A quest for the finest in sequential art

Comic Book Marathon

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 05/25/05

And so the pendulum swings from Marvel to DC this week. Actually, I thought it was going to be even an bigger week, but Top Ten: the 49ers has been pushed back until July 13th, so good news/bad news there.

I have also added a new feature to the listings this week, a "Waiting for the Trade" section at the bottom, for comics coming out this week that I will buy when they show up in collected form. I hope that this will give a fuller idea of my tastes, so that anyone reading this can give recommendations on what I am not reading, but should be.

Lastly, I have been invited to guest-blog on The Low Road for the next couple of weeks, so look out for reviews and commentary from me over there.

Onward ...

Gotham Central Vol 2: Half A Life - Ever since his comics debut Whiteout, I have never read anything by Greg Rucka that has lived up to the hype. On the other hand, I have been a big fan of Michael Lark since Terminal City. Here the two collaborate on the tale that won the 2004 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story. Thus, I have no idea how to set my expectations, so wish me luck.

True Story Swear to God Vol 2: This One Goes to 11 - On the other hand, I have nothing but absolute praise for this series, which I have already read in serialized form and will savor all over again with this edition. This brisk, charming, and heartfelt tale focuses on the internal storms that Tom faces as he chooses between his hometown and the woman he loves, while 3,000 miles away, Lily braves a more literal storm in the form of a category 5 hurricane. Good stuff.

Wrath of the Spectre! - An essential piece of comic history is reprinted here, as the worlds of super hero vigilantes and supernatural retribution collide is this collection of gory and brutal stories from the mid-70's. Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo focus on what happens when a god-like vigilante is a force for vengeance instead of justice, and the results are chillingly horrific. These tales predict many of the more regrettable trends in current comics, but taken on their own, they are highly effective stories that did open up new areas for comics to explore. Also includes the 1988 revisitation by Fleisher and Aparo, the original covers for both the 70's and 80's editions, and the original Who's Who entry for the Spectre from 1987.

Different Ugliness, Different Madness - This striking graphic novel (sadly, one of the last of the DC/Humanoids co-publishing agreement) presents the tale of an emotionally-tortured young woman in post-World War II France who meets a famous radio announcer with secrets of his own. The cartoonish art drawn with a heavy painterly brush reminds me of Alex Toth, with all the gorgeous stark shadowing that implies. I've really enjoyed all of the non-sci-fi books I've read from Humanoids, so I'm looking forward to this one as well.

Desperado Primer - $2 for a sampler of a new publisher's work? I can handle that. Joe Pruett edited a few very cool books at Caliber, so I'll give him a shot to impress me.

Comics Journal #268 - The feature interview this time around is of "new mainstream" poster-boy Craig Thompson. Also, an interview with somebody whose comics I just don't "get," Bob Burden and a color comics section spotlighting Pogo creator Walt Kelly's work on Dell's Our Gang comics. And the usual plethora of news articles, columns, and reviews that will help make my quest for the best in sequential art that much easier.

Excalibur #14 - The Dread Dormmamu so declares! "Strange! I know not by what power you have brought me to this place -- but you will pay for such effrontery -- first with your misbegotten life . . . AND ULTIMATELY WITH YOUR SOUL!" Awesome! Also, Professor X mopes a lot. Meh.

Waiting for the trade: Runaways Vol 2 #4 and Ultimates Vol 2 #6. Apparently, though, I can expect these trades to be mis-printed when they finally do come out.

Safety? Just danger out of place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 05/18/05

Hm, unusual number of floppies this week.

Also, notice how I buy a lot of Marvel Comics stuff? This kind of surprises me. I mean, I would still be buying Powers from Image and Adam (Livewires) Warren's work from Dark Horse, if that were the option, so my purchases have nothing to do with the publisher itself, but still . . .

Powers Vol VIII: Legends - A few years ago, around the time of volumes 4 and 5, I thought this title was heading towards the deep end, dragged down to the low standards of Brian Michael Bendis's mainstream work. Boy was I wrong. Volumes 6 and 7 were excellent pulp fiction, and from all indications this title has hit its stride in the middle of quite a long run. Compelling characters, Michael Avon Oeming's hyperkinetic art, and a very real sense of mortality make this title once of the most intense reads in the super-hero power fantasy category. Remember when Kurt Busiek was delivering mediocre mainstream scripts for Marvel while producing pure gold on Astro City? That's where Bendis and Oeming are now, and Powers is where the gold lies.

The Dark Horse Book of the Dead - Speaking of pulp fiction, here's a sophisticated horror anthology that deserves more attention. While IDW and Steve Niles rule the action/horror comic roost with their all-out intense zombie and vampire titles, editor Scott Allie has compiled a collection of suspense/horror stories that will appeal more to fans of Hellboy and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. On top of that, fans of lush graphic novel art will not be disappointed by the selection of fine artists. Creators returning from previous volumes in this series (Hauntings and Witchcraft) include Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, Scott Allie, Paul Lee, Brian Horton, Jill Thompson, and Evan Dorkin. They are joined this time by Kelley Jones, Eric Powell, David Crouse, Todd Herman, Bob Fingerman, Roger Langridge, Pat McEwon, Jaime S. Rich, and Guy Davis. If nothing else, these creators will ensure that this collection will be both creepy and beautiful at the same time.

Strange Eggs #1 - Also in the anthology department this week is this entry, a collection of tales based on the same central conceit: a mysterious man delivers an egg once a week to Kip and Kelly Hatcher, young siblings who live on a farm. Each contributor to this anthology offers their take on what is in one of the eggs, usually resulting in a Twilight Zone style twist. The creator list includes Slave Labor Graphics mainstays Crab Scrambly, Ian Carney, and Woodrow Phoenix as well as mad mavericks Derf and Roger Langridge. Scott Saavedra writes the introduction, and that's as far as I go in terms of name recognition. The remaining creators of this book are new to me, including the editor/creators who came up with the concept in the first place: Chris Reilly, Steve Ahlquist, and Ben Towle.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Teams 2005 - Dr. Strange on cover. Rationale shorter than title.

Livewires #4 - Ok, I admit this title might not be for everyone. But COME ON! At least 99.44% of the population should be reading this. If "Nanobuilt humanform combat mecha" makes your skin crawl due to its overwhelming geekiness, YES ME TOO! But this book rocks ANYWAY! It's the search for the meaning of life for the ADD generation, the question of who we are with lots of action and government conspiracy thrown in. I don't want to overuse the word "sophisticated" this week, but that is EXACTLY what separates Adam Warren's work from all the schlock that only LOOKS like Adam Warren's work. Even with two freaking Roger Langridge books this week, this is still the one you need to buy! (Wow, this comic is such a rush, even writing about it gets me excited! Must . . . remember . . . to breathe . . .)

JLA Classified #7 (I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League part 4 of 6) - Pathos. It's a concept that, when used sparingly, can turn a good comic into a great one. When Giffen and DeMatteis employed pathos on their original Justice League series, it resulted in their best work. In this issue, our team of not-ready-for-prime-time super heroes get plenty of laughs in as they are trapped in hell, but when it comes time to escape, it becomes clear that they may have to leave one person behind. I would suggest that comedy is nothing without pathos. Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire aren't great because they create the funniest super-hero comics on earth, they really don't. But they create some of the most affecting comics in the genre, and I'm glad they've given us one last shot to spend some time in the lives of these characters before DC Comics consigns them to oblivion.

Plastic Man #16 - It's Kyle Baker, man, what other reason do you need? Unfortunately, since I'm pretty sure that they will never put out a second collected edition of this title, I will try to read the monthly issues. We'll see how long that lasts, because man these issues are extremely slight.

One last thought. This quote by Alan David Doane basically sums up why I continue to buy comics every week and why I discuss what I buy here. I want to find the next great comic book. Thanks for coming along on that search.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 05/11/05

Yep, a slow week after last week's deluge. I was able to pay for my purchases this week in non-Kruggerand currency. *whew*

Jack Staff #8 - Paul Grist is one of the best comic creators working today, but if you've read anyone else's review of his work, you've probably already heard that. Suffice to say, everyone needs to try this title, a complex web of stories and characters stretched across uniquely stylized storytelling. There are no less than 4 ongoing threads weaving together in this issue, and every answer merely provides a dozen more questions. It may not be for everyone, but I'm not alone in highly recommending this sophisticated and entertaining delight.

Excalibur #13 - This comic sells tens of thousands of copies. Four people bought it because Dr. Strange is on the cover. And the other three people are much cooler than me. Moving on . . .

Dorothy #2 - The first issue of this comic is really promising, a unique blend of photography and effects that present a refreshing modern look at the classic tale of Oz. However, the first issue was also pretty light in terms of story, so this issue will determine whether these creators can maintain a sustained narrative, or just make pretty pictures. Either way, I get the feeling this comic will be revolutionary in the development of sequential art. [This came out about eight weeks ago, but I didn't order it and missed it off the shelf. Have I mentioned how much my retailer rocks?].

And that's it. Since it was such a short list, let me point out a couple of other items of interest this week:

Enjoy, and stay safe!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 05/04/05

If I throw them at you, they will hurt. Boy will they ever.

On the bright side, it appears that next week will be cheap, if not free. However, I still blew through two weeks of budget today, so it's not much comfort on the wallet.


The Complete Peanuts: 1955 to 1966 - There's been a lot said about these books since they came out; this is the third volume. One commentator summed it up best, however, when he said the genius of Charles Schulz is that through disarmingly simple cartoons and situations, he was able to tell the story of a chronically depressed child in a heartfelt and funny way. This volume begins Charlie Brown's slow descent into perpetual misery, a journey we can be amused by and feel sympathy for at the same time. You're a good man, Charlie Brown.

Why Are You Doing This? - There is something extremely appealing to me about the concept: a Hitchcock-style thriller told in Jason's minimalist style. I really can't describe it, but expect the outcome will be similar to something by Jason Lutes or parts of Eightball #22. Very much looking forward to this.

Essential Defenders Vol 1 - My favorite super-hero as a kid was Dr Strange, and I have continued to collect his adventures as an adult, mainly for notalgic purposes. Fortunately for me, Dr Strange is known for having very strong mainstream creative teams from the 60's through 80's, so going back and reading those comics is a pretty high-quality experience. However, the same cannot be said for the Defenders, Dr Strange's super-team. So I am very pleased to see that there is an affordable, cheap way to read these tales in the form of this Essential volume, because I have never bothered to go pay $7 each or whatever for mediocre back issues of this series. It's cheap and it has Dr Strange in it. Everybody wins, by which I mean me.

Full Metal Alchemist Vol 1 - Ok, how can you go wrong with this: "When two brothers . . . dabbled in [alchemy] to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg . . . and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel." Errr, ok, maybe that sounds like every other boy-and-his-robot manga, but my impression is that this is one of the most anticipated manga translations to hit the U.S. in a long time. So as I dip my toe into these Japanese imports, this seemed like a good idea. We'll see.

Serenity Rose Vol 1: Working Through the Negativity - Clearly I am not the market for this, one of the many goth books published by Slave Labor. Wait, let me check. Nope, not a teenager who shops at Hot Topic. But, then again, neither is Greg McElhatton, and he's usually a good judge of this stuff. So I pre-ordered this on spec, a decision I am now regretting with an empty wallet. This better be good, Greg.

Ultra Vol 1: Seven Days - The line between bad soap opera and good character drama is a tricky one, so I was surprised that the one issue of this series that I read was smart and enjoyable. Plus, the art is very, um, "easy on the eyes." Here's hoping they maintained a level of quality throughout.

Shanna The She-Devil #4 - This is for a friend, honest. Please believe me.

Finals this week. No reading, just buying. Extra bonus chronic depression, sigh.