Friday, December 12, 2008

Almost as late as FC #6: Paul reads books from 12/10

Wow, it's been almost five months since anyone's posted on here and that is ridiculous. So here goes:

I only read six books this week. In alphabetical order:

Amazing Spider-Man #580 was a nice little done-in-one by Roger Stern and Lee Weeks, two vets of the eighties and nineties. And that's how it reads. It's Okay but does little to further any larger story and, coming after a great two issues by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, it left me wanting.

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 and 2 are nice short stories that shoot off from the current Astonishing storyline and offer brief glimpses into "What If...?" stories, all done by Warren Ellis with four A-list illustrators. And they are Good. Completists, or those looking for really pretty pictures, should check them out. For casual fans, though, they are a bit pricey at $4 for 16 pages of story. Granted, you get Clayton Crain, Kaare Andrews, Alan Davis, and Adi Granov. It helps that Ellis is in top form.

Captain Britain and MI13 #8 is an odd book. While the first arc on this book was a tie-in to Marvel's Secret Invasion, the second arc has yet to really gel into something. I'm cautiously optimistic about this book, and it stands as an Okay book in it's own right, but there's not much "there" there.

DMZ #37 is the start of a new arc, this time with parralels to Nazi Gold/Sadaam's Palaces. I keep think DMZ is going to start to decline soon, that writer Brian Wood cannot push his "Iraq War in New York" metaphor any further, but between the last full arc (Blood in the Game) and the one starting here, it's still a Very Good book.

Final Crisis #5 came out this week, along with word that #6 would be delayed until January 14, 2009. For those keeping score, issue 1 came out May 28th, 2008. It's actually Very Good, too. Worth the wait? I don't know, but definitely worth $4. The art is a bit uneven (what with three pencillers on this issue, eah with a different style), but it's good fun. Morrison is gleefully unpackaging all of the Kirby toys from the 70's with his nods not only to the Fourth World books, but Kamandi, Anthro, and heavy references to the original OMAC (with a pseudo-people factory and faceless global security agents). Plus it has the Seven Soldiers own Frankenstein riding a motorcycle and quoting Milton. So there's that.

Wolverine Flies to a Spider is another one of these Wolverine one-shots that should really just be called an anthology series by now. I'm a pretty big fan of Wolverine, and I like the kick ass and take names version seen here over, say, Origins, but what I don't like is this pervasive notion that Wolverine can't just kill people, he has to right a wrong by killing people. This issue is particularly hard to swallow. If I read it correctly, he reads in the Daily Bugle (a New York paper) about a little girl killed a couple years ago and travels to the American southwest to kill everyone involved in her death. It would have read better as "Wolverine up and heads to Nevada and kills a motorcycle gang", though, because then there would not be the logical ramifications (and just bear with me). Wolverine has no link to the dead girl. While it is a tragedy, he does not race around avenging other girls who are killed, though; he hasn't off'd the Marvel equivalent of Kasey Anthony yet. So why her? And why is she on the front page of the Bugle? In big letters? Still an Okay issue (and far better than last year's holiday offering), but more and more these one-shots feel tired.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Joss Whedon's Superhero Musical Extravaganza Trailer

Go check it out and see what went horribly wrong with Dougie.

Then click on the Master Plan button on the Home Page or on the link below to read what it's all about!

My thanks to Marissa Salas for cluing me in to Dr. Horrible.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Youngblood #4 and others

According to the Theory of Relativity, as an object approaches the speed of light (c), the amount of energy required to continue it's acceleration (e) increases because the mass of the object increases (m), so that you cannot reach the speed of light because the mass increases roughly to infinity meaning no amount of energy could accelerate it. And so it is with comics: just as I begin to catch up on my reading, an enormous week like this hits and I'm back to square 1.

Liberty Comics #1(?) is really really good. It's an anthology of short pieces that supports the CBLDF and it costs $4. I think I'm the only person that actually was excited. And for your $4, you get a smattering of decent little stories and one- and two-page bits. Personally, it's all worth it for two features: First, there is a six or so page Criminal short story, and I WILL buy anything by Ed Brubaker, especially with Sean Phillips art. Second, there is a five page Dracula story by Mark Millar and John Paul Leon that is just great. It's Dracula as played by your 75 year old grandfather. Tell Sheldon to order you one. It's for a good cause and totally worth the money.

New Avengers #43 is pretty much what is to be expected. Captain America is really a Skrull (yawn). They reveal some plot points that no one really needed explained to them. What struck me was that they did this big reveal of "Captain America was stranded in a spaceship" in Secret Invasion #1 but they won't follow that up in the main title, but rather jettison it in one of the ancillary books. So one of the main plot points of the series is not concluded in the series. That's just sloppy, Bendis.

War Heroes #1 was decent. It's always odd to see Tony Harris inked by someone new. On Ex Machina they replaced the excellent Tom Feister with Jim Clarke, who continues to make Tony Harris's pencils look gorgeous. Here, though, we get Cliff Rathburn, who imposes his own artistic tendancies onto Harris. It's not that its bad, but if you are fmiliar with Harris's art it's a bit of a letdown. The story, by the way, is a bit slow right now, but I'm sure the next issue will be filled with violence because, come on, it's Mark Millar.

Finally, Youngblood #4. To start, I really like that, even without direct involvement from Rob Liefeld (except covers and those look like they are mix-and-matched bits of old art photoshopped together) this book still ships 3 months late. Anyway, this book is actually pretty good. This issue was a bit weak (there's a "big" reveal about a conspiracy that you won't see coming because you aren't brain dead and therefore were expecting something relevent or at least interesting) but the first three issues were pretty good and its got a strong setup that may help it go pretty far before it turns terrible. The art is very good in the Batman Adventures vein and the story is what you expect from Joe Casey: competent with above-average moments. It's a shame Liefeld didn't let someone with a bit more imagination work on this because some big names (Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek, Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, Robert Kirkman, even Fabian Nicieza did a pretty good job) have been very successful with Youngblood in the past.

In closing, this week Youngblood was actually a hells of a lot better than New Avengers. Just something to think about.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Driana's recs to Baltimore Sun Read Street

Dear Nancy Johnson:

Just to clarify, our name is Comics Kingdom not Comic Book Kingdom (that is a store that use to be on Hartford Road, I think, and is no longer in business)

My recommendations for you to showcase in Read Street are gleaned from among my favorites and include the Superhero genre, non-superhero, non-fiction, local artist unique, all ages and are as follows:

Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith - Superhero
This was my gateway book in to comics from being an avid reader of novels. To this day I still recommend this book as a true integration of the comic art form where the story is told through and interwoven use of words and drawings - you cannot just read or just look at the art to get the full woof and weave of the tale. This is also the story of how Wolverine from the X-Men became Wolverine, so people will potentially recognize the main character from the popular movie.

Watchmen TP by Alan Moore - Superhero
(trade paperback - a collection of comics that cover a story arc or in this case the complete
story of a comic that originally came out periodically)
- Watchmen is the comic book that basically matured the superhero genre by making the superheroes gritty, with real-life problems and personalities. We see the fruition of this movement in movies like Batman Returns with a very dark Dark Knight as well as across comics in general. Since the majority of people who by comics are men between the ages of 18 and 60 this growing up was inevitable to the survival of comics.

Fables vol. 1 TP by Bill Willingham - not Superhero
A very modern take on the world of fairytales. The creatures and people of our childhood tales have been forced to leave their Homeland to seek refuge in our world. The non-human looking "fables" have to live sequestered on a place called the Farm. This is not a book for kids.

True Story Swear to God by Tom Beland -- Non-Fiction
A autobiographical romance about a soon to be comic book creator who meets a lovely Puerto Rican woman in Disney and embarks on a long distance relationship with her that turns his life upside down. This book is sweet and funny as Tom Beland looks honestly at his own human foibles and examines Love from a male perspective. The art is deceptively simple with an amazing amount of facial expression captured with a few inked lines.

Birth by Michael Bracco (and it's sequel Novo) -- Local Artist
Michael Bracco is a local comic book creator who just had his first book, Birth, picked up by Diamond Comic Distributors - the comic distributor for the United States. Birth is an example of a comic told with little or no text and Mr. Bracco has created a visual feast that hits hard at the human core through his uniquely drawn non-human characters. It made me cry. Novo is the powerful next step in this ongoing tale. These are also examples of a Graphic Novel as opposed to a trade paperback. These books are also example of the unique storytelling that is possible only through the comic genre.

Herobear by Mike Kunkle - All Ages
This is a kids book (or all ages book as we call them) that adults will definitely enjoy. Beautifully rendered so that you often see the blue pencil line of the original sketch. The story is sweet without being saccharine about a boy who inherits his grandfather's broken pocket watch and stuffed bear which are more than they seem. The story really captures the awkwardness and magic of childhood. A must read for families.

The strength and interest in comics continues to be stable among our adult readers. Superheroes are not being left behind because the story lines have gotten complex and compelling as human issues are explored through the Superhero. The "Civil War" into "Secret Invasion" story line that runs through many main Marvel titles right now is an example of that relevancy. Superheroes were forced to unmask and register/be conscripted or be hunted down and incarcerated in Civil War. Secret Invasion reveals the replacement of superheroes and key people in power positions by shape shifting aliens. Both story lines deal with terrorism and how far can the government go to keep people safe. The exposure through excellent movies has definitely brought comics back into the mainstream light. Free Comic Book Day, an industry wide event that allows stores to purchase specific comics from each publisher at a small cost to give away free on a specific Spring day each year, also helps expose current and new readers to the genre.

Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks have definitely gained in popularity in our store in the last 5 years. Comic book fans love the collection, which can read more fluidly than the monthly. The Graphic Novel has become more mainstream and accepted as the wonderful storytelling tool that it is. Maus/The Two Towers, the host of comics after 9-11, Persepolis, etc. show that comics can be historically relevant and capture something human that words alone cannot.

In our store we make an effort to have a strong, well-lit All Ages section that feels accessible to kids and parents exploring comics. And we have had success in growing this section and helping to create the next generation of comic readers. Have we been successful enough? Hard to say. We love it when we get older adults coming in the store looking for the Classics Illustrated comics that they learned to read on. We work enthusiastically with teachers and schools to get comics in the hands of kids to encourage reading, donating hundreds of comics each year. Will those kids be back as adults? I certainly hope so. Comics offer a beautiful way of telling Story that is now richly being explored by creative minds, it would be a real loss to see it fade.

Please feel free to call me on my cell if you have any further questions: 443-756-7073

Driana Pearlman
co-owner with her husband, Sheldon, of Comics Kingdom
Comics Kingdom
3998-A Roland Avenue
Baltimore, Md. 21211
In a message dated 7/7/2008 1:40:22 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Hi, my name is Nancy Johnston, and I write for The Baltimore Sun's book blog, Read Street. We're focusing on comic books this week, and I was hoping to get a few recommendations from your store that I can showcase this week.

Also, I was hoping to get some feedback about the strength of interest in comic books and graphic novels in Baltimore. Are they more popular than ever, or are people leaving their super heroes behind? Any trends that you've noticed?

I appreciate any information you can share. I look forward to hearing from you.

Nancy Johnston

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Everyone go buy Zot! right now. Seriously.

Marvel 1985 #3 continues Mark Millar's enjoyable, nostalgic look at the Marvel Universe in 1985. If the payoff is half-way decent (not like Civil War, Chosen, Wanted, Ultimates 2, later Authority...that's not promising) it may make its way to an excellent series. Surprisingly, I like the art. I'm not the biggest fan of Tommy Lee Edwards (he did the worst comic ever: Speeding Bullets), but it seems appropriate for some reason.

Mighty Avengers #16 is really well done. I had lowered expectations for it (given the last couple issues like this), but it turns out really well. Plus, Elektra is a bad ass in it AND it doesn't deliberately undo anything done by Bendis or other creators (it takes place a little after Enemy of the State, or between pages, and just before the New Avengers rescue Echo, near as I can tell).

Ultimate Fantastic Four #56 was awful: terrible art and the plot just didn't make sense. Sure, you can follow it, but it's just dumb. I don't know why I do this to myself.

X-Factor #33 is fine. It seems a stretch to call it a Secret Invasion tie-in, though, because the Skrulls are just tacked on to sell more copies and cross it over with She-Hulk. It could have been any bad guy, but Skrulls are "cool" (as in "tired and a bit annoying"), so they used them.

X-Force #5 is just kinda bat#$%^ insane. So, let's talk about X-Men.
For the first time in 15 years, I'm reading all the big X-Men books (Uncanny, Legacy, X-Force, X-Factor, Young, Astonishing, Cable). This is due to the surprisingly competent "Messiah CompleX" crossover. That crossover seemed to do a few things: first, it (along with Brubaker's previous Uncanny arcs) removed pretty much all of the terrible things that happened to the X-Men in the 90s. It solved the Bishop problem, it killed Xavier AND Cable, it turned Cyclops back into a strong authority figure, took out Sinister, et cetra. It also allowed the creative teams room to stretch by breaking down the tight continuity of the books. No longer did every book with an X have to start out at Xavier mansion: there was freedom.
Now, 6 months later, what do we have? Well, Xavier didn't die, and didn't stay brain-dead for long, Sinister may or may not be back as a chromosome, Cable's back. So really, it put Cyclops in the seat as leader (which had already happened during House of M, and was going pretty well in Astonishing) and it made Bishop a crazy SOB. But, it still shedded some terrible 90s continuity threads.
And then, there's X-Force, which seems to single-handedly be attempting to revive as many god-awful 90s characters as is possible. Archangel? Bastion? Magnus? Donald Pierce (technically Young X-Men, but he was name-checked, so he's complicit)? I guess they really just wanted to clear up all the left over continuity from "X-Cutioner's Song", but anything after that was fair game. And the art careens wildly from pretty-computer-generated pictures to god-awful renderings that make the Baby Jesus cry. It's sloppy, disorganized, and far too in love with itself to be worth anyone's time. Except mine, apparently. I mean, it's still way better than Ultimate FF, and I've been buying that for over four years now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The pencil reappears. Comics and the Dark Knight.

Firstly, the Dark Knight is awesome. It may very well be the best comic book movie ever made, but it is not without it's faults. The most glaring problem with the movie is that it is a half hour too long. It drags in spots and the constant climaxes diminish the effect of the movie's actual climax. Seriously, while the part in Hong Kong is cool the whole Chinese conglomerate subplot was a plot device given too much screen time. Aside from that little gripe everything else is spot on. Heath Ledger is terrifying and everyone else showed up with their a game in tow. the a stands for acting. Oh, other thing: how are they going to top this one? My vote, as always, is for Bat-Mite. And now, onto the comics.

Mighty Avengers #16 - This one was way better than the last SI tie ins in Mighty. Probably because the whole story could not be summed up in three pages like the Pym/Sentry issues. That's about it. Solid return to form for the Bendis. Oh, and I finally read some of the recent issues of Powers and they were solid as ever.

Dreamwar #4 - It's the one where everyone, pretty much, realizes that whole thing is a giant misunderstanding and rally together to fight a common foe that appears at the end of the issue. Pretty meh stuff all things told.

Amazing Spider-Man #566 - Ah, the amazing adequacy of it all. Nothing wrong with it, but at the same time it won't be a part of the essential Spidey cannon. Middle of the road, but you won't feel cheated.

Incredible Hercules # 119 - As good as ever. Although the swaps and switches may confuse some...that's kind of the point with the SI thing. And everything is still pretty clear regardless so...yup. Moving on.

X-Factor # 33 - Overall it's a decent return to the X-Factor of old...more or less. While the new status quo means they can move past the less than stellar previous arc it's just that you go right into the crossover that nobody demanded with She-Hulk. I'll reserve judgment on the cross over, but it just makes me wonder is all.

1985 #3 - It was pretty good. I'm liking where the book is going, but at the same time I hope that this new super villain isn't named Clyde Wyncham. It would explain some things, but on the other hand...I don't know.

Final Crisis Rogues' Revenge #1 - It's a decent start. And who wouldn't enjoy a DC version of the Wild Bunch with a group of costumed super criminals. Although, it should have started a little while earlier what with Barry being back and all. But, on the same side there's the whole Mirror Master business in FC #1, so it would make sense for it to come out now all things considered.

Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy - Better than that god awful, and totally off character, Joker one, but not up to the higher quality of the Jason Aaron Penguin one. And that's in every respect including art and all that.

That's about it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I finally read Hulk #4: Paul checks in

What with parents and booze and yard projects, I've read roughly 15 comics in the past three weeks. I have a stack still of 30 more. So, yeah. This is getting to be like work.

Booster Gold 1,000,000 is AWESOME! Believe the hype! Woo! In truth, it's just really good. A bit sappy at times, but everything turns out pretty well. Plus, someone (a mysterious figure, no less) actually says "Bwa-hahahahaha", which is great. Not looking forward to the Chuck Dixon fill-ins, but this book is just...the bees knees.

Captain Britain and MI13 #3 is great.

Detective Comics #846 is boring. I assume it'll go somewhere, but it's just bland and unappealingly drawn. You know what, I take it back: I'm not sure it'll go anywhere. And if freakin' Trinity is going to ruin Paul Dini's "Riddler P.I." I'm gonna be pissed.

Speaking of which, I just read Trinity #4-6 and, man, what a pile. I mean, when issue 2 is a high point...I just don't know. You know, Alan Moore, through sheer force of will, could write an awesome comic that examined mysticism and the tarot using superhero archetypes (see "Voodoo" or "Promethia"). But it has become abundantly clear that Kurt Busiek does NOT worship a snake god and pretty much learned everything he knows about magic from reading Promethia and Voodoo. And the worst part? I'm probably going to read this whole stupid thing.

Secret Invasion #4 should have been issue 2. If issues 2 and 3 did not exist, no one would be complaining about this book. Or, less people, anyway. It gives me hope.

Then, there's Ultimare Origins #2. Yikes! Ultimate Quasar and Ultimate Watcher and all sorts of terrible Ultimate nonsense. It's just not even ironically funny anymore, just bad. It also illustrates my problem with Ultimate books of late: different writers are picking and choosing the Ultimate continuity, a continuity that has been around for only ten years. It took Marvel well into the 80s to start deliberately ignoring continuity. But I still hold out hope. Maybe it'll become hilariously bad again (I mean, come on, "accidently" creating mutants? Ha!).