Wednesday, July 31, 2013

365 Comics... 212: Animal Man Annual #2 (2013)

I seem to be one of the few comic book reviewers that actively liked the Rotworld epic that dominated much of the New 52 runs on Animal Man (and Swamp Thing).  The critics that boosted Animal Man early in its run seemed to like the creepy undercurrents of the book which was somewhat muted by the epic (time-traveling) nature of Rotworld. 

Where Scott Snyder gave Alec Holland a bittersweet reunion with Abby at the end of the arc, Jeff Lemire gave Buddy Baker grief, with the death of his son, Cliff.  With Damian Wayne dying shortly before its been interesting to see how the two very different heroes deal with the tragedy, with Buddy's support network falling through versus Bruce pushing his away.  Buddy's grief has naturally dominated the book in the months since, and utterly consumes the second Animal Mannual.

For those early fans who felt like things were going askew and didn't like the artistic and tonal changes, this one is for them (and, well for fans of the series who keep supporting it).  Original series artist Travel Foreman is back on the book, which allows itself to pretty much summerise what Animal is: it's about family, a little about the underdog and about some weird-sometimes scary... its actually a beautiful if sobering read, running through all manner of emotions from start to finish, from complete despair to melanchoIy joy to some crazy fear.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

365 Comics...211: Action Comics Weekly #615 (1988)

Okay, who the hell is artist Richard Howell and how did he suddenly (well, suddenly in 1988) get to be the co-plotter on the ever-more-terrible-by-the-issue Green Lantern feature?  This has to be Peter David's worst professional work.  But I blame this Howell dude fully for these super-villian travesties: Siphon and Castle...ugh.

Siphon is able to steal the power from electronics (I think... it wasn't very clear....also not clear, what these two are doing hijacking a self-defense product trade show).  Castle can teleport but only by changing places with someone else.  I'm guessing by his chess puns "Castle" refers to the chess move of switching the king's position with the rook? Bleh.  Doesn't explain his Stayin' Alive workout wardrobe though.

Good lord, would you look at these two?  Actually probably best if you don't.

My "readers poll" submission for this issue:
1. Blackhawk (plenty of innuendo and violence, with outstanding Rick Burchette art)
2. Black Canary
3. Wild Dog
4. Nightwing (revealing the whole Speedy/Cheshire baby thing for the first time...)
5. Superman (in which he accidentally kills someone... a hot Superman topic these days)
6. Green Lantern

Monday, July 29, 2013

365 Comics...208-210: The Massive #10-12 (2013)

Back in my teens in the 1990's -- probaby the only time I bought more comics per month than I do now -- I had this penchant for sidelining certain comics, namely Vertigo (and Vertigo-like) books.  What I mean by "sidelining" is I would amass a few months' worth of issues instead of reading them in the same week I bought them. Animal Man, The Invisibles, House of Secrets, the Dreaming, Hellboy... just a few of the books that would collect beside the bed for months before I read them.  It was like trade waiting but without actually waiting for the trade.

This habit wound up happening with many of the... intelligent (for lack of a better term) books I've read over the years: 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina among others.  Today I have four books which amass before I consume: The Unwritten (which I fell 15 issues behind on so I've dropped it for now), The Sixth Gun (which I did talk about in this capacity a while back, but I did read Sons of the Gun the day they came out), MIND MGMT which I only let stockpile 2 or 3 issues because they're a little too dense to read too much in one sit, and, finally, yes, The Massive, for which I've now fallen 5 issues back.

I can't really say what it is about these books that makes me do this other than they're just denser and/or more involving reads than their more action-centric genre fare.  I guess, like say watching a documentary or foreign drama versus a comedy or a blockbuster, you kind of don't know what you're in for from issue to issue but you do know you'll be asked to invest a little something extra to the experience, sometimes a lot more.  It's not that I dislike these experiences, quite the opposite, but just sometimes it just seems better to have these experiences in a concentrated dose, almost like the investment doesn't necessarily multiply with the more issues you read.

In some rare cases, it actually means I am not interested in the book and upon catching up promptly drop the title.  The Massive seemed to be teetering that way, as the growing pile seemed to be becoming insurmountable, and the desire catch up ebbing as I began to forget what I enjoyed about it.

Unfortunately episodes 8 -10, each with a different fill in artist drawing a stand-alone tale presented as part of the "Polaris" trilogy, didn't do a lot to draw me back in. Issue 8 (Polaris part 1: Breaker) finds Captain and Ninth Wave founder Callum Israel facing dissent among the ranks of his ship, the Kapital, as more and more of his team wish to head to what's left of their homelands and engage in whatever dispute--or war-- is occuring.  At the same time the mysteriously missing Ninth Wave ship, the Massive, remains no closer to being found while Israel's health deteriorates.  Gary Erskine fills in on art and where I've really liked his work in the past (check the bins for "Hypersonic" from Dark Horse circa... 1999 maybe) I'm not too psyched by it here.  It seems too loose and oversimplified compared to how I recall his work.  Not a bad tale from Brian Wood but feels ancillary (but then much of the series can feel that way).

Issue 11 on the otherhand Ts a real winner if only because it deals with sharks and we're building towards shark week next week.  Sharks are great, not just as agents of fear but in general they're vital to the planetary ecosystem and, as Wood put it "For 450,000,000 years, the ocean's been its domain, and it's developed and evolved un challenged... How heartbreaking that the softest, most fragile, most inexperienced of Earth's predators has brought the shark to the brink."  Heartbreaking indeed.  Though a bit of a digression in one sense, again the Kapital is on the phantom trail of the Massive with deadly shark-like results. Guest artist Declan Shalvey was born to draw sharks.  They look fierce and impressive and haggard and lovely.  A great issue that may have saved the book for my buy pile.

Issue 12 deals primarily with Callum Israels dwindling health and ship resources, as well as his dwindling hope for finding the Massive.  It gets pretty bleak and heavy.  Danijel Zezelj delivers a bit of a more arid, open aesthetic than we're used to in the series but damn if it isnt effective, especially in the desolate arctic ice.  We're back on-topic with The Massive but it seems that the titular Macguffin is threatening to remain just that, which isn't all that appealing.  I like world bidding, particularly in alternate realities, but it needs a little more progress from it's initial conceit, esp. after a year.

I just realized as I placed each issue down before me that the Covers (by the great John Paul Leon) connect as a tryptic.  Cool...I'II have to find it as a single image to put with this post.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

365 Comics... 207: Uncanny X-Force #1 (2011)

I've heard nothing but good things about Rick Remender's run on Uncanny X-Force, but given that I know very little of Remender's work (save for a volume of Fear Agent which I've been meaning to read more of), plus I'm not a much of a mutant follower, and that there's not a single member of this I'm a big fan of I haven't had much impetus to read it beyond just curiosity.  I've kept an eye out for the trades in the remainder book shops (Remender book shops?) but they don't have much of a presence, which I guess means they're popular and they sell well.

I got the first ish back in March with Comixology's Marvel #1 project, and (along with about a dozen others) I've been sitting on them for no other reason than I have too much else to read and not enough time to read them all.  I think I have a problem.

Having now finally gotten to Uncanny X-Force #1, I am definitely impressed.  I still don't care much for the characters individually but  as an assembly they are an intriguing bunch with an interesting dynamic.  The story they're involved in has little resonance for me, but at the same time the story's tone - the special missions vibe - comes off well and is quite appealing.

What really sells it for me is Jerome Opena's widescreen art.  I was in awe of almost every panel of this book.  Exquisite, organic detail,  rich textures though lines and shading (you can practically feel the fabric on the costumes) and jest a wonderful sense of movement.  I don't know if I have seen Opena's work before but I'm an instant fan.  There's a European Heavy Metal vibe, like Serpieri only less sexually obsessed.  Gene Ha is a good American touchpoint but for as much as I like Ha's work Opena surpasses it (if only slightly) because of his composition.  Opena's sense of space, angles and "camera position" are just inspired, notable from the first page onward.  If I'm reading more of UXF, this is the reason why:

Friday, July 26, 2013

365 Comics. ..206: Batman/Superman #2 (2013)

This second issue was a kind of last-minute decision on my part.  The first issue was good, but not so good that I was immediately ready to welcome the series into my already quite stacked regular monthly pull.  I need to trim some of the fat (last week's $70+ budget breaker still quite fresh in my mind), but at the same time, I don't feel like there's much fat in my comics steak, and even if there is, it's more the juicy, flavourful fat than the tough-chewin' gristle.  I just wasn't certain after only that one issue which one Batman/Superman was. 

Turns out, it's most definitely the former.  Greg Pak' script is an absolute joy, as a young Bats and Supes, upon their first (ish) meeting are transported by some sort of demon or imp to Earth 2, where they cross their aged, still alive, counterparts. I'm not reading Earth 2 (I fell off the James Robinson train 15 years ago) but in 20 pages Greg Pak has shown why he should be his replacement (put him on that book and I will follow).   He has a clear understanding of what the differences in the two worlds are, and is able to make full use of those differences to wildly entertaining effect. 

I also love the way Pak explores these characters at points in time in each of their lives that hasn't been broadly touched on yet (Earth 2 began in the wake of the sacrifices of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman).  Pak gets both the wary eyes that young Bruce and Clark view each other with, as well as the genuine affection of the aged friends on the alternate Earth.   Not only that, the family dynamic that Lois snd Selina bringvinto the picture is sheer fan-baiting pleasure.

It's unfutunate in some ways then tha Jae Lee, an artist I've liked immensely for nearly 2 decades just isn't the perfect fit as artist on this story.  Oh, don't get me wrong, the book looks fabulous, but lee's darke, scratchier, almost haunted style is completely in keeping with the lighter tone of this story.  Visually it seems so dark at fist, so serious, but upon further reading, and laughing and clapping, one realizes the wrong tone is set by tha art, really through no fault of Lee's, that's just his style.  This should be Amanda Connor territory.

Regardless, it's still a heck of a book.  It's wonderful to see alongside Superman Unchained that Big Blue is getting turned around, and that writers that get the character and what he represents are getting a crack at him.  See DC, hire some well established talent with a well formed style snd let them do what they do, instead of editorially pushing them around... wonderful things will happen.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

365 Comics...205: Young Avengers #8 (2013)

This is an absolute treat to read.  Gillen's scripts are always sharp with at least a couple truly great lines (This ish my fav is: Magic is mainly irrationality.  Never been much good at that).  McKelvie and Norton on art... always something surprising and impressive.  The characters are just awesome, with Miss America Chavez beating out Loki (narrowly) as my favourite but Prodigy fast gaining ground.  I want 60 issues, minimum, out of this run.. it brings me to the same place Giffen /DeMatteis Justice League did 25 + years ago (and that's about as big a praise as I could deliver).

This one has dimension-hopping... and Noh-Varr grows a beard.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

365 Comics... 204: Hunger #1 (2013)

Spinning out of Age of Ultron (wait, what?  That movie isn't out for another 2 years, how can it have spinoffs already?  ... Oh. It was a miniseries that just ended.  Must have missed it) Hunger is being rumoured as the beginning of the end of the Ultimate Comics line.  Uh, oh well, I guess?

This is a four issue series about Galactus coming to the Ultimate Universe, which, lets face it, is awesome.   But doesn't the Ultimate U have their own Guh Lak Tus (as per Warren Ellis and Rise of the Silver Surfer), you might ask (but probably not, so I did, rhetorically)?  Yes indeed and while their collision wasn't as titanic as I'd hoped its still rates sense in a cosmic nonsensical way.

I have a prediction, that if the Ultimate Universe does get destroyed somehow Miles Morales survives and becomes THE Spider-Man for a while after Doc Oc Spidey gets what's coming to him.

Anyway... UItimate cosmic + giant purple fin head dudes... oh yeah.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

365 Comics...203: Bandette #1 (2012)

The Eisner Winner for Best Digital Comic this year, I've had the first issue sitting on my phone for a while now but just hadn't gotten to it until now.  It's a light, breezy adventure series following the escapades of a cutesy burgIar that feels like sweet simple fun.  It hasn't captured my favor with only the one issue but I feel as if it needs a half dozen issues to establish itself and its characters, tone and set-up before it gets really gets rolling.  But then, the European-style adventure serials never were my thing.  I have most of the Tin Tin run at my avail.  I should perhaps try starting there.

I really dig Coleen Coover's colour pallette though.

Monday, July 22, 2013

365 Comics...202: FF Vol 1: Fantastic Faux (2013)

Okay, I get it.  FF is the companion series to Fantastic Four and not the other way around.  But still, after reading the fist issue of FF for free all those months back, I was sold on this series and more than happy to leave Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben to their own devices.  It certainly didn't seem like one was essential reading for the other. 

With the first issue ingested I knew kind of what I would be getting and was firm on buying the series in trade.  I eagerly awaited this first volume.  So imagine my surprise to crack open Volume 1: Fantastic Faux (sharing the same cover - as issue 1, I might add) only to find it beginning with issue 4.  What the...?

I double checked the spine of the book.  Yep it still had a "1" on the side.  Typo?  Did  Marvel release 1-3 as a cheap squarebound floppy? And inside the front and back covers there was no sign of a previous trade, just ads for Hawkeye Vol. 1, Avengers Assemble Vol 1, and Fantastic Four Volume 1.  What is going on here.

I got a little flustered and started poking about the internet before noticing the names on that Fantastic Four volume included Allred.... Focusing my something search, I discovered that Marvel combined the first 3 issues of both series into that one collection.  Tricksy Disney.

It's okay though, I found the 2nd and 3rd issues in the bins for cheap, so, you know, whatever dudes.  I got mine.  And now that I have it I'm having a hard time deciding if I like it or not.  Fractions scripts are kind of choppy and Allred's figures seem clunkier than usual (oddly posed and unnatural movement).  There seems to be a missing focal point here, and while Fraction and Allred know how to make a fun book it seems to be unclear on purpose.  By the end of the trade I'm wondering what the point is and whether I'll be back for more.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

365 Comics... 201: Action Comics Weekly #614 (1988)

Under a Mike Mignola-pencilled, Ty Templeton-inked cover featuring Green Lantern are six chapters of stories either in progress or concluding.

Green Lantern, by Peter David and Tod Smith reworks Hal Jordan's origin (as well as retooling the Lantern Corps in a small way) in that Hal was not always completely without fear but that Abin Sur, afraid while meeting his end, wished the ring bearer to be without fear.  As anyone without fear would probably be a total loon it chose the best candidate with the closest criteria... then lobotomized the fear right out of him!  Seriously.

The Phantom Stranger arc by Paul Kupperberg, Tom Grindberg, and Bret Breeding: a total snoozefest.  Seriously I nodded off while reading it (not the first time the Stranger has put me to sleep).

Nightwing (and Speedy) ''First Blood" by Marv Wolfman, Chuck Patton and Tom Poston (wasn't he an actor on Newhart or something?).  Dick and Roy try to protect an ambassador from the assassin Cheshire, and dive into Roy's history with her.  On a concept level, I love the Roy /Cheshire thing, but Wolfman can be a little clunky and overt in his writing and it gets pretty bad here. It should really be a Speedy solo story as it has very little to do with Nightwing.

Superman by Roger Stern, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.  I gave up on this a down issues ago.  Yawn.

Catwoman by Mindy Newell, Barry Kitson and Bruce Patterson... ends abruptly and only with Selina on the first and last pages.  Was she always a kind of anti-hero?  Or was this just part of her gestation into one?

And finally, Black Canary by Sharon Wright, Randy DuBurke and Pablo Marcos... even though there's no spandex or fishnets, I'm liking this... particularly for DuBurke's art.

The letters column in ACW ask the readers to submit their favourite stories, in order, each issue and then assembles them into "The Great Action Comics Weekly Poll".  This was well pre-internet so there were obviously people... a lot of people... who would just send in their polls, hand written, stuffed in an envelope and mailed off.  It's remarkable how the net has simplified an betterred this type of process.

My own poll results for this issue:
1. Black Canary
2. Nightwing
3. Catwoman
4. Green Lantern
5. Superman
6. Phantom Stranger

Now I only need to wait 3 months, or rather, 12 issues to See how my vote fared against others.

365 Comics... 200: Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (2009)

Books have been adapted into comic books for generations, Classics Illustrated the most notable source of graphic adaptation from the past.  But unlike how Hollywood constantly adapts books to screen (often the same book multiple times over) comics adaptations of novels, except maybe children's classics, are far more rare and frequently even more reductive than film.  We are seeing a bit of a change in recent years, but even then it's largely books with built-in crossover appeal.. a Neil Gaiman or a Stephen King, a George RR Martin or a Philip K Dick, a Ray Bradbury or William S. Burroughs.  But we're seeing a bit of adventurousness (if only narrowly) with crime fiction getting the sequential art treatment, and Darwyn Cooke's adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novel series are decidedly leading the way.

Next to Marvel's adaptations of L, Frank Baum's Oz books by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, I don't think there's amother comic book adaptation of a book that's more widely praised or getting the same level of professional recognition (Cooke's latest, The Score, just won an Eisner @SDCC this weekend for best adaptation from another medium). 

I've had ample opportunity to read the first in the series --the Hunter-- oven the past few years, but rarely the desire.  A massive digital sale on the Parker series netted me the read for about $4 but even still it languished on my phone for a few months.  But once I started into it, I couldn't stop, even though I find Parker the character to border on intolerable and these kind of Long Ago crime stories are always challenging with their terrible gender politics (women aren't treated well nor represented well in Stark's criminal underworld)

Cooke's work here is efficient and smooth, playing curiously with space and shadow in green monochrome.  Either Cooke has a soft spot for the 1960's or he's got an exceptionally rich reference library for fashion, architecture and automobiles.  His text is equally stripped down, dialogue used when necessary, narration only occasionally acquired.

Though the material is cold-blooded, you can tell there is affection in this work, which is what lifts Cooke's Parker adaptation above the many Hollywood versions ("Point Blank", "Payback", "Parker")

Thursday, July 18, 2013

365 Comics... 199: Beyond The Fringe #3A (2011)

The first time I read this 3-part extension (or, moreover, gap-filler) of the Fringe story, I was lost as to its meaning.  My clearly befuddled review over at Thor's Comic Column [link:] is proof of that.  The main problem the story had, at the time, was that it came out just as season 4 was starting.  Peter had blinked from existence and was haunting the people he loved who had forgotten him, and the big mystery was "what happened to him".  I thought this arc, written by series star Joshua Jackson, was a convoluted way of telling us fans of the show that he was lost in time (ala Captain America and Bruce Wayne in the preceding years) but what I wasn't getting was how tightly connected Jackson's script was to the Season 3 finale and less so with the season 4 premier.

My wife (!) and I are steadily trolling through Fringe this year and we just finished Season 3, watching the final episode which both my wife (!) and I had kind of forgotten most of the details of... Peter enters the machine and is thrust into the future (2026) where he'd chosen Earth 1 thus destroying Earth 2.  But in reality Walter had drawn Peter's 2011 consciousness forward in time in hopes to influence his decision making in the past.  But in order to do so Peter has to close the loop, sending the machine back in time, and Peter with it to bury the machine parts at predetermined markers  (where the markers came from and how exactly Peter bounces through time I don't know). 

Like hitting up the show proper for a second time there is much illumination in the intricacy department, the gaps its filling becoming far more evident. It's a great little companion story that perfectly bridges Seasons 3 & 4 without spoiling anything or dropping the ball in the details department.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

365 Comics...198: X-Factor #259 (2013)

For years, YEARS!, Peter David has been teasing the origin of Shatterstar and/or Longshot and/or their connection to one another .  Well, with the series winding down he finally got to it and it is... well, not epic, per se, but something approximating a masterstroke.  It's David metaphorically dropping the mic and walking off stage because he just utterly crushed it.  I can see it pissing off a few Longshot fans but who are they anyway?  This is twisted, messed-up, mind-warping fun, and the kind of thing that should happen in Mojoworld all.the.time.  It's a twisted place full of twisted people that should hopefully get a spotlight book one of these years... if Morrison wont do it put Brandon Graham on it.  "Mojoworld" a comic that blends Max Headroom with Game of Thrones with, I dunno, the Newsroom let's say.  That's some warped stuff I want to read.

Anyway, I'm rambling, but this is a marvel of a stand-alone issue (don't let the #259 or "part 3 of 6" fool you, this is a standalone deal) and even if you don't know or like these characters I think this one issue is worth it for just how bizarre the ride is.  I'm surprised and terribly happy Marvel allowed this to happen. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

365 Comics...197: Arsenic Lullaby: The Big Stall (2013)

I'm not certain if this is a graphic novel, a trade paperback or an oversized floppy.  It's bigger in size than a normal comic, and its only sixty pages so its not quite graphic novel length (nor does it feature one continuous's more an anthology of comedy) and I can't tell if the four pin-ups in the center of the book are supposed to imply this was originally four issues (actual or intended).  The back page features a host of names which I can only guess (well only guess or do a modicum of research online, but who has time for that? I'm writing most of these posts at bedtime with a stylus and finicky character recognition system that still doesn't cotton to my chicken scratch even after nearly 200 posts) are Kickstarter supporters, to all of whom I'd like to thank for making this latest gem from Douglas Paszkiewicz a reality.

This one's a beaut, in full colour even.  As from any Arsenic Lullaby book there's the expected "bad taste" jokes (involving the holocaust and the blind and veterans and the like) which skate by handily as comedy in not making them the target of the jokes (of course the easily offended/overly sensitive/humourless should stay away).  Paszkiewicz has long ago mastered the shock comedy art and while they may be the more memorable aspects of his work it's always his longer-form, character-driven work that I appreciate even more. there he cycles through multiple stories each of Baron Von Donut, Cthulu, and the stage magician the Great Duranti.  In the case of Baron Von Donut it all tangential, disconnected, while the Great Duranti stories  connect in a nonlinear fashion revealing ever more curious tidbits about the character and his journey.  Meanwhile the recurring Cthulu bits play out as one narrative brilliantly building in compartmentalized chunks of comedy.  The rest of the book is rounded out by a number of pop culture tinged skits (including a trio of Wizard of Oz themed ones), which I don't recall seeing so prevailently in AL in the past (but I could just be remembering the character-centric and shock sketches the most).

Paszkiewicz's art is at its most confident here, just an unprecedented level of consistency and craft (much of which he conveys in a lesson on "leading the eye" in the backmatter... a fascinating read for illustrators and comic art fans, particularly of economical or comedic storytelling.  Paszkiewicz's art in the past had felt a little rough around the edges, a little unsure, but he's grown with each subsequent effort into a distinct storyteller with a very unique style that now feels fully polished.  It's not just the C colour, every line feels assured.

Arsenic Lullaby has for years ranked with he best of the best humour comics and The Big Stall shows no sign of decline.

Monday, July 15, 2013

365 Comics...196: Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits (2013)

What can I say other than Hawkeye is astounding, boundary-pushing comics with Matt Fraction and his artistic collaborators (primarily David Aja, but also Francesco Francavilla, Steve Lieber of Jesse Hamm, plus Matt Hollingsworth on colors).  Each issue in this collection (numbers 6 throug 11 of the ongoing series) is a bold storytelling exercise. 

The sixth issue is evenly split between Clint and Kate as they whether a storm hitting the East Coast (providing Fraction ample room to pit Brooklyn against Jersey, playing up the common stereotypes of each in Kate and Clint's verbal sparring, then undermining them in their actual respective stories).  The seventh issue toys with non-linear storytelling set over a six day span.  The eight brings back the femme fatale of volume one, once again wreaking havoc on Clint's life, the story interjected with romance comic covers by Annie Wu that have a story relevance while sort of acting as chapter breaks and interludes. 

The ninth issue separates itself into vignettes -- linearly forming a whole story -- that feature the women in Clint's life... the work wife, the ex-wife, the protege, and the girl... friend(?), all spiraling out from the emergence of the femme fatale in issue 9.  Issue ten is a European art film posing as an origin story for the Clown, the hit man hired to destroy Clint's life. And the final chapter in this volume is the now-infamous "Pizza Dog" issue that tells the story from the dog's perspective, interpreting language only sporadically and thinking/interpreting the world in a glyph-based reference.

Each of these issues on its own is a different level of genius which makes for entertaining, challenging and fascinating reading, but as a whole they combine to form a less than satisfying story, one that gets a lot of set up but then spins its wheels without going anywhere before revving up some more.  There needed to be some payoff of at least one of the story threads introduced by this incredible team but they seem so overwhelmed with creative freedom (and perhaps too much self-satisfaction with their own cleverness ... and it is very clever) that they forget to deliver a rewarding sense of momentum (or even movement) to the story in play.  The crafty structures the team devises to engage the reader also serves to distance them from the story as a whole as narrative consistency is sacrificed from one issue to the next.

It is, however, kind of worth it, because there isn't another book out there like this and it entertains in all sorts of ways, particularly in ways that wouldn't suit any other medium.  That said, Coen Brothers to adapt Hawkeye to the screen... make it happen Marvel.  (Peter Stormare resonates in my brain when I read the Russian tracksuit mafia "bro" speak).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

365 Comics... 195: Avengers Arena #12 (2012)

Back in 365 Comics #157, I totally called it.  But I couldn't have foreseen how it would all play out, but man it was serious and cool and seriously cool.  This is one of those great "cheer for the good guy" books where they get the upper hand (pun!).

The ending to this ish is a total brainblam (as the kids these days say nowhere) and made me exclaim out loud, which amused the wife some.

Even though I only read the first 12 issues of Avengers Academy (so far) I'm quite excited for next issue's guest writer Christos Cage (who wrote Avengers Academy for over 3 years) who gets to explore the outside world's hurt for the missing super-kids.  Oh yeah, that's some old-timey comic book fun right there.

So an impeccably great time but what's with that cover that has nothing to do with the issue?

365 Comics...194: Smallville Season 11 #15 (2013)

Well of course I'm excited about this week's comics, it's a Smallville week with the concluding chapters of Argo, where, in the 31st Century Kara and Clark fight over future politics, the Legion of Super Heroes assembles to quell a looming war between humans and Kryptonians, Doomsday attacks New k Krypton and Booster Gold is around too.  If anything it all happens at too compressed a clip.  The heart of the story lies in the feelings of Kara and Clark as they weigh their allegiances to two worlds and two peoples (centering on the fact that it is a series still about Clark's journey as a hero), but the story, just for fun could use more Legion and make Booster a little more integral to the plot.

As well, I thought the battle with Doomsday was a little too quick but it only means that Clark learned his lesson last time and that ending the fight needs to happen quickly no matter the cost to himself or else people will die.  His heroic improvisational skills start to show some real growth.

365 Comics...193: Batman #22 (2013)

After a few days of travelling and intensive extended family time I came back home to a new release pile of 13 books and two trades... or maybe that's 12 books and 3 trades... I'm not quite sure if one to a trade or a floppy or an OGN ... but we'll get to that, later, maybe.

I got a lot of great ones this week, some of my favourites but the first read was Batman #22, Scott Snyder's continuation of "Year Zero" and it was a stinkin' delight, just a whole lot of damn fun.  There's a young Bruce Wayne trying to find his groove as a crusader for justice (or vengeance or whatever allows him to crack some bad guys skulls) but while he has the technical know how, he's still raw when it comes to using it all together.  Clearly Bruce has studied well and Snyder makes it clear that Bruce is intellectually very smart as well as gifted with mechanics and technology, but he's still thinking too much about himself which gets him into trouble at every turn.  Poor Alfred.

The question here is: is Red Hood One going to become the Joker?  It seems quite obvious that it should work out that way, as not only history but all the story signs pave that pathway, and I hate that "the fake out" has become so prevailent that I even need to second guess that.  Let's enjoy about the journey even though we should know the destination.  This "Year Zero" seems to be stitching a somewhat elaborate quilt that will showcase the baby steps Gotham and Batman and Bruce Wayne and the Joker and the Riddler and I'm sure many other surprises took to getting the characters to where they are today (and pretty much have been for nearly 40 years).

Snyder nails Bruce Wayne so well his dialogue reads in Kevin Conroy's legendary voice.  And Greg Capullo is killing it.  His Red Hood is so vibrant and charismatic it underplays his dangerousness, while the first encounter between Edward Nigma and Bruce Wayne was a visual marvel as the two spar in a word of wars designed in an Egyptian board game.  Beautiful.

Friday, July 12, 2013

365 Comics...192: Thor: God of Thunder #1 (2012)

Holy mother... that was incredible.

I've only ever heard good things (great things actually) about Jason Aaron, from back when Scalped first slarted at Vertigo to when he started working at Marvel. I've been curious, given the acclaim (Scalped is like the Wire of comics, one of the most praised things that I've had no exposure to but constantly meaning to) but given that Aaron has largely only worked on characters I don't give a lick about (Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and, yes Thor) I just haven't had an opening.

The Marvel 1 project with Comixology earlier this year (where they offered up 700 #1 issues for free) afforded me the opportunity, but still there wasn't whole lot of Aaron's work available, nor that even for free I was all that interested in.  His "Marveel Now" relaunch of Thor though his sparked my interest primarily from one word: "Godbomb" the name of the current arc running in the series.  That word, atop Esad Ribic's uniquely epic imagery has turned my disinterest into heavy curiosity.  I want to know what a Godbomb is...badly.

I have put off reading this fist issue knowing that it's not the Godbomb arc and also because it's Thor, a character that quite literally puts me to sleep with his Norse mythos tedium.  But this, this is something special.

It starts deep in the past with warrior Thor celebrating a battle won with wine and women when a scream brings forth the revelation of a dead God in the water.

Tn present day, Thor answers the prayers of an alien child to bring rain.  Upon learning they area Godless culture Thor goes searching for the planets' missing Gods only to find what's left of them.

Deep into the future Thor sits atop Asgard's throne ruler of a deserted kingdom when an attack of the Godkiller and his fierce bipedal hounds home attacking.

I love Thor in space and Aarons' use of both mythology and Sci-Fi as well exploring the Marvel Universe's concept of what Gods are is Fascinating.  Beyond that it is and awesome three-era story structure that just tweaks the pleasure centers of my writerly brain. 

Then there's Ribic's art which just feels Big through and through.  He gets the scope and he provides the pages with a structure to represent it.  Equally his Thor, brawny and beautiful, is given a specific body language that casts him above the average person.  Color artist Dean White amplifies the epic tone with soft digital watercolors that seem weathered and otherworldly. Beautiful stuff all around.

The last thing I need is to start picking up new series or find myself enthralled with new writers or artists but I need to read this story (and don't forget Godbomb). 

365 Comics...191: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #l (2012)

Of all the Before Watchmen titles this one appears to be the frontrunner for best of the lot.  At the same time if you lined up all the books in the series and asked me in which order I'd like to read this would probably be towards the back of the pack.  I like Darwyn Cooke well enough as a creator, though I'm no devotee, and his often prickly personality causes one to incite the old "separate the person from their art" scenario.  Amanda Connor I really should love more than I do.  I have a deep appreciation for her work and one of these days I just know I'm going to fall madly for what she does and start digging up all her past works.  But I'm just not there yet.  I've seen a lot of her work but it's just not been tied to a series that inspires fervent fandom, at least not in me, not yet.  She needs something epic like a Y The Last Man or something utterly endearing like a Hawkeye or Justice League (seriously, she sometimes out Kevin Maguires Kevin Maguire) to really set her in the upper esehelon (some I'm sure think Power Girl was that), because she's ready.  But Silk Spectre is just not a character I key into at all.  She has the most intricate ties to the heroic legacy of the Watchmen universe, her Mother and Dr. Manhattan and the eventual reveal of her father but she always seemed a character defined by her connections, Night Owl included.  There's an absence there in Moore's original script regarding Laurie  (an intentional one, mind) that leaves the character open for such a prequel exploration... but she was still left too vacant and largely ineffectual in Watchmen form to care.

This "early years" series tries exceptionally hard to get me to care, and comes closer than I ever could have predicted, but even with a Freaks and Geeks- level quality script about teenage angst and unusual living situations and some of Connors' best work (and Paul Mounts' colouring, wow!), toying expertly with the 9-panel grid, it still didn't bring me in from the cold.  To be honest I would probably like it countless times more were it not a Watchmen book and just something brought up from scratch.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

365 Comics...190: Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 (2012)

If there were any logical extension to The Watchmen, Minutemen would be it.  Moore's original work naturally delves into the characters of the Watchmen superhero collective, but only really got to touching upon the Minutemen as they related back to their successors.  The characters of Night Owl and Silk Spectre had a larger role due to the fact that they were second generation versions of the Minutemen iterations, and the Comedian was a nada of both groups, but the rest were only minimally touched upon and have always been ripe for further exploration. Heck, the Minutemen even got their own entry in Who's Who, almost as if there was the expectation of more to come out of it.  l haven't done my homework so I can't say offhand one way or the other if Moore had more in mind, but unlike the rest of Before Watchmen, this one feels okay, less interested in connecting with the source material than in broadening it.  Cooke doesn't do a whole lot here beyond a 1-3 page introduction to each member of the team, through the narration/memoirs of the original Night Owl Hollis Mason.  It's truly not much but it is effective and, moreover, interesting on its own terms.  I've only peeked into 3 of these books so far but I think of all of them I might see this one through.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

365 Comics... 189: Think Tank #8 (2013)

I've been cleaning up our unfinished basement, slowly but surely, as the time is drawing near to finally turn it into liveable space. The old bookshelves we have in the basement currently have, for the past four years, housed about half our comic collection with the other half living in a little over a dozen long boxes out in the hermetically sealed shed in the backyard (don't ask about how they were organized...).  It took 15 more boxes to remove the floppies from underground to out of doors and I'm worried the shed is going to sink under the weight... and we still have a bookshelf of trades to more in there (at least 5 more long boxes worth).  While packing up the comics into my new, still vintage white long boxes ("Made in Canada" emblazoned on the insides, a proud heritage moment) I was seeing books I hadn't touched in years, many of which I've yet to even read and it dawned on me... I have a problem. Still.  I've had this revelation before. Last time I moved all those books onto those shelves and again when I last made room on those shelves.  I love comics...l love buying then and reading them and looking at them and thinking about them and reading about them and talking about them... I take comfort in knowing that they are there for me to get to, hopefully, at some point.  There's no rush, or urgency once I've acquired a comic to read it, though my weekly pull books tend to be a little more demanding staring me in the face in a pile beside the bed.  But then, the satisfaction I get from having a comic is doubled when I look at the cover, like a Think Tank #8 sitting atop my read-and-to-be-sorted pile, and know I have a book I not only own and read but also enjoyed and would like to come back to someday... in this case if only to see how the world has caught up or surpassed Matt Hawkins great use of theoretical, speculative, in-development and fringe sciences and technologies.  Hey science, we need Tesseract long boxes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

365 Comics...188: Lazarus #1 (2013)

The growing disparity between the have-nots and the have-it-alls is depressing and infuriating and naturally going to become more and more a part of our science-fiction dialogue if not come to dominate our pop culture in general...that's if the haves will let us have nots have an honest conversation about our society's shocking state via their media empires . I suppose as long as we're being entertained, the less inclined we are to do anything about it.  After all isn't getting mildly ill-informed of social issues through comic books and crime procedurals on tele the same as, you know, doing something?

Lazarus is a solid SF-tinged book from the great Greg Rucka and Michael Lark that takes place deep into the century where society is run no longer by governments but by a new era of monarchs, the uber-rich who control pretty much everything.

My wife's more the expert on historical monarchies (moreover historical fictional monarchies) so it'll be interesting to feed her the title in a few issues time to see if Rucka's making any paralels to old timey royal family feuds and the way this future-ish society resembles that of old.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

365 Comics...187: The Hypernaturals Vol.1 (2013)

The Hypernaturals debuted on Free Comic Book Day in 2012 with a full length issue followed up two months later with a $1 first issue.  I missed the former and planned to trade wait anyway, but being a huge fan of Abnett & Lanning's Marvel Cosmic I decided for a buck to sneak a peek at their creator-owned cosmic stuff just to be sure it would be worth waiting for.  Dense and epic and fun... oh yeah, this was primo D'n'A.  I eagerly awaited the trade, looking forward to its place on the shelf next to my Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy collected editions.

But a funny thing happened on the release of the trade... I just couldn't bring myself to buy it.  Like the first couple of ultimate Comics Spider-Man trades there was no discount in price between the floppies and the collection, and what's more, the price of the trade at $16.99 is almost doubly expensive than getting the FCBD issue and the $1 first issue followed by the $3.99 second and third issues.

I thought it was a mistake in the printing and checked with my retailer to see if perhaps it was just a mistake, but no... at least not at day and date anyway and I don't see any correction on Amazon either.

Even if the FCBD and first issue were normal priced, the trade is still $1.02 more expensive than buying them from the stand or the bin.  Are trade waiters now being punished for wanting to read more at once (and for not playing the monthly collector game)?  I thought the publishers wanted more trade readers or to use the trade to entice toward the monthlies or to discount the first volume of an addictive series (I immediately wanted more Hypernaturals after reading vol 1) to entice the reader back for more ala Vertigo and Image tactic.  If ever a $9.99 trade was called for it would be here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

365 Comics...186: Dream Thief #2 (2013)

People are heaping a lot of praise on Dream Thief right now, and while I don't want to say it's unwarranted, though it's fast becoming a victim of overhype syndrome.  With the second issue only having just hit the stands last week as well as it being only a limited series, it's kind of jumping the gun to declare its greatness.  From my end, it seems a little Crow-esque, with its spirit of revenge schtick becoming clear, and something more akin to the Black Hood from the old early 90's Impact line from DC, which had a heroic legacy passed down through a mask (both of which were the inspiration for a character I developed in high school, which is what I was reminded of instantly when certain tidbits were revealed this second issue).  The story has some nice spins on those Crow/Black Hood ideas, but it's not as crafty as I had been led to believe by the overeager comics blogosphere, and it's not blowing me out of the water as it seems it is a great many others... at least not concept-wise.  Greg Smallwood's art, on the other hand, is rather fab.  In the same line as a Michael Lark or Sean Philips or Terry Beatty (in the Wild Dog strips from Action Comics Weekly) or Steve Lieber (see 365 Comics #185) his figure work takes focus of most panels,body language and facial expressions being key story accents, but his page layouts are exceptionally thoughtful and often clever, and generally quite appealing to follow along with.  I'm certainly not writing this mini-series off, but I just want the praise hounds to temper it a little bit... it's a solid, entertaining crime book, people should read it, but it's not going to change any lives and it's not going to cause any revolutions.  It's just a fun read, let's not go overboard.

365 Comics...185: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1 (2013)

As I may or may not have stated before, Spider-Man isn't my bag, and yet I'll often peek into Spidey-type things with a keen eye when it's the Sinister Syndicate/Sinister Six.  This stems back to the early 90's Deadly Foes of Spider-Man mini-series which I picked up and quite adored, though I can think of no real reason for either picking it up or adoring it so.

Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's revival triggers that same sense of glee in me.  It's not like the Suicide Squad, Secret Six, or Thunderbolts, which feel big-time in comparison, no, this is more akin to Great Lakes Avengers or Justice League Antarctica, a group of also-ran villains who would find it difficult to find a slot in Spider-Man's rogues gallery.  They're super powered (or often not even) crooks, almost not even bad guys.

Spencer adopts a semi-comedic tone, getting into the head of Boomerang, the gimmicky criminal who leads a group called the Sinister Six that has only five members.  Tells you a lot right there.  Lieber, who I've dug since he cropped up on Hawkman back in the early nineties, nails the comedic tone of the book expertly and negotiates densely structured, multi-paneled pages with ease.  His pages square up nicely with Marcos Martin's crafty cover, shifting his style somewhat to be quite clean. It's a highly entertaining book, though surprising as an ongoing, but it makes me wonder why DC has never been ballsy enough to do a Flash Rogues ongoing in much the same vein.

While the last thing I really need is another title to add to my monthly pulls, I'll give this a couple just because it's so entertaining.  There's no "must read" feel to it, but it puts a pretty good smile on my face and provides more than a few chuckles.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

365 Comics...184: Captain America and the Falcon #10 (2005)

Just by sheer randomness the last three books on 365 Comics all featured Captain America and MODOK.  I honestly didn't realize that these two characters were so entwined.  I picked up these books this past weekend from a huge 3/$1 bin sale.  Captain America and the Falcon #10 is part of my attempt to catch up on Christopher Priest-written books, Marvel Two-In-One #82 was a natural since it is probably my favourite childhood Marvel book, despite only having a couple issues (and one of those giant Essential collections.. easy and affordable, but it's just not the same in black and white and without colour and the ads), and then the Captain America #315 was a little something for my wife, a longtime Cap fan.  My 4-year-old was with me and dug out some Masters of the Universe comics as well as took a shining to a half-dozen Power Pack issues.

Seriously, though, it's kind of fun seeing MODOK through the years, with the 80's, 90's and 00's versions all represented here.  The 80's version was really charcoal grey, which was either a limitation of the era's colour reproduction or a choice to try and make him less, I dunno, vibrant and cartoony.  The 90's MODOK, well, as I noted two entries back, was dead and naked on a slab in a coroner's office, so really, he looked like I've never seen him before.  MODOK here, in the mid-aughts version, is, well, decidedly over-rendered and creepily re-designed to be thinner by Joe Bennett.  Extreme MODOK everybody!

But then again, this MODOK isn't quite MODOK apparently.  I don't know, this issue is the third part of four, and frankly, out of context, makes little sense at all (I'm hopeful it makes more sense as a part of the whole).  Cap is in plainclothes fighting MODOK with... someone from SHIELD (Hill?) yelling in his ear.  Meanwhile Falcon is taking on a cartel with some other Cap (Anti-Cap) in tow but I was never clear to what end.  Really, it's just not a stand-alone read, and fair enough.

Oh, I forgot another MODOK turns up on the final page, only a regular-sized dude in a blue suit... his cranium is a bit bigger than an average person (but not Leader or Hector Hammond big) and he levitates and creates that crackling bad-news energy around him.  The caption underneath: "Next

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

365 Comics...183: Marvel Two-In-One #82 (1981)

Oh no!  Ben Grimm's been poisoned by MODOK (him again) and he's starting to mutate, gettin' even uglier than he already is.  Weakened from his previous battle and the virus, he stumbles around the streets of New York, across the path of some street toughs who think they can make their rep if they take out a superhero.  Unfortunately for them a) the Thing in any state is pretty damn tough, and b) that was Steve Rogers they just passed right there.  Captain America comes to the Thing's aide (not that he really needs it) and helps him on his way to the FF HQ where Reed Richards and Giant Man are on hand to help out.  What they discover is not only is Ben Grimm mutating, but he's also dying.

Giant Man consoles a raging Thing, he himself also dying.  The two join forces to hunt down a cure from MODOK and AIM, meeting up with Cap, and and teleporting to an arctic fortress facing off against MODOK, the funky-suited AIM-guys and a giant 6-teeted Thing-like rock monster.  Giant Man finds the cure that could save him and Ben both, but in the melee it's container is damaged, and naturally, he gives up his own salvation for Ben's well being before moping off to the tune of Christmas Time is Here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

365 Comics...182: Captain America #315 (1986)

Did you ever wonder what a dead, naked MODOK looked like?  You're welcome.

This issue of Cap is ridiculous amounts of ridiculous fun.  The Serpent Society (a rather massive group of snake-based mercenaries), having killed MODOK two issues back, now steal his body from the ME to recieve their $100k commission from AIM.  While at AIM HQ they come across the washed-up villain Porcupine attempting to sell his suit to help find his retirement.  We spend some time learning the inner workings of the Serpent Society and then some time inside the head of a now distressed, depressed and desperate Porcupine (learning of his silly origin and his pathetic criminal career.

Porcupine finally contacts his old foe Cap and offers to sell him the suit to keep out of the hands of the criminal underworld, but Cap has another plan:  fake like the Porcupine has captured him and offer him up to the Serpent Society (who Cap has been trying to get a lead on for months).

Cap's plan is flimsy and winds up getting Porcupine killed and barely any closer to understanding or stopping the Society.  Oddly Cap has no remorse guilt over the Porcupine's death, despite having really forced him into a scenario he didn't want to be in in the first place.

Even more odd, Steve Rogers' job is as artist of Captain America comics.  What?!

365 Comics...181: The Micronauts #20 (1980)

I love the cover to this book.  I wasn't ever much of a Micronauts fan (the toys were a few years before my time) and my only previous exposure to them was a single issue I had as a kid (#3 iirc).  Despite all the signs I didn't realize what the "micro" in Micronauts was referring to, nor the subtitle "they came from inner space".  I just never spent any time thinking about it and that one issue that I had didn't seem to tip the younger me off to their microscopic nature.  It really wasn't until seeing this issue's cover with the Micronuts and Ant-Man facing a horde of mutant bugs on a grocery store shelf that it came into perspective for me.  A real "aha, boy am I dumb" moment.

The cover is a true representation of what happens this issue and it's terrific fun, as can usually be expected from a Bill Mantlo script.  I'm not sure how often the Micronuts cross paths with the rest of the Marvel U but it makes them more interesting knowing they're a part of continuity.  Though given their size, I'm wondering how Bug joined with the Guardians of the Galaxy a few years back during various Annihilation adventures.  Reading the copyright notice it's interesting to note which of the characters are copyright of Mego (who owns Mego's copyrights these days anyway?) and by default which belong to Marvel.