Sunday, October 31, 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.

Superboy has been turned into a giant ape! And he's attacking Clark Kent! How can this be?! I've never read Superboy #142, so I have no idea how writer E. Nelson Bridwell managed to take this cover by Curt Swan and George Klein and turn it into a story. Perhaps I'll never know...

(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, October 30, 2004

Around the Horn

Here's what's been the talk of the comics blogosphere for the past week:

Dorian hates vampires. Kevin, Johanna, Dave and Sam all respond. Me? I can see some of Dorian's points, but think tht he's taken too narrow a view on what sort of vampires exist in fiction--if he wants 'something new' to be said about vampires, he need look no further than the recently ended Angel television series, which uses a vampire with a soul as a metaphor for seeking redemption (among other things). Also, vampire-type creatures have been part of the mythological landscapes of many cultures, not just the eastern European variety.

Graeme returns to Fanboy Rampage.

Another blog contest, as Tim offers up cool swag if only you'll tell him he's full of it. (Actually, he uses a word that rhymes with 'it', but you can probably figure out what word that is on your own--or just click the link.)

Eliot reviews a bunch of things he picked up at SPX, which reminds me that I have a stack of comics a freind brought back from there that I need to get to...

Jon explains Japanese Octopi Sex.

Chris disappears for the week. Hope that everything is okay...

Matt asks "what are the comics recently published or being published now that are going to be classics?".

Matt (a different Matt) looks at pre-Vertigo DC.

Ed asks people to recommend books he should be reading, and the people respond.

Steve thinks about mini-series.

Gordon compares V for Vendeta and The Prisoner.

Johanna reveals her favorite comic book.

Finally, a big blogosphere welcome to Tom Spurgeon, whose The Comics Reporter is an intersting and ambitious blog/news/commentary site.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Two Good Interviews

A couple of good interviews with comics writers, but not in the usual places:

SF Site interviews Mike Carey, writer of Lucifer, Hellblazer, and My Faith in Frankie. Most of the interview deals with his work on Lucifer, and at the end he reveals that he has written a Superman arc (presumably for after Azzarello & Lee finish?)

Comicgate has an interview with Devin Grayson. Even though I haven't been too enamored with her current work on Nightwing, I've been a fan of almost everything else she has written. In the interview she discusses how she broke in to comics (with a cold call to DC!) and then has a lot to say about gender bias (and the perception thereof) in the industry. (Thanks to POPP'D for the link.)

Quick Comic Reviews

We3; The Authority: Revolution; Superman

We3 #2
by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Well wow. Since comics are such a static medium, it's hard to present dynamism and action effectively. But in this issue Morrison & Quitely pull it off big time. Using innovative visual techniques and pacing, they so effectively create the illusion of motion that you feel that you're right there in the comic with the action flowing over and around you. The story is typical second act fare, with the 3 on the run from the military and an army of cybernetic rats, but it's so well done that you'll want to read and look it over several times.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

The Authority: Revolution #1
by Ed Brubaker, Dustin Nguyen & Richard Friend
Brubaker gets his Authority run off to a good start, as the Authority are findign that ruling a country may be harder than defeating a few bad guys. In fact, it's almost impossible to not see this as being reflective of not just the current situation in a certain Middle Eastern country, but that facing most occupiers throughout history. Brubaker, known generally for comics with a more 'street level' flavor (Gotham Central, Catwoman, Scene of the Crime) gives a go at more cosmic level ptotagonists and threats, and the sucess ro failure of this 12-issue story will rest on how well he ends up pulling it off. He starts off with a long-standing Authority tradition, bringing in a super-team who are analogues to a mainstream group, this time with a bunch of aging super-heroes who resemble Marvel's Ultimates. Nguyen shows good character design with these, giving them feasible WWII-era costumes. In all, it's a good new start for a comic that deserves better than it's gotten over the past couple of years.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Superman #210
by Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Looking at the cover, you might be led to believe that there's a dramatic physical confrontation between Superman & Wonder Woman in this issue. Instead, it's a lot of characters standing around and talking--which wouldn't be so bad if what they were talking about made any sort of sense. Well-known characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are acting very much out of character, while new guys like the Priest and the stupid military guy with the mustache have barely a single dimension. The most interesting thing about this issue is that Lee is drawing Wonder Woman wearing her old costume with the bird on the bust rather than the 'W'. It's just a little thing, but it's enough to make me think that maybe, just maybe, there's something interesting going on here...
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Political Dr. Seuss

I just got through watching The Political Dr. Seuss, a documentary that I TiVoed on PBS last night. It's a very good program, being a biography of Ted Giesel viewed through the lens of his political activism, from his WWII political cartoons and work on army training films, through the allegorical stories of The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who, to the more overtly political books near the end of his career, such as The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book.

Because his works didn't have speech balloons and were marketed as children's books, Giesel is often overlooked as the truly great cartoonist he is. For my money, he ranks right up there with Kirby as far as imagination and energy, and influence in his chosen genre. (He is also a forgotten luminary of science fiction, a case made in both this piece from Greg Beatty and in Paul Di Filipoo's essay "My Alphabet Starts Where Your Alphabet Ends." [found in Nebula Awards 24.])

The film is running on PBS this week as part of the Independent Lens series. If you aren't able to catch it, there's a companion Website you can visit. (And of course you can always go to your local library where you're sure to find the bulk of Dr. Seuss's oeuvre; provided it isn't checked out...)

Quick Comic Reviews

JLA; Green Lantern: Rebirth; Outsiders

JLA #107
by Kurt Busiek, Ron Garney & Dan Green
Well now, this is much better. Busiek takes the reins of DC's premier super team title and, without resorting to any needless deaths or personality transplants, turns the title into a compelling read. Yes, it's the first part of an eight-part story, but it also tells a complete story within itself, with Flash and the Martian Manhunter facing down a crisis involving a rapidly evolving artificial intelligence. Other JLA'ers have just brief walk-on roles, but even then they feel right, not like the pod people who showed up for the previous six issues. (Can we just forget that those ever happened?) Even Garney's art is much improved, whether due to the addition of Green's inks, a script that is involving and interesting, or a combination of the two. It's not a work of genius by any means, but it's good, enjoyable super-hero fare. Count me in.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Outsiders #17
by Judd Winick & Carlos D'Anda
Gee, a character in a Judd Winick-scripted book turns out to have a sordid past. What are the odds? Granted, with the backgrounds of all the other characters pretty much well-established, Grace was the only choice on the roster, but it all seems rather convenient for the story, and coming in the same week as the revelations about Mia in Green Arrow could make one start to wonder. Despite having his photo slapped across the cover, television crusader John Walsh doesn't show up until the last panel, and the way in which he is worked into the story is awkward. (Nightwing is the one who makes the suggestion to go to America's Most Wanted? Besides the fact that such a move seems out-of-character, when does the guy have the time to even watch tv?) But the real disappointment in this issue is the art. I've never been a fan of D'Anda, but his art here is just ugly. The storytelling is okay, but the art shows inconsistancy from panel to panel, and the murky colors by Sno-Cone don't help. With such a serious and important topic being handled, it's a shame that this couldn't have been a better comic.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Green Lantern: Rebirth #1
by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver
Johns puts a lot of balls in the air in this first issue, setting the stage for the return of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. The decision to make Hal evil/crazy years ago was, in a word, dumb, and DC's stubborn refusal to admit that has just led to things getting worse with the character, until the point where Johns has a lot of work ahead to undo everything. Quite frankly, somebody should have just waived a magic wand and said that it was all a dream or something, but instead the return is going to be stretched out over a six issue mini. it remains to be seen if Johns will be able to catch all of the balls he's tossed up and have them land into something that makes sense (well, at least comic book sense...) Van Sciver turns in some of the strongest work of his career, while colorist Moose Bauman does a good job with one of the hardest titles in the biz (A GL title always runs the risk of being overwhelmed by green!)
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Power Pack(ed)

Back a few days ago when I blogged about the return of Power Pack I wanted to link to the Power Pack(ed) fan Website, but when I went to find it again I discovered that it was gone.

As it turns out it's not gone, just moved to a new URL with a snazzy new look to boot:

It's still a great site, with lots of information about the comics, the characters, and the creators.

(Thanks to Trickle of Consciousness for posting the link change!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

New This Week

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 Fantagraphics' collected edition of Roger Langridge's wonderful Fred the Clown. It's funny, touching, and often insightful, in the way that only a comic about a sad clown can be. If you missed the individual comics, be sure to pick up this collected edition.

Also in collections are the fourth installment of Bill Willingham's Fables, and two collections of Sandman Mystery Theater.

DC has a new Planetary (#21), the second issue of We3, the second issue of Adam Strange, and Busiek's debut on JLA (#107). Marvel has the second issue of the Black Widow mini, the final issue of Silver Surfer, and another sure-to-piss-off-the-fanboys issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#513). Oni has the third issue of the latest Blue Monday series, Painted Moon.

In indy-land, a new Strangers in Paradise (#69), the third issue of Video, and the penultimate issue of Demo are all coming out.

So, plenty to be had for comics-readers of all stripes.

Quick Comic Reviews

Teen Titans; Ultimate Spider-Man; Firestorm; Robin; Plastic Man; Terra Obscura; Ocean

Teen Titans #17
by Geoff Johns, Mike McKone & Marlo Alquiza
If it's a Geoff Johns super-hero team book, you know that a time travel story is going to appear at some point. On their way back from the 31st century, the Titans miss their mark and end up in 2014. They discover their future selves, who have become a dark-and-gritty team who aren't shy about meting out permanent justice. Following the inevitable fight, the two teams make peace, but the younger Titans are very uneasy about what their adult selves have become. The story has started out promissing, but the proof will be in how Johns carries out the rest of the story. The artwork by McKone & Alquiza shines, as the adult version look like they could be the grown-up version of the Teen Titans, and the plentiful action is easy to follow. Particularly effective is the opening showdown between Duella Dent (a treat for long-time Titans fans--too bad her appearance is cut short) and Batman.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Ultimate Spider-Man #67
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley & Scott Hanna
In the opening recap, Bendis jokes that not even he could stretch out the Wolverine/Spider-Man body-switching story to three issues. But truth be told, he had a difficult time stretching it out into two. Still, there are some funny bits, especially when Wolverine tries to use Spidey's web-shooters to swing around town. The only real disappointment is the Deus ex Machina ending, wherein Jean Grey proves to be a bit too powerful.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Firestorm #6
by Dan Jolley, Chris Batista & Dan Green
So that's it? Ronnie Raymond died because the Shadow Thief made stabby? It was so perfunctory in Identity Crisis that I'd hoped that we might get a little more in this tie-in, but it's still a rather inglorious death for a character who has been around for a quarter of a century. Jason and Mick's Firestorm joyride about town is okay, but it picks up nicely when they head up to the JLA Watchtower.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Robin #131
by Bill Willingham, Thomas Derenick & Robert Campanella
It's another chapter in the unnecessary "War Games" Bat-crossover. At least this issue has some degree of focus, contrasting Tim's newly invigorated exploits as Robin with Spoiler's showdown with Black Mask. Unfortunately, the somewhat sweet ending ends up being a bit bitter in light of the ending of this week's Identity Crisis. Derenick and Campanella may not be flashy with their art, but they tell the story well, and this is the best that this comic has looked in quite a while.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Plastic Man #11
by Kyle Baker
Despite the fact that Lex Luthor was deposed as President the better part of a year ago, Baker makes good hay of the concept and treats us to some good goofy fun. Rumor has it that this title is soon to be on the chopping block. I suspect that had Baker opened the title with a series of one-offs like this, rather than an extended story, it might have caught on better. But alas, most readers don't seem to want to give a super-hero humor title like this a chance. So no more waiting for the trade--buy it now while it's still around to enjoy.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Terra Obscura, vol. 2 #3
by Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Yanick Paquette & Karl Story
At a certain level, it must be a bit frustrating to be Alan Moore. Everyone expects everything you write to be a work of genius like Watchmen, From Hell or Promethea, but sometimes you just want to do a good old fashioned entertaining super-hero tale. And that's what we get with Terra Obscura: nothing deep, just entertainment. Moore and Hogan have more fun with comic book time travel clichés, and the ending gets downright creepy. Paquette's art has improved much since his earlier days, and he brings a strong storytelling ability to go with his clean and open linework.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Ocean #1
by Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
Some might complain that not much happens in this opening issue; after all, it simply consists of Inspector Kane journeying from Earth to Europa. But along the way, Ellis & Sprouse use the space effectively, giving us a mini-tour of their world of the future. By the end of the issue, everything is in place, and we know enough to properly appreciate the coming story. So yes, it's all set-up, but it's good, effective set-up. The real test will be whether or not the story takes off next issue, or if it wallows into slow pacing like Ellis's Ultimate Nightmare.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Quick Manga Reviews

.hack//Legend of the Twilight, vol. 1
by Tatsya Hamazaki & Rei Izumi
.hack is a comic that's based on an anime, which in turn is based on a video game. If that sounds like a recipe for crap-tastic manga, well, it is. In what passes for a plot, fourteen-year-old twins Shugo and Rena win special avatars with whih they can play in The World, a MMORPG that involves total sensory immersion. The episodes in this volume focus almost entirely on their adventures with the video game, the same sort of stereotypical adventures that populate generic fantasy computer RPG's in the real world. Have you ever had to sit and listen while someone went into great detail about their computer game exploits? Remember how boring that was? It doesn't really improve when done in comic form. Izumi's art, while competent, is so steeped in manga-style cliché that it's almost embarassing. This is just not a good comic.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Naruto, vol. 1
by Masashi Kishimoto
Twelve-year-old Uzumaki Naruto wants to be the greatest ninja in his village, but he's the worst student at his ninja school, both ill-behaved and incompetent. But unbeknownst to him, locked inside of him is the spirit of a nine-tailed fox demon, the former bane of his village. When Naruto is tricked into stealing a scroll containing secret ancient ninja techniques, he taps into the powers hidden within him. It's a set-up that could prove to be interesting, but in the later chapters of this first volume it is sacrificed to a clichéd story involving Naruto and two of his classmates combating one of their teachers in order to prove themselves worthy. It's literally page after page of ninja fighting action, which gets old rather quick. Kishimoto's art has a resemblance to standard manga style, but with a bit of a rough edge, and in the few times where he lets himself loose on a two-page spread it gets quite detailed and dramatic. It's standard teenage boy power-fantasy stuff that can't quite rise above its trappings.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Monday, October 25, 2004

More bits from PW

A few bits of information that I found to be interesting from Heidi MacDonald & Douglas Wolk's article in the October 18th issue of Publishers Weekly ("Comics Publishers Look Ahead"):

Pantheon's slate for 2005 includes a book from Chip Kidd, another book from Marjane Satrapi, and a memoir from a French comic artist, David B., called Epileptic.

Marvel says that their experience with Marvel Age titles in Target has been "positive but modest". I have a few of the Target Marvel Age titles; they're very handsome with their oversized art, and impossible to store. they all clock in at 96 pages, so for the ones that are supposedly collecting 6 issues of material (e.g. Emma Frost, Runaways, Spider-Girl) there's some editing/removal of content o get the page count down. Still, at $5 a pop they're a good value for your comics dollar (presuming you're into super-heroes, of course...)

Terry Moore has aspirations to write prose. Also, the first Strangers in Paradise collection has gone through 13 printings and has been translated into seven different languages.

DC is planning another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume next year; I knew that Moore and O'Neill had plans to do another volume someday, but if there's going to be a new collection sometime next year I'd think that work on the new comic would have to already be underway, wouldn't it?

Marvel is pinning much of its publishing hopes for next year on the Elektra and Fantastic Four films, which doesn't seem very wise to me, since previous movies based on Marvel characters haven't shown a huge upsurge in demand for the comics (Spider-Man and X-Men to some extent, yes, but not so for Daredevil, Hulk, Punisher, Blade...). Granted, they also talk about seeking out the elusive 12-14-year-old boy market, but their approach always seems to involve their super-hero properties. I suppose it's the old adage about how when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail...

The Graphic Novel Mainstream

Kevin over at Thought Balloons has blogged about the new Publishers Weekly Graphic Novel Supplement. He's reproduced a sidebar that "lists this year's Top 25 graphic novels, based on combined sales from bookstores, comics shops and online retailers." Go take a look; I'll wait...

So, notice anything strange? Yes, it's dominated by manga titles, but at this point that should be expected. No, it's the almost total lack of any titles from the Big Two (DC & Marvel), save for Marvel's 1602, which sneaks in at #25.

Remember, this isn't a list of top sales from just bookstores, it's a combined listing from pretty much all outlets that sell graphic novels in the U.S.

This leads me to some observations:

  • Yes, since it covers GN sales for the calendar year, it's going to be weighted towards titles that appeared earlier in the year. 1602 just came out a couple of weeks ago, so its performance so far is quite good, and I fully expect that it will rapidly climb up the charts.

  • Given Neil Gaiman's following as prose author (mostly in genre circles, though he also gets a good deal of attention from the 'mainstream'), 1602's appearance on this chart is more likely due to his name than to the Marvel characters in the book.

  • Even though this is a combined sales chart, it looks almost exactly like you'd expect a chart that tracked only bookstores, and looks almost nothing like the charts we see from Diamond for comic shops. From this, we can deduce that the sales of GN's in bookstores is much greater than in comic shops; and that manga & other non-super-hero titles probably have a long shelf life (or at least the most popular ones do).

  • Interestingly, sales to libraries don't appear to be covered by this chart. However, given what I know about the ordering practices of public libraries with graphic novel collections--that they focus on a teen audience and are heavily weighted towards manga--I doubt that their inclusion would change much.

  • DC, despite having what is probably the most diverse GN backlist in the industry, has no titles on the list at all. (But with their new manga line, that may be about to change...)

  • Pantheon, a mainstream publisher, has slots 1 and 4, with Art Spiegelman & Marjane Satrapi respectively. These two titles got a lot of mainstream press attention, which has translated into sales.

  • Weighing in at #13 is something called The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley; before looking at this chart I'd never heard of it. Now after looking it up on Amazon, I want to read it. What are chances that my LCS will have it in stock, or even be able to get it if I ordered it?

  • In addition to some of their manga titles, Dark Horse also has a couple of Hellboy collections on the chart. Apparently by having a good stock of GN's ready and in stores, Dark Horse was able to capitalize on the Hellboy movie. Note the complete absence of Spider-Man titles on this list...

  • There's no accounting for the taste of the mainstream manga audience. There are a lot of great manga titles, but those that appear on this list have little or no attraction to me. Actually, there is accounting for the taste: it's the taste of 14-year-olds. It would seem that the tastes and interests of these consumers will dominate, which is bad news for those of us who want more sophistication in our GN's.

  • In fact, with the exception of Fruits Basket (and maybe Inuyasha) all the manga titles on the list are targeted at teenage boys. So despite the great attention being paid to teenage girls reading manga, there's a huge audience of teenage boys reading manga geared towards them.

  • All of this leads me to the conclusion that the 'mainstream' GN market and the 'direct' comic book market are far apart. Given that the mainstream market seemingly outsizes the direct market, the demise of the direct market, should it someday come, will not mean the deminse of the comic book as a form of entertainment or art in America. But it may mean the demise of super-heroes and other types of genres that are traditionally thought of as comic books, in favor of manga and artsy/literary comics.

Those are just some observations of mine; your milage may vary...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

No Joss on X-Men 3

This just in from Whedonesque: as part of the High Stakes 2004 conference call, Joss Whedon announced that he is not going to direct the third X-Men movie. (Apparently he wasn't even asked.) Bummer. But he did announce that he's working on an original screenplay (which presumably he'll also direct, since he's vowed to never again write for film that which he cannot direct). Plus, there's Serenity in March, which is totally going to rule.

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 Animal Man #25 comes Brian Bolland's rendition of writer Grant Morrison as one of an infinite number of monkeys, the one who is churning out the script to this issue, the penultimate of Morrison's run. More than half a year before his career defining turn on Doom Patrol, Morrison staked out the weird corner of the DCU with his tales of Buddy Baker, a third-rate super-hero who found himself in adventures of meta-comic angst. He also took the obvious step of making Buddy an animal rights activist, giving the character a distinct personal review and a personality.

While Morrison would leave the title after issue 26, Bolland stayed on as cover artist through issue 63, out lasting writers Peter Milligan & Tom Veitch and going partway into Jamie Delano's run.

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

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Around the Horn

It's Saturday, so it's time to take a look at what's been the talk of the comics blogosphere this past week:

Kevin is down on Marvel.

The Composite Superman is now all the rage, as witnessed by Mike, Will & Tim.

Karen joins the blogosphere, saying Talk to My Face. Then, after much blogging for a week, announces she's leaving.

On the flip side, Tegan celebrates her second Blog-day anniversary, and Graeme celebrates his first (if a tad belated).

Meanwhile, Ron is still MIA, apparently locked away in his Fortress of Soliloquies. Come back, Ron--we miss you and your Super Blogging.

David discovers Girl Genius.

Rick puts his comic reading up to a vote.

It's another contest, as Ed offers up a copy of Salmon Doubts.

Finally, Steve and Sara let us know that their fabulous mini comic Me and Edith Head is being turned into an indy film. If you live in Arizona, you can try out for the part of Katrina.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The (Power) Pack is Back!

In a report about the state of Marvel's Marvel Age line, there are a couple of mentions of a Marvel Age version of Power Pack, the first issue of which is scheduled for February. In one word: Yay!

When it first appeared in the mid-80's, Power Pack was one of only two Marvel comics that I bought regularly (the other was Star Wars). As originally created by Louise Simonson & June Brigman, Power Pack told the story of the four young Power family siblings who were granted their powers by a horse-headed alien in order to fight off the lizard-like alien Snarks. The kids then did the obvious thing: they became super-heroes--the youngest in the Marvel Universe.

The first 25 issues or so were pretty good, despite strange issues like the Thanksgiving issue which features the likes of Wolverine and Cloak & Dagger dropping by for dinner. (In fact, it seemed like they were always shoehorning in the latest 'hot' characters as guest stars, in order to improve sales one would suppose.) After that things started to get a bit dodgy as the kids swapped powers, and after Simonson left it really went wiggy, going for an ill-advised darker approach, until the plug was mercifully pulled in 1991.

The Pack didn't fare much better in their post-series days, as Alex, the eldest Packer, stole all of the other kids' powers to join the New Warriors at some point. A 2000 four-issue mini attempted to restore some of the title's lost glory days, but was mostly notable for the art by Colleen Doran.

The new Marvel Age Power Pack appears to be a revamp of the title, ignoring all the old continuity and starting afresh. This would seem to be a good approach, as the core concept was strong enough on its own. Even though all of the Marvel Age titles are destined for collections, I'll probably be picking up the individual issues (provided it's actually good, of course).

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Quick GN Reviews

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom
by Ted Naifeh
Courtney Crumrin keeps getting better. The first chapter in this collection is a stand-alone story, with Courtney going back to her old city where she once lived a mundane childhood and discovers that indeed you can't go home again. It's pretty standard stuff, but the creepy ending works well. The remainder of the book finds Courtney enrolled at a Saturday Coven School for young witches and warlocks (if Hogwarts is like an English boarding school, this is more like Hebrew School or Bible School). She finds that she gets along with the magic kids just as well as she does with normal kids, i.e. not very well. But when a spell goes wrong, it's up to Courtney to save the day as she takes a group of kids into the Goblin domain. Adults play a minor role this time out, excepting the Javert-like Templeton who suspects that the young Miss Crumrin is up to no good. Naifeh's art is superb, with just the right mix of cartooniness & menace, and his writing and characterization is top-notch. I especially appreciate that the villains, if you can call them that, are complex characters with real motivations that go beyond just being bad. The situations in Courtney Crumrin are not exactly novel, but the way in which Naifeh puts them together makes for a great read.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

The Wang: The Big One
by Stan Yan
The cover of this graphic novel is a mock-up of the packaging of a vibrator, which ought to tell you something about the sophomoric level of humor that much of this book entails. It actually opens on a high note, as the protagonist, Eugene Wang, stressing out about his last final exam of college, has a dream wherein he realizes just days before the final that he has registered for a class that he forgot about attending all semester. (This is very similar to a dream I myself have had many times--both while in college and since--though thankfully my recurring dream doesn't end in the same way that Eugene's does!) After graduation (and after his girlfriend leaves him to shack up with his mother) Eugene finds work as a phone saleman for a shifty investment firm, moonlights at the bottom level of a multi-level marketing scheme, and gets sucked into a cult of personality by a pretty girl. Yan has a good sense of pacing and his cartoony art works well. If the humor ever aspired to rise out of the gutter this could have been better; I'd like to see Yan put his obvious talent to better use.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Little White Mouse

According to the NCRL, tomorrow should see the Little White Mouse Perfect Collection, vol. 1 hitting the shelves of comic stores. If you have not yet read Little White Mouse, now is the perfect time to discover Paul Sizer's scifi fable. LWM tells the story of Loo, a teenage girl from a well-to-do family on Earth who is marooned on an abandoned mining colony. She's the only living human there, but is kept company by robots, AI holograms, and the mental patterns of her dead sister, trapped in the memory of her crashed spaceship's computer. I know, it sounds a bit morbid, but it's not; it's good fun and adventure with great characters and impressive black and white art from Sizer. So give it a try.

Also out tomorrow are the third issue of Amelia Rules: Superheroes and the fourth volume of the reissued Banana Fish, though you may want to go back and hunt down the earlier volumes of both if you haven't been keeping up.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Quick Reviews

Ex Machina; Ultimate Nightmare; Green Arrow; Action Comics

Ex Machina #5
by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Tom Feister
I suppose the only problem with this latest issue is that the previous four were so good that this conclusion to the "State of Emergency" arc is a slight let-down. There's a slight narrative problem in that the big showdown turns out to not have been germane to either of the plots, as those are both resolved in sensible yet underwhelming manners. I don't want it to sound like I'm suddenly down on this book; I'm not, and found it enjoyable. Just a cautionary tale for having high expectations.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Ultimate Nightmare #3
by Warren Ellis, Steve Epting, Nelson DeCastro & Tom Palmer
Hoo boy. If you thought not much happened last issue, get a load of issue number three, wherein the Ultimates and the X-Men spend the entire issue wandering around the dark halls and tunnels of an abandoned Russian outpost. I've seen Warren Ellis tell a complete and engaging story in a single issue before (Global Frequency of course springs to mind) so we know that he's capable of better. I don't want to blame Frank D'Amarta for the coloring since I assume he was told to color everything dark and dingy, but it makes the artwork muddy. Here's hoping that the plot picks up and goes somewhere next issue.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Green Arrow #43
by Judd Winick, Phil Hester & Ande Parks
My busy schedule kept me from reading many of this week's comic books until later than usual, so I had already been properly spoiled by the 'Net community for the ending. It wasn't nearly as sensationalist as I had feared given the reactions I had read. In fact, compared to the completely exploitative and in bad taste cover, the actual comic was pretty good. So normally a 3, but minus half a point for the cover.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Action Comics #820
by Chuck Austen & Carlos D'Anda
Once again Chuck Austen gives us an Action Comics that lives up to its name. There's plenty of action as Superman faces off against a new Silver Banshee. Just don't go looking for much sense. The fill-in art by D'Anda is okay, but the colors are too garish, especially in the green-blue-black banshee scenes. And that ending? We're supposed to believe that Doomsday can just go walking about the streets of Metropolis in broad daylight and no one is going to notice?
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Sunday, October 17, 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.

This gorgeous piece from Marvel's Tarzan of the Apes #1 features the young Lord Greystoke and his faithful chimp friend Cheetah gazing at their reflections in the water. Alas, it is unsigned, and GCD doesn't know who the artist is either.

Presumably done to capitalize on the 1984 film Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes that came out at the same time, Marvel apparently didn't have the film adaptation rights, so they went instead to the public domain source material of Burroughs' original novel. The adaptation is by Sharman DiVono & Mark Evenier, with art by the talented Dan Spiegle.

(Are chimpanzees monkeys? I don't think they are. Oh well.)

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

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Around the Horn

It's time for our weekly look at the Comics Blogosphere. Let's see what's been going on:

Graeme goes on vacation and leaves the Fanboy Rampaging to a gaggle of fill-in bloggers, just in time for the whole Green Arrow HIV thing to blow out into the open.

Meanwhile, guterninja Steve and JOG the Blog remind us of two previous HIV-positive Super-heroes: Bloodfire and Shadowhawk.

Lots of people talkin' 'bout Scott Pilgrim, including Pata and Christopher, who responded to my review. Not to worry--if you haven't yet read it, Rose at Peiratikos is offering you the chance to Win Scott Pilgrim (this in wake of her interview with SP creator Bryan Lee O’Malley).

The Hurting's Tim O'Neill reviews Clive Barker's Book of the Damned IV calling it "a depressing, gruesome, unbelievably nihilistic comic" and "the most extremly nihilistic thing I've ever read."

Matt on Highway 62 goes back in time to 2001; well, Kirby's 2001 that is.

Postmodern Dorian Barney unearths Prez's only DCU crossover, in the pages of Supergirl.

Kerry the Comic Queen discovers Alias.

Scott Saavedra is speechless in Comic Book Heaven.

Precocious Curmudgeon David points out that Dr. Doom was an idiot.

More Talkin' Chaykin from Ian in the Brill Building, this time with The Scorpion.

From down on The Low Road, Ed called to our attention Newsarama's report on the status of the super dumb ass Michigan bookstore display law. I've been ignore Newsarama more and more these days, mainly due to the large majority of moronic ocmments that seem to follow just about every story (yes, I know I could ignore them, but it's like watching a car wreck...) So I'm glad when people like Ed can brave the site and point out important stories like this one.

James was just Reading Along on ebay when he discovered another DC comic for a corporation.

Finally, Peter David's Net has some good news about Fallen Angel. Who knows, maybe in this case quality will actually be given a chance to find its audience.

Friday, October 15, 2004

No Traffic

Hmm. Almost no traffic so far on the blog today, as Comic Weblog Updates isn't picking it up. It's kind of sad, but the majority of my traffic comes from there. Normally when people make comments, it throws this blog back up to the top of the list. That's how on a day like Wednesday, where I had no new post but lots of commenting on both the Scott Pilgrim post and the DC Bullet post, turns out to be one of my highest traffic days. So, I wonder if CWU will pick this post up?


I don't regularly read many online comic strips, but the one I get emailed to me everyday is Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. Unshelved is set in a public library in the fictional Mallville. Much of the humor is library-related, but even if you're just a frequent user of your public library (and you should be!) you'll find much to tickle your funny bone. One of the characters, Dewey, is an avid comic geek, so they slip in some good comic book humor and sly references with some degree of frequency. You can read the entire 2+ years online in the archive, or if you hate staring at a screen to read your comics there are two print collections that can be purchased.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Classics Illustrated Covers

I blogged about the return of Classics Illustrated last week; but now thanks to the fine folks on the Graphic Novels in Libraries email list I've been led to the Web Companion Edition of The Complete Guide to Classics Illustrated. On the site are pretty decent scans of the cover art from all editions of Classics Illustrated, from the very first issue in 1941 (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) to the First Comics revival to the recent Acclaim comics reprint series. While some of the early covers were rough, they soon developed into some very nice cover art.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Time to Bite the (DC) Bullet?

For no good reason, it occured to me yesterday that DC's logo, the famous 'DC Bullet,' has been around for a long time. A quick check in the GCD shows that it first appeared on comic covers dated February 1977 (probably November '76 in real time), which is over twenty-seven years ago. That means that it has probably been in use longer than a majority of the DC readership.

While it's probably the most recognizable logo in comics (at least for long time fans), it's probably time for it to be retired. It really hasn't aged all that well; it's from the same era that brought us Welcome Back, Kotter after all. With all the wonderful graphic artists in their stable, I'm surprised that DC hasn't yet replaced it. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of DC Comics, so maybe it's time for a change?

Quick GN Reviews

Big Clay Pot
by Scott Mills
Ca. 200 BCE, Sun Kim, a clumsy pre-teen Korean girl, is banished from her village and makes her way to japan, where she is taken in by Kokoro, an aging widower. Kokoro teaches Sun how to care for herself, while Sun brings life and vitality back into Kokoro's life. Yeah, it sounds like it could be boring; but Mills's tale, told through a series of vignettes, is sweet and sometimes funny. His sketchy and oftimes minimal illustration is perfectly suited for the stories he is telling.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The White Lama, book 1: Reincarnation
by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess
After the Grand Lama Mipam dies, he is reincarnated in the form of Gabriel, an orphaned child of white explorers in Tibet. As Gabriel grows he is secretly trained by a monk, and after his adoptive father dies he journeys to join the monastary of the previous Grand Lama. But in the intervening years the monks have become corrupt, and as the first volume ends Gabriel learns of his true destiny. There is plenty of action to go around--particularly in Gabriel's adoptive father's life-long quest to destroy a Yeti--combined with philosophy and political intrigue. It's told in a modern style (no captions, no thought balloons) but never feels decompressed; in fact, Jodorowsky and Bess manage to put a lot of story into this first volume of 140 pages. Bess's art is attractive and tells the story well, although the coloring is a bit garish in places.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
I'm mad. Why? I was really enjoying this until the last 30 pages or so, when the story went completely off the rocker. For the majority of the book it's a nice little slice of life story, as the titular Scott Pilgrim's life of slacker bliss is interrupted by dreams of a delivery girl whose life crosses his. Then, as the story reaches its climax, we're suddenly in a bad manga story where the characters exhibit heretofore unseen martial arts abilities and magical powers. It's... it's... dammit. It's like watching a romantic comedy, and in the last fifteen minutes it turns into an action flick with a car chase and explosions. I mean, what the %&^! was O'Malley thinking? I'm mad. Mad that such an enjoyable story was ruined in the end by the author. If you ignore the last 30 pages, this is a wonderful story. But they're there, and you can't ignore them.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Quick GN Reviews

Marvel Knights Spider-Man, vol. 1: Down Among the Dead Men
by Mark Millar, Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
I was going to give this a favorable rating, until I reached the end and--there was no end! It just kind of stopped, with no resolution to any of the plots. People, when you're going to write for the trade you should, you know, actually WRITE FOR THE TRADE! When you pick up a book it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. This is not the case of a serial having some continuing plotlines. No. Not one thing is resolved by the end of this, and it ends on a big ol' cliffhanger. Bad Marvel, bad. On the positive side, Millar does some good character work in the opening chapter, the art is pleasant to look at (even if, in Dodson-World, women only come in one body type) and the plentiful action is easy to follow.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Serial
by Max Allan Collins, Gabriel Rodriguez, & Ashley Wood
Gil, Katherine & Warrick are on the trail of a serial killer who is recreating the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile in the B story, Sara & Nick try to determine of a young woman was killed by her lazy brother or her abusive boyfriend. In other words, it's exactly like an episode of CSI. And that's the problem; there's nothing in this comic that could not have come right out of an episode of the tv series. Perhaps that could be forgiven if the art was great, but it's not. Rodriguez's figure work makes the characters look stocky and deformed much of the time, and his faces are just close enough to the actors' likenesses to be annoying (he is much better when making up characters not from the show). So you can fork over $20 for this collection and get a perfectly okay CSI story, or just tune in next Thursday at 9pm Eastern on CBS and get a new CSI story for free.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

The Goon: Rough Stuff
by Eric Powell
In a depression-era city being overrun by the zombies of the Zombie Priest, The Goon struggles to protect the 'business' interests of the crime boss Labrazio as well as keep government G-Men off his back. Full of silly, over-the-top violence and macabre humor, it's ood, clean zombie-bashing fun. Plus, the first chapter features a Giant Zombie Chimp. That's right, a Giant Zombie Chimp. How can you pass up this kind of fun?
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Christopher Reeve 1952-2004

I woke up to the sad news this morning that Christopher Reeve has died (NYT obit). Reeve of course is best known for his portrayal of the Man of Steel in four Superman movies of the 70's & 80's, and for his work as an advocate for spinal injury research after a 1995 equestrian accident left him paralysed. While I'm sure much will be written about the latter, I wish to focus on the former and the role that made him famous.

I was eight years old when Superman: The Movie came out in 1978. I'd already had my little mind blown away the year before with Star Wars, but Superman was something else yet again. This wasn't the fantastic happening in a galaxy far away, but happening in our world. More than the special effects, it was Reeve's portrayal of the super-hero which made the movie work. Not only did you believe that a man could fly, but also that Clark Kent could hide his identity behind a pair of glasses. By changing his body language and voice, Reeve made it possible to believe that even a top reporter like Lois Lane could not tell that Clark & Superman were one and the same. He protrayed Superman as a strong and slighly hokey boy scout, yet at the same time made a man in blue & red spandex a sex symbol. The producers took a big risk casting a then-unknown Reeve as the Man of Steel, but very few other actors could have carried off the role.

Superman: The Movie created the mold for all modern super-hero films. Just as Curt Swan will always be the Superman artist for me, Christopher Reeve will always be the Superman actor. By coincidence, I was just yesterday listening to John Williams' soaring score from the movie, and in my mind's eye pictured Reeve soaring through the air. So thank you Christopher for bringing a bit of wonder to this Superman fan's life.

Sunday, October 10, 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 Magilla Gorilla #3 (1964) comes a cover that seems apropos for this election season. Alas, the GCD has no further information on who drew this cover, or what the contents of the comic were. Update: cover was drawn by Pete Alvarado.

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

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

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Around the Horn

What's hip, what's cool, what's shiny & new for the past week in the Comics Blogosphere:

Tim is Hurting, but still manages to like The DC Comics Encyclopedia.

Shane offers all you Near Mint Heroes the chance to win a copy of the first Walking Dead trade.

Jon of the Mae Mai brings to our attention African super-heroes and Tijuana Tintin.

Comic Queens Erin & Kerry call for an end to variant covers. From your mouths to the comic gods' ears.

Dorian sings about discounts at comic shops and explains why he hates manga.

Matt discusses New Frontier as he takes a drive down Highway 62.

Mark the ChaosMonkey looks back at the origins of the Ultraverse: The Ultraverse First Issue Spectacular! and The Strangers.

Jason discovers The Power Pack(ed) Fansite, and a lot of blogging Power Pack fans come out of the closet, including Kevin & TangognaT.

Bookslut Jessa still doesn't like Blankets.

Ian in the Brill Building talks about Thor for no reason.

Ed takes a break from The Low Road to discuss hip hop comics.

Tom explains how the first two issues of The New Teen Titans ate his brain.

Jog spends way too many words discussing Youngblood.

James is Reading Along with DC's old "Meanwhile..." column.

There's no Cognitive Dissonance as Joanna announces the Fallen Angel contest winners.

Will puts on his X-Ray Specs and wonders "What the hell is a cave merman?!?"

Several people come back from SPX, including Pulse's Heidi, and Christopher (via friends Vera & Kean). Even the mainstream press gets in the game, via Whitney at USA Today. One of these days I'll have to get there myself, but for now I'll just have to live vicariously through friends who come back with lots of new stuff to share.

Finally, Phoebe Gloeckner puts out a call for suggestion and donations for a comics collection at a university library. In particular, my library (although Annette, our Art & Design librarian, is the lucky one who actually gets to select and purchase the items). Obviously I'll have more to say about this, probably next week sometime.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Quick Reviews

Uncanny X-Men; Demo; Teen Titans/Legion Special; Youngblood: Bloodsport

Uncanny X-Men #450
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Much better than the previous couple of issues, Claremont begins with several character bits before launching into a storyline involvine a mutant killer in District X, finally remembering that whole 'XSE' thing. It's not the greatest story in the world, but it doesn't jump all over nonsensically like the previous story. Claremont is using thought balloons and narrative captions, techniques that have pretty much been abandoned in comics these days, but for which the verbose Claremont is well-known. Of course, the real reason for picking up Uncanny is for the art by Davis & Farmer, and they don't disappoint. The opening two-page splash of Rachel & Kurt playing at fighting zombie pirates is great, and their storytelling is strong throughout. (An uncharacteristic mishap occurs on the last page though, as Davis breaks the 180 degree rule, causing some confusion as to who was popping their claws in the second panel.)
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Demo #10
by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan
The stories in Demo run hot or cold for me, but I generally liked this story, with a twist near the end that I didn't see coming, even though we've been perfectly set up for it. But Cloonan's art--usually pretty strong if a bit unpolished--seems very weak this time out. It appears rushed; Wood writes in his afterword that Cloonan is the fatest artist he's ever worked with--it might behoove her to slow down a bit, as I think she's capable of some very good work if she gives herself the chance.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Teen Titans/Legion Special #1
by Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Marc Campos, & Barry Kitson
Picking up where last month's Teen Titans left off, this crossover--mostly one big fight scene--sets the stage for both the Titans time travel arc and the Legion reboot. It does a less great job of wrapping up the current legion though, leaving the heroes in an unsatisfactory limbo. Despite the big battle, Waid & Johns fit in some character moments, particularly with Kid Flash and XS. This story also serves to highlight some of the huge continuity holes that are going to be left by the reboot, but then those types of problems have existed since the last reboot during Zero Hour. I'm probably giving this an extra half point for purely nostalgic reasons. Plus, somebody remembered Koko!
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Youngblood: Bloodsport #1
by Mark Millar & Rob Liefeld
I imagine that there are 12-year-old boys across the land who are snickering mightily at the 'edgy' humor, but the rest of us are just going to find this immature. As for the story, it's the flip-side of Millar's Wanted, with the heroes triumphant and bored rather than the villains. But the villains in Wanted are more interesting--if only because they're all analogues to the DC villains we all know--and Liefeld is certainly no J. G. Jones. And the major plot, when Millar gets past the juvenile sex jokes, just makes no sense. Why would a bunch of heroes want to kill each other off just to take part in some sort of interdimensional Youngblood team? Sure maybe there would be one or two who are unstable enough to think that's a good idea, but the remainder would certainly take them down and Graves as well. Maybe Millar is going someplace intersting with this, but given the low road taken by this first issue I highly doubt it. But then, what are the chances we'll ever see a second issue of this anyway? Oh well, at least it's got a pretty Frank Quitely cover.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Quick Reviews

Ultimate Spider-Man; Wolverine; Majestic

Ultimate Spider-Man #66
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley & Scott Hanna
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Bendis and company take one of the oldest plots in the history of storytelling--two protagonists switch bodies--and pull it off. Because when those two protagonists are Ultimate Spidey & Ultimate Wolverine, hilarity just naturally ensues. After the severe moroseness of the past several issues, this is a welcome respite.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Wolverine #20
by Mark Millar, John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson
I ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I would. After seeing the ugly cover by Jr. I was worried, but the interior art is quite good, with much of the credit going to Janson's inks setting the right mood. Millar packs a lot of story into this first issue of his inaugeral arc, as Logan is called in to recue the kidnapped son of his cousin-in-law in Japan, leading to a story that involves Kitty Pryde, Nick Fury & SHIELD, Elektra, Hydra and The Hand, but it doesn't feel the least bit crowded. Plus, it ends on an actually, honest-to-golly cliffhanger.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Majestic #3
by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, & Karl Kerschl
If this issue feels slight it's because, well, it is. Giving a page count, we discover that, as opposed to the regular 21-22 pages of story, we only have 15 (not counting the 6-page advertising insert). I don't recall the rest of the issues being short. Previews lists this as being a standard 32-page comic, so unless they're counting the ad insert (and I sure as heck am not), we're being ripped off. Within the short page count, there's about one and a half plot points covered. That's just too little happening and this all comes off as filler. Look, if you've only got three issues of story, don't pad it out to four. It's a shame, because up to this point I was really enjoying this mini.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Classics Illustrated Returns

I was just ruminating to myself the other day that gee, someone oughta revive Classics Illustrated as a series of manga-style paperbacks.

And lo and behold someone has. Byron Preiss & Penguin/Puffin are teaming up to do just that. Well, sort of. Hamlet will be in manga-style, while other titles will be done in other styles (I'm particualrly interested in seeing June Brigman do Black Beauty). (thanks to Rampage! for the link.)

I myself have fond memories of the the revived Classics Illustrated from First Comics ca. 1990-1991. These were comic-sized in what was then called 'prestige format', glassy squarbound 48-page books. Some of the adaptations it featured were: Moby Dick by Bill Sienkiewicz; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mike Ploog; The Secret Agent by John K. Snyder III; The Invisible Man by Rick Geary; Cyrano de Bergerac by Peter David & Kyle Baker; and The Jungle by Peter Kuper. Yeah, they weren't the same as actually reading the book, but they did make for a good summary of what the book was about and provided some excellent artwork. It will be interesting to see what comes of the the new Classics Illustrated, especially if they're being done with a longer page count and modern comics pacing.

Tonight I'm going to ruminate about getting $1,000,000. Wish me luck!