11.30.11 Reviews

Wasteland #32 (Oni Press): Well, it certainly feels like this is the end of one era of Wasteland, as another is about to begin. January marks a new year, a new issue in #33, with a new “introductory” price point of just $1, a triumphant commitment to a monthly schedule, a new cover artist in Christopher Mitten, a new interior artist in Justin Greenwood (though you have to watch those dudes with the initials “JG”), etc., etc. And let's not forget to thank Ben Templesmith for 32 amazing covers! It’s nice to punctuate the transition with one of the series interlude issues that often deviate from the main storylines, or rewind the timeline, and/or continue to world-build in a book that is already known for tremendous world-building. The lead character has a remarkably cheery disposition, I assume because she’s just glad to be alive, and in good company. It’s a reminder of what a harsh reality The Big Wet Universe is. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in a Sultan’s caravan, a Sunner, Ruin Runner, or living in Newbegin, you’re basically just trading one form of slavery for another. My favorite sequence was probably attempting to wash “Golden Voice” of his wounds at the river and the realization that brings. It sort of disproves my “out” theory I mentioned in last issue's review for what happens in the cliffhanger last time. Can you tell I’m trying to avoid spoilers here? I like how this character attempts to atone for past sins and how the group carries on despite a sand-eater attack during a sandstorm. I feel like as the series has crossed the halfway threshold to #60, the Ankya Ofsteen entries are becoming more and more seeded with potential little clues. It might not matter much in the grand scheme of things, but I really zeroed in on “Wosh-Tun” this time. Ankya has mentioned it numerous times before and I, like many, just assumed it was a bastardization of “Washington,” as in DC. This time out, I was left wondering if the language could have been corrupted so much that it actually refers to Boston. The clue of “across the river” in “Lo-Wil” might refer to Lowell, Massachussetts. I lived a year in the Northeast area, between Boston and New Hampshire, so I’m partial to that idea. Then again, “Lo-Wil” could also be below Wilmington, Delaware for all I know. Or maybe I'm just being The Ugly American by assuming this is in the US and not the UK! So many possibilities! In any case, it sounds like Wosh-Tun is a city still intact. It makes The Big Wet Universe sounds like a much bigger place than I originally thought, if the city still stands, and there’s some type of insular political council there. Weldele’s art suits an interlude issue just fine, and I like that it’s not as blocky or angular as I recall his old material being. Though I will say that it’s slightly difficult to follow sometimes, such as during the dog bite, the tattoo run-off, or when smaller figure scale characters become lost in the generous background details. But, he does get a lot of life out of just black and white, with some nice gray color washes. At the end of the day, it’s so nice to read a book that makes you think. Grade A-.

Haunt #19 (Image): Yeah, I wanted to clarify again that this is all about creator loyalty. I tried the first trade of this series knowing that this creative team was on deck, and didn’t get the appeal of the book AT ALL. It looked like very sad Spawn retread from the 90’s and frankly I find that vibe hard to shake. Joe Casey and Nathan Fox have delivered numerous times on separate projects though, and working together created the entertaining Dark Reign: Zodiac, which was all about wreaking subversive havoc right in the Marvel U backyard. It even made my best of the year list when it came out, so I was in for this. It’s hard not to acknowledge the attention-grabbing new direction the series seems intent on taking when the opening pages feature Cristo Redentor in flames and severed limbs awash in dystopian deified language. I enjoyed the visual of the Vatican(?) Shock Troops or whatever and sheer manic gusto of the prostitute bloodbath, but I have to say that the disparate story threads need to converge fairly soon for me, and it just needs to get to the trademark clever playfulness I expect from Joe Casey. Fox’s art gets more and more Paul Pope-y as time goes on (which is a great thing!), with garish coloring as impressive as you would expect, but I feel like Casey might need an issue or two to corral all the existing baggage before he can get the story to go where he wants and start inserting his raucous “Casey-isms.” In short, I’m hoping this gets better. Grade B.


11.30.11 Releases

It’s a small but potent week. I’m really looking forward to Wasteland #32 (Oni Press), not only because it’s a joy to see the series getting back on track, but also because this is one of those rare interlude issues that fall in between arcs. These interludes are one of my favorite parts of the series because they’re crammed with information and are such a grand example of world-building by Antony Johnston & Company. The last one was the immaculate #25 with fully painted interiors by Mitten, certainly a high water mark in the series. That said, there are big shoes to fill, but hopefully Brett Weldele is up to the challenge as artist this time out on one of these stand alones. Chalk this next one up to creator loyalty because I tried the first trade of the series and didn’t see what the draw was at all. But, after various projects, including their team up on the memorable Dark Reign: Zodiac mini-series, I’d try just about anything Joe Casey and Nathan Fox did, including Haunt #19 (Image). I won’t buy it, but I’ll flip through Game of Thrones #3 (Dynamite Entertainment) just to see how (poorly) this adaptation is faring. Speaking of the publisher, they’ve also got The Lone Ranger TPB Volume 4: Resolve (Dynamite Entertainment) due out. Not sure if this arc has been collected before, but it’s probably the best series I’ve seen yet from the publisher, and one I often recommend.


Thirteen Minutes Nominated For Paradox Comics Group "Oscar" 2011

I’m humbled yet again to report that Thirteen Minutes was nominated for the second year running in the category of "Best Web-Site" at the annual Paradox Comics Group "Oscars." There are some outstanding nominees in all categories, while the competition in this category is pretty stiff. I'm up against Comic Book Resources (CBR), Bleeding Cool, and Newsarama.

Needless to say, I'm a relatively unknown underdog against the big boys, so I'm shamelessly asking for your support. Vote today over at their Facebook page so that when the winners are announced in December, we can pull off a major upset! Vote, blog, tweet, tell your friends! Let's see if we can really get some grass roots support in motion.

This also serves as a great opportunity to give a quick shout out to our friends from across the pond at the Paradox Comics Group. The crew at Paradox posts tons of timely reviews that are well observed, articulate, and filled with lively opinions. It’s one of my daily web stops and is always a good read!

11.23.11 Reviews (Marvel Edition)

Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel): There’s probably no other writer on the planet that could have someone screaming “Al-Qaeda! Al-Qaeda!” come off as funny during a fire-fight, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Warren Ellis, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano (this time out) open with our strike team infiltrating an Eastern Bloc crime enterprise to supposedly stop the sale of a homespun super serum (or something far creepier as it turns out – a sort of shamanistic MJ) being sold to The Shadow Council. If you’ve been studying Warren Ellis material for any length of time, there are a few of his “isms” that instantly reveal his hand in the script. The mere mention of things like “The Flowers of Aniana” or “shocktoxin flechette guns” just scream with his brand of intrigue the moment they roll off the page. There’s the type of well played radio traffic that us procedural whores just adore, all while we explore these hidden corners of the Marvel U. You might say that Ellis and/or Lark swiped a small piece of an early Bryan Singer scene out of The Usual Suspects, but that aside, Lark is delivering some extremely well choreographed action sequences that effectively control the pace with sly use of some 9 panel grids. Moon Knight, with his white mask in that white suit, is just an absolutely priceless visual. I’ll never forget that, and never tire of it. The dark and murky aesthetic suits the tone of the story just fine, a perfect match-up between narrative intention and artistic choices. It feels like this team is just barely winning, constantly saving the world on a small scale, just in the nick of time. This issue felt like equal parts Planetary and Global Frequency in the Marvel U. Grade A.

Wolverine & The X-Men #2 (Marvel): I guess everyone on the interwebs is already talking about “the kiss” in this issue, (though I’ll point out that it’s not really clear if that’s actually Bobby or just a dupe), but overall I think it goes a long way toward showing how willing Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo are to shake up the status quo. I loved the flashback that serves as the catalyst for his personality shift, the desire to have Bobby Drake step out of the shadows and step up as a real player in this new era. Aaron does a nice job of utilizing something that feels like an old school plot (Sauron, Wendigo, Krakoa!), but then tempering it with modern dialogue and forward thinking character arcs. Not to mention the inventive nature of the Iceman “dupes,” ala Multiple Man. As Kade Kilgore and The Hellfire Club attack, it seems love is in the air. It’s not just Bobby and Kitty, but also Idie and Broo! Now, it’s no secret that I love Kitty Pryde, but I have to say that Rachel Grey is probably my favorite new character visual in this iteration thanks to the skilled hands of Chris Bachalo. This issue was basically a non-stop ride that sees the team turn to an unconventional person for help. It’s also worth pointing out that this issue does something that most x-books forgot how to do a long time ago – have fun. Grade A-.

11.23.11 Reviews (DC/Vertigo Edition)

DMZ #71 (DC/Vertigo): [DMZ Countdown Clock™: 1 Issue Remaining] <- If that “1” there doesn’t sound a bunch of klaxons off in your head, then I don’t know what else would. It’s all come down to this issue. The arc of Matty’s character has taken him from being a sheltered boy who wasn’t aware of who he was, to a man who ultimately finds his identity even though it takes him to a dark place where he has to deal with the consequences of his decisions, as all good men do. You can lament the fact that the military tribunal needs another fall guy (the specter of Parco Delgado wasn’t enough), and you can cry out over how they distort events and facts to support their own cause. They range from the Indian Point nuke (which is an outright lie), to Matty stealing some Liberty News gear (which exists somewhere in the gray between fact and fiction), to him being responsible for issuing that damn sloppy order that got a wedding party killed (which is, unfortunately, absolutely sound). The label “war criminal” might seem like a strong one for someone as usually well–intentioned as Matty, but you know how it inescapably goes. The victors always write the history books, and someone had to pay the price of accountability. Someone had to pay that price for Matty’s identity quest, for his journey to ring true intellectually. If he learned anything, it’s that you own your actions, you own your responses to situations, even if the situations themselves were shitty to begin with. Most people like to conveniently view the world in black and white terms, but it seldom is. Those same people either expected some silly idyllic scene where Matty and Zee move upstate to start a family, or a denouement which was Matty just getting killed and not making it out alive. True, there’s one issue left that could prove me wrong, but I’d bet the reality is somewhere in the middle and, as is, is a much harder pill to swallow when it’s so deep in the gray. Riccardo Burchielli rises to the challenge laid out before him, thanks in part to Jeromy Cox’s mustard colored flashbacks as Matty’s life in the DMZ flashes before him, sometimes it’s in sync with what the court says, and sometimes it’s a contrarian recollection. It’s always beautiful, exciting, and regretful, the complex web of emotions that Matty’s 6 years in the DMZ were, not coincidentally, the same 6 years we lived with the series as readers. Long before The Occupy Movement, long before the extension of our protracted desert campaigns in the Middle East, long before the political disenfranchisement surrounding our election cycle, you saw it all here first from the mind of Brian Wood. Grade A+.

Note: As usual, join us for more in depth coverage of the series at LIVE FROM THE DMZ.

Scalped #54 (DC/Vertigo): This issue opens with a visceral shootout, and moves on quickly to address the amount of redemption possible for characters like Nitz, Karnow, Catcher, Wade, Dino Poor Bear, and Shunka in relation to all their many past transgressions. As Hooper X would say, yup, “the chickens are comin’ home to roost, y’all.” Everyone seems to be on a path to get their due as Shunka and Dash continue to vy for the top spot in Lincoln Red Crow’s organization using nothing but lies and deceit. It’s full of action, intrigue, dead bodies galore, and some kind of twisted Michael & Fredo Corleone in Cube style moment. I think there’s a small mistake on the last page, since this is part 4 of 5, but the last text box reads “concluded” even though it looks far from, especially considering that last page shot. Something I’m sure they’ll fix up in the trade. As rousing and intricately plotted as always. Grade A.

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11.23.11 Releases

I can't believe it's the penultimate issue of this title, with DMZ #71 (DC/Vertigo) hitting the shelves this week. Continuing a solid week of offerings, we also have Scalped #54 (DC/Vertigo) from Jason Aaron and RM Guera, and the latest of the Warren Ellis run with Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel). The House of Ideas also has another Jason Aaron joint, with Wolverine & The X-Men #2 (Marvel). Last, I was pleasantly surprised to see Berlin #17 (Drawn & Quarterly) from Jason Lutes. What looks good to you?


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11.16.11 Reviews

Batman #3 (DC): It’s becoming clear that Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo are setting this run within a nice historical context tied to Gotham City’s past and the Wayne family lineage. At the same time, Snyder adds a modern sensibility with elements like the Ukrainian mob, La Eme, and the Yakuza. What I appreciate most isn’t the strong characterization, the clever use of technology, or the drive toward new characters – all strong – but, the way that Snyder brings so much logic to the action. He understands about cause and effect storytelling. That when unexpected action sequences are rooted in the story, rooted in actual detective work, rooted in human motivations, the ultimate action has significance and consequence to it. It isn’t empty, but emotionally satisfying. “The Thirteenth Hour” is proof that Snyder and Capullo are putting in the work. If a bit slow at times, this issue shows that the prose is as rich as a novel, but moves with a visual pace as lively as a comic. Capullo is right there with him, delivering memorable images like that first shot of the owl suit hanging in the owl cave. This is quickly shaping up to be the best modern take on Batman, the thinking man’s superhero. Grade A.

Northlanders #46 (DC/Vertigo): As Brian Wood begins to wind Northlanders down, you get the sense that he wants to leave it all out on the field. The moment you see the Hauksson compound, you’re reminded that this is a generational legacy. It’s about building something, leaving a mark, addressing man’s existential crisis in a harsh and fleeting life. Deeper in the issue, when Lady Brida begins to enumerate the laws of the family, they’re really only about one thing – they’re survivors. They survive to build a better life, one that their children can carry on. I feel like it’s the dad in Wood coming out in the writing, tapping into that quintessential component of the American Dream, vis-à-vis Vikings in Iceland. Declan Shalvey can handle these immersive static shots (that gorgeous half page waterfall comes to mind), or things more complex. I like the transition between Brida explaining “law rock” to her half brother while we actually see it. It’s a nice sync between art and script. I don’t want to start lamenting the fact that there are only 4 issues of this book left. If anything, let’s encourage everyone to follow Wood, Cloonan, Stewart, and company to Dark Horse’s new Conan series to get their fix! Grade A.

Wonder Woman #3 (DC): There’s a lot to like in this book, but I think Hermes is quickly becoming a new favorite character. The smartest thing this creative team seems to have done up to this point was ramp up the mythological aspects of the character, while ramping down the superhero elements. We learn here that Diana wasn’t in fact made of clay, but the result of a dalliance between Zeus and Hippolyta. The ultimate push is then Diana crossing the Joseph Campbell threshold and venturing off on an identity quest of sorts. At times, it feels like there could be a little more exposition used here to fill in some gaps. Artistically, Chiang’s art doesn’t seem quite as soft around the edges as I’ve seen before, with some harder edged lines giving things a bit more aggression. In spite of the things I like, I can feel my attention starting to slightly slip away, so I think the next couple of issues will be key to determining my long term involvement. Grade A-.

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11.16.11 Releases

The book I’m most looking forward to this week is a toss-up between Batman #3 (DC) from Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo and Northlanders #46 (DC/Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Paul Azaceta. I’ll also likely be picking up Wonder Woman #3 (DC) from Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, and I might even check out Mudman #1 (Image). I was really into Jack Staff for a while, then it just sorta’ stopped coming out, but nevertheless new Paul Grist is always worth a look. It’s good to see DC keep up with reprints of some long-forgotten modern classics. DC Comics Presents Superman The Kents #1 (DC) is a mouthful of a title for a 12 issue maxi-series originally just titled “The Kents,” but it’s a good book all the same. John Ostrander & Tim Truman delivered a generational saga that chronicled a few generations of The Kents prior to the ones we know in the modern Superman mythos. It was so grand that it caused me to write (and pitch unsuccessfully) a series called “The Waynes” that chronicled their lineage beginning hundreds of years ago in Scotland with a young Ciaran Wayne, who was with William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. It took his descendents to Denmark, Venice, saw Gotham City settled, introduced us to Judge Solomon Wayne, the construction of Wayne Manor, the amassing of wealth through Wayne Enterprises, saw Thomas give Martha the pearls as a Christmas present, and all the way up to the last page where baby Bruce is born in the hospital. I thought it was pretty rad, but I digress. Anyway, this new issue reprints the first 4 issues (of 12) of The Kents, and is well worth checking out if you like historical fiction tied to the DCU. The only book I can slightly recommend from The House of Ideas this week is Wolverine: The Best There Is #11 (Marvel) because of the luscious Juan Jose Ryp art. On the collected edition front, the winners this week are Scalped Volume 08: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (DC/Vertigo) and Wasteland Volume 06: The Enemy Within (Oni Press).


Dreamcasting The New 52 (Again)

Now that I’ve had a chance to sit with The New 52 for a while, I thought I’d try this again. When this list was originally created back in June, nobody had seen any of the books, so armed with my current knowledge, highly subjective personal taste, and the realization that I’ll probably only keep buying 3 of The New 52 as is (Batwoman, Batman, Wonder Woman), I’m going to revisit the list and make some tweaks for this fun dream-casting project. I think we’d all like to imagine ourselves as Omniscient Uber-Editor w/ Magic Wand. It’s scary to think that I’d be buying all of these books. I hope you enjoy it!

1) Action Comics by George Perez (sorry, but this would be one of just two titles not switching to the renumbering and allowed to continue for honorary purposes, we just have to get it to a “natural” #1,000, would alter the trade dress to look like all the other “new” titles though, love the idea of George Perez on the general property, but would switch him to this title instead of the main Superman book since we’ll have the need for plenty of guest stars in the Superman corner of NuDCU, Perez has been around long enough to warrant a stint as writer as well, this is an adventure book)

UPDATE: People seem to be enjoying Grant Morrison’s take, but it doesn’t do much for me. I still have a big yearning to see Perez’s art on a monthly basis, no matter how unfeasible it sounds. I also really want to keep Action and Detective on the old numbering, just for old times’ sake.

2) Detective Comics by Greg Rucka & Davide Gianfelice (see above re: numbering, must reach #1,000, this is a hard core crime book, loads of guest stars, the companion to the superhero Batman book, as Action Comics will be the companion title to Superman, think Rucka on Gotham Central and Gianfelice’s gritty style as seen in Northlanders and Greek Street)

UPDATE: This totally stays the same.

3) Superman by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (the big superhero book with primary focus on Kal-El, not the ensemble that Action Comics will be, big and iconic, the team is now free from Ex Machina duties and that 50 issue run)

UPDATE: Stays!

4) Supergirl by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (I know BW is no longer exclusive at DC and was worked out of the relaunch (lame!), but speaking purely as a fan, this project really needs to happen, so as long as we’re dream-casting I can do whatever I want, this will be accessible to young women, yet strong enough to contend with the big superhero titles the boys like)

UPDATE: Stays!

5) Batman by Joss Whedon & Carlos Pacheco Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo (prime time superhero book, no holds barred, Bruce Wayne as Batman, slick memorable lines with high gloss art)

UPDATE: While I still think Whedon would be an interesting choice, I’m totally happy with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s work so far, so let’s keep it as is! I can admit when I’m wrong.

6) Batman Inc. by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham (ok, I too want to see G’Mo finally wrap up his take on the character after 6 years or so, this should be the 12 issue maxi-series, ala All Star Superman, that finally is the definitive take on the character, if Burnham isn’t on board, then I’m not interested)

UPDATE: Stays!

7) Batman & Robin by Kurt Busiek & Scott McDaniel (kids book, Bruce as Batman, Damian as Robin, Talia shows up with Ra’s Al Ghul, lots of father and son stuff, high octane poignancy, see Busiek’s coming of age book Arrowsmith)

UPDATE: Stays! Not at all impressed with Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s boring attempt.

8) Red Robin & The Outsiders by Peter J. Tomasi & Kenneth Rocafort Suicide Squad by Joss Whedon & Carlos Pacheco (I sort of like Tim staying on as Red Robin since Damian will be regular Robin, Bruce will be Bats, and Dick will return to the Nightwing role, this should be the relatively dark and grim one, I actually kinda’ dug the whole Red Hood, Arsenal, Starfire casting of Red Hood & The Outlaws, but felt it needed some tweaks, should serve as the counterpoint to the relatively cheery Teen Titans)

UPDATE: It goes without saying that this was an unmitigated disaster, so let’s scrap it completely and plug in something totally new. Since we just freed up this creative team, we can let Whedon do his team thing and Pacheco’s clean style should be well suited to handle the diverse, rotating cast.

9) Oracle by Gail Simone & Carla Speed McNeil (sorry, but I think Babs is infinitely more interesting as Oracle, why have Batgirl when we’ll have a Batwoman?, would like to see her as the primary information broker in the DCU, story arcs with lots of rotating guest stars from all these other titles)

UPDATE: Stays! I would love to see this book!

10) Nightwing by John Cassaday (since DC wants to let artists wet their hands at writing, let him write it too, I actually don’t mind the costume redesign with the red parts, Dick Grayson is probably my favorite mainstream character, so don't fuck it up please)

UPDATE: Stays! I really want to see this. The new Nightwing book is so boring!

11) Batwoman by JH Williams III (duh)

UPDATE: This is one of the very few books that DC got right, funny since it pre-dated the whole initiative. It’s by far the best thing coming out of the mainstream DCU.

12) Justice League by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee Warren Ellis & Steven Sanders (still don’t think this creative team will last long, but fine, keep it, prove me wrong, Cyborg needs a redesign though, that’s horrible)

UPDATE: I gave this a chance but was not at all impressed with it, so let’s just get crazy with this creative team. I know Warren would have a hard time keeping a monthly schedule, but I’ve long wanted him to take on this property. Sanders’ style is highly divisive judging by his S.W.O.R.D. run, but I dig it. And it’s my list, so shut it.

13) Justice League International by J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire (love the idea of a JLI title, but the creative team really needed shaking up)

UPDATE: Stays! The current book is competent, but just so generic and boring, so let’s bring the funny.

14) Justice League: Dark by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang (I’m ok with the title and think it makes sense to house all the “magic, science, and religion” types here, rotating cast depending on missions, Swamp Thing, Deadman, The Spectre, all those clowns, but Traci 13 must be the team leader forever or I’m out, gotta’ reprise the Dr. 13: Architecture & Mortality creative team too)

UPDATE: Stays! The current version has been a little slow for me, and the art ranges from good to wonky, I think these guys have more than proven themselves on Wonder Woman.

15) Teen Titans by Nick Spencer & Kevin O’Neill (Spencer is proving himself on team books and the gravitas of the art should sell this one, still need to work out the specific team members, but you get the idea)

UPDATE: Stays!

16) Planetary by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj (a long shot considering the property and creative team, but there’s nobody I’d rather trust with a Warren Ellis legacy property and with Zezelj’s murky style on art, and their proven collaborations, this would take it all new places, with the universes effectively merged, there’s no limit to what types of missions/investigations the team can have)

UPDATE: Stays! Out of this entire list, this is probably in the Top 3 of the ones I’d most want to see.

17) Wildcats by Christopher Priest & Eduardo Risso (yep, WildStorm in the house in a very noir way, Grifter, Voodoo, Spartan, Zealot, the whole gang, show 'em how it's done guys)

UPDATE: Stays!

18) Doom Patrol by Joe Casey & Sean Murphy (these two can go crazy in all the unexplored corners of the NuDCU, psychedelic pop comics in Murphy’s kinetic and dangerous style)

UPDATE: Stays!

19) Elongated Man & Plastic Man: Stretching Logic by Noah Van Sciver (kids book, title might still need some work, but these two need to team up for ridiculous adventures with this indie talent)

UPDATE: Stays! The sooner the planet realizes what an immense talent Noah is, the better off we’ll all be.

20) Kamandi: The Last Man on Earth by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten (while everyone else has gotten younger in the NuDCU, Kamandi has been aging in the apocalyptic future, he is now the last MAN on Earth, reunite the Inhumans team of Jenkins and Lee for the right look and feel)

UPDATE: I had sort of an epiphany with this one. How cool would this be? Imagine the energy of Wasteland infused into the DCU. I think it would have to be in color too to help Chris stay on track, so let’s swing for the fences and get Laura Martin on that.

21) Solo II by Various (quarterly, lots of pages, creator spotlight just like the first, it will lose money, but it’s a commitment by DC to creators because the properties shouldn’t solely come first)

UPDATE: Stays! Get Mark Chiarello on the horn!

22) Wednesday Comics II by Various (weekly, ambitious, healthy mix of veterans, up-and-comers, and indie talent)

UPDATE: Stays! Ditto Chiarello!

23) Birds of Prey by Paul Cornell & Yanick Paquette (I’m a little dubious about the need for this book, but let’s give it a go, the roster needs work and Manhunter needs to be on the team, limit interaction with Oracle to distinguish titles, Cornell has been on my radar since Pete Wisdom and MI-13, and Paquette has done some good X-Men work)

UPDATE: Stays!

24) John Constantine by Kody Chamberlain & R.M. Guera (hot off of Sweets, DC should sign Chamberlain before Marvel does, and Guera has more than proven himself on Jason Aaron’s Scalped)

UPDATE: Stays!

25) Tiny Titans by Whoever Does It Now Batman: The Brave & The Bold by Sholly Fisch and Rick Burchett (if it ain’t broke…)

UPDATE: I was so impressed with Batman: The Brave & The Bold #13!

26) Aquaman by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis (I could really care less, so we’ll let this one stand and see how she goes)

UPDATE: It’s really not my cup of tea, but people seem to be enjoying it, and it seems to be selling, so I’ll just leave this one alone.

27) Flash by Geoff Johns & Kyle Baker (hopefully Geoff can keep up on the writing chores of so many books and his executive duties, because I really want to see Baker pencil this in the style he used for Hawkman in Wednesday Comics)

UPDATE: Stays!

28) Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy Terry Moore (fine, I’m not changing this either, because apparently the market has spoken and will support such nonsense, but this should be the main Hal Jordan, primarily Earth-based book, because…)

UPDATE: Anyone who read Echo knows that this would be perfect! It would make a nice counterpoint to the insanity of...

29) Green Lantern Corps by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (swiped from some Wednesday Comics dreamcasting I did a while back, Drunken Scotsman will need something to do since I booted him off almost everything else, this should be bizarre psychedelic space adventure, ala John Stewart in Green Lantern: Mosaic, I expect it to cross paths with Paul Pope’s New Gods to get supremely weird)
UPDATE: Absolutely stays!

30) Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang (really the only keeper from the actual relaunch that I like the creative team and am excited to be purchasing, at least for three issues, can’t think of any other team that would really make me long for Wonder Woman)

UPDATE: One of the few that DC actually got right in my opinion.

31) Jonah Hex by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Simon Gane (I’m as surprised as the next guy that there remains a market for Hex, but DnA are versatile and Jordi Bernet should be brought in for rotating arcs with Gane, his work on Northlanders was breathtaking)

UPDATE: Stays!

32) Blackhawk by Kevin Nowlan Dial H For Hero by Matt Fraction & Frazer Irving (he’s done just about everything else, so here’s another instance where we’ll let an artist try his hand at writing)

UPDATE: Had to scrap this altogether and go with this crazy duo, imagine the possibilities!

33) Shazam! by Neil Gaiman & Ryan Sook (not a kids book, Gaiman can sort out the magic bits no doubt and Sook will bring in the right gravitas)

UPDATE: Stays!

34) The New Gods by Paul Pope (self-explanatory, but let him run wild with weird Kirby style sci-fi futurism)

UPDATE: Definitely stays!

35) House of Mystery by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Tom Neely (infusion of indie art talent with reliable writing duo, throwing the old DC fans a bone, should have a very EC Comics feel, swiped from my recent Wednesday Comics dreamcasting)

UPDATE: Stays! More indie talent!

36) House of Secrets by Devin Grayson & Julia Gfrorer (infusion of indie talent with MIA female writer, expect The Endless to show up a lot here, more ethereal than the pragmatism of the above title, also swiped like the above idea)

UPDATE: Stays! More indie talent!

37) Atom & Hawkman by Karl Kerschl & Juan Jose Ryp (I actually like this character pairing, and it’s another example of trying to placate older fans who will complain that we’re ruining everything, The Atom portion was swiped from my Wednesday Comics idea, but I added Hawkman here to round out the use of characters)

UPDATE: Stays!

38) Zatanna by Darwyn Cooke & Riccardo Burchielli (rogue magi, she’s not interested in the team up of JL: Dark, lots of tension, crossovers with John Constantine)

UPDATE: Stays!

39) Firestorm by Chuck Dixon & Nathan Fox (loud crazy action, garish colors, he's friends with Blue Beetle, also… when not powered up, the new Firestorm is a wheelchair bound teenager, a gay Filipino kid from LA, parents have $, college educated, let’s just get all of the character diversity issues out of the way at once)

UPDATE: Stays!

40) Red Tornado by Warren Ellis & Jason Shawn Alexander (big red robot, crazy sci-fi, lots of time-jumping, also swiped from my ideas for a Wednesday Comics follow up)

UPDATE: Stays! I think this would be amazing, that it’s one of the best pairings I’ve created.

41) Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz & Amanda Conner (classic LSH writer with modernized artist, primary title)

UPDATE: Stays! I don’t think the current Legion books are really working.

42) Legion Lost by Mark Waid & Joe Quinones (really pushing for a reinvigoration of the Legion, nice to see NuDCU embrace the idea and while the “Legion Lost” title isn’t new, it’s a solid one, Waid has the chops to handle continuity and cast, and Quinones’ slick style should keep up nicely)

UPDATE: Stays!

43) Dr. Fate by James Stokoe (yes!)

UPDATE: Stays!

44) Hawk & Dove by Rafael Grampa (Rob Liefeld? Are you kidding?)

UPDATE: Stays!

45) Animal Man by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman & Dan Green (I have some issues with this, but we’re getting toward the end, so I’m just powering through)

UPDATE: Again, not my cup of tea, but people are raving about it so we’ll let it stand.

46) Mister Terrific by Scott Snyder & Sergio Cariello (I’m actually kind of interested to see what can be done with this character on a solo title, this is a proven writer, and Cariello is now free since his Dynamite book The Lone Ranger has wrapped)

UPDATE: Stays!

47) Static Shock by Sterling Gates & Scott McDaniel (good choice for artist, but needed to tweak the writer)

UPDATE: Stays!

48) Green Arrow by Peter Milligan & Matthew Southworth (I’m not sure why, but this creative team sells me on an otherwise uninteresting character)

UPDATE: Stays!

49) Captain Atom by Christos Gage & Travis Charest (the artist selection is a long shot, but if it could be done, would certainly be a destination book)

UPDATE: Stays!

50) Grifter by Jason Aaron & Mario Alberti (the choice of writer seems golden, though I’m not sure how you’d pull him from Marvel for a company owned property, and Alberti’s sly work on the X-Men/Spider-Man stuff was inspiring)

UPDATE: I think this would be a great book!

51) Voodoo by Dave Gibbons (hey, I have a soft spot for this Wildcat, was surprised to see DC giving it a go, but I’d let Gibbons write and draw it for as long as he wanted)

UPDATE: Stays! It sure as hell ain’t workin’ as is.

52) DC: Silver Age Adventures by Darwyn Cooke (the final bone I’ll throw to the whiners, endless mining of prior continuity, yes, those stories still “matter” and can be used for entertainment, think The New Frontier, only monthly)

UPDATE: Stays!


11.09.11 Reviews

Batwoman #3 (DC): I’ll tell you right up front, this is about as perfect as a single issue comic can get. From the one page minimalist recap, to incidents from the first volume being mentioned, to JH Williams III pouring so much into every single page, to that immaculate final page (which I’ll get to in a second), it’s like everything he’s ever worked on prior has prepared him for this moment. It’s got the raw intrigue of Chase, the slick writing he got by osmosis from Warren Ellis on Desolation Jones, and the raw experimental design potential of his time with Alan Moore on Promethea. It’s all come together in this tapestry of style and his own trademark moves. It’s not repetitive, the moves I see, but there’s similar effort there in the way he keeps trying to break the traditional mold. Look at the way the panels form clusters of tertiary images on the double page spreads to formally choreograph the action sequences. Aside from Traci Thirteen, Cameron Chase and Kate Kane have got to be my two favorite women in the DCU, and Cam comes at Kate from all angles in this issue. I particularly liked the realism of Kate’s personal life (with Maggie, with Bette) seeming incompatible with her superheroism. I love how JH3 can bounce between styles, his own distinct style for the superhero scenes, and then a remarkably different cleaner look for the civilian throughline, which is like Jamie McKelvie meets Cliff Chiang meets Adrian Tomine or something. It’s just gorgeous. I loved the brilliant last page which succinctly bookends the safety and danger that Kate is trying to reconcile in her life; it’s the type of original art piece I’d want to own. I’m on the verge of gushing here, so I’ll just wrap this up by saying that this is smart, smart stuff, both visually and conceptually. Grade A+.

Uncanny X-Force #17 (Marvel): Rick Remender is sly with the script in this issue, playing with the existing canon by flashing back to earlier times with Warren and Betty, and Jerome Opena is in aesthetic lockstep with those decisions. It’s also clever the way Remender takes what initially looked like a negative cliffhanger in the last issue and turned it on its head, having Fantomex return with the proverbial cavalry. I enjoyed the old Bets costume, and it’s impossible to review this issue and not comment on Dean White’s ravishing colors, particularly in some of the match-ups, like Iceman vs. Sunfire. I have to caveat that this book offers so much more than action, but if action is what you’re after, then this issue won’t disappoint. It’s action galore, with Sabretooth and Logan vs. Warren, Fantomex and Phoenix vs. Betsy on the mental plane, and Nightcrawler jumping all over the place. The final showdown set up at the end contains probably my favorite three characters of the lot, so I can’t wait. It doesn’t get much better than this. Uncanny X-Force remains the best X-book on the stands. These guys are the dream team on an X-Men book. It’s got action, quips, gorgeous art, sharp crisp dialogue, and satisfying character moments. It’s everything you want from this property. Grade A.


11.09.11 Releases

After a couple of crazy weeks contending with The New 52, things seem to have settled back into normal. This list is probably more representative of my typical buying habits. The gem of the week is Batwoman #3 (DC) from JH Williams III and company. I’m really enjoying this second season, particularly the inclusion of DEO Agent Cameron Chase. I also wanted to point out Vertigo Resurrected: My Faith in Frankie #1 (DC). This is hands down one of my favorite little mini-series of all time. It reprints all 4 issues (96 pages) for just $7.99. DC reprinted it once in a little digest-sized format, but that was in black and white and the lack of color really lost something, so I’d recommend this option. Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Mark Hempel delivered a self-contained story that is simultaneously adventurous, fun, dark, fits nicely in the Vertigo stable because of how it uses lesser deities, and is surprisingly frank about sexuality and non-traditional relationships. This was like Minx before they tried Minx. I’ll also be picking up Uncanny X-Force #17 (Marvel). On a related note, I’ll be sad to see Warren Ellis leave Secret Avengers, but I heard Rick Remender will be coming on board that title, so I’m glad to see Marvel using him more. Lastly, Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising #3 (Abstract Studio) is also out. I’m not as enamored of it as I was Echo, but it’s still worth checking out.


11.02.11 Reviews

Ganges #4 (Fantagraphics): It’s the long-awaited continuation of Kevin Huizenga’s depiction of the dreary monotony of a seemingly endless sleepless night. What he does very well is capture the uncontrollable manner in which your mind wanders through fleeting imagery, stray incomplete lines of thought, worrying about our personal calendars, ideas literally trailing off the page and into the abyss before we can fully form them, jumping in and out of focused consciousness, and he relays this dynamic in clipped panels and short bursts of sentence fragments that can only be done in this medium. There’s a smart interactivity to what we witness happening to Glenn Ganges in these pages. When Glenn reads a book to deliberately try to fall asleep, we too experience a slow, monotonous, repetitive set of panels that start to bore us. Form and function are in sync. When he flips open an old philosophy book, we see him physically attempting to navigate the mental landscape of nonsensical confusing panels, with circular, impenetrable logic. It pushes you out as a reader, deliberately so, to great intended effect. We’re actually experiencing what Huizenga wants us to feel Ganges is experiencing. There are a few things I especially like about this issue. The immaculate use of negative space. The emotional power of a few stray facial lines. The way that two semi-circles around the eye can call to mind Charlie Brown’s exasperated grief. The attempt at depicting the weird flashes of light you see when you close your eyes. The way Glenn side-scrolls his way through decision diamonds with various Y/N choices along the way. The irony of actively over-thinking the type of book he should be reading to make him drowsy, rather than just grabbing one, the active thought itself keeping him up. The way that this endless night is a little microcosm of his entire life, touching on various relationships, experiences, jobs he’s held, and books he purchased with that disposable dot com money. The sense that the he’s caught between feeling like the whole world is sleeping but him, yet the rest of the world is going on without his involvement. Lastly, there’s a particularly interesting sequence that caught me, where his wife/girlfriend calls out to him, and he basically ignores her, almost willing her back to sleep. I like the uncertainly of that moment, how we can read into it. Did he just not want to wake her? Did he want to avoid a conversation to which there was no solution? Was he embarrassed? Ashamed? I don’t have much doubt that this book will be appearing on may critics best of the year lists. It’s interesting though, that such a book could do that, when it really only delivers one singular concept, but does so in such painstaking recreation of the emotion involved. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, what happens next, how it resolves, and if there is more messaging than just amazing craft. Grade A.

Avengers: 1959 #3 (Marvel): Chaykin’s aesthetic is so visually arresting that I think it distracts you from noticing some of the slight weaknesses of the overall package. The double entendres are a little tired, names like “Penny Panzer” are just dreadful, the Cold War era Nazi holdover antagonist is *such* an overused concept. That said, I really do enjoy the Agents of Atlas style period superhero affair. The thing has flair, throwing down those same Cold War era politics, and a whole host of elements. We get more Mystic Arts this time, and so many Marvel U seeds. There’s Howard Stark, Dormammu, Madripoor, Wakanda, Latveria, and on and on and on. Chaykin is pouring everything he can into the script, making it feel rich and dense. I admire the aggressive storytelling ambition here, but with so many balls being hurled into the air, I’m left wondering if it’ll all congeal in just two more issues. No denying the book is beautiful, but I guess I’m cautiously optimistic about everything getting resolved an a satisfying manner. Let’s go with a Grade B.

Uncanny X-Men #1 (Marvel): There’s just a couple of things I like about this book, but overall I don’t understand why it needs to exist or what position it’s exactly taking. I like that it picks up in San Francisco, with Utopia, and The Dreaming Celestial, all modern landmarks that we recognize from the X-Men mythos. I also think it’s nice that people continue to use Agent Brand and S.W.O.R.D. out of deference to Joss Whedon’s Astonishing run and the canceled-too-soon S.W.O.R.D. mini-series. It kind of reminds me how everyone still used Agent Chase and the D.E.O. in the DCU after her little series was canceled. I thought Gillen got Magneto right, his line about his brain leaking from his eye sockets felt particularly inspired by Warren Ellis and hummed with a clear voice. I appreciate that it’s trying to be bold. For example, Scott’s zinger about “We’ve always been Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Unfortunately, the familiarity I mentioned leads to contempt, because it belies the flimsy excuse the title has for existing, and the attempts at being bold aren’t terribly clear or logical. So, let’s just run down the list of problems. I don’t understand why Colossus looks like Destro, Hulks out, and turns into Juggernaut. Something to do with Fear Itself? It just plays dumb. Continuity is a mess, for example, how in the hell can Psylocke be the head of security or whatever she is on Utopia, when right now she’s being turned into one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen in Uncanny X-Force? Speaking of, does Scott still not know that X-Force exists? That’s dumb. I guess Mister Sinister is just as good as the next cheesy villain you could use, but uhh, why does he like like Punjabi Pilgrim Abe Lincoln? That’s dumb. There’s disjointed jumps in the script, some odd choices visually from Pacheco’s fairly generic art, like Emma’s fivehead, and some particularly bad San Francisco geography skills. In a lot of places, the dialogue feels extremely stiff and expository: “I will now explain blah…” “The schism with the Westchester School…” Really? Did Scott really just announce that he was going to explain why this book is supposedly important by literally name-checking the last “event” book that created it? Gross. Most importantly, I just don’t understand the plan here. Scott says everyone hates us (so nothing has changed!). So the plan then is to, umm, “be the good guys,” but still scare them too…? Huh??? How the hell will that change anyone’s perception? It just doesn’t make any sense. Scott also never sufficiently addresses Storm’s concern regarding the branding nightmare of the name “The Extinction Team.” It’s actually totally backwards. It’s really “The Survival Team.” Totally illogical. The other thing that bothered me is that the whole Schism deal was billed as this course altering showdown between Scott and Logan where everyone dramatically “picked sides” and faced off. Well, Scott said twice that he would protect Logan’s school, so how the heck are they at odds ideologically? What exactly was the big dramatic fallout here? The only thing that changed in the X-Men universe is that Logan re-opened Xavier's school. It has little bearing on anything in this book. That’s just false advertisement for the latest big event, that really changed nothing. This might as well have been Uncanny X-Men #544 or whatever the next issue was supposed to be. It’s such a flimsy raison d’etre. I’ll give Wolverine & The X-Men an issue or two because that is truly something different, a different direction, with a distinct visual style. This book, on the other hand, is just marketing shuck and jive in a visually bland style that doesn’t withstand the scrutiny of reason. Grade C+.


Comics Archaeology: Paul Pope

The Corruptor (Horse Press): Now, here’s something you don’t see every day. This is a quarter page mini comic from Paul Pope, circa 1993. The book is self-defined as a Russian “samizdat,” which basically translates to a “self-printed” publication, the types of which were often hand circulated in Moscow, and not officially permissible under authoritarian regimes. This copy is hand numbered and signed as copy 809/1,000. The way my friend Mike tells the story, when he loaned me this precious copy, is that he was wandering around San Diego Comic-Con one year and there was suddenly an unexpected announcement over the loud speaker that a creator named Paul Pope would be giving away free mini comics in Artists Alley at such-and-such table number. Mike had no idea who Paul Pope was, and at the time, I’m sure he wasn’t alone. But, he wasn’t about to turn down a free comic. He arrived at the table, all alone, and found Pope quietly sitting there, all alone. He also picked up some free postcards and a really interesting set of 6 trading cards advertising a new series called THB, which wouldn’t actually debut for another two years, until 1995.

1995 was also the same year that Pope was sequestered and began working for the largest manga publisher, Kodansha, on hundreds of pages of strips that would never actually see print. Coincidentally, these lost Kodansha strips WILL be published in a new edition of The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts recently announced by Legendary. While The One Trick Rip-Off itself was originally published in 1997, this is the first time these so-called “Deep Cuts” (the Kodansha material) will ever be seen. You can imagine how excited this makes us Paul Pope fans. Most of us are completists because the guy isn’t terribly prolific. You also have to realize how early this mini comic was. We’re talking 18 years ago. Sin Titulo was the only other book of Pope’s which he’d self-published at that point under his Horse Press imprint. The Ballad of Doctor Richardson wasn’t even out yet. This was two years before THB, as I said. Escapo wouldn’t arrive for another 6 years, until 1999, and these works are considered his early works! This mini predates what is considered Pope’s early period by roughly 5 years. THB and Escapo put him on the map, for me anyway. From there, it was on to Heavy Liquid and 100% at Vertigo. Those were the first books of Pope’s that I bought new singles of as they came out, instead of frantically chasing down out-of-print back issues. From there, he catapulted to stardom, receiving his first Eisner Award in 2006 for the Best Short Story “Teenage Sidekick,” appearing in Solo #3 (I actually own a piece of original art from this story, a full page of Robin being dragged by two of the Joker’s goons). In 2007, he took home double Eisner Awards for Best Writer/Artist and Best Limited Series for Batman: Year 100, a dystopian future tale set in 2039. The rest, as they might say, is a history we’re largely familiar with.

The Corruptor is an interesting artifact pre-dating nearly his entire body of work that contains seeds of some of his future themes and influences. Pope explains in the back matter that he was fascinated with didactic strips that illustrate singular notions which wouldn’t be perceived as artistically “wishy-washy.” This brief story combines two of his influences, the kind of romantic European comics he grew up reading, and hard-boiled crime stories. The 28-pager has a vaguely Eastern European aesthetic, and resembles the type of pamphlet that Thomas Paine would have circulated. The titular “corruptor” is about a man conspicuously disrupting authoritarian rule. It’s an odd corollary to think of this dynamic vis-à-vis the marketing exercise this was for Pope. He printed up 1,000 copies of this book, used these incredibly big letters to form PAUL POPE on the cover and overshadow the title, marketing himself when nobody knew who he was, and subversively gave them all away by hand. Thematically, the story itself is a direct example of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. The story is told in very direct full page visuals with no text. It’s a pure message about breaking forth from the bonds of oppression suffocating the human spirit. It’s about a man wanting to find the freedom to live, love, laugh, and specifically explore art. We’re glad he did.