Sunday, July 31, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Jonathan Hickman

On this week's Comics-and-More Podcast, we review works by Jonathan Hickman.

The Red Wing #1 (of 4)
Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

FF #7
Jonathan Hickman & Greg Tocchini

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

For further reading:
War of Kings #1-6
Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier

Secret Warriors #1-28
Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cursed Pirate Girl (Volume 1) TP

Jeremy A. Bastian

This is an utterly beautiful book.  A quick flip-through of the collection and I was immediately impressed by the art, but after reading the entire thing through, I would say with certainty that this is one of the best books that will come out this year.  The story has the sort of whimsy and imagination that stories like Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz were able to capture, but it feels fresh and original here, probably mostly due to the imagination of the creator, and his enchanting main character, the cursed pirate girl herself, who is a very capable young girl on a quest to find her father, a pirate king.  Along the way, our protagonist meets any number of strange creatures, and gains some good friends, as she maneuvers through pirate-infested waters and causes a good deal of mischief along the way.  While I love the feisty pirate girl and the adventure she's on, it's really that amazing art that drew me in and won me over completely.  Bastian has a lovely, intricate drawing style that draws on the best properties of cartooning and detailed, realistic artwork.  It almost has an epic, mythic feel to it all, not just because of the scope of the story, but due to the art and its amazing little details that can be found on each page and the often lovingly-arranged panels that are sometimes complex and flowery and just really quite striking.  I love the elaborateness of Bastian's art and how he really takes advantage of the artform to do fun and imaginative things with the panels while advancing the story.  This is a rich, amazing world, and really, I can't recommend Cursed Pirate Girl highly enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast 1.1

The first Comics-and-More Podcast!  A new weekly feature!  Enjoy!

Moon Knight #1
Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Daredevil #1
Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera

Part One

Part Two

Pick of the Week 7/27

Here are the books you should be paying attention to, in comic shops tomorrow!

Franco-Belgium All-Ages Comics - Fantagraphics is bringing some acclaimed Post-Herge all-ages comics to American audiences, and this week sees two of them coming to stores that people should be watching for: Gil Jordan, Private Eye: Murder By High Tide HC by M. Tillieux, a funny fast-paced detective story, and Sibyl Anne vs. Ratticus HC by R. Macherot, featuring a mouse in a story that's described as a Pixar version of Wind In the Willows.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Alan Moore: Storyteller HC
Amazing 3D Comics HC
Atomic Robo (Volume 5): Deadly Art of Sciene TP
Black Widow: Kiss or Kill TP
Days Missing (Volume 2): Kestus HC
Defiance GN
Fables #107
I Give To You GN
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III: Century #2: 1969
The Raven HC
Red Sonya (Volume 8): Blood Dynasty TP
Rip Kirby (Volume 4) HC
Seeds GN
Smurfs (Volume 7): The Astro Smurf GN
Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic (Book 1) TP
The Stand: No Man's Land HC
Supergods: What Sun Gods Can Teach Us About Being Human HC
The Vault #1 (of 3)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Manga Monday: Monster Hunter Orage

Monster Hunter Orage (Volume 1)
Hiro Mashima

I picked up this manga just because I thought that it sounded like a lot of fun, before realizing that it was by the creator of Fairy Tail, another manga that I was really impressed with.  And I wasn't let down by this title either.  Like with Fairy Tail, the artwork and fast-paced storytelling of Monster Hunter Orage reminded me a lot of the insanely popular One Piece by Eiichiro Oda, with expressive cartoony characters, and a good mix of humor and action.  And like both of those other titles, the main protagonist, Shiki Ryuuhou, is a fun-loving, but kind of dim guy with a heart of gold.  He's a monster hunter, taught from a young age by Greylee, a man who he came to regard with reverence, like a father figure.  Since Greylee died in a horrible accident, Shiki has taken it upon himself to finish his learning as a monster hunter and carry out the task of finding the legendary monster Miogaruna.  Fast forward a few years, at the beginning of his quest as a young man, Shiki sets out to battle some monsters and make some friends, as monster hunters typically have companions to aid them while doing battle.  After some initial reluctance he finds such a companion in the form of Ailee Jescar, the daughter of Greylee, and makes more friends (and a few enemies) on the way to fulfilling his quest.   Monster Hunter Orage is actually based on a video game, but Mashima really seems to make it his own in a compelling story with characters that interact with each other in a very natural way.  While Shiki often just seems to be present as comic relief, he really shines in moments that show how genuine and passionate he is about what he is doing.  My only real complaint is that some of the action sequences are a little hard to follow, but other than that, this is pretty solid storytelling, but not quite as enchanting as Mashima's original concept, Fairy Tail.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Congress of the Animals

Jim Woodring

Jim Woodring's latest is his second full-length graphic novel, hot on the heels of last year's Weathercraft.  And while Weathercraft takes place in the same world as (and has an appearance from) his character Frank, that work stars Manhog.  Congress of the Animals features his beloved creation Frank himself, as he maneuvers through the dreamlike landscape he lives in, meeting strange creatures left and right during an adventure that has him traveling far and wide.  It's hard not to compare this to Weathercraft, the only other work I've read by Jim Woodring, which I actually preferred to Congress of the Animals, although I enjoyed them both.  Like Weathercraft, this new work is completely silent, showcasing Woodring's amazing talent to convey a story without a word, with seemingly little effort.  It's just an eye-popping visual feast of amazing illustrations in this crazy world where Woodring can put whatever he wants on the page, to a stunning end result.  Sure, events seem kind of random, but it's just fun to explore alongside Frank.  And it really does feel like an adventure that leaves one satisfied afterward.  The pages move along briskly, the story unfolding in a way that has you turning pages quickly, for a very, very quick read (I read it in about half an hour).  Of course the lack of words feeds into that, but it really does feel like a full story nonetheless.  Unlike Weathercraft, however, Congress of the Animals is a much gentler story.  Instead of Manhog getting maimed and chased at every stop, Frank quietly takes in the world around him, and he ends up in a good place.  Sure, there are some of those nightmarish images that Woodring is so good at producing, but they are pretty minimal here.  I also thought it was kind of funny how I read the book first, and then read the dust jacket, which had a description of what happens through much of the book, and it seemed kind of like a different story, filling in some of the blanks in ways that I hadn't.  But anyways, this is a fun book, and really, readers are enjoying this title more for the beautiful illustration work than anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pick of the Week 7/20

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

Sergio Aragones Funnies #1 - Highly regarded humor cartoonist Sergio Aragones (co-creator of Groo, MAD artist) debuts his new humor comic from Bongo Comics this week!

Other Noteworthy Releases
Angel Omnibus (Volume 2) TP
Avengelyne #1
Bleedout HC
Daredevil #1
Ender's Game: Speaker For the Dead HC
Fraggle Rock (Volume 2) HC
Kim Harrison's Hollows (Volume 1): Blood Work HC
La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room GN
Locke & Key: Clockworks #1 (of 6)
Neptune GN
New Mutants Classic (Volume 6) TP
Old City Blues HC
Spawn: New Beginnings (Volume 1) TP
Thor: Heaven and Earth #1 (of 4)
Turf HC
Walt Disney Treasury: Donald Duck (Volume 2) TP
War of the Green Lanters: Aftermath #1 (of 2)
X-Men/Steve Rogers: Escape From the Negative Zone HC

Monday, July 18, 2011

Manga Monday: La Quinta Camera

La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room
Natsume Ono

In 2003, Natsume Ono, the creator who would later bring us such great works as not simple and House of Five Leaves, made her debut with the webcomic La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room.  That initial work has now been collected by Viz for American audiences.  La Quinta Camera is about an apartment in Italy shared by four middle-aged men who have become good friends over the years.  The fifth room is rented out to exchange students, so the occupant is constantly changing, continuously introducing them to someone new and keeping things interesting for them.  In the very first chapter of the book, we are introduced to Charlotte, a female student from Denmark, who happens to encounter each of the men throughout the city before ending up at the apartment building where she is mistakenly placed by her school.  It was a really nice introduction to the series and its characters, but I was pretty surprised when, in the following chapter, Charlotte was no longer their roommate.  I guess from the elaborate introduction of Charlotte to these men, I assumed that it was more of a beginning to a new friendship and we would see it grow as she lived among them, but it was instead the vehicle by which we are introduced to the four roommates that permanently occupy the apartment.  Charlotte does remain in their lives after that initial meeting however, but that rotating room brings with it new and exciting people, including a few American students, as well as one from Japan.  While Ono's art is already very reminiscent of what her later work would look like, the storytelling is a little clunky.  My big issue with this stand-alone manga is that she jumps around in time with each chapter, and doesn't always orient the reader very quickly.  I was sometimes confused with what time period I was reading a story from, and who the fifth roommate was during the period (and there were even stories that took place before the four roommates had come to live together to further complicate things).  But overall, I love the atmosphere of this book.  There's such love between the characters and a nice relaxing relationship between them that I kind of felt "at home" while reading this title, like I was returning to somewhere I belonged each time I returned to it.  It always left me with a good, fuzzy feeling, and it certainly holds the promise of the amazing storyteller that Ono would quickly become.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pick of the Week 7/13

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

Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis (Volume 3) TP - This is an awesome run of superhero comics by a master of the medium.  Alan Davis creates some of the best comics of the 90's here, and if you're not reading these collections, you're missing out.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis (Volume 2) HC
BPRD: Hell On Earth - Monsters #1 (of 2)
Captain America #1
Classic Next Men (Volume 1) TP
Dark Avengers HC
Dollhouse: Epitaphs #1 (of 5)
From Bloom County To Mars: The Imagination of Berkeley Breathed SC
RASL #11
The Red Wing #1
Sam & Twitch Complete Collection (Volume 1) HC
Spider-Man: The Death of Jean Dewolff HC
Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies TP
Ultimate Comics: Fallout #1 (of 6)
X-Men: Lifedeath HC
X-Men: Schism #1 (of 5)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Previews HYPE!: September '11

Here are the books, coming to comic shops in September, that I think may get overlooked, or that I'm just plain excited about...

DC Comics - September sees the relaunch of the entire DC Universe line, with some very impressive talent involved.  The highlights are Justice League #1 (Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams), Justice League International #1 (Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan), Aquaman #1 (Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado), Wonder Woman #1 (Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang), DC Universe Presents #1 (spotlights different superheroes of the DC Universe, beginning with Deadman, from Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang), Action Comics #1 (Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Rick Bryant), Superman #1 (George Perez and Jesus Merino), Superboy #1 (Scott Lobdell, RB Silva and Rob Lean), Batman #1 (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion), Batgirl #1 (Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes), Batwoman #1 (Finally, by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman), Birds of Prey #1 (Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz), Red Hood and The Outlaws #1 (Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort), Green Lantern #1 (Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy), Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 (Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham and Batt), Red Lanterns #1 (Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and Rob Hunter), Justice League Dark #1 (Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin), Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 (Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli), I, Vampire #1 (Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino), Resurrection Man #1 (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino), Demon Knights (Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert), Stormwatch #1 (Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda), Voodoo #1 (Ron Marz and Sami Basri), O.M.A.C. #1 (Dan Didio, Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish), Teen Titans #1 (Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund), and Hawk and Dove #1 (Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld).  And those are just ones I'm excited about.  This month is going to hurt the wallet.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9: Freefall #1 - And season nine of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer begins at Dark Horse, with a story co-written by the series creator himself.

Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips (Volume 1): "Through the Wild Blue Wonder" - Walt Kelly's comic strip is finally seeing the light of day as a collection!!  Also out this month from Fantagraphics, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse (Volume 2): "Trapped On Treasure Island."

Sailor Moon (Volume 1) TP - Finally, Sailor Moon returns in new collections to capture the imagination of a new generation.  Also available this month, the prequel to Sailor Moon, Codename: Sailor V (Volume 1) TP.

The Deathray HC - Dan Clowes acclaimed story from Eightball is expanded and released in a deserving hardcover.

The Manara Library (Volume 1) HC - This is the first of nine hardcovers collecting the Italian legend Milo Manara's comics, kicking off with an introduction by Frank Miller, and including the epic Indian Summer.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 - Relaunching alongside the rest of the Ultimate Universe is Ultimate Spider-Man, since, you know, he died and all.  Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 also comes out this month.

Daybreak HC - Brian Ralph's excellent zombie comics are collected under one cover.

Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Omnibus (Volume 1) HC - A nice format for this run from fan-favorite writer Geoff Johns.

Action! Mystery! Thrills! Great Comic Book Covers 1936-1945 - This could be a hell of a lot of fun.  Edited by Greg Sadowski.

Three Thieves (Volume 2): The Sign of the Black Rock GN - Scott Chantler's follow-up to the excellent Tower of Treasure.

Annihilators: Earthfall #1 (of 4) - Another Annihilators mini-series, featuring the heavy-hitters of Marvel's cosmic heroes.  Plus, another Rocket Raccoon and Groot story.

Star Trek Ongoing #1 - This new comic book series from IDW sees episodes from the original series reimagined with the alternate timeline that JJ Abrams created with his Star Trek film.

Star Gazing Dog GN - An acclaimed manga from Takashi Murakami.

The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime HC - Featuring the best of Simon and Kirby's crime comics from the 1950's.

Dorothy & The Wizard in Oz #1 (of 8) - Eric Shanower and Skottie Young continue to adapt L. Frank Baum's Oz children's books to comics.

The Drops of God (Volume 1) - The wine manga that effected the world's wine economy now available to American audiences for the first time.

The Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim (Volume 1) HC - The latest addition to IDW's Library of American Comics line are these classic action comics from Alex Raymond.

The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists HC  - New Seth.

Holy Terror HC - New Frank Miller.

Castle: Richard Castle's Deadly Storm HC - An original graphic novel based on the hit television show actually adapts Richard Castle's, the mystery writer from that show's, first book featuring his character Derrick Storm.  A little convoluted already, even for Marvel...

Jim Henson's A Tale of Sand HC - This graphic novel is illustrated from a complete screenplay found in the archives of The Jim Henson Company, written by Jim Henson himself and partner Jerry Juhl.

No Longer Human (Volume 1) GN - A manga adapting one of the best selling novels in Japan, of all time.

Alpha Flight Classic (Volume 2) TP - Finally.  I really enjoyed the first collection of John Byrne's Alpha Flight stories, and it looks like, with the new Alpha Flight series taking off, a second volume is finally in order.

Bake Sale GN - A new graphic novel from Sara Varon (Robot Dreams).  Other notable all-ages releases this month include Korgi (Volume 3): A Hollow Beginning GN and Dragon Puncher (Book 2): Island HC.

Bonnie Lass #1 - The fan-favorite webcomic comes to print.

1-800-MICE HC - The critically-acclaimed alt-comic series from Matthew Thurber is collected in one nice hardcover package.

The Smurfs (Volume 8): The Smurf Apprentice GN - Papercutz' collections of Peyo's wonderful Smurfs comics continues!

George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones #1 - The latest pop culture phenom to get the comic treatment, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

R. Crumb: The Complete Record Cover Collection HC - Collecting Crumb's art for record covers.

Prison Pit (Book 3) - More over-the-top, violent craziness.

Twilight: The Graphic Novel (Volume 2) GN - It was bound to happen.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Pick of the Week 7/6

Here is the book you should be paying attention to this week, coming to comic shops tomorrow (some later in the day due to the holiday)...

Wandering Son (Volume 1) HC - Fantagraphics is beginning the publication of the Wandering Son manga series this week, by Shimura Takako, about a dreamy quiet boy who wishes to be a girl, and an outgoing girl who discovers his desire, and adds her own confession: that she would like to be a boy.  Should be interesting, and if the cover's any indication, it's going to be a beautiful book.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Art of Doug Sneyd HC
Deadworld Classic (Volume 2) TP
Elric: The Balance Lost #1
Fallen Angel: Return of the Son TP
Flight (Volume 8) GN
George RR Martin's Fevre Dream GN
Green Arrow (Volume 1): Into the Woods HC
Infinity Inc (Volume 1): The Generations Saga HC
Locke & Key (Volume 4): Keys To the Kingdom HC
Magic Knight Rayearth Omnibus Edition (Volume 1)
Mameshiba On the Loose GN
Meet Mameshiba GN
Monster Hunter Orage (Volume 1)
The Phantom Complete Dailies (Volume 3): 1939-1941
Queen of the Black Black GN
Saga of the Swamp Thing (Volume 5) HC
Scarlet (Book 1) HC
The Secret History (Book 15)
Showcase Presents: Doc Savage (Volume 1) TP
Sidekicks GN
Skrumps One-Shot
Stan Lee's Starborn (Volume 1) TP
Vic Boone #1

Monday, July 04, 2011

Manga Monday: Black Sun

Uki Ogasawara

One week later and already I've purchased and read a second manga on my nookcolor.  It makes impulse-buying very easy when you can shop right at your fingertips from your own home.  Anyways, I was trolling through the yaoi manga available the other night and I liked the look of the art from this title, so I took a chance and purchased it.  Black Sun definitely does not shy away from the nudity.  If you're looking for a very erotic experience, this is your title, but it's definitely for the 18+ crowd.  It's sexy, with enough of a plot to make you care somewhat for the characters, and get you from one steamy scene to another.  The title follows Prince Leonard de Limbourg, who is captured as attacking soldiers seize Gerun Fortress while he is in command.  Prince Leonard offers to go quietly if the invaders let his soldiers go, and General Jamal Jan takes Leonard up on his deal, although tests his word immediately as he humiliates Prince Leonard in front of his own men.  From this moment on, Leonard becomes Jamal's slave, but comes to have an affection for Jamal over time, despite the forces within Jamal's castle that mean to stand between them.  Black Sun does not have a very satsifying ending, I should mention.  In fact, it's kind of frustrating.  But if you're looking for a romance full of depth, this isn't really your book anyway (see No Touching At All for that type of yaoi manga).  If you want eye candy, however, this title has plenty of it.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Anya's Ghost

Vera Brosgol

This latest offering from First Second Books features a teenage protagonist struggling to fit in at a private school.  Having moved from Russia, she's done her best to drop her accent and adopt the clothing and mannerisms of her peers, but her family and the other nerdy Russian boy at her school make it difficult to sweep her heritage under the rug completely.  And she's lonely, as she has very few friends.  That changes, however, when she tumbles into a well, where she discovers a skeleton, and the ghost of the girl who belongs to it.  Although freaked out at first, Anya quickly makes friends with the ghost, and finds that having a ghost as a best friend has advantages.  Her new friend also helps her open her eyes to those around her as, it seems, the people in her life aren't always exactly what they seem, a point that hits home with how she's been faking her way through life herself.  Anya's Ghost is a fun read along the lines of fantasy books like Courtney Crumrin and Ghostopolis, with a feisty protagonist, and plenty going on beneath the surface that readers pick up on through the actions of the characters.  The art is nice and cartoony, fitting for a story about a ghost BFF, and the creator finds a nice balance between serious and funny.  Brosgol, a Russian immigrant herself, brings a lot to the table when it comes to identity and heritage, perhaps using her own life to illustrate the embarrassment of Anya of her own heritage, and trying to fit in, becoming a different person, and watching those around her put on their own fronts.  Ultimately, Anya learns her lesson a little too neatly, but for an all-ages title, I think that that's appropriate.  Anya's Ghost has a few surprises up its sleeve, and is more clever than you'd imagine at first glance.  A well-paced, fun read.