Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

I'm a terribly lazy blogger these days. 

Here's what's on my pull list this week. I've conveniently arranged it in decreasing order of enthusiasm:

  • Action Comics #900 (DC)
  • Detective Comics #876 (DC)
  • Xombi #2 (DC)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #659 (Marvel)
  • American Vampire #14 (Vertigo)
  • Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2 (IDW)
  • FF #2 (Marvel)
  • Flash #11 (DC)
  • Batman Incorporated #5 (DC)
That Action Comics is at the top of this list is no surprise, since I've been looking forward to this anniversary issue for months. Not only is it a special oversized issue loaded with goodies, but it also contains the conclusion of Paul Cornell's excellent Lex Luthor story AND the return of Superman!!

Detective Comics is on a roll, so I'm really excited about that as well. Jock returns to art this month.

The first issue of Xombi was a big surprise hit for me, so that's another title I've been looking forward to. Read this interview with Rozum.

Note that Batman Inc sank to the bottom of my list. I'm SO CLOSE to dropping that one. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Wolverine and Jubilee, Supergirl, Teen Titans, Silver Surfer

Wolverine and Jubilee #4
Written by Kathryn Immonen; art by Phil Noto; Marvel.

I'm really sad that this is over. I would have kept buying it if it was an ongoing instead of a limited series. What originally attracted me to it was Phil Noto's amazing artwork, but I think I might even keep reading if another artist took over (depending on who it was, of course), just because I'm enjoying the dynamic between these two characters so much. Kathryn Immonen's writing is really good and I like her sense of humour, so I'll keep an eye out for her other work from now on. The story here got really crazy in the third issue, but it comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion in this one. when the series started, I almost expected it to end with some kind of permanent cure for Jubilee's vampirism, but I guess it's no surprise that Marvel would want to keep this status quo for a bit longer. I don't know how much I like it, but Immonen certainly found a way to make it interesting, proving that in the right hands even fairly idiotic editorial mandates can be turned into good stories. It'll be interesting to see what else Marvel has in store for this character.

EXCELLENT (writing and art)


Supergirl #63
"Good-Looking Corpse part 4"
Written by James Peaty; art by Bernard Chang; DC.

I have almost no recollection of what happened in the previous issue and I think it's because I fell asleep while reading it. Not because it was so mind-numbingly boring that it put me to sleep or anything. I was just really tired. Sometimes it happens. Anyway, I guess I should have gone back and re-read it before reading this issue, but somehow it didn't seem worth the trouble to dig it out of my shortbox. Bernard Chang's art is pretty good. The story is all right, though I have a hard time figuring out how it all fits together - the iPhone app, the mind-control, the genetically engineered DNAlien, the robots, the energy shield holding Supergirl prisoner. I have no idea what this villain's plan is, but I guess that'll be explained in the next issue, which concludes this story arc. My favourite part of the issue was probably Damian resisting the mind-control longer than Blue Beetle or Miss Martian (though that made some fans grumble), until the bad guy uses his worst fear against him, which ends up being a vision of him siding with his mother and defeating the entire Bat family. I guess this kind of characterization of Damian is not too original, as we've seen those same themes explored in lots of other books, but it's nice to see this version of him gaining popularity in the DCU, as opposed to the kind of superficial and off-key characterization we've seen in Teen Titans, for example.

OKAY (writing) / GOOD (art)


Teen Titans #94
"The Power of Myth"
Written by J.T. Krul; art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood; DC.

Speaking of Teen Titans, I'm enjoying this title a lot more now that out-of-character Damian is out of it, though I'm still kind of bitter about the way he was basically just used to set up the return of Tim Drake to the team. This is a bit of a tangant, but I'm sick of Tim Drake. Fabian Nicieza ruined the character for me and now I just kind of want him out of this book, too. Anyway, the story here is nothing mindblowing, but it's all right, and Krul seems to be doing okay with the characters. There are a few things that are probably going to ultimately determine whether this is a hit or a miss for me. One of them is what happens with Cassie. Since she and Superboy broke up, she's given up leadership of the team (a role Tim of course took over, *groan*) and seems to be a bit off her game. I hope this is only temporary. I don't really care if she gets back with Superboy, as I find this kind of romance pretty boring in comics, but I just don't want her character to be damaged by this heartbreak. Second, I'm anxiously waiting to see what Krul does with his new character, Solstice. I hope she will join the team as a permanant member, as she brings a much needed element of diversity to the team, but I'm a little nervous about the effect she's having on Raven and where that's going. This story concludes in #97, and the solicitatin for #98 gives no clue as to whether Solstice will still be in the book or not. Which of course could just mean that DC is actively trying to avoid spoilers. Speaking of solicits, there's a different artist listed for #98, and I'm hoping it's just a temporary fill-in. Nicola Scott is absolutely killing it on this book, and I'm not sure I would bother to keep buying it with someone else doing the art.

OKAY (writing) / EXCELLENT (art)


Silver Surfer #3
Written by Greg Pak; art by Harvey Tolibao, Iban Coello and Sandu Florea; Marvel.

The art team on this series is all over the place. In just three issues, we've had 3 different pencillers (with multiple pencillers on two issues) and 4 inkers. It's hard to judge exactly who is responsible for what, but I'm just going to say that overall I'm not a fan of any of the art in this series. Which is really too bad, because I am really loving the story. I thought Greg Pak did an amazing job in the first issue, both in terms of capturing the Silver Surfer's melodramatic internal monologues and ending on a really dramatic moment with him getting depowered. Since then, he's brought something new to the table with every issue. #2 focused on Norrid Radd getting reaccustomed to his physical (and vulnerable) body and all the strange sensations he'd been deprived of as the Silver Surfer. This issue deals with the understanding of the "balance of the universe" that came with the Power Cosmic and the moral responsibility that came with having to decide which worlds to feed Galactus. The High Evolutionary has hacked into Galactus's Star Sphere and is using it to create life instead of destroying it, but in doing so he's upsetting not just the Earth's ecosystem, but "the balance of the universe." (I've noticed this "balance of the universe" thing comes up a lot in comic books and I'm not really sure it makes any sense. But I'll save that for another rant.) Anyway, I'm probably not doing it justice with my brief synopsis, but it's good stuff and it ends with a nice twist that really makes me look forward to the next issue.

VERY GOOD (writing) / POOR (art)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Freaking out about The Comics Journal archives!

If you pay any attention to the comics blogosphere, you probably know that there's been a recent shake-up at The Comics Journal's website, and it goes way beyond a mere cosmetic facelift. New editorial team and format, regular updates from a wealth of contributors, a totally rad new Cartoonist's Diary by Pascal Girard, and lots of good reading material.

But what I'm most excited about are the archived back issues of the print journal, going as far back as 1970s when it was launched. These are getting scanned and uploaded gradually and are currently available to read for free on the website. It's an amazing resource for anyone who's interested about the history of comics and of comics criticism/journalism, something that you could spends weeks or months exploring.

The only catch is that they will only be available for a limited time unless you get a subscription to the print journal. Any moment, now, these will get locked behind a pay wall.

It's tempting to go nuts and try to devour as much as possible while the archives are freely available, but it's completely overwhelming. I look at it and I don't know where to start. It's kind of giving me a panic attack.

I'm sure the current journal, which has now been reformatted as an annual book-sized publication, is worth reading, so I'm considering buying a subscription. But on the other hand, I can't even keep up with all the comics-related writing that gets posted on blogs for free every week, so I don't know how much sense it makes for me to start buying large books filled with more writing about comics. I spend much more time reading about comics that I spend reading comics or writing about them myself, and I feel like this is a bit of a problem. I should be reading the comics themselves and developing my own ideas about them and maybe even working toward creating some comics myself, or at least having some kind of intelligent, critical discourse with them. The more time I spend absorbing what others have to say about comics, the less confident I become about my own ability to find my own voice and contribute to the discussion. On the other hand, I always feel like I'm at a disadvantage because I'm fairly new to comics and I have much to learn about the history of the medium and of the discourse surrounding it.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

I'm a little bit late with my weekly preview post, so I'm just going to post my pull list instead:

  • Dark Horse Presents #1 (DH)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #12 (DC)
  • Supergirl #63 (DC)
  • Teen Titans #94 (DC)
  • Super Dinosaur #1 (Image)
  • Silver Surfer #3 (Marvel)
  • Wolverine and Jubilee #4 (Marvel)
 Dark Horse Presents is definitely the pick of the week. I'm also stoked (though a little bit sad) about the last issue of Wolverine and Jubilee. Super Dinosaur looks like a lot of fun.

One-paragraph reviews

Amazing Spider-Man #658
Written by Dan Slott; art by Javier Pulido; Marvel.

This issue’s mostly about Spidey joining the Fantastic Four, who are now called the Future Foundation and have stylish new black-and-white uniforms. I’m really enjoying Dan Slott’s writing on this series. He finds the perfect balance between Spider-Man’s adventures and Peter Parker’s personal life. He also keeps the tone light and fun. I don’t even mind that they keep changing artist after a few issues, because that seems inevitable on a book that comes out twice a month. I’d much rather have rotating but strong art teams than rushed fill-ins from mediocre hacks brought in at the last minute to meet deadlines. I could do without the back-up stories, but whatever.



Batgirl #20
Written by Bryan Q. Miller; art by Ramon Bachs; DC.

This two-part mini-arc within the larger “Lesson” arc wasn’t that interesting to me, but this remains a solid title. Miller’s scripts are always punchy and often laugh-out-loud funny. The solicits for the last issue, this one and the next all list Dustin Nguyen as the penciller, but he wasn’t on the last two issues and I’m assuming won’t be on the next. Ramon Bachs is all right, but because he’s filling in for Nguyen, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Creative teams listed in DC’s solicits seem to be completely unreliable these days. Really makes you wonder what the hell the editors are up to that they can’t get any commitment from their artists or writers.



Birds of Prey #11
Written by Gail Simone; art by Pere Perez; DC.

Speaking of inconsistent art, Birds of Prey is the ultimate example of how to fuck this up completely. If DC had tried to sabotage this book and ensure that it fails, they couldn’t have done a better job. In this issue, we get a long overdue break from the terrible art that has plagued the title for the past few months, and it’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s just astonishing how much better Gail Simone’s scripts flow when they are serviced by a competent artist, which Pere Perez definitely is. (And, by the way, he seems to be moving to Batgirl in a few issues. But then again, why even bother checking the solicits?) This is a done-in-one story focusing on Huntress and guest starring Catman (from Secret Six).



Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish (one-shot)
Written by Mike Mignola; art by Kevin Nowlan; Dark Horse.

There’s no colourist mentioned in the credits, so I’m guessing that means Nowlan is doing his own colours, and that, more than the art style itself, is what gives this book a different feel from most of the other Hellboy stories I’ve read, which usually featured Dave Stewart’s colours. Stewart is amazing, but this is nice, too. More vibrant, and very appropriate for the semi-sci-fi feel of this one-shot. I kind of wish I hadn’t read the solicits for this story (and if you haven’t, maybe you should skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid spoilers), because it starts out misleadingly as a Satanist thing but turns into an alien abduction thing, which is a nice twist.



Superboy #6
Written by Jeff Lemire; art by Marco Rudy; DC.

This fucking sucks. It should be a rule that new series have to reach issue #12 (one full year) before they get involved in any editorially mandated crossover. Aside from the nice art by guest artist Marco Rudy, this issue has absolutely zero redeeming value. If you’re following the story that Jeff Lemire is carefully crafting since issue #1, this is nothing but an interruption. If you’re following the “Reign of Doomsday” crossover, then all you’re getting here is the exact same thing you already saw in the Steel one-shot that launched this idiotic mini-event, except this time it’s Superboy getting beat up and noticing that Doomsday seems to have new powers. This is the very definition of pointless.



The Flash #10
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Francis Manapul; DC.

And here’s another book by DC that couldn’t go a year before getting disrupted by a crossover event. In this case, at least, it’s clear that it was planned this way from the start. But I can’t help but feel that this book went in exactly the opposite direction that I was hoping it would go. Wouldn’t it have been nice to get a good two years of straightforward Flash adventures set in Keystone City, with beautiful art by Francis Manapul, focussing on establishing characters, balancing Barry Allen’s private and professional life with his super-hero stories (similar to what we’re getting in Amazing Spider-Man) and featuring occasional guest appearance by the other speedsters in the DCU? The police procedural feel that was established in the first arc seemed ripe with potential for storytelling. This could have been something unique. But instead, it quickly turned into an extended prologue for the next big event, Flashpoint, until this current story arc, which is basically all set-up and no story. And I intend to read some of Flashpoint, so this is interesting and I’m still onboard. But a year ago when I bought the first issue, I was really hoping for a different kind of book. A kind of book that, perhaps, is no longer even possible, because of the way DC (and Marvel) market their books.



Journey into Mystery #622
Written by Kieron Gillen; art by Dougie Braithwaite; Marvel.

I was kind of annoyed with Matt Fraction’s decompressed arc on Thor. The art was amazing, but the story turned out to be pretty empty and basically just killing time before Fear Itself. So when the series changed its title to Journey into Mystery and Kieron Gillen took over, I was ready to drop it. However, I think young Loki is cute, so when I realized he’d be starring in this book, I decided to give it a shot. Turns out it’s much better than I expected it to be. Loki’s conversation with his older, former self at the end of the issue is a bit confusing to me, in part because I’m not very familiar with everything that happened in Siege. But I like the idea that this reincarnation is all somehow part of Loki’s plan to fuck things up by being unpredictable, and it makes the new, younger Loki a really fascinating and complicated character. I’m sold. (Nice art, too.)



Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #5
Written by Allan Heinberg; art by Jim Cheung, Mark Morales and others; Marvel.

I’ll be honest. I don’t have the slightest clue what the hell is going on in this book. No idea whatsoever. None of it really makes any sense to me and the only reason I keep buying it is that I’m hoping at some point we’ll see Billy and Teddy making out. Seriously, they better fucking kiss on panel in the last issue, or I will be pissed.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

New comics this week!

(Note: the following are previews, not reviews. Unless stated otherwise, I haven't read these books. Recommendations are based on preview pages, solicitations and hype.)

Pick of the Week: Infinite Vacation #2 (Image)
I usually try to go with a new series or new-reader friendly jumping-on point as a pick of the wick, but there's just not a lot that excites me in that department this week. Infinite Vacation is Nick Spencer's weird story about an iPhone app that allows you to tap into alternate realities and trade situations with other versions of yourself. The mechanics of how this works are not clear and possibly make no sense if you think about them too much, but that's besides the point. It's like a Philip K. Dick thought experiment. The first issue was pretty cool and featured some really trippy art by Christian Ward. This is going to be a five-issue limited-series.


Birds of Prey #11 (DC)
This issue is a done-in-one story about Huntress going on a date with Catman and features art by guest artist Pere Perez. The solicitation text, which I'm assuming Gail Simone wrote, is actually hilarious: "...but can two hot-headed, red-blooded hunter-warriors on opposite sides of the law have a simple night out without trying to kill each other? Hint: No. No, they can't."

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish (Dark Horse)
A little done-in-one featuring mutated livestock, evil aliens and giant robots. Written by Mike Mignola, drawn by Kevin Nowlan.

Journey Into Mystery #622 (Marvel)
Matt Fraction's short run on Thor was basically filler to kill time before Fear Itself kicked in. Now that it has, Fraction's off the book, along with artist Pasqual Ferry, replaced by Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite, and it gets retitled "Journey Into Mystery." Fraction moves to a new Thor title that launches sometime this month also. To be honest, I've sort of lost interest. I'm gonna sit this one out.

Breakneck #1 (or 3) (215 Ink)
Buck #1 (215 Ink)

I don't know much about publisher 215 Ink, and it seems like the comic book store I go to rarely orders any of their titles. But a little while ago they put out a graphic novel called Brian and Bobbi that I thought looked pretty good. This week, they've got two new titles coming out. I think Buck is a one-shot. I can't vouch for the quality of any of these, but my interest is piqued. The 215 Ink website is here. You'll find a bit more info there, although the previews are unfortunately tiny and useless.

Butch Baker: The Righteous Maker #2 (Image)
Carbon Grey #2 (Image)

These two #2 issues are worth noting because they'll be shipping with reprints of the first issue, so it's still very easy to start reading without missing anything. I read and really enjoyed the first issue of Butch Baker. Carbon Grey I don't know anything about, but you can find more info and previews for both here.

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier Annual #1 (Marvel)
I have no idea what's going on in this title. There's a weird preview here.

Thor: Whosoever Wields This Hammer (one-shot) (Marvel)
This features reprints of Thor's early adventures with a new "framing sequence" by Christos Gage.

Red Robin #22 (DC)
This is the first part of a crossover with Gotham City Sirens and Batman this month. I've gotten so fed up with writer Fabian Nicieza's nonsensical plotting on this title that I dropped it from my pull list after the last issue. The only reason to keep reading is Marcus To's art, but he's taking a (much deserved) break this month, making this issue even less appealing. (Although, to be fair, I think guest artist Freddie Williams is all right.)

  • Batgirl #20 (DC)
  • Batman and Robin #22 (DC)
  • Flash #10 (DC)
  • Superboy #6 (DC)
  • Northlanders #39 (DC/Vertigo)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #658 (Marvel)
  • Casanova: Gula #4 (Marvel/Icon)
  • Stan Lee's Starborn #5 (Boom)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Five Images

Calvin and Hobbes by Tom Fowler (via Comic Twart)

Supergirl by Batfee@DeviantArt

Sweet Tooth by Ron Chan (via Periscope Studio)

Wolverine by Rafael Grampa

Wonder Woman by Oliver Nome

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fear Itself #1 - How to appear relevant while saying absolutely nothing

Fear Itself #1
"The Serpent"
Written by Matt Fraction; Art by Stuart Immonen (and others? There's a bunch of people credited - with different names on the cover and inside the book - but it doesn't say who did what, so I'm confused); Marvel

Last week I wrote a post about my decision to completely ignore Fear Itself. And yet, here I am, reviewing issue number one. Why? Well, for one thing, it was kind of a slow week. But mostly I just got really curious. The advanced reviews were quite positive (hey, I guess that worked) and after flipping through the book at the store, Stuart Immonen's art was pretty enough to convince me to pick this up and give it a shot.

To be honest, it's better than I expected it to be. As someone who had very little interest in this event, I was surprised at how quickly the story drew me in. By now, everybody knows that Fear Itself is going to be about a bunch of people wielding powerful mythical hammers similar to Thor's Mjolnir. While this premise sounded a bit silly to me, Fraction and Immonen do a good job of establishing the villains who are behind all this as a credible threat. It sounds like a Big Deal, which is what events are about (and on a smaller scale, all super-hero comics, I guess). And by the time I'd reach the last page, I was itching to find out what happens next. Which is the best you can hope for, considering I went into it expecting not to buy the rest of the mini-series.

So, job well done, guys.

There is, however, one aspect of this comic that I found quite irritating, and if it continues to be a problem in future chapters then it could eventually be enough to make me regret bothering with this and dropping the whole thing. I'm talking about the "real world relevance" of the story.

As some of you may have noticed, my blog is called "Irrelevant Comics." Not a lot of people seem to get that joke. I've had publishers express concern about sending me review copies because they weren't sure they wanted to be reviewed on a site that claims right in the title that the material it covers is "irrelevant." I can see their point, but the title was initially an ironic play on the notion of "relevance" in comics that was introduced in the 1970s, when writers and publishers felt it was necessary to inject the medium with serious issues and social commentary, the most famous example of which was the issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow where Speedy was turned into a junkie. These days, we recognize these early attempts at "relevance" to be somewhat clumsy though well-intentioned. The title of this blog wasn't meant as a big ideological statement against that, but simply as a playful reversal of it. My feeling is that comics are a perfectly valid means of telling stories and expressing ideas, just like any other narrative art form. I'm not saying that they can't or shouldn't deal with serious issues. But I think we've reached a point in the evolution of the medium that worrying about it is kind of unnecessary. Comics don't need to be socially relevant in order to be a legitimate art form. Sometimes telling a good story is enough. And if artists and writers do have something to say about the world we live in, then they should just say it. The "relevance" comes from having something to say and saying it, not the other way around. You don't start by asking yourself, "Hmm, how can we make this comic relevant? Oh, I know, let's do an issue about drug abuse."

How does this relate to Fear Itself? It should be pretty obvious. I mean, it's right there in the title of the book, the political reference which betrays that concern over saying something relevant about the world we live in. And when the event was announced way back in December, before we were told anything about what the story would involve, it's that relevance that was emphasized. Here's Joe Quesada at the press conference:

I know you're dying to know what it is, but before that, you know, I just want to get a little serious here and I want to say a few words. Look, times are tough. Unemployment is at an all-time high, families are losing their homes and worldwide economies are on the brink, and there's dissent and division basically everywhere you look. All you need to do really is turn on the TV, computer or radio, and you're sure to find a pundit, a politician, a prophet who's out there ready to tell you what you should be afraid of, who's responsible and why you should be afraid of it. It's a world divided, and at the end of the day you gotta ask yourself, who should you trust? Who do you trust? 24-hour news cycles, weather change, Wikileaks, depression, recession, bailouts, bankers. If you're anything like me, heck, it's a great time to be fearful. If you're anything like the people out there who are feeding fear and elect to gain from fear, well, heck, it's just a good time, right? And let's face it, Fritz, the world has gotten smaller and today more than ever fear above all else seems to be the great motivator. And there's no shortage of charlatans, tyrants or despots ready to stoke the flames. All they need is a spark. (...)
Marvel Comics have always the real world as the canvas on which we write and draw our stories and on which our characters live. From World War II to Apollo 11 to September 11th, the events that shaped our world have shaped the Marvel Universe. The truth of the matter is the reason Marvel comics have always excelled... Actually when we're at our best is when we've taken stock of the world we live in and which we're a part of and said something about it. Civil War, for example, resonated with fans of yon because it's reminded our heroes that they live in the same world that we all did and that these heroes represent the very best of us. (source)
It goes on for even longer, but you get the idea. That's one hell of a preamble to a comic book about people with super-powers wearing colourful outfits and beating each other up. And here we are, however many months later, and the first issue opens with a scene at Ground Zero in Manhattan where people are angrily protesting... something. "Let them build it! All the permits are signed, it's legally zoned, it's a free country..." says one angry protester. "Nothing should be built here," says another, "not a church, not a store, not another condo." So what are they talking about? Obviously this is a reference to the controversy around the so-called "mosque" (which is actually a Muslim community center). But in the comic, there is no reference to a mosque, community center or any other specific type of building. The word "Muslim" never once appears in the comic. The protest turns into a riot, and Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter attempt to keep things under control. When a reporter asks Rogers what side of the issue he comes down on, he replies, "Are you kidding me? I'm anti-riot."

In other words, let's not say a fucking thing about the actual world we live in. Let's not insert politics into the Marvel Universe. It's fine to use real-world images and locations, but they must first be completely stripped of any political implication or relevance and turned into empty signifiers for generic, unspecified "important issues from the real world." Not only is Steve Rogers' view on the issue conveniently left out, but we don't even know what the issue was to begin with. Something about a building permit, apparently.

And perhaps it's just as well. It seems to me that more you try to insert real-world events and politics into a super-hero universe, the more ridiculous the whole thing becomes. It's one thing to use whatever's happening on the stories as some kind of metaphor for or commentary on the current political climate. But when you get really specific about it, it opens up all kinds of logistical questions like why these incredibly powerful super-heroes don't do anything to fix those real-world issues. You also risk dwarfing the importance of those issues when put in a context where beings like Galactus threaten to devour the planet, or as in this case, when ancient Norse gods awaken and start fucking shit up. Who cares about building permits at Ground Zero when the state of the whole universe it what's being fought over?

But in that case, why even bother? Why choose to go half-assed and bring the real world in, only to shy away from actually saying anything about it? What is the purpose of that opening scene? After Steve and Sharon fail to control the crowds, there's a scene where the avengers are standing at the top of Avengers Tower, contemptuously looking down at Manhattan below, hardly able to believe that what happened wasn't caused by magic or drugs in the water or some other type of super-villain interference. Steve Rogers finds that "disappointing." Which leads to a discussion between Tony and Steve about how people are mad and scared and the solution is to build something. So they're going to make a big announcement about rebuilding Asgard, and that's supposed to cheer everybody up. None of that makes any sense to me!

I know this is only the first issue, and these things haven't yet been given a chance to play themselves out, so I should give Matt Fraction the benefit of the doubt. But all this empty real world context leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. I think if you have nothing to say about the world, or are afraid to say it because you don't want to offend anyone, or whatever Marvel's reason for being so timid might be, then you shouldn't bother pretending to be saying something. You shouldn't hold a press conference and talk for fifteen minutes about unemployment and political unrest in the world and pretend that your big ultra-commercial entertainment event has something meaningful to say about all this. It's all empty posturing and kind of dishonest. This false air of relevance and cultural importance doesn't fool me. It's not why I buy comics. If you want to tell a big story about magic hammers and super-heroes (and, to be clear, that aspect of the story is off to a very good start in this issue), then just do it. Don't pretend that it's anything more (or less) than that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

New comics this week!

(NOTE: These are previews, not reviews. I haven't read any of the comics mentioned below. Recommendations are based on preview pages, solicitation text and "hype.")

Pick of the week: Nonplayer #1 (Image)
Nate Simpson has been documenting his progress on this project for what seems like ages on his blog, Project Waldo. He says he's "learning how to draw comics by drawing a comic." And wow. The previews are just breathtakingly beautiful. Early reviews suggest the script does the art justice as well. This looks like a must-read. More here.


(listed in totally subjective decreasing order of interest)

Madman New Giant Size Super Ginchy Special One Shot #0 (Image)
A new comic by Mike Allred. I was going to say that's all you need to know, but then I realized Matt Kindt, Emi Lennox and Tonci Zonjic are also listed as artists. Maybe this should be my pick of the week!

Fear Itself #1 (Marvel)
Fear Itself: The Home Front #1 (Marvel)
Marvel's big summer event kicks off this week, and it's... so... hard... to resist. As I posted this weekend, I decided to skip this one completely, but early reviews of the first issue of Fear Itself are very positive, which fucks everything up for me, because I'm so easily convinced. These are both seven-issue mini-series, by the way. The main one is by Matt Fraction and Stuar Immonen. The Home Front is by a bunch of people and doesn't sound very interesting. I'm probably going to at least flip through the first issue of the main series at the store tomorrow and try not to let it suck me in. Advance spoiler-free review and preview here.

iZombie #12 (Vertigo)
While you get your Mike Allred fix from Madman this week, he takes a break from iZombie and lets guest artist Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets, etc.) take over for an issue. Script is still by Chris Roberson. If I understand correctly, this is going to be a done-in-one story, with a new arc starting next month with regular artist Allred back onboard. Sounds like a good place to jump on.

BPRD: The Dead Remembered #1 (of 3) (Dark Horse)
A new BPRD series by Mike Mignola, co-written with Scott Allie and pencilled by Karl Moline. Story involves a 14-year-old firestarter who accidentally burned her family alive, a small New England town, a witch hunt, a ghost and a priest. Preview.

Herc #1 (Marvel)
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente continue their epic Hercules story in a new series with an abbreviated title. That seems to be the in thing at Marvel these days. Georges Jeanty is on art duties. The first two issues come out this month. This one is 40 pages and $3.99 and next one drops to 32 pages and $2.99. While this isn't listed as a Fear Itself tie-in, it'll get sucked into that event next month, so beware. For that reason, I'm going to sit this one out.

Skaar: King of Savage Land #1 (of 5) (Marvel)
"It's dinosaurs, giant robots and an ancient evil mastermind in Marvel's finest jungle adventure tradition." Okay. By Rob Williams and Brian Ching. Preview.

JLA 80-Page Giant 2011 (DC)
Oversized and six-dollar collection of short stories from various writers and artists. The best thing it has going for it is that it seems to feature a pretty classic line-up of the JLA, with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter and John Stewart Green Lantern featured on the cover. I'll never understand why DC insists on having this team consist of anything other than the so-called Big Seven. It just seems so obvious that the appeal of the JLA is that they're the team of DC's biggest and most popular heroes. If you absolutely want to have a team of B- and C-listers fighting Eclipso, can't they do it in some other book? Anyway.

Superman/Batman Annual #5 (DC)
This is some shitty "Reign of Doomsday" tie-in. The only reason I'm even remotely interested in it is that I'm reading two ongoing books that are getting hijacked by this stupid crossover (Superboy and Action Comics). But I still won't be buying this.

Blue Estate #1 (Image)
Green Wake #1 (of 5) (Image)
Two new series from Image. I can't say I'm particularly interested in either of them, but check out the previews here.

  • Thunderbolts: From the Marvel Vault #1 (Marvel)
  • Solomon Kane: Red Shadows #1 (of 4) (Dark Horse)
  • First Wave Special (DC)
  • Vertigo Resurrected: Hellblazer: Bad Blood #1 (Vertigo)
  • Deadpool Family #1 (Marvel)
  • Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #2 (of 3) (Dark Horse)
  • Sweet Tooth #20 (Vertigo)
  • Orc Stain #6 (Image)
  • Avengers: Children's Crusade #5 (Marvel)

Monday, April 4, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Jimmy Olsen, American Vampire, Butcher Baker and Godzilla

Jimmy Olsen #1
"Jimmy Olsen's Big Week"
Written by Nick Spencer; art by RB Silva; DC.

Everything about this is fabulous. I'm not even going to spoil this review by mentioning how annoying it was that I had to pay for half the content in this book twice... Oh, wait, I guess I just did. Well, that is annoying, but let's focus on the positive. Nick Spencer's script is brilliant. I've read quite a few of his recent work (Morning Glories, THUNDER Agents, Infinite Vacation, that one issue of Supergirl) and I think it's pretty safe to say that this is by far the best thing I've read by him. He gets the characters' voices so right it's uncanny. The remarkable thing about his take on Jimmy Olsen is that he manages to update him and make him really cool, while somehow staying true to the character's wacky origins, which in theory almost sounds impossible and yet here it is all perfectly realized in comic book form! Grant Morrison did something similar in All-Star Superman, but his reinvention of the character was a little more radical. This is closer to home, and therefore doubly impressive that it works. RB Silva's art is also just perfect. Where did this artist come from!? And please, DC, don't let him get away. Put him on another book ASAP. Everything about the art is excellent, from the layouts to the facial expressions. The only complaint I have is that the quality of the art dips a little on the last two chapters, as Silva gets help first on ink and then on pencils as well. There are a few panels in the last chapter that you can really tell were pencilled by someone else, and that's a bit of a shame. But it doesn't greatly harm the overall quality of the book. (Also worth mentioning: excellent cover by Amanda Conners and great colours by Dave McCaig.)



American Vampire #13
"Ghost War part 1"
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Rafael Albuquerque; Vertigo.

Apparently everything that Scott Snyder writes is gold. He's been blowing my mind on Detective Comics, but it's this his series that first brought him to everyone's attention. I regret not jumping onboard earlier, but can you really blame me for being sick of vampires? Thing is, though, this is a really original take on vampires, quite unlike anything else I've ever encountered. This issue starts a new story arc set during WWII. It's only the second issue I read and the last one was a done-in-one with a (pretty good) fill-in artist. Regular artist Rafael Albuquerque is back on this one and it makes a big difference. I'm hooked, and I'm definitely going to have to get the first year of the series in trades. This is worth catching up on.



Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker #1
Written by Joe Casey; art by Mike Huddleston; Image.

This book is out of control. It's also filthy. It's also a lot of fun. Needs more cock, though, to balance out all the tits and ass. I'll give this series a few more issues before I come up with something intelligent to say about it. Just let it be known for now that I'm enjoying the ride.



Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #1
Written by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh; art by Phil Hester and Bruce McCorkindale; IDW.

It's a book about a giant monster who comes out of the sea, smashes things, causes mayhem. There isn't much set up for it either. A couple of kids are playing on the beach at the beginning, then the monster shows up and apparently eats them. There's a shot of their father, who's on a boat and yells out "My children are on that beach!" I assumed the story would focus on these characters, with the father trying to get to his children to save them. Seemed like a classic way to add a human element to the story. But except for those two panels on page 6, we never see the father again or find out what happened to him or his children. Presumably they are among the dead, but for a the havoc Godzilla is wreaking, it feels oddly like there are no victims. We're told by military officials that hundreds are dead and bodies are still being recovered, but we don't see any of them. There's no gore, no blood, no on-panel death. There's one panel where you see people on the street and the shadow of Godzilla's foot, then the next panel the foot slams down on the street, sending cars out flying, but I wasn't sure if the people got squished or not. I'm not saying the book would have been better if it was filled with gory details. But it seemed too clean and unsatisfying in the same way that a horror movie rated PG-13 would be. Phil Hester's art is nice, although I find some of his layouts a little confusing - not in the sense that I can't figure out what's going on, but in the sense that it requires me to stop and think and realize that what looks like a single splash page is actually showing me three different moments in time from different angles, without the use of panels or clear borders. I've been sort of obsessing over layouts and panelization lately, so this is actually a pretty interesting example of a non-conventional style. I'll probably write more about it in the future. I'll leave it at that for now. There's enough going on here for me to give the stick with the book for a few more issues and see where this is going.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Why so serious?" -- by pre-teen kids!

A friend of mine put together this totally bizarre collection of found YouTube videos of young kids doing the "Why so serious?" Joker scene from The Dark Knight.

It's on a loop, too, so you can watch it ad infinitum!

Flashpoint vs. Fear Itself

So I've given this a lot of thought since Marvel and DC's big summer events were announced, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to give some of this Flashpoint nonsense a try, while completely ignoring Fear Itself.

This may not be a very wise decision, and I want to make it clear that I don't necessarily recommend that anybody follow my example.

I'm giving Flashpoint a try not so much because I believe it's going to be good, but more because I have a desire to participate in at least one of the big summer events in some capacity, and of the two, this is the one that appeals the most to me. And the reason it appeals to me the most is that Fear Itself appeals to me none at all.

Why doesn't Fear Itself appeal to me? Partly it has to do with my relationship to Marvel. I'm a casual reader at best, so I'm just not that invested in the Marvel Universe. I've tried to get into Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the (various) Avengers titles, but none of them have stayed on my pull list very long. And since Fear Itself is by being "architected" by the same people who are "architecting" those book, I'm just not thrilled about it.

The only Marvel books that I'm currently really digging are Amazing Spider-Man (which as far as I know won't tie directly into Fear Itself) and Wolverine and Jubilee, which is a mini-series with only one issue left.

As for Flashpoint... well, I read a lot more DC, so I know and care about almost all the characters involved. The Flash has been pretty good since it relaunched, and that leads directly into the main Flashpoint mini-series.

The story itself seems like a bit of a clusterfuck and it remains to be seen if it's going to make any sense at all, but at least some of the ideas that are getting thrown around sound like fun. It just seems like a really colourful and trippy event, whereas Fear Itself seems dark and serious and kind of tedious. I'm sure that difference is only superficial at best, and Flashpoint will have its share of darkness and unpleasantness and dismemberment. After all, that's the only way super-hero comic books know how to show that they "matter."

So anyway. I'll give it a shot. And possibly live to regret it. Now the question is, how much of it should I get? Because 16 mini-series and God knows how many one-shots is INSANE, and I just can't afford it all.

I'm obviously going to get the core mini-series, which is presumably the only "essential" part, although if past events are any indication, this is usually not true. I think I'm also going to get Booster Gold, since Dan Jurgens is returning to the title around the same time and it looks like it's going to be a major tie-in. The Flash is getting cancelled during the event, so that's one less book to worry about.

Looking at the various mini-series, it's hard to gauge which ones are going to be "important" to the story. My impression is that they're all more or less on the same level, which suggests that they might all be unnecessary, so it's really more a matter of deciding which characters, concepts or creative teams appeal to me personally.

Here are my thoughts on each of them:

  • Batman: Knight of Vengeance: Brian Azzarello writing makes this tempting, but I'm not really thrilled by the premise of Bruce Wayne running casinos. WEAK MAYBE.
  • Secret Seven: Peter Milligan and George Perez are a plus. Shade the Changing Man is a trippy fan-favourite character that I'm curious about. But I fear this might not be the best place for me to get introduced to him, so that makes me hesitate. WEAK MAYBE.
  • Abin Sur: Green Lantern: I'm not big on the Green Lantern books these days. Plus, Felipe Massafera on art? Blargh. NO.
  • The World of Flashpoint: A bunch of different writers, no specific character? This is going to be a mess and definitely not essential. NO.
  • Emperor Aquaman: Very tempting. With the solid creative team of Tony Bedard and Ardian Syaf and the totally badass-looking Aquaman on the cover, this should be good. STRONG MAYBE.
  • Deathstroke and Ravager something or other: I hate Deathstroke, so NO.
  • Frankenstein and I forgot the full title: I have no idea what Frankenstein is doing here. I mostly want to ignore this, but the fact that Jeff Lemire is writing makes me kinda curious. WEAK MAYBE.
  • Citizen Cold: It's a character from Flash's rogues, so this might be "important." I like Scott Kolins' art, but didn't know he wrote. ON THE FENCE.
  • Wonder Woman and the Furies: I'm sick of alternate-reality Wonder Woman. And I don't like the creative team. NO.
  • Deadman and the Flying Graysons: Love the concept. Not super-thrilled about J.T. Krul. ON THE FENCE.
  • Legion of Doom featuring Heatwave: As much as I'd love to support these Milestone characters, this doesn't do anything for me. NO.
  • Lois Lane and the Resistance: Damn it. I really would like to get this, if only to support the idea that Lois Lane can lead her own book. But with DnA writing, I don't have much faith in it. NO.
  • The Outsider: I'd like to give James Robinson a chance, but the concept here just doesn't do anything for me. NO.
  • Kid Flash: It's Bart. How can I say no to Bart? YES.
  • Project Superman: Scott Snyder is writing. And everything of his that I've read so far has been fantastic. STRONG MAYBE.
  • Hal Jordan: HELL NO.
So that's one yes, 2 "strong maybes", 2 "on the fences", 3 "weak maybes", and 8 "definite nos". Considering how many titles there are to pick from, I can probably write off the "weak maybes" as "nos," and that leaves me somewhere between 1 and 5 titles to chose from. My final decision will probably be based on how many other titles I have on my pull list that week and a quick flip-through at the store.

Then there are the four one-shots in June: Grodd of War, Reverse Flash, Green Arrow Industries, Canterbury Cricket. That last one sounds kinda cool, but I think I'm going to skip all of those. One-shots are almost never worth it.

As a blogger/reviewer (and I suppose as a fan), I kind of wish that I had unlimited income and that I could plunge head-first into this insanity and review the full event. On the other hand, that could be the kind of thing that would then turn me off of mainstream comics forever, so it's probably a good idea to exercise some restraint, and not just from a financial point of view.

All of those secondary mini-series and one-shots are hitting in June. The first issue of Flashpoint comes out in May. Until then, the prelude is appearing in the few issues of Flash that are left.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Read in March 2011

    Here's a list of all the comics I read last month.

    Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #1 (Dark Horse)
    Sweet Tooth #19 (Vertigo)
    Astonishing Thor #3 (Marvel)
    Captain America and the Falcon #1 (Marvel)
    5 Ronin #1-3 (Marvel)
    Annihilators #1 (Marvel)
    Amazing Spider-Man #648-654, 654.1, 655-656
    Birds of Prey #10 (DC)
    Batman and Robin #21 (DC)
    Batgirl #19 (DC)
    Sigil #1 (Marvel)
    Superboy #5 (DC)
    Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 (DC)
    Legion of Super-Villains #1 (DC)
    Magus #3 (12-Gauge)
    Starborn #4 (Boom)
    Xombi #1
    Batman, Inc #3-4 (DC)
    Avengers: Children's Cusade: Young Avengers #1 (Marvel)
    Red Robin #21 (DC)
    Book of the Skull (Marvel)
    Venom #1 (Marvel)
    Neonomicon #4 (Avatar)
    Wolverine and Jubilee #3 (Marvel)
    Silver Surfer #2 (Marvel)
    Legion of Super-Heroes #11 (Marvel)
    Supergirl #62 (Marvel)
    Action Comics #899 (DC)
    Detective Comics #875 (DC)
    Teen Titans #93 (DC)
    Jimmy Olsen #1 (DC)

    Top 5 of the month

    1. Detective Comics #875 (One of the best comics I've read in a while.)
    2. Xombi #1 (Super-stoked about this new series.)
    3. Jimmy Olsen (So much fun! The only disappointment is that Nick Spencer is now Marvel exclusive, so there's no chance of him returning to this character.)
    4. Amazing Spider-Man (Catching up on "Big Time" was a lot of fun, and the issues with art by Marcos Martin were simply breathtaking.)

    5. Wolverine and Jubilee #3 (Cool story. Beautiful art.)

    Stinker of the month: Red Robin #21. I've had enough of this book. Dropped.

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