Saturday, October 25, 2003

No DEMO Trade? -- Brian Wood says there may not be a Demo trade and publisher Larry Young takes it one step further. Interesting. And odd, in that they seem to be threatening readers for living on the planet they created for them.

Bacardi Finds JLA/A On The Rocks -- Johnny Bacardi's posted some reviews and seems to have loved the new Planetary as much as I did. One thing, Johnny, serioously -- you've twigged that JLA/Avengers is pretty much shit. Tell your inner child to drop dead and spend the money on something better. Believe me, it won't be hard to do that.

Big Sunny Demonology -- Nice summary of and tribute to Mike Mignola's Hellboy over at Big Sunny D's blog. He mentions "Pancakes" as a great, uncharacteristically funny Hellboy story, and I'd add that the story about waiting for a bad guy in a car with a female colleague in the current issue of Hellboy: Weird Tales is another winner in that vein.

Reviews -- As I mentioned earlier this week, I didn't get much at the comics shop...

Batman #620 killed my interest in the title. Eduardo Risso's Sin City approach is fine, certainly better than Frank Miller's most recent Batman effort, but Azzarello continues his unbroken streak of failing to entertain me. In this case, as Chris Allen noted a few weeks ago, "Azzarello seems to think he has something to prove here on this unfamiliar superhero ground, and as he did in CAGE, he goes way over the top." Nobody seems to be who they are supposed to be, and the ludicrous last page is so lame even Jeph Loeb wouldn't get away with it. Grade: 2.5/5

Planetary #17 demonstrates pretty definitively that this title is not only back on schedule, but back, period. Fittingly, then, this is a period piece that sets Elijah Snow in an African lost city where he meets some isolated but brilliant natives and a Tarzan/Ka-Zar-like white man living among them. Ellis and Cassaday craft a startlingly effective love story for Snow -- I was really in awe of how they managed to convince me of the passion between him and Anaykah in just two pages. Would-be writers would do well to study this sequence, seriously. I was also riveted by the structure of the society that Snow visits and pleasingly surprised by the big reveal at the end. The revelation, in retrospect, is the whole reason for the story. But it's so organic and so well-done that I never saw it coming. Excellent stuff, and highly recommended. Grade: 5/5

Sleeper #10 is another flawless offering from Wildstorm this week, as the sublime creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver the origin of Genocide, move along Holden's relationship with Miss Misery to a new status quo, and increase the tension dramatically in a book that already had readers breathless. I wasn't curious about Genocide's background, but Brubaker once again shows why he's one of today's best comics writers by taking this consciousless murderer and making him completely sympathetic and then twisting the knob again in a different direction all in the course of one, single, blood-soaked issue. There are more layers of subtlety and nuance in this book than in any other that immediately comes to mind, just a delicious blend of suspense, sex, drama, betrayal and tragedy. Holden Carver is DC's most interesting and truly riveting character, and there's not a person reading these words right now that wouldn't love this book every bit as much as I do. There's a trade paperback arriving in stores in just a few weeks, so tell your retailer you want one, and find out how exciting, entertaining and unique Sleeper is. Grade: 5/5

Wildcats #15 was the only other comic I got at the shop this week, and it was a good issue, as always, but not quite as dramatic as usual, it seemed to me. There's at least one unexpected and powerful moment that moves Agent Wax's story along a bit, and Grifter seems to be finding an interesting solution to his problem. All good stuff and excellently done, but I am probably too drunk on this week's Planetary and Sleeper to truly appreciate it as much as I could. Grade: 4/5

This week, I also picked up the Alex Ross book Mythology written and designed by Chip Kidd. It's a beautiful production, and sure to appeal to Ross's fans. The highlights for me are the sketches and step-by-step features, as I love seeing how good artists work. Also of note are some historical pieces of DC characters Ross drew when he was a child -- he's been interested in this stuff for a long, long time now. There's a short, brand-new comic story written by Kidd and painted by Ross that features Superman and Batman. It's an iconic short that recalls the spirit of The Dark Knight Returns and (of course) Ross's own Kingdom Come. The book's contents focus exclusively on DC characters (although Captain America sneaks into one photo), including the JLA together and separately, the Legion, Metal Men, Teen Titans and many others. Kidd's text is non-critical, but that's common for an art book of this type, and he does reward readers with a good eye for what makes the individual pieces work so well. He gets in one particularly good observation early on about why Ross's art won such acclaim so early in his career, but I won't spoil that for you since it's one of the text's better moments. Gorgeous to look at and definitely of historical value to people who appreciate Ross's style, this would be a terrific holiday gift for Alex Ross and/or DC fans. Grade: 4.5/5

Friday, October 24, 2003

Thanks to Shawn Fumo -- I appreciate Shawn's reciprocal linking and suggestions for my wife's future comics reading...although asking her to read something backwards may be a bit much in these early days...insert smiley emoticon here.

Far Side on Ted's Good Side -- He might not care for the work of Chris Ware, but Ted Rall pays nice tribute to the new Far Side collection.

Expanding Borders -- I stopped at the Albany, New York Borders yesterday afternoon. My mission, specifically, was to pick up Season One of The Office, which I did find, although it was not on sale, damn it. So I got the set, six episodes plus some extras, thirty bucks. Haven't watched them all yet, but the show is brilliant and funny, appealing as it does to the side of me that continues to love Fawlty Towers decades after first seeing it. And as I often have to remind people around me, I really dislike comedy as a genre. It has to be especially sharp, dark, and intelligent to get my attention. The Office is all of those and more, observing venal human nature (that of lead character David Brent) through an astoundingly facile combination of words, images, and most importantly, silences. The silence is the best part of this show, the place where the astonishingly stupid things David Brent says sit and fester in your consciousness while he thinks up something even more wrong to say. Don't miss this series.

Now, as to that "Expanding" in the title of this blog entry, I noticed that comics have taken up a lot more real estate at this Borders since the last time I was there. Graphic novels now occupy five full sections of one of the walls in the upstairs section, with two of those devoted to Marvel/DC/D&Q/Top Shelf/Fantagraphics/Dark Horse and the like, and three more for a huge array of Manga titles. I can only presume the store is making money on this stuff, as this section has been rapidly expanding over the past couple of years and is now literally unbelievable well-stocked. I say "literally" because when I was first faced with this massive wall o' comics yesterday, I didn't notice at first how large the selection had become -- and when I first did notice it, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. They're not, graphic novels are now a huge part of this store.

They've also, downstairs, installed a large number of racks to hold floppies from Marvel, DC, Bongo, Dark Horse and Image, and over and above that there's also a decent area set aside for comic strip collections like Get Fuzzy, Garfield and the like. I don't know what this new comics presence signifies, exactly, but in over three decades of buying comics and looking for them mostly in vain in bookstores, this was a revelatory moment. Something is changing for comics, and I hope this is the sign of a long-lasting new infiltration into the mainstream.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Papa's Got a Brand New Bagge Online -- Peter Bagge has a new strip online about the gambling "industry."

Catching Up On Columns -- A few good comics columns have gone up in the past day or so...

There's some good goddamned comics-related reading to get you through your Thursday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Opening Up A Bru -- Two of my favourite comics writers are Steven Grant and Ed Brubaker, and today Grant's Permanent Damage column features a lengthy interview with Brubaker. I've printed it out and am eager to dig into it and see what comes out of the discussion. Both are sharp thinkers who aren't afraid to speak their minds, so I'm really looking forward to reading this. Recent titles of note from Brubaker include Sleeper, Gotham Central and Catwoman, while by now you should have checked out Grant's gorgeous, harrowing Damned graphic novel with Mike Zeck from Cyberosia and informed your retailer that you want his My Flesh is Cool when it ships from Avatar. End of plugs, go read the interview.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The Week in Comics -- Or weak, perhaps. Not much of interest on my radar this week, and they're all from DC:

AUG030170 BATMAN #620 $2.25
AUG030238 OUTSIDERS #5 $2.50
AUG030258 PLANETARY #17 $2.95
AUG030261 SLEEPER #10 (MR) $2.95
AUG030266 WILDCATS VERSION 3.0 #15 (MR) $2.95

The good news is that a majority of these are big favourites of mine; I'm on the fence about picking up Batman but have heard generally good things and "Hush," for all its flaws, did whet my appetite for a good, regular Batman read. Outsiders completely lost my interest with last month's fill-in art by the slick-but-lifeless ChrisCross, so we'll see if my love of Tom Raney's art can sustain my flagging interest in the book. Now, Sleeper, Planetary and Wildcats are three of DC's best titles right now, so even though it's a light week, it's a substantial one in that regard.

Lightning Bout -- Here's AK on Black Lightning:

"Did you ever think you'd EVER in your life live long enough to see people accusing a Judd Winnick comic of not being sensitive enough to minorities? Aren't all his mainstream comics about superheros coping with their gay uncle who has aids or something??? What, did Black Lightning kill his gay uncle???"

More from AK on current comics events in the link.


Wanted #1
By Mark Millar and JG Jones
Published by Image Comics

While Watchmen is generally seen as hugely influential on superhero comics since the mid-1980s, not many creators have paid homage to that landmark series by attempting a similar story; my guess would be that Watchmen was so critically and commercially successful that writers and artists who were inspired by its style and substance may have been intimidated by the idea of creating a new work that would inevitably be compared to its inspiration. It will come as little surprise to readers of Mark Millar's Authority and The Ultimates that he is not easily intimidated.

In a world where comics creators often go out of their way to shock readers, Millar has made a name for himself by giving us believable characters who act in appallingly realistic, wildly entertaining ways. In Wanted Millar and artist JG Jones explore the inner world of a super-villain as he learns his trade. Wesley Gibson is inducted into "The Fraternity" after his (previously unknown) father is murdered. Turns out dear old Dad was a master villain named The Killer, and Wesley -- lost in a bad relationship and kind of pathetic overall -- is tracked down and told he can inherit his father's vast fortune if he takes up his legacy.

In the manner of Alan Moore in Watchmen or Kurt Busiek in Astro City, Millar creates a new, dangerous world out of whole cloth. References to a greater community of super beings and a convincing look at the ones onscreen serve to deliver a genuine sense that this is an established universe we are exploring, while organically-introduced details about Wesley and his life deliver a sympathetic character by which we can explore.

As a creator-owned project, this is the next logical step for Millar after books like The Authority and The Ultimates -- a harrowing exploration of power and perversion that shocks and entertains, with no editorial restrictions or corporate fuckery likely to interfere with Millar's story. As you might expect after the exquisite visuals he delivered on Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy, artist JG Jones gives us a summer blockbuster-type level of action and detail that make the book visually addictive and totally in the spirit of The Authority and The Ultimates in the best way possible. Jones is really underrated, in my opinion, and is a top superhero action artist every bit as compelling and exciting as peers like Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely.

Mark Millar has a lot of books coming out in the weeks ahead, and I'll leave it to you to decide which ones you want to pick up and which you think is his best. For me Wanted is a step up from his already excellent work on The Ultimates and promises to be the most talked-about super-book in the months to come. Grade: 4.5/5

Monday, October 20, 2003

Cover Designs Get Butchered -- Good to see Christopher Butcher is blogging again. His most recent entry is a good look at some graphic novel cover designs.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Black Lightning Rage -- Have a look at All The Rage at Silver Bullet Comic Books for new info and rumours about DC's misuse of Black Lightning.

Vampizine -- I saw the new Vampirella Magazine on the racks in the comics shop yesterday, and it's funny, I noticed it was there, but it never registered to me that it was a new publication. My brain must have been thinking that Warren was still around and publishing all those great, horrible titles like The Rook and 1984/1994.

d. emerson eddy has a review of the magazine, and from the sounds of things, it's just as well that I passed on it.

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