Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weekly Haul: April 29th

Avengers/Invaders #10 (Marvel Comics) It’s 1943, the Red Skull has the Cosmic Cube, and has conquered the world as the Head Nazi In Charge. A group of Avengers are back in time to help some Invaders stop him, and they’re dressed up as period heroes so as not to mess with the timestream. Meanwhile, Spitfire and Union Jack try to hold out against the Ratzis until help can arrive.

Now on the home stretch, this miniseries remains a decent old-school, straightforward superhero adventure story, offering a much-needed alternative to the other Marvel Universe Avengers comics, which have been so caught up in the ongoing Civil War/Secret Invasion/ “Dark Reign” business they’re hard to enjoy as individual titles, while also shining a spotlight in the dusty corners of Marvel’s character catalog. (Check out that last page! Anyone know who the dude with the ruffly tie and the star-spangled gloves and boots is? That guy looks awesome!)

Pencil artists Steve Sadowski and Patrick Berkenkotter provide two fantastic images in this particular issue. First, there’s the extremely weird design of Red Skull’s “dogs of war,” soldiers he turns into modern sculpture-looking monsters to hunt down Jack and Spitfire. And then on page 13 there’s this great two panel sequence in which Iron Man, disguised as Golden Age Electro, gets all sad when he thinks about how it’s pretty much his fault that Captain America’s dead, and he just wilts into sadness in the second panel. Man, I do like pictures of sad robots being sad…



Batman: Gotham After Midnight #12 (DC Comics) This is the incredibly weak closing chapter of Steve Niles’ not really very good limited series about Batman fighting a new foe who has been moving some of his old foes around Gotham like chess pieces. Think Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” or Long Halloween and Dark Victory, only less inspired and with a much-easier-to-figure-out mystery (Although Niles’ “Who is Midnight?” mystery makes a lot more sense than Loeb’s “Who is Hush?” or “Who is Holiday.” I’ve read “Hush” twice now and I still don’t get it—Harold, Elliott and The Riddler were all Hushes? And, as per Winick’s later stories, so was Jason Todd for, like, one fight scene?).

This issue is mostly one big explain-a-thon, as Batman pores over the evidence and narrates to us for eight pages until he comes to the obvious conclusion, followed shortly afterwards by Alfred telling Batman off for about three pages. The villain is never caught, having disappeared in an explosion on page two, and is out there and available for future use, so it concludes the way a classic Batman story might have. Like, The Joker disappears in an exploding plane or gets knocked off a skyscraper by a lightning bolt and disappears in the river below. You know, like that.

Obviously, I wasn’t reading this thing for the story though (It’s probably worth noting that it did provide a “normal” Batman story for much of this past year in which Batman has been in the process of “dying” or been “dead”).

No I was reading this because I love Kelley Jones’ work and, especially, his Batman work. And I do mean love. Like, the way some men love beautiful women. (Maybe I should even see a therapist about this…? I’m not sure it’s healthy to like comic art this much). And since this was illustrated by Kelley Jones, all Niles really had to do to keep me happy was to not write the worst comics in the world. As long as he was giving Jones opportunities to draw Batman jumping, flexing, and angsting, as long as he supplied a steady stream of villains and new and classic characters to be drawn and as long as he kept coming up with scenes in which Batman would use a Bat-vehicle or Bat-gadget, then he was doing a good enough job in my book.

This issue is more about winding down and summing up than an actual climax; the big fight between Batman and Midnight reached its end last issue, so Jones doesn’t get a chance to go out with a bang on the Bat-toy design front. But that’s just as well. I don’t think he could have topped Batman’s giant punching machine in issue #3 anyway.

For a good example of how he makes Niles’ worst scenes still pretty fun to read though, check out the four-page Batman-looks-at-computers-and-thinks sequence on pages eight through eleven.

Jones’ Bat-computer is this weird, massive contraption that looks a little different in each issue. Here it looks like the worlds biggest Simon game, with buttons the size of floor tiles in various shapes and colors, random green monitors placed in strange places, and it’s mounted atop a flight of stairs and embedded in a bunch of stalactites.

So in one panel Batman shoots an arm out, one of his claws pressing a button, in the next he recoils and wraps himself in his cape. Then his arms are spread wide, hitting different buttons, and then he whirls to read a long, old-school paper print out. Hen he leans over and daintily pushes a tiny, tiny little button. As he begins to come to a conclusion regarding the true identity of Midnight, there’s a panel of him hunched over, his arms extended to the table top, where his palms rest. In the next panel, he’s turned to the side, bent nearly in half, and clenches his fist, as if he were curling an invisible barbell. Then in the next, he grabs two fistfuls of cape, draws them close to his face, stares intently at his knuckles, and his brown grows red through his mask.

The best comic book artists are those that know how to “act” through their characters; one of the things I love about Kelley Jones is that how he overacts through his; the emotions are always right, they’re just dialed up to 11. No, 31. His Batman isn’t an actor, or a soap opera actor. He’s more like an opera singer, or possibly a kabuki actor. Maybe an actor in one of those Japanese live-action shows for kids starring a guy in a lycra suit and a helmet that obscures his face completely so he has to do super-sized gesticulations to show emotions? He’s one of those.

I’ll miss you Batman: Gotham After Midnight! Mike Marts, please give Kelley Jones something else to do soon! Maybe something with mummies or animated dinosaur skeletons in it?



Captain America: Theater of War: A Brother in Arms #1 (Marvel) Okay, this is book has a lot of warning flags.

First, there are all those titles. There’s three of them, which is one-to-two many. I put colons in the title there, but on the cover it appears as Captain America * Theater of War * A Brother In Arms, and the legal small print only uses one colon, calling it Captain America Theater of War: A Brother in Arms

Second, it’s by Paul Jenkins, who is skilled writer with some good comics to his name, but whom I’ve been pretty leery of after his work on Civil War-related books (particularly those rather gross back-ups in Frontline which equated Marvel’s superhero crossover to actual wars).

Third, it’s $3.99, which usually just means that Marvel would like an extra dollar and maybe they’ll kick in a cardstock cover. But it’s actually 35 pages, so huzzah!

Given these warning signs, I normally wouldn’t have bothered with this book, were it not drawn by John McCrea, the artist behind DC’s late, great Hitman, one of my all-time favorite comic series. I really like and admire McCrea’s artwork, and wish he were on a monthly again so I could see it more often.

Unfortunately, this isn’t his best work. It’s not bad work by any means, but he’s inked by three different inkers and colored by three different colorists, and, as is more often than not the case at Marvel these days, the colors overwhelm the line art, so that the art resembles a computer’s best approximation of a painting, making everything seem over-lit, softly-focused and not nearly as drawn-looking as I expect a comic book to look.

McCrea’s lay-outs are strong, he continues to be a great actor when it comes to conveying character emotion and, personally, I was happy to see the little gun flares, bullet-impact flashes and even the bullets-streaking-through-people-and-one-severing-a-finger images that were so familiar from Hitman.

I know I’m probably old-fashioned in this regard, and judging by the way Marvel dominates DC on sales charts, perhaps I’m in the minority, but I prefer comic books to look more like comic books than attempts to capture the aesthetics of other media. I like to be able to look at a page and see what lines were drawn by what artist, and know that it involved pencils and pens or brushes on paper at some point.

On a page by page basis, the art here reads and works like a comic, but the individual panels, taken out of context, look too much like animation stills or computer art or album covers or something. (It doesn’t say which inker inked which pages and which colorists colored which pages, so I can’t point to who did a better job; some of the pages look worse than the others though).

The story is a rather Garth Ennis-y war story, one that just so happens to star Captain America, and probably doesn’t even need to.

Some of Cap’s narration is a little over the top (“But this is not their story. And it is not my story. It is the story of soldiers all”), and there’s a goofy moment here or there (check out the scene where the noble German soldier becomes so inspired by Cap that the “A” logo on Cap’s head appears in the soldiers pupils), but it’s a decent war story pot-boiler about how there are basically good people on both sides in war.

Here’s hoping this leads to another gig for McCrea ASAP; he does a hell of a job here, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him work on a story this serious before. Usually there’s at least a hint of comedy involved.



Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 (DC) How late is this comic book, well, it’s a Final Crisis tie-in, and Final Crisis ended three months ago, a little behind schedule itself. If I remember the timeline correctly, Superman departed from the 31st Century setting at the beginning of FC #6, so this still incomplete five-parter should have wrapped up on or before January 18th. Additionally, the dead character Bart Allen appeared in April 1’s Flash: Rebirth #1 making an offhanded remark like “Yeah, I’m back from the future,” a few weeks before why he’s no longer, you know, dead isn’t offered until this very issue.

You know what else is kind of fucked up?

There’s this very typical of Geoff Johns scene, where an unexpected character says something from off-panel, and then you turn the page and there’s a big splash meant to illicit an “OH SHIT ______ IS BACK AND IS ALL BAD-ASS!” reaction, and it’s a surprise that the company’s editor-in-chief* just completely ruined months ago by posting the pencil version in the “DC Nation” column (I believe it was this one, although the image isn’t posted online with it).

There was a drawing of Superboy (the clone Kon-El/Conner Kent version that died in Infinite Crisis) punching out Superboy-Prime, by George Perez. Since Perez was working on Legion of 3 Worlds and it featured Superboy-Prime, the where and when of Superboy’s resurrection wasn’t exactly a mystery, although I was surprised to see the big reveal here, exactly as it appeared in the DC Nation column.

If you’re the sort of DC reader who thinks the company’s editorial direction is a little screwed up when it comes to basic things like making sure the trains run on time and arrive in the right place and occasionally get between creator and customer in a less than helpful way, well, this issue will probably confirm your opinions. And if you’re the sort who thinks DC is overly concerned with stories that are more about other DC stories than anything else, well this book will likely confirm that opinion as well: There’s Starman from Johns JSoA completing his mission, a few call-backs to the JSoA/JLoA crossover “The Lightning Saga” and some explanation of Bart’s death in Flash: Fastest Man Alive, in addition to all the Legions of Super-Heroes business.

Johns writes this sort of stuff better than anyone, and probably as well as it could be written, but yeah, this is pretty much the definition of a comic for people who read Geoff Johns-written comics about other comics, to the exclusion of all other readers.

The art is, of course, perfect, and by far the best you’re going to find in any other super-comic on the shelf this week.


Green Lantern #40 (DC) When the last issue of this series came out, I spent a couple of paragraphs wondering why it happened to be approved by the Comics Code Authority, despite being so incredibly gory (Particularly since DC doesn’t seem to have to submit to it, and I can’t discern the rhyme or reason for what has the little CCA stamp and what doesn’t).

This issue, the mystery deepens! I can’t find the CCA stamp anywhere on the cover of this particular issue, and, ironically, it’s much less graphic than that last issue. A character gets dismembered (this is a Geoff Johns comic), but the depiction of the event is much more subdued than it could have been. Four Orange Lanterns grab a Green Lantern character by each of his limbs and pull in different directions, and, in the next panel, there are four abstract splashes implying blood and a “KRRRRPPPPP” sound effect.

See, it’s not that hard. You can have dismemberments in your comics without portraying them graphically!



Justice Society of America (DC) This is Geoff Johns’ last issue of JSoA, which I suspect he’s finally leaving after so long because he’s going to eventually be writing JLoA (Did you see that panel in this week’s Green Lantern where he thought about what he hopes for, and the result was the original Big Seven version of the JLA and maybe a threesome with Cowgirl and Carol?)

It’s one of his best single issues, and it made me a bit sad. Not simply because it is his last, but it was drawn by Dale Eaglesham who was originally supposed to be this books regular artist, and it reminded me of how much potential that creative team held at the beginning of the relaunched title, and how little of it was actually met, as the book detoured into the awful “Lighting Saga” crossover with Brad Meltzer and a half-dozen artists and then spent the vast majority of its existence as part of a waaaayyyyyyy too long Kingdom Come sequel.

Here Johns does a nice, simple, done-in-one the team just hanging out story, with no villains or combat, just characters being themselves. Sure, some of those characters are entirely one-note and are in the exact same place they were 25 issues and some annuals and specials ago, but at least they have a note, that’s something.

So Courtney Whitmore returns home to a surprise birthday party being thrown by her family and the JSA and it’s all quite charming.

I think Eaglesham had reached a whole new level when he started on this title, and this issue is his best work yet. He’s a great artist for this sort of ensemble book, giving each character a distinct looks. His old people look like old people, his teenagers look like teenagers, and you can tell them all apart in our out of their costumes. He also fills the panels with rich little details—I like the fact that The Flash has a little stick-on bow from a present on his hat in one panel, the look on Starman’s face in the two-page spread, the casual affection between Courtney’s parents as her mom leans against her step-dad.

It’s really too bad Eaglesham’s leaving the book (although, he hasn’t really been around all that much anyway), as he hasn’t been used very well at Marvel so far (all I’ve seen so-far is a few terribly over-colored sequences in a multi-artist issue of Amazing Spider-Man that masks his work the way too many Marvel titles do). And it’s also too bad Johns is leaving. He’s had plenty of time to say everything he could possibly have to say about the JSA I suppose, but there have been far too few quiet, character-driven issues like this.

I pointed this out in this week’s ‘Twas… over at Blog@, but I’ll mention it again: The three linking covers that form a single issue variant scheme seems exceptionally scummy. On three consecutive issues? Okay, fine. But putting 1/3 or an image on each one for the same issue? That sucks. If you’re all about Alex Ross, you’re way better off trade-waiting, as the whole thing will likely appear on a future JSoA trade, as the similar fractured Alex Ross JLoA cover.


RASL #4 (Cartoon Books) This is a new issue of a comic book by Jeff Smith. You don’t really need me to tell you that it’s really damn good do you? I understand if you want to wait for the trade on it, as the first three issues were collecting in a really nice-looking oversized paperback collection. Me, I was too curious about Smith’s first post-Bone original series to hold out for a trade, and I really, really enjoy the comic book format. Especially Smith’s self-published version of it.



Superman #687 (DC) Well it’s pretty damn strange to read a book called Superman which is completely devoid of Superman. The last time they took Superman out of Superman (and his other three books at the time) and focused on elements of his supporting cast, the books remained very much about Superman: Who he was, why he was important, how various characters felt about him, how they world was changed by his seemingly being “dead” and replaced by new, would-be Supermen.

This particular issue of this particular title isn’t doing any of that. It’s merely a series of check-ins with various Metropolis-based characters, and advancements of various long-brewing plotlines. Here’s Mon-El, The Guardian and the Science Police fighting Shrapnel and planning to rescue that alien Legionnaire person from writer James Robinson’s Guardian special. There’s a page of “Project 7734,” two of Black Lightning and three of Jimmy Olsen and Zatara II. Here we have a panel of The Prankster.

It’s all well written by Robinson, and extremely well drawn by Renato Guedes, if, on it’s own, it reads more like a series of scenes that an actual story. It reads fine now, but I imagine it will read much better in eventual trade, where a reader need not wait to see what exactly Robinson is building.

I’m kinda bummed that The Red Torpedo only gets mentioned in passing. Like, I was excited to see his name, as that meant Robinson knew of him and acknowledged his existence, but then was sad that that was all I got about him. That’s one of those minor DC characters I’m intensely interested in and know next to nothing about.


Trinity #48 (DC) Batman hatches his plan, and the big battle between all of the arrayed forces seems to maybe reach its climax here (Krona, the biggest of big, bad guys, gets trapped in a spell, at any rate). I’m guessing he’s down for the count too, since there’s only four issues left? The back-up, draw by Scott McDaniel, is lamer than usual, re-examining the origins of some of the original characters (Tarot, Sun-Chained-In-Ink, The Void Hound) and looking at the climax of the lead story through their eyes. The narration in this story especially sounds like a bit of summing up of the series.

I’d say that I’ll miss this title when it’s gone, as I do like knowing there will be at least one decent DC superhero book at the shop each week, but given that the next weekly sounds like the single greatest DC comic book I could possibly imagine, well, I’d be lying to say I’m sorry to see Trinity end.

I’m also eager to see where Busiek and Bagley end up next. I know the former will have something in Wednesday Comics and the latter will be doing a few issues of Batman, but hopefully they’ll each find bigger, ongoing books in the DCU too.



*Actually, he’s “Senior VP-Executive Editor.” I like “editor-in-chief” better, but whatever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Please stop using this expression, Kurt Busiek

Dave Gibbons' cover for 2006's Action Comics #843, written by Kurt Busiek


Detail from Trinity #47, which was written by Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley and Art Thibert

Two comics reviews; one of a book that came out last week, and one of a book that comes out this week

Tales of the TMNT #57 (Mirage Publishing) Is it just me, or does Jim Lawson’s art get a little weirder with each new book he draws? Look at that cover. Look at the rigid, jagged lines on the outlines of the human characters’ limbs, the strange muscle-to-to-joint ratio of the figures, the bald dude’s caricature of a face, and the deep, look-at-me! blacks of the shading.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, as I’ve reviewed issues of Tales of The TMNT Mirage has set me before drawn by Lawson, but I used to really dislike his art when I first started reading comics, as it was so far-removed from what I felt the “real” ninja turtles should look like (That is, like Eastman and Laird’s or, failing that, then maybe Michael Dooney’s).

His art has changed a lot since the, and my appreciation for comics art has changed even more. For example, I stopped caring what the “real” ninja turtles should look like, because hey, the ninja turtles aren’t really real-real anyway, and the question of whether or not artwork is good is a pretty different matter than whether or not the artwork is exactly how I would like it in the best of all possible worlds.

Anyway, this is another Lawson-illustrated issue of ToTMNT, illustrating a done-in-one script by Dan Berger.

That weird Lawson art looks a little weirder on the inside in black and white too. I don’t remember Lawson ever using quite so many blacks, before, but I kinda like the thick texture of all the objects and surfaces. I also really dug the fight scene at the end where the characters are splayed out in such flailing positions that it seems like someone grabbed the panels by the frames and just shook them, the combatants bouncing around within (Looking at all the hard straight lines and the bodies in motion in this scene suddenly filled me with a desire to see a Jim Lawson-drawn story featuring Captain America or OMAC or Etrigan or Black Panther or some other character known for the way Kirby made him move around the page).

Am I being too complimentary of Lawson? I don’t think so, but I’d hate to lose my reputation as hard-to-please, so let me take this opportunity to point out that I hate the way Lawson always draws the turtles wearing their weapons at all times. Like, Raphael, Leonard and Donatello are all shown sitting on couches and easy chairs at one point, while their big, rigid ninja weapons are tucked into their belts. Can Raphael breathe with his sai handles pressed against his chest like that? How comfortable is it to lean back against a bo staff or pair of katana? (Perhaps the shells mitigate this). It can’t be good on the furniture.

The story opens with Michaelangelo, wearing the Ben Grimm-approved disguise of a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat, bounding over New York rooftops while being pursued by nimble gangbangers who operate under the unfortunate name of the “Madhattan Maulitia.” He’s content to just runaway, until one of them pulls a gun, which does not sit well with Michaelangelo (Wouldn’t you be pissed if you spent all that time learning to master some ancient weapon, only to find out some dudes are just going to pull a gun on you? Bringing a gun to a nunchuck fight might seem like smart thinking on the part of the gun-bringer, but it is also a dick move).

Back at a/the apartment, the four turtles argue about their living arrangements, with each of them preferring to set up shop in a different place. This leads to a lot of arguing, which is only resolved—after a big, 12-page fight scene in which all four turtles arrive dressed in their flasher costumes of trench coats and wide-brimmed hats—by Shadow pointing out that they’re being a bunch of mean babies.

It just occurred to me that although ToTMNT costs $3.25 per issue, it actually contains 28 story pages (plus the frontspiece/pin-up/introduction page), which is actually a pretty good value for that extra 36-cents. Michael Dooney provides that image, and there’s another pin-up bookending the story, this one by artist Darryl Graham. It looks like this:
Pretty cool, huh? Graham’s Raphael is so goddam cute, I’d like to read a whole story of these turtles.



The Muppet Show #2 (Boom Studios) Hey remember, when The Muppet Show #1 came out at the end of last month? People went nuts for that comic. Everybody on earth loved it, except for a few people who didn’t, but those people don’t review comics formally, they just showed up in comments section to say, “Gonzo’s nose isn’t quite right, Roger Langridge should be punched in the abdomen!” so let’s just stick with “Everybody on earth loved it.”

This is the second issue of that series, and it’s also quite good. I think response will be a more muted for this one—I personally liked it a little less—largely on account of the fact that the surprise/shock of a comic book based on a decades-old live action TV puppet show inspired by the Vaudeville theater of sixty to seventy years before no longer being a factor.

That is, this time out, I expected it to be great. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The story this time is focused on Fozzie Bear, and his struggle to find comedy material that connects with his audience. He attempts doing so by looking to the past of comedy, but each attempt takes him farther and farther away from doing so. Langridge again interrupts the main narrative with Muppet Show skits (the medical soap opera starring Rolf as “Dr. Bob,” Pigs In Space), including a couple of “musical” numbers which are arranged on splash pages with characters moving across them in implied panels.

Good stuff. Again.

I really like this book cover:

I will never in a million years actually read the book or anything, but I really like looking at those little parachuting Draculas on it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marjane Satrapi's Azrael

Pantheon just re-released Marjane Satrapi's 2006 Chicken With Plums in softcover, which gave me the opportunity (well, excuse really) to re-read it. I was happy to find that I liked it every bit as much as I did the first time I read it, as that means I must have been pretty on-the-nose when I reviewed it for the first time (That review no longer exists, due the paper it appeared in having redesigned their site, but I did re-review it this weekend at Blog@, and you can read it here if you like).

Chicken With Plums is named for protagonist Nasser Ali Khan's favorite dish, something he fantasizes about and has offered to him during the eight days he lies in his bed, waiting for death to claim him once he's decided he would rather die than live in his present circumstance. It's a really good comic and you should totally read it if you haven't already; I think Persepolis is probably more important and significant, but Chicken With Plums is my favorite of Satrapi's books.

During the main character's eight day ordeal, he is visited by many people, some of whom are as real as he is, and some of who are more fantastical. One of them is Azrael.

You know Azrael right?
He's Jean-Paul Valley, an assassin created created by The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas through gene-splicing and brainwashing who temporarily took over the mantle of Batman for a few months. He was created by longtime Batman writer and editor Denny O'Neil and a young artist named Joe Quesada in 1992.

Wouldn't Marjane Satrapi drawing a Joe Quesada character creation cirica 1992 be fantastic?

I imagine it would look like this:

(Only Satrapi would have made the legs the same size as one another, and proportionate to the rest of the body).

Well, as it turns out, there's another Azrael aside from the Batman supporting character and Gargamel's cat on The Smurfs. There's also the Middle Eastern angel of death. Go figure.

It is, of course, the angel of death version that appears in Chicken With Plums, so Satrapi's Azrael actually looks like this: That's Azrael on the left, looking intently at a mourner.

He visits Nasser Ali Khan on the sixth day, and tells the dying man a story about another man who had seen him without instantly dying:



It's a nice scene in a nice story.

I still wouldn't mind seeing Satrapi draw a Quesada character someday though. Maybe Ash...?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rose Wilson is a terrible babysitter





(Panels from Tiny Titans #15 by Franco and Art Baltazar)

Films about P. Craig Russell and Jeff Smith at the Wexner Center next month

While it's true that Columbus, Ohio is no New York City, it's still a hell of a great comics city. In addition to the Cartoon Library and Museum at OSU, the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, Mid-Ohio Con, the Columbus College of Art and Design, an extremely active mini-comic and self-published comics scene, and a low-cost of living perfect for people in fields in which there's little money to be made, there's also the Wexner Center for the Arts, which I've mentioned here before in covering things like and the various Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond related events last spring.

The Wex has a couple more cool-looking, comics-related events scheduled for next month.

On Tuesday, May 12, they'll be showing Night Music: The Art of P. Craig Russell, an 80-minute documentary about the artist by Wayne Alan Harold, and both the director and the artist will be on hand. Click here for more info, including a six-minute clip from the film, in which many of Russell's models introduce themselves.

Then on Friday, May 22, it's another event centering on the work of one of Columbus' favorite cartooning sons, Jeff Smith. Director Ken Mills will premiere The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, Bone and the Changing Face of Comics, a 76-minute film about Smith "and his impact on the field during the past 20 years" created during last year's exhibit period. It contains interviews with Harvey Pekar, Terry Moore, Paul Pope and Scott McCloud. Again, both the director and the subject will be on hand for the event. For more info, click here.

(The images above are the Wex's postcards for the events, images of which I swiped from Smith's boneville.com blog).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rest In Peace, Bea Arthur





That's a painting of the star of Maude, The Golden Girls and The Star Wars Holiday Special, who died today, fighting a pack of velociraptors. It is the work of Brandon Bird, the world's finest fine artist, and it's entitled "Killing Machine."

If you haven't previously scoured every nook and cranny of Bird's site, I'd highly recommend you do so sometime in the near future, as it's pretty much the greatest thing on the Internet.

No offense, Aquaman...


...but I really don't think you should be able to bring a trident with you into the United Nations. I mean, I trust you with it, but I'm not sure the other representatives would necessarily feel safe with the big guy from Atlantis waving around his deadly three-pronged spear like that.

And what if other countries asked if they could bring in their weapons, you know? Like, "What do you mean I can't bring in my mourning star? It's a ceremonial mourning star, each of its spikes representing one of the virtues of my country. Come on, you let Aquaman bring in a freaking trident!" I really think we're just asking for trouble here.



(Panel from Super Friends #14, by Sholly Fisch, Scott Shaw and Mike Kazaleh)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Comics Is Educational

The other day I stopped at a chain coffee shop that always offers ten cents off your purchase if you correctly answer the multiple-choice trivia question they have written on a chalkboard below the coffees of the day.

The question on this particularly day was, "What metal is liquid at room temperature?"

Choice d.) was mercury, which I correctly answered. Was this fact something I had learned in school? Hell no; I was an English major. I didn't learn anything having to do with the real world since my junior year in high school or so.

I learned it from Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and company's weekly series 52, which featured The Metal Men, whose boisterous member Mercury announced the fact that he was the only metal liquid at room temperature so often that it was basically his catchphrase, a nerdier version of "Hulk smash!" or "It's clobberin' time!"

So thanks DC! You saved me a dime! (And not for the first time!) That's like getting 1/30th off of one of your comics!

PSA: Attention Columbusites!

(Click to make more bigger and easier to read)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recent children's books that may (or may not) be of interest

Legendary cartoonist Jules Feiffer has provided the illustrations for a new children’s picture book, which he made with his daughter and occasional collaborator Kate Feiffer. It’s called Which Puppy? (Simon and Schuster), and deals with President Barack Obama’s election night promise to his girls that he would get them a puppy.

You may have heard of it already. A couple of weeks ago, USA Today gave it a front page write-up along with another kids book on the subject, First Dog, and Stephen Colbert mentioned it on his show when unveiling his own children’s book, You Spent 10 Trillion Dollars in a Day Just Buy a Goddam Dog Already.

Both Feiffers have made children’s books before, both together and apart. I scooped up as many as I could find from my library the other day after reading this one, and the one that seems most relevant is probably Henry, The Dog with No Tail, which, in addition to being written by Kate and illustrated by Jules, also dealt with dogs.

Which Puppy? begins on election night, with a view of Obama from behind, making his announcement:
From there it follows the news from the animals’ perspective. It gets passed on from animal to animal until “it seemed like everyone wanted to be that puppy.”

And not just puppies and dogs. A guinea pig named Sam wants in on the action, a turtle named Marple plans to take up barking lessons, a kitten named Keisha started pretending to be a puppy, and so on.

Eventually, “thousands of puppies, hundreds of reporters, and more kittens, skunks, turtles, raccoons, guinea pigs and rabbits than can be counted on two hands gathered together.” Wait, that’s only ten. That’s not that many.

Well, they gather together and argue about various methods of determining which will be the Obamas’ new puppy, and after some contests and a drawing, a big fat dog says that “ancient custom dictates that a true presidential puppy must have two rings around one paw, a heart on its face, an eye that winks, and a tail that tells time.”

No one animal fits that criteria, but they found one puppy with the rings, another with the wink and face-heart, and Sam the guinea pig’s tail could tell time. So the trio set off for the white house, only to discover that the Obamas already had a puppy:
(Not pictured: The actual puppy, as apparently Feiffer was drawing long before it was actually announced)

Bummed out, they turn to leave, but “the two girls who had just moved into the White House,” visible only from the knees down, ask them to come back and play. “We have a puppy who needs new friends.”

As a story, I found it rather meandering and uninteresting, but then, it’s recommended for kids ages four to eight, and I’m actually four times eight-years-old. The main reason I looked into the book was to see the ender Feiffer’s work.

And there’s plenty of it here. Using brush, ink and watercolor markers, he designs and draws dozens of loosely-assembled, somewhat scribbly dogs that look like they could be wiped off the page with a god scrubbing, they’re so delicately outlined and wet with watercolors-looking.

Human figures are kept to a minimum—those are the two instances in which he draws Obama himself above—and the focus remains on the dogs and other animals throughout.

I’m hesitant to recommend it, but it’s definitely worth a look from Feiffer fans.


In other recently released children’s book news, a couple of books I’ve talked about before here have gotten sequels. Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel returns in Scaredy Squirrel at Night (Kids Can Press), which fits snugly into the highly repetitive but still somehow kind of enjoyable formula of the first thiree.

As you’ll recall, Scaredy is a squirrel that seems to suffer from a variety of crippling mental illnesses, particularly agoraphobia and other anxiety-related disorders. In the course of each book, he conquers his phobia and makes a small step toward recovery. Only to have a different behavioral problem in the next book. Poor Scaredy!

This time, I’m unable to pinpoint the exact disorder, but it’s another fear/anxiety-based one:

Scaredy Squirrel never sleeps. He'd rather stay awake than risk having a bad dream in the middle of the night.


There’s a list of a few of the creatures he’s afraid might appear in a bad dream, and they are all extremely cute:
Although the fairies and unicorn look a little rough; I’m kinda scared of those spindly-armed, buck-toothed, ball-headed fairies Watt draws too.

There are, of course, side effects to Scaredy’s sleepless nights, including energy loss, moodiness and hallucinations. Once again, Scaredy suffers from a real-life problems, and it is ruining his day-to-day life. God these books are sad.

One night Scaredy, a Libra, sees in his horoscope that, “At midnight all your dreams will come true.” Fearing this means ghosts, vampire bats and dragons will team up with fairies and unicorns to come get him, Scaredy plans to face them a series of strange tools and plans (distracting the fairies with cupcakes, afan to blow away ghosts, molasses to slow down the unicorn, et cetera).

Instead of the various monsters, however, Scaredy is visited by a bunch of raccoons and other nocturnal creatures, including some super-cute bugs which I just now noticed and which I wish I would have scanned, on account of their cuteness.

Relying on his usual defense mechanism, Scaredy plays dead, and laying down with his eyes closed while exhausted, he falls asleep, making it through the night without suffering a bad dream an learning sleeping all night is awesome.

If you’ve read one of these books, if you read them all, but this one does have some better, cuter character designs then some of the previous ones, plus a cover with a glow-in-the-dark element that’s pretty cool. See Scaredy’s tooth smile on the cover up there? It glows.


Finally, Sara Varon of Robot Dreams fame just released Chicken and Cat Clean Up (Scholastic), the sequel to her excellent graphic novel-that-looks-like-and-was-sold-as-a-children’s-picture-book book Chicken and Cat.

I wrote a bit about Chicken and Cat Clean Up over at Blog@ already (you can read my review of it here), so I won’t repeat all of that here.

All I wanted to add was how weird Varon’s New York City is, particularly in the way it’s peopled with anthropomorphic animals, humans and normal animals, something that often takes me a little getting used to (It really freaked me out when I first started seeing Dragon Ball cartoons, for example, and I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that Goofy is Mickey Mouse’s friend while Pluto is his pet…and that Pluto is to Mickey as dogs are to humans in terms of size proportions).

It sits fine with me personally, but I’m not sure I could have dealt with it as a little kid.

Check it out. Here’s Cat waking up in bed, with what I assume is a teddy bear:
That is a teddy bear, right? A toy stuffed animal? And not just, like, a dead baby bear cub? Because that would be horrible. (I like the cover of the book Cat’s reading; is that Moby Dick, do you think?)

Once Cat joins Chicken in the kitchen for a breakfast of orange juice, doughnuts and coffee, Cat looks in the paper for a pet to buy:
A house cat wants to buy a pet? A pet with a pet?! The sheep looks like it may also be anthropomorphicized like Cat, but the fish and horse are to Cat as hey would be to a human being. Also, a cat with a fish for a pet? Wouldn't the cat just eat the fish?

This is the part that really bugged me:

Ha ha! Bugged! It's funny because look, there is a lady bug right there! Note that the bug and the mouse are roughly the same size. Is it a tiny mouse or a gigantic lady bug? It's weird and gross is what it is.

Cat catches the mouse, and turns him over to the police, as he's wanted for being a thief and a liar:
Lying is a crime in New York now? Wow, they really did crack down on crime! Now, note the fact that the mouse is an intelligent, clothes-wearing, anthropomorphic mouse, but he's nowhere near the size of Cat. In fact, he is to Cat as a regular mouse would be to a regular cat. But, fucking things up even further, there's a human being in the police station, and the person is not significantly larger than Cat or Chicken.

Finally, with the reward Cat received for catching the mouse, a pet is finally bought:
And the one animal owns another animal as its pet.

So weird...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Haul: April 22nd

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #4 (DC Comics) I suppose I should leave it to Chris Sims to discuss the first two-pages of this issue when he posts his reviews later this week, as they involve Batman teaming up with a couple of characters he had asked DC about the possibility of a trade collection of, and Dan DiDio responded by saying they didn’t want to do any new stories with these characters.

Er, is that vague enough? And could the grammar be more circuitous? Suffice it to say that the first two-pages involve probably the last characters you’d expect to see Batman team-up with in any book.

This issue is the work of Matt Wayne, penciller Andy Suriano (The Good B:TBatB Penciller) and inker Dan Davis, and I think it’s the strongest of the four so far.

Two years in the future, the boisterous, maniac version of Aquaman from the cartoon is sitting through a boring Atlantean Earth Day celebration, and tries to entertain himself by telling Mera “The Tale of the Earth Day When Aquaman Saved the Entire Planet!”(The title of the actual comic book story is the more prosaic “Menace of The Time Thief!”)

Back in 2009, he teams up with Batman to fight a dinosaur and then borrow Rip Hunter’s time sphere and stop all of time from unraveling, while shouting “Outrageous!” about once a page.

It’s pretty awesome. How awesome? Awesome enough that at one point Batman says, “And onnce the bough of evil breaks-- --The hammer of justice must fall!

And, at another point, Aquaman ponders the motivations of villain Dr. Cyber, who is trying to compress the time-stream to re-start human history for the benefit of earth, declaring, “Dr. Cyber’s not evil, only misguided! That’s never happened before!”

Man, when this book is on, it’s almost as good as the cartoon, and you can’t really ask for more than that from a comic book tie-in to a cartoon…


Buck Rogers #0 (Dynamite Entertainment) I have no real experience or even interest in the long-lived, occasionally re-invented character of Buck Rogers—I saw an episode of the TV show with a space vampire in it that scared me as a child, and I liked the weird retro aesthetic of a few of the classic comic strips I’ve seen in comics anthologies and histories—and I question how much enthusiasm or interest there is in Buck Rogers out there in the comics market, but there’s nothing wrong with having another decent comic book on the market. And this is a pretty decent comic book.

For just twenty-five cents, you get to see manly man space hero Buck Rogers fighting an invading alien race of gigantic paramecium, and ultimately sacrifice his life to stop them. That’s right, the hero dies in his own #0 issue, before his series has even begins! Of course, since he dies creating a gravity well, I have a feeling he actually gets sent through time, which, if true, is a pretty neat take: The hero whose whole schtick was being shot forward into the future being shot further into the future.

It’s written by Scott Beatty and illustrated by Carlos Rafael, and I really like the character design. Buck’s costume? A black one-piece suit with glowing jodhpurs. You can’t beat that. Nor can you beat a complete, 12-page story for just a quarter.


Detective Comics #853 (DC) Wow, this Neil Gaiman guy is pretty good, huh? After finishing the first half of his “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” story, I was concerned about how well he’d be able to wrap up the premise, as that first chapter featured long stories by several characters about various Batman deaths, but it works out quite well, as the stories get quicker and quicker as the point emerges: Various versions of various villains and various supporting characters each tell their story of the death of a Batman, a Batman who is the Batman, in that all Batmen are aspects of the one Batman.

There are some very Morrison-esque ideas at work in this story, particularly in the way Gaiman riffs on the “everything happened” aspect of Morrison’s Batman run, and the way in which Gaiman treats Batman as a real fictional character at least somewhat in tune with the fact that he is a fictional character (From a certain angle, this story seems a closer companion to Morrison’s All-Star Superman than his Batman).

And Gaiman achieves this by telling a story that is a very Neil Gaiman kind of story, echoing some of his Sandman stories (“World’s End” and “The Wake” most clearly), while achieving the sort of gentle humanity that his characters always emanate (and too few comic book writers seem to be able to achieve).

Perhaps most impressive though, is the fact that Gaiman figured out a way to make this really and truly the last Batman story, the one that would occur right after Batman really died for reals, whenever that actually does happen (i.e. never), so that it isn’t quite a What If…? or Elseworlds kind of thing, and yet it’s not something that would ever need to be retconned, re-written or avoided, as anything anyone else ever writes about the Batman would still fit in with this.

I don’t really want to get into particulars about the story, for fear of ruining it, but it does contain the line “Goodnight, Mechanical Dinosaur.”

As for Andy Kubert, he does the work of his career here, although granted a great deal of that work involves trying to replicate the work of a dozen or so other Batman artists. It’s another reminder of how unfortunate it is that he wasn’t able to stick with a monthly-ish schedule long enough to stay on the Batman monthly.


Incredible Hercules #128 (Marvel) Fighting! Do you like that in your comics? If so, then you should love this issue of Incredible Herc, which is a very long fight scene. It’s Herc, Amadeus and Athena (but mostly Herc) vs. Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers vs. The Olympus Group (Hera, Typhon, Pluto).

Props to Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente for at least trying to explain why The Sentry is so goddam useless in a fight despite being the most powerful dude in the Marvel Universe by a factor of a million or so. (“Hercules. Do you really want me to unleash the power of a million exploding suns?”).

It doesn’t quite work, but having the Sentry around was at least worth it for the sound effect his being thrown through a roof generates (“N-TU-DASUNNN!”), and the look on his face when Herc decides to fight dirty. The whole scene in which Herc’s fist gets caught in Venom’s big, sloppy tongue and teeth filled mouth is pretty fun too.

Bits of staging and pacing seemed off here and there, but it was a pretty fun fight, with a clever ending, and plenty of character moments seeded throughout, so I’m not going to complain.


Justice League of America #32 (DC) Hey, Justice League of America! How have you been? Man, I haven’t seen you in forever. How long has it been now? I believe it was the Final Crisis tie-in issue illustrated by Carlos Pacheco, so I guess that means it’s been…nine months. Wow. Nine months. We used to see each other all the time! Why, back when you were going by JLA, you were my favorite comic book!

Well, I would have skipped this issue too, were it not for the fact that it was drawn by Rags Morales and John Dell. While Dwayne McDuffie’s run has been incredibly tedious, devoting just as much attention to setting up, cleaning up or just plain keeping up with crossovers and other people’s comics, it was Ed Benes’ art that drove me away from reading the book.

So now that there’s a good writer and an excellent art team, it sure seemed like a good time to check in with the book.

As it turns out, not so much. This is apparently chapter four of “Nyctophobia,” a storyline that apparently has something to do with the Milestone characters appearing in the DCU, and general post-Final Crisis, “Batman R.I.P.,” “World Without Superman” and “Rise of the Olympian” tie-ins.

Given that most of the script seems to be a reaction to other stories more than a story in and of itself, McDuffie must have done a pretty good job on it, as I found it rather easy to follow, despite walking in on the middle of this movie. Superman and Black Canary chat about the state of the League, which she disbanded because Hal and Ollie started their own League, which actually occurs in a six-issue miniseries that starts in July and thus won’t wrap up until January of 2010, provided it’s on time. That’s…well, it’s a curious way to run a railroad, isn’t it?

From their, the remaining Leaguers—Firestorm II, Dr. Light II, Vixen, Zatanna and Green Lantern John Stewart—have a meeting, and then Dr. Light and Firestorm encounter Shadow Thief and Starbreaker.

The character work is pretty nicely done, which makes it seem like even more of a shame that McDuffie seems to be squeezing bits of story in wherever he can.

The art was the best I’ve seen during this volume of Justice Leage, which, considering how awful most of it is, may not sound like much of a compliment. But it is nice to see one of DC’s flagship titles and bestsellers being genuinely well-illustrated once again. Backgrounds, distinct character designs, expressions that change to evoke different emotions—just seeing things we should take for granted now seems like a special treat, they’ve been missing for so long.

(Look! Facial expressions!)

A McDuffie/Morales/Dell JLoA might still be a pretty poor comic, if it had to be a book about little more than how the characters reacted to the events of the rest of the DC line, but hell, at least it would be readable.

Dccomics.com says Morales will be back again next month, but then, it says this issue has art by Frederico Dallocchio, so I guess I shouldn’t put too much stock in that.


Trinity #47 (DC) Okay, now we’re climaxing. The Busiek/Bagley half is one big fight. In this corner we have Krona, Morgan Le Fay, Despero, Despero’s armada of cannon fodder and the Void Hound and in this corner we have the trinity, the superheroes of Earth, Enigma and The Crime Syndicate of America and Xor and the Dreambound. That’s a whole lot of superhero battle for just twelve pages.

In the back-half,, drawn this time by Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher, we see the same battle from Alfred’s point-of-view, as he takes a call from Lex Luthor, who has devised a plan to save the day. I always like seeing the forced-to-be-a-good-guy-by-a-greater-threat Luthor.


Wolverine: First Class #14 (Marvel) Fred Van Lente and Peter David seem to have rather different sense of humor. Under the latter, who inherited the title from the former, Wolverine: First Class is still a lighthearted superhero title appropriate for all-ages, but David’s humor seems far broader to me, and some scenes seem written as a way to get to a joke, rather than the joke growing organically from them.

Of course, it could just be a matter of me still adjusting to the new writer after twelve issues with the old one, and since the old one was the title’s original writer, his way is bound to seem more like “the right way” for a while.

In this second half of David’s first story, illustrated by Ronan Cliquet, Wolverine and Kitty Pryde find themselves in a museum after closing, embroiled in a battle between Daredevil, The Hand and Elektra, over a magic demon mask who transforms its wearer into “Shinigami.”

No, not that kind of shinigami.

It’s all competent enough, although neither Elektra nor Daredevil really needed to be here, as neither brings anything to the table except a sentence of exposition and the recognition factor that comes from seeing them. Like, “Oh hey, Daredevil’s in this. And so’s Elektra.” Given that their presence isn’t even teased on the cover though, which is instead a generic Wolverine action shot from the Wolverine cover drawer, it doesn’t even seem like they’re there for marketing’s sake.

Temporary disruption of services may occur

I'm going on vacation starting Wednesday, April 22nd (i.e. today) and won't be back to EDILW HQ until Sunday, April 26th-ish. I'll have my laptop with me, but I'll be on the road for some of that time, and wireless access/time to sit around and type bad jokes and angry rants about comics won't be guaranteed.

I've got some posts written and pre-programmed to publish at certain times over the course of the rest of the week, so I think there will still be a post a day, (provided I did everything right), but if the posts are slightly less substantial than usual and/or I don't respond to comments, that's why.

The weekly "Weekly Haul" feature, which I usually post Wednesday nights, might not make it up until...whenever I have time to read the eight books on my shopping list and write about 'em I guess. If you can't wait to hear my opinion on this week's new comics well, let's see, I predict Incredible Hercules will be really good, Trinity, Wolverine: First Class, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Avengers: The Initiative will be solidly constructed and pretty good if nothing revolutionary, TEC will be very Neil Gaiman-y, Buck Rogers #0 will be well worth the 25-cent cover price (no matter how bad it is) and Justice League of America will be better-looking than it's been since forever on account of guest artist Rags Morales.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marvel's July previews reviewed


As above, so below. As with DC, so with Marvel.

AGENTS OF ATLAS #7
Written by JEFF PARKER
Penciled by CARLO PAGULAYAN & GABRIEL HARDMAN
Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
70s DECADE VARIANT by TBA
Journey to the Deep!!
The Agents and the Sub-Mariner face not only a deadly attack beneath the ocean, but Namor and Namora’s budding relationship is hit with some ugly facts of Atlantean history. Also: what does a Lung Dragon dream? Peer into the most treacherous space imaginable, the ancient and diabolical mind of Mr. Lao!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99


Yay, more Namor!

Hey your majesty, her eyes are up... up... um. Breasts.

The Avenging Son is all over the X-books this month too, but I don't think I can bring myself to actually read any of those. Maybe a trade from the library when they get around to collecting the Dark X-Men vs. Dark Avengers business...



ALL SELECT COMICS #1 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Written by MARC GUGGENHEIM & MICHAEL KUPPERMAN
Art by JAVIER PULIDO & MICHAEL KUPPERMAN
Cover by RUSS HEATH
Variant Cover by MARCOS MARTIN
Meet Blonde Phantom – she’s gorgeous, quick-witted, and hard-boiled. There was never a case that wasn’t open-and-shut for this gun-toting, two-fisted knockout of a P.I. But has she still got what it takes to bust a mystery wide open in the modern Marvel Universe? Marc Guggenheim (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Javier Pulido (CAPTAIN AMERICA 65TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL) turn the classic Blonde Phantom into Marvel’s newest hero!
AND MORE! Writer/artist Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle) takes on Marvex, the Super-Robot, in a hilarious bonus special feature!!
48 PGS./New and Reprint/Rated A ...$3.99


Michael Kupperman? Michael Kupperman? Okay; this I gotta see.



AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600
Written by DAN SLOTT, STAN LEE & THE REST OF SPIDEY’S WEB-HEADS
Pencils by JOHN ROMITA JR., MARCOS MARTIN, MARIO ALBERTI & MORE!
50/50 Wraparound Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.
50/50 Cover by ALEX ROSS
Variant Cover by JOHN ROMITA SR.
Wraparound Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
The greatest Marvel super hero of all celebrates his 600th issue with the biggest all-original issue of Amazing Spider-Man EVER! This one’s got it all! The return of Doctor Octopus, Daredevil, a wedding you never predicted, and the return of one of the most important people in Peter Parker’s life in a giant-sized lead story by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. Doc’s back in town, but it’s only a prelude to darker days ahead as Spidey unknowingly prepares for a gauntlet he can’t even see coming.
On top of all that, witness the return of one of Spider-man’s creators, Smilin’ Stan Lee (along with Masticatin’ Marcos Martin) as he presents a story of unbridled passion, drama and angst as Spidey reflects over his many, many years of adventures.
But that ain’t all...as the rest of the Spidey Web-Heads bring you several short features showcasing some rarely explored aspects of both Spidey and Pete’s life, drawn by some of the greatest artists in comics. Plus, several other surprises and NO REPRINTS! 104 pages of goodness brought to you by some of the best creators that have ever worked on Spidey!
104 PGS./All-New/Rated A ...$4.99


Okay, I think I'll buy this one.



DARK REIGN: THE SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #2 (of 4)
Written by BRIAN REED
Pencils & Cover by CHRIS BACHALO
The name's Mac Gargan, and the whole city of New York thinks I'm Spider-Man. They love me and I can do anything I like. What I like is making J. Jonah Jameson's life a living hell. Well, that... and eating people. But that seems to have ticked off some folks. Turns out even super-powered criminals have feelings, and they’ve all teamed up with this nutjob scientist named The Redeemer to kill me. Also, who the heck is THE HIPPO? By Brian Reed (Ms. Marvel) and Chris Bachalo (New Avengers).
32 PGS./Rated T+...$3.99


This is something I'll be ignoring, but I have to admit, the mention of a character named The Hippo caused me to perk up a bit. I like how so many Spider-Man villains take their names from just random animals with a "The" in front of them. I think a writer could pretty much come up with an endless array of Spidey villains by simply pulling animal names out of a hat. The only real problem would be trying to find an animal no one's ever used.

Bachalo's cover is pretty interesting too. I like when artists portray Venom's tongue as just flat out ridiculous, as he does here, and you just don't see that many Mac Gargan crotch shot covers.


INCREDIBLE HULK #600
Written by JEPH LOEB
Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Cover by ALEX ROSS
50/50 Variant Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
Variant Cover by TIM SALE
WHO IS THE RED HULK?!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN IS GOING TO TRY AND FIND OUT!
GREEN HULK! RED HULK! SPIDEY! SECRETS REVEALED!
A STORY SO BIG IT CAN BARELY BE CONTAINED IN THE INCREDIBLE 600TH ISSUE OF HULK! ALL THIS AND A STARTLING SURPRISE ENDING TO TOP ALL THE OTHER SHOCKING SURPRISES THIS HULK BOOK IS KNOWN FOR!
The chart-topping team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness bring you a 600th-issue celebration guest starring your friendly Neighborhood Web-Head as the original Incredible series returns! Plus, back-up story by Fred Van Lente featuring the Savage She-Hulk! And representing the first issue of the Loeb/Sale HULK: GRAY series, 104 PGS./38 All-New Pages & Reprints/Rated A ...$4.99


INCREDIBLE HERCULES #131
Written by GREG PAK & FRED VAN LENTE
Penciled by RYAN STEGMAN
Cover by DAVID WILLIAMS
40s DECADE VARIANT by TBA
They've battled rampaging gods, enraged Eternals, sinister Skrulls, Avengers Dark and Mighty, armed-to-the-teeth Amazons, and literally gone to Hell and back together. But now, after all this time, and all those adventures, the team-up between Hercules and Amadeus Cho may be...no more! What shocking secret is revealed in this issue that could ruin their friendship forever? Find out here, then come right back next month for a MAJOR change in status in the title that will always be "INCREDIBLE"!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99


Okay, Marvel often engages in dodgy math and strange re-titling and character re-purposing schemes to suddenly get to anniversary issues, but in this particular instance, they've just completely lost me.

They took the "Incredible" from The Incredible Hulk, which was retitled The Incredible Hercules but kept IH's numbering and put it in front of the the title Hulk, which should only be on somewhere around issue #15 or so in July, and...how exactly did they reach #600 with it? Because even if they transferred Incredible Hercules/Incredible Hulk's numbers over to Hulk, it still shouldn't even be at #200, based on the fact that Incredible Hercules is only on issue #131 this month, right?

Feh.

I hope this isn't really the end of the Greg Pak/Fred Van Lente-written Hercules and Amadeus Cho adventures, as Incredible Herc is one of my favorite ongoing super-comics. And man, I can't believe they still haven't revealed who Red Hulk is. Jesus; is Loeb really maintaining interest and suspense with that? (I honestly don't know; I haven't read any of it).


MARVEL 1985 TPB
Written by MARK MILLAR
Penciled by TOMMY LEE EDWARDS
Cover by TOMMY LEE EDWARDS
The Marvel Universe comes to life. In this heavily anticipated story, Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards transport you to a strange and exotic world: the year 1985. There, young Toby Goodman lives an ordinary life, filling his days with Marvel comic books as an escape from his mother and stepfather, and a way of connecting with his lazy but well-intentioned dad. Things looked like they would continue on this way ad nauseum, until Toby stumbled across an old house, inhabited by the villains that terrorize the Marvel Universe. At first, no one believes what he claims to have seen, but that was before the bodies started turning up. The Marvel super-villains are exciting and fun when you read about them in a comic, but what happens when Doctor Doom is standing before you, or the Mole Man and his Moloids attack? Collecting MARVEL 1985 #1-6.
176 PGS./Rated T+ ...$19.99


So, what was the consensus on this one? I was mildly interessted in this, until I saw the price tag, and figured I'd just look for a copy of the trade at my library someday. It seems that—as with his run on Fantastic Four and, to a lesser extent, Wolverine—this book seemed to generate a lot less buzz and online interest than past Millar projects. In fact, it seems like I stopped hearing about 1985 right after the first issue shipped.


MARVEL DIVAS #1 (of 4)
Written by ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA
Art by TONCI ZONJIC
Cover by J. SCOTT CAMPBELL
70s DECADE VARIANT by TBA
Diva (dee-vah), noun: An unusually glamorous and powerful woman. See: Patsy "Hellcat" Walker; Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy; Angelica "Firestar" Jones; and Monica "Photon" Rambeau. What happens when you take four of the Marvel Universe's most fabulous single girls and throw them together, adding liberal amounts of suds and drama? You get the sassiest, sexiest, soapiest series to come out of the House of Ideas since Millie the Model! Romance, action, ex-boyfriends, and a last page that changes everything! Let your inner divas out with this one, fellas, you won't regret it!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99


See this was never meant for women after all. The solicitation specifically addresses men with the “Let your inner divas out with this one, fellas” bit at the end.

This sounds pretty awful and ill-considered—wouldn't the book make more sense years ago, when Sex and The City was actually still on?— ut I don’t exactly have anything to add to any of the sniping and sniggering that have already greeted it. I still think diva has picked up an extremely negative connotation, and hasn't been used as a compliment for a good five years at least.



Er, is that supposed to be Jennifer Kale? Why are her breasts so big? Like, five times bigger than the other times Greg Land drew her?

This latest Van Lente/Kev Walker Marvel Zombies series sounds good and, covers aside, looks good, but I’m waiting for the trade. Hopefully that will be Land-free.


ULTIMATE COMICS SAMPLER
Written by ARUNE SINGH
After Ultimatum, the Ultimate Universe is forever changed—enter Ultimate Comics, from the minds of Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis! Who is Ultimate Spider-Man? Who are the New Ultimates? Who will join the Ultimate Avengers? And just what is the Ultimate project so top secret, so earth-shattering, that we can’t even mention its name? Get your first look at the comics that’ll have everyone’s jaws on the floor this summer!
32 PGS./Rated T+...FREE


Well, you can't beat the price, anyway...


X-MEN: WOLVERINE/GAMBIT PREMIERE HC
Written by JEPH LOEB
Penciled by TIM SALE
Covers by TIM SALE
The feral X-Man and the ragin' Cajun — as interpreted by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the award-winning creators of Daredevil: Yellow, Superman: For All Seasons and Batman: Dark Victory! Warrior. Ronin. Soldier. Mutant. Logan knows little of his past, save that it was fraught with pain and loss. Long ago, he was trained as a samurai in Japan; later, he became Weapon X, a covert operative for the Canadian government. Today, Wolverine is an X-Man -- using his animal-keen senses, accelerated healing factor and razor-sharp claws to help protect a world that fears and hates mutants! Always an outsider, Gambit was shunned as a youth because of his strange, burning-red eyes. Eventually, Remy LeBeau realized he was a mutant, possessed of the ability to charge inanimate objects with explosively released biokinetic energy. A reformed thief and charming scoundrel, the ragin' Cajun always has a card up his sleeve!
Now, these two outlaw heroes have been drawn together by a string of brutal slayings that may mark the return of the 19th-century serial killer called Jack the Ripper! Is it merely coincidence that finds Remy and Logan in London, or does one of these enigmatic outsiders have an ulterior motive? Collecting WOLVERINE/GAMBIT: VICTIMS #1-4.112 PGS./Rated T+ ...$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3802-0
Trim size: standard
X-MEN: WOLVERINE/GAMBIT PREMIERE HC — VARIANT EDITION VOL. 33
112 PGS./Rated T+ ...$19.99


Man, there is so much smoking in this book!

This isn't actually a very good comic book, and it's far worse than most Loeb/Sale collaborations, but it's bad in the sort of entertaining way that Loeb's bad-but-not-terrible comics tend to be. Sale's highly stylized Wolverine and Gambit look great, and he draws an awesome Arcade.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember it being super-loony. Like, robot Jack the Rippers are killing people, and, since they're using blades, the suspicion falls upon Wolverine, who has blades in his hands. Which is kind of funny, considering how often people get killed with blades in the world; are Wolvie's teammates always suspecting him of any stabbing-related crimes they get wind of?


THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ #8 (of 8)
Written by ERIC SHANOWER
Pencils & Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG
The search for Glinda, Good Witch of the South, is full of danger—a giant spider-monster that eats whole animals like a spider does flies. It’s full of strangeness—a whole village of living china statues. And it’s full of both danger and strangeness—little armless folks who shoot their heads as missiles. But Glinda remains Dorothy’s final hope to reach home, so Dorothy and her friends must brave the journey.
32 PGS./All Ages ...$3.99


I'm looking forward to the trade of this, which I am pretty positive won't cost any more than $32, which is how much the eight individual issues of this series cost. Considering that it was something that was geared toward kids, Marvel's price gouging seems a little sadder in this case.

Monday, April 20, 2009

DC's July previews reviewed

DC's solicitations for books shipping in July have been released and are currently peruse-able.

The big news this month is that it will be the kick-off of DC's fourth consecutive weekly comic, this one shorter than the other three, and featuring the industry's top talents on a wide variety of DC properties in an unusual format. Here's the solicit, which, barring any last minute changes, includes the final information about the project:

WEDNESDAY COMICS #1-4
In July, DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with WEDNESDAY COMICS, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today! WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28” x 20” tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14” x 20” page. Spearheaded by DCU Editorial Art Director Mark Chiarello, whose past editing credits include BATMAN BLACK & WHITE, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER and SOLO, each page of WEDNESDAY COMICS spotlights the continuing adventures of DC heroes, including:

—BATMAN, WEDNESDAY COMICS’ weekly cover feature, by the Eisner Award-winning 100 BULLETS team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso

—ADAM STRANGE, by writer/artist Paul Pope (BATMAN: YEAR 100)

—METAMORPHO, written by New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman with art by Eisner Award-winner Michael Allred (Madman)

—THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN, written by Walter Simonson (Thor, MANHUNTER) with art by famed DC cover artist Brian Stelfreeze

—DEADMAN, written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck, art by Dave Bullock

—KAMANDI, written by Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS) with art by Ryan Sook (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL)

—SUPERMAN, written by John Arcudi (The Mask) with art by Lee Bermejo (JOKER)

—WONDER WOMAN, written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell (Dare Detectives)

—GREEN LANTERN, written by Kurt Busiek (TRINITY, ASTRO CITY) with art by Joe Quiñones (TEEN TITANS GO!)

—TEEN TITANS, written by Eddie Berganza with art by Sean Galloway

—SUPERGIRL, written by Jimmy Palmiotti (JONAH HEX) with art by Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL)

—HAWKMAN, written and illustrated by Kyle Baker (PLASTIC MAN, Special Forces)

—SGT. ROCK, written by Adam Kubert (SUPERMAN: LAST SON), ilustrated by legendary comics artist Joe Kubert

—THE FLASH, written by Karl Kerschl (TEEN TITANS YEAR ONE, THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE) and Brenden Fletcher, illustrated by Karl Kerschl

—METAL MEN, written by Dan DiDio with art by Ian Churchill (SUPERGIRL)

WEDNESDAY COMICS will arrive in stores folded twice to 7” x 10”, with the first issue set to reach stores on July 8. Issue #1 on sale July 8; Issue #2 on sale July 15; Issue #3 on sale July 22; Issue #4 on sale July 29 • 1-4 of 12 • 7” x 10”, 16 pg, FC, $3.99 US


I'm tremendously excited about this. That line-up is full of folks I'll buy just about anything by—Paul Pope, Kyle Baker, Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, Joe Kubert, et cetera—but there aren't really any slouches in the bunch. I'm leery of editor Eddie Berganza, whose comics tend to be bad ones, writing, but artist Sean Galloway mitigates that concern. Well, and then there's the Metal Men feature by DiDio an Churchill, who collaborated on a super-shitty Blue Devil story in which grown-up Charlie Brown and Linus kill Snoopy in a ritual sacrifice to raise a killer Great Pumpkin that ran in DC's supremely awfully Infinite Halloween comic.

But otherwise it looks like a whole bunch of top talent on some of DC's biggest and quirkiest properties.

I was a bit surprised by the $3.99 price tag, as cheaper seems a better way to go with a weekly than more expensive (of the three previous ones, the most successful was the cheapest one), but I'll gladly make an exception to my no-super-comics-over-$2.99-for-22-pages stance for such an interesting project.

Even with all this info, I'm still a little confused about some aspects, including how it will work/what it will look like and what the paper stock will be like, and am curious about some other aspects, like how it will be received and how it will eventually be collected, given the unusual format.

At any rate, I'm extremely excited about this comic. In fact, I can't remember the last time DC or Marvel announced such a promising sounding project.

As for the rest of DC's July plans? Well, there are some that sound like winners, and some that sound like losers. Here's what looks best/worst to me...



In this issue of Batman, by Judd Winick and Mark Bagley, someone…what, breaks a couple thermometers on Batman’s head…?


Batman: Streets of Gotham #2
Written by Paul Dini; co-feature written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs; co-feature art by Georges Jeanty & Karl Story
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
In this second issue by the dynamic duo of Paul Dini (DETECTIVE COMICS) and Dustin Nguyen (BATMAN), Commissioner Gordon teams with the new Batman to combat the fiery threat that Firefly has spread across Gotham City. And to make matters worse, the mysterious adversary known only as Abuse makes his presence felt!

Meanwhile, in the Manhunter co-feature, now that Kate Spencer is the new District Attorney of Gotham City, will she use her legal power or her Super Hero identity to find the killer of the previous D.A.?


New Batman, same old fucking villains.



Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #6
Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art by Stephen DeStefano
Cover by J. Bone
It’s the magic of Shazam versus the magic of King Kull! Winner take all!


Oh fuck yes! I like Mike Kunkel’s Shazam just fine but man, if him not being on the title gets us Stephen DeStefano comics, then good riddance Kunkel!

DeStefano works in animation, so his comics art is way too rare, but he drew the original (and best) Jingle Belle story for Paul Dini, when Oni was still publishing it, and he illustrated the framing sequence for the Bizarro Comics anthology and it was fan-fucking-tastic.


DC COMICS CLASSICS LIBRARY: BATMAN — A DEATH IN THE FAMILY HC
Written by Jim Starlin and Marv Wolfman
Art by George Pérez, Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett, Mike DeCarlo and Bob McLeod
Cover by Jim Aparo
The Batman classic of the 1980s is collected in a hardcover featuring stories previously released seperately as BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY and BATMAN: A LONELY PLACE OF DYING for the first time in one place! Including BATMAN #426-429 and 440-442 and THE NEW TITANS #60-61!

Readers were invited to vote on the outcome of this story — and they decided that Jason Todd should die! In this tragic tale, Jason lived up to his hot-headed reputation, ignoring his mentor's warnings when he attempts to take on The Joker by himself and paying the ultimate price. Driven by anger, with Superman by his side, Batman seeks his vengeance as he looks to end The Joker's threat forever.
Advance-solicited; on sale September 23 • 272 pg, FC, $39.99 US


Er, DC? You guys know you brought Jason Todd back to life right? Kind of invalidating these stories, which are The Story Of How Jason Todd Died, and The Story Of How Grief Over Jason Todd’s Death Drove Batman Insane(-er).

These were among the first Batman comics I ever read, and I liked them both a lot. I was just a teenager at the time, but I remember “A Lonely Place of Dying” being pretty darn emotional for young Caleb, as was, obviously, Death in the Family. And, of course, Aparo does some of the best work of his career in the former.


THE DEATH OF THE NEW GODS TP
Written by Jim Starlin
Art and cover by Jim Starlin and Matt Banning
Witness the decimation of the Fourth World in this trade paperback collecting the shocking 8-issue miniseries! Someone's killing off the New Gods. Who — or what — is responsible? How is Darkseid connected to them? And will Superman, Orion and Mr. Miracle be able to uncover Darkseid's schemes before it's too late?
Advance-solicited; on sale August 5 • 256 pg, FC, $19.99 US


Wh— buh— Why? WHY?!


GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #2
Written by Paul Dini
Art and cover by Guillem March
Tommy Elliott, a.k.a. the villainous mastermind known as Hush, has escaped the confines of Batman’s headquarters and is wreaking havoc throughout Gotham City all under the guise of Bruce Wayne. Will the loose assemblage of Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn be enough to stop the madman’s rampage? Or are Gotham’s femmes fatales doomed to fail before they even begin?


Aw come on, Hush? Fucking Hush? Dini just did a story with Hush. I really want to read this series, as I like Guillem March’s art an awful lot, but I don’t think I can stand to read any more of Dini writing Hush…


JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE #1
Written by James Robinson
Art and covers Mauro Cascioli
What brings a team together? Justice! Batman and Martian Manhunter have been slaughtered. But he’s not the only hero to fall at the hands of villains. The murder has to stop, and it’s time to take the fight to the bad guys! Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Atom, Shazam, Congorilla and Starman unite in a cry for justice!

This 6-part miniseries from James Robinson (STARMAN, SUPERMAN) and rising star artist Mauro Cascioli (TRIALS OF SHAZAM) pushes our heroes to the brink and beyond as evil can no longer be tolerated to win. But when Prometheus plans his revenge on not only the heroes, but on the very places they call home, will this new team be ready to pay the cost for the justice they seek? This time it’s personal – and it’ll only get more bloody before it’s over!

Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers by Mauro Cascioli that will be separately orderable. Cover A shows the left side of the image; cover B shows the right side. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 1 • 1 of 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US


Hey, that James Robinson-written ongoing Justice League comic they announced back in...when was it now, 1987?...is finally coming out. Let's see here, "this time it's personal"..."more bloody"...sounds just delightful. Also delightful? Each issue will come with half of a cover! Good looking out, DC.

On the plus side, it's a Justice League comic that might not be unreadable, it has a pretty interesting cast (Congorilla) and the first issue is $3.99...for 40 pages. See Marvel, DC can do it, why can't you?



JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #29
Written by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges
Art and cover by Jesus Merino
A new era begins for the Justice Society of America as writers Bill Willingham (FABLES) and Matthew Sturges (BLUE BEETLE) take over the series with new artist Jesus Merino (SUPERMAN ANNUAL) just as two new recruits make their debut with the team! Strange happenings at the JSA Mansion are weird precursors to an all-out attack on all members of the team — all but one! And what is the strange connection that new members King Chimera and All-American Kid might have with the turmoil?


I'm totally dropping this after #28, although seeing that Merino will providing art does cause me some pause. That guy's not too bad with a pen and pencil.


Check out this sweet Nick Cardy Spirit cover:
Sweet, huh?


TEEN TITANS #73
Written by Bryan Q. Miller; co-feature written by Sean McKeever
Art by Joe Bennett & Jack Jadson; co-feature art by Yildiray Cinar & Júlio Ferreira
Cover by Joe Bennett & Jack Jadson
In the first feature, the team attempts to rescue Wonder Girl from the new Fearsome Five, as Calculator enacts his revenge on the team for not protecting his children. In the 10-page co-feature, Ravager faces the drug problem that could kill her!
On sale July 29 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US


So after whatever happened between Sean McKeever and his editors that resulted in the last issue of Teen Titans bearing a credit reading “original story by Sean McKeever” and no one credited with writing the comic...
...it looks like the new writer is…Bryan Q. Miller?

Who?

Teen Titans has been selling poorly, and selling more poorly each month. Barring something unexpected—like new, big-name creators— I sense cancellation in the near future, now that it’s jumped to $4 price tag.


VIGILANTE #8>
Written by Marv Wolfman
Pencils by Rick Leonardi & John Stanisci
Cover by Walter Simonson
Vigilante must risk his own identity in order to save FBI agent Laura Temple from the Costume Serial Killer. But is Vigilante actually helping her – or is he playing into a bigger trap?


Speaking of cancellation, the new Vigilante series still isn’t canceled! Will it hit the one-year mark? I didn’t think it possible, but by July it will be two-thirds of the way there