Thursday, September 30, 2010

Batwoman: Elegy Deluxe Edition HC

Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III

This hardcover collects issues #854-860 of Detective Comics. A lot has been said about J.H. Williams III's art on this run, and I'm also quite a fan of it. Some of his scenes are just stunning, and demand that you stop to admire them. He kind of jumps between a more traditional art that he uses on panels when the story focuses on Kate Kane's civilian life, to a more painted look with tons of splash pages and elaborate designs when she's Batwoman, out fighting crime. Dave Stewart is due credit for his coloring on this title, making happier moments more bright and lively, with shadows and more subdued tones darkening the panels as Batwoman skulks the streets of Gotham (except for that lovely flair of bright red hair). People weren't exaggerating when they said this was one of the best superhero titles coming out last year. A lot of that has to do with the art, but Greg Rucka's writing is top-notch here as well and might be a little overshadowed by Williams. I love the dialogue Rucka develops, the characters he works with here (especially when he focuses on Kate's past), and he puts together some cool scenes with heroes, villains and monsters. Rucka is one of the best character writers out there, and he's very comfortable with what he has to work with here. With Williams translating his ideas to the page, that great framework was realized and it's produced one of the most exciting superhero titles in years.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Quick Reviews

Here are a few quick reviews to get caught up on some titles that I've recently read...

Weathercraft HC (Jim Woodring) - I've never read any of Jim Woodring's Frank comics before, but his latest addition to the universe he created, and his first full-length graphic novel period, features his character Manhog, whose luck seems like it can't get any worse.  He is tortured, stalked, and imprisoned as he makes his way through the crazy world he lives in, discovering fantastic creatures and ways to manipulate the environment.  He has some fun along the way too, but it's always short-lived.  This is a nice showcase for Woodring's beautiful art, which often dips into the grotesque, but is always interesting and somehow pretty no matter what is depicted.  He's a great cartoonist, which he shows off through his imaginative creatures and the curious monsters, and fully-realized alien world.  It's a whimsical journey, completely silent, but unforgettable and haunting.

Curio Cabinet (John Brodowski) - Another rather odd graphic novel is this book of shorts, done in soft pencils all throughout, and heavily featuring the iconic slasher Jason from the Friday the Thirteenth movies.  There are also guest appearances by Chip and Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast, and a dog who breaks through the panels.  This is a strange assortment of stories, but it's all very fun.  Brodowski produces some really nice illustrations, usually of crazy monsters and animals, but also of landscapes and the details of tools, buses and musical notes that he draws.  Some of the human figures can look awkward at times, and some shorts are better than others, but there's a wealth of creativity packed in here.  My favorite moments are always of Jason Voorhees in odd scenes that are quiet, like they took place between kills, or when he had a little time to reflect on things without the weight of a camp full of victims frolicking and screwing in the woods.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pick of the Week 9/29

Sorry, no Manga Monday this week.  It will return next week with a review of House of Five Leaves.  Anyway, amid a big week for comic releases, this is the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops this Wednesday...

You'll Never Know (Book 2): Collateral Damage HC - Carol Tyler continues to explore her relationship with her father in the second book in her You'll Never Know memoir trilogy, relating her father's time in Italy during World War II while exploring her own family traumas.

Other Noteworthy Releases
7 Billion Needles (Volume 1)
Absolute Promethea (Volume 2) HC
Al Jaffee's Mad Life SC
American Vampire (Volume 1) HC
Barney Google HC
Chip: Second Crack #1 (of 3)
De Tales HC
Eerie Archives (Volume 4) HC
Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius Ultimate Collection (Book 1) TP
Heralds HC
Hetalia: Axis Powers (Volume 1)
John Cullen Murphy's Big Ben Bolt Dailies (Volume 1) TP
Liquid City (Volume 2) GN
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor Archives (Volume 1) HC
Star-Spangled War Stories #1
Valkyrie #1

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love and Rockets: New Stories #3

Jaime Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez

The Hernandez Brothers return for the third annual release of Love and Rockets: New Stories, and this may be their best offering yet, with both artists contributing a few short stories.  Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine, and he doesn't disappoint with his new offerings.  The first story from him is "Scarlet by Starlight," another comic adaptation of one of Fritz's movies (of which the graphic novels The Troublemakers, Chance In Hell and Speak of the Devil are a part of), in which she plays a fur-covered beast that becomes curious about some explorers who are doing research in the area.  She becomes attracted to one of the human men, resulting in the jealous rage of her mate.  It's a bloody little fantasy with plenty of disturbing sexual sequences.  Gilbert's second story is "Killer * Sad Girl * Star," following Killer, who may or may not have what it takes to follow in Fritz's footsteps in show business.  While Gilbert's stories are high-quality offerings with fantastic art, it's Jaime who steals the show with his stories.  "The Love Bunglers" is split into two parts, with the bulk of it offered toward the beginning of the book, with a short epilogue that ties in the other story, "Browntown" at the end of this volume.  "The Love Bunglers" follows Maggie as she goes on a few dates with a friend from the past.  "Browntown" is where Jaime really offers a show stopper.  The tale is about Maggie and her family when they were younger and several life-changing events that occurred to them that would shape their future.  It's paced beautifully, and Jaime really develops these characters and what they're going through effortlessly, sometimes through facial expressions and actions, and sometimes through dialogue, like how the final "The Love Bunglers" epilogue comments on that time in their lives.  Jaime may have produced one of the best stories of his career here, and certainly one of the most exciting releases of the year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pick of the Week 9/22

Here's the book you should be paying attention to in comic stores tomorrow...

Smurfs (Volume 1): The Purple Smurf GN and Smurfs (Volume 2): The Magic Flute GN - These are the classic reprints of Peyo's Smurf comics that Papercutz is beginning to put out.  They are available in both hardcover and paperback formats, the latter available for just $5.99.  Great all-ages stories in full color.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Art of Neal Adams HC
Beetle Bailey Dailies & Sundays: 1965-1966 HC
Broadcast GN
Earl & Mooch: A Mutts Treasury TP
Fire & Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics HC
Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950's TP
House of Leaves (Volume 1) TP
John Stanley Library: Tubby (Volume 1) HC
Skullkickers #1
Swedish Comics History HC
Telara Chronicles #1 (of 4)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Manga Monday: Gente

Natsume Ono

Gente is a new book from not simple creator Natsume Ono.  It's actually a book that examines characters from another book from her that was recently released through Viz's Signature line, Ristorante Paradiso.  In Ristorante Paradiso, the restaurant Casetta dell'Orso, in Rome, is already a hit, with a loyal clientele who come in droves to be waited on by the gentlemen in glasses.  Gente backs up the story of this chic place to dine to its humble beginnings.  As the owner opens its doors to the public, he hires waiters, establishes the trademark eyeglasses his waitstaff wears, and has to replace a chef who quits early on.  This book ends with the one-year anniversary of the restaurant's opening, getting all of the characters that readers have gotten to know over the course of the previous four short stories together in a nice little gathering celebration.  The art, of course, is fantastic.  We've come to expect this as a given when picking up an Ono manga, so it's hardly going to be a surprise to anyone that she maintains her storytelling prowess with thoughtful panel arrangements, keeping things fresh with her unique look.  But you can expect to enjoy a great story with Ono's books as well.  And what Ono does best is character studies, and she doesn't disappoint with her look into the lives of four characters from Ristorante Paradiso, effortlessly drawing out astute observations of human behavior and providing a glimpse of significant moments in every day life.  Ono doesn't have to pack a huge event into the lives of the people she depicts, but rather highlights the insecurities of her characters, or provides compelling dialogue, to tease out her scenes organically, resulting in a rich final product that's ultimately very rewarding.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Young Adult Novels

I've started a new blog focusing on young adult novels in case anybody who enjoys Comics-and-More is interested.  Here's the link:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis (Volume 1)

Warren Ellis & Various

This didn't hold up very well from my youth.  I was a huge fan of Excalibur growing up.  The very first comic that I picked up (thanks to a Marvel Universe trading card featuring Shadowcat) was Excalibur #48, and I went back and collected all of the back issues and kept up with it until the series ended.  So, I was rather disappointed when rereading Warren Ellis' run on the title from #83-90.  I'd remembered a few of his storyarcs quite fondly, especially The Soul Sword Trilogy and Dream Nails Trilogy.  And while they are cool stories, they just weren't executed well.  At all.  I had many moments during these stories, particularly in The Soul Sword Trilogy, where I remembered a big reveal or a big moment in my head much differently than how it played out on the page.  I must have just built them up in my mind, turning these sub-par drawings into iconic scenes.  It's a rather odd experience discovering this.  There's a scene on the very last page of issue #85, where there's a full body shot of Amanda Sefton with her cape billowing out, and I remember drawing that image over and over, and while seeing it again drudged up those memories, it left me kind of baffled that I was so taken with the image.  Other runs on Excalibur that I've recently reread as they were collected, like Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis and the original Claremont/Davis issues in Excalibur Classic still hold up amazingly well, probably because Alan Davis is just such a great artist, but also because Claremont had introduced some great elements to the series.  By the time we get around to Warren Ellis' run, some weird stuff is going on.  It's very dark, and Captain Britain is back from a voyage that left him with long, permed hair and the codename Britainic.  While Ellis does introduce Pete Wisdom to the fold, and has some really good ideas that he puts out there, he is completely hindered by the art.  It's 90's art at its worst, done by a variety of artists.  I'm almost sure some of those cool reveals I've had in my head could have been realized on the page had a competent artist been assigned with Warren Ellis, but as is, the drawings are mostly pretty bad, and the panels are arranged in a messy fashion that doesn't highlight things it should. Sure, there are some glimmers of talent in there, like Bill Sienkiewicz' opening to The Soul Sword Trilogy, and some of the art by Terry Dodson, but for the most part, Warren Ellis was left to crash and burn here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Atomic Robo (Volume 1):

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne TP
Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener

Atomic Robo is a really fun superhero title.  Put out by the small Canadian publisher Red 5 Comics, there have been several Atomic Robo mini-series that have been collected over the years, this being my first taste of the guy.  It seems pretty likely that this was heavily influenced by Hellboy.  Not only do the pencils by Scott Wegener look very Mike Mignola-ish, but the premise harbors striking similarities.  Hellboy is about a demon in the employ of the government who handles cases that are beyond the limitations of man.  He's also an outsider who wisecracks as he fights.  Atomic Robo has the same sort of personality traits, often to rather funny results, and works for the government as well, although he is obviously a robot instead of a demon.  But Clevinger and Wegener have no problem making Atomic Robo seem like a breath of fresh air.  It's highly entertaining, and like its flippant protagonist, seems to get the job done effortlessly.  The design for Robo is pretty much perfect, especially his eyes, which allow for him to be expressive as the time arises, although his whole body lends itself to the cartoony style of Wegener.  A lot of this first volume of the series introduces Robo to readers, pitting him against a mad scientists' crazy creations like giant ants and robot mummies, effectively showing him off.  The main villain is made of pretty standard, bland stuff, but I think that's okay, as the creators already have enough going on in the story bringing Robo to life for their audience.  There are a lot of flashbacks in this issue, flushing out Robo's past, which allows for a wider variety of action scenes, but I did get a little lost in some of them, which is my only minor gripe about the book.  From the first issue, this kind of reads like a classic genre title that could easily sit comfortably alongside the creator-owned superhero books at a major publisher like Image Comics or Hellboy's home, Dark Horse.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pick of the Week 9/15

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

Harvey Comics Treasury (Volume 1): Casper TP - Dark Horse's previous Harvey Comics Classics line was so successful that they've continued to publish Harvey Comics in this new line of compendiums.  Each book contains 200 color pages at just $14.99.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Daniel Clowes Conversations SC
Koko Be Good GN
The Marvelous Land of Oz HC
Prison Pit (Book 2) GN
Thor: First Thunder #1 (of 5)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Manga Monday: Moto Hagio

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories HC
Moto Hagio

Moto Hagio is a real talent from Japan, where she was not only the first recipient of the Osamu Tezuka Culture Award grand prize, but was one of the Magnificent Forty-Niners who made comics for girls a real force to be reckoned with in the 70's.  It's not hard to see what all of the fuss is about.  Moto Hagio's artwork is stunning.  Her storytelling is fluid, her characters expressive, and her drawings in general are beautifully arranged and look effortless.  Each and every one of the ten stories in this "best of" collection of short stories featuring the talented Hagio are enchanting, full of warmth and wonderful characters, and brimming with emotion.  You have to have a heart of ice not to be moved.  From the strange Girl On Porch With Puppy to the eerie, yet sad Hanshin: Half-God to the rich family drama of Iguana Girl (my personal favorite), there's plenty here for everybody.

Fantagraphics' presentation of Moto Hagio's work in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is to be commended.  They provide a great sample of Hagio's works: three from the seventies, three from the eighties, and four from the late 2000's, showing how Hagio's art has progressed (though it has always been powerful), while illustrating that her more modern work is just as exciting as the groundbreaking stuff she put out early in her career.  This book is beautifully designed in an oversized hardcover with beautiful gold foil detail, with a nice piece to give things a little context, as well as a pretty extensive interview with the artist.  This really is a publishing event and I hope that it sparks more interest in Hagio, as I'd love to see some her longer works translated.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lucid #1 (of 4)

Michael McMillian & Anna Wieszczyx

Lucid is a new mini-series published by Archaia in association with Before the Door, the media company co-founded by Heroes star Zachary Quinto, with Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson.  This is actually the first of many collaborations between the two companies, and is filed under Archaia's new Black Label imprint.  Lucid is written and created by Michael McMillian, who you may be familiar with, as he played a big guest role on season two of HBO's True Blood.  He's been a long-time comic book fan and is now living his dream of creating them.  The story is kind of a mixture of the spy genre with magic.  It follows Matthew Dee, an experienced magician who's hired by the President of the United States to protect the country from magical threats.  He works with a small group of covert magicians, and now has a new handler in the enigmatic, aloof Vivian Lock.  It's a fun premise, with plenty of potential.  The storytelling is clean and clear with some snappy dialogue, although it does get bogged down a bit in technical babble.  It gives the impression that the writer is very proud of coming up with these convoluted magic backstories, even though it weighs down the story.  The art is really nice, courtesy of Anna Wieszczyx, who provides an artstyle that reminded me a lot of Aeon Flux from MTV in the 90's.  But I love the lanky forms of the people she draws and the great action scenes and magic visuals.  Overall, a pretty compelling first issue.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pick of the Week 9/9

Comics will be on sale a day later due to Labor Day.  This is the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops this week...

Simon and Kirby Superheroes HC - Including works like The Fighting American, Lancelot Strong and The Fly, this deluxe format 480 page hardcover includes every comic the two legends collaborated on that weren't published at Marvel or DC in the forties through the sixties, complete with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Conan Newspaper Strips (Volume 1) HC
Cuba: My Revolution HC
From Shadow To Light: The Life & Art of Mort Meskin HC
I Am Legion Deluxe HC
Lucid #1 (of 4)
Mighty Samson Archives (Volume 1) HC
Spider-Man: Fever TP
X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan (Volume 1): 1967-1969 HC

Monday, September 06, 2010

Manga Monday: Dengeki Daisy

Dengeki Daisy (Volume 1)
Kyousuke Motomi

I'm really tired of seeing completely clueless heroines in shojo manga.  Even worse than Haruna in High School Debut is Teru in Dengeki Daisy.  At least Haruna is a strong person who tries to fix her own problems.  Whenever Teru gets into trouble, she just texts a guy to help her.  Let me start at the beginning...  Teru Kurebayashi is a high school girl who lost her brother, who was always there for her.  Before his death, he let Teru know that someone would always be there watching out for her, and that person was Daisy, who she began to text on her cell phone.  Whenever she was blue, he would encourage her.  Whenever she had a problem, he would help her work it out.  He's the one person she can trust in the world.  If it's not bad enough that Teru has to rely on a man to feel good about herself and solve her problems, she's also picked on because she's a poor girl in a school full of rich kids.  When she accidentally breaks a window, she's coerced into working off the damage by helping the school janitor, who happens to be a hot guy around her age named Kurosaki, out with his duties.  Well, it's more like Teru does his job for him, because he sits around and supervises her while she works.  So to add to the anti-feminist themes of the book, Teru now does whatever this guy tells her to do, in the nice womanly role of cleaning.  Sigh.  It turns out that Kurosaki is her mysterious savior Daisy (shocking, since he's the only other guy in the book), and when Daisy is unable to come to her aid, Kurosaki does.  It's quite obvious from the goings-on in this title who Daisy is, yet Teru continues oblivious to what's around her.  She's such a passive protagonist that it's embarrassing.  Unless you like your heroines to talk to strange men on the phone and generally let the men in her life walk all over her, you should steer well clear of this train wreck of a title.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Previews HYPE: November '10

Wading through the phonebook that is Previews Catalogue so you don't have to...  Here are fifteen choice books that you may have overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about, shipping to comic shops in November!

The Acme Novelty Library (Volume 20) HC - Last year was the first year in a while we didn't get anything from Chris Ware, but we're lucky enough to get an offering this year in the form of this 72 page hardcover featuring CEO Jordan Wellington Lint.

Castle Waiting (Volume 2) HC - Linda Medley's fantasy returns in this second collected volume of the acclaimed series.

Return of the Dapper Men HC - I had a chance to see some of the original painted woodblocks that make up this original graphic novel from Archaia (at C2E2) and the art here is just beautiful.  This is going to be a book you won't want to miss.

Krazy and Ignatz: The Sketchbook Strips 1910-1913 HC - This collection of Krazy Kat strips features George Herriman's sketches that he drew before redrawing them to be printed in the supplemental strip beneath the Family Upstairs.  Also available this month is a Craig Yoe-edited biography and collection of art on George Herriman entitled Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman HC.

Salvatore (Volume 1): Transports of Love GN - From the artist of Glacial Period comes a new series about a mechanic dog whose garage is located on an isolated peak of a mountain.

Batman, Inc. #1 - Grant Morrison begins another new Batman series with this title, which features Bruce Wayne under the cowl once more, and promises a new direction for the character. Also this month, another new ongoing Batman title from David Finch called Batman: The Dark Knight #1.

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories HC - Craig Yoe edits this book of holiday tales that features the talent of top-notch creators such as John Stanley, Walt Kelly, and even Richard Scarry.

The Incal Classic Collection Deluxe HC - This is a deluxe slipcase edition of the beloved international comic by Alexandro Jorodowsky and Moebius, featuring a detective who discovers a very interesting artifact.

H Day HC - Renee French returns with a new graphic novel that blurs the line between autobiography and fantasy.

Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus HC - Over 560 pages of 100% Jack Kirby goodness.  'Nuff said.

Generation Hope #1 - A new series spun out of Uncanny X-Men, this book follows Hope and four other mutants that have been activated since The Scarlet Witch said "No More Mutants."  Written by S.W.O.R.D. writer Kieron Gillen.

The Sword: The Complete Collection Deluxe HC - Didn't get your fill of gore and violence the first time around?  Well, ogle the bloody mayhem of The Luna Brothers' The Sword from beginning to end in a deluxe format, a treatment their last series, Girls, also received.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 - A new crew of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents make their debut in a new ongoing series.

Fraggle Rock (Volume 2) #1 - Archaia is releasing a second volume of their anthology series featuring the fraggles.

Firebreather vs. Dragon Prince One-Shot - Now all they need is Savage Dragon thrown in the ring and Image will have something.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

X-Men: Smoke and Blood #1

Simon Spurrier & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

As part of the Curse of the Mutants crossover, X-Men: Smoke and Blood deals with the virus that has been engineered and released into the world, infecting people, such as former X-Men and mutant Jubilee, with a vampiric disease that makes them weak to sunlight and the mental suggestions of actual vampires, until it slowly transforms them into vampires themselves.  X-Men: Smoke and Mirrors is a one-shot that focuses on the scientist group of the X-Men, including Dr. Nemesis Dr. Rao and Jeffries, as they try to find a cure for this new virus.  So, the X-Men have captured a live subject for them to do tests on, and they think that they've found a cure that they've put into a serum, but before they have time to test it out, the vampire escapes.  There's plenty of good creepy moments in this dark, moody book.  Great idea, great atmosphere, all taking place in an isolated area where the scientists are stuck with a monster that's stalking them.  At first glance, I thought that they were doing a whole "edgy 30 Days of Night" type of look with the comic, making it all gritty and alternative-like with yet another Templesmith-inspired artist, but upon deeper inspection, the art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta is really kind of amazing.  It's really outside the box of what's usually found at Marvel, like something you'd more likely find in one of their Strange Tales anthologies: completely unique, and perfectly suited for this story.  Credit also has to be given to Clayton Crain on colors, which really complete the cool look on the pencils with its too-pink skin tone on Emma Frost and carefully-colored white on Dr. Nemesis's suit.  I love little things, like Walta's cartoony expression on Wolverine's face, Colossus's frame as he carries the vampire into the medical lab, the look of the hulking vampire and how it crushes a girl's skull with a massive hand.  And this comic is funny at times too.  The banter between Emma Frost and Dr. Nemesis is amazing, each trying to outdo the other on insulting each other.  The infected humans that the doctors try to protect keep having fits of "sacrifice yourselves to the dark lord" and other such possession nonsense, like ticks, but often it's pretty amusing.  And Nemesis just muttering to himself after each encounter with Emma, wanting nothing more than to not give her a shred of satisfaction.  It's a great contrast to the horror elements of the tale, and it all serves to produce a really solid comic.