It's been a bad blogging week for me ... but now it's Friday, and I can look towards getting my act together next week. Today's happy-making image celebrates that fact that Yotsuba's back. Volume 3 hit the stands this week, and I'll probably pick it up at Borders just before I get in line with my wife to see Serenity.
I would say life doesn't get much better than that ... but it does.
It does, in fact, get much better: 13 PAGES OF "SCOTT PILGRIM & THE INFINITE SADNESS".
Friday, September 30, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I just got back from a business trip to Philadelphia, where I lived for a few years before the move to Utah. When I left, I gave what was left of my collection to a friend. Most of the best runs had been auctioned off to eBay, but there were still four longboxes left of assorted and sundry things. Though I had given the books, I pulled a grade-school "Indian Giver", and liberated a small box of stuff that I'd like to have again. I must say, though that the majority of books gave me a "why did I buy that" reaction. When I was collecting in the late 90's, I had more disposable income and bought a lot.
Here is some of the plunder:
Xero: Christopher Priest's underappreciated techno-thriller about an undercover operative in the DCU. Explodo, race, basketball: it was an odd mix, but it sure worked. Great art by ChrisCross.
Young Heroes In Love: This was a wonderful series that turned the X-Men/New Teen Titans formula on it's head. Instead of superhero with a dash of soap opera, this was soap with a whiff of superheroes in the mix. A great series, and one of my wife's favorites.
Coober Skeber: The legendary "Marvel Benefit Issue", with many indy cartoonists taking their crack at Marvel's superheroes.
Adolf: I have this on my list of manga I really want to read, and was delighted to find the first two volumes in my stuff. I think I didn't "get it" he first time around, but I should see it with new eyes now.
Holey Crullers: This was the original set of mini comics that lead to Common Grounds.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Wow. I'm currently in Philadelphia on business, and I plan to swing by 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics on my way home from the airport tomorrow morning. And there is such a lot to pick up. More than I can possibly buy, especially considering the number of trades.
Usually, I will post an image of this week's most anticipated book, but I can't find a coverscan for the new volume of Yotsuba&!. I will give the honor to Steady Beat, therefore. Rivkah's made waves in the community with her passion, and I'm interested to see what she does on paper.
I finally read Sharknife, and the timing couldn't be better ... the followup, Peng, looks like much videogame fun. The Kingdom Hearts manga is a completely unknown quantity, but my oldest daughter was utterly captivated by the game and we should have fun reading it together. Showcase Presents, DC's answer to Marvel's Essentials, hits the stands this week with two volumes of Silver Age goodness at just under ten bucks a pop. Ellis' JLA Classified is a great read so far, and the main title promises some serious Infinite Crisis lead-in. Young Avengers is always welcome and is one of the best things Marvel's doing these days, though a Jenkins/Romita Sentry could join the shortlist.
- Adventures Of Superman #644
- Jack Cross #2
- JLA #119
- JLA Classified #12
- OMAC Project #6
- Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol 1 TP
- Showcase Presents Superman Vol 1 TP
- Silent Dragon #3
- Superman Batman #22
- New Avengers #11
- Sentry #1
- Spider-Man House Of M #4
- Ultimate Iron Man #4
- Ultimate Secret #3
- Wolverine #33
- Young Avengers #7
- Yotsuba Manga Vol 3 TP
- Peng One Shot
- Kingdom Hearts Vol 1 GN
- Steady Beat Vol 1 GN
Friday, September 23, 2005
Because I'm wrapping up a mess o' work before leaving on a business trip tomorrow, and waffles sounds good.
I haven't written up anything on the recently-read Sharknife, because I don't quite know what to say. It's like trying to write 500 words on a Cibo Matto song. It has a good beat and you can dance to it.
Peng, also by Corey Lewis, should hit stores next week. Buy it.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
For the first time since my mailordercomics.com experiment ended, I will be able to actually hit 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics on New Comics Day and pick up a full haul. There are a few books running late that are still coming from mailordercomics.com, but it seems that my purchase of weekly priority shipping was only good for the month the books were solicited. Now that I'm no longer active with the service, all late books will only ship out at the end of the month. I could wait, but with some of my favorite titles on that list, I'll just buy duplicates, and do something with the others when they arrive in October.
There's lots to look forward to, but the most anticipated this week is Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle. I'm excited to see a new Seven Soldiers making a debut, the preview made me positively gleeful, and the art's by Pascual Ferry (though only for one issue). Other highlights include a Millar trifecta of Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimates 2, and an Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual. It may even be a quad-fecta if I pick up the last issue of his Wolverine run, a standalone issue featuring a monstrous Logan in WWII. I was planning to get his whole run when it shows in the nice oversized hardcover format, but may break down for the black-and-white version.
New Avengers continues to string me along nicely, as I wait to figure out all the pieces to this Sentry puzzle. It's been said Captain America is the best of the House Of M tie-ins, and I'm hoping Brubaker comes through. Godland continues to be a joy, and JSA Classified should be fun as more of the Crisis comes into view. Though I enjoyed the first issue of Top Ten: Beyond The Farthest Precinct, I think I'm moving it to my "wait for trade" list. Same with Daredevil: Father.
- Day Of Vengeance #6
- JSA Classified #3
- Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1
- Godland #3
- Captain America #10
- New Avengers #10
- Ultimate Fantastic Four #23
- Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1
- Ultimates 2 #8
- Conan #20
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
There's critical consensus building throughout the WeboComicsBlogoNet: All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder is a satire, a parody, a gleeful pissing upon Batman and superheroes in general. Anyone taking Miller seriously is missing the point, as this is the bastard child of Sin City and the Adam West. "I'm the goddamn Batman" is now a pullquote enshrined in internet lore.
With all due respect, I completely disagree.
Unlike some others, I bought the second issue with the full realization that I has some serious problems with the first. It was an act of faith in Frank Miller, because the man's written a lot of damn good comics. I wanted to see if there was bigger game afoot, if he had something to say in his return to Batman that went beyond T&A and homoerotic sniggering. I wasn't disappointed: Miller's making a statement, and he does the readers a favor by constructing a giant neon sign pointing to it.
All throughout the first issue, we've seen no more than six panels per page, with many that are less. High-action, Lee-friendly adrenaline panels rocket us through a pulp Gotham filled with overwrought extremes of corruption and glamour. The second issue starts off much the same, and actually moves to more splashes and widescreen shots during the big set-piece chase sequence. It's during this sequence that we see most of the over-the-top dialogue that's been mocked throughout the WeboComicsBlogoNet. Then, near the end of the book, we get the now-flying Batmobile bursting through the clouds in a final escape from it's pursuers. The top of the page is a silent panel, then closes in to a series of small panels on the bottom half - it's the bottom half of a classic Miller 16-panel grid, making this by far the most dense page in the series so far. The next page is a full sixteen panel grid, and at this point, the tempo of the entire series has been subverted. It's the visual version of an abrupt shift in soundtrack, and all the hyperactive noise of the previous issue and a half is instantly tuned out as our heroes fly up above the clouds, removed from the hurlyburly below.
It's no coincidence that the first half-page concentrates on Dick Grayson's internal monologue, while the first full sixteen panel grid is of Batman. Though the soon-to-be-Robin's been the focus so far, this is still Batman's story. It's the first time the series has slowed down, and Miller uses that abrupt pace shift to get inside Batman's head. In so doing, he reveals the card that was up his sleeve: the true thematic content of the series. All the questions that have plagued the series up to this point start to unravel, as we see a deeply conflicted, young Bruce Wayne forcing himself to be hard and uncaring and tough. He's trying to be a father, and without a true role model, he has no idea how to do it. So he synthesizes his own rage with the aloofness of the father figure he knows best, his butler Alfred.
Though the Batman and Robin relationship has been viewed as sexual since Wertham, it's always seemed to me much more about fatherhood. Bruce Wayne is a man with no father and no childhood of his own, and when he sees the same fate looming for Dick Grayson, he tries to make a difference. The thing is: he's completely unfit for the role, and that's what Miller's driving at. The desperately hip lingo, the wildly changing tactics (from "best buddy" to "stern-n-angry"), the faked voice ... it's all about a man trying to be something he's not. He can't relate as a peer, because he never was a child. He can't relate as a father, because he doesn't know how one acts. It's a picture of a human Batman who's in over his head and too stubborn to take another course of action.
... Or maybe Miller's just playing a big joke on fandom. Only the next few isues will tell.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
- I don't care for Ian Churchill's art. I don't much like this new Supergirl as a character or a series. Also, don't care for alternate covers. I'm just not much of a cover person. - if they keep the insides clean, that's about all I ask.
That said, I read this and my initial thought? "Must. Buy. This."
- Glyphs points me to an interesting project I need to keep an eye out for next year. An action comic featuring Public Enemy could really go either way, but if Chuck D's "involvement" has anything to do with the writing, it could be great. A good rapper knows the same craft a comics writer uses: an economy of expression that packs information and emotion into a minimum of words.
- Jog rocks Desolation Jones. Rocks it hard. It's brilliant analysis, and really well-written, to boot. How he can churn out gems like these every freakin' day is beyond me ...
- Tim O'Neil feels the Comics Blogosphere is coming to an end. Having not been around for the Golden Age of the WeboComicsBlogonet, I can't say. But I certainly hope not ... I just got here, and it's last call?
- Australian manga creator QueenieChan delivers some interesting points about manga art and it's superhero counterpart. She looks at it entirely differently than I did, focusing on the commercial accessibility of it. It encourages fan interaction, as the bar isn't set that high. I really think it's popular because it's just so much more expressive: when I read good manga, I go through an emotional roller-coaster that I don't get from American Naturalism.
- I have been remiss in mentioning the betterment of the blogosphere that is wrought by April Showers. It's not about comics, but about something much better: my wife. Now blogging's a family affair.
Friday, September 16, 2005
If you're a manga reader, Fruits Basket needs no introduction. It is a sales powerhouse that is redefining the concept of "dominating the charts" with each new volume only being unseated from the top spot by it's successor. What's more remarkable than it's sheer volume of sales is that this huge success is coming from a very intimate, heartfelt work of art.
In my previous manga posts, I don't think I've ever mentioned the manga-ka, perhaps because I didn't feel their influence so strongly. Fruits Basket is a much more personal expression than any manga I've read so far, and is clearly a labor of love for it's manga-ka, Natsuki Takaya. There are short text pieces in each chapter: the "Ultra Special Blah Blah Blah" where she usually comments on the book itself, and a sidebar where she discusses her life - mainly where she is in the videogames she's playing lately. It gives the same feeling you get from a good American Indy comic - a strong personal vision that is being shared between you and a very immediate creator. Matt Fraction and Joe Casey recently discussed Stan Lee's "voice" in the early Marvel books, and if it could still work today. What Takaya's doing here is wildly different from Stan's outre hyperbole, but it accomplishes exactly the same result of a close identification with the author, and feeling like you've been invited into something grand.
It's not only in the writing that Takaya reveals herself, but in the unique flavor of her art. While it generally follows what would be considered a manga style, it has wild explosions into experimental, expressive art that breaks expectations but communicates both story and emotion. From postmodern footnotes commenting on the characters in the scene, to wild exaggerations of art when the characters are fighting, to unique styles in childhood flashbacks ... it all speaks to an artist who cannot be held down by genre. While she is coming from a manga tradition, she is not bound to it. Much of the art would feel right at home in a self-published independent comic in America.
Fruits Basket itself is sort of a beautiful manga dichotomy: it's got all the cute animals, big eyes, and short-skirted schoolgirls that those dismissive of the genre point to ... but it's got the deep, abiding emotional lives of the characters that fans love. On it's surface, it's shojo at it's most ... shojo: Unloved yet optimistic schoolgirl moves in with a family hiding a dark secret (when hugged, they turn into zodiac animals) and finds her heart torn between the Bad Boy and the Angelic One. As I've said before, I can't believe I'm reading this. I am a man who likes manly things like football, beer, and The Ultimates ... but when I head to 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics today, I'll probably pick up Volume 2, then rapidly devour the rest as I can afford them. The characters are so deep and engaging that there's an electric connection with them in every panel. They are all initially presented as stereotypes (which correspond to their zodiac animal), but they quickly grow far beyond that. Though they are animals, they are profoundly human. Fruits Basket constantly swings from soap opera to slapstick, and all the wild hijinks work because the characters are always at the fore. Like the best of television, you keep coming back for episode after episode because you care about what happens to them, and enjoy being in their company.
I thought perhaps writing this would let me dissect and analyze what Takaya is doing with her characterization in Fruits Basket, but I find I'm still at a loss. I can't put my finger on why I like this odd little book so much, and why I care about Tohru, Kyo, Yuki and Shigure. It's storytelling magic that goes beyond tricks of the trade and proves that a singular artistic vision can sell.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
I'm slow getting to it, but a post Johanna made over the weekend got me thinking. Not about the topic of Ellis' online persona, but about the necessity of including a "story so far" bit in Desolation Jones. She makes a good point about new readers, though I think sites like Spoilt! can fill the void. I also think most retailers worth their salt will try to keep some back issues in stock so they can say "Just getting into Jones? Here's the issues you'd want - at cover price." Or they might say "It's near the end of the first story arc now .... the new one starts next month, I'll hold a copy for you."
As far as continuing readers go: does anyone else constantly re-read arcs? It's not like Johanna's the only one: the same idea is there when Mr. Fish looks at Ellis' Iron Man. They way these stories are parceled out, combined with the sheer number of titles almost ensures that I will pick up a new issue of Planetary with only a fuzzy memory of what happened last month. Since I'm just getting back into comics, I had a chance to plan a good way to manage it, for lack of a better term. I keep a file cabinet with hanging files for each series, or collective ones for Infinite Crisis stuff, or the Superman books. Older stuff and completed series end up in a short box, but the files handle everything current. Then, each week when I get new books, I pull the folder and re-read that entire arc before getting to the new issue.
It takes more time, obviously, but I like doing it because I feel like I'm getting more value for my dollar. To spend three bucks on a 5-10 minute read is a waste ... but if I know I'll be re-reading it five or six times, it's more palatable. Since books are being "written for trade", I read them as such, even if that trade isn't complete or published yet. I think many of our reading habits were formed in an earlier time, when more comics were done-in-one.Pick up this week's issues, read them, and put them away. But maybe a new aesthetic requires a new reading habit. Perhaps some of the complaints about unsatisfying decompressed comics comes from reading them as if they were intended to be self contained?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The Great Mail Order Comics Experiment is done, and I can finally head to 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics to pick up my books on Wednesday, and feel the New Comics Day love ... except this is the second week in a row that circumstances dictate I won;t be able to go until Friday. "Smallest Violin, Saddest Song" indeed ....
My most anticipated book this week is definitely Desolation Jones. Not only did I love the first two issues, but a post on the series got me my first notice from the wider blogging community. I feel oddly sentimental towards the title now. The first issue of All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder gave me at least three posts, so I consider the purchase of this new issue an investment in the future. JLA continues a pretty fun Infinite Crisis lead-in arc, and JSA looks like it will contribute some Crisis, as well.
Much of this week's list is pretty marginal titles. With Firestorm's cliffhanger resolved in Villains United, I don't know I'll be that interested in a "fill in the blank" story. Though the net has gone wild for Winter Men, I was not that impressed, and will need to give it a flip-through in the store. X-Men would be my first issue of the title since my return, but since it's a tie-in to Black Panther, it'll really depend if I have this on my pull list (I can't remember). I really, really want to support AIT/PlanetLar, Joe Casey, and Full Moon Fever ... but I can't help thinking that $12.95 for 70 pages of story is steep.
- Action Comics #831
- All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder #2
- Desolation Jones #3
- JLA #118
- JSA #77
- Rann Thanagar War #5
- Firestorm #17
- Winter Men #2
- X-Men #175
- Full Moon Fever
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The first thing I want to talk about is the format. Fell is a 24-page single, that contains 16 pages of full color comics and several pages of what's called back matter -- text stuff, sketches, background material, perhaps even audience emails as we get going. And it retails for $1.99 American.
Further; each issue is a self-contained story. If you read them all, yeah, you'll see ideas and relationships develop. But there's nothing stopping anyone entering the series at any moment, understanding the set-up and getting a complete experience out of it. It's no harder to walk in on than any episode of Law and Order.
Self-contained, as densely packed as Ben and I can manage, with extra reading material in the back, for a buck less than most books of its type.
Why? Well, I don't know about you, but I remember being poor. I remember the difference between (the local equivalent of) a dollar ninety-nine and three bucks being the difference between buying a comic or missing a meal. And for that purchase price, I wanted value -- a complete experience that I'd want to replay again and again.
-- "Warren Ellis on Fell", Newsarama.com
A complete story where nothing is being stretched out for the trade collection? $1.99
16 pages of Warren Ellis' top-shelf stuff, with commentary and extras? $1.99
Teaching Old Dog Floppy new tricks? Priceless.
It a bit of actual irony (as opposed to the Alanis Morissette kind), one of the writers most castigated for introducing decompression into the American Mainstream has produced the most compressed comic on the stands. In a scant 16 pages, Warren Ellis has produced more story than any three issues of House Of M, and at a fraction of the cost. Though 16 pages may put off some readers, I've never cared about page count: I care about story, and Fell delivers. Fell is ambitious, trying both a retail experiment and a storytelling one. But it's that rare experiment that succeeds at everything it tries to do.
Fell is a detective story, and a noir tale that will feel familiar to Ellis veterans. Richard Fell transfers to the Snowtown district, an inner city where society if slowly coming unglued and returning to a feral state. Though Fell shows many traits common to Ellis protagonists (hyper-perceptive loner who is emotionally closed), he isn't your Standard Ellis Hard-Ass. He isn't bitter or scarred, and is actively trying to be a Good Guy. In the scant 16 pages Ellis has to work with, we get not only an introduction to the characters, settings, and themes of the story, but we also get a complete murder mystery. The mystery gets a bit of short shrift, with a chance encounter that provides the telling clue, but it's got good characters and a neat twist. It's the world-building that astounds as Ellis and Templesmith create a fleshed-out city and a rich cast of characters. Though Ellis' telling dialogue gets much of the credit, much of the heavy lifting is done by Ben Templesmith's tight layout and expressive, cartoony faces. Though minor characters like the precinct's secretary only have a few panels, they become memorable characters due to the emotion Templesmith imbues.
If decompression is The Disease, Fell is The Antibody. It's a curative for the "write for trade" methods of the majors, and simultaneously produces one of the best books on the stands. As a storytelling experiment, it meets and exceeds expectations. The retail part of the equation ... only time will tell. Next spring will see Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá's Casanova use the same format, and I hope that they see success. I don't know that this will be the magic bullet for the industry's ills, but it sure isn't a bad start.
Monday, September 12, 2005
I know we've been teasing with this "King" thing, but it truly is an initiative that will help everyone's future in comics. You'll understand more of course when we can truly begin to talk about it.
-- Joe Quesada at Newsarama
How many posts can I get out of the last "Joe Fridays"? It looks like at least two.
On the off chance that this isn't hucksterism of the "internet cracking" variety, what could Joey DaQ be talking about? Marvel teased an image with the word "King", and this will somehow help everyone's future in comics? Rumors and clues have started to leak, and all signs point to Stephen King writing for Marvel. But how is one writer an "initiative"?
Stephen King has already done some interesting things in publishing by trading off the strength of his name - the serializations of The Green Mile and the Dark Tower both come to mind. These were experiments in publishing that were only greenlit off the strength of King's name. He was so massively popular that his books would sell even in unusual formats. So imagine a series of graphic novels penned by King, published in a tankubon-like format (like the new Sin City reprints). In that format, with good marketing and distribution, when those get released they would go straight to the front display table at your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Right? This would even hit Target and WalMart. Though it's a comic, and though King's name isn't what it was ... a new King is a new King.
However, this means eschewing the Direct Market and aiming a OGN missile straight at the heart of "The Mainstream". If this gets serialized as a comic .... it's just another comic. Stephen King writing a comic book won't be that big. From distribution outlets to exorbidant cost to sheer unfamiliarity with monthly releases ... it'll just be another comic book, cannibalizing the die-hard without increasing the fanbase. Perhaps there will be a slight uptick from the King die-hards, but Marvel won't be tapping into the airplane reader that makes up the bulk of his sales. Once the eventual trade paperback comes out, it'll go straight to the back of the store in the tiny shelf next to the manga aisles. It's release in "floppies" would dilute the punch of a release, and keep it off those front display tables, and therefore off the bestseller lists.
I can't see many other ways a rumored Stephen King signing would "help everyone's future in comics". Though comics continues it's climb to the mainstream, Chris Ware is one thing ... Stephen King another. If Marvel plays it's cards right, this could be something special ... or it could be "just another comic book". We'll see.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Our next big arc is called 'League of Losers' and it's going to run from issue #15 to issue #18. ... It's really my love letter to D-list Marvel characters. I think all these guys have merit and should be given the limelight from time to time. Who am I talking about? Well, Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, Terror Inc, and SuperPro for starters--there will be many others who participate through the course of the book as well, but I'll keep them under wraps for the time being.
-- NEWSARAMA - KIRKMAN ON MTU, INVINCIBLE & INVINCIBLE IN MTU
Can you feel the power? Can you feel the surge? Can you feel the zeitgeist?
Thursday, I give NFL SuperPro some love. Friday, MainManMike at 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics says he thinks he can get me a copy from the other store. Saturday, I start trying to catch up on all the links I missed while punk'd with the flu and find through the latest "Joe Fridays" that Kirkman loves the SuperPro, too.
When asked about it, though, Joe puts an immediate dampener on my joy:
NRAMA: "Mr. Wesley" asks: If what Robert Kirkman has said about NFL SuperPro's appearance in Marvel Team-Up is accurate, who owns the rights to the character, Marvel, the NFL or is it jointly owned?
JQ: I need to speak to Mr. Kirkman in private.
It's obviously a grass-roots thing, Joey. It's like '68, except with NFL SuperPro, instead of LSD and flowers in your hair. It is spreading and growing in power, this SuperPro love ... don't let The Man get us down.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Yes. Yes I am.
I need to own NFL Superpro. I really do.
- More Flytrap is on the way. And that's good news. I would like to see more than 16 pages at a time ... but Ryan and Lieber's small 16 pages pack in more story than a full arc from the Big Two.
- If you want to see some fine home-grown nonsense, make sure to check out Patrick Daniel O'Neill's "Why Manga Isn't Comics".
- Warren Ellis new web destination, ENGINE, seems to be having a lot of launch issues. The times I've gotten in, it seems like it will be a very interesting site, though I abhor that Delphi-style interface. It's specifically (and stringently) about non-superhero work. Ellis seems to expect a lot of flak for that, though I think the real debate will come when trying to make that distinction.
- Grant Morrison speaks. And he's always, at the least, entertaining.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Well, my archenemies "Labor Day Woman", "Work Disaster Man", "Sick Kids Kid", and "Video Card Burnout Lass" have conspired in a "League Of Evilosity" against the day-to-day functioning of Focused Totality. Thankfully, The Comics Treadmill has my back.
I really mean it this week when I say a Smoke review is coming soon. It's just that pesky "writing" part keeps getting in the way. Using the focused totality of my mutant blogging powers, I can also see that some linkblogging is in the near future. There's much to talk about.
After a stressful past few days, tomorrow should be good: a trip to 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics and the opening of the NFL Season. I will be flipping through new comics while watching football, and that's a synergy that sets me a-tinglin'. The Most Anticipated Book this week is the debut of Warren Ellis' Fell. Not only is it a new Ellis, but it's a format experiment that holds great promise. It sells for $1.99, contains only 16 pages of story but supplements with another 8 pages of text, backgrounders, sketches, etc. Fell also promises that each issue is self-contained. A little shorter, a little cheaper, but still a complete comic book meal. Dan DiDio, are you listening?
After Jim Roeg's essay, I will be reading Villians United in a whole new light. Serenity wraps up, and while I've been a touch underwhelmed with the series, I can't wait to see how it leads in to the movie. Seven Soldiers: Guardian comes to a close, and I hope it's a bit more satisfactory as a standalone than Shining Knight turned out to be. House Of M continues to drag along, and I continue to buy it ... but a serious revision in my Marvel pull list is looming unless it delivers on the drastic changes that were promised. Shazam/Superman: First Thunder looks beautiful, and that's all that need be said. Ghost Rider by Ennis? Count me in.
- Gotham Central #35
- Intimates #11
- Outsiders #28
- Seven Soldiers Guardian #4
- Shazam Superman First Thunder #1
- Superman #221
- Villains United #5
- Fell #1
- Fantastic Four House Of M #3
- Ghost Rider #1
- House Of M #6
- Incredible Hulk #86
- Iron Man House Of M #3
- Serenity #3
Friday, September 02, 2005
I usually try to be more specific, but "Late August" will have to do. I got two weeks worth of books this Wednesday, and can't tell 'em apart. That's the only real drawback to mailordercomics.com .... the mail. They do a good job there, but I'm afraid I'm with Zilla on this one: I'm too impatient.
Wizard Magazine Issue 168
... Three months ago, I looked in the mirror at those nasty little spiderwebs of lines around my eyes, and I realized something. I'm getting older, and ... and he isn't.
Lex Luthor in All Star Superman
I am not a big fan of Wizard. But I'm man enough to admit when I'm being grabbed by the proverbial short hairs, and an exclusive eight page preview of Morrison & Quitely's All Star Superman is plenty grabby enough. It's wonderful, and well worth the small bit of integrity I sold to get my hands on it. Luthor using the phrase "spiderweb of lines around my eyes" makes me wonder if we'll see him in white leather and diamond lipstick, announcing how "very, very, very cross" he is. Not saying that would be bad.
Jack Cross Issue 1
Truth is, I'm a Warren Ellis fanboy. I'll buy anything he writes, I subscribe to Bad Signal, and I read through all his blog postings. I don't think he's about to rip off an American TV melodrama, but he's sure sniffing the same zeitgeist.
But is there really anything in Jack Cross that we haven't seen in 24? Being unwillingly drawn back in to active service? Check. Violent and shocking interrogation techniques? Check. A philosophy of "ends justify the means"? Check. Breaking down alone, when he confronts his true emotions? Check. For Pete's sake ... they are both named Jack. I thought there might be some fun involved by the fact this is set in the standard DCU. How does a Jack BauerCross function in a world with Superman? But I see no indication besides the cover logo that this is the DCU. Perhaps there's a rooftop chat in Jack's future, and all will become clear.
This is my first issue of Hudlin's Black Panther, so I don't know what he's been doing with the characters. I'll happily accept a revision of T'Challa as a playa who drops Faith Evans quotes. It's not the haughty and stoic ruler of Wakanda that I remember, but it's an interesting take. This is a Black Panther that is of the world, not above it.
I had to reteach the stupid humans everything they forgot, but the Old School ways are the best!
- Ancient mutant potentate Apocalypse
But Apocalypse using the phrase "Old School"? Apocalypse? He's five millennia old, and isn't known for his immersion in hip-hop culture. Or any human culture. I would like to see more hip-hop in comics. But I'd like to see it in character, because a hip-hop Apocalypse is laughable. It completely took me out of what was a pretty enjoyable comic.
Young Avengers Issue 6
I blogged my reactions to Young Avengers in one of my first posts here, so don't feel the need to re-hash that into a critique of the first arc. I re-read those issues last night before reading the arc's conclusion in #6, and it only strengthened my opinion that Young Avengers might be the best book Marvel's producing right now. Ultimates is the only thing that stands with it. The dialogue really shines, and is exactly what I was expecting to see in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men ... but didn't. It's sharp and witty, and shows Heinberg's television ear. The arc comes to a bold conclusion, and it's clear this series is working by some new rules. It's not afraid to shake up the status quo and break genre conventions by allowing fundamental changes to happen. I hope that the series doesn't settle down after this initial arc. Even if it does, this still stands as the best thing to come out of Disassembled.
In Part 2 of this continuing series, I am already faced with a crisis: What, in today's comics, makes me smile with stupid glee besides Yotsuba&!? There's a lot of smart going on. There's a lot of cool going on. There's a lot of interesting going on. Not so much on the happy, though.
But it's out there, and I'll find it.
Take, for example, today's image from GØDLAND. This space epic by Casey and Scioli really picked up in it's second issue, concluding with this splash page of the once-mute Kirby Space Dog announcing his dissatisfaction with being captured, abused, and used as a hallucinogen.
He may be unhappy, but I'm not. Puppies make almost everyone happy. Giant green talking puppies from outer space crackling with KirbyDots? That makes me happy.
It will also make me happy to make a donation to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts today.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Though the term "After School Special" conjures up horrors of banality for those of us raised in the seventies, it's the way I'd best describe Me and Edith Head. That's not meant to be damning with faint praise, either: Me and Edith Head is an artifact from some parallel universe where those television morality plays were actually intelligent, witty, and complex. In a scant 16 pages, Sara Ryan weaves a story about the importance of teachers, the resiliency and strength of youth, the power of the written word, the magic of theatre, and much more. It's a simple story, but manages to tackle a lot by virtue of that very simplicity: Ryan focuses on the events and characters, not on investing them with portentous meaning. In a perfect example of "show, don't tell", she trusts her reader to do some of the heavy lifting, and that's a refreshing attitude in any popular media, much less comics.
Steve Lieber's visual storytelling is as wonderful as Ryan's script, as he uses simple, clean layouts to convey a lot of information and subtext. In the middle of the book there is a four-panel sequence that shows the lead character's room getting progressively cleaner, and it's worth the proverbial thousand words in terms of her character development. Though it's a story about a high scholol girl, Lieber doesn't take any visual shortcuts by using a generic "teen" model. The characters in the book are distinct individuals, some of who just happen to be teens. (As a note: The book features characters from Ryan's Empress Of The World, but doesn't require any knowledge of that novel at all.)
Compared to the denseness of Me and Edith Head, Flytrap feels a bit .... light. It's really a whole different beast, however. Whereas Me and Edith Head is telling a complete story, Flytrap is quite intentionally an introduction to a larger story. It's like an extended pre-credits sequence that sets up the status quo, breaks it, and introduces a new one. While some characters seem a bit thin and exist only as plot obstacles, the main character of Maddy is fully realized and rich, and has enough depth to build a series on. I'll look forward to more, but might like to see it in larger installments.
Though lettering is usually a lost art for me, it's one of the things that most leaped out in Flytrap. The uncredited letterer pulls some wonderful tricks in scenes where Maddy's trying to talk over a tow truck, and where she's cut off by her soon-to-be-ex. They express pace, noise, volume, and emotional state all at once ... the fact I can even say that about lettering surprises me.
What strikes me about both these minicomics is how free they are. Ryan and Lieber have set out to tell the stories they want, without compromising that vision to account for format. This is neither genre work nor artsy navel-gazing, and feels fresh and unique. In the eternal quest for "comics for the non-comic reader", both these books (especially Me and Edith Head) would be excellent suggestions. To order, check out the website. At two dollars each (including shipping), it's less than a gallon of gas and will last much longer.