Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spoiler-free panel from my upcoming self-published comic book #3:

Full announcement and details on how you can order your own copy of my debut coming tomorrow afternoon. Because I understand from my time in the media that Friday afternoons are the ideal time to release information you want to get a lot of coverage.

In the future, we'll still have Pac-Man.

Or, at the very least, extremely Pac-Man-like games. According to the first issue of Hotwire: Deep Cut by Steve Pugh.

Will Hetalia: Axis Powers get a coveted positive review from a third-generation Italian-American comics blogger?

Despite its...less-than-flattering anthropomorphic portrayal of the country as a completely useless, ineffectual coward whose only skill seems to be annoying the anthropomorphic representation of Germany? Click on over to to find out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: Suihelibe!

These are the first five pages of Naomi Azuma’s nigh unpronounceable manga series Suihelibe!:

Our young hero Tetsu enters a classroom, thinking he’s about to join the biology club, and instead finds a cute girl in a crashed UFO and a cute little bunny rabbit creature that “colosusizes” into a totally ripped monster until she grabs its ears.

It’s a great opening, consisting of a series of crazy events, about one per panel, jammed right on top of one another, and begging the questions “What the heck is going on?” and “How long is this going to keep up like this?”

The answer to the second question is at least a few more pages, as on the very next one the girl shows him a chart of various alien life forms, explains that she’s on earth collecting animal escapees from her planet, remembers she’s not supposed to tell Earthlings about her existence, asks him to forget everything, hops back in her flying saucer and flies away, tossing a wall-fixing bomb in her wake to restore the classroom wall she had crashed into.

All that takes just three more pages.

From there, Tetsu continues to attempt to join the biology club, only to learn that a) there is no biology club, as he’s the only student in the school currently interested in it, b) the evil student council wants to shut it down and absorb the funding reserved for it into the other clubs and c) they’ll let him maintain the biology club on the one condition that he find five members to join it.

And then he fights an alligator.

The series is only two volumes long, and not simply because its American publisher CMX went the way of most DC Comics imprints; it’s simply a two-volume series. The pace eventually slackens a bit after the delirious first episode, “The Debut of Spacegirl Lan!!” (with two exclamation points!), but not by too terribly much.

Lan of course joins the biology club, and thus the only biology Tetsu really engages in is that related to finding and capturing escaped Noidy’s, cute aliens from Lan’s world that tend to be more mischievous than dangerous, and all of which can be dispatched with by her blasting them with a “transmitting” ray and sending them back home.

For the entire first volume, the pair divide their time between catching Noidys and securing members: Suzuka, the smartest girl in class (who has a crush on Tetsu); Keiichi, the smartest boy in class (who seems to at least be fascinated with Lan) and Rintaro, the class idol (who has no interest in biology, but has a crush on Lan).

The story line is plotted like a hill, with the whole first volume devoted to building up the cast, with the penultimate panel of the book being a group shot of the five clubmembers and the words “…our adventures are just beginning!” floating over Tetsu’s head, and then, with the second volume, the book immediately starts winding down.

The character conflicts have all been introduced, but the adventures are fairly typical school manga ones —the school fair, a field trip, battling their rival club student council—with the climax being devoted to Lan’s homeworld authorities determining whether she can stay on earth with her friends to capture Noidys or head home.

At just under 400 pages total, it is a rather quick and awfully slight read, and, once the premise is set up, one that’s also fairly predictable and formulaic. Fast and light can also be virtues, of course, and in this particular case, I think they are.

Azuma’s designs are all flat, simple, cute and engaging—the human and alien animal characters alike—and the interplay between na├»ve and sunny Lan and perpetually flustered Tetsu makes for a decent comedy engine.

Given that as much work seems to have been put into building up the cast as was spent on wrapping up the story, it’s something of a shame that the book only lasts two volumes. On the other hand, Suihelibe! is over before it can even begin to wear out its welcome.

Whatever deficiencies it may have, a reader doesn’t spend enough time with any of them that they ever truly grate.

Spoiler-free panel from my upcoming self-published comic book #2:

Details to follow shortly.

Dear Bob Harras,

Congratulations on your new gig! Please make all of DC's comics totally awesome all the time, and make sure none of them are ever bad again. Thanks!

Your pal,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Spoiler-free panel from my upcoming self-published comic book #1:

Further details will be made available within the week. This has been a pointlessly vague bit of teaser-ing in lieu of actual new blog content.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What I'm still reading...for now

Every once in a while I like to take an evening to take stock of my own personal comic book-buying habits. I don’t know if it necessarily make for interesting reading or mean all that much to anyone else, but it does make for anecdotal evidence of at least one comic book reader, so I think there’s some value in such things.

Because there’s been so much discussion about the health of the direct market, and because I spent some time poring over Marvel and DC’s publishing strategies for December so recently, it seemed like a good time to take such stock.

As for background (and if you know it, feel free to skip ahead), I was, up until earlier this year, pretty much your typical Wednesday Crowd-er, direct market customer.

I would go to my local comic shop every Wednesday around noon, and I would spend between $25-$40 on new comic books ($40 was the highest my weekly comics-buying budget got, back when I had a full-time job as a writer/editor at a big-ish city altweekly newspaper; once I moved into part-time freelance writing/part-time working-for-bread-and-rent, it slowly shrunk at five dollar increments). If it were during my $40-a-week period, and only $30 worth of new comics I wanted to buy came out, I might try three new titles, or get a volume of a manga series.

In February, when my personal comics budget was $25 (and if only $12 worth of new comics came out, I would just move that $13 into my gas of food fund, I moved away from that big city, to a little one, and the nearest shop was now a 40 minute drive away. I go to the city that shop’s in a couple times a month, but now that I’ve broken from the ritual elements of the new comics day, I make fewer purchases, and now I read (as a consumer, not as a blogger or critic; obviously I read a ton of material I don’t buy in a comic shop) pretty much just what’s on my pull-list.

And my but that pull-list has shrunk!

Part of that is because of personal choices I’ve made about my buying habits, like preferring to trade-wait some new series rather than reading them monthly, since I’m in the shop less frequently, or not paying anything over $3.50 for 22-or-less story pages at the same time that the Big Two have been increasing their prices.

And part of that is because the big direct market publishers of comic book-comic books—the spine-less, stapled, usually serially published stories—have simply been publishing less and less that I want to read. In the cases of many of the “premiere” publishers that distribute through Diamond, they’re publishing less and less that I want to read specifically in that format and/or for the asking price of that format’s installments.

So: Here’s a list of the comic book-style comic books I currently have on a pull-list, the comics my local-est comic shop knows to order for me every month, and, I suppose, the two publishers that publish them all know that they can expect to sell to that retailer.

It is not very many comics, and the list is getting smaller, as several of these are scheduled to be canceled or end in the near future.

Batman and Robin (DC; 2 more issues)

This title was launched in 2009 as a new ongoing series dedicated to Grant Morrison’s multi-year, multi-title, multi-Batman epic run on the Batman franchise, and while it will technically continue publication once Morrison leaves it with November’s sixteenth issue for a new new Batman title, in effect Batman and Robin was just a maxi-series. (Sorry gang; that was a terribly written sentence. I have failed you, Brian Michael Bendis).

Like a lot—Most? All?—of the folks reading Batman and Robin, I was reading it because that’s just where Grant Morrison was doing his Batman writing at the time. Once he leaves it, I’ll leave it too.

Under normal circumstances, I would follow Morrison and his ongoing Bat-narrative into the next title hosting it, but that new title is going to experience a 33% price increase, which is just way too much for me to be able to spend on 22-pages of Batman comics…especially when I know if I simply wait a while, I’ll get a better value from the collections…or just be able to read it for free when a library purchases it and ads it to their collection.

Because I was only reading the book for the Morrison, naturally I won’t be buying #17 or any of the other issues that will follow, despite the fact that writer Peter J. Tomasi has written some pretty okay super-comics and the fact that artist Patrick Gleason is an incredible talent who I’m very happy to see getting such a fairly high-profile gig.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! (DC; 2 more issues)

I was a big fan of this title’s original iteration—Mike Kunkel doing pretty much whatever he wants, at his own pace, following the continuity established in Jeff Smith’s Monster Society of Evil miniseries—but once DC decided to move the book into something approaching a regular schedule, it went through a rough period (issues of which I read rather randomly).

It didn’t really get it’s groove back until #13, when it finally got a stable creative team—Art Baltazar and Franco on script, Mike Norton doing some of the most impressive work of his career on pencils and inks—and now it’s been canceled, with next month’s #21 being the final issue.

I suppose there’s a chance some other version of the title will return in the near future, as several of DC’s kids comics were canceled only to be relaunched within a month or two, but, if not, this troubled title ultimately seems like an overall failure. Albeit one with some bright spots.

If you’ve never read any of it, I recommend Kunkel’s issues (#1-#4), the Stephen DeStephano-illustrated #6 (You know what this world needs? More DeStephano-illustrated DC superhero comics…in the mean time, you guys should totally check out his Lucky In Love) and #17, the cows-that-get-abducted-by-aliens done-in-one issue.I’m sure a well-stocked back-issue bin will have most of those awfully cheap.

Brightest Day (DC; 15 more issues)

I’m not entirely sure this belongs on the list, as it is a limited series, but it’s long enough a limited series that by the time it wraps up it will end up having more issues then plenty of ongoings that just don’t catch on in the market place, so what the hell—I’ll think of it as a canceled comic that just has plenty of issues to go.

This is a somewhat peculiar book for me, as there are things I really like about it and things I really don’t like about it, but the former outweigh the latter significantly enough that I keep reading.

In the plus column, the writing is generally pretty strong (albeit overly violent and faux-mature for my personal tastes), the cast is a big one full of diverse, lesser-known characters, it comes out bi-weekly, it stars a few of my favorite superhero characters, and some of the art is excellent.

In the minus column, the cover art is generally unimpressive-to-just plain awful, and some of the interior art makes me sick to look at (The Firestorm stuff, as I’ve mentioned before).

Because it’s pre-canceled at issue #26, I can’t imagine the few drawbacks will get enough traction to make me want to drop the book. Unless, I don’t know, we get four consecutive issues of the person who draws The Firestorms stuff drawing 22 pages of the evil martian character slaughtering children or something like that.

Green Lantern (DC)

If you’ve read this blog very long, you probably know I have somewhat mixed feelings about Geoff Johns’ writing, but whether I always like what he does or not, there’s no denying he’s very, very good at what he does.

And what he does is write very entertaining DC superhero comic books, and I think somewhere around the time of 52 his skills made a rather noticeable leap, either because he became one of DC’s only reliable hit-makers and was given freer reign from editorial than he had previously, or because his fellow 52 writers Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison all became blood brothers, cutting their palms and shaking hands so their blood, and thus the comics writing skills that infused it, intermingled, making him four times the writer he was before or…I don’t know.

But he’s been doing really great stuff on his Green Lantern book, which, thanks to all this “War of Light”/Blackest Night/Brightest Day rainbow lantern business has somehow become DC’s flagship title.

I love the fact that a lot of his concepts on Green Lantern sound completely stupid in summary, but then play out kind of awesome…or, put slightly more maturely, are at once ridiculous and clever, depending on how you squint or what angle you look at them from. It’s like 3D comics writing—close one eye and you only see the big, dumb stuff through the red lens; close the other eye, and you see only the audacious and clever stuff through the green lens; but read with both eyes open through the glasses, and man, what a comic book!

I think I’ve mentioned my distaste for Hal Jordan as a character before—in the same way I might admire Batman or think Aquaman or Martian Manhunter are cool dudes I’d like to hang out with, Hal Jordan seems like a jerk I’d cross the street to avoid having to say hello to. But Johns has built an enjoyable superhero comic around this dim and loathsome (to me) character, and every couple of months I’ll notice the number on the cover of an issue of Green Lantern and think, “My God, I’ve been reading this for forty-six months now...!" (Or whatever number of months happens to correspond to the number of the cover when I do this).

The title has definitely benefited from the fact that the writer has been so dedicated to it, sticking around so long—and thus never providing me a good “jumping off point” the way the previously discussed Batman and Robin will shortly—and it’s been relatively blessed with plenty of decent-to-pretty great artists (Carlos Pacheco, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Mike McKone).

In 57 issues, I’ve considered dropping the book just three times—during Daniel Acuna’s two-issue stint (#19-#20), during Philip Tan’s “Orange Lantern” story arc (#39-#42 and the complete mess of #49. But in each case, it was clear the artist whose style and/or skill I didn’t care for wasn’t going to be around long.

The current artist, Doug Mahnke, is one of my favorites to have drawn superheroes for DC on a regular basis in the last 20 years or so, so I don’t plan to drop this book any time soon.

Justice League: Generation Lost (DC; 1-16 more issues)

As with Brightest Day, this is a 26-issue, every-other-weekly limited series, and thus maybe doesn’t belong here.

Unlike Brightest Day, I like the artwork a little less (the former book has different artists for different character storylines, whereas JL:GL switches artists every few issues, so if you don’t like one of the…three, I think it is, then you won’t like 22 out of every 66 pages) and have much, much, much, much less confidence in the writer (Judd Winick, working solo).

So I’ve been cautiously reading this, expecting something Judd Winick-y to happen at any moment and make me drop it. At this point, ten issues in, I’m probably safe, but I continue to buy it off the rack, rather than have my local-est comic shop add it to my pull-list.

I have a hard time recommending this book to people, given how damn specific the target audience seems to be, but I’m part of that target audience, so as long as it remains not-terrible, I’ll probably finish it up.

Justice League of America (DC)

Theoretically, this is perhaps my favorite superhero comic. That is, it was my favorite superhero comic at several points in the past, it easily could be, and I, personally, think it always should be.

I had been reading various DCU super-comics for a few years before the Morrison/Porter/Dell team launched JLA in 1997, and their run remains one of my favorite on any superhero comic ever. Mark Waid took the torch from Morrison and performed admirably, although his run was somewhat ruined by Bryan Hitch, who seemed unable to deliver 22-pages of pencil art on a monthly basis. The unlikely team of Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen that followed Waid and company also did a great job and then, as I mentioned the other day, the title sort of went off the tracks in 2004…and never really got back on the tracks (the seem to be getting there now though!)

That was the year when the “big” events of the DCU started to occur outside of JLA, and as more and more “evergreen” stories by rotating creative teams got dusted off and run in JLA, the title increasingly had less and less to do with the DCU…the characters were still being used in big, exciting stories, but those stories didn’t happen here anymore, and these stories didn’t reflect, let alone acknowledge those.

You know, the Denny O’Neil/Tan Eng Huat three-parter, the six-part John Byrne/Chris Claremont Doom Patrol reboot, the six-part Chuck Austen/Ron Garney cry-a-thon, the eight-part Kurt Busiek-written Crime Syndicate story (which should have been the start of a new ongoing run), and then a pair of stories that finally brought JLA into the goings on of the rest of the DCU, and also ended the series (the Geoff Johns/Allan Heinberg/Chris Batista Identity Crisis follow-up and the Bob Harras-scripted Infinite Crisis story arc where everyone quits the League…like a bunch of quitters).

The current volume started rough and never really got its act together, for reasons that the publisher never made clear (not that they would say, “Holy crap readers! You wouldn’t believe how screwed up things are on our end!”) but the final product couldn’t quite conceal either. (Good places to start, however, might be with a “regular” penciler unable to keep the 22-pages-a-month schedule, a “regular” writer who signed up for one, open-ended story arc, too much editorial interference and too many attempts to tie-in too rigidly to not-very-good crossovers and, in one bizarre case, to tie-in to a tie-in).

I had dropped the book about halfway through the Brad Meltzer/Ed Benes run, tried an issue here or there since, and eventually caught up in library trade, resuming purchasing a Justice League comic monthly only when James Robinson and Mark Bagley took over late last year.

Initially, the book seemed to suffer from the same weird interference that hurt previous regular writer Dwayne McDuffie’s run, with most of the Justice League members being unusable, and even the minor, B-, C- and D-List characters he brought into the fold disappearing just as suddenly (I’m still confused as to why a few issues were spent introducing Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen, Ray Palmer, Cyborg, The Guardian, Dr. Light, Mon-El and Starfire to the team if all of ‘em were going to be yanked from the line-up for various reasons in an issue or two anyway, for example).

But while characters were joining and quitting month-to-month and crossovers were being crossed in and out of (Robinson’s second and third issues on the title were Blackest Night tie-ins, his sixth was par of a “Rise and Fall”-branded story, and everything that followed has had “Brightest Day” across the top, although “Brightest Day” seems to be more of a branding efforts-style crossover than a read-every-chapter-to-follow-a-long sort of thing), at least Robinson now had Mark Bagley working with him.

If the book wasn’t always completely consistent in terms of characters and storyline, at least it always looked consistent, and thus felt consistent.

That’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Robinson struck me as something of a weird choice for the title, since so much of his best (Starman) and worst (Cry For Justice) DC super-writing has been ensemble books with the license to plunder DC’s intellectual property.

There’s an awful lot I haven’t enjoyed about Robinson’s run, much of it dealing with what strikes me as an inappropriate amount of gore, violence and emotional trauma, all of which seems far removed from what I personally want from a Justice League comic (plot-wise, what we got from the first ninety-some issues of JLA, or the original JLoA comics you find in Showcase Presents collections), and, of course, the Meltzer-like technique of over-narrating stories through color-coded narration boxes, which is essentially just a weird, visually busy way of writing Chris Claremont-style thought balloon-athons.

On the other hand, I am reading JLoA again. I considered dropping it during the JSA crossover, but my local comic shop had accidentally added it to my pull-list, and I didn’t hate it enough to take it off…even though I skipped the JSoA chapters. Ten issues seems like an awful long time to get the book moving in the direction a particular creative team might want, but then, JLoA has been fighting its way through crossovers, and it looks like it’s finally out of the woods.

So it looks like JLoA is about to start for real.

The writing is back to being strong, stronger it’s been on a regular basis since Kelly’s run ended (I think a Busiek run probably woulda kicked ass, but sadly, wasn’t in the in the cards), and the art’s not only good again, but consistent again, so if Robinson and Bagley can get at least enough leeway to keep a core cast for a couple of story arcs and be able to go in their own direction for a while instead of ping-ponging around crossovers, I’m actually looking forward to the future of this book.

And even if they can’t, I’m having a hard time imagining dropping it. With this particular creative team, I imagine Robinson’s tendency to pull in obscure DCU characters and concepts and Mark Bagley’s tendency to draw really awesome super-comics will make this a most-superheroes-per-comic value going forward (And once Brightest Day, Superman’s walk, Batman’s death and Wonder Woman’s continuity shenanigans are all over, the big seven are all gonna get back together at some point, right?)

Sorry, I went on way too long there. I just really like the Justice League!

King City (Image Comics)

I’ve been a huge fan of Brandon Graham’s ever since I first encountered his work, in 2005 Alternative Comics collection Escalator, and I’ve only come to admire his work (and work ethic!) more the more of it I’ve seen (although I do wish I could unsee some of the stuff I’ve seen in his porn comic Pillow Fight).

This Image Comic provides a consistent dose of Graham’s work, and also perhaps the best value you can find in a comic book-comic book at the moment. It’s an oversized 7-and-a-half-inch-by-10-and-just-a-smidge-under-a-half-inch, 32-page comic book featuring zero-to-one ads, front and back covers and occasional guest strips. Graham writes, draws, letters and often provides the covers himself, making it the most Graham-tastic book imaginable.

And it’s a buck cheaper than Time Masters: Vanishing Point or Ultimate Avengers 2.

I might never get over that fact.

Anyway, I’ve no intention of dropping this (and there’s a good chance it would be the very last serial comic I’d stop buying if I had to keep dropping comic book-comic books for any reason), and as far as I know Graham doesn’t plan to stop making it and Image doesn’t plan to stop publishing at any point in the foreseeable future.*

Orc Stain (Image)

James Stokoe’s fantasy series about the least scummy orc in a world full of scummy orcs is so far rather slight in terms of plot, and maybe not the best comic to look for great truths about the human experience or moving character drama, but good God is it a wonder to behold, well worth the price of admission to marvel at Stokoe’s detailed, imaginative, brilliantly-colored art work and the weird world he’s been gradually building with every line he draws.

There’s a good chance I would have trade-waited this book, had I not already known who Stokoe was (thanks to his pretty awesome Won Ton Soup digest from Oni Press) and had I not been the sort of nerd whose ears perk up at the mention of the word “orc.” I’m glad I got in on the ground floor though, as I like reading serial comic books in the comic book-comic book format, and this is a good one.

Tiny Titans (DC)

I remember being extremely skeptical of this book when it was first announced—the whole Johnny DC line at the time, actually—and reading the first issue and feeling weird about the first experience. On the one hand, it was clearly intended for kids, but on the other hand, it featured obscure characters from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez run on the Titans franchise. Like, I’m not really sure I can explain Jericho and his powers or Trigon and Raven; I had a hard time imagining actual kids wanting to read about these guys.

The book won me over pretty quickly though, and there was a period where I’d be like, “Okay, one more issue…” since they were pretty formulaic and all, but then the next month in the shop I’d flip through the issue and see something like, I don’t know, the Tiny Titans version of Barda or Art Baltazar’s Alfred or something, and I couldn’t help but buy it.

Now it’s one of my favorite Big Two comics, and one of the last six DC comics on my pull-list. I’m not sure if I simply came around, or if Baltazar and co-writer Franco just got sharper and sharper with their work on the series as they found their groove, but I suspect it’s a bit of both.

I do know I had read a lot of John Stanley kids comics between the time I read Tiny Titans #1 and now, and that might have had something to do with it—now I recognize Tiny Titans as a Stanley-style gag comic for kids, only featuring cuter, brighter artwork and loads of DC Universe in-jokes.

I have no intention of dropping it, despite a modest, forty-four-cent price increase and a switch to a new slick and glossy paper stock, which I hate (The old paper stock was actually one of the many things I liked about Tiny Titans).

Looking ahead, the only books I seem to be adding are one-shots, miniseries and a random issue of a title here or there…with the likely exception of The All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold, which, unlike the previous iteration of the title, will have a regular creative team.

So my regular purchases of ongoing-ish comic book-comic books—the ones publishers can rely on me buying month in and month out–amount to, as of September of this year, nine books.

By the end of the year, that will be down to seven, and if I add that A-NB:TbatB book, we’re back up to eight. But in another few months when limited series Justice League: Generation Lost an Brightest Day end, I’ll be down to just five.

That is not very many comic books at all.

SonDC can count on me definitely spending only $9 to $12 on their comic books month in and month out, Marvel can count on me definitely spending zero dollars each month and Image can count on me definitely spending $6 on their books per month.

I’ll likely spend a lot more on each company’s wares, and those of plenty of other publishers, but not with any rhyme or reason that the publishers (and, unfortunately, the retailers) will be able to predict.

What if there are 100 Calebs out there right now with similar buying habits? What if there are 1,000? That would be pretty bad, right?

*Actually, my comments section informs me that the book will end with #12, which will be very sad; it also informs me that Graham will move on to a Multiple Warheads comic, which will be fantastic—I really like that lady's hair

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Four images.

I was pretty surprised to see the above image staring up at me from a rolled-up newspaper on a relative's porch on Sunday morning.

Funky Winkerbean cartoonist Tom Batiuk and/or whoever helps produce his comic strip (I can't imagine he does it all by himself; surely he must at least have a couple of sadness experts advising him on the scripts) has long incorporated superhero allusions and homages into his and/or their work, but I think Deadman is perhaps the most obscure of 'em I've seen before (Not that I've read every installment of Funky Winkerbean or anything; for all I know DC superheroes who have never had their own TV shows or movies appear in Sunday strips regularly).

I mean we know who Deadman is, but how big a portion of the total Funky Winkerbean reading audience do we account for?


Somehow I forgot to highlight the above cover for What If? Wolverine: Father, which in many months would probably be Marvel's most awesome cover of the month, but then, this month the month this particular cover is being released is the same one during which Ivan Brunetti's image of cute little Marvels all using the gym together is also planned for release).


Let me tell you a very sad story. Somewhere, someone created this image, and was paid money for it, while someone else, who probably got paid even more money, looked at it and said "Yes, yes this is an acceptable image. I can't think of anything about it that should be changed."

Actually, that's the most positive way to look at that image.

The more cynical way to look at it is that those involved with its existence were all quite aware that it is a terrible, terrible image, but made it that particular type and level of terrible to cater to a particular audience with terrible taste. That is, they were thinking, "Hey, we have this prose urban-fantasy series we'd like to sell to those goofy people who read comic books...what do the things they like look like? Like this? Okay fine, make this look as much like that crap as possible."

Pardon me a moment, I need to go weep quietly in the closet....


Oh say, look at the cover of JSA All-Stars #10, which came out a few weeks ago: I haven't seen Power Girl's blood-splattered breasts in a while, and I can't remember the last time I've seen them on the cover of a comic book.

Oh Comics, you sure do cater to some very specific fetishes!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marvel's December previews reviewed

As always, Marvel's full solicitations for the comics they intend to publish in December of 2010 can be found here, while my comments on what looks good/bad/noteworthy can be found below.

Pencils & Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.
The return of the Illuminati! Marvel's super-secret brain trust has reunited because someone is trying to put the Infinity Gauntlet back together. Who is it and will the Avengers be able to stop them in time? And what does any of this have to do with the Red Hulk? Plus, is there a little romance brewing? Another blistering blockbuster
chapter from Marvel's premiere super hero team Bendis and Romita Jr. Plus: another illustrated chapter of the oral history of the Avengers!
32 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

1.) Does the return of The Illuminati excite anyone? Anyone at all? In the past, didn't they just get together and talk Brian Michael Bendisly at one another about upcoming crossover events?

2.) Hey, where's Blackbolt? Did Norman Osborn kill him or Red Hulk eat him in a big Marvel crossover I didn't read?

3.) And Charles Xavier is okay and still walking around? For some reason I thought he was dead or in a coma again or something. Seems like it's been a while since I've seen him anywhere.

4.) How if John Romita Jr. doing drawing a Bendis title, by the way? Is he pulling off pages and pages of conversation okay, or has Bendis has been better tailoring his scripting to JRJR's strengths?

Written by DAVID LISS
In the wake of Shadowland, there’s a new protector of Hell’s Kitchen! He has no kingdom, no vibranium, and no high-tech safety net--just bloody knuckles and the will to prove himself in a foreign land where the fiercest of jungle predators stalks the most dangerous urban prey! His name is T’Challa, and in the aftermath of Shadowland, he will create a new life, a new identity, and learn what it is to be a different kind of hero. But with Daredevil gone, the bad guys are coming out to play, and a new nemesis--Vlad the Impaler--plots his bloody rise to power. Be there as national best-selling author and Edgar Award Winner David Liss and the pulp master Francesco Fracavilla (Zorro, Green Hornet) begin a shocking new chapter for the world’s most dangerous man!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Look out, Black Panther! There’s a ghost! Right behind you!

So I guess a new (and very interesting!) creative team and a new character are taking over Daredevil's nickname and numbering? Can they do that?

How does Daredevil and Shadowland end? Apparently with Matt Murdock being skinned alive and having someone write "DD" on his chest with a Sharpie.

Penciled by BRAD WALKER
In the aftermath of Shadowland, Marvel’s greatest street heroes – Punisher, Moon Knight, Shroud, Elektra, Paladin, Silver Sable, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Falcon, Misty Knight and more – leap into one all-new series! Who has brought these dangerous loners into one fighting force? How is this network different from all other teams? Who is their first target, and what mysteries wait for them? Discover the answers and enter the action on Marvel’s mean streets, courtesy of fan-favorite writers Dan Abnett & Andly Lanning (THE THANOS IMPERATIVE, PUNISHER: YEAR ONE) and artist Brad Walker (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY)!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Matt Murdock. I’m going to go ahead and guess Matt Murdock.

I'm pretty sure these things were in 1985 film Return To Oz, which traumatized poor eight-year-old Caleb, what with it's Nothing Like The "Real" Wizard of Oz-ishnes. They look much, much cooler as drawn by Skottie Young here.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5
Historical Variant by DUSTIN WEAVER
“The Forgotten Machines of XXXXXX XXXXX”
The story that has taken the comic book world by storm marches on with an issue so secretive that we can’t even reveal the full title! WHO IS THE NIGHT MACHINE?! Find your answer here from Jonathan Hickman (FANTASTIC FOUR) and Dustin Weaver (X-MEN). Every issue has sold out and gone into multiple printings. IT’S GOOD! WE PROMISE! Don’t miss the sleeper hit of 2010!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Eleven X's? This will be Marvel's dirtiest comic book ever!

Wow, check out Ivan Brunetti's Strange Tales II cover!

Written by MARK MILLAR
Pencils and Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Who is Superior? Where did he come from? And who the hell is after him?!? MARK MILLAR (KICK-ASS, NEMESIS, CIVIL WAR) and LEINIL FRANCIS YU (SECRET INVASION, NEW AVENGERS) continue the non-stop excitement of their all-new super hero series. If you liked KICK-ASS and NEMESIS--do yourself the greatest favor you could ever do. Don't miss SUPERIOR!
32 PGS./Mature...$2.99

Who is Superior? Superman. Where did he come from? Mark Millar's ass. Who the hell is after him?!? I don't know; after Nemesis and Superior, I imagine a Wonder Woman analogue.

Written by MARK MILLAR
Penciled by STEVE DILLON
Cover by GREG LAND The battle for blood gets thicker as the vampire frenzy comes to a head. With Cap fanged out, Fury brings out the big guns and some new recruits—newish, that is: Perun aka, Russian Thor and the Giant Men. While Blade’s ordered to stand down, the new vampire Nerd Hulk has powered up—and it looks like it’s going to take a lot more than a few Avengers to avenge these bloodsuckers. Mark Millar and Steve Dillon throw down a vampire tale like none other!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Yes, like none other! Especially nothing like "Curse of The Mutants."

After the shocking status quo game changer from last issue's 10th
anniversary special, Spider-Man must now undergo afterschool super hero training—and the lessons start here!!! Plus Peter Parker gets a new
girlfriend? And you won't believe who she is. They’ll be guest stars galore in this action packed adventure as Spidey gets schooled!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Is…is she on the cover…?

Penciled by SANA TAKEDA
Before the events of Siege, long-time Avenger Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) sought to take matters into his own hands and kill Norman Osborn himself. Why should a menace like Osborn be allowed the chance to live? Slay the monster, save the kingdom... right? The kill shot is just the beginning in this twisted tale of conspiracy and intrigue that takes Dark Reign to even blacker depths. What’s the worst that could happen? See for yourself in this one-shot from Jason Henderson and Sana Takeda.
PLUS, What If: The Venom Symbiote Possessed Deadpool – Part 1!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hey, did they ever collect that Runaways/Young Avengers story that ran parceled up between a previous suite of What If? specials? I was interested in seeing that, but no so interested that I wanted to buy and read all the specials just to read the back-ups.

This back-up is similarly of some interest to me.

Story by Bob Layton & David Micheline
Penciled by GRAHAM NOLAN
Would Tony Stark still be Iron Man...if he wasn't Tony Stark? Twenty years ago, in a college experiment gone bad, the young Stark's mind is transferred to the body of impoverished but brilliant fellow student, Victor von Doom! Blamed for the unsanctioned research, his memory wiped clean, Tony is deported and forced to face life as a disgraced Latverian commoner. Meanwhile, von Doom grows and flourishes in the wealth and privilege of being sole heir to tark Industries. Thus, in separate cauldrons on different sides of the world, both Iron Man and Dr. Doom are forged anew. But who are the men inside the armors...really? Find out in "WHAT IF TONY STARK HAD BECOME DR. DOOM?", co-plotted and written by David Michelinie ("IRON MAN: THE END"), pencilled by Graham Nolan ("X-MEN FOREVER") and co-plotted and inked by Bob Layton ("HERCULES: TWILIGHT OF A GOD"). PLUS, What If: The Venom Symbiote Possessed Deadpool – Part 3!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Holy shit, I just noticed Graham Nolan on pencils! Awesome! I think of him every time I read a Batman comic with shitty art, as he's one of the half-dozen living Batman artists whose name I always think of in the context of "________ could have done a million times better than this."

Anyway, the paragraph explaining this story sort of lost me—"Tony Stark as a red-and-yellow Dr. Doom woulda done it for me—but I like the goofy title, I like the awesome cover image, and Nolan's presence seals the deal.

Written by Dame Darcy, Mary HK Choi, Jim McCann, & Audrey Loeb
Penciled by Robin Ha, Nuno Alves, Mike Ryan, & Emily Warren
Cover by GREG LAND Jungle queens, invisible princesses and beautiful banshees, oh my! Marvel’s magnificent Amazons take it up a notch in this smoldering selection of shorts by talent to watch out for! Shanna the She-Devil battles pilgrims and pterodactyls, Sue Storm forges a fairy tale ending for the Invisible Woman, and Songbird faces the music of her past when she meets...Screaming Mimi?! And little Lyra needs a prom dress...which brings the smallest She-Hulk against an all new foe: THE MALL!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

I don’t suppose there are any retailers out there who will just cut out the pages by Dame Darcy and sell me those, will they?

Actually, wait a minute, she’s got a “written by” credit but not a “penciled by” one, huh? Eh nevermind then.

Monday, September 20, 2010

DC's December previews reviewed

As always, DC's full solicitations for the comics they intend to publish in December of 2010 can be found here, while my comments on what looks good/bad/noteworthy can be found below.

Written by DAVID HINE

The prophecy is fulfilled! Azrael has been found crucified, and a mystery swirls around his fate. It’s time for the world’s greatest detective to step in and figure out how this destiny came to pass. And how will this continue to play into the founding of Batman, Inc? Guest-starring The Dark Knight!

On sale DECEMBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Hey, still not canceled! Way to go, Azrael! And with Batman, Inc. launching and getting name-checked in the solicitation for this issue, the new volume of Azarel may be around for months and months yet.

Written by DAVID FINCH

Batman faces the Penguin in the search for his childhood friend Dawn Golden…but what The Dark Knight finds sends him on a far darker and more desperate path. Now he’s forced to reach out to Etrigan, the Demon for help – a favor that may come at too high a price!

On sale DECEMBER 29 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US

The plot sounds intriguing—I like The Demon, I like the Penguin, Dawn Golden has a funny name—and I might be interested in picking this up if I didn’t loathe the work of the artists. So no sale.

Also, please note this is $4. So not only is DC taking their Batman franchise to previously undreamed of numbers of books—six ongoing books starring Batman, six issues of one-shots, annuals or miniseries, and six books starring Batman’s sidekicks and supporting characters—two of those books are going to be $4 for just 22-pages of story.

I'm no economics expert or anything but, come on, how is that not completely insane?

The dynamic new era of Batman continues! The Dark Knight and Mr. Unknown – the Batman of Japan – go up against Lord Death Man. It’s going to be a fight to the end that could see the failure of Batman, Inc. before it’s even begun!
for more information.

On sale DECEMBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US

I’ve previously wondered over this cover, and then expressed my surprised delight at the solicitation copy.

So, what else is left to say? Oh yeah, the price. I can't wait to read this, so I'm really bummed out it's at the Evil Price Point, and that I'll have to wait another six months or so to read this in trade.

You're breaking my heart here, DC Comics!

This is a pretty decent cover for the Return of Bruce Wayne series, each issue of which featured an alternate Batman wearing a costume tailored to a particular time period, none of which would have seemed quite right to double as a cover for a collected edition.

Written by GAIL SIMONE

One of Oracle’s fiercest enemies finds her alone and far from her allies and safe houses – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as Batman returns! Rising star artist Ardian Syaf (BRIGHEST DAY) makes his BIRDS OF PREY debut in a story you must not miss, which we’re calling ”The Death of Oracle”!

On sale DECEMBER 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99

Odd. The way this solicitation is phrased, it makes it sound like Ardian Syaf is joining the book's creative team on a somewhat permanent basis, but DC pushed this book as a Gail Simone/Ed Benes joint, and Benes was only a partial presence for the first four issues, and there was a fill-in artist, and now a new regular artist?

Looks like.

Well, this is rather unfortunate, as BOP really hit the ground stumbling. I gave the book a chance in spite of Benes' presence, rather than because of it, and the fact that each of the first few issues see-sawed between to different artists with two very different styles working from their own personal designs for the same characters didn't sell it to me at all.

I gave up on it after that fourth issue, and now I'm wondering if I might have been more likely to stick with the series if Syaf would have simply been the artist from issue one, and stuck around all this time.

Anyway, Birds of Prey—another Big Two super-comic that is apparently completely fucked up behind the scenes.

Art by MIN S. KU, RICK BURCHETT and others
Blast into the future of Gotham City with these tales from BATMAN BEYOND #13, 14, 21 and 22, as Terry McGinnis teams up with Barbara Gordon, Etrigan the Demon, the Green Lantern of the future, Big Barda and more!

On sale DECEMBER 1 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

I wasn't too into the cartoon this was based on, but I read two of the four issues collected here—the Justice League ones—and they were pretty good. Ku and Burchett are definitely great artists, and this seems like a pretty good introduction to Batman Beyond for people who aren't already in to it, as the stories in this volume are chockfull of pre-Beyond DCU characters.

Cover by TBD
Kestrel, the mad dog of the Chaos Realm, battles the Teen Titans in a bid to gain power like he’s never had before in a tale from TEEN TITANS #27-28. And in an epic from LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #26-27, The Joker earns the wrath of both Aquaman and Batman when he dredges up the old Joker-fish routine.

On sale DECEMBER 8 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

Hmmm...I didn't read the Simone/Liefeld Teen Titans story because, come one, Rob Liefeld? In the 21st century? But I did read and dig the Legends story. It's kind of silly, a wacky sequel of sorts to Englehart's own classic Joker fish storyline, but Von Eeden's artwork is fantastic.

This is a really, really weird's hard to imagine anyone who digs one half of this book really digging the other half. I'll be curious to see how it goes over, honestly.

In this never-before-reprinted tale from JLA #91-93, the team finds itself in a dilemma when a mysterious, shapeshifting creature from another planet gets blasted into our solar system. But is it friend or foe? Plus, Wonder Woman and Batman examine their relationship in a tale from issue #90 that spins out of “The Obsidian Age.”

On sale DECEMBER 29 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

The "Extinction" story arc that runs between #91-93 of JLA marked the beginning of the end of the JLA title, as it was the first of the half-dozen or so "fill-in" arcs that ended the series after the third and final regular creative team moved off to the title and on to Justice League Elite.

I haven't read it since it was first published—it didn't bear repeat readings, really—and all I remember about it at this point is that the Mahnke covers were probably the best part and that Eng Huat's art was interesting. The fourth comic collected in here, JLA #90, is the final issue of the underrated Joe Kelly/Mahnke run (not counting their one-issue return for #100), in which Wonder Woman and Batman use a weird Martian device to learn whether or not them dating would be a good idea or not.

I wouldn't normally recommend it, but the neat thing about these DC Presents half-trades is that they're so reasonably priced that it works out to about $2-per-issue, and the O'Neil/Eng Huat books are worth at least that much.

Written by WALLACE WOOD, STEVE SKEATES and others
As DC’s new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS series gets under way, relive these legendary tales from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1, 2 and 7! Don’t miss the origins of the team’s members, the death of a lead character, and more!

On sale DECEMBER 29 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

I don't really have any interest in the new THUNDER Agents series DC is about to start publishing and has been hyping up as if it was some kinda big deal, but if I wanted to see just what this THUNDER Agents thing is all about, I imagine an $8 trade featuring work by Wood, Kane and Ditko is a pretty good place to start.

From the dawn of time (Anthro) to the far-flung future (Legion of Super-Heroes), sentient life has honored the winter holidays with celebrations and rituals as diverse as the universe itself! Join DC Comics - and a stellar team of writers and artists - to honor the vast and diverse holidays of the DC Universe in
6 tales of holiday cheer! Starring the aforementioned characters along with Superman, The Spectre, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern John Stewart for a HOLIDAY SPECIAL like no other!

On sale DECEMBER 8 * 56 pg, FC $4.99 US

Attention, Columbusites! Your own Dara Naraghi makes his DC debut with one of the short stories included in this anthology comic! Congratulations, Dara!

Can you imagine how great Freedom Fighters would be if cover artist Dave Johnson handled the interiors as well?


I...I’m actually speechless here. Sorry.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Cover by GENE HA

It’s BRIGHTEST (CHRISTMAS) DAY! What do you want for Christmas? Orange Lantern Larfleeze wants everything – including Santa Claus himself! And nothing, not even the heroes of the DC Universe can to stop the Orange Lantern from getting what he wants! Plus, you won’t want to miss the strange holiday season shenanigans starring the rest of the Orange Lantern Corps! Superstar writer Geoff Johns and artist Brett Booth team up for an unbelievable sleigh ride adventure!

ONE-SHOT • On sale DECEMBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US

YE—$3.99? What? NO! DC! What are you doing?! You are totally blowing your opportunity to make Marvel look like the more evil of two evils in the direct market by following their terrible, terrible example. Hell, if you increased to $3.25 or $3.50, you’d make more money per book and look better than Marvel. Now, having waited to see if your core audience would let Marvel get away with being totally shitty to them before joining in on the exploit your core audience because it's not like they won't take it, you just kinda end up looking like dicks.

Art and cover by BRENT ANDERSON
Here’s the bad news: a horde of aliens is living undercover on Earth, and they’re smuggling weapons off-planet to fuel an interstellar war! Here’s the good news: two of Earth’s most powerful heroes are on the case, and one of them is the finest cop in the galaxy, Green Lantern! But here’s the bad news again: the other one is Plastic Man. Sorry, GL. This is gonna be rough...

ONE-SHOT • On sale DECEMBER 15 • 56 pg, FC $4.99 US

Well this is...strange. If I had to guess where this came from exactly, I'd guess that it was originally intended for a couple of issues of The Brave and the Bold between the end of Mark Waid's run as writer and the delayed beginning of JMS's but I'm not sure the page count is right for that.

You know, I'm not sure if I've seen Plastic Man and Hal Jordan interact with one another before, although I suppose they must have at least shared panel-time before, in the "Emerald Knights" story arc in the previous volume of Green Lantern, if nowhere else.

One phallic symbol per cover please, Jack of Fables.

Written by JUDD WINICK
Issue #15 art by JOE BENNETT
Issue #16 art by FERNANDO DAGNINO

DC’s biweekly JUSTICE LEAGUE event continues!
In issue #15, the world blames the Justice League International for the recent Chicago death toll and the death of a hero. As our team deals with the fallout, Captain Atom returns from a dark future with information on Max Lord’s ultimate plan – and Wonder Woman plays a major part in it!
In issue #16, the Creature Commandos have attacked the JLI and one of the team lies dying. Meanwhile, Power Girl swears vengeance on the JLI for her friend’s death, but Batman suspects foul play.

Let's see here..."death toll...death of a lies dying...vengeance...friend's death"...

Uh-oh. My bad feeling about this title is getting worse.

Written by J.T. KRULL
The Justice League of America must hunt down Green Arrow for murdering the villain Prometheus in this hardcover collecting JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE AND FALL SPECIAL, GREEN ARROW #31-32 and THE RISE OF ARSENAL #1-4!

Green Arrow has become a fugitive after killing the villain Prometheus for destroying Star City and murdering the daughter of his former sidekick, Arsenal. Now, the Justice League of America must hunt down their former teammate while Arsenal must come to grips with the losses of both his daughter and his arm at the hands of Prometheus.

On sale FEBRUARY 23 • 224 pg, FC, $24.99 US

A hardcover collection, DC? Are you sure? And why are you using that image for the cover instead of this image:


Cyril and Beryl have the fight of their lives on their hands when Shakespeare’s most evil monarch, Richard III, returns! And he’s brought with him a cloned army of all the worst Kings of England, intent on taking back the country through the use of social networking! Yes, that’s the plot!


Get ready to go back to the 853rd century as SUPERMAN/BATMAN visits the world of DC ONE MILLION! What dangerous foe threatens to destroy both the 853rd and 21st centuries? Find out here in the first part of a 2-part story by Chris Roberson (I, ZOMBIE) and Jesus Merino (JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA)!

On sale DECEMBER 22 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I'm not terribly familiar with the writer—I think I've only read part of an issue of his I, Zombie, but I really love these characters.

Written by J.T. KRUL
1:10 Variant cover by KARL KERSCHL
It's mayhem at the cafeteria as Headcase and the Feral Boys run wild! Can the Teen Titans pull themselves together long enough to overcome this combined threat - or will Damian once again be their downfall?

On sale DECEMBER 29 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The presence of Nicola Scott and Damian really make me want to check out this upcoming run on Teen Titans…but I’m scared. I’m scared of the title in general, having caught up on it via library-borrowed trades, and I’m extremely afraid of J.T. Krul.

Written by MARK SABLE
Cover by JAY FABOK
Don't miss this untold tale from writer Mark Sable (Grounded, TWO-FACE: YEAR ONE) and red-hot artist Sean Murphy (JOE THE BARBARIAN) bringing the Teen Titans and The Flash's Rogues Gallery into direct conflict! Two people already died over a mysterious object, and now both teams want it. How much more blood will be spilled to obtain it as this gets deadly personal for all involved?

ONE-SHOT * On sale DECEMBER 22 * 56 pg, FC, $4.99 US

This is weird...the cover seems to indicate that there's an older version of the Teen Titans line-up starring in this. And by old I mean really old; Tim Drake hasn't been Robin since spring of 2009's Batman: Battle for the Cowl. I really like Sean Murphy's art, so this might be worth checking out...

Written by DAN JURGENS
Finding Bruce Wayne seems like a trivial pursuit compared to the horrors that the Time Masters stumble upon concerning 2011 and the entire DC Universe! How far has Reverse-Flash gone this time in his manipulations of the time-stream?! Do NOT miss this peek at what lies ahead for the DCU!

On sale DECEMBER 15 * 6 of 6 * 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Well, finding Bruce Wayne may seem like a trivial pursuit form the perspective of the characters, but given that this over-priced miniseries was being sold as a companion series to Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, I imagine most of the fans reading it will consider it more than a trivial pursuit.

The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over, and Deathstroke's team of misfits is fighting for their lives against Gotham City's most dangerous lunatics! Will Deathstroke and Arsenal be able to side with Batman long enough to survive the night? Plus, Ray Palmer guest-stars as he continues his investigation into Ryan Choi's murder.

On sale DECEMBER 15 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

So how exactly is this supposed to be suspenseful? I mean, if Batman can take out every single villain in the asylum, and Deathstroke is better at beating people up than Batman, and a stone-cold killer, wouldn't he just easily kill his way through Batman's rogue's gallery here?

This looks fantastic.

And this looks even more so.

Art and cover by DON KRAMER & JAY LEISTEN

J. Michael Straczynski’s blockbuster re-imagining of the Amazon Princess continues with a vengeance! Deep beneath the city, Diana tracks the Morrigan to their lair. And what she finds there will astonish you!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

On sale DECEMBER 29 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

True story: I found #601, the first full issue of JMS and Kramer's run on the title, in a fifty-cent bin at a used book store and, after giving it a very thorough flip-through, the contents didn't look like something I wanted to spend even fifty cents on.

The cover of this particular issue is pretty nice though. Although didn't that weird "The Other" story arc JMS wrote on Amazing Spider-Man use the same concept on one of its covers...?