Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Year Drawn and Quarterly Won Comics

Damn, it's that time of the year again already, isn't it? I contributed a top-five comics of 2010 list to Las Vegas Weekly for their year-ender issue, which you can read here, so obviously I've been thinking a lot about the past 12 months worth of comics over the last few weeks here, but the end of the calendar year still seems to have gotten here awfully quickly.

Not that I mind the year 2010 ending or anything, it's simply that the arrival of the end of December always brings with it the pressure to compile a best-of list for the blog—I believe best-of list compilation is one of the requirements all comics bloggers must meet in order to keep from having their comics-blogging licenses revoked—and I've never really arrived at a way of making such lists that I'm 100-percent satisfied, that seems like the right way to do it to me.

Looking back through my archives, I see I addressed the changing of the years differently during each year I've been blogging (Holy God, has it been over four years now?! And I still haven't bought a URL name of my own?).

Last year, I wrote a list of "The ten comics that I happened to read in 2009 that I thought were better than the rest of the comics that I read in 2009," which was probably the best job I did of strictly defining a set of criteria. In 2008, I did probably my best job of keeping track of good comics I read throughout the year, and wrote a 700-word preface explaining the difficulty of list compilation before providing a top ten list (followed by a huge list of candidate comics I considered for spots in the top-ten list and a couple of more specialized lists). I did something similar if less-expansive in 2007, while in 2006 I merely listed "Thirty-Three Notable Graphic Novels," never committing myself to naming ten.

Soooo...what to do this year? What to do, what to do....

Well, maybe I'll just leave it at what I said in LVW: The five best comics of the year are Lynda Barry’s Picture This, Pablo Holmberg’s Eden, Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance (scroll down), Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone, and Jason’s Werewolves of Montpellier.

I was sufficiently bowled over by those first three books—which were not only really great comics, but also addressed subject matters rarely if ever addressed in comics in an extremely graceful fashion and managed to do things that other comics did not or could not do—that I had little trouble assigning them their respective spots. The next two were a bit more difficult on account of just how many good comic books were published this year, and it's always hard to pit comics against one another as if they were in competition.

I didn't keep as thoroughly organized records of potential best-of list candidates this year as I have in year's past, but one thing I noticed while putting together the short top-five list was how many of the books I found myself considering were published by Drawn and Quarterly this year.

In addition to the Eden and Picture This, which made the list, D+Q also published Hicksville (well, republished it, which gave me some pause about including it on a best-of-the-year-list), Market Day, Kevin Huizenga's The Wild Kingdom (another republication) and Brecht Evens' The Wrong Place, a must-read graphic novel that uses color, space and implied invisible panels created in the readers' minds to tell a story in a way I've yet to see another work from this wonderful medium of ours tell a story—If I compiled that list in another week or two, The Wrong Place would probably be on it, but I would want to reread it again and take the time to write a serious review of it before sticking it on a list. Oh, and Dungeon Quest Book One, which, at the time I read it, I thought might belong on such a list come December.

Whenever I'd think of one of the best comics I read during the past year then, I kept coming back to Drawn and Quarterly's offerings this year, and that's really only a random handful of what I personally thought were their better books—there was also Vanessa Davis' superb Make Me A Woman collection, Daniel Clowes' Wilson (which earned more ink than just about anything else published this year), some fascinating imports from Japan and their John Stanley Library.

It's not just me, is it? Drawn and Quarterly really did have a truly amazing year of great releases, right? And what really impresses me about their year is that it doesn't just seem good in a relative manner, because the other publisher's we tend to think of as the publisher of art or literary comics had bum years or anything. Fantagraphics and Top Shelf and First Second and AdHouse had pretty great years too. Picturebox published Brian Chippendale's If 'n Oof (one of the weirdest books I've read this year) and Sparkplug published The Heavy Hand (in addition to the aforementioned Flesh and Bone). Drawn and Quarterly just seemed to have a really, really great year in 2010, and I think one could put together a pretty reasonable top-five or even top-ten list with nothing but D+Q books on it and, while it would probably look a little funny, it could still be a pretty honest and defendable list.

At any rate, good job Comics—you sure kicked ass in 2010!


Since I didn't mention nearly as many comics this time as I usually do in these year-in-review post, let me see if I can think of some more categories to give me an excuse to throw out various forms of recommendations...

THE COMICS I HAD THE MOST FUN READING IN 2010: Dungeon Quest Book 1, Orc Stain #1-#5 (Now available in trade paperback collection, if you're not a fan of serially-published comics, although I recommend the singles experience in this case), King City (Love that over-sized format...! I think this was the first book since Neil Gaiman and company's Sandman that I've bought in more than one format, as I had read the Tokyopop-published digest but couldn't resist the huge Image-published singles), Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (a large part of the fun was, admittedly, re-reading the first five volumes the night before the release of the sixth), Art Baltazar and Franco's Tiny Titans and Tiny Titans/Little Archie, James Kochalka's Johnny Boo and The Mean Little Boy and Dragonpuncher and American Elf (one of the few webcomics I read semi-regularly), Kate Beaton's online strips (another of those few), Mouse Guard: Legends of The Guard, Yotsuba&! Vols. 8-9

THE BEST SUPER-COMICS I READ IN 2010: Roger Langridge and Chis Samnee's The Mighty Thor Vol. 1, Sekihiko Inui's Ratman, Grant Morrison's Batman comics with the good artists drawing them (Particularly Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-#6 and Batman and Robin #7-#16) and, um...hmm. Either I've been reading far too few of 'em, or it was a pretty shitty year for super-comics this year. Let's, I've been enjoying Green Lantern, Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost, even if they're not always that good. You guys read a lot of super-comics, what did you think were among the best, and would I like any of 'em...?

THE COMICS I HAD LOOKED FORWARD TO READING THE MOST IN 2010: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, Lucky In Love Book One, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6, Blackest Night #7, Wilson, Ax Volume I: A Collection of Alternative Manga, Neko Ramen Vol. 1

THE 2010 COMICS THAT MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISED ME BECAUSE I DIDN'T THINK THEY LOOKED VERY GOOD BUT THEY ACTUALLY WERE WHICH JUST GOES TO SHOW WHAT I KNOW: Boom's 28 Days Later (reads much better in trades than singles) and Soldier Zero #1-#2, Archaia's Fraggle Rock (paired with Boom's Langridge-cartooned Muppet book, it was a hell of a year for comics-based-on-Henson-creations!), Papercutz' Smurfs collections, Dark Rain, A God Somewhere, Radical's Time Bomb #1-#3, DC's Vertigo version of The Unknown Soldier and American Vampire Vol. 1

THE COMIC PUBLISHED IN YEARS PAST THAT I JUST GOT AROUND TO READING THIS YEAR THAT I LIKED THE MOST: Full Metal Alchemist (I was literally addicted to this once I started borrowing it from the library)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comic shop comics: Dec. 15-22

Archie #616 (Archie Comics) Well, I bought an issue of an Archie comic, so this particular issue—the one that put President Barack Obama and reality TV star Sarah Palin sharing a soda at the malt shop on the cover—achieved its goal of selling an Archie comic to someone who doesn’t normally read Archie comics (I assume that’s the goal; I suppose getting mentioned on cable news shows and by late night comedians is probably on its wishlist as well).

In that respect, it succeeds, regardless of how strong or poor the contents are, although I was pleasantly surprised by its readability. Artist Dan Parent does a nice coloring book version of Dan DeCarlo that was pleasant on the eyes, even if the lay-outs were a little jumbled here and there and there are some pretty poorly-paced pages (Have a copy in front of you? Flip to page four for a good example).

Alex Simmons’ script is perhaps a little more problematic, mainly because it approaches Sarah Palin, a poisonous subject that can only hurt its host. Simmons’ Obama gets the most panel-time, and he’s presented as a generic, bland character—you could swap him out for any president from the last 200 years or so, and nothing need change too radically in the scene, which mostly just revolves around Archie being tongue-tied in the presence of a president.

Veronica is managing Archie’s campaign for class president or representative or whatever against Reggie, and, because of her richness, she has no problem introducing Archie and Obama, and then spinning it as an edorsement. Reggie and his manager retaliate with their own photo op, and after scoffing at the idea—“I’m not going to Texas to see G.W.!”—he apparently goes to see Palin at a book-signing or paid speaking engagement in Riverdale (the specifics aren’t discussed) and uses the photo in a similar manner.

The student body is suddenly interested in both campaigns, and are bitterly divided because, I don’t know, partisan-ship (It’s hard to imagine many high school kids in Riverdale agreeing with any of Palin’s politics, and while they tote signs and yell at Archie supporters, the specifics of the arguments have more to do with their high school than anything Palin or Obama ever talk about).

The book ends with both characters appearing in Riverdale to se the record straight, and presumably we’ll see much more of both next time.

I’m sure this story says something about the politics of Riverdale (and that of Archie Comics) although I want to finish it before I talk at any great length about it. What’s clear at this point, however, is that the de facto leader of the Republican Party, at least as Archie Comics reads the potential market, is a one-term ex-governor who makes her living appearing on a reality TV show, going on book and speaking tours and as a paid pundit for Fox News, while the leader of the Democratic party is a sitting U.S. president.

That doesn’t look good for America and Democracy; I voted for Obama and will do so again in 2012, but I’d prefer the party he runs against be a serious one, as it a two-party system with one real party and one joke party isn’t going to work all that well (Not that it’s been working all that great anyway).

Well enough politics, let’s talk about religion now, shall we…? Naw, let's save something for next column.

Brightest Day #16 (DC Comics) The cover might be overstating the Aquaman Vs. Aqualad scene in the book—they do fight, but only for about two pages—and most of the Aqua scenes are here concerned with moving Jackson into the penultimate phase of embracing superhero-dom, as he gets his costume, gets some weapons that focus his water powers (weapons apparently already seen on and explained in the Young Justice cartoon) and poses for a splash page with Aquaman.

The rest of the book’s pages are devoted to the Firestorm/Deathstorm part, which I’ve thus far mostly dreaded given the poor quality of art in that storyline, but it seems that it’s a plotline that will become increasingly important in the book’s second half. For example, here Firestorm goes to the JLA for help and thinks he perhaps destroyed the entire universe on the last page.

Taking a longer view, Brightest Day is perhaps a somewhat troubled series, with most of the stories seemingly completely unconnected with one another. It reads more like an anthology series than an story with a large cast, and it’s seems that by the sixteenth issue of a 26-issue limited series the threads would be starting to tie together.

I’m enjoying two or three of those threads so much I really don’t mind—I’ll sit through that weak Firestorm art or having to read about Hawkman (whose story tends to at least be inadvertently hilarious at all times) in order to see Gleason draw Martian Manhunter or read about Aquaman for the first time in years.

Green Lantern #60 (DC) It’s Parallax-possessed Barry Allen versus Hal Jordan in this issue, and while the superheroes have fantastic powers and Doug Mahnke is a fantastic pencil artist capable of illustrating super-deeds clearly, effectively and excitingly, the Flash versus Green Lantern fight was a pretty good example of the limits of realistic superhero comics.

If the space monster in The Flash really has access to his powers and wants to kill Hal Jordan, then our protagonist should have been dead in the first panel of the book…writing a fight scene with these two particular characters with their two particular power sets (the bad guy, remember, can move at faster-than-light speed) with the requisite level of realism the Green Lantern title has developed over the last 60 issues or so would require Geoff Johns to explain a lot (tons of telling, relatively little showing), and/or come up with an interesting way to slow down time to draw the fight out and somehow make it fair.

It’s really just standard punch-trading though. There’s a rather nicely conceived splash page showing Paraflashx beating Hal while dragging him across the two pages, but he speaks a few sentences of dialogue. It’s the old-school comic book problem of the art and the script occurring at different paces, like Captain America having a paragraph of dialogue while performing a single flying kick: The images in superhero comics generally capture about a second, whereas the dialogue they share panels with take several seconds…or longer.

Here that disconnect is greatly exaggerated, given how fast The Flash is supposed to be.

This hardly ruins the comic, and less persnickety readers probably wouldn’t even notice, let alone waste a part of their evening typing up a few paragraphs about it, and, honestly, I can edit the scenes in my head so they make sense—Maybe Parallax was so new to Flash’s body that he couldn’t reach very fast speeds yet, maybe he was just toying with Hal because he wanted to keep him alive so he could possess him again some day, maybe Hal Jordan’s ring was generating an invisible force field to protect him from what a bunch of high-speed death blows, and so on.

Of course, I’d rather get swept up in a superhero fight scene and not have to edit it in my head, you know?

Maybe it’s not the comic though. Maybe it’s me.

Anyway, the bulk of this issue is Flash vs. GL fight, with the Geoff Johns “Oh shit!” climax being the revelation of who the little Guardian-shaped mummy that’s been floating around collecting the space monsters really is.

It’s a familiar Green Lantern bad guy, who has lately been more of a whole DCU or Multiverse-level bad guy thanks to Kurt Busiek’s last few usages of him. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t see it coming; he is in a pretty different-looking body than usual, after all.

Mahnke’s artwork is, as always, top-notch, and puts that of most of his peers on DC’s super-comics to shame. And that’s with four different inkers involved.

I suppose it’s also worth noting that this is only a 20-page comic, which is the new page count DC is adopting in order to keep more of their books at $2.99; rather than bumping up the price, they cut a few pages.

I mention this only because I didn’t actually notice the shorter length while reading, and had to go back and count the pages to see if they had started doing that yet or not.

I was a little surprised to see that it was a 20-pager too, given that there’s the aforementioned double-page splash, a page-and-a-half splash (basically, a two-page splash panel with three smaller panels in the corner of one page), and two single-page splashes. That’s still an awful lot of space given up for giant panels given a lower page count; I assumed we’d see fewer splashes in the $2.99/20 books than we saw in the $2.99/22 books.

But, like I said, I didn’t even notice reading, so maybe it won’t be a big deal—at least, it’s not so far with this particular writer and/or artist and/or title.

Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1 (DC) Ever since it was first announced, presumably in a joking fashion by writer Geoff Johns at a comics convention panel, I was looking forward to this.

The character, DC’s Orange Lantern powered by the emotional spectrum’s color of avarice, is a multi-tusked space baboon who, Hal Jordan’s narration tells us, talks like Gonzo from the Muppets, and, as drawn by Doug Mahnke, is usually funniest-looking part of any of the many Green Lantern stories to feature the various-colored Lanterns over the last few years.

Geoff Johns doesn’t always do comedy very well, but his stories tend to benefit when he applies a light touch, and he’s portrayed Larfleeze less and less as a tragic horror type of character and more and more as comedy relief.

None of which suggests he’s a prime candidate to carry his own comic, even a one-shot, and so giving Larfleeze his own book and attaching the words “Christmas Special” to it always struck me as a rather daring move on DC’s part (Although perhaps it just seems daring; if you were to ask a comic convention crowd to clap for characters they’d like to see get their own comics—a metric DC apparently uses as market research—then Larfeelze probably gets at least as much clapping as the THUNDER Agents or The Shield or Ragman or Lobo or Azrael).

In other words, I’m all for DC taking risks—even minor ones—and attempting funny comics.

And I hope the fact that this one turned out just awful won’t discourage them from trying again in the future.

Before we get into the quality of the book, let’s take a moment to note the deceptive marketing and the extremely poor value of the book. tells us it’s a 32-page book, which savvy comics consumers like us know actually means it’s the standard 22-page comic with ten pages of ads. It’s priced at the Marvel price point of $3.99, which normally would be enough to keep me from purchasing, but since it is such an oddball book, it didn’t sound like something that would pop up in a trade somewhere, so what the hell, I thought, I’ll splurge a buck—it’s Christmas.

As it turns out, the solicited story by Geoff Johns and artist Brett Booth is actually only 16 pages long, with a two-page back-up by Art Baltazar and Franco adding up to 18-pages of comics.

Filling up the rest of the book are ads and four pages of “extras” like a Green Lantern house ad wishing the readers Happy Holidays, a maze, a Larfleeze Christmas ornament and a recipe for Orange Lantern cookies. These might be fun features—I enjoy when such things appear in Tiny Titans or Super Friends, for example—but the kids books generally don’t charge you for them, and they’re usually done in an appealing visual style, rather than in Brett Booth’s style, which isn’t exactly kids activity book ready. (None of these things are mentioned in the preview, nor is the Baltazar-drawn back-up).

(Aside: Those cookies do look pretty awesome)

Johns’ story, which could have easily fit into DC’s Holiday Special given its short length and narrow focus, finds Larfleeze going through his understanding of the Christmas ritual in order to get everything he wants delivered to him by Santa Claus on Christmas morning.

When he awakes to find no presents under the tree, he flies off to find Santa, and instead finds Hal Jordan, who breaks it to him that Santa isn’t real, and the most important thing to acquire during the holiday season is “The Christmas Spirit,” which a brief, confusing montage shows Larfleeze attempting to get by giving away stuff with Green Lantern.

Johns might have had some clever dialogue in here somewhere—no joke really lands, given the poor execution of the art—but the book is more tragedy than comedy, as it ends with Larfleeze curled up in the fetal position, crushed by the fact that the one thing her really needs is denied to him.

I can’t imagine whose idea it was to have Booth draw this comic—Adam Schlagman and Eddie Berganza are the editors, although one imagines Geoff Johns could demand pretty much any artist he wants at this point—but he’s not up to the task.

It’s no surprise that the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter artist does terribly proportioned, ever-morphing human anatomy, and has difficulty with recognizable human expressions, but his Larfleeze is no better, really:I guess the fact that he’s human from the neck down presents the same problems for Booth that drawing the human characters does.

Additionally, the artwork is often impossible to read. For example, what the hell causes this beard to go flying off in these panels? It seems like such a wasted opportunity, given the fact that 16-page (mostly) comedic Christmas special would have provided the perfect opportunity for DC to make a more unusual choice of artist.

For example, someone from their Johnny DC line (Mike Norton, using his more cartoony Billy Batson style? J. Bone?), or the other Van Sciver brother or…well, you get the idea. Preferably someone who could draw well and could draw comics well, and in this particular instance DC seemed to have a good excuse to look far afield of their usual suspects.

I mean, here’s Baltazar’s Larfleeze:Does it look more simplified and cartoony than, say, Doug Mahnke’s Larfleeze? Sure. But this is a Christmas Special, as it says in the title, so why not do a more simplified and cartoony Larfleeze, given that, you know, the words “Christmas special” usually refer to children’s cartoons.

At any rate, however you feel about detail and style, Baltazar is clearly better at human proportions and maintaining them from panel to panel and page to page.

As for Baltazar’s story, it’s about Glomulus flying around space, visiting the otherly colored Corps and trying to gather presents for Larflleze, with lots of cute little gags at the expense of those characters.

Well, there’ s always next year’s Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #2, I guess…

Green Lantern/Plastic Man: Weapons of Mass Deception #1 (DC) And here’s the next disappointing Green Lantern one-shot I read this week, and the first of two over-sized DC one-shots I read that seemed to be published mainly so someone somewhere could clean out their office.

It’s by Marv Wolfman and Brent Anderson, and my guess remains that it was originally created to fill two issues of the Brave and The Bold (Wolfman wrote a two-parter for the title during the 10-issue stall-for-JMS period of its existence, and this special is 44-pages, with a cliffhanger on the bottom of page 22 and a scene-setting splash on page 23).

I’m a big fan of Plastic Man, and Wolfman and Anderson are both solid craftsman, so I thought this would be right up my alley, but it turned out to be pretty tedious reading, accidentally recycling points about the characters made by others and even ending on a gag another Plas story ended on.

The set-up is pretty strange, as Plas and Hal team-up because they are both apparently on the JLA in this book, although Plas hasn’t been on the team since about 2004 (he pitched in a few times since), and Hal Jordan has never officially rejoined the League since coming back to life, save for two story arcs at the beginning of the current volume of JLoA, an maybe an issue of James Robinson and Mark Bagley’s current run).

I don’t think these two characters have even been in the same room since Jordan came back to life, excepting maybe that ceremony at the beginning of the last JLA arc (the Infinite Crisis tie-in written by Bob Harras) and a few scenes in Cry For Justice).

At any rate, Plas found some alien space-guns while doing some earthbound crime-fighting, and since his case intersects with Hal’s, the Green Lantern deigns to team-up with Plas, even though he finds him an annoying clown.

As written here, it’s not hard to see what Hal hates about Plas—Wolfman writes him as a Spider-Man-like motormouth character who is constantly joking and changing shape to reflect those jokes, unfortunately the vast majority of those jokes fall into the unfortunate valley between Funny and So Unfunny As To Be Funny.

Hal Jordan is simply a personality-free straight man here, doing nothing but griping about Plastic Man and scolding him….right up until the climax, where he realizes that despite Plastic Man being a goofball, he’s actually a true hero and joking around is his way of blowing off steam. Heavy.

Wolfman tries to balance space-crime and old-fashioned criminal underworld characters and settings, so that the pair are after a crime cartel of humanoid ducks who are selling laser guns to earth scum, but the marriage is a forced and unhappy one, at least until the climax.

Anderson’s art is solid, and the weirdness of the alien ducks is kind of cool, but his Plastic Man is a pretty ugly one, and most of the settings look pretty generic (JLA HQ, for example, looks like half the offices I’ve worked in, rather than a superhero base in space).

The biggest disappointment for me was the cover, however. It’s a nice enough image, I suppose, but because the logo was designed to echo the old Greeen Lantern/Green Arrow logo, I was disappointed that Anderson didn’t have a GL/GA parody or homage to go along with it.

Justice League: Generation Lost #16 (DC) In this issue, the team of heroes are attacked by the new-ish version of The Creature Commandos, under the control of Max Lord. Meanwhile, Batman Dick Grayson and Power Girl—wearing a slightly different costume due to what I assume is a coloring mistake that gave her pants—continue to circle around the mystery of Lord’s existence and the actions of the former Justice Leaguers hunting him.

Winick’s scripting is fine, and Fernando Dagnino and Raul Fernandez’s art is decent at its weakest, and awfully sharp at its strongest.

This conception of the Creature Commandos, as little more than a faceless horde of cannon fodder in monster drag, is a particularly dull and unimaginative take on a cool old crazy concept—even Dustin Nguyen’s cover image featuring his personal designs for some of the Commandos is bland and uninspired—but I did like the Mummy character who was the team’s field doctor, bandaging their wounds.Neat, huh?

Justice League of America #52 (DC) In this issue, Supergirl becomes Dark Supergirl, which I believe is a callback to Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill’s first arc on the current volume of Supergirl, and though I read the issue with that Supergirl on the cover, I honestly can’t remember anything about it beyond the fact that I noticed Churchill drew Supergirl’s tiny micro-miniskirt even tinier when she became evil.

Blue Jay (whom I kinda like and would hope sticks around the League for awhile, even though I’m dropping this book myself as soon as Bagley leaves and Booth arrives) offers a theory for why she changed into a bad guy version of herself here, but the strongest impression it left on me was the way it made my eyes roll.

The bad version of Supergirl is, of course, more sexually aggressive than the good, normal version of Supergirl because, duh, female sexuality is bad:(I don’t think that’s writer James Robinson or DC Comics’ point or anything, but that’s what the scene suggests nonetheless…particularly if sexual politics is something you think about when reading superhero comics, and a surprising amount of people do just that).

Plot? The Justice League, The Crime Syndicate, Tangent Green Lantern and Blue Jay are still trapped in Washington D.C. with the seemingly unstoppable Omega Man. The quality level is on par with the last few issues—if you liked those, you’ll like this; if not, probably not.

I like the way Mark Bagley draws groups of heroes standing around, I like all the bright colors of those superheroes’ costumes, I liked the cliffhanger ending and I liked seeing Hal Jordan get killed—even if it’s the Hal Jordan from a parallel universe.

Oh, and on the opening page Bagley and company draw EDILW favorite Zauriel, and either intentionally or accidentally give him a new costume, blending elements of his first appearance angel clothes and his later heaven-forged armor/superhero suit:I like it.

Mighty Samson #1 (Dark Horse) Like Dark Horse’s other recent Shooter-written revivals of old Gold Key characters and concepts, this first issue is priced at the regular Dark Horse price point of $3.50, but contains both an all-new story by Shooter and a reprint of the character’s original appearance. I’m a sucker for both a good value and old, obscure-ish super-characters, so I find these first issues hard to resist. They certainly offer nice opportunities to check out the new directions and see if it’s something one might want to follow in singles or come back for in eventual trade.

The concept of the original Samson is a mixture of silly and familiar. In a post-apocalyptic future, human civilization has started over on the ruins of our civilization, and the radiation of the nuclear war that provided the apocalypse part of the post-apocalyptic setting has mutated animals into all kinds of crazy-looking monsters. In to this world is born a super-strong dude, named after the Bible’s super-strong dude, Samson.

Shooter plays the story completely straight, and while that naturally leads to some cheesy scenes and plenty of B-movie style melodrama, it’s all of the sort most reader’s would likely expect from this. Shooter’s not reinventing the wheel here, or doing anything of great literary value, but he is doing solidly entertaining craftsmanship, so I imagine anyone who likes barbarian comics and pulp adventure—particularly of the sort Dark Horse has made itself known for over the past decade or so—should find a lot to like here.

The biggest revelation for me was the work of artist Patrick Olliffe. I’m familiar with his name from his work at DC and Marvel, usually on books with accelerated schedules, and that work has rarely been anything more than competent.

This seems like the work of a completely different artist though. The settings are more fully realized, the character designs are sturdier, the characters act better, and the action is more fluid and expressive. I’m sure I haven’t read everything Olliffe has ever drawn, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt, but I think this is the best work of his career and, in fact, worth picking up exclusively to see that work.

Shooter adds a lot more political intrigue and interpersonal character dynamics into his story than are apparent from the back-up, and he also reenacts a biblical scene, in which his Samson kills a multitude of foes with the jawbone of an animal.

The sole disappointment I had with the book was the rather uninspired Raymond Swanland painted cover, which looks fairly interchangeable with the sort of cover you might see on a Radical Publishing fantasy comic (plop a dead lion on Swanland’s Samson, for example, and he could be Radical’s Hercules) or something from the short-lived Virgin publishing house.

The Golden Key books were known for their fantastic painted covers, which often put even the strong cartooning of the talented veterans who drew the interiors to shame.

For example, here’s a monster Samson fights in the first issue of the 1964 series:And here’s what it looked like on the cover:Compared to those old Gold Key covers, Swanland’s cover looks pretty generic, and blends right into today’s comics racks.

Olliffe’s cover (yes, of course there’s more than one cover for this issue) is better……but still doesn’t seem to replicate the drama or aesthetic of those ‘60s covers.

Nancy In Hell#2-#4 (Image Comics) I read and rather enjoyed the first issue of this four-part miniseries, but wasn’t able to find the second issue until just this past week, so I had #3 and #4 sitting around, waiting for #2 to show up so I could finally read the rest of the story.

I’m glad I hunted them all down, although I suppose it would have been simpler to just wait for the trade (If and when a trade comes out, I’d recommend it if you’re at all interested in the subject matter of scantily clad women, horror movies, Hell, demonology or gore).

The first issue ended with writer El Torres teaming up Nancy, a somewhat generic “final girl” horror movie type of character—defined more by her will and spunk and ability to survive than by personality quirks or specific details and emotions—with Lucifer. Together, the pair are going to journey through Hell to its very gates, and escape.

Torres’ version of Hell, the afterlife and Christian creation, cosmology and theology is pretty clever. I liked his takes on a lot of it, and while I certainly wouldn’t join a church that shared that worldview, it makes for interesting reading, fresh riffs on old—some of the oldest, really—concepts in Western literature.

It also cleverly uses a character type and plot engine from horror movies as part of the nefarious schemes of demonic forces: Nancy is in hell because she’s a candidate for an ultimate final girl, and if anyone can survive hell, it would have to be the ultimate final girl.

Torres doesn’t disappoint with the ending either; there’s a twist, which is of course to be suspected, but it’s not the most obvious twist.

It’s unfortunate that Juan Jose Ryp was unable to draw the rest of the series after starting it—Antonio Vasquez and Malaka Studio are credited with #3 and the bulk of #4—not because the other artist who drew parts of the series are poor ones, but simply because the book would have benefited form a singular artistic vision and style.

The PG-13-bordering-on-R amount of exploitative imagery and the copious gore certainly mean this isn’t a book for everyone, but all its exposed female flesh, rotting zombies and lakes of blood are merely icing on a cake made from quite disparate ingredients. If you can stomach it, it’s a real treat.

Superman/Batman #79 (DC) Someone give writer Chris Roberson a prize, because he’s accomplished something plenty of writers stumble with—picking up the batons of Grant Morrison comics and running the next lap of the eternal relay of corporate super-comics with them, and not stumbling.

Roberson and artist Jesus Merino—whose superhero work has rarely, if ever, looked better—return to the 853rd Century of Morrison’s DC One Million for a team up of The System’s Finest team of Superman and Batman.

I’ve talked at great length and great frequency regarding my affection for Morrison’s JLA run, and the DC One Million story spilled from it’s pages into a special miniseries and the entire DC line, eventually spawning one of the better DC series of the ‘90s—Tom Peyer and Rags Morales’ Hourman.

So, sure, I’m happy to see some of these characters, designs, concepts and settings back in play. But I’m even happier to see them being done justice. The story is fast-paced, clever and occasionally surprising. The artwork is beautiful, something I don’t really see enough of in super-comics these days (as you may have deduced form all the complaining about art I generally do in this recurring feature).

The plot revolves around Epoch, The Time Lord climbing into the battle-suit he wore in the Morrison-written, Smeiks-illustrated JLA/WildCATS crossover (hey, that’s the same team responsible for the DC One Million miniseries; nice!) and traveling back in time to face Batman, Robin and Superman in…I don’t know, whatever year Superman and Batman’s third year on the job was (looks like the ‘70s or ‘80s from the civilian fashions).

It’s to be continued next issue, which is cool in that it mans there’s another issue by this talented team coming up, but bad in that I pre-ordered this one form my shop, but not Superman/Batman #80—I didn’t think this book would ever be good two issues in a row again!

Teen Titans: Cold Case #1 (DC) This is the other odd one-shot that seemed published at random, given the fact that the characters on the team and their conflicts dates this as a Titans story from a few years back (Kid Devil is alive and on the team, Robin’s wearing his “One Year Later” costume and kinda sorta dating Wonder Girl, Superboy and Bart Allen are still dead, etc).

I’m not sure where exactly it fits, but I assume it would be somewhere between the end of Johns’ run and the earlier parts of McKeever’s…?

Whatever the case, it’s the best all-around Titans comic story I’ve read since Johns left the title, perhaps in large part because it is set in the past and thus not forced to keep up with all of the changing crossovers and status quo changes that were weighing the title down for years on end.

Other events are mentioned and serve as motivating factors, of course—the “case” being referred to is apparently the murder of Robin’s dad Jack Drake in Identity Crisis, and this is essentially the story of Robin dealing with some of the psychic fall-out from that story, and the various ways his teammates help or fail to help him.

It also contrasts the Flash villains The Rogues and the Titans as different sorts of teams and families.

It’s by Mark Sable, and it’s very well constructed, both in terms of plot and theme. It’s complicated enough and has enough characters that there’s no way to do a brief synopsis here, but it is essentially Deathstroke getting the Flash villains to fight the Teen Titans, while he stays off the battlefield, messing with his daughter's and Robin’s minds.

The artwork is by Sean Murphy—although for some reason DC slapped a Jason Fabok cover on top of a book by the Joe The Barbarian artist—and it’s the best-looking Teen Titans story since…God, I can’t remember the last time I read a Teen Titans comic that had great art for more than 20 consecutive pages. (Teen Titans: Year One, maybe?)

Muphy’s one of those artists who does everything right: I like his lay-outs and backgrounds, the way he draws Ravager’s boots and the Titans' sleepwear and The Trickster’s costume, the way his characters fall down when they get punched or soar through the air when jumping, the way his Captain Cold and Heatwave pose while aiming their guns, the little beams that fly out of Mirror Master’s gun. Hell, he makes Ravager’s costume look cool, he makes an image of a sad-face Robin compelling and his action scenes are a delight to read.

The book is too concerned with continuity minutae to have very broad appeal—if you don’t already know and like at least most of these characters, there’s not a lot to grab on to hear other than nice artwork—but it’s really good for what it is.

Yotsuba&! Vol. 9 (Yen Press) As wonderful as it is that there exists a comic book that includes a panel of a little girl doing this:It’s more wonderful still that this same comic can make a reader feel just like that.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Marvel's March previews reviewed

From the solicitations released last Tuesday, it looks like Marvel will be having a pretty big March: There’s the new Civil War-scale event series Fear Itself, that goofy “.1” initiative we’ve previously discussed and a ton of Captain America comics.

In fact, there are so many Captain America comics scheduled for March that I think I must have missed an announcement or something. In addition to the Captain America monthly, there are issues of four different miniseries (Ultimate Captain America, Captain America: Hail Hydra, Captain America: Man Out of Time and Captain America and the Korvac Saga) and seven (Seven!) one-shots. That adds up to a dozen Captain America titles for a grand total of $46.88. And those are just the books starring Captain America; he’s also in most of The Avengers books, guest-starring here and there, and featured on variant covers for most the books this month (It’s his 70th anniversary, so I guess Marvel assumes their readership would like to buy 70 Cap comics to celebrate…?).

Five of those Cap one-shots share similar title construction—Captain America And (A Captain America Supporting Character or Characters)—and I’m mildly interested in some of them based on either creators (Kathryn Immonen, Kieron Gillen and Kelly Sue Deconnick write three of them, Declan Shalvey draws another) or characters (The Falcon, Batroc), but there are just so many that it’s kind of intimidating and it feels easier to simply ignore them. They’re also $4 a pop, but are over-sized, so the extra buck gets you extra comics.

Let’s talk specific solicits though…

Gah! That’s one ugly Spider-Man costume, although I do like Marcos Martin’s picture of it. Maybe this particular armored costume was specifically designed to call attention to Martin’s skills? Like, they purposefully came up with some terribly designed costume just to see if his drawing could redeem it?

And here’s another nice Martin image. I’ve heard good things about Humberto Ramos’ work on the new iteration of Amazing Spider-Man, but I sorta wish it was a regular, old-fashioned monthly with Martin on art chores. I’d buy that regularly. I sometimes like Ramos’ work, but don’t think he and Martin really have terribly compatible styles, and thus the idea of them swapping story arcs back and forth doesn’t sound all that appealing to me.

Hey, I thought Daken had a third claw that came out of his wrist or something...? Or am I thinking of X-23 or Romulus or some other Wolverine-like character?

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Pencils by SCOT EATON
All the Red Skull's terrible secrets and plans are in the hands of his evil daughter, Sin, who's intent on outdoing her father... Now find out about the Skull's most-dangerous World War II mission, that he risked everything for...and how it's going to tear the Marvel Universe apart today. FEAR ITSELF starts the darkest secrets of the past!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hmm. So this is apparently the kick-off to Marvel’s Next Big Thing, which seems to be following on the heels of their Last Big Thing, Siege, awfully closely. Is “The Heroic Age” over already? What was that, six months? A year? Is that how long an Age lasts these days?

I guess Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen will be doing the seven-issue, $4-a-pop Fear Itself event series proper, which is mildy more exciting than the news would be that it’s yet another Brian Michael Bendis joint.

I did not care for “Avengers Disassembled” or Secret War much. House of M was pretty poorly done, Secret Invasion just all-around awful, and, by the time Siege started, I had completely lost all interest in reading Bendis-written event comics.

They’ve certainly all sold well for the publisher, but it’s something of a relief to see that they’re letting a different writer take a crack at the game, and it’s neither Bendis nor Civil War scribe Millar.

The specifics of the storyline seem a little vague at this point…I think the Marvel heroes vs. “The god of fear” came up at one point in one of the hyperviews. That didn’t really sound all that clever—isn’t Hercules and some other Marvel heroes currently fighting an evil god in something that’s just a mini-event miniseries?—but I suppose it’s all about the execution.

I’m sure I’ll read it in library-borrowed trade eventually, although I’m pretty far behind, having not even looked into borrowing a Siege trade yet.

5 RONIN #1 - # 5
Written by Peter Milligan
Penciled by Tomm Coker, Dalibor TalajiC, Laurence Campbell, Goran Parlov & Leandro Fernandez
Covers by John Cassaday, Mark Brooks, Giuseppe Camuncoli, David Mack, Ed McGuiness & David Aja
5 Books, 5 Heroes—1 unforgettable story of heroes pushed to their limits. It is 17th century Japan, a time and place of violent upheaval, wandering Ronin, and mysterious Geisha. Into this strange and dangerous world come Wolverine, Pyslocke, Punisher, Hulk and Deadpool. Five of Marvel’s greatest you’ve never seen them before. Each has been wronged by a powerful tyrant. Each has taken a solemn vow...of vengeance!
5 Books, 5 Heroes, 5 Weeks...1 spell-binding story.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$2.99

I think I'm going to go ahead and pre-order this one. I like weekly comics, and Peter Milligan is writing this one, so even if the script is one of his weaker ones, it should at least be interesting, right?

Nothing ruins spring break faster for Iceman and Angel than a giant monster stomping through the streets of their city. But what are two young mutants to do when all the “real” superheroes are too busy to help? And why is GOOM, The Thing from Planet X running amok in the first place? It’s a superhero mutant monster spring-break bash! Woo!
32 PGS/Rated A...$2.99

I like Brian Clevinger. And I love Juan Doe’s artwork. Throw in Goom and Woo! is right.

What’s up with a Roger Cruz cover, though? His work is fine, of course, but when you have an artist with as unique and eye-catching a style as Doe, it seems odd not not advertise it on the cover.

Written by Frank MarrafFino
Pencils by Fernando Blanco
Cover by Michael Komarck
They were the Squadron Supreme, heroes exiled from another dimension to our own...but the twisted science of the Project Pegasus facility infected these defenders with a virulent zombie strain. Now it’s up to Jill Harper’s desperate special ops team to keep the plague contained within the facility—whatever the cost. But Harper discovers that the Squadron wasn’t the only unconscionable experiment being kept off the Pegasus records...and her shocking find may be the key to saving the human race. Join Frank Marrafino (Haunted Tank) and Fernando Blanco (MARVEL ZOMBIES 5, THUNDERBOLTS) as the bodies and unpredictable resurrections climax in the most gore-soaked chapter of the Marvel Zombies saga yet!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Oh, so this is where the Marvel Zombies concept is now? Squadron Supreme Zombies? Surely the bottom of the barrel is pretty much scraped clean at this point, right? (That said, I’d be down for a Star Comics Zombies…or did they already do that? I’m behind on Marvel Zombies series as well…).

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Captain America 70th Anniversary
Variant Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI
The secrets of John Steele and his link to the Shadow Council are revealed in a special two-part World War Two espionage adventure! Also starring Captain America and the Prince of Orphans, deep behind enemy lines!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

You know, if you change the word “Orphans” to “Tennis,” the above solicitation goes from just sounding kind of normal to sounding kind of awesome.

Penciled by TONY MOORE
Variant Cover by PAULO SIQUEIRA
Sketch Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA your newest Hero!
The lethal alien symbiote known as Venom is in the custody of the U.S. military...and with a familiar face from Spider-Man’s world inside the suit, the government’s own personal Spidey is going into action as one of the nation’s top covert agents in hostile territory!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

The thrust of the pitch for this series, as it currently stands, seems to be that Venom is working for the U.S. military, which isn’t actually all that compelling of a pitch, given that Venom’s been working for the U.S. military since about halfway through 2006’sCivil War.

Of course, that was a different guy wearing the Venom suit/symbiote in all those comics, and I imagine the co-star of the series will provide the actual hook for the series, but since Marvel’s not revealing who that is, it’s kind of hard to judge whether this is something someone might want to read or not (I’m going to guess Flash Thompson, who I understand was in the military and lost a leg or two in combat in a “Brand New Day” story, which would open up several possibilities, like a lifelong Spider-Man fan embracing the opportunity to wear a black Spider-Man suit—even a sentient, evil one—and soldier who lost his leg/s being able to walk again, so long as he’s wearing an evil alien costume).

I wonder why they’re being so coy about it? I can’t imagine there are that many familiar faces from Spider-Man’s world that are so popular or so unpopular that they would effect sales all that much. Unless it was someone really out of left field, like J. Jonah Jameson or Aunt May or Uncle Ben’s Skeleton or That Wrestler Peter Fought That One Time Before He Became A Superhero.

Written by JASON AARON
Penciled by DANIEL ACUÑA
Cover by JAE LEE
Captain America 70th Anniversary Variant Cover by DAVE JOHNSON
WOLVERINE VS. THE X-MEN CONTINUES! On the outside, an enraged Logan is fighting for his life against the combined might of both Namor and Magneto, while on the inside he's battling to stop a horde of demons from burning him out of his own mind. And now some of his closest friends, including Storm, Rogue and Kitty Pryde, look to stage the most improbable of rescue missions. Powerhouses JASON AARON and DANIEL ACUÑA tear it up as Wolverine’s battle against his literal demons rages on!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

This sounds fairly awesome. Save for that “Acuna” part.

Written by FRANK TIERI
Cover by Joe Jusko
Gritty scribe Frank Tieri and artist Juan Santacruz bring two of Marvel’s toughest heroes together for an all new limited series, featuring covers by the legendary Joe Jusko! Matsuo—the man who killed Yuriko—is back from the dead and has one mission—kill Wolverine. But when he recruits two deadly foes of Hercules, the Olympian joins forces with Logan to show Matsuo just what it means to battle the best there is at what they do.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$2.99

Oh hey look, a $3 Hercules comic book! Man, I miss those.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Trinity-Schminity: Wonder Woman not even in the top four

Among my Christmas gifts this year was a Justice League-branded "Micro-Raschel Throw & Pillow" set, here being modeled by Cuddle Pillow Batman. I'm not sure what the word "Raschel" refers to, but the "Justice League" here refers to Superman, Batman, The Flash and Green Lantern.

As with that 75th Anniversary button and Hostess' DC superhero-themed snack cakes, the supposedly co-equal with Superman and Batman Wonder Woman is missing in action, while one-time second stringers are standing shoulder to shoulder with the World's Finest.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DC's March previews reviewed

Monday DC Comics released their solicitations for books they plan to publish in March of next year, and as it is now Wednesday night, I’m a little behind in my usual review of their previews. Okay, actually I’m a lot behind, but the books aren’t landing in shops for another three months, so I guess a few days here or there doesn’t matter all that much.


Batman’s Argentinean adventure concludes as The Dark Knight and Gaucho fight to the death to save the lives of countless innocents. Meanwhile, England’s other Batman, The Hood, stumbles across a monstrous conspiracy—can Batman and his international allies stop a plot that threatens to transform the whole world
On sale MARCH 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Neat-o! It’s The Hood! It’s really The Hood Awesome! As I’ve wondered aloud before, I wasn’t sure if Morrison was going to confine himself to the old Silver Age Club of Heroes characters and a few new ones he made up himself, or use the various international versions of Batman that have popped up here and there in other books over the decades.

I guess he’s doing the latter, as The Hood was a one-off character created by Alan Grant and Bret Blevins in a three-issue Batman: Shadow of The Bat arc. It was part of the KnightQuest: The Search storyline, in which the wheelchair-bound Bruce Wayne left Gotham City under the care of Jean-Paul Valley and Tim Drake to pursue his girlfriend’s captors around the world. The Hood (seen in the cover detail above, painted by Brian Stelfreeze) was a London-based vigilante who did some of Bruce’s leg work for him, while he adapted a weird disguise and tricked out wheelchairs and canes to do…Batman-type stuff with Alfred. I don’t remember the plot all that well, but The Hood character left an impression. He was one of the many, many new characters Alan Grant and his artist contributors came up with during his years on the Bat-books who seemed to have some potential, but never really caught on the way that, say, The Ventriloquist or Mr. Zsasz did. Hell, I think The Tally Man has had more appearances than The Hood.

Another one-off character from a Grant-written Shadow arc I liked was this dude, The Human Flea: If Teenage Caleb found a lamp with a genie that granted him three wishes, and wished he could be a Professional Writer For DC Comics, The Human Flea totally would have been part of a Teen Titans line-up, along with Robin, Superboy, Anima, Damage, The Ray, Impulse, Maya and Anarky.

The acclaimed creative team behind Tomb of Dracula reunited in 1982 for DC’s NIGHT FORCE! Now, DC reprints issues #1-4 of this cult favorite series that taps into the lore of Dracula. The series begins as the mysterious sorcerer Baron Winter assembles a team to take on an occult evil. But can the granddaughter of Dracula’s greatest foe, a powerful parapsychologist and a timelost warrior from the court of King David tackle these threats?
On sale MARCH 23 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

I’m almost certain that all four of these comics can be found for somewhere between $2 and $4 in a back-issue bin somewhere, so I guess if you buy this book, you’re really paying for the convenience of not having to search for them.

I’ve never read this series, but the names Wolfman, Colan an Giordano applied to vampire comics for DC certainly piques my interest. Have any of you guys read Night Force….? What’s the verdict?

Art and cover by JOCK
One bright Tuesday morning, the corpse of a killer whale shows up on the floor of one of Gotham City’s foremost banks. The event begins a strange and deadly mystery that will bring Batman face-to-face with the new, terrifying faces of organized crime in Gotham. Be here for part 1 of the brand new 3-part “Hungry City.”
On sale MARCH 30 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

TEC’s brief time as a $4, back-up-having book knocked it out of my own personal read-it-as-singles column and into my trade-wait column, but that cover and that solicitation look and sound pretty great. I’m really looking forward to the eventual Snyder/Jock trades.

You guys read their first issue yet? Any goood?

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:10 Variant cover by TYLER KIRKHAM & BATT
“War of the Green Lanterns” ignites with part 1 of the blockbuster event that’ll burn into the summer! A malevolent force has usurped control over all the power batteries, leaving the Corps powerless except for a select few members. Now it’s up to Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and Sinestro to regain control – but can these warriors overcome their differences in time to save the universe?
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale MARCH 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by TONY BEDARD
Art and cover by TYLER KIRKHAM & BATT
“War of the Green Lanterns” part 2! Kyle Rayner vs. John Stewart!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale MARCH 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
In “War of the Green Lanterns” part 3, it’s the main event! Guy Gardner vs. Hal Jordan – winner take all!
On sale MARCH 30 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Yikes. That’s a pretty rotten way to organize a crossover story. I only regularly read one of those three titles, and I don’t think I’m interested enough in the franchise to pick up two extra issues by different creators—the Green Lantern creative team is a large part of why I am still reading that book.

Well, hopefully part 1 will read okay all on its own; I only read the JLoA chapters of the recent JLoA/JSoA crossover and it was…a less than ideal way to read a comic book story.

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art and cover by JOHN MCCREA
Angered by Tommy Monaghan’s previous attack, the Arkannone, a cabal of creatures residing in Hell, send the 10-foot tall skeletal demon Mawzir on a mission of revenge. Realizing that x-ray vision and telepathy are no match for the six-armed, artillery-toting hellspawn, Hitman sends Catwoman and Etrigan the Demon on a quest to hell to retrieve the one weapon that can stop Mawzir: the gun known as the Ace of Killers. A new edition of the title collecting HITMAN #15-22!
On sale APRIL 20 • 192 pg, FC, $17.99 US

Just a reminder: Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman is pretty much the best thing ever. In this story arc, Tommy Monaghan and his pal Nat invent the cat-signal, and end up holed up in a church with a ragtag group of allies, besieged by an invincible demon from hell and scores of gun-toting Gotham mob fodder.
The story kinda sorta picks up on some elements from the Ennis/McCrea Demon run (which, by the way, could use a collection, DC), and there Etrigan is super-scary…more so in this more serious title than in his own book which, at the time, often veered into crazy satire.

Buy it and read it, if you haven’t already.

The hit ACTION COMICS co-feature that everyone’s talking about gets its own collection, reprinting the first four parts of the story and presenting 30 all-new pages that bring “Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week” to a ridiculously over-the-top close!
When Jimmy Olsen finds out that his ex-girlfriend, Chloe Sullivan, is spending a week writing a profile about a young big-shot LexCorp employee, Jimmy is determined to prove to Chloe that he can have just as exciting and interesting a week. Cue bar fights with drunken aliens, a visit to the Yarn Barn with Supergirl, Fifth Dimensional stalkers, and Jimmy Olsen: Space Warrior!
One-shot • On sale MARCH 30 • 80 pg, FC, $5.99 US

This critically acclaimed back-up feature from Action Comics was one of the casualties of DC’s seemingly sudden—they had a few features in progress, and had just announced at least one more new one—decision to abandon back-ups. I was assuming it would come out in trade eventually, but this is a rather unexpected format—a $6 80-page giant reprinting the chapters that appeared in Action and finishing the story with new material.

I’d be rather pissed if I already paid for a big chunk of these stories by buying Action, and then had to pay for ‘em again just to be able to read the end of the story.

The Jeff Lemire-written Atom stories from Adventure Comics, meanwhile, are just being concluded, rather than collected and concluded in a 56-page, $5 Giant-Size Atom #1. I guess that’s a size joke about The Atom, but I don’t think DC should use the phrase “Giant-Size” in their titles, as that’s a Marvel expression. It would be like DC launching a DC Team-Up or DC Two-In-One, you know? Or maybe Uncanny Doom Patrol or a whole line of Justice League books, including New Justice League, Mighty Justice League and Justice League Academy.

Speaking of Justice Leagues…

“The Rise of Eclipso” continues! With the Spectre fallen and darkness spread throughout the DC Universe, no one is safe from Eclipso’s control! Not any of DCs shadow-based heroes and villains. Not Alan Scott and the magical beings of the moon’s Emerald City. Not even the World’s Greatest Heroes! And when Eclipso’s ultimate goal is revealed, they’ll see that it’s scale is even bigger than the DC Universe. One lone hero has the power to make sure all be well however...for he has hope. Introducing Blue Lantern Saint Walker to the Justice League of America! In the remains of New Krypton, Doomsday tears through Batman, Supergirl and Alpha Lantern Boodikka in his search for Cyborg Superman as “Reign of Doomsday” rampages on!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale MARCH 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Last week DC’s David Hyde teased “What Lantern joins the Justice League next Spring?” on The Source blog. I didn’t expect it to be a non-Green Lantern, which is kind of exciting. And kind of weird.

But that’s been one of the most engaging aspects of James Robinson’s weird-ass run on JLoA so far. Barred from using most of the traditional JLA characters, and apparently having characters yanked out of the book after already writing them in (Remember Cyborg, The Guardian, Starfire, Mon-El, Green Arrow, Hal Jordan and The Atom being on the team for, what, two issues? Three?), Robinson’s been using some pretty unusual characters, which has kept the book interesting.

It would be more interesting still if the line-up could stabilize for, say, two consecutive story arcs or so, but throwing Blue Lantern Saint Walker into the mix? Okay fine; that’s a surprise, and surprises are welcome.

Tying the book into some dumb Doomsday storyline that’s running through a bunch of other books of varying degrees of popularity—a Steel one-shot, Superboy, Outsiders—is less welcome and artist Brett Booth? I just don’t care for that fellow’s work one bit.

I can understand why Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette and Patrick Gleason would stick with Green Lantern, Batman Inc and Batman and Robin respectively, given how much better than JLoA those books sell, but I’m pretty disappointed that Booth is getting DC’s premier team book.

What about Howard Porter, Francis Manapul, Frazier Irving, Amy Reeder, Andy Clarke, Dustin Nguyen, Keith Giffen, Bernard Chang, Pete Woods, Chris Batista, Francis Portela, Phil Jimenez, Moritat, Tom Derenik, Scott Kolins, Freddie Williams II, Nicola Scott, Jerry Ordway, Kevin Maguire or Jamal Igle, to name 20 artists who are penciling DC comics on sale in March whose work I think is much, much, much better than Booth’s?

Actually, of all of those, I think Jimenez would be the best choice for a regular JLoA gig. He’s a great superhero artists, does great with crowds in terms of laying out panels and differentiating characters, has a handle on the bulk of the DCU’s designs (as he proved in JLA/Titans and Infinite Crisis) and is a big enough “name” artists to follow Mark Bagley.

Is he too slow to handle a monthly like JLoA or something? Because DC’s got him on some Legion book right now, which seems like sort of a waste. But I don’t really know what I’m talking about—maybe Jimenez is just crazy about the Legion and loves working with Levitz.

Alan…? Is that you? What the fuck are you wearing? The Iron Lantern costume?

Green Lantern’s SHOWCASE PRESENTS series continues with issues #76-100, including the famed stories that teamed Green Lantern with Green Arrow, in which the two heroes face issues of the day including women’s rights, political corruption, religious intolerance and more — all while battling evil. This volume also includes adventures from GL’s 1976 relaunch, collected here for the first time!
On sale APRIL 20 • 496 pg, B&W, $19.99 US

Hey, this is kinda cool—DC has already released the O’Neil/Adams GL/GA stories in pricier, full-color trades, but now they’re appearing in cheap-o Showcase Presents format. Good deal. I hope this means that the Satellite Era Justice League stories that have been released in other formats will eventually be Showcased as well.

Art and cover by SHELDON MAYER
DC’s cult favorite comic about a pair of precocious babies is collected at last in this volume.
Hot-tempered Sugar Plumm and shy Cecil “Spike” Wilson may be toddlers, but they know more about getting into trouble than most grown-ups. And while they can understand each other perfectly, all their parents seem to hear when they speak is “Glx sptzl glaah!”
Now, DC Comics collects their classic series for the first time, starting with issues #1-10, in this hardcover showcasing stories and art by the talented Sheldon Mayer, inspired by the hijinks of his own children.
On sale AUGUST 31 240 pg, FC, $59.99 US

Because Chris Sims demanded it! Loudly, repeatedly and in-person! I’m not sure if this is the way he wanted it…I’d be down for a Showcase or something, um, not$60, but nice to see DC responding at all, I guess.

Well, there’s some action on this one, anyway…

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
The awesome underwater issue! Guest-starring Aqualad, Arthur Jr., Inky, Fluffy and Steve, the Sea Horse! Aquagirl introduces everybody to her new Tiny Titans team, “The Hurtin’ Titans!” Featuring: Hardrock, The Face, Star Spangled Kid and TNTeena! Ker-sploosh!
On sale MARCH 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I believe this is the first appearance of a Tiny Aquagirl…and she looks completely different than the two DCU Aquagirls.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the Tiny version of The Face.

I think I like the name The Hurtin’ Titans even more than The Terror Titans.

Art and cover by JILL THOMPSON
The 4-issue miniseries from writer Will Pfeifer and artist Jill Thompson (DELIRIUM’S PARTY: A LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK) is collected at last!
Meet Wally Maurer, his girlfriend Nancy, and his housemates at Knox State, a college where the goal for most students is to survive one another’s senior projects (time-travel machines, “hyper-cinema-vérité” and armed robbery, for example) – as well as their own. Prepare for a cutting satire that takes on the elitism, mindless amusements and hidden agendas of higher education as seen through the eyes of five seniors who just want to graduate – without getting killed.
On sale MARCH 9 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US • MATURE READERS

Note: This is a pretty fun miniseries, well worth the price of admission—$2 per issue!—for Jill Thompson’s art alone, although I recall digging Pfeifer’s story as well at the time.


Based on the information I have now, it looks like the single-issue comic book-comic books I'll be buying from DC Comics next March are The All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold #5, Brightest Day #21 and #22, DC Comics Presents: Night Force #1, DC Universe Online Legends #3 and #4, Green Lantern #64, Jimmy Olsen #1, Justice League: Generation Lost #21 and #22, Knight and Squire #6, Tiny Titans #38 and Young Justice #2.

That's 13 books, for a grand total of $46.87 before discounts, assuming I did my math right.