Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saga #1

Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Brian K. Vaughan returns to comics with a new ongoing series from Image Comics, his first work for the comic publisher.  The story centers around two young people from opposites sides of a war, Alana and Marko.  Their people are fighting a galaxy-spanning war.  On one side, we have magic users from a moon, while on the other are a tech-heavy sort of people who employ robots, from the planet that moon orbits.  Not only have Alana and Marko defected from their people, but are in love and have conceived a child.  Neither side is happy about the child, and more than one bounty hunter is in place to track them down before word of their union spreads.  It's a very epic, ambitious story that Vaughan has planned here, obviously influenced by Star Wars.  Fiona Staples does his vision justice with some fantastic art work and beautiful coloring.  She paces this double-sized first issue perfectly, letting readers get to know the many characters, with plenty of action and intrigue to move the story along at a brisk pace.  Staples also has several really cool character designs here, including the two main characters and the races they come from, as well as several other creatures and characters in play.  I think that this sci-fi/fantasy has the makings of something really special, and while readers will be able to spot influences throughout this book, a breathtaking first issue marks what is sure to be an enthralling series.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ragemoor #1 (of 4)

Jan Strnad & Richard Corben

Ragemoor is a new horror mini-series from Dark Horse Comics that sees a castle that's been in a family for years, literally come alive.  Built in blood and nursed with blood over the centuries, Ragemoor is a living thing that only allows people to come and go as it pleases.  Late at night, the people who live there can hear the groans of stone and timbers before discovering new rooms and additions to hallways.  Vines and granite serve as its limbs, enabling it to seek out new victims to feed its thirst for blood.  This first issue serves as a nice little single story actually, as we witness a man who grew up at Ragemoor as a little boy return, scheming to claim it for his own and tear the place apart.  Obviously, Ragemoor doesn't like this idea one bit, and him and his companion are terrorized after laughing off warnings from those who live there.  It's a nice little story, but Corben's art brings it to another level, drenching the black and white panels with Gothic atmosphere and images of horror appropriate to the story.  He paces it really well to maximize suspense and the feeling of dread, knowing that something awful is about to befall the two intruders, and he pays it off with some great, grisly scenes.  This comic is a lot of fun and fans of horror will definitely appreciate the thought and skill put into this book.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pick of the Week 3/28

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

Avengers vs. X-Men #0 - Kicking off Marvel's huge crossover event that pits Avenger versus X-Man, this leads into the main twelve-issue mini-series that promises big things this Summer.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Art of Daniel Clowes, Modern Cartoonist HC
Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #1
Black Charity HC
Bloodstrike #26
Cinema Panopticum GN
Dark Shadows (Volume 1) TP
Dorothy of Oz Prequel #1 (of 4)
Gone To Amerikay HC
House of Odd GN
Legion of Monsters TP
New Deadwardians #1 (of 8)
Rachel Rising (Volume 1): Shadow of Death TP
Rohan At the Louvre GN
Secret Avengers: Run Mission Don't Get Seen Save the World HC
The Sincerest Form of Parody: Satirical Comics TP
Tezuka's Dororo Complete Edition TP

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pick of the Week 3/21

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

Nancy Is Happy: The Complete Dailies: 1943-1945 HC - The first volume in a new archival project from Fantagraphics, collecting Ernie Bushmiller's classic Nancy strip, with an introduction by Daniel Clowes.

Other Noteworthy Releases
BPRD: Plague of Frogs (Volume 3) HC
Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow & the Little King HC
Dinopopolous HC
Dominique Laveau, Voodoo Child #1
Eerie Presents: Hunter HC
Elektra: Assassin HC
Ichiro GN
John Carter: Gods of Mars #1 (of 5)
Ragemoor #1 (of 4)
Rebel Blood #1 (of 4)
Sammy the Mouse (Volume 1) TP
Sonic Genesis HC
Star Trek Ongoing (Volume 1) TP
Supercrooks #1 (of 4)
Take What You Can Carry GN
Ultimate Comics: X-Men by Nick Spencer (Volume 1) HC

Monday, March 19, 2012

Manga Monday: The Earl and the Fairy

The Earl and the Fairy (Volume 1)
Ayuko, based on the novels by Mizue Tani

The Earl and the Fairy was a story originally published as a series of light novels in Japan, by Mizue Tani.  It has since been adapted to manga by Ayuko, who breathes new life into the world of fairies and mystery with some really nice illustration work and a nicely-paced story.  I feel like Ayuko really gets the story and gives the characters time to breathe, drawing out scenes so readers can take things in, and arranging panels clearly and thoughtfully.  The story follows the young "fairy doctor" Lydia, who is one of the few people alive able to see and interact with fairies.  Most people think her strange, but her gifts have attracted the attention of two men, both hoping to enlist her help in tracking down a sword.  At first she is kidnapped by a man with a gang of henchmen, but is soon rescued and hired by Edgar, who wishes to find the sword so that he can authenticate his birthright, as a descendant of the Blue Knight Earl, who has lands both in the physical world, as well as the fairy realm.  Ayuko lets events play out without giving away too much.  There's quite a bit of deception going on, and you kind of don't really know as a reader which of the two men after Lydia is the one she should be trusting, at least for a time.  Ayuko unfortunately doesn't excel at battle scenes, which are difficult to follow here, and doesn't take as much advantage of the Victorian England setting as I would have liked, but really, I got so caught up in the breathtaking events that that was more of an afterthought.  Mizue Tani created a really rich premise here, with exciting elements that seem both classic and fresh.  Ayuko does a lovely job translating the story to manga in one of the more exciting manga debuts I've read so far this year.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Comics-and-More Podcast: Kramers Ergot

On the latest Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I discuss the most recent volume of Kramers Ergot.

Kramers Ergot (Volume 8)
Edited by Sammy Harkham

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

For further reading:
Kramers Ergot (Volume 7)
Edited by Sammy Harkham

Prison Pit (Volume 1)
Johnny Ryan

The Heavy Hand
Chris Cilla

MOME (Volume 1) Summer 2005
Edited by Eric Reynolds & Gary Groth

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fairest #1

Bill Willingham & Phil Jimenez

Fairest is a new spin-off series of the popular Vertigo title Fables, which features classic fairy tale characters in the modern world.  There has previously been one other ongoing Fables spin-off series, Jack of Fables, which lastest for an impressive fifty issues, and a few mini-series featuring popular fable Cinderella, as she plays the spy game.  Mini-series such as Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love will now be contained in this new ongoing series Fairest, which will have storylines featuring a rotating cast of female characters. 

Now, this debut issue of the series actually picks up on one of my favorite ongoing stories from Fables proper.  When the Fables defeated the oppressive Emperor, they first took out his right hand, Lumi, the Snow Queen, by placing Sleeping Beauty in the castle where she was stationed and putting into play Beauty's curse, wherea she is pricked by a needle and the entire castle falls asleep and is encased by thorns.  Since then, Sleeping Beauty has been asleep, as well as Lumi.  More recently in Fables, the two women's sleeping bodies were stolen by goblins, who were after only one of them, but didn't know which to take.  This is where Fairest picks up the story. 

For a book centered around the women of the Fables universe, it's interesting that most of the first issue focuses on a male protagonist, Ali Baba, Prince of Thieves, who is prompted by a bottle imp to retrieve Sleeping Beauty, who he is led to believe could make him rich.  Of course, he finds both women as he tackles an encampment of goblins and the wooden soldier who has been stalking him.  Uncovering the two women after this journey through the eyes of this everyman character, not to mention years of waiting for this moment, really amped up the suspense, leading to the moment where Ali finds the women.  It almost raises the women to a sort of mythical level in the eyes of Ali Baba, while also whetting the appetite of the reader.  At least that's how I see it.  And now the women can really take center stage as powerful characters in this universe of magic.  And did I mention that I'm a huge fan of Lumi?  I can't wait to see what she gets into when the sleeping spell wears off.  So, yeah, while this first issue wasn't exactly what I expected, Willingham picked the perfect storyline to kick off this new series with, reintroducing not one, but two powerful female characters back into the universe.  He also manages to write a really captivating first issue, following Ali Baba's little adventure and meeting the cute little lamp imp.  I think this book is off to a great start, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pick of the Week 3/14

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

The Complete Peanuts (Volume 17): 1983-1984 HC - There are some really exciting releases this week, but I'm going to have to go with Fantagraphics' latest volume in its continuing reprint project of Charles Schulz' all-time great comic strip, Peanuts.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Archie Americana (Volume 3): Best of the 60's HC
Avengers Assemble #1
Avengers: The Children's Crusade HC
Classic Next Men (Volume 3) TP
Corto Maltese (Volume 1): Ballad of the Salt Sea TP
Crime Does Not Pay Archives (Volume 1) HC
DC Universe by Alan Moore HC
Elektra by Greg Rucka Ultimate Collection TP
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories HC
Queen Crab HC
Saga #1
Saucer Country #1
Showcase Presents: Young Love (Volume 1) TP
The Smurfs (Volume 11): The Smurf Olympics GN
Sunday Funnies Collected (Volume 1)
The Uglies: Shay's Story GN
Uncanny X-Men by Kieron Gillen (Volume 1) HC
Womanthology Heroic HC
X-Men: Season One HC

Monday, March 12, 2012

Manga Monday: Yaoi

This week, I tried out a few different yaoi titles on my nookcolor.  I'm a fan of yaoi manga, but I do find that there are very few that meet or exceed my expectations.  The only recent example I can think of before the manga I just read is Black Sun, and even the second volume of that, I found to be lacking. 

So one of the book I tried out was Kaname Itsuki's Interval, about a cocky athlete (Sawatari) who discovers that the protagonist of the story, Ayumu, is gay and has a crush on a classmate, and exploits him to keep his secret.  Sawatari forces Ayumu to do things for him sexually, at the same time as he develops feelings for him.  Nothing particularly interesting happens here, as this is kind of your typical high school yaoi romance.  The sex scenes are decent, but overall, this is a rather forgettable tale, I'm sorry to say.

Next, I checked out the first volume of Makoto Tateno's Blue Sheep Reverie, which has a decent fan base.  In this story, Kai gets himself a position as a bodyguard to the gang boss Lahti, who he believes to be responsible for the murder of the love of his life, a doctor named Maria.  Kai does everything he can to uncover the truth and get close to Lathi, even sleep with him.  Inevitably, the two develop feelings for each other in a story that's full of mystery, action and romance.  And sure, there were some plot twists in there, but nothing you could really guess based on the information you were given, which I feel is kind of a cheat.  Also, the characters are stock characters, and what good is a romance if you don't feel anything for the characters involved?  I felt this was pretty sloppily-contructed and I just couldn't get into it, so this was another disappointment for me in the end.

Thankfully, the third book that I checked out reinvigorated my love for yaoi.  Under Grand Hotel is from Mika Sadahiro, creator of Pathos, and has a pretty basic, but rich premise for a yaoi manga.  It's about a prison.  Sen is sent in for life for murder, which was basically a way to save the woman he loves from being prosecuted, but he learns to enjoy life in prison, and sex with men, when he becomes the partner of Swordfish, the proclaimed leader of the prison.  I was actually pretty amazed at Mika Sadahiro's skill here.  There is a lot of sex in here, and explicit sex, so anyone looking for yaoi with that sort of material, this is for them.  Sadahiro draws men beautifully, and makes the steamy scenes hot, and the dramatic scenes equally as interesting.  Because there is so much sex in this book, I was surprised that it never got stale.  Sadahiro presents enough different scenarios and circumstances to keep things fresh and exciting, and keeps up some pretty riveting plot threads that string one sex scene to another.  This is probably the best yaoi manga that I've read period, but it's definitely not for the shy reader.  It's kinky and can get pretty over-the-top.  But you can't say it's ever dull, and there's a surprising amount of depth in here, that I find to be rather lacking in most yaoi manga.  This is a solid book.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Previews HYPE: April 2012

Here are the books that caught my eye in Previews Catalogue, for books shipping to comic shops in April...

Courtney Crumrin #1 - A new full-color Courtney Crumrin series is certainly cause for celebration!  Creator Ted Naifeh returns to his beloved character, writing and illustrating this new series.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama HC - One of the most anticipated graphic novels of the year is Alison Bechdel's follow-up to her hugely-successful and acclaimed Fun Home, this book focusing on her mother, whereas Fun Home was about her father.

Avengers vs. X-Men #1 (of 12) - The big Marvel crossover that has a ton of hype around it brags shocking revelations and one-on-one battles we've been waiting for. Time to see if it lives up to expectations, like few recent crossovers from the House of Ideas have.

Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby Omnibus HC - More Kirby collections!  This collects all of Kirby's work on the team title, good timing as the Challengers just made their New 52 debut in DC Comics Presents #6 last month.

Supreme #63 - Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher adapt Alan Moore's final script of a never-before-seen Supreme comic, as a launching point for a regular series which Larsen will continue.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Archie 100-Page Spectacular - This reprints the three-issue mini adaptation of the first episodes of the TMNT cartoon, launching a series that became something all its own and something really special.  This was collected recently by Archie as "Heroes In a Half Shell," but the collections will continue past that initial arc in IDW's aggressive TMNT reprint project.

X-Men: The Hidden Years (Volume 1) TP - X-Men stories that are all John Byrne.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics HC - A definitive collection of queer comics.  Finally.

Hopeless, Maine (Volume 1) HC - Tom and Timue Brown's webcomic sees print in this hardcover edition from Archaia.  Let's hope this is another Gunnerkrigg-quality series.

Richard Stark's Parker: The Score HC - This is the latest of Darwyn Cooke's comic adaptations of the beloved crime novels by Richard Stark Parker.

Grendel Omnibus (Volume 1): Hunter Rose TP - The first of four volumes collecting the entirety of Matt Wagner's series.

Lost Dogs SC - Jeff Lemire, who is doing some amazing work at DC currently, originally won a Xerix Award for this story, which sees the light of day after being out of print for quite a while.

The Pterodactyl Hunters (In the Gilded City) One-Shot - Speaking of the Xerix Awards, this comic won the prestigious award in 2010.

The Shadow #1 - The Shadow is resurrected in a new series written by Garth Ennis.

The Adventures of Joedelle HC - A classic 1960's pop-art comic, Guy Peellaert abd Pierre Bartier's psychedelic spy adventure has been out of print for years.

Deadenders TP - A collection of Ed Brubaker's 16-issue run on the "pre-apocalyptic" series.

New York Mon Amour HC - This new Jacques Tardi hardcover collects four tales about New York.

The Secret Service #1 - A new Icons creator-owned series from Mark Millar (Kick Ass) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen).

The Adventures of Venus HC - This new collection from Gilbert Hernandez puts together all of his Venus stories from Measles.

Popeye #1 (of 4) - IDW is putting some top talent on this new Popeye comic - giving writing reigns to none other than Roger Langridge!

Wally Wood: The Complete Galaxy Illustrations HC - This collects all of Wally Wood's art from Galaxy Magazine, from covers to everything else.

Makeshift Miracle (Book 1): The Girl From Nowhere HC - Another book making the transition from webcomic to print is this manga, full of high quality illustration work.

Get Jiro! HC - Chef Anthony Bourdain co-writes this graphic novel about food and culture...huh.

Silver Streak Archives Featuring the Original Daredevil (Volume 1) HC - People may recognize the Daredevil of this comic from Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, and here are the original stories featuring the original Daredevil, in a collection featuring work by talents such as Jack Cole and Bob Wood.

Teen Boat! GN - A teen that has the ability to turn into...a boat?  It's crazy enough that it might work.

Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City HC - Guy Delisle, creator of acclaimed works like Pyongyang: A Journey Into North Korea, sets his sights on Jerusalem.

Reset #1 (of 4) - New Peter Bagge mini-series from Dark Horse.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Comics-and-More Podcast: Finder

Patrick Markfort and I discuss Carla Speed McNeil's Finder on this week's Comics-and-More Podcast!

The Finder Library (Volume 1)
Carla Speed McNeil

The Finder Library (Volume 2)
Carla Speed McNeil

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

For further reading:
Finder: Voice
Carla Speed McNeil

Monday, March 05, 2012

Pick of the Week 3/7

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

Fairest #1 -  Instead of mini-series spin-offs like we've seen from fan-favorite character Cinderella, Fables co-creator Bill Willingham is launching a new ongoing series that will have a rotating cast of female characters from the Fables universe, the first arc continuing events from a Fables story in which Briar Rose is taken from the castle where she lay dormant after dealing the Empire a blow.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Age of Apocalypse #1
Blue HC
The Compleat Terminal City TP
The Earl and the Fairy (Volume 1)
Girl Genius Omnibus (Volume 1): Agatha Awakens HC
Hana Kimi 3-in-1 Omnibus Edition (Volume 1)
Hellboy (Volume 12): The Storm and the Fury TP
Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (of 2)
King City TP
Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass HC/SC
The Manhattan Projects #1
Night Force #1 (of 6)
Skip Beat 3-in-1 Omnibus Edition (Volume 1)
Soulless: The Manga (Volume 1)
Toy Story #1 (of 4)