The Living Cain @ Poopsheet Foundation

“My only real criticism here is that this is almost a painfully straightforward linear narrative, where we find the text dutifully describing the action in the panel, and that redundancy doesn’t take full advantage of the duality of the medium.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.27.10 Reviews

Scalped #42 (DC/Vertigo): I give up. I’ve run out of ways to explain it. I just don’t know how Jason Aaron does it. I don’t know how he can absolutely knock every single issue out of the park. For a while now, I’ve been trying to analyze single characters that appear in Scalped and attempt to predict how their character arcs might unfold. For example, I knew for a long time that something was up with Shunka, but could never have predicted his path. For a while now, I’ve been focusing on Carol, thinking that she might be the one who ultimately would break the cycle of lies, violence, shitty parenting, addiction, and poverty. She’s given an opportunity here, but doesn’t succeed. Aaron shows us again why Dash is the “star” of the book, and what a strong character he is. He tries so hard to be a good person and is struggling with the right thing to do, but when you’re surrounded by a system that operates in the wrong, it’s all the more difficult. I think what makes this issue such a winner is that Aaron and Guera play with the repeated juxtaposition of dissimilar images and concepts, allowing the reader to draw conclusions from the two sets of polar opposite data. Guera opens the book with “the wish” quickly mirrored with “the reality” and the result is a harsh dichotomy. The dual running narratives of Dash and Carol are both thematic and visual elements that are juxtaposed for the duration of the issue. There’s what the characters are actually saying, and then there’s what they’re really trying to tell each other. There’s the juxtaposition of Dash’s attempt at integrity, and Carol’s fear of being honest and accepted. There's pain all mixed together with love. It builds toward this startling crescendo that’s representative of the inverted moral system on the Rez, where the most difficult thing isn’t the lying, stealing, cheating, or murdering. It isn’t being an undercover FBI Agent. No, the most difficult thing is being absolutely direct and honest with someone you care about. As if the issue wasn’t perfect enough, there’s a Vertigo house ad for Sarah Glidden’s How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. I’m so happy for Sarah. I was reading How To Understand Israel back in 2008 when Sparkplug Comics was putting it out in single issues, before it got picked up by Vertigo and turned into an OGN. It’s a great book and just another piece of evidence as to why Sparkplug is a powerhouse small press publisher and Dylan Williams really has an eye for up and coming talent. It’s due out in November of this year, and I encourage you all to check it out. I’ll steal my own thunder a bit and tell you that it will likely be on My 13 Favorite Things of 2010 list. It’s that good. Anyway, this issue of Scalped is an easy Grade A+.

Uncanny X-Men #529 (Marvel): These covers have been really shoddy lately. It’s like they’re just random images collaged together at different figure scales. They appear really amateurish and simplistic, showing no effort in terms of design sensibility. As usual, Matt Fraction is juggling so many plot threads that it feels like any single one takes forever to get any momentum or closure on. Individually they're compelling enough, but the aggregation of so many makes for a muddled composition. Emma’s been ruminating about the Sebastian Shaw situation for several issues and we finally see some movement. Unfortunately, the plotting obstacles aren’t helped in any way by Whilce Portacio’s pencils. They’re full of awkward and unnatural poses. That first shot of Rogue piloting the Blackbird? Sorry, but she looks like a man, baby! Yeah! I think the basic problem is that Portacio’s harsh angular lines lack any fluidity. They’re cold, with no sense of life, only odd accoutrements like Hope’s weird teeth and eyes. I think Fraction’s concepts are good. I like Rogue, I like Sam Guthrie, I like Hope, I like Madison Jeffries trying to awkwardly ask Danger out, and I really like Fantomex being moved onto the board as a main player (between this and Rick Remender’s recent X-Force), but the events just aren’t executed well at all visually. It also seems at times like some of the more interesting bits happen off panel. Oh, the X-Club just whipped up a “phase suit” for Kitty, huh? It smacks a little of Johann Kraus in BPRD, but it would have been nice to see them do it, a throwaway line, some pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo, anything? Not a word. Fraction’s scripts, for the most part, have been slow burners that take an entire arc to get rolling, so if they’re not overtly capturing your attention, it’s just too easy to get distracted by this bad art. It pulls the effort way down. I was all ready to bash the issue for including a “fill-in” artist on the last 3 pages. While the style does change dramatically when Harvey Tolibao takes over… I actually like it better! Can he be the main artist? He’s got more compact detail, softer lines, and attractive figures that are easily identifiable. Generally speaking, I think the flagship X-Men book should really have a marquee name on art duty, but barring that, maybe Portacio should step aside and give this young buck a shot. After Portacio did some stray work on Alien Legion and inking Art Adams on Longshot, isn’t Uncanny X-Men how he got his big break? I’d be more lenient if this was $2.99 instead of $3.99, but as is… Grade B-.

I also picked up;

Northlanders: Volume 4: The Plague Widow (DC/Vertigo): I’ve been wondering how pull quotes work. I’m talking about print. I’ve got all kinds of online pull quotes out there, links, press releases, Twitter, Facebook, etc. But, in print, what goes on behind the scenes? Who decides that? Is it the creative team? The book’s editor? The collected edition editor, which sometimes differs from main series editor? Is it the designer of the collected edition? Is it a collaborative process where everyone can give input? Doesn’t it probably vary by company? I’ve been pretty fortunate with my ability to land pull quotes, picking up an early one from Marvel Comics, multiple instances from second tier publishers like Oni Press and Archaia Studios Press, even down to some mini-comic and small press publishers that I really value. The only obvious gap I had was not being able to land a pull quote from DC Comics. I wanted it for a long time, and though it was a small little goal that I’d made for myself, I’d basically given up. I noticed that DC was very selective with pull quotes, rarely using them on single issues, and on the trades they seemed to rely almost exclusively on more mainstream-y sort of outlets, like Entertainment Weekly or big household name newspapers. This has been my long-winded and rhetorical introduction letting you know that it finally happened. Brian Wood’s Northlanders: Volume 4: The Plague Widow came out this week and I was very surprised to see a pull quote from 13 Minutes on the back! Thanks Brian, or Karen, or Mark, or Bob, or Robbin, or whoever is the decision maker! (that’s the “decider” if you lean toward the right). So, go buy Northlanders: Volume 4. Not because of the pull quote. Because it’s a great book. Because it’s one of the few books that still has me buying the single issues, upgrading to the trades, and then handing off the single issue arcs to coworkers and friends, trying to get them hooked. Because of Hilda and Karin in this arc. Because it’s got Leandro Fernadez art, who I’ve wanted to do one of “my” books since I saw him on that Queen & Country run years ago. Because it’s Brian Wood. Because it will defy your pre-conceived expectations. Now, if I could just talk to someone about that DV8: Gods & Monsters collected edition due out in April…

Got Homicide? @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…tells of a quick incident involving an off-type beverage on sandwich crime.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Bachelor Girl’s Mother Goose @ Poopsheet Foundation

“It operates with a child’s whimsy and playfully makes you smile, reminding us of a charming innocence that’s all too rare.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Skully Flower #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…all you really need to know about its sensibility is in an early line the titular character says: ‘Death is great. No more of this chemical, monkey emotion mess.’”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.27.10 Releases

It’s another snoozer of a week, with one definite and one big maybe. Scalped #42 (DC/Vertigo) is the last issue in “The Unwanted” arc, with a focus on Dash and Carol. Uncanny X-Men #529 (Marvel) promises to be as uneven as the entire run. We’ve got Whilce Portacio on art again, with Milkfed Criminal Masterminds Inc. credited in solicits as the writer. I wonder if that’s anything like Hobo Darkseid? That's really all that caught my eye. I'll probablly flip through the Action Comics issue featuring Death, but what else should I be paying attention to?

Cops & Crooks #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…it’s another interesting little $1 gem from Silber Media.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Inbound 5: The Food Issue

Inbound 5: The Food Issue (Boston Comics Roundtable): Special thanks to Dave Kender for sending me a review copy of this 176 page, $12 behemoth of entertainment. I absolutely self-identify as a foodie, having managed restaurants, eating out certainly remaining a hobby, hosting holiday dinner parties considered fun and not a chore, and am addicted to way too many Food Network and Travel Channel shows thanks to the magic of DVR. With the popularity of comics like Chew and the infusion of foodie culture into the mainstream, it’s fantastic to see this indelible component of the human experience merging with one of my other great interests – comics! The Boston Comics Roundtable crew also seems to be decadently capitalizing on America’s love affair with the interesting mélange of cuisines our country of immigrants has to offer. On the cover alone, you can spot ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, bread, grapes, pancakes, and sausage, thanks to a beautiful watercolor rendering by Ellen Crenshaw. Thinking back on my experience with Inbound 4, one of my only real criticisms was around the clarity of the credits, and they are crystal clear here. Although, they still do the thing where the artists are listed before the writers. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just atypical and not something I usually see. It’s nice to see the editorial hand(s) growing stronger, guiding the content and improving the professional polish of the package, thanks to the triumvirate of Dave Kender, Dan Mazur, and Shelli Paroline. The book is divided into two large chapters, the first – fact, and the second – fiction. Let’s dive in, shall we?
  • Django and Pesto by Franklin Einspruch is a clever demonstration of a recipe, with lines bearing the simplicity and elegance of James Kochalka. Grade A.

  • The Sardine’s Tale by Line O is brimming with compact detail and sensuous figures. The only suitable art comparison I can muster is to Kevin O’Neill, but this is even more intricate line work, full of contrasting patterns and inviting textures. It’s a recollection of the creator’s seafaring youth, with prose ranging from Chaucer to the fickle speech patterns of a kid. The lettering is particularly attractive and this was an extremely enjoyable reading experience. It’s an all around winner, operating with style and grace. I’m sure that art will stay with me long after I’ve put the book down. Grade A+.

  • Spaghetti O’s Secret by Beth Hetland is driven by a simple visual style that highlights how our perceptions change and the way faulty nostalgia can be created. There are a couple of minor stumbles (things like “suppose to” instead of “supposed to”), but it largely succeeds by capturing the frustration of how kids eat and their illogical fascination with certain foods. Grade B.

  • Durian by Aya Rothwell reminded me of how I once had to evacuate an entire building because of a report of a “toxic smell” that was assumed to be a natural gas leak. It even had the local Fire Department stumped. Well, it turned out to be a group of women eating some Durian fruit cookies from the Philippines. The story works with beautiful gray tones and a slightly manga influenced style. Grade A.

  • Midwestern Adventures with Indian Food or How I Learned to Read Food Labels by Eric Boeker has some slender figure work that reminded me of Jason Asala. The images are a little flat and don’t produce a lot of depth despite the detail, but still manage to entertain. Boeker captures one of the many quintessential college experiences, with interesting new people, and a widening sphere of influence. The story is affable, very funny, and poignant, with crisp writing. Grade A.

  • Bento: Beyond Sandwiches by Rebecca and Jason Viola employs great figure work. I’m not sure if it’s the eyes or what, but I thought it had a very Calvin and Hobbes-y quality that I enjoyed. Not only is it an interesting tale of a cottage industry that sprang up unexpectedly, but the intrigue and fun of the “new” relayed in this story captures the basic magic of food. Grade A.

  • Turnover by Andy Wong and Jackie Lee is a beautiful marriage of story and art. The characters are full of emotive expression, with very few words and many panels relying intensely on visual storytelling. At the end, it’s a little unclear what the ultimate message of the piece is, or if the changes the protagonist seeks are self-imposed, medically necessitated, or simply a lifestyle choice. Grade B.

  • Mealtime by E.J. Barnes and Patrick Flaherty uses some tightly zoomed shots that focus on objects in space, placing you up close and personal with food. I think the dramatic thrust of the story is to show that food preparation can move slightly from being a chore to something enjoyable that’s part of family culture and should be cherished, but the point could have been clarified/emphasized more. Grade B.

  • Chase that Cheese by Cathy Leamy proves that truth is stranger than fiction, with an 8 pound cheese wheel doing 70mph as a local English tradition. The small scale figure work is impressive, and considering that cheese, any cheese, all cheese, is one of favorite foods, hey, I loved this one. Grade A.

  • People of Corn by Jerel Dye is absolutely one of my favorite entries, capturing an interesting sort of Aztec aesthetic. It’s a nice blend of creation myth that’s visually stunning. Dye has a terrific line weight, the results looking more like Paul Pope than the style you’d typically expect from DIY small press comics. The pages with the fox, coyote, parrot, crow, and Gods Hurricane and Plumed Serpent are especially amazing. The story illustrates the power of corn to early cultures as a staple food, with beautiful asymmetry and irregular panel shapes. Grade A+.

  • Discovery by Dan Mazur and Bob Flynn is about the comedic evolution of hunter gatherer society, the power of tools, fire, and the necessity of cooking meat in order to increase protein delivery to the brain as man’s analytical needs increased. The panel sequences function very effective with no dialogue. Grade A.

  • What’s Eating Prometheus by Adam Szym has some deadpan humor that really made me laugh. Lines like “So good, man. So. Good.” are just hilarious. This pair of eagles are my new comedic gurus, showing up with an anemic line that reminds me of Tom Neely. Grade A.

  • Bellyful by Laura Terry delivers some angular anthropomorphic creatures that reminded me of the work of the Norwegian artist Jason. Maybe my mind is in the gutter, but I enjoyed the double entendre of lines like “Who’s been fingerin’ my pie?” The need to eat here is epic in scope, with a playful sense of wonderment that… consumes the protagonist. Heh. Grade A.

  • The Boy Who Ate Too Many Tongues by Jesse Lonergan has a rustic quality to the art, with thick and uneven lines which are really compelling. The story centers on a strong sense of irony, and I loved things like the close up of a small inset panel with the little sister screaming “MOM!” It ripples with emotion, and the story helps show how kids speak truth to power, with absolutely no innate filter. Grade A.

  • The Girl Who Turned into a Noodle by Allie Kleber had me feeling like the lettering and panels in general were a little cramped at times, though I liked the depictions of actual foods immensely. The art style is nice, but just framed too close. I think if the panels were opened up, it would allow the smooth and flowing pencils to breathe a little better. The story takes a literal approach to the adage “you are what you eat,” and also includes a cool mac n’ cheese recipe. Grade A-.

  • Whatever’s in That Can by Katherine Waddell and Ryan Wheeler has a nice sense of lyrical timing and visual pace. The style feels like a modern Saturday morning animation piece, like Phineas and Ferb (can you tell I have young kids?). Grade B+.

  • The Nine Onion Rings of Hell by Erik Heumiller (who is a name I remember fondly from the last volume of Inbound) begins with the mundane chores of a sorcerer’s apprentice, and then really gets rolling with a beautiful two page spread about an onion ring recipe from “the actual Hell’s Kitchen.” The little fire lord sprite guy is a great reimaging of a mischievous Jiminy Cricket. This one is extremely imaginative and very well rendered visually. Grade A+.

  • Soup: A Caterpillar Tale by Katherine Roy feels like it was inspired visually by Kochalka’s Johnny Boo. There’s a manic pace to the panels, which feel slightly cramped, however I enjoyed the sense of creative glee. Grade B.

  • The Faroe Fishwives by Shelli Paroline and Braden D. Lamb is about the hard life of the wives of fishermen, and the delicate balance the sea offers. It provides sustenance but will also claim payment. I liked the way that common myth (like sirens and beasts from the deep) are used, along with the pleasant art style and fun panel layouts, which deliver lots of action. Grade B.

  • Yam Gruel by Dan Mazur and Roho has magnificent detail, relying on a clever technique that blurs and fades the backgrounds in order to differentiate them from the figures in the foreground. The main character is captured effortlessly, like on the page with the boys menacing a poor old dog. Yam and arrowroot broth functions as a stand-in for the dangers of excess, and though it’s random, I really liked the depictions of the animals, dogs, foxes, and birds being the most memorable visually. Grade A.

  • Dinner Time by Adrian Rodriguez has a ferocity to the detail that’s quite compelling. I’m not sure the clarity of the story is readily apparent, but the engaging energy in the pencils reminds me of Steve Parkhouse, and that alone is noteworthy. Grade B.

  • Party Sub by Andrew Greenstone is over in a blink, but there’s a subtle Robert Crumb quality to the figures. Grade B.

  • The Caterers by Dave Ortega has an interesting sense of satire that I enjoyed immensely. It’s about the etiquette and art of fine dining being lost. Lines like “My charm is waning!” are full of that sense of sarcastic parody, letting the audience know that it’s all a sham. People pretending to play high society belies the fact that true culture is largely slipping away. The art is full of clean lines and small scale figures and I’ll certainly remember this unique narrative voice. Grade A.

  • Meal Planning by Mar-T Moyer has brilliant details, like the errant crossword attempts, and is a chilling little look into middle American eating habits and the general dinner fugue. The detailed art captures a sense of weariness, amid spousal arguments, green streak tirades, and a culture where food may be the only thing to look forward to. Grade A.

  • A Conversation About Food by Raul Gonzalez and Danny Gonzalez blends some wondrous artistic styles, from old-school Disney creator Floyd Gottfredson, to Tezuka’s Astro Boy, all the way to modern DIY’ers like Tom Neely. There are a few odd words choices along the way, and I’m not sure if they were typos or deliberate attempts at off center character voice, but it’s things like “botchalism” instead of “botulism,” then “healthily” instead of “healthy,” with “organismic” bringing up the rear. In any case, this was a fun and offbeat nutrition lesson. Grade B+.

  • Lil’ Nino Brown (in Slumland) by Joel Christian Gill apes the Winsor McCay aesthetic as successfully as always and though there isn’t much of a story to follow, the visuals are grand. Grade A.

I did some quick math here and it looks like the total GPA is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 3.78, which is a straight Grade A if you correlate it to a letter grade. Stop for a minute and consider just how astounding that is. This is an anthology we’re talking about, with 3 editors, 26 individual entries, and 34 creators. That’s staggering. That’s like successfully herding cats. Anthologies are widely known for being infamously uneven and wildly inconsistent. In the typical anthology, you might get a couple of Grade A efforts, balanced on the opposite end of the spectrum by some Grade C and Grade D efforts, with the bulk of entries creating a bell curve in the middling Grade B and Grade C range. It’s not the case here. In terms of maintaining a consistent level of quality, the numbers just don’t lie. We’re talking mostly Grade A contributions, with just a few Grade B marks as the only relative “low” points, and more than a couple Grade A+ entries vying for excellence. This is one of the best anthologies I’ve ever come across. Grade A.

Just A Man #4 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…like a very indie cousin to DC Comics’ Jonah Hex.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.20.10 Reviews (Part 2)

DMZ #58 (DC/Vertigo): The countdown begins: 14 issues to go. I want to state absolutely unequivocally that Riccardo Burchielli has done a tremendous job as the regular series artist, capturing the grit of life in the war torn DMZ. However, this opening shot of Manhattan in flames by Danijel Zezelj is freakin’ amazing, it’s a holocaust captured on paper. That shot immediately sticks you in time and place, drawing out uncomfortable emotion with a sort of forced escapism. It’s powerful. This issue focuses hard on everyone’s favorite street artist, Decade Later, and highlights the value of self expression and social messaging as a driving life force even when the world is crumbling around you. Brian Wood’s fine arts background and youthful punk sensibilities converge and reveal themselves here. Decade Later is, of course, a fictional character, but it’s not hard to imagine someone like Shepard Fairey bombing walls, wheat pasting murals, and cascading millions of his Obey Giant stickers all over LA in a near future Civil War on the West Coast, especially when Wood laces the narrative with mentions of real world artists like Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. In case you hadn’t noticed, I recently wrote a whole lot about Brian Wood and the arc of his career. When you encounter lines here like “This city is my home. This city is my career.” you get slapped in the face with one of the creator’s strongest themes. It’s that love of New York City that runs like a spine through most of his work. I loved seeing Zezelj do Decade Later doing his stark and emotional black and white mural in a literal one-man show. We see the artist’s life on the wall, coming up, 9-11, friends, lovers, and works of art, they too a beautiful ode to New York. It makes me wonder if Zezelj ever dabbled in street art in his native Croatia. Last, but not least, this (probably) final visitation of Decade Later is a reminder of the beauty of the “one-shot” in comics. For a writer who leans toward longer arcs in his books, he proves that the “done-in-one” can be one of the most potent outlets the medium has to offer. Grade A+.

Vertigo Resurrected #1 (DC/Vertigo): Yeah, I essentially paid $8 for a 22 page story by Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez entitled “Shoot” that was originally pulled as a John Constantine: Hellblazer story in the wake of Columbine. Thankfully, it was largely worth it. On his web-site/blog/Internet Monkey Interface, Ellis is careful to point out that this was not really intended as any sort of grandiose social commentary, but as a work of horror. I think it actually functions well as both. It’s about children killing children for no reason at all, so it is absolutely horrific in the way it’s depicted. There’s no sensationalistic shock value, it’s played straight and subtle, the cold violence speaking for itself. The tangential recurring appearance of Constantine himself also adds a slightly mysterious quality to the work. Ellis also pointed out that he was slightly embarrassed to see how the quality of the writing would play 10 years later. For my money, only two little quibbles popped up. One, there’s an omitted word in the line “…blow [the] shit out of each other.” Two, by the end of the book, when the woman is sitting alone monologuing, it was unnerving that she’s basically talking out loud to herself. I know that thought bubbles have gone the way of the dinosaur in comics, but I would have preferred some narrative caption boxes instead of the blatant soliloquies. Jimenez’s pencils are nice, if a bit different than his current style. Here, they look a little looser and not as compact, more Mark Bagley than Carlos Pacheco, for some quick reference. The basic question the story asks is “why?” Why does seemingly random, senseless, youth violence occur? Without the “why?” part of the equation, it can’t be easily catalogued, understood, or offer any sense of closure to those closely involved. Ellis essentially answers the question of “why?” by offering something psychologists and cultural anthropologists call “The Missing Hero Complex.” Children today are not socialized in a way that allows them to feel compassion and step in to avert danger. They wait to act, because in the age of entitlement, it’s simply someone else’s job. I’ll sound like an old fuddy-duddy sitting here in my mid-30’s, but “these kids today!” are drawn to danger like they’re drawn to train wrecks and car accidents, with a morbid sense of fascination. They like to voyeuristically watch, as if it’s a harmless reality TV show that doesn’t affect them, not the real world happening, with real people, and real world consequences. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and so many anti-social outlets, kids are not being socially conditioned to actually physically interact with fellow human beings, much less care for their fellow man. They’re not only desensitized to violence, but de-socialized in terms of expressing compassion. Psychologically, they can’t differentiate between the shooting occurring outside their window or in their school, and the first person shooter they’re playing at home. As Ellis points out in the story, kids don’t run from violence, they merely stop and watch for entertainment, yet they won’t ever step in to lend a hand or try to avert it. This one’s an easy Grade A.

Let me buzz through the rest, which are all reprints, some I’d seen before, some I’d not. The Kapas by Brian Bolland was a story I’d originally picked up from a quarter bin in a Strange Adventures book. It’s about British adventuring meeting up with an ironic twist of horror infused fate, capturing the elitism and xenophobia of the period. And yeah, Brian Bolland could basically illustrate paint drying and I’d be interested. Grade B. Native Tongue by Brian Azzarello and Essad Ribic mines the horror notes in the same way certain episodes of The X-Files used to, with exsanguinated cattle and serial killer activity. Grade B. New Toys by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely was a fun ride, like a twisted warfare version of Toy Story. It plays like an old episode of Twilight Zone, and you can certainly detect precursory riffs on Morrison’s Joe The Barbarian. Quitely’s art is still gorgeous, but not as sinewy or thin and elongated as his more current style. Grade A. Nosh and Barry and Eddie and Joe by Garth Ennis and Jim Lee drags on a little too long, ostensibly about military buddies on leave. It quickly turns into some kind of MK Ultra riff that misses the horror mark and relies on a government conspiracy motif. Jim Lee’s style is enjoyable, but very loose and not as polished as his work on say, Hush. This one’s a low Grade B. Diagnosis by Steven T. Seagle and Tim Sale is about compromise becoming total sacrifice of principle. The small inset circular panels certainly capture the 50’s romance aesthetic. This one was a good lesson in being conditioned by your surroundings and letting that color your perception of the world. Essentially, if you have a hammer, suddenly every problem begins to look like a nail. Grade A. The Death of a Romantic by Peter Milligan and Eduardo Risso is hard not to enjoy. Risso draws the type of women that every guy I know wants to knock boots with. Here, his art comes complete with a sort of spiritual female masturbation scene that’s depicted more tastefully than I like to imagine it. Milligan’s story moves from grounded to ethereal, beginning with the co-dependent cycle of abuse, and then getting (almost) lost in an affair with a dead virgin poet. I enjoyed the psychosis that was created, but thought it leaned a little too far into fantasy. But hey, Risso art. Grade A. It Takes a Village by Bill Willingham had a fun premise, but the punch line of the entire story was essentially a weak one-liner. It’s about a costume shop that rents out real monsters. Grade B. Resolve by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson was a strong way to end. It absolutely nails the lurid sexuality and intertwined horror elements that made EC so popular back in the day, and influenced later DC books like House of Mystery and House of Secrets. Wrightson’s aesthetic is basically perfect to recapture the zombies, sexual desperation, and faint bondage overtones that are hallmarks of this type of work. Grade A. The price here seems exorbitant at first glance, I mean, it is $8 for what *feels like* a floppy, but upon closer inspection, it proves to be a good value. If a regular 22 page comic runs you $3, that means 66 pages would be $9. Yet here, we’re getting 100 pages for $8, so it’s actually a pretty good deal. Overall, I think those grades average out to something like a Grade A-.

10.20.10 Reviews (Part 1)

DV8: Gods & Monsters #7 (DC/Wildstorm): The phrase “It was the twilight of the Gods” is repeated in this issue three times and I loved every instance of it. I’ve already drawn lofty comparisons of this Brian Wood project to Watchmen, and that line scratches the itch that Alan Moore’s abandoned follow up project Twilight of the Superheroes created. This issue focuses on Jocelyn, and her celestial discovery is an interesting one. There’s just nothing like the end of the universe to clarify the meaning of one’s existence. The meta-hound in me wants to draw the line from Gem retelling the end of this world to Brian Wood’s role in the end of the Wildstorm Universe, though I know he probably wrote this script long before the announcement. I don’t think Wood intends this sort of industry commentary per se, I think he follows an intuitive internal writing process that just feels right for his characters, but I can’t help reading more into the meaning of the story. If you follow the arc of the DV8 cast in this series, you can almost track the corollary cycle of the real world superhero paradigm in parallel. They are birthed, dropped from the heavens (ala Superman’s origin), they endure a decadent heyday, there’s a recession of interest, a backlash, followed by an analysis of their meaning to the culture in which they reside… Anyway, yeah, the issue. Rebekah Isaacs is going to be a rising star to watch. That simple shot of the planet somehow conveys a beautiful, yet fragile existence as it floats in space. It’s interesting to see Jocelyn acting as sort of a selfless philanthropist; it reminds me that one way you could read this book is to infer that each character in the squad of eight is an aspect of self present in all of us. The characters are just physical manifestations of parts of our own psyche. If you follow that through, you begin to wonder not how post-humans would function as Gods when juxtaposed against a primitive society, but how we all function as Gods in the little worlds we create. Our personalities fuel conflict in the world around us, and each of us in our own way, seeks to impose our will onto that social construct. Man, I’m getting all philosophical and can’t seem to stay focused on talking about the book. Well fuck man, that’s a good piece of art that can illicit this degree of contemplation, isn’t it? Gem talks about “building a mythology” on the planet and it’s just another reflection of art imitating life imitating art. I’ve been pondering the demise of Wildstorm a lot lately and this incarnation of DV8 strikes me as such a shining example of how crafty creators can mine and evolve a property and do some world-building of their own. I don’t know that I’d want to see Brian Wood take on a more archetypal character like Superman or Batman, because they’re weighed down by so much internal and external baggage. But, he’s sure proven to have an effective grasp on a property like DV8, that these relatively recent creations can be more nimble, they can evolve, and be modernized under the direction of the right creator, and keep pace with the times, not losing their relevance the way a more aged property might. Ah, well. If “the king is dead, long live the king,” then I say if “Wildstorm and DV8 are dead, long live Brian Wood.” Grade A.

Sweets #3 (Image): [Not released this week, but my dopey LCS finally got it in.] Kody Chamberlain’s Sweets is the kind of book that’s going to have a magnificent life as a graphic novel once collected. It’s one of the few noir inspired police procedurals that’s has any ring of authenticity about it. From the very first grainy opening page, we understand that Chamberlain intuitively knows he doesn’t have to sensationalize violence for it to have an impact. He just lays it there on the page without visually editorializing and allows the audience to absorb it. The way that these cops begin to work what feels like a useless lead (the diabetic connection) is exactly the way that real cops work tirelessly boring angles and exhaust all remote avenues, no matter how far-fetched they initially seem. It’s through this thorough exploration that cases are made. There are precious few caption boxes in Sweets and it’s a reminder that Chamberlain doesn’t rely on tired exposition to thrust the story forward. None of his characters talk to the audience. They simply do what they would do naturally, speak in short clips and bursts, intertwine overlapping conversations, and talk realistically, showing off the creator’s masterful ear for dialogue. The move that’s pulled here (I won’t ruin it) with the phone is the type of narrative trick that reminded me of Guy Pierce’s interrogation scene juggling in LA Confidential, capped off with “you’re a fucking genius.” The thing I probably appreciate the most about this issue is that the action that takes place is a brief and unexpected burst of violence. When I was coming up in law enforcement, one of my old bosses would use that line, that the work was “90% boredom,” just routine planning and procedure, “followed by 10% sheer terror.” The only minor quibble I have is that one of the cops is shot in the hand, and it seems to take a while for him to start bleeding. In the interim, he’s using that same hand to hold his gun before switching off. Now, I’ve never been shot, but I have been stabbed in the hand, and I’ll tell you, even with adrenaline kicking in, you ain’t gonna’ be doing much with that hand. Thankfully, the wound is eventually addressed and we even begin to see shock setting in once the queasy adrenaline rush subsides. This book is one of the finds of the year, and I’m still amazed that it’s one guy responsible, doing what it takes 3-4 lesser creators to accomplish, and doing it with style and grace, the results eclipsing “those other” books. Grade A.

Stripburger 53 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…visually his style is some sort of woodcut bastard lovechild of Gary Panter and Fletcher Hanks.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Giants In The Earth @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Fetherolf has great storytelling ability, operating the entire issue with not a single word, seamless transitions from shot to shot, and tons of panel variety to keep things lively. Grade A+.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Team Zero! #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

"Man, I’ll try not to bury my lead here and just say that this didn’t work very well for me."

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.20.10 Releases: “I Think About The Loveless Fascination”

It looks like a small week, but a good week. I’m most excited for DV8: Gods & Monsters #7 (DC/Wildstorm) from Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs, with covers by Fiona Staples. It’s the penultimate issue of the series, so it looks like a dramatic conflict is in the works before any answers are revealed. I’ll be sad to see this bright spot in my recent reading habits fade away, particularly considering the fate of the imprint. Yet, with new Brian Wood projects on the horizon, hope seems to spring eternal. Also from the Wood ‘verse this week is DMZ #58 (DC/Vertigo). Maybe I spoke too soon about DV8, because this issue of DMZ has all the makings of a hit. I just attended a Shepard Fairey lecture at the museum I work at on Friday night, so I’m pleased to see the return of street artist “Decade Later” in the pages of DMZ. On art duty is none other than Croatian phenom Danijel Zezelj, and I’m sure his thick syrupy art will yield amazing results. I’ve been enjoying this arc of one-shots, and we can begin savoring these last issues of DMZ all the more, since Wood recently announced that DMZ will be concluding with issue 72, so it’s nearing its final year of publication. The last blip on the radar screen is Batman & Robin #15 (DC), which is another Frazer Irving issue, as well as the penultimate Grant Morrison issue. Apparently, issue 16 will tie into all the continuity voodoo surrounding the botched Return of Bruce Wayne, and then will become just another in the craptastic line of titles with issue 17 being written and drawn by nobody I’m particularly interested in. Oh well, we’ll always have those first three issue with Frank Quitely. I just re-read the second issue with Dick and Alfred doing the “Skull of Yorick” scene. Man, that’s good comics. Unfortunately, the series chased the high of that first three issue arc unsuccessfully for the duration of its run and is going to just whimper its way into mediocrity at the end.

Lynchpin #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…straddling the line between personal autobiography and more detached biography in an interesting fashion …a very powerful piece of work.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Al Burian Goes To Hell @ Poopsheet Foundation

"Burian runs the risk here of getting lost in his own 'low grade nihilism' and having it degenerate into stereotypical self-absorbed navel-gazing, but thankfully avoids that trap with a project ambitious in complexity, which possesses plenty of humor."

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.13.10 Reviews: If Twitter Were In Charge

Strange Tales 2 #1 (Marvel): Somewhere exists an alternate universe where I can buy regular ongoing series featuring these characters & these creators. Grampa on Wolvie, Santoro on Surfer. “A+”

Echo #25 (Abstract Studio): Best lettering in business. Masterful facial expressions and dedication to detail. Genetic arguments, biblical sacrifice. Science vs. War = Art vs. Commerce. “A”

Invincible Iron Man #31 (Marvel): Best book Marvel is publishing. Larroca captures split second action very well. Art gaffe on hands. Loved “sabot.” Chess game between Tony & ruthless Justine. “A”

Northlanders #33 (DC/Vertigo): Erik & Ingrid as Viking Bonnie & Clyde. Chilling narrative with Norse & Christians opposed. Scavengers. Guilt. “Draugr.” Fear vs. Fearless. What is myth? “A-"

Warlord of Mars #1 (Dynamite Entertainment): For only $1, very striking and lush visuals, a satisfying pulpy mélange of qualities, could be back for more. Cheesy variant covers, creatures a little silly. “A-”

Sweets #3 (Image): Sea Donkey strikes again. Pissed at LCS. Carries issue one and two of a mini-series that’s critically acclaimed and then doesn’t order third issue. Seriously, WTF.

Costumed Crimefighter Comics #2 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…the small stumbles are mostly overshadowed by the humor of the midget hooker.”

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Costumed Crimefighter Comics #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Oh Dan, this is awful! Police say he calls himself Goldfish and he wears a gold fish-scale suit!”

“Wow, he sounds like a complete fucking retard!”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Secret Comix: Volume One @ Poopsheet Foundation

“...really engrossing and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.13.10 Releases: “It’s Compromise That Moves Us Along”

The first volume was really uneven for me, but it’s impossible to ignore all of the indie talent in Strange Tales 2 #1 (Marvel). Featuring the writer/artist double threats of Rafael Grampa, Kate Beaton, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, Shannon Wheeler, Jillian Tamaki, Jeff Lemire, Kevin Huizenga, Jhonen Vasquez, Gene Yang, and Nick Gurewitch. $4.99 is a little steep, but you basically had me at Rafael Grampa and then sealed the deal with Dash Shaw. I had just about given up on this book, but kept getting pulled back in with the lure of good artists. First it was Yanick Paquette, then the promise of Frazer Irving, and now I see Ryan Sook on Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 (DC), the penultimate in the mini-series. DC is absolutely milking this “return” with one-shots galore (see Bruce Wayne: The Road Home this week) and other minis like Knight & Squire. If it wasn’t for Sook, I’d be out. These mixed emotions aside, the definites this week include Northlanders #33 (DC/Vertigo) from Brian Wood, Sweets #3 (Image) from Kody Chamberlain, Invincible Iron Man #31 (Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Echo #25 (Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore, and Warlord of Mars #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) by… not sure, but yeah, for $1 it doesn’t matter much, for that price I’ll gladly sample a book about pulp hero John Carter, especially since Dynamite has done fairly well with these reimaging projects.

Lemon Styles @ Poopsheet Foundation

“It seems like a humongous label and responsibility to heap onto someone, but it’s like David King is the inheritor of Charles Schulz’s brand of cartooning.”

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10.06.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Scalped #41 (DC/Vertigo): Man, Jason Aaron and RM Guera don’t pull any punches in that opening scene, do they? It walks a brilliant line between the graphic and the suggestive, reminding me in a way of M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signs. For the first 90% of the movie, you never even see the aliens, but the creators are able to scare the shit out of you anyway, just with clever anticipation. This issue’s focus is really about all of the strained relationships and various attempts to mend them. You’ve got Wade and Dash with their one thing in common (Gina), Carol and Red Crow, Dash and Carol, etc., with everyone making such a desperate effort to try a little consideration and attempting to break the cycle of bad parenting. I personally always get a lot of enjoyment out of the love/hate Dash/Carol relationship, but the main feature here seems to be Dash and his father Wade. Ultimately, Wade has tons of flaws, but he sure knows his son pretty well. I still love this book, and it’s amazing how every single issue can sing, Aaron’s scripts are intense and sure-footed, never missing their mark. I hope Scalped goes to 100 issues. If I have one small criticism about this particular installment it’s that it’s unavoidably Unwanted: Part 3, smack dab in the middle of an arc, and it does feel like all middle. You can see Aaron systematically pushing all of the various threads forward and that’s all that really occurs from a plot standpoint. The individual scenes are compelling, but the issue itself doesn’t tell much of a story. It’s still done incredibly well and this criticism will fade into nothingness once collected. Grade A-.

Uncanny X-Force #1 (Marvel): I think this series is going to be wildly popular. Rick Remender (The Last Days of American Crime, Fear Agent) and Jerome Opena (Fear Agent) are a powerful creative team. Opena’s thin, sinewy, kinetic lines are bursting with a lean sense of movement. The pencils are aided tremendously by the effect of the inks and colors, which lend a murky sense of moral flexibility that comes across strong visually. Judging by Deadpool’s monologuing, it’s clear he understands the erratic psychosis of the character. Ditto on Fantomex’s narration and the psychological underpinnings that drive it. Ditto the care that Betsy shows for Warren. Ditto the banter between Fantomex and Logan. Remender just gets it. Apocalypse is a great villain for this squad. E.V.A. comes off truly alien. Nice cognac too. Great last page with some indie Easter Eggs. “This is not the X-Men” indeed. Grade A-.

SHIELD #4 (Marvel): It’s a good thing that the recap page exists, because I would not have been able to recall that Sir Isaac Newton murdered Galileo and had enslaved Nostradamus. I remember Leonardo Da Vinci coming back to challenge the status quo, but still can’t really articulate all of the character motivations here. There’s lots of talk about duty and “standing in the gap,” but the meaning of the actions is still much too elusive. I guess there’s the birth of a Celestial in the sun(?), but why is that important? After just a couple of pages, I felt just like Leonid when he said “Stop. Just stop being so cryptic and tell me what’s going on!” I gave this series a couple of issues for Jonathan Hickman’s scripting to get coherent and in the mean time was enjoying Dustin Weaver’s art. There’s one good double page spread that zig-zags down the open expanse, pulling your eye around masterfully, but other than that, I felt the art began to lose its initial charm. The script is still full of nebulous history that’s gone from intriguing to mystifying to disappointing. It’s just a bunch of people running around; I don’t know who they are, what they want, or how they’re trying to do it. It makes every action lose significance because I’m not intellectually or emotionally engaged by anything if I’m unable to grasp its basic level of importance. We’re four issues in and not much has coalesced. I think I might be out on this series. Grade B-.

Cragmore: Book Two @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…John steals the show and I’d love to see a spin-off starring this amazingly cool character. His inclusion alone earns this an enthusiastic… Grade A.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.06.10 Reviews (Part 1)

The Lone Ranger #24 (Dynamite Entertainment):Grilled Cheesus,” (Yeah, I watch Glee. What?) this is part 8 and there’s 9 parts to this arc!? This is the longest tradewait decision I’ve ever had to endure. Will we see the 25th issue in 2010? Anywho… man, Cavendish has got to be one of the best all time villains. There’s a lot to like about this issue aside from the scary charm of the antagonist. Tonto’s origin gets filled in a great deal, and so much of the story is told visually with the panel layouts and emotive facial expressions. I love how the tribe elder was a reverse type, we’d expect the leader of the tribe that spawned Tonto to be powerful and wise, but we would not expect it to be a tiny old lady. There’s a flashback to the horrible event that turned John Reid into The Lone Ranger and it’s told with a cinematic grit that looks exactly like the period it emulates. There’s a mumbled prayer, strangling with a domino mask, and a crazy cliffhanger. Despite the ridiculous publishing schedule, The Lone Ranger is still one of the best titles on the stands, certainly deserving of more buzz. Grade A.

Chaos War #1 (Marvel): I’ll start with a few of the nitpicky things I didn’t like and then try to end with the positives. So, this is a 5 issue mini-series, except… there are 14 other books listed in the crossover that I’m expected to purchase in order to follow along? Umm, no. The precogs also smack a little too much of Minority Report or The Hybrid Cylon in Battlestar Galactica. Marvel sure seems to be throwing the term “multiverse” around a lot lately. I guess that’s not something that DC copyrighted back in the Crisis on Infinite Earths era? Lastly, there’s a lot of expositional Nightmare, King Chaos, Brother Voodoo, Japanese/Norse/Greek/Roman/Egyptian mythology nonsense being bantered around. My reaction to that? Bored now. Moving right along, Khoi Pham’s art is terrific and Tom Palmer’s inks also deserve a special nod. The figures end up being very well defined, and the liberal inks don’t come off too dark, but lend a weight to the characters that underscores the supposed importance of this event. Pham composes some downright immersive shots, such as the “Council of Godheads” that really sing. Between this and Dustin Weaver’s recent work on SHIELD, it seems a new visual era is being defined for Marvel’s line. I was about to say that with the inserted apparel ads and focused attack of this series, it looks like Marvel kinda’ has their act together. But, that back up feature is pretty weak, with a tone that’s more comical and doesn’t match the gravitas of the lead, and overall feels a bit unnecessary. Overall though, the meat of the issue bristles with smart humor, a brisk pace, and has the epic feeling that OG events like Crisis and Secret Wars had. If there has to be event comics, they might be better served looking something like this. Grade A-.

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2010 (Image): From an editorial perspective, there’s a few pretty glaring gaffes in this issue. For example, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s piece is listed in the credits as “Chain Gang,” yet in the actual piece it’s called “Chain Game.” Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’ piece is listed as “X-Ray” in the credits, but in the actual piece is called “X-Rayz.” In the indicia, “Conan Properties International LLC” is thanked, and then a line later we see a thank you to “Conan Properties International LLC International LLC” (duplication theirs, not mine). On the back page, “generosity” is mistakenly used for “generously.” As for the actual pieces, Darick Robertson’s Conan captures the Cimmerian’s no-nonsense charm and Richard Clark’s dark colors are very lush and warm. Jill Thompson’s pin-up evoked a feeling of Neil Vokes’ Parliament of Justice for me, an overlooked book that I really am quite fond of. Ba & Moon’s aforementioned contribution employs a crude energy that works very well, ultimately attesting to the fact that you can’t kill hope. Garth Ennis and Rob Steen’s effort is silly and gratuitous, but that’s basically the point. It has as much right to exist as any other piece. Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan’s Boilerplate is one of the most on-point and on-message selections to be found, driving home the creator rights issue. I’d like to see more of this creative team, who seem to want to operate in a slightly steampunk version of the Hellboy or Atomic Robo space. Rob Liefeld’s two page pin-up has an attractive color figure (even the feet are ok), but the blind Lady Justice looks suspiciously like Angelina Jolie. Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese strip has the duo taking shots at the 501st Legion, entertains along the way, and culminates with an aggressive challenge for fans and creators alike to defend their medium. Frank Miller provides a Sin City pin-up, focusing on the ever popular Nancy, with her nipples perked up proudly, doing their protruding part to protect the First Amendment. You probably know by now that I adore Paul Pope, but I didn’t grasp the relevance of his piece, no message really, just a nice pin-up, perhaps he’ll donate it to auction off at the CBLDF Charity Auction at next year’s SDCC. Terry Moore’s pin-up was tied a little more directly to the book’s overall message. Megaton Man was mildly entertaining. I actually enjoyed the etymological bits, but not the typos, which included “independant” and “toleration” instead of tolerance. The message seems to be all over, from anti-jingoistic, to pro free speech, to accepting a Right Wing reactionary traditionalism. I’m not sure I get the ultimate stance, unless the point was to just show that multiple points of view have a right to exist. There’s a Jeff Smith pin-up. *Shrug*. Charley Loves Robots is a single page strip with great art by Roshell, Bautista, and Szymarcwicz (no first names provided anywhere). Gail Simone and Amanda Gould turn in Monsters at the Door, which is one of the more powerful pieces to be found. The lyrical text is captivating, while the notion of complete censorship backfiring to teach only fear and isolation, well, that’s suitably disturbing. This piece stuck with me, forced imposition of the unnatural and the idealization of beauty causing it to cease to exist. Scott Morse’s Phaeton looks amazing, similar to some of the recent work he’s done for IDW. Here, he offers a clever interpretation of Plato with very charged coloring. Skottie Young has a pin-up and umm, that’s all my notes say, I don’t have the book with me. Sorry, Skottie! Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s pin-up of The Pro is very nice, capturing the irony of Right Wing persecution of free speech. Ben McCool and Billy Tucci have a… pin-up? Ad for a new book? Not sure. The art is great though. X-Rayz by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins has very attractive art, but ultimately the story felt kind of pointless, the humor flat, or… uh, something wasn’t clicking. Colleen Doran’s pin-up is a different style for her, and I’m wondering if it had something to do with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell(?). Larry Marder’s First Amendment is a great idea that largely succeeds, though I did notice that Diamond solicits hyped it as a Thomas Jefferson piece, when the only POTUS included is James Madison. Some nice attention to detail in the back indicia with “Best. Defense. Ever.” Grade A-.

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Billy Hazelnuts & The Crazy Bird (Fantagraphics): By the time this book opens and an interim period has elapsed from the first volume, we see Billy domesticated and responsible for household chores on the farm due to his incredible strength. As was the case in the first volume, the world of Billy Hazelnuts seems to be about breaking free of physical or even socially imposed ideological bonds. An early favorite sequence involves Billy’s conflict with the family cat, which he describes as a “filthy milk-licker.” The additional line “…one animal licking the juice of another” hints at the subversive and subtle sexuality that Tony Millionaire is able to infuse the work with. The clash with the cat seems to come full circle later in the book, which captures the balance Millionaire is able to achieve with the raucous and more endearing moments. When the cat and an owl fight, there’s lots of furious character to the action. As bold wise-ass Billy breaks up the fight, he quips “I do loathe that cat… but it’s our cat!” Billy saves him, and the cat later returns the favor. Though it’s superficially an outlandish portrayal of events, we see the theme of a familial bond transcending and trumping most conflicts. It happens again when Billy decides to return the baby owl to its mother. Billy is something of a wise ass homunculi, but he does have a heart. Millionaire’s syrupy inks, along with his highly detailed, but thick expressive lines underscore that idea; his art comes equipped with an emotional weight that compliments his line weight. I enjoyed Becky’s continued presence, who is just as spunky as before. In her consistent characterization, she offers lines here like “Cool your jets, fireball!” which sum up the demeanor of her character pretty well. Millionaire seems to be fascinated by the ideas of creation and deconstruction, Becky frequently points out that it was the animals who made Billy Hazelnuts. Notice how the birds deal with their hunger, they eat part of the house and parts of Billy, everything in the narrative is able to be repurposed as a consumptive building block for a new act of creation. Rupert Punch is a fun new character, who acts as a sort of eccentric advisor to Billy. He’s got a unique way with language, chatting about escaping his “marzipan period,” or how the bird hat is “the vogue slavery in the haberdashery circles.” Millionaire’s world is full of great inventions and fun ideas just for the sake of themselves; the enjoyable style pervades the book. Along the way, the thematic notes of loyalty, maturing to a sense of responsibility, and rebirth run their course. Billy feels a sense of responsibility to the owl, to Becky, and Billy’s apparent demise symbolizes the rebirth that these creatures are capable of, all with a sense of craft and surprise. The first volume of Billy Hazelnuts possessed more of a sense of dreamy adventure. The inclusion of the moon and planets seemed to harken back to seminal strips like Little Nemo in Slumberland or something more modern like The Clouds Above by Jordan Crane. Billy Hazelnuts & The Crazy Bird is a little more grounded, a little more “earthy” as opposed to “airy” if you’ll permit me an elemental analogy. In either case, this developing corner of the Tony Millionaire library possesses all the immersive wonderment of a modern fairy tale. Grade A.

Veggie Dog Saturn #4 @ Poopsheet Foundation

"...I enjoyed this installment of Veggie Dog Saturn and it definitely leans toward being recommended despite some slight uneven quality. Grade B+."

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Life In The Slow Lane @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…it succeeds with honest charm, is quite fun, put together nicely, and very well observed.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.

Decorum @ Poopsheet Foundation

“We find… a rendition of Snow Owl (a stand-in for Batman) facing off against Gay Panic (a would-be Joker), with henchmen Hamburglar, Snidely Whiplash, and Adolf Hitler (which one of these is not the same as the others?). This is fun stuff.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


10.06.10 Releases: "Always Double Down On Eleven"

The highlight of the week is probably the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2010 (Image). It really never ceases to be an all star roster of talent, last year’s issue brought us a Jennie One story from Brian Wood, and hey, it’ s all for a great cause. This year’s writers run the range from Evan Dorkin to Brian Azzarello, Scott Morse and Gail Simone to Thomas Jefferson and Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon. On the art side of the house, I see stalwart contributor Dave Gibbons, Amanda Conner, Colleen Doran, Darick Robertson, and favorites like Terry Moore and Paul Pope. Marvel’s got a trio of “maybes” on deck for me. Call me a sucker, but Uncanny X-Force #1 (Marvel) does look interesting. With the creative team from Fear Agent, Rick Remender and Jerome Opena, I’m expecting big fun action. The premise of Wolverine having lied about disbanding X-Force also ratchets up the tension between Scott and Logan, throw in Apocalypse as the villain, 40 pages for $3.99, and the 20 year old in me wants to buy this! I’m still having a hard time understanding exactly what the heck is going on in SHIELD and just what everyone’s motivations are, but there’s no denying it’s gorgeous looking, so I might snag SHIELD #4 (Marvel). Along those lines, Chaos War #1 (Marvel) has art that’s very striking. I don’t even know the premise of the war, Marvel’s magical mayhem is typically a total snoozer for me, and I’m pretty out on event comics as a whole, but stranger things have happened, and I could end up taking this home. DC comes in with a lone entry, Jason Aaron’s Scalped #41 (DC/Vertigo), which is always excellent. If you’re not buying it, then shame on you. Lone Ranger #24 (Dynamite Entertainment) makes an appearance this week, which is yet another issue in this long (late) arc. I’m still planning on tradewaiting this once this arc is complete and I can have a nice tidy jumping off point, though it feels like I’ve been saying that for a year. I’d love to be buying a regular book with Juan Jose Ryp art, but unfortunately Nancy In Hell #3 (Image) just isn’t cutting it in terms of story and characters. That definitely won’t be coming home, but if you’re a diehard Ryp completist, take note.

Brain Food #16 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“With a handy introduction page and a line about 'zombie porn flicks,' this book quickly caught my attention.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.



In case you missed it;


Brian Wood graciously agreed to an interview during the hectic days prior to his appearance at the New York Comic Con and in the immediate wake of DC Entertainment’s restructuring announcements. It made for a fun and unexpected way to epilogue THE BRIAN WOOD PROJECT. Enjoy!

I’ve read so many interviews with you that it’s a little daunting to come up with an original question. I know you didn’t get into comics until your college years at Parsons, right? So, when you were a kid what did you want to do when you grew up?

I think at varying points, a veterinarian, a pro-skateboarder and then a pro-snowboarder, typical youth stuff. But I always drew pictures, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that I would go to art school, even if it was deferred for several years. But aside from a general idea of what an artist might do for a living (if anything) I was pretty clueless.

When I turned 20 I got an advance on this pitiful inheritance I was due at 21, and used it to move to NYC. Somewhere around there I discovered HATE, the Peter Bagge comic, in association with the rise of grunge rock, which I was pretty into at the time (1991-ish). Comics were still not anything I thought I could do, at least not until I stumbled across VIOLENT CASES, that Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean comic. That book, specifically the artwork, seemed impossibly futuristic. I would look at a page and not have the slightest clue how a human being could produce images like that, but I knew I wanted to find out. This was the year I was applying to art schools and comics were becoming something I was paying attention to. Not until sophomore year, though, when I walked into St. Marks Comics in search of more McKean and found a whole row of Vertigo comics, did I basically decide this was something that was for me. Strictly speaking artwork, at this point. Writing came much, much later.

What’s your reaction to THE BRIAN WOOD PROJECT in general, and specifically on the premise of identity being the thematic link in your body of work?

It's flattering. I know you didn't write it for me, and I sorta hesitate to comment on it. I'm glad there are people like you out there who put this level of thought and consideration into comics. There are too many others who seem to enjoy being negative just to be negative.

I’ve tried to define and catalogue a number of your writing characteristics; are any of those traits conscious decisions, or are they just part of your inherent style?

It's not conscious. I realized the identity thing only a short time before you started to, but I didn't really examine it too deeply. I am not a self-analytical person, when it comes to my creative endeavors. I tend to prefer to go with my gut, for better or for worse. I look at other creators like Fraction or Warren Ellis, who will talk and write at length about their process, about panel counts and beats and formats, and that's just not something I ever really do. It's very much an internal process.

How do you feel about this crazy DEMO: VOLUME THREE prediction, that it could be the ninth work in your POST-MODERN period, landing some time around 2016?

It's not crazy... I mean, I dunno if there will ever be a DEMO 3. I think if/when I work with Becky again, we might be better served coming up with something new. But I will say that I have a half-dozen comics proposals sitting right here and they all belong, in a sense, to each other. I wrote them all thinking about my post-DMZ career, and they all reflect what I'm in to now. If even three of these six or seven get produced, in retrospect, they will absolutely be part of a conceptual whole, a period of my career. I hope I can see all of these projects to fruition.

I’ve seen you asked the standard question “what artists do you want to work with?” But, I’d like to flip it around. Having co-wrote with Warren Ellis, is there anyone you’d like to write with, or are you at a point where the idea of inviting someone in to co-write a project interests you at all?

David Lapham. I've been thinking about this! I don't think my temperament is one that lends itself so well to collaboration - see my "internal process" comment above. I don't "jam" or kick around ideas with the artists I work with. BUT, I think there can be an interesting way to make it work, for me. I love David's work, I'm jealous of it in so many ways, and I would love to be a part of his creative process, to witness it and share in it a little bit. I'm still not 100% sure how the nuts and bolts of that would work, but I hope to give it a shot.

If you’re not tired of talking about WildStorm yet, with DV8 being so well received, how did the recent news of the end of the imprint hit you? For what it’s worth, I saw a few comment threads repeatedly citing “Brian Wood’s DV8” as an example of there still being life left in these characters.

I was sad, still am, for a lot of reasons. It was bad, devastating news for the people who work at and for Wildstorm, and I also think that there is absolutely life in that collection of characters. As much as in anything else, and perhaps more so, since its so much younger than the DC and Marvel catalogs. I don't really know what else to say. Somewhere in the Wildstorm offices sits proposals I wrote for a great many books that will now never see the light of day. I'm bummed about that. Beyond that I really hope I can work with my editor Ben Abernathy again someday.

I know it hasn’t wrapped yet, so perhaps some of the intelligent design elements will out by the end, but did you intend DV8 to be deconstructionist in nature or is that just a happy story byproduct that I’m picking up on?

I really just love those characters, how fucked up they all are, the inconsistencies, the contradictions, and flaws built in to them. It sounds a little dorky, but I really just wanted to celebrate them, to show to as many people as I can reach what I saw in them. The deconstructionist bit may just be what happens when someone like me, who is a stranger/outsider to the superhero genre, writes one of those books. I dunno. I wrote a bit about that in the last Demo essay, about my relationship with that genre. Anyway, it wasn't intentional in the sense that it was a stated goal of the series.

You’ve long been an advocate of an arts-first, creator-owned approach, so on the rare occasion you do work on a company owned project, what’s the thought process that leads you there?

Only if it feels right, if it makes sense with my larger body of work. DV8 obviously does, as you would agree. I don't want to do company-owned work for the hell of it, just for some quick money or to mark time, at least if I can help it. It should be work that appeals to my readership, that doesn't take up too much time, that I can genuinely get behind and put myself into. I think you'll probably see more company work from me in the next few years than you saw in the last, as DV8 sorta broke the ice, but it really has to be in the minority. I don't want to be a creator who does four company books in order to keep one creator-owned one alive. It should be the other way around, ideally, right?

I know Kirkman caught a lot of flak for his manifesto video about creating original works… whatever you saw online in terms of negative reactions, Justin, you have no idea the intense level of anger within the creator community to it. I agree with Kirkman, though, and it’s not anything that I haven't seen others publicly say. Brian K Vaughn, I remember, wrote something online to a similar effect when Y ended.

I don't have anything against company work, or against anyone that does it. But I do put it in what I feel should be its proper place, and that will always come second to original work.

Do you consciously create a “career plan?” What does the future hold for the industry in general, and where do you see yourself in another 13 years?

Christ, you wouldn't believe to what degree I consider and plan. Everything is mapped out, and as a result, everything I've wanted to do or wanted to happen has come to pass, from working with certain people, to what projects follow other projects, to my DC exclusive (something I set my sights on about three years before it actually came to pass). I credit this with, in part, my ability to build a career on creator-owned work. It took me a lot longer, but it was all completely on my own terms and exactly how I wanted it.

In another 13 years I'll be 50, and I literally can't fathom that, can't imagine what I'll be like at that age. Fifty! I hope I'll still be making books... all I've ever wanted to do was make books. It's easy to be tempted by videogame work, or to try and write for TV and film, and I've dabbled a bit. But I'm not one of, and don't want to be one of, those comic book creators openly lusting after big (or small) screen work. Books will always be my first priority. Anything else I do end up doing should be in service of that, done to support that.

You and I have talked before about how someone like Jason Aaron can just absolutely tear it up in every issue of SCALPED. What other writers or books are you impressed by at the moment?

I don't read a lot of comics. I'll follow writers or artists I know and like, like Jason, and Warren Ellis, David Lapham and so on. I get most of my kicks from manga these days, with Detroit Metal City currently at the top of the list. There is a fearlessness to most manga that I am very envious of, and very near the top of my personal short list of Things To Change About Comics is to create an environment where more people can have the freedom to be that fearless in the American industry, and be rewarded for it.

I’m from Silicon Valley, so various aspects of the tech culture still fascinate me. How has social networking and the web in general affected your career?

Its hard to answer only because I've not had a career at a time when the web WASN'T a big part of it. I got my Delphi forum around the same time Warren Ellis did, in 1997 or so. In terms of outreach, press, finding and then communicating with my collaborators, it's just a given. I don't know how I would do what I do without it. I wouldn't have found Becky, Riccardo, Kristian Donaldson, etc.

What’s next, Brian? I know you have some big announcements coming up in the near future, but is there anything you want to tease or hint at?

I don't know. I don't know how to tease it out. I think I can say that I have a book that is probably officially approved that is slated to replace DMZ… not in the sense of a sequel or anything like that, but literally… the next long form monthly book to fill the space in the schedule as DMZ comes to a close a year from now. But it’s not entirely dissimilar to DMZ. I think it does for environmentalism and disaster fiction what DMZ did for urban war and politics. There is another project that is so close to my heart that it can, at times, cause me physical pain because I want to write it SO BAD and I cannot get the relevant people to like my proposal! This is a project I will fund personally and self-publish if I have to. I don't even want to breathe a word of it aloud, though.

Last question, and you’ll have to play along, but let’s say you’re wrongly accused of a horrible crime and receive the death penalty. What’s your proverbial last meal consist of? Dazzle us with your insider foodie knowledge and favorite spots in New York. Don’t hold out on me man, I’ll hurt somebody for the right Greek food.

Isn't it the case that everyone's last meal is always a very simple one? Wouldn't the very best homemade mac and cheese always trump a tasting menu at Momofuku, in that situation? That said, if I had to order out for my final meal, it would be a toss-up between the warm lemongrass chicken salad at Rice and the schnitzel and potatoes at Cafe Steinhof. Simple stuff.



In case you missed it;


There’s an idea that I kept feeling in my gut. It went far beyond Brian Wood’s fascination with identity as a unifying theme. It was a visceral emotional response that went something like this: “Brian Wood is one of the defining writers of my generation.” What did that even mean? Up until this point, I hadn’t dissected it. There seemed to be two ideas embedded in the statement that needed further clarification. One, in the broadest terms, I would need to define “my generation.” Two, an effort would need to be made to explore why his body of work is quintessential to understanding the identity of that generation. So let’s take a musical cue from The Who and talk about My Generation…

In the most generalizing demographic classification, I belong to something known as “Generation X.” No, this is not the Marvel Comics series that Brian Wood wrote for a short span early in his career (though, interesting coincidence that), but a cultural distinction that separates my age group from say, The Greatest Generation, The Baby Boomers, [insert Generation X here], and Generation Y, in that sequential order.

Drilling down to some more specific demographics, at the time of this writing I’m 36 years old. I have immigrant grandparents, making me a second generation American. I’m a Californian. I live in San Diego. I’ve travelled. I’m married. I have two children. I have a college degree. I have a professional career. I own a home. On paper, I’m a pretty typical middle class individual and none of that information has any obvious relevance to a generation discussion except my age, because of what can be extrapolated from that age bracket. My age group puts me in a window in which I have grandparents who came out of The Great Depression. My grandfather served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and was stationed in England. He’s part of what Tom Brokaw popularized as The Greatest Generation, and fits the typical mold as it’s defined extremely well. One of the defining characteristics of this generation was that they helped to solidify the notion of hopeful optimism in this country. The idea that, with an ounce of American ingenuity, a dash of bravery, and a heaping dose of selfless sacrifice and hard work, nearly anything was possible. It helped make attainable the hope and promise in the national ethos concerning The American Dream.

Those in The Greatest Generation were the parents of The Baby Boomers, of my parents’ generation. Merely 20 years later, society witnessed the pendulum swing violently in the other direction. The Boomers eschewed and redefined the traditional values of the prior era. They questioned rhetoric, were mindful of perception, and facilitated rapid social change. It wasn’t just fun times with The Beatles and sexual liberation; it was a rapid erosion of faith in institutions and growing disillusionment with the establishment. It was the stereotypical portrayals we see so frequently of life in the 1960’s. It was the Vietnam War, Civil Rights coming to a head, rioting in the streets, the shift in the power of music, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X all being assassinated, followed by San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk a few years later (which is noticeably more a part of the collective consciousness of those of us from the San Francisco Bay Area), and it seemed to culminate with Watergate and Nixon a few years after that. I’m painting broad brushstrokes here, assuming that a fairly educated audience knows most of this and doesn’t need a crash course history lesson, but simply wanted to add some historical context. In short, The Baby Boomers learned of the fallibility of government, of any socialized system, and even began questioning the collapsing American Dream. If The Greatest Generation was met by an idealized vision of The American Dream, then The Baby Boomers woke up to a fractured and broken vision of The American Dream. The pendulum had swung almost completely in the other direction in the span of just one generation.

By the mid-70’s, The Baby Boomers were scattered and disenfranchised, my own parents went a sort of semi-hippie route and lived on a walnut farm, they started buying and selling antiques as a hobby that quickly turned into a profitable business. The Baby Boomers started having kids; I was born in 1974. There was an oil crisis. I remember living in the shadow of The Iran-Contra Affair and seeing Oliver North testify before Congress, but not being old enough to grasp the importance of What It All Meant. I remember the threat of mutually assured nuclear annihilation being discussed openly in my grade school after we watched The Day After in the classroom. I remember the Soviets being in Afghanistan and my dad telling me that it was “like their Vietnam.” I can’t resist the interesting aside that during this period the US backed the Afghan Mujahideen Rebels with money, arms, and training against the Soviets, because, you know, the Mujahideen did become The Taliban and all. I remember something called The Cold War ending and Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” As I grew older, I had wars too, though they didn’t seem quite as noble as fighting the Nazis or prompting an end to the Iron Curtain. I watched Iraq War: Part One on TV, which played like a movie on CNN, starring cool characters like Wolf Blitzer, “Stormin’ Norman,” and the camera-enabled “Smart Bomb.” What was the defining catch phrase for my generation? What was our legacy to be? Who were we? What was our identity? I think we’ve struggled with identity to some degree; the term Generation X has been used with varying degrees of traction by authors and the media to describe this “generation of teenagers who sleep together before they are married, were not taught to believe in God as much… and don't respect parents." So basically… we’re atheistic motherfuckers? That’s it? With a couple clicks of the mouse, you can find many events associated with Gen X, yet information is pretty thin regarding any intrinsic characteristics. Yes, we witnessed everything from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, to the rise of MTV, to the dot-com bubble and burst, to 9/11, and Iraq War: Part Deux: Mission Accomplished, but who are we?

Gen X is considered a post-modern generation in that demographically it’s comprised of a more heterogeneous cross-section, exhibiting diversity in race, class, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic composition, and sexual orientation. Before I digress too far, I’m spending all of this time defining my generation because it is Brian Wood’s generation as well. We’re roughly the same age (he’s two years older than me) and superficially at similar places in life. Married. Kids. Educated. Live in metropolitan areas. Worked professionally in another field before getting into comics in the capacity we are now. Artistically and pop culturally inclined. Astrologically both Aquarius (if you’re into that). We both lean politically more toward Blue State than Red State, me from the Liberal Left Coast, he from the Liberal Northeast, but probably agree with Barack that we shouldn’t be strictly divided into Red and Blue States, just The United States. I don’t know Brian extremely well personally, but it’s important, and I think safe to say, that you can digest everything I just explained and be assured it applies culturally to him as well. If there is a mindset produced by the progression of The Greatest Generation to The Baby Boomers to Generation X, then we share it, whatever it is.

And that’s the point. “It,” the quintessential generational legacy of Gen X, has not been written. I postulate that Brian Wood is attempting to write it through his work. He himself is seeking, consciously or otherwise, to clarify the identity and subsequent legacy of his own generation, using his characters as ciphers who navigate their own identity, existence, and ultimate place in the world, determining what their imprint will be on the generations that follow. It’s a response to the pendulum swing from The Greatest Generation to The Baby Boomers, as Gen X settles somewhere in the ideological middle. We can look back at the polar opposites of the two prior generations and see that our collective mindset doesn't mirror either completely. We can already look forward to the so-called “Millennials” of Gen Y and differentiate ourselves quickly by recognizing that we didn’t grow up with the intense technology permeation and that we also lack their sense of entitlement. We’re stuck in the middle, in a generational territory that isn’t fully defined, the identity of which is not yet solidified in history. I think deep down we crave the optimism and brotherhood of The Greatest Generation, but it’s certainly not with a sense of blind naiveté. From our Baby Boomer parents, we learned self-reliance, we learned that dissent is patriotic, and that while you should respect authority, the respect must be earned – not demanded, and you certainly have the right to demand transparency and even question authority when appropriate. We have the hope, but we also have the skepticism. From optimists, to idealists and pessimists, perhaps we are settling more toward realists. Perhaps we are refusing the false dichotomy and mutual exclusivity of the two prior generations. Wood is helping forge a social mindset that combines the hope of The Greatest Generation and the responsibility of the 1960’s counterculture movement. As reflected in the titular Parco Delgado arc in DMZ, perhaps he’s after our hearts and our minds.

When President Obama was elected, I remember feeling like there was a passing of the torch from generation to generation. For the first time in my lifetime, I am closer to POTUS in age than my father is. In terms of simple age and basic generational experience, I identify with Obama more than my father identifies with Obama, though as a lifelong Democrat and former political activist, the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on him. That election was our inheritance from The Baby Boomers. As we watched together on election night, as President-Elect Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park, I had my daughter on my lap, and my dad turned to me and simply said “this is why we were marching in the streets in the 60’s.” It’s almost as if there was something tangible in the historical zeitgeist.

Getting back on track here, it seems to me that as his characters seek to understand what informs their identity, Brian Wood seeks to understand what defines his generation in parallel. It’s fairly easy to see with repeated readings that the theme of identity is a strong constant in the body of his work. However, I’ve learned that’s only one layer of how the works operate as a whole. His legacy as a writer is not as simple as just using the theme of character identity. There are actually three intertwined layers at work, which operate from the most basic and the most precise thematic consistency, to the secondary characteristics in the work that revolve largely around generational tension, to more complex ideas possessing larger social implications. It culminates with my visceral experience about Wood’s voice being representative of a larger social group, to which I belong. If you’ll allow me to condense this integrated creative system as much as possible, the three tier formula would look something like this;

1) Protagonist Identity Exploration As Theme = Drives Character Development
2) Generational/Social Tension As Storytelling Engine = Drives Narrative
3) Exploring Generational Identity & Capturing Voice = Drives Creator

If Generation X seems to struggle with their cultural identity and ultimate legacy, clues to its composition may be found within the protagonist quests reflected in the large tapestry of Brian Wood’s projects. Embedded in the work is the true nature of this generation; it revolves around the aspirational attainment of an intellectually honest, informed, engaged, and progressive class of social beings. It requires an agile sense of independent thought and adaptability. Government. Law. Crime. Politics. War. Technology. Science. Education. Civil Rights. Environment. Economy. Race. Class. Ethnicity. Gender. Sexuality. Religion. Family. Ethics. Morality. Culture. Identity. Regardless of the social principle the ideas are rooted in, this generation’s legacy must drive a philosophical movement that shifts the social paradigm to a tolerant meritocracy that finds sensibility in a more pluralistic viewpoint. In order to propel our children’s generation forward to thrive and not just survive their existence, Generation X must possess the ability to process multiple points of view that are constantly evolving, without strict adherence to any static dogma, doctrine, or ideology.

From an artistic perspective, Brian Wood has employed a determined sense of reflection for his creations, and by extension, for himself and his generation. He’s worked under an indie umbrella of near total rejection of the medium’s most stereotypical genre, except when sublimating it and questioning its very identity. From a social relevance perspective, he’s operated with the promise inherited from The Greatest Generation and tempered it with a countercultural sense of insurgency that allows transformation of the generational narrative from within. If you buy at least half of the old adage that art can imitate life, then Brian Wood’s work is a responsorial hymn about capturing the values present in the cultural outlook of Generation X.

If the identity of Generation X is the question, then the Brian Wood library is the answer.

Brian Wood is the voice of our generation.