Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nomad: Girl Without a World TP

Sean McKeever & David Baldeon

I was a little thrown by this book, to be honest.  I've read other works from Sean McKeever before, such as Sentinel, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it had such an all-ages feel to it, but somehow the title and circumstances around the lead character made me think it would be more of a dark, serious story.  But while it does tackle some grim issues, Nomad: Girl Without a World remains a pretty colorful superhero title that would sit well among the books in Marvel's Marvel Adventures kids line.  But I'm not complaining - it's kind of refreshing actually.  I mean, more superhero books should be aimed at younger readers instead of catering to long-time fans.  I just expected a different experience going in than what I got.

This book is about Rikki Barnes, who was the present-day sidekick to Steve Rogers, Captain America, as Bucky.  In her world, that is (she was transported here during the Onslaught: Reborn mini-series).  Unfortunately, this new world she finds herself in (the Marvel universe proper) has been upended by recent events like Civil War.  So while some things have changed for the better (her brother in this reality is her best friend, not a supervillain), many things are worse.  Steve Rogers is dead, and she has no place in this world as Bucky.  No one's even heard of her.  But she's determined to make a name for herself, adopting the mantle of Nomad and trying to make a connection with the current Captain America.  Things don't go as planned however, and Rikki finds herself trying to uncover a plot that has much of the student body at her school brainwashed, a plot that includes a man-wolf and plenty of betrayal.

Like I said before, this book isn't as dark as I expected based on the premise and the subject matter that her predicament forces into the story, but McKeever does do some really interesting things here.  I like how Rikki is forced to make her own name, and isn't able to simply reconnect with her former mentor.  They touched on this a little bit in Ed Brubaker and Rafael Albuquerque's story in Captain America #600, a few pages of which are included at the beginning of this collection to give the story some perspective (although to be honest, I found the inclusion of this short scene out-of-place, making things more muddled than they would have been without it, even if they do mention the scene in the mini-series later).  But probably the more interesting thing about this book that Rikki deals with isn't so much her lost mentor and her place in the world, but how her presence effects this world.  Of particular interest is her relationship to her well-adjusted wonderful brother in this reality.  As I mentioned, he's a homicidal sociopath in her world, so she's thrilled to find herself make a real connection with him in her current life.  It's the one beacon of solace for her in a world that is topsy-turvy.  But her decisions in this reality change him, make him more into the brother she left behind, leading her to wonder about her effect on life, and whether her mere presence is harmful to some aspects of a world she didn't grow up in.

Nomad: Girl Without a World is a fun book that asks some interesting questions, but I feel like McKeever could have pushed things a little further.  The conspiracy that Rikki finds herself knee-deep in isn't the most riveting, putting the focus on a throw-away storyline when there's plenty of untapped potential just lying around by the nature of her very existence here.  For the type of all-ages story that McKeever does tell here, David Baldeon's cartoony art is a nice compliment.  For an action-heavy book, he depicts things clearly, and gets across the emotional conflicts with the right amount of pacing and intensity, even if it isn't exactly the prettiest art I've ever seen.  I like that McKeever doesn't shy away from some darker places that the storyline takes readers, but I do hope that he took a good hard look at what he had to work with before he continued Rikki's story in the Captain America back-up stories he's writing for Nomad: Girl Without a World.  I love the idea of this lost girl, and I'm excited to see where this reality takes her, if only her unique place in the world would be utilized in more of a satisfactory manner specific to her character and circumstance.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pick of the Week 4/28

Here's the book that you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow...


Wilson GN - An all-new full-length graphic novel from master cartoonist Daniel Clowes!!  The few reviews I've seen have been pretty glowing, and I'm sure from the quality of his past works that this is going to be one of the best graphic novels of the year.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Abandoned Cars SC
City of Spies GN
Fraggle Rock #1 (of 4)
Fruits Basket: Banquet GN
Little Lulu Giant Size (Volume 1) TP
Super Spy: Lost Dossiers GN

Monday, April 26, 2010

Manga Monday: A Secret

Cactus's Secret (Volume 1)
Nana Haruta

Cactus's Secret is a new shojo manga release from Viz, who have turned out a lot of great manga over the years.  Unfortunately, this title isn't one of their strongest.  Cactus's Secret follows a girl named Miku who has a secret.  It's not the most original secret - hardly anything about this book is original - she merely has a crush on one of her classmates, a gorgeous, but clueless boy Kyohei, whom she has the luck of sitting next to in class (even when the seats get rearranged, it seems that destiny favors her).  And Kyohei seems to genuinely like her, which is why she eventually summons up the courage to confess her secret to him, but Kyohei is pretty dense, and her hints and confessions are misinterpretted at every turn, frustrating Miku to the point where she lashes out at him.  Which is when she gets called a cactus by Kyohei, because she's acting "prickly" toward him.  Actually, he calls her a "cactus alien," which would have made a better title.  But this book is about as frustrating as Miku's ordeal.  The same scenario seems to play out over and over: Miku says something about her feelings, it doesn't connect with Kyohei who says something boneheaded, and she yells at him again.  This scene plays out over and over, getting pretty old pretty fast.  Meanwhile, it seems that we relive the same thoughts in Miku's mind just as frequently, like Haruta didn't really have enough of a story (which is pretty apparent) to keep this series going for long without stretching it out.  It doesn't make for a pleasant reading experience, especially since there's nothing to the characters beyond Miku's pining over this boy, and Kyohei's generic "kindness" and thickheadedness.  Only by the end of the volume do things change, but by that point, I've been exasperated for too long with too little characterization to really care all that much.  This book just has a very generic bare bones story, the type of situation that usually takes place in the background of the more interesting story of any other shojo manga.  Graft some pretty typical shojo art to that formula and this is what you get.  Check this title out at your own risk.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Light #1 (of 5)

Nathan Edmondson & Brett Weldele

The Light is a new mini-series from Image Comics that just saw its first issue sell out at the distributor, but is still available in some comic shops.  It's not surprising that it sold out really, as it has quite a neat little horror hook.  Anybody who looks at light, be it a light bulb, computer screen, television or whatever, suddenly burns up from the inside out.  So in a small town, Coyle tries to keep his daughter safe from the threat that is killing his friends and neighbors, by avoiding looking at anything illuminating.  But it's kind of hard to avoid actually seeing something until it's too late, so the characters are basically blind as they fumble in their quest to find safety.  It's a really cool idea, one I'm not sure where the creators are going with, with any number of social commentaries they could be pulling out of the premise of man vs. technology.  Brett Weldele (The Surrogates) has a sketchy sort of art that I noticed spreading through comics with Ben Templesmith's 30 Days of Night from IDW (written by Steve Niles).  I like when Templesmith rocks this look, but to be honest, Weldele's leaves me kind of cold.  There are few panels that are very "pretty" when I can certainly say that many of Templesmith's are aesthetically pleasing in series like Fell and the aforementioned 30 Days of Night.  I feel like a lot of the art in Weldele's Light is hidden by grainy shadow and if you look at the lines of the art itself, it's kind of lackluster.  But I don't want to be too hard on the guy; It's illustrated competently and I can easily make out what is going on in what is a highly action-packed book.  Plus I must applaud his use of, well, light, in the issue.  He very smartly highlights the "lighting" of each scene in the book, right up until (and after) the light begins to do crazy things to people.  Overall, I can't say I'm very taken with this book beyond its catchy premise, but it does do things smartly.  If you can't locate a copy for yourself, you can read the first issue for free here before subsequent issues come out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Black Widow #1

Marjorie Liu & Daniel Acuna

With Black Widow debuting on the big screen in a few weeks in Iron Man 2 (played by Scarlet Johansson), Marvel has wisely launched a new on-going series starring the red-headed ex-Russian-spy Avenger Natasha Romanoff.  There have been a few mini-series as of late, including Black Widow: Deadly Origin (Paul Cornell & Tom Raney) and Black Widow & the Marvel Girls (Paul Tobin & Salva Espin), both of which were disappointments, so I was preparing myself to be disappointed once again with this new series debut, but it seems that the third time really is the charm for Black Widow.  In case you're unfamiliar with Black Widow's elaborate history, there's a nice recap at the back of this issue to get new readers up to speed, including anything readers may have missed in the recent Black Widow: Deadly Origin.  I'm personally a little surprised that Marvel hasn't done more to highlight Greg Rucka's work on Black Widow, since he's all the rage with his recent Detective Comics run at DC.  I loved his Black Widow material through the Marvel Knights imprint and this is the perfect time to make a fuss over it so new readers and old readers alike can rediscover a real gem in the character's history.

Black Widow #1 is paced wonderfully, beginning with Natasha's meeting with another spy, Black Rose.  It's an interesting meeting that leads very quickly into a mystery that Natasha is looking into involving some clues that have been very obviously left for Black Widow to discover, including a black rose that led her to seek out her former comrade.  But the reasons behind the clues are as-yet unknown, and as Widow is soon attacked and put through quite an ordeal, we see Tony Stark, Logan and her lover James try to sort things out as well.  The relationships between all of the characters is intriguing, and the plot is pretty riveting, but I think Liu is especially skilled at making Black Widow herself a very likeable character.  Many former interpretations of the character have left me a little cold, but Liu knows how to work Natasha as an interesting person, which makes all of the difference in storytelling.  It certainly doesn't hurt the book that Daniel Acuna's artwork is stunning.  It's very pretty and stylized, with some panels that are flat-out amazing.  A few action scenes are a little murky, but for the most part, it's clear and quite exciting.  I hope this is the beginning of a real presence for Black Widow in the Marvel Universe.  She has a lot of potential, and it's nice to see someone tap into that potential once again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

C2E2


C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo) debuted this year in Chicago over this past weekend with 27,500 unique attendees, which is a bit lower than Wondercon, and well below the numbers boasted at San Diego Comic-con and the New York convention.  However, it's a pretty solid first year, and a great first step in the right direction for securing a real comic book convention force in the Midwest since Wizard World: Chicago has been steeply declining for the last several years.  Aisles weren't clogged with patrons, certainly, but there was steady traffic, and when I attended the Archaia panel, the publisher admitted that the foot traffic wasn't up to San Diego standards, but they were doing stellar sales, as the people attending were buying.  The floor seemed open and inviting with plenty of retailers selling books at half price, mostly mainstream comics.  I feel like more people were interested in buying trade collections than back issues of comic book floppies, and there was little in terms of a manga presence.  The natural light and the view of the Chicago skyline was wonderful for the show floor, and it was just plain EASY to get to the convention.  Sure, I like Rosemont, where the Wizard World convention is hosted, but downtown Chicago is a whole different beast.  Many may be intimidated by going to the big city for a convention, but the location is really worth it.  I'll speak from my own experience, as I booked my hotel through the convention itself.  I stayed at the Chicago Essex Inn, which is located on Madison Avenue, just a short walk away from the Natural History Museum and the Shedd Aquarium (the latter of which we came a day early to see).  Everything is easy to get to using the el train system, which was a short distance away from the hotel.  We took a trip around the loop to go to Chicago Comics (for new comics and the latest Ganges and King-Cat) and Gino's East (the best pizza ever), and used taxis to get to and from Union Station.  The shuttle provided by the convention came to the hotel frequently and it was a short ten minute drive to C2E2.  I had no hiccups personally throughout my trip.

Panels can make or break a convention, and C2E2 did a decent job in this regard.  It is a mainstream convention, so it did have Marvel and DC panels galore (if you're a fan of either publisher, you could probably attend panels each day from start to finish), but they threw in some other more unique programming as well.  The best panels that Patrick and I attended were the local panels on Chicago: Chicago Vintage Comic Fandom and The Graphic Art of Chicago's Transit and Utility Posters of the 1920's.  These were just fascinating.  I also attended both Archaia panels, the Pantheon panel with Chip Kidd, Dash Shaw and Chris Ware, and Patrick saw the Jeff Smith spotlight.  And there were certainly other panels available for people not interested in more Marvel or DC, although maybe not as many as some would have hoped.  And while there were some panels focusing on prose authors and other entertainment, manga still remained a non-presence, which is something that I think needs to be examined for this convention going forward.  But overall, a very tight, well-run convention that is going to become an annual trek for me.

Our purchases (that just barely squeezed into our suitcases to bring home) of 50% off or more:
The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Annihilation: Conquest (Volume 1) TP
Annihilation: Conquest (Volume 2) TP
The Avengers: Celestial Madonna TP
Captain Britain Omnibus HC
The Complete Little Orphan Annie (Volume 2): 1927-1929 HC
The Engineer: Konstrukt HC
The Fantastic Four Omnibus (Volume 2) HC
Fighting American HC (old Jack Kirby/Joe Simon collection)
Hulk Visionaries: John Byrne (Volume 1) TP
Jack Kirby's The Losers HC
Jack Kirby's OMAC: One Man Army Corps HC
Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense (Volume 1) HC
The Newsboy Legion (Volume 1) HC (Jack Kirby/Joe Simon)
The Sandman HC (Jack Kirby/Joe Simon)
Tumor HC

Pick of the Week 4/21

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


Spell Checkers (Volume 1) - There's no obvious stand-out this week for the book you should check out, so I'm pointing out this book that may be under many people's radars.  From Oni Press, this is a book about teenage witches with a really clever title from Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones (the team behind 12 Reasons Why I Love Her), and Nicolas Nitori De (here is an interview with the artist at Robot 6).  If DC were still putting out their Minx line, this seems like it would be a good fit.  So anybody who misses those sorts of stories may want to check this out.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth HC
Art of P. Craig Russell HC
Basil Wolverton's Culture Corner HC
Bloom County Complete Library (Volume 2): 1982-1984 HC
Greetings From Cartoonia SC
Mome (Volume 18) GN
Okko: The Cycle of Air #1 (of 4)
RASL (Volume 2): Fire of St. George TP
Shinjuku HC

Monday, April 19, 2010

Exhausted

Sorry, no Manga Monday this week, as I just returned from C2E2 this weekend and am pretty tired...and I caught a cold, but luckily that was just on the last day.  Watch for a C2E2 report soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Turf #1 (of 5)

Jonathan Ross & Tommy Lee Edwards

The new Image mini-series Turf is about New York City in the late 1920's, with the prohibition, gangsters and flappers that you'd expect to see during this era.  The only difference in this book is that there are vampires too, and during this time period, they want to rule the city, and begin to take out crimelords and their gangs to make that happen.  Also thrown in to the mix are aliens who have crashlanded who may want their own piece of the pie.  It's a very rich premise with lots of possibilities, so it's no wonder that it's already caught Hollywood's eye.  The story and its characters of goons and dames is pretty engrossing, and certainly captivated me throughout.  I can see the dense dialogue turning some people off however, as it is really quite verbose.  I didn't mind however.  The dialogue's great, with Ross and Edwards really painting a fully-realized corrupt world surrounding the turf wars.  This book is pretty bloody, as to be expected when vampires (at least the non-sparkly variety) are involved, and the art tends to be pretty dark.  Sometimes a bit too dark even, with characters bathed in shadows a little too often.  But the action is clear for the most part, and some pretty exciting stuff goes down in this first issue.  Aside from the war between the gangsters and trying to figure out who's bumping people off, the book also sheds some light on the vampire invaders themselves and their motivations.  I liked that this wasn't one of those first issues that was all set-up.  It very much threw readers into the throng, and I have a pretty good idea of what the rest of the book will look like.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pick of the Week 4/14

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


BodyWorld HC - This work from Dash Shaw was showing up on several people's best-of-the-year lists when it was nearing its completion on-line.  Now the entirety is available with its eye-popping coloring in print thanks to Pantheon.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Black Widow #1
Brightest Day #0
Dan DeCarlo's Jetta HC
Dungeon: Twilight (Volume 3) GN
Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis (Volume 1) TP
Flash #1
Mercury GN - Hope Larson
Other Lives HC - Peter Bagge

Monday, April 12, 2010

Manga Monday: Briefly

I didn't have a chance to check out any new manga this week, as I'm working a long string of days leading up to C2E2.  But here are some books that I'm following and some brief thoughts on the latest volumes...

Pluto (Volume 8)
Naoki Urasawa
Based on Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka

I don't want to give away anything for anyone who hasn't picked up this amazing series, but the conclusion is wholly satisfying, with a nice tribute to Tezuka's ending, and a great little epilogue after the final scene of the main story that I really enjoyed.  Urasawa's art and storytelling are top-notch consistently throughout the book, right up until that last page.  Urasawa more than deserves his Eisner nominations.

Hot Gimmick VizBig Edition (Volume 4)
Miki Aihara

After the big conclusion to Aihara's popular Hot Gimmick, I was left a little unsettled.  Hatsumi is just too passive of a character.  Coupled with her attraction to a verbally abusive guy and her weird relationship with her step-brother, and this ends up being a really messed-up book.  I hope no girls look to Hatsumi as a role model, because in the end, she's pretty pathetic.

Honey Hunt (Volume 4)
Miki Aihara

Thank goodness Aihara redeems herself with her new work, Honey Hunt.  Yura may be a bit passive sometimes, but she stands up for herself when she has to.  She's confident when she steps into the role of the characters she plays, and knows that she can't settle for a guy who doesn't see her for who she is.  I feel like Aihara really took what worked in Hot Gimmick and brought the best of that into this new series, filtering out the skeezy elements.  And with her art stronger than ever, this is shaping up to be quite an amazing series.

And this really upsets me.  The first volume of X-Men: Misfits is an awesome book - having the plug pulled on the second and final installment is just sad.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Previews HYPE: June '10

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


1. New reprint collections - There a ton of new reprint projects debuting this month, from Beetle Bailey to The Wizard of Id to Best of Dick Tracy.  The ones I'm most excited about are (not necessarily in this order) 1) Krazy Kat: A Celebration of Sundays HC, reprinting the greatest Krazy Kat Sunday pages in their original size and color from the wonderful publisher Sunday Press Books, 2) Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails HC, from Craig Yoe's IDW imprint, this collects comics from original Felix artist Otto Messmer, and 3) Archie: The Classic Newspaper Comics (Volume 1) HC, which sees Bob Montana work his magic with the gang.

2. Darkstar and the Winter Guard #1 (of 3) - I really enjoyed the Hulk: Winter Guard one-shot, so I'm happy to see the same creative team do more with the characters in a new mini-series. 

3. Werewolves of Montpellier GN - I've never actually read anything by Jason, but his stuff always looks great and with werewolves thrown into his new graphic novella, this is probably going to be a great way to experience the creator for the first time.

4. Chi's Sweet Home (Volume 1) - This new cute manga from Vertical follows a family who take in a cute little lost kitten...even though pets aren't allowed in their building.

5. Young Allies #1 - Five young superheroes from the Marvel universe band together in a new team, including Arana, Firestar, Gravity, Nomad and Toro.

6. Ghostopolis GN - I love a good genre work, especially supernatural stuff.  This one by Graphix looks like it has great art, following a kid who gets pulled into the spirit world.  Another little horror story on my radar this month is Whispers In the Walls #1 about an ancient children's infirmary.

7. Darkwing Duck #1: The Duck Knight Returns - The first issue in a four-issue mini-series sees "the terror that flaps in the night" come out of retirement.

8. Critical Millenium #1 (of 4) - A new mini-series from Archaia that sounds very Star Trek-ish and epic.

9. Jurassic Park #1 - IDW is bringing back Jurassic Park with this new series of dinosaurs vs. man.  Could be a lot of fun in comic form.

10. The Thanos Imperative #1 (of 6) - The latest of Marvel's galactic crossovers, written by the team who makes these sorts of things look effortless, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning of Annihilation fame.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Pick of the Week 4/7

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


Art In Time: Unknown Comic Adventures 1940-1980 HC - The follow-up to Dan Nadel's excellent Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries 1900-1969 HC is this new offering with overlooked comic works by big-name artists such as Jesse Marsh and John Stanley, as well as more obscure names.  If his previous anthology was any indication, Nadel is sure to have picked some exciting, high-grade comics for this new book.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Batman and Robin (Volume 1): Batman Reborn HC
Lil Abner (Volume 1) HC
Market Day HC
Rosario Vampire: Season II (Volume 1)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Spider-Man: Fever #1 (of 3)
Walt & Skeezix (Volume 4): 1927-1928 HC - Finally!!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Manga Monday: BSI

Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (Volume 1)
Yoshiyuki Nishi

From Viz's Shonen Jump line comes this creepy little action title Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation.  The book follows a duo who work together to find ghosts and exorcise them for clients.  Toru Muhyo is the little genius who casts the actual spells that send spirits to either Heaven or Hell (and the various pocket dimensions the two places encompass) depending on the ghost that they encounter.  Muhyo finds an appropriate place to send the being based on the laws it has broken from the Magical Law Book.  He's actually a Law Executor, giving him the power to pass judgment and interpret the crimes.  Jiro Kusano or "Roji," is Muhyo's assistant, and is the low man on the totem pole.  As a mere 2nd Assistant, he has little power in the Bureau and is literally on the bottom of the ladder of positions, although he aspires to one day become Executor.  The atmosphere of the book kind of jumps around a bit, between action and comedy.  Although horror is certainly an element of the story, in the first volume at least, the thrills are more gross or elaborate-looking monsters than anything truly frightening.  I think it aspires to be creepy, but the odd cartoony characters undercut any real suspense that could make it truly scary.  Muhyo and Roji have a nice love-hate relationship that works well with the silliness of the book.  As long as you don't take things too seriously, it can be pretty fun.  In this first volume, the stories are very episodic, with one case to take on each chapter, which is fine, although I personally prefer more drawn-out storylines than what's offered here.  The panels move a bit quickly, as do the stories, giving readers little chance to get to know the two main characters properly.  Especially when the characters are first introduced, events unfold too quickly with pages a little too busy and claustrophobic.  It kind of turned me off initially, although the creator seemed to loosen up as the book went along, and actually established some nicely-paced panels with the subsequent investigations.  This may not be the most riveting manga out there, but it does have a good premise with a lot of promise.