Monday, August 30, 2010

Pick of the Week 9/1

Manga Monday will return next week.  For now, here's the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops this Wednesday...

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories HC - It's a good week when a new Kevin Huizenga graphic novel gets overshadowed.  This is the highly-anticipated collection of short works from acclaimed manga creator Moto Hagio, featuring some of her best stuff.  One of the biggest releases of the year.

Other Noteworthy Releases
5 Days To Die #1 (of 5)
Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Objects HC
Amulet (Volume 3): Cloud Searchers SC
Anthology Project (Volume 1) HC
Apollo's Song (Volume 1) TP
Apollo's Song (Volume 2) TP
Dark Shadows Complete Series (Volume 1) HC
Fraggle Rock (Volume 1) HC
Freedom Fighters #1
Syndrome HC
Wild Kingdom HC
Wolverine #1
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: Smoke and Blood #1

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I've been a little busy lately, so here are some quick thoughts on comics I've recently read...

Scratch9 #1 (of 4) (Rob M. Worley & Jason T. Kruse) - This is a cute little all-ages title with cartoony art.  The story is pretty by-the-numbers until it gets to the hook of the series, where the kitten Scratch can call upon his eight past lives to aid him when he's in trouble.  Thus, a sabretooth tiger shows up to help him break out of a mad scientist's lair.  I like the idea, I like that "Little Orphan Annie" eyes are used on Scratch's little girl master who misses him, but the art is pretty average, the cat is a little too cutesy and the secondary characters like a crazy squirrel he meets seem pretty standard and unimaginative.

Scott Pigrim (Volume 6): Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour TP (Bryan Lee O'Malley) - They really squeaked this one out just in time for the movie.  This is the final volume in the Scott Pilgrim series, featuring a hipster who must defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of Ramona, the girl he's dating, if he wishes to continue seeing her.  I liked where a lot of the characters ended up in this, and I'm happy to see that much of that translated to the movie as well.  I don't think this book added much to the series - it wasn't as funny, wasn't as clever, but it did have that final confrontation with the final evil ex, Gideon, and confronted Scott with the fact that he would also become one of Ramona's evil exes should they break up, something I didn't really think about before, but liked.  This rounded out the Scott Pilgrim saga nicely enough, and I really do think that O'Malley's artwork has never looked better.

The Walking Dead (Volume 12): Life Among Them TP (Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard) - I really enjoy the storyarcs that Kirkman dreams up for this series.  There's a lot of good stuff here, particularly with the characters.  This book seems to be less about zombies and more about just how screwed up people are, especially in a brave new world without laws.  Especially the group we get to follow, as the innocence of their early days of travelling aimlessly have officially shed.  They now do what they have to do to survive, and it isn't always pretty.  But it's damn entertaining.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Night Owls (Volume 1) TP

Peter Timony & Bobby Timony

The Night Owls is a comic originally published on-line through DC's Zuda line, but was one of the lucky ones popular enough to justify a print run (along with Bayou and High Moon).  The book is about a detective agency called The Night Owls who investigate supernatural crimes.  It takes place in New York City during the 1920's and features Ernest Baxter, a bookish occult specialist, his wise-cracking sidekick Roscoe the gargoyle, and feisty flapper Mindy Markus.  The art is done comic-strip style with two rows of strips, often ending with a gag or a good leave-off point to continue with the next strip.  It's mostly done in black and white, with the exception of an extended storyline in the middle of this volume, when the detectives venture to another world, which is decked out in full color.  It's nice and kind of cute to see, like an homage to Wizard of Oz, but for the most part, unnecessary.  The art already looks great in black and white and the colors don't really enhance anything and weren't used to great effect, except for the shock of rolling green hills in the very first panel that took place in this world.  It loses its novelty quickly.  But the black and white art looks really great throughout this title, higher quality stuff than you see in a lot of on-line comics out there.  It's cartoony and expressive, but pays a good amount of attention to detail and the layout of the panels.  I like the mix of monsters in this era; It made for an interesting one-of-a-kind feel to this book, bringing in gangsters, police balls and flappers among the vampires, werewolves and ghosts.  The characters have some interesting traits, but the romance between Ernest and Mindy never really clicks for me, unfortunately, and Roscoe remains one note throughout.  Mindy is easily the standout character of this title, although Ernest's unique situation is clever, and messes with audience expectations rather nicely.  Overall I think this is a nice blend of different genres.  Comedy, fantasy, horror, action, period drama, romance.  In the end, it really does remind me of a Dick Tracy strip.  It does a lot of things, but shines most when it focuses on that straight-out action, which usually carries over in arcs like old action/adventure strips.  The Night Owls has a rich premise, and I'm glad to see an on-line comic of this caliber being recognized and making its way to print and a broader audience.  It's well-earned.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pick of the Week 8/25

Here's the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops this Wednesday...

Archie Classic Newspaper Comics (Volume 1): 1946-1948 HC - IDW's first collection of Archie newspaper comic dailies, featuring Bob Montana's work on the characters, hits stores this week among some other big comic collections like a new Peanuts volume and more of John Stanley's Little Lulu.

Other Noteworthy Releases
AD: New Orleans After the Deluge SC
Chronicles of King Conan (Volume 1) TP
The Complete Peanuts (Volume 14): 1977-1978 HC
The Complete Peanuts Box Set: 1975-1978
Guarding the Globe #1 (of 6)
Little Lulu (Volume 24): Space Dolly & Other Stories TP
Namor: The First Mutant #1

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Orc Stain #1

James Stokoe

Orc Stain is a new action fantasy series being put out by Image Comics, written and illustrated by James Stokoe.  Stokoe effortlessly builds a fantastic world, relaying a history of different lands and races that leads to the new Orktsar, who leads armies of vicious orcs usually given to squabbling amongst themselves, giving them direction and transforming them into a seemingly unstoppable force.  But there is a prophecy of a one-eyed orc who will be necessary to his success, the same safe-cracking, treasure-hunting orc that we get to know over the course of the rest of the issue as he aids another orc in uncovering some much-needed loot.  Stokoe beautifully illustrates this world with fantastic, detailed creatures and landscapes.  It's very odd, and often ugly, but also undeniably beautiful and crafted with ornate detail and care.  It's also bright and colorful and thoughtfully laid-out by Stokoe, who really owns this entire visual extravaganza we're left with in the end.  The battles depicted here are brutal and bloody, the story containing sex and drugs, and it's all laid out without apology, leaving you with little doubt that Stokoe is having a great time with every aspect of the creative process.  The epic imagination Stokoe demonstrates, and his amazing execution, work to make this a thoroughly enjoyable, utterly original read.  I don't want to oversell it, because it is a pretty straight-forward fantasy story, but you've got to be blind not to enjoy the eye-cocaine that fills these pages.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pick of the Week 8/18

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

Ignatz Titles - A new wave of Ignatz books is coming out from Fantagraphics today.  Among the oversized, high-quality offerings are: Niger #3 by Leila Marzocchi, Sammy the Mouse #3 by Zak Sally, Interiorae #4 by Gabriella Giandelli, and Grotesque #4 from Sergio Ponchione.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley One-Shot
Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story HC
Ex Machina #50 - Final issue
Ides of Blood #1 (of 6)
Little Lulu's Pal Tubby (Volume 1): Castaway and Other Stories TP

Phoenix Without Ashes #1 (of 4)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Manga Monday: The Dawn of Love

The Dawn of Love
Kazuho Hirokawa

I'm not terribly impressed with much of the yaoi manga that I've read.  Perhaps it's because most yaoi is written by women for a female audience, that the male-male interactions just don't seem very authentic to me.  Being a gay man, maybe I just can't relate to what they're tapping into for their audience.  I read and enjoy plenty of shojo manga that's written for women, but perhaps it's something else that they're getting out of yaoi.  Either way, I really enjoyed the yaoi title The Dawn of Love from Digital Manga.  Right off the bat, I was a big fan of the artwork from Kazuho Hirokawa.  Great hair, expressive eyes, and just a nice overall look to the faces of the characters portrayed that's unique to this title.  The book follows Masahiro, a law student who's kind of goofy, but is great in bed and pretty hot.  He very quickly lusts over one of his fellow students, the beautiful Takane, who agrees to sleep with him very quickly, and within a few pages, they're having passionate sex.  Masahiro learns that Takane is pretty much a slut.  He's sleeping around with several guys at the same time, claiming that it's just how he is and that he doesn't want to be tied down to one person.  Masahiro tries to go along with it for awhile, but he soon finds himself unable to keep his feelings out of it, and gives Takane an ultimatum.  Since Masahiro is the best lover Takane has had, he needs to stop seeing the other men in his life, and see him exclusively, or he will call it quits.  Takane immediately puts up a counter offer, that if Masahiro is able to sleep with him for a week and satisfy him completely the entire time, he will be exclusive to him.  Good thing Masahiro is so good in bed.  As you can tell from the premise, there is a lot of sex in this book.  It's mostly generic shots of bodies intermingling, but it gets pretty steamy on occasion.  I just find it refreshing that the book is about men having sex, even promiscuously, and Masahiro is trying to implement his monogamy on Takane, who sees nothing wrong with his lifestyle.  While the men fall completely in love with each other in the end, as most of these yaoi manga go, sex is how the relationship begins for both of them, and that's all they initally want from one another.  It just progresses into something more.  It seems more realistic to have a yaoi manga so focused on the sexual side of things, and casual sex is a concern in the gay community, and I like that the two opposing viewpoints come to a head in this book.  There's also a bonus story included with this book called A Flower Awaits Summer, about a boy who's afraid to jump into a relationship with a guy he has a crush on because he was hurt in the last relationship he was in, which is more typical of the type of story you see in yaoi books.  But it's still a cute little story, and it's illustrated better than most.  Anyways, The Dawn of Love, I recommend to anyone looking for a good yaoi title.  It's easily one of the best that I've read.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Morning Glories #1

Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

I have to say that the reason I bought this book, even over the premise, was the covers by Rodin Esquejo.  They're just beautiful.  I think I saw a cover on an article at a comics news site after it was solicited and clicked on the article to find out what it was about before I decided to pick it up.  But I completely judged this book by its cover.  That being said, I enjoyed this book, so being judgmental worked this time around.

The book follows a group of kids, from varying backgrounds, accepted into a prestigious prep school.  Little do they know that the school is more than it appears.  From the getgo of Morning Glories, the readers are clued in to the sinister underbelly of the school, as a couple of students try to escape the grounds and are hunted down by guards and some sort of psychotic apparition.  After this brief, bloody action sequence, we are introduced to the protagonists of this book.  A brilliant girl from a loving family, a spoiled cheerleader, a sociopath, a poor kid, a misunderstood emo chick from the country, and a smart Asian kid.  Not the most original cast, but their interactions are fun and I'm assuming they will grow beyond their cardboard cut-out backgrounds as the series progresses.  If the sleeping gas in the car and the flash of a goat having its throat slit during the orientation film wasn't enough of a hint, the new students find out soon enough that they got more than they bargained for when they enrolled at this school, and that they are trapped there, for better or for worse.  The ending of this issue was over the top and weird.  It felt just off, like it didn't belong in the same book with what had come before.  But maybe it's just me, as a lot of the book is kind of odd.  The art, once past that great cover, is decent but nothing too special.  Sometimes it seems a little rushed and the facial expressions at some points are just sort of strange and baffling, but it gets the job done.  Overall, I didn't love Morning Glories #1, but I liked it, and I'm interested enough to see where it goes next.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pick of the Week 8/11

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

Moomin for Kids - These are books for kids from out of Tove Jansson's wonderful Moomin universe.  They are prose books, but are sure to captivate its intended audience just as much as the comic strips.  A number of them come out this week to comic stores including Comet In Moominland SC, Finn Family Moomintroll SC, Moominpapas Memoirs SC and Moominsummer Madness SC, each for the reasonable price of $6.99.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Adventures of Superboy (Volume 1) HC
Al Williamson Archives (Volume 1) SC
Bone: Tall Tales HC/SC
Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis (Volume 2) TP
Felix the Cat's Greatest Comic Book Tails HC
Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives (Volume 1) HC
Gossip Girl Manga (Volume 1): For Your Eyes Only GN
Marvelman Classic (Volume 1) HC
Morning Glories #1
Skeleton Story #1 (of 5)
Sky Doll: Lacrima Christi #1 (of 2)
Ultimate Comics: Avengers 3 #1 (of 6)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Manga Monday: Seiho

Seiho Boys' High School (Volume 1)
Kaneyoshi Izumi

Seiho High is an isolated campus, located on an island far from any contact with civilization.  Which is why the boys that attend school there are starved for female interaction.  The stories here actually revolve less around what life is like for the guys during their regular days among other guys with raging hormones as much as it's about the few girls who visit the high school, which is kind of a shame, because I think it's less interesting.  Of course the guys are going to go ga-ga over any young plain-looking thing that comes along.  In the same way that the guys are pouring over nudie magazines in their free time.  Seiho Boys' High School is made of pretty predictable stuff.  On top of the unimaginative circumstances that we find the boys in, the characters are all completely two dimensional, particularly the women.  Sure, there's the jock, the nerd, the gay guy who likes pretty frilly things, but they're all one-note.  Even the protagonist Maki, who puts everyone else before his own needs, is lacking interesting traits.  The only thing that I found interesting about the book period is that it seems that the guys all kind of chose to come to this isolated school for a reason.  The jock needed to get away from his family, particularly his half-sister who has feelings for him.  The gay guy wanted to put distance between himself and his girlfriend who he was leading on.  And Maki has his own mysterious past which hasn't been elaborated on just yet.  Other than that, the stories are lackluster.  The comedy falls flat, the stories aren't very compelling, and there's just not much life to the students that populate Seiho High.  It's a great premise, but the execution just isn't there.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

New Mutants Forever #1 (of 5)

Chris Claremont & Al Rio

Like Marvel's previous "Forever" titles, X-Men Forever and X-Factor Forever, this new five issue mini-series sees writer Chris Claremont return to the series he created, picking up the story where he left off back in 1987 before he handed the reins over to Louise Simonson with issue #55.  So this is a sort of reflection on what Claremont would have done with the team, having had over two decades to mull things over.  And the wonderful Bill Sienkiewicz, who worked with Claremont on part of the original series, illustrated one of the two covers for this issue (pictured), which is an added bonus.

I love a lot of Chris Claremont's classic runs on Marvel titles, especially when it comes to the mutants of X-Men, Excalibur and New Mutants, but in recent years, he's left a tad to be desired.  I've actually kind of tortured myself over the past decade, trying out new Claremont-penned X-titles, only to be disappointed over and over again.  X-Treme X-Men, New Excalibur, and even as recent as X-Men's been a series of letdowns.  I kept looking for some glimmer of the writer he used to be, and I hadn't found it until recently with X-Women #1, illustrated beautifully by the legendary Milo Manara.  I was hoping it wasn't a fluke, and thankfully, New Mutants Forever confirms that Claremont still has it in him to put out good material.

New Mutants Forever, more than any of the other "Forever" titles really seems to capture the energy and feel of the original series (which I happen to have in New Mutant Classic editions).  The title features the classic cast of Cannonball, Mirage, Magma, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magik, Karma, Cypher and Warlock (although Sunspot, Karma and Warlock are on leave) with Magneto leading them as current headmaster.  In this first issue of the continuation of this series, Magneto brings the students to The Hellfire Club, where they meet Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Selene, The Black Queen, who happens to also be Magma's aunt.  Magma's father attempts to reach The Hellfire Club during their visit, his people attacked by mercenaries with guns, whom the New Mutants try to stop.  And then The Hellfire Club itself is under siege before some of them are whisked away by the the stronghold of a familiar classic villain.  New Mutants Forever is just a fun little "what if" book, featuring a deliciously dark Selene (whom Magik admires), and plenty of action and intrigue.  Claremont isn't bogged down by as much exposition as he tends to drown in nowadays.  Rio does a nice job of illustrating the book.  The storytelling is crystal clear with nice pacing and cool moments.  The wardrobe choices of the students are pretty neutral, so that the story could take place just as easily back in the eighties as presently (although there is a little modern flare to the costumes and a pair of Magma's jeans), a very smart choice by the artist.  And it's all very new reader friendly.  You don't have to be a fan of the old series to enjoy this book.  It makes a point of reintroducing the characters and their powers, and in case readers have interest in the stories that led them to this point in time, there's a nice recap at the back of the book.  Overall, this is a very successful superhero comic.  Now I'm just hoping to see a "Forever" version of the Claremont-written or Alan Davis-written Excalibur.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Previews HYPE: October '10

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

1. Picture This HC - A nice companion to Lynda Barry's What It Is, this is another inspirational workshop for creators, featuring Marlys and the new Nearsighted Monkey.

2. The Saga of Rex TP - Michel Gagne's popular story from Flight gets collected together in one place for the first time, bringing the lovable out-of-his-world fox to a whole new audience.

3. Miss Don't Touch Me (Volume 2) GN - The follow-up to husband-and-wife team Hubert & Kerascoet's story of a woman who joins a high-class bordello as a pain-inducing English governess in 1930's Paris (to solve a murder) features a new mystery for Blanche to solve.

4. Tezuka's Ayako GN - From Vertical, this is a new translated work from manga master Osamu Tezuka!  It's a massive 700+ page tome set after World War II, following a family in rural Japan.

5. Charles Burns' X'ed Out GN - The first volume of a new epic series from Black Hole creator Charles Burns!

6. Knight & Squire #1 (of 6) - While I'm sad that Paul Cornell is now DC-exclusive, which means no more Captain Britain and MI-13 stuff from him at Marvel (as little hope as there was for it in the first place), taking on British characters in the Bat-universe is a pretty amazing first gig at the company.  Art by Jimmy Broxton.

7. The Littlest Pirate King HC - New from David B. (Epileptic) is this all-ages adaptation of the classic story from Pierre Mac Orlan.

8. Archie: 7 Decades of America's Favorite Teenagers HC - From IDW's Yoe Books! imprint comes a look back at each of the decades of Archie and the gang, featuring art from the big guys that worked on the series.  Also coming out this month is Archie Firsts HC from Dark Horse, highlighting the first appearances of the major characters throughout Archie's history, and Tiny Titans/Little Archie #1 (of 3), which teams up the two all-ages titles.  All in time for Archie's 70th anniversary.

9. The God Machine HC - Chandra Free's graphic novel follows Guy as he tries to decide whether to trust a strange old man ominously named Satan, who claims his latent powers can save his girlfriend from the dead.  Also from Archaia this month, the collected Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard HC.

10. Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit HC - Darwyn Cooke's follow-up to his graphic novelization of the first Parker novel by Richard Stark, continues the acclaimed series.

11. Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth HC - A collection of art and comics from legendary creator Alex Toth, this book gives an overview of Toth's career, heavy with illustrations.

12. Fish N Chips (Volume 1) TP - From Steve Hamaker, the colorist of Bone, comes an all-ages fantasy about a goldfish and a cat who have superpowers, as they attempt to save their city from vampyres.

13. Strange Tales Volume II, #1 - A new anthology featuring acclaimed creators on Marvel characters.  This time around we see the likes of Dash Shaw, Frank Santoro, Kate Beaton, Kevin Huizenga and Gene Yang, among others.

14. 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking HC - Paul Levitz has pulled together a huge book that spans the history of DC Comics, its creations and creators.

15. Manhunter: Faceoff TP - I was wondering if they were going to do this.  This is the collected form of Marc Andreyko's back-up stories in Batman: The Streets of Gotham that extended the life of the excellent Manhunter series.

16. (Yes, I added an extra) Chaos War #1 (of 5) - A big event in the Marvel Universe that pits god against god.  More specifically, Earth gods versus alien gods.  This mini features Thor, Hercules and a new God Squad with Venus and Sersi among others, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, with art by Khoi Pham.  Also available this month is Thor vs. Hercules TP, featuring their fiercest battles.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Pick of the Week 8/4

Here's the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops tomorrow...kind of a slow week...

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love TP - This is a really fun spin-off from DC/Vertigo's flagship title Fables, featuring the classic character as a sexy, stylish spy.  I really like the character and had more fun reading this mini than what the main title has been offering as of late.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Chloe GN
Fogtown HC
The John Stanley Library: Nancy (Volume 2) HC
New Mutants Forever #1 (of 5)
Spitfire #1
Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years (Volume 6) HC

Monday, August 02, 2010

Manga Monday: Bakuman

Bakuman (Volume 1)
Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Bakuman is the latest book from the creators behind the super-popular manga Death Note.  The story follows Moritaka Mashiro, a middle school student who's getting ready for his high school entrance exams, when a fellow classmate gets hold of his notebook and discovers what a great artist he is from some sketches he's done.  The classmate, Akito Takagi, happens to want to be a manga writer and has been searching for the perfect collaborator to break into the industry, and he's chosen Moritaka, and eventually convinces him to go all-out for this dream of becoming professional manga creators.  Bakuman is very much about exploring the manga industry, readers learning alongside the characters as they teach each other what storyboards are, how to pitch to editors, what sorts of pens to draw with, and just talk about influential or favorite manga, throwing in a few Death Note references for good measure.  Even the design of the book has that sort of "creating manga" vibe, with each chapter ending with a storyboard page from the chapter, the cover lined with a ruler, and even the logo, beginning with the letter "B" all sketchy with grids and getting more finished as it progresses.  There's a good amount of romance in the title, and there's some interesting stuff going on in Moritaka's life, especially through his family, as his uncle worked himself to death working in the manga industry.  Obata's pencils are fantastic, as readers of his past works are aware, and while there are quite a few quiet scenes of reflection, the frenzied pace that keeps readers turning the pages in anticipation of the next panel, like in Death Note, is present in this less action-y book, although I do feel like this title has more in common with Obata's Hikaru No Go that his previous collaboration with Ohba, perhaps merely because of the young protagonists trying to break in and maneuver through a professional environment, making a splash and causing those around them to admire their abilities.  Plus Moritaka is humble, and all wide-eyed and innocent much like Hikaru.  Overall, I think Bakuman is one of the strongest manga debuts of the year.  The characters are fun, the art top-notch and exciting, and the wealth of information is really quite interesting.  This is definitely a journey I want to experience alongside these characters.