Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Stores 4/1

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops tomorrow!
Pick of the Week
Fantagraphics Golden Age reprint collections - Fantagraphics is releasing two major reprint collections from the Golden Age this week: Supermen: First Wave of Heroes (1936-1941) GN (featuring the works of giants like Jack Kirby, Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, etc) and Boody: Bizare Comics of Boody Rogers GN.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Alan Moore: Comics As
.....Performance, Fiction As Scalpel SC
Astral Project (Volume 3)
Batman - Battle For the Cowl: Man-Bat #1
Batman: The Heart of Hush HC
Bomb Queen (Volume 5): Bombtastic TP
Cars: Rookie #1 (of 4)
Chronicles of Conan (Volume 17): Creation Quest TP
Deadpool Classic (Volume 2) TP
Dungeon Zenith (Volume 3): Back In Style TP
Fallen Angel (Volume 6): Cities of Light and Dark TP
Flash: Rebirth #1 (of 5)
Ho! HC - Ivan Brunetti
Jonah Hex: Bullets Don't Lie TP
JSA (Volume 2): Thy Kingdom Come Part One TP
Mouse Guard (Volume 1) Limited Edition Black & White HC
Pride and Prejudice #1 (of 5)
Samurai 7 (Volume 1)
Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1
Still I Rise GN
Universal War One: Revelations #1 (of 3)
Wolverine First Class: Wolverine By Night TP
Wolverine Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Wolverine: Tales of Weapon X HC

Monday, March 30, 2009

Manga Monday: 20th Century Boys

20th Century Boys (Volume 1)
Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys was released in America pretty much simultaneously with the creator's other big work Pluto. 20th Century Boys has won many awards in Japan, and if Urasawa's work on Monster is any indication, it will attract critical acclaim state-side as well, that is if it isn't overshadowed by Pluto, which many feel is Urasawa's opus. While Pluto and 20th Century Boys are both suspenseful mysteries, the latter probably has more in common with Monster, although it is a much stranger story, jumping through time to slowly unravel what is a more character-driven mystery. And while I am certainly curious as to what's going on behind the scenes of the story's mysterious cult (and the identity of its shadowy leader), I am much more interested in the men this book focuses on. When one of their childhood friends commits suicide, it seems odd, and it causes the characters to reminisce about their childhood: what they were like as kids, the sorts of adventures they had, and their relationships with one another. Of course part of the mystery is hidden in their past as well, that of a curious symbol that shows up around strange deaths and missing persons' residences, a symbol used by them as children in their secret fort. It's interesting to see where these children have ended up as adults and all of the little stories they have as adults and children are completely riveting. It certainly helps that Urasawa is a master cartoonist - particularly in the scenes of the characters' childhood, he paints a full picture of the summer days the kids spend together riding around on their bikes and listening to the radio in their hideout, complete with tall grasses in meadows with telephone poles on the horizon, and roadside fences with weeds growing wild just passed its borders. This book has a way of invading your senses and transporting you to the world of these characters, and I, for one, am really enjoying the ride.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dark Reign: Elektra #1 (of 5)

Zeb Wells & Clay Mann
The latest series surrounding the force of nature Elektra bridges the gap between Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, where she becomes a prisoner of Norman Osborne's H.A.M.M.E.R. as the transition between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new group of villain-tinged employees goes down. Originally following her escape from the skrull's ship at the end of Secret Invasion, the ninja head of HAND is taken down and brought to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility to be cared for, as she's obviously very sick and was examined by the skrulls for some reason (while the other replaced heroes weren't). Osborne sees this as an opportunity to find out why the skrulls were interested in her, and has her kept weak and sedate so they can probe her and interrogate her to no end. Inside the room where she's kept, she'd hooked up to monitors that show what scenarios are running through her mind, and as a result, one of the characters we see this story through, has watched herself be killed over a dozen different ways at the hand of the prisoner, and once Elektra does escape (which is inevitable), it's in a brilliant manner that shows to one and all that Elektra is indeed, back. Wells came up with a good little story here and you can tell he's thought out some of the exact sequences, like of her escape, since they're executed pretty perfectly. Clay Mann's art also lends itself well to this book - very clear and perfect for the action involved. All-in-all, this is a great way to bring Elektra back to the Marvel Universe and I'm genuinely curious to find out what's happened to her.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks

Chris Claremont, Scott Clark & David Beaty
I didn't really know what this was about before I picked it up, but I do like Psylocke and haven't seen her in a comic for awhile, so I thought I'd give this one-shot a shot. I knew Chris Claremont was writing the latest incarnation of the Exiles, and apparently Psylocke has been a part of the book, as this picks up a story thread from that series, where Betsy Braddock battled a version of Slaymaster, the villian who blinded her waaay back when. Now Slaymaster is hopping dimensions killing every Psylocke he encounters, and our dimension's Psylocke decides she must put a stop to this before the vision of Slaymaster blinding her brother Brian in this dimension comes true. In good old Chris Claremont style, this is a really convoluted story. But I actually kind of like it. I don't really get the title, as a sword really doesn't play into the story much, and it's really a Psylocke story (no Jamie Braddock to be seen, and a brief bit of Brian). Beyond that though, the story is a decent one. There's a lot of set-up leading up to a big fight between Betsy and the villain, but I do feel it comes on a bit suddenly, and ends abruptly at that. I also wasn't a big fan of the art. It was too distracting and artificial-looking for my tastes. However, gripes aside, this did serve to sort of rekindle my hope that perhaps there's some good writing buried within Chris Claremont yet, and has me pretty optimistic for the upcoming X-Men: Forever Alpha project. In the meantime, if you want a good Psylocke story, this is one a fan of the character shouldn't be without.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk TP

Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, Gark Frank, Takeshi Miyazawa & Juan Santacruz
This massive 400+ page paperback collects the entire story surrounding Greg Pak's Planet Hulk. That's issues 92-105 of Incredible Hulk, Giant-Size Hulk #1, a story from Amazing Fantasy #15, and a gladiator guide and various extras. I was thoroughly entertained by this comic. It was pretty, well, incredible. The book begins with Banner being sent by the superheroes of Earth to an "uninhabited" planet, where he could be alone and cause minimal damage. But things don't go according to plan as Hulk is dragged through a wormhole to a different planet, one inhabited by various creatures and ruled over by a cruel king who loves nothing more than to see bloodshed in the gladiator arena. While Hulk's strength is initially tapped by his travel through the wormhole, it soon returns to him and he earns his freedom alongside a group of various gladiator-slaves who survive a fight-to-the-death match, including a creature made of rock, a brood, and several natives. As Hulk instills hope in those around him, the Red King gets nervous and sends assassins and bombs alike after the Hulk in underhanded ways to wipe him off the map, at the same time that Hulk begins to fulfill local prophecies about one who will unite the world (and perhaps destroy it). Inevitably, Hulk begins to usher the world into a new era of peace and prosperity alongside his queen Caiera, who was initially his enemy. This story is really neat. Pak builds a complete world with really riveting characters and interesting prejudices between the land's peoples. And it all comes to a satisfying, devastating conclusion that will eventually lead into World War Hulk. But I was completely with this great story the entire way. It plays out like a great, epic fantasy and never really drags. All of the characters involved in the thrust of the story are really wonderful and ultimately made the book for me. Everyone has their own motivations and it's great to see them butt heads and make compromises with one another as the world spins toward its end. A great superhero fantasy. Greg Pak has done some really great work recently and I hope to see more along these lines from him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Stores 3/25

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops this Wednesday!
Pick of the Week
A Drifting Life TP - Visionary creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi (The Push-Man and Other Stories, Good-Bye, etc) made this massive 800+ page autobiography that's being released in one fat volume.
Other Noteworthy Releases
American Jesus (Volume
.....1): Chosen TP
Anna Mercury (Volume 1):
.....The Cutter HC
Avengers: Hawkeye HC
Batman - Battle For the
.....Cowl: Commissioner Gordan #1
Berserk (Volume 28)
Black Jack (Volume 4)
The Brave and the Bold (Volume 3): Demons and Dragons HC
Cecil & Jordan In New York HC
Checkmate: Chimera TP
Daredevil: Lady Bullseye TP
Dark Reign: Elektra #1 (of 5)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 1): Legacy TP
Hikaru No Go (Volume 14)
Immortal Iron Fist (Volume 4): Mortal Iron Fist HC
The Incredibles: Family Matters #1 (of 4)
March On Earth (Volume 1)
Marvel Masterworks: X-Men (Volume 1) TP
Ms. Marvel (Volume 5): Secret Invasion TP
Oracle #1 (of 3)
Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-Man TP
Secret Invasion: Thor TP
Showcase Presents: Ambush Bug (Volume 1) TP
Ted McKeever Library (Volume 3): Metropol HC
Top Ten Special #1
Ultimate Spider-Man: Power & Responsibility HC
X-Men: Sword of Braddocks

Monday, March 23, 2009

Manga Monday...

is taking a rest. It will return next week with a review of 20th Century Boys!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cold Heat #5/6

Ben Jones & Frank Santoro
As of this review, there are still copies of this double issue of Cold Heat available through Picture Box's website. It is expensive for a comic book: $20. But you know what? It's limited to only 100 copies. You know something else? It's pretty much worth it. I'd rather pay $20 for a comic of this quality than $4 for a lousy superhero crossover book anytime. But if it's a good superhero crossover book, I may have to think twice about that. But anyway, I'll tell you right now, this is going to be one of the best books of the year. It's that damn good.
That being said, this book is kind of strange. You have to know that going in based on the cover alone. The entire book is told in blue and pink color of varying degrees of expressive art. Pen, crayon, watercolor - whatever the hell these guys decide to use on this book, it turns out really cool as our protagonist Castle kicks ghost-possessed or alien-possessed (or whatever) butt and ultimately achieves perfect clarity to send her idol back into the past (to most likely meet his death, sadly). But anyways, she confronts a Satanic cult and meets a real alien along the way. You would kind of expect this book to be more nonlinear than it actually is. Storywise, it's pretty straight-forward. The art can kind of throw you off, and some weird stuff goes down, but if you pay attention, it's pretty easy to follow. Though some of the weirdness contained in this issue: the Satanic cult leader literally craps on his captive (and later engages in anal sex), and the opening scene of issue five sees a battle between Castle and a possessed minion, the latter of whom falls onto a communicator rod thing and the device goes right through him where his own...phallic device would be. A little out-there, but it's a lot of fun in a twisted way.
Through all of this action, the art is pretty much spectacular. Santoro is a great cartoonist beneath all of that crazy color, but the color itself is used in brilliant fashion, especially in scenes like the end of issue six, where Castle is confronting the alien and using her new-found mental powers - it's kind of brilliantly displayed through these creative uses of lines and designs. There's a particular page that stands out for me when the alien is shooting some ray out of his hand at Castle and the Satanic cult leader. All but the alien are outside of this crazy diamond design, but an energy ray is going through Castle and the cult leader, the top halves of their bodies blue, the bottoms pink, meanwhile if you look through the entire scene, there's just a beautiful swirly design there - it's just layered and detailed wonderfully. There are a lot of instances like this throughout the book on top of the craziness that is the creators' storytelling. If there's another book out there more bold and creative than this one (that's actually, you know, good), I'd like to see it. But for now, Castle rocks my world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Scott Pilgrim (Volume 5)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
Bryan Lee O'Malley
I can always look forward to a new Scott Pilgrim release. I've liked some volumes a little better than others, but for the most part, it's a really consistent comic. The latest volume, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, has Scott go up against two of Ramona Flowers' evil ex-boyfriends - a pair of twins from Japan who, of course, battle Scott via robots. Meanwhile, we get a little peek into Ramona's past as she finally finds out about Scott's past wrong against Knives. For once, Ramona isn't portrayed as Scott's perfect girlfriend, even though he still sees her that way. She's made mistakes in her life and she may be heading toward another one. I also enjoyed seeing secondary character (and part of Scott's band) Kim Pine shine this time around. We haven't seen enough of the love between Scott and his ex, and O'Malley really brings that front-and-center just as Ramona begins to question her relationship with Scott. Kim's a great character and I love the dynamic between her and Pilgrim. I wish we would have gotten to see more of Wallace in this volume. I feel like he's been in the background for too long, but we get a little Wallace love, and some characters have got to take the backseat if they're not pertinent to the story at hand, I suppose. I really like how this volume ends, leading up to the big confrontation with Ramona's final ex, Gideon, in the sixth and final book in the Scott Pilgrim saga.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In stores 3/18

Here are the highlights of books coming to comic shops tomorrow!
Pick of the Week
Courtney Crumrin (Volume 4): Monstrous Holiday TP - The fourth collection in Ted Naifeh's excellent Courtney Crumrin series following his wonderful, sarcastic character collects previously published one-shots like Courtney Crumrin and the Fire Thief's Tale and Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere.
Other Noteworthy Releases
1001 Arabian Nights: Adventures
.....of Sinbad (Volume 1) TP
Air (Volume 1): Letters From
.....Lost Countries TP
Alan Moore's Light of Thy Countenance GN
American Flagg Definitive Collection (Volume 2) TP
Avengers Disassembled: Iron Man, Thor & Captain America HC
Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1 (of 3)
Batman: Haunted Gotham TP
Batman Chronicles (Volume 7) TP
Black Coat & Athena Voltaire One-Shot
Case Closed (Volume 28)
The Complete Just a Pilgrim HC
Deadpool: Games of Death One-Shot
Fallen Angel Omnibus (Volume 1) TP
Fruits Basket (Volume 22)
Golden Age Sheena Queen of the Jungle (Volume 2) TP
Hot Gimmick VizBig Edition (Volume 1)
Lillium #1 (of 5)
Lost Constellations: The Art of Tara McPherson
Might Avengers (Volume 3): Secret Invasion Book 1 TP
Ms. Marvel (Volume 6): Ascension HC
My Mommy Is In America & She Met Buffalo Bill HC
New Mutants Classic (Volume 4) TP
Night of the Living Dead: New York
Pluto (Volume 2)
Powers (Volume 12): Coolest Dead Superheroes TP
Punisher War Journnal (Volume 4): Jigsaw TP
Samurai (Volume 1): Legend HC
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Sophomore Jinx HC
Star Trek Crew #1 - John Byrne!
Star Trek Ultimate Edition HC
Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey HC
Tsubasa (Volume 1): Those With Wings
Turok: Son of Stone Archives (Volume 1) HC
Ultimate X-Men #100
Ultimatum #3 (of 5)
We Were There (Volume 3)
X-Men First Class: Wonder Years TP

Monday, March 16, 2009

Manga Monday: Pluto

Pluto (Volume 1)
Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka
This was one of my most anticipated comics of the year. I really enjoyed Naoki Urasawa's Monster, and having heard that Pluto was even better, I couldn't wait for this to come out. I was kind of impatient for Monster to end, to be honest, and I'm glad that Viz was so prompt in releasing Urasawa's highly-regarded work. And it was absolutely worth the wait.
Pluto is based on the Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot On Earth," by legendary manga creator Osamu Tezuka. Astro Boy is arguably Tezuka's most beloved creation and I rather liked what I read of the series, which wasn't too much to be honest, and I never did read this particular story. I don't think that that hindered my enjoyment of the story at all however. I get Astro Boy and what makes Urasawa's reimagining of the character and his universe so cool. Urasawa's interpretation of Tezuka's world is much more realistically told, drawn out to let the characters breathe and develop, and is drawn beautifully. Astro Boy himself, who is portrayed by Tezuka as cylindrical with a shiny, recognizable head of hair, has Astro Boy or "Atom" look like an ordinary boy, true to the rest of the story (and just as the robot police detective most of the story is told through is portrayed). And Naoki really gets what makes this story in particular so cool, drawing out the suspense of the tale in true Urasawa style to highlight little items that are just a small piece of the larger mystery, that of who is destroying the seven great robots of the world (of which Atom and the police detective Gesicht are included). A blurred figure can be seen on surveillance footage leaping between two buildings. The heads of the destroyed robots are found with antlers or horns ceremoniously placed with them. It's all very eerie, especially told through Urasawa's realistic style.
Also wonderful is how Urasawa plays with the readers of Pluto, particularly fans of the original Astro Boy story. He plays with our expectations of what the robots in the story will look like, like with Gesicht, and really holds out on the audience with the first appearance of Astro Boy himself in the book (who finally shows up in the perfect final scene). You can really tell that Urasawa enjoyed the hell out of writing this comic and I enjoyed it right along with him, from his attention of details to his characters and the themes in his engaging, fully-realized world. Take note, because this is one of the greats.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Angel: Blood & Trenches #1

John Byrne
John Byrne tackles Joss Whedon's creation Angel in the new series from IDW Publishing, Angel: Blood & Trenches, in which we get a glimpse into the vampire-with-a-soul's past. I hadn't really heard too much about this book before its release, but it was a really well-done issue. A great, solid story depicts Angel during World War II, where vampires are secretly used by Germany, and Angel is suspected of infiltrating a French camp by none other than a descendant of Wesley's, Colonel Geoffrey Wyndam-Price (a really neat idea). I was a little surprised upon opening the comic that it was an uninked, uncolored book (for the most part, although there are splashes of color here and there - usually blood), but I didn't really mind it once I started reading the story. John Byrne's art is really quite beautiful here and he makes smart choices in terms of telling this story. I would say that the story is a little more immediately appealing than the recent Angel: After the Fall (although I feel that that mini-series sort of redeemed itself later on), and the art is certainly leaps and bounds better. This is turning out to be a striking story in the history of Angel from a legendary artist who has proved time and time again through consistenly compelling stories (and well into his career) that he's still got it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Amber Atoms #1

Kelly Yates
Amber Atoms is a new Image comic that debuted a few weeks ago, but proved a little hard to track down. It looks like my local comic shop ordered a few more issues in though, so I got my hands on a copy after all. The book follows a bright young girl from a hard-working family that owns a junkyard. Amber herself loves to tinker in the workshop and we get to see her fight off an assassin droid before her father scolds her for it. When she's sent to shut down the workshop for the day, she returns to find three mysterious armed men in her house, one that gives chase to Amber as she flees, knocking her out just before she reaches the safety of the workshop again. Meanwhile, King Yamoon of the Dan-Tongo race is attempting to establish himself as a good, honest ruler to the other planets in the universe, since in the past, his world chose to enslave the other "young" worlds of the galaxy. His approval ratings are up, but it seems he's not as genuine as he comes across.
I did enjoy this debut issue of Amber Atoms. I like the protagonist. She's feisty and instantly likable, with a great simple design. Her father's a little over-the-top and two-dimensional, but serves to make readers more sympathetic to Amber's situation, so I can overlook his spontaneous attacks on Amber and crushing comments. The political situation is interesting, though pretty simple at this point, but I'm looking forward to see how it all plays out, especially after the heated interview King Yamoon just underwent and his mysterious comments. This was a rather brisk read, but it established the title well enough with some really nice art and enough intrigue and action to make me want to come back for more.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Stores 3/11

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops tomorrow!
Pick of the Week
The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack HC - I loved the first hardcover collection of Nicholas Gurewitch's online strip, The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, so I'm looking forward to reading more humor strips in this collection of all of Gurewitch's strips up till now, even though that means there will be reprints from the last collection. Great cover.
Other Noteworthy Releases
The Amazon #1 (of 3)
Angel: After the Fall (Volume 3) HC
Angel: Blood and Trenches #1 - John Byrne does Angel!
Anna Mercury (Volume 1): The Cutter TP
Batman: Battle For the Cowl #1 (of 3)
Be a Nose: Art Spiegelman Sketchbook Set
Blueberry Girl - Neil Gaiman's new picturebook!
Catwoman: The Long Road Home TP
Deadpool (Volume 1): Secret Invasion Premiere HC
Emma (Volume 8)
Essential Power Man and Iron Fist (Volume 2) TP
Franklin Richards: Not So Secret Invasion TP
Justice League International (Volume 4) HC
Losers by Jack Kirby HC
Madman Atomic Comics (Volume 2) TP
The Mask Omnibus (Volume 2) TP
Red Star: Sword of Lies (Volume 1) TP
Runaways: Dead Wrong Premiere HC
Sandman Mystery Theater (Volume 7): Mist & Phantom TP
Secret Invasion: Inhumans TP
Secret Invasion: X-Men TP
Showcase Presents: Justice League of America (Volume 4) TP
The Stand: American Nightmare #1 (of 5)
The Stand: Captain Trips Premiere HC
Super Friends For Justice TP
Wonder Woman: The Ends of the Earth HC

Monday, March 09, 2009

Manga Monday: Captive Hearts

Captive Hearts (Volume 1)
Matsuri Hino
Captive Hearts is a shojo manga title from the creator of Vampire Knight. The story follows Megumi Kuroishi, the son of a man who has faithfully served the Kogami family for years. When the family disappeared during a trip fifteen years ago, they were left the legacy according to a will. Since then, Megumi has been spoiled, living a life of luxury in the Kogami mansion, lounging about all day. But suddenly there comes news of Suzuka Kogami, the daughter taken on the Kogami vacation who has turned up alive. Megumi's father is overjoyed at the news, having truly loved the Kogami family, but Megumi himself has reservations, hardly wanting to part with his easy lifestyle. On top of all of this, Megumi is informed by his father that there is a curse on the Kuroishi family to serve the Kogamis for one hundred generations. Whatever the Kogamis ask for, the Kuroishis will indulge. When Suzuka comes home to Kogami mansion, Megumi falls madly in love with her of course, but he also feels the pull of the curse when he looks at her directly.
There was some very nice art in this book, and I liked some of the cool things that Hino did with the premise. For one thing, Suzuka loves to clean and do chores herself, so she essentially does the Kuroishi's job for them, despite many protests. But the big thing that I thought was really neat was when Megumi confesses his feelings for Suzuka, she isn't sure if it's him talking or his curse's need to please her. She battles with the line between friend and servant, and recalls a time when her father told her never to ask a member of the Kuroishi family to do anything for her, a chilling moment that makes one wonder how far they would go to serve the curse. So Suzuka vows to find a cure for the curse while Megumi tries to show her that his love for her is genuine. Despite these few great ideas, this is a pretty typical shojo manga. Hino really plays up the comedy in this title and characters are constantly dancing around and embarrassing themselves over one thing or another. It's a little silly, but it's nice to see things not taken so seriously all the time. I prefer more dramatic storytelling, which may be why I didn't connect with this book overall, but I certainly wouldn't steer anyone away from it. In the end however, there are better shojo manga out there, there are better comedy manga out there. This falls along the lines of "not bad" or "good enough."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

War of Kings #1 (of 6)

Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier

The new galactic crossover event War of Kings has been stewing for awhile now. With Secret Invasion, the Inhumans have been forced to take a more proactive role in protecting their people and have thus allied themselves with their creators the Kree, and the royal family now rules over that race. Inhuman Crystal's marriage to Kree leader Ronan the Accuser is what will firm the union up, and is the event that this first book centers around. Meanwhile in Uncanny X-Men, Vulcan has taken over the throne of the Shi'ar, forcing former Empress Lilandra to ally herself with the Starjammers who, together with a few of the X-Men, are trying to dethrone the unstable Vulcan. With Deathbird and the Imperial Guard at his side, Vulcan has been able to conquer many races in his quest for universal rule, and has his eyes on the Kree next, especially as the opening scene of this first book shows the Kree allowing the Starjammers and Lilandra into their domain, while denying (and destroying) a pursuing Shi'ar vessel. Using this as his excuse for retaliation and conquest, Vulcan sends his Imperial Guard in to the Kree homeworld during the royal wedding of Crystal and Ronan, an act of war that begs for Medusa's vow of blood by the issue's end. This issue is basically the opening shot that thrusts these two people headfirst against one another in all-out war, with the best king, either Blackbolt or Vulcan, to come out victorious to lead the people of the universe. Already in this first issue, there have been casualties on both sides, and there's sure to be more to come, especially as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Darkhawk and Nova are going to be getting involved in the battle to come. I'm glad to see the very capable Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writing this series, as they did a phenomenal job on Annihilation: Conquest, and Paul Pelletier does a competent job illustrating the issue in a style that reminds me quite a bit of Alan Davis, one that suits the action and scope of this title very nicely. I'm still not sure if this is going to be as good as the Annihilation crossover series, but so far it's off to quite the breath-taking, action-packed start.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Angel #18

Kelley Armstrong & Dave Ross
With Joss Whedon's "After the Fall" run on Angel over, a new creative team takes over the book in the form of illustrator Dave Ross and supernatural novelist Kelley Armstrong. While it does have the feel of just another media tie-in book from IDW, I do think that Armstrong takes what was left for her at the end of Whedon's arc and kind of runs with it. Angel is a celebrity now, and has to live in an LA that remembers going to Hell and back, and him being their savior. With this fallout, there are new mysterious magical beings showing up, assassins sent after the hero, and bystanders feigning danger to attract his attention. Also, the lineup has changed. Shrunk, really. Instead of involving everyone who has every been in the TV show, Armstrong focuses on a small group consisting of Angel, his son Connor and Kate, the ex-policewoman who was a part of early episodes of the show, but was all but forgotten shortly after. And while it's nice to see Kate on the team, she doesn't seem like...Kate. She seems more like a character from one of Armstrong's books: a tough, quipping demon hunter, sexy and strong. The Kate I knew was a troubled, haunted woman with a real sad darkness about her, far from the happy-go-lucky character who wants to be buddy-buddy with Angel here. I wasn't the biggest fan of Angel: After the Fall, but at least it had a good story through all of that bad art, and the characters felt like them. I'm still not sure whether I'm going to continue with this book or not, because the events that take place are kind of neat in this issue, despite my reservations, and the action and art are clearer than they were during Whedon's run, though still far from anything to brag about. But...I can say that I definitely like the cat-girl.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Previews: May 2009

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic stores this May!
Adhouse Books
Remake (Volume 1) TP - Lamar Abrams book follows a "robot-boy" in a book that's described as Astro Boy meets Scott Pilgrim. Hmm.
Archie Comic Publications
Sonic the Hedgehog #200 - The furry little speedster hits quite the milestone in the ever-popular comic.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (Volume 1): Heroes In a Half Shell TP - I know people have been waiting for this for a looong while now. The Archie Ninja Turtles comic is supposed to be awesome. It begins with an adaptation of the television series, which is collected in this first volume, before moving on to its own crazy universe.
***Pick of the Month***
Boom! Studios
The Unknown #1 (of 4) - This is a new mini-series from Mark Waid about a famous police investigator. What's kind of funny about the description is that they compare it to former Crossgen title Ruse. Which was an awesome book, but it seems odd to compare it to a title from an unsuccessful company.
Dark Horse
Aliens #1 (of 4) - Aliens are kind of a staple for Dark Horse, so it's about time they bring back their hit series.
Cages - Regarded by many as one of the greatest graphic novels out there, Dave McKean's Cages is finally back in print.
Pixu: The Mark of Evil - The acclaimed work of horror is being collected in a hardcover, featuring the work of Becky Cloonan, Gabriel Ba, Vasilis Lolos and Fabio Moon.
Rapture #1 (of 6) - A new mini by Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma, this is the rapture of superheroes, leaving humanity behind to forge a new world.
DC Comics
The Absolute Death HC - The latest title to receive the "Absolute" treatment is Neil Gaiman's spin-off of Sandman featuring his sister Death. This collects both of the Death mini-series with plenty of extras.
The Nobody HC - An original graphic novel by Jeff Lemire (Essex County) featuring a mysterious stranger who may or may not be The Invisible Man.
Power Girl #1 - A new ongoing series featuring the fan-favorite character, fresh off the latest Justice Society of America incarnation.
Superman: Tales From the Phantom Zone TP - DC has been releasing quite a few of these classic "themed" collections, and this one is a great choice.
Trinity (Volume 1) TP - This is the first collection of DC's latest weekly series, collecting a whopping seventeen issues for $29.99, and featuring the big three DC characters.
The Unwritten #1 - A new Vertigo series from Mike Carey (Lucifer) and Peter Gross, this debut issue will be only $1 for people to give it a go.
Drawn & Quarterly
The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist (Volume 1) HC - The first of a two-volume work looking back at the career and work of the influential cartoonist, featuring his classic comic strip.
George Sprott HC - Seth's new book, featuring the title originally featured in New York Times Magazine.
Fanfare/Ponent Mon
A Distant Neighborhood (Volume 1) GN - A manga by Jiro Taniguchi that follows a forty-year-old businessman who returns to his home town to find that he's reverted back to his 14-year-old self, reliving painful childhood moments and coming to new realizations.
Fantagraphics Books
The Great Anti-War Cartoons - Craig Yoe edits this anthology that aspires to be the greatest collection of anti-war cartoons, featuring the works of greats like R. Crumb and Fancisco Goya.
Low Moon - Jason's latest graphic novel collects his work featured in New York Times Magazine, as well as some new stories.
:01 First Second Books
The Eternal Smile - A new book written by Gene Luen Yang, award-winning author of American Born Chinese, and drawn by Derek Kirk Kim, exploring the boundaries between reality and fantasy through three stories.
Griffin Books
The Dark-Hunters (Volume 1) GN - Working in a bookstore, I find this kind of funny. This is the graphic novel adaptation of books by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the romance novelist! Either the focus has shifted away from the romantic elements in the adaptation, or they're really downplaying that aspect.
Image Comics
Evil & Malice Save the World TP - This sounds cute. Jimmie Robinson's story of twin teenage girls who become superheroes in face of their supervillian father. Very Runaways-ish, but fun.
Special Forces (Volume 1) TP - Kyle Baker's story of a couple of American teenagers facing down a villain in Baghdad gets collected.
The Walking Dead Compendium (Volume 1) TP - Still aren't on board with Robert Kirkman's zombie epic? Well, you can get caught up easily enough with this mammoth collection that includes the first forty-eight issues of the series under one cover (that's over a thousand pages!) for just under $60.
IDW Publishing
Astro Boy Movie Prequel: Underground #1 - A prequel to the animated film coming out later this year featuring Osamu Tezuka's beloved creation.
Marvel Comics
Alias Ultimate Collection (Book 1) TP - I'm glad to see this get new printings. This first "ultimate" collection includes the first fifteen pages of the MAX series.
Black Widow: The Sting of the Widow Premiere HC - Featuring many of the Widow's earliest adventures in a nice hardcover collection!
Dark Reign: The Hood #1 (of 5) - I really enjoy The Hood's appearances in the Avengers titles, so I'm glad to see him get a new mini-series as part of the big Marvel crossover, and written by Jeff Parker (of the excellent Agents of Atlas) no less.
Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1 (of 5) - I've absolutely hated every Marvel crossover involving The Young Avengers and the Runaways, but this one actually sounds decent. Kind of like how Norman Osborn has his bad guy Illuminati counterpart to the original Marvel Illuminati, these are the young villains of the Marvel U banding together as a dark mirror to the Young Avengers.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1 (of 4) - It's like a Superpets team-up! Featuring Lockjaw, Lockheed, Redwing, Hairball and Frog Thor, these animals are sure to get into plenty of mischief while saving the world in their first mini-series. I love the variant cover of Lockheed with Kitty Pryde by Niko Henrichon.
Ms. Marvel #39 - I love Ms. Marvel. The book and the character of Carol Danvers. I would be a tad bit upset if Carol dies like the solicitations for this book indicate, but it's pretty cool that the new "bad" Ms. Marvel (Moonstone of the Thunderbolts) is taking over this title.
New Mutants #1 - Zeb Wells and Diogenes Neves take on the task of reviving the classic team of New Mutants to fill in the void left by the Young X-Men or New X-Men or whatever they were called before their cancellation. Cannonball, Magma, Magik, Sunspot, Dani Moonstar and Karma gather together once more, with the obvious omission of Wolfsbane, as she's on the horrible X-Force team roster. Love that classic team cover by Alex Ross, even if some of those characters won't have permanent spots on the team.
Thor: Tales of Asgard by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby #1 (of 5) - They've reprinted these Thor back-up stories a few times in various incarnations (including floppies), so here we go again...
Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem Book #1 (of 2) - This is the bridge between Ultimate Spider-Man and the launch of its new incarnation, the cumbersomely-titled Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (gugh). Pencils by both artists who've worked on the book - Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen.
X-Men: Forever Alpha - This is kind of neat. Chris Claremont tells the story of what he would have done with the X-Men had he not left fifteen years ago, and it's all pencilled by the artist of that time period, fan-favorite Jim Lee.
X-Men: Magneto Testament Premiere HC - I rather liked this WWII tale featuring a young Magneto, helpless and powerless as the people around him are executed. Historically acurate and pretty riveting, if not utterly depressing.
George McManus' Bringing Up Father HC - This collects the first two years worth of dailies from the classic comic strip by McManus, many which haven't been reprinted in 90+ years.
Pantheon Books
Asterios Polyp GN - A new graphic novel by David Mazzucchelli that sounds like it's gunning to be one of the best books of the year.
Top Shelf Productions
Second Thoughts GN - New Swedish cartoonist Niklas Asker brings us a story of chance encounters and its impact on two lives.
Viz Media
Children of the Sea (Volume 1) - This new Viz Signature line title follows a young boy drawn to the local aquarium and two mysterious boys he meets there at the same time as fish begin disappearing from the world's oceans.
Yen Press
The History of the West Wing - A historical romance illustrated in full color, this is based on a classic Chinese saga.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In Stores 3/4

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shop shelves tomorrow!
Pick of the Week
War of Kings #1 (of 6) - The latest cosmic crossover for Marvel probably won't be as good as the recent Annihilation books, but it should be fun to see some big battles across the Shi'ar galaxy as Blackbolt, Vulcan and others duke it out for control, spinning out of Uncanny X-Men and Secret Invasion: Inhumans.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Barefoot Gen (Volume 7): Bones
.....Into Dust
Barefoot Gen (Volume 8):
.....Merchants of Death
Ben Ten Alien Force (Volume 1):
.....Ben 10 Returns GN
Bleach (Volume 26)
Classic G.I. Joe (Volume 2) TP
Claymore (Volume 14)
Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1 (of 5)
DC Library: Life and Death of Ferro Lad HC
Dragonball VizBig Edition (Volume 3)
Galaxy Quest: Global Warning TP
Gentlemen's Alliance (Volume 9)
Goon #32 (10th Anniversary Issue)
High School Debut (Volume 8)
Honey & Clover (Volume 5)
Hulk: Broken Worlds #1 (of 2)
Invincible Iron Man (Volume 1): The Five Nightmares TP
Jack of Fables (Volume 5): Turning Pages TP
Justice League International (Volume 1) TP
Kabuki: Alchemy HC
Killer of Demons #1 (of 3)
Little Nothings (Volume 2): Prisoner Syndrome GN
Mixed Vegetables (Volume 3)
Monkey High (Volume 5)
Nana (Volume 15)
Naruto (Volume 38)
Naruto (Volume 39)
Naruto (Volume 40)
Naruto (Volume 41)
New Avengers (Volume 8): Secret Invasion Book One TP
New Avengers: Reunion #1 (of 4)
Nexus Archives (Volume 8) HC
Sam's Strip: Comic About Comics GN
Savage Sword of Conan (Volume 5) TP
Secret Invasion: New Warriors TP
Shazam!: Monster Society of Evil TP
She-Hulk (Volume 7): Here Today TP
Solomon Grundy #1 (of 7)
Spider-Man: Crime and Punisher Premiere HC
Strange Adventures #1 (of 8)
Superman: Brainiac HC
Superman: World of New Krypton #1 (of 12)
The War That Time Forgot (Volume 1) TP
Wolverine by Claremont and Miller TP

Monday, March 02, 2009

Manga Monday: Magic Touch

Magic Touch (Volume 1)
Izumi Tsubaki
Magic Touch is a new manga that follows Chiaki Togu, a shy girl who lets people around her bully her, especially her twin sister Sayaka, but is enthusiastic when it comes to massage. When she notices a male student with an extremely tense back on the bus during her morning commutes, she aches to knead those muscles, to the point of coming out of her shell to ask the boy, who turns out to be ladies' man Yosuke Moriizumi, if he will allow her the privilege of a massage. From there, it's your typical shojo manga, with betrayals, misunderstandings, a realization of feelings for one another, etc. Despite falling headlong into the tropes of the genre, I was really with this book for most of the duration. The premise is different enough that it works for me and I enjoyed spending time with these characters and the rest of the goofy troop of massage students. I will say that Tsubaki's strength lies in her telling a story in the moment though, because she seems utterly incapable of building much tension or suspense throughout this book. Any rivalry or confusion that is set up is pretty much resolved within a dozen pages, which just baffles me. In some cases, it's even a little anticlimactic, like when Sayaka poses as Chiaki to win Yosuke's affections. Sayaka adopts her sister's name when dating so any repercussions fall on Chiaki. In the case of Yosuke, someone close to him was dumped horribly by Sayaka, so his interest in Chiaki lies in revenge. As soon as we realize his intentions, Sayaka does her thing to try to trick Yosuke into dating her and he sees right through her immediately and the misunderstanding is immediately put to rest. But...that was a really cool idea and it didn't play out or really pay off! It's sort of frustrating. But I still did like the story in the moment. It's more when I reflect on a certain chapter that I feel really cheated. The one part of this book that I really did not like however, was the chapter dedicated to a completely different character in the massage club that randomly shows up in the middle of this volume. I was wondering if the focus was going to permanently shift this way, bouncing between different members of the massage club or what, and was just distracted throughout this story, impatient to see if the story would return to Chiaki and Yosuke (which it did). I don't really understand Izumi Tsubaki's writing, but her art is very pleasant from the first page to the last, and when I'm in the moment, I am engaged. I hope to see her try to prolong what she's trying to make her readers feel in future works, but for now, Magic Touch is a fun place to lose yourself.