8.29.07 Reviews

Wasteland #11 (Oni Press): Ahem... just for the record, I postulated here at 13 Minutes months ago that A-Ree-Yass-I could turn out to be a veiled reference to Area 51 and that Wosh-Tun would be Washington, DC. Though people are just figuring it out now in the letter column, Antony Johnston flat out denies the DC reference and is more non-commital on confirming or denying Area 51 - so we'll see. That fun game aside, as usual, Johnston and Mitten continue to turn the heat up with beautifully rendered plot machinations involving the Sunners, the Council of Newbegin, our wayward travelers, and a whole host of baddies ready to storm the city gates. Just when you think the characters have their head above water and will get a moment's respite, they're plunged back down into the depths to take a swig of this nasty reality they inhabit. Wasteland is a searing adventure full of old fashioned sci-fi and modern socio-political sensibility. Grade A.

Ex Machina: Masquerade Special (DC/Wildstorm): Like any issue of Ex Machina, this special is full of big important ideas. This time out we get a nice tight analysis of the flawed logic of anonymous protest, how it loses credibility and the importance of the ideas being protested lose ground to the faceless nature of the protagonists. And that's some pretty hearty stuff. But, like the two issue special that came before it, I see absolutely no reason why this couldn't have been a one-shot issue between arcs of the regular series or even interspersed as a series of chopped up flashbacks, as so many other bits of the saga have unfolded. It seems just as random as the last special that this segment of the story would be called out separately for some arbitrary reason. My only other little gripe is that John Paul Leon's art is pleasant enough, but really sort of flat and stiff compared to the regular caliber of Tony Harris. Grade A-.

Local #10 (Oni Press): Though both Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly admit in their letter end piece essays that this issue is a bit of a downer, it wasn't the subject matter that got me down so much as the delivery. I can take strained familial dynamics and guys that just can't catch a break as they reflect on their lives and place in the world, it just needs to be engaging. Unfortunately, this is really one of only two issues of the series I can think of to date that falls just shy of my engage-o-meter, for some reason it was pretty flat and not that interesting. I do have a favorite page though that highlights the sign reading "Please don't do coke in the bathroom." If that doesn't sum up some of the deadpan paradoxical reality that Local is good at, well then I don't know what does. Thankfully, Ryan Kelly's art continues its Paul Pope/Farel Dalrymple goodness. Grade B+.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #5 (Dark Horse): Yeah. Duncan Fegredo draw some nice monsters and swords and ooky looking catacombs and arcane rituals. Yeah. Mignola continues Hellboy's quest to understand his place in Ragna-Rok. And I know I'm going to catch hell for this, but... zzzz (God, no! Blasphemy!) zzzzzz. I'm just kinda' tired of all the different factions and bad guys and references to different prophecies. I think what I'm starting to realize is that I'm not a big fan of this brand of horror. The Hellboy bits I really used to enjoy were about him working for the Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense. Slowly over time, Hellboy proper has moved further and further away from that. This is officially the last HB mini-series I'll be buying in single issues and I may pick up the eventual trades to stay current. We'll see. While over in BPRD, recently all those secret agenty bits with the Bureau that were tickling my fancy seem to have taken a back seat to more of Abe Sapien's origin and the personal quest things that Hellboy is doing. So, that leaves me in a place where I'm also committing to buy only the BPRD trades moving forward. Either it's time to wrap these stories up before they stick around too long, or (as I'm sure the die hard fans will say), this franchise is just no longer for me. Grade B-.

The Mice Templar #1 (Image): I'm sure there will be endless comparisons to Archaia Studio Press' Mouse Guard (I mean are little sword wielding rodents the new Pirates this year or what?), but for me, ASP's noble character-driven tale has this thing beat every day of the week and twice on Sundays. This book was boring! Not only does it seem really plot driven, but there's only so much "Kewl-One The Ancient Warrior & His Disciples Battle The Noble Harvest of Shadow Time at The Dawn of The Templar Generation United Legion of Mice Code Peace & Harmony Magic Tree of Curry Connor Darfur Black Anus Druid Witch" umm... bullshit that I can take. This thing is prose heavy, dense, not interesting, and really a struggle to get through. Oeming's penciling style is good, but I think could have benefitted from some more juice on the inking or coloring so's I could properlifically distinguishize one cheese-eatin' pink ear from another. And why do the mice call each other men? Whatever. Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Nothing Better: Volume 1: No Place Like Home (Dementian Comics): I was a big fan of Tyler Page's previous work Stylish Vittles and also picked up the first issue or two of Nothing Better. I was disappointed to see it cancelled (or put on hiatus?), but am really pleased to be able to support him and this trade. Definitely recommended!


8.22.07 Reviews

For the first time in 13 Minutes history, we've got a perfect 4.0 week. That's right, straight A's on all of the books that I'd normally buy and review here. Granted, it was a small litter, but this powerful little trifecta simply did not disappoint.

Astonishing X-Men #22 (Marvel): This issue (though late) fired strong on all cylinders, even the talking head bad guys didn't disappoint. Emma continues to show cunning. Kitty is all grown up, complete with sexual escapades and a lived in self-aware world weariness that slings lines like "Everything is so fragile. There's so much conflict, so much pain... You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize this is it; the dust is your life going on." Beast plays devil's advocate. Wolverine gets a couple priceless lines - "Good luck, Summers." Scott shows what it means to be a real leader, and it's all topped off with a heart wrenching flash of panels from Scott's perspective. Whedon clearly has mastered the dynamics of these character interactions, can string along an old school space-faring plot, and Cassaday's pencils are as tight as ever. This was simply a pleasure to read. Grade A+.

Black Summer #2 (Avatar): I'm impressed that an independently published Warren Ellis book is basically coming out on time, with three issues (counting #0) in the can. The plot continues to thicken, with the US Government applying pressure and pressure of another kind brewing as in-fighting among the Seven Guns heats up. Juan Jose Ryp's art is just in your face painfully strong - striking me as a nice blender of Frank Quitely and George Perez. It's just a visual feast, which manages to be clean and expressive, while extremely detailed and highly stylized. And it's all chock full of hearty social commentary. Grade A+.

Immortal Iron Fist #8 (Marvel): I don't necessarily see the need for the guest artists on the flashback scenes (though I suspect it's to keep Aja on schedule?), but the strong narrative more than makes up for it. The concept of the Seven Cities is a solid one, and Danny exploring his powers associated with the Iron Fist is interesting. The Jeryn sub-plot feels real, not like the "B" storyline waiting to converge that it is, and the tournament introductions have an old-school rock 'em sock 'em feel that's just plain fun. And that's topped off with the visual fun of the Final Four style brackets that has a nice campy chic feel to it. Grade A.

I also picked up;

Chance In Hell (Fantagraphics): Admittedly, I've never been a huge fan of The Hernandez Brothers work (gasp! no! blasphemy!), but this neat little self-contained hardcover graphic novel has a striking cover, beautiful book design, and Gilbert's clean pencils coupled with a planned departure from his normal tone/style of work made me check back in.


8.15.07 Reviews

The Brave & The Bold #6 (DC): Instead of being the campy 1960's throwback fun with modern sensibilities that it started out as, this felt a little too laborious to read through. That's due in large part to way too many plot threads to follow; we've got Batman and Green Lantern returning to close the introduction of the first issue, Supergirl, Adam Strange, The Book of Destiny, The Challengers of the Unknown, Legionnaires, Rannians, Thanagarians, and a billion random evildoers all thrown into a time-travelling, alternate future mix-up. It just tries to do too much and thus doesn't do any one thing all that well in a focused, meaningful way. Any one of these (or a combination of a couple) is plenty to work with, the inclusion of everything makes for a muddled, too dense composition. Luckily, Perez's art is still beautiful in its clean intricacy. Grade B.

Justice League of America #12 (DC): As usual, there are some interesting narrative bits and playful perspectives here, but not much of a plot. It's as if Meltzer has a lot of interesting things to say about the JLA, but not a story to tell per se. There are some isolated bits I really dig, like Roy and Hawkgirl's budding relationship and the introduction of Deathstroke, but for the most part it feels like perpetual set up, with not much in the way of pay off ever occurring, capped off with an anti-climactic pseudo-close of the first year. Grade B-.

Checkmate #17 (DC): Though it's a total filler issue that could have been randomly inserted anywhere in the run, it's a pretty interesting premise to see who would handle security for the Castle HQ and what some of those challenges would be. As usual, the political dynamics of the royals are pretty interesting, but Samnee's art doesn't really look at home here, with some rough flat spots that come off pretty wonky. Some of that may be due in part to the inker or colorist, but it's nonetheless a little jarring to the eye. Grade B-.


8.08.07 Reviews

DMZ #22 (DC/Vertigo): At the precise moment when I think this book can't get any better, Brian Wood manages to squeeze even more commentary and character development out of it. Wood makes some salient points here about the difficulty finding justice in our system when there isn't simply two opposing sides of right and wrong clashing. Not only are the perspectives of opposition not that clear cut, but a third factor comes into play - public opinion and expectations. I also really enjoyed the role reversal between Matty and Zee, not only do we see Matty in the lead role as protector, physically caring for Zee's wounds, but they also take their relationship to the next level in an understated and plausible fashion. Burchielli brilliantly intersperses those scenes with Wood's voice over about desperately clinging to any "last shreds of humanity." This book is fucking brilliant and should be used in collegiate Political Science courses. Grade A+.

Casanova #8 (Image): Let's get the small little quibbles out of the way first. Personally, I prefer Gabriel Ba's art over brother Fabio Moon. I feel that Ba's style is a little more consistent and refined, while boasting more fully realized backgrounds. Moon's style strikes me as a little looser and more freewheelin,' but they're actually both pretty cool. It's sort of like comparing a t-bone steak to a rib-eye steak. Both hearty and flavorful, it just depends on what you're really in the mood for, and if you... uh, wanna' deal with the bone, err, something (and suddenly this analogy falls apart). In any case, Fraction's script is tight, picks the continuity right up with the integration of the oddball cast leftover from the first arc, and includes some clever self-referential (bordering on self-parody) bits. I dig the backmatter bonus material and sketches, and still, for a $1.99 - this comic is probably the best value for the buck on the stands. Grade A.

The New Avengers #33 (Marvel): Yu's pencils still look a little fuzzy and rushed in spots, not sure if that's his fault or the inker or colorist's. Bendis' script hums right along though and ratchets up the paranoia factor as the team struggles with the Skrull infiltrator issue. Not only do we see some powerful decay in the group dynamics when trust is eroded (really, wasn't it heartbreaking to see that scene between Jessica and Luke?), but we also get a realistic portrayal of drama. Not everything is tidied up here and people react believably as their hearts want to trust in their fellow team members, but their heads say otherwise. It's left very unresolved, which makes for some good pyschological action. Grade B+.

Powers #25 (Marvel/Icon): When my favorite part of this book is Bendis saying in the letter column that he has a definite end in mind, well... "Houston, we have a problem." Candidly, yes, I think it's time we wrap Powers up before it completely derails. I just have the feeling that major plot points will never be resolved and we'll keep using a repetitive formula. I can't decide if I like some of Oeming's experimentation (the double page spread of the sex scene), and it's been so long in between issues that I don't even recall who Walker is having sex with. Hike up the price to $3.95 (even if it is more pages, at least 8 of those pages are self-congratulatory "interviews" or ads for other Bendis books) and I believe I'm officially throwing in the towel - just feeling a little worn out by the whole schtick. I'd love to ultimately pick up the last couple trades of the series to see how/if it all ends, but single issues just aren't cutting it. Grade B-.

I also picked up;

Notes For A War Story (First Second): I've read a few of Gipi's works, but anxious to read this winner from the Angeloume Festival in France and the book that is widely considered his strongest work.


Graphic Novel Of The Month

Scalped Volume 1: Indian Country (DC/Vertigo): For me, the best two Vertigo books coming out right now are Brian Wood's DMZ and the oft overlooked Scalped. I don't even have the time to do this book justice, so let me try to summarize the strongest points. Jason Aaron's dialogue is masterful in its ability to portray the realistic cadence and fluidity of typical speech patterns - without the overly staged affect that some Bendis/Sorkin/Mamet type of dialogue sometimes has. R.M. Guera's dark, sketchy, heavy, inky lines are perfectly mated to the script; they demonstrate a world in utter decay. Lastly, this is a brave work of art that gives us a seldom seen slice of American life, about a microcosm of society that is crumbling, the result of a closed society and the warped interpersonal dynamics that occur as the implosion happens. It's full of sex, betrayal, lies, deceit, psychological underpinnings, and small little quests for redemption. This is a wonderful comic and the medium should be proud, but it's a pity that it isn't a series on something like HBO, easily as strong as The Sopranos, so that it could reach a wider audience with its commentary. Grade A+.

8.01.07 Comics

Y'all are gonna' get tired of hearing me say this, but... once again, no time for full reviews this week due to the crazy San Diego Comic Con schedule and starting my new job. Things should definitely return to normal starting with next week's books. Until then, here's a run down of what I picked up this week...

Scalped #8 (DC/Vertigo): I did manage to read this one title this week and as usual, it's phenomenal. Jason Aaron's ability to make the plot even stickier and his mastery of dialogue are worth the price of admission alone. Grade A.

Metal Men #1 (DC): Let's see what Duncan Rouleau can do with this.

Faker #2 (DC/Vertigo): Very curious to see what Mike Carey and Jock have in store for this sinister, dark, sexy, utterly despicable little book.

World War Hulk #3 (Marvel): What's this doing in here, you say? Hey, I like a good mindless summer blockbuster every now and then.

The Red Star: Sword Of Lies #2 (Archangel Studios): Holy fuck, are these guys still around? One upon a time, The Red Star was one of my favorite books, but then it all just stopped. I still have all of the oversized hardcovers (yes, even the eslusive gray third one), but then nothing much happened. They had a booth at the Con, still pimping the same old books and merchandise. This thing feels fat, we'll see what they're up to. One issue in a year? Psh.

What I Got At The Con!

Things I Got For Free

Discover Dark Horse 2007 (Dark Horse): There were free stacks of these all around the Dark Horse booth, they offer a nice assortment of Dark Horse's regular comics line, as well as some of their Manga offerings. Really strong freebie item.

Komikwerks: Volumes 1 & 2 (Komikwerks): Also got these as freebies from the Komikwerks booth, but the content is not that great. Dialogue like "Dude, they're going to kill ya'" really hurts my eyes and ears. You need to either go for straight English, ie: "Dude, they're going to kill you," or straight slang talk, ie: "Dude, they're gonna' kill ya'," the odd mix makes for a muddled composition. Combine that with some less than stellar web reprints and it was a struggle to find anything readable. I actually enjoyed the creator bios (just who the hell are these people?) more than any of the pieces in the anthologies.

Full Force Manga! (Square Cnix): No idea where this company is from, but looks like a free Manga sampler that some random bloke shoved into my hand.

Lost At Sea (Oni Press): Already read this book when it came out, but got this at the Oni panel free for answering a trivia question correctly.

Black Metal (Oni Press): Also got this for free (as one of four books) for answering the Oni trivia question.

Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press): Free for answering the trivia question correctly. Never really saw the big deal with Scott Pilgrim, but here's my shot to give it one final chance.

Sidescrollers (Oni Press): Free for answering the trivia question correctly. What was the question you say? Who designed the Oni Press logo? Answer: Dave Gibbons.

The Archaia Studios Press (ASP) Booty

Awakening #1 (ASP): Straight from the ASP booth, signed by Nick Taplansky & Alex Eckman-Lawn.

Killing Pickman #1 (ASP): Nick talked me into picking up his pal Jason Becker's book as well.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1 (ASP): Signed by David Petersen straight from the ASP booth.

Starkweather: Immortal #0 (ASP): Had a couple nice chats with writer David Rodriguez over the course of the Con and picked up his book, which came with a free panel of original art!

The Killer: Volume 1 Hardcover (ASP): Collecting the first 4 issues, with a pull quote on the dust jacket right here from 13 Minutes!

Revere: Revolution in Silver (ASP): Read about this book online and really excited to read it. Looks exceptionally well done, with an interesting high premise - Paul Revere (who was a Silversmith in real life) fighting werewolves as the British invade!

Artesia: Volume 1 Hardcover, Artesia Afield: Volume 2 Hardcover, Artesia Afire: Volume 3 Hardcover (ASP): I decided to pick these up in order to complete my personal little quest to own every single book that ASP has put out to date. Editor Joe Illidge hooked me up here with a $75 value for only $50. Thanks, Joe! Can't wait to read the entire run.

All The Other Cool Purchases

Madame Mirage: San Diego Comic Con Edition #1 (Top Cow): Decided to take a chance on this Paul Dini Con Exclusive.

THB: Comics From Mars #1 (AdHouse): Anything new by Paul Pope is cool, especially his early creation THB. Pope also announced during the DC Spotlight panel (much to Editor Will Dennis' chagrin) that AdHouse would be putting out a collection of all the THB material. Was great to get this latest issue signed directly from him.

East Coast Rising: Volume 1 (TokyoPop): Manga has never generally been my thing, but I'll try anything that Becky Cloonan works on.

Super Spy (Top Shelf): Picked up the new hardcover by Matt Kindt, who did a beautiful sketch along with his signature.

Rose & Isabel: Volume 1 & 2 (Ted Mathot): Apparently these are self-published by Mathot through Metrolitho in Canada(?). Never heard of this guy or this project, but the book designs and covers are stunning; this is the essence of the Con experience, try a bunch of things you've never been exposed to!

Narcoleptic Sunday (Oni Press): Artist Jeremy "Battle Hymn" Haun tries his hand at writing this time around and the result looks great.

Escape From "Special" (Fantagraphics): The production quality on this book looks great, also came with a free signed book plate.

I Killed Adolf Hitler (Fantagraphics): Eisner Award Winner Jason's latest work, rejoice!

Southland Tales (Graphitti Designs): Picked this signed copy at the CBLDF booth, a take on a T.S. Eliot work, with art by Brett Weldele.

Stop Forgetting To Remember (Crown Books): Also from the CBLDF booth (charitable donations rock!), signed by Peter Kuper.

Marquis: Danse Macabre Hardcover (Oni Press): Guy Davis. Signed. Hardcover. Usually $40. Got it for $20. Any questions?

Elephantmen: Wounded Animals Volume 1 Hardcover (Image): Picked this up while waiting in line for the Paul Pope signing, signed by Richard Starkings and Moritat.

The Shy Creatures (Feiwel & Friends): David Mack's new childrens book, had him sign it to my daughter with a little sketch. Aww, cute.

Bookhunter (Sparkplug): Picked this new Shiga book up from buddy Tim Goodyear at the Sparkplug Comics booth.

The Blot (I Will Destroy You): Tom Neely work that I also picked up from Tim at the Sparkplug booth.

Isaac The Pirate: To Exotic Lands & Isaac The Pirate: The Capital (NBM/ComicsLit): Got both volumes for half off at the NBM booth, art reminiscent of Lewis Trondheim and/or Joann Sfar.

Flower & Fade (NBM/ComicsLit): Also found this for half off at the NBM booth.

Minis (Rebecca Cloonan): Apparently self-published by Becky Cloonan through Brio Print(?), looks to be short stories from 2000-2002 before she really broke in, personal works that she's a little embarassed about, but has nonetheless shared. Can't wait!

The Naked Artist: Comic Book Legends (Moonstone): A collection of essays by Bryan Talbot that are supposedly real stories from the convention circuit, this should be a riot!

Northwest Passage: Volume 1 Hardcover (Oni Press): Scott Chantler's opus collected complete with detailed annotations.