Monday, December 10, 2012

Gail Simone Fired Through E-mail

I just found out that Gail Simone was informed in an email from her new editor that she is no longer the writer of Batgirl.

She was fired in an email.

I am so unbelievably pissed off.

For those who haven't been reading our blog for long, Batgirl is one of the first comics I started following in the New 52.  It's also the first superhero comic I really identified with.  You can read my first blog post about her here: Tonight, I'm Batgirl.  I can't express how disappointed I am in DC's decision to remove Simone as Batgirl's writer. 

Simone has been incredibly classy about the whole mess.  You can read her response here: I am so fricking fortunate.  There has been an outpouring of support for her on Twitter.

All I have to say is that I will be taking Batgirl off of Christian's and my pull list as soon as Simone's run is over and I will be following Simone to wherever her next project takes her.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Aboot the X-Men: Uncanny Avengers #2, X-Men Legacy #2, and All New X-Men #2

So first off, this is the most X-Men comics I've read in a single week in well, I can't even remember the last time I bought three X-Men related comics all at once.  And yet, here I am, absolutely loving the shit out of these books.

I know a lot of people were wary about Marvel NOW going into this relaunch, but if you're reading the same books I am, I don't know how you could not be excited about the future prospects of these titles, except perhaps if you're burnt out on superhero books altogether.  In that case, this week had a lot of alternatives for you, like: Nowhere Men #1, Prophet #33, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 if that's your bag.  But me, I'm gonna talk about some X-Men comics.

Uncanny Avengers #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday
Marvel

Yes, this is technically an Avengers book, but come on, this post-AvX title is mostly about the mutants.  Even though the Red Skulls super-powered S-Men are explicitly "not mutants," they act like mutants. It's an X-Men comic with Thor and Captain America in it: deal with it.  This issue was delayed somewhat because that's how John Cassaday works, and I don't know why anyone should be surprised by this.  Was it worth that wait?  Well, that I'm not so sure about.    

John Cassaday was one of those artists, along with Brian Hitch and Greg Land, who was on fire in the early 2000s.  They were some of the major artists to pioneer the widescreen format, and when you first saw their work, it really stood out as being hyper-modern.  Their comics screamed: this is the future!  However, history hasn't really been kind to any of these artists.  Of the three, Hitch has been the most consistent, Land is mostly hated now due to his inability to draw people that don't look like porn stars, and Cassaday, well, he hasn't drawn an ongoing series since Planetary ended.  Cassaday's art is not what it used to be.  It's still very good, and he has an inimitable style, but his minimalist style has grown into the tendency to look static and flat, and even worse, are some of his costume design choices.  Does Captain America need chain-mail armor?  Why is Rogue dressed like she is on her way to Yoga class?  These are the questions I find myself asking as I read Uncanny Avengers.

This is too bad, because the story is actually a lot of fun.  A clone of the original Red Skull has stolen the body of Professor X, cut out his brain, fused it to his own, and has been using Professor X's mind powers to create an army of mutant haters.  There is a real Silver Age feel to all of the scenes involving the Red Skull, and it almost seems like this would be a great book for Tom Scioli to draw instead of Cassaday.

Uncanny Avengers is a fun comic, but not extraordinary.  Remender's story hits all the right notes for a book that combines Avengers with a throwback to the classic X-Men, but I wouldn't call it a return to form for Cassaday.  If you don't mind following a book that is likely to be delayed again and again until Cassaday is replaced or the title is cancelled, I'd say give it a chance.  That's a pretty backhanded recommendation, I realize, but really, the concept is here for a fun, entertaining comic book.  I just wish it was drawn by someone who can stick to a schedule.

Story 4 Art 3.5


X-Men Legacy #2
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
Marvel

X-Men Legacy is a comic that I don't even want to talk about, because I don't want to spoil what's inside for anyone.  What can I tell you to expect without going into detail.  Well for one thing: X-Men Legacy is weird.  Weird in the best way.  It's weird in a way that will open doors to other ways of thinking.  You'll think: "I never thought about my own mind like that before, thank you Si Spurrier, for making me think about my own mind again."  Superhero books don't normally go in for complexities: thematically, linguistically, or emotionally.  X-Men Legacy is all about the messy complexities.  It embeds manifestos within dialogue, cloaks raw emotions and psychology within weird fiction, and it unsettles the way you read, by forcing you to read in Scots dialect, which no comic has successfully done in ages as far as I'm concerned.

People often like to talk about how they "only read the books that matter."  I understand this sentiment while I disagree with it vehemently.  The stories that matter are the stories that should have some greater meaning, convey some deeper emotion or theme, and maybe tell us something about what it means to be human.

X-Men Legacy is a vital addition to Marvel's lineup, and an argument for it's continued relevance in spite of increased corporatization and the increasing homogenization of their product line.

Story 4.5 Art 4

All New X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Marvel

I have had a love/hate relationship with Bendis for years.  I've loved Alias, The Pulse, Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man, and his early runs on Avengers/New Avengers, and I've hated his Moon Knight, and later runs on Avengers/New Avengers.  I was completely prepared to hate his take on the X-Men.  I had no intention of even buying this issue after the lackluster debut.  I would have been so wrong.

All New X-Men #2 is the proper debut of Bendis' all-new direction for Marvel's mutants, and it is a great start to what I'm optimistic will be a very interesting year for the X-Men.  In another writer's hands, this hackneyed plot of Back to the Future style time-travel would fall completely flat, but Bendis plays it all up for big emotional payoffs and fantastic dialogue.  Every one of the original five X-Men has a great moment, and their encounter with both the realization of their future selves as well as their increasing understanding of the future itself is beautifully realized.  I would never have thought that Bendis would make a great writer for the X-Men, but here he is, in all his Claremontian glory.

This is another book that I  really don't want to spoil for any potential new readers, which might seem like a lazy and impotent gesture when you can just go to any number of more popular blogs to spoil it for yourself, but let me just say this:  this was the best book I read this month.  If you ever loved the X-Men, and have been wanting the opportunity to start over with the mutants.  NOW is your chance.

Story 5 Art 5

Friday, November 23, 2012

Journey Into Mystery #646: "Stronger Than Monsters"


Journey Into Mystery #646
"Stronger than Monsters (1 of 5)"
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Marvel

This review begins with a bit of a disclaimer: I don't really know anything about The Lady Sif, outside of her role in last year's Thor movie.  I've never really been much of a fan of Thor or the Asgardians until recently, and so I'm coming into this series as a complete newbie to the character of Sif and her world.  I'm happy to say that this didn't affect my enjoyment of this issue at all.

Journey Into Mystery #646 begins in media res, as Sif rescues one of Volstagg's sons from Asgard's library, set on fire by the demons of Surtur.  Sif explains to the mother of the boy that she's tired of constantly fighting battles after they occur, and this inspires her to seek out a power that can help her destroy her enemies before they attack.  Sif remembers the legend of the berserkers, and travels throughout the realms to find someone who can teach her the secret of the berserkers.  By the end of the issue though, it seems that Sif has received more than she bargained for.

I really enjoyed the first issue of this new arc.  Despite not knowing anything about Sif, I became invested and interested in her story.  High-fantasy can become cheesy if not handled well, but Immonen's writing contains enough modern self-awareness to balance out all the flowery speech of the Asgardians.  Speaking of which, there is a lot of text in this book.  If you find yourself constantly complaining about decompression in modern comics, this is the book for you.  There is tons of dialogue and narrative captions throughout this issue, and though it took some time to get through, it never felt overly cumbersome or threw off the pace of the issue.

Valerio Schiti's art was also very good, reminding me somewhat of Cliff Chiang's work on Wonder Woman.    Again, Schiti's art maintains this great balance between the Marvel fantasy style and a pop-art sensibility, brought out in these pages by Jordie Bellaire's bright colour work. I hope this art team decides to stay throughout the entire first arc, because after a first issue this good, I'd hate to see it drop in quality.

If you're on the fence about Journey into Mystery, or you're an Midgardian noob like me, give it a look.

Story 4 
Art 4

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Deadpool #2: "We Fought A Zoo"


Deadpool #2
"We Fought A Zoo"
Writers: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan
Artist: Tony Moore
Colours: Val Staples
Cover Artists: Geof Darrow and Peter Doherty
Marvel

When Marvel NOW first announced a new Deadpool series, I was not interested. Deadpool has been more or less off-my-radar entirely ever since Daniel Way took over his title, and it wasn't until I found out that one of my favorite comedians, Brian Posehn, would be taking over the book with co-writer Gerry Duggan (Infinite Horizon), and that Tony Moore was going to be the artist.

"SOLD!" I said, as I slapped my money down on the counter at Comic Readers (lie: I paid with debit), and nearly pissed myself from laughing so hard as Deadpool slaughtered his way through two U.S. presidents (including a wheelchair-bound FDR) and a giant Godzilla-alike (with Mothra sized nipples).

The second issue of this series continues the chest-bursting (or was that "gut-busting?") one-liners from last issue, but the visual gags and excellent artwork by Moore really make Deadpool great sequential art.  It's one thing to tell a good joke in a word balloon, but the comedy in both the art and writing puts this on the level of MAD Magazine.

Comedy isn't often a respected genre in comics, and Deadpool isn't exactly a respected character either (I mean, he's a Deathstroke ripoff created by Rob Liefeld, fer cryin' out loud), but this is just a fantastic comic book. I'm dead serious.  Deadpool is exciting to look at, and a blast to read.

Story: 4 
Art: 5 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 11/14/12: Saga, Thor, Bloodshot and more!

OK.  Holy hell did I ever buy a bloody lot of comics today.  Right.  So instead of doing three or four mini-reviews in my "Week of Comics" thingy, I'm going to try and keep my thoughts on each book to a minimum, and assign a little number rating out of five (people apparently like numbers- I am allergic to mathematics).  Alright, enough with the preamble!

Batman #14
"Funny Bones"
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
DC

I'm just going to say it right now, this is the best Joker story in years.  Snyder and Capullo have stepped out of the shadow of Heath Ledger and a delivered a chilling new version of the Man Who Laughs that has more in common with Freddy Krueger than any former incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime.

This isn't an issue you want spoiled, so go to Comixology or your local comic shop and read it for yourself, or else the Joker is going to keep hitting Alfred Pennyworth with his hammer, and God only knows what he's done to Alfred's eyes.   Story: 5 Art: 5



X-Men Legacy #1
"Prodigal"
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
Marvel

People (if they can be so generously described as "people") like to complain a lot about how the Big Two never take risks, and then proceed to not support the books that Marvel and DC publish that challenge this preconception.  I hope I am wrong, because X-Men Legacy is one of the riskiest damn books Marvel could have decided to publish as part of its Marvel NOW event.

For starters, it's a book by a relatively unknown writer from the UK, Si Spurrier, drawn by another unknown artist, Tan Eng Huat, and stars David Haller, a mentally ill mutant with a serious case of disassociative identity disorder otherwise known as Legion.  It's also as mad as Spider Jerusalem's acid flashbacks.  Although careful readers will be able to make sense of what's going on inside and outside of Legion's crazed head, Spurrier and Huat seem determined to blur the lines between reality and the Qortex Complex, the brain-jail where Haller has locked up all the deviant psycho-personalities lurking in his skull.

This is a great book for new readers to get into, and if you find yourself pining away for the days when crazed men from across the pond like Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison used to scribe for Marvel, this is the X-book for you. Story: 4 Art: 3.5


Saga #7
"Chapter Seven"
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Fiona Staples

Ah, can you feel that? It's the collective sigh of relief from thousands of readers who can finally breathe easy because the greatest comic being published right now is back from its three-month hiatus. Yes, Saga is back, and despite the break, this book hasn't missed a step.  Picking right up from where issue #6 left off, Marko's parents have arrived and are not very pleased with his choice of life partner.  After a masterful look into the war-torn past of Marko's father, which really serves the anti-war metaphor that underlies the entire book, Vaughn and Staples split the parents up with the newlyweds, leading to some great moments between characters.

I'll admit I was little worried when Saga first went on hiatus, but now that it's back, I realize I had nothing to fear. If you haven't read the first 6 issues of Saga yet, you'll need to pick up the first trade before jumping on with this arc.

Also: giant swollen alien testicles.    Story: 5 Art: 5


Bloodshot #5
"The Rise and Fall Part 1"
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Manuel Garcia Arturo Lozzi
Valiant

Bloodshot is not everyone's cup of tea.  I get that.  It's full of blood and nastiness and mixes its hard military SF with real sociopolitical overtones that can be hard to swallow.  But me, I like my tea bitter (which is kind of apt, since if Bloodshot were a tea, he'd be Earl bloody Grey). This issue finds Bloodshot storming the secret base of Project Rising Spirit, but finds more than he bargained for in the special ops nightmare that is Chainsaw: an early project of PRS' that also attempted to fuse human beings with sharp cybernetic objects.

I love Wolverine and The Punisher, but it seems absolutely redundant reading those books in a world where Bloodshot exists.  Here, you get the best of both worlds.  Bloodshot is basically an indestructible cybernetic Punisher with a head full of secrets that would make Julian Assagne blush.  If brutal, bloody action and modern day military SF sounds like your thing, read this book. Even though this is #5, the helpful back matter on the first page of the book will fill you in on everything you need to know about the series going into this new arc.  Valiant has been doing a great job of making each issue friendly to new readers, and Bloodshot #5 is no exception to that. Story: 4 Art: 3


Thor: God of Thunder #1
The God Butcher, Part One of Five, "A World Without Gods"
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

Thor is a character who I've always liked as an Avenger, but haven't been interested in reading in his own book.  This changed when I saw preview pages of Esad Ribic's interiors for this new series.  The painterly quality of Ribic's art seems like it was transported out of the pages of some forgotten issue of Heavy Metal and into my Marvel comic, and I absolutely love it.  Sometimes art drawn in this fashion doesn't work as well sequentially, but Ribic's strength as a visual storyteller shines here. He and Aaron make an excellent pair, as Ribic's visuals compliment Aaron's story of Thor across three time periods.  The mood of this story is foreboding, and often eerie. Thor's anger and confusion when he arrives at the atheist planet is palpable, and his dismay when he finds the butchered corpses of the Sky Lords fills the comic with a overwhelming sense of dread and despair.  Epic is a word that gets tossed around quite loosely in geek culture, but in the case of this story, it thoroughly applies.  If I had to pick a favorite moment, it was when the old God-King Thor (heretofore known as O.G. Thor) asks for someone to bring him his metal arm, only to remember that all his servants are dead. Story: 4.5 Art: 5

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shadowman #1 Review on iFanboy.com's "Pick of the Week" podcast

Hey gang, Christian here.

I'm an occasional poster on iFanboy.com and a longtime listener of their "Pick of the Week" podcast.  This week, I was lucky to have been selected by the iFanboy crew, who read a short review of Shadowman #1 I wrote on this week's podcast.

If you're not already a listener of the podcast, give it a shot.  It's like listening to a bunch of your friends sit around and talk about their favorite comics.  Also check out their "Don't Miss" podcast, where they talk to a comics creator about an upcoming book that you, well, shouldn't miss.  For example, last week they talked to Joshua Hale Fialkov about the surprisingly excellent Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1.

They're both great shows and I look forward to them every week.

Side note #1: I've learned something after listening to someone else read my review. I definitely need to make my sentences shorter and less wordy. I got the feeling that my long run-on sentences were a little hard to process.

Side note #2: I imagine our readers are a colorful gang of rogues, kind of like The Warriors.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thought Bubble Anthology: 2012 Edition

The Leeds Comic Art Festival Anthology 2012: Thought Bubble
November 2012
Image

Once again, the cover caught me!  For those of you who don't know me, I'm writing my MA thesis on fairy tales right now and I have had a thing for the Little Red Riding Hood story lately.  You can read about that on my other blog: "Must I Write?"

The next thing I noticed was that this anthology contains stories from Kate Beaton, of Hark, A Vagrant (hilarious, and one of Christian's favorites) and Gail Simone (current writer of Batgirl).  So, I was curious and I picked it up.

There are some real gems in here.  Steve Reynolds tells a poignant but funny story about his dad's floating ear, Dave Johnson tells the hilarious story about how he met Bob Layton, and Gail Simone's depiction of a comic book store in the Victorian(?) period selling comics called "Bat Gentleman" and "Lady Wonder" is awesome.

But, I have to say that I had two big favorites: the first was Kristyna Baczynski's "Due Returns" and the second was Ivan Brandon's "I'm Through."  Apparently I also have a thing for portal stories.

Totally worth the $4!

Colder #1: "Like Lemons Frozen in Kerosene"

Colder #1 (of 5)
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist: Juan Ferreyra
Letters: Nate Piekos
November 8, 2012
Dark Horse

This is not the kind of comic I normally pick up.  This is the kind of comic I look at from a distance and still have nightmares about later.  But instead, I picked it up and showed it to Christian:

"Look! What a creepy cover!"

-*nods*

"Oh my god! His finger is in his eye! Ew! I didn't see that!"  *puts comic back on shelf hurriedly, stares at it* ...*pick it back up, flips through* ...."Ok, I'm getting this one."

So, it was the art that sold me on this issue initially.  It made me think of Locke and Key, Stephen King stories, and Hellboy all in one.  The characters pop off the page and suck you into their world--particularly the villain--Nimble Jack.  You have to check out more of the art on Paul Tobin's blog: paultobin.net. Every time I see the cover, I get that uncomfortable feeling at the back of my neck.  Also, the color leaking out of the panels during the murder of a prisoner by Nimble Jack is brilliant.

Even though I was drawn to the art right away, I had no idea that the writing itself was going to be incredibly reminiscent of Joe Hill's Locke and Key, and I love Locke and Key. Colder has just the right mix of contemporary life (people videotaping Reece's mugging, rather than helping) and supernatural occurrences (Nimble Jack stepping out of a portal into an asylum).

Also, good on Reece for not going down without a fight!  She's feisty, and I hope that carries on into the rest of Colder.  She won't be such an easy victim for whatever's coming her way.

My only nitpick is that it seemed a bit strange for Reece to open up so much to the police officer.  I understand that it was a good plot device to explain to us why she has this blue dude in her apartment but it was a little too obvious about being a device.  Also, was the cop flirting with Reece? It was just an odd conversation, even though I was totally absorbed by the mystery of Declan.

By the time I reached the last few pages of this issue, I knew I was going to have to keep following the next four issues in order to get some answers.  Like, what is it that Nimble Jack smells on Reece?  Something that smells like "lemons frozen in kerosene! Forty degrees below zero! Forty steps beneath the basement! Forty winks!" (the poet in me really liked those lines).  What did Nimble Jack do to Declan?  What are Declan and Reece going to talk about?  Is there more to Reece than meets the eye?

If you're a fan of horror comics, you need to follow this series.  I went into Comic Readers yesterday expecting not to find anything new to follow and boy, was I wrong.  I'll be picking up the next four issues of Colder!




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What We're Reading: 11/06/12

So you might have noticed that it's been awhile since Courtney has posted anything on this site.  She still intends to write for the blog, but unfortunately, she and I have both been really busy as of late.  She just returned from the Sirens Conference a few weeks ago, and has been playing catch-up ever since. You can read about her experiences at the Sirens Conference here.

As I've probably said a dozen times before now, graduate school is just leaving us both feeling mind-wiped as we're working on our thesis projects.  We barely have enough energy at the end of the day to read our comics, let alone write about them afterwards.  She hopes to do more writing here in the future, and I'm not going to stop encouraging her to do so, but don't expect her to post regularly until the semester is over.

In any event, even if we're not going to review all of them, here's what we're looking forward to reading this month:
  • Animal Man #14 (DC)
  • Archer & Armstrong #4 (Valiant)
  • Batgirl #14 (DC)
  • Bloodshot #5 (Valiant)
  • Captain America #1 (Marvel)
  • Colder #1 (Dark Horse)
  • Deadpool #1 (Marvel)
  • Dial H #5 (DC)
  • Earth 2 #6 (DC)
  • Harbinger #6 (Valiant)
  • Hit-Girl #5 (Icon)
  • Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1 (DC)
  • Prophet #32 (Image)
  • Saga #7 (Image)
  • Shadowman #1 (Valiant)
  • The Secret Service #5 (Icon)
  • Swamp Thing #14 (DC)
  • Thor: God of Thunder #1 & #2 (Marvel)
  • Uncanny Avengers #2 (Marvel)
  • Wonder Woman  #14 (DC)
  • World's Finest #6 (DC)
  • X-O Manowar #7 (Valiant)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

Writers: Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Valiant

Shadowman on the N64 was one of my favorite video games when I was a kid.  I've always had a thing for dark, supernatural characters, probably stemming from my love of Morbius the Living Vampire and of course, Spawn, who everyone was a fan of in the early-to-mid nineties.  The funny thing is though, I didn't even know Shadowman was a comic book character. The only Valiant titles I was aware of at the time were Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Solar: Man of the Atom,  Magnus Robot Fighter, and those Nintendo comics they used to publish.  It wasn't until I was in my early twenties when I discovered that one of my favorite writers, Garth Ennis, had written four-issues of Shadowman, that I became interested in the character.  I've since gone back and read much of the original Shadowman series, and I can definitely say that I am a fan.  As soon as the relaunch was announced, I've been anticipating the release of Shadowman #1 from co-writers Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher, with art from Zircher as well.

Shadowman #1 begins with a very strong opening scene.  It establishes several things that will become important to the series going forward (the Shadowman legacy, the villain, Master Darque, the threat of Deadside), but it's just a fantastic scene in its own right.  It is easy to see why Valiant chose to preview these pages, as they are just breathtakingly well-illustrated.  The first five pages of this comic are probably the best five pages you're going to see this week, if not this month.

After the initial scene, we meet Jack Boniface, and here is where I need to balance my expectations as a fan of the original incarnation of the character to this new version.  The original Jack Boniface was a jazz musician, and as such, he was a wild, unpredictable character who improvised his way through every situation.  That being said, in the original series we never really got to know much Jack very well, and he remained somewhat of a cipher throughout the series.

Shadowman #1 changes things as this all-new version of Jack is a self-described Jack-of-all-trades.  He never holds down a job for very long, we're told, and he's currently working in a museum that houses Voodoo artifacts.  The real depth of Jack's character though, is in his desire to know the truth about his parents.  It was this aspect of Jack's character that made me interested in his story.  Not only because it gave the book some basic human drama, but it brought forward the concept of Shadowman as a legacy or mantle that has been passed down through generations, something that hasn't really been effectively done in comics since James Robinson's Starman.

Jack was orphaned long ago, and the only memento he has to remember either of his parents by is an unusual pendant we see his father Josiah give his mother in the introductory scene.  This pendant is clearly going to be important, as later in this issue, Jack throws it into the ocean, prompting the Voodoo powers-that-be to seek him out again and reclaim his body for the Shadowman.  

We're also introduced in this issue to the major villain of the first-arc, Mr. Twist, a demonic entity composed of miscellaneous organs, teeth, and muscle tissue.  After reading the last thirteen or so issues of Jeff Lemire's Animal Man, I've become pretty desensitized to this kind of gruesome bio-horror, but Jordan and Zircher give Mr. Twist enough personality to make him stand out from The Rot in Animal Man and Swamp Thing.  As an introductory villain, Twist's a nasty looking, but impressively rendered character.  I'm just hoping Jordan and Zircher don't drag his story out for fourteen or so issues, and that we see some other villains in the coming issues that are as freakish and well-drawn as Mr. Twist.

This issue took a second read to really grow on me. On first reading it, I felt a little underwhelmed by Shadowman #1, but understood that was probably because I've been so inundated with preview material since the title was announced that at least a quarter of this book was spoiled for me.  Reading it a second time though, there is a lot to admire in this first issue.  It introduces the hero, gives us some of his backstory while teasing us with the mystery of his origins, and introduces the primary and secondary antagonists, and that's not even mentioning Zircher's excellent artwork.

The only thing that stuck out to me as strange about this first issue was the last page, when Boniface shouts, "I AM SHADOWMAN!"  It was cliched, hokey, and over-the-top. And besides, when did he decide to call himself Shadowman?  And why?  My guess is that is what the spirit who has possessed Boniface calls itself, but it was a little silly and tonally stood out from the rest of the issue.

Shadowman #1 has pretty much everything you could want in a first issue of a new ongoing series.  If you've never heard of the character before, only remember him from the N64 and PS2 games, or if you're a longtime fan of the character, I recommend you pick this up, especially if you've been looking for a new title that mixes action-adventure with supernatural horror. This is a new beginning for Shadowman in the new era of Valiant Comics, and if you're reading this blog, you've got no reason not to check it out. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Swamp Thing Annual #1

Swamp Thing Annual #1

Writers: Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft
Artist: Becky Cloonan
DC Comics

This issue was a breath of fresh air.  I haven't exactly been silent on my feelings regarding the overall direction of Swamp Thing and Animal Man since the New 52 began.   Initially, I loved that both of these books were essentially superhero horror stories, and I really enjoyed the interconnectedness between the two titles.  However, as the months settled, these books started to feel stagnant, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they've essentially been facing the same mutual antagonist since day one: The Rot.  This lead into the Rotworld crossover, which I was initially excited for, but the delay brought on by Zero Month has made this crossover seem like its stalling.  These titles are just barely keeping me interested, especially as this crossover is scheduled to drag on into February 2013.  And in comes this issue, with guest co-writer Scott Tuft and art by the always wonderful Becky Cloonan.

Full disclosure: Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's miniseries Demo was one of the first graphic novels I ever bought.  I have been fan of Becky's art ever since, so my capacity to judge her art objectively is somewhat blinded by the fact that I am an unabashed fan.

Along those same lines, Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft's 2011 collaboration, Severed, was one of my favorite comics of last year, so as soon as I heard that Tuft co-writing this issue, I started getting chills.

So it pains me to say that this issue is a bit of a mixed bag.

Most of this issue takes place outside of the main story of the Rotworld crossover, and this is where the issue really shines.  The introduction and conclusion of the story are pencilled by Andrew Belanger and take place within the Rotworld story, although not exactly from where Issue #13 left off, and well, it just serves to remind me of how tired I am of the whole storyline involving The Rot.  Once we're past that intro, and the story focuses on Alec Holland and Abby Arcane's first meeting, the issue really starts to take off and reminds me of why I love these characters.

It's difficult to describe the tone and atmosphere of this issue.  I'd say it's a cross between a romance comic and an EC horror book.  Most of the issue just focuses on Abby and Alec's first date, and it's exactly as charming and sweet as you'd think a story about star-crossed lovers drawn by Becky Cloonan would be...and then Anton Arcane is shown skinning a hanged man so he can wear his body like a meat-suit.

Wow, that got dark quickly.

Despite the abrupt shift in tone and genre however, the story and the art just work.  This is the best art I've seen in Swamp Thing, actually, any DC Comic, since Yanick Paquette left as the full-time artist on this book.  It's a real shame she isn't staying on this book longer, which is the same I'd say for Scott Tuft as co-writer.  Clearly, he and Snyder share the same horror sensibilities.  Though much of this issue is really light-hearted and romantic, this issue gets downright scary, much more than in any previous issue of Swamp Thing.

If Scott Snyder can leave The Rot storyline behind and bring Tuft on as a co-writer full time, it might be enough to keep me interested.  Anton Arcane has turned out to be a genuinely frightening threat, but crossover fatigue is keeping me from being excited about this book any more.  I know it sounds like backhanded praise, but if you've been feeling like I have about Swamp Thing, I'd recommend you pick this issue up. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 17/10/12: Marvel Point One, Harbinger #5, Captain Marvel #5

Marvel NOW! Point One
Writers: Various
Artists: Various
Marvel

So since I enjoyed Uncanny Avengers a lot more than I expected, I've decided to give some of the Marvel NOW! books a chance, starting with the latest Point One issue.  First off, holy crap. This thing cost $5.99! I don't care if it's 64 pgs. For something that is basically just a glorified Previews catalog, I'm stunned. I bought it, because I'm a sucker, but damn Marvel.

So what did I think? Well, let's just say that out of the six titles previewed in this issue, at least four are on my Watch List and two are instant buys when their first issues come out. All in all, I thought it was pretty okay.

Nick Spencer and Luke Ross' Secret Avengers story didn't interest me in the least. This didn't surprise me, as I'm no fan of Spencer's writing in general. It's an overly talky scene that tries too hard to be clever and doesn't leave me wanting more. Moving on: Bendis and McNiven's Guardians of the Galaxy teased the new origins of Peter Quill, Starlord, but didn't leave me wanting more either. Instead, it just left me wondering why Bendis is writing Marvel Cosmic stories. Hmm. Is it just me, or have the Skrull's uniforms and weapons been retconned to make them look more like the Chitauri?

A big surprise for me was Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' take on the new, kid-friendly Nova. I was expecting to hate this, but as it turns out, it was one of my favorite stories in the book. A small, self-contained adventure with Nova squaring off against one of his predecessors enemies, Diamondhead. Loeb seems to be having fun with this character, and that exuberance also comes across in McGuiness' cartooning, which is in fine form. I never thought I'd be saying this, but I am excited for a Jeph Loeb comic.

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton's Young Avengers was the highlight of the issue for me. Watching Miss America throttle Kid Loki over a plate of Korean BBQ was a thing of beauty. As it stands, this is one of my most anticipated titles of the relaunch. I will buy this without hesitation.

Matt Fraction and The Allred's FF story featuring Scott Lang as Ant-Man was a tragicomic story with some great art, but the more I thought about the odd storytelling choices and character motivations, the more I decided I didn't like it as much as my first impressions suggested. Lang wants revenge at Dr. Doom for killing his daughter, and he decides to vandalize his art show? Really? I love Mike and Laura Allred's work, but Fraction is on thin ice with me. This is a wait-and-see title.

Closing out this issue was a story previewing Cable and the X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, which is weird, because I'm pretty sure Salvador Larocca is scheduled to be the artist on the actual series. Again, I have to admit I'm shocked. Cable and the X-Force was not a comic I was looking forward to at all, but this weird little story featuring a future-shocked Forge repairing his own broken mind (I think?) and then ending the story with Cable and his little withered arm, was a strange but pleasant little surprise. This is definitely a title I'll be looking into when it debuts in December, and I haven't been excited about Cable since I was 10.

So there you have it. At $5.99, this is a steeply priced set of Previews, but at least 65% of the book was worth it, and now I'm excited about a handful of titles that I'm now looking forward to.

Harbinger #5
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Khari Evans
Valiant

Five issues in, and I think it's safe to say that Harbinger is my favorite title of the Valiant relaunch. Everything about this book excites me. The complicated drama, the intense level of emotion poured into the characters, the awesome display of psychic powers, and the complex real-world politics that the book deals with on a regular basis.

This was the most intense, action-filled issue of Harbinger yet. Grieving and full of rage after discovering the body of his murdered friend Joe, Pete Stanchek takes the fight directly to Harada, but of course things get more complicated than that. For more of this series, I have been very critical of Pete's actions and have found him to be a very selfish and destructive character. And yet, when he tells Harada, "the thing you've never understood about me Harada, [is] I was born to die" struck me as such a tragic statement that completely underscores where Pete is coming from.

As a person who has spent most of his life in institutions and struggling to survive in poverty on the streets, Pete's entire life has been one of desperate, leading towards death. He's never really known love (except when he forced Kris to love him), and barely knows how to respond to basic kindness. Pete is a damaged person, but he isn't worthless and he can't just be used like some pawn on a giant chess board. Pete's always known that life was a brutal game and he's been on the losing team since birth.

That's a long way of saying you should definitely be reading Harbinger. It is one of the best comics on the stands currently, and is more essential and relevant than anything being currently published by Marvel or DC.

Captain Marvel #5
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick 
Artist: Emma Rios
Marvel

I was very critical of the first issue of the relaunched Captain Marvel series. Unfairly so. I am happy to report that this comic has been steadily improving with every issue. This issue continues where the last one left off, with Carol Danvers trapped in the past and trying to befriend her hero, who sees her more as competition than a comrade. The writing in this book has gotten much better. The rhetoric I complained of in the first issue has been toned down considerably, but this book is no less about women kicking ass in World War II. It's awesome.

Another improvement in this issue is the art by Emma Rios. Hers is the kind of expressive, impressionist art I'd expect more from an Image book than a Marvel comic. I love it, with one caveat: what the hell is wrong with Carol's face? Seriously. I am over the costume. I think the costume is bad-ass. Seeing photos of people cosplaying in the new Captain Marvel suit convinced me that it is an improvement over the Ms. Marvel getup. Seriously though, Carol's face in this issue is messed up.

I've been reading comics with a domino-mask wearing Danvers for years, and I never had a hard time recognizing her face. In this issue, there were several times when I lost track of who the hell she was. I understand that each artist wants to put their own individual stamp on the character, I get that, but at least try to make the character's facial features somewhat consistent with past appearances.

These minor gripes aside, this was a pretty good book, and makes me hope that someone at Marvel Studios has plans for Carol Danvers. I would love to see Captain Marvel in Avengers 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 10/10/12: Uncanny Avengers, Frankenstein, Archer and Armstrong and More!

I liked doing the mini-reviews so much last week that I think I'm going to stick with this format for a while, although, given how fickle I am, we'll see. So, what did I read this week? Well, let's find out!

Uncanny Avengers #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

For someone who never read AvX, I got into Uncanny Avengers really quickly. Cyclops is the new Magneto, The Red Skull is experimenting on Mutants and has the brain of Charles Xavier, and Captain America approaches Havoc about leading a new team that will represent Xavier's dream of cooperation between mutants and humans. As someone who has been waiting for both an Avengers and an X-Men title to jump into, this is the perfect book for me. The team hasn't really been formed yet, but I'm loving the mix of old-school Avengers with classic X-Men. It's also nice to see Scarlet Witch in an Avengers book again. Please Marvel, don't let Bendis anywhere near this character ever again.

While I'd never read anything by Rick Remender before, what sold me on this comic was the art of John Cassaday. Cassaday is one of my favorite artists. His run on Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men is maybe some of my favorite X-Men art ever, and Planetary is one of my favorite comic book series of all time. Needless to say, I have high hopes for this series as well. Some people have complained about the look of Captain America's costume, but I didn't mind it, nor do I have any issue with Thor's costume being the redesign from the Avengers film. My only gripe with this issue was Wolverine's speech. I'm not sure what Remender is going for with Wolverine's voice. He doesn't sound Canadian, that's for sure. Again, it's a minor gripe, but I'm hoping he'll find the character's voice soon, since that lackluster bit of exposition was overshadowed entirely by Havoc's conversation with Cyclops, who is looking like a future-shocked Hannibal Lecter in that containment helm they've got covering his eyes. Overall, I am really optimistic about this series and can't wait to see what Remender and Cassaday deliver next.

Phantom Stranger #1
Writer: Dan Didio
Artist (s): Brent Anderson and Philip Tan

I was going to pass on this issue after being bored by last month's Phantom Stranger #0, until I flipped through the book and saw the art. Brent Anderson and Philip Tan's collaboration on art duties here gives this issue a very old-school DC horror vibe. It looks like a comic from another era. The problem is that it reads like one too. Nothing really happens in this comic. Phantom Stranger shows up, saves Raven from Trigon's followers, only to hand her over to...Trigon? Why? Phantom Stranger is apparently doomed to betray people for a greater good, but when you know that's the setup going in it makes for a very boring comic. This is a series that I want to like. I love DC's classic supernatural characters, like Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate and The Spectre, but this comic is just DULL.

Archer & Armstrong #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry

I had some reservations about this series when it began. It seemed like Fred Van Lente was picking on Christians as an easy target for broad satirical comedy. This issue rectifies that and solidifies the premise and the bond between these two characters in a way that anyone, Christian, Atheist, or otherwise, can get into provided their open-minded enough. A sense of humour also helps. The issue continues where the last one left off, with Archer and Armstrong fighting off Lilith-worshiping ninja nuns beneath the Vatican in search of one of the pieces of The Boon.

Clayton Henry's pencils are very good. He doesn't try anything too crazy, but manages to change up his art style as the tone of the book demands, whether it's an action-packed page or a slapstick joke that lasts only a panel. I especially enjoy his clean lines, which Matt Milla's colouring compliments very nicely. This is a really fun book, and I think even those who aren't interested in the other Valiant titles might find something to enjoy here. If you were a fan of Fred Van Lente's Incredible Hercules run at Marvel, this is the book for you.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

I read the first couple issues of Frankenstein when the New 52 came out, but quickly lost interest. I only picked up this issue because it ties into the Rotworld crossover taking place in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, but I'm very glad that I did. Basically, Victor Frankenstein was resurrected by the competing powers of The Red and The Green, but decided instead to serve Arcane and The Rot. He has a mystical object called a "Soul-Grinder" that he used to create Frankenstein (the monster), and Frankenstein now has to get the Soul-Grinder and help fight the Rotworld invasion. Why? Because Frankenstein is already undead and therefore the Rot can't corrupt him.

I don't know when exactly Matt Kindt took over this title, but he managed capture the voices of these characters very effectively. Victor is exactly the kind of pompous egoist that he should be, and Frankenstein is great as the reluctant hero. He's less talkative in this issue than in the ones I read by Jeff Lemire, and reminds me more of his portrayal in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory, which I love. I don't know if Ponticelli is the regular artist on this title. I'd never seen his art outside of Dial H, but I really like the work he's doing here. I'll keep reading these Frankenstein Rotworld tie-ins and see whether I want to keep reading after that.

Can we quit putting those Arrow advertisements on the cover though, please DC? Pretty please?


The Secret Service #4
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Gibbons

I didn't even realize that I still had this comic on my pull list. After trashing the last issue here on the blog, I thought I'd dropped it. Well, I'm glad that I didn't. I don't know what it was, but this issue really turned the series around for me. After stealing Jack's spy car and taking it for a joyride, Gary is given a second chance at turning his life around, but he has to make it all the way from Columbia in his underwear to M16 headquarters in London by midnight. Mark Millar hasn't been relying on the same shock tactics in this series as he has in other recent works (see: Kick Ass 2, Super Crooks), and its refreshing here. This is a classic James Bond spy adventure that openly engages with the politics of class implicit in the British spy genre. It's also a not-so subtle dig at contemporary British youth, in the book's comparison between one generation's idealized figure of masculinity with the contemporary urban English male. Dave Gibbons art here is masterful. Like Steve Dillon, he's one of those artists who favors minimal lines and realism over a more flashy comic book style, but here Gibbons is really able to showcase his talent for realist comic book storytelling. Great stuff and I look forward to seeing how this series concludes.

"Geekdom is a Nation with Open Borders"

I'm going to take Courtney's lead and start posting more informal blog posts on this, well, blog. And to start with, I'd like to draw your attention to what I think is a great article by author John Scalzi called "Who Gets to be a Geek?" 

Scalzi's article touches on a subject this is very close to home for me. This is getting somewhat personal, but Courtney and I had an argument not to long ago about the sentiment or intention behind the "Idiot Nerd Girl" meme. I'm not going to link it. If you haven't seen it before, Google it. I think as a male geek, I just didn't understand how that meme could be so hurtful, but I do now.

As male and female nerds, both our fanboy/fangirl obsessions initially came from a position of feeling like we were social outcasts as kids. Nerd culture was a safe haven for us, a place where we could indulge our own imaginations and fantasies with whatever obscure popular culture we could find.

But here's the thing: there is no such place. Everything we fantasize about, all of our fictions, have their origins in real life, and our entertainments, whether we want to accept this or not, are products of that world. Using comics as an example, we can see this in a book's use of politics, the depiction of its male and female characters as strong or weak, even the poses of their bodies are political statements. Sex is almost always political. Marvel's Civil War is a comic that was blatantly political, but every comic is representative of the politics and beliefs of its creators. This is why Batman used to carry a gun.

Comics can be very sexist, and self-entitled beta male nerds have shown that they are capable of horrendous misogyny. Especially on the internet. There is something wrong with a culture, any culture, that seeks to exclude women from participating solely on the basis that are women.

It's time to address this problem.

Guys, it's time to grow up. Girls can be nerds too. Girls are super nerdy. Some of the biggest nerds I know are girls. About 50% of my tabletop gaming group is composed of women. One of my best friends drives around with the trunk of her car absolutely FULL of board games (Talisman, Catan, you name it, it's in there). A few weeks ago Courtney spent more money on comics than I did! It's time to let the nerd-girls in and stop acting like they are what is destroying nerd culture, or little kids who think Jar-Jar is cooler than C-3PO, your non-nerd friend who thought the Avengers was cool, and LGBT nerds who want to see characters who represent their orientation. Alan Scott being gay isn't going to destroy comics, and it won't kill you if every superheroine isn't posed like a porn star.

You know what will kill nerd culture? Nerds. Nerds who aggressively try to scare off everyone who might also be interested in nerdy things (even if that's just dressing up in costume) just because they don't meet some kind of special qualifications for being a geek.

This is why I'm boycotting Collegehumor.com for posting this horrendous comic strip on "The Six Supervillains of Nerd Culture," and will not be buying Batman #13, in which this ad appeared. DC Comics should be ashamed for publishing such a blatantly misogynistic ad in their comic (an ad which, I should mention, didn't appear in this week's issue of Batgirl).

To finish this long rant, here's a quote from Scalzi, who writes:

"Geekdom is a nation with open borders. There are many affiliations and many doors into it. There are lit geeks, media geeks, comics geeks, anime and manga geeks. There are LARPers, cosplayers, furries, filkers, crafters, gamers and tabletoppers. There are goths and horror geeks and steampunkers and academics. There are nerd rockers and writers and artists and actors and fans. Some people love only one thing. Some people flit between fandoms. Some people are positively poly in their geek enthusiasms. Some people have been in geekdom since before they knew they were geeks. Some people are n00bs, trying out an aspect of geekdom to see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t then at least they tried it."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Batgirl

Christian found this HUGE collection of Batgirl comics for me at Comic Readers for only five bucks.  This is going to take me at least a year to get through.  I've been reading a few, here and there, usually before bed, when I'm burnt out on theory and other thesis work.


 (I do find it odd that she's doing her makeup while Batman and Robin are kicking some serious bad-guy butt on the cover)

Anyway, the reason I share this with you is because I had no idea that her original costume goes from this:


To this:
































Cool, hey?  I especially love the beret-turned bat-mask.  Also, her handbag reverses into her WEAPONS BELT!  That's totally a thing I need.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mini Reviews!: Axe Cop, World's Finest, Earth 2, The Hypernaturals

I'm a little short for time this week, so instead of doing a review of a single issue like usual, I thought I'd give some brief thoughts on a few of the books I read this week. 

Axe Cop: President of the World (#3 of 3): When I started reading this miniseries, I wondered if I would continue to find its random plot and general silliness as amusing after this third issue. Thankfully, Axe Cop continues to find laughs in the most absurd, childlike plot twists. For example: an ordinary man gets forcibly injected with "the blood of everything," turning him into the villain Every Man, who has the power of--everything? This is exactly the kind of comic book I imagined when I was 8, except perhaps with more knock-offs of 80s slasher villains and some kind of Aeon Flux-y super spy. 

Axe Cop is a simple pleasure, but not a guilty one. If you don't like it, you probably have humour cancer.  

World's Finest #5: I don't disagree with those who say that this book doesn't move the plot forward in any meaningful way, or that it seems to be stalling between the first arc and the next, but you know what? I'm OK with that. For a standalone issue, #5 is packed full of story and art from Jenkins and Perez, and half of that story is so good that it's worth the $2.99 price point by itself. Seriously, Huntress saves a Take Back the Night rally from a woman-hating gunman. How awesome is that? Huntress is becoming my favorite member of the Bat-family, and while Power Girl needs to put some R&D money in designing a costume that doesn't burn off her body every issue (or just GIVE HER BACK HER OLD COSTUME DC), her characterization is great too. Sorry for shouting. 

World's Finest isn't breaking the mold, but it's the kind of fun, good-natured comic that I wish DC would publish more often.

Earth 2 #5: Speaking of great DC comics, Earth 2 continues right where #4 left off, with the new "Wonders" taking on one of my favorite Pre-52 villains, Solomon Grundy (just "Grundy," here). What can I say? I love Earth 2. This is how a reboot should be done.  There would be far fewer problems across the DC line if they would have just wiped the slate clean like they have with this title.  I have no doubts that Alan Scott is going to choose to be hero over spending eternity with his dead lover Sam, and will save the day by defeating Grundy with the help of The Flash, Hawkgirl, and The Atom. Beyond that, I have no idea where this series will go. 

In these past 6 issues, the groundwork has been laid for an exciting new chapter in DC Comics history and can't wait to see where Robinson and co. take these characters next.

The Hypernaturals #4: Hypernaturals is a good cosmic superhero story, if, and only if, you are a fan of the Legion of Superheroes. I know this title is creator-owned and supposedly therefore less restrained but in four issues, this book has just failed to make me care about the future of the series. The art is great. The production of this book is quite excellent, and has been far more consistent in this regard than either Extermination (great story/terrible art) or Higher Earth (good story/good-to-terrible art). Even so, I can't just get excited about this series when I feel like I know exactly what it wants to be: The Watchmen meets the Legion of Superheroes. There is clearly a mystery going on and one of the heroes is going to turn out be evil or something like that but I just don't care. 

Overall, I felt that this was a really strong week for DC, as Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Dial H, which I also read, were all excellent.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What We're Reading 28/09/12

This is what happens when grad school kicks in. Best intentions lead to missed opportunities, and I keep forgetting to update the list of what we're reading.

Obviously, a lot of what I said in that "Coming Soon" post from a few months ago. Courtney and I would still like to do a podcast, but between finishing grad school and planning our wedding, we've got a lot going on. Once the wedding happens and we're out of school, then we'll talk podcasts.

In the meantime, here's the current list of the monthly comics we're reading, when they actually decide to come out month-to-month *coughSAGAcough*

What We're Reading - 28/09/12

  • Animal Man (DC)
  • Archer & Armstrong (Valiant)
  • Batgirl (DC)
  • Bloodshot (Valiant)
  • Captain Marvel (Marvel)
  • Debris (Image)
  • Dial H (DC)
  • Earth-2 (DC)
  • Happy! (Image)
  • Harbinger (Valiant)
  • Hit-Girl (Icon)
  • The Hypernaturals (BOOM)
  • Higher Earth (BOOM)
  • Justice League Dark (DC)
  • The Manhattan Projects (Image)
  • Phantom Lady and Doll Man (DC)
  • Prophet (Image)
  • Saga (Image)
  • Swamp Thing (DC)
  • Wonder Woman (DC)
  • World's Finest (DC)
  • X-O Manowar (Valiant)
Oh and before I forget, GO WATCH DREDD 3D! 

Justice League Dark #0: Constantine, You Gotta Love the Bastard

Justice League Dark #0
"Young Bastards"
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Lee Garbett
Inker: Cam Smith, et al.

Alright, it's time I do the Werner Herzog and eat my own shoe.

I said some not so nice things about Justice League Dark #11, dropped the book from my pull list, and was ready to walk away from this title without looking back.

Then I heard some good buzz surrounding this issue, which tells the origin of everyone's favourite magical bastard, John Constantine, and decided to give this title another chance.

I'm glad that I did. This issue doesn't so much tell the origin of Constantine as it does explain where he gained most of his power from, and how he and Zatanna first met. Basically, Constantine shows up in New York in what looks like the 1980s, seeks out the best mage in the city, a sorceror named Nick Necro, convinces him to teach him the dark arts. Then he steals Necro's girl, Zatanna, and after the two have a falling out, Constantine kills the bloke: because that's what a bastard like Constantine does. It's a smart retelling of Constantine's origins that stays true to the character's roots while also manages to connect to the larger story arc that Lemire has been building since he took over this book from Peter Milligan.

On that subject, Lemire has been building a very good team book on Justice League Dark. His character work has been very consistent, adding additional layers and depth to the characters and their stories with each new issue. Despite what's still an unfortunately awful title (seriously, can't we just give this book a new name?), Justice League Dark is becoming one of the strongest team books from DC and after reading these more recent issues, I think I'm enjoying this book even more than Animal Man. This story finally reveals the history between Constantine and Zatanna, and explains the . source of the romantic tension that has been between the two since the series began.

Lee Garbett's art in this particular issue is great. He has this cartoonish style that really fits the magical underworld that Constantine and Zatanna inhabit. There is some nice panel work that breaks up the action but doesn't distract from what's going on. It's a clean, professional art style that features simple line work, but manages to be very expressive when it needs to be. Mikel Janin's art was what kept me reading the title throughout Milligan's run, so I'm not in any hurry to see him leave the book, but I would absolutely be into having Garbett do an occasional fill-in issue.

So there it is. I take back what I said previously about this book. It's quite entertaining and you shouldn't let a bastard like me or Constantine spoil your fun. Read this book and enjoy one of the best issues from DC's Zero Month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rose & Thorn One-Shot

Rose & Thorn 
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Neil Googe
Cover: Ryan Sook
DC Comics


I knew I was going to buy this comic as soon as I flipped through the first four pages.  The first page shows four solid panels: a star with streamers, green shapes, flowing red hair, and a mouth screaming.  It looks like something out of Sailor Moon.  Then, she wakes up in an incredibly pink, preppy room full of stuffed animals (Wonder Woman stuffie!), books, and pictures.  I was initially skeptical, to say the least.  But then, she throws off her blankets and discovers that her stomach and hands are covered in blood!

I was hooked.

 This comic is a page-turner.  It's tightly-written and drives you on to the next page and the next to find out what on earth is going on.  I was honestly disappointed to get to the last page and realize (again) that this is only a one-shot.  Christian was telling me that DC may turn it into a series depending on sales.  Here's hoping!

However, I'm not a fan of the art.  It has its moments; some panels look like they're right out of Joe Hill's Locke and Key, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez.  Unfortunately, in other panels, their lips are bizarrely shaped and their square jaws make the girls look like men with long hair.  There are also a few hints of manga, like the over-exaggerated screaming and smiling mouths. 

I did expect Thorn to dress a lot differently from Rose, rather than just emphasizing the slutty school girl look.  That's really my only problem with this issue: Thorn uses her sexuality to get what she wants and she uses her sexuality just for the sake of proving she's a "bad" girl.  Granted, she is a villain in the original series, but why couldn't she have a real power (like the original) rather than just being sexy?  It just seems to perpetuate the idea that there is a bad girl inside every goody-two-shoes who wears a uniform to her prep school.

Still, I would be very curious to see how this would turn out in a series.  It could be really great, especially if Thorn does have a power, or if Rose does.  I'd like to see how Rose handles her other personality and whether she takes steps to restrain her, or disguise her, or if she just lets it ride.

I'd say, pick it up if you're curious!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wonder Woman: To Continue or Not to Continue?

I have now read Wonder Woman: Issues #1-6 and #0.  I'm really enjoying it so far and I somehow managed to block the knowledge that Superman and Wonder Woman are going to become a couple.  While reading the first six issues, I just couldn't reconcile the Wonder Woman in those issues to the Wonder Woman who ends up with Superman.  That prospect just seems so foreign to what I've been reading.  I don't see how she goes from seeing the bad things that happen to her mother and Zola after sleeping with powerful men to deciding that it would be a GREAT idea to hook up with another powerful man.  At least Superman is an alien and not Zeus?  He's also not married to a vengeful goddess, so that might help.

So, the question is, do I catch up to the current issue?

I love the mythology involved in this comic and the way the various gods are portrayed.  Poseidon as a HUGE sea monster? So cool! Hades as a child with dripping candles on his head? Did not see that one coming!  Hermes as an alien-looking being? Very cool!

I really have no complaints about the first six issues.  I love this artist's portrayal of Wonder Woman.  I've never been much of a Wonder Woman fan because I find her costume ridiculous (why is she STILL wearing a bathing suit?) and she ends up just looking odd, somehow.  But the angular lines of her face and her body build (broad shoulders, long, thin legs) done by this artist really work in her favor.  She is both tall and imposing, as well as womanly.

I blazed through those seven issues in about an hour.  As soon as I put one down, I was going straight to the next one.  I am really curious to find out about how she deals with Hades kidnapping Zola. 

However, I'm leaving it to you, readers: do I keep reading Wonder Woman?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birds of Prey #0: Christian Takes on these Kick-Ass Birds

Birds of Prey #0
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Romano Molenarr
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes

I have to fess up: I've never read an issue of Birds of Prey before. I know, I know. I've heard great things, especially about Gail Simone's run on the series, but at the time she was writing it I just wasn't reading DC Comics. I never saw the ill-fated WB series either.

When DC launched the New 52 last September, Birds of Prey just wasn't one of the comics I picked up. I didn't have the budget for it, I hadn't read any of Duane Swierczynski's work (prior to his current run on Bloodshot), and I wasn't previously a fan of any of the characters in the series. Therefore, it went unread by me, until Courtney picked this book up today because it had a cameo appearance by Batgirl.

As a single issue comic, I have to say I really enjoyed it, even though I don't really know more about the Birds of Prey and their team members than when I first started reading.

This is sort of the problem with these #0 origin issues. They're meant to act as a jumping on point for new readers, but they're also interrupting the regular schedule of the books, forcing fans to wait another month while the storyline goes back in time to show how everything began. That's what this issue does, it shows the series of events that lead to Black Canary and Starling to team up with Batgirl and form the Birds of Prey.

Still, as a new reader to this book, I don't really know anything about these characters other than Black Canary has sonic powers and Starling likes to slap her on the bum occasionally.

Swierczyski is a very underrated writer in my opinion, and his storytelling in this issue reminds me of Gail Simone's work on Batgirl. It's really refreshing to actually spend some time reading a comic book, rather than just speeding through large-scale decompressed action scenes like in so many mainstream comics. The story is narrated through Black Canary's inner monologue, and while some might find this to be an outdated storytelling method, I think it's great. Even if I don't know much about Black Canary's history, I know what's going on inside her head, and I love that.

I'm not familiar with any of Romano Molenaar's previous artwork, and while I wasn't really wowed by the art in this issue, I thought it served the story fairly well. The structuring of the panels is odd. It seems to be house style lately at DC to fragment the panels on the page with no rhyme or reason except to emphasize whatever actions seem appropriate at the time, but it's not nearly as all over the place as say, Red Hood and the Outlaws.Molenaar's character work is pretty good though. The women in this comic manage to be both muscular and sexy without being objectified, with the sole exception being one "pause for the camera" pose near the end of the issue.

I can see how this issue might not be effective in bringing in new readers to Birds of Prey, but I enjoyed it. Birds of Prey is a comic that deliberately mixes high octane action with sex positive feminism, and I can get behind that.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dial H #0: Bumper Carla VS the Beast of Babylon

Dial H #0
"Sundial H for Hero"
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Ricardo Burchielli

Dial H has consistently been my favorite ongoing title from DC. It features the same unpredictability and weird, stream-of-consciousness storytelling that typified the best of Grant Morrison's early Vertigo books, particularly his run on Doom Patrol, and is one of the only comics that makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.

It's zero issue month at DC this September, and every book is focusing on the origin of its titular character. True to the spirit of this book, Dial H #0 doesn't give us the origin of any one character, so much as it reveals the origins of the mystical H Dial itself.

As it turns out, the H Dial was originally a giant sundial created by a Babylonian woman named Laodice, who saw the design of the dial in a "true dream."

Laodice and her servants struggle to build the sundial as the Babylonian army are massacred by a creature called Mushusshu, the Beast of Babylon, and just as Mushusshu reaches the dial, Laodice is transformed by its powers into...Bumper Carla! That's right, Bumper Carla, a domino-masked wearing heroine that drives a super-charged bumper car.

If I would have been drinking something when I first read that, I would have done a spit-take.

Bumper Carla defeats the Beast of Babylon, and then transforms back into Laodice, who is hailed as a Queen and protector of the Empire. The plot moves forward a few years, and Laodice is visited by a friend who has spent years searching for her "magic chariot."

We learn that Laodice destroyed the sundial which transformed her into Bumper Carla, and that her friend isn't Laodice's only visitor; a mysterious stranger who came to see the Queen was imprisoned for wizardry, and apparently knows something about the magic dial.

Without spoiling the entire issue, let me say that this issue did a great job of showing us the origin of the H Dial without giving away all the mystery of how it works and why. There is still a lot to learn about where characters like Bumper Carla and Chimney Boy come from, and how the H Dial brings them into our world.

This is Ricardo Burchielli's first issue of Dial H, and I don't know if he's taking over for Mateus Santolouco or not, but I thought his art fit this issue fairly well. It wasn't fantastic and if I had to nitpick I'm sure I could find things, but Bumper Carla had a great design and her appearance in the book gave it a much needed boost in the art department. Whoever does the art needs to be flexible, and Burchielli's contrast between Babylonian period details and carnival superheroics showcases that flexibility very well.

Dial H #0 is not an origin issue that a casual reader could pick up and understand how it connects to the larger narrative, but it would give new readers a good idea of just how strange, funny and unexpectedly poignant this series can be.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Advance Review: Archer & Armstrong #2

Archer & Armstrong #2
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry
Color Art: Matt Milla

I enjoyed Archer & Armstrong's debut last month, but I know a lot of people had their issues with it. After reading this second issue, I think that Archer & Armstrong is Valiant's biggest shot at a mainstream comics hit.

Archer & Armstrong does a great job of mixing humour with globe-trotting adventure, martial arts action, and a heavy dose of satire directed mostly at conspiracy theory nuts who can't get enough of hack genre fare like The Da Vinci Code or the National Treasure movies.

This issue finds Archer & Armstrong making a temporary alliance to find the pieces of the Boon before The Sect (aka The 1% aka The Cult of Mammon) can. They travel to Italy and meet a tommy-gun toting nun named Tommy who helps them break into the secret Vatican vaults (of course) which contains another piece of the Boon, but not before encountering the The Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, black-eyed ninja nuns who lurk in secret Vatican crypts and who may-or-may not be vampires, it's hard to tell honestly.

Like many of the artists in the Valiant relaunch, Clayton Henry is someone I'd never heard of before, but who is doing a great job on this title. More than any other book, Archer & Armstrong reminds me of a Marvel comic book in terms of style and tone, and while that might not appeal to readers of Harbinger or Bloodshot, it has a better chance I think of appealing to readers outside of Valiant's hardcore fan base.

I wouldn't want every Valiant book to be like this, as I'm currently loving the more realistic take on science fiction featured in Bloodshot and Harbinger, but it's a nice change of pace and a hell of a lot more fun than most books I'm reading from Marvel and DC these days.

If none of the other Valiant comics have appealed to you so far, give Archer & Armstrong a try. If you are following the other Valiant titles, then let me tell you that this is one comic you don't want to miss.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Prophet #28: Live Free or Die Hard

Prophet #28
Story: Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
Art: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colors: Joseph Bergin III
Aug 29, 2012
Image

Disclaimer: if you haven't read the first 7 issues of Prophet stop reading now. Go to Amazon.com, do yourself a favor, and buy Prophet Volume 1: Remission. It costs $10, and contains six issues of one of the best comic stories of the past decade.

There.

Now for the rest of the Prophet faithful (or those who just need some more convincing that a Rob Liefeld concept could possibly be worth their time), let's dig into this issue and see what Graham and co. have in store for us this month.

First off, let's talk about the cover. Look at that cover! Yes, it's a redesign of the original cover to Rob Liefeld's Prophet #1, only with a cro-magnon looking Prophet who is more like the clone we first meet in issues #21-23. Look at how intense and violent he is, with a knife and arrow stuck into him, and sharpened bones strapped to his back.

If you'd never read Prophet before, you'd probably think "man, this issue looks totally EXTREME!"

Settle down, 90s kid, this issue is nothing like that.

No, this issue continues the story from #27, as Great Grandfather Prophet and his Kinniaan friend Brother Hiyonhoiagn travel towards Earth while gathering up the scattered parts of their mechanical comrade, and former Youngblood member, Die Hard. In the early issues of this series, it was very unclear where it was going and what it was about. The first three issues had a fairly straightforward narrative, but as more and more facts about the greater context of the story emerged, it seemed to be a much more insignificant part of a larger  narrative fabric.

With issues #27 and #28, I finally feel like Brandon Graham and his co-creators are making the direction of this series much clearer than it has been, with the original John Prophet, the Great Grandfather to the Earth Empire's clone army, travelling the galaxy and searching for his friends from the last great war, as the Prophet clones work towards reviving the Earth Empire.

The emergence of John Prophet from the drill-pod in the first issue signalled the arrival of the Prophets as an almost violent incursion on nature itself. The very first thing he does is brutally kill a natural predator with an Empire knife. The world of Prophet is one that has moved beyond humanity, and is the better for it. My point is, the return of the Earth Empire is signified through violent action and a disturbance of the natural order.

The Old Man Prophet seems to know this also. I think it's particularly telling that of all his companions we've seen so far, Brother Hiyohoiagn, Die Hard, the robot from #26 and the lizard lady from the last issue whose names I can't remember, none of these characters are human.

So what about this issue? Well, the art continues to be excellent. I know that some Prophet fans prefer Simon Roy's work on the title over Giannis Milonogiannis' manga-inspired artwork but personally, I think his style perfectly fits the austere, poetic narrative that accompanies Old Man Prophet's adventure. Also, it's easy to overlook what a great job that Joseph Bergin III is doing on the colours with this book, but you really should, because the colour of this book contributes so much to its tone.


Another interesting thing about this issue is that we learn more about the Dolmantle. The Dolmantle, if you'll remember, is the sentient, blue, slimy thing that the first Prophet used as a breathing mask, as a glider, and even to re-attach a lost limb. I always thought that something was strange about the Dolmantle (besides all those things I just listed), and in this issue we learn that the Dolmantle can exert mental control over its host, as it does to Diehard's missing warbody. This means that in the first three issues, it must have been the Dolmantle which was pushing the first Prophet clone to reach the God satellite at the top of the Thauili Van.

I have a feeling we have much more to learn about the Dolmantles and their connection to the Mothers and the Earth Empire, but it was nice to start seeing more connections to the earlier issues.

I have never read a Youngblood comic in my entire life, but due to its depiction of Diehard, Prophet #28 makes me want to.

I seriously did not mean to spend this much time talking about Prophet #28. It's but a small chapter in a larger post-human space epic. Buy it now and experience a comic book run that fans will be discussing for decades to come. This is rare, excellent stuff.