Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Comics...365: The Auteur #1 Premature Release (2013)

Knowing I was going to New Year's Eve festivities this evening I tried late last night to find a book to read that would be a suitable conclusion to this theoretically daily experiment of mine.  But, nothing beside the bed nor on a thorough search of Comixology seemed suitable.  Hey, I just launched into 365 Comics without warning an I should just go out the same way, eh?

My original intent for 365 Comics was multi-fold...
- a writing exercise
- a motivator to read and engage more with my comics
- a vehicle to look back at older comics I had purchased but never read, or haven't read again for a long long time
... but I didn't have a mission really, just read comics and write a few thoughts about them.

Over the past year there were a few trends I can acknowledge... like a profound love for Smallville Season 11, a fascination with dead universes, an attempt at collecting the entire run of Action Comics Weekly, James Bond and Oz fascination, a resurgence of kids comics, and more comfort with reading digitally (though I doubt my digital purchases are even 10% of my annual purchases... but it's also the source of so many more free comics than IRL).

Over the past 365 days,figuring that I purchase on average 9 new releases  a week, and I've picked up a few hundred more back issues and dozens of trades, I've probably read around 1500 comics this year (and I figure that's a conservative estimate).

Of all those books, I'd say The Auteur is one of the ones I liked the least.  Crass and all too obvious in its attempts at being provocative, to me it's just trying too hard to be outrageous and scandalous, and the excesses to which it  goes don't really entertain so much as cause me to roll my eyes. 

I've read Rick Spears' work a couple times before but none of it has really engaged me.  I keep trying and it keeps failing so I guess it's just time to give up on him.  He's obviously not a writer for me, nor is this book .

As for 2014... I have an idea called "Series Minded" wherein I read a complete run of a series (or large portion thereof) and comment on it as I go through it.  I'll do a test run in January of Crystar:The Crystal Warrior and seehow it goes. 

Happy New Year

Monday, December 30, 2013

365 Comics...364: Firestorm The Nuclear Man #2 (1978

Earlier this year, March or so, I found a new comic shop in Toronto that had unspeakable treasures buried amidst piles of know and detestable fodder, all for 50cents or less (see 365 #66).  I only once attempted a 100-for-$40 pull, and in that go I decided to try to put together a full run of Firestorm, but I only got about half way there.  After a few more repeat visits I was narrowing the gap, butthe earliest issues, the first dozen or so were eluding me.  Still, I was finding the random one here and there so it wasn't unbelievable that I could put together a whole 100 issue run for less than $40...

But, the comic shop got sold to another party and quickly the bin diggers bliss gave way to a more conventional comic book  store.  The discount bins remained, but prices went up and replenishment went down, so the stock got stale.  That dashed the dream of the cheap Firestorm run. I've added the odd gap filler, jhere and there, for around a dollar apiece, but it wounds me to do so, and these early ones I'm finding at $2 which makes me gnash my teeth at the checkout counter.  Comics should be cheap and for reading and only collectibles at my own personal convenience...right?

It's always fun for me to step into the wayback machine and visit the comics of the 1970s and early 80's, the time just before I really started getting into them.  I had so many random books in my early formative youth that the adverts in them were my only access to the other books of that time, and my eyes always popped at seeing what else was out there.  Even today I get such a charge out of seeing the "Dollar Comics Action!" advertisement promoting the World's Finest 250th issue (Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary and Wonder Woman together in one 56 page story PLUS another "Beware The Creeper" thriller!) and that Batman Family was going dollar-sized.  Sold!  I want those books so badly.

There's another ad asking "Did you miss any of these Fantastic DC Tabloids? "  They include Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (okay, have that one, thanks), Superman vs. Wonder Woman, Rudolph  The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Batman vs. Ra's Al Ghul.  "Order Today...While Supplies Last"... ohhh if only.

And then there's my favourite thing about this era of DC Comics, the Daily Planet bullpen page that just gives some insight on other books hitting the stands... like more details on that Dollar-Sized Batman Family (ohh, I want it even more now), "Aquaman, Batman and Green Lantern battle Kobra" in Aquaman #61 apparently...okay I have to have that too.
There's also the great "Ask The Answer Man" column, which seems almost exclusively for continuity nuts.  But I love that someone here asked about Secret Six and who Mockingbird was.  The Answer Man stated that hopefully a series revival would come soon for it to be answered but we all know from my plentiful recapping of Action Comics Weekly that it doesn't get revealed until 1988, another decade from when that Answer Man column was written.  I love you old comics...*hug*

One more day to go, one more comic.  What will it be?  I honestly don't know.
(of course as I look for an image to post alongside this I realized that Firestorm:The Nuclear Man is a whole different series than The Fury of Firestorm...d'oh... now I don't know what I do and don't have from either run)

365 Comics...363: Kamandi Archives Volume 2 (2007)

In recent months the DC Archives in all their trade-dress ugliness have been steeply discounted all over the place.  Most stores I'm seeing them at at least half off cover, if not even cheaper.  It would appear DC is liquidating their stock, and the fans are benefiting.  The average $49.99 cover price of one of these puppies (and in Canada over the years, because of exchange rate fluctuations, have run as high as $82.99 if not higher) is quite a put off for any but the most die hard comics reader and Golden/Silver Age enthusiast, but at $20 or $25 bucks it's suddenly easy access to classic material that most of us have never seen.  Of course, Kamandi, which started its run in 1972, to me is more of the front wave of Bronze Age-style storytelling, but you could argue it's a tail-end product of the Silver Age, a last-gasp of superscience weirdness and sci-fi genre storytelling as the superheroes started to dominate the industry.  Either way, it's a series I had little interest in until I read a random quarter-bin find earlier this year (see 365 #109) and I definitely wanted more.  A steeply discounted Archive Volume would definitely fit the bill.

The second Archive volume spans the second quarter of Kirby's run on the series, issues 11-20 (I realize now that there have been 2 later omnibus collections of 20 issues each, which are probably better purchases, grr...there are only 2 volumes of the Archives so I'll have to go the Omnibus way for issues 21-40
), and they're truly ridiculous in the most entertaining sense.  Kirby treats his futuristic vision quite seriously, but he's also not so deluded as to believe there's any real prognostication involved.  This is a Planet of the Apes pastiche, but in serialized comic book form.  Kirby uses the comic as an idea warehouse, a place to put all these futuristic thoughts and worries into one place, some stuff germinating out of periodicals of the day, and others just flights of whimsy in his mind.

Issue 16 reveals how the Tigers, Dogs and Apes became so smart, and it's a story that would fit in very nicely between Escape From Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (actually, it would be far better as a follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it would be totally awesome if the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actually segued into a Kamandi motion picture...but Apes is a Fox property, not Warner Brothers as Kamandi is so I guess that's not happening), and the preceding story deals with the curiously lasting effects of Watergate.  It's actually a really fascinating issue, more for the idea of a society that worships prerecorded tapes as gospel and uses extensively bugging, wiretapping and sound as cultural objects and tools of order. Outside of Kirby's intriguing conceptual elements though, it's hard to see exactly what point Kirby is trying to get at regarding Watergate, if any at all.  It was obviously a very hot topic at the time of the story's creation, and Kirby ends it with Kamandi saying of the tapes "It doesn't mean much now", but still I'm wondering if Kirby was struggling with the idea of whether Watergate was more scandal or sideshow.

At the end of issue 17, and reprinted here, Kirby addresses the book's biggest question/complaint which is how certain animals evolved and other ones didn't (as I questioned why they were still riding horses in 365 #109 myself).  Turns out Kirby had his own sound reasoning, but also that some of it was just his storytelling preference, but it's still nice to have the letter to the readers included in the collection. It's one of the things that I wish the archive editions actually kept in, the letter columns, understanding the difficulty in retaining the advertisements as well.

What I liked about Kamandi was Kirby's structure for the comic, with each 20-page issue broken down into 4 chapters, and the opening page starting with a text drop, a title card and a splash panel, followed by a two page spread.  It gives the book a unique and noteable framework, which I'm sure helped Kirby a lot as he worked on multiple titles writing and penciling each month.

It should also be noted that the general structure of a Kamandi story finds the last boy on Earth encountering another race or society that deems him either primitive or an outsider, he then gets beat down and imprisoned, after which he escapes and is quickly captured, beaten and imprisoned again.  This can happen two or three more times before Kamandi escapes for good and winds up in another location where basically he's beaten, imprisoned and then escapes only to have it repeat on an endless cycle.  Oh the concussion symptoms this kid should be experiencing.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

365 Comics...362: The Powerpuff Girls #4 (2013)

For Christmas I bought my daughter the complete run of Powerpuff Girls on DVD, a decision based solely on her enjoyment of this comic book series now only 4 issues deep.  But, I think it's become her new favourite show, and it's surprising how unaged it feels.  Oh sure, the early seasons have an aged look to them, but ithe content plays well with any era and any generation.  I also realized that its entire six season/70+ episode run will have cost less on DVD than the first story arcof this comic series once it's complete.  These are the kinds of things you try not to think about as a comic buyer (try to remember it's economies of scale, too, comics would be cheaper if more people read 'em).  But I have to say, having mainlined a lot of PPG since XMas and having reread with my daughter today Troy Little's run on the book so far, Little has nailed it.  In fact, this ranks as perhaps the biggest PPG story next to the movie... if not bigger.  Either Little is s big fan of the show or he's studied it really intimately.  So many references and allusions, but mostly subtle, in the background-like.  Great stuff, and my little one loves it.

365 Comics...361: MIND MGMT #17 (2013)

While not as bad as the pile of The Sixth Gun at the side of the bed, MIND MGMT had been stacking up as well, with six issues piled underneath the issues of the aforementioned thirteen issues of The Sixth Gun.  Just the same, MIND MGMT is a great series, but it's a timesuck of a read, as Matt Kindt packs the book's not-so-meager 24 pages (make it 28 with the cover, inside and out, front and back being used as well) to the brim, including dossier files and marginalia, as well as hidden web links and other fun extracurriculars.  It's not just a comic, it's an experience.  I've found whilst reading the latest arc (and the conclusion of the previous arc) the best strategy for attacking the book is to read the issue straight through, then tackle the margins, then the letter columns, and then, if time allows, figuring out if there's any web stuff to jump aboard.

The next issue of MIND MGMT comes in a month's time, and it will mark the halfway point, as Kindt has stated that the entire run of the series should be 36 issues.  It already feels like we're ramping up to something, but this isn't necessarily a book that's solely about building to a finale, though it certainly could be just that.  It's a book about ideas and concepts, with Kindt citing Philip K. Dick as a major influence, at least in the respect of cramming in as many ideas as possible while not losing the handle on the story.  With MIND MGMT, Kindt has excelled at introducing seemingly peripheral concepts in the dossiers and ancillary material but then paying it off later on in the series.  Little of what he introduces can be easily dismissed.  It can actually be a dizzying experience if you're not paying attention.  This is one title that requires focus and some dedication to the world building at play.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

365 Comics...360: The Sixth Gun #36 (2013)

Back in 365 #36, I was noting that I'd foolishly stopped buying The Sixth Gun since the issues had started to pile up beside the bed and I wasn't getting to them.  Well, at the time of that writing I was getting to them but I was having difficulty locating some of the mid-20's issues.  At the time of that writing #28 had just hit the stands.  At the time of this writing #37 had arrived earlier in the month and, until earlier today, I had 13 issues unread beside the bed.

With 2 1/2 hours of bleary-eyed early morning reading (plunking the 4-year-old in front of the televisual babysitter, watching an episode and a half of the Netflix Turbo series, an episode of the Avengers cartoon, and then a handful of the Teen Titans on DVD) I surged through all 13 issues and... well... wow.  This is really how the series is meant to be read, in concentrated doses.  In fact I think one of the best afternoons one could probably spend would be to sit with the entire series (once complete and just gorge on the series).  Cullen Bunn continues to build upon everything in the past with this title but never constraining himself with any sense of normalcy.  The characters and the world of Sixth Gun is constantly growing, as are the concepts which continue to build (though not exactly the same, it's like Lost in some respects in how its mythology builds, sometimes upward and sometimes outward).

I was trolling through the Second Printing archives and came across a bunch of early thoughts on the book, including one in which I noted that I wasn't connecting with any of the characters in the first arc.  Well, by this stage these characters have all become amazing.  The Sons of the Gun mini-series showed how well Bunn can character build in a single issue, but these 13 issues show how well he does in long-form storytelling.  Good guys and bad guys alike get equal attention, and in many cases the line delineating them gets quite blurry.

"A Town Called Penance" was the arc I was reading all those months ago back when I wrote 365 #34, and I thought at the end of that it was my favourite arc of the series, and it was.  But Winter Wolves, the first arc I read today was just as equally amazing, with Drake and Becky facing a Wendigo, trapped in a wintery hell, while a motley assortment of past friends, acquaintances and enemies search them out together, each with their own agenda.

Beyond that arc "Ghost Dance" has topped it as my favourite as Becky, spiritually wounded after pushing the limits of the sixth gun's mystical abilities, goes on a bit of a spiritual walkabout, only to have her spirit guide murdered before her (the results of the Widow Hume's interference).  Left deserted in an ethereal world of infinite possibilities and a legion of skinwalkers out to kill her, she encounters a number of realities in which the six guns existed in different forms (swords in Arthurian times, axes carried by cavemen), and it's just wonderful.

This 36th issue is the start of a new arc, taking place some time after the events of Ghost Dance.  Things aren't peaceful, so much as Becky, Drake, and company have had time to clean themselves up a bit, as well as come to understand just a little more the direction their life should be taking, and it's very possible that these trajectories may be at odds with each other.  We're barreling towards the end at this point (no pun intended) with issue 50 closing the series out, so that's another 2 arcs at most following this and you can feel everything building over these past dozen issues...the last arc especially.  Can't wait.  I wonder if I'll read each as it comes out now, or if I'll just stack 'em up until the end...?

365 Comics...359: The Double Life of Miranda Turner #2 (2013)

The first issue of ...Miranda Turner was a delight (see 365 #309) but this second issue I found a bit choppy, almost like scenes were missing.  In one scene, Miranda's co-star in a stage play has a bit of a back-stage freak out (insinuating that he's affected by the "ghost" make-up applied to hime), and the next scene they're saying he's been carted off the the psych ward and charged with theft.  What are the theft charges for?  It's not really clear.  I suppose we're to assume that the make-up artist is somehow controlling people with his make-up and doing nefarious things, but none of it is all that cleanly set up.  I enjoy the book still but there's some hiccups this second issue.  I love this page layout from George Kambadais:

Friday, December 27, 2013

365 Comics...358: Indestructible Hulk #5 (2013)

I liked the first issue of Waid's Indestructible Hulk (see 365 #132) and have been open to reading more, but at the same time I haven't really wanted to pay for it, since I got the first one for free... or at least I haven't wanted to pay much for it, as I've been keeping an eye out for the collections at the local used/remaindered bookstores.  Strangely I had to pause when the Marvel Now sale came on this month and decide whether I wanted to get further isseues physically or if digital would serve me just fine.  Turns out with the Hickman Avengers books I'm keen on the physical copies, but with Hulk, digital will be okay.

And it is.  It's an entertaining book but I'm not historically a big Hulk fan so it's not mission critical to have these on the shelf.  I like what Waid's doing, but it feels very episodic, like each issue has to contain certain elements ( a conversation with Maria Hill, a bit of (non)science stuff, and a misdion for Hulk ).   The missions often feel tacked on, getting in the way of the character stuff, but at the same time they are terribly fun.

This isdue is the second of a two parter and it finds Hulk in the middle of a civil war between the new Lemurian dictator and the rebel forces that oppose him.  It's a romp.

The Lemurian warrior infatuated with Hulk but despising of Banner was tremendous fun.  Hope that plays out further, though it obviously doesn't need to.

365 Comics...357: Sex Criminals #1 (2013)

Funny.  Sweet.  Honest.  Mature.  Raw.  Charming.  Intriguing.
Real (not realistic, if you get the diff).
Sexual, but not manufactured or obscene or dirty, but kind of wistful, nostalgic, romantic...
It's a story about sex and sexual discovery, not titillation and arousal, a character story, foremost.
It's pretty great (honestly one of the best comics I've read this year even), and currently free on Comixology, so you have no excuse, unless you like to keep that stuff all repressed and stuffed in, then it may not be your bag.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

365 Comics...356: Wonder Woman #26 (2013)

on the twelfth day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

12 supporting cast members

1) Milan, Diana's half-brother, Azzarello said he was modeled after legendary street personality Wesley Willis, which I caught onto immediately.  I was endeared to him from moment one and this is a bit of a spotlight issue for him

2) Cassandra, another half-sibling, captured Milan and is ready to torture him to get the location of the First Born from him.  She's a classic wicked witch-type character.

3) Orion, making him a major player in Diana's supporting cast was a stroke of genius.  I've never liked the character more (or all that much ever, really).  Being an odd-couple buddy with Milan is just icing.  Greek gods and New Gods teaming up, yeah, great stuff.

4) Siracca, another half-sibling, a youthful, tortured, phantom-like presence. 

5) Hermes, has tajen us on quite a journey so far.  Not a bad guy but not entirely trustworthy.  Hell of a fighter.

6) Strife, petty and dangerous, kind of the Loki of the book

7) Zola, mother of the future lord of Olympus. Human. Struggling to understand her place in this world she's found herself in.

8) Zeke, the future lord of Olympus.  He's a baby.  He can't speak, but he can do other things... apparently...

9) Lennox, he's just a head, sadly.

10) First Born, once so menacing, now imprisoned, shamed, and covered indignantly with flies

11) Apollo, current ruler of Olympus.  Captor and torturer of First Born.  Dapper.

12) Dio, returns.  A travelerv apparently.  I don't really remember him.  Will have to check back.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

365 Comics...355: Animal Man #26 (2013)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

11 things of awesome in Animal Man #26:

1) Buddy Baker teleported to an alien world (shades of Swamp Thing's interstellar journey perhaps?)

2) Great story title: "godseed"

3) art by Cully Hamner?  Hells yes!

4)  the giant monster thing that looks like a Kirby - inspired cross between Darkseid and Hellboy

5) Buddy channelling weird alien space animals unintentionally

6) Making friends with a space Swamp Thing (who unfortunately gets torched shortly thereafter)

7) Super brutal rock toss

8)The Seed Planet... I like

9) A survival competition to take over a crappy job, quite the no-win situation

10) I like what this deal *could* mean, and hopefully Lemire has plans to see it through at the most inopportune time

11) taking communion of the godseed...oh neato...looking forward to how that manifests itself.

I like what Lemire's done these past half dozen issues to redefine the series after Rotworld... I was going to drop it but I'm glad I stuck it out.

365 Comics...354: The Massive #18 (2013)

on the 10th day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

10 second guesses as to whether I'll continue reading the Massive or not.

-I mean, I like the series conceptually, the who after-the-cataclysm thing
- but then it's sometimes very slowly paced and I'm uncertain if it has actual direction
- but I do also like that in this methodical pacing we really get to see and understand the world as it is conceived
- but I'm wondering, if like Cougartown, the Massive has outgrown its title, since the series' original impetus was supposed to be about the crew of the ecoterrorist ship the Kapital looking for its sister ship, The Massive, but this quest hasn't really been front and center at all over about the past year
- but then, like Cougartown, it's grown beyond existing for one single purpose, and instead world builds and character builds
- unfortunately I don't like many of the characters of the series, nor do I find the main character Callum Israel all that engaging
- its more the characters that come and go with each arc, and how the main characters interact that I enjoy
- but I just want to know that this is all headed somewhere and I'm not getting much sense of direction
- even still, each arc continues to deliver a captivating story
- but is it enough, particularly in light of the events I discussed a while ago (365 #334) surrounding Brian Wood the creator?

Ultimately I guess we'll see how the next issue fares, whether it hooks me or if I'm ready to let it go.

Meanwhile we jad our own little Crash here in Toronto with an ice storm crippling the city for two days and then taking out power lines by the dozens, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in the freezing winter.  We were fortunate to only be down for 24 hours, others have had over 65 hours (so far) without, so it's a rough lead in to Christmas and a potent reminder of mother nature's superiority.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

365 Comics...353: Saga #17 (2013)

On the ninth day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

9 visible sex acts on page 15...or..
question number 9 on the reader's survey results. "9) On Star Trek: The Next Generation, which two characters had a never-acknowledged love affair that only you know about.?"

To which Vaughan summarizes the replies he received; "A dispiriting majority of you said that you couldn't even hazard a guess because you don't know anything about this 'old show,' but maybe it's because you don't know anything about love, have you fucking millennials stopped to think about that?
"Anyway, David Lott from Spokane replied, 'Worf's prune juice and Piccard's (sic) Earl Grey tea...hot!' and because of that he is better than us all."

My second favourite part of the reader survey response (which I never did get around to sending in ...), #24; "You have to permanently give up either movies or television, so what's it gonna be?"

"Insert on thousand mean-spirited jokes about Under The Dome here, you dicks!"  (Vaughan was showrunner of Under The Dome).

Oh don't be sad Brian, you've still got the glorious praise of Saga to fall back on, and The Private Eye, issue 5 (!5?  I'm 3 issues behind already!?) just came out today.

365 Comics...352: Young Avengers #14 (2013)

On the 8th day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

eight creator credits.  This issue of Young Avengers is brought to you buy Gillen and McKelvie and Matt Wilson, and also Emma Vieceli and Lee Loughridge, plus Christian Ward, as well as Annie Wu and Jordie Bellaire.  Looks like these final two issues of YA are going to be like this, with a revolving door of artists, each taking a chapter that focuses upon one of the Young Avengers as they all gather to celebrate with their other super-powered teenaged friends at a New Year's Party.

Naturally I love McKelvie and Wilson's spot the best because I just groove on McKelvie's art hard, but also because it's a gab session between Hawkeye and Miss America Chavez and they're probably my two favourite YA characters, next to Loki, except Loki became a handsome post-teen heartthrob and left the YA, so, y'know, fuck'em.  Kate and Chavez 4'eva.

Vieceli and Loughridge get very romantical between Wiccan and Hulkling, and toss in a bit of claws between Wiccan and Prodigy.  It's all very gay in a polite, idyllic teenaged CW drama way (if CW does polite, idyllic teen gay drama, I don't know), lit by Loughridge in hues of purple and blue.  I'm not very keen on Vieceli's style.  It services the story fine, but it just screams early-mid 1990's to me for some reason.

Ward handles a very puzzling origin story for Chavez which I'm trying to decide if I like or call bullshit on.  And now I'm trying to decide on whether I call bullshit as it tries to take a strong Latina hero and turn her into an alien or something, or whether I call bullshit because the origin is not a true origin but some effed up fantasy Miss America has concocted in her head.

And finally Wu and Bellaire deliver us a rather, ooh, stomach churningly awkward encounter between Noh-varr and Kate.  It's exceptionally well done... as is the knight in shining goggles at the end that gives Kate a reason to stop moping.

One more issue to go.  Can't wait, but I also don't want it to end.  Happy boo.

365 Comics...351: G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files #9 (2013)

On the seventh day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...


seven word titles: "The House Always Wins: Heart To Heart"
 (trying to force this week's comic pull into a seven days of Christmas theme might have been easier if I spent a little time figuring it out instead of doing them in numerically ascending order...)..

So it ends, Mike Costa's insanely awesome GI Joe/Cobra series that has made me more of a GI Joe fan than any other Joe thing previous, and I'm a product of the heyday of Joe action figures.  It's been a bumpy ride... starting as a mini-series (cowritten with Christos Gage), and three further relaunches, Costa's Cobra output covers approximately 50 issues (+/- 1 depending on how you count a couple GI Joe zero issues) and nearly 5 years (most of those with artist Antonio Fuso).  Though the cast and focus have shifted from series to series, Costa redefining the book with each relaunch, it has a consistency in tone, of dead seriousness, bad people doing their bad things, and good people trying to stop them (and succeeding if only by getting in their way enough).  Through these 50-ish issues Costa has shown us good guys and bad guys, good guys teetering on the brink of becoming bad guys, and bad guys struggling to become good guys, and then just guys who are just all too easily manipulated.  It's such a great run and brings all the Joe codenames into a believable light.  I would love to see any iteration of G.I. Joe: Cobra come to screen (big or small), but most of all I would like to see Costa and Fuso continue with their shades of grey spy story.  Maybe more is coming?  One can hope.  Afterall, it's Christmastime.

Friday, December 20, 2013

365 Comics...350: East of West #8 (2013)

On the sixth day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

six panels of cinematic sci-fi/fantasy wicked awesomeness...

This issue's b-story finds Death, Wolf and Crow meandering a series of stone staircases, tunnels and bridges with seemingly no end.  Death plants a flower in the stone bridge that ends at a dead stop against a wall, which triggers a reaction.  On page ten the brilliant Nick Dragotta shows us that this flower is a key.... in six widescreen panels.

1. The ground starts to shake, a thundercrack reverberates in the silo, a crack in the wall appears before them at the end of the bridge.

2.  The crack continues to open further into a gaping maw.

3.  Death approaches.

4. Entering the blackness of the maw, it begins to close behind him.

5. Barely a slit remains as he enters further.

6. Around death little but darkness though off in the distance a square of light in this prison illuminating it's cross-shackled prisoner.

I want East of West to be directed in an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki.  I think Crow's design is so incredibly cool...

365 Comics...349: Zero #4 (2013)

On the fifth day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

five sound effects:

For a 24 page story that has 13 pages of action, fighting and car chases, it's surprisingly light on SFX, which I think actually works in its favour, not overburdening the page with many words once the action kicks in.  Here are the five sparingly used sound effects:

THUCK  (3 instances)
FWIT (1 instance...probably not a needed effect)
KRAK (5 instances)
THUD (1 instance)
THUDDKKK (like a combo of THUD and THUCK...1 instance)

Also... this issue has 2 links yo the same file...what is it? I don't know, I haven't clicked it yet.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

365 Comics...348: Secret #4 (2013)

On the fourth day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

four head scratches.

I'm a Hickman fan from day one (though not a fanatic, I'm trade waiting on all the Avengers and Infinity stuff, but the trades aren't very forthcoming) but Secret is really trying my patience.  Not because the story isn't good, but because of the painfully uncertain release schedule (#1 - April 2012, #2 - May 2012, #3 - August 2013, #4 - December 2013), which makes it very difficult to read issue-by-issue.  It seems evident that Hickman wrote it as a serialized book to start, and it has many little elements in play that mean less (or nothing at all) when you don't remember the set-up.  I know from experience that Hickman is committed to his artists when working on a series, and Bodenheim's work is quite attractive, well suited to this type of corporate/espionage book (if they ever did a Person of Interest comic, call him... he could do a mean Jim Caviezel) but the timeliness is impacting the readability of the series.  Am I unfairly blaming Bodenheim though?  Could be Hickman's just so busy that his scripts have fallen behind.

I've stated before that my preference always will be to have a strong consistency of creative vision so I'm not begrudging either Hickman or Bodenheim for not being able to maintain a monthly schedule or for having personal issues or whatever it is that causes over a year of delays, but perhaps setting a quarterly schedule, just so the reader can anticipate the next issue might be something doable for both of them?

Or perhaps just finishing the book for the trade might be the best option.  I'd shell out for the whole trade, even though I've already bought the first four issues.


365 Comics...347: Samurai Jack #3 (2013)

On the third day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

three issues of Samurai Jack.


This issue... just... *clap*




Well done Jim Zub and Andy Suriano.  You earned the slow clap with this one.
Seriously this issue of Samurai Jack measures up with some of the best episodes of the show, which is high praise indeed, considering how immeasurably amazing the cartoon could be.

Jack roams into an ancient Greek-themed village where he makes fast friends with the village's champion, the boisterous Hercules-like figure (Marvel's Hercules specifically, or even Aquaman from the Brave and the Bold cartoon) Gloer the Great.  Suriano nails the design and physicality of the character, while Zub crafts a big personality in the dialogue.  Of course, everything isn't as it seems but what it really is is a great twist in Samurai Jack fashion.

I've been waiting the past two issues for Suriano to really break out with his art into more adventurous page layouts and design, and we're starting to see that much more here.  Pages 2, 3, 7, 13, 14, and 18 are all pretty great.  Had I the money I would totally purchase page 18 (I don't want to post it here for spoiler purposes)... absolutely beautiful.

Coming up in issue 6: the Scotsman.  Yesss.
I'd like to see Gloer the Great return too... he has that same kind of charm.  Samurai Jack ginger team-ups rule.

365 Comics...346: Itty Bitty Hellboy #5 (2013)

On the second day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

Two naked Rogers, standing in the bushes.

You know, I wasn't really sure about how Itty Bitty Hellboy would play with my four year old, but she's actually quite fond of it.  She's not as into it as, say, Ninja Turtles or T.U.F.F. Puppy even, but she does get very excited when each new issue arrives.  A couple weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon we were chilling out in front of the tube, just flipping around, and came across del Toro's Hellboy, and I let her watch a few minutes which made her eyes pop.  She didn't understand any of it except there was Liz and Hellboy and they were all grown up and kissin' and stuff.

Dark Horse now has plush Itty Bitty Hellboy and Abe but we've got a moratorium on stuffies (as we call them around here) since there are so many and they're all over the place and we don't have a dog to help weed them out a little.

Anyway... as much as Roger (and then the Rogers) is my favourite Itty Bitty Hellboy character, I'm not certain his penchant for standing nude in bushes and encouraging others to do so is really something we should be teaching our kids is a good idea.  Sure it's fine and cute when they're Itty Bitty homunculuses, but kinda creepy when they not so small.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

365 Comics...345: Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine #3 (2013)

On the 1st day of Christmas, my comics gave to me...

one dead kid... aww shit.  My wife has long had a thing about sequences where children get killed... put them in mortal jeopardy, sure but kill them?  Can't deal.  Part of being a parent, she said.  For a long time I could separate the art of dead children from the reality of them but, yeah, I'm starting to see things from that same perspective.  It's deaths like this that serve more as character motivators that I particularly don't like... they feel a bit forced, especially when its an implausible chain of events that result in the death, rather than something random.  Plus this death gets telegraphed rather obviously... but then I think Jolley was going for more of a cinematic poeticness and even highlighting the pure misfortune of the chain of events, knowing their implausibility.   All said it's still a bit of a gut punch, well handled by Leonard Kirk.

I doubt we're going to get something as potent as Buddy Baker's distress in Animal Man here, but yeah, next issue is going to be hard to read.

mea culpa

Yes, I'm doing a shit job of keeping a daily blog, but catch-up time is imminent and, following that this failed experiment will all soon be over.

Today's pull consisted of:
1 Marvel
2 DC
3 Dark Horse
4 Image

So, tomorrow, expect a barrage of catch-up posts (also, don't expect them, because I may not hget to it, ahem).  Can't promise any of it'll be interesting but, hey I could do a 12 Days Of Christmas type theme thing or something, seeing as I just picked up12 books and all....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

365 Comics...344: Hip-Hop Family Tree (2013)

A full review should hit Thor's Comic Column tomorrow, but this incredible biography of the gestation of hip-hop culture back in the Bronx at the turn of the '80's is worth talking a little more about.  Ed Piskor's art, for starters, strikes a sweet spot with me, as it seems, at least to me, to be heavily influenced by Evan Dorkin who I've been a fan of for ages...  Kids I knew wanted to draw like McFarlane or Jim Lee or George Perez... I wanted to draw like Dorkin.  There's just a similar sense to the weight of the lines and the disproportionate head-to-body ratio.  

You can catch some Hip Hop Family Tree on boingboing where it was serialized before publication (and the second volume is currently in action).  I loved reading this so much (and it was somwe pretty hefty reading, largely responsible for my lack of output here the last few weeks) that I'm tempted to troll through the annoying blog-style interface of boingboing to read the next bit, but at the same time, I love the tabloid-sized tactile experience of reading it.  The book does smell kind of funny though where as my computer and phone are daisy-fresh scented.

I'm currently trolling through Piskor's hip hop discography by way of youtube (which has yet to disappoint on available tracks), which I'm going to try and coax GAK into turning into an episode of Exploding Head Movies, even though it's not a movie, but it's still like a soundtrack to a comic and that works, right.  (GAK if you're reading, expect a copy of HHFT for the X-Masses... or likely, after the X-Masses following travel plans)

365 Comics...343: Batman #26 (2013)

So after a couple oversized and deluxe issues it appears DC has given the heave to the extra 8 pages of backup features in Batman, but are still charging $3.99 eh?  I bought 10 books this week and all but two were at that price point.  I'm a devourer regardless the price point but damn if it isn't starting to sting.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

365 Comics...342: Shaolin Cowboy #3 (2013)

Okay, last issue's wordless extended fight sequence all issue was a mighty impressive feat, for one isdue.  Doing it again this ish is really pushing it.  There's a bit of a change up in the latter third, but still not quite as impressive.  It's the Quantum of Solace backing up Casino Royale.

365 Comics...341: Chew #38 (2013)

I love a book that doesn't need it's main character to survive...any book or any story for that matter.  The lack of a robust supporting cast is sometimes the greatest weakness in otherwise great stries, but Chew has one of the greatest and richest supporting  casts going, and I love it for it.  Layman's penchant for flashbacks also means that we get to know more about characters even after they're dead and they keep getting better.

Also, Layman's constant introduction of countless food-based powers is so much fun, but even more fun is seeing their practical application.  Such a delight this book.  My only complaint really is its erreatic schedule this year... but as long as it keeps trucking towards that 60th issue, I'm happy.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

365 Comics...340: Deathmatch #12 (2013)

Last month's issue was really the series climax and this presents the epilogue, resolving all the stuff that wasn't resolved by defeating the big bad guy (just because he's dead doesn't mean that the world isn't still going to end).  There's an inevitable conclusion that must result that our two remaining heroes do their best to work their way around, but "inevitable" means what it means for a reason and things play out as intended.  It's interesting the amount of work that Paul Jenkins put into this temporary superhero universe only to quite conclusively close the door on it at the end of this maxi series.  I would love to see more but I don't think there's any point.  I just need to find a solid block of time and read through this again.

365 Comics #339: Earth 2 #18 (2013)

After being unsure if I was going to return to this series I was in the mood to test something new out since it was an otherwise light week... Little else seemed appealing so I decided to give it a second shot.  This issue moved at a brisk clip, but also felt like nothing really happened.  Superman fought the Flash.  The new, perhaps alien Batman infiltrated a cryo-prison for super villains ( which somehow included Jimmy Olson, who somehow has superpowers tantamount to having the internet always in his brain... bet he's constantly surfing porn).  It endes with new Batman shooting a cryogenically frozen Joker multiple times.  Ooh, edgy.  If I was on the fence with this book before, reading a second issue has made me kind of hate it.   I get the desire to make it something different but it seems like it's trying too hard at it.

365 Comics...338: Afterlife With Archie #2 (2013)

There's a lot of shock value with this book, but most of all it's taking the Archie gang from being pleasanly rivalrous to downright nast with each other.  Veronica is particularly nasty when it comes to both Betty and Jughead (she's a little nicer about Big Ethel though...poor Ethel), and when Cherry Blossom and her brother Jason come to crash the Riverdale high Halloween dance, an incestuous relationshi between them is heavily inferred.  The level of loathing as well that the Blossoms have for Riverdale steps outside of the usual comedic town rivalries (like Springfield and Shelbyville or Pawnee and Eagleton), and into something far sinister.

Despite the book's title, Archie remains almost a background character, with many discussions happening about him and many events happening around him, but he's not yet been the focus.  Even still, through Reggie, Ronnie, Dilton and the like, we get more than sense enough about how this Archie world differs from the rest, it's high school attitude more Degrassi melodrama than the usual lighthearted Riverdale fare.

Jarring and fascinating...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

365 Comics...337: Young Avengers #13 (2013)

"...alas we will be finishing our run on issue 15.  We planned this as a Season , telling a contained story, and leaving room to continue if we felt like it.  When Marvel asked if wanted to, Jamie and I decided we'd actually made our statement, and should leave the stage."

What!?  Aw, man   I loveded this book.  Two more issues of glory I s'pose.  More Phonogram next maybe?

365 Comics...336: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles (2013)

I really don't know how my daughter came to be so into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It's not like my wife nor I were ever a fan of the show, and the 11-year-old running around here didn't have much interest in them either.  But upon first seeing the new Nickleodeon show for the first time she immediately latched onto it like she was already a fan and she's become a bit of super-fan (since writing briefly about her fandom in 365 Comics #215, she's become even more infatuated with them, getting some toys but even more enjoying dressing up in her turtle shell and orange mask and swinging her plastic nunchaku around).  I don't think the Turtles pass the Bechdel test (have two girls ever talked to each other on this new show?  I haven't been watching that closely).  Purists loathe the idea (but purists need to get over it... it's a bloody kids show!), but they should really introduce Venus back into the mix (or better yet, find a real female Renaissance painter (rather than subject) to call her.  Artemisia is a pretty badass name (though her story is absolutely brutal).

Anyway, this comic is actually a fumetti or sorts, extracting stills of the animated pilot and turning them into sequential art.  It actually works quite a bit better than direct photo fumetti, but it's still not quite as interesting or engaging as individually composed panels.

I'm not sure the purpose of adapting a movie or TV show to comic book form anymore, since video is so readily available now... unless you're going to go direct from the script (like Django Unchained) or introduce new sequences or insight or a unique take, there's not really a need for such an adaptation... especially one like this where it's just images from the cartoon.  But that's my opinion...my daughter seems to love it.

365 Comics...335: Velvet #2 (2013)

Velvet is incredible...just heaps of 1960's-set espionage fun.  Steve Epting is killing it visually, his art is stunning and cinematic, dynamic and bristling with energy.  Even with all the talking heads there's a forward driving momentum to it making it effortlessly readable.  I liked Epting's work on Captain America quite a bit, but this is amazing.  Brubaker meanwhile seems to be delighting in a retro-style of storytelling, with lots of jumping between scenes and character narrative that might as well be thought balloons.  Any adventure spy (you know, of the Bond/Bourne/Avengers (Steed/Peel etc)/Mission Impossible/U.N.C.L.E. etc) fan absolutely needs to be reading this book.

Was Velvet modeled after Stacy London (ex of What Not To Wear)?  Seriously, put these two faces side-by-side...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

365 Comics...334: The Massive #17 (2013)

There's a question that gets posed every so often... can you separate the artist from their art?  Can you dislike the artist as a person but still enjoy the work they produce?  Should we hate Ender's Game because of who Orson Scott Card is today?  Should we discredit all of Roman Polanski's work?  Can I still enjoy Naked Gun despite the presence of O.J. Simpson?

This is a bit heady when it comes to this book, but it honestly has been more than a passing thought since the stories of Brian Wood's past(?) misconduct(s?) have circulated on the internet.  There's the he-said/she-said back and forth of it and people who take sides, when really, this isn't so much about sides.  One woman is opening up about her experience, and people are either refusing to believe her (despite quasi-confirmation from Wood himself, and an apology) or saying horrible things about her just for speaking about it.  I feel that it's gross the general attitude a large subsection of fanboys have about women, as creators and characters and as fellow geeks, but most of that is chalked up to isolation from the fairer sex and a crass misunderstanding of how social interaction works, and perhaps some mommy issues.  But beyond that, when a creator gets called out for being a letch (with a couple incidents discussed but others claiming there's more) does that mean we need to abandon them even if we like their work?

I don't know who Wood is as a person, but I've liked a lot of what he's done, and he tends to (ironically?) write a lot of strong female characters as well as (ironically?) partner with a lot of female artists.  Can he be this progressive as a writer and also be a total prick of a human? Sure.  Was he? Sounds like it. Is he still?  I don't know.  His response taking ownership of some of the alleged actions, and apologizing was a start but also felt like he was trying to willfully forget/ignore some of the more serious dickbag behaviour.  Does he have more to apologize for?  I don't know.  Sounds like it.  Was this in the past or is it a perpetuating problem with him?  I don't know.  Without really knowing who he is, can I damn the man and abandon his work easily? Can I just say I'm not going to support this guy full stop, vote with my dollars but at the same time not really voting for or against anything?  I don't know.

Of his current work, I'm reading only the Massive, which I think is smart and an important examination of eco-politics in a nearly post-apocalyptic near-future.  This issue continues an interesting conversation about whether whaling for survival is criminally damnable when there's no longer a whaling industry and whales as a species are thriving?  As we've advanced as humanity, with science and curiosity at our sides, we've discovered plenty of species around the world are quite intelligent, and emotional creatures.  Whales are among these creatures that aren't just instinctual, and as such, my standpoint is that whaling is akin to murder.  But others may not feel the same way and may see the sacrifice of a few whales every year, with every element of their physical being made use of, as more than justifiable and that case is presented here too (last issue mind you, this issue is pure vendetta-driven and it gets pretty grim).

I like the Massive, but I'm keeping an eye on what's going on, I'm thinking about everything I read, and I'll weigh my discomfort with the creator against my enjoyment of his work and once one the one tips over the other, I'm out (it's sort of sitting even keel right now).  This isn't me excusing anything he's done, to be sure, harassment of any sort is ugly and any sort of backlash against someone reporting it is as deplorable as the act of direct harassment itself (shaming and backlash is in fact a form of harassment)...but for now, I'm not certain if he or his career is worth  totally torching based on who he (hopefully) used to be.

Briefly, playing devil's advocate... if he is a guy who used to be a dick fancying himself a ladies man, but has turned himself around into a family man, then he has a lot to be ashamed of and perhaps would shy away from acknowledging that he used to be that way.  It's hard to admit your mistakes, especially ones that hurt someone else.  End of advocacy.
On the other side, if he's still that guy, he's going to be in denial that he is that guy.  He'll be deluded into thinking that he's being crucified for something that he likely remembers differently because to him he fully thinks he doesn't do anything wrong in these situations.  And he'll keep doing it.

I hope it's more of the former situation and that he'll personally and privately apologize (or at least attempt to apologize) to those he knows he has wronged (and perhaps to those he may not know he has wronged.  We may never know if he does, but that would be the right thing to do and I bet a few people would say something about that.  On the other hand, if he's still the letch, then we'll be hearing about that too, and honestly, I couldn't support him and I don't think the industry should either.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

365 Comics...333: Saga #16 (2013)

I know that whenever I sit down with an issue of Saga, I need to slot in a good 1/2 hour or 40 minutes, because every issue I tend to read through twice (at least) and then also pour over the entertaining, and three-pages deep letters column.  I love that various writers at Marvel and Image are taking ownership over their letter columns and engaging directly with the readership.  It's so much different, and more official than message boards.

This issue, like every issue is a blast, and I love watching Brian K. Vaughan's work as he slowly expands his universe of characters, as well as his universe itself.  He often starts off with his characters as archetypes, so you know what he's going for with the character, but he then explodes them by turning them into people beyond just "tough-ass mercenary" or "nagging mother-in-law".  There's bad people in this book, but there's no straight out bad guys, just like the good guys aren't necessarily the bestest people either, even if they're really trying to be.  I like Vaughan's use of technology, which is often super advanced and just as often defiantly and anachronistically retro (a lot of that probably falls on Fiona Staples' able hands), and also just as often biological, showing us things we haven't seen before.

With the heaps of praise the book is garnering constantly, I keep expecting the cynical fanboy backlash, but then I realize that even if that does happen, the book is so damn good it's still going to accelerate in popularity, drawing in many, many readers from outside the fanboy and comic con masses.  This is a breakthrough book, a comic book that loves and embraces the medium without excluding those less or unfamiliar with the format.  If you're a comic and/or sci-fi and/or fantasy fan, and you're not reading this book, I have to ask why not?

Friday, November 29, 2013

365 Comics...332: Avengers Arena #18 (2013)

This week's Thor's Comic Column has my review of Avenger Arena, the final issue.  Now with this review, which is about how much I love this series as a whole, I don't do any spoilers....

...but I'm gonna now, so step away if you don't wanna know anything.

Okay, so *phew* Cammi survived.  If there was a favourite character for me in the book, she was most certainly it.  Hopeless reminded me why I liked her back in the early Marvel Cosmic/Annihilation days.

Coming out of it alive...Chase and Nico (so both Runaways), Anachronism ( the only Braddock academy surivor perhaps...or maybe Bloodstone pulls through?), Hazmat, Reptil (looks like anyway) and X-23, Death Locket and Cammi...

Chris Powell, Darkhawk, is not on the dead checklist in the title page but he seemed to be killed (again) by Arcade so I'm not sure.  And we assume Apex is dead, right...but I bet we see him/her again real soon. 

I'm trying to figure out who these four kids are in Avengers Undercover with Zemo... there's Anachronism,  Death Locket, and it looks like Bloodstone and Hazmat.  If that is Hazmat I bet we'll see Reptil again.  I have to wonder where Nico, Chase, Cammi and X-23 are going to be next (though I imagine X-23 will show up in an X Book somewhere soon).

(Update)I didn't realize that Marvel already spoiled the outcome of AA a bit when they announced Undercover at NYCC in October.   Apparently Cammi is part of the team, so, yay!  But boo on such big spoilers.  Glad I didn't see that until now.

365 Comics...331: Letter 44 #2 (2013)

I wrote about how excited the first issue of Letter 44 made me not so long ago in 365 #308, but I wanted to say that the second ish is just as good, the quality holds up.  I may have a new favourite book here (well, not THE favourite,  but definitely a must read).  It's very entertaining and the execution of the story seems well thought out and nicely paced so far.  I also thought how interesting the space action sequence was give that Gravity is kind of the new benchmark for such things.  This holds up against it.  I need to dig a little more and discover if this is ongoing or a mini or what...I'm interested to know the long game in order to contextualize what I'm reading.  I guess it theoretically could run for four years, and become Letter 45 thereafter...  it would be interesting to see how a president preoccupied with an alien threat that the public is completely unaware of runs for re-election or if he even wants to.  Or when does 43, the Bush-esque ex-Pres spill the beans accidentally....?  So many story options beyond just alien threat...politics and economics and really robust shit like that can all come into play.  I hope so anyway. 

It's a great book...read it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

365 Comics...330: Five Ghosts #7 (2013)

While I do love Chris Mooneyham's art, and I genuinely like the conceit of the series (that the main character, Fabian Gray, can channel any one of five literary archetypes - the sleuth, the samurai, the vampire, the archer and the sorcerer) I'm just not engaging with the actual character of Fabian Gray.  I liked the first arc, but the subsequent two issues haven't enthralled me quite the same.  It's like when the sequel really doesn't live up to the first movie, and then you realize that there's a confluence of elements at work with the first one that probably can't be repeated, and that within those elements of a lot of them don't work on their own, they only work together.  And when the second movie starts bringing one of those elements into the fore, the whole endeavor starts to buckle under its own weight.  Or maybe not.  I'm kind of rambling at this point and should probably go to sleep.  I may need to come back to Fabian Gray after he finds his sister or doesn't find his sister or whatever.  That was the part of the character that seemed the least interesting to me from the first arc, and not an inspiring motivational trait.  It seems to be coming into focus with at least this arc as Gray is on the search for runes or something to save his sibling and I just don't really care.

It looks really really nice though.  Mooneyham is killin it... but for some reason the shark fight just rubs me the wrong way.

365 Comics...329: Prisoner Of Space (one shot)(2013)

Released through Comixology's Submit self-publishing wing, Serg Sorokin's Prisoner of Space is a wonderful little 22-page one-off about a man alone aboard a massive space craft, unsure of what happened to the rest of the crew and slowly unwinding psychologically.  He sees visions of crew members who seem to be guiding him and pushing him to do more than just give up, but Sorokin has established this survivor as an everyday guy, one full of self-doubt and apprehension, unable to make any leaps beyond his comfort zone... even if his comfort zone is maddening solitude.

The book ends with a twist, as it seems to be aptly suited for an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone-type show.  It's nicely illustrated, with Sorokin keeping a very crisp line, with nice detailing  and vibrantly coloring.  It's a really solid effort from a new talent worth keeping an eye on.

365 Comics...328: Chronos Commandos #1 (2013)

Comixology had a 99cent sale on various Titan Comics this weekend, so I decided to give the first issue of Chronos Commandos a shot.  Military/War things aren't really my bad, nor are dinosaurs really for that matter, but time travel totally is, so mix 'em all together and... well, I'm still not that into it.  It's actually fairly entertaining on a very primal army dudes-shooting-up-dinos and dinos-eating-up-army men basis, but it's not my thing.  There's no hard sci-fi aspect to it, it's just a conceit to hang action pieces upon, which gives it a b-movie feel but with big budget visuals.  Oh, it's a Roland Emmerich film in the waiting.

365 Comics...327: Scooby-Doo Team-Up #1 (2013)

I think I've mentioned before how I have an irrational attraction towards team-up books, but I have the hardest time getting behind team-up books featuring Spider-Man.  I don't hate Spidey, but I'm definitely not a fan.  Scooby-Doo, meanwhile, I do hate.  Not passionately, mind you, but I genuinely dislike the character and the show.  So I'm finding it amusing and/or curious that I'm even considering picking up the second issue of this series... and yet I am.

From what I read it was originally supposed to be a one-shot Batman/Scooby team-up, but writer Scholly Fisch's six proposals for the special were so liked that the publisher extended it to a six-issue mini-series of Bat/Scoob camaraderie, and then liked the progress of the first issue so much that they just went ongoing.  It's ongoing bi-monthly, which is weird, and I'm curious if it will survive more than it's first year.  But I'm more curious about how it will extend out from the Bat-team ups (it's the weirdest World's Finest/Brave and the Bold until then though).

I hope they do more Blue Falcon, I surprisingly enjoyed Scooby Doo: Mask of the Blue Falcon.  I would actually like more odd Scooby/Hanna Barbera team-ups.  Scooby and the Inhumanoids? Scooby and Space Ghost?

365 Comics...326: Samurai Jack #2 (2013)

Amid all the kid-free date nights, movie watching, shopping, Doctor Who marathoning, working and Plants vs. Zombies 2-ing, I've kind of forgotten about doing this thing daily.  But then the "daily" aspect of it has been kind of a joke for a couple months now.

Anyway, last week's Thor's Comic Column  featured my reviews of the Plants vs Zombies: Lawnmageddon (see last post), Samurai Jack #2 and Scooby-Doo Team-Up #1... so, kids comics.

I want to like Samurai Jack a lot more than I do.  I like it, just I want it to be more than it is.  The story is perfect for being both a serial but allowing for each issue to be different stylistically   The artist captures the look of the show excellently as well, but he needs to push his page layouts...like really push them.  Like JH Williams III pushed.  Or Francesco Francavilla... I would love to see a Francavilla Samurai Jack.

I love the subscription cover for this ish:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

365 Comics...325: Plants vs. Zombies - Lawnmageddon (2013)

I was at the store staring down the new release rack and I had the choice between two Paul Tobin efforts.  There was the known entity of Bandette (see 365 #203), an Eisner-winning title which I really want to give more of a fair shake, and Plants vs Zombies, based off the silly little video game I play on my mobile all too intensely, causing damage to my eyeballs and frequent headaches.

I chose the latter obviously, because I delight in PvZ so very much.  Nothing has tickled me more this year than to see people at Fan Expo or a mother and son at Halloween dressed up in great homemade PvZ costumes.

I have a more robust PvZ Lawnmageddon review due in Thor's Comic Column tomorrow.  Keep your bananas peeled.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

365 Comics...324: Wulf #1 (2011)

In comics you can't keep a good idea down for long.  But then again, in comics, you can't keep any idea down for long.  In the decade of property farming that is the 2010's everything that has ever come before will come again, all will be resurrected, if it hasn't been already.  With comic book properties dominating the media landscape (the San Diego Effect) everyone's trying to create something or license something and bring it to the fore in hopes that there will be some sweet Hollywood paydirt coming there way.  It's perhaps a little cynical, that view, since I, like many, absolutely love the medium itself, and somewhere there just might be someone completely keen on the Atlas heroes and wanting them to return to comics after a 35-year absence.

I'm not 100% certain the motivation of Ardden Entertainment's publishers, but Editor-in-Chief Mike Grell is certainly a familiar name in the comics world, and there's a dedication in the inside front cover to Martin and Chip Goodman, so there has to be some form of affection for the old stuff...maybe?

Anyway, for a couple years some Atlas characters and concepts returned to comics under the banner "Atlas Original".  Wulf, Phoenix and The Grim Ghost were each revived in their own 6-issue mini-series.

Now I'm a regular, almost daily purveyor of the comics blogosphere and I don't recall much, if any, fanfare surrounding the return of these Atlas creations.  Having just dove into the Atlas backstory these past few days, I definitely understand why, but Atlas Original should have made at least a little splash given that some name talent was involved.  Grell as EnC, Steve Niles on Wulf, Tony Isabella on the Grim Ghost, and Jim Kreuger on Phoenix... that lineup at least should have raised a few eyebrows towards this venture.  I suppose it may have, just not to me.

Anywho, as I was bin diving for original Atlas books, I found the first issue of Wulf, which, quite frankly, looked not quite up my ally.  A couple cops staring down a shied-and-sword wieldign rustic warrior on the cover.  No thanks.  My curiosity was more in what kind of back-matter was in this book, how was Atlas Original selling itself to the people who were trying it and buying it.  And that's where the disappointment seeped in.  There was no sell.  There was an ad for their website (now defunct) and letters pages (but just published letters, no replies, but no personality, not even a drab bullpen letter like the one Larry Lieber gave us.  Its like it wants you to be excited for the return of Atlas comics based on the merits of Atlas Comics, and there's not much merit there to be had.

Wulf #1 itself begins with fireballs raining down on the earth.  The narrative questions whether it's the end.  We follow an obvious warrior on horseback as he faces down a reveling-in-the-destruction sorcerer, a grim battle ensues, a portal to the future opens where the brutalized mage escapes.  On the other end of the portal, a gruff cop named Lomax (remember him from 365 #321?) is witness to the sorcerer's emergence, and when Wulf's hand comes through the portal, Lomax reaches out to help, only to be pulled through himself.

It's not a bad set-up, just Niles' script is terribly decompressed.  To compliment the original Atlas books, briefly, they packed in a lot of derivative story elements into one issue.  Here it's two relatively simple concepts leading to the more interesting set-up, that of a cop drawn into a world of sword-and-sorcery instead of a barbarian drawn into the modern day, though I suppose it could go that way too. The art from Nat Jones is the weaker spot, though, muddy and at times incomprehensible.  It's not outright terrible but definitely in need of refinement.

Wulf, as well as Phoenix and The Grim Ghost, all lasted through their 6-issue runs (longer than any of the original series it should be noted) from 2010 through 2012, as well as Atlas Unified, a cross-over "event" written by Tom Peyer, which does what the original Atlas didn't do: create a single universe out of these properties.

I thought I saw the Pheonix and Ardden Entertainment on Comixology when I first started with the app a few years back, but I think they're all gone now.  The only way to read anything more is to hit eBay or be fortunate in bin diving.  I'm thinking about it.

365 Comics...323: Phoenix...The Protector #4 (1975)

This would be the last comic book out the door for Atlas Comics, one of only six series to make it to a fourth issue (that's out of 28 total titles to debut in 1975).  That same, increasingly sad-sack Letter From Larry Lieber from four months previous appears on the back page, "What's Happening With Atlas" still touting a bunch of issues that have already come and gone.

The letters column is revealing in the amount of praise for there being a third publisher option, but at the same time not a lot of actual appreciation for the product.  A fan asks for them to change the color scheme of Phoenix's costume and Larry Lieber writes: "Why just change colors?  Gerry Conway's not one to do things half way.  He went ahead and gave the Phoenix a whole new costume."  This traces back to what I was saying previously about Lieber being overworked.  Gerry Friedrich wrote this issue in which Phoenix gets a new costume, not Gerry Conway.

But not only does the Phoenix get a new costume, but a new alias - The Protector - new powers, a new face, a new origin.  Basically, this was a hard relaunch 4-issues-in.  I mentioned before about the 3rd issue switches (365 #321) but this was ridiculous.  Ed Tyler, enraged with how his behavior as the Phoenix has essentially cost the lives of millions and the destruction of Iceland's capital city and New York, is all set to kill himself.  Seriously.  He's depressed, thinking he's ineffectual as a hero (and he is right, to be sure), and he's all set to let the aliens destroy the world.  He carves a tombstone for the Earth in some rock, and plans to rocket into space so fast he burns up in the atmosphere.  But another group of aliens blast him unconscious mid flight and save him.  Recalling very much the same events of issue #1, when Tyler awakens he freaks his shit out and starts attacking his saviors.  These guys shut that shit down quick though, and manage to convince him that they're the good guys.  They tell him humanity is a vile, destructive species, but that they also have the capacity for change, and their continued survival all rests upon Ed Tyler proving them right... with a new face, new superpowers and showdown with a mammoth four-armed cyclops to test them all out.

This is virtually the same breakdown as the first issue, but almost like the publishers are telling the new writer "do it right this time, make it like Marvel, quit destroying the world".  With this being the last issue of the entire line, it would have been far more fitting if The Phoenix really did give up on himself and the world, killed himself in the first few pages, and the remaining pages were the world burning.  But then the Atlas universe wasn't a shared universe.  The characters did not cross over and generally the worlds the characters inhabited were their own.

There's an incredible Atlas resource on-line, the Atlas Archives, which has a rundown of all the comics Atlas/Seaboard published, as well as an extensive collection of articles, interviews, and reviews both from back in the day and retrospective.  It's all fairly interesting reading, particularly the Vengeance Incorporated article from Comic Book Artist #16.

Though I'm sure there might be some folks who have affection for these things as a piece of their childhood, or, like me, appreciate them as a curiosity from the past, a "what could have been" alternative to Marvel and DC, mostly they're a collection of fairly substandard comics and derivative characters who were not given any chance to come into their own, nor did they really deserve to.  It's a collective 72 Comics and Magazines maybe not left forgotten, but certainly not worth bemoaning their loss.  Would anyone really be clamoring for their return...?

No, but it happened anyway...

Monday, November 18, 2013

365 Comics...322: The Cougar #2 (1975)

By the time the second issue of The Cougar appeared (cover date was July '75) Atlas was on its last legs.  This issue of the comic is as much mail-order catalog as it is comic book, with only 18 pages of story.  Fan reaction was mixed with as many negative letters as positive found in the letter columns of later books.  Meanwhile, with Jeff Rovin leaving his editorial position, all the work fell on Larry Lieber's desk and so it was up to him to become the face of the company, the bullpen booster, like his brother was.  Debuting in the comics with July cover dates, "A Letter From Larry Lieber" appeared on the bullpen pages (and the same letter was still appearing in October cover date comics).

Half the "letter" was treading on his (sort-of) family name, and his past with Marvel before getting to talking about the company at hand.  Atlas gets name-checked in his letter less than Marvel does, which is telling.  He talks, briefly, about the talent on board (mentioning only omnipresent Atlas writer Gary Friedrich and illustrator Frank Thorne).  He then attempts to summon some good words on Chip Goodman, but the best he can say is "his father founded Marvel Comics way back when."  The letter ends with saying:

"And now, to the overdue point of all this.  Every comics company in this industry wants to give you, the reader, the best written and best illustrated stories possible.  Here at Atlas, our intent is no less.
"I'm certain that we'll succeed! Just wait and see!"

Not exactly the most enthusiastic portrayal or hard hitting sales pitch, certainly not providing much excitement for the books or confidence in the publisher.  It's amazing that it ran for four months, but then Larry likely didn't have any more time to write another one.

As for The Cougar, he's Jeff Rand, Hollywood stuntman, who starred in a superhero movie ("The Cougar") that was intended to be career-making but bombed instead.  But Rand decided to keep the outfit and be a real superhero.  I'm not certain what happened the first issue, but the cover promises "Beginning in this issue... the Origin of the Cougar"... and we learn about Rand's childhood history in the Bayou (Friedrich was so busy with all the books he was writing he couldn't even be arsed to fake a cajun dialect for his characters) and his brother getting cursed by a witch, turning him into a werewolf who murders his family and for some reason has arrived on set of Rand's latest production to chew out the necks of other people.  It's a nonsensical story, and unfortunately not in a fun way.  It's tedious, the art from Frank Spinger (who would go on to illustrate my favourite Action Comics Weekly segment, The Secret Six you may recall) seems equally bored with the proceedings so as not to pay attention to finer details.  Consistency wasn't much of a concern and creativity was negligible (the "bayou witch" looks like the witch from Snow White, because, hey, the script said "witch").

In the climax of issue 2, the Cougar takes a fall with his brother the werewolf and, after being rushed to the hospital, is declared permanently paralyzed.  The next issue box proclaims "A crippled Cougar -- helpless in a jungle of evil?! Don't miss Ish #3 -- introducing the most devastatingly different superhero of all time."  Was this a play on Daredevil, but instead of making him blind he would be paralyzed?  I actually would like to have seen how they pulled that off in the 1970's.  Alas, this was the last issue of the Cougar so we never found out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

365 Comics...321: Police Action #3 (1975)

For Atlas/Seaboard, comic historians have coined the phrase "the third-issue switch" since almost every third issue of Atlas' titles saw a drastic shift in tone, or even complete about-face of character or setting.  As well, by the third issue nearly every series would see a new creative team aboard, with Gary Friedrich coming in an writing almost every title.  Meanwhile editor Jeff Rovin left the publisher after butting heads with the Goodmans far too many times, leaving the already troubled editorial production in the hands of one man, Larry Lieber (yes, Stan Lee's brother).  Publisher Martin Goodman wanted changes to almost every title to make them even more like Marvel books, rather than finding their own distinguishing brand, while son Chip Goodman notoriously had very little business or publishing acumen.  Whether it was vendetta-driven or just a misguided commercial directive, either way it the Goodman's directions decimated the line.

Police Action comics was one of the titles that Friedrich took over the writing duties of.  It featured two equally measured stories of tough-acting policemen, "Sam Lomax, N.Y.P.D" and "Luke Malone, Manhunter".  Both of these were capitalizing on the no-holds-barred police officering and revenge-based crime films appearing on both the big and small screens in the 1970s.  Lomax AND Malone are both unholstering .357 Magnums, taking inspiration from Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, as well as Mannix, Beretta and the like.

I'm sure this series started off more direly serious but Friedrich came in and seemingly turned the genre on its head.  The Lomax, NYPD feature seems more like a satire, going so completely over the top that it's only a step removed from The Naked Gun.  One could easily take this script verbatim and turn it into a Black Dynamite-styled spoof of 70's cop dramas.  Luke Malone, Manhunter is equally corny, featuring tremendous leaps in logic (as was the way of many detective dramas)... coincidences, happenstances or right-leading instincts that find a favourable end for the P.I.

Friedrich so obviously knew he was toying with already well-worn conventions at this point, and works both "Magnum Force" and "Death Wish" into the scripts with a bold letters wink.  It's hilarious cornball material that really highlights the absurdity of the 70's right-leaning view on street crime.  And I absolutely could not stop laughing at the third panel of Lomax, hotdog free-hanging from his mouth, staring at a couple of bank robbers and thinking "Looks like I should have ordered... One Hot Dog With Murder Please!" then in the next pane taking the hotdog out of his mouth, shooting one criminal in the back shouting (cheeks full of street meat) "Freeze!... Police Officer!"
Ah, comedy!

365 Comics...320: Tiger-Man #1 (1975)

The Goodmans may have been willing to spend more money on artists with Atlas comics, but they kind of skimped a bit in most other aspects of their brand's launch.  They only had two editors to start, across 20-some bi-monthly books and magazines, which I'm sure didn't do their production values any good.  Case in point, Tiger-Man #1 is an uncredited issue.  It's only from the 1/2 page bullpen article "What's Happening With Atlas" that we learn the writer is Gabriel Levy with Ernie Colon on art (Colon did sign the cover as well as a tip off).

One of the things to note about Atlas/Seaboard was not only were they a publishing company, but also a nostalgia/geek mail-order business.  The center splash to Tiger-Man is not given to any grandiose illustration, but rather to five ads for hobby kits... Super-hero kids (Superman, Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Captain America and Tarzan, $3.00 + $0.50 postage), Star Trek model kits ($2.50 - 2.75 ea), Glow-in-the-Dark Monster Models (Creature and Wolfman were $2.50 each, Godzilla and King Kong were $3.25 each, plus postage), Planet of the Apes (6 different kits for $3.50 each) and a Flintstones  model with Fred riding the Rock Cruncher for $1.80.

Beyond that they also sold home movies, which in the 1970's were Super-8 reel-to-reel spindles.  They were 200 foot lengths of film, or about 12 minutes of movie time.  They were $7.95 per reel, but I don't understand if they were just a random 12 minutes of the film or if it was like a sizzler reel of highlights of the films.  They had all five Planet of the Apes films, which you could order together for $36, for one full hour total screen-ape time.  "Have a monkey party for your friends... be the talk of the neighbourhood."  They also had Toho greats like Rodan, Ghidrah, Battles of Ghidrah, Godzilla vs The Thing, and the Return of Captain Marvel from the '40's serials.

I'd take 12 minutes of any of those than reading the dire Tiger-Man again. It's the story of Dr. Lannie Hill, a doctor operating a clinic in Zambia who manages to  isolate the chromosome that makes tigers so powerful.  He tests the serum on himself in time to face down a tiger let loose by a jealous tribal shaman.  He kills the beast with his bare hands then heads for home, the tribal leader giving him a present of the tiger's hide.  The night he returns home his sister, a famous Broadway star is murdered and naturally Hill's inclination is to make a costume out of the tiger hide and become a vigilante hunting her murderers.  I think it's a cop of Spider-Man's origins, but it's so clunky in its assembly it's hard to really tell.  The direness of it reminds me more of The Pumaman (a notable MST3K target), but it predates that awful film by five years.

It's never quite clear what exactly Tiger-Man's abilities are either, though the "What's Happening..." article dubs him "the most powerful character in the Atlas line-up".  He seems to be stronger than the average man, and he has scent tracking skills and an ability to hide in plain sight in a ridiculous costume (actual dialogue: "Hey, now! That's a right purty outfit, an' no mistake!  Didja sew it up yerself, honey?"), plus his gloves have some serious claws for shredding and rendering.  Again the What's Happening..." announces "his steel claws and feline jaws make him the most formidable nemesis to crime our world has ever known" (the only problem, he has no "feline jaws", his mask is non-functional). Throughout the book he's referred to as "Tigerman" instead of the hyphenated Tiger-Man as is the book's title.  In the opening pages he appears to be wearing just the tiger skin over his torso, gloves boots and mask, whereas later in the book he's got blue tights on underneath it all.  This book was very sloppily edited.  Colon's art is generally nice but the subject matter is so terrible it fails in elevating it.