Friday, April 29, 2011

Comic shop comics: April 20-27

Brightest Day #24 (DC) Overall, I quite enjoyed Brightest Day as a series, and I bought and read all 24 of its issues. At no point did my enthusiasm for the series dip; sure, there were some issues I was less interested in than others depending on the amount of page-space given to which storyline, but over all I was always excited to read the next issues.

I know DC seems reluctant to try the same thing twice when it comes to their weekly and weekly-ish comics series, but this one they got completely right, and this is the model to emulate—a pair of writers working in concert, a different art team for each story segment ensuring a basic level of quality, every other weekly shipping apparently also helping keep the art looking nice (Compare Brightest Day visually to Generation Lost, which had different artists rotate issue by issue, and I think the superiority of Brightest Day particular artists for particular storyline’s will seem superior).

There were, of course, problems, and, in retrospect, the biggest seems to be the complete lack of foreshadowing of the big event at the end of this series, the return of the dude on the cover to the DCU (Plus John Constantine, which is kind of depressing—Hellblazer is DC’s longest-running comic book series after Action, Detective, Superman and Batman and is clearly working, why risk screwing it up like this?)

I don’t think the series did a good enough job of justifying the resurrections of Jade, Max Lord, Reverse Flash or Osiris, either; they did little more than cameo throughout the entire 24 issues.

But as for this issue? I thought it was a fairly satisfying conclusion, despite its reliance on decades-old Swamp Thing continuity, and the weird implications that come from Geoff Johns’ favorite characters re-creating the pre-“Anatomy Lesson” version of Swamp Thing to kill off Alan Moore’s version; as subconscious rebuttal or intentional homage, it’s a bizarre aspect of the story.

Also disappointing was the resolution of Deadman’s storyline, which deposits him right back where he was at the beginning, with a teensy tiny change. Other characters have been changed somewhat by the events of the story, however, and there’s a series of character-specific epilogues, some of which read like cliffhangers and promist more to come (Martian Manhunter and, perhaps, Hawkman get rather open-ended epilogues, whereas Firestorm and Aquaman get ones that are merely missing “To Be Continued in…” next issue boxes).

As a fan of some of these characters, I think it’s sort of unfortunate that DC doesn’t seem poised to capitalize on the momentum of this series in anyway that’s tangible right now. Sure, there’s Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing, which will presumably star Constantine and Swampy with plenty of guest-stars already on the schedule, and an Aquaman title by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis has been announced but not scheduled, but what’s next for Firestorm? For J’onn J’onnz? For Hawkman? Where do they go now?

DC’s next big event is “Flashpoint,” which, as an alternate reality story, seems like sort of an interruption, but perhaps that works out best—it allows the publisher to stall announcing, say, a new Justice League title starring The Big Seven and Firestorm until after Brightest Day was all wrapped up. Still, I wonder if the delay will result in an enthusiasm fans feel at the end of this series from simply fizzling.

I suppose it’s worth noting that this issue is 38 pages long, but has five single-page splashes and two double-page splashes (the latter of which follow back-to-back, blunting the impact of both). By page count, it’s just about double-sized, but by panel count? Not so much.

At any rate, congratulations to the creators and to DC for delivering a consistently entertaining bi-weekly series. In the future, I hope we get more like this one, rather than like Countdown or Generation Lost or DC Universe Online Legends.

DC Comics Presents: Night Force #1 (DC) This almost-trade collects the first four issues of the Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s short-lived 1982 horror series, and it’s a somewhat curious time to release it, given the relative obscurity of the characters and concept and their place in the DCU these days, but why say no to a chance to see more Gene Colan art?

It’s not terribly well served by the rather garish coloring (this is one of many old comics that would actually be better served by a black and white Essential/Showcase Presents format), and DC doesn’t seem to have done much pre-production work to get it into this format, and yes, I imagine once could find these four issues for less than $8 with some rigorous back-issue bin spelunking.

But I don’t have time for that, nor that much interest in the concept, so I welcomed the release in this format.

The storyline is no great shakes; Wolfman’s scripting is pretty melodramatic, and even pretty purple, but that is certainly part of the pulpy, faux-Gothic charm of the whole affair, as is the soap opera adult tone (This is a serious story taken seriously by the creators; it’s not for kids but told in a similar fashion to other DC comics from the era that were, and it’s not as hysterically over-the-top as the publisher’s current attempts at adult content).

The volume ends with two of the leads still intent on the rescue of young imperiled girl, so I have to assume future volumes are forthcoming. Five more oughta collect the entire original run of the series, and I guess there was a 12-issue revival in 1996, although that one was sans Colan and thus may not be of interest to whoever it was that thought they oughta collect this now.

DC Universe Online Legends #6 (DC) I was pretty disappointed to see Lex Luthor, Black Canary and The Atom all don Sinestro Corps rings and access their yellow light energy powers here, and not get neat-o Yellow Lantern costume redesigns. Half, maybe three-quarters of the fun of all those various Lantern rings constantly changing hands in the DCU is seeing artists and colorists whip up new costumes for the characters who put them on.

Instead, Luthor and company simply get yellow auras.

I was also disappointed with most of the art, which here ranges from terrible but readable to less terrible but readable, and Ed Benes’ sixth boring cover in a row (this one pretty far off model, as Future-Luthor has both eyes and Future-Atom both arms).I have enough affection for the characters and curiosity about the game I’ll never actually play to want to keep reading this, but it seems pretty crazy to drop $6 a month on something of such poor quality for a year or so. Maybe I’ll wait two years and borrow the trades from a library to sate my curiosity…

Green Lantern #65 (DC) Well I’ve already complained about Indigo Lantern John Stewart’s costume, Tucker Stone already made fun of the fact that it takes five people to ink a monthly Green Lantern comic and the gay jokes (By the way, what issue is that Guy Gardner “So we can get this party started” panel Tucker ran from? Because I kind of want to read the whole comic just to see that single panel in context and see if that makes it slightly less pornographic) and Don MacPherson already noted almost a third of the 20-page book is devoted to splash or “splashy” pages. What else is there left to say?

Admittedly not much. I was relieved that I didn’t have much trouble following the comic despite the fact that I missed two parts of the story arc—this “War of The Green Lanterns” story is running through all three GL books, but I only subscribe to one of them—and Doug Mahnke remains one of DC’s best artists, even if something is clearly broken in the book’s production process when they need three to five guys inking each issue for this long now.

John’s get-up aside, it was fun seeing the four Green Lanterns try on new rings and colors, and it was fun to see the four of them in the same story again for the first time in what seems like way too long—I thought John Stewart was going to be Hal’s partner as the second Green Lantern of their space sector (although a bit of dialogue in here makes me wonder if John and Guy didn’t switch sectors in one of the sattelite books), but I can’t remember the last time I saw Hal and John in the same panel.

The book read awfully quickly though, and was ultimately quite inconsequential—all of the events that take place within this issue are successfully implied by the cover of the next chapter of the storyline—which makes all those splash pages a little galling. There’s a house ad in this issue for the storyline, including a check-list of eleven comics. If all of the chapters are as short and breezy as this, then I wonder if this isn’t really a six-issue story being stretched out.

Tiny Titans #39 (DC) This is the “Pink” issue of Tiny Titans, and typical of Art Baltazar and Franco’s work on the title, it manages to find humor in references from as far afield as the 1978 Superman movie and recent Smallville episodes and working them into a gag-driven story that supplies all readers big or small will need to “get” the jokes.

In this issue, Alfred and the penguins are doing the Bat-Family’s laundry and the Super-Family’s laundry, and apparently when you mix the super-red red capes with other clothes, it turns everything pink.

So every member of both families have new, pink costumes this issue.

That’s every member of the Super-Familyand every member of the Bat-Family(By the way, is it just me, or is Batman like eight feet tall in that panel?).

Also, Tiny Cassandra is prominently featured in this issue, and I love Tiny Cassandra, maybe even more than Lil’ Barda.

Here she is trying to scare Alfred with scary rays in order to avoid having her costume washed:In conclusion, Tiny Titans remains the best thing ever.

Meanwhile, at the Ferret Press/Panel blog...

Comics writer and comics creator ringleader Dara Naraghi invited me to contribute a guest-post to the Ferret Press/Panel blog on the occasion of it's eighth anniversary, and you can check out the resultant "7 Covers" feature here. What subject did I choose? There's a pretty strong hint above.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meanwhile, on Blog@Newsarama...

I have a review of Matt Howarth's new graphic novella from AdHouse, The Downsized, up at Blog@ today. You can read it by clicking here. You can download a preview consisting of the first seven pages of the book by clicking here. And you can learn more about Howarth and his many works by clicking here.

Why's the black man have to wear the ugliest costume?

Okay, I'm sure there's a perfectly logical in-story reason for why each of the four Green Lanterns above gets what colored ring, and I'm sure race had nothing to do with it, but man, Indigo Lantern John Stewart's get-up is certainly grotesque compared to his fellow Lanterns' new costumes.Purple on purple glowing camo? Uggh. I can barely stand to look at him.

The others look like they basically have costumes that blend their regular Green Lantern costumes with those of the other Lantern Corps, but instead of putting Stewart in a purple version of his costume or an Indigo Tribe costume (which, as generic space native clothing, perhaps might have been decided against to avoid the appearance of a racist or at least stereotypical choice of who wears what), they put him in a costume that recalls his retconned career as a Marine sniper (Of course, Hal Jordan's not wearing a yellow bomber jacket, Guy's not wearing a red football uniform and Kyle's not wearing a blue Nine Inch Nails t shirt).

I'm not a fan of the Stewart-as-Marine portrayal, although I understand it's in keeping with the version of the character that appeared on the Justice League cartoon and is now the predominant one. I guess I've just read too many Batman comics over the years, but guns reveal a lack of imagination to me (plus, they're a coward's weapon, as Batman always says), particularly when they're ring-generated guns made out of space-alien wish-power capable of creating anything at all. Giving artists a reason to give him that costume seen above is another strike against it.

Anyway—John Stewart, what are you wearing, man? I think you might even look better in Carol Ferris' Star Sapphire costume than all-purple camo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dick Briefer's Frankenstein in Roger Langridge's Muppet Show Comic Book

In the third issues of Boom Kids' The Muppet Show Comic Book, collected in the trade The Muppet Show Comic Book: On The Road, Speedy Delivery Service drops off a very large, heavy package at the Muppet Theater, "Special Fright."

"Don'tcha mean special freight?" Pops asks, setting up the visual pun in the panel above. Does that particular rendition of that Frankenstein's monster look familiar? The appearance of his nose high above his eyeballs certainly calls to mind Dick Briefer's strikingly idiosyncratic version of the monster in his Frankenstein comics.

A second brief cameo of a Briefer-esque Frankenstein, this one even more closely resembling Briefer's monster, occurs in The Muppet Show Comic Book #11, which I previously reviewed here and which is collected in The Muppet Show Comic Book: Muppet Mash:

So if last night's post was my 2000th, that would make this post...

(By the way, it's Hank "Hawk" Hall)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Support your local comic shop: A cautionary tale

Thank God for the Internet and the U.S. Postal Service, without which those of us living in small, comic book shop-less towns would be severely limited in our ability to acquire new comics. For me personally, I generally have to wait for either what publishers and creators send me for review, or to wait until I visit the nearest, comic shop-having town. Or I can order graphic novels through a certain online book-seller that I now patronize on a monthly-ish basis.

In the past I never really liked to spend money on that particular vendor, or any of its competitors, because I'd rather my money stay in my community and go to local businesses...which is no longer an option. My experiences doing so have generally been fairly positive, but since I've been ordering more books through this online vendor this year, I have had a few negative experiences, ones which could easily have been avoided had I attempted to purchase all of my comics from a local (preferably locally-owned), brick and mortar comic shop or bookstore.

1.) I read Ghost Rider: Hell Bent & Heaven Bound, the first volume collecting Jason Aaron's run on the title about a year ago and really liked it, and had long been planning to read the rest of it. In March of this year, I finally got around to ordering the second and third volumes, The Last Stand and Trials and Tribulations.

Trials and Tribulations arrived within a week or so, and I had to set it aside until the previous volume, The Last Stand arrived. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into a month. And after weeks of a trade collection of a comic book series about a flaming skeleton who rides a flaming motorcycle and whips people with chains just sitting there unread, unable to be read, the online seller of books sent me an email letting me know that they were unable to find a copy of the book to send to me.

So now I have Ghost Rider Vol. 3, but I do not have Ghost Rider Vol.2, which prevents me from reading the volume I do have! Woe!

Obviously, if I were in a comic shop, I would be able to see with my own eyes that they didn't have a copy of Vol. 2 on the shelves, and would have passed on purchasing Vol. 3 at the time.

2.) I love Papercutz's reprints of Peyo's Smurf comics, and have been gobbling them up almost as soon as they become available. I ordered the last two, The Smurfette and The Smurfs and The Egg, online, and was shocked by what showed up. The former was in the paperback format, but the latter was a hardcover. I have paperback versions of the previous four, but the fifth one is a hardcover, which means it's also slightly larger than the other Smurfs books, which means now they look like this on my book shelf:Aaaaa! Look at the clash in sizes! Such discord! That will literally upset me for the rest of my life—not, like, constantly, but every time I glance at that portion of that book shelf.

I should note that it's just as likely that it's my fault that I got the hardcover instead of the trade version of The Smurfs and The Egg that it is that someone put the wrong book in the box headed for my house. And yeah, I'm sure I could easily have repackaged it and sent it back and got the paperback in return, but that's too much work. Easier to try and live with mismatched books on my bookshelf forever than to screw around with trying to exchange it for one that doesn't stick up a fraction of an inch higher than the other volumes.

Such a mistake would have been impossible had I picked that volume of The Smurfs comic up off of a shelf in comic book store.

3.) Worried about the fate of the Robert Langridge-made, Boom Kids-published Muppet comics now that the license has gone to Disney-owned Marvel—especially since Marvel announced a reprint in a different format—I finally got around to ordering the last three trades collect Langridge's The Muppet Show Comic Book, On The Road, Muppet Mash and Family Reunion.

It wasn't until they arrived in the mail that I realized the third of those, Family Reunion, only features a script by Langridge. Amy Mebberson draws it.

Now Amy Mebberson if a fine artist, and the only strike against her work is that it's not Langridge's. He has a very specific take on the characters and their strange existence as believably lifelike drawings of life-like puppets seen through a television screen. Langridge's Muppet characters at once resemble the Muppets from the TV show and comic book characters. It's a very difficult feat to pull off.

Mebberson does it really well with Kermit, but most of the other characters are simply well-designed, well-drawn comic book versions of the Muppet characters, and lack that dual reality vibe Langridge was somehow able to achieve.

I like her art just fine, but I probably would have passed on purchasing this volume if I knew it was devoid of Langridge's art (well, save for the cover). And I would have known that if I had bought it off the rack of a comic shop, where I would have taken the opportunity to flip through it before buying it.

So, in review: Please patronize your local comic shop over various Internet sellers of books if you are in a position to do so.


Those Muppet Show comics are all pretty, great, by the way.

Muppet Mash was my favorite of the three, and the one I'd recommend to anyone curious about the series (That, or the very first volume, Meet The Muppets).

Family Reunion is by far the weirdest one, and not simply because of the change in art style. In it, Waldorf and Statler are presented a bit like the Greek gods in Clash of the Titans '81, wearing robes, hanging out on the clouds and playing chess with game pieces shaped like the other Muppets, controlling their fate. Their "game" has rules slightly more complex than those of Calvin Ball, but essentially they introduce new characters to see the effect on the cast.

The most notable is Scooter's sister, introduced on the presumably non-canonical 1984 Muppet Babies cartoon to add a second female to the cast of characters on that Saturday morning take on the franchise (now that I think of it, why didn't they just use Janis?). She's a weird character to even think about, as is the whole Muppet Babies concept, since it is set in the late eighties, but features the characters as toddlers, when they were adults in the late seventies! Also, they all knew each other as babies? That doesn't jibe with much that came before!Oddly, the back of the book champions "The Return of Skeeter!" , but she's never referred to by name in the comic itself, only as "Scooter's sister" and other various vagaries.

The really dumb pigs from Muppets Tonight are also introduced, and I rather enjoyed their inclusion, as I knew very little about them (Muppets Tonight occurred when I was away from TV for a pretty long time; I do like that Pepe fellow I've seen in the movies though...I even read his book, which wasn't very good).

Skeeter is actually a good example of Mebberson's art on the books, since, likeMebberson's Scooter, she's very un-puppet-like. Her personality is pretty much what I remember from Muppet Babies: Athletic and gymnastically inclined and rival to brother Scooter (whom she calls a nerd) and other girl Piggy. Interestingly, she wears green-striped leggings, like Nanny, the headless adult who tended the nursery full of anthropomorphic Muppet Babies.

While I might have passed on this due to its lack of Langridge art, it's actually not bad, and there's some pleasure to be found in seeing how different artists approach the same characters (I always flip through all of Boom's Muppet comics just to see how everyone is designed, although I generally only read The Muppet Show one) and in seeing how Langridge and Mebberson fit characters from beyond The Muppet Show into the cast and premise.

Also, Every Day Is Like Wednesday gets blurbed on the back.


Oh, and before I close, I should probably note that according to Blogger, this marks my 2,000th post on EDILW. Sorry I didn't do anything better or more anniversary related, seeing as how--Wait, 2,000?! I've written 2,000 posts about comic books on this blog, give or take a few dozen on children's books or movies? 2,000 posts? Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The most disturbing image I've seen all week:

Yes, that's a lovingly-rendered drawing of Mary Worth's head attached to a sexy lady's head, smoking a cigarette, while Dick Tracy tells the chimera to stop sitting like that.

Context only makes it much, much more disturbing. Are you sure you want to know the context?

Okay, you asked for it.

That image is the last panel ofMike Peters' April 22 Mother Goose and Grimm strip, which alludes to 1992 Sharon Stone film Basic Instinct:Yes, this is a comic strip in which the punchline is Mary Worth's vagina.

I warned you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blogging about other blogs

Here's a Comics Alliance post compiling Dave Johnson's covers for Detective Comics. That run of TEC, from 2000's #742 to 2002's #768, was a pretty incredible run, all in all. It began at the conclusion of the "No Man's Land" status quo, with Greg Rucka writing, Shawn Martinborough drawing and Johnson mostly covering (John McCrea took over near the end), and came to an end as part of the "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive?" storyline and other cross-book crossovers.

I didn't like each individual story Rucka wrote during that time, but the book was awfully focused on Batman as crime fighter (one who worked closely with a particular police department), and, at the time, had adopted a two-tone coloring that was similar in effect to black and white (that is, one issue would be all black and white and blue) that gave the interiors very striking visuals to match Johnson's striking covers. It also featured back-up strips, with arts from the likes of Cliff Chiang and Steve Lieber. The whole Batman line at that time was pretty well-managed, and each book had its own distinct look, tone and focus. The above image is my favorite of Johnsons' TEC covers.


I can think of few better reasons to get into the making of comics than the chance to maybe someday win one of these darling awards.


Here's a post examining the success of Marvel's weird "Point One" initiative, in which certain ongoings would ship books with ".1" after the regularly scheduled issues number (for example, Captain America #615 and Captain America #615.1 might ship in the same month, and the latter was meant to be a good jumping-on point for new readers). The title—"Marvel's Point One Program Looks Like A Dud"—reveals the ultimate conclusion.

What was the problem, exactly?

In his close watch of Marvel's releases month in and month out, The Beat's Paul O'Brien has indicated that the ".1" issues didn't seem to follow much rhyme or reason in terms of when the book's shipped relative to what was going on in the titles they were trying to promote. The above linked-to Indignant Online post points out a lot of them simply weren't very good, or didn't seem to be doing what they said they'd be doing and that perhaps retailers simply didn't bite. I imagine the numbering being weird and confusing didn't help matters either. Oh well, at least Marvel has some very big, very long, very expensive commercials advertising their characters set to open in theaters across the country shortly—maybe those will help sell some comics to new readers.


I thought this Beat post on the new Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus as Thor movie tie-in was neat. Heidi MacDonald lays out the oft-proven truism that films (and, she says, TV shows, although I don't know how many good examples there are of those, beyond Walking Dead) only goose comics or graphic novel sales when there's a one-to-one relationship with a particular work (Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim, etc.), although if there's a strong link of some sort it can also produce a hit (She mentions the Azzarello/Bermejo Joker original graphic novel, which shared little beyond a character design with the Dark Knight movie; I'd argue a large part of its success was the huge PR effort DC put into making that book a success, including sending review copies to seemingly every media outlet that would accept one). She notes that the new Thor omnibus is doing pretty well on Amazon, despite being over 1,000 pages and costing about $125.

I'm not sure to what extent Marvel is pushing it as the inspiration for the movie, or as a tie-in to the movie (From what little I've seen of the film, I can't really even guess at what Thor comics or creators or stories its taking its plot points or inspiration from), but if Marvel were pushing a single Thor book as the one for fans of the movie to try, the omnibus sure would make sense, given how much profit must be involved with a book bearing such a price tag.


A couple of weeks ago, I talked about superheroines in bat-costumes and the color pink, prompted by Alan Kistler's discussion of the Batwoman from the 1990s' Batman animation, and shared some sketches where I messed around with Batgirl Cassandra Cain's costume, imagining what it might look like with some pink in it. Therefore, I was particularly amused to see this Source blog feature spotlighting Art Baltazar and Franco, and that the Tiny Titans creators were putting Cassandra in an all-pink costume (well, from the neck down, anyway), as part of their pink issue. That issue of Tiny Titans came out yesterday, but I unfortunately haven't gotten my copy yet. I do so love the way Baltazar draws Cassandra-as-Batgirl though, all trying to be scary.


I wish i didn't know anything about this: EDILW favorite Ross Campbell apparently worked on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pitch for Dark Horse, when the publisher was trying to get the license to do new turtle comics from Nickelodeon. Ross Campbell and the TMNT—two of my favorite things in the history of comics, together! You can see a ton of great artwork on Campbell's Tumbl thingee, by clicking here. In addition to sharing his sketches, Campbell offers his thoughts and insights on the characters and their various interpretations through various media. It's interesting to see his preferences (his favorite Shredder is the one with the magenta/pink outfit from the first live-action movie, his April is an amalgam of all the Aprils, but her hair is form the Mirage comics) and hear his thoughts on characters.

Of Venus, the female ninja turtle (The what now? Guess I stopped paying attention to the Turtles before she appeared?), he notes:
I always thought a female Turtle should look basically the same as the guys, she’s a reptile so she shouldn’t have breasts, especially not breasts somehow contained inside her chestplate (?!), and she shouldn’t need traditional/socially-acceptable human signifiers for female-ness, like curves, long hair, “shapely” legs, or being hotted up just because she’s female.
And on Casey Jones, he has this to say,
I don’t think I have any long-winded thoughts about him other than that he’s awesome.
Of course, Dark Horse didn't get the license; IDW did. The pressure is on now, IDW; are you guys going to be able to publish a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic that's anywhere near as cool as a Ross Campbell Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic would be? You better! (Although I have a feeling that's going to be pretty much impossible, unless IDW hires a creative team like, I don't know, Alan Moore and Paul Pope, or Grant Morrison and James Stokoe. Oh shit, can you imagine Bryan Lee O'Malley's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...?!) Well, maybe IDW can hire Cambell to do Turtle comics for them...?

The other too-bad thing about Dark Horse not getting the license? Their comics would have cost $2.99 or $3.50 an issue, whereas IDW's will almost certainly cost $3.99.


Damn you, DC Comics! I had no desire—none—to purchase any of the new trades reprinting Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hitman (one of my favorite comic book series of all time), and then you had to go and post on your Source blog that the new Ace of Killers trade paperback will include two rare pieces of artwork by McCrea.

Well, one of those pieces isn't really all that rare. It's the image that ran next to a profile of Tommy Monaghan from 1999 special DCU Heroes Secret Files and Origins, which was a Secret Files and Origins special that was a sort of grab-bag, including everyone with a book who wasn't covered in the other specials (Anarky, Martian Manhunter, Resurrection Man and Star-Spangled Kid were among the others included).

Oddly, the Source post refers to it as "from our previous WHO'S WHO series" (?), and, if you click on the image to see the text that runs alongside it—there are some quotes from McCrea where things like Tommy's real name and base of operations would have ran in the original special, it refers to the book as the DCU Heroes Secret Files, leaving off the and Origins. Huh.

The other piece is a nice-looking watercolor of Catwoman dominating Tommy, that was apparently a rejected cover. That one is new and rare, having never been published.

I'm still probably not going to invest in a trade collection of these comics I already have, but now I'm now I at least have a tiny bit of desire to do so, instead of none.


Speaking of DC's Source blog, here's yet more evidence that editor Eddie Berganza and I apparently have completely opposing views of what constitutes good comic book art (Berganza edited Teen Titans and JLoA, both of which have featured some of the worst art imaginable during the time he ran my opinion). In this post he talks up the talent of current JLoA artist Brett Booth, an artist whose style I so dislike and skill I so doubt that I dropped the book because of his presence on it.

Here's Berganza:
Ongoing JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA artist Brett Booth’s distinctive drawing style allows for some of the most exciting and eye popping work currently out there. One of my favorite things about Brett’s work is his ability to capture the subtlety of facial expressions so vividly that sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re not looking at photos.
I don't agree with a single word of that.

Berganza also says that this cover of Booth's is "thought-provoking": "Thought-provoking"...? I don't think that word can possibly mean what Berganza thinks it means. (My only thought upon first seeing that image was, "That's supposed to be Traci 13...?" And I wasn't confused by the costume, which looks more like something Black Alice would wear, as it's the cover of a Flashpoint mini, where altered appearances are par for the course; no, I was confused because she looks just like every other female character Booth draws. That is, the person holding the earth in that image could just as easily be Donna Troy)/

But back to Berganza's post—check out the pencil image. Is that Cthulhu? Is the JLA fighting Cthulhu? (I have no idea, since I dropped the book, since I don't like Booth's art).


Brigid Alverson, one of the six robots of Robot Six, pulled out an interesting quote from cartoonist Roger Langridge, who wrote the quickly-canceled Thor: The Mighty Avenger title for Marvel in this post. I wholeheartedly agree with Langridge's quote, which includes this:
I think it’s insane that DC have spent 70 years making Superman as big as Mickey Mouse, and branding him to be understood by parents as being pretty much as kid-friendly as Mickey Mouse, only to piss that brand away in a decade. Nothing wrong with doing mature content in comics – in fact, it should be encouraged as often as possible – but doing it with characters who are on your kids’ lunchboxes is kind of moronic. Take a lesson from Watchmen and come up with new characters for that stuff. And then go back to Superman and Batman and put the same kind of love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve been putting into all those rape scenes and body mutilations into something kids can read, and adults can also be proud to read because of all the love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve put into it, and make those the “real” versions.
On that first half, I guess I haven't thought much about how much work went into making Superman Superman (he's always been Superman, as long as I've been alive), or that it's possible to reverse the fruits of all that labor.

I don't think DC has completely pissed it all away, of course, as I know Superman is still on stickers and lunchboxes and tons of kid-friendly merchandise, but it is frustrating that kids can't really read a Superman comic right now (Batman is the only DCU hero with an all-ages comic of his own at the moment, although many of the big guns show up in Young Justice).

I do think R-rated superhero stories are fine as long as the heroes used are either lower-tier ones, or simply more flexible ones that can fit into those sorts of stories easily (That is, Batman, Green Arrow, The Spectre or Golden Age Sandman lend themselves to R-rated adventures better than Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Captain Marvel; same with The Punisher and Daredevil and Wolverine vs. Spider-Man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four). And they're even finer if those more adult-oriented stories weren't the default tone of the "real" heroes; you know, The Killing Joke was a prestige format one-shot, not a story arc in Batman or Detective Comics.


Finally, here's Chris Sims on "The 7 Most Dubious Drawings of Greg Horn," a post inspired by that weird-ass Catwoman image I mentioned in my last link round-up post. Like most of Sims' writing, it's a fun, funny piece, and one in which you might learn something (For example, for some reason I never even noticed the expression on that horse's face in the background of the She-Hulk cover; now I can't stop seeing it, even when I close my eyes!)

Also, apparently the Batman in that Catwoman image is black...? Is that for real? His chin does look pretty dark, but I assumed it was just a shadow or some weird effect from having a light-source embedded in his chest. If it's a black Batman wearing the current, in-continuity Batman costume well...damn, that image just gets weirder and weirder. It's the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland of creepy superhero fetish art.

Also, I should note that I own two prints by Greg Horn, as I discussed in this 2008 post—they're both prints of the images used on covers for this series:


Quick programming note: Due to extreme business at my day-job this weekend (I work for the Easter Bunny, drawing the eyes on Peeps along one of the conveyor belts in his factory, if you must know) EDILW will go update-less until Monday.

Meanwhile, at Blog@Newsarama...

The above three-panel sequence is from Daniel Clowes' latest book, Mister Wonderful, and offers a pretty good example of one of the ways in which Clowes uses comics to tell a story that couldn't be told in other media or, at least, couldn't be told in the same way in other media. I have a review of Mister Wonderful up at Blog@Newsarama, if you'd like to read it. If not, here's the gist of my review: Mister Wonderful is really good.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sayonara, Tokyopop

I realized today that I’ve only mentioned the shuttering of Tokyopop in passing, in the midst of one of those review columns I do where I blab about each book in the stack I bring home from the comic shop from a few days ago.

It’s a big story though, if for no other reason then the fact that it represents the end or death of Tokyopop, and thus provides an opportunity to eulogize the publisher.

Here’s what I wrote Sunday, when Neko Ramen Vol. 4’s turn in the column came up:

I know hardcore manga fans and comics creators and observers have likely had a lot to complain about regarding the publisher and its management over the years, but I think it’s an indisputable fact that they’ve done as much as any other publisher (and a hell of a lot more than most comics publishers) to interest a new generation of readers in the medium of comics. (Mainly, through their bookstore-sold, $10, 200-page trades).

In the days since the Tokyopop news came out, we’ve seen plenty of those fans, creators an observers airing a lot of those complaints.

I would like to take an opportunity to point out how important Tokyopop is and was though, and how much credit the publisher deserves for helping get comic to the very good place it’s currently in (and I mean comics as in comics in general, not just superhero serials or the direct market, both of which are in their traditionally dire straights).

I think Brigid Alverson did a pretty fine job of it in this post she wrote, actually, a post bearing the title “The Comics That Changed the World” (And for tons of commentary on Tokyopop, I’d suggest one start with this massive list Tom Spurgeon has assembled at his Comics Reporter site).

In the past decade or so, manga in general—meaning Tokyopop as well as Viz and Dark Horse and ADV Manga and Yen Press and all the other players big and small—have changed comics, publishing and pop culture in general, in ways that are obvious now and probably in ways that will become more obvious in a generation or so.

1.) Manga got new people reading comics, especially females and young people, two groups that the direct market has had great difficulty in interesting in comics for decades now.

2.) Manga opened up the big, chain bookstore market, filling shelves and shelves with sequential art, and also making those bookstores more comics friendly and comics savvy in general.

3.) Manga opened up the library market, again, not simply for manga—which has been something of a phenomenon within libraries over the course of the past decade, as librarians realized that they were high circulation items that, again, interested a new audience (teens, mostly). The success of Fruits Basket and Naruto and Deathnote within individual library catalogs would then convince librarians to add more and more graphic novels to their collection, as they were wise investments for libraries, in a cost-of-material-to-number-of-circulations formulation.

Tokyopop was obviously a large part of those accomplishments, and I imagine any bookstore or library that carries much manga also carries a lot of Tokyopop books.

In the last few days, I’ve seen Tokyopop credited with helping popularize the default cheap, manga-digest format, with helping popularize “authentic” right-to-left manga which made repackaging art cheaper for a publisher (and appealed to fans and manga-ka) and with helping popularize shojo.

Were they the leaders on all of these fronts? I don’t know. In the long run, and in the broadest terms, I don’t know that it really matters so much which publisher did what amount of what, not as much as it matters that it was done. Tokyopop was definitely a big part of a big movement, whether they spearheaded particularly elements of that movement or followed other publishers, and comics is much better place, in much better shape, than it would have been without Tokyopop.

A long aside: It also occurred to me that, specific to that publisher now, they helped introduce me to several great creators. My first exposure to artist Ross Campbell of Wet Moon, Water Baby and Shadoweyes, for example, was a 2006 Tokyopop release, The Abandoned. I first saw Becky Cloonan’s name and work in East Coast Rising. Tokyopop’s King City was actually the second place I encountered Brandon Graham’s work (After 2004 Alternative Comics release Escalator), but I bet tons of people first met Graham via his Tokyopop book.

I realize there are a lot of problems with Tokyopop’s handling of creators like the above mentioned, but I’m glad I read all of those comics; Campbell and Graham are among my favorite artists at the moment, and have exciting futures in the field ahead of them (As does Cloonan, I’m sure; I just haven’t read quite as many things from her as I have from Graham and Campbell though).

Because of its ready availability in libraries, and my own relative poverty, I don’t buy nearly as much manga as I read any more (At my flushest, when I was an editor for an altweekly, I used to buy two new volumes a week, and if it were a light Wednesday for serial super-comics, and I was below the pre-established amount I budgeted to spend at the shop each week, I’d get an extra volume).

I still have an awful lot of manga filling my bookshelves though. Wait…

Okay. I have just under 250 volumes of manga in my office/library at the moment, with “manga” being loosely defined as comics from Japan, Korea or Hong Kong or China, translated and published for a Western, English-reading audience, as well as a handful of original English language comics packaged and sold in a format similar to manga collections, by publishers that primarily publish manga (So East Coast Rising counts, but James Stokoe’s Won-Ton Soup from Oni Press does not).

Of those 250 volumes, 80 are from Tokyopop, and 75 are from Viz. I have 23 volumes of manga from Del Rey, 14 from ADV Manga, and less than that from each of the other publishers (Comics One, Dark Horse, CMX, Drawn and Quarterly, etc).

So 32% of the manga volumes I own are from Tokyopop, the largest percent, although 30% of the manga volumes I own are from Viz (Also, I’ve been reading Viz longer; the first manga volumes I ever purchased were Viz Ranma 1/2 collections, which were bigger and more expensive than the current collections, as the digest-size and $10 price-point hadn’t yet become the default one when I started reading).

Is that typical of other manga readers’ collections, in terms of the make-up of the publishers? I don’t know. But I’ve bought (or been sent a lot of review copies) of a lot of Tokyopop books over the years.

Here, in no particular order, are all the Tokyopop books on my shelf. Inno particular order, that is, other than the order in which I typed them while sitting in the middle of my office floor with my laptop:

A.I. Love You Vols. 1-5 (Negima and Love Hina’s Ken Akamatsu; not that good)

King City Vol. 1 (Brandon Graham’s Image series, before it was an Image series)

Love Hina Vol. 1-14 (I don’t care what anyone says, I love this series)

Shirahime-Syo (CLAMP one-off)

Manga Sutra Vol. 1

Neko Ramen Vols. 1-4

Kingdom Hearts 1-4 (Not that great, but I don’t play videogames, so it satisfied my curiosity about anime characters and Disney characters sharing story space)

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Vol. 1 (Not as good as the original)

Kilala Princess 1 (A Disney princess manga; I tried ordering a second volume from Amazon, but after months they gave up and said they just couldn’t get it)

Kill Me, Kiss Me Vols. 1-4 (Korean high school delinquents in love; one of my favorites)

Sokora Refuggees Vols. 1-2 (I remember liking this and wanting to read the next volume, but the next volume never seeing release)

Sgt. Frog Vols.1-9 (I really dug this series; I shudder to think how many volumes I am behind on this now though)

Marmalade Boy Vol. 1

Faeirie’s Landing Vols. 1-3

Instant Teen Vol. 1

Tokyo Mew Mew Vol. 1 (I bought this just because I liked the title; I never read any more, though)

Dramacon Vol. 1

Kare Kano Vols. 1-2

Jim Henson’s Return to Labyrinth Vol. 1

Abenobashi Vols. 1-2

Battle Vixens Vol. 1-5 (Please don’t judge me; I can feel you judging me)

Summoner Girl Vol. 1

The Stellar Six of Gingacho Vol. 1

Hetalia: Axis Powers Vols. 1-2

Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland (CLAMP does a naughty “Alice In Wonderland” riff, followed by some lamer stories)

Saving Life Vol. 1

Gothic Sports Vol. 1

President Dad Vol. 1 (Another good title)

Aion Vols. 1-2

Blank Vol. 1 (Pop Mhan!)

East Coast Rising Vol. 1 (Becky Cloonan!)

Fruits Basket Vols. 1-2 (I’ve been meaning to get to the next 50 volumes or so for roughly forever now)

Et Cetera Vols. 1-4


I have a feature story on the still relatively new and greatly improved The Comics Journal website about Columbus-based Available Light Theater's adaptation of Joshua Cotter's Skyscrapers of the Midwest, the play based on a comic that I had mentioned here last week. I interviewed both cartoonist Joshua Cotter and Available Light's creative director Matthew Slaybaugh, who wrote and directed the play, for the piece. You can take a look here, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some thoughts on today's funnies

Have you ever noticed the way Charles Schulz drew the tails on his dialogue balloons?

I never really looked very hard at them until today, when I saw this strip (Alone in a restaurant with only the funnies page of Northeast Ohio newspaper The News-Herald, which contains only 19 strips or cartoons, so I spent an inordinate amount of time with each of them). The tails in the first two panels are a little weird-looking, as they're not even really straight or curved tails, but are super-loose and semi-scribbled on the left-had side. They look super-organic, as if the tails were something taht were being baked or cooked, and the process somehow results in random little bubbles and formations.

I also realized that Schulz must start on the bottom right of the bubbles, with the right-hand side of the tail, and then curving up with the bubble, and then doing the left-hand side of the bubble, before finishing the tail, making the left-hand side connect to the right.

Something like this, I guess:

I also never really noticed, or paid all that much attention, to the fact that the bubbles terminate on the borders of the panels. At least in this strip. I had to really fight the urge to just start looking up old strips and breaking out some of those Fantagraphics collections to see the evolution of Schulz's bubble-tails, and whether the balloon portions were drawn to disappear into the panel borders, or if the shrinking of newspapers strips just ate the edges away.

Here's today's Dustin. It's not exactly a knee-slapper or anything, but I was really impressed with how well it was drawn. It really jumped off the page, and was probably the freshest, most vibrantly drawn comic of these 19 (The closest competition was Patick McDonnell's Mutts, which is usually the best-drawn comic I see on any comics page on which Mutts appears, but this installment just featured two squirrels in medium shot, dancing below a quotation, and wasn't that visually interesting a strip. It also had a ton of white space, so there wasn't much actual drawing filling it up.

The longer I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if Dustin is really that well-drawn, or if perhaps the familiarity of the rest of the comics page—Garfield, Family Circus, For Better Or Worse, Crankshaft, Hi and Lois, Hagar The Horrible, Peanuts—are so familiar at this point, that the lines, characters and settings have become the equivalent of visual white noise. Maybe if I've been reading Dustin for 30 years, maybe I wouldn't get excited by the look on the dad's face, or the little squiggle on the elbow on the sleeve over the bend of his arm, I'd just think it as unremarkable as a Walker or Browne character.

Not sure what the lead time for the average comic strip is, but the Japanese tsunami happened about five weeks ago, and radiation jokes aren't as funny today as they might have been, say, two months ago. It's an unfortunate strip, even if it was merely a matter of accidental timing. Poor Scott Adams; everything I read about him online these days seems to be negative.

The cave-people of B.C. have always regularly demonstrated anachronistic knowledge, but this one's pretty weird—the dictionary isn't just discussing things from the cave-people's future, but from out future.

Maybe they're not really from the past, but from sort of lost world...?

After reading this, I thought to myself that just burying things is actually a pretty good way to go about spring cleaning. I myself do a lot of cleaning by burying things, although I usually just bury them under other things or furniture—like, burying papers under more papers, for example—rather than burying them in the ground in my backyard.

Then I grew worried. If I am recognizing something of myself by reading Marmaduke, is that a sign that I'm approaching middle age? In a few more years, will I be laughing at Marmaduke? Cutting it out and hanging in on the fridge?!

I've never felt closer to death.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Comic shop comics: April 6-13

The All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold #6 (DC Comics) Now, why wouldn’t a Martian Manhunter comic book series work in our post-Law & Order pop culture landscape? As Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett and Dan Davis demonstrate in the scenes that book end this comic, he can quite easily be a police drama with a high-concept twist. He’s a detective who can secretly read minds! Because he’s a Martian, and must conceal his true identity and fabulous powers from all around him!

After John Jones and his partner Diane break a case, J’onn visits his pal Batman to help him hone his detective skills. The plan is for J’onn to disguise himself using his shape-changing powers at a predetermined location in Gotham City, and then the World’s Greatest Detective will show up and use his deductive abilities to find J’onn, allowing him to see how Batman’s mind works.

It’s a pretty clever set-up, and Fisch’s demonstrations of Batman’s detective abilities are pretty clever as well. Things go wrong—and need punched around—when another shape-changer coincidentally shows up at one of those locations.

I haven’t been reading Batman Inc, so I’m not 100% positive on this, but I think this might be the very best Batman comic being published at the moment.

Oh, and Calendar Fans will probably want to know that this issue features a four-panel appearance by Calendar Man. Don’t miss it, or you’ll have an unsightly hole in your Every Calendar Man Appearance Ever collection.

Brightest Day #23 (DC) This is it! The penultimate issue of the 24-issue, just-under-a-year bi-weekly series, the one that reveals who Earth’s ultimate savior is (that’s who the White Lantern/Entity has been looking for, through Deadman), what the ultimate threat is and just why the White Lantern has been seemingly making Deadman kill the resurrectees.

The results are certainly intriguing, and some of them are even kind of cool-looking—I kind of dig Earth Elemental J’onn J’onnz, for example—but the big reveal sure came out of nowhere.

I suppose argumentative fans could point to clues—a magic forest, for example, the creation of Elementals—that they could argue count as foreshadowing for this climax, but I’m unconvinced. This really came out of nowhere, and given the amount of page-space available in which to build to, tease or somehow foreshadow it—over 500 story pages and counting—it seems like exceptionally poor storytelling.

Now, I understood why co-writers Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi told the story the way they did. Certainly they wrote that aspect of it poorly on purpose, in order to preserve a big, shocking surprise without so much as a possibility of anyone guessing it, but they did so at the expense of the quality of the story, and I think, in the long run, quality is more important than an un-spoiled surprise. (I suppose an economic case could be made for foreshadowing that reveal earlier as well, as if it were something fans could guess at, argue about and offer theories over for weeks and weeks, it might have raised additional interest, and the shock would be whether or not DC would go through with it, or if it was all a red herring).

I’m incredibly excited to read the next issue, however. Not only will it have to give some sort of resolution to the introduction of the newly reintroduced character (or is that characters…?), but also explain whether J’onn and the other former Leaguers’ new roles and powers are going to be permanent and hopefully explain what the point of resurrecting everyone Dawn, Deadman and everyone who isn’t on this cover was.

I’m expecting a lot of disappointment. For one thing, the announcement of a three-issue Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For… pretty much guarantees that the issue itself won’t get too far into explaining what the New Guy (or is it New Guys…?) are going to be up to in the DCU.

Cyclops #1 (Marvel Comics) The cover of this particular comic book is drawn by Roger Cruz, and while it’s a nice enough image of X-person Cyclops posing for a hip-hop album cover while his visor breaks down, it doesn’t do a very good job of selling the comic book.

First, the art inside isn’t by Cruz, but instead by Dean Haspiel, whose last name is on the cover, but whose presence obviously isn’t as obvious as Cruz’s from the cover.

Second, the story involves young, teenage Cyclops battling against Batroc the Leaper and The Circus of Crime, two strong selling points to folks who like the goofier, funnier side of old-school Marvel comics. Folks like me. Obviously, there’s no sign of either Batroc or the Circus on the cover.

The results? I totally had no interest in this comic when I saw it in the solicitations—which I read fairly carefully every month, although I glossed over the details—or when I saw it on the shelf at that the comic shop, since it looks like just one more generic comic about one of the most generic of the X-people.

It wasn’t until I read an online review that my slow-moving brain was able to finally put together Cyclops #1, Dean Haspiel and Batroc The Leaper and The Circus of Crime.

Luckily, my comic shop hadn’t sold out of copies by the time I returned to pick it up (The lesson? Maybe the covers should kind of reflect the content once in a while, Marvel; it might sell more comics now and then).

The script is by Lee Black, whose name and work I’m not familiar with, and it tells the story of First Class Cyclops (from the long canceled X-Men: First Class series, in which the X-Men were teenagers, but in the recent past rather than the ‘60s), visiting their coffee shop hangout and preparing to confide his problems to the barista. Then Batroc and The Circus, acting as hired henchpeople for another old-school Marvel villain, crash through the joint in a clown car, and it’s up to Cyclops to stop them all on his own.The designs are all the really bright, really smooth, really poppy ones from the 1960s, drawn by Haspiel in a super-smooth, un-busy style that looks quite a bit like Mike Allred or Nick Dragotta’s Marvel work. It’s the kind of artwork that’s just fun to look at and read, regardless of what it’s in service of, although the story itself is fun and funny all on it’s own.

This is well worth hunting down if, like me, you were fooled by the franchise, the title character and the cover into thinking that this particular comic book wasn’t anything special.

DC Universe Online Legends #5 (DC) Well, this sure isn’t getting any better.

The quality of the interior art continues to hover somewhere between competent and Oh my God I can’t believe DC Comics published this!, with examples falling closer to the latter half of the spectrum being failures of the most basic comics-drawing levels. For example, is Future Lex Luthor a head taller than The Atom and Black Canary, or is he three feet taller? What on earth just happened in that action sequence? And so on.

The cover art still looks a lot like a production designer stole something out of Ed Benes sketchbook when he wasn’t looking, colored it, adeed a logo and some credits and used it as a cover to a comic book it has hardly anything to do with this (One of the character’s on this issue’s cover, for example, appears within. The other doesn’t.)

As for the writing, well, I think I’ve diagnosed one of the reasons I’ve been finding the comic so unsatisfying so far. There’s been very, very little effort to establish the setting or characters of the “present” portion of the story (if you haven’t been reading, half of the book is set in a dystopian future where Lex Luthor has killed Superman and most other super-folks, and is now forced to unite with the few left to defeat the greater threat of Brainiac; the other half occurs before that).

I wouldn’t think too much effort would have been needed to be put into that. Everyone knows who Superman and Batman are, for example, and I assume most of us reading already know who even Martian Manhunter and Hawkman are. But because this is an alternate version of the DCU present (it’s out of continuity, and thus reading other DC comics doesn’t necessarily prepare you for it), one doesn’t really even have a handle on the status quo before the writers start changing it and threatening to erase it.

In the last few issues we’ve seen the Justice League under attack by a cloud of nanites. The specific characters on the Justice League have vascillated from seven to 14 or so, depending on the issue. Here their headquarters “The Watchtower” (presumably a sattelite, like the current DCU HQ, and not the lunar tower that Grant Morrison assigned that name too) is compromised and the life-support systems are going out. Everyone needs to get to the teleporters and safely back to earth.

In one panel, Superman tells Green Lantern Hal Jordan that “Mary Marvel and Black Lightning are in maintenance. They need help.” My reaction wasn’t, “Oh no, Mary Marvel and Black Lightning are in danger!” No, it was, “Mary Marvel, what the fuck is she doing there?” As weird as it was when the artists just started drawing Zatanna and Plastic Man in panels when the JLA that previously appeared in the book was just the Big Seven one, you could kind of roll with it, as at least long-time readers know they’ve been on the League before. But Mary Marvel? What the hell? She’s never been on the Justice League. And she’s not in this book at all either, just her name gets dropped, like “Flash, run down to the bridge and make sure Martian Manhunter and Steve Buscemi are okay!”

The book ends with a cliffhanger, in which Batman, Wonder Woman and the others are all “Everyone accounted for?” and “I think so” and “Then let’s get out of here” and the they all teleport to safety, while the base explodes, and we see a close-up of Aquaman’s face, as he’s left behind.

Sure, it makes there heroes seem pretty dumb and careless (The issue begins with Superman putting Aquaman in a healing tank and telling him to stay there, and remember, dude’s got X-ray super-vision and super-hearing), and “I think so” is the sort of answer one gives when asked if there’s a new episode of a TV program on tonight, not if any of your friends are in an exploding building. But that’s not what sorta bugged me. Rather it was the simple fact that they never told us who was even in the base, so building the dramatic climax over someone being left behind on it felt pretty flat. What about Mary Marvel? I didn’t see her get off! And if she was there, who knows how many random characters could still be down in maintenance with Black Lighting!

Justice League: Generation Lost #22-23 (DC) For some reason, I thought these were the last two issues of the series, but I guess there’s still one more double-sized issue to go. In these issues, our team rallies after thinking Max Lord had killed Blue Beetle II, and prepare for a final assault against their friend turned archenemy. The story is perhaps overcomplicated by the inclusion of three additional characters—Power Girl, Batman and Wonder Woman.

A Batman had previously appeared, but it was the Dick Grayson Batman, as the Bruce Wayne Batman was dead throughout much of the time this comic was being published. This is the original Batman, back from the dead and now with his memories of Max Lord and Wonder Woman restored by the brief time he wore the White Lantern ring in an issue of Brightest Day, and he’s appearing in this comic for the very first time.

As for Wonder Woman, all memory of her has been erased from everyone’s memories except our cast, although for a completely different reason than the one that caused the whole world to forget Lord except our heroes, the very premise for this series—You know, the whatever the heck is going on in the JMS-started, someone else finished current Wonder Woman story arc.

That’s a lot of extra-narrative baggage weighing the climax down, but to writer Judd Winick’s credit he mostly glosses over it. I suppose the final trade will read poorly because of the strange plotting choices circumstances forced on him, and perhaps in several years this will read all the weirder given how much of it is dependent on, or in reaction to, storylines of the moment. But for now, it’s perfectly serviceable, and a nice use of a lot of lower-tier DC superheroes that otherwise might not be seen much, or used as effectively as they are here.

At this point, I’m most curious about what happens next with these characters and this concept–it seems like most of the last 20 issues involved introducing these characters and forging them into a cast, so ending their story at this point is likely going to feel rather abrupt.

Lorna: Relic Wrangler (Image Comics) Like the recent Tyrannosaur one-shot (reviewed here), I grabbed this on a lark, as I liked the Darwyn Cooke cover and the premise seemed to have some potential and, most importantly, it didn’t seem like the sort of thing that would pop up in a trade somewhere later, so it was now or never (Comic book publishers should publish more comic books like that, really; you know, some straight-up, These can’t possibly be written for the trade because they are only 30-pages long one-shot comics).

It’s not really that good. I enjoyed the main story to a certain excent. It’s written by Micha S. Harris and drawn by Loston Wallace. The latter’s artwork is excellent, and looks awfully Bruce Timm-inspired, which is a great thing given his subject matter—attractive, young ladies, generally costumed and positioned so as to be obgled. I didn’t much care for Wallace’s fashion design though; scantily-clad is cool with me, but scantily-clad and tacky? Not so much, really.

The story is silly, a mélange of overly-familiar stuff you’ve seen done better elsewhere, but given the light, silly tone of Harris’ script, it’s clear he’s not taking himself or his story ultra-seriously, so there’s little point in being annoyed in a goofy comic story being kind of goofy.

The lead story is 17 pages long. The rest of the book is fairly lame-o. There are a trio of pin-ups featuring the title character and her antagonist by a trio of artists. They’re nice enough, but nothing special.

Then there’s the first of two back-up stories, also written by Harris. It’s basically three pages leading up to a funny pun, and probably three pages too long. This one reveals that Lorna apparently works as a waitress at a Hooters-like bar called Popes. (I don’t get it). Art is from Olli Hihnala, and in a very different style than that of the lead.

Then there’s a pin-up by Paul Maybury, which is something special:And finally there’s another five-page short in which we see Lorna is sexually harassed by her boss at the weird Hooters-like restaurant (He smacks her ass and she thinks, “Jerk!” A real woman of action.) This one has a sort of urban legend feel to it, and features art by Michael Youngblood. It’s decent enough art, but his style is so realistic that it looks a bit ugly and weird following Cooke’s, Wallace’s and even Hihnala’s. I suppose seeing older men leering at a scantily-clad young lady doesn’t seem as incredibly creepy when she’s clearly a cartoon young lady, but grows increasingly uncomfortable when the young lady is drawn as a real, live human being.

I’d probably give a Lorna: Relic Wrangler #2 a miss, but then, there is no second issue, as this is a one-shot. See, that’s another good thing about comics like this—readers can’t drop them.

Neko Ramen Vol. 4: We’re Going Green! Kind Of… (Tokyopop) Is this the last volume of the world’s greatest comic book about a cat who runs a ramen shop? I’m afraid it might be, based on the bad news about Tokyopop all over the Internet starting Friday afternoon (with this post, I believe).

That really sucks. I know hardcore manga fans and comics creators and observers have likely had a lot to complain about regarding the publisher and its management over the years, but I think it’s an indisputable fact that they’ve done as much as any other publisher (and a hell of a lot more than most comics publishers) to interest a new generation of readers in the medium of comics. (Mainly, through their bookstore-sold, $10, 200-page trades).

I’m sure as hell gonna miss a lot of the series I’m currently reading if they go away and no one else picks up the license, especially this one, which is one of the newer ones I’ve yet to fall way behind on, as I inevitably do with most manga I like once it surpasses a certain number of volumes.

Orc Stain #6 (Image Comics) After a short hiatus, James Stokoe’s fantasy series continues, with his hero One-Eye trying to break out of a building that is, like most of the architecture (and tools and even some of the clothing) in Stokoe’s world, a living organism. The various parties all intersect and prepare to do battle.

I’m afraid I don’t have anyting fresh to say about Stokoe’s Orc Stain. If you’ve been reading it all along, then you already know, and if you haven’t, well, next time you’re in a comic shop, pick in issue up, open the cover and just look at it. That’s Orc Stain, and it’s awesome.

SpongeBob Comics #2 (United Plankton Pictures) I read most of this trip’s worth of comics at my sister’s house the other day. Niece #1 picked up this comic, went into the next room, and read it twice. Niece #2 came up and complained that her older sister wasn’t letting her look at it (even though #2 can’t read yet). After #2 and her grandmother looked at it, they gave it back to Niece #1, who did the activity on page 19, finish drawing Patrick’s cousins, each of which artist Andy Rementer drew a single part of (see below). She asked me if she could color them in with marker, and I said no; I can take some drawing in my comics, but I draw the line at markers! So she went and got a piece of paper and then carefully redrew the entire panel, Rementer’s parts and the parts she drew, and then wrote out the dialogue in the panel, and colored her copy in with markers. Later that night, their grandmother, casting around for something to read, finished the newspaper and then read this comic.Basically, SpongeBob Comics is fun for the whole family, is what I’m trying to say here. I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes.

I sure liked it. There are some more short pieces from James Kochalka and R. Sikoryak, another page of the very strange looking SpongeBob that Rementer draws, a swell Ed Roth-style cover by Brian Smith, and a few longer stories that do some neat things with comics story-telling.

I really liked this panel from a Derek Drymon and Gregg Schigiel story, in which the square character is perfectly framed by the square panel borders: And in a neat Robert Leighton and Jacob Chabot strip in which SpongeBob divides himself into two halves in order to do two different things at the same time on the same day, the comic splits into two threads which crisscross one another over and over.

Wolverine/Hercules: Myths, Monsters & Mutants #2 (Marvel) The second issue of Frank Tieri and Juan Santacruz’s miniseries is every bit as fun as the first, and benefits from not having to muck around with justifying throwing these two characters together or creating a conflict involving enemies of each.

Wolverine’s bad guy and a head he keeps in a boss—Hercules’ bad guy, maybe?—are attempting to take over the ninja clan The Hand, and to stop the heroes they’re resurrecting dead monsters from Greek mythology.

Zombie monsters of Greek myth sounds a little cooler than it actually is in practice—these are Hand zombies, which are just like the living, except with red eyes, not the rotting flesh sort of zombies that are most popular these days.

Neat cover, too.