Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Heroic Age begins!

In wake of Siege, Marvel pushes the reboot button, throwing out the Superhero Registration Act and giving their heroes room to breathe in a sunnier, more united world.  And of course a new, fresh start means relaunched books, new creative teams and new directions.  The past few weeks have seen a couple of new Avengers books launch, as well a reboot of Thunderbolts, and the resurrection of fan-favorite Agents of Atlas, all of which I'll speak briefly about.

The Avengers #1
Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr.

Steve Rogers assembles a new team of Avengers, including Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine and Hawkeye, with a slew of other superheroes waiting in the wings of this new flagship title.  And in charge of them all?  Maria Hill.  I'm pretty excited about that.  I loved having her in charge of SHIELD - she made for a great, unique dynamic - and I'm sure Bendis has some plans for her here as well.  Romita's art is a real treat on an Avengers title, getting to see him draw a wide variety of characters.  And already, there's a bunch of crazy shit happening with time travel and some classic villains, so I'm all over this new ongoing.

Secret Avengers #1
Ed Brubaker & Mike Deodato

I love Deodato's dark, clear art.  I was a fan on Thunderbolts, on Dark Avengers, and it certainly suits a book like this, which is basically a covert group of Avengers who aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty.  It's kind of the same thought process behind X-Force, doing the sketchy work that the main group may not approve of.  Steve Rogers, once more (he is Top Cop now, stepping into Nick Fury/Norman's role), assembles this colorful group of Black Widow, War Machine, Beast, Valkyrie, Moon Knight, Ant-Man and Nova.  There should be a fun dynamic between this odd roster.  Rogers claims the reason for the necessity of a team like this is preemptive strikes against terrorists and villains.  This first adventure has a good amount of covert infiltration and involves some pretty classic Avengers elements.

Atlas #1
Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman & Ramon Rosanas

3-D Man is back, and Jeff Parker actually makes this out-of-date character seem kind of cool, in the same way he's able to make the 50's team Agents of Atlas kick ass in the 21st century.  The series creator of Agents of Atlas gets another chance at making this book click with readers in the book simply entitled Atlas.  There have been a series of one-shots and minis pitting the team against the X-Men and Avengers, so maybe the team has kind of rubbed off on Marvel readers by now.  I've been a fan for awhile, and love the characters, particularly Namora and Venus.  As is the case with the last series, Parker is keeping the readers on their toes with this one, jumping back and forth in time and showing off what's so cool about this team.

Thunderbolts #144
Jeff Parker & Kev Walker

Jeff Parker also takes over duties writing the relaunch of Thunderbolts.  I LOVED the last incarnation of Thunderbolts, how they became such a feared force in the Marvel Universe when the Superhero Registration Act went into effect.  Whenever the ruthless, lethal-force group showed up in books like Spider-Woman and Avengers titles, I was always like "Oh, shit!"  I hope they keep that momentum going with this new direction, which sees Luke Cage take on the role of leader, and charged with making something of this mish-mash team of dangerous villains.  Interesting idea, seeing as how Cage himself was once a criminal (although he was innocent).  On the roster of this team is Moonstone, Ghost, Juggernaut, Cross Bones and Man-Thing, with characters like Songbird and Hank Pym helping out.  Great start, with a fun ending to set the tone.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pick of the Week 5/26

Here is the book you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop on Wednesday...

Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. HC (w/motion comic DVD) - My favorite superhero comic of last year is collected at last.  All seven issues of the short-lived book by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev under one cover (including the motion comic that was its undoing as Maleez got burnt out redrawing the same issue several times for the project).  Any fans of Bendis' Alias should check this book out featuring Jessica Drew tracking down skrulls for S.W.O.R.D., set to Maleev's beautiful gritty artwork.

Other Noteworthy Releases
7 Psychopaths #1
Best American Comics Criticism SC
The Complete Little Orphan Annie (Volume 5): 1935-1937 HC
The Search For Smilin' Ed GN
Secret Avengers #1
Sense & Sensibility #1 (of 5)
Thanos Imperative: Ignition #1
Thunderbolts #144
Wednesday Comics HC

Manga Monday: Stepping On Roses

Stepping On Roses (Volume 1)
Rinko Ueda

New from Viz is this shojo manga from Rinko Ueda, featuring a girl in a fairy tale dream, lifted up from the starving poor class to live with a rich, handsome man in the elite class...too bad Sumi Kitamura is more miserable than ever now.  Before she was plucked from the streets and offered riches beyond her wildest imagination, Sumi lived with her brother who, on top of a gambling problem, brought home orphans for Ruki to raise, even though they hardly had enough between them to eat properly.  On top of that, they have loans coming out of their ears and their landlady is threatening to throw them out if they don't pay their rent immediately.  But Sumi loves her family and will go to any length to help them survive, which is why she met the man of her dreams, a handsome gentleman who gave her money to help pay for medicine for a sick little girl, when she was lying in the street crying out for help.  It's also why she nearly sold herself into prostitution to raise money to help them out of their predicament.  But along comes a handsome man, willing to make her troubles go away, if she agrees to marry him.  Unfortuantely, the cold, cruel man bullies her and torments her, and it seems that this new life she has chosen for herself is worse than the one she left behind, especially as she misses her family very much.  I never read Tail of the Moon by Rinko Ueda, but her art here is pretty impressive, with great detail to background and the fashion of the time that this story takes place during, particularly impressive being the architecture she depicts.  As far as stories go, this is certainly the rags-to-riches sort of story we've heard before, and so far, there's not much going for it to set it apart aside from the nice artwork.  It is an enjoyable little story, but don't expect much in terms of originality or characterization.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spell Checkers (Volume 1)

Jamie S. Rich, Nicolas Hitori De & Joelle Jones

I'm a fan of the whole teen witch subgenre...when it's done well.  This is not.  Spell Checkers has three high school girls as the protagonists, girls who have used magic to bring about their popularity and make things much easier for themselves (using clones to go to gym class for them, glamour bubbles that let them talk together during class, spells to help them ace exams, etc.)  They really take their powers for granted, as is demonstrated by how helpless they are when their powers begin to zonk out on them.  Their classmates retaliate and the girls turn on each other viciously, accusing one another for causing the drain on their magical powers.  Unfortunately, these witches have absolutely no redeeming qualities.  They're just horrible, crass girls, and this made me indifferent to whether they got out of their situation or not.  Plus, beyond the generic "this girl is the goth girl" types grafted on to each of them, they lack any sense of personality, and are hard to keep straight.  Beyond the characterization problems, the "mystery" of who is taking away their powers is easy to spot a mile away (let's see, the only person who could be behind it pretty much), and while the girls acknowledge that they should have seen it coming, it doesn't make the revelation any less lame.  Same goes for the reason behind the attack, which seemed like a half-hearted attempt to tie the title Spell Checkers into the story, with probably the stupidest motivation I've ever come across.  The girls look kind of cute in a few of Nicolas Hitori De's panels, but for the most part, the art is pretty damn lackluster, and often hard to follow.  I hate, as a reader, having to fill in gaps in storytelling when the panels aren't clear enough to get the action across by themselves, or having to stare at the art to figure out exactly what's going on - talk about taking you out of the story.  I hardly wanted to make an effort with a "story" like this.  Joelle Jones' flashback scenes were less painful (they were actually pretty impressive overall), but with a train wreck of a story like this, it was best that she waste as little of her art skill as possible on this title.  If you enjoy watching indistinguishable girls have tantrums for 145 pages, then this book's for you, otherwise...check out Spellbinders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins for a teen witch comic done right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pick of the Week 5/19

Here is the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops tomorrow...

Weathercraft HC - This new Fantagraphics book by cartoonist Jim Woodring is actually his first full-length graphic novel, and features his Frank character.  It clocks in at just over 100 pages, featuring beautiful art from a master.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Age of Heroes #1 (of 4)
Atlas #1
Avengers #1
Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips (Volume 1) HC
Codename Knockout (Volume 1): The Devil You Say TP - Random much?
Galacta: Daughter of Galactus #1
I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow (Volume 1)
Saturn Apartments (Volume 1)
Zatanna #1

Monday, May 17, 2010

Manga Monday: Black Blizzard

Black Blizzard GN
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

A Drifting Life was a big celebrated release last year, an autobiography from Tatsumi that focused on his budding career as a manga artist and his role in the gekiga movement.  A few collections have been released from Drawn & Quarterly collecting short works by the creator, but Black Blizzard is a different animal.  This is the book that really cinched Tatsumi's spot as a major new talent at the beginning of his career.  Highly influenced by cinema and his idol Osamu Tezuka, you can see such influences throughout this graphic novel.  It's very cinematic, with a great noir edge, following two fugitives that escape a derailed train handcuffed to one another.  It's all very dramatic and tense, with loads of action and suspense, as well as a few surprises to keep readers guessing.  The artwork is often rough, but always clear, with words and objects breaking out of the panels, usually during a tense action sequence to accentuate the scene.  Overall, Black Blizzard is a fun pulpy story.  I wasn't expecting such dark themes in a book from 1956, and while the characters aren't very flushed out, there is a certain amount of depth and a gritty sort of sophistication that I didn't see coming.  Sure, it's very over-the-top and a little silly, but you really can see through this work that Tatsumi is a creative artist with a knack for storytelling, and a real vision.  Beyond its historical significance, I think it still holds up to this day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Previews HYPE: July '10

Diligently wading through the phone book that is Previews Catalogue so you don't have are ten choice books shipping to comic shops in July that I think may get overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about...

1. The Wild Kingdom HC - A graphic novel by acclaimed cartoonist Kevin Huizenga featuring his beloved character Glenn Ganges.

2. Scott Pilgrim (Volume 6): Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour TP - Just in time for the movie featuring Michael Cera, the final installment of Scott Pilgrim comes out, Bryan Lee O'Malley's hipster video-game, pop-culture influenced series featuring Scott as he battles his new girlfriend's evil ex-boyfriends.

3. Avengers: The Children's Crusade #1 (of 9) - A new nine issue mini-series featuring the Young Avengers on a quest to track down the Scarlet Witch, from Young Avengers series creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung.
 4. X-Files/30 Days of Night #1 (of 6) - This is a great idea, meshing up these two properties as Mulder and Scully investigate the horrific remains of a 30 Days of Night incident, and getting caught up in the horrific mayhem.
5. Archival Reprints - Lots of old comics and comic strips get reprint series launched this month, including Barney Google (IDW), the ever-wonderful Complete Peanuts (Volume 14): 1977-1978 HC (Fantagraphics), Fritzi Ritz (IDW) who's Nancy's aunt, John Cullen Murphy's Big Ben Bolt Dailies (Volume 1) TP (Classic Comics Press), Little Lulu's Pal Tubby (Volume 1) TP (Dark Horse), and Willie and Joe: Back Home HC (Fantagraphics).  Also available this month is From Shadow To Light: The Life & Art of Mort Meskin HC (Fantagraphics), featuring an overlooked, highly influencial artist, and The Smurfs: The Smurfnapper (NEM), a $1 sample of the classic series being reprinted later this year that a lot of people have been anticipating.
6. New Manga Releases - Two new manga series of note debut this month, both from Viz.  The first is Bakuman, from the creative team behind Death Note, about an aspiring writer, and Seiho Boys' High School, which follows a group of boys attending an isolated school on an island, where any female interaction is an event.  Also available this month, after a series of delays, is the highly-anticipated AX (Volume 1) TP, an anthology from Top Shelf that collects alternative manga.
7. Shadowland #1 (of 5) - The battle for the streets of New York begin here in this mini-series that crosses over into books like Daredevil, Spider-Man, Moon Knight and Thunderbolts.

8. Dragon Puncher (Volume 1) HC - A new book by James Kochalka, featuring a cute kitten in battle armor that battles dragons.

9. The Stuff of Legend: The Jungle #1 (of 4) - The first Stuff of Legend series was a surprise hit.  Now the toys return in a new book as they continue their journey to save their young master from the clutches of the Boogeyman.

10. Thor the Mighty Avenger #1-2 - Reimagining the origins of Thor in a modern storytelling-style to make it more accessible to new audiences (before the new movie) is Roger Langridge, with some rather pretty art by Chris Samnee.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pick of the Week 5/12

Here is the book you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow...

Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (of 6) - This is the first issue in a new mini-series featuring Bruce Wayne during different time periods, leading up to his return to the present day DC Universe.  Batman and Robin writer Grant Morrison is at the helm of this one, so it's sure to be high quality stuff, with a variety of artists involved (Chris Sprouse is on the first issue).

Other Noteworthy Releases
Birds of Prey #1
Invincible Gene Colan HC
My Girlfriend's a Geek (Volume 1)
New Avengers Finale
Prince of Power #1 (of 4)
Underground TP

Monday, May 10, 2010

Manga Monday: Twin Spica

Twin Spica (Volume 1)
Kou Yaginuma

This new manga series was just launched from Vertical, the publisher responsible for bringing some key Osamu Tezuka titles to print (Buddha, Black Jack, Ode To Kirihito), as well as works by Keiko Takemiya.  Kou Yaginuma's Twin Spica fits nicely among such company.  There's an old-fashioned feel to this book, from its soft cartoony art to the gentle tone of the story and the wide-eyed innocence of its protagonist Asumi.  As I was reading it, it just felt like I was reading a classic.  Twin Spica is about a girl who wants to be enrolled in the Tokyo Space School, where she would be trained to go on missions to the stars.  She has kind of a mixed relationship with the space program, as a rocket crashed in the middle of a town when Asumi was a baby, and her mother was killed in the accident, along with the crew and many bystanders.  And she has some sort of a friendship with an invisible friend, a young guy in a lion costume who may represent the rocket that crashed.  Asumi has an extensive knowledge of space and has been looking forward to reaching the stars her entire life, so when the first big test comes along to weed out the competition, with the help of a few fellow candidates, she uses her intellect and determination to do her best to overcome what seems to be an impossible task.  And that's just the beginning of what she's going to have to go through to realize her dreams.  Asumi is a very likable character and she has great, complicated relationships with those around her, including her single father and classmates.  The storytelling overall is clear and strong and a lot of fun, but touched with the sadness that hangs over the early years of her lonely life.  This book is a real gem and is sure to be one of the best manga offerings of the year.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Firestar #1

Sean McKeever & Emma Rios

Firestar is a one-shot that came out from Marvel a few weeks ago. I had trouble tracking it down locally, so I had to order it on-line, and once I had it, I'd read Nomad: Girl Without a World by writer Sean McKeever already, which hadn't really met my expectations, so I wasn't too excited to read Firestar any longer.  I'm really glad I did though.  It doesn't have that same Marvel Adventures all-ages feel to it that Nomad and other books from McKeever like Sentinel has that make me feel like it's being dumbed down a bit for the audience (not all all-ages books feel like that, mind you.  His just feel...scrubbed clean, too forced into a G rating or something).  In Firestar #1, McKeever makes Angelica Jones a real three-dimensional character instead of the broad characterization that he usually grafts to rather flat protagonists.  He works with some pretty intense, complicated issues with a subtlety and light touch that seems genuine and very effective for the type of story he's telling here.  Jones has a lot of issues in her past, and her current life isn't slowing down all that much to give her time to reflect on what's come before.  On top of Angelica's insecurity about what she's doing with her life, her father drops a bombshell by beginning to date the mother of a girl that used to be awful to her in high school who has issues of her own.  But between all of the drama, Firestar manages to get a good amount of costume-time in, keeping things just as exciting in the action department as in the drama.  Along with a pretty compelling self-contained story, I was completely blindsided by Emma Rios.  I've never heard of her before, but her art is amazing here.  It's cartoony with a lot of movement, and always manages to look very rich and elegant.  I love many of the poses she chooses for Firestar, especially when flying through the air in her bright red and yellow costume.  She's definitely a talent to watch.  Together, McKeever and Rios make this book an unstoppable force.  And next month, Firestar will be seen in a new ongoing series by McKeever (and David Baldeon), Young Allies, which sees Firestar join forces with the likes of Nomad, Arana and Gravity, so this comic is a good excuse to get acquainted with the character.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Jonathan Hickman

I'm actually reading three books by this creator that I haven't really talked about, so I figured I may as well address them all at the same time.

Secret Warriors #1-15
Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli

I've been following this series for awhile.  It spun out of Secret Invasion and is pretty much a Nick Fury series with a team of young unknown heroes he's grooming.  To be honest, I was a little back and forth on this series early in its run, and stopped picking it up at one point, only to realize that I was genuinely interested in what had been going on, so I picked it up again.  The character stuff in this title is not very interesting, if I'm being honest.  Sure, Hickman does a few cool things with the characters and there's some good relationships in the book, but for the most part, I'm a little bored by the broad characterization.  I think that's the main reason I dropped the title the first time.  But what Hickman does really well on this book is the conspiracies and ideas he constructs in the world and the secret history he carves into the Marvel Universe.  He's doing the same sort of thing with S.H.I.E.L.D. right now, coloring in its background and history, making it more complex, assuming there was more to it than met the eye.  Secret Warriors is really heavy on Hydra history and politics, as Nick Fury realized early on, S.H.I.E.L.D is actually part of Hydra, which is why he cut off ties and is building his own army to tear Hydra down.  His life has been a lie.  But this book takes a lot of time to examine Hydra's structure, including its inner circle (which includes Viper and Madame Hydra) and the betrayals and goings-on of the villains is really interesting.  I'd say the villains are more compelling than the heroes at this point, and the book seems to be slowly brewing toward a climactic showdown at the same time that it drops revelations that kind of rock all that's come before.  I don't think this is a book for everyone, but it speaks to my inner-nerd.

Fantastic Four #570-578
Jonathan Hickman, Dale Eaglesham & Neil Edwards

This book was just getting a ton of buzz on-line, so I had to check it out, even though I haven't read the title for years.  I find that Hickman has a nice fresh, fun take on the family team.  He uses classic elements and villains but uses them in cool ways in exciting new stories.  And I really, really like Eaglesham's art.  Very clear and beautiful, with several panels where I stopped to stare at the artwork, particularly when The Thing was involved.  His artwork is very reminiscent of Alan Davis (who does the covers incidentally), whom I love (and who was actually the first artist I began to recognize when reading comics).  Edwards' stuff is less spectacular, but isn't anything to sneeze at either.  Also cool is that Hickman really highlights the exploration aspect of the team.  They began as explorers and when they're exploring different worlds and lands, it seems right for the team, and it keeps things interesting, giving this book a flavor that no other book has.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Jonathan Hickman & Dustin Weaver

Most recently, Hickman imagines that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been the protectors of the world for a very long time, and important historical figures were recruited into its ranks in the past, including Leonardo Da Vinci, in an epic tale that provides an origin for the covert group and hints at sinister things waiting in the wings.  The title bounces back and forth in time as a superhuman boy, Leonid, decides whether to join them or not.  This is a very epic story with panels featuring the likes of Galactus, Celestials and the Brood.  Hickman seems to have plenty of great ideas and classic twists, and I think we're going to see some pretty amazing things from this great new talent in the coming years.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I, Zombie #1

Chris Roberson & Michael Allred

I, Zombie is a new ongoing title that just debuted through DC's Vertigo line.  The first issue is actually offered at a special introductory price of $1, assuming they will make a profit after selling subsequent issues at regular cover price.  Well, they've probably managed to hook many readers willing to pay full price, and they've certainly hooked me, because this first issue is awesome.  I was initially drawn to this title because Michael Allred is the artist, and I love his clean, cartoony art.  He's at his best here, with beautiful panels and fluid storytelling.  I especially like the fashion of his characters, all wearing interesting clothing that suits each person, and writer Chris Roberson really provides some great characters for this title, including the main character herself, Gwen Dylan, who is the hot zombie in question.  Once a month, in order to stop from becoming a senseless wandering zombie, she must consume a brain.  And, as seen by the end of the issue, eating the organ is more than Survivor-gross, it messes with Gwen's mind, because she has the person whom she consumes' thoughts rattling around in her brain, and for them to simmer down, she sometimes has to resort to drastic measures.  This time around, she must track down a murderer.  The supporting characters of the book are also really compelling.  Gwen spends most of her time hanging around crypts with a ghost named Ellie, who's a little dated, and a boy who turns into a dog on the full moon has the hots for her.  Throw in some vampire chicks and a monster-hunting duo and you've got a book brimming with the supernatural.  This book just seems like a breath of fresh air from the same old zombie titles coming out.  It has a neat premise, actual characters to care about, and it doesn't take itself too seriously.  Props must be given to Laura Allred for her vibrant colors, rounding out a creative team that works really well together on an exciting new book.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pick of the Week 5/5

Here is the book you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow...

Krazy & Ignatz: 1916-1918 TP - Going back to the very beginning of George Herriman's Krazy Kat, this collects the first three years worth of Krazy Kat Sunday pages.  Originally, Fantagraphics began publishing works well into the run because another company had already published the first nine years worth of the strip.  Now Fantagraphics goes back to the beginning, where three volumes will collect three years each to round out the early years of the strip, bringing them all back into print.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Brightest Day #1
Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 HC
Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale HC
I, Zombie #1
John Carpenter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years HC
The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (of 6)
Stuff of Legend TP
Super F*ckers TP
Twin Spica (Volume 1)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Manga Monday: Flower In a Storm

Flower In a Storm (Volume 1)
Shigeyoshi Takagi

The first of Flower In a Storm's two volumes introduces readers to Riko Kunimi, a normal high school girl (or so she'd like you to think).  She has superhuman abilities that make her feel really self-conscious, especially since she was rejected by a boy when she played a boys' sport well.  Since that devastating rejection, she has wanted nothing more than to be normal and fit in.  But she's unable to do just that when powerful, rich teen Ran Tachibana enters her classroom, waving a gun and demanding that she be his bride.  She tries to outrun the overzealous admirerer, who comes at her with armies of ninja and helicopters, and manages to evade him for a time, but he turns up at the most unexpected times.  And soon he actually displays genuine affection for this girl who wants nothing to do with him, doing outrageously romantic things to woo her (which she hates, since it brings extra attention her way, the opposite of the normalcy that she seeks).  I love the tone of this book, at once silly and over-the-top, and action-packed and emotional.  And the characters are really great.  Once Riko realizes that Ran really loves her and does things to make her happy, she has a conflict of exactly what she wants in life.  Does she really want to be a normal girl with a normal boyfriend?  Or should she embrace this charming strange guy who accepts her for who she is, and wants a life for her as far from normal as one can get?  She's already a very conflicted person.  Whenever she's running late for school or someone's in trouble, she doesn't hesitate to use her powers in the name of doing what's right.  She's completely selfless.  It's especially hard for her to accept Ran's advances at face value, because it means that he likes her for the real self that she tries so hard to hide from everybody.  There's a lot of cool things going on in this book, and Ran's amazing luxurious life (complete with assassins trying to take out the heir, and planting car bombs in his vehicles) bring a ton of action to an already rich premise.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Fraggle Rock #1 (of 3)


I was never a huge fan of Fraggle Rock growing up.  I would catch it on TV here and there, but I never made a point to watch it, so I can't speak for the hardcore fans of the show here.  But as a comic, this worked really well.  Overall, this is a great package, in the same square format as Archaia's Mouse Guard series, another all-ages book.  The stories are very lively and engaging, and quite colorful, which is very important in a book like this.  I don't think it would be half as appealing without all of the different colored fraggles bouncing around.  Overall, I think the creators did a great job of getting the Fraggle Rock vibe across in this debut issue.  The first story, from Heather White, Jeff Stokely and Lizzy John, is "A Throne of my Own" and perfectly introduces (and reintroduces) the world to readers.  Over the twenty beautiful pages, we get to know the fraggles' world, including "The Beast" in "Outer Space" (a dog outside of the rock they live in), the wise Trash Heap that gives them advice, and most importantly, the five main fraggles of the series, filling in their personalities with the adventure they go through and the dialogue between them.  The characters look very faithful to the muppets from the show in all of the stories, but nonesomuch as in this first story.  The second story in the book, "Time Flies" by Katie Cook, is the weakest of the bunch, five pages surrounding a watch that the hairy bear-human that lives outside drops into their well, and the activities they invent around it.  The final story is "Red's Big Idea" from the talented artist of books like Sulk, Clumsy and Incredible Change-Bots, Jeffrey Brown, with colors by Michael DiMotta.  This is just four pages, has a good dose of irony in it, and is just fun, with the most interesting art of the bunch.  Brown also did another cover for the book featuring Travelling Matt in a comic book store, which is appropriate.  Overall, a very successful launch for Jim Henson's products being adapted by Archaia (The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth comics are on the way).  I love the anthology format and it's charming, good clean fun.