Thursday, November 30, 2006

Finally! Something resembling a schedule!

So I'm actually sort of on time reviewing comics that came out this week. My problem is that I often don't finish reading the week's books until Thursday evening or so, and then I read others' reviews, and don't have much to say. So the key is probably to try to write reviews as I read the comics, and don't read other people's reviews until I've written mine (unless I'm stumped and need something to talk about, or whatever). So anyway, with that boring introspection out of the way, here we go:

Batman/The Spirit
Written by Jeph Loeb (and Darwyn Cooke?)
Art by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone

I expressed reservations about buying this when I did my preview this week, and I should have listened to my gut; instead, I flipped through it in the shop and was taken with the art. Plus, there's the Joker! And Harley Quinn! And P'Gell! And Poison Ivy! I didn't resist hard enough. The story is pretty much what I expected, with Loeb throwing every character he can into an incoherent plot, with some very pretty artwork by Cooke. Unfortunately, the plot is much too incoherent, even by Loeb's standards. It concerns Commisioners Gordon and Dolan, from Gotham City and Central city, respectively, going away to attend a police convention in Hawaii. Lots of police gathered together is too easy of a target to refuse, so pretty much all the criminals from both cities follow along, planning to participate in a bloodbath. Batman and The Spirit also follow along, intending to thwart the thugs. Hilarity ensues, or at least Loeb thinks it does. Unfortunately, he crams way too many characters and not enough action into the book. The plot moves at a breakneck pace, but not in a good, Morrisonesque way; rather, it is a confusing dash from one scene to the next, ignoring characterization and logic on the way. For instance, before he leaves for Hawaii, Gordon introduces his new girlfriend to his daughter Barbara; it is a beautiful woman several years his junior named P'Gell. And at the Central City airport, Dolan runs into an intoxicating woman named Ivy. Now, these guys are accomplished police detectives (commisioners, remember?). Shouldn't they recognize the high-profile criminals right in front of them? Later, the criminals are carrying out their scheme, and Batman and the Spirit separately sneak up on them. When they stumble into each other, they get into a fistfight, and Batman keeps saying "Hush" to the Spirit. Ooh, Loeb, you're so clever, referencing another story you wrote. Ugh. Then the criminals, led by Scarface (the ventriloquist dummy gangster), shoot them up a bunch and blow up the building they are hiding in. Except it turns out the ventriloquist is actually Robin in disguise, and he switched most of the bad guys' bullets with blanks, and the building actually blew up because of a low-grade explosive that he planted. Now come on, that's just straining credibility. And then the big showdown happens where Poison Ivy has brainwashed Dolan into shooting Gordon and then pushing a button that will blow up everybody at the conference. Batman and Spirit rush to the scene, but they're too late! Luckily, the Joker decided to switch the gun for a trick gun and the explosives for confetti. HIGH-larious. Oh, and all the rest of the criminals don't actually participate in the scheme; they just watch through binoculars from a boat (including Catwoman and P'Gell, who convinced The Spirit and Batman, respectively, that they were working for the FBI. I thought they were sort of good guys. Why are they going along with a scheme to murder hundreds of policemen?). What's the point of even having them in the story, other than just to cram them into a panel so people can play "spot the Riddler"?

So, the story sucks. The highlight of the book is definitely Cooke's art. I'll go ahead and include what I thought were the best panels; that way you don't have to waste your money on the book.

Here's the splash page introducing the Spirit:



I like the way this mimics Eisner's splash pages. There's also one with Batman, but it's not quite as good.

Here's a fun scene at a masquerade ball:



I like the chubby couple dressed as Green Arrow and Black Canary, and also Riddler and Penguin dressed up as each other.

And here's a good splash page with Batman and Spirit dodging bullets:



By the way, this is the scene where we later find out that they were being shot at with blanks, so I don't know what is supposed to be impacting all the stuff around them. Looks nice, though.

Here's another shot from the same scene:



I love how Scarface is holding the gun within the puppeteer's hand. Although that's Robin posing as the puppeteer. I guess he really got into character.

There are some other decent-looking scenes, like a cameo by Superman (dammit, Loeb!), but these are what I thought were the best. Not really that much for $5.00. I should have saved my money. I'm really hoping this is not an indication of the quality of Cooke's upcoming ongoing Spirit series. I had been looking forward to that; hopefully the absence of Loeb will be a boon.

Nextwave #10
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger

Now this is a book I have no problems with. It's been coming out consistently, with hilarious writing by Warren Ellis and wonderful art by Stuart Immonen. I don't really follow many of the main Marvel books (or DC books, for that matter); I tend to like the small titles on the periphery of the "universe", and Nextwave is by far the most peripheral. Is that part of why it's the most enjoyable? This issue ends the second to last storyline of volume 1 of the book. There's some of the usual violence (gotta love when The Captain squeezes a bad guy's guts all over the ringleaders of the Beyond Corp.), but the majority of this issue is a showcase for Immonen's art as the team is nearly destroyed by the greatest menace in the Marvel Universe: Forbush Man (it brings me great joy to type that), who traps them all in their minds in soul-crushingly horrible possible futures. These fantasy sequences are where Immonen really gets to show off, emulating the art styles of other comics greats. I scanned in some examples (click to see bigger versions). This is Monica Rambeau's nightmare, in which she's trapped in some sort of hippie 60's dystopia:





Jog reports that Ellis says he was influenced by Brendan McCarthy's recent issue of Solo in this issue, and I think this sequence shows it the most. Mostly because I have no idea what the fuck is going on, but it's still pretty cool. However, I think the artist Immonen is imitating is Paul Pope, which is a great choice for the gritty atmosphere.

Here's a bit from the Machine Man sequence:



I think Immonen's going for an Adrian Tomine/Daniel Clowes feel here. Any other possibilities?

I'm kind of stumped by the influece for The Captain's scene:



Jog suggests Ellis's own Ruins as a possible reference, but I haven't read that series, so I'm not sure if the art is similar or just the atmosphere that the writing evokes. I'm thinking maybe Brian Wood or somebody similar, but I could be wrong. Immonen might just be going for a really dark version of his own style. By the way, I love the titles of the comics at Cap's feet there: "Betrayal", "Love is Dead", "Constant War", "No Life". Very depressing. Also, the Easter Island-style Stan Lee and Jack Kirby heads are great.

I don't, however, have any trouble perceiving the influence of Elsa Bloodstone's nightmare. It's Mike Mignola all the way:







Check out those monsters. Looks like they came straight out of Hellboy!

So, another highly enjoyable issue of one of my favorite current series(es). The end leads directly into next issue's "final battle". I can't wait!

Crossing Midnight #1
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Jim Fern and Rob Hunter

This new Vertigo series looked pretty interesting, and I'm glad I picked it up. It's about a pair of Japanese siblings (twin brother and sister) who were born under somewhat mysterious circumstances. When their mother was pregnant with them, their grandmother (on their father's side) insisted that their father offer up a prayer for a safe pregnancy to a shrine that she owned. When the baby was born, it turned out it was actually twins, although the ultrasound only showed one fetus and only one heartbeat could be heard. The brother, Kai, was born on November 14th, and the sister, Toshi, was born on the 15th, just after midnight (hence the title). As the kids grow up, they discover strange, supernatural things happening around them, such as the discovery of a portal to a sort of fantasy world and Toshi's seeming invulnerability to personal injury. On what I think is their 15th birthday (it's in 2006, but the book doesn't give a date for their birth; it just says they are in senior high school), they are confronted by a supernatural being that demands payment, seemingly in return for answering the prayer their father originally offered to his mother's shrine. There are some other details, but this is the first chapter of the story (the title page says part 1 of 3), and I'm sure more will be explained. There are a lot of little details that will probably be important later, like the fact that this all takes place in Nagasaki, and the twins' grandmother is a survivor of the atomic bomb. Much of the story seems to be rooted in Japanes folklore and religion as well. There are some good non-supernatural details in the writing also, fleshing out the characters' personalities (the kids like Gundam; Toshi becomes sullen and argumentative toward their parents as she gets older; the parents begin to experience relationship problems when the father puts too much energy into his unsatisfying job). Really, Carey does a surprisingly good job of introducing all this in the space of one issue. I'm not familiar with the artist, Jim Fern, but he also does well. His art is like that of a less-busy Lienil Francis Yu (which is good, since the book is mostly quiet character moments rather than big action). It's a very interesting debut, and I'll definitely be picking up the second issue to see where it goes.

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That's it for what I've read so far. I still have a few more comics to read, so I might put up some more reviews in the next few days. I bought Acme Novelty Library #17; who knows how long it will take me to read, and I don't know if I'll be able to express anything after I'm done. I love Chris Ware's stuff, but it's hard for me to talk about. I'll see if I can muster something coherent after I've finished it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hey, the title of this movie is a double entendre!

Down in the Valley, directed by David Jacobson, 2006

For a while there, Edward Norton was one of my favorite actors, but he hasn’t done much of note in recent years. It seemed like the last thing of interest that he did was The 25th Hour back in 2002 (although I was pleased to find out that he was the masked king in Kingdom of Heaven, a character that I found to be one of the highlights of a tepid movie). So it’s great to see him back in full force in Down in the Valley, which came out earlier this year. The film is an interesting one, attempting to combine a sort of modern take on the western with the “disaffected youth in suburbia” genre.

I was wondering where the movie was going in the first 15 minutes or so. It starts off kind of slow, with scenes of two teenage siblings wandering around their neighborhood in the titular San Fernando Valley. The girl, Tobe (short for October), is played by Evan Rachel Wood, a very talented young actress (she was great in the satirical Pretty Persuasion). Her 13-year-old brother Lonnie is played by Rory Culkin, of the highly revered Culkin family. They seem to be experiencing some of the typical ennui of youth, although they get along well, seeming to have a close relationship. She teaches him to spit (smoking helps), and they wait around for their dad (David Morse, of “oh yeah, that guy” fame) to come home. Then on spring break Tobe takes a trip to the beach with her friends. Along the way they stop for gas, and the station attendant is this goofy-looking guy dressed in jeans and a cowboy hat (Edward Norton, of course). Tobe’s friends laugh and make fun of him, calling him “Tex”, but Tobe seems pretty interested in him and invites him to come to the beach with them. He agrees, even though it means losing his job. They seem to get along well; after interrogation from her friends, she finds out his name is Harlan and he’s from South Dakota, where he used to work on a ranch. After a fun time at the beach, Tobe basically seduces him, and they fall into a torrid relationship, seemingly unable to get enough of each other. Harlan seems like a nice enough guy; he treats Tobe well, buying her a pretty dress, and he respects Lonnie, talking to him in a non-condescending way and treating him like an equal. Something seems strange about him, especially when he can’t really answer why he is living in the San Fernando Valley, so far away from any of the ranches that he claims to have worked on. Wade, the kids’ father, seems especially leery of him (by the way, I’m not sure what age Norton is supposed to be playing, but his character has to be a good ten years older than Wood’s. In real life, he’s 38 and she’s 19, which is quite a gap.), but Tobe is obviously smitten, and he’s not close enough to her to really talk about it.

Things start to get especially weird with Harlan when he takes her out for a horseback ride and a picnic in the country. Upon returning the horse, the owner greets them with a shotgun, claiming they stole it. Harlan claims he knows the guy and had permission, but the guy is adamant that he’s never seen him before. The cops show up to intervene, and Tobe’s father is called to pick her and Harlan up. As you can imagine, he’s not very happy about it. Harlan claims it’s all a misunderstanding and that the owner (who, admittedly, is a bit elderly) has gone off his medication. This is the first real sign that something is not quite right with Harlan. He seems to fill the cowboy role well; his posture and manner of speaking definitely fit the down-home country type. But is he really what he says he is, or is he just a crazy guy living out a fantasy? We see him in his apartment, acting out scenes from westerns. This seems kind of strange, but is it just harmless acting, or is he losing his mind? It doesn’t help that he’s waving around a couple of real six-shooters. After the corral incident, Wade tries to forbid Tobe from seeing Harlan, but being a teenage girl she freaks out, punches him, slams doors, breaks windows, and says she hates him. Lonnie also doesn’t want to see him go, since he seems to be the only person who treats him like an adult. Harlan doesn’t help things when he shows up a few days later, and since Tobe isn’t there, he takes Lonnie out for some target practice, demonstrating to him the art of the quick draw. As you can imagine, this doesn’t go over well with Wade.

We eventually find out the truth about Harlan, but I don’t want to spoil it here. I will say that he’s the kind of person that has an idea about how things should go, and can be dangerous when reality doesn’t match up to his ideas. He tries to get Tobe to run away with him, saying they will eventually send for Lonnie. She loves him, but by this point even she is starting to see that something is not right with him, and she’s put in a dilemma that can’t turn out well for anybody.

The actors are all great in their roles. Norton especially makes you fall for him at the beginning of the story, but see how messed up he is by the end. He’s very charming, and he has the country-boy persona down to a T. Wood is also great; as in Pretty Persuasion (the only other movie of hers that I’ve seen, but I imagine she plays a similar role in Thirteen), she’s a very sexual being, and you can see why Norton would be attracted to her to the point of obsession. Culkin does well as the shy kid who nobody pays much attention to, and he makes the naivetĂ© that causes him to site with Harlan believable. And David Morse, veteran character actor that he is, is very good as the semi-absent father who just wants what’s best for his kids. He’s definitely not the perfect father, sometimes getting a little violent, but it’s obvious that he loves his kids and can tell that Harlan is not good for them. I probably feel for him the most, since he can’t help but come off as a bad guy to them even though he’s just trying to help. I don’t think many other actors would have been able to pull it off; most would have just made the character into an abusive asshole.

Director David Jacobson does a really good job with his own script. He’s a relative newcomer; the only other notable film he’s done is Dahmer, which I believe was a straight-to-DVD thriller about the serial killer. This film is obviously very personal, and it is based in part on his experiences as a child growing up in the San Fernando Valley. He uses the locations well; there are scenes in locations that look like fields in the country but turn out to be in the middle of a sea of highways, billboards, strip malls, and gas stations. It’s also shot very well; we often see beautiful expressive views of the Valley that almost make it look natural. He says in a Q&A feature on the DVD that he was trying to evoke the spirit of old westerns, especially the sense of loneliness that characters in those films feel, and he was also trying to relate that to modern suburban life. I think he succeeds very well. There are also some good touches; I particularly liked a scene in which Norton and another character wander into what appears to be an old west town, with people milling about in western garb and even square dancing. It turns out to be the set of a movie that is filming, but for a couple minutes it is very surreal, and I was even starting to think that it might all be playing out in Norton’s mind. Very effective. Also, the movie’s score consists of some excellent, atmospheric country music by Peter Salett. I don’t listen to much country, but I probably would listen to more if more of it was like this.

Overall, it’s an excellent movie that I heartily recommend. I hope this means Norton will be returning to meaty roles that he can sink his teeth into (he’s currently in production on an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn, which is a perfect fit for him). I’m also expecting Wood to blossom into a respected actress in her own right. And I’ll keep an eye on this Jacobson fellow.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekly preview

So here's the second installment of what I hope will be a weekly feature:

New comics this week (Wednesday, 11/29/2006):

GOON WICKED INCLINATIONS VOL 5 TPB (MR)  $14.95
I buy the monthly issues of The Goon, so I won't be getting this, but I would recommend it for anyone who wants to read one of the funniest comics currently being published. Of course, this volume probably wouldn't be the best place to start, but it does contain some good stories, particularly the one(s?) about The Buzzard, and great addition to the book's regular zany cast.

BATMAN #659 $2.99
So, this clears up my confusion regarding this title (although I probably could have figured it out sooner if I'd bothered); this issue begins the fill-in arc by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, which I won't be buying. Nothing against those two, but the only reason I'm buying Batman is Grant Morrison, so I'll wait until he comes back (with or without Andy Kubert (preferably without)).

BATMAN THE SPIRIT $4.99
Now this is one I'm torn on. I like Darwyn Cooke, but I don't like Jeph Loeb. The plot sounds like Loeb's usual schtick: cram as many characters into the book as can fit. It's also slightly pricey, but it's sized to fit (48 pages). I'll probably wait and read some reviews before I get it.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #1 (MR) $2.99
I'll probably pick this one up. I'm not sold on Mike Carey, but the concept is interesting, and I usually give new Vertigo series a try-out. Hopefully it will be good. The plot has something to do with a pair of Japanese twins that are born in different years (you know, on either side of midnight, hence the title), resulting in magic and stuff. Wow, I need to get better at summarizing these things.

EX MACHINA VOL 4 MARCH TO WAR TP (MR) $12.99
Here's the new volume of what's probably my favorite series currently being published, although it's another one that I buy monthly. This volume concerns Mayor Hundred's reaction to a terrorist attack on anti-war demonstrations in the lead-up to the current war in Iraq, among other plots. A good storyline in a great book.

ART OF BRIAN BOLLAND HC $49.99
Wow, this is probably pretty sweet. Damn expensive, but sure to have some great art. I can't afford it. I don't usually buy artbooks, for that very reason, but there are a few artists that might make me splurge. I should search out the James Jean one from a couple years ago, and Paul Pope has one coming up that I'm probably not going to be able to resist.

NEGATIVE BURN #6 (MR) $5.99
I've bought a couple issues of this anthology series, but I just can't see spending this much each month for what inevitably turns out to be a mixed bag. The book often showcases some really nice art and decent short stories, but nothing that justifies the price. I've been picking up back issues in bargain bins when I see them, or at sales that my shop sometimes has to clear out inventory.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1 $2.99
I'm torn about getting this one, but I'm leaning toward no. I like Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker as writers, but I'm not really interested enough in the character (or the current Marvel universe) to make the monthly investment. And I think it's spinning out of Daredevil, which I don't read. I might pick it up if it gets good reviews, but only if it sounds really good.

NEXTWAVE AGENTS OF HATE #10 $2.99
Ah, here's one that I can count on to be good. Let me try to remember how the last issue ended...oh, yeah, it had the team being attacked by all sorts of crazy super-teams coming from an upside-down castle! And the main bad-guy team consisted of characters from Not Brand Echhh! Led by Forbush Man! Rock!

POWERS #21 (MR) $2.95
I pick this up every month, and it's been pretty consistently good. I'm having trouble remembering the current storyline, but I'm sure it will come back to me as I'm reading. I've been a Powers fan from early on in the run, and it's pretty much the only thing I'm interesting in that Bendis is currently writing. I wish he would go back to smaller-scale crime stuff and give up on the overblown superhero stuff that he's not especially good at.

STAN LEE MEETS DR DOOM $3.99
I've been getting all the Stan Lee Meets... comics that have been coming out recently, and they've been pretty enjoyable. They're a little bit of a mixed bag, with the title story being written by Lee and a current Marvel artist (Olivier Coipel was great on ...Spider-Man; I never knew he had that kind of work in him), with back-up stories by other famous writers and artists reminiscing about how much Lee's comics meant to them in the past, etc. Also some funny one- or two-pagers by the likes of Fred Hembeck and Johnny Ryan, and reprints of classic issues featuring the character that Lee meets in the issue. This issue features Salvador Larroca on the main story, with a back-up by...Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness. Damn. I'll still get it, but I hope Loeb doesn't ruin it. At least McGuiness will make it pretty. And a classic Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issue (#87)!

ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY VOL 17 HC (MR) $16.95
Oh, wow, I didn't realize this was coming out this week. Sweet! I love Chris Ware, and I really enjoyed last year's issue, featuring the beginning of the "Rusty Brown" story (will it be the next Jimmy Corrigan? We'll see!), so I'm definitely up for this one!

ACTION PHILOSOPHERS VOL 1 GIANT SIZED THING TP (O/A) $6.95
One of my favorite books that's coming out, although it's yet another one that I get monthl...um, I mean in single issues. But this is a good collection of the first three issues, I believe. Fun stuff.

ART OF JIM BALENT MAGICK IN B&W SGN #1 (O/A)  $24.99
ART OF JIM BALENT MAGICK IN B&W SGN #2 (O/A) (MR) $24.99
Oh, the very idea of this is just ridiculous. Please don't buy this. (And why is only #2 mature readers? Weird).
CREAM HOW ERIC CLAPTON TOOK THE WORLD BY STORM TP  $13.95
I don't know anything about this, but was Cream really when Eric Clapton "took the world by storm"? I should read up on my rock history (hey, maybe this comic will help! Not that I'll be buying it.)

DEAD SONJA SHE ZOMBIE WITH A SWORD #1 (MR) $3.99
Another one I don't know anything about, although I assume it's from Avatar since it has three different variant covers listed. The title made me chuckle, slightly.

VATICAN CITY LAS VEGAS GN (MR) $14.95
I vaguely remember reading something about this a while ago. Isn't it a satirical series about the Catholic church opening a pope-themed casino? Might be enjoyable. I'll take a look at it if I see it in the shop.

ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS #1 (OF 2) $3.99
I don't know anything about this either, but I assume it's a takeoff on the neverending internet fad of X vs. Y, with X and Y being any or all of the following: Pirates, ninjas, zombies, monkeys, robots, or whatever else gets added to the list (vampires? Werewolves? Swamp monsters? Aliens? Predators? Giant man-in-rubber-suit monsters?). These things can be funny, but they can get old quickly. I'm definitely tiring of the idea.

So, looks like that's it. I'll see if I see anything else at the shop, and maybe this week I can try to start my other recurring feature: weekly reviews!

Solicitation Images

So, for some reason, Image Comics solicits come out a week or so later than everybody else's. So I'll look at them later. (Dark Horse's come out a week earlier, but there's usually only a couple things I'm interested from them, so I'll wait until the others (Marvel and DC) come out before looking at them. Unless I'm feeling proactive). So here's what I'm interested in in February:




The Pirates of Coney Island - I thought the first issue of this series was okay, but the second one was pretty good, so I'll go ahead and get this series. I'll try to have to ask the shop if I can get the Becky Cloonan covers though. Those are awesome.



Sam Noir: Ronin Holiday - I didn't read the first Sam Noir miniseries because I don't think my shop got it. Or it was sold out before I could pick it up. Bummer. It's a great concept (samurai story meets noir story!), and Greg Burgas at CSBG recommended it, so I'll probably pick up the trade. And then we have this sequel miniseries in February. Cool.




I know little about this (the solicitation text said something about twin brothers, and one of them getting a bionic alien arm(s?)), but I thought the cover looked kinda cool. It's called Strongarm.



The Nightly News - I really liked the first issue of this series, so I'm there for the duration. It's like Fight Club meets, I dunno, DMZ or something. Oh, plus Network.



Black Mist - This looks kind of interesting. Something about evil trying to take over a dead woman's body. The solicitation says it's offered for the first time in color; is this a reprint? And it's from "fan-favorite" artist Mike Perkins. Who is he?



Nat Turner - I'm very excited about this one. I love Kyle Baker's art, and his writing's not half bad either, especially when he's being funny. Of course, this is pretty much the opposite of funny, with a story about a slave revolt. It's very literary, with amazing art mostly told without dialogue. This is a series they could teach in high school history classes. Amazing stuff. The first two issues were collected as volume 1, and I guess Baker is forgoing the second two issues and just releasing them as volume 2. Whatever, I'm just glad to see the rest of the story.



Casanova - This collects the first 7 issues of the series, for only ten dollars. Not a bad deal. I'm loving this series in monthly installments, so I would definitely recommend picking up what writer Matt Fraction is calling the first volume of the story.



Godland is another one that I'm loving each month. Joe Casey busts out the crazy ideas, and Tom Scioli serves it up with Kirby-esque goodness. Should be awesome as always.



I didn't read the first Death Jr. series, but I heard it was pretty enjoyable. I loved Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates, so I might have to check one of these out sometime.

I should also mention Madman Gargantua, which I talked about a few days ago. It's included in these solicits, and the price is $125 for 852 pages of awesomeness. I won't be getting it because I already own most of the material, but if I could afford it I might still pick it up just to have.

So that's it that I can see. As always, we'll see if all this stuff actually comes out, or if anything else makes it. Comics ahoy! (I'm trying to come up with a signoff phrase. I don't think this one will quite work...)

In which deaths are noted

Death Note, volume 8



Somehow, Death Note keeps going strong, eight volumes into the story. It seems like something that could play itself out quickly, but writer Tsugumi Ohba manages to keeps the crazy plot twists flowing and changing up the conflicts regularly. For the uninitiated, here's the basic premise: Shinigami, the Japanese gods of death, regularly kill humans with the use of a notebook called a death note. Whomever's name is written in the notebook dies. On a lark, a Shinigami named Ryuk drops one of these death notes in the human world to see what a human would do with it. The notebook he drops is found by a high school student named Light Yagami, who proceeds to test the capabilities of the death note, then decides that he will use it to rid the earth of all crime, with the added benefit of eventually ruling the world. At least, that's his goal. As you can imagine, complications ensue. That's all you really need to know if you haven't read any of the series; it's much of the setup at the beginning of the first volume. So, if you want to go into the series fresh, watch out for SPOILERS throughout the rest of the review. However, I'll try not to spoil any of volume 8, so don't go away if you have yet to read that one.

After the setup, the series picks up speed and starts up with its trademark quality: crazy plot twists. Light quickly reveals himself to be quite the budding sociopath; he starts regularly killing criminals of all sorts, all around the globe; he quickly kills anybody who gets in his way, including policemen and FBI agents; and he uses his father's position in the Japanese police force to gain information and evade his pursuers. Soon a sort of cult springs up around the world, dedicated to Kira, the nickname given to the person or entity who is supernaturally executing criminals. The authorities bring in a detective named L, who turns out to present a great challenge to Light; the two are very closely matched in intellect and are equally crafty. Then Light's father asks him to join the investigation, which means Light and L will be working together directly, with Light obfuscating any police findings and L trying to pin evidence on Light, his prime suspect. It's crazily tense, and the struggle between them lasts for at least three volumes. There are some great scenes, such as when Light and L have a tennis match while trying to size each other up. Their struggle is complicated when another death note holder enters the game: Misa Amane, a young model/actress who idolizes Kira because he killed the criminal who murdered her parents. She does everything she can to find the identity of Kira, messing up Light's plans considerably. Eventually her bumbling leads to Light's downfall, and he takes a huge gamble by giving up ownership of the death note, which causes him to lose his memory of the entire experience. He ends up joining L, as they are tracking a third Kira, who appears to be killing people in order to further the financial interests of a large Japanese corporation. They spend the better part of three volumes of the series working together like this, until it is revealed that Light had set the whole memory loss thing up as part of an elaborate plan; he regains ownership of the death note, gets his memory back, and kills L, just like that. I'm amazed that the primary struggle in the series, between Light and L, ended so quickly; it's almost an afterthought. Maybe I'm too used to American superhero comics, in which Batman continually fights the likes of the Joker and keeps sending him back to Arkham Asylum, even after the Joker has murdered thousands. I guess when the prospect of open-ended storytelling is removed, writers can make huge changes to the status quo much more easily and with more finality. Anyway, after L is dispatched, Light pretty much goes on unopposed in his plans to take over the world. We get a brief glimpse of two kids named Mello and Near at a private academy (by the way, I should mention that Ohba seems to have trouble coming up with Western-sounding names, leading to humorous titles like Aiber and Wedy, and the aforementioned Wammy Academy. It's no big detriment to the book, but it amuses me whenever some American or European character pops up with an improbable moniker), but then the story jumps forward several years, and we see that Light is now working full time for the police, although (for some reason) they haven't made much progress in capturing Kira, and the world is really starting to change after several years of Kira's reign as executioner. However, Mello and Near show up again, and it turns out the academy they were attending was grooming possible replacements for L, in the event of his death. Mello is a rebellious sort, and he leaves the academy to pursue Kira by his own means. Near graduates and begins working with the FBI. The seventh volume ends when Mello's group (mostly mafia types) kidnaps Light's younger sister to try to get Light's father to give up the death note that is in possession of the Japanese police.

The action starts to ramp up again in the eighth volume, as Light tries to lead the Japanese police in recovering his younger sister. Light is also acting as L, since nobody outside of his group knows L is dead. He ends up trying to work with Near, who has convinced the President of the United States to form a group dedicated to stopping Kira. Near immediately figures out that Light is not L, and that Mello is behind the kidnapping. I won't give away how the kidnapping is resolved, but it's a pretty crazy scheme. Soon enough, the characters are locked in a three-way struggle, with Light, Near, and Mello each trying to outsmart each other and influence global affairs to bring down the others, even as a new Shinigami enters the scene to try to recover his lost notebook, which happens to be one of the notebooks the human characters are screwing around with. It's more of the old plot twists and struggles, and you get the sense that Light had gotten kind of bored without anybody to match wits with. He starts to really rise to the occasion and come up with imaginative uses of the death note to foil the others' plans, and he continues to go especially psychotic when dealing with Misa, who is still hanging on his every word and striving to get him to pay attention to her. Luckily, she has made a trade with the Shinigami: she gave up half her lifespan to get Shinigami eyes that will tell her someone's name and remaining lifespan upon looking at them. This makes her useful to Light, so he keeps her around, throwing a modicum of attention (but not really any affection) her way in return for the use of her abilities. At one point he even proposes to her (in the "sure, I'll marry you, now get me that information I asked for!" type of way) just to make sure she'll quit her acting job so she won't be an easy target for assassination, depriving him of her eyes. It's a highly exciting turn to the story, with the various struggles taking on more international consequences (at one point, the US President's life is threatened by at least one of the three factions). I can't wait to see where it goes and how Ohba will up the ante when this particular struggle is played out. I believe the series has gone on to at least 12 volumes in Japan; it might even still be ongoing. I do know that I'll be devouring each volume as it is made available in the US; volume 9 is scheduled to arrive in January.

I should also mention the art by Takeshi Obata, who also illustrates the popular Hikaru No Go. It's beautiful stuff, with great character design. I love how he demonstrates the eccentricities of L and his "heirs": L and Near sit in introverted, hunched over positions and arrange the things around them, like coffee creamers or dice, in elaborate patterns and towers. Near, being younger, seems to spend his deduction time playing with toys and throwing darts. Mello, on the other hand, is arrogant, sitting confidently upright, but still demonstrating weirdness by always eating chocolate bars, often leaving them hanging out of his mouth. Light is another great design, always confident, while the other detectives around him (including his father) often stare agape at the crazy plot twists or Light's amazing deductive powers. Light also does this hilarious pose where his face is lit from below as he contemplates his grand scheme for world domination (I call it the Kubrick look, since it's the type of stare that Malcolm McDowell or Jack Nicholson would give in Stanley Kubrick movies). And Misa is uniquely designed in that silly Japanese schoolgirl/gothic lolita style (never mind that she has to be about 22 or so by the time of this volume). Her facial expressions are priceless, especially the way she is so eager to please Light, but so disappointed when he ignores her.

So, it's a great series, and unless it takes a drastic turn for the worse, I'll be following it for as long as it continues. Please let me know if you agree/disagree, or have any thoughts to add.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

He's a Madman, man! I'm mad about Madman! And other related puns.

Oh, kick ass! This is some of the best news I've heard lately:

MADMAN RETURNS!

BERKELEY, CA -- This April, Michael Allred's pop classic MADMAN bolts back to stores from Image Comics! A modern masterpiece, MADMAN was Adult Swim before cartoons were cool. Now Image is taking the character to the next level with an all new series, and a hardcover collection of every MADMAN adventure!



That's as awesome as news gets, baby! I've been meaning to do a Madman/Mike Allred retrospective post, so now I'll definitely have to get around to it. I'm currently squinting my way through The Vault of Michael Allred #2, and reading this "scrapbook" series has got me all excited about Madman and other Allred works. So now Madman is a book that I'm trying to collect all the issues of. Someday I'll even find Dead Air, Graphique Musique/Grafik Muzik, and Creatures of the Id. If I hadn't already found most of the issues, I would definitely be in line for this omnibus edition. Maybe I'll still get it anyway. And a new series! I had been wondering if Allred would return to Madman, since in many of the articles and interviews that are reprinted in Vault, he said that his intention was to do 102 issues of the Madman series, in an attempt to copy Kirby's run on Fantastic Four. If you count all the Madman series and The Atomics, he's done 41, I think, so he still has a quite a way to go. Like I said, I couldn't be more excited!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stealing ideas

So, I'm stealing this post method from others (Jog and Kevin Church do it especially well), but I figured I would go ahead and point out what I'm interested in (or find notable) that's coming out this week. But before I start, I wanted to point out that Chris Sims missed two great candidates for the Face-Kick of the Week last week:



Wolverine lands a kick to the face, to the FACE!



It should be noted that the face-kicker here followed it up by clunking two guys' heads together.

For reasons unknown, Sims ignored these two candidates and went with Archie. That's right, ARCHIE. What the HELL, man? (If Sims reads this, please don't get pissed. I kid because I love. Aw, crap, I'm repeating myself now).

New comics this week (Wednesday, 11/22/2006):
SEP060023 DWIGHT T ALBATROSS THE GOON NOIR #2 (OF 3) $2.99

I love The Goon, but I was slightly disappointed by the
first issue of this anthology miniseries that's coming
out while the regular series takes a break for a few
months. The guest writers had trouble nailing Eric
Powell's tone for the series. Good art though, and I'll
still get the next two issues.

SEP060293 BOYS #5 (MR) $2.99

Like I said in my solicitations review, I am enjoying
this series, and I hope it gets better, since Ennis
seems to be wallowing in exploitation. The team is
finally on its first mission, so hopefully something
will happen this issue beyond setup.

SEP060314 JACK OF FABLES #5 (MR) $2.99

Jack finally escapes the Fable prison (or "retirement
home", or whatever)! Maybe some secrets will be
revealed! I'm still digging this book!

SEP060295 MAN CALLED KEV #4 (OF 5) (MR) $2.99

I've read some of Garth Ennis' Kev stuff, but I haven't
bought any of the miniseries. Maybe I'll pick some of
them up in a back issue sale or buy one of the trades.
He's an enjoyable character, and it does have some good
Ennis ultraviolence.

SEP060274 RED MENACE #1 (OF 6) $2.99

Not sure about this one. I'll probably skip it, but I
might pick it up if it gets some favorable reviews. I
don't really know anything about it other than that The
OC
's Adam Brody is one of the writers. Wait, I just
looked up information on DC's website (I'm amazing at
the research, aren't I?), and apparently it's about
superheroes dealing with the Red Scare in the 50's. Is
that a new thing from Wildstorm? Alternate history
superhero stories set in different eras of American
history? They just did something similar with The
American Way
, which dealt with race relations in the
60's. And didn't DC already do this sort of story with
The Golden Age? What's next, an 80's series about
Reaganomics? Weird.

MAY060257 SAMURAI JACK ON HORSE STATUE $125.00

I wish I could afford stuff like this.

AUG060299 Y THE LAST MAN VOL 8 KIMONO DRAGONS TP (MR) $14.99

I buy this series in monthly pamphlet format, but I
would recommend it in trades if you're not reading it.
This one was a pretty good story, with Yorick and the
gang searching for the lost monkey Ampersand, who had
been kidnapped and taken to Japan. They end up finding
another male (sort of...) and going up against a pop
singer/mafia leader. Fun stuff.

SEP061810 CASANOVA #6 (MR) $1.99

This series is awesome. As many have said, writer Matt
Fraction crams so much stuff into his wild
interdimensional spy stories that even though it's
shorter (and cheaper) than a regular comic, it feels
twice as long. Last issue was a great story about a
lost tribe of people with no contact with the outside
world. I don't know what this one's about, but I bet it
will be fun.

SEP061786 DRAIN #1 (MR) $2.99

This is a series coming out from Image by CB Cebulski
and Japanese illustrator Sana Takeda. Apparently it's
about vampire ninja samurai, or something silly like
that. The art looks pretty, if a bit stiff. I don't
think Cebulski is a very good writer (doesn't he
usually do Marvel Mangaverse stuff?), so I probably
won't be getting it.

SEP061813 ELEPHANTMEN #0 $2.99

I've been hearing a lot about Elephantmen, but I
haven't read it. It's one that I'm kind of on the
fence about, and I've been spending too much on comics
lately anyway, so I've decided to skip it. I hope that
wasn't a bad move. I've glanced through a few issues,
and the art always looks nice.

SEP061817 GODLAND #14 $2.99

Wow, didn't the last issue of this comic come out like
two weeks ago? It's another one that I'm enjoying
greatly each month, and it's good to have it back after
the hiatus it took this summer. Joe Casey, Tom Scioli,
Kirby-esque wackiness with a modern twist, what's not
to like?

SEP061820 IMPALER #2 (OF 4) (MR) $2.99

This series looks interesting. It's another one that
I might have picked up if I wasn't spending too much on
comics. If I hear good things, maybe I'll pick it up
in back issues or trades.

SEP061818 LOOKING GLASS WARS HATTER M #4 (OF 4) $3.99

I haven't been reading this, but it looks pretty crazy.
I generally like Ben Templesmith (especially on Fell),
so it's another one to possibly pick up sometime.
Apparently it's part of some big multimedia publishing
venture, tying into a series of novels and probably
other stuff. Pretty crazy.

SEP061826 PIRATES OF CONEY ISLAND #2 (OF 8) $2.99

I got the first issue of this, and it was pretty wild.
I'll definitely check out the second issue, and maybe
tell my shop to add it to my pull list. It's a pretty
enjoyable tale of youthful rebellion, and different
gangs that hang out wreaking havoc on the shores of
Coney Island. And Becky Cloonan is doing variant
covers!

SEP061827 SAM NOIR SAMURAI DETECTIVE #3 $2.99

I didn't get the first two issues of this because they
were sold out at my shop. It does look good. I like
the idea, putting a noir detective story in a samurai
setting. Again, I'll probably pick up the back issues
sometime (when I have the money).

SEP062166 NEW X-MEN OMNIBUS HC $99.99

Cool. Grant Morrison's X-Men was awesome. I have
about a third of the run in single issues, and back
issues aren't hard to find, so I'll probably continue
to collect the rest of the series that way rather than
buy this huge thing or the hardcovers that are already
out. But if you can afford it, it's cool to have the
whole run in one piece.

JUL061988 PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #1 CW $2.99

I won't be getting this issue, since I'm not buying
any of Marvel's Civil War stuff, but I'm interested in
Matt Fraction writing a Punisher book. Based on his
Casanova work, I think he could really have fun with
the character. I'll have to read some reviews and see
how it is.

SEP062132 RUNAWAYS #22 $2.99

Man, I'm going to be sorry to see Vaughan and Alphona
leave this book in a few issues. Joss Whedon is coming
on as the new writer, but I don't know who will be
doing the art. I'm sure I'll enjoy the run while it
lasts.

SEP062085 SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE #12 $2.99

And here's another book where a creator is leaving.
Takeshi Miyazawa, whose are has defined this series, is
going to be leaving soon. I don't know how they'll find
a replacement for him. Again, I'll enjoy it while I can.

AUG063268 ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK (O/A) $39.95

I would love to buy this, but I can't afford it right
now. I've bought most of Chris Ware's recent stuff, and
I'm slowly buying some of his older stuff. This is one
that I really want to get because it apparently has a lot
of sketches and stuff that is different from his usual
style. I'd like to see that. And, of course, I love his
stuff anyway, so I'd like to have everything he's done.

SEP063294 ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #12 (MR) $3.50

I've read some of Johnny Ryan's work, but I haven't
bought any issues. I won't be starting now, but I do
think he is pretty funny. Just thought it needed to be
said.

AUG063464 COMPLETE OMAHA THE CAT DANCER VOL 5 TP (A) $12.95

Hee hee, this would be fun to get. Weird furry porn
comics!

JUL063106 DONT GO WHERE I CANT FOLLOW GN (MR) $17.95

Wow, this looks really sad. A collection of photos,
letters, comics, and other stuff from cartoonist Anders
Nilsen about his girlfriend, who died of cancer. Damn.
I'm not sure if I've read anything by Nilsen, but I
recall reading that he's pretty good (how's that for an
endorsement?). Sounds like it might be worth picking up
sometime if I feel like crying (that sounds like a
rejection, but I'm serious).

JUN062976 ENIGMA CIPHER #1 (OF 2) $6.99

After reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, I'm
always interested in stories about WWII codebreaking, so
the story behind this looks interesting; however, I know
little about the writer or artist, and I believe they're
also doing X-Isle, which I've heard is not especially
good. Another one to read reviews and see.

SEP063345 HOT MEXICAN LOVE COMICS 2006 (MR) $5.00

I don't know anything about this, but the title made me
laugh. I assume it's porn.

AUG063263 IRON WOK JAN GN #21 $9.95

I have the first two volumes of this manga, and it's
hilarious. Someday I'll get at least some of the rest
of the series.

SEP063629 JOHN WOOS SEVEN BROTHERS #2 $2.99

I kind of liked the first issue of this series. John
Woo is a good director (but he was better in his pre-
Hollywood days [film snob alert!]), and I like Garth
Ennis. I'll be getting this one, but it's definitely
on the chopping block.

SEP063673 WILL EISNERS CONTRACT WITH GOD SC $16.95
SEP063675 WILL EISNERS DROPSIE AVENUE SC $16.95
SEP063674 WILL EISNERS LIFE FORCE SC $16.95

I really need to get more of Will Eisner's stuff.
Sometime I'll pick these up, although I'll probably
get the Contract With God Trilogy collection that
contains all three of these books.

---------

Wow, I'll have to make that shorter next time. I need to work on that
method Jog has of just using
one word to describe the book.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Looking forward

So, the new comics "solicitations" are out, detailing what is coming out in February. I think it's kind of weird the way the comics blog community obsesses over these every month, looking at what is coming out three months in the future rather than what is out now. It's interesting, the way things come out, get consumed, then are mostly forgotten. But I guess since this information is available, it's worth looking at and commenting on. This post will probably be a little longer than my posts about solicits usually will be, since I'll be commenting on series that I like or am interested in rather than just what I find interesting in the solicitations. Or something like that. Anyway, off we go:

Marvel:



This Daredevil cover cracks me up. Very funny. And they got John Romita Sr. to do it! Good for them! I don't read Daredevil, although I've heard Brubaker's run has been very enjoyable. Maybe sometime I'll check the collected version out from the library or something.



I'll be getting this Iron Man: Hypervelocity series. I usually don't care about Iron Man, but I did like the 6 issues Warren Ellis did recently, and I love Adam Warren. The Livewires series he did last year was great. I love the way he throws out a ton of crazy sci-fi ideas, and Iron Man seems like a good fit for him. I have no idea if this will tie into Marvel's Civil War continuity, and I don't really care. I just want to read a fun Adam Warren series.



So, the Stephen King
Dark Tower comic is finally coming out. This has been hyped by Marvel for something like two years. It's not actually written by Stephen King; it's by Peter David, based on King's novels. I haven't really read much King, but I do like some of the movie adaptations of his books, like Carrie or The Shining. Also, several people have recommended the Dark Tower book series to me, so I'm curious about this. Plus the art is by Jae Lee, who is absolutely amazing (check out the illustrations he did for this Wired article). So, I'll consider it.



I haven't been reading the Ant-Man series, but I wanted to comment on Robert Kirkman. When he started getting big, I was following and enjoying his stuff, but somewhere along the line I soured on his writing. Someday I'll do a post on my disillusionment with Kirkman. People have said this series is enjoyable, but I haven't read it. Is it very different from his usual writing on stuff like
Marvel Team Up, or is it his usual style?



Now Dr. Strange: The Oath is a series I've been enjoying so far. That Marcos Martin art is beautiful. I love what he does with colors (wait, is there a separate colorist? If so, I should give them some credit. He works very well with Martin). Bryan K. Vaughan is one of my current favorite writers, and I like what he's doing in this series so far. I also like Dr. Strange, but he doesn't seem to show up very much. He needs a good writer to make him interesting (like Peter Milligan in the recent X-Statix/Dead Girl miniseries), so it's probably better if he is in miniseries rather than an ongoing series.



I'm not sure about this
Punisher War Journal series. I'm not a big fan of the Punisher, although I like Garth Ennis' take on him. I'm enjoying the stuff Matt Fraction is writing lately (Five Fists of Science was great, and Casanova is a highly enjoyable series), but I'm not sure if I will like this. I'm definitely not interested in the Civil War stuff that the book is spinning out of, so I'll have to wait and see what the buzz is before I read it. As for the cover above, I think it's hilarious. Villains attending Stilt-Man's funeral, with most of them wearing formal attire over their costumes - That's funny stuff!




Here's two more series I'm not sure about. I really like Warren Ellis, but I have little interest in the nostalgia factor that has brought about Newuniversal, this revival the New Universe. That said, the concept behind the book is interesting, and I think Ellis could do good things with it. Sounds like it could be his version of
Rising Stars or Supreme Power (or the TV show Heroes, for that matter). I'll have to see when the first issue comes out if I want to get it. I also have little interest in Thunderbolts, but I think Ellis could write enjoyable stories about a team of supervillains working for the government. It's another one that I'll have to wait and read some reviews before I pick it up.



Ah Spider-Man loves Mary Jane. A great series. I think I picked up one of the earlier Mary Jane miniseries because I thought my wife would like it (I was right!), but I enjoyed it quite a bit also. And the new series has been great. Sean McKeever has scripted some very good characterizations, and it's fun to see Spider-Man pop up in the middle of the usual high school crises that teenagers deal with. The art by Takeshi Miyazawa is excellent, and I was sorry to hear that he's leaving the book soon. I hope they can find a suitable replacement. There was a fill in artist recently, and it was just not the same. Adrian Alphona or Skottie Young would probably be okay, although Young might be a bit too cartoony, and Alphona is probably moving on to a bigger project after his success on Runaways. Maybe one of those artists from the Marvel Adventures line could take over.



Speaking of the Marvel Adventures line, I thought this cover was hilarious. I don't know anything about Power Pack, but seeing a little girl possessed by Venom cracks me up.



Here's Wisdom, another book I'm not sure about. The art doesn't really grab me, I don't know the writer, and I don't really care about the character, but the concept sounds interesting, and this is a pretty good cover. I like the guy drinking a beer while staning over the body of a dragon that he just beat up with a cricket bat. So, does anybody recommend this book? Should I pick up the first issue that came out recently?




Here's some more books that I don't really care about and probably won't read, but I like the covers. That pile of ninjas jumping on...whoever that is...is pretty cool. I think Frank Quitely had a similar pin-up in an anniversary issue of Daredevil that came out a few years ago. And I like the Thing as king of the monsters, or whatever he's supposed to be on that other cover. I doubt I'll read the book though.



And finally, a book that I dig with a very cool-looking cover. Brubaker and Phillips did great things on
Sleeper, and they seem to be following it up well with Criminal another really cool crime book. The first two issues were good, and I only expect it to get better. Don't let me down, boys! Okay, on to:

DC:



So, I did this rant over in the comments section of Comics Should Be Good, but I figured I could do another version of it here. I've been reading the current Grant Morrison run on Batman, but he's taking a break, and John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake are doing a four-issue fill-in. The last issue was the end of the first storyline of Morrison's run, and at the end of that issue there was a "next issue" box that showed the above cover, saying the next issue would feature the return of the Joker. But now this issue shows up in the February solicitations, so I don't know if the next issue will be a different story by Morrison or the beginning of the fill-in run. Very confusing. By the way, I've been enjoying Morrison's writing on Batman, but I really wish he had a different artist. Andy Kubert is really not very good. If this Van Fleet fellow who is doing the Joker issue is any good, maybe I'll write some letters to DC asking for him to replace Kubert. Yeah, like that will do any good.



The Spirit, by Darwyn Cooke! I'm pretty interested in this series. Cooke has done well with this retro type of story, in New Frontier and his issue of Solo. I'm looking forward to it, although not so much that I won't drop it if I don't like the first issue. I'm not sure if I'll get that Spirit/Batman special, since it's written by Jeph Loeb, who is not good. But I'm hoping the Spirit series will be good, especially with Cooke's writing and art.



Jeff Smith's Captain Marvel series is finally coming out! I don't really care about Captain Marvel, but I REALLY like Bone, so I'll definitely pick this one up. Man it's been like 3 years since this was announced. I'm glad to finally see it show up.



I liked the first issue of Superman: Confidential by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale, so unless is somehow goes off the rails, I'll be buying the rest of the storyline. I think this is a Legends of the Dark Knight-style series, with rotating writers and artists. I doubt I'll get anything after the first arc, but that's fine.



I won't be buying this, but I like the cover by Adam Hughes. That guy can draw. He often goes a bit overboard with the cheesecake, but he is a very skilled artist, especially with facial expressions. I'm interested in his All-Star Wonder Woman, although I don't think I've ever bought a Wonder Woman comic in my life. I'll see about picking that up when it comes out (which might not be for quite a while). And that's about it for the regular DC superhero books that I read. Huh. The rest is all Wildstorm and Vertigo stuff:



I read 100 Bullets in trades (Nyah hah hah, I'm killing the industry!), and I love it. Some of the best writing in comics, with absolutely amazing art by Eduardo Risso. Since I don't read it monthly, I probably won't make a habit of pointing it out, but I should say that Dave Johnson's covers are consistently excellent.



Fables is another book that I read in trade format, and it's also very well written and drawn. Regular artist Mark Buckingham is great, and there are usually some very good fill-in artists. And of course, you can't mention Fables without pointing out the beautiful (hell, that's an understatement) cover art by James Jean. I think this cover is especially incredible. So, I might not mention Fables every month, but I'll probably point out the covers just because of the amazing artwork.



However, I do read Jack of Fables monthly, and it's been very good so far. I like the character of Jack, and the first storyline has been very interesting. I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes. And I gotta point out more great cover art from James Jean.



Y: The Last Man is another Vertigo book that I read monthly. It's pretty good in trade format, but I don't have any problem keeping up with the storylines month by month. I mentioned above that I like Bryan K. Vaughan, and this is probably the book that made him a superstar. It's very well written (I love Vaughan's dialogue), and it's coming close to finishing. I think #60 is going to be the last issue. This looks like one of the single-issue stories that the series excels in, and that cover is great.



I enjoy Testament quite a bit. Sometimes I wonder if I should be reading it in trade format, but I do usually like it each month. The stories can be confusing, but writer Douglas Rushkoff is nothing if not ambitious. He's really trying to weave a complex, multilayered story of fascistic government control that ties in with Biblical mythology. It gets kind of hard to follow sometimes, but the art is very good, with some imaginative panel layouts, and it's really like nothing else out there.



DMZ is another Vertigo book that I follow monthly and really like. Brian Wood is starting to get pretty popular, and if this book is any indication, he'll soon be another superstar creator. It's an excellent series, and I'm in for the long haul.



The Other Side has been great for the first two issues. I didn't realize it was a miniseries, but it does make sense to keep it as a short story; it might be hard to continue as a longer series. The two issues that have come out so far have been very good, and I can't wait for the rest of the series.



I bought the first 6 or 7 issues of Loveless because I like Brian Azzarello. It was very hard to follow from month to month, so I dropped it. I picked up a couple more issues in a sale, but I don't think it's one I can read monthly. Maybe that's a problem with Azzarello, since I imagine 100 Bullets would also be difficult to follow monthly. I do like the characters and the art (although regular artist Marcelo Frusin is a better fit for the series than frequent fill-in artist Daniel Zezelj), but the story was just too hard to keep up with in monthly installments. I might have to get the next few issues to fill out the current storyline, then start picking it up in trades after that. By the way, this cover is awesome.




Here's two new Vertigo series that I'm interested in, but not sure I'll get. Scalped seems like an interesting concept, and it's written by the writer of The Other Side. Crossing Midnight (also an interesting concept) is written by Mark Carey; I've read some of his stuff but not enough to know whether I really like him or not. Neither book has an artist that I really know. I'll probably buy the first issues of both and decide whether I want to follow them after that. Oh, and Crossing Midnight has covers by the extremely talented J.H. Williams III, so it has that in its favor.



Ex Machina is probably my favorite comic book right now. Each issue amazes me with its writing and art, and I'll definitely pick up this "behind the scenes" special. I'll have to do a writeup on it sometime. I wonder if that's what the cover will actually look like, or if it will be colored.



Desolation Jones is another series that I've enjoyed immensely. The current artist, Daniel Zezelj, is no J.H. Williams III (the previous artist on the book), but he seems to fit the style, and Warren Ellis seems to be writing more for his style in this arc. I wonder if the book is going to go in six-issue arcs, with a different artist for each. That would be cool.



I've been enjoying The Boys for the most part, but I'll be happy when the introductory storyline is out of the way and the series starts picking up steam. I do like Garth Ennis a lot, and Darick Robertson's art fits the book well. I think this could get very enjoyable, but it's still in the early stages. I know a lot of people have been turned off by Ennis' juvenile sex scenes, but if you realize that's what's going to happen going into the story, you can look at it as one of those silly, over-the-top Ennis stories like The Rifle Brigade. And there is the potential to really satirize superheroes, if Ennis feels like it. Or he might just tell a lot of goofy stories with crazy sex and nasty, humorous violence. We'll see what happens.



Speaking of goofy Garth Ennis violence, I really dug the first issue of The Midnighter. The big action scene had me grinning in a silly way (sillily?), and the cliffhanger was hilarious. Who knows what Ennis has planned, but if this cover is any indication, it will be funny. Plus really good art by Chris Sprouse.




And then we have the Wildstorm series that I'm not sure about. Tranquility seems like a fun concept (a superhero retirement home), and Gail Simone is a good writer, although I don't actually read any of her books. I'll probably get the first issue and decide from there. I'm not sure about this God Save the Queen graphic novel. I've expressed my reservations about writer Mike Carey above, but John Bolton really wowed me with his artwork in the recent Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall graphic novel. It's probably one that I'll have to read some reviews of before I make a decision.

Dark Horse:



As I said above, I really like Adam Warren, so I might get this manga-style graphic novel that he's doing. It's called Empowered. It's about the only thing from Dark Horse that I'm interesed in in February. I guess there's no new issue of The Goon that month.

As for Image, their solicitations aren't out yet, so I'll probably go over them when they come out.

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Well, that wraps up my look at these things. If I do this again, I'm sure it will be much shorter. Oh, and I wanted to give some props to Dorian Wright for pointing out the nudity on the cover of The Atom. If anybody can spot a penis, it's him!