Monday, October 31, 2011

Legion of Monsters #1 (of 4)

Dennis Hopeless & Juan Doe

Happy Halloween!!  And what better book to review for Halloween than Marvel's Legion of Monsters?  This is a four issue mini-series that follows monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone, a character who headed her own mini-series Bloodstone years ago, and more recently, was a kick-ass member (and my favorite member) of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., which had quite a loyal following at the time.  And it seems like Marvel is trying to recapture some of those fans, as Juan Doe's art is very reminiscent of Immonen's artwork on Nextwave.  Doe's pencils do end up being second best, but they're really rather nice when not unfairly comparing them to what's come before, especially his designs of the cool monsters in this issue.  Elsa Bloodstone is basically tracking a monster that's eating teenagers in a small town, and follows the culprit through a portal to Monster Metropolis, under New York City.  Here she is arrested for murder, as monsters are really quite civilized, it seems, and there is an organized police force called the Legion of Monsters in place to sustain order and justice.  But that misunderstanding is set aside soon enough as the monsters realize that someone is making monsters like the one that Elsa killed into your typical bloodlusting monsters.  A pact is then formed, and Elsa hunts alongside the Legion of Monsters to find the culprit.  The Legion of Monsters in Monster Metropolis is headed by Morbius, the vampire, with other officers including a werewolf, a mummy, and some sort of sea creature.  They're for the most part kind of a joke, but they somehow manage to get the job done.  I think I would have enjoyed this more had I not been recently so enamored by Jeff Lemire's Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.  This book has the same flavor as Frankenstein, with a cool team up of monsters injected with a good amount of humor and oddness, and Frankenstein is just written sharper and better illustrated.  If not for that title, Hopeless and Doe's book would have probably seemed fresher to me and excited me more, but Lemire has no problem demonstrating his superior crafting skills, and Legion of Monsters just looks like a watered-down version in comparison.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Richard Sala

This week on the Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I discuss Richard Sala's work, including his Peculia books and his new graphic novel The Hidden, perfect books to read for Halloween.



Reviewed:
The Hidden
Richard Sala

Peculia
Richard Sala

Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires
Richard Sala

Part One:


Part Two:


For further reading:
The Chuckling Whatsit
Richard Sala

Cat Burglar Black
Richard Sala

Delphine #1-4
Richard Sala

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

X-Men Regenesis #1

Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan

I'm a big fan of Kieron Gillen's X-Men material for the most part, especially his short-lived series S.W.O.R.D., however this one-shot that sees the relaunch of the X-Men line is a complete throw-away, a waste of time and talent.  It shows the fall-out from the X-Men: Schism mini-series, where Cyclops and Wolverine have an ethical disagreement that leads to them deciding that they can no longer work with one another.  Basically, Wolverine doesn't think that children (teenagers really) should be fighting as X-Men, and Cyclops thinks that not teaching them to fight will get them hurt in this hard world they live in, where mutants are pretty much attacked from every front.  So Wolverine has decided to move back to Winchester, New York to restart a school to teach mutants, while Cyclops plans to remain in San Francisco.  X-Men Regenesis pretty much shows which X-Men are siding with which new team, as Logan and Scott approach various members of the X-Men to recruit them.  As each member decides on which side they are on, the artist flashes to this weird scene where Cyclops and Wolverine are battling each other in loincloths and animal skins, and each X-Man is depicted in this garb.  It's...weird.  The conversations that the X-Men have that lead them to their decisions are pretty shallow too, not insightful or interesting, but just...seemed like they were talking to fill the pages.  I hope the rest of the X-Men relaunch is better than this, because this was completely underwhelming and just plain bad.  Not a good start.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pick of the Week 10/26

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


Manara Library (Volume 1): Indian Summer and Other Stories HC - The first in a nine-part series publishing the works of European superstar artist Milo Manara, this is a fantastic way for readers to jump right into his work, if you can afford the price tag ($59.99).  Manara is known for drawing beautiful women, and readers may recall Marvel's Chris Claremont/Milo Manara collaboration X-Women from last year.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Dagar the Invincible Archives (Volume 1) HC
Disney's Mickey Mouse (Volume 2): Treasure Island HC
The Drops of God (Volume 1)
The Frank Book SC
Incredible Hulk #1
Iron Age HC
Legion: Secret Origin #1 (of 6)
Smurfs (Volume 8): The Smurf Apprentice GN
Sonic the Hedgehog: Legacy (Volume 1)
Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic (Book 2) TP
Tank Girl: Carioca #1 (of 3)
Ultimate Comics X Origins HC
Wolverine and the X-Men #1
Yotsuba&! (Volume 10)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Manga Monday: Animal Land

Animal Land (Volume 1)
Makoto Raiku

A human baby finds himself in a world populated by only animals, and relies on the kindness of a tanuki (raccoon dog) to save him from certain death after his mother abandons him.  Monoko is the tanuki who raises him as her own, having lost her own family recently to this cruel world where "survival of the fittest" is everyday life.  It's a premise with a lot of promise, but it never lives up to that promise.  In fact, I can't say I remember the last time I was so disappointed by a book.  This manga is geared toward ages thirteen and up, but I can't imagine anyone that age finding anything to like about this title, which had to have been geared for a much younger audience in Japan.  Monoko is perhaps the most irritating character I've ever come across, boasting a deep desperation to love the human baby and care for it and be its "mommy."  She cries whenever anything goes awry, and is so suffocating and selfish in her need to "love" this child that she comes across as utterly pathetic.  The human baby, who can magically talk, although can only crawl, has the ability to talk to all animals, whereas the other animals of the world are only able to speak to their own species.  This helps out the tanuki in a few places, especially when it comes to a huge black cat that is protecting them, but is feared by the tanuki (who wears clothes for some reason, even though no other animals do).  Raiku shamelessly uses the baby to try to bring emotion to a book that, while characters show a lot of emotion, is pretty emotionless.  Just because a character cries, the audience is expected to feel upset, despite no feeling or genuine emotion behind the gesture, and this happens often.  Plot points are solved very conveniently as well.  The baby is sad that he doesn't have a name, and the paper that Monoko hid from him says his name on it (and that's all).  The end.  It's almost insulting how little thought seemed to go into the writing here.  I can't imagine anyone caring about the characters in this book, let alone remembering it the moment they set it down.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Hernandez Brothers

Patrick Markfort and I discuss Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez's latest volume of Love & Rockets, and Gilbert's new graphic novel Love From the Shadows.


Reviewed:
Love & Rockets: New Stories #4
Jaime Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez

Love From the Shadows GN
Gilbert Hernandez

Part One:


Part Two:


Part Three:


Part Four:


For further reading:
Heartbreak Soup
Gilbert Hernandez

Maggie the Mechanic
Jaime Hernandez

Love & Rockets: New Stories #3
Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Huntress #1 (of 6)

Paul Levitz & Marcus To

It's been nearly a month since DC's New 52 launched, and the publisher's showing no signs of slowing down.  New books such as The Ray have been solicited to add more books to the DC Universe line, and I'm afraid a little mini-series like this one may get overlooked amid all of the exciting ongoing book releases.  Especially since it's really pretty good.  If this had launched as an ongoing alongside DC's New 52, I feel like it would have been noted as one of the best of the debut issues.  But as is, DC fans have their plates full of dozens of books, trying to sort out which to follow and which to pass on, while this may just sneak by unnoticed.  But whether it sells or not, Huntress is a good read.  Fans of Birds of Prey will be happy to see the capable vigilante established in the new DC Universe as she works to try and stop shipments from making their way to Gotham City.  Shipments of guns and women.  Huntress tracks the shipments back to their source, in Italy, where she tries to keep a low profile, but that's pretty short-lived as she finds herself in the middle of a kidnapping ring with arms dealers she's trying to shut down.  The story is pretty straight-forward really, but full of action and intrigue.  The stand-out element here is definitely the art from Marcus To.  It's fantastic.  The many fight sequences in this title are executed clearly and thoughtfully, with some good-looking battles.  And even the scenes where it's just Helena lounging about look stunning.  As Paul Levitz is a co-creator of the character, it's nice to see him working with Huntress again, as he obviously knows how to write her in the best possible way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pick of the Week 10/19

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


Bubbles & Gondola HC - An inspirational, lyrical all-ages fairy tale featuring a cute little mouse with writer's block, from Renaud Dillies, and published by NBM, who put out some great European comics in the states.

Other Noteworthy Releases
15 Love TP
30 Days of Night (Ongoing) #1
Al Jaffee's Mad Life TP
Batman: Odyssey (Volume 2) #1 (of 7)
Cold War #1
Critical Millennium (Volume 1): Dark Frontier HC
Dear Creature GN
Fear Itself: The Fearless #1 (of 12)
Freakangels (Volume 6) GN
Gate 7 (Volume 1)
Marzi TP
Mutts: Our Little Kat King Mutts Treasury SC
New Warriors Classic (Volume 3) TP
Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes HC
Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #1 (of 4)
Twilight Manga (Volume 2) GN
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man HC
X-Men #1 20th Anniversary Edition

Monday, October 17, 2011

Manga Monday: Drifters (Volume 1)

Kohta Hirano

From the creator of the popular manga Hellsing comes a tale of renowned warriors throughout time being whisked away to a foreign world populated by magical creatures like elves.  American audiences will recognize the names of warriors like Joan of Arc, but Japanese names will likely be lost to most readers.  However, it's still a great concept that plays out with plenty of action.  When these heroes of Earth arrive on this new world through portals, at the brink of death during battles on Earth, they find themselves known as "drifters," foreigners with the power to protect a weak world from a tyrannical ruler.  While much remains a mystery at this point, it seems that one man is gathering these heroes to aid him in his cause in defeating this threat, and small factions of these drifters form, usually from similar geographical locations, and while some have come to save the peaceful world, some are also helping evil try to claim it.  I've never read a book from Kohta Hirano before, and the art is pretty distinct from many manga titles on the shelves.  Everything seems bulkier and carefully drawn without the sleek light hand that you see in a lot of titles.  Events play out very smoothly and cinematically in a story that is quick and keeps readers turning pages.  In the end, however, I wish I'd liked this book more than I did.  With such a rich, cool premise, a lot of neat stuff could have been done, but it ends up being a pretty standard battle manga, just using historical figures in place of the artist's own creations.  Perhaps this series turns into something more exciting as it goes along, but by the end of volume one, it didn't sustain my enthusiasm and didn't leave me with much of an impression.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Ultimate Comics

In the latest Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I discuss Marvel Comics' recently relaunched Ultimate line.  This podcast is divided into four videos, each focusing (mostly) on one of the new titles.

Reviewed:




Part One:


Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #1-2
Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Part Two:


Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye #1-2
Jonathan Hickman & Rafa Sandoval

Part Three:


Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1-3
Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Part Four:


Ultimate Comics: X-Men #1-2
Nick Spencer & Paco Medina

For further reading:
Ultimate Fallout #1-6
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Luke Ross & Billy Tan

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pick of the Week 10/12

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


The Death Ray HC - Dan Clowes' acclaimed (and truly fantastic) story from Eightball is expanded and released in a deserving hardcover.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Absolute Identity Crisis HC
Alan Moore Conversations HC
Archie Archives (Volume 3) HC
Bloom County Complete Library (Volume 5) HC
John Carter of Mars: World of Mars #1 (of 5)
Legion of Monsters #1 (of 4)
Marvel Firsts: 1960's TP
Nuts HC
Shade #1 (of 12)
Wolverine by Jason Aaron Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
X-Men Regenesis #1

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Habibi

In the latest Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I take a look at Craig Thompson's new graphic novel Habibi.


Reviewed:
Habibi
Craig Thompson

Part One:


Part Two:


For further reading:
Blankets
Craig Thompson

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pick of the Week 10/5

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


Hark! A Vagrant HC - Many of Kate Beaton's witty comics about historical figures, literary figures, and whatever the hell else she wants to focus on, are collected in this nice deserving hardcover from Drawn and Quarterly.  Check out the webcomics at her site if you haven't had the privelege, and laugh.

Other Noteworthy Releases
30 Days of Night Omnibus TP
Archie: Best of Harry Lucey (Volume 1) HC
Archie Americana (Volume 2): The 50's HC
Avengers 1959 #1 (of 5)
Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth TP
Best American Comics 2011 HC
The Book of Human Insects HC
Captain America: Red Glare HC
Huntress #1 (of 6)
Laddertop (Volume 1)
Last of the Greats #1
Psyren (Volume 1)
Roger Langridge's Snarked #1
Star Gazing Dog GN
Two Generals SC
The Walking Dead (Volume 7) HC
X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
X-Men: X-Cutioner's Song HC

Monday, October 03, 2011

Manga Monday: Velveteen & Mandala

Jiro Matsumoto

Velveteen & Mandala marks the English-language debut of Jiro Matsumoto, a manga creator known for being very explicit.  Vertical picked the perfect title to showcase just that, as this book features two teenage girls armed with rifles in a world populated with zombies.  Matsumoto doesn't shy away from the violence and gore in this book at all, and doesn't bat an eyelash at nudity.  One scene that will give you an idea of his sensibilities involves one of the girls leaving the tank that they sleep in, because she's sick from both ends, when a horde of zombies decide to take advantage of the situation and try to gang bang her for her earlier sexual taunting.  There's a sense of humor in its over-the-top ridiculousness, but it's certainly not for everybody.  I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it, to be honest.  I definitely enjoy Matsumoto's gritty art, depicting this ugly world, but the story is pretty out there.

Velveteen and Mandala have an antagonistic relationship.  They kind of live in their own little worlds, but will irritate each other to no end if they get the chance...and shoot each other, and lock the other out of the tank for the zombies...it's pretty screwed up.  There's also a man in the area in charge of disposing of the zombie bodies dropped from airplanes overhead, who kind of takes care of them in a roundabout way, but for the most part, it's the two girls kind of fending for themselves.  The book features some very surreal moments and sometimes you just don't know if what you're reading is actually happening or not, since it has this sort of dream-like quality to it, but the twists and turns that get sprung on readers toward the end of the story kind of frame it all nicely, and are really pretty smart.  Velveteen & Mandala is definitely a unique read and despite its over-the-top storytelling and explicit art, it's kind of a sophisticated story with how the story is presented to the audience.  I kind of don't want to like it for many of the elements that I mentioned earlier, but in the end, I can't help but be impressed.  Definitely not for the squeamish, this will however remain one of the most interesting manga debuts of the year.