8.01.12 Releases

There’s only two sure buys for me this week, which will be X-Men #33 (Marvel) and Mind MGMT #3 (Dark Horse). Brian Wood’s X-Men run is shaping up to be one of the only intelligent runs for the property in recent memory, and David Lopez’s art has a level of consistency and intricacy you don’t often see in corporate cape comics. Meanwhile, Matt Kindt’s new series is the culmination of his long love affair with spycraft and watercolor ink washes, finally hitting prime time in a more mainstream-y package. I won’t be buying it, but if you were a fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Immortal Iron Fist run (and really, who wasn’t?) then I’d point you toward their new collaboration with Hawkeye #1 (Marvel). As for the maybe pile, I might try to give this series one more chance by checking out Mind The Gap #3 (Image), and I’m interested in the debut of two other new Image books, as their bid for best publisher of the year continues. Harvest #1 (Image) from AJ Lieberman and Colin Lorimer promises some sort of organ trafficking intrigue, while Think Tank #1 (Image) from Matt Hawkins, Rahsan Ekedal, and Brian Reber looks like big brainy fun. At this point, I’m always on the lookout for new/weird/different, so both look promising.


7.25.12 Reviews

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com

Prophet #27 (Image): One look on the inside front cover at that credits page, and you know this is a creative team having fun. Not to sound hyperbolic, but I still think Brandon Graham is some sort of 21st century quirky Ernest Hemingway with this sparse and lyric prose. For example, we see Prophet “backed by brothers he’d earned,” when lesser writers would have struggled with “his friends were with him” or “he brought his allies” or whatever. Giannis Milonogiannis delivers some magnificent two-page spreads, sensual alien sex, and unflinching brutality in action, all lending this sense of an effortless, but monumental bout of world-building. The thing I like the most about Prophet isn’t the slight line weight of Milonogiannis, the visual wonder of floating graveyards of ships, the balance of organic life with regressed technology, the obtuse callbacks to the worst of 90’s Image Comics (Badrock, Diehard, etc.) made fun again, oh, those are all great, but it’s a very specific sensation I get that’s the real hook. It’s the sense of the unexpected. I have absolutely no idea where this sucker is going to go from moment to moment, and that’s one of the best feelings I can feel when I’m reading comics at this point in my life. This book comes along and still has the power to surprise and delight. My joy is conflicted as I try to reconcile lingering on every panel to absorb and enjoy the craft, yet also wanting to race ahead to the next sequence to satisfy my own sense of curiosity. Grade A.

Manhattan Projects #5 (Image): It feels like Hickman’s humor chops are getting better and better with every issue, because so much of the effect is the deadpan result of big incongruous ideas. I like the way the script wrestles with age old philosophical quandaries, like every problem starting to look like a nail when all you have is a hammer, and wondering if you should do something just because you could. As someone who has been with Hickman since his start at Image Comics with The Nightly News, through Pax Romana, all the Marvel Comics work, and now back to Image, I loved seeing the return of his trademark infographics depicting the spiral galaxy of The Milky Way. Things really start heating up with a surprisingly thwarted interstellar incursion, with the “Pulling Way” in contention, the FTL drive (sounding like it’s cribbed from BSG?), and the whole idea of the “stargate” vs. more conventional travel via ships. The odd cabal of scientific minds and military leaders hits its stride with “We remain grounded, while angry space gods look down on us from the heavens.” Nick Pitarra seems to be hitting a career high in terms of consistency and an outright melding of Geoff Darrow’s detail and Frank Quitely’s sinewy lines. Another great asset of this title is that it seems to be the antidote to decompressed storytelling; the thing moves fast, the group debates options for a page or two, and before you know it, they’re already through the gate committing genocide. The sense of sci-fi irreverence and serious examination of the motivation necessary to survive makes for a really fun time. Grade A.

Debris #1 (Image): This book immediately shows off a beautifully garbage-scaped set of imagery thanks to Riley Rossmo, who seems to be an artist jumping more onto my personal radar with every successive project. He and writer Kurtis J. Wiebe are helping Image Comics continue to create new worlds left and right, while Marvel and DC continue heating up their own leftovers ad nauseum. Here we have some sort of post-apocalyptic future Earth literally covered in garbage, with sentient refuse mechs rising up to threaten the existence of the last remaining band of humanity. With the isolated setting, food and fresh water shortage, along with mentions of a lost mythic land, I’ll be honest, I started thinking about Waterworld (sorry!), but quickly snapped back. The action is clearly choreographed with very little exposition, places like “Maiden” and people like “The Five” are introduced without belabored explanation, trusting the audience to just keep up and figure things out in context during the fun ride. For me, things got a little fuzzy when the protagonist Maya has her uniform shift from blue to green intermittently and some sort of electrified lightsaber-y edged weapons magically appear. I wasn’t sure if these were mistakes or done purposefully, and if so, why and how? I generally liked the issue, but I didn’t feel a strong enough hook to come back for the second installment. This is something I could see myself revisiting in trade form though. At a discount. Heh. Grade B.


Exactly What The Interwebs Needed, Another Opinion Regarding The Dark Knight Rises


I wanted to love this movie, but ultimately came away feeling more disappointment than satisfaction. There are definitely some emotionally and thematically satisfying conclusions to be found, but there are also tons of problems in terms of basic scripting, technical issues, logic holes, and cliché moments. In the trilogy’s preceding installment, The Dark Knight, I always felt the sense that every scene, every line of dialogue, every casting choice, served a specific purpose. Rises, by comparison, feels much less tight, more rambly, more messy, with several flat and boring spots, all lacking any real memorable “moments.” There’s a lot of deus ex machina instead, characters swoop in to save the day with no logical lead-up. Catwoman entering to save Batman with a well-timed, well-placed missile shot, and a quip to boot, being one of the more egregious examples. What follows is a simple list of my grievances, in no particular order, off the top of my head, after having seen the film just once. I’ve seen the second of the Christopher Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight, at least a dozen times now on HBO, watching either intently, or casually having it on in the background while I’m reading or making dinner, and there’s nowhere near as many problems with that film, certainly not to the point I feel pushed out and am no longer able to maintain suspension of disbelief. I’ll caveat by saying that I was never a big fan of Batman Begins. What that movie gets right is in the first 2/3 of the film, with the relatively boring origin, the build-up of the back story, and then totally whiffs the third act. If I had to rate them, I’d say The Dark Knight is probably Grade A- achievement, Batman Begins is a competent Grade B, with The Dark Knight Rises bringing up the rear with a Grade C+.

So that this isn’t entirely gripey, I’ll preface this with what I liked about the movie and what probably got it the “+” on that grade. I liked Hathaway as Catwoman in terms of her acting and portraying a character of dubious morality. She’s clever, intelligent, and sexy, without becoming a parody. The problems I do have with the character are in the writing and are not really her fault; I’ll get to those later. The ensemble performances were good, but not as great as they have been previously. Caine, Freeman, Oldman, they’re all solid performances, but again, I have some issues with the writing and what we’re asked to believe as an audience, which I’ll get to. I like that Nolan made a strong effort to include the ascension of a Robin-type character, though it was an amalgamated, and not entirely effective, way to go about it. With just one or two tweaks, I’d have been perfectly satisfied with this. JGL was a good casting choice. It’s one of many examples where Nolan has shown he can respect the canon and even use it as inspiration, mine it, without being a slave to it. I like that the movie absolutely ties to the trilogy as a piece of the whole; Nolan had something definitive he wanted to say, and he says it on a macro level, even if I have several issues with the micro way in which he does it. Most important, he focuses on the idea of the Batman as a symbol that endures, which is really what Bruce set out to accomplish in the first place. I like that there is a proper end, one which ends Bruce Wayne’s story, but allows the mythos of the Batman to live on. Even with the script problems, the huge leaps of logic, the impossibility that the audience is asked to infer, taken as a whole, the trilogy is still miles better than any of the Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, or other crap that preceded it. Here we go...

At times, I feel like the name of the film is just too literal. The Dark Knight Rises. Like, he literally has to rise from his Howard Hughes indoor gentleman lifestyle for the proverbial One Last Mission. Like, he literally rises out of the hell pit so that he can beat Bane. Yawn. Then you have Joseph Gordon Levitt’s ascension from officer to detective to Robin. That one’s a little more palatable, probably because of my nostalgia for Robin. I just don’t like getting hit over the head with the big stick of meaning.

What kind of dopey CIA operative lets dudes onto his plane without first unmasking them and trying to ID them? Nobody back at Langley or the Pentagon sit room was tracking the exfil plane, and thus tracking the big ass plane swooping down on them? Bang up job, boys.

The fight scenes are boring. Most of the time it’s just Bane and Batman doing nothing but standing in the street as two guys punching the shit out of each other. Yawn. If you want to see some really stylish fight choreography that still holds up, check out Grosse Point Blank. There’s a scene specifically where John Cusack takes on some Hungarian ghoul hitman in the halls of his high school. I just can’t really buy that Batman can’t defeat Bane in hand-to-hand combat. As far as I can tell from the movie, Bane’s “powers” are that he’s really strong and he talks funny. There’s no mention of his ‘roided out injections like in the comics. Isn’t Bruce supposed to be like a ninja martial artist? Even an old one should do better than this. Sweep the leg, son. Use the crane technique. If do right, no can defense.

On top of that, Batman is like the billionaire philanthropist technology superhero guy, right? Why doesn’t Batman use any of his numerous gadgets to try and defeat Bane? He doesn’t taze him, he doesn’t flick a bunch of Batarangs into his bare dome, no grappling hook gun to rip off his stupid Darth Bane mask, no smoke pellets, no incendiary plastique napalm shit, no Scarecrow hallucinogenic gas, he doesn’t pull any Bat shit from his wicked Bat pouches on his crazy Bat belt and so on and so forth.

Bruce is also supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, yeah? So, let me ask you something. If you see some weird-ass looking dude who talks like a Goldmember casting reject inside a Darth Vader helmet and then you see he’s wearing some freaky-ass Hannibal Lecter vagina dentata mask, wouldn’t you probably infer with all your keen investigative ability that it helps him breathe or something? I mean, nobody wears that fucker because it’s high fashion, they probably need it for some reason. Don’t you just intuitively try to rip that headgear off from a distance with your 300-lb. monofilament cable to do some damage? Don’t you work with GCPD to have a rooftop sniper take him out? I mean, all someone has to do is shoot Bane in the head to stop him, right? He really shouldn’t be that hard to stop.

Did you notice how some of the cop cars have GPD written on them? Gotham Police Department. Hasn’t it been established that it’s GCPD? It's little shit like that which bugs me.

For a movie ostensibly about Batman, he’s outshined by the ensemble cast. Caine is great, if a little weepy. Gordon goes from great to a little silly (he’s the only guy who doesn’t seem to make the Bruce Wayne/Batman connection until he’s told, I mean, EVERYONE knows Bruce is Batman, except for him, at least 8 other characters by my count, and just in case the audience doesn’t get the visual callback to Officer Gordon putting a coat over young Bruce in Batman Begins because they went to take a piss during this 3-hour movie, I’m including trailers, they have Gordon mumble it to himself just to make it 100% clear!). Hathaway makes Catwoman believable. Morgan Freeman does a great Lucius Fox, though he does mug for the camera with one-liners a little too much for me (“yes, Mr. Wayne, it does come in black,” etc.). Shit, even Matthew Modine looks competent. JGL as Robin fulfilling the “idea” of Batman. Check, check, check. Bruce is hardly in it, and the only real bit of “acting” that moved me, where he really seemed to be pushing and stepping outside himself, was when he and Alfred cry together when they break up.

It seems dumb that the movie would work so hard to bring Crane back as Scarecrow for his kangaroo court scenes, but then no mention of The Joker at all? That’s just disrespectful.

Obviously, I realize that there is no real Gotham City and the movie has to be shot somewhere. There’s parts of Chicago, Pittsburgh, and some other waterfront cities used to create the illusion, for the most part I didn’t mind these, but man, there were a couple shots that were so obviously lower Manhattan, my mind was screaming “THAT’S NEW YORK CITY!” on the Hudson side, shit you could see the new One World Trade Center clear as day. Ugh. That bugged me. I don’t want to see bridges into Manhattan being blown up in the shadow of the new World Trade Center building.

The “Clean Slate” thing (on a little jump drive, no less!) is a really stupid MacGuffin for Catwoman, to the point that the corporate thug guy even makes fun of it. But, seriously, Selina is a master thief, great at disguises, sneaks her way undercover into Wayne Manor, hacks into what is surely an impregnable safe, but she can’t create a fake identity for herself, flee the country, or hack in to some lame database to erase her priors? That’s just silly. It just cheapens the smarts of her character.

The movie telegraphs everything. The second the nuclear option is introduced, you know Bruce will “sacrifice” himself, mainly because you’re smart, and even if you weren’t, Alfred’s basically been telling you that's what will happen for the last 2 hours, you know Marion Cotillard will be Talia Al Ghul because, umm, she has a Persian accent, they sleep together in a scene almost straight outta’ that one book that one time, and why else is she in the movie? (her arrival also totally undermines the development of Bane as the ultimate baddie, since he’s now reduced to her minion), and even my wife turned to me and said “is he Robin?” when JGL showed up in the trailers, and she honestly has no knowledge of Batman lore.

Speaking of Robin, let me just say that Dick Grayson/the very concept of Robin is my favorite character/idea from comics growing up. I love that dude. The “Robin” presented in The Dark Knight Rises as John Blake is an interesting amalgam of the three most prominent Robins. He’s sort of the wayward youth of Jason Todd, the innate detective who discovers Batman’s true identity of Tim Drake (rhymes with John Blake, duh!), and the Bludhaven cop of Dick Grayson. The thing is, that all of those references are largely lost to lay audiences, they only exist for fanboy recognition, so why not go all the way? I realize that you want to keep audiences guessing when scripts are leaked online and roles are cast long before the film opens, and you want to have a cool reveal at the end of your movie, ok, so be it. But then, why not have JGL say that his real name is Richard Grayson or Tim Drake when the lady asks? That was a huge ball drop. It was one of the only things I wanted from this movie and I didn’t really get it.

On top of that, I would have liked to see a stronger, more explicit mandate for him, some sort of implied understanding between Robin, Bruce Wayne, Lucius Fox, and Jim Gordon. Let’s leave Alfred out of this round, poor cold coot’s been through enough pain. Maybe this was subtly in the movie and I’ll pick up with a repeat viewing, but shit, I was getting antsy, I had to pee like an hour into the thing.

The sound editing was atrocious. I probably was only able to decipher about half of what Bane said. The movie was plenty loud, but his lines were just drowned out either by the musical score being overwhelming, loud explosions and mayhem, or just his marble mouth: “Gotham City wirdfsljls djsdl back teh dorlks forver!!!” Okay, somebody just shoot that fucker.

The whole timeline in this movie is kinda’ sketchy, no? As if the twists and turns are just sort of made up as they went along. Given what we know about Ra’s Al Ghul’s demise, would Bruce and Talia’s ages line up? Bruce fixed the autopilot on the Batcopter 6 months ago. Why? He never told Lucius? Because he was anticipating faking his own death with that very device before any of this shit even started to happen?

So, the Batcopter is obviously incinerated in the nuclear blast, so how do the Wayne Enterprises technicians even know that he fixed the software 6 months ago? They have some type of prototype simulator? Why would he have fixed that one and not just his? Is there some sort of master/slave relationship to the simulator software and the field units? Was that just his way of telling Lucius he was still alive? Why don’t Bane’s guys take this prototype too when they take all the Tumblers? They could have had air superiority too and fought back when Bruce showed up in his. Lucius told Bruce it was operational.

I’m wondering why Nolan felt the need to kill Talia? Just to get closure on all the villains presented? Not really, because The Joker and The Scarecrow are both assumably still out there. I’m wondering why she couldn’t just be sent to Blackgate Prison. He could have left that open, allowing fanboys to assume she was pregnant with Damian. Fanboys would have eaten this up.

The whole Ra’s/Talia/Ducard/Bane flashback lineage was terribly confusing. At first, The Ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn tells Bruce in the Wampa Cave that he was the mercenary and that Bane is Ducard’s son, and that Bane is the one who escaped from the prison pit. But then we’re told no, that’s not it, Talia is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, and it was really her who escaped from the prison pit, Bane was merely her helper dude. So, is Bane still Ducard’s son? Does it matter? I don’t know. Isn’t Ra’s depicted as, like, Mongolian or something, in Batman Begins? If so, then why does his daughter look Mediterranean or Middle Eastern and have a Persian accent? But, wait, you say! Ken Watanabe was just a decoy, not the real Ra’s Al Ghul. Oh, that’s right! Ducard is the real Ra’s Al Ghul. I forgot. So Bane is not Ducard/Al Ghul’s son, but Talia is, and Bane was still just a random helper guy, but then why did Ducard/Bane/Your Mom/Will The Real Ra’s Al Ghul Please Stand Up leave his daughter and heir to world domination in a prison pit? See what I’m saying? Confusing, especially for a lay audience who probably didn’t go to the nine hour Batman Begins/The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises marathon at the local cineplex.

Hey man, I suffered a line-of-duty back injury that resulted in two herniated discs in my neck and a hairline fracture on my spine. I was hospitalized and the entire right side of my body was numb and I couldn’t walk for a week. I was in rehab for over a year. So, I’m pretty sure that if your back is flat out broken, assuming you didn’t die from the initial shock and trauma and internal hemorraghing, that you probably need more than just rest in a dark cold cave, malnourishment, sweaty malaria toilet water, a few push-ups, and some old fart slapping your ass before you heal right up in a few weeks and go base jumping down at the old mine on an old hemp rope with no safety harness. Yeah, even if you are Bruce Wayne.

By the way, what kind of hooptie prison encourages prisoners to try and climb out? No guards at the top, huh?

And where the hell is that prison, anyway? It looks like it’s supposed to be in some arid vaguely Middle Eastern or at least Eastern European (one of the ‘stans probably?) country, so how does Bruce get back to Gotham City so fast with no vehicles, no ID, no money, no idea what’s going on in the world since he stupidly broke the only TV, etc.?

How does he actually get into Gotham when we’re explicitly told it’s locked down tight, nobody in or out? Yet he waltzes right in just at the precise second that Catwoman needs him. Because it’s pretty easy to find one person in a post-apocalyptic city of millions that’s been cut off from the outside world, with no power, web connection, none of your crime-fighting gear, etc. He also has just enough time to plant his cute little reveal with the flare and the improvised Bat symbol for variant edition action figure Gordon-On-Ice? Shit, why not just repair the Bat spotlight at the GCPD rooftop, isn’t that more dramatic? Jazz Hands!

The Bat copter just happens to be right where Batman left it atop Wayne Tower? If Bane knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, wouldn’t that be one of the first places he’d go and poke around? I mean, he obviously found the armory beneath the building, where Applied Sciences is, right? He would have also found the board members holed up there, given that Talia is there with them and she’s actually the puppet master pulling Bane’s strings.

Security at Wayne functions sucks! Ra’s Al Ghul crashes his party in Batman Begins and torches Wayne Manor. The Joker crashes the Harvey Dent fundraiser in The Dark Knight. Catwoman infiltrates Wayne Manor as a maid to steal the pearls and prints here in Rises. You’d think security would have already been be pretty good, no? You’d think maybe they would have upgraded security since all of these other incidents occurred, no? I don’t know any billionaires, but the millionaires I know have pretty ace security. Maybe do some background checks on your catering staff, yo.

Wait, how did Lucius Fox and the board of Wayne Enterprises lose the entire company’s money in just 8 years? That’s not very realistic.

Wait, it’s 8 years later and Gotham City still has the same mayor? That’s not very realistic.

Wait, they’re celebrating the anniversary of Harvey Dent’s death 8 years later, why? That’s not very realistic.

Wait, an ace cop like Commissioner Jim Gordon would carry a written powder keg speech/confession around in his pocket that incriminates him in a massive cover-up involving prominent Gothamites so that a terrorist could find it later and use it? That's not very realistic.

I’m not sure how your Board of Directors works, but one random chick just can’t take over because Bruce Wayne tells her to. Last I checked, they’d just kicked Bruce out of a meeting since he wasn’t technically a member. This doesn’t make any sense in the real world, and it doesn’t make any sense within the internal rules we’re provided with in the movie.

I still think that squeezing The Joker and (full-on) Two Face into The Dark Knight was a mistake. No movie needs two villains. I think that movie should have been primarily The Joker’s moment to shine, and it could have ended with Dent in the hospitable bed. Reveal at the end of the credits is Dent looking at the camera to get the first Two Face reveal. That sets Two Face up to be the villain in the third movie. You still could have had him determined to destroy Gotham, the city that destroyed him, being manipulated by Talia Al Ghul at the higher level. Bane is just a dumb villain, even if you do want someone to break Batman’s back. The Dark Knight Rises then takes on yet another additional layer of meaning as The Dark Knight Rises against the former White Knight of Gotham, Harvey Dent. If y’all need a script doctor, you know where to find me.

So, wait, Wayne Enterprises is basically bankrupt because Bane broke into the Gotham City Stock Exchange and pulled off some major securities fraud, or something? That’s what happened? Umm, wouldn’t the SEC just step in and reverse those transactions and deem them invalid since they were obviously made under duress by a terrorist?

If you’re Bane and you know Bruce Wayne is Batman, in addition to going to Wayne Tower, wouldn’t one of the first places you went also be Wayne Manor? Wouldn’t homes have found the Batcave? I mean, he found the armory, he found the fusion emitter doodad, he found everything else, why not look in one of the most obvious places? Speaking of, that’s confusing too. So, let’s try to list all the places Batman has cool stuff. There’s the Batcave, there’s the “armory,” which I think is the Applied Sciences warehouse under Wayne Tower, there’s the hidden elevator office place that the reactor thing is under, there’s the other hidden shipping container thing where Bruce goes for the extra suit after he comes back to Gotham, and there’s assumably some less secure “safe house” type places around the city, like were he stashes the Batpod for Selina, etc. That’s a lot to keep track of, and I’m never clear on what Bane does/doesn’t know about (not to mention how he knows) and if that is/isn’t very logical. Fox assures us some of it is “locked down,” but Bane finds it anyway. Wouldn’t he have found it all?

Sending all 3,000 cops underground to face an unknown terrorist threat has to be one of the worst tactical plans in law enforcement history. Also, 3,000 on the force seems like a terribly inaccurately low number. Gotham City is supposed to be as big, if not bigger, than New York City, yes? NYC has 34,500 total employees in uniform. Just some basic fact checking there, Chris. Seems impossible that Bane and an army of, let’s say 200 loyalists in the League of Assassins (or is it the League of Shadows? the movie uses both terms interchangeably) and a bunch of looting rabble could overtake that army of trained and outfitted personnel operating under the incident command system with a few military special forces supporting them. It’s ludicrous when you really think about it.

So, bottom line, Talia and Bane want the fusion energy thing, right? If that’s the end goal, why go through all of this other charade bullshit? JUST STEAL IT. They know where it is, they have the scientist that can weaponize it, and they just need to kidnap 3 high level Wayne Enterprises employees who have hand geometry recognition clearance on the activation pad. If Talia has successfully infiltrated the company, she could easily pull off an insider kindapping. Don’t even fuck with Batman, just do all that shit and nuke Gotham City, him included. End of story. It just shows how convoluted the script and everyone’s motivations are. They go about things in the least direct manner possible, all in an effort to hoodwink the audience and involve the Batman, while advancing the flimsy byzantine plot.

Lastly, and possibly the most cheat-y absurd thing is that we actually see Bruce in the cockpit of the Batcopter thing with just 5 seconds left on the explosive device. So, how in the hell does he escape (what we’re explicitly told is) the 6 mile radius of the nuke? He, let’s see, he… ejects from the craft, which we don’t even know is a possibility of the vehicle, nor do we see it actually occur, so that, umm, Catwoman, yeah, let’s go with Catwoman, picks him up in another craft, like a Batsubmarine, which she also knows how to pilot, just like she knows how to drive the Batpod, I'm sure it's exactly like a motorcyle, ask all the women you know if they know how to drive a motorcyle, much less a Batpod, a plan which is never discussed, another craft which we’ve never seen, which is waiting for him at the exact place he ejects to, and they race to safety, in order to board a commercial flight to Florence, Italy as wanted fugitives with no ID and no money from a city that has been cut off from the rest of the civilized world to live happily ever after without any financial means or sources of income, under false identities they have not yet created so that nobody can trace them, but I’m sure Alfred will just casually bump into them in the unnamed café from his daydream, and they do this before time runs out on the nuclear countdown clock, a device which isn’t on any nuclear device or IED known to man, but only exists in the movies, and they do all this in… wait for it… the 5 seconds we’re shown that are left.


7.25.12 Reviews

This feels like it’s getting back to a normal week for me, meaning there isn’t all that much of interest. Without a doubt, my book of the week is Prophet #27 (Image) from Brandon Graham and Giannis Milonogiannis. I’ll also be picking up Manhattan Projects #5 (Image) and will probably flip through Debris #1 (Image) for the Riley Rossmo art and oddball post-apocalyptic salvage premise. On the GN front, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys #21 (VizMedia) is out, which is a can’t miss. Here’s a little consumer advisory for you regarding the series: there’s one more volume, #22, of 20th Century Boys before it switches to 21st Century Boys, volumes 1 and 2, to wrap up the entire 24 volume saga! Lastly, I’m not a huge Jeff Lemire fan, but if you happen to be, then Underwater Welder (Top Shelf) is also out. It’s a beautiful book and was one of the big books that the publisher was pushing at #SDCC just a-week-and-change ago.


Cutting Paper

In my haste navigating the Small Press Pavilion at #SDCC, I just randomly grabbed a few of these issues that looked the most interesting based on a quick cursory glance. Now I kinda’ wish I’d just picked them all up, because it’s easily one of the best anthologies ever crafted. It’s further  proof that if ConSARS ever wipes out Portland, the indie comics scene would basically be irrevocably decimated and the industry would likely never recover. In short, Papercutter is one of my new favorite things. Tugboat Press has an amazing eye for talent, attracting both established and upcoming creators to fashion stories that don’t fall into the stereotypical indie autobio mindless navel-gazing trap. Instead, they engage and resonate, 99% of the time firing on all visual and narrative cylinders.

Papercutter #11 (Tugboat Press): There are quick stories by Dustin Harbin and Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, but “Lululand” by Amy Adoyzie & Jon Sukarangsan is the feature piece in this issue, the sumptuous art part Charles Burns and part Jeff Smith. It’s a smart story that avoids dialogue for extended sequences, about two underemployed sisters. At times, the tale is many things, it’s a getting-to-know-you story, it’s about typical behind-the-scenes restaurant antics, and it’s about being stuck in a rut. The end is unexpectedly triumphant and proves once again that change is typically healthy. Grade A.

Papercutter #13 (Tugboat Press): Matt Wiegle’s “The Orphan Baiter” is just exquisite. It bears an almost Gorey-esque Victorian aesthetic, but hums and ducks and weaves with modern flair, full of rich background details and variable line weights giving life to the figures in the foreground. It’s a full bodied experience with a witty narrative unlike any other, about odd “vinegar workers” and the inheritance of a “Pelt The Beast” animal menagerie. Wiegle’s ear for language immediately engages and holds the reader’s attention. “Put this on. Your name is Minotaur.” Yeah. I love shit like that. “Heroes Drink Shmutz” from Tim Root is the primary back-up feature, with shaky line quality, and something I’ll quickly term “loser consumer detritus humor.” Fandom and junk food leads to petty crime, gunshots lead to flatulence. If Robert Crumb was growing up today, his work would look like a mix of Noah Van Sciver and this guy, Tim Root. It’s terrific. Grade A+.

Papercutter #14 (Tugboat Press): Honestly, you had me at "Jim Rugg" and "Farel Dalrymple," these guys being two of my favorite comics creators around. The extended travel story by Dave Roche & Nate Beaty is done in black, white, and grey washes that capture the various moods so convincingly. There are subtle humor cues that don’t assault your intelligence, all about the reality of interacting with traveling companions, yet the desire for some isolation to absorb the experience. It’s full of smart visual choices, like the seamless depiction of fading in and out of interruptions. Jim Rugg and frequent collaborator Brian Maruca contribute a lightning fast soapbox derby one-pager, but lines like “Let’s trade some paint, shithole!” tend to stick with you. Farel Dalrymple brings his quirky, beautiful line weights and sense of character design to his story. I love how he’s not afraid of inking up the page to great effect, and he even squeezes in a little Pop Gun War homage. I enjoyed his story that sees life in urban settings clashing with nature in a semaphorical (I may have just made that word up, it’s probably “semaphoric,” huh?) representation. He ends with a gorgeous back cover, and the UFO credits on the inside back page, well, I got a kick out of that too. This was very close to making the jump to “+” largely due to Dalrymple, but we’ll go with an overall Grade A.

Papercutter #17 (Tugboat Press):  This issue boasts such names as Hellen Jo and Vanessa Davis, though Jason Martin is actually the star, writing all of the pieces and being paired with different artists on each. Standouts for me included the Jesse Reklaw illustrated story about a homemade Batman villain and how writers internalize experiences that manifest in their creations. The collaboration with Francois Vigmeault makes me miss my San Jose roots, recalling frequent trips to Streetlight Records on Bascom Ave., Sam’s BBQ, Juicy Burger, The Pruneyard, the old Tower Records, and Heroes Comics in Campbell. *Sniff* The feature length piece is “Scenes From The Fire” with Calvin Wong, about a traumatic experience amid shared housing in the Bay Area and 911 foibles. “Avo” with Sarah Oleksyk has some very memorable line work that’s almost like Craig Thompson combined with Farel Dalrymple. Grade A.


Reviewer Reviewer

Runner Runner (Tugboat Press): This is the house FCBD 2012 anthology containing some hot names from the indie comics scene, including Julia Gfrorer, Elijah Brubaker, Tessa Brunton, Aron Nels Steinke, Rina Ayuyang, and Matt Wiegle, just to name a few personal favorites. Standouts pieces for me included “Kismet,” an open-ended meet-cute (in Roger Ebert parlance) that’s beautifully rendered with great lettering from cover artist Kalah Allen. Jesse Reklaw serves up a 54-panel grid on a single page (something Andy Hartzell does again later in the book), that contains a rather harmless narrative, but I marveled at the sheer spectacle of the layout itself. “There’s An Unseen World Around Us” by MK Reed & Rich Tommaso is a deceptively simple closed-loop story that’ll have you stalling on the last panel and then racing back to re-examine the first, about getting lost in the mundane of every day life. The absolutely beautiful small scale figure work reminds me of Johnny Negron's outrageously curvaceous women. Drew Weing frames some individual shots to punctuate story beats, which form a larger mosaic composition in a very slick effort. Rina Ayuyang’s single page captures the parental balancing act I often describe to people as “an unrelenting attempt to reconcile consistency with flexibility.” Galen Longstreth & Aaron Renier created “Apostrophe Lost,” denoting the difference between possession and plurality with apostrophes, one of my biggest grammatical pet peeves – along with “then” vs. “than,” and touch on the nature of the female sense of self and insecurity in the face of the domineering male ego. Matt Wiegle turns in a glorious two-page spread which follows the protagonists through a backward s-curve of a story. I really love his art. There’s nothing else to say. “Walnut St.” by Jason Martin makes me nostalgic for my years spent on East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, eating pozole at The Palomar Inn, vegetarian dumplings at Pearl, the crunch of the cabbage in the burritos at Costa Brava, and far too many beers at Seabright Brewery, oh I could go on about the women too, but I’m totally digressing… Minty Lewis & Damien Jay’s 6-pager becomes the feature-length tale in the project based on sheer page count. “In Theory” proves again why I never get tired of the detailed line work of Tessa Brunton, while Kazmir Strzepek suggests the hiddren and hilarious potential down side of FCBD, and Lilli Carre brings it all home with the beautifully colored end-piece. If there’s a single aspect of craft unifying the pieces in Runner Runner it’s that mini-comics creators tend to violate the “show vs. tell” rule much less than their mainstream counterparts. In short, you should never tell if you can show, and you should really never show and tell when you can pick just one or the other. It doesn’t matter if you’re depicting what a handwritten letter says or the grade received on an essay, Runner Runner and its creators understand the duality of the medium and when to emphasize the visual component in lieu of those pesky words. Thematically, all of the work sort of examines our place in the world, as kids, as adults, as outsiders, as lovers, as people just navigating existence, all wanting to find a place, trying to capture that universal sense of belonging to be truly self-actualized. Grade A.


7.18.12 Reviews

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com

X-Men #32 (Marvel): It’s almost as if David Lopez is getting better exponentially with each issue; check out the level of detail in those opening shots of Quebec City in the rain. You know what I really love in this issue? It’s the way that Storm and Colossus talk to each other, like reasonable adults who respect each other and have history together, but who just happen to be having a fundamental disagreement. They’re not shouting and punching and acting stupid, the hallmark of lesser superhero scuffles (I mean, really, part of the reason I can’t “buy” the whole AVX thing is that it just boils down to Scott Summer and Steve Rogers not being able to sit down and have a rational conversation, but I digress). Another great part of the scripting is the philosophical debate surrounding what authority governs this team’s actions and the true power of raw information. Storm succinctly characterizes the team as “Mutant First Responders,” which is a super clean sound byte that could probably supplant my tired comparisons to Authority or Planetary. Maybe I just miss Wildstorm. It’s a little thing, but I also dug the intro of Magik, the use of the Russian language, mentions of the Crimean, etc. It just goes to show the research, or at least the whiff of authenticity, that Wood saturates his scripts in. There’s a huge jump in intensity, stakes, and tension here, as Wood and Lopez turn the dial up to 11. Grade A.

Saga #5 (Image): The early drop of the word “miscegenation” is a nice way to summarize this intergalactic Romeo & Juliet, a plague on both their species it seems, not just their respective houses. BKV continues to build the world, shifting the POV around from Marko & Alana on the run to Prince Robot and his own background, and then to freelance bounty hunter The Will and his apparent backstory with The Stalk. I still get the sense that Vaughan is not done pushing toward the edges to flesh the world out, and because of that he’s not 100% focused on the thrust of the narrative yet, still introducing characters and establishing their relationships, but it's interesting nonetheless. We see Marko in action, really for the first time, as a warrior with pacifist tendencies finally unleashed. I like a lot of the little things in the issue, stuff like “the horns and the wings” as slang shorthand for the different species. Those small touches of realism are quite convincing. I like the owner of the Slave Girl holding The Will’s pet hostage and the weird negotiation they go through, highlighting the sense of commerce in this world. I have to agree with artist Fiona Staples and her :( about the final image, but kudos to Vaughan for willingness to make these types of consequential decisions. Staples has received a lot of praise for her work. I too think she’s doing a bang-up job, particularly on the lovely backgrounds. So much care is being taken to create an effect that looks like watercolor washes, reminiscent of the late Ralph McQuarrie’s early LucasFilm concept work. If I have any criticism for Staples, it’s that occasionally everything else looks pale in comparison. Some of the foreground figures can look flat in contrast to the beautiful backgrounds, some panels have very stark single color or plain white backgrounds in comparison, and one or two times there are some odd angles that look unnatural, like the contorted Alana when she’s piloting the ship. Those are small gripes though in an otherwise distinct career high. At the end of the day, I enjoy Saga because it offers a full spectrum of emotion. Like real life, it can be boring, funny, sad, heartfelt, contain action, surprise, birth, death, and the full gamut of existence. Grade A-.


7.18.12 Releases

Usually you expect a bit of a shipping lull post-Comic Con because people will claim WAIT I SPENT ALL MY MONEY AT COMIC-CON! and publishers will claim WAIT WE PUT OUT OUR BEST STUFF AT COMIC-CON!, but this still seems like a pretty robust week. Man, it’s going to be close, but the book of the week is probably a toss-up for me between Saga #5 (Image) and Brian Wood’s adjectiveless X-Men #32 (Marvel). Those are the only two books that I’ll be purchasing for certain, while everything else is a mish-mash of mentions. If I was still buying company owned books, I’d surely give Captain Marvel #1 (Marvel) a flip because of its Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy pedigree, along with Batwoman #11 (DC), which I think is the last issue of the arc before JH3 (artist on the newly announced Sandman prequel with Neil Gaiman!) jumps back on and attempts to right the good ship Kate Kane. I’ll give Glory #28 (Image) a flip, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking a break from that title because it just doesn’t wow me in the same way some of its contemporary Image offerings have. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to give Danger Girl / GI Joe #1 (IDW) a flip through for the pure nostalgic kitsch of it. Lastly, on the GN front I recommend the Christos Gage written Sunset HC (Image) because the $1 teaser that came out last week was surprisingly gripping if you need more of the crime noir genre if your life.


7.11.12 Reviews (Part 2/2)

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com
Punk Rock Jesus #1 (DC/Vertigo): God bless Sean Murphy for giving me a reason to read a frickin’ Vertigo book now that DMZ, Northlanders, and Scalped (in one more issue!) have all wrapped. This is the one I was waiting for. The pitch of “cloning Jesus Christ” seems like cheap shock value vapid kitsch when you first hear it, but that dismissal is a sin. I always knew Murphy could draw like nobody’s business, just look at Joe The Barbarian or American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. But who knew this cat could weave together such a compelling portrait of hyper-intense dystopian politics, media, science, and bold cultural implications? Murphy bares his soul about his own crisis of faith and you can almost see his mind working here in front of you, trying to work it all out, shades of himself in every one of the characters, the dutiful company man, the rogue agent, the person of belief, the person of science, the naïve one, the skeptic, they’re all here, amid IRA intrigue and a harsh black and white aesthetic that calls to mind the slightly tongue in cheek brutality of something like Joe Casey’s The Milkman Murders. Don’t miss this one, folks. It pulls no punches, all the way through to the last panel. Grade A+.
Wild Children (Image): It seems like in one fell swoop, Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo have created a sovereign youth anthem for the 21st century. It’s an uprising against generational control, it’s higher consciousness achieved via 9-panel grids. Superficially, it’s that old Columbine freak-out ditty about anarchist kids taking over a high school, and honestly on two occasions it risks getting lost in its own superfluous verbiage, but by the time the fourth wall breaks and you hear the line “We’re in a two dimensional sequential reality,” you’re having so much stylish fun, you could care less about some of the sophomoric pitfalls of craft. At times, this book feels like a cross between the youth power manifestation elements of Brian Wood’s Demo and Grant Morrison’s highly subversive The Invisibles. Or, maybe, it’s like Before Invisibles. You can almost imagine this as the origin story of the kids that grew up to be the Morrison wunderkind. The book is a transcendent experience that feels like sequential art LSD, self-referential about the medium it operates in: “The new aesthetic needs to get weirder.” Fuckin’ A, it does. That’s basically why I stopped reading company owned books in favor of paradigm shattering creator-owned swing-for-the-fences-and-don’t-be-afraid-to-strike-out shit like this in their stead. That line is like an artistic call to arms that challenges every creator to just do more, do different, do better. The book isn’t perfect, but that’s why you fall in love with it. “We’re a cultural trigger” is my new favorite line. Grade A.
Sunset: First Look One-Shot (Image): This is a $1 teaser for a larger hardcover graphic novel coming out… soon(?) I guess(?). Anyway, I’ve mentioned before how absolutely burned out I am on noir and crime noir and Ed Brubaker’s entire oeuvre and stuff like Parker and blah blah blah, but this was pretty good! It moves at an incredibly brisk pace and, without spoiling anything, introduces the proverbial guy with a mysterious past, one which quickly catches up to him with intense violence, who now literally has nothing left to lose. It’ll apparently jump forward to a showdown with the local mob boss in Las Vegas and the chilling, highly detailed art that’s somewhere in the inky nexus between Matthew Southworth, Jason Shawn Alexander, and Danijel Zezelj is totally up for the noir-charged task. Grade A.
Sparrow & Crowe #1 (Hermes Press): Man, I really don’t know why I bought this. It totally sucks. It’s trying to do some sort of paranormal investigator with the plucky female sidekick in a near-future PKD meets Warren Ellis Los Angeles bit, but oh god, does it not connect. The dialogue just sort of flits around with no causality linking it from scene to scene, the art makes things look like a lost barrio in 1970’s Bakersfield instead of anything resembling a futuristic LA and blah blah blah demons I think they said this used to be a radio show (maybe in the UK?). Wonky art and clichéd characters that seem like watered down copies of copies of copies lacking the original fidelity of Warren Ellis’ Apparat Singles Group. Grade C-.


7.11.12 Reviews (Part 1/2)

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com
The Massive #2 (Dark Horse): The more of The Massive I see, the more it becomes clear that it’s an immaculate piece of world-building, both scripting and visually. Hong Kong is a hundred feet under water, there’s the threat of pirates, radar blips from missing ships, and everyone untrusting of everyone else they encounter, and absolutely everyone untrusting of their immediate future on planet Earth. Kristian Donaldson makes the flashbacks fuzzy like memories can be, while Brian Wood adds a sense of personal consequence to all of the big plot hooks. I also appreciate the fact that the crew of The Kapital is now not only searching for their sister ship, The Massive, lost at sea, but also explicitly the cause of The Crash that radically altered the planet. “Backmatter” is a term that, I think, Warren Ellis coined back when he and Matt Fraction were experimenting with Image Comics’ $1.99 “slimline” format on Fell and the original incarnation of Casanova, but truthfully it’s something Brian Wood has always done, whether it was soundtracks in Local or more traditional bonus material in Demo. Here, it’s as if it’s the ultimate version of “backmatter,” incorporating the type of journal entries Antony Johnston uses in Wasteland, b-character profiles, faux pictures, classified documents, Ninth Wave campaign patches, maps, timelines, etc. There’s enough content in the bonus section to fuel an entire issue, hell, probably an entire arc, of any lesser comic. Yeah, it’s generous and creative, but it’s also signposting Wood’s own personal commitment to the single issue, and incentivizing support of that format. Grade A.
Conan The Barbarian #6 (Dark Horse): I think each issue of this Conan run has really honed in on a different theme with every issue. This time out, the idea of faith in other people, trust, seems to be front and center as Conan and Belit trade places, he’s now rescuing her. On top of that, N’Yaga is a very Yoda-esque figure, Harren is turning in some brutal and unexpected violence, Kirby-esque facial contortions, and we get a Conan who is still young, still learning, and capable of getting in over his head. At the end of the day, it shows us that during stressful situations, people’s true colors come out, for better or worse. I enjoyed the way that during a manic horseback ride through Messantia, Conan has time to get introspective and consider his actions. Ultimately, Conan and Belit literally sail off into the sunset, as a sort of Hyborian Bonnie & Clyde. Grade A.
Ultimate Comics: X-Men #14 (Marvel): You’ve gotta’ appreciate the iconic nature of that Dave Johnson cover, with Kitty poised as an arm-banded mutant resistance fighter (though I’m sure the US Government would go ahead and label her an insurgent “terrorist”). My only real criticism is that nothing much happens except setting the stage, it’s a travel story that is largely a “getting there” issue, but that’s more the fault of outgoing writer Nick Spencer, and Wood trying to redirect the plot toward something more meaningful and clear. More than anything, I just love the way that Kitty Pryde (my favorite mutant) recognizes the leadership vacuum, creates a mutant resistance mostly out of sheer will and determination, and is willing to just throw herself right into the middle of not just a US Civil War that sees states seceding from the Union (DMZ, anyone?), but basically a race war in the dystopian tradition of some of the most lauded X-Men stories of all time. The themes are all relevant, and if you find yourself in a weird slice of fandom as someone who loved Marvel’s Mutants as a kid, but grew up to appreciate the socially relevant work in Wood books like Channel Zero or DMZ, well, then it's time to come back, you should be eating this up. Grade A-.
The Defenders #8 (Marvel): I picked this up for a coworker, but I admit I was interested to see what Jamie McKelvie would bring to the title. He’s a great artist and I tried the first issue of this with little success. No doubt the art is fantastic and the best part of the book. McKelvie’s clean and crisp style seems to walk the fine line between providing a sense of fun, yet still having enough gravitas to pull off the serious or dangerous moments. I feel like we’re really starting to see writers who came up in the wake of Warren Ellis’ influence (Fraction, Wood, etc.) internalize some of his “Good Afternoon, My Little Vectors of Contagion” schtick. I’ve been comparing Wood’s X-Men run to Planetary, and I’ll be damned if this doesn’t have a twinge of that as well (with a little LOEG motif thrown in for good measure). It’s an eclectic team traveling the world to eliminate secret threats. On the one hand, it’s great to see a stylish artist match up to Fraction’s big ideas. On the other hand, when the lines are as expositional as “I am filling you with a poison now” and I really have no idea who’s doing what and why, it’s not quite strong enough to warrant my full attention – even if I was still buying company owned properties. Grade B+.
Saucer Country #5 (DC/Vertigo): It’s really like that TV show you can’t decide to keep watching or not. It’s ok, it’s interesting, but it just doesn’t blow you away or click with you. For five issues now, I’ve been enjoying Ryan Kelly’s great art (still not as amazing as his best-of-his-career-to-date bravura performance on the Eisner Award Nominated The New York Five with Brian Wood, but great nonetheless) and essentially waiting for the story to do something. The elevator pitch is great; it’s X-Files meets The West Wing! But unfortunately, I’m seeing less of the political intrigue of the latter, and more of the plot and internal mythology indecisiveness of the former. In short, maybe there’s aliens and maybe there’s not, maybe it’s a government conspiracy and maybe it’s not, maybe some people know and maybe they don't, maybe someone's lying and maybe they're not, maybe we'll find out some day and maybe we'll be strung along and kept in limbo for years with no frickin' resolution. There's lots of characters try to decipher a confluence of memory, myth, belief, reality, metaphor, and fact. The problem is that it just feels like it’s aimlessly meandering now, interesting, but hasn’t set any objectives and therefore can’t meet them.  At the end of the first arc, we’re no further along than we were in issue one. I feel like it’s spinning its wheels. I’m out for now, but this is the type of book I could visit again in trade. Grade B.


New Mini-Comics & Small Press Reviews

Hey, it's another one of those weeks (blame San Diego Comic-Con) where I'm not sure if I'll get to mainstream-y reviews with any degree of certainty, so here's a batch of mini-comics and small press reviews over at Poopsheet Foundation to tide you over.


STRIPBURGER #57 by Various

BLACKGUARD #4 by Various

TEMPLE by Jun K. Lee


7.11.12 Releases

“Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends.” That means it’s time for San Diego Comic-Con this week, so regular reviews will probably be late to non-existent. But, be sure to follow me @thirteenminutes to get micro-reviews in lieu of the full length variety. In any case, here are the books I’d spend my money on this week. First up, it’s the new Brian Wood hotness with The Massive #2 (Dark Horse). Here’s a little secret, I’ve read the issue and things really pick up fast, so be sure to jump on board this title if you haven’t already. It’s one of those weeks where Brian has a little something to offer everyone, so if a reinterpretation of the REH classic is more your speed, you’ll need to grab Conan The Barbarian #6 (Dark Horse) at your LCS. If Marvel’s Mutants are what's up your alley, you can always try Ultimate Comics: X-Men #14 (Marvel), which kicks off the Ultimate Crossover Event “Divided We Fall” with Wood co-helming the melee. With nearly everything I was reading wrapped at the imprint, Vertigo will try to hold onto some of my personal market-share with Saucer Country #5 (DC/Vertigo). This is the last issue of the first arc, so I’ll be buying, reading, then re-reading the entire first chunk to see if I’ll be sticking with the title long term. I’ll probably also try Punk Rock Jesus #1 (DC/Vertigo). If nothing else, it will surely be worth it for the Sean Murphy art, and hey, let’s see if the dude can write. There’s a chance I might check out Bloodshot #1 (Valiant), even though the other number one issues have been severely underwhelming. Lastly, for just $1, I might be compelled to check out Sunset: First Look One-Shot (Image) from Christos Gage, a writer I usually kinda’ like, if it passes the flip test at the LCS. On the collected edition front, I recommend Casanova: Avaritia TPB (Marvel/Icon), collecting the recently wrapped series from Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba, as well as Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks HC (IDW), which is, I believe, the penultimate installment of this series.


New Mini-Comics & Small Press Reviews

With the Independence Day holiday interrupting my regular schedule this week (hint: that means mainstream-y reviews might be a day or two late), I thought I’d hit you with a link-dump to a recent batch of small press and mini-comics reviews I posted over at Poopsheet Foundation to tide you over with new content. 2D Cloud really is the rising star publisher of this bunch; I’m particularly taken by the quirky art style and subdued hilarity in Prizon Food. So tell yourself it’s “Independents Day” and check them out!

PRIZON FOOD #1 by Eric Schuster & Joseph Gillette

PRIZON FOOD #2 by Eric Schuster & Joseph Gillette

ARTHUR TURNKEY #1 by Toby Jones & Alex Horab


DARK BANJO #3 by D. Johnston

BRAD TRIP by Various

OM by Piotr Nowacki

COLD WIND by Dan Mazur & Jesse Lonergan

NURSE NURSE by Katie Skelly

SPAZ! #5 by Emi Gennis

PASSAGE by Tessa Brunton


Mind MGMT [Shotgun Blurbs]

by Contributing Writer Keith Silva

Published by Dark Horse Comics
Creator: Matt Kindt

What It's About: Meru is down to her last dime, delinquent and past due. Her prior success as a best-selling true-crime writer has long since been remaindered to yesterday. Desperate, she decides to divine the truth of Flight 815, aka: The Amnesia Flight. Save for a seven-year-old boy, each passenger who boarded the plane forgot their previous life mid-flight. It has been two years and no one that was on Flight 815 can remember their past. To marry mystery to conspiracy, the flight manifest lists 121 passengers aboard, but only 120 disembarked. The missing passenger, Henry Lyme, has, so far, not been found. Meru interviews survivors only to run down cul-de-sacs and dead ends. Her editor sends her to chase after another chimera in Santa Teresa, Mexico, a sepulchral town as friable and fragile as Meru herself. Where's Mind MGMT in all this? Nowhere. Everywhere.

Why You Should Buy It: Mind MGMT immerses the reader in a world both familiar and foreign. Mysteries loop around enigmas and tie off in conspiracies. Matt Kindt works in a sublime spare style that hides its complexity within the asperity of sketched lines and austere backgrounds. The sublime, subliminal, and just plain weird all make manifest in Mind MGMT. Automatic unpredictability pervades the script. Fights incite fire bombings that become bullets to the head and machetes to the neck; and yet it all fits somehow like a set of nested dolls. Kindt takes a tired mystery and makes it hyper-imaginative. Mind MGMT looks like a simple calculation: A (mystery) + B (conspiracy) = X-Files by way of Lost. When in reality (which is always suspect in Mind MGMT), the equation reads more like A + B = a three mast frigate or a rhinoceros. Take your pick.

7.04.12 Releases

Well, it’s a light week, which suits me just fine since my normal routine will probably be interrupted by holiday plans and some family in town visiting. Nevertheless, I’ll wholeheartedly recommend Danger Club #3 (Image) which is a fantastic new title concerning the collapse of the superhero paradigm. I’m also excited to check out Mind MGMT #2 (Dark Horse) from the inimitable Matt Kindt, as a sort of post-9/11 psychological thriller in his beautifully rendered color washes. I’m still not financially supporting anything Before Watchmen related, but *if* I was going to buy a title, this is probably the one that I’d come closest to because of the creative team, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 (DC) also hits stores this week. I’ll give it a flip. What looks good to you?