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Showing posts from November, 2007

Picks of the Week: 11/29

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And here we are again with our picks of the most promising books coming to comic shops this week. And due to Thanksgiving, remember that books will be arriving a day later, on Thursday...
Patrick’s Pick:
Little Sammy Sneeze: The Complete Color Sunday Comics 1904-1905 - The Holiday shopping season has begun, and this oversized collection from Sunday Press Books (of Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays fame), would make a great gift for yourself or a loved one, don’t you think? Measuring 11”x 16”, this book collects all of Winsor McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze Sunday pages, plus the comic strips originally printed on the backs of those pages, including the entirety of another McCay strip, Hungry Henrietta, plus work by other cartoonists. Sounds terrific, and prior work by the publisher inspires great confidence.
Dave’s Pick:
Age of Bronze (Volume 3): Betrayal - The latest collection of Eric Shanower’s beautifully-rendered graphic novel saga depicting The Trojan War hits shelve…

Robotika: For A Few Rubles More #1

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Alex Sheikman & David Moran

The first Robotika mini-series from Alex Sheikman came out of nowhere, full of creativity and a vision not often seen in mainstream comics. The world Sheikman created felt lively and fully-realized, and utterly odd. In my review of the first mini-series, I compared Sheikman's storytelling to Grant Morrison's, and I still think that Morrison's works are the closest out there to what Sheikman is doing with his Robotika universe. It just keeps hitting you with idea after idea relentlessly amid a really fun story.

In the first issue of the sequel, Robotika: For A Few Rubles More, Sheikman shows no signs of slowing down. Along with David Moran, he reintroduces readers to the futuristic world of cyborgs and magic via three samurai-for-hire. If anything, Sheikman seems more comfortable writing these characters this time around. I didn't really get much out of the characters through the first adventure with them, but in this sequel, I feel as if I…

Manga Monday 53: Portus

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PortusJun Abe
Portus is a single-volume horror manga that follows a young student, Asami, whose best friend begins to act uncharacteristically after playing the video game Portus. When her friend ends up committing suicide, Asami begins to investigate the events that led to the tragedy, and hears rumblings of an urban legend surrounding the game, and a hidden game within it. . The art on Portus is pretty fantastic, I'd say. Particularly when something really creepy is happening, Jun Abe knows how to depict a freaky floating head or a figure blinking from a computer screen. Unfortunately, that's about the end of the positive aspects of this book. While it's visually appealing overall, a lot of events that take place are things that are too reminiscent of The Grudge or any other generic Japanese ghost story you've ever read to make it interesting in its own right. And the story just kept getting sillier as it proceeded, and in turn, became less and less frightening, ki…

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:

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The Black Dossier

Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill

The latest installment in Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very, very dense. It's also very rewarding. Anyone who's read and liked the previous books will find plenty to enjoy in the latest offering, though one might not expect as much prose and various non-comic aspects from the original graphic novel.

The previous two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic series have followed a group of individuals from literature: Mina from Dracula, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Allan Quartermain, game hunter from King Solomon's Mines and its sequels and prequels. Not all of those characters appear in the latest book, given events from the previous series, and much of this story actually explores other incarnations of the group, boasting different big-named heroes and villains, from different times and from other countries…

Angel: After the Fall #1

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Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch & Franco Urru

***Spoilers!!***
Hot on the heels of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, comes the comic book continuation of the hit television show's spin-off TV series Angel, following the adventures of Buffy Summers' former lover and vampire with a soul, the brooding Angel. Following up on events from the series finale at the end of season five of the television series, readers are now transported to Los Angeles once more, where Los Angeles itself has been transported to Hell. Angel and a host of familiar faces are helping the surviving humans stay that way with the help of Angel's new pet dragon and an unsettling new liaison from evil law firm Wolfram & Hart, one ghost of Wesley Wyndham-Price. It's interesting that Angel is still working for them, though he confesses that trying to use the company's resources for good was one of the biggest mistakes of his life in the opening inner monologue. There are other surprises along th…

Castle, Waiting

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Cold Heat #1-4
BJ, Frank Santoro

Cold Heat Special #1
Jon Vermilyea, Frank Santoro
I’m not sure how much of value I have to say about Cold Heat, a comic book series intended to run twelve issues but which was discontinued after the first four had been released. The whole thing will eventually be released as a single graphic novel in the summer of 2008, but until then we have four issues of the comic book and a newspaper format “special” to tide us over.
Cold Heat is about a teenage girl named Castle, whose life of casual drug use, ninja classes, and sleeping with the CEO of the company for which she is interning, is interrupted when she hears news that Joel Cannon, lead singer of Castle’s favorite band, Chocolate Gun, has apparently killed himself. Then, at a party held in the band’s honor, a friend of Castle’s is killed, possibly of a drug overdose, and, well, things get a lot stranger from there. The father of the dead kid is a powerful and corrupt politician who worships (and has inter…

Picks of the Week: 11/21

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Picking out the most promising comics of the week...

Dave’s Pick:
Beyond Palomar (Palomar Volume 3) TP - These new collections of Gilbert Hernandez’ Palomar saga are great: accessible to new readers, beautifully packaged and, of course, containing some of the best comics ever produced. Collected in this particular volume is Love & Rockets X, and the fantastic backstory of Luba, Poison River.
Patrick’s Pick:
Angel: After the Fall #1 - Well, here it is. Those who’ve followed my writing on this blog know I’m a great fan of the Dark Horse published Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight comic book, so it should come as no surprise that I’m really looking forward to IDW’s “official” continuation of Angel in this twelve-issue series. Joss Whedon is not as intimately involved with the production of this series as he is with the Buffy comic, but he did work closely with writer Brian Lynch (of Spike: Shadow Puppets fame, which I’ve not read) to develop the story. Franco Urru provides the artw…

Courtney Crumrin and the Fire Thief's Tale

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Ted Naifeh

The Courtney Crumrin series has been a favorite of mine since I discovered it a few years back. For anyone who's read the series, they'll get what they've come to expect from the series: claw-like hands, beautiful art with Gothic fixtures, and a compelling story featuring the sharp-tongued, jaded witch-in-training Courtney. And this time around, Courtney Crumrin comes face-to-face with werewolves. This 56-page one-shot takes place in Romania, where Courtney is beginning a European tour with her powerful warlock uncle, Aloysius. And much like classic stories of vampires and werewolves in Europe, we find a town full of rash villagers upset and ready to march an angry mob toward a gypsy encampment, since it seems that one handsome young gypsy has been making eyes at a woman who's been spoken for (never mind that she doesn't return the affections of her betrothed). Werewolves are out in full force and various hunting parties are out to kill the wolves while C…

Manga Monday 52: Wild Rock

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Wild RockKazusa Takashima
It's been awhile since I've read a yaoi manga, but it's something I'm certainly interested in reading more of. I've been going back and forth on a few suggestions and decided to try out this single-volume work, Wild Rock, which takes place back in the Stone Age. The story follows Emba and Yuuen, heirs to different clans who fall in love with each other when the great hunter Emba saves meek Yuuen from a beast he's out hunting. In wake of a food shortage that Yuuen's clan is facing, he is sent out in girl's attire (since he looks pretty feminine) to trick Emba into providing them with meat. The interactions between the two sizzle as Yuuen's guilt weighs heavy on his conscience until all is revealed in the end. I really enjoyed Kazusa Takashima's artwork - the long torsos of the characters grew on me as it went along. And this book was really pretty hot, which isn't too typical in the emotionally-charged stories w…

Robot Dreams

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Sara Varon

Robot Dreams is a charming all-ages title recently released by the innovative publisher First Second Books. It follows a dog who builds himself a robot friend. They quickly become friends, but after a day at the dog beach, the robot gets rusted and isn't able to leave with his friend, so the dog ends up abandoning his creation. The graphic novel is completely silent, which may account for how quickly it can be read (I finished it easily within an hour), but is also a testament to the creator's storytelling ability, as the book was really quite moving without having to rely on dialogue to induce those feelings. There are universal themes of friendship and betrayal told through the bright pastel images of Varon's wonderful cartooning, which were very striking and quite powerful for such a simple story. As the robot lies on the beach, vulnerable to the elements and scavengers, he dreams of life with his friend and what could have gone differently in some of the most…

Shortcomings

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Adrian Tomine

I’m pretty late in joining the bandwagon on this one, but damn, this is a good book. I’m not surprised that Adrian Tomine is quite often compared to the Hernandez Brothers, since I was pretty much thinking that all the way through this graphic novel. Shortcomings follows Ben Tanaka, as he struggles with relationships and race issues filtered through an extremely cynical viewpoint. A lot of interesting things are examined through the Asian characters that struggle with stereotypes, and the fine line between pride of heritage and overpraising things merely because they’re related to their heritage. This is a work full of beautiful art and stimulating conversations, with complex, interesting characters that make for a really rich finished product. Even if the main protagonist is a complete ass, it’s an absolute pleasure to spend time with him being a smartass (though you may want to slap the guy a few times). It’s easy to imagine myself rereading this several times to re-exp…

Excalibur Classic (Volume 3):

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Cross-Time Caper Book One
Chris Claremont, Alan Davis & Others

Perhaps the last great thing to come from Chris Claremont was the original Excalibur, a goofy, fun spin-off of Uncanny X-Men featuring Captain Britain, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Meggan and Rachel Summers. While the team was based in England, the third volume collecting the series sees the team stuck in cross-time, traveling from one parallel earth to another in hopes of reaching home, changing worlds for the better or just
getting the hell out while they can. Think Sliders meets the
Exiles. The Cross-Time Caper is a pretty long story arc that takes about two collections of the original material to relate. But like the rest of the series, it’s really quite entertaining. There’s a lot of great character interaction, particularly with Meggan, who’s really quite a complex, interesting shape-shifter/fairy. She has a lot of identity and self-confidence issues that play particularly well off of her boyfriend, the mentally abusiv…

Galactikrap #2

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Brian Chippendale

If there was ever a Galactikrap #1, I never saw it, but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of this new comic book from Brian Chippendale, author of Maggots and Ninja, drummer for the band Lightning Bolt, and one of the most talented cartoonists working today.

How to enjoy Galactikrap #2: After ogling the gorgeous silk-screened front and back covers, flip to the third from the last page for a summary of the story thus far. The summary is something of a joke, I think, in that it is a nigh unintelligible info-dump of information, and, again, I’m not convinced that there ever actually was a first issue. I may be completely wrong about this, and Chippendale may in fact have intended this recap to assist readers who had missed out on the first installment in understanding what had come before. Personally, I couldn’t follow it, and the recap served as the setup to a joke which was finished by the first of the book’s short stories, about a group of characters lounging around thei…

Cairo HC

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G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker
Cairo, a new original graphic novel from Vertigo/DC, debuted last week from the minds of journalist G. Willow Wilson, who was based in Cairo for several years, and Turkish artist M.K. Perker. The story follows five strangers who meet on the streets of contemporary Cairo, and are manipulated by a gangster-magician to help him find a missing hookah that happens to house a well-dressed, articulate genie. The genie also does his best to nudge events in the favor of the five unlikely heroes: a naive activist from the O.C., a demoted female Israeli soldier, a drug smuggler, an Egyptian Reporter and an American boy with a mysterious agenda. While the eclectic cast makes for an interesting dynamic, their interactions are bogged down by heavy-handed political rhetoric, and magic that seems to have no limit (or foreshadowing), keeping the sense of danger to our characters at an extreme low throughout the book, essentially sapping any suspense that the writer in…

Picks of the Week: 11/14

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Patrick's Pick

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together GN - It’s another great week of new releases to comic book stores, with books by Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Joe Sacco, but I have to say the one I’m most looking forward to is this fourth volume in the saga of irreverent slacker Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I really enjoy O’Malley’s unique aesthetic, informed by equal parts shonen manga, alternative comics, video games, and hipster culture, so I’m more than happy to join the chorus of bloggers singing the praises of this graphic novel series. Preview.

Dave's Pick

Courtney Crumrin and the Fire Thief's Tale - Like Patrick said, there's a lot of great material coming out this week. I'm sure Alan Moore's new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is going to be one of the highlights of the year. But when it comes down to it, I have an uncanny fondness for Ted Naifeh's creation, the dark, sarcastic Courtney Crumrin and I just can't wa…

Manga Monday 51: Yotsuba&!

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Yotsuba&! (Volume 1)KiyohikoAzuma . I finally got around to reading the critically-lauded Yotsuba&!, a comedy manga that follows a little girl (that would be Yotsuba) as she moves to a new house and neighborhood, and runs amok, making friends and causing mischief alike, but all the while spreading smiles and laughs to those she encounters. A lot of the comedy in the vignettes come from Yotsuba's reactions to things around her, as she's still a very young girl and doesn't understand a lot of things, let alone how she should act. Her facial expressions in particular are enough to get a laugh out of me sometimes, but she also says the most unexpected and most adorable things you could imagine when confronted with an air conditioner, an escalator, or something as simple as rain. This book is laugh-out-loud funny - something that I don't come across too often. I rarely laugh at movies or sitcoms, let alone books, but this is just the right tone, with perfectly-execute…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #8

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Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens, Dave Stewart
You know, I hadn’t intended to review every issue of Brian K. Vaughan’s “No Future For You” story arc, but, having come this far, I’ll go ahead and guarantee a review of the fourth and final chapter next month. It’s a curious thing, reviewing each installment of a story that will probably read better as a collected book. Sort of like reviewing a novel one chapter at a time. I’m rereading John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four from the ‘80s right now, and it’s interesting in that the earliest issues of that run are designed as entirely self-contained short stories. This is interesting because it is such a rarity in today’s comic books, almost all of which are, at least to some degree, “written for the trade.”
If this sounds like the beginning of a screed against multi-part storylines, I apologize, because I certainly do not prefer one approach to the other. The move into collected editions and the type of storytelling more appropria…

Powr Mastrs (Volume 1)

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C.F. (Chris Forgues)
In a bit of Stan Lee inspired hyperbole, Picturebox, this book’s publisher, refers to it as “the most anticipated graphic novel debut of the year.” Would that that were the case, but I suspect this first of a projected six volumes is probably hovering below the radar of many comics fans.
That’s too bad, because, despite artist C.F.’s pedigree as a member of the arts comics collective Fort Thunder, and his appearances in such aggressively alternative anthologies such as Kramer’s Ergot, Powr Mastrs is a relatively straightforward fantasy adventure comic, which would probably have great appeal to fans of certain genre fiction provided they are open to experiencing particular tropes through C.F.’s unique aesthetic sensibility. It will also help if they’re not turned off by eight page underwater tentacle sex sequences. Look, I said it was relatively straightforward, alright?
All kidding aside, this a terrific, attractively packaged book, certainly one of the most delight…

In Stores 11/7

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Where we point you in the direction of (potentially) good comics!

Patrick's Pick:

Joss Whedon Comic Books - Celebrate the announcement of Joss Whedon’s new television series with two of the man’s comic books, both out this week. While not actually written by Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight#8 is in the midst of a very good storyline written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by series regular Georges Jeanty, while Astonishing X-Men #23 is the penultimate issue of Whedon’s and artist John Cassaday’s run on the series, before they take their final bow with a giant sized annual. Too bad Runaways isn’t out this week, too…

Dave's Pick:

Azumanga Daioh Omnibus (Volume 1) GN - Since I didn't get around to doing my usual Manga Monday post this week, you don't know how much I loved the first volume of the fan-favorite super-cute manga Yotsuba&! (watch for that next Monday). But there is going to be an omnibus edition of Yotsuba&! creator, Kiyohiko Azuma's, popular…

Daybreak (Episode One)

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Brian Ralph

Daybreak was my first experience reading a comic from Brian Ralph. Originally published on the group art blog, The New Bodega Blog, this zombie comic works quite well in its collected form. I never read Daybreak when the story unfolded panel-by-panel on-line, so I can really only speak for the collection, but I'm sure that it made for an interesting reading experience as it was first serialized. Anyways, Brian Ralph makes some interesting choices in his zombie comic. It's not your typical zombie story, for one thing. The creatures aren't even seen in the comic, with the exception of a few inky arms and shadows. With the threat off-panel the entire time, it still plays out in a thrilling way. There's still plenty of tension. Plenty of people say that monsters are scarier in your imagination, and with horror films in particular, a monster's appearance on-screen is often to the detriment of the experience. I think that's true to some extent. If the Blai…

Primordia #1 (of 3)

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John R. Fultz & Roel Wielinga

With all of the great stuff coming from Archaia Studios Press, I was bound to hit a bad one eventually. Not that Primordia was all bad - there just wasn't much interesting about it. The debut issue of the mini-series from John R. Fultz and Roel Wielinga introduces readers to a woodland occupied by fairies and demons alike, and ruled by the Woodking. It reads like a myth from out of Ovid's Metamorphosis, beginning with two frolicking satyrs who stumble upon two human babies about to be consumed by the giant snake Zatha. The female satyr saves the children while the jealous male watches her rear them with permission from the Woodking. As the two human children grow up, one alert and lively during the day, and one during the night, the two are drawn to different sorts of creatures and powers, and ultimately fall for the same woman and bring about destruction that the Woodking can not abide. I'm not sure if this entire issue was just set-up …

X-Men: Messiah Complex #1

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Ed Brubaker & Marc Silvestri

Very few good crossovers have occurred in the Marvel Universe. And X-Men: Messiah Complex is off to a pretty lame start. I think I got my hopes up a bit for the event, with Brubaker at the helm, hopes that were slightly diminished by the Marc Silvestri interior art (I'm not a fan), and were completely dashed by the end of this one-shot where one little event that was bound to happen actually occurred and that's that: a whole crossover event surrounding the circumstances, prompting people to follow a string of books they wouldn't normally read for a crappy little back-up story. I'm probably being a bit harsh, but I can't be the only one who saw that Endangered Species was a piece of crap in terms of story, art and cringe-worthy dialogue. But people buy into it, so these sorts of things keep rearing their ugly heads. I expected much better from the hand of Brubaker, but he could surprise me yet and turn this pretty underwhelming st…