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#0008 07 JULY 2004

The Long, Comics Weekend -- My wife and I packed a two-car caravan with our kids and her sister's as well for the journey to Albany, New York Saturday for Free Comic Book Day. We had a long but satisfying day highlighted by meeting (at Earthworld Comics) Catwoman, She-Hulk and (a surprise late addition to the festivities) Krypto the Super Dog (cape included, of course).

As with previous FCBDs at Earthworld, the place was packed, lots of kids, and everybody got lots of free comics (and with the trivia contest, the chance to win even more -- as with Wonder Woman last year, Catwoman kicked my ass). Any retailer reading this who is baffled by how to pack the house on FCBD would do well to contact JC at Earthworld and ask him how he does it. Perfect.

After Earthworld, we re-packed the caravan and headed to Crossgates Mall to take in Spider-Man 2. If it isn't the best superhero movie ever, it's certainly in the top three with X-Men 2 and The Matrix. There were a couple of weak spots -- Aunt May's speech on heroism needed a rewrite and to be half as long, and the big surprise awaiting Harry at the end seemed tacked on and forced, even if it probably wasn't. On the bright side, Alfred Molina was Doctor Octopus in the same way Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. He was Ditko's original vision, note-perfect, and the special effects on the arms -- especially in battle with Spider-Man -- were a wonder to behold.

There were two CGI shots that looked utterly phony, but they each lasted less than a second. I suspect the filmmakers realized how bad those shots looked and made them as brief and painless as possible. But 95 percent of the time, the effects were brilliantly realized. The relationships between the characters are pleasingly resonant with the original comics, and the way that Otto and Harry's interests intersect was a wonderful conceit.

Among the scenes I absolutely loved were the opening pizza delivery segment, Peter trying to stop a runaway train, and Ock's unexpected but logical final action at the end. As each plot point moved ahead, I was struck by how the emotions seemed genuine and the performances were almost uniformly terrific. John Jameson's role could have been expanded a bit to make his relationship with Mary Jane seem more likely, but the plusses far, far outweighed the minuses in what, on the whole, was one of the most exciting and satisfying action movies I've ever seen. I can't wait to see it again. Take that, Daredevil.

The Week in Comics -- Here's a rundown of what I'm picking up at the comics shop this Thursday...delivery is delayed in the U.S. due to the Fourth of July holiday Monday, July 5th (!).

COMING THURSDAY JULY 8TH

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS

COMICS JOURNAL #261 (MR) 6.95 -- I've been waiting for this issue for, it seems like, years now. Cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner is one of the most gifted and significant cartoonists in the history of comics, and here she gets the Comics Journal interview treatment (excerpt here, full rundown of the issue's contents here). Expect it to take days to read and leave you fully informed about why and how her work has had such an astonishing impact on everyone who's read it. And if you haven't read her A Child's Life and Diary of a Teenage Girl yet, make sure you pick 'em up and read them before reading this interview. They're two of the best and most affecting graphic novels ever published. (I got even more excited about this week's Journal after reading comments about it by Sean Collins, too).

ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #7 (MR) 3.50 -- Johnny Ryan's hilarious, irreverent cartooning is probably my guiltiest comics pleasure (if it's not that, it's those two Marvel Premiere issues that introduced the Scott Lang Ant-Man...)

BLOOD ORANGE #2 (MR) 5.95 -- Right, I wasn't a huge fan of the first issue, but given that this is an anthology from one of North America's two best comics publishers, I'm certainly going to give this a look.

DRAWN AND QUARTERLY

CLYDE FANS BOOK 1 TP (MR) $19.95 -- One of my favourite graphic novels of the year. Seth's thoughtful examination of the lives of two very different brothers in the electric fan business also serves as a bit of a metaphor for the comics industry. Read it and find out what I'm talking about. Also check out my Five Questions for Seth at Newsarama. (And you did check out my new 5Q for Rob Vollmar, right?).

DARK HORSE

BPRD A PLAGUE OF FROGS #5 (Of 5) 2.99 -- I'm sorry to see this one end; Mike Mignola and Guy Davis made this a lot of fun, even without Hellboy's presence or Mignola's artwork. I hope to see more work from the Mignola/Davis team in the near future.

AMERICA'S BEST COMICS

TOM STRONG #27 2.95 -- This time out, British S-F author Steve Aylett and artist Shawn McManus are the creative team. Nothing against either one, but I really, really wish Alan Moore had closed this out when he was done writing it. Promethea is doing it right, but Tom Strong feels like it's out of control and lost all inspiration since Moore's departure. That's a sad ending for what was one of the most witty, entertaining and visually spectacular titles on the stands just a couple of years ago.

-- Alan David Doane



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