Monday, January 29, 2007

The week of trades that I don't need

New comics this week (Wednesday, 1/31/07):
I might have to pick this up. I've read a tiny bit of Usagi Yojimbo, but I always hear about how good it is. And there's lots of guest artists that I like on this one, so I'll at least give it a look.
I probably won't bother with this one, but I do like Sam Kieth's art, so it does at least interest me.
Grant Morrison! I have the single issues of his whole run, so I don't need to get this, but I'll point it out for anyone that's picking up the trades. I haven't got this far yet, but I hear it gets even better in the later issues. Get it!
EX MACHINA #26 (MR) $2.99
Oh yeah! I love this book. New storyline! That's all.
JACK OF FABLES #7 (MR) $2.99
Judging from the cover and the info on DC's site, this issue starts the "Jack in Vegas" storyline. So I guess they'll finish the "Jack Frost" storyline later. Huh. I wonder if there will be an in-story explanation for this, or if they'll just jump to a new story.
More Grant Morrison! This one finishes off the collected version of the series. It's awesome! That's all.
This one looked somewhat interesting (in a morbid sort of way) from the preview that CBR had up earlier this week. Two kids survive a zombie apocalypse and take care of their zombie mom. Gore is to be expected. I think I'll skip this after getting burned by that '68 one-shot a few weeks back. Wow, that was bad.
This was a pretty darn good storyline. I recommend it. So there.
Also a pretty good storyline. Warren Ellis! And it probably reads better in collected form, although I was okay with the single issues. Pretty good art too, especially in the flashback to Iron Man's revised origin. That clunky gray suit he started out with has never looked cooler!
XIII TP (MR) $14.99
Wow. This is the first volume of the original French series. It's a pretty famous series, about a superspy or something. Uncensored and everything. I might have to check it out.
Wow, it takes Avatar a long time to bring stuff out, doesn't it? I remember seeing the preview for this last fall sometime. Huh. I'll check out the first issue at least, since I like Ennis, and the art is by Jacen Burrows, who collaborated with Ennis on 303, which I liked. This one's about the son of the devil, or something like that. Should be fun.
Jog gave this manga a good review the other day, and it sounds excellent, so I'll pick it up if I see it.
Hey, the final issue! I guess this will bring us up to the present day, and get us (well, me, at least) all excited for the upcoming Madman Atomic Comics! Go Mike!

And it looks like that's all. Huh; not all that much I'm interested in, but lots of trades of stuff I already have. Enjoy, everybody!

Hungry (for spiritual rebirth) like the wolf

I recently finished playing a game that I found incredibly affecting. It's called Okami, and it's on the Playstation 2.

The story is rooted in Japanese mythology; you play the sun goddess Amaterasu, incarnated in the form of a wolf. The tale starts with a legend of a monster called Orochi, who is an eight-headed dragon that is terrorizing a small village. You end up going on a quest to defeat him, and then get sucked into an epic adventure in which you travel all across Japan, finally meeting the very fount of evil and banishing it.

As you can see in the pictures I've provided, the art style in this game is like no other game out there. Everything looks like it was drawn in a calligraphic style, but it's all in motion, filled with bright, beautiful colors. A really cool thing about the game is that Amaterasu, being the sun god, brings growth; this leads to scenes in which you defeat evil and then watch as the land springs to live, turning from dim and lifeless to a verdant green. As you run, plants and flowers spring up in your path, and leaves and cherry blossoms fly out in small clouds when you jump in the air or attack an enemy. It's amazing to watch.

Being a god, Amaterasu has some cool powers, which bring another aspect to the game. You have the power of the "Celestial Brush", which allows you to paint on the game screen to accomplish certain tasks. There are 13 total brush techniques (plus some bonus ones), and much of the game is spent gathering them into your repertoire. Here's an example of one that gets used quite often in the course of the game:

Certain trees and plants that look dead and lifeless can be brought back to life.

Activating the Celestial Brush flattens the game screen into a scroll that can be drawn on. You can see how the brush is used to draw a circle around the tree.

The tree then springs to life in a swirl of cherry blossoms, leaving a healthy result:

It's very cool. I loved just traveling around bringing stuff to life. And that's just one technique; others include a sword slash, bombs, and manipulation of water, fire, lightning, and ice. They're all bestowed upon you by gods who come to life after you draw their constellation in the stars:

The game has been compared to the Zelda games in structure, and that's pretty apt. You explore a large world, gathering tools and techniques and fighting enemies. There are several "dungeons", each of which has a "boss" to defeat, usually by using the brush technique you most recently learned. You even have a small companion that travels with you, speaking to other characters and pointing out relevant details, both in landscape and plot. It's a pretty good structure to build a game on, but it's far from a clone; Okami has a very unique plot, characters, and art style.

The characters are especially good. Amaterasu, at the center of everything, is very well-defined. Although he/she is the incarnation of a god, he's also very much a wolf, running and jumping in a doglike fashion, growling at danger, yelping when hurt, and yawning when tired.

Other characters are good too, from the small bystanders to the regular supporting cast. That's Mr. Orange above, a major player in early parts of the game. He does a hilarious dance to get the trees in his village blossoming. Issun, the aforementioned companion, is a buglike character who spends most of the game hopping up and down on the end of Amaterasu's nose. He calls the wolf "Ammy" and gets in arguments with many of the other characters (incidentally, the "voices" of all the characters are relayed in gibberish bleeps and bloops, with the pitch changing depending on the age or sex of the speaker; it's annoying at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly). He claims to be a wandering artist, but we later find that he is of a race of tiny people called "poncles" that are trained to be envoys to celestial beings that come to earth. Most of the characters in the game are like this; they start out seeming like simple background-filler, but are later revealed to be much more deep. One of my favorites is Susano, a descendant of the great warrior Nagi. He's got some self esteem issues, claiming to be a great warrior, while spending most of his time passed out drunk. At several points, you convince him to slash something with his (wooden) sword, then use your Celestial Brush to chop it in half, surprising him greatly. The first several times this happens, it's played for comedy, with him staring at his sword, surprised of his own strength. But then at one point he breaks into an anguished monologue, wondering why the gods are controlling him. It's fascinating.

And then there's the amazingly emotional ending (this paragraph contains spoilers, so read at your own risk). You end up on this spaceship that came to earth from the celestial plain. It turns out to be the source of all evil in the world and is occupied by an evil being called Yami. As you're about to enter the ship, Issun decides it's time to part ways. So you end up alone on the ship, and after several battles, you confront the big bad guy. It's a really long battle, and at one point, you think you've won, but then Yami comes alive, darkens the sun, and leaves you powerless. Suddenly, you start having visions of all the characters you've come across during the course of the game; they're all thinking about you and hoping you're okay. Then you find that Issun has been traveling the land telling people about you (he's a wondering artist, remember?). He convinces everyone to start praying for your strength. Their prayers all flow up to the heavens, gathering around you and giving you strength. They all flow into you, and your powers are all returned; you're ready for the final battle! It's amazingly emotional, and a great cap on the experiences that you've had with all the characters all across Japan. Amazing stuff; I thought I was going to cry.

So, I give this game my highest recommendation. Beautiful art style, wonderful plot, great characters, the works. Check it out!

I got most of these pictures from this Spanish site, where you can see more of them. Some of them are from early versions of the game; the American version does look slightly different (mostly in the interface). If you're interested in seeing the game in motion, there are some videos here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I don't feel like reviewing new comics this week, so I'm just posting some cool images from comics that came out:

From Dwight T. Albatross's The Goon Noir #3 (of 3). It took me a second to figure out what these characters were (I'm slow, okay?), but then my reaction was, "Oh, gross! Humorously gross, but gross nonetheless." I'm very articulate in my visceral reactions. Writer Brian Posehn and artist Tony Moore are disturbingly ruthless in their treatment of these poor fellas; in their brief appearance, they get punched, stepped on, kicked, impaled, and flattened by a car. Ouch.

From The Eternals #6 (of 7). That's just freaky.

Hey, Dr. Strange! What's a good philosophy to live by?

Thanks! (From Dr. Strange: The Oath #4 (of 5))

Man, I don't know what it is with Crossing Midnight. It seems like a book I should like, with stuff like this (From issue #3) happening:

But for some reason I'm not feeling it. I might or might not buy the next issue.

From Mouse Guard #6 (of 6). Man, this was the highlight of the week for me. Badass fighting mice. What else can you ask for? I can't wait for the second Mouse Guard miniseries!

So there's my comments for this week. Stay tuned for more content!

I think I'll call this "100 Arrows"

I recently finished reading volume 10 of 100 Bullets, and I got thinking about the huge cast of characters and all the connections between them. So I decided to make a sort of "character map", thinking it would be something cool to post on the ol' blog. Here's what I came up with (by the way, spoilers for the entire series up to issue #75):

The Great 100 Bullets Character Map:
(Click to enlarge)

As you can probably figure out, a red "X" through someone's picture or name means they are dead, and the red arrows point from the killer (or, in one case, the attempted killer) to the killee. I did this the low-tech way (obviously), putting pencil to paper to write everything out and draw the arrows. Sorry if it looks amateurish; I hope my writing is legible. I also scanned in pictures of all the characters, then printed them, cut them out, and glued them onto the page. It took a good deal of work, but I'm pretty pleased with the result. I don't know Photoshop or have any experience with drawing programs, but if I ever get one, I might try to redo this in electronic form; that would look much nicer.

So, my question is, is this of interest anyone but me? For that matter, does it make any sense to anyone but me? Any comments or suggestions? If you're a reader of 100 Bullets, please let me know. By the way, since I've only read through volume 10, please don't spoil anything for me past issue #75. Thanks!

"I wonder if she howls or hisses!"

Via The Comics Curmudgeon, I just found out this cool bit of news: In celebration of Milton Caniff's 100th birthday, the comics site is running Steve Canyon, daily, in order from the first strip! That's pretty awesome. You can read the current strip here. The first strip is on 1/22/07. I've heard about Steve Canyon and the awesome adventure strips that newspapers used to run, but I haven't read many of them. I think I've read a little Alley Oop, and maybe some Flash Gordon. So this is a really cool opportunity to check out one of the classics. Maybe they'll follow it up with Terry and the Pirates. That would be awesome. Anyway, from the first week, I love the 40's dialogue the characters use. Check out these panels from the first Sunday strip:

I love that stuff. So my advice is to read it! And, just because I thought they were cool, here's some excerpts from the promo pictures the site ran before they started running the strip:

"The 'planesman' of the air"! I love it! And I'll have to remember the name "Feeta-Feeta" if I ever have a daughter.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A city founded by secret knights?

Hey, everybody! Wanna do something cool, help somebody out, and get some good comics? Then check this out: Templar, Arizona is a really cool, high-quality webcomic, and the author, a girl who goes by the name Spike, wants to publish a print version. Here's where you can help out; in her own words:

"So here's the deal.

"I want to publish Templar, Arizona on paper. But I can't, because that costs money. It costs three thousand dollars, and I don't have three thousand dollars to spare. So I want to try something ridiculously optimistic and potentially humiliating.

"The quote from the printer for 1,000 7.5 x 6, two-color, 112-page collections of Templar, Arizona's first chapter, first Intermission, and bonus material (footnotes, foreword, sketches) is about $3,000. If I charge $15.00 a copy, that means 200 people have to buy a copy before I break even.

"I want those 200 people to consider buying a copy now."

I met Spike last year at an anime convention at the University of Chicago, and got a free "ashcan" sampler of Templar, Arizona. Here's some sample images:

That giant Jimmy Carter statue is awesome. Spike has a great sense of humor; I love the subversive digs at society that she throws into the comic, and the characters are quirky and well-realized. You can check out the comic by following the above link, and if you're interested, go here to pre-order the printed version of the comic. I'm off to do so right now!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getcher FREE comics! Come one, come all!

So Newsarama has a list of all the comics available on this year's Free Comic Book Day (May 5). Here's the ones that interest me, or that I feel like commenting about:

Whiteout #1 - I've never read this series, but I've heard it's good. Maybe I'll get it.

Micky Mouse - Yeah, Floyd Gottfredson! That guy was awesome. I'll definitely get this.

Amazing Spider-Man: Swing Shift - This one's by Dan Slott and Phil Jimenez, so it'll probably be good.

The Unseen Peanuts - Over 100 Peanuts strips that have never been collected. Cool!

Nexus Special - I've only read one issue of Nexus; I picked it up recently, trying to discover what all the fuss is about. I'll try to review it sometime. Anyway, this is either the beginning of or a precursor to a new miniseries that is "an ideal jumping-on spot for new readers." I guess I should read it then.

Owly & Korgi - Ah, Owly. Paragon of cuteness, bane of Greg Burgas. I've never been able to get into Owly, but my wife loves it, and so do any kids that I see read it. It's a good "gateway" comic.

Viper Comics Presents: Josh Howard's Sasquatch and More - I don't care about most of this stuff (especially Josh Howard; I don't see what the big deal is about him), but there's a preview of The Middleman volume 3! Actually, I'll probably just wait to read that one until it comes out.

Virgin Comics Sampler - I'll probably check this out, since a lot of Virgin's stuff intrigues me, but not enough to invest the money in it. Jog says Ramayan 3392 AD is good, so I'm interested in checking that out. And there's a Guy Ritchie/Andy Diggle series coming out soon that I'll be taking a look at. But this should be interesting to read.

The Train Was Bang On Time: An Episode From the Black Diamond Detective Agency - Eddie Campbell! I'll definitely get this one, and I'll be in line to pick up the GN when it comes out. Cool!

Gumby Special - I haven't read the latest Gumby revival (not really a fan of Bob Burden, for some reason), but I hear it's good, so I might get this. It'll at least be good to give to kids.

Comics Festival! 2007 - This one is always good, and it features contributions from the likes of Bryan Lee O'Malley, Hope Larson, and Darwyn Cooke! I'm there.

Marvel Adventures Three-in-One - After my recent foray into the lands of Marvel Adventures, I'm interested in this line. Plus Fred Van Lente, the Action Philosopher himself, is writing it. I might check it out.

Last Blood #1 - This one is vampires vs. zombies, in classic internet mascot feud tradition. It'll probably suck. (sorry)

Bongo Comics Free-for-All! 2007 - This one was terrible last year, so I'll probably avoid it this year. It's pretty indicative of the usual level of Simpsons humor (or lack thereof) these days. Avoid if possible.

Hunter's Moon/Salvador - Comics by Hollywood writers. Might be worth checking out.

The Umbrella Academy/Zero Killer/Pantheon City - Interesting new titles from Dark Horse. Gabriel Ba does the art on one of them. And a sweet cover by James Jean!

Lynda Barry Extravaganza - I've never been into Lynda Barry, so I probably won't get this. I don't know if I would say she's bad; I guess her art and writing just don't appeal to me.

Dyno-Force Preview - Wow, this looks bad. But that cover is hilarious! I can't help but smile when I look at it.

There's other stuff, of course. But this stuff is what I'll be looking out for. Anybody have any opinions?

The Boys won't be the b--ah, you get the idea

I found this via the Howling Curmudgeons:

Newsarama reports THE BOYS has been cancelled:

Newsarama has learned that Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s Wildstorm series, The Boys has been cancelled by DC, effective with issue #6 of the series, which is currently on shelves. Issues #7-#10, as well as the trade collection – all of which have been solicited – will not ship.
DC declined to comment on the series or even confirm that the series has indeed, been canceled.
Well then. I guess somebody got offended. Bummer. Luckily, The Beat was able to get a statement from Ennis:
It’s become obvious to all concerned that The Boys should never have been published at DC, and to their credit they’re working hard to release the rights so that Darick and I can find the book a new home. We’re already looking at offers from a number of publishers, and plan to return with #7 and the first trade collection in a matter of a few months.
Thank you to everyone who’s bought and supported The Boys to date. I’ve gotten a real kick out of the response we’ve gotten over the first six issues, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the next fifty-four. Believe me, what we’ve got coming up will make #1-6 look like a quiet evening on Sesame Street.
One other thing: I want to say thank you to Ben Abernathy, Scott Dunbier and Jim Lee for all their help and support. Good guys, pleasant to deal with, never anything less than gentlemen. I’m going to miss doing the book with them.
So it'll be back, supposedly. We'll see. I did enjoy the first six issues, but they weren't perfect. Kind of a slow start, but I liked the concept and found the book to be pretty fun. All right, Ennis, let's see what you can do!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Well, Jeff Parker dared me to review some of his comics (I think), so here we go!
(as always, click on images to enlarge)

Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #5
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Manuel Garcia

Hahaha! Check out that cover! Good juxtaposition, with Sue petting a cute baby dinosaur while the guys are being menaced by a big, ferocious one. So, the FF is at a public demonstration by a scientist who has invented the Geoportal, a device designed to instantaneously teleport people or cargo anywhere across the globe. The scientist has chosen a remote location in Antarctica as the destination of the portal's demonstration; unfortunately, he doesn't realize that the coordinates he's using lead to--

Uh oh! So of course dinosaurs start stampeding across New York City, and the FF have to clean up the mess. Reed goes to work fixing the Geoportal, which has become unstable due to the influx of dinos, so the others have to go do the roundup. There's some pretty good scenes, like Ben's continued attempts to haul a brachiosaurus in the direction it doesn't want to go:

Or Johnny doing a cowboy-style roundup:

Sue gets an idea to round up the carnivores:

She used the Fantasticard! I gotta get one of those. I'm also intrigued by how she uses her powers to sky-surf, Iceman-style. I don't know if I've ever seen that before. It's a cool (extreme!) idea for a book like this aimed at kids. So anyway, they round up the dinos and save the world. You know the drill. Fun! What's next?

Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Manuel Garcia

Sweet! I always dig an appearance by Lockjaw! As the story starts, the FF are attacked by a villain named Street while walking down the, um, street. He's a guy that got turned into a street, or something:

See? Reed manages to crumble him to pieces with a "cross-frequency modulator", but the device also ends up drawing the attention of--

Lockjaw! They explain who he is, so new readers (a.k.a. "kids") aren't too started by the appearance of a giant teleporting dog with a tuning fork on his forehead. Lockjaw, being a dog, chomps right down on the giant sandwich Ben just got from the deli (you can sort of see it in the above panel). Unfortunately, due to all the crazy ingredients Ben ordered, the sandwich gives him indigestion, causing him to teleport randomly, bringing the team along with him. They end up appearing in locations all over the world, including Egypt, the bottom of the ocean, and the top of the Himalayas. And we all know what you find in the Himalayas:

Yetis! Yikes! But eventually he manages to digest the sandwich, and they make it home, just in time to smash Street to pieces again. Again, a fun story. It's pretty slight, but a perfect little adventure comic that kids should enjoy. And I should mention that I love the way Garcia draws Lockjaw. He's big and weirdly-proportioned, but he still looks like a real dog, like in this shot of him right after eating the sandwich:

So, recommended! Next?

Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #9
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Carlo Pagulayan

This one features Klaw, the master of sound! He is introduced giving a good bit of exposition to nobody in particular about how he is a scientist who altered his molecular structure testing the military applications of sound waves. Also, how he used to be rivals with Reed Richards, and now, like any good supervillain, must destroy the Fantastic Four! He decides to divide and conquer, taking them on individually rather than as a team. First, he drops a building on the Thing:

Ah, now that's some good punnery! Then he shoots down the Human Torch while he's flying at an airshow with the Blue Angels. Continuing to work his way from strongest to weakest (in his opinion), he breaks into the Baxter Building and zaps Mr. Fantastic with sound waves. The Invisible Woman isn't as weak as he thinks though, as she uses her forcefields to smash him through the wall and out onto the street. Klaw then decides to create a creature made out of sound energy to attack her. She can handle that though:

Now that's pretty kickass. Girl power! Ben and Johnny show up, having survived their attacks (come on, you didn't think the Thing would be stopped by a building on his head, did you?), and the team works together to defeat Klaw. Another fun story, with a bit more action than the last two! You're 3-for-3, Parker. Can you keep up the streak?

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Juan Santacruz

Here it is, the comic that caught the blogosphere's fancy. You could say that this is the real comic to break the internet in half. Take that, Bendis! I've been seeing pictures of that cover on seemingly every comic-related website since last summer. Or it seems like it, at least. But is it any good? Well, check out this image from the third page:

The Avengers are fighting M.O.D.O.C., which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest (In the regular Marvel universe, it's MODOK, with the K standing for "killing", but this is the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures line, so it was changed to "conquest"), and they get captured. MODOC's evil plan is to force them all to undergo the process that caused his transformation, so they will understand why he is the way he is. Or something. The process goes wrong due to the incompetence of Karl, one of MODOC's henchmen, and the whole thing explodes. But the Avengers survive, transformed into the MOD Avengers!

Heh, that's the new character lineup for the book. They continue to fight crime, but they do it differently, as Karl explains to MODOC after watching the news:

There are a lot of funny details, mostly in comments about the team's goofy appearance. And their speech patterns become much more MODOC-like, with lines like "You are village idiots when compared to my gargantuan brain!" or "Though altered, my armor still manifested a force field to protect us. So you should all praise me!" Funny stuff. Later, they go up against Hulk's villains The Leader and the Abomination, mocking Leader for his subpar intelligence:

Then Hulk (excuse me, HulkDOC)'s chair gets smashed, and he ends up wobbling around on his tiny body and using his giant head to butt Abomination:

At one point, Wolverine gets knocked out, and I was really afraid he was going to wake up and find that it was all a dream. Thankfully, Parker spared us that cliche. It would have been too silly. Even in a story like this one! Instead, he finds another way to wrap up the story, and it's pretty satisfying. I don't know how much somebody who isn't familiar with these characters would enjoy this comic, but I found it to be great fun. I think kids would still enjoy it for it's goofiness. The plot really isn't that far off from something that would be on shows like "Johnny Test" or "My Gym Partner Is a Monkey". Again, fun!

Well, Parker, that's it. You win. I'll have to pick up more of these Marvel Adventures comics when I get a chance. They're lots of fun. I think I'll have my wife take these into the school where she teaches so the kids can read them. I bet they'll be popular. See, I'm doing what I can to hook the next generation on comics!