Showing posts with label Grant Morrison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grant Morrison. Show all posts

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pamphleteering: I guess I'll read Batman if I have to, and I might even enjoy it

Batman, Incorporated #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham
Published by DC Comics

We may have reached a point of diminishing returns on these Grant Morrison Batman comics, but at least they're enjoyable to read, especially if they're the extent of one's modern superhero comics consumption. It might be the years-long, often-delayed nature of the storytelling, or the way they pale in comparison to Morrison's better work of the past, but eventually one loses interest in the long-term plot going on around Batman's baby-mama and the various hangers-on who he's recruited to accomplish whatever world-saving plan he has that might eventually be revealed. The opening page, a one-month flash-forward in which Bruce Wayne mopes in the rain and confesses to Alfred that "it's over" before being surrounded by Gotham City police, doesn't fill one with hope, and the cliffhanger in which a major character is supposedly killed isn't exactly suspenseful, since even if he is actually dead (which is doubtful), that doesn't really mean anything in superhero comics anyway.

But! In between those bookends is a rip-roaring bit of adventure, full of wild violence and crazy action delivered in what would be considered prime Frank Quitely style (if Quitely could manage to actually finish drawing a comic these days) by Chris Burnham, who is fast becoming one of the best artists in superhero comics, as well as Morrison's most reliable collaborator. Batman and Robin chase a goat-headed crook through a slaughterhouse and face off against a rocket-rifle-wielding assassin, and Burnham fills the pages with innovative storytelling, borrowing ideas from Quitely like inset panels showing close-ups of the characters' faces or sound effects embedded in the art, then adding his own distinctive flair and coming up with interesting new techniques, like this page in which the panels become murals painted on the sides of the buildings Batman and Robin are swinging over:

This certainly looks cool, but it doesn't seem to have much purpose or meaning beyond that, unless you want to tie yourself in knots trying to make a metaphorical connection to Batman being part of the city itself or something. Still, the panel on the middle building is especially nice, reducing Batman and Robin's swooping silhouettes to plain symbols, looking the most like artwork one would see painted on the side of an actual building.

Better still is a bit of action a couple pages later, in which Robin caroms around the page like a pinball, taking out a whole gang of goons in a series of fluid movements that are a delight to parse as one's eyes dart around the panel, trying to keep up with him:

There's plenty of that sort of thing here, like the tiny Robin flipping a hulking thug over his shoulder, the Batmobile blurrily streaking down the road in a car chase, and blood splattering everywhere in the aforementioned slaughterhouse fight. Burnham gives the action, the movement, and the facial expressions just enough exaggeration to make this a larger-than-life romp rather than the horrific orgy of death and gore that most other artists would deliver (and have, quite regularly, if the pages one can sample from other Batman books are any indication). It's exciting and fun, filled with a spirit of adventure. If more superhero comics were like this (in the easy-to-follow action and enjoyable banter, at least, if not in the near-impenetrable plotting), maybe people would actually be interested in reading them instead of just watching better versions of them on movie screens.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Art What I Like: Chris Burnham, he da man

In what seems to be turning into a continuing series, here's another artist whose work I recently found to be exceptional: Chris Burnham, in Batman, Inc. #6. I’ve enjoyed Burnham’s work for some time now, and he’s done nothing but improve over that time. He’s been compared to Frank Quitely, which I think is fair (not to mention high praise), due to his impeccable body language and composition, but he’s like Quitely with a coat of grime, which is great for down and dirty fight scenes. He’s also gotten really good at bright, clean imagery, which works great for the current direction of this Batman comic. For instance, check out this panel of badass butler Alfred foiling some thugs:

I love the casual “trip and tase” action and the facial expression on Alfred, but the detail that really gets me is the emoticon-themed masks of the bad guys, which gives them expressions that perfectly fit their individual situations. The guy getting tripped seems to be going “oh crap!”, the taser recipient has an eye-squinted “Augh!” look, and the guy in the foreground seems to have a wide-eyed questioning look. It’s hilarious, a series of perfectly-captured details. I don’t know if this was all Burnham’s invention, or if it was specified in Grant Morrison’s script, but either way, it’s done wonderfully.

I also dig the full-page spread that follows that moment, with a smirking Bruce Wayne looking down at the criminals while flanked by massive Batman robots:

I love the staging there, and the way the robots' heads and shoulders provide the panel border.

The other thing I enjoy about Burnham’s art is the slight exaggeration, often seen in action scenes, like this bit featuring Cassandra Cain in her latest guise, the Black Bat:

The tattered cape is just nuts there, a huge cloud of tangled fabric, but what I really love is that elongated leg kicking the guy in the face. That’s a great effect, really emphasizing the action without making it appear especially unrealistic. Morrison’s current approach to Batman seems to be a bit more of a lighthearted and fun take on the character, and Burnham is becoming the perfect artist for him.

Of course, he manages to do creepy and grotesque pretty well too, as in this image:

There’s nothing like murderous kids to spell out “evil”, and I love the gleeful look on their faces as they’re covered in gore. That’s not really lighthearted, but it sure is funny, and the huge smiles are another great example of exaggeration.

I also wanted to mention the closing double-page spread of the issue, but I didn’t think it was fair to post it, so if you have the issue, check it out. It’s a series of panels of Batman and his pals all over the world beating up criminals, and it looks really cool, but I didn’t even realize until my second look how well it’s laid out, with the figures, buildings, and shapes all continuing from image to image, one guy’s torso leading into another’s face-kick, a ruined construction site turning into a high-rise building, all showing how well-coordinated Batman’s worldwide operation is. It’s a pretty amazing bit of artwork, images fitting together with perfect perspective and characters perfectly positioned and choreographed. If this is the kind of thing Burnham is going to be doing with Morrison on this book, I hope he keeps cranking it out for a long time to come.

Monday, July 27, 2009

This week, content is overwhelming

San Diego news: Jeff Smith has more information about the new Bone books, including a sort of correction to the assumption that they would be comics. Nope, they (the "Quest for the Spark" trilogy, that is) will be novels, written by Tom Sniegoski will illustrations by Smith. Those suddenly got a bit less interesting, although I'll probably still want to read them. The Tall Tales volume will reprint Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails, now in color, along with a story that originally ran in Disney Adventures that has never been reprinted, and a couple new Big Johnson Bone stories. So, not as exciting as I originally thought, but still pretty cool.

The other big news out of San Diego seems to be Marvel's announcement that they've acquired the rights to Marvelman, which is a pretty big deal, since it's been caught up in legal entanglements for years (decades?) now. Of course, I don't know if this means that they'll be able to reprint the Alan Moore series (which, for anybody who doesn't know, was called Miracleman here in the U.S.), or just tell new stories with the character. I'm sure we'll be hearing lots more about this.

And here's some less-impactful news, but something I still found interesting. Vertigo announced a couple new graphic novels, and the one I'm most interested in is Revolver, by Matt Kindt. It's apparently about a guy bouncing back and forth between two realities. The other one is Dark Rain (not to be confused with Marvel's Dark Reign, ha ha), by Mat "Incognegro" Johnson and Simon "Paris" Gane. And check out that link to see Mike Allred's cover to I, Zombie, along with covers for Grant Morrison's upcoming Joe the Barbarian and a Fables miniseries (or is it a graphic novel? I dunno) called Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love. And hey, since we're talking Fables, you can read a one-page story that was apparently a free handout at a panel here, and also see the news that Bill Willingham and Jim Fern are going to be doing a graphic novel starring Bigby Wolf called Fables: Werewolves in the Heartland. Man, that franchise just keeps on expanding.

Wow, lots of stuff this week, but probably not all that much that I'll actually buy:

New comics this week (Wednesday, 7/29/09):

Complete Dracula #2

I haven't heard much about this adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel by Leah Moore and John Reppion, but I'm curious as to how it compares to Boom!'s adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I bet Dynamite doesn't get pissy about it being called an adaptation, at least.

Dark Reign The Hood #3

Jeff Parker and Kyle Hotz keep attempting to do something interesting with this hood-wearing guy. Didn't all his powers get taken away in New Avengers? Why is he still around? I didn't read the second issue, so who knows what is actually going on here.

Dark Reign The Sinister Spider-Man #2

The first issue of this miniseries wasn't bad, but most all of the positives can be directed toward Chris Bachalo, who is as awesome as ever. Brian Reed does try to have fun with an unrepentant bad guy as the lead though. We'll see more about what I think tomorrow; I should have a review up at Comics Bulletin.

Detective Comics #855

More pretty Batwoman action from Dini Rucka (duh!) and Williams III. I'm still not all that interested in actually reading this, but any chance I get to look at the amazing artwork, I'll take it.

Fantastic Four #569

It's the big final issue of the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch run on Marvel's flagship series, only without Millar and Hitch, oddly enough. Well, that's not entirely true; Millar plotted the issue, but Joe Ahearne is picking up the slack on the script, and Stuart Immonen is doing his best Hitch impression on the art. We've got double-sized action, the big finale to the Master of Doom story, and probably a disappointment that it all seems to be trying to hard to feel large-scale and important. Also, a wedding. Eh, now I'm ready to see what Jonathan Hickman is going to do when he takes over next next month.

Fearless Dawn #1

This first issue of Steve Mannion's new series seems interesting, at least judging by Caleb Mozzocco's description. I haven't read Mannion's previous book, The Bomb, but I certainly woudn't mind checking it out. Hot girls and monsters, that's kind of cool, right?

Garth Ennis Battlefields Tankies #3

Oh, man, I've been loving these war comics by Garth Ennis. I finally got around to reading Night Witches and Dear Billy, and now that this one is going to be finished, I'll read the issues all in one go and probably be blown away. This is good stuff, full of violence and awful heroism and acknowledgment of the psychological toll that war can take on people. Man, I love me some Ennis war comics.

Glamourpuss #8

Oh, Dave Sim, always with the narrow-focused interests. Does this title actually meet the Diamond minimums that seems to kill every other indie book these days? If so, crazy; I wouldn't think there would be enough Sim fans/old comics enthusiasts to keep it going. This issue apparently is about the romance strip The Heart of Juliet Jones, which might or might not have been written by Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. And probably some of Sim's usual fashion-related misogyny, but that's par for the course.

History of the Wildstorm Universe

Ha ha ha, who would pay to read this? Oh, that's right, nobody, so DC is giving it away for free. Here you go, if you're really interested in the various Wolverine clones and hot chicks that Jim Lee and pals dreamed up. Sure, there might be a few others that Warren Ellis or Ed Brubaker or Adam Warren threw in at some point, but it's all pretty lame stuff that can be intermittently made interesting by a decent writer. Enjoy, nerds.

Ignition City #4

I've heard that this Warren Ellis series isn't all that good, but I can still hope that I heard wrong. Maybe I'll read it someday.

King Of Pop Michael Jackson The Comic Book #1

Already? Comics usually take some time to get produced, what with all the scripting and layouts and drawing and trying to make shit readable. For something like this to get rushed out to capitalize on the media frenzy since MJ's death means this will most likely be terrible, and haven't we all learned every detail anybody would want to know from the media frenzy of the last month or so? If you buy this, you're probably an asshole.

Muppet Show Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #1

Hoo man, Roger Langridge don't quit! It's another four-issue miniseries, this time with a little bit more issue-to-issue continuity, but still staying nicely within the confines of the old TV show. I predict awesomeness and hilarity. Boom! is really on the rise as a company, and quality books like this one are the reason why. Go Animal!

New Avengers #55

As if one giant-sized issue of Stuart Immonen art wasn't enough for the week, here's a second comic that he drew. This marks his debut as the new regular artist on what might be Marvel's biggest book, and it's a welcome departure from the ugliness of Billy Tan. Of course, whether you want to read it depends on how much you like Brian Michael Bendis's tiresome dialogue and villain-centric antics, but at least there's something good about the book now.

Northlanders #19

Vikings! Fighting ladies! Danijel Zezelj! I gotta read this, so hopefully it will be collected before too long. It's the second and final issue of a story about Valkyries (or their inspiration, or something like that), and I bet it's a good read, as this series pretty much always is.

Rawbone #3

Jamie Delano! Pirates! Perversity! I hear that this series is hilarious in its over-the-topness; I'll have to look for it when it gets collected.

Secret Warriors #6

And so marks the end of the first arc on this series, and I believe the last one that Brian Bendis was involved with. After this, it's all Jonathan Hickman (writing, that is) all the time. Unfortunately, I haven't been too impressed with the title, but it hasn't been terrible or anything. I think it's pretty much just a big fight, with Nick Fury, his super-team, and a bunch of ex-SHIELD guys trying to steal a helicarrier or something. Fun is where you make it.

Stuff of Legend #1

This series from some company called Th3rd World Studios has to do with a bunch of toys fighting an evil boogeyman to save a little boy, which could be either overly cutesy or kind of cool. Judging by the art samples, I'm leaning toward the latter. It's certainly something I would check out if I saw it. Apparently there was a Free Comic Book Day issue that came out, and you can read it for free here. Looks neat.

Ultimatum #5

Oh my, here's the train wreck of the week. While I'm probably wrong about this, I can't believe anyone is seriously excited about or interested in the developments of this series; everything I've read of or about it is just awful beyond belief. Why would Marvel publish something like this, that gleefully dismembers (versions of) their beloved characters to no visible purpose? It's baffling. I'm curious to look inside, just to see what sort of nastiness Jeph Loeb came up with and passed off as a real comic book, but that's not a recommendation. Don't actually buy this, I implore you.

Ultimatum Spider-Man Requiem #2

Speaking of which, here's more of that boo-hoo sad stuff about Ultimate Spider-Man dying and people remembering how awesome he was. I think it might be Stuart Immonen's last work on the character? Plus, there's some Mark Bagley in here; it might be readable, but that doesn't mean I condone it.

Unknown Soldier #10

Vertigo, Africa, violence, real-world political commentary. When is the first collection of this series coming out? I want to read it.

Wednesday Comics #4

And more of the really nice-looking large-size visuals. I suppose I could try to review this each week, but I'll just say that I'm enjoying it, for the most part. Superman is still dumb though, Teen Titans is near-unreadable, Metal Men is kind of silly, Wonder Woman is interestingly ambitious but a bit confusing, and not much has happened for two weeks in Metamorpho. Everything else has been pretty good though, at least on an art level. I like the week-to-week storytelling in Batman, Hawkman has taken a cool turn, as has Demon/Catwoman, Supergirl continues to be fun, Strange Tales rocks your face off, Kamandi is gorgeous and involving, and even Green Lantern and Flash aren't bad. Is that everything? This week: more of the same, I'm guessing.

A Drifting Life TP New Printing

Oh man, I still haven't read this. I'll get to it soon, I hope, but I'm desperately trying to catch up with all the stuff on my to-read pile. Soon, man, soon (I'm probably lying).

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic HC

This looks like a cool book, collecting all the "major" stuff that the great illustrator did on the character from the 60s all the way up through 1994. I bet it will be a gorgeous collection of artwork, and it might even be a good read too.

Beanworld Book 2 Gift Comes HC

More strange, flat adventures of weird little oblong creatures. I still don't really get this comic, but I haven't read enough of it to really do so, I think. I'll have to find volume one and try to dive in and see if I can get into the right frame of mind. I believe this volume collects all the previously-released material, in anticipation of the all-new volume 3 that comes out this fall.

Cell Block Z TP

I had not previously been aware of this, but apparently it's a semi-autobiographical comic from rapper Ghostface Killah? It seems pretty fictionalized, being about a boxer who gets framed for murder and thrown into prison, where he is experimented on like Luke Cage or something. Maybe it's the autobio of the Ghostface persona. Interesting?

Evil & Malice Save The World TP

This is a collection of a sort of kids' book from Bomb Queen creator Jimmie Robinson, originally published in 1998. Something about a supervillain's kids, well, saving the world. Maybe fun? I dunno, Robinson's claim to fame at the moment is a sex-and-nudity-filled supervillain book, so who knows if he can do kid-friendly. It might be all right.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation

It's a good thing this is official; you don't want to cross Ray Bradbury. Just ask Michael Moore. Anyway, this book is one of the great ones, so here's your chance to check it out if you haven't read it, because doesn't everybody try to get either the movie or comic version of a classic book when they have to read it for school? Tim Hamilton is the artist doing the adaptation here, and it looks really nice; you can see some samples at the Amazon page for the book. I love that cover.

Festering Romance GN

This is a new graphic novel from Oni Press by Renee Lott, about a two young people forming a relationship and trying to get over the wounds of their past, hence the "festering" part of the title. That sounds interesting; I'm always glad to see comics about subjects that don't get used very often (at least not in the U.S. comics industry). There might be a supernatural element to this too, but who knows. I'd check it out, given the chance.

Fire And Brimstone Vol 1 TP

This is from Antarctic Press, who are usually ignorable purveyors of faux manga, but this one might be worth a look, since it's by Richard Moore, creator of Boneyard. He's got a nice style and can write some entertaining stories, so this comic about an angel and a demon teaming up to fight evil or something might be good. Maybe. Here's a preview.

Gauze TP

This appears to be a sort of horror comic from Arcana Studios, with three interweaving storylines involving a drug-addicted divorcee, one of those obsessed detectives, and a computer nerd all coming into contact with a serial killer. It's by Gerrin Tramis and Dave Hamann; here's an interview with what appear to be some unfinished art samples.

Ghost Rider Last Stand TPB

I keep hearing that Jason Aaron's run on this series has been tons of fun, with lots of exploitation cinema-style touches. I guess this would be as good a place to check it out as any, especially since Tan Eng Huat does the art, and it's supposed to be quite good. Maybe the library will have it?

Invincible Iron Man Vol 2 HC

Here's the beginning of the second arc on Matt Fraction's Iron Man run, in which Tony Stark decides to erase his brain while on the run from the bad guys. It's all right, I guess, although it seemed to go through some fairly boring bits before picking up in the last few issues, which won't be included here. I can't really recommend it, but it's a decent read, I suppose. As long as you can stomach Salvador Larocca's photoref-style artwork, that is.

Jersey Gods Vol 1 I'd Live and I'd Die For You

This comic seems to have gotten some acclaim, with a story about Jack Kirby-esque cosmic gods getting involved in the life of a girl who lives in New Jersey. I really need to check it out, and now here's the volume where I might try to do so. For anybody like me, who still hasn't read any of the series, you can read the full first issue here. They always try to hook you with the free taste.

Jesus Christ In The Name Of The Gun Vol 1 Hollow Cost TP

I don't think I was aware of this before, and it doesn't sound like the type of thing that would slip from my mind (unless my mind is going in my old age). It's about Jesus, who has been resurrected to fight Nazis in World War II, or something. Sounds fairly funny and sacreligious. Apparently, it's a webcomic, and this is the first collection, but you can read it online starting here. Enjoy, blasphemers!

Leo Pulp TP

IDW has this translation of an Italian series that seems to be a humorous riff on the noir stories of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. Cool. I can't find a whole lot of information about it online, but I'm always happy to see European stuff get translated. Hopefully this is one of the good ones.

Lobster Johnson Novel Book 1 Satan Factory

Not a comic, but a novel based in Mike Mignola's Hellboy-verse by Tom Sniegoski. It looks to have a WWII-era pulp feel, and the cover is pretty cool. I really should try to get caught up on all the Hellboy/BPRD stuff.

Marvel 1985 TPB

I didn't like this comic, but I seem to keep mentioning it every time a new version of it comes out. How silly of me. Anyway, it's Mark Millar writing about supervillains invading the "real world", and Tommy Lee Edwards doing a bang-up job on the art. Read it if you must.

MOME Vol 15 Spring 2009 TP

Another installment of the respected Fantagraphics anthology which I feel like I should be reading but never do. This one has T. Edward Bak, Gilbert Shelton, Dash Shaw, Andrice Arp, Sara Edward-Corbett, Robert Goodin, and Paul Hornschemeier, among others. I bet it's good. Here, have an excerpt/slideshow.

Northlanders TP Vol 2

I mentioned the new issue of this series above, but for those of us who read in collected format, here's the second volume, containing Brian Wood's latest collaboration with Ryan Kelly, which I'm very excited to see. "The Cross and the Hammer", faith and violence, awesome Viking shit. I'm all over this.

Sabre 30th Anniversary HC Signed & Numbered Edition

I was not aware of this book's existence; apparently it's a classic graphic novely by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy, about some guy with a sword in an evil future. It was probably quite ambitious at the time, but who knows if it holds up today. This version is a fancy one, but there's also a simple hardcover version for $14.99, which seems like a lot for 48 pages, but whatever. I guess there's going to be a new GN continuing the series, so this probably gets everybody up to speed.

Scourge of the Gods Prem HC Vol 1

This is one of those French comics that Marvel is publishing, about some futuristic intergalactic Roman empire. I have no idea if it is any good. Anybody wanna weigh in? Or is there anybody who has actually read it? I was excited about the deal Marvel did with Soleil, but I'm wondering how long it's going to last, when I never hear anything about any of the books. I blame myself; I should make more money so I can buy all of these things.

Skin Deep GN

Fantagraphics has this new version of Charles Burns' graphic novel. It's one of his earlier, pre-Black Hole books, featuring some of his weird stories. I should read it; I have not experienced enough of Burns to satiate my hunger. You can see a couple preview pages here.

Skull & Bones TP

This was apparently a three-issue miniseries that DC published back in 1991; it's being collected in one volume now by Moonstone. From what I can tell, it's about espionage, computer hackers, and biological weapons in 90s Russia. Maybe decent?

Surrogates Vol 2 Flesh And Bone TP

I still haven't read the first volume of this futuristic series from Top Shelf, even though I've been meaning to for a couple years now. And now it's getting made into a movie, and a sequel is out, and I'm behind on everything else, so who knows if I'll ever read it. Hopefully, it will come into my possession at some point, and I won't be disappointed.

Suspended In Language Niels Bohrs Life GN New Printing

Jim Ottaviani seems to really be pumping out these science comics lately; I really ought to check some of them out. This one is about the father of quantum mechanics. I like science, reading about it makes me feel smart, except when I don't understand it and feel dumb. I hope this does the former.

Tasty Bullet GN

I don't know if this is a collection of some previously-published comic, but Image has this book by Jonathan Vankin and Arnold Pander, and it looks sufficiently crazy, about an advertisement come to life in a future world who fights against the evil energy drink company that created her. Weird.

War Stories A Graphic History TP

This is one of those classy reprint-type books, full of classic war comics that span several eras. Good, informative reading, hopefully.

Werewolf by Night TP Blood in the Moon

I never read the recent Marvel MAX series; was it any good? They've done a couple things like this recently, doing a more "adult" (that is, violent, maybe with some swears) take on some of their old horror properties. Duane Swierczynski and Mico Suayan did this one; if anybody has read it, give me a verdict.

Will Eisners Life on Another Planet TP WW Norton Edition

And another Eisner book in a nice package. I haven't read this one, but I would sure like to.

Black Bird Vol 1 TP

Manga! Lots this week, starting with the first volume of this shojo series from Viz about a girl pursued by demons. I talked about the first chapter when it was previewed in Shojo Beat a few months ago, and it seemed interesting. I wouldn't mind giving it a try.

Cirque Du Freak Vol 2 GN

It's the second (manga) volume of Darren Shan's multimedia thing about vampires at a circus. I heard the first one was decent; I could see myself giving this series a look, given the chance.

Crimson Hero Vol 11 TP

Volleyball! I liked this series in Shojo Beat, although probably not quite enough to seek it out now that the magazine has ended. Does this volume have the whole "attempted rape" subplot?

Hayao Miyazaki Starting Point 1979-1996 TP

Viz is putting out several of these books focusing on Miyazaki's career, and I bet they're quite nice-looking. I do love Miyazaki's films, and this is probably a nice resource, full of pictures, sketches, essays, and interviews. Yeah, I could read it.

Kimi Ni Todoke -From Me To You- Vol 1 GN

This is another one that was previewed in Shojo Beat, and I liked it well enough. It's about a girl who is unpopular due to her resemblance to a ghost in a The Ring-style Japanese horror movie. But she meets a nice boy and falls in love, as is the way things work in shojo manga. I bet it's a cute, nice read. Awwww.

Magic Touch Vol 3 TP

Oddly, this series about massage seems to have met a fairly cold critical reception, or so it seems from the reviews I've read online. I liked the first chapter when it ran in SB, but maybe the rest of the series doesn't live up to its promise. Oh well.

Otomen Vol 3 TP

On the other hand, this series (which was also excerpted in that same issue) about a girly-boy seems to be doing well, at least in terms of online reviewage. I liked it too; it goes to show that you never know what's going to turn out well.

Pluto Urasawa x Tezuka Vol 4 TP

Oh man, I'm getting behind on this series already. I've only read the first volume, so I've got three more to go, and I should do it sooner rather than later. Gritty Astro Boy FTW!

Slam Dunk Vol 5 GN Viz Edition

And here's another one on which I've fallen behind, dammit. I love this series; Takehiko Inoue is just amazing. Read it.

Tena On S-String Vol 1 GN

One of the only non-Viz manga that I found notable this week, this one appears to be about a boy who can see invisible musical strings connecting everyone, and also a Gothic Lolita girl who recruits him to do something or other. Sounds weird, but, hey, I like weirdness. I hope this isn't the skeevy kind.

Vampire Knight Vol 7 TP

More Shojo Beat manga! I don't know if I'll bother trying to follow this one too closely now that the magazine has ended, but it is kind of a guilty pleasure, so I could see myself checking out a volume or two somewhere down the road. This one is still catching up on stuff that I've already read though; I don't know if it will get to the big game-changing reveal, or if they're saving that for next volume. Be prepared to freak out, fangirls.

WaqWaq Vol 1 TP

And finally, here's a strange shonen series about robots hunting humans in a post-apocalyptic future. I read the first chapter in last month's Shonen Jump, and it was interesting enough to at least pay attention to. I might go on and read this volume as well, since Viz did send me a review copy. Weird and wild stuff, man. Manga!

Is that everything. Wow, lots of stuff. I've turned back into a weekly regular at the comic shop; looks like I'll be there once again. It's a good thing I love comics.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Final Crisis: Some late, half-assed considerations

Links: Here are some pages from Jim Mahfood's upcoming comic, which is apparently an adaptation of a movie called Jennifer's Body? I dunno, I've never heard of it.

And for some weird, cool online comics, check out the work of Mykl Sivak. Adri Cowan at The Daily Cross Hatch linked to a freaky strip of his today, and now I've got a new talent to pay attention to.

And now, some ramblings:

Final Crisis
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke, and the cast of How I Met Your Mother

I feel like the last person on the internet to read this comic, so since I doubt I have anything to say that hasn't been said by everyone else, I won't bother trying to do a real review of this thing. It was an interesting reading experience though, since with all the various reviews, commentaries, annotations, and blog posts I've perused, it seemed like I had already read the book before I even cracked the cover. And after getting through the thing, well, the verdict is: yeah, they were all pretty much right. It's a hell of an ambitious work, and there are some great moments, but it seems like it kind of got away from Grant Morrison, and the tightness of the art that starts off the book definitely grows much looser as the final issue approaches.

The thing that I found, and it's kind of to be expected in a universe-spanning story like this, is that certain parts were crazy cool, but then things would suddenly drag while we had to catch up with all the supporting players. But then events would speed up again, to the point that it was near-impossible to tell what was going on. The best stuff was all the New Gods material; Morrison is one of the few people who can convincingly imitate Jack Kirby, and the approach he uses here is often awesome, with characters who have been possessed by evil gods spouting breathless proclamations:

The action is often pretty nice, with a convincing level of destruction and mayhem, and some of the character designs are quite cool. You'll be grooving on some crazy shit, and then have to suffer through pages of Green Arrow or somebody whining and hiding in a big building, or Mister Terrific going on about secret plans that never come to fruition (or do they? I couldn't tell, and kind of stopped caring).

The high point is definitely the two-issue Superman Beyond story, which is definitely my kind of Morrisonian event comic. Everything else takes a break as Superman goes on a mission through the multiverse and ends up in Limbo (which I think was last seen in Animal Man?). And then he has to move a book with an infinite number of pages that contains all possible information, then gets his soul transported into a gigantic robot so he can battle the vampire Monitor Mandrakk for the fate of all existence. It's totally nuts, filled with ridiculous dialogue:

And some of those awesome moments in which Morrison can glory in the greatness of fiction:

I get a bit tired of the idea that the origin of Superman is the greatest story that man has ever concocted, but for a scene in which Superman is fighting to save everything, it works; he's so awesome that his very life story can be used as a weapon.

Other positives: the Justifiers, people who have been possessed by Anti-Life, are great; I love their propaganda:

And Darkseid himself is great as an evil badass:

There are some other nice ideas, like the way his takeover of Earth compresses spacetime around it, screwing up and shattering the time continuum (and explaining any choppiness in the story). And I liked a scene near the end in which Superman comes crashing back into the present, and everybody else witnesses him just flying all-out and blowing shit away with his heat vision:

I'm not sure what was going on there exactly (was he still fighting Mandrakk's giant Destroyer machine?), but it's a great entrance after he had been missing for most of the main series.

On the negative side, I think the whole thing is just too big and scattered to really cohere into something great. Some stuff seems obligatory, as if various characters had to be shoehorned in without everyone receiving enough time to fully make sense. The Flash getting resurrected is a good example; he makes some comments about having gained the knowledge of how to defeat Darkseid, but it all happens too quickly to resonate, and then he disappears from the story. And while it's good that the Superman Beyond miniseries got included here (although it's weird that the rest of the story stops for a while for it), some parts seem to have been left out (like the story in Batman about him fighting the attempt to download his memories and create an army), and the Submit one-shot that did get included is just awful, especially coming right after the heights of Superman Beyond, with some hideous art and a draggy, momentum-killing story about the Tattooed Man and Black Lightning.

Eh, it's a fun book, and I'm glad I read it, but thank god for the public library, because if I had actually paid for this, I probably would have been pissed and highly critical of any incoherence, perceived or otherwise. Maybe it would have been different if I had read each issue as they came out, but I got that experience from reading all the online discussion. Yay, internet! Yes, experiencing this for free is definitely the best option.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This week, I'll try to refrain from making a Christina Aguilera reference

I managed to write some actual comics criticism this week, with a contribution to the "Sunday Slugfest" of All-Star Superman #12 over at Comics Bulletin.  Go there to see me heap the predictable praise on Morrison and Quitely.  And then:

New comics this week (Wednesday, 9/24/08):

Back To Brooklyn #1

New Garth Ennis!  This is a mafia drama co-written with Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Mihailio Vukelic.  Could be pretty enjoyable, with lots of potential for graphic violence.  Here's an interview, with a few preview pages.

Boys Club #1

From Beunaventura Press, it's a weird Fort Thunder-esque story by Matt Furie about some anthropomorphic animal buddies who hang out together.  I don't always go for that aesthetic, but who knows, this could be all right.

Dead #1

Ugh, another zombie book?  I wouldn't normally even bother to mention something like this, but this one is by Alan Grant, Simon Bisley, and Glenn Fabry, so it's at least worth a look.  If you like looking at freaky gore and such, that is.

Fantastic Four: True Story #3

I didn't get to read this issue ahead of time, but it's probably along the same lines as the previous two.  If you're enjoying Paul Cornell's adventure through fiction with the FF, I expect you'll continue to do so.

Hellboy The Crooked Man #3

Richard Corben finishes his latest Hellboy thing, and it's been incredibly good so far.  I can't wait to see how it finishes.  

My Name is Bruce

Dark Horse has this one-shot tie-in to Bruce Campbell's upcoming movie, in which he plays himself, fighting a Chinese demon.  That sounds pretty awesome, although I don't know how well the comic will be able to capture his magic.  It's by Milton Freewater Jr. and Cliff Richards.  Here's a short preview.

Northlanders #10

Part two (of two) of the second storyline in Brian Wood's Viking comic, illustrated by Dean Ormston.  Maybe I'll get to read it when it's collected.

Runaways #2

More of the Terry Moore/Humberto Ramos stuff.  I wasn't too keen on the first issue, so I won't be bothering to follow any more of it, so let me know if it gets any better.  I won't be holding my breath.

Samurai: Legend #1

The third series in Marvel's deal with French publisher Soleil, this one is all about the guys from the title, with a tale of ancient Japan, with all the honor and everything.  It's by Jean-Francois Di Giorgio and Frederic Genet.  It certainly looks pretty.

Station #3

Oh, man, I still haven't read the second issue of this space-murder mystery.  I did like #1, so I really need to catch up, and hopefully write something or other about it.

Wasteland #20

After the recent finish of the story arc that had been running, this is another of the one-shot issues that fills in some of the backstory of the series' world.  This one tells the story of the founding of Newbegin.  I believe it's supposed to be mostly prose, with illustrations by Chuck BB.  I think I'm going to have to switch back to trades on this series, but I'll get this one, since these issues don't get collected.  Should be good.

100 Bullets Vol 12 Dirty TPB

With this latest volume of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's awesome crime series, the trades return to the subtle numbering in the titles (Once Upon a Crime doesn't really have anything to do with "11", but like volume seven's Samurai, this one evokes The Dirty Dozen).  Looks like I'll have to update my increasingly complicated character relationship chart.  I can't wait to read it.

Abe Sapien TP Vol 01 Drowning

I haven't been reading the various BPRD series, but this origin story for one of the main characters looks interesting.  Art by Jason Shawn Alexander.  I've heard it's not especially great, but I'll probably read it someday, whenever I get caught up.

Absolute Ronin HC

Ah, Frank Miller.  He was weird even back in the 80s.  I've read this futuristic sort-of samurai series, and while it sure looks nice, it's kind of incomprehensible.  It's pretty well-regarded, but I would take several other of Miller's works over it (not All-Star Batman though).  Eh, maybe I should read it again sometime.  And if you want, now you can spend $99 to have a big version of it for yourself.  Don't throw your back out.

Barks/Rosa Collection Golden Helmet/Lost Charts Columbus Vol 3 TPB

In another of the nice-looking collections that Gemstone has been putting out, they've got a classic Carl Barks duck tale, followed by a Don Rosa "sequel".  These are always good.

Batman Black And White Vol 3 TPB

I've only read a little bit of this anthology series, but I've never thought it was all that great.  Of course, I think that was back before I really followed artists all that much, so I didn't really have the excitement of seeing, say, Brian Bolland put together a nice, short Batman story.  I'll have to reread some of these sometime, since there is definitely some good talent here.  For instance, this volume features Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, Chris Bachalo, Sean Phillips and Dan DeCarlo.  Nice.

Black Summer TPB

Warren Ellis's violent tale of superhero war after one of them assassinates the President might not have been the shock to the genre that he was hoping, but it turned out to be pretty good, especially when the final issue rolled around.  Juan Jose Ryp provides some cluttered artwork, but it does the job.  Probably more for Ellis fans than anybody else, but it's not bad.

Hatter M The Looking Glass Wars Vol 1 TP

I never did read this weird tie-in to a series of prose novels, but I'll generally try anything illustrated by Ben Templesmith.  So here's a collected version for that purpose.

Marvel Boy Prem HC

I read this Grant Morrison/JG Jones series back when it came out, and it's pretty good.  I should reread it sometime and see how it holds up.  There are a lot of interesting ideas, and the character works well as a standalone deal, but apparently he's been shoehorned into the regular Marvel universe.  Ah well, at least people are probably interested in reading this now.  Or maybe they're just trying to capitalize on it being from the creators of Final Crisis.

Minions Of Ka GN

This is a strange-looking book from Arcana about the Catholic church using legions of the undead to take over the throne of England, I think.  Huh.  It's by Michael Furno, Michael Ahearn, and Chris Moreno.  Here's a preview, and you can also find a "trailer" on the site.  (comics aren't movies)

Red Rocket 7 TP Image Edition

Mike Allred's graphic novel about an alien clone who is involved, Zelig-like, in the entire history of rock and roll is pretty damn good.  Of course, I'm a shameless whore for Allred, but I still think it's a great book.  Check it out, if you haven't before.

Spaghetti Bros Vol 1 HC

Originally published in France, this series by Carlos Trillo and Domingo Mandrafina is about four Italian immigrants to the US, following their story over several decades, starting in 1910.  It looks like one of those decent crime stories, and I know Trillo mostly as a collaborator with Eduardo Risso.  It could definitely be worth a look.

Souvlaki Circus HC

Another weird one from Buenaventura Press.  This one is by Finnish artist Amanda Vahamaki and Italian artist Michelangelo Setola, and it's about, uh, I have no idea.  Lots of weird creatures doing strange stuff, apparently.  Sounds like a Buenaventura Press book.

Vertigo Encyclopedia HC

Well, if the regular DC and Marvel universes can have extensively annotated descriptions of all their characters and locations, why not Vertigo?  Actually, this is more of a cataloguing of all the various Vertigo series over the years, which means it probably has some interesting stuff in there.  

XoXo Hugs And Kisses 30 Postcards By James Jean

In another non-comics book/thing, we've got what are sure to be some pretty pictures.  I do like James Jean's art, don't you?  I bet these will look nice.  I don't know what else to say.

Girl Who Could Run Through Time Vol 1 TP

A CMX manga about a time-travelling girl.  Shojo, maybe?  Eh, it could be worth a look.

Tezukas Black Jack Vol 1 HC

Ooh, here's the big manga release for the next while.  Vertical is going all out with this series, and it's some good stuff, from what I've seen.  I'll probably try to finish reading Buddha and Phoenix before getting caught up in this, but I'll try to obtain all the volumes someday.  For now, you can check out Jog's excellent review of this volume.

Wild Animals Vol 1 GN

I think this one is actually a manhua (from China), adapted from a popular novel detailing what life was like during Mao's Cultural Revolution.  It's probably pretty fascinating stuff; I would love to check it out sometime.

With The Light Raising An Autistic Child Vol 3 GN

I never did read the second volume of this series, but I thought the first one was quite good, in an educational, after-school-special sort of way.  Maybe I'll get around to reading more of the series sometime.

And that's everything.  I'll probably skip the shop this week, even though I'm excited for the new 100 Bullets volume.  But I've got lots of other stuff to read, so that one will have to wait.  Who knows, I might manage to put together some content.  Stay tuned and see!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stay classy, San Diego

Monday finality:

I expect this will be the final parroting of other sites' stories here, now that the con is over and all. But how about this: Neil Gaiman is writing Batman? Da fug? Looks like it's a story called "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?", and obvious homage to Alan Moore's "Whatever Happenend to the Man of Tomorrow?". Andy Kubert on art, so it will probably look like crap. This seems like small potatoes for Gaiman; he's got the literary respectability, so he shouldn't need to bother with lame superheroics. But maybe he had a story he really needed to tell. Me, I haven't been impressed with his recent comics work (although I do love Sandman and pretty much all of his novels), so I doubt I'll bother with it. But who knows, maybe he'll pull something great out of his ass. At least he's probably being paid a pretty penny for it.

Some slightly interesting stuff from the Fables panel: another standalone graphic novel called Fables: Peter and Max, about Peter Piper and the Pied Piper (who are brothers, of course). Illustrated by Steve Leialoha, who I've not really been a fan of on Fables art (I believe he illustrated the first volume, which is the weakest one by a very wide margin). We'll see how it turns out. There's also a spy-themed Cinderalla miniseries, written by novelist Chris Roberson, and a Fables/Jack of Fables crossover called The Literals, which, following the style of superhero comics, also has tie-in issues in both series. I don't know if that's the best idea, but whatever.

Hey, it's the cover of the next volume of Scott Pilgrim!

Supposedly, there was an Oni Press panel in which this book was discussed, but I can't find anything about it on any of the major news sites, so any other news which was announced can go unremarked upon by me.

Apparently Scholastic is doing at least one more volume of Bone collections (colorizations?) after finished volume 9. I assume this would include Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails and Rose, unless there is anything else that I'm not aware of.

Okay, I think that's enough of my blither-blather. I doubt I'll bother doing any more of this sort of "news" writing, since nobody comes here to find breaking stories (at least, I hope they don't). Outside of a couple interesting bits (Darwyn Cooke's Parker books, Viz's Urasawa licenses), there just isn't that much for me to talk about, other than the fact that I wish I could be there. And from the conventions that I've been to, I'm more interested in prowling around artists' tables and meeting creators than hearing company heads inform everybody how excited they are about some upcoming crossover. It's fun to attend a panel and hear a creator talk about their work, but reports on news sites are pretty boring, with factual descriptions of what transpired. "Brian Bendis said that he really likes working with Khoi Pham." "A fan asked what Jeph Loeb's favorite color is, and he sarcastically said 'chartreuse.'" That sort of thing can be enjoyable if you're sitting in the audience, but reading about it is generally pretty damn lame. So in the future, screw it. I can mention interesting news at the top of whatever my next post is, if I feel like it, and I'll limit most convention discussions to ones that I attend. Take that, apathy!


Sunday junk:

There's some interesting stuff from IDW's panel, but nothing that makes me sit up and cheer or anything. They lead off with lots of talk about zombies and vampires (and Ben Templesmith's Welcome to Huxford, which I'm actually looking forward to reading), but then drop some offbeat news, like the collection of a Spanish strip from the 80s called Torpedo, which, from what little information I can dig up on the web, was drawn by Jordi Bernet. There's one or two other notable things, but I'm most interested in Ben Templesmith's The Presidents of the United States, which should make for an interesting comparison to Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's forthcoming (someday) Action Presidents! Templesmith says he wants to spotlight some of the lesser-known presidents, but look at the sample image:

Yeah, nobody knows about that guy.

Looks like I might actually be interested in a comic from Devil's Due, now that they're going to be releasing books from French publisher Humanoids, including finally finishing the John Cassaday-illustrated I Am Legion. I regret missing out on most of the DC imports of Humanoids books from a few years ago, but that was when I was just getting back into reading comics regularly, and I was less adventurous then. So now I'll hopefully have the chance to check these out.

Here's a summary of Chip Kidd's panel about his Bat-Manga book, with a couple slideshow images. I'm looking forward to checking that one out.

For more stuff about manga, ComiPress has a list of announced licenses, many of which might be interesting, but it's hard to tell until we learn more information. Viz's Shojo Beat panel has some interesting info (I'll have to try to check out the VizBig edition of Fushigi Yuugi, and Blank Slate sounds cool), but maybe only for shojo junkies like me.

For an example of Newsarama's Eisner-winning journalism, check out this interview with Valerie D'Orazio about her upcoming Cloak & Dagger miniseries, in which they mention the art team, but never state who they are. Very helpful guys. I think I'll start apologizing when people offer me congratulations for the award.

Saturday things:

Another example of Vertigo kind of reaching: a new Haunted Tank series, set in Iraq. What's next, a revival of Joe Simon's Green Team, set among the high-stakes world of commodities trading? Hey, I should pitch that to Karen Berger.

Damn, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba are all over the place lately; they've got a new series called Day Tripper coming out from Vertigo. Other news from the Vertigo panel: Dark Entries, the non-Azzarello Vertigo Crime book, will feature John Constantine (wow, they're really going for something new and different there). After Seaguy 2: Slaves of Mickey Eye, Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart are doing Seaguy 3: Seaguy Eternal (awesome news!). Another Morrison series, War Cop, will be coming out at some point, illustrated by Sean Murphy (I might be one of the last people to know about this).

Eh, I could probably find some other stuff to talk about (like the Eisner award winners; I've already got one congratulations for Newsarama's win), but screw it, I'm tired. And this is all ending up kind of boring anyway. We'll see if I can muster the interest to talk about anything else.

Friday updates:

I don't know If I'll bother with this, but it's at least kind of interesting: Marvel and Stephen King are doing some sort of comics/video/internet/cell phone thing, with art by Alex Maleev that is presented in "pan and scan" format with voiceovers and whatnot. Weird. Sounds kind of dumb, actually, but it's notable that they are trying to tell stories using a new medium. Maybe I'll try to check it out at some point, although I don't have a cell phone that can do that sort of thing.

I don't know why I neglected to mention the Dark Horse horror panel yesterday, maybe because nothing really jumped out at me as especially noteworthy, but there are some interesting tidbits, like the fact that Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba will be illustrating an upcoming BPRD miniseries. That's pretty cool.

Here's some more information about that David Mack adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "The Electric Ant". It sound's pretty cool; I'll be interested to see how well Mack can adapt Dick's style to comics. Lord knows it should be better than the "make it an action movie!" approach Hollywood has usually used. And check out the nice artwork:

Info about the upcoming collection and revival of Dean Motter's Mister X. I've never read that series, but I probably should try it out. It looks cool.

Manga news! CMX has acquired the interesting-sounding titles Genghis Khan and March on Earth. Del Rey has a series called Yokai Doctor, which is a good title, at least. They also announced some cool-sounding non-manga books, like In the Flesh, a story collection by Israeli artist Koren Shadmi, and Life with Dr. Dangerous, by Paul Hornschemier.

More in-depth stuff
about the new Ennis/Dillon Punisher miniseries, which sees the return of Ma Gnucci, the mob boss who was dismembered by a polar bear and seemingly burnt to death back in their original storyline. This kind of reeks of trying to squeeze too much lemonade out of a particularly well-worn lemon (that doesn't even make sense). But Ennis should be able to at least make it pretty funny, I imagine.

God, news has to just trickle out in annoyingly minute details, doesn't it? Here's a very slight update on the Vertigo Crime imprint, revealing that the comics will be in graphic novel format, black and white, about 200 pages long. And you can find out the titles of the actual books, for all that good that will do.

There's one worthwhile item in this post about the Image panel, and that's that Darwyn Cooke will be writing and drawing Madman Atomic Comics #14. There, I saved you the trouble of reading through the rest of the dreck. Actually, there's one or two mentions of Invincible and The Walking Dead, and I know those aren't terrible, so I suppose you could read it if you're a Robert Kirkman fan.

Hey, how about this? Viz announced that they finally licensed Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys and Pluto, both of which should be coming out in the US in February. Awesome. That might be the best Comicon news I've heard yet.

Because I feel like it, I'll try to do a roundup of news and whatnot from San Diego as the convention continues. Looking back at the post I did last year, it's interesting to see that many of the announcements didn't bear fruition until right around now, a year later. So let's see what's in store for mid-2009:

The first big news is pretty awesome: Darwyn Cooke will be adapting Richard Stark's Parker novels into a series of graphic novels for IDW. Suh-weet. I'm all over that. I love Cooke's art, and it will be great to see him doing some more serious, adult work.

Boom! Studios has a new deal with Disney/Pixar to do stories spinning off from their movies (and also The Muppet Show. Weird). I'm surprised there hasn't already been an Incredibles comic book, since that's obvious, but their other stuff should lend itself to the medium as well. We'll see how it goes. Here's the original story, and here's an interview with editor Paul Morrisey. And an interview with Boom! EIC Mark Waid, who mentions that Roger Langridge might be involved with the Muppets book.

Vertigo, which seems to be flailing around for some sort of identity, is launching a new imprint, Vertigo Crime. Starting sometime next year, the first two books will be written by Brian Azzarello (cool!) and Ian Rankin (who?). Why couldn't these have been plain old Vertigo series? Huh.

CBR has an interview with Gerard Way, mostly talking about the upcoming second volume of The Umbrella Academy. There are some interesting tidbits of information, and some boring talk about a movie adaptation (it works best as comics; why worry about adapting it to film? Oh, right, money). If you're a fan (of the comic, or his band, you weirdos), check it out.

Looks like that's all for now, but I'm sure I'll have more to add soon.

I don't know if this is really comics news, but Virgin is doing some sort of multimedia project with Grant Morrison called MBX, based on the Indian epic Mahabharata. It includes animation and video games, but who knows if there will be any comics involved. If it's anything like Morrison's awesome Vimanarama, I'll be glad to check it out.

Here's an interview with Guy Davis about The Marquis. I've never read that series, even though I dig Davis's art. I'll have to try to check it out sometime.

More to come soon, I'm sure. I'll eventually start sticking updates at the top of the post, but it's still too small and too new for that.

Lots of boring news about the X-Men and Green Lanterns and crap like that. Meh. But I was interested to see a new Agents of Atlas series from Jeff Parker and some as-yet-unnamed artist. Here's a kind of in-depth article about it. I don't know if I'll want to read it, what with my current antipathy toward superheroics, but I'm definitely more interested in that than whatever's going on with Wolverine.

Other possible stuff of interest from Marvel: a David Mack-drawn adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "Electric Ant" (with Paul Pope on covers!), and Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon doing a six-issue weekly Punisher: War Zone miniseries, which is supposed to be more along the lines of their humorous, satirical Punisher work, rather than the more adult MAX series.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Warren Ellis writes comics (and so do some other people)

So now that I have a working scanner, I can finally get around to reviews of last week's comics. I hope somebody still cares.

Batman #666
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Andy Kubert

Well, I liked the idea of this comic, and certain parts of it, but as a whole it left me pretty cold. Morrison throws some interesting ideas into his tale of Batman's semi-evil son taking over the role in the future and fighting a fake Batman who might also be the anti-Christ, but it ends up being a barely-comprehensible, violent slugfest that certainly isn't helped by Kubert's early-Image-style art. There are some decent lines, and a few plot points that I suspect will eventually work their way into future stories in Morrison's run (especially the bit about Damian killing Batman), but I think I've lost interest in reading more of this stuff. I'll read the next three issues which J.H. Williams III is illustrating, but after that I'm dropping the book.

I will note that I liked this panel of Damian agonizing over his murder of Batman:

It's a nice evocation of the oft-used "young Bruce Wayne weeping over his parents' bodies". Also, I can always appreciate a gorilla villain. And there was some other clever stuff, but not enough to keep me interested. Good riddance.

Black Summer #1 (of 7/8)
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Juan Jose Ryp

So we get to the nominal first issue of the series, and the political angle is pretty much dropped in favor of fighting and flashbacks. Both of those are quite good though, with highly-detailed viscera in the former, and lots of enjoyable Ellis technojargon in the latter. I always like when he gives detailed scientific explanations for superpowers (or other science-fiction concepts), and while this story isn't too original (in Ellis terms, at least; expect lots of stuff like "bias fields", quantum mechanics, and wireless communication), it's still very cool. Also of interest is that superheroes in this world are simply referred to as "guns", which is an easy way of reducing them to their simplest aspect. Didn't any of those people watch The Iron Giant?

I'm also enjoying Ryp's ultra-detailed art. He reminds me of Geof Darrow, although with a sexed-up sensibility, and perhaps less facility with facial expressions. But he draws rubble with the best of them:

And blood. Lots of blood. I'm sure there will be plenty more in future issues. I for one can't wait.

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Raulo Caceres

This week's second Warren Ellis book is a bit of a departure for him (although not too much; you can still hear his authorial voice loud and clear): a historical story about the titular battle, one of the most important conflicts of the Hundred Years' War. The main character and narrator is named William of Stonham, and he's a soldier in the English army as it goes on a raid through France, committing acts of terror and ultimately facing the nobility-led French army. However, William is really a stand-in for Ellis, speaking directly to the reader with full knowledge of everything that has happened between 1346 and the present. He gives us a lot of details about the battle, including historical and geographical background (maps included) as well as technical details pertaining to weapons and armor. But rather than being a dry recitation of facts, it's pretty entertaining, mostly due to the humorous voice Ellis gives his character, and his many digressions (we learn about the use of the word "cunt", which we may find offensive, but to the English is "punctuation").

The art is also quite good, effectively conveying the dirty, wet landscape and the mass of soldiers that were present. I've read some reviews criticizing it as cluttered, but I had no trouble following it. In fact, I loved the details and thought they conveyed the chaos of war very well:

I thought it was a really good book, and I hope Ellis does some more stuff like it rather than staying within the science fiction/crime/superhero genres. He certainly makes the story seem relevant, noting how the battle marked the end of chivalry and drawing parallels to current events (or past ones that came long after the battle). It's a good read, and I highly recommend it.

Doktor Sleepless #1 Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Ivan Rodriguez

For Warren Ellis's third book this week, he returns to the science fiction genre he does so well, with a story about a social reformer/mad scientist seeking to open the eyes of the denizens of the near-future city of Heavenside, showing them that they are already living in an awesome future even if they don't have jetpacks or flying cars. It's kind of being marketed as a follow-up to Transmetropolitan, but I don't know if that's strictly true; this protagonist seems a bit more idealistic than Spider Jerusalem (hell, the cover calls him a "future science Jesus"). It's an interesting start, but some of it seems to be a bit of a retread of previous Ellis works, focusing on wireless communication and body modification (I did like the use of the term "grinder", likening body mods to "leveling" in an RPG). I'm hoping Ellis throws a curveball in future issues and adds something new to his formula. Even if he doesn't, I'm sure it will still be enjoyable, but I would love to see him come up with new ideas rather than doing endless variations on his old ones.

Part of what drags this book down slightly is the art. Ivan Rodriguez isn't bad, but his pictures look a bit rough and smudgy at times, where clean, crisp details would help. I might just need to get used to it, but I often found details hard to make out, like in this panel:

Is that supposed to be a smokestack coming out of that guy's cheek? It's hard to tell. So I think the art has room to improve as well. I'm hoping this book can turn into something pretty good, but as of this issue, it's only a bit above average.

Left on Mission #3 (of 5)
Written by Chip Mosher
Art by Francesco Francavilla

Greg Burgas called this a "padding issue", saying that it feels insubstantial. I happen to disagree, since I really liked the flashback scenes that take up the issue, filling us in on the background of Eric and Emma's history together. There are some really nice scenes, and they're richly colored, making them stand out from the sepia-toned "present". Very nice artwork by Francavilla, who has really grown on me over the past two issues. In this issue, I especially like the layouts, which remind me of Sean Phillips' work on Sleeper:

It all leads to a genuinely sad "breakup" scene, which will probably inform the events of the next few issues. I can't wait to read them.

And I think that's everything worth noting from last week. I thought about reviewing the latest issue of Hellboy: Darkness Calls, but the review would have just said something like "Hellboy fights a guy, and it's awesome". So I'll get to that one in the next issue or two. Suffice to say it's good. More reviews coming tomorrow!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Final UPDATE! San Diego newseses

UPDATE: See the bottom of the post for the newest updates.

I was going to put this entry in its own post, but I figure there will continue to be more news and announcements from what is often referred to as the "nerd prom", so I'm dedicating this post to news out of the San Diego Comicon that I find interesting, starting off with:

A new Jeff Smith book! RASL is a crazy-sounding sci-fi story about a dimension-hopping art thief. Looks cool:

Looks like Top Shelf is putting out an omnibus of Marshal Law, which is cool, because that's an awesome series. It's a good look at early Kevin O'Neill artwork, if you only know him from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And a hilarious, violent, fun series too, with some great lampooning of superheroes.


Darwyn Cooke is leaving The Spirit after issue #12. Bummer. Unless his replacement is somebody amazing, I think I'll be leaving it too.

Jon Favreau (who's directing the Iron Man movie) and Adi Granov are doing an Iron man limited series. It'll probably finish coming out sometime in 2010. Might be interesting, but if I read it, I'm sure I'll wait for the trade.

More news to come...

UPDATE on 7/27:

CBR has a gallery of images from Brian Wood's upcoming Viking series from Vertigo, Northlanders. There's going to be a panel about the series later today, so there will be news and whatnot at that same link.

This one is pretty interesting: Dark Horse is launching a MySpace page called MySpace Dark Horse Presents, and it's kind of a new version of their anthology series, except it's free to read on the page. It's up now, and the first "issue" has a story called "Sugarshock" by Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon, along with an Umbrella Academy story by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Cool. It'll be something to watch. You can read more info in this CBR article.

Viz announced a few new manga titles (I like the title of Monkey High), but their interesting news is that they've licensed the anime versions of both Nana and Honey & Clover. I don't know about Nana, but I've seen some of the H&C anime, and it's excellent.

There will probably be more news later today, so stay tuned (since I'm such a great source for comics news...).

UPDATE 2 on 7/27:

Newsarama has a good interview with Cory Doctorow about IDW's upcoming series of comics adaptations of his short stories.

UPDATE 3 on 7/27:

Lots of news from Marvel, including a new ongoing Eternals series that's a sequel to the Neil Gaiman/John Romita Jr. miniseries. However, it's by Daniel and Charles Knauf, with whom I'm not familiar (apparently, they write Iron Man), and since I was kind of disappointed with the mini, I'll probably skip it.

Also from Marvel, Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos will be the new creative team on Runaways after Joss Whedon's six-issue arc. I'm not so sure about this, especially Ramos' art style, so I think I'll be dropping the book and possibly picking up a collection if I hear good things.

And the big news is the announcement of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi as the new creative team on Astonishing X-Men after Joss Whedon and John Cassaday finish their run. Apparently, the title is going to change to Astonishing X-Men: Second Stage, and maybe starting with a new #1. I'm pretty leery of this prospect, since I don't know if I like Ellis on big mainstream books like this (although his Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate Galactus books were pretty good), and while Bianchi can draw pretty, I don't know if his art style will work on a book like this at all. Plus, I'm sick of the X-Men and wish Ellis would do more stuff like Desolation Jones (I guess I should be happy with Black Summer and Doktor Sleepless...). Anyway, here's a picture:

Oh, crap, that's X-23 in that picture, isn't it? Well, I should probably assume I'm going to be skipping this then.

I guess that's all for right now, but there might be more interesting stuff announced later (and tomorrow, and Sunday), so I'll keep adding to this post. I suppose I could have mentioned Mark Waid's new post as Editor in Chief of Boom! Studios, but whatever.

UPDATE 4 on 7/27:

Vertigo is starting a new House of Mystery series, with Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges (writers of Jack of Fables) writing. Might be cool.

Also from Vertigo, Joshua Dysart is writing a new Unknown Soldier miniseries, and it will take place in Africa, dealing with the little-reported (in the United States) conflicts on the continent. Could be interesting.

Vertigo again: Jamie Delano is writing a Hellblazer graphic novel, with Jock providing art. I don't usually read Hellblazer, but I suppose I could read this.

Well, crap. I have very little interest in all this "Crisis" stuff that DC seems to have going on all the time, but apparently the so-called Final Crisis is going to be written by Grant Morrison (with art by J.G. Jones), ensuring that I will at least pay a little bit of attention to it. Not that everything Morrison touches is gold (see my upcoming review of Batman #666), but it could be really big and cool, in the manner of his JLA stories.

I don't know of this has much news, but CBR has a report from the Groo panel, and it's fun to read if you're a fan of that series. I wish I could have been there. Maybe the news about a Groo/Tarzan crossover is new; I don't know. I'll be glad to read the 25th anniversary special coming out next month.

UPDATE on 7/28:

You can see the Eisner Award winners here. They all seem like pretty good choices, except that awful Batman/Spirit book written by Jeph Loeb (you can read my review here).

DC announced the titles of lots more Minx books. Some of them sound interesting, mostly due to the creators involved, which include Steve Rolston, Inaki Miranda, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, David Hahn, and Rick Mays.

I don't know if this is new news, but I guess P. Craig Russell is adapting Neil Gaiman's The Dream Hunters into a comic. That seems weird, since it's already a sort of comic with Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations. I guess Russell is also adapting Gaiman's novel Coraline, which is also being made into a movie. Ah, I'm sure I'll read them both when they come out; I love Russell's art.

According to Bully, the second Spirit anthology issue (#13?) will feature contributions from Gail Simone, Michael Golden, and Jeff Smith.

UPDATE 2 on 7/28:

Lots of interesting stuff from the Image panel, but what stood out for me was the anthology Pop Gun and Corey (Sharknife) Lewis's new Slimline series Pinapl.

Newsarama has an interesting interview with Christos Gage about his upcoming graphic novel The Lion of Rora from Oni, which he's co-writing with his wife, with Dean Trippe provided the art. That might be one to watch for.

And I think that's everything of note for today. There was some talk about Marvel's thrice-monthly publishing plans for Spider-Man, with the most notable news being Dan Slott as one of the writers and Chris Bachalo as one of the artists. I probably still won't read it though. We'll see if anything else gets posted on any of the news sites, but it's possible that the flow of news is slowing down, so this might be the last update. I don't know if I'll do any more like these, but I thought it would be interesting to keep track of the news from the convention that I found notable. I'll probably post something about Wizard World Chicago next month, but that's only because I'm going to be there. Anyway, I'll hopefully get my replacement scanner on Monday, and then I can get back to the regular reviews.

Okay, one last update (yeah, right): Blog@Newsarama showed the cover art for the Brian Wood/Ryan Kelly Minx book, The New York Four:


Okay, hopefully this will be the last update (7/29):

Image is doing a revival of some Jack Kirby properties, Silver Star and Captain Victory. Looks like they'll be written by Erik Larsen (at least at first), so that doesn't excite me too much. We'll see who ends up doing the art. I doubt they'll be able to capture Kirby's energy (see Jack Kirby's Galactic Bounty Hunters for an example of that sort of failure), but it might be interesting to see what they do.

DC had a Fables panel, and Newsarama's report doesn't really have any earth-shaking news, but it's an interesting read if you're a fan of the series (and its sister title, Jack of Fables). The biggest news is probably that the two titles will start to tie together a bit more, and that a sort of follow-up to 1001 Nights of Snowfall is being planned, although they really only mentioned vague details, saying that real news and a title won't be announced until next year's San Diego convention.

I figured I was going to skip this, but since I'm updating again, I suppose I'll mention it: manga creator team CLAMP is going to be doing a series for Dark Horse. I'm not really a fan of any of their series, but it is interesting news.

Not too much of interest from CBR's report about the Wildstorm panel, except the cover of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier:

Now we'll see if it actually comes out this year.

The new company Radical announced some interesting-sounding books, especially the ones by John Bolton and Bill Sienkiewicz.

Okay, I think that's really the last update. All major news has been reported, so if I find out about anything else worth mentioning, I'll just put it in its own post. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to a more normal schedule tomorrow.