Thursday, July 31, 2008

Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy #1

J.T. Krul & Guillem March

I missed this comic at the local comic shop, so had to look for it at the San Diego Comic-Con. I love Poison Ivy, but this was not worth the effort it took to track it down. Joker's Asylum is a series of one-shots where the Joker relates a story of a character from Batman's rogues' gallery from his cell in Arkham Asylum. The Joker's scene is really over-the-top silly (and not funny in the least), sort of reminding me of the campy Tales From the Crypt openings. And indeed, the rest of the comic follows suit. When Poison Ivy isn't nude with bits of plants conveniently placed to hide her...bits, she's practically falling out of her outfit anyway. And Ivy axing a guy to pieces...then telling a lame little joke...a bit much. Plot-wise, it doesn't make much sense either. Exactly how does Batman recall seeing the green of Ivy's skin on a hooker...at the end, after the fact? Either he saw it before or he didn't. You don't recall something you didn't notice before. Anyways...a mess. The bad art...not helping matters. If this is par for the rest of the series, let's hope the book quietly fades into oblivion.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Demons of Sherwood

Demons of Sherwood
Robert Tinnell & Bo Hampton

Demons of Sherwood is a webcomic that has been serialized since December, but the entirety of the graphic novel is now available for your viewing pleasure at ComicMix for free. The book is written by Robert Tinnell, with some really gorgeous artwork by Bo Hampton. The story follows a washed-up Robin Hood, over a decade since his heyday stealing from the rich to give to the poor, Marian having run off and left him to find comfort in a bottle. But news has come his way of a trio of women who are to be burned at the stake for witchcraft, one of whom is the love of his life he's been searching for all these years: that fair maiden herself. As the story progresses, we see demons attacking Robin and his Merry Men as they strive to protect the three accused witches and deliver them to a sanctuary overseen by a former comrade. There are plenty of great ideas throughout this book, with some fantastic action scenes and disturbing images of true horror. The characters of the book are thoroughly engaging and the plot absolutely intriguing...I felt horrible for having not given the creators a cent for the privilege of reading through this fantastic adventure, but I'm sure to seek out more work from the duo and I'll definitely buy this book in a collected format should it become available in the future. Really, it's free, so there's no excuse not to check this book out. The art is of high quality and the creators really know how to pace a story with all of the elements you want out of a good piece of genre fiction, seamlessly blending comedy and romance into the mix for a stunning final product. The dialogue is smart and true to the time period, with some fun banter between the characters at various points. I've read very few comics on-line, but if there are more like this out there, I am so there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

San Diego Comic-Con International 2008

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This was my first year attending Comic-Con International in sunny San Diego. My expectations were pretty high, as attending the con is a pilgrimage of sorts for comic fans everywhere. This was also my first time flying in a plane since I was about seven years old, so this was quite the adventure for me. Happily, I was able to navigate the airports in Milwaukee, Atlanta and San Diego without a hitch, and was able to use the MTS trolleys in San Diego without much trouble. I elected not to go to Preview Night, as our flight was a little late into town and we hadn't quite figured out the lay of the land yet.

Thursday

The first full day of Comic-Con saw Patrick and I waiting in line to get our badges for a few hours. And if anything is not exaggerated when it comes to the convention, it's the lines. They are damn long. Once we'd secured our badges, there was more waiting ahead as the con had yet to open its gates to the masses. So...more lines. But that was alright. It gave Patrick and I a chance to look over the maps they provided and run down the panels we opted to attend. The convention center is laid out pretty nicely and it wasn't too much of a hassle to find any of the areas we wished to go. There were also conveniently located Starbucks, Mrs. Fields and other booths for food, and a Fed Ex center to mail out the heaploads of comics one might buy.

During the whole of the convention, I was struck by the campaign for True Blood, which was really clever and neat. Based on the Charlaine Harris books, True Blood is a new cable series (Showtime, I believe) debuting this Fall from the creators of Six Feet Under. There were ads everywhere for Tru Blood synthetic blood beverage boasting funny little slogans like "Friends don't let friends eat friends" and "Real blood is for suckers" and "All the taste. No bite." And then there were fliers being handed out proclaiming that "vampires were people once too," and people asking convention goers to sign petitions to pass the "Vampire Rights Act" or something of the sort. Very cool stuff. If I had Showtime, I'd be watching it, but as is, I'm definitely going to check the show out on DVD.

The convention floor was a little disappointing to me, I must admit. I'd heard people say that it takes days to cover the whole floor, but it took me perhaps four hours. A lot of floor space was also taken up by movie studios, promoting upcoming films and TV series, as well as video games and toys. These tended to be the areas with heavy traffic, where it was rather hard to wade through. I was surprised by the lack of retailers selling comics and graphic novels. Wizard World Chicago is a convention I go to every year since it's so close, and the floor has tons of retailers selling actual comics and related items, so it was a blow to see so few at Comic-con, as I was hoping to buy a lot of discounted collections and instead walked away from the weekend with few. It was nice, on the other hand, to see so many publishers and artists, an aspect of the floor that is lacking at the Chicago show. I've heard a few people complain that Comic-Con is less comics, more multi-media now, and from what I saw this weekend, I would probably agree with that (even if I don't have a reference of previous years, that seems to be the general consensus) which is one of the reasons I won't be returning next year, though I could certainly see myself returning at a distant time.

The variety of panels at the convention was really impressive, though once again, I would have liked to see more comic panels. The first one we attended was "Spotlight in Todd Klein," which was interesting. We didn't go to many on Thursday just because we did want to check out the exhibit floor, so the only other one we attended was "Bat-Manga! Chip Kidd and the Secret History of Batman in Japan." This got me pretty excited for the forthcoming book. And Chip Kidd did say that he had enough material for another volume, so let's cross our fingers that sales will justify more of this crazy shit.

Friday

On Friday, I wanted to attend a panel where I'd hear some actual announcements, so we headed over to "Marvel Cup o' Joe," although beyond an underwhelming (and barely animated) clip of the new Black Panther cartoon for BET and some gorgeous art from the new Marvel Classics' Oz (from writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young), it was all Q & A. And I hate Q & A. Have a fricking agenda and keep things interesting like all of the better panels of the show! I don't care if the blonde in the Dazzler outfit wants to see more Dazzler appearances! And after the third person asked about Marvel movies, which Joe Quesada patiently explained yet again that he was not in charge of the movies, so he's not the person to ask, I was ready to get the hell out of there. Otherwise, the answer is usually "wait and see" or "buy the books," so why even ask?

After this, we waited in a humongous line that wound outside the building to get in to see Joss Whedon and the cast of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Great banter between the cast and writers, with a few announcements: a soundtrack available in a few weeks from I-Tunes, and plenty of bonus features on the upcoming DVD, including a "musical commentary." Later on, we actually crossed the street of Downtown San Diego with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day. I only recognized Felicia at first with her pretty red hair, and then I was trying really hard not to stare at them.

Last but not least, we attended the "Spotlight on Lynda Barry" panel on Friday. I read a lot of what she talked about in her recent fantastic book What It Is, but this was still the best panel of the show for me. She's an animated, engaging speaker and I had a ton of fun. Very inspiring.

Unfortunately, we did not attend the Eisner Awards. I was really happy about most of the winners though, especially Mouse Guard winning two awards (Graphic novel - reprint and best kids comic) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer winning best new series. IDW also won their first award for best archival project for the deserving The Complete Terry and the Pirates.

Saturday

We bought a lot from the Fantagraphics booth, just because there were some exciting debuts, including Love & Rockets: New Stories #1 and Delphine #3 (the next two The Comics Journals were also available, but damn! Patrick has a subscription ...and still hasn't seen the one that debuted in comic stores...) The convention is a great place to pick up little goodies that I can't find around Milwaukee, like Cold Heat Special #5 (which I loved) from Picturebox. But what I really appreciated was Drawn & Quarterly's booth, as they not only had artists like Lynda Barry signing, but they offered really great discounts when you bought a combination of books. Patrick, for instance, bought Red Colored Elegy and Tatsumi's Goodbye for just over $40, and got a free totebag. It was nice - I wish more retailers did that. I remember First Second Books doing a buy two, get one free deal at The Toronto Comic Art Festival last year, and we loaded up on them. Anyways, I picked up a few things at Archaia Studio Press's booth, and got the Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon collection at Ape's, having it signed by Steve Bryant, with the bonus of him doing a sketch for me. I had a nice time talking with him, something I usually don't do much of with creators.

The Spirit movie had a cool booth with gently falling snow and Castle Grayskull from He-Man was on the floor somewhere, but I think the Star Wars booth was the most elaborate, with statues of major characters from Star Wars: The Clone Saga everywhere, including my favorite jedi Shaak Ti. There was a Dharma Initiative booth set up for Lost that allowed only fifty people inside each day - one woman who was able to get inside refused to relate what she'd seen. Of course, Watchmen stole the show though, with free t-shirts and a gazillion people reading the graphic novel in panels and on various spots on the floor. Even panelists were wearing the shirts and spreading the hype for the film.

We went to the "Grant Morrison and Gerard Way: Born Under a Black Sun" panel, which was, unfortunately, Q & A, but at least the creators had some interesting things to say. Then we went on to "The World of Steve Ditko Panel Discussion" which was really fun. There was an agenda to it and some really neat observations and stories were related.

Sunday

By Sunday, we'd pretty much had enough of the convention, but we wanted to attend the "Jack Kirby Tribute" panel, which was great, focusing on Kirby's time in animation. We would have liked to go to the "Friday the Thirteenth" panel about the new remake, but we were anxious to check out the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and did that one activity outside of the convention.

And that's about it. We had a lot of fun, despite initial disappointments. Like I said before, we're not going to dish out the ridiculous amount of money we did this year to participate in the event next year, but we may make another appearance in the future. I'm glad we at least went once to see what all of the hubub's about.

Best costume: Joker in straight jacket - He shuffled around hunched over and wore makeup that made him look like he belonged in The Exorcist.

Most exciting news: Viz will be publishing both Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys and Pluto beginning next February on a bi-monthly schedule!!! Link via Mangablog.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Stores 7/30

I'm back from Comic-Con International! No Manga Monday this week, but watch for my report of the mega event coming soon. For now, here are the comics and graphic novels with most potential shipping to comic shops this Wednesday!

Pick of the Week

The Order (Volume 2): California Dreaming TP - I'm holding out a small amount of hope that The Order's recent Harvey Award nomination will be enough to resurrect this fantastic superhero comic (by Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson) from its recent cancellation. I loved the first volume and can't wait to see how things play out in the second (and final) collection. I know that a new Sunday Press Little Nemo collection would be most people's pick, but man, I have to admit that I'm more excited about this at the moment, as guilty as that makes me feel.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion Premiere HC
The Completely Mad Don Martin HC - This has been in bookstores for
.....months now...
Essential Fantastic Four (Volume 7)
Hotel Africa (Volume 2)
Little Nemo In Slumberland: Many More Splendid Sundays HC
newuniversal 1959
Nova (Volume 2): Knowhere TP
Popgun GN (Volume 2)
Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1 (of 4)
Thor by J. Michael Straczynski (Volume 1) TP
Tokyo Zombie SC
True Believers #1 (of 5)
Wildcats #1

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Have a good Comic-Con!

Well, Patrick and I are off to Comic-Con International for the first time!! Here are my most anticipated panels, in loose order:

1. Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Not a panel so much, but an event I am so going to be attending!

2. Joss Whedon - With the cast of Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog, plus tidbits about Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight and Fray!!

3. Spotlight on Lynda Barry - It's Lynda Barry

4. Bat-Manga! Chip Kidd and the Secret History of Batman in Japan - Should be interesting stuff - can't wait for the book.

5. Entertainment Weekly's Visionaries: Comic Creators - Featuring a great round-up of creators: Grant Morrison, Colleen Doran, Jim Lee, Robert Kirkman, Mike Mignola, Matt Fraction and John Cassaday!

6. Jack Kirby Tribute - It's a tribute, he's a legend, I've never been.

7. The World of Steve Ditko Panel Discussion - Featuring Dean Mullaney, Gary Groth, Kim Deitch and others.

8. Entertainment Weekly's Visionaries: Filmmakers - A non-comic event...but damn these are some exciting filmmakers! Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow!

9. The Secret History of Manga in the US - Should be interesting. Jason Thompson's always great to hear.

10. Marvel Cup o' Joe - Announcements and whatnot.

11. Spotlight on Kim Deitch

12. Spotlight in Jim Woodring

13. The Story of an Image - Kim Deitch, Kyle Baker, Jim Woodring and Jim Ottoviani

14. The Future of the Comics Pamphlet - Douglas Wolk, Eric Shanower and more

15. Golden and Silver Age of Comics

16. DCU: Final Crisis Management - A great roundup of talent: Grant Morrison, Brad Meltzer, J.G. Jones, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio and Phillip Tan.

17. Hellboy: Mike Mignola

18. Reinventing the Page: Stan Lee and Grant Morrison talk Virgin Comics - These two on the same panel will be interesting...

19. Spotlight on Eddie Campbell

20. Spotlight on Todd Klein

21. MAD in the 60's

22. Scott Shaw! Oddball Comics

23. Friday the Thirteenth - What can I say?

24. Grant Morrison and Gerard Way: Born Under a Black Sun

25. Lost

And there's, of course, a heck of a lot more and a ton I won't get to!
See you next Monday!

In Stores 7/23

Picking out the books with most potential, shipping to comic shops this coming Wednesday...

Pick of the Week

X-Men: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine Premiere HC - I can't guarantee that this is any good, but I'm certainly glad that it exists finally. You can probably find all six back issues of the original 1984-85 mini-series at Comic-con this week for less than $10, but it's nice to have pretty graphic novels for the bookshelf. This is the story of when Kitty grows up a bit. Following her breakup with fellow X-Man Colossus, she literally confronts her inner demons with the aid of Wolverine, learning martial arts and putting the days of silly costumes behind her. Ogun and Kitty's codename of Shadowcat come out of this, and look for a sword fight between mentor and protegee. Chris Claremont writes with art by Al Migrom

Other Noteworthy Releases

American Flagg! Definitive Collection (Volume 1) HC
Ambush Bug: Year None #1 (of 6)
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter in Guilty Pleasures (Volume 2) HC
Army@Love (Volume 2): Generation Gwned TP
Comic Book Tattoo
Flight (Volume 5) GN
Green Arrow/Black Canary: Road To the Altar TP
Image Monster Pile-Up #1
Korgi (Volume 2): Cosmic Collector GN
Madman Atomic Comics (Volume 1) TP
Maintenance (Volume 3) TP
Two Face: Year One #1 (of 2)
Uncanny X-Men #500 - A new milestone! Matt Fraction joins Ed Brubaker
.....on writing chores!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Manga Monday: My Dead Girlfriend

My Dead Girlfriend (Volume 1)
Eric Wight
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My Dead Girlfriend is an OEL manga that I picked up because Joss Whedon gave it the seal of approval. The book is by Eric Wight, who was the "ghost artist" for the character Seth on The O.C., and also worked on a few comics and in animation on projects such as Batman Beyond. Anyways, My Dead Girlfriend follows a boy named Finney who attends Mephisto Prep, a school full of witches, werewolves, vampires and ghosts, although he himself is human and not surprisingly, doesn't fit in very well. He comes from the Bleak family, who have a long history of dying in very odd ways. The book actually begins by running down a list of such cases, from a magician's assistant actually being sawed in half to an inventor who disappears into the sky amid helium balloons. The ghosts of these ancestors are still around to give advice to young Finney and his relatives, and are there for him when the girl he falls for at the local fair doesn't show up at a mutually agreed-upon place to continue their relationship. Following this event, Finney is bitter. Not only that, but a group of bullies at school are after him, and Death seems to be stalking him now. Overall, this is a really creative book with a lot of cool ideas. I wasn't too keen on the art at first, but it grew on me and really, it does suit the tone of the book. There are plenty of cute designs for the monsters of the series and it can be pretty witty at times. I don't know what the status of this book is with all of the weird Tokyopop stuff that's going on, especially through their OEL titles, but I hope to see another volume of this book sometime in the future, preferably in actual book form.

Poster for Star Trek


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Goddess of War (Volume 1)

Lauren R. Weinstein
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The Goddess of War is a new series published by Picturebox, from Lauren Weinstein, creator of Girl Stories. This lively new book follows a former Valkyrie turned Goddess of War who is getting rather sick of her job. As she throws a tantrum and falls into a drunken stupor on the blood of 150 Mayan virgins, she recalls her past, specifically a time when she slept with an Apache man she made chief - Cochise - and the pain she caused him. Throughout the book, there are plenty of strange aliens and creatures, gods and animals, and Weinstein illustrates them all with a lot of energy for a really exciting final product. The Goddess of War is full of creative panel compositions, fun diagrams and every once in a while, a page done up to mimic fine art that can embody a scene of action, with delicate pencils and shading. This is all presented in a black and white oversized format in what I believe is the first of four volumes. A great beginning to a riveting new title.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What It Is

Lynda Barry
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Writing is an interesting endeavor. It can be very frustrating and difficult one minute and absolutely delightful and exciting the next. I find when I'm writing a novel sometimes I'm able to write non-stop for hours at a time on the first go-round, but when it comes to small things like writing a review for this blog, I can get stuck and it can take me hours to produce ten sentences about something. It's a mystery of hows and whys and whens. And the writing process itself is what Lynda Barry explores in her latest offering What It Is.
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I found What It Is a very inspiring read. Within, Barry examines what makes good writing, what we mean by phrases such as "it came to me," (and just what those words imply), and dissecting terms like "image" and "pretending" and "realization," offering extremely insightful commentary as she ponders over them.
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This book is partially autobiographical, as Barry offers scenes from her childhood and growing up that involve writing and the creative process, even delving into her own personal battles with writers' block and criticism. And then there are dense collage pages full of images and questions that a reader could spend an hour getting lost in, wondering over what they see. Roughly the final third of the book is instructional for how someone can begin writing with some stimulating exercises and advice that has worked for her (presented by the many-eyed Sea-ma).
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While this was a time-consuming book that I found myself wading through at an excruciatingly slow pace to absorb everything to the best of my ability, I found it more rewarding than perhaps anything I've read all year. It had me questioning art and what it takes to create it, and how I personally view aspects of the process as a writer. It's funny how easily Barry can summon childhood memories within me from her own experiences and observations, but even funnier is how she states things that I'd never thought about that are at once profound and completely obvious. In the comic subgenre of "how to create" books, Barry really produces an interesting spin with an offering full of herself: creative, inspiring, thoughtful and evocative. A work of true genius.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spike: After the Fall #1 (of 4)

Brian Lynch & Franco Urru
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Spike: After the Fall is a four issue mini-series that spins out of events from Angel: After the Fall, continuing the story of what happened following the series finale of Angel the television series, this time focusing on fan favorite Spike. This doesn't show events from the alley where the character was left off at the end of the TV program, but rather picks up shortly thereafter, yet before Angel recruited Spike in Angel: After the Fall. As we saw in that other IDW mini-series, Spike is with Illyria and has discovered her "condition" in Hell, and maybe a little more... But overall, this mini-series seems pretty unnecessary. The art is murky and dark, like it is in Angel: After the Fall, and the characters' voices seem far off. At least Angel: After the Fall had the new concept of LA transporting to Hell going for it, and explaining all that went along with it. This mini-series doesn't introduce new elements, but rather indulges in uncovering every single things that happened to these characters whether they're very relevant or not. As nice as it is to know what happens to the characters I love after that series finale, nothing that has come from the comic continuation has been very impressive as of yet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Stores 7/16

Picking out the comics with most potential, shipping to comic shops on Wednesday...
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Pick of the Week
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Spike: After the Fall #1 (of 4) - Though Angel: After the Fall has been somewhat of a disappointment, I can't help but hope for the best for this spin-off mini-series featuring the other vampire with a soul, bad boy Spike. I've got my fingers crossed for a Harmony appearance... Also available this week from IDW is Angel: After the Fall (Volume 1) HC.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Astro City: The Dark Ages
.....(Book 1) HC
Batgirl #1 (of 6)
Bizenghast (Volume 5) -
.....Final volume!
The Comics Journal #291
EC Archives: Weird Science (Volume 3) HC
Fallen Angel (Volume 5) TP
Foolkiller: White Angels #1 (of 5)
Howard the Duck Omnibus
Jeff Smith: Bone & Beyond HC
Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy #1
Real (Volume 1)
Showcase Presents Hawkman (Volume 2) TP
Universal War One #1 (of 3)
Zot! (Volume 1): The Complete Black & White Stories 1987-1991

Monday, July 14, 2008

Manga Monday: Gantz

Gantz (Volume 1)
Hiroya Oku
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Gantz was one of my most anticipated manga of the year, and it's proved to be a doozy with the first volume. Beautifully-drawn and action-packed, it reminds me quite a bit of another bloody, violent, over-sexed manga, Battle Royale. The book follows a group of people who have appeared in a bare apartment following their deaths. In the room is a strange machine that gives them instructions and provides them with weapons and battle gear. Basically, they are given a target, an alien, that they must take out. The first alien on the list is a small "onion alien." After quickly zoning in on its location, it puts up a pathetic defense that really makes the reader feel bad for it and has you wondering whether what the humans are being ordered to do is good or bad. The people who are being forced into this situation still aren't convinced that it's real - that perhaps it's a hidden camera show or something, but once the blood starts gushing and real danger rears its head, they waste no time jumping into survival mode. Like Battle Royale, it's an all-out battle between two parties, featuring fancy weaponry, T&A, and a group of individuals trapped in a situation that they can not get out of, forced to kill or be killed. One of my favorite scenes in this book is of the main character, Kei, as he stands in a street in the middle of the night with a few others and watches a group of their men chasing the onion alien with their guns out and huge grins on their faces. It just resonated with me and kind of summed up what kind of a story I was reading. Gantz definitely gets the seal of approval.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1 (of 5)

Kathryn Immonen, David Lafuente & John Rauch
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This is another comic that I picked up on a whim. I know nothing about Patsy Walker, but was curious, so here we are. The debut issue of the five issue mini-series begins with Patsy playing model for a neighbor who wants a dress fitted. During the play date, she gets a call from Iron Man, who needs her to help out with the 50-state initiative. In Alaska. Solo. Not exactly the most star-studded gig, but Hellcat is up for the challenge and very quickly meets up with some unfriendly natives and a magical bear or two. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this issue. The art is pretty great, as are the bright colors, especially when it comes to Patsy's fashionable outfits and the several panels that illustrate what she's imagining. What really makes this book something special is the character of Patsy Walker. She's really cool and funny - a little ditsy spoiled princess, a little rough and ready to take things on herself. She's really quite charming when all is said and done, and I found myself quite smitten with the character, and laughing out loud at a few exchanges she has with other characters. I can't say that this is leaps and bounds ahead of other superhero books, but it does have a flavor all its own, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. A great surprise.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Marvel Zombies 2

Robert Kirkman, Sean Phillips & Arthur Suydam
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What's left to do when you've eaten an entire universe full of people? Try to get to another universe, of course. That's what the remaining zombies attempt to do in the sequel to the hit mini-series. Via the transportation device that zombie Reed Richards created in Marvel Zombies: Dead Days (back on the original Earth that they came from), the zombies seek to sate their hunger. Since we last saw them, the zombies have recruited a few new members in Phoenix, Thanos, Firelord and Gladiator. And after a little distraction in the form of Ego the Living Planet (an all-you-can-eat buffet), the zombies return to Earth to find the survivors who have long left the safety of Asteroid M at the end of the original series, including Black Panther, Forge, several Acolytes and a zombie Wasp, who claims that after resisting the hunger for a time, has lost the need to consume flesh. The humans are split between keeping Black Panther in charge of their new society of New Wakanda, or to turn leadership over to new blood by way of Fabian Cortez's son Malcolm, who seems just as vicious and self-serving as his father (going so far as to try to assassinate Black Panther in his sleep). But the rest of the book is plenty of fighting between humans and zombies, and between zombies and zombies, and then trying to reason with zombies. It's just as fun as the original book and the material that bridges the two series, but it is getting a little stale. With Marvel having announced a Marvel Zombies 3 (with a new creative team), they're going to have to find some new and exciting things for the undead to do, even if it is set in the official Marvel Universe, as seems to be the case. And really, it will be hard to find another artist to step into the role of the amazing Sean Phillips. But we'll see, I suppose. Until then, we have plenty of Marvel Zombies material to...er, consume.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

In Stores 7/10

Remember, due to the holiday, comics will be a day late this week. Here are the books with the most potential shipping to comics shops this Thursday...
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Pick of the Week
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The Goddess of War #1 (of 4) - A new title from innovative publisher Picturebox. This book is by Lauren Weinstein (Girl Stories), and follows the life of a goddess: her history and how she gets bored with her role (deciding how wars will turn out), opting to leave her own planet for Earth.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Annihilation: Conquest (Book 2)
.....HC
Batman and Son TP
Berlin #16
Bone: Color Edition (Volume 8):
.....Treasure Hunters
BPRD: The Warning #1 (of 5)
Captain America: White #0
Cola Madnes TP - New Gary Panter!
Criminal (Volume 3): Dead and Dying TP
Final Crisis: Requiem #1
Hellboy: Oddest Jobs TP
Kyle Baker's Nat Turner
Ms. Marvel (Volume 4): Monster Smash TP - Now in softcover
Power Pack (Volume 1) HC
Runaways: Dead End Kids Premiere HC
Secret Invasion #4

Monday, July 07, 2008

Manga Monday: Cat Eyed Boy

Cat Eyed Boy (Volume 1) & (Volume 2)
Kazuo Umezu
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Cat Eyed Boy is the latest addition to Viz's very good Viz Signature Line of manga. The two volumes of the series were released simultaneously in huge 500+ page editions boasting great cover and interior designs by Ronnie Casson. The first thing you come across as you open these mammoth editions are really neat splash pages on the inside covers full of the different monsters that appear within the pages of Cat Eyed Boy. Now, I've read Umezu's recently concluded The Drifting Classroom and his minor horror work Reptilia, but they quite easily pale in the face of the awesomeness that is Cat Eyed Boy, where Kazuo Umezu really earns his title of master of Japanese horror manga.
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Cat Eyed Boy features several small stories that involve a boy born with defects that make him look like a cat...and grant him some magical powers. He travels around Japan taking refuge in people's attics and spying on the tenants while helping himself to their food, waiting for something awful to befall the household, as always seems to happen with everyone he visits. The books kick off with the story "The Immortal Man," which gives a pretty good introduction to the series at large, as it's pretty indicative right off the bat of the quality of the other stories collected. There are two larger stories that span over these books, the excellent "The Band of One Hundred Monsters" (of which the first collection ends in the middle of the story on a cliffhanger before resuming in the second) and the tedious, too silly "The Meatball Monster," which is more of the reaction shots and screaming and gore that people who've read The Drifting Classroom will be familiar with. While that kind of stuff can be great fun, I got my fill with The Drifting Classroom, and felt that the lengthy story served to bog down the second volume of the series rather than enhance it. So obviously I was happy to be presented with genuinely frightening stories throughout the rest of the stories. At times, Cat Eyed Boy feels a little superhero-y, and sometimes he's presented as a force of nature that comes into people's lives as opposed to the central figure the story is told through (as is the usual), but it all works well, and it's nice to get a variety of storytelling methods to keep things fresh throughout.
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I feel like not only was Umezu's storytelling far superior in these books than previous projects published in America, but I think that the art is a big leap forward too. The designs for the monsters are great, and coupled with Cat Eyed Boy himself, serve as great subjects for Umezu to show off his cartooning skills. In The Drifting Classroom and Reptilia, the kids kind of blurred for me, always with the same vacant stare of horror on their faces. While there are a few shots of secondary characters like that, they're few and far between. I'm not sure where Cat Eyed Boy falls chronologically in Kazuo Umezu's career, but it's definitely the highlight for me so far. Overall, this is a fantastic read and easily one of the best horror manga I've read to date.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Astonishing X-Men #25

Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi

Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi take the reigns of Marvel's flagship X-Men title with Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's departure. The cast of characters they utilize in the debut issue of their run is the one you see pictured: Wolverine, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Storm and Armor. I'm glad that they've decided to keep using the X-Men Hisako from Joss and John's run, as she became quite a standout character as the book progressed, though she does seem a bit off here, demonstrating Kitty's former dilemma of not finding a suitable codename, stepping into that same role as the naive new kid with a bit of fire in her. Storm's return to the team was a good choice, giving the creators an excuse to show off their new uniforms and San Francisco headquarters through dialogue as they relate things to her, orienting the reader along with her. Other than that, not much really happens in the first issue. A lot of talking, but no action, though a little mystery is laid out for the team to unravel. While I do like Simone Bianchi's art for the book, I was really surprised by how dark it is. Everything seems to be bathed in shadows, whether the team is standing in front of a man covered in flames or not. That, and the people all seem a little...bulky. But I'm on board for now. I was just such a fan of Whedon and Cassaday's run that anything would have been jarring. I'll reserve further judgment for subsequent issues. I want to see where this is headed, as Ellis and Bianchi have hardly had sufficient time to spread their wings as of yet.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Anna Mercury #1

Warren Ellis & Facundo Percio
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Anna Mercury is a new Avatar comic from the prolific Warren Ellis, with art by Facuno Percio. The book follows a red-headed vixen gifted in espionage and acrobatics, and oozing sensuality. Beyond her cool demeanor, she harbors a special gift to make people follow her instructions. Literally. She makes them do what she wants and not because of her strong leadership skills. This first issue introduces us to the protagonist and her little world of leather, skin tight outfits and voices over headsets as she attempts to stop one group of powerful people from destroying another vulnerable group. But the real moment that distinguishes this book from others of its ilk is the last panel, where the twist is revealed. Up until that point however, Anna Mercury is a very average action comic, instantly forgettable with an art style I tend to associate with Avatar Comics: competent, sleek and somewhat 90's; Nothing spectacular and perhaps a little over-rendered. Despite these flaws, I can see this book attracting quite a fan-following devoted to the well-designed lead character, but one issue in, I think I'll pass for now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Movies-and-More: July 2008

Alright, here we go… July release dates for films, music, DVDs and books, as well as my box office predictions and newly-released film trailers…

In Theaters July 4nd
Diminished Capacity (Click title for theatrical trailer)
Hancock (On Wednesday July 2nd)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (On Wednesday July 2nd)
The Wackness (On Thursday July 3rd)

Predictions: 1. Wall-E ($38 million), 2. Hancock ($29 million), 3. Wanted ($27 million), 4. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl ($22.5 million), 5. Get Smart ($8 million)

Predictions: 1. Hellboy II: The Golden Army ($44 million), 2. Wall-E ($22 million), 3. Journey To the Center of the Earth 3D ($16 million), 4. Wanted ($14 million), 5. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl ($13.5 million)

Predictions: 1. The Dark Knight ($89 million), 2. Mamma Mia! ($25 million), 3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army ($20.5 million), 4. Wall-E ($14 million), 5. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl ($9 million)

Predictions: 1. The Dark Knight ($42 million), 2. The X-Files: I Want To Believe ($38 million), 3. Mamma Mia! ($14 million), 4. Step Brothers ($10 million), 5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army ($8.5 million)

Your other entertainment needs:

July 1st:
On DVD: City of Men, The Closer: Season 3, Drillbit Taylor, Heathers: 20th Anniversary Edition, Hellboy Collector’s Set, Sex and Death 101, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Vantage Point, War Inc.

On CD: Alkaline Trio, Vanessa Hudgens, Los Lonely Boys, John Mayer

In Bookstores:
Robert Crais’s Chasing Darkness
Brad Thor’s The Last Patriot

July 8th:
On DVD: Batman: Gotham Knight, I Dream of Jeannie: Season 5, Monk: Season 6, The Ruins, Stargate Atlantis: Season 4, Stop-Loss, Superhero Movie, Teen Titans: Season 5, The Tracey Fragments

On CD: Beck, The Game, George Jones, Mamma Mia! OST, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, Nickelback

In Bookstores:
James Lee Burke’s Swan Peak
Stephen L. Carter’s Palace Coucil
Larry McMurtry’s Books: A Memoir
Nora Roberts’s Tribute

July 15th:
On DVD: The Bank Job, Birds of Prey: The Complete Series, College Road Trip, Dallas: Season 9, Eureka: Season 2, Meet Bill, Penelope, Reno 911: Season 5, Saving Grace: Season 1, Shutter, Step Up 2 the Streets

On CD: The Dark Knight: Original Score, John Mellencamp, Nas, Passing Strange OBC, Randy Travis, Ace Young

In Bookstores:
Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
Tana French’s The Likeness
Lisa Gardner’s Say Goodbye
Ridley Pearson’s Killer View
Christopher Reich’s Rules of Deception

July 22nd:
On DVD: 21, Case Closed: Season 1, High and Low, Las Vegas: Season 5, Masters of Horror: Season 2, Turn the River, Vampyr (Criterion Collection)

On CD: Candlebox, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Miley Cyrus, Nine Inch Nails, Sugarland, Paul Weller

In Bookstores:
J.A. Jance’s Damage Control
Jerry B. Jenkins’s Riven
James Patterson’s The Dangerous
.....Days of Daniel X
Daniel Silva’s Moscow Rules
L.J. Smith’s The Secret Circle
.....(Volume 1): The Initiation
.....and The Captive

July 29th:
On DVD: Avatar the Last Airbender: Book 3: Fire: Volume 4, The Band’s Visit, Dark City: Director’s Cut, Doomsday, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, The Hills: Season 3, Inglorious Bastards, Law & Order SVU: Season 7, Never Back Down, Stargate: Continuum, Witchblade: The Complete Series

On CD: Coolio, Rick Springfield, Third Day, Young Jeezy

In Bookstores:
Eric Van Lustbader’s Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Sanction
Stephen Mansfield’s The Faith of Barack Obama

Last month’s box office:
(Actual box office listed first, followed by my prediction)

June 6th:
1. Kung Fu Panda ($60 million) - Kung Fu Panda ($40 m.)
2. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan ($38.5 m.) - Sex and the City ($29 m.)
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($23 m.) - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($21 m.)
4. Sex and the City ($21 m.) - You Don’t Mess With the Zohan ($14 m.)
5. The Strangers ($9 m.) - The Strangers ($12 m.)

I underestimated not only the first animated summer film, but the screwball Adam Sandler comedy, which I expected to flop. I should have switched that idea with my optimistic prediction for The Love Guru at the end of the month. Difference: $57.5 million.

June 13th:
1. The Incredible Hulk ($55.5 m.) - The Incredible Hulk ($52 m.)
2. Kung Fu Panda ($33.5 m.) - The Happening ($37 m.)
3. The Happening ($30.5 m.) - Kung Fu Panda ($17 m.)
4. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan ($16 m.) - Sex and the City ($13 m.)
5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($15 m.) - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($8 m.)

My light prediction for The Happening was even too generous, and I didn’t foresee Kung Fu Panda’s massive staying power, but the big gun, The Incredible Hulk, was pretty close. Difference: $44.5 million.

June 20th:
1. Get Smart ($38.5 m.) - Get Smart ($42 m.)
2. The Incredible Hulk ($22 m.) - The Love Guru ($28 m.)
3. Kung Fu Panda ($21.9 m.) - The Incredible Hulk ($27 m.)
4. The Love Guru ($14 m.) - The Happening ($15 m.)
5. The Happening ($10.5 m.) - Kung Fu Panda ($7 m.)

Once again, I predicted the number one movie’s estimates within five million, but overestimated The Love Guru and the staying power of the other films. Difference: $42 million.

June 27th:
1. Wall-E ($62.5 m.) - Wall-E ($65 m.)
2. Wanted ($51 m.) - Wanted ($40 m.)
3. Get Smart ($20 m.) - Get Smart ($23 m.)
4. Kung Fu Panda ($12 m.) - The Love Guru ($15 m.)
5. The Incredible Hulk ($9.2 m.) - The Incredible Hulk ($14 m.)

Still good with the number one, but while I predicted higher for Wanted than pretty much all expectations, I was still under. Difference: $32.8 million.

In Stores 7/2

Alright, time to take a look at the books with the most promise, shipping to comic shops this Wednesday…

Pick of the Week

Astonishing X-Men #25 - The X-Men flagship title gets reloaded with Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s departure. The appropriate and exciting choice for the follow-up: Warren Ellis, with art by Simone Bianchi. Should be fun.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter in
.....Guilty Pleasures (Vol. 2) HC
Billy Batson and the Magic of
.....Shazam #1
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16
Counter X (Volume 1): X-Force
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.....The first collection featuring
.....Warren Ellis’s retooling of the
.....X-Men titles years ago, in time for
.....his taking over Astonishing X-Men.
Cowa (Volume 1)
Essential Defenders (Volume 4) TP
Fruits Basket (Volume 20)
Great Catsby (Volume 6)
- Final volume
Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1 (of 3)
Invaders Classic (Volume 2) TP
Joker’s Asylum #1: The Joker
Lucky (Volume 2) #2
Manhunter #32
Mighty Avengers (Volume 2): Venom Bomb Premiere HC
Nana (Volume 11)
Naruto (Volume 30)
Patsy Walker - Hellcat #1 (of 5)
Savage Dragon #136
Shirley
- A new manga by Kaoru Mori, creator of Emma.
Showcase Presents: Batman (Volume 3) TP
Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko HC
- The long-awaited
.....definitive biography of Steve Ditko
The Sword (Volume 1): Fire TP
Tezuka’s Dororo (Volume 2)
The Walking Dead #50