Thursday, October 29, 2009

Like, Friday night. Or maybe Saturday? Definitely Sunday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weekly Haul: October 28th

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #10 (DC Comics) In this issue, Batman grows into a gigantic green, fire-breathing kaiju and tries to smash a prison full of convicted criminals. It’s up to The Atom to get really big and punch him in the face until Green Arrow can find the antidote. That is a very good plot for a comic book right there.

Blackest Night #4 (DC) When I first noticed Geoff Johns’ tendency to lionize the character of Hal Jordan, it was kind of eye-rolling (No way he punches Batman out like he did in Rebirth!) Then it got pretty annoying. Then it got kind of hilarious. Now I think it may be moving beyond hilarious and into embarrassing.

“The only one of us who didn’t worry about fitting in was Hal,” The Flash Barry Allen says to Mera and Ray “The Atom” Palmer at one point in this issue, trying to explain that the Justice League was made of outsiders. “He let the rest of the world fit in around him.”

Yeesh. The Flash then goes on to explain that the only hope the heroes of earth have is to ask themselves what Hal Jordan would do: “So right now, God help me for saying it, and if you ever tell him I’ll deny it, we need to act a little more like Hal. We need to run in, take charge and kick ass like we were born to.” (That’s all I’m going to quote because the next two lines are far too mortifying to type, even for the purposes of mocking).

This latest instance of characterizing Hal Jordan by everyone talking about how awesome he is aside, this fourth chapter was the one where the miniseries really started to feel like a big DC crossover, as it’s just packed with superheroes, supervillains and the undead, Black Lantern versions of both attacking.

There are some pretty clunky lines, there’s some senseless gore (Ray Palmer destroys the first Atom by growing inside him and ripping him apart), and there’s some downright silly character juggling here and there (particularly getting the Golden Age Atom and all three of his legacy versions in the same place at the same time), but if you like DC superheroes as much as I do, there’s no denying it’s also an absolute blast.

Unfortunately, it’s only 25 pages for $3.99. What’s up with that, DC? Why are you guys trying to pull a Marvel here?

Green Lantern #47 (DC) Hal Jordan wasn’t in this week’s issue of Blackest Night, because he was off in outer space, trying to assemble a new Corps featuring a member of each color. So far, he’s got a yellow lantern (Sinestro), a pink one (Carol Ferris) and an indigo one (Indigo-1). They fight a couple of Black Lanterns. Meanwhile, the red lantern Atrocitus goes after orange lantern Larfleeze.

It’s really nicely drawn by Dough Mahnke and Christian Alamy, although it consists of little more than variously colored versions of Green Lanterns fighting—sometimes just bickering, other times tearing one another apart.

Incredible Hercules #137 (Marvel Comics) I’m not 100% certain, but I do believe Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente ended this issue with a full-page splash page that simultaneously serves as an homage to John Romita and makes fun of Chris Claremont. This is the conclusion of the Amadeus Cho storyline that’s been alternating with the Thorcules storyline, and it’s naturally not quite as hilarious as the previous issue, but it does feature some pay-off of various plot stands that have been running through the book since it’s existences, some of which have been running through the book so subtly I didn’t always realize they were even there all along.

King City #1 (Image Comics) As you may have noticed over if you’ve been reading for very long, I’m a real cheapskate when it comes to buying comics, so I was a little surprised that I finally broke down and spent $2.99 on this. I’ve already read and own the contents of this comic, in the original manga-sized digest format that Tokyopop published it in, but when I saw how cool the cover for the second issue was, I decided maybe I should invest in rereading King City, especially given the bigger, squarer magazine-like format. I really dug King City the first time around, and I like it even better like this, I think.

Wolverine Art Appreciation (Marvel) Speaking of comics I really didn’t need to buy, here’s a $3.99 collection of all seventeen (17) “Wolverine Art Appreciation Month” variant covers form March of this year. What can I say? A lot of those covers were extremely cool—Paolo Rivera’s Wolverines-playing-poker remains a favorite—and this seemed the best way to get ‘em all at once.

I appreciate Marvel’s attempt to add value to the project through the format, although it’s not the collection of these I would have wanted if I was allowed to design my own version.

Most of the covers appear as full-page splashes on the right-hand side of the book, while the facing page contains a little art lesson about the artist or style being paid homage to, some quotes from the artists about working on the various pieces and a little biographical information about each.

It’s definitely interesting reading, but it’s hardly worth $4, and, unfortunately, some of the covers are presented as much smaller than the full-page presentation that most of them have. I would have preferred a lot more pages for this much money, and it might have been a neat idea to fill it out with other, past Wolverine covers and artwork.

Oh, and if you see this in your shop, you should at least pick it up and feel it. The covers seem to have been printed on wallpaper. I certainly like the way the book feels; I’ve been absently petting it off and on all afternoon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Note: I am still kinda liking Incarnate

Radical Comics’ Incarnate #2 was released earlier in the month, on October 6, but I just wanted to take a minute to point out I’m continuing to enjoy it a lot more than I expected to prior to actually trying it.

The involvement of a kinda sorta celebrity, the weird tangle of credits, the multiple covers (many of which don’t reflect the contents at all)…on paper, Incarnate seemed to suggest one of the many ambitious Virgin Comics miniseries, the bulk of which ended up being pretty terrible.

But, um, also on paper…like, the paper it was actually published on? Incarnate is really not bad at all.

I like the $4.99-for-56-pages format and the fact that it has a spine like DC’s old prestige format books (the end result being you can stand it on a bookshelf with trade paperbacks if you want, making it a more versatile format to live with once you’re done reading it and have to find a home in your home for it). I like all the ads being house ads, and appearing only in the back, after the comic itself is done (Aside: How is it that Radical can afford to publish so much comic for so cheaply, and to not sell any advertising, whereas DC and Marvel can’t? Or is it just that the two biggest publishers in the direct market don’t want to, more than can’t?)

I also really like the colors, something I tended to not even notice until the last few years, when computer coloring effects got so completely out of control that I can barely stand to read many books, and the default mode for whole lines of comics tends to be dark, muddy and tightly photo-referenced.

The art in this book, which seems to be provided manga studio style given the strange credits (a penciller, an inker, a colorist and three credited “art assistants”), is nice and flat, and the design is simplified and cartoony, and the coloring works with that.

Despite the Jo Chen cover, this insides of this are a comic book that looks like a comic book. Random panels wouldn’t, couldn’t be mistaken for stills from videogames or album cover art.

The story is moving extremely quickly, and parts of this issue seemed to be setting up a sort of ongoing premise, so I’m somewhat confused by the fact that it’s actually two-thirds over…unless writer/artist Nick Simmons and Radical are planning on the series of mini-series model.

The character Mot, a “revenant” (which here is a sort of immortal, vampiric creature) and his friend have been captured and fitted with special obedience collars fashioned from the bones of other revenants (since only revenants can hurt and kill other revenants). They are both under the control of a rich young spoiled blond teenager, who forces Mot to attend her school with her and act as her bodyguard.

Also, she might have a crush on him. And also, he might be attracted to her, despite denying it.

See? Not a bad premise for, say, a manga series.

In this issue, the revenants are much further differentiated from vampires than they seemed to be last time around. There’s a goth-punk female one who sprouts six big black bird wings from her black, another which has all kinds of insect-like body-parts hidden beneath his clothes and skin, and one named Anubis who transforms into something like this:

It’s a pretty neat design, one that looks like what one would expect a character named Anubis to look like, but it simultaneously looks unlike any version I’ve seen before. (Note the ditch he digs with Mot’s face as drags it around the ground above).

Even Mot himself seems to conceal a more alien, monster form:

And it's two-thirds over, so it only has to stay good for about another fifty-some pages!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The ineffable Abraham Lincoln/Uncle Sam brawl

This is the cover of The Second Part of the Secret History of The Ineffables, a self-published comic book from Craig Bogart, a local comics creator and member of the Panel collective:
Who are The Ineffables? Well, you can find out pretty much everything you need to know here on Bogart’s website, under “Who are the Ineffables?” They’re a sort of Fantastic Four/Challengers of the Unknown science and exploration superhero team, and they defend the mysterious city of Mystery City.

Among there members are Mason, some sort of stone…alien…man…thing that looks like one of those things on Easter Island heads climbed out of the ground to reveal a whole body, and then proceeded to go on adventures.

Another member is Abraham Lincoln who, as Bogart’s site explains, “faked his death to investigate a Confederate plot involving the Fountain of Youth, he has rejoined The Ineffables as the world's toughest patriotic comic character!”

Does that sound awesome? If so, you and I concur on what makes for awesome comics, so please read on. If not, you may want to skip this post, as I’m just going to go on pointing at things in this comic and saying, “Isn’t this awesome?”

As the title indicates, this comic is the second part of a story about the team’s “secret history,” and while I’ve read some earlier issues of the series a few years back, I did not read the first part of the secret history story.

And, believe it or not, it doesn’t really matter all that much. This was a completely accessible and enjoyable single issue of a superhero comic that seems to have been created—consciously or unconsciously—with the idea that it may be someone’s first exposure to the Bogart’s comics world.

Accessible, new-reader friendly superhero comics that stand on their own as complete works, whether they are part of a larger, ongoing narrative or not—a radical concept, I know.

It opens with a Justice League-like superhero team team known as The League of Protagonist battling Professor Iniquity on his satellite base, and even the mighty Mister Protein and Emasculatra can’t seem to fight their way through his secret weapon.

Which means Lincoln has to take off his shirt:

He was booted off the team shortly after that, having proved he was maybe a little too hardcore, a story he explains to a bartender while throwing back drinks.

He tells the attentive bartender how his new team The Ineffables have died. Without spoiling one of the neater, big crazy ideas in this comic, the border between the worlds of the living and the dead were broken down, and the city was being overrun with the undead.

This allowed Mason to recruit new teammates who have gone on to their final reward to help them save the day:
And you better believe that infiltrating the headquarters of the billionaire industrialist bad guy, defeating him and saving the day will require the ability to drive things very fast, several skills learned in scouting and extremely cool jazz music.

Unfortunately, the battle to restore the border between the living and the dead results in Lincoln’s Ineffable teammates ending up in the land of the dead, hence his drinking in a bar telling sad stories about his past.

At this point, his bartender can take it no longer:
Holy shit, is this the Abraham Lincoln vs. Uncle Sam battle you’ve wanted to see your entire life, perhaps without even knowing it? It is! But I won’t scan that page; I’ve probably spoiled enough of the issue as it is.

Suffice it to say that Uncle Sam punches Lincoln so hard that he pierces the veil and ends up in the dimension of the dead with his teammates, who must find a way out of the afterlife and back to their home…but not before they learn something shocking about the nature of the universe.

It’s great stuff.

I’m generally pretty leery of self-published work, for the obvious reasons (including the fact that I’m working on self-published stuff and, rest assured, it is not very good), but Bogart’s book continued to surprise me with fun stuff. It’s plotted like a less-serious Fantastic Four and full of goofy gags given completely deadpan delivery, and while Bogart is no Jack Kirby (this isn’t a book I’d likely buy for the quality of the artwork alone), it’s clear, easy to read and gets the job of transmitting what’s in Bogart’s mind to a reader’s mind through the eyes, which is what comics art is supposed to do.

In other words, the art works, and the writing works great, making The Ineffables…well, at the risk of closing on an overly-obvious joke here, there’s something ineffable about it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here are some more drawings of whales:

I fell behind schedule today, so I'm going to phone this one in harder than I've ever phoned a post in before. Here are some drawings of whales made by a six-year-old artist of my acquaintance. Here is a picture of a little girl and a narwhal:
And here's one of an orca and a narwhal:
Pretty great, huh?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Superman! What are you teaching the children?!

There aren't any penguins in the arctic!

Unless, of course, you simply mean that zero is "enough" penguins to have in the arctic, in which case I guess it's okay. But I really wish you'd set a better example for the impressionable young Titans.

(Panel from this past week's Tiny Titans #21, by Art Baltazar and Franco)

Friday, October 23, 2009


In Wednesday's post about the week's new comics, I mentioned page 16 of Batman Unseen as a perfect example of both writer Dough Moench's and artist Kelley Jones' particular strengths, and how they work well together.

I tried to explain it in words, but a pictures worth a thousand of 'em, and this page is composed of a half dozen little pictures.

It's a scene in which two gunmen try desperately to shoot down and kill an invisible man that they know is somewhere in the room, before he can kill them. Obviously, a pretty challenging scene to communicate, but they do a hell of a job of it through extremely specific sound effects and Jones' background patterns in key panels. The explanatory line "He caught it!" seems superfluous.

Here's a scan of the page:
And I just love that last panel.


I've seen the above image, the cover to Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, a couple of times over the course of the last few days, accompanying stories about Nickelodean's purchase of the TMNT (A move which I'm afraid I don't have much of anything to say at this point. I'm not sure exactly what it means, and while it seems unfortunate from a symbolic standpoint, I don't actually know how it will impact the turtles comics. I hope it won't interfere with any collections of the clasic material; I'm looking forward to reprints of plenty of issues in trade form still).

That image is, what, 25 years old now? I've probably seen it off and on over the course of the last 20 years or so. And yet I never noticed until just this morning that Donatello, the turtle on the far right holding a staff, is also carrying a sword on his back.

I don't know why this blows my mind exactly, but it does...particularly because that sword must have been perched on Donatello's shell there for decades and for some reason I never noticed.

This cover image, for September's Blackest Night #3, is much, much younger, and has only been around since around June or so, when DC would have first solicited the issue. I didn't notice until just yesterday, when I was looking for a Blackest Night cover image for a post on Blog@, but there are little Lantern Corps symbols floating around in Firestorm's hair/flame thing. Neat.


Red Sonja looks awfully comfortable for someone wearing a metal top and sitting on a stone chair, doesn't she?


Here's Marvel Editor-in-Cheif Joe Quesada talking to Kiel Phegley about Marvel's upcoming event series Siege:

I personally feel that the big events are an important part of our publishing arsenal, but if we keep tapping that vein, it would eventually be a tool we wouldn't be able to use any more because it would wear out its welcome.

I love that sentence. Is it even possible to work any more metaphors into it?


Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine had a post recently dedicated to has got to be one of the most horrifying comics stories ever published by a Gaines: "Peter and Pinky in Meat Land." It's the charming tale of a little boy who is visited by a magic elf that tells him about the origin of cooked meat (a Chinese boy discovers the charred bodies of his dead pigs after a barn fire and notices that they taste delicious), and then transports the boy to an actual slaughterhouse, so he can see where meat comes from (i.e. slaughtered animals).

The story was published in a 1947 issue of Tiny Tots. I assume every tiny tot who read it grew up to be a vegetarian because holy shit you guys. This is the most fucked up comics story I've ever read, and I'm pretty sure its not even trying to be fucked up..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Tokyopop's Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted

Coffee and doughnuts. Batman and cartoons. Comics and books. Despite the plethora of combinations of great things that go great together, there is no hard and fast rule that states any pair of great things will automatically go great together.

Take, for example, The Ghostbusters and manga.

I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to mention The Ghostbusters on this site before, but I was a seven-year-old boy when the original film came out and, suffice it to say, I was a fan (Even though I had to close my eyes every time the terror dogs were on screen).

It was a great movie*, but, more importantly, it was a great idea for a movie, which drove my affection for the concept and the characters for so long as a kid. Like Star Wars, it was the kind of movie you could play at recess, and dress up as your favorite characters as for Halloween.

Certainly animators found an awful lot to work with, producing a good five years worth of a cartoon series based on the movie that was one of my favorites growing up.**

I didn’t read comics as a kid, so I missed Now’s series based on the cartoon entirely, and while I tried an issue of a more recent miniseries, from whoever published the one that had Daniel Brereton covers, it was pretty terrible, and scared me away from dropping cash on any of other Ghostbusters comics projects I’ve seen float through the new comics rack at my local shop.

And then I spotted this on the shelf in the teen graphic novel section of my library:
Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t all that great either.

It’s certainly a strange book. It’s apparently an OEL manga-style comic, as the…let’s see…seven creators who worked on it all seem to live in America and have, with the exception of one writer, English-sounding names. It’s dimensions are between the standard manga digest and a standard Western graphic novel, although the 200 pages are all in black and white and the storytelling is…somewhat like what you might expect from Japanese comics, although not entirely.

It’s technically an anthology of three different stories, although it’s broken into six chapters, with the second through fifth chapters all comprising one big story, and the first and last being standalone stories.

The two shorter stories that bookend the bulk of book are pretty fun, and feature the strongest artwork, but the long middle story is pretty dreadful, and I have a hard time making sense of the book’s organization.

The first story is entitled “The Theater of Pain,” and is written by Matt Yamashita with art by Maximo V. Lorenzo.

It’s where I first realized how challenging illustrating a Ghostbusters comic book must be. I have no idea what deal Tokyopop has with Columbia Pictures and/or the actors playing the characters, but I assume they weren’t allowed to just use Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and company’s likenesses. Similarly, they probably couldn’t use the cartoon character designs, which took pains to individualize the protagonists by giving them each a different hair color and jumpsuit color.

The artists here have to individualize the four main character designs without making them look two much like the characters one probably thinks of when one thinks of the Ghostbusters, and they also can’t rely on coloring to help out.

So basically they’re drawing three middle-aged, dark-haired white dudes in matching jumpsuits, and, less often, a middle-aged black dude in a matching jumpsuit.

That can’t be easy, and it wasn’t easy as a reader always telling who’s who—particularly considering the frequency with which the artists change. Winston was the black guy, and Egon wore glasses, so I could usually figure them out pretty quickly, but Ray and Peter were more difficult, and, depending on the artist, I often had to rely on dialogue clues.

As for the first story, it struck me as a pretty New York sort of story, dealing with the theater scene, which seems appropriate for a Ghostbusters story. It also reminded me of something that could have been an episode of the cartoon—a one-off adventure dealing with a particular ghost in a particular setting, with a beginning, middle and end. It was light-hearted and a little bit silly.

Producer Blintzy Jones is putting on a theater spectacular, a musical called Runaway Romance, about jet fighter pilots in love. It’s the sort of modern Broadway play with all kinds of crazy special effects and suchlike.

It’s also haunted. To save the show and get to the bottom of the mystery, with Peter directing and Egon starring. They eventually discover it’s the ghost of a theater critic that’s cursed the show, and are able to appease him only by producing his play.

Lorenzo’s character designs are, for lack of a better word, cute:
He uses a lot of panels per page, resulting in figures that look small. They’re composed of a lot of thin lines, and highly cartoony, although not necessarily in a manga style. He does slip quickly through different gradations of exaggerated design in a way that’s quite evocative of manga, with his funnier characters always looking funnier than his straight characters, and when someone’s doing something funny, they become more abstracted.

Here’s a page featuring the Blintzy Jones and the three Ghostbusters:
See how different Blinzty looks from the protagonists? I think Lorenzo did a pretty great job with his designs for the characters. Even out of context, if you’re familiar with the characters from the movies, you shouldn’t have much trouble putting each of those faces to the proper name, based only on their appearances and the word or five of dialogue each speaks.

The next few chapters all interconnect into one story, and this is the one I thought was the weak one. It’s written by Nathan Johnson and features art by Michael Shelfer, though Lorenzo is credited with “inks and tones,” which does mean many of the shadows cast resemble those in the first story.

It’s a pretty typical superhero comic sort of story, an evil opposite one which seems vaguely familiar, as if maybe I had seen a cartoon episode along similar lines before, but that may be simply because the idea is such a perfectly symmetrical one that it seems like someone should have done such a story before if they haven’t.

It stars Jack Hardemeyer, a character I had to look up on the Internet even though I’d just watched Ghostbusters II a couple of days ago. He was the city bureaucrat played by Kurt Fuller, essentially reprising the interfering, unbeliever Walter Peck role that William Atherton played in the original.

He’s down on his luck and blames the Ghostbusters, but ultimately allies himself with some ghosts as part of a revenge plot. His new friends essentially become Ghostbuster-busters, using reverse-engineered versions of our heroes’ gears to capture their souls and put them in a special human soul containment unit.

Each chapter follows one of the four Ghostbusters as they go out on a case of some sort solo and get busted; in the fourth, Winston frees the other three.

The solo stories that comprise each part of this storyline vary in quality, with the Egon one probably being the strongest, as it features a rather clever, unexpected reversal regarding a ghost.

There’s nothing particularly funny or exciting beyond those two neat ideas though, and Shelfer’s designs not only look much different than Lorenzo’s, they are even harder to distinguish.

Here are headshots of all four Ghostbusters, for example:
The art is softer and rounder, with bigger panels and thicker lines, and there’s a youthfulness about the characters that seems inappropriate. Egon, for example, looks like Peter Parker from Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

There are also a couple of passages where I just completely lost track of the action, which is never a good sign.

The final story is also the strongest, so the book definitely goes out on a high note. Yamashita writes this one as well, and it’s drawn by Chrissy Delk, who is probably the best of the three artists involved with the book (at least form what's in evidence between these covers).

There is a (perhaps too) youthful-ness to her designs as well, but they’re quite distinct, and the characters are easy to distinguish:
This is even more apparent when they’re outside their jumpsuits, as they are for a lot of this one.

Yamashita again provides a rather New York-specific story, in which the city provides some of the color.

The team follow a strange sense of dread and a trail of Egon’s reading (PKE readings? Is that what that thing with the little arms was called? A PKE meter?) to an expensive fashion boutique.

It turns out its run by a designer who serves Heel, an evil ancient Sumerian god that is creating “harsh and punishing” fashion that possesses those who wear it and turn them evil.

Heel appears in the form a giant high heel shoe.

Here’s a panel of heel sending some possessed minions to attack the Ghostbusters:
Note how Delk has them attacking as if they’re walking on a catwalk. Neat.

Before their final battle with the entity, the Ghostbusters must engage in a bit of fashion war, promoting jumpsuits as the not new thing, and then taking Heel on with their proton packs.

He/she/it retaliates by using magic to dress them in evil fashion that attempts to crush their bodies:

It doesn’t work, of course, and they save the day. And look good doing it:

So, like I said, kind of a weird book. I hated some of it, liked some of it, and even kind of loved some of it. I’d certainly be interested in reading more Yamashita-written Ghostbusters comics, and more Lorenzo and Delk-drawn ones. But Tokyopop really needs to work on their presentation.

*I just re-watched it and its sequel last week too, so I can state with confidence that the original remains a pretty great movie, and held up much better than I thought it might. I’m not sure why the terror dogs scared Young Caleb so much though; they’re just Muppets. The sequel was much less terrible than I remembered it being, too, but there’s quite a gulf in quality between the two.

**This I
haven’t rewatched at all since my initial exposure, so I have no idea how it holds up. I'm kind of afraid to seek it out, for fear it might actually be completely awful


RELATED: While searching for images of the cartoon character designs, I stumble upon the website of The Orlando Ghostbusters. Included in their gallery is this image, of model Lexi Katt dressed as the cartoon’s Janine:

Wow. I haven’t been to any big conventions before and never much understood the excitement regarding dressing up as characters and cosplay, but I guess I just haven’t seen enough ladies dressing up as cartoon characters I had a crushes on in grade school.

Speaking of which, I wonder what will happen if I Google “Lady Jaye” and “cosplay”…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weekly Haul: October 21st

Batman Unseen #2 (DC Comics) The only thing better than having DC seemingly narrow-casting a particular comic book miniseries to appeal to me personally, is scheduling it to come out every two weeks instead of every four.

This is more fantastically stylized Kelley Jones art and crazy, over-heated Doug Moench dialogue (Example: “Behold--The Unbeholdable!”) devoted to a story of Batman trying to track down a mad scientist who has become a modern-day version of The Invisible Man.

Page 16 is probably a perfect example of what makes these two creators so talented, and how well they work together. It’s just six panels, in which two armed criminals try to gun down an invisible man, but it’s hard to imagine another writer/artist team so clearly depicting what happened. Could any other writer have so perfectly come up with the sound effects for a gun being knocked out of a man’s hand, spinning through space and being caught? Could any other artist have reinforced that through background patterns, or have revealed the invisible face of the killer as a leering skull shape superimposed on the cloud of gun smoke?

Keep these guys together and making Batman comics, and I’ll forgive you for just about anything, DC. Like a couple of the other books of yours I’m about to review.

The Brave and The Bold #28 (DC) Writer J. Michael Straczynski raises an interesting, actually mature issue in this done-in-one team-up between The Flash Barry Allen and the Blackhawks, but he unfortunately immediately proceeds to ignore it.

When peculiar circumstances leave The Flash stranded in Belgium around the time of the Battle of the Bulge and stuck there with the Blackhawks for a few weeks, he’s forced to reevaluate his vow against killing.

Blackhawk yells at The Flash for merely throwing an avalanche of bricks at a bunch of German soldiers instead of shooting them dead, with bullets (I would think being struck with several bricks thrown at super-speed would be just as deadly as being shot with a rifle, but I’m no physicist).

Flash says he made a vow to never take a life as The Flash and Blackhawk essentially calls him a pussy, and Barry bows to peer pressure, narrating: "The Flash doesn’t kill. The flash doesn’t carry a gun. But Barry Allen, American, can do those things in the uniform of his country, which is at war."

So, does Barry kill or not? JMS dodges, slipping into a montage during which Barry narrates, “The days blur into a cloud of gunfire, smoke and death.”

If Blackhawk were reviewing this comic, I think this would be the point during which he calls JMS a pussy.

I was just thinking about this last week, when I watched Wonder Woman kill another villain in Secret Six. The fact that the DC superheroes—particularly the Justice Leaguers like Barry Allen and pals—don’t kill is vitally important not only to maintaining their heroic virtue, but the illusion of the DC Universe in general.

Barry can make an exception for some German soldiers, but he can’t put down The Joker or Vandal Savage or whoever?

See, the heroes’ vows to never kill are necessary because they balance the whole experience of reading DC Comics. It might not be realistic that they refuse to kill under any circumstance, it might make someone like Batman seem like a complete psychopath for refusing to kill and so often saving the life of The Joker, but that’s how it’s got to be, because DC can’t afford to lose all its Jokers and other villains.

Allowing Barry Allen to kill here but not there asks readers to reassert the disbelief they suspended in order to read their superhero comics in the first place.

Besides, what is and isn’t realistic in a DC comic book is pretty relative anyway. Even unable to run on both legs, Flash is still super-fast, and is thus able to catch every bullet shot in his and the Blackhawks’ direction.

Given his god-like, miraculous powers, there’s no reason he couldn’t disarm and capture every German soldier he encounters over the course of a few weeks. Barry Allen deciding to fight with a gun strikes me as a lot less realistic tan just having him do what he usually does.

And I don’t understand why Blackhawk’s so pissed off about the enemy being captured instead of killed. When he and his team are confronted with a surrendering enemy, do they just put bullets in them, because they prefer dead Nazis to unconscious or captured ones?

Beyond the frustration of seeing JMS bring up a moral quandary for a superhero and then proceed to ignore it on the way to a pat "The Greatest Generation sure was great" statement, the comic was certainly competently scripted. And Jesus Saiz’s art is certainly solid and occasionally quite good-looking, although he doesn’t seem to have matched up with JMS quite perfectly yet.

For example, the second page is a full-page splash, but it just looks like a waste of space, with Saiz providing a simple, uncomplicated image of The Flash in a running pose racing a laser beam, with speed lines filling up the empty space that accounts for most of the page:

Justice League of America #38 (DC) The exciting new creative team of writer James Robinson and pencil artists Mark Bagley (inked by Rob Hunter), begin their run on DC’s troubled flagship title with this issue. They're off to a pretty rough start.

On the first four pages, Blue Jay (remember him? Don’t get used to him!) thinks about how worthless he is while an unseen foe throws coloring effects at him and talks at him in a shouty, all-caps font, ultimately killing him (Oh, should I have included a spoiler warning? DC put it in their preview of the issue, so I assume it’s not supposed to be a secret or anything). It’s a little like 2005’s Countdown to Infinite Crisis one-shot, in the way that that was about a self-loathing Justice Leaguer from the ‘80s getting murdered to act as a blood sacrifice to whatever dark gods James Robinson and Judd Winick and all those guys who start off their superhero comic by snuffing superheroes worship.

Then we transition to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, where Vixen, Plastic Man, Dr. Light II and Red Tornado have all gotten together to talk about how much they all think they suck (This has been the plot of this title for about six months now, hasn’t it?) Vixen mentions that she had her leg broken in several places by Prometheus, and an asterisk helpfully informs us to “See Justice League: Cry For Justice mini to see what Vixen is talking about.”

Since I was still in the shop when I read that scene, I went to the shelf and picked up the latest issue of Cry, #4 of seven, to look for a scene of Prometheus fighting Vixen and the Justice League. It’s not there.

So I guess the little editorial box meant “See future issues of Justice League: Cry For Justice…maybe sometime between next month and February? As long as there aren’t any more delays, of course…to see what the hell Vixen’s talking about.”

Then Despero appears with Gypsy, they all fight, and Zatanna shows up to say “What the hell are you guys doing here? Blackest Night is set at a different Justice League base, let’s go crossover with it!” And so they go, the last page showing Black Lantern Dr. Light I (Yes! The only thing better than a supervillain who is also a rapist is a supervillain who is also a rapist and a zombie cannibal!) standing over a big red box reading “NEXT: Blackest Night.”

So JLoA remains a pretty terrible comic, but here’s the thing—it’s at least readable now. Mark Bagley can at least draw a page of comics that looks, works and reads right—and he can keep it up for 22 consecutive pages.

Justice League of America has thus moved from “completely unreadable” to “pretty bad.” That is progress.

(For a much more charitable review, you can see what my colleague Troy Brownfield had to say on Newsarama).

Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #16 (Marvel Comics) This came out last week, but I picked it up this week because a) there wasn’t much else out and b) I found out after the fact that the plot revolved around Hercules.

It’s by Paul Tobin, and is about three superheroes whom he apparently chose at random—Giant-Girl, Spider-Woman and The Beast—trying to piece together Hercules’ day, after the Lion of Olympus falls unconscious from the moon carrying a cryptic message that are either field notes on an anti-Hydra mission or a to-do list or…something.

Denis Medri is the artist and does pretty good work, but is one more artist who is unable to make me understand The Beast’s weird shorts and how they stay up.

Tiny Titans #21 (DC) Don’t think I didn’t notice that you guys just called upon the magic of computers to re-use that image of the entire Pet Club assemblage five times at the climax, Baltazar. It’s Matilda the Minotaur’s waving that’s the giveaway.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marvel's January previews reviewed

Marvel's turn! What have they got planned for January of next year? You can see for yourself here, or you can just read on and take my word for it...

SIEGE #1 (of 4)
Pencils & Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL
Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Sketch Variant by OLIVIER COIPEL
Beginning with the ravaging affects of Avengers
Disassembled and following the aftermaths of House of M, Civil War and Secret Invasion, culminating with the evil Reign of Norman Osborn, the Marvel Universe has been left with its greatest villains holding more power and control than ever before. On the brink of madness, Osborn, in his final bid to take total control, targets the final obstacle in his mission...Asgard. Events are set in motion forcing our heroes to put aside the deep rifts that have grown over the past seven years. Opposing them stand a horde of evil that has begun to take down the gods of the Golden Realm! SIEGE will rock the foundations of every super hero, villain and team in the Marvel Universe. As an era ends, one word will ring above all others...”SIEGE.”
40 PGS./Cardstock Cover/Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hey, it's Marvel's next big tent-pole event storyline! Ever since they announced the name of this one, I've been wondering who exactly would be laying siege to whom, and I assumed it was either the Osborn-led bad guys or the good guys who would be the besieged and the siege-ers, but boy was I off.

I'm not really sure I quite get the premise of this, as going from America's Nick Fury to Ruler of Asgard seems like a pretty big promotion—Why not seize control of America or the UN first or something?—and I guess I wasn't aware that the Norse pantheon was really the be-all and end-all of power in the Marvel Universe. Is that a bigger deal than conquering Olympus? Or wherever the Celestials hang out? Or the Christian Heaven?

At any rate, it seems a little out-of-left-field-y to me, but then, I haven't been following the Bendis-written spine of the Marvel Universe since Secret Invasion ended. Maybe it's more logical in the context of the Bendis books.

On the surface, it doesn't sound too terribly appealing. Bendis tends to be pretty rotten at these sorts of stories, particularly when it comes to the endings. I hated the non-ending of Avengers Disassembled and House of M, but talked myself into Secret Invasion, thinking it had to be good, since it was supposedly the culmination of everything Bendis had written in the Marvel Universe so far and, well, that also just kind of meandered into another resolution-free non-climax. Now this is being promoted as the actual culmination of everything Bendis has written in the Marvel Universe so far and...well, I think I've learned my lesson (And now that his books are so damn expensive, I'm less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt).

Also, why is it Bendis' turn again already? I thought he and Mark Millar were taking turns with Marvel's big event stories? (Not that Millar's much better really, but he's at least better at the big, stupid action movie-like beats than Bendis is).

HULK #19
Written by JEPH LOEB
Pencils & Cover by ED MCGUINNESS

Written by GREG PAK

Written by JEFF PARKER

January's going to end up being a pretty big month for Marvel, I'd imagine. In addition to their "Seige" event storyline, which should at least theoretically be comparable to Secret Invasion in terms of sales, they've got this Hulk mini-event storyline going on. I'm kind of torn about it, since I like Pak and Parker (and McGuinness and Pelletier), but fear Jeph Loeb's scripting. I suppose I could just skip the Loeb parts, but I have to imagine he had some level of input in the event in general, and if there's a mathematic formula that can apply to this event—That is, something along the lines of Pak + Parker > Loeb—I haven't figured it out yet.

Loeb's presence in the Hulk line is what kept me from trying any of the Hulk books post-World War Hulk, and I imagine that will continue. Still, some of these books sure sound and look fun.

Written by JEFF PARKER
Variant Cover by GABRIEL HARDMAN
Spacetime is being selectively eroded by an unknown force. To stop the effect, the Agents of Atlas seek the help of the Avengers- and find a much earlier version of the team than they expected: Captain America, Iron Man, Wasp, Giant-Man and Thor are together again, with the atomic wildcard THE HULK!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hmm. It looks like Parker will follow the current X-men Vs. Agents of Atlas miniseries with an Avengers one, which will be twice as long (And maybe oversized? Note the "40 PGS" up there). It looks like Marvel's going the Power Pack route with AoA for the time being, which suits me just fine.

There are going to be some real relaxed, chair-sitting motherfuckers in this January's Marvel comics...

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by LUKE ROSS
The monthly CAPTAIN AMERICA returns with a bang! Where has the Captain America from the '50s been the past few months, and what part of our modern world has welcomed him? And what will Steve and Bucky do when an old enemy tries to become a revolutionary? TWO AMERICAS begins here! By best-selling writer Ed Brubaker with art by Luke Ross. Plus, the start of a Second Bonus Feature - NOMAD by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Looks like Marvel is definitely going to be biting DC's more-than-22-pages-of-content-for-$3.99 model, at least for some of the books, and thank goodness for that. They're adding a $1 to the Cap monthly, but they're also adding a "Second Bonus Feature" (Just say back-up! There is no shame in being a back-up! That Archie Goodwin/Will Simonson Manhunter story was a back-up, and everyone loves it!)

For those of you reading Cap, is this particular feature a good fit? The character is obviously connected to the Captain America franchise, and while I'm not currently reading Captain America or the Nomad miniseries by the same creative team, it at least seems like the general aesthetic of the art and the focus of the stories are somewhat divergent. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Just wondering. I'm sure it's better than Marvel raising the price a $1 and not giving readers anything in return, so if it was a choice between 22 pages of Captain America for $3.99 and 22 pages of Captain America plus eight to ten of Nomad for $3.99, the latter has got to be preferable.

Oh, and it looks like Brubaker's next story arc will be called "Two Americas." Presumably this means the story will revolve around Captain America learning about what John Edwards has been up to while he was dead/unstuck in time/whatever, and deciding to track him down and punch him in his stupid face.

Written by DANIEL WAY
Penciled by PACO MEDINA
The X-Men? Pfft! Not really Deadpool’s style. Though he’s still committed to doing this “hero” thing, Wade’s more of a “lone wolf” kinda guy, out there doing his own thing. Y’know…thwp-thwp.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$2.99

Tch. Look at this shameless appeal for Chris Sims’ attention and affection…

This is a very nice cover.

Written by JEFF PARKER
Penciled by FELIX RUIZ
A young man has travelled billions of miles through space in a rocket to help our world. But is Earth of the 1950's ready for a new super hero? Before he became the dark figure the Agents of Atlas call The Uranian, Bob Grayson raced through the skies as Marvel Boy! From the critically acclaimed writer of AGENTS OF ATLAS and FALL OF THE HULKS: ALPHA comes this all-new look back at one of Marvel’s first heroes!
48 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Have I ever mentioned that I just don't get Marvel?

Their Agents of Atlas title isn't selling so great, so they semi-cancel it, demoting it to a back-up and replacing it on the schedule with a couple of crossover miniseries with more popular teams (The X-Men, The Avengers). Okay, that makes sense and is rather cool of them. But why push it with another Agents-related mini at the same time?

I suppose they could just focus on Marvel Boy as a character instead of as a part of Agents of Atlas, but it still seems close enough for me to wonder about Marvel's willingness to flood the market with more books than seem logical from my side of the comics publishing/comics buying relationship.

Oh well. I like Marvel Boy and I like Jeff Parker and this is probably oversized (48 PGS...$3.99), so I'll probably be buying this. Along with that other AoA mini. And Incredible Herc, where AoA will be running as a back up, so I guess I personally proved that putting out a bunch of AoA comics in the same month won't cause fans to read fewer of them.

(One more thing. I think I would have titled this series Marvel Boy: The Hero From Uranus. That is why I don't work in comics).

And the cover they chose for the trade collection is the stupid one nobody liked and which looks nothing like any of the pretty great art actually in the book. Sigh.

Re-imagining the greatest Marvel stories through folktales, myths and fables from across the globe! In Avengers, see Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the rest of the Avengers as you've never seen them before with all-new interpretations of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. In SPIDER-MAN, Mary Jane fills the shoes of another famous red-head in this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with super hero sensibilities! Will Spider-Man be able to save her on her way to Aunt May's house? And in X-MEN, it’s a re-imagining of the tragic origin of Professor Xavier and Magneto! In the ancient African tale, “The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle,” dangerous circumstances cause two pals to take violently different life paths... Collecting AVENGERS FAIRY TALES #1-4, SPIDER-MAN FAIRY TALES #1 and X-MEN FAIRY TALES #2.
144 PGS./Rated A ...$14.99

I was thinking about these weird Marvel heroes/fairy tale mash-ups Marvel was publishing for a while during the week or two of the "OMG Disney bought Marvel!" news cycle.

This is a nice image, but doesn't quite seem right for an Oz book.

Namor looks surprisingly un-pissed off about everyone in New York checking out his ass.

I kind of hate myself for liking this cover so much. Maybe it's because it has Jubilee in her terrible, terrible "costume," but still manages to make it look like something not terrible to look at? I guess Colleen Coover will have a story in this Nation X thingamajig. Is she doing the Jubilee story? Huh, that kinda interests me in checking this out. Like, a little.

Barracuda murdered Frank Castle’s old friend Yorkie, but death’s not going to stop him calling in one last favor. Across the Atlantic on a bleak Welsh mountain range, Yorkie’s old S.A.S. squadron have come home from Afghanistan with a little something extra, and Yorkie’s son is taking his life into his hands by spying on the deadliest soldiers in the world. This is where the S.A.S. put their new recruits through hell -- the perfect place for Frank’s unique brand of vengeance. But is he the hunter or the hunted?
40 PGS./One-Shot/Explicit Content ...$4.99

Woah, woah, woah...The Punisher versus the S.A.S....? And this isn't written by Garth Ennis? Is taht legal? I thought Ennis created the S.A.S. and owns the copyright for those characters?


You guys all realize I'm kidding, right?

Written by JASON AARON
Penciled by STEVE DILLON
"KINGPIN," Part 3
Wilson Fisk's plot to become Kingpin of New York finally brings him face to face with Frank Castle, as well as drawing in a 97-year-old, shotgun-toting mob widow and a mysterious hitman known only as The Mennonite.
32 PGS./Explicit Content ...$3.99

They're not really calling this comic Punishermax, are they? There will be a space between the words Punisher and Max when it sees print, right?

Also, I do not care for that Dave Johnson cover, which is unusual, as Dave Johnson knows his stuff and I like his work. Hm.

Cover by Planet Terry, Wally the Wizard, Top Dog and Royal Roy return in this second selection of Star-studded sagas! Learn the Secret of the Space Warp! The fate of the Folkquest! The history of the world's greatest dog-spy and the lore of Cashalot! See Mister Invisible, Moorloks and more! Collecting PLANET TERRY #3-4, TOP DOG #4-6, WALLY THE WIZARD #3-4 and ROYAL ROY #3-4.
216 PGS./All Ages ...$19.99

Ha ha, nice placement of the laser-firing joystick thing, cover artist!

S.W.O.R.D. #3
Agent Brand, Beast, Sydren, Beta Ray Bill, Marvel Boy, Jazinda, Karolina and all the other aliens on Earth have been captured by Henry Gyrich and his “NO MORE ALIENS” agenda. Only one person can free them and save the world: Lockheed.
32 PGS./Rated A …$2.99

I was never the least bit interested in this title until I saw the cover for this issue. Is this the single best piece of art John Cassaday has ever produced? Don't be silly and think about it. That was a rhetorical question. Of course it is.

Written by JEFF PARKER
Thunderbolts vs. Agents of Atlas—round 2! The hunt down in the swamp comes to a head when one of the T-Bolts ends up dead! There's not going to be much time to cope either, because Norman Osborn needs his team of killers ready for a final mission—and this is what he's been saving them for!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

See, and here's even more Agents of Atlas!

Monday, October 19, 2009

DC's January previews reviewed

It's my favorite Monday night of the month, the Monday night in which I can just cut and paste DC's solicitations for comics to be released a few months in the future and call it a blog post! This time, it's the publisher's plans for January of 2010. You can see them in all their glory here, and you can read my pre-judgments of them below.

First up, January is the month that DC is resurrecting old, canceled titles from the "dead" as part of their "Blackest Night" publishing event, which revolves around dead characters returning from the grave.

I talked about these undead comics featuring undead characters a little in Thursday's post, during which I wondered about the artists (last week, DC announced the titles, characters and writers, but not the artists). Here are the full creative rosters for each:

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ryan Sook

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Julian Lopez & Bit
Cover by Guillem March

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art and cover by Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes

Written by Eric Wallace
Art by Don Kramer & Michael Babinski
Cover by Tom Feister

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover by Cully Hamner

Written by James Robinson
Art by Fernando Dagnino & Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover by Tony Harris

Written by Dan DiDio
Art by Renato Arlem
Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

Written by John Ostrander & Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore
Cover by Daniel LuVisi

None of them strike me as perfect teams, in which the original and/or ideal writers and artists are back (James Robinson and John Ostrander on Starman and Suicide Squad, for example, but with new artists; Denys Cowan's on The Question, but with a new[-ish] writer). At this point, The Atom and Hawkman and The Question are the only two that seem like they'll definitely be both good looking and well-written for the purposes of the event, but I imagine I'll end up checking out some of the others when I get a good look at 'em on the Wednesday of release.

Nice cover! I enjoyed the first issue of this series, but decided to drop it after it was announced the creative team on the lead feature was only around for about a story arc (This issue, #6, is apparently their last). I look forward to the trade though. Francis Manapaul does an incredible Krypto.

Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Cover by Phil Noto
In “Core Requirements” part 2, Stephanie Brown finds herself teamed up with Damian Wayne! The new Batgirl and the new Robin must enter an area of Gotham City known to Gothamites as Devil’s Square, but to the residents, it’s called “Thunderdome”! Their mission: to save innocent civilians from being used in a real-life game of life and death!

Oh, is Damian going with Wayne as his last name, instead of al Ghul? Because al Ghul sounds a lot cooler, and doesn’t have that weird near-rhyme effect to it that Wayne does.

This makes me wonder what Alfred and Dick are doing with Damian when he’s not Robin. This may be addressed in one of the Bat-books I’m not reading (although there does seem to be some disconnect between some of the books, as the world thinks Hush is Bruce Wayne in Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens, but Lucius Fox seems to be either looking for Bruce Wayne or ignoring “Bruce Wayne” to bug Grayson about business stuff in Batman and Robin).

Are they passing Damian off as one of Bruce’s sons publicly, or do they just keep him in the bunker all the time? Because Bruce just adopted Tim and Dick recently, so it’s gotta seem weird that after years of only having a ward, Bruce Wayne is suddenly gathering and adopting dark-haired boys like he was planning some sort of reality show or something.

Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea
Cover by Tony Daniel
The unthinkable happens when Batman and the Penguin join forces to thwart the mass murder and mayhem of their common foe, the Black Mask. Plus, Batman confronts an adversary from days past who has a score to settle with The Dark Knight.

I had previously misidentified Batman’s adversary on this Tony Daniel cover as Spawn. Having now read the solicit, I think it may actually be The Reaper, from Batman: Year Two, which you just don’t hear about as much as Batman: Year One for some reason.

Also, “unthinkable?” I read Batman: Gotham Underground, Solicitation Writer. I may wish I hadn’t, but I have.

Written by Sam Kieth
Art and cover Sam Kieth
There’s a new killer prowling Gotham City preying on the homeless. Batman has his suspicions, but is his normally rational mind playing tricks on him? When The Caped Crusader finally meets his suspect face-to-face, he finds that the creature knows much more than he should. Prepare for a stunning 4-part storyline written and illustrated by fan favorite Sam Kieth!

Interesting to see that this is an arc in Batman Confidential, rather than a standalone miniseries. Interesting, and welcome. This is following a Peter Milligan-written arc on the title, so it looks like they may be trying to recruit top notch, name talent for the title, instead of just illustrating publishing whatever pitches from TV writers they have in the slush pile.

I didn't much care for the last Kieth written and illustrated DCU comic featuring Batman that I read (Scratch), so I might just wait for the trade on this one. But it's still nice to see that they're publishing it.

I like this Dustin Nguyen cover to Streets of Gotham, because it makes me imagine a hideous monster with the head of Batman, the legs of a dude in jeans, and the giant head and arms of Robin for a body.

Written by Mark Waid, Scott Beatty and Len Wein
Art by various
Cover by Alex Ross
Collecting the origins of over fifty characters from Animal Man to Zatanna, including Batman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and many more, from DC’s hit weekly series 52 and COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS as well as several first seen online, featuring the work of some of comics’ top talents!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 17 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Was this previously released as a hardcover, or is this the first time a collection of all those little two-page origin stories has been released? If this is the first time, they sure took their time putting it together.

I suspect this will be a good, evergreen trade for DC, as it has the same sort of appeal of something like that DC Comics Encyclopedia book or the old Who's Whos, but with the added advantage of being little comics stories instead of prose. I can definitely see this being a perennially popular library purchase and Christmas present for comics fans.

Too bad about that generic, re-purposed Alex Ross cover, though...

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Jock; co-feature art by Cully Hamner
Cover by JH Williams III
It’s double the detectives with Batman and Batwoman in for part one of “Cutter”! Batwoman investigates a string of grisly attacks that have left the victims mutilated, or, worse, dead. But what does this case have to do with the kidnapping of a socialite from ten years ago, and what evidence can The Dark Knight himself bring to light on this macabre mystery? Featuring guest art by acclaimed illustrator Jock (THE LOSERS, GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE)! And in the co-feature, the Huntress and The Question find themselves in over their heads as a gunrunning case leads them to the business end of a double-barrel shotgun!
On sale January 27 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99


Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Pugh
Cover by John McCrea
Tommy Monaghan’s adventures as a Gotham City-based hitman for hire continue. In HITMAN: 10,000 BULLETS, now back in print and featuring issues #4-8 and HITMAN ANNUAL #1, a vindictive mob boss from Tommy’s past puts a contract out on him. With friends caught in the crossfire, Tommy must find a way to exact revenge on the mafia head.
Advance-solicited; on sale February 24 • 176 pg, FC, $17.99 US

The title story arc here is the second one from the Hitman ongoing, and it was by far my least favorite story in the series. It does see Ennis doing something pretty unexpected though, something he'd do throughout the series, which made it such a dramatic and unpredictable series. I'm kind of surprised to see the annual paired with 10,000 Bullets though. The annual is from the summer of 1997, whereas the story arc's from '96.

Oh shit, this also has the pretty sweet Final Night tie-in (it's kinda like Canterbury Tales, only with Gotham hitmen instead of medieval Christian pilgrims), and the introduction of this guy:
He has the best tagline on that cover, doesn't he?

Anyway, if you haven't read Hitman yet, be sure to pick up this volume. Because the next two story arcs are "Local Hero" (which consists of four issues of jokes at Kyle Rayner's expense) and "Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium," which pit our heroes against undead seals, penguins and other sea creatures about a decade before zombie comics were even cool.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy
Cover by Sean Murphy
Having an overactive imagination can get a kid through a lot, but it doesn’t change the facts: Joe’s still the kid in school that can’t fit in. He’s the victim of bullies. His dad died overseas in the Iraq war. And then there’s the Type 1 diabetes he has to live with. So is it insulin-deprived delirium or something much, much bigger that transports Joe to a land inhabited by all his toys – from ninja commandos to action robots to magical knights to star fleet captains? Is Joe really the savior of this wild fantasyland that’s been held under siege by dark magic and evil forces? With the help of a samurai rodent, is he ready to take back besieged castles and win the freedom of an oppressed people? Or is he just an over imaginative boy who could die if he doesn’t take his meds? White-hot writer Grant Morrison follows up his phenomenal BATMAN AND ROBIN with an epic adventure that’s Home Alone by way of Lord of the Rings accompanied with to-die-for art by future superstar Sean Murphy (YEAR ONE: BATMAN/SCARECROW, HELLBLAZER).
On sale January 20 • 1 of 8 • 32 pg, FC, $1.00 US • MATURE READERS

This seems a little uninspired for Morrison. The title gag is borrowed from a Disney Channel cartoon, and the premise sounds similar to that of a movie I imagined in my head while sitting through Small Soldiers at the movie theatre. That said, I'll still be checking it out—it is Morrison, after all.

Written by James Robinson
Art and cover by Mauro Cascioli
After a shocking loss, Prometheus reveals an even greater threat to the team than they thought possible! How will this new crisis change the face of the DC Universe? Find out in the penultimate chapter of this groundbreaking miniseries event!
On sale January 27 • 6 of 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Please don’t just be DC’s Identity Disc, please don’t just be DC’s Identity Disc, please don’t just be DC’s Identity Disc

Written by James Robinson
Art and covers by Mark Bagley & Rob Hunter
Be here for the start of a new Justice League era! The JLA have been getting a pounding in the last couple of months, but NO MORE! The team regroups with a new roster that will transcend time and space! Make way for the World’s Greatest Heroes – Batman, Green Lantern, the Atom, Green Arrow, Donna Troy, the Guardian, Cyborg, Mon-El, Starfire, Dr. Light and, yes, Congorilla! This issue features two covers by Mark Bagley which are seperately orderable. Cover A features Green Lantern and Green Arrow; Cover B features Batman and Mon-El. The cover images will be revealed online before the issue’s Final Order Cutoff date.
On sale January 20 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Odd. This is solicited as 40 pages for $3.99, just like Cry For Justice. I wonder if that means it will have extra story pages, or just be a bunch of weird back-up, filler material by Robinson, as has been the case with Cry. (If so, count me out, but I hope not, because I am interested in reading this thing).

I think I may have complained about the new Judomaster’s breast-as-the-rising-sun costume motif before, but I can’t remember if I pointed out that it looks like it may actually be a hand-me-down of Katana’s nineties costume, which I only noticed because I was just looking at old Outsiders covers.
Katana’s right breast is the rising sun though, not her left. Is this because she’s wearing a flipped version of a Japanese costume, reversed because American readers read left to right, whereas Judomaster is wearing an authentic Japanese one? Have I already thought way too much about this?

Written by Kevin VanHook
Art by José Luís & J.P.Mayer
Cover by Joe Prado
After things heated up in a firefight with the Red Tornado and Red Torpedo, Red Volcano has gone solo, abandoning his "little brother," the Red Inferno. Now, Red Volcano wants to meet the rest of his extended family – namely Red Tornado's human wife and daughter! Kathy Sutton and Traya find themselves exposed to the elements.But will the hazardous weather be too much for them to handle?

Okay, a tornado is a natural disaster. A volcano is a natural disaster. An inferno is a sort of disaster, that can be natural or manufactured. A torpedo is a weapon. Should Red Torpedo be, like, the Red Tsunami or Flood or Tidal Wave or Tide or something?

Fred and Velma have really been working out lately, haven't they?

Written by John Ostrander & Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore
Cover by Daniel LuVisi
John Ostrander and Gail Simone continue their epic team-up that begins in SUICIDE SQUAD #67! Suicide Squad has taken capture of Deadshot, forcing him to rejoin their ranks. But the Secret Six doesn’t see that happening any time soon!

Oh man, Calafiore? I guess his presence makes sense if this issue is a continuation of the Suicide Squad story from the "Blackest Night" zombie book mentioned up top, but man, this title is already's like they're trying to get it canceled.

Also, what's up with that cover? Is that supposed to be Bronze Tiger? Is he a were-tiger now or something? When and where did that happen?

Written by various
Art by various
Cover by Nick Cardy
DC’s classic gothic horror/romance from 1971-1974 is collected for the first time in this value-priced collection. This moody, atmospheric volume collects THE SINISTER HOUSE OF SECRET LOVE #1-4 and THE SECRETS OF SINISTER HOUSE #5-18.
Advance-solicited; on sale February 3 • 496 pg, B&W, $17.99 US

Woah, weird. I have seriously never, ever even heard of this series. I'll read it eventually I'm sure, but I'm pretty far behind on Showcase Presents collections with the word "house" in the title.

So I take it the weather in Skartaris is always pretty warm, huh?

Toyman II’s Composite Superman robot was probably the best part of Jeph Loeb’s run on Superman/Batman, so I don’t mind seeing it again. This is the cover of World’s Finest #4 though, and I’m not sure how I feel about the series, since I have zero interest in reading about some of the “next generation” of the World’s Finest team (Stephanie Brown-as-Batgirl III, Tim Drake as Red Robin, the new Nightwing and Flamebird). I guess I’ll see how reviews are and consider a trade purchase…or at least library-borrow…?

Woah, all of the Johnny DC super-title covers look great this month...