Saturday, September 29, 2007

Previews: December '07 Comics

And here we are again with our picks (from Previews catalogue) for books coming to comic shops in December...

Marvel:

Dave: Mighty Avengers (Volume 1): The Ultron Initiative Premiere HC - I have to say that I’m enjoying the new Avengers book from Brian Bendis and Frank Cho. I love Ms. Marvel in charge (well, in charge for the most part) and the cast of characters included in Iron Man’s team: Black Widow, Ares, Wasp and others.

Dark Horse:

Dave: It Ate Billy On Christmas - This looks like a cute all ages book just in time for the holidays, written by Lenore’s Roman Dirge and painted by Steven Daily.

DC:

Dave: Manhunter (Volume 4): Unleashed TP - I believe this fourth trade of the fan-favorite Manhunter series collects the last of the issues (through the trial of Wonder Woman) that have been published so far, in time for the book to start up again in the near future.

Pride of Baghdad SC - And the beautifully-illustrated Vertigo book from Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon finally gets a soft cover edition.

Image Comics:

Patrick: The Next Issue Project #1: Fantastic Comics #24 - This is the first in a series of comic books continuing the adventures of real, forgotten golden age superheroes, in new stories by modern cartoonists. Erik Larsen, Joe Casey, Fred Hembeck, Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Allred, Howard Chaykin, and others all contribute to this first sixty-four page issue. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

Casanova (Volume 1): Luxura TP - If, like me, you have yet to check out this acclaimed series from Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba, this affordable soft cover, collecting the first seven issues, sounds like a great opportunity to get caught up.

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics:

Patrick: Gargoyles (Volume 1): Clan Building TP - The first six issues of creator Greg Weisman’s comic book continuation of his cult hit television series are collected here. The second issue of the spin-off, Gargoyles: Bad Guys, is available this month as well.

Archaia Studios Press:

Dave: The Long Count #1 (of 6) - Another new mini-series from Archaia, this one from Jason L. Blair and Leanne Buckley. Nice art. I'm not sure what it's about really, but like I always say, if it's by Archaia, it's worth a look.

Robotika: For a Few Rubles More #1 (of 4) - The sequel to Alex Sheikman’s amazing mini-series!

Drawn & Quarterly:

Patrick: Crickets #2 - The first issue of Sammy Harkham’s new series was my favorite single issue of a comic book last year. Harkham is one of the most talented cartoonists currently working, and this new series is a terrific showcase for his talents. Please ask your retailer to order you a copy of this book and see for yourself.

IDW Publishing:

Dave: Adventures In Oz TP (2nd Printing) - The second printing of an amazing book. My favorite book published last year. You have to check this out!

Pantheon Books

Dave: Black Hole Collected SC - Also in time for the holidays is the soft cover edition of Charles Burns’ masterpiece!

Viz Media:

Dave: Nana (Volume 8) GN - Very exciting! Nana is now venturing into new territory that hasn’t yet been serialized in Shojo Beat

Sand Chronicles (Volume 1) GN - I’m really enjoying this manga by Hinako Ashihara in Shojo Beat. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Picks of the Week: 9/26

This week's best bets for where to put your money...

Patrick's Pick:

Savage Dragon #132 - It’s been a hell of a long time since the last issue of Erik Larsen’s superhero saga was released. Unfortunately, this series has become one I no longer anticipate every month so much as I’m just really happy when it does happen to show up. This particular issue is eighty pages long, with a lead story by Larsen and a backup story featuring members of the supporting cast written by Larsen and drawn by Frank Fosco. I’m not sure how many of those eighty pages are allotted to each feature, or if there may be more material besides.

There was a time I considered Savage Dragon the “ultimate comic book.” My knowledge of and taste in comics has grown considerably since then, to the point I now consider it the “ultimate superhero comic book.” I’ve been reading since issue one and have no plans on stopping now.

Dave's Pick:

The Killer (Volume 1) HC - The acclaimed ten issue mini-series from Archaia Studios Press, written by Matz with art by Luc Jacamon, is a story about a professional assassin. The first part of the story is finally being collected, into a nice hardcover edition. I only read the first issue of the series (since it's hard to find Archaia Studios Press books where I live if it doesn't feature a cute little mouse on the cover), but I'm itching to get my hands on more. And nowadays, I'm more prone to buy the collected editions anyhow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Manga Monday 46: Andromeda Stories

Andromeda Stories (Volume 1)
Keiko Takemiya

As much as I liked Keiko Takemiya's outer space adventure To Terra, I am really, really loving the beginning of her new manga series from Vertical, Andromeda Stories. This new series, co-written by science fiction writer Ryu Mitsuse, begins as epic as can be, with the creation of the universe. From there, we are introduced to Princess Lilia of the kingdom Ayodoya, who is about to marry Prince Ithaca of Cosmoralia, leaving her much-beloved brother behind to live with her new husband and the man who is about to be crowned king. The world has an old world fantasy feel, with all sorts of fun creatures and people riding dinosaurs, but before long, science fiction elements get thrown into the mix as well, as the peaceful kingdom is invaded from outer space shortly after the wedding ceremony. A mysterious swordswoman seems to be the sole person who understands what is going on, as she is from a different world herself, and comes to the aid of a group of people that include a gladiator and a psychic child, as the top officials of Cosmoralia are replaced by the invaders. Full of great characters and top-notch action, this is one of the most compelling manga that I've read in awhile. I really did not want to put this book down, as events went from one intriguing moment to the next. I can see how some people would have been put off by some elements of To Terra, but Takemiya has really hit her stride here. Unlike the sparse drawings of her earlier work, Takemiya's Andromeda Stories has lush backgrounds and a focus that wasn't quite there with To Terra. All of the elements of a great story are present here and Takemiya masterfully commands them in what may be the best manga I've read all year. A+

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ultimate Spider-Man #113

Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Justin Ponsor

I don’t have a lot to say about this comic book, the second part of the “Death of a Goblin” story arc. The cover promises a fight between the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, and the story delivers, although the battle only lasts for three pages. There’s plenty of action here, though, as the Green Goblin escapes from the Triskelion, freeing several other of Spider-Man’s arch-foes in the process. This should lead to some interesting stories in future issues, and indeed this issue is primarily setup for things to come. Spider-Man himself appears only on the final page, as Peter Parker.
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I wasn’t blown away by any of the action sequences or story beats in this comic book, but it held my attention and I’m looking forward to more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More of a good thing

The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (Volume 2): 1933-1935
Chester Gould

The second installment of IDW’s archival project of collecting the entire run of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy is a lot of fun. It’s more fun than the first volume, though we still have yet to see manifestations of those things that Dick Tracy is known for: sci-fi devices and distinct bad guys with hammerheads and hair instead of faces and whatnot. But these early works are still definitely worth checking out, and you can sort of see things head slowly in that direction, with villains beginning to appear a little more distinct. Doc “Hump,” for example, is a mad scientist and underground doctor with not only a hunchback, but a huge lump on the top of his head, that makes for a really creepy antagonist. There are several recurring villains from the previous volume of the famous action/adventure strip, such as Steve the Tramp and Larceny Lu, and supporting members of Tracy’s home life like Tess Trueheart and Junior, with plenty of new characters and interesting stories to play the detective off of. Things are much more thrilling this time around, with some really intriguing mysteries and plotlines. Even when I knew where one mystery was headed a dozen strips before the concluding chapter of the arc, I was still on the edge of my seat to see how the particular events played out. It gets addictive. There are times when it gets a little cheesy, I’ll admit. Particularly when Gould has a strip that illustrates how real-life detective work has led to the capture of a certain criminal or turned up a clue, obviously showing off research that Gould himself had done into the matter, with little blurbs telling “the kids at home” to watch how this real detective stuff is done. It’s still fun though. And it is interesting. One story seems to consistently lead into a more exciting one, and I honestly can’t wait for the next volume to come out. A

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marvel Zombies

Robert Kirkman & Sean Phillips

I finally got a chance to read the ultra-popular mini-series Marvel Zombies. Written by the mind behind the popular-in-its-own-right zombie comic The Walking Dead, and drawn by superstar Sean Phillips, this concept comes from an idea spawned in Ultimate Fantastic Four, and proved to be a real force to be reckoned with, going through several print runs in floppy format and well into its fifth printing in the hardcover collected edition. It’s a clever title, as most people immersed in comics are aware, that fans devoted to the company are often referred to as Marvel Zombies, and given the popularity of zombies in comics as of late, it seemed a natural fit, and one that fans were ravenous for. No pun intended. So, the concept: an alternate Earth is overridden by zombies, the superheroes of which are also infected and are the last survivors. They scurry to find new food on a dead world, where it seems only Magneto’s Acolytes have found safe refuge aboard Asteroid M in the planet’s orbit. But that all changes when the Silver Surfer comes along, proclaiming the world must be sacrificed for his master, the world-devouring Galactus. I’ll admit, this book is fun. The superheroes Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Hulk and on and on, still work as a team, like the Avengers, but they’re more prone to backstab one another and steal each other’s food after working together to acquire it. It’s a twisted version of the team, but it makes for an interesting dynamic that often delves into the silly as illustrated by the scene where supervillain zombies are battling Galactus and one Avenger says to another “More like who invited them to dinner?” spoofing the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” tagline. It’s a mix of moments like that and pretty disturbing scenes like from out of the cannibal antics of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Everything is done very over-the-top. There are some pretty creative things that occur by the mini-series’ conclusion, but ultimately, this isn’t something worth getting too excited about. It’s a fun little lunch hour read, but nothing to warrant the attention its garnered. C+

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Picks of the Week: 9/19

It seems to be another week of slim pickings, but there are a few gems coming out to comic shops tomorrow. Here are our choices for where to invest your money this time around...

Dave's Pick:

Thunderbolts by Ellis (Volume 1): Faith In Monsters Premiere HC - The Thunderbolts, relaunched following the events of Civil War, is a great concept. Put into the hands of Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato, it's one of the best superhero comics currently coming out. It's a fun, thrilling read starring a cast of some of the best supervillains from the Marvel Universe led by Norman the Green Goblin himself. This collection is a little misleading, as it's not just the Warren Ellis/Mike Deodato stuff collected...it's also some chapters from Civil War that led up to how the Thunderbolts came to be in their current situation. But that could be good stuff too. Think of it as a bonus on top of the awesome Ellis/Deodato story.

Patrick's Pick:

Phoenix Vol. 11: Sun Part 2: The penultimate volume of Osamu Tezuka’s unfinished masterpiece.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Manga Monday 45

I didn't get around to reading the first volume of Keiko Takemiya's Andromeda Stories for this week's Manga Monday, so look for that next week. I did finish Takemiya's To Terra however, plus some extra goodies.

To Terra (Volume 3)
Keiko Takemiya

Keiko Takemiya's space epic To Terra comes to a bang of a conclusion with this final volume, as members' elite Keith Anyan confronts the leader of the psychic Mu race over the fate of the two races and the planet Terra itself. I really enjoyed Takemiya's art through this series. It was a great choice to have this boys' sci-fi space story complete with a more shojo look, since much of the story is centered around the emotions of the characters and there's so much about loyalty and love and struggling to come to terms with your emotions...the types of themes you'd see when picking up a typical shojo book, but grafted onto the setting of this huge worlds vs. worlds battle with spacecrafts shooting one another down and assassination attempts and machines controlling society. A thrilling, emotional read like no other. A

Mushishi (Volume 2)
Yuki Urushibara

The latest Mushishi continues to follow Ginko on his travels helping people whose lives are touched by mysterious mushi. In this book, a few short stories show Ginko drift into people's lives, attempting to drive out the little magical creatures, dispelling local folklore and saving other mushishi. There aren't too many happy endings in this volume, as the mushi tend to destroy everything they touch. We do get a few glimpses into Ginko's solitary life here, which is a nice treat, and sheds a little light on his strange ways. A-

Shojo Beat: October 2007
Various

The latest issue of Shojo Beat comes complete with a new series debut and a preview. And while I'm not a hug fan of Vampire Knight and Crimson Hero, and my interest in Absolute Boyfriend has waned, I have to say that the last two additions to the book before this volume are shaping up to be really strong. I'd heard a lot about Honey & Clover previous to its debut here, but the real surprise for me was Sand Chronicles, which I have to say that I like the most of the current offerings. The great cast of characters have really interesting histories and the situations creator Hinako Ashihara throws them into always lead to some really tender moments.

Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time
Tohko Mizuno

Baby & Me saw its final chapter in the magazine to make way for Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time, a series based on a video game that draws comparisons to Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play. The story follows a young high school student, Akane, who one day finds herself drawn back to the Heian period of Ancient Japan, and is ordained the Priestess of the Dragon God. With scary powers that she can't control and too many strange people around her to make sense of things, Akane tries to find her friends that were drawn to the same world as her, and come to terms with her newly inherited position. Honestly, I think that this is the weakest book to ever grace the pages of this magazine. It's impossible to follow what's going on: things happen too quickly and the panel arrangements don't give you any sense of what's happening or where the characters are. The only saving grace is that the dialogue fills in a lot of the gaps, so you're not completely lost. But it's not really fun to read the comic when I have to constantly read about what the action is supposed to be conveying. It would be something else if the plot was somewhat original, but since I feel like I've already read this story, there's nothing here to hold my interest whatsoever. F

S*A
Maki Minami

S*A was previewed in Shojo Beat this month, with the first volume set to hit stores in December. S*A is short for Special A, a group consisting of the top eight students at a prestigious university. The main character is Hikari Hanazono, a tomboy whose only goal in life seems to be beating the student who currently holds the first place slot in the school, Kei Takishima, who she deems arrogant (and who always seems to do things a little better than her). The two characters have a cute relationship, where Kei taunts Hikari a little bit, referring to her as "Number Two," but also admires her constant hard work, especially since things come so easy for him. Hikari...well, she's just kind of a hot-head. And while it's obvious from the get-go where their relationship is headed, it's still fun to see the students interact and goof off with one another. It's a little His & Her Circumstances-ish in its conception, but unlike Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time with its generic protagonists and sloppy action, the characters and the way things unfold in S*A have a feel all their own, so I can forgive the similarities upfront, and enjoy the goings-on of the students. C

Friday, September 14, 2007

X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1 (of 5)

Christopher Yost & Paco Diaz

The new X-Men mini-series that debuted this week picks up where Ed Brubaker and Salvador Larrocca's epic Uncanny X-Men storyarc, The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire, left off. I admittedly grew a little bored of The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire story and abandoned ship about halfway through the story. Apparently some interesting events unfolded for those who stayed with the book, leaving the Shi'ar empire in a state of disarray. Basically, the X-Men lost. Vulcan married Deathbird and became emperor of the Shi'ar, overthrowing Lilandra, eliminating D'Ken, and murdering his own father, Corsair of the Starjammers. Some very bold choices. Following these events, Ed Brubaker separated the team. Half of them went back to earth, and continued in Uncanny X-Men proper (Warpath, Professor Xavier, Hepzibah, etc.), while the other half's story is about to unfold here in this mini-series. Havok has taken over as leader of the Starjammers, and together with Polaris, Marvel Girl, Ch'od, Raza, Lilandra and the Shi'ar Korvus, they have created a Resistance which much of the Shi'ar has defected to since Vulcan's ascent to the throne hasn't gone over very well. They wish to return Lilandra to her rightful place as Empress of the Shi'ar, and get revenge on Vulcan for his treachery. However, Vulcan is still quite the threat with the Imperial Guard and most of the Shi'ar on his side. It's a very epic story with spaceship fights and other alien races involved, and it's not too overwhelming, provided that you know the characters and can handle the back story. It's only five issues long, so I'm not expecting much in the way of great characterization, but the art is decent and it's a fun superhero book so far. A worthy successor to Ed Brubaker and Salvador Larrocca's arc on the Shi'ar, that kind of makes me wish I'd stuck it out a little further into their run. B

Monday, September 10, 2007

Manga Monday 44: MPD Psycho!

This week, a review of the madness that is MPD Psycho and I'm finally getting to more To Terra, just in time for me to pick up the first volume of the creator's US debut of Andromeda Stories (look for the review of that book next week).

MPD Psycho (Volume 1)
Sho-u Tajima & Eiji Otsuka

The infamously gory manga MPD Psycho, from Dark Horse, is a delightful indulgence. In wake of the "torture-porn" trend in film, this doesn't seem quite as shocking as it perhaps would have five years ago, but the creators are certainly trying to do Hostel one better, with some hard scenes to watch unfold. Add a dash of CSI, stir in Profiler, and mix it all with Death Note, and you get MPD Psycho. MPD stands for Multiple Personality Detective, which sums up our protagonist in a nutshell. Yosuke Kobayashi, or Kazuhiko Amamiya, or whatever he calls himself, is a famous profiler who tries to get into the head of serial killers and draw conclusions about them and their lifestyles. When a serial killer targets Kobayashi, something scary from within him surfaces that sends him to prison for a few years. After his release, his reputation tarnished, Kobayashi accepts an offer to join an independent criminal research lab with the beautiful Machi Isono, to carry on his work. Needless to say, the serial killers in this book are brutal and they do some really gory, messed up stuff. But it's beautiful stuff. Like a car crash, it's hard to look away from the horror contained in this title. That, and the stunning artwork doesn't hurt. I can't imagine things getting much more over-the-top that what I've witnessed so far, but I'm sure the creators have more up their sleeves, whether we want to see it or not. A

To Terra (Volume 2)
Keiko Takemiya

After settling on the abandoned planet Naska, the telepathic Mu race hide out from the humans, who wish for nothing more than to wipe them out. The Mu, content on their new homeworld, argue over their best course of action, whether they want to follow their former dreams of returning home, to Terra, or give up their dream and be content with what they now have. Unfortunately, human elite Keith Anyan is sent to investigate strange goings-on near Naska, and is on a personal mission to destroy the Mu, who are closer than ever to discovery. This volume focuses a lot more on the major players of the series and introduces a few new players to the game leading toward the conclusion with the third volume. It seems like there's a lot left to resolve before the series is over, but I trust in Takemiya's storytelling abilities, and there's certainly enough in this particular installment to keep things entertaining. B+

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Imaginary Comics

Below is a list of comics that don’t exist, but that I wish did….primarily reprint projects and translation efforts I’d love to see happen someday soon. We’re living in a kind of golden age as far as such projects go, particularly with the embarrassment of riches that is the many high quality classic comic strip reprint projects, and with the major mainstream publishers keeping more of their older material in print than ever before. Still, I’m a greedy bastard and I want more. Publishers, take note…

1. Multi-Force - Mat Brinkman’s fantasy comic strip appeared in the now defunct Paper Rodeo, a delightfully bizarre publication showcasing work from the great Fort Thunder cartoonists. I’d love to see an ambitious and forward-thinking publisher, like Dan Nadel’s Picturebox, take up the challenge of packaging this engaging, highly imaginative strip.

2. The Best of Captain Marvel - DC’s “Archive” books make for attractive packages, but they’re too damned expensive. I understand the cost of reprinting such old comics may make a cheaper, paperback “complete” reprint project impossible, but I’d love to see a best of collection, in the format of the recent The Best of the Spirit paperback, featuring some of the Big Red Cheese’s finest adventures.

3. Fantastic Four Visionaries: Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan - For five years, in Fantastic Four #356-414, writer Tom DeFalco and artist Paul Ryan had an unbroken run on Marvel’s First Family which, while certainly not in the same class as Jack Kirby’s or even John Byrne’s runs on the book, was nevertheless an entertaining superhero soap opera, featuring a lot of fun new characters and startling developments, such as the revelation of Alicia Masters’ having been a Skrull for years, and the “death” of Reed Richards. It all may sound a bit hokey now, and I guess it was then, too, but that’s part of what gave this run of issues it’s charm in an era of multiple variant covers, “hot” artists, and darker, sleeker comic books desperately grabbing for an aging and increasingly jaded audience. If nothing else, these books were a lot of fun, and deserve to not be forgotten.

4. Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto - If I’m not mistaken, Viz has plans to publish Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys once the currently serialized Monster is complete, but Pluto is the work I’m really hoping to see from Japan’s master of suspense. Pluto is basically “Ultimate Astro Boy,” as Urasawa re-imagines a classic Tezuka story as a sprawling science fiction epic. I read a few chapters online, and they are some of the coolest comics of any type I’ve ever read. The book has received great acclaim in Japan, and I hope American audiences get the chance to experience it as well.

5. Anything by Moto Hagio - With publishers like Vertical making great strides in the translation of historically significant Japanese comics, I’m really hoping it’s only a matter of time before we see some material from this important Shojo pioneer.

6. Fourteen - I’ve been dying to read this manga about a half-man, half-chicken named Chicken George, who springs to life from a lump of chicken fat to take revenge on humanity for our mistreatment of animals, for years. The creator of this bizarre sounding book is none other than Kazuo Umezo, of Drifting Classroom fame, and I think Fourteen would be a terrific follow up to that wonderfully warped series.

7. The Complete Polly and Her Pals - I literally feel guilty wanting more comic strip reprints given the wealth of material currently available, but I’ve always wanted to read more of this strip by Cliff Sterrett.

8. Book Collecting Non-Marvel/DC Golden Age Comics - Obviously it would need a better title, but wouldn’t a book collecting forgotten golden age comics from long defunct publishers be terrific? Multiple genres should be represented, but weird, forgotten superheroes should be prominently featured. Maybe the recent Fletcher Hanks book will kindle interest in this sort of thing?

9. Lost in Translation - Not a comic, but a book collecting Bill Randall’s column from The Comics Journal. Randall is a terrific writer and has exceptional taste in the sort of manga that’s not often published in the U.S. Often, he will mention artists years before their work is finally translated for American audiences, like Kazuo Umezu and Iou Kuroda.

10. Freak Force Omnibus - Now that Erik Larsen has embraced the thick, cheap, black and white format of comics reprints popularized by Marvel’s “Essentials” line for his Savage Dragon, the time is right for a companion volume collecting, complete in one book, the entire eighteen issues of the spin-off series Freak Force, a great superhero comic co-written by Larsen and Keith Giffen, with art by Vic Bridges. There was a time when this was my favorite monthly comic book, and, like the DeFalco/Ryan Fantastic Four, it deserves rescue from obscurity.

What other fantasy comics projects would people like to see? Post your choices in the comments, or at your own blog, and I’ll link to them in a future entry.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #6

Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens, Dave Stewart

Brian K. Vaughan is the first writer to work on this series, following creator Joss Whedon, and he does a very nice job here, in the first part of the “No Future For You” storyline, featuring the Season Eight debut of Faith, a kind of rogue slayer played by Eliza Dushku on the television series. As you might expect, this first chapter is primarily setup. Faith has been operating out of Cleveland, where fans of the show may remember a Hellmouth is supposed to be located. It is suggested that Faith’s role in the slayer army is to tackle the more disagreeable tasks others may not have the stomach for. We see her reluctantly slaughter a group of child vampires in a disturbing sequence, for example. Afterwards, Faith returns home to a rundown looking apartment, similar to the one she occupied during season three of the show, where she finds Giles waiting. He presents her both with an important mission, and a way out of the miserable life she has found herself in. Intelligence has been gathered which suggests a neophyte slayer has turned to the dark side, and is being manipulated by the mysterious Twilight organization to somehow bring about the apocalypse.

Yes, it’s the end of the world once again, but this time, if Faith succeeds, she earns safe passage out of the country, and a “generous, annual stipend” with which she will be allowed to live as she pleases for the rest of her days, free of the consequences of the sins of her past, and the moral compromises her current position in the group requires. Faith accepts the mission, and her training begins, but not the sort of training Faith is used to. The evil slayer in question, one Lady Genevieve, is an aristocratic young woman living in England, and Faith is to covertly infiltrate Genevieve’s fancy dress party held in commemoration of her nineteenth birthday. Much discussion of etiquette and salad forks ensues, and the issue culminates with a large panel of a gorgeous looking Faith in her ball gown, and Giles’s perfect reaction to same. To be continued.

While this “fish out of water” scenario may be a bit hokey, the quality of Vaughan’s writing here, particularly his perfect characterization of Faith, gives me confidence he’ll be able to deliver an exciting and interesting story in the coming issues. The tone of the show and the voices of the characters are perfectly captured here, even more so than in Joss Whedon’s initial arc, oddly enough. I think one of the reasons for this is that this issue was “quieter,” without any large, epic battle sequences of the type Whedon has so enthusiastically embraced in this comic book incarnation of his universe. There’s nothing in this issue that could not have been pulled off on the television show’s budget, and indeed this story was originally pitched as a Faith television movie. I expect this will change in the coming issues, as it should. I think allowing the characters from the show to operate on a broader, comic book canvas is an entirely appropriate choice, as there is no reason not to take advantage of the limitless “special effects” budget offered by the medium, and to do otherwise would turn this project into another of many watered down, comic book adaptations of television shows of the type I usually have zero interest in. The Buffy comic book needs to become it’s own thing, and I think that it gets closer to becoming that with every issue, as the larger story arc develops, and as regular series artist Georges Jeanty becomes more comfortable depicting these characters and their world, striving for that balance between fidelity to the source material and the development of his own style. He does nice work here, depicting, with the aid of inker Andy Owens and always impressive colorist Dave Stewart, Faith’s world as a very dark place, both figuratively and literally. The second page, depicting Faith sitting smoking atop a tall building, is particularly effective in establishing mood and atmosphere.

Vaughan also nails Giles’s character here, and draws some interesting connections between him and Faith which are entirely appropriate given the back stories of the characters, but was something the show never really explored. I should mention that Buffy herself does appear in this issue, in a brief interlude which forwards one of the series’ mysterious subplots.

While it’s early enough in the game for this arc to take a completely wrong turn, the strength of this initial chapter makes that unlikely. I enjoyed this issue and am looking forward to more. And no, I’m not going to refer to this issue as “five by five,” because that’s just too obvious, although it was that good.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Chance In Hell

Gilbert Hernandez

Gilbert Hernandez’s latest offering is an original graphic novel from Fantagraphics, that, like Speak of the Devil, is an adaptation of one of Fritz’s (a character from Love & Rockets) films. The story follows Empress, who was abandoned in the city dump as a baby and raised by its strange inhabitants, surrounded by rape and violence and death. One day, she is whisked away from this horrible world to the city, where she is brought up by a struggling editor of poetry who has problems of his own. Despite this rescue, Empress is still drawn to violence and eventually a prostitution ring, the rest of her life playing out in a tragic way.

As always, Gilbert’s artwork is pretty much second-to-none. And while I expected this to be the sort of Grindhouse book that Speak of the Devil is shaping up to be, this is a genuinely good story with an interesting character caught up in horrible situations. It does go over-the-top from time to time, but in the end, this is a Gilbert Hernandez book and this is a story akin to the type one would see gracing the pages of Love & Rockets. B+

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Picks of the Week: 9/6

Remember, comics come out on Thursday this week! Here are our best bets on this week's offerings...

Dave's Pick:

Laika SC - From :01 First Second Books this week is the tale of the first dog in space - actually, the first being from Earth in space, as told by Nick Abadzis. An abandoned pup in Moscow makes the joyage to space in Sputnik 2. Check out an excerpt at First Second's site.

Patrick's Pick:

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (Season 8) #6 - This issue is noteable as the first not written by series creator and "executive producer" Joss Whedon, the first (of five) written by Lost scribe Brian K. Vaughan, and the Season Eight debut of fan-favorite character Faith.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Previews: November '07 Comics

And here we are again with our picks (from Previews catalogue) for books coming to comic shops in November...

Marvel:

Dave: Daredevil by Frank Miller Omnibus Companion HC comes out this month, obviously a companion book to Frank Miller's more high profile Daredevil work, like the Elektra saga, that's in the Daredevil by Frank Miller Omnibus. This companion volume, I believe, features the classic Daredevil: Born Again.

Also, we see a couple of X-Men collections come out. Essential X-Men (Volume 8) TP, which contains the Inferno story, among other things. And then there's the X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Premiere HC that some events from X-2: X-Men United film were based. An overrated book, in my opinion, but I'm surprised that they didn't release this back when people were probably clamouring for it. And the thing I'm most excited about from Marvel this month...Excalibur Classic (Volume 4): Cross-Time Caper Book 2 TP. I'm very pleased that they're doing more reprints of the classic Excalibur series. Loved it.

DC:

Patrick: A couple of collections from DC caught my eye this month. The Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye TP is the first in a series of books collecting the fondly remembered LOSH series that launched in 1984, while Batman/Superman: Saga of the Super Sons TP features material originally published in World’s Finest Comics.

Image:

Patrick: Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers HC: A companion volume to Jack Kirby’s Silver Star HC, this book collects more of the King’s work for Pacific Comics.

Dave: Girls: The Complete Collection Deluxe HC: The entire 24-issue run of The Luna Brothers' Girls in one book. The print run is limited to pre-orders, so if you want this, order one through your local comic shop now. Also, The Walking Dead (Book 3) HC.

ADV:

Patrick: Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Edition: I don’t know too much about this manga, except that another work by the artist, Yotsuba$!, is supposed to be good. I also like the idea of the omnibus books, and am generally a fan of multiple formats for manga.
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Archaia Studios Press:

Dave: Several new books launch this month from the innovative publisher. The Engineer #1, which looks a bit more superhero-y than anything we've seen come from Archaia yet. Hybrid Bastards #1, a three issue mini-series with an interesting art style. And Misericordia #1, a new bi-monthly 11-issue book written and illustrated by Rebekah Brem.

Avatar Press Inc:

Dave: Warren Ellis' Blackgas TP finally gets collected! I was waiting for this. I missed the first issue, so was waiting for the trade, then...it never came out. Now that the sequel series has concluded, it's all going under a single cover. Warren Ellis! Zombies! Yay!

Classic Comics Press Inc:

Patrick: Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins On Stage: The first three volumes of this reprint effort are offered through Diamond this month, I think perhaps for the first time? Dirk Deppey is a fan.

Drawn and Quarterly:

Patrick: It’s a great month to be a Chris Ware fan, as The Acme Novelty Library Volume 18 HC makes its appearance, this volume being an all “Building Stories” issue, taking a break from the “Rusty Brown” serialization begun in volume 16. I’m even more excited about The Acme Novelty Datebook Volume 2 HC, featuring selections from the artists sketchbook. The first volume in this series was absolutely gorgeous, so I’ve been anticipating this one eagerly. ***Patrick's Pick of the Month***

Fantagraphics:

Patrick: Perla La Loca GN: The newly formatted, chronological reprinting of Jaime Hernandez’s “Locas” saga continues in this third volume. These are beautiful looking books, collecting one of the greatest comics of all time, so you should buy them.

Dave: And going hand-in-hand with the new Jaime collection is Gilbert Hernandez's new reprint volume from the "Palomar" saga, Beyond Palomar, which contains both the classic "Poison River" and "Love & Rockets X." And New Tales of Old Palomar #3 comes out too!

IDW Publishing:

Dave: In wake of Joss Whedon's Season Eight of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer being released in comics from Dark Horse, IDW is teaming up with Whedon to continue the spin-off series Angel in Angel: After the Fall #1. The second volume of The Complete Terry & the Pirates also appears on bookshelves in November. ***Dave's Pick of the Month***

Oni Press Inc:

Dave: Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition (Volume 1) TP: Greg Rucka's acclaimed Queen & Country is being released in nice hefty volumes, which is great since I wasn't too impressed with the collections before and would love to have the entire run.

Pure Imagination Publishing:

Patrick: The Complete Jack Kirby Volume 1 TP: I don’t have any of these books, so I can’t speak to the reprint quality. Still, assuming it’s not completely illegible, it might be nice to add another Kirby book to your growing library in what seems to be a kind of golden age of Kirby reprints. Childhood art, newspaper strips, and interviews are featured here, along with Kirby’s first 125 pages of published comics.

Sunday Press Books:

Patrick: Little Sammy Sneeze: The Complete Color Sundays 1904-1905 HC: The third in Peter Maresca’s series of oversized comic strip reprint books, and the second to feature work by master cartoonist Winsor McCay. Work from Gustave Verbeek, and another McCay series, Hungry Henrietta, are also featured in this volume.

Virgin Comics:

Dave: The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma: Panchatantra #1: The new all-ages series debuts this month from Virgin featuring cute animal heroes. Could be fun.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Music Review: One Cell In the Sea

A Fine Frenzy

Boasting influences from Ella Fitzgerald to Bright Eyes, Alison Sudol - aka A Fine Frenzy - is an exciting new singer-songwriter from Seattle. Self-taught on the piano, the 22-year-old has been causing a stir with her haunting debut album, One Cell In the Sea. A truly unique sound comes from this CD, full of rich strings and piano weaved into some of the most heart-breaking sounds ever recorded. And some of the most catchy. While it sounds very stuffy, A Fine Frenzy manages to keep a pop-sensibility about her music that makes it quite the indy-alt album. And with rich lyrics and a beautiful voice, she entrances listeners with her stories of love lost, sirens and the human condition. A- Key Tracks: Come On, Come Out, The Minnow & the Trout, You Picked Me, Liar, Liar, Lifesize.