Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pick of the Week 6/30

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

Krazy Kat: A Celebration of Sundays HC - 135 pages of classic Krazy Kat Sunday strips presented in their original size and colors, from Sunday Press Books, the publisher behind the excellent Little Nemo In Slumberland reprints.  Includes an introduction by Patrick McDonnell, a biography and other treats.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Batman Beyond #1 (of 6)
Batwoman: Elegy Deluxe Edition HC
Bizenghast (Volume 7) - Final volume!
Chi's Sweet Home (Volume 1)
Death of Dracula #1
Prince Valiant (Volume 2): 1939-1940 HC
The Royal Historian of Oz #1
Werewolves of Montpelier GN

Monday, June 28, 2010

Manga Monday: I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow

Shunju Aono

New from Viz's IKKI line is I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow, a manga series from Shunju Aono.  The story follows Shizuo Oguro, a loser by any stretch of the imagination.  Not only does he still live with his father and is a regular fast food server at age forty, but he has no aspirations beyond playing hours of video games and trying to impress thirteen-year-olds with his ability to ride a bicycle without using his hands.  Lately, he's come to realize that he is middle-aged and is a bad father/role model to his teenage daughter, and tries to do things to rectify his ways.  So, he begins creating manga.  He has no experience, and is all over the map with the sort of content he churns out, but he's dedicated to this new driving force in his life...sort of.  He gets distracted still, is lazy generally, and goes into slumps, but he rebounds and creating manga begins to have an effect on his life.  He begins to look to others around him for inspiration, like a juvenile delinquent who works the same fast food job who doesn't take crap from a couple of trashy customers.  Shizuo tries to shape himself into the sort of man who could take charge in this way, to embarrassing results, and doesn't seem to realize what a spectacle he's making of himself.  Shizuo remains a loser despite his intentions.  He may be more aware of his surroundings and realizes that what he's doing is screwing up his daughter (and throws a few words of wisdom her way), but he's very set in his ways, and he's just kind of pathetic.  I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow is kind of depressing to read overall, with a loathsome protagonist.  The art is pretty sketchy, and sometimes the facial expressions are hard to read and make sense of.  In the end, this just doesn't connect with me.  Aono could have reached past such generic examples of a loser beyond the very obvious cliches of living with your parents, working a loser job and playing video games all day as an adult, but instead leaves little to really make this title stand out as exceptional, or insightful, although the creator seems to be reaching for something substantial.  Maybe with his next work, Aono will realize some of the potential seen in this one.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pick of the Week 6/23

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

X-Men: S.W.O.R.D.: No Time To Breathe TP - What good timing!  Check out one of the most overlooked comic books in its collected format tomorrow - all five issues of the amazing, short-lived series.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Archie: The Best of Dan DeCarlo (Volume 1) HC
Beasts of Burden HC
Family Circus Library (Volume 2) HC
Jurassic Park: Redemption #1
Namora #1
The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen HC
Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book 3) HC
Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark #1

Friday, June 18, 2010

30 Most Overlooked Comics

I thought that for the 5-year anniversary of Comics-and-More that I would highlight some comic books that I feel have been overlooked.  I feel like one of my most important contributions as a blogger is pointing people toward good books that may interest them.  I decided to look at books that have come out over the past decade, so some books that I think are criminally overlooked from before that time, such as Keith Giffin and Erik Larsen's Freak Force, are not included here.  These are thirty books that I feel, one way or another, should have received more attention from comic fandom in America, and deserved to sell more books.

Honorable Mentions
Athena Voltaire (Steve Bryant & Paul Daly)
Mnemovore (Ray Fawkes, Hans Rodionoff & Mike Huddleston)
Mystic (Ron Marz, Brandon Peterson, John Dell, Aaron Lopresti, etc.)
Octopus Girl (Toru Yamazaki)
Sidescrollers (Matthew Loux)

30. (TIE) It was really difficult for me to narrow this list down to thirty (as you can probably tell by the five honorable mentions), so spot #30 is a tie for four titles that I just couldn't choose between knocking off of this list...

30. Avengers Icons: Tigra
Christina Z. & Mike Deodato Jr.

This mini-series from 2002 features Mike Deodato Jr. on art, with a style surprisingly as impressive as his work on more current titles like Dark Avengers.  This specific book was four issues long and was part of a bunch of mini-series Marvel was releasing at the time focusing on Avengers and X-Men characters like Vision and Rogue in their own limited series.  In her own book, the feline Avenger Tigra is deep undercover in a pretty grim story that has connections to her past and her late husband involving a group of vigilantes.  This is a dark story that touches both aspects of her life (as superhero and with the authorities in her day job) with plenty of surprises for Greer Nelson leading to a thrilling confrontation.

30.  Ms. Marvel
Brian Reed, Robert de la Torre, Aaron Lopresti, etc.

When not disrupted by the company's mega crossover events, Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel is a pretty solid superhero title, forcing Carol Danvers to confront her past (her family history is just as captivating as the villains that rear their ugly heads) and try to become the best superhero that she can be.  Art chores switch hands a few times, as is the case with most of Marvel's books, but for the most part, they get pretty good names on this title.  Aaron Lopresti is my personal favorite.  The best storyarc is during Ms. Marvel's involvement with a group of heroes including Machine Man and Sleepwalker, and her bond with an alien entity named Cru, in Monster Smash.

30. Terry Moore's Echo
Terry Moore

Terry Moore is most known for the popular comic Strangers In Paradise, but his recent series Echo is a title that I, unfortunately, never hear people talking about.  It's a science fiction story about a small group of people on the run from the government, trying to uncover a conspiracy and keep the weapon that's attached to Julie Martin's body from falling into the wrong hands.  There's a lot of great dialogue and interactions between the characters and some really stunning art from Terry Moore - nice action sequences, scenery and just great human forms, from their hair to their clothes.  It's all in the details and Moore has them down in this book.

30. Wolverine: First Class
Fred Van Lente, Peter David, Andrea Di Vito, etc.

There are usually several Wolverine titles going at once, so when one comes and goes, it's hardly noticeable, but this title was one that deserved more attention.  Wolverine: First Class focuses on Wolverine during an earlier era, after Kitty Pryde had joined the school.  Professor Xavier charges him with her training and, together, they get into a lot of mischief as they bond over the course of the book.  It certainly doesn't hurt that I'm a huge Kitty Pryde fan, but this all-ages sort of title has great storylines, is often quite funny, and has some pretty neat ideas and guest appearances thanks to creators such as Peter David having an obviously good time with the characters.

29. X-Men: Phoenix Endsong
Greg Pak & Greg Land

Making some pretty creative connections with the X-Men, Greg Pak (Planet Hulk) weaves a disturbing tale of The Phoenix Force following Grant Morrison's legendary run on New X-Men that put Jean Grey to rest.  Morrison really made the X-Men cool again, and he's really good at getting back to the basic elements of a franchise, and has a knack for picking out obvious, but great ideas, and shaping them into classic, refreshing storylines.  I feel like this five-issue mini-series had such an inspired story, with twists that were always part of the mythos, but were shocking in how they were used here, while obvious at the same time.  Sometimes it takes a visionary to see what's right there, and a great writer to focus those ideas into a really compelling story such as this one.

28. Miss Don't Touch Me
Hubert & Kerascoet

This French graphic novel from a husband-wife team is a compelling murder mystery.  A serial killer known as The Butcher of the Dances is cutting women to pieces in 1930's Paris, and a murder close to protagonist Blanche leads her to a high-class bordello to try to discover who the murderer is.  While at the bordello, Blanche adopts the role of Miss Don't Touch Me, a stern pain-inducing English governess, and witnesses behavior there that shocks her.  This book does a lot of really cool things and offers some really compelling characters that ooze personality.  The art reminds me very much of Joann Sfar, with its willowy, expressive pencils, and you couldn't ask for a more conflicted protagonist than Blanche.  A real overlooked gem of an import.

27. Leave It To PET!
Kenji Sonishi

One of the funniest books that I've had the pleasure of reading, Leave It To PET!, follows the adventures of recycled robots who come back to help the people who recycled them when they were plastic bottles or bags or whatever they happened to be made out of before they were converted to helpful friends.  PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate - a type of plastic) is a particularly unhelpful robot who offers his services to the boy who recycled him, Noboru.  He's well-meaning when he tries to aid him in difficult situations, but things hardly ever turn out the way he plans, often making more of a mess of any given situation than before he arrived.  I rarely laugh when reading comics, but with this one, I literally laughed out loud several times over the course of the series.  This manga is just a ton of fun, and great for kids of all ages.

26. Aria
Jay Anacleto & Brian Holguin

While the original fantasy comic book Aria was released in 1999, a few mini-series have been released since then and collected by Image Comics, including Aria: The Soul Market, Aria: Summer's Spell and Aria: The Uses of Enchantment.  The series follows magical beings living on modern-day Earth.  While the stories are exciting and magical, it's really Jay Anacleto's art that's the draw here.  His pencils are stunningly beautiful and very lifelike, without seeming too stiff.  He brings the real magic to the series through his drawings of varied people, exotic places, and strange creatures.

25. Manhunter
Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz, Michael Gaydos, etc.

Although it's been canceled and saved by fans a few times, still too few people picked up this DC title to keep it going in its own series (it's currently a back-up in Batman: Streets of Gotham).  Kate Spencer, hard-as-nails lawyer by day, vigilante Manhunter by night, is one of the better female characters created in recent superhero comics.  She tries to stop deadly criminals who have weaseled their way through the justice system and back out onto the streets, using alien technology and her own cunning.  This title can venture into some pretty dark territory, but Andreyko consistently keeps Kate compelling as she juggles her life as a mother with her two other occupations.

24. Black Widow
Greg Rucka, Scott Hampton, Igor Korday & Devin Grayson

Greg Rucka did some great work with Black Widow over the past decade, beginning with his follow-up to the 1999 Marvel Knights story "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," which introduced Yelena Belova to Natasha Romanoff as her successor as the Black Widow, trained in the Red Room as Natasha had been.  The follow-up, "Breakdown" (2001) saw Greg Rucka pit the two ladies against one another in a cat-and-mouse game of stolen identities in the sort of spy vs. spy story that works best for the characters.  Very violent and exciting, Greg Rucka knows how to build psychological tension and screw with the minds of his characters (and readers).  The next Black Widow mini-series he worked on with Igor Korday was the MAX book called "Pale Little Spider" and focuses exclusively on Belova, giving insight into her past as she tries to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious murder of a father figure from her life.  This is really good stuff, and proves that Rucka really knows how to work with impressive female characters, leaving them much richer when he leaves them.

23. Queer Visitors From the Marvelous Land of Oz
L. Frank Baum, Walt McDougal & W.W. Denslow

Sunday Press has been known to produce some very high-quality comic strip reprints, most notably Little Nemo In Slumberland and Sundays With Walt and Skeezix, but the company also took on a more obscure publishing project in the form of this oversized collection, boasting the original size of the newspaper pages from when the Oz strips first debuted over a century ago.  The illustrations are masterful, putting a lost treasure trove of stories back into the hands of fans of Baum's Oz books, as well as new readers, with lots of great supplemental material like an essay by Eric Shanower.  Also included in this mammoth book are the complete comic strips of Scarecrow & the Tinman by original interior artist on the Oz books W.W. Denslow, as well as another Denslow comic, Billy Bounce.  A real discovery for people in this golden age of comic strip reprints, and one that seemed to come and go with hardly a word from the comic community at large.

22. Fluffy
Simone Lia

Fluffy is a very human story about a single man who raises a small bunny by himself, named Fluffy,who believes that the neurotic man is his daddy.  This story is absolutely adorable, with Fluffy refusing to acknowledge that he's a bunny, going on about ice cream and stuff like he's a little kid.  But it's also very insightful, as the characters fumble through their experiences to find some sort of meaning in life.  A lot of this is done through humor, but also diagrams and awkward moments with family.  There's a surprising depth to this comic once you look beyond the "cuteness" factor, with some very real characters.

21. Chickenhare
Chris Grine

Chickenhare is an all-ages series that follows an unlikely hero, a half-chicken, half-hare, who, together with his oddball friends, has all sorts of adventures and learns what friendship is all about.  Grine has a great cartoony sensibility with nice character designs and absolutely fluid storytelling.  The Chickenhare books have a Bone feel to them that are missing from other all-ages stories out there, coming across as very genuine, with a good dose of humor and action thrown into the mix.  The second volume Chickenhare: Fire In the hole only improves upon the winning formula that Grine establishes with the first book.

20. Elektra #7-22
Greg Rucka, Carlo Pagulayan, Joe Bennett, etc.

Beginning with issue #7 of the regular series that began in 2001 (through the Marvel Knights imprint), Greg Rucka took the reigns from Brian Michael Bendis and Chuck Austen, beginning a great run for the deadly assassin Elektra.  Chalk-full of fantastic fight sequences and some real soul searching for the cold killer, Elektra hasn't been more exciting since Frank Miller worked on his creation.  I'm a huge Elektra fan, Frank Miller's Daredevil and Elektra: Assassin being some of my favorite comics period.  And while there have been a few other decent runs on the character (Robert Rodi's follow-up to Greg Rucka's work, Zeb Wells' Dark Reign: Elektra), nothing else resonates quite like the exciting stuff that Greg Rucka brought to the table on his run.

19. Underground
Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

This mini-series from Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas) and Steve Lieber (Whiteout) was recently collected and quietly placed on bookstore shelves.  The story follows a couple of park rangers caught up in the politics of a small town, where a local businessman is attempting to transform local caves into a tourist attraction.  It soon becomes a fast-paced adventure as the rangers are chased through the cave by armed men caught conducting illegal activities in the cave.  Steve Lieber draws on his experience on Whiteout, where he had to illustrate the story creatively amid a snowy, very white atmosphere.  Here, he has the opposite problem, having to illustrate under the constraints of the blackness of the caves they venture through.  But Lieber really turns those hardships into absolutely impressive panels, masterfully using shading and light to illustrate this claustrophobic thriller.

18. Skinwalker
Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir & Brian Hurtt

This 2002 mini-series from Oni Press sees an FBI agent working alongside a member of the Navajo Tribal Police to track down a serial killer.  Amid plenty of racial tension and cultural differences, the two follow a man who may literally be skinning people in an attempt to wear their skins in an ancient Navajo ritual.  It's gruesome stuff, and the book goes to some pretty surprising places, but it's action-packed with a great cast of characters, and interesting commentary on belief, tradition and politics.

17. Strugglers
Tim Fish

Tim Fish is perhaps most known for his gay comic books like Cavalcade of Boys, and while there is a gay character in this title, it's more of a quiet story of friendship following three roommates in Saint Louis, Missouri (one boy and two girls).  While the lone male works out his feelings for the boy next door, the girls both join bands and begin competing with one another.  This is very much a slice-of-life sort of story of the lives of these three people in a moment of time, a point where they have to find out who they are.  It's refreshing, very funny, and it's just a nice little tale, expertly told, about how these three friends touch each other's lives.  It feels real and very honest.

16. Captain Britain and MI-13
Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, Pat Olliffe, etc.

This book got quite a bit of buzz building around it as it was being serialized, but not enough to stop it from being cancelled on a high note after fifteen issues.  Originally pitched as a reboot of Excalibur, Captain Britain and MI-13 takes place in England, beginning with Secret Invasion, where a team is assembled by Pete Wisdom including Captain Britain, the vampire Spitfire and former Avenger The Black Knight, to keep the skrull forces at bay.  It's kind of an odd series overall, but it really seemed to just get better and better as it went along.  Great dynamic between the characters and plenty of fun action and plot twists.

15. Elk's Run
Joshua Hale Fialkov & Noel Tuazon

Elk's Run is about an isolated community formed by Vietnam vets who want a haven from the evils of the outside world.  As families are being raised in this small world, the teenagers who've grown up here are beginning to rebel (the female-to-male ratio is unbalanced) and when a series of events cause the town to go into full lockdown mode, some of the teenagers make a break for it, and end up trying to dodge men they've known all their lives tracking them down with shotguns.  This is a riveting multi-layered work that sees the horror and violence of war brought to a town where they wanted nothing more than to escape it.  Solid writing all around.

14. X-Men: Misfits
Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman & Anzu

While it may have moved enough copies to place on the New York Times Bestseller list for graphic books, this little licensed manga from Del Rey hung somewhere between manga fans and Marvel X-Men fans, not quite attracting either to the extent that it deserved, ultimately resulting with its first volume being its last.  It's really a shame because the X-Men really lend themselves well to manga, and this shojo tale following Kitty Pryde attending a special school for kids with powers is damn impressive.  The school happens to be populated only by boys until her arrival, and Beast resembles a Totoro, but the creators really put a lot of thought into what could make a concept like this work, with a great romantic triangle between Kitty, Iceman and Pyro, and some utterly breathtaking, almost iconic panels courtesy of Anzu's lovely art.  It's really too bad that there won't be more coming out, as this is one of the best things to come out of the X-Men franchise since Joss Whedon and John Cassaday ended their run on Astonishing X-Men.

13. Suburban Glamour
Jamie McKelvie

Amid supernatural mayhem, Jamie McKelvie's (Phonogram) four issue mini-series Suburban Glamour is about a small group of teenagers who want nothing more than to get out of suburbia.  Plenty of crazy magic and mayhem seep into the story, but it's really the thoughtful fashion, the unique dialogue and the characters themselves (and their sleek designs) that set this title apart from others like it, with Jamie McKelvie's clean, fantastic art being the icing on the cake.  The entire package is crafted beautifully.

12. Thunderbolts #110-143
Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato Jr., Christos Gage, Andy Diggle, etc.

The new Thunderbolts that debuted with Civil War were something of a force of nature.  A team of hostile superpowered individuals under the thumb of the government, used to track down unregistered heroes and criminals, sometimes to lethal results.  Warren Ellis let loose with one of the darkest, most brutal books out there when this new incarnation of the book debuted.  Anytime the team appears in other Marvel books like Spider-Woman, it's an "oh, shit!" moment.  And yet, no one really talks about it.  There have been some great writers and artists on this book, with some pretty compelling stories and characters on the team, with petty bickering between them and backstabbing and all sorts of great drama, and it seems to me that hardly anyone even noticed that Warren Ellis was writing Thunderbolts or that Deodato was drawing it.  It's kind of been taken for granted in my book during one of the darkest times in the Marvel Universe, and now that Marvel has entered its Heroic Age, I doubt we'll see a book quite like it again anytime soon.

11. Meridian
Barbara Kesel, Joshua Middleton & Steve McNiven

One of the first books published by ill-fated company Crossgen (who put out a few impressive books like Victorian mystery Ruse and Negation, with its rag-tag team of aliens thrown together to survive), Meridian remained one of the most compelling throughout its run, following a young girl, Sephie, who becomes minister of Meridian when her father dies.  She also inherits a strange mark that grants her powers that she slowly learns to use, her power-hungry uncle having a similar mark and trying to usurp her title.  There's great political intrigue in this title, compelling characters and fantastic landscapes and battles.  Some great artists worked on this title, to some breathtaking results, and it remains a real shame that it ended so abruptly.  The good news is that the collections are usually readily available in bargain bins at comic stores and conventions, so it's not too hard (or expensive) to track this rather impressive series down.

10. The Order
Matt Fraction, Barry Kitson, Khari Evans & Javier Saltares

Coming out of Tony Stark's 50-State Initiative during Civil War is this California-based team of heroes with a roster full of famous actors, pop idols and athletes, sworn to protect the state with temporary, artificially-induced powers.  It has a great vibe, a cross between X-Statix, with its switching out members who perish, and Ultra: Seven Days with the whole celebrity superhero angle.  And while there's a lot of action and scandals, as the premise would suggest, this book is very character-driven, painting each of these damaged celebrities with plenty of dimension, and beginning and ending each issue with an interview of a specific character.  Very fun.

9. Dampyr
Mauro Boselli, Maurizio Colombo, Majo, Luca Rossi, etc.

IDW took on the reprint project of translating the Dampyr saga for American audiences a few years ago, but after eight digest volumes were released, sales didn't warrant its continuation.  The long-running European supernatural series follows a half-human, half-vampire who battles hordes of the undead, including master vampires and ghosts, with a few travelling companions.  Along the way, he begins to put pieces from his past together to learn exactly who, and what, he is.  This is a very gritty comic with some genuinely scary moments, and very nice black-and-white high quality artwork.

8. Sky Doll
Allessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa

More European comics!  Sky Doll is a fantastic, inventive comic from France that Marvel has published through its relationship with Soleil.  And while I feel that all of the Soleil titles are being overlooked by comic book fans, Sky Doll is the cream of the crop.  It has a deceptively cartoony quality to it, very Disney-esque, but harbors adult themes and contains a good amount of nudity and horny characters.  In fact Noa, the sky doll that the story centers around, is pretty much a pleasure-bot.  But beyond the blatant humor and sexuality of the book is a lot of substance in a strange universe that examines religion and oppression among other issues, amid a great amount of action and suspense.  The characters are a lot of fun to spend time with, and it really becomes an epic story that's not soon forgotten.  The artwork is a big part of the book, boasting fast-paced and cinematic panels, with thoughtful detail going into the worlds and the expressive characters who live in them.

7. The Phoenix Requiem
Sarah Ellerton

There's a whole world of on-line comics to explore if you have the chance, largely ignored by most of comic fandom.  And some of them are really high quality stuff that deserve a larger audience.  Some books make the leap to the printed page, most recently Demons of Sherwood and BodyWorld, but there's still a ton of worthy books out there if people are looking for it.  The Phoenix Requiem is one of the greatest works available on-line, an epic fantasy that takes place in a Victorian-esque town where a plague has broken out among the villagers.  There are also demon-like shades that have begun to appear that may be linked to the disease, and perhaps to a stranger who was found in town bleeding from a bullet wound.  Anya is the protagonist of this tale, a competent nurse who's trying to unravel the mystery of the plague before it consumes more of her loved ones and spreads, at the same time trying to figure out the secrets surrounding the handsome stranger.  Ellerton's art is clear and crisp, and can be downright stunning in some instances, in a very cinematic-flowing comic.  The characters may be broad at times, but the dialogue, action and suspense are thrilling.  The book is currently going on 630+ pages (in volume four) and still going strong.  Read it here for free.

6. Artesia
Mark Smylie

The book that launched Archaia in 2002, founder Mark Smylie's Artesia is a real work of beauty.  It's world-building at its best as Smylie develops his Warrior-priestess amid a fantasy world full of gods, magic and bloody epic battles.  There's really nothing like this out on the market today, boasting lush painted artwork and a fully-realized environment with exceptional detail work.  Artesia leads her army into bloody skirmishes, asking the gods for favor, performing Pagan rituals and offering them gifts, and interacting with them in chilling scenes.  It's amazing seeing Smylie draw these beings amid the human battles, and juggling the politics of this world.  This book is violent, sexy, scary, thrilling and utterly captivating.  More people need this book on their shelves.

5. Spellbinders: Signs and Wonders
Mike Carey & Steve Perkins

The Spellbinders mini-series oozes atmosphere, and pretty much sets the tone for the entire book from the get-go, as a pair of teens experiment with magic they know nothing about to some horrific results.  Full of haunting monsters and ending in a battle as epic as it gets, this book about teenage witches is one of the best the witch sub-genre will likely ever produce.  I remember being on the edge of my seat the entire time reading through the second issue of the series the first time around, as the main character Kate is hiding from a man with a knife in her dark house, trying to keep quiet beneath a table as she listens to him move closer to her location.  This book is a total treat with plenty of similar heart-pounding moments and surprises.

4. Wonderland
Tommy Kovak & Sonny Liew

This all-ages sequel to Disney's Alice In Wonderland is fun, witty and just plain gorgeous.  Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew continue Disney's version of the Lewis Carroll story with familiar faces, as well as some new ones. The protagonist of this new tale is Mary Ann, the White Rabbit's maid whom he mistakes Alice for in the original story. Mary Ann is a no-nonsense maid who happens to be obsessive-compulsive about making things pristinely clean.  She's utterly likable and is drawn beautifully, as is the rest of the book, by Sonny Liew with delicate lines and cartoony characters, in stunning colors.  Kovac came up with some pretty imaginative ideas for this sequel of sorts. In fact, it's brimming with creativity and you have to pause to admire the artwork often, while taking in fun panel arrangements and the craziness that comes with this backwards world that Alice left behind.  Great for kids and adults alike.

3. Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters
John Rozum & Paul Lee

This Vertigo book is from earlier in the decade, a six-issue sequel that improved on the original eight-issue mini-series Midnight, Mass (which is definitely worth checking out as well, but the sequel really ramps up everything that worked really well in the first book).  The series takes place in Midnight, Massachusettes, thus the name, and sees world-famous monster hunters, The Kadmons, as they do what they do best: kill some monsters.  This is a great dark book speckled with humor, with a fun dynamic between the husband-wife team.  Art on this title is really nice, the panels perfectly paced for maximum effect in building suspense and illustrating the thrilling events.  There are also some really chilling, crazy monster designs (especially in latter issues) that really struck me, as we see a bunch of monsters terrorizing a town, slipping out from under beds and closets, and murdering without discrimination.  At the epicenter of all this chaos is the Kadmons' greatest foe, the demon Magellan, who sets his sights high and rallies the troops around him for a battle that is both epic and bloody.  Unfortunately, there's no convenient collected edition of this material to pick up, so some back issue hunting is in order if you want to check out this great supernatural thrill ride.

2. S.W.O.R.D.
Kieron Gillen & Steve Sanders

Spun out of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's excellent run on Astonishing X-Men, Agent Brand runs the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, the government's answer to threats from outer space, a compliment to their S.H.I.E.L.D. division. With a fun crew of characters, including X-Men Beast and Lockheed, this book was one of the funnest comics that I've ever had the pleasure of reading, right out of the gate, with a great balance of action, humor and verbal sparring, and clear storytelling courtesy of Steve Sanders.  Gillen set up a great dynamic here between the characters and I was wholly impressed by what the creators did with each character right up to the end. The situations they came up with were riveting, and the premise and environment they set up for the characters to maneuver through were top-notch.  Brand's battle with the bounty hunter Death's Head over the course of the first few issues is an instant classic. This book really did not get the attention it should have.  It had the makings of a great, but was an underdog immediately upon solicitation, and was hardly given a chance to make its mark with only five issues released.  It's a real shame that this book didn't take off, because I guarantee it's better than pretty much every other superhero book on the market right now.

1. Gunnerkrigg Court
Thomas Siddell

Archaia has recently been putting this gem of a webcomic into print (two volumes now), exposing a fantastic fantasy series to a new audience.  This all-ages book follows Antimony Carver, a fully-realized heroine who attends a strange school with magic and mystery around every corner, and danger waiting in the wings. The stories set in this wonderful dark, Gothic private school begin small and slowly build toward a more epic pitch, much like the art begins a little shaky and you can see Siddell grow confident in illustrating his world as he proceeds, taking those few great cartooning moments from the initial chapters and turning out consistently skilled, smooth art by the end of the first volume, outright stunning readers with his beautiful images by the second.  I couldn't believe how quickly I fell in love with the tales told here and the characters that populate them, from robots and demon-possessed stuffed cats to living shadows and sarcastic little girls. And Antimony Carver is a wonderful protagonist. She's a bit awkward and strange, and ultimately very lonely, especially since her father has left without telling her where he's gone (although she deludes herself into thinking he will return by this time or that time, though he never does). She also takes things in stride. The school ghost in unable to scare her, but she quickly offers advice to him without missing a beat. It's all very fun and the thrills keep on coming, the story moving faster and faster as events proceed.  It really isn't too often that something so magical and engrossing as this comes along to take readers by surprise, and it's little wonder that it earned a starred review in Publisher's Weekly and even has Neil Gaiman's stamp of approval.  I've been swept away by this series and I think that anyone who gives this title a chance will agree with me that it is something really, really special.  I don't know how a book like this gets so overshadowed by the mountains of nonsense that ships to comic stores every month, but even if I can point a few people in the direction of a high-quality book like this, this will all have been worth it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Avengers Academy #1

Christos Gage & Mike McKone

A new young team of heroes assemble in Marvel Comics, trained under the tutelage of veteran Avengers Hank Pym, Justice, Tigra, Speedball and Quicksilver.  This new generation of Avengers were teenagers experimented on by Norman Osborn, and were handpicked by Pym to join this group, but not because they are exemplary students that could usher in the next generation of superheroes, but because they have the potential to be dangerous to society, and need to be tempered and perhaps defused.  It's nice and refreshing to have a whole new bunch of characters to get to know in this all-new series, superpowered individuals with a little edge, a little darkness to them.  And the characters have some really great designs, particularly Veil and Hazmat, with Mettle having a great overall look.  The art in general is very well done: clear action, and crisp clean lines showcasing the interactions between the beautifully-rendered characters.  There's a lot of potential in this new book and I intend to see how the creators develop it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Underground TP

Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

This five-issue mini-series from writer Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas, X-Men: First Class) and artist Steve Lieber (Whiteout, Civil War: Frontline) was recently collected, including a little "pilot episode" from Image Comics' Four Letter Worlds anthology.  The book follows two park rangers: Wes, who's new to town and has plenty of experience spelunking, and Seth, who grew up in the small town where Stillwater Cave resides.  While Wes adamantly opposes opening the cave to tourism and destroying the precious cave life, Seth sees the townfolk's point-of-view, as it would help to dispel the town's economic draught.  While they may not see eye-to-eye, these two get along, and are nursing a blooming romance.  When the book opens, a local business owner presses the idea of opening the cave to tourism, and goes to the extremes of hiring some men to detonate explosives in the cave to show its promise to a representative from the state department who's coming to town the next day.  When Seth catches the men in the act, he and Wes are consequently driven deep into the caves to escape from the armed men in a desperate bid for survival.  Along the way, they encounter walls of rock, high water and near misses in this fast-paced, claustrophobic read.  I think that Steve Lieber's artwork is what really makes this book work.  He had the experience on Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt to make a harsh environment come to life with the obstacles of making it look very cold, and also to make the art exciting when sometimes the pages would be just full of the white snow.  Here, he brings that same sort of technique to life in the opposite manner, having to use the sparse light from the character's flashlights and flares to force back the deep shadows of the cave.  It's a very dark book, lots of black, but the panels are expertly lit with shade.  And the action is really intense and often brutal, so the story just flies by.  Lieber paces the story with ease, drawing out tension, and making the protagonists' desperate plight come alive.  This is a top-notch thriller the likes of which doesn't come along too often in comicdom.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Manga Monday: Saturn Apartments

Saturn Apartments (Volume 1)
Hisae Iwaoka

New from Viz's IKKI line is Saturn Apartments, which features a future Earth where humans live in a huge structure shaped like a ring that surrounds the planet, a ring inspired by the natural one that surrounds Saturn.  This man made ring is 35 kilometers into the sky and is humanity's home while a sick Earth recovers from the damage humans have done to it.  There are different classes aboard the ring, the lower floor being the working class, the middle floor where everyone goes to school among other things, and the upper level being where high society lives.  Being from the lower levels, Mitsu follows in the steps of his father to be a window-washer.  Window-washing is a dangerous line of work aboard the ring, as high winds, meteorites and other hazards can come out of nowhere to harm the unsuspecting workers.  Mitsu's own father was lost to high winds while completing work, falling to Earth far below.  Basically, Mitsu and his co-workers wash windows for rich clients, usually people from the upper levels who wish to have the dirt and grime cleaned from their view to see the sun in all its glory.  So, in Oxygen suits, they clamber out onto the treacherous outside of the ring, attached to ropes, to clean the glass and repair any damage from debris, and that's how they make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs available on the ring.  Amid this work, Mitsu has a lot of drama in his life, problems with co-workers, getting to know his partner, and in general piecing together the father he lost via the stories the people he now works with relate to him.  It's kind of a depressing environment, basically growing up in a space station, but there are nice moments with the people in Mitsu's life, and when they get a glimpse of Earth below them, it makes their job's risks well worth it all.  Iwaoka's art is the big draw for me here.  She has a great attention to detail, beautiful backgrounds, and great designs for the ring and their gear and clothing.  I also really just love how she draws the people in this manga: big round heads, quite stout, and with simple, but very expressive eyes.  For such an imaginative premise, the stories told here are much quieter than you'd expect.  No in-your-face space craziness, but more human, character-driven scenes, full of contemplative workers and people trying to just figure one another out.  It's probably not what most people expect when they pick something like this up, but it's a refreshing, original tale full of pretty amazing artwork.

Pick of the Week 6/16

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

Artichoke Tales HC - This is the latest highly-anticipated graphic novel from exciting cartoonist Megan Kelso, whose excellent The Squirrel Mother Stories came out from Fantagraphics a few years ago.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat #1 (of 4)
Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird HC
Darkwing Duck #1: The Duck Knight Returns
Little Adventures In Oz (Book 2) GN
Meatcake GN
New Avengers #1
Temperance HC

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Darkstar and The Winter Guard #1 (of 3)

David Gallaher & Steve Ellis

I've always liked Darkstar.  She may be an odd character to like out of the billions of obscure superheroes out there, but I think it was an appearance on X-Men: The Animated Series that sealed the deal for me.  She seemed badass, had cool powers and was a great visual.  So, of course, I picked up the first series featuring her alongside her Russian superhero teammates in the Hulk: Winter Guard one-shot last year, and really, really enjoyed it.  I'm very happy that David Gallaher chose to pluck her out of obscurity to feature in a Marvel comic, and I'm glad that that initial one-shot was successful enough to warrant another mini-series featuring the neat little team, with the original Gallaher/Ellis team intact for the new title.  The Winter Guard is a team of interchangeable superhero icons featuring Darkstar, Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo and Red Guardian.  If one of them is killed in battle, they are swiftly replaced by an understudy as the same iconic character.  The public isn't aware of the switches, as their deaths could be seen as a weakness, and the Russian team must be perceived as a strong, unstoppable force for their people's morale.  It's a neat idea, a little twist on the whole X-Statix/The Order team roster changes.  And it works, with cool characters replacing the old, at the same time that former teammates are remembered by the current team.  The original Darkstar, Laynia Petrovna, died during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, but she's brought up time and again in the original one-shot, and in this new mini, because the repercussions of her death are still felt and haunt the team, especially the new Darkstar, Reena Stancioff, who feels inadequate in the role of the popular icon.  For anyone unfamiliar with any of these characters, there's a pretty seemless introduction for new readers here, as their superiors review the current roster, identifying weaknesses and contemplating replacements.  But the book starts out with quite a bang thanks to a guest appearance by the Agents of Atlas, who aid them in defeating Krang and his sea monsters.  It's a cool team-up, and one that has repercussions that will be felt over the course of the rest of the mini-series.  There's also an older issue of X-Men Unlimited featuring The Winter Guard included in the back of this issue that will continue through the subsequent issues, with some very 90's art courtesy of Joe Pruett, Brett Booth and Ron Lim.  If I had things my way, Darkstar and The Winter Guard would be an ongoing title.  It's a really great, straight-forward superhero title with a great dynamic to the team.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Pick of the Week 6/9

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

The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics HC - From IDW's Yoe Books! imprint is this collection of comics from the 40's and 50's by legends of the medium such as Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, Steve Ditko, Walt Kelly, Jules Pfeiffer and John Stanley.  There's also an introduction by childen's picture book author Mo Willems.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Avengers Academy #1
Batman #700 - Grant Morrison's back!
Blacksad (Volume 1) HC
Siegel and Schuster's Funnyman TP
Stardrop (Volume 1) GN
Tales Designed To Thrizzle #6
Tumor HC

Monday, June 07, 2010

Manga Monday: Book Lovers!

This week for Manga Monday, I take a look at two new manga series that involve books: Library Wars: Love & War and Kingyo Used Books.

Library Wars: Love & War
(Volume 1)
Kiiro Yumi

Library Wars: Love & War is a shojo manga from Viz about a future world where books are censored by local government (thanks to a law that's passed called the Media Betterment Act) and seized from bookstores due to what they deem "content issues."  Librarians have taken a stand and have formed the Library Forces in retaliation, and exercise the right to seize the books for themselves to be accessed by people legally in their libraries.  The library forces are a rather militant group, trained in combat to fight (and die) for the cause.  Kiiro Yumi's manga actually adapts this concept from a series of prose novels by Hiro Arikawa, giving it a shojo focus for this title.  In this manga series, the main character is Iku, a girl who has grown up with the determination to defend these books because of a man who saved a book from seizure by the local government that was dear to her.  So she strives to make her "prince" happy, although she has no idea who he is.  Iku has quite a drive and means well, but makes a lot of mistakes during her training, although she does manage a couple of firsts for women in the service.  While going through rigorous training in combat and learning the Japanese decimal system, Iku also tries to make friends with the people around her, particularly her superior officer, Dojo, whom she can't decide whether he's just mean to her or expects a lot out of her and wants to push her toward greatness.  There's a lot of good material here with a great cast of characters, some sexism in the environment, and an interesting world where censorship really takes center stage.  There have been a lot of seeds planted for stories to come, like how Iku has lied to her parents about her position and their disapproval of the type of work she has taken on, and I'm eager to see how several plot points, such as this one, turn out.  I'm kind of surprised that this is the first time I've encountered a shojo manga that takes place in a military/law enforcement setting, as it's an atmosphere with a lot of potential for the genre.  Library Wars: Love & War is able to take advantage of that to great results.

Kingyo Used Books (Volume 1)
Seimu Yoshizaki

While Library Wars: Love & War shows the length that people will go to protect the books they love, Kingyo Used Books is really about the books themselves and what they can do for people.  This is another book from Viz, but is part of their IKKI line, with art that's much more fluid, detailed and beautifully-rendered.  Kingyo Used Books is basically a book of short stories about a store that sells (and buys) used manga, and the people that the store and its books touch.  It's more of a quiet read, a welcome change from the zaniness of a shojo title like Library Wars: Love & War, focusing on how manga affects people, teaching them about themselves and other people, allowing them to take a step back to put things in perspective, and how it can simply make them happy.  The first story in this volume is a perfect introduction to the series, focusing on a man who stops into the bookstore, talking about how he's outgrown manga and would like to sell his, and ending up returning with some old friends, all of whom have emotional reactions to the part that manga has played in their lives, both in the past and presently.  And like some really great manga out there, Kingyo Used Books isn't afraid to let its readers do some of the work.  It doesn't spell everything out, but rewards close readings and different interpretations of the emotional reactions of the characters involved, and what the experiences mean for the people.  This is really a refreshing book with some really stellar art and pacing, and subtle depth.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4)

David Petersen, Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh & Alex Sheikman

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard is a new anthology from Archaia featuring artists hand-picked by Mouse Guard creator David Petersen to give other artists the opportunity to delve into his fun fantasy world (and give fans a little something to chew on while they anxiously await Petersen's third Mouse Guard mini-series, The Black Axe).  Subsequent issues of this mini-series will see creators such as Gene Ha (Top Ten: The Forty-Niners) and Terry Moore (Echo, Strangers In Paradise) take a stab at the characters, but in this debut issue, we get three talented creators bringing this world to life.  The series is set up as a group of mice at a tavern who all have hefty bar tabs.  The owner offers to waive the tab of the mouse who tells the greatest story, while the others have to pay up immediately.  The scenes in the bar are illustrated by David Petersen himself, setting up each of the tales which are written and illustrated by the guest creators.

I was personally excited to see Ted Naifeh take on this project, since I'm a huge fan of his Courtney Crumrin series.  As he's known for his goth/dark imagery, he appropriately brings that flavor to this story, featuring a mouse making a pact with a bat in a dark cave for mutual survival.  It's the shortest of all of the stories here, and I have to say, a little underwhelming, but it was still nice to see Naifeh dip into this world, as his illustrations were the most un-Mouse Guard like and it's always a treat to see his drawings.  "A Bargain In the Dark," as the tale is called, stays true to the Mouse Guard aesthetic, but has that dark look to it that is instantly recognizable as Naifeh's.

My favorite of all of the stories was the first one, "The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse & the Fox's Mouse" by Jeremy Bastian, who I'm not as familiar with as the other artists that appear here.  I've been wanting to read his Cursed Pirate Girl for some time, and this will probably end up being my excuse to track it down.  Bastian takes more of a storybook/fairy tale approach to his take on the warrior mice, pitting one mouse in service to a tyrannical hawk against one working for a fox.  It's a nice story - very dense, but no line is wasted.  Bastian's art is very polished, with some pretty creative panel arrangements.  His animal illustrations are really just striking and beautiful.  He's a very talented artist, and he kind of amazed me with his contribution.

The final offering, "Oleg the Wise," comes from Alex Sheikman, whose work I've enjoyed on Robotika (with colors by Scott Keating).  This story is also a simple one, as most of these tend to be since they are all just a few pages in length, involving a prophecy with kind of a cheesy ending that is all too predictable.  But I did enjoy the art, which is the closest to Petersen's own renditions of his world of all of the artists here.  Overall, I'm happy with the creators that have been involved in this project thus far.  This was a satisfying first issue of this anthology mini-series, with some pretty exciting creators still coming down the pipeline.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Avengers Prime #1 (of 5)

Brian Michael Bendis & Alan Davis

First of all, I've always been a huge Alan Davis fan, since his days on Excalibur, and that was really the reason why I picked this up.  I didn't need to read yet another Avengers title.  But I'm glad I did.  Davis beautifully renders these events that take place immediately following Asgard's fall, focusing on the three big Avengers: Captain America, Thor and Iron Man.  It's a really cool story actually.  Now that Asgard has fallen, what has become of the rainbow bridge?  The rest of the nine realms?  Well, this book answers those questions, pulling the three big guys through a portal to be scattered over the nine realms, where they each encounter some adversity.  And now that Asgard, Odin AND Loki are all down for the count, another foe seizes the opportunity of ruling over the vast kingdoms of gods and fantasy creatures, someone I was very pleased to see.  I think the three characters focused on here have a really nice dynamic, especially the tension between Cap and Iron Man, who were on opposing sides of Civil War.  We get to see the beginnings of a major argument/blow-out between the two former friends.  But that's all put aside for the moment in wake of recent tragedies as they try to aid Thor in his time of need.  Effortlessly, Bendis and Davis capture what is so cool about these characters, especially when they are cut off from one another and have to fend for themselves.  There are some great panel sequences here and the beginnings of a great epic story.  I had a great time reading it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Previews HYPE: August '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 August that I think may get overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about...

1. Comic Strip/Book Archival Projects - Holy crap!  Just when you thought everything that would ever be worth reprinting had been given the deserving treatment, along comes another round of great titles!  This month:  More John Stanley goodness is The John Stanley Library: Tubby (Volume 1) HC, and from out of last year's Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist comes Nipper (Volume 1): 1963-1964.  Dark Horse begins to print their expensive hardcover archive collections is affordable softcover editions beginning with Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom Archives (Volume 1) TP (perhaps to get readers onboard with the new material they are printing starring the characters).  Polly and Her Pals: The Complete Sunday Comics (Volume 1): 1925-1927 HC joins IDW's wonderful Library of American Comics imprint while Dick Briefer's Frankenstein HC is being collected under their Yoe Books! line.  More MAD artists are being featured in more afforable formats than the recent Don Martin slipcase collection, comes the much-anticipated MAD's Greatest Artists: Sergio Aragones HC, with an introduction by Matt Groening.  The Smurfs collections that were teased last month with a sample issue are being released this month in The Smurfs (Volume 1): The Purple Smurf GN and The Smurfs (Volume 2): The Smurfs and the Magic Flute GN.  AND Fantagraphics is releasing the next installment of Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives (Volume 2) HC and a biography/art presentation of Fire and Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner & the Birth of Marvel Comics, both edited by Blake Bell.  Wow.
2. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories HC - A collection of short stories of revered shojo manga creator Moto Hagio, during her peak creative period.
3. Bone: Taller Tales HC/SC - Collecting Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails along with all-new material, this will serve as a nice little appetizer for the new Bone material Jeff Smith has coming down the pipeline.
4. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) HC - A new collection from Jacques Tardi (West Coast Blues), this is the first in five books featuring supernatural mystery.
5. Morning Glories #1 - From Image Comics, a new series about a group of students who enter a top prep school and discover that there is something off about the place, and they're trapped with the brewing mystery.
6. Scratch 9 #1 (of 4) - A cute-looking comic about a cat who can summon any of his nine lives to aid him in his task to save his friends (including a sabretooth tiger).
7. 7 Billion Needles (Volume 1) - A science fiction thriller manga from Vertical, featuring aliens, possession and genocide.
8. Grandville Mon Amour HC - Continuing the story from the acclaimed steampunk graphic novel Grandville, Bryan Talbot's story of anamorphic animals, robots, etc., is sure to be a treat for fantasy lovers.
9. Superman: Earth One HC - This is the first in a series of graphic novels reimagining the big heroes of the DC Universe set in its own new continuity.
10.  Guardians of the Globe #1 (of 6) - Spinning out of Invincible, a group of heroes scour the Earth for new recruits to join their ranks against evil.
11.  Spitfire #1 - I'm cheating and adding one more.  Paul Cornell, who brought Spitfire front and center in the excellent Captain Britain and MI-13, returns to the character in this one-shot taking place with all of the other crazy vampire stuff going on in with the X-Men (Dracula's death (?), vampire-mutants, stuff like that).  Also this month, another MI-13 member gets a one-shot in X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: Blade #1.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Galacta: Daughter of Galactus #1

Adam Warren & Hector Sevilla Lujan

Collected from the webcomic of the same name (plus a short story from an anthology), this one-shot introduces readers to the daughter of Galactus, Galacta, who lives on Earth.  And like her world-devouring father, she has an instatiable appetite and wants nothing more than to consume living things.  She lives in the guise of a human, and lives among them, oftentimes assessing the humans she comes into contact with by how much nutritional value they would serve to offer.  She does the same thing when watching TV, calling all channels The Food Network.  But Galacta doesn't want to be an all-consuming hated entity.  So, she's basically a vegetarian, eating only non-Earth creatures that have invaded the planet, usually bacteria or some creatures flying under the radar of the world's super scientists.  In this way, she aids Earth from alien aggressors, but she also protects her home from harm in other ways, basically acting as a superhero on her own to stop stray meteors from crashing into it, people from setting off Doomsday Devices, etc.  She's a cute always-hungry character created by Adam Warren.  And much like Adam Warren's Dirty Pair, it's very manga-influenced, if you couldn't tell by the story and the cover image.  Sevilla's art is perfect for portraying such an off-beat, strange story in his manga style, complete with plenty of the familiar facial expressions and tropes of manga.  And while this is a very original, inventive comic, it's also very verbose.  Very, very verbose.  Basically, throughout the entire one-shot, Galacta talks non-stop, whether a cute little one-liner for her Twitter account, or just babbling on incessantly at the reader (or her father, whom she's trying to send a message to).  She barely interacts with anyone the entire time, so it's a lot of watching her do stuff while she explains what she's doing, going into plenty of scientific explanations and observations that beg to be skimmed over.  Unfortunately, this makes it kind of a chore to read.  I wish Warren had held back and let the readers enjoy the character instead of trying to impress readers with Galacta's cute babble, making it very clear that she's a superior being, but nice and admirable at the same time.  Perhaps, I don't know, a fight or something would have been nice, something to give her to interact with to make things more interesting and flow more naturally.  As is, it's kind of a snooze-fest.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Zatanna #1

Paul Dini & Stephane Roux

I'll be honest:  I don't really get Zatanna.  She seems a bit goofy to me.  She's a stage magician, but actually some sort of sorceress in fishnets?  Isn't that...cheating, using real magic?  It seems from this issue that her powers make her pretty much omnipotent too.  She just says things backwards (whatever the hell she wants) and it happens.  Seems like she could be running the DC Universe in a matter of minutes.  But magic is kind of a hard thing to write.  The boundaries can be sketchy, so making any real tension when magic's involved is difficult.  Zatanna is a prime example, it seems to me.  Also the whole talking-backward thing bothers me.  It's a little silly, but it also takes me out of the story, stopping the action to decipher what she's saying.  At the same time, it's a way to let the audience know what she's doing specifically and since it's not written normally, that it's magic.  It's just weird to me.  I liked what Grant Morrison did with her in Seven Soldiers, but this is pretty bland stuff that Dini throws at his readers, coupled with bland art from Roux.  The dialogue can be pretty sharp and funny at times, but the story weighs it down, and tries too hard to portray Zatanna as a bad-ass, easily taking down the demons introduced at the beginning of the story with her backward-lingo, one after another, a little too neatly.  And looking ridiculous the entire time.  It seems like Zatanna needs to be updated with a real creative mind at the helm guiding her into a new era for the character.  As is, her powers are just clunky and she's a little out of control.  Something fresh and inventive with the character would be most welcome.

Pick of the Week 6/3

Comics will be in stores a day late due to the Monday holiday.  Here is the book you should be paying attention to...

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4) - A new anthology mini-series from Archaia to take the edge off of fans' appetites awaiting David Petersen's next book featuring cute warrior mice.  The artists involved in this project were handpicked by Petersen himself and include Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin), Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise) and Gene Ha (Top Ten: The Forty-Niners).

Other Noteworthy Releases
Avengers Prime #1 (of 5)
Darkstar and the Winter Guard #1 (of 3)
Library Wars (Volume 1)
Moving Pictures GN
Okko (Volume 2): The Cycle of Earth HC
Serenity: Float Out One-Shot
Sky Doll: Space Ship #1 (of 2)
Stuck Rubber Baby HC (New Edition)
Thanos Imperative #1 (of 6)