Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year

Monday, December 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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

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

12 supporting cast members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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

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

11 things of awesome in Animal Man #26:

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

2) Great story title: "godseed"

3) art by Cully Hamner?  Hells yes!

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

5) Buddy channelling weird alien space animals unintentionally

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

7) Super brutal rock toss

8)The Seed Planet... I like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Death approaches.

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

5. Barely a slit remains as he enters further.

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

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

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

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

five sound effects:

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

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

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


Thursday, December 19, 2013

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

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

four head scratches.

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

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

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


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

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

three issues of Samurai Jack.


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

Two naked Rogers, standing in the bushes.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

mea culpa

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarring and fascinating...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

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

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

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

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