Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Drifting Classroom and Parasyte: Two horror tastes that taste horrific together

Actually, they're fine together, but I thought it was funny. And really, Parasyte is probably more science fiction than horror, but whatever.

Drifting Classroom volume 4
By Kazuo Umezu

Man, the metaphors are going crazy in this volume, spreading beyond the school system and commenting on government and society. At the beginning of the book, the students decide to hold an election to determine who will be leader, Sho (our protagonist) or Princess (the leader of a bullying girl-gang). Princess and her cohorts try to bully students into voting for them, threatening violence to any Sho voters. And then [oh, spoiler] it ends up as a tie, with only a young child to cast the deciding vote [end spoiler]. Later, the students set up a huge, spiked booby trap to stop the monster that's roaming the desert in case it comes to attack the school:

As soon as I saw the trap, I knew it would be tripped by a student, symbolizing the way defense against "outside threats" can often be more dangerous to a nation's citizens than the "invaders" they're trying to stop.

Later, the monster does attack, leading to the use of another awesome trap:

And plenty of gruesome deaths:

Then the kids track the monster back into the desert, hoping to kill it once and for all. But then they discover that it's actually being manifested from a kid's imagination, so the dilemma of whether to kill the kid or not arises. It's pretty interesting, since in the last volume, a group of kids tried to crucify another kid that they believed was somehow the cause of the situation. In this volume, the main characters are faced with the decision of whether to do the same thing, since they know that this kid is responsible (whether consciously or not). I could probably come up with some sort of symbolism for this dilemma (punishing problem/underperforming students?), but I might be stretching the metaphors a bit too far already.

In fact, I'm not sure that the metaphors are holding up that well at this point (my limited knowledge of Japanese society at the time doesn't help). It seems that satires and allegories eventually run into a problem (if you want to call it that) in which following the story and characters become more interesting than trying to discern the author's symbolism. It's an interesting conflict, but if the characters are well-drawn and the plot is interesting and well-constructed, it doesn't make too big of a difference in the long run. And fortunately, Umezu is a hell of a storyteller, drawing us right in to this crazy situation and getting us to root for or against his excitable characters. I certainly can't wait to follow their further adventures and see what sort of insanity he has in store.

Parasyte volume 1
By Hitoshi Iwaaki

I picked this one up after reading good reviews by the likes of Shaenon Garrity and Mike Sterling. And it's pretty damn enjoyable, with some crazy monster designs and wacky comedy. The premise has to do with a bunch of alien spores that invade the earth and take over the bodies of the humans they come in contact with, replacing the head with their own morphing biology, then regularly gruesomely murdering and eating normal humans. The main character, Shin, is infected, but the alien fails to reach his head, instead taking over his right arm. He names the alien Migi (which is Japanese for "right"), and tries to go about his life, which is constantly being interrupted by encounters with other aliens or Migi doing inappropriate things with his hand.

Artwise, the depiction of humans is nothing to write home about, with the shots of expressions of surprise or anger being especially poor:

But the scenes of humans (or other animals) morphing into freaky weapons are where the artwork shines, like in this scene of a guy's head turning into a bladed weapon:

And the portrayal of Migi is pretty charming, while still being offputting and weird. He's usually depicted as a mouth on Shin's hand, with the fingers turning into eyestalks:

But we also regularly see him roaming around Shin's room, studying books and learning as much as he can about Earth:

Migi's really a pretty interesting character. He failed in his mission since he didn't take over Shin's head, so he seems at odds with other aliens that they encounter. But he professes to have no human emotions, claiming that he is only using Shin as a host. They fight several other aliens, but Migi claims that it's just for survival; he's afraid the aliens will kill him for failing his mission. I'm pretty curious to see how he develops in future volumes.

Iwaaki also makes this an environmental issue, implying that the aliens might be a defense against the damage that humans are causing to the Earth. He also raises some interesting questions about the aliens, like when a pair of them that have inhabited male and female bodies conceive a child; what will be the result, and should these aliens be allowed to live after killing two (or possibly more) humans?

And then there's the cool action, with Shin and Migi getting in several fights that consist of freaky blades whizzing through the air like a morphing swordfight. And the silly comedy, like Migi constantly bugging Shin about having sex with the girl he likes because he can tell from his hormones that that's what he wants to do. It all makes for a very enjoyable book, and while I don't think I'll be rushing to the bookstore to pick up every new volume, I'll certainly try to keep following the series.

Okay, I'm starting to get caught up. We'll see how much more I can continue to write over the next few days...

"I am the revelation! The tiger-force at the core of all things!"

Behold the glory of today's Fourth World panel, from Forever People #3:

I had to go with the big splash page, mostly due to the awesome dialogue. But that's an awesome portrait of Darkseid. And this was a really good issue, and since it's the last chapter of Forever People in this volume of the Omnibus, it leaves readers on a hell of a cliffhanger. Dammit, now I'm definitely going to have to spring for the next volume(s).

This issue introduces Glorious Godfrey, and I love how he's sort of a combination of a revivalist preacher and a Nazi leader, preaching messages of hate while being accompanied by a cosmic mind-controlling organ. At one point, Godfrey's "Justifiers" round up a group of people and load them onto (flying) boxcars, calling them "animals" and "human trash", and checking their names off a list. He makes an interesting and scary villain, especially coming from a writer of Jewish descent who lived through World War II. In fact, Darkseid's whole scheme (outside of the organized-crime activities of Intergang) seems to be to spread fear and hate. It's really very relevant to current times, both when it was written and in the present. Man, Kirby was a genius.

Warren Ellis news that I missed

I'm not sure how I missed this in my San Diego "coverage", but Warren Ellis has a new free webcomic called Freak Angels that will be debuting later this year. Art by Paul Duffield, with whom I'm not familiar. It looks nice, so it'll be one to watch. Here's some promo art:

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!

UPDATED: Demo: Quite the melange of tastes

UPDATE: I've added images to the post, so now you can see examples of what I'm talking about.

Well, within the spectrum of "youthful angst illustrated in a manga-esque style", anyway. I've been meaning to write about this ever since I finished it, but I haven't been able to gather my thoughts sufficiently, or something. I was planning to do a sort of review of each of the twelve chapters/issues, and I guess I'll still do that, but the ones I liked less might be limited to a few sentences and an art sample. We'll see how it goes.

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan

I pretty much missed this series when it originally came out, since I was just getting back into purchasing comics regularly, and while it looked interesting, I guess I didn't want to take a chance on it. But my tastes have changed since then, and I've discovered that I like Brian Wood's writing and Becky Cloonan's art, so I've been meaning to read this for a while now. And now that I finally have, I think it was worth the wait. Yes, some chapters are better than others, but it's an interesting project to see develop, and I especially like the way the theme of the book seemed to evolve as the series progressed, going from "teenagers with superpowers" to "young adults living their lives". I'm also amazed at Cloonan's art, especially the way she varied her style to fit each individual story. So anyway, I think I'll take a look at each of the stories and offer my thoughts.

1. "NYC"

This story starts off right in line with the original purpose of the book, showing a young couple running away from home to live in the big city. The girl, Marie, has some sort of psychic powers, and her mom has been forcing her to take medicine to suppress them all her life. So along with running away, she's going cold turkey and trying to control her abilities. It seems to be a metaphor for the pent-up feelings of youth and the desire to break free of the control of your parents, teachers, and whatever authorities you feel are holding you back. But at the same time, it's scary, and you worry that you'll hurt or even destroy yourself and those you love with this newfound freedom. Or, it could be more literal, speaking about drugs like Ritalin, that many young people must take to suppress their "hyperactivity". I've never taken them, but I could see the feeling that these are being forced upon you to squash your creativity and individuality, and wanting to get free, but still feeling like you won't have any control over yourself if you do. It's an interesting idea to think about, especially in how the story begins with a flash-forward showing the kids happy in the city and ends on a note of hope.

Cloonan goes for a scratchily-rendered manga style in this chapter, and it works pretty well. The best bits (art-wise) were when Marie was trying to control her powers:

But other than that, I think the art gets much better in later chapters.

2. "Emmy"

This chapter has a less-rough manga feel, about a teenage girl who never speaks, due to the power to compel people to obey her and the unfortunate consequences that resulted when she got angry and spoke without thinking. I suppose it's a metaphor for the guilt we feel when we say something hurtful and instantly regret it. This is especially true for adolescents, whose emotions seem to be in constant turmoil (that's how I remember it anyway). It's a decent little story, but far from the best of the bunch. As I mentioned, Cloonan uses an interesting variation on her style, but remains manga-influenced:

As always, it's very nice-looking.

3. "Bad Blood"

Another teen angst tale, this one about the agony of growing up in a broken home. A teenage girl goes to her father's funeral, bonds with her step-brother, and complains about the family that she never knew. Eventually, she discovers that she shares a trait with other members of her family, and since I'm belaboring the metaphors in each chapter, this seems to be about how you can always connect with your family, even if you don't get along with them. Or maybe I'm reaching.

The art style seems to shift slightly away from a manga influence in this chapter, and a lot of blacks are added, fitting the funereal atmosphere:

Looks nice, but this is another of my less-favorite chapters.

4. "Stand Strong"

Ah, now we're getting away from the teen-angst material. A young man working in a small-town factory resists his heritage (his father and grandfather also worked there), hoping to make some illicit money and escape from the small town with his friends. But then he realizes that his friends only want him around because of his super-strength, and his family loves him for who he is.

There's some really nice character art in this chapter, with James (the protagonist) arguing with his girlfriend about money:

And later realizing why his friends really want him around:

Some nice dynamic scenes too, like this one of James breaking into a building:

Beautiful stuff. I love the sunburst effect when he uses his "powers". I think this chapter is where Wood and Cloonan realized they wanted to go with the series, with the stories shifting to subjects of adult responsibility and relationships, with characters in their twenties rather than teens. Cloonan's art shifts become even more obvious, really setting a distinct tone for each chapter. I should also mention that she closes nearly every chapter with a quiet landscape shot, or something similar, punctuating the story with a nice image. Very cool.

5. "Girl You Want"

This one is a nice story about a girl who assumes the visual form of whatever the person looking at her wants to see, physically changing to match their mental image. I think. She describes it in captions as people "filling in the blanks" about her without even realizing it, but as it's depicted, she often changes into the person's fantasy girl (if they're a guy). The plot thickens when she meets a girl who sees her as she is, and her appearance stays the same. So then she becomes obsessed with the girl, thinking that they will be lovers or something. Eventually, she realizes that she doesn't know anything about the girl, and was doing the same thing she hated about everyone else, projecting her own image onto the girl and seeing her as she wanted her to be. It's a good reversal, and a nice bit of writing.

And the art is also very nice, filled with shadows to reflect her inner mood, but breaking away from Cloonan's usual style when illustrating the forms she assumes when people look at her:

Again, perfect atmosphere for the story. Have I mentioned that I really like Becky Cloonan's art?

6. "What You Wish For"

This one is a bit different from the usual story, with a just-married guy flashing back to his childhood when he revisits the old neighborhood. He was a mixed-race (white and Asian) kid, and he got a lot of comments from neighbors and schoolmates, eventually growing to hate them. Things boil over one day when the guy across the street kills his dog, and the kid's latent psychic powers kick in, bringing all the dead animals in the neighborhood back to life and slaughtering all the neighbors. It's pretty creepy, and it leads to a lesson that you can't let hate consume you. Actually, it kind of reminds me of American Born Chinese.

The character art is nice, with thin, clean lines defining the characters. However, there are some excellent illustrations of animals, whether depicting living ones, like Ken's pet dog as an adult:

Or the creepy zombie animals, like the dead puppy:


7. "One Shot, Don't Miss"

This might be the most famous issue of the series, since it was nominated for an Eisner award. It concerns a soldier in Iraq who has the ability to never miss a shot. To tell the truth, I don't know if it's one of the best-written chapters of the series, but it's rather striking, especially the shadow-filled art style that Cloonan uses, which makes everyone's face look the same, with blank spots for eyes and darkness around their nose, mouth, and cheekbones:

It emphasizes the faceless nature of soldiers, how they're just cogs in the military machine. And that's the point of the story, that the protagonist doesn't want to be just an instrument of destruction. He joined the army to provide for his family, but then the country went to war, he got sent halfway around the world, and people are expecting him to use his skills to kill possibly innocent people. While manning a checkpoint, he is faced with a car that is trying to speed through without stopping, and he can't bring himself to kill the driver, so he shoots out the tires. Having gone against orders, he gets discharged and sent home, disappointing everyone, including his wife. It's a tough situation, but if I was in the same situation, I don't think I could bring myself to kill someone. Sure, now he's going to have to find a way to provide for his angry wife and infant kid, but how do you balance the well-being of your family against someone's right to live? That's the question behind this story, and it's left up to the reader to decide; all we see is the uncertainty of his future.

That said, while it does raise an interesting point, it does it kind of ham-handedly, with gung-ho officers and fellow soldiers berating our hero, crowing about how he'll be so good at killing when he gets the chance, and belittling him as a coward when he is unable to take the crucial shot. And his wife isn't any better; sure, she's worried about their future, but shouldn't she be able to put herself in his shoes? And the car that runs the checkpoint is little more than a plot device; we never find out if its occupants were terrorists, or even see their faces. So it's kind of unsatisfying, and an odd choice for the award nomination, probably only getting noticed for the political content.

8. "Mixtape"

This might be my favorite chapter of the series. It's a simple tale of a guy whose girlfriend committed suicide, but left him a tape to listen to in his Walkman. When he plays it, she appears in front of him (in his mind, at least), and he gets to have one last day with her, walking around the city and visiting their favorite spots. Or so he thinks; she informs him that he never really considered her and usually just focused on himself. It's a sad conversation, but a lovely character piece.

And Cloonan's art is excellent, as always. I love the image of the girlfriend with ribbons of tape swirling around her and entwining her limbs:

Good stuff; one of the best chapters in the book, in my opinion.

9. "Breaking Up"

This is another good chapter, and probably the first one that doesn't deal with any superhuman abilities. Sure, one character mentions that he remembers everything everyone says to him, but that's just a photographic memory, isn't it? This "ability" factors into the story (which is about a couple doing what the title says) in that as they are talking, he remembers various events throughout the history of their relationship, both good and bad. It's really well done, in the manner of real memories: jumbled together without much context. A very effective presentation. The couple's conversation is heartbreaking; it's sad and true-to-life, a conversation that happens every day to somebody. It's just a fact that couples grow apart and eventually break up, and it's rarely a pleasant experience. But when you see the flashbacks, you can see how they ended up at that point, even though they did have some good times. Good writing, if you ask me.

And the art is excellent as well. Lots of thick outlines and shadows, reflecting the serious nature of the conversation. And there are some great designs, like this shot of the heat rising from their coffee cups like the dark clouds gathering over their relationship:

Beautiful stuff (am I getting redundant?).

10. "Damaged"

This is an interesting chapter which uses the premise of the series to fool the reader (and protagonist) into thinking a character has psychic powers, but then it turns out to be a scam. It's a good twist on the "formula". A twenty-something New York businessman is approached by a homeless girl who seems to know everything about him and tells him she can help him learn to feel something in his empty life. He ends up seeing her regularly, giving her money because he feels sorry for her; the two seem to be getting friendly, until he discovers that she is scamming him, and something tragic happens. It's another nice little character piece, and even though these later chapters don't seem to be as heavy on the metaphors as the earlier ones did, it seems that this could be a commentary on how we tend to sabotage our relationships by telling little lies or misrepresenting ourselves, and eventually that comes back to haunt us.

The art is a bit more manga-inspired in this chapter, especially in the case of the girl, who has a pointy chin and larger-than-normal eyes. It's a good way of emphasizing her seeming innocence. Cloonan also does a neat trick where the thin lines defining characters are outlined with greytones, as in this beautiful picture that I'm going to go ahead and call my current favorite panel:

There are some nice photo-manipulated backgrounds too, as well as some other neat visual tricks. Definitely one of my favorite chapters, in both art and story.

11. "Midnight to Six"

I don't think this story involves superpowers at all; it's just the tale of three friends (two guys, one girl) who decide in junior high to live by "The Slacker Pledge", which states that they will attempt to do the minimum required in terms of school or work and "live life to its fullest". Ten years later, they are all roommates, and they work the night shift at a grocery store, cleaning up and stocking shelves. One of them has taken the pledge to heart, expecting to follow it for the rest of his life, but the other two are starting to strain against the pledge's confines, hoping to actually have careers and do something with their lives. So they end up spending the night fighting amongst themselves about their ideas of how to live life, with the girl (since girls are much smarter than us dumb guys) finally snapping and telling the others to grow up. It's a pretty nice character piece, but definitely not my favorite story of the bunch.

The art is also pretty nice, with nothing much to really distinguish it like in some of the other chapters. More manga stylings, especially in the opening junior high sequence. Cloonan does use those stylings well, however:

12. "Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi (My Last Night With You)"

I'm not sure what to think about this final chapter. Rather than provide a statement that wraps up the series, or something like that, we get a series of images of a young couple, accompanied only by the words of a poem/song about their last night together. The images are certainly beautiful:

But the words have an air of finality. I suppose it's up to the reader to interpret, and I thought it might be a suicide pact. The final image (which doubles as the back cover of the book) shows them seemingly flying over a building, but maybe they're both jumping to their deaths. Or maybe I'm just morbid and cynical. It's certainly a beautiful chapter, but I found it slightly unsatisfying as an end to the book. But really, that's okay, because I also like ambiguity.

So, as a whole, the book has its ups and downs, but it's a really nice collection of stories, and it improves as it goes along. I definitely like Brian Wood's writing (his book DMZ is one of my favorite series currently being published), but Becky Cloonan's art is arguably the star here. I'm very impressed with how she was able to vary her style to fit each story while still providing clear, coherent storytelling. This book is a testament to her skills, and I would recommend it for that reason alone. So if you missed it the first time around, it's definitely worth checking out.

By the way, I've read that the single issues contain some significant "backmatter", with sketches, essays, and other behind-the-scenes material. Even though I have the collected edition of the book, I might seek out some of those issues someday (especially my favorites among the bunch) and check them out.

That's my last post for tonight. I don't know when I'll get another one done, since I rely on my scanner so much. God forbid I use words to describe a picture! We'll see what I can come up with in the interim.

"Granny Goodness wants to kill Scott Free!"

As I was hoping, Mister Miracle #2 was pretty awesome, as you can see in today's Fourth World panel:

That's Granny Goodness, making her first appearance, and freaking me out with her combination of referring to herself in the third person, requiring loving devotion from her minions, and acting tender toward her killing machine, Overlord. Plus, she's very devoted to Darkseid:

That's right, this is another issue in which one panel won't suffice to demonstrate the awesomeness. I love the phrase "Wear your pointed helmets proudly where he leads!" And I also have to include this panel of Mister Miracle falling into her trap:

And this awesome page in the chapter's opening sequence:

It's the crazy techno-borders between the panels that does it for me. Sweet.

And as you can see, that's a full-page scan there, so I now have a working scanner. That means I can start to catch up on reviews, so stay tuned!

A light week? Really?!

Wow, I might actually save some money this week. Then I might have some to spend at Wizard World...

New comics this week (Wednesday, 8/1/07):

Dark Tower Gunslinger Born #7

Wow, the last couple issues of this series came out close together. I've enjoyed the mini, so I hope it wraps up in a satisfying manner. I'm curious if the collected version will have all the sketches, text pieces, and other extras that the single issues have. That will help me decide whether to wait for the trade on any future Dark Tower miniseries or buy it in singles.

Marvel Tarot

Wow, this is kind of weird. Apparently it's a comic book with some sort of story, but illustrations for each of the major arcana of the tarot deck. I doubt I'll buy it, but it'll be something to look at in the store, I'm sure.

Punisher #50

Man, I really need to try to pick up the collections of these. I dig the Garth Ennis ultraviolence, and I hear nothing but good things about the series.

She Hulk #20

I'm not planning on buying this, but I wanted to note that it's the issue that will supposedly fix any Marvel Universe continuity errors, forever! Knowing Dan Slott, I'm sure he'll come up with a funny solution.

Spider-Man Fantastic Four #4

This miniseries wraps up, and it's been a fun ride so far. Hopefully it will end satisfyingly.

Spider-Man Red Sonja #1

I definitely won't be getting this, but it makes me laugh since I used to have the old issue of Marvel Team-Up where the two characters met, due to Mary Jane being possessed by Red Sonja's sword. That was funny.

Metal Men #1

If I get this, I'll wait for the trade, but it certainly looks like it will be fun.

Faker #2

I missed the first issue of this series, so I'll wait for the trade, but I did read some good reviews, so I'm looking forward to reading it, eventually.

Garth Ennis Chronicles of Wormwood #6

I've really enjoyed this series, so I'm hoping it ends well. Miniseries ending seems to be the theme for this week, doesn't it?

Gutsville #1 (2nd Print)

I'm still waiting for the second issue of this...

Godland Celestial HC

I believe this collects the first 12 issues of the series. Some good comics here. I recommend it, if you haven't read any of the series yet.

Elephantmen vol. 1 HC

I always hear this is a good series, but I haven't read any of it. Maybe I'll check it out when a softcover collection comes out, but the hardcover is a bit more than I want to spend.

Scalped vol. 1

I decided to skip this when it started, but I've heard that it got good after a lackluster first few issues. I suppose I could check it out someday, but not now.

Warren Ellis Crooked Little Vein HC (Novel)

Ellis's first prose novel. I'll have to read it sometime.

Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom

This miniseries got a lot of praise, but it's a bit pricey ($21.99 for six issues of material, I believe). I might get it someday if I find it at a discount.

Clockwork Girl #0

This series looks interesting, but this 25-cent preview issue isn't on my shop's list. I'll probably check it out if I see it.

Architect GN

This appears to be a collection of a strip that ran on the Big Head Press website (home of the excellent series La Muse). It's by Mike Baron and Andie Tong. Might be worth a look, if I see it.

Mushishi Vol 2 GN

I thought the first volume of this manga series was okay, but I don't know if I liked it enough to search out this one.

Uptight #2

I really liked the first issue of this series by Jordan Crane. This one isn't on my shop's list, but I'll keep an eye out for it. It's only $2.50.

Whiteout Vol 1 TP Definitive Edition

I still need to read this. I assume this edition is being published to promote the movie version.

Drifting Classroom Vol 7 TP

Man, I thought I was getting caught up on this series (I just finished volume 4), but more volumes keep coming out!

Naoki Urasawas Monster Vol 10 TP

I'm way behind on this one though. One day, I'll catch up (probably long after the final volume comes out).

Naked Artist And Other Comic Book Legends GN

This looks kind of funny. It's a collection of stories about comics creators, written by Bryan Talbot, with illustrations by Hunt Emerson. You can read more information here.

And I think that's everything. Really, even though that's a long list, I think there are only three pamphlets that I'm getting. Cool. As for blog content, I might get my replacement scanner today, so it's possible that I'll have a review or two up tonight! Holy cow! Check back and find out!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"I never heard a gun dat sounds like a harmonica!"

Here's today's Fourth World panel, from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #137"

This was the first time that I struggled to find a panel that stood out enough to highlight. If my scanner was working correctly, I would have used one of the full-page spreads of Jimmy, Superman, and friends using the super-trippy "solar-phone", a musical instrument that "gathers in the radio-signals from the stars and converts them into mental musical images!". That gave Kirby an opportunity to do some of his crazy collages, not to mention the wacky tech of the instrument itself:

But other than that, the issues consists of Superman fighting the four-armed monster in the panel above, and while I liked the gritty design of the monster, I didn't think any panels really stood out. There were several that consisted of stuff being smashed, or Superman punching (or being punched by) the monster, and a sequence in which the monster trapped our heroes into a cage of energy that hardened into a sort of eggshell, but the one above was the only one that stood out enough to highlight. Oh well; it's cool enough, I suppose. Tomorrow: Mister Miracle!

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.

"Cruel Desaad hungers like some parasite!"

Apokoliptian Kirbytech is the feature in today's Fourth World panel, from New Gods #2:

I'm getting redundant by saying this yet again, but that's awesome. There were several other panels I considered (and a breathtaking double-page spread of New Genesis), but my scanner is not working and this was all it could muster. It's still pretty damn cool. I'm a little over halfway through volume one of the Omnibus now, and I'm loving it; it just keeps getting better. Before reading it, I had wondered if this was worth the money I spent on it (even at the discounted Amazon price), but it definitely is. In fact, I'm probably going to have to get the next volumes as soon as they are available.

Sunshine: Making me happy when skies are gray

Wow, this was a really good movie. Not to spoil the ending or anything...

2007, directed by Danny Boyle

There's a Ray Bradbury short story called "The Golden Apples of the Sun" in which a team of astronauts pilots a ship to the sun in order to retrieve a "cupful" of solar material (you can read the story at the end of this blog post, which compares it to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's first issue of All-Star Superman). Danny Boyle's new science fiction film posits a sort of inverted scenario: a team of astronauts is traveling to the sun, but with the purpose of reigniting it after it has nearly burned out by dropping a "stellar bomb" into the star. It's one of those goofy sci-fi ideas that sounds cool but isn't really very scientifically accurate (I believe the sun will actually expand to engulf the earth before it burns out, and that will be much farther in the future than this film seems to take place). But it still makes a hell of a movie, and Boyle (who also directed films like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Millions) takes the opportunity to deliver some gorgeous imagery over the course of Alex Garland's (the novel The Beach, 28 Days Later) tense and philosophical script.

The eight-man team of astronauts are a compelling bunch, standouts being Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Red Eye, Batman Begins) as the astrophysicist, Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) as the pilot, and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as the botanist. Cliff Curtis is also excellent as the sun-obsessed psychologist, and Hiroyuki Sanada (whom I just watched in the excellent The Twilight Samurai) turns in a good, stoic performance as the captain. Over the course of the movie, they argue, struggle with questions of existence, and work together to overcome obstacles. There are crises, both intellectual and philosophical, and it gets very tense watching them try to overcome them.

The main crisis occurs when the crew of the obviously-named Icarus II discovers their predecessor, the Icarus I, which disappeared seven years earlier without completing the mission. Is it still functional? Is the crew still alive? Should they stray from their mission and try to rendezvous with the ship? The results of their decisions lead to some incredibly tense sequences, and even a shift to a sort of horror-movie atmosphere near the end of the film. I don't know if space malfunctions have ever been so white-knuckle inducing.

But the best aspect of the film is probably the visuals. The solar vistas that we witness are breathtaking (they were probably created via computers, but they're still amazing), and it's easy to understand the obsession that some crew members start to feel toward sunlight. At times, we see characters against painfully bright backgrounds, which is a good way of communicating the danger to the audience. At other times, the image itself is distorted, almost like the film itself is burning. It's a fascinating effect that makes you feel like the world is burning up. Boyle uses plenty of other visual tricks, like subliminal imagery or a holodeck-like recreational/therapy room, making a complete, compelling experience. It's beautiful stuff; I'll have to watch it again to try to catch all the details I might have missed.

But it's still an emotional and intellectual story, with discussions about whether the mission to save humanity should be endangered in order to save one person, or whether we should mess with the natural order of things. It's quite fascinating, and I really can't recommend this film enough; it's sure to be one of my favorites of the year.

I might have to do more movie reviews if I'm not doing any comics reviews right now. I gotta write something! Stay tuned for more content, as always.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Cosmic capsules", indeed!

In today's Fourth World panel (from Forever People #2), our heroes help a young boy take an acid trip:

Wow. New Gods came right out of the gate with the awesomeness, but Forever People didn't really start going until the second issue. I'm hoping the same thing happens with Mister Miracle...

As for new reviews, my stupid scanner is still broken, so it might be a few more days. Dammit.

UPDATED: Solicitationary blatherings: Other companies, October 2007

UPDATE on 7/26: I've added several books that were recently solicited, and I've noted the new ones in each section.

So here's where I talk about stuff from smaller companies that often get overlooked. I'll probably include Dark Horse in this group in the future. I'm sure there are others that could be mentioned (maybe if I read Previews), but here's what I was able to find:


Black Summer #2 (of 7) - I went with the wraparound cover for this issue, because it's pretty cool. Juan Jose Ryp likes to draw lots of details, usually violent ones. I liked the first/zeroth issue of this series, so I hope it continues to be good. Don't let me down, Ellis!

Doktor Sleepless #3 - Speaking of Warren Ellis not letting me down, I also hope this book is good. It looks pretty crazy, with a weird sexy Frankenstein vibe, at least on this cover. I think the first issue comes out next month, so we'll see what's up then.

UPDATE: Well, now I'm confused. I thought the books above were solicited for October, but now Comics Continuum says these are:

Black Summer #3 (of 7 (actually 8)) - See my comments above, although I'll mention that issue #1, which came out this week, was pretty good. I'll have a full review up soon, I hope.

Chronicles of Wormwood TPB - Wow, this is actually coming out in a timely fashion. I've enjoyed this series, but I suppose I could have saved money and waited for the trade. Next time, I guess.

Chronicles of Wormwood: The Last Enemy OGN - And we also get a follow-up to the miniseries, although this is illustrated by Rob Steen rather than Jacen Burrows. I'll probably get it too, unless the series ends in a really unsatisfactory manner.

Streets of Glory #1 (of 6) - Hmmm. I've preordered this, but if the collections are going to be coming out so soon after the series finish, I think I might cancel that and wait for the trade. I did read at least one bad review of the preview issue that came out recently, so maybe I should wait anyway in case this turns out to be bad. I do like the idea of a Garth Ennis western though.


The Boys #10 - This "gay superhero-related murder mystery" storyline seems like it will keep plugging along, and I'm sure I'll keep reading. I'm expecting to drop the book and wait for trades at the end of this storyline, which will be #12, I assume.

UPDATE: I'm getting redundant here, but Dynamite has some more solicits that I wasn't aware of:

Bad Boy 10th Anniversary HC - I've never read this Frank Miller/Simon Bisley comic. Does anybody know if it's any good? It's $14.99 for a hardcover, so I assume it's fairly short. I dunno if it'll be worth the price...

The Boys #11 - Well, apparently this issue starts a new four-part storyline, in which the eponymous team travels to Russia. Who knows where the TPB cutoff is going to be. Thus, I don't know if I'll be getting this issue or waiting for the trade.

Eduardo Risso's Tales of Terror TPB - Oh, cool. This reprints eleven stories that have never been translated into English. I hope it's good. Written by Carlos Trillo, who also wrote Borderline, another foreign (Argentinian?) Risso comic that I really need to pick up someday.


Uno Tarino: The Latest Art of Ashley Wood - Wow, I would love to get this (along with all the other Ashley Wood art books), but it's a bit more than I want to spend. It sure looks nice though.

Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons #1 (of 3) - I'll be getting this though. I dug the Zombies vs. Robots miniseries, and this looks like more of the same, with another Wood favorite (sexy girls!) thrown into the mix. Should be fun.

UPDATE: And another one with more books added. I guess I should have waited to do this post.

Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons #2 (of 3) - I dunno, maybe #1 is coming out in September.

Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now #1 (of 6?) - I really like Cory Doctorow's fiction (see his website, where you can download several stories and even full novels for free), so I'm curious to see how these adaptations will turn out. I'm not familiar with the writer or artist (Dara Naraghi and Esteve Polls, respectively). Might be good, might not.

Reptilia - Oh, now this looks cool: a one-shot Kazuo Umezu (Drifting Classroom) horror manga. 320 pages for $14.99, with a new cover by Ashley Wood. I can't wait to read it; I'll have to be sure to preorder.


Maintenance volume 2 TPB - There's no picture for this volume, but I wanted to mention it, because this is a really good, funny series. In fact, I need to review the first collected volume, so keep an eye out for that.

UPDATE: See my comments about Avatar above; I thought Oni already released their solicits for October, but apparently they've added some more:

Local #12 (of 12) - Really? The tenth issue hasn't even come out yet, but maybe the final three are finished and just need to be released. That's cool. It's been a good series; I'm very interested to see how Wood and Kelly wrap it up.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere - I haven't read any of the Courtney Crumrin books, but I hope to eventually, since I like Ted Naifeh's art style, and I loved Polly and the Pirates. So I'll probably read this eventually.

Wet Moon volume 3 - Have there already been two volumes of this series? I'm interested in checking it out, because I like Ross Campbell's art style. Maybe someday I'll get to this one.

My Inner Bimbo #2 - I never read the first issue of this (mini?)series, but didn't it come out over a year ago? Sam Kieth works slow, I guess. I suppose I can pick up a collection if I hear good things (and it ever gets finished).

Multiple Warheads #2 - Ahhh yeeah, I'll be getting this. The first issue came out this week, and it's awesome. Brandon Graham is a cool dude.

UPDATE: I've added this company, which might be new:

Red 5:

Atomic Robo #1 (of 6) - I probably wouldn't pay much attention to this normally, but I saw a preview of this comic somewhere (Newsarama, maybe?), and it looked really cool. So I'll probably check it out. Red 5 has some other books that might or might not be decent, but this is the only one I chose to mention.

And that's all for now, although I suppose I could update this if I find more information. I hope to have a review or two up tonight, but I don't know if I'll have time. Sorry to keep you in suspense...