10.24.07 Reviews

The Killer #5 (Archaia Studios Press): One of the many strengths that The Killer has as a title is the ability to illuminate these hidden little truths about the human struggle. Lines like "You can be alone and together at the same time" are really the deceptively simple, effective prose, reminiscent of Hemingway's short, declarative sentences, that all great noir is built upon. On the art side of the house, Luc Jacamon is particularly clever with lighting. Notice how as our protagonist descends into this world of the Colombian cartel, his face is almost completely hidden in darkness. I also really enjoyed The Killer's morally flexible femme companion, whose silent acquiescence is a powerful testament to the old adage that "all it takes for bad men to succeed, is for good men to do nothing." All in all, The Killer remains a powerful and crisp look into the psyche of the modern criminal mind. I'm reminded of an interview I saw with Martin Scorsese on the making of Goodfellas. He essentially said that the true sin is not the sin, or the act, itself. The true sin is a person committing the sin, even repenting and feeling remorse, but ultimately... wanting to do it all over again. Grade A+.

The Killer #6 (Archaia Studios Press): "People get up, go to work, leave work, go home, go out to eat or party, go to a concert or a club, look for someone to sleep with, go back to work the next day..." Yes, Matz and Jacamon continue their examination of The Killer, while illustrating these universally true observations for us along the way. The plot thickens as Mariano wants to get up close, our protagonist reveals his secret to Padrino, we get to witness the cold clinical detachment with which a kill is executed, and a nice de-romanticization of killing that is a simple, cold reality. I love this book because it has no agenda, other than being brutally honest and true to itself. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys," but fully realized individuals whose lives continue to intersect in strange and meaningful ways. Grade A+.

Note: The cover image you see is from the first collected edition, not issues 5 or 6. It would be really cool if ASP would publish cover shots of this book on their web-site; the English language translations are exceptionally difficult to find on the web!

Casanova #10 (Image): The devil, as they say, is in the details. Or, as my boss Charles likes to quip, "detail wags the dog." This is perhaps the most well rounded and consistently themed issue of Casanova to date. The collage cover that has the film strips, carnival mask, and vaguely represenational camera, the details of which all sort of collectively smack of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut to me. How Fraction can create a script/arc out of one solid high concept: "I'm not afraid I'm being watched, I'm afraid I'm being laughed at." Random Digressive Aside: I want to pitch high concepts to Matt Fraction and have him write issues of Casanova around them. Hey Matt! Ever hear of a "Black Box Room?" Send ravenously horny people into a pitch black room one by one, unaware of the others participating. There are no lights, no talking, and no clothes. Go! The origin of Asa Nisi Masa. I love how young Izzy Benday looks remarkably like Logan/Wolverine. The origin of Kubark. The lamb recipe. The way Zeph's naked breast looks simultaneously like the top cover of a slurpee cup on top of the spent ice cream container, as she lies spent amid the sweet cream, the decadent dichotomy of images. And, as usual, the strength of the bonus back matter - it all conspires to be greater than the sum of its parts. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #9 (Dynamite Entertainment): On the plus side, this reads like a good old fashioned Western, with base motivations, attempts at rugged nobility, and even offers a cliffhanger that is a proud homage to the genre serials that spawned it. On the down side, the sparse dialogue reads incredibly fast, and Cariello's open flowing panels are much too easy to speed through, both making it feel like the $2.99 price tag is high and makes for a fleeting experience. I dig this book, but it's one that I wish I could sit longer with if there was something more weighty to digest on the page. Grade B.

Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye #4 (Dark Horse): The Heath Huston origin arc wraps up nicely with some character explanation and a very well played Samuel Clemens quote. Tonally, it's not necessarily the light-hearted, space-faring, humorous adventure we've come to love, but these bitter lows only make the sweeter highs that much more profound and enjoyable by comparison. I'll be glad to see Jerome Opena back on art chores for the next arc, as Tony Moore's panels were beginning to feel a bit crowded and claustrophobic for me, as if I always wanted the camera to zoom out just a tad, especially during the action sequences. Perhaps it was a conscious decision to highlight the disorienting feeling of battle, but there was a touch of Michael Bay direction making me feel a little dizzy and unfocused. Grade B.

Green Lantern Corps #17 (DC): The macro story feels sort of haphazard as we jump indiscriminantly from scene to scene. The internal logic feels a little flawed, as one Lantern comments that the Earth sites must be military bases, but then Salaak dispatches them to Lubbock, Las Vegas, and Mount Rushmore? Not really the pinnacle of Northern Command sites, yes? The art is uneven at best as it hops and skips from different pencilers and inkers to yet more pencilers and inkers (probably to keep the crossover on schedule), one of whom makes a great effort to capture the look of the San Diego Convention Center, but then moves on to have armed security guards (which simply don't exist there) battling the Sinestro Corps. Yet despite itself, it's *still* kind of fun to an old school Green Lantern fan like me. Even though he was introduced late and it feels a little too deus ex machina for my tastes, Daxamite Green Lantern Sodam Yat, who is now powered by Earth's yellow sun, creatively becomes the new Ion. Imagine Superman with a Green Lantern power ring and you have a pretty solid weapon in the war. Grade B-.


Firestorm 2007!

There's quite a few books I'm looking forward to this week, but regional shipments have been delayed due to the worst fire in US History, which is already being compared to Hurricane Katrina in terms of devastation and impact to the region. Over 500,000 people evacuated in San Diego County alone and over $1 Billion in damage.
If you follow the Interstate 15 line down to where it says "Estimated Re-Open Areas" on the above map, my house is just above the tip of the first "t" in "Estimated," in the untouched little corner there. I'm just about 2 miles from the southernmost evacuation zones. The sky was glowing, the air unbreathable, a thick layer of ash all over the house and cars, Police Department and National Guard units patrolling the eerie deserted streets, and Marine helicopters from MCAS Miramar pounding the sky above, but luckily didn't have to evacuate.
Thanks to everyone who's sent email, text messages, and placed phone calls!


10.17.07 Reviews - Part 2

Suburban Glamour #1 (Image): Jamie "Phonogram" McKelvie charges ahead on both art and writing chores for this four issue mini-series. From the very first the first page, the colors sold me. They just look beautiful and really make his clean pencils pop. Imagine Adrian "Optic Nerve" Tomine's strong, evocative pencils in full vibrant color and you'll get a sense for the dynamic nature of this work. McKelvie's already strong art has grown leaps and bounds in its panel to panel storytelling ability, and the additional layer of color makes it near perfect. By page three, I was all in like I had pocket aces due to his strong graphic design sense, the layout of that single page was just brilliant, sets the tone of the book, and could have stood on its own as a one page story ad for the series. The glamour component of the book is really only mildly intriguing; the idea of imaginary friends coming to life is neat, but not an extremely strong hook for me personally. For me, the suburban portion of the book was really what I felt was the book's strongest quality. The way that McKelvie deftly portrays the suburban lifestyle among a group of friends was quite charming. The speech patterns of these people felt real, I instantly cared for them, feeling as if I was listening to real people talk to eachother, not creations talking at me as a part of the audience. Overall, their interactions really ring true, which is perhaps the best compliment you can pay a writer. And anyone that uses "Aubrey" as a character name has me from the get go (it's my daughter's middle name). I'm in for the whole series, with this issue starting off as a solid Grade A.

Ex Machina #31 (DC/Wildstorm): Vaughan brings us a well-rounded issue, which runs the gamut from humor ("Step away from the chicken."), to brief bouts of action, to the usual interlaced flashback sequences, to nefarious plotting, all the way to Vatican City for a new setting, a potential-filled religious quandry, and a surprisingly bilingual Chief of Security. As usual, the faux cliffhanger reads a little staged, highlighting the fact that Vaughan's material really reads better collected than it does forced to conform into the single installment floppy format. Grade A-.

The Mighty Avengers #5 (Marvel): Cho's art is still wonderfully emotional and pleasing to the eye with its graceful lines, Ares really steps up as more than hired muscle in a satisfying way, Carol Danvers gets a nice moment, and for once it all kinda' works and feels like a solid, fun Avengers book - with the exception of the Femme Ultron, which just doesn't bring the sense of impending danger that it's meant to. Grade B+.

Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 (AdHouse Books): I've only sporadically followed this title, so it's really my own fault that I feel a bit lost, with no real grounding in the title. I will say that the full looking, wide eyed pencils remind me of Tony Millionaire's Billy Hazelnuts and I did enjoy the Nova Stealth interlude as it fades surreally back into the main story. There's also a page I just adore: "There wasn't pain. I wasn't frightened. I knew I was safe. Safe from the deep, hollow cold of Winter. We're here." Even for a hefty $5.00 price tag, this does feel like weighty material, perhaps it's a good candidate for "pick up the trade." Grade B.

Powers #26 (Marvel/Icon): After much griping, I believe I've finally thrown the towel in on Powers as a franchise. Oeming's art looks rushed, I'm tired of keeping up with all the macro-story elements in the air (with a sneaking suspicion they'll never get resolved), the dialogue doesn't have the rebellious charm it used to, Bendis' self-promotional and self-congratulatory lettercol has run its course, and I'm kinda' just left wondering what the point is anymore. I think this series should have wrapped up about 12-18 issues ago. Better to leave when you're on top than milk it until the bitter end when it's just past prime. Grade B-.

Marvel Comics Presents #2 (Marvel): The Vanguard story is the least sucky of the bunch, with a suitably dark art style, intriguing mystery, and dialogue that zips right along. The Hellcat story is totally unfocused and Immonen's usually superb art looks atypically harsh and rushed. The Taskmaster story is needless, save for Khoi Pham's pencils, which I loathed on X-Factor, yet here feel quite strong, reminiscent of Cary Nord's brilliant Conan work over at Dark Horse. Rounding out the doo is the almost unreadable Weapon Omega story. All in all, suffers from the typical woes of an anthology book. The bright spots are few and far between and become overshadowed by the dreck majority, which pushes the entire effort into not-worth-it, unbuyable territory. Bottom line for this title: Why? Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Awesome: The Indie Spinner Rack Anthology (Evil Twin Comics): Attempting to avoid my aversion to anthology books for the aforementioned reasons was thwarted instantly when I saw but two names in the credits: Ben Towle and Matt Kindt. Towle recently (tried to) put out a mini-series from Slave Labor Graphics called Midnight Sun, which was extremely strong, the best series from SLG in quite some time for my money, but it was pulled half way through due to low sales volume, a trade collecting the entire series supposedly due out this December. Matt Kindt, of Pistolwhip and 2 Sisters fame, recently put out Super Spy from Top Shelf, which was excellent. Let's hope that the inclusion of these two is representative of the larger group of creators. If so, I may have found an anthology book that actually stays in the collection long term!

Whiteout: Volume 1 (Oni Press): Of course, I read Whiteout when it debuted from Oni and marked Greg Rucka's first foray into comic book writing. I also handed out hundreds of free copies from the Oni site at San Jose State University during my Comics Activism days, but I digress. Eventually, I moved on to Queen & Country, which became the Greg Rucka book for me. It's been years since I've read Whiteout, but this attractive new digest sized trade dress and anticipation of the movie (Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko!) brought me to plunk down the cash and experience it all anew.

Whiteout: Volume 2: Melt (Oni Press): Rucka mentioned at the San Diego Con that the script for the movie essentially blends the best elements of both series into one movie, so what better time to have both sitting on my bookshelf.


10.17.07 Reviews - Part 1

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #2 (Dark Horse): Suffice it to say, Dark Horse has another unqualified hit on their hands. I predict that The UA will be the next BPRD-like phenom, that runs for years as a series of mini-series. Gerard Way has proven that he can hold his own as a "real" comic book writer and should no longer be referred to as "that guy from My Chemical Romance;" he's a fucking comic book writer through and through. Gabriel Ba's art is astounding in color, the covers by James Jean, and the ensuing the list of reasons why this title has everything going for it... does. not. end. I love Vanya as the estranged narrator; it's just flat out great all the way around. What sums up the off beat tone of the book for me is a nice line from new villain The Conductor: "I've written a new piece. The Apocalypse Suite. My life's work. Two parts Faust, three parts La Boheme, a dash of Messiah, and a bit of my own cantata." Grade A.

DMZ #24 (DC/Vertigo): As a big fan of DMZ, I'm slightly torn on this issue. Only because it's not full of the typical bluster and fury that a typical issue of DMZ is. Instead of that scathing commentary and visceral sequence of events, we get a somewhat quieter issue. That observation aside, it's a very fascinating story that highlights Amina, who was a bit player an arc or so ago. It's great to see the influences of her youth that led to the pieces of her story we're already familiar with. And though it doesn't necessarily advance the macro-plot of the DMZ-'verse, it's a treat nonetheless to see real world references to 9/11 pre-Civil War, and also get some of the minor character backgrounds fleshed out a bit. There are some striking scenes revolving around Amina's youth that effectively tell us quite a bit about her personality in just a few panels. Even a quieter issue of DMZ can still be pretty insightful. Grade A-.

Checkmate #19 (DC): Checkmate's actually getting better as time passes. It's more taut with suspense, has bigger political thrills, and an increased complexity to the multiple plot threads running. In addition to some precious little character moments scattered around, there's a beautiful scene at S.T.A.R. Labs' Ballistic Research Division that is pure Rucka in the way it rings and hums with a natural ear for dialogue and industry jargon, as Jessica Midnight and a Pawn try to analyze a sniper round. Just when Sasha Bordeaux, Michael Holt, and Taleb Beni Khalid begin to figure out how they're being played, Amanda Waller strikes right back, always staying one step ahead. It's a testament to her manipulative, political machinations that the assembled might of the White King, Black King, and Black Queen can barely keep up with the moves of her White Queen persona. Grade B+.

The Brave & The Bold #7 (DC): Well that was a long wait in between issues that really wasn't worth it, eh? Kara comes off totally unlikable and unsympathetic with no real character "in" for the audience to latch on to. The whole library plot device with Dr. Alchemy feels really hammered in and inorganic, as does the ending piece with the Challengers of The Unknown that's shoehorned in. The scenes with Superman should be the crescendo, but instead left me feeling a little flaccid. Scripting mis-steps aside, let's be clear though that the real treat here is the undeniable beauty of the great George Perez on art duty. He could probably illustrate the phone book and I'd march down every week and slap my $2.99 on the counter to behold his line work. Bob Wiacek (inks) and Tom Smith (colors) also deserve nods for just polishing off a breathtaking look for this less than intriguing story. I felt this title started extremely strong, botched the last issue of the first arc and apparently still hasn't recovered with this snoozer. I think I've got about two or three issues left in me to see if they get it back on track before I throw in the proverbial towel. But, The Flash and Doom Patrol next issue? Erm, ok. That best be some pretty entertaining Doom Patrol... fingers crossed. Based largely on the strength of the art alone this time out, Grade B.

The Death of The New Gods #1 (DC): I picked this up because Mister Miracle is one of my favorite characters of all time. I mean, really, who else in their right mind would get the original run from the 1970's all CGC'd in 9.0 or better? It's not like they're worth much as a collector's item. I think nostalgically I'm just wishing the Fourth World characters would be handled well, but they so seldomly are. Like much of Jim Starlin's work, the dialogue feels a little dense and sluggish (yeesh, and I'm saying this as a Dreadstar fan!). On the penciling side of the house, Matt Banning (whose work I enjoyed on the recent Mystery in Space mini-series) comes close at times (Black Racer, Orion...), but then there are some odd choices that make Jimmy Olsen's neck look like it belongs on Elongated Man, and Mister Miracle always seems to look as if he's in pain/surprised when in costume. And since when do Barda and Scott Free have The Kents over for dinner? And the end page? Hrmm, well... it does smack a little of the Sue Dibny ordeal, but if it sticks, I'll give some street cred for sheer cajones. Grade C.

Justice League of America #14 (DC): For every bit I like, there's a counterpoint that's utterly disappointing. The Superman/Black Lightning "team up" had its moments, but Luthor's over-the-top grandstanding monologues wore thin quickly. The Joker has a chuckle-worthy line, "Not that a rousing cavity search between loved ones can't be a good time...," but since when does Black Lightning have a plane? The action is fun enough I guess, but there's no real gravitas to this assemblage of baddies. Most importantly, Benes' art was digestable, right up until the two page splash that was pure in-your-face misogyny. Out of all the Justice Leaguers held captive, let's choose the three most prominent women on the team for our forced perspective shot and focus all of our manly secret girl loathing right on them. And in that shot, let's tie them all up in diminutive, unnatural poses that force their tits to stick up and out and their asses down and back into a nice S-curve so's we can better ogle their fleshy bits. Yes, let's class the joint up a little! (that's sarcasm, folks). Of course, let's put Wonder Woman (the most recognizable of the trio) right up front, all spread eagle like. Then, let's contort Black Canary and Vixen in such a way that we can look straight on at their asses, yet get a nice side profile shot of the tits, and still see their faces contorted in agony (or is that really pleasure, ladies? no means yes, doesn't it, sweeties? note sarcasm yet again, please...). To top it all off, let's really stick it to them and just make all their tits bigger than their fucking heads, since women, oh... I mean, girls, are stupid anyway. Overall, I'll just agree with Luthor: "It's unconscionable, isn't it?" I think I've invented a new grade, dirty penis. So in honor of dirty, to the power of penis (patent pending), we'll go with Grade Dp.


10.10.07 Reviews

Black Summer #3 (Avatar Press): It's quite refreshing to read a script that was so deeply rooted in logic and strong characterization. Whether these characters react to a situation calmly and rationally or emotionally and impulsively, most importantly, it plays believably. Ellis is really firing on all cylinders here, and instead of relying too heavily on a wacky sci-fi core premise that makes a strong pitch but doesn't follow through, he really focuses here on personality drivers. And those are beautifully set against a larger socio-political backdrop. Add in Juan Jose Ryp's luscious art to sweeten the deal, and you just have icing on a delicious cake. His art boasts the fine lines and intricate details of Frank Quitely, yet somehow manages to be even more energetic in its kineticism. As the Seven Guns are hunted down by the government, this has become an exceptionally well done book and is one of Ellis' finest works to date. Grade A.

Green Lantern #24 (DC): The Sinestro Corps War chugs right along; it's pretty entertaining, but I don't have a lot to say since this is really a lot of middle. Ivan Reis' Sinestro is really brilliantly designed, totally capturing the essence of an alien badass. I was glad to see Parallax disposed of and I hope he stays that way for a long time, because I think he's pretty lame as a villain. The concept itself is interesting, but the way he's designed and portrayed looks horrible and does nothing except harken back to the 90's when he was really introduced. It was fun to see Kyle lose the Ion persona and be welcomed (back) into the Green Lantern Corps as a "regular" member, not the odd "torchbearer" mantle, but I just wish they'd drop the whole chunky mask idea with his costume redux. Notice that John Stewart and Guy Gardner don't even bother with the mask anymore. Grade B.

New Avengers #35 (Marvel): Confusing. Right off the bat, I'm confused by the cover. Is that supposed to be a Venom-Skrull-Symbiote-Wolverine? Umm, ok. Why? There's nothing even remotely related to any of that in this issue. Really, do something resembling anything for your cover. Just a couple pages later we have confusing nipples; Tigra exposing 80% of her breast, with a small sliver of cloth along one side. Unless her anatomy is significantly different from other humans, umm, last time I checked, a woman's nipples are generally located toward the center of the mass of flesh. It's impossible for her to show that much breast without exposing a nipple. Sorry, but that's such an obvious example of just plain dumb penciling. Dive in another couple pages and there's a pretty confusing opening shootout sequence. I have no idea how Tigra dodged the bullets from Jigsaw and/or the cops. Wouldn't a more dramatic denoument to that scene have been that Jigsaw shoots, the twitchy cops react by shooting back, and accidentally hit Tigra, the self-proclaimed "card carrying member of the Initiative?" *That* story thread had some mileage in it, but no, she just randomly flails around while people shoot at nothing in particular, and that plot point is basically abandoned. From there, we move on to a conglomeration of villains that highlights my ennui with the whole "Villains United" concept, where a random assemblage of less than stellar villains suddenly gets organized. It's a tired concept, no longer original, and I just can't buy The Hood as the boss of all bosses, filling in the void left by Wilson Fisk. These scenes play really phoned in are basically derivative of Scorsese's Goodfellas. If you're gonna' swipe, then swipe from the best I suppose. The Hood essentially lifts some dialogue from the mob movie explaining how he's going to build the "police department for wiseguys" as Ray Liota's character put it, establishing a governing body independent of any officials or superheroes. In his long winded monologue, The Hood explains how they won't go after heroes, they'll go after their families and friends. The next scene is him beating the shit out of Tigra (even shooting her in the leg), which is ballsy and quite chilling actually, but basically runs totally opposite of the thing he just said he was going to do. Confusing. Grade D.

X-Men: Die By The Sword #1 (Marvel): Oh, why oh why did I buy this? Two words: Pete Wisdom. I enjoyed his recent mini-series Wisdom and thought the concept of a fictitious MI-13, of which he was an agent, was pretty cool. But none of that really happens here. This is a pointless exercise and I don't have much to add except some random complaints. Obviously this is either an Excalibur, New Excalibur, or Exiles title, but since none of those sell well, let's create a generic title that just has X-Men in it. Claremont's script literally has people walking along talking to themselves for no apparent reason, as if they're carrying on a conversation with someone who's not there, or that the artist just forgot to draw. The art itself is amateurish and inconsistent at best, with words like "Slammo!" haphazardly littered about, and portrays Thunderbird as wider and taller than the door he just impossibly came through. We're never told why the party was going on or what the point of the book is, instead we segue into some straight fucking babble about the Omniverse, some dude called Jaspers, and the Captain Britain Corps. Wow, it's been a while since I've read something this awful. Grade F.

I also picked up;

James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems (Drawn & Quarterly): Ever since I read his work on Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, James Sturm is one of those guys who is an instant purchase regardless of subject matter, format, or publisher.


10.03.07 Reviews

Scalped #10 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera deliver a perfect issue of what is already a great series. They serve up a well balanced dichotomy that starts with Poor Bear's noble prose, his desperate sounding words about transcending his origins, and desire to provide a better opportunity for his daughter than he was given. We become so empathetic toward the protagonist as we see him enamored with the temptations of youth. But, his path is so easily swayed by the manipulative, faux guilt-ridden influence of Red Crow. His ultimate choice becomes the heartbreaking realization of feeling truly fucked in an inescapable cycle of harsh reality. Despite the noblest of intentions, it's difficult to rise above "My Ambitionz Az A Ridah," the ridiculously perfectly titled end note of Part 5 of the Casino Boogie arc. Aaron's masterful and subtle script hits a new high here as well. Example: examine the page with Poor Bear and his cohorts drinking, it is sans dialogue, yet we instantly know that they've sat there hundreds of times, silently contemplating their lack of a future, the sheer number of empty cans strewn about speaks volumes, yet lacks words - the hallmark of a storyteller who has truly grasped the powerful pairing of images and text that only the comic book medium can provide. Guera's art also takes a leap forward here. Superficially, we have the fourth-wall breaking commentary arrows that bring to mind a sort of Tarantino-esque Natural Born Killers vibe. Additionally, the lighter coloring palette now seems to let his pencils breathe with life, reminiscent of Eduardo Risso's clean lines, instead of the earlier claustrophobic feel that brought to mind the sense of dread that someone like Igor Kordey's dark lines can bring about. Lastly, I was truly in awe of the simple name of Red Crow. This well chosen monicker really tells us all we need to know about the man. He is red; angry, bitter, and vile. He is a crow; a predatory scavenger, preying on hope, picking clean the remains of others for sustenance. This book is quickly rising in strength in a most antithetical fashion. Many titles start with a bang, then whimper to a close, losing steam, or focus, or ideas along the way. Scalped is the opposite; it has built a world slowly and deliberately, introducing characters in no rush, taking time to flesh them, and the world they inhabit, out in an interesting and plausible way that reveals human nature and can expose man's inner darkness. In terms of complexity of craft and strength of concept, this is shaping up to be one of the best Vertigo books of all time. Grade A+.

The Vinyl Underground #1 (DC/Vertigo): First off, bravo to DC for green lighting another ongoing series. Let's hope they keep churning out hits, ala DMZ and Scalped. There are bits of the Underground that I dig. The four likable rogues are just different enough and just intriguing enough that I'll come back for more. Weaving in some real world factoids about the dirty drug khat (last seen in Black Hawk Down as I recall) and London historical references also worked well. The art is 90% open and expressive with lines that remind me of a refined Becky Cloonan or a Bill Willingham approach, with only 10% coming off a little awkward, staged, and stiff. For my taste, there's a little too much reliance on voodoo mumbo-jumbo, but the strength of the character archetypes and witty dialogue will probably hold my attention for the first arc. Grade B+.

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #2 (Dark Horse): I'm just thoroughly enjoying this book. While not the height of originality, the reliance on fun and imaginative adventure vs. a dense, mystical, continuity laden writing style (Hellboy, I'm talking to you...) has won me over. This is the perfect little noir thriller, with interesting settings and an intriguing lead and ensemble cast. Grade B+.

Parade (With Fireworks) #2 (Image/Shadowline): You'd think if I told you about a little familial, two issue series highlighting the conflict between Fascists and Socialists in pre-war Italy based on a real account, that it would be pretty boring, huh? Well, you'd be wrong. It's an engaging, beautifully rendered tale about delayed justice. Grade B+.

Omega: The Unknown #1 (Marvel): I'd heard absolutely nothing about this book, but all I needed to see was two words and I bought it on the spot: Farel Dalrymple. Anything by the writer/artist of The Pop Gun War is an immediate, no-questions-asked purchase. This is a complex story about an above average intellect kid (who just might be a robot?) who has confusing dreams (or are they having him?) and endures the end of his family (and maybe has already found a new one?) while attempting to cope with the world and a pseudo-savior (is it an idealized version of himself he's created as a coping mechanism?). Like I said, complex, if not a bit frustrating, but I'll be back for a couple issues to see how it sorts out since I have faith in the creative team. Jonathan Lethem (writer) is not a name I've heard before, but he's certainly writing in a style reminiscent of Dalrymple's own. Farel's pencils look amazing in color and I can't wait to see more, even if the story threads remain elusive. Besides, one should spend the most time with works of art that at first are not fully appealing or easily understood, often times we learn the most from these, if not ultimately growing to like them. Grade B+.

Atomic Robo #1 (Red 5 Comics): I haven't had an opportunity to read anything else from the Red 5 line (which as Luke's call sign, I can only assume is an X-Wing Rogue Squadron reference?), but the appealing Michael Avon Oeming cover and casual flip test prompted me to start. If you had Spielberg direct a Rocketeer/BPRD/Five Fists of Science blender, it might look a little something like this. Yes, not terribly original (Nazis as bad guys? Yes, again) and the pastiche of derivative parts is easily identifiable, but it's still pretty fun. On the artistic front, I see a mix of a really cartoony and humorous Mike Mignola style combined with the representational geometric flair of Jason Asala's Poe (style points to anyone who remembers that fun series!). Grade B.

I also picked up;

The Best American Comics 2007 (Houghton Mifflin): Yeah, I would have bought this anyway, but pieces by Sammy "Poor Sailor" Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Art Spiegelman, and Adrian "Optic Nerve" Tomine basically sealed the deal. And the introduction essays are usually brilliant! And it's a 350 page hardcover for only $22!

Bagel's Lucky Hat (Chronicle Books): Bizarre art style, but looked like great fun. Really well designed dust jacket sealed this deal.


Graphic Novel Of The Month

Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality (DC): This is my favorite DC book in a long time; the best mini-series of the year in my opinion, certainly deserving of an Eisner Award nomination, if not an outright win in the category. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! This is one of those books that must be evangelized. I want to shout about it from the rooftops until people take notice. I want to purchase and distribute copies to every fan I know. This is the type of work that DC should strive for more. Yes, more of this type of “event” storytelling that embeds commentary on the craft, as opposed to the empty spectacle of something like 52. This is akin to the silent little art house film that restores your faith in the medium, instead of the noisy, full-of-bluster, mindless blockbuster that makes you weep for the future. It deserves that cult following, like Morrison & Quitely’s Flex Mentallo, Casey & Wood’s Automatic Kafka, or even Brian K. Vaughan’s recent The Escapists has; the kind where you feel the gravitas in your gut the instant you read it. There’s that whisper nagging in your brain that this is important. I was pleased that DC attempted to breathe a little new life into this overlooked story, which was buried behind The Spectre lead story in the (mostly awful) Tales of the Unexpected, by publishing it as a stand alone work. Bravo. At the end of the day, yes this story is ostensibly and unabashedly just plain fun. But, this story is so much more in terms of meta-commentary. It’s aptly titled; being about how a shared universe is built, the strengths and pitfalls of creations being under the control of their creators. It moves on to examine the flip side of that equation, about the fleeting lives in a created universe being at the mercy of the creators. The characters exhibit self-aware behavior regarding their volatile state; they understand that they’re constructs residing in a fabricated reality and because of that fictional existential dilemma they can begin to exert influence over it, ala The Matrix. Brian Azzarello is better known for his crime fiction, what a joy to see a different side of his writing skills. This work may not have been popular, but is critically important to the medium. This should be required reading in order to understand the dynamics of the creator/creation paradigm. And as a true testament to the power of the medium, I still have a crush on a fictional character. I’m talking to you, Traci Thirteen. It’s even made me question my own critical mortality, wishing that that architecture of my own grading scale went higher than Grade A+.