Monday, November 30, 2009

This week, I realize how many 2009 books I still have left to read

I don't believe I have anything new to say, so let's get to it:

New comics this week (THURSDAY, 11/3/09):

Boys #37

The problem with listing these alphabetically is that this title always ends up at the top, and I never have anything to say other than that I look forward to reading it when it's collected. Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, superhero decadence of the quality sort. I still need to read Herogasm...

Cinderella from Fabletown with Love #2

One of your Fables-related titles for the week, which I'll end up reading once it's collected. Hmm, that probably gets pretty tiresome when I say that about multiple comics every week. Sorry, tiny readership! Anyway, if you want to read what I thought was a good review, check out Nina Stone's take on the first issue, and then read the comments for some superhero-fan whining. Gotta love the internet.

Dingo #1

It seems like Boom! Studios is constantly releasing these little miniseries, many of them written by Michael Alan Nelson. This one is "a supernatural crime story in the vein of 100 Bullets" (which wasn't supernatural), something about a dude who wants a box and probably kills people to get it. If Nelson learned anything from Quentin Tarantino, we'll probably never find out what was in the box, but who knows. It might be interesting to read, maybe some good action? I can never tell if these are just a bunch of rejected film scripts that Nelson has lying around or something. That doesn't mean they aren't good, but it's weird that Boom! makes so many of them.

Empowered One-Shot

Aw, yeah, a dose of Adam Warren before the year ends. This is part of Dark Horse's current "one-shot" initiative that sees single-issue releases related to several of the series they publish. That means a standalone Empowered story, although it's in black and white rather than the color that I would hope for in a pamphlet-style release like this. Still, I'll take anything by Warren that I can get. Here, have a preview.

Fall of the Hulks Alpha

I really shouldn't care about whatever sort of event/crossover is going on in the Hulk line of books, but since Jeff Parker is involved, I guess I'm obligated, since I do tend to worship at his feet. I don't know how the rest of the story will go, but this first part, in which Parker tells the secret history of yet another shadowy group of major players in the Marvel Universe, this one consisting of super-smart villains the Leader, the Mad Thinker, the Wizard, Egghead, and the Red Ghost. It's retcon-tastic blah-de-blah, Parker-style! If that sounds like fun to you, well, you're probably not reading stuff like Underground, where Parker is actually telling stories rather than carrying out editorial diktat. You're missing out. Enjoy your multicolored smashing, nerds.

Glamourpuss #10

Dave Sim, still carrying on with the history lessons and weird humor that only he really gets. This issue features a look at Gene Colan, which will probably be neat and informative, if you are one of the few who bother to read it.

Iron Man Requiem

Here's another weird Marvel thing: their current penchant for recoloring their old comics. I guess people like the shiny layers of digital paint slapped on top of 40-year-old linework? That's what we get here, with reprints of the first Iron Man story from Tales of Suspense #39 and the story about how Tony Stark met James Rhodes from Iron Man #144, along with a framing story by Matt Fraction and Kano that metafictionally points out the discrepancy between the original Vietnam War setting of the origin and the current version, which took place in Afghanistan. Good god, comics don't make much sense these days, do they? Fraction even makes fun of Stan Lee's goofy writing, possibly as an expression of annoyance because he's also chafing under editorial constraints. Hey, Matt, Iron Man is fun and all, but you should get back to writing Casanova! That's what you're really good at!

Jack of Fables #40

Another Fables-related comic, another obligatory mention from me. I need to read that most recent collection sometime before the next volume of the main book comes out...

King City #3

Brandon Graham, baby! I'm loving this reprint series, even though I already read the book. It looks great, it's cool, people are reading it. Don't stop anytime soon, please!

Secret History Book 7

I haven't read any of this European series that Archaia has been sporadically publishing, but I've heard it's good. Something about an alternate history and World War I? I dunno, it seems cool. Someday, maybe.

Starr the Slayer #4

Daniel Way and Richard Corben keep up the lowbrow comedy and violence here, I expect, and probably some other metafictional stuff. It's the finale, and I bet Starr wins. It's been an enjoyable little series, especially for Corben fans. Now let's have him do Ultimate Spider-Man or something; that would be interesting.

Starstruck #4

I don't think I've seen this revived fantasy series in stores, but it's one that I would definitely like to check out. Let's hope a collection comes out soon.

Strange #2

I liked the first, baseball-themed issue of this new series about ex-Dr. Strange (except he should still be a doctor, right? Eh, whatever), so we'll see how it goes as it continues. It looks like this issue focuses on the girl he helped out last time, who is probably going to be his new apprentice. I hope it's good; I should have a review up at Comics Bulletin tomorrow.

Sweet Tooth #4

I finally got around to reading Essex County recently (review coming soon, if it's not up already), and man, now I'm aboard the Jeff Lemire love train. Damn, that guy is good. So, yeah, I'll have to get around to reading this post-apocalyptic Vertigo series that he's doing. Let's have a collection soon, please.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #5

Ultimate Spidey fights Mysterio, which should be fun, with lots of cool David LaFuente art, even if Tucker Stone disapproves. Hey, I like it.

365 Samurai & Few Bowls of Rice SC

Dark Horse has this digest-sized volume from European creator J.P. Kalonji, and it looks pretty cool, an art-focused action story about a wandering swordsman that's told in full-page panels. Kalonji looks like a creator to watch out for. Here's a fairly lengthy preview that really gets across what a nice-looking book this is.

Batman The Cat And The Bat TPB

This is the collection of that one Batman Confidential story where Batgirl and Catwoman fight naked. I might have to buy it and then white out all the nipple-obstructing objects and draw them in myself, because that would be so hot.

Larry Marder's Beanworld Vol 3 Remember Here When You Are There HC

This might have come out already, or maybe not; I dunno. I might read it sometime, but I really need to check out the first two volumes. I've never been able to get into this series, but I think I just need to jump in and read it, just immerse myself until it makes sense. Dancing beans in a weird two-dimensional landscape! Yeah, that's the ticket! Comics will drive me insane yet!

Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary GN

I don't know if there's a new version of this book or something, but it's on my local shop's list of stuff coming out this week. I've never read it, but it's apparently a groundbreaking bit of autobiographical cartooning from way back in 1972, about author Justin Green's struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and Catholicism. So, yeah, I should definitely give it a read if I ever get the chance. Someday? That's what I always say, isn't it?

Dead She Said TP

IDW has this collection of the miniseries by Steve Niles and Berni Wrightson, some sort of ghost detective story. I heard it wasn't all that good, but I suppose I would look inside if I saw it on a shelf. Recommendations! That's what I do!

Doctor Grordbort Presents Victory HC

I think it's weird that Dark Horse publishes comics/books based on a line of replica rayguns produced by Weta, the special effects guys who worked on the Lord of the Rings movies, but here it is anyway. I guess this details a sort of alternate history full of retro-futuristic goofiness; maybe it's kind of fun? It's a bit pricey at $20 for a 64-page hardcover though. Here's a preview.

Electropolis TP

I think this collects a miniseries from a while back by Dean Motter, but it doesn't appear to be directly tied into his Mister X series, like so much of his other stuff. This one is about a robot detective in a futuristic city, and it does seem kind of cool. Maybe I might read it even, who knows? Here's a preview.

Ex Machina Deluxe Edition HC Vol 2

Just what the title says; it's the fancy hardcover version of the third and fourth volumes of the series. I like it just fine in paperback, or even single issues, but this is good too. It used to be one of my favorite series, but it seems pretty sporadic these days, even as it's nearing a conclusion. Absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder.

Myspace Dark Horse Presents TP Vol 4

Wow, four volumes of this anthology already. How about that. And you can still read all of it online for free. This volume includes stories by Kate Beaton, Chris Onstad, David Malki, and plenty of others. Spend your money on it if you want, rich guy.

North World Vol 3 GN

I should probably try to read the second volume of this webcomics-to-print series, since I liked the first one. It's an odd sort of fantasy/modern hybrid that deals with relationships and whatnot in between the monster-slaying. I guess this one follows some supporting characters, rather than the main hero of the series. Maybe I'll catch up someday.

Nuns Without Guns GN

A weird title, a high concept, a probable lack of substance: yes, this is a Jason M. Burns graphic novel. I haven't been too impressed with what he's written in the past (The Expendable One, Curse of the Were-Woman, etc.), but man, that guy is prolific. This one involves nuns that fight demons, presumably hand-to-hand. Who knows, maybe he's turned a corner and doesn't suck as much now?

Popeye HC Vol 4 Plunder Island

I know this latest collection of the classic E.C. Segar strip is out in some places, because I saw it on the shelf at Quimby's a couple weeks ago. But here it is on the shipping list, so check it out if you haven't seen it yet. Popeye! Cool! I think this is an epic storyline from the good old days. Me, I still need to get through the first volume, but maybe I'll get caught up at some point. It's good stuff. Here, Fantagraphics has the usual slideshow/preview.

Stinky SC

It's the softcover version of Eleanor Davis' entry in the Toon Books line, about a monster who lives in a swamp and his boy pal. I hear it's good. Only five bucks! I can't pass that up if I see it.

Transmetropolitan Vol 5 Lonely City New Ed TPB

The next volume in the new edition of the Transmet reprints; I should really try to catch up on these. I think this is the first one after the election storyline? I dunno.

Unthinkable TP

Here's the collection of Boom!'s miniseries about a think tank that tried to come up with terrorist attacks in order to be prepared to fight them, but then the attacks start happening for real. It looked good, but I never did read it. Maybe I can remedy that now. Mark Sable writes, Julian Totino Tedesco draws, the TSA provides extra security screenings. Enjoy, paranoiacs!

Butterflies Flowers Vol 1 GN

This is the latest shojo/josei manga that Viz is pushing, and it looks like a good one, about a woman from a rich background who has to work in an office after her family goes bankrupt, and her boss is mean, which probably means he has a crush on her. Workplace romance manga? Yeah, that's the good stuff. Hopefully, people will buy it.

Emma Vol 10 TP

The final volume in the popular Victorian romance series. I really need to read this.

Honey And Clover Vol 8 GN

All right, it's a new volume of one of my favorite Shojo Beat titles! I can finally get caught up with my pretend art school pals! This is the first volume that contains new material that wasn't serialized in the magazine, so I'll be reading the hell out of it. Don't let me down, Chica Umino!

Moyasimon Vol 1 GN

I guess the release of this volume was delayed, possibly due to translation revisions? It's good stuff, about a college kid who can see bacteria, which causes him to get into wacky situations. I liked it. And hey, the contest in which I'm giving away copies of this volume is still open, so you might not even have to buy it!

One Piece East Blue 1-2-3 TP

I guess this is the omnibus edition of the first three volumes of the series, a pretty good deal at $15. I still haven't read hardly any of it at all, but I do plan to at some point. If you're like me and want to get into it, here's your chance.

Red Snow HC

Here's the artsy manga release of the week, from Drawn and Quarterly. It's about life in the Japanese countryside in the early 20th century, with some fantastical trappings and an emphasis on angst and loneliness, from what I understand. By Susumu Katsumata. It's always good to get this sort of classic stuff translated into English; I'll have to try to read it.

Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei The Power Of Negative Thinking Vol 4 GN

It's also good to get weird, silly comedy series like this, which, from what I understand, is full of untranslatable in-jokes, references, and puns, but remains funny even for Westerners who don't understand any of that stuff. I do want to check it out. Someday, someday.

Slam Dunk Vol 7 GN

Aagh, I'm behind on this series! I really need to catch up, because I love it; it's one of the funniest manga I've ever read, and it's got some pretty exciting sports action too. I hope somebody gives me a bookstore gift card for Christmas, with all this stuff I'm going to need to buy...

Yokaiden Vol 2 GN

Finally, here's a non-manga manga pick, originating in the United States from creator Nina Matsumoto, but being all about supernatural Japanese creatures and whatnot. I actually received a review copy of this one, so I'll have to give it a read, even though I haven't read the first volume. I've heard it's good though, and I like Matsumoto's art. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

Okay, enough blathering. I've got more comics to read and write about.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Plan B: Samuel Providence and the Nefarious Doctor Foil: I wish people referred to me as "nefarious"

Hmm, apparently I don't do much blogging over a holiday week. However, I reviewed Immortal Weapons #5 for Comics Bulletin, and they also finally posted the review of Nylon Road that I wrote a couple weeks ago. For those who don't know, that's a Persepolis-ish memoir by a woman who grew up in Iran, and it's interesting; it was an interesting review to write. And, I wrote about The Venture Brothers and Fringe for The Factual Opinion; I especially like that Fringe write-up.

Webcomics-related links: Chris Grine is serializing the third volume of Chickenhare online, and it's in full color. I haven't read the first two, but it looks pretty good; I'll be following this one.

Seth Kushner and Kevin Colden are starting serialization of a graphic novel called Schmuck at Act-I-Vate, and it looks quite good. Kushner has a post all about it here.

And speaking of which, Newsarama has Kushner's documentary The Act-I-Vate Experience, watchable in several parts here. I talked about it recently, and it's good watching, something to get you excited to go to the site and read some comics. If you don't want to watch it split up into sections, I think it will soon be available elsewhere as well, but Newsarama has an exclusive for now.

This Top Shelf 2.0 entry by Ben Hutchings is pretty hilarious.

By the way, the artificially-imposed deadline for my Moyasimon giveaway contest is coming up, and I've only received one entry, unless I yank some pull quotes from the comments left on that post or something. Come on, people, send me something, even if it's a line like "Matthew J. Brady is clearly the best Matthew Brady of all the Matthew Bradys, even if he didn't win an Eisner for sucking up to Joe Quesada and his photography skills would have made people remember Abraham Lincoln much more poorly!" I might extend the deadline if necessary, or I might just select the one winner and be done with it. I was really hoping to give away some of the stuff I've got laying around though, so please, send me something. Anything!

And now:

Plan B, book 2: Samuel Providence and the Nefarious Doctor Foil
Written by Josh Jenkins
Art by Karl Slominski

It's certainly nice to see artistic growth happen right before your eyes, isn't it? The first volume of Plan B, Josh Jenkins and Karl Slominski's mad-scientist-related series was enjoyable, but had a lot of flaws, better in promise and potential than execution. Happily, this second book, while still not perfect, raises the bar quite a bit, holding together better as a story rather than a gag delivery mechanism, adding a bit of horror to the background of the series, and retroactively informing the events of the first book in an effective manner. That's some pretty good progress for a self-published work that followed so quickly on the heels of its predecessor.

The plot this time around centers on the evil-seeming Doctor Foil of the title, who appears to have ties to Samuel Providence, one of the scientists at Plan B, the World War II-era facility that was tasked with developing "alternative" weapons using mad science. The book alternates between scenes in 1945 in the Plan B compound and flashbacks to bits of Foil's history in the early twentieth century as he picks up a young apprentice named Thomas and visits several different experimental subjects that have super-sensory capabilities like enhanced smell or taste, usually with the intent of killing them. Thomas himself has eidetic memory, which Foil uses as an information repository, and we see his continued corruption and descent into murderous madness over the years, making for some effective bits of horror as we wonder what exactly Foil is up to.

Meanwhile, in 1945, the Plan B gang learns that Foil has plans to break into the compound and appropriate their research for nefarious reasons, or so it seems. They find out via Tumbler, the insane masked escape artist who lives there for some reason, as he approaches Providence and utters the cryptic remark "The occupant must awaken." It seems that he was brainwashed into helping Foil, although it's hard to tell, since he's kind of crazy. Compared to the flashbacks, these bits provide some welcome comedy as he thwarts any of their attempts to find out what he knows, and the whole thing eventually culminates in a ridiculous puppet show that is apparently supposed to explain a creation myth that Foil learned as a child from Tasmanian aborigines but mostly just seems to add to the insanity.

It's enjoyable and interesting stuff, ending up being a much more effective use of the mysteries and unanswered questions that Jenkins filled the first volume with. Here, he shows that he has a plan, an entire history full of events and relationships between his characters, and while plenty is left unexplained, this time around things seem to be tantalizingly vague rather than just incomplete.

Slominsky's art also continues to be unique and interesting, full of jagged edges and angular anatomy, but he throws in a few other stylistic techniques in the various flashbacks, memories, and dream sequences, often switching from his stark black and white to effectively scratchy gray pencils:

The art can still be a bit difficult to follow sometimes; there are a lot of close-up views of faces or hands, and the person talking or movement of characters aren't always clear. But it's not impossible to figure out, and it's improved over the first volume. Better yet, the shift in mood works really well depending on the type of scene being shown; the dark shadows of the flashbacks emphasize the horror and creepiness of Foil's actions, while the white backgrounds of the 1945 scenes make the comedy more light and airy and define the empty cleanliness of the facility. The character art is nice as well; I especially like the flyaway nature of Thomas' hair:

So, no, the comic is still not perfect, but it's great to see the creators improving and developing their styles while still pushing themselves to try new ideas, artistic techniques, and storytelling styles. At this rate, they'll really have something special in future volumes. I know I'll be paying attention and hoping for the best.

As with the first volume, this book can be purchased from the official website.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This week, I'm thankful for Ennis, Powell, BruPhil, Thompkin (DorkThom?), hell, even Millar

Elsewhere: I'm late linking to these, but I reviewed the latest episodes of Fringe and The Venture Brothers for The Factual Opinion, and Days Missing #2 and 3 for Comics Bulletin.

Links: Speaking of TFO, Tucker's latest episode of Advanced Common Sense is up, and it's as hilarious as always, all positive reviews of comics that really don't deserve it. At least one bit makes me want to start calling Tucker the new Miss South Carolina.

Online comics links: Joshua Hagler is going to be posting the issues of The Boy Who Made Silence on his blog in anticipation of the upcoming collection of the first volume of the series, so if you haven't read it, I highly recommend you go check it out. I raved about it here, if you want to know more of what I thought.

Colleen Frakes, whose Tragic Relief I just wrote about the other day (I liked it), is participating in that National Novel Writing Month thing that people do in November, except she's doing a graphic novel, and posting it on her blog as she goes. I'm liking it quite a bit so far; you can also read the whole thing on Flickr.

Viz's latest addition to their SIGIKKI site is the series Bob and His Funky Crew, which is a baseball comedy that's sort of similar to Cromartie High School, if a bit less absurd, at least so far. I liked the first chapter; give it a read.

New comics this week (Wednesday, 11/25/09):

Beasts of Burden #3

Have I mentioned that I'm loving this series? It's been really, exceptionally good so far, with the second issue especially standing out. Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, cute animals, beautiful art, really horrifying shit, what's not to love?

Creepy Vol. 3 #2

I don't think I ever even saw the first issue of this relaunched horror anthology on the shelves, but here's another one. I might check it out, who knows. This issue features the second part of a Joe R. Lansdale-written story, stuff by Dan Braun, Greg Ruth, Jason Shawn Alexander, and maybe some others? (ETA: "others" includes one Nathan Fox, so plan accordingly). Here's a preview.

Criminal Sinners #2

Ah, it's good to have this series back. I'm digging the current story arc so far, and I can't wait to see where Brubaker goes with it. And also how awesomely Phillips draws it. Yes, it should be good; I will try to control my salivary glands while I wait.

Fantastic Four #573

Jonathan Hickman's run on the title continues, with what appears to be a one-off adventure on Mark Millar's Nu-World with Ben, Johnny, Franklin, and Valeria. The fill-in artist is Niel Edwards, and he appears to be working in a Bryan Hitch mode, which makes for some excitement. Seems decent enough.

Ganges #3

I thought this newest issue of Kevin Huizenga's Ignatz series had come out a while ago, but maybe this is when it's hitting the direct market. Whatever; I haven't read it, since I'm not all that interested in comics about insomnia. Ha ha! No, I just haven't gotten to it; maybe one of these days.

The Goon #33

It's the latest issue of Eric Powell's signature series, although it apparently fits into Dark Horse's current series of one-shot comics, featuring a sure-to-be-funny self-contained tale that probably involves grotesquery and punching.

Immortal Weapons #5

Here's the final issue of this Iron Fist spinoff series, with a story about Prince of Orphans by David Lapham and Arturo Lozzi that also sees an appearance by Iron Fist himself, along with Luke Cage and a giant dragon. Looks pretty cool; I should have a review up at Comics Bulletin tomorrow.

Invincible Iron Man #20

This is the first part of Matt Fraction's latest Iron Man arc, called "Stark: Disassembled". I expect Tony is going to come back from his coma or whatever pretty soon, but it should be interesting to see how Fraction is going to dig his way out of the hole he's put himself in. He's got a plan, man!

Northlanders #22

More Brian Wood Viking stories, with what I think is the second part of the current storyline, "The Plague Widow". I'll read it eventually.

Powers Vol. 3 #1

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming relaunch what's probably their best series, and it's supposedly going to be monthly, at least for a while. We'll see how long that lasts, but hopefully it will be a good read. I'll wait for the collection; don't let me down, Christian Walker!

Tick Vol. 2 #1

I rarely read any Tick comics (although I've enjoyed his stories in other media), but the creative team on this relaunch looks interesting: Hector Plasm's Benito Cereno and The Middleman's Les McClaine. Those guys make it at least worth a look, I think.

Ultimate Comics Avengers #4

Mark Millar, still writing his league of assholes. More big action this issue, with Captain America fighting the new team and being a general badass. Millar can sure be fun when he just does action, and well, has his characters be dicks. Enjoy, misanthropes.

Unknown Soldier #14

Another Vertigo series that I read in collections. I'll get to it eventually, but I'll be waiting expectantly until I do.

Astonishing X-Men Vol 5 Ghost Box TPB

The first arc of Warren Ellis' run on Astonishing, with Simone Bianchi on art, and some kinda blah storytelling. I think I read this whole thing, but I don't even remember what it was about. Something about interdimensional mutants threatening to invade, and Forge turning out to be the bad guy. Really, Bianchi's art is probably the most interesting thing about it, what with the crazy layouts that he does, but it's still not all that good. We'll see if the current arc with Phil Jimenez is any better, but I kinda doubt it. Oh, if only Ellis could go back to Nextwave...

Boys Vol 5 Herogasm TPB

The porny miniseries that is apparently just another story arc in the main series gets collected, so I can finally find out what I was missing. I hear it's nasty, so don't let me down, Ennis!

Chew vol 1: Taster's Choice TPB

The indie (if Image counts) success story of the year gets its first collection, at the bargain price of ten bucks. I think I might have to buy it and see what all the fuss was about. I do like what I've seen of the series, and it's good to see something non-superhero get this much recognition in the "mainstream", so now let's see how it all works as a comic. Ah yes, that's what this blog is supposed to be about, isn't it? Comics! Don't let me down, hype!

Dark Reign Elektra TPB

I really don't have much interest in all this Dim Kingdom hoo har, so usually something like this would be pretty ignorable. And maybe it should be, but David Brothers piqued my interest with this excerpt, which features some pretty sweet action. That's something, I guess. But yeah, I probably still won't read it.

The Dead: Kingdom Of Flies TP

It looks like zombies will never get old, doesn't it? Here's yet another comic about them, but it's notable because it's by Alan Grant and Simon Bisley. Whoa, that's a team worth taking note of. If you're interested, the official site has some sample artwork, including a PDF of the whole first issue. Neato.

The Devil's Handshake

Archaia has this new graphic novel/prestige format one-shot about an Indiana Jones-style adventurer, and it looks interesting enough. It's written by Larry Hama, from a concept by Ryan Schifrin, with art by Adam Archer. Maybe interesting? Here's a preview.

A Distant Neighborhood Vol 2 GN

The second half of Jiro Taniguchi's latest thing that everybody is raving about. I never read the first one (or anything else by Taniguchi for that matter, which is a shame), but I might catch up to it at some point. My list of "read this someday" comics grows ever longer.

Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures TP

Slave Labor is publishing this collection of Chris Wisnia's comics about giant, Kirby-style monsters, and it looks pretty cool. I met Wisnia at Wizard World Chicago a few years ago, and he was a cool guy, so I'll go ahead and recommend this even though I haven't read it. But if you want a sample, here are a few stories that you can read on the official site. Enjoy, freeloaders!

Eagle Annual Best of the 1960s Comic HC

It's a collection of the classic British boys' comics, featuring stuff like Dan Dare and PC 49: Extra Special Agent Harris Tweed (I love the British-ness of that name; couldn't they have worked tea and crumpets in there somewhere?). Neat stuff, it seems; gotta love the historical reprints, even if you never read them.

From The Pages Of Bram Stokers Dracula Harker GN

Okay, so this is "the first graphical sequel to Dracula ever to be endorsed by the Bram Stoker estate", which is one hell of a dubious distinction if you ask me. I suppose that's a mark of honor or something, but do you really need to get Stoker's descendants' stamp of approval to just write a damn sequel to Dracula? I'm sure it's been done plenty of times, and while this might be decent (or even really good, who knows), it seems like a cheap stab at relevance and attention. Anyway, it's by Tony Lee and Neil Van Antwerpen, and it involves Dracula's last bride trying to steal Mina Harker's unborn baby, or something like that. Enjoy, vampire fetishists!

Harpe: America's First Serial Killers GN

This appears to be a small, possibly self-published graphic novel about, well, what the title says, a frontier-era bit of history about some brothers who did some killin'. It might well be an interesting book; the official site is here, and it links to a bunch of reviews, and Newsarama has a preview. Yeah, I could give it a read if I ever got the chance.

Immortal Iron Fist TPB Vol 5 Escape From the Eighth City

I mentioned Iron Fist above, and here's what is likely the final volume of the main series, seeing Danny and his pals trapped in a mystical prison dimension and finding out deadly secrets and whatnot. Good stuff, although I remember being a bit disappointed by the ending. Still, it's cool, and shows that Duane Swierczynski had some good ideas and might have done some interesting stuff if he had been able to continue to the series. Ah well, such is life.

Incognito TPB

This bit of superhero/villain/pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips was a decent enough diversion from Criminal, but I'm glad it's over and they're back doing the good stuff. If you've gotta have spandex in your crime comics though, you could certainly do worse.

Powers HC Vol 3 Definitive Collection

And just in time for a new volume of this series, here's the completion of the big hardcover collections from two volumes ago. Timing! This actually collects the "Sellouts" and "Forever" arcs from the end of the original series, which contain some of the series' strongest storytelling (although that might not stand up with a reread, which I should probably do someday). If you still need to catch up, or if you want the fancy-pants expensive version of the comics, here you go.

Proper Go Well High: A Trains Are Mint Book GN

Oliver East continues his travelogue series, and although I've never read the first one, this looks pretty nice, so I wouldn't mind checking it out. You can see some sample artwork at the official site.

Saga of the Swamp Thing HC Book 02

DC/Vertigo continues to collect Alan Moore's run on Swampy, so maybe I'll get to read more of it. I did get the first volume at the library, and really enjoyed it, so here's my chance for more. Gotta love catching up on the classics.

SHADE the Changing Man TP Vol 01 American Scream
SHADE the Changing Man TP Vol 02 Edge of Vision TP

Here's the other big Vertigo collection, the first two volumes of Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo's revamp of an old Steve Ditko character, with some totally crazy/awesome ideas just sprayed all over the pages. Some really dark stuff in here; I like it a hell of a lot. The first volume was previously collected several years ago, but this is the first time any more of it has been collected, so don't let it go by the wayside. It's a weird, hard-to-follow series, but it's from Milligan's prime, fitting in alongside stuff he did in books like Enigma, or, I dunno, whatever other crazy shit was coming out from Vertigo at the time (and yes, I know, the series was originally pre-Vertigo, but it became part of the imprint at its beginning and kept up with the other stuff that was going on, so it counts). Good stuff, don't miss out.

Simon Bisley Illustration From The Bible TPB

I bet this will be more interesting than the Crumb version. Actually, this might not be a new release at all, but it's on the list of stuff that will show up at my local store this week, so we'll see if it makes it there. I expect weirdness and depravity; don't let me down, Bisley!

Sparky O Hare Master Electrician GN

I'm not sure if this is easily available outside of England, but it's a collection of strips by German cartoonist Mawil about a cute lil' rabbit who does wiring and stuff. Here's a review with some sample strips. Awwww.

Winter Men TPB

Ooh, another big release. Jog and some others have been talking this series up since it first started, and though it's been plagued by long, long delays, it finally finished up this year, and here's a collection of the whole thing. Now I can finally find out what the fuss is. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Brett Lewis, John Paul Leon, hidden secrets from the Cold War coming back to bite the world on the ass, et cetera. Rock.

Years Of The Elephant GN

Finally, Fanfare/Ponent Mon has this release of a graphic novel from Belgian cartoonist Willy Linthout, apparently the autobiographical story of Linthout trying to cope with the suicide of his son. Sounds like some nice, bright, cheery material there. Good holiday reading. Probably very moving and emotional and all that, if you can stand it. If I ever get my hands on it, I'll see how much I can take.

Kinda slow week? Maybe? Eh, everybody (in the U.S., anyway) is getting ready to stuff themselves and watch football in a brazen display of excess; comics are a secondary concern. Not for me though! I'll be here on the front lines, keeping everyone informed on my own sequential art consumption. I do it for you, so now you can be thankful as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Save that mumbo-jumbo for 'superstition freaks!' It means nothing to me!"

I love the splash page that opens Mister Miracle #14 so much, I'm going to go ahead and name it today's Fourth World Panel:

Man, what a great non sequitur (if you can call it that, since there's not really anything that comes before it); you just open the book, and BAM, there's a goofy-looking monster running and shouting for help. That's how you get people into a story! The plot itself is all right, although Apokolips/New Genesis/the Fourth World continue to be absent; instead, Scott and Oberon see that goblin get taken away by some other monsters, and they follow them to a haunted house to investigate some sort of cult that call themselves the Satan Club. I believe this predated the 70s occult craze, so there aren't any pentagrams or even much in the way of goat heads or devil horns; instead it's just weird-looking monsters, and a bunch of death traps:

Oh, and a leader named Madam Evil-Eyes, who has an awesomely crazed expression and a crazy beehive (or whatever you call it) of a hairdo:

It doesn't really matter though, because other than the crazy lady (who Oberon speculates is "one of those rare birds!--A true mutation!") they turn out to be regular old arms dealers (possibly affiliated with the Scavengers?) who dressed up their lair all spooky-like to scare people off. I guess this is what would happen if Kirby did Scooby-Doo. They sure are dedicated to their theme though, with neat interior decorations and instruments like this snake statue/closed circuit camera monitor:

There's a nice showdown too, as Madame Evil-Eyes freaks out about losing her money and tries to burn the hell out of our heroes:

I love those panels, from the clutching desperation, to the flaming eyeball closeup, to the way they grow to these giant burning orbs. Damn, that's some good stuff.

I'm still wondering about the direction the series has taken though; this is the third issue in a row that has dealt with some sort of mind control, with no mention at all of the Anti-Life equation. I would hope that Kirby is subtly building to some sort of Darkseid-related reveal, but I kind of doubt it. Man, if only he could have completed this series like he originally envisioned; that's one that we'll always be wondering about.

Next: "The Real Big Barda", whatever that means.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pamphleteering: (Mostly) Limited Distribution Edition

Elsewhere: I reviewed Spider-Man 1602 #2 at Comics Bulletin, for some reason. Actually, it was an excuse to rant about pointless alternate versions of established characters, so there you go.

Here are some reviews of various minicomics, with one or two other pamphlet-style things mixed in:

Pinstriped Bloodbath: An Anthology of Gangland Violence by Chicago Cartoonists
By Bernie McGovern, Neil Brideau, Nate Beaty, Ricky Gonzales, Neil Fitzpatrick, Sam Sharpe, Jeff Zwirek, and Jeremy Tinder

It's interesting to see a small, self-published, pamphlet-format anthology like this one, especially one that's so well designed. The cover mimics a double-breasted suit jacket, with the back cover wrapping around the front like an actual coat, a strip of paper sporting an Ivan Brunetti illustration wrapped around to hold it together, and what appear to be hand-made blood splatters (it also comes in a splatter-free variant, for collectors). That's a great package, and if the contents inside don't quite live up to its promise, it's not for lack of trying. The creators involved mostly tell stories based in historical fact, although they use a variety of different styles to do so. Bernie McGovern's "Baby Face" depicts the last stand of Babyface Nelson, with a near-wordless bit of action and violence that uses some nice panel arrangement to convey information about the shootout. Neil Fitzpatrick uses a cutesy cartoon style to depict the death of Samuel "Nails" Morton, who was kicked in the head by a horse, prompting his fellow gangsters to take revenge on the animal. It's ends up being a jokey goof on a funny real-life story; cute. Jeff Zwirek's "The Chicago Typewriter" tells the history of the Thompson submachine gun in organized crime, using a highly deformed, cartoony style that gives the characters tiny bodies with huge heads and big eyes. It's interesting, but reliant on almost a quarter-page of endnotes to make sense of what's being depicted, with the action alternating between random gangland shootings, John Thompson alternately despairing of selling his huge stock of guns and declaring that they are only used for lawful purposes, and speculative expansions of historical events involving the gun. It ends up being interesting, but it possibly could have been put together a bit better.

Other stories take a bit more of a speculative look at gang violence. Rickey Gonzales' "Blood Red & Baby Blue" apparently sees the death of John Dillinger outside a movie theater, then backs up to look at the perspective of a couple other participants in the killing. Or is it Dillinger at all? The final page seems to indicate that the police might have shot the wrong man. It's kind of confusing, and the art is a bit awkward; this might be the least accomplished story in the comic. Neil Brideau's "Cracking" sees the first meeting of two famous gangsters, Charles Dean O'Banion and Charles "The Ox" Reiser, during a safecracking job. It's an interesting bit of character work, as O'Banion is shown to have a penchant for sadistic violence while Reiser is a professional old player. The art is a bit simplistically cartoony, but it works for the simple little tale. Nate Beaty's "Keepsake" is a quick, wordless bit of moody violence and its aftermath, as a gangster (Al Capone?) is gunned down in a barber shop and a woman stops to grab a souvenir. The art is well done, with inky, scratchy shadows and densely-patterned rainfall; it's one of the best looking parts of the book. Jeremy Tinder's two-page entry (which is apparently untitled) is a silly-looking bit of instruction in how to make bathtub gin, with a punchline befitting the violent nature of the rest of the book.

And then there's Sam Sharpe's "Change Your Name", which doesn't fit in with the rest of the stories at all. It's an apparently-autobiographical story in which he meets up with his mother, who seems a bit mentally unstable. She claims that he was abducted as a child by the Sharpe crime family, and she's offended that he still uses their name. Other than this reference to (imagined/delusional) crime, nothing here falls under the theme of Chicago gangsters, so why it's included is beyond me. It is a decent little story though, with some nice art that sees Sharpe depict the characters as anthropomorphic dogs.

Overall, it's a pretty nice package, and a good collection of comics from Chicago creators about their city. As with any anthology, it has its ups and downs, but for a minicomic-style pamphlet, it's a good deal. If the subject matter interests you, give it a look.

Tales of Good Ol' Snoop Doggy Dogg

Minicomics are a good format for creators to tell personal stories about whatever they feel like, and that's exactly what J.T. Yost does here, first depicting three dreams he had that featured the rapper of the title, and then detailing why such an odd fellow might be on his mind with the story of how he first experienced his music at a party before getting beat up. It's funny and interesting, especially in the artistic decisions Yost makes. For instance, he depicts the dreams fairly realistically (if still in a sort of cartoony style), highlighting their surreality, and then in the true-life story, he switches to a less realistic style and soft-edged round panels, making the memory seem hazy and unreal, almost more dreamlike than the dreams themselves. It's a short little comic, but one that amuses and provokes thought; what else could you ask for?

The minicomic is available for purchase here.

Tragic Relief
By Colleen Frakes

While it started out as a minicomic, this version of Colleen Frakes' Xeric-winning Tragic Relief is more of a graphic novel, squarebound and spanning about 70 pages. And while it's a quick read, it's very well done, affecting and full of really nice art. The story is a fable of sorts, following a hapless man who falls in love with a series of women/mystical creatures, only to have them all accidentally(?) killed by his mother. He finally ends up with a normal human woman, who seems to immediately take the old woman's place. That's the simple description, but watching Frakes play the story out through a series of beautiful, dialogue-free images is wonderful; she has a real flair for pantomime, and the way she plays the images across the page without any panel borders fits the story's atmosphere perfectly:

In the end, it seems to be symbolic of the way people can be dominated by their parents, and even when they manage to escape that influence, they seek out somebody who is exactly the same. It's a fairly simple idea, but a pleasure to see what Frakes does with it.

The book is available to purchase on Frakes' blog.

I Want You #1

Lisa Hanawalt has one hell of a weird sense of humor, but since she can also draw really well, that means she's able to come up with books like this, which feature humanoid animals and their strange attempts at romance, little bugs that live in a computer keyboard and constantly have sex, car accidents all caused by an obsession with horses, animals wearing bizarre hats, "common dirty talk and the questions it raises", and, most amusingly, "menstrual terminology". That last one is my favorite, since it's the kind of girl humor about something they have to deal with regularly, and the final punchline is that guys are terribly grossed out by it. It's a good collection of the kind of stuff that Hanawalt apparently obsesses about, and the art is pretty incredible, full of tons and tons of detail, interesting patterns, and lots of weirdness. It would be interesting to see her work on some longer-form comics, but if all she wants to do is this sort of quick, jokey stuff that empties the stranger contents of her brain onto the page, at least we'll get to see more of her incredibly unique sensibilities.

The comic is available to purchase from Buenaventura Press.

Uptight #3

Jordan Crane is a pretty incredible cartoonist, and this issue of his anthology series demonstrates that wonderfully, with two stories that are different enough that it's impressive that they came from the same creator, but both beautifully drawn and well-told. The first is "Vicissitude", the first chapter of a story about a mechanic and his wife, who is cheating on him. It's a realistic portrait of an unhappy couple, and while it seems like it might lead to a confrontation and explosion of drama, it's not a typical story that you might see in a movie or TV show, and explanations quickly gloss over the conflict and leave it simmering, to be picked up later. The deep shadows and heavy use of grays and blacks make it seem like a gloomy, sad tale, and the expressive character work makes these people come to life. Future chapters probably won't be very happy, but they should continue to make for a good story.

The second half of the issue completely shifts gears, following characters from Crane's graphic novel The Clouds Above, which appears to be a children's story about a boy and his talking cat having adventures. If this short piece is anything like the longer book, it should definitely be one to check out; this is a cute, fun romp following the boy, his cat, and a friend as they get in trouble at school and help a maintenance man figure out what is wrong with the cafeteria freezer, ending up causing even more trouble. The art is pleasing, with expressively cartoony kids and tons of detail as the kids explore the intricate machinery and piles of boxes of food, and encounter the surprising reason for the malfunction. It ends abruptly, obviously meant to continue into a longer story, but just this portion is enough to get one excited about what Crane has planned for the story. Hopefully he'll be able to continue it soon, but whatever he works on, it will be worth reading, since he's a pretty amazing comics talent.

The comic is available to purchase from Fantagraphics.

Cowboy Ninja Viking #1-2
Written by A.J. Lieberman
Art by Riley Rossmo

The title of this series seems to indicate one of those oft-tiresome mashups that show up in nerd circles as they become infatuated with one "cool" character type after another, like "pirates vs. robots" or "vampires vs. werewolves". But while that aspect might have informed this comic, it's got something different going on, telling a story of globe-trotting action, espionage, and assassination. Or something like that; it's slightly hard to follow, as writer A.J. Lieberman jumps around to different locales, skips back and forth in time, and fills pages with lots of witty banter that distracts from the main plot, which takes one full issue to really get started with an introduction and then just sort of jumps past further explanations to a second issue where the real conflict is underway. That plot can be pretty interesting though, following a man named Duncan who suffered from multiple personality disorder and underwent training and conditioning by the government to turn his personalities into, well, you've already read the title. He's not exactly a competent killer easily making use of his personalities' skills though; he's crazy and unsure of anything, with the personas arguing amongst themselves and fighting for control. He would be happy to stay living in a mental hospital, but he gets dragged out and put to work by a rich, powerful man and his vaguely-defined organization, and it turns out that he's going to be fighting others like him who have undergone similar treatment. So maybe this is a genre mashup after all, but it's one that throws everything at the wall and doesn't stop; the first foe is a gladiator/pirate/deep sea diver, and it should be interesting to see what other silliness Lieberman comes up with in the future.

The art, by Proof's Riley Rossmo, is pretty nice, full of scratchy expression and neat scribbly effects, not to mention occasional well-rendered gore. He uses a nice two-color scheme, with the first issue bathing everything in a cool blue, but the second switching to a bright pink to emphasize the kick-started action, which ends up being well-choreographed and fun. It's kind of crazy and frenetic, and it fits the mood of the story really well. One especially effective touch is the word balloons which include the shape of a gun, a sword, or an axe to indicate which of Duncan's personalities is speaking; that's a neat idea.

Overall, it's kind of silly, but it takes itself just seriously enough to make the idea effective, and there's plenty of funny dialogue and crazy little tangents to keep things enjoyable and interesting. It should be fun to see where Lieberman and Rossmo are going with this thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Act-I-Vate Primer: Initial layer of paint or explosive charge?

One link: This series of Jack Kirby-style comic book covers based on Inglourious Basterds is awesome.

The Act-I-Vate Primer
By Nick Bertozzi, Pedro Camargo, Mike Cavallaro, Molly Crabapple & John Leavitt, Mike Dawson, Jim Dougan & Hyeondo Park, Ulises Farinas, Michel Fiffe, Maurice Fontenot, Simon Fraser, Tim Hamilton, Dean Haspiel, Jennifer Hayden, Joe Infurnari, Roger Langridge, and Leland Purvis

When it comes to webcomics, has a lineup of creators and stories that can't be beat, but it can be a bit intimidating to look at the front page of the site and try to figure out where to start reading. Luckily, the forward-looking minds behind the site/artist collective/happening have a solution in this print volume that offers samples of several of the comics that can be found, but in a way that's self-contained, introductory, and encouraging of further exploration, rather than just excerpting what's already available. These stories are all exclusive to the print volume, but they all give enough of a taste of what can be found in the online tales that readers will want to rush to the site to see what other wonders are there to behold.

As with any anthology, it's a bit of a mixed bag, with some series and creators offering stories that might or might not interest certain people. But even if they aren't to everyone's taste, they all demonstrate a high quality of storytelling and great, often innovative use of the comics form. The lower end of the spectrum here is represented by Maurice Fontenot's Ghost Pimp story "All Men Are Whores", which, while being well-drawn in a cute, cartoony style and featuring some amusing sex jokes, is little more than a sitcom-style goof about the war between the sexes. Jennifer Hayden's "Rat-Chicken", from her series Underwire, is another one that seems a bit on the lesser side, but that's mostly due to the somewhat crude, simplistic artwork, which masks a rich bit of autobiography that seems to be similar to the work of Jeffrey Brown. The story sees an elderly stranger visit Hayden's family's house, where he used to visit friends when he was a kid. The visit sparks some memories in Hayden, and she and her family are fascinated by the man's stories, making for a short but engaging story, something that makes the idea of reading Hayden's similar online work quite appealing.

Other stories seem strikingly personal, such as Dean Haspiel's "Bring Me the Heart of Billy Dogma", which, as with his other stories featuring the character, like "Immortal" (which was serialized in the Image-published miniseries Brawl) and "Fear, My Dear" (which I reviewed here, if you're interested), sees the character's relationship with his girlfriend Jane Legit shaking the foundations of their world. It's as good as always, with Haspiel baring his emotions and feelings about love and the way it can seem world-alteringly powerful. There's the usual idiosyncratic dialogue, bombastic Kirby-esque artwork, symbolic hearts, and graphic nudity and sex. It's great stuff, a small sample of what's in store for readers if they choose to read more online; hopefully they won't be scared off by the intensity.

Michel Fiffe's "Cactus", from his series Zegas, is another one that explores interesting and seemingly personal emotional themes, combining them with his signature experimental artwork. The story sees siblings Boston and Emily search for a new cactus after she steps on and destroys his, which is a precious memory of a previous relationship. They end up coming into possession of a weird pink plant, given to them by an old homeless man, and after showing it some love, it falls apart and releases a spirit which flies up into the cosmos to reunite with its lover, allowing Boston to finally feel a sense of closure. It's a beautiful little tale, really brought to life by Fiffe's art, which sees some excellent character work and description-defying effects in the ghostly sequences:

Fiffe is an amazing emerging talent, and this glimpse is enough to make any reader want to see what else he can do. The same is true of Jim Dougan and Hyeondo Park's Sam & Lilah, which sees a couple have a fight just before going to sleep, with their feelings about each other reflected in their dreams. The story isn't especially deep, but the gorgeous artwork is amazing and innovative, with images continuing across the gutters between panels and morphing into something else, and a telling divide between the two dreamers being crossed by physical emotions:

It's beautifully detailed, intricate work, with bright, engaging colors and some incredibly evocative imagery. Hopefully the stories in the series are a bit longer and more complex, but this taste is enough to not only make the reader rush online to see more, but to wonder why Park especially hasn't been snapped up by a somebody to illustrate a high-profile title yet.

Ulises Farinas' Motro is another series that seems somewhat personal, telling the tale of a chubby little boy in an apocalyptic, barbarian-populated wasteland who doesn't quite seem ready to live up to his father's expectations. They go on a sort of vision quest in which he is supposed to acquire a name that will define his future, but he's not ready to grow up and take that responsibility. It's an interesting little tale, with some really nice art that strands its rounded, almost cute characters in a windswept landscape and features some gorgeously moody shadowy coloring in the scenes that take place at night, along with some weird, spookily detailed visions. Whether or not the kid is meant to be Farinas himself remains to be seen, but it should be interesting to find out.

Some of the other stories seem a bit experimental, but more in terms of storytelling and ideas than in the use of comics techniques, with Nick Bertozzi's Persimmon Cup being especially noteworthy. It's a fascinating bit of sci-fi worldbuilding, with the title character being a sort of scribe in a society that seems plant-based, or at least uses some sort of alien biology that's barely comprehensible in human terms. In this story, she is tasked with discovering the truth about the destruction of a village, leading to a sad tale about the way lies and greed can ruin societies. It's a great showcase for Bertozzi's imagination, as well as his skill at depicting ideas that seem just beyond the realm of our ability to grasp them, like this being that appears to be higher-dimensional:

And then there's something like Leland Purvis' Vulcan & Vishnu, which is experimental in its simplicity rather than in bringing new complexities to the table. It's a story about a couple of guys who apparently wander the land having adventures, and other than an introductory caption, it's completely wordless, with the characters speaking in pictographic form:

It's not really a new or groundbreaking idea, but it works wonderfully here, especially in the way the stark, bold-lined images in the word balloons contrast with the beautiful watercolors of the landscapes and characters. Purvis tells the story perfectly using his easy-to-follow images, and even ends things with a great punchline; it's a really nice little short story, and one that makes him a talent to pay much closer attention to.

And then there are the stories that simply seem to be good yarns, chances for their characters to build interesting worlds, draw exciting images, and develop characters to bounce off each other. Simon Fraser's Lilly MacKenzie, represented here in a sort of origin story called "When Lilly Met Cosmo", looks to be a fun sci-fi story about the spacefaring title character and her little person sidekick, with them meeting for the first time here, as the story's title indicates. The events seem like they might make a bit more sense after reading the rest of the story, but it's more of an interesting tease than an impenetrable bit of inside information, and the real pleasure is seeing Fraser detail life aboard a space station, and the weird characters that live there. The art is really nicely-detailed too, and Lilly herself seems realistically beautiful; I especially like the way the whiteness of her shirt is left as just the blank color of the page itself showing through the artwork, almost giving her a radiant glow:

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another series that should be great follow online, and this taste certainly pushes one in that direction.

The same can be said for Mike Cavallaro's Loviathan, which also appears to have an origin-style story here called "Veils". Cavallaro is a fine cartoonist, possibly most famous for Parade (With Fireworks) (which I reviewed here), his series about a story from his family's history in fascist Italy. Loviathan, however, is completely different, a fantasy story that takes place in undersea Atlantis, featuring heroes, villains, political intrigue, magic, monsters, and interdimensional travel of some sort, and it's pretty amazing to behold, full of crazy detail and gorgeous coloring, and plenty of hints of the wonders and excitements that take place in the online series. It seems like a chance for Cavallaro to unleash his talent, filling pages with as much awesomeness as he can muster. This is the kind of thing that must make the other creators strive to keep up.

The rest of the book is filled with excellence as well. Roger Langridge contributes what appears to be another origin-style story in his Mugwhump the Great entry, "The Boy who Came to Stay", which sees a ventriloquist dummy boy enter the life of the title juggler and immediately cause funny complications. Tim Hamilton's "The Tale of the Elephant Cowboy", from Tales of the Floating Elephant, is a nice little story of brotherhood, honor, despair, and luck about a struggling gimmick cowboy, with some wonderfully scratchy artwork. Joe Infurnari's ULTRA-Lad! story "Memoirs of the 'Kid Immortal'" seems like it might fill in some backstory for the series, but works very well on its own, telling the tale of a wrestler who gains power by making a mystic pact and becoming a sort of youth-powered superhero and featuring some great examples of Infurnari's smudgy, detailed, faux-aged artwork. Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt's "Slow News Day" serves as a good introduction to their Backstage strip, showing the operations of a gossip rag that covers the 1940s New York theater scene and displaying some nice character interplay between the leads. Mike Dawson's "Goodnight Max" is another origin tale with a twist, showing the first fight between the superpowered brothers of his Jack & Max series, and appropriating the imagery (if not the language) of the classic children's book Goodnight Moon. And finally, Pedro Camargo's "Esqueleto" tells the backstory of what I assume is one of the characters in his series Glam, making for a nicely weird story of jealousy among circus acts and grievous payback for misdeeds, using some expressive black and white artwork to realize the grim tale.

Overall, the volume is an onslaught of artistic wonderment, something to get readers excited about the creators and what they're doing in their various comics, and a better advertisement for the site couldn't be had. Unless it was free, of course, but nobody should complain about paying for such a nice-looking volume filled with great examples of what comics can do. It may only be a sample of the available riches, but it's the kind of first taste that dealers must dream of, sure to transform those exposed to it into addicts for life. Even if you don't feel the need to hold these comics in your hands, don't miss out on them; they're some of the best the medium currently has to offer.

Bonus: The sketch Dean Haspiel drew in my copy:

This week, no catchy post titles come to mind

One link: This may have been up for a while already, but the latest "issue" of MySpace Dark Horse Presents contains a Groo story that's a preface to the latest miniseries, The Hogs of Horder; "Blighter", an enjoyable story about an alien bounty hunter by Jeff Parker and Ben Dewey that's hopefully not just a one-off, and a couple of Conan/Solomon Kane tales by the usual suspects (Guy Davis!). Good stuff, as usual.

New comics this week (Wednesday, 11/18/09):

Authority The Lost Year #3

Right on the heels of last week's reprint of the Grant Morrison/Gene Ha issues of this series, the continuation by Keith Giffen and Darick Robertson shows up. Will it be worth reading, or at least interesting? Maybe!

Big Questions #13

I thought this issue of Anders Nilsen's series about birds investigating an airplane crash (I think that's what it's about, at least) had already come out, but who knows. I really want to read this sometime, but I'm waiting for a collection. Nilsen is one hell of a great artist though; I can't wait.

Cowboy Ninja Viking #2

Here's the second issue of A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo's odd espionage via multiple-personality craziness comic. Lieberman sent me the first two issues, so hopefully I'll have something about it up soon; suffice to say, it's pretty unique and strange, and not just the mashup of various "cool" genres that the title suggests.

Deadlocke #1

This one-shot from Dark Horse by Arvid Nelson (Rex Mundi) and Nick Stakal (Criminal Macabre) is apparently based on a young adult novel called Venomous by Christopher Krovatin, but since I've never heard of it, it's new material to me. From the description, it sounds like a riff on Fight Club, with rich teens engaging in debauched parties that involve bare-knuckled fighting, and a main character named Locke who is trying to suppress a personality that he created for a comic that shares the title of this book. That does sound kind of interesting, and while I haven't read much of Nelson's work, I do like Stakal's art, so this might be something to check out. Here, have a preview.

Dr. Horrible #1

And here's another Dark Horse one-shot, with a story about the origins of Joss Whedon's musical villain by Zack Whedon and Joelle Jones. The lesser-known Whedon has written a few Dr. Horrible-related stories for MySpace Dark Horse Presents, but this appears to be all-new material, so if you need to read more spinoffs of your popular online videos, here's your chance. Here's a preview.

Dominic Fortune #4

Howard Chaykin's Marvel MAX miniseries ends here, with an apparent trip to the 1936 Berlin Olympics (or maybe that was last issue) and an action-packed gunfight against Nazi spies. What I've read of this series has been pretty enjoyable, full of swearing, nudity, sexual references, violence, and all the stuff that Chaykin likes. Good times, don't let it pass you by just because it's published by Marvel.

Drone #1

This new series from Red 5 sounds kind of like that movie Gamer, with robots at war remote-controlled by hackers who use them for their own enjoyment. Not a bad premise, and depending on the art, it could be a pretty cool action comic, and who knows, maybe there's some satire/political commentary mixed in as well. One to check out, maybe?

Kookaburra K #1

It's Marvel's latest translation of a comic by French publisher Soleil, although this one features an artist recognizable to Western readers in Humberto Ramos. It sounds like a post-apocalyptic space fantasy of sorts, with a small ship carrying some survivors (one of whom is a wizard) escaping from a destroyed Earth and having intergalactic adventures. Maybe fun? I haven't been very into Ramos' art in the last few years, but you never know, this sort of thing might be tailored to his sensibilities and give him an outlet for his wilder extravagances. If I ever read it, I guess I'll see.

Legion Prophets #1

IDW has this new miniseries that functions as a prequel to the movie Legion, which comes out in January (a release date that's always a sign of quality). It's apparently about demons and angels fighting, which could be cool, depending on how explodey it is rather than religious. So if you can't wait for the film, here's your fix. Enjoy, sacrilegious jerks!

Luke McBain #1

Now this just looks hilarious. It's a vanity comic from country singer Trace Adkins, starring his likeness in a story "inspired by" (or ripped off from, if you're being unkind) the movie Walking Tall. Just look at the cover; I don't know what that is he's holding, but it's obviously his version of Joe Don Baker's two-by-four. But as that review states, it might not be all that terrible, especially considering the talent involved: writer David Tischman (Vertigo's Bite Club) and Kody Chamberlain (Punks, Pretty Baby Machine). Not that I'm planning to buy it or anything, but if silly projects like this have to be made, the least they could do is be readable.

Nola #1

This new series from Boom! Studios looks interesting, a sort of crime/revenge story set in the post-Katrina ruins of New Orleans. Naming the heroine of the book (her name is the title) after the city is a bit on the nose though, isn't it? Still, it's one I'm interested in, so if I read it and find it worth talking about, I'll let you know.

Nomad Girl Without a World #3

More of Sean McKeever's stories about an otherworldly girl Bucky who just wants to meet Captain America, or something. So far, it hasn't been bad; hopefully it will continue to be one of those little gems in Marvel's vast line of tiresomeness.

Powers Encyclopedia Vol 01

Since Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are relaunching Powers as a (supposed) monthly comic, they've got this promotional "official handbook"-style thing to either try to gain new readers or help people remember what the hell the comic is about anyway. I actually like the series quite a bit, even if I was getting a bit tired of it by the end of the last volume, but while I'm interested in the relaunch, I have little to no interest in this sort of thing. Powers isn't the sort of series that's all about power levels and intricate character histories, at least not for me. Maybe that's interesting to some, but I'd prefer to just read the stories that Bendis tells, especially focusing on the street-level crime and the two main characters and their foibles. When that sort of thing starts again, I'll be interested, but this seems like little more than a cash grab, or at least a bit of creator self-indulgence.

Punisher #11

Here's the beginning of the "Franken-Castle" storyline that's been plastered all over ads in various Marvel comics lately, with the Punisher being revived after having been chopped up into pieces by Dark Wolverine. That's a funny idea, but who knows where it will go or if anything interesting will be done with it. Eh, I'm not really a fan of the Punisher anyway, but people still seem to love him, so enjoy, necrophiliacs!

Robot 13 #2

This is an interesting comic, about some sort of strange, Mignola-esque robot fighting mythological beasties. I kinda liked this issue and the previous one, although I hope some explanation is to be had at some point. Give it a look though; it's good to support these indie-type comics, right?

Spider-Man 1602 #2

More Jeff Parker; that guy is everywhere these days. Does anybody at all care about this alternate Elizabethan-era version of Marvel? I think it's ending soon anyway, but, man, what a weird concept to stick around for this long. I did read this issue though, and it's not bad, but there's little point, other than, as with any alternate-setting/Elseworlds comic, to see what characters pop up and how different-yet-the-same they are. I guess that's fun for some, but really, Parker is talented enough that he shouldn't have to slave away at this sort of nonsense. Come on, Jeff, move on to bigger and better things!

Talisman Road of Trials #1

I read the #0 issue of this Stephen King/Peter Straub comic because Del Rey sent it to me, but I could barely make any sense of it, possibly out of willful ignorance. I think it's based on a novel, so maybe if you're familiar with the source material it is more understandable. From what I could make out, it's about a kid who can travel between "our" world and some sort of magical, fantasy kingdom, an ability he inherited from his father. Now he has adventures and stuff, which really shouldn't be such a confusing concept. Maybe it gets better here in the series proper. Or maybe it's just for King fans. Whatever.

Underground #3

Good god, Jeff Parker, how many comics do you write? This is at least the third one this week (counting Thunderbolts, which I didn't bother mentioning, since even with his contribution, I have no interest), but it's probably the best, what with being creator-owned and all. The first two issues were pretty good, so I'm hoping the quality continues. Nice art by Steve Lieber, a gripping story about hiding in caves and shit; yeah, quality comics. Read it if you haven't been already.

Uptight #3

I'm pretty damn certain that this came out earlier this year, but if it's getting another printing or something, that's cool. For those who don't know, it's Jordan Crane's series, a sort of one-man anthology full of great art and compelling stories. If you missed it the first time around (like I did, although I recently remedied that mistake), give it a look. You won't regret it.

Victorian Undead #1

Here's a new thing from Wildstorm, either jumping on the recent bandwagon of crossing zombies with classic literature or just happening to coincide with it; it's a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but with...well, you know. Written by Ian Edgington, art by Davide Fabbri, cover by Tony Moore. I'm not sure why Holmes would need to be part of a zombie plague story, but maybe Moriarty is behind it all somehow. Eh, it could be fun, or it could be lame. Since I'm sick of zombies, I'll lean toward the latter; this sort of thing has to be good to interest me these days. Make it happen, Wildstorm!

Viking #4

So, has this series gotten any more readable since the first two issues? I want to like it, but it's just been annoyingly hard to follow, when it really shouldn't be. Somebody let me know, and maybe I'll try to catch up. The art's been nice, I'll give it that.

Wolverine Weapon X #7

Should I bother mentioning this? Everybody knows about Wolverine, right? The last issue of this series was interestingly strange, with our hairy hero stuck in an insane asylum and unable to remember who he is or how he got there. Also, there's a guy experimenting on the people there. Kinda silly, kinda creepy, mostly weird. I guess if you have to have a Wolverine comic, letting Jason Aaron do whatever he wants with the character is the way to go.

Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby: The First Modern Detective Vol 1 1946-1947 HC

Your Golden Age of Reprints entry of the week, collecting a bunch of sure-to-be-pretty Alex Raymond art in one of those fancy IDW hardcovers. If I ever read this, I can find out what Dave Sim keeps going on about.

Destroyer Prem HC

Collecting that recent miniseries by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker in which they revamped a Golden Age Marvel character as an old guy struggling to gorily murder all his villains before he perishes of a bad heart. Mostly fun, and it doesn't take itself too seriously, even though there's stuff about family and responsibility and all that. I'll still bitch about the price though; wait for the softcover collection, I say!

Driven by Lemons HC

I've been seeing reviews of this new Josh Cotter book here and there, and it looks pretty amazing, full of mindbending near-abstract art and a flood of ideas that seemingly poured straight from his cranium onto the page. I'll have to check it out, given the chance. You can download a preview here.

Jane HC Misadventures of Bright Young Thing

I guess this counts as a Golden Age of Reprints entry, although it's more of a curiosity here in the U.S., rather than a historical treasure, as it is in England. It was a popular girlie strip that started in 1932, and while she was often caught nearly naked, during WWII, as a show of support for soldiers (or something like that), she appeared fully nude. Yowza! Hey, I don't mind some good old fashioned cheesecake, so maybe this would be one to read, you know, for historical, educational purposes.

The Nam TP Vol 01

I've never read any of this Marvel series from the 80s, but I often saw it on shelves. Apparently it's a realistic story about the Vietnam War, showing the conflict from the perspective of soldiers on the ground. It's pretty fondly remembered, from what I can tell, and since I do like war comics, maybe I should give it a read sometime.

Pictures that Tick TP

This is a new edition of an out of print book that collected a bunch of short comics and illustrations by Dave McKean. I've never read it, but as everybody knows, he's a pretty damn good artist, so I bet it's worth my time if I ever get the chance.

Runaways Home Schooling Prem HC

Oh crap, it's more of Marvel's rampant overpricing, especially egregious in this case, when the title was stealthily cancelled, yanking the rug from under the new creative team's feet. Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli had just gotten started on a new run that had a lot of promise, and were obviously not at a stopping point, but the series ended after they had only done four issues, and now Marvel is collecting it in an expensive hardcover for $25. For four issues! Come on! I still recommend reading it, at least if you're a fan of the series like me, but it's just not worth that much money for that little amount of pages and an unfinished story. Dumb.

Unknown Vol 1 HC

This collects the first miniseries in this Boom! series by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer, about a terminally-ill detective who is searching for answer to the mystery of what happens after death. I've heard it's pretty good, and a follow-up mini has already begun, so I should definitely give this a read and see what I think. Yes, I really should.

Walt Disneys Christmas Classics Vol 1 HC

Boom! also has this collection of a bunch of Christmas-themed Disney comics, with the highlight probably being a bunch of good Donald Duck stories by Carl Barks and his peers, including "Christmas on Bear Mountain", which was the first appearance of Uncle Scrooge. I think Mickey and others also make an appearance, but as is the case with most of the Disney comics, the ducks rule the day. I still think it's early for Christmas stuff, but I guess you gotta get those things on the shelves in time for the holidays...

Wasteland TP Vol 05 Tales of the Uninvited

What? We can't have another collection of this series already; the latest storyline only just started! Okay, this volume is actually a collection of the various one-off stories that came in between storylines of the series, usually featuring guest artists. So that includes Carla Speed McNeil, Joe Infurnari, and Chuck BB, with some art by regular series artist Christopher Mitten, including the double-sized, full color 25th issue. Good stuff, although if you're not a regular reader of the series, this is definitely not the place to start. But if you've only been reading the collections, you'll finally get to see what you've been missing; the McNeil issue in particular adds some background information to the series' second storyline. Yep, I do like this series. That is all.

Battle Royale Novel 2nd Edition

Not a comic! But Viz is putting out this new version of the novel by Koushun Takami, with a new introduction by Max Allan Collins and an interview with the late Kenji Fukasaku, who directed the film adaptation. That movie and its sequel are actually my sole experience with the story, although it has also been adapted into a manga series, and probably a video game or something. I do really like the movie, so it might be interesting to read the book sometime to see how it matches up. Of course, with no Takeshi Kitano in the book, I think it's going to suffer...

Tezukas Black Jack TP Vol 08

Here's the latest volume of the adventures of Osamu Tezuka's badass surgeon. I really need to read these sometime soon...

Oishinbo Vol 06 The Joy of Rice

Viz keeps putting out volumes of the long-running cooking series; I certainly may continue to read them as well. Rice certainly doesn't seem all that joyful, but I'm sure this series will imbue it with amazing flavor, and probably some father/son conflict as well. Good times.

Pluto Urasawa x Tezuka Vol 6 TP

And here's the latest volume of Naoki Urasawa's adaptation of Tezuka's Astro Boy, as awesome as always. I really liked it; surprise, surprise.

And that appears to be all. Kinda slow week, or so it seems. Maybe I'll skip my usual trip to the store, but don't worry, I've got plenty to write about. Stay tuned, as I always say, ignoring the correct technology terminology.