Archive for June, 2008

1000 Nights of Snowfall

June 27th, 2008 by Martin

This was a bunch of different stories in the Fables universe, all tied together by their narrator, Snow White. The art is pretty, but with the exception of Snow White’s first story, about her learning to sword-fight, I didn’t much care for the stories themselves. They were mostly just fairy-tales changed subtly to fit into what I presume to be the Fables universe. (This is only the first Fables story that I’ve read.)

Conceptually, I would think that the universe of Fables would be one I’d be interested in, but it turns out I’m not actually all that excited about re-imagining fairy tales. I think it was for this reason, more than any other, that I was disappointed with this book. The art was good, the writing didn’t cause any problems or anything. It just didn’t captivate me like it should have.

The most appealing story was that of Snow White, who asked Prince (now king) Charming to teach her to fence so she could track down the seven dwarves and kill them. (Presumably for things they did to her while she was asleep?) Florence tells me that the regular Fables issues don’t actually re-imagine fairy tales, so maybe I’ll still give it a chance, but this particular collection just didn’t do it for me.

Warren Ellis super-human roundup

June 26th, 2008 by Martin

This was initially going to be a review of the new No Hero Issue 0, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, but then I started thinking about the similarities between this title and Black Summer, which was done by the same creative team.

Aside from the art, which is quite interesting in both projects, I think the biggest reason for this observation of similarity is that these are both comics about people who gain superhuman powers in our generation, in our time. They are set in our universe, and they are essentially near-future science fiction superhero comics. There is no magic, no mythological talismans of great power, and no “black box” plot devices. This is the kind of science fiction that I really go in for. It’s also the kind of science fiction that, unless it’s done really well, often dates itself, and thus has a relatively short shelf-life.

In a way, Black Summer already dated itself by using the president’s name (I think) right away in issue 0. No Hero dates itself by using actual dates in this issue, which more or less just sets up the story. I guess that also makes it alternate history. We’ll see in 2011 whether its still readable after the main part of the story would have already happened. That makes three genres in these comics: superhero, near-future science fiction, and alternate history.

Warren Ellis is also writing Freak Angels, which I believe to be one of the most interesting web comics I’ve ever read. It could also get thrown in with these as another near-future science fiction, although it involves telepathy (and probably telekinesis) which in my mind at least makes it more fantasy than science fiction. In Black Summer it’s technology that gives the super-heroes their meta-human abilities. In No Hero it’s chemistry and drug use. We don’t really know what gives the Freak Angels their abilities. It hasn’t yet been explained.

As a side-note, I should get to meet Warren Ellis later today at Wizard World.

Anyway, I love these gritty (bloody) near futures that Warren Ellis is creating for us. I’ve been waiting to write about Black Summer until the last issue comes out, but its been one that just keeps getting better with each issue (and it started out pretty damn spectacular). I can’t wait for the conclusion of Black Summer, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading all of No Hero as it comes out.

Terry Pratchett Graphic Novel Thing

June 25th, 2008 by Patrick

So, I just read the Graphic Novelization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. It was Great. Despite never actually having READ the books (usually a mandatory prerequisite to reading/watching/seeing a remake of something), I thoroughly enjoyed it, and somehow feel as though if I had read the books before I saw this, I wouldn’t have had as much fun, oddly enough. If I had know what was going to come next, it simply would not have been the same. What I am assuming is Terry’s plot has so many twists and turns, I had no idea where it would go next!  The quirky humor meshes with a beautiful and detailed art style, and when you add in the  great plot line, you have an item guaranteed to enthrall for hours. Kudos both to Terry, and to Steven Ross, the illustrator who managed to capture everything perfectly (This may sound like hyperbole, but I am completely serious). Still, This book-like-thing may not be for everyone. It’s pretty lengthly, and quite wordy. So, it’s not for thickheads and those with monosyllabic vocabularies. Everyone else, tho, this is for you!

The Discworld Graphic Novels

June 25th, 2008 by Martin

I absolutely loved these graphic novels, based on the first two Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. I can see why they chose to package these two together. The first ends in a cliffhanger, and the second more or less ties up all the loose ends created in the first. I can only assume this is consistent with the novels, because I’ve never read them.

I really liked this, and I may just have to read me some Terry Pratchett in the near future.

What you’ll find inside: Puns and humor galore, magical-sword wielding swashbuckling heroes who have their faults same as everyone (yet never seem to fail, because they are… well, heroes), dragons that appear when you believe in them, magic with new and interesting rules, and a world shaped like a giant disk perched upon the back of a giant turtle swimming through space… what’s not to like?

The art is well done and consistent almost all the way through. It felt like maybe there was a new artist somewhere in the middle of the second graphic novel, but I could be wrong. (It kept a similar style.) Initially I didn’t get into it all that much, but the farther along I got, the more I appreciated the art. I have no idea if this was my own appreciation growing, or the artistry itself.

I suppose I should mention that this collects The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, which were initially created back in 1991 and 1992 respectively. (This particular edition is relatively new.)

Highly recommended.

ReadComics Podcast #010 – From Chicago

June 23rd, 2008 by Martin

Our podcast tonight came to you from Susie’s living room in Chicago, recorded on Marty’s iPhone.

We talk about Wizard World extensively (duh), Wonder Woman, Warren Ellis, FreakAngels, Batman: Gotham Knight, Madman, The Filth, Grant Morrison, jason’s love of Image Comics (and Zombies), x-men, Chicago comic book shops: Brain Storm (and the Comic Book Queers Podcast) & Dark Tower (and the Around Comics Podcast), Jason’s green skin fetish (mostly for Hulkling and Changeling), Karate Kid and Ralph Macchio, (but not Ralph Macchio the Marvel Editor, the not the Karate Kid from Legion), and a bouncing zombie jesus f-ing christ.

Listen to Podcast Episode #010 (37.4 MB, 1:21 hours)

Modern Marvels: Jewish Adventures in the Graphic Novel

June 23rd, 2008 by nihiliad

This is a free five-part book reading and discussion series. The series explores Jewish literature and culture through scholar-led discussions of contemporary and classic books on the theme of Modern Marvels: Jewish Adventures in the Graphic Novel. Here, five Jewish artists experiment with words and pictures to tell stories of childhood, war, and desire, to conjure up lost worlds, both real and imaginary, and to contemplate history, myth, and the individual psyche.

Program Details

All participants will receive a printed copy of an essay on the Modern Marvels theme written by Jeremy Dauber, Atran Assistant Professor of Yiddish language, literature, and culture at Columbia University.

June 24

Cover art for "A Contract with God" by Will Eisner
Will Eisner
A Contract with God: And Other Tenement Stories

Each week during the 1940s, Will Eisner drew “The Spirit,” a comic about a masked detective that earned him fans around the globe. He revolutionized comics a second time when, in 1978, he reached back to his own beginnings to produce the first “graphic novel”—a book-length form that now includes such classics as Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

Set among 1930s Bronx tenements, these four stories capture the brutal, tender world of working-class Jews. In the title story, Frimme Hersh’s daughter suddenly dies, sorely testing the “contract” this self-made man once entered into with God. In “Cookalein,” Eisner casts a humorous eye on the amorous, social-climbing tendencies of young urbanites spending a summer in the Adirondacks. Wry, honest, and sad, these four stories showcase Eisner’s unique ability to capture character with the quick stroke of his pen.

July 8

Cover art for "The Complete Maus" by Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegelman
The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

The comic book transfigured, this graphic novel tells the story of Spiegelman’s parents Vladek and Anna, Jews reaching maturity in a Europe on the verge of Nazism, and their terrifying history and eventual survival in the concentration camps. Spiegelman uses the broadest tools of the genre—Jews are drawn as mice, Nazis as cats, Poles as pigs, Frenchmen as frogs, and so on—to make vivid the unimaginable, both to the reader and to himself, appearing as a character in the book listening to his father’s story.

A triumph of storytelling in panels, Maus changed forever the way that readers, critics, and artists themselves thought about the graphic novel. In 1992 the Pulitzer Prize committee recognized the Spiegelman’s groundbreaking achievement by awarding him a special prize for Maus.

July 22

Cover art for "Julius Knipl" by Ben Katchor
Ben Katchor
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories

Steeped in a melancholy, grey-tinted world of elevated trains, luncheonettes, and gently decaying tenements, Katchor’s perambulating photographer Julius Knipl documents a rapidly vanishing urban netherworld. Peopled by men who map the migration of hairstyles and those who belong to the Amalgamated Panty-Waist Fitters Union, his cityscape is a familiar one, albeit with the touch of a demented fairy tale.

This is a world where films like “The Wild Aspirin” play at the Doloroso and wholesale calendar salesmen “enter a state of self-induced hibernation” by mid-February, their job complete for the year. Brilliantly conveying a deep and abiding affection for lower middle-class city life, Katchor, with his blocky ink drawings and wry Yiddish-flavored text, implores his readers to open their eyes to the beauty of the urban landscape.

August 5

Cover art for "The Quitter" by Harvey Pekar & Dean HaspielHarvey Pekar (Art by Dean Haspiel)
The Quitter

Pekar, the author of the celebrated comic book American Splendor, spent his life quitting before he could fail. Here, he enumerates the ways: an adolescence spent bullying other children in Cleveland, where his immigrant parents owned a small grocery; a lackluster academic career; an unending array of file clerk jobs.

Ostensibly covering Pekar’s early years, this dark graphic novel tackles everything from his brief stint in the Navy to jazz criticism and mid-century race relations. The gritty and atmospheric artwork by American Splendor collaborator Dean Haspiel perfectly captures Pekar’s cantankerous tone. But a surprisingly hopeful message ultimately surfaces. It’s possible to find your way in the world, Pekar suggests, even if it takes a lifetime to do it.

August 19

Cover art for "The Rabbi's Cat" by Joann SfarJoann Sfar
The Rabbi’s Cat

After eating a parrot, an aged Algerian rabbi’s cat develops the ability to speak and quickly declares his desire not only to be Jewish, but to have a bar mitzvah. The rabbi engages his pet in a spiraling debate, touching on topics such as spelling, parental love, and the very nature of Jewish identity.

French graphic novelist Sfar’s delightful, vibrantly illustrated story is set in Algeria and Paris in the 1930s, where the encroaching modern world is rapidly shattering many long-held customs and assumptions. And like his human counterparts, the rabbi’s cat has some tough choices to make: “Should I stay in this house of Jews who are so elegant you’d swear they were French, with the beautiful rugs and the smell of fine cooking, or follow my master in the rain”?

The University of Minnesota Libraries—Twin Cities, in partnership with The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, is one of over 250 libraries nationwide receiving grants to offer the series. Local support is provided by the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota. Let’s Talk About It: Jewish Literature, a reading and discussion series, has been made possible through a grant from Nextbook and the American Library Association.

Top 10 Season One (TPB #1 & 2)

June 21st, 2008 by Martin

I absolutely loved these comics. So dense and full of interesting visuals. Each panel (seemingly) had some kind of illustrated punchline, whether it was a superhero caricature, or just hilarious signage in the background, you are never at a loss for some fascinating detail to absorb. So too, the characters are extremely well thought out and detailed, these superhero police officers that make up the 10th precinct in a world populated by extra-humans.

Alan Moore does a great job here, and with such brilliant accompanying artwork, it’s really hard to go wrong reading these. All this gushing having been said, I was actually a bit disappointed at the ending of the first trade. I loved how we were getting there, but I wasn’t sure it was going anywhere. And really, it wasn’t going anywhere special. These are the day-to-day activities of these police. I guess this is the “Cops” of Neopolis (the name of the city in Top 10). We basically just follow these characters around, and sure they solve a crime here or there, catch the criminals, but there is no big revelation, really. Not until the second book.

In the second book, things get even better, I think. I read it faster, anyway. Not necessarily because I was in a hurry, but because it was so good. And this time when I got to the end, I wasn’t disappointed. I liked it just fine. Not necessarily because there was a big conclusion, (although there was), but maybe also because I’d finally got the pacing down. I was finally used to this world, and what we were going to get out of it. (And perhaps not get out of it.)

Notice the girl’s shirt on the front there? I tried to figure out which came first, the tee-shirt, or our local comic shop, but so far I have no idea. Top 10 isn’t all that old, only since 2000, but I don’t know exactly when Big Brain Comics opened it’s doors in downtown Minneapolis. Perhaps before that? Would Alan Moore (or Gene Ha, the artist) really have made a reference to that shop?!? I will find out and report back.

In unrelated news, Jason, Florence, Mike and I are all piling into a car tomorrow to head to Chicago for the big Wizard World comic convention. If you’re going to be there, and you want us to come say hi, leave a comment, or drop us an email at (doesn’t matter what the address is, we should get it).

Maybe I’ll find the Smax trade (next in the Top 10 series) while I’m there!

God Save the Queen

June 20th, 2008 by Martin

Faerie comics that use characters from Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream are apparently all the rage right now. I suppose we did sort of seek out God Save the Queen after Jason mentioned it at some point in a discussion we had about Suburban Glamour, but these two comics were pretty damn similar. They both have Titania as one of the main characters, and they both go into details about how she’s been usurped by another Faerie as queen, and they both have a female “changeling” character, (essentially, a faerie baby who is exchanged for a human baby at birth), and they both involve the changeling finding out who she really is in the course of the comic. Lots of parallels.

God Save the Queen had really amazing artwork. I don’t think I ended up liking the story quite as much as Suburban Glamour. Even though Suburban Glamour had more plot holes and weird leaps of logic, it still felt like the characters were more believable. I guess I wasn’t into the dynamic of the drugged out girl and her childhood buddy who just went along with doing hard drugs just to watch over her. It’s probably realistic, but that guy should have grown some balls and put his foot down and said “I’m not joining you in your descent into drug-addicted stupidity” long before the conclusion of that particular plotline.

God Save the Queen also felt a little disjointed for my tastes. On one hand we had the plot with faerie characters and concepts, and then on the other the plot where there’s a teenage girl getting high and acting out because her father left and her mother is a total wreck. They worked together okay in principal, but I felt differently about the girl in both… liking her in the faerie one, and hating her in the other. It didn’t make for a book that I could empathize with at all, which was sort of the opposite of Suburban Glamour.

All this having been said, it was definitely worth a read for the terrifically beautiful artwork.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

June 18th, 2008 by Martin

This isn’t really a review yet, since I’ve only just sent money to Barry Deutsch for a paper copy of his enchanting comic book Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. However, you can read Hereville page by page (one per week) on his website. Eventually, the whole story will be released on there, although I imagine that by that time, Barry will have another trade paperback to sell, or he’ll have moved on to other projects or something.

It’s such a great marketing ploy to incentivize readers to buy the trade just to finish the story they’re getting slowly in pieces on the website. I don’t think I’ve seen it done before. I would gladly pay extra just to get the TPB all at once rather than waiting for individual comics to come out. Of course, that’s a bit of a catch 22, since a lot of times I probably wouldn’t even know about the TPB without having seen (and flipped through) individual issues in a store. In this case, I’ve got the pages that are already online to give me a sense of whether I want to read the rest of the book. It turns out that, yes! I really do want to read the rest!

This kind of marketing is really aimed directly at impatient people like me.

(Link discovered this afternoon via Comics Worth Reading.)

David Hajdu, Book talk and signing

June 17th, 2008 by Martin

David Hajdu, author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America will be giving a talk and signing copies of his book Tuesday, July 8th at 7:30 p.m.. The press release is as follows:

What: Book talk and signing
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library (222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455)
When: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 ? 7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public.

The Friends of the University Minnesota Libraries and the Children’s Literature Research Collections proudly present a Twin Cities appearance by David Hajdu, author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America.

Dessert reception follows with books available for sale courtesy of Red Balloon Bookshop. David Hajdu will be signing books during the reception.

Comic books, not rock-and-roll, created the generation gap. They also spawned juvenile delinquency, crime, sexual deviance, and things of unspeakable depravity. Long before Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan from the waist up, long before Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin, long before James Dean yelled, “You’re tearing me apart,” teachers, politicians, priests, and parents were lining up across from comic-book publishers, writers, artists, and children at bonfires and Senate hearings decrying the evil that was the ten-cent plague.

David Hajdu’s “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America” comprises the last book in an informal trilogy about American popular culture at mid-century, and radically revises common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between “high” and “low” art.

This special event with David Hajdu is part of an evening celebration honoring John Borger and his gift of almost 40,000 comic books to the Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University Libraries.

They had me at “Dessert reception”.

Chuck #1

June 16th, 2008 by Michael

I picked up Chuck #1 on a whim…I’d been looking for something different from the usual Marvel superhero fare I’m used to. The art looked kinda cool and the pages I skimmed through looked intriguing enough. Then I read it and I had to admit, I was a little confused. There’s this guy named Chuck who daydreams at work about Gilligan’s island inhabited by his coworkers at a Best Buy knockoff that gets blown up. Apparently he’s some spy type of person in some agency that employs psychics and there’s some sort of “intersection” in his head. Whatever that means.

Admitting defeat, I sheepishly turned to the internet to find out more about this comic. That’s when I found out that this was a comic adaptation of a TV series…one I don’t watch. The comic was obviously written for fans of the show (which makes me wonder how successful they hope the comic will be? Is there a huge market for comic versions of somewhat obscure TV shows?), and was thus lost on me. I was more intrigued by what I at first thought the story was about…some poor geek at the “Buy More superstore” who dreams these fantastic situations he puts himself and his friends in…and makes this his reality. But since I’m not a fan of the show and they didn’t really make the comic that accessible to a new audience, I most likely won’t be picking up any more. Which is unfortunate, because there is some genuinely witty dialogue and storytelling here. If anyone else watches the show, though, I’d be interested in what they thought.

Chuck is Written by Peter Johnson and Zev Barow with art by Jeremy Haun and Phil Noto

Zebraman (2004) — a superhero movie

June 16th, 2008 by Martin

Zebraman starts off as an average joe, a schoolteacher who can barely pay attention at staff meetings, and whose children don’t care for him, and whose wife is almost certainly cheating on him. He sews his costume at night, ripping it the first time he tries it on, and daring himself to go across the street for a can of soda. It’s not even an original costume — Zebraman was a failed tv show from decades before.

We watched this Japanese import with english overdub (I didn’t bother trying to figure out whether the disk had english subtitles, and it seemed like it was going to be the kind of movie where it doesn’t mater anyway).

Turns out it’s the schoolteacher’s destiny to be Zebraman. There is an army of little green aliens living in the school gymnasium (I always thought this was true at my school too), and even some secret government agents have taken notice.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie was that the computer graphics didn’t suck terribly to go along with everything else that sucked terribly. I guess the director was someone pretty famous, but I don’t honestly know how this movie got made. (Although I suppose mighty morphin’ power rangers also got (gets?) made, so there you go.) The best part of the movie was the first fight scene, with a man wearing a giant crab costume and whose weapons were a pair of scissors in both hands. Also fairly amusing was a dream sequence involving the “Zebra Nurse“.

Oh yeah, and the tagline of the movie: Black and White Ecstasy! Seriously. Avoid at all costs… unless, you just want a movie to laugh along with, in which case, this is pretty amusing.

Five Perennial Virtues & The College of Comic Book Knowledge

June 15th, 2008 by Martin

After purchasing a back issue of Omega: The Unknown that I’d been looking for, and a Usagi Yojimbo comic picked out by my nephew Jake yesterday at The College of Comic Book Knowledge, I ended up talking about to David Tea, who was manning the shop. Florence was busy in the back room, A.K.A. The Nostalgia Zone, buying some back issues of The Authority she’d only just discovered we were missing. David was incredibly friendly, and I ended up leaving the store with a couple issues of his self-produced comic, “Five Perennial Virtues”.

Five Perennial Virtues is basically just photocopied and stapled, and (as it says on the front “Written, Drawn, & Stapled by David Tea”) the production values remind me a lot of my own old books of poetry produced the same way. Inside, the art is a very cool mixture of different hand-drawn styles. There is some interesting pointillism, but I think my favorite scenes have these really cool tiled backgrounds. Actually, my favorite favorite is a drawing on page 35 of issue #3, where David (he is his own main character) stands among all these falling maple seed “helicopters”.

Anyway, in case you haven’t been there, and are looking for an awesome shop to buy your comics in south minneapolis, check out The College of Comic Book Knowledge. And if he’s there, say ‘hi’ to David for me.

Authority Variety Pack

June 13th, 2008 by florence

While shelving comics at our new place, I came across a stack of Authority comics in Marty’s ‘to read’ pile. I started reading and couldn’t stop with just one arc. I read Volume 2 issues #5-14 which contained the arcs ‘Behemoth’, ‘Godhead’, ‘Fractured Universe’, and a one-off called ‘Street Life.’ Then I found a miniseries called ‘Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority’ and devoured it, as well.

I have to admit that a past boyfriend introduced me to the Authority (my first Warren Ellis comic), and between him and later searches, I made it through all ~29 issues of volume 1. It looks like we’re still missing vol.2 issue 1-4, a bunch of miniseries, and vol. 3. They don’t make it easy to track down the entire series, but it has been worth it so far.

‘Godhead’ was an irreverent arc taking on the idea of religion as a drug/ virus. A new religion, led by a charismatic former movie star, takes hold of the nation and quickly spreads to a large percentage of the population, including world leaders. It bears some resemblance to Scientology, but this leader makes sure that his devoted disciples declare him ‘better than Tom Cruise’ while in the heat of the passion. The Authority doesn’t take notice until other religious sites and communities start coming under violent attack. They attack right back, until the Doctor becomes a convert and the others are captured or wounded enough to retreat. Midnighter is one of the captured, but manages to resist the attempts to brainwash away his love for Apollo. Very sweet, but very bloody. In the end, the rush of being a Godhead, and the mulititude of willing, unthinking followers, is acknowledged and somewhat coopted by the Authority.

The ‘Fractured World’ arc starts with the next issue, but it felt like I was being thrust into the middle of a story. I looked it up, and apparently it is connected to a larger crossover event within Wildstorm comics which includes an Authority miniseries called ‘Coup d’État.’ By the time this issue starts, the Authority has undertaken a coup and ousted the president of the United States. Jack Hawksmoor has taken on that role, swearing at press conferences and showing no patience for the bureaucracy that comes with the job. He explains that he will not bullshit the American people, but then refuses to comment on questions about the sudden emergence of Jenny Sparks’s alleged birth mother in China. I don’t want to spoil the outcome of that storyline, but I do find it interesting that the Authority just continues to expand the scope of its power to include head of state as well as leading a new religion, despite its original identity as ‘an anarchist cell.’ I wonder where it can possibly go next- empire-building in alternate dimensions or future centuries? Was this the original vision, or is their power expanding to find new stories as the years go on and new writers take on the characters? Is it a commentary on the difference between the political landscape of the 20th century vs. the 21st, the age of growing global conglomerates?

This miniseries visits Jenny Sparks throughout her 100 year lifespan. Apparently she has always been cute, hard-drinking, and of questionable taste in men. This expands on some of the storylines that have been touched on in the Authority title (her acquaintance with Hitler as a struggling young artist in Vienna, her marriage in Sliding Albion), and add some new twists (Einstein as a loving godfather/ time-traveling spy). It includes her deep friendship with Angie, her dalliance with an incredibly hot Shen, and her introduction to Jack as a boy tortured into his powers.

It also introduces the idea that perhaps Angie, the Engineer, is the true founder of the Authority. Her intelligence and force of will drove her to create her own powers. Did she also find a way to give direction and hope to Jenny and start the chain of events that led to the formation of a team that would provide her with home and family and an unprecedented combined power? I hope that later issues explore her ambition and her goals in more depth. There have been hints that her relationship with Jack is disappointing- in issue #14 ‘Street Life,’ Jack refers to a past lover as ‘the closest thing he’s ever had to a relationship,’ and confirms that he never wants kids of his own (partly because he has no idea what his manipulated body would produce). Will Angie settle for what she can get with him? Will she move on with someone new? Or will the drive that is hinted at in this miniseries reemerge to create the relationship she wants? Will her means be benevolent? I can’t wait to read more and find out.

Locke & Key, Issues 2-5

June 13th, 2008 by Martin

Along with many of the comics I’m collecting now in individual issues, this one has just sat on the shelf awaiting my inevitable catch-up reading. I don’t know why I chose them tonight, likely it was just because they were the near the top of the stack as issue #5 just came out.

After how good the first one was, I really dreaded reading the rest. You see, I don’t like thrillers. I don’t watch them in the theater, and I don’t read Stephen King. This story is solidly of the “thriller” variety, as my stomach gets all clenched up and knotted while reading it. But it didn’t have to be this way! There was a slim glimmer of hope after that first issue that the worst of it was behind us, and now we were just going to explore this neat old house and find out what it could do. But no. The guy who killed this family’s father is still out there, and there’s other freaky stuff happening besides.

Several of these issues end in cliffhangers (including #5), and even though I didn’t really want to keep reading, I did really have to know what happens. Wish I’d known this before I picked these up today, but apparently issue #6 ends the arc. I have some predictions about what’s going to happen, but I guess I don’t want to spoil it for you by talking too much about the plot.

I did just find out something pretty interesting that I didn’t know when I reviewed the first Locke & Key earlier this year: the author is one “Joe Hill”, a pseudonym used by Joseph Hillstrom King, the son of Stephen King. So this guy pretty much follows in his father’s footsteps, I guess. Apparently he’s already won some awards and had a book on the best seller list and everything.

Unfortunately, knowing that gives me some further expectations about where this story is going… or rather, what the story is not going to get into, and that is details about the supernatural events that take place in this book. I would absolutely love to be pleasantly surprised here, but we’ve got exactly one comic book issue to wrap up a pretty tangled story and conclude this thing. I have little hope that we’re going to find out why the house has a key that can take you anywhere you want, or what gives the youngest son the ability to turn himself into a ghost and float around as a spirit. Instead, we’ll wrap up the “serial killer kid traps the family and has everyone but the youngest son helpless in the basement” plot line, and we might get some details about the evil woman-spirit trapped in the well-house, but chances are good that there is going to be a lot left up to the imagination at the end of next issue.

Not to say that I have anything against imagination, but seriously, I read comics to experience other people’s imaginations, not as a launching ground for my own. And definitely not when it’s a horror comic. I’d just as soon not think about psychotic maniac killers, thankyouverymuch.

ReadComics Podcast #009 – Book Club #1

June 12th, 2008 by Martin

We sat down at one of our favorite local comic book shops, The Source Comics and Games to record this, the ninth Podcast. Unfortunately, the many D&D players around us create quite the background din, but hopefully you can more or less understand us as we wax lethargic about the first six issues of Northlanders, written by Brian Wood.

Listen to Podcast Episode #009 (19.8 MB, 43 minutes)

Red Mass For Mars #1

June 11th, 2008 by Michael

Red Mass for Mars #1It’s been a long time since I’ve been really interested in a good sci-fi comic book. Sure, I’ve been reading the Annihilation stories in Marvel and while I enjoy them, they’re pretty much run-of-the-mill comic stories in a science fiction medium. To me, good sci-fi should be thought provoking. It should make us look to the future while teaching something about our society in the present. It should be intellectual, educational, and challenging. A Red Mass for Mars by Image comics does all this very well.

Written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn beautifully by Ryan Bodenheim, the story takes place in the year 2115 on an earth that has been decimated by numerous disasters and atrocities. Marcus Farber Astorga (also known as ‘the Benefactor) has the ability to see the future, which has naturally made him incredibly wealthy and has used that wealth to create a new paradise on earth, and the population loves him for it. But this ability also sets him apart – even the most brilliant of people on earth are a bore to him. What could they give him that he hasn’t already forseen? How would you live a life in which you knew what would happen and yet had to go through the motions, acting a part in order to fulfill these preordained acts? It’s an intriguing question and in him we have a fascinating character that I can’t wait to see develop. Equally as interesting is what is shaping up to be a potential villain – Lightbender. As the head of the English Language Reclamation Project, he is a soft spoken dictator that nonchalantly describes why he had to defile the corpse of the queen of England (three times) while worrying about what the implications of conquering his native country will have on his family reunions.

Of course, there’s also the standard sci-fi plot of an alien invasion, but it’s the characters and concepts that are presented that are the most interesting. It covers the nature of life and death, what a utopian society really means, religion, politics, man and gods, and the future. It brings up topics that I can’t wait to discuss and debate with others that read this, and to me that’s what science fiction should be.

Angel: Revelations “Senior Year” Book one of Five The Annunciation

June 10th, 2008 by Martin

I picked this up solely for the art. The characters have a very stylized and elongated look. Almost cartoonish, but too realistic to be lumped into that category. The issue starts (and almost ends) with a scene where a minister visiting a house where a daughter is experiencing the stigmata, and she has visions, visions of a boy who is getting wings. The main story is about the boy, whose name is “Warren Worthington the Third”, and he’s clearly going to sprout wings any day now. That’s about all I can say, because that’s about all that happens. There is a disturbing end to this otherwise fairly innocuous comic. There are also lots of religious overtones. The story is clearly incorporating elements from the christian mythos.

So far: Interesting. I’m reserving judgment until I’ve had a chance to read more, but I do really like the art. I’m not terribly familiar with the x-men character, but this is a re-telling of his origin.

ReadComics Podcast #008

June 8th, 2008 by Martin

To make up for the delay, tonight’s podcast was extra long! We waxed poetic on the topics of: Top 10, Northlanders, True Story Swear To God, 100 Bullets, Trinity, Buffy / Angel, Giant Sized Astonishing X-Men, upcoming superhero movies, Wizard World, Convergence, Gaylaxicon 2009, comic shops in Chicago, the Mall of America, x-men and comic “brand awareness”, serialized fiction in comic books and soap operas, amazon kindle and reading on handheld devices.

Listen to Podcast Episode #008 (39.5 MB, 1:24 hour)

Read Comics Book Club

June 7th, 2008 by jason

Don’t forget, the Read Comics Book Club will be meeting this coming Wednesday, 11 June 2008, at 7:30pm. We’ll have a table in the back of the Source, near the soda machine, and we’ll be discussing Brian Wood’s Northlanders #1-6. We’ll also decide on the next discussion topic that day as well.

The Source Comics & Games
1601 West Larpenteur Ave
Falcon Heights, MN 55113

We have no idea how many people to expect, so if you think you’re going to make it, please leave a comment below!

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call (Book 1)

June 7th, 2008 by Martin

I hadn’t read any 100 Bullets before this, and wasn’t even familiar with the premise before I picked it up from the library. Let me begin by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the “noir” genre, and this is definitely heralded as a “crime thriller”, something that holds little appeal to me. I had heard this was great though, and it’s won some eisner awards, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The premise is thus: A shady (but so far benevolent) cop (or something more?) gives people who have been wronged a briefcase with a gun and 100 “untraceable” bullets to right their injustice. The first story of the series (I have no idea if these characters recur), is about Isabelle “Dizzy” Cordova, a former teenage gangbanger, whose husband and child were killed in a drive by. Until this shadowy guy gives her the hundred bullets, she’d thought it was by a rival gang that did it, but he also puts “proof” in the briefcase about how it was two crooked cops who did it.

This brings me to the over-arching disbelief suspension for me about this. The recipients of the 100 bullets can’t show this proof to anyone or the whole deal is off. (What about… maybe… showing it to the cops?) In the first story, this makes a bit of sense, because the killers / bad guys were also cops, so you show this “proof” to the wrong people and you’d probably just end up dead. But we never actually see the proof, so there’s really no way for us to judge whether it would have been compelling to someone outside the system– say a federal court, or a judge. We do get glimpses of our shady 100 bullets guy in the police station, which seems to imply that this is a localized phenomenon, but at this point, he could be anyone or anything.

The second story in this trade is shorter, and less compelling than the first. I’ll probably pick up the next couple of trade paperbacks, because I’d like to read the eisner award winning series in issues 15-18, but whether I continue reading after that depends a lot on how much of the over-arching story I’m getting/enjoying. It does seem that this has an actual conclusion, after nine TPBs, but at this point I’m not sure whether I’m ready for that long of a commitment.

Star Wars: A Long Time Ago… Vol. 1

June 6th, 2008 by jason

Years ago, before I got back into Doctor Who fandom, I was pretty hardcore about Star Wars. My brother and I collected the toys, the books, the comics, but my interest petered about halfway through the Jedi Acadmey trilogy and the Dark Empire II comics. I also started back with Doctor Who collecting. Meanwhile, my brother has taken the Star Wars fandom to a higher level, continuing to by the books and getting some Star Wars tattoos.

Fast forward to now, and I’m looking through the trade paperback section at the library, and I decide to not just pass over the Star Wars collections, but actually look at them this time. The one that really caught my eye is a collection of the Marvel Comics Star Wars books. The Central Library had Volumes 6 and 7, but I was able to request Vol. 1, which I started reading yesterday.

Reading the initial six comics which were the adaptation of the 1977 movie brought me back to being a new comic fan in the ’70s. The adaptation is very faithful, but adds in the missing scenes that weren’t seen until decades later, the ones with Biggs and Jabba on Tatooine. I’m really grooving on Howard Chaykin’s art, thinking about how it’s changed over the years from this to the square jaws and huge racks in his recent run on Hawkgirl. It’s more subtle here, but again faithful to how the film looked.

As far as Roy Thomas’s writing, I’m still in the original adaptation, and haven’t yet gotten to the new stories. I remember loving them as a kid, but we’ll have to see how they hold up. I look forward to revisiting this part of my youth, and then maybe checking out some of the newer Star Wars comics.

Batman: Snow

June 6th, 2008 by Martin

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I picked up Batman: Snow because it is another book drawn by Seth Fisher, but this was almost entirely without the abstract style that I loved so much about Will World and Big in Japan. The art is still distinctively Fisher, but without the weirdness, it didn’t feel terribly special to me. There are some images with a lot of detail that I feel are particularly great, but overall the art is just good, but not especially noteworthy.

The story telling was pretty straight forward, and it’s a good story, so it was a quick and easy read. This basically just re-tells the Mr Freeze origin story, with some minor details twisted and changed around, and the added dimension of Batman trying to put together a crime fighting “team” of his own. At the end of the book, the team and batman part ways, but there is mention of how some members of the team want to continue working together, just not for batman… I haven’t yet found any reference to what or who they might have become.

I noticed that this book isn’t (yet) added to the wikipedia entry on Mr. Freeze, but I’m really too sleepy to do anything about it right now.

Overall, this is well worth a read, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to find it unless you’re really into Batman or Mr. Freeze.

Captain America: The Death of Captain America

June 5th, 2008 by jason

I’d already read Captain America #25, the one that was in the news last year covering the death of Captain America. Maybe I should’ve put a spoiler warning there, but really, it was on all the news channels, and even in the New York Times. This hardcover opens up with issue 25, and has the subsequent five issues as well. Basically, this is Captain America without Captain America. It deals with all the aftermath of his death, the wake, how his friends, and fellow super-heroes are dealing with the tragedy. I’m currently on issue 27, with Bucky trying to reclaim a certain item being held in custody. I’ve heard that many people feel the Captain America series got a lot better after Steve Rogers died. While these stories are entertaining, and I’m intrigued with where things are going with it, I’m not interested enough to read it outside of the trades, and those when they are available by the library.

Buffy Season 8 #15

June 4th, 2008 by florence

I just bought Part 4 of Drew Goddard’s ‘Wolves at the Gate’ arc of Buffy Season 8. Drew wrote for Buffy and Angel when they were on the air (he’s also a JJ. Abrams favorite, having written for Alias, Lost and Cloverfield). He has always demonstrated excellent pacing and wit in his writing, and I have been really impressed with his ability to transfer those skills over to the medium of comics. This issue completely sucked me in and then took me on the roller coaster that I expect in the Jossverse; weaving excitement, laughter, and wrenching heartbreak.  When it ended I felt drained and happy, hopeful and yet sure that soon, things would get much worse for these characters that I care about. Because it always gets worse, and yet it never feels depressing. The message has always been that the world can suck and there are no guarantees for a happy ending, but there are friends and there are moments of joy and connection, and that is the point. We keep fighting.

Wanted Vol. 1

June 3rd, 2008 by Martin

I just finished the Wanted TPB. Honestly, I’m not sure how I felt about it. Bloody? yes. Violent? yes. Fucked up story that I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be satire or a philosophical statement on the futility and stupidity of empathy with your fellow mankind? Yes.

I’m looking forward to the movie, of course. I’d wanted to read this before that comes out, and it was coincidence that my co-worker Ben brought this in for me to borrow. There are a number of interesting plot twists and surprises that I’m looking forward to in the movie. It clearly won’t have the same impact as if I hadn’t read the comic, but I think that’s ok.

Almost as interesting as the comic was Brian K. Vaughn’s introduction, where he says Wanted has “the bravest, most interesting finale to a comic book ever”. Above that he says “Those of you who refuse to see what the conclusion is really saying will probably want to burn this beautiful collection the second you put it down.” I’d love to have a conversation with Vaughn about what he thinks those final pages were saying. I don’t think I agree with him, but neither did I want to burn the book the second I put it down. I can imagine what he thinks it’s supposed to be saying, but I don’t know if I’m right. I think I’ll probably bring this up in the next podcast.

Anyway, Wanted is a well produced (written, drawn, colored) comic, with a very interesting premise. The super villains teamed up (in the 60s, I think), and they won. They beat all the superheroes, and wiped them off the face of the planet. They’ve been in charge ever since. Go read it! Or, wait for the movie, watch that, then read it! Your choice, asshole.

Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan (2005)

June 1st, 2008 by Martin

This was absolutely brilliant. I loved how much humor there was in this, both in the artwork (giant monkey peeling a subway car like a banana!?) and in the fabulous writing. The overall plot was totally captivating and hysterical; the premise being that Japan’s giant monster problem has pretty much been eliminated by the proliferation of super heroes in the 20th century, so they’ve created a “Tokyo Giant Monster Museum and Expo Center” to commemorate. The Fantastic Four and Iron Man have been invited to the opening ceremonies, but wouldn’t you know it, their tour is interrupted by… you guessed it! …an attack by more giant monsters!

I have one other comic collection drawn by Seth Fisher (Green Lantern: Will World), and Big In Japan has now solidified my love for his cartoony surrealist style. I was extremely saddened to learn in the beginning pages of this comic that he died near the beginning of 2006. Apparently this was the last comic that he worked on. Look for my review of another of Seth Fisher’s creations, Batman: Snow in the near future.

I strongly recommend Big In Japan, as it more than transcends its silly superhero origins, and becomes a story of cosmic comic importance. The back of this trade paperback has like fifteen pages of artist notes, and a bunch of sketches and other cool stuff. (Including an entire issue of another Seth Fisher drawn comic called Fanboyz, which is sort of like Jackass meets spider man.) Good stuff.