stories from her magical universe.

Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways #1 (of 4) - I love the Runaways and am just a tad annoyed that they're teamed up with the Young Avengers in this book, mostly because I haven't read Young Avengers and intend to (and am likely to get spoiled in some fashion with this mini-series). Ah, well. It should be fun to see these young teams butt heads.

Museum of Terror (Volume 1) TP - Junji Ito's horror stories are collected in this series, beginning with the zombie girl Tomie. I've actually read Tomie in editions published by Comics One. This looks like a sleeker package from Dark Horse.

Jack of Fables #1 - Jack gets his own book, from the pages of Vertigo's hit Fables series. I wasn't really a fan of Jack's story in Fables a year or so ago, so I'm not so sure I'll enjoy this series, but it's worth checking out.

Polly & the Pirates TP - Polly & the Pirates is a great series from Ted Naifeh, the creator behind Courtney Crumrin. If you're going to invest in anything this week, let it be this.

Savage Dragon #0 - From the Image 10th Anniversary Hardcover comes Erik Larsen's contribution in its own single issue comic, featuring the origin of the big green finhead himself.

She Dragon #1 - And also from the pages of Savage Dragon comes a one-shot featuring She Dragon, who was left for dead in space by one of Dragon's enemies a while back. I've always liked She Dragon and this issue should be a lot of fun at the very least.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Manga Monday!!

Welcome to the very first Manga Monday post! This feature will appear weekly on Comics-and-More!

Domu: A Child's Dream
Katsuhiro Otomo
The acclaimed creator of Akira provides his readers with a tale of a haunted apartment complex. People often die of homocides or strange accidents or simply jump off of the rooftop (when the door to the roof is locked!). And each of the victims are missing items, from a pen to a hat to a teddy bear. It's a mystery that has the police baffled and the residents of the complex quaking with fear. Otomo introduces us to several eccentric residents with this tale, including a college student who's failed his entrance exams three years straight by neglecting his homework in favor of constructing model airplanes, and a woman who pushes around a stroller despite having lost her child during a late-term miscarriage. Things at the complex change one day when a little girl moves in, gifted with mental powers, who sees exactly what is going on. The art on this book is fantastic. That goes without saying. There are several beautiful scenes (some horrifying and gruesome, but still beautiful) and some really well-played fight sequences. Unfortunately, the book is supposed to be scary, and it comes off more silly once the threat is revealed fairly early in the story. It's still suspenseful, but it does lose me. And despite the easily-recognizeable characters and odd qualities surrounding them, there's nothing there that makes me particularly care what happens to them. They're all fairly generic, stock characters. The creepy lady is the creepy lady, the big mentally-handicap kid reacts exactly as you think he would. The story itself is the unique thing here and the way that Otomo has the main characters of the tale use their powers for destruction and mayhem. I would still recommend this book for its art alone, and there are some cool moments that really grab you (and a few genuinely spine-chilling panels). Anyone who liked Akira will at least get something out of this silly horror tale. C+

Dragon Head (Volume 3)
Minetaro Mochizuki
Everything changes in the latest installment of Minetaro Mochizuki's survivalist tale. In wake of the battle with Nobuo, Teru and Ako fight to make their way to the surface amid a collapsing tunnel. As is typical with the series, the art is fantastic without a chapter passing that doesn't bring with it a truckload of suspense. Despite the series moving in a new direction, it is still a survivalist tale, as the protagonists soon discover. Shadows seem to live and breathe as Teru tries to understand just what has happened and strives to get back home. This is one series I would not recommend putting off. A

Octopus Girl (Volume 2)
Toru Yamazaki
Toru Yamazaki continues to amaze with his wonderful characters in this disgusting over-the-top dark comedy/horror title. This book is all about the excess and the artist indulges in abundant amounts of snot, blood, violence and death as our anti-heroes rip the flesh from mens' backs and swallow little girls whole. But it's all really great (and to be fair, the little girl was torturing a fish at the time). Despite the sick comedy that oozes from the pages of Octopus Girl, I really do like the main characters and care whether they see themselves out of some pretty bad situations. They're charming despite their awful actions. The only thing that bugs me about this book is that it's so overly sexist. The women survive to find a good man. That is their goal. They kill, maim and back-stab just to be able to cook a meal for a man to try to win him over in hopes that he proposes. And there are two stories in this volume where men nobly sacrifice themselves to save their families. The women aren't so selfless and are usually portrayed as serial killers or trying to lure unsuspecting virgins to early graves. It bugs me. An additional story that does not star Octopus Girl is included in this volume as well - Night of the Rotting Girl's Tears, which is a decent little self-contained horror story, albeit a pretty predictable one. I would really recommend Octopus Girl for anyone who enjoys overdone dark comedy and doesn't mind a little excess gore and sexism sprinkled in for good measure. A

Planetes (Volumes 1 & 2)
Makoto Yulimura
Planetes is a much mellower book compared to the other manga reviewed this week. It's a lot quieter and more internalized with subtle characterization and action that isn't depicted in quite so flashy a fashion. Despite it's being a science fiction work, it's more hard science, grounded in a reality that could conceivably take place years from now as man makes a move toward colonization in space. With it are forseeable politics as terrorists sabotage man's attempts to delve further into the unknown, and characters differing in opinions on philosophical matters. Much of this is background noise, however. The thrust of the story is of three debris cleaners in Earth's orbit. Glorified garbage men. Fee is an in-your-face tomboy with a heart of gold, Hachimaki dreams of playing an important role in humanity's frontier in space, and Yuri suffers from a tragic past that he struggles to put behind him. A series of events occur to these characters over the years, including sabotage, collecting unexpected debris and getting hospitalized so their bodies can deal with the stress of gravity upon reentry on Earth. But don't think it's not exciting, because it really is. The first volume left me wondering whether I wanted to actually continue with the series or not, but by the time I was finished with volume two, I knew that I would pick up the next installment as the astronauts' futures looked more interesting and complicated. This book has a lot of edge-of-your-seat moments with characters that you really grow attached to. There's a lot of heart in this work, but give it a few volumes to work its magic on you. B+

Shojo Beat: August 2006
Vampire Knight
Matsuri Hino
The second chapter of the new Shojo Beat title Vampire Knight disappoints. Despite the promising premise introduced previously, the author doesn't have enough confidence in his readers to build on the story, instead rehashing the premise around St. Xocolatl's Day, where girls give the guys they fancy chocolate. With the anniversary issue of Shojo Beat, the chapters have been told in alternating pink and blue colors, something that I find distracting. Vampire Knight suffers from a bright pink story on top of its mediocre storytelling. D

Absolute Boyfriend
Yuu Watase
Following the best story of the series so far, Absolute Boyfriend falls back into its formula as the love triange of Riiko, Night and Soshi steps up a notch in intensity, with the two men vying for Riiko's heart. Despite an unexpected twist at the end that will force the three to really confront the matter-at-hand, the repercussions from the previous story should have been a lot more powerful. Watase doesn't explore Riiko's feelings nearly as much as she should in light of the trauma that well, I as a reader went through. C

Nana
Ai Yazawa
The big moment arrives! Nana Komatsu brings Nana Osaki back home to meet the family before going to the big Trapnest concert where Osaki will see her former lover Ren on stage. Osaki and Komatsu share some very tender moments as Komatsu admits that she's aware of Osaki's past with Ren, and Osaki speaks lovingly of Komatsu to her family. Then there's a really intense moment at the concert right before it begins that had me shifting in my seat. I didn't feel the emotional punch that I usually feel from the title, but with the note this chapter ends on, I'm sure some tears are in store for next month. A-

Saturday, July 22, 2006

In Passing...Eternals to Civil War

Eternals #2 (of 6) - The second issue of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr's mini-series on the Eternals kicks things into highgear. Sersi throws her first professional party where some unexpected things happen, as Mark Curry deals with the consequences of his actions from the previous issue and...strange things happen to him too. Well, he's at Sersi's party, so he's involved in all of the strangeness. Anyways...the series becomes much more interesting as the Eternals slowly meet and are put in the face of danger. I haven't been impressed with much of Neil Gaiman's comics work recently, so it's nice to be surprised with a really great issue. And I really like that Rick Berry cover. A

Manhunter #24 - The "Can't Get You Outta My Head" storyline comes to a conclusion this week amid chaos. Dr. Psycho gets loose in the courtroom, so it's him versus Kate Spencer in a spectacular fight. Superhero books don't get much better than this. A

Uncanny X-Men #476 - "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" continues as Professor Xavier and his X-Men break into a hidden Shi'ar base to steal a spacecraft in order to follow Vulcan into the depths of space. Of course things don't go as planned. Having a student tag along on the mission with the seasoned players was a good idea on the writer's part, I think, since we can see things like space travel through his eyes and feel that it's really cool again. And Darwin is one of my favorites on the team really (after Polaris who the creative team write really well). This book may not be shaping up to be much competition for Astonishing X-Men in terms of quality, but it's still a pretty good book. Before Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, I think it would have been seen as an impressive debut for the creative team, but the X-Men have just seen too much good material as of late, so Brubaker and Tan will have to be content with being labeled "better than their predecessors on the book." At least for now. B

Civil War #3 (of 7) - Most of this issue is pretty much a big throw-down between Cap's team and Iron Man's. Little is dealt with in term's of last issue's big shocker - Spidey's outing himself. However, the underground team of heroes are seen in light of events from the previous issue, mainly that they've gotten themselves new identities. And of course, there's another big surprise at the end of this issue to keep people gasping for the next issue to hit the stands. Tony Stark also makes a stop by the X-Mansion to try to rally up support from the mutant front and has a little chat with Miss Frost. I like how the mini-series is focusing on two characters primarily: Iron Man and Captain America. With all of the characters drifting in and out of the book it helps to stay a little grounded through it all. C+

X-Factor #9 - This was another really great issue. Quicksilver and X-Factor have a confrontation about what has gone on since House of M and now with the whole Civil War. This is where the team must decide whose side they are on. Oh and in the end, it's X-Factor vs. the Astonishing X-Men as they fight over Quicksilver and the half-truths that have been fed between the groups. Guess who wins? A

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Red Star: Sword of Lies

The Red Star makes its return this week in a new series: The Red Star: Sword of Lies. The debut issue gives fans plenty of what they're used to from the title: great art blending traditional pencils with 3-D computer art and digital painting. I was a little disappointed with the opening prologue of the story, which was mythology-heavy and delved into the story of Imbohl the sorceror (the series' main antagonist) after a bloody battle that saw nearly all of his troops dead (and him half-dead himself). Several panels recycled art a few times, which kind of bugs me and takes me out of the story a bit, and the narration felt rather forced. Thankfully once the series oriented itself in present-time (or future-time really), the series found its footing and the story unfolded in its complicated universe with Maya taking center-stage as she had previously. Maya begins with a tip to the fans and their long wait for the series to continue with "Is it just me...or have we been waiting here forever?" still on the skyfurnace R.S.S. Konstantinov as we'd left them with the last Red Star story Prison of Souls in early 2004. Overall, I think this is the weakest issue of The Red Star to date. Nothing was particularly interesting. The story, mostly told through flashbacks wasn't very engaging. If you plan to visit the world of The Red Star, I would recommend Run, Makita, Run, the Red Star Annual (and probably best issue), or the first collection of the series: The Battle of Kar Dathra's Gate. Or even better yet, Team Red Star released one issue of a series called Assassin a few years ago that was just a spectacular comic. However, if you are a fan of the series thus far, Sword of Lies will probably placate you with its 36 uninterrupted pages, and will hopefully have more to offer past the reunion with readers with the next issue's release.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Runaways: Parental Guidance

*** Contains Spoilers ***
The five-issue story arc "Parental Guidance" came to a conclusion this week in Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona's Runaways. One of the best superhero books out there right now, boasting a great premise and a strong cast of characters, this book has gotten a lot of attention recently for this particular storyline. Before "Parental Guidance" even made its debut, it was hyped as "The Return of the Pride," the evil supergroup consisting of each runaways' parents. Then by the end of the story, it was that one of the runaways would die. Both happened (well, the first one sort of happened), but Vaughan certainly played up those aspects of the story by providing fans with a few cyke-outs, most notably the parting shot of issue 17, where Nico was shot through the stomach. Of course, it was all part of the runaways' plan to rescue Molly (and Nico was really replaced by a shape shifter at the time) and pretty soon Chase had a knife to his throat. Gertrude, I think, was the one character who was ripe for the killing. At least that's what I thought after the story arc had concluded. She was the only one I wasn't really sad to see go (well, I think I would have been alright if the brat Molly had flown the coop too...). Plus, the way the death scene played out leaves hope for her to return (note her not quite getting out the words "I love you" like her future self said she'd never been able to tell Chase). Anyways, I didn't really get too emotional by the death for some reason, even though I thought the issue played out pretty damn near perfectly. I absolutely loved the splash page where Gert did die, with the colors all washed out, and I really like where her death left Chase at the end. Chase has been one of my favorites since the "second season" began. He was kind of the joke of the team in a way, so it's nice to see him come into his own at the end of this arc, having inherited Old Lace from Gertrude and the Pride's decryptor ring. He's been the one powerless kid of the team for too long and it's about time his character takes a turn (beginning with that great last page). It was also nice to see Karolina come back to the team after a short absence. She's a cool character and a nice visual, and she brought a friend along to join the ranks of runaways: Xavin the super skrull, who could make for a really interesting group dynamic. Funny how we keep losing one runaway and gaining another, ala The Exiles. It was nice to see at least one of the original Pride return with this arc, recruiting some nerds to fill out the team (very clever, Mr. Vaughan), but I have to admit my disappointment at the entire Pride's absence. I can only hope that sometime in the future, we'll get the real deal. But in the end, all was paid off and executed nicely by the final issue. Another great arc for the Runaways.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New Weekly Feature!

Since I'm reading more and more manga every month, it's time for a new regular feature on Comics-and-More: Manga Monday! Every Monday, you can be sure to find something related to manga, most likely in the form of reviews or links to news or other items of interest. This coming Monday you can look forward to reviews of...

- Domu: A Child's Dream by Katsuhiro Otomo

- Dragon Head (Volume 3) by Minetaro Mochizuki

- Octopus Girl (Volume 2) by Toru Yamazaki

- Planetes (Volumes 1 & 2) by Makoto Yukimura

- Shojo Beat: August 2006

Just don't expect me to pack so much in every week...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Marvel Solicits: October '06

Get the full list of Marvel's books at Comic Book Resources. Here are the highlights...

Hellstorm: Son of Satan #1 (of 5) - Novelist Alexander Irvine brings Daimon Hellstorm back to the Marvel Universe in a new MAX mini-series with art by Russel Braun and Klaus Janson.

Ultimate Power #1 (of 9) - Brian Michael Bendis gives us a new Ultimate mini with art and covers by Greg Land. Here, the Fantastic Four punch a hole through to the Supremeverse.

Amazing Spider-Girl #0 - In case you missed the 100-issue run of Tom DeFalco's Spider-Girl, here's the cliffnotes version. The full story of May "Mayday" Parker retold to get you up-to-date for the relaunch.

Amazing Spider-Girl #1 - And here's the debut issue of the relaunch...

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 - A new (ongoing?) series by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester featuring, as the solicit says "the world's worst superhero."

Doctor Strange: The Oath #1 (of 5) - Brian K. Vaughan writes a five-issue Dr. Strange mini as the good doctor attempts to uncover who attempted to murder him.

Criminal #1 - The new Icon series by Ed Brubaker debuts with art by Sean Phillips in a crime noir book well-suited for the team.

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense (Volume One) - That's a mouthful. But big monsters from the talent of Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and more...could be super-cool.

Doctor Strange vs. Dracula: The Montesi Formula TP - Didn't Apocalypse just get into it with Dracula? That man loves a fight. This trade paperback reprints Tomb of Dracula #44 as well as Doctor Strange #14 and #58-62. Hopefully releasing this doesn't spoil any surprise murderers-to-be in the new mini from Brian K. Vaughan.

Giant-Size Wolverine #1 - David Lapham and David Aja bring us a "Halloween" story featuring the old Canucklehead in the "House of Blood and Sorrow." This giant-sized issue also reprints X-Men #6-7 with art by Jim Lee, featuring Omega Red and Sabertooth.

Essential Marvel Horror (Volume One) - And Marvel is so ready to cash in on reprints with the new Son of Satan mini-series debuting this month. Not only does this Essential feature Daimon Hellstorm, but his sister Satana as well, from a mixed bag of Marvel titles across the board, including Ghost Rider, Vampire Tales, Haunt of Horror, Marvel Two-In-One and Son of Satan #1-8.

DC Solicits: October '06

Here we are again. I'll highlight the stuff from DC you should give a second thought to...you can sift through the rest at Newsarama.

Seven Soldiers #1 - Yes. The maxi-series from Grant Morrison comes to a head - a little late, but better now than never. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait anyhow, given the artist is J.H. Williams III and all of the series involved have been pretty damn awesome. 48 pages of Grant Morrison goodness for only $3.99.

Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier (Volume 1) TP - Another obscure Showcase collecting Star-Spangled War Stories #151-190. This is an advance solicitation, so it won't actually be available until November 22nd.

The Authority #1 - Grant Morrison must be getting a cramp in his hand by now. He's doing All-Star Superman, Wildcats, 52, Batman, and finishing up his Seven Soldiers saga. And now this too. At least it's bi-monthly to give the poor guy a rest. And hey - Gene Ha is going to be providing the art. Yay!

Planetary #26 - I haven't followed this series but it is a popular, supposedly really well-done series by the talented Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, and this being the final issue, it deserves some props.

A Nightmare On Elm Street #1 - DC snatches up some coveted licenses just in time for the A Nightmare On Elm Street Special Edition DVD's release. The horror series will be written by Chuck Dixon, with the artist yet to be determined.

Y-the Last Man #50 - The big anniversary issue of Brian K. Vaughan's Vertigo series promises the answer to the plague that wiped man from the face of the map...

The Absolute Sandman (Volume One) HC - If you love Neil Gaiman's Sandman enough to spend $99 for some extras, this book is for you. Issues one through twenty have all been recolored for this hardcover volume which includes Gaiman's original proposal for the series, a gallery of character designs and the original script for #19, the Fantasy Award-winning "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream."

The Sandman #1 Special Edition - And if you've never laid hands on a Sandman comic before, Vertigo will release the first issue of the series in conjunction with the Absolute Hardcover, for a mere 50 cents!

Monday, July 17, 2006

In Stores 7/19

It's a great week for comics, aside from the usual stuff...

Sloth HC - Gilbert Hernandez' original graphic novel for Vertigo/DC finally sees the light of day. It's been years since this was first announced. But anything by a Hernandez Brother is worth the wait.

Halo Graphic Novel HC - And then there's Marvel's big hardcover of the week. Not exactly something I've been holding my breath for, but it could still be cool.

Excalibur Classic (Volume 2): Two-Edged Sword TP - I loved loved loved the first volume of Excalibur Classic, from Chris Claremont (when he was still turning out good material) and Alan Davis. I highly recommend checking out this original Excalibur series.

Civil War: X-Men #1 (of 4) - In case you can't get enough of Civil War, you can see what the merry mutants are up to amid the chaos...

Red Star: Sword of Lies - Red Star makes its triumphant return! The Eisner Award-winning series follows up on the Prison of Souls story to bring us a 40-page tale of the rise of Imbohl the evil sorceror to power.

The Comics Journal #277 - It's the 30th anniversary of The Comics Journal! The extra-big issue includes a history of the Direct Market and marks the end of an era as Dirk Deppey bows out as managing editor. R. Kikuo Johnson provides an awesome cover - check out a preview of contents yourself over at their website and treat yourself to an extended interview with creator Chynna Clugston (of the remarkable Strangetown).

And is it just a coincidence that a bunch of former Speakeasy titles are all getting the trade paperback treatment at once? This week we see the first volumes of The Hunger, Of Bitter Souls and Atomika. The only one I've read was Of Bitter Souls. I wouldn't recommend it - it was on my list of 5 worst comics of 2005. I have been thinking about checking out Atomika however.

Wasteland #1

Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten's new post-apocalyptic series Wasteland debuted this past week from Oni Press. The events of the story take place one hundred years after "The Big Wet" where the world has kind of devolved into an old west, where trading isn't uncommon and the word "sand" seems to permeate all of the slang. Several individuals of the time have developed strange gifts, such as telekinesis or the ability to heal wounds very quickly, and the land is stalked by savage sharp-toothed Sandeaters, a sort of wild humanoid creature. Much of the double-sized first issue is set-up. Readers are introduced to the world at large and a small group of characters, including Michael, an enigmatic scavenger on his way to the city of Newbegin, and Abi, the sheriff of a small town who takes a liking to the gruff stranger who appears in town. All-in-all, there was nothing particularly interesting about this book. The characters fit quite snuggly into roles we've all seen before without any real meat to the story to make me salivate for more. Fans of westerns and post-apocalyptic numbers will probably like this one, but I wouldn't go out of my way to track down a copy.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Snakewoman #1

Hot on the heels of last week's Virgin debut title Devi, Snakewoman rears its head, boasting the talent of Zeb Wells and Michael Gaydos. The concept behind this comic came from director Shekhar Kapur, as did Devi, but this comic is far superior. In this issue, we are introduced to the world of Jessica Peterson, a fairly conservative girl (at least in contrast to her flippant, irresponsible roommate Jin) who waits tables with her roommate at the bar Bad Karma. Some strange things happen to her after a new boy moves in across the hall in their apartment complex, ending in a fatal encounter. Now, I love Michael Gaydos. His art on Alias was perfect, especially given the tone of the book. This book, not surprisingly, harbors that same noir atmosphere as that series, minus the incessant cussing. Indeed, the main character of the book sometimes even looks like Jessica Jones with a streak of green hair. I'm sure this is going to draw many comparisons to Alias, but really, this is a different sort of story, a reimagining of the Naga myth. A lot of what made this story interesting were Jessica's relationships with the people in her life, particularly with her roommate, who seems to have gotten used to walking all over Jessica over the years. Wells and Gaydos do a great job of conveying her frustration and fear across the pages while setting up an intriguing mystery that lies beneath the surface of the protagonist and perhaps in strangers around her. I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

X-Men #188

Following the new creative team launch of last week's Uncanny X-Men, Mike Carey tries his hand at reinvigorating another one of the secondary X-books, X-Men, with help from Chris Bachalo. X-Men #188 begins with Sabertooth on the run from a pair of mysterious villains. Despite being vaguely disoriented by the art, I do actually like Bachalo on this book, particularly in a scene where Rogue disarms a group of soldiers. In the same scene, Mike Carey takes advantages of the mutants assembled to use their powers in unique ways. He also establishes the purpose of the new team of heroes, which include Rogue, Iceman, Mystique and Cannonball (with Sabertooth and one or two others on the way), who are to be part of a rapid response unit to react to situations like the one dealt with at the beginning of this issue. Carey already makes use of the relationships between several characters who appear here, including some really neat scenes with Professor Xavier, Rogue and Scott. Overall, it's a fun book, bringing together an odd assortment of characters, with the most interesting aspect being that of Sabertooth's troubles, a character I usually don't really care for. The villains introduced here, whether new with this storyarc or recurring characters, are visually interesting with some real potential, given their actions and powers demonstrated here. Like the retooled Uncanny X-Men, this book's starting off decent enough, but it's not exactly Astonishing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In Passing...Fables to Ms. Marvel

Some really exciting debuts this week - Mike Carey on X-Men, Oni Press' new title Wasteland and Michael Gaydos on Virgin Comics' Snakewoman. But for now, all the other stuff...

Fables #51
- Cinderella is front and center in this issue as she deals with a delicate diplomatic situation for Fabletown, making both allies and enemies, setting up some dominos to fall in later issues while introducing us to some new corners of Fabledom. Another great James Jean cover. C+

Ultimate Spider-Man #97 - Following the lame, rushed "Morbius" arc, Ultimate Spider-Man gets damn good again with some great Bagley art as Peter battles the Scorpion and gets into it with both Kitty AND MJ. Oi. B+

Ms. Marvel #5 - The latest arc of Ms. Marvel comes to an end, guest-starring Dr. Strange, as they battle a fairly lame villain. But still, it was a really good superhero fight, although the conclusion was a little anticlimactic. B-

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Idle Time

A little boredom and surfing on Amazon produced some nice surprises coming from Marvel...

- Essential Horror TP (which collects The Son of Satan) (Listed as coming out November 1st)

- Essential Man-Thing TP (Listed as coming out November 22nd)

- Essential Defenders (Volume 2) TP (Listed as coming out December 20th)

- Jack Kirby's Captain America (Volume 3) TP (Listed as coming out November 29th)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

In Stores 7/12

Here we go again - a look at some books shipping to comic shops this Wednesday...

The Escapists #1 (of 6) - Brian K. Vaughan joins artists Philip Bond and Eduardo Barreto for a mini-series based on Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, something completely endorsed by the original author, and a debut issue available for a mere dollar!

Mouse Guard #1 (Third Printing) - In case you still haven't jumped on the bandwagon, buy this comic! Mouse Guard's debut issue gets another printing. A series well-deserving of its success.

Wasteland #1 - The new post-apocalyptic comic by Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten looks like a lot of fun, and Oni Press has been producing a lot of good stuff lately.

Snakewoman #1 - A new take of India's naga (snake) myth, a quiet waitress from the Midwest becomes overwhelmed by a reptilian power within her.

Ghost Rider #1 - If you're really excited about the new Marvel movie coming out soon, this'll probably wet your appetite.

X-Men #188 - The new creative team of Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo take over the book, sporting characters like Mystique, Iceman, Rogue and Sabertooth. I think Mike Carey's a great choice for the book.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Uncanny X-Men #475

A new creative team takes the helm of Uncanny X-Men with issue 475: Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan. The first issue of their run is the beginning of a bold 12-part story, The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire, a title that promises a tale of epic proportions. Included in the new lineup of characters is Professor Xavier, Nightcrawler, Marvel Girl, Havok, Warpath and Polaris. Now, there have been some changes to the cast involved that have occurred prior to this story, the biggie being that Professor Xavier can walk again, but no longer has his powers of telepathy. I'm assuming this "trade-off" is something that occurred in Brubaker's follow-up to House of M, Deadly Genesis. I guess Polaris also lost her powers with House of M, but has acquired them again, most likely from the whole Horsemen of Apocalypse storyline since she makes reference to Apocalypse's people doing something to her, resulting in her powers being different now: wild and dangerous (man, can you get lost if you don't follow all of the books). Anyways, these things aside, this was a decent first issue. Billy Tan's art wasn't exactly spectacular, but there were some pretty scenes, particularly in the form of Polaris on the run from some hunters in the streets of Egypt. There were also some nice scenes between Professor Xavier and Warpath, and with Nightcrawler. I don't know much about Vulcan, Cyclops and Havok's brother, but he's the protagonist of the story, and we get a little taste of his potential for destruction as he makes his way to Shi'ar space. He seems like a vaguely lame villain, but the rest of the issue was executed pretty well, so we'll just have to trust Brubaker and Tan know what they're doing. The "other" X-books aside from the flagship title are notorious for being just bland books, even when a great creator like Peter Milligan comes on to it...we'll have to wait and see if this will prove to be the exception.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Devi #1

Devi is one of two launch series from the mind of Virgin Comics' Chief Visionary Shekhar Kapur, a man best known in America for the Oscar-nominated film Elizabeth. Kapur actually grew up in India, where he released a film that still has a strong following fifteen years later called Mr. India. Growing up in India, Kapur was exposed to comics in a different way than Americans (and was indeed, influenced by them). There, comics were hugely popular and were quite often based on Indian mythology. While they didn't stay popular, just like American comics, Kapur believes that Indian comics have huge potential.

Shekhar Kapur, from the back of Devi #1:
"The success of the Indian Comic Book and it's related offshoots will come not from copying manga, but from using the base of existing Indian Mythology and Art Form, and creating a unique product that has international appeal. Just like Manga did. I know of no other culture so rich and diverse in Mythology as India."

So, with that philosophy in mind, we are introduced to his first comic from Virgin. The script is by Siddharth Kotian with art by Mukesh Singh. The other launch series from Kapur, Snakewoman, debuts next week, with another series by John Woo and Garth Ennis (Seven Brothers) and covers by the likes of Alex Ross (Ramayan Reborn) and Greg Horn (Devi #2) on the way. Virgin Comics seems to be seeking out popular talent and going for quality, but I think something unique like Kapur talks about is needed to make Virgin Comics successful. Other companies (Crossgen, Speakeasy) have attempted international appeal and failed utterly. Time will tell if Virgin will join their ranks, but for now, the debut comic...

Kotian and Singh are not afraid of throwing you in there. Devi begins with a "Story so far" page that explains Devi's back story a little...beware, it's already kind of complicated. And then the fast-pace action introduces us to the war goddess Devi in "man's second century" as she leads an assault on the fortress of demon-god Bala. It's a really well-played fight, showcasing both party's powers really well, as well as their really cool designs. There's no real depth to the characters yet, but given all that occurs in this issue, it's no wonder. The latter part of the issue fastforwards to present day Japan, where Devi's character has gone through quite the metamorphosis and has found a new place in a world that doesn't need her in the way it used to. It's a cool (if not simple) premise, executed quite nicely. This book has a lot of potential, but it does play out like a superhero comic with a little Artesia thrown in for good measure, and in the end, it looks a little too much like Witchblade. It may not have a unique look or take, but it could certainly fit into the world of superhero comics quite snuggly. Whether it turns into something more...well, we'll have to wait and see.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Beyond!

A new Marvel mini-series debuted this past week from Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins called Beyond! It's a really fun premise: an ecclectic group of superheroes and supervillains are thrown together to try to survive a galactic experience which pits them against each other. Included in this group are Spider-Man, Medusa, Hank Pym, Wasp, Gravity, Firebird, The Hood, Kraven the Hunter, and Venom. A voice commands them to fight their enemies to receive whatever their heart desires, and of course, immediately, one of the villains attempts to indulge the voice. Then another villain decides he wishes to kill his enemy like the voice said anyway and causes trouble which causes another hero to join the fray...it's like watching dominos fall. Unfortunately, the entire first issue is like watching dominos fall. Nothing interesting or surprising really happens (especially the fake-out ending which no reader can believe to hold any weight). It's really like watching everything happen you expect to happen. Given the diverse cast of characters, that's a real shame and disappointment. But to go one step further, the story is seen through the eyes of Gravity (whose mini-series I've been meaning to check out for awhile now), who McDuffie decides to make the most obnoxious, arrogant and down-right unlikeable voice he can (I fail to believe that Sean McKeever created this character to be this abrasive). And really, several of the characters seem off: Spider-Man's in the room with fricking Venom and Kraven, for Christ's sake! Yet Gravity wakes up to find an extremely calm collective of people waiting for him to revive. And then comes a scene introducing the characters to the reader that was almost painful, with some of the worst dialogue I've ever read in a comic (next to the crap coming out of Gravity's mouth) as he gives face time to each character in turn. Interestingly enough, the character of Kraven is chosen to be the voice of reason among the group, but beyond that, this is one piece of uncreative crap. In another writer's hand, this could have been a lot of fun. As it is, however, it's merely cringe-worthy.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Love Roma

I had the chance to read the first volume of Love Roma this week, by first-time manga creator Minoru Toyoda. It's been on my bookshelves for awhile now, and I was in the mood for a manga since Patrick began reading Death Note and got me all excited about it again.

Love Roma is a romantic comedy that doesn't really look like other manga. It has its own unique look about it, one that Patrick described as "video-gameish." It's kind of stiff-looking, but probably intentionally so. It makes for a different sort of experience if anything. Since it is a comedy, I find that I may not enjoy it as much as other people, just because I have such a weird, narrow taste in what I find funny. But it is a charming book nonetheless. It's pretty silly, what with the entire classroom following the blossoming relationship between Negishi and Hoshino, since Hoshino is blunt and always announcing his intentions and feelings to the classroom at large, who applaud and laugh in response. The two characters are instantly likeable and as a reader, you kind of experience the awkward fumblings of first love through their eyes all over again, questioning and requestioning actions through a very innocent headspace (well, for the most part). Each chapter of the volume sort of inspects a different part of their relationship, from their first kiss to rivals to meeting the parents. Love Roma is a fairly quick read, but it's really fun and lovely, and despite my inability to enjoy comedy to the extent that others can, this book still managed to get a few chuckles out of me.

Monday, July 03, 2006

In Stores 7/6

Comics ship on Thursday this week because of Independence Day. And it's quite a week. Here are the highlights...

Epileptic TP - Pantheon releases the critically-acclaimed Epileptic from David B. in a nice affordable softcover edition.

Devi #1 - The first issue of Devi, from the brand-new company Virgin Comics, follows a warrior goddess and the unseen war she fights.

Flight (Volume 3) TP - While it's been in bookstores for a few weeks now, the latest Flight anthology makes its comic shop debut.

Death Note (Volume 6) TP - Also making its first comic store appearance after several weeks of being on the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble, is the latest great installment of Death Note.

Beyond #1 (of 6) - The newest Marvel mini-series follows a group of several heroes (and villains) thrown together via strange circumstances, from Firestar to Kraven the Hunter. Expect to see a lot of Spidey on the covers of this book starring mostly C-List characters.

Fables (Volume 7) Arabian Nights and Days TP - Collecting the latest arc of DC/Vertigo's Fables, this story introduces a new set of Fables to the mythology, including Sinbad and a genie. The situation is delicate as the two groups tiptoe around each other's customs until one brash decision sends things in turmoil.

Black Panther by Jack Kirby (Volume 2) TP - Another collection of Jack Kirby material sees print. Patrick really enjoyed the first volume of this trade.

Uncanny X-Men #475 - A new creative team takes over the title with this issue. Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan try their hand at lifting the curse of consistant mediocrity from the X-Men titles that sell alongside the excellent flagship book Astonishing X-Men (and previously New X-Men). Chances seem slim, given Brubaker's previous unspectacular mini-series featuring the X-Men: Dark Genesis. But beginning his run with a year-long 12-issue arc takes guts. I'll be checking out at least the first issue of "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire," a title that promises a tale of epic proportions.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Polly & the Pirates

Ted Naifeh, the writer/artist behind the phenomenal Courtney Crumrin series, has created another spectacular character in Polly Pringle, making such a feat seem much easier than it could ever be. I think the character design of Polly is his best yet, even in comparison to the monsters and strange creatures that have graced his pages. She moves between two worlds, one where she is a studious young woman attending a prestigious school, and another when she is shanghaid by pirates and steps into a role that seems to be on the opposite side of the spectrum. There's a nice panel in the sixth and last issue of the mini-series where Polly lets her hair down from their tight buns to let them hang in pigtails, in typical girly fashion, a transformation that allows Polly to return to the academic world we found her in at the beginning of the series. The scene not only showcased the two very different looks of the character, but her diverse nature - a nature you can see in both the exemplary Victorian girl and the fiercly confident pirate. You wouldn't expect the girl you find in the beginning chapters of the story to fit into the role of the pirate, but her stubborn will and cleverness are carried from one role to the other to make the transition perfectly natural. She remains innocent in light of her adventure, though by the standards of the world she comes from her actions may seem to have tainted her good name (if she'd been caught in the act, that is). But we know her to be true of heart and intention.

Polly & the Pirates is full of eccentric characters, many of whom are part of the pirate crew that she encounters, thick with accents, but also include her housemates at her school as well as the darkly handsome but sinister adversary of the tale. Naifeh does an excellent job of showcasing Polly's inherent strengths of being a pirate as she faces the odds (including an opposing group of pirates and the police) to track down the legendary Pirate Queen's treasure. Not only that, but the action of the tale is top-notch, highlighting the artist's cartooning skills more than ever before, with his beautifully-designed ships and locales. Polly & the Pirates is an incredibly fun tale. I can't help but hope for a follow-up tale, the sort of which the end of this mini hints at. Do yourself a favor and check this series out.