Monday, August 30, 2010

Too Much Awesome: DC Previews (November 2010)


1. Superboy #1

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Jeff Lemire, and his Atom Special was less than stellar, I still have faith in him. Superboy seems like a perfectly suited project for him. The preview in Action Comics last week was a lot weirder than I expected, and it's going to be interesting to see how Lemire works his way up to that point. I'd never seen any of artist Pier Gallo's work until the preview, but I like what I've seen. I'm not a huge fan of the way he draws faces, but I like his overall style and the level of detail.

2. Batman, Inc. #1

I am hugely skeptical about the direction in which Grant Morrison's epic Batman saga is headed. When people started speculating that the return of Bruce Wayne would mean multiple “Batmen,” I thought it was the stupidest idea I'd ever heard in my life. And now that's exactly what we're getting. Batman has become a franchise and this is the new flagship title that will see Bruce running international operations, while Dick holds the fort in Gotham. I'm looking forward to the first issue, because in spite of everything, Morrison still has the ability to surprise me in his execution of ideas that would not work in the hands of a lesser writer. The first few issues will determine whether I'm going to keep following it or not.

3. Batwoman #0

I've heard so much about Greg Rucka's Batwoman run (in Detective Comics) and have been meaning to pick up the hardcover collection, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Hopefully my budget will allow me to do that before November so that I can get on the bandwagon having read the material leading up to it. J.H. Williams III, who illustrated most of Rucka's scripts on the original run, is now sharing writing duties with W. Haden Blackman and art duties with Amy Reeder.

4. Knight & Squire #2

Paul Cornell's run on Action Comics has been amazing so far and it makes perfect sense that he should write the Knight & Squire mini-series. The team of British super-heroes were of course introduced by Grant Morrison in his Batman run. Cornell claims that exactly 100 new character will be introduced over the course of the six-issue series. You can spot dozens of them in an advance preview on DC's blog The Source. Jimmy Broxton handles the art.

5. Red Robin #17

My pick for the last item on my list was a toss-up between this and Action Comics, since those are my two favourite comics right now. I went with this one because I'm really curious to find out how the return of Bruce Wayne will affect Tim, if at all. The solicitation text for this issue hints that this will be dealt with, at least in part, as Tim sets out to release Linx from prison (after having put her there himself a couple of issues ago). The creative team is still Fabian Nicieza on scripts and the excellent Marcus To on art.


  • Action Comics #895
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #8
  • Birds of Prey #6
  • The Flash #8

Teen Titans #89 features a new creative team, and I'm torn. Artist Nicola Scott is great, but writer J.T. Krul has a pretty bad track record. Damian is involved (and featured on the cover), so that makes me both more interested and more weary, because he's one of my favourite characters but some writers simply don't get him and do a terrible job writing him. Should I give the man who likes to write about dead cats and sexual impotence a chance?

Detective Comics #871 also gets a new team. Writer Scott Snyder's Vertigo series, American Vampires, is getting good reviews, but I'm really sick of vampires so I can't be bothered to check it out. Jock, the man with only one name, is taking over art duties. I'm not super-familiar with his work, but I've seen some of it online and it looks pretty good. This is a 4$ book, though, so that's a drawback. There's a back-up story about Commissioner Gorden, which I couldn't care less about.

Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money is a 56-page one-shot written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. That's pretty much all you need to know. This one's definitely worth a look.

Batgirl #15 sees artist Dustin Nguyen joining the creative team. Bryan Q. Miller is still writing. I've only read one previous issue of Batgirl (because of a cross-over with Red Robin) and I can't say I was very impressed. But Nguyen is an amazing artist and that alone makes it worth considering. It'll probably depend on whether it's coming out on a slow week for me.

I noticed that there's a T-Rex on the cover of Secret Six #27. Why the hell am I not reading this series again? Oh, right. Because I want to start from the beginning. I should really get around to picking up those trades. I feel like I'm missing out on all the fun.

I don't really know anything about T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents, but there's a new series starting in November and, oh, look, a shiny new cover by Frank Quitely! The interior art is by someone or something called "Cafu & Bit," and I have no idea what that means. Nick Spencer (Morning Glory) is writing. This one might be worth checking out as well. I will investigate further.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tim Drake from the beginning – part 2: "Batman Year Three" (continued)

(All reviews in this series contain spoilers.)

Batman #436-439 (August-September 1989)
Written by Marv Wolfman; pencilled by Pat Broderick; inked by John Beatty.

Earlier this week, in the first part of this review, I said there were nine flashbacks in "Batman Year Three." I miscounted. It turns out there are actually ten.

In part 1:

1. Zucco's childhood, his parents' murder, growing up in the orphanage (with Sister Mary Elizabeth), his revenge and beginnings as a criminal.
2. Dick grayson's childhood, his parents' murder (including Tim Drake's first appearance), brief stay at the orphanage (with Sister Mary Elizabeth).
In part 2:
3. Dick comes to live at Wayne Manor, visits the Batcave for the first time, begins training to become Robin.
4. Bruce gives Dick the Robin costume, first night out on patrol.
In part 3:
5. Jason Todd's death.
6. Batman teaches Dick/Robin forensics.
7. Batman and Dick/Robin going after Zucco's crime operations.
8. Dick Grayson's optimism shortly after becoming Robin.
And in part 4:
9. Dick's custody hearing, where he officially becomes Bruce's ward.
10. Jason Todd's death (again).
These flashbacks all serve a very straightforward narrative purpose, giving us important information about the characters and moving the plot forward. But there's something else going on if we look more closely at the way each one is introduced into the narrative.

"A torrent of memories"

In the first issue, the two flashbacks are narrated by Alfred, as he tries to convince the parole board not to release Zucco. He is describing events that he did not himself experience or even witness, relating second-hand information he's presumably gathered from various sources. Although Alfred is very passionate in his plea and in his efforts to convince the members of the board, he's giving them a very factual account which is an appeal to reason more than to emotion.

In the second issue, the two flashbacks are a little bit more personal and emotional. The first one (#3) is also from Alfred's point of view, but it's not something that he is telling anyone. It's a memory that he is experiencing, triggered by a photograph of Bruce Wayne and young Dick Grayson. The other flashback in this issue (#4), though it conveniently picks up where the other one left off, is from Dick's perspective, as he remembers how different Bruce Wayne was when the two started going out on patrol together.

This move toward more emotional and involuntary memories continues in the next issue. With the exception of the Jason Todd flashback (#5), which is not really presented as a memory but almost like an editorial note to readers in case they are not aware of what happened before, the flashbacks in this issue are all very personal and triggered by things happening in the present. Dick remembers Bruce's teachings while he's applying the detective skills he learned from him (#6); Batman remembers his early adventures with Robin at the mention of Zucco's name (#7); and Alfred, struck by Dick's determination and how similar it is to Bruce's, remembers a conversation they had shortly after he took on the Robin role (#8).

Those three flashbacks all carry a strong sense of nostalgia and they are all presented as automatically triggered memories. In Dick and Alfred's cases, this is represented visually with the art showing both the memory and the present simultaneously in the same panel. In Batman's case, the flashback sequence is introduced by brief narration box: "Almost against his will, he's caught in a torrent of memories." Unlike Dick and Alfred, Batman doesn't have any first-person narration in the story, so this is really the first time we get inside his head. This choice of narrative perspective is a deliberate choice that suggests Batman has been repressing emotions and memories. We haven't had access to his head, because he's been busy trying to keep it blank. When the "torrent of memories" finally do comes pouring in, he experiences it "almost against his will." His memories are completely visceral and involuntary, in contrast to Alfred and Dick's, which, while not devoid of emotion, have remained somewhat detached and analytical.

The power of love!

The two flashbacks in the final issue provide the emotional climax of the story, for both Dick and Batman. Dick's long flashback to the court proceedings when he officially became Bruce's ward is filled with tears and speeches about love. It's the most "emo" and unsubtle moment in the story, and probably the scene people have in mind when they accuse Marv Wolfman's writing of being too melodramatic. But it serves its thematic function.

Back in the first issue, Alfred pointed out some interesting parallels between Zucco and Dick's stories, using them to make a case against Zucco's early release from prison. They both experienced tragedy and the loss of their parents at a young age. Both were sent to the same orphanage, where they met Sister Mary Elizabeth, who tried to help them. But Zucco grows up wanting revenge and turns into a murderer, whereas Dick becomes a well adjusted and compassionate adult. Alfred suggests that they turned out so different because of their upbringing. Zucco's father was a bully and he grew up in a household without love. Dick, on the other hand, was raised in the circus by loving parents and surrounded an extended family of performers, all of whom were kind to him and cared for him.

But of course, there's a third orphan in this story: Bruce Wayne. And while Dick and Zucco represent the two extremes of that archetype, Bruce ends up somewhere in the middle. Like Dick, he was raised by a loving family, but unlike him, he was alone after they were killed, and there is definitely a darkness within him that Dick doesn't have. One major theme running through "Year Three" is how everyone deals with tragedy and whether it makes them seek justice or revenge. The idea is that extreme tragedy can be psychologically traumatic enough to drive one to murder. Zucco succumbed to that urge readily. Dick and Bruce have both resisted that urge in the past, but who's to say that they will continue to do so in the future? Alfred notices the similarities between Dick and Bruce and that scares him. He's afraid of what Dick will do when he finds out about Zucco's release. It's only with that flashback in part 4 (#9) that those fears finally come to rest.

Meanwhile, there's the looming question of what Bruce will do when he finally decides to deal with the death of Jason Todd. In this case, Bruce himself is scared. That's why he's paralyzed at the end of part 3, unable to confront Zucco because of what he might do to him. The very last flashback in the last issue brings him back to the death of Jason Todd. "For the first time in months, that name comes to his lips." This is the moment when Batman finally is forced to confront that death, the consequences of which will be dealt with in more detail in "A Lonely Place of Dying."

Setting the stage for the next Robin

What is hinted at throughout this story is that Batman simply cannot function without his Robin. The dark side of the Dark Knight simply takes over unless he has a young optimistic sidekick to lighten him up. Dick Grayson himself spells it out for us in flashback #8: "I used to think he was more real as Batman than as Bruce Wayne, but because he just can't be some super-hero around me, I think Bruce is becoming more real, too. (...) I think I'm helping Bruce to sometimes enjoy himself." This is of course not just an in-story argument that applies to the characters, but also a metatextual one that applies to the comic books themselves. Having Robin in the comics changes the tone of the comics (in theory at least). Robin was introduced for that very reason (and to give younger readers a character to whom they can relate). So while "Year Three" appears to be a story very focused on the past, with its multiple flashbacks and exploration of the psychological ramifications of the death of Jason Todd, it also looks to the future and is in fact setting the stage for the arrival of the next Robin, Tim Drake.

But "Year Three" does more than just prepare us for the next Robin, it also cleverly plants the seed right in the first issue, giving us Tim Drake's first appearance in flashback #2. I wish I could go back to 1989 and erase my memory of all the comics that came after that time and experience that first appearance as the readers did at the time. Because, of course, we know who Tim Drake is. I wonder how many readers picked up on it then. Did it seem weird that so much time was spent on this random little kid at the circus?

Unfortunately, I can't go back in time to verify that. I read the story for the first time earlier this year. In retrospect, I think it was a stroke of genius to insert Tim into the scene of Dick's parents' murder. It makes him part of the mythology of Batman almost from the very beginning. The fact that all three of them – Dick, Bruce and Tim – are in the same room but unaware of the their shared future history makes it a very poignant moment, at least from my perspective. And of course, it also serves a more practical purpose in setting up some important elements that are going to come into play in "A Lonely Place of Dying," namely, (1) the photo Dick and Tim take together, (2) the "quadruple flip of doom" performed by Dick, which Tim witnesses, and (3) Batman's dramatic entrance, which will haunt Tim for years.

More on that story in the next episode of Tim Drake from the Beginning.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tim Drake from the beginning – part 1: "Batman Year Three"

(All reviews in this series contain spoilers.)

Batman #436-439 (August-September 1989)
Written by Marv Wolfman; pencilled by Pat Broderick; inked by John Beatty.

Tim Drake's first appearance was in Batman #436, the first issue of Marv Wolfman's four-part story, "Batman Year Three." It's only a brief appearance in a flashback, and Tim is only a little boy in it. He doesn't appear in the next three issues and doesn't play a significant role in the overall story. At the time, there was no indication that this boy would become one of the most important members of the Bat family. But in retrospect, this first appearance was carefully planned and it set into motion the series of events that would lead to the introduction of the third Robin.

A few thoughts on continuity

Before I start looking at the significance of this story, I have to say a few words about the concept of "continuity" in mainstream super-hero comic books and my own particular take on it. You see, many fans will tell you that "Year Three" is no longer in continuity, that it has been retconned and replaced by Dark Victory, Jeph Loeb's extremely mediocre sequel to his hit series The Long Halloween.

This adherence to "official continuity" or "canon" is an approach to comic books that I not only disagree with, but actually make it a point to actively fight against whenever I encounter it. I believe it is a terribly mistaken and limited understanding of how serialized comic book narratives operate. The simple-minded fans who stubbornly insist on determining a precise timeline, while carelessly eliminating any story that doesn't fit neatly into their linear continuity, are simply missing the point. All they succeed in doing is to reduce their own enjoyment of comic books.

The way I approach comic books is different. Every story I read that is set within the DC universe is linked (thematically, metatextually) to every other story I've ever read or am at least aware of. I not only include contradictions into that web of meaning, I actually embrace them. I understand every appearance of a character to be nothing more and nothing less than a possible interpretation of that character – an interpretation that is informed by the writer's (and the reader's) knowledge of every other interpretation that came before. This rich, multi-layered and often contradictory history is what gives the characters their power and complexity. It's what makes them seem real! Because human beings are complex and full of contradictions, and that's what our experience of the world is like. It doesn't fit neatly into a linear timeline and unless you're some kind of sociopath, you don't get to just discard whatever aspects of the world happen to not fit nicely into your particular worldview.

Year Three vs. Dark Victory

"Year Three" doesn't actually take place during the third year of Batman's career. The main story is set in contemporary continuity (at the time of publication), so it takes place much later, sometime after the death of Jason Todd. The reason for the title is that the story features several flashbacks to that third year, around the time when Dick Grayson's parents were killed and he became Bruce Wayne's ward, and eventually the first Robin.

Jeph Loeb seems to draw a lot of inspiration from this story for his own Dark Victory, which is set around the time of those flashbacks and retells the first Robin's origin story. What's strange (or annoying), though, is that he uses elements from the story that is set in the contemporary time period – namely the crime bosses getting taken out one after another by an unknown killer – but sets them also in Batman's third year. (I guess maybe this technically happens in The Long Halloween, of which Dark Victory is the sequel, but whatever.) The end result is that he mashes events from these two different periods into the same year, and since Loeb's story is considered canon, this effectively retcons "Year Three" out of existence.

It's a real shame, because it means that "Year Three" probably won't be collected in trades anytime soon, and not a lot of newer readers will bother hunting down the back issues. I'm of the opinion that "Year Three" is a much more important and significant story that Loeb's overlong snooze-fest, which at the end of the day doesn't amount to much of anything, except provide Tim Sale an excuse to draw some truly fantastic art. It doesn't provide any great insight into the characters of Batman and Robin(s), or the complexity of their relationship, which is what Marv Wolfman's story is all about.

Batman's nervous breakdown

It's been two years since Dick Grayson left Wayne Manor and left the Robin mantle behind in favour of his new identity, Nightwing. Apparently, he and Bruce haven't been keeping in touch, and when Jason Todd was killed by the Joker a few months earlier, Bruce didn't even call to tell him. Alfred wrote to Dick to tell him he was worried about Bruce's sanity and his refusal to acknowledge or deal with Jason's death. Dick thought he was exaggerating at first, but when he visits the Batcave and Wayne Manor, he's disturbed to find that Bruce has removed any trace of Jason having ever even existed.

Batman is out investigating the murder of the crime bosses, so Dick goes out as Nightwing to try to find him. He follows the bloody trail Batman left behind, which does nothing to ease his concerns that Bruce might be losing it. He's being reckless and violent. Dick remembers that Bruce always taught him how to think with his head, not with his fists, but now Bruce seems to be ignoring everything he taught him.

While Batman is going around beating people up and putting himself in dangerous situations, Nightwing starts his own investigation, putting to use the detective skills that Batman taught him. They follow the same trail, but using different methods, and it eventually leads them to the same place.

Meanwhile, Alfred has been trying to convince the parole board not to release Zucco. When that fails, he even resorts to visiting Zucco himself in prison and offering him money to leave Gotham. Zucco only laughs at him.

Eventually, all these threads combine, as it turns out that Zucco was the one who organized the murders Batman and Nightwing are investigating. But the other crime bosses, who were helping Batman in his investigation, have also figured it out, and they set their own retaliation plan in motion. On the day of his release, Zucco walks out of the prison and is assassinated on the spot.

Dick asks Batman if he knew about their plan and allowed it to happen. Bruce denies this. "Whatever you think of me now, you know I would never be a party to murder." But when Dick asks why he didn't try to stop Zucco, Bruce reveals just how damaged he's become. "I watched him and I was shaking. I was... afraid I'd strangle him for..." He doesn't say any more, but he doesn't really need to.

There's one last loose end to tie up in the case. Zucco left behind a ledger with detailed information that could serve as evidence to prosecute all the remaining crime family bosses. Now more violence is erupting as they all try to get their hands on it first. When Dick offers to help Batman find it, he lashes out at him, saying he doesn't need a partner.

So once again we have Batman and Nightwing doing their own investigations using different methods. Nightwing finds the Ledger first, but Taft, a lawyer that Zucco was blackmailing, follows him. Batman arrives at the scene just in time to see Taft hit Nightwing with a tire iron, recalling the scene in "A Death in the Family" where the Joker beat Jason Todd with the crowbar. Again, Batman is paralysed with fear.

Fortunately, Dick can take care of himself. Taft is no match for him, and Dick quickly overpowers him, but the ledger is destroyed in the process.

At the end of the story, Batman hasn't really worked through any of his issues, but all the pieces have been set in place for the next story arc, "A Lonely Place of Dying" (which I'll review next).

What does any of this have to do with Tim Drake?

Tim only appears in one issue of this four-part story, during one of the many flashbacks. But although it's only a brief appearance, it's a very significant one, especially in retrospect.

This is already getting pretty long, though, so I'm going to break it off here and continue this in the next post. Hopefully I'll be able to finish it before the weekend.

In the next instalment of Tim Drake from the Beginning, we'll look at the nine flashbacks in "Batman: Year Three," and what they tell us about Batman's relationship with his many Robins.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Review: Sweet Tooth #12

Sweet Tooth #12 "The Singh Tapes"
Story and art by Jeff Lemire.

The first 11 issues of Sweet Tooth have been amazing. Over two incredibly well structured story arcs, Jeff Lemire has gradually given us insight into his two diametrically opposed protagonists, Gus and Jepperd, while also dispensing crucial information about the world they inhabit and the strange calamity that has befallen it.

With issue #12, Lemire has crafted a miniature masterpiece within this already brilliant series. This is a stand-alone issue that successfully functions as a perfect introduction for potential new readers who want to jump onboard, while simultaneously delivering a satisfying tale for those who have been following since the beginning.

While accomplishing all of this, Lemire also manages to be formally innovative, while paying homage to a classic device Wolfman and Perez used in Crisis on Infinite Earths #10. In that issue, a parallel strip called "The Monitor Tapes," ran at the bottom of every page, independent of the main story.

In "The Singh Tapes," Lemire uses a similar layout, allocating the bottom of each page to a sepia-toned depiction of Singh's narrated history of how "The Sick" began. Sometimes we see him dictating into a recording machine; more often we see a representation of the events he is describing. The narration appears underneath the panel and there are no speech bubbles.

In fact, there are no words spoken throughout the entire issue other than Singh's narration, as the story that runs through the upper part of the pages doesn't use any words at all. These silent panels follow Gus through a day in the militia camp, as he is taken from a cage, washed, and then returned to a cage, where he shares a chocolate bar with some of the other hybrids.

Lemire not only references the classic layout and device used by Wolfman and Perez, but he actually improves upon it. In COIE, the two stories, while thematically related, ran for the most part independent of each other. In Sweet Tooth, they intersect at a crucial moment halfway through the story. Overwhelmed with emotion after retelling the events surrounding the death of his wife, Singh pauses the recording and takes a moment to regain his composure. At that exact moment, Gus happens to pass through the corridor outside of Singh's room. Taken out of context, the full page can be read in a normal sequence, from top to bottom, and it looks like there is only one story being told.

In several other moments, while not linked so closely through unity of time and space, the stories intersect thematically in significant ways. Like when the hybrids (other than Gus) are revealed simultaneously in both stories. In the top story, they appear as a source of comfort to Gus who recognizes his friends, whereas in the bottom story, they represent a new horror and abomination, something that can't be explained and that causes fear.

Jeff is an amazing storyteller and he's at the top of his game here. This may be the best issue so far in what is probably my current favourite Vertigo series. If you're not reading this, you should really consider picking this up. You won't be disappointed.

Tim Drake from the beginning – introduction

For a while now, I have been busy collecting most of the important issues featuring Tim Drake (the third Robin) from his first appearance up to the end of Chuck Dixon's run on his solo title. I've also been reading them, and now I want to review them.

Inspired by the threads in the Marvel forums on CBR that review every issue of X-Men and Excalibur "from the beginning," I am going to do the same thing here, but following this specific character, rather than a specific title. There might be a few holes in my run, but I'll review everything I can get my hands on without too much effort.

Here's an outline of the issues I plan to go through:

  • Batman Year Three (Batman #436-439)
  • A Lonely Place of Dying (Batman #440-442, New Titans #60-61)
  • Rite of Passage (Detective #618-621)
  • Robin: A Hero Reborn (Batman #455-457)
  • Robin I (mini-series)
  • Debut (Batman #465)
  • No More Heroes (Batman #466)
  • Shadow Box (Batman #467-469)
  • Robin II (mini-series)
  • To the Father I Never Knew (Batman #480)
  • Detective Comics #647-649
  • Robin III: Cry of the Huntress (mini-series)
  • Robin ongoing #1-100
I might throw in a few additional issues of Batman or Detective in there if they happen to tie in with the Robin ongoing. We'll see.

This is going to be fun.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

October solicitations (Previews #263) – part three

Concluding my look at this August issue of Previews. Now with images! (By the way, I need to come up with a better title than "Comments on Previews" for this feature. I suck at titles.)


Steve Niles, author of 30 Days of Night, has a new series called Edge of Doom, co-created by artist Kelley Jones. Niles describes it as a five-issue series, in which all the stories are stand-alone but connected, and compares it to The Twilight Zone. The first issue is about a man who discovers that "his garden contains a world of little demons that have picked him for their next sacrifice!" Sounds very promising. (October 6)

I wasn't familiar with The Coffin, by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston, but it's getting a 10th Anniversary Edition hardcover reprint with a bunch of bonus features. The premise of the story alone is enough to seriously pique my interest: A scientist invents "an impenetrable cybernetic skin that will trap the human soul after the body within has died – a walking coffin." Sounds both creepy and thought-provoking. (October 6)


Jonathan Hickman has two new trades coming out on October 13: Pax Romana and Red Mass for Mars. While both look good, I'm mostly interested in the latter, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim and set in a distant post-apocalyptic world.

Morning Glories #3. Whether or not I pick this up will depend on how good the first issue, which comes out next week, turns out to be. (October 20)

Also looking forward to new issues of Bulletproof Coffin, Meta 4 (both October 13) and Orc Stain (October 27).


That picture of Paul Levitz holding a copy of his ridiculously oversized book, 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, is hilarious. It sounds like a fascinating read, but holy shit, did it have to be that big and expensive? People are actually going to pay $200 for a book so huge you can't even hold it? Of course they will. (October 27)

Neonomicon #3. I enjoyed the first issue, but I need to take another look at it after watching David Smart's excellent and very insightful two-part video review. Very much looking forward to the next issue to see whether it supports Smart's analysis so far. (Avatar, October 27)

I'm pretty excited about Charles Burns' X'ed Out, which apparently draws inspiration "from such diverse influences as Hergé and William Burroughs." The cover's homage to L'Étoile mystérieuse is already a classic. The only other work of Burns that I'm familiar with is Black Hole, which is in black and white, so I'm curious to see what he does with colour. (Pantheon, October 20)

The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! sounds like a must-have collection for fans of horror comics from the 1950s. I have a few friends who I'm sure would be interested. Maybe I'll bully one of them into writing a review for this blog. (November 3)

Finally, I noticed there will be new printings of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, all of which are classics any serious comics fan/blogger/wannabe-critic should have in his or her collection.

COMING SOON TO THIS BLOG: Reviews of actual comic books, instead of a way-too-long review of a comic book catalogue!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

October solicitations (Previews #263) – part two

Continuing my look at the stuff featured in the August issue of Previews.


I kind of wish I had followed the DV8: Gods & Monsters mini-series, because I read a few really good comments about it. This is the penultimate issue, so hopefully there's a trade coming soon. (October 20)

I'm going to get Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave #4 (October 13) and Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #5 (October 6), but I don't really have anything to say about them right now.

I'm not sure why the trade paperback for Two-Step is included here, since it only comes out November 17. I don't know much about this, but the art by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti is alluring.


John Constantine: Hellblazer – City of Demons is a new 5-issue mini-series written by Si Spencer and illustrated by Sean Murphy, whose art in Joe the Barbarian is absolutely stunning. I've never read any John Constantine comics, so this might be a good reason to start. The first two issues come out October 13 and 17.

The "Metal" story concludes in Northlanders #33 (October 13) and the brilliant Sweet Tooth continues with issue #14 (October 6).

Unknown Soldier has been cancelled and #25 is the last issue (October 27). I've read a lot of good reviews and many people are sad to see this series end, so I would like to check out the trades eventually.


Carnage #1 of 5. Is this going to be any good? I don't know who Zeb Wells is, but the write-up calls him a "superstar creator."

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #5. Okay, the cover for this features the X-Men versus a flying army of mutant babies. It might be the best thing I've ever seen in my life. Since I missed the boat on this mini-series (this is the last issue), I will have to wait for the trade. But I definitely want to read this now.

Halo: Fall of Reach – Boot Camp #2. I think this mini-series is a prequel to a spinoff to a video game. So it can't really be any good can it? I'm just a sucker for this kind of hardcore coming-of-age story where young boys get bullied by sadistic adults in a military organization. I don't know why this appeals to me, but it does.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #15. Interesting how the famous gay kiss on the cover is conveniently cropped out of the preview here.

Secret Avengers #6. A new story arc begins with this issue. Unless the conclusion of the first arc really blows my socks off, I will most likely be dropping this title after #5.

Avengers Academy #5. I wish I'd picked up this series instead of Secret Avengers. It's a dollar cheaper and it looks like a better title. I might actually hunt down the back issues and jump on board.

Chaos War. I guess this is going to be a big cosmic event. Is this going to suck?

Of all the Thor-related titles coming up, the Loki mini-series looks like the most interesting to me. I love his insane grin on the cover of the first issue. I might check this out.

The Tomb of Terror one-shot looks like it could be good. It says it's only 32 pages, but that seems kind of short for an anthology book featuring different characters and creative teams. Man-Thing is involved.

Strange Tales vol. II #1. The list of creators involved is so long and full of awesome that I don't even know how to handle this! Rafael Grampa, Kate Beaton, Jeff Lemire, etc. Can't miss this one.

Casanova #4. Goddamn, this looks amazing! I'm so pissed that I didn't buy the first issue and now it's sold out. I looked at the second issue at the store yesterday, but why bother if I can't get it from the first issue? I guess it's wait-for-trade for me on this one.

Superior #1. Mark Millar's new mini-series. I'm not really a fan of his, but this looks like it could be good. Leinil Francis Yu's art looks really good.

I'm definitely getting the Thor and the Warriors Four Digest. I saw a lot of scans from the mini-series and it was some of the cutest art I've ever seen.

I'll finish this tomorrow with part three and a look at IDW, Image, Top Cow and whatever else is left in the catalogue.

October solicitations (Previews #263) – part one

Today I bought my first issue of Previews, the August issue with solicitations for October releases. I've been flipping through it all evening. Here are a few comments.


I guess Jim Shooter is really popular or something. He's writing three series for Dark Horse now. I've read the previews of two of them from that Free Comic Book Day comic and they sucked. No reason to check out the third one.

Beasts of Burden/Hellboy. I've very excited about this. I just bought the hardcover Beasts of Burden collection by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, and it is a thing of beauty. They join forces here with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola for a one-shot crossover. (October 27)

I'm mildly amused that there is a Dethklok mini-series coming out, although I'm not really a big enough fan to check this out. (October 6)

I don't really know anything about Fear Agent, but those giant alien creatures on the cover of issue #31 look an awful lot like Metroids. Apparently this is the final arc of the series, so I might have to check out some earlier issues. (October 27)

The Classic Comics Archives Volume 1: White Indian, by Frank Frazetta, looks like an amazing collection. However, I disagree that it is being offered "in an affordable hardcover format." 50 bucks for 200 pages is not exactly what I call a bargain. I'd love to read this, but I can't afford it. Maybe they'll get a copy at the library. (December 1)


Teen Titans #88. It's so tempting to give this series another chance. I like a lot of the characters on the team (especially Conner and Bart) and this issue is described as a "perfect jumping-on point" with a "new direction" and a "new creative team." And part of that team is Nicola Scott, who is a fine artist. The weak link, though, is writer J.T. Krul. After the dead cat incident and the erectile dysfunction in Rise of Arsenal, I don't think I can take a chance on this guy. And especially not on a 4$ book. (October 27)

All the Brightest Day and Green Lantern stuff looks kind of interesting, especially when the solicitations keep hinting at some big mystery unfolding across all the different titles. I just can't afford to follow that many books, so I opted to skip pretty much all of them.

The Flash #7. Art by Scott Kolins!? WTF? Where's Francis Manapul? I hope he's back next month, because he's the main reason I'm reading this title. (Scott Kolins is okay, though.) (October 13)

Of all the Bruce Wayne – The Road Home one shots, I think I'm only going to pick up the ones written by Fabian Nicieza, because there's a good chance they'll tie into his run on Red Robin. That means three issues for me: Batman & Robin, Red Robin (both October 6) and Ra's Al Ghul (October 27). I'm still on the fence about the Oracle one-shot (also October 27), which written by Marc Andreyko. I'm surprised Gail Simone is not writing that one.

Batman: The Return. Written by Grant Morrison, with interior art by David Finch, and setting up the "new status quo," this is the issue that's going to determine whether or not I continue reading Batman books in November. It all depends on this. (October 27)

I'm willing to bet that the first issue of Knight and Squire, written by Paul Cornell, is going to be better and more fun than any of the Bat titles in October. (October 13)

I hate that DC insists on putting a "#1" on all their one-shots. It makes it really impossible to differentiate between actual one-shots and beginnings of new series. Is Batman: Hidden Treasures (note the plural) going to be a recurring Batman title unearthing various "lost" stories from over the years? How many lost stories are there anyway? I think it's hilarious that DC is hyping this as a "legendary" lost Bernie Wrightson story that's being published "at long last," when the reaction from every blogger I follow was, "Oh, I didn't know there was a lot story." Me, I don't even know who Bernie Wrightson is, so that shows how much I know. But everyone seems excited enough about this, so I'll probably at least give it a glance when it's out in the store. You get 56 pages for 5 bucks, and that includes a reprinted story from Swamp Thing #7. (October 6)

The cover for Red Hood: Lost Days #5, by Billy Tucci, is truly horrendous. Ugh! I'm waiting for the trade on this one anyway. (October 6)

All signs point to Superman #704 (October 13) being about child abuse. BARF! Action Comics is the only Superman comics you should be reading right now, and Superman's not even in it. Issue #894 feature Death, from Sandman, and a Jimmy Olsen back-up feature! (October 27)

Felipe Massafera is without a doubt the worst cover artist currently working for DC. Where did they find this guy? I guess Alex Ross wasn't available, so they decided to hire this second-rate plagiarist instead. (It's not like I'm even a fan of Alex Ross's art to begin with.) Massafera shows up on the covers of the Superman: Last Family of Krypton mini-series (October 6) and of the JLA/99 crossover (October 27), and both covers are enough of a turn-off for me not to bother even looking at what's inside. Yes, people do judge books by their covers.

Speaking of which, Supergirl and Damian are on the cover of Superman/Batman #77. Sold! (October 20)

Legion of Super-Heroes #6. This is the last issue of the first story arc, so it's also the issue that will determine whether or not I drop this title. I'm enjoying it so far, but I wouldn't mind being wowed by it a bit more. (October 20)

DCU Halloween Special 2010. According to the write-up, this is "the annual event I've been dying to read." And yet the art is still by "TBD." Get your shit together, DC! This is going to be just as rushed, thrown together and ultimately disappointing as all the 75th anniversary issues were in June. Only this time, I've learned my lesson and will be saving my money. This is a $5 book. (October 20)

Ragman: Suit of Souls. I was somewhat curious about this one-shot, but I'm not familiar with the creative team and I see that it's a regular-sized book selling for $4. Pass. (October 20)

The "DC Comics Presents" line confuses the hell out of me. Why do they all have "#1" attached to the titles if they are basically collections of previously released stories? When you see DC Comics Presents: Superman #1 (October 27), doesn't that make you think it's a reprint of Superman #1? It's not. It's actually a reprint of Superman #179-185 and Superman: Man of Steel #121. Okay... So that's, what, eight issues? And yet the book is only 96 pages. I know I'm not very good at math, but what the hell is going on here?

The other ones are all equally confusing. DC Comics presents: Brightest Day #1 (October 13) is not a reprint of Brightest Day #1. It's a collection of stories from Hawkman, Solo (?), DCU Holiday (??) and Strange Adventures. And the one that collects the Batman and Catwoman: Trail of the Gun mini-series is inexplicably named after the artist – DC Presents: Ethan Van Sciver #1 (October 13) – just to make sure that there is no logical patern or consistency to any of these titles. Whoever is the editor on these books needs to be fired.

Still, there are a few gems to be found here if you're willing to sort through the mess, such as the collection of Batman issues written by Ed Brubaker – DC Comics Presents: Batman #1 (October 20) – and the JLA: World Without Grown-Ups mini-series, here collected as DC Presents: Young Justice #1 (October 27).

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at the Wildstorm and Vertigo titles and then make may way through the rest of the catalogue.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Read in July 2010

I'm a terrible blogger. I'd like to apologize profusely to all my imaginary readers for not updating this blog as often as I should. I just get so distracted by life.

It may interest you to know that I've been spending a lot of time on Tumblr, which is a fun little blogging platform that I find particularly useful for quickly sharing links, images and random comments about stuff I encounter on the internet. I have no intention of abandoning this blog, but I decided to create a "companion tumblr" to it. The idea is to use it to gather "followers" and then lure them to these pages where they will be amazed by the substantial and very insightful longer texts I've written. The only problem is that I haven't written those longer texts, so I'm afraid so far that experiment is a bust. Nevertheless, you can check it out here. There's a lot of pretty pictures and occasional drama discussion.

Here is the list of comics I read in July:

Northlanders #29
Wonder Woman #600
Superman/Batman Annual #4
Robin III #1-6
Batman and Robin #13
Sweet Tooth #11
Brightest Day: The Atom Special
Red Robin #14
Ball Peen Hammer (Adam Rapp and George O'Connor, First Second)
The Authority: Relentless (TPB)
Orc Stain #1-3
Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #2
Birds of Prey #3
Batman #701
Billy Hazelnuts (Tony Millionaire, Fantagraphics)
Daytripper #8
Silver Surfer vol. 1 (Stan Lee, John Buscema, Marvel Masterworks)
Legion of Super-Heroes #3
Neonomicon #1
Meta 4 #2
The Bulletproof Coffin #1-2
Tom Strong, Book 1 (Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, America's Best Comics)

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