Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Action, Detective and Teen Titans

Wow. Good books from DC this week.

Action Comics #899
"The Black Ring, Part Ten"
Written by Paul Cornell; art by Jesus Merino; DC.

Oh, man. I don't even want to say anything about this book, because it's just full of surprises and crazy twists. If you've been reading Paul Cornell's Lex Luthor story in the pages of Action Comics for the past ten months, then you kind of know what to expect - and yet, there are still some shockingly awesome reveals in this issue, as even seemingly random details from previous chapters click into place. And there are bits of dialogue like this: Brainiac: "Engage micro armor burrowers!" Luthor: "Engage micro armor burrower defenses!" This is why I love super-hero comics. It's a shame that Pete Woods is not the artist here, despite what it says in the solicitations and on DC's website. But as far as fill-in artists go, you could do a lot worse than Jesus Merino. And Woods is back next issue for the epic conclusion of "The Black Ring" and the return of Superman! This is...


Detective Comics #875
"Lost Boys"
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Francesco Fancavilla; DC.

Holy shit! This book is so good! When this story about Jim Gordon's son started a while ago as a back-up feature, I wasn't that thrilled by it. I kind of dislike back-up stories and I tend to dismiss them and pay more attention to the main feature. I know that's unfair, but it happens almost subconsciously. I can't help it. So it's a good thing that the back-ups were cancelled and that this ended up as the main story of the second arc instead, where it gets the attention and focus that it deserves. James Jr. is a much more fascinating character that I initially gave him credit for. What's amazing is that at this point I have absolutely no idea whether he's going to turn out to be a psychopath or not! It could go either way, and I trust that no matter what happens, Snyder is going to handle it well and make it interesting. Last issue was great, but Francavilla just knocks this one right out of the park. And trust me, I don't normally use baseball metaphors, so that means it's really something.


Teen Titans #93
"Step into the Light"
Written by J.T. Krul; art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood; DC.

It's amazing how much damage Fabian Nicieza has done to the character of Tim Drake during his short run on Red Robin. About a year ago, I was kind of obsessed with Tim Drake. He was my favourite character. And I loved what Chris Yost was doing with him in his last arc on Red Robin. Then came FabNic and less than a year later, I've now dropped the title and I can't stand the character anymore. So much so that when he unexpectedly shows up in this book (he's not on the cover), I can't help but groan a little. "What's he doing here?" Especially after the awful way that Damian was more-or-less booed off the team last issue. And now he's not just in the team but actually leading it also!? Ugh. I can only hope it's temporary. Aside from that, though, I thought this was a pretty good issue. I'm excited about this new character, Solstice. Krul seems to be getting better at finding the right voice for each character. And Nicola Scott's art remains gorgeous.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

After a three-week hiatus involving an unfortunate move to a website I am now too embarrassed to mention, my weekly column about new comics is back. I've altered the format slightly. "Pick of the week" is the single most exciting new release of the week. "New stuff" includes #1 issues as well as new story arcs or creative teams on ongoings. "My pull list" includes all the titles I play to buy (unless they were previously mentioned). And finally "Books and trades" includes noteworthy graphic novels or collected editions.

Pick of the Week

  • Butch Baker: The Righteous Maker #1 (Image)
A new series written by Joe Casey and drawn by Mike Huddleston is reason enough to celebrate. I don't think there's anything I can say about it that will be more convincing than Casey's own description of it: "This one ain't for the faint of heart," declares Casey. "BUTCHER BAKER is a sleazy, mature readers superhero book about a semi-retired 'patriotic' superhero who gets the call for one last adventure. It's everything you want a superhero comic book to be. It's simultaneously iconic and subversive and a whole lot of fun." Here's a NSFW preview.

New Stuff
  • Captain America and Secret Avengers (one-shot) (Marvel)
  • Captain America #616 (Marvel)
  • Secret Avengers #11 (Marvel)
This week from Marvel you can either get Captain America, Secret Avengers, or both combined in a special one-shot! The one-shot is the last in the series of 70th anniversary one-shots featuring the character this month. It looks very skipable to me, although I have heard good things about writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. Captain America #616 promises a "bold new direction" and Secret Avengers #11 is starting a two-issue story set in the past that will explain the connection between Steve Rogers and the Shadow Council. I don't know how new-reader friendly that last one is going to be, as it sounds more like an epilogue to Brubaker's run on the title to tie up some loose ends before he hands over the reigns to newcomer Nick Spcencer with issues #12.1 and 13. All of which is expected to tie into Fear Itself this summer. (Personally, I've lost interest and dropped the title.)
  • Cyclops (one-shot) (Marvel)
I can't tell you what this books is about, because Marvel didn't think it was necessary to say anything about it in the solicitations or on its website. I'm going to go on a wild limb here and suggest that it's probably going to be about Cyclops. I bet it's also going to be set in the era of "First Class" like that truly pointless Marvel Girl one-shot I read from a month or two ago. I'd suggest you pretend this doesn't exist.
  • Jimmy Olsen (one-shot) (DC)
This $5.99 "80-page giant" collects the first few chapters of the Jimmy Olsen story written by Nick Spencer, which appeared in Action Comics, plus 30 pages of new material concluding the story. This is infuriating because I already paid an extra dollar on Action Comics for several months while this was the back-up feature, and now I have to pay six bucks to buy that material again, just so I can get the conclusion of the story. Yet another example of how there is ZERO cohesion or foresight to DC's editorial decisions these days. They make a big deal out of "Drawing the Line at $2.99" because they care about their readers, but meanwhile the mid-story cancellation of this back-up feature results in this. And I understand that it makes more sense now to collect the full story rather, so that new readers can buy this and not have to hunt down those back issues of Action to piece things together. But the losers are the ones who did buy this the first time around and paid that extra dollar for nothing. The worst part is I still have to recommend this, because it's actually pretty good.
  • American Vampire #13 (Vertigo)
New story arc starts this issue. I bought issue #12, which was a quick done-in-one in between arcs, and I loved it. Raphael Alburquerque is now back on art duties and I'm psyched. Scott Snyder, whose been blowing my mind on Detective Comics lately, is of course the writer and creator of this title. Preview.
  • Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #1 (IDW)
The last time I got excited about a title from IDW, it was that awful Infestation crossover event and I lived to regret it. So much so that I said I might never buy another IDW title ever again. Well, I changed my mind. I'm probably going to get this one. Because it's Godzilla and it sounds awesome. Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh are writing, while Phil Hester provides the art. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Caligula #1 (Avatar)
In the comments that followed my non-review of Neonomicon, I declared that Alan Moore's four-issue limited series was in poor taste, and Rich Johnston agrees with me, though he sees that as a good thing, comparing it to South Park and the Bible (!). Poor taste is what Avatar does best, and Caligula looks like another fine example of it, with David Lapham writing and German Nobile on art. Here's a NSFW preview.
  • Dollhouse: Epitaph (one-shot) (Dark Horse)
This is a one-shot that follows the canceled TV series's last episode and sets things up for the upcoming ongoing comic book series. Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon are writing, and Cliff Richards does the art. If you're a fan, you probably know all about it already. Otherwise, like me, you probably don't care.
  • Undying Love #1 (Image)
A new horror-action vampire comic set in Hong Kong, by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman. There's an interview here and a preview here.

My pull list
  • Action Comics #899 (DC)
  • Detective Comics #875 (DC)
  • Teen Titans #93 (DC)
  • 5 Ronin #5 (Marvel)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #657 (Marvel)
  • Thor #621 (Marvel)
Action Comics is inching closer to #900, which is going to be amazing. Detective Comics, by Scott Snyder and Jock, is possibly the best book DC publishes at the moment, so if it's not on your pull list, you're missing out big time. Speaking of Big Time, Amazing Spider-Man is pretty good these days. Thor concludes Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry's epic cosmic story. 5 Ronin, a five-issue limited series, also concludes.

Books and trades
  • Superman: The Black Ring HC (DC)
There's something really stupid and dishonest about putting Superman's name in the title of this book, since he's not even in it. I guess DC marketing figures it's okay to lie to your audience as long as it helps sell a few more books. But this is just like when movie studios market a film as one genre when it is actually a completely different type of film. It might attract a few more people to the premiere, but they're all going to hate it because it's not what it was advertised as, whereas the actual audience that might have enjoyed it won't bother showing up. This hardcover collection includes the first five issues of Paul Cornell's excellent Action Comics run, which stars Lex Luthor. It should be titled Lex Luthor: The Black Ring, but I guess that wasn't marketable enough.
  • Strange Tales II HC (Marvel)
If you didn't buy this in single issues, then you MUST get this collection. It's probably the best thing Marvel released last year. An anthology of short stories by some of the greatest indie comics creators currently working, given more or less free reign to do whatever they want with Marvel characters. Solid gold.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Wolverine and Jubilee #3 and Silver Surfer #2

Wolverine and Jubilee #3 (Marvel) 
"Cursed part 3 of 4"
Written by Kathryn Immonen; art by Phil Noto.

Wow. This book really got weird and trippy all of a sudden. Immonen's great dialogue and sense of humour is still there, and so is Noto's swoon-inducing beautiful art. But now the plot, in addition to being about Wolverine and Jubilee trying to deal with her being a vampire, has taken a left turn into... I'm not sure what exactly, but it involves people getting transported into some kind of twilight zone fifth dimension with floating dinosaurs and Egyptian pyramids and Fender Stratocasters. It comes as a bit of a surprise, but it's not altogether unwelcome. Hoping the next issue explains exactly what all that craziness is about, but until then, I still think this book is...


PS: I thought this a limited series, but the numbering on the cover doesn't include the "of 4" that was included on the first two issues. Could my dream have come true? Did Marvel convert this into an ongoing? Or is it just a printing error?

Silver Surfer #2 (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak; art by Harvey Tolibao, Stephen Segovia, Mendoza, Florer, Olazaba and Paz.

The first issue of this limited series ended with Silver Surfer getting depowered by the High Evolutionary. In this issue, Norrin Radd is getting used to his new body, which is now very vulnerable. Greg Pak does an amazing job getting us into Norrin's head and showing us not just the sense of loss and panic that comes from losing his power but also the sense of wonder that comes from experiencing all the sensations he'd grown accustomed to living without, like pain, breathing, drinking water, or feeling a woman's touch on his skin. Unfortunately, the art, which was not without its problems in the first issue, has now degenerated into a big ugly mess, which might have something to do with the fact that there are two different pencillers and four different inkers on the book. It's a shame the art doesn't do justice to Pak's script, because this could otherwise be a great story. As it is, it's merely...


Another follow-up on the Essex County/Canada Reads mini-controversy

You may remember my post about Jeff Lemire's Essex County getting voted off the Canada Reads competition on the first round a little over a month ago. Well, Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot used it as a "point of departure for an analysis of common attitudes towards reading", a great post which itself generated quite a lot of discussion in the comments.

Here's an excerpt from Nymeth's post:

The thing that made these judges who are supposedly trying to encourage literacy so uncomfortable was the fact that the book was quick and easy to read. To me, this is the most interesting thing about the whole situation: the fact that the judges’ arguments rely on the idea that reading should be hard, that it should take work, that it should be a somewhat arduous process. And if isn’t, it can’t have Meaning or Relevance. It doesn’t make you think of “things other than things”.

Of course, I also don’t buy the opposite argument, which is that anything that isn’t easy must be worthless or pretentious. Dense texts are fine; I love many of them. But what they have to say, what about them encourages people to “think about things other than things”, is not necessarily determined by the difficulty of prose in itself. If you take an author of moderate difficulty – someone like, say, Virginia Woolf – you can argue that their experimentation with form can’t be separated from their content, and it’s a crucial part of what makes them so extraordinary. This is a fair enough point, but at the same time, I have trouble seeing form as a thing to be revered in itself, quite separately from any sort of meaning. What bothers me about the assumptions behind the Canada Reads judges’ arguments is the idea that complex ideas are defined by a complex form of delivery: that you cannot possibly communicate anything worthwhile or convey nuanced emotions using accessible language (or even - horror of horrors - pictures).
 Read the rest of it here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A couple of posts about sexism in comics

Some months ago, I wrote a post called "Sexism in The Walking Dead: An Ongoing Discussion" which to this day remains the most popular post on this blog, still getting hits every week and the occasional comment. Which makes me very happy, because that's exactly what I intended when I titled it "an ongoing discussion." I never felt that I'd come to any definite conclusion or verdict in terms of the sexism found in both the comic and the TV adaptation. I do feel pretty confident that there is sexism in the work(s), but dismissing all of it as sexist without further analysis doesn't really do it justice either.

A comment from earlier this week by Missus Goodveggie does a pretty good job of highlighting how complex the work is when it comes to gender issues. I'm going to quote her comment here, unedited:

Ok I know this is really late in the day but I was so excited to come across this post. I was given the walking dead comics (not seen the show yet) by my brother-in-law and have since had some very interesting debates with him over this sexism issue. I thought the two scenes you mentioned (the laundry and the voting) were appalling precisely for that reason that it's kind of the writer going "this isn't sexist...because it's totally true mwah ha ha ha". I also want to point out that Michonne can hardly be used as a 'strong' female character because about 3/4 of the way through we discover that her uncompromising violence has been under the influence (real or imaginary) of her dead boyfriend - if you then go back to the scenes where she's talking with him you can see that Michonne herself is arguing against violence. I'm not saying violence is right, but it's overwhelmingly portrayed as the 'strong male' role here and therefore the woman can only engage in it under the control of some ethereal, omnipresent male. That she's unable to resist his influence even after he's passed on is troubling. Even her revenge on the Governer for raping her is actually her 'boyfriend', so the rape of the woman is more his issue than hers? Andrea I'll give you, I could nitpick (would Dale have been shown happily shacking up with her if she were the elder, physically dependent partner) but that's all it would be.

However, if you examine the portrayal of masculinity in the book it's not actually much more positive. It could be argued that Rick is equally constrained by the hyper-masculine role he takes on. He's the white, straight alpha male, aggressive and decisive, perceived as the natural leader by all the 'lesser' (ethnic minority/old/young/disabled) men as well as the women. And he perceives himself that way. Rick's biggest tragedy is not just that he's actually s**t at leading, but that this role is so ingrained into his and everyone else's minds that nobody (including him) will accept the fact. They follow his inane, off the cuff, moral hypocrisy through death after needless death. They question his leadership, but they vote him onto the leadership council. He is tormented by self-doubt, but is convinced by his own and others' misconceptions. The only time Rick's effective as a leader and sympathetic as a character are the moments when he's engaged in the ostentatiously 'feminine' art of relationship building and nurturing. Given that one of the key themes of the series seems to be that the morally ambiguous, post apocalyptic dystopia they're living in is more the result of the survivors' own behaviour than that of the zombies, you could see the whole thing as a damming indictment of what a world regressed to traditional gender roles would look like.
I thought this was a really great comment and it has made me want to revisit the comic and continue thinking about how these issues operate within it. For more discussion on the topic, check the original post and the rest of the comments.


Meanwhile, over at The Beat, I got involved in a discussion about a different kind of sexism - the one that affects real people in the comics industry, including both creators and fans. The post was about the lack of visible female presence at Mark Millar's Kapow! comics convention, and his response to that criticism, although the discussion that followed got a bit derailed into a semantics-heavy argument about whether or not Millar can be called a sexist because of it (which, frankly, is besides the point).

Anyway, I won't quote anything from that one, but feel free to head over there and read the discussion. There are a few good points being made (and not just by me, haha), and it manages to remain fairly civil, so it's worth a read.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Neonomicon #4 - "I feel good about it."

Neonomicon #4 (Avatar)
"The Lurker Within"
Written by Alan Moore; art by Jacen Burrows.

[In which I attempt to review this comic and fail.]

Let's start with a quote from Alan Moore himself:
It is one of the blackest, most misanthropic pieces that I’ve ever done. I was in a very, very bad mood.
Well, that certainly explains a few things. Although in the end, I'm not sure being in a bad mood, even a "very, very bad mood," justifies this book. I mean, misanthropy is one thing. If you're pissed off at the world and feel like writing a story about how human beings are nothing but vermin that deserve to be wiped out by Cthulhu, I say go for it. What I find a little bit more difficult to swallow is that if you summarize the whole story, leaving out a few details, it goes like this: A woman (who is a former sex addict) gets raped - repeated, brutally, and graphically - by a monster. Miraculously, she survives, escapes, and then says: "I feel good about myself, about all this. (...) For the first time I got no problems with my self-esteem."

(Oh, spoilers, I guess.)

All right, I know people are going to say that was unfair, there's a lot more going on in this, it's Alan Moore, etc! But that doesn't negate the fact that this is pretty much what happens. This is a four-issue mini-series, two issues of which are almost entirely devoted to graphic and horrific depictions of this woman's rape. And in the last couple of pages, she says she feels good about it and that it helped her self-esteem.

Okay, fine, fine. What are some of the other things going on here? Well, she's pregnant with Cthulhu, and there's all this metafictional stuff going on, and there's a big dome over the city, and they talk in a weird language, and they see reality as it really is (basically looks like an acid trip, in case you were wondering), and...

Oh, you know what? I can't be bothered. She says she feels good about it. About being raped. Repeatedly. By a monster. With a giant cock! It helped her self-esteem!

What the fuck is wrong with you, Alan Moore?!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The imminent return of my "Is It Wednesday Yet?" column to its rightful home - right here!

Earlier this month I announced that I was moving my weekly new release column, Is It Wednesday Yet?, to a brand new collaborative comics blog called Tastes Like Comics. Well, it was good while it lasted, but after some, uh, editorial differences, I've decided to move it back here. No hard feelings (I hope).

So starting next week, I'm going to be posting the column every Tuesday morning. I'm going to keep the slightly altered format I was using at the other site, though, which focuses more on new series or easy jumping-on points than my own pull list.

You can read this week's column here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comic Book Carnage 005: Xombi and Venom!

It's time for another edition of Comic Book Carnage, in which Mike (from It's a Bit of a Shame) and I geek out over a couple of books for your entertainment and enlightenment. 

Yan: What are we reviewing?

Mike: Xombi and Venom.

Yan: Okay, good. 'Cause the less said about Batman Inc., the better, probably.

Mike: Such a shame about that book.

Written by John Rozum; art by Frazer Irving.

Yan: I thought this was fantastic! It's an instant hit for me. I guess I should mention that I did not read the original series, since I wasn't reading comics in the 1990s. But jumping in with this #1 issue was not a problem. I'd read a few things about the character before reading the issue, so I knew what his deal was, and it was mentioned briefly in the book, just to confirm his back story but without dwelling on it. I also got a real sense of the character's personality and was immediately drawn to him. Credit for that goes to John Rozum's script and Frazer Irving's art, both of which are great. Being familiar with Irving's art, I expected as much, so the real revelation for me was how clever and funny Rozum's writing was.

Mike: I agree. Xombi was a surprise for me. I only picked up the book for Irving's artwork, but yeah, Rozum's writing was equally enjoyable. If I had to describe the feel of Xombi, I would say it reminded me significantly of Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol. There's all these bizarre, vaguely disturbing details getting tossed around, but it's never in danger of being too weird, due to its strong cast.

Yan: Yeah, I haven't read Morrison's Doom Patrol, but that sounds like a fair comparison. Although I think this is better than Morrison's more recent output. I like that Rozum doesn't dwell on explanations or overexposition, but at the same time the story never feels confusing. There are a lot of ideas introduced in 20 pages, and most of them are not fully unexplained, but reading it, I wasn't lost or frustrated.

And some of it is very cleverly handled, like the thing with the coins. When Julian grabs the change from his pocket at the beginning and the faces on the coins are talking to him, you assume it's just another crazy unexplained phenomenon, but then several pages later, when David Kim asks "What's with all the coins" and one of the sisters says they were Julian's idea, that's all it takes. You make the connection and fill in the blanks.

Also, I think one of the biggest surprises for me was just how funny this was. Because of the art and subject matter, I was expecting a really dark and serious tone. But there were several welcome laugh-out-loud moments, from the tuna sandwich in the opening sequence to the explanation of how "Nun the Less" got her powers, which would've been hilarious by itself, but was made even better by David Kim's subtle wordless reaction.

Despite how little I knew of the series going in, by the time I was finished with this first issue I felt like I really needed to track down the original series.

Now, I do have one complaint that really isn't the fault of the book at all. It's just that as I was reading this I kept thinking, "This is really good, but it's totally going to get canceled."

Yan: Aw, don't say that, man! I mean, you're probably right, and it's depressing as hell. But I really hope that Frazer Irving's still riding the wave of popularity from those Batman and Robin issues and that this is going to encourage people to pick this up. I've seen it discussed on a few message boards and the responses are overwhelmingly positive. But... it doesn't star any Bat character, so nobody's really going to be paying attention. In a way, I kind of wish this was on Vertigo. Maybe it would have a better chance of finding an audience there.

It says a lot about today's market that a book can't survive based solely on being good.

Yan: Yeah, it's really sad. I'd like to think that as long as Irving stays on the book, it has a good chance of finding an audience. But maybe I'm overestimating his popularity. Besides, the question is how much of a commitment has he made to it, and would the book be as good if he left after a few issues. But, whatever, for now, this is about as great as comics can get for me, so I'm supporting it and I hope others do as well. We'll see what happens.

Mike: Yeah, I agree. Irving may be the only reason people will read this book, but considering how often his projects get delayed I'm assuming he's not the fastest artist in the world, so there's a chance he's only doing the first few of issues. Again, real shame this book doesn't stand a chance, as this is probably the best first issue I've read all year.

Yan: I'd like to think it does stand a chance. Let's not be too defeatist. At the very least, we can enjoy it while it lasts. I mean, I don't want the main thing people take away from this review to be: "Great book doomed to failure." So let's end on a positive note. In case it wasn't already clear, I'm rating this one AWESOME. So everyone reading this: Go buy this now.

Mike: I will also give this the coveted rating of AWESOME, because it is the only book you will read this year to feature a shrinking nun.

Yan: Called Nun the Less!!!

Mike: Ha, yes, so brilliant!

VENOM #1 (Marvel)
Written by Rick Remender; art by Tony Moore, Danny Miki and others.

Mike: I tell everyone that I picked up Venom because of the creative team of Rick Remender and Tony Moore, but I actually picked it up because I'm secretly a huge fan of Venom, the character.

Yan: I like Venom, although Spider-Man 3 almost ruined the character forever.

Mike: Thankfully this book is free of any jazz club scenes.

But anyway, this really isn't a Venom book. He's there and all, but this is definitely Flash Thompson's book. At the beginning of the story, Flash really isn't the most intriguing of main characters. Like, there's that scene where he's talking about how much he loves his country and it's just the most cliché representation of a soldier. However, Remender sold me on the character as soon as he's out of the costume. The scene with him in his wheelchair debating whether or not he should go to a bar or an AA meeting at church, only to discover that the bar has a wheelchair ramp and not the church, is genius. It makes all the heroic posturing from earlier in the story seem pathetic when compared to how the rest of his life is.

Yan: Yeah, I had a pretty similar reaction while reading it. The patriotic internal monologue at the beginning was a bit of a turn-off for me, although I'm used to a lot of that in comics, so I can tune it out fairly easily. The character became interesting at the end of the book, but even earlier than the scene you mention. The discussion with his boss (or whatever) near the end really causes you to reinterpret everything that's happened up to that point. You realize that what seemed like a messed-up but not disastrous mission was actually more complicated than that.

I wasn't too thrilled when his girlfriend accuses him of secretly drinking, because it seems a bit weird that he wouldn't have a better excuse for his absences. I mean, I realize he's part of a top-secret military project, but she knows he's in the military so it shouldn't be too hard to just say: "I was on a top-secret mission." I don't understand why he has to make up some lame excuse. But then the last scene was pretty moving, yes.

Mike: I guess the mission was so top-secret he couldn't even acknowledge it existed. Or something.

Yan: I just think people who have military in their family should be used to that sort of thing. Then again I don't really know their history that well.

Mike: Yeah, she just sort of shows up to play the role of irrational, bitchy girlfriend, and that's about it.

Yan: And that's part of why I have a problem with it. She's not much of a character at all. She's just there to create additional problems for the (male) main character. And considering there are barely any other females in the book, I find that kind of irritating. I mean, there's Katherine, but so far there's not much to go on with her character either, though at least there's a bit of potential for her to get more interesting.

Mike: Okay, so the writing had some rough spots, but I think we can agree that Tony Moore does an amazing job on this book.

Yan: Well... Yes and no. I mean, yes, he draws the shit out of this book. But I don't know if it's the inking or what, but I feel like something doesn't do his pencils justice. It may just be a personal preference. I like really clean lines, and this all looks a bit muddy. But it's not just a stylistic thing. Some of it almost looks blurry.

I suppose having three different inkers on this issue didn't help matters.

Yan: Yeah. I feel like I don't have the expertise to really say what exactly is wrong, but I don't like the look of this book at all, even though I think Tony Moore is an amazing artist. His faces are expressive, the action is dynamic, the backgrounds are detailed - all of that is great. But the end result is so cluttered and drab. Some of it is the colouring, too. That combination of deep yellow-oranges and mouldy grey-greens doesn't do anything for me.

Mike: I just flipped through my copy to see what you were talking about, and yeah, there's this weird blurring effect throughout the issue that really muddies the details.

Yan: It almost looks like a bad printing job to me. Like the whole thing is printed from a low-resolution jpeg. I see a lot of that in otherwise very professional-looking comics and I really hate it.

Mike: Yeah, not the kind of thing that should be said about a $3.99 book.

Yan: So, this is a bit of a tough sell for me. I think the creative team of Remender/Moore is a strong one, but I didn't love this. The military setting, while an interesting take on the Venom concept, doesn't appeal to me that much, and there were enough things wrong with the look of the book that I have to think twice before adding this to my already massive pull list. I think I'm going to drop this. But I still think it's GOOD. Just not right for me. If I had an unlimited budget, I would probably keep reading.

Mike: I'm going to keep reading this, just because I'm not reading enough Marvel. But I also like this book for being a unique take on typically one-dimensional character (Venom, not Flash Thompson). But I agree with the complaints about the writing, and now that I've taken note of them, the problems with the art too. So I'd rate this book as GOOD.

Morning links

Over the last couple of weeks, I fell behind on my RSS feeds and yesterday realized that I had over 9000 over 1000 unread items in Google Reader. I knew that trying to catch up on all the blogs I normally follow would be an agonizing and fruitless effort, so I took a deep breath and hit "Mark all as read." Blank slate. Fresh start.

So this morning I actually had a manageable number of new posts to read and enjoyed going through them leisurely while drinking my morning coffee. And it seemed like the perfect time to start a regular linkblogging feature on Irrelevant Comics. Here we go.

  • Savage Critics: Abhay interviews Mark Sable about the first five issues of Secret Avengers. Which starts with: "So, Mark Sable, speaking on behalf of all comic creators, everywhere, ever: what’s with you people and the fucking assassination teams?" This is a long and fascinating discussion, which ends up being less about just one particular comic and more about the current state of Marvel comics. 
  • Robot 6: DC and Marvel editors are still arguing over whether or not Marvel "lied" about dropping prices when they were conveniently "misquoted", just hours after DC announced they were going to hold the line at $2.99, that they were more or less doing the same thing. (Then, as Bleeding Cool points out, CB Cebulski  tweets about a certain unnamed editor who "further cements his reputation and legacy as 'The Worst Editor in Comics'" with his "idiotic antics and ignorant statements at C2E2." Gee, I wonder who he's talking about!) The thing is, though, Marvel did blatantly lie about cutting down prices, and the only thing that came out of that promise was their nonsensical "point one initiative," which comes off more as a way to sucker current readers into buying an extra issue than an affordable "jumping-on point" for new readers. But I wish DC editors would just let it go and not fall into this petty back-and-forth. It's like when Mom and Dad are fighting. The only people enjoying it are the gossip columnists. 
  • DC Women Kicking Ass comments on Dean Trippe's pitch to DC for a Lois Lane young adult series. According to Trippe (whose post about it you can read here), DC is not interested. I share Sue's perplexed reaction: "DC and Warner Bros. know their business much better than I, but when I see pitches like this and Ben Caldwell's passed over, I wonder whether that business really does think about getting young girls into comics. [...] Expanding readership into new demographics with beloved characters in new mediums. You'd think that would be a mandate when [your] business is shrinking. You'd think."
  • Bleeding Cool: This one's older, but worth commenting on. Comics creators, fans and bloggers all over the internet are outraged that "Chip Kidd hates the All Star Superman cover." How dare he! To be honest, I think the reactions are a bit silly. Kidd is looking at it from a designer's point of view - not from a fan's point of view. Sure, I disagree with him when it comes to Frank Quitely's gorgeous cover art, but I can also see how it clashes with the design he had in mind for the series. The only really offensive part of that video is hearing the ignorant audience laugh when Quitely's art appears on the screen. These are not comic book fans and they apparently fail to grasp what Quitely and Morrison were going for with this unique interpretation of the character. But whatever. Get over it people. Who cares what Chip Kidd thinks of Frank Quitely's art?
Check back this evening for Comic Book Carnage!

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    We're back!

    And by "we" I mean "I."

    The music project that's been keeping me busy (and away from this blog) is now complete! If you're curious about my other, non-comics-related endeavours, you can check it out here. It's a 20-minute digital release, which you can listen to online for free, or purchase for a mere CAN$4.

    And now that that's done, you can expect some regular updates from me again. Starting with a new edition of Comic Book Carnage, which I just need to edit and will probably post sometime tomorrow. This time, Mike and I are reviewing the first issues of Xombi and Venom. 

    I hope you didn't miss me too much, dear imaginary readers who probably don't even exist.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    On the lack of updates

    I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I've been rather busy with a music project that unexpectedly blossomed out of nowhere last week. Spent all weekend recording. I'll probably be focusing on that for another week or two, but I'll try to post a few quick reviews from time to time. Regular daily blogging should resume next month at the latest.

    Meanwhile, feel free to check out Tastes Like Comics, where my Is It Wednesday? column now appears every Tuesday morning.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Five Images (x2) from my new favourite fan artist

    I don't know her real name, but you can find her here on Deviant Art or here on Tumblr. According to her Deviant Art info, she is 20 years old and from Germany. I think she draws the cutest Damian ever! Below are a few of my favourites.

    Colin and Damian

    Robin (Damian) and Barbara

    Robin (Damian) and Batgirl (Stephanie)

    Robin (Damian) and Supergirl

    Robin (Dick Grayson)

    Kid Flash (Wally), Robin (Dick) and Aqualad

    Wonder Girl and Robin (Dick)

    Katara (from Avatar: The Last Airbender)

    Klarion the Witch Boy

    Wiccan (from Young Avengers)

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Tastes Like Comics

    I have joined the team of contributors at the brand new comics news and review outlet, Tastes Like Comics.

    While I will continue to make efforts to update this blog, Irrelevant Comics, as close to daily as possible, I've decided to move my weekly column, "Is It Wednesday Yet?" to the new site (with a slightly new format), where it will be published every Tuesday and hopefully reach a wider audience. I'm also going to start a new weekly column, "Beyond the Big Two," which will consist of reviews of books not published by Marvel or DC (although I may throw in some Vertigo in there once in a while). This column will appear near the end of the week, probably on Fridays. I may also post other non-regular articles from time to time.

    You should bookmark it, or add the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    One-paragraph reviews: Axe Cop, Sweet Tooth, Astonishing Thor, Captain America and the Falcon

    Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #1
    Written by Malachai Nicolle; art by Ethan Nicolle; Dark Horse

    The story here is pretty much what you might expect from a comic written by a six-year-old: the plot is disjointed, occasionally surreal, every character is either a "bad guy" or a "good guy," and there are lots of dinosaurs involved. All of which is both part of this book's appeal, but also part of its limitation. The randomness of the ideas doesn't bother me at all, and it's always a pleasure to witness the unrestrained imagination that could only come from a child's mind. I do wish, however, that Ethan wouldn't feel the need to stick to his six-year-old brother's narration style. Often, it feels like the captions are basically telling the story, and the drawings merely illustrate the information that has already been conveyed in words. For example, the caption says: "Axe Cop then pushed the rocket button," and the panel shows a close-up of Axe Cop pushing a big butter with a rocket on it. This kind of redundancy between words and images is usually considered a sign of a bad comic book, but here I guess we're supposed to forgive it because it adds to the six-year-old narrative voice which is part of the book's gimmick. It doesn't quite work for me. Not only is it a little bit condescending to the reader ("I'm telling you what happens and I'm showing you at the same time, just to make sure you understand..."), but it also does the writer a disservice. It's not necessary to draw attention to the fact that it's a kid writing the book. We already know and accept this, because it's mentioned right at the top of the cover above the title. I think the book would benefit from having less narration and from letting the images tell the story. Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable book. Some of the scenes are very funny, the art is always fantastic, and the colours (by Dirk Erik Schulz) are absolutely gorgeous.


    Sweet Tooth #19
    Written and drawn by Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Emi Lenox and Matt Kindt; Vertigo

    This is a special issue of Sweet Tooth (but then again, they're all special, aren't they?) featuring short stories from three guest writers/artists. Jeff Lemire handles the framing narrative and allows each guest to tell a flashback or mini-origin story for one of of the supporting characters. It's handled quite nicely, giving us a lot of new insight into the characters, while also setting up the stage for the next big story arc. The different styles used by all the artist work well together, since they all represent a different point of view. Of the three guest artists, I was only familiar with Matt Kindt's work, but all three of them are quite good. Emi Lenox was the one who surprised me the most, as based on what little I'd seen of her work online, I wasn't sure how well her more "cartoony" style would mesh with Lemire's bleak post-apocalyptic world. But it was perfect for her short story. Her layouts were great and Jose Villarubia's vibrant colours really helped to establish the tone of that section as well. Another excellent issue.


    Astonishing Thor #3
    Written by Robert Rodi; art by Mike Choi; Marvel

    For whatever reason, I'm not really into this book as much as I was when it started. The art in the first couple of issues really impressed me, but now I'm growing weary of it. And the story... I don't know. It's just not doing much for me. I'm sorry, this is the lamest review I've ever written. I can't pinpoint anything wrong with this book. I'm just kind of indifferent toward it. In any case, there's only one issue left, so I'll stick with it. I am kind of curious to find out what happens when these two living planets finally meet each other.


    Captain America and the Falcon (one-shot)
    Written by Rob Williams; art by Rebekah Isaacs; Marvel

    This is one of those stories about a character returning to his roots (i.e., poor neighbourhood), which he'd previously turned his back on and lost touch with. The character then realizes that this is still an important part of who he is and that he should do everything he can to help the people he left behind. In this case, that character is Falcon. To be honest, that's not terribly original or even very interesting. Maybe it would be if this was the start of an ongoing series which would then explore that further. I would read a story about Falcon protecting and helping the people of his old neighbourhood, while also dealing with "bigger" or "more important" missions with the Avengers or Captain America. Especially if Rebekah Isaacs was the regular artist on it, because she's fantastic. But as a one-shot, I can't help but wonder what's the point? Not because this is a bad comic, but because I feel like it's not going to go anywhere. This whole idea of Falcon returning to his roots is just going to be abandoned, unless someone is working on an ongoing title for him in the near future. Which doesn't seem all that likely to happen. Then again... there's a "Fear Itself" logo on the cover of this book, so maybe this is setting up something that's going to tie into that event.


    Five Images

    Batgirl and Robin by Mahmud Asrar

    Captain America redesign by Guillaume Singelin

    Jon Haamm as Superman by Phil Noto (who has a new blog)

    Plastic Man by Mitch Gerads

    Space Ghost by Charles Holbert Jr.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Rise of Arsenal celebrated for its "accurate depiction of substance abuse"

    Bleeding Cool reports that Justice League: Rise of Arsenal is being nominated for a Prism Award, which celebrate "outstanding accomplishments in the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental health disorders." This has to be a joke, right?

    I wonder if anyone on the jury has even read the comic. I fail to see what aspect of they they found accurate. Is it because a formerly heroin-addicted super-hero relapses after being violently dismembered and learning of his daughter's death? Yes, I supposed real-life addicts do sometimes relapse during hard times, although it usually doesn't involved dismemberment. Maybe if this was all there was to it, I could this as a somewhat "accurate" depiction of substance abuse.

    But as we all know, there's a lot more going on in this comic. Like when, overcome with grief, Roy tries to have violent sex with his ex-girlfriend, only to find that he's unable to "get it up." Or when smoking heroin magically causes him to hallucinate (which is not a known side effect of heroin), then mistake the corpse of a dead cat for his daughter.

    To sum it up crassly, the story goes like this: "Tragedy causes former addict to not only relapse into drug abuse, but also completely abandon his ethical code and turn into super-villain." I'm sure readers who have dealt with substance abuse felt empowered by that!

    This is the first year that the Prism Awards have a category for comics. I wonder how much research went into it. Do they realize that this book has been nearly universally hated by fans, bloggers, reviewers and industry commentators. I lost count of how many times I heard it described as one of the worst comics of the year, if not of all time. (Comics Alliance placed it at #2 on its list of the 5 Worst Comics of 2010.) It was endlessly talked about at conventions and on message boards as a so-bad-you-must-read-it-to-believe-it phenomenon, which probably accounts for a large percentage of the sales. It spawned numerous jokes and internet memes, mostly because of the dead cat. In fact, the mockery of the dead cat was so widespread that it even turned up in other DC comics, like in this issue of Supergirl, where Bizarro Arsenal can be spotted with a quiver full of dead cats!

    People sometimes criticize the GLAAD nominations for lacking originality or refusing to take risks and sticking to popular mainstream comics instead of recognizing more subtle or challenging works that would benefit from the added exposure. But at least they don't usually nominate works that are so laughably bad they actually do the exact opposite of what the awards are supposed to celebrate.

    It just blows my mind that Prism would choose to honour this comic book with an award nomination. They're not only adding insult to injury, but are actually hurting their own credibility. How can anybody take this award seriously with this comic among the nominations?

    Read in February 2011

    Here's the list of every comic I read this month:

    • Superboy #4 (DC)
    • Sweet Tooth #18 (Vertigo)
    • Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #2 (Dark Horse)
    • Dr. Strange (one-shot) (Marvel)
    • Anu-Anulan and Yir's Daughter (web)
    • Batgirl #18 (DC)
    • Red Robin #20 (DC)
    • Birds of Prey #9 (DC)
    • Batman and Robin #20 (DC)
    • Magus #2 (12-Gauge)
    • Lucille (graphic novel) (Top Shelf)
    • Starborn #3 (Boom!)
    • Flash #9 (DC)
    • Supergirl #61 (DC)
    • Wolverine and Jubilee #2 (Marvel)
    • Legion of Super-Heroes #10 (DC)
    • Silver Surfer #1 (Marvel)
    • Adventure Comics #523 (DC)
    • Soldier Zero #2-5 (Boom!)
    • Starman Omnibus vol. 1 (DC)
    • The Feast (Top Shelf 2.0)
    • Teen Titans #92 (DC)
    • Action Comics #898 (DC)
    • Detective Comics # 874 (DC)
    • Secret Avengers #10 (Marvel)
    • Abyss: Family Issues #1 (Red 5)
    • Thor #620 (Marvel)
    • American Vampire #12 (Vertigo)
    • Northlanders #37 (Vertigo)

    Top 5 of the month

    1. Lucille - A wonderful graphic novel by Ludovic Debeurme, translated from French, and soon to be released by Top Shelf. I'll post a full review soon.

    2. Starman Omnibus vol. 1 - Yeah, these comics are over 15 years old, but I'm just getting around to reading them now. I really enjoyed the first volume and I'm looking forward to the rest of it.

    3. Sweet Tooth #18 - Always great.

    4. Wolverine and Jubilee #2 - I just can't get over how pretty that art is.

    5. Tie: The Feast / Anu-Anula and Yir's Daughter - Two short stories I read online.

    Stinker of the month: Abyss: Family Issues #1

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