Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spider-Woman #1

Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
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This is one of the better superhero comic debuts of the year. Spider-Woman is very dark, featuring a troubled protagonist following events of Secret Invasion in a world she has a hard time adjusting to since her abduction. I love Maleev's art. It's very gritty, but beautiful, rendering Jessica Drew and her various locales with plenty of detail and thoughtfulness. There's one really pretty scene of Jessica taking a boat to Madripoor, and the water is bathed in red from the sunset in a breathtaking way. Color is really central to many similar scenes, in mostly urban settings, that make the art on this title stand out. I think Maleev's gritty style in the overall comic is one of the reasons I felt a strong sense of deja vu with Bendis' Alias, which was drawn by Michael Gaydos. That MAX series was also dark, with a similar pacing to the panels. I don't think it's a coincidence that Bendis originally wanted to use Jessica Drew in Alias before folding Jessica Jones into the title. I think this is using a character he loves in the way he originally intended, and doing it to quite magnificent results. I love the idea of Jessica Drew using her detective skills and superhero background to work for S.W.O.R.D. to hunt down various alien threats to Earth. It makes sense with her recent history and her various affiliations with organized agencies like Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. Plus Spider-Woman hunting down alien scum just sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. My only problem with an otherwise fantastic comic was the use of past Spider-Woman art in flashback sequences. The Luna Brothers' art from Spider-Woman: Origin, in particular (even though I am a fan) was jarring in contrast with Maleev's look. Hopefully that nonsense won't continue in further issues, because so far, this has the marks of a superhero staple.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Stores 9/30

There are a lot of big releases in graphic novels this week! Here are the highlights shipping to comic shops on Wednesday...
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Pick of the Week
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The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb HC - One of the mega-releases of the year, R. Crumb's years-in-the-making illustrated interpretation of the entire book of Genesis from The Old Testament.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Absolute Promethea (Volume 1) HC
Art of Top Cow SC
Avengers/Invaders HC
Aya: The Secrets Come Out HC
Ball Peen Hammer GN
Berserk (Volume 31)
Best American Comics 2009 HC
Black Jack (Volume 7)
Bomb Queen VI #1 (of 4)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (Volume 5): Predator & Prey TP
Fables: Deluxe Edition (Volume 1) HC
Garth Ennis' Battlefields (Volume 3): Tankies TP
Hellboy Library Edition (Volume 3): Conqueror Worm & Strange Places HC
High Moon (Volume 1) TP
Logicomix GN
Prison Pit (Book 1) SC
Refresh Refresh GN
Sky Pirates of Neo Terra #1
Strangers In Paradise Limited Edition Omnibus
Spider-Man: Clone Saga #1 (of 6)
Superman: Kryptonite TP
Tiny Tyrant: Lucky Winner GN
Ultimatum HC
Umbrella Academy (Volume 2): Dallas TP
The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek HC

Manga Monday: Sad Panda

I was really looking forward to reading and reviewing the first volume of Masayuki Ishikawa's Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture for Manga Monday today, but unfortunately, it has been recalled for "legal reasons" from Barnes & Noble stores. Not sure what happened exactly, but I had the manga in my hands and got to flip through it...before our receiving manager had to comply with the communication directive we received to return all of our copies. Very sad. Hopefully whatever caused this delay will be rectified in the near future. Because who doesn't want to read a book featuring someone who can communicate with bacteria and germs that look like cute little creatures?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Asterios Polyp

David Mazzucchelli
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I have a hipster friend who recently began to get into graphic novels, and began soliciting advice as to what books she should read. I got her to read some Love & Rockets collections, Fun Home, Scott Pilgrim, Chris Ware...and eventually she went off on her own to find what interested her in the field. When I mentioned that this book would be one of the big books she should read this year, she immediately read it, and came back with an "eh, it was okay." Having read this book, I'm completely baffled by this reaction, given her enthusiasm for comics, but I think what she looks for in comics isn't necessarily good comics, but rather things she's used to seeing other mediums do, done in comic form. What I mean is, I believe she likes a good story and interesting characters, something that film and novels can supply just as well (and in forms she's used to) and she may appreciate formal art...but when it comes to comics, she isn't seeing the form for what it is necessarily. Asterios Polyp is a perfect example of a creator really taking the reigns of the medium of comics, using it to do things that can not be done in any other medium, and executing his vision to superb effect. Mazzucchelli really proved his mastery over cartooning, using panels to create suspense and mood, and conveying a story through his art that conveys original ideas, betraying a real sense of the people that are a part of that idea in motion, and in a way unique to comics. If I simply tell what the story is about, it doesn't have a hook that would immediately grab many people. Like my friend. The characters, I would say, are all flawed and brilliantly handled as the narrative meanders through time, but again, this alone may not be enough to entice some readers into loving it. But when his ideas are conveyed through the lines and squiggles and colors to get across a philosophy he has, and seeing that play out with his characters through the book, it really becomes something special. There's plenty to talk about in this book, but my favorite thing that Mazzucchelli played with was how different people are from one another. Different how they learn, how they speak, how they act in public, how creative they are, etc. Some people are on similar wave lengths, but there are all kinds of different types out there, and they are portrayed here with different shades, colors, lines, or whatever, and sometimes two different types can click, blurring shades and colors into each other, making something new. It sounds simple perhaps, but watching it unfold throughout this book, seeing where he uses it and when, makes all the difference, and it really adds impact to scenes. It can make a seemingly ordinary circumstance extraordinary, and intensify the emotions surrounding it. But anyway, that's just one thing out of many to admire here. The overall book is fantastic. If I have any criticism for it, it's a small gripe, and that's the ending. I'm not one to have something "ruined" by the ending, but the final few panels were random, strange and unnecessary. A little blemish that the book really didn't have to end on. But maybe others feel differently. All I know is, I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book and devouring a work lovingly created by such a master of the comics medium.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stuffed!

Glenn Eichler & Nick Bertozzi
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Stuffed! is a new graphic novel from First Second Books, written by Glenn Eichler (who writes for The Colbert Report and created the character of Daria on Beavis & Butt-Head) and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi (Rubber Necker). The book is about a nice white Suburban family with some underlying issues. Tim Johnston's father passes away, leaving him a curiosity museum, which contains an object of fear from his childhood - The Savage, which is an African warrior who happens to be a real stuffed man dressed in a loincloth. Tim becomes fascinated with this object his father used to terrorize him with in his youth, and as it has the same effect on his family now, he sees a museum about taking it off of his hands. A few problems occur here: 1) Tim's semi-homeless hippie drilled-a-hole-in-his-own-head brother, self-named "Free," who owns half of everything their father left them, doesn't want to give it up to the museum. 2) Museum politics are very complicated, making the simple task of handing The Savage over quite an endeavor, as they no longer showcase living human beings in their exhibits, and while they would aide Tim and Free in sending the man to his home country, there are certain rules they must abide by.
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Eichler paints an over-the-top world here, which works to a sometimes humorous, sometimes odd effect. The strained relationship between the very different brothers is actually sort of touching at times, but ultimately, I found it hard to get too drawn in with someone as ridiculous as Free, despite those tender moments. There was a certain amount of truth in the relationship however, even if it was exaggerated, and Eichler found a spark of emotion in there that rings true, which I can appreciate even if I was a little put off by one of the characters involved. Eichler certainly has a lot of social commentary wrapped up in this little story, touching on racial issues, foreign policy, and the family unit from different angles, and in different forms than we're used to. Stuffed! has a clever little story running through it. Bertozzi's art is probably the highlight of the book, however, with nice cartooning, well-thought-out panel arrangements, and a great sense of pacing. Although I really do not like that cover whatsoever. If I hadn't remembered reading about this book is Previews, I probably wouldn't have picked up a book that looks like this. Yes, I judge books by covers sometimes. Overall, despite a few shining moments, this left me lukewarm. It was okay: nothing too exciting or innovative, nothing so bad it completely turned me off. It's a little odd and off-beat, but mostly it's just kind of there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Stores 9/23

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #15 - Edited by Sammy Harkham this year, the latest Treehouse of Horror anthology sees innovative creators such as Kevin Huizenga, C.F., Jeffrey Brown and Jordan Crane painting their twisted versions of Springfield. Without a Kramer's Ergot this year (Harkham's baby), this could be the most exciting anthology project of 2009.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Astonishing X-Men by Whedon & Cassaday Omnibus HC
Black Jack (Volume 7)
Chibi Vampire (Volume 14)
Cigarette Kisses GN
Dark Reign: The List - X-Men
Dark X-Men: The Confession
DC Library: Batman - A Death In the Family HC
Detroit Metal City (Volume 2)
Dungeon: The Early Years (Volume 2) GN
Eden: It's An Endless World! (Volume 12)
Flash Chronicles (Volume 1) TP
Golden Age Marvel Comics Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Incredible Hercules: Dark Reign HC
Pet Avengers Classic TP
Salt Water Taffy (Volume 3): Truth About Dr. True GN
Spider-Woman #1
The Spirit (Volume 2) TP
Sulk (Volume 3) GN
Superman: Secret Origin #1 (of 6)
Underground #1 (of 4)
Wolverine: Giant-Size Old Man Logan #1

Monday, September 21, 2009

Manga Monday: Happy Happy Clover

Happy Happy Clover (Volume 1)
Sayuri Tatsuyama
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With each new book I sample from Viz's VizKids line of manga for children, the more impressed I get. They really do offer a nice selection of manga for kids (like Leave It To Pet! and Dinosaur Hour, not to mention Cowa! which they didn't publish as a part of VizKids). Happy Happy Clover is another example of quality manga available for kids through this line. It's much cuter and more sugary than the types of books I usually read, but I definitely see the appeal, especially for very young kids. The book is about a group of animals who live in Crescent Forest: rabbits, squirrels, deer, foxes, etc. They live happily together in a nice little community, and the forest makes for a nice playground for the adventurous little bunny Clover, who treks all over the woods with her friends in tow, causing mischief in some form or another. But she means well, and has a guilty conscience should she ever unintentionally hurt someone's feelings. I like how the little vignettes tell a nice, simple entertaining story, but also have a sort of message in it, a shining example of morals for a child to follow. In that way, Clover is a role model for any child who picks this up. But unlike many stories I have read that spend time trying to force morals down kids' throats that come off heavy-handed and preachy (yes, I'm talking to you, Little Women, despite your status as a classic), Happy Happy Clover is subtle about the example it sets, and you come to admire the way that Clover solves her problems and thinks about what she's done, rather than have it told outright that she proceeded in the correct manner. I don't want to make too much out of this, because at the end of the day, it's cute floppy-eared bunnies prancing around a forest, but I think this is the perfect sort of book to put in the hands of a young child interested in comics, particularly girls. This book is full of great characters (like the flying squirrel Hickory and the sextuplet baby bunnies) and has a fun, whimsical feel to it that reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh or better yet, Maya the Bee. Plus, this volume includes a page of stickers, and at the end of each chapter, there's a fun bonus excerpt from "Clover's Fun Doodle Pad" that's usually humorous and cute, following up on events that have recently taken place. This book is just highly entertaining and while it may be a little too "hyper" for some manga fans, I'm sure it will amuse the little ones to no end.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cat Burglar Black

Richard Sala
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Cat Burglar Black is the first graphic novel by Richard Sala published through First Second Books and, to my knowledge, is the first published by the author in full color. Sala's stuff looks amazing in black and white, but I have to say, his use of color in this comic is pretty damn amazing. I love many of his color choices, especially when it comes to his protagonist K. and the other teenage delinquents attending Bellsong Academy For Girls: great outfits (especially the striking red-riding hood in one of the initial scenes where K. meets her classmates and first steps foot on the school grounds), great contrasting hair and styles, and the fun, odd designs of the few adults who appear within the tale. Basically, Cat Burglar Black is a mystery that involves K.'s family. Raised as a master thief by a horrible matron at her orphanage, K. is recruited to help three other girls break into several nearby homes to steal three paintings, each a piece to the puzzle of where hidden treasure is buried on the school premises (which belongs to her family). But there are plenty of other mysteries brewing as well, such as the statue that talks to K., the woman who claims to be her aunt, and the disappearances of the girls one at a time. This is just a really great young adult story with plenty of action and just dripping with Gothic atmosphere. It's quirky and strange, like Sala's other works, and very reminiscent of my personal favorite work of his, Peculia, though I still favor that classic title to this book. Things are set up swimmingly and executed fluidly, with enough left dangling for a sequel, and leaving readers craving one.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Carnage and More

Here are five things that I got really excited about this week!
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1. Spider-Man 4 villain - ICV2 reported that Spider-Man 4 won the war for I-MAX screens for when it debuts in May 2011, and added the poster for the movie to the article. Did nobody notice the tagline of the poster? "Choice. Destiny. Sacrifice. CARNAGE." When I saw this, I realized that I know next to nothing about the villain, having never read any stories with the character.
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2. "Official Book Club Selection" by Kathy Griffin - No, it's not Oprah's book club selection this week. That honor went to Uwem Akpan's short story collection Say You're One of Them. But the real star this week is Kathy Griffin's auto-biography, which shot to the top of Barnes & Noble's non-fiction bestseller list, surprising many. I love Griffin, and her book, relating her family and professional history, is fun, touching and very humanising. I recommend getting it on audio CD to hear her narrate the story herself.
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3. Horror movie "Wake In Fright" - Roger Ebert discovered this nearly-lost gem of the horror film industry, while at the Toronto Film Festival. The movie was filmed in Australia in 1971 and centers on the Outback, and will be released on DVD by the end of the year.
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4. The new "New Moon" trailer - The latest theatrical trailer for the upcoming sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon is kind of awesome. I wasn't a fan of the first movie. I was even less of a fan of Stephenie Meyer's book New Moon, but I have to say, I was really impressed with this trailer, which focused a lot on the latter part of the book featuring the villainous vampire mafia The Volturi (whose presence in the novel was admittedly small). But Dakota Fanning...bad-ass. Watch it here.
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5. Thunderbolts/Secret Warriors crossover - The latest development in Andy Diggles and Miguel Sepulveda's Thunderbolts, and Jonathon Hickman and Alessandro Vitti's Secret Warriors, has the two teams crossing over during Dark Reign, as Norman sends the Thunderbolts after Black Widow and Songbird, who inadvertently lead the team of villains straight to Nick Fury. It's a heck of a lot of fun.
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Loser of the Week: Kanye West - Just being an ass.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beasts of Burden #1 (of 4)

Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson
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Beasts of Burden is a webcomic that you can actually read early adventures of on-line at Dark Horse's site here. The title is part of "The Dark Horse Book of..." anthology series that can be viewed free through their website. This four-issue mini-series is the first print version of the title, but there's still quite a bit of history between the large cast of canine (and a few feline) characters that I'm unfamiliar with that they make reference to. It's a good thing that the animals are all very distinct-looking or it would be very hard to keep track of them all with the unwieldy number of animals, but as the issue unfolds, some of their personalities come out, even if the reader feels a little lost when dogs whisper questions to each other about how others are doing, and when a term like "wise dog" and the apprentices that go hand-in-hand with it are mentioned. It takes a little work to decipher what some of these things are within the world of Burden Hill, but in the end, nothing is too complicated to take away from what is a rather simple self-contained story that this mini-series opens up with. This series is about a group of pets who, together, watch over their sleepy town, where a number of supernatural goings-on occur. Apparently some of the pets themselves have supernatural abilities, but for the most part, they are a group of paranormal detectives. The big draw for me on this title is Jill Thompson's art. I really enjoyed her offering in Bill Willingham's Fables: 1,001 Nights of Snowfall from a few years back, which was done in the same beautiful water colored art. It's nice to see that technique used here, where the different colored animals maneuver through beautiful forests, fields and farmhouse lawns in their quest to protect Burden Hill's human (and animal) inhabitants. From the grotesque (a deer's severed head) to the breathtaking (the opening shot of the Nursery), to the just plain weird (a giant frog exploding), Thompson's art is top-notch. She has a great eye for detail and is a wonderful cartoonist. Dorkin's story is perfect for her to let loose with her talents, even if the story does cross the line into territory a little too "precious" for my tastes from time to time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Stores 9/16

Here are the highlights of books coming to comic shops on Wednesday!
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Pick of the Week
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The John Stanley Library: Nancy (Volume 1) HC - Drawn & Quarterly's second "John Stanley Library" release (following Melvin the Monster) is a collection of his Nancy comic books (not to be confused with Bushmiller's comic strip being collected by Fantagraphics next year). This is an exciting archival project, easily the highlight of the week.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man
The Alcoholic SC
Batman: Cacophony HC
Beasts of Burden #1 (of 4)
Blackest Night #3 (of 8)
Case Closed (Volume 31)
Donatello: Brain Thief #1 (of 4)
Hercules: Prince of Power HC
Hulk: Planet Skaar HC
Johnny Boo (Volume 3): Happy Apples HC
Locke & Key: Head Games HC
Mr. Stuffins TP
Oishinbo (Volume 5): Vegetables
Pluto (Volume 5)
Secret Warriors (Volume 1): Nick Fury - Agent of Nothing HC
Showcase Presents: Warlord (Volume 1) TP
Spider-Man Noir TP
Star Trek: Romulans - Schism #1
Thor: Balder Brave HC
Tiffany's Epiphany HC
Tom Strong (Book 1) Definitive Edition HC
Ultimate Comics: Armor Wars #1 (of 4)
Vengeance of Moon Knight #1
Will Eisner's Spirit Archives: New Adventures (Volume 1) HC

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manga Monday: Cute Little Creatures

This week for Manga Monday, I'm pairing together two manga that feature little furry creatures, be it alien or...other. And oddly enough, they're for completely different audiences. One is for kids: Domo: The Manga, while the other is for mature audiences only (despite appearances): Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu.
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Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Volume 1)
Junko Mizuno
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Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu is an adults only manga that features a cute little puffball from planet Princess Kotobuki. He travels to earth via a Space Hippo's magic mirror to try to find a bride, because more than anything, Pelu wants to have a baby (because it's what all of the humanoid women that populate his planet want to do). This is one strange manga, as Pelu himself was pulled from the corpse of a half-eaten women and is part of that woman's reproductive system? Okay. It really speaks to Mizuno's imagination that she can come up with such odd stories, but I'm not a fan of something being weird for the sake of being weird. I'm giving Mizuno a pass though because I think the big draw for her audience is her art, and if these offbeat stories featuring a horny puffball from a uterus allows her to draw the types of stories in the type of weird, surreal environments she wishes to maneuver her characters through, then so be it. This premise also allows Mizuno to cut loose with drawing naked women en mass, and come up with crazy cool looks for different towns and people. Ultimately, the success of this book comes down to Junko Mizuno's amazing design aesthetic. Nobody else's art looks like Mizuno's. She has cutesy, well-designed houses, food, characters, animals, trees...anything and everything she decides to put to paper is thought out for maximum effect to become uber-cute, such as a hippo covered in stars or a house with lovely, swirling vines and flowers growing all around it. Amid this bounty of beauty, she also has a mind to explore the female body, the premise of this book lending itself to showcasing many nude characters, and throwing in some violence and blood for good measure. This adult approach through her kid-friendly art style is a little unnerving at times, but it's really something to behold and it works. It's utterly unique, proving that Mizuno really has a creative vision and she's really showcasing that she can put that wild, inappropriate imagination on paper.
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Domo: The Manga
Clint Bickham, Rem, Sonia Leong, Lindsay Cibos & Jared Hodges
Created by Tsuneo Goda
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Domo is the mascot for a Japanese television network, and his popularity has led to his being plastered all over t-shirts, mugs, toys and now, his own manga series for kids. Basically, Domu is portrayed in this book as a lovable oaf. He doesn't understand things and gets so excited that he's constantly breaking things, making people angry, and being a general nuisance. Ultimately, he's pretty annoying. I'm not sure if I should be rooting for him when he's causing so much havoc, and he doesn't seem to learn from any of his mistakes whatsoever. I was more sympathetic with the supporting cast, who I wouldn't have minded seeing kick his brown furry butt, special needs or not. I like how many of the stories revolved around the television, either video games or television programs, as Domu got his start on TV, and the art was surprisingly pretty consistent with so many creators working on the manga together, alternating art chores with chapters. Since this is a kids' comics, it was appropriate to release this in color, and the cartoony style worked well, as each of the creators was able to graft their style with the character designs and environment pretty seemlessly. But aside from the obnoxious protagonist, the stories are all pretty dopey. Really silly. I didn't care for the humor myself, but I can see children really enjoying this sort of book, and as this is for them really, I would say it's a success in that regard. Unfortunately, the vibe I got from this book overall, with the talking forest creatures living in what's basically a human world, made me feel like the creators grafted the figure of Domo to a generic Saturday morning cartoon, like Arthur or Franklin, and didn't really have anything else to say. And as Domo isn't a forest animal, I'm not sure it was the right fit either. Overall, there's nothing really original to the concept behind this manga. It's executed competently, kids will probably enjoy it, but their time is better spent with something more substantial and original.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Stuff of Legend #1

Mike Raicht, Brian Smith & Charles Paul Wilson III
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The Stuff of Legend is a two-issue series from Th3rd World Studios that follows a group of toys that come to life when not around humans, ala Toy Story. The book first caught my attention with the Free Comic Book Day edition that offered over twenty pages of the beginning of the story, where young Johnny is taken prisoner by The Bogeyman from out of his closet, his toys watching on helplessly. When he's gone, a chest of toys opens with some of the braver toys and together, they mount a rescue led up by an Army figurine, but including toys such as a teddy bear, a ballerina, a piggy bank, a jack-in-the-box and a wooden duck. This story takes place in 1944, so the toys are much more old-fashioned than what we're used to nowadays, but it's still a good variety of figures to venture forth into the closet and the realm of The Bogeyman.
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What really caught my attention with this series is the art. Wilson's drawings are realistic and utterly beautiful, with a great eye for detail and design. If not for the art, this book would hardly be worth picking up. But as is, it's one of the most gorgeously-illustrated comics on the "New Release" shelves of the local comic shop, leaving little wonder as to why this first issue went on to a second printing after a generous overprinting of the first edition. Kind of neat about this version of a "Toy Story" adventure is that once the toys walk into the closet and the territory of The Bogeyman, they transform from their plastic and glass fragile bodies into real-live G.I. Joes and grizzly bears and Indian princesses. I love the transition, the great designs that the creators came up with for these two aspects of the characters. The book is illustrated without color, expect for a yellowed tint meant to make it feel old, and the vast armies of the antagonist give the book a very epic feel, although beyond the original premise, it's pretty straightforward, and even that is borrowed from pop culture (even the square format is borrowed from another all-ages success story in comicdom: Mouse Guard). I enjoyed reading this book, but seeing people ripped in half in the second act, following the cute furry animals and toys discussing poor Johnny, makes this tale seem pretty uneven. And The Bogeyman is really a genuinely scary design, leaving me wondering what audience a story like this is targeted for. But again, the art is the draw here. Boasting great character designs and wonderful illustrations that can be gazed upon again and again, this is certainly going to remain a successful title for Th3rd World Studios, but beyond that immediate appeal, there's not much substance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Models Inc. #1

Paul Tobin & Vicenc Villagrasa
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"Borrowing" the name of an ill-fated television series (a spin-off of Melrose Place, at that), Models Inc. launches at Marvel, a mini-series that brings together several of the top models in Marvel's universe for a cheeky little Sex & the City gossip-fest that turns into a murder mystery by issue's end. Together on this fashion shoot are Toni Turner, Jill Jerold, Chili Storm, Patsy Walker (Hellcat), and the focus of this debut issue, Millicent Collins aka Millie the Model. Not only does this series "borrow" the name of its book, but also the faux-magazine covers that were the trademark of The Luna Brothers' breakthrough series Ultra: Seven Days. And the rest of the issue kind of goes with that theme, showing nary an ounce of originality by the chapter's conclusion. Even the dialogue, which was heavy in this story with nothing else really for the models to do, was mediocre. Trying to make things a little edgy, the creators threw in a lesbian model (oooh, scandalous) and a grab-happy security guard. I don't know what Marvel was thinking publishing this. Trying to gain interest from female readers is one thing: putting out a product that would make them blush at the stereotypes is another. To make matters even worse, there's an utterly embarrassing back-up story featuring Tim Gunn (by Marc Sumerak and Jorge Molina), using as many catch-phrases from the pop culture icon as possible before throwing him in an Iron Man suit to give him a reason to be there. And it's a bad drawing of Tim Gunn at that. The only thing I liked about this part of the book (or the book in general, really) is incorporating Wasp's fashion history into the story via a Janet Van Dyne Memorial Wing of the New York Fashion Museum. That was a nice little touch. Otherwise, this was a pretty lame attempt to garner media attention, with superhero cameos for the sake of tying this book loosely to a universe that's infinitely more interesting than this piece of half-hearted "art." The TV series was better, and that's saying something.

The Week In Awesome! Anti-Christ & More

Here are five things that I got excited about this week.
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1. Anti-Christ theatrical trailer - A trailer for the new horror movie that's causing quite a stir on the film festival circuit can be found here. Some pretty disturbing horror images in the trailer for the movie starring Willem Dafoe, directed by Lars von Trier (Dancer In the Dark).
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2. At the Movies - Disney thankfully put the kibosh on their newly revitalized At the Movies program that pushed it into trashy Entertainment Tonight territory (Ben Lyons = ugh), and have now given the reigns over to excellent reviewers A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips for some intelligent discussion of film every week.
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3. The Vampire Diaries TV show - The CW launched a new romantic thriller television series this week, brought to us by Kevin Williamson, the mind behind previous teen hits like Dawson's Creek. The series is based on the pre-Twilight young adult novels of the same name from twenty years back. that have been rereleased in wake of the Twilight phenomenon. And this series also probably wouldn't have seen the light of day without the help of Edward and Bella.
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4. Whiteout in theaters - Although early reviews have been mostly negative, I loved the graphic novel that this movie is based on, so I'm hoping for a decent adaptation for the film starring Kate Beckinsale.
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5. 9 in theaters - A dark post-apocalyptic animated movie that expands a much-revered short film sounds like it would be really cool. But again, early reviews have been mixed. But at least the visuals look stunning.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In Stores 9/10

Don't forget, comics come out on Thursday this week because of Labor Day! Here are the highlights!
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Pick of the Week
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Love & Rockets: New Stories #2 - The latest Love & Rockets collection makes its way to stores this week. It's hard getting used to reading Love & Rockets only once a year (although I think they read better this way), but it certainly makes it quite the event when it is released.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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All & Sundry Uncollected Work 2004-2008 HC
Amulet (Book 2): Stonekeeper's Curse GN
Angel: After the Fall (Volume 5): Aftermath HC
Art of Tony Millionaire HC
Astro Boy Movie Prequel: Underground TP
Captain Britain and MI-13 (Volume 3): Vampire State TP - Final volume
Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus One-Shot
Dark Reign: The List - Avengers One-Shot
Fantastic Four Lost Adventures by Stan Lee TP
James Robinson's Complete WildC.A.T.S. TP
The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century HC
Marvel Super Hero Squad #1 (of 4)
Ms. Marvel (Volume 7): Dark Reign HC
Nomad: Girl Without a World #1 (of 4)
Process Recess (Volume 3): Hallowed Seam HC
Red Monkey Double Happiness Book HC
Rock Candy HC
Runaways: The Good Die Young HC
The Shield #1
The Squirrel Machine HC
Storm In the Barn GN
Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years (Volume 3) HC
Ultimatum: Spider-Man HC
West Coast Blues HC
Ythaq: No Escape HC
Yotsuba&! (Volume 6) - Finally!!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Manga Monday: X-Men

X-Men: Misfits (Volume 1)
Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman & Anzu
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I honestly wasn't expecting much out of this book, given the last adaptation of a Marvel property into manga format that I read(Wolverine: Prodigal Son - not good at all). But this has redeemed the concept in my mind and is a fine example of a reimagining done right and executed to fantastic results. Because I have to say, I really loved this manga. I am a fan of the X-Men superhero comic books and certainly went into this with an open mind, but not expecting much out of the experience. But I'll be damned if this isn't better than most X-Men stories I've read over the years.
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The story sees Kitty Pryde joining Xavier's Academy for Gifted Youngsters where, under the tutelage of instructors like Storm, Magneto and Beast (who looks Totoro-ized), she learns to control her mutant powers, builds her self-confidence and bonds with her peers. Pryde here is true to her roots, which is nice to see as I'm a huge fan of the character, and the writers put a lot of thought into how she would react to her newly-found powers, things I've never really thought about that she's concerned with, such as slipping through the hull of an airplane, and wearing a bicycle helmet in case she accidentally phases through a bus she's riding on or through the second floor of the mansion. But what makes her special at Xavier's is that she's the only female student there. Almost all of the guys go gaga over her for this reason, particularly an elite club of rich, reckless students, this manga's version of The Hellfire Club (another neat idea). Pyro becomes her main suitor, which is appropriate, as Iceman is the one she's curious about. Given their abilities, this could lead to some major sparks done the road a ways, but for now, readers have to be content with a more shojo story, that of Kitty adjusting to the school and an army of boys pining after her, full of the hi jinks and romance you'd assume go hand-in-hand with such a premise.
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I won't lie: one of my favorite aspects of this manga is seeing how the characters are reimagined to fit into this universe. I already mentioned the Totoro-ized Beast, but some of my other favorite interpretations of X-characters are Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man), whom Kitty bumps into when she first arrives at the school in a pretty hilarious scene, and the beautiful, arrogant Angel. There are some pretty amazing designs for the characters involved as well. The students are very fashion-forward, many of the guys overly-sexualized, and they alternate between cartoony and cat-eared or whatnot, and a soft, beautiful, more realistic and detailed style, depending on what the panel calls for. Nightcrawler has an utterly beautiful demon design, and I love the flirtatious nature and looks of characters like Longshot and Gambit. But beyond the designs themselves, the creators know how to lay out this story for maximum effect, as this is utterly suspenseful, dramatic and funny when it delves into humor. The action scenes are executed clearly, with great attention to background and details, and the tension between characters is established for maximum effect whenever there's a confrontation. Any scene that's not just a talking head is just amazing, as Anzu's drawing ability is fantastic. I love looking at panels of Kitty phasing through walls and floors (there's one scene of her and Pyro floating through the mansion's many stories to the basement that's really, really neat) and of the men in various states of dress flirting with Pryde. This book is just a lot of fun, and is one interpretation of the X-Men that I definitely recommend people check out. It has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Strange Tales #1 (of 3)

Various
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Marvel's latest anthology Strange Tales collects works from well-known creators in the world of alternative and literary comics and gives them free reign over their licensed characters to tell what stories they will. The end result is a fun collection full of nice art and odd, but compelling stories.
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Nick Betozzi's introduction "Lo, a Watcher!" features a Watcher, one of the big bald cosmic guys with giant noggins, but Betozzi brings new meaning to the word, as he's gazing into the window of a showering woman. An appropriate beginning to this series, as most of the creators take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to butcher the characters fans have come to know and love.
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One of the highlights of this book is Paul Pope's Inhumans comic, with an exasperated Lockjaw helping his masters to defeat a variety of bad guys in an effort to get to the dogfood they've promised him. I love Pope's art here, and he just kills the cover for this issue too.
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John Leavitt and Molly Crabapple's offering features Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) in a strange Victorian alternative universe where she's being married off to John Jameson (Morbius). This is very, very odd, but I enjoyed the over-the-top art.
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My favorite offering of the bunch was Junko Mizune's "Welcome To Spider-Town" which sees Spider-Man and Mary Jane moving into a city populated by spiders, where Spider-Man's powers are basically useless, as everyone has them, and they are the freaks of the town. Mizune's art is amazing, with all kinds of fabulous designs for shops and buildings. The story's really cute too, and after reading this, I can't wait to receive my copy of Junko's Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu that I ordered.
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Dash Shaw's Doctor Strange story was appropriately very strange, as he battles Nightmare and his self as he tries not to yawn and tempt sleep. Shaw has the best use of color throughout this entire showcase of talented artists, and has some fantastic, elaborate designs within his panels.
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James Kochalka's team of multi-colored Hulks is a story that I know he pitched years ago, so it's finally nice to see it come to fruition here. Funny that Marvel has actually created a red Hulk since his idea, but the blue and white hulks in this comic are fun. And I like the ending.
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Comic Book Holocaust's Johnny Ryan has a silly little story featuring the Punisher, but his best contribution here is the series of panels with Marvel's Most Embarrassing Moments. Wolverine's cameo is the best of the lot, earning a big laugh from your truly.
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Namor is the feature of Michael Kupperman's (Tales Designed To Thrizzle) comic, with a great portrayal of the Sub-Mariner. Plenty of people love that first panel, and it's true: it's pretty much perfect.
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The only comic that seems like it's going to continue into the second issue is Peter Bagge's Hulk feature which, honestly, was probably my least favorite of the offerings. But that being said, it was still more entertaining than a lot of the stuff Marvel puts out.
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The Modok feature by Nick Bertozzi was a close second for me for the best and is probably the most creative story offered here, with nice art and coloring, and delightfully disturbing images.
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Nicholas Gurewitch contributes little strips akin to the kind many of his readers are familiar with in The Perry Bible Fellowship, and are pretty funny. Both of his pages got a chuckle out of me.
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Finally, Jason rounds out this first issue with a simply-illustrated story using Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus and Parker's buddy Flash. It's a cute gag, and a fine note to go out on.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Disney & More

Here are five things that got me excited over the past week!
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1. Disney purchases Marvel Entertainment - Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about this. I think it's a great thing for Marvel. DC has the upper hand in multimedia ventures existing under the Warner Brothers umbrella, so Marvel can even the playing field. Plus Pixar Marvel movies anyone?
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2. Gunnerkrigg Court (Volume 2): Research - Archaia continues collecting the next book of Thomas Siddell's excellent webcomic series Gunnerkrigg Court, a fantastic supernatural series praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman. It was solicited in the last Previews Catalogue for a November release!
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3. Dark Visions by L.J. Smith - I was a huge fan of teen novelist L.J. Smith growing up, particularly her Vampire Diaries and Night World series. Dark Visions was a trilogy of books by the author that I also remember with fondness, about a group of psychics on the run from a lab that want to use them for nefarious purposes. With the rekindled interest in the author in wake of the Twilight phenomenon, the Dark Visions trilogy is being offered in a single book for a new generation. In stores now.
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4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - Also released in teen novels this past week was Suzanne Collins' sequel to The Hunger Games, a Battle Royale-ish book that pits kid against kid to the death. The new book follows up on the consequences from that first story with a new adventure, the second of a trilogy.
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5. Bomb In a Birdcage by A Fine Frenzy - Coming out this coming Tuesday is the latest CD by A Fine Frenzy, whose debut release One Cell In the Sea wowed me two years ago. She's a fresh new talent with great vocals and lyrics, classically-trained for a fantastic overall package. She's been steadily releasing singles for her new CD over the past few months on I-Tunes, all of which have been pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sweet Tooth #1

Jeff Lemire
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Sweet Tooth is a new ongoing Vertigo series by Jeff Lemire, probably best known for The Essex County Trilogy and his recent graphic novel release, also through Vertigo, The Nobody. And a bonus for buyers: DC if offering the debut issue for $1. The story follows a young boy named Gus who is actually a "hybrid," of which there are different types. Apparently, Gus' mother was a hybrid as well, if his father (the only person he's ever seen) can be trusted, although some of what his father says sounds sketchy, meant to keep him from venturing out of the forest where they live in seclusion. Or perhaps his father actually believes in the fire and brimstone bible verses he spouts to an extreme degree and he deludes himself into thinking the forest is keeping out hellfire. But either way, something bad has occurred that's made people sick, Gus' father included, and people are aware of these "hybrids" that began surfacing around the same time, as is demonstrated by the final scene of this first issue. Overall, the kind of southern/backwater vibe of the characters and setting is a big turn-off for me, which is a shame because I really enjoyed Jeff Lemire's setting of a small town in The Nobody. He executed it pretty perfectly in that instance. Perhaps he's doing justice to the corner of the world he's writing about in Sweet Tooth as well, but I just don't enjoy the deer-huntin', bible-spoutin', firewood-for-the-log-cabin, candy-is-evil feel of this book at all, which is probably the point, but I don't care to explore this world past this issue. If you don't mind reading such a tale, however, I can vouch for Lemire's art. It's more of a loose, quick illustration without much detail, with clear storytelling and thoughtfully laid out panels. There are some pretty violent scenes, but what do you expect from a Vertigo comic? The violence looks cool at least.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In Stores 9/2

Here are the highlights of books coming to comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Cat Burglar Black GN - Richard Sala is one of my favorite creators, so a new full-length graphic novel from him is certainly cause for celebration to me. This is his first work published by First Second Books.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Absolute V For Vendetta HC
Achewood (Volume 2): Worst Song Played HC
Amulet (Volume 2): Stonekeeper's Curse SC
Angel: Blood and Trenches (Volume 1) TP
Batman: Gotham After Midnight TP
Bleach (Volume 28)
DC Library: JLA by George Perez (Volume 1) HC
Dead Irons HC
DMZ (Volume 7): War Powers TP
Essential Sub-Mariner (Volume 1) TP
Fall Out Toy Works #1 (of 5)
G.I. Joe Origins (Volume 1) TP
High School Debut (Volume 11)
Honey & Clover (Volume 7)
Hulk Gray HC
Little Lulu (Volume 20) TP
Magog #1
Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Black Knight (Volume 1) HC
Marvel Zombies Return #1
Mixed Vegetables (Volume 5)
Monkey High! (Volume 7)
Nana (Volume 18)
New Avengers: Reunion HC
Nocturnals (Volume 2): Dark Forever and Other Tales HC
Rasetsu (Volume 2)
Red Tornado #1 (of 6)
Sand Chronicles (Volume 6)
Savage Sword of Conan (Volume 6) TP
Spider-Man: Sinister Six HC
Strange Tales #1 (of 3)
Superman: New Krypton (Volume 2) HC
Sweet Tooth #1
Toon Treasury of Classic Childrens Comics HC
Torch #1 (of 8)
We Were There (Volume 6)
Wonderful Wizard of Oz HC
X-Men: Misfits (Volume 1)