Thursday, October 31, 2013

365 Comics...304: Smallville Season 11 Special #3 (2013)

With all the fun that Brian Q Millar has been having building another DCU within the Smallville Universe, it's become easy to forget that for ten years this was a TV show with a regular cast and a whole lot of characters passing through that a Smallville fan might want to know what's happening with them.  The Specials have allowed Millar the opportunity to write the main series unfettered by the TV show's cast by putting their stories into the spotlight here.  This issue covers the current status of the sibling rivalry between Lex Luthor and his sister Tess Mercer. 

If you missed it, Tess was apparently killed by a resurrected Lex in season 10, but managed to stay alive somehow in Lex's brain, as seen earlier this season.   Once her consciousness was discovered Clark an Emil Hamilton managed to transfer her into a digital persona, which has led her to question her existence somewhat.  On that same track, Lex has pondered the same, his memories still absent from his gap in living.  He's developed a big substance abuse problem and seems to be actively seeking an end to his mortality.   Lex has changed but deep down the spots are still the same and the ruthlessness emerges once more.

Millar knows these characters so very well,  and with full control over their destinies he's shaped them all into much richer characters.  The Specials may not be as fun as the ongoing, but they still offer the same great writing and commitment to character and world building as the main series.  Here Hank Henshaw,  the would-be cyborg Superman steals the show being literally nothing more than a talking head.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

365 Comics...303: Five Ghosts #6 (2013)

I realized that, while I like the concept of Five Ghosts, it's really Chris Mooneyham's art that I'm attracted to.  I'm okay with pulp adventure, but it's not my preferred genre, so there has to be something special to draw me in, and with Five Ghosts, it's partly the concept of a Fabian Grey channeling Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Robin Hood, Merlin and the samurai from literature whose name I've forgotten, and it's even more partly Chris Mooneyham's Kubert-ian artwork.  This issue features an enjoyable done-in-one script from Frank Barbiere, but the art from Garry Brown pales compared to Mooneyham.  Brown has an excellent sense of storytelling but the end work winds up feeling rushed and sloppy in execution.  I quite like his work on The Massive with Brian Wood, so I'm not sure why I dislike it so much here.  Is it just the difference in style from the series creator, or is it just ill-suited for the subject matter.

Either way, this feels like a bit of a placeholder issue, a "don't forget about us" while Mooneyham stocks up some work on the next arc or something.  I'm not abject to having more one-off issues of Five Ghosts by other artists, but they have a lot to live up to.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

365 Comics...302: Velvet #1 (2013)

Depending on how much of a stickler you are for near mint/1st printings/value, I either got lucky or screwed.  I was way late to my weekly pull and (despite impressive 50k+ print runs) both Velvet and Pretty Deadly were sold out.  But as I checked out,  I noticed a copy sitting on the back counter.  I asked if there were any more and they said I could have that one.  Getting around to reading today, I believe it to have been a returned copy (though likely unknown to the employee helping me) since there were a few gently  torn pages in the middle of an otherwise pristine book.  But, for me, I don't care.  I'm just happy to have the book.

And it's a great book.

For fans of pop-spy stories in the James Bond/Man From U.N.C.L.E. vain it's a beautiful twist on a familiar structure.  Essentially it's a "What If...Moneypenny were really the best spy in the agency?"  But it's richer than that.  Velvet Templeton had the potential to be the best but she settled for a desk job instead, running the department as the director's right hand.  Now, with one agent, the series' James Bond,  gunned down, Velvet puts herself back into action.

I love Steve Epting's Velvet, a mature woman, late 30's I'm guessing,  if not early 40's, not your usual comic book bombshell.  Attractive, but not a supermodel...  I actually thought "she's a handsome woman".  She has taken excellent care of herself, is a liberated woman (this in the 60's/70's Cold War setting) but is just enough out of conditioning to be problematic when she ventures into action.  Under Epting's pen she exudes confidence, but her rusty skills play out beautifully in her physicality.

I've invested heavily into Bond films and comics this year, and yet I think Velvet is one of the best Bond stories that isn't a Bond story.  Love it.  Awesome.  Get it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

365 Comics...301: Marvel Now What?! (One-Shot)(2013)

The folks at Marvel seem to be having a lot more fun than their Distinguished Competition.  I mean, all the goofy variant covers is one key sign, but the other is stuff like this where they actively make light of themselves.  Also there's someone at Marvel who enjoys comedy, in recent years having Bill Hader and Seth Meyers write a Spiderman story, hiring Brian Posehn and Grerry Duggan for Deadpool, and hear bringing ex-Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac and 30 Rock cast member Scott Adsit, amongst others, in to lampoon the current state of the company or present off-beat, out of continuity sketches starring Marvel characters.

As all anthologies are, it's a mixed bag with the first big sketch from Elliott Kalan and artist Jacob Chabot being the strongest and the funniest.  Meanwhile Duggan and Posehn present a retro tale of Doc Oc appearing on the gong show, an absurdly amusing bit delivered with some of Pat Olliffe's finest work to date but even more nailed by colorist John Kalisz.

The low point is Lucas Hazlett and artist Jacob Chabot's SNL-style sketch about Professor X hiring a team building duo to whip the 90's X-Men into shape.  It feels like a gag already worn thin even before the premise is fully revealed.  Equally the "Catfish" sketch from Sara Schaefer and artist Steve Lieber feels like it exists solely for the punny title of "Cap-fished"... it feels like reading a humour anthology from at least 2 years ago.

Adsit's riff on the watcher Uatu on the receiving end of an intervention is amusing with a totally obvious but also ingenious punchline.

I remember now why I uninstalled the Marvel AR app, though, because it never *expletive* works.  Guess I'll never know why that last page was left intentionally blank. ..

Sunday, October 27, 2013

365 Comics...300: Young Avengers #11

Prodigy sends a text...

365 Comics...299: DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe #2 (2013)

The first issue came out the first week of September, which puts the second issue a few weeks behind schedule.  In the process, all of a sudden Tony Bedard has replaced Keith Giffen on the script, which is interesting, considering that Giffen has also left the main Masters of the Universe book (now written by Dan Abnett) and he replaced James Robinson as writer of the first MOTU mini-series last year on the second issue.  I wonder if Mattel is really that hard to please.

Anyway, I was about done with this mess of a book when Skeletor enchanted the Justice League and sent them after Batman who teleported to the Batcave where He-Man, Teela, Queen Marlena, John Constantine and Madame Xanadu are waiting for him.  It dawned on me that both the Justice League and the Masters are not the characters I know and like.  Like, Marlena knows that He-Man is Adam, which means Teela knows He-Man is Adam?  When did that happen?

Anyway, the thing that gave me pause was the part of the ridiculous Masters versus Justice League fight when [Spoiler Alert] He-Man stabs Superman through the chest with his magic sword (which is a godawful ugly looking magic sword, I might add)... in an interview with Giffen about this series he did hint that this was out of continuity, so anyone could die...I just wasn't expecting it to be Superman after a terribly weak battle sequence.  I really would love to see Superman and He-Man tussle, and members of the League engage against the good and/or bad masters (hey, why not just take the whole thing out of current "style" continuity and just use classic versions of everyone?  Ah, whatever, it's really not worth even discussing anymore).

365 Comics...298: Zero #2 (2013)

Zero #1 was a bit of  a blind buy for me.  I was familiar with only one of writer Ales Kot's previous works but I had no prior knowledge about what the series was about or how it would play out.  It was an engaging first issue, military and espionage elements, with gritty, heavy artwork.  I was expecting a second chapter to follow along, carrying the threads introduced, with the same artistic team.  Instead we get a flashback to Edward Zero as a boy, training for the agency, and taking on his first mission.   The art comes from Tradd Moore, artist of the Luther Strode series, an egregiously hyper-violent series that reaches for Mark Millar-levels of fanboy wish fulfillment.  I thought Moore's work was distinct and interesting, the story of Luther Strode far less so.  It's great to see his work again in a different, better-written context, though the drastic differences between his style and Michael Walsh's from the first issue is very jarring.

I like both of these stories, and although they don't form a cohesive narrative in any way, they're painting a picture of this character.  And this issue provides a little context with respect to where the first issue begins.

I'm loving the design work on this title from Tom Muller... that garish logo alone makes the book stand out.

365 Comics...296/297: Deathmatch #9 & #10 (2013)

Oh man, I was starting to get nervous.  My wife reported our LCS had run out of copies of issue #9 when she was picking up books that week in September and this month when issue #10 came out, once again, it was missing from the stands.  Likewise I visited a couple of my backup shoppes and they too were missing the issues.  I love this series and was seriously bummed that not only was I two issues behind but that those two issues were relatively unavailable.  A few weeks later though, lo-and-behold there they both are, sitting on the back-issue rack, one battered copy of issue #9 and two bent copies of #10.  I'll take 'em.  Not gonna be picky at this point.

With issue 9, we're down to 6 combatants and things are looking rather dire for the good guys.  Though we know a few of the secrets there's still the what-the-hell-is-really-happening mystery backburning.  Issue 9 brings up some surprising character revelations and shows us the final showdown between longtime rivals Dragonfly and the Cube.  At this stage, all of the character profiles have been completed so there's no bonus backmatter beyond the March Madness bracket breakdown showing who's left to face off against one another.

Issue #10, well, this one's got the most monolithic exposition drop of any issue so far (and in a 12-issue maxi-series that debuts an entirely brand new superhero universe with a rich background of stories and character dynamics and centering on 32 new characters, there's been a lot of exposition)... and even with that it STILL doesn't completely unfurl the mystery.  This is one of those stories that needs to be re-read in one lump sum, because with all of the twists, turns, double-turns and triple-turns it's hard to recall what the truth is and what the clues actually were.

What's with the little girl on the cover though?

365 Comics...295: Samurai Jack #1 (2013)

I've fallen behind on 365 once again, this time due to a massive hit of vertigo on Tuesday overnight which took days to truly subside.  My wife. meanwhile, stayed home on new comic book day, and promptly developed the flu, meaning we were both way too out of it to pick up comics in a timely fashion.  I was most worried that my LCS would have sold out of the first issue of the new Samurai Jack series from IDW.  Both of our kids are huge SJ fans, as, naturally, we are as well, so you can bet that this series is hotly anticipated around these parts.

Thankfully, even five days later, my shoppe still had two glorious copies remaining, and with everyone in my household keen to read it I was tempted to take both, as you can bet that the 11 and 4 year-olds will decimate their copy.  But I decided, for now, that I'd just get the one, perhaps seeing if I couldn't track down one of the Genndy Tartakovsky covers elsewhere (one is a retailer incentive cover from the Beguiling, another local comic shop).

There have been SJ comic stories before, but most of them were just 8-page stories in DC's Cartoon Network anthology, so you know, not the most robust reading.  Many of the Cartoon Network stories as well as DC's Samurai Jack pilot episode adapation will be collected in a trade paperback released this week from IDW called Samurai Jack Classics, which I'm still debating about buying... DC didn't do the property much justice, and after the triumphant Power Puff Girls #1 I had much higher hopes for IDW's output.

Honestly, I was expecting writer Jim Zub to take more inspiration from the atmospheric elements of SJ, and attempt a largely wordless first issue, but instead he wisely goes bigger, much bigger, and dives into the more adventuresome elements of the show.  After a roam through desert winds (there's three pages of atmosphere) Jack learns of the Rope of Eons, and is off on a quest to gather the scattered threads together to rebuild the rope and hopefully pull himself backwards in time.  Zub has crafted a great multi-issue arc that will still allow him to jump genres multiple times, feeling both like Samurai Jack and yet also be something different. 

As any Jack fan knows, his quests are always destined to be thwarted by Aku in the end, or turn out to be false leads to start with, but it's always in style and presentation that Samurai Jack stands out and captivates.  Artist Andy Suriano picks up the visual feel of the cartoon, adopting the style for the characters and setting as well as using an agreeable colour palette.  However, I would like to see Suriano branch out and be more adventuresome in his panel breakdowns.  They're remarkably generic when Samurai Jack toyed perpetually with it's framing, and I'd like too see more of that here.

An excellent start, certainly satisfying for any Jack fan.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

365 Comics...294: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4 (2014)

With Breaking Bad coming to a close there's been a lot of talk and examination of the recent trend towards anti-heroes in television.  But comics have had a long history with anti-heroes, rising most prominently in the 70's with the arrival of The Punisher,  as well as numerous titles with villains as the lead (Secret Society of Super Villians, the Joker, Kobra, Super-Villain Team-Up).  There have been dozens upon dozens of villains-centric series and miini-series, but few have captured the zeitgeist like the Superior Foes of Spider-Man.   This quintet, forming the Sinister Six, aren't super-geniuses, nor criminal psychopaths, but hardened criminals  trying to keep out of jail and their pockets lined, both far more difficult than it should be for costumed and powered villains.  The book is funny, but it's not an outright comedy.  It uses its humour to show why these criminals remain so low on the totem.  They're kind of dumbasses, but generally likeable, which goes a surprisingly long way... like a superhero Ladykillers.  There's a lot of dialogue here and Steve Lieber nails the talking heads as well as everything else in the book, its really fun and unique reading.

Monday, October 21, 2013

365 Comics...293: Wonder Woman #24 (2013)

Seriously, I put together four or five paragraphs yesterday talking about Hickman's Fantastic Four,  entered my hyperlinks and attached the picture and ckicked "save" only to *poof* have the whole thing disappear.  Refreshing the page a couple times all that finally was returned to me was the subject line with no text body.  It's not like it was a masterpiece,  and it only took 1/2 hour to plunk into the Blogger app on the ol Android phone, but losing work, any work, no matter how frivolous, is always frustrating.

Long and short of the post was that Hickman's FF and Fantastic Four runs were amazing,  but both kind of overstayed their welcome for about six months, treading water instead of building another grand arc.... I wonder when Hickman found out he had the Avengers gig.  Probably around the time he was concluding his big story, but there were still so many months to go before Marvel Now would launch so he played through until it was time.

As for this issue of Wonder Woman,  it's transitional, bridging the first two years of stories and characters and events with what's to come next.  We're reminded of Lennox's fate, Hermes' betrayal,  Diana's new title, how she earned it and hints of the fallout therein.  We get a sense of where Apollo is at, what the First Born is doing, and reminded of many of the other Gods and demi-gods that are in the mix...and also just how big Diana's family is turning out to be, as a daughter of Zeus.  

Seriously, though, tuning Diana into a demi-god and the God of War beyond that is a masterstroke, an easy highlight in the character's history.  Once Azzarello is done I'm not sure how anyone else can follow.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

365 Comics...292: Fantastic Four vol 6 (2012)

The blog ate my homework

365 Comics...291: Nowhere Men #6 (2013)

Only a few weeks ago I was wondering what had happened to Nowhere Men,  one of the brightest of Image's many bright new series released this year.  It's been quite some time since the last issue.  Two weekends ago I was sorting the massive pile of comics beside my bed, just under months worth, and I noticed there was no issue of Nowhere Men to put away.  Issue 5 didn't seem like the end in any form, and I knew the series was doing fairly well, critically at least, so it shouldn't just have disappeared.   But creator-owned series can be like that... a good book just derails and never gets back on track (I'm still waiting for Spurrier and Irving's gutsville to resume.)  By all accounts though, the way the series was going it didn't appear to be moving in an arc method, but old school serialized,  so maybe there wasn't to be a logical stopping point and a break just needed to be had.

Thankfully, here's issue six where, to my surprise, stories collide, the world comes together, and the first arc presents itself only by concluding.  It's been so long though that a lot of the details aren't fresh to the point wher I was wondering if I had missed reading issue 5.  But it all came together, in a bit more bombastic a fashion than I was expecting for a book about scientists as rock stars, but still good reading.

Stephenson' additional materials, like the opening magazine article and excerpts from a photgraphy collection contribute so nicely to building this pop-sci world and the fab four super-geniuses who redefined life and culture in the 1960s and beyond.  Bellegarde as illustrator brings so much to the table, his hyper-clean style hews closely to a Jamie McKelvie feel but his faces and people have a Tony Harris sensibility, like illustrated exaggerations of real people.  Bellegarde's ability to age his characters, to distinguish them over not just two time periods, but entire lifetimes is astounding.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

365 Comics...290: Fables #134 (2013)

I don't remember what the last issue of Fables was that I read...maybe issue 88 or so with Mike Allred on art duties.  But I gave up before that.  Once the big war ended -- which was what the entire series was driving towards -- the series felt like it was spinning wheels, directionless. 

My wife is still an avid reader and fan, so I still get to admire the pretty covers and every so often flip through an issue to see if anything piques my interest, which it rarely does.  This issue, though, appeared as all talking heads stuff, a prolonged conversation between two characters, standing out even more as the backdrop deteriorates into nothingness.

Beneath a beautiful Mark Buckingham cover, Boy Blue meets Bigby in Limbo to discuss the afterlife, resurrection, the past and the future.  It notes back to many incidents and plot points I missed not reading the  serires, like Bigby dying, or the religion formed around Boy Blue,  but it's still largely an accessible read, not bad for a series 130+ issues strong.

I always liked Buckingham's style, particularly his characters, and with his luscious forest limbo fading to white as the characters talk, it puts greater emphasis on what they're saying.  And those last few pages, even without fully knowing the context, were kind of amazing.

Thos issue actually promises big things in its future... I may have to pay a little closer attention.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

365 Comics...289: Batwoman #24 (2013)

Well, that was... maddening.

We hit the crux of the DEO's plan to unmask Batman with Batwoman taking the lead (perhaps the title's most nerd-friendly plot to date) and we won't get to see how it plays out because Dan Didio and company are being really fucking petty.  They want to jump on board the "zero year" train asap, because, well zero year is only running in Batman for another 8 months you see, and they couldn't wait two issues to wrap up the current storyline and introduce the new writer... 

If I'm a betting man (which I'm not because I have an addictive personality) I would say they will run the finished pages/scrpts in the trade paperback so as to force the loyal Blackman/Williams fans into double purchasing some of the issues they already have.  Cause they're opportunistic dicks like that.(Edit: or, maybe not

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

365 Comics...288: James Bond 007: The Man With The Golden Gun (2004)

I had thought all of the Titan collections of the Bond newspaper strips collected 3 stories each and hit around 110 strips apiece, but I guess they aren't so uniform, given that The Man WithThe Golden Gun runs 209 strips while the Living Daylights, the second of two stories in this collection,  is only around 80.

Golden Gun is not nearly as entertaining as the film, but what I find interesting about the strips is the continuity, how one Bond story carries into the next, how things that happened in earlier episodes carry forth.  The films are naturally more stand-alone in, and can't maintain the same sense of consistency.   Felix Leiter, for instance, reemerges in Golden Gun, with a hook hand and all after it got bitten off by a shark in Live and Let Die.  And Golden Gun kicks off with Bond having amnesia, believed dead after the events of You Only Live Twice.

The Living Daylights though is an utterly ridiculously executed story that finds Bond wallowing in self-pity over having to take out a communist sharp shooter who will be trying to take out their man as he crosses the Berlin Wall with valuable secrets.  As he's cooped up in a West Berlin hovel across from the extraction point over a three day period he begins to moon over a foxy blond cellist playing in an all-female orchestra that practices in the building the communist sharp shooter is to take aim from.  Obviously the blond is the Commie gunman, but this revelation takes Bond by surprise (did I mention he never even merts her?) and he hesitates on the shot to nearly catastrophic results.  Bond is so often a cad, I guess he's busy saving his chivalry for enemy women he's never met.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

365 Comics...287: God Is Dead #2 (2013)

It feels like someone waving a middle finger in my face.  There's a $4.99 price tag on my copy of GID #2, and I'm not certain why.  It's a variant cover, but there's nothing else to it... it's not any different in quality, this variant cover, so why the uptick in price?  Just because they can?  The only reason I have this variant "extra costly" cover is because my wife has been picking up my books for me most weeks and either didn't notice the price tag or long ago stopped second guessing my pull lists (I do enough of that on my own).

I don't like Avatar as a publisher much.  Their books, regardless of the A-level writing talents involved, tend to be pretty ... gross... I dunno, they just feel like sleazeball comics.  Their "house style" of art is completely unappealing to me and it tends to sink the works of really good writers.  This "extra priced" cover business, for really the wost comic to ever have Hickman's name associated with it (and Mike Costa, whose Cobra Files is so consistently excellent), just reinforces my lack of interest in Avatar as a publisher... I really hate to discount a publisher whole hog like that, but fuck 'em.  I blew $9 on 2 issues of a comic created by two of my favourite writers and I hate it.  I look at their publishing roster and see works from Christos Gage, Kieron Gillen, Alan Moore, Si Spurrier, David Lapham and I want fuck all to do with them.  I may finish up with Freak Angels and may troll past Bleeding Cool from time to time but otherwise I'm keeping their stink off me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

365 Comics...286: G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files #7 (2013)

Given that cover image are we supposed to infer that Tomax Paoli is Daredevil?

The recent events in The Cobra Files feels like there's an end game in play.  I just wonder if it's yet another relaunch onthe horizon or if Costa is finally done playing Joes and Snakes... for the record I'm with him on his Joe-rney (ugh, sorry about that one) for as long as he wants to make it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

365 Comics...285: Aw Yeah, Comics #1 (2013)

Of all the news to come out of NYCC this weekend, and there was quite a bit of interesting stuff, for me the most exciting tidbit was the return of Tiny Titans.

I don't know why I am so attached to that iteration of Art Balthazar and Franco's oeuvre, because they've done just as well with their similarly styled Superman Family Adventures, Itty Bitty Hellboy and their Kickstarted Aw Yeah Comics... I think a large part of it is how Tiny Titans satisfied both my comics nostalgia as well as my fondness for costume-dense comic books (and pulling virtually every Titan out of the bag in their 50 issues was a spandex feast, even if meant as a younger reader book).

I'm really looking forward to its return but though I should also have a look at their self-published venture (which I would like to get physical copies of, but they are not easy to find), Aw Yeah Comics.  I gather that AYC is a honest to real comic book store in Skokie, Illinois (unless Franco and Balthazar are pulling my chain on the first page) which is also used as the setting for the alter egoes of the heroes of the book, Action Cat and Adventure Bug.

The structure for anyone at all familiar with Balthazar and Franco's work is so very familiar, which makes for easy transition between the duo's various series for younger fans.  My daughter really digs Balthazar's art so she's pretty much on board with anything he does,  and I most certainly concur.

My favourite part of this first issue was seeing Action Cat and Adventure Bug's female counterparts,  who share the same name.  I thought it was a great,  if harmless commentary on female analogs as perpetrated bu the big two. There's no reason why characters of different genders can't have the same name Marvel's doing better with Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and...briefly, the Punisher).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

365 Comics...284: Uncanny X-Men #1 (2011)

Maybe a bit of a cheat for 365 Comics, as this actually is reprinted in the back of X-Men Season One rather than being an independent comic I read, but at the same time I would normally have skipped it if not for the fact that I was in desperate need of some already-read comics for today's catch-up blitz.

I tend to avoid Marvel's X-Titles, beyond the recently-ended X-Factor, which was able to largely operate outside of the X-brand and with its own unique drive.  I find the conceit of most of the X-sphere to be kind of ridiculous when it's placed inside the Marvel Universe as a whole.  I like the idea of using "mutants" to explore social and political issues, but in the context of the Marvel Universe where there's hundreds of ways to acquire superpowers and there's heroes aplenty everywhere, to ostracize and vilify mutants seems absurd.  I guess that's why, for the most part, the X-books tend to operate in their own little domain of the Marvel Universe and, save for Wolverine and the odd random mutant, the rest don't cross-over much.

This Uncanny relaunch from a few years back is, well, not good.  I like Keiron Gillen a lot, but this is perhaps the worst thing I've read of his.  The dialogue is just so ... pained, like these characters who shouldn't be talking to one another are being forced to talk to one another.  I know Gillen wasn't responsible for it but Colossus being posessed by the spirit of the Juggernaut is perhaps the dumbest thing I've seen in a comic in a long while (and I read a lot of the New 52).  That Magneto has barely any presence in the issue is, to me, weird.  Magneto should always be the dominant presence in any scene, or when sharing space with Namor, it should be a fight for dominance.

Perhaps the main reason I don't like this is not Gillen's fault, as I'm not the biggest X-Men fan anyway, but, I think I just
realized over reading this and Season One, that I really, really, really do not like Scott Summers... I find him dull.  That he's taken up Magneto's cause seems a big twist for him, but at the same time it doesn't make him any more interesting.  I think his relationship with Emma Frost, given his previous romantic history, is also interesting, but even with Emma, he's still pretty tiresome.  I think the cinematic X-Men's decision to make the love story more Logan and Jane was the right choice because, well, Wolverine is so much cooler than Cyclops.

365 Comics...283: X-Men: Season One (2012)

Erm, I'm kind of tired of origin stories.  I like Batman Year Zero, because it's not an origin story, but just a story that takes place near the inception of the vigilante.  The Marvel "Season One" books, from all perceptions I have of them, seem to be just a new retelling of the origins of various characters and teams, stories that have been told and retold countless times already.  These "Season Ones" are original graphic novels geared towards the bookstore market, though, aimed at the casual comics reader, or the curious movie goer who wants to read a comic-story of their cinematic heroes, rather than being for the avid comic book fan who have seen these stories countless times.  That's the main reason I avoided them, they're not for me.  But I couldn't resist this one, certainly not a 1/3 the price, because I love Jamie McKelvie's art, and Dennis Hopeless' Avengers Arena is one of my favourite superhero titles right now.

X-Men Season One is, well, inessential reading.  It's a decently entertaining read, perfect for the new comics reader as intended, but skewing even more towards a teen-aged audience, and even more towards a female readership.  I say this not because Jean Grey is the POV character, but because of the angle of the POV character, which is of a "can you believe this is my life" and a "which cute guy do I actually like" vein... it's essentially Dawson's Creek with superpowers (yes, I'm old and that's the only reference for a teenaged melodrama that I can pull).

McKelvie's style is flexible, but it's also the perfect style for teenaged melodrama.  It's exceptionally clean and everyone is pretty and his attention to fashion detail is second to none in the comics industry.  I may be becoming a McKelvie completist.  I'm not even sure I'm missing anything of his at this point.  I'll have to check.

I'm kind of glad I didn't read this before I started into Avengers Arena, otherwise I probably wouldn't have read it.  Hopeless handles teen melodrama exceptionally well, but I don't actually like teen melodrama...moslty because I hated hyperhormonal teen melodrama when I was a teen.  Thankfully Avengers Arena is pretty light on the melodrama, as it's pacing and it's conceit doesn't allow for the dust to settle long enough for melodrama to build up.

I'll be passing this one off to the 11-year-old, and in turn it'll be passed down to my daughter when she's around 9 or so.

365 Comics...282: Batman #24 (2013)

Speaking of this week's Thor's Comic Column, I do a write-up of Batman #24 which costs a whopping $7 for a 54 page book.  Looking at it more closely, that's about right, given that the usual Batman comic is $3.99 for a 30-page book.  It's just a big hit for a single book, particularly when I can go to a lot oddball places and pick up 21 comics for that same amount.  But you can't think about things that way.  It's like thinking about how much money you spent on a movie in the theatre, and then bought on Blu-Ray when it came out, only to find it a little while later in a $5 bin... or to see that the TV series that you loved and bought every season set for $70 has been collected into a "complete series" set for less than $70 with tonnes of new bonus features.  Or when a favourite comic book gets six issues collected into a $10 trade paperback.  You think you should have waited, but you wanted it at the time and you got it and you were happy with it, so you know what, it's okay.  It's only money.  And money is in endless supply.  There's no limit.  Money is perpetual, right?

365 Comics...281: The Shaolin Cowboy #1 (2013)

If you've been to this week's Thor's Comic Column already you've read my compatriot Adam X's comments on Shaolin Cowboy #1, which posited it as a middling sort of comic, rich on visual details but direly light on story.  Adam's points are all valid, but he's also new to Shaolin Cowboy, and well, that's kind of how things are done around Darrow's parts, and you either buy into it or you don't.  It's a lot of offbeat weirdness for weirdness' sake, a lot of fighting, blood and whatnots, and not a whole lot else.  What are the Cowboy's motivations?  Who knows, he's just out there fighting what needs to be fought.  There's a lot of bad guys that want to take him down and evil things whose path he's impeding, but he doesn't seem to much care, he just fights.

Missing from this series is the talking donkey, the braying ass that, for me, was the weakest element of the original series.  The incessant chatter seemed to be forcibly at odds with the both the book's intended atmosphere and the Cowboy's preferred ambiance.  Why they were traveling companions I'll never understand.

Adam was right, The Shaolin Cowboy is not a great story by any stretch, but it is a wonderfully visual experience, with Darrow's eye-poppingly ornate artwork and his warped comedic timing, it's like Moebius melding with Takashi Miike, spitting in your eye then slapping you in the face before tickling you and feeding you gourmet salted chocolate.

This issue opens with two pages of 6pt text recapping "The Story So Far..." all of which is made up, save for the last three paragraphs which actually recap the previous series.  It's a ridiculous read with Darrow repeatedly doling out some of the most brazen puns he can and warping in out-of-context pop culture cues.  I can't even explain it, but it's an impressively weird and I laughed out loud more than once.  I would love it if some keener made an audio drama out of this with sound effects and whatnot.  Would that I had the time.

365 Comics...280: Avengers Arena #16 (2013)

Oh, we're getting so close to the end, and I just can't wait for it.  I want there to be a new issue every week until the story is done.  My fandom for this book has grown exponentially since hopping aboard with issue 3 and I'm feeling ever rewarded with each new issue.  Even reaching back into Avengers Academy has made me appreciate this series even more.

I was nervous with the awesome Francavilla front cover spotlighting Cammi (hey another "rocket girl" image, with the rocket properly placed on her back), my personal favourite character of the series, hoping that it wasn't a spotlight issue for her, because a spotlight issue so often ends in death.  Mercifully, no, it didn't happen.  But the kids all seem to be getting so aggro with one another at this point, which in series time is day 29 (of 30).  Arcade's back in play as Deathlocket and the surprisingly still-alive Apex start messing around in his underground layer, but he's still more than a match for these two terribly inexperienced and untrained, erm, heroes?  Still not quite sure what's going on in that bunker or in the arena altogether, but with two issues to go it's not long now to find out.

A reader in the letter column (love this book's letter column) suggests that Hopeless should write a Braddock Academy series, which I would definitely read, and that the Union Jack/Pete Wisdom pub crawl from issue 13 should be expanded into a mini-series by Cristos Gage...  I really, really want to see that.  A superhero version of The World's End. Do it Marvel.

365 Comics...279: Smallville Season 11 #18 (2013)

One of the things Smallville the TV show rarely did well was action, mostly because of budget limitations, but also the focus of the show was always more on melodrama.  Brian Q. Miller's season 11 has shifted totally away from melodrama opting in favour of being an action comic.  This issue is just gratuitous action all over the place, and it's glorious.  Gun fights, magic blasts, demonic explosions, giant monsters crashing through buildings, fist fights, zombies going smush, lightning, helicopers exploding, humvees crashing, tornadoes ... just action, action, Action Comics starring Superman, Wonder Woman, Cameron Chase, Lois Lane, General Lane, Steve Trevor, Mr. Bones, Hyppolyta, Felix Faust, Hades.  I love this's probably my favourite on the stands right now, and that's kind of embarrassing to admit, given it's source material.  If there were a consistent artist on the series, I'd probably feel a little more at ease with that statement.

365 Comics...278: Rocket Girl #1 (2013)

I had originally intended to write this up for this week's Thor's Comic Column, but it turns out I don't really have all that much to say about it, not yet anyway.  It's a cute book, something I want my daughter to read when she's like 11 or 12 (the only thing making it less of a teen book is the brief allusion to a blowjob).  The awkwardly named Dayoung Johansson is the titular Rocket Girl, a 15-year-old police officer from a drastically different 2013, a time and place where it seems teenagers are much smarter and more mature, though still teenagers, and in charge of everything.  This 2013 has a cityscape right out of the Fifth Element, flying cars and all, but it's like Bugsy with all these kids walking around acting like grown ups.  There's a Time Cop element, where Dayoung travels into the past (1986) in order to stop her future from happening, most of it centered around a specific group of scientists making a particular discovery or technological innovation.  It's a Skynet kind of situation.  Rocket Girl borrows familiar elements but in 20 pages, can't completely escape their familiarity perhaps with another two or three issues under its jetpack it'll start to come uniquely alive.  What it has going for it is Amy Reeder, a phenomenal artist whose brief work on Batwoman was enough to get me to pick up this book.  She's got such a distinct visual voice, her characters so uniquely her own.  Her characters always have amazing physicality and facial emoting that conveys so much more than the text.  She's close to Kevin Maguire level.  And if I were a 15 year old boy I'd have such a crush on Dayoung already...but I recognize that I'm an old man a crushes on fictional teenagers are gross and inappropriate.  I think Reeder's rendering of Dayoung is a young Uma Thurman though, and I've had a crush on her for over 20 years, so maybe that's partly it.

(Also, having just done an image search for "Rocket Girl" I'm so happy for Reeder and Montclare taking ownership of the title and strapping a rocket to their character's back instead of thrusting it like a huge phallus between her legs... it's a small step for womankind)

And huh, guess I did have some stuff to say afterall.

365 Comics...277: The Manhattan Projects #15 (2013)

I'm loving the Manhattan Projects more and more with each issue, except when the focus turns to Oppenheimer.  I'm not digging the red-blue war happening between the infinite Joe and Rob Oppenheimers in his brain.  I just kinda don't see the point, or relevance.  Oppenheimer seems to be having a generally nominal effect on the proceedings of the series (despite seeming so crucial in the early goings) so I'm wondering why I care at this point.  That said, for the first time there's a fill-in artist (or is he the new artist? I dunno, I haven't been reading the ever dwindling comics blogosphere as of late) and Ryan Browne does a bang-up job of rendering infinite Oppenheimers at war, keeping on-model with regular series artist Nick Pitarra while allowing his own style (which reminds me much of Ming Doyle's work on Mara) to come through.  Of course, so much of this book would be nothing without colourist extraordinaire Jordi Bellaire's phenomenal use of a duochromatic palette here, rendering everything in only blues, reds and gray.  It's a striking book to look at even if it's a shrug of a read.  I'm ready for the next issue.

365 Comics...276: Chew #37 (2013)

In a perfect world Bryan Fuller -- creator of Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and Hannibal -- would be working on making Chew a reality.  It's right up his ally, a casual genre blend of comedy, paranormal investigations, death, food porn, and body horror, whilst being incredibly character -centric.  It's right up his ally, all his favourite tropes.  But, if anyone's familiar with Mr. Fuller's resume, they know that his type of television programming doesn't tend to stick around much beyond two seasons (two delightful seasons mind you)... so perhaps it's for the best he's not involved.

But man, Chew does need to be brought to life as a TV show and adored by millions.  I don't know that it'd have the cultural groundswell of a Walking Dead, but I think that people would dig it.  And it would draw them back to the comic, which is amazing.  I don't even know why I want a TV show so badly... the comic is so great.  I guess maybe I just want to experience it as many different ways as possible.  

This issue finds Tony experiencing the latent thoughts of his dead twin sister Toni (by eating her toe), and it's at once funny and heavily emotional... the melding of humour, drama and action in this series is masterful by Layman and Guillory, always amazing to behold. 23 issues to go, I'll savor each one.

365 Comics...275: James Bond 007: Casino Royale (2005)

Oh man, I've been asleep at the 365 Comics wheel for...whoops...9 days.  If I wasn't behind on my "daily comics blogging" (what a joke that's become,eh?) as is, I'm certainly wa-aaa-aaay behind now.  Were I to blame anything it would be the fall television season, some Netflix diving, live events and general fatigue.  But if I could read comics and write about them (almost) daily a month ago, when things were at their most insane, I think I should've been able to do it in the past week as well.  Ah, whatever.  Catching up now.

To tell the truth, I realized that I hadn't been reading many comics since I last posted, and even then it was just those three books from last week's pull that I wrote up for Thor's Comic Column.  This morning I discovered beside the bed the rest of last week's pull, still unread.  I've done better with this week's pull, the fruits of which will be posted about shortly.

I tried reading a Kamandi Archive last weekend but children were perpetually interrupting, and after the weekend I jumped ship instead to the first of Titan Book's reprints of the James Bond Newspaper strips. One of the things that surprises me about these newspaper strip collections (I've read a few of the Modesty Blaise ones as well) is how long they take to read.  They're not quick reading by any means.  In their oversized 8 1/2 x 11 presentation, the deception is that they're only three or four panel strips, but with four strips a page that's 12-16 panels with a lot of dense information packed in for the formerly daily reader.  Each volume presents three stories of differing length averaging around 110 strips per story.

Think about that for a second.  110 strips per story.  I know that serialized comic strips have been around for a long time, but as much as I like comics I've never, ever followed a serialized strip.  Obviously it's a lot different today than it was 60 years ago when the Bond strips started, when people would have the daily subscription to newspapers and the children would clip out the adventure serials and store them in a file-o-fax or glued into a scrapbook (which in some manner I think the size of these Titan reprints are supposed to represent) .  When I was a kid, my local paper didn't carry any serialized dramas, and, generally, my parents didn't get the paper delivered regularly with any consistency so I wouldn't have been able to follow a serialized drama even if they did.  But think about those 110 strips... that's nearly four months of reading only 3 panels a day to follow a story.  It sounds kind of maddening to me.  Can a story be followed only 3 panels at a time?

I've only become a true James Bond fan in the past year with my Double Oh series of Bond film reviews/recaps over at the disagreeable blog.  It's stalled just past the halfway point, having wrapped up Roger Moore's tenure (most of the 14 films, I discovered, I actually had never seen), but I'll be delving into Timothy Dalton as soon as I catch up on my movie reviews on the other blog (behind again, what a shock).  I've been loving exploring the cinematic representations of the character, it's a fascinating progression watching the films evolve and devolve on a regular basis, each one pretty much a unique entity from the other.  Diving into wikipedia trivia after watching each film is equally intriguing, to discover the relation to Ian Fleming's original works (or so often lack thereof) and to learn of the controversy surrounding Thunderball and how big of a mess that created for the Bond series for years (still trying to locate a copy of Never Say Never Again...seems to have been buried).  These Bond newspaper strip reprint collections are brilliant for the Bond fan, since they have some great essays in the frontmatter, as well as some tidbits of info leading into each arc.  They're almost magazines rather than just trade paperbacks.

For someone like me who gets terribly bored reading prose (I can write a book faster than I can read one, I always say) these comic serials present a more faithful adaptation of Fleming's Bond than the films do, but it's intriguing to see how the films have poached from Fleming and deviated as well (as well the editorial team of these collections provide some insight into how the serials might vary as well).  It's all pretty terrific from a Bond fan standpoint.

It was interesting to see how closely Casino Royale the film stayed to Fleming's source material, which the serial faithfully adapts.  The serial is a lot lighter than the movie and the characters more shallow, but the frameworks is so much the same.  The best aspect though is the one paragraph description of how Baccarat is played (baccarat is so common in the early Connery Bond films, it's good to get some insight into what's going on).  It's also interesting to note that the films, generally, are much more robust than the serials (and likely the source).  There's a structure to a Bond movie that's so tangibly missing from the non-cinematic iterations.  The movies have surpassed Fleming's books as the truer representation of the character.

The serials ran off and on for 25 years and 54 stories. Only the first 18 represent Fleming's original work with the following all being either adaptations of post-Fleming books, or original stories.  There's 18 collected volumes (if I've done the math right) and I've managed to poach about 7 or 8 of them for about $4 a piece at a remainder bookstore sale.  It's spoiled me such that I want more but I'm totally not willing to shell out the $16.95 (at minimum) cover price, or even the usual remaindered price of $9.99.  But I must let go of my collector-head and actually get through reading the ones I got.  It's going to take a while afterall.

Oh, also if you're a Bond fan, I can't recommend enough the delightful James Bonding podcast on the Nerdist Channel.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

365 Comics...272-274: Francesco Francavilla Covers (Grindhouse #1, Fantomex Max #1, Savage Wolverine #9 - 2013)

I can't think of another illustrator who was so unobtrusively prevalent as a cover artist as Francavilla is today [his tumblr is a must follow].  The guy's work is literally everywhere, unavoidable and yet always distinctive, always unique, always eye catching... he's a hell of an artist, who also has impeccable design sense.  Just look at how different these three covers are (Savage Wolverine is a variant, I should add, whereas Coop provided the variant for Grindhouse).

I have write-ups for all three books hitting Thor's Comic Column shortly (link TK), and I kind of cranked those ones out on a tight deadline and a very busy schedule.

The only think I didn't really say that I wanted to was just what the hell is Savage Wolverine's conceit as a title?  Is it supposed to be earlier in his career when he was still being pushed by scientists to see what his limits are?  Or is it an anthology book like Legends of the Dark Knight or something?  The brief introductory paragraph on page 1 seems to imply it's exploring his early years, but he's on a different planet... or has he been shrunk down to innerspace by Pym Particles?  Will he meet the Micronauts?  Does this issue pick up from the end of last issue?  Has Wolverine ever survived a fall from the upper atmosphere before?  If so when?