Thursday, September 30, 2004

When it Rains, It Pours

Actually, we haven't had any rain here in well over two weeks. Instead I'm refering to the four packages of graphic novels that were waiting for me when I got home this evening:

Package #1: Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi and Mutts: What Now (from Amazon)

Package #2: Superman: The Man of Steel, vol. 3 (also from Amazon)

Package #3: The Golden Vine (from Jai Sen)

Package #4: Tiempos Finales (The copy I reviewed earlier was borrowed from a friend) + two mini comics: The Gallows Noose & Phenoms: Mind Over Matter. (from Sam Hiti)

Added in with yesterday's stash from LCS, this means a lot more reading to be added to my already sizable backlog...

Toys That Know Fear...

...Burn at the Touch of the Man-Thing!

From Micronauts #7 (1979), this cover by Michael Golden & Neal Adams shows us that even muck monsters like to play with dolls action figures.

(Image courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for the full-sized version.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Quick Superman & Batman Reviews

JLA #106
by Chuck Austen & Ron Garney
You know that wonderful feeling you get when, after having been constipated for several days, you finally have a bowel movement? Well DC have finally crapped out the final issue of "The Pain of the Gods" and, as it says on the cover, No More Pain! Okay, in all honesty this concluding chapter wasn't the worst chapter in the story, but after the last two issues there really was nowhere to go but up. This focus this issue is nominally on Batman, but it's also the concluding chapter, so all of the JLA have to show up to act out of character to wrap the story up. At least we didn't have to see Batman cry--I don't think I could have taken that.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Superman/Batman #12
by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner
This penultimate chapter of "The Supergirl from Krypton" actually managed to slightly surprise me, as part of the plot resolves itself before ending with something of a shock ending. I am however still annoyed by the narrative style, as the overlapping captions make it difficult to read with any sort of flow. Loeb needs to drop this affectation, as it's gone from slightly clever to slightly annoying. Turner's art is the same as ever--you know by now if you like it or not--and the colors by Peter Steigerwald are excellent. Now if only they could explain why on Earth Ma Kent would fashion a costume for Kara that sports a bare midriff...
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Superman #209
by Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee & Scott Williams
There's still no making sense of the overarching plot, if any still exists, and things still happen for seemingly no reason. But the battle between Supes and the elementals that makes up the bulk of the book is exciting and oftimes clever, so it's at least an improvement over the past few issues. I have yet to see anything to make me change my mind about "For Tomorrow" though.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Batman #632
by Bill Willingham, Kinsun & Aaron Sowd
It the final part of the middle act of "War Games," and lo and behold it's an issue that manages to maintain a narrative thread throughout. Some guy named Orpheus is dead, and Black Mask, now through torturing teenage girls, decides to impersonate Orpheus. Strangely, the World's Greatest Detective cannot tell the difference between one of his agents and one of his enemies. The story ends with a television reporter mouthing off against vigilantes--hey now, that's original. Kinsun's art doens't impress me as much as it did in the previous issue, but it's still competent and tells the story well. Plus, we get a nice Matt Wagner cover (obscured by too many logos though, so click on the tiny image here to see a larger, unmarred version).
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Marvel's Xanadu adaptation

Many big thanks to James of Reading Along for making me aware of Marvel's Xanadu adaptation!

Xanadu is one of the greatest bad movies of all time. Directed by Robert Greenwald, this 1980 film starred Michael Beck and Gene Kelly as a young artist and an aging big band leader who are inspired by a Greek Muse--played by Olivia Newton-John--to follow their dreams of opening a rollerdisco nightclub. I know that plot summary sounds bad, but believe me, it's much, much worse. It's one of those so-bad-it's-good movies. I own both the DVD and the soundtrack, which features music by Olivia Newton-John and ELO.

The comics adaptation doesn't disappoint. It's written by J. M DeMatteis, with art by a cast of many, including: Rick Buckler, Brent Anderson, Al Milgrom, Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Peter Kuper.

The only thing it's missing is the booming Jeff Lynne soundtrack, but you can get that from the iTunes Music Store and read away!

Quick Reviews

Fables #29
by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins & Jimmy Palmiotti
Okay, so this two parter wasn't the greatest Fables story, but c'mon: it has Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman, evil Nazis, and even a flying monkey librarian! Willingham also does a good job in presenting Dog Company as an outfit that could have walked right out of DC's war comics of the 70's. While the fill-in art by Akins & Palmiotti won't make us forget Buckingham anytime soon, it's pretty good in its own right and works well with the story. In all, a fun, light read.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

H-E-R-O #20
by Will Pfeifer, Dale Eaglesham & Wade von Grawbadger
Under its original concept--a quasi-anthology format with the H-dial going from person to person--this book fared much better. But now that Pfeifer is wrapping things up by bringing in an uber-plot, it's not as fun or interesting. I suspect that if this book had been allowed the time to develop properly the plot would have been doled out it bits and peices, and the explosive end we're experiencing wouldn've resonated much more. As it is, it feels like we're reaching the endgame too fast.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Uncanny X-Men #449
by Chris Claremont, Olivier Coipel & Scott Hanna
i often skip over the summary page at the beginning of Marvel comics, but this time I read it, just to see if my memory of the previous issue as being fairly inane was accurate. It was. Which didn't exacly bode well for this issue, which pulls plot points seemingly from Wolverine's butt and barrels towards a nonsensical conclusion. Only Copiel's art saves this from being a complete disaster.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Saving Batman

Let's face it: The Batman line from DC is in big trouble. There are currently 10 separate ongoing titles, not to mention mini series, one-shots, etc., and none of them are selling what they should be. The current mega-crossover, "War Games," is a creative disaster, and the only title with any real critical buzz is Gotham Central, the lowest selling title of the bunch. For a flagship character, Batman deserves better.

So, for your consideration, here is how I'd redesign the Batman line for maximum sales and creative worth:

The line should be cut down to four titles. There are four weeks in a month, thus one title each week. Those titles should be: Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, and Batman Family. Here's how I would break down each title:

Batman: This is the flagship title, the place for big-time writers and big-time artists to come in and tell big-time stories. Stories of four to six issues, unburdoned by a strict adherance to continuity, which can then be collected into trades and repurposed in the broader market. Everybody's got at least one Batman story in them to tell, and every super-hero artist wants to draw Batman at some point. This is the book that all creators should be crawling over each other to do.

Detective Comics: Is the other flagship title, but should take a different track from Batman. The empasis in Detective should be on detecting: mysteries, crime thrillers, etc. Instead of hiring regular comics scribes to write the series, go after the top names in thriller and mystery novels: Dennis Lehane, Margaret Collin, Sue Grafton, Carl Hiaasen, Anne Perry, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Parker, James Patterson, etc. Not only would there be great PR opportunities, and not only would DC be tapping into the existing fan bases of these authors, but we're also likely to get some damn fine stories. Yeah, most of these authors would be 'slumming' in the poor-paying world of comics authorship, but I bet a lot of them would be willing to give it a go for a chance to write a Batman comic. For art, this title should feature artists who, while not surface flashy and 'fan-favorite,' are excellent storytellers, like Michael Lark, Steve Lieber, Javier Pulido, Steve Dillon, and David Lloyd.

Batman and Robin: This would be the 'in-continuity' Bat-title, featuring Batman and Robin in continuing stories, facing off against costumed villains and occasionally interacting with the rest of the DCU. It should have a regular writer and artist team that are capable of turning in exciting and on-time work. This would be the title for those readers who want their Batman to be a super-hero.

Batman Family: Finally, we ressurect the old anthology Bat-title. It should be at least 80-pages, if not 100-pages or more, and come out every month--for no more than $5. Four or five stories per issue, a combination of one-offs and continuing serials. This would incorporate all the other current titles focussing on secondary characters, such as Birds of Prey, Gotham Central, Robin, Batgirl, etc. Yeah yeah, anthology titles don't work, but with the right mix of characters and the right price point, this can work. Plus, the features can be stripped away and assembled into manga-style paperbacks and racked alongside their bretheren from across the Pacific.

One thing you'll notice from this rearrangement is that there's no room for mega-crossovers. This is good. Such events may lead to short-term sales bumps on the lower-performing titles, but in the long run they do more harm than good. With the line-up as I've outlined it above, each title is an event unto itself.

So anyway, those are my thoughts. While I sincerely doubt that DC will be interested in going this route, they're welcome to take it and work with it if they so desire.

Quick Marvel GN Reviews

My LCS has a 'used' graphic novel shelf, where GNs can often be had for half price or less. (I put 'used' in quotes because I suspect that in addition to used items they also use the shelf to get rid of overstock.) It affords me a good way to keep up on Marvel titles I wouldn't normally pick up, such as the three volume 3's below:

Elektra, vol. 3: Relentless
by Robert Rodi, Sean Chen, Tom Palmer & Sandu Florea
The first two stories in this collection are of Elektra stalking the same victim--once from the victim's viewpoint, the other time from Elektra's viewpoint. This process is repeated in the next two installments, but them continues into a concluding chapter and an aftermath. It's all competently done, both in writing and in art (and may I say how nice it is to see the same artist throughout a collection--the last Elektra collection was marred by vastly uneven art, changing right in the middle of a story). The biggest problem is that, as written, Elektra has no soul and no character--she's just a non-stop killing machine. It makes for a rather empty and repetitive reading experience.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Captain America, vol. 3: Ice
by Chuck Austen, John Ney Rieber, & Jae Lee
Although Rieber's name is in the credits, his touch is nowhere to be found in the story. Rather, it's the stink of Austen that permeates the pages. Cap has doubts about his origins, is stalked by the agents of a Lemurian interrogator (for reasons that are never clear), and treats his latest lady like dirt. Jae Lee's art is good, but his dark and inky style is a poor match for a Captain America story.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

X-Treme X-Men, vol. 3: Schism
by Chris Claremont, Salvador Larocca & Arthur Ranson
Giving this a surface read, it's fairly standard Claremont X-Men: lots of words, lots of action, sometimes both at the same time. But this can actually be read at a deeper level, as Claremont's reaction to Morrison's New X-Men. The tales in this collection feature both Claremont's X-Treme team and members of Morrison's group, and long stretches of exposition are devoted to reactions to the events that were occuring in New X-Men at the time. (It's interesting to note that Morrison pretty much ignored all other X-books in his own book.) Particularly, Claremont features Emma Frost, a villain from his day that Morrison brought into the X-Men fold. Larrocca's art is good as per usual, and Ranson's chapters (from the X-Pose mini) fare well most of the time.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Monkey Covers

Sunday is now officially Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover.

Today's cover, by Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson, is from The Flash #172 (1967) and features Gorilla Grodd, the biggest bad-ass monkey to ever grace the pages of a comic book.

(Yes, I know that gorillas aren't monkeys. Deal.)

Image is courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for a full-sized version.

Previews-o-Rama part 2: The Middle


TokyoPop's big new entry is DearS, with cute aliens in Earth high schools. More interesting is the debut of Peach Fuzz by Lindsay Cibos & Jared Hodges, winners of the 2nd Rising Stars of Manga competition.

Dream Gold from ADV looks like it could be interesting--a high-tech treasure hunt adventure.

888 from ComicsOne features "laid-back detective stories."

From the solictation copy for High School Girls vol. 3: "More turmoil with boys, school grades, and relationships as the girls take an extended break at the beach where the heat is not the only thing steaming things up!" It's like every manga story distilled down to its essence!

Viz debuts Tough, about "an action-star wannabe with super-secret fighting skills." Sounds boring as hell. They also have the single volume Blue Spring with sounds interesting in concept, but I have a violent dislike of Taiyo Matsumodo's art.


Strangers in Paradise #71 has a fun Christmas cover.

Web comic As If! gets a collected print edition. Strangely I hadn't heard of this one before, but after checking out the Website I'll be looking to get a copy. (Yeah, I could read it for free on the site, but I stare at a computer monitor most of the day at work.)

Larry Young has Proof of Concept, an OGN collection of short stories by various artists.

Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer have a new anthology: Biff! Bam! Pow!. But $4 for 24 pages? Sigh...

Another Web comic, Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order, gets collected by Slave Labor.

Issue #4 of Street Angel is on the docket.

Archie Double Digests are $3.59 for 192 pages in full color. This is probably the best page-price deal in comics, beating even manga collections all over the map. How can they do this? Archie knows how to leverage its old material. Why don't other publishers follow their lead?

Soulfire #4 has four different covers! On fact, Aspen are so sure that fanboys will part with your money for all of these that they don't even show you what they are. In fact, they make a big point in their 2-page ad spread and their solicitation of not showing you the covers not once, not twice, but three times!

Avatar's Alan Moore's Yuggoth Cultures gets a trade collection.

It's Lady Death's 10th anniversary. I don't care much for the character, but I have to admire Brian Pulido's tenacity at somehow rescuing the character from two successive bankrupt publishers. Of course, when I think of all the worthwhile characters tied up in legal limbo, it kind of makes me cry.

God the Dyslexic Dog has a fun title and Alex Niño art.

Nothing new from Beckett this month. Strange...

Elvira is on issue #140? I have no idea what the economics of Claypool must be like, but they manage to keep these low-run series going somehow...

Daniel Zezelj has a story collection, Caballo.

Devil's Due continues their genre-breaking genius by giving us, um, super-heroes. Plus, they continue to keep Chuck Dixon employed.

Drawn & Quarterly debuts its new "Petits Livres" line of 'affordable art books' with Julie Doucet's Lady Pep.

Dynamic Forces continues to offer vastly overpriced signed editions of comics.

There's a Ghostbusters comic? This 80's comics nostalgia thing has gone too far.

Vanyda's The Building Opposite from Fanfare/Planet Mon looks like it could be interesting.

Simone Lea's Fluffy is $16 for 40 pages each, planned for 4 volumes. Are they on crack?

Early Megaton Man gets collected from iBooks. I may have to get this--IIRC the tales were set in SE Michigan.

iBooks also continues their Mister X collection with a volume two that includes a short story by Gaiman & McKean. As if I won't have enough things to buy in December.

The good news is that Desperadoes returns. The bad news is that it's from IDW, so it's overpriced. Wait for the trade, and hope that Amazon has it at a discount.

IDW also has an overpriced John Law collection: 80 pages for $15 which includes 3 reprinted stories.

Jack Lake Prodcutions gives us yet another dark reimagining of the Oz stories with Dorothy Gale: Journey to Oz.

Oni has a second Love Fights collection, the final issue of Ojo, and a new Queen & Country: Declassified mini, with art by Rick Burchett.

Temporary #1: Cubes and Ladders intrigues me for reasons I cannot fully grasp...

Rosen Publishing launches a line of biographical non-fiction graphic novels, with entries on Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, Alexander the Great, George Washington, Sitting Bull, and Spartacus. $10 for 48 pages is a bit steep, but they're obviously aiming for the educational market, so if their bindings are high quality that may do okay.

Nothing new from Top Shelf this month.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Previews-o-Rama part 1: The Front

It seems that every comics blogger is required by law to go through Previews and point out things of interest. I'll be dividing my comments into two parts: The Front (Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel) and The Middle (everybody else).

Dark Horse

It's nearly a guarantee that everything that Dark Horse publishes will end up collected as a trade. Thus, my typical response to anything in the Dark Horse section is to wait for the trade.

The good news: Paul Chadiwck has a new Concrete series: The Human Dilema. The bad news? It's $3.50 per regular-sized B&W issue. Concrete is one of those that I normally would buy in floppies, but the price point will direct me otherwise.

It looks like Dark Horse will be a home for at least some of the CrossGen refugees. This month sees the debut of Samurai: Heaven and Earth by Ron Marz & Luke Ross, a title that looks like to walked straight out of a CrossGen pitch meeting. Ross's art look very pretty in the samples, and is almost indistinguishable from his early days on the Detroit-based JLA. There will also be a forthcoming series The Dragon Prince by Marz & Jeff Johnson.

The first Mignola-Davis BPRD series, Plague of Frogs, is collected. This is the first Hellboy-related series that really worked for me. Pick it up if you haven't read it already.

Are people really paying $3.50 an issue for a Grendel reprint comic?


The big news is that David Lapham's 12-issue run on Detective Comics kicks off officially in #801. Alas, he's only writing, not drawing as well. Lapham is one of those who knows how to make decompression work, so hopefully the year-long story won't seem needlessly drawn-out.

The Robin-Batgirl crossover continues. The latest issue of Robin pissed me off so much that, combined with a needless crossover, this'll finally be the excuse I need to drop it.

Gotham Central features guest art by Jason Alexander, who should be a fine fill-in. Catwoman is rescued from the pages of her own book as well.

Scott Morse starts his fill-in stint on Catwoman. Were he also handling the art I might stick around. As it is, I dunno.

Nighwing finally takes on the villainous Mary Sue is his 100th issue spectacular.

Superman apprently rediscovers the black suit he wore back in "Reign of the Supermen." Plus, he's all electric-y.

DC: The New Frontier gets the first of two trades. Darwyn Cooke is the man. But what's with this 'three extra pages originally seen in Wizard' crap?

Deadshot is the latest in the trend of television staff writers slumming in comics.

Identity Crisis comes to an end. The cover by Michael Turner actually looks pretty cool, seeing as he wasn't required to draw any actual human bodies.

Alan Davis's disappointing JLA: Another Nail gets a collection.

Waid & Kitson's The Legion of Super-Heroes kicks off, with another reboot. It's technically only the 2nd wholesale continuity reboot of the title, it just seems like the 7th.

JSA finally follows up on the Per Degaton thread.

Grant Morrison's JLA Classified #2 has Robo-JLA on the cover!

Plastic Man makes it to #13. Buy it, dammit!

The Batman Jam-Packed Action is a cinemanga version of the new (hugely disappointing) The Batman cartoon.

Looney Tunes is on issue #121. Scooby Doo is on issue #91. Powerpuff Girls is on issue #57. Yeah, kids are obviously not buying comics...

The Robo-Hunter: Verdus trade has Ian Gibson art.

Astro City gets a new maxi-series with The Dark Age, looking at the 70's.

Batman/Danger Girl? Who asked for that?

The second Global Frequency trade is out, just in time (probably) for the tv series.

Hellblazer gets an original hardcover. Boy, Dc is rally hoping that the Contantine movie isn't a flop, aren't they?


The Amazing Joy Buzzards is in black & white & pink?

The cover to Liberty Meadows #37 features Jen, Ralph & Leslie on a spaceship.

Flaming Carrot returns. To Image, no less. Seriously, did anybody think that back when Image was formed they'd be publishing stuff like Flaming Carrot?

Noble Causes, vol 3: Distant Relatives is colorized. Damn, I wish I'd aited for the trade.

Darkness/Superman? Who asked for that?


Ultimates 2 starts up, as does Ultimate Secret. Repeat after me: Wait for the Trade. Wait for the Trade...

New Avengers has Amazing Bubble-Head Guy!

Wow, the cover to Astonishing X-Men #5 was so good, they're using it to promote #8.

X-Men/Fantastic Four #1: "Can the X-Men and the Fantastic Four put their differences aside to stop a creeping menace from outer space that threatens out planet's very existance?" Gee, I wonder. I also wonder what makes this series worth $3.50 per?

Seven issues of What If... at once? Are they on crack?

The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #515 actually looks interesting.

Elektra: The Movie comes out. Does anyone actually buy movie adaptations any more?

The first six issues of Astonishing X-Men get collected. This will sell in the bookstores like hotcakes. New X-Men: Academy X is also collected. It won't.

All of Avengers Dissassembled get various collections. $78 to buy them all!

Nobody, and I mean nobody, asked for a Maximum Carnage collection. Some things are just better left dead and buried.

Okay, that's all for the front. Part 2 tomorrow (probably).

Around the Horn

What's the buzz in the world of the comics blogosphere:

Ron Freeman returns to his Fortress of Soliloquies to discover Lex Luthor: Super-hero

Steve Lieber gives us an update on what all the cool artists at Mercury Studios are working on.

Tim O'Neil shows us the true meaning of The Hurting by starting off a mini wave of ALF cover nostalgia.

Shane gives all of us Near Mint Heroes 3 Things He Wants to See in Comics.

Jon of the Mae Mai looks at avante garde and whether or not so-called avante garde comics actually are.

Christopher Butcher in Comics 212 wonders why anyone bothers to launch a comics newsmagazine site. Ed Cunard responds from The Low Road.

Mike Sterling has many cool Swamp Thing toys in the offices of the Progressive Ruin.

Tegan reviews trade collections of the greatest Web-based library comic strip of all time: Unshelved.

Kerry the Comic Queen is among those who have discovered the joy that is Mike Mignola's Amazing Screw-on Head.

Postmodern Barney Dorian declares that movies based on comic books aren't any good.

Matt remembers the first time he encounterd a comics specialty store on Highway 62.

TangognaT exposes W as an anime copyright infringer.

Todd Murray is Following Cerebus.

Steven of Peiratokos examines whether or not Identity Crisis is an effective locked room mystery.

Ian from the Brill Building looks at Chaykin's The Shadow.

Rick Gebhardt discovers Lobo.

Comics may have eaten Tom Bondurant's brain, but he's still able to ask Must There Be a Superboy?

Evan Dorkin textually reduces a self-important 'promoter' to a blob of jelly.

Finally, I'd mention the John Byrne fiasco, but I don't have to since Everybody else has.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Meme me with your 5 questions

Everybody's doing it, so I figure I should throw my hat into the 5 Questions Meme.

You know how it works: Use the comments to ask me 5 questions, and you'll get 5 answers.

(I'm sure I'll regret this...)

Quick GN Reviews

100 Bullets, book 7: Samurai
by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso
It had been a long time since I'd read any 100 Bullets, so I was really looking forward to this. Alas, it fell flat for me. The first story, "Chill in the Oven," is set in a penitentiary and features some characters we've seen before. However, due to the long break between stories for me, I had a hard time remembering who they were and what their tie-in to the big picture was. Would it have hurt Azzarello over the span of 80-some-odd pages to throw in a little bit of recap? As such, the story didn't make much sense on its own. The second story, "In Stinked," fares a bit better, being a classic noir in a non-traditional setting. Unsurprisingly, Risso's art is great throughout, and holds the comic together even when Azzarello's story threatens to run completely off the rails. (Compare this to "For Tomorrow" where, as good as Jim Lee may be, he cannot make up for the deficiencies in the story.)
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Flight, vol. 1
by too many artists to mention here
The first thing one notices on paging through Flight is the quality of the art. Unlike most anthologies by relatively unknowns, the art in Flight, while being of many differing styles, is top-notch throughout. The stories are all built around the theme of flight, though some use it more strongly than others. While not all of the stories worked for me, I suspect that everyone who reads Flight will find something they like, and different stories will appeal to different people. My personal favorites are Vera Brosgul's "I Wish...", the story of a teenage girl who wakes up one morning having sprouted wings; Jen Wang's "Paper & String" with its stunning multimedia art collage; Khang Le's touching "Outside My Window," about a giant alien robot that tries to make friends with a young girl; and Phil Craven's "Deep Blue," a silent story about a plucky penguin who tries to break free of his humdrum existance. The only bad thing about Flight is that I now have several more artists whose work I want to track down and read--and really, that's not such a bad thing after all.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

When a Girl Becomes a Woman

I was actually looking around the GCD for more monkey covers, when I stumbled across this gem, the special 100th issue of Marvel's Patsy and Hedy. (Click on the image for the full-sized version.) Besides the fun kitch value, it's also a reminder of the fact that Marvel used to publish things other than super-heroes.

Quick DC Reviews

Plastic Man; Robin; Catwoman; Manhunter

Plastic Man #10
by Kyle Baker
Remember when comics were fun? Remember when they told a complete story in a single issue? If so, you'll enjoy this issue of Plastic Man, which features Plas and the gang facing off against vampires; and not the goth-drenched anguished vampires, but rather the kind who wait in creepy houses on the tops of hills just waiting for stranded travelers to stop by and spend the night. There are at least 5 healthy laughs in this issue, and a good snicker or two on every page. The only downside is the generic cover, but that's easy enough to overlook when the insides are so much fun.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Robin #130
by Bill Willingham, Jon Proctor, Robert Campanella & Rodney Ramos
We now have official confirmation that the CCA seal means absolutely nothing. A large majority of this issue features the Black Mask brutally beating Spoiler and then torturing her with a power drill. This is one instance where we can be glad that the coloring is murky. If that wasn't enough, near the end of this issue Robin donates blood, then imemdiately goes out to continue to fight the gang war. Besides the fact that Tim is too young to donate, he should also "avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for about five hours after donation." It's right here on the Red Cross Website.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Catwoman #35
by Ed Brubaker, Paul Gulacy & Jimmy Palmiotti
Since this issue barely featured Catwoman or any of her supporting cast at all, Gulacy's art didn't seem as out-of-place as it usually does. Unfortunately, the overarching plot of "War Games" continues to require just about everyone to act out of character and/or exhibit previously unknown skills (Batman is now a super-hacker?) Jim Gordon--is his two-panel cameo--is the only one talking any sense.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Manhunter #2
by Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz & Jimmy Palmiotti
After last issue's quick start (well, quick for these days of ultra-decompression) this second issue takes a step back, giving us a better glimpse of Kate's personal life. It looks like part of the focus in this series will be how nearly impossible it would be to carry out a secret life as a vigilante. It's also good to see that Andreyko will be exploring the consequences of this new Manhunter's approach. And I've always liked the Shadow Thief as a villain, so that's enough to keep me with the title for now.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Quick Marvel Reviews

Avengers; Astonishing X-Men; Black Widow; Ultimate Fantastic Four

Avengers #502
by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch & Danny Miki
Spoiler Alert The coloring in this book is attrocious. I don't know whose decision it was to color the whole thing as though it was being viewed through a red filter, but it just looks bad. The story is no great shakes either: heroes have gathered outside Avengers Mansion; Nick Fury gets all pissy; a Kree spaceship attacks for no reason; Hawkeye dies destroying the Kree ship; Dr. Strange shows up to say that there's magic afoot. There, I've just saved you eighteen bits.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Astonishing X-Men #5
by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
Let's get one thing out of the way: The cover--the giant metal fist? Worst cover ever. And considering how lame many of Marvel's covers have been for the past several years, that's saying something. At least the much-maligned cover to #1, featuring Wolverine's claws, was somewhat iconic. This is just stupid. Anyway, on to the actual issue--it's mostly marking time, stretching things out to squeeze a four-issue story into six issues. Thankfully, Whedon's dialogue is fun to read and Cassady's art is nice to look at, and the reaction shots near the end are pretty fun. I do hope, however, that we get a better explaination of Peter's return than we've gotten so far.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Black Widow #1
by Richard K. Morgan & Bill Sienkiewicz
Someone is killing female ex-KGB agents, and Natasha is next on the list! Gee, where have we read this story before? It's a bit pedestrian, down to the ol' tough-female-saves-a-woman-in-distress scene that you just knew was coming. But golly, it sure is nice to see Bill Sienkiewicz drawing a comic again, and it looks spectacular. (And I can still spell 'Sienkiewicz' without looking!) The story will rise or fall, I think, on how the main villains, especially the two introduced on the last couple of pages, work. If they're stock characters this will be a plain old story with great art. But if they turn out to be interesting, then this could be a fun ride.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Ultimate Fantastic Four #11
by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen & Wade von Grawbadger
The decompression continues at a snail's pace: more travelling by the Four; more posturing by Van Damme. Finally near the end something happens: hitting. And since when does Doom have a poison gas breath weapon? Even giving the benefit out the doubt, this story should have taken twelve pages to tell, not twenty-one (although Lee & Kirby would have done it in four).
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Five Fists of Science!

Thanks to an offhand mention by Shane Baily, I now know about Five Fists of Science, which comes out next year from AiT/PlanetLAR. Not only is it possibly one of the five greatest titles for a comic book ever, it also sounds like a cool story:
"The Five Fists of Science is the story of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla teaming up to bring about world peace by compulsion-- and how that peace will interfere with the plans of an evil science cabal led by Thomas Edison," says writer Matt (Last of the Independents) Fraction. "An all-out war between magic and science is fought on the streets of New York City in 1899, and it is an absolutely true story, up to a point." (quote from Newsarama)

Quick Reviews

Mary Jane; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; Silver Surfer

Mary Jane #4
by Sean McKeever, Takeshi Miyazawa & Norman Lee
And thus, on a bit of a cliffhanger, Mary Jane comes to an end. Unsurprisingly, this comic has had a hard time finding an audience in the comic shops frequented and run by typical fanboys. Given that Marvel's supposed strategy with this book was to create Marvel Age digests for consumption in bookstores to compete with manga, it is surprising that they've cancelled it before the first collection has appeared. If there's a problem with this book (besides Marvel's mishandling of the whole thing) it is with the protagonist: all the boys are in love with her. Oh, whatever shall she do? For most of the target audience, this situation will be hard to empathize with. Liz Allen, even though she is a cheerleader dating a popular football jock, is much more interesting, as she manages to embody the doubts and fears about relationships that are common with many high school kids. My main concern in losing this book is that we are losing the team of McKeever & Miyazawa; surely there is a company out there that will snap these guys up to work on a real high school-centered drama, one that doesn't rely on a tenuous connection to a spandex-clad preipheral character.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch #60
by Tania Del Rio & Jim Amash
Del Rio has successfully transormed Sabrina, effectively combining the traditional Archie teen comic with the style of magical manga teen romantic comedy. Poor Sabrina also has more than one guy vying for her affections, but at least her life is complicated by the attentions brought by her aunt's running for a seat on the witches' council. The story in this issue is a fun little teenage fantasy, but is marred somewhat by the afterschool special moment at the end. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jason Jensen's excellent colors, which are highly effective and really complement the art.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Silver Surfer #6-12
by Dan Chariton, Stacy Weiss, & Lan Medina
I think I'm one of just twelve people who has enjoyed the new direction of Marvel's Silver Surfer. In most instances The Surfer is just too cosmic of a character to make for an effective protagonist, but as a catalyst in this story of alien encounters and abductions I think he's quite effective. Plus I really enjoy Medina's art, so it's a pleasure to see it on a regular basis. The big problem with this book is one that affects many titles these days: the story is being stretched out far too long. I was under the impression that this curent storyline would be over in six issues, which is way I'd saved them up for reading all at once, but apparently it's being stretched out even further (two more issues presumably, at which point the book is being cancelled). Really, some editor at Marvel needs to get a clue; if you want six to eight issues to combine for a trade collection, fine, but what collection can contain two or three well-crafted stories instead of one long drawn-out tale.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

My New Big Bone

We had a dog when I was growing up. Sandy was her name, and she was your garden-variety beagle-terrier mutt. That dog loved to gnaw on things; we couldn't get her normal doggie chew toys, as she would destroy them within five minutes, so she got either rawhide or nylon bones to chew on. A rawhide bone would last her the good part of a day, and even the near-indestructable nylon bone would be gnawed down to a dangerous point within a month or two. Needless to say, when we'd give her a new bone to chew on, she'd jump up and down and wag her tail excitedly, until she snatched the bone away and carried it off to begin chewing.

Which is all prelude to say that the UPS truck came by and dropped off my Bone One Volume Edition on my porch today. At over 1300 pages it is trully massive (though as expected the paper is mighty thin, though at least it's not super-cheap newsprint). I suspect that even Sandy would have a hard time chewing on this massive tome.

I've already read Bone in its original comic form, so I won't be rushing to read it thorugh again anytime soon (I have too many other things I haven't yet read). But like the huge Barnes & Noble Ultimate Spider-Man and the big thick Palomar hardcover, it was just one of those things I had to have. Plus, it'll be a lot easier to pick up and page through when I'm curious about something than trying to dig up all the individual issues.

Quick GN Reviews

Marvel Age Spider-Man, vol. 2: Everyday Hero
by Daniel Quantz, Todd DeZago, Mark Brooks, Jonboy Meyers, Michael O'Hare, Pat Davidson & Derek Fridolfs
I know, I'm supposed to be offended by the mere existance of these retellings of early Lee & Ditko Spider-Man stories. But I'm not. I really don't have any strong affections one way or the other regarding early Spider-Man tales, so seeing them retold doesn't really bother me. As each issue is done-in-one, I'm sure that using a modern storytelling approach required a lot of the original plot to be jetisoned, but it makes for a streamlined reading, and the use of a modern art style is sure to appeal to youngsters. This volume includes Spidey's first battles with The Lizard, Electro, and The Living Brain, along with a rematch with The Vulture. The Lizard, Electro and The Vulture are rendered just as long-time readers will remember, while The Living Brain is thankfully updated to a modern look.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

A.I. Love You, vol. 2
by Ken Akamatsu
In the first volume, a freak electrical accident teenage computer geek Hitoshi's female fantasy program--program no. 30--to come to life as Saati, an A.I. with physical form. Saati is cute, virginal and subserviant, and programmed to want to please Hitoshi--eveything a teenage boy wants. Or is she? In volume two, another freak accident causes an older program--no. 20--to come to life as well. Toni is tall, buxom and aggresive, and she will do anything to steal Hitoshi away from Saati. Thus Akamatsu sets up a virgin-whore dichotomy through which he is able to explore the often baffling nature of the teenage male's search for sexual identity... Oh hell, who am I kidding? It's all just an excuse for teenage male fantasies and copious fan service. But in true Akamatsu fashion, it somehow manages to come off as mostly innocent.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Monkey Covers

There's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover!

From 1976, it's Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas! What more could anybody ask for in a comic? Cover art by Ernie Chan & Vince Colletta. (Click on the image for the full-size scan from GCD.)

(Yes, I know that a gorilla isn't really a monkey--I'm taking poetic license.)

Kyle Baker GN Reviews

For some reason, I got into a Kyle Baker kick this weekend:

Undercover Genie
by Kyle Baker
Kyle Baker is one of the funniest, most original creators working in comics today. So why doesn't his work seem to get the respect of consumers? Why the heck isn't Plastic Man selling at least three times what it does? Reading Undercover Genie won't do anything to clear up the mystery. You see, this collection of short strips, illustrations and character studies is full of wit and fine drawings. It makes for an excellent sample of the wide range of style and subject matter of which Baker is capable. In the introduction, Baker explains that while the comics world has been ignoring him, he has been making a fine living in commercial illustration. Our loss, alas.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Birth of a Nation
by Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin, & Kyle Baker
Thankfully, Baker's latest effort, a collaboration with cartoonist McGruder and director Hudlin, isn't being ignored. In the wake of what is a thinly disguised version of the contested 2000 presidential election, the disenfranchised residents of East St. Louis decide to seceed from the United States, forming their own country: Blackland. It not the laugh-out-loud comedy that some of the reviews might lead you to expect, but it is a very interesting 'what if' story. Baker turns in some of the strongest work of his career, selling what could have been a dicey scenario.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

King David
by Kyle Baker
For the obvious reason, the story of King David was one that always interested me growing up. I really dug the whole 'David and Goliath' bit of course, but I was always disappointed that in the end King David turned out to be a prick. This is not among Baker's better artwork, as the overreliance on computer art and the murky and uneven coloring stand in contrast to the very strong storytelling, a technique that combines sequential art and traditional prose.
Rating: 3 (of 5)