Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In Stores 10/1

These are the books with most potential shipping to comic shops this Wednesday...

Pick of the Week

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down HC - I fell in love with David Heatley's work with his unflinching autobiographical "Sex History." This book includes that story, as well as five others, mostly focusing on his family, but also including a look into his own racism. This is sure to be clever and observant.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Against Pain HC - Ron Rege Jr.'s
.....new book
The Alcoholic HC
American Dream: Beyond
.....Courage TP
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter in The Laughing Corpse #1 (of 5)
Aya of Yop City HC
Boys (Volume 3) TP
Cairo SC
The Complete Chester Gould's Dict Tracy (Volume 5) HC
The Complete Peanuts HC 1967-1970 Box Set
Countdown To Final Crisis (Volume 3) TP
Dark Tower: The Long Road Home HC
Digger (Volume 1) GN
Gantz (Volume 2)
Green Arrow/Black Canary: Wedding Album HC
Harvey Comics CLassics (Volume 4): Baby Huey TP
Justice (Volume 2) TP
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip (Volume 3) HC
My Heavenly Hockey Club (Volume 6)
No Hero #1 (of 7)
Savage Sword of Conan (Volume 4) TP
The Spirit (Volume 2) HC
Terror Titans #1 (of 6)
Top Ten: Season Two #1 (of 4)
Ultimate Iron Man II Premiere HC
Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (of 5)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Manga Monday: S.S. Astro

S.S. Astro (Volume 1)
Negi Banno
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S.S. Astro is a manga series told in the "yonkomo" format, or vertical four-panel comic strips. The "Astro" in the name is an acronym for "Asahio Shogo Teacher's ROom." The book features a pair of women (Maki Izumi and Nagumo Yuko) who are teaching for the first time at Asahio Shogo, a school they used to attend, as well as a handful of other teachers, including a demented nurse (Arai Setsuna) who loves it when kids come into her office with injuries. S.S. Astro reminds me quite a bit of the only other yonkomo manga I've ever read, Kiyohiko Azuma's Azumanga Daioh. Not only do they both take place in school, but they also have a very similar feel to them: silly and cartoony and very whimsical. Although Azumanga Daioh concentrates more on the students of the school (where a pair of teachers are also featured prominently), S.S. Astro distinguishes itself by solely examining the teachers. There are plenty of fun characters in S.S. Astro, but they're very two-dimensional and aren't really examined beyond one aspect of their personalities: There's a teacher who eats a lot and never gains weight, a teacher who's in love with another female teacher, etc, with the same sort of scenes played out over and over again for each of the teachers without much evolution. It's gets a little tired, even though there is a continuity that carries on from one strip to the next for the most part (focusing on a tournament between teachers or obsessing over video games or whatever). In Azumanga Daioh, I just felt that the characters were flushed out a bit more, and the situations were more interesting. When things happened to characters in that manga, I cared about the repercussions, even if it was silly for the most part. In S.S. Astro, I didn't feel invested in the characters whatsoever, and there weren't any moments that really stood out as utterly cute or funny - it was all just sort of mediocre.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Previews: December '08 Comics

I went through Previews Catalogue to find the good stuff...and this is what I found for books shipping to comics shops in December!

Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics

The War at Ellsmere TP - A new all-ages book from the creator of Zombies Calling, Faith Erin Hicks.

Archangel Studios
The Red Star: Sword of Lies (Volume 1) TP - A collection of the first part (three issues) of the Sword of Lies annuals.

Archie Comic Publications

The Archies: Greatest Hits (Volume 1) TP - A restored collection of The Archies' best tales!

Boom! Studios

Seekers Into the Mystery (Volume 1): The Pilgrimage of Lucas Hart TP - A collection of the first part of the classic magical Vertigo series by J.M. DeMatteis (Abadazad), Glenn Barr and Jon J. Muth.

The Stardust Kid TP - More J.M. DeMatteis! This was his and Mike Ploog's follow-up to Abadazad. It was also quite disappointing...

BuenaVentura Press

Fight Or Run #1 - Kevin Huizenga's (Ganges) new series! Minimalist and abstract.

Kramer's Ergot (Volume 7) HC - The latest volume of the acclaimed anthology is huge (16" by 21") and features art by some of the most exciting creators out there, including Gabrielle Bell, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware, Anders Nilsen, Jaime Hernandez, Matt Groening, Carol Tyler, Mat Brinkman, C.F., Kim Deitch, Daniel Clowes and more! $125 - a good price for an art book.

Dark Horse Comics

Eerie Archives (Volume 1) HC - Hot on the heels of Dark Horse's reprints of Creepy is a collection of horror magazine Eerie!

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1 (of 8) - A new Hellboy mini-series! Written by series creator Mike Mignola, with art by Duncan Fegredo.
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DC Comics

All-Star Superman (Volume 2) HC - Collecting the latter half of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's acclaimed run on Superman!

Batman: R.I.P. Deluxe Edition HC - Grant Morrison writing the death of Batman! This collects #676 - 683 of Morrison's stint writing The Dark Knight that people seem to love so much.

Haunted Tank #1 - The Haunted Tank is back! A new book that brings the title to Iraq!

Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book One) HC - Alan Moore's classic run of horror comics is being collected properly beginning with this hardcover.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In the Eighth Grade #1 - A new monthly all-ages title featuring Linda Lee from Krypton!

Digital Webbing

Sword of Dracula: The Dracula War #1 - A sequel to the original Sword of Dracula series! This is the first of two issues of the Dracula vs. military book.

Disney Press

Wonderland HC - A collection of the wonderful, whimsical all-ages title that takes place in Disney's Alice In Wonderland universe.

Drawn & Quarterly

Cecil and Jordan In New York: Stories HC - A collection of Gabrielle Bell's short works from various anthologies.

Kuruma Tohrimasu GN - An art book of photographs and drawings made during the production of the film Interior Design, which was directed by Michael Gondry, and written by Gondry and Gabrielle Bell.

Fantagraphics Books

The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Neil Brinkley's Cartoons from 1913-1940 - The title kind of says it all. This collects over 100 of Brinkley's full-page art.

Unlovable - This is interstingly based on a teenager's diary found in the bathroom of a gas station. A hardcover by Esther Pearl Watson.

Image Comics

Impaler #1 - The really creepy horror series Impaler returns!

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #1 (of 7) - I really wanted to like the first Phonogram mini-series after reading Jamie McKelvie's fantastic title Suburban Glamour, but I was utterly disappointed and couldn't even finish the book. I know a lot of people liked the book though, so here's the sequel by the creators of the original... We can at least expect some nice art in here.

Little, Brown

Daniel X GN - An original graphic novel from James Patterson's new Daniel X series, featuring an alien hunter.

Marvel Comics

Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 1): Legacy Premiere HC - The first collection of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, featuring characters like Drax the Destroyer and Rocket Raccoon.

Hulk Family #1 - A one-shot featuring four different tales from Hulk's extended family: She-Hulk, Skaar, Daughter of Hulk, and Thundra.

Incognito #1 - A new noir superhero book under Marvel's Icon imprint from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the creators behind Criminal.

Infinity Crusade (Volume 1) TP - Old school Marvel crossover! A 90's cosmic series.

Marvel Noir - Like the Fairy Tales books that Marvel has been putting out lately, this is a new group of mini-series that present an alternate world featuring the characters we know and love, but all different. The line kicks off with X-Men Noir and Spider-Man Noir, with Daredevil Noir on the way.

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor (Volume 8) HC - This gets into material past the Essential books, of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's excellent series.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1 & 2 (of 6) - The sequel to the book that featured the Marvel characters as seen by bystanders. The original was illustrated by Alex Ross, and while Kurt Busiek is writing the sequel, Jay Anacleto is filling Ross's huge shoes. And to be honest, I prefer Anacleto (of the beautiful Image Comics fantasy series Aria), so I think this could be fun. And he was an appropriate choice, with his realistic drawings.

Moon Knight: Silent Knight #1 - Peter Milligan does Moon Knight in this Christmas tale!

Punisher: War Zone #1-4 (of 6) - There's a Punisher moving coming out, so here are the comics to capitalize on it. Four issues of this new mini will come out in December, written by Garth Ennis, with art by Steve Dillon.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign -A one-shot that kicks off the new Marvel mega crossover event following events of Secret Invasion, written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Alex Maleev.

Secret Wars II Omnibus HC - Because nobody demanded it...

Thor: God-Sized #1 - Matt Fraction writes a 64-page Thor comic! Art by Doug Braithwaite amd Dan Brereton.

Universal War One (Volume 1) Premiere HC - A collection of the Soleil title by Denis Bajram.

War of Kings - Another Marvel crossover event. So far this one crosses over into the cosmic title Guardians of the Galaxy, with a new series launching called X-Men: Kingbreaker.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1 (of 8) - A mini-series adapting the classic book by L. Frank Baum, written by Eric Shanower (of the fantastic Adventures In Oz), art by Skottie Young. Looks beautiful - I saw some art in San Diego and I am definitely looking forward to this book.

X-Infernus #1 (of 4) - The Return of Magik stuff has all been crap, so I'm not expecting much out this title (especially with Return of Magik's key writer C.B. Cebulski writing this), which is being solicited as the sequel to Inferno. Ah, well. I like the magic side of Marvel.

Ythaq: The Forsaken World #1 (of 4) - A new Soleil mini-series of a critically-acclaimed European science fiction title.

Metropolitan Books

Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story SC - I like the art on the cover of this book by Ari Folman and David Polonsky. It's about a massacre of refugee camps involving a Christian militia.

Oni Press Inc

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere GN - A new 56-page graphic novel by Ted Naifeh featuring the lovable, sarcastic, magical Courtney Crumrin!

Top Shelf Productions

Johnny Boo (Book 2): Twinkle Power HC - A follow-up to James Kochalka's recent children's book about a cute ghost.

Viz Media

Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine - Debuting as part of Viz's fantastic Viz Signature line of manga, this book by Tetsu Kariya introduces readers to the art of Japanese cuisine, going over the basic ingredients, preparation, presentation, history and cultural significance of various dishes. Should be interesting stuff! I'm excited to see something like this!

Misc

XOXO: Hugs and Kisses Postcard Book - A book of postcards featuring the art of James Jean!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Stores 9/24

Here's a run-down of the books with most potential shipping to comic shops on Wednesday...
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Pick of the Week
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The Best American Comics 2008 HC - Lynda Barry is guest editor of the latest volume in the Best American anthology series that focuses on comics, with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden coming on as the new editors for the series. Even if DC refused to allow Paul Pope's Batman: Year 100 excerpt, there's still plenty of good stuff by talented people, including Chris Ware, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez, Michael Kupperman, Matt Groening, Alison Bechdel, and many more.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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100 Bullets (Volume 12): Dirty TP
Abe Sapien (Volume 1): The Drowning TP
Absolute Ronin HC
Back To Brooklyn #1 (of 5)
Black Jack (Volume 1) HC
Black Summer TP
Cable (Volume 1): Messiah War Premiere HC
The Complete Peanuts (Volume 10): 1969-1970 HC
The Complete Terry & the Pirates (Volume 4): 1941-1942 HC
Conan (Volume 6): The Hand of Nergal TP/HC
Dead Ahead #1 (of 3)
Fairy Tail (Volume 4)
Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury & Aesthetics of Satire SC
Ghost World: Special Edition HC
Iron Man: Legacy of Doom Premiere HC
Locke & Key HC
Madame Mirage (Volume 1) TP
Marvel Boy Premiere HC
Red Rocket 7 TP/HC
Samurai: Legend #1 (of 4)
Spawn Collection (Volume 6) TP
Star Trek Archives (Volume 1): Best of Peter David TP
Wolverine: First Class (Volume 1): Rookie TP
Wolverine Roar
Wonder Woman: The Circle HC
X-Factor: Only Game In Town Premiere HC

Monday, September 22, 2008

Manga Monday: Me and the Devil Blues

Me and the Devil Blues (Volume 1)
Akira Hiramoto
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Me and the Devil Blues is a fictionalized biography of mysterious blues guitarist Robert Johnston. Little is known about the true life of the man, save the myth that he sold his soul to the devil for his level of craft. Akira Hiramoto's imagination has Johnston sprouting ten fingers on one hand and working alongside Clyde of the infamous bandits Bonnie and Clyde. A bit much. But there's a lot of good historical stuff in here, especially when it comes to the tense segregation between whites and blacks. But I think the most effective aspect of the book is its tone. Hiramoto has an uncanny ability of painting a scene with intense mood. From the shady culture of a blues bar at midnight, to the bright, stifling hot doorsteps of a building at mid-day on Main Street, Hiramoto takes his impressive drawing skills to a level all its own. And there are small touches of conflict through the paranormal and inner dialogue that make even the lazy, drawn-out scenes compulsively readable. I think I even prefer those smaller, quieter scenes of Johnston with his pregnant girlfriend or in the car with Clyde, to the more in-your-face action and horror of Johnston beaten down by the sheriff of a rogue town, as his ten fingers are discovered by a man who has consumed alcohol where prohibition is carried out to the point of executing non-conformers. Me and the Devil Blues is a moody, atmospheric book that is both literary and a devil of a good time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dragon Prince #1

Ron Marz & Lee Moder
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When I picked this up, I was expecting a straight-forward fantasy - swords and sorcery and all that. I really enjoyed Ron Marz's stint on Crossgen's Scion, so I was excited to read a story like that again. But while this is a fantasy, and it does include magic and shape-shifting dragons, it's of the subgenre of that old school fantasy meeting the real world. This first issue of Dragon Prince sees a young bullied Aaron uncover the truth behind his heritage - that his father was a dragon, and that he has dragon in his blood, with the ability to shape-shift and breathe fire. Long ago, dragons were abundant, but his father was the last of his kind, and as his father has died, Aaron is now alone in the world, half-human, half-dragon, with his mother trying to protect him from the same dragon hunters that tracked and killed his father.
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I really enjoyed the opening of this book. It followed a dragon meeting a young woman in a small village before he's attacked by hunters. It turns out to be a story being read by Aaron's mother, as she's an author, but I think that this was the best part of the issue. From there, we're introduced to Aaron and his troubles at school, and when his mother begins to explain his origins, it just seems a little too...readily accepted. There's no defiance really to what's happening. Aaron accepts things after a brief, feeble protest, and the two worlds just kind of clash for me. I think that it's mostly the pacing that I didn't like. If there was a little more time spent with revealing his origin, I may not have been so jarred by it. But that being said, I did like the scene where Aaron's powers first manifest themselves. I just wish I could ignore the rushed pages that followed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

X-Men: Magneto - Testament #1 (of 5)

Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico
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I really love that cover by Marko Djurdjevic. It was definitely one of the things that compelled me to pick up this comic. That, and the fact that Magneto has one of the most interesting backgrounds in superhero comics, at least for a supervillain. But there's hardly any semblance of the man that he will become in the beginning of this mini-series following a happy-go-lucky, proud young man named Max Eisenhardt. He faces adversity at every turn as he tries to impress girls and crafts jewelry under the tutelage of his father. Max is a very likable character, the kind of underdog one can't help but root for. But we know how history plays out. This work is grounded in history, and Auschwitz is looming in the future for this boy who is figuratively beaten down by the headmaster of his school, and literally beaten down by his classmates. All around him, he bears witness to examples of the persecution of Jews (including the announcement of the Nuremberg Laws), and things begin to fall apart around him. The beginning of this story is bleak, but it does hold on to a little bit of hope, like the groundskeeper's daughter, whom he fancies, and returns his affections, and his brave defiance in the face of shame. I like this boy Max, and I'm interested to see how the trials ahead of him are going to shape him into the man he will become. Pak weaves an intriguing bit of historical fiction here, complimented by Carmine's pencils and the washed-out colors of Matt Hollingsworth. A fine, human beginning to what I hope will prove to be a powerful story by its conclusion.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Deadpool #1

Daniel Way & Paco Medina
Another Deadpool series launched this past week from Marvel, spinning out of events from Secret Invasion. In this issue, readers get to see what they probably want from a mercenary such as this: one continuous battle sequence, as Deadpool takes on a skrull battleship all by himself. Deadpool's known for his chattering during killing, and he doesn't disappoint this time around, as he wise-cracks while taking out dozens of skrulls in a mascot outfit. But honestly, it was more weird than funny. The jokes kind of fall flat and the whole mascot thing...I guess we haven't seen that before, but I didn't care to either. The funnest thing about the book for me was Deadpool's hallucinations, which were great on a visual level. They were kind of random, but welcome when they appeared. They went along nicely with his, you know, having a conversation with himself. I don't know all that much about Deadpool, to be honest, so I wasn't sure if he was just plain crazy or what, but there's a nice eight-page recap in the back of this book telling "The Deadpool Saga" to get readers up to speed. Medina's art on this debut issue is pretty average overall, but there are a few bright spots in there that really impressed me. There's definitely promise. And while I liked how the whole first issue was one big action scene (a great way to begin a book such as this), I hope there's more meat to the series as it progresses, because I can certainly see myself losing interest quickly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Stores 9/17

Here are the books with most potential shipping to comic shops on Wednesday!
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Pick of the Week
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Ultra: Seven Days TP (New Printing) - One of the best superhero comics that I've ever read, The Luna Brothers' debut work gets a new printing!! Dig it!
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Other Noteworthy Releases

Afro Samurai (Volume 1) SC
Age of the Sentry #1 (of 6)
All Star Superman #12 - The final
.....Morrison/Quitely issue!
Astro Boy (Volume 1 & 2) TP - Two
.....volumes in one!
Captain America (Volume 2):
.....Death of Captain America TP
Greatest Hits #1 (of 6)
Incredible Hercules: Against the
.....World TP
Janes In Love TP
Justice League of America (Volume 1): Tornado's Path TP
Local HC
Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four (Volume 11) HC
Power Pack: Day One TP
Spider-Man: Brand New Day (Volume 3) HC
Superman: Kryptonite HC

Monday, September 15, 2008

ZZZZZZZ

I'm taking a rest from Manga Monday this week - see you in seven!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prince of Persia GN

Jordan Mechner, A.B. Sina, LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland
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I've never played the video game, but I decided to give the graphic novel, flushing out the video game franchise Prince of Persia, a try. The creator of the Prince of Persia video games himself, Jordan Mechner, is involved in the project, with A.B. Sina (an Iranian poet) writing, and the art team of Pham and Puvilland illustrating. The first print run of the book is 125,000 copies, and it's sure to be a success with the film starring Jake Gyllenhaal coming out in Spring 2009 and foreign licenses already snatched up to publish the book overseas.
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I was pretty underwhelmed by the graphic novel. I did like the art throughout, but the story didn't offer much to engage the reader. Sina attempted to lay out an epic story of a prince rising, with mystical interventions in his behalf, but in the end, the characters were utterly one-dimensional, attempting to invoke archetypes of characters we've seen a million times before (a princess sneaks away from the castle to hang with the rebels and a certain dreamy boy - reminds of a certain Disney character named after a night-blooming flower - I think she's even called a street rat at one point, like other characters in....yeah, in Aladdin.) and offering events, while based in mythology, that were hardly unique (hmmm...all children born during a certain night are killed to prevent him from leading the people, but one is hidden and survives, but returns to fulfill his destiney! Haven't seen that one before...). I will give Prince of Persia that it was paced well, but beyond the artwork, this book is dull and doesn't bring a thing of interest to the table. People die, people fight back, yadda yadda. Skip this uninspired story and play the video game.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In Stores 9/10

Here are the books with most potential, shipping to comic shops this Wednesday...

Pick of the Week

Krazy & Ignatz 1943-1944: He Nods Quiescent Siesta TP - This volume rounds out the last two years of the Sunday pages from George Herriman's milestone comic strip series, Krazy Kat. Fantagraphics is going to go back and publish things from the beginning of Herriman's 29 year run on Krazy Kat soon too, as that material had previously been collected by another publisher and are no longer available.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Angel: After the Fall (Volume 2): First Night HC
Art of Marc Silvestri SC
Bad Boy 10th Anniversary HC
Batman: The Black Glove HC
Big Hero 6 #1 (of 5)
Civil War: House of M #1 (of 5)
Daredevil: Guardian Angel 10th Anniversary Edition Premiere HC
Dark Tower: Treachery #1 (of 6)
Deadpool #1
Dragon Prince #1
Eternals by Jack Kirby (Book 2) TP
Omega the Unknown Premiere HC
Prince of Persia GN
Secret Invasion #6 (of 8)
The Stand: Captain Trips #1 (of 5)
Star Wars: Clone Wars #1 (of 6)
X-Men: Magneto - Testament #1 (of 5)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Manga Monday: Red Colored Elegy

Red Colored Elegy
Seiichi Hayashi
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Red Colored Elegy is a beautiful hardcover book from Drawn & Quarterly, collecting Seiichi Hayashi's work from 1970 - 1971. At 235 pages, it's a pretty brisk read, and I'm not sure about that $25 pricetag, but this book does look gorgeous on the bookshelf. The story follows a young couple who struggle to make ends meet, one of whom (Ichiro) is an artist who wishes to make a living off of his work, but seems to make compromises and do other forms of artwork other than what he's passionate about, for the sake of having art as his occupation. He's also not a very likable character. He can be sweet and loving and playful, but he gets depressed and takes things out on his lover Sachiko, saying things he doesn't mean, and pushing her into the arms of other men. Through all of this, Ichiro's father dies and he has a hard time dealing with his grief. The art in Red Colored Elegy is really simple for the most part, but every once in awhile, Hayashi will have a page with an elaborate illustration. I'm not sure why exactly, to be honest, and it kind of turned me off, but not enough to take away from the rest of the experience. I usually do like a little more structure than what is offered in this book, and if the creator is going to offer something a little more abstract, I want it to be evocative and atmospheric or something. I think Hayashi did just that. His choice of making the story more non-linear actually worked in this book's favor to give it a certain tone overall. Red Colored Elegy was depressing and the characters felt out of control of their lives, and that's kind of how it felt reading this book. Sure, the characters may be a little difficult to make sense of, but they did feel very real. I'm sure this type of book isn't for everyone, but I think that reading should bring you to new places, sometimes uncomfortable, difficult ones. And while Red Colored Elegy isn't a fun read, it is worthwhile.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Education of Hopey Glass

Jaime Hernandez
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I've kind of neglected Jaime Hernandez over the years in favor of his talented brother Gilbert, but after Love & Rockets: New Stories #1 and then reading The Education of Hopey Glass, one has to admit that Jaime is a damn good artist, perhaps the best working in comics presently. Not a page went by in this latest Love & Rockets collection that I didn't stop to admire the artwork and cartooning prowess of the creator. The first half of The Education of Hopey Glass follows Hopey Glass herself as she transitions into a new part of her life, attending her first day of her new career as teacher's assistant. There's plenty of other stuff going on in her life, and she really takes a long hard look at herself and wonders what the hell she's doing, while still having plenty of fun Hopey-style. Then Angel, a friend of Hopey's past lover Maggie, gets a few short scenes centering around her athletic activities, and is later folded into the story that takes up the bulk of the ending of this collection: about Ray, a nice guy who begins a friendship with the strange, but beautiful Vivian, all the while thinking about his ex Maggie. These are some really beautiful stories full of complex, three-dimensional characters. Jaime paces thinks wonderfully, giving the characters those quiet moments to breathe, but also keeping things fast-paced and exciting with nice touches of small details. Relationships are as complicated in Jaime's world as they are in ours, and the people that live in these pages almost breathe their thoughts and hopes and fears for us to feel along with them.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Inside Vineland

Lauren R. Weinstein
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Since I really enjoyed Weinstein's Goddess of War #1 recently, I thought I'd read some older material from her, and we happened to have this one around the house, so this was it. Inside Vineland is a collection of short stories, from one-page gags to stories featuring a robot that take up roughly half of the book. The gags are pretty funny for the most part, sometimes a little weird, but nothing's as weird as the creepy story "Robot Quest For Love." There are some really screwed-up things happening in that story that are funny, disturbing and sometimes oddly familiar. While I did like the Robot stories, my favorite thing in this book was probably the "Self Visualization Activities," where you put yourself into a scene. They were just fun. I don't know what psychedelic muse Weinstein is channeling to come up with this crazy material, but it's original and speaks volumes of her creativity.

Friday, September 05, 2008

25 Best CDs with Female Vocals

(of the past twenty years)

Since I listen to more CDs with female vocalists than anything, I thought it would be appropriate to confine my list of favorite CDs to such. I listen to all kinds of music, so this list has CDs from alternative, country, R&B and pop/rock. The artists are either solo female singers or groups with a female vocalist, and they’re all from the past twenty years, so don’t expect to see Patsy Cline or Nancy Sinatra. I thought it only fair to include the best CD from each artist, so you will only see one Madonna CD, as much as I would have liked to add “Confessions On a Dancefloor” or “Erotica” to the list. Also, some artists may have had a few standout songs on their CDs (and throughout their careers), but this is a list of the best CDs - the whole package, so you won’t see some artists here that you may have expected (and there are, of course, plenty of CDs I would have liked to include that I just couldn’t fit within the number of slots - see the honorable mentions after the three-way tie at #25). Without further adieu…

1. The Cardigans “Gran Turismo”
This album is ten years old, but sounds remarkably modern. Great electronic beats tinge a CD that oozes atmosphere. It was originally criticized for being “too dark,” but it was more ahead of its time than anything. This was The Cardigans’ attempt to shed the pop image that their mega-hit “Lovefool” attached to them, ostracizing them from their fans. They couldn’t have gone in a more different direction, and the end result is a wonderful alternative, experimental record. Since “Gran Turismo,” The Cardigans have softened their sound, but the songs that stand out on their subsequent efforts recall the type of sound offered in this, a perfect album, under appreciated, but more than deserving of the top slot on this list.

Download These: Erase/Rewind, Explode, Hanging Around, Marvel Hill, My Favourite Game.
For Further Listening: Feathers and Down

2. Garbage “Version 2.0”
Garbage first appeared on the scene with a breathy, sexy, bold song called “Queer,” and they just kept getting edgier with their second CD, which was nominated for “Best Album” at the Grammy Awards, and headed up by “Push It,” a song that received much attention. “Version 2.0” is an even darker album than The Cardigans’ “Gran Turismo,” but it worked for their image, especially fronted by the sexy-trashy Shirley Manson. Clever lyrics permeate this CD that varies from harsh grating sounds to soft Gothic piano sounds.

Download These: Special, Hammering In My Head, Push It, The Trick Is To Keep Breathing, You Look So Fine.
For Further Listening: Boys Wanna Fight

3. Madonna “Ray of Light”
Madonna reinvented herself with acclaim when “Ray of Light” was released. She had gone “spiritual,” and many of the songs that appear on this album are soaked with Eastern sounds and boast lyrics that spout wisdom aplenty. And does it well. The best music conveys a certain mood, and this CD has not only an overall cohesive sound, but actually feels like a spiritual experience with slow songs full of strings and fast songs sparse with lyrics.

Download These: Ray of Light, Skin, Sky Fits Heaven, Frozen, The Power of Good-Bye.
For Further Listening: How High

4. Mindy McCready “I’m Not So Tough”
This is the best that country-pop has to offer. Personal issue aside, Mindy fills her CDs with fantastic songs that speak of conflicting conscious and are catchy as all hell. She pours her heart into these songs, which vary from cheeky to sultry, all sung with a strong voice that is rarely heard in music. It’s unfortunate that Mindy’s talent has grown with each album, as they’ve sold less.

Download These: I’m Not So Tough, All I Want Is Everything, I’ve Got a Feeling, Over and Over, Take Me Apart.
For Further Listening: Lovin' Your Man

5. Vanessa Carlton “Harmonium”
This is the perfect Goth album. The lyrics are darkly pretty, accompanied by beautiful moody piano music. Hailed by critics, “Harmonium” conveys Carlton’s varied experiences with catchy melodies and an array of emotions.

Download These: White Houses, Who’s To Say, Afterglow, Papa, She Floats.
For Further Listening: Paint It Black

6. Mandy Moore “Wild Hope”
Starting out as a pop princess, Mandy’s had to fight headlong to become a serious artist. This is it. Marking her debut as a songwriter, Moore’s songs are poignant, insightful and lyrical. For “Wild Hope,” Moore has shed any ties to sugar-pop for a folksy sound that suits her. It’s a unique sound, a perfect summer album, and an absolute delight.

Download These: Most of Me, Few Days Down, Looking Forward To Looking Back, Wild Hope, Nothing That You Are.
For Further Listening: Umbrella

7. Sophie B. Hawkins “Whaler”
From the early 90’s Hawkins came onto the scene with a bang with “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Her second CD, “Whaler,” contained her #1 hit “As I Lay Me Down,” and was full of other quirky, experimental sounds, where Hawkins herself worked on much of the percussion sounds. This album is just a wild ride and a lot of fun.

Download These: Right Beside You, The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, I Need Nothing Else, Sometimes I See, Mr. Tugboat Hello.
For Further Listening: I Want You

8. Shivaree “Who’s Got Trouble?”
Shivaree’s “Who’s Got Trouble” transports you to a smoky blues bar with lead singer Ambrosia Parsley’s breathy vocals and often depressing subject matter.

Download These: New Casablanca, I Close My Eyes, Someday, Mexican Boyfriend, The Fat Lady of Limbourg.
For Further Listening: Goodnight Moon

9. Janet Jackson “janet.”
A classic CD with a lot of soul, Janet moves between sweet love ballads and sexy dance numbers. The beats are varied, and even includes an opera singer on “This Time.”

Download These: That’s the Way Love Goes, If, This Time, Throb, Again.
For Further Listening: Escapade

10. Jewel “0304”
Critically panned, I don’t care what people say, Jewel’s “0304” is amazing. Electronic sounds fill an album that’s a welcome, unique departure from her country sound, where she tackles some darker subject matter and stretched her wings, doing what she will, experimenting with sound to impressive results.

Download These: Intuition, Fragile Heart, 2 Become 1, Haunted, Yes U Can.
For Further Listening: Who Will Save Your Soul?

11. Jessica Andrews “Heart Shaped World”
It was hard for me to narrow down which CD of Jessica Andrews was going to be included in this soundtrack. Her second album “Who I Am” is on equal footing with her debut, “Heart Shaped World,” which I chose, and has a certain overall feel to it that I love, but “Heart Shaped World” perhaps contains the more memorable songs. Some of the greatest country-pop songs out there.

Download These: You Go First, The Riverside, Unbreakable Heart, I Do Now, I Will Be There For You
For Further Listening: Who I Am

12. Dixie Chicks “Taking the Long Way”
Following the then-objectional comment that front singer Natalie Mane made at a concert overseas, the Dixie Chicks, once country darlings, saw their CDs burned by protesters and their songs all but banned from radio. But they get the last laugh as some of the greatest talent to come from country, they get the critical acclaim, album sales, a Grammy for Best Album, and more fans than ever, despite the closedmindedness of the ridiculous entity known as country radio. “Taking the Long Way” is a ballsy response, with some of their best songs yet.

Download These: Easy Silence, Not Ready To Make Nice, Voice Inside My Head, Baby Hold On, So Hard.
For Further Listening: Travelin’ Soldier

13. No Doubt “Rock Steady”
No Doubt has been innovative since they appeared with “Just A Girl,” but their CD “Rock Steady” really illustrated how they could spread their creative juices for some extremely unique, fun songs.

Download These: Hella Good, Making Out, Don’t Let Me Down, In My Head, Platinum Blonde Life.
For Further Listening: Ex-Girlfriend

14. Shania Twain “Come On Over”
Shania Twain became an overnight sensation with “You’re Still the One,” but her entire CD is full of catchy country tunes, selling over ten million units with her bold lyrics and soft ballads.

Download These: Love Gets Me Every Time, From This Moment On, When, You’re Still the One, You’ve Got a Way.
For Further Listening: Nah!

15. Dannii Minogue “Neon Nights”
This fantastic dance CD comes from the sister of superstar Kylie Minogue. A star overseas herself, Dannii has filled her CD with some of the baddest beats to ever grace a dance floor.

Download These: Put the Needle On It, Creep, I Begin To Wonder, Mighty Fine, It Won’t Work Out.
For Further Listening: Everything I Wanted (Xenomania 12” Mix)

16. Lily Allen “Alright, Still…”
Before Amy Winehouse shocked America, Lily Allen was on the scene with her cheeky lyrics and British accent. Boasting a unique sound, this is one of the best, freshest CDs in recent memory.

Download These: Smile, Everything’s Just Wonderful, Friday Night, Friend of Mine, Alfie.
For Further Listening: N/A

17. Sheryl Crow “Tuesday Night Music Club”
All I Wanna Do” propelled Sheryl Crow to the forefront of Adult Contemporary music. The rest of her debut album is also damn good, tinged with country sounds, and Crow’s distinct crooning.

Download These: All I Wanna Do, Strong Enough, I Shall Believe, Leaving Las Vegas, Can’t Cry Anymore
For Further Listening: If It Makes You Happy

18. Sherrie Austin “Love In the Real World”
Australian-born Sherrie Austin constructs a country album with country songs void of a lot of the pop influence heard in her contemporaries. They’re a lot of fun, and sung with a lot of sass and tenderness.

Download These: Never Been Kissed, Good Love Comin’ On, That’s No Way To Break a Heart, All the Love a Heart Can Hold, Heart To Heart
For Further Listening: Back Where I Belong

19. Poe “Hello”
Music doesn’t get much edgier than Poe’s debut album. Rough and raw, “Hello” has dark, angry lyrics and harsh sounds, but also some lovely little simple songs.

Download These: Hello, Trigger Happy Jack (Drive By a Go-Go), Angry Johnny, Fingertips, Fly Away
For Further Listening: Wild

20. Alanis Morissette “Jagged Little Pill”
You Oughta Know” made Alanis Morissette the poster child for angry chick music, but you know what? Totally earned. And other songs from her debut album are just as fun, sung with confidence and some brass balls.

Download These: All I Really Want, You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket, Ironic, Head Over Feet
For Further Listening: Moratorium

21. Patty Loveless “Long Stretch of Lonesome”
Like Sherrie Austin, this CD is good old country, full of songs of love lost and all of that stuff that makes country music the music of pain.

Download These: To Have You Back Again, I Don’t Want To Feel Like That, High On Love, Like Water Into Wine, You Don’t Seem To Miss Me,
For Further Listening: I’m That Kind of Girl

22. TLC “Crazy Sexy Cool”
A Soulful album that puts it right out there in the title what you’re going to find inside.

Download These: Creep, Diggin’ On You, Red Light Special, Waterfalls, Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes
For Further Listening: Baby-Baby-Baby

23. Aimee Mann “Magnolia: Original Soundtrack”
Lovely, simple songs with clever lyrics are par for the course on any Aimee Mann CD you pick up, but when she put together the soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s opus “Magnolia,” she soared to new heights of heartache and vision.

Download These: One, Deathly, You Do, Wise Up, Save Me
For Further Listening: That’s Just What You Are

24. Amy Winehouse “Back To Black”
Amy Winehouse is not a black woman, but she sure as hell sounds like one. And just try to get “Rehab” out of your head after you’ve heard it.

Download These: Rehab, You Know I’m No Good, Back To Black, Me & Mr. Jones, Wake Up Alone
For Further Listening: Stronger Than Me

25. (Tie) Britney Spears “Britney”
The princess of pop earns that title with this CD, where she gets a little racy with her lyrics, and produces some of the best dance-pop tracks available.

Download These: I’m a Slave 4 U, Lonely, Boys, Cinderella, Let Me Be
For Further Listening: Toxic

25. (Tie) Expose “Expose”
This album represents the best of that late-80’s, early 90’s period of music. It has that synthesized sound, some pretty cheesy lyrics, but damn, it’s infectious as all hell.

Download These: You Don’t Know What You Got, I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me), Angel, I Specialize In Love, Give Me All Your Love
For Further Listening: Point of No Return

25. (Tie) Natalie Imbruglia "Left of the Middle"
There are some dark lyrics on this CD if you listen for them, but otherwise, this is a great overall pop CD with some catchy, interesting tunes.

Download these: Torn, Big Mistake, Leave Me Alone, Wishing I Was There, Smoke
For Further Listening: Beauty On the Fire

20 Honorable Mentions (In alphabetical order):
Fiona Apple “Tidal” - Download: “Sleep To Dream
Christina Aguilera “Christina Aguilera” - Download: “Genie In a Bottle
Tracy Bonham “Blink the Brightest” - Download: “I Was Born Without
.....You
Boy Krazy “Boy Krazy” - Download: “Who Could Ask For Anything More
Toni Braxton “Secrets” - Download: “Un-Break My Heart
Mariah Carey “Daydream” - Download: “Looking In
Brandi Carlile “The Story” - Download: “The Story
Linda Davis “I’m Yours” - Download: “I’m Yours
Celine Dion “The Colour of Love” - Download: “Misled
Melissa Etheridge "Yes I Am" - Download: "I'm the Only One"
Lauryn Hill “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” - Download: “Can’t Take
.....My Eyes Off Of You
Whitney Houston “My Love Is Your Love” - Download: “It’s Not Right,
.....But It’s Okay
Jem "Finally Woken" - Download: "24"
Jennifer Lopez "On the 6" - Download: "If You Had My Love"
Kylie Minogue “Fever” - Download: “In Your Eyes”
Monica “The Boy Is Mine” - Download: “Street Symphony”
Lorrie Morgan “Shakin’ Things Up” - Download: “One of Those Night
.....Tonight”
Mindy Smith “Long Island Shores” - Download: “Little Devil”
Chely Wright “Single White Female” - Download: “It Was”
Rachel Yamagata “Happenstance” - Download: “Be Be Your Love"

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ms. Marvel Annual #1

Brian Reed & Mark A. Robinson
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The first Ms. Marvel Annual is written by regular series writer Brian Reed and takes place before the events of Secret Invasion. It pairs up funny-guy Spider-Man with the serious, militant Ms. Marvel, which makes for a great contrast, and in the end, they make for quite a good team despite different fighting styles. Being on opposite sides of the Civil War, there's tension and a constant barrage of threats (and jokes) between them, but they are both superheroes and act as such, putting aside their differences (well, perhaps not vocally) to stop a greater evil than the wedge that has been forced between the two Avengers teams. The story's pretty straight-forward. Basically, two superheroes fight a bunch of robots. But it's really the cool dynamic between the characters that make for such a great issue. It's just too bad Brian Reed couldn't have been paired up with a better artist. Robinson gets the job done, but the action sequences are clear only about half the time, which doesn't sit well in a superhero comic. His cartoony style is well-suited for the type of goofy story told here, but that's about all he has going for him. Anyway, great team-up here - hopefully we'll see more of these kinds of interesting pairings in the future, and perhaps a reunion between Carol and Peter soon, fun as it was to hear them bicker.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In Stores 9/4

Comics are shipping to comic shops on Thursday this week - the following are the highlights...a pretty big week with a hell of a lot of manga...

Pick of the Week
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Love & Rockets: New Stories #1 - The new incarnation of The Hernandez Brothers's Love & Rockets is chalk-full of good stuff. It's fun to get a big chunk of Hernandez material - I just wish it were going to be more than once a year.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Berlin (Book 2): City of Smoke
.....TP
Bleach (Volume 24)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #18
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
.....Omnibus (Volume 5) TP
ClanDestine: Blood Relative Premiere HC
The Comics Journal #292
Counter X (Volume 2) TP - Collecting Warren Ellis's retooling of
.....Generation X
Death of the New Gods HC
Deitch's Pictorama SC
Dororo (Volume 3) - Final volume
El Diablo #1 (of 6)
High School Debut (Volume 5)
Honey & Clover (Volume 3)
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Volume 7)
Marvel Apes #1 (of 4)
Monkey High (Volume 3)
MPD Psycho (Volume 6)
Ms. Marvel Annual #1
Mushishi (Volume 5)
Nana (Volume 12)
Naruto (Volume 31)
Portable Frank SC
Sand Chronicles (Volume 3)
Savage Dragon #137
Secret Six #1
Shooting War TP - Now in paperback
Showcase Presents Superman (Volume 4)
Slam Dunk (Volume 1)
Slow Storm GN
Sub-Mariner: Depths #1 (of 5)
Vampire Knight (Volume 5)
Wanted (manga) GN - This is a shojo manga from the creator of
.....Vampire Knight
X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1 (of 4)
X-Men: Return of Magik

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Previews: November '08 Comics

Here are the highlights from Previews Catalogue for comic books and graphic novels shipping to comics shops in November!
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Avatar Press Inc

Freakangels (Volume 1) TP - A collection of Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield's popular webcomic!

Cartoon Books

RASL (Volume 1): The Drift TP - The first of three graphic novels collecting Jeff Smith's new series about a dimension-hopping art thief!

Checker Book Publishing Group

Ruse Omnibus (Volume 1) TP - I love these formats for Crossgen's high-quality genre works. Ruse was one of their best!

Dark Horse

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1 (of 6) - The follow-up to the hit mini-series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba!

DC Comics

DC Comics Classics Library: Superman - Krypton Nevermore! - I like the idea of a classics line like this. This collection reprints a classic superhero story from 1971, and kicks off the line.

Guardian of Metropolis Special #1 - Not the same Guardian from Morrison's excellent Seven Soldiers, but it's nice to see that uniform again. I guess this spins out of the recent Jimmy Olsen Special.

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1 - This comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's prose story marks the twentieth anniversary of the ground-breaking Sandman series. Adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell.

Terra #1-2 - Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti can be hit or miss for me, but when they're on, they're on. This is a new series with a new Terra.

The X-Files #1 - Probably not the best franchise to have purchased recently, with the movie's flailing, but this could make for a fun, moody comic series.

Drawn & Quarterly

Or Else #5 - The latest issue of Kevin Huizenga's acclaimed comic series!

IDW Publishing

The Dreamer #1 - A new series about a young woman having visions about a man from The Revolutionary War - looks like pirates are involved.

John Byrne's Compleat Next Men (Volume 2) TP - Another volume of John Byrne's classic comic series!!!

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Last Generation #1- The end of Starfleet...well, maybe. I like the cover of this that parodies X-Men: Days of Future Past (Pulaski: slain!)

Image Comics

Bruce: The Little Blue Spruce HC - A new all-ages title from Image's new Shadowline imprint, by Kristen Simon, Jim Valentino and Avery Butterworth.

Liquid City GN - A new anthology featuring the work of creators from Southeast Asia, who offer their visions of city-life for its pages.

Marvel Comics

Astonishing X-Men (Volume 2) HC - A nice hardcover collection finishing off Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's fantastic run on the X-Men title.

Invincible Iron Man (Volume 1): The Five Nightmares Premiere HC - I've been digging some other Matt Fraction-helmed titles, so I'm looking forward to picking up the collection of this book. Art by Salvador Larroca.

Secret Invasion #8 (of 8) - The end of Marvel's big '08 crossover event!

Ultimatum #1 & 2 (of 5) - Big Ultimate Universe crossover event that will "change things" forever.

Top Shelf Productions

American Elf (Volume 3) - Yay! Another collection of James Kochalka's online strips!!

Viz Media

Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 18) - The very last volume of the acclaimed thriller is finally here!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Manga Monday: Sugar Princess

Sugar Princess (Volume 1)
Hisaya Nakajo
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I really liked Hisaya Nakajo's last manga Hana-Kimi, so I thought I'd give her new book a try. Sugar Princess follows Maya Kurinoki, a girl who is scouted while taking her brother to the skating rink. Never having skated before in her life, Maya is able to mimic a double axel from what she saw on TV well enough to capture the interest of an eccentric skating coach. After a series of discouraging incidents, Maya nevertheless decides to give figure skating a try, wanting to be as graceful as Shun Kano, an award-winning skater who isn't all that impressed with Maya upon their first meeting. But Maya tries really hard and improves exponentially in her skating, meeting every new challenge that greets her. It's fun to see Maya grow in her sport and impress those around her - you can't help but root for her when she's trying so hard. The characters involved in this book are certainly ones we've seen before, and we can all see where the dynamic between Maya and Shun is going, but...you have to give Nakajo credit for making the journey to those moments extremely enjoyable. I know what's coming, but the pacing and the way it plays out make for a riveting read nonetheless. I hope there are a few curve balls ahead in the series, but if not, we still get to enjoy Nakajo's fantastic art in a fun new title.