Monday, January 30, 2012

Pick of the Week 2/1

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

John Romita Amazing Spider-Man: Artist Edition HC - Collecting seven issues from Romita's run on Amazing Spider-Man, and featuring some of Spidey's greatest villains, this welcome addition to IDW's Artist Edition series is sure to look absolutely stunning.

Other Noteworthy Releases
American Vampire (Volume 3) HC
Archie Archives (Volume 4) HC
Incredible Hulk: Fall of the Hulks HC
John Carter: A Princess of Mars TP
John Carter: World of Mars TP
Jurassic Strike Force 5 #1
Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC
Magic: The Gathering #1
Winter Soldier #1

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whispers #1

Joshua Luna

Whispers is the first solo project from Joshua Luna, one half of the Luna Brothers team who have brought us some memorable comics in the form of Ultra: Seven Days, Girls and The Sword.  As Jonathan Luna's pencils are what we're used to seeing attached to the Luna name in terms of art, it's different seeing Joshua's art style on this title.  But not in a bad way.  Joshua's pencils aren't as sleek and refined as his brother's, but it does have that cinematic storytelling quality that we're used to with their books.  You can really see the writer behind those other books in this title, and Joshua has obviously taken a lot away from working with his brother previously, and as he's done scripting and layouts for books before, you can see the similarities between this and something like Girls.  But this is all Joshua's product, and anybody who has enjoyed The Luna Brother's previous works will like this as well.

The main character we are introduced to in Whispers is Sam, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, and as is revealed during an awkward lunch date with his ex and her friends, has the ability to see other people while he is dreaming.  And he discovers that it's more than just a dream that allows for this, as it happens again later that evening when he finds himself floating intangibly in a ghost-like form while his body rests.  I've always been interested in astral projection, so I think it's cool that this is about that subject.  I also really like the way that Sam tests his abilities, learning how they work.  Like many first issues out there, this is mostly a set-up issue, but we do get a good taste of the type of story we are in for here, with a cool, but flawed main character, great dialogue, and some pretty impressive art for a creator known primarily for his writing skills.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pick of the Week 1/25

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

Polly & the Pirates (Volume 2): Mystery of the Dragonfish TP - I'm very happy to see Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates is back in a new adventure!  I really liked the first volume, and while it's been awhile since that first swashbuckling mini-series came out, this is definitely a welcome release, even if Ted Naifeh himself isn't drawing it this time around (art is by Robbi Rodriguez).

Other Noteworthy Releases
Batman & Robin: Dark Knight, White Night HC
Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterrred #1 (of 6)
Captain America by Ed Brubaker (Volume 1) HC
Creepy Archives (Volume 12) HC
Daredevil by Brubaker & Lark Ultimate Collection (Volume 1) TP
Daredevil by Mark Waid (Volume 1) HC
Durarara (Volume 1)
Fantastic Life GN
Hawkman by Geoff Johns Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Infestation 2 #1 (of 2)
Lil Abner (Volume 4) HC
Manara Library (Volume 2) HC
Naughty & Nice: The Good Girl Art of Bruce Timm SC
The Silence of Our Friends GN
Strikeforce Morituri (Volume 1) TP
Wally Wood's Strange Worlds of Science Fiction TP

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Comics-and-More Podcast Publisher Spotlight: Sparkplug

Patrick Markfort and I take a look at two releases from small publisher Sparkplug.


Part One:

The Heavy Hand
Chris C. Cilla

Part Two:

Edited by Ben Catmull & Dylan Williams

For further reading:
Sparkplug Homepage:

Dylan Williams Reporter (a tribute blog to the late cartoonist and publisher):

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Memorial #1

Chris Roberson & Rich Ellis

Memorial is a new mini-series published by IDW, from Chris Roberson (I, Zombie, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love) and Rich Ellis, following a girl called Em after she stumbles into a hospital with amnesia, with no record of who she is, the only clue being the letter "M" on a necklace she's wearing.  While we follow Em as she establishes a new life for herself, we also get a glimpse of a dark world of magic called the Everlands, where we are introduced to a mysterious tyrannical ruler in shadows and her henchmen, which includes a living puppet.  Em stumbles upon a key in a curiosity shop and things kind of get hectic from there, as she is attacked immediately upon finding it by people from the Everlands, and discovers something rather interesting about the shop she has found.  This was a nice introduction to this world of magic that Roberson and Ellis have created.  Using a character with amnesia like Em, readers get to discover what's going on alongside her, letting things slowly unravel in an exciting way.  And while there is a lot of set up in this first issue, it unfolds slowly and is clearly laid out in neatly arranged panels, with nice art from Ellis.  The creators have also established a nice atmosphere here, with a real energy to the work that I appreciated.  Memorial is an intriguing story thus far, with several mysteries that I'm actually pretty anxious to see resolved.  A very promising first issue to a neat series.  There will be six issues in the mini-series total, with the second issue hitting comic shops today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pick of the Week 1/18

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

Steve Canyon (Volume 1): 1947-1948 HC - Here's the first volume in a new reprint series of Milton Caniff's adventure strip Steve Canyon, his follow-up to Terry and the Pirates, featuring all of the color Sundays and dailies in deserving handsome hardcover volumes.  This is part of IDW's solid Library of American Comics line.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Bill Griffith: Lost and Found: 1970-1994 TP
Conan (Volume 11): Road of Kings, Part One TP
Danger Girl: Revolver #1 (of 4)
Fraggle Rock Classics (Volume 1) TP
Lord of the Jungle #1
Marvel Firsts: 1970's (Volume 1) TP
Mazeworld GN
Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (of 6)
Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye by Hickman HC
Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction HC
War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath HC

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Comics-and-More Podcast: Most Anticipated Comics of 2012

Patrick Markfort and I discuss the comic book releases that we are most looking forward to in 2012 (that have been announced so far).

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Monday, January 09, 2012

Pick of the Week 1/11

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

Whispers #1 - A new series from Image Comics, the first solo effort from Joshua Luna (half of The Luna Brothers creative team), featuring different art than we're used to seeing attached to his name.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Archie: The Best of Dan DeCarlo (Volume 3) HC
Batman: Through the Looking Glass HC
Before the Incal Classic Collection HC
Brooklyn Dreams HC
Infestation HC
Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal (Volume 1): Creation Myths HC
Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1 (of 5)
Monster Mess HC
Mystic: The Tenth Apprentice TP
Scarlet Spider #1
The Smurfs (Volume 10): The Return of the Smurfette GN
Spera (Volume 1) HC
Spider-Man: Spider-Island HC
Steve Ditko Omnibus (Volume 2) HC
Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years (Volume 10) HC
X-Men by Claremont and Lee Omnibus (Volume 2) HC

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Fatale #1

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Fatale is a new noir thriller from Ed Burbaker and Sean Phillips, the creative team behind the acclaimed series Sleeper and  the Marvel Icons series Criminal and Incognito.  Published through Image Comics, Fatale begins with a prologue that follows the son of a recently-deceased writer who some mysterious men in black are after.  A beautiful woman comes to his rescue before a new chapter begins, featuring this same woman and a policeman looking into a brutal mass murder.  There are supernatural elements at play here, most evident in the ritualistic murder scene, and the flashback page of robed nazis and demons.  The mixture of noir and the supernatural seems fresh here with neat elements introduced, and a vague mystery and faces that I'm really looking forward to seeing flushed out in later chapters.  I'm not usually a huge fan of noir, but this is a really solidly told issue, paced to perfection, with some of the best art I've seen from Sean Phillips yet (and that's saying something), particularly when working with shadows and darker scenes.  Fatale is creepy, compelling and drenched in noir, with Brubaker's writing at its very best.  The next issue can't come out soon enough.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Comics-and-More Podcast: Year In Review

Patrick Markfort and I take a look back at the comics we enjoyed most in 2011 in this epic podcast (it's almost an hour and a half long altogether).  We decided to pick our favorites in different categories like "Favorite Graphic Novel," and then rounded up other great books from the year at the end.  Enjoy!

Part One: Favorite Comic Book Series

Part Two: Favorite Archival Comic Collection

Part Three: Favorite Graphic Novel

Part Four: Favorite Writer

Part Five: Favorite Artist

Part Six: Breakout Talent and Favorite Character

Part Seven: Honorable Mentions Part One

Part Eight: Honorable Mentions Part Two

Part Nine: Honorable Mentions Part Three

Patrick's Picks
Favorite Comic Book Series: FF/Fantastic Four (Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Greg Tocchini, Juan Bobillo, Barry Kitson & Others)

Favorite Archival Comic Collection: Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips (Volume 1): 1949-1950 "Through the Wild Blue Wonder" (Walt Kelly)

Favorite Graphic Novel: Prison Pit (Book 3) (Johnny Ryan)

Favorite Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Favorite Artist: Rob Liefeld

Breakout Talent: Sara Pichelli
Favorite Character: Malcolm Dragon (Savage Dragon)

Dave's Picks
Favorite Comic Book Series: Animal Man (Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman)

Favorite Archival Comic Collection: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Ultimate Collection (Volume 1) HC (Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)

Favorite Graphic Novel: Cursed Pirate Girl (Volume 1) (Jeremy A. Bastian)

Favorite Writer: Christos Gage

Favorite Artist: Sonny Liew

Breakout Talent: Jeff Lemire

Favorite Character: Moon Knight (Moon Knight)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Top 20 Comics of 2011

I look forward to doing this all year, the culmination of all of my comics reading, highlighting the best and the brightest the medium had to offer over the past twelve months. These are my favorites of 2011, including manga, superheroes, graphic novels, reprints, etc. I try to be as true to how I feel about a book as possible when ranking them, which is why it may seem odd for some to see a superhero title hardly anyone read rank over an acclaimed graphic novel. If I enjoyed my experience of reading it more, it was placed higher on my list. I did feel odd including a book like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deluxe Edition, since the comics are fairly recent, and it's not like people couldn't get their hands on it, unlike something like Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse strips, which really needed to be collected.  It felt more like I would be ranking its new packaging more than anything, so I left things like that off of my list (even though I enjoyed it a lot).  Anyways, these are my favorite twenty comics of the year.  I hope you enjoy my list, and hopefully check out some books that may have eluded you.

Honorable Mentions
The Armed Garden and Other Stories (David B.)
No Longer Human (Usamaru Furuya & Osamu Dazai)
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (Shigeru Mizuki)
Paying For It (Chester Brown)
Three Thieves (Book 2): The Sign of the Black Rock (Scott Chantler)

20. Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang) - Wonder Woman is the most iconic female superhero out there, and it seemed like no one was able to write a great comic featuring the Amazon.  Well, Azzarello and Chiang have combined forces to create an amazing new incarnation of the beloved hero, making the old-world mythology part of her character seem cool and fresh again, as it is balanced with the modern world.

19. Angel & Faith (Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs) - Gage and Isaacs struck the perfect balance of keeping true to the source material and making it their own.  Gage captures the voice of the characters so clearly I can hear the actors recite the dialogue he provides for them in my head as I'm reading, while bringing them to new, interesting places in terms of plot and character.  Isaacs also captures the actors' physical likeness enough that they are recognizable, yet makes them her own so that they're not stiff and photo-referenced, but rather fluid and natural, in a fun romp of an adventure story.

18. Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus (Raymond Macherot) - Part of Fantagraphics' effort to bring high-quality European comics to American audiences, this Franco-Belgian story about forest animals is masterfully told in a nice, kid-friendly story that introduces us to kind-hearted Sibyl-Anne, as well as the scheming, lazy Ratticus.

17. Smurfs (Peyo) - Papercutz' successful reprinting of Peyo's smurfy little blue guys is always entertaining, and I just have a blast whenever I'm reading them.  This year saw six volumes of smurfy tales come out, including The Astrosmurf and The Smurf Apprentice, and the highly-anticipated introduction of Smurfette to Smurf Village.

16. Gunnerkrigg Court (Volume 3): Research (Thomas Siddell) - Antimony Carver's adventure continues in this wonderful fantasy series, collecting more of the fan-favorite webcomic about a girl that goes to a school full of magic and wonder.  This book is chalk-full of great supporting characters and has a nice, rich mythology built up by this point.  Very original and always a treat to read.

15. Hark! A Vagrant (Kate Beaton) - I've really enjoyed Kate Beaton's on-line comics over the past few years, and they have been collected in a nice deserving hardcover from Drawn & Quarterly, boasting razor-sharp wit and featuring literary figures and historical figures in humorous situations, as well as Beaton's take on what's taking place on the cover of classic Nancy Drew book covers, which never fails to amuse me.

14. FF/Fantastic Four (Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Greg Tocchini, Juan Bobilo, Barry Kitson & Others) - Hickman's FF debuted this year, focusing on the extended cast of the Future Foundation and bringing Spider-Man into the book, as well as Fantastic Four's triumphant return by the year's end.  Elements that Hickman has been building toward since he began writing the title are beginning to pay off in big ways as the story becomes nothing short of epic.  Hickman takes great classic elements from the Fantastic Four's history and gives them a fresh take, while drawing things together neatly.

13. Animal Man (Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman) - This dark superhero title was my favorite of DC's New 52, as well as my overall favorite superhero title of 2011.  Lemire attaches really neat elements to Animal Man's mythos, and gives the title more of a horror vibe than anything, including some really freaky monsters, with great designs by Foreman.

12. The Arctic Marauder (Jacques Tardi) - Jacques Tardi's impressive body of work continues to be translated, with consistently high quality material.  This gem is a mystery that takes place in the Arctic, where ships are sinking for no apparent reason, that may have ties to the recent death of a young man's uncle.  As usual, this is really beautifully illustrated and cartooned by Tardi, a master of the medium.

11. Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race To Death Valley" (Floyd Gottfredson) - Fans have been holding their breath for years for this classic comic strip to be collected, one of few noticeable missing titles in this golden age of comics strip reprints.  This is an adventure strip featuring a rascally Mickey Mouse, and is just a lot of fun to read.

10. Gil Jordan, Private Detective: Murder By High Tide (Maurice Tillieux) - This engaging detective story featuring the competent Gil Jordan and his assistants really took me by surprise.  Another Franco-Belgian comic, this is just a really high quality mystery that looks great, and completely sucks you in.  It makes you wonder what other gems are out there just waiting to be translated.

9. Walt Disney's Donald Duck: "Lost In the Andes" (Carl Barks) - This is another one of those series that people have been waiting for a nice deserving series of reprints for, and Fantagraphics has stepped up to the plate again, with a beautiful package.  These comics are fantastic all-ages stories, full of adventure and humor, and executed masterfully by a legendary figure.

8. Lucille (Ludovic Debeurme) - This fluid story about two very damaged individuals coming together is illustrated sparingly with lovely linework, and without panels for a sort of dream-like quality.  The characters are very realistic, and the story is tragic and beautiful.  It feels very raw and innovative.

7. Wandering Son (Shimura Takako) - Wandering Son follows two transgendered children, depicted realistically in a gentle story full of subtle but powerful storytelling.  The main characters are very appealing, as is much of the supporting cast, and the soft art style compliments the riveting journey of these children nicely.

6. Love & Rockets: New Stories #4 (Jaime Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez) - Gilbert Hernandez' King Vampire is quite the contrast to the story that Jaime is telling in this volume, but it's drawn beautifully, with his second story, And Then Reality Kicked In, leaving quite an impression.  Jaime is doing something very different from his brother, continuing the story of long-time characters, that can't help but earn an emotional response from readers.  He fills in details from their past, as well as fast-forwarding into the future, showing the brutal and tender moments of his characters' lives in an amazing, and insightful, display of artistry.

5. Princess Knight (Osamu Tezuka) - This epic story of a princess born with both a male heart and a female heart set the tone for shojo manga, and is the god of manga, Osamu Tezuka, at his very best.  Full of action and suspense, we see the brave Princess Sapphire face adversity, like a scheming ruler, a jealous goddess and an evil witch, in her quest to win the affection of her true love, the neighboring Prince Charming (who faces his own challenges), while striving to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers. This manga has everything you could want in a story and keeps going in new interesting directions, keeping readers in suspense throughout the struggles of the very likable Princess Sapphire.

4. The Drops of God (Tadashi Agi & Shu Okimoto) - I know nothing about wine, but this manga that centers around the subject is fascinating and utterly engrossing.  Beautifully illustrated, with a premise that propels the story forward to continue educating readers about wine, this book enchanted me into becoming my favorite manga of the year.  While most of the scenes are those of the characters talking to one another, Okimoto manages to make even that look lovely, and draws some drop-dead gorgeous scenes when the taste of wine seems to transport people to other places or memories.  Without the advantage of being able to taste the actual subject they discuss, they come close enough to getting the sensation across that it's staggering.

3. Habibi (Craig Thompson) - Another epic graphic novel, this beautiful story about the lives of two children growing up in the Middle East, and their shifting relationship with one another as they grow, is rich in mythology with many insightful metaphors and a fascinating comparison of stories from the Qur'an and the Bible.  The characterization is top-notch and the shifting tale keeps bringing these characters to amazing places for more great storytelling.  Thompson has certainly proved to fans of his acclaimed work Blankets that he has more spellbinding stories to tell.

2. Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips (Volume 1): 1949-1950 "Through the Wild Blue Wonder" (Walt Kelly) - Walt Kelly's beloved comic strip seems fully-formed from the get-go.  It's cartooned with amazing skill, and the Sunday pages are colored beautifully.  This strip sees forest creatures interact with one another, with everyman Pogo Possum at the center of the story, but with all sorts of memorable supporting characters such as Albert the alligator, Porky Pine, mischievous Seminole Sam the fox, and rascally Rackety-Coon.  It just amazed me how fantastic this comic is.  The language can be a barrier at first, but you quickly pick up on it, and then it only adds to the overall charm of what is an stunning accomplishment.

1. Cursed Pirate Girl (Volume 1) (Jeremy A. Bastian) - Cursed Pirate Girl delighted me from the first panel to the last, as this girl sets out on a quest to track down her father, a pirate king.  Bastian maneuvers this cursed pirate girl through all sorts of beautiful environments, with eye-popping art that really steals the show.  I noticed Bastian as the stand-out artist in last year's anthology Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, where his art was absolutely stunning in his short tale.  In Cursed Pirate Girl, he has free reign to arrange elaborate, lovingly constructed panels on the pages, and enchants readers with his attention to detail in creating this amazing, magical world.  The pencils here are stunning and lively, with a real energy, and it's completely unique to anything else out there.  Sometimes it can be haunting, and other times it can just possess you to stop and admire the art depicted on the pages.  Jeremy Bastian truly is a great find, and Cursed Pirate Girl is, in my opinion, a masterpiece, and easily the best book to come out in 2011.

And that's it, for another great year of comics.  I also did separate top ten lists for my favorite manga and superhero comics of 2011, a few of which appeared on this list, in case you can't get enough, and want more recommendations.

Pick of the Week 1/4

Here is the book you should be paying attention to, in comic shops tomorrow...
Fatale #1 - It's monster mobsters and deadly dames in this new twelve-issue series from the Criminal, Sleeper team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Annotated Sandman (Volume 1) HC
Asterix Omnibus (Volume 3) HC
Avengers/X-Men: Bloodties HC
Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 1): Golden Dawn HC
Black Fire HC
Eerie Archives (Volume 9) HC
Fear Itself HC
Fearless (Volume 1) TP
Ferals #1
Fluffy Fluffy Cinnamoroll (Volume 1)
Inner Sanctum GN
The Lone Ranger #1
Peanuts #1 (of 4)
Strikeforce Morituri: We Who Are About To Die #1
Wandering Son (Volume 2) HC
Young Marvelman Classic (Volume 2) HC