Tuesday, November 30, 2004

New This Week: December 1, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The pick of the week is Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca's Street Angel #4 from Slave Labor. You've read all the rave reviews, now see for yourself why this is one of the most fun comics to hit this year. "Orphan of the streets and skateboarding daughter of justice, Jesse Sanchez fights a never ending battle against the forces of evil, nepotism, ninjas, and hunger as Street Angel!" Need more to convince you? Check out this preview.

In other comics:

Alternative Comics have a new printing of Bipolar #1.

Dark Horse have the sixth Chronicle of Conan collection, and Tales of the Vampires from Joss Whedon and company gets collected.

DC have David Lapham's first full issue of Detective Comics (#801); the second issue of The Intimates; and a collection of JLA: Another Nail with loverly art and a so-so story by Alan Davis.

Marvel have New Avengers (#1); New X-Men (#7); new Ultimates 2 (#1); and old Essential Iron Man (vol. 2).

Oni have the Awakening OGN (my review here--dodgy story but very pretty art).

TokyoPop have their fourth Rising Stars of Manga collection; and the first volume of President Dad.

A very short week this time. So take that extra money and buy a few presents--and what makes for better presents than comics!

Monday, November 29, 2004

It's Like an Early Christmas

A big box arrived today from DCBS; let's open it up and take a peek inside:

Egg Story
Technopriests, vol. 2
Judge Dredd: Judgment Day
Red Razors
Walking Dead, vol. 2: Miles Behind Us
Invincible, vol. 3: Perfect Strangers
30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow
Losers, book 2: Double Down
Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures, vol. 2
Boys Be, vol. 1
Musashi #9, vol. 1
Dream Gold, vol. 1
Mary Jane, vol. 1: Circle of Friends
She-Hulk, vol. 1: Single Green Female
Mister X, vol. 1: Who Is Mister X?
Hellblazer #202
Marvel Team-Up #1-2
Frank Ironwine #1
Detonator #1
Hardy Boys #1
Intimates #1
Comics Buyer's Guide #1600

That's a lot of new stuff to read. Help me out--which should I read first?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Monkey Covers

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

From May 1953's Strange Adventures #32, Captain Comet submits to an experiment switching his mind with that of a gorilla in this cover by artist Murphy Anderson illustrating John Broome's lead story, "The Challenge of Man-Ape The Mighty." Why the good Captain would agree to an experiment run by such a sinister-looking scientist is beyond me, especially since the scientist thinks that a green lab coat goes with purple trousers (a science lab faux pas if I've ever seen one!)

(Standard disclaimer about gorillas not really being monkeys applies.)

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

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Quick All-Ages GN Reviews

GoGirl! vol. 1: The Time Team
by Trina Robbins & Anne Timmons
Science geek girl Doc, cheerleader Heather, and teenage super-heroine Lindsay (aka GoGirl!) are accidentally transported back in time to the Cretaceous Era, where they have to overcome their differences and work together to stay safe from the rampaging dinosaurs and out of the clutches of alien zoo keepers. While lessons are learned and it threatens more than once to go off into sugary afterschool special territory, Robbins keeps the story under control and doesn't let it get too serious or self-important. It's hard to go wrong with aliens and dinosaurs! Timmons' art is breezy and moves the story and action forward; with no more than three panels per page it doesn't seem cramped in the small format. It makes for lighthearted, all-ages fun.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Emily & the Intergalactic Lemonade Stand
by Ian Smith & Tyson Smith
Emily is a ten-year-old girl with a lemonade stand. And a powerful robot who can juice lemons and instantly transport across interstellar distances. Life would be hunky-dory, except for rich neighbor girl Daisy who wants to put Emily out of business, and the approaching alien invasion force. It's a fun little book, highly reminiscent in story and art of what you might find on an original show on the Cartoon Network. The best part of the story is Pheef, the ultimate warrior of his people, who just happens to resemble a cute tiny pink Japanese toy, and his internal monologues. Pheef livens up the story and gives it an edge.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Quick Comic Reviews

Superman; Adam Strange; Amazing Spider-Man

Superman #211
by Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee & Scott Williams
If you're looking for a comic with pretty pictures of Superman & Wonder Woman having a smack-down in the Fortress of Solitude, then this is the book for you. If however you're looking for anything resembling a plot or characterization, the you're going to be disappointed. Lee does draw a nice Wonder Woman--muscular and feminine--but I can't help but think that Diana would have shown up for a battle with Supes wearing her battle armor, and not a skirt and long cape.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Adam Strange #3
by Andy Diggle & Pascal Ferry
After two rather slow-moving issues, the plot starts to pick up a bit as Adam is rescued from the ruins of Rann by a Thanagarian warship that has also come to investigate what happened to the planet. The Thanagarian commander gets a couple of dimensions to her character, arrogant yet concerned about Adam, wanting to know the truth yet not willing to risk her career for it. The final scene is not much of a cliffhanger, since we know that the title character isn't going to die halfway through his own miniseries. The art by Ferry & colorist Dave McCaig remains as gorgeous as ever, and I especially appreciated the alien bird-like qualities of the Thanagarians. I'm glad to see such a good-looking comic finally moving the plot along.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

The Amazing Spider-Man #514
by J. Michael Straczynski, Mike Deodato & Joe Pimentel
If you ignaore the complete ludicrousness of the underlying plot, this is actually a rather good resolution to the "Sins Past" arc. A new Goblin faces off against a weakened Spider-Man, giving us an actual sense of peril--even though we know that Spidey won't die, it's very possible that he could be defeated (and if we hadn't seen the solicits for upcoming issues of Spectacular, then Sarah's survival wold have been in doubt). But however well done "Sins Past" has been, I imagine that most Spidey fans wish that it would just go away; and I suspect that after Straczynski is long gone this is one of those things in the character's history that will be ignored.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Giving Thanks

Here are some of the things in comics for which I am thankful on this Thanksgiving:

Gotham Central. Every month Rucka, Brubaker and Lark bring us the best police comic ever in the guise of a Bat-book.

Sam Hiti, for Tiempos Finales and its Lovecraftian trippiness.

Astonishing X-Men, for bringing me my monthly fix of Joss Whedon.

Spider-Man 2 & The Incredibles, for being good super-hero movies.

The Manga Explosion. Sure it's meant a lot of dreck on the shelves, but without it we wouldn't have gotten gems like Planetes, Uzumaki, or Paradise Kiss. Plus, it's brought comics into bookstores and young people back into comics.

Oni Press. Not only for publishing some of my favorite books like Queen & Country, Courtney Crumrin, and Blue Monday, but for publishing a diverse line of books with something to appeal to just about everyone.

Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, for We3, which showed even this jaded camics reader that you can still do innovative storytelling within comics.

Fanboy Rampage. Graeme reads the message boards so that we don't have to.

Dorian, Christopher & Brian, for the retailer's-eye view of the comics industry.

Fantagraphics, for bringing us The Complete Peanuts.

Gold Digger. It's my monthly guilty pleasure.

JSA, for being one comic a month that we long-time Earth-2 fans can geek out over.

New Comics Day, for giving me something to look forward to in the middle of the week.

Gary Spencer Millidge, for StrangeHaven, a combination of Twin Peaks and The Prisoner in comics form melded with it's own sensibilities. Even if it does only come out a couple of times a year.

Webcomics, for giving talented strip creators an outlet not available in newspaper syndication.

And the entire artform that is comics, which at its best is the perfect interesection of pictures and story, art and commerce, passive and interactive entertainment; and the creators who work hard every day to bring their vision to us. There's no medium of which I'd rather be a fan.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

New This Week: November 24, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The pick of the week comes from About Comics: It's Only a Game is a collection of the other comic strip done by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, a single-panel sports feature that ran in the late 1950s. I've never read any of these, so I'm really interested in checking it out.

In other comics:

Abstract has the latest Strangers In Paradise collection (vol. 15).

Avatar has the first of the Apparat titles from Warren Ellis: Frank Ironwine. This is the one I'm most looking forward to, as it has art by Carla Speed McNeil.

Dark Horse has the first issue of a new Jingle Belle mini.

DC has the third issue of Adam Strange, the second issue of Brubaker's Authority: Revolution, another Identity Crisis tie-in with Flash (#216), the second issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth, a second Technopriests volume, and another Superman (#211) with pretty Jim Lee art.

Image has the second Walking Dead collection.

Marvel has new issues of Black Widow (#3), Daredevil (#67), New Thunderbolts (#2), Powers (#6), Supreme Power (#13), and just in time for the holidays, the Marvel Holiday Special 2004.

New Flame has the final issue of Nabiel Kanan's The Drowners (#4).

Oni has the third issue of Sam Kieth's Ojo.

In manga: A. D. Vision has the first volumes of three new manga: First King Adventure, More Starlight To Your Heart, and Mystical Prince Yoshida Kun; TokyoPop has two new manga series: Love or Money and Mouryou Kiden: Legend of the Nymphs; while Viz has just one new series, Wolf's Rain.

And lastly, TwoMorrows has Best of the Legion Outpost for all you old-school LSH fans.

That should be enough to keep you busy reading over the long holiday weekend!

Quick Comics Reviews

Adventures of Superman; Ultimate Spider-Man; Wolverine

Adventures of Superman #634
by Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark & Andy Lanning
This is the most fun I've had reading a Superman comic in quite a while. Smack in the middle of a story about the new Parasites, Mxyzptlk shows up and tries to help. Mxyzptlk is one of those characters with whom it is very easy to mess up a story, but Rucka handles him quite well, and he and Clark pull off some great gags, verbal and visual. Of course it's not the best Mxyzptlk story ever--that honor belongs to Evan Dorkin's World's Funnest. But it does show why Adventures is the Superman book to be reading right now.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Ultimate Spider-Man #69
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley & Scott Hanna
Bendis and co. finish off another fun two-parter, this one featuring a team-up between Ultimate Spidey and Ultimate Human Torch. After Johnny accidentally catches on fire he is exposed as a probable mutant and has to leave the school, leaving poor Liz Allen crushed. It was kind of disappointing that Liz didn't show up to meet Johnny, but then she is a teenage girl, and no one ever in the history of the planet has ever been able to figure out how teenage girls think. In the traditional Marvel-U, it's Spider-Man who had the hero worship for the more experienced Fantastic Four, so it's interesting to see the roles switched here int he Ultimate-U (I figure that the previous meeting in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up is going to be ignored.)
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wolverine #22
by Mark Millar, John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson
Part 3 of "Enemy of the State" is a mostly mindless punch-up between the mind-controlled Wolverine and the Fantastic Four, but it is a competantly done punch-up and is not without its charms. Millar has the FF use their powers in some unique ways to fight off the intruder, including one by the Invisible Woman that, while novel, is one of those things that makes you wonder why she has never done it before, and when she doesn't do it in the future it will beg the questio of why not? There seems to be a big reveal on the last page, but are we supposed to recognize who it is? (I'm not nearly as up on the knowledge of obscure Marvel characters as I am with DC.)
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Monday, November 22, 2004

GNs for an Academic Library

It looks as though we're really going to do it.

The library where I work, the Art, Architecture & Engineering Library at the University of Michigan, is going to develop a comic book & graphic novel collection. The collection will focus primarily on indy/art/alternative/underground/mini comics, as well as artistically and historically important domestic and foreign comics.

(We are not trying to duplicate the excellent collections of nearby universities such as the Comic Art Collection at Michigan State or the Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State.)

The bad news is that I don't get to be the person who purchases the items--that job will belong to Annette, our Art & Design librarian. (I'm the Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences Librarian, which means that I rarely get to buy any fun books...) The good news is that Jim O and I will be advising Annette on what to buy; finally after all these years I get to make use of my lifelong obsession in a professional capacity!

Now I need your help.

We will have a chunk of 'seed money' with which to develop the initial collection. Now while I could probably draw up a list of titles on my own, many minds are better than one, and any such list would reflect my own biases.

So I'd like to ask all of you reading this to make recommendations for an Academic Library Comics & Graphic Novels Collection. The recommendations should be consistant with the focus of the collection as I have outlined above.

Please limit your recommendations to 20 volumes. Simple lists are fine, but if you can offer brief annotations as to why you think they should be included, that will be helpful.

You can post your recommendations in my comments section here, on your own blog if you have one (please email me the link), or send them to me directly via email.

(In many ways this is similar to the Lieber's Eleven, but with an academic library focus rather than a public library focus. Plus, you know, 20 instead of 11.)

Thanks in advance to you all for helping me out with this.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Monkey Covers

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

From 1959's Superboy #76, Curt Swan & Stan Kaye bring us a cover illustrating the feature story, the origin of Beppo the Super-Monkey. A founding member of the Legion of Super-Pets, Beppo stowed away on the rocket that brought Kal-El to Earth, where the lighter gravity and yellow solar rays gave him super powers.

How could anyone not like Beppo the Super-Monkey? He has all the powers of Superman, and he's a monkey!

(I only own two items from DC Direct, one of them being the plush Beppo. Because, you know, Super-Monkey!)

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

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Moore Films

SciFi Wire has news about two Alan Moore projects making their way to film:

The Wachowski Brothers are set to produce V for Vendetta, with James McTeigue (first assistant on the Matrix films) most likely to direct.

There's also a rumor that Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass is taking of the reins of hte on-again-off-again Watchmen movie.

Of course, if either or both of these get made, the chance that they'll resemble Moore's comics is rather slim (exhibits 1 & 2: From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). It'll be interesting to see how people react to a story where the good guy is essentially a terrorist...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Review: A Gentleman's Game

A Gentleman's Game: A Queen & Country Novel
by Greg Rucka
$24.00 Bantam Dell ISBN: 0-553-80276-3

Besides being known as a comic writer, Greg Rucka also has a career as a novelist, best known for his Atticus Kodiak thrillers. So it makes a certain amount of sense for him to combine his two worlds by writing a novel based on his creator-owned Queen & Country series. This presents us then with two questions: How does A Gentleman's Game work as a spy thriller, and how does it work as an extension of the comic book?

As a spy thriller, it works very well indeed. As the main protagonist, Tara Chase is a great character, highly competant but flawed. The plot is a doozy: following a terrorist attack on the London subway system, Tara's SIS section is called upon to retaliate against the terrorists. I won't spoil the plot any further, except to say that there are a couple of great twists that come just at the right time and are as logical as they are surprising. In fact, one of the greatest joys of the novel is that none of the characters have to act like idiots in order for the story to work. While characters may make bad decisions, they are not stupid decisions. I have no idea how accurate the details and settings of this novel are, but it certainly has the feel of authenticity and that Rucka has done his homework. His prose is detailed but doesn't get bogged down, and he can write action as well as the quieter moments. Given that this is based on a comic with which a majority of the readers will be unfamilar, there is a good deal of info-dumping in the first 50-100 pages to get things set up, but it is integrated into the plot and never feels like a plot summary.

A Gentleman's Game also works well as the next chapter for the Queen & Country series. While it is not necessary to be previously familiar with Tara Chase and the rest of the cast from the comic, fans of the comic will find much here to enjoy. Unlike many novels based on comics where the author has to pretty much put things back in place by the end of the book, since Rucka owns Queen & Country he can do whatever he wants, and by the end of A Gentleman's Game things have definitely changed in Tara's world. Rucka uses the opportunities inherent in the novel format to flesh out Tara's world and to give us insight into her internal life and the lives of those around her. This is a both a deeply personal story and a large plot-driven story; and while it would not have been impossible to tell in comic form, it would have had to have been very different, given the difference in the two mediums.

In closing, if you are a fan of spy thrillers, you will enjoy A Gentleman's Game, and if you are a fan of Queen & Country, this novel is a not-to-be-missed installment in the story of Tara Chase.

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Quick Alt-DCU Comic Reviews

Superman/Batman; Teen Titans; JLA

Three comics out this week, each featuring an alternate version of the DCU, all designed to appeal to a long-time DC Comics fanboy such as myself. Each even ends similarly, with a full-page splash revealing surprise characters. It's a super-hero geek-o-rama!

Superman/Batman #14
by Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco & Jesús Merino
So, how big of a comic geek am I that I recognized immediately who the forces behind this alternate reality were? Loeb's captions are still in abundance, though at least at times they're actually narrating story & background information instead of just prattling on. Like the stories in this title that preceded it, I'm sure that "Absolute Power," an alternate reality tale wherein Superman & Batman have taken on the role of world dictators, will fall apart if looked at too carefully, but will be a fun ride if we all just go along with it. Those who disliked Turner's art on the previous story (which seems at times to be every single pundit on the Net, although it sold tons of copies to presumed Turner fans) will appreciate Pacheco's art, which is still dynamic but without many of Turner's tendencies to, um, exaggeration.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Teen Titans #18
by Geoff Johns, Mike McKone & Marlo Alquiza
We learn more about the world of ten-years-hence and some about how the Titans grew so dark, especially Tim/Batman. (Hmmm, wouldn't Bats have wanted to show Robin his father's grave along with all of the others?) This is another of those 'don't think about it too hard' stories, but it still has me interested and wondering how it's going to get wrapped up in just one more issue.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

JLA #108
by Kurt Busiek, Ron Garney & Dan Green
Then opening part of this book, where we get a good look at the Crime Syndicate's world and what makes it tick, is interesting; but the later part, page after page of boring politics on Qward, could and should have been shortened. Thankfully the CSA show up to raise a little Cain (in a wonderful full-page splash with maniacal laughter, exploding sound effects, and the dude in the bottom corner looking back at the reader--it's just like the old days!), and then some kind of cosmic reset button gets pushed and we end up with a slightly different CSA. I don't recall when exactly I encountered the Crime Syndicate--it may have been in DC Comics Presents Annual #1, with the Earth-1 & Earth-2 Supermen teaming up with Earth-3's Alexander Luthor to defeat Ultraman, but maybe it was in an earlier comic. Anyway, it's always fun to see them again, and Busiek's story looks like it won't disappoint.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Quick Comic Reviews

Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales; Cenozoic; Wild Girl; Ocean; Kabuki: The Alchemy

Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales #1
by Dan Dougherty
This is the story of rock and roll sensations Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales, telling the story of their rise and fall through the lens of a documentary filmmaker. Bill was a little known but critically loved singer/songwriter/guitarist and the Tall Tales--Dave, Dan and Kevin--were a Chicago bar band going nowhere until their fateful meeting in 2004 led to their rise to superstardom in 2005 when they released a collaborative album that shot straight up the charts. Most bands in this position face a backlash, but the Bill & the Tales's come personified in the form of Oscar Burden, a punk rock renegade who believes that everyone should be a rock star. Three years later, Bill is dead and the band is disbanded, but the documentary, haunted by the ghost of Elvis, is looking to uncover the truth. It's all fictional of course, but it has the air of authenticity even if it is at its core a rock and roll myth. This is helped greatly by Dougherty's art, a photo-realistic style that is reminiscent of Gary Spencer Millidge. It's also interesting to note that the Dan in the Tall Tales is Dan Dougherty himself--the artist has slyly inserted himself into the work, giving it yet another level of pseudo-reality. Dougherty packs a lot of story into this first of six issues, and I definitely want to see where he goes next.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Cenozoic #1
by Mark Fearing
A couple of fun stories set at the dawn of mankind. "Monkey Toruble" features Jerry: Caveman Inventor, as he tries to rid his cave-mates from being terrorized by mud-throwing monkeys. The second story features Cave Bear & Duck, two anthropomorphically modern friends dealing with the encroachment of humans. It's fun but slight, and the stories are more likely to bring a smile than out-loud laughter. Fearing's drawing seems a bit crude, but it's deceptively so; there's actually a good deal of craft and he's quite able to tell his stories effectively.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wild Girl #1
by Leah Moore, John Reppion, Shawn McManus, & J. H. Williams III
The art by McManus (with a two-page dream sequence by Williams) is great, but that's to be expected. Most importantly for a title like this, McManus can draw animals quite well, imbuing them here with much the same combination of realness and personality that Masashi Tanaka does in Gon. The story however, while not bad by any means, is very slight, serving as the barest introduction to Rosa, a young teenage runaway who is somehow haunted by the animal kingdom. With the great art there's enough to keep me around for a bit, but just barely; hopefully the story will pick up soon.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Ocean #2
by Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
Like the first issue this second installment is told in a decompressed style, but At the same time Ellis packs it so full of information it doesn't feel like it's being stretched out needlessly. Inspector Kane has made it to the science outpost at Europa, where he gets introduced to the crew and the fantastic find that they have made beneath the ocean's surface. This has all the makings of a hard science fiction story, the kind that I like in novels but that we seldom get to see in comics. It's very typical in these sorts of stories for the first third of the book to be spent setting up the world and the story, and so far Ocean seems to be following form. Now that all of the pieces are in place, the plot kicks into gear in the closing pages of this second of six issues, right on schedule. The story is helped greatly by Sprouse's art which is quite well suited to this near-future scifi story.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Kabuki: The Alchemy #2
by David Mack
It's gorgeous, but at this point that's to be expected from Mack and Kabuki. Not much actually happens in this issue (Kabuki gets her wound patched up and acquires a false identity), but we do get an interesting meditation on the relationship between art and biotechnology, along with Mack's typical themes of memory and identity. Despite the slow-moving narrative, each page is a visual treat, packed with information. With Kabuki, it's not really about the plot anyway, it's all about the journey, and Mack doesn't disappoint.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Quick Indy Comic Reviews

by Hunt Emerson
This has got to be one of the strangest comics I've ever read. Citymouthes--'Bouchevilles' in French--are giant mouthes, each with a city inside. In the many one to four page comics that appear in this collection, Emerson uses the Citymouthes to make humorous and oftimes insightful comments about urban settlements. All of the cartoons are wordless, so Emerson's cartooning has to carry the whole weight of the narrative, which it does with seeming ease. It's the wildest, wackiest comic about urban planning that you'll come across.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

A Fine Mess #2
by Matt Madden
This 32-page comic contains several stories by Madden, each of which is an experiment in comics narrative. The opening story, "Prisoner of Zembla," is structured around the roman alphabet, while another, "The Six Treasures of the Spiral," makes use of artistic and dialogue repetition in adopting the style of a sestina poem. Each of the stories employs a different artistic style as well, giving this comic much visual variety, and Madden shows that he is skilled in all of them. A good comic to entertain and stretch your comic-reading mental muscles at the same time.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Or Else #1
by Kevin Huizenga
Another collection of short stories done in a variety of styles by a single artist, Or Else, for me at least, is not quite as successful. "NST 04," is a purposely disjointed story, with events from panel to panel being seemingly unrelated. "Chan Woo Kim" juxtaposes text from adoption papers with serene nature scenes done in a classical Japanese style, but to what end I'm not sure. The best story of the bunch is the conclusing story, "Jeezoh," which supposedly draws on a legend from the midwest regarding the fate of the souls of aborted, stillborn and miscarried babies (though having lived in the midwest all my life, I have to admit that I've never heard of the legend before this. Huizenga has a lot of talent, and in a book like this there's bound to be stuff that works and stuff that doesn't, and reactions will vary from reader to reader. So give it a look.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Titus von Götheborg
by Ulf K.
In this collection of one-page strips, Titus von Götheborg is a German composer whose cleverly humorous adventures center around the physical manifestation of music. Though wordless, there is dialog of sorts in the form of musical notes and images in thought and word balloons. Ulf K. has an enjoyable cartoony style that is easy to follow, and he packs a great deal of story into each four or eight panel strip. It makes for a quick but enjoyable read.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cheap Manga

Thanks to Shawn Fumo, I've learned of a Webstore called DollarManga.com, which appears to be where ComicsOne is getting rid of their excess inventory.

True to its name, DollarManga.com has many of ComicsOne's older series for $1 each, not-so-old series for $3 each, and relatively recent items for 25%-50% off.

I ordered the following at $1 a piece: Joan vols 2 & 3; Goku: Midnight Eye vols. 1-3; Tomie vols. 1 & 2; Weed vols. 1-3; Crayon ShinChan vol. 1; and Sarai vol. 1.

The catch is that the shipping is somewhat expensive. For the twelve books above, the shipping was $19. That works out to a total of $31 for 12 volumes of manga, which is still a good deal.

New This Week: November 17, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Plastic Man: On the Lam, the trade collection of the first six issues of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man. It's got super-heroes, and it's got the funny. You've been good this past week: you deserve to read a good comic and laugh.

Also from DC this week are the fourth Y: The Last Man collection; the second The Losers collection; Ed Brubaker's last issue of Catwoman (#37); the start of a new arc in Ex Machina (#6); the final issue of H-E-R-O; and the second part (though actually the first real part) of the CSA story in JLA (#108).

Marvel have Brubaker's first issue of Captain America; the start of a new arc in The Pulse (#6); a new Daredevil collection (vol. 10); the last X-Statix collection (vol. 4); the hump issue of Madrox (#3); and Chuck Austen's final issue of X-Men (#164).

NBM have a third Boneyard collection and the first issue of the mangafied Hardy Boys; Antarctic have a new Gold Digger (#57), a new Quagmire USA (#5), and an I Hunt Monsters pocket manga. El Capitan have a new Stray Bullets collection (vol. 8); Image have the third Invincible collection; and Penny Farthing have the penultimate issue of Para (#5).

Still have some change left in your pocket after all of that, then pick up last week's pick, Bugtown #1. Even if you haven't been following the Bugtown comics for the past 25 years, it's still new reader friendly.

'Real' Comics

Some of my favorite parts of (postmodernbarney.com) are the times when Dorian shares anecdotes about his comics retail business. They are generally amusing in pointing out the insanity that comics retails must face on a daily business.

In his latest installment, this exchange jumped out at me:

"Do you have any real comics?"
Uhm...as opposed to the millions of "fake" comics that currently surround us?
"No, real comics, like The Far Side!"

Now, aside from the silliness of thinking that newspaper strips are the only 'real' comics, it does point out something that I have always thought to be curious: Why don't comics shops stock collections of comic strips?

A look at the Bookscan top 'graphic novels' of 2003 seven strip collections in the Top 25, including collections of Get Fuzzy, Calvin and Hobbes, The Boondocks and Foxtrot. After manga, they're the next largest category in the list. Yet the typical comic store has none of these.

If comic shops are trying to appeal to an audience wider than comic book geeks, shouldn't they have in stock what a majority of the people think comics are; what they are exposed to on a daily basis? There should be collections of The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Dilbert, Mutts, Foxtrot, For Better or For Worse, and others. If anything else, they would bring people in off the street and into the store, where they could even be enticed to buy 'real' comics.

Oh sure, there are a few, like Liberty Meadows, Jane's World, and The Norm, which get collected into comic book form, but aside from the recent Fantagraphic Peanuts collections (and maybe some of the other Fantasgraphics offerings) how often do you see any mainstream strip collections in a comic store?

A good portion of the blame can be laid at the feet of Diamond, who don't offer these books in Previews for the retailers to order, but surely there are other distributors for books, yes? And if there was enough presure from retailers, one would think that Diamond would make an effort to start making them available.

I'm sure that retails have their reasons for not stocking strip collections. Heck, some of them may even be valid. But wouldn't it be great if, in the situation that Dorian cites, a retailer could point the customer to a rack of strip collections and say: "Here they are. Not only do we have The Far Side, but we have others as well. Please let me know if I can help you with anything else."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ringo's Sketches

As most probably know by now, it was recently announced that Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo are leaving Fantastic Four for another yet-to-be-determined project. It'll probably involve super-heroes.

However, as anyone who has visited Mike's Sketch Blog knows, Wieringo has talents far beyond being a super-hero artist. Judging by the many sketches that involve kids and animals, he would make a great artist of kids comics. Of course, there isn't much money in kids comics these days, but it would seem that he would also make for an excellent illustrator of children's books. Maybe he and Mark could collaborate on something along the lines of the combination kids books/comics that Gaiman and McKean do (e.g. The Wolves in the Walls).

Just thinking out loud here (okay, not actually 'out loud'...); but I'd love to get a chance to see Wieringo stretch beyond super-heroes.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Monkey Covers

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

From 1960's Blackhawk #152, an eight-limbed Octi-Ape from space terrorizes the Blackhawks. It appears that in the 60s, even war comics were invaded by silly sci-fi. Still, how could anyone pass on a comic with an Octi-Ape on the cover?

This week's Monkey Cover was suggested by Mike Sterling, who's enjoyable Progressive Ruin is one of my daily stops in my comic blog-reading. Thanks Mike!

If you'd like to suggest a monkey cover to be featured here, please drop me as email.

(Standard disclaimer about apes not really being monkeys applies.)

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

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Quick Comic Reviews

Firebirds; Plastic Man; Gotham Central; Firestorm

Firebirds #1
by Jay Faerber & Andres Ponce
The Firebirds of the title are Rebecca, a long-time super-heroine, and her daughter Emily, who Rebecca sent off to boarding school so as to protect her from her enemies. But after Rebecca suffers a near-fatal defeat and Emily starts to develop super powers of her own, Rebecca has to become both a real mother and a trainer to her daughter. It's a great concept for a series, but alas all it really remains is a concept, a premise on which to hang not not an emotional examination of a mother-daughter relationship, but some standard issue super-heorics. It's not a bad comic, and the art by Ponce (and colorist Nestor Pereyra) is pretty good, but the disappointment lies in the opportunities lost in not mining better the emotional and family dynamics inherent in the premise.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Plastic Man #12
by Scott Morse
It's an unscheduled fill-in by Morse, which immediately gives this book a strike againts it by those looking ofrward to more Kyle Baker goodness. The art here is lovely, some of the best of Morse's career in fact, but the story--Plas facing off against a villain who shoots glue from his fingers--is so slight as to be non-existant. It's a visual feast, but a textual diet.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Gotham Central #25
by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
In the aftermath of "War Games," Commissioner Akins has decided to sever the police department's unofficial ties to Batman, including permanently dismantling the Bat Signal. This issue considers the ramifications and reactions to this decision by the various cast members, and ends with a parking garage confrontation between Akins and Batman (though thankfully not the sort of violent confrontation idicated by teh misleading cover). Despite being one of the weaker issues of Gotham Central, it's still at least ten times better than any of the official installments of "War Games," and Rucka deals with this editorially mandataed shift in the series' premise well. Lark continues to show why he is one of the best artists for moody crime drama; it will be quite a shame to see him leave for an exclusive Marvel contract, where his talents are sure to be wasted.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Firestorm #7
by Dan Jolley, Liam Sharp & Andy Lanning
In this first part of a crossover with Bloodhound (a title I don't read and have no desire to), Jason and his father are kidnapped and tortured by some bad-ass who believe that they know something about the super-hero who has interfered with his drug shipments. Jason transforms into Firestorm by merging with the bad-ass, but then the bad-ass takes control and goes on a nuclear rampage. At some point they run into a character I take to be Bloodhound, although no introduction is given as to who he is or why we should care. As a cross-over then it fails miserably; I have no reason to follow to the second part of the story, as I just don't care. Sharp's art isn't great and the murky coloring does not make it any easier to follow; however, I do like the nifty redesign for the bad-ass-controlled Firestorm.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Friday, November 12, 2004

January Becomes Elektra

Yahoo Movies has the Elektra trailer for the movie that opens in January. Now I'm not really up on my Elektra mythology, but there seems to be very little about this movie that has anything to do with the comic book character, except for the fact that Jennifer Garner, who played Elektra in the Daredevil movie, is also playing a character named Elektra in this movie. Then again, maybe they're pulling from a storyline that I'm unfamiliar with.

Anyway, the movie will probably be tosh, but it looks as though the action scenes will be plentiful and possibly even kewl.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Superman and the Lost Frog

Lost Frog

image copyright DC Comics. Please don't sue.

Quick Comic Reviews

Bugtown #1
by Matt Howarth
A great example of how to do a new first issue for a series that's been around in various forms for twenty-five years. Howarth opens with a short story about Brent Foxx, a convicted hacker on parole in Texas who, after a night on a drunken binge, awakens to find himself in the strange extra-dimensional city of Bugtown, where the normal rules of both physics and society no loner apply. This allows new readers to be introduced to Howarth extended setting through the eyes of a newcomer, while introducing long-time readers to a new player in Bugtown. The action then shifts to a Bulldaggers reunion concert being organized by Russ Post, one of the feared Post Bros. We are further introduced to many of the major characters in Bugtown, as well as the typical weirdness and ultraviolence, and the plot for this six issue series kicks into high gear. Of course, it should go without saying that Howarth's art is in top form, and he exhibits a great ability to present a story that is full of info-dumping without getting bogged down.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Action Comics #821
by Chuck Austen, Luke Ross, Renato Guedes, Shane Davis, Cliff Richards, Fabio Laguna, Lary Stucker & Will Conrad
No, your eyes do not deceive you. It took seven different artists to produce this steaming pile of nonsense. The problem isn't really with the art--individually, each of the four different art teams is okay. It's just the story that's utter tosh. Last issue ended with the return of Doomsday to Metropolis, and indeed this issue begins with the population of the city evacuating after hearing reports of Doomsday's return. But then the plot veers off into completely unrelated directions: Preus--apparently one of the characters from that gawdawful "Godfall" storyline--hooks up wih some sort of ultra right-wing survivalist group, whilest meanwhile Superman reacts to recent events in Adventures of Superman by standing around and gazing longingly at Lois in the hospital. The story ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Preus beating the stuffing out of the Martian Manhunter. Now you might think that the next issue would deal with the resolution of the Preus situation, or maybe even remember that Doomsday is reportedly around; but no, the next issue box says that Lois and Clark return to Smallville for the holidays. This is easily the worst Superman comic of the year, probably the decade, and perhaps ever.
Rating: 1 (of 5)

New Thunderbolts #1/82
by Fabian Nicieza, Tom Grummett & Gary Erskine
The original Thunderbolts #1 featured at its end one of the greatest reveals in the history of comics. It would be nearly impossible to repeat that feat, but Nicieza does give us a twist ending that puts this reassembled Thunderbolts team in a new light. With the Avengers is disarray, Mach IV decides that the time is right to resurrect the team of former villains trying to go straight, with a couple of old faces and some new ones as well. Like DC's late, lamented Suicide Squad, Thunderbolts provides an opportunity to resurrect and possibly redeem minor villains; Nicieza gives us The Blizzard as a new Thunderbolt trying to travel the road to redemption, and five long-forgotten water-based villains as the menace facing the new team. Grummett is a fine super-hero artist who is comfortable with team books with a lot of characters, as seems perfectly suited to this book. The good news is that it appears that Nicieza is not 'writing for the trade' here, and will be giving us the sort of comic that, while being an ongoing soap opera-style super-hero book, will make each issue an individual reading experience and drive you to want to pick up the next issue next month. This is a comic that will give a better reading experience in monthly doses than collected in a trade.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Nightwing #99
by Devin Grayson, Zach Howard & Andy Owens
Presumably a placeholder issue until next month's #100, nothing really happens in these 22 pages. While the Taratula busts some crooks' heads in Gotham (yawn), Nightwing recovers from his gunshot wound, and then gets an info-dump from Batman about the end of "War Games" and the new state of affairs in Gotham. Grayson has built her career around a reputation for spot-on characterization, but for some strange reason her Nightwing has been populated by pod people.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Green Arrow #44
by Judd Winick, Phil Hester & Ande Parks
As expected, this issue features the reactions of Mia, Ollie & Conner to the revelation of Mia's HIV status, and Winick packs in a good deal of teaching about HIV. It's admirable and not too heavy-handed, and is redemmed by some good character moments at the end. Hester & Parks do s good job with a script that is mostly talking heads; it was recently announced that they will soon be leaving the title, and boy will it miss them.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Avengers Finale
by Brian Michael Bendis & a bunch of artists
What a surprise: The Avengers 'celebrate' the end of an era by sitting around in the burned out Avengers Mansion and talking. Now, an issue by Bendis of people talking can be good, but not in this case. A lot of faux emotion and characters coming to bad conclusions in order to force the plot down the path to Bendis's New Avengers title. And while it makes a certain amount of sense to have the two-page spread flashback scenes illustraed by different artists, the incongruity up the different artists for the main narrative is unfortunate. Michael Goydos & George Perez are both great artists, but their style are completely incompatible. It's an ignoble end for the 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes.'
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Quick GN Reviews

The Originals
by Dave Gibbons
As teenages in a retro-future city, teenagers Lel & Bok want nothing in life other than to join The Originals, a mod gang who are all about style. They get their wish when they help The Originals in a rumble with their arch enemies, The Dirt, a biker gang of ruffians. Of course, once you get what you've always wanted, you discover that there's more you want, and that there are others who want what you have. It's a stylish twist on a classic tale with a dose of violence, and while the plot takes a while to get into full gear, it ends explosively. It's from Dave Gibbons, so you know it's going to look great, and his toned black and white illustration lives up to expectations. Gibbons' storytelling abilities are also in fine form, as he makes ample use of wide panels to give the book a cinematic feel, and his designs do a great job of evoking the retro-Avengers vibe he's going for. This is good comics.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

The Bunker
by Bruce Mutard
Next door neighbors Jason and Annie have been friends ever since they were little kids. But now that they are 14 and 15 respectively, their relationship is in that awkward teenage boy-girl stage. But there's a twist: Annie says that she can't sleep in her own room because it is haunted by a ghost, so every night she sneaks over to Jason's room and spends the night, sneaking back out again before daybreak. But even though they seem closer friends than ever, they are actually drifting apart. Mutard puts together a well-crafted story, though it goes in some fairly obvious directions, at least it does so interestingly. I had a problem with the very end though: the last two pages spell out explicitly what we had already figured out; had Mutard instead left this implicit I feel it would have made for a better story. He easily could have left out those two pages and ended it there, and it would have made for a better story. Mutard's art reminded me a lot of Jason Lutes, especially in his layout, line quality and backgrounds; however, his figure work was often weak and not quite up to par with the high quality of the rest of the art. Also, he makes ample use of flashbacks and the narrative jumps around a bit, but the time transitions were often not clear and it sometimes took several panels before I realized I was reading a flashback.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

New This Week: November 10, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Bugtown #1 from Matt Howarth & Aeon Press. For nearly 25 years Howarth has been an original, bringing us the Post Brothers, Savage Henry & The Bulldaggers, and the rest of the wacked-out, mind-trippy adventures of the denizens of Bugtown. So give it a whirl.

DC has new issues of Gotham Central (#25), Fables (#31), JSA (#67) and Ocean (#2), and the debut issue of Leah Moore's Wild Girl. There's also the trade collection of Superman: Secret Identity and a new Human Target collection.

Marvel have Bendis's Avengers Finale, the debut of New Thunderbolts, plus the first trade collections of She-Hulk and The Pulse.

Indy books of note include Captain Canuck #2 from Comely; Colonia #11 from Jeff Nicholson; a new Finder (#35) from Carla Speed McNeil; and Cenozoic (#1) looks like it could be interesting.

Looks like a fairly light week, so if you have a little extra $$$ in your pocket, why not try one of the Courtney Crumrin collections?

Casshern in America

Now Playing Magazine reports that the live action version of Casshern has been picked up by Dreamworks for domestic distribution (no release date is set yet). If you've seen the trailer then you know why I'm excited. Actually, I have little idea what it's about, save for that it's a live action version of a post-apocalyptic anime, but even if the story is absolute crap it'll still look fantastic on a big screen. (I was worried that I'd have to resort to an imported DVD).

Quick GN Reviews

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, vol. 2
adapted by Andy Seto
This is not, as you might suspect, an adaptation of the film of the same name. Rather, it is an adaptation of Wang Du Lu's five volume epic Crane - Iron Pentalogy (of which Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the fourth volume). The events in this present volume take place earlier than those depicted in the movie, as we get to see the roots of the unrequited love between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien. It's nothing terribly original, but what really makes this comic shine is the absolutely gorgeous art from Andy Seto. Rendered in full color, no detail is too small for Seto's fine linework. There are some fabulous one- and two-page spreads, and even the smaller panels show a loving attention to detail. The feel of ancient China just pours out of the pages. As if that weren't enough, Seto is one of a very few comic artists who can capture the furious motion of a martial arts movie in the static images of a comic. These are some of the most amazing combat scenes you'll ever see in a comic. For a pure visual treat, this is definitely worth your while.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Electric Girl, vol. 1
by Michael Brennan
Virginia was born with the ability to generate and conduct electricity, but she doesn't use it to fight crime or any such nonsense. No, Ginny just wants to live a normal life. Too bad that she has an invisible gremlin 'friend' whose job it is to cause mischief. But she does have a cute dog with a very cool name: Blammo; and a supportive family and good friends. It's mostly all-ages fun, the exception being an out-of-place story where a younger Virginia has a near run-in with a child molester. If AiT/Planet Lar had decided to shink this collection down to manga-size, I suspect they could have had a huge hit.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Quick Super-Hero Reviews

Astonishing X-Men; JLA Classified; Superman/Batman; Avengers; Batman; Detective Comics

Astonishing X-Men #6
by Joss Whedon & John Cassady
Joss's initial arc comes to a conclusion, with a good deal of hitting and a good deal of talking, as some things are explained while others (like Ord's motivation) are not. And Whedon doesn't skip on the denouments, giving a bit of closure to the arc while setting things up for the next one. One might suspect that this series has been built around a few spectacular moments--such as the fantastic two-page spread in this issue that leaves long-time fanboys (like me) with a big smile--strung together with clever dialog and a bit of plot. But really, is that so wrong? Much has been made over the seeming regression of the X-books to their pre-Morrison days, but while Whedon is certainly invoking the spirit of the good ol' Claremont/Byrne days, except for the costumes he hasn't done anything to contradict what Morrison set up (unlike Claremont & Austen, who have completely undermined the central Xorn/Magneto conflict). Whedon is taking what Morrison left and going in the direction that he wants to go. And I, for one, am willing to go with him.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

JLA: Classified #1
by Grant Morrison, Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
Only Morrison would start a new series featuring the JLA with only one JLA'er in the whole thing. Yet it still feels like a JLA story, opening with a chaotic fight between the Global Guardians Ultramarines and Gorilla Grodd (a villain who it seems that McGuinness was born to draw). Batman (Morrison's ultimate JLA'er) shows up near the end, digging into his 'sci-fi closet,' a wonderful metaphor for the past Batman tales which modern writer pretend don't exist, but in which Morrison obviously revels. It's high-concept JLA fun. And next issue: Robot JLA!
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Superman/Batman #13
by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner
I really don't understand the amount of venom that's being heaped upon this title. Yes, Loeb's narration can get grating at times and Turner's artwork is rather stylized, but it delivers exactly what it promises: big fights and over-the-top emotion. And yes, the plot falls apart if you look at it too closely, but this is a book that needs to be enjoyed on a surface level, riding across the tops of the waves. I certainly appreciate it more than the faux importance of Azzarello's Superman or Austen's brainless Action Comics. And let me give a special shout-out to Peter Steigerwald, who turns in one of the best super-hero coloring jobs I've seen in a while.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Avengers #503
by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch & Danny Miki
I don't have a problem with Dr. Strange showing up to be Exposition Guy, and the reveal of who is behind the Disassembly of the Avengers makes sense in the context of the story that's been presented to us. There was no cheating here; the clues were left and many things make more sense now in hindsight (including the odd coloring choice I complained about in the last issue). What I do have a problem with is that after delivering the exposition, Dr. Strange sticks around and solves the problem as well. It's a Deus ex Machina of the worst kind. This is the Avengers after all, and story-wise the Avengers have to solve their own crisis, or it's just a cop out.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Batman #633
by Bill Willingham, Kinsun, Aaron Sowd, Rodney Ramos & Adam DeKraker
It's been no secret that I haven't cared much for "War Games," and this conclusion to the long, overwrought story does little to change my mind. The handling of Spoiler leaves me especially pissed off. Heaven forbid we have a strong teenage female character as a hero; no, better to have her act like an idiot, abuse her and then kill her off. All of the hype around the female Robin a few months ago now seems exploitive in its vindictive glee, a big f-you to anyone who was pulled in because of that, or who has been following the character for years. The lone bright spot here is the art by Kinsun, who brings an energy to the explosive fight scenes and renders the deathbed scene with a quiet dignity.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Detective Comics #800
by Anderson Gabrych, Pete Woods, Cam Smith & Drew Geraci; David Lapham
Gabrych uses this issue to set up the new status quo in Gotham: Everyone besides Batman and Catwoman leave, with Batman at odds with the GCPD and Catwoman pissed at him for not being open with his feelings (but really, what does she expect?) Black Mask now controls the Gotham underworld, and seems to be mixing things up to keep both Bats and the cops off-balance. As a denoument to "War Games" it works well, but it seems a bit of a waste for a big anniversary issue. What really drew me to this was the back-up story by Lapham, a prelude to his run on this title which starts next issue and which I've really been looking forward to. But man, I really hope that it turns out better than this, eight disconnected pointless pages...
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)