Tick Tick Boom @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…a quick and light-hearted read that’s certainly executed effectively.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


12.02.10 Releases

With the big haul last week and slim pickings this week, it feels a little like feast or famine on the shelves for me. I don’t know that I’ll be purchasing anything for certain this week, but here are the handful of maybes that will attempt to entice me. Supergod #5 (Avatar Press) finally wraps up the mini after long delays from Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny. Because Gastonny’s art wasn’t Juan Jose Ryp and the narrative felt like Ellis was simply monologuing to the camera like the guy on the cover, I ditched after a couple of issues, but I’ll give it the ol’ fliparoo at the LCS. Ditto those thoughts on The Killer: Modus Vivendi #6 (Archaia) which wraps up this Franco-Belgian crime noir cum politico thriller that just never seemed as focused or crisp as the first volume, but nevertheless I’ll give it a requisite Casual Flip Test™ at the shop. The only thing that might make me check out Heroes for Hire #1 (Marvel) is that Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning are writing it, and it features some interesting street level characters like Black Widow, Falcon, and Misty Knight. I’m not into more Wolverine comics glutting the market. I’m not into the writing of Charlie Huston. I’m not into the $3.99 price point. And I’m not into the bland new villains functioning as the premise of the book, but hey, I do like Juan Jose Ryp’s art, so Wolverine: The Best There Is #1 (Marvel) raised an eyebrow. On the graphic novel front, if you missed the hardcover or didn’t want to plunk down the money for the Absolute Edition, here's Planetary TPB: Book 04: Spacetime Archaeology (DC/WildStorm), which should be the last incarnation of this book we’re likely to see. Finally, the single bright spot in an otherwise snoozer of a week is probably Achewood HC: Volume 03: Home for Scared People (Dark Horse), from Chris Onstad. I don’t seem to be as enamored of this book as many of the critics I read, but if all else fails, I may give it another shot.

Hot Shower #11 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“I can’t say I liked all of the pieces, but… his work remains oddly compelling and I’d definitely be interested in seeing more in the future.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.24.10 Reviews (DC Books)

Batwoman #0 (DC): The bottom line is that there’s no artist working in mainstream superhero comics right now that is more interesting than JH Williams. The way he structures, designs, lays out, and zeroes in on the intent of a page is unparalleled. I’ve enjoyed the style of Amy Reeder elsewhere, her clean crisp lines bringing a lot of austere beauty to the page. Here, they seem to sync up with Williams in a weird way. It’s not that Reeder has attempted to copy Williams’ style, it’s more that you can imagine Williams aping Reeder’s style in the same manner he’s aped other artists who’ve contributed to the Bat Mythos. On top of the duo, there’s just a ridiculous art team assembled here. Richard Friend on inks, Dave Stewart on colors, and Todd Klein on letters. Does it get any better than that? Williams sets up the re-introduction story to basically run two threads in parallel, Kate doing her thing, with Bruce piecing together her identity. In the process, Kate earns his respect, and he even admires certain aspects of her being. As it moves along, it’s instantly obvious that Williams “gets” the characters, their inner voices, and can bring something new to the table. We learn about both of them, their own personalities revealed as they discover each other and begin to plant the seeds that will surely allow them to forge an uneasy alliance. This is All-Star Superman. This is Planetary. This is a top of the game, instant classic, a peak example of the refinement and beauty that can occur with the industry’s most prolific genre. Grade A+.

DMZ #59 (DC/Vertigo): It was awesome to see Brian Wood team up with David Lapham here. Truly, DMZ has got to win some type of award for the best “fill-in” artists in the business. Nathan Fox, Danijel Zezelj, David Lapham? It’s just a ridiculous roster of talent. The results here immediately grab you by the throat; that opening shot of cruise missiles raining down on Manhattan, even striking the Empire State Building, is absolutely horrifying. I could actually feel my stomach suddenly sink as I cracked open the cover. Lapham’s figures have a husky bulk to them that weighs them down, matching the tone of the issue perfectly. In many ways, this issue felt like Matty was dead socially and this was simply the wake. Despite his role, he has become persona non grata, and for a writer who is so fascinated with character identity, he pulls a devilish trick here and strips it all away. Matt has no identity in this personal little war he’s waging, and that’s probably the scariest thing of all being depicted. He has no sense of self at the moment, with his past decisions and associates attempting to color him now. Even amid those varied and strong personality types, he seems to refuse to let those define him, and pause before striking his own path for once. When Matty finally emerges from the attack to take in the bombed out city, Lapham and the coloring team shift gears to show the broken cityscape in a dull gray wash. It’s an eerie echo of 9/11 and the dingy film and rubble that covered the city around the WTC site. DMZ is a risk-taking, game-changing piece of fiction that pulls no punches and makes you realize that no person and no thing are truly safe. Grade A.

Scalped #43 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Latour fills in on art duties for this issue featuring Sheriff Wooster Karnow. His style is right at home in the world of The Rez, bringing a sense of grit in the detail that reminds me of Guy Davis, with a soft caricature influence that brings to mind someone like Rob Guillory. He can capture something as dirty as the junkyard sex scene, the small little statue of Wolverine(!) in Karnow’s office, and even the facial traits that reveal Karnow is a sad little man in almost every way. With the infusion of a deputy from the US Marshal’s Service tracking a fugitive, this issue is all about separating the reality from the bullshit where Wooster Karnow is concerned. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life is that the guys who are the “real deal,” the guys who really have the experience and skill, well they rarely talk about it. They’re humble and quiet, they’re unassuming, and they don’t over-compensate their shortcomings by gloating and bragging. Yeah, they’re more like the US Marshal in this story than they are like Karnow. All his bluster and braggadocio is a big “tell,” to borrow a term from the poker players out there. This issue is a good example of how Scalped is a cut above everything else. It’s not just mindless violence and crime, but a deep psychological examination of what drives the characters. What really breaks your heart is that Jason Aaron gives us just a small sliver of hope at the end to tease us and confuse us and make us unable to dismiss Karnow as a total lost cause, there's no black and white, just the gray suggestion that Karnow might actually have been taught an extremely difficult lesson, and learned a little humility. Grade A.

11.24.10 Reviews (Marvel Books)

Uncanny X-Force #2 (Marvel): If feels like it’s been a long time since the first issue; is this bi-monthly or something? I must have missed the memo. The continuity is a little wonky; Warren’s pretty busy right now over in Uncanny X-Men, being one of the point persons in crisis mode, yet here he is on the moon(?). In any case, I think Jerome Opena was born to draw a book like this. His lean dark figures move with a grainy lithe appeal through the visceral action. Not only does he nail the overall tone, but there are so many individual sequences that pop. He’s able to ape the art styles of the Kirby era, the Cockrum era, the period around X-Men #200 when Magneto joined, and even the Morrison/Quitely aesthetic. After that lead in, he shows off the Batcave, err… “Cavern-X,” which is an Easter Egg Hunt revealing Sunfire and Magneto’s helmets, the encased uniforms of Rachel, Havok, and Kitty, and it’s just like the damn Batcave meets the JLA Trophy Room for the X-Men! Loved it! Rick Remender brings his “A” game to the table as he crafts this high stakes game to bring down Apocalypse. There’s the tension of the crash sequence on the moon. There’s the crazy cool and original incarnations of The Four Horsemen, the general spotlighting of Psylocke as a character, pop culturally aware nods to Star Wars (“Goldenrod!”), and Warren Ellis inspired lines like “flash Darwinism.” Remender’s character selection allows him clever manipulation of lines, so that Deadpool can mug to the camera, wink to the audience, and say self-aware stuff like “Do it anyway – for dramatic effect.” This is the new X-book to beat right now. It’s the reason I can move my dollars away from Uncanny X-Men, and support this title instead. It accomplishes everything it intends to. It’s basically flawless. Grade A+.

Invincible Iron Man #32 (Marvel): I think I finally realized the strategy that Matt Fraction is using to write his two marquee titles right now, and why I’m warming to one and not the other. Invincible Iron Man allows him to use the undercurrent of modern tech paranoia and drop lines like “bit torrent as offensive strategy.” It kinda’ sounds like Warren Ellis. So, SAT analogy time: If Fraction is to Iron Man as Warren Ellis is to Iron Man, then Fraction is to X-Men as… (wait for it) Chris Claremont is to X-Men. It’s that type of human melodrama blended with contemporary social issues. And while it’s what fueled the infamous Claremont/Byrne run, if you go back and read those stories today they’re not terribly engaging. In fact, visuals aside, they’re pretty dated and hoary sounding, regardless of how charged they were in their time. So… I think that’s why I’m not hooked by Uncanny X-Men in the same way I’m hooked by Invincible Iron Man. Moving on, there’s tons of action here! I knew I was enjoying this book because I got sucked in and forgot that I was reviewing. I made it through almost the entire book before coming up for air, looking down, and finding I hadn’t written a single word. I was just reading for the sheer enjoyment of it. I got lost. That rarely happens to me any more. Fraction nails Tony as the brilliant, arrogant, smart-ass tactician who can step outside himself to see the big picture, and process multiple threads of complex information simultaneously, even under duress. As a surprise, there’s a back-up/interlude sequence featuring art by Jamie McKelvie! Pretty similar to the back-up Warren Ellis wrote over on Osborn very recently. It was grand. Somebody get this guy his own ongoing book already! Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #530 (Marvel): Sometimes I think I keep buying this book just so that I can mock it, and that’s something I should really stop doing. I really do like the characters, and I keep waiting for it to be as good as Matt Fraction is on Iron Man, but it ain’t happening. One of the big reasons for that is the art. Greg Land’s figures are still overly posed, overly photo-referenced, and overly cheesecake, just for the sake of itself, never in service to the story. Emma looks exactly like Allison does, and if you didn’t have their clothes to differentiate them, you couldn’t tell them apart visually. I also don’t like his long-haired rendition of “Surfer Scott” much either. Fraction opens with a nice bit of writing during Emma’s monologue, but then he derails her out of character with that pseudo-dumb-blonde shopping routine, which Scott would see right through. Fraction is trying to make this run a contemporary social treatise by injecting a realistic portrayal of several timely social issues, this time a mutant virus pandemic. That part is cool, but the rest doesn’t quite coalesce. I like the idea of the quarantined X-Men being functionally out of service, while the off-island team (Emma, Allison, Northstar, Pixie, Warren, etc.) are the fail safe incident command team. Storm is brought in to assumably be a field team leader, Warren acts as the PR spokesperson (even though in a previous issue he was shown being horrible at this and needing the aid of a PR firm – mysteriously absent here while he’s miraculously re-characterized), which leaves Emma as… something? On top of that, there’s a really dud villain roaming around Chinatown. I think it’s an interesting idea to recreate the original team, but it’s not visually that compelling, and this whole pill-popping-mutant-manifestation story has been done before. Grade B.


Sex, Pugs, And Rock N’ Roll @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…a classic little twist on well-tread ground.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Mayakovsky & Nebula @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…please excuse the predictable critical move of calling this book ‘nebulous.’”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.24.10 Releases: "Can I Squeeze Three At Your Cherry M3?"

After a few really slow weeks, it looks like every book I’m still buying regularly seems to be hitting the shelves this week. Batwoman #0 (DC) has fan favorite JH Williams III returning to penciling duties, along with Amy Reeder (who was Amy Reeder Hadley on Madame Xanadu) filling in on art every other arc. This time, Jim takes on the writing duties also, assisted by novelist W. Haden Blackman. It seems like Brian Wood and I were just talking about who he’d like to work with, so it’s pretty awesome to see David Lapham’s name attached to DMZ #59 (DC/Vertigo). It’s time for another couple of stand alone issues featuring some bit players, so Scalped #43 (DC/Vertigo) pairs writer Jason Aaron with artist Jason Latour and addresses Sheriff Karnow. On the superhero front, it’s old reliable Invincible Iron Man #32 (Marvel), along with Uncanny X-Men #530 (Marvel), and the newest guilty pleasure Uncanny X-Force #2 (Marvel). Funny how the three DC books I want this week are all $2.99, while all three Marvel books I’m interested in are all $3.99. What's that about? I’m just sayin’. I haven’t paid any attention to this book since the first few arcs of the first incarnation by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord, but Conan The Cimmerian #25 (Dark Horse) marks the final issue of this title. Maybe this is a wholly prurient entry, but hey, I am a guy, and those J. Scott Campbell women are fun to look at; Dynamite has secured the rights to some old Harris properties, with Vampirella #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) shipping this week too.

Pump @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Pump is not just a crafty construction gimmick, but an intense piece of commentary about the consumer culture and changing tides of taste."

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


The Possum & The Pepper Spray @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…it’s been lovingly wrapped in this entertaining and arcane slice of Americana.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.17.10 Reviews

Northlanders #34 (DC/Vertigo): The cover is sort of a thing of beauty, with diammetrically opposed imagery creating balance. You see Ingrid seemingly unafraid and resigned to her fate, seeking shelter from the heavens and her belief system. Erik, on the other hand, appears more grounded and pragmatic, more full of panicked concern. Inside, Brian Wood displays a lot of confidence in his ability to trust collaborator Riccardo Burchielli. The artist creates a disorienting and beautiful set of introductory images with very modest dialogue. I think this issue is largely about power. It’s about physical power, the power of will, the power of love, the power of parenthood, and the power of identity (yeah, the term I just wrote 10 posts about) driving a character’s actions. The Mother Hulda and Ingrid conversation is absolutely chilling with a few pointed word choices, and Wood gives us some real “holy crap!” moments, as the power of clashing cultures and paradigms of the supernatural, magic, science, and religion come into full focus. Riccardo Burchielli makes you believe these things, not in the big grand shots filled with spectacle, but in the quiet moments of detail. It’s there in his depictions of the bitter cold, a stray wisp of hair, or the imperfect beauty of the slivers of hope found in a tumultuous time as Wood’s Viking Bonnie & Clyde essentially ride off into the snowy landscape that serves as their sunset. Grade A.

Osborn #1 (Marvel): No disrespect to Matt Fraction’s wife Kelly Sue DeConnick, but I primarily purchased this book for the Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie back-up story, and those instincts served me pretty well. The premise of DeConnick’s mini-series had some potential, sort of Oz (with Osborn no less) in the Marvel Universe, and things started off well with that uncomfortable close-up and great logo design on the cover, with the middle “o” in Osborn’s name being a stylized street art stencil of the Green Goblin. I remember seeing and liking some of Emma Rios’ anthology work in the past, but it was largely a distraction in the lead story here. Overall, she uses a slight manga influence to the figures, with vaguely Asian eyes. Most of the time, the figures possess very awkward poses and at times the gestures can be downright ugly and horrible, such as the shots of Norah’s cheeks as she chews her noodles. Peter Parker’s hair makes him look like some sort of Yakuza thug who was an extra in a movie I saw that one time. Initially, I couldn’t tell from the art alone if one of the Senators was male or female, but it was thankfully revealed a few pages later when someone called it “Mike.” Rios does have one very impressive shot, which is the two page spread that reveals the layout of the prison cells. Like I said, DeConnick’s script is pretty intriguing at a high level, and she even introduces some real world analogues, like if The Raft is basically Gitmo, and Norman is basically classified as an enemy combatant, then what rights does he have? How do we try him? How does the insanity defense play into things? And framing the series as an investigation of his disappearance has some appealing political charge, but the execution is really uneven in the details. Norah is a terribly unlikable character, who offers nothing but exposition about her own tenacious personality. The dialogue is clunky at times; for example, I couldn’t figure out who Sondra was calling “son,” or why? Is she just the hip urban black woman? She’d call a Senator “son?” Really? And why the hell would you name her two letters off of a delicious New Orleans sandwich? Muffoletto/Muffaletta. Weird. I’ll give this lead story a Grade B- for the sparkle of a good idea, but some inconsistent execution and really damaging art. The back-up story, with Dr. June Covington, is in an entirely different league. It’s basically a pretty typical Warren Ellis talking heads tirade, but is still very engaging and entertaining. It’s clever fun, has a strong sexual undercurrent, and shines the light on a very likable sociopathic criminal. McKelvie’s consistent lines are full of emotion, and maybe it’s the inking and coloring, but they have a richness to them that makes me want to say they’re even better than his work on Phonogram or any of the previous projects I’ve seen since. This one is a winner through and through and ranks a strong Grade A. It makes me want more back-up stories featuring Ellis interviews with the prisoners. It makes me want McKelvie to be the main artist. It makes me want to read an ongoing with his art. It’s a tough draw when the back-up is stronger than the lead, averaging out the entire package to a lackluster Grade B.

So Buttons #3 Presents: So Horror-ble @ Poopsheet Foundation

“This is a $5 burst of entertainment, and overall clocks in with… Grade A-.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Bantam #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“We’re in Cockham City, the criminals go to Eggham Asylum, the mysterious powder is not drugs, but jerk chicken spice, and the creator is miraculously able to sustain the fowl gag (heh, pun intended) throughout the work.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


13 Minutes Turns 5 Years Old

Today marks the 5th anniversary of 13 Minutes! Looking back into the archives, it’s interesting to find that a handful of my very first reviews included Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country (Oni Press), Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s Iron Man: Extremis (Marvel), Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s Local #1 (Oni Press), along with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman #1 (DC). This is a pretty illustrious group of books that reflects some stalwart favorites. Although my reading habits have wandered all over the place since, it really does emphasize one of the guidelines I set out to adhere to early on in order to differentiate myself in the “attention economy” of the web, which was to hype books that I enjoyed instead of just offering fleeting and ultimately empty snark. 815 posts later, blogging has proven to be an excellent way to demonstrate knowledge, establish credibility, and network. It’s led to additional writing gigs, being exposed to work that I wouldn’t have been otherwise, various companies featuring pull quotes in digital venues and on the books themselves in print, meeting all sorts of creators along the way, from the indie small press to the mainstream, and establishing many lasting relationships, both professionally and personally.

In honor of 13 Minutes’ 5th birthday, I thought I’d just post this simple, but adorable sketch of our namesake from the amazing Cliff Chiang. Though the urban magi Traci Thirteen first appeared in Superman #189 by Geoff Johns and Pasqual Ferry in February of 2003, Traci and her dad didn’t really rise to any level of notoriety until the brilliantly self-aware Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality mini-series by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, where they’re united with other characters whose books have been cancelled, like Anthro, Genius Jones, Infectious Lass, and the crew of The Haunted Tank. The story ran as a back up feature in the lackluster Tales of the Unexpected mini-series featuring The Spectre, but was thankfully later collected independently of that affair in 2007 by DC Comics. As Wikipedia succinctly explains, it is a “...story that repeatedly breaks the fourth wall and comments on the then current state of DC Comics and its continuity. Dr. Thirteen's group fights the Architects, the four writers who were heavily involved in the direction of the DC Universe titles at the time — Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid — to convince them to include them in the new universe.” Needless to say, it’s highly recommended and one of my favorite books.

The Girls Are Mighty Fine @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…her work is capable of achieving a very heartfelt emotional punch.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.17.10 Releases

It’s freaking me out a little that this could be another week in which I actually purchase only one book. There’s probably little surprise that it’ll be Northlanders #34 (DC/Vertigo), which is the last issue in the “Metal” arc, featuring Erik and Ingrid. It’s $2.99. I brought up the price point because wasn’t there just some big brouhaha over pricing with some sort of commitment by DC that the $3.99+ price point for regular ongoing books would be abandoned? I’m not making that up, right? Marvel even did some cock-up copycat announcement that they’d maybe be doing it too, oh wait, what did we say, never mind then? Well, here’s Batman Incorporated #1 (DC), a new ongoing from Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, for $3.99. I can’t honestly say that I’m uninterested in the premise, but combine feeling like I’m OD’ing on Morrisonian story convolution, this never-ending morass of overlapping event-style self-referential mini-series and series that don’t tell a cohesive story unless you read 50 other books… *thing* happening, along with the strange $3.99 price point, and I’m feeling pretty out on this. This wears consumers out doesn’t it? Is anyone really enjoying this deluge? Right there with it on the stands will be Batman: The Return (DC) #1, which is somehow different than (only the same as) the just wrapped (late, out of sequence vis-à-vis other books) Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, which is like another mini-series or something from Morrison at the (wait for it…) $4.99 price point! Archaia also puts out The Killer: Modus Vivendi #5 (Archaia) this week, which is the penultimate issue in this second series. I have to admit that although I really enjoyed the moral complication and beautiful artistic stylings of the first series, the second one hasn’t really grabbed me and I don’t even recall if I picked up the fourth issue or not. On the graphic novel front, we have What I Did (Fantagraphics) from Jason, which is a 272 page hardcover collection of some of his early out of print work, including Hey, Wait…, Sshhhh!, and The Iron Wagon. I already have these stories, but if you missed them, you could do a lot worse this week than check out Jason’s anthropomorphic style, which belies a hidden gravitas and emotional complexity to the work. His books are *always* recommended around these parts. If superhero flair is more your thing, then I’d go with the Ex Machina Deluxe Edition: Volume 4 (DC/WildStorm), which is the penultimate hardcover collecting the entire series, which also recently just wrapped a 50 issue run (plus a couple of special issues) courtesy of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. I actually pre-ordered this on Amazon with some store credit I had built up for a mere $19 or something crazy, but it’s still well worth the $29.99 price tag at your LCS. These look nifty lined up on the bookshelf too. Or you might try going with an oldie but a goodie, in the form of Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s contemporary sci-fi adventure classic, Shockrockets (IDW), reprinted here in hardcover for $24.99.

Ditkomania #78 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Ditkomania remains one of the best pure fanzines out there.”

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Smoo #2.5 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“I’ll never tire of work from this creator.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.10.10 Review (Singular, No "S")

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (DC): [Man, what a dull week in comics. This is the only book I bought. WTF!?] Honestly, I was a little off-put by the authorial proselytizing about Oscar Wilde quotes, word derivation, and Roman history lessons that the book opened with. It felt a little more like writer Nick Spencer was just showing off fun facts that made their way into his wheelhouse than any actual organic characterization being presented. Cafu’s art is mostly pleasant, thanks in part to the coloring, with a similar vibe to Rebekah Issacs’ recent effort on Brian Wood’s DV8. It’s got the same clean polish, but at times not quite as consistent. For example, what the heck kind of wine glasses are those atop the building in Sri Lanka? Weird. The plot revolves around a faux frontal assault that is a diversion for the covert extraction of a captured agent. I had to read the book two times to be certain of that fact though, since there is some sort of double-double agent convolution and it’s constructed with one of those chopped up narratives that goes: Scene. Eleven Months Later. Scene. Twelve Months Ago. Scene. So, the whole time I’m trying to reassemble a linear timeline in my head, like we all did with Pulp Fiction. I didn’t think the out of sequence delivery was necessary from a plot standpoint, nor was it a particularly appealing stylistic choice. It was just kind of annoying. And I still couldn’t seem to figure out who Colleen was running out to yell at. Getting past all that, Spencer lays out the new status quo and premise of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. fairly effectively. I’ve never read any of the old comic, so I don’t know if this is a loyal interpretation, but it feels more like a reimaging and modernization of the property, using a mechanism that allows the old agents to be phased out, while others can transition in and assume the codename guises. I think deep down there might be some interesting philosophical questions being asked about the human cost of war, but it all plays fairly middling. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t feel great either. I didn’t feel a strong emotional tie to the characters, I didn’t feel like any strong hook was presented, and it wasn’t quite an assembling the team issue, just a fairly straightforward introduction to the property. I'd rather be reading Greg Rucka's Checkmate for this type of socio-political espionage kick in the DCU. I’ll say that I’m mildly interested in seeing how it pans out, and if it’s another slow week where I’m searching for something to read, I might give this another issue or two to wow me. For now, a pretty low Grade B.

Time Warp Comix #8 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…a well done sampler that’s clean and light – worth checking out.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra @ Poopsheet Foundation

"Yeah, we were toppling governments, engineering coups, experimenting on prisoners and prostitutes with weaponized biological contaminants, and assassinating democratically elected leaders in the Banana Republics, all while Jerry Mathers was carrying on as 'The Beave.'"

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Toner #5 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“It’s an immersive experience that draws out a very visceral, gut-level reaction…”

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11.10.10 Releases: Just Watch My Wildest Dreams Come True, Not One of Them Involving You

Wow. This looks like it’s going to be a quiet week. Brian Wood’s web-site says that Northlanders #34 is shipping this week, but I can’t seem to find it on the Diamond Shipping List. Barring that gem, I’m not actually sure I’ll be buying anything this week. Yikes! Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (DC) looks like it’s (finally) coming out. Yeah. Timely. I’ve already seen Bruce in the last issue of Batman & Robin, not to mention the flurry of one-shots he was in last week. I know I’m not the first person to note that the return of Bruce Wayne wasn’t actually in the book by the same name, but it doesn't make it any less silly. I’ll probably flip through this in the LCS just to connect the dots, but highly doubt I’ll purchase it. Thunder Agents #1 (DC) will also make a splash thanks to a Frank Quitely cover, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick this up. I don’t know a thing about this, other than it was an old property I never read, but barring anything else to read, I might take a chance on a new number one, since it has some interesting artists on deck. Other than that, well, the only thing I can really recommend is Terry Moore’s Echo TPB: Volume 5 (Abstract Studio).

Days @ Poopsheet Foundation

“I hope his inspiration to capture his days continues, because I’m enjoying the output.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Homobody #6 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Safari clearly has passion for the project and is compelled to create. This quality is something you just can’t fake; your project either exudes it or is wholly absent. Homobody has a distinct purity to it that’s absolutely refreshing.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Graphic Novel Of The Month

How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (DC/Vertigo): It’s not often you see a contemporary cultural reaction to the Jewish diaspora in as accessible a format as a personal travelogue presented as a graphic novel. This story, which was originally begun in serialized mini-comic format and distributed by Sparkplug Comics, is about Glidden seeking to reconcile her identity. To some extent, it’s a process everyone goes through, in attempting to “discover their roots,” find themselves, who they are, where they came from, what social aspects might inform their very being, and what inborn characteristics may drive their personality. Glidden participated in an Israeli “Birthright” Program which provides funding for young Jewish people to visit Israel and take part in guided tours of different historical sites and cultural touchstones. Glidden’s work here is sort of a cousin to elements of work like Craig Thompson’s travelogue Carnet de Voyage, or Joe Sacco’s more investigatory and documentarian style output. Glidden’s art looks at first like pretty typical small press stylings, with simple figures and representational background detail, but the addition of color adds a richness and complexity of emotion that complements the intricacies of the somewhat convoluted history of the region. To most westerners, the Holy Land (and the Middle East) by extension is a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside of an enigma. There’s little focus in schools and decidedly biased presentation in the media. How to Understand Israel depicts Glidden’s own attempt to sort it all out, and while she might not come away with a concrete understanding, resolved political position, or ultimate set of beliefs, her journey allows us to tag along and benefit from some of her firsthand insight. The book is the rare piece of comic book work that doesn’t feel like disposable pop culture; it not only engages and entertains, but educates in the process, straddling the line between entertainment and artistic cultural artifact. Grade A.

11.03.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Strange Tales: Volume Two #2 (Marvel): It’s immediately obvious that the second issue isn’t going to function with the same level of gravitas that Rafael Grampa (Wolverine) or Frank Santoro (Silver Surfer) achieved in issue one. Those strips functioned at a more cerebral level vs. the light-hearted approaches that pervade this issue, which I suppose, is an indication that they aspire to be more pure entertainment than art. Nick Bertozzi’s Watcher strips are usually terrific framing devices that put you in the right mindset for the overall project, but here it felt just a little flat and unfunny. Grade C. Old-School Rules! written and drawn by Gilbert Hernandez is a fun Iron Man and Toro team-up that visually captures a retro-revival 1970’s Tony Stark, but the story peters out toward the end. Grade B. Love & The Space Phantom from Jaime Hernandez focuses on the 1960’s beach party adorning the cover, with Wanda, Sue, Janet, and Kitty in attendance. It looks luscious, but relies on a moderately funny Alicia Masters blind gag to finish. Grade B. Jeffrey Brown’s Uncanny X-Men was holistically probably my favorite piece in the issue. He paints a compelling picture of the Scott/Jean/Logan triangle with visually impressive renditions of the trio that seem to incorporate some Josh Cotter into the pencils. I especially like his renditions of Jean and Colossus and could pretty much read an entire X-Men series in this style any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Thematically, he delivers a unique take on the neurotic personality quirks of the characters and boils some of their elements down to a core essence. Grade A. The Ghost Badge piece from Sheldon Vella appeared slightly out of context, looking less like an indie party at The House of Ideas, and more like a stray Heavy Metal strip. I did like the pencils, with a discernible Nathan Fox influence, and a stray line or two caught my ear (“no political panty dropping”), but couldn’t really make heads or tails out of the story or its role. Grade C. Paul Maybury’s Spider-Man was beautiful! I remember his work vaguely from Image Comics’ Aqua Leung (which I think was b&w?), but his work looks so much better in color. The blustering and blocky J. Jonah Jameson is a nice visual counterpoint to his lithe dynamic Spidey. I was really grooving on this story until odd abrupt appearances by Cable and Luke Cage intervened, but there’s no denying the grandeur of the art. Grade A-. I expected great things from Paul Hornschemeier’s Colossus strip, but felt slightly disappointed. The story revolves around Piotr fighting some Arcade-style doppelganger, but ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere and feels unresolved. It doesn’t help that the strong pencils have limited backgrounds and Illyana Rasputin’s name is spelled as “Ilyana.” Tough break. Grade B. Tony Millionaire depicts Thor as some sort of carnival barker in a Billy Hazelnuts style world and the result is pretty fun. Between Thor’s exaggerated speech pattern (“underneathenmoorst”) and characters like Can-Man and Mud-O, this was one of the better pieces. Grade B+. Wolverine & Power Pack from David Heatley was a bit of a snoozer for me. It seemed to take an easy path, attempting cheap laughs at the expense of the silly Power Packers, which is kinda’ predictable and pedestrian, along with cliché Wolverine lines, rather than embracing the indie outsider status and really trying to turn the property on its head. If I was going to go for an off-type portrayal of Power Pack, heck, I’d try to make them all serious and avoid the simplistic humor. Just sayin’. Grade C. Farel Dalrymple’s Silver Surfer/Spidey affair was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been a fan of Dalrymple since The Pop Gun War, but his pencils here seem even more rich with fine detail than his work on that title or even Jonathan Lethem’s Omega: The Unknown. The luscious color only adds to the drama and internal teen angst of his Peter Parker. Surfer is portrayed crisply as a lone outsider somewhat detached from humanity. I reveled in that big shot of Manhattan and the severely different personalities of the two heroes, despite one crazy typo (“pressence”) lurking about. Grade A. Jon Vermilyea’s M.O.D.O.K. piece employed a great aesthetic texture for the Avengers characters, but relied on straightforward booger humor. Grade B. Ivan Brunetti also contributes an end piece, finding various Marvel heroes working out. Not much “there” there. Overall, this is actually a very middling effort, with only three strips standing out for me (that’s Jeffrey Brown, Paul Maybury, and Farel Dalrymple – ok, arguably four with Tony Millionaire), achieving a very straight Grade B.

So Buttons #2 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…there was some very interesting experimentation with panels and duplication of figures with “shadow images” that reminded me of David Mazzucchelli’s avant-garde work in Asterios Polyp in the way it played with time and perception.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.03.10 Reviews (Part 1)

DV8: Gods & Monsters #8 (DC/Wildstorm): It’s a sad little realization that this might be the last Wildstorm book I ever purchase. From the top, damn, that is a mighty attractive Fiona Staples cover. I think I actually like her rendition of The Carrier better than Frank Quitely’s. It’s also probably not lost on anyone that there is a member of the team conspicuously missing from that lineup. Rebekah Issacs' pencils also deliver phenomenally, pouring out so much raw gut-wrenching emotion in Jocelyn or Gem’s eyes. It’s fills me with so much enthusiasm to see Brian Wood firing on all cylinders here. He’s telling an engaging story with cool characters, but also delivering some crisp and direct messaging about the toys he’s been tinkering with. It’s down to even the small details, like the title of the issue, “Up in the Sky,” which is a nice play on a familiar Superman line. It all functions as I’ve detected from the start, as a piece of commentary about heroes in a modern, more realistic age. Wood roots this final issue squarely in the Wildstorm Universe, tossing in nods to Wildcats, The Authority, and even a surprise appearance by Jackson King of Stormwatch, which shit, I haven’t seen since that Chris Sprouse penciled crossover issue where they all fought some Aliens. Wood takes aim at the flawed superhero paradigm and hammers away relentlessly from all sides. Their powers leave the group “more screwed up than ever.” Gem says “I’m not even sure what this costume is supposed to mean anymore.” She doesn’t say suit, or disguise, or even uniform. She says “costume,” like they’ve all been masquerading around unsustainably as something they’re inherently not. I keep making these comparisons to Watchmen and it hit me here how similar that two key deaths are thematically. The death in this issue isn’t the type of empty hollow death that is so common in modern superhero fare. It’s actually more like Rorschach’s death in Watchmen. It’s the death of the one character who actually tried to do the right thing when all others failed to, and the reward is unfair elimination from an implausible construct – the superhero world. In the typical superhero comic, it’s all a game where, as Wood puts it, “blind idealism” is common. In the atypical superhero world that Wood constructs out of DV8, there is a more realistic affectation. In this more realistic environment that mirrors our own, where “morality and ethics are permanently gray,” you get these types of real world consequences. Death with high probability, significance, and permanence. Jackson King’s open-ended monologue could have, would have, should have… paved the way for more brilliant stories utilizing these characters and this universe, which we’ll now likely never see. So let’s all lament the additional potential that existed, but be thankful for the storytelling gift we did receive. We got to witness the most realistic application of superhero theory that readers are likely to find in the medium. Grade A+.

Symphony In Ink #4 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“Symphony in Ink struck me as a nice sampling of pieces, though it felt a little low on general energy (the majority of the pieces not blowing me away per se) and some pieces felt slightly constrained with no time to develop further.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


Weltschmerz #2 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“I tend to like Dissmeyer’s more narrative focused work, as opposed to the non-sequitur sketchbook ruminations he employs here.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.


11.03.10 Releases: On Deviants & Zombies

I think it’s actually going to be a small-ish week in terms of what will make it home, yet there’s a whole lot I feel like commenting on. Obviously, I’ll be picking up the last installment of Brian Wood’s identity laden deconstruction of the superhero paradigm, in DV8: Gods & Monsters #8 (DC/Wildstorm). It feels like it’s going to be one of those “all will be revealed!” type issues. Strange Tales: Volume 2 #2 (Marvel) has an extremely tough act to follow, as I remember Rafael Grampa’s Wolverine story and Frank Santoro’s Silver Surfer from the first issue. I have high hopes for the second issue, but it’s still got to pass the casual flip test at the LCS. I’ll definitely be picking up Sarah Glidden’s How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (DC/Vertigo), since I was reading and hyping single issues from Sparkplug Comics as early as 2008. Though I’ll be purchasing it online thanks to some Amazon store credit (for ~$66 with free shipping no less), I still have to make you aware of the Absolute All Star Superman HC (DC). Though it’ll set you back $100, it’s well worth it as one of the definitive takes on the character and certainly my favorite of the contenders out there.

Batman & Robin #16 (DC) also comes out this week, and umm, I think this is the last issue with Grant Morrison(?), which shows you about how much I care. I re-read the run again and can firmly say that unless Frank Quitely is on the book, it’s not a keeper for me. Sure, the 14 year old in me has some marginal interest in seeing Dick Grayson as Batman, but I’m pretty checked out on the convoluted cross-title story machinations, and (sometimes quite mediocre) rotating artists. I doubt this will make it home. Supergod #4 (Avatar Press) is also slated to make a showing, and I really don’t know/care if this is original content or some sort of “auxiliary edition” con reprint of something I’ve already seen. Did I even buy/read the third issue, come to think of it? I don’t know. Generally, I’m always pretty interested in what Warren Ellis is up to, but there’s a lot of inconsistency for me. On this title, my recollection is of a bloke standing around expositing to the reader and of the art not being as good as many/most of the Ellis collaborators. I don’t see this making it home either. Scarlet #3 (Marvel/Icon) will also be on the shelves and, though I thought the first issue was okay, I can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm for this. So much so, that I don’t even know if I bought the second issue. Did it not pass the casual flip test or did Sea Donkey just not order it? The fact that I can’t even keep track doesn’t bode well for its chances.

It’s cool to see DC reprinting an almost forgotten cult favorite with DC Comics Presents Chase #1 (DC). This was JH Williams III in his earliest DC work, which in collaboration with D. Curtis Johnson and Mick Gray, introduced Cameron Chase and the D.E.O. to the DCU. Fun, fantastic stuff! Hey, what’s this? It’s Superboy #1 (DC). I guess that shows how much I’m paying attention to the main DCU these days. No idea what’s up with Superboy or that it was undergoing a soft re-launch, but that’s great to see Jeff Lemire working a big property. Good on him. I also liked seeing Berlin #17 (Drawn & Quarterly) on the shipping list this week. This is Jason Lutes' opus, and this issue begins the third (and final?) chunk of the series. The Art of Jim Starlin: Life in Words & Picture HC (IDW) also caught my eye. If you say “cosmic comics” to me, I don’t see Lee & Kirby’s FF or even Starlin’s own Marvel work, but instead I see Dreadstar in my brain. Those comics hit me in my formative years growing up and the long form storytelling at play is infinitely readable, aided by Starlin’s gorgeous art and world-building abilities.

Last up, the Walking Dead TPB: Volume 13: Too Far Gone (Image) listing is as good a time as any to segue into my thoughts on the premiere of the AMC TV show! I’ll caveat this heavily by saying that yes, I’ve kept up with the comic in the big hardcover collections (when I get them at a discount), so I’m a little behind on current continuity. I didn't even intend to watch it, I was flipping around earlier in the day trying to find a show for my daughter, passed AMC and saw a scroll that had a countdown ticker (shit, those actually work!?), and thought, huh, that's interesting, maybe I'll just record it for kicks. I don’t like zombies in general, but I think the comic is okay. It’s good and competent. It’s just sort of “there” to me. The story is well told, if not supremely engaging. The pencils are fine, but the black and white rendering always felt flat and lifeless to me. I don’t think the book is awful, but it doesn’t blow me away at all, and obviously if I’m not buying the singles or even bothering to keep up with the regular trade schedule, that says a lot about my interest level in print.

However, the TV show was excellent! I really liked it! It seems to take all that’s good with the book and then amplify it, thus eliminating some of the problems I have with it in print. For example, instead of the B&W art, we get really grainy color in the tight shots, with these huge cinematic expanses for the wider vistas. That shot of Rick riding his horse into the Atlanta skyline is downright iconic. It’s shot just beautifully. It feels like it’s got lavish film production values and not like it’s being done on a relatively low TV budget. The performances are all acted well, very understated and minimalist. It’s realistic. There aren’t people screaming or doing dopey things that make you want to yell at your TV, it’s just regular folks trying to sort shit out the way any of us would. It’s not at all rooted in the horror genre. There is no sensationalism or shock value, the intent is not to scare, but simply relay an environment and the choices that people make when faced with an extraordinary situation. What I like the best about it (and the comic does deserve credit for this) is that there is a plot well beyond “and then they killed some zombies!” What will make The Walking Dead succeed as a TV series, I think, is that it’s primarily rooted in the characters, their relationships, and their arcs and journeys, the zombies are sort of an incidental backdrop for the drama. The drama is the key here, not the inclusion of the zombie hook. Yeah. It’s so nice to see an adaptation to a different medium done correctly. My DVR is set to record, and yours should be too.

Yawning Void #1 @ Poopsheet Foundation

“…at the end of it all, it’s no wonder that James Sime and crew tagged one of Hodapp’s works as the best of the year.”

Check out my latest full review over at Poopsheet Foundation.