Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Mutants Classic (Volume 2)

Chris Claremont & Sal Buscema
I admittedly wasn't overly impressed with the first volume of New Mutants Classic, but this second volume gets into some good stuff, particularly toward the latter half of the collection where the group confronts the White Queen and her Hellions. This book collects issues 8-17 (a sizable chunk) of the original New Mutants series and introduces two new members to its ranks: Magma and Magik. The collection begins with the New Mutants in the Amazon, where they stumble upon a hidden Roman city, Nova Roma. There, they battle each other in an arena, face off against the future Black Queen of The Hellfire Club, Selene, and acquire a friend in Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla, a girl they meet as a native on the riverbank, but whose dark skin washes off in the river, revealing her to be a resident of this lost Roman city. Kinda weird. When she is sacrificed to a volcano at the hands of Selene, she is reborn as Magma, and quickly joins the New Mutants to help her learn how to control her new-found powers. The whole Nova Roma story was silly, but following these issues, Magma forces the group into some interesting group dynamics, particularly when Illyana Rasputin joins the team as an untrusted, strange new member with bizarre powers. With these six adolescents, I feel like the team has a very classic feel to it. They balance each other out nicely with varied powers and backgrounds. Kitty Pryde makes an appearance over the course of several issues. She has an antagonistic relationship with the team, whom she deems "X-babies," but is nonetheless left with their aide alone when the X-Men unwittingly disappear (for Secret War). The Hellions are a neat anti-New Mutants team of young villains with some interesting powers themselves, but none of them really stood out from the others. If they're being set up as a formidable enemy to the New Mutants, something drastic has to take place to make them seem like little more than snotty, unlikeable brats. The White Queen, Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin really stole the show in this volume with their large presences in the final act, but there's a lot of potential for the title, especially given its new members.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Picks of the Week: 4/30

Patrick and I pick out the books with the most potential, shipping to comic shops tomorrow!

Patrick's Pick

Thoreau at Walden - I can’t imagine this isn’t going to be excellent. John Porcellino offers his take on the life of Henry David Thoreau, in the second in a series of comics format biographies sponsored by the Center for Cartoon Studies. Porcellino is unquestionably one of our finest living cartoonists, and this project seems tailor made to his sensibilities. I can’t wait to read it.

Dave's Pick

Dororo (Volume 1) - Any week where a new Osama Tezuka book comes out is a good week. This newest translation is the first of three volumes from the good folks at Vertical, who were responsible for other handsome Tezuka manga being make available in America, such as Apollo's Song and Ode To Kirihito.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Black Summer #6
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus (Volume 4)
The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (Volume 4)
DC Universe: Zero
Glamourpuss #1
New Avengers #40 - Secret Invasion tie-in

Monday, April 28, 2008

Manga Monday: Nana (Volume 10)

Ai Yazawa

If I thought that the previous volume of Nana was amazing, this volume completely blew me away. About a chapter in, another huge event takes place, the ramifications of which are felt far and wide, and dealt with in the following chapters. I was on the edge of my seat for every single page I read - I couldn’t wait to see how things unfolded and how each of the characters reacted to the goings-on, even very secondary characters like Hachi’s sister and parents. I hate having Hachi and Osaki away from each other for such a long period of time, but it certainly makes for good drama and tension, and I’m really looking forward to the reunion between the two of them, and the sides that are slowly being drawn will make for some interesting decisions on the part of the characters involved, Hachi in particular. This is the best that the series has ever been, which is really saying something since Nana came out of the gate running, but it keeps relentlessly changing direction in interesting, utterly riveting ways that speak to the imagination and prowess of the creator. There was a moment where I paused while reading and thought to myself how beautiful Yazawa draws and how I kind of take it for granted, getting so caught up in the story and fervently turning the pages in awe. We are really lucky to have such a talent working in comics today and I can only wait longingly for the next volume of the series to hit stores in a few months.

Continues with spoilers!!

As much as I don’t like that Hachi is engaged to Takumi, I kind of enjoy their relationship. Nobuo is obviously the one that she’s meant to be with, as Takumi’s kind of a jerk, but I kind of like Nobuo and Osaki vowing to “win” Hachi back. It’s fun. Takumi isolating Hachi doesn’t seem to be affecting much, as the only problem Hachi’s had with connecting with a friend was when Osaki tried to come see her, but Hachi is free to go and has done so, having nice talks with several of her friends. I was happy to see Jun get some real face-time in this volume. I’ve missed her a bit. And as much as the scandal (of Osaki being reported to the media as dating Ren) may end up hurting Blast, the opposition with Trapnest is exciting, especially when Reira realizes that the debut singles between the bands are being released simultaneously. Nana’s fast becoming a book of the ultimate battle of the bands! Speaking of Reira, she’s a secondary character who’s really growing on me. I like her relationships to her bandmates and Yasu, and I can’t wait for her to finally come face-to-face with Hachi. I’m not sure what kind of a relationship the two will have, but I’m looking forward to finding out what they think of one another.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Excalibur Classic (Volume 4)

Cross-Time Caper: Book Two
Chris Claremont, Alan Davis & various
The fourth installment of Excalibur Classic collects issues 21-28 of the original Excalibur series, which includes the concluding issues of the popular Cross-Time Caper storyarc, which saw the team jumping between realities via a dragon-powered train. Unfortunately for this volume, only two issues (the end of The Cross-Time Caper) are drawn by Alan Davis, and the fill-in artists are pretty atrocious for the most part. There are a few diamonds in the rough though. Barry Windsor-Smith drew an odd little issue that was inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, and Colleen Doran of A Distant Soil fame surprised me by illustrating an issue featuring Captain Britain and Meggan. But even they paled in comparison to Davis.
While jumping across cross-time, the team loses Kitty Pryde at one point, who actually makes it back home well ahead of her teammates, but finds herself alone save for Courtney Ross, a good friend of the team's. Much more to come on that character in the future of the series in one of the best betrayals in comics. Meanwhile, the others are still teleporting between alternate Earths until Omniversal Mastrex Saturnyne (herself an alternate universe Courtney Ross) is simply horrified by the mess they've made of things and pulls them out, sending them on their merry way back to the correct London. Unfortunately they have a guest waiting for them when they arrive...this is a superhero book, after all. Throughout this volume, Excalibur battles Galactus, Nova, Mastermind, Brian's twisted brother Jamie Braddock, the Captain Britain Corps and many others.
There's definitely some throw-away material in this collection, the highlight of the book easily being Alan Davis's conclusion of The Cross-Time Caper, but a lot of the series collected here sets up some pretty fantastic stories to come later in the book, and it's still fun in the end. This is easily the weakest volume to date, but the stuff that comes later makes it worthwhile.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Annihilation: Book Two

Keith Giffen, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Simon Furman, Renato Arlem, Gregory Titus & Jorge Lucas
I really enjoyed the beginning of Annihilation with Book One of the maxi-series, and just finished the second book, which collects the remaining mini-series focusing on individual cosmic beings, leading up to the material collected in Book Three, which is the Annihilation mini-series itself. There are three mini-series in Book Two, starring Silver Surfer, Super Skrull and Ronan the Accuser.
Annihilation: Silver Surfer introduces the concept that Annihilus is seeking the former heralds of Galactus to feed upon their cosmic power. We saw him feed off of Nova and Quasar in the Annihilation: Nova limited series, and this just goes one step farther, as Annihilus sends out Seekers to bring the beings to him, characters including Terrax, Firelord, The Fallen One, Morg, Air-Walker and, of course, the most famous herald of all, Silver Surfer. Ultimately, the Seekers look into bringing Galactus himself in to Annihilus to sate his hunger for power. Luckily, Galactus and Silver Surfer form an alliance. This series was by Keith Giffen and Renato Arlem and while a little slow at times, it was fun, with good ideas, and some nice art.
Annihilation: Super Skrull was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and illustrated by Gregory Titus. Together with a young skrull engineer R'Kin, the Super Skrull Kl'rt sets out to destroy the Annihilation Wave's latest weapon that reduces planets to basic power upon which they can feed, the Harvester of Sorrows, and that same weapon is headed for Zaragz'Na, where he has a son. Upon learning who created the weapon, Kl'rt travels to a prison planet in The Negative Zone and tortures the engineer for information to destroy it, thus acquiring a virus. While invading the prison planet, Kl'rt also assembles a band of prisoners to aide him in his cause. Things don't go as planned, however, as R'Kin betrays them and doesn't deliver the virus to them in time, handing them to the Annihilation Wave and letting Zaragz'Na be destroyed. Kl'rt eventually escapes the hands of his oppressors and with the help of his remaining followers, gets revenge on the traitor and destroys the Harvester of Sorrows. Of all of the series I've read during the Annihilation event so far, I have to say that the cartoony art of this book was not only very different from the other titles, but also probably the weakest. Not horrible, just unspectacular, which stood out as the rest of the books have had some pretty fantastic art. The story was interesting, but I was about ready for it to end when it did.
The final mini-series collected in this volume is Annihilation: Ronan, featuring Ronan the Accuser, who has been exiled from the Kree Empire after a witness gave false testimony at a trial. Ronan seeks redemption and tries to find the witness, Tana Nile. During his quest, he stops by the planet Godthab Omega, where other Kree exiles have settled into hiding, and are fighting over territory with the Graces, a group of superpowered women headed by Gamora, and whose ranks include Tana Nile. There's a subplot of a being, Glorian, who can rebuild a ravaged world with enough energy, and instigates a fight between Ronan and Gamora to use the run-off energy to shape Godthab Omega anew. Unfortunately, this also draws the attention of the Annihilation Wave, and before long, his brand new world is destroyed by them. Meanwhile, Ronan and Gamora realize that they've been manipulated and protect their own. The resulting battle ends with this particular faction of the annihilation wave destroyed by the world-shaper Glorian, at the cost of his mind. And Tana Nile dies before giving the name of the man who ordered Ronan framed. Gamora and Ronan agree to seek vengeance for their fallen comrade and the information that Ronan was unable to obtain due to the Annihilation Wave's involvement. I wasn't really looking forward to reading this mini-series when I got to it, but like Annihilation: Drax the Destroyer, it was a pleasant surprise for a throw-away character, perhaps my favorite of the entire series thus far. Jorge Lucas's art really stood out for me. It was different and neat-looking and, ultimately, quite pretty. I was surprised to see some characters that I haven't seen for awhile among the Graces, including Nebula, who I don't think I've ever actually read a comic with, but I remember her Marvel Universe trading card from when I was little. Also, very nice to see Cerise. She didn't get as much face-time as I would have liked but, as a fan of Excalibur, it was still a pleasant cameo.
Overall, this was a very strong second installment in the Annihilation series. I'm really quite impressed with the series as it stands. Even Annihilation: Super Skrull, which was my least favorite of the books, was much better than many offerings on the stands these days. It's all served to make me really excited to read the final installment, the culmination of all of these events.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Stores 4/23

Patrick and I pick the comics with the most potential shipping to comic shops this Wednesday...

Dave's Pick

The Complete Terry and the Pirates (Volume 3): 1939-1940 HC - It's an incredibly light week, but it's certainly nice to see this. I loved the first volume of Milton Caniff's adventure strip, and while I haven't gotten around to reading the second volume yet (I have a hard time fitting in my comic strip reading - I alternate between Dick Tracy and Terry, but they take me forever), I hear it only gets better.
Patrick's Pick
Ultimate Spider-Man #121
Other Noteworthy Releases
Batman #675
Deadpool Classic (Volume 1) TP
Queen & Country Definitive Edition (Volume 2) TP
White Picket Fences: Double Feature TP

Monday, April 21, 2008

Manga Monday: Bizenghast

Bizenghast (Volume 1)
M. Alice LeGrow

Bizenghast is a Gothic thriller about a young girl who lost her parents in a car accident and has been sent to live with her aunt, where together they reside in a house renovated from a school for boys, which itself was once a hospital. Since coming to live on the former grounds of St. Lyman's School For Boys in Bizenghast, Dinah has been sickly. On top of that, she is tormented by the ghosts that haunt its corridors, giving her aunt and doctor cause for worry. Her only real friend through all of this is a boy her age, Vincent, who lives in the neighborhood. The two of them sneak out one night and stumble upon a mausoleum, where Dinah unwittingly enters into a contract to help the creatures that live there in their quest to release the spirits locked within its vaults. Under her obligation, she visits the mausoleum every night with Vincent and together they solve one of the riddles (and subsequent puzzleboxes of sorts) and walk through a gateway to a house or forest, where they work to release the trapped spirit from its shackles. Kind of a neat premise. Each chapter seems to center around a sole adventure, and just when it began to feel a little repetitive, a new element was thrown into the mix, a spirit guide named Edaniel, who is a surprisingly really neat character himself: funny, clever and very cheeky. The art is sometimes a little too muddy and unclear, but it's also quite beautiful and ornate at times, fitting for a book of its type. Some of the stories seem a little rushed and perhaps a little fuzzy, but overall, I was very entertained by this book. If it weren't for the introduction of Edaniel toward the end of the volume, I would have said that one book was enough. But as is, I can certainly see myself reading Bizenghast for volumes to come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Flight Explorer (Volume 1)

Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

I've never actually read any of the Flight anthology books before, though I've been meaning to do so for awhile now, for a few reasons. Every time I flip through them, I think that there's a lot of amazing talent housed in its pages, plenty of beautiful art to gawk at. I also recently read editor Kazu Kibuishi's first all-ages Amulet graphic novel, as well as frequent contributor Kean Soo's Jellaby, the latter title of which actually prompted me to pick up the Flight Explorer, as Kean Soo contributes once more, with a story featuring the cute purple monster featured in his graphic novel that I enjoyed so much. Flight Explorer is basically a Flight anthology aimed at children, vying for the same high quality that the original anthology is known for. I had thought that the Flight anthologies intended each story, at least initially, to include an aspect of "flight," however interpreted by the artist, but I guess that that was a misconception on my part, since Kibuishi has denied this being a themed series. I was kind of thinking as I was reading this all-ages volume that it was a stretch to force some of the stories into the category by any definition of the word, and was a little distracted by the fact, so it's kind of nice to hear that the book hasn't morphed from the editor's original intentions. It merely seeks to showcase high quality material as any good anthology should.

Flight Explorer opens with a story by editor Kazu Kibuishi, "Copper: Mushroom Crossing." His Copper strips have appeared in previous volumes of Flight, and feature a young boy and his talking dog. This time around, they take a short cut over a ravine by jumping over the tall mushrooms they find growing in abundance. While I prefer Kibuishi's characters and magical environment of Amulet, it's obvious in this eight-page comic that the creator is a fantastic cartoonist. I'm not very taken with Fred or Copper, but it's a fun whimsical little story.

Johane Matte's "Egyptian Cat: Perfect Cat" was a nice colorful little comic that kind of reminded me of Looney Tunes. It was a bit goofy. Animals spin other animals in the air, mice pose in a depressed a cat's mouth...that sort of thing.

The comic that compelled me to pick this book up, Kean Soo's "Jellaby: First Snow" is a story that captures pretty perfectly the magic of first snow through the eyes of a child, without being too cheesy about it. I only wish that Soo had omitted the sequence that describes how a snowflake is made - it was a little distracting and concluded the story on a strange note.

"Big Mouth" by Phil Craven was a little too straight-forward for my tastes, but the art probably stood out the most as different from the rest of the anthology. Good message for the kiddies, but one I think they've been beat over the head with enough.

"Missile Mouse: The Guardian Prophecy" by Jake Parker was the longest offering of the anthology, at eighteen pages. It was a good solid science fiction/fantasy story, very much for the boy readers and fans of superheroes. Pretty enthralling and action-packed, it was definitely one of the better offerings the book had to offer.

Another superhero story, "Fish N Chips: All In a Day's Work" by Steve Hamaker, was an odd little tale about a a superhero cat and fish team, the fish being the one who saves the planet while his partner takes a catnap and can't be bothered. Cute characters designs and overall nice pacing.

The story that I was most taken with was from Ben Katke's "Zita the Spacegirl: If Wishes Were Socks." Great cartooning and designs, nice pacing and story. The right mix of mainstream and off-beat.

"Wooden Rivers: Rain Slickers" by Rad Sechrist was just strange and didn't leave much of an impression of me. The same goes for Bannister's "Delivery," though I could at least appreciate the cartooning of the former. "Delivery" was just sort of ugly and cold.

The prettiest art came from Matthew Armstrong's "Snow Cap: 2nd Verse," a cute little story with adorable characters. It reminded me a little bit of Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew's Wonderland for Slave Labor Graphics, which is definitely a good thing. I wish it had been a little longer, but a nice way to end the book.
Overall, a great beginning for Flight Explorer. As with most anthologies, some stories were better than others, but that's the nature of the beast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Stores 4/16

Patrick and I pick out the books with the most potential coming to comic shops this Wednesday...
Dave's Pick
Hellboy Library Edition (Volume 1) - It's a pretty light week for major releases in the world of comics, but this caught my eye. A nice deluxe edition of Mike Mignola's first two Hellboy stories, Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil. Nice for the bookshelf, and timely, with the new Hellboy movie coming out this summer.
Patrick's Pick
The Drifting Classroom (Volume 11) - Last week, the final volume of the excellent Dragon Head was released to comic book shops. This week, another horror manga reaches its conclusion with this final volume in Kazuo Umezu’s insane saga about a group of schoolchildren transported to a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic future world. David reviewed both books yesterday.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Faker TP
Hana-Kimi (Volume 23) - Final volume. Also reviewed yesterday.
Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 14)
X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 (of 2)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Manga Monday: Final Volumes

This month we say goodbye to three prominent manga series, with the hopes of reading more from these creators in the near future. Here are their reviews...

The Drifting Classroom (Volume 11)
Kazuo Umezu

The over-the-top screaming and maiming of the elementary school students in The Drifting Classroom draws to a close, but with two volumes of Umezu's The Cat Eyed Boy to look forward to in June, I'm not really too upset by this fact. I'm just glad that The Drifting Classroom sold well enough to warrant Viz's publication of other works from the creator. And to be quite honest, I don't know where Umezu would have gone next, as he was quickly running out of natural disasters for the students to avoid. I am happy with how the series ended, not all tied up nicely like a science fiction series such as this certainly could have. But with all that had gone wrong for the kids of the book, it was nice to end on a good note.

Dragon Head (Volume 10)
Minetaro Mochizuki

Like The Drifting Classroom, I really liked the ending of this manga series. After all that had happened to Teru and Ako's world, it would have been difficult to give them a happy ending, but I'm glad that it was left pretty open. The message that Mochizuki ended the book on, though blatant, was interesting, and was a great note to end the book on, particularly since the entire book revolves around the subject. Some people may be a little frustrated to find the events behind the disaster revealed at the end, but I was okay with it. This is an incredible, top-notch survivalist horror series and I will be paying special attention to anything from Mochizuki in the future.

Hana-Kimi (Volume 23)
Hisaya Nakajo

Of the final volumes I read this past week, this one should have been able to do it right. There weren't too many dominoes set up to fall in this series, but Nakajo manages to knock them down awkwardly. Hana-Kimi concludes as the creator indulges in a sentimental finale that has the cast of characters looking back through photographs of their time together, with the students of Osaka High School selecting pictures for the seniors' graduation ceremony. A lame attempt to tug at the readers' heartstrings overshadows the events surrounding Mizuki's secret, culminating in a cheesy farewell to the cross-dressing student, with little in terms of memorable final moments with key characters. Immediately after the sappy send-off, time has passed and Mizuki gets a shock that is all but shocking, and completely unearned. I really don't think Nakajo could have done a worse job at putting the finishing touches on a series as she did here. Good thing the twenty-two volumes preceding it are enough to give the overall series a stamp of approval.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Annihilation: Book One

Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins & Kev Walker

Annihilation is a big cosmic crossover that includes several mini-series and many galactic characters of the Marvel Universe, including The Silver Surfer, Galactus and those pesky skrulls. Included in this first of three books collecting the entirety of the first Annihilation crossover are Annihilation: Drax the Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation Prologue, and Annihilation: Nova #1-4. I'd heard that this was a pretty good crossover from Marvel, and since I'm digging the beginning of Secret Invasion, I thought I would go back and check this one out too. And it hasn't disappointed so far.

Annihilation: Drax the Destroyer follows a maximum security spaceship that is transporting superpowered beings across the galaxy to an intergalactic prison which, of course, malfunctions, allowing several of the beings to crash land on Earth, including Drax the Destroyer. Now Drax hasn't been himself lately. He's been a little out of it, confused and...well, crazy and dumb. And it takes him a little while to come out of his stupor. As he comes to find himself, his fellow cosmic villains, The Blood Brothers, Lunatik and the skrull Paibok, have taken over a small town in Alaska to help with repairs to get them back into space. Under the guidance of a sassy teenager named Cammi, Drax bests his comrades and frees the town from their oppressors, whisking Cammi away with him to another prison ship, becoming a sort of guardian to the girl. That's where the mini-series ends, to be followed up abruptly in the Annihilation Prologue. I liked Mitch Breitweiser's art on the series, though it did feel stiff at times. I like the realistic art and it seemed to flow really well, making for a much better story than I expected going in. Cammi seemed like she would be a little annoying upon her first introduction, but she quickly grew on me and I began to look forward to her subsequent sarcastic remarks and blatant observations, especially as Annihilation moved along. It's kind of strange that this entire mini-series took place prior to any of the events of Annihilation itself, but it gave some much-needed backstory to Cammi's involvement with Drax and perhaps other related events that will be followed up.

Sandwiched between the two four issue mini-series of this first volume of Annihilation is the Annihilation Prologue, which sees the Nova Corps go up against one of the initial waves of Annihilation, a swarm of aliens and ships that easily overtake anything in their path. The hundreds upon hundreds of individuals that make up the Nova Corps are quickly wiped out, leaving behind only Richard Rider, Nova, badly injured among the corpses of his comrades. And it is here that the face of the enemy is revealed, one that I should have guessed all along, given the title of the series: Annihilus, fresh from The Negative Zone. While I found Scott Kolins's art to be the weakest of the book, it was competent enough to paint the events of Annihilation Day with clarity, as chaotic as the events proved to be.

The final mini-series of this initial volume of Annihilation is Annihilation: Nova. Immediately picking up where the Annihilation Prologue left off, Richard Rider awakens alone to find himself the lone survivor of the Nova Corps, and is guided by the Xandarian Worldmind to its location so that Rider can absorb the power of the entire Nova Corps into himself along with the knowledge of the destoryed civilization Xandar. Wielding much more power than before, Nova aides Drax the Destroyer and Cammi as they attempt to leave Xandar, while he attempts to control his overwhelming power as he utilizes it against the Annihilation wave. Quasar soon comes into the picture and together, they target Annihilus himself, who is all too happy to confront them, killing Quasar for the energy that his Quantum Bands offer, but fooled by Nova into destroying part of his fleet, allowing Nova to flee. The book ends with Nova expressing his interest in Drax to teach him how to destroy.

That's a lot of plot, but it really plays out very well. Each of the series involved so far have their own story and feel to them, but weave pretty seamlessly together to create an interesting overlying arch. I'm excited to see where the series goes and am in agreement with the overall consensus of this crossover that it's pretty damn good. So far.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In Stores 4/9

Patrick and I pick the books with most potential shipping to comic shops this Wednesday, and this is one of those weeks where it was really difficult to narrow it down to just one pick - there’s a boatload of great releases!

Patrick’s Pick

The Complete Peanuts (Volume 9): 1967-1968 - The latest volume in the Fantagraphics published series collecting the entirety of the greatest comic strip of all time is available in comics shops this Wednesday. Buy it.

Dave’s Pick

Jessica Farm GN - Josh Simmons made a big splash with his first book last year, the silent graphic novel House. This is his highly-anticipated new work, the first volume of an epic story.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Chickenhare (Volume 2): Fire In the Hole - An excellent all-ages title.
.....Read my review.
The Comics Journal #289
Hall of Best Knowledge SC
- Ray Fenwick’s first graphic novel!
The Last Defenders #2
Marvel Zombies: Dead Days HC
Most Outrageous: The Trials & Trespasses of Dwaine &

.....Chester the Molester
Mushishi (Volume 3)
New Mutants Classic (Volume 3) TP
The Rabbi’s Cat 2 GN
Serenity: Better Days #2 (of 3)
Showcase Presents: Superman Family (Volume 2) TP
Suburban Glamour #4 (of 4)
Willie & Joe: The World War II Years

Monday, April 07, 2008

Manga Monday: Gyo 2

Gyo (Volume 2)
Junji Ito
I really enjoyed the first volume of Junji Ito's horror title Gyo, so the second and final volume of the series had a lot to live up to. I actually read the first volume of Ito's more well-known horror title Uzumaki years ago and wasn't very impressed, so the first volume of Gyo came as a pleasant surprise. It's a very creepy story of a young couple in Japan who are terrorized as fish begin to walk out of the ocean. Unfortunately the final volume moves the book into The Drifting Classroom territory: a lot of screaming, over-the-top events, and horrifying monstrosities chasing down the protagonists. It's such a shift in tone that it feels like a completely different book altogether, and not in a good way. As the fish rot away, humans and animals take the place of the marine life on their walking machines, tubes unceremoniously placed in their mouths and butts to extract the gas given off by a germ they are infected with, to power the machines. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous antics of the Death-Stench Circus. It was a joke, a horrible choice by the creator to try to give some further explanation to what was going on, particularly to the threat of the silly gaseous phantoms released by the infected. This felt like a complete slap in the face after reading the first promising volume, where everything that been built so hauntingly takes a turn for the worse, opting for grossing out the reader rather than frightening them.
The highlight of this book is actually one of the two bonus stories at the back of the book. The first short story is The Sad Tale of the Principal Post, an unremarkable four-page account of a man who gets stuck under the principal post of his family's house and decides to heroically stay in his position to keep the house intact. Weird. The second tale is The Enigma of Amigara Fault, where an earthquake uncovers a fault line in the earth with human-shaped holes. It's really kind of creepy as people are drawn to the holes and insist that certain holes are perfect silhouettes of themselves that they're meant to walk into, despite the fact that nobody knows what awaits them inside. The little part of me that's claustrophobic cringed during this story. A good note to end what was overall a disappointing reading experience.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Secret Invasion #1 (of 8)

Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Yu

***Contains spoilers***
Events in the Marvel Universe, particular in New Avengers, have been building toward this eight-issue mini-series that will infect a majority of other Marvel titles over the next few months. In New Avengers #31, Elektra was killed and was revealed to be a skrull. From there, various characters of the universe have been striving to uncover just what the skrulls are planning, and who else has been replaced. Well, the shit sure as hell hit’s the fan in the first issue of Secret Invasion. Basically, the skrulls make their move, shutting down S.W.O.R.D. and S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man and all things linked to him (including satellites and various Stark facilities), maximum security prisons such as The Raft, and Thunderbolts Mountain. And the Baxter Building is being sucked into The Negative Zone. So basically, the skrulls have crippled Earth’s superheroes. They are deaf, dumb and blind. And a crapload of skrull ships are on their way to take advantage of the situation. Nice set-up for things to come. So who’s a skrull? Hank Pym is a skrull, shooting Mister Fantastic point-blank in the face, through he’s all elasticy and seems like he’ll be able to recover. The other big reveal of the issue is Jarvis, which is a brilliant move. The Avengers long-time butler is witness to everything without being directly involved. Great calculated choice to replace him. The issue ends with a skrull ship opening and a ton of superheroes spilling out to face the current members of the Avengers team, both groups of which Quesada claims in a Q & A at the back of the issue contain real and false heroes. Because I am a complete nerd, I’m going to run down both of the groups, typing the names of those I believe to be skrulls in green.

The heroes we know and love in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers:
Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Wonder Man, Black Widow, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Echo, Ronin, Wolverine, Ares, Spider-Woman and Iron Man.

From out of the skrull ship:
Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel (old costume), Emma Frost, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Luke Cage (old costume), Mocking Bird, Jewel (Jessica Jones), Hawkeye, Wolverine (old costume), Thor, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Beast and Phoenix (Jean Grey).

I have to believe that at least a majority of the heroes coming from the skrull ship are skrulls. Though I may be biased because I’m invested in the characters from current titles. I haven’t really followed many crossovers in recent years, but I’m looking forward to how this one plays out. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the invasion has been creeping into titles that I’ve been reading and I feel like I need to know the truth behind what’s what and who’s who. Very clever ploy by Marvel. But I’m enjoying things thus far and this was a really well-executed issue. Things are looking quite promising and I’m looking forward to a lot of fun over the next few months.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Angel: After the Fall #6

Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch & Various

The sixth issue of Angel: After the Fall takes a hiatus from the story that has built up thus far to flash back to exactly how things went down for the characters of the universe after the final scene in Angel the television series’ season five, where a handful of good guys are in an alley facing down Armageddon. In those moments, we see Los Angeles transported to Hell, events unfolding through the eyes of several characters in short stories focusing on one or two of them, each illustrated by a different artist. Bookending these short stories are scenes taking place in current continuity, of the psychic fish Betta George, wondering about how the transition to Hell went for other people of LA, and recounting his own underwhelming story. After this, we are treated to a story of Spike as he is reunited with Illyria, then of Connor and the effects that the transition to Hell had on him (the transition has effected several people in different ways, including Angel himself in one of the more shocking revelations of the series so far). These two stories are competently illustrated by David Messina and Stephen Mooney, respectively, but aren't exactly of the highest quality art, something that I think the series overall suffers from. The final short story is a fun one following the fun-loving musical demon Lorne which is, appropriately, told in verse and drawn by none other than John Byrne. A surprise cameo for me, at least. It was kind of an odd choice to take a break from the current story for a few issues to focus on the aftermath of the big battle in that alley, but it’s what people have been wondering, myself included, so I was happy to see it. It just could have been integrated into the series at a more appropriate time. But I had a lot of fun with this issue and can’t wait for the next couple of issues to come out. I’m curious to see Wesley and Gunn’s transition to their new…circumstances…more than any other members of the cast.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Three Shadows

Cyril Pedrosa

Three Shadows is a graphic novel recently published in America by First Second Books, from French creator Cyril Pedrosa, whose credits include working in Disney animation on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and my personal favorite Disney film Hercules. Pedrosa is a great cartoonist, with a unique look that seems ever-changing as Three Shadows moves along, with some scenes more finished and fully-realized and others sketchier, yet still really quite beautiful. It's pretty interesting. Between ten pages, trees can be drawn in three completely different ways, always fluid with the environment, and never really jarring from one page to the next. And pencils overall can be thick and angry in some pages while thin and elegant in others. This captures mood pretty perfectly, and makes the atmosphere a vital part of the story. It really makes the cartooning that the artist does integral to the plot and characters, as he takes more advantage of the medium than most artists seem capable of.

Plot-wise, Three Shadows follows a husband and wife who raise their child Joachim in the country where they live happy and free, until one day, three ominous shadows begin to watch them, growing more bold as the days pass. It quickly becomes apparent that the figures are after Joachim, and father and son set off to escape death itself. I know that Pedrosa watched a close friend's son die, and this is birthed from that experience, which is probably why those tender moments and reactions seem very real. But once the escapade begins, the story seems to take some side trips, particularly on a ship carrying slave traders and desperate people that distracts from the main thread of the story more than add any dimensions to it. And while I like the focus on the three shadowy characters toward the end of the graphic novel more than the rest of the book itself, I feel that the thrust of the book should have remained on Joachim and his family instead of taking another detour. Despite this meandering, the heart of the story is really quite nice and powerful, and Pedrosa's mastery over his art alone make this worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In Stores 4/2

Patrick and I highlight the books with most potential among the new releases to comic shops this Wednesday.

Patrick's Pick

Dragon Head (Volume 10) - Dragon Head is a solid work of survivalist horror fiction from writer/artist Minetaro Mochizuki, about a small group of high school students who survive a natural (possibly supernatural) disaster and must struggle against an unbelievably hostile environment to survive, hopefully with their humanity intact. Gritty, realistic artwork and great storytelling skills have made this one of the best of the current crop of translated manga. This is the final volume.

Dave's Pick

Secret Invasion #1 (of 8) - Marvel's latest mega crossover kicks it into high gear with this eight-issue mini-series, spinning out of events from New Avengers and bleeding across most of the Marvel Universe.

Other Noteworthy Releases

American Splendor: Season Two #1 (of 4)
Angel: After the Fall #6
Anna Mercury #1 (of 5) - Warren Ellis's latest Avatar effort
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #13
Hotel Africa (Volume 1)